Building a Website for a Small Business Using WordPress

Building a Website for a Small Business Using WordPress

You have done your research and decided that a WordPress website is what your business needs to improve your brand exposure, and increase sales.

As a small business owner, it is entirely possible to build your own website, with a little technical understanding and support through the learning curve.

As well as offering a complete web design and build service, empresita.com helps small businesses just like yours in building a better digital presence for themselves.

We have broken down this how-to guide into non-expert, friendly steps, there are additional resources linked in the article to help you, as this is a lengthy topic, and there are many ways to proceed.

WHAT WILL I NEED?

A computer with internet access

Hosting – where your website content is stored so visitors can access it, choose the right level for your needs

A domain name (URL) – the unique name of your website so people can find your website

RELATED FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Why do I need a website?

Why WordPress?

What should I consider when choosing my hosting provider?

Why might I need a CRM?

You can build your site in a staging area, this is good if you already have an existing site for your chosen URL (your hosting provider will be able to point you in the right direction), or you can build your website ‘live’.

If you build in a staging area, then you would need to export at the end to the live URL.

So, you have registered your domain name, set up hosting for your website. Let’s get started! 

STEP 1. INSTALL WORDPRESS

Login to your hosting service, and enter your dashboard, in this example we use GreenGeeks which uses ‘cPanel’ but we would also suggest Bluehost and SiteGround.

Select and open the WordPress Installer, this is usually fairly prominent, use the search function if you are struggling.

Follow the steps, making sure to make a careful note of any user names, passwords etc. for later reference. Keep these in a safe place.

Enter the website name and tagline. Then, choose the correct domain from the dropdown menu and save. Congratulations you have installed WordPress!

STEP 2. DNS & SSL

DNS LOOKUP

If you typed in your domain now, you would likely see the default message provided by your domain registrar. What you need is to provide the details that point to your website content.

This is done by updating your DNS records with your domain registrar (the company you bought your URL from) with the nameserver details from your hosting provider, which should be detailed in your account when you log in, if not, ask them to confirm. This is an example of those supplied by Greengeeks:

Log in to your domain registrar account, navigate to your domain settings, and select ‘custom DNS’. Update the Nameserver fields and save.

It can take up to 24 hours to propagate this update but is usually quicker.

Once completed then you will be able to see your live website when you enter your URL into a browser.

SSL security certification

It’s very much the norm these days to have SSL certificates for websites when browsing, a level of protection for the website’s users. You may find that SSL certification is included with your hosting provider or may be chargeable, or you can purchase via a third-party provider (such as your domain registrar, or your CDN provider).

We have taken the simplest option here, by using the SSL certification provided by the hosting company, and using their auto-installer, a case of simply selecting the domain in the Security tab, selecting the preferred option, and clicking on install and waiting for the process to complete:

STEP 3. SELECTING A ‘THEME’

 WordPress itself is a foundation on which to build your website. In order to add a sense of design flair, additional functionality, and mobile responsiveness without having to know how to code, it is advised to use a ‘theme’.

As well as standard WordPress themes, there are thousands of additional themes designed to work with WordPress. You can browse through the options within WordPress. Many are free, and if you are building a basic website then these might well suit you. Your theme can be changed later if needed.

Log into your website admin dashboard by going to your URL with /wp-admin at the end, eg yourdomain.com/wp-admin

Navigate to ‘Appearance’ on the left side, then to ‘Themes’ where you will find the standard WordPress themes, to browse additional themes, click on ‘add new’ at the top. The feature filter is really helpful and you can preview a theme before installing it.

There are also paid themes you can install via ThemeForest at EnvatoMarket or Elegant Themes. Divi theme by Elegant Themes for example has the added benefit of including a page builder, has hundreds of layout packs included which with a few clicks you can import ready-made pages and then edit the text and photos etc. Take the time to select a theme that works for your type of business for functionality and design, is easy for visitors to navigate, and is a pleasure to spend time browsing.

It is best practice when selecting any theme or plugin to check that it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress, is rated well by users, and that its latest update is fairly recent. Avoid those which have not been updated in a while.

Once you’ve chosen your theme, select ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’ your theme.

Congratulations, you have installed your theme!

You can customise your theme as required according to your selected theme’s instructions. If you are comfortable editing code and wish to do so within the theme, then it is recommended to use a ‘child theme’ and include your edits there so that any theme updates don’t overwrite your edits.

Before you start adding pages and writing content, you’ll want to install your plugins.

STEP 4. INSTALLING PLUGINS

WordPress is designed so that you can add plugins to your site. Plugins are bundles of additional code that allow you to add additional functionality, with little to no coding needed on your part. What you need your website to do will determine the types of plugins you will want to install.

You might want membership, multi-language, eCommerce, bookings, calendars, payments or CRM functionality for instance. Or you may wish to use an SEO tool, social media, or site speed optimiser. Plugins can be free, or payable, check if the license is lifetime or recurring and factor these into your budget.

It is tempting to add all the exciting extra functionality that you discover to make your site all-singing and all-dancing, however, there is a need for caution in this regard. As a generalisation, the more plugins you install, the more you are loading extra code into your website, which in turn may increase your webpage loading times affecting your google rankings.

Potential visitors need to be able to find you easily and want your pages to load fast, so if you really do need the extra functionality then you should consider upgrading your hosting, your page structure (sections & columns layout, minimising content, prioritisation of content, lazy loading, image optimisation) and selecting plugins that aren´t hefty with code to improve page speed loading in other areas.

Another reason to be selective is that the more plugins you have, the greater the risk of a future coding conflict between them which will need investigating and resolving when updating your website. It is recommended to update your WordPress installation, theme and plugins as updates become available for security reasons, as well as benefitting from improved functionality.

Think about your business strategy, and how this extends to your website, research themes that give you what you need to meet this strategy.

 To add a plugin, similar to adding a theme, navigate to ‘Plugins’ in your website Dashboard, click ‘Add new’ select those you want to use, install and then activate them. Exercise caution if a plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, or has a consistently poor user rating. You are then ready to configure depending upon the specific plugins.

TYPES OF PLUGINS TO CONSIDER:

OPTIMISATION

Yoast. Their free version is really good. If your blog has great SEO (search engine optimisation), it’s more likely that it will be at the top of search engine results, leading to more people visiting your site!

SEO is complex and an ongoing process, however, there are some fundamentals that Yoast helps you improve within your pages, posts etc. and is one of the most important plug-ins you can have on WordPress.

Yoast not only guides you through the on-page SEO improvements you can make, but also the grammar improvements you can make to improve your website’s readability score. Content that is easier to read encourages your visitors to stay and browse your website longer rather than ‘bounce’. Your website’s bounce rate impacts your search engine ranking, among other factors.

LiteSpeed. While this plug-in is fairly technical and takes a little bit of a learning curve, this one is highly customisable. Should you find conflicts you can bypass certain elements if needed. The best-performing websites are the ones that load content the fastest, so you will want something to perform page optimisation. Be aware that two different plugins attempting to perform the same function will create problems, so pick your tools wisely.

You might also want to consider Diib, which scans your website and recommends improvements. Diib has free and paid versions.

Membership

We find MemberPress is a good all-rounder for a small business, fairly easy to use, affordable, has great functionality, as well as good support. The integration with CRM’s and payment integration is also a plus.

ANALYTICS

Google Analytics. To track your website’s growth and traffic, Google Analytics is a must. You’ll see key data such as how many visits you get, where your audience comes from, and what articles they’re landing on the most. 

The real power in this is that you can link this data into your CRM and then use it to segment your marketing campaigns so your customers feel that you give them proper personalised attention without spamming. No one enjoys that.

Monster Insights allows you to connect to Google Analytics and see where your users are clicking. With this plug-in, you’ll be able to see things like how many people are reading your posts, what links they click on, and other elements of your website.

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)

If you don’t already use a CRM for your business, start. CRM’s allow greater automation which means you can focus your resources on the personal relationships of maintaining and growing your business.

There are plenty of free CRM’s out there, that can be upgraded to premium as your small business grows. These not only allow you to keep a track of contacts, but also allow you to tailor your offers, marketing, etc. to contacts that meet specific criterion, and if you have an eCommerce store, for instance, can help you improve your sales conversions from abandoned carts.

It pays to do your research here, to understand what benefits a CRM can give you, determine the most important things to you now, and how your needs change with your future growth strategy.

We love HubSpot, which has a free option, but this can get quite expensive quite quickly as your needs grow. What might make you consider HubSpot is the level to which you can understand your site visitors and you and your team can move them through to a sale. It might well work out cheaper to pay the subscription than hire another employee to manage the data manually.

Mailchimp can perform the majority of what you’ll need from a CRM as a small business, what might make you choose Mailchimp over HubSpot apart from price (free to start, and much cheaper for upgrade options), would be its strengths in customer mailing lists.

We will be providing a comparison guide to CRM’s for small businesses soon, so do check back soon.

Choose your CRM carefully, and with future costs and functionality in mind, it is something that you will select early on and tend to stick with for years.

STEP 5. CUSTOMISE YOUR WEBSITE

This is where you will want to add your logo, use your brand images, add your pages, posts, or projects to add your content, build your menus and add your contact and social media details.

WordPress websites are extremely customisable, it’s easy to get carried away tweaking things. It’s recommended to have a clear view of your brand identity.

Make sure to keep an eye on your design intent throughout your build, you want your website to stay looking professional, it is a reflection of your businesses identity. Your clients need to feel they can trust and depend upon you when browsing your website.

We shall look at how to build and customise with a Divi theme install in a later article, for now, we shall keep to the basics that you would want when customising your WordPress website.

Each theme will have a slightly different look, layout and functionality. If your theme is listed on the dashboard menu, you can navigate your theme’s customisable options there, otherwise, WordPress has a basic ‘theme customiser’ on the Dashboard within ‘Appearance’ then ‘Customize’.

Start with ‘General Settings’ and work your way through. Adding your website details, your logo, colours, your favicons etc. you can choose to publish, save drafts, or schedule publication as you go. Play around in these settings to find what works for you.

PAGES, BLOG POSTS, PROJECTS & MORE

The majority of small businesses will want to design a homepage and add additional pages such as About, Contact etc. and you may well want to build landing pages for your marketing campaigns.

You might also consider having a blog page listing your blog posts. You can call this News or something pertinent to your business if you feel that ‘blog’ is not right for you. Regular blog posts allow regular updates to visitors which can be searchable by category or tags and will keep a freshness to help with search engine rankings that a static page is not designed for.

If your particular business has projects that you wish to showcase, then WordPress also allows another type of post that’s partway between a page and a blog post, allowing you to showcase these in a Portfolio page. It’s up to you how you choose to structure your website.

Make sure to set your ‘Reading Settings’ in the Settings of your WordPress Dashboard so that your homepage is linked to your domain URL, and your blog is linked to your blog page with your posts listed.

CONTENT

As an existing business, you will likely already have copy and images for your business available to use as content. If not then you could write copy as you go, hire a copywriter, use a copywriting AI tool, hire a photographer or use stock images and videos depending upon your needs, time, and budget. There are pros and cons to each option, consider the quality of writing needed, your budget and how tailored to your business identity you need.

Put the effort into communicating well here and you are halfway toward a really great website.

Add posts, pages, and projects using your website’s WordPress dashboard. If you are using a page builder such as Elementor, or your theme has a built-in page builder then you will want to get to know this tool intimately, you will be using it a lot!

This will be how you add elements to page sections, use widgets, build templates for posts etc. Research how the builder works by watching the company’s instructional videos and you will pick up how the basics work pretty quickly.

Page builders are designed to make building a webpage simple enough for those without advanced coding skills as well as a toolkit for those who are comfortable coding to customise the page builder as a framework.

When adding your content, be sure to keep an eye on the ‘responsiveness’ of your pages, images, headings etc. i.e. does your site still look good on various devices?

Over 60% of web browsing these days is on mobile devices. You need your website to respond to various device screen sizes.

STEP 6. SEO

Search Engine Optimisation. It is essential to optimise your website so that search engines can understand what your content is about, and rank your website accordingly to search terms that people type.

We recommend the Yoast plugin for this, see the related plugin section above. Make sure to have different keywords for different pages firstly to maximise the keywords that you will return a good ranking for, but also to ensure that pages do not ‘cannibalise’ another’s ranking thus confusing a search engine.

If you find that your pages or posts are similar then it is good practice to ensure that you use cornerstone content and canonical URLs effectively. Indeed, you can build up your ‘authority’ which improves your search engine rankings.

Keyword tools such as Wincher can be very helpful and have a free trial period.  Not only can you find keywords you can optimise for, but you can also see how your competitors perform.

Your aim is to rank as high as possible for your keywords on your pages and posts.  We shall touch on this more in further articles so do check back often!

STEP 7. LAUNCH YOUR WEBSITE

If you haven’t already as you built, then publish your pages. If you have built your site in a staging area, then follow the tool’s instructions to move over to your live website URL.

Congratulations, your site is now live!

Tell everyone! You will need to have an idea of your launch strategy here, but assuming that you have an existing mailing list for customers loaded into your CRM linked to your website, as well as social media integration, then this becomes easier.

Take the opportunity to set up specific campaigns to launch awareness for your new website (and your business), and take the opportunity to let your customers know about a special offer, perhaps linked to sharing content from your new website. If you wish to know more about launch strategy or social media strategy, then do get in touch.

Congratulations you have a new website for your small business!

If this content helped you, or you have any questions, then do let us know in the comments!

If you need a website but don’t have the time or the skillset or need digital marketing support more generally then do contact us and let us know how we may help you.