Take your small business online: A step-by-step guide

Get your business on the web

This post was originally published on Feb. 14, 2018, and was updated on March 24, 2020. 

I’m so glad you’re reading this guide for step-by-step instructions to take your small business online. That’s where your customers are spending a whole lot of their time — reading, watching, researching, socializing and buying.

Many businesses start with a simple presence on a Facebook business page or an Etsy store — and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just important to realize that you don’t have total control over those platforms and you’ll likely be limited in terms of what you can do there. Plus, most ecommerce marketplace sites take a cut of your sales.

As such, you might want to expand your digital footprint to include a number of important elements.

Custom domain name. Your domain name is the heart of your business’s unique address on the web. It should tell people who you are and what you have to offer at a glance, direct them to your website, and help protect and promote your brand.

Website. Your website is your business’s online home. It’s where you tell your story, showcase products and services, and start to establish credibility and expand your reach.

Social media. Getting active on the social networking sites where your customers spend their time is key to building an online community around your business. You can use sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube to market your products and services, establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and, most important, build relationships with your customers.

Email. Branded email is an affordable and effective way to communicate with your customers and generate leads.

Local reviews and directories. You can inspire consumer confidence by garnering positive reviews on third-party sites like Yelp and remaining current on business directories such as Google My Business.

10 steps to take your small business online

Table With Plants and Tablet Illustrate How To Take Your Small Business Online

Even without a lot of technical experience, you can take your small business online by taking a strategic approach to building a web presence.

  1. Get a domain name that represents who you are and what you do.
  2. Plan your website.
  3. Pick your designer.
  4. Create valuable content.
  5. Get your website found.
  6. Connect with customers on social media.
  7. Drive traffic to your website.
  8. Use your website and email to generate leads.
  9. Measure, improve and grow.
  10. Evaluate your efforts.

This guide will show you how to take your small business online, step by step. Ready? Onward!

1. Get a domain name

Your domain is the part of your website address that comes after the www. Like this:

www.coolexample.com

For a business, a domain name can also anchor a professional email address. Like this:

ceo@coolexample.com

Let’s say I’m looking for a plumber in Detroit. I whip out my smartphone, tap Google, and enter “plumber in detroit mi” — and voilà! I get a list of search results that include relevant websites identified by their domain names.

You want your business to show up in search results when potential customers are looking online for the products or services you offer.

Related: Domain extensions guide — What you need to know before you pick a domain name

How to choose a domain name

Your domain is your business’s nameplate on the web, so take care to choose a domain name that represents your business and is easy to remember. Here are five tips for picking a domain that sticks:

  1. Keep it short. Would you remember it if you saw it on the side of a bus?
  2. Make it easy to type. Avoid hyphens and unusual spellings.
  3. Include keywords. Try to use words that people might enter when searching for your type of business.
  4. Target your area. Use your city or state in your domain name to appeal to local customers.
  5. Pick the right extension. Using and industry- or geo-specific domain name ending (the part that comes after the “dot”) might be a strong fit for your business.

When you’re noodling through domains, do a little research to make sure the name you love isn’t trademarked, copyrighted or in use by another company.

As you prep to take your small business online, complete the following fields with relevant business information to come up with the perfect domain:

Business Industry: E.g. Catering

Services: E.g.  Food for wedding receptions

Products: E.g.  Hors d’oeuvres, chocolate bar

Geographic Location (If applicable): E.g. Chicago

Words that describe your services: E.g.  Elegant

Now try combining the words in your list to create short and representative domain names. Remember to play with various domain extensions. Run your names by a few friends, and narrow down your list based on their feedback. When you’ve got a list you love, you’re ready to search for your favorite names’ availability through a registrar like GoDaddy.

Search for the perfect domain name

Man Looking At Smartphone On Backpack

How to register your domain name

When you’ve settled on a domain name that’s available, go ahead and register it for a specific amount of time — sort of like leasing it. As long as it’s registered to you, no one else can claim it.

For example, when you register a domain name for one year, you need to renew your registration when that year is up or else someone might get your domain. Most people register their domain name for three to five years.

Related: How to buy a domain name in 3 steps and How to buy a domain that someone else owns

Why register multiple domains?

Some people register more than one domain name to represent their business online. Here’s why:

To pivot for growth. If you have a domain name with a traditional extension, like yourbusinessname.com, you can register additional domains that represent specific products or services you offer, or markets you serve, as your business grows.

To protect your brand. If you own a domain, your competition doesn’t. This is one easy way to help protect your brand online.

To identify with a local market. If you serve customers in a specific geographic area, it’s important to make that local connection clear in your website address.

To identify with a specific industry. There’s a good chance people will search for products and services by industry — like “wedding photographer in savannah” — so including your industry in your domain can make you stand out in search results.

Pro tip: If you register more than one domain, attach your website to your primary domain and point any secondary domains to that address. You can also forward domains to sites like your Facebook business page. Here’s how to forward domains registered through GoDaddy.

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2. Plan your website

With that domain name in hand, you’re ready to start thinking about your website. A bit of planning goes a long way toward ensuring that your site will do all the things you want it to do for your business.

Do you want your website to inform? To inspire? To generate sales leads? To actually sell products or services?

Is it enough for your website to showcase your products and services, or do you want visitors to be able to buy them directly from the site? If so, you’ll want an ecommerce website (more on that later).

When you figure out what you want your site to do for your business, you can begin building the type of site that will achieve those objectives.

Here are step-by-step instructions for planning a website. 

How to prep to sell online

Row Of Nested Shopping Carts

If you plan to sell products or services on your website, you’ll need an ecommerce website, also known as an online store. This type of website requires a few more specialized parts than a standard website. Here’s what you’ll need to plan for:

A shopping cart. This tool will let you display product images and descriptions. Look for a cart option that includes important features like shipping options and inventory tracking.

Payment processing. While you can use a third-party service like PayPal to collect payments, establishing your own merchant account to accept credit card payments will give your business more credibility. Merchant accounts let you accept payments from major credit, debit and gift cards on your site — so your customers don’t have to leave your online store to pay for their goods.

SSL. The first thing most savvy customers look for when they make a purchase online is an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL certificates are digital certificates that encrypt the information your customers send when they purchase products or complete forms on your website. Visual indicators of an SSL can include a padlock icon in the browser, https:// before the website address, and a green address bar.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Online Store includes built-in payment processing, SSL, and marketing tools like email.

Learn how to start an online store in 3 steps.

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3. Pick your designer

You might not be well-versed in the art of website building — and you don’t have to be. You’ve got options.

Easy DIY website builder

Site builders like GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing are great if you want an attractive, easy-to-create website — fast. Simply choose a pre-designed template and then replace the text and images to meet your needs. Swipe-to-style. Mobile friendly. Simple to create and update.

WordPress website

Like the idea of building and updating your own website without learning HTML, but want more functionality and customization options than most easy DIY site builders offer? If you’ve got a little skill and some extra time, a content management system such as WordPress might be for you.

You can choose from myriad free or paid WordPress themes (designs for the overall style of your website). A plethora of plugins also can boost your site’s functionality.

Some WordPress offerings, like GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting, offer quick-start setup and even bundle security and support into one plan to make it easier to launch and maintain a WordPress website.

Professional website designer

Hiring a professional designer or website design service is a great option if you have an idea for your website, but don’t want to build it yourself. A pro can collaborate with you to turn your vision into a fully functional, customized website that meets your online goals.

Whatever path you take, you’ll want to consider these primary factors: cost, customization, complexity, time, and ongoing maintenance. A good method for making your final decision is to prioritize your most important considerations, then weigh the options against your needs.

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4. Create valuable content

So, what’s your story? Every business has one. And a compelling story drives an effective small business website.

  • How did you get started?
  • What do you tell customers about your business?
  • How do you explain to friends how you make a living?
  • What problem can you solve for your customers, as only you can?

Think about your mission, your passion, and what makes you stand apart from the competition. Then start writing.Eggs And Whisk And Cookbook In Background

It could be as simple as this:

“I started baking with Mom when I was barely tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. She taught me everything she learned from her mother and grandmother, and encouraged me to pursue my passion in college. I started my bakery right out of culinary school. Today, I might not end up covered in as much flour, but I still love baking as much as I did when I was a kid. I think you’ll taste that passion in my cookies.”

Pages to include on your small business website

You’re going to tell that story throughout a handful of pages on your website. Most experts recommend that five core pages — Home, About Us, Products/Services, Testimonials, and Contact Us — make for a solid small business website.

But if you’re in a crunch, just get a great homepage up as soon as you can and then build out your website with additional pages.

 

Developing the content for web pages requires telling your story with words (text), images (photos, your logo, etc.), and perhaps video, presented in an appealing way (that’s the design factor).

It’s important to make this space — your website — easy for visitors to travel through, or navigate. A click here, a link there, and they’ll get a clear idea of who you are and what you can offer to them.

Here’s an in-depth guide for developing content for 5 core website pages.

Get inspiredLightbulbs Hanging from Ceiling

Not sure how to start telling your business’s unique story on your website? Here are a few places you might find inspiration:

  • talking to friends
  • customer referrals
  • existing brochures and other marketing materials
  • company newsletters or cards
  • other websites

Take a look at what other successful businesses in your industry do on their websites, and note what you like and what you don’t. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little online inspiration, just don’t copy someone else’s content.

Small business website design basics

Even if you hire a pro to build your site for you, you’ll need to make (or at least approve) decisions about the look of the site — its design. Here are a few design fundamentals you’ll want to consider:

Logo. Think about how you want to incorporate your company logo into your website’s design. Maybe you want to echo the colors of your logo on your site, or make the logo “pop” against a contrasting background.

Related: How to design a logo in 12 steps — A DIY guide

Colors. For brand harmony, it’s important to choose the right color palette for your website. Do you own a creative company? Perhaps vibrant colors like hot pink and tangerine speak to your brand. If you’re in the professional services industry, more subtle hues such as charcoal and blue might be more appropriate.

Think about the feelings colors evoke for you and match them with how you want your customers to feel when they visit your website.

Related: How to choose brand colors and use them on your website

Fonts. Think about the fonts that might best represent your particular business — from bold, linear styles to more delicate, feminine fonts.

Related: Website typography basics for online businesses

Layouts and more. Consider the amount of “whitespace” (space between elements) in your design. A lot of whitespace can denote clarity or simplicity, while having very little of it can make your site look active or intense. Other elements, like background colors, gradients, and the “texture” of your overall design, can contribute to your online impression.

By putting a little thought into these basic design elements, you’ll make big strides in telling your story, building your brand, and framing your products and services in the best possible light on the web.

Related: How to design a website when you’re not a website designer and Ecommerce website design tips for do-it-yourselfers

Small business website image tips

By using a few thoughtfully chosen pictures and/or short videos, you can quickly convey the information and impression you’re going for on your website

Here are three tips for using images and video on your website:

Show instead of telling. If it would take a thousand words to explain something, showing it is better. This is especially true of product shots and video demonstrations. Use them to create an impact.

Take them yourself. If you need to snap a few shots of a product or make a video, you already have a tool you can use — your smartphone. Just adjust the lighting, be aware of the background you’re using, and snap away. When you’re done, you can edit them using an online editor, or a tool like Canva.

Woman with Camera Illustrates Taking Your Own Product Picture

Related: How to use Canva to create branded images in less than an hour

Use quality stock images. With stock images, you can save yourself time and get high-quality images at a fraction of the cost of a professional photographer.

Be mobile-ready

The vast majority of smartphone users do shopping research on their phones. They tap and swipe their way through search results, websites and reviews to figure out what they’re going to buy, and from which seller.

Make sure your small business website is mobile-friendly.

 

A mobile website is optimized for use on a smartphone and other mobile devices. It’s designed for a positive user experience on mobile. Whether you design your own website or hire a designer to do it for you, make sure your small business website looks and performs as well on smartphones and tablets as it does on desktop computers.

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5. Get your website found

Congratulations! You’ve already accomplished the first rule of thumb for getting your website found when you take your small business online — creating relevant content. The type of content that will resonate with your target customer.

Now it’s time to take the extra steps needed to boost your business’s visibility online.

What is SEO?

Enter search engine optimization, fondly known as SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO): the process of refining a website to get higher search engine rankings and organic visitors to your site, without paying for search engine placement.

Imagine you’re a chef who’s spent a week perfecting a new recipe. If you don’t get it on the menu, it’s going to collect dust back in the kitchen because most of your customers aren’t going to know about it. It’s the same way with your website — you’ve cooked up all this amazing content, and you want search engines like Google and Bing to serve it up to potential customers in their search results pages.

Unlike paid listings — advertisements that display in sponsored areas — organic search results are “free” and based on, among other things, the site’s content and how closely it matches the keywords being searched.

How does SEO work (in a nutshell)?

After you (or your website guru) does the website backend stuff needed to attract the attention of the search engine bots (like connecting the site to Google Search Console), search engines know that your site exists. They scan it, index the information, and analyze the website’s content to determine how and where your website’s content should display on search engine results pages (SERPs).

While each search engine has its own set of ranking criteria, they all look at these same basic but key elements:

Relevant page content. Focus on content that meets the needs your target customers are searching for.

Keywords. Do some research to discover what select words and phrases people use to search for your type of business. Sprinkle these keywords throughout the content on your website.

Related: How to do SEO keyword research to drive traffic to your website and 10 ways to improve Google keyword ranking

Meta tags. These are HTML tags that contain info to help search engines know what your site’s about. They help describe your website in search engine results.

Related: Meta tags and the head section of a website

Website navigation. This covers all the links on your site and how visitors navigate from page to page. Like visitors, search engines rely on good navigation to get around your site.

In the world of SEO, a broken link is like hitting a brick wall. Make sure all the URLs in your navigation are valid.

 

Sitemap. A sitemap is essentially a map or directory of all the pages in your website. It guides search engines throughout your site with the names and locations of pages. Learn more about sitemaps.

Link building. Search engines use both internal links and backlinks to rank your site. You create an internal link by linking from a keyword or sentence on one page of your website to another page on your site. Even more important for search ranking are backlinks — links from other websites that point to your site.

Related: How to get backlinks to a small business website

Image optimization. This one’s got its own section. Keep reading to learn how to get SEO juice with the images on your website.

How to optimize images

Your website’s visitors love images, and so do search engines. Include at least one image on each page, and take these steps to optimize each image so you gain referral traffic from Image Search.

Align the page’s target keyword to the image file name. For example, if the page targets the keywords “beaded turquoise necklace,” the primary image’s file name should be “beaded-turquoise-necklace.jpg.” Always use lowercase and separate each word with a hyphen.

Use and optimize the Image ALT Text attribution, again using the page’s target keyword. For our example, the Image ALT Text should be “Beaded Turquoise Necklace.” Uppercase, no hyphens.

Make sure the page text corresponds to the image file name and Image ALT text. Search engines look at the text content around the image to help understand its subject matter. They can safely assume the image actually is a picture of a beaded turquoise necklace if they spy the keywords “beaded turquoise necklace” in the content on the page.

Pro tip: Making your image file size smaller so it loads faster can also help your search rankings.

Get more tips for optimizing images for the web. 

Using online reviews, directories and maps

Online reviews and directory sites (like Google My Business, Foursquare and YP) are an important conduit for new business. If people like what they see, they’ll often click the website link in the review or directory listing, and you’ve got a new visitor on your site. Plus, search engines typically pull information from business listing sites and display them under your website address for local search results.

You want your website address (and other information) to be listed on these sites — correctly.

 

You’ve got a few options here:

  • You can go to each site individually and update your business’s pertinent information as needed (like when your phone number or menu change).
  • You can subscribe to a service that enables you to enter and update that pertinent info in one place, before pushing it out to myriad review and directory sites.

We’re a society on-the-go, and online maps are a go-to source for local business information. They’re a fantastic tool for helping potential customers find your business. To start, set up a Google My Business account to show up on Google Maps.

Serious about getting your website found? Find, claim, and verify your business information on key online review sites, directories and maps.

Here is a roundup of SEO resources for small businesses. 

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6. Connect with customers on social media

Smartphone With Instagram Page With Cityscape In Background
Photo: Jakob Owens

Establishing a business presence on the social networks where your customers and prospects spend their time is sort of like setting up a booth at the world’s largest virtual trade show. You can bet your competitors are there, vying for the attention of all those potential customers with flashy banners and giveaways. There’s a crowd gathered around the booth playing a funny video and the vendor live-streaming a makeup demo.

How social media can help your small business

Why is social media so important for businesses today, and more importantly, how can you get in on that action?

Build relationships. By developing a following on popular social media sites, you can connect with your customers and prospects and share content with large numbers of people. Social makes it easy to target specific customer questions or issues, while making the same information available to all existing and potential customers.

Build your brand. Social media gives you the opportunity to share valuable information about your business and showcase your personality.

Drive traffic to your website. Including a link back to your website in interesting social posts can generate serious traffic.

Establish expertise. Share your knowledge and experience to build credibility as an industry thought leader.

Make sales. Ultimately, these activities — connections, brand building, driving traffic, establishing expertise — all lead to the same place: sales.

Establishing and maintaining a strong social presence for your business definitely requires a commitment of your time, but the benefits make that investment worthwhile. By getting social, you will continue to build credibility, raise brand awareness, and, especially, engage with current and potential customers.

Ready to get started?

Here’s a roundup of social media marketing resources for small businesses. 

Choose the right social media platforms

Just like IRL (in real life) you can’t be everywhere at the same time. Same for social media. You’ve got to figure out where the people who are most interested in your type of products or services are spending their time, and go there.

Different social networks appeal to different demographics.

 

Some platforms — like Pinterest and Instagram — specialize in visual content — perfect for product-centric businesses. Some networks allow you to share long-form content, live-stream video, stay on top of industry trends, and “spy” on your competitors.

Do some research. Where is your target audience hanging out? How about your competitors? What benefits can each network offer your business? Analyze and prioritize.

Take all that data, look at it in the context of the marketing goals you’ve established for your business, and define a social media strategy that works for you.

Related: Get your business started on social media 

Best practices for using social media for business

Once you’re all set up on your chosen networks, and listening to get a pulse on your customers and competitors, it’s time to start posting and sharing content. To get the most out of social media for your business, it helps to follow a few basic guidelines:

Make friends. Social media is about people connecting with people. So, even if you’re representing a business, be sure to let your human side shine through in your posts. Return favors (such as sharing and liking posts and pages).

Add value. Provide useful information in your posts, such as links to related articles and videos.

Show respect. Treat your followers with dignity and respect, and you’re likely to get the same in return.

Get it right. Be sure to check your facts, spelling and grammar.

Encourage open dialogue. Craft posts that encourage followers to respond. Ask questions.

Be responsive. Acknowledge followers’ feedback and engage them in conversation.

Get visual. Post photos, videos, and other visual elements to boost engagement.

Leverage promotions. Come up with special offers for social media followers.

Drive traffic to your website. Include your website address in posts for followers who want to learn more.

Connecting your small business website and social media profilesPinky Promise

You want your business’s website and social media profiles to be joined at the hip. After you set up your social media profiles, post links to them everywhere — on your website, storefront, marketing materials, even your email signature.

Buttons on website. Make it easy for website visitors to become followers by adding social media icons or links to your website. Here’s how to easily display social media buttons on your website if you use GoDaddy Websites + Marketing.

Links in social posts. Include your website’s URL in your social media posts. Also, add widgets or add-ons to your site so live feeds of your social media posts show up there.

Share, Follow, Like. When people “like” your business’s social page, they become members of your business’s online community. Take every opportunity to “share,” “follow,” and “like” others’ pages so they’ll return the favor!

Time-saving tools

As a small business owner one thing’s for sure — you’re busy. And social media has a well-deserved reputation as a bit of a time-suck. These tools can help you manage your business’s social media presence in less time, with fewer headaches.

Hootsuite. This is a popular tool for scheduling posts in advance and using keywords and hashtags to listen in on conversational streams.

Buffer. It’s super-easy to batch schedule updates and share pages on all your social networks.

Sprout Social. This powerful platform features publishing, engagement and analytics functions that make it easier to manage and engage on all your social networks.

Feedly. This RSS reader will help you keep track of new posts that go out from your competition.

Related: Time-saving social media tips for business owners

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7. Drive traffic to your website

Person Using Tablet And Computer

We’ve talked about how SEO and social media can drive visitors to your business website, but we’re not quite finished on this topic.

Let’s look at a handful of proven strategies.

Create compelling, search-worthy content

Whether it’s a shareable infographic, entertaining how-to video, or blog post about why spending time in your online store is more fun than watching a favorite TV show, make content that people can’t find anywhere else.

This is the kind of stuff people will want to link to from their own websites and social profiles (remember backlinks?). Make sure they find that amazing content by optimizing it for search engines.

Related: How to use digital content marketing to grow awareness, trust and sales

Send business-class email

Remember that domain you registered? The one connected to your website? You can use it to send branded email to your customers and subscribers. Every time you send an email from that business-class account, you’re marketing your website.

To really drive traffic back to your website, include strong calls-to-action (CTAs) in your emails. Come up with short, catchy phrases that inspire readers to take a specific action on your website.

And that’s just one of many ways you can use email marketing to drum up business on your site — we’re going to dive deeper below.

Related: How to use a custom domain name for email

Maximize blogs

Share snippets from your blog on your social channels, with links back to the entire post on your website. Drive even more visitors to your site by hosting guest posts from industry influencers and satisfied customers — and ask them to share the link to the post on your website with their social followers.

And don’t forget that all that fresh content you add to your blog is like candy for search engines.

Related: How to write a great blog post

Join online communities

Like local meetups, there are online communities for just about every interest and industry you can imagine. Check out forums, blogs and chats related to your market. Leave meaningful comments with links back to relevant content on your website.

Related: Types of communities for support, guidance and growth

Set up shop on a marketplace

Maybe you’ve already got an Amazon or Etsy site — these marketplace sites are handy for promoting your products or services before you set up a website of your own. After you’re up and running, you can use your marketplace pages to drive traffic to your new website.

Feature your hand-knitted mittens on your Etsy site, for example, with a link to your online store for the matching scarf.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Websites + Marketing Online Store‘s Marketplaces feature lets you sell your products across multiple online markets, such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Jet.com and Walmart.com. Once you set up your marketplaces, also called channels, they’re synced to reflect any changes you make in your Online Store.

Run promotions

Offer online-only promotions, redeemable through your website. Get the word out by sharing the promotion on your blog and social media profiles.

Related: How to use discounts and coupons to increase ecommerce revenue

Online ads, “sponsored” posts and other paid options are designed to put your business info front-and-center and to drive traffic to your website.

A few benefits of paid online advertising include:

Fast and cheap(er). Online ads cost a fraction of traditional print ads, and you can execute them quickly.

Captive audience. Your ads show up in front of targeted consumers on their favorite social networks and other websites.

Easy to measure. You’ll get plenty of handy metrics for measuring the success of your online ad campaigns.

Related: What’s the difference between Amazon advertising and paid ads on Google and Facebook?

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8. Use your website + email to generate leads

Driving traffic to your website is key, but converting your website’s visitors into leads is how you’ll stay in business. That means figuring out who’s visiting your site and contacting them directly so you can work to convert them into customers.

Include your business phone number or email address on every page of your website.

 

Ask website visitors to share a little bit about themselves — name and email address. That’s all you need to start converting, and most people are used to giving out that info online. Ask for a phone number if you’ve got a callback strategy in place.

How to collect email addresses

Your website is a powerful tool for collecting email contact info from people who are interested in what you have to offer (just be sure you adhere to GDPR guidelines).

Here’s how you can collect email addresses and other contact info on your website:

Include a contact form. Visitors will fill out the form on your site because they have a question, need information, or want you to contact them. It’s where they go to connect directly with you.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Websites + Marketing shows a contact form by default. Here’s how to hide or show the form.

Add a sign-up form for visitors to receive information about products and services, updates, discounts, etc.

Include an email opt-in box on your checkout page (for ecommerce sites).

Give a special offer for joining the email list.

Related: Beginner’s guide to starting an email list

Start with email marketing

Now that you’ve got all those email addresses, what are you going to do with them? How about reaching out to those customers and prospects through a branded, professional-looking email campaign that’s brimming with value for its recipients?

Email marketing offers a targeted approach to connecting with current and potential customers.

 

After all, they’ve opted in to receive your email correspondence. It can build brand awareness and loyalty.

Related: How email newsletters can help you promote your brand

Email marketing best practices

You want to send business emails that make it past spam filters, stand out, and entice recipients to open and click. With that in mind:

Only send email marketing campaigns to people who have signed up for or requested them. Look for email marketing programs with opt-in buttons or sign-up forms to help build permission-based contact lists.

Related: Best practices for creating email opt-ins

Stick to a schedule. Test different days and times to see which combination has the best open rate (the number of list subscribers who opened the email message, a percentage of the total number of emails sent). Be consistent.

Related: How to create a newsletter editorial calendar

Only include requested subject matter. Deliver the kind of information your contacts signed up for, and you’ll build credibility and trust. Send them a newsletter about party planning when they signed up for plumbing tips, and you’ll probably lose a subscriber.

Related: Best practices to follow when creating a newsletter

Create interest groups. Placing your contacts in different groups based on their interests or preferences to market more effectively.

Related: Best practices for managing your email list

Avoid spam and trash folders. To prevent triggering spam filters, avoid using all caps or multiple exclamation marks in the subject line or body of your email.

Related: How to avoid sending spammy emails

Give reading options. Send both HTML and plain text versions of your newsletter so all of your contacts can read your message on their computer or mobile device.

Put a name to your email. Use your personal name or the name of your business as the From or Sender name.

Keep building your contact list. Add calls-to-action and sign-up forms to your website and social media profiles, and collect contact information in person at events or conferences.

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9. Measure, improve and grow

You’ve got a website and social profiles in place, plus the know-how to drive traffic to your site, engage with followers, and generate leads — so you’re in a great position to grow your business. What now?

Stay social

You’ll want to tweak your social media strategy as you gain some experience engaging with followers.

  • What types of content get the most positive response?
  • When are your engagement rates the highest?
  • Is it time to try some paid options?
  • Which social networks seem to be working best for your business?

You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, so make smart use of your time on social media. Focus on deeper engagement on the sites that matter most to your audience.

Related: Social media metrics and ROI — What your business needs to know

Hone your focus

Channel your time and energy into online efforts that prove most effective for your business — email marketing, a particular social media platform, a call-to-action on your homepage, whatever works best for you.

After you get some skin in the online game, take a step back and evaluate your progress. Revisit your online marketing goals, and adjust based on your experience.

Related: 5 smart and affordable digital marketing strategies to grow your venture

Keep your website in shape

Updating and maintaining your website’s content and functionality is key to staying current and delivering what your visitors want and need. Plus, continually updating your site with relevant content will work wonders at improving your search engine visibility. 

Keep it fresh with consistent blog posts, up-to-date photos and videos, and design improvements  that reflect evolving trends.

Related: Why updating your website matters for sales

Track your website’s performance

As a small business owner, you need to know how many people are visiting your site, how they found it, and if your online marketing efforts are working. Web analytics products can give you all of those answers, and more.

Web analytics: the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.

There are a number of products that can analyze your site to tell you what’s working and what’s not. Google Analytics is a good place to start. Here are some of the main metrics you’re going to want to measure:

Visitors. Learn about visitors to your website, such as whether they are new or returning, how they found you, where they are located, and which browsers they are using.

Pages. Gather information on specific pages so you can analyze the effectiveness or popularity of each page on your site.

Referrers. Find out which websites, URLs, search engines and keywords lead visitors to your site.

Ecommerce. Get specifics about revenue-boosting and lead-generating visitor activities, such as purchasing products and signing up for newsletters.

Mobile. Discover how many customers access your site using their mobile devices, and how they use your mobile site.

Social media. Measure the success of your social media profiles with details about others’ engagement with your social content.

Advertising. Learn about the effectiveness of your online marketing efforts, and measure your advertising return on investment (ROI).

Related: How to use Google Analytics

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10. Evaluate your efforts

Congratulations! If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve put in the work it takes to get your small business online — the right way.

Now, are you wondering if you have an effective small business website? Your site should be more than a glorified business card. It should entice visitors to learn more about your products and services, establish that you’re a credible business, and turn your visitors into customers. Even a website with just the bare essentials should help your business grow.

Answer the questions below to see if you’ve covered the basics:

  1. Do you have clear/concise statements on the home page about who you are and what you do?
  2. Does your home page have a call-to-action (Ex. Call now, Watch demo)?
  3. Do you have an about us page that represents your passion for the business?
  4. Have you included customer quotes, reviews or testimonials?
  5. Have you clearly defined your products/services, pricing, warranties and refunds?
  6. Are you collecting email addresses through signup forms?
  7. Is your primary contact information on every page?
  8. Have you included “trust logos” (Ex. Better Business Bureau, Awards, Authorized Dealer)?
  9. Can your visitors share your website through Facebook and Twitter?
  10. Do you promote a “special offer” for your website visitors?

All done? Great! Now tally up the number of “yes” answers to get your diagnosis.

0 – 4: Sounds like you’re just getting started. Give us a call. We’ll help you out.

5 – 7: You’re on track. Pick one area to focus on this week. Make it happen.

8 -10: You’re a guru. It might be time to take the next step. Email marketing?

You’ve got this. And if you ever need any help, we’re available 24/7.

Image by: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Andrea Rowland
A former small business owner and newspaper journalist, and a published nonfiction author, Andrea Rowland helps craft compelling communications for small businesses and web pros through her work as managing editor of the GoDaddy Garage. When she's not writing or editing, she likes to experiment with baking, travel, read, and dip her toes in the ocean.