If you are starting a new business your website will almost certainly be at the heart of your marketing efforts. When setting up your website there are many important decisions to make and many pitfalls to avoid. The following tips will help you launch a website that really works for your business.
1.) Choose the right domain name
Your choice of domain name is as important as your business name as it will become your identity on the web. Your domain name should be short, memorable and easy to type. Make sure you research your domain to avoid using something that is trademarked or copyrighted by another company. Try to incorporate keywords into your domain so it makes sense to your customers and more relevant to search engines. It can be difficult to get the exact domain you want using the classic extensions .com and .co.uk because they have been around so long, so be aware of the new domain name extensions available such as .media, .photography and .business. You may want to consider buying alternative versions of your preferred domain to help protect your business identity.
2.) Choose good quality hosting
There are many options available when it comes to choosing hosting for your website at a range of price points. Before selecting a hosting package consider what kind of website you are building. An online shop will require more server resources and software options than a small, static website. If you expect your website size and traffic volume to increase over time you need to make sure your hosting package will allow for this so you don’t incur additional charges.
3.) Speed matters
Page load time is simply the amount of time it takes for your webpage to fully display, and is particularly relevant for mobile users. With 40% of web users stating that they will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, a slow website can be disastrous for conversion rates and sales. Since 2010 Google has used page speed as a ranking factor, so a lightning fast website could give you the edge over your competitors in search results.
4.) Optimise for mobile users
80% of internet users own a smartphone, and 48% of internet searches are performed on one, so it is critical that your website caters for all devices and screen sizes. Failure to optimise your website for mobile users will see your potential customers heading to competitors with better performing websites.
5.) Have a clear goal and strong message
Your website is the equivalent of your online shop window. Visitors should be able to understand exactly who you are, and what you do as soon as they arrive at your website. Use a strong call to action to make it obvious what you want visitors to do when they hit your homepage, whether that be call a number, request a quote or subscribe to your blog, there should be no ambiguity. Do not allow visitors’ attention to wander by distracting them with unnecessary design elements that do not serve your main objective.
6.) Content is King
The most important part of converting visitors into customers is your content. Before you write content for your website research relevant keywords, to ensure you target what people are actually searching for not just what you think they are. It is a good idea to create a Google Adwords account even of you do not intend to advertise, as they offer an excellent free keyword planner tool which shows search terms and volumes. Incorporate the most relevant keywords and phrases as well as synonyms in to clear and concise website copy that instantly informs visitors of your value to them and helps you rank higher in search engines. Be sure to thoroughly audit all your content before you launch to avoid placeholder text or images being shown to your visitors.
7.) Prove your credibility
When you first start, it is likely that you will be competing with more established brands offering a similar product or service. Credibility and trust are key to encouraging visitors to buy from you over a competitor. You have only a few seconds to convince new visitors of your credibility so ensure all elements of your website design and content are appropriate for your industry and clients. If you have existing customers, ask them for a testimonial or review on independent sites such as Google or Trustpilot, and incorporate these into your website. If your business has received any press coverage, advertise this fact on your homepage as another indication of credibility.
8.) Use simple navigation and a clear hierarchy
Do not allow the design of your website to overshadow its usability. The navigation should be clearly labelled and obvious to visitors. Confusing visitors is a quick way to make them leave your website and head to a competitor. Plan a site hierarchy and group related pages together in sections. Sub-navigation menus can be useful to allow people to explore similar pages with fewer clicks. If your site is large or complex, breadcrumb navigation is an excellent way of indicating exactly where visitors are, and offer an easy way to return to a previous section. Adding links to other sections of the website within your content to make it easy for people to find related content, helps to establish an information hierarchy and encourages search engines to crawl deeper into your and spread the ranking power across different pages.
9.) Make good use of social media
Don’t hide links to your social media sites on your ‘contact us’ page. Add links to all your pages to make it easier for people to like and share your content. Increasing your visibility on social media will direct more traffic to your website in the long run. When you publish new content share it with the world via social media and link back to your website. Implement schema markup and social media tags to your pages to help search engines better understand your content and return better search results for users. Social tags give you control over how your content is displayed when it is shared.
Make sure that you have the legal right to use every piece of content published on your website. Images are most likely to be your biggest copyright problem if you did not take them yourself, buy the right to use them or obtain permission from the owner of the image and comply with their restrictions. Simply providing attribution for any images you use does not negate copyright infringement. Besides stock imagery sites and employing the services of a photographer there are several ways to use high quality images on your website. If you source public domain images you are usually free to use them in any way you wish and often without even providing attribution. If you find images on sharing websites, try contacting the owner to ask permission to use their image. In many cases, hey will be happy to oblige in exchange for acknowledgement or a backlink.
12.) Search Engine Optimisation
You need to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) at all stages of your website’s lifespan. It is likely that you will need to employ a professional to take care of the technical aspects of SEO, but when adding content ensure that it is accessible for people and not designed purely to please search engines. Use keyword research to help write your content and include them in URLs, page titles and image names and ‘alt tags’. There are many free SEO auditing tools available; this one from Hobo is a particularly good one.
13.) Monitor & Experiment
The work doesn’t stop once you launch your website. Knowing how many visits your site gets, where they come from and visitors’ behavior is crucial to understanding how well your site is performing, and spotting opportunities for improvement. Google analytics and Webmaster Tools are excellent ways to monitor website statistics and gain insights into technical changes you can make to improve your website and boost search engine ranking.
The security of your website is of paramount importance, especially if you collect user information or sell goods and services. You should implement a strong password policy for all users and change your login URL to make it more difficult for hackers to find. If you are using a Content Management System (CMS) such as Wordpress, keep it and all installed plugins up to date as they are vulnerable to attack when out of date.
For extra security consider installing an SSL certificate. SSL certificates protect sensitive information by establishing a secure connection between a user's browser and the website server, and changes the protocol used from HTTP to HTTPS, where the S stands for secure. They are particularly relevant for websites that process credit card payments or handle sensitive information but Google is keen to see all websites use secure protocols and offers a slight ranking boost to sites using HTTPS.