Absolutely every local business must have a website. There is really no excuse for a business to skip this step given the rise in popularity and importance of digital marketing. As mentioned in a previous post about digital marketing, you could be losing anywhere between a half and a third of potential customers by having a subpar or no website.
A new small business owner may think local businesses don’t need a website because they are local. However, being local does not make a business immune from the transformation that has occurred with digital marketing. In a study by Verizon, they found that 85% of small business owners say customers find them by “word of mouth.”
Many business owners think of word of mouth as an offline activity. However, this is an outdated notion and couldn’t be further from the truth nowadays. Word of mouth is a whole new animal thanks to the cultural revolution that has taken place on the Internet. This is especially true when you think of the importance and prominence of online reviews and social media.
Your website is your home base when it comes to digital marketing and your online presence. Without a website, all of your other digital marketing efforts will be either extremely inefficient or totally useless. Given that, ideally you want to develop your strategy, then create your website, and finally dive into other areas of digital marketing.
That all sounds like a great idea, but how exactly do you get a website for your local business? If you’re like most business owners, you’re an expert at what you do professionally, but not at website design and development. We’re going to break down exactly how you can get a website, either yourself or by hiring someone to help you.
Steps to Get a Website for Your Local Business
Planning and creating the website for your local business is an extremely important aspect of digital marketing. And in fact, like we mentioned above, website design and development is the second most important part of digital marketing after strategic marketing planning.
Making a website for your local business also requires a sizeable investment in terms of your time and/or money. For that reason, you want to make sure you follow a clearly constructed process for creating your website. This allows you to be prepared and knowledgeable, which in turn prevents wasted time and money.
1. Know the Budget for Your Local Business Website
You need a budget for your website. Each and every local business needs a budget to keep track of their revenues and expenses. Since a website is an expense, it needs to be part of that budget. The budget should be your first step before spending any money or doing any other work or planning. Starting without a budget is the fastest and easiest way to end up spending too much money or not spending enough to make sure you get the best website you can afford.
When figuring out your budget, keep in mind that a website can last your business 2 – 5 years. And you can expand that lifespan even further if you stick to a regimen of continuously updating for your website to keep it up to date in terms of design and content.
Since your website will hopefully last several years, don’t just think of your website in terms of your budget for this year. Think of it in the greater context of the overall marketing budget for your local business in the long term. You’ll likely pay all of the money upfront this year, but in terms of budgeting you can amortize or divide the expense over a larger time period.
For example, if you hypothetically think $8,000 per year is a wise website design budget, you might be able to spend $32,000 on creating a website that will last 4 years. An even better idea with might be to budget $20,000 for your initial design. Then devote the remaining $12,000 to future improvements and updates over the next 4 years.
2. Determine the Goals for Your Local Business Website
Next you need to determine what goals your website will help your business achieve. These goals may be slightly different than the general goals you have for your business. But your website goals should fit within your greater marketing strategy and support your primary business goals.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is creating a website that doesn’t match the physical reality of their business. When your brick and mortar location don’t match your website, it confuses and alienates customers. The same is true with your goals, make sure your website goals align with your in-person and general business goals.
Here are a few website goals that are very common for local business owners:
- Generate traffic or other interactions, like newsletter sign-ups, on the website.
- Capture leads as webform submissions, emails, and/or phone calls.
- Sell products or services directly on their ecommerce website.
- Increase the online reputation of the business.
3. Find Someone to Design Your Local Business Website
Once you have your budget and goals, you will need to find the ideal person or company to create the actual website. Depending on your budget, this may be you, one of your employees, a freelancer, or a marketing or web design agency.
All of these can be viable options depending on your expectations for your local business website. Hiring a professional is usually the best route, if at all possible. Think about who you hire to work on all of the other professional services at your company. If your electricity is on the fritz, you hire an electrician. The most successful businesses focus on their core competencies, and then hire professionals to assist with the rest of their needs. The same should be true for website design and development services.
Like with other services, the best option costs more. And a professional web design or marketing firm is the most expensive option. Unfortunately as well, small business website pricing can be confusing for people outside that industry. You need to understand all of the variables that affect the overall cost. Make sure you fully understand what you need and how much a professional might charge to get that done for your business.
If you do go the professional route, check the designer’s previous work. If a person or company designs websites, they should have their own website. That is a great first example of the work they do. Also look for testimonials or other examples of their work. Finally, check for reviews on Google, Facebook, and any other platforms you trust.
If they have no reviews or examples of work, you may be taking a huge gamble hiring them. And that’s probably not something you want to do with something as critical as the website for your business.
4. Implement Your Local Business Website
Now you know the budget, the goals, and who will design your local business website. If you’ve made clear decisions on the previous steps, this should be super easy.
You know exactly what you want your website to do. You know how much money you have to spend. You know who you want to build it. If you’ve hired someone else, you really just need to monitor their progress at this point. Make sure they stay true to their deadlines and you should have a great looking website in no time.
On the flip side, if you’ve decided to make your own website, this will be the most challenging part. Your faced with two options. First, you could take one of many free courses online and learn how to create a website from scratch. For example, Codecademy offers a good introduction to HTML course that would be a good start for someone.
That is really the only way to ensure you website is the best that it could be. However, that will also take hundreds of hours of learning and practicing to become proficient. If you’re running a successful business, you likely don’t have that much free time.
The other option is to sign up with a cheap DIY website builder like Wix or Squarespace. They are relatively cheap and come with free templates or themes to make it easy to get started. For a previous blog post, we created an example website using a service like this: kapokmarketing.wordpress.com.
We used a free option and spent less than 30 minutes on it, so it looks not so great. There are some more fancy templates you can choose and get something that looks better than our example. However, you will still need to spend time to fill in the blanks and make things look really polished. It’s not as simple as paying them $20 per month and you automatically have a great website.
The other tricky part about the DIY website builders is when you want to make bigger changes. Templates are great when you just want to fill in the blanks or make minor tweaks. When you start to make bigger changes, you need to take more things into account.
If you aren’t careful, the template can start to look really amateur and cause other problems. Two of the biggest things to keep in mind are page load time and search engine optimization (SEO). Changes can potentially increase the page load time on your website, which is bad. The slower a website loads, the more annoyed visitors will be and they will be more likely to leave before the website even loads.
If you’re hoping to get traffic from search engines like Google, you need to understand and maximize your SEO. According to Moz, page load time is one of many important factors. In addition to page load time, the layout, tags, and content you include on each page will also play a big role in your SEO. Keep this all in mind when customizing your website template.
5. Constantly Update or Iterate on Your Local Business Website
Once your website is live on the internet, you are not done. Keeping your website up to date is almost more important than creating the website to a certain extent. There are three big reasons this is the case:
- Google and other search engines love websites that have accurate and fresh content.
- Customers and clients use your website to learn what’s new with your business.
- An out-of-date website can make your business look out of touch or out of business.
You will most likely spend either a lot of time or a lot of money on your website. Take advantage of that opportunity and maximize your return. Keep the content on your website as fresh as possible. Also make any design changes that are required to keep your website in line with current trends and design practices.
Think of your website like car. When you buy a car, you want to wash it from time to time, change your oil regularly, get any recall items fixed promptly, and perform any other maintenance that could lead to serious problems. The same sort of rules apply to websites if you want to get the most out of them.
How to Get a Website for Your Local Business
If you follow the steps we outlined above you should have no problem getting a website made for your local business. Spending time on the early steps like forming a budget and setting goals, can make the rest of the process a lot easier.
With a budget in mind, determining who to hire is as easy. Read some reviews and find a partner you trust with website pricing that is within your budget. And with your goals already decided, your designer can easily design you a killer website that meets your needs.
Once your website is implemented and live on the Internet, you can start taking advantage of other digital marketing opportunities. Just don’t forget to keep your website fresh and current to ensure your other digital marketing efforts yield the best return on investment.
Let us know in the comments if you still have questions about making a website for your local business. We’d also love to hear any stories you might have about designing a website for a local business.