Every small business needs an online presence that goes beyond social media. This means learning how to build a website as well as setting up email addresses for everyone at your small business.
Having a website and business email address will help you reach a greater number of your target audience, allowing you to provide better customer service and improve your image.
A top concern for many small businesses when building a website is to keep costs down.
The good news is that you can create a website on a budget without sacrificing functionality, aesthetics or usability.
Domain names can be purchased from a domain registrar such as GoDaddy. When you purchase a domain, you have the option to purchase the registration for a minimum of one year or several years.
Sometimes new business owners only choose a 1 or 2 year registration period in order to keep costs to a minimum. Purchasing a new domain typically costs under $15 per year. Check different services to find which one offers the best price.
When selecting the domain, most businesses choose a domain name that is as close to the business name as possible. However, some businesses choose to include one or more keywords that refer to the industry or location. Keywords in the domain can actually be beneficial, as they help to optimize a website for the search engines.
Avoid special characters like “-“ and “&.” This will prevent customers from spelling your website incorrectly — and maybe ending up somewhere else.
Using a ‘.com’ extension is preferable to most businesses, as it is the most common extension for businesses in the U.S. But depending on the availability of a specific domain and country of origin, you may also want to website country specific or use other common extensions like “.net,” “.org” or “.info.”
Whichever domain you select, it’s important to be sure that there isn’t a similar business already using the domain name under a different extension.
Select a hosting provider according to the services you need. You will probably prefer a shared web host, as this is less expensive. This means you’ll share the server with other sites. As your small business grows, you can think about upgrading to dedicated hosting to increase your site speed.
After you’ve selected the hosting provider, you’ll need to configure the DNS (domain name system) settings. This is done by logging into the control panel for the hosting plan and then locating the nameservers for your hosting plan. Next, you’ll log into your account with your registrar and modify the DNS configuration by switching the nameservers to the two that are listed in your hosting plan.
Once saved, there will be a propagation period. This is the period where the registrar has to receive and recognize hosting from the new provider. While it usually takes less than an hour, in some cases propagation can take up to 48 hours. When propagation is complete, you can start building your website.
Building your website can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. You may have a vision of what your ideal site looks like, but if you’ve never built a website before, it can be challenging to learn how to actually perform the build.
Some hosting providers have website building plugins for those with limited knowledge of programming. These plugins, such as WordPress or Wix, provide its clients with pre-built templates that can be quickly customized. With a little time and the help of tutorial videos, even beginners have the ability to create nice, professional-looking websites.
Depending on how much time you have to invest as well as how much you have budgeted, you could always outsource the task to a web designer. But if a web designer is hired for the build, it’s important for the business owner to receive at least a little instruction on how to access the backend and make updates to content. Often business owners that are hands-off during the website building process face frustration down the road when they realize they do not know how to make basic updates to the site when needed.
Whatever your business, you should also consider setting up a blog on your website. Here, you’ll be able to provide valuable information to prospects to build brand awareness. Adding fresh blog content regularly keeps a website from getting “stale” in the eyes of the search engines. And, well-written blog content can generate organic (free) traffic to your site, which can ultimately lead to new business.
Before you publish your website, it’s critical that you test it. Ensure your site works on all versions of all the major browsers and — this is especially important — is user friendly on mobile.
It’s important to have a website before you set up your small business email addresses. This way, you can create emails that use the domain name of your website. You’ll appear far more professional than if you were to use your personal email.
Most website hosting providers offer email at an additional cost, although some include several emails in the cost of the web hosting. To receive them, simply add email to your subscription.
Most small businesses use their employees names in their email addresses, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org. You may like to use your first name, first initial and last name, or full name. If you’re the only person working at your small business, you could opt for something like email@example.com instead.
Once you have your business email set up, you’ll want to forward your messages to another address. This will allow you to use another service (such as Gmail) to handle your email. Log into the account where you want to forward your emails and find the option to add a new account. If you’re not sure how to handle the set up, there are plenty of online resources that will coach you through the process.
When writing any copy or content for your website, it is best to optimize the content using specific keywords relating to the overall subject matter of each specific page. This optimizing process is referred to as SEO or search engine optimization.
The reason for proper optimization is to achieve the goal of having your website rank on the first page for search results. SEO is a fantastic technique for acquiring free traffic. Ranking higher for keyword searches allows more prospects to quickly find your website, which can ultimately lead to more business.
Research and learn about best practices for SEO for websites and check out our other posts about marketing and SEO advice for small businesses.
Now you know the basics of how to set up a website and set up email for your small business, it’s time to get started!