There are a few things you can do when looking at creating or getting a small business website before having to hand over money. They include deciding on a name and getting the content ready. We also explain how we can help you in getting your site up and running and making it a success.
This is going to be your address or URL for your small business website, what people type in the address bar of their browser and what is after the @ symbol of your email address.
It should reflect your business and if possible be what your customers would search for when looking for the product/service your business sells. The other part to consider is the name’s extension, ie .com, .com.au, or .com.ph or .org. They have different meanings. The three typical ones are .com, .net and .org.
- .com is a commercial business,
- .net is a network business and
- .org is a not-for-profit organisation.
Then you have the country part. If your business is focused on US or is truly global, you can use a name without a country extension. If it’s primarily within a country then it’s better to use that countries extension, eg for an Australian business, it’s .com.au or a business in the Philippines, .com.ph.
The name needs to be alphanumeric and can include a dash except for the first/last and if it’s a .ph country, it can’t have a dash at the third character position either. So you can use abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz-1234567890. The name is case-insensitive ie a capital letter is the same as a little letter (‘A’ is same as ‘a’).
Pick a couple names as your first choice may already be taken.
Now for the content of your small business website. This is by far the most challenging for so many. This guide is intended to help you through putting this part together. Just keep it simple and don’t worry about spelling and grammar as yet. That can get cleaned up later. Its the raw content that’s important at this stage. The best person for this part is you, the business owner because it’s your business, you know it best and you are the most passionate about it which is something money can’t buy.
A typical small business website will have a few pages. They are all or some of these:
- main or home page,
- an about page,
- a contact page,
- a products/services page,
- a rates page (optional)
- an ordering or quotes page
- and a news page
With the exception of the main or home page, all the other pages are optional but are advised to have. Some are a little more challenging to create content for than others.
Use any tool you feel comfortable with to write text with. It’s a good idea to have a separate document for each section or page. It doesn’t need to be perfect English or grammar yet. It’s rough. At a later stage we massage it to also work best with search engines which means changing things around a little. What’s important is getting it started.
The main or home page
This page is usually the first page a customer comes to when finding your small business website in search engines (the main landing page). It’s probably the most important of all the pages as it’s here that you will convince your customer to begin interacting with you. Some of the things that you should consider to include are:
- What is it you are selling – briefly describe the product/service you are selling
- Why is your company the right one for your customer – Think back to when you started your business, why did you think customers would buy from you?
- What is your companies mission – what is it you think your business adds to society?
- Include a couple of quotes from customers on why they did business with you
- Is there a problem you resolve for your customers? If so, describe it
- Where does your business operate?
- Anything else that you think customers should know when they first interact with your business
You also want to include a few pictures. About 3 pictures per page. They should be meaningful and be what your customer can expect to see when they do business with you. This is important when you are selling a service. If you are renting out a house, a picture of the outside is good, but it’s inside where your customer is going to spend their time so that’s what they will want to see. Same thing if it’s a car or van, yes have an outside one, but include inside too. Also for services, consider including a picture of the person or people that your customer will be interacting with. Services are typically people businesses, so show that side too.
Here you talk more detail about your company. Things to consider talking about are:
- History – why did you start and what did the business look like in early days. The why is going to be most powerful?
- Customer service – talk a bit about your commitment to customer service, how you do this, and why you are best at it
- Where – where do you operate today?
- Credentials/Insurance/Licenses etc. – Talk about how your business is legitimate by what the standards are that you meet, the licenses you hold for your business and insurance you have that protects your customer in case something goes wrong.
- If it’s a service you’re providing e.g. a van for hire service, talk about the vans you use. When you do, think of it from a customer perspective. Would they be interested in knowing if it’s a 4 or 6 cylinder? Maybe not, but they would want to know how many seats, maybe it’s colour, and how comfortable, safe and secure it is along with how much room for luggage.
The contact page has all the methods that allow a customer to contact you including a form they can fill in to send you an email. Some ideas are:
- Your mobile phone number
- Your landline phone number
- Your Facebook page
- Your Skype account
- Your email address
- Your twitter account
The more ways your customer can contact you the more chance you have.
A form would be included in all pages where it makes sense as we want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to contact you.
Here we provide the detail of each product or service. This may be one page or multiple pages. If it’s a single service it would be one.
It should include at least three pictures for each. The pictures also need short descriptions with them. Like mentioned in the home page part above, they should be of how the customer see’s the product or service.
Include a detailed description of what the customer can expect. Include any options the customer can select too.
It’s important to be honest too. Are there things the customer should know to avoid disappointment? We can write them in a way to have a positive sound, but don’t let your customer find out by themselves as it will be bad for your business. Social media today is a very powerful tool that customers can use to communicate negatives about businesses.
This is for services and there is a lot of debate on if you should publish your rates or not. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s:
Reasons to include rates
- Customers know what to expect and if it’s something they can’t afford, will probably not bother you
Customers like to know cost early to not waste time.
Reasons to not include rates
- Your competition can see your rates and adjust theirs accordingly
- You don’t get the chance to talk to a prospective customer to negotiate a lower rate
- Your service is very complicated in rate setting but you could still include a ‘starting from’ statement with a rate
If you chose to go ahead and include rates, make sure you have clear descriptions written for each of your rates so a customers know what is included. Nothing worse than to have a problem with a customer because they thought something was included but it’s not.
Ordering or Quotes page
This page depends on the service or product you offer and how elaborate (which usually means how much you want to spend). To get started try talking about how the customer can engage with you to continue. Explain what they can expect through the process.
We can use a form for this. What you need to do is note what information you will need from the customer to best help them and what parts are mandatory (the customer can’t submit the form unless the information is included) and what parts you can get later if the customer may not know just yet.
Some other options are:
- Online booking system – where a customer can make a booking for a period and pay online for that booking.
- Shopping cart – where a customer can select the products and pay for them letting you know shipping details
- Online quote system – where customer selects details from a list of available options and the web site displays a price based on a number of rules.
This is what is known as a blog. Not something you need to be too concerned about yet as it’s the part where you are updating and talking about all sorts of things relating to your business. You would talk about successes. It’s also a great place to announce new products or services. You can talk about how a customer was so happy with what you did for them. All sorts of things.
Depending on your business, it may be appropriate to add other pages to your small business website. This is something we can discuss as we progress. Getting the above done first is going to be a great start to getting online and advertising your business.
Choosing a look and feel for your small business web site
We typically recommend using WordPress as the small business website framework. It’s a stable and long standing management product that is free and has untold features and customisability. It uses what are called themes to manage how things are displayed. Many are free and some you have to pay for. What I suggest you do is visit https://theme.wordpress.com/ to see what you might like. It’s a large selection that is searchable. Most themes are further customisable so maybe choose 3 or 4 initially so we can install them and try them out. Note that it’s very quick and easy to change the look and feel of your small business website and is something we will teach you how to do.
By this stage you will have chosen some names and you have words and pictures for each of the pages you need for your small business website. It’s now time to get to the actual building point. This is where we can help you the best. It’s starts with registering the name and chose a hosting provider. These can be one or seperate companies. We use seperate companies. Here’s what it looks like and I’ll explain as I go for each part:
Name registration authority
The Name Registration Authority are companies that have been appointed to hold a database of web site names and assign owners to these name along with the address of the servers that host the name. Let me explain what this name is really about:
The internet uses numbers for each server. Servers and all the networking components of the internet only understand numbers, but humans understand names much better. So there is a translation that must happen for humans and machines to be able to talk.
The name registration authority is responsible only for registering ownership of names and assigning a name hosting server for that name.
The Name hosting server is responsible for translating the name to a number. When you type in to your web browser http://google.com/ the first thing that happens is your web browser asked the name hosting server for the number that is google.com. When it gets this number it can then continue and find the google.com server and ask it for the page you want to see. This is when the Web site and email hosting sends your computer the page and pictures to display in your browser.
Why is this important?
When deciding on if you want to use the same company for all it means they are responsible for all. But if something happens to them, you are in trouble as you needs to start again. Separating them might add a small cost, but it means if one does fail, you can just go to the one before it and make a small configuration change to get back up and running. Also unfortunately we do have some business that are not too friendly if you want to change companies. Having it separate means it’s very difficult for them to hurt you.
Your name is incredibly important. When we get started you will see it takes a while (can be 3 months or more) before your web site starts showing signs that it’s brining in business. It’s because it takes quite a while for search engines to properly index your site based on your name. If you change your name, you start again. Ok in the first 3 months, but after 12 months, it’s not going to be good to lose the revenue you have been getting while you start again.
Selecting the right company is something we can provide guidance on and share our experiences. We had recent experiences with Godaddy and their dishonest business practices that while they are one of the cheapest, it may not be a good option but again it’s something we can discuss around risk vs reward. It also depends on what the name extension you selected is who you should use.
Its actual name is DNS hosting or DNS server. This is the part that does the translation from name to number. Rare experience has found when a web host (where your actual web site is) has a problem, it’s quite easy to change to another hosting company if this is separate. There are quite a few good free ones of these available. The downside of having it separate from the web host is some of the configuration is not quite as simple but it’s something we can help you with. Its part that is set up at the start and doesn’t need change unless you have a need to change so not too much of a problem either way.
Small business website and email hosting
This is the main part. It’s where your files are stored that are sent to your customers web browsers. There is an enormous amount of choice here. What we look for is how many email accounts you will need, how many pictures you will have over the year. And then where are the servers compared to where your customers are. Based on this we can rule out many of the options and keep it simple for you.
Some things we consider when selecting what we see is hopefully the best for you is:
- How many email addresses do you want
- How many pictures
- Do you need any special features (most don’t?)
- Where is the server that will host your files?
- How long has the company been in business?
- What is the company’s customer service like?
- Are they honest or do they hide the truth
- What can we find out about them from forums and other social media (keeping in mind it’s usually quite easy to find negative so it needs some sensitising)
- Do we combine the name hosting with this
- What statistics does their system provide with respect to web site visitors?
We’re now ready to put your small business website all together. We will either help you register the name and register with the hosting company directly or we’ll ask for the detailed info we need to do it for you. Once that’s done, we’ll use the content and pictures you have provided and put them online and massage it to make it readable and searchable. We then have you go to the site and check what is there.
We can also help with creating and changing the look and feel which is separate from the base we charge. The cost of that is dependent on what is required.
Then we spend some time in showing you how to make changes, how to add to the site, and how to delete. Also how to use the automated update functions.
We have two options for ongoing, either we keep doing it for you with a fee or you can now manage it yourself.