Read this article to learn what you need to create a website for a small business that generates traffic and leads. It can seem daunting, but we walk you through everything in 11 easy steps.
1–Decide on a domain name
The domain name is what people type into the search bar to pull up your website. For example, the domain name of this website is bespoke-digital-solutions.com. This is a very important decision as it can be very costly to switch to a new domain once you start driving traffic to your website.
We recommend the following:
- If at all possible, choose a domain that ends in dotcom (.com). The exception to this is if you live in the UK (use .co.uk), Australia (use .co.au), New Zealand (use .co.nz) or the Netherlands (use .nl). A dotcom domain name is the gold standard in domain names and carries a certain clout, even if the business is based outside of the US. For example, big international brands like H&M, Land Rover and LVMH all use dotcom extensions for their international sites.
- Use your brand name in the domain name. People will find it easier to remember and it will build brand recognition.
- Don’t use a domain name just because you think it will help with SEO. Years ago that might have been the case, but now it can actually work against you.
- Keep it relatively short. Most people do not find your website by typing the domain name into a browser. Typically, they find it by clicking on a link. If they do type it into a browser, they usually only have to do so once and then their browser remembers the address. The key is making it easy to remember. If you have to add a couple words, then do so. A good trick is to envision what it will look like on a business card. If it takes up more than half the width of the card (whilst leaving a small margin on either side), it is probably too long.
- If your domain name has ambiguous spellings, includes words like “the” in it, or other potentially confusing issues, we recommend purchasing additional domain names that others could accidentally type into a browser instead of your chosen domain name. Then ask your developer to create a redirect from that domain, to your website, to make sure you don’t lose any traffic.
- Purchase your name from a reputable registrar, like GoDaddy. You won’t save any money going with a smaller registrar and risk poor customer service and/or difficulties transferring the domain into your hosting account.
2– Think about your brand identity
Ideally, we recommend investing in a good logo. We have worked with San Francisco based graphic designer Anne Marie Henning in the past. She does top quality work at very reasonable prices (logos start at $500 for small businesses). If you can’t afford that, you can create a contest at 99Designs and designers all around the world will create logos for you for as little as $299.
TIP: If you run a 99Designs contest, it helps to have a number of designers you can invite to the contest, and to tightly manage the contest. If you need help doing this, arrange a FREE CONSULTATION TODAY and we can help you.
If you can’t afford a logo, many website templates allow you to use text (with a specific font) in place of a logo. If you don’t have a logo, be upfront with the team making your website so they can help you choose a theme with this functionality.
3– Create Buyer Personas
Gathering all the information and content you need to create a website for a small business requires some work on your part. If you have created a business plan for your business, you have likely included all of this information in your marketing plan. If not, taking the time to gather the information will help you position your business properly.
One of the most beneficial things you can do is create Buyer Personas for your product/service. In short, these are little biographies of who you think your main customers will be. Once these are created, you can distill from them the demographics you want to attract to your website.
Level Up by Bespoke Digital Solutions offers an online course that teaches how to make buyer personas, and other digital marketing tools for small business owners.
4– Determine your website’s color scheme.
Use your Buyer Personas and design style sheet (provided by the person that makes your logo) to help you do this most effectively. This article: What are the best colors for websites? will teach you the basics of color psychology and how its can be integrated into your website.
5– Figure out who is going to help you make your website
We strongly advise you pay a professional to make your website. The media is filled with ads by companies such as Squarespace and Wix, encouraging you to use their tools to make your own website. However, this approach tends to:
- Be more expensive in the long-term
- Result in a website with limited functionality
- Cause your website to look unprofessional
- Be a waste of your time and resources. You don’t try to build your own house- why would you try to build your own website? We have one customer that spent two years making her own website. In the end, we had to redo it for her. Plus, she lost two years that could have been spent building her business.
If you are ready to get started on your website, CONTACT US TODAY and we will be happy to give you a free consultation and provide a reasonable quote.
6– Decide on a WordPress theme
We strongly recommend you use WordPress for your Content Management System. WordPress powers over a third of the web, including custom coded sites that use WordPress as a CMS. Moreover, it powers 60% of websites with known CMS’s (compared with 2.7% for Squarespace and 1.9% for Wix), and for good reason. It is flexible and offers functionality that goes far beyond what any small or medium sized business usually needs. Moreover, since it was initially a blogging platform, it has the best SEO functionality of any CMS.
Many small business owners have the idea that a WordPress site is only for amateurs. This is simply not true. In fact, more highly trafficked websites use WordPress than sites with less traffic. In fact, when looking at the 10,000 most highly trafficked websites on the Internet, WordPress holds a 37.18% market share.
TIP: You want to be a little careful choosing a WordPress template. There are more than 11,000 WordPress templates on Themeforest, the largest marketplace for website templates. Thousands are available through other platforms. You want to make sure your theme is coded well and updated frequently enough to keep it compatible with newer versions of plugins (essentially, these are apps to add functionality to WordPress templates). We recommend working with a WordPress expert to help you choose a good template. You can arrange a FREE CONSULTATION if you want help determining if a WordPress theme is a good one.
The only caveat to the above is if you are creating an online store. If this is the case, WooCommerce is the WordPress option. It is a good one and powers many big brands. However, Shopify can also be a good choice.
7– Purchase website hosting
We no longer recommend going with a big website host. Because web hosting is essentially a commodity business, the big players spend a lot of money on advertising to differentiate their product. Once they attract you to their site, most try to sell you additional products you don’t need if you work with a good developer. Read this if you want to learn more about web hosting, and how to choose the best host when you create a website for a small business- Web hosting for small businesses: What you need to know.
8– Determine your website’s basic menu structure
For even a simple website, we recommend at least a Home, About and Contact page. Although some small business owners are tempted to make a one page site, we don’t recommend it. It will be severely handicapped when it comes to search rankings.
9– Create your content
In our opinion, the most important thing is beautiful images. If you have the money, we strongly recommend using a professional photographer to create bespoke images.
Those that simply can’t afford this can create your own images if you put time and effort into it and have a good attention to detail.
As a last resort, you can use stock images. If this is the case, spend the time to get images that are beautiful and will resonate with your target clients. Unsplash and Pixabay are our favorite source for free stock photos.
Once you have your images in place, you need to work on your written copy. This should be done with an eye to your SEO (see next point).
10– Make sure your site is optimized for search
Some web developers are skilled at search engine optimization (SEO) and will perform on-page optimization at an additional fee. We strongly recommend this. This helps new customers find your website. You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but it is useless if no one sees it.
11– Make a plan for driving traffic to your site, once it is launched
Did you know that organic SEO is the dominant source of web traffic? 53% of web traffic comes from SEO. To put this in perspective, only 5% comes from organic social media activity. So if you want to drive traffic to your site and can’t afford paid search or paid social media advertising, SEO is the way to go.
There are two types of SEO: on-page and off-page. Both are extremely important and should be part of a well thought out, properly executed, long-term SEO strategy.
Although we believe that it is not an effective use of time to learn how to make your own website, we do believe it makes sense to learn how to do your own SEO, as it is a marathon, not a sprint. This is why we created Level Up to help small business owners learn how to do their own SEO.