How to Create a Small Business Website – Step by Step Guide (2019)
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And, for today’s article, I’ve decided to give you a quick write-up on the importance of maintaining an active online presence for your business.
Why small businesses need a website?
Every small business needs a solid online presence. There can be no buts about it. If you want to have a business, you need to go to where your clients are.
When I decided to start my business years ago, I started with advertisements in magazines and newspapers and leaflets. My very first marketing attempt ended up costing me a little over £3000. After that, I decided to post leaflets. And although I did end up getting a few meetings, from which I gained a couple of clients, I was working to an extremely limited budget. This meant that I had to go around, personally delivering the leaflets on foot.
At the same time, I was looking into alternative marketing methods. I realised that, if I want my business to succeed, I need something better than door-to-door leaflet deliveries. And so, I began looking into websites and digital marketing. I wanted to start getting clients online, so that I can focus up my time on running and managing my business. This was 18 years ago.
As soon as my first website went live, all of my marketing woes disappeared! My office was getting tons of calls, way more calls that what my team could manage at the time.
And if online presence was important back then, when the internet was still relatively new (according to the International Telecommunications Union, about 51% of the population of the developed world was online in 2005), it is absolutely crucial today.
Today, everyone is online. People are browsing online forums, posting status updates on Facebook, uploading their lunch on Instagram, and watching videos on YouTube. This makes it exceedingly easy to get your small business in front of the eyes of each and every potential customer, no matter where they live or what places they visit while they’re offline.
If you want people to be able to find you, to know about your company and services, you simply have to be online. You have to have a website. There are still people out there that have a business and don’t have a website, and that’s a huge mistake on their part! If you don’t have a solid online presence, you are simply refusing to take your small business to the next level!
But you’re not the first one who’s got this idea. Just about every business is doing this today. And this means that getting in front of the eyes of your customers is no longer enough. People today are getting bombarded by so much information, so many advertisements, articles, videos and notifications that they simply have stopped acknowledging them. The more immersed in the digital chaos we become, the shorter our attention spans grow. There’s always something shinier around the next “corner”, always something competing for our attention at every given second.
This means that you also want to be the first thing in front of your potential customer’s eyes. You want your website to be easy to find, access and interact with.
Your website is more than a business asset, it’s a living, breathing extension of your small business. It’s like a flower. If you want your business to flourish, you need to take good care of it. And yes, this takes time, effort and resources. But very few things in the business world happen overnight.
When you have a website, you need to find the right company to look after it. Or, you can do it by yourself, but you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time on learning about digital marketing, search engine optimisation and social media. On the bright side, the internet is absolutely packed with information on the subject. There’s numerous videos, eBooks, tutorials and courses that can show you how it’s done. This is what I did with my first website as well. I was really passionate about it and I spent months learning how the digital ecosystem works. My knowledge helped me drive a lot of customers to my business and helped it grow. Eventually, I realised that my online presence was the main driving factor behind my business. This meant that if I were to stop maintain my website, my business would stop growing. So I kept at it. I learned how to use Dreamweaver, how to do SEO, how to optimise websites, how to submit articles, how to build links, and let me tell you – it was great … until it wasn’t.
What do I mean by this?
Well, as your small business grows, you’ll come to the realisation that you’ve got a choice to make. Eventually, you’ll be forced to choose between focusing on managing your business or managing your SEO. Then, I decide to pass my SEO knowledge to my daughter, who was 14 at the time. She grew up helping me with the digital portion of the business. Every single weekend she’d sit down along with a friend of hers, watch me perform the procedures and ask questions. Eventually, she was knowledgeable enough to take over.
It is vital to have a website and it’s vital to be online.
People can find you, people can learn more about your services, people can actually use your services. You always want to stay a step ahead of your competitors. You need to be present on social media. You also need to have a blog, where you will be posting your (optimised) articles. There’s little point in running a poorly optimised blog – you’re just missing out on potential clients!
Now, let me give you a quick rundown on how to create and start managing a website. I would like to share a guide for a simple website.
Step by Step Guide on How To Create a Small Business Website
Start by checking possible domain names. There’s a large number of free name-checking services which allow you to see if a domain name is free with the click of a button. Make good use of them and run as many of your ideas through as possible. GoDaddy domain name search is pretty easy to use. I would recommend buying a domain name from hosting.co.uk or 123reg.co.uk. SiteGround is an excellent choice to host your website, they provide 24/7 customer support and have never let me down.
Local vs international domains
If you are going to be running a business, focused in the UK, it’s fine to go for .co.uk. If you plan on ever-expanding your services to international clients, however, you definitely want to go with .com. Transferring domains is a possibility but it is a very time and labour-intensive process, requiring a very skilled SEO professional.
Content management systems
There are a lot of different Content Management Systems (CMS) out there, but WordPress is definitely the winner here. It’s the most popular CMS for a reason. It’s very easy to work with, Google absolutely loves it and there are tons of easily accessible plug-ins for all of your customisation needs!
Creating your website
Now, for the website creation itself. Creating a basic website is very easy, but making it look (and work) well can be an extremely challenging task for a beginner. Good news is that there are numerous website development firms out there for you to choose from. You can even go to a freelance website and hire somewhere there. With prices ranging anywhere between £500 and £1000, you can get your website up and running in no time.
“Getting a website”, however, isn’t a one-and-done kind of process. Ensuring that everything runs smoothly requires constant upkeep. You will need to constantly refresh content, social activity signals, as well as technical maintenance.
WordPress templates and plugins give you great opportunities, but they also come with a maintenance cost – there are updates coming out all the time, and if you don’t keep up with them, your website will be left vulnerable to all kinds of unsavoury individuals looking to do you harm. And not only does getting hacked hurt your authority in the eyes of your clients, but it will also cause Google to penalise you, removing you from any high search results positions that you might’ve obtained. There’s a book on WordPress available for purchase from Amazon. I highly recommend reading the book if you’re building a website on WordPress on your own – buy the book by clicking here.
Stock templates and bespoke custom design – While a lot of people are happy with simplistic, stock designs, some prefer custom-bespoke websites designed by graphic designers ones. The second option, however, can end up costing you between £3000 – £10,000. If you don’t have the budget to spend on a bespoke website design, you can go for a ready-made WordPress template from themeforest.net
The structure of a website
What you publish on your website is largely up to you, but there are some necessities that you simply cannot ignore.
Ranking Factors and their Importance
In the digital world of today, it is ultimately Google who decides whether you’ll “make it” big or not. Even if you were to create the “perfect” website, complete with state-of-the-art visuals, cutting-edge content, and exceptional offers if Google doesn’t approve of it as a whole, very few people will ever get to see it. Everyone’s favourite search engine uses various criteria to evaluate websites and, for the inexperienced website developer, it is easy to miss out on some crucial factors.
But how does it do that? The simplest way to put it would be to say that Google wants people to be comfortable and enjoy their time online. It wants the most convenient, well-put-together and user-friendly websites to get the most exposure.
Each website needs:
- Home page – the page where your visitors will initially land on. This page needs to be visually enticing and well-structured. It needs to convince your potential clients that they’re exactly where they want to be in the manner of seconds. Furthermore, the content on your home page needs to be optimised exceptionally well for SEO purposes.
- An About Us page – where visitors can learn about your team, the company and its mission.
- Dedicated Service(s) page(s) – pages, detailing the various products or services, provided by your company
- A disclaimer & Terms and conditions – to avoid any misunderstanding as well as possible legal issues
- A Testimonials page – A place for you to publish client testimonials, demonstrating that your business is worth working with
Build your mailing list
If you do any email marketing, you will absolutely want to prepare a special opt-in page for your customers. This will be a place where you give them something small for free – such as a short PDF detailing the benefits of your particular products or services – to entice them to opt-in. You could also provide them with free tips and tricks, how-to guides, or other information related to your niche. This helps you demonstrate authority in your field and builds trust in the eyes of your prospective customers.
On-Page and Off-Page Optimisation
Both of these terms are related to SEO. On-page optimisation stands for the content on your website (text, images, tags, etc.), while off-page optimisation has to do with things related to your website that are published elsewhere on the internet (backlinks, social bookmarking, social media interactions, etc.)
If you don’t have someone to help you out and you don’t know who to use for SEO, you’ll have to get a grasp on the basics on your own, even if you mean to hire a professional to do the actual work. Learning the basics will make picking the right provider of search engine optimisation much easier, as you’ll have an easy time telling the fakes from the people worth their salt.
If you want your website to rank well on Google Search results, and possibly obtain the ever-elusive top position on the first page, you need to tick a lot of checkboxes. Here are a few of the most important ranking factors, listed in no particular order:
You should look into:
- Keywords – the main keywords need to be repeated quite a few times within the text, so that Google can know what your website is about. This is also why having good content on your homepage is absolutely crucial – without proper keyword optimisation, ranking well on Google is nearly impossible.
Service pages are almost as important as your homepage – you want them to appear in the search results for any potential customer in a pinch.
Your website needs to be fully compatible with all mobile devices. Google has a simple test which you can use to determine whether you fit the criteria, but you should always test on your own phone as well. Visitors have neither the time nor the patience to wait for a website to load correctly on their mobile devices. You only get a few seconds to get your message through. Make them count!
- Website Security (SSL certification) – Secure Socket Layers (or SSL for short), is a security certification which serves a twofold purpose – it ensures clients that the website does indeed belong to a reputable company and encrypts their data, protecting it from unsavoury individuals. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certification is absolutely crucial, both for SEO and for demonstrating credibility. If your website is secured, potential customers will see that you are a serious professional that means business.
- Excellent content – the content on your website needs to be keyword-rich, well-written and easy-to-read.
- Page Loading Speed – you don’t want to keep your clients waiting now, do you?
- Image optimisation – image optimisation is a multi-tiered process. You want your images to load quickly and show up on the screen as soon as possible, but there’s a lot more going behind the scenes. Your images also need to have a title (which shows up when users mouse over them) as well as an alt tag (which displays an alternative text should your image fail to load). Furthermore, your images also need to be included in a special XML sitemap.
- Low Bounce Rate –While this factor might be visible solely to Google it is a direct result of your website’s overall performance. If visitors don’t like the page, they end up on and decide to click away without bothering to look at any other part of your website, either due to frustration with slow loading times, inadequate content, or lack of security, your bounce rate will go up. And that’s a really, really bad thing. It tells Google that your website simply isn’t up to par and will most likely lose you a high ranking in the search results!
- Blog posts – From a digital marketing perspective, blogs are amazing, as they allow you to hit two birds with one stone. On one hand, a good blog will help you convince any potential customer that you know exactly what you’re talking about and that they’d be crazy to miss the chance of working with you. On the other hand, the articles in your blog post will provide your website with a lot of potential for ranking in Google Search results on the various topics related to your business niche.
- Article Directory Submissions – Every single month, you want to have an article submitted for your website in the various article directories around the internet. They serve a similar purpose to that of blog posts. But while blog posts convey your credibility to users that are already on your website, article directory submissions provide you with backlinks and build credibility in the eyes of people who are yet to find you.
- Social Pages and Social Media Marketing – you also need to make sure that your business is active on the various social media networks. You want a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube business page at the very minimum.
- Social Media Influencers – whenever possible, you should seek out bloggers and social media influencers in your niche. If you find any that are willing to publish content about your website, along with a link the related page, your website will greatly benefit.
Your website is the online face of your small business. You want it properly built, optimised and maintained. I can’t really stress the importance of this enough. Every minute that you spend with a website that isn’t up to par, you’re losing customers! This is why choosing the right digital marketing agency is crucial. You will be trusting these people with not only the reputation but also potential success of your business. And since SEO isn’t a one-and-done type of deal, you’ll be working with them for many years.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is of utmost importance. If you aren’t familiar with how to market your business on the social platforms, you can always hire a freelancer, or better yet – an established digital marketing agency (I’d recommend FOME – they’re based in London, and we’ve been working with them for over 7 years now).
We hope that this blog post has helped you realise just how important it is to have a website. Simply put – you’re missing out on a huge number of opportunities, and, as of June 2018, 3.2 billion people around the world (or almost half of the entire population of the planet) are online. If you don’t have a website yet, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity!
And, for those of you who do have a website already, please make sure that everything is in order. If you don’t have the knowledge, time or resources to handle the optimisation yourself, get a reputable company to do it for you.