Starting a website for your product, service or idea can be an overwhelming feat. Where do you start!? How much is this going to cost? <- Those are typically the first two big questions that come to mind. Often, people get so daunted by those two questions alone they don't see the bigger picture and can miss some of these important steps you need to know to create a website.
Designing the actual website may seem like the only thing you have to do, but there's a whole lot more that goes into creating a website. Here's your need-to-know list:
- You don't have to spend a ton of money. Not only do you not have to spend a ton of money, you can probably handle creating a website yourself. Personally, I'm a huge fan of SquareSpace. (That's what this website is built on.) It's a great platform for small businesses just starting out- it's affordable and easy to use and the support team is very accessible if any questions come up.
- Know your business and your brand Know what your business is going to be about. Do you have any brand guidelines created? No? Try to create some general ones- it will make the website process a lot quicker. You won't be going back and forth deciding what colors, fonts, tone, etc. you prefer- you'll already have that figured out. It may seem like a silly step, but it will save you time in the end.
- Find your domain name. Use a service like Go-Daddy (or if you're using SquareSpace you can buy your domain right through them) to purchase your desired URL. There's a couple of things to thing about. First grab your brand guidelines. Second think about some of these factors:
- What will rank well for SEO? For example, while my URL is just my name, having the words "marketing consultant" somewhere in my URL wouldn't be a bad idea for SEO purposes. Are there any keyword phrases for your business you can include in your URL?
- You don't need just one URL. What?! Well you need one main URL that you will put on your business cards, etc. etc. But you can get different variations of a URL and all have them point to your main website. For example, if your business name is The Shoe Company, you may want to buy the URLS for shoeco.com, theshoeco.com, theshoecompany.com, etc. They can all still point to the same website. Don't forget about .net, .io, etc.
- Is this URL memorable? Chances are you're going to be telling people about your business. In some conversations it's awkward to pull out your business card. It may be less awkward to drop a, "yeah check out my site when you get a chance [www.entersitename.com]."
- Is this URL relevant? Don't just consider all of the above. Remember it should somehow connect to your brand and your business. Don't sell shoes and have the URL www.jacketsforyou.com.
- Are these names available on social? Do you know what social channels you will promote your business on? If not, no worries, try to claim all the main social channels. Is your business/domain name available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+? If not, is there a variation that's available on all? It is very hard to claim your ideal business name from accounts that are already using that name, I would opt not going that route.
- Start designing your website. Remember those brand guidelines we talked about earlier? Yeah those are going to come in handy here. Design your website inline with your brand guidelines, but also, continuously ask yourself the following:
- What's the objective of every page?
- Is the site easy to navigate?
- Are there calls-to-action throughout my website?
- Do I clearly and simply explain what my product or service is about?
- Do I offer up social proof/testimonials as to why my product or service is exceptional?
- On my home page, is the most important information above the fold?
- Do I have enough visual elements?
- Do I have a video? Can I get one?
- Is every page optimized for SEO?
- Create content. While you are designing your website, I would suggest to start creating content simultaneously. When you launch your website you can back date blog posts. It's not a bad idea to have a good source of content when you launch your website. That way people can see you provide value.
- Think to the future of content. The best thing you can do for SEO for your website is get links back to your site from website with high authority. Start building out a guest blogging and cross-promotional content strategy with partners, vendors, etc. Anyone with a high ranking website that can be connected to your business some how. In addition to thinking about getting links to your website, also stay organized with producing your own high quality content. Make sure you have an editorial calendar created.
- Install Google Analytics. Make sure you have a tool in place to start tracking site traffic and start analyzing how people interact with your page.
- Launch your site! I would suggest doing a "soft" launch first. Send your site to family and friends tell them to take a look and point out any typos, errors, confusing areas, etc. Once you've got those cleaned up you're ready to launch. Launch your site on your social channels, to your contacts, etc. If you have the capacity to do so, you can also create a PR strategy in which you send your new website/business plans to relevant journalists.
Remember, creating and launching your website is just the beginning! You'll never be done improving upon your website. Not to mention these 9 steps are a very high level overview. I would suggest taking time to asses each one of these 9 steps.