Getting online is advantageous to any business, regardless of industry or size. From an independent shop selling unique products to a small plumbing firm, having a website has become pivotal for businesses with both products and services to offer.
It’s now normal for consumers to head over to a search engine to find products, services, and information on businesses such as opening hours and locations, with many typing in business names directly into the search bar. And, according to Google, 94% of UK internet users search online when trying to find local businesses1. What if they can’t find you? Not only could you be missing out on valuable leads, but if your competitors are online, potential customers could head to their websites instead. Just as importantly, having a website and professional email address makes your business more trustworthy and credible, with research showing that 89% of consumers trust businesses that have a website2.
When you’re visible online, you can show everyone the amazing comments your customers say to you in real time, and easily tell all your loyal customers about a new product which has just hit your shelves. A website allows you to do just this, alongside other online platforms like social media and email marketing, making sharing information and communicating with your customers something you can easily do whenever you want to. No more waiting for customers to come into your shop or sending out leaflets with information on your services.
Gaining credibility and communicating with your customers are just a couple of examples of how having a website can benefit your business, you can find a full list by downloading our guide here. And all those myths you’ve heard? That getting online is technical, expensive and will just take too much time, while they sound daunting and scary are normally over exaggerated. In fact, the online world isn’t half as intimidating as it might seem at first.
Now we’ve briefly looked at some reasons why getting a website should be at the top of your to-do list, here’s a 7-step action plan to help you get the ball rolling. If you’d like more advice on each of these steps, download our guide where you’ll find everything you need in one place.
1. Choose a domain name
Domain names are the string of characters that are used to identify websites online, think google.co.uk or theukdomain.uk. It’s a good idea to think of ideas for your domain name and check if they’re available at the same time using a search tool like this one. Your domain name needs to match your business’ name or be closely related to your products or services, without restricting future development of your business by including a particular product or service in your domain.
Registrars are online retailers that sell domains and there are many to choose from. Each registrar will offer different packages, prices and services, so it’s worth investing some time researching what each offers before choosing one.
Think about whether an email address is included in the package, how much storage space you need and check how much your domain will cost annually as many registrars offer special discounts for the first year. It’s also worth reading some reviews on the registrar to see what their current customers say about their prices, services, and customer care.
Before you get stuck in making your site, set aside some time to plan how you want to use a website and what purpose it needs to serve. Think about what your goals are; for example, perhaps you want to drive footfall to your store, spread brand awareness, or even start generating some extra revenue from online sales.
Keeping your goal in mind will help you decide which website design is best suited to your needs. Remember, a website doesn’t have to have e-commerce functionality for it be effective. There are plenty of other options available, such as a traditional brochure website showing customers what your business does, what you offer, and how they can get in touch or visit.
The next step is to choose how you’re going to build your website, and again there are lots of options available depending on your level of expertise, time and budget. Although it sounds complicated and pretty scary, lots of website builders are designed with beginners in mind and offer a simple ‘drag and drop’ functionality.
A few options to consider are:
This is one of the most exciting parts of getting your business online, and if you’ve opted to build it yourself, it’s a great chance to get creative! There are a number of must-have details on your website, including your business name and logo, contact details and location, and a clear headline on what your business is all about and what you offer your customers. Find a full list of all the elements you need to include in our guide here.
Before your launch your website, make sure you’ve tested it across all the major search browsers and mobile devices. It’s also a good idea to get used to putting aside some time regularly to update your website, whether that’s the content within the site or the system behind it.
Once your website is live it’s time to start attracting customers to the site. There’s lots of online activity that you can engage in to help increase your online traffic. Social media is one great tool to raise help brand awareness and it also gives you an excellent opportunity to connect and talk to consumers directly. With 84% of UK adults currently using social media platforms, they’re also a good place to promote your website via links, blogs, and paid promotions.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another key factor to increasing web traffic and is the practice of optimising a website to appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPS). Although it sounds complicated, there are some easy steps that all new website owners can take to help improve their SEO.
Despite talk surrounding whether email marketing is still effective, with the average return on investment for email marketing being way above other marketing channels including social media and paid search, it’s clearly still an effective marketing channel. Communicating with your customers by directly emailing them is a great way to share quality content and news about your business and products/services with an engaged audience who want to hear from you.
Finally, your website can provide you with a host of interesting and valuable data about your customers online through free analytic tools and programmes. You’ll be able to see how many people are visiting your website, how long they’re spending on there, what age and gender they are, and the most popular pages. You’ll also be able to see the demographics and behaviour of your social media fans too, including lifestyle, education, and past purchase behaviour. Plus, the longer your website and social channels are live, the more data you’ll be able to see and utilise.
Being online will open a whole host of new opportunities for your business, including reaching new customers, distinguishing your business effectively from your competitors, and gaining new business. That’s why we’ve created a great guide that explains all the reasons why being online will work for your business, dispels the common myths that make the online environment appear intimidating, and provides essential, straightforward, advice throughout. Download your free copy of the guide here.