Starting or growing your dream business doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. But when you're new to building or commissioning a website for your business there can be a lot of things to learn and consider.
Here are some initial steps to consider before starting a website:
1. Have a Goal
First things, first. Clarify what you want your website to accomplish. Make a list of what you want your website to do for you. For example, your website should accurately communicate what you offer and why people should hire or buy from you, if you intend to sell products you’ll want to make it easy for customers to add your products to their shopping cart and checkout easily. Do you want to generate email leads, do you want more phone calls, do you want an online brochure or gallery?
Whilst you need to consider your goals for your website also focus on the perspective of your customers, how can you meet their needs effectively with your website? If you haven’t already done so in previous business planning, you will need to spend some time creating your ideal client/customer persona. This will help you to clarify the requirements your website needs to address through messaging, tone, design, and user journey. Think about what your customers want to know, not just what you want to tell them.
2. How to make your website Google friendly
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, it’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer. Starting off with SEO in mind will help structure your site and content in a Google-friendly way.
Any time someone performs a search, there are thousands of possible results, so how do search engines decide which pages the searcher is going to find valuable? A big part of determining where your page will rank for a given query is how well the content on your page matches the query’s intent. In other words, does this page match the words that were searched for and help answer the searcher ’s question?
Before planning and mapping out your website it’s worth spending some time doing some keyword research. This will help you to understand your target market and how they are searching for your content, services, or products.
Keyword research provides you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like:
- What are people searching for?
- How many people are searching for it?
- In what format do they want that information? Eg. Photos, videos, text
How does your audience search for the product, service, or information you provide? Answering this question is a crucial first step in the keyword research process. This is why it’s important to know your ideal client or customer before embarking on content creation for the site.
You possibly have a few keywords in mind that you would like your website to be found for. These will be things like your products and services and they are great starting keywords for your research. From there use a keyword research tool to go deeper. Here are a few to try:
3. What features and functionality do you want your website to have?
Here you need to refer back to the goals for your website, for example, if you want to sell products online, you are doing to need a payment processing and shopping cart feature.
Here are some features to consider:
- Photo gallery
- Video content
- Blog or articles functionality
- Email list integration
- Social media links and share buttons
- E-commerce functionality including shopping cart and payment processing
- security measures, such as an SSL certificate to help your visitors feel safe
- Membership or customer login area
- Portfolio showcase or listings
- Document storage or the ability for users to download information
- Event listing
- Booking a call / session / event
- Responsiveness - works on a mobile, desktop, and tablets
- Website speed
- SEO functionality
Bear in mind the more functionality, the more budget you may need - so it may help to prioritise these and roll out features later as your business grows.
4. What content do you need?
Once you’ve done your keyword research with your ideal client/customer in mind it’s time to start gathering your content. If you don’t have the time to write the text yourself you can hire a copywriter, just make sure you brief them with your keyword analysis. List what images, graphic or brand elements, or videos you might need. If you’re selling products, you’ll need product descriptions, product specifications, and prices for each item.
It’s also time to think about how this content might be organised. Deciding your navigation structure before you build your website is crucial to designing a site that is easy for your visitors to use and to find what they want. List the pages you know you are going to need such as “Contact Us”, how do you consider organising categories of information. You can sketch this out on paper, use post-it notes, or even a tool like slickplan to help you map out your site plan and hierarchy.
Remember during this process to always keep your goals, ideal customer, and keyword research in mind
5. Choosing & registering your domain name
The domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser URL bar to visit your website. Your domain name should reflect your products or services so that your customers can easily find your business through a search engine. Your customers may also expect your domain name to be similar to your business name. Your domain name will also be ideally used for your email address. While you can use a free email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org sending emails from a business address looks more professional. Domain names are available in many different extensions. There are many options such as .com, .org, .co.uk, and.tv. Your ideal domain name might not be available so here are some tips to help you choose a good domain name for your business:
- Make sure it is short and easy to remember
- Make sure it reflects your business name - keep it unique and on-brand
- Make it easy to pronounce and spell
- Do not use numbers and avoid hyphens where you can
- Research your domain name - is there another business using the same name or have even trademarked it? A similar or matching name would not only cause confusion, but it could also have severe legal implications which may cost you a lot of money.
When it comes to registering your domain there are hundreds of domain registrars on the web. Here are a few suggestions:
You’re now ready for the next step which is to consider where you will build your site and if you need help to design and build it. Many business owners experience overwhelm at this stage of the project. If you’re feeling this way and have a goal in mind for your website get in touch to discuss what you need.
We'll be sharing a series of posts to help you make the right choices when you are starting out and planning your business website. In our next blog post, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of different platforms.
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