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A simple, well-designed business website could be the difference between winning clients and losing out to your competitors. Not only does it build trust and authority, it lets consumers know what’s important to you as a brand.
What’s more, we know 26 per cent of small businesses find marketing and attracting new customers one of their biggest challenges, according to our SME Insights Report.
Your business website plays an important role here.
Before you start building a website, make sure you have a clear marketing plan and brand identity.
You’ll want all of your channels to follow the same tone of voice and visually look like a unified brand.
Follow this step-by-step guide to start setting up a business website for your small business.
Your domain is your website address and is how people will be able to find you online. It should be easy to remember and closely related to your trading name.
For example, www.simplybusiness.co.uk
It’s a good idea to buy a domain as soon as you register your business name, even if you’re not ready to build a website yet.
Bear in mind that more competitive domain names may be taken or will be expensive.
Top-level domains are the last section of the domain name like .com and .co.uk. While these can be more expensive to buy, using these gives authority to your business, both in terms of showing up in search results and earning trust of users.
Meanwhile .org domains are traditionally used by not-for-profit and government organisations, although anyone is allowed to register using this domain.
Once you’ve registered your domain, you need to decide the main purpose of your website.
Is it to show potential clients your portfolio of work? Do you want to have a blog? Or do you just need a simple site that highlights your services and how people can get in touch?
If you’re looking to sell products or take payment, you’ll need to use a website builder that has ecommerce functionality.
Next, you need to choose the hosting company that will store your data, and make it available on your domain.
Your choice of hosting provider will depend on a range of factors including storage limits, bandwidth, and costs – which could include an annual or monthly hosting plan.
Check if your hosting provider will also manage your SSL certificate for you, or if you need to install your own. This is a piece of code that keeps information secure if you’re asking people to share sensitive information with you.
It’s also good to check what content management systems offer a hosting company as well, for example Wordpress, Joomla, or Drupal. We’ll go into more detail on this in the next step.
There are plenty of free and paid-for platforms you can use to build a website, without the need of a professional designer and web developer.
Most are set up so you just drag and drop components like contact buttons, enquiry forms, photo galleries, and videos.
From Wordpress to Wix to Squarespace, here’s a rundown of some of the most popular website builders out there.
WordPress is both a website builder and a hosting provider used by businesses of any size.
In fact, it’s said that 43 per cent of the web is built on WordPress.
You can install one of thousands of business website templates and themes available. Or if you have coding experience, you can build your own on the platform.
WordPress has a free option, along with a range of paid-for options depending on your needs. For example, the small business plan is £20 a month and gives you access to premium templates, analytics, and SEO tools.
GoDaddy is a huge player when it comes to domains and web hosting, and they also offer a web builder.
It’s simple to use and includes basic ecommerce options including a PayPal integration. Additional features include social media integration and a shopping cart with paid-for plans.
Wix is a template-based website builder that offers designs suitable for almost every business and industry.
It's popular amongst small firms thanks to its simple drag-and-drop interface, meaning that you can simply pull elements of your site around the screen to see how they’ll fit together.
Much of Wix’s functionality is available for free, but premium plans are also available if you want to do things like remove Wix ads and add a customised favicon – the little image that appears in the browser tab.
Squarespace is a popular website builder, particularly for the creative industries. It has a range of beautifully designed templates that are responsive – so they look great on any device.
It’s easy to customise and has the option to add ecommerce features, from adding products and taking payment to creating discounts and pop-ups.
Smaller ecommerce businesses and side hustles might be suited to Zyro, an affordable website builder with attractive templates.
It has ecommerce features too, including order management and ability to accept online payments. It also offers free web hosting with any plan.
Zoho offers a free website builder tool, but it also pitches itself as a one-stop-shop for many of your small business needs.
The Zoho ecosystem offers a range of ‘software as a service’ options for SMEs, including a mail client and a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. There’s also a basic Zoho app development system.
They say you can have your website built in minutes with thousands of themes and integrations. It’s simple to get set up and customise with its drag-and-drop functionality.
It’s worth knowing that you’ll need to use Shopify Payments to process payments, and if you want to use any third-party payment providers then you’ll need to pay a transaction fee with every sale.
Your next step is to map out the pages you want to include on your website. This will vary depending on the type of business you have, but there are common pages people expect to see.
For example, a simple website might include the following pages:
Of course, your website might be more complex than this, especially if you’re including an ecommerce function.
Make sure you include a clear call to action button (such as ‘buy now’ or ‘contact us’). Many people will also be looking for links to your social media pages.
Remember, having a website that's easy to navigate will also help improve a customer's overall experience. Mapping the customer journey can help you understand what they need at each stage of the buying process.
Once you’ve decided the basic structure of your website and pages you’ll need, you can start thinking about content and how these pages link together.
This might include your contact details, information about the services your business offers, and a list of products and prices.
Telling your story of how you got started is an important part of showing the small business owner behind the business. You might also want to mention any awards and testimonials to give potential customers a reason to choose your business.
Throughout this process, you should think carefully about SEO (search engine optimisation). Using relevant terms in your website copy will help your site to appear higher up in search engine results pages.
As well as good SEO practices, you should consider promoting your website through pay-per-click advertising. These are ads you see at the top of your Google search results for example, or on social media.
With even a small budget, this can be a great way to increase the visibility of your business website.
You’ll then want to review the analytics for your site on a regular basis, making sure to keep content up to date and relevant.
Have you got any unanswered questions about creating a business website? Let us know in the comments.
Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.
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