Having a web presence for your business is crucial. Billions of internet searches are conducted each day. Eighty-one percent of people do online product research before purchasing. And online research is part of the buying process for 89% of B2B researchers. A web site is one of the best online marketing tools you can invest in.
If you are building your first company web site (or rebuilding/refreshing your current site), here are some important steps to keep in mind:
1. Select and secure your URL
While choosing your domain name may seem like an easy thing, there’s actually a lot to consider. A URL that’s hard to pronounce or spell can cause problems. Length, extension (.com, .org, etc.), and availability are key, too.
2. Get a hosting provider*
There are a lot of options for web hosting services out there. Some are very basic, some offer more specialized solutions. We advise all our clients to use a host that provides SSL certification—but other features will depend on your needs.
* Note: If you’re using a site builder like Weebly or Wix, you don’t need a separate hosting provider.
3. Compile your content
Once upon a time, keyword stuffing was the way to get your web site to rank with search engines. Today, however, that technique can get you penalized. A better way to get ranked is to provide search engines (and more importantly your visitors!) with high quality content. Make it original, informational, engaging and accessible. Put thought into your headlines. Use keywords and phrases, but work them into your copy naturally. To get a jump start on your SEO, draft meta titles and meta descriptions for each page, too.
4. Create a sitemap
We’re not talking about the XML sitemap that search engines use (though you need that too!). We’re talking about a diagram that outlines all the pages you want on your site, to help your web designer see your vision. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—a SmartArt organizational chart created in Word or PowerPoint will do the trick. Be sure to include direction for how the site will be navigated.
5. Find a web design
Here again, you have options depending on your budget and needs. You could invest in a completely custom site, or find a site theme (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc.) that you can work with. If you choose a custom site, be sure to request a content management system (CMS) that you can work with (unless you are a coder or have one on staff).
If you’re using a theme, explore the included layout, color schemes, typography, SEO features and other options to ensure it has everything you want and that it’s compatible with your brand. Check for compatible plugins to add more functionality. Make sure it’s responsive. Familiarize yourself with the CMS so you can make regular updates (see step #11).
6. Sketch out a wireframe
7. Build a media library
Adding visuals to your site not only helps break up text and reinforce your message, but it’s also good for SEO. A study by Backlinko showed that using at least one image in your content can increase your rankings. Just be sure your images are optimized for the web.
Using your wireframe as a guide, build your site. If you have an existing site, you can migrate some or all your content over. Otherwise, upload your new copy and media files. Add in all your metadata.
9. Test your site
Preview your web pages. Navigate the entire site. Click every button and link. Test all your forms.
Once you’re sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to, push your site live.
11. Test again
Sometimes, weird things happen after publishing. Once you go live, navigate through everything again. Click everything again. Test your forms again.
Make regular changes to your site. Whether it’s publishing a new blog post, adding a new landing page, or refreshing the content on key pages, fresh content can have a positive impact on your rankings.