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How To Start a Business Website: Essential Steps In 2024

Andrés Gánem Andrés GánemWeb Hosting Expert June 06, 2024
June 06, 2024
Whether you’re planning to build an e-commerce store or an attractive website to sell your services, a professional website is one of the fundamental components of your business’ success. But that doesn’t mean that you need a team of specialized website designers and an unreasonable investment to create one. In fact, as of 2024, it’s never been easier to create, maintain, and manage your own business website.

I’ve been a freelancer for many years and in that time, I’ve worked for a lot of different ventures with a lot of different requirements and visions. No two businesses are the same, and no two business websites should be, either. But I can still provide you with a basic roadmap for creating a successful business website.

Below, you’ll find what you need to know to start setting up, publishing, and promoting your website. If you already have an idea of what you want from your site, you can sign up for website hosting and skip to the technical section, or keep reading to discover how to make the most out of your online presence.

Do Your Research

Before you start, it’s important to note that while an effective website will be fundamental for most businesses, what “an effective website” is will vary depending on each business. The first step is defining the main purpose of your website.

A website to attract customers to your brick-and-mortar business will mainly provide information about what your business sells or offers, its location, and hours of service. On the other hand, if you’re planning to start a fully online e-commerce store, then the main purpose of your website will be, well, to sell stuff through your website.

E-commerce and Copywriting Website Examples
For different businesses, your website goals can wildly vary. Hover for more
As obvious as this might seem, it will affect nearly all decisions you make regarding your website moving forward – from your hosting provider to your site’s design and which plugins you’ll need.

Pro-Tip: Don’t try to create an everything-all-at-once website from the get-go. Focus on the fundamental aspects of your business, and once you’ve established those parts of your site, you can start building on top of it.

For example, if you’re creating a website for your podcast, don’t immediately add a section for merch. Adding e-commerce functionality will complicate the site-building process and anyways, there are tons of third-party sellers you can use until then.

Get a Notebook and Write Things Down

Once you know the main purpose of your website, you’ll need to gather some key information. (An actual physical notebook isn’t required, but I thought it sounded punchy.)

Start by looking at your target audience and try to get specific. If you’re building a website for your gym, are you trying to attract hardcore powerlifters, or are you trying to create a welcoming space for all people like Planet Fitness?

Having a good idea about your target audience is fundamental, since that will inform everything from the copy on your site to its design and logo.

Similar Business Websites with Different Target Audience
Two similar businesses can have widely different target audiences. Hover for more
Once you have a good grip on who your audience is, check out your competitors’ websites for inspiration. Ask yourself what works about them and what doesn’t. You should go deeper than just their homepage, too. Take a tour around the site: click on different tabs, make notes about the quality of the navigation, the sign-up process (if there is one), the loading times, and whatever else you notice.

Another thing you’ll want to research is the cost of having a website. Every website will have these considerations:
  • Web hosting – where your website lives
  • Domain registration – the cost of your URL
  • Marketing – this can include hiring a social media manager, paying for promoted posts, subscribing to an e-newsletter service, and more
  • Opportunity costs – this can include how many hours you dedicate or whether you hire someone to help
There are also costs related to specific types of websites to keep in mind. These are things like material costs, shipping, and payment processing for online stores. If you’re hosting videos on your site, you may need to pay extra for extra storage space, or you might have to invest in some premium plugins or apps for things like restaurant reservations or hotel bookings.

Create a Content Plan for Your Website

Regular updates will ensure that your business is fresh in people’s minds. It’s also one of the main factors for a website’s visibility on search engines, and terribly important psychologically (thanks, recency bias!).

That doesn’t mean that every business needs a regularly updated blog, but having a content roadmap to follow will come in handy to keep visitors coming to your website.

It might even serve as a channel to bring in new customers. As an anecdote, a local pharmacy in my city recently started its own TikTok account. Instead of uploading boring semi-regular updates about new medications and discounts, the pharmacy used fun posts and skits to mark every new announcement.

As a result, their online presence has gained them a slew of new customers and a small online following. So, a good content plan has the potential to be an unexpected boon for your business.

Choose a Good Domain Name

A domain name is your website’s online address, and it’s how other people can find and access your website (ours, for example, is websiteplanet.com). Choosing the right domain name for your business will affect how people find you, reach out to you, and how likely you’ll get exposure. If your business already has a name, that’s your domain name and you should see if you can register it. If not, try to think of something short, memorable, and unique.

Choose a Reliable Web Hosting Service

In (really) simplified terms, a web hosting service provides access to a server that stores, manages, and makes your website available.

There are plenty of web hosting providers out there with huge variations in quality. When choosing a host, you should focus on:
  • Quick loading speeds
  • High uptime (meaning there are virtually no periods of time where your website is inaccessible)
  • Security
  • Good value for the cost
You might also want to look for a hosting provider that offers special tools for WordPress websites. WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world and it’s the platform we recommend for creating your business website.

It’s fairly intuitive and powerful – and its popularity means there’s plenty of documentation and add-ons available for it. It’s also the CMS used by some of the largest, most successful businesses out there, like Sony, CNN, and TED.

Although there’s a wide range of high-quality hosts to choose from, I’d recommend Hostinger as an affordable service1 and a host with one of the best performances for shared hosting (as observed by our independent review).

Hostinger WordPress Hosting Features
You can get hosting specially optimized for WordPress sites
Hostinger also includes the user-friendly hPanel, which makes managing your hosting a lot easier. Better yet, it comes with plenty of tools specially designed for optimizing WordPress websites.

That doesn’t mean that Hostinger is the only good option out there. It’s certainly one of the best for beginners, but there are plenty of high-quality hosts that offer amazing features for users with different needs. If you want to learn more about the best host for you, I recommend taking a look at our list of the best hosting providers in 2024.

Install WordPress and Set Up Your Site

For this guide, I chose to set up my website using Hostinger. Don’t worry though – the process will look similar to most other hosts, and you can usually find in-depth information about the WordPress installation process in your host’s knowledge base. (If you’re looking for a truly no-fuss installation process, though, I’d recommend Hostinger as you’ll see below.)

With Hostinger, all you have to do is sign up for an account and go to the user dashboard. There, on the “Websites” tab, click on “Add website” and then “WordPress” (Hostinger also gives you the option to use its proprietary website builder, but we’ll focus on WordPress for this segment).

Hostinger Startup Questionnaire
Creating a new website with Hostinger is easy and quick
Most hosting providers only ask you to create an administrator username and password, so the next part is a little unique to Hostinger. You’ll have to answer a small questionnaire about your website and whether you’d like to start with a certain template and plugins. Hostinger’s AI assistant will also ask you some questions to generate some content based on your answers.

You’ll then connect a domain (or choose a temporary one) and wait. You should have access to your WordPress dashboard in minutes.

Hostinger dashboard
Activating the LiteSpeed optimizations can vastly improve your site’s performance
By default, Hostinger activates LiteSpeed optimizations for WordPress, which allows your WordPress site to make the most of the LiteSpeed server software to improve your loading speeds and overall performance.

Choose a WordPress Builder and Theme

You don’t have to use the (in my opinion, sometimes unpleasant) default block builder to customize your website. There are plenty of high-quality page builder plugins for WordPress like Elementor or Astra. These plugins give you more widget and customization options, as well as a more user-friendly interface for designing your site.

To install one of these plugins, all you have to do is go to the “Plugins” tab on your WordPress dashboard and click the “Add New Plugin” button.

Adding a plugin in WordPress
It’s easy to add new plugins to your WordPress site
There, you can search for the plugin of your choice (or upload it as a .zip file if you downloaded it straight from the source). Once you’ve done that, click on “install plugin” and you’re ready to start customizing.

Astra-Global-Settings
Astra gives you a useful checklist of global changes to make to your site
The latest Astra theme has its own website builder, which means that I didn’t have to do any extra work to install one from the plugins menu.

Consider These Useful (Free) Plugins

One of the greatest advantages of using WordPress to create your site is the wide range of plugins. Different plugins can help you edit or add unique elements to your site, rank higher on search engine result pages (SERPs), improve your site’s performance, and more.

Some plugins are useful for all types of businesses, but depending on your business type, there may be additional plugins that specifically cater to your business’ needs.

Searching for plugins in WordPress
You can even let WordPress recommend popular plugins to you
My main recommendations are:
  • Yoast SEO. Yoast gives you simple, user-friendly tools to improve your search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Jetpack. Jetpack mostly works in the background as a performance and security enhancer, though it also offers some useful marketing tools to bring extra attention to your site.
  • Wordfence. Wordfence is perhaps the most popular security plugin for WordPress and helps keep your website safe from malicious attacks.
  • WooCommerce. This won’t be crucial for all businesses, but if you’re trying to sell directly from your site, then the WooCommerce plugin is one of the best e-commerce integrations available for WordPress.
As you’re just getting started, I recommend trying the free versions available and upgrading to a paid version once you gain a little more experience with your site and identify areas for growth.

Set Up and Customize the Most Relevant Pages

For this guide, I created a website for a fictitious copywriting and marketing agency, which means I’ll focus more on attracting clients and providing contact information than e-commerce. Don’t worry though, the point is to keep things general enough that they will be useful to you regardless of your business.

Example Website Homepage
You don’t need to over-design your website to achieve a professional look
Depending on your business, the pages you’ll have to include will vary. For almost all businesses, a homepage, an “about us” page, and a contact page will be fundamental. In my case, a copywriting agency doesn’t need many extra pages, except one to display previous works and showcase client testimonials.

Regardless of the WordPress site builder you choose, now’s the time to customize your site identity. I used the Astra builder for this example, but the general steps remain mostly the same for all builders.

Default WordPress editor
You’ll decide which additional pages you need depending on your business
First, start by changing your global typography and color settings. You can do that directly from your WordPress dashboard by navigating to the “Appearance” tab, selecting “Themes,” and clicking on “Customize”.

WordPress Customize Themes
Choosing the right global styles early on can save you a lot of work
If you’re using a builder like Elementor, you’ll find similar options in the “global” section of your design menu. Though you can always change individual fonts and colors of different elements, I recommend mostly staying with your global settings. The more cohesive your site looks and feels, the more professional and trustworthy it will appear.

I’m not going to lie. The process of adding the necessary pages and tweaking your layout will probably take a while. After all, you want to make sure that every detail of your website meets your highest standard of quality before publishing it. Start by creating the most basic pages of your website and build up from there.

Revise, Test, and Publish Your Business Site

Test Website on Desktop and Phone Screens
You might need to go back and forth a bit to ensure that you didn’t miss anything
Before you’re ready to publish, re-check every part of your website twice. Make sure there are no broken links, no sections with placeholder text or images, and that every functionality works.

Test your website on desktop and mobile – you need to be sure that your site works regardless of how potential customers are reaching you. On mobile, make sure text is legible and buttons are easy to click.

Finally, check your website’s performance using Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, or another trustworthy performance checker tool. If your site receives a low score, there’s lots you can do to improve it. Check that you’ve optimized all your images, delete useless or bloated plugins, and double-check that you have features like the LiteSpeed cache activated.

If you’re trying to reach international audiences, make sure your website performs well worldwide. You might have to do this directly from your hosting panel instead of your WordPress dashboard (as you’d do with Hostinger), but installing a CDN (content delivery network) can definitely improve your worldwide performance results.

CDNs create cached copies of your website on different servers throughout the world. In simpler terms, the farther away a visitor is from your website’s physical server location, the worse performance they’ll get. With a CDN, visitors in those far off regions will be able to access your site just as quickly as if it were local.

Once you’ve made sure that your site works and performs well, you’re ready to publish it for the world to see.

Promote Your Site

Once your site is up and running, you still have the extremely important task of promoting it to potential clients. Once again, the exact steps you’ll take will depend on your business type.

If your website is simply the online presence of your brick-and-mortar business, make sure to add it to your Google Maps business profile. You should also focus more on optimizing your website for higher rankings in your area (also known as local SEO) instead of trying to optimize it for general search engine results.

On the other hand, if you want to attract a broader, worldwide audience, you might want to focus more on a social media or marketing campaign.

You might even benefit from creating a newsletter that keeps visitors updated about your latest endeavors. This is where your content plan and research come into play. What and where you promote will depend on your target audience, scope, and some trial and error.

If you aren’t that experienced with SEO and marketing, don’t worry. You can always hire a freelance expert to improve your business visibility at an affordable rate. A freelance expert can help you create and execute an effective, high-quality content plan without going broke. To learn more, you can check out our list of the best freelance platforms in 2024.

Keep in mind, though, that promoting your site isn’t a one-and-done deal. If you want your business website to be successful, you’ll need to continuously update and adapt your promotional content.

An Easier Alternative to Get a Business Website Online

There are many reasons for choosing WordPress when creating your business website, but it isn’t the only option. You can also use a website builder to help you create your business website. There’s a lot of variation, but the best builders give you the tools to design and manage your business website while taking care of the more technical aspects for you.

So, instead of fussing over CMSs, CDNs, and other acronyms, you can concentrate on designing your site and filling it with the functionalities that you need.

If you go down this route, you’ll have plenty of high-quality options. The best one for you will depend on your business, but I can make some general recommendations.

Wix editor template
Wix’s template library is so versatile that you’re bound to find a template that speaks to your business
For complete creative control and a wide variety of integrations, I recommend Wix. Its drag-and-drop builder and extensive app market allow you to build practically any website you can think of.

If your business leans towards the more creative, visual aspect of things, then Squarespace is a great option. It’s known for its high-quality templates, attention to detail, and striking visual appeal.

If you’re going for an e-commerce shop, Shopify is the obvious choice. As the largest e-commerce platform in the world, it offers everything you need to sell and promote your products online, as well as a robust infrastructure to guarantee quality and efficiency for your store.

Here’s a quick overview of my top recommendations:

Best feature Best for
Wix Complete creative
control
Businesses with a
unique brand identity
Squarespace Optimized for
eye-catching visuals
Creatives and
creative portfolio sites
Shopify Extremely robust
e-commerce
infrastructure
Online stores
To discover which website builder is best for your business, check out our expertly curated list of the best website builders in 2024.

Final Thoughts and Some Closing Advice

Creating a website for your business has never been so important. Your business website can be the place you get noticed, grow your sales, and even expand into uncharted territory.

As a final piece of advice: you need to keep your website updated. Not only do search engines take new content into consideration for SERPs, but new content also serves as a way to keep your business relevant in the minds of potential customers. Use analytic tools to keep track of your website’s performance and try to course-correct when you see a dip.

Your business website will involve a time commitment and your attention, it’s true. But after the first step, you’ll feel more and more comfortable updating and modifying your business website – and the more you do it, the easier and quicker it’ll become.

So, don’t get too overwhelmed thinking about the future. For now, just create a good website for your business, publish it, and then take it one step at a time.

FAQ

Do I really need a website for my business?

Almost undoubtedly, yes. Increasingly, a business website is becoming a crucial part of any business’ brand identity. Luckily, you don’t have to take a six-month course in website design, as creating a website for your business is easy enough if you just follow the right steps.

What are the signs that my business website needs an upgrade?

There are many ways to judge whether your business website needs an update. As a general rule, you should keep track of your website through analytic tools. If you start to notice a drop in visitors or in your search engine rankings, then it might be a good time for an upgrade. You’ll have to upgrade your business semi-regularly, which is why it’s important to have a solid content plan from the beginning.

What features should every business website include?

Depending on your business, the features you should include will change drastically. But overall, it’s a good idea to have sections or pages explaining who you are, what you do, and why a customer should choose your business. Other crucial features will vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your website.

Can I build a professional business website without hiring a designer?

Of course! One way is to find a good hosting provider and create your website using WordPress, but if that process seems overwhelming to you, you can always use a website builder. There are plenty of high-quality website builders that will allow you to build and maintain an effective site for your business. To learn more, check out our list of the best website builders in 2024.

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