Don't believe us? Here are a few benefits you could miss out on by not having a website:
Show up in local search results: An optimized website allows you to appear in online searches that are relevant to your business. This includes searches for terms like "plumber near me," "best pizza in New York," or "buy a new swimsuit."
Make your contact information easy to find: Having a website makes it easier for customers to find your location, even if they already know about your brand. When they Google your name, your website is likely to show up in the search results.
Gather leads online: Use your website to collect email addresses from people who are interested in your products and services
Educate customers about your business: How often do you answer the same questions over and over? Your website can educate customers about your business, which speeds up the sales process.
Make sales: Even if most of your customers are in-person, the ability to make sales online, at any time, can boost revenue without increasing overhead.
Provide customer service: Your website is online even when you're asleep. Customers can access FAQs, interact with chatbots, and reach out via email when it's convenient for them.
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6 key elements to include when building your own website
You need a website, that much is clear. But what should your website include? The truth is, it depends on your business model, industry, and customers.
The good news is, most small businesses don't need a 50-page site with complex charts and blinking graphics (seriously, please don't use blinking graphics).
The key elements your site needs are:
Home page: Introduce your business and establish which customers you serve. What makes your business the best choice?
Product/service pages: What products or services does your business offer?
Contact us page: How can customers reach you? Include a physical location if you have one, directions, and an email form.
Call to action (CTA): What next step should website visitors take? For example, book an appointment, sign up for a demo, or create an account.
Lead gathering: Include a way for visitors to turn into leads, such as an email subscription button or a contact form.
Social media links: Increase your reach by making it easy for visitors to follow you on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
These are the basic elements every website needs, but some businesses may require more. For example, if you want to sell products through your site you’ll need a checkout system (although you still don't have to learn to code to add this).
However, if you’re a small business owner and just want to tell customers who you are and where you're located, the above is all that’s necessary.
Do you need to know how to code to build your own website?
Nope, you don't even have to know what HTML is to create a website. If you can use a mouse and a keyboard, you can create a website.
The days of spending hours (or thousands of dollars) to create a professional-looking site are gone. Today, website builders with drag and drop features and templates make it easy to build your own site—even if you don't know how to code.
But what if you need a website with more than just a home page?Free website builders like Leadpages offer dozens of templates with features designed just for you.
Whether you run a restaurant, operate a legal firm, or offer creative services, there's a template that’s designed for you.
Which website builder is best?
A website builder is a platform that uses modules and templates to allow non-coders (like you!) to drag and drop the features they need. You can change page names, add copy, create landing pages, and even optimize your site for SEO.
Before you build your own website you need to decide which platform is right for you. This will depend on your requirements and the type of business you have. When comparing platforms, here's what you should pay attention to.
What features does it offer?
Not all website builders are created equal. Some offer a few basic templates, while others might not offer all the marketing features you’re looking for. First, outline what features you need in your website (online order forms, maps, the ability to book appointments, etc.). Then compare what the different builders are offering.
Here are a few features to consider:
Domain name and hosting: Website builders help you create a website, but you'll still need somewhere to store the files. Does the builder you’re considering offer hosting and a domain name? Are they free or do they charge extra for these services?
Design and templates: How many templates does the builder have? Are they all free, or are some paid? Does it offer icons and stock photography, or will you need to source those yourself? Are the templates customizable, or are you stuck with the formatting provided?
Education and support: What type of support does the builder offer (phone, email, or chat). Do they offer workshops or a community where you can build your skills and learn more about leveraging your website?
Marketing features: Can you add features like social buttons, pop-ups, and alert bars? Can you use A/B testing to optimize your pages? What about SEO features?
Compare site builder costs
Next, you'll want to compare costs. Some platforms offer free trials or even free builders if you purchase a hosting plan. Many site builders have various plans with different features. The lack of transparency can make it tough to truly compare them all.
For example, a free website builder might sound enticing. But if they don't include hosting or a domain name you could end up spending more than you think. Others might provide the website builder for free if you purchase other features, like landing page design.
As you compare costs, here are other things to watch out for:
First-year versus second-year cost: Some site builders offer a substantial discount for the first year—which is fantastic when you’re getting started. Just make sure to compare the real cost to the introductory price to ensure you're still getting a good deal.
Hosting and domain name: Hosting and domain name costs can add up to several hundred dollars a year. Make sure to consider the cost if the builder you select doesn't offer them.
Branding: Some website builders offer a free plan if you include their branding on their site. It's a simple way to save some cash, as long as you’re comfortable with it.
Free versus paid templates: Are all the templates free? Some builders offer a handful of free templates, but the template you want might cost extra.
Premium support: Does the platform charge more for phone or email support? Ensure the platform offers the type of support you need and consider the extra cost if they charge.
Pay special attention to what’s included in each plan. One platform might seem like a better deal until you find out that things you need, like analytics or landing pages, cost extra.
Is the builder easy to use?
Most website builders claim they're easy to use—but are they really? Watch a few demo videos and sign up for a free trial. Try to actually build your own website with one to see how user-friendly it is.
For example, do they offer drag and drop functionality that allows you to move elements of your site around, or are you stuck with whatever format the template uses?
Looking at the support section can also provide insight into a builder’s ease of use. Do they have FAQs, or is their knowledge base filled with frustrated users who can't find the necessary information?
Rember, “easy to use," is a subjective term. So, do your own research to determine if a builder works for you.
Does the platform offer good support?
No matter how user-friendly a builder is, there's a good chance you'll need help at some point. Does the platform offer direct support, and in what formats?
Some companies just have a knowledge base, and you'll have to spend time sorting through resources to find the information you’re looking for. Others might offer email and phone support, but only during certain hours. Do those hours match with your working day?
Finally, pay attention to what kind of support a particular package offers. Free plans might not include support at all, which is something to consider.
Do they offer a free version or a trial?
Many site builders have a free trial or a free (limited) plan. Using a free version or trial can help you get a feel for the builder, or even allow you to build your own website for free.
How to build your own website for free
Now you’re ready to make your first website. Exciting, right?
Don't worry, building your own website is easier than you think.
1. Choose a website builder
Use the criteria above to pick the right website builder for you. You can take a peek at live websites in action to see what to expect once your site goes live.
For example, Belt Social used Leadpages' site builder to create a simple website. It includes all the necessary elements, such as a home page, contact page, and CTA.
2. Choose a hosting plan and domain name
A website builder creates the site visitors see, but those files have to live somewhere. A hosting company stores your files and delivers them to users upon request. Most website builders offer hosting plans, but make sure you know what you’re getting.
For starters, there are multiple types of hosting:
Shared hosting: Several websites share space on a single server. This is the most affordable type of hosting and usually works well for low-traffic sites. However, it can result in slow site speeds for sites with higher traffic.
Virtual private server (VPS): A middle ground hosting service where several sites share a server but have "containers" that separate sites. VPS hosting provides more control at a mid-level price.
Private server hosting: One site is hosted on one server. There is plenty of room for growth, but it comes at a high cost. Site owners either buy and maintain the server themselves or pay someone else to do it for them.
Most small business websites can use shared hosting. But if you need additional security or plan to scale quickly it might be worth opting for VPS hosting.
After you settle on a hosting plan, choose your domain name. .com addresses are still the most popular, but other extensions like .co or .us are becoming more common. Choose an easy-to-remember domain name so users can find your site.
3. Choose the right website template
A website template is a preset design you can customize to fit your business. Most site builders sort templates into various categories to make it easy to find the right one.
Templates are usually customizable, but the ones that are built for your industry are a good starting point. Creative service templates often include a portfolio page, restaurant website templates might offer a menu page, and so on. If you choose a template that already has most of the features you need it will save you a lot of time.
4. Write your web copy (or contract it out)
Now it's time to talk to your future customers. Your website copy is your chance to explain who you are, what you do, and what makes you stand out from the competition.
If you choose to write the copy yourself, make sure to use a tool like Grammarly to check your spelling and grammar. There's nothing worse than publishing your site only to find an embarrassing spelling mistake later!
Be sure to include a CTA that tells users what to do next, such as sign up for your email list or follow your business on social media.
Alternatively, consider hiring a freelance copywriter to write your copy for you. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork can connect you with thousands of freelance writers.
5. Add images
Humans respond to visual cues. Whether we’re shopping for the perfect couch or browsing a bakery shelf, a visual image can impact our buying behavior.
According to Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 95 percent more views. Images also increase engagement rates by 37%.
Choose images that remind users why your business is right for them. A restaurant might use professional images of their most popular dishes, while a service company could utilize before and after shots.
Use images that reflect your brand. Above all, ensure you have permission to use them. Some free website builders offer free stock photography, or you can use a site like Pexels.
6. Optimize your website for SEO
Building a website is one thing—but how do you get people to visit it? Optimizing your pages for SEO helps Google deliver your site to users who search for related keywords.
See if your website builder offers SEO features, such as meta descriptions and meta titles. When writing your copy, use terms your visitors are likely to search for in headings and CTAs. You’ll also want to test your site on mobile devices to make sure it displays correctly.
If it makes sense for your industry, consider writing a few blog posts about topics important to prospective customers. How-to guides, industry news, and case studies are great for attracting new leads. Google also rewards sites that regularly publish new content.
Congratulations, you’ve built your own website and are ready to go live! Don't forget to set up an analytics program like Google Analytics to track how many users visit your page and what pages they visit.
Also, consider using A/B testing to see what images, copy, and offers resonate with your audience.
Building your own website doesn't have to be a hassle
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, or know how to code, to build an effective website. With website builders like Leadpages, you can create and launch a simple (or not so simple) business site in just a few hours.