The internet super highway (yeah, we’ve got jokes), is quite the crowded place out there. Millions upon millions of websites. Some good, some bad, some are over the top with all the bells and whistles, others are just basic and most times that is all you need.
As a small business owner, you don’t need to have a website that will cost you $5,000-$10,000, regardless of what some of the experts may say.
Even if you are a huge brand selling products directly from your website with eCommerce (accepting credit card payments from your website) there are more affordable solutions available below $5k.
The biggest advantage of having a professional web coder to build your website is complete customization of every intricate piece. Every change. Every color. Every change of text. Every image. All customizable through coding.
Even if they have a user-friendly, content management system (CMS) for you to manage it on your own after it’s built, not all changes can be made within the tool. Sometimes you still need them to tweak a piece of their code to make your desired change work properly.
With the technological advancements, especially in the last 5-10 years, there are many web site platforms out there that allow you to create a website with an easy to use editor, application plug-ins for increased functionality, the layout is very easy to navigate for the non-technical, and building a website has never been easier.
Wix, SqauareSpace and WordPress are three different website builder platforms that you can use to create a website from scratch.
So, if you’re a small business owner and want to get your company on the web, where do you start?
Here’s 10.5 things to help you get started on the web:
1. A Simple Domain Name
Looking for the proper domain name is crucial. This is your web address. Typically, this is your business name. But, what if someone else already owns it? You may need to find something else and make it as close as possible.
Think of this as your brand and business name on the web.
If you are local and primarily operating in Canada, I’d recommend the trying to get the .ca and .com versions of your name so you own them both, but primarily use the .ca as it will help with local search or Canadian searches on the web.
The prices on these can vary. Typically, domains can cost between $1 to $20 billed annually.
2. A Secure Hosting Platform
After having a domain name, you need a place to store your website. Think of this like an online storage locker for your website. And having security with an SSL Certificate.
Having a hosting package is necessary, and depending on who you are going with (Wix, GoDaddy, SiteGround, NameCheap, or local Pictou County’s - Whistler IT Solutions), the prices can vary up to $400 per year depending on the package you choose.
This is an investment. Look at it like a rental fee for keeping your brand accessible 24/7 for your potential customers.
3. Describe Who You Are
You don’t want to confuse the people landing on your website. Don’t make the potential customer guess who you are and what you do.
Create some content around who you are and what products or services you offer. It will help people gauge if they’ve came to the right place.
Think of it as an introduction at a networking event. Hi, my name is _____. We sell and service product x, and we’d be glad to help.
4. A Simple Sitemap (Website Layout)
Make it easy for people to navigate through your website. Just like you would if you had a brick and mortar store. If you have a product section, categorize your products into different categories that fit together. If it’s services, break them down into a main section and different pages for each service offering.
This is very important for user experience, which Google takes into consideration. Think about if you go into a store, and you can’t find something. It can be frustrating. The same can be said for gathering information on a website.
5. Easy Contact Us Information
Let’s be honest. Having a website is a great thing, but having someone contact you to buy a product or hire you for a job is pretty important.
Not every person is going to have the patience to hunt through your website to find your contact information.
It’s a good practice to have a whole page, with an easily accessible tab designated to contact us.
This could include:
• Your address
• Hours of operation
• Phone number
• Contact us form
Another great spot is in the footer of your website (at the bottom of the site), as a link that potential customers can click on to take them to your contact us page.
6. User Friendly Design
We as humans have the attention span of a goldfish. And if you're still reading, thank you!
Think about when you go to a website. You scan it quickly to see if it is what you are looking for. If it’s not, you click back and you’re on to the next site to find what you’re looking for.
Simplicity is key. Basic colors. Content is important, but the context is King!
If it’s something you are looking for, you start to slow down and take in the content of the page.
• Put the important topics right up front
• Break up your paragraphs for easy digestion when reading
• Use bullet points
• Add some images and context to the content to keep the reader engaged
7. Be Mobile Friendly
People turn to their mobile device more than a desktop computer now. They might be in your store, searching online for reviews about your store, your products. Having a website that is mobile friendly to fit properly into their hand is extremely important.
With Wix and Squarespace, this is built in by design at no additional cost. No need for a high-priced web developer to do that extra work.
8. Calls to Action
Tell the visitor what you want them to do. If it’s buy now, read more, learn more, contact us. Tell them.
This can be done with coupons, colorful buttons or call-outs on the website to draw attention.
9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is the sweet science behind the website. It’s the stuff that helps people find you on the web. It’s what tells Google that your content is what people are looking for.
This may be the most technical thing a small business owner would run into. But, don’t worry Digihub Marketing has you covered (it’s also included in our website build cost).
Having the right keywords for your product or service, (Using the Google Search Console can help find what people are searching for) and having a page designated to each product or service makes it easier for people to find you on the web.
If you are searching for Widgets in Pictou County, you could have a page designated to widgets and how this widget will help solve a potential customers problem.
But what if you have red widgets, blue widgets and green widgets? Each widget should have their own page to help you categorize, make it easier for the web searcher to find them (and you could have a link on each page to jump to another color), which makes the experience better for the person searching.
This section could be a blog in itself. Learn more about how Digihub Marketing can help you with building optimized content for your website here.
See what I did there? Optimized content with a call to action.
10. Customer Testimonials or Reviews
This is a great way to add validation to your company through testimonials or reviews from clients. You could have these directly on your website in a testimonial section, and on your Google Business Page, or Facebook Page.
The juice from having the reviews on social media will link back to your website as these are all tied to your brand, giving you an extra layer of validation with Google.
10.5. Own Your Own Domain Name
I can’t say this enough. Whether you are doing this on your own, or contracting the work out to a consultant, please ensure that this is all being created in your business or owner name. Have all of the logins and passwords provided to you, so you have the keys to the castle of what is your online presence.
There are some companies who will go buy your domain and setup your hosting, and essentially rent it to you for the rest of your business existence. If there is someone trying to do this, run away.
Because if they go out of business and your site goes down, or they hold your site ransom if you try to walk away, it could get very ugly, and then you could be back to square one trying to build a new site and starting the process over again
To conclude this information session, this list could go on, but these are the top points I could provide to try and give you some insight!
I hope that this article has helped you think about how to build a cost-effective website for your business, or review your current website and see if it needs to be brushed up. If you know of a business owner who is need of a website, or is thinking about how to get started, share this article with them!
If you are still worried about trying this yourself, Digihub Marketing can help you and build and optimize your website at an affordable price. Learn more here.