Whether you operate a brick-and-mortar business or an online store, you must understand how to create a business website that is engaging, professional and commercially meaningful.
Think of a well-designed business website as an extra employee that works 24/7.
In doing so, they leave revenue on the table and give away market share to their competitors.
Follow my easy 11-step process for setting up a business website to bring in more customers – and keep them.
(Related: Best Point Of Sale Systems For Your Business).
1. Clarify Business Goals.
Studies have shown that users click away from business websites if they don’t find what they are looking for within eight seconds.
Trouble is, different users come to your website for different reasons:
- First-time users click around to get a feel for your brand.
- Bargain hunters look for specials and sales.
- People familiar with your brand (but not yet customers) look for reviews and other trust factors.
A lot of business owners get overwhelmed at this point. There are too many goals!
Exactly. But narrowing focus is the key to your website’s success, so let me make it easy for you.
If you are reading this, you probably run a small business with less than 10 staff and less than $2 million in turnover.
If that’s you, your goals are likely to be:
- Outline the services or products you offer.
- Articulate what makes you different to your competitors.
- Direct customers to a call-to-action (CTA).
- Provide essential information (about your team and company, contact details, process, etc).
- Offer an e-commerce store (if you sell online).
- Communicate the look and feel of your brand.
- Generate leads via organic search, social media and paid advertising channels.
Go through the list of business goals above and eliminate any that don’t apply to your business, then rank them in the order of priority.
2. Spy On Your Competitors.
AKA “Perform market research” 🙂
The last thing you need is for your site to look like a carbon copy of a competitor’s.
You should, however, use competitor sites for market research. As this will be specific for each niche, compile a list of 3-5 websites in the same industry as you.
- Branding. What does it communicate – simplicity or luxury? Strength and trust or approachability?
- Sophistication. Is the website a simple online brochure or a comprehensive sales and marketing tool with e-commerce, appointment tools, a thriving company blog and a knowledgebase?
- User experience (UX). What makes the website easy (or difficult) to use? Does it feel intuitive?
For other market research pointers, read here.
3. Determine Your Budget.
The cost of building a website can range from $50 for a simple WordPress template to multiple six-figure amounts for custom e-commerce builds.
How Much Do Digital Agencies Charge?
Expect to pay between $15,000 and $25,000 for a premium, custom 7-page WordPress business website that includes all copy, images and standard business tools. Less premium agencies will charge betwen $5,000 and $10,000, but will create a more generic website.
If you’re creating a business website on a shoestring, I highly recommend using a web builder like Wix or Squarespace (more about their pros and cons below).
Instead of paying a huge upfront cost, you’ll simply pay between $15 and $100 per month.
(Related: Checklist For Starting A Business In Australia).
4. Purchase Your Domain.
All websites require a purchased domain (web address) to function. There are thousands of domain registrars online, and most have fairly similar prices.
Expect to pay between $5 and $50 annually for the registration of your domain.
For domain options, consider CrazyDomains or GoDaddy.
5. Choose A Website Builder (Or Web Designer/Agency).
This decision will depend on the size, complexity and maturity of your business.
If you’re just starting, I highly recommend using a website builder like Wix or Squarespace, and I’ve written a comprehensive review of both to help you choose.
Shown above: website builders like Wix are ideal for business owners who need a great-looking website, but don’t have strong technical or design skills.
Here’s a quick overview of both:
- Wix: More than a website builder – it’s a business toolkit with a CRM, appointment tools, e-commerce tools, over 800 templates and compatibility with over 260 apps.
- Squarespace: Gorgeous templates and a very intuitive, easy-to-use website builder with a 14-day trial before. They have fewer templates than Wix (60), but these tend to be of a higher quality.
WordPress, a powerful Content Management System (CMS), is your third option – and best suits business owners who are not afraid of technology.
While it has become a lot more intuitive in recent years, it does present a steeper initial learning curve than Wix and Squarespace.
Most users will interact with your website via mobile devices. Ensure that you optimise user experience (UX) of your website for both mobile and desktop users.
6. Choose A Host.
You will also need to choose a hosting company for your site.
If you decide to create your website on WordPress, your options are as follows:
- Shared Server: Whilst these are incredibly cheap, I advise against using them. Shared hosting means sharing a server and its resources with other customers. It reduces your site’s performance and security.
- Dedicated Server: These options are the most expensive, from $100 to $2000 per month. These servers ensure optimal performance and resources dedicated to your site, plus added security.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS): Partitioned to act as multiple machines, this plan offers the best of both worlds. You will have the security of a dedicated server with the affordability of shared.
You will need to select a hosting provider. I recommend you pick from the following:
You don’t need to worry about web hosting if you build your website on Wix or Squarespace. Both platforms host your website for you.
7. Develop Visual And Written Content.
Customers shop online in their free time. The last thing they expect to read is corporate-speak about products and services.
Your website should be refreshing and eye-catching and keep the details to the bare minimum. You can always refer customers to ‘Find out more’ or ‘Read more’, but this should not sit on the home page or product pages.
Relevant content is KEY. The below pages are a great starting point:
- Home: Your must-have content.
- About Us: The backstory of the business, the emotional pull for customers.
- Products/Service: Keep this to minimal details, images, and cost.
- Contact Us: Numbers and emails or specific management team with bios.
- Blog: Consider how you can provide added value within the site.
Then, hire a good web copywriter to write (or edit) in your brand tone of voice, articulating your unique value proposition in the process.
Avoid the temptation to write website copy yourself, or to hire a cheap copywriter. You’ll end up with generic, boilerplate copy that uses hyperbole (“we’re the best bakery in Sydney!”) rather than commercially meaningful storylines to sell your business.
8. Include CTAs To Increase Customer Engagement.
A non-negotiable is adding calls to action on every page of your website.
Implementing CTAs can profoundly affect your customer retention rate. There’s a reason YouTubers and podcasters always ask viewers to subscribe: CTAs make all the difference.
CTAs should be:
- Clear to understand.
- Use minimal words.
- Not overly sales-y (instead of ‘Don’t Miss Out!’, try ‘Limited Offer’).
- Imbue a sense of urgency.
Try unique and personal CTAs like ‘Contact for a one-on-one chat with Peter’ or ‘Subscribe to the blog for a bonus recipe.’ Engage your copywriter to finesse these.
9. Use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) To Attract More Customers.
The highest goal of the site should be drawing clicks to your URL.
SEO (search engine optimisation) is a tool business owners use to improve their online presence on popular search engines like Google.
SEO helps by:
- Increasing website visibility because search engines like Google use it to determine which websites to display in searches.
- Ensuring your website traffic is high in quantity and quality.
- Allowing people to find your website.
- Retaining customers on your website for longer times.
Whether you handle SEO or hire an agency, all websites need effective SEO. You can follow the best SEO practices here. On average, agencies cost around $2800 per month.
10. Publish Unique Landing Pages.
Whilst many believe showcasing everything on the home page is best, it often backfires. Putting too much content on one page makes it challenging for customers to find what they need.
Ensure you don’t overwhelm customers. Instead, create a clear funnel and drive them to your conversion point.
Structure your pages below:
- Utilise the homepage for people to direct to all corners of your website.
- Add a section with headlines from your most recent or popular articles.
- Add drop-down menus for each landing page, including your blog, customer support, educational resources, and store.
- Add internal links on each page so that it is easy for customers to switch between pages.
11. Always Be Updating.
Like anything, the key to success with a small business website is constantly evaluating and modifying it.
Create a checklist of the following elements and schedule checks daily, weekly, or monthly:
- Images: Are they still high quality and responsive to different devices?
- Grammar: Is the copy easy to read and without errors?
- SEO: Constantly refine the top keywords throughout your site – these will change.
- Security: Do you have a plugin installed to protect against spam and hackers? I use WordFence on my WordPress site.
- Backups: Consider plugins such as UpDrafts Plus in case your WordPress website gets hacked.
- Speed: Has the website been optimised to load quickly? Plugins like NitroPack and WP Rocket make all the difference.
- Links: Are the internal and external links on your site still working?
You should also make use of data to analyse traffic and site performance. Google Analytics and Google Search Console (preferably via Google Tag Manager) are great starting points.
Ensure you track the following and report on growth:
- Visitors: Daily, weekly, and monthly.
- Page views: Daily, weekly, and monthly.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of users who come to your site and leave after having viewed one page.
- Time: How long visitors spend on the site.
- Keywords: Utilise these for the best SEO success.
- Download time: Improve this with your web designer.
Bottom Line About Building A Business Website.
Creating a business website is essential in the digital eCommerce landscape. You can expect long-lasting success with a high-performing, user-friendly, engaging website.
As we’ve discussed, it is crucial to choose a memorable domain, develop engaging written and visual content, drive engagement through CTAs, and follow top SEO practices.
Ensure you constantly update and modify your site for success. Loyal customers will find value with each visit, and new customers won’t want to shop elsewhere.