One of the most important things for your small business is your website. For many of you, this may be the only storefront that potential customers ever see. And even for those of you that have a brick-and-mortar, many of your customers will check your website before dropping by.
Point being: You need to have a great website. But building a website can be a costly, difficult process if you don’t know what you’re doing, and it’s very easy to wind up with a design you’re unhappy with.
That’s why we’ve put together this simple outline of the basic steps of getting your website off and running. Here are some thing you’ll need to take care of, in the rough order that you’ll probably need to do them.
Finding a domain name
This can be the easiest part of creating the website, or one of the hardest, depending on whether or not the name you’re looking for has already been taken, and whether it has any solid variants. If neither of those things are an issue, then the process is no more complicated that picking a domain name provider that works for you–from GoDaddy.com to NameCheap.com–and buying it. Usually you can choose to re-up your purchase once every year or every two years.
If many of the names you wanted are taken however, there is another track you can take. The first is to not get a “.com”, but to get something like a “.biz” or a “.org”. Many organizations do this to get the domain name they wanted while only having to change the last portion of the url, and it’s likely to be the most effective way to deal with this issue. Beyond that, you’ll simply have to get creative with your domain until you find one that fits.
Finding a web host
What exactly is a web host? Many people confuse a domain provider with a web host, and while they sometimes overlap, that’s usually not the case.
It’s probably best to explain it like this: The domain name is the name of your storefront. Your online storefront is your website, and the web host is the plot of land your storefront sits on. If this is all sounding confusing, don’t worry. Many web-building platforms now offer to host your site on their servers, or will have an easy way to have your site hosted on someone else’s.
Since you’ll most likely be going this route (it’s the most affordable/easiest for small business), let’s talk about some standard website building platforms.
Choosing a web-building platform
This is arguably the most important part of the process. There are many different platforms available for building a website, and many more people willing to make one for you. How do you pick the best one for your needs?
Well, first things first. No matter whether or not you have someone build your website or you take care of it from scratch, you should be able to easily change basic features on your website without involving someone else. Too often small business owners have someone build their website, only to realize they need to call the programmer every time they want to make a small change because the back-end is a mess, or they just don’t have the basic web skills to make it happen.
If you choose to have someone build your website, don’t be tempted to pick someone who designs decent websites mainly because they are cheap. Many “decent” sites can be a nightmare behind the scenes, and the second most important thing besides an attractive storefront is making sure the back is easy to navigate.
Designing the Website
Once you have your platform picked, now comes the hard work of designing an attractive storefront. This means taking care of everything to the basic design and visual aspects of the site, to how the pages layout, to even creating your logo. Depending on the complexity and how you’re creating the website, it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to get it in a position where it’s user-friendly and ready to go.
Driving Traffic to the Website
After you’ve done the hard work of getting your website is up and running, it’s time to get people to actually SEE it. There are plenty of ways to do this but the general version is that you’ll be using either organic or paid means to drive traffic.
Some good, low-cost options for driving traffic include advertising/growing social communities, using the google ad network, doing content marketing (i.e. creating your own blogs or other content and promoting it) as well as networking/linking with other complimentary businesses (for instance, if you run a motel, do a cross promotion with a local eatery to encourage your guests to go to and vice versa). You should design a traffic plan that matches the needs of your business, as not all methods will have success depending on what you are.
After all of this, your small business website should be ready for prime-time. If you’re looking for more information on how to drive traffic, take a look at some of our other articles specifically on driving your website traffic.