There's one thing pretty much every business needs now - a website. It doesn't have to be anything special, but if customers can't find you online, you can bet they'll be able to find one of your competitors.
The good news is that building a website doesn't have to cost the earth, and you don't have to have the tech skills of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But despite this, almost half of small businesses don't have a website, according to research by Clutch.com. Although 24% are planning to build one in the future .
If you're hoping to get your business online, here are my top tips for how you can put yourself within a few easy clicks of potential customers for around $100. I've mentioned a few sites that can help you build and host your site. This is not an endorsement of these sites or their services; I have no affiliation with them and make no representation about their services. I just thought they'd be a useful starting point in your search for an appropriate provider.
What you'll spend your cash on
- Domain name: Under $15 (annual)
- Web hosting: Under $40 (annual)
- WordPress theme: Under $50 (one-off)
How to get started
Step 1: Choose a domain name
First things first, you need to choose and register a domain name. This typically costs between $10-12 a year, although some domains are more expensive than others. A quick Google will bring up dozens of domain name register services. I like Namecheap - and it lives up to its name!
REMEMBER: Choose your domain name carefully, it needs to be easy to remember and describe your business - usually your company name will be the best option, or a mix of your name and the products you offer. You'll also choose a domain extension - .com is the most common option and it's what customers will instinctively type.
Step 2: Get hosted
Like domain name registrars there are plenty of web hosting companies to choose. It's worth looking at reviews and not just opting for the cheapest. You want a reliable service - if your website goes down, you'll lose business. Some companies offer both domain name registration and web hosting.
Step 3: Get WordPress
There are lots of CMS software options, but for cost and simplicity you can't beat WordPress. It installs on most web hosting services with just one click, it's easy to update (no paying a web design agency every time you launch a new product) and there's a range of themes available, which brings me nicely onto my next step...
Step 4: Choose a theme
Now for the fun bit. You need to choose a theme for your website. There are some freebies available but I think it's worth splashing a bit of cash on a professionally designed one. After all, you want your business to look as slick as possible. Head to Elegant Themes for a good range.
Choose your theme carefully. This is a business website, not a personal one. You may love neon brights or pinky pastels, but the colors and design need to reflect your business and appeal to your customers. I learned this lesson the hard way and ended up redesigning my site after 6 months.
REMEMBER: You'll want to choose a responsive theme so that your website works on mobiles and tablets too. Most recent themes have this functionality.
Step 5: Install your theme
It just takes a few simple clicks to install your theme. Log-in, head to ‘Appearance' and then ‘Themes'. Click ‘Add New' and then ‘Upload Theme'. Select your theme and install. No problems.
Simple activate and your website is good to go, there's just the small matter of adding content...
What you need on your website
I won't go into too much detail about how to write a website - that's a whole other blog post! But from chatting to a few fellow business owners I've come up with a list of ‘must-haves'.
Contact details:One of the main reasons I head to a business's website is to find out how to get in touch, and there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to find a simple email address or phone number.
Images:The more visual your website, the better. You can get royalty-free images on websites like freedigitalphotos.net. A word of warning though: make sure your file sizes are as small as possible (while still being great quality); too many large files can make your website load a lot slower, and, according to LoadStorm , 1 in 4 folks won't hang around more than 4 seconds to wait for it to load. If you are using WordPress, there are plugins that can help you with this. For example, this WordPress plugin automatically compresses images as you upload them.
Bite-sized chunks of text:There's no point having loads of heavy text on your website, how often do you read every word online? Small, readable chunks, bullet points and pull-out boxes grab people's attention and make sure they read the most important info.
Regular updates:Once you've made your website, don't just forget about it. You should update it regularly, adding any new details and indicating when products are sold out etc. Having a blog as part of the website is a great way to keep it updated and can really help you edge up the search engine results pages - or so they tell me...
A clear description of what you do:Not everyone who lands on your site will be trying to find it, but every user is a potential customer. If there's no real indication of what you do, what state you are based in, etc, then they'll soon click off.
Hope you've found that helpful. Let me know how you get on.