It’s official: Your business launch date is set. Congrats!
Now, the fun and techy part no one told you about: You need to whip up a business website stat. Without one, you’ll instantly lose credibility, customers can’t find you online and they’ll gladly trot over to a competitor that does, ugh. But don’t worry — building a website and smart online presence doesn’t have to be hard.
Here are five ways to create one from scratch on the cheap — fundamentals that should be a digital priority.
1. Select the right website tools
Many new entrepreneurs opt for website builders because they are easy to use (think visual editors with a drag and drop interface). However, they are also less flexible.
In contrast, CMS tools like WordPress, which powers 26 percent of the web, are very flexible yet come with a steeper learning curve. Hosting (where your website lives online) comes standard with website builders. Meanwhile, you’ll have to find a reliable host and a stunning theme if you opt to build a WordPress site.
Furthermore, if you plan to launch a minimum viable product (like Dropbox did), then a simple landing page with clear business objective will do, for now. Platforms like Instapage and Lander are a good options for landing pages that convert.
2. Ramp up your site’s visual appeal
Bad stock photos are the worst. Stock photos that aren’t relevant to your brand or your target audience, not wonderful yet. Visual content can make or break your website. Given that, “[a]n estimated 84 percent of communications will be visual by 2018″ and “images produce 650 percent higher engagement,” it’s important to get visuals right.
These days you don’t have to spend a lot on stock photography. In fact, if you’re on a tight budget opt for free stock photo sites like Pexels, Unsplash, Pic Jumbo, Death to Stock and StockSnap. Best of all, they offer free photos for commercial use with no attribution required.
3. Create unique (non-plagarized) website content and copy
No one knows your business as well as you do. This is why you should write effective website copy, use Hemingway App to improve your writing and hire a professional web copywriter to edit your final draft. And don’t forget to take a conversion-focused and mobile-first approach to content and copy.
If you need a crash course in direct-response copywriting (a.k.a. copy that converts), download the Copywriting 101 e-book by Copyblogger. The 10-lesson e-book will teach you the fundamentals. Also grab these 14 free copywriting worksheets by Copy Hackers.
Most importantly, do not copy content from another website. I’ve seen new business owners lift an entire website (e.g. content, copy, graphics, etc.) and slap their logo on it. This is always a very dumb move. Not only does it scream “Rookie!” it can damage your reputation and cause legal woes you don’t have the stomach for.
The reality is “virtually all digital content enjoys the same copyright protections as non-digital, ‘offline’ content. Copying material from a website and posting it on another website or publishing it” as your own will violate someone’s copyright. And these days, it’s easy to find out where and when someone is using your digital stuff without permission.
4. Launch ‘owned media’ channels to support your website
Your business website acts as a digital brand hub. It is owned media which means you can control it. This makes it uniquely special when you consider earned and paid media, which all three together make up the digital marketing trifecta.
When you create a company blog, email newsletter and social media channels you strengthen your owned media position. These are all extensions of your website. The more owned media you create, the better. As you create “owned media channels” you can potentially attract more earned media (e.g. PR, reviews) and use paid media (e.g. social media marketing) to drive additional exposure.
5. Track, measure and repeat
Analytics should never be an afterthought. Start tracking your company’s website performance from day one. Use classic web analytics tools like Google Analytics for starters. There should always be context for data capture and value creation. The data you receive can help you refine your messaging and build a more useful product or service.
While there are a lot of important components to an effective web presence, these five tips can make a huge difference. Often overlooked details can make or break your business website.