There was a time, and not so long ago, that some pundits used to say that you do not need a website to start a business. Maybe that is still true but if you set yourself up as a consultant, coach or content creator you need some form of on-line presence. Facebook, LinkedIn etc. may get you where your want to be, but as I mentioned last week you do not “own” your Facebook page, Meta, Facebooks parent company can take you offline at any time, or change their algorithms so you no longer appear in searches. Incidentally I am not a Facebook user, yes I know I should have a business Facebook page but that is not high on my priorities. Not being a Facebook user I get frustrated when I click on say a restaurant’s “website” link and get taken their Facebook page. I often get presented with the message “Sign in for more information” which of course I cannot do. Not a great user experience. There are a massive 1.7 billion Facebook users, but that leaves some 6 billion people who do not have a Facebook account.
To build your business you need to be in control of your online presence which means have your own website and building your own e-mail list. I talked about building your email list in episodes 5 to 8 of this season.
Your website is your online presence, It allows your business to be available anytime and from anywhere in the world. Eventually you want your website to be a tool to increase your revenue; but caution is needed people are not stupid and if they detect a sales pitch before you have built their trust they will quickly move on. Build your community with valuable content before attempting a sales pitch.
Let’s start planning your website.
Define your site’s purpose and strategy
It sounds like such a simple point to make, but before you jump head-first into designing your website, you first need to be clear on its purpose.
Beyond simply knowing your industry and defining a content strategy, you need to think about what your USP (unique selling point) is, and how you want to come across. Your website’s design is directly linked to your brand, and it needs to come across as authentic and engaging.
By understanding what you aim to achieve you can plan the elements of your website that will enable you to achieve that goal. Some goals you might set yourself could include:
- Increase your traffic and build leads. This should incorporate your email marketing strategy. Providing valuable content as lead magnet is a great way to build your credibility.
- Establish thought leadership. Dorie Clark a successful consultant, author and professor at Duke University’s business school advocates becoming a recognized expert in your field. She has a self-assessment tool kit which provides useful pointers on how to get started. To access the kit Ctrl & Click here.
- To establish your business’s persona. Your purpose in launching your business. Punit Renjen Global CEO of Deloitte, leading auditing and consulting firm puts it this way. “An organization’s ‘culture of purpose’ answers the critical questions of who it is and why it exists. They have a culture of purpose beyond making a profit.”
- Other ideas for your website could include improving user satisfaction and increasing direct sales from your site.
Having decided on your site’s purpose you should select a suitable Domain Name. Forbes.com suggest the following tips, I have added some thoughts of my own.
• Make it easy to spell. Try not to use slang, made up, or extremely esoteric words.
• Keep it as short as possible. The shorter it is, the easier it is to remember and type correctly. A combination of two words can work well. Think Facebook, Dropbox
• Use the proper domain extension. Try to always make it a .com domain name if you can get it. A lot of .com names have been taken and its not always possible to find a suitable .com address. It may be possible to buy a .com address from the current owner but you may find the price is outside your budget. When I launched my consulting website, my objective was to help foreign firms, particularly those from the UK to expand their business into Asia. My rationale was that Brexit, the UK leaving the European Union would prompt British firms to look for new markets. I felt business-in-asia.com would be an ideal name. However, that had been taken so I settled for the .org extension. Covid put those plans on hold. Of course for The Geriatric Entrepreneur I was able to get the .com extension.
• Avoid numbers and hyphens. They are hard to remember and less elegant and memorable than word-only domain names, and may be misunderstood when vocalizing the domain name. I am sure this is sound advice but although my website is business-in-asia.org if you type the name into Google without the hyphens you will find the site. Similarly if although thegeriatricenterpreneur.com is a single word typing in the name as three separate words will still find my site.
• Make the address broad to facilitate future growth. For example, Amazon.com is a much broader website address than BooksOnline.com and allows Amazon to sell pretty much every type of consumer good instead of books only, as was its original purpose.
• Ensure it is memorable. With so many websites on the internet, it is important that your website name is catchy so people will remember how to access it in the future. There is a test known as the radio show test, if people hear your website name can they find it on the internet.
• Research the domain name. Google it to see if a similar website address already exists online. If you planning on using WordPress you can type in your proposed name or theme and WordPress will give you a list of possible domains with their pricing. The prices are reasonable usually around US$20 per year.
• Avoid nonsensical names. Choose a name that conveys a meaning so that users will know immediately what your business is. Yahoo and Google are catchy names, but they were very expensive to brand, and your small business may not have the same budget.
• Create an SEO-friendly URL. When appropriate, try to come up with an SEO-friendly website address that includes keywords and geo-location; for example www.lasvegaselectrian.com
You have defined your purpose, obtained your domain name, it’s time to start planning your website. If you are going to build your own website there in not too much harm in diving straight in and getting creative. The enthusiasm generated by seeing your site come to life is highly motivating. But do not go too far before you start thinking about the structure of your site and journey you want visitors to experience when they access your site.
A good way to start is to look at your potential competitors’ sites. An easy way to start is to search the keywords that you would expect people to use when they are looking for your products or services.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ websites. What do you like? What do you dislike? Are there consistent themes across the websites that could be considered an industry standard.
Avoid the trap of researching sites in an adjacent space that may not be relevant to your business. For example, in the field of consulting there are companies that focus on selling to major corporations such as Accenture and Deloitte. And there are consultants that work in the SME space.
- Take control of your social media presence. Certainly. use social media channels but protect yourself by developing a website that you own and you control.
- You need to be clear on its your website’s purpose. Beyond simply knowing your industry and defining a content strategy, you need to think about what your USP (unique selling point) is, and how you want to come across. Your website’s design is directly linked to your brand, and it needs to come across as authentic and engaging.
- Research and acquire a suitable domain name. If you can get it use .com extension. Make it relevant to your objective, easy to remember and not restrictive – Amazon vs Booksonline.
- Visit your competitors’ websites, analyse their strengths and weaknesses. What is their USP? What can you do better?