Today, virtually every business needs a website. The only problem is that many small business owners aren't sure how to create their home on the web.
The good news is that creating a website doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, if you just follow five simple steps, your company can get online and start building its internet brand.
1. Choose a domain name
First, you must select a domain name for your site. Your domain name is the internet address people type in to find your company. You could choose the name of your business -- www.mycompanyname.com -- or opt for a description of where you are and what you do to help potential customers find your site more easily. For example, a candy store in Phoenix could choose the domain name www.phoenixcandystore.com.
When choosing a domain name, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Keep it simple. The harder it is for people to type, the more likely they'll make a mistake.
- Select the right extension. The extension is the letters that come after the name such as .com, .edu, .org, and .net. Try to find a domain name with a .com extension because that's what most people default to.
Make certain your domain name is available and that someone else hasn't already registered it. There are many websites that allow you to check this -- most of them are web hosting sites. If the domain you want isn't available, you could potentially buy it, but that could be expensive.
2. Register your domain name and sign up for web hosting
Once you know what you want your web address to be, it's time to register it -- claim it for your company -- and find a web hosting company to allow people to access your site from their servers.
There's a long list of web hosting companies, so research to find an affordable host that offers features you're looking for. Some things to consider include:
- Whether you'll buy shared hosting or a dedicated server. Shared hosting means your website is on a server with others. There are limitations, including usage limits, so you may not be able to have an unlimited number of customers visit. A dedicated server gives you more control over system administration and won't come with the same bandwidth limitations, but the price is higher.
- What the ongoing cost will be. Many hosting services offer low promotional rates but fees jump in later years.
- Reliability. Does the hosting company get good ratings? Make sure it can handle traffic and won't have downtime because you don't want customers to be unable to access your site.
- Customer service. If you're just starting out, you may need help to get your site up and running.
- Page builders. If you don't have a lot of web design knowledge, use a host that makes it easy to create pages using templates and simple tools.
3. Decide what kind of content to put on your website
Registering a domain name and finding a host are the easy parts. Now, you need to figure out what to put on your site. To do this, think about what purpose the site will serve.
If you're hoping to grow awareness of your brand, your site needs to be designed so search engines can find it easily. This means having lots of relevant content with appropriate keywords targeted toward people looking for products or services your company offers.
Search engine bots crawl the web and collect data used to determine what sites show up when people search for products and services. To make your site friendly to these bots -- a process called search engine optimization -- your site must describe what you do and where you do it. There are tools you can use to pick keywords to include in site content. But, if you're just getting started, the easiest thing to do is to think about what you'd type into a search engine to find a business like yours and build pages that answer those questions.
Also, think about how people will navigate around your website, and how different pages will be linked together to make it easy to move around. Create an outline for site pages, content, and navigation.
4. Design your site
Now, you'll need to actually create your website. The process by which you do this varies depending what you hope your site will do and your level of computer knowledge.
There are tools such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace that allow you to use templates to create a website by selecting a theme and tweaking each page. Many templates start with basic pages found on most business websites, such as About Us and Contact Us pages. You can alter page layouts, change colors and fonts, and add new pages easily.
Make sure to choose a website builder that builds your site to work well on both mobile devices and computers. Web users routinely access sites on mobile, and search engines consider how mobile-friendly your site is when determining whether to display your site when people search for relevant keywords.
5. Market your site
When your website is up-and-running, let people know where to find you. Add your web address to business cards, flyers, and marketing material. You can also pay for online ads on search engines and social media sites. Often, you'll pay per click, meaning you're charged each time someone clicks the link to your site.
You can also try to get reliable websites to link to yours or can help people find you on search engines by regularly producing quality content, such as blog posts detailing what your company does.
The more people who find your site, the greater your chances are of connecting with customers interested in your products or services.
Start small if necessary, but just get started
Building a website may seem overwhelming, but you don't have to create a perfect site in a day. Get your domain name registered, find a host, and just get a simple site up today and you can work on building it up over time.