No matter the industry, it is undeniable that having an online presence is crucial in 2020. This is especially true for small businesses that are either inhibited by the size of their physical location (if they have one), budgets for hiring employees, or location. Without an online presence, it is impossible to make sales outside of the geographical area in which your business is located.

Why get a website?

Websites are key to establishing an online presence. They serve as a home base for your small business, a hotspot for the latest news and updates, a place for people to inquire about services or buy products. Websites for small businesses are just as important as physical locations — if not more so — and a successful business uses their website as an extension of their storefront. The only difference between a website and a physical storefront is that you don’t have to sweep a website, though this isn’t to say that regular maintenance is not important. 

Getting started online

Beginning the process of building an online presence, or creating a website for small businesses is much easier than finding, renting, stocking, opening, and maintaining a storefront. Still, many small business owners may not know where to start once they make the choice to build a website and hire a firm to help. Keep in mind that, just as with a physical location, nothing is established overnight. Planning, enacting, and growing an online presence will take time.  

That is why it’s important to keep it simple at first. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  

If you’re thinking about building a website for your small business, read on for the most important features and elements to include right away and guidance on how to continue your online growth after the initial launch. 

Growing your online presence in phases

The true first phase of building an online presence for small businesses usually begins before small business owners find themselves here, trying to figure out what to include in their first website.  

This preliminary phase includes creating a business listing on Google, and social media profiles. Rarely will a local business not have at least one social media profile, so it is important to build these right away as social networks are often used as community search engines in towns and cities, large and small. Once these are established though, visitors need someplace to funnel into. What might that place be? A website. 

Just as each and every small business is unique, so are their websites. Some are large and grand, some are small and thrive off simplicity. The large ecommerce headquarters however infrequently began as such, especially if their core is with a local business. 

Start simple and make sure that your website includes everything a customer would need or want to know to help give you business. Once you have included these five things, you can continue on the path to having the large and grand site of your dreams. 

5 things websites for small businesses need

Location & Contact Information

Small businesses should strive to have their website serve as a resource of information that helps community members and potential customers find them. This is why making sure that your website lists location information, business hours, and contact information should be one of your first priorities. 

Your Story

What a business does is just as important as how it operates, so don’t forget to tell your story, too! Customers are more likely to spend time on a website with personality, just as they will browse a unique local store longer than they would a bland chain store of the same size.

Products & Services

Since websites are just another commerce location, products are a core element that must be included in the initial phase of a website build. If the business is short on time and trying to rapidly develop an online presence, the most popular products should be included first. More can be added throughout secondary and tertiary development phases and as part of digital marketing strategies.  

Social Media Connections

Once a website is live, search engines will begin indexing it. This means that customers will be more likely to find a small business’s site directly from a search engine (or Google My Business listing, which should also link to the website once it is launched). Moreover, it is important to connect your new website with existing social media profiles so people who are just discovering your small business through these new avenues will be able to find and connect with you. 

Shipping, Delivery and Pick Up Information

Since customers can’t just walk into a website and buy something off the shelf as they would at a brick and mortar location, be sure to include information on shipping, delivery, pickups, and returns. 

What comes next?

This very simple list are the five main things to include first when building websites for small businesses. Yes, a lot of elements of businesses are left out in this initial phase, but as the way people shop is rapidly evolving, it is more important to keep up lest falling behind in the rush to develop online. 

Prioritizing is key. Once you have an entrance to the game of eCommerce, you can begin growing and building your online presence and business even more. The point of this phase is simply to get you started. 

So as you go through this first round of new website additions, make a list of the things you feel are being skipped or skimmed over to be added later like starting a blog page, for example. Making a plan now will make it easy to do updates in the future. 

View your website as an ongoing project, just as you would a physical location. You don’t work hard to get the doors open and then stop developing it, after all. And as the team at Epic always says, a good website (or online presence) is never finished.

Are you ready to start growing your online presence and build the website of your dreams? 

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