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Building an SMB Website

Development an SMB Website online

Your small or medium business is ready to improve its presence with a fresh website, but you’re not yet sure about what your goals are. Maybe the process is new to you, or maybe you weren’t thrilled with your last website project. Even if you’ve had good experiences in creating a business website, you may still be worried about making the right decision this time. Technology keeps evolving, and you need to keep up.

For the DIY type, that wants a quick and easy self-managed solution, there are of course platforms that will allow you to launch a template website pretty quickly. In some cases, this may be the best route for a home-based business or other organization without the resources to invest into something more custom.

On the other end of the spectrum, large enterprises may wind up hiring full time web designers and developers to constantly build and grow their web presence. However, for most funded businesses, bringing on a contractor, such as a web design or internet marketing agency, will yield the best results. You can pay for what you need, without putting someone on the payroll. There are many freelancers available, but most businesses would rather engage with an established firm with enough staff and expertise to get the job done well, even if a particular designer has to take a leave of absence. It’s also important for long-term stability, as it’s likely that  at some point you’ll need assistance updating your website.

You should leave yourself ample time to progress through the building process. You may go through multiple design drafts before getting to code the site, have your content added, or testing the site. This process can easily take several weeks to launch. You also need to give yourself time to write content, select a website host, and complete other “homework” in order to complete the project successfully.

You have options of what “type” of website you build. For instance, you can have your website built to include a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. The benefit is that you’ll be able to login to edit and add content to your website. You’ll also be able to choose from many pre-existing plugins / add-ons, which your web developers can install for you. While this is a very common choice, there are a few drawbacks. You’ll pay a bit more for the labor to set up the site with the CMS system. You’ll also pay more for hosting, security, and long-term upgrading and maintenance. Popular CMS systems are often targeted by hackers, putting more pressure on you to apply security patches on an ongoing basis, and keep re-investing into your website.

Alternatively, you can simply build an HTML5 Mobile-Responsive website using HTML and other coding. This will typically cost less initially, and less in the long run to maintain… unless you plan to make website updates. While most people would choose to have a CMS system if possible, many in the service industries and with small businesses rarely wind up using them, even if they have them, and would have been better off without a CMS, and simply paying their web developers to make changes to their website when needed.

Regardless of what kind of site you go with, you’ll want it to be visually appealing with consistent branding, easy to navigate, and have a strong call-to-action. You’ll need it to be mobile-responsive. In other words, your site should load well on desktop computers, as well as mobile phones and tablets. Most websites will include a link to your social media pages, and a contact form to reach out to you with. It’s also common to have a newsletter signup to join your mailing list. You should also consider setting up a free Google Analytics account to collect a wealth of information about the visitors to your website, including how they’re finding you.

Your content should be unique / fresh, and written for your audience. This can help your search engine rankings, as well as help to convert website visitors into customers. Multimedia is important, too. Using good images, and possibly some video, will help convey your message in an appealing way. You may consider special features that you’ll absolutely need in order to showcase your content. This differs from case to case, and can include features like a blog, or photo gallery.

Depending on your features, and your industry, you may need a bit of extra security, such as an SSL certificate. This will help encrypt and protect data transmitted through your site, such as contact form submissions. Additionally, we always recommend a 3rd party security system, like Sucuri.net or Sitelock.com to provide an additional layer of protection against hackers. Regardless, basic steps should be taken to make your site harder to hack, such as making usernames and passwords strong (hard for bots to guess), and moving or hiding any backend login pages from the public to make it harder for hackers to even find the places to try to break in through.

Your site should load quickly. Loading speed is related to the content and features of your website – the more files that have to load, and the bigger the files, the longer it will take. However, your web developers and website host can work together to help minimize loading time. Every second of loading time brings down conversion rates. If you engage in marketing campaigns, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or a Google Adwords or other Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign, loading speed will effect your results too. Google and others use loading speed as one of the metrics to evaluate your website.

Lastly, you’ll inevitably want your web developers to build your website with Search Engine Rankings in mind. Whether or not you plan to engage in an SEO campaign, you want search engines to crawl your website and index it. You certainly want a chance to rank for your business name, and other basics. Your web developers, as part of launching your site, can help make sure that you have proper sitemaps, a robots.txt file, and that your site is properly submitted to Google Webmaster Tools when it launches. Your site should only load at one version – with the www., or without, and not both. One should forward to the other. Your site should also have minimal coding errors. These are just some examples of a search engine friendly website. Overall, your developers should be following best practices for a search engine friendly website.

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