With the rapid growth of online and mobile search for local business information, it is increasingly important for small business owners to build an online presence. A website serves as a platform for all online advertising efforts and gives businesses control over their brand. For many though, this task gets put off or overlooked because it seems too complex or too costly to start a website. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Simple platforms like Wordpress allow anyone with basic computer skills to set up and operate a basic website with ease. The following steps are a basic outline to help get you started.
Step One: Find a Domain Name
Before you can make a website, you need a domain name (URL). Keep in mind the best domain name would be yourbusiness.com. If this is not available, you may need to get creative, but remember to keep the domain name concise, include your primary keyword, and avoid multiple hyphens and numbers. For example, if you’re a dentist with the business name White Dental, you might try white-dental.com, whitedentalcare.com, whitedentalphoenix.com, etc. Once you’ve chosen a domain, you will register it for a period of time (usually yearly), which should cost around $10-$15/yr.
Step Two: Get Hosting
Now that you have a domain, you need hosting. When looking for a hosting provider, look for one that offers C-Panel (preferably with app installation tools like Softaculous), customer support, and high uptime. As long as you don’t plan on accepting payments on your site, you don’t need an SSL certificate. Hosting will run $5+ month depending on the provider and plan. If your host is different from your domain registrar, you will need to point your domain to the hosts servers (the host will tell you the name servers, and the registrar can tell how to point them).
Step Three: Install Wordpress
Once your domain is pointed, login to your hosting backend. If you have C-panel, towards the bottom of the dashboard there will be a Software/Services dashboard. Click the Softaculous icon, then in the left menu, navigate to Blogs > Wordpress. Click the Install button towards the top of the page. For the settings, generally protocol will be http://, then choose the domain url, and make sure the ‘In Directory’ field is empty (this is so it installs at the root of the domain). You can also enter a name and description for your site here and chose your admin login and password. Click install to complete. If you do not have C-panel or Softaculous, contact your hosting provider – most have applications that quickly install Wordpress.
Step Four: Find a Theme
Verify Wordpress is installed by going to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and logging in. You will notice the standard theme is already installed, but you should change this to provide a more professional appearance to your site. Go to Appearance > Themes > Install Themes; from here you can search free themes on Wordpress or upload themes. To manually upload a theme .zip file, go to Appearance > Themes > Install themes > Upload, browse and select the file, click install. After the theme is installed, click activate to make it live. If you have the budget, paid themes tend have more professional designs and better support. The most important thing when searching for a theme is to ensure it matches your brand and goals. Test themes out and find your favorite.
Step Five: Create Content
Now that you have a design, you need content. Most businesses will need the following pages: Home, Contact, About, Services/Products, and Sales/Specials. Wordpress has built in text editors and page layouts, so customization is simple. The home page may be created automatically as part of your theme, and will be the main landing page. The contact page needs to have your business phone, address, map location, social contacts, and a simple contact form. The about page should tell customers who your business is and why it does what it does. Service and product pages will depend on your business, but should highlight what your business has to offer. Most businesses also include a page for sales or specials to feature current promotions. You should also include a blog section where you post company news, useful content and resources relevant to your customers.
Step Six: Customize Your Site
Most themes allow you to change colors, add your business logo, adjust the menus and sidebars, and make other changes to personalize your website. Wordpress features hundreds of community created plugins to help you customize your website and improve its function and appearance. Some may require more advanced computer knowledge, but most don’t. You can find plugins for custom menus, social networking, paypal, SEO, contact forms, and much more.
Tip: Wordpress.com has excellent support resources and an active community forum should you run into any issues.
Setting up your website yourself gives you complete control over the content and design, and certainly cuts costs. Following these steps will help you get your simple business website live, so you have a platform for your local online advertising efforts. From here, you should also implement SEO practices to improve your site’s visibility in search engines, link back to your site on social networks, and let your customers know!
Moe Kittaneh, owner of AltaLocal.com, has years of experience developing and running businesses, both local and online. AltaLocal provides local business marketing services for small businesses, including digital business listings, social profiles,