If you’ve had a retail shop for a long time, but have been reluctant to launch a website, you’re not alone. Many small business owners are intimidated by the idea of launching a new website. It feels like a complicated process, almost like starting a new business all over again. You have to set up a domain name, a server, and a host of other things. Fortunately, technology is easy to use today compared to even ten years ago. And, you can go from zero to hero in no time at all. For example, the company, Diesel Laptops was founded in 2015 on a shoestring budget as a service for diesel technicians. Now, they’re a multi-million dollar company, all due to having an online presence. The secret was to simply get started with a website, and grow from there. Follow these steps, and you can have a successful small business, too.
Buy a Domain Name
The first thing you need to do is buy a domain name. GoDaddy is pretty cheap, with domains in the $10 range. However, you can buy from many other places, too. Just do a Google search and pick a provider. Make sure you check what their annual fees are. Some companies may give you a free domain name up front, but then they charge you way over market value.
Choose a Web Hosting Provider
There are many hosting companies out there. If you want a reputable firm, you can go with a company like Network Solutions. They have many hosting plans to choose from, and their service is reliable. They may cost a bit more than other solutions, but the support is worth it. If you want to save some money, then choose another provider like Hostgator or some others. Again, Google is your friend. So do some research, read the reviews, and make a decision.
Connect Your Domain Name to Your Hosting Plan
Now that you have a domain name and a web hosting plan, you need to connect them. You can usually do this with the domain name registrar where you bought the domain. Look for the DNS entries, and update them to match the hosting company. Often these will start with NS1 or NS2. Just put them in, and you’ll be off to the races in no time. Alternatively, you can use a DNS provider like Cloudflare. They offer a free program that makes it easier to update your DNS when you move your website from one hosting provider to another. Additionally, they have some basic caching and other capabilities that will make your website faster and more secure.
Install a SSL Certificate
Today, most hosting companies will include SSL by default. This is what changes the URL from HTTP to HTTPS. You’ll see a little lock icon in your browser address bar if it has been installed correctly. This means that the content is encrypted so that the user’s password and other sensitive information are kept safe. You can choose to buy an SSL certificate, or you can use a free one. These days, many people use LetsEncrypt, an open-source SSL platform. It’s free if you install it yourself, though many hosting companies will charge you for it. Alternatively, you can buy one from a company like Network Solutions. There are different encryption options, too. Some certificates are so secure that you’ll see the address bar in your browser window turn green. If you have major concerns over security, then consider that option.
Choose a Content Management System
If you’re just getting started, then WordPress is usually the best option for your small business website. You can do a lot with it because there are plugins for just about everything imaginable. Start with a basic website, and use one of the free themes it comes with. As you get familiar with the platform, you can buy a custom theme to make your website look much more professional.
Now that you have a basic website, you get to do the fun part and add content to it. Start with your homepage content, and add an “About Us” page. Tell your company story, and show people the value they get by doing business with you. Add a “Contact Us” page, and embed a Google Map so it’s easy for people to find you. Think about what other pages are important for your business, and add those too. Don’t forget to create a blog, either, so that you can continue to grow the content on your website and attract new customers.
Launch Your Website
Now that you have a website, it’s time to launch it. Make your website public, and start promoting it. Submit your company to Google My Business for a free listing on Google Maps. Join trade organizations, and collaborate with other local businesses. You’re now officially an online business, and it’s time to drive traffic and engagement. Well done!