As a business owner, a website is essential. Without a website, how are your customers going to find you? How will they learn what your business is all about? How will you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
A business website allows you to create an impression, tell your story, and gain the trust of your customers.
Even after you have an amazing website, the work is not done. To stand out in a crowded space, you need to drive traffic using tools like search engine optimization (SEO), and ensure your website is easy to use and mobile responsive. To stay competitive, you’ll also need to continuously create and update your content.
While creating and maintaining a business website is a lot of work, your website has the potential to be your greatest source for establishing credibility, attracting new customers, and generating sales.
If you're a new business owner and you're wondering how to build a website, this article is for you. Keep reading for tips on how to create an effective website.
7 tips to build an effective website for your business
Align your business with an e-commerce model
Before you dig into website design and SEO terms, you need a clear understanding of your e-commerce model. What are you selling and who are you selling to? There are a variety of e-commerce models to consider and identifying which one is right for your business will help to inform the type of website you build.
- Direct to consumer (D2C). Eliminate the middleman (or woman) and sell a product or service directly to your consumer. Examples of a D2C business include Dollar Shave Club and Casper Mattresses.
- Business to consumer (B2C). This business model involves sales between an online business and consumers and is used by online retailers who sell products and services online. For example, Amazon or Rakuten use a B2C model.
- Business to business (B2B). This is the selling of a service or product between two businesses. Alibaba is an example of B2B.
- Affiliate marketing business. The affiliate model allows you to promote another company's product or service and earn a commission for any associated sales. Many large companies like Amazon have affiliate marketing programs to increase sales.
Research similar competitor websites
Once you choose your e-commerce model, it’s time to conduct some comparative research. This is the process of reviewing your competitors’ websites to see what strategies they are using and what’s working or not working.
How you conduct your analysis will depend on what you’re trying to learn about your competitors. Here are a few steps you can follow to perform a simple competitor analysis on website features.
- Identify your competitors. Within your industry, who are your biggest competitors? Who is selling the same products or services using a similar business model?
- Scan competitor websites. Spend some time reviewing your competitors' websites. Notice how the pages are structured. What is included on each page? What kind of content do they offer? What images do they use? What keywords or search terms do they focus on? What sets them apart from others? What’s missing?
- How will you stand out? Now that you have an idea of what your competitors are doing, how can you stand out? What can you do to differentiate your business and your website from others in the industry?
Use a website platform, agency, or DIY your website build
You’ve done your research, you have a plan, and now you’re ready to build your website. Are you going to create a business website yourself using a platform like WordPress or Squarespace? Or, will you hire a professional to turn your vision into reality? There are pros and cons to each. Your choice of how to build your website will likely depend on your skill level, capacity, and budget.
While DIY website platforms can be easy to use and inexpensive, hiring an experienced developer can add a lot of value. A developer can build your website so it is optimized for users to find and navigate. After all, anyone can build a website, but, if no one can find it– what’s the point?
Once your website is built, the work is not done. To keep traffic moving to your site and stay competitive, you need to focus on maintenance and keeping your site fresh.
Select an e-commerce platform
To sell your product or service and fulfill orders online, you need to select an e-commerce platform to integrate with your website. An e-commerce platform simplifies the purchasing process and can also improve the user experience on your site. An e-commerce platform can help you to manage all aspects of selling online from tracking and managing orders, to tracking inventory, billing, and even adding security features.
Each e-commerce platform will offer different features so, you’ll need to consider which elements are most important for your business. Some critical features include a search function so your customers can easily search your store to locate a product and a shopping cart so customers have a place to store products while they continue to shop.
Some of the most popular e-commerce platforms available include:
Market & promote your business' website
You’re all set up to make a sale, but you're not seeing much traffic. With the endless amount of competition online, it’s unlikely people are going to stumble across your website. You need to get the word out. If you’re working with a small budget, there are many free ways you can promote your website.
- SEO. If you want to rank on Google, your website needs to be optimized to appear in search results. You can improve your SEO for free by ensuring you are using keywords throughout your website. Use of proper H1, H2, and H3 headings is another way to improve your searchability. If you have some room in your budget, there are several paid SEO tools you can use to improve your website.
- Produce content. Having a blog on your website where you are continuously adding new content can also help to improve your SEO. Guest posting on other blogs in your industry will help to increase your exposure and strengthen your appearance in search.
- Social media. A social media presence is another way to drive customers to your site. Focus on the platforms that your target audience uses the most. Then, post consistently and engage with your fans online.
- Join online communities. Use platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to join communities that are relevant to your business. In these groups, you can share ideas, meet new people, and spread the word about your business venture.
- Quality. Write quality content that offers your readers real value. This will help to keep them coming back for more. Make sure your content is easy to share so your customers can spread the word to their followers or connections.
Build a content calendar & regularly optimize for SEO and UX
A content calendar is a marketing tool that is used to plan and schedule the content for your website. This includes everything from blog posts to videos, pictures, and even advertisements.
Content production is a multi-step task that often involves several people – from creating the content to editing, adding pictures, and optimizing SEO. You can use a content calendar to keep track of every step and prevent tasks from getting skipped or missed. A well-planned and executed content calendar helps to support the long-term health and growth of your site.
There are several methods you can use to create a content calendar. It can be as simple as jotting your ideas down on a paper calendar. Or, if you are collaborating with a larger team, a cloud-based content calendar might be more useful.
Drive satisfied customers to review your products & business
Thanks to your content calendar, you are creating consistent content that is driving new customers to your site. Now that you have some traffic, consider collecting customer feedback.
The feedback you receive from your customers is invaluable. You can use it to inform new content ideas or to update the design of your site. For instance, if you keep getting the same question about a product or service, you can write a long-form article to give your customers an answer to the question. Similarly, if users struggle to find something on your site, you can use this information to improve the user experience.
Allowing your customers to leave comments, rate your website, or even fill out a survey are all useful ways to learn more about your users and how your website can better serve them. Providing ways to share your content and your website can also help to drive more traffic.
How will you build your business website?
There are several ways to create an effective business website. No matter how you decide to do it, be prepared to spend some time and money on the build and the maintenance of your site. By applying the tips in this article, you can work to create a business website that drives traffic and increases sales.
A version of this article was originally published on July 11, 2013.
Photo: Getty Images