Editor’s note: This post was originally written in 2019 and, while the best practices remain as relevant as ever, the article has been updated to include even more insight into how to build an effective business website. Dig in!
You know you need to create a website, but who has the time for that? Or the budget to hire a professional team?
Luckily, you’re smart, scrappy, successful, and utterly capable of creating a site yourself. That’s why we’ve created a three-day (Friday-Sunday) step-by-step guide to get your website done in a single weekend.
One weekend?! Absolutely. In fact, many Leadpages customers finish in just a few hours.
Here’s the goal:
By the end of this weekend, you’ll have a fully functional website for your business that boosts your online visibility, represents your brand, and is perfectly prepped to collect leads and sales.
Sure, you can get pretty far just by setting up Facebook Business Page or posting articles on LinkedIn. Depending on your business and goals, that may be enough. We’re certainly not here to over-complicate your life. But we are committed to helping you grow and avoid common pitfalls that might get in your way.
Like, pitfall number one: confusing a social network with secure business growth.
Social networks change. They modify their policies, limit access to your audience, and are quickly replaced by new, trendier toys.
Everyone thought Myspace wasn’t going anywhere—until Facebook came along. So, now your business has a Facebook page, except you can’t email your Facebook followers and, if something ever happens to your account, that audience could be lost forever.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build communities on social networks, just don’t rely on these platforms too much. You’re better off getting traffic back to your own website, where you can track their behaviors, capture their contact info, pixel them for re-marketing, and not be at the whims of tech trends.
A professional website sets you apart from the crowd, engages visitors, and converts leads. More importantly, according to research 84% of consumers believe a website makes your business more credible. Basically, if you don’t have a website potential customers might not take you seriously.
Whether your business is a physical storefront looking for improved marketing, an e-commerce store on a third-party platform, a consultant or coach growing your client roster, or any other kind of business, a website is simply a must-have.
What’s the purpose of a website?
There are three main reasons for having a website:
Engage: A website creates a strong online presence that is necessary to market and attract new visitors, especially in our digital world.
Educate: Your website tells people who you are, what you do, and why you do it. This education is one of your greatest competitive advantages.
Convert: A lead-generating website transforms site visitors into leads and closes the sale to turn leads into customers.
Most importantly, your website is yours to have and hold indefinitely. Unlike social media sites or third-party platforms, you own the rights to your website.
Your site can’t be taken away from you. This kind of control ensures you maintain a stable brand presence regardless of what the rest of the world is doing. It also helps you capture and retain your own leads and customers without worrying about a third party trying to nab them from you.
Ready to get started?
Let’s start creating a website this weekend. In the rest of this guide, we’re going to take you through building a website strategy, customizing your template with content and design, publishing, and even testing. By Sunday evening, your website will be up and running! So let’s buckle down and get going.
Friday Evening: Strategy + Hosting
Create your website strategy.
Before you dive into making your website, you’ll want to come up with a game plan. What is your primary motivation for creating a website? What do you want your website to do for your business?
Consider the following aspects when strategizing:
Objective: What does your website need to accomplish? Rank your key business goals in order of importance, so your website is designed in that direction. For example, if you want to push sales, you’d likely focus more on product pages and on-site advertising. If you’re looking to generate leads and encourage interest, you may focus more on promoting an email newsletter or lead magnet.
Audience: Who is your website targeting? Will you address customers, employees, and/or partners? How can you target your audience in a way that will reach your primary objectives?
Functionality: What does your website need to do in order to reach your goals? Do you want to show a welcome video to engage prospects, or present a product tutorial to encourage conversions? Do you need the ability for customers to schedule appointments or send your customer service team a message?
Design: How do you want your website to look? What type of visuals will help build your brand? Are you going for big and bold, or something more subdued?
Content: What sorts of copy, images, and video do you need to offer to reach your main goals? What do you want or need to share in order to engage and convert your audience?
Conversion: What are the primary points of conversion?
This last point is especially critical, so we’re going to emphasize it. You need to think about conversions. A beautiful website is great, but if it doesn’t grow your business is it really worth it?
For example, let’s say the main objective of your website is to generate leads and establish contact with a potential coaching client. Your primary CTA (call to action) might be “Schedule a free consultation.” You may also have a secondary CTA to download a free checklist, which casts a wider net for lead generation if someone isn’t yet ready to schedule a consult with you.
Conversion points are critical because they turn your static website into a money-maker. We’ll talk about CTAs and conversion points later, so don’t skip this part of your strategy.
Choose your web hosting service
Your website needs a place to live—this requires a web hosting plan. A number of companies offer this service at a variety of price points. Generally, the more you pay for hosting the faster your load times will be and the more traffic your site will be able to handle.
Your domain name will become your “calling card” moving forward. This is the phrase that comes before the first slash of a URL. For example, our domain name is “leadpages.com.” Any pages that are part of our website begin with this domain name, followed by the /slug. Example: Our blog page is https://www.leadpages.com/blog/.
You want your domain to be easy to type, easy to remember, and relevant to your business. Often, you’ll want your website to be the same as your business name. If that domain name is already taken or your business name is too long, experiment with different names to find one that works. Check out free domain name generators like NameMesh or Shopify’s domain generator to get some ideas.
Tip: We don’t recommend naming your URL after a bestselling product. Your domain should represent your entire business and the potential growth or change of your business, regardless of your current product line.
If you build your site on Leadpages you’ll receive a domain like this by default:
This is called a subdomain, since it’s hosted on the “lpages.co” domain. If you want your own custom domain, you’ll need to purchase one from a domain registrar. Or, you can sign up for an annual Leadpages plan and receive a free custom domain from Hover for one year.
Day one is complete! Time to go to sleep with vivid dreams of a new site dancing in your head.
Saturday Morning: Site Map + Visual Brand
We think Saturday mornings are the best part of the weekend. You have two full days ahead of you, filled with promise and excitement. So let’s have a little fun this Saturday morning by designing the visual aspect of your brand and website!
A content map is a visual representation of the pages you’ll have on your site. It will help you see what your site will look like and the content and resources you’ll need to collect for each page.
We recommend a visual tiered chart. You’ll put the Home page at the top, linking out to the other core pages underneath it. These core pages often include:
From there, determine if you’ll have any secondary pages that stem out. For example, your About page may link to an additional Team page that shares info about your employees.
Once you have the pages and links laid out, define the purpose and function of that page.
What is the primary message of this page?
What are the supporting details that get the point across?
What multimedia (images, video, copy) do I need to achieve this?
Is there a CTA on this page?
What functionality is on this page? (For example, a Contact page would need a contact form.)
Consider your primary and secondary pages carefully, as this is very important for user experience (check out these 53 UX statistics to discover just how critical user experience is for your website).
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Leadpages’ templates are already designed and populated with sample site maps and content. Your template will already have a number of core pages, and you can add predesigned pages as you wish.
Design your visual brand
Your visual brand is going to determine how customers perceive your business. Branding is how you attract your target audience, boost visibility and recognition, and grow a loyal following.
For example, you know Coca-Cola is red and white with their well-known cursive font. Apple is known for its clean, crisp aesthetic to denote innovation and forward-thinking progress.
Once you’ve defined your brand, simply choose a Leadpages template and use the Drag & Drop Builder to customize it. You can set your page styles, select your brand colors, and add and remove sections. Best of all, there’s no coding required. Just click, drag, and drop elements to create your perfect look.
By the time you finish your Saturday morning coffee, you’ll have an entire branded website at your fingertips!
Saturday Afternoon: Content + Copy
Now that you have the backbone of your site laid out, it’s time to input the content and copy. Leadpages offers sample text so you can gain inspiration and see where to put content for the best “flow” of your site. Better yet, you can write and edit right within the Leadpages builder.
Focus on SEO
Before writing your content, we recommend performing keyword research. Search engines look at keywords and phrases in your copy to understand what your site is about. Targeting keywords that your audience frequently searches helps you gain visibility and attract the right kind of site visitors.
SEO can be a little complicated. When you’re first creating your website, though, you don’t have to worry too much about this. Just start with the basics:
At this point, you’ll have an “empty” website with sample content preloaded for you. It’s time to start filling it up with information about your business, written in your brand voice.
Your copy should answer the following questions:
Who are you?
What do you do? What products/services do you offer?
What makes you different from the competition?
Don’t get caught up here. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. It won’t be perfect until you start to get feedback from customers about what information they need or want on your site. So, for the time being, focus on promoting your business authentically and honestly. You can always go back and change it later.
Tip: Use Leadpages’ new AI Engine to speed up the writing process. Enter prompts to generate new copy variations in seconds, and use the suggestions to inspire your own copy.
One of the most convincing parts of your website will be the testimonials and reviews. This kind of social validation is critical to attracting, engaging, and converting a skeptical audience. Testimonials can include customer photos and quotes, video testimonials, or even social media reviews.
However you present them, you want to make sure you’re displaying customer recommendations and reviews front and center on your website. This sort of social proof is critical to your website’s success.
If you don’t have testimonials, add this to your content strategy moving forward. Start asking satisfied customers to leave you an honest review. Platforms like G2 even let you reward customers for leaving reviews, which is something to consider if you’re having a hard time generating testimonials organically.
Saturday Evening: Visuals
With your written content done it’s time for the visuals. Images are a great way to supplement your words and make your brand come to life.
The Leadpages templates offer placeholder images, but you’ll want to input your own to make your website really stand out. Professional, high-quality images or video content create a window into your brand that instantly gives a competitive advantage.
Types of visuals to include:
Product photos or how-to videos
Pictures of employees, team members, founders
Photos of happy customers
Images of storefronts or events
Fun, relevant GIFs and memes
What if you’re a lifestyle coach and you don’t have physical products? Create a mockup of the cover for your free downloadable guide to include on your site. Put a picture of you (the coach) doing something you love. Show success pictures of clients you’ve helped. Images are a great place to get personal while keeping it professional.
If you don’t have quality images of your business, products, or team yet, you can use stock photos. We recommend Unsplash to find unique images that add a more authentic aesthetic without that “fake” stock photo feel.
Once you’ve found the perfect photos, upload them to the Leadpages Image Manager. Here you can edit and sort your images, and insert them onto your website.
Tip: Create infographics that are related to your industry or business. Find some statistics, put them in a graphic, and add your logo. This brings credibility to your site while creating a highly shareable piece of content.
You did a lot of work today, and a lot of the heavy lifting is over. Celebrate your hard work and get a good night’s sleep!
Ready to get online?
This step-by-step construction plan will take your website from plan to publish in a single weekend.
Sunday Morning: Action Steps
You’ve made a gorgeous static website, but now it’s time to transform that site into a conversion machine. But don’t worry, it’ll be as “easy as Sunday morning.”
Input conversion points and CTAs
Your call to action is what pulls people to the next part of your sales funnel. It transforms visitors into leads, leads into customers, and customers into loyal followers.
On Friday, you defined your primary and secondary points of conversion based on your site objective. For example, it might be to schedule a free consultation or encourage a download of your free guide.
Turn your primary conversion point into a call to action. If you want the visitor to schedule a free consult, your CTA might be “Book My Free Consult.” You want actionable phrases that tell the visitor exactly what they need to do to interact with you further.
We recommend putting your primary conversion event on your core pages, like the Home, About, and Contact pages. Then you can layer in your secondary conversion events.
For example, you would have “Book My Free Consult” on the core pages. Then you could put an alert bar on your site that offers a downloadable checklist in return for their email address. This is a low-barrier way for customers to engage with you (and for you to generate leads) if they aren’t yet ready to schedule their consultation.
Call to action tips:
Keep it consistent.
Make your CTA button a different color than the rest of the page so it stands out.
Be actionable and direct.
Use “I” statements, like “Schedule my appointment.”
If your conversion goal is sales, use Leadpages checkouts to collect payments directly on your site without having to send customers to third-party platforms.
Sunday Afternoon: Preview + Polish
Congrats on creating your site! It’s almost ready to publish. Now it’s time for the finishing touches to ensure everything is ready for launch.
Preview each page in both desktop and mobile format. Leadpages allows you to select “preview” so you can see the functionality and appearance as though you were a site visitor. You can make edits and changes as necessary.
Add social buttons and edit the automatic previews that social sites create when linking to your website.
Here’s where the fear and doubt step in. Is it good enough? Does it represent my brand? Am I ready?
With Leadpages, you have a professional website that’s branded to your business. So have no fear when you click publish. This is where your business really starts to take off!
Check out this resource to learn how to publish your site for the first time, make changes after it’s live, and unpublish pages.
Test your site
Now that it’s published, visit your site to ensure everything is displaying properly. Make notes of those areas that need to be edited, aren’t comprehensive enough, or that could use “more” (like additional images, customer testimonials, etc.). You’ll want to look at:
Copyediting: Is your content grammatically correct?
Functionality: Are the links “live” or broken? Is it mobile-responsive? Do the add-ons and tech work?
Flow: Is the website easy to navigate? Does it bring you to the next stage of conversion effectively?
Visuals: Is it visually appealing? Do the images grab your attention and add to your branding?
Speed: Does the page load quickly? Does the content, especially images, appear within seconds?
The best way to test is to actually have someone who is part of your audience try it out for you. This can be a friend or family member, or (even better) a past or current client.
You may want to ask them specific questions to get deeper into their feedback. For example: “Which images are you most drawn to?” or “What more do you need to know in order to convert?”
In the following weeks, you’ll want to make edits and changes as necessary. Remember that even though your website is published, it’s never complete! It’s a living and breathing site that changes as your business does. Keep it updated with Leadpages’ Drag & Drop Builder to continue to grow your online presence, engage your audience, and convert leads.
Website = Complete
Congrats! In just one weekend, you designed and created a website that will launch your business to new heights. It’s time to celebrate your work, your site, and your future!
If you haven’t yet started your Leadpages free trial, now’s the time. Leadpages makes it incredibly easy to design a website in a weekend, so you can get your business on track.
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