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Looking to create a small business website?

Whether you’re a local electrician, run a clothing store, or any other type of small business, a good website can be the key to success. We know what it takes to make fantastic and engaging business websites, our small business website design team has worked on over 1000 small business websites, planning, designing and launching them successfully.

Here is our step by step guide to getting started and helping your small business website compete successfully in the online marketplace, if you are looking to create a new startup website or make your existing website more successful.

Small business website domain name

1. Register a good domain name.

Your domain name, also known as your website address, is the very first thing visitors are aware of when they visit your website. It is vital that it makes a good first impression for both usability and search engine optimisation purposes (SEO).

Here are some tips on how to come up with the ideal domain name for your small business website:

  • Keep it short. When it comes to domain names, the shorter the better. Shorter web addresses are easier to remember and easier to type without making mistakes.
  • Use the correct domain extension. If you’re a small business based in the UK then it makes sense to use .co.uk as your domain extension. If .com is available to purchase too, then it’s always a good idea to secure this too. Try to always make it a .co.uk or .com domain name (as opposed to .net, .co, etc.) unless it is more appropriate to use another extension, such as .gov, .edu, or .org.
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers. You’d be amazed at the amount of people that don’t actually know what a hyphen is and rather than spend 5 minutes trying to explain, you’d be better off sticking to simple letters. Domains with hyphens and numbers are usually harder to remember and less elegant and memorable than word-only domain names, and may be misunderstood when you’re telling someone during a conversation.
  • Consider future growth. For example, Amazon.com is a much broader term for a web address than BookShopOnline.com, allowing Amazon to sell almost any type of consumer good rather than just books, as it was originally intended.
  • Ensure it is memorable. With so many websites on the internet, it’s critical that yours has a memorable name so that people know how to find it in the future.
  • Research the domain name. Look it up on Google to see if a comparable website address already exists, and check Gov.uk to make sure it doesn’t have any registered UK trademarks.
  • Check if the price is right. Decide whether you can afford to buy your desired website address, as most good domain names are already taken and must be purchased from the current owner.
  • Avoid nonsensical names. Choose a name that has meaning for customers to understand what your company is about right away. Although Yahoo and Google are memorable names, they were very costly to brand, and your small business may not have the same resources.
  • Create an SEO-friendly URL. Where possible, come up with an SEO-friendly website address that includes keywords and a location, such as “www.BirminghamPlumber.co.uk.”
Small business website hosting

2. Invest in a secure, scalable website hosting plan with excellent technical support.

A website host (also known as a website hosting provider) is a business that provides the technology and services needed to view a website on the internet. You link your domain name to your hosting account so that when people type in your website address, they are taken to the website you have stored on your server.

Depending on the technology and support you choose, hosting services can cost anything from £1 to £100+ per month. When you buy an annual plan instead of a monthly plan, you normally get a discount.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a suitable website hosting plan:

  • Although a “shared server” hosting plan can be had for as little as £1 per month, we would not recommend it. Shared hosting entails sharing a server and its resources with other customers, which can slow down your site’s performance. It’s also possible that if one of the other websites on your shared server is hacked, yours will be as well.
  • The most expensive option is a “dedicated server” hosting plan, which can cost anything from £100 to £3,000 per month. However, it will ensure that your website performs at its best. A dedicated server plan means that the physical server machine is completely dedicated to your website; as a result, all of the resources are yours, and it is more secure than a shared hosting plan, as long as the technology is up to date. It is, however, significantly more expensive than most small businesses are willing to pay. This may be necessary if you have a high-performing site, but it is overkill for most early-stage and small businesses.
  • A “virtual private server” (VPS) hosting plan, which combines the best of both worlds, is usually the best compromise I recommend. The price ranges from £30 to £75 per month, which is reasonable for the hosting services provided. A virtual private server (VPS) is a single machine that is partitioned to act as multiple machines, giving it the same affordability as shared hosting while also providing the same security and performance as a dedicated server hosting plan.
  • If you have a problem, make sure your hosting company has phone and/or chat support so you can get help quickly. When a problem needs to be addressed right away, email support can take too long and become annoying. The easiest way to get help is by phone, so chatting is also a good option.
  • To access your server, you’ll need a user-friendly server interface like cPanel. Unless you can afford to hire a professional server administrator to assist you, you don’t want to have to use terminal commands to view and change the contents of your server.
  • Check to see what kind of server security the server you’re considering has in place. You’ll need to be able to connect to your server using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) (SFTP). Your server’s contents should be backed up on a daily basis. Installing Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates should also be easy, requiring only one or two clicks. Check to see if the hosting company conducts regular security checks. Your hosting company should, ideally, have a published security protocol that you can review to learn how they keep their servers secure.

The following are some reputable website hosting companies:

3. Display a clear description of your company.

It’s critical to let people know who you are and what you do right away on your small business website so they don’t get lost. Ensure your main homepage banner (also known as a “hero image”) and successive banners are graphical representation of your services, as well as a text blurb near the top of the page that explains who or what you are and what you do.

Additionally, make sure that “About Us” page links are readily available in both your main and footer navigation menus so that people can click them and learn more about your business.

Small business website Wordpress

4. Use the best content management system available.

A content management system (CMS) is a piece of software that allows you to create and manage digital content. You don’t need much technical expertise to use a good CMS, and it will help you maintain your site. You should choose a CMS that suits your specific requirements; different systems are used for various reasons, including user-friendliness, configurability, and cost.

The following are some well-known systems, along with accounts of their advantages and disadvantages.

WordPress: WordPress is the most widely used content management system in the world. It has a large, active support community and a plethora of helpful plugins to enhance your site’s functionality. (And if you can’t find a plugin that does what you want, a WordPress developer will easily create one for you!) WordPress is also free and straightforward to set up. Most website developers are familiar with it, so finding someone or an agency to work on your site shouldn’t be difficult. Because of its versatility and extensibility, I usually recommend that small businesses use WordPress to build their websites.

It should be noted, however, that WordPress’s biggest flaw is security—hackers target it the most because of its popularity. To avoid being hacked, your WordPress site must be frequently updated and secured. Furthermore, since it is difficult to secure every single third-party plugin, maintaining the security of your WordPress site must be a continuous commitment involving different best practices (checking to see if your plugins have been updated within the past few months, making sure it is a plugin provided in the official WordPress repository, uninstalling unused plugins, etc.).

Joomla!: Joomla is a popular content management system. It has better SEO, security, and multilingual capabilities out of the box than WordPress; moreover, WordPress will outperform Joomla! with the help of a few plugins.

Drupal: Drupal is a well-known content management system. It has many of the same advantages as WordPress, such as flexibility, ease of use, and a large community of users. It is more secure than WordPress (less vulnerable to malicious activity), but it lacks the same number of plugin and theme options, making it less extensible.

Small business website ecommerce

5. Select a good ecommerce platform

You’ll need the right technology if you want to sell products and/or services through your website. (If you don’t currently sell something, you should think about it because ecommerce could really help you increase your small business’ profits.) If you want customers to be able to place orders and make payment transactions online, you’ll need to choose the right ecommerce platform for your company.

Here are some of the most popular ecommerce platforms for small businesses:

WooCommerce: WooCommerce is a popular e-commerce platform that allows you to transform your WordPress website into an online store. There are numerous plugins available, and it connects to WordPress, making it highly versatile. There are numerous free and premium WooCommerce themes available. (Generally, using a premium theme from a reputable developer is preferable because it provides better security and support.) If you are not tech savvy, you will almost certainly need the assistance of a WordPress developer to set it up and use it. WooCommerce also has a lot of capabilities and scalability, which your small business may need going forward.

Shopify: Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that lets you build and customise an online store while also managing goods, inventory, payments, and shipping. It is a standalone platform that is hosted on the Shopify server, rather than a WordPress extension like WooCommerce, so if you have a main website, your e-commerce site will technically be separate from it. Unless your main website has a Shopify integration plugin, you can link to your Shopify account from your regular website created with WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or another CMS.

Features of Shopify include unlimited goods, unlimited bandwidth, fraud analysis, discount codes, reports, and much more. The main advantages of Shopify include the fact that you don’t need a developer to set up a store and that everything on the backend is already set up for you when you subscribe. The disadvantage is that you don’t have nearly as much control or flexibility over your store as you would with WooCommerce.

Shopify Plus: Shopify Plus is the same as Shopify, but with more customisation options, staff accounts, and international e-commerce options. It has a higher level of support as well. All of this, of course, comes at a higher subscription cost, and it still lacks versatility and customization capabilities of WordPress and the Woocommerce platform.

6. Create a user interface for your website that is engaging, memorable, and interesting.

Make sure the interface of your small business website creates a positive first impression that leads to conversions. You can do so by following the guidelines below:

  • Make use of eye-catching graphics and readable fonts.
  • Check to see if your graphics have been compressed and optimised for quick loading. Search engines, such as Google, will penalise your ranking if your website is slow loading.
  • Investigate your competitors’ websites to see how they’ve designed and optimised them; incorporate similar elements that will work for your small business website.
  • Think about what your target audience wants from your site and make it easy for them to find it.
  • Maintain brand consistency across the design of your website.
  • Create a simple concise navigation menu that allows users to quickly access the pages they need.
  • Make contact information readily available.
  • Include clear call-to-actions (particularly “get a quote” or “shop now” buttons).
Small business website SEO

7. Make your small business website search engine friendly.

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is a set of techniques you can use on your website to ensure that search engines properly index and rank it, and then display it to search engine users. When search engines “crawl” your website, it competes with other websites with similar content. The better the design and content of your website, the higher it will rank in search engine results pages.

The following are the main components of SEO:

  • Implementation and keyword study
  • Code for a good website
  • Quick loading time
  • Having an SSL certificate installed and being secure; SSL is a standard security technology that ensures data sent between web servers and browsers remains private.
  • Having a mobile-friendly website is essential.
  • Create high-quality backlinks (links to your site from other websites with associated content)
  • Having a large number of positive online reviews (Google, Facebook, etc.)
  • Internal links should be used throughout your site to keep visitors clicking and reading.
  • Linking to your website over social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)

SEO is a continuous process that can mean the difference between appearing on page one of Google’ search results pages (resulting in a flood of free traffic to your website) and appearing on page 200. (resulting in no traffic).

Small business website content

8. Create and publish high-quality content on a regular basis.

Search engines value both quantity and freshness of content, so make a plan to publish high-quality articles and/or blog posts on your site and on external sites that link to your site. If you want to rank high in search engine results and encourage visitors to come back to your site, you’ll need to update your website as often as possible with new and relevant content.

In addition to static page content and articles, testimonials are a great type of content to include on your website. Requesting customer testimonials and then publishing them on your website is a great way to add new, high-quality content to your website that will help your small business stand out.

Make sure your content is written in a tone that is suitable for your brand and that people will enjoy reading.

9. Make use of all of the available tools.

Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console (both preferably via Google Tag Manager) as well as Bing Webmaster Tools to help you analyse traffic and site performance.

These tools can be used to keep track of the following data:

  • Visitors to your site on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
  • The number of people who have visited each page of your website.
  • The proportion of people who come to your site and leave after seeing only one page is known as the “bounce rate” (Google algorithms give higher rankings to websites that have a low bounce rate, on the theory that visitors are spending more time on the site and find it valuable.)
  • Visitors’ average time spent on the site.
  • Errors in the crawling of your website (errors that the search engines found on your site in crawling its content).
  • Broken link connections.
  • Keywords that bring people to your website.
  • Backlinks pointing to your website
  • The time it takes to download a page on your website
  • Other resources that can help you improve your SEO
Small business website maintenance

10. Create a website maintenance strategy.

A website should not be built and then forgotten about. You must ensure that your website is properly maintained in order to have a successful website that ranks well in search engines and is not hacked.

Here are some pointers on how to make a website maintenance plan for a small business:

  • Review Webmaster Tools data at least once a month and have any critical errors emailed to you in real time.
  • Use traffic data to gain a better understanding of your audience so you can better serve them.
  • Optimise and correct warnings and errors using performance data.
  • Ensure that all software is up to date at all times.
  • Conduct security scans to ensure that your website is malware-free and has not been hacked.
  • Use “split testing” to see if certain variations of your website improve performance; for example, if you’re selling a product, you might have two versions of a landing page with different images and wording—split testing allows you to see which version converts better.
  • Follow our SEO advice (see #7) and publish high-quality content on a regular basis (see #8).
  • Find out how to market your company online in the most up-to-date and efficient way possible.
  • Allow visitors to your website to provide you with feedback.
  • Continue to look at your competition’s online presence from time to time to see what they’re doing and whether what they’re doing will work for you as well.
  • Make sure your website is backed up at least once a day and at least 10 days back in different ways.

Conclusion

As you can see from this article, building a great small business website isn’t as straightforward as you would think. Your small company, on the other hand, would have a great chance of succeeding in the online marketplace if you follow the steps outlined in this article.

If you’d like some help with creating a website for your small business, whether it’s just advice you’re after or your looking for a reliable web designer to take the lead, get in touch with us today and we’ll take you through the process – contact us

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