To learn more about the value (and necessity) of having a website for your small business, I talked to ChristineTelyan, the founder of UENI, a website-building company. Why every small business needs a websiteRieva Lesonsky: Let’s start with the basics. Why is it essential that small business owners have a website?
Christine Telyan: Today, having a website is imperative. Google any business—no website? It just does not feel professional or credible. Although social media and marketplaces can be powerful drivers of traffic, brand awareness, and even sales, relying entirely on them prevents you from owning your internet real estate, where you control the content without competitors right beside you.
Social media is crowded and your posts may not always reach your followers, while marketplaces like Etsy charge fees and are subject to changing rules and algorithms. Also, many prospective customers might not be on these platforms. Therefore, while social media and marketplaces are useful, they cannot replace the value of having your own website.
Getting startedLesonsky: What elements should a small business website always include?
Telyan: There are three key elements every great website should take into consideration:
1. User experience: How does the website look to your customers? The experience should be as welcoming as someone walking through your shop. Does it look good? Does it work on mobile? Is it fast? These factors enhance visitor engagement and promote longer site visits.
2. Clear calls to action: What actions do you want visitors to take? Whether it’s purchasing, filling out a contact form, or subscribing to a newsletter, CTAs (calls-to-action) should be prominently displayed on every page. We recommend choosing one or two (at the most) actions you want customers to take.
3. Information architecture: What does your website tell search engines? Google and Bing analyze the content and structure of your website to understand what your business does to position you in search results. Search engines favor well-structured links, precise keywords, SEO tags, and descriptive URLs.
Lesonsky: Is it expensive to create a website for new business owners?
Telyan: The cost of a new website depends on how many pages you need, the quality of design, and the functionality you need on your website. A do-it-yourself (DIY) website builder can cost $20 to $50 per month, but you have to do the work yourself, and you have no guarantee that you will be satisfied with the outcome (if you even finish building it).
Hiring a web designer or agency to build your website involves an upfront investment of at least $1,000, plus a retainer for hosting and maintenance if you do not want to make edits on the platform’s CMS.
Website design and contentLesonsky: Are there new trends in website design that small business owners should be aware of?
© – ronstik Adobe StockTelyan: Website design should never undermine the usability of your website. Compress images and manage the code to keep loading time under two seconds. Avoid using stock images that make your brand feel generic. Don’t show too many pop-ups that impede the customer experience. Web design must be equally effective on desktop and mobile, but the two differ in presentation.
A foundation of minimalism, bold typography, and distinct brand colors is key. Layer essential features like booking, e-commerce, and chat on top to convert visitors.
Lesonsky: Can you suggest the content you should include on your website when you’re first starting? And how often do you need to update your content?
Telyan: Your website should clearly articulate what your business does, why it stands out, and how [people] can contact you. What services or products do you sell, and what is your pricing? Include detailed descriptions (at least 100 words) for each of your offerings, as this has been shown to meaningfully increase sales.
An About Us/About Me section that describes your experience, expertise, and certifications provides necessary credibility for any business, especially if you are just starting out. High-resolution images or galleries of your work, customer testimonials, and an FAQ or blog section can reinforce your site with keyword-rich content.
Content should be updated regularly to reflect changes in your business and provide updates to search engines. You are doing well if you can write two articles per month on a subject you can speak authoritatively about that is relevant to your business. Updated events pages and photo galleries (with correct SEO tags) are also valuable. Seasonal pricing changes or periodic promotions keep existing customers coming back to your website and show new customers that the information they are reading is up-to-date.
Your website and SEOLesonsky: Getting your website “found” is not easy, so SEO is crucial for driving organic website traffic and increasing visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). How do you incorporate SEO best practices into your website’s design?
Telyan: SEO is a digital salesperson working for your business 24/7, driving organic (free) traffic to your website. Done well, it attracts visitors with high intent because they are searching for what your website talks about. SEO has two primary pillars: relevance and authority.
Relevance—how closely your website’s content matches what users search for. Your website pages should be organized with topical headers and subheaders, use lists, and separate content thematically across pages. Like the rest of your site, the website title and description (the content you see on search engine results) should include the keywords (search terms) you want to rank for. The website’s code should also include structured data. This provides information to search engines about a website’s content, and the search engines prioritize and enhance website listings that contain this information.Authority—how trustworthy your site appears to search engines. This is driven mainly by the number and quality of websites that link to your site (backlinks). If you have a local business with a physical presence, it is essential to set up and verify your Google Business Profile (GBP), which provides structured data about your business to Google. Your GBP should link to your website. You can also get backlinks by including your website on your social media profiles, high-traffic directories, review sites, business associations, and reputable content sites.
Three other important things you can do to improve your SEO:
1. Ensure your pages load fast—time to first interaction should be less than 2.5 seconds. And the site must be mobile-friendly.
2. Your website should have a sitemap, a file that shows the structure of your website to search engines and helps them identify the most important content.
3. Generate relevant content regularly that people like to read and that shows you are an authority on your subject matter.
Measuring site performanceLesonsky: Like everything you do in your business, you need to measure your website’s performance. How do you do that? Are there website analytics tools to track user behavior that you recommend?
Telyan: You want to track visits to your website and actions taken on the website: calls, bookings, messages, and sales. Your website provider should have an in-built tool or give you access to a dashboard that shows these metrics clearly without you having to set up analytics on your own.
But it is worth remembering that the value a website brings cannot entirely be measured in these direct transactional metrics. Often, prospective customers will check out your website and then call or visit your store. So businesses should also consider how their overall pipeline of customers, inquiries, and sales will change once the website is launched.