I get tons of questions from my clients and friends about having a business website. Meeting new people usually goes something like “Ieva? That’s an interesting name. And you build websites? You know, I’ve been meaning to ask someone… [insert tech-related question here].” It’s what happens when you’re everyone’s go-to tech girl 😉
One of the questions I get asked most often is:
“I’m getting ready to put together my first website and I have no idea where to start. If I’m just starting out, what should my priorities be? What should my first website have?” Don’t you worry about a thing! I’m here to break it down for you.
Business Website Must-have #1: Provide clear information.
Your first website doesn’t have to have a ton of pages and expensive videos on it. You could even get away with a one-page website if your business isn’t primarily based online. Be sure to include the basics:
- Your name and business name
- A simple, clear URL – go for clarity over cleverness.
- What you do – this could be a short bio or a list of services. Be precise and show your visitor that she came to the right place.
- Clearly visible contact information – make it easy for someone to get a hold of you. Make sure it’s easy to see your:
- Email address
- Phone number – if this applies to your business
- Physical address – if you have a store or public office). You can even add a contact form, giving your visitor several different ways to reach you.
- Contact form – provide this option for people who prefer contact forms over email. It also gives you room to have people answer specific questions when reaching out to you by designing a custom form.
- Call to action – what do you want your visitor to do when they visit your site? Click here to email me. Enter your email to sign up for updates. You decide.
- Social links – where can people in your niche stay connected with you?
Business Website Must-have #2: Make it easy-to-use.
I like to stick to what I call the Five-Year-Old Rule.
It’s really simple. Ask yourself: could a 5 year old child navigate my site?
Consider this: Are your links easy to find? Are your title fonts clear and easy to read? Are you using accent colors for important buttons?
Opt for simple, clean styling instead of flashy stuff. When you’re on a budget, keep things clean and consistent. This helps elevate your brand without spending a ton of money.
Business Website Must-have #3: Make it easy to read.
Writing for the right reading level helps you connect with your audience. It is also thought to help you rank higher in search results. That’s a win-win!
I recommend you use apps like Hemmingway Editor to edit all your blog posts. It tells you the reading level of your writing and reminds you to write in layman’s terms when possible.
It even highlights complex language to help you find simpler words that have the same meaning.
Business Website Must-have #4: Help Google Find You
Here’s the deal: even if your website is the best thing ever, most people need to find it on a search engine to see it.
On top of that, a recent study shows that 64% of website traffic comes from organic searches. What does that mean?
It means that people find most of the websites they visit by searching for keywords. Think about it, when was the last time you went looking for a random recipe or tutorial? Did you type in a blog’s direct address or did you just Google it?
Even if you use paid advertising, the most effective way to get more visitors is to make sure Google knows where to find you.
Simple tips to help Google find you:
- Use the correct keywords to tag your posts and pages.
- Create strong titles and corresponding page URLs.
- Include links to other sites, and get other sites to link back to you.
- Use properly tagged images and videos – remember to tag every image and video you post!
- Make your website responsive. Responsive means a website is able to optimize its layout based on the viewer’s screen size. The website building services I recommend below all have responsive options 🙂
- Get a security certificate. These can cost as a little as a few dollars per month. Google recently announced that security is an important deciding factor in website ranking
Business Website Must-have #5: Have fast, Reliable Hosting
Hosting means you rent space on a server to give the public access to your website.
You have a few different options for getting your website online. Some services have an all-in-one package that gives you website builders and hosting.
I have tested the following all-in-one hosting + website builder services:
- Squarespace – simple responsive templates, drag and drop editing, easy HTML editing, affordable, eCommerce options.
- Shopify – editing is more complicated, robust eCommerce features, drag-and-drop plugins available. Basic monthly rate is affordable but premium plugin prices can rack up.
- SmugMug – limited drag-and-drop editing. Industry-leading image compression makes this a top choice for professional photographers.
- WordPress.com – tons of features and templates. Starts free and has super affordable add-on features. For more control and additional capabilities, you can host a WordPress site on your own server.
- Wix or Weebly – although not my favorites, these are two other options for affordable drag-and-drop builders with features similar to Squarespace.
The other option is to get your own hosting account and host your own website. Sounds complicated, but I promise it’s not.
I run my sites on my own hosting account. I love having the freedom to aggressively customize designs and integrate business plugins.
Below are hosting services I’ve used or that were recommended to me by my developer friends:
* Note: All the below have 24/7 customer support, automated Wordpress installs, and have plans that are affordable enough for your first website.
- Bluehost – I’ve used these guys for years. Excellent customer service. They have WordPress-focused packages.
- DreamHost – Fast hosting with excellent WordPress support. Heads up – most of their support is done via email or chat instead of having a direct line to call them.
- WP Engine – Hosting specifically for WordPress. Have month-to-month payment option. Their most basic package even includes a security certificate.
Do you have any other starter website questions? Let me know in the comments below!