Whether you own a restaurant, a nail salon, a real estate business or any other type of small business a great website is essential for your company’s success more so today in 2021. 

As someone who’s worked on hundreds of small business websites over the last 15 years, I have experience on what it takes to make a website effective and work for your business. Here are nine key stepping Stones which will help your Small business website compete more effectively in an online marketplace.

1 – Your domain name makes a big difference.

Selecting the right domain name makes a big deference

I often find that this becomes a difficult first step for some business owners. It does not need to be as long as you keep the following points in consideration. 

Your domain name is extremely important. Changing it down the road is far more costly and ineffective than picking it properly at the start of the project. Your domain name becomes your brand.

This is how people will find you. Its what will be put on search engines. It is what will help customers contact you.

Your domain name should adorn your marketing materials in abundance.

10 years ago or earlier getting a short snappy .com domain was probably the most important thing for any business. In my opinion this is no longer the case.

With proper keyword placement and a well thought out online presence any domain extension will bring positive results.

You really do not need a .com (or a .ca, .net. org for that matter)

There are now hundreds of domain extensions to choose from. Selecting a domain extension that is not as common does not make your site less accessible by search engines.

You can get anything like .site .online .biz .tld .marketing etc there are so many I can’t even list them. Check out Namecheap.com’s ( https://www.namecheap.com/domains/new-tlds/explore/) Top level domain page to give you some idea 

Most of your traffic is going to come by people searching online for specific keywords. It is therefore unnecessary to stress over buying a top-level domain which is expensive.

Almost all traffic comes from Google. If you advertise online your website address will be linked to your ads and traffic will come.

If you are using offline advertising like billboards and buses you’re basically throwing your money away in 2021.

We are in an era of fleeting attention spans. There is a constant onslaught on a persons senses of media and content.

The average user would find it difficult to recall specific websites when they sit down to search. It is best to focus on strong domain names and keywords.

In 2021 direct click online advertising works best. Don’t waste your time or money on anything else. 

The domain name doesn’t have to be short. It should capture the primary keywords that you want to be found for. 

Example:

A business that teaches people who to use google classroom, you can use something like: www.GoogleClassroomExaplined.online or www.GoogleClassroomInstructions.biz rather than using your official business name such as ABC Inc.

 

2 – Get good scalable secure web hosting

Secure, reliable web hosting with good tech support is vital to the success of any website.

Small business owners have hundreds of different things to think about every single day. The last thing you want to worry about is good web hosting. In my experience many business owners just leave this to the web developers best recommendation and forget about it. 

I cannot stress the following point enough.

The business owner must own the hosting account and maintain access to it in the event that the web developer is no longer able to help.

Hosting ranges from services called, shared servers, dedicated servers, virtual private servers and many more.

Web hosting companies give provide space on their servers. They Ensure that your site is always up when you need it.

Web hosting companies are extremely competitive and generally offer more or less the same thing. Hosting is relatively the same price across the board the only thing that really varies are some of the add-ons.

I won’t go into a detailed analysis of various web hosting companies as there is no shortage of blogs on the topic.

For most small businesses the average hosting package should cost between $60 – $120 US for a 12 month period. This cost should include SSL lock and backup.

For online store and larger businesses offering multiple products you should expect to pay more.

A couple of starting points for hosting are: 

GoDaddy Web Hosting – https://ca.godaddy.com/hosting/web-hosting

Hostgator Web Hosting https://www.hostgator.com/web-hosting

3 – Create some basic unique content before you start. 

The expression “content is king” reigns true. Spend some time to make unique content

Gone are the days where copy and pasting content from competitors websites would do the job. Today, Google’s search engine will penalize your website for copying other websites’ content. 

So start with the following:

Writing some Text for your website:

I will continue the example of the business that teachers people how to use Google Classroom

  • Write two descriptions for your website; short and long. Through out the web development process, these text will be needed to fill in blanks and to place as descriptors of your business. 
    • A Short 80 character description 
      • Example: We teach users how to use google classroom (80 characters)
    • A longer 200 character description
      • Example: we work with users of all ages to navigate through the features and functionality of Google classrooms. We offer simple online tutorials that can help you get the most out of Google classrooms
  • A lengthy 500 to 1,000 word introduction to your business. Think of this as your sales pitch. As people come to your website they will quickly look at your images, gleam the website and then get into the area where this text is written. So its best to let them read it and immediately get an understanding of what you are offering. 

A great simple tool to help you write content for the web is https://wordcounter.net/ 

Creating a few images:

Start with a logo if you don’t have one. 

Create at least 2 – 3 images that quickly describe what you business is all about. 

Free tools include Canva.com and Pixlr.com.

4  – Use a popular and easy to use content management system

Selecting the right content management system allows you to update the site as you grow your business.

Every time you need to make some updates to your website whether they be great or small as a business owner you or one of your team members should be able to go into the website and make the change with ease. 

This is usually accomplished by implementing a content management system (CMS). 

A content management system lets you log in and manage images, text and other aspects on your website and enable your website to be updated in real time. The most popular CMS software in my opinion is WordPress. WordPress is an open source platform, it is very common and extremely popular in the world of web development. our team at top web design has used WordPress extensively over the last many years along with several other platforms such as Drupal and Joomla.

WordPress popularity ensures that it continues to be updated and supported in the long run and secure. 

Avoid website builder platforms for business websites

I think it’s important here to talk about website builders such as Squarespace and wix.com

While these may seem like easy to use drag and drop applications these are essentially software platforms that build websites which will always remain hosted on them it will compromise your search engine capabilities and in my opinion you never really have a website as long as you’re with one of these companies. 

If you’re serious about website development you need to work with a website developer to build your site and avoid software development platforms that offer drag and drop solutions simply because they will give you limited results in the long-run

5 – Create an engaging, impressive attention arresting website user interface.

An attractive user interface can make all the difference.

To capture the attention of a visitor to your website perhaps the ultimate goal here. Indeed, once a user is engaged on the site, the next step is to convert them into a customer, but lets not get ahead of ourselves for now.

If you’re working with a web developer that has build websites in the past, trust their judgement to offer you sample layouts and proposals of the overall look and feel of the website. 

The look of the website is important, however you must keep in mind that users are quick to view and decide to stay or go back to the previous page (usually Google search results).

Some absolute essentials for an impressive website interface include:

  • Similar font scheme throughout the site which provides consistency as well as ease when reading
  • Unique, attractive graphics that convey a sense of your brand and business. 
  • Consistency in your entire website design and layout
  • Easy access to vital information – if people want to come to your site and access a menu of services or make a reservation or buy a product ensure that people can do that right from the home page without having to go through too many clicks. 
  • Call to action – Placing “Call now” or “buy now” links or buttons. 

Research your competition, understand their websites and use that to build on. Identify the weakness in their design to offer your business website as a better alternative. 

Research your audience and your clients, understand their demographics, their psychology and then build your website. If your audience is busy parents that have a few seconds to make decisions quickly on your website then make their websites easy. If your website has complicated terms and conditions, look at how others offer this information and make it simple without compromising the integrity of the transaction. 

The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

What kind of a world would we have without lawyer .. *sigh*.

If you have access to proper professional legal counsel by all means do consult them on the following matter. In the absence of such counsel there are some tools available to small business owners on developing some agreements that constitute basic legal requirements for website owners

Spend some time on developing the following legal agreements which are standard on most websites today. 

  • A Privacy policy – This is a policy which discloses how you gather and use the data gathered on your website through use interaction
  • Terms of use – this term outlines the agreement between the user of your website and you the owner of the website, essentially users must abide by the terms and conditions in order to use your website. 
  • Cookies policy. cookies are small packets of information stored from a website onto the computer or phone which is used to visit the site. That’s why sites like YouTube and Google remember your most common search patterns.

Check out these resources to help with this

:https://www.termsfeed.com/blog/sample-terms-and-conditions-template/

https://www.termsfeed.com/cookie-consent/

https://www.privacypolicygenerator.info/

6 – Your website is useless unless Search Engines can find you. So optimize. 

Search Engine Optimization makes all the difference to a website

If you spend all the time and money in the world on building the most beautiful website, what good is it if nobody can find it. A great analogy would be somebody who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a beautiful storefront and never advertises to get people coming into the store. 

Some basic level of optimization is mandatory when building a website in 2021. 

Here are some starting points: 

  • Keyword research and implementation – identify the most common searches your audience will use to find your product or service and ensure there is some content and placement of those keywords in the website
  • Fast loading website: No one sticks around for a website that won’t load. Not even a search engine! Sites that are slow to load are crushed when it comes to web page ranking. 
  • Mobile friendly website: It is almost a certainty that most people will search for a website on their phones before a computer. If you think about most users today (including yourself) how often have you searched for things on your mobile phone before coming to the computer. Make sure your mobile website is quick to offer everything your desktop version of the site has. 
  • High quality back-links. It is essential to have  other websites that have a high ranking on google to link to your website 
  • Work on getting GOOD reviews, mostly on Google My Business. 
  • Social Media is a must: You cannot have a site and no social media content. You have to build a Twitter, Facebook, instagram and LinkedIn presence. 

7. Create and publish content regularly

Update your website content regularly

It’s all well and good when we’re excited and making a new website. But let’s not forget to maintain the content and keep it up-to-date for users.

Make the time every so often to update some of the most vital content that is on your website. Ideally you should write a blog and talk about events related to your business or stories or updates that your clients will find useful.

Perhaps you could share some of the challenges from a recent project and how you were able to overcome them with pictures and description of the story. Perhaps you can talk about new equipment that you’re buying to help serve your clients better. 

It’s important to create the content and the primary position for the content should always be your website. From there you should take bits and pieces of the content and add them to your social media platforms so you can drive viewers from social media right to your website. 

8. Use tools to track traffic and ranking

Using proper tools like Google Analytics and Search Console gives your important information on your website

Wouldn’t you like to know how many visitors were on your website in the last 30 days or what keywords people are using to find you to search engines?

There are many tools and resources which can help you to get these answers and help you stay informed. 

Two such resources that I recommend as a bare minimum for any website our Google analytics and Google’s webmaster tools now rebranded as Google console. 

Google analytics is a free application from Google. It plugs in a little bit of code on your website and gives you all the information about what users are doing on your website, how they find you, which pages they go to and so on and so forth. You can use this information to understand how users behave on your website and what you’d like them to do in the future.

Google console basically lets you view your site as Google views it for search engine purposes. It tracks what keywords your site is popular with when people search and also shows what links, link back to your site and on what pages.

9. Maintain your website

Maintain your website regularly to ensure safety against malware, virus and hack attacks.

Never consider your website complete to the point that you can walk away from it and never have to look back at it. The internet is a vast ocean of information and some of it lacks scruples. 

When your website is complete, make a backup so if you were to lose everything tomorrow you can always go back to what you had today.

Used malware scanning software, online firewalls and other such tools to ensure the security and integrity of your website. 

Keep and eye on your competition, stay ahead of what they’re doing, people can put more money into a project and go past you quickly. 

Conclusion

Over the last many years our team has worked with hundreds of businesses cross the globe on building websites some of them small some of them not so small and some really complex projects. The objective of a web development Agency agencies such as topwebdesign is to understand the business and the nature of the people operating it and translate it to the best possible match in their website. We really try to do this as quickly as possible.

There are some small business owners that just have a vague idea of what they want and leave the rest to the web developers and then there are some that are very Hands-On and want to oversee every aspect of it.

These nine points will help business owners and developers understand what the nature of the project is and the overall scope in the early stages before a website is made.

If we can be of help please let us know.