Your challenge: Build a website for your business or organization. This can be an intimidating task, not just for beginners but for experienced developers and marketers. From reserving domains and selecting hosting plans to deciding on the right platform, and determining what content should go on your website, developing a website can be quite the project.
This blog will explore reasons why you need a website, how to prepare and actually build a website, and shed some light based on our own experiences.
The first thing you do when hearing of a business or company is is head to google and check out their website. If they don’t have one, most likely you will lose interest on move on.
Fortunately, many business owners realize this and there are practically zero reasons to not have a website.
A business without a website is like not having a cell phone these days. Without a website, your business is disconnected from the world and losing out on customers and business. A website is your online headquarters, your office, your 24/7 calling card, and your gateway to the world.
Let’s review some stats to put things in perspective. According to Netcraft’s January 2020 Web Server Survey there are well over 1 billion sites on the world wide web (1,295,973,827 to be somewhat precise). Quite the uptick from 1 website in 1991.
And what about the actual population of the internet? In 2019, the number of internet users worldwide was 4.13 billion, up from 3.92 billion in the previous year. Almost 4.57 billion people were active internet users as of April 2020, encompassing 59 percent of the global population.
Those are crazy numbers indeed but the point is, there is a market and a place for your website.
Practical Reasons to Build a Website for Your Business
- Create an online presence. If you have a physical office space location, it is your place of business. The same applies to your website. If you think about your website as a business tool serving a valid business function of being the online HQ of your business then creating the starting point on the web makes sense. Where can prospects and clients go to learn more? Your website can help establish your business, promote your products and services, and deliver brand value proposition and it can convey professionalism. Gateway to the world.
- Build trust. If people are searching on the web for products and services your business offers, they most likely want to know who you are, learn about the company history, who is on the leadership team, and simply dive deeper into your expertise. The website can serve in providing that comfort level and confidence when seeking out a vendor or business partner.
- Boost search engine optimization (SEO). Build your website incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so that you can easily be found by people searching for relevant keywords. This can be an important gateway to expanding your business.
- Publish your news, press releases, and updates. Try to update your website as often as you can and disseminate valuable information. If you just launched a new product, or secured venture capital funding, or your CEO was featured in an interview, these are all newsworthy events to update your website. Websites that have fresh, relevant, and timely information attract users back more often, plus Google likes this too.
- Blog. Keep your website fresh and keep drawing people in with regular blog posts. This is a great way to showcase your expertise, share insights, and provide practical tips on topics relevant to your business or to your customers. Huge opportunity to optimize our content for SEO
- A focal touchpoint. Your website can be the beginning of a long and wonderful customer journey with your company. Add a contact form, newsletter opt-in, or simply list your phone, your website should provide your audience with an easy way to contact you.
- Network within social networks. If your website is your online HQ then social media is like a trade show or large networking event where you network with your peers, prospects, and potential customers. You invite them to learn more about your company and your website is a perfect tool for this. More importantly, social media is where the traffic is and that’s a very critical place you want to be in. Implement a social media strategy to create company profiles Facebook, Twitter, Linked In (and others that are relevant to your vertical), and engage! Drive people to your HQ. Share your blog, create relationships, publish and share case studies.
- Sell your products. If you sell products whether they are digital or physical, your website can be your online store open for business 24/7/365! Nowadays, there are many amazing solutions for e-commerce to get your products selling right away.
- Customer insights. Learn about their needs, preferences, and interests. Establish and nurture two-way communication with prospects and clients. This will forge a deeper bond and serve them better.
- Customer service. Providing customers with multiple ways to interact with your business is almost mandatory these days. Anything less could result in lost sales.
How to Build a Website
Before you do anything its important to get organized. Meet with your team or leadership and ask why do you need this website.
Is it for corporate branding, to promote products and services, to sell online, to generate prospects and leads? All of the above?
Whatever the core objectives are for your website it’s important that you have alignment within your organization and the corporate objectives are reflected. In addition, it will help you organize the content significantly once you know the purpose.
Take stock of what you will need for your website. Now is a good time to write a list of the type of pages you want on our website and what content them to have. This is often called a site map. For example, an About Us page can have pictures of the founders and feature the company’s history, mission, and vision statements. A What We Do page can have pictures of your products with explanations of your services and who your target audience is. Our Team can have pictures and bios of your leadership team.
It’s important to understand the scope and amount of copy, graphics, and images you’ll need for the website. Who’s is going to write it and who is create the visuals? Make sure you have timelines and stakeholder buy-ins to ensure a smooth project.
This website brief can help you prepare and get you in the mindset of building a website.
Select a domain name
A domain name is the address of your website. It is the name that you type into the address URL bar of the browser to find your website.
If you haven’t already secured a domain you should do so as soon as possible for your company. They are very affordable and you can reserve one here.
To protect your brand its recommended to multiple domain extension (.net, .io, .info, etc.). You can reserve them yearly or for multiple years. Try to keep it as short as possible, memorable, and in the same context of your business.
If you’re stuck on domain name ideas this blog post lists great tips on how to decide.Reserve your domain
Selecting a website platform
There are many solutions and platforms for creating and developing your website. There some considerations to consider first. How often will this site be updated, do you have internal resources, or will it be completely built and managed by an outside team.
Will the website be built from scratch in a custom development or will it use an off-the-shelf solution such as WordPress, Square Space, Wix, and Weebly. Each has its pros and cons. For this article, we will make the case for an off-the-shelf solution.
Hands down, the most flexible website platform is WordPress. It’s a free open-source content-management platform that is scalable, easy to use, and has an incredible community of users and developers around it that are constantly adding plugins, themes, and other goodies to enhance websites.
It’s no surprise that 35% of the internet is powered by WordPress. Considering that the number of total active websites is estimated at over 1.3 billion according to a survey published by Netcraft, that means that around 455,000,000 websites are using WordPress right now, and approximately 20% of all self-hosted websites use WordPress, which is the solution we always recommend.
Site builders like Wix and Squarespace are great solutions as they are easy to use, help website owners build quick and attractive sites, and have a very intuitive user interface. WordPress has a steeper learning curve, but in the end, it’s much more flexible and powerful.
With over 55,000 free plugins and many more paid plugins, and endless themes available, WordPress has enough horsepower to deliver complex business solutions and integrate to other platforms and systems.
This is where you will store your website and its files in a web server on the cloud. Think of it as if a server is an apartment building and your hosting plan is one of the apartments you rent. There are many hosting companies with multiple plans and options. Over the years, we have tried many different hosting companies and found the Bluehost plans are the most reliable, flexible, and best for performance.
You can select from shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated hosting solutions depending and your requirements as well as WordPress hosting.Get started with Bluehost today
Managed WordPress hosting
A WordPress site works best when your web host has optimized resources for the WordPress platform. This is called a managed WordPress hosting.
With a managed WordPress host, you usually get faster load times and much more reliable uptime. The uptime of most shared hosts is rather suboptimal. You get bundled services like daily automated backups, staging, and production environments (great for testing new applications and plugins or for building a newer version of your site) SSL certificates, white-glove domain migrations, a free content delivery network (CDN), and security features.
Whether or not you need these bundled services or the performance of a managed host is up to you to decide, but that is essentially why you’ll end up paying more. Managed hosting means the hosting provider takes care of all the security for you, backups, and overall tech support.
Companies like WP Engine actually guarantee the security of your site so if you’re hacked, the hosting company will cover the clean-up costs, which can be thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the website. If you’re a small business with limited resources, this is definitely worth the time and expense.
WP Engine is one the most popular and reliable WordPress managed host and Bluehost also has a great product as well. WP Engine is a bit more expensive but the customer service reps are very helpful and on point.
Benefits you’ll get with WP Engine:
- 99% server uptime
- High-end security measures
- High-speed servers optimized for WordPress websites
- A user-friendly dashboard that comes in handy for beginners
- Various hosting plans to choose from
- 24/7 customer support
- Free SSL certificate (this is the padlock security icon on your browser’s address bar)
- Easy cPanel dashboard
- Development, staging, and production environments
Getting started with WP Engine
Head over to WPEngine.com and select a plan from their “Pricing” menu.
Select a hosting plan
WP Engine offers multiple packages depending on your needs. If you are starting out, we recommend the “Startup” plan. There are discount incentives if you go with the annual billing plans.
Setup your account
Now go through the steps to create your account and enter the necessary details and billing information. WP Engine has great add-ons but we recommend unchecking unless you really know what you are doing. You can always add those later.
Once you are finished entering your billing information, click the “Create my site” button on the very bottom and you are ready to start building your website!
Setting up your WordPress install
A “Site” refers to a group of 3 environments; production, staging, and development. Each environment is a completely separate installation of WordPress. As mentioned earlier, this is great for testing and development, working on different versions, while not affecting your live site. Deploying between these environments is simple through the WP Engine User Portal and uses its backup system.
- Log onto the User Portal
- Click +Add Site
- Fill in a Site Name
- Does not need to be a unique name
- Can be changed later
Adding your domain
Planning Your Content
Now that you have completed the essential technical steps to build a website, you’re ready to actually start adding content. This is the portion of the process that many businesses tend to overlook or don’t need assistance with. It is not enough to have a gorgeous-looking template or theme.
What you say on your website is equally important if not more important than the aesthetics.
This part takes planning, the same way you would plan a book report or term paper.
Products and Services
- Blog strategy
- Voice, style, informative, provide value, original content
- Lead generation
- Opt-in forms (optin-monster)
- Free report/case study
- CRM integration
- Coming soon page
- User testing
- Set launch date
- Final testing
- Leverage your contacts
- Gmail, Linked In, Facebook, etc
- Set up an email campaign to announced your launch
- Other systems
- Social media strategy