HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN WEBSITE: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE
BY Dana Kessler
When you’re done reading this post, you will know exactly how to create a professional website that looks great AND gets you new customers.
If you’re the owner of a small business, you need a website ASAP.
You might think: but I already have a Facebook page, isn’t that enough? No. 84% of consumers perceive companies with websites as more credible than companies with only a social media profile. You might think: my business is really small, do I really need a website? You do; 97% of consumers go online to search for a local business.
These days, there are many tools for building your own professional-looking website, completely DIY. However, it’s not enough to have a website that looks professional. A good website is all about conversion. This means that you want visitors who reach your website to convert into paying customers. You want them to take the next step and book an appointment or make a purchase. And not every website does that.
We’re here to show you how to build a website that looks good AND gets you new customers. Read below to learn all the tricks.
1. URL: STAY AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO YOUR BRAND NAME
Why: Your URL is your web address, and it needs to be as close as possible to your brand name, for two good reasons. The first is branding. The meaning of branding is that when someone hears your brand’s name, they associate it with you and with your brand values. The second reason is to improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Meaning, your website is likely to appear higher in search results, if your domain name includes your brand name.
How: Look for a name that is as close as possible to the name of your business. Make sure it’s available on social media too. Here are a few tips on how to secure a domain name. There are also apps that help you find domain names, if your first choice is already taken.
2. PAGES: CREATE MORE THAN JUST A HOMEPAGE
Why: There are two main reasons why you should have more than one page on your website.
The first reason is pretty straightforward: helping customers. If you paste everything on one long page, it makes it much harder for customers to navigate and find what they are looking for, whether it’s your service menu or your opening hours. Having this information on separate pages, that clearly appear on the homepage top navigation menu, makes for a better customer experience, which in turn reflects well on your brand.
The second reason is more technical and equally important: Having only one page is bad for SEO and conversion. This basically means doing what you can to ensure that your website appears on the front pages of Google search results. You want that! And having more than one page means more than one way leading to your site.
Another thing is that different pages on the same website are linked to one another, through internal links. Google also rewards websites for internal links, with higher rankings.
How: It’s very simple. Any DIY tool you’ll use for building your website — whether it uses website templates or artificial intelligence — will suggest adding pages to your site. Here are the 5 basic pages every SMB site needs:
Homepage: A branded page that’s like your store window.
About Page: A place to tell your story and state what sets you apart.
Product or Service Page: This is where your service menu and pricing go.
Blog Page: If you have a blog, it should be here.
Contact Page: A place for your address, opening hours, phone numbers, emails and links to your social media channels.
You can add more pages. If you have a big team, it would be a good idea to dedicate a page to introducing your team members. You can add a gallery of photos; most site builders will enable importing those from your Instagram account. If you offer online booking, you could dedicate a page to that, or combine it with your service menu. Here are a few ideas for additional pages you could add to your site.
3. HOMEPAGE: MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION
Why: There is an ongoing debate whether the homepage is (still) the most important page of a website or not. But one thing is clear — many of your website visitors will find your homepage first, and you want to make a great first impression.
How: Include these basic elements and remember to keep it simple, clear and uncluttered:
Logo on top — for branding
Headline — to set you apart
Call-to-Action — that’s the button saying what’s the one action you’d like visitors to take. Book Now or Order Now are probably the top CTAs for most types of businesses.
Social Proof — this can be good reviews from Google or Facebook, or the number of your Instagram followers.
Photos — to show off your work.
Text Content — write a bit about who you are and what you offer.
Footer — this can include your contact details, links to your social media accounts, the payment methods you accept and more.
4. INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT DETAILS: DON’T LOSE POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS
Why: 44% of people will leave a business’s website if there’s no contact information or phone number. Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you, so that they won’t take their business elsewhere.
How: Place your contact details in a prominent place on your site. They should be on your homepage, accessible from both the header and the footer of the page. Or they could be so prominent, that it would be impossible to miss, like this example from Texas Haircut Co.
Give customers more than one option to contact you. A contact form is great, but it’s not enough. According to research, 62% of customers prefer to communicate with companies via email. 48% want to use the phone, 42% live chat and 36% prefer contact forms. So give them options.
Pro tip: Get an email address for your domain — that always looks more professional than using a Gmail account.
5. ADD A MEET THE TEAM PAGE, TO SHOW OFF YOUR STAFF
Why: Your regulars already know your staff. But potential customers, who found you on Google, don’t. You can help potential customers choose your business over others, by virtually introducing your staff.
Another good reason is for your employees themselves. When you show them off on your site, along with their photo, bio and expertise, you’re saying you trust them and are proud of them. And that does a lot for motivation.
How: Create an Our Team page on your website. Here are some tips for a killer Meet The Team page, that wins new customers:
Look at websites of other businesses in your field, and make a list of what you liked and didn’t like.
Get extra inspiration from this post, showing how a few digital marketing agencies got creative with their Meet the Team pages.
Create a template for your team members to fill in. Next to the template include one example, to help them get the gist of it. Also, state the exact word limit, and which details must be included.
Take everyone’s photos, whether it’s headshots or in action. You don’t have to use a professional photographer. Just be sure to take all the photos in the same spot, to create a consistent look.
Photography tips: Try to find a branded spot, that either includes your name, or that is very characteristic of your business’s interior. Ask your team for a certain dress code for extra consistency. Get the lighting right: take a few photos before you take all of them, to avoid unflattering shadows. And try to use Portrait mode on your phone or camera, to make your team members pop-out of the photo.
NOW, create the page, introducing each one of your staff members. Include their photo, bio, tell people a little something about them, and mention their experience and expertise. Explain why they are invaluable to your business and to your customers.
Pro tip: If your business is the kind in which customers book with a certain team member, like a hair/beauty salon for instance, you can link the online booking to this page too, by adding a Book with Ashley, Book with Kevin etc. button at the end of each bio.
6. OFFER ONLINE BOOKING: GET BOOKED EVEN WHEN YOU’RE CLOSED
Why: 70% percent of customers prefer to book online rather than by phone. That way they don’t need to wait on hold or depend on office hours to book an appointment.
How: If your business is the kind in which customers need to book appointments, make sure your website offers online booking so that your customers can book their next appointment at any hour, even when your place is closed.
7. DISPLAY PHOTOS AND VIDEOS: LET PEOPLE SEE WHAT YOUR BRAND IS ALL ABOUT
Why: People remember only 20% of what they read but 80% of what they see. This is why great photos are crucial to your website.
How: Most website builders will enable you to import the photos you already have on Instagram or Facebook to your website. Use that to start populating a photo-gallery right away.
Next you can start taking photos especially for your website. Here are three things you need to keep in mind when posting photos to your website:
– Make sure you’re the rightful owner of each photo, or that you have the permission of the rightful owner and the people in the photo to post it.
– Use photos that are aligned with your visual branding.
– Create photos that show off your business in some meaningful way. This can be how nice your team members are, how fun it is to visit your business, or how great people look and feel after getting a service from you.
Before and After photos are very effective. They create high engagement and perform well on social media too. Obviously, this doesn’t work for all businesses. But it’s super effective for those that it is right for, like interior designers, handypersons, furniture restorers, hair salons, landscape architects, car customizers and more.
8. POST TESTIMONIALS: GET THAT SOCIAL PROOF
Why: Positive reviews are crucial to local businesses. Positive reviews get 73% of consumers to trust a local business more. So posting customer testimonials on your website is great for your business.
How: Ask your happy customers for testimonials. If you can get their photo too, that’s even better. You can post testimonials on your homepage, or create a special page for them.
9. E-COMMERCE: SELL PRODUCTS ONLINE
Why: The number of people buying products online is expected to reach 2.14 billion worldwide by 2021. It’s convenient, time saving and money saving. People are buying online, so if you are selling products in your brick and mortar, you should be selling them online too.
How: Make one of the pages in your website an online shop. Display all your products and give out all essential information about them. Give customers easy online payment options — and as many different ones as possible.
Don’t forget that in order to sell online you need a secure website and you need your customers to know about it. So, place your security certificates somewhere visible on your e-commerce page. Alternatively, include an online catalog where customers can order, and securely complete the transaction by phone.
10. CONTENT: START A BLOG AND GIVE PEOPLE EXTRA VALUE
Why: Creating content around your expertise and brand value has many advantages. This is why SMBs are advised to start a blog. Here are a few of these advantages:
Content improves SEO (when done correctly). Firstly, because it means there are more pages that lead to your site. Secondly, because if your content is good enough for others to link to from their blogs, that too tells Google you are an authority, and you should rank high in search results.
Content can help promote your brand, if readers love it enough to share on social media.
You can use content to educate your audience about new services and products.
Great content is a way to give people added value, for free. People appreciate that, and will reward you by choosing you over others.
Plus, a blog will give you free advertisement, boost your social media presence and grow your email list and your sales.
How: In your website builder, choose to open a blog page. Now start small: brainstorm with your staff about the kind of content you’d like to create and the capacity you have for creating it. Perhaps there’s someone on your team who’s a natural writer, or maybe you could create great video content.
Post whenever you can, share your post on your social media channels, and start gathering feedback to decide how to move forward. When you’re ready to take it up a notch, read this superstar marketer’s guide for content marketing for brick and mortar businesses.
11. POPULATE THE FOOTER: BECAUSE PEOPLE DO SCROLL DOWN
Why: A web page footer contains information listed at the bottom of the page, and it’s more important than you think. Brands have observed up to a 50% increase in conversions when they optimized their website footer design with specific goals in mind.
How: Your footer should convey your website’s technical and legal information, like copyright information. It can include the name of the website’s author, the business’s name and address, and the date of the most recent update. 72% of websites include social media icons in the footer — this is good practice. You can also add the navigation menu again to your footer to make it easier for people to navigate your site.
12. DESIGN: GAIN TRUST BY STAYING ON-BRAND
Why: 75% of users will judge your brand credibility based on your website design. And you only get 8 seconds of their attention, so your website needs to look professional.
How: One sure way to make your website look professional is to keep it on-brand. Align your site with your visual branding, by using the same visual language you use on all your assets, from your interior design, to your business cards, products and social media accounts. Be sure to use the same logo, color palette, photos and graphic elements all across the board. This way, people who know your brand will recognize your website and trust it.
13. INCLUDE CALL-TO-ACTION BUTTONS (CTAS): MAKE CUSTOMERS TAKE THE ACTION YOU WANT
Why: 70% of small business websites don’t have a call-to-action button on their homepage — and that’s just wrong. You need CTAs (i.e. call-to-action buttons) so that your website visitors click and take the action you want them to take, whether it’s booking an appointment online, buying from your online store, ordering a service or anything else that suits your specific type of business.
How: Make your CTAs enticing and effective. This means clear copy, action-oriented, eye-catching color. Good examples are Book Now, Book Today, 10% Off Today.
14. SEO: GET YOUR WEBSITE TO RANK HIGHLY ON GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS
Why: As mentioned above, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is all about search engine marketing. It’s a way to ensure that Google will display your site high in its search results, when a potential customer is searching for a specific service or product you are offering, in your area.
How: SEO can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. For the most part it’s pretty straightforward. And, you don’t have to do it all at once. Here is a great post with five ways to boost your SEO. We like this post, because it takes you from the quick-wins — like claiming your Google My Business listing — to the more complicated stuff, with a lot of hand-holding.
15. MOBILE FRIENDLINESS: MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO VISIT YOUR SITE FROM THEIR MOBILES
Why: 80% of the top websites, according to the Alexa rankings, are optimized for mobile users. And 80% of all internet users have smartphones. Everybody is on their phone all the time — this is why your site needs to be mobile friendly and tablet friendly — i.e., it should look great on both.
How: Check in your website builder’s list of features that your website will indeed be mobile friendly. And once it’s up (before launching), check on your phone and other people’s phones, to make sure it looks good and that people can book too.
16. SOCIAL MEDIA: INTEGRATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Why: Just because you’re building a killer website, doesn’t mean you should neglect your social media. On the contrary! 50% of the world’s population is using social media. Another reason is to make the most of all your online assets. You’ve already put effort into both your site and your social accounts. Now use them to leverage one another.
How: First, choose which social media channels to integrate. You don’t need all of them at once. Then you can embed your Instagram photos into your website gallery. You can connect your Google Reviews to your homepage. Add social media buttons to your site, and link to your site from all your social media channels.
17. FEEDBACK: GATHER SOME BEFORE YOU LAUNCH
Why: Before launching your website, ask some friends, employees and customers to play around with it and give you feedback. This will allow you to detect problems and solve them before you launch.
How: Once you complete creating your site, don’t click the “publish” button just yet. Instead, click the “preview” option, and share the link to the preview with friends and family. Ask them to play around with it and give you any feedback at all. From typos, to “this button doesn’t work”. Here are some more ideas on how to gather unbiased feedback.
SUMMARY: YOU’RE GOOD TO GO
Now you know all the basic steps you need to take, in order to create a professional website that doesn’t only look pretty, but gets you booked solid too. Visit the 12HANDZ blog to learn more on how to grow your business online.