Is it possible to create a business website for free? Can you do it all by yourself? Find answers to all your questions, and learn how to create a business website for free.
Do you know that 70% of the customers are more likely to buy from a business that has a website*? Having a website means that your business is really a business. It helps your customers to learn about your business, which, in return, helps you to sell more.
*Google/Ipsos – USA – May 2018
Find more customers
When you have a website, you can get discovered by more customers. It is not the foot traffic that matters anymore. Be online and break the geographical boundaries to reach more customers.
One of the best benefits of having a business website is that you can add eCommerce features to your site and start selling, getting appointments, and get paid online. Also, it creates a frictionless purchasing experience for your customers as well.
So, are you ready to learn how to create a business website that let you reap all the above benefits. Let’s get started!
There are three types of business websites
Before we go ahead and discuss how to create a business website, let’s try to find out what sort of website you need for your business. There are three types of websites.
If you only want a website to build your online presence, for example, to show your name when someone searches for “best pizza near me” on Google, you can simply use Google My Business to create a website. Then you can tell your customers about your opening hours, location, and contact details. Read more…
Next, if you want to bring in web traffic to your business, for example, to show your name on Google when someone searches for your business niche, you can use a blogging site to create a website. Then you can use blog posts to support SEO (Search engine optimization) to rank up on Google. Read more…
Finally, if you want to sell your products or services right on your website and get paid online, you can start an eCommerce website. Then, your customers can order online, make an online booking, and so on. There are many different shop building platforms to create an eCommerce website for your business. And, some of them won’t cost you a lot but gives you the right tools to create a stunning website. Read more…
Which buisness website is right for you?
The choice actually depends on your budget, goals, and marketing plan. If you are just starting up, it might make more sense to go for a low-cost option to create a website. However, businesses have to grow! And, as your business expands, you will need more features for your website as well. For example, right now, you might be running a small cupcake shop and looking for a place to show your opening hours and location online. But, soon you will need to sell cupcakes online, or get bulk orders online. If so, it would be easier if your existing website supports those features as well. Otherwise, you will have to move on to another platform and start everything all over again.
So, unless you have a heavily restricted budget, just pick a platform that supports more advance features like integration of shopping carts, payment gateways, and cross-platform selling capabilities. Well, you don’t have to use all these features from the beginning. You can just keep them switched off until the time comes. And, you can have such a business website with eCommerce features for less than $30 per month.
This guide has three sections:
- How to create a business website for free WordPress
- How to create a business website for free on Google My Business
- How to create a low-cost business website with eCommerce features on Shopify
First, go through the above three sections to decide which is the best platform for your to build your business website. Next, we will discuss the website basics that you need to know before creating your business website.
1. How to create a business website for free on WordPress
Here we are going to talk about two services that you can use to create a business website for free. Let’s have a look. WordPress is undoubtedly the most popular website building platform. According to them, 36% of the websites are created on WordPress (Even we are on WordPress). There are two versions of WordPress (WordPress.com and WordPress.org). And, you need to pick the right option based on your goals and budget.
WordPress.com to create a website for free
WordPress.com is an all-inclusive platform where you can set up a website with a blog in minutes. They have a user-friendly admin dashboard and a website customization panel. And, anyone can build a website on WordPress.com without any technical knowledge. So, you can do it all yourself without any assistance. Also, if you need any support, there are plenty of free online videos and blogs to learn how to do it.
You can create a free website on WordPress.com with a free domain name. But, then your domain name will look something like “mybusiness.wordpress.com”. However, if you can opt-in for the $4 per month plan, you can get a custom domain like “mybusiness.com”, which would look more professional. And, you can upgrade your plan to add more features as your business grows. For example, by upgrading to $8 per month premium plan, you can start accepting money online, or by upgrading to $45 per month plan, you can add eCommerce features to your site as well.
Below screenshot is from the WordPress.com pricing plans. visit WordPress/Pricing for details.
WordPress.org to create a website
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is an open-source CMS (Content management system), which you have to install on a hosting service of your choice. That means you have to buy the domain name and a hosting plan separately and install WordPress there to create a website. The best advantage of running WordPress.org on your hosting is that you can select a hosting service of your choice, and you don’t have to upgrade your plan to add more features to your site. For example, if you want to start selling online on your website, you can simply install a plugin like WooCommerce for free to get started without any additional costs.
However, you need to have some basic technical knowledge about purchasing hosting plans and domains to run a site this way. But, if you know those things, it is more flexible and cheaper to create a website with WordPress.org installed on your server. Here you can find a complete guide to building an online store on WordPress. There you can learn everything about selecting a hosting plan, domain, and more.
Hire an online freelancer to make your site
Hire a professional freelancer for less than $50 to get your business website up and running in no time.
2. How to create a business website for free on Google My Business
What we love about Google My Business is that it is super beginner-friendly. That means you can even set up your own website in minutes. It is totally free to use and easy to manage. Also, it is optimized for local SEO, meaning, you do not have to do anything special to show up your business on google when someone searches for a business place like yours. When you are on Google My Business, you will be on Google Maps, Photos, Snippets, and many other places.
When you build a website on Google My Business, you can either choose to have a free domain name or a paid domain name. A free domain name would look something like “yourbusiness.business.site”. This will work just fine in the beginning. But, you will need to buy a domain name that looks professional as your business grows. So, it might be a wise decision to buy a domain name now and reserve it before someone else uses that. It usually costs around $18 per year to get a good looking domain name that looks something like “yourbusiness.com”.
Limitations of using Google My Business to create a business website
Need a physical business location – Google My Business is perfect for businesses that do face to face interactions with their customers. For example, restaurants, hotels, hair and beauty salons, clothing shops, coffee shops do really well on Google My Business. Actually, having a physical location of doing business is one of the requirements to verify your website on My Business.
Doesn’t support online selling – Google My Business websites don’t support eCommerce features (yet). But, there are other ways to add eCommerce features to your Google My Business website. For example, you can use Shopify Buy Now button on Google My Business websites. But, then again, you need a separate Shopify site for this purpose. It is a hassle to maintain two sites then. So, it is better to go for an eCommerce website if you have a plan to sell online one day. We will talk about that a bit later.
Cannot run a blog – Even though Google My Business websites do really well on local SEO, it is not much effective when it comes to ranking your site for general search keywords. In other words, it is not practical to run a blog on your site for content marketing. You can, of course, create posts about news updates on those sites, but you cannot create long SEO-friendly blog posts on your business website.
Limited customization options – Google My Business websites do not support a lot of customization options. For example, there is a very limited selection of themes to choose from. And, you cannot choose custom colours, fonts, and so on.
3. How to create a business website with eCommerce features on Shopify
Shopify is the most beginner-friendly eCommerce website building platform. It is an all-inclusive service, like WordPress.com. But, what we love about Shopify is that it is optimized for eCommerce. So, there are many tools and features that give you so many benefits when it comes to selling online.
Here is a list of most popular selling features on Shopify. It is basically a one-stop solution to run a multi channel business website.
- Online Store – Sell through an online store and checkout.
- Shopify POS – Sell in person using the Shopify POS app, a credit card reader, and other retail hardware.
- Buy Button – Sell from other websites or blogs (including WordPress blog) by embedding buy buttons that connect with your Shopify checkout.
- Pinterest – Create Product Pins on Pinterest for your Shopify products.
- Facebook Shop – Post and sell products directly from the Shop tab on your store’s Facebook page.
- Facebook Messenger – Sell directly from conversations with customers, send order and shipping notifications, and respond to customer questions.
- Amazon – Manage your Amazon listings and Shopify products in a single location.
- eBay – List your products on eBay and manage orders, without ever leaving Shopify.
- Shipping – Shopify shipping let you get special discounts from major shipping carriers and add automated shipping rate calculator to your site.
How does a website work
In this section, we will discuss the basics about websites. Having an overview idea about these technical terms will help your to setup a website for your business.
The technical part
If you feel like this is getting too technical, feel free to skip to the next subtopic, where we discuss how to select a domain name for your website.
- Every website is made with chunks of content. There are codes, images, videos, files, and many more. So, we need someplace to store this content. We use “webservers” to store or “host” these chunks of website pieces.
- A web server is again a computer, located somewhere in the word. So, all 2 billion websites on the internet are hosted on different servers.
- To host our website on a server, we need to pay the price. This is more like a rental for your shop. Usually, hosting fees are calculated monthly and billed annually.
- Now, how do people usually identify a shop? Yes, by the name and address of the shop. In the same way, our hosted website needs an address and a name. This is called a web address or a domain name.
- This is the address you type in your web browser to go to any website. For example, you need to go to http://www.facebook.com to go to Facebook, or https://ecommercebuff.com to access the best guide about how to start an online business. ????
- “ecommercebuff”, which is in between the “www.” and “.com” is our domain name. So, if you have a business name like “Kim’s Fashion”, you can try “kimsfashion” as your domain name. (Actually, there are a few things to consider before purchasing a domain name. We will discuss that little later).
- So, when one of your potential buyers go and search for “kimsfashion” on a search engine like Google, it searches for the domain names related to kimsfashion and shows that on the search results.
- When someone clicks on your domain name, their web browser calls the web server, which is hosting your website pieces, and gets these pieces.
- Then, it will assemble these pieces in the correct layout and show your beautiful website to your potential buyer.
WOW! That is the end of the technical stuff! Phew… ????
How to select a domain name for your business website
This is one of the most crucial steps of creating your website. There are so many things to consider! Your web address is a unique address. For example, since we have bought the ecommercebuff.com, now you cannot buy the same address again.
Sometimes this can be problematic.
For example, if you have a generic business name like “coffee bar” or something, you won’t be able to buy coffeebar.com for sure. As we told, there are 2 billion websites, and I bet coffeebar.com should be one of them. So, how can you know that for sure? You can search for the available domain names using any of those domain name registrars.
We are not promoting any particular business, but just for your convenience, try GoDaddy domain name search to do an initial domain name search. You can later decide where to buy a domain name for your business website.
If you do not already have a business name, and if your domain name is going to be your business name, there are a few things to consider before jumping in and purchasing a domain name for your business website.
- Pick a name that is short, meaningful and easy to remember.
- Pick a relevant name, which is related to your business.
- If possible, try to have a keyword related to your niche in the domain name (i.e. winterfellcoffee.com, if you are selling coffee) this will be important when you work on SEO.
- Avoid under_storkes and da-shes in your domain name.
- You can choose different domain name endings (like .com, .co.uk, .org, .accountants etc.).
If your domain name is already taken, you can try the same domain name with a different domain name ending. For example, if winterfellcoffee.com is taken, you can have winterfellcoffee.cafe. But, do this as a last resort. Always pick something unique as your domain name. Here you can find a whole list of domain name endings.
Well done! Now you have picked a name for your business website.
Where to host your business website?
There are two basic methods to host a website. Simply speaking, you can either,
- Buy an all-in-one hosted platform (like WordPress.com, Shopify, etc.), which provides a DIY software platform (or CMS – Content Management System) to create your business website and storage space to host your site.
- Or else, you can go for a self-hosted service. Then your web-developer will code and create a business website using software of their choosing and separately hire a hosting company to host the site. Also,
The biggest advantage of using an all-in-one platform is that anyone can create a website on these hosted platforms. With basic computer and internet skills, you can do that too. But, hosted platforms have so many customization and functionality restrictions.
On the other hand, if you go for a self-hosted solution, you can have great flexibility to customize your site. Also, if you are unhappy with the hosting service, you can transfer the site to another host. But, on the negative side, self-hosting has a maintenance burden. You have to think about software updates and everything.
So, which is better?
It depends on your requirements. If you need a simple business website with a few pages, a simple eCommerce platform, or maybe with a blog, you can pick an all-in-one hosting service. If you have a webmaster, who can handle the technical aspects of your site, and if you are planning to add complex web applications to your site, you must have to go for a self-hosted platform.
Remember, you can either hire a web developer to create your business website, or you can do it by yourself without any coding knowledge.
If you are going to hire a web developer,
you can either select a local web developing service or you can hire an online freelancer to create your business website. But, first, remember to have a good discussion with your developer about your requirements. And, check their portfolios (past work) to select a designer who can work on both functionalities and beauty of your site. Also, remember to go for a realistic budget, so you don’t have to spend twice, for the same thing.
Hire an online freelancer to make your site
Hire a professional freelancer for less than $50 to get your online store up and running in no time.
If you are going to do it by yourself,
there are plenty of great tutorials out there. Pick a popular platform to work on. Then, it will be easy for you to find a lot of tutorials and sources. Whatever the method you select, it is essential to understand how proper design can help you to gain better customer attraction and engagement for your website.
Essential pages for your business website
First things first, let us start with your homepage.
The homepage is the first page people see when they visit your site. So, it is basically like your shop window. You know, the first impression really matters. Think about yourself. If the homepage of a website looks ugly, would you care to check the rest of the pages? No, you don’t. So, how can you turn this around?
Your homepage should,
- Invite people to check the rest of the page.
- Help people to explain the purpose of your website.
- Provide easy navigation to the other parts of your website.
Now, do not try to spend days brainstorming your homepage design. Remember, your business is not creating websites. You have other things to do. Just Google for a good looking competitor’s website and see how they are doing it.
Are you are good with the homepage? Great!
Add more pages
Now, let us create another two pages for your business website. Well, you can readily add “Contact Us” and “About Us” pages.
The contact page is super important to any business website. Your contact page may have your phone number, email address, the physical address of your store and even a map to help everyone to find you. Your contacts page should not be hard to find at all. Most of the businesses usually add contact information on to the homepage too. The About page should explain your business. You can also add photos and videos to showcase your past work in your “About” page. After all, it is all about you.
Add an ecommerce section to your business website
If you want to sell products online, you can add an ecommerce section to your website.
The eCommerce section is basically the shop shelves of your business website. It can help you to display your products, display the prices, and display the stock levels for your products. Adding an eCommerce section is fairly easy. As we have discussed earlier, if you are on WordPress, there is a WooCommerce plugin to handle that. Also, you can create your website on a platform that is dedicated to eCommerce, like Shopify, to get the pre-built eCommerce section for your site with all backend functions.
The essential website elements and accessibility
There is no hard and fast rule about website elements. But, the “proper” use of these elements can help you to attract and engage more customers. Before we jump in and start learning about these essential and awesome website elements, there is one thing that you must understand.
If you are using an all-in-one hosting platform like WordPress or Shopify, sometimes you may not be able to customize your site as you want. There are a lot of design restrictions on such platforms, and it is a bummer. So, all you can do is pick a good site template/theme to match your business segment and your desires. Then, you can tweak this theme to make it looks closer to what you want. You may be able to make it looks closer, but not exactly what you need.
Let’s get back to our topic about essential elements.
We are going to use these elements for enhancing your site’s usability. That means you have to make it easy for your website visitors to find what they want on your website. Are you ready? Let’s start.
The site navigation
The site navigation does not only mean the top menu you have on every website. Site navigation means organizing the elements of your nifty business website, more sensibly. This can be achieved by using proper placements, menus, grouping, separators, font sizes, and search boxes, etc. For example, if the sole purpose of your business website is to show your contact details, make it damn easy. People do not scroll far down on any webpage (unless they are reading an article or something). So, remember to keep everything that is important above the fold. This means keep your Call-for-action element visible at the initial view.
This neatly brings us to the next element.
When someone lands on your website, you must show them what to do next. This is called as Call-for-Action. You can use Call-for-Action in many different ways. You can add a “Call Now” button, or you can tell them to “Buy Now”. If you just want your visitors to help to find your store, show them “Where to Buy”. Also, remember to check your website on different screens to make sure that everything is in the right place.
There is a neat little trick you can do on web browsers to view your website in different screen sizes.
- Go to your website on Google Chrome or Firefox, and press Ctrl+Shift+I to open developer tools.
- Then, hit Ctrl+Shif+M to open the responsive design layout.
There you can change and see how your website looks on different devices. See how well your layout elements responsive to different screen sizes. Do they stack one on top of the other properly?
Grouping your site content can also help to achieve better navigation. For example, if you sell lamps (like IKEA); you can sensibly group your products. Like, you can have floor lamps on one section and table lamps on another. These simple arrangements will make it easy for your visitors to navigate through your website and find what they want quickly.
Follow the standards and conventions
Also, try to follow the conventions and standards. With a business website, you are not creating the next Google. If you try to break the standards and be innovative, sometimes your visitors may find it is hard to learn how to use your website. We’ll give you an example. We all know that if you click on the logo of a website, it redirects you to the homepage. There is no such rule to do that. But, if you try to change such things, users will get annoyed.
Keeping consistency is another best practice in website design. Make your site colors, fonts, menus, logos consistent across different pages. When you use graphics or images, remember to maintain the style across your website.
Do you know that for every single second delay in your website loading time, your conversion rate drops up to 20%?
This is true. If any webpage takes more than 5 seconds, I will hit go back for sure. So, page speed is an essential element in your website design. By the way, how do find your website loading speed? Try testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com
The above tool shows how well your page works on mobile. Always think mobile first! Nowadays, almost everyone uses their mobile devices to access the internet. The solutions for page loading time can depend on many variables. It can be the technology that you have used to develop your site. Or, it can be the hosting server. Keeping such technical stuff aside, still, there are a few fixes you can try to improve your page loading speed.
Usually, the images are responsible for a huge portion of your site loading time. So, avoid using huge image files, and try to resize or compress images to make them much smaller. There are tons of free online tools for image processing. Also, never forget that the secret behind the success of Google is “going minimal to increase the speed”. So, remove all unnecessary clutter from your website. Ditch all the stupid widgets and see the magic.
Now you know how to create a business website
Having a website is not essential to run a business. But, if you have a business website, it can offer you so many opportunities to attract and engage with your potential and existing customers. In this guide, we have discussed three major platforms to create your business website and basic technical stuff, like how does a website works, how to select a domain, and how to host your website.
What’s next? There is no point in having a business website unless no one visits that site. So, learn how to get website visitors for free.
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