Building Effective Small Business Websites: 4 Steps To Success!

Building an effective small business website requires more than just trying to rank #1 on google. Here are 5 steps you should take if you want to succeed in building an effective website.

Have you ever been involved with the process of creating a website? What was the outcome? Do you feel like the website was a success? Why did it succeed? Or fail?

Perhaps you are in the process of getting your first website? Have you started planning? Do you know what you should be planning for? Do you feel like you are heading in the right direction?

Just a quick note. This is not an article about web design (how your website looks), you can find such an article here, or here.

Today I want you to discover the steps to building effective small business websites and I know you can’t wait to find out, so here they are:

Step 1 – Set goals for your website

Step 2 – Research, research and yep, more research!

Step 3 – Measure and monitor your website

Step 4 – Be willing to make changes and try again

Each step is explained in detail later. First, I would like you to become aware of a few misconceptions that I have encountered during my time in the industry.

Misconception 1

Our website just needs to look better. If it looks better, we will get more visitors

I do not disagree that what your website looks like will have an impact on it’s effectiveness.

I do disagree that simply looking “modern” or “better” will produce a better result. The way your website looks is not going to attract people to your website. Your content is going to bring people to your website. You must create an effective content strategy in order to bring the visitors you want.

Misconception 2

There are not enough people visiting our website

In many cases, small business owners believe that simply having a website will bring thousands upon thousands of people to their doorstep. Many times this is because of false promises which are given out by ruthless web design companies simply trying to make a quick dollar.

There are a number of questions that you can ask yourself, or a good web design company will ask in this situation.

  • How many visitors are you getting to your website each month?
  • How many visitors did you expect to get?
  • Why did you expect that number of visitors?
  • What measures did you put in place to attract those visitors?

Getting traffic to your website is one aspect of an effective website but once you have captured someone’s attention, what do you want them to do?

I want you to remember that effective websites are about conversion rates, not just traffic.

Take this scenario.

Your Website A is bringing 50 visitors per month, and 25 of them perform some action which was intended for them to do, then you conversion rate is 50%

Another Website B is bringing 100,000 visitors per month, and 10,000 of them perform some action which was intended for them to do, then their conversion rate is 10%

In terms of effectiveness, Your Website A is 40% more effective.

Misconception 3

There is no point having a website if it does not rank #1 on google

If you need to target your audience through search results then this will be important. However, I would not recommend that you try to get a high ranking on any search engine unless you have the content which will back it up.

This does not mean I do not support Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In fact, making sure that your content can be found on search engines is very important.

What I want you to understand is that you should not make ranking #1 your primary concern and let other important areas of your website go without attention.

If you:

  • spend the time understanding your audience
  • provide them with great content and a great experience plus the ability to share your content
  • make your website search engine friendly

Then you are doing way more to increase your chances of building an effective website than simply focusing on your google ranking.

If you want to find out more about making your website search engine friendly, there are some good SEO for Small Business videos.

So how DO you build an effective small business website?

Now that we have looked at some of the common misconceptions about having a small business website, it is time to discover what each step in building an effective small business website does in more detail.

Step 1 – Set goals for your website

This statement seems obvious but you would be surprised at how many times a small business website is created “just because I need one“.

Setting goals is the key step in creating an effective small business website because in order to judge that your website is effective, you must have something to measure it against.

Imagine this scenario.

  • You asked me to build your business a website. The first thing I will ask you is “what business goals will you achieve by having a website?
  • You respond by saying “I really just want to have my business online“. That is a fair statement, but then all I have to do to make an effective website is simply put a single page up with your name, logo and a list of services.
  • Then in a couple of months when you are wondering why people don’t come to your website, you will start to think, “my website was a waste of time and money“, but if you measure it against the goal you set, the website could be called a success when it clearly is not.

This is obviously an extreme case, and in this scenario, a good web designer will ensure that you actually set some meaningful goals before taking your money to produce a website.

A good way you can think about your website is to imagine it is an employee. You would not hire an employee to just sit around and wear your logo and promotional material. You would assign them a role, give them responsibilities and monitor their performance. Basically, you would make them work. Your website is no different, you have to give it work to do.

Some example goals for your website could be:

  • 1000 new visitors per month for the first 3 months with 60% newsletter signup rate
  • Produce 25% of all sales revenue from our online distribution
  • Generate 30 new customer leads per week through our website

I really encourage you to get specific. Your website goals should be goals for your business. I really want you to use your website to drive the growth of your business.

Setting goals will provide you and your web designer with clear, focused direction and will drive the decisions of the project as you move through the different phases of development.

Step 2 – Research, research and yep, more research!

One of the key differences between websites that are effective and those which are not, is research.

You would be amazed at how many times during the process of your website getting built a decision could be made with no real justification. With no research being undertaken, they very often are.

I would highly recommend that you research, well, everything and start with your goals. Have you actually set feasible goals? Or are you setting yourself up for failure? You won’t know without some research.

The quote your web design company gives you should allow for them to do necessary research for building you an effective website and I encourage you to ask them what research they typically do during their design process.

If your web design company cannot give you valid reasons (that make sense to you) why their approach will benefit your business and achieve your goals, then I would suggest looking for a new one.

Let’s take the first example goal from step 1: 1000 new visitors per month for the first 3 months with 60% newsletter signup rate.

Before reading on, try to write down the things you think might need to be researched in order to find the best way to achieve this goal.

How did you go?

Here are some of the things I think you should research:

  • How will we get 1000 visitors to our site each month? Is it possible? Should we target search engines? If so, which ones? Are we going to direct market our website? What market is our website targeting?
  • You will need to research the keyword(s) that are going to bring the traffic to your site. Are there enough searches per month for the keyword(s) to generate 1000 visitors? Is that an unrealistic percentage of the traffic to capture? How competitive is the keyword? What other possible keyword(s) could you consider?
  • What are the type of people who will be searching for your content? Are they the type of person who will even signup for a newsletter? If they are, what is going to encourage the person to signup to your newsletter?
  • Create some sample pages and test them with a sample of the people you are targeting. Which design achieved the best signup rate? Was it close to our 60% target? Do we need to do more designs?

So what can you do with this research? And how will it produce a more effective website?

  • You know your goal is feasible
  • The effectiveness of any action is measurable
  • You will target the correct keywords
  • Your content will be meaningful to the people you are targeting and produce a good experience
  • You can have confidence in your strategy for people signing up to your newsletter
  • You can expect some level of success

What would happen without doing research?

You would simply be doing what you or your web design company thinks will work. In some cases you will have success but wouldn’t it be more effective to know you will have some level of success with each and every action on your website?

By doing research, you will spend your time, effort and money building a website that you know is going to be effective in achieving your goals.

Step 3 – Measure and monitor your website

I thought once I my website was finished, that would be it?!

All too often, after a small business website is published, nothing happens. No one adds new content, no one even checks if people have been visiting the website.

This can be for a number of reasons:

  • No time or money
  • No one allocated to perform the required tasks
  • Lack of understanding about what is required to be done
  • Usually though, it can be traced back to a lack of meaningful goals being set at the beginning.

Remember, you can think about your website as an employee. Employees are very often part of regular performance reviews, so why wouldn’t you put your website through the same procedure? 

You want the best out of your website? You want your website to be effective? So why let it sit there without anyone to answer to?

I would recommend including timelines for each goal you set, and also time frames to review the performance of each goal. If your goal is to achieve X in 6 months, why wait 6 months to see if you are on track?

I would review each goal at least on a monthly basis. This will allow you to be proactive in determining the effectiveness of your website and enable you to make small refinements, where required, to keep your goals on track.

A major part of measuring and monitoring is to determine what data you require in order to measure the effectiveness of your website. This will be determined by your specific goals.

  • Do you simply need Google Analytics? This is a free tool which enables you to capture a broad range of statistical data about your website, such as number of visits (new and returning), visitor region, traffic sources, page views, visitor flow and so, so, so much more.
  • Do you need custom data to be stored about the actions taken on your website? And do you need reports to be produced?

Your website will have different requirements than others so make sure your web design company is able to incorporate the ability to capture the data which is relevant for you.

I also suggest that you decide, at the start, who is going to be responsible for keeping your website on track. If you do not have a person within your business who is able to learn the required skills, then you are going to have to allow for the cost of having this done for you.

This is no different than having an accountant, so if you need ongoing services, then make sure you can form a good relationship with your web design company and you can trust them.

Step 4 – Be willing to make changes and try again

This last step in having an effective small business website usually encounters some resistance.

Why should I spend all this money if it isn’t going to work

I think it is important that you are aware from the start, the first thing you do might not work.

While the previous 3 steps can guarantee some level of success, there still might be factors that were not able to be taken into account at the time you started and refinements may need to be made.

For example:

  • Your goals might change
  • Your competitors may change what they are doing
  • Your industry might change
  • Technology may change

All these things could mean that you need to make refinements to your website. I understand that small businesses do not have endless resources, I just want you to understand that an effective website is a continually evolving part of your business.

What I usually find out, is that most small business owners are wary of spending too much time and money because their website has never achieved the level of success which was intended and promised.

I also find out that very little was done by the people responsible for building the website in order to ensure the website was effective.

I think you should be cautious of any web design company which ‘guarantees results‘. While it may sound good, it is simply too unrealistic.

What I suggest is finding a web design company that is open, honest and willing to work hard, over whatever time period it takes for your small business website to reach the level of effectiveness which will achieve and surpass your goals.

After all, once you achieve your goals, it is time to set new ones anyway, and if you are willing to make changes, try new things and push forward, then your website will be an effective part of your business today and into the future.

Where do you go from here?

Now that you know the 4 steps to building an effective small business website, what should you do?

If you already have a website, start there. Perform your own website review. Write down all the goals you have, or would like to have for your current website and see how it measures up.

If you don’t have a website, review where you are with your planning and see if your plan incorporates the 4 steps.

Then in either case, I would start looking for a web design company which you can form a long term relationship with and can trust to work with you, to produce a website that is effective for your business.

I wouldn’t worry too much about cost to start off with. You can find a good web design company, that will produce an effective website, by simply looking at the questions you are asked when you talk to them.

A good web design company will ask you about things like:

  • Business goals
  • Target market and audience
  • Ideal customer profile
  • Unique selling points
  • Your competitors

A good web design company will not ask you about things like:

  • The number of pages you want
  • Whether you want a contact form
  • Anything really about the features of your website (how are you supposed to know?)

The reason a good web design company will not ask you about these things is simply because everything about how your websites looks should be dictated by your brand identity, and the goals of your website.

Remember, you are not building your website for you, it is for your customers. Your website should reflect the brand of your business, but should always be built to serve your customers.

Once you have found a few good web design companies, they will be able to produce proposals for the creation of your website, which will include the costs. At that point you can weigh up your options, make the decision which is best for your business and start building an effective small business website.

That’s IT, from me to you!

If you know someone who would get value out of this article then please share it with them and if you really like or dislike this article then please leave a comment, I would love to hear what you think. – Sandy (eleven11solutions)

Owner of eleven11solutions, Sandy has been involved with technology, software and website building since 1996. He is passionate about building software and websites which have human qualities. He is always learning, always experimenting and always helping those around him however he can. He loves being able to turn big dreams into reality by providing his technological expertise in a very human way. He strives to make human lives better…

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