Building a website for your business is an exciting time and a solid investment in your business but it can for many be a bigger job than anticipated, particularly when it’s an eCommerce site or where it’s your first when you have nothing in place to work with.
So, in today’s post, we’re looking at some of the basics that you will need to think about when you think about a website, a web designer will have processes in place to help you through this but you can do some of this work in advance too.
Branding – do you have a logo or any thoughts on your brand? This is your shopfront to the world so if it’s not something you have in place talk to a marketing or web company, they may offer the service as an extra or if not you’ll find they can recommend people in this area based on experience. You can of course, particularly where you’re budget-conscious create your own branding using a tool such as our course ‘Look Good Online’ as a cost-effective means of getting you up and running.
Domain name – this is your address on the internet. In an ideal world, it will match your business name as closely as possible but at the same time, you also want it to be user-friendly so that it’s memorable and easy to use in the course of your marketing. Keep it simple, be careful with the use of words that can be abbreviated such as Limited or Ltd (words that can be omitted). And, do a search to see who else might have a very similar name particularly if you’re competing in the same area. If you’re planning to trade only in Ireland a .ie is local, if you’re planning to trade overseas you might consider different variations such as the .com or working with a separate domain for a specific country such as a .co.uk for the United Kingdom.
Hosting – hosting is that place on the web where your website will sit and depending on the type of business you’re running packages are available from in the region of €50 per year. Sites in the eCommerce area or that will be high traffic will benefit from a more robust option which will naturally cost more but all web hosting companies offer a number of packages so that as your business grows you can move up to more appropriate packages that can cater for your needs.
SSL – secure sockets layer, a layer that encrypts and protects your client’s information. For a small business, the cost is in the region of €30 per year and it can be purchased from the hosting company you’re dealing with. On the website, it will be the difference in your domain starting with http:// or https:// with the second being the option with an SSL in place. In the case of potential customers, this may well be the difference in whether they visit your site or not because some browsers will alert you that a site isn’t secure if you try to access a domain without an SSL. In addition to protecting your clients not having an SSL will impact how your site performs on Google – if you don’t have one on an old site talk to a web or hosting company about getting one now even if you aren’t making any other changes.
Text content – many of us who create websites will work with a client on creating the text content for a website but the best websites have significant input from the client because nobody knows your business better than you. Generally, you will need text for your home page, your about us/story page, to describe your products or services, contact information, and ideally some blog posts too. Something to be mindful of is that no matter how tempting it is to find a similar site and ‘borrow’ some text, this will work against you in search engines. Your content should be written for your business and if this isn’t something you’re comfortable with, work with an experienced copywriter who can work with you to create the right words that share your business with the world in a way you’re happy with.
Products / Services – this is where the real work can come into play. When you have a service-based business such as our own here at The Marketing Shop you will be using words and appropriate photos to describe what you are offering your potential customers. However, when you’re offering physical products there is a whole lot more to think about so we’ve given this a separate paragraph below. In either case however, you will need to think about how to describe the pages with names that are easily understood and an introduction to what you’re selling.
Photos – your options are your existing photos, stock photos purchased from legitimate sites that specialise in this area, or bringing in a photographer. Photos can make or break a site and believe me, there is nothing more frustrating than photos that really don’t do your business justice or poor quality photos that won’t look good because they’re years old and not large enough for your new site but you like them. Your web designer can talk to you about the options, they will be able to suggest sites where you can secure photos legally for use that often cost a lot less than you would expect but never ‘borrow’ from anywhere, even Google!
Videos / audio – if you’re planning to incorporate a podcast or you regularly live-stream talk to your web designer about how it might be implemented now. When it comes to video it’s a good idea to get the opinion of a professional in web design or marketing before you commit to an expensive promotional video because you’ll want to ensure it works for a website where generally a customer likes to choose whether to watch your video or not. You’ll want to have a plan for hosting the video content, a lot easier if you’re using a URL from YouTube even if it doesn’t look as good because uploading large files aren’t ideal for your website. A web designer can advise you on this because they’ll be thinking about your site from a user perspective.
Ecommerce – think about any product you’ve purchased online, what did you read before you made the decision to buy? Chances are it was photos, sizes or dimensions, material, in some cases the weight will be a factor and then there was a delivery charge and details of when you can expect your delivery to arrive? And then there were the emails from confirming your purchase to telling it’s been dispatched, confirming it was delivered, and perhaps a follow-up asking you to review? Creating an online shop is a bigger task than many new business owners anticipate if it’s done properly. You can quickly and easily put a few products up on a Facebook or Instagram shop to test the process but when you’re building your own site you will need to think about details like terms and conditions, payment processors, warranty, support, returns, etc in addition to products. This type of site is going to cost more than a simple site as it’s going to take longer to build particularly if you’ve got a considerable number of products to offer and if you plan to scale it quickly. Definitely, one to talk to a web designer about very early on in the process as they may have systems in place to simplify the process as much as possible based on their experiences with other businesses.
Management – when your website is technically ‘finished’ and you’ve told the world about it that’s just part of the journey, you’ve now got to get people on to the site so it pays for itself and generates the revenue you need. Our advice is always to have somebody within your organisation assigned to it because if it’s left as one of those jobs somebody will get to eventually it won’t work as effectively as it should for you. Your web designer will offer training on the website and show you what needs to be done on an ongoing basis, for example, if you’re on WordPress which is the preferred choice of 40% of the web, you will need to update plugins, versions of WordPress or themes on an ongoing basis. If you want to make the most of your presence online you will ideally blog on an ongoing basis, search engines, and customers like new content. And, for those with an e-commerce store, somebody will have to manage the orders, stock, new products, etc for your store too.
Promotion – every business needs promotion and wonderful as social media is, relying on using unpaid options such as updating to the social networks your audience favours isn’t a successful long-term strategy. Your website can be promoted offline through print or the likes of company vehicles, online you have options for ads with all of the social networks and the firm favourite of Google Ads which for many businesses is the best way to grow traffic. There are other tools available such as email marketing or PR, working with a marketing consultant even on a once-off basis can save you a lot of cash and stress long term as they can work with you on creating a strategy and choosing the right tools for your business.
Automation – from email sign-ups to order processing and linking into a CRM (customer relationship management system), there are many tools available to remove some of the manual processes from your business leaving you free to focus on those areas that need your attention in person. Your web designer can set you up with an email provider, for example, to assist in growing a list, they may also be in a position to integrate other systems with your website or make recommendations if this is outside of their offering. You don’t have to automate but trust me, once you’ve got systems in place you won’t look back!
Email marketing – we referred to this previously and while technically this is marketing more so than a website, email marketing works, and growing a list is highly recommended. You will want your web designer to link it up to your website as we have at the end of this page (where you can sign up for ours too 😉 ), many web designers will be in a position to offer training or create templates to get you started in this area too.
Social Media – what platforms do you use or plan to use? Your web designer can integrate these quite easily in most cases but where for example you decide at a later date that you like the Instagram feed you’ve seen on another website it’s something extra to add that may or may not add an additional cost if it impacts on design for example. If you add YouTube because it’s available despite having no videos yet ensure it’s something you want to use because it can be very frustrating to find a brand you like, look at a site and then decide to follow them on social media to find the content doesn’t exist. Ideally, you will only ever have the platforms you want to use on your site, opting for Instagram and Twitter only is far more impressive than listing every option available and not updating them as they don’t work for you.
The legal requirements – privacy policies are legally required as are cookie policies. Terms and conditions are a good idea and when it comes to eCommerce they’re essential. You don’t have to create this all from scratch, you can secure the services of a professional in this area and your web designer will generally be in a position to help you find the right person to do this. Whilst it might be tempting to ask a copywriter or a web designer to do these legal documents for you our advice is unless they’re familiar with all the relevant Irish and EU legislation this is for a specialist and you’ll be grateful for it should a complaint arise in the future.
The costs – aside from the costs of creating the website which we’re not looking at in this article you should be able to cover the cost of the domain, hosting, and SSL for a small business website in the region of €100 – €150 per year, paid either to your hosting company directly or to a web designer who may offer this services for you. In some cases you may opt to completely manage the website yourself, this is the cost-effective option where you simply use your business time instead. You can however have somebody manage back-ups of your website, take care of all updates for you or even write blog posts for you on an ongoing basis. Talk to your web designer about the long term and see what options are available. If you’ve got a site that you’re struggling to keep updated as your business grows, you can also talk to any web company about your options to add on a support service now.
Our advice is to arrange a consultation with a web designer, find out about costs, and how the process is managed when you’re getting ready to sign up for creating a new website or securing quotes for the project. Over the years those of us working in this area will have discovered what works or doesn’t when it comes to everything from gathering content to launching your live site. We use a planner to simplify the process, I’m aware of others who have different equally effective systems for their web building process.
At The Marketing Shop, we offer WordPress websites, Marketing and Social Media services to small to medium-sized enterprises and have worked with businesses across a wide range of industries. View some of our websites at this link and if you’d like to arrange a complimentary consultation by Zoom to discuss your current or planned website, pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number and we’ll be in contact to arrange a no-obligation chat.