6 things to do before you start a website for a business

If you want to know how to start a website for a business, then this article will show you how to get started and give you some tips and advice. It is aimed at people with little or no experience of setting up a site and no experience of HTML or computer programming but who need to set up a website either AS a business or FOR a business.

So below are my 6 action points for setting up your business website. You can print out this article too and tick of the actions as you have done them.

1. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT YOUR WEBSITE TO DO

There are different reasons that you might want to set up a business website. You might already run an existing business and want to create an online presence, or you might want to start an online affiliate marketing business, or you might want to sell your own products online. Whatever you want to do, a website is a vital asset in the 21st century. The uses of the internet are growing, the number of users are growing and this is something that is likely to continue into the future rather than decrease. It is important that you move into the digital age rather than try to resist it. Businesses need to change and adapt in order to succeed and having a website is now a must!

The reason you want your website is important so make a list of the reasons you want your site as this will help determine your:

  • programming platform
  • budget
  • resources on the site
  • general approach to content.

So before you begin with your website, write a list of why you want to do it and what you are expecting to get out of it.

You might include things like:

  • To raise awareness of my business
  • To get more customers
  • To sell my own products
  • To sell other people’s products
  • To advertise a specific aspect of my business
  • To act as an online shop window
  • To create an online income whilst working from home
  • To create and monetise a blog
  • To showcase your work

Answering the question “WHY?” will allow you to better understand your needs and aims which will ultimately lead to you creating a better website.

2. RESEARCH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA

Only a fool would start a business project without doing their research first. So the second thing to do when setting up your site is to research what is already out there, what others are doing and where the gaps are.

Doing some research will also give you ideas for content, design and structure.

There are 3 standpoints that you should adopt as you conduct your research, which means looking at things from each of the following perspectives:

  1. Your customers
  2. Your competitors
  3. Your own business

Below are some research ideas and actions you should do to conduct some thorough market research for your site.

Use Google, Bing or Yahoo to research some of your competitor’s sites and see what comes up. Use general keywords and see what comes up. Remember that although Google is the leading search engine, Bing, Yahoo and even contribute significantly to search traffic so make sure you search on those engines too. Try to look at 10 or more different sites that are relevant to your existing business or new business idea.

When you are looking at the site, have some of the following questions in mind. It’s a good idea to get a note book and write down things that you like, things you don’t like and things that inspire you so that you can refer to them when you are creating your own site.

This is not about copying other people’s work – that is blatantly not ethical, mostly illegal and you will get caught out. However, knowing that your business is under-represented on the internet, or that most of your competitors have FaceBook or Pinterest sites in addition to their websites can give you a head start.

  • Which designs do you like – what works, what doesn’t?
  • What topics and categories are being used and discussed?
  • What works best in terms of layouts – is it easy to find things on the sites
  • What are these sites promoting in terms of affiliate links and how do they do it?
  • What is the tone of writing in your niche? Humour, serious, educational, legal?
  • What is the average length of articles that are posted? Which ones are you drawn to? Which ones do you skim over and why?

Doing this kind of initial research may sound like wasted time but I can assure you it will set you up to succeed.

3. CONDUCT A FOCUS GROUP OR CREATE A SURVEY

You may find that when you’ve conducted your initial research that you are overrun with ideas and inspirations, some of which will be useful and some of which you might need to put on the back burner until you have had your website up and running for a while.

One way to establish what is important and what is not, is to organise a focus group with potential customers and talk through some of your ideas. This is relatively easy to do especially if you have some draft ideas or designs that you can go over or show your potential customers.

You could do this as a face-to-face group or by telephone interview or even set up something like an online survey such as www.surveymonkey.com where you can set up a free survey and email it to your customers too. In my experience, existing or potential customers always like being asked for their feedback and opinions. It will establish you not only as a legitimate business but you will have set yourself up as someone who listens and wants to please their customers too. And that can only be a good thing.

Things to ask can include:

  • Specific preferences about design or structure of your intended site
  • What your potential audience would like to see on your site?
  • What services, downloads or products would people want available on your site?

There is no law that says you need to adhere strictly to what people tell you they want, but if you’ve ever watched a version of the television show “The Apprentice” and watched as hapless would-be-entrepreneurs launch into their business ideas without doing their research, then you’ll understand why they get such a hard time in the board room when it all goes pear-shaped!

One specific thing that is useful to find out from focus groups or intended audiences, is what search terms people are using when looking for similar services on the internet. These are commonly called “KEYWORDS” in the internet marketing industry and once you get your website up and running, keywords are literally the key to driving traffic to your site. There is more about keywords elsewhere on this site, but at the very least, when starting out, you should understand what people are searching for, and try to match your articles and content to that. There is no point on earth in having the most amazing website and content if no one ever finds it in the billions of pages that are available.

As an example, when I was researching this article, I used the search term “start a website for a business” and as you can see from the screenshot below, it returned about 41 billion results.

Talk about a needle in a haystack. That’s where keywords become important because it allows you to target your content more specifically to the people who are looking for what you offer. That way, your website becomes more efficient in driving relevant traffic (i.e. customers) to your business.

Other ways to find relevant keywords that you can target on your site include specialist keyword tools such as Jaaxy. Jaaxy is a tool that allows you to research and discover what people are searching the internet for, and how much competition there is out there on those keywords. You’ll find more on Jaaxy in an upcoming review but if you want to get the best from your website, in whatever niche you are in, then Jaaxy is a great research tool.

 

4. CHECK OUT WHAT’S ON YOUTUBE

YouTube, (love it or hate it), is here to stay. It is now the number 2 search engine on the web after Google. Why? Because it allows people to research and learn in a fun, audio-visual way. We are all used to watching expert documentaries on the TV and now we can find out how to do just about anything with a few clicks. We can see people from all over the world demonstrating how to clear out your seat belt clasps, how to tile a bathroom, paint a picture, bake a cake and anything else you can set your mind to. It is NOT something you can afford to ignore when you start a business.

YouTube videos like the ones shown below, can get millions of views per month.

There are children with channels on YouTube who get sent toys every month from different manufacturers because they have an internet toy review channel. People have become celebrities in different niches because they blog or ‘vlog’ about how to cook, sew, dance, change a tyre, build a wall……..you get the idea. Making videos is easy nowadays with the advent of tablets, faster computers and smart phones. The question is – will you join the party?

You don’t necessarily have to do everything at once – in fact it is advisable not to try. It is better to get one or two ideas sorted first and you can always add to your online presence with a YouTube channel at a later date. But research it at the start so you get an idea of what you’d like to do later when time and money allow.

5. DECIDE WHETHER TO DO IT YOURSELF OR PAY SOMEONE ELSE

Sooner or later, when you’ve done your research and decided on what you want your website to do and to contain, you will need to decided whether you are going to go down the ‘do-it-yourself’ route, or pay someone else to create the website for you.

This will usually depend on the type of site you want to create, how much time you have and definitely how much money you have. It will also depend on the answers you have come up with in the points above.

So for example, if all you want is to have a page on the internet where people can look up your address, then you will be looking at something very different than if you are a multi-national corporation with branches across the world, looking to expand your sales online.

There is no ‘ball-park’ cost for creating a website: it can cost you nothing, and it can cost you a million! It’s the same as the old adage “how long is a piece of string?”. Everything depends on what you want.

A few things to be aware of if you are paying someone else to create your site are:

  • Who owns the copyright, designs and source code of the site: you or the web designer?
  • Who will do the ongoing maintenance of the site? (uploading more information, creating new content and designs)
  • What happens to your site if the company you choose go out of business?
  • Do you have access to the site to make changes or update simple things?

You should always clarify these points in a contractual format if you are asking a person or company to build your site. Many new business owners have come unstuck by not tying down these simple things in a contract.

However, if you are going to pay someone else to create your site, then it will normally cost you more than if you do it yourself.

And like any DIY job, you can decide how much of it you really want to do – using a building analogy for a moment – you can decide whether you want someone to design and build your house, whilst you do all the painting and decoration; or whether you do the entire thing yourself including digging the foundations!

Luckily, building a website is much easier than building a house and many millions of people create their own websites every day. You do not need to be a programmer nowadays and most people I know who run their own online businesses, do not write in HTML code – they use their basic computer skills to drag and drop items into their sites using preset, templates and designs.

I wrote this website using WordPress, a design template that suited my niche and easy-to-understand training from Wealthy Affiliate, a company that specialises in training people on how to create their own online business. It is not the only company that offer a service like this, but in my opinion, it is definitely one of the best. Read more about my review of them here.

There are many other companies around too that can help you set up your website such as:

Wealthy affiliate and SiteRubix (which I used to write this). You can start a blog for free and later upgrade if you want to.

WordPress
Wix.com
1and1.co.uk
Site123.com
Sitebuilder.com
Blogger

6. SET YOURSELF A BUDGET AND SCHEDULE

Finally, you will need to set yourself a budget and schedule for the work needed. You can allocate as much or as little as you wish, and take as long as you need to get these things done. The ‘trick’ here, is to do your research first so that you know what is realistic and feasible within the constraints of time and money which will be different for everyone.

Remember that you budget should also include money for updating and maintaining your site in the future; this applies whether you are creating your own site or not. If you create your own business website then you should consider your own time and money too. If the site is going to be the business rather than representing another, established business, then this should not be a problem, but you will need to consider carefully the time that it will take you to build and complete your site.

There are many affiliate and internet marketers out there in cyberspace that run full-time businesses from the comfort of their own homes, working at a time and place that suits them. I am one of them and can honestly say that it was the best decision I ever made. However, it does take time and it does take effort, and some money, like any other business venture. But if you approach your business in the correct way, treat it with respect and treat it like a business, then you will surely do well.

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I wish you all the besst with your new business.

10 comments

  1. As usual Gail, this is a great article with a ton of useful information. My only issue is, where was it before I started my website? I would have been great to read this before I created my site. It will be very helpful to all that read it. On the subject of writing, I was thinking – I know that is dangerous, but is there a way to have someone do the research for an article I want to write, instead of me having someone else write it? That is really what takes me the most time. Once the research is done and I have all the info I need, writing the article is a piece of cake. What do you think?
    Again, great post!

    1. Hi Curtis. Apologies first for not getting this information before you started your site – how tardy of me! LOL! On the subject of research, I would suggest you look at Fiverr.com and see if anyone is offering that service there. It’s a great place for people who want to outsource things for their businesses. I recently had a book cover designed for my ebook and I was really pleased with it. And it cost less than £25 which was amazing. I’m sure that you would be able to approach people who are advertising to write posts for you and see it they would just do the research. Good luck with that and let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading and come back soon. Kind regards, Gail.

  2. I wanted to avoid starting a youtube channel as much as possible because I am not quite comfortable being in front of the camera.

    Am I missing a significant amount of website traffic by not doing this? Especially considering that Youtube is the 2nd most used search engine as you have said.

    1. Hi Jessie
      Thanks for reading and for your comment. In answer to your question, you can perfectly well set up a website without having a YouTube channel and many people do. I would just recommend looking around what is on their in your business niche to see what you competitors are doing. If you are just starting out then I would get your site up and running first and concentrate on that and later on, approach YouTube if it is appropriate for your niche. You do not need to go in front of the camera either. There are many people who will make videos for you either by doing a voice over to a script you write, or by adding graphics and no voice, right up to doing the entire thing, so don’t let that put you off. A great site for sourcing people to do things is Fiverr.com where you can outsource virtually any service you would need for a website or video. Hope this helps. Gail

  3. I highly agree with all your tips mentioned here. I use to lack in creating content and my business took a long time to take off. Well, it didn’t take off UNTIL I set myself a schedule and stuck with it. I think this is the most important because without a schedule you won’t have motivation to do anything and your website will never “take off”. You’ve done a great job here so thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Brandon. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I’m glad you found the information useful, especially about sticking to a schedule. Setting goals is important I think as long as they don’t cause too much stress, but they can be great for getting you motivated and stopping procrastination which many of us suffer from. I wish you continued success with your own business.

  4. Wow, what a great, in depth and informative post, it really does contain all the information you would need to know to start your own online business. I even learnt a few new things myself!
    I love your idea about the focus group and doing your market research to find out what potential customers want. It is definitely a top priority to do this first if you would like to succeed in any business.
    As for building a website, why pay somebody else when you can easily do it yourself? And you don’t even need any former knowledge in website building – I didn’t when I joined Wealthy Affiliate 10 months ago and I believed it to be impossible at the time. But I have, with their great, easy to follow training done just that! I cannot recommend building your own website enough to anybody no matter what your skill level, it is just so rewarding.

    1. Hi Stefanie. Thank you for reading the article and your comment. I’m glad that you could learn some new things here. I have used focus groups for a while, even just asking friends and family or other colleagues for feedback is a great way to explore new ideas. Many brains are better than one! Glad you have found Wealthy Affiliate too and are enjoying the experience. I now use it as my online business full time but it somehow never feels like work and I have to tear myself away, rather than drag myself in! What a shift in outlook and lifestyle. All the best with your own business and I look forward to hearing more about your success. Gail

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