For a small business, a website is not just a digital listing. It's a marketing tool, a storefront, and an information kiosk all in one. And a great website attracts more eyeballs than any flyer, or money-saving ad, or stunt pen outside the chamber of commerce.
Apple, the local guitar teacher, the fruit cart at the bus stop: they all have websites. It is almost impossible for a company to exist, let alone prosper, without it.
If your small business needs a new website or doesn't have one, here are 10 things you need to know to build it well and work hard for you, and see our list of the best website builders for you separately. . providers there.
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1. Have a goal
Like any tool, your website has a purpose. Before you start any build, make sure you know what it is.
Is it a platform to sell your handmade aprons? Is it a microphone to convey his status as an intellectual leader? Is there a way for clients to see their credentials?
And how will your website serve your customers, current and potential? What competitor sites are they visiting and what keywords are they using to find them?
Be precise; quantify your needs. A specifically designed and targeted website will attract more customers than a hodgepodge of personal information.
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2. Tell your friends to stay away from your website
Don't hire cousin Jodie or your best friend's art school roommate to build your website. Cheap hires create websites that look cheap, regardless of their intentions. Your website will be (at a minimum) the face of your business. This is the last place you should take shortcuts.
Create the website yourself using the best website builder and web hosting tool available which are very affordable or hire a licensed professional web developer.
A freelancer will probably set you back around €1,000. A full-fledged agency a few thousand. A website can be expensive, but the investment is worth it.
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3. Use a website builder
Of the available platforms, website builders will be the easiest to use. Popular website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly use pre-made templates and themes to simplify the creation process. If you can drag and drop, you can use a website builder.
There are also cheap website building providers. Most require a subscription ranging from €8 to €20 per month, which includes hosting costs.
The downside of templates is their limited flexibility. Most services offer a wide selection of templates, including those that are industry-specific (retail, hospitality, etc.), but you can rarely stray from the menu.
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4. Use a CMS if you need customization
If you need a large, complex, multi-page site, use a content management system instead of a website builder. Although there is a learning curve with a CMS, it can provide the same flexibility and custom functionality that you would find on a site built from scratch, without the need for extreme coding.
If you want to hire a web developer in the future, consider using an open source CMS like WordPress or Joomla! Most developers are familiar with these two platforms and can easily manipulate a site built on them. However, a proprietary CMS will force them to learn new code, which could slow down their progress.
Open source will also give you access to thousands of community-created plugins and themes to add to your website (test them first to make sure they work). Just keep in mind that although WordPress and Joomla! are free, their plugins can cost between €20 and €200.
Unlike their Wix and Squarespace counterparts, websites built with a CMS will need a third party for hosting and email aliases. Fortunately, there are plenty of options, like GoDaddy and Google Enterprise Apps, for such services.
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5. Take time
Creating a website will be relatively easy, but it won't be quick. Whether you DIY or hire a developer, a good website will take more time than you think.
That's because the bottleneck isn't in the build, it's in the content generation. It will take time to set up even simple content like a “Welcome” photo or blog post. And it should. There are no shortcuts to good content. Plan accordingly.
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6. Keep it clean
Busy websites with pop-ups, auto-playing music, and animated text will be visited for three seconds and then closed. Keep your customers reading with a neat and well-organized website.
Use headings, short paragraphs, and bullet points to highlight important information. And never let scrolling get out of hand. Short attention spans hate long sites.
The most important thing is to entice visitors to click with powerful calls to action. Study what the competition offers and how they offer it. "Click here for a free trial" is weak. You want clicks, not yawns.
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7. Content is king
ABC: always be satisfied. Search engines love fresh, relevant content, and so do your customers. Regular updates are the best way to draw attention to your site.
But if you don't have a plan to regularly update your Thoughts and Reflections section, don't have one. Old blog posts and expired offers will make your business look like it's broke.
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8. The mobile is essential
Most people now access the Internet through their mobile device. Google knows this, which is why a website's mobile friendliness affects its search ranking. Don't cut your website at the knees. Make sure it loads fine on phones and tablets.
If you don't know how to activate your mobile, there are many resources that can help you. Platforms like bMobilized or DudaMobile will create a separate mobile site for you. And most CMS platforms have plugins that will “trigger” a mobile theme if your website detects a mobile visitor.
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9. SEO or others
Think of the search engine as the bus that new customers take to get around the Internet. If your website isn't live, new customers will never know your business exists.
If your website plan includes good, constantly updated content and mobile compatibility, chances are you have a well-lit, easily visible bus stop.
You can make it even better by entering descriptive keywords into your page URLs (naming the page “about us” instead of “page 2”, for example) and sharing links with other websites. (Though you should do this sparingly and only with relevant websites. And forget about a "Links" page. Google will think you're cheating.)
Also avoid redundancy. Pages without separate identities will compete with each other in search results. And finally, include a reviews section and encourage your customers to use it. Search engines will consider the number of reviews your business receives when compiling their rankings.
Note that the algorithm that governs the search will certainly change. Stay up to date with the Google Webmaster Center blog. As search criteria change, so should your website.
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10. Use analytics from day one
Use performance tools like Google Analytics as soon as the website launches so you can immediately see what's working and what's not. More information will only help you make better decisions.
Data and analytics (D&A) plays a critical role in improving the accuracy and efficiency of business decisions by expanding the information available to decision makers.