Short answer, YES!
Even though it’s 2018 and most business owners have at least a small website, many still do not. Some merely have a Facebook page and think that is enough while others may think they don’t need a website because business is good. Some people simply don’t want to spend the money or even know where to get started because they have no idea what they actually need and how much a site for their business can benefit them.
But why do I need a website if my business is already doing well?
For one, your business could always be doing better. It would inform potential customers about your business. Even if you just have a purely informational website, you could answer a ton of questions that you probably get asked on the phone everyday. Think about a question that you are frequently getting asked about your business that almost gets annoying.. you could easily answer this and others like it on your website.
Websites provide people with a peek into your business, your product line, your services, what you can provide for them, and why they should choose you over the countless other options out there that probably do have websites. Remember, a website can be an invaluable investment in your business and should be treated as such.
Even if you are operating at capacity and have no more room for new customers right now, a website could help you serve your current customers better. It could perform services automatically that someone you employ has to take time to do. Displaying your product line, warranty information, a means of communication to cut down on phone calls. And just simply a way to find you.
How much is a website going to cost me?
It varies, this question is vary tricky and there is no right answer. How big is your business? What are your goals? If you are going for something simple with 8-10 pages about your business, products and/or services, and a way to contact you, then you may be able to get one made for a $2,000 or less. This all depends on the developer or designer you hire. If they are in high demand and know their value you could easily pay 2-3 times this for even a simple site.
Many web designers will ask for half up front and half upon completion. Perhaps they will set milestones and get a portion of the price at each one and not move further along until you sign off on the progress. Each one is different, but expect to pay something up front as a deposit.
Don’t get cheap here though, as with anything you get what you pay for. Most web designers will give free consultations and estimates. So call a few in your area and get some quotes. Go with the one that you have the best feeling about and is able to intelligently communicate to you what they bring to the table and how they can help you. Don’t automatically go with the cheapest.
Younger, less experienced web designers are probably going to charge much less. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. A bungled website launch can result in a complete do over when you decide that you need to hire a professional and you shouldn’t have let your sister’s 19 year old son do it. A professional isn’t going to want to work with someone else’s code or fix their poor design choices. Most professional web designer’s have a strict process and it’s easier to start over and follow it.
I guess if you take anything from this section, don’t sacrifice quality and try to get a great deal on a website. This is your business that you have put your sweat and blood into and this is the first thing many people will see. 9/10 before I visit a business I go to their website. I would assume many other people are the same way.
How do I find a web designer?
By doing what other people would like to do to find your business! Google. Let’s face it, not as many people use the phone books anymore. As a web designer I am certainly not in the phone book. For instance, if I were looking for a web designer in my city I would Google “web designer in Cookeville Tn”. Several choices come up as they would in your town.
Alternatively, ask a friend who may have a website for their business. Most people can recommend someone to you. Add this recommended person to your own list of prospects. You should still do your own research and vet them yourself. Just because your pal seems to be happy with their results does not mean they got a quality website built or even payed a fair price.
You certainly do not have to limit yourself to your own city. Most designers are happy to work remotely, if you are ok with this then it’s something you may want to explore. However, there is something about being able to shake someone’s hand that your are doing business with and you are after all, making an investment into your own business’ future.
Make a few calls, fill out a couple of contact forms and send a few emails. Set up some meetings and tell them why you think you need a website and what goals you would like it to achieve. Then listen to what they have to say. This is where you will have to make a judgement call on who to choose.
Do your research, ask the right questions, have bullet point list of what you want to ask. If you have a friend who has a successful website, maybe ask them to sit in on a meeting with the web designer you are considering hiring. As with other things in life, trust your gut. You may very well have a long term business relationship with this person. Are they the kind of person that you would get along with? Do they seem like they would return your call or email in a timely manner if you are having problems with your site.
Ask to see a few examples of their work, they should be happy to show you. If you feel the need, reach out to one of their former or current clients and ask their opinion.
What if I just need a redesign on my old website?
Keeping a fresh, clean look is very important. If your site is over 5 years old and you know that it is not in great shape then you should at least consider this. Look at some of your competitors sites. If you sell boots then look up other boot stores in your area. Be honest with yourself, do their site look much better than yours? If so then you could be customers to them. As a consumer, if I see that someone can’t be bothered to update their website then it makes me wonder what else they can’t be bothered to worry about. I will most likely inevitably buy from the business that has a both informative and modern website.
You do not need all of the fancy features that you may see on some sites. Honestly I could care less if you have a giant image slider or fancy animations all over the place. In fact, these things can be very distracting from what your customer should be focused on which is your product. I personally like a fast loading, clean looking website with well formatted images and writing. Basically I want something that is easily digestible, and that’s what your potential customers are looking for as well.
If your old and outdated site is confusing and hard to navigate then people will get frustrated and bounce. They will look for somewhere else to spend their money. Many web designers will offer other services such as SEO (search engine optimization). They will monitor the traffic to your website and can tell you what pages people are entering your site on, what pages they are leaving on, and how long they are staying. From metrics such as these you can determine where your website’s weaknesses may be and improve on them.
Should I pay extra for SEO, do I even need it?
In my opinion, if you are working with a web designer that is building out your whole site for you, then they should do local SEO. So this should be included in your quote. Local SEO is your on page SEO, how your content is formatted. Each page on your site should be focusing on a keyword or phrase and the entire page should be highly focused around these keyword.
Let’s go back to boots. If you have a product page that shows all of your boots that you offer for sale. Your keyword for that page may be “boots for sale” or “discount boots” or just “boots”. The longer your keyword is the better chance you have of ranking for it. However if it is too long and too obscure then no one searches for it anyway and you aren’t doing yourself any favors. If you focus the whole page around “women’s size 8 brown cowboy boots under $20” then that’s going to be tough to do much with because no one searches for something that specific. So your web designer needs to know what they are doing here for proper on page SEO.
Your pages may also rank for other long tail key words accidentally. Long tail key words are keywords like the boot example above, usually a phrase that is 3-4 words or more. If your site has rich and informative content then and you are in a market where people pay money to buy things, then you will eventually get search traffic from google.
Google puts most new sites in a “sandbox phase” for around 6 months. This is where Google is kind of vetting your site because it doesn’t trust it yet. Once you have been around for 6 months or so (sometimes more sometimes less) Google will start to trust you and rank you in search results. If good on page SEO was done, you may even rank high. Depending on your competitors’ sites and your niche, you may even be able to quickly outrank them. If you are in a highly competitive niche and you are up against sites that are highly optimized and have been around for years, then it is going to take time. Maybe a long time to get to that sought after first page.
Don’t trust anyone that tells you they guarantee they will get you to the first page on Google. This can’t be guaranteed. If they have done their research and are good at SEO, then they may very well be able to, but nothing is guaranteed. If you come across someone who tells you this then do yourself a favor and get them to explain exactly how they plan to accomplish it and why they think they are able to beat out your competitors.
So far I have been talking about on internal or on-page SEO, there is also external SEO. When agencies and website developers offer additional SEO services, this is most likely what they are offering. If they are trying to charge you extra for SEO, then ask them specifically what they are going to be doing. Ask for monthly site audits and results of their efforts. If done properly by and SEO professionally, external SEO can be highly effective, and highly expensive.
It really depends on your budget and how ambitious you are as to whether or not you should pay for extra SEO services. It is not something you have to have. As I mentioned above, with good on-page SEO you will eventually rank on Google SERP (search engine results page) organically or naturally. Also, as I mentioned it can be rather costly because of how time consuming it is so this is something else to consider.
External SEO is all about backlinks. Backlinks are links to your site from other sites. Preferably sites with a high domain authority, in other words sites that are frequently visited and respected by people and Google. They are knows as an authority on the subject matter, or an Authority Site. Links to your site from sites like these will can potentially boost your ranking very quickly. When Google sees links to your site on the web they begin to trust you even more and give you more visibility.
So if you are considering paying $300/month for SEO and you have no idea what this person is even going to do, either skip it or do yourself a favor and ask the right questions. Namely, what you are paying for. I am not knocking SEO experts, I realize it’s a tough job and you have to have the right skills. However I do think many people are charging extra for it when they shouldn’t be.
I’m pretty tech savvy, can I just build my own website?
Of course you can! That’s how many web designers got their starts, by building sites they needed for themselves. If you are good at following directions and technically minded, it is something you can do. Keep in mind though, it is going to take you much much longer to complete and there may be many times when you end up pulling your hair out or banging your head on the keyboard.
First you will have to buy a domain. You can get one of many places like Godaddy or Namecheap, I personally use Namecheap, however I have a Godaddy account as well. It really easy, you just go to the home page and type in your domain of choice and find out if it’s available, then purchase it. Go for a .com if you can.
Next is your hosting. There is an overwhelming amount of choices out there for web hosting so I’ll make this easy. For a beginner looking to get a website up with no hassle, just choose Bluehost. If you are a bit more technically advanced and want some more flexibility then my recommendation would be different but I am assuming you are a beginner. Sign up for a plan, probably the smallest on is fine. Bluehost actually gives new customers a free domain on sign up so you can just skip the previous step.
You now how your web server and domain, now you need to pick your platform you are building on. I recommend WordPress. There will be a 1 click install button in your control panel. Now you can start building out your site. I’m not going to go any more in depth than this, maybe in another post. This is basically where the fun begins. There are a ton of resources on the internet and if you are up for watching a bunch of youtube videos and following tutorials you can get a site up. It is most likely not going to look as good as if a professional did it, but you learned something.
You must also consider how valuable your time is. If you think it would be better spent on your business and hiring a professional to do what they know how to do, then that is the way to go. If you have the spare time and the will to succeed then maybe you want to give it a shot. I wrote a post with more detail on how to get started.