If there’s been one bright side to the COVID19 pandemic, it’s been that it has encouraged entrepreneurship. These days, realistically, all businesses need some sort of online presence. As a minimum, they need to be accessible on one of the main social media platforms. Ideally, they should have their own website.
Here are six tips on how to create an effective one.
Pick your name early.
These days, you generally want to pick your name with a view to buying a domain and claiming your social media handles. Basically, you want to do all of this at the same time so that your name, your domain, and your social media handles all work together cohesively.
It’s strongly preferable to organize a domain and social media handles, even if you’re not, yet, in a position to use them. Domains have to be renewed periodically but this is very low cost. It’s likely to be vastly more convenient than setting up a brand only to have someone else claim the domain you wanted. Social media handles are (currently) yours for as long as you like.
It can be helpful if your name reflects your business niche and/or locality. It’s vital that your name is memorable. This means that you want it to be short and easy to spell. It’s a plus if it reflects your brand values.
Choose your website-building strategy.
There are basically two ways you can put together a business website. One is to use an open-source content management system (like WordPress) and organize separate hosting. The other is to use an all-in-one website-builder service.
Going down the self-hosted route can give you more flexibility and control. This is, however, only valuable if you know how to use it. The headline price may be lower than using a website-building service, but the flip side of this is that it means you are responsible for everything, particularly security.
Website-building services are generally more limited in what they offer. They are, however, usually much more user-friendly. Not only is it easier to put a website together, but hosting is included – as is the security to go along with it. When you take all this into consideration, the “convenience premium” may actually turn out to be lower than it looks at first glance.
Decide what function(s) your website needs to serve.
All websites should provide a basic level of information about the business. As a minimum, there should be an “About Us” page, plus some way for the customer to get in touch with you. Most websites are probably going to do a lot more than that. In fact, some websites will essentially be the business.
Regardless of your business niche, most of the functionality on websites will fall into one of three categories. These are giving information, getting information, and processing sales.
The key point to remember is that your website will be scanned by a search engine before it is presented to a human. You, therefore, need to deliver your information in a way that suits both search engines and humans. This is actually a lot more straightforward than it might sound.
Search engines reward people for structuring their content in a way that is easy for them (and humans) to scan. They look for:
- Meta descriptions
- Content tags
- Proper use of headers
- Short paragraphs (which are easy to read on mobile devices)
- Text descriptions of any images
Humans look for all these plus high-quality, relevant, engaging content. The way to create this is to understand what the user is likely to want to see when they land on your page. This is usually indicated by the search term they use.
As a rule of thumb, you want to have one search page per relevant search term. This page should be highly optimized for that search term so that the user is practically guaranteed to find relevant information. You can then, if you wish, use internal links to guide them to other parts of your website.
Even in the earliest days of your business, you should never ever tell a customer to call for further information. It’s fine to publish a phone number so that they can call if they want to. It’s also fine to give your social media handles so they can reach you on other platforms if they want to. You should, however, have some method by which they can contact you from the site itself.
There are basically two ways you can do this. The first is to put an email link on your website and the second is to use a contact-us form. Email links have fallen out of favor for many reasons. The two main ones are that they attract spammers and that they don’t necessarily work properly. If you want to leave an email, it’s often best just to put it in plain text.
Contact-us forms have therefore become the preferred option. There are two keys to creating an effective contact-us form. Firstly, be sure to capture all the information you need but only the information you need. Secondly, make sure the form actually works! Use a service like FormTestr to make sure that everything comes through as you intended.
In the early days of starting your own business, you might want to consider selling through a third-party platform, rather than on your own website. This means that the third-party will take responsibility for collecting and processing the customer’s details and, crucially, their payment information.
If you do want to sell on your own website, then you need to choose between implementing a payment system yourself or having an external vendor process them for you. If you choose to take payments yourself, then realistically, you are going to be limited to e-wallets. If you work with a third-party vendor, then you will be able to take payment cards as well.
In principle, the more payment options you can offer, the more chance you have of closing a sale. In practice, the real-world impact of this will depend very much on your business niche. As a rule of thumb, the more you are charging for your products/services, the more useful it is to be able to accept payment by credit card.