small business website

Small business website attracts and keeps customers

Greg Kimmes Website design

If you are looking for a way to attract and keep customers – create a small business website.

Even if you’re a startup or a home-based business selling a product or service – you should have a website. If you don’t already have one, make it a priority. Enabling potential customers to find you through Google search or learn more about you is a big key to getting new business. Think of your website like an extension of your business card, it provides details and information about your business – what you offer, background, experience, and other stuff that give your business credibility. Consumers expect businesses to be online, and without a Web presence, you’re losing a valuable opportunity to gain business. Potential customers are looking for confidence in your business and brand – that you’re the one to do business with.

Developing some key strategies in the beginning will help shape how your website is structured. Think about the user experience, and the journey the user will go through as they navigate your site. Make the goal or focus of your website easy to get to. Whether it’s time to revamp your site or build a new one, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you create professional site:

Pick a platform
Choosing the software or system to run your website on is your first big decision. Most small businesses look for the most efficient and cost effective solution. Unfortunately the majority really don’t understand all that goes into creating and maintaining a website. One option is to hire someone to do it all for them, this can get pretty expensive. Another option is a DIY website builder like WIX or SquareSpace, these are a lot less expensive and look great but have limited features. The solution I like best is WordPress, it is a popular open source (free) content management system, that has thousands of free and inexpensive themes and plugins.

Choose your Web host
Websites needs a “host,” or a server where all the data is stored for public access. Having your own server is expensive, so you’ll need to select an external host. Most small businesses use a shared Web host, it is the least expensive option, (means sharing a server with other sites). Dedicated hosting costs more, but you get your own private server and don’t have to worry about other sites dragging you down. As you grow, you may find that you need to upgrade – so it’s a good idea to choose a hosting service that can upgrade your account if your business requires it. I like Bluehost for most WordPress installations, if you choose a website builder (most include hosting in monthly cost), and many web designers like to sell their own hosting (just realize they are putting on a hosting service that they choose and charging you – this makes it simpler but also makes you more captive).

Next pick your domain name
Your domain name is a really important feature of your website. It’s the URL you’ll share with current and potential clients. Try to keep it short and memorable – avoid abbreviations, acronyms and numbers that create confusion. Another part of choosing a domain is deciding on top-level domain, or TLD. This is the suffix at the end of the domain name. Sometimes it’s tuff to get your domain ending in .com because it may already be taken – so you may have to consider using .net or .biz. Once you select your domain name, you’ll need to confirm its availability and purchase it through a domain registrar or web host. I recommend using your web host because it make managing the domain easier, and most offer the first year free (normally $15/year for .com). I also suggest that you sign up for auto renewal to avoid the possibility of losing your domain – that can be a real pain.

Choose a look or design for website
Website builder offer some different templates to choose from, and WordPress has thousands to choose from. This is a great way to jump start your design, some web designers will tell you if you choose a theme or template your site will look like everyone else’s – that’s bull! A really good multi-purpose theme like Total has 17,000 sales and I would like to see if you could find two websites that look just alike. Good themes offer a bunch of optional looks or skins – that each can be customized for your individual look or brand. They can include a bunch of premium plugins or addons that make them an unbeatable value at $59. Hiring a web designer to build a site from scratch will cost thousands.

Now it’s time to build some web pages
A good website has more than just a home page. Create multiple pages for different parts of your business, kinda like a catalog of your products or services, maybe start a blog for company updates. You’ll need a contact page, this gives customers a direct link to you, make sure you include as much information as you are able (like phone number, email address and physical location if possible). Another good idea is to include some information about the leadership team or staff on an “About” page – to help customers put real names and faces to your brand. Don’t forget to Include your logo in the header area of every page. This will help your clients identify your company quickly and easily on the Web.

Here are a few basic tips to help you create efficient, content-rich pages for your website:

  • Be clear and concise about what your business does. Visitor should be able to understand what you do within seconds of landing on your home page. A few well-written pages are better twenty poor ones.
  • Strategically place calls to actions (CTA). Rather than placing calls to action throughout the site and on every landing page and post, place the button at the point where the visitor is prepared to make a decision.
  • Use only really good stock photos. Most businesses cant afford custom photography, but bad stock images are the quickest way to turn a great site into a crappy one.
  • Optimize your page load speed. Visitors lose patience waiting for pages to load, installing the right cache like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, which can compress files and allow visitors to browse your site more quickly.

Publish and test your website
Before you announce your site is live, make sure it works in all major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome). Click through pages and ensure a problem-free user experience, this takes a little time, but will save on complaints from visitors who can’t access certain features.

Set up Google Analytics
Another important thing to incorporate into your website from the beginning is Google analytics (it’s free, you just need a Google account). This will track visitors to your websites, how they got there, what they searched for, which pages had the most traffic, how long they spent on pages, and lots of other useful information to help improve performance and gauge why a page is successful – or unsuccessful.

Market on social media
Create business profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and include links on your home page. This is a great way to increase your audience reach and to alert customers about what’s happening with your company. Anytime you update your website, post about it on your social media outlets — but keep a balance with genuine, non-promotional engagement.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Building relevant keywords into your content, and having a strong focus on SEO from website launch will help you generate traffic early on.

Maintain your site
Staying relevant is just as important as getting on the Web to begin with, so update your website frequently with blog posts on current industry events, new products and offers, and company news to keep visitors coming back to the site. Test your site periodically and make sure that you are using the latest versions of software, plugins, and themes. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, delegate or hire someone.

Starting a small business website is a low-cost investment that will help you to establish credibility and reach a wider customer base than you would through traditional marketing. As long as you keep your website updated with fresh, current content and quickly address any technical issues, you’ll never have to worry not having a way to stay current with current an potential customers. Whatever you’re advertising – services or products – a website is a great way to do it. Other kinds of advertising cost a premium, especially if you want to target customers, and there’s no way to guarantee that they’re paying attention. Your site is like  a brochure that is free to reproduce, interactive, and is quickly distributed to people who are already looking for it. That’s why no advertising medium comes close to the ease-of-use and effectiveness of your website.