Your small business website is one of your most important marketing tools. It’s a key brand awareness and customer acquisition tool that gives your business not only the opportunity to get found online, but to get leads and convert visitors into customers. With so many ways to build a small business website, you might be wondering which is right for you, and if it’s really feasible to build your own website.
We’ll show you how you can easily build a professional website for your business. And not just any small business website, but one that works as a marketing machine to help you get discovered online and land sales.
Here are the steps involved in building your small business website:
1. Choose a Content Management System (CMS)
Businesses have a number of options when it comes to which CMS to build a site with, from WordPress to all-in-one website builders, such as Squarespace or Wix. Which is best for your business will depend on your unique set of needs. For example, do you have any technical experience, how much time do you have to build a site, does your site require any custom elements, whether or not you want to manage the site in-house, and your budget.
There are two main camps when it comes to building a small business website: using WordPress, the world’s leading CMS, or an all-in-one site builder, such as Squarespace, which is one of the world’s easiest CMS. Generally, WordPress is for those who have web design experience and need a highly custom site, whereas businesses looking for an easy way to build a professional website will find a site builder to be the best bet.
If you have already chosen a content management system, you can click on the links below to follow more specific step-by-step instructions:
- How to build website with WordPress
- How to build a website with Squarespace
- How to build a website with Wix
- How to build a website with GoDaddy
- How to build a website with Weebly (now Square)
- How to build an online store
- How to build a real estate website
- How to set up a blog
If you are still on the fence about which CMS is right for you, you can learn more about their advantages in our complete breakdown of the best website builders.
2. Get Web Hosting (WordPress Users Only)
While WordPress is a free CMS platform to use, it does require users to purchase web hosting separately in order for their site to be available online using a custom domain (i.e., www.business.com). Web hosting is the service that makes your website publicly available on the internet.
The best web hosting companies offer affordable plans that include extras like a free domain name, a free SSL certificate, and one-click WordPress installation. However, here is a quick summary of the leading web hosting providers for small businesses:
- Bluehost: Best overall web host for beginners given its low-cost, feature-rich plans.
- DreamHost: Best web hosting company for competitively priced, month-to-month plans.
- GoDaddy: Best web host for those who want to quickly build a site using a drag-and-drop editor.
- InMotion: Best web hosting company for fast site speed and top-rated support.
You can save time and money by choosing a low-cost web hosting plan that includes a free domain and one-click WordPress installation, such as a Bluehost plan for as little as $2.95 per month.
3. Get a Domain Name
The next step is to choose a domain name, which is the address of your website, such as www.yourbusiness.com. Domain names cost around $12 to $15 per year using domain name registrars such as GoDaddy or Google Domains, but businesses will often get a free domain through their web hosting plan or site builder plan, so it’s worth choosing a hosting plan that includes a free domain or checking if your website builder includes one for free.
Here are the best ways to get a domain name:
- Domain name registrars: If you only need a domain name, you can purchase one directly from domain registrars such as GoDaddy or Google Domains for around $12 per year.
- Web hosting providers: If you’re planning to use WordPress, then your best bet is to get a free domain through a web hosting plan, such as with Bluehost or DreamHost.
- All-in-one site builders: If you want the easiest way to build a professional website, use a site builder, such as Squarespace, which offers a free domain with annual plans.
You will also need to check to see if your desired domain name is available:
Keep in mind that you will likely be eligible for a free domain name through a provider you will need to use for your site. For example, if you’re planning to build your site with WordPress, then you will need a web hosting plan—many of which come with a free domain name. Or, if you’re planning to use a site builder, such as Squarespace, plans come with a free domain name. Learn more about the best ways to get a domain name.
4. Identify Your End Goal
Websites are marketing tools for business, though they are not all created equally and some are more effective marketing tools than others. Design your site to serve your business as a marketing tool that generates awareness, incites interest, and drives sales in a number of ways, such as a value proposition, using live chat as a sales or customer service tool, embedding reviews, and using widely known and highly trusted integrations to drive sales.
Here are nine marketing elements and tools to use for your business website:
- Include a value proposition or offer, such as a free demo or consultation.
- Build custom landing pages for all paid digital ads, such as Google Ads.
- Use call-to-action buttons to drive specific actions.
- Utilize custom lead capture forms to generate leads and build your contact list.
- Add live chat to provide immediate sales and customer service assistance.
- Use analytics and data insights tools (e.g., heat maps and user video recording tools) to get more information about your site visitors and how they interact with your site.
- Embed reviews or testimonials from third-party platforms (e.g., Yelp, Google, or Trustpilot) to gain social proof.
- Link to social media accounts to increase following and to build a community.
- Use well-known, trusted, industry-specific integrations to increase sales (e.g., OpenTable for the foodservice industry or MindBody for the fitness industry).
Plan to approach your web design as an ongoing process that will enable you to optimize your site and make it a more effective marketing tool. One way to help ensure your small business website works as a marketing tool is to identify a clear goal as to what you are looking to ultimately achieve with your website. These days, websites serve as advanced marketing tools and having an end goal will set the stage for creating a path to reaching that goal.
Check out these website examples by site goal:
- Drive Awareness
In a business website’s simplest form, it’s used to drive awareness and serve as an informational tool. This website from Kanona Cafe is an example of a simple and effective site that is SEO-optimized to rank highly in search and give visitors more insight into what the cafe offers by providing its menu and location.
- Generate Leads
A business website can be a powerful lead generation tool, which helps businesses foster leads through strategies such as sales and email marketing campaigns—and in return, increasing sales. The Freshmarketer website provides a good example of how a business can generate leads through offers, such as a free trial or demo, that require visitors to submit basic information such as their name and email address.
- Drive Phone Calls
For businesses where phone calls are king, building a website that drives phone calls is key. For example, this auto detailing business, 5 Point Auto Spa, includes a front-and-center “Talk to a Rep” button on its home screen. A “click-to-call” button gives visitors a way to easily dial your business’ number with one click. Businesses can take website-generated calls a step further with call tracking tools, such as RingCentral, which provides call data, analytics, and recording.
- Book Appointments
Service-based businesses, such as LA Orthopedic Sports Massage, use its website as a sales tool where site visitors are able to book an appointment directly through the site. Beyond enabling people to take their time choosing a date and time that works for their schedule, it also opens the door to accept booking outside of business hours. By making it easy to book appointments, visitors are more likely to become a client or make repeat bookings.
- Increase Online Sales
Prose, a customizable hair care company, takes its online store a step beyond by incorporating a quiz. The quiz asks visitors a series of simple questions and provides them with the products that are right for them based on their unique needs and hair type. Though simple, it makes it easy for visitors to find the products that are right for them while also having them invest time into the brand—further increasing the likelihood that visitors will convert and become customers.
- Drive Offline Sales
This New York City-based restaurant is looking to use its site to generate awareness and increase sales. To do this, it creates a site that is designed to get found online (awareness) and uses Caviar to accept online orders for delivery to drive offline sales. This is only one of the many ways a business, such as a restaurant, can utilize its site as a source for generating offline sales. For example, OpenTable for reservations and Grubhub and DoorDash for online orders.
5. Choose a Template (or Theme)
No matter which CMS you’re using, you should choose a prebuilt template or theme before you begin building out your pages. This will not only make the web design process a lot easier, but your website will look professional regardless of whether or not you have web design experience. Most of the popular site builder platforms include libraries of free templates or themes, and some even allow you to upload your own.
Sites built with WordPress have the largest number of themes available—and there’s just about every theme imaginable. So whether you’re setting up a website for a physical therapy practice or a user-generated directory like Yelp, there’s a theme for you. To help you get started, check out the 25 best WordPress themes for business.
6. Customize Your Site & Build Web Pages
Next, make your site your own by customizing the template you choose. While the way in which you will design your site will depend on which CMS you chose, structurally, business websites contain the same basic elements. This includes a homepage, site navigation, products or services pages, and a contact page. No matter what you’re going for in terms of design, it’s important to get these right, as they are the foundation of a business website.
- Home Page
A homepage is the main web page of a site. It is often a business’ chance at a first impression as it welcomes site visitors with enough information to indicate what a business is, along with a way to navigate to pages of their interest. Homepages typically follow a similar layout, which includes the business’ name and logo, navigation to primary web pages, a main image (aka hero), a headline, basic information, and a call to action.Make sure that you give visitors a way to easily achieve the goal of your site (e.g., make a reservation or an appointment) without having to scroll down on the page or navigate to other pages.
- Site Navigation
Navigation is simply how visitors get around your site. It should be simple, intuitive, and make it easy for visitors to find the information they are looking for without bombarding them with an overload of information. Instead, it breaks out a website by topic clusters, so that visitors have primary options to choose from that will guide them to more specific information as they click through the navigation.If you’re not sure how to organize your navigation, visit your competitors’ sites to see how others build their navigation for ideas on how to best serve your site visitors.
No matter what type of industry you’re in, your site needs to tell visitors what your business offers, whether that’s a clothing line, consulting services, or food. When building your products or services page, consider your sales funnel and the goal of your site. For example, a high-end wine storage business may be looking to use their site to generate leads for their sales to foster, whereas a local ice cream shop would be looking to drive in-store visits with an enticing menu.
- Contact Page
Websites must include a way for visitors to get in touch, and the most common way to do this is through a contact form. While contact forms are fairly simple, there are a few things to keep in mind when building yours in order to generate quality leads. This includes everything from the number of fields to use, to building custom forms that serve a certain purpose or alternative methods, to answering visitor’s questions.If you are building a contact form in WordPress, easily create custom, high-quality forms with a contact form plugin, such as WPForms. Learn more about the best WordPress contact form plugins.
7. Review & Launch Your Small Business Website
Once you’ve finished building out all web pages and your site design, review your site. Double-check for any typos, test that your site is responsive and mobile-friendly, and that you don’t have any mistakes such as a broken link. After reviewing your site, launch it through the platform you built it on by clicking “Publish.”
Not sure if your website is ready to be released to the world? Use our free prelaunch checklist below to make sure your site has everything a small business website should have.
Websites are a vital component of marketing and running a successful business. Thanks to the platforms and tools available, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to build and maintain a small business website in-house.
- Create a good user experience by following these UX web design principles.
- Promote your site with these website marketing strategies.
- Get found in search faster by submitting your URL to Google.
- You can also read more in-depth information about many of the companies mentioned in this article in our web hosting review pages.
Take the next step and start building your small business website. To make the process easy, follow along with a step-by-step video tutorial below.