Twenty years ago, having a website for your small business would have been a luxury; these days, it’s a necessity. If a business doesn’t exist on the Internet, it might as well not exist at all.
That doesn’t mean you should throw just anything online and call it your business’s website. A website isn’t just about an online presence; it’s about connecting with your customers, helping them find you and making it easier to do business.
If you want to launch a truly successful business website — one that complements and grows your business — follow this outline:
Purchase your domain name
Usually, you want your web address to be www.yourbusinessname.com, but with so many websites out there, that domain name might already be taken. You might have to get a little creative to find the right domain name. When you do, a number of websites will register your domain for you (for a fee, of course), and then you can start building your website on it.
You might also want to consider buying up domain names based on common misspellings of your company name, which you can then redirect to your real website.
Hire a skilled design and development team
Anyone can paste up a website template and change the placeholder text, but that isn’t how you create a great site. Instead, do your homework and seek recommendations for a website design and development team that can share your vision and that will take your business needs into account when designing the site.
The right development team will work with you to create the best site for your business. What’s more, they can help you with the rest of the things on this list.
Find a reliable web host
A web host connects your website to the Internet. Web hosts hold all your website’s files and serve them up to your site visitors. Ask around for recommendations of a good web hosting service that has little downtime, responsive customer service and an easy-to-use interface. Your design and development team may have some great suggestions, too.
Set up Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are a pair of powerful utilities that can show you how to improve your site and what content your customers want most. And the best part: They’re free.
Google Analytics reveals great data about what visitors do at your website — where they come from, what they look at, where they go when they leave and all sorts of statistical slicing and dicing in between.
Google Webmaster Tools gives you a glimpse of your site the way Google’s algorithms see it. It shows you links to and from your site, the top search terms that brought people to your site and even suggestions for improving the site so Google can get more information from it.
Both of these tools are simple to set up, and your design team can probably do it for you. If you don’t have someone on staff who knows how to handle website metrics, you’ll need to find (or hire) someone to show you how these tools work.
Create a blog
If your website is the online face of your business, your blog is its voice. With a blog, you can build a rapport and a good reputation with your customers without even seeing them face-to-face.
Your blog must be maintained, though, with regular new postings — at least two or three a week. Get all your employees in on the act of writing for the blog. Your posts can talk about new developments in your industry, changes in your workplace or even the employees behind your brand. Through your blog, potential customers can get to know and respect you, and when they need whatever service or product you supply, you will be top of mind.
What’s more, ongoing blog posts show Google that you offer current information about a number of topics, which can only improve your standing in search results.
This entire process sounds simple enough in this short article, but it could take you a couple months to bring everything together and ready to show to the world. But once you do, you’ll be in good shape to grow your small business online.