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Building a Website for a Small Business, Your Small Business

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All of us want to save a little money and do the things ourselves that we feel we can do. In some cases it can be difficult to achieve the desired results or start off on the right foot, I’ve been there. When it comes to building a website there is a lot that goes into it. Many may have a preconceived idea that a website is no more than a business card or little more than a place where people can look up information about your business.

The thing about a website is, it's what you make it to be. If you see it as an information hub then that's likely what it will be. However, if you see the opportunity to grow your business online then a website can be so much more.

Millions of businesses use their websites for lead generation, product sales, improving customer relationships and even managing client reviews. Now you might be thinking how can a website do all this. Well, it can do these things and more if it is well thought out, appealing and built well. Okay, so now you're likely thinking “that's a little easier said than done” and you're right. It takes a lot of knowledge and patience to design and build a website that is appealing to visitors, scores well with google and functions as expected.

So, I plan to hopefully give you some insight or help guide you in the right direction for building a small business website. When it comes to building a website for a small business there's a lot to learn and understand but I’ll try to distill this down in a way that is digestible for even the most inexperienced. I’ll do this by breaking it down into 4 main areas, the platform, copy, esthetic, and upkeep.

Choosing the Right Web Platform

When it comes to choosing a platform, you are deciding the tools and limitations your website will have. Some of these platforms are easier to learn than others but with enough dedication and time you can work with any one of them.

That being said, I’ve tried many times to distill these down into a digestible way but the fact is there are far too many things to consider. So, the big platforms are Squarespace, Webflow, WordPress, Shopify, and Wix. Each of these has a variety of different limitations, features, prices, and difficulty so let me try it this way.

It’s important to understand what you are getting into and understand each one of these platforms. Since there are tons of different articles that compare each one this is relatively easy to do. Each author is likely to have a bias so consider this when reading over these. Not every platform will be able to do what you want it to do or achieve the results you are looking for. So, make a list and use this as a base when doing your research.

My personal preference is Webflow and WordPress but I’m also very familiar with both and have years of education and experience that allow me to bend these platforms to do what I want them to do. That being said I’m not saying a beginner couldn't work within them. The tools are robust and it's because of this that they are top contenders. They both have visual builders, Webflow’s is native and WordPress uses 3rd party plugins such as Elementor.

When it comes to the others, I’ve seen some beautiful sites built on Squarespace. Shopify is a staple in the eCommerce world but many others can manage eCommerce and many have visual builders, some better and easier to use than others. Wix is probably the easiest to work with but unfortunately can be very frustrating due to it’s unstructured nature. My point, do the research and don’t just take it from one place, look around, consider different points of view and how much work you are willing to put in as well as what kind of results you are looking for.

Writing Your Websites Copy

This is probably the most important part of any website but it can also be the most difficult. It’s a large part of getting visitors to engage and convincing them why they would want to work with you or buy from you. This is why you must understand and deliver consistent messaging directed at your target audience.

If you're anything like me, I struggled to figure out who my target audience was. I kept thinking, “if a business wants to work with me, then I want to work with them”. The part I didn’t understand was why any business would want to work with me. I think back then I was stuck on thinking “because I design and build websites and I can bring them new customers”. Just because I could do these things didn’t mean that I was a fit for businesses of all sizes. I didn’t have the manpower to provide services for large multinational chains. I think I knew this but I was more interested in getting the work than considering who I wanted to work with and who would want to work with me.

So, when it comes to deciding who you are targeting it might be valuable to start with something you are familiar with and change as you see different opportunities. Focusing on a specific target helps to decide what wording should be used and what images and other content they may respond to better.

Start by writing down on a piece of paper what the goal of your website is, what you want your customers to ultimately do. Maybe it’s to contact you by phone or schedule an appointment with you on your website. Whatever your goal, the copy is meant to direct them in a quick, easy-to-read way. You want your copy to appeal to your visitors and raise some emotion that would cause them to reach out to you for your services or products.

Even when it comes to the about page, it's not about you. It's about how you can help your customers. What about your experiences, personality and history tells a visitor that you can help with their problem? What can you tell them about yourself that makes you stand out and be more approachable? Your entire website is an opportunity in some way or another. Every button, line of text, or image can improve trust, or convey your expertise.

Deciding on an Esthetic

You may or may not care about how your website, business, logo, or overall brand looks but it has some kind of impact on your customers more than you may realize. As with copy, it's an opportunity to stand out and convey some emotion. Emotion is what can create a good or bad reputation without ever actually working with a person or business. In this world there are scams all over the place and many know the red flag for these. One of which is overly sales-y copy and poor design or a design they have seen a thousand times on other websites.

Many of the available website platforms use themes as a base for the design of a website. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if not done well can make you look like a thousand other businesses and many of which might be scams or businesses they have a poor experience with. The problem is, whether they intend to or not this may destroy your reputation with them before they ever even speak with you.

So, what do you do? The best thing to do with any business is create your personality which is done by putting time and effort into your brand and website. This will help to separate you from the thousands of other businesses that use the same poorly executed theme or style. There is a certain amount of this that is unavoidable but by having a unique website and brand you can largely mitigate most of the negative attachment.

Continued Improvement and Maintenance

Depending on your platform you may not have much actual upkeep or maintenance when it comes to the technical part of your website. Something like Webflow has very little actual maintenance whereas WordPress requires manual updates for the platform and the plugins which can break things. So in some cases you will need to check on your website to make sure there are no updates and research if anything is going to break. Of course, if something does break, don’t panic and just figure out how to fix the problem.

Other maintenance or continued improvements will likely happen as you learn more about your website or how to do things like phrase a sentence to better entice someone. You might also have a blog which is a valuable thing to have because it can increase your traffic through keyword searches and again establish you as an expert in your field. Whatever it is, you’ll likely want to update or improve your website regularly because google likes this. Adding more content, or changing content will help you rank higher with Google.

I know all this is really a lot of information and unfortunately there is a lot more to learn and understand. Of course, there are plenty of services out there to help you with the task of building a website for a small business but you can also do it yourself. You may not get the results you want right out of the gate but if you work hard enough at it and truly try to learn you’ll eventually have the traffic and customers to show for it.

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