A Small Business Guide to Creating a Website

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A Small Business Guide to Creating a Website

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According to a recent survey here at Incfile, 57% of business owners — whether with brick-and-mortar stores or online shops — make a majority of their sales thanks to their websites. Despite how easy it is to discover businesses on the internet, our survey found that only one in four small businesses set up an online store last year.

“We are in a digital age,” says Channing Muller, Principal at DCM Communications. “If you don’t have a website, fewer people are able to find you. If they don't see a website, they could very well think you are out of business OR not a legitimate one. Websites = social proof. They are just as much a requirement of doing business as a bank account.”

Whether you're looking to start a business or you've had a business for some time, setting up your website now will get you leagues ahead of the competition. This guide includes seven clear-cut steps for building a small business website — plus web design tips, examples of stunning web design, and the do's and don'ts of creating a small business website.

7 Steps to Building a Small Business Website 

Follow these seven essential steps to create a small business website design and make it live:

1. Create a Domain Name

Your domain name is the name of your website, and you want it to be as close to your business name as possible. You can buy a domain name individually, or it may come with your website hosting or content management system, which are both explained in the following sections.

Keep your domain name short and easy to spell, and try to use ".com" as your domain extension, as it's the easiest for customers to remember. If you have a brick-and-mortar or localized business, consider getting creative and adding your location, such as "NYCDogWalker.com."

If you find the perfect domain name and want to claim it immediately, purchase it from a site that will sell you a domain name individually, such as:

Need help coming up with a business name? Try our Business Name Search Tool to find all the names available in your state:

 

2. Find Web Hosting

Once you've chosen a domain name, you'll need a web hosting service to publish your website to the internet for a monthly or yearly fee. You can easily transfer your pre-purchased domain name to the web hosting service of your choice, or you can sign up for a web hosting service that offers a free domain name when you choose a plan, such as:

Your web hosting service should offer good tech support with phone, text, and email options. Look for a web hosting service that makes daily backups of your web content. Most importantly, you want a web hosting service that includes a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which is a standard security measure to protect personal information, especially if you plan to run an online store.

Before you choose a web hosting site, consider first if you'll need a content management system, which we'll explain in the next section.

3. Choose a Content Management System

Need to get your website up, running, and looking stunning ASAP? Unless you're a master of website coding, it's likely you'll need a content management system (CMS) to create the clean, polished website of your dreams.

A CMS makes it easy to design, organize, and run your website using premade, user-friendly templates with drag-and-drop design options.

Some websites include the full package — domain name, web hosting, and an easy-to-use CMS for website design, including:

For E-Commerce Websites

If you're building an e-commerce website, consider a CMS designed specifically for online storefronts. To create an online-only shopping experience, choose a site that offers an e-commerce CMS plus web hosting and domain names, such as:

For Complex Websites

For a complex website with intricate, customized pages, you may want to consider skipping the CMS and hiring an HTML or coding expert. However, if you're just getting your business started, using a CMS is a great way to go.

4. Decide on Website Pages

Some websites have hundreds of pages, some have only one. What suits your business's needs? If you're creating your website with a CMS, decide which pages you want to add and how they'll be organized. Pages may include:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact information
  • Services
  • Gallery
  • Blog
  • Shop (for e-commerce websites)

For ideas on how to set up your website design, view the small business website design examples we've included after this list.

5. Add Content

Now that you're up and running with a professional website design — whether by CMS or a web design expert — it’s time to create compelling content.

 

Written Content

Start with a clear description of what your business does and display this directly on your homepage. Or, if you're feeling creative, try something unique. Got a slogan? A tagline? A descriptive quote? Make it front and center.

On your About page, go into more detail about your company, how it started, and its purpose. This is your chance to show off your business's personality.

Be sure to add any important, relevant details to your site, such as:

  • Business location
  • Hours
  • Booking information

These can be included in the footer at the bottom of the site, in the About section, or on a page of its own — the choice is yours. Once you've got the ball rolling, consider adding even more content, such as:

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Customer reviews
  • Expert quotes
  • Calendars
  • Blog posts

Visual Content

Have you chosen colors that represent your business? Do you have a logo? An official font? This is a great time to start designing your business visuals.

If you have professional photos of your storefront, products, or services, display them on the homepage, in your gallery, etc. You can create a slideshow or video content that lets visitors know exactly what to expect when working with your company.

Before you start organizing your sitemap, read the do's and don'ts of building a website at the end of this guide.

6. Optimize for Search Engines

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of best practices for getting your website recognized by search engines, which means it's more likely to show up when people are searching for a business like yours.

Google has a formula called E-A-T, short for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This formula helps websites perform well through the search engine.

How do you ensure your website is meeting Google's E-A-T standards? Consider the following and how you'd display these traits on your website:

 

Expertise

  • What makes you or your business an expert?
  • What are your qualifications or credentials?

Authoritativeness

  • Are you respected in your industry?
  • Do other experts go to you for guidance or partnership?

Trustworthiness

  • Have you cited all your sources and checked for accuracy?
  • Is your website secure, encrypted, and up-to-date?

To show the traits of E-A-T on your website, consider displaying the following:

  • Awards or recognitions
  • Press releases
  • Quotes from customers and/or experts
  • Info on your security provider

More tips are included at the end of this guide.

7. Share Your Website

Your website is ready to go — but you've got to jumpstart the discovery process. Here's how to start promoting your new business website:

  • Announce your new site on social media.
  • Send out an email blast to your subscribers.
  • Share your site with friends and family.
  • Opt for pay-per-click advertising through Google Ads.

All of the hosting and CMS sites we've mentioned above offer tools with analytics of your site's strengths and weaknesses. These tools allow you to know where your visitors are coming from and how long they stay on each page.

Some hosting sites offer email marketing services as well. Be sure to consider all these factors before putting time into building your small business website.

Examples of Stunning Small Business Websites

Give your website that extra wow factor by learning from the top dogs. Here are five standout small business websites that have left their competitors in the dust:

1. Ginger and Baker

Coffee shops everywhere could learn a thing or two from the website for Fort Collins-based café, market, and bakery complex Ginger and Baker. Right off the bat, visitors are greeted by an inviting photo of the business's distinctive storefront:

Scroll down and you'll see options to view various menus, each accompanied by an appetizing photo that provides a sneak peek of what's inside. This not only adds visual interest but also gives customers an idea of the offerings they can expect.

Another exceptional element of the site's homepage is the interactive and up-to-date calendar, which makes it easy for visitors to see what's planned for the coming weeks and months. If your business regularly hosts events, you'd be wise to follow suit.

2. Brownstein

The Philadelphia-based advertising agency Brownstein proves that it's not only B2C businesses that get to have all the fun. On visiting this B2B website, you'll instantly be treated to a colorful video showcasing the company's slogan:

brownstein website

This video is part of a carousel showcasing some of the agency's most notable work, which makes it easy for visitors to see what they can expect if they become a client.

Further down on the page are other examples of the company's work, while another section displays recent blog posts, press releases, and accolades — all helping to demonstrate Brownstein's expertise.

3. Green Village Soap Co.

The website for Vermont-based Green Village Soap Co. is a lot like the brand it belongs to — simple, natural, and no frills:

green village soap company website

Most importantly, in terms of sales and revenue, its homepage makes it a breeze to shop for the brand's products. From facial mists to sunscreen to bars of soap, all of the business's products can be added to your shopping cart with a single click.

If your small business sells products online, you might want to try a similar design for your homepage. Remember to consider an e-commerce CMS such as Shopify or Etsy, depending on your business needs.

4. Texas Beard Company

Men's personal care products have become increasingly popular in recent years, and Texas Beard Company is helping to ensure the trend continues. This small business offers natural beard care and grooming products, and its website makes that abundantly clear:

texas beard company website

The close-up of their products shows exactly what can be purchased on the site, while the smoky, tree-lined background photo complements the branding style.

And as with several of the other sites we've featured so far, this one makes it easy to start shopping by allowing visitors to add products to their cart as soon as they start scrolling.

5. Component Coffee Lab

Component Coffee Lab is a coffee shop based in Visalia, California. With only a few buttons and a minimalist logo, this company's website and aesthetic are clean and easy-going:

component coffee lab website

Scroll down their website and you'll find a brief paragraph with some helpful links to start exploring. If you want to contact the company, just click the envelope logo and start typing an email right from your browser.

If you want your business website to be this straightforward, user-friendly, and visually appealing, take note.

DO’s and DON'Ts of Creating a Small Business Website 

We asked the experts for the DO's and DON'Ts of building a small business website. Here's what they said:

DO Optimize Load Times

According to Ataur Rahman, Founder and CEO of GetGenie, an AI-powered content and SEO assistant for websites, it is imperative to make sure your website operates fast to keep up with busy, impatient customers. 

“In the age of the Internet, users expect websites to load quickly,” says Rahman. “Make sure to optimize your website’s speed by compressing images, reducing unnecessary code, and caching your content.”

What does this mean? Here's how to optimize load times on your website:

  • Optimize your images by reducing resolution, compressing files, and shortening dimensions. To do this, search for a free image optimizer online before uploading your visual content.
  • Choose a basic, free template from your CMS rather than opting for a fancy or customized design.
  • Minimize redirects. Redirects happen when a visitor to your webpage is redirected to a different web page. Sometimes, these are necessary, such as when an old web address is updated. However, these add seconds of load time. If possible, avoid or minimize their use on your website.
  • Cache your website. Caching is the process of storing copies of your website's files. Your web host can handle caching for you, or you can install a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache, which comes free with WordPress.

DO Integrate Security Protocols 

Security is an important aspect of any website, especially for a small business. “Make sure to secure your website with an SSL certificate and use other security protocols such as two-factor Authentication,” advises Rahman.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) creates an encrypted link between your server and your browser. This makes sure that any transferred data is secure and confidential. The process can be done on your own or with support from your web host. Here's the shortened version of how to get an SSL certificate:

  1. Use ICANN Lookup to verify your website.
  2. Generate the Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Your web host can help determine how to get this.
  3. Submit your CSR to the Certificate authority that you have chosen to use.
  4. Install the certificate on your website. You should receive instructions on how to do this from your Certificate authority when they sent over your certificate.

“This also means ensuring that all personal data and payment information is protected by encryption, as well as making sure that the website is free from malware and other security threats,” Rahman says. Bonus: SSL certificates can help boost your search engine results.

DO Invest in Quality Content

“Quality and unique content is essential for any successful website,” says Rahman. “Your content should be well-written, informative, and engaging. It should also be optimized for SEO so that your website can be found easily by search engines."

Hire experienced writers, take a poll of experts in your field, educate yourself on modern studies ... whatever you need to do to make sure you're producing strong, quality content.

DO Include Calls to Action 

“Make sure to include clear and prominent calls-to-action throughout your website to encourage visitors to take specific actions, such as contacting you or making a purchase,” says Petra Wagner from Blurbpoint. “Include contact information and a call-to-action on every page to encourage engagement and conversions.”

No matter how many pages you put on your website or how many words you end up using to explain your business, it’s important to have a call to action for every page of your website. Some common calls to action for small business websites include:

  • Contact us.
  • Sign up for our newsletter.
  • Purchase now.
  • Add to cart.
  • Get started.
  • Learn more.
  • Download.

DON'T Go Overboard

Rahman advises against putting too much information on your website, especially on your homepage. “Keep it simple and focus on the most important elements,” he says.

Jeremy Dawes, Founder of JezNorthWeb agrees. “Don't use too much text or too many elements on a single page, as it can be overwhelming for visitors and make it harder for them to find the information they are looking for.”

Not sure if you've gone overboard? You can always hire (website UX testers) to click around your website and point out any flaws or weak points.

DON'T Use Stock Images

“Generic stock images can make the website appear impersonal,” says Dawes. Most experts agree that providing a mixture of high-quality content in the form of informational text, video, and blogs is a great start.

If you don’t have any original visuals for your website, consider hiring a professional photographer or a talented friend to take some headshots and photos of your business. Personalized images are always best. Of course, you might not have a budget to commission your own images right away. Even if your photos aren't top-quality, use original images along with stock images so you don't appear inauthentic.

DON'T Lose the Opportunity to Engage Potential Customers

“Don't use too many ads, pop-ups, or auto-playing videos, as they can be very annoying for the users and can decrease user engagement,” warns Dawes.

While it's tempting to use everything your CMS has to offer, make sure to pick and choose. Nothing's worse than trying to use a website and getting bombarded with ads. Instead, only add pop-ups on special occasions, or limit yourself to one or two per page, max.

DON'T Break Any Copyright Laws

“Don't copy or steal content from other websites,” says Dawes. “It is illegal and can lead to serious problems.”

It can be confusing to figure out how to avoid breaking copyright laws on the web. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Don't take images without sourcing them. If you want to use an image from another website, always link back to that website.
  • Never cut and paste copy from another website. Not only is this copyright infringement, but Google will flag you for this and your search engine results will suffer.
  • Remember that what you find on the web is not yours to use. If it isn't created by you, you probably shouldn't use it.

There's never been a better time to build your small business website. Check out Incfile’s dashboard for help securing a domain name, building a strong website, designing a logo, and more.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

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