At Bluehost, we love small-business success stories, whether the business revolves around pies, food trucks, minimalism, life coaching, or graphic design. If you run a small business or are considering starting one, we want to help you make your business a success story too. For our “New Year, New Business” series, we’ll be providing insights, methods, and resources for building and growing a small business. So far, we’ve covered how to develop a business plan, how to DIY and delegate basic business tasks, and how to conduct market research and build your brand.
How to Build a Website for Your Small Business
When you have a small business, you’ve got to get online — no excuses.
The benefits of a small-business website are numerous, but the bottom line is that today’s customers expect it. They’re most likely to head online for comparison shopping, so you want to make it easy to find your business instead of your competitors. When people do visit your website, you want to make a good impression.
To make that positive first impression, you’ll have to create your website thoughtfully. You don’t want just any website; you want a website that actually supports your business goals and gives your website visitors the information they need.
The good news is that doesn’t require any technical skills; it simply means planning ahead. We’ll walk you through how to plan and then build a website that will strengthen your business.
What information will you include on your website?
Before you do anything, you need a plan. And a good place to start is to plan what you want your website to say.
Include your contact information, ideally on every page of the website, such as on the footer or in a sidebar. If your business has a physical location, you should also include your business address and hours.
Your Value Proposition/Sales Pitch
Write a brief summary of what your business does, what value it offers to customers, and what makes it stand out. This summary should reflect the messaging architecture and market research you worked on for last week’s homework. That messaging should also be reflected throughout the site, particularly on the homepage and other key pages.
Product and Service Details
In addition to the summary of your business, provide details about your products and services. This might include a collection of product pages or a portfolio section showcasing your previous work.
Call to Action
Every page or section of your site should have a clear call to action (CTA) that directs the user what to do next. For your small-business website, the goal is likely to direct the user to making a purchase from your business. Common CTAs include “Contact Us,” “Sign Up,” “Get Started,” “Join,” or “Start Your Free Trial.”
Tip: You can do a quick online search for “call to action examples” to find great ideas.
Testimonials add legitimacy and credibility to your website and business, so as soon as you receive positive feedback, ask permission to use it, then feature it prominently on your website.
Add links to your social media alongside your contact information. If you have a strong social media presence, you may also want to integrate a social media feed on your homepage, such as highlights of your latest tweets or Instagram snaps.
What functions will your website serve?
Beyond the information covered in the previous section, are there other other functions your website should serve? Depending on your business goals, here are a few website functions to consider:
- E-commerce (online store)
- Customer service live chat
- Help request form (or other contact forms)
- Customer service knowledge base
- Email newsletter signup
- Member portal (to view account and order information or access additional content or services)
How will you organize your website?
Now that you’ve considered what information and functions to include on your website, how will your organize it all? Navigation and structure can make or break your website, so it’s important to approach this thoughtfully, and again, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Start by simply writing an outline of what you’ll have on your website. It doesn’t need to include everything; just the title and a quick description for each page.
Return again to the messaging architecture and market research you conducted. Within the messaging architecture, what were the messages you placed toward the top of the list? What information was most important or appealing to customers?
Use those findings to determine how you prioritize your website content. Once you start creating pages on your website, you may decide to shuffle things around, but using your outline as a guide will yield a better-organized site.
If you get stuck or want to learn more, How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug are engaging, informative reads.
Website CMS and Hosting
With a solid plan, now it’s time to build your website. That means diving in and choosing a CMS and hosting service.
A content management system (CMS) is a user-friendly application that you install on a hosting server. A CMS allows people without a coding background to create, customize, and manage a website. A web hosting service provides server space so individuals can make their websites accessible on the internet. To learn more, check out this infographic of common web hosting terms, defined.
Which website-building platform you choose depends on which features you want to include, so do some research about which features are available from different providers.
While there are literally hundreds of free CMS and hosting platforms out there, the self-hosting options available with WordPress.org give small business owners much more control over their site. This tutorial guides you through how to set up a self-hosted WordPress website using Bluehost, in five easy steps. Bluehost offers 24/7 support from in-house experts, as well as guides, video tutorials, and more. Learn more about Bluehost here.
Once you decide your website CMS and hosting, you get to decide on the fun part: the design. Depending on the platform you choose, you’ll likely have a collection of themes or styles to choose from. You may also hire a professional designer to customize the design. If you choose to DIY the design, follow these best practices for designing a timeless website.
To choose and apply a theme on WordPress, check out this tutorial, plus this list of the best free WordPress themes and this list of other stunning WordPress sites.
When people are in search of answers — or a particular product or service — the first stop is usually Google (or another search engine). Naturally, you want potential customers to easily find you in their search. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. To learn more, check out these 10 tips and tricks for improving the SEO of your WordPress site and this guide for how to make sense of metrics and optimize your site for conversions.
You’ve created your website. Congrats! It’s beautiful!
But if you neglect it, it may not stay that way. That’s why as soon as you create your website, you should develop a plan to maintain it. If you have frequently updated features such as blog posts, you should create an editorial calendar to plan those features well in advance. If the information on your site is less likely to change, you can simply schedule a time, such as once a month, to review your website content to make sure it is up-to-date.
Your Next Steps
Schedule some time to outline your website content, functions, and structure, then start researching your CMS and hosting options. If you choose to host your website with Bluehost, give us a call 24/7 for support from in-house experts, as well as guides, video tutorials, and more.
Next week, we’ll cover how to spread the word about your small business.