10 Steps to a Successful Local Business Website

At Doodlekit, our goal is to make sure every small business has their own website.  It’s so important today for local businesses to have an online presence, even if it’s just to get basic information.  Follow these easy steps and before you know it your locally-owned business will be online and ready to grow.

1. Pictures, Pictures and more Pictures

Your website is a digital window into your bricks and mortar shop, so it only makes sense to fill that window with images.  If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer.  It’s a one time investment that could pay off for years.  But if don’t want to shell out the cash, try to find a friend that has a nice camera and take them yourself.  They don’t have to blow people away, they just have to be in focus.
Here’s a quick list of what you should be shooting…
  1. Your storefront.  Seems obvious, but it helps new customers find you as their driving by.
  2. Product displays.  This is a great way to give customers a quick idea of what to expect.
  3. Owners/employees.  It’s always good to create a personal connection.
  4. Events.  Don’t just take pictures once and forget about it.  Show what’s going on day to day.

2. When and where?

It drives me crazy when I visit a local business website and they don’t have store hours.  If you put nothing else on you’re website it should have hours, an address and a phone number.
Don’t make people hunt for this information, put it in a prominent place that will show on every page of your site.   If you’re using Doodlekit, put it in your sidebar.  In fact, we automatically create a place to put this for all new websites.
Take it a step further and add a Google Map with your location.  First, follow these instructions.  Then take the embed code and paste it into a page or sidebar box using the “Insert HTML Widget” button in the quick editor.

3. Get social

It’s no secret that social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are great ways to promote local businesses.  At the very least, every business should have a Facebook page to engage in conversations with their customers.  There countless guides out there on getting started with social media
Once you have your social media accounts setup, be sure to link to them from your website.  With Doodlekit it’s as easy as clicking “Edit Top Bar” and pasting in the URLs.

4. Decorate the place

After you’ve added some photos you’ll want to make the colors of your website match your business.  Choose the two or three of the common colors of your business and try to find a website template that matches.
If you’re using Doodlekit you can either select from our huge template library or you can customize your template using our Template Wizard.  Just follow the steps and choose your layout options, then choose your colors on the last step.  

5. Your Internet address

Now that your website is looking good, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a good web address.  Having your own .com domain name adds legitimacy to your business and your website, and also makes it easier for search engines to find you.  
If you’re using a free Doodlekit website your web address ends with .doodlekit.com, so to keep it professional you’ll want to upgrade and get your own .com domain name.  It couldn’t be easier, just type in what you want and we’ll handle all the complicated setup automatically. 

6. You’ve got mail

I hope people still get that reference, it was only 10 years ago.  Anyway, after you have your own domain name like benskcbbq.com, you want to create business email addresses like info@benskcbbq.com.  There are lots of email services out there, but if you have a Doodlekit website it’s built right in.
To keep things simple we use Email Forwarding.  All you do is tell us what address you want to create, and then type in your personal email account and we will automatically forward email to that account.  That way you can manage all of your email in one place, and you don’t have to learn what an DNS MX record is.  

7. Google is not clairvoyant

Lot’s of people ask “why isn’t my website on Google?” after creating their website.  The answer is, because you haven’t told Google that your website exists.  Thankfully it’s pretty easy to give Google the heads up, just add your site using their Webmaster Tools.  
You’ll need to verify your site, which usually just means adding a small code snippet to your website.  For Doodlekit websites, just copy your “Verification Code” and paste it into the “Google Verification Code” box on the “Optimization” page in the admin area.

8. Content is king

Once Google knows about your website, a great way to get your website higher in the search results is to write lots of good content.  Talk about your business, it’s history, it’s future.  Use the blog to keep people up to date with what’s going on.  Provide tips related to your business, such as “DIY Hair Dying How-To” if your a hair salon or “Our Secret to Great Sauce” for restaurants.  
One very important thing to consider when writing your content is making it as specific as possible.  You’re not just a hair salon or restaurant, your a “Downtown Omaha Boutique Hair Salon” or “Kansas City BBQ Restaurant”.  Adding this specificity to your content helps Google know that your website is important to people searching for businesses like yours.  

9. Get linked up

Another way to get people to your website and help search engines find your content is by getting other sites to link to you.   Talk to other businesses near you and see if they’ll do a “link-swap”.  If they don’t have a website, send them this blog post.  
Look for local business directories and review sites like Yelp!.  Do a search for your business name to see if you’re already listed somewhere and make sure the listing contains a link to your site.  

10. Don’t fly blind

It’s important for any business to measure every aspect of how they make money, and website statistics can be a big part of that.  Most website builders like Doodlekit provide basic statistics tracking that should be adequate for most small business.  At the very least, keep an eye on if traffic is going up or down to make sure you’re effectively getting people to the site.  
If you’re a stats junkie like me, you’ll probably want to use a more advanced tracking tool like Google Analytics.  After signing up for an account they’ll give you a code snippet to paste into your website.  In Doodlekit, you can paste this into the “Extra Header Tags” section of your site under “Optimization”. 
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