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10 Things to Know Before Taking Your Small Business Online

Daniel Blechynden
How to Take Your Business to the Next Level by Moving It Online
Over the past few decades, our world has just gotten more and more digital. The internet continues to grow rapidly, and the vast majority of people across the world use it every day. With this in mind, it should be easy to see how you could be left behind if you fail to take your small business online.

But creating your own website may seem like a daunting task. And really, it will be—if you attempt to undertake it without at least a little prior knowledge. The invention of modern website builders and content management systems (CMS) means that you no longer need a significant amount of technical knowledge to create a website, but you will still need some idea about what you’re doing. 

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t worry. We’re here to outline the 10 most important steps to successfully taking your small business online. 

Why should you create a website for your small business? 

Have you held off on creating a business website for some time? Still feel like it might not be worth the effort? It is. 

Creating a small business website can work wonders, driving more customers and boosting your overall success. It can benefit your business in multiple ways.

  • Raising brand awareness to ensure people actually know you exist. You will find more and more people recommending your products or services to their friends and family as your reputation grows. 
  • Creating leads by encouraging people to purchase goods or services from you. Often, the people who come across your website aren’t the same ones that might come across your business in a physical sense. 
  • Improving your credibility by enabling people to find out about you and what you do. A small business without a website is often seen as a little shady, and you might find that some customers might avoid your services without an online presence. 

With your own website, you can also implement much more efficient customer service. Allowing customers to reach out to you via email or an online support form lets you reply when it’s convenient. 

In the end, it all comes down to money and business success. With a website, you will be able to drive more customers to your small business, increasing your income and, in turn, making it more successful. 

1. Create a Website Plan

Before you even decide on how to create a new website, it’s best to sit down and spend some time planning your design. It’s a good idea to bring branding from your existing brick-and-mortar business to ensure previous customers will recognize you immediately.

We’d suggest starting with a pen and paper and jotting down some simple notes about topics like the following. 

  • The type of functionality your site needs. Do you plan on creating a blog? You will need to include blogging tools. Need online booking features? Think about how these should be added.
  • The general site structure and navigation hierarchy. A clear menu structure will make it much easier to navigate through your website, making it much more likely that visitors will hang around and browse a little.
  • Whether to sell products through your website, and, if you don’t want to currently, whether you may want to expand to online sales in the future. 
  • The kinds of information you want your customers to know and any info they may be looking for. 

Once you’ve developed a rough layout, you may want to move to a design program like Webflow to begin taking your design online. Ensure you specify your budget for the entire project, and try to allocate a certain amount of time to site creation to ensure you’re not wasting time. 

2. Select a Platform to Build Your Site

There are a few different ways to get a new website off the ground. You might use a website builder like Wix or Squarespace, a CMS like WordPress.org or Drupal, or the services of a professional web development agency

If you’re going to create your own site, we’d recommend sticking with a beginner-friendly website builder. There are plenty of options on the market, and these are specifically designed for business owners looking to get small sites online with a minimum of fuss and no coding whatsoever. 

CMS are a little more complex, but they tend to offer more design flexibility and configurability if you are able to use a bit of code. On the downside, you will need to spend a decent amount of time getting used to using a CMS, even if you go for a beginner-friendly option like WordPress.org. 

If you do pay a professional agency, the chances are that they will use a platform like WordPress. They can be expensive, but at least everything will be taken care of by someone who knows what they’re doing.

3. Select a Domain Name and Connect It to Your Website

Think of your domain name as your digital address. When people know it, they will be able to find your website with ease. Before you can promote your new site online, you will need to select a domain name, register it, and link it to your site. 

When selecting a name, ensure that it’s similar to your business name. If possible, avoid strange plays on words or spellings, as these can be bad for search engine optimization (SEO). The process of connecting your domain to your site will vary, but your website creation platform should have clear instructions on how to do it. 

4. Set Clear KPIs

The best way to get the most out of your website is to set clear goals for the short, middle, and long term. Monitor your progress toward those goals by setting and paying attention to key performance indicators (KPIs), certain types of measurable statistics about your business and customers’ interaction with it. 

For example, Ecommerce KPIs could include your customers’ average order value, the conversion rate (the percentage of site visitors that actually make a purchase), and the cart abandonment rate of customers on your site. If your KPIs are not where you want them to be—say, if you notice your conversion rate is low—you can take a look at your process and figure out what needs changing to correct course.

Many site builders include analytics tools to make grinding these numbers easier.

5. Develop High-Quality Content that Adds Value

One of the keys to developing a functional, well-performing website is high-quality content. In the past all you needed to attract an audience was mediocre work that kind of related to your business field. But this isn’t true anymore, so it’s important for your content to offer real value to your readers. 

Write with audience intent in mind. This means that if you’re writing a blog post, an article about a certain topic, or even a product description, you need to make sure that you’re including the information people are expecting and looking for when they’re browsing this topic. 

We’d recommend creating a detailed content plan covering at least the first few months of your website’s life to help you keep up with regular content creation. 

6. Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

People won’t simply start visiting your website the minute you publish it. Instead, you will need to use some sort of marketing strategy to drive traffic and build brand awareness online. This is where digital marketing comes into play. 

You might choose to use a professional digital marketing agency. But if you don’t, ensure you keep the following in mind when developing your own strategy. 

  • Social media marketing (SMM), including paid marketing and the development of an organic community. 
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) through platforms like Google. 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) to boost your search engine ranking and drive more traffic. 
  • Content creation as outlined by your content plan. 
  • Email marketing, especially once you’ve developed a decent mailing list. 

If this all sounds daunting, there are plenty of marketing tools that you can add to your strategy to help you stay organized and save time. 

7. Learn How to Convert Visitors into Leads

Getting visitors to your website is just part of the adventure. Once they’re there, you will still be faced with the dilemma of getting them to part with their hard-earned dollars. 

However, visitor conversion isn’t exactly simple to master. Start by including strong calls to action throughout your site to encourage people to perform specific actions. For example, you might add email signup forms in an attempt to collect email addresses for your next marketing campaign. Or, you might use a clear add-to-cart button to encourage impulsive purchases.

8. Make Great Customer Service a Priority

Another key to building a strong reputation online is maintaining a high level of customer service. At the very least, ensure that customers can contact you via email and phone. Consider adding live chat if you have the time to manage it. 

In addition, we’d highly recommend adding an FAQ page to your site. Keeping your blog regularly updated is also a great sign of an active team, and you may want to upload tutorials and other helpful resources if your services require them. 

9. Use Detailed Data Collection and Analysis Tools

Data collection and analytics tools such as Google Analytics will help you understand how your website is performing. When used correctly, tools like these will help you make informed marketing and business management decisions based on exactly what’s happening with your store. For example, you might find that a particular product category is outperforming others on a regular basis, which might lead you to add more items in that category. 

In addition, tracking the way visitors interact with your website (through Google Analytics or another platform) will help you understand what’s working and what’s not. It will help you maintain a focus on your KPIs, enabling you to channel more effort to certain aspects of your business where required. 

10. Continue to Improve Your Website

One common mistake among people creating their first small business website is thinking that you can simply create your site and then sit back and let it do the work for you. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely realistic. 

If you really want to succeed in the digital space, you will need to spend time maintaining and updating your website. Add new content on a regular basis. Take advantage of your analytics and data collection tools to see what’s working and what’s not, and make design or functionality changes based on what you find. Listen to customer feedback, and keep a close eye on your site’s security to make sure it isn’t compromised. 

Conclusion

For many, the process of creating a small business website and moving online can seem scary and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be. Now that you’ve read our 10-step guide, you can get started with confidence. 

Start by planning your site, selecting a website builder or CMS, and connecting your domain name. Create a clear marketing strategy and content plan, and use data-driven KPIs to track ongoing performance. Engage with customers by developing a strong support presence, add clear calls to action, and, above all, always strive to keep improving your site at every opportunity.

Daniel Blechynden
Contributing to Top10.com, Daniel’s writing focuses on technology, science, and dependable reviews. He has been a regular critic of software and products from various industries for several years, often utilizing his academic background in the sciences.