If you have a small business, it’s a no-brainer that you need a website. At the very least, you should have a website which details all the information a customer needs to know more about your products and services, where to buy them, and how to get in touch with you.

Later on, you can add your social media network, an e-commerce page, and customer support.

Indeed, in this highly digitized world, having an online presence can make a huge difference towards your bottom line, and may even mean your startup’s success or failure.

Before running off to get a website done, however, know that there are quite a few things you must know first before building your business website. We asked 14 experts, and here’s what they had to say.

What You Need To Know Before Building Your Business Website (According to Experts)

Experts Weigh In: What You Need To Know Before Building Your Business Website

We asked 14 experts regarding their opinions on what every small business owner should know first before building their website, and the responses that we gathered varied. However, their answers did fall in one of the following categories:

  • The website’s purpose/branding
  • Focus on the customer
  • Elements of a website

For sure, there are many other things you need to know to have a converting business website, but these are the most basics.

Think about your website’s purpose and branding

PierreHere are my three most important steps to take before building a website for your brand:

1. Define the goal of your website

The first thing you need to do is decide what the purpose of the website is so it can guide you towards making improvements/optimizations in the future (i.e., content strategy, keyword targeting, CRO).

2. Research your audience

This should come as no surprise but your ideal customer or target persona should always be at the center of any online initiatives. Anything that doesn’t add value to their experience is just a waste of time and resources.

Your research should shed light on what their pain points are, what motivates them, what types of content they consume, and what keywords they use when searching for solutions related to your offering.

3. Decide on your theme

Let’s face it. Whatever it is you’re offering, there’s probably a multitude of alternatives. If you want to stand out, you’re going to need a brand theme/personality that visitors will remember.

This means ensuring the combination your UX design, color palette, brand logo, image choice, and copywriting style is unique to your brand and easily recognizable.

— Pierre de Braux, Content Strategist, Spiralytics

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Deborah SweeneyOne of the first, if not the first, approach when creating a business website is to ensure your brand identity. Protect your brand by doing a trademark search. File a state or federal trademark registration.

Make sure you know that your brand is not infringing on a third party and ensure that you are protected so that third parties cannot take or use your brand.

It’s critical to ensure brand protection because when your site is live, it is available to virtually anyone. It is important to think and strategize about your brand in advance because investing in a site and business is expensive.

You are, in essence, investing in your intellectual property — your brand. This is a valuable asset of your business and needs to be protected.

— Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation

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danielle isbellThe advice I would give any business about to create a new website would be to answer the following questions first:

“Who are we? What do we do? Who do we do it for?”

Getting really clear on these questions will make creating a site structure so much easier. Business owners may target the wrong keywords by not taking into account their searchers intent or get too caught up in aesthetics before thinking about functionality.

The next question to answer is, what action do you want to happen when someone finds your website? Are they making a purchase? Filling out a form? Making a call?

With this information being really solid first, a good designer will have a much clearer picture of where to take a new website.

— Danielle Isbell, Marketing Coordinator, Odd Dog Media

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OLIThe first thing you need to identify before building out your website is your business name and choose key elements that make up your brand identity system.

Seems simple, right? Eh, not exactly.

Choosing a name for your brand and mapping out your brand identity (color palette, color psychology) and evaluating it for timelessness is quite possibly the most important decision you’ll make in the launch of your business.

A brand name and corresponding identity system put a certain perception in the minds of your target market, and a powerful name can mean the difference in your business’s success or failure.

— Oli Russell-Cowan, Founder, Rad Season

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Bradley ShawStart your website be researching your competition. Examine the approach they are using to acquire customers, see what you can learn from it, what you can improve upon.

Is their site designed primarily for mobile users? Are they using a content marketing strategy, a hard sell, sales funnel? Make note of what you like and do not like about their website.

Your goal should be to establish your website as the authority in your field. To do this, you need to create the most complete, user-friendly,  and authoritative site. Google will definitely reward you in the end.

— Bradley Shaw, Online Consulting Expert, SEO Expert Brad

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Get to know your customer

Anthony KaneOne of the most important, and overlooked, steps to take before designing a website is to identify your ideal customer persona.

Having insights on who your ideal customer is will help immensely when making decisions on the design. A lot of people make the mistake of just jumping in or designing the website for themselves but the reality is the website needs to speak to your customers.

Before you start, take a step back and make note of specific elements that would resonate with your audience the most.

— Anthony Kane, Senior Conversion Optimization Strategist, 1SEO Digital Agency

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david-mercerThere’s absolutely no point in working on a new website if you don’t already know the answer to the following questions.

1. Who is this site for?

Are you looking to reach out to people who want to buy something? Are they after information? Are they in college? School? Retired? Professional? Wealthy?

Who your audience is plays a big role in the type of content you need to supply – not to mention the way it is laid out and presented.

2. What is their intent?

At any one time, a single person may be in the mood to buy something, watch a funny video, get into an argument about differences of opinion, and so on.

Knowing who you want to reach out to is not the same as knowing when to reach them with your message. User intent is something big brands ignored as they rushed to build up Facebook likes and Twitter followers as social media grew.

The result? They got almost no return on investment from the millions of dollars spent on social media marketing campaigns — because people on Facebook weren’t necessarily looking to buy their products while chatting with friends.

Once you know exactly what the site’s requirements are, it is then time to find the best possible platform to create it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Most small business owners don’t necessarily know about all the different website builders, tools, apps and services that exist to accomplish virtually any online business requirement with very little effort. It’s important to do research on how to build a website before choosing a solution.

— David Mercer, Founder, SME Pals

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Cahit Jay AkinWhen you are looking to build your website, one of the most important steps to complete is to determine your ideal “client persona(s).” Try creating an imaginary character, including their demographic profile, education, job title, interests, and even a mock name.

These personas are the individuals that your website will target to attracted and cater to. So this mini-project is key to complete before you start developing content, tag-lines and overall marketing message for your website

From a technical perspective, another fundamental step is to choose vendors and service providers that enable you or at the very least do not block you from integrating and gluing together the top tier capabilities for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), online and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), visitor tracking, synchronizing with other systems such as CRM etc. This will eliminate any major roadblocks down the road.

— Cahit Jay Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc.

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Ed MellettI’d say the most important first steps (with hindsight) would be to consider who your target clients are, and then engineer your branding, and really everything with them in mind.

It’s easy to get carried away in design that appeals to you (as the project manager or business owner) or is based around vanity. But while those things might give you a personal buzz, they are absolutely meaningless when it comes to the reality of business.

You have to think as if you were in the mind of your customer, and then work towards appealing as much as you possibly can to these people. This might mean your brand becomes something very different to how it presents itself in your imagination, and you must go with that.

— Ed Mellett, Co-Founder, WikiJob

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Consider the important elements of your website

1. Design

Mark NicholsonBefore you can talk design, features or similar, you need a plan for what your company is about, what you want it to represent, and be known for.

Standard pages like About, Contact, Product, or Service are obvious, but if you’re building a website that will be more than a brochure that might be home to white papers, thought leadership, or provide any sort of insights, it’s more than a case of adding a blog.

Building out resources takes time, but provides value and helps with positioning the company, along with demonstrating expertise.

Looking to larger sites can help both visualize and realize the potential planning and structure, where the content strategy plays a significant role in planning and marketing.

It’s never too early to be creating content, which will be a huge asset once you start moving forward on website creation. Identify topics at high level that should be covered, and work your way down to fill gaps and connect the dots.

— Mark Nicholson, VP Marketing, Nicejob

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Will WalkerIt’s important to map out the journeys users will take when visiting your website before moving into template design or content creation.

User journeys will affect your navigation, page design, page content, imagery and calls to action.

Think about how a typical buyer will find your website, what actions they will want to take once there and how you can help easily serve them the information they need to learn more about your business, learn more about your products/services, or make a buying decision.

— Will Walker, Marketing Manager, Marsden Marketing

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2. Search Engine Optimization

Ari BanayanIt’s extremely important to master SEO and learn the ins and outs of keyword marketing through blogging.

We spent countless hours making profiles on random sites that have high domain ratings but had nothing to do with our business or were nowhere near our industry. We made profiles and included links in the bio section.

However, it became this big mess in trying to manage all of it. It’s not something you can just create and walk away from. The site needs to see activity on your profile and eventually, they’ll deactivate your profile which makes the whole method a waste of time.

Another reason it’s a complete waste is that you’re getting the backlink from a website that is totally unrelated to what your business is about. Google recognizes that and even if you end up landing the backlink, it’s not very powerful.

The best practice for SEO has always been answering HARO or Journorequest questions which will land you natural backlinks as a source! Also, it’s always overlooked but just writing incredible content that people can backlink to organically.

Lastly, invest time into building relationships with people in your industry — once you build this network up you can eventually ask for an opportunity to do a guest post for them or even tell them about a piece you wrote that they might want to backlink too.

— Ari Banayan, Co-Founder, Habit Nest

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Sophie KnowlesDevelop a clear plan for search engine optimization now rather than later. You have a huge advantage in regards to SEO if you build it into the research and subsequent design process.

Begin by conducting keyword research to not only boost future SEO efforts but also make for a better user experience.

Doing preliminary research using tools such as Google Keyword Planner will help you identify some less-competitive keywords to target, as well as finding popular and relevant sub-categories around which you can better structure your information architecture.

— Sophie Knowles, Founder, PDF Pro

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3. Content (Copy)

BryanClaytonWhen I’m coaching fellow young budding entrepreneurs about creating their first website for their business I tell them to always focus on one important thing before doing anything else: the copy.

People buy from words on a page more than anything. Sure the flashy aesthetic design of a beautifully created webpages is nice and enticing; however, it’s the words on the headline and in the subhead and within the body that induce a visitor to take you up on your offer on your landing page.

Start off by writing all of the copy for your website homepage before you begin bringing in a web designer to make it beautiful.

More importantly you need to hone in on what your value proposition is and how that relates to the copy on your web page. Simply put, what is it about your product or service that would make your ideal prospect do business with you rather than anybody else?

Once you nail your value proposition and craft your copy then move on to web design and make it beautiful.

— Bryan Clayton, CEO, GreenPal

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What other tips can you add for small business owners? Share as a comment below!

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