You’d think everyone, in this day and age, is sold on the inherent value a website can bring to their businesses. Although, that’s not the case.
In fact, two-thirds of small business owners report not having a business website. Thankfully, half of these same business owners say they plan to launch a website in the coming year (an important turnabout in today’s Google, Bing, and Yelp-centric world).
For business owners who are ready to launch a website, there’s one common underlying question: Do I build a website myself, hire a freelancer, or pay an agency?
While outsourcing website design and development may seem like the obvious choice, costs at $15,000 or more to get the job done can easily make you change your mind. Meanwhile, an affordable digital marketing agency can use widely-available technology to develop and customize a website that will attract new customers.
Fortunately, building a professional DIY business website has never been easier. Here’s a look at six simple steps to keep in mind while creating your business website.
1. Build your website with a website builder
Long gone are the days when a website needed to be coded and built from scratch by programming geniuses. Today, a wide variety of website builder platforms allow anyone to publish a professional-looking website with little to no effort or technical expertise.
Most free and paid website builders offer standard templates that can be customized to create the look and feel of your site. Simple drag-and-drop features make it easy for the novice, and pro alike, to add sales copy, images, videos and content to share with prospective customers.
Of course, you can also use a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress, one of the earliest free website builders. Thanks to companies like ThemeForest, who offer attractive WordPress themes, professional looking DIY websites are often a few clicks away. Additionally, WordPress offers robust functionality and customization features that may be harder to implement in less flexible website builder templates.
2. A little custom CSS goes a long way
Most website builders have a place where you can add custom CSS code, which controls the visual components of your site (e.g., font style, font size, colors, layout, etc.) A few tweaks to CSS code can make a generic template look unique and customized for your brand.
Take a free CSS course on Scrimba, a video format platform for communicating code, to get a grasp on the basics or hire out customizations by experienced theme developers.
3. Optimize your website for search engines
Before you launch your website, you’ll want to make sure major search engines like Google and Bing can find and index it.
Simple HTML code updates (e.g., title tag, meta description) in the header of a web page help search engines understand page content. For example, a page’s title tag and meta description are customarily shown whenever that page appears in search engine results.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to optimize your website for search engines. Most website builders offer detailed documentation, like this one from Squarespace, to walk you through the basic process.
4. Track and measure website performance
A good looking website is one thing. A functional website that converts visits to sales is another. A website should serve a distinct business purpose.
For example, if you want to capture more sales leads, add an email lead capture form. You can also track fundamental website metrics with free tools like Google Analytics. Free documentation is readily available as a standard support feature for most website builders.
5. Process online payments with ease
If you want to process payments on your site, consider online payment processing tools for internet businesses. For instance, Square, a secure credit card processing and point of sale solution, lets you process all major credit cards at a low fee.
Meanwhile, Stripe is another popular option for online credit card processing. Their platform also offers custom solutions including invoicing features and recurring payments extensions (e.g., Superpay, SlackPass, MemberSpace, Chargify, etc.) for subscription business models.
6. Make custom improvements with a little coding knowledge
Sometimes the difference between building a beautiful custom website and settling for a basic site is taking a few web development courses. Try free online coding courses on popular online learning platforms or apply to a local community coding bootcamp.
Spending a bit of time learning about website design, development, and best practices can go a long way to producing an enhanced website experience.
Laura Troyani is Founder and Principal of PlanBeyond, a Seattle-based marketing agency supporting startups and small businesses. With experience overseeing customer research, go-to-market planning, and marketing operations, Laura advocates for getting the strategic fundamentals down pat to help any organization nail their growth goals.