How To Build A Business Website
Welcome to part 2 of our 10 part series, Idea to Income, where I speak with website developer, CJ Gilbert about how to build a business website.
Your website likely serves as the first or second impression someone makes with your company. Critically, you can’t have a prospective customer Google your company only to come to your site and be underwhelmed. Therefore, we are fortunate to have CJ, winner of multiple awards as one of San Diego’s best web developers, guide us through the website building process. In addition to the helpful information CJ covers during our discussion, he has kindly shared multiple resources with our viewers that are listed at the end of this post.
In our discussion we review:
- Which platform to build your site on
- What “hosting” means
- How to build a great customer journey
We hope you enjoy our discussion:
Our video will provide all of the information. For those of you who prefer to read, please find the most pertinent material below:
Making the right impression with your business website
What platform should you build your website on?
Where should I build my website? What platform should I use? What software should I use?
There are a lot of options available, and some are better than others, depending on your goal.
Popular options include tools like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. Each will have their own pros and cons.
As a web developer, CJ cautions against using any of the closed source services and tools like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. This is because you’re tied in to using their software. It’s proprietary and you’re paying them on a monthly or a yearly basis to use it. That may work well for a time, but as soon as you don’t want to use it or you don’t pay for that service anymore, it’s gone. The website really never belonged to you, you’re renting it. If you want to move anywhere else, you basically have to rebuild your website in a new place, with a new software, from scratch. And if those providers were to make any updates or changes to their systems, you’re forced to go along for the ride whether it makes sense for your business or not.
You also give up control over certain aspects crucial to your business website’s success – such as search engine optimization features, and even what you want to build or add long-term. These proprietary platforms have limitations that may frustrate you down the road.
That’s why so many developers recommend, and business owners end up choosing, open source platforms like WordPress.
Open source software like WordPress, and CJ’s favorite Joomla, don’t require a licensing fee to use. You to own the site, giving you control over how it is built and where it is hosted. This allows far more flexibility for eventual changes that will likely take place through the company’s life.
Additionally, CJ and many marketing experts believe your website should be the hub of all of your marketing. All of the content you create, put it on your website first, then shoot off to social media and all the other places. Therefore, having a website that you can fully own and control, that is under your care and control with your own hosting account, and using a software that’s not going to go away like WordPress or Joomla, gives you the greatest control and sets you up for long term success.
Where does the website live?
Ultimately, your website needs to live somewhere. A website host is kind of like renting an apartment for your website to live in on the internet. It’s something you can pay for yearly or monthly, but it’s a space.
To stick with the real estate analogy – when you buy or rent a property, you have a physical address. But what happens when you rent virtual space? This is what your domain name (url) is for. It serves as your virtual address and it connects your website and your hosting platform. That domain is the address prospective customers will plug in to their browser to visit your business website.
You might be familiar with common hosting sites such as GoDaddy, or the one I personally use, SiteGround.
As you evaluate your options, special consideration should be given to cost, security, reliability, and customer service.
Create a great customer journey
Picking the site platform and hosting service is a starting point, but then you have to actually design and build the website! WordPress helps by providing popular templates and plug-ins to support even the least artistic among us with design. Given the importance of the site however, it is worth pointing out this may be an area worth hiring an expert to do the design work. You could consider hiring an expert like CJ, or use a service like Upwork to find a cost effective free-lancer that may be able to help.
Whether you take the do it yourself approach, or outsource the work – identifying the purpose of your website and then creating a customer journey will be critical.
The first questions CJ always asks clients are, “what are your goals for your website? What do you want the website to do for you as a company? And more importantly, what do you want the website to do for your customer, your client?”
Those could be two different answers, so it’s important to know both and be able to address them.
And you want to be as specific as you possibly can be. CJ sees too many people making the mistake of saying, everybody. I want my customer to be everybody or anybody. The problem is when you ask someone to think of anybody or everybody, they think of nobody. Instead, give yourself a bullseye, a specific point to shoot for. While a lot of people feel uncomfortable with that and don’t want to exclude people, CJ says you need to change your mindset because what’s actually true is if you have a bullseye you’re shooting at, it gives you a greater chance of hitting the whole target as opposed to just throwing darts in every random direction and missing everything. You have no idea where they’re going to go.
If you haven’t heard it already, as you proceed through this entrepreneurship journey, you’re going to quickly learn the expression – when you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.
The point is, being direct will not reduce the amount of potential customers. If anything, it’s helping you reach a greater number of people because you have that specific target in your mind. In fact, we designed my website with the intent to attract or repel someone immediately. We want them to think, this company can help solve my problem, or, I seem to be in the wrong place. And that’s ok! We won’t be able to work with everyone, but we want to ensure we can work with the right people who we serve best.
Once you know what you want your website to do and present, and who your customer is, you can do a great job of setting yourself up as the guide for that customer to achieve the outcome you want – set an appointment, sign up for your email list, buy your product, etc.
And here’s a really big tip for you. CJ see a lot of companies making this crucial mistake – they make their website all about them! The website is all about them, their credentials, their professional organizations, what they do, how long they’ve been in business, a big picture of their building, etc. The problem is, your customer probably doesn’t care about that as much as you think. Instead, the customer cares that you can solve their need.
The better thing to do is to create the website that speaks to that customer and positions you as the guide. You’re here to help that customer through the difficulty they’re experiencing and get them to that end goal they have.
As you consider how to build your business website, ask yourself this – When a potential customer comes to your site, do they know that you can solve that problem? Because if they are confused or if they don’t even see the problem and the site is just all about you, what’s to prompt them to move forward and contact you?
Serving two masters – SEO and your customer
After you’ve identified your target customer, you need to attract them to the site!
To do this effectively when you build your business website, you have to appeal to both visiting clients and reach the Google search engine machine. This can cause problems for new website owners. On one hand, you want to keep things simple and easy to follow for a great customer experience. On the other hand, you need content and key words optimized for Google’s search engine.
So, people are telling you load up your website with content for search engine optimization (SEO). While you want this content, you have to be very careful presenting the information. If you put all that information on your homepage and a visitor is seeing all this content at once, they’re likely going to freeze up. They’re going to turn around and they’re going to leave your website.
To handle this dichotomy, what you really want to do is create a hierarchy of pages.
Picture your homepage at the top, and then underneath your homepage, you’ve got sub pages such as – about me, services, contact information, etc. Underneath your services, you might have three or four categories that go into detail about the different service offerings.
A flow, with levels, and then more levels, gets created. You’re allowing the customer to explore on their terms as opposed to just throwing it all up front at them.
By creating this flow, all that content Google is looking for will live on those internal pages. Google can see every page on your website. As long as the information is in there, no matter how deep it’s in there, Google will still get to it.
With this structure, you appeal to the human visitor that’s coming to your homepage and are allowing them to decide, to choose, how to walk through it. CJ says you want the home page to be clean and simple. It should offer them a couple of choices, not too many, but just a few to pique interest. Let them decide, I’m interested in learning more about that topic. And then they click it, and then they’re on your services page. Then you can showcase, these are our three main services. And immediately they’ll think, I want to learn more about this one. And they click it. Now, they’re three pages deep. They’ve asked, tell me more twice. Then you can give them the information. That’s when it makes sense.
Call to actions
Recall one of the most important questions we started with is, what do you want clients to do when they come to the site? For example, in my case, ideally they’re scheduling a meeting to have a further conversation where I can get to know them and their goals.
Think about what you want your customer to do very first. Want them to call you? Do you want them to send you an email? Maybe you have a form you need them to fill out to get some information? What do you want them to do first?
That’s the thing that you’re going to offer them.
CJ also recommends having some sort of an introductory offer, like a free trial or a free demo, or in my case, a discovery session. That’s a great call to action. It doesn’t cost your visitor anything to try it and find out more if it’s the right fit, but it allows you still to walk through important steps.
As you build your business website, always think of it like your customer is brand new to you, and you want to get them from a stranger to an informed and interested buyer. They’re not going to jump from one to the other. You’ve got to prepare for a progressive series of steps. For example, the first time you meet someone, you don’t say, buy my thing. You say, let’s have another conversation. Can we talk about what your needs are? Shall we discuss what the process looks like? Have you considered what else we need to do? You are helping move them through the progression until they feel informed and ready to proceed.
Of course, some people who come to your site will intend to meet with you or buy from you immediately, so it should be clear how to do that. But others, and the more likely case, will be visiting and need additional information and ways to stay in touch. Try and make it easy and clear for people to do both.
A special thank you to CJ Gilbert for providing such helpful information on how to build a business website!
CJ helped us:
- Identify which platform we can effectively build our site on.
- Understand the logistics behind creating the site.
- Develop an effective customer journey
Remember, this course is all about taking action. CJ’s provided valuable content for FREE, so please take him up on his offer, dive in to the resources below and once you finish, let’s keep going and we will see you in episode three of our ten part series, Idea to Income.