How to develop a strategy for building your website
Maximise your website’s chances of success with our handy guide
If you haven’t launched a website already, doing so now could bring a host of untold benefits to your business. You can reach new customers, strengthen your relationship with existing ones, and open a wealth of revenue streams.
Before you dive in, it is important to develop a strategy for building your website. This article is intended to help you do so; we cover the benefits of having a website and what they can be used for, alongside some valuable practical tips to maximise your site’s chances of success.
What are the benefits a website could bring to my business?
The benefits a website could bring to your business are virtually limitless. In particular, you can:
- Reach new customers all over the world. Websites are not limited by geography. By setting up one, you are instantly accessible all over the world, and can reach potential customers on a national or international level. You can translate your website into other languages to help with this aim, or offer payment in foreign currencies.
- Build a stronger relationship with existing customers. Using a website, you can keep your customers in the loop about your latest products and services, give them a voice through forums or online feedback tools, and much more.
- Cut down on costs. In particular, you can vastly cut the cost of customer service using a website. You can direct visitors to frequently-asked questions, use online chat facilities to deal with complaints and queries quickly and efficiently, and provide extra information about your product or service.
- Generate new sales. By setting up an online shop (see below for more on this) you can make it easy for customers to order from you and generate a lucrative new revenue stream.
- Increase your visibility. A website serves as your business’ shop window to the world. Not only does this help in boosting brand awareness and attracting new customers, you can advertise job opportunities to talented recruits all over the world.
What can I use my business’ website for?
Your website can be used for any one of the below purposes, or all at once – it is not an exhaustive list. A website can be used as:
- An online shop: It is now simple to integrate an e-commerce element into websites, allowing customers to browse, pay for and have products delivered to them through your website 24 hours a day. See below for more on this.
- A catalogue: You do not necessarily need to actually sell through your website – a site can be used as an online catalogue of the products and services you offer, allowing potential customers to investigate whether you fit their needs before they get in touch.
- A source of information: More generally, a website can serve as a source of information about your company, its values, your target market, and what you offer.
- A way to build your brand: Setting up a blog or integrating your business with social media can help you develop an individual ‘voice’ for your brand and broadcast your values to the world.
- A way for customers to get involved: You can set up an online forum or chat facility to allow your customers to have their say about your business – this can improve their relationship with you and promote a sense of openness.
How much will setting up a website cost my business?
How much your website will cost depends, in large part, on how much functionality you want built-in. The cost of setting up a website will include:
- Domain name registration: A .co.uk address for your business will represent a minor cost – domain names are available from around £3.75 a year.
- Web hosting: Again, this should be a comparatively minor cost, although it will vary according to how much information you intend to store on your website and how much network traffic you will need the site to handle. The cost of web hosting packages varies – it can start from around £2.50 per month.
- Building a website: The cost of this will vary, depending on whether you design the site from the ground up, use a commercial do-it-yourself website builder, or employ a specialist web designer to construct a professional-looking bespoke website. Learn more about your options for designing your business’ website.
- E-commerce costs: If you are setting up a site with an e-commerce element, you will incur a number of additional costs, including:
- Shopping cart software
- Commission on sales
- Credit card charges and bank fees
How can I make money from my business’ website?
There are various ways you can introduce new revenue streams through your business’ website, including:
- E-commerce: As mentioned above, you can set up an online shop to sell goods and services directly through your website. Profit margins can be much higher than selling through traditional retail channels, as overheads are kept to an absolute minimum.
- Online advertising: If you attract a lot of network traffic to your site, you can introduce sponsored links and banner ads to your website in order to generate additional income from advertisers. Google and other major search engines operate popular pay-per-click services which pay you according to the number of leads you generate.
- Paywalls: If you have information on your website that is difficult or impossible to find elsewhere on the web, you may be able to charge for access. Be aware that this revenue method has largely died out except in niche areas such as the legal profession, as people overwhelmingly expect to access basic information for free.
How do I make my website successful?
- Add a news section: Putting a regularly-updated news section on your homepage will keep your website current and encourage repeat visits so customers can find out the latest information and offers.
- Keep it simple: Don’t overload your page with fancy graphics or links that add nothing to the user experience. Keep it attractive and simple. Everything on your site should have a clearly-defined purpose.
- Get people involved: Set up a forum and review system so customers and visitors can get involved and find out information from other users.
- Integrate with social media: Set up profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to engage with customers and build your brand. Include links to your social media pages on your homepage – you can also integrate a live Twitter feed directly onto your business’ homepage.
- Check it works: Link-checking software like BrokenLinkCheck can scan your site for dead links so that visitors to your site can have the best possible experience. Test how your site looks on all the major web browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari) and how it performs on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
How do I attract more visitors to my business’ website?
- Use SEO techniques: Read up on how you can increase your site’s visibility on search engines by loading up your content with relevant search terms and including useful links to other sites.
- Invest in pay-per-click advertising (PPC): PPC services like Google Adwords only charge you when a visitor actually clicks through to your business’ website from an advertisement, ensuring you keep ad spend lean.
- Draw up a press release: Let people know about a new site or major redesign through a smartly-worded press release. Learn more about effective PR here.
- Email your customers. Using a mass email service such as MailChimp, send out an email to your existing customers letting them know about the existence of your site and what they can do with it.
- Exchange links with trade organisations. Contact your trade association and industry body and ask them to link to your website in exchange for you linking to them. You may have to seek official accreditation from organisations before they will be willing to do this.
Where do I go for further help and advice?
- Your local trade association or chamber of commerce. These may be able to get you in touch with recommended web designers, or offer more general tips on how to maximise your site’s chances of success. Find your local chamber of commerce on the British Chambers of Commerce website.
- Word-of-mouth recommendations. Personal testimonials are infinitely more valuable than the self-penned praise you will find online about consultants and web designers. Find well-designed websites belonging to comparable businesses and ask them who they used.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission. The government body will be able to help you ensure your website complies with disability discrimination legislation.