Small business owners know it’s important to have a website. Of course they do – it’s just common sense. So why are so many small business owners still resisting?
A whopping 81% of consumers  research online before making a major purchase, so it’s imperative that your company have a solid Web presence. But the shocking news is that, according to a 2013 survey, 55% of small businesses still don’t have a website.
What this translates to is far too many business owners compromising the potential growth of their companies by refusing to get online. Add the fact that 21% of your audience  uses their mobile device as their primary way of accessing the Internet and you quickly realize it’s not enough to just be Web-friendly – but you must be mobile-friendly as well.
“Small businesses should be looking to have a personal presence on the Web – something that would back up a sales call or brochure,” explains  Tim Zack, a marketing executive at Red Clay Interactive. “It definitely shouldn’t be an afterthought – this is a capital investment in the success of your company.”
A website gives you and your company an air of professionalism. It greatly increases your company’s visibility, and allows customers and potential customers to read about your company on their own time. It is also a great platform to quickly and easily update your customer base about any changes in your business, such as a new product or location.
Small business owners who have invested in a website report boosted sales, more customers, and fewer time-consuming phone calls. Companies who make their sites responsive also have access to a quarter of their audience they would have otherwise lost, according to a recent CNN study .
Fortunately, creating a website is fairly easy and straightforward, and can be done for a minimal financial investment. If you’re in the 55% still without a website, the time has come.
Building a Professional Website
Step One: Getting Started
The first two steps to starting your company’s website are to register your domain name and get it hosted by a hosting firm (GoDaddy is one option). By purchasing a domain name, you will ensure that your website address will remain the same even if you change your web host. You can buy a domain name and host it as well for about $100 a year.
When choosing the name for your site, be sure that it is easy to remember and, in some way, references your company or its product. Also, avoid dashes or numbers, as these are hard for customers to remember. Regardless of how much “punch” you might think your domain name has, make sure the name is also unique, so that it won’t get confused in Web searches by other similar words.
Step Two: Building the Infrastructure
You might think that building a website requires an extensive knowledge of HTML or CSS. But fortunately, there are many content management systems (CMS systems) available to help you build your site quickly and easily.
Joomla! , WordPress  and Drupal  allow you to choose between pre-existing templates in order to create your site for free, or for a small fee. These templates affect the visual appearance on the front end of your site as well as the functionality on the back end, so choose one that will work best for your needs.
For example, since our company is B2B, we’ve found it best to work with a customized template and a low-maintenance content management system (CMS) tool to update our products and services as needed. Email marketing tools like Pardot  can host images for you and manage site content such as “Contact Sales” forms and other entry points.
If you have a need to frequently update inventory, stock and pricing management, Magento  has a great back-end and FTP (file transfer protocol) system, used by companies like Amazon and Rosetta Stone. WooCommerce  is a great CMS application that gives eCommerce vendors the flexibility needed to update their site at any given moment. Not to mention they have an amazing support community as well.
Most CMS applications also allow you to customize your site with add-ons as well. These include social networking buttons, customer sign-ups, newsletters, and anything else your company might need on its site. As with templates, many add-ons will be free but the best ones usually come at some cost.
Step Three: Getting Found Online
Once you’ve built your website, you need to make it a place that customers actually want to visit, with valuable and useful information for your target audience. Keep a blog and update it often with good and useful information that’s related to your product, as well as content that shows you’re a “thought leader” in the industry.
Don’t forget to include basic information about your company:
- Products and/or services
- Contact information
This information should be clearly displayed on your home page so that online visitors won’t miss it.
To improve your organic SEO (search engine optimization), determine your top 10 or so keywords you believe potential customers would use to find a company like yours. Now, use those keywords as often as it makes sense throughout your site so that Google recognizes what your site is about. Write blogs that include these keywords. Tag images and pages with these keywords. Have relevant videos, etc.
The more often you update your site, the better – Google rewards companies who are the most active on their sites. For paid SEO, you can invest in Google Adwords  and LinkedIn ads . Both services allow you to target your audience through specific keywords.
Many small business owners think that building a website requires too much time and money, with very little return. But the truth is that for a very small investment of time, money and effort – a well designed website can expand your customer base and grow your business tenfold.
Website Build  Photo via Shutterstock