As you know, your website is an important tool for your business – but your site is more than just slapping up a quick website and then walking away. You want to make sure your website is effective at growing your business… bringing you more customers and sales.
And creating an effective website for your small business isn’t as hard as it sounds.
In fact, I’m going to walk you through the 5 Easy Steps for Creating an Effective Website for Your Small Business.
By the end of this post you will have a clear picture of what you need to do to get started.
The 5 Easy Steps for Creating an Effective Website for Your Small Business
This step-by-step guide will walk you through the 5 main steps that you should take in order to create an effective website for your small business. The steps I outline are based on using WordPress – the most-recommended Content Management Solution used by 26% of the world’s websites.
Step 1 – Identify Your Customers and What They Want
Yes, it’s tempting to jump right in and start creating your website, but it’s important to have a clear vision as to why you need a site – and the customers and clients you’re serving.
Why does it matter?
Think of it this way…
Say, for example, you’re a Weight Loss Coach that focuses on post-menopausal women. You’re excited to get your message out so you create a website and use stock photos of young skinny female and male models, write all about your background in weight loss, and focus on cutting calories by not going out to Happy Hour or offering exercise advice that includes training for a marathon.
Not to say these aren’t all great ideas – but they miss the mark with the audience you wish to serve, which in this example are post-menopausal women that are interested in losing weight.
When you know your audience (also known as Buyer Persona), you have a perfect understanding of how you can speak to them in a language that will convert them.
Going back to the Weight Loss Coach example…
Your website should include images of women 40+ and your messaging should take into account the fact that they are likely struggling with hormonal imbalances, a life-time of bad eating habits, or may just feel like it’s too late or difficult for them to change.
So before you take another step in either creating a website to support your business, or write a blog post or new content, make sure you have a solid understanding of your Buyer Personas. It will save you a LOT of headaches and wasted advertising dollars in the end.
Step 2 – Get Your Domain Name
Your domain name is your online address – it’s how people find you online.
While it’s difficult to find the perfect domain name these days, it’s not impossible. Just remember to follow these best practices.
Best Practices When Choosing Your Domain Name
- Try to avoid special characters such as “_” or “-“. While it may seem like the ticket to getting you your perfect domain, remember, when you speak it out loud to someone else, they may end up writing down “mydashperfectdashdomain.com”.
- Avoid using “4” instead of “for” or “UR” instead of “your”. Again, same advice applies – if you’re speaking your domain name out loud to someone, they are more likely to write down “for” or “your” – and you don’t want to send your traffic to someone else’s site.
- If the .com version already exists, make sure what they’re doing doesn’t hurt your brand. Don’t underestimate the number of people that will go to .com instead of your domain extension (a domain extension is .com, .net, .org, .info. etc.). While it’s not always possible to get a .com domain, make sure that the company that has that domain isn’t doing anything that could reflect poorly upon your brand if someone lands there when they’re looking for you.
- If it’s difficult to spell, don’t use it. Again, using the “Speak it Out Loud” method – if you last name is Leinenkugel, it’s going to cost you time, effort and money teaching people the correct spelling rather than using something else other than your name. Yes, Leinenkugel is a well-known microbrew brand (loved their Summer Shandy), but most of us don’t have the advertising budget or existing brand recognition to pull it off.
- Try to avoid the newer domain extensions. Yes – it’s cool that you can choose .consultant or .photo, etc. but these domain extensions are very new, and the general public is not used to seeing them outside of large brands using them for microsites. Try to stick with .com, .net, .org or .info – that will help avoid the inevitable “www.mydomain.photo.com” as someone tries to get to your site.
Once your have your domain name, make sure you buy it right away. I highly discourage using “domain availability” websites that allow you to search and see if your domain name is available. The first year of domain registration is anywhere from $4-$15 – don’t lose your domain of choice because you weren’t ready to spend less than $20 on something you may not use.
Find your domain? BUY YOUR DOMAIN.
I’ve heard from too many people that have used the “domain availability” websites only to find that it’s been purchased when they go back a few days later. Of course, you can buy it back from the new owner for $500+ – but wouldn’t it make more sense to just pay the $4-$15 the first time?
Find your domain? AUTO-RENEW YOUR DOMAIN.
Second “safety tip” – once you purchase your domain, please, please, PLEASE set it to Auto-renew (you can always change it later if you don’t end up using the domain).
I can’t tell you how many clients have lost important, long-held domains because they first registered it for 5 years and then completely forgot to renew. Yes, your registrar sends you plenty of reminders – but you’re busy, and some emails end up in SPAM folders and get completely missed. By setting “auto-renew” when you first purchase your domain, you can check it off as one last thing to worry about.
Step 3 – Sign up for amazing hosting
Every website needs to be hosted somewhere.
Now if you are just planning on creating a “hobby” site, then it’s fine to use a free hosting plan and a basic template (or even just start a personal blog on WordPress.com). But if you’re planning on creating a website to support your business, then you will need to pay for hosting.
While I highly recommend SiteGround for their superior Support/Customer Service plus their dedication to speedy WordPress sites, whatever hosting solution you choose, make sure that they support WordPress, and that you choose a WordPress-specific hosting package.
If you’re just starting out, you can start with a basic WordPress hosting package, and then upgrade as you go. Ideally your hosting provider should include specific tools to help you optimize your site for speed (which is another reason I love SiteGround), but when you’re first setting up your account, don’t worry about adding on all of the upsells that you’ll see during the checkout process. Don’t worry – you will have plenty of opportunity to add on bells & whistles later if you need them.
Step 4 – Choose your WordPress theme
I’m a big proponent of WordPress. While they may have started out as a humble blogging tool, they now are used for 26% of the world’s websites – and as a free tool you couldn’t ask for more power and flexibility.
There are a variety of free themes and affordable themes (under $100) available. While a quick Google search will help you find recommendations on “best wordpress themes for photographers” or “best wordpress themes for fitness instructors”, you can also look around yourself on sites like ThemeForest.net.
Best Practices When Choosing Your WordPress Theme
- Compatibility – if you’re going to sell anything from your site, you will likely use WooCommerce. So when you choose your Theme, make sure it’s compatible with WooCommerce.
- Mobile Responsive – all websites should look great on desktop and mobile. Most new themes are “mobile responsive”, but not all – make sure your theme is able to look great on all devices.
- Well-supported – there are a lot of great theme authors out there – make sure your theme comes with high ratings from other users, and make sure it looks like the authors are active on their support forums. You should also dig into Reviews for the theme you’re interested in – you can often spot support weaknesses based on how frustrated users appear.
- Good Documentation – oftentimes you can find the documentation on the author’s site before you buy. A well-supported theme will also have good “pre-sale” support – so feel free to reach out to the theme author if you have questions.
- Look and Feel – always keep your customers and clients in mind as you’re choosing your theme. Remember – it’s not just about looking cool and using some funky swirling graphics. Ultimately you want your site to be a selling / client-booking machine – so make sure the theme you pick is easy to navigate and is clean and clear of clutter.
If you’re purchasing a theme, I recommend you start with 6 months of support (you can always extend it later). While you should always keep your support up-to-date, you may decide to change your theme after 6 months – especially if you’re building a site from scratch – so there’s no need to commit to 12 months up front unless there’s a large discount for a full year support commitment. “Theme support” typically includes updates (which are frequent for WordPress users) and direct support from the authors should you come up against issues. Theme support does NOT include the author setting up your site for you.
Step 5 – Create Your Content
Once your theme is in place it’s time to create your Content.
But how do you create content that people will read and share?
Best Practices for Creating Content That Gets Read and Shared and Converts Into Paying Customers
- Start with your Buyer Personas – what do they care about? What are their pain points? How can your products or services help them?
- Research – use tools like BuzzSumo to see what topics are talked about in your market – and most importantly, what gets shared. Then create better content and promote it throughout your network.
- Write Well and Edit – make sure that you proofread and fix grammatical mistakes. No one is going to share posts that are riddled with misspellings and rambling trains of thought. Read it out loud and then edit as you go. Reading something out loud slows your brain down, so you’re more likely to catch mistakes that you might otherwise miss.
- Use Best Practices for SEO – Brian Dean of Backlinko always offers up great advice for SEO – always make sure your pages are at least optimized – don’t just rely on the default settings from your Yoast SEO plugin.
- Remember to use CTAs (Calls to Action) – if your goal is to make money from your website, then you always want to make sure you utilize Calls to Action based on what you want a site visitor to do. If you’re selling products online – direct them to sales. If you have services to offer, create a CTA that gives them a whitepaper or a free initial consultation. But make sure your Calls to Action match the content on the page. For example, don’t show a CTA for “50% off all boots” if you’re writing a blog post about the latest bikini trends.
- Make Sharing Easy – use plugins like “Click to Tweet” or SumoMe’s “Share” to make it easy for your site visitors to share your content.
As you can see, having an effective website for your small business means more than just a “pretty site”. You need to make sure you follow these 5 steps and they will get you on the path to creating a product-selling / client-booking online machine.
Step 1 – Identify Your Customers – Who They Are and What They Want
Step 2 – Get Your Domain Name
Step 3 – Sign Up for Fast, Well-Supported WordPress Hosting
Step 4 – Find a WordPress Theme That Supports Your Business Goals
Step 5 – Create Content That Gets Read, Shared and Converts Into Paying Customers