Websites 101 for Small Business
A client recently asked me to speak to a class for new business owners about the basics of what they should consider when building a brand new website. What follows are—in no particular order—the most common terms and concepts I end up going over with clients building a new website. As a new business, if you keep these things in mind from the very beginning, you will hopefully end up with a site that will serve you for a long time and provide a stable foundation for your company’s growth.
Domain Registrar vs. Web Host
This is one of the first confusions for people who are new to websites. What you need to know is that your website—all the files and pages and images and databases that make it up—are stored on an actual physical computer that delivers that content when requested by a browser. This computer is owned by your web host, the company who has rented out the space on their servers for your website. Like landlords, some are good, and some are not so good. Be sure to do your homework before choosing a host. My favorite is Siteground. They offer excellent service, 99.9% uptime, and all at a great price.
Your domain registrar is the company that allows you to register your new domain name and point it to the location of your website at the host’s server.
Sometimes people will have a site hosted by one company, and their domain is registered elsewhere. This can cause confusion for the first time website owner.
Points to Remember
- Your web host is like the landlord – the web host loans you hosting space on their server, and is the actual, physical space where your website lives.
- Registrar is like the phone book or a directory – when someone types in your URL, the domain registrar tells your computer where to find your website.
Domain Name Tips
- Keep it reasonably short – this will likely become part of your email address, and who wants to type out an unreasonable web address a million times a day (especially if it becomes part of your email?) It’s too late now, but I wish I’d registered Creekside Collaborative under a MUCH shorter email address.
- If you can include what you do, great for your SEO (we’ll get to that later.) I wish I had started business under the domain name ccwebdesign.com or something similar that says what I do.
Make It Mobile-Friendly
- Over 50% of website visitors are using a phone or a tablet, so it’s critical that your site look good on all screens. This is called responsive design, and you want it, otherwise folks won’t come to your website again on their phones.
- Search engines use whether or not your site is mobile friendly when ranking you on the search engines.
- (http:// vs. https://) Basically a certificate, as a piece of code on your website, guaranteeing that you are who you say you are. Information traveling between the site and its visitors is encrypted, thus secured from prying eyes. It used to be required only on pages of the site where sensitve financial information, etc., was exchanged, but there is now a push for the entire web to be encrypted, and search engines are lowering the rank of sites without a security certificate.
What builder or tool will you use to create your website? You can have someone hard code a website for you or you can use Content Management System.
- Managed builders like Wix, Weebly, WordPress.com
- Pros – You can do it yourself, and all the security updates, software updates, etc. are handled for you.
- Cons – You have to do it yourself, and you have much less control over the design and functionality of your site.
- WordPress.org (different from WordPress.com, despite the name)
- Cons – You (or your web design expert) must do regular maintenance on the plugins, security, and core WP files
- Pros – Massively adaptable to nearly any need or design, and easily scales up with your business.
- Write your content BEFORE you try to build a website. Of course, when your web designer begins to create the layout, it will change your ideas about content, but the whole process will go so much faster if you know what you want to say about yourself.
- A website is really just like a book, with a Title, Chapter Headings, Table of Contents, etc.
- At the very least, consider an outline. It may all change once you start discussing with your web designer, but it’s a great jumping-off point
- A website must:
- Clearly convey the service you offer.
- Convince site visitors that they like you AND trust you.
- Persuade site visitors to do what the site requests (i.e. pick up the phone, fill out a form, buy a product.)
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Basically, you want to make sure that your site is set up so that the search engines understand your content and know how to deliver it to people searching for your content. Entire businesses are created just to fix SEO, and I can’t go into all of it here, but a few points to consider when building a new site:
- What keyword phrases are you hoping to be found under in the searches? Do your keyword research.
- Search engines wants to know that you are an authority in the subject you are writing about, so the better your content, the better your ranking on the search engines.
- Structure your site correctly.
- Keep your site content fresh and update regularly.
- Create new content that provides benefit to your site visitors and answers their questions.
- Share your content on social media.
If you’re curious about SEO for your own small business website, that’s something I can help with, so please let me know.
I am by no means an expert on social media marketing, so what follows is my own opinion, not verified fact. I have clients who are concerned about whether they should create a platform on every single social media platform out there, and I say no. If you love a particular social media platform, that’s the one (or two) that you should use. If you hate social media, don’t create an account, and then abandon it. Best scenario is to find the one your potential clients use, and then go for it. (Selling cupcakes? Use Pinterest. Selling snowboards? Try Instagram.) Engage people. Join groups. Answer questions. Be generous. Social media is a giant perpetual cocktail party—a lot of give and take. If that’s not your thing, then either don’t do it, or hire someone who is good at that kind of thing.
Top Considerations (as of this writing)
- Facebook – Professional Page
What are the review sites for your particular kind of business? Be sure to get yourself set up on those if it’s appropriate. Reviews matter! A lot.
- Trip Advisor
- Facebook Reviews
- Amazon Reviews
I hope this post helps you with some of the things you’ll want to take into consideration when talking to designers about a website for your new business. If you’re a new business owner and have questions that aren’t answered here, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can get back to you with an answer.