A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Website for your Small Business

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Whether you own a small store or run a freelancing business, an impressive website is a must-have for creating a solid customer base. These days, the task has become quite simple, thanks to the availability to a range of website building tools.

In this blog, we will discuss how you can build a great website for your small website without requiring to hire a developer.

So, let’s get started.

1) Choose a Suitable Domain Name for your Website

Selecting a good domain name is the very first step in building a successful website. Your domain name should be easy to remember, relevant to your business and useful from SEO perspective.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one for your business:

  • The domain name should be short, simple and easy to spell and pronounce.
  • Use a proper domain extension i.e. try to use .com extension as far as possible. Avoid using .net and .co as they are far less common. Of course, the exception applies if it is more appropriate to use other extensions e.g. .gov, .org or .edu.
  • Research the domain name well to ensure there are no copyright violations and if any similar domains exist online.
  • Your URL should be SEO-friendly. Try to include keywords and geo-location if possible. For example, for a local bakery in Noida, you can have a URL which goes like noidabakers.

2) Buy a reliable web hosting service with robust customer support

A web hosting service allows your website to be published on the internet so that it can reach the right audience. The cost of a web hosting service can range anywhere between $2 to $100 per month depending on your hosting model, your hosting provider and level of technical support.

Here are a few guidelines for choosing a good web hosting plan:

  • You may be tempted to rent a shared server when choosing your first hosting plan. However, if you expect your site to grow in the days to come, chances are you will outgrow your hosting plan soon. This is because in shared hosting, you share the resources with other websites. So, you get limited resources to work with. Shared hosting isn’t, therefore, recommended if you plan to expand in near future.
  • On the other end of the hosting spectrum is dedicated server hosting, the most expensive hosting model available these days. It can cost you anywhere between $100 and $2000 per month. In a dedicated hosting plan, an entire server is available exclusively for your website. As a result, your site performs optimally under all scenarios. Plus, it is more secure than any other hosting model.

But dedicated servers are needed only when you have a very-high performing website. Most early-stage businesses, can do well with less expensive options, which brings to the next kind of hosting: VPS.

  • For those of you who need an optimal hosting solution that’s somewhere in between shared and dedicated hosting can choose VPS hosting. VPS aka Virtual Private Server hosting is a model where you host your website on a virtualized server created through partitioning of a physical server. The cost of a VPS lies somewhere between $20 and $50 per month.

Virtual private servers combine the affordability of a shared server with the performance and security of a dedicated server and are highly recommended for startup websites eyeing expansion.

  • Your web hosting provider should offer 24*7 support through multiple channels: live chat, email and phone. Live chat and phone work great when you are facing any issue and need it to be resolved instantly. So, these two should always be there.
  • Your host should provide you with an easy-to-use interface such as cPanel. This allows you to manage your hosting service easily even when you don’t have a technical background. In the absence of a cPanel-like interface, you will need a server administrator.
  • Check the security practices your hosting provider has in place. There should be a published security protocol to help you review how they keep your servers safe. Your website files should be backed up regularly. An SSL certificate should also be included in the package.

For a reliable web hosting service, you can connect with companies like GoDaddy, Bluehost, SiteGround and Go4hosting.

3) Select a good Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is a software application that you can use to create and manage digital content. A good CMS helps you maintain your website without the need for any technical knowledge.

Depending upon the requirements of your site, you can opt for any of the following CMS:

WordPress: WordPress is world’s most popular CMS. It is free to install and simple to use. It has a wide range of themes and plugins that you can leverage to extend the functionality of your website.

And if you don’t find a plugin that suits your needs, you can easily find a WordPress developer who can do it for you, thanks to its vast and active support community. Small businesses prefer WordPress on account of its flexibility and extensibility.

The platform has its downside as well. Because WordPress is quite popular, it is often targeted by hackers. So, if you have a WordPress site, you’ve to ensure it is maintained and secured regularly.

Drupal: Drupal is yet another popular CMS that shares many benefits offered by WordPress. It is easy-to-use, flexible and boasts of a large support community. Drupal isn’t as susceptible to hacking as WordPress and, therefore, more secure. However, it doesn’t come with as many themes and plugins, so it’s not as extensible.

Squarespace: Squarespace is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) for building and hosting websites that allows you to use templates and drag-and-drop elements to create and edit webpages.  The platform comes with a monthly and annual subscription that typically includes website design, development, software maintenance, domain name, SSL certificate, round-the-clock support, bandwidth and storage.

Squarespace comes with a range of design templates. So, if you need a visually appealing site without spending too much, it’s the platform to go for.

The platform is quite user-friendly with a smaller learning curve than conventional CMSs such as WordPress or Drupal. However, it is not as extensible. Squarespace is a great option for those who have little or no technical knowledge and need to build a site fast.

4) Create an Intuitive User Interface

To ensure your website leaves a favorable impression on visitors, you can implement a couple of suggestions when building its user interface:

  • Use fonts that are easy-to-read and graphics that are appealing. All the graphics should be optimized for fast loading.
  • To get an idea of how you can enhance the look and feel of your site, research your competitors to study how they have designed and optimized their sites; you can incorporate similar elements in your design.
  • Conduct surveys with your target audience to assess what they want from your site.
  • Your site should be easy to navigate; visitors should easily get to the pages or sections they want to.
  • Your contact information and call-to-action buttons should be easily visible. The look and feel of your brand should stay consistent throughout.

5) Optimize your Website for Search Engines

SEO aka search engine optimization is the process of improving your website to enhance its visibility for relevant search results. The more your website appears in the search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract new and existing customers.

Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl through webpages, collecting information about them and indexing them. There are algorithms that analyze the pages in the index using hundreds of ranking factors, thereby determining the order in which these pages should appear for a given query.

If your website is optimized for these ranking factors, it will help your webpages to rank higher in the search results. SEO typically includes the following practices:

  • Researching and incorporating the right keywords in the content
  • Optimizing the code for your site
  • Improving the loading speed of webpages
  • Ensuring the security of the website by installing an SSL certificate.
  • Making the website mobile responsive
  • Creating high-quality backlinks (links on other websites leading to your site)
  • Building internal links between your webpages to direct the user to the right pages
  • Creating social media posts linking to your website
  • Building positive reviews online

Remember that SEO is an ongoing process; so you need to work consistently in order to make your site appear in the top few results.

6) Choose a Suitable E-commerce Platform

If you aim to sell a product or service through your website, you will need an e-commerce platform that suits your business model. Here are some popular ones:

WooCommerce: WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress that can turn your website into a fully-functional online store. It comes with a range of plugins and themes that make it extensible like WordPress.

While the platform offers both free and premium themes, premium themes are always recommended for superior security and support. WooCommerce works on all devices, allowing you to serve people who shop through their mobiles.

Shopify: It is a popular e-commerce platform that lets you create an online store and handle inventory, payment and shipping. It’s vital to remember that Shopify isn’t a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce; it is an independent platform. This means if you have an existing website, your online store would be separate from that.

The platform is quite user-friendly: one can easily add products, create discounts and process orders. There are also a range of impressive free and paid themes to choose from.

There are, however, some downsides as well. Shopify comes loaded with all features a small business owner would require to build an online store. But every business has their specialized needs and the platform may lack the features to fulfill them. As a result, businesses have to purchase add-ons that shoot up their expenses.

GoDaddy Online Store: GoDaddy also offers an ecommerce hosting platform that’s easy to install and use. You can launch your online store even if you have little technical knowledge. Unlike most of the store builders, GoDaddy is not a drag-and-drop platform. You have to make changes by filling out fields which is simpler and consumes less time.

The platform offers features such as SEO tools, social media integration, appointment booking, SSL certificates and so on. GoDaddy is a great fit for busy business owners who want to concentrate on the business aspect of their online store.

7) Create Quality Content on a Regular Basis

Creating and publishing quality content on a regular basis is essential from SEO perspective. It’s important to have a plan to publish high-quality content in the form of articles/blogposts/webpages and link this content to authoritative websites. Doing this will attract more users to your site and encourage them to spend more time there.

In addition, you can ask customers to leave positive reviews on your website. If these reviews appear in the search results, they will reflect your business in a positive light.

If you are a business website, you must have the following sections:

1) Homepage: A strong homepage that allows users to figure out what you do and helps them navigate to other sections smoothly.

2) About Us: This page should be informative and clearly communicate what you do and how your offerings can help the visitor. Add graphics to make the section appealing.

3) Contact Us: This page should tell users where they can find you and how they can reach you.

4) Products/Services: This page(s) should elucidate the features and benefits of your offerings. Add enticing descriptions and appealing images.

5) Blog: This section can showcase your expertise and help update your site on a regular basis. It plays a key role in ranking the sites for search engines.

The content that gets published on your website should be original, engaging and well-researched.

8) Install Webmaster Tools

All your efforts in building an impressive site can go down the drain if you don’t have a mechanism to test its performance. Tools such as Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools come in handy here. These can help you track information on:

  • Number of visitors to your website
  • Number of page views of your website
  • Time spent on the site by visitors
  • Broken links on your site
  • Backlinks to your site
  • Keywords that take users to your site
  • The bounce rate of your site (i.e. the percentage of users who visit your site and leave after viewing only one page)

Building a great website isn’t a one-time task. You have to update and maintain it regularly so that it remains visible to the target audience and immune to breaches and hacks. Analyze your site’s data through webmaster tools at least once every 15 days. Ensure all the software remains up-to-date. Security scans should be run every couple of days. Create backups of your site at least once a day.

So, that’s all on how you can create and maintain a website for your small business. Still have questions on building a website? Drop a line in the comment section below.