No matter what anyone tells you, the first step you need to take if you want to set up your business’s website is to first determine the goal for what you want to use your website for.
If you already have a brick and mortar business and you are planning on expanding your reach to the internet, then you are off to a good start. On the other hand, if you are starting your business from scratch, then you have a lot of work ahead of you.
As there are more steps involved for those who are looking to make an online business from scratch, we will start at the beginning. Your first step when creating a business website is to brainstorm what it is exactly that you want your business website to achieve and what it will look like. Whether you decide on an e-commerce, informational website or marketing website will determine the timeframe required for the design from start to finish and what platform you will use. More on platforms later.
At Digimark, we consider your website to be an extension of your online presence and marketing strategy. As with any marketing strategy, you should have specific objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the performance of the website in achieving these objectives. This is where you should start, set your objectives, determine your KPIs and then figure out what type of website will be best to achieve these objectives.
The Different Types of Website
An e-commerce website will look different to a marketing website which will look different from an informational website. Your primary concern should be to first determine an objective for your business’s website. Everything else will fall into place once you have the basic understanding of what you website should achieve.
Each type of business site has its own pros and cons. For example, an e-commerce website will have a lot of pictures, sporadic text that is mostly used to describe each product you are selling in a sentence or two, and a shopping cart.
These sites feature easy navigation and are very user friendly, but they are more difficult to get recognised by search engines and normally do not take advantage of advertising. Affiliate programs can be used, however, for extra traffic.
On the other hand, a marketing website is designed to sell one product or service and one product or service only. You’ve probably seen a number of marketing websites attempting to sell you get rich quick schemes, web content, and handy Photoshop plug-ins to make web design easier.
These sites are the easiest to design and build, feature mostly text with a few images interspersed, and contain a simple “Buy Now” button. They are designed around one product or service, making them optimised for search engines and perfectly positioned to advertise your business.
The informational business website is next. These are sites designed to inform about a business, but not necessarily sell anything directly. Think of some of the biggest companies in the world: Sony, Motorola, Canon, Toyota, Chevrolet, etc. While you can buy items on some of their corporate websites, they are primarily designed to inform the consumer.
By informing the consumer about your brand, you can help get the word out about your services and increase your sales dramatically. These websites are the most common and can work for anyone who has a well-defined service to offer.
Finally, you should consider whether or not it is the right time to design a website. Sometimes, especially in the early stages, a social media presence is more important. Test the market, see what works and go from there. If you have a pre-existing business, then a website may be exactly what you need. If you are just starting out though, a social media presence may help you test your idea without putting too much money on the table from the beginning.
Now that you know the four basic types of business websites, it is up to you to choose the one that will most work for your goals. You do not, and should not, decide right now which type of site is the best for you.
Take your time, do some research, and make sure that you talk everything through with your business partners and/or your immediate family members who may be counting on you to make the right decision. The internet is not going anywhere, and while you may miss a current trend, there is always another around the corner.
When thinking about website design, most people think of informational or e-commerce websites. Over the last few years however, marketing websites have become a great way to promote your products or services without the need for a lot of pages. Marketing websites are basically ‘landing pages’, that is, a one page website with a brief introduction, testimonials and an offer. While most will refer to marketing websites as landing pages, for the purpose of reducing confusion, they will be referred to as marketing websites. This is because landing pages can refer to any page that a person lands on.
Clickfunnels is the software giant for this option. There are a lot of online resources about Clickfunnels, so getting started can be quite easy. It is easy to use and scalable, so if you do decide that you need a website, it can provide you with that as well. The short version of what Clickfunnels is, is this; It is a drag and drop website builder for your sales funnel. You create a page based around one product or service, then link it to another offer that is similar and will benefit the person by purchasing with the original product. Using this software will cost $130 per month.
An alternative to Clickfunnels is Leadpages. While Clickfunnels is based around upselling, Leadpages is based more around collecting emails for email follow-up and more long-term engagements. It has drag and drop functionality making it easy for non-technical people to set up. Using Leadpages, you can set up sales pages, lead magnets, host webinars and even connect it to your social media accounts for easier campaign management. Pricing starts at $33 per month, paid annually.
Hubspot is the recommended choice here. While suggesting that Hubspot is a landing page software is like describing a fingertip when explaining what a human is, it does come with a landing page builder. It is the more expensive choice, $270 per month, it is more than just a landing page builder. This makes it scalable and the other tools you can use with your subscription make it quite formidable.
If you want to sell items using the internet, you may not even need your own business website. There are a number of places where you can go if you want your products to reach the masses – but you do not want to deal with the time and money expenditures that building a business website will entail.
These different options could save you ample time in getting your business up and running quickly. After this, if you decide that your business has become profitable enough, you can take your sales to your own website and retain all of the profits.
The most common third party company to use when peddling your wares is eBay. By using the online auction powerhouse, many people have found it fantastically easy to make quite a bit of money. However, selling items on eBay does not come cheap, as the company does charge quite a bit of money for each completed transaction. Do not despair, as you can still find it incredibly easy to set up your business and sell your products using an eBay store.
Setting up your eBay storefront is no more difficult than simply creating an account with the online marketplace. Although it is not good practice, you will have to also give some financial information to eBay when you sign up, so it is a good idea to dedicate a bank account or a Paypal account to eBay. Treat your eBay store like a business and it will be easier to keep track of all of your transactions.
You can start selling immediately with eBay. Just choose an item you want to list and place it on eBay. Aside from the tools that eBay gives you just for being a member, there are a number of fancy listing tools available for low prices for all operating systems. Some of them are even free. No matter the cost, if you want your eBay store to look professional, you will want to invest in one of these third party selling tools.
While eBay is easy to use and a very effective way of getting your products to a marketplace of millions from around the world, there are a few drawbacks. eBay takes its cut on every sale you make. You will have to pay listing fees and selling fees as well as Paypal fees on purchases people make through the financial service. This can add up over time, so while eBay is a great place to get your business started, it is not recommended that you stick with eBay as your sole source of income for longer than a year or two.
If eBay does not sound like it would be the proper marketplace for your products, you may want to consider teaming up with retail giant Amazon.com. That’s right, Amazon is in Australia now, so you can reap the benefits that US retailers have been reaping for years. There are two ways to use Amazon to your advantage – selling your used items in an eBay style manner or creating your own WebStore on Amazon. You should decide which method to use based on your predicted sales volume as well as how much of a reputation you want to establish for yourself.
Selling one product at a time on Amazon can make you some money, but it is not exactly an online business website. If you want to go full bore and make as much profit as you can, then the Amazon WebStore is what you should focus your attention towards. The Amazon WebStore affiliation will allow you to sell your products right alongside of Amazon’s products, allowing you to sell your goods to over sixty million potential customers.
Just like setting up a store with eBay, an Amazon WebStore is a cakewalk compared to designing your own business website. But there are monetary drawbacks involved as well–drawbacks that may deter you from engaging in a financial partnership with the retail giant.
While you can build your own Amazon WebStore using Amazon’s easy to use storefront designer, it will cost you sixty dollars per month in hosting fees plus seven percent of each sale goes into Amazon’s pocket.
All in all, if you think you can move enough merchandise on Amazon’s site, this is really the business alternative that you should consider. It offers roughly the same exposure as eBay and slaps you with far less fees so that you can make more profit.
Shopify is the last, but certainly not least alternate option to building your own e-commerce website. Shopify has gained a lot of momentum over the last couple of years with a lot of YouTube videos popping up, suggesting that millions of dollar can be made using the platform. While these videos are most likely the new form of the tradition ‘get rich quick’ scheme, it is a great option non-the-less.
Shopify comes with themes that you can purchase or you can use the free option. There are a range of plugins that you can use and the drag and drop format is quite intuitive. It will cost around $40 per month and transaction fees are incurred as well. While this may seem like a lot starting out, it is better than the $5000+ price tag you could pay a developer to have your own e-commerce website.
Although there are plenty of other programs that you can enroll in if you are looking to establish an online business without making your website right away, the above listed companies offer three of the largest resources for you to start selling right away. Their fees are affordable, their web traffic is huge.
They can offer you everything you want about an online store except for your own domain name and full control over your profits. If you want to be completely in charge of your business, you need to create your own e-commerce website.
When it comes to building an informational website, there are several options. Some of the work won’t be easy. There’s a learning curve. For the smallest learning curve and also fun during the process, WordPress is the best option.
For those who don’t know, WordPress is open source software that can be used to start a blog (WordPress.com) or a self-hosted website or blog (WordPress.org). Note the distinction here between .com and .org, this is important. Many people have set up a WordPress.com website, only to find that it costs money. WordPress.org however is free and this is the version referred to when ‘WordPress’ is mentioned in this article.
While there is some coding knowledge required, it can all be learned as you set up the website. WordPress comes with everything you need. In fact, it is the most popular content management system around, with almost 60 percent of business websites using WordPress as their platform. Better still, a lot of the themes and the plugins are free to download.
The Advantages of Using WordPress
WordPress has been worked on by hundreds of designers and programmers for years to build a competent platform for anyone to use. It is versatile, expandable, flexible and can grow in any direction that your business wants to grow.
In today’s world of responsive design, WordPress makes it easy to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking). Each website you create is mobile ready. You don’t have to adapt your website later.
The WordPress content management system makes it easy to upload, edit, share and schedule content for your website. Integrating needed plugins is also easier here. And, when you get stuck, there is a community of professionals ready to help with their experiences.
Designing Your Business Website
At this point, you should have an idea of what you want your website to be and what you will be offering on your website. For those of you who have chosen to make an e-commerce or marketing website, the rest of this article will be dedicated to these website design types.
Those who are interested in an informational website, consider investing in a high quality web designer or web developer. You will need all of the help you can get in making your informational business website attract traffic and convert leads.
Designing a website using one of the options listed above is actually a very simple process, even if you have never done such a project in the past. You really have two choices at this point, as far as the website design is concerned. Build the site yourself or hire someone else to do the heavy lifting for you.
Obviously, building the site from scratch by yourself is going to be the more cost effective solution, but if you have no prior experience or you need your website up as soon as possible, hiring a professional may be your better option. No matter which route you take, there are a few tips that you need to consider if you want to make sure that your website looks exactly as you want it to.
Whether you are building your business website yourself or if you have hired someone to do it, you need to make a rough template for how you want your site to look. If design is not your thing, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you get started. Take a look at websites like CSS Beauty, Design Snack, and Smashing Magazine for all of the inspiration that you could ever possibly need. These sites highlight some of the best in web design and are perfect for anyone who is having a difficult time coming up with some ideas.
When you have settled on a basic web design for your business website, you need to come up with a colour scheme that would work well with what you’re trying to accomplish. A sales website, for example, will make use of a lot of whitespace and only a basic palette of three or four colours so as not to be too hard on the viewer’s eyes.
On the other hand, a marketing website will use big blocks of text with highlighted words here and there, often making use of brilliant colours like reds, blues, and yellows to attract the reader’s eye to important points. If you are having trouble coming up with colours, check out sites like ColorBlender and colordb to help you choose the perfect palette for your site.
Once the basic template and the colour scheme have been decided on, you need to make the decision to build your site yourself or hire someone else to do it. If you hire someone, all you have to do is pay them the appropriate amount and submit your early designs and colour choices.
The web designers will do the rest and you’ll pay them the full amount on completion of the project. Go ahead and skip the next step if you are planning to take the web designer route. Those of you who want to go it alone, keep reading.
Actually Designing Your Own Website
Although designing your own website is not the most difficult thing you will ever do, it is fairly time consuming. However, when you have finished with the design, you will have a great feeling about yourself – that you actually created something yourself, something that you can be proud of, something that will hopefully make you a lot of money in the long term.
Since you already have your template sketched out and your colour palette chosen, the only prep work that you need before you get started on your site’s design is to determine whether you want to use a drag and drop option or design the website from scratch. The drag and drop option is the easier option, but there are also a lot of limitations. Building the website from scratch does remove a lot of these limitations.
The Pros and Cons of Building Your Website from Scratch
You are in business to make money, not to lose it or give it away. While this is essentially true of all business enterprises, certain tasks could be costing you more when not handled professionally. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of creating a business website yourself as opposed to using a skilled web designer.
Can I Do It Myself
Nowadays, do-it-yourself is all the rage. From fixing plumbing issues to putting an addition onto your home, getting your hands dirty is preferable to calling in someone who will charge you $75 just to walk in the door. The same can be said for website design. Companies offer templates that unfold with a click and do most of the work for you.
Constructing your website from scratch can save you money. With a few tutorials on coding, the basics can be learned. Setting up your website can take a few hours but if you already have a game plan and design strategy in mind, this can cut down on time.
You also learn something new. The brain is always in need of new neural pathways to keep it active and strong. What you learn about HTML and other coding languages can benefit you in the creation of future websites and blogs. If you develop a genuine interest, there are classes, books and more in-depth tutorials for additional knowledge gathering.
Choosing The Drag and Drop Option
There is a lot of information available on Shopify, Amazon and Clickfunnels, so this section will be dedicated to other drag and drop website creators.
When it comes to building a website, just the idea of the task is daunting to most people, especially if they are not programmers or designers. Fortunately, there are software tools available to help you build your website even if you are not proficient in coding language. Below are just seven of those tools that might be of use to you today.
As a business owner, you don’t want to learn how to be a coder, designer or programmer. Instead, you probably like to see the streamlined images and grammatically correct content that spits out on the other end. If you prefer a DIY approach however, there are tools to assist with building a simple website that don’t require technical skills.
These website builder tools come equipped to provide the latest in HTML coding as well as the latest advances in web design. Depending on the purpose of your site, the design that fits with your business vision, and whether you are going to add e-commerce or not, there are a variety of options.
1. Weebly.com – This site builder is easy to use for website creators with no experience. It provides a responsive design across devices so you are only creating one site. The drop-and-drag feature makes it quick and seamless to add content, change themes and get an e-commerce store up and running on your site.
2. Squarespace.com – Also a popular site building tool, it offers a free trial but is paid software. Like Weebly, it provides responsive design templates and is adaptable for a variety of uses. You can create a blog, a full website, an online store and more. It works for both novices and coders.
3. Wix.com – This software tool, like Squarespace, is a HTML5 based tool. You can create stunning websites in very little time. Choose the type of website you want to create and then begin customising it. Several options are available in the free version, but more flexibility is allowed with the paid one.
4. Homestead.com – This is a paid service that ranges from less than $10 a month to $60. You are provided with toll-free support. You can set up and customize your site quickly. There are thousands of templates to choose from. A shopping cart on your site will cost you extra, though.
5. Yola.com – This site-building tool is easy to use. Great for those new to site building with no coding experience. You’ll like the graphics tools but probably not the storage. To get unlimited storage, you’ll need the gold membership which is about $17 per month.
6. GoDaddy.com – Just about everyone has heard of this tool, especially now that Alf Stewart from Home and someplace else has started to endorse it. You can choose from about 300 themes, and hosting features are also available. Use it to create blogs, websites and e-commerce stores.
7. Webflow.com – This software builder comes with hosting, design tools and content management system all in one. And, you don’t need to know a word of code to do it.
How to Optimise Your Site for Search Engine Traffic
Search engine optimisation is a booming field, and it is easy to see why. As an online business, the bulk of your customers will come from search engines. Therefore, you want your business website to be optimised for search engine traffic.
While most people would suggest that you hire a professional for a task that seems to be rather difficult at first glance, in actuality there is nothing to search engine optimisation, or SEO, that you cannot do yourself. It is much easier than designing your own website. Far easier than finding resources to send traffic your way. And certainly easier than getting each and every person who visits your site interested in your offer.
This means going through your website and making sure your H1 tag only appears once, that your images have alt tags and that your meta data is set up correctly. You should take full advantage of using Meta tags in your HTML such as the title tag and the description tag on every one of your pages.
Finally, to rank higher in search engines, you need a variety of backlinks to your website. These are other sites that are linking to your website. Google and other search engines use this information to help determine the significance of a particular website, so go out there and see if you can entice some people to add a link to your site somewhere on their own.
The easiest way to do search engine optimisation is to make sure that you have some kind of informational keywords on every page of your site. From your home page to a page buried deep within your site that very few people outside of search engine spiders will ever view – everything needs to advertise your site to search engines. Sounds like a daunting task? Well, it is time consuming, but with a little practice, you will be well on your way to achieving a search engine optimised site.
Nobody, except for the original designers, really know how each and every search engine works, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are several ranking factors that have been determined through experimentation. The first step you need to take is to make sure your website architecture is up to scratch. If you built the website yourself, or used a builder, it may not be.