Your Guide to Creating a Successful Small Business Website
Successful small business owners know that focusing on tasks that grow the bottom line are the most important. This mentality is the reason why, many times, business owners forgo creating and managing a website – a major missed opportunity.
Your website, when well optimized, can act as a new and effective marketing channel. Use your website to act as your online sales person; introducing your business to new customers and converting them into customers.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of a Business Website
- Creating Your Website
- Optimizing Your Website
- Capturing and Nurturing Leads
- Common Mistakes to Avoid
Benefits of a Business Website
The benefits of creating a professional business website aren’t always apparent at first, but if you consider the impact on your reputation and visibility, it becomes much more clear.
As more business and research is done online, the need for a professional business website increases. The reason is because potential customers tend to look online for the business they want to work with; in this instance your website is your first impression.
The more professional looking a website, the more trust the customer has in your ability to fulfill their needs. Your website can be the signal that distinguishes you from a “shady” business compared to a professional business.
Your small business website increases your online visibility (attracting new customers) and sets your reputation (building trust with potential customers).
Creating Your Website
In the past, creating a website used to be difficult. Generally, you needed some kind of HTML or coding experience to setup and build a website.
Thankfully, that has changed. There are a number of content management systems (CMS) that allow you to apply styles and themes, customize layouts, and update content without ever needing to learn how to code.
Our favorite is WordPress (this blog runs on WordPress). It’s the most popular open-source CMS available. We love it because there are hundreds of plugins and themes available to customize WordPress to your needs. Also, it is easy to optimize for SEO and social media, helping further increase your business’ visibility online.
Getting started with WordPress is extremely simple. If you haven’t installed it yet, you can follow this post or sign up for SiteFox and we’ll install it for you.
Once the WordPress installation is running, you can log into the admin console and begin editing or creating new content.
There are two types of content: Posts and Pages.
Posts are your average blog style content, a time-based linear list of articles. If you’re creating a blog or want your business website to include a blog, you’ll add a new post whenever you want to update your blog.
Pages are your evergreen informational contact. The pages feature is more appropriate for your contact page, about us page, meet the team page, and even your homepage.
Recommended Website Layout
There are a number of ways you can actually layout your website pages (hierarchy, not design); but for most of the businesses we’ve worked with, we’ve found a simple layout that tends to work for most.
Generally, you should use a page to create your homepage. This means that when someone visits http://www.yourbusiness.com/ they would see a page that quickly explains what you do, who you are, and how to contact you.
We’ll then also create subsequent pages to add more context and information. For example, you should create the following pages:
- About Page
- At http://www.yourbusiness.com/about you can outline exactly who you are, what makes oyu different, why people should do business with you
- Contact Page
- At http://www.yourbusiness.com/contact you should explain how someone can get in touch with you. It should include your contact information and potentially a contact form.
Depending on your business, you’ll add more pages as you need; but the above two are absolutely paramount.
Those that want to create a blog, can then create a page at http://www.yourbusiness.com/blog that displays all the posts.
The ability to quickly and easily add a blog is what makes WordPress so powerful for businesses. It allows you to evolve your website overtime and easily add a blog when you’re ready.
Another reason to choose WordPress for your business website is that there are a multitude of themes available for businesses to choose. With these themes, you can have a professional template applied to your site at the click of the button.
Here are some example themes that we like for business websites:
Optimizing Your Website
Once you have your website published and live, the next step is making sure it’s fully optimized and generating inbound leads. There are two aspects you should ensure you’ve optimized for: Social Media and Search Engines.
Social Media Optimization (SMO)
The first is social media optimization, or ensuring your content and business can be shared easily.
The easiest way to ensure your content can be shared is by simple adding social media sharing buttons. Most of the social networks have their own social sharing button (example: the Facebook like button or Twitter tweet button).
Another easy way to integrate these buttons is to use the ShareThis or AddThis service. These services make it easy to embed many of the social networks, without having to add each button individually. They even have their own WordPress plugin, making it easy to add the functionality to a WordPress website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you’ve optimized your site for sharing, you’ll want to make sure search engines can find and index your content.
The first step in this is to ensure you have content the search engines want to index and surface. This is why having a business blog is so important.
Each piece of relevant, quality content you write on your blog acts as an entry point for new customers.
If you already are creating content and want to further optimize it, I highly recommend you review your title tags and header tags. Not sure how to fix these things? Most of the themes we recommend already have these optimized, otherwise a freelance developer can fix these things fairly easily.
Capturing and Nurturing Leads
The true benefit of a business website comes from capturing and converting new leads. What good is a website if it doesn’t attract new customers?
Ultimately, the best medium for converting prospects into customers is email. Few things are better than actually being in someone inbox; this makes capturing emails extremely important.
One of the ways to begin capturing emails is by creating a “business newsletter”. I’m sure you’re thinking – “wait, I have to make time to update one more thing?!”. Thankfully, no.
Use your blog to power your content. Give readers the ability to subscribe to the latest updates from your blog, and use a platform like MailChimp to publish your blog content in your newsletter.
Subscribers get the value they wanted and are able to get the latest content you create (it’s valuable and relevant, right?).
The first step in converting leads into customers is actually capturing the lead. If you’re using the newsletter strategy; capturing leads is as simple as including a “subscribe” form for visitors to subscribe for your newsletter.
As your lead capturing system becomes more sophisticated, you can use tools, such as Unbounce, to create specific landing pages for each marketing campaign you have.
For example, maybe you’re writing an article for a blogger and they’ll be including a link back to your website. Instead of linking to your homepage, drive that traffic to a relevant landing page that outlines how they can sign up for your free newsletter. Once they sign up, they become a lead and someone you can nurture into a customer.
The newsletter is your basic content emails, it’s there to help build trust with your brand and convince customers to open your emails. The second type of email is the nurture email, these emails help create a desire for your product.
Nurture emails are emails that are sent to new leads to slowly nudge and inform potential prospects of how your business could help them. They should not be overt, but instead be informational.
For example, a business that sells a social media analytics software, might send an email about how most marketers don’t track social media and how it might be hurting their bottom line.
MailChimp and most other email platforms allow you to send nurture emails through a system called the “autoresponder”. The autoresponder allows you to pre-set a number of emails you want to deliver to every new subscriber; you would simply program the emails and MailChimp would deliver them on set intervals.
Our autoresponder is setup to do the following:
- Welcome Email
- All new subscribers receive a welcome email, thanking them for joining the newsletter.
- Nurture Email
- After a few days, the subscriber will receive a handful of emails talking about business website, social media marketing, or online reputation; all content that is highly relevant to what we do.
- Sales Email
- Lastly, we send an email inviting the subscriber to sign up for our service (sometimes we include discounts).
Using a system allows you to quickly scale your inbound marketing and automatically convert leads into customers.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
As you start to setup your website, you’ll come across potential pitfalls or common mistakes. Be careful to not fall into these common traps.
Don’t Skimp on Your Website
The most important mistake most small businesses make is that they skimp on their website. Invest in the professional look and feel of your website; and don’t hesitate to ask for advice or feedback.
Your website is your first impression and can make or break your business’ reputation. Treat it no differently than you would any other marketing material.
Having a Website is Not Difficult
One of the biggest misconceptions is that having a website is difficult and time consuming; the truth is it doesn’t have to be.
If you use a content management system like WordPress, creating and updating your website can be done without the need for a developer or any coding. It really can be simple and easy.
Automation is Not Bad, if Done Right
You’re a small business owner, you’re busy running your business – that’s how it should be. Having a website shouldn’t eat up your time, the key is finding things you can automate.
Systems like autoresponders for nurture emails allow you to automate tasks without looking like they are robotic.
The more you can automate, the more you can do to grow your business.
Your website is an integral part of your business’ reputation and brand. It allows you to be visible online, attract new customers, and convert leads.
The tools to have a successful and professional website are available, now it’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.