Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
One-third of all businesses in the U.S. do not have a website, according to the Small Business Administration. If yours is one of them, you are likely missing out on attracting new customers, retaining existing clients and otherwise growing your organization. Because, according to Statista, almost one in three U.S. consumers with Internet access search for local businesses daily. A further 16% look for this type of information several times each week.
But what does it take to develop a great site? The answer differs depending on the individual business.
Here are some key considerations.
Finding the right platform
Even if your business has never had an online presence, you have most likely heard of WordPress or Shopify. Originally branded as a blogging platform, the former, based in San Francisco, has grown to become one of the most popular choices for small and medium-sized companies. Shopify, meanwhile — an Ottawa, Ontario-headquartered multinational famed for its proprietary online store platform and point-of-sale systems — now racks up nearly U.S. $3 billion in revenue. There are plenty of other players in the market, and which one suits you best depends on several factors. Start with what a site needs to achieve. Are you looking to drive inquiries, or do you want to make online sales… or both?
And who will build the site? Some platforms offer templates and drag-and-drop options, but most find them restrictive eventually. Having the option of greater customization is useful.
Related: 5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Website Platform for Your Business
Another early consideration is that, even though most startups or growing businesses have limited budgets, it’s abundantly worth treating your website as an investment. It will be the first impression most prospective customers have of your organization — that fact alone is why guidance from experienced web developers is valuable.
Making payments easy
Approximately 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before a purchase is completed, according to the Baymard Institute. To prevent your company from adding to this shocking statistic, it’s important to select the most suitable payment gateway and payment processor. They work hand in hand, and help make the checkout process easy and convenient for online customers. Before committing to a provider, consider whether its service will integrate seamlessly with the design and functionality of your website and other operational systems. Weigh the cost of subscriptions and individual purchases for each provider against the income your business is likely to generate online. Additional considerations include transaction safety and fraud prevention. Reputable providers will also be accredited to show they comply with data protection regulations.
Create beauty and functionality
Successful design is about more than creating a pretty site; it’s about representing your brand online and enticing potential customers to interact. Well-designed pages make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for, whether it is information or a product. They also respond seamlessly to any device visitors are using, whether a desktop browser, app, tablet or smartphone. Of course, not everyone was born with an eye for design, so it is worth getting professional support to ensure your business is maximizing its opportunities.
Develop a successful SEO strategy
Even the best-looking website can’t work if search engines are overlooking it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital ongoing effort to improve content in order to rank higher in searches. It doesn’t have to be hard work, though. Building a successful strategy is about understanding how your customers look for your business and creating content to answer their questions and solve their problems. Each page needs a clear focal point that is easily identified by the likes of Google.
Related: Help Your Business Thrive Online With a Solid SEO Strategy
The sooner you start optimizing your content for search engines, the sooner you’ll start seeing results. Keep in mind that a successful SEO strategy is subject to regular changes, as search engines regularly update their algorithms, with the goal of providing ever more targeted results. Keeping up to date does not have to be arduous, but if you are too busy with other day-to-day operations to do it, consider getting professional support.
Focus on content marketing
Blogs, articles and social media posts all provide opportunities for a business to connect with potential customers. Such content marketing is about creating opportunities to be seen online, while offering value to the reader. This does not need to be difficult: As an expert in a field, you can share expertise to the benefit of an audience. Like SEO, content marketing is strongest when it is applied regularly and used to create a strong connection between a business and its stakeholders.
Related: Branding Is More Than an Accessory: It’s the Foundation of Any Business
Without a website, your business is missing out on opportunities. However, a badly designed one can nearly as detrimental as none at all. Creating online success starts with understanding your brand and how an audience likes to interact with it. With that information, you and your designer can effectively hone down the look and functionality of an organization’s web presence.