In last week’s episode, we discussed what we’ve found to be the best marketing strategy for small businesses—the flywheel marketing method. This marketing system is a strategy where your website and online marketing efforts are in sync and function as a flywheel to continually produce results.
After phase one of the flywheel method—understanding your audience and creating clear messaging—the second phase of this marketing strategy is developing a strategically-built, SEO-optimized website. Your website is the foundation for all of your marketing and communication efforts and should be your small business’s most powerful marketing tool.
Now, while a single person can build a website, there are actually several different skill sets required. In this week’s episode of Priority Pursuit, we are joined by Treefrog’s Content Director Angel Tobey and Lead Web Developer Jen Carriere as we break down how to build a lead-generating website for your small business step by step.
1. Create a customer-focused web plan.
When a client needs a new website, the first thing our team does—after understanding the client’s audience and developing their messaging, of course—is to create a customer-focused web plan.
A web plan is simply an outline for a website. During this phase, our strategy and SEO team—headed by Kelly, our Storybrand certified guide and Chief Marketing Strategist—uses information from the client’s discovery meeting and competitor research to determine a number of things, including:
- What pages need to be on the website
- Which web builder should be used
- What the call to action of the site needs to be
- What elements or functionality the site needs
- What keywords should be utilized to optimize SEO
Because we work with small businesses in different industries with different goals and audiences, web plans always look drastically different—especially when laying out pages, sub-pages, and navigation.
However, once this is done, we are able to provide guidance to our professional copywriting team by wireframing out the home page sections of the site. Although there are multiple ways to effectively layout out your home page sections—there are eight things we would argue MUST be included on every website in order to consistently convert site visitors into paying customers.
- Clear messaging. For guidance on how to do this, check out our free Marketing Guiding Statements mini course.
- Header section. This tells people who you are, what you do, how you can make their lives better, and what they need to do next.
- Value proposition. With this, your ideal customers understand what’s in it for them.
- Three-step plan. This tells your ideal customers what to do.
- Multiple direct calls to action. Remember, people scan websites; they don’t read from top to bottom—so telling them what they need to do often is important.
- Authority. An easy way to add authority to your site is to utilize logos and or reviews. It’s always better for someone else to say how much they trust you as opposed to you saying, “trust us!”
- Pricing. People want to qualify themselves when it comes to pricing. Even if you only offer starting prices, that will help people feel more confident that you’re not just trying to swindle them into buying something.
- Easily-navigated format. No one wants to click multiple times to find the information they are looking for.
Still have questions about what you need to include in your website? Check out “Episode 100: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Small Business Marketing,” where we break these items down even more!
Essentially, in this first phase of web development, we gather the information needed from the client, complete our research, and then create a web plan that gives both the site and the rest of our team direction. And to ensure that everyone is on the same page, we recommend putting this information into a preformatted Google Doc and Google Sheet that provides guidance and can be shared with everyone on the team.
One of the most common mistakes we see small businesses make when developing a new website is beginning web development without a web plan. Basically, people get so excited about the thought of having a new website that they skip this step and go straight to design and copywriting.
However, we can almost promise that if you take the time to develop a strategic web plan, you will save yourself or your team hours of unnecessary work and your website will deliver bigger results.
2. Create an initial keyword & SEO strategy for your website.
A successful SEO strategy has many moving parts, but when building a new website, you can save yourself hours upon hours of time if you do keyword research for the main pages BEFORE you start writing copy or designing your site.
When you’re choosing keywords, the most important factor to consider is “search intent.” In other words, what are your ideal clients searching for on Google when trying to find your products or services?
If you’re a location-based business—such as a contractor that serves a specific geographic area or a restaurant with a brick-and-mortar location—chances are, your customers are searching for your products or services with location in mind.
As a result, for the main pages of your website, we recommend using location-based keywords (such as “Mexican restaurant in Lafayette, Indiana”), because location-based keywords will help Google understand where you serve your customers and mirror what your ideal customers are likely searching for—making your website more likely to rank well.
In this phase of web development, you simply want to determine the long-tail or focus keyword and any sub or secondary keywords you want to use for each and every webpage. This way, as you go into the next phase of website development—which, spoiler alert, is writing the copy for your website—you’ll already know what keywords to use, and you can write your copy accordingly.
Looking for more information on keyword strategy? Don’t miss out on “Episode 009: How to Identify & Use Strategic Keywords to Improve Your SEO.”
While your website is your most powerful marketing tool, if it can’t be found on the first page of Google, you’re missing out on business simply because prospects looking for your products or services can’t find you. Optimizing your website with strategic keywords from the start drastically increases the likelihood of your website ranking on the first page of Google, which can only help your small business be found and grow.
3. Write the copy for your website.
A common mistake we see small businesses make is trying to write their copy and design their websites at the same time. However, copy needs to drive design.
Over the years, our web designers have created some truly beautiful websites, but as important as layout, color, and other design elements are, copy is what converts perspectives into customers. Your web copy is what will guide your website users to work with you, and it’s important to develop your web copy before designing your website so that the design can enhance your messaging—not take away from it.
With this in mind, when Angel Tobey, Treefrog’s Content Director, or another member of the content team sits down to write a website, the first thing they do is review the client’s audience, Marketing Guiding Statements, web plan, and keyword strategy. Then, they get to work on writing copy for every page of the website simply in a Google Doc.
Much of writing web copy comes down to strategically placing a small business’s Marketing Guiding Statements, being sure to include the eight items that must be included on a small business’s website (which we discussed in step one), and strategically including keywords in the text.
As a copywriter, Angel’s goals are to make sure every client’s website conveys a clear message, serves their audience well, follows best SEO practices, and to make sure our design team has all of the content they need to begin the design process.
Before we go into detail on design, it is important to note the most common mistake we see small businesses make when creating the copy for their website: not including the right information and including way too much information.
First, let’s discuss not including the right information. If a prospective customer comes to your website and can’t find answers to their questions—such as cost or how to work with you—they’re practically guaranteed to leave your site without making a purchase, scheduling a consultation, visiting, or doing whatever it is you want them to do, because you failed to give them the information they were looking for.
With this in mind, be sure to include the eight items that must be included on your website and any other information that is pertinent to your ideal clients.
That said, there is such a thing as too much information. In fact, another common mistake we see small businesses make is including so much information on their websites that they overwhelm their website visitors, which also causes potential customers to leave.
You want to make sure you’ve included the right information, but more often than not, less copy will lead to bigger results.
Every small business and brand is different, but chances are, your ideal clients don’t need to know what every member of your team’s favorite snack is on your “About” page or how you used to offer X but now you offer Z.
Arguably, the most strategic thing you can do is to make sure your web copy strictly includes the information that is pertinent to your ideal client.
4. Design your website with purposeful flow.
While every client’s website ends up looking very different so as to be true to the client’s brand, Jen Carriere—Treefrog’s lead web designer—utilizes the same process each time she designs a website to ensure they are all strategically built and aren’t missing a single detail.
When designing a new site, the first thing Jen does is look at all of the work the team has done so far—including the client’s audience overview, Marketing Guiding Statements, web plan, and copy.
Then, she sets up a web builder account for the client. At Treefrog, we either use WordPress or ShowIt depending on the client’s needs.
From there, she starts reviewing the client’s visual brand—including their logo, current website, and any other visual marketing pieces we have access to. Usually, our clients already have visual brands. But, if they don’t, or if their visual brand needs updated, we’re sure to get that solidified before beginning web design. By looking at a client’s visual brand, Jen can then determine what fonts and colors should be used throughout the website.
At this point, she works on designing the elements that she knows will be included on every webpage—such as the menu, button design, and footer.
She then starts to work on laying out and designing the homepage. Jen always designs this page first because more often than not, if you start with the home page, you then have all the design elements you need to finish the rest of the website.
Once the homepage is approved by Kelly, we then move on to designing the other pages of the site—including the about, service, contact, blog, and any other pages the web plan calls for. As Jen designs these pages, she simply copies and pastes the copy from the Google Doc Angel and her team put together. She also optimizes all images with image titles and alt text based on keywords.
As a web designer, Jen’s goals are to make sure our clients’ messaging and visual brand are clearly communicated through design and that best web design practices are followed so that websites function well.
Now, when it comes to web design, a mistake we often see small businesses make is building their websites without having custom photos and videos. Ten years ago, you could absolutely get away with building a website using stock photos; however, that isn’t really the case anymore.
82% of people trust a company more if they use “real” imagery instead of stock photography on their website and in their other marketing materials. When you and your team can be seen in photos and videos throughout your website, potential clients are able to see who they’d be working with, get a glimpse into your process or products, and imagine themselves as part of the incredible experience you offer.
With this in mind, we highly recommend determining what images you need on your website and investing in a brand photo and video session before beginning web design. This way, you’ll have all of the imagery you need from the beginning.
At Treefrog, we have an in-house photographer and videographer available to ensure our clients’ sites have all of the imagery they need.
5. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
The fifth step of how to build a lead-generating website is making sure your website is mobile-friendly.
After a site is designed, Jen goes through and makes sure that every button, link, form, and element of a website works correctly. However, she doesn’t just check these things on desktop; she also checks them on mobile.
You see, today, more people view websites from their mobile devices than from desktops. As a result, it’s so important that your website functions well on phones, tablets, and any and all devices.
Once Jen’s checked everything, the site is then reviewed by our art director, content director, and chief strategist before sharing it with the client for their review. And, once we have the client’s approval, it’s time to launch the site!
Frequently Asked Questions
While we’ve gone over our five-step process for building a lead-generating website, we want to answer a few frequently asked questions about websites.
Can someone realistically build a website by themselves?
Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends.”
As you can tell from our process, building a website well has a lot of moving parts, and at Treefrog, every website is touched in one way or another by a minimum of five marketing pros who have niche skill sets.
So, can you create your own web plan, do keyword research, write your own copy, and design your own website with a website builder like ShowIt? Yes. But, if you or your team don’t have these skill sets already, learning even the basics will take hours of your time.
And, as a busy small business owner or leader, building your own website likely isn’t the best use of your time—especially considering your hours could be spent focusing on money-making aspects of your business or life outside the office.
How much does a new website cost?
Another question we’re commonly asked is, “How much does a new website cost?” This answer is also going to vary, but at the time of this episode, if you outsource all five steps we discussed—whether you work with an agency to handle every piece or several freelancers—you can anticipate spending between $10,000 to $15,000.
Now, your final website price will depend on the type of site you need, the functionality, and how many pages are needed. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to outsource every step. For example, at Treefrog, we’re often hired to just create a web plan and write web copy.
At the time of this episode, our website packages start at $10,000, and while we know this might sound like a lot, our professional team spends 75 to 100 hours building a single site. This is a big investment, but a well-built, strategic website requires a lot of man-hours, knowledge, and experience.
How often do I need to invest in a new website?
Most of our clients want to know how often they’ll need to update or refresh their site.
Now, the great thing about ShowIt is that you can easily make website updates as needed. However, a good rule of thumb is to invest in a new website every three to four years simply because of changing technology. Essentially, you don’t want old tech to result in your website visitors having a poor user experience and, ultimately, lost business.
Building a lead-generating website for your small business requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and the expertise of a skilled team. However, investing in a well-built website is crucial for small businesses, as it serves as a powerful marketing tool and facilitates growth by attracting and converting potential customers.
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Receive 50% Off Your First Year of HoneyBook
- Try ShowIt for One Month for Free
- Learn More About Treefrog’s Small Business Marketing Resources & Services
- Join the Priority Pursuit Facebook Community
- Follow or DM Treefrog Marketing on Instagram
- Follow or DM Kelly Rice on Instagram
- Follow or DM Victoria Rayburn on Instagram
The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.
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