Thanks to advances in web design, it’s simpler and cheaper than ever to set up and maintain a website for your small business.
Reprinted from Manta.com
By Kitty French, Manta Contributor – May 29, 2018
To compete as a small business today, you’ve got to have a website. Websites function as a virtual front door to customers who research, comparison shop and often buy online. This is true whether you operate a contracting company, a lawn care service, a bakery, or a law firm.
“Word of mouth is still the best way to find loyal customers, but getting people through the door starts by letting them know you exist,” said Jason Bauman, a search engine specialist for New Jersey-based law firm Console and Hollawell. “A website is one of the most cost-effective ways to do that.”
Even if you don’t sell anything on your website, you should still have one, he recommends. “Use it to tell customers your story, to give them a preview of what they’ll find when they visit, or to show off new products services you have.”
Advances in web design mean that it’s simpler and cheaper than ever to set up and maintain a website for your small business.
Why Does My Small Business Need a Website?
You may be asking yourself, “Does my business really need a website?” Perhaps you are a brick-and-mortar shop that sees heavy foot traffic through word-of-mouth alone. Maybe you think your Facebook profile, Yelp listing or Google My Business page make up for a dedicated company website.
Don’t be fooled, cautions Bauman. “If you don’t have a website, you’re giving up control of how potential customers see you to someone else.”
A dedicated website is the established online authority on your business. Without this virtual storefront, a customer searching for your company will see Google results pointing them to large directory sites like Yelp or any number of less-reputable local listing sites. They may find incorrect information about your company — and may even be convinced to do business with one of your local competitors.
A dedicated company website gives your company authority and control over how people experience your business online.
“If you don’t have a website that means your business is invisible to a huge chunk of your potential audience,” said Phil Gregory, owner of Peak District SEO, a small digital marketing firm serving local businesses in the United Kingdom.
Locally and globally, customers use their smartphones and computers to find products and services online.
“Approximately 80% of large purchasing decisions are made online, and most retail purchasers would rather order something from their couch than go to an actual store,” said Geoff Hoesch, CEO of Baltimore-based Dragonfly Digital Marketing. “Websites are the lifeblood of a business, and without one you have little chance of success.”
What Are the First Steps To Set Up a Small Business Website?
First, don’t be intimidated by the idea of setting up a website.
At its core, building a website is about tapping into what you know about your business, your products and services, and your customers. This is your area of expertise! Think of your website as the mirror image of all of the research, sweat, and experience you’ve gained from running your company.
Before even thinking about a website, you need to know the goal of the website first. What are the most common things your customers are trying to accomplish or learn before they call?
Focus your website on these ideas — your technical understanding will improve as you go through the process of setting up your site. Start by writing down what you know about your business. These details that will inform everything from your web address to the photos and information on your site.
“You should clearly identify your services and service areas, tell a little about the company, demonstrate a value proposition that sets you apart from competitors,” said Geoff Hoesch of Dragonfly.
These insights will inform the initial steps you’ll take when mapping out your site. There are three tasks to think about as you begin, said Peter Hall, chief digital marketing architect for iCANny, a business services provider in New York City:
- Find the right domain name and setting up web hosting services
- Decide what you want visitors to do once they have found your site
- Make the visitor experience one that engages visitors
You’ll also want to set a realistic budget, advised Phil Gregory of Peak District SEO. “You’re going to have to pay for the following things if you do this right: domain name, web hosting costs, design costs, and web marketing costs.”
How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?
“This is a hard question to answer, because the costs can change so much,” said Jason Bauman of Console and Hollawell. “For a simple site that you don’t change often and really only exists to let people know who you are, you can get up and running for a few hundred dollars.”
The cost to build and maintain a complex website — a fully functioning ecommerce website, for example — would be substantially higher, advised Bauman.
Similarly, if you decide to hire a web development firm to build your website, your costs will run into the thousands or tens of thousands, said Airto Zamorano, co-founder and CEO of Numana SEO, a digital marketing agency based in Denver.
Think about the functionality you need for your site. This will help you determine the best option for building it, said Zamorano. An additional pro tip from Zamorano: “Keep in mind that your website may be less expensive to build if you have an ongoing monthly relationship with a company who also performs your SEO.”
Consider the three main options for the type of site you’ll need:
Fully custom-built website:
- Pros: Made-to-order, from design to functionality; engineered for whatever purposes you request of your developer, including ecommerce; constructed for maximum search visibility; distinct appearance from non-custom sites.
- Cons: Expensive to develop and maintain; generally not necessary for all businesses.
Customized template website:
- Pros: Less expensive to build than a fully custom site; technically capable business owners can learn to build and/or maintain a template site themselves, reducing costs; meets the marketing needs of most small businesses and professional firms.
- Cons: Not ideal for ecommerce; lacks the full benefits of a custom site; costs $1,000 or more to hire a reputable web design firm to build; takes some time to build and maintain if you are doing it yourself.
DIY builder website:
- Pros: Create-your-own website services like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or Duda are inexpensive to build and maintain by yourself; these services are a one-stop-shop for registering your domain name and hosting your site; this is a perfectly acceptable option for businesses that need a simple web presence.
- Cons: Similar in look, function, and structure to all other template sites; limited functionality; lack the search engine optimization of a custom-built site.
- Pros: GetMyWebsiteNow.com sets up your hosting account. Installs WordPress, the most used content management system on the Internet. Installs your selected plugins for the functionality you need including search engine optimization, SEO. Applies your selected website design from 100s of professionally designed websites.
- Cons: None. You are already here. Get Started.
There are a variety of hosted website builder software options available to you that are easy to use, You sign up for the service, receive login credentials and you’re up and running building your own website in literally minutes. Albeit, you get what you pay for; limited functionality, limited designs, poor SEO performance and you can not take your website or content with you to another hosting or website design firm.
It’s tough to say precisely how much you’ll spend on your website, given the many factors that determine how much your site will cost to build and maintain. However, GetMyWebsiteNow.com shows you your price before you commit.
You can set a rough budget based on the following estimates (However, all of these necessary services cost less on GetMyWebsiteNow.com):
- Domain name: $1 to $1,000 (depending on the availability of the website name you want); $15 to $25 per year to renew
- Hosting: Range begins at roughly $120 per year (often paid monthly)
- Developer: Range begins at roughly $1,500 for a reputable developer/web designer
- Security: Varies, annual or monthly service fee
For do-it-yourselfers, “The only upfront costs, if you maintain your website yourself, will be the domain name and hosting,” said Roxanne Williams, marketing director for Full Stack Talent, a technology recruiting agency in Tampa, Florida. “Costs will depend upon which plans you buy. What type of functionality you need and options”
What Does a Small Business Website Need?
To launch a website, you need four basic things, said Jason Bauman:
- A name (your Domain name, URL, or web address)
- Hosting services (the place where your website “lives” online)
- An SSL security certificate
- Pictures and words that provide visitors an idea of what your business offers and the character of your company
Concerning design and layout, your site should have the following traits, according to Phil Gregory of Peak District SEO:
- Clear descriptions of your products and services
- Engaging logos, images and content that are consistent with your company brand and messaging
- Simple layout that makes it easy for users to find the information they are looking for
- Works well on smartphones and loads quickly
- Working contact forms and click-to-call phone buttons
- Direct calls to action
- Clear contact details, name and address
“Create pages for each service you offer, and if you’re a local business make sure you highlight that in your page titles and descriptions,” said Geoff Hoesch of Dragonfly Digital Marketing. To help engage people’s interest in your company, use images with people in them and incorporate videos in your storytelling, Hoesch added.
How to Design a Small Business Website
“Your website should represent your brand as an extension of your business,” said Devon Kirk, director of sales, marketing and public relations for GetPayroll, a payroll solutions firm based in Lewisville, Texas. “Your tone of voice, colors, images, fonts and more should be duplicated on your website so when someone goes to it, they instantly recognize that it’s your business.”
Writing website content is often the hardest part, said Airto Zamorano of Numana SEO. “Keep it simple,” he said.
According to Zamorano, every website should have the following pieces of information:
- Tell people (and search engines) who you are, where you are, what you do, and how they can reach you
- Information on your products and services, including what sets you apart from your competition
- Team member bios and photos
- Customer testimonials and stories
- Education and background information that helps to interest people in your services
While planning out content for your website, Zamorano said, ask yourself some key questions:
- Do you have any qualifications that make you stand out?
- Do you have affiliations that you can tout?
- How quickly can you address their problem, and how do you want to convey that?
- What information can be featured on the website that will help customers see you as the best choice?
How to Promote a Small Business Website?
When your website is built, it’s time to announce to the world that it exists. Add your website domain to all of your company’s printed materials, including stationery, business cards, flyers and banners, recommended Phil Gregory of Peak District SEO. Share the website with your followers on social media. Consider running sponsored posts on Facebook to let people in your service area know about this new resource for products and services.
“If used correctly, email can be a very effective way to grow your small business and build a loyal following of customers and readers,” said Sadie Cornelius of We Rock Your Web. “You can notify your subscribers of when new content is published to your site and also deliver exclusive content and special deals.”
One final consideration is viewing your website on a smart phone, tablet, laptop and/or desktop computer. A new concept is not being practiced in Website design, responsive design. Responsive design is designing your website for these different viewing screens. When the user accesses your website, the website server knows what kind of device is accessing your website and the display of content is adjust for that screen. Responsive design has be be built into your website files. Because of this not all website builders or even website designers build this is as it is additional time and cost. However, GetMyWebsiteNow.com offers responsive design in their website layout that you can select from.