You know that having an attractive website with great content will help your prospects find out about your product or service and then buy what you're offering them. But if you don't have the time or resources to design your own web presence, where should you start when building a website for your business? Here are ten important tips for creating a functional yet professional website for your small business.
There's no need to go crazy spending thousands of dollars on fancy software or hiring expensive designers who charge by the hour just to get something up and running. There are several tools available today that give you all the functionality you'll need without breaking the bank. The following 10-step guide walks through each step needed to create a basic but functional website using some tried and true methods. You may be able to skip over parts of this process depending on which tool(s) you select. For example, if you choose WordPress as your blogging platform, there's really not much else to set up aside from adding blog posts and pages. If you use Google Sites instead, however, you'll still need to learn about SEO (search engine optimization), although there are plenty of guides online that explain the basics.
So let's begin!
Before you even consider putting together any sort of website, you first need to figure out what type of information you want to share with people. This could include anything from selling products or services directly, providing information about your company, sharing articles and other educational material, announcing events, etc. It might also include posting photos of you and/or your team doing fun stuff like playing sports or attending conventions. Whatever you decide to post, you'll need to put it somewhere -- and preferably everywhere! A good rule of thumb is to think of every person that comes across your website as potential customer. In order to capture their attention long enough to convert them into paying customers, you must provide value. What exactly constitutes "value" depends largely on your industry and target audience, so take a look at these examples below and see what resonates most closely with your particular situation.
1. Provide useful and interesting information about your organization. Don't focus too heavily on sales pitches and promotional materials. Instead, talk about why you exist (what makes you unique?), what you've accomplished, or what you plan to accomplish next. Also make sure you keep your language simple, clear, and conversational. As we mentioned above, this is supposed to appeal to non-technical people, so avoid technical jargon unless absolutely necessary.
2. Share relevant news stories related to your niche and industry. These are usually shared via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also check local newspapers and magazines for stories relevant to your area. And finally, you might ask permission from existing clients or customers to add links back to your website so they can read additional helpful information.
3. Include case studies and testimonials. Case studies are especially valuable because they show real results achieved within certain parameters. Testimonials are equally powerful because they demonstrate success stories based on similar circumstances. Both types of stories illustrate the effectiveness of your solutions and highlight how others benefited from using yours.
4. Create videos explaining aspects of your work or processes. Videos can easily become viral among viewers thanks to YouTube and video platforms like Vimeo and Dailymotion. They allow you to showcase your expertise while engaging audiences in conversation. Think of ways to tie in your brand identity throughout the entire presentation. Try to incorporate humor and personal touches whenever possible. Make sure you test the audio quality before publishing it publicly, though.
5. Post pictures and graphics frequently. People love visual stimulation, and nothing says "look at me!" quite like high resolution images posted on your website. Use social networks to spread awareness of special promotions, exciting announcements, and milestone achievements. Keep tabs on competitors' websites and see what kinds of imagery they're featuring. Be consistent when choosing the same stock photos every time, otherwise visitors won't recognize your brand or feel comfortable visiting again.
6. Add fresh copy consistently. Whether its blog posts, eBooks, white papers, newsletters, or press releases, you always need to update your website regularly. Otherwise, visitors will lose interest quickly and move on to another resource.
7. Offer downloadable files. File formats vary widely between different operating systems, so it's best to offer only PDFs and Word documents since those file types work well regardless of device. However, if you use Microsoft Office 365, you can upload almost any format imaginable. Remember that many people access the internet on mobile devices, so make sure everything looks sharp and readable on smaller screens.
8. Promote yourself. Social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter offer opportunities to connect with peers and influencers in your field. Start conversations with people who seem interested in what you're saying, whether it's positive feedback or constructive criticism. Respond promptly to comments made by followers. Interact with fans, friends, family members, and employees often. When appropriate, thank them for taking the time to visit your page.
9. Encourage readers to follow you on social networks. Invite users to subscribe to your newsletter, join your email list, or enter contests. Let them know when you release a new eBook or report. Ask for reviews from satisfied customers. Give away coupons, discount codes, and exclusive offers.
10. Have a contact form. Having an easy way for guests to reach you gives you the opportunity to turn strangers into loyal fans.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to write compelling content, here are four things you can do to improve the content of your website:
1. Write clearly and concisely. Don't ramble on endlessly about one topic. Instead, break down complex ideas into digestible chunks that visitors can understand and act upon. Avoid using overly formal writing styles or slang phrases. Stick to plain English and stick to the point.
2. Proofread thoroughly. Even the smallest typo or grammatical error hurts credibility. Get someone outside of your immediate circle to edit your content. Or pay a professional editor to review your work.
3. Focus on keywords. Before you publish anything, spend some time researching keyword search terms used by your ideal audience. Then rewrite your content accordingly.
4. Link internal and external sources. Visitors expect reliable source citations to support claims made on your website. So don't hesitate to link to reputable publications, blogs, and other websites. Just remember to properly attribute credit to the original author or creator.
Finally, here are five steps on developing content strategy:
1. Define your overall goals. Why did you establish your business in the first place? What were you hoping to achieve? Now that you have a solid idea, determine what kind of content you'd like to produce. Some businesses focus primarily on marketing, whereas others prefer to sell goods or services. Do you want to attract new leads, increase visibility, develop relationships, educate buyers, etc.? Decide early on what you hope to gain and how you intend to measure progress toward your goal.
2. Identify your primary objectives. Once you have established your main objective, brainstorm various strategies you can employ to attain it. Which tactics would best suit your needs? How can you leverage social media to expand your influence? Are there specific metrics you can track to evaluate results?
3. Choose a tone. Does your website convey authority or informality? Is it meant to entertain, inspire, comfort, motivate, or persuade? Would you rather approach it with optimism or pessimism? Whichever choice you make, try to maintain consistency throughout.
4. Plan ahead. Before starting to draft any content, sit down with pen and paper and map out the structure of your website. Determine what categories to feature, what subcategories to organize content under, and what topics should appear in each section. By planning ahead, you eliminate wasted effort later on.
5. Document everything. Take notes during meetings, conferences, interviews, and lectures. Record phone calls and transcribe discussions. Jot down ideas as they come to mind. Collect quotes, statistics, facts, figures, and opinions. Always refer to your notes after the fact. Your brain naturally remembers things better than words ever could.
Lastly, here's how to create a website from scratch:
1. Find a domain name. Search engines rank domains higher than regular text strings, so pick something catchy and short.
2. Set up hosting. Hosting allows you to store static HTML and CSS code along with your database. Most hosts charge monthly fees associated with server space, bandwidth usage, and maintenance. Many companies bundle both features into one package deal called a web host.
Building an effective website is not as difficult as many people think - but there's no one-size-fits-all solution here so we'll need to take some time to work through what type of functionality you might be after (and whether you'll just use templates or need something custom) before going any further.
There are plenty of ways that you can get hold of a website these days without needing to pay anything out at all, with services like Google Web Designer (GWD), WordPress, Wix etc offering simple drag & drop interfaces which allow you to put together a basic web page quickly without having to know HTML code. However, if you're planning to start selling products then you will probably also find yourself wanting to add ecommerce functionality, SEO optimisation tools, shopping carts etc. As well as this, though, you'll likely soon realise that even when using such easy solutions, you still don't have full control over your own website - meaning that you won't really be able to tweak things until you've got more experience working with them.
When you're ready to go beyond simply building a static home page and getting up-to-date content onto your existing website, however, here are 10 key tips for creating a successful website for your small business.
The first thing that you should consider when thinking about setting up a website for your business is exactly what kind of information you want to share with potential customers. The most common way to achieve this goal is by dividing your website into 4 main sections: Homepage, About Us, Services/Products, Contact Info. If you're starting off on a smaller budget than bigger businesses, you could choose to focus only on listing your contact details and links to other pages, while larger companies often include their entire product range, descriptions of each item, testimonials, images and videos too.
As well as focusing on what you'd like to see included on your homepage, you'll also need to decide what else you'd like to feature elsewhere on the site - perhaps your company history, latest news items, events calendar, blog posts, customer reviews, FAQs, awards, discounts, etc. These elements form part of what makes up the overall structure of your website, known as its layout. A good example of the difference between a standard template design and a fully customised website would be comparing GWD vs Wix above - although both offer similar options, they differ significantly depending on the level of detail you want to incorporate. For instance, the Wix option provides a 'blank canvas' approach whereas GWD gives you access to a number of pre-built layouts designed specifically for different purposes.
Once you've decided what you want to show visitors via your homepage, you'll now need to determine where you want to display those pieces of content across the rest of the site. There are several approaches to doing this, including static "pages" created using a template system like Wordpress or Drupal, dynamic "blogs" built around RSS feeds and automated blogging software, and interactive sites like social networks and forums. While you may not always feel comfortable committing to a particular approach immediately, choosing the right tool for the job is important because it means that you can keep your website updated easily later down the line.
Although there are numerous aspects of designing a website for your business, here are four features and functionalities that every website needs to provide:
1. Customer Support - Your clients expect immediate answers to questions asked via email, phone calls, live chat etc. You should therefore ensure that your website includes clear instructions on how to reach you directly, along with a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ). Ideally, you should also set up a separate support area within your website for sending messages to individual users rather than waiting for replies to come back to your inbox. This is particularly useful if you run a service based business where you rely heavily on repeat orders.
2. Product Information - It goes without saying that you should have detailed product information available on your website, including stock levels, prices and payment methods. Providing accurate information regarding the availability of certain products allows your customers to plan ahead and avoid missing out on valuable sales opportunities.
3. Social Media Integration - Most businesses today recognise the importance of connecting with their audience on various platforms, especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Having active profiles on all of these channels helps boost brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and increase conversions.
4. Online Payment Methods - Many consumers prefer paying for goods online rather than visiting physical stores. Therefore, providing payment options on your website is vital if you wish to encourage purchases. Some popular choices include PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.net.
These are just a few examples of essential website components, but the point is that you shouldn't underestimate the value of investing in professional assistance during the initial stages of building your online profile. In fact, hiring dedicated professionals is usually cheaper than buying expensive software packages and hosting costs alone!
1) Identify Your Target Market
Before starting with the design process, it helps to know who will visit your website. This means understanding where they come from, how old they are, their gender, their income level, their education levels and other demographic data.
Where did you find out about this company/product? How long have you been using them? Are you recommending them because you like them or because someone else told you to? What was that person’s reason for telling you to recommend them?
Who are these customers? Do you have enough information to determine if they can afford your product or service? Are they already loyal to another brand or retailer? Have they heard of you before? Does your website help them decide which product or service is right for them?
Are they likely to buy now or wait until next season? Will buying now give them access to special deals or promotions? Is there anything stopping them doing so immediately?
Do you want to reach potential clients when they're online shopping around for a particular item? Or would you rather target existing clients at the point of purchase? Either way, knowing your audience is important.
Does your product fit into a category that has previously done well? For example, could you offer a similar product/service to those offered by competitors?
When will you launch your own sites? When you plan on launching should be considered carefully, particularly if you intend to link back to your main site and share content across both platforms.
Have you thought about building up your social media presence first? It may seem counterintuitive, but having strong links between your Facebook page and your website can lead to higher clickthrough rates.
As far as having an online presence goes, websites are one of the most important tools that you can have - especially if your company is still relatively young. If you don't already own a website, there's no need to panic! While building a brand-new website may seem like too big a task at first glance, we're going to show you exactly what you'll need to know about starting up with a new site and making sure it will be worth while.
The good news is that not only can you start off by building a simple website for free (or cheap) but also you can get help from some very experienced people who've been through this before so they'll understand what you might face along the way. It's never easy to launch any kind of venture into something completely unknown, but once you have all the right information you should find out pretty quickly whether or not you've got what it takes to succeed.
In fact, even if you aren't entirely certain about why you'd want a website in the first place, it would probably serve you best to just go ahead and learn everything you can about them anyway because when you actually sit down to decide where you stand and what you want to accomplish, it's usually better to have something ready to go rather than trying to figure things out piecemeal later on. And remember that if you ever run into trouble, you always have access to Google - which can really come in handy when you're trying to fix problems and issues.
So let's jump right in and see what you'll need to take care of after deciding that you want to invest time and money into setting up a website for your enterprise.
1. A Domain Name
2. Content Management System (CMS)
3. Hosting Services
Let's talk briefly about each of these items individually.
A domain name is simply a unique identifier for your website that you use instead of typing "www." in front of every web address you enter. You could think of it as a street address that points directly back home. So if your home was located at 123 Main Street, then your URL would say www.123mainstreet.com. The same thing applies to domains. For example, you could buy yourdomainname.net for $10/year, or registeryourbusiness.orgfor $0.99/month. Of course, you can pay whatever price makes sense for you depending on how long you plan on keeping the domain around.
Content management systems are software programs that allow you to update pages on your website without needing to call a programmer. Instead of doing it yourself, you can save hours of work -- and maybe even thousands of dollars -- by using a CMS. They're used by many companies today, including Facebook and Twitter, among others. There are plenty of options available, such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Blogger, Wix, Squarespace, etc., but ultimately it comes down to what works best for your needs. Once you choose one, you'll likely purchase hosting services from somewhere else so those providers can host your website files.
Hosting services store all the data and resources associated with running your website, such as images, videos, code, email accounts, databases, etc. Without these components, you wouldn't be able to view anything remotely resembling a functioning website. This means that you'll need to find a provider that offers managed servers, which means that you won't need to worry about installing and configuring server software nor dealing with technical support.
While there are several ways to set up a successful website, the following process seems to be the most common approach:
Step 1. Decide what type of website you want. Do you want to sell products? Provide customer service? Build a blog? Get involved in social media? Or perhaps you want to connect with other businesses via networking sites? Whatever your reason is, there are dozens of different types of websites you can set up. Each has its pros and cons, though, so it pays to do your research beforehand.
Step 2. Find a reliable web designer. Since you're going to have to spend quite a bit of time working with your developer to get everything setup properly, it's smart to hire a professional who specializes in design and development. But beware of anyone promising to give you a custom-built website for less than $100. Those tend to turn out poorly over time, and often end up costing hundreds of dollars in maintenance costs. What's more, unless you're extremely skilled with HTML coding and CSS, hiring a freelancer isn't necessarily the ideal solution either. In short, look for someone who understands your goals and objectives well enough to provide solutions that meet those requirements.
Step 3. Choose a content management system (CMS). Your CMS allows you to add text, photos, video clips, links, forms, polls, surveys, live chat, ecommerce functionality, and more. Most importantly, however, it gives you the ability to edit existing posts without programming knowledge. Even if you're familiar with HTML, using a CMS is easier since you can focus on writing articles and adding fresh content rather than messing with formatting codes. Some popular choices include WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Weebly, SquareSpace, Tumblr, TypePad, and Blogger. Again, the choice depends largely upon your specific needs and preferences.
Step 4. Make sure you host your website somewhere. Many companies offer affordable plans for their hosting services, allowing you to keep your site online regardless of whether you're planning to grow it or not. These plans typically range anywhere between $5-$30/mo, which is fairly inexpensive compared to traditional hosting fees. As mentioned earlier, however, you'll likely need to sign up for another vendor to handle managing your server(s), so be prepared to shell out additional cash in order to fully utilize your website.
Step 5. Create your marketing materials. Whether you write articles, post reviews, publish blogs, or upload pictures, you'll eventually need to share your message with customers. However, if you haven't taken the time to develop proper SEO strategies yet, chances are you'll lose potential clients due to poor search engine rankings. That said, you shouldn't expect to rank high overnight, nor should you feel discouraged if results aren't immediately forthcoming. Just stick to it consistently and patiently and you'll begin seeing real improvements within six months.
There are countless other aspects you'll need to consider, too, such as analytics tracking, security protocols, payment processing, and more. But overall, the above five actions cover nearly everything you'll need to complete for your website to become functional and profitable.
Once you establish your website, it's crucial to constantly produce useful and engaging content. After all, nothing builds trust faster than sharing helpful tips, advice, and stories with visitors, prospects, and customers alike. Here are four essential steps you must follow when creating engaging material for your audience:
Step 1. Know your target market. Before you can determine what sort of content you should create, you must first identify your primary audience. Who will benefit most from reading your content? Are they male or female? Young or old? How educated are they? What are their interests? Knowing all this information helps narrow your focus and provides insight into what sorts of topics resonate with your readership.
Step 2. Research keywords and phrases relevant to your niche. Now that you have a clear idea of whom you're targeting, it's time to perform keyword research. By identifying which terms your competitors are ranking highly for, you can find similar themes and concepts you can incorporate into your own posts. Not only will this boost your traffic, but it will help ensure you remain competitive against your rivals as well.
Step 3. Write compelling copy. Writing quality content requires practice, experience, and creativity. To avoid turning your page into a boring wall of text, you'll need to employ creative techniques such as vivid imagery, interesting headlines, catchy subheads, and enticing calls to action. Keep your messages brief and concise, and be wary of using jargon or unnecessary words. Finally, try to avoid posting duplicate content across multiple platforms, as this tends to dilute reader attention spans. Also, check out our article on top ten mistakes made by entrepreneurs.
Step 4. Test, test, and repeat. When you finally finish producing your masterpiece, it's vital to evaluate its success. Conduct a thorough analysis of traffic sources and visitor demographics to determine which areas require improvement and which ones are performing exceptionally well. Use this feedback to adjust your content strategy accordingly. Always continue testing new ideas until you discover what resonates with both your audience and the larger industry.
With the basics covered, now it's time to move forward and explore some of the best practices for launching a successful website.
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