Modern consumers depend on the internet to research businesses, look up locations and hours, and make purchases. According to HubSpot’s 2020 marketing statistics, 49% of surveyed customers indicate they use Google to find new items and products. So having an effective, informative business website can significantly increase your audience.
Fortunately, there are a variety of easy-to-use tools available to help business owners build an engaging website. In this seven-step guide, you’ll learn the how-tos of building an accessible business website that represents your brand and promotes your business.
Step 1. Decide If You’ll Use WordPress or a Website Builder
Content management systems like WordPress, and website builders like Wix or Squarespace offer powerful solutions to small business owners interested in building a successful website.
These platforms make it easy to host your website, design the layout, add content, and create online stores. However, both options are best suited for different purposes, making it important to learn the pros and cons of each before moving forward.
Pros & Cons of WordPress for Your Business Website
WordPress is one of the most powerful and commonly-used content management systems available, and it lets you start your business website for free.
With WordPress, you can create a custom layout or modify existing themes to meet your business’ needs. Additionally, WordPress offers a selection of plug-ins, providing users with a variety of functions — everything from improving site security to boosting your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
One downside is that WordPress doesn’t offer hosting, so you’ll have to purchase a hosting plan and your domain name from a web hosting provider. It also has a steeper learning curve than website builders, which are designed to be as intuitive as possible at the cost of fewer features and plug-ins.
Pros & Cons of Business Website Builders
Website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly are best suited for business owners with no previous experience in web design or development.
Website builders offer all-in-one web design and maintenance services. These platforms make it easy to build your website with a drag-and-drop design scheme. They also provide web hosting, storage, maintenance, SSL site security, and 24/7 support.
These additional services come at a cost, but website builders tend to be budget-friendly. Squarespace, for example, offers a business plan for just $18 per month.
The downside is that website builders don’t offer a wide range of plug-ins or personalization options. These platforms are designed to be accessible to everyone, which means sacrificing a few features in favor of usability.
Step 2. Pick Your Web Domain
Your domain name is the URL or website address that users type into their search bar to visit your site. Besides brand representation, your domain name also impacts your site’s SEO.
Your domain name should be easy to spell, short, and memorable. Consider opting for the more popular “.com” domain over TLDs like “.net” or “.co.”
If you are using WordPress, you will need to acquire your custom domain name separately through a domain registrar. Domain names are very affordable, typically costing $15 or less per year.
Alternatively, website builders tend to offer free custom domain names as part of their plans, so you won’t need to purchase a domain name separately if you choose to go this route.
Step 3. Select Your Site’s Template or Theme
Whether you choose WordPress or an all-in-one website builder, you’ll start creating your website by picking a theme or template that best fits your aesthetic. Templates are customizable and ensure your business website has a professional appearance even if you have no previous design experience.
You can preview templates to see how they’ll look live, and after finding the right theme you can start customizing. If you decide you don’t like the theme you’ve chosen, you can change the template as many times as you want before publishing your site.
When browsing templates, the layout and structure is more important than color and font, which you can change at your leisure. Most platforms let you search templates by industry, making it easier to find options that align with your brand identity.
Step 4. Build Your Webpages & Add Content
After selecting a template, you can begin customizing your site and building your webpages. When laying out your website, keep user experience in mind. Your site should be simple to navigate, with contact information, hours of operation, and store location (if applicable) easily accessible.
Most business websites contain the same basic pages:
- Homepage: Provide a short overview of your business and what you offer. Include visible navigation to other pages on your website.
- About Us: Tell visitors about your company’s story, your mission, and your product. You can also include pictures of your team here.
- Contact: Let customers know how to get in touch with you. Include your business phone number, address, and email or a contact form.
- Products/Services: Describe the products and services that your business offers, and include relevant images.
- Webstore (if applicable): If you plan to sell products online, include a highly-visible link to your webstore.
- Blog: Depending on your industry, you may choose to include a blog to demonstrate your field expertise and present fresh, informative content to visitors. A blog can also improve your site’s SEO by providing frequent updates to your site.
This is a good time to look at your competitors’ websites. How are their websites laid out? What information and pages do they include? Are their sites easy to navigate? What would you do differently?
Step 5. Integrate Apps or Install Plug-Ins
Apps and plug-ins add extra functionality to your business website. App options can include building forms, enhancing SEO, integrating Google Maps, and more.
The specific plug-ins and apps available to you will depend on what platform you use to build your website. That being said, common apps and plug-ins include:
- SEO Plug-Ins: Popular SEO plug-ins, like Yoast SEO, provide tips to help you improve your website’s SEO.
- Form Builders: Form builders allow you to automatically create forms (e.g. contact forms) to add to your website without having to write any code.
- Payment Systems: If you plan to sell your products or services online, you’ll need to enable a third-party payment processing system.
- Live Chat Support: Implementing a live chat feature makes it easy to connect with customers and offer timely support.
- Social Media Integration: Plug-ins let you embed your Twitter feed or Instagram gallery directly into your website.
These are just a few examples of the types of apps offered by WordPress and website builders. Browse through the applications offered by your platform of choice and add ones that will improve user experience, but avoid choosing too many as doing so can slow down your website.
Step 6. Optimize Your Site for Organic Search
SEO is a critical aspect of digital marketing and building an impactful business website. SEO determines how high your website ranks on search engines when users search keywords relevant to your business.
For example, if a user searches “electronics store near me,” Google will display what it determines to be the most relevant results.
There are several steps you can take to improve your website’s organic search results.
First, optimize your website’s load time. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load, users are likely to go back and click on one of your competitors. To optimize your site, compress all image and video files, and be sure to choose a web hosting provider with good load speeds.
Keywords are another important aspect of SEO. These are specific words or phrases that potential customers may search when looking for a business such as yours. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding high-ranking keywords. Just be sure to use them sparingly as search engines punish websites for overstuffing their content with keywords.
Lastly, be sure to test your website on mobile devices to make sure it is responsive to different screen sizes.
Step 7. Publish, Maintain & Market Your Business Website
After building out your webpages and optimizing them for SEO, you can publish your company’s website and begin marketing it.
Marketing can include paid social media ads, planned social posting, PPC, and more. Also, keep in mind the importance of regular site maintenance and updates. Periodically adding new blog posts and product entries, or refreshing existing pages helps keep your website relevant to your customers. Updating your website can also help improve your organic search rankings.
Don’t forget to periodically check your installed apps and plug-ins to make sure they are up to date. Outdated applications can present security risks, so be sure to stay on top of them.