This is a guest post from graphic designer and WordPress consultant Justin Welch. Contact Justin today at www.pixablaze.com for a free 30 min. consultation about your web presence.
Have you ever found a business in the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or a Google search, and then found that they don’t have a website? Or that their website looks like it was made in the 90’s, is difficult to navigate, or impossible to view on your mobile phone? That experience alone can make many people go back and search for another business to meet their needs.
Having a solid online strategy is critical to your small business. Read on to learn how to avoid common pitfalls and ignite your business’ web presence.
What You Want From Your Website
It should make an immediate good impression on your visitors. Website visitors often make a decision if they want to do business with your company within the first few seconds of visiting.
It should be easy to navigate. Each page should have clear actions a user can take, and they should be able to find what they need easily.
It should load quickly. Sites that take too long to load will cause visitors to leave before they even view your site.
It should look good on all devices. Mobile Internet use has exploded in the past few years. Chances are at least 30% of your customers will arrive via a mobile device.
It should be easy to add content. The days of having a static website that never changes are long gone. To compete in today’s marketplace, you need to be updating and adding content frequently to attract visitors, and rank higher in search engines.
Practical Steps to a Quality Website
Get a Domain Name & Web Hosting – at Different Companies. A common mistake people make is hosting their domain, website, and emails all under one roof. This gets you locked into one company, which makes it harder to move services later. It’s best to purchase your domain from a dedicated registrar such as Namecheap. Then purchase hosting somewhere else. One host I recommend is Siteground. Common shared hosts you may have heard of are popular because of their large marketing budget, but their services are oversold, overpriced, and slow to load.
Don’t Use the Many DIY “Web Builders”. It’s tempting to try building your website all yourself with something like Wix to save money. But this will likely end up costing you money in the long run if you plan to have an expansive web presence. Ultimately their feature sets are limited, and once you start using them you are locked in. You’ll spend tons of time trying to get your site to how you want it, only to hire someone to completely redo it later on. Save yourself the hassle and get it done right the first time.
Use WordPress Instead. At least 60 million websites are powered by WordPress, the most popular Content Management System (CMS) around. I’ve found that WordPress is a great choice for most small business websites. The main times I’ve seen that it isn’t a good fit is if you have unusually complex requirements and a budget of more than 5k. WordPress will allow you to setup a basic website for a relatively small price, but more importantly it will allow you to grow with it over time. One of the key benefits of WordPress is it can be extended to do anything you need it to do.
Get a Custom Design or Use a Pre-made Theme. Ideally you would hire a developer to create a design that is completely unique to your business. Average price for this would run between $1500-3000 (functionality such as eCommerce can lead to higher costs). But a unique design is well worth the price. If your budget is less, you could consider using a pre-made WordPress theme. Don’t just use any theme though! Some themes are coded very poorly and will cause you major headaches down the road. I would be very careful purchasing themes from “theme marketplaces” such as Themeforest where multiple authors submit themes. Instead, here are a few reputable theme shops where you can look for a theme that has the basic structure you want:
If you’re tech savvy, you can try installing the theme and setting it up yourself. There are tons of instructions online. Or, you could hire a developer to simply setup WordPress and install the theme, and you add content yourself. You would have to pay more to have them fully customize the theme and add all your content. I’ve found most business owners don’t want to deal with the technical issues involved with adding content, so they can focus on building their business.
Get Your Website Found
Building your website is only the beginning. You then need to create ways for people to find your site. The basic strategy starts with blogging. Writing blogs on various topics related to your industry gives you a base of content to distribute. You can then link to that content by posting on social media, sending email campaigns, and using pay-per-click advertising. Creating frequent content also helps search engines to find your content and gets your site listed higher in the search rankings.
Your website is the online “storefront” for your business. Make sure you create it to endure the test of time and spread the message of your business!