Launching Your First Small Business Website, Phase One: Planning

Creating a website is a pivotal step for startup businesses, and one that you should take seriously if you are an entrepreneur. The journey from conceptualization to launch involves careful planning. It also requires strategic decision-making and technical implementation. This guide will take you through three essential phases: Planning, Building, and Launching.

In Phase 1, we delve into crucial aspects. We define your website’s purpose. We create a robust marketing plan. We develop compelling content. We secure a domain name. With this groundwork, you can confidently move into Phase 2. There, we’ll explore selecting the right platform. We’ll also choose a hosting solution and build the core foundation of your site. In Phase 3, we guide you through connecting your domain and launching your website. This includes final checks on security and content.

Whether you’re tech-savvy or planning to hire professionals, this blueprint ensures a seamless and successful website launch. Let’s embark on this transformative journey into the digital realm and bring your online vision to life!

Phase 1:  Planning

The first step in your journey towards launching your website is getting a plan together. This phase is critically important, especially if you plan to hire someone to do the technical work in Phases 2 and 3. The goal of this article is to give you a blueprint to execute. If you finish each section in this phase, you will be able to handoff this information to whomever is doing the technical work.

If you are comfortable with technology, Phases 2 and 3 will also help guide you.  For planning, the most important aspects to consider are:

  • Defining your website’s purpose
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Developing your content
  • Buying your domain

Let’s dive into each section!

Define your website’s purpose.

There are many different types of websites, and there is not a single strategy or solution that matches every business need. As a business owner, you should think strategically about how your website fits into your larger business model.

Some questions that will help you with this step:

  • What are similar websites in your ecosystem doing? 
  • You should find at least 5 websites like your business, and benchmark what they are doing.
  • How many pages do they have?
  • What are the key features of the site?
  • How do you interact with the site?
  • How design heavy and aesthetic is each site?
  • How does your website relate to your selling strategy?
  • Think about how you are going to acquire customers – does your website complement this process, or drive it directly?
  • Do you want to process payments?
  • Do you want to capture leads?
  • Is your website simply giving you credibility?  This is a hard question, but often your website is simply checking a box when you are launching a small business.  It gives you credibility, but it’s not going to be the thing that makes or breaks your success.
  • How does your website relate to your operational strategy?
  • Depending on your business model, you might need your website to help facilitate key activities of the business.
  • Does your business require appointments or the ability for customers to communicate with you on an ongoing basis?
  • Do you need a portal or backend login?
  • Are you selling products directly?

Create a marketing plan

Once you have defined your website purpose, you should spend some time building a marketing plan. Begin by defining your target audience and understanding their preferences and online behavior. Just like doing homework, conduct market research to identify competitors and uncover market trends. This can inform your approach.

How to drive traffic:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimize your website for search engines to improve its visibility on search engine result pages. This involves keyword research, on-page optimization, and quality content creation.

Social Media Marketing: Leverage popular social media platforms to promote your website and engage with your audience. Create a consistent posting schedule. Use visual content. Consider paid advertising to increase reach.

Paid Advertising (PPC): Use paid advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads or social media ads, to drive targeted traffic to your website. Set specific goals, target your ads effectively, and analyze results to optimize your campaigns.

Online PR and Outreach: Generate online buzz through press releases, guest blogging, and reaching out to online publications. Establishing a positive online presence can enhance your brand’s credibility and visibility.

Guerilla Marketing:  Guerilla marketing is an unconventional and high-impact advertising strategy that relies on creativity, surprise, and ingenuity to promote a product or service, often using unconventional locations or methods to reach a targeted audience.

How to monetize your website:

(these will still require traffic, per above)

Content Marketing: Develop and share valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage your target audience. This includes blog posts, articles, infographics, and other forms of content that showcase your expertise.

Email Marketing: Build and nurture relationships with your audience through targeted email campaigns. Provide valuable content, promotions, and updates to keep your audience engaged and informed.

Influencer Marketing: Collaborate with influencers in your industry to reach a wider audience. Influencers can help promote your website and products to their followers, leveraging their credibility and reach.

Strategic Partnerships: Identify and build relationships with businesses or websites that share a similar target audience but are not direct competitors. Joint ventures and collaborations can mutually benefit both parties.

Develop your content

One of the most important aspects of a website is strong content.  There is a saying in the Internet marketing community that “Content is king”, and there is a lot of truth to that. While developing content will be an ongoing process, you should make sure to outline the critical pages you need for your launch.  

Having content before you start building has the biggest benefit. This will help streamline phase 2. This is especially true if you are working with a company or freelancer to build your site. One of the first questions someone scoping your site is going to ask you is how many pages you will require.

Consider the following as part of your outline:

  • What does your homepage need to say about your business?
  • What services and products do you want to include on your site?
  • Do you have pictures and images available?  If not, do you know what types of imagery would best represent your business when you purchase stock images?
  • Write a biography or description of your business for an About Us page, or something similar.
  • Write down all the content information for your business (phone, email, business hours, who to call for help, who to call for sales, etc)
  • Write down all the social media profiles and URLs associated with your business.

At minimum, you should assemble the following in a Google doc or Microsoft Word document. Create a folder somewhere with images you will use. Make sure not to steal things from Google. Use a site like iStock Photo where you can pay for image rights.

Buy your domain.

The last thing you need to do for any new website is secure a domain name. This digital address serves as your brand’s identity on the internet, making it essential to choose wisely. Furthermore, not every domain is available, so it’s important to find a concise and compelling URL address for your business.

Opting for a reputable domain registrar such as GoDaddy or Namecheap ensures a seamless and secure purchase process. Choosing a domain that aligns with your business name and reflects your brand identity will help with brand recognition and customer trust. It should also be easy to remember.

Additionally, consider factors like domain extension (.com, .net, .org) and potential keywords to enhance search engine visibility. Investing in a memorable and distinctive domain is not just a technicality. It’s a strategic move that lays the foundation for your business’s online success. It fosters credibility and accessibility for your target audience.

Where to buy domains

Summary

The first phase of launching your first website is all about careful planning. We hope this article has helped you start the process, and we encourage you to take a few weeks to really map out answers to the questions and excursuses in this article. If you feel like you have a solid plan, you can move onto our next article in the series: Phase 2 – Building your website.