website for small business guide

Websites continue to be the hub of most digital marketing, so they are generally the most important piece of the puzzle for a company looking to grow. You are probably sending social traffic, referral traffic and advertising traffic someplace on the website.

Key Components to Website Success

There are a number of things that websites need to help your business succeed.

  1. Search Engine Friendly – If you want to get found, the site must be designed with good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques and the ability to make changes to more than just the page content.
  2. Attractive Design – If your website looks professional, customers will gain trust in your services.
  3. User Friendly – The website should be easy to navigate and well organized so visitors can find the information you are providing.
  4. Mobile Friendly – More and more Internet users are viewing your site on their smart phones or tablets.
  5. Provide an infrastructure to collect leads – You must have a way to track website visitors, create landing pages for Google AdWords or other Internet advertising, create forms to collect data, push out confirmation emails, download sales content (flyers, brochures, white papers or other files), and much more.

Of course, that means there are also a lot of questions about websites. This is our guide to websites for small businesses. It won’t answer all your questions yet, but we’re working on it. We plan to grow this guide as we build more content.


Can You Afford Not to Have a Professional Website?

The key reason companies use build-it-yourself websites is that it fits their budget. Free or just a few dollars a month. However, the real question is can your business afford to not be found in search engines, give those customers that find you a poor experience and go without collecting important leads. Investment in one of your key marketing tools will pay off for years into the future.

Why free and low-cost site builder tools fail

  1. Not Search Engine Friendly – This is probably the biggest failing of free and low-cost websites. They typically are not indexed well by search engines or have things built into them that ruin the chances of your company being found. We once reworked a site for a client that had used a template set up for another type of business. The template included meta-data that sent signals to search engines it was really a different kind of business. It is never good to send confusing signals. Many builder tools won’t let you make other important changes, like those to page titles, meta-descriptions, etc. Even if they do allow it, most people who set them up don’t know how to make these changes or what to change them to for good Search Engine Optimization.
  2. Non-Professional Design – Many site builders provide some basic design, but then the user has to fill in the blank canvas of the screen. This often leads to poor quality in the overall look of the pages. Additionally, it can often lead to inconsistent page design. We’ve seen sites where all the pages have different background colors for no obvious reason. The majority of these sites also lack attention to detail in things like font choices and spacing.
  3. Lack of data and lead production – The majority of self-builder sites we’ve seen don’t include a lot of functionality you might want, like sending a new prospect a thank you email after they fill out a form on your website. Many won’t even provide you with a form to collect data. Often there might be problems with adding an analytics package to your website, creating a site map for search engines to look at, or a variety of other back-end details that you can do with regular hosted website, but not with one built by a builder tool.
  4. No Scalability – Builder sites are typically designed for small websites, so if you want to keep adding content to your site over a number of years, they are not a good fit.

How Much Does a Website Cost?

There’s no one set cost to a website. Like most other services, there is a range that you’ll be charged depending on what you want the website to do. You can get a free website from Google My Business that you can get live pretty quickly, but without a lot of functionality. You can build a website yourself with a builder tool. You can hire somebody with some website skills to build out your site for you. Each one of these options impacts the cost, as do other factors.

  • Type of Development – Is your site difficult to create technically?
  • Quality of Design – Does it look good and create a good user experience?
  • How much Content do you need developed? Developing content takes time and skill, which cost money.
  • The number of pages that have to be created or updated makes a big difference in cost.

Additional Costs Considerations

  • Domain name at about $15/year.
  • Hosting. $150+/year.
  • Basic Maintenance. $250+/year.

The Bottom Line

For most smaller companies the cost of design and development is going to run – $2,500 – $5,000

Annual Hosting and Maintenance – $415 and up

Website Design Features for Your Business

A basic website might only have a simple contact page and information about your company. That type of website might be fine for some businesses, but there are certainly a lot more things that can be baked into a website.

Here are some things we’d consider standard for a website even though there is a lot of website design and development that doesn’t measure up:

  • Great Visual and Functional Design
  • Easy to Use Navigation
  • Search Engine Friendly setup
  • Well written content
  • Security Measures Included
  • Mobile Friendly with Responsive Design

Top 4 Features We Often See the Need to Include

  • Advanced Contact Forms
  • Blogs for Content Marketing
  • Portfolios or Product Collections
  • Private Client or Member Login areas

Types of Website Traffic

Website traffic can be generated in a lot of ways. You can break up the different traffic sources into many smaller categories, but once you have an analytics program set up on your website, you’ll see traffic mostly coming from a handful of main sources.

The main types of website traffic are:

  1. Organic Search
  2. Paid Search/Display
  3. Direct Traffic
  4. Referral
  5. Social

Maintaining Your WordPress Website

WordPress is a very common software to build a small business website with. It is what we’ve used for many years now. While WordPress provides a lot of advantages, one of the disadvantages is that since it is software, you have to regularly update it, just like you would with a PC, Mac, iPhone, etc.

Over the past 6 years, WordPress has average 10 updates each year. There are also extension programs, called plugins that add functionality to your site, which also require regular updating. Updating all your website software regularly is probably the single best thing you can do to make sure your website is secure.

Business owners can update WordPress with a combination of automatic updates and one-click updates, but they often don’t spend the time to check for updates and install them regularly. This is where getting some help from a WordPress maintenance company can be useful.

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