No matter your small business's industry, a little razzle-dazzle in your online presence can go a long way. A well-crafted small business website can attract new customers, keep existing ones coming back, and help you stand out from others in your niche.
The need for internet visibility has amplified as people rely on being able to find the goods and services they need online. Small businesses that lack a web presence will likely lose any potential business to a competitor.
In other words, getting your business online is a must. But where to start?
New small business owners — especially those who don’t think of themselves as tech savvy — often cringe at the idea of designing their own website. But with new tools and website builders, the task is about as straightforward as waving your hands and saying a few.
Web design technology has changed a lot in recent years. Spending thousands of dollars on an agency to develop a small business website you and your customers will love is no longer necessary.
Many website builders have drag and drop functionality, built-in templates, and plenty of resources that make them enough for anybody to use. Plus, you’ll have access to loads of marketing tools and integrations to make it easier to update, publish great content, and reach your customers in meaningful ways.
Whether you’re launching a new company or refreshing your old site to take advantage of new tools and web technology, there’s never been a better time.
Here are 10 actionable tips to start building a small business website to help you look professional and meet your business goals.
10 top tips to make a great small business website
1. Choose a good domain name
Once you commit to a web hosting service, it’s time to choose a domain name for your business website, which is just as vital as picking a name for the business itself.
Start with your small business name. Just know that your preferred name might be taken if it’s a popular or competitive niche. Unless you have a trademark on the name or brand, it may already exist on the web somewhere.
If that’s the case, there are ways to create a custom domain name to make it unique. Adding hyphenation between words or a suffix, like “inc” or “ltd,” is one way to go, if that makes sense. If your company is proudly local, consider adding the name of the city or neighborhood, like stellascoffeeNYC.
You’ll also find a wide variety of URL extensions for your domain, such as .co, .io, .net, and plenty more. You might also find that a more esoteric extension suits your brand, like .rocks, .music, .store, .online, .biz, etc.
If we could offer one caveat, before choosing a niche extension for your URL, be sure it’s not pigeonholing your business into a narrow slot. Think about where you plan to be down the road.
Choosing a .com URL might seem like it’s so last decade, but it is globally recognized and gives your small business website a lot of room to grow. Keep your domain name as short and as simple as possible while remaining true to the spirit of your business.
It’s possible to get a free domain name or one for a very low price.
2. Choose the best website builder for your needs
We touched a little on small business website builders, but let’s dive a bit deeper.
Essentially, website builders are a suite of web design tools that require no special coding experience. They enable you to build a website from scratch, often with a drag and drop editor, and get it up and running quickly. You could have a basic site online that you can start promoting in just a few clicks. No need to hire a web designer.
The website building world is a big one, with many platforms advertising themselves as the best website builder for small business. In reality, the best website builders will be ones that fit your needs. Most website builders have a few things in common, but features vary from provider to provider, so it’s a good idea to research and find out which ones will work best for you.
Do you want complete control over website design? Or will a basic site do the trick? Do you need advanced features like email marketing tools or SEO tools? If you want to include a blog on your small business site, a platform with a user friendly content management system would probably be ideal.
And if you have an online store, you might want to look into the best eCommerce website builder for your needs and consider whether you’re willing to sign up for eCommerce plans that charge transaction fees. Check out what platforms other online stores use to sell online.
Consider your budget, too. Can you afford paid plans? Or would it be wiser to stick to a free plan, at least for now? Some website builders even provide a free forever plan.
Invoice2go’s website builder – which enables you to create a professional website for your small business easily – is designed to address the specific needs of our small business community. It comes pre-loaded with the most requested business features and tools, combining modern, responsive web design with features like analytics, customer reviews, marketing tools, and customer relationship management. The site builder also integrates with your Invoice2go account and other software you already use to help you manage your online and offline small business more efficiently.
3. Clearly communicate your brand name, bio, and mission statement
Your small business website is often the first customer interaction with your brand. Since small business websites are a dime a dozen, you’ll want to set yours apart by ensuring your message is clear, concise, and accurately describes who you are and what you do. Don’t leave anything up to the imagination; get to the point and choose your words wisely.
You’ll need to provide a strong statement about the company and how it benefits its customers on the home page. The “about” page is where you’ll go into more detail and talk about your vision, mission, and what led you to where you are now. Tell a story; humanize your brand.
Be authentic, but be sure you put the essential points upfront, so your site visitors don’t have to work too hard. Again, being user friendly, from the design to the copy, is the goal.
4. Create an attractive and professional design
The great thing about website builders is that they offer loads of pre-built templates, many of which are tailored to specific types of businesses. The drag and drop editor several of these options offer make creating your own website a snap.
You may, however, need to choose color schemes and fonts. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your design as simple and clean as possible, with fonts that are easy to read and attractive images optimized for fast loading. But long story short, you don’t need to be a web designer to create a professional site.
Ensure your site looks and performs consistently on all browsers and devices. You may have heard the term “responsive design,” which is essentially what it sounds like. A responsive website looks the same on a mobile device as on a desktop computer. Plus, Google and other search engines prioritize responsive sites. If your design is not responsive, it might not do your search engine optimization (SEO) any justice (more on that below).
Some additional tips:
- Check out competitors’ sites to see what they do successfully.
- Keep your design consistent.
- Include a sign-up box in the header or footer to collect emails.
- Simplify your navigation.
- Ensure your contact info is easy to find.
- Put your most popular products and services on the home page.
- Use clear, strong calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout.
5. Optimize your website for search engines
SEO is an organic (non-paid) strategy to drive your rank in search engine results. A search engine like Google has a singular mission: to satisfy the intent of search engine users. To accomplish this, they crawl websites to identify content and subject matter that answers searchers’ questions.
SEO optimization is a way to tailor your content and small business website design to serve your site to the right people. The more accurately your content answers the search query, the more likely it is to appear in search results.
Some basic SEO techniques include keywords and key phrases, image alt-text, internal links and backlinks, and content marketing, like blogs. Another critical aspect of SEO is the user interface and user experience (UI/UX).
In essence, the more user friendly your navigation, the better it is for SEO. Search engines recognize when site visitors bounce off your site because they can’t accomplish what they came there to do. Install Google Analytics (it’s free) and check your analytics portal regularly to identify problems, like broken links, so that you can fix them quickly.
6. Search similar businesses to get inspiration for your website
The hardest part about creating a small business website is knowing where to start. What kind of website do you want? What gets you excited?
It’s never a bad idea to scope out the competition to see what they’re doing well. Look at a few sites and compare. What do the most popular websites in your niche have in common? What do they lack? Take the best of what you find and put your own spin on it.
As you do your recon, don’t limit yourself to websites in your niche. Think about your customers and what they’re interested in, and see how you can speak to those sensibilities.
7. Make sure your website is secure
Trust is a major issue with consumers these days, especially when it comes to doing business and paying online. Before you publish your small business website, be sure to install an SSL certificate. Most hosting providers and website builder platforms offer free SSL certificates — all you’ll need to do is check a box, and you’re good to go. Once it’s active, your page URL will display as HTTPS rather than HTTP, indicating that your site is secure.
Without an active SSL certificate, many search engines will display a warning message to the user saying the site is unsafe and that they should not go there. An SSL certificate verifies the site’s ownership, keeps user data and login credentials secure, reduces the risk of malicious attack, and keeps it compliant with data privacy frameworks.
8. Use clear calls-to-action (CTAs)
CTAs are essential to use throughout your site. You can change the message to shake it up a bit, but don’t be shy. Directing your site visitors to take specific actions will increase the chances of doing so.
First, you’ll need to decide on the action you want them to take. Is it to reach out to phone support? Download a piece of content? Buy a product? Sign up? Request more information? You could choose any or all of the above. Thread them throughout your site and content to ensure no opportunities are missed.
Experiment with your CTAs to see which ones get the best results. If your primary CTA isn’t getting any clicks, change the wording or use different phrasing. Check your full analytics portal often to gauge performance and keep tweaking until you find the sweet spot.
9. Create and publish quality content
Publishing quality content is a strategy with many applications. It’s good for SEO; it provides value for your customers and helps you build credibility as an expert in your field. Search engines recognize sites that publish new content regularly, and over time, it will improve your rank.
Plus, your blogs and articles are excellent fodder for social posts and e-newsletters and will drive traffic back to your small business website.
Many small business owners find it challenging to maintain a consistent content strategy, but here are a few tips that might make it less stressful:
- Create a content calendar so you can create articles that align with marketing or seasonal activities.
- Engage with your audience on social to understand what they’re most interested in and build out content around those topics.
- Use videos and attractive images to make your content pop.
- Prioritize high-quality writing to support your professional image and satisfy search engine algorithms.
- Include well-researched keywords and key phrases in your content to improve SEO.
- If you don’t have time to write the content yourself, consider outsourcing your copywriting needs to a freelancer. You can find plenty of excellent writers on freelance marketplace sites like Upwork or Fiverr.
Lastly, be consistent. You’ll get more traction from your content creation efforts when you keep it fresh. Whether you publish daily, weekly, or monthly, establish a schedule and stick to it.
10. Keep your website up-to-date
Few things are more frustrating than outdated or incorrect information on a website, especially a small business website. Imagine looking on a site to find an address or hours of operation and then traveling to the location only to find out the business has moved or is closed. If it was you, would you give them another chance? In this day and age, not likely!
Fortunately, avoiding this happenstance is relatively easy. Schedule regular website maintenance to ensure what you’re putting out there is bonafide.
If you need to close unexpectedly, post a notice on your contact page to avoid unhappy customers. Remove products from your online store, delete unavailable services, and keep your pricing current. Update your contact forms if you’ve switched email addresses and your phone support information if you’ve gotten a new phone number. Your small business website is your storefront, so be sure it speaks your truth.
Getting started small business website checklist
Whether you’re using a website builder like Invoice2go or diving into a custom WordPress site, you’ll need to gather a few things before you start:
- A solid mission and vision statement
- Two or three catchy taglines
- An about page that describes your business and what it does
- Clearly worded products and services
- High-quality images optimized for the web