How To Create A Website For Your Business
As we enter this new decade, it has become apparent that the years ahead will be particularly challenging for new businesses. Amidst all the obstacles you’re going to face, building a website for your business may not be at the forefront of your mind. However, we’re here to tell you why establishing your online presence is crucial to the future of your business.
The truth is, no matter if you’re running a part-time side hustle or a full-time business, a business website is a key component to establishing your identity, building your visibility, and maintaining your relevance in an ever-more-online world. In the next section, we’ll explain why.
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Why A Business Website Is So Important
A 2018 study from Clutch.co found that 64% of small businesses had a website at the time of the survey. Even if you assume that this number has grown in the years that have passed since this study was conducted, it still means that a significant number of small businesses out there don’t have a website up yet. Contrast this with a study conducted by BrightLocal.com in 2014, which found that 68% of consumers report that having a website “is a key factor in the opinion they hold about a business and directly influences their decision to use a local business” and that a mere “27% were not bothered about whether a local business has a website or not, and wouldn’t judge them if they didn’t.” Now consider that this study was done years ago. You can imagine how these numbers might be different should the same study be conducted today.
Regardless of the exact numbers, the reality is clear: Not having a website means that your business is alienating a large majority of your potential customers right off the bat. To set yourself up for success in the ’20s, yes, your business needs a website. Doing otherwise puts you on the path to irrelevance.
Here’s a list of reasons why it’s essential to have a business website:
- It shows off what your business is, what it does, and helps define your brand
- It establishes your relevance (if you don’t have a website, younger people will assume you don’t really exist or are not worth bothering with)
- It provides your customers a way to contact you 24/7
- It gives your customers a good first impression of your business (assuming your website doesn’t suck!)
Now that we’ve established the necessity of having a website, what do you need to do to create one for your business? To answer that question, we’ve put together a checklist of steps you can take to ensure that your business has a respectable web presence.
12 Steps To Creating A Website For Your Business
Modern website building services make it easier than ever to establish a functional and attractive business website. However, there are steps you’ll need to take to make sure that your website reinforces your business goals.
1. Solidify Your Business Plan
Naturally, before you decide on the nature of the website you want to build, you should solidify your business plan so that you have a good grasp of what you want to accomplish with your website.
If you’ve already launched your business or if you have the foundation of a business in place and are refining the specifics of your plan, try to pinpoint the key aspects of your business ahead of launching your website. Determine who your target clients are and how to best communicate to this audience what your business is about. Decide on what you want your brand image to be and how it relates to the lives of your target audience.
Once you have a solid idea of what you want to accomplish with your business website, you can move forward with confidence.
2. Research The Competition
Once you know what your business is and who your clients will be, it’s important to research other businesses in your industry. Pay special attention to the websites of your competitors. Take note of the design and branding of these websites, how they are structured (multi-page vs. single page, what integrations they use, etc.), and whether these sites have any mobile-specific features for customers who use their smartphones to navigate them.
Examine what distinguishes the websites of the leading companies in your field from the websites of the middling businesses. Site visitors will often assume a stale website to be indicative of a backward, out-of-touch business.
3. Pick Your Domain Name
Your domain name is the first thing people will notice about your website. It helps establish your brand identity and will affect your SEO. That’s why it’s important to give careful consideration to what you want your domain name to be. Pick something distinctive and brand-related, and you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Pick something generic, and your URL won’t stand out in the crowd — you’ll be missing out on an opportunity to distinguish your business from the competition.
Many small businesses get their domain name from the same service they use to build their website. However, other businesses choose to buy their domain from a separate source, which can be handy should you decide to use a different website builder somewhere down the road. If you’re considering choosing a domain registrar and/or a web host separate from your website builder, have a look at our rundown of the 10 Best Domain Registrars & Web Hosting Services. (Note that some companies bundle domain registrar services and web hosting together, while others stick to one or the other.)
4. Create A Business Email
The importance of a professional, business-specific email address often gets overlooked, but when your future customers visit your site’s contact page and they see your email address listed as email@example.com, they’re going to assume the worst about your business.
To lend credibility to your business, create a business email address that emphasizes professionalism — preferably some combination of your name and the name of your business. Thankfully, many website builder packages include custom email addresses, often through G Suite.
5. Choose Your Website Builder
Here’s where things get a bit more complicated. Unless you intend to build your business website from scratch by yourself (not generally recommended) or hire a team of developers and designers to build your site (this is cost-prohibitive for most small businesses), you’ll need to choose a website builder to create the website your business deserves.
However, no two website builders are created equal. Thankfully, there are options tailored for different business types and different levels of technical expertise. Don’t worry; many website builders require no such expertise! Here’s a list of industries and website purposes along with the best website builder choices for each one.
These intuitive website builders are useful for just about any business under the sun. Let’s explore.
With over 150 million users in 190 countries, Wix has grown to become the most popular website builder in the world. It’s not hard to see why. With intuitive website building, great eCommerce, a host of handy integrations, and scores of attractive templates, Wix truly offers something for everybody — though Wix does offer special feature packages for the restaurant, hotel, and photography industries.
Wix is unique in that it gives you three different ways to build a website. You can use Wix’s standard drag-and-drop editor, which allows for easy DIY site creation (no coding knowledge necessary!). Alternatively, you can use Wix ADI and have Wix’s automated system to create a website for you. And if you’re good with code and/or have access to developers, you can use Corvid by Wix (Wix’s open dev platform) to build web applications and connect to APIs.
The hundreds of add-ons available in the Wix App Market should help fill any feature gaps left by the editor. On the downside, Wix lacks live chat support and has a considerable number of public complaints (though its status as the world’s most used website builder may have something to do with this).
With more than 50 million websites launched throughout the world, Weebly’s brand of website building is accessible like no other. It may just be the most user-friendly website builder of them all. Weebly’s websites are fully mobile responsive, so it’s easy to create great mobile-friendly sites, which is very important — data compiled by Top Digital Agency in January of 2019 showed that 81% of small business websites studied were mobile-friendly. You don’t want to find your small business on the wrong side of this mobile divide!
Weebly’s pricing is very competitive, it features a mobile editing app for on-the-go website building, and it features an extensive repository of add-ons and integrations in the form of the Weebly App Center. Additionally, Weebly’s tight integration with Square (Square acquired Weebly in 2018) makes for a solid eCommerce package. It’s not the fanciest website builder out there, but if you’re looking to build a modern small business website with as little fuss as possible, you could certainly do a lot worse than Weebly.
Let’s take a look at some website builders specializing in eCommerce.
Shopify is more than just an eCommerce website builder. It’s also a payment processor and a POS system. But while Shopify has expanded to provide all manner of commerce services to merchants, its excellent eCommerce website builder remains at the core of its offerings. Shopify’s eCommerce website builder is capable of supporting businesses across the size spectrum, from startup to enterprise.
Shopify’s website builder makes creating an eCommerce store easy. Adding products and product variants, implementing discounts, selling digital products, multilingual checkouts, automatic shipping rates — it’s all a breeze. Hosting is included, and the available templates are both stylish and mobile responsive. If you’re in the eCommerce business, give strong consideration to choosing Shopify.
Texas-based BigCommerce is one of Merchant Maverick’s favorite eCommerce website services. Sporting great ease of use, strong functionality, and quality customer support (very important in this industry), BigCommerce offers a compelling website builder package for online retailers.
BigCommerce offers great templates, all the eCommerce features you’d expect, and a sizable app marketplace with over 600 integrations, ensuring that your online store won’t have any functionality gaps. BigCommerce’s powerful package doesn’t come cheap, however. Pricing is based on your store’s annual online sales, so if your company’s revenue is greater than the set amount for your subscription plan, you’ll automatically get bumped up to the next pricing tier, and your cost will increase.
If you’re in the business of producing online content — news organizations, review sites, etc. — you’ll need systems to manage your content. Here are some services that can handle this.
WordPress isn’t an all-in-one website builder like Wix. It’s a Content Management System (CMS) that powers over 31% of websites globally — including ours!
With WordPress, you need to find your own web host and then install WordPress on your hosting account as well as provide for security, so you’ll need folks with web development experience on your team to keep your site running. But while WordPress initially was strictly a blogging platform, the number of plugins available has expanded to the point where you can use WordPress to power an eCommerce site as well.
Managing content is still WordPress’s strong suit, however. You’ll have full control over creating, publishing, and managing your content, and you’ll be able to take your WordPress site to another WordPress-friendly web host easily should the need ever arise. If your business can handle it, WordPress is an excellent choice for the online business with oodles of content to manage.
MotoCMS is a product that aims to narrow the gap between the CMS and the DIY website builder by offering a cloud-based website builder that anyone can use — non-techies included. You’ll have to choose a web host, but the website building itself isn’t too difficult.
With MotoCMS, you don’t pay for a monthly subscription as with most website builders. Instead, you choose a template, plugins, SEO features, security, etc., and pay a one-time fee for each. And though MotoCMS is ideal for online publishing, its features are well-suited for a variety of other business types. With over 2,500 functional and attractive templates available, you’ll almost certainly find something to fit your business needs.
Restaurants, Bakeries & Cafes
The following website builders are excellent choices for those of you in the foodservice industry.
Squarespace is a popular website builder in design circles. The company’s elegant, industry-leading templates really set the standard. However, Squarespace has a lot to offer the restaurant industry as well.
When you go to create your website, Squarespace can set up a basic restaurant template for you, complete with a menu and an OpenTable integration, which you can then customize. The handy menu element is easily edited, so you can display what you have on offer. I always marvel at the number of restaurant websites that either don’t have an easily accessible menu or whose menu doesn’t display well on a smartphone. With a Squarespace website, your restaurant won’t have that problem.
Duda is a stylish website builder that emphasizes mobile responsiveness and offers an editor that allows for a high degree of customization. It’s sold as a tool for both individual business owners and developers looking to build websites for their clients at scale. However, it has a feature that can be particularly useful for restaurants and other eateries.
Duda offers a feature that allows you to set personalization rules. Using personalization rules, you can create elements that appear only when certain conditions are met. This means that if your menu changes depending on the time of day, you could have your site display a lunch menu or a dinner menu. You could even create a video introduction to your restaurant and set it to play the first time somebody visits your site but doesn’t play when that person pays subsequent visits to your site. It’s a tool that cafes and restaurants can use in any number of ways.
Artists & Photographers
Artists and photographers will find a lot to like about the following website builders.
Pixpa is one of the few website builders out there with a stated focus on photography. It’s a great website building tool for photography portfolios and is an ideal platform for selling your artwork online.
Pixpa’s main selling point for artists and photographers is its Fotomoto integration. Fotomoto allows you to sell your images as physical prints or downloads. If you have a Fotomoto account, you can link it to your Pixpa site and start making money from your work. Fotomoto offers a basic subscription for free, so there’s no barrier to entry here.
Pixpa also features a nice blogging tool — another great way to show off your work.
SITE123 is a website builder that gives you the easiest website building experience imaginable. Start the site creation process, and SITE123 will create a website for you within seconds. Choose “photography” as your site type, and you’ll immediately get a website with a portfolio, gallery, image sections, social media integration, and a contact form. You’ll also get immediate live chat support — something that website builders typically only offer paid subscribers (if they offer it at all).
The storage limitations SITE123 places on even the highest-tier plans are unfortunate, but if you’re looking for a supremely easy way to showcase your work, SITE123 is worth your consideration.
6. Select A Website Template Or Theme
If your website builder has you choose a template or theme at the beginning of the site creation process, think carefully before making your choice. You’ll want a template that reflects the industry you’re in. You’ll also want to ensure that your chosen template jibes with your brand image. Try to judge whether your template can accommodate whatever feature additions you plan to make.
I should add here that some modern website builders don’t have you choose from among different templates. Some site builders will create a website for you based on your particular business type. Others will prompt you to provide some content and will then automatically arrange the content you provided into a new website — content you can then edit and rearrange.
7. Organize & Design Your Website
At this point, you’ll have to consider how you want to organize your content into a coherent website. Here are some major points you’ll have to consider:
Multi-Page VS One-Page
Typically, a business website will need to be multi-page to contain all the content you want to present. However, a single-page website can work for businesses that don’t need to post a large amount of content and whose web traffic comes mainly from smartphone users. It can be easier to simply scroll down the screen to find content on a mobile device. Many of the new mobile-focused website builders out there let you divide your page into linkable sections. The user clicks on “about us,” and instead of being taken to a separate page, the user is taken down to the “about us” section of the single-page site. Check out our post on the best one-page web builders to find out more.
This arrangement won’t work with all business websites, of course, but for businesses who want to present information to smartphone users in the most efficient way possible, it’s certainly a design choice to consider.
Put A Call To Action On Your Homepage
A call to action is a prompt — typically a large, prominently-placed button — on a website that directs the visitor to take a certain action. The button might say “Subscribe” or “Sign Up For Free” or “Learn More” or “Get Started.” The call to action button is extremely important, as it is the primary means by which a business website drives conversions. And yet despite this, according to Top Digital Agency’s 2019 study, 70% of small business websites have no call to action. Every one of these businesses is missing out on a golden opportunity to induce conversions.
By all means, place a prominent call to action on your homepage. It’s a simple way to ensure that your business website is more than just a passive digital billboard.
Tips For Your Contact Page
For many business types, your contact page will be the most important aspect of your website. It can mark the beginning of the business-customer relationship. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that your contact information is presented as clearly as possible. Don’t make your site visitors jump through hoops to find it. And if your contact page has a contact form for visitors to fill out, just ask for essential information — don’t include a bunch of unnecessary required fields.
8. Start Adding Content
Now for the fun part. Once you’ve decided on your site’s design, form, and structure, it’s time to start filling in the blanks with content. Keep things relatively simple and streamlined, but try to showcase your personality and the personality of your brand as well.
9. Set Up Payments & Policies
If your business is offering items or services for sale on your website, you’ll need to set up payment processing. Selecting and setting up payment methods can be complex and intimidating, but don’t fret — Merchant Maverick is here to help you through the process. After all, payment processing is our original specialty!
To learn the basics of accepting online payments, our How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online article is a helpful guide. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics, head on over to our post detailing our favorite credit card processing companies. And if you’re looking for a quick way to compare your options, check out our Online Payment Processing Comparison page.
Don’t forget to be transparent on your website about your policies regarding payments, shipping, and refunds.
10. Optimize Your Website With The Best SEO Practices
You might have a great website, but if Google can’t find it, neither will your potential customers, thus rendering your website building efforts moot. Now, you’ve probably heard the term SEO before, but you may not know much more about it other than the fact that it stands for Search Engine Optimization. Let’s go through what the term means in practice.
Making your site mobile-friendly is more than just a good idea. In fact, Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, as the majority of Google searches now come from mobile devices, not desktop computers.
For more information on how to make your site shine on mobile devices, check out our post on responsive design, then head over to our post detailing the best website builders for creating great mobile-focused websites.
Your website might be well-designed, mobile-friendly, and comport with modern standards of design. But if your site takes too long to load, customers will look elsewhere. Every additional second that your site takes to load represents lost conversions. Your website’s speed will also affect its Google rankings.
The question of how to design a speedy website is a complex one — one that doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. However, the following article contains some helpful guidance as to how to build a website that displays quickly.
The question of how to build a website that comports with best SEO practices is one that could fill a book. However, here’s a quick rundown of the basics:
- Title Tags: A title tag is an HTML element that defines the title of your website. It should concisely describe your site’s content. See Moz’s title tag explainer to learn more.
- Meta Description: A meta description is a snippet that summarizes your page’s content. It should be somewhere around 155 characters in length. The SEO experts at Yoast have posted a handy explanation for how you can tailor your meta descriptions to your benefit.
- Alt Tags: Alt tags are used to describe an image on a page. They describe images to visitors who can’t see them. Moz has a thorough rundown of how to best deploy alt tags here.
11. Share & Market Your New Website
So you’ve launched your business website — now it’s time to spread the good word about it!
We’ve discussed the importance of your Google listing in getting your website seen, but there are other ways to get the word out. If you have a social media following, be sure to announce your new business website — not just in your bio, but with an announcement posting. Perhaps you could offer a limited-time discount for your services to new site visitors. And if you don’t already have a Facebook Business page, you’ll want to create one, as it’s a good way to drive traffic to your website.
12. Frequently Maintain Your Website
After you’ve built your site, you’ll want to keep it well-maintained — your visitors will be able to sniff out a stale website, and so will Google. Here are some tools you can use to maintain your website and keep it fresh.
Google Analytics is a commonly-used analytics tool that just about every website builder integrates with. Through using Google Analytics, you can determine not only how many people are visiting your site, but where your site visitors are physically located, which websites your traffic comes from, which pages or items on your site are most popular, how many visitors you’ve converted into leads, how to improve your website’s speed, and much more.
Thankfully, the standard version of Google Analytics is free to use. An advanced package called Google Analytics 360 is available, but it costs — no joke — $150,000 per year. Thankfully, the standard version should serve you well.
Moz Pro is a tool that can help you discover keywords to target, track the performance of your keywords across search engines, audit your site for SEO deficiencies, and more.
A basic tier Moz Pro subscription goes for $99/month — $79/month if you purchase a yearly subscription. Three other subscription tiers are available, ranging from $179/month to $599/month.
SEMrush is an analytics tool that lets you compare your site’s performance with that of your competition. It can help your digital marketing by examining your competitors’ SEO strategies, so you can target what they’re missing, among many other things.
SEMrush is offered in three subscription tiers ranging from $99.95/month to $399.95/month (annual subscriptions get a discounted rate).
Click here for a complete description of SEMrush’s features.
Final Checklist For Creating Your Business Website
That was a lot to take in, wasn’t it? To refresh your memory, here’s what you need to do to build the kind of website your small business deserves.
- Solidify your business plan
- Research the competition
- Pick your domain name
- Create a business email
- Choose your website builder
- Select a website template or theme
- Organize and design your website
- Start adding content
- Set up payments and policies
- Optimize your website with the best SEO practices
- Share and market your new website
- Frequently maintain your website
For more helpful website building resources, check out the following links!
- eCommerce Website Builder Software Comparison chart
- Best Website Builders For Small Businesses
- Merchant Maverick’s full list of reviews on website builders
Best of luck on creating a website that takes your business to new heights!