In a world where people are more active “online” than “off”, a promotion strategy of any business starts with creating a website. Indeed, web presence is essential for every company no matter what products they sell and who their customers are.
Whether you are a freelance developer, sell handmade bags, own a barbershop, or have another kind of small business, a great website targeted to your goals and audience is a must for your company’s success. Here are 7 clear steps with lots of advice!
Step #1: Find Your Niche
Before starting to create a website, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and what goals you are pursuing: generate phone calls, increase online sales, drive awareness, ramp up traffic, or whatever.
Some amateur entrepreneurs disregard deep preliminary analysis, jumping right to the website creation. How wrong they are! More than 20% of newly opened companies fail during the first two years. Do you know why? The main reason for the “bad break” is the lack of a proper business plan.
When you are planning what products to sell, take into account at least 3 factors:
- Market demand to determine if your product is solicited on the market. Google Keyword Planner can give you insights into how often your product is searched by people and how these searches have changed over time.
- Trends. Feel free to use such insightful tools as BuzzSumo and Google Trends to capture customers before your competitors do.
- Competition. Do want to create your own products or opt for dropshipping? How many competitors are out there? Researching your competitors is an inherent part of any promotion strategy. Do Google search for your product keywords to identify what else you can do to stand out from the crowd.
Step #2: Decide on Your Domain Name
A domain name is often an entry point to your business. It is the URL you will be sharing with your clients and promoting on social media. I would like to provide you with some tips that I use when helping my clients to make up domain names:
- Keep it short and easy to pronounce. If a child couldn’t pronounce it, choose a more simple domain name.
- Avoid words with unclear spelling. For example, “which” and “witch” sound almost the same.
- Avoid hyphenated domains.
- Use the proper domain extensions (.com, .edu, .gov, .net, and others). Even though nonstandard top-level domains have grown in recent years, .com remains the most popular and converted TLD.
- Be relevant. Your website name should describe your purpose and brand clearly. This means that when a visitor looks at your URL, they are able to make a reasonable assumption about what your site is about.
- Ensure it is memorable.
- Pay for the best. There are two costs associated with getting a domain name: the cost of buying a domain name and the cost of keeping it registered.
Domain Generator Tools
To make things easier, you can make use of a domain generator tool. Here are a couple:
The generators create a variety of interesting options to choose from. Check out the results I got during a free run for the word “gadgets”.
Step #3: Choose the Right Platform for Creating a Website for a Small Business
It is important to note that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to choosing the right website platform. Different businesses have different needs. For instance, a trendy new bar requires something totally different from a freelance photographer who wants to use their website as a portfolio.
The Most Popular CMS Options Include
Perhaps the most commonly used platform for small businesses is Shopify. It’s an SEO-friendly solution that caters to the needs of various business types. As of today, there are more than 800k+ sites that are Shopify-powered.
Furthermore, the platform handles the matter of hosting, is noted for being intuitive in use, and doesn’t require a programming background in order to set up a store. Many themes are available for customization, making the design part of the store much simpler. Plus, there’s a rich selection of plugins to add on to the site (you can browse the best Shopify apps here). These are some of the many reasons why merchants opt for Shopify.
Other CMS alternatives out there are:
How to Select a Suitable CMS
To make things clear, take into consideration these things when choosing the right CMS for your business:
- the true cost of the platform;
- ongoing requirements;
- the technology stack that a platform is compatible with;
- the skill set required;
- the ability to provide opportunities for blog management;
- the ability for customization.
Step #4: Set Up Your Online Store
The process of setting up your website will vary depending on the CMS you have chosen.
For example, setting up such a complex system as Magento requires strong coding skills, as well as a deep understanding of the platform architecture on both front-end and back-end sides. This option is for the experienced part of the business world.
On the other hand, the process of setting up a store can be a simple breeze if you choose Shopify. Here’s a detailed tutorial showing all the steps from A to Z.
Website Setup Tips
A successful website for a small business is much more than a static homepage. In order to answer all customers’ questions, your site should have several sections dedicated to specific clients’ needs, say, a catalog of your products, blog, contact page, portfolio, and others. You need to be sure that each page on your site has a clear purpose and includes a CTA button.
Moreover, you need to choose the right layout that determines the visual appearance of your site. Alternatively, you can create your own theme or customize the existing one to make it meet your business goals.
After all, your primary purpose is to create an interesting, memorable, and engaging user interface that leaves a positive impression and retains customers on your site.
Importantly, you should aim at providing a worry-free user experience to your site visitors regardless of the device they use to browse your website. This is why many merchants invest in solutions with headless commerce architecture, transforming their websites into progressive web applications.
Design intuitive navigation, use high-quality images (not from stocks) and make sure your visuals are compressed and optimized for faster loading. Users hate to wait and will abandon your site if its page loading takes more than 3 seconds.
Step #5: Mind Your Website Design
Designing a website seems challenging and daunting. Some entrepreneurs often think about this process with an emphasis on technical matters, guessing that they have to be someone from Silicon Valley equipped with state-of-the-art tools.
However, great design is actually about having a website-building process that aligns with an overall online strategy. In today’s world of website templates and platforms which offer custom services, solid coding skills are needed to build an awesome website from the ground up.
We’ll cover the must-have elements of a well-designed website for a small business.
1. Overall Design or Template
It is no question that choosing the right layout is one of the most important stages of website creation. It has to match your brand, your product, and the desired functionality. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to create the designs in-house, there’s always an option of tweaking a theme.
As such, Shopify officially offers dozens of attractive themes for different types of sites:
5 Tips on Choosing the Right Template
There are 5 vital things you need to consider when choosing the ideal template for your website:
- Type of your business and the product you sell
As such, a template for a website selling, say, hand-made items will be different from the one selling hardware components.
- Flexibility and Customization Options
It doesn’t matter how good your template is, you will need to tweak it in some way to bring a personalized feel to your site and make it stand out among competitors.
The fact is that your website has to work well on all devices, including mobile ones. Take into account that since July 2018, Google has prioritized mobile-optimized websites in search results ranking.
If your site is slow or unresponsive, be prepared for a hefty penalty to your overall ranking. Besides, according to the latest stats:
“More than half (51%) of all Internet users leverage their smartphones to buy online.”
So it is extremely important to make your site is primed for mobile viewing.
- Know your template provider and customer support
The truth is that lots of developers are offering their templates on the web. However, not all of them are well-written and perform smoothly.
A poorly-written template can cause many issues. So whether you pay for a template or download it for free, just make sure that you get it from a trustworthy supplier. Take into consideration the rating and testimonials from previous buyers when choosing a reputable supplier.
Other Places to Look for Themes
2. Decide on Standard Webpages
No matter what product you are selling, you have to include 5 web pages on your site to make it work for your business:
- The homepage
It is the first page that visitors see and where all the actions happen on your site. When crafting your homepage, you have to think from the shoppers’ perspective to control your visitors’ first impression.
- “About Us” page
This page is a great opportunity to elaborate on your brand’s vision and accomplishments.
- Products or services pages
This page/pages is often the crux of most websites. The main aim is to convert a visitor into a buyer.
- Blog page
A blog presents an opportunity for brands to talk directly with their customers. As such, you can feature the latest industry trends, product updates, how-to’s, guides, tutorials of all shades, and respond to customers’ questions. Bear in mind that a blog is just an ongoing journey, not a final destination. It must capture visitors’ attention and make them buy.
This page basically acts as a customer support tool. The priority here is to deliver excellent service and provide your shoppers with accurate information. For instance, you can quickly assemble a Contact Us page with a form as shown on the example below of Rothy’s, a Shopify-based site.
3. Think About Visuals
This is a stage of the design process where a good designer can really shine. Images and other visual elements play a significant role not only because they give a website a professional look and feel, making web pages more attractive and alluring. They also enhance the message in the text and help build trust.
We recommend hiring a professional photographer to get the images right. It is better to use self-made photos rather than stock images to establish trust. Just keep in mind that massive images can slow your website down. In order to compress images without losing quality, you may use image optimization tools, for example, Optimizilla or TinyPNG.
For example, you’ve opted for Shopify. Your site must run smoothly in order to meet the needs of your audience. Shopify loading speed optimization should become one of your priorities, so apart from handling images, make sure to take care of the site speed.
4. Add Your Content
Writing copies that convert is only half the battle, while the other half is for its positioning. Positioning is about where your content sits on each page, how it is laid out.
The latest research shows that people commonly consume content in an “F” format. In a nutshell, this means that users scan pages in a shape that resembles this letter. This is the reason why, say, navigation bars are often displayed across the top of the page. So, it is a good practice to place content with this in mind.
For example, this is how the content on a product page looks like on the united by blue Shopify store.
Step #6: Install Webmaster Tools
By installing Google Analytics and Search Console, you will be able to get in-depth insights into how your website is doing. You can use these robust tools to track the following information:
- number of visitors on your site per day/week/month;
- number of views on each page;
- average time spent on your website by the visitors;
- bounce rate;
- broken links and errors found by search engines when crawling its content;
- keywords that your site is ranked for;
- your website speed, and other SEO-related information.
Here’s a handy read on how to handle Google Analytics on Shopify, including instructions on various crucial setups.
There you have it, a detailed strategy for creating a successful website for small businesses that you may use to build your own. We hope that the advice given in this article and the 6 simple-to-follow steps will help you in building your own website!