Are you put off getting a website for your small businesses because you believe it is going to be a complicated and costly exercise?
Many small business owners are. They are intimidated because they do not fully understand the process of creating a website and fear being ripped off by companies that come along and blind them with science – blowing their minds with talk about domain names, hosting, SEO, Google rankings, analytics, keywords, SSL, traffic and all that other jargon.
Truth is, setting up a website with a content management system such as WordPress is a relatively easy and affordable way of creating a simple (and even a not so simple) website.
1. Domain name and hosting
Obviously your business name, or an easily remembered and spelled derivative of it, is the best option.
For a UK-based business a .co.uk name is the most easily recognisable and is cheaper than the .com option, although you may wish to consider this if you trade internationally. These days there are hundreds of other choices available for the bit after the dot, such as .shop, .brand, .expert and even .ninja – if you are looking for something a bit different to make you stand out.
You can buy .co.uk names for just a few pounds and there are hundreds of sellers out there.
Personally, I buy my domain names through the company I use to host all of mine and my clients’ websites and they cost less than £5. A .com costs less than £10, while the other choices vary – a .luxury domain name will set you back £350 a year.
If you choose to register a domain yourself it’s worth considering what you intend to do with it.
If you plan to build your own website, it may be worth buying your domain and hosting from the same company, and you will need to consider what they offer in terms of website building software and installation for example.
A website host is basically a special computer, called a server, where you “rent” some space to store your website pages.
When someone wants to look at your website, they type the domain name into their browser and their computer connects to the server and it delivers your website to their browser.
Again, there are hundreds of hosting providers out there, so if you are going down the DIY route it’s best to shop around and compare the services they offer.
They all offer differing amounts of storage space, server speed and bandwidth, which basically means the amount of traffic to your website the server can handle.
For a small website, often a provider’s entry level hosting package will suffice, which may cost less than £5 a month, but you still need to bear in mind what they offer in terms of getting your website online.
Some hosts provide very basic website building software and others may not provide anything and you will need external software to build your website and then upload it to your hosting using ftp (file transfer protocol).
This is not necessarily as complicated as it sounds using software which you can download for free – it just depends how tech savvy you are and how much time you are prepared to invest in creating your own website.
The cost is still reasonable – around £7 a month – and this includes a good level of UK-based technical support if you get stuck or something goes wrong – another important consideration when buying hosting if you don’t really know what you are doing.
If you end up buying your domain name and hosting from different companies, you will need to change the nameservers on your domain to “point” to your host server.
Most domain sellers and hosting companies will provide easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this in their support centres.
If you buy both at the same time, the nameservers on the domain should be set up correctly for your hosting package.
2. Build your website
You have several options at this point.
As mentioned, many hosts have their own website builders which enable you to get a website up and running with a few clicks. You simply choose one of their templates, add a few of your own images, your business name, a logo and a little bit of blurb and you are away.
There is nothing wrong with this option. It gives your business a rudimentary presence on the internet so customers can find out more about you.
However, the templates are generally very basic, with very few options to change the way they look – meaning your business website will look like hundreds of others out there.
A second option is to use a third party software to build your website.
There are many out there across the spectrum of both affordability and ease of use. It’s simply a case of finding one at the right price that offers the flexibility to customise your site while keeping it simple enough for you to fathom.
The third, and in my opinion best, option is to install WordPress.
WordPress is one of the leading website content management systems – mainly because it is so adaptable to all types of websites.
Most hosting companies will have a control panel which will enable you to install WordPress easily, but if it doesn’t you can do it manually – although it’s quite complicated for beginners. Choose your host wisely!
Once complete, you will be redirected to your admin dashboard, which in future you log in to at www.yourdomainname.co.uk/wp-admin using the username and password you set during installation.
This is where the magic happens, as from the dashboard you can start creating the design and adding content for your new website.
The great thing about WordPress is you can’t easily break it from the admin dashboard (as long as you don’t start rewriting the code in the editor), so you can experiment and play around to your heart’s content.
3. Design and Content
The basis of your WordPress website design is a theme.
The range of themes to choose from is literally mind-boggling, some free and others which you have to pay for, either as a one-off cost or an annual subscription.
Although free themes are a relatively simple way of getting your website online, many of them are quite restrictive in terms of how your website will look.
You can add your images, text and logo, but overall the theme is a rigid design.
Premium themes have more flexibility, but often this means they are a trifle more complicated to set up and you will need a clear idea of what you want your website to look like.
Personally, I have invested in a premium theme, called Divi, which is extremely flexible and can be used to create most sites.
My clients’ sites are mostly built with Divi, with each client paying a small annual contribution to the subscription.
If design, particularly web design, are not your thing, this is where it can pay to call in the experts, who have the specialist skills required to make your vision for your website a reality.
A website designer will sit down with you and discuss what you are aiming to achieve with your website, ie is it just a shop window that gives information on opening times and real life location, or do you want to build a mailing list or sell products from it.
They will also ask for your ideas on how you want the site to look, such as the colours you prefer, your branding and any layout preferences.
You could give them examples of other websites, or elements of other websites, which you like and would like to incorporate.
They will be able to advise on what will work best for your business and help you achieve your goals, as well as what is possible within your budget.
Personally, I like to keep in touch with clients at every step of the website build to ensure they are happy with the way the project is progressing rather than get too far down the path only to discover the client hates it and you have to start again from scratch.
The designer will also discuss the options for your site’s structure – how the website will flow.
This includes how all the pages link together in a way that will make sense to people visiting it and hopefully make it easy for them to find the information they are looking for.
Additionally, you may want to talk about extra functionality to achieve your website’s aims, such as an email opt-in form which encourages visitors to sign up for your email newsletter, or a booking system plugin for your restaurant or B&B. Some of these may be built-in options on the theme you are using or can be achieved with WordPress plugins.
Poorly written and presented copy on your website can give a bad impression of your business and make you look unprofessional.
If your spelling and grammar leave a little to be desired, it may be time to call in the experts to write your website copy too.
A professional can turn the information you want to convey to your customers into clear, concise and accurate copy which will lead potential customers further along their buying journey.
And that means every word on your website should be striking the right note – both with potential customers and the search engines.
There are companies out there who promise to create you a website which will shoot straight to the top of Google’s rankings. I don’t doubt that some of them may be able to deliver on their promise, at a price. The rest are making promises they really can’t keep.
Realistically, I would never promise to be able to achieve top ranking for a small business website, but I can promise that every piece of content is optimised to be search engine friendly.
A professional content writer can also boost your chances of doing well in search engines, as well as building brand awareness and trust, by writing a regular and relevant blog for your website.
This is known as content marketing and could be something worth considering when creating your website.
And that’s it – you have a new business website
You have a working website, which will hopefully be a useful marketing tool and bring in new customers to your business.
As you can see, building a website is not a complicated procedure and there are various options depending on your own technical ability, time available and budget.
Although building your own website is a definite possibility, your own skills may determine how effective your new site is in terms of functionality and design.
Hiring an expert may cost you more, but will save you a lot of time and most likely result in a more professional and effective website which will quickly pay for itself in terms of growing your business.
Get Help with your Business Website
If you have been convinced that now is the time to get a website for your business, call Tracey Sweetland on 07595 036454 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how Plan B Marketing can help.
Alternatively, fill in the form below and I’ll get back to you pronto.