Every small business should have a website. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or what you sell. A website is a piece of virtual real estate that can attract customers, suppliers and employees. It’s a digital billboard for your business.
You can use it for whichever goal you like. Yet 36% of small businesses don’t have their own website, and the 64% who do probably spend too much time or money on it, or it suffers from a lack of focus.
I’d like to present a happy middle ground, a simple and cost effective way to build a small business website that is highly effective.
Read on to find out how!
Common mistakes small businesses make with websites
There are at least four common mistakes small business owners make when it comes to websites:
- Having no website at all
- Spending too much time on their website
- Spending too much money on their website
- A lack of focus on a clear goal and next action
Let’s look at each.
Having no website at all
Only 64% of small businesses have their own website.
These days customers are more likely to research a company before they feel confident enough to make a purchase. The easiest way to do this is to do a Google search for your business or products. Why leave the discovery of your business and products in the hands of others? Let potential customers check out your website to hear about it in your words, and put up reviews for them so they hear from your happy customers.
You then have control over how your business is presented, and can shine the best possible light on the features and benefits you choose, and make it easy for consumers to trust you.
It’s almost unthinkable that a small business would choose to operate without a website in this day and age. Yet 36% do. If you don’t have a website for your small business, then read on for a simple solution.
Spending too much time on their website
Having just sold the benefits of having a website (and advocated that every single business should have one no matter the industry, market or product), I’m going to tell you not to spend too much time on your website.
For small businesses that don’t do business online, a website is a means to an end. It should achieve a simple goal, and spend time on nothing else but that goal. It doesn’t need fancy graphics (or any graphics at all). It doesn’t need a ten thousand word essay. It doesn’t need integrations and automations.
You shouldn’t get caught up spending too much time on it, yet a lot of small businesses do. It’s an easy distraction, and an easy way to procrastinate. It sounds like work, but it isn’t.
No, your website should have a clear goal and next action and shouldn’t take any longer than 2 hours to set up. Maintenance and responding to customers is different, but you should avoid spinning wheels
Spending too much money on their website
This is an easy trap to get caught in.
Most small business owners are digital savvy but have little experience in doing business online. One of two things are likely to happen. They will seek to get the help of an agency or freelancer to set up their website, or they will get really excited about all the next website building products on the market. Either way, it’s likely that both these paths lead to features you don’t need and the associated costs that come with them.
Getting outside help can end up in particularly bad outcomes. I’ve seen small business owners with $10,000 websites that cost $2,500 per year to run and are hosted on an agency's private servers.
Truth is, most small businesses shouldn’t spend any more than $100 per year.
I’m going to propose a solution that costs $30 per year to deliver the same outcome as the $10,000 setup / $2,500 per year Frankenstein.
A lack of focus on a clear goal and next action
A small business website should be like a slippery slide.
Let me explain. When a child gets on a slippery slide there is a very clear journey they will go on (travel from the top to the bottom of the slide) that has a very clear goal (to have fun). Your website should be the same.
A visitor, and potential customer, arrives on your website. There should be a very clear journey they will go on (scroll from the top to the bottom) that has a very clear goal (to purchase, visit or contact your business).
Every step along the journey should be intentional on your behalf. Inform them what your business does, let them know the features and benefits and finish by asking them to become a customer.
Doing anything more than informing, selling and calling customers to action is not required on your website. And it works:
- 92% of business owners with websites believe that having their own website contributes effectively to their digital marketing strategy.
So you need to have no distractions, no bells and whistles. You just need to know exactly what next step you want your visitors to take and design everything around encouraging them to take that step.
A simple solution for your small business website
The recipe is simple:
- Have a goal for your website.
- Stay laser focused on this goal.
- Set up a simple one-page website to achieve this goal.
Starting with the goal, it’s usually obvious what you are trying to achieve based on your business. It’s probably one of these three things:
- Let them know where they can find you,
- Send them to where they can order, or
- Collect their contact details.
I suggest a simple goal like these, and just one. Don’t confuse visitors with multiple calls to action and leave them indecisive. Pick the most important one for your business and focus one it.
Where the next action is not obvious (for example, a restaurant should provide their address and a link to make reservations) I’m a big advocate for a simple form that collects customers' contact details and their message. After all, for most small businesses that don’t sell online, all you want to achieve through your website is to inform customers and connect with them.
Let’s try a non-obvious example.
Have a business selling animal feed? State this clearly on your website, let visitors know exactly what products you carry and the areas you serve. Then collect their email addresses. Picking up this conversation with farmers who know what you sell and are in your area will lead to sales and revenue.
Very simple, and your investment in the website is paid off for years to come after one sale.
Here’s what small businesses need
To set this all up, you’ll need just two things:
- A domain name.
- A website builder and hosting.
My proposed solutions are Google Domains ($11 per year) and Carrd ($19 per year). End-to-end setup should take 2 hours or so.
A domain name
There are a number of domain registrars that you can use. Surprisingly, Google now offers this service under Google Domains. People trust Google, they are good at building online products, and nearly everyone has an account with Google already. If not, you can register a Gmail account for free.
Best yet, domain names start at $11 per year.
Just jump on a register, if you don’t have one already. Don’t spend a lot of time stressing over the domain name you pick, just use your business name and maybe add your location.
Here is a straightforward way to decide on your domain name:
- Use your business name and your country tld (e.g. .co.uk), or
- Use your business name and the city you serve with a .com.
For example, a business named Purple Labs based in London would register either purplelabs.co.uk or purplelabslondon.com. Job done.
A website builder and hosting
Because I recommend a simple website solution of a one-page website with a call to action, it means we can use a simple way to get it online. Again, there are a lot of solutions on the market, but all you need is a way to design the web files, and a way to host them so visitors can access your site. The one-page site builder Carrd is all you need. Carrd is:
- Simple: One-page websites.
- Low-cost: Only $19 per year for 10 sites.
- Easy: Drag and drop builder with pre-built templates.
- Reliable: Hosting is super fast with good uptime.
Note: I don’t make any money out of this relationship. I just like Carrd, use it myself and am a fan of the creator, AJ.
Carrd, while a powerful tool, deliberately does not provide all the bells and whistles, which will keep you focused and on task.
If you choose to go this way, it is simply a matter of:
- Registering your account,
- Connecting Google Domains to Carrd,
- Choosing a pre-built template to use,
- Writing a simple description of your business,
- Plugging in your descriptions to the template, configuring the form and a few other bits and pieces and hitting publish.
The beauty is, Carrd is such a well designed product that they guide you through all these steps. Even small business owners that aren’t digital natives will be able to figure it out (or have a cousin that will).
Total yearly cost = US$30.
Most small businesses should have a simple, low-cost and easy to maintain website. This post provides an elegant solution to this problem that is not only time and cost effective, but will likely perform better too.
Before you go...
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The little optimisations, the high-impact tweaks and the 1% gains you can make to your business to make it a little better, a little more profitable and even a little bit more pleasant to run.
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