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How to Build a Small Business Website

How to Build a Small Business Website
Pat Dickson - Mon Aug 19, 2013 @ 01:09PM
Comments: 0

I have talked a lot about which small business website builder I believe is the best to use.

My belief is that Doodlekit gives you the most user friendly, robust, functional, and complete set of web building tools.

With Doodlebit's Doodlekit package at your web building disposal, no programming is required and you end up with a business site, or even a personal site, that looks great, does what you need it to do, is easy to update, and it all comes at a very reasonable price.

I have not talked much about the real basics of actually building a small business website.

What I mean is how do you do the stuff that really puts your site together, like which company name do you use, how do you pick a domain name, what colors or template should you pick, what kind of by-line should you put beneath your company name? The list goes on and on.

With this said, I'll start my list of to-do's for building your small business website, from ground up. Over time I will add more and more to this list with the objective of this blog becoming a reliable treatise on the subject.

For purposes of illustration and to visually demonstrate my below points, I will refer to HMS Fasteners, a website I built all by myself using Doodlekit's website builder. I currently run HMS Fasteners. It is a 60 year old company in Tucson, Arizona. We sell nuts, bolts, screws, clips, and every other type of fastener that goes into everything from a tank, helicopter, automobile, or even home fixtures. And most importantly, for the purpose of this article, the company now has an attractive and functional website!

How to build a small business website

How to Build a Small Business Website:

1. Name your small business website

In Doodlekit's terms, this is your "site title." In the picture above, the site title is "HMS Fasteners." I chose this name because this is the company's dba, or doing business as name. I really only had one other choice, which was Hardware and Metal Specialties, Inc. This is the corporate name, as filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

HMS Fasteners was the obvious site title to use because the company has been in business for 60 years and calling itself this name during this time. It is the name on the building outside, it is the name on the business cards, and it is the name we use when we answer the telephone.

In short, you want your company to be called the same thing on your web site as you call it everywhere else. My choice was easy. We had an established name in use for decades. There was no reason to use any other name. It would cause confusion. Go by one name and one name only. You want your customers to know who you are.

However, if you are starting a new business and have not even given it a name, you may be forced to pick a name for your business based on the domain names that are available to you. Which leads to Point 2 below.

2. Pick a small business domain name

When I chose Doodlekit for HMS Fasteners' web building and hosting platform, the company already owned the ideal domain name. It was www.hmsfasteners.com, the exact same name we'd been using in business for 60 years.

Additionally, note the ".com" at the end of this domain name. This stands for "commercial," which is the designation I believe is the best, or only, choice you want for a commercial business. In other words, only hmsfasteners.COM, would have sufficed for me. Hmsfasteners.ORG, or hmsfasteners.NET, or any other three letters at the end and after the period would not have worked.

I give you my practical business explanation for why I'll only settle for .COM as the three-letter ending to any business domain name. I've worked for a few business which used the .NET or .ORG designations, and customers could never find them on the Internet. Here is how it happened:

Customer: "What is the name of your website?"

Business: "www.business.net"

I can't tell you how many times the customer then tries to find you on the Internet at a later time and you are nowhere to be found. Why? They instinctively type "business.com" in their browsers. Everyone thinks .COM. As a result, either you don't show up or the customer ends up on the site of your competitor. He's the one who happens to own www.business.com.

So, if you don't have the easy road as I did with selecting an ideal business domain name - it was already owned by the company when I came aboard, and especially if you are just starting a business and have not yet named your company: seriously consider naming your company something which has an available .COM domain name available.

If for whatever reasons you are stuck with a business name and can't reasonably change it, and the identical .COM is not available, seriously consider a .COM acronym, or maybe adding something like an "inc" to your name, e.g. www.businessinc.com, before going with an ORG or NET or equivalent. 

Of course there is no sure method for tying your business and domain name together. Most good names have already been taken and a lot of new companies are naming themselves based on whatever domain names are still available. It often becomes a balancing act between company name and closest domain names available.

Nevertheless, with this said, if you are just now considering what to name your small business, please go to name search. You can search all the domains available, and ideally you find one that specifically matches your perfect company name. If not, maybe you will find a domain name that is close and you will only have to change your company name just slightly, so the two are identical matches.

3. Choose an effective subtitle

Go back up to the image taken from HMSFasteners.com. As previously discussed, the "Site Title" is HMS Fasteners. The subtitle is right beneath the site title, and is set forth as "mil spec, industrial, and commercial fasteners."

Without getting into a discussion of simply SEO, or otherwise creating a subtitle based on capturing search results through merely technical schemes, rather than content, I believe your subtitle should be simple and straight forward. It should simply say what you sell in plain, non extraordinary words. HMS sells three types of fasteners and it says so. This is notwithstanding my understanding that Google cares more about content than SEO tricks these days.

Back to my point. Originally we said in the subtitle "we sell nuts, bolts, and screws," but later changed it because the eyes our target audience were more easily captured with the specialty "fastener" lingo. Our best paying customers (the big orders) are ones with large procurement departments. Their procurement officers find our site by typing stuff like "mil spec fasteners," rather than "tank bolts." So we play to the lingo of a bit more sophisticated audience than a mom and pop hardware store. Know thy customer! Speak their language in plain terms.

So, there are really two points I'm making with respect to choosing your given subtitle. First, you want to say, in plain words, what it is you are selling and in your customer's language. When your customer arrives at your page, be sure to offer him a subtitle that tells him exactly what you have to offer him, in his words, in only a glance. Otherwise, especially if he's never visited you before, he may assume that you don't really sell what you really do sell. Hence, he immediately clicks out of your site and goes looking for your competitors.

Second, (and really I am being redundant here) try to make your subtitle say exactly what your ideal customers will be searching to buy. If you sell apples, say "apples" and not "fruit" or a "tasty treat." If HMS didn't focus on selling specialty fasteners to the military and large commercial industry, but rather to individual customers for their home and personal needs, we'd be better served by saying we sell "nuts and bolts," not "mil spec, industrial, and commercial fasteners." Be clear. If your targeted prospective customers can't easily tell you are selling what they need with a single glance at your site, you will lose them.

This reminds me of a company I'd once worked with and it went bankrupt when it shouldn't have ever faltered. All they really did was manage inventory and do mass packaging and shipping for large IT companies. They never said anywhere that they "pack and ship for technology companies." The entire company's lingo, both inside and out, was fraught with terms like "core competencies, supply chain management, turnkey solutions..." Even the salespeople had trouble telling customers what they were selling and few of the employees could ever give a clear answer as to what the company was really in the business of providing. Nevertheless, I believe this disease of not being able to speak what you sell is rampant, so I'm really not singling anyone out. The point is made with a question: have you ever been to a commercial website and couldn't, for the life of you, figure out how they made their money? What did they sell? It happens to me every day.

Yes, I know I am at risk of prevarication. On the one hand I say keep it simple, but on the other I say be as complex in your language as your customers are complex in theirs. The trick, as I've said before, is to draft/create your subtitle based on what you know of your customer's language. What do they ask for when they call you on the phone? What do they call your goods or services? Their words need to be in your subtitle, not yours.

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