A recent study by GoDaddy found that 59 percent of very small businesses (five or fewer employees) operate without a website. Yet this number is going to change very soon; over half of them report plans to launch a website in the next two years.
Some of Davinci’s customers find themselves in this category. You started a business and have been so busy growing it that you haven’t had time to build and launch a website. Others have a website, but you feel it needs improvement—that you can get better results than what you’re currently achieving.
The following are 10 things a small business needs to consider when launching—or enhancing—a website.
1. DIY or DIFM
The first decision a small business needs to make is whether to take a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach or a Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) approach. There are a number of relatively inexpensive out-of-the-box cloud solutions that make it relatively easy for those who want to go the route of DIY to build and manage a basic website (see below for more details). The downside with these is that they limit customization and scale and moreover create vendor-lock since their solutions are built on proprietary technologies.
A DIFM approach is typically more expensive and entails finding and vetting a professional website service. For small business owners who don’t operate in the tech world, available options and how to evaluate them may be outside of their capabilities. As a result, assuming the right DIFM provider is selected, the worry, time, and cost of managing a website is offloaded to a trusted third party.
2. Website Platform
Even in instances where a DIFM approach is taken, selection of the website platform is important. Small businesses want to ensure that they can easily and quickly bring management of the website in-house if they elect to do so.
For the DIY crowd, there are a number of different DIY website builders. You should evaluate them carefully before selecting one. They are built on proprietary platforms, and it is difficult to back out of one once you have launched a website. Make sure to compile a list of your requirements such as e-commerce capabilities, mobile features, support, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and lead generation as part of the evaluation process.
3. Add Your Website URL to Search Indices
An important step that every DIY website must remember is to list the URL with the search engines. Google makes it easy. You simply go to their webpage for URL submitting, type your URL, and enter a code to verify you are not a robot. Google also allows businesses to submit their URLs through their Webmaster tools.
Yahoo search has been powered by Microsoft’s Bing since 2010. As a result, a submission to Bing results in a Yahoo listing as well. For Bing, you need to get a Bing login and go to the Webmaster Toolkit. In addition to submitting your homepage URL, you also need to provide a URL for the .xml version of your sitemap. This latter process is a little trickier, as you must add a small snippet of code to the header of your site to pass the verification process. Once verification occurs, you are finished.
Ask disabled URL sitemap registration, as it crawl websites only. Hence, no registration on Ask is required.
4. Website Performance
The speed of a website is an important factor when it comes to visitor “stickiness” as well as SEO ranking. There are a number of issues that impact the performance of pages: page size, server response time, number of redirects, uncompressed resources, uncompressed images, uncached resources, unminified resources, render-blocking, among others. Small businesses can tap various free tools to check the speed of their Google Page Speed Insights, GtMetrix, and Link-Assistant’s Website Auditor.
5. SEO Optimization
Books have been written on this subject, and not everything can be said on this subject in the constraints of a blog post. A recent blog post in Website Magazine pinpoints a list of on-page and off-page SEO optimization considerations. On-page factors include:
Content: Quality is important and should come first. Understanding your audience is critical and including keywords that are important to visitors needs to occur every 300 to 400 words. Further, do not cloak content with hidden text and keywords. The search engines have figured out this trick and penalize websites when they do so.
Site Architecture: Create descriptive URLs that describe the content on the page, make sure the page loads quickly (see above), check the sitemap to ensure every page is included, and use Canonical URLs to let search engines know which version of the page you want to rank in the search.
HTML: Make sure relevant keywords appear in meta titles, descriptions, headings, subheadings, and Alt tags.
Internal Linking: Linking different pages—including blog posts—to each other on a website aids in navigation and stickiness as well as SEO optimization.
Schema Structured Data Markup: Schema contains tags or microdata that can be added to a website’s HTML to enhance how the page is viewed and catalogued by search engines. For more information on how to use schema tags check out schema.org.
Off-page factors to consider include:
External Linking: Something many don’t realize is that external linking is the biggest contributor to SEO rankings outside of technical SEO optimization. These should be natural, authoritative links from related websites. To get these, small businesses need to reach out to third-party sites and blogs to solicit guest posts and other collaborative sharing activities.
Social Media: A well-thought social media strategy builds an off-site social audience but also drives traffic back to a company’s website. An important reminder here: images used in blog posts can be reused in social posts.
(Check out “23 Mistakes That Kill Search Traffic and Conversions” for a list of things to avoid doing on your website.)
Getting the Right Foundation in Place
In our next blog post, we will complete the list of “10 Things Small Businesses Need to Consider When Building a Website.” Getting the right foundation in place is a critical starting point. The five things listed in this post are pivotal undertakings small businesses must ensure are checked off before they began deciding what engagement models to use on their websites. Five of these areas of engagement will be examined in the second part of this blog series:
- Live Web Chat
- Lead Generation
At Davinci, we believe a great website includes a multi-channel engagement strategy. Join the thousands of small businesses that rely on our Live Receptionist and Live Web Chat services by contacting us today. You can chat with us, email us, or call us at 1-888-863-3423.