Running a business today means that you need an online presence, but creating a website can seem too overwhelming to even start. The difficulty in building a B2B website might make you delay doing it, but 70-80% of consumers use the Internet to research a business prior to any purchase… meaning that no website makes for a significant drop in customers.
That’s why we’ve developed a step-by-step guide that comprises of seven simple steps:
- Decide on a digital strategy
- Choose your website platform
- Choose a domain name and host
- Build your website structure
- Design your website
- Create your content
The 7 Step Guide for Building a B2B Website
1. Decide on a digital strategy
Before you do anything creative or technical in building your website, you’ll want to create a plan of action and understand why your business needs a website. You need a digital strategy, which you can create by completing the following:
Audience analysis: Any website is built not for you, but for your audience. That’s why it’s important to build your buyer personas and understand who your audience is, what their pain points are, why they’d be looking for business, and how they enjoy consuming online content.
Competitor comparison: You can learn a lot by evaluating your competitors’ digital channels and assets. You don’t necessarily want to copy what they’re doing, but you can learn from what they’re doing successfully and what they’re failing at. What information do they provide and how do they approach their audience?
Goals: Now it’s time to think about yourself. What do you need? What does your business need? At this early point, you can keep your goals general, but be sure to update them as your website comes to life and you learn more about what’s possible. Your goals will help to steer your website creation and ensure that you are always choosing tools and software that enables you to achieve them.
2. Choose your website platform
Once you have your digital strategy formed and you understand why and how you’ll create your website, it’s time to select your website platform. First you should choose between a website builder (like Shopify, Wix or Squarespace) and a content management system or CMS (like HubSpot). Either option will offer you a fairly straightforward build process with ready templates and extensions that enable you to create a website without coding, but they each have their own limitations and costs.
Website builders are usually quite a lot cheaper than a CMS, and allow you to build a website a lot quicker. But we recommend a CMS like HubSpot, because it offers far more features and integrations that enable you to ensure your website acts as the marketing and sales tool that it should be.
When choosing your CMS, you’ll want to think about it holistically. You don’t just want a CMS to match your budget, you also want it to fit through ease of use, scalability, security, available integrations and required tools. Ask yourself leading questions, such as: Do I need my platform to support multiple languages? What about currency? How many users do I need to log onto the platform? What kind of education and support does the platform offer? In answering questions like these, you should be led down the path to choosing the CMS that is the right fit for your business.
3. Choose a domain name and host
You’re so close to your website up and running! This step is a fun one, because it involves choosing and registering your domain name. Most domain registrars, like Godaddy.com and Namecheap.com, are affordable and secure options for purchasing your domain name (and come with added benefits such as SSL security), which you can do on their websites by conducting a simple domain search for availability. The more straightforward option would be to conduct a domain name search and registration through your CMS or hosting provider’s site. Choose a domain name as close to the name of your company, as your exact company name may be taken. It’s advisable that you select a domain with one of the three most common extensions of .com, .net, or .org. But if it makes sense, you can look at an alternate extension like .io or .shop.
Once you’ve secured your domain name, you need to choose a web host. A web host is the platform that stores all of your website’s files and data securely, to correctly serve them whenever a user makes a request (by visiting a page, downloading a document, or submitting a form, etc.). Often your web host will be the same as your web platform, such as HubSpot, Shopify or Wix. If that’s the case, then you don’t need to go about choosing a web host. But if you decide to host your website separately, you’ll need to do some research on exactly what it is that you need (your website platform should be able to guide you in this). Every hosting provider offers different options, of which the primary differences are:
Shared hosting: This is the most affordable type of hosting, because it shares a server with other websites. This can make it less able to support high volume traffic and become a bit more vulnerable to security threats, but generally it is the most popular option, especially amongst small to medium businesses.
VPS hosting: This is the more expensive, but more stable and secure, option. On this option, your website will be able to handle almost any amount of traffic and you will have your own dedicated server, meaning that security will be a lot tighter and harder to bypass. Generally, this option only makes sense for websites with an incredible amount of traffic or with extremely sensitive customer or user data.
4. Build your website structure
You understand your audience, you’ve chosen your website platform and registered your domain name… it’s time to begin building your website. The first step would be to create a wireframe of your website. What pages do you need, and what structure will each page take? The process for this is fairly straight-forward, but it can take a while to complete as you’ll need to structure your website with both your users in mind and Google.
This means that your website should have an easy user flow, allowing visitors to easily navigate between the information that they’ll want and need, but you’ll also need to structure it so that Google can crawl your website easily and successfully. It would be a good idea to plan your pages and their content with the following in mind:
- Your pages should lead naturally into one another (think about the path your users will take).
- Every page should be structured correctly with HTML titles (H1, H2, H3, etc.).
- Page URLs should contain no uppercase characters and be as short as possible.
- Your pages should internally link to relevant content, creating a “web” of content.
- It’s best to create and follow master templates, so that when you’re building your website out, you don’t need to recreate the template of every existing page on your website.
5. Design your website
Now the real fun starts—designing your website. You’ll have your website wireframe built out and approved, and now you need to design how your website looks (generally, website builder or CMS themes are made up of templates, modules, images, and global content that allow you to fairly easily manage your website's overall design—or you can design your own from scratch).
No matter your platform, or whether you’re using a theme or building from scratch, take your time to ensure that your website design will reflect your brand and what your audience responds to. It’s vital that you design your website responsively (meaning that it will load correctly on all devices), which means ensuring your website scales correctly but also that you use only web safe fonts and clear graphics.
You’ll have already planned each page’s structure in the previous step, and so this step is about fleshing this out and getting your ready to host all of your content. You’ll also want to use this step to ensure that any widgets or apps that need to be integrated into your website display in a way that lives with the rest of your website and brand as a whole.
6. Create your content
Content is king. The adage remains true, despite the fact that the why has changed slightly. In the dawn of the Internet age, it was about quantity, but now it’s about quality. As you build out your pages and write your company story, educational blogs and other content, you need to write from the perspective of your audience and what they’re looking for. A starting point of this would be to conduct keyword research to guide you in understanding precisely which topics to write about and how, which goes hand-in-hand with your audience analysis.
Alongside your page and other website content, you’ll also want to consider the SEO elements of your website to ensure that, like our audience, Google can understand and appreciate your website:
HTML headers: As mentioned previously, every page should contain at least a H1 HTML header that includes the primary keyword for that page. This allows Google to quickly and easily gauge what each page on your website talks about, and how best to serve it to users.
Meta titles and descriptions: Your meta titles and descriptions are important summaries of each pages’ content that are vital to get right because they serve two functions: 1) To give Google more context around your page content and what search terms to serve it for, and 2) To help users have more context about your page content when viewing it as a result in their preferred search engine (i.e. Google).
Image alt-text: Alternative text for images is hidden text attached to your images that explains what the image depicts and how it relates to the content that it lives in. It’s important because it’s the only way for Google to understand what your image is and how it serves your users.
Site speed: Ensure that all images are served under 100kb and in web safe formats (JPG is a standard format)
It’s time to launch your website! But first: Test, test, test. Ensure that you’ve tested your website prior to launch in detail, by multiple people taking different paths, on multiple devices, browsers and even operating systems. When you’re sure that your website is ready for the public’s eye, keep your team on standby for any issues that might arise during launch and hit “Publish”. Congratulations, your website is live!
As with most business pursuits, your website is never finished. You can certainly pat yourself on the back for launching your website, but you’ll want to analyse and optimize as you gain data on your users and how they use your website. This will be an iterative process, especially as your audience and their behaviour may change as your business grows and develops. But, for now, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve planned, structured and built your website to be the most powerful marketing and sales tool in your arsenal.