If you don’t have a website for your business, take five minutes to read this post. You’ll be glad you did. An attractive, simple, easy-to-navigate website is still one of the best marketing tools you can have. Back in the old days, it was taken as a given that you would list your business in the phonebook. Most business owners thought nothing of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars making sure that their ad in the yellow pages stood out from the competition. Today, a website fills the same function.
When people want to find your business, or one like it, they don’t go to the phonebook, they go to Google. Customers are out there, and they want to spend money on your goods and services – if your business doesn’t have a website, you are making it hard for them to find you.
If you’ve been delaying creating a website for your company because of complexity or price, the good news is that it’s never been easier or cheaper to get a site up and running quickly.
The Small Business Website Fundamentals
Your website doesn’t have to have state-of-the-art bells and whistles to be effective and attractive. The important elements to any website are:
- What your business does
- How to contact you to do business
- Where to find you
Add More Information To Help Your Customer
For example, if you’re running a restaurant:
- Make sure that what you sell is on your site. Don’t put up a static PDF of the menu, because that’s not very friendly to people using your site on a mobile device (we’ll discuss that more in a bit). Instead, actually enter the menu into its own web page where you can update it quickly to reflect your changing selections.
- Embed a link to the Google map of your address. Even though everyone has GPS on their phones these days, sometimes a simple glance at the map will tell a customer where you are and if your location is convenient.
- Include a way to contact you. And if you have a “Contact Us”’ form, by all means make sure it goes to an email address you check frequently.
Check Out the Competition
When you’re thinking about building a website, it’s a good idea to check out what your competition is up to. This will help you to see which of your competitors’ websites you like and think perform well, and which you don’t. But first, do a simple Google search for your company. Make a note of how, or if, you turn up in the search results. This is often the very first thing your customers will do when looking for your product or service.
Now do the same search for your competitors. Do their websites come up? If so, visit each one and take a look at what they’re doing. Take a note of what you personally like about the sites, and what you would change. Then make sure you keep those notes close by when you’re building your own website.
Finally, do a Google search for the product or service you offer, and your geographic area. If you offer landscaping services in Dallas, search for “landscaping service Dallas” to see how you rank. Is your business on the first page? If you can’t find it easily, neither can your customers.
Get Down to Business
Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience building or designing websites. Thanks to companies like Shopify, BigCommerce and Squarespace it’s never been easier to get your business online. The very first thing you’ll need is a domain name for your business. Squarespace allows you to find and register your domain name through their site, so you only have one destination for everything you need to start your site.
Once you’ve registered your domain name, you can start designing. Luckily, there are a wealth of templates available. Squarespace alone has hundreds you can choose from, including listing them by industry so you can find the right template faster. For example, here are their restaurant templates. Designing your website is as easy as dragging and dropping your own images into the template and changing the text to reflect your own business. The picture below shows a few template options from the Squarespace site.
Photo from Squarespace.com
Keep Your Costs Low
If you don’t have a website for your business yet, the reason probably comes down to two things – time and money. Hopefully, we’ve shown you that you don’t have to hire anyone to create your website for you. There is a vast wealth of do-it-yourself tools out there that make creating a website as straightforward as humanly possible. Just come to the process armed with some good-quality pictures and text describing your business.
As for money, you’ll be glad to know that not only do you not have to spend money on a designer, you can host your website for just a few dollars a month. True, setup does represent an investment in time, but hosting it can cost as little as $12 a month on Squarespace. That’s less than the cost of a movie ticket in some places!
Best Practices for Your Website
Now that we’ve covered the basics like setup and cost, let’s talk about how you can make your website as effective as possible.
Maintain Your Site Regularly
Having a big sale? Make sure you put it on your website! Updating your website frequently is a great way to keep your customers up to date on upcoming promotions, product launches, and events happening at your business. Updating regularly is particularly important if you run a restaurant where menu items change frequently.
Make It Mobile-Friendly
It’s pretty safe to assume that in today’s world, many of your customers will be accessing your website on their mobile devices (maybe even more than from a desktop computer!) To accommodate for this, be sure that whatever template you choose is mobile-responsive (layout resizes based on the size of the screen.) Have you ever pulled up a website on your smartphone and found it totally unreadable on the small screen? That’s because the website wasn’t mobile-responsive.
Another important consideration for mobile friendliness is to be as concise as possible in writing about your business. What are the three things that your customers need to know? Make those front and center and impossible to miss. By the way, when we recommended you put your restaurant menu on your site instead of in a PDF, this is why. Reading a PDF on a smartphone can be more difficult than reading it on a mobile-friendly web page.
Social Media and Your Website
A website is an important tool even if you have an active presence on Facebook or Yelp. Make your social media accounts and your website work together.
- Be sure to add your new website’s URL to all of your social media profiles.
- Add links to your social media profiles on your website.
- When you share on social media, try to drive the reader back to your website so you can gain traffic.
- Advertising on social media can be cheaper than you think. Consider advertising your business on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that on your website you have complete control of what the visitor sees - the same isn’t true with social media. That’s why your goal should be to get the reader from social media to your website, where you have control over what they learn.
Building a website for your business is a great goal for 2017, but don’t wait too long. Every time you don’t turn up in a Google search, you’re losing business!