This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
You’ve gone through the initial stages of starting a business, from writing a business plan to getting licenses and permits. Now you’re ready to get online with your own business website. Digitally savvy consumers expect that they can interact with your business on their own terms, any time, and anywhere. And one key channel that customers can use to contact you, transact with you, and learn about your business is your website. Customers often research businesses online before visiting, and your website is an opportunity to create own your narrative.
Here are eight steps that can help you build out your business website:
1. Register your domain.
If you don’t have a website, you need to purchase your domain. Some website building platforms allow you to claim a free domain, or you can use a separate domain registrar. Your domain could be your business name if it’s available, or something that fits your brand, products, or services.
A good domain name should be short and easy to share. Avoid using numbers, hyphens, underscores, and symbols that are difficult to remember. Connect the domain name to your business. If your business name isn’t available, consider an alternate domain extension, like .info, .nyc, or .pizza. You could also include the name of your town or neighborhood in your domain. Also, be sure to check search engines and consult with your legal counsel to ensure that you don’t run into trouble by choosing a domain name that may be confusingly similar to another business’s brand.
2. Pick a website style.
There is a wide range of approaches for business websites, from DIY self-hosted services like WordPress to eCommerce platforms that allow you to build a website with no coding or programming knowledge required. However, it’s important to choose a platform that is easy to use and grows your business without ballooning costs.
For example, to create a self-hosted site, you would need to buy web hosting (space to store your website files) from a web-hosting provider and then set up your preferred website-building tool or content management system. While this may give you flexibility, the downside is that there’s often a steep learning curve and some of the essential eCommerce features your business needs, such as payments and social media integration, are not included in most self-hosted website software out of the box. So, you may need to invest a considerable amount of time to make it work for your business.
Square Online helps you grow your business with a professional, beautiful website, without any of the complexities associated with self-hosted websites or content management systems. The easy-to-use online store builder allows you to sell online, offer curbside pickup or local delivery, and sell through Facebook, Instagram, and more. And it integrates with your point-of-sale system to keep online and in-person orders, items, and inventory in sync, all in one place. Plus, you have several website styles to choose from — ou can add logos, customize colors and fonts to suit your brand, and so much more.
Here are some examples of successful business websites, with a few key takeaways:
- Put your product front and center.
- Show your product in action.
- Make shopping or booking an appointment simple.
- Tell your story.
- Think through the online customer experience.
- Make effective use of white space.
- Don’t be afraid to use color.
- Let your design speak for your brand.
- Use design to showcase the lifestyle of your target consumer.
- Stick to your message.
3. Build out your website pages.
Different types of businesses call for their own types of content and information for their websites, but here are some essentials to get you started:
- Homepage: Make it clear who you are, what you sell, and what makes your business stand out.
- Menu/store/offerings/appointments: Give customers and clients a clear way to engage with your business, whether that’s a list of menu items, an online store,, a breakdown of your professional service offerings, or appointment times and prices at your salon.
- About page: Use this page to tell the story and mission of your business.
- Contact: Show customers where your business is located, along with your hours of operation, email address, phone number, social media accounts, and any other relevant information for getting in touch.
- Blog: Keeping your website fresh is a key component to building authority on search engines. Consider a page for updates and relevant content about your business, industry, or community.
- Press and reviews: Highlight what customers and the media have said about your business.
- FAQ: Give customers a simple way to learn key information about your business in one place.
4. Connect your POS.
Customers and clients want to have an easy way to engage with your business on the terms that work best for them.
Using Square Online for your website gives you the ability to keep your online and in-person orders, items, and inventory in sync with your point-of-sale system, offer order-ahead options at a restaurant, and easily manage appointments for your services.
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5. Implement some SEO (search engine optimization).
For small businesses, ranking in search not only helps customers find you, but it can also increase your credibility with them. You can find a full SEO guide for small businesses here, with tips including:
- Pick a short and memorable domain name.
- Do some keyword research. What search terms do you want your website to appear in from search results? How competitive will it be to rank for those searches? You can find a lot of useful information directly on search results pages or by exploring free keyword tools.
- Create descriptive URLs related to your page content which will help you with link-building and social sharing.
- Create a custom title tag for every single page and post, and include one keyword that is relevant to the content on the page in your title tag.
- Write meta descriptions — short pieces of text that summarize the content of your page — that are compelling and include relevant keywords and important terms like brand names.
- Take advantage of an internal linking strategy to build authority and to create easy site navigation.
- Set up and optimize your Google My Business listing. Square has partnered with Google to simplify linking your profile to your online store.
6. Create a content plan.
Having a content-rich site with a blog is one of the most effective techniques in attracting an engaged audience online and ranking well on search results. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Post fresh, engaging content regularly — 40- to 500-word blog posts three to five times a week.
- Figure out the most relevant topics for your present and prospective customers. Talk to people in your place of business and observe what social media platforms your customers are using — then look at what’s trending.
- Think of the questions people are typing into search engines that are relevant to your business and create content targeting the answers.
7. Promote your website.
Once your business website is up and running, let people know about it. Post on your social media accounts and consider running a promotion for the first wave of customers who make an online order. You can also use your customer directory to craft an email newsletter with your update.
And don’t forget about word-of-mouth marketing. As you engage with customers and clients in person, let them know about your website and what it has to offer. Consider putting up a sign at your business with the URL for your website or QR codes that take consumers directly to your page. You can find more ways to increase orders through your website here.
8. Track your website metrics.
Just like you use your internal dashboard to track the success of your products and services, you’ll want to use an analytics tool to check in on the health of your website. How much traffic is your website driving? How much of it is coming from search? What are your most popular and least popular pages? What is your top competition?
Square Online has a reports page that can help you answer these questions as you look to grow your web presence.
Business Website FAQs
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about creating a small business website.
Is it difficult to create a business website?
No, not anymore. In the past, you needed to have programming knowledge to build even a simple website. But today, you can easily create a website without knowing how to code. With Square Online, for example, you can set up a mobile-ready eCommerce site in minutes. All you need to do is choose a website style that fits your brand and modify it to suit your business.
How much does it cost to make a website for a small business?
The cost of creating a small business website varies greatly depending on the website platform, type of website, complexity, and more. For example, Square Online plans range from free to $79 per month. With all plans you get a website builder, free domain, and web-hosting services. However, hiring a web designer or agency to build a custom website could cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. And you may still pay monthly maintenance and management fees. So, it’s important to choose a solution that fits within your budget and grows with your business.
How can I create a website for my business for free?
You can create a website for your business for free with Square Online. To get started, simply create a free account or sign up for Square. Once you’ve signed up (or if you already have an account), log in to your Square Dashboard, then go to eCommerce > Online. Select start for free, then choose whether you want to set up a single online ordering page or a multi-page website. Here’s a full guide on how to set up a free online store from your Square Account.
Do I need a business license to operate a website?
No, you do not need a business license to create or operate a website, but you may need one to run your business. It is important to obtain all permits and the licenses you need to sell to customers, whether in person or online. For example, if you intend to sell liquor, you will need to obtain a liquor license. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides detailed guides and resources to help you find licenses applicable to your business.