Even if you’re only a small business or you have a brick-and-mortar store, you need a website. In fact, creating a website is one of the first things you should do when you launch your startup to make your business official. If you’ve never built a website before, the likelihood is you have no idea where to begin. Actually, it’s less complicated than you may think to create a professional-looking site.
Step 1: Choose the Right Platform
With WordPress, you’ll have complete control over your site. Plus, since it’s open source, WordPress is free to use. However, you will need to find (and pay for) a solution for hosting.
With a hosted website builder, you use drag-and-drop tools to adapt a template. There is usually a monthly fee for this service.
Most businesses find that WordPress is the better option. When you use a theme, there’s no need to have any coding knowledge to build your website. Plus, there are all sorts of plugins and add-ons to increase the functionality of your site. Although you will need to sort out hosting, WordPress makes this easy, even providing you with some recommendations. Finally, if you decide to contract a web developer later, you’ll have no problem finding someone with WordPress experience.
Step 2: Purchase a Domain Name
There are ways you can receive a free domain name, but these will ultimately hurt your business. For instance, WordPress gives you the option to have the free domain yourbusiness.wordpress.com, which looks unprofessional and makes it clear to everyone that you’re trying to avoid paying. The good news is many hosting plans give you the first year of your domain name free — and even after that, the cost tends to be reasonable.
It’s important that you choose an appropriate domain name because — unlike almost everything else associated with your website — it’s permanent. Try to stick as close to your business name as possible (or perhaps a shortened version). If your business name is already taken, add your location or a descriptive word to the end. The result should be short, easy to pronounce, and free from hyphens. This will ensure customers know what to type if you tell them the name verbally.
At the end of your domain name comes the top-level domain (TLD). Use either .com or a country TLD like .co.uk. Anything else will be more difficult for users to remember — and could mean someone else takes the .com version of your domain name. This will mean customers looking for you will end up at the site of a completely different business. For the same reason, if the domain you want with .com is already taken, pick a different domain name rather than choosing a different TLD.
Step 3: Determine the Purpose of Your Website
Once you have the basics set up, there’s still one more thing to do before you move onto the design stage: decide the reason for building your website. Some websites are a place to provide information about a business, such as general information about who you are, your contact details, and news. Others are for ecommerce. It’s important you decide what purpose your website will have before you begin the design, as this will impact the user experience and features on your website.
Step 4: Find a Theme or Template
According to what you decided above, choose an appropriate theme or template for your site. WordPress and many of the hosted website builders offer a large number of free ones to choose from. You should also consider a paid option if you’re looking for specific features. Most paid options incur a one-off fee, although some use a subscription to give you access to ongoing customer support, updates, and maintenance. Whatever you pick (paid or free), you’ll be able to customize it to make it unique for your business.
Step 5: Create Your Key Pages
Consider carefully what pages your website needs. At a minimum, you’ll need a homepage, about page, products or services pages, contact us page, and a blog section (for content marketing purposes).
Use the homepage to make it obvious what your business does. Go into more detail on the about page, where you can include details about your background, mission, and vision. Save specifics about your offerings for your products or services pages. On the contact us page, include your email, phone number, and address along with a contact form and a map (if you have a physical location).
Each page should feature a clear call-to-action (CTA) to make it obvious what you want users to do. On some pages, you may even want to include a CTA button, such as “Buy Now,” “Contact Us,” or “Receive a Free Trial” to send users to a related landing page.
Finally, you need images for each page to create visual interest. Avoid stock pictures as much as possible, instead using photos of your own team or images made for you by a graphic designer. If you’ll be mentioning any of your products or if you’re creating an ecommerce website, it’s worthwhile to invest in professional product photography.
Step 6: Search for Plugins or Extensions
For the contact form mentioned above, as well as many other features, you’ll need plugins or extensions. WPForms, for instance, is great for making contact forms and for accepting payments — although you will need to connect it a payment processor like Stripe. Yoast SEO is useful for checking the optimization of different pages.
Step 7: Optimize Your Website for Search
Talking about SEO, you’ll need to make sure the entire site is optimized for search. This will ensure you rank high in the search results for relevant search terms and gain qualified traffic. To achieve this, you need to:
- Infuse your site with the right keywords
- Ensure all the pages are loading fast
- Use standard security technology (SSL)
- Have a responsive design
- Use internal links to keep users moving through your site
- Have high-quality backlinks leading to your site
This part is quite complicated. Contracting an SEO expert who can optimize your website now and make regular updates in the future will ensure your investment in a website does pay off.
Step 8: Preview and Publish Your Site
When you have the content and layout complete, it’s important to preview your site on a variety of browsers and devices. Make sure you check that it functions well on all the major browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Microsoft Edge as well as on several different screen sizes. All too often businesses neglect one of these and some users have a poor experience on the website. This results in a high bounce rate, which ultimately hurts your SEO — not to mention, you’ll miss out on potential leads and customers.
Only once you’re sure everything works well should you go ahead and publish your website.
Step 9: Set Up Analytics
There’s always a chance you may have missed something when previewing your site. Analytics can quickly reveal errors for you to fix.
The best option is to add Google Analytics to your site. This will tell you about much more than just your problems: you’ll learn who makes up your audience, what search terms are leading to your site, which pages are performing best, and much more.
Step 10: Tell Users About Your Website
Advertise your new website with people who already know your business. Post a link announcing its launch on your social media profiles and consider adding the URL to your email signature.
Step 11: Update Your Site Often
Building a website is not a once-and-done activity — you need to be constantly updating it with new content. If you have a content marketing strategy, you’ll be posting blog posts regularly anyway, but you should also pay attention to the content on the rest of your website. For instance, when you release a new product, it’s a good idea to announce this on your website.
You should also be using your website to advertise upcoming events. It’s crucial you update your site when the event is over. Referring to an event in the future tense that happened in the past (especially if the event happened months ago) makes it seem like your website is abandoned or your business defunct. This is not the impression you want to give prospects.
In addition, you’ll need to do major redesigns every few years to keep your website relevant. If you’ve ever come across a website that clearly has had the same design for the last decade, you’ll know how outdated, unprofessional, and clunky this feels. The accepted timeframe for a website redesign is every three years.