As a small business owner, you probably don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done. However, when it comes to your digital brand, it’s important to invest the time needed to create a strong online presence. This allows potential customers to quickly find you through a Google search, to locate and purchase your product or service with ease. Even if you don’t sell anything online , having a website is still very important, as it provides information about you and builds credibility for your brand.

Creating a website has become incredibly easy and simple due to the popular pre-made templates that companies like Wix, SquareSpace, and Weebly offer. However, while website building may be easier today, the key is to create an effective site, that helps you succeed in your business. By following the subsequent steps, you will be able to build a website that will work hard for your small business.

Identify key goals and objectives

The first step in building a solid website is to be very clear about your goals and objectives. What are you trying to achieve by building your website? Is it e-commerce, lead generation, or to simply build brand awareness? If the goal is to accomplish a combination of these, then try to prioritize them. Starting off with a clear objective will make the subsequent steps flow smoother.

For example, if you are a consultancy service, a key goal for your website would be to build brand equity in order to acquire potential customers. Therefore, your website will be designed with this objective in mind. Different pages should serve to answer any questions a visitor might have. Include testimonials, pricing, examples to showcase your service. Once a customer decides to reach out, they can quickly do so by looking at the contact section, and choosing the best option that works for them.

If you are directly selling products or a service, then your website’s main focus would be to make the buying process as easy as possible, along with providing helpful purchasing information, such as features, ratings, images, or free shipping.

Domain buying, registration, and hosting

The next step is to choose, buy and register your domain name. All of which can be done with your hosting service. When choosing your domain name, try to relate it back to your brand. But keep it simple and easy for consumers to remember.

If you decide not to use the hosting service you used to create the site, there are many hosting choices for small businesses. GoDaddy, BlueHost, and even Google Domains are some of the more popular choices with different plan options. Do your research and account for your long-term growth plans as it’s a significant effort to change web hosting services midcourse.

Test your competitors’ websites

In order to build an effective website, it’s important to understand what your competition is doing. Check out your competitors to see what they are doing well. Pretend you are a customer with the intent to make a purchase and try to complete an action from start to finish. Take these things into consideration as you navigate through their site: Did you easily find all the information? Were there too many steps to fill out a form? Did the process flow smoothly?

Based on the insights found, audit your own site on an ongoing basis for the same issues. Have someone new (your team/friends/family) try to complete an action like buy or sign up or find key information and observe them- you will get invaluable insights.

Really understand your ideal customers

Most small business owners know their users rather well, this allows them to give personalized customer service. However, it would be of great benefit to create personas of your ideal customer and map their journey.

Developing a user persona is like bringing your typical or ideal user to life. It’s based on data and insights you gather about your customers/prospects. Add demographics like age, family, where they live, their lifestyle, their profession, hobbies to better understand and engage with your customers.

Once you start to flesh out customer profile(s), their pain points and motivations, how they consume content, and how they behave online, it becomes easier to target the website experience and content to the specific needs of your customers.

Website building

If your budget allows for a designer and a developer, then a custom made site built with a content management system could be a good choice. Ensure your site is mobile friendly and responsive.

However, for a small business with limited funds, a great option is to choose a ready made template that also allows for customization. As mentioned earlier, you can build your own website with these templates easily and affordably, without the need to hire a designer or developer. The templates are responsive, mobile and SEO friendly- a must have for digital success.

Check out Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly amongst others to start with. Their plans also include domain buying, registration and hosting services at wallet friendly pricing.

Design, Content, and SEO

Now comes the fun part: working on the look and feel of your site. This will depend on your business, the industry you are in, and your brand. However, don’t forget to focus on the site’s performance and functionality, which is much more critical over the ‘pretty’ factor. With this in mind, the site should not take long to load, nor should customers have to click more than 2-3 times to find what they need.

Next, take a look at your content strategy. This includes all text and images being well organized, consistent and concise. If you aren’t directly writing the content on the website, consider hiring a professional content writer. It could be money well spent, especially, if the writer has SEO chops as that can impact the website’s ranking in Google searches. For best results, provide the writer with the key terms specific to your business and important for your customers. The writer should create the content around these terms.

This SEO content strategy will help you with better traffic and conversions. However, it is not enough to just produce great content and forget about it once it’s been published. Review the site every few weeks for broken links, error pages, or spelling/grammar issues. It’s amazing how many websites go with these being unspotted.

Know your numbers!

Lastly, it’s critical to know and understand the metrics for your website. Implement a tracking tool such as Google Analytics, an easy and free option. Through your analytics solution, you can get a wealth of data that you can use to your advantage. You will be able to see which pages of your site get the most visitors, how your customers are coming to your site, and how are they converting. This may give you more insights about your customers and ideas on what kind of content or promotions to offer. Another opportunity is to see the times when your site gets most traffic- and choose to provide specials during your off-peak times to encourage conversions. The possibilities are endless!

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