A First-Time Website Checklist for Small Biz Owners

As we’ve said over and over again, websites are important—and not just because you’re “required” to put up your business online these days. As AdWeek pointed out here (subscription required), 81% of shoppers research online before buying something from a business. In effect, websites have moved long past from being a “trend” to becoming a “necessity”. To paraphrase what the kids say these days, it’s time to get with the program.

So, assuming that we have convinced you to get a website for your small business already, what’s next? How would you know that the website you’ll be putting up is worth all the money and effort?

If you’re coming into this completely new, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to begin. In that regard, we understand why some old-school business owners hesitate to move into the digital space.

The good news, though? You can actually systematize how you go about the process, and we’re here to help you out with that with this beginner’s checklist!  

However, rather than placing them in one mess of an infodump, we’re organizing them by way of functions that you need to observe to run a user-friendly website.

So, without further ado, here are the basics you need to creating your very own website:  

Knowing what you (and your customers) want

Starting a website, just like with any business venture, begins with these philosophical questions: “What do people look for?” “What can I provide to them?” “Am I helping?”

For people who are running businesses for some time, those are standard, boilerplate questions. In this case, though, becoming certain with your answers would save you a lot of time and money that you might otherwise spend in changing your aesthetics and messaging once you find out that your website isn’t working.

For starters, focus on these two aims when putting up a business website: would you like to capture an audience, or is this another avenue for you to sell your products? If you figure out where between the two you stand, you can either decide that your business website should act as a online brochure—in other words, it’s a website that contains your business’s information, services, contact details, and other pertinent updates—or as an actual platform for customers to buy products—ergo, “e-commerce”.  

While you might be inclined to go for an e-commerce website (and hey, we understand that us small businesses should be doing some regular upselling), it’s important to keep in mind why some businesses just settle for a “regular” website. To give you a concrete example, here’s a screenshot of our official business website below:

Since the main services we offer involve branding and digital design and marketing, it makes sense for us to use a dynamic website design that allows us add and remove stuff according to what we deem fit. In essence, our website acts as an extension of our marketing collaterals to show to interested customers.

On the other hand, if you do have products to sell, then a website design tailored for e-commerce would suit you. Of course, building an ecommerce website would be more complicated than simply setting one up for marketing purposes because there’s the issue of inventory, secure payment schemes, and the like. Here’s a basic example of one below:

 

Cellphones. Yes.

Regardless of what kind of website you go with, we recommend you go with a system that can prove to be the easiest for beginners. In our case, we rely on a Content Management System (CMS) to help us build websites that aren’t just functional, but also make them clean and beautiful to look at.

CMS platforms became popular starting from the last decade because they’re tailored for users with no extensive programming experience. In this regard, we use WordPress for our website projects because it’s basically a complete package upon itself—it even has a free plugin for ecommerce called “WooCommerce”—as well as being relatively easy to develop for.  If you want a more extensive explanation on why we love WordPress, you can read more about it here.  

Of course, it also follows that you have to populate your website with beautiful images and engaging copy. You also have to do due diligence in checking if your website is mobile-ready (that will prove to be important in this piece later on). Now that we’re done here, let’s go to the next phase…

Defining your identity

Your domain name—or, in simpler terms, the name people type on their internet browsers to go to your website—should sound easy in theory, but is trickier in practice: any name you come up with should solely belong to your company, be memorable, and, of course, making it short for typing purposes, too. Changing your website name somewhere along the line of its existence might prove to be too costly for you, so it’s important you get it right the first time.

In addition, you also have to find hosting, where you “lease” space on a server, often for an annual fee, to keep your website up and provide space for all the data you would be uploading via the web. Here are also its more important qualities: not only will you be able to choose a domain suffix for your website, a good one should also be able to provide security for your website.

As an example, we’re breaking down the domain name we chose for us, which is https://www.mavensolutions.ph/ in its three elements: security, domain name, and domain suffix.

“https” is a security certificate for your browser indicating that any data passing between you and the website is encrypted; casual users might overlook it, but for search engines and online security services, they tend to rank a website higher if it’s secure.

For our domain name, we went with “mavensolutions” since… well, that’s our current company name. It’s straightforward, and it also makes sense for our existing clients.

Lastly, our domain suffix is “.ph” not only because our company is located in the Philippines, but to also signify to everyone that we like to partner with local businesses. The default suffix, however, remains to be .com (which, in ancient internet history, stands for “commercial”), though the beauty of today’s system is that there are appropriate suffixes for any industry like .net, .gov, .info, and the like.

(You also get your own business email through it. That’s a neat way to look professional!)     

Now, we have a home for your website. Next comes…

Getting discovered

If you’re running a business, then you probably know this basic marketing principle by heart: people would only know how great your product or service is if you can make them pay attention to you. In the absence of physical packaging or traditional advertising, your website is your next best bet to making people take notice of what you offer. Now comes the bad news: the internet already has millions of websites registered. How the heck do you even get to stand out?

We’ve got three letters for you: SEO, short for “Search Engine Optimization”, a process which involves a website’s information getting displayed on search engines like Google and Bing. The good thing about the search engine system is that it lists ALL websites for free. The flipside to it, however, is that those search engines rank your website according to the relevance it offers to a query. And just to point how indispensable search engines have become to the digital ecosystem, think about this: as a user, do you even bother to go to page 2 when a Google search result pops up?

However, with the millions of websites indexed on Google, the likelihood of you finding your very own niche increases simply by knowing how to target your market through the one thing that searches are known for: relevant keywords.

You might not search up to page 3, but at least you also get suggested search terms below.

For example, you have a bakery based in Iloilo. A basic keyword strategy would call for you to list your website online with the keyword “Iloilo bakery.” However, there are dozens of bakeries listed in the city alone. What comes next? Well, how about putting in “cupcakes”, “brownies”, “galletas”, etc.? However, don’t mistake it as just a matter of having a very specific niche; your aim here is to know which niche gets the highest number of searches at any given day.

Also, if you do get to settle on a chosen keyword, NEVER make the mistake of spamming it. Google today is smart enough to figure out if your website contains high-quality content that adds value to people going to your website. Importance is given to websites today who are able to retain regular visitors as much as attract the number of new visitors coming in when ranking websites.

You know what else Google analyzes in a website’s quality? Yep, it’s being mobile-friendly. Most online searches happen via smartphone use today, so it only makes sense that Google will give importance to that.

Yes! Just like us!

Of course, while figuring out what niche you fit in is important, knowing what to do with all the data you get is only half the battle.

Planning for the future

Out of all the stuff needed for creating a website, we argue that Google Analytics might be the most overlooked tool among all of them. As can be inferred from the name, Google Analytics… well, “analyzes” your website. And all you need to do is to add a system-generated code to track your website’s activities.

Google Analytics’ primary function for most users is to track the number of traffic to a website. However, here are several things that it can also show you: the best and underperforming pages or posts; the hours that users visit; which part of the world web traffic comes from,, etc. It might not have a direct impact on your website’s activities, but it can certainly help you crafting relevant strategies depending on the data you get from those.

So, to sum, here is the “checklist” we went through for today’s post:

  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Mobile-ready design
  • Domain name
  • Hosting
  • Domain suffix
  • Business email
  • SEO
  • Relevant keywords
  • High-quality content
  • Google Analytics

We’ll just say that you ticked all of them already.  Good luck on setting up your very own business website!