It is no longer possible to keep up with your competitors if you do not have a website, and once you do have a website, there are almost an infinite number of competitors in the online marketplace to compete against! Building a website for your small business may sound like an impossible hurdle, but it is one of the most important steps in your business’s growth in both the short and long term! With new technologies, it is now more affordable than ever for small businesses to build a website and see results in a realistic timeframe. If you are a more seasoned small business owner looking to optimize your pre-existing website, this could be a great opportunity to re-spark your brand awareness.

But first, why does your small business need a website? You are probably already spending money on advertising, so why should you spend money on a website? Websites are not just advertisements, they are everything that you want the consumer to know about your small business: what makes you better than your competitors, your personal story, a contact directory, and informative content that demonstrates your brand’s authority in your industry. According to a Major Purchase Shopper Study, “81% of consumers go online before heading out to the store”, and for businesses without a brick-and-mortar, this number is likely very similar, if not higher. This means that if you are not on the internet, not only are you losing out on online sales, but it is likely to cost more money to find a customer in the physical world.

Additional reasons are more specific to your small business. A website is a portfolio for potential clients to see what you have done, and for current customers to read about your new product offerings. Your website is an important part of establishing credibility and authority in the industry. Your website also gives customers peace of mind that they can easily find information on your business hours, payment policies, or other concerns before they arrive in person.

A website can also be a resource to you and your employees. Employees can look up specific customer orders, check what products need to be restocked, or even sign up for training if it exists on the website. This will make your small business more efficient by reducing downtime when looking up information that may be needed urgently in the future.

Your website can also help you better understand your current and potential customer base. How did they hear about your small business? Was it through that expensive billboard ad? Or was it through one of your informative blog posts? Are your customers more likely to see your ads in the newspaper or in a Google search that directs them straight to your website, which in turn causes them to call you to learn more about your products? If your small business does not have a website, you are only seeing a fraction of the data.

But where do you start? How do you get your small business’s website up and running? Are you looking to build a more budget-friendly website? (take a look at our ready-to-build turnkey websites!) There are quite a few options, but first, let’s talk about a very important preliminary step:

What is your website’s main purpose?

Will your website serve as an e-commerce store? Will your website simply be a place for your potential customers to learn about your product offerings? Coming up with a few goals can help you make key decisions for your website that can greatly affect your budget.

For example, let’s compare a catering service’s website to a karate school’s website. The catering service may be looking to expand its business to the tri-state area, and so one of its goals is to bring more eyeballs from out-of-state to its website. Because of this main goal, their website will be built to include a map of the area with pinpointed locations for each event that their business is a part of. The karate school, however, is looking to attract more local customers to its school. With this in mind, the website will contain detailed video tutorials on how its martial art style can be used in real-life situations to help provide more digestible content for parents trying to decide if karate is right for their kid.

Whether it is increasing brand awareness, improving customer service, or even increasing leads, having a key goal to shape your website is of the utmost importance.

Now that you have created a goal for your small business’s website, let’s get to the fun stuff — actually creating your website!

1. Picking out your small business’s domain name

Your website’s domain name (the website link that you type into Google to find your website), is the user’s first interaction with your company. Is your brand recognizable? Is it easy to spell and remember? These are some of the most important questions that you may ask yourself when trying to pick a domain for your website. Try to pick out a few different options that include important and relevant keywords to your industry.

Once you have come up with some options that make you smile, it is time to see if it is available. Tools like GoDaddy and Domain.com allow you to check for domain availability or to see if a domain is up for purchase. Before you purchase your domain, make sure that you are not infringing upon any copyrights or intellectual property! Other great options include Google Domains and NameCheap.

2.Choosing a hosting provider

After you have purchased your small business’s domain name, it is time to decide who will host your website. A website host is essentially who will be hosting all of your data on their server. Most hosting providers offer a free trial period, so you can test drive before investing money into it. Using a service like GoDaddy or Domain.com, you can search for their compatibility with the hosting provider that you would like to use and see if they are available on the list, allowing you to continue testing.

It is important to be aware that there are typically two kinds of hosting. A shared web host will host your website with others which, although it is more affordable, could mean that you run into the risk of your website being slowed down or crashing because of other websites’ problems. A more expensive, but safer route, is to use dedicated hosting where you get an entire server to yourself. Some hosting companies offer packages that are limited in the amount of space or monthly bandwidth, so make sure to check before you sign a contract. With the amount of traffic on the internet growing each and every year, you may want to store all of your data on an external hard drive if you have a large number of photos, videos, or music.

A third hosting option is a virtual private server (VPS) which is a middle ground between having your own private (but expensive) server or sharing one. Do your research early on and take note of the host’s customer service support because if something goes wrong with your website, you will want to have it properly taken care of in a short amount of time. Some key questions that you should ask (and should be answered with some type of quantifiable data) are:

Do you have customer phone support, and how responsive is it?
What types of hosting packages do you offer, and do you offer free upgrades?
What is your uptime guarantee? (if they do not have one — move on to a different company)
What type of cyber security do you offer?
Did you know that we offer hosting services? Contact us to learn more!

3. Pick out your Content Management System

A Content Management System (or CMS, in short), is basically a platform that allows you to build a website without needing to code. Using a CMS is a fantastic option for small business owners looking to build a website without needing to learn how to code or paying a web developer to code for them.

There are a variety of CMS platforms to choose from with different benefits. If you are looking to really customize your small business’s website and leave room for growth in the future, WordPress is a popular option (and our personal favorite

4.Pick out your e-commerce platform

If you are looking to create an e-commerce website for your small business, now is the time to select your e-commerce platform! This will act as an internet marketplace for you, the seller, and the user, the consumer. It will allow buyers to browse the products listed on your website, fill out a form requesting the product or service that they want, and then pay for their purchase.

There are a wide variety of e-commerce platforms to choose from, but Shopify and BigCommerce are two great starting points

5.Start creating your website’s pages!

Remember that preliminary step from above? The one about creating some goals for your small business’s website? This is when your goal(s) will trickle down into the nitty-gritty of your website — especially for its content and design.

This will be the most time-consuming stage. Your website will look different on each browser (did you know that 61% of website visits in 2020 were from a mobile device?) So you may need to adjust your fonts, sizing, and media so that they can be easily translated to mobile devices. There are a plethora of tools that can help with responsive design and troubleshooting issues once your website is up and running, but it is important to realize that this is now the reality of website designing.

Your Home Page is one of the most important pages in your website as it is likely one of the first places that users will go to when trying to learn more about your small business. It is important to include your brand name and a call to action that encourages users to either make a purchase, learn more, or consider your small business for any future purchases (again, this is where that main goal we talked about earlier comes into play).

Other pages that are likely a good start for most small businesses include:

  • About Us
  • Contact Information
  • Gallery
  • Blog/Newsfeed

If you need some help outlining your website, do some competitor analysis! What are other similar companies doing? What parts of their website really stand out to you if you put yourself in the eyes of the customer? What aspects do not work? A strong competitor analysis can help you realize where your competitors are doing well or lacking in their website efforts. Alongside your small business’s website goal, this can help shape your website!

Some other key things to remember when building your small business’s website:

  • If the user does not immediately understand what your business sells, your messaging is not clear.
  • Keep your branding consistent and throughout
  • Stock images are ok at first, but begin investing in creating your own content for a better user experience and heightened authenticity and credibility

5.Start creating your website’s pages!

Remember that preliminary step from above? The one about creating some goals for your small business’s website? This is when your goal(s) will trickle down into the nitty-gritty of your website — especially for its content and design.

This will be the most time-consuming stage. Your website will look different on each browser (did you know that 61% of website visits in 2020 were from a mobile device?) So you may need to adjust your fonts, sizing, and media so that they can be easily translated to mobile devices. There are a plethora of tools that can help with responsive design and troubleshooting issues once your website is up and running, but it is important to realize that this is now the reality of website designing.

Your Home Page is one of the most important pages in your website as it is likely one of the first places that users will go to when trying to learn more about your small business. It is important to include your brand name and a call to action that encourages users to either make a purchase, learn more, or consider your small business for any future purchases (again, this is where that main goal we talked about earlier comes into play).

Other pages that are likely a good start for most small businesses include:

  • About Us
  • Contact Information
  • Gallery
  • Blog/Newsfeed

If you need some help outlining your website, do some competitor analysis! What are other similar companies doing? What parts of their website really stand out to you if you put yourself in the eyes of the customer? What aspects do not work? A strong competitor analysis can help you realize where your competitors are doing well or lacking in their website efforts. Alongside your small business’s website goal, this can help shape your website!

Some other key things to remember when building your small business’s website:

  • If the user does not immediately understand what your business sells, your messaging is not clear.
  • Keep your branding consistent and throughout
  • Stock images are ok at first, but begin investing in creating your own content for a better user experience and heightened authenticity and credibility

6.Optimize for a speedier website

According to a study in 2017 by Google, from seconds one to three of waiting for a website to load, the probability of a bounce (the user leaving your website) increases by 32%. And that was five years ago! In this customer and user-powered digital world, this bounce rate is likely to increase exponentially, so your website’s speed is very important to bring in new and returning users to your website.

Make sure that you schedule regular speed tests and consider installing plug-ins to help optimize.

7.Invest in Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (commonly known as, SEO) is the optimizing of your website for search engines like Google and Bing. When you do a search for “ice cream parlor near me”, below the usual ads at the top of the page (that is pay-per-click advertising) are “organic search” results for the most SEO-optimized sites. Your goal, as an ice cream parlor owner, for example, is to get your website to display as high up as possible on the search results page so that people see your ice cream parlor first! After all, if someone is craving ice cream, they are likely to want to get their hands on some as soon as possible, so they are not going to bother scrolling down the search results page.

SEO is a great long-term investment for small business owners who want to increase their visibility. Unfortunately, SEO is not something that you learn overnight (thus, this would entail hiring a SEO developer). Don’t believe us? When was the last time you got to page 5 of Google?

If it is not the right time for you to invest in SEO, beginning with “local” SEO is a great start. To learn how local SEO can help your small business, visit: https://hudsondigitalgroup.com/why-its-crucial-for-your-business-to-utilize-local-seo/.

8.Create content for your website regularly

One way to help attract users to your website is by creating content, like a blog (you made it to this blog post, didn’t you?!) This is a great opportunity to inform or educate your target audience about what you do and what separates you from your competitors. It is also a great way to help improve your SEO and get seen on search engines! You are the expert in your industry, so write about it as naturally as you can while remembering that your website’s users may not be experts in your field.

To conclude, there are many reasons why your small business should build a website, like increasing brand awareness, increasing your credibility, expanding your market with an e-commerce site, or even housing a digital brochure of your offerings! Whatever your main reason is, make sure that you use it as a basis to craft your website’s functionality.

It is a good idea to look back on your goals and how you planned to reach them. Do your sitemap, content, and design align with those goals? Setting up an maintenance and optimization plan or schedule is a great way to keep your website in check, especially when it comes to website speed and updates.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your small business’s website! Follow these key steps to create a strong foundation for your website that will help you continue to grow your website!

Does this sound like too much work? Hudson Digital Group builds WordPress websites and other websites for small, medium, and large businesses all over the U.S. and worldwide. Get in touch with us today!

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Phone: 201.949.7662

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