Getting Started: Websites for Small Businesses

Updated: Nov 21

I hope most business owners recognize that the days of yellow page advertising and walk-in customer sales are long gone… all must bow to the beast that is the world wide web. For those who've yet to concede, I can assure you that the lack of a business website (even for a small business, solopreneur, or entrepreneur) has been costing more than you may have realized for a long time.


Recently a client was sharing with me their journey to now, and why they finally decided to have their website professionally designed…

“Last fall I got off a plane coming home from a wedding and, as usual, I was running late and didn’t have time to eat before my flight. When I landed my ride was already waiting for me. It would be another two hours before I got home and I was STARVING. I wanted to order takeout from a fav restaurant but when I tried finding a menu online… there wasn’t one. I was set on getting food from this place so I spent half the drive home searching through Google, Yelp, and Facebook trying to find some semblance of a menu. Finally, I just gave up and settled for something from the first place google fed me (no pun intended). And it was then I realized this was the experience people were probably having looking for me… I've no webiste, no facebook page, no google lsiting… I just don’t exist to new customers!!!”

Not having a website can cost you BIG. If potential customers can’t find you then they will find a competitor… and then they’ll post reviews for that competitor and refer people to that competitor and so on. Even long time fans of your business will ride the waves of convenience and jump ship if your services aren't readily available when they need them and where they expect to find them.


After 20+ years in the business, I’ve got a few insights, tips, and tricks that can help put you in front of customers where they're likely to go looking for you.


The Basics: Low Hanging Fruit (Sans Website)

You want your business to be easily accessible to consumers. This means making it easy for customers to find you in all the places they expect, which in today’s market means Google, social media, and other review sites like Yelp, Clutch, and Angie’s List.


Often this makes business owners squeamish because they think BIG BUCKS (SEO, SEM, Ads, Subscriptions, Google keywords, oh my!).


Take a deep breath.


While website development, branding, SEO, SEM, and digital marketing are very important components to overall online success for small businesses, elements of each can be addressed in bite-sized chunks. These aside, there are some other foundational pieces that need to be in place first that simply require a little bit of your time (and patience).


Here’s some low hanging fruit you could handle on your own:

  • Claim business profiles: Facebook, Google, Yelp, BBB, Alignable, Clutch, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

  • Google your business and be sure it’s details are correct wherever it is listed in the search results (profile URLs, location, hours, telephone, email, services, menu, etc.)

  • Be sure your business profiles take advantage of each platform's available “Call to Action” fields (ex: ‘order here’, ‘call now’, ‘get a quote’).

TIP: Whenever possible, your username/handle should be the same on all your Social Media profiles. It can be confusing to customers if your business’ name/handle is hugely different between profiles. Equally important is to use the same Icon on all your profiles (typically some modified version of your logo)… this will help build consistency into your brand and trust among customers.

Beyond Basics: Your First (Good) Website

Great design, relevant information, and functionality are key components of a successful website. Also super important is SEO and SEM though some businesses might not have the capital to invest in those elements… and that's understandable, they each can be sizable investments and often require a committed, recurring monthly budget.


Even without those pieces, you can still have a great website with ROI that improves your bottom line. Outside of SEO and SEM, consider the following when crafting a new website or updating an existing one:

  • What is your main (conversion) goal for the website?

  • Beyond 'conversion', what is the main pain-point a website should solve for your business?

  • Are your services, processes, and pricing easy to find (sitemap) and understand (page content)?

  • Can customers easily buy your products, schedule consultations, or contact you (conversion)?

  • Are you growing a marketable email list? Or capturing leads?

  • How are your automations functioning?

  • Do you need legal services (HIPAA, Privacy policy, ADA, etc.)?

  • Can you link out to Social Media or other online profiles?

  • If you have a blog, does it auto-post to online profiles like Facebook?

  • Is there a space for Licenses, Certifications, Associations, and Awards?

  • Does your website overall look good?

  • Is your site optimized for both desktop and mobile platforms?

  • How well written are your Meta Tags and Schema?

  • Has your content been proofread?

  • Has your site been indexed and connected to Analytics?

  • Is your site Secured (SSL Certification… HTTP:// vs HTTPS://)?

For those of us in service-based industries, adding a Lead Magnet to capture subscribers and attract new visitors to your website is a great value add and will inherently check off a few of the above bullets. Lead Magnets are easy to implement and make great teaser content for social media (SM). Also, it’s important not to skimp on setting up automated schedulers for ordering, delivery, appointment bookings, and call-back requests.


What is a Lead Magnet?

A Lead Magnet is a valuable offer (usually free) that you provide to your prospects in exchange for contact information such as name and email. A Lead Magnet is also a great way to show yourself as a thought-leader in your industry and a partner the client can rely on. For example, if I were a travel consultant, some great Lead Magnet Deliverables might be:

  • Pre-Vacation To-Do Checklist: Pet services, lawn/snow services, stop the mail, passport check, currency exchange, house sitter, etc.

  • Resource lists: Passport info, Local Embassy, Currency Exchange info, Vaccination Requirements, Covid Updates, etc.

  • Packing List based on Destination & Seasons

Lead Magnets can be implemented in a few different ways, the most common of which are pop-up boxes (ex: timjallard.com) and landing pages (ex: https://www.northstardesign.studio/free-small-business-resources). Both are usually supported by a series of email automations, triggered once the lead magnet form is submitted.


If you're interested in learning more about email automations, I'll be writing more on that soon… be sure to sign-up here to receive an update when that article goes live (see what I did there? That's another way of implementing your lead magnet!).


The Bare Minimum

If you do nothing else at least buy a domain and connect/forward it to an online business profile like a Facebook business page. This is not ideal of course but at least you’ll “own” the domain and can add it to other online profiles. That way, when you eventually redirect the URL to an official business website, all your online profiles will be up to date.


Trust me when I say putting in the time and effort to create and claim your online profiles is one of the best things you can do for your business.

Definitions for select Terms used in this article:

  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization

  • SEM: Search Engine Marketing

  • ROI: Return on investment

Tara Meeker is a 20+ year industry vet known for developing successful creative elements for Fortune 50, non-profits & local businesses. Her passion for creative marketing communication is second only to her commitment to helping other small businesses succeed. 

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