A small business or personal website, when done properly, will help build your Google profile. It can more fully explain your background and showcase your work. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or especially difficult to create.
The Benefits of a Small Business Website
When someone considers you for a job, or to hire you as a consultant, or do business with you, they’ll Google you. Your LinkedIn profile and other social media profiles will most likely rise to the top of search results for your name (especially if you’ve optimized those profiles with your name). This is what you want—to be easily found when someone searches for you. (For more on this, see my article 5 Tips for Looking Good on Google.)
But social media profiles can only go so far. A small business website, however, can have multiple pages: one on your background, one for clients and client testimonials, one for examples of your work, one for a blog, and so on. It enables you to give others a much fuller picture of your capabilities. When the website is optimized for your name, such as having your name in the URL, it’s likely to rank at the top of a Google search for your name. (See also: 5 Ways to Boost Traffic to Your Website.)
In the past, many small businesses paid website designers thousands to create sites for them. Because the site was built in Dreamweaver or other high-end website design software, you’d often have to ask the designer to make updates or changes to the site, too.
Nowadays, however, a lot of small businesses—myself included—use blogging platforms instead. Google’s Blogger, WordPress, and others enable you to create not just a blog but a full-fledged website, with multiple pages and (depending on the blogging platform) e-commerce capabilities. Sites built using a blogging platform are also extremely easy to update whenever you like, and at no cost.
Having gone through the process myself, and having talked to others who have, here are my recommendations for building a small business or personal website.
1. Go with WordPress.
I used WordPress to build my website, and I know many other small business and self-employed people who have, too. It’s pretty much the standard these days. (The Work Reimagined site is also built on WordPress.)
There are two versions: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.org is free, open-source blogging software. The downsides are that it can take a bit of technical knowledge and time to set up a new site using WordPress.org software. (But I found an easy way; see tip no. 2). Also, you’ll need to pay a provider to host your WordPress site.
The upside: There are thousands of free and low-cost design templates (called “themes”) that make designing a site straightforward, as well as tons of free or low-cost plug-ins that add all sorts of functionality.
In comparison, WordPress.com is free, requires no third-party web hosting provider, and doesn’t require much setup. You can literally be up and running with a new site in no time. However, you’re more limited in terms of design templates and plug-ins.
As tempting as WordPress.com may be, I strongly recommend going the WordPress.org route. Aside from the greater customization opportunities, you can take advantage of excellent, free plug-ins for search engine optimization (SEO). My particular favorite is WordPress SEO by Yoast
If you lack the technical expertise to set up a WordPress.org site, don’t worry. The universe is full of website designers who build customized sites for small businesses using WordPress.org. This article, How to set up a WordPress website, is also helpful in walking you through the nuts and bolts.
2. Choose Bluehost as your web host.
Bluehost is listed prominently in WordPress.org’s directory of web hosting services for a reason. For someone like me who had no experience building a website from scratch, Bluehost greatly simplified the process of setting up a WordPress.org-built site. The company’s tech support was responsive and helpful. And their rates are extremely competitive—currently, Bluehost is offering $5/month web hosting plans. There are other web hosting services that are good for WordPress.org sites, but I strongly recommend Bluehost.
3. Choose a WordPress theme that’s easily customized.
I wanted a WordPress design theme that I could easily, and heavily, customize, so that my site wouldn’t look exactly like someone else’s. I also wanted a design theme that offered strong SEO. With that in mind, I considered dozens of themes before settling on DIY Thesis Basic ($87), which I also recommend highly.
If DIY Thesis Basic doesn’t suit, check out Best WordPress Themes – 2013 Edition for other options.
4. Keep it fresh.
Your small business website shouldn’t be a set and forget affair. Google tends to reward sites with fresh content by pushing them higher in results. The more often you add relevant, interesting content to your site, the higher your site will go in search result rankings.