Almost two-thirds of small businesses now have websites, and that number continues to grow.
With more and more people going online to shop and find businesses, not having a website means that you’re not only missing out on converting them but are effectively turning them into customers of your competitors.
However, just having a website isn’t enough.
There are plenty of businesses that start a website only to find that no one wants to visit it, even though they sometimes invest a significant amount of money setting it up.
That’s why you need to have a solid grasp of what it takes to make a website successful and take the time to execute the initial steps properly in order to increase your chances of success.
To help you get started, here are a few of the most fundamental steps that will help you create a website from scratch and make it an integral part of your business.
Figure Out If Your Website Can Be Profitable
There are 1,671,526,706 active websites on the web at the time of writing this article, and that number continues to grow at a rapid pace. However, only a tiny fraction of them ever bring any profit to the owner over their lifespan.
Part of the reason is that not all websites are created with the purpose of earning money – there are millions of hobby sites, forums, websites providing important information, as well as sites run by governments and organizations.
But another reason why so few websites ever turn a profit is that their creators don’t have a clear plan of who they’re trying to reach and what they want to accomplish.
The truth is, creating a successful website is a hard task that often takes months or even years to accomplish, so if you’re going to put all that effort into a project, you need to at least have a pretty good idea of whether it can bring you the desired results or not.
That’s why, before you move any further in your website development process, you need to determine if your website idea is viable and if your site can satisfy a demand for an audience that’s looking for a solution.
Luckily, this process doesn’t have to be complicated – by going through a few essential steps and answering some questions, you can gain a much better understanding of what your site is all about and whether it’s likely to succeed.
The first step of the process is understanding who you want to reach – you need to identify the group of people that would be interested in what you have to offer, and lay out the problems that your website could help solve.
If you’ve already worked with an audience that your website aims to reach, you should have a pretty good understanding of their needs and could then use surveys to gain deeper knowledge about their most pressing issues and their priorities when choosing a solution.
But in case you’re just starting out, you’ll need to find ways to narrow down your audience and discover specific insights such as their age, gender, occupation, location, interests, online habits, and anything else that might be relevant.
Only by having this information will you be able to make sure that all of your on-site and off-site efforts generate the necessary response from the people that you’re trying to reach.
After you’ve identified the group of people that you want to target, the next step is looking at the landscape in which your website would have to find its place.
Studying your competition will allow you to now only better understand who you’re up against, but also provide you with invaluable insights about how you could position your website and separate yourself from others.
The final step of assessing your website is figuring out if you can afford it.
If you’ve gone through the first two steps thoroughly, you should have a pretty solid grasp on what it will take to succeed in your niche, and you can then use this info to establish a preliminary budget for how much the entire project might cost.
Even though establishing an online business is significantly cheaper than opening up an actual store, the expenses can still be significant if you’re entering a competitive market, as you may need to invest in advanced website functionality or a comprehensive marketing campaign.
So, if you don’t want to run out of money mid-project or have to bootstrap essential features just to try and make it work, you need to be honest about the expenses that you’ll endure and the time it will take to start generating revenue.
Make Sure Your Website is User-Friendly
Today’s online users are more sophisticated than ever, and most won’t waste more than a few seconds on a site that doesn’t provide a convenient and seamless experience when browsing.
That’s why, if you don’t want your effort of putting together a site to go to waste, you need to make sure that your site has all the necessary features for keeping visitors happy and guiding them towards making a purchase.
Even an otherwise useful website that could be profitable is doomed to fail if it isn’t convenient and doesn’t have an appealing design. As many website owners have learned, it can be all but impossible to sell your website if it’s ugly or hard to use, even if it does have good qualities that could make it valuable.
But how can you make your site user-friendly and engaging?
Well, each business is different and should make choices based on the preferences of its target audience, but there are a few common areas that need to be handled properly to maximize the chances of a website succeeding.
First, you need to take care of the technical details – picking a domain name and a hosting provider.
While these may seem inconsequential, they both can play a vital role. If your domain name isn’t memorable and in-line with your brand, you may have a hard time getting people to come to your site. And if your hosting provider isn’t able to provide a reliable connection, your site will not only lose trust from your prospects but might even get penalized by the search engines.
When choosing a domain name, it’s always a good idea to play around with a domain name generator – it can help you come up with more ideas for domain name variations, and also let you know which domains are still available.
As for hosting, you will need to do some research and shouldn’t just pick the most popular option, and instead explore GoDaddy hosting alternatives, as GoDaddy has earned a poor reputation for trying to squeeze every buck from their clients and providing terrible customer service.
Another important aspect of making your site user-friendly is making it accessible from any device. Since the majority of all online traffic comes from mobile devices, the only way to run a sustainable online business is to cater to their needs and provide a convenient browsing and shopping experience using a responsive web design and perhaps even a mobile app.
Finally, if you want to keep your customers happy and coming back to your site, you need to guarantee that it can deliver on its promises. That means that, if you sell physical products, you should have a comprehensive ecommerce shipping fulfillment system that can process and deliver orders quickly.
Use Multiple Marketing Approaches
While knowing who you want to target and having a website that accommodates their needs is crucial, in order for that to matter, you need to be able to consistently attract targeted traffic to your site that’s interested in what you have to offer.
That means that you can’t be satisfied with just one marketing strategy if you want to carve out a place in the marketplace for your site and ensure consistent growth.
But what types of online marketing approaches should you implement for your website?
Well, that will depend on your niche and your audience, and you should be running tests to find which traffic source generates the most revenue, but there are a few strategies that have proven to be successful in almost any niche.
Many websites focus on SEO when starting out, but that can be a costly mistake – it can take many months for Search Engine Optimization to start bringing any tangible results, and waiting for that to happen without having alternative traffic streams can make it impossible to keep the business afloat.
So, while SEO should be a part of your strategy, you should have other methods that can start bringing in targeted leads from day one.
One of the fastest-growing ways to quickly gain a flood of prospective customers to your site is influencer marketing.
Basically, it’s the process of reaching an agreement with a prominent social media figure that’s relevant in your field to promote your products or services. On a grander scale, this may mean an Instagram celebrity with millions of followers posting pictures with products of a particular brand.
But if you think that hiring an A-list influencer is out of your budget range, you can still reap the benefits of influencer marketing by targeting smaller influencers with anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of loyal followers.
These influencers may be harder to find, but they usually have a much more engaged following that can still provide your business with a huge influx of new customers.
Author’s Bio: David is the CEO of TaskDrive, the company provides sales development as a Service (lead research, inbound and outbound SDRs)