Your small business needs a website. Here's how to build one.
- Building a small business website is important to inform your audience, explain your value proposition, boost brand recognition and drive sales.
- To build a business website, you first need to choose a domain name and secure web hosting. Then, optimize your website to improve your search engine rankings and drive traffic.
- Keep your website up to date and optimized for mobile devices. Also ensure your site speed is adequate to improve your search engine rankings.
- This article is for small business owners looking to build a website or improve upon their existing website.
It's no longer feasible to run a business, even a brick-and-mortar one, without a web presence. Consumers turn to the internet for everything from product research to location and operating hours. Even just a simple, well-designed website can give you an edge in your field, and if you have products to sell, your site can open up new markets and expand your business cheaply and easily.
Website design software has evolved to be easy for anyone to use. You don't need to know coding to develop an attractive and functional site. No matter what program you use, you just need to follow some basic rules and tips to give your website a professional look, make it easy to find, and show your company in the best light.
Here's our step-by-step guide to creating a successful business website.
1. Determine the primary purpose of your website.
A business website generally serves as a space to provide general information about your company or a direct platform for e-commerce. Whether you create a simple website that tells a little about your company or a more complex e-commerce site, the most important thing you must do is say what your company does – on the homepage in plain terms. Don't make customers root around to discover if your company can do what they need, warned Erin Pheil of website design company Followbright.
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"Think about your specific user experience and the journey the user will go through as they navigate your site," added Gabriel Shaoolian, CEO of website design and digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media. "Whatever the fundamental goal of your website is or whatever the focus may be, users should be easily able to achieve it, and the goal itself should be reinforced as users navigate throughout your site."
If you don't plan to accept payments through your website, you won't have as much work to do in setting it up. If you are a retailer or service provider and want to offer customers the option to pay online, you'll need to use an external service to receive your payments, which we'll discuss later in this article.
2. Decide your domain name.
Your domain name is one of the most important features of your website. It's the URL you'll share with your current and potential clients and promote on social media. Therefore, you want it to be descriptive and easy to remember and type in. Try to keep it short, and steer clear of abbreviations, acronyms, and numbers, if possible, to avoid customer confusion.
You also need to decide your top-level domain or TLD. This is the suffix at the end of your domain names, such as .com, .net, or .biz. However, nontraditional TLD names have grown in recent years. These TLDs can be based on location, such as .nyc, or type of business, like .marketing, .agency, or .law. While these can be descriptive, .com is still the main go-to. Read our article on choosing a nontraditional TLD for more information.
Once you've selected your domain name, you'll need to confirm its availability and purchase it through a domain registrar. These are some popular domain registrars:
As you select your new domain name, check copyrights to make sure you're not infringing on anyone else's protected name. If your preferred URL is already taken, you can call the company using it and ask to buy it from them or use a domain buying service from a company like GoDaddy, which will reach out to the owners of your desired domain name. This service costs around $70 per domain.
3. Choose a web host.
Every website needs a host – a server where all its data is stored for the public to access at all times. Hosting your own website is probably too large an expense for your small business, so you'll need to select an external host.
Depending on your budget, you can choose from two different routes. A shared web host, the less-expensive option, means you'll share a server with other sites. Dedicated hosting costs significantly more, but it means that you get your own private server and won't have to compete with other sites that could drag down your speed. Some web builder platforms, such as Squarespace and Wix, include web hosting in their monthly packages.
These are some options for web hosting services:
- A2 Hosting: A2 Hosting offers both shared and dedicated hosting options. New customers can acquire a Lite hosting plan, which is sufficient for some small businesses, for as little as $3.91 per month for the first year.
- DreamHost: DreamHost offers three hosting plans tailored for managed WordPress websites: DreamPress, DreamPress Plus and DreamPress Pro. Costs generally start at $16.95 per month.
- 1&1 Ionos: This web hosting company is known for its cloud hosting and offers other cloud-based options such as servers and site backup. Plans and capabilities vary, but plans typically begin at $15 per month.
If you're looking for free website hosting options, it's important to remember that hosting a website is by no means free for the hosting company. Therefore, they may employ other methods, such as placing banner ads on your website, to compensate for the free hosting.
When choosing a host, consider how well that host can answer questions about its server locations and reliability, said Jim Cowie, former chief scientist at cloud-based internet performance company Dyn.
"It's good to ask, 'Can you show me how close you are to the major markets my customers are going to be in?'" Cowie said. "Any good hosting provider should have the tools to show you ... measurements of their performance."
As your business grows, you may find that you need to upgrade to a different web host, or even work with multiple providers to handle your website traffic and operations. Cowie advised keeping a close eye on your site performance and the experience your customers have using your website so you can determine your hosting needs.