You’re a small business owner, and yes, of course you realise that your business needs a good online presence – but you have no idea of what to look for in a website designer.
You are not alone. From our experience in the industry, finding a good small business web designer tends to be one of the bigger points of frustration small business owners face.
In looking for a web design company, most small business owners mistakenly focus too much on the least relevant things, and ignore the most important things. Our aim in this post is to help steer small business owners in the right direction and get them asking the right questions, which in turn will ensure they get an amazing website for their small business.
The main goal will always be value. Whether it is our web agency here in Melbourne or someone else closer to home – finding a web design agency that will give you the best bang for your buck will always be the main goal. If you find the right web design company for your small business – any potential problems will naturally be taken care of. Find the wrong web design agency, and it will be nightmare after nightmare.
The first thing to understand is that small business web design is a lot different from higher end web design. There are different needs, different avenues to market and smaller budgets to deal with.
On the other side of the fence, the past few years has also seen a big rise of budget web designers that feed off the ignorance of small business owners. They will promise the world, and then slap a website together that will provide no value to the business. The business owner will mistakenly be fooled into thinking that just because they have a website for their business they are on the right track. Wrong.
So to all you frustrated small business owners out there, whether in Melbourne or interstate – here are our 10 best tips to help you find the best small business web design company. We’ve included other small business marketing ideas. Though we’ve seen the industry change a lot over the years, these tips have remained timeless. Enjoy.
Tip #1: The most important word in “small business web design” is “design”.
Design is everything. If recent decades have proven anything in technology, it is how much people value great design. Steve Jobs used design as a competitive advantage to build one of the biggest companies in the world. And though you may be a small business, you should still realise that design plays a massive role in your customer’s decisions. All else being equal, the business with a better designed website will convert more customers than the one with a poorly designed website. Which means finding a web designer that has a good grasp of layout, typography, headings, icons, colours and so on. Great design builds trust in your customers.
Design also extends beyond aesthetics. It includes branding – having a consistent message across your whole website and showing how you are different and/or better than your competition. It is about designing a website with your target customer in mind and putting in functions that they enjoy. It is about using influence principles such as social proof and authority to your advantage. It is about having a clear call to action, and so on.
On top of that, making sure that your small business website looks great on all mobile devices is a must. That means finding a web designer that uses the latest in responsive technologies should be a non-negotiable for all small business owners.
Tip #2: Small business SEO – why basic search engine optimisation is essential
There is no point having a site that no one visits. SEO is simply that process which makes your website rank higher in search engines for given keywords that people type into search fields.
As we tell my clients, you really can’t look at small business web design packages without looking at small business SEO. You can’t have one without the other.
It is really important to know that there are no magic tricks involved with SEO. Instead, SEO requires optimisation work paired with content work (i.e. writing articles / blog posts, creating helpful videos etc).
The team you choose, like our web design agency here in Melbourne, must be able to do some basic SEO for your small business website, such as on-page optimisation, keyword research and analysis, site-map creation and search engine submission. And they should be able to provide these services for a reasonable cost to your small business.
Though your small business may not have the massive budgets to spend on SEO that big corporates have, there are certainly some very simple and basic things that will improve your rankings.
If you want to save money and DIY your SEO, we will suggest a simple 3 step process, which will take you from 1. understanding what people are typing into Google, 2. how to write for them and 3. how to optimise your page accordingly. It is only a brief description – if you want to read about each of these steps in more detail, we suggest you check out Moz’s fantastic Beginner Guide to SEO.
1. Keyword Research
Using Google’s free Keyword Planner, you can search what your target customers are typing into Google. From there, you can filter results via location, traffic and other metrics in order to find out those keywords you can realistically rank for. Note: In order to use this tool, you’ll need to sign up for a free Adwords account with Google.
2. Content Marketing
You then create content around these keywords. Remember that when your target customers are typing these words into Google, they are searching for something. Understand their intent. And then create something of value. If you have created content around these keywords that people will find valuable, you have a good chance of ranking in Google for these keywords. Of course there are many other factors such as the level of competition, how niche the keywords are, the authority of your domain and so on, and you can read about that in the Moz article referenced above. Just know that if you are creating content that people will find valuable around a niche keyword they are typing in, you are 90% there.
3. On-Page Optimisation
From there, you can optimise the page to help search engines understand it better. The most important factors for on-page optimisation are the page title and the relevancy of the post to the targeted keyword(s).Making sure that your page title and your body text includes the targeted keywords (without over-stuffing them), is good SEO practice.
Once again, if this is a bit over your head, you can certainly hire a web design agency like us to do all the heavy SEO lifting for you.
Tip #3: Pricing – understand what constitutes value
How much web designers charge will always be a factor for small businesses. Of course, prices should always be reasonable. The big mistake I have seen business owners make when it comes to pricing their small business web design is that they have their thinking backwards. They look at their website as a ‘cost’ rather than an ‘investment’, and in doing so make poor decisions and ask the wrong questions when searching for a web designer. If you view your website as an investment rather than a cost, you’ll ask better questions and you’ll look for those web designers that will provide more value than they cost.
The general rule of thumb: you pay for what you get. It is like buying a car – if you buy budget, it will most likely break down and cost more in the long run. Remember you are paying for time, and great websites take time.
From our experience, the sweet spot in pricing for a “normal” small business website is in the vicinity of the $2000-$3000 range, depending on the scope of the project. Any less than $2000, you are almost guaranteed to get a web designer that won’t be spending much time to understand your business, and will build you something that will provide very little return for your business.
In addition, beware of hidden or ongoing costs – make sure everything is spelled out in the proposal and make sure that you are taught to edit your own website – this is discussed in Tip #7.
In fact there is a great article on how much websites should cost in Australia, which I recommend that you read.
Tip #4: If the web design company doesn’t take time to understand your business, forget it
The online landscape is a competitive one. The businesses that succeed online are the ones that are immediately well positioned in the customer’s mind. Branding is all about understanding your target customer, then showing them how you are different and better than your competition.
The best web designers out there take the time to know your business before they send you a proposal, whereas the poorer web designers don’t. They should have spent at least 10-20 hours understanding your small business before they send you a proposal. It’s quite simple – if you don’t feel like the web designer understands your business, they will not build you something that you will like and that will persuade your target customers to do business with you. Move on.
Note: If you do find a web design team that is interstate, that shouldn’t be an issue as long as they use the right communication tools, such as Skype Video and so on. For example, though our web design team is based here in Melbourne, 70% of our clients are either interstate and overseas.
Tip #5: A small business website can be so much more than just a website
A website should be seen as a tool that you can leverage to save time and money. There are so many creative ways to use a website to your advantage, from simple tools such as a FAQ pages and custom contact forms to save sales time, to more fancy items such as CRM integrations, booking widgets, email marketing programs, and so on.
We understand that small business owners are extremely time poor – so take the time to brainstorm with your web designer ways that you can really leverage your website as a tool. We have saves 1000s of our clients in sales and operational time by understanding this.
Web design for your small business can be much more than you think.
Tip #6: You must look at the small business web designer’s previous work
The portfolio that a web designer will have on their own website will often be their best work they have created. It should go without saying – if you aren’t happy with their past examples, don’t go with them. Also dig a little deeper and have a look how they have branded their clients online. Does it make sense? Does it make you want to do business with their clients? This is common sense, though not entirely that common.
And obviously look at the web designer’s own website. If you aren’t happy with that, you almost certainly won’t be happy with the site they build for you.
Tip #7: Basic control of your website is crucial
As a small business owner, it is absolutely necessary that you understand how to update the words and images on your website. There will always be things to update and it will save you ongoing web design service costs and give you a better sense of control of your site.
Furthermore, as a small business owner, you really should be doing some level of content marketing to bring in potential customers (discussed in Tip #2), and that requires that you understand how to upload text and images to your website.
For this reason, your website designer should show you how to update your website as part of their service. Most won’t like doing this as they like to charge ongoing web design fees, but good web design practice suggest that you give your client the option to make changes themselves.
Tip #8: Own your own domain and have great website hosting
The biggest piece of website intellectual property is your domain name. Don’t let a web designer register this, you should own it yourself.
Regarding website hosting, you must get quality hosting. We cannot stress this enough. Cheap, budget hosting is often slow and buggy and runs the risk of wiping your site completely. We have seen countless examples of this. So make sure to ask your web designer for a good hosting company recommendation. Remember that Google will penalise sites that load slowly. We personally recommend Media Temple – they’re now owned by GoDaddy, and offer one of the most secure, reliable and fast web hosting for small businesses.
Tip #9: For small businesses – great local marketing makes a huge difference
Marketing online for small businesses is often different to marketing for big corporates. The biggest difference is that there is a larger emphasis on local marketing for small businesses. So if your small business has a location, this tip is crucial.
The first step is to get listed on Google Places. This is an absolute must. (Alongside with Google Maps). Then list on local directories associated with your industry. You can also look at more generic directories such as True Local and Yelp.
Then you can think about taking things up to the next step – looking for ‘influencers’ around your area that have contact with your target customer and leveraging off them. In addition, you can create a separate landing page on your website dedicated to each location you serve.
Tip #10: Keep marketing for your small business
Getting a website built for your small business is the first step in what should be a long and prosperous online marketing journey. Like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. Once you have your small business web design setup, and you have listed yourself on Google Places and all the most relevant directories, your focus should really be on providing great content online – see Tip #2. In our opinion, this is the most effective way to attract customers online for small business, but what is often the most lacking. It takes discipline, especially for a busy business owner. So you can also think about hiring a copywriter, like the one we have with our team. Once you begin to see the immense benefits of content marketing for your small business, you’ll become addicted.
Change your mindset to ‘what can I take online’ to ‘what can I give online’ and you are on the right track.
We haven’t talked about other avenues such as social media, link building and so on. We’ll save that for another day. Keep learning, keep giving value online and you’ll soon see how valuable this new marketing channel is for you.
If you are interested in hiring us as your website designer you can get in contact with us here.