Setting up a business online can be daunting, with all the confusing tech jargon and complicated software. But with a little virtual elbow grease, you can have a website and even an online store that looks professional and functions just as well as some of the biggest brands around. And no, you won’t have to give up your weekends to get it done.
Whether you’re looking to set up a simple website to get found online, or you want to take it a step further with an online store, here’s how to get started.
How to build a business website
1. Choose a website builder
Simplified website builders have grown in popularity over the last few years, which means you don’t actually have to know anything about web development to get a swish-looking website up and running. Website-building tools like True Local’s Business Builder Website are designed to create responsive websites.
We have pre-existing templates you can build off, and don’t worry, no technical knowledge is required. Or if you’re looking for a complex or ambitious design (such as an online inventory or database), consider speaking to a professional developer about building a custom website to suit your needs.
2. Decide on a template and plug-ins
Think about all the different features you’ll need on your website before deciding on a template. For example, if you need a gallery, to make things simple you’ll want to make sure that your chosen template has in-built gallery functionality.
If you’ve found the perfect template for your website builder but it’s missing an element you want (a contact form, for example), you can either use your website builder’s drag-and-drop function to add it in yourself, or use a plug-in, which acts as an add-on to your existing template.
3. Organise your website pages
Making sure you’ve got all your website pages organised from the get-go will avoid messy navigation later (and having to re-do it all) down the track. Decide on the pages you’ll need in addition to your homepage (About Us and Contact pages are a good start) and add those to your primary navigation from your website builder. Keep it simple to begin with, as it’s easy to add pages later and you’ll want any pages you do have to be populated with content when you go live.
4 .Choose a web host and register your domain name
Once you’ve chosen your website builder and templates, you’ll need to decide who will host it. And don’t forget to register a domain name. Some website builders like WordPress also offer hosting and domain name registration services to make things easy. If not, there are loads of dedicated hosting services available, so it’s best to do a price and feature comparison to decide what will work best for your business. Just make sure that the plan you choose offers enough storage for your needs (allow for growth), as well as automatic installation of your website content.
5. Start creating content!
Now that you’re hosted and ready to go, it’s time to start creating some kickass content! Be sure to cover off the basics like your contact information and a good business description, and always take search engine optimisation into consideration when writing content. That means using relevant keywords relating to your business and location throughout your website, and regularly creating new content to keep things fresh. The bottom line is that every page on your site should have unique, up-to-date content that will provide value to your customers.
How to add e-commerce to your website
While e-commerce is usually associated with businesses that sell products, it can be a great tool for service businesses, too. Here’s a good example of a service business with an online store – see what we mean?
Some e-commerce platforms come with website builders (how’s that for a package deal?), but if you want to add e-commerce functionality to your existing website, here’s what you need to do.
1. Pick an e-commerce platform
Just like website builders, ready-to-go e-commerce platforms are all the rage these days, which means you can have a great-looking online shop in no time at all. E-commerce software such as True Local’s Online Store PowerPack can be easily integrated into your existing website, so that your online store is a URL on your site just like your homepage or contact page. Have a look around online to see which features and pricing suit your business.
2. Set up your products and categories
Once you’ve decided on your e-commerce software, it’s time to start building your product catalogue. It’s best to keep things simple to start off with until you get into the groove of managing orders and stock levels. Use high-quality images for your products wherever possible, and take a look at some of your favourite online shops to see how they’ve organised their products for inspiration. Focus on making your products easily discoverable by potential customers – so use keyword-rich product descriptions and tags, and make sure your categories (which act as filters) are well organised.
3. Decide on delivery method and costs
If you’re only selling a handful of items online, you might be able to comfortably handle postage of items yourself using Australia Post. You can also use their postage calculator to work out the cost of delivery for your item.
When handling a larger number of products, it’s worth researching the different delivery couriers out there (StarTrack, Go People, DHL Express, etc.) to find out which will be most cost-effective. If you plan to deliver overseas, you’ll also need to look at international options.
Sharing free shipping deals on True Local and social media is also a great way to give you a leg-up over the competition, so crunch the numbers to find out how often you can offer deals while still making a long-term profit on sales.
4. Choose a payment gateway (if required)
Some e-commerce systems come bundled with an in-built payment gateway, so you won’t have to worry about setting one up yourself. However, it’s also easy to integrate a payment gateway such PayPal into your online store if you don’t already have one. Different payment gateways charge different fees, so do some research to find one that is best suited to your business. Most importantly, make sure that your chosen payment gateway is PCI compliant, meaning that credit card information and other sensitive data is secure.