5 simple tips for building your first small business website

Post-Covid, more and more SMEs are making the smart decision to move online. Here’s 5 simple ways to optimise your website and stand out from the crowd.

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Websites are not just a pretty, online face of your brand. They actually bring tonnes of benefits to small businesses, which makes them important to get right.

That said, building your first website can be a confusing process if you’re new to the software.

The online world is also booming, with an estimated 252,000 new websites currently being built every day.

In the face of such stiff competition, it can be difficult to know what to include, and what to focus on, to make sure your site is distinct and memorable.

We spoke to Kaushalya Somasundaram, Head of Payment Partnerships and Industry Relations at Square Online, to pick out five simple ways that SMEs can optimise their business website and attract as many visitors as possible.

1. Pick a good domain name

It’s not often the first thing that business owners think about when designing a website, but your domain name is actually a very important foundation when building up an audience for your website.

Put simply, a domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser URL bar in order to visit you. It needs to be strongly linked to the name of your business, so it can be easily found by customers.

You can get a free domain name with most website builders. Or, if you want to host your own website, they’ll also be provided by most hosting providers. This includes our top hosting provider, BlueHost.

BlueHost domain name

As well as helping your existing customers to return to your site, a domain name is also an important step for SEO (search engine optimisation).

This basically means it will help you to rank higher on search engines like Google, so that your business is one of the first that customers see when searching for a product or service

“Generally the best domains for SEO are short and memorable,” Kaushalya advises, “because unique, easy-to-remember domains help with link building and branding.”

What are some other benefits that a good domain name can bring?

  • Adds professional credibility to your business. 
  • Your domain name stays with you if you decide to change web hosting services or even relocate to a different country.
  • Provides your brand with marketability around the world – unless you choose to focus specifically in a local region.
  • As long as you keep current with the low annual fees—your domain name will not expire.

2. Focus on good imagery

According to CRM software Zendesk, in their customer experience trends report 2020, roughly 50% of customers say they would switch to a new brand after one bad experience.

This is why, when it comes to websites, images often matter more than text.

Aesthetically-pleasing pictures capture the attention of the visitor immediately, so they can be the first piece of information that a consumer gets about your business.

That’s why it’s important to have good imagery on your website. Visitors are more likely to engage with well-lit, attractive photos or illustrations that are contextually relevant to your business and what it stands for.

Today Cafe food images

Food images from the Today Bread website (built with Square Online).

Images also provide a good cheat code when it comes to SEO ranking.

Image search can be another route for directing traffic to your site. Make sure to always choose an image that matches with your text, as this will help search engines match potential customers to your website.

“Images offer unique SEO opportunities to help a web page send additional topical signals to search engines,” explains Kaushalya. “Understanding unique ways to add additional SEO, such as image alt tags, captions, and image URLs, will help to get your [site] higher on search engines.”

Finally: take your own images. This is not just for branding purposes. Image recognition algorithms identify filler images, as well as stock photography, and they will lower your ranking if your images are not unique.

3. Keep your social media

While a website will help to centralise your brand, it’s also important to make use of every channel you have and integrate them to work together.

“We’d recommend that businesses look for a website builder that enables them to link up their physical, online, and mobile channels”, says Kaushalya.

This is particularly important if you’re an ecommerce website. Square Online’s future of retail report uncovered that 73% of UK consumers have purchased goods directly from social media, again demonstrating the importance of being able to sell anywhere.

“It also makes admin easier by syncing the payment processes into a single joined-up payments system,” stresses Kaushalya. “It’s important to use platforms that allow businesses to save all their own, as well as their customer, data in one place.”

Instagram integration on Wix website builder

Instagram integration on Wix website builder

One of the main reasons for keeping your business’ social media channels is that you’ll have more online doorways for customers to find your website through. This is known as an omni-channel approach, and helps to increase traffic and drive profits.

“An omnichannel approach is made up of multiple channels or touchpoints that seamlessly connect,” explains Kaushalya. “Businesses can reach customers wherever they are, whether that be on social media, in-person, or on their own website.”

Each element feeds into the other. For example, if you have an Instagram account you can integrate the feed into your website, as a kind of blog.

“Giving customers more ways to access goods and services will be a huge benefit for SMEs,” Kaushalya tells Startups.

4. Find an easy-to-use website builder

If you’re designing a website for the first time, it’s important to find a builder that is easy-to-use. After all, you want to focus more on building the best site than learning complicated software development skills.

“If business owners are new to website creation, platforms like Square Online offer easy-to-use site building templates that require no coding expertise at all,”  explains Kaushalya. “Use tools that are simple and easy to use, and that seamlessly work together. This will give you the time to focus on what really matters, building and perfecting your product and craft.”

Another thing that can make your builder easier-to-use is if it’s specific to your industry.

For example, we ranked Square Online as our top website builder for restaurants and café, because it has excellent functionality for hospitality-based businesses.

Today Bread ecommerce page

Today Bread ecommerce page

Tools include the ability to take online orders, integrate with your POS and kitchen display, and even offer in-house delivery.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the hospitality industry has seen a transformation [and] online ordering has become increasingly normal,” says Kaushalya.

“Having a website can create additional opportunities for hospitality businesses to reach people at home. Moreover, according to our own research, 65% of UK consumers prefer using a restaurant-owned website or application for delivery over third-party sites.”

What’s the best website builder for SMEs?

Read our full review of the top 7 website builder platforms to see how our experts scored each builder in six major categories, including value for money and design functionality.

5. Know your competition

Knowledge is power.  And competitor website analysis is very powerful indeed when it comes to building a successful online business.

Kaushalya tells Startups it is “key that new businesses suss out the competition. Visit competitor websites, Facebook, and other social media pages.”

Identify competitors that are based in your industry, and that target similar audience types. Ask yourself: what are they doing well? What is the user journey like? Another good tip is to check a business’s online reviews, so you can see what their customers are praising, as well as criticising.

It’s not about copying and pasting from other websites you view as successful. Make sure you are properly analysing rival content. Done correctly, you may even uncover some errors and mistakes to avoid.

It could be that a fellow business’ website takes far too long to load. Or maybe their ‘daily’ blog hasn't been updated in a year.

“Through researching competitors, [you’ll] be able to apply a holistic approach to building your own site and understand exactly what’s needed to draw in new customers,” Kaushalya points out.

How do you find the best website builder?

We have over twenty years’ experience of working with SMEs, and we know how time-consuming researching the right products can be.

Go to our website builder comparison page for fast, free quotes from the top providers so you can compare their pricing directly, and find the best platform for your small firm.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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