Tips for building your first web site!
One of the best experiences in life is starting your own business. You learn a lot about business, people, finances, and advertising/marketing. When starting up a small business, most of the time there is very little if any budget for web design. Usually this area gets overlooked. Sometimes it makes a difference and other times it doesn’t. In today’s business world everyone has a web site of some sort.
The trick is to design your first web site to look professional by following the basic rules and get it to the market quickly. Here are some tips that I have learned after building over 300 websites since 2000.
You can spend a lot of money on domain names for no return. I believe that you don’t need to register other extensions or variations unless you really intend to do something with them. Once you start trying to protecting your brand, you go into a defensive mode which is really the wrong mindset. You want to be in a mindset of abundance thinking. Get what you need to make your business successful but don’t waste money on registering a ton of domain names that will never have their own purpose.
Yes, you should own your own domain name. It has become easier for businesses to purchase their own domain names. The issue is that you need to watch for the renewal notice and make sure your credit card is up to date. If you are not sure when your domain name renews then you should log in and check it.
Alternatively, you can register or migrate your domain name, email and office365 products to a local IT guy that you trust. This way you have someone to help you keep an eye on when these products renew. And, they can also assist you, for some small fee, to update your credit card or help with other it needs. (our preferred partner is MBTPro.com)
Web Design – Don’t try to be too creative instead be clear.
The easiest and best looking web design uses a white background, one type of font (the only exception is the logo), two sizes of fonts (size 18 for headings and 12 for the content text) and one font color (black). Use a standard layout, from top to bottom: header with logo, navigation bar, two or three column content area with text and photographs, then a footer with duplicate navigation and contact information. Use column widths that allow 8-10 words per line and keep your web page width to about 1200 pixels centered.
Why? – Sales is emotional!
If you have not seen Simon Sinek then you need to check out his Ted Talk. When writing content always begin with the Why? then move on to the What? and How? You need to inspire your readers and customers in order for them to understand why they need your product or service.
Content – Is still king
No one knows your business as well as you do. Hopefully, you have written a vision and mission statement so that you can check yourself against it. Once you have those, write your own content for the website, at least the first draft. After that, if you can afford it, a professional sales writer can really help you dial it in. This is critical to the success of your business. If you can’t explain what you do and who you are then no one else will be able to either.
In addition to getting your message across clearly, you are adding searchable content. Content, words on the page, is the key component to ranking higher in the search engines. When valuable content is added to the website on a regular basis then shared by others you have completed the best SEO practices.
Blogging – content, content, content
Yes, blogging is still a good thing. However, the bar keeps getting higher, meaning it takes more valuable content that is well shared to achieve results. At the time of this blog post it takes a massive amount of almost 1900 words to compete with other articles on the internet that have 1st page results. The amount of words for a great blog post can vary depending on the industry that your product or service is in. Don’t be intimidated, your point of view and process maybe different, so take a little time each day to be creative and produce valuable content.
Formatting – for Search Engines
If you have ever taken any kind of college writing classes then you probably already know how to format content. Formatting your content is the simplest but most overlooked technique. On regular web pages make sure you are using the Heading 1 <H1> html tag for the title on the page. For blog posts use Heading one for the title then Heading two’s for subtitles and so forth.
Recommendations – social proof
A key selling point is the recognition from others. This is great content and reinforces who you are. You may have to ask several times to get recommendations but they are well worth it. Use a personal approach like through social media. Then, copy and paste those to your website.
Speed – Don’t be gaudy instead be simple (KISS).
Include enough information using both text and pictures to get the point across. Your web site is a teaser to get them to call or e-mail. The exception here is if you have a product for them to purchase online for which you want to include as many details as possible. This also allows the web page to load fast, giving people a chance to see your web site before they can hit the back button on their browser.
Usability – Don’t be confusing instead be organized.
Every website should have a simple navigation like “Home – About Us – Products/Services – Contact Us”. The primary navigation should be located at the top, not hidden. This is where everyone expects the navigation to be. If you have a drop down menu but no content for the top level menu item, don’t leave it unlinked. That would be a lost click, instead link it to the first page in the drop down menu.
There are many things you can do for accessibility. In short follow your SEO rules and create a skip link to the content of the page.
Strategic – Don’t be secretive instead be clear.
You never know when a client is going to feel the need to call. Place your phone number in the header, top navigation, next to your logo and in the footer of your web page. By doing this you will have the phone number at the top and bottom of every web page. Your are telling the client that it is OK to call you and buy your products or services. In addition, place your phone number in the description of your website. If someone is googling for your services then your phone number will appear directly in the search results.
Go To Market – Don’t let perfection be the enemy of done.
The first mistake that most first time website owners make is trying to get things perfect instead of getting the website launched. When it comes to google search engine ranking there are a lot of do’s and don’ts. One of the do’s is to have your website online for a long period of time and registered into the future.
Producing a small website first then adding pages and posts on a regular basis is a great way to solve two problems. By launching your website with as little as one page gets your website found on the web sooner rather than later. That means that your website will be registered by the search engines while your competitors are still thinking about their color scheme. Secondly, Google likes it when a website is consistently publishing content. So, as you are building out the rest of your website on a schedule your are increasing your search engine ranking.
Branding – Hire a professional
Building your first website is one thing but making your own logo, may not be advised. Hire a professional! If you know what you want your logo to look like then use a service like Upwork or Fivver to find an artist. If you are struggling with a name and concept then just google for it. Sometimes you can find a logo already created that will fits your business. All you have to do is buy it.
The real advantage to branding according to Ries is to be the first in your category or be #1. Publicity, or the demand of being greater than the supply will get your business started quickly instead of spending lots of money on advertising.
Photography – A picture really is worth a 1000 words.
Photography is another one that I would say you should hire a professional. Quality images can make or break your business. Professional images tell the story without words. However, be careful. Quality professional images don’t have to be huge. Keep your photos a reasonable size, about 2MBs, so they will not slow down the website. Photos and images should be properly sized, not scaled, to fit the area on the web page, where they are placed.
A picture gallery is typically the second most visited page on the website. Why? because people love to see what it looks like. Be sure to post plenty of photos of your product or service. In addition to those great photos add at least one or two sentences that describes that photo or group of photos.
Mobile – It’s your responsibility to be responsive.
Over 60% of the web traffic comes from mobile devices these days. In the rural areas a lot users only have a mobile device. They don’t have a computer at home to search, write emails or shop. Most WordPress themes, frameworks, or builders are mobile responsive. There is no point in building a website in this day and age that is not mobile responsive.
Value – give it away to get it
When you are building your website make sure you are providing something of value to your visitors for free. Frank Kern uses the technique “Know, Like, Trust”. Giving your customers something of value first is how they can get to know you.
It would be nice to take credit for all of these web design secrets but they have been right in front of us since the very first newspaper that was every printed. Follow the rules and your very first web site will be successful.