Your small business website is one of your most valuable business assets. It is probably the first thing new customers will see before they even visit your store. Consumers will make judgments about your business based on your website, both consciously and unconsciously. If you are doing e-commerce, the experience people have while shopping on your website will likely determine if they buy from you again in the future.
Are you setting up your small business website for success? Or are you building a website that will chase consumers away from your business?
What Are Best Practices for Small Business Websites?
We get this question a lot from our clients. When we are building a website for them, they often wonder: what are the current best practices for small business websites? What features should they contain? What are do’s and don’ts?
In general, you should think lean when you build your first website for your business. Lots of people tend to think of their website as a brochure for their business that explains everything about it. That’s typically a mistake. You want to think of your website as an advertisement. It should be targeted at the types of people you want to attract. Anything that doesn’t appeal to your target consumer(s) should be avoided, as it risks frustrating or chasing away the people you’re trying to cater to.
Tip #1 for Setting up a Small Business Website: SEO and Content Strategy
The first thing you should consider when building your small business website is search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines are the main way consumers find businesses. If you are building a website and you aren’t optimizing it for the keywords that your target consumers use to find businesses like yours, then your website is dead in the water.
Here’s an article we wrote about how to find good keywords:
Next, you also need to think about what kind of content you need to develop for your website, and you need to think about the strategy you’ll employ to manage that content. This means you need to think about:
- Goals: What are you trying to achieve through your content and how will you measure progress?
- Audiences: Who are the types of people you’re trying to reach through your website? Where do they look for information about businesses like yours?
- Channels: What are the best digital channels to reach the types of people you’re trying to reach (i.e., social media platforms, blogs, paid online advertising, e-mail, etc.)?
Check out this article for help developing an effective content strategy:
Tip #2 for Setting up a Small Business Website: Choosing a CMS
Next, you need to choose a content management system (CMS) for your website. The advantage of using a CMS, whether you work with a web designer or not (and we recommend you do), is that it will allow you to more easily maintain your website after it’s launched. It’s also much more cost effective to pay for a website to be built in a CMS rather than from scratch because the CMS provides much of the code needed for the website to run.
Some popular CMS’s include:
You will notice that “free” website builders like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace aren’t mentioned here. That’s because these technologies aren’t as flexible or customizable as the three we just mentioned. Our #1 choice for most of our clients is WordPress because it most effectively balances usability, effective design, and SEO.
Check out our guide to launching a WordPress website:
Tip #3 for Setting up a Small Business Website: Design
Finally, you’ll need someone to help you brand your website if you’re not a web designer. Research has shown that you have about 10-20 seconds to keep someone on your website. If you don’t have an engaging, visually-appealing website that is easy to use, consumers will go elsewhere.
In particular, you need a designer to help you with:
- Logo: You need a modern-looking, memorable logo that is optimized for the web.
- Optimization: You need a website that is optimized for your target consumers. It needs to draw visitors’ eye to the actions you want them to take, like joining a newsletter, asking a question, or finding a product.
- Color scheme: You need a website that uses color in a way that is soothing, appealing, and embodies your brand. This color scheme should work in tandem with the design of your logo.
- Layout: You need a website that looks like a modern website, and not like something built years ago. If your website looks outdated or old-fashioned, you risk alienating consumers who are browsing the modern web.
- Loading speed: Your website needs to load quickly. Remember that 10-20 second window. If your website uses a big chunk of that time just to load, you’re almost guaranteeing the vast majority of new visitors will abandon your website. Many of these visitors will also probably look elsewhere for their shopping needs.
- Responsiveness: With over 50% of consumers now using mobile phones to browse the web, your website needs to be responsive, meaning mobile-ready.