Welcome to small business web design North West. We cover all of your design and marketing needs. In the sidebar on the right are a number of links to helpful articles. These provide "how to's" for most of the things we get asked about in our active projects.Our beginner articles cover some of the basics like HTML and CSS. menu
No hassle web sites
A web site for only £500!
If you have an existing website we offer maintenance agreements that give you peace of mind and an expert only an email away. Packages start at only £19.99 a month. At present we support the following CMS. and allied technologies.
- Opencart eCommerce stores
We would need access to your web server root directory for some tasks so check with your current developer! Most things can, however, be done via the admin section of your site.Contact us for more information.
Top ten guide to setting up a small business website by Geoff Whittaker.
One of the most important things for your business is to get noticed, these days that means an on-line presence and a marketing strategy.Most people expect a company to have a website and you may loose customers without one.The key is easy access to information, customers want to know about your company,where it is, what news is happening or what events are planned.The first thing most customers do is Google you! This small business website guide will help you to decide on a strategy and which platform to use.
I spent three years at university learning the technical stuff and another three years learning all the stuff they don't teach you!.That includes how to rank on search engines and how to market your service or product.
Having a website is one thing but without marketing your site is like a boat without a sail, you won't be going anywhere! Design and marketing are two sides of the same coin.If you have the time and a bit of knowledge you can do the marketing yourself. This guide will help, however it can be time consuming so you could also add a marketing strategy as part of the contract you work out with a third party developer.
This small business website guide will help you make the right decisions
1/ plan your website and set a name (domain name).
Website naming depends on where you are with the business if you are starting out go for an exact match domain,in the jargon, EMD, This is a great aid to getting a good search engine ranking. for example the domain for this site is www.smallbusinesswebdesignnorthwest.co.uk, often the name you want is already taken, a good way round this is to add a regional suffix , in this case "North West". This keeps most of the keywords you want in the name.
Use Google's adwords keyword checker to find out if your desired name has any searches against it,this will also tell you how much competition you may have!.
Planning also involves setting out your aims for the site and some competitor analysis.The first order of business when I meet a client is to gather this information and draw up an initial report.Once this has been agreed a main report is drawn up,this acts as the contract.
2/ Build your site
To build your site you have three choices , if you are a tech genius you can build it yourself, or you can use a template system, most hosting companies have a simple self build option available, this is great for brochure sites that are not too complicated. The third option is get someone else to do it. I have collected a vast amount of technical and marketing knowledge over the years and this is not easy to replicate on your own!
To build a site from scratch is a time consuming and complicated business and you may need to focus on something else in the early stages of the business!
If you are going to self build it is probably better to get your domain, hosting and site from the same provider as explained below.
3/ Hosting for small business websites
A website needs to be hosted on a web server, this acts as the interface between the browser on your laptop or tablet and the information on you site.It is probably best if you get your domain name and hosting from the same company initially as the set-up to "point" the domain at another hosting companies servers is an added hassle.
Hosting can range from using major hosting companies to setting up your own server droplet in the cloud.I have done this a few times and it is not for those of a nervous disposition!
1 and 1 provide a good basic domain and hosting package. This is a good value template based system and is easy to expand later.
With this type of hosting the site is "shared" with other sites, this can slow your site down if another site has a lot of traffic. I have several micro sites like this one on a cheap 1and1 server and there are no problems.
Dedicated servers can be expensive, an alternative is a cloud server droplet from Digital Ocean this is complex to set-up but will give you a mega-fast site with no growth limits, for a few dollars a month.
4/ Platforms for small business websites
This small business website guide also looks at the platform a site is built on. In the jargon a platform is the technology that is used to build a site. The most common platform is WordPress this was originally a blogging platform but is now is used for a lot for small business sites as well.
There are two flavours of WordPress, one is the version hosted by WordPress.com, this is a self build template style offering.
The other is to host it on your own server. Most smaller hosting companies have a one click install available for WordPress via their control panel.
Joomla is another option, their blogging platform can be expensive but self hosting can be a good option for small business..There are issues with a steep learning curve for beginners and, as with WordPress, there is a massive ecosystem of plugins and extensions.
I have had clients struggle with the Admin interface with WordPress, it is a great platform but if your talents lie elsewhere it may be best to pay a developer to add content for you, which brings us on to do it yourself websites.
5/ Do it yourself websites
If you have an interest in web design, and with a little knowledge of HTML and CSS you can build your own site and keep the content up to date yourself. my portfolio site was designed in one of the most popular web design programmes, Adobe Dreamweaver .It costs £6.98 per month and is great for brochure sites where the information does not need to change very often.
Due to a tight deadline I built the site you are reading, from WordPress, a commercial theme and several free plugins, which brings us on to using a developer to design and market your site.
6/ Pay someone else?
This is the most expensive option but will give the best results! Why?.... insider knowledge and experience!
Getting a website found is the single most important aspect of small business websites, this is often overlooked in the rush to get a website up and running. You need a company or individual that knows both sides of the business, often you get designers that have no idea about marketing and marketing companies with no idea about design!
I have had experience with trying to get designers and marketing companies to work together and this is not always a smooth operation!
I have been involved in web design and development for over fifteen years and can design, build and help you market your site.
Get a quote for your bespoke small business website
Or you can fill in the contact form.
I have provided a form that will give me the information I need to compile an initial report and cost estimate for site redevelopment or brand new sites.Click here to get a quote for your small business website
7/ content creation
The main point of content, from a business perspective is not only to provide information but to drive traffic to your site, so don't skimp when it comes to content!
Content can be on your main site or in the form of a blog. Try to have you blog as part of your main site and not on a blogging platform as any generated traffic will go there instead of to your site.To use social media as a business tool create a Facebook page for your site where you can post a link to any new content.
Another key reason for regular new content is your ranking on search engines, new content gives a higher ranking and encourages the search bots that index your site, a reason to return more often.Use keywords in your posts, you should target the keywords that you want to be found under, for example this site uses "small business website guide" as the focus keyword.
What should the content be about? The topics should be useful to your customers and relevant to your industry.Try to avoid writing about your services or product directly. You can include a call to action button or banner ad at the bottom of the page. In the jargon this makes the page "unbranded" which is favoured by Google's ranking algorithm.This is also known as "step 1 content" that leads to a sale without being overt.
Finally and as a leadup to The SEO section, optimize your content for search engines. if you are using WordPress there is a fantastic plugin named Yoast this includes a host of invaluable tools and best of all, an in article guide that updates in real time as shown below, a green dot indicates that all is OK.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, this is another vast subject but below are the key points to optimise a site.Optimization makes your site more visible and is an important part of the whole design process.
- Make sure that the page title has your target keyword, in this case the title is the part between the <title> tags in the header of your page.If you are using WordPress this is done automatically .
- Use heading tags containing your target keyword for any in article titles, that is <h1>. <h2> etc.
- Use an exact match domain if possibe or include your keyword in the website address.
- Use a meta keyword list in the head of the document.
- Use a meta description, the snippet editor for Yoast is shown below. You can see where to enter the description.
Finally in this section, use "Alt" tags containing your target keyword, for your images, this is because Google can read Alt tags but can't read images.
This section will help you check that your site promotes your business. The first thing is to include is a call to action, this can be at the end of a section or the end of the page. Action words such as join,subscribe. call or contact are a good start depending on your type of business. keep it subtle and do not overload the page with too many calls to action.
Another thing to avoid is using the word "we" to often, this looks like bragging and puts customers off., words like "you" and "your" look more customer focussed. The "you" - "we" balance should be about 50-50.
Make sure your site is mobile friendly and fast. Google have a page speed tool that will check your site and offer fix suggestions.Note this has a mobile and desktop section.
In 2010 Google started looking at how many times your business is talked about on-line, this includes shares on Social media networks, mentions on forums and on-line newspapers.Your ranking is affected by these marketing avenues.The best way to boost shares is to include share buttons for the main social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, the site you are reading now uses a simple plugin that adds share buttons.The next section looks at Social media in more detail
James Hickey is an on-line marketing expert and the video below is a great introduction to getting your business noticed.
10/ Social media
You may be wondering what social media has to do with marketing? Social media is now the main way people recommend businesses and products to friends and potential customers. This is a very powerful way to market your brand but can be suicidal if your product or service is weak! people will air grievances in public and you need a way to monitor what is being said about you and your company!
Tools like mention will monitor Social networks and give you an alert if your company is mentioned giving you a chance to respond.
The three main points with social media are.
- Build your site and social media pages and make sure they look professional.
- Grow your network, create a strategy for each platform and follow experts on your particular industry.
- Listen, engage and have a content strategy that involves your customers.
If you have a question please leave a comment.
Photography and content By Geoff Whittaker
If you have any questions please leave a comment.