Build Your Own Small Business Website - dummies

By Barbara Findlay Schenck

Small businesses build either custom websites from scratch or template-based do-it-yourself sites. The options for building a small business website yourself are numerous. With small business custom-built sites, it’s often best to go with a pro.

Hiring a pro will cost you time and funds, but you’ll end up with a site that conveys your unique brand image, with a viewing and navigation system precisely tailored to your unique business offering, all built on a platform that can grow with your business.

If you’re planning to build your site yourself, the resources available to you just keep getting better. To start, check out the following free site design and layout services online:

  • WordPress is a blog platform increasingly used as a website builder. You may need help from a freelance web expert, but for close to nothing (except time), you can get a site with good, basic functionality up and running.

  • Weebly lets you use drag-and-drop functions to create a site with no cash outlay that you can have up and running within days.


  • Yola provides free and premium-level services and more than a hundred themes, plus customization options, to choose from.

Things to know before building a small business website

Whether you create a simple and functional site on your own or a customized, branded site with help from a pro, you should familiarize yourself with the lingo:

  • HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, is the code that underlies most web pages and the common language of the web. HTML tells your browser what’s what on a web page — what’s a heading, where a picture goes, and everything else you see on your screen.

    Part of the appeal of site design tools such as those offered by WordPress, Weebly, and Yola is that they eliminate your need to learn HTML by building the code for you.

  • Content describes electronically delivered information. Text (copy), photos, and graphics are all part of content.

  • Keywords are words or phrases that describe a page’s content. When people seek information online, they enter keywords into search engines. If the search request matches your keywords, your pages will appear in the search results.

  • Navigation is the way users move around a website to find and access information. Sites use menu bars, colored or underlined text, or icons to help users find and link to designated pages.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of developing a website with the aim of achieving high visibility in search results, usually by employing tactics that make the site’s design, menus, content, images, and other elements visible or “friendly” to search engines.

Attributes of a good small business website

As you build your site, aim for the following three attributes:

  • Speed: Most visitors only wait seconds for a page to load. Test your site or ask your site-hosting service to provide response-time measurements.

  • Graphics: A picture’s worth a thousand words only if it appears before the user tires of waiting. Save images at a low resolution of 72 dpi and in GIF or PNG format and use compression software to speed loading time.

  • Accessibility: Hire someone who really knows computers to test your site, confirming that it works well with all the major web browsers and that all links get users where you want them to go.

Optimize your small business website for search engines

Improving your site’s search position is a continuous process that starts the day your site goes live. You don’t need to submit your site to search engines to be included in search results. Search engine crawlers find your site on their own, by following links from other sites. You can, however, speed up the process by taking a few key steps:

  • Avoid splash pages, which are entry pages that feature a graphic while the site loads. Search engines index content and keywords from the first page of a website, and splash pages usually contain little of either.

  • Build a network of incoming links to your site from other high-quality, well-established sites. Search engines judge sites by the company they keep, so start by getting your site address listed in major directories and business association sites.

    Also, host a blog that others will link to, publish guest posts and articles that include links back to your site, include your link in social media comments and conversations, and develop shareable content that links back to your site.

  • Make your site findable by building content around keywords customers are likely to use when seeking information like that offered on your site.

  • If your site is large — like 50 pages or more — devote one page to a site map with links to all pages so they’ll be easy for search engines to find and index.

  • Present your site’s navigation links using text with keywords rather than icons or buttons.

  • Keep each individual page focused on a single topic. Build each page around keywords that define its focus so those searching for specific information will be directed straight to the relevant page on your site.

Incorporate keywords into each page’s content, code commands, and photo or graphics labels and tags. But don’t cram your content full of keywords in an effort to manipulate your way to a higher search ranking. Google punishes what it terms keyword stuffing. It also warns against hidden text or links. And it blacklists for cloaking, which is presenting site content one way to search engines and another way to users.

When your site goes live, go to the submission pages at Google, Bing, and Yahoo! submit your URL, or site address. Additionally, register your site at Open Directory, the human-powered directory that AOL, Google, and others use in their searches. Submit your site for free, wait three weeks, and if your site hasn’t been picked up, resubmit it.

As you register your site with search engines, incorporate keywords into your description. You can test your keywords using the Google Keyword Tool.