With an ever-increasing focus on the Internet being pushed to every corner of the world, onto every wrist, palm, and inside of every pocket, creating a business website has become a necessity long before, but especially in 2023. You can rest assured that your competitors and their agencies are busy staying ahead of the curve and leaving your business in the dust.
So “What do I need to create a website for my business”, you ask. The solution is far simpler than you might think but involves a fair amount of effort if you want your website to convert.
From improved brand awareness to better customer outreach, using the Internet to your advantage has long been a no-brainer for any business in virtually every vertical. Luckily, since this advantage has become so popular over the past few decades, the process has also become simpler than ever.
While it’s easy to get started and many aspects of a large or small business website cross over, it’s important to make informed decisions and pick what works best for your industry, region, business style, and target audience.
It’s important to look at all of the details and consider every aspect with great care before deep diving into your new site. Ultimately, you’ll avoid headaches and the need to go back and “fix” any less optimal choices that were made.
Before anything however you might not fully understand why a website would benefit your business in particular.
So what’s the point of putting in all this effort?
In this definitive guide, we’ll help you to understand why you should make a website for your business, the common components that are required for a business website to function, as well as go in-depth on what your options are as far as setting up your website.
We’ve put in the effort, to make this journey as easy to understand and implement for you. By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about your site rather than end up with costly choices that will come back to haunt you in the future.
The short answer is that you need a website simply because all of your competitors already have a website and that’s the first place your customers are looking for you. Without a website, you are missing out on massive amounts of viewership from your hottest leads, which are the very users actively looking for a business just like yours.
By popular estimates, approximately 5.25 of 7.9 billion people around the world are using the Internet. A number which is growing by almost 200 million individuals per year as of April 2022. Users in North America (93.4%) and Europe (88.4%) account for the highest Internet penetration regions in the world, so if your business is targeting those regions, 9 out of every 10 people you are looking for is already online. A well-built business website signals a trustworthy brand presence and is often a crucial component to getting more visitors, more contacts, and more conversions (such as leads or sales).
It’s not just tech-related fields that benefit as more industries are tapping into the power of having an online presence. You get to share accurate information in higher quantities about your business exactly as you want to, rather than rely on third parties to describe who you are and what you do. Your website is a pivotal tool in serving as a trusted source to find key information regarding your business and its goods or services.
Finally, your website is very easy to keep up-to-date compared to other mediums. Changing a phone number takes seconds instead of weeks. Closed for holidays? A quick message on your website communicates that. Contact information, working hours, and similar can be placed and updated on the website at the drop of a hat, making it easier for visitors to get in touch and ultimately make that sale.
With that out of the way, it’s important to determine what kind of website your particular business requires. The size and type of your business will guide the specifics.
Of all the business types, a local area business is the simplest to manage online. If you’ve got a local business with a physical locale serving the immediate area around your store, an informative website is what you’re after.
You will mainly have contact and location information as well as tidbits about your business and community. With a local business, you want people coming to you in person, thus you can avoid the hassle of online retail, shipping, and returns. You want people to find your business online but to visit it in person.
We also recommend focusing on online presence outside of your website as well, such as registering your business on all of the popular map services, such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap, and so on. Review sites and social media platforms can also play a big role, depending on the industry. You can link to your website from each of those, which will boost your visits.
For small and medium-sized businesses, you could have a physical location, but you also might be looking into selling or generating leads online. In this case, you’d need to decide whether you want an informational website, an eCommerce store, or both.
Further down in this guide we talk about exactly what kind of content your website should have, which can help you decide whether you need a CMS, an eCommerce platform, or a combination of the two to maximize your business’s online potential.
With larger businesses or enterprise applications, not having a website for your business becomes impractical. Large entities become large brands and carry an expectation of owning their own online brand presence. Even if it’s a type of business only needing a simple information website, it spreads your brand and awareness of your business past the market that it already performs in.
Most reservations today have moved away from in-person and over-the-phone bookings to some form of an online booking lead generation system. This could be through a website or an app, but having a website with an online booking system can go from additional sales to running your entire business. You can inform potential clients about what your business does, and show them how your product or service is unique and benefits them, but ultimately the booking form gives them a way to reach out to you and show their interest. You can also provide them with a form where they can sign up to stay informed, giving you a list of interested clients that are already willing to engage with your business.
One of the simplest concepts, with some of the most tricky execution and adjustments. A retail business can benefit massively by selling goods online. You increase your target market from the area surrounding your business to practically the entire world. Online storefronts and paying online are now made to take only a couple of clicks, reducing the friction needed to buy something from your business. However, eCommerce websites can be notoriously tricky to set up properly due to all the privacy, security, and billing features integrated into such sites.
Another option is to expand your business into a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) business model. This lets you sell software that your business makes as a subscription or a platform that other users can take and create their own use cases or products with. This is really only possible when you have a website for your business, and is considered a type of eCommerce.
If your business revolves around information or advertising revenue, an informational website is what you’re after. You’ll want to create or curate content in one place and focus on growing your website visitors to advertise various products and services to. This would be like a blog, or a news feed – a place where visitors can keep coming back to learn new information. That can be monetized with guest posts made by other people, or by placing ads on the website that users click on. Basically all of the big news and article websites that use ads follow this model, including giants like Google and Facebook.
As you know, all of the sites you normally visit are reached using a domain name, such as RoseHosting.com. A domain is a registered name that is used to associate a word or a name that’s easy to remember with a server’s numerical IP address, which is a lot harder to remember for your average human. Together with a DNS (domain name system), you’re able to connect that IP address to your domain name.
When registering a domain name, these are the key factors to consider:
Use as short of a domain name as possible
Use the .com TLD (top-level domain) if possible
Use your brand name if it’s available
Consider country-specific domain suffixes if you’re targeting a specific market
The shorter the domain name is, the easier it is for your visitors to remember it. More common words will be usually owned already or cost a lot more than longer or more uncommon terms. Domain names are unique, so it’s important to make sure you grab the domain that matches your business name before someone else does so first.
Using the correct TLD (short for top-level domain) is important as well. The most popular one is .com, which is for commercial use. We recommend using that unless you have a need for an education-based website (.edu), or a government-owned website (.gov).
You can also use a TLD that targets a certain region in the world (such as .co.uk or .com.au), which could help visitors better understand where your business is located before even visiting your website. In special cases, you might even be justifiable going for a specialized TLDs such as .io for the tech industry or .me if it plays well off your brand.
Whatever your choice, you should always compliment your domain name with an SSL certificate. You can get a certificate for free and it makes your website appear more legitimate and trustworthy to your visitors.
Your website is simply a collection of files such as text, images, and scripts. It’s up to you to decide what sort of files precisely you want it to be made from.
Some static websites only use HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the first being a file that defines the structure and content of the page, and the second being the definition of how you want that content to look.
In case you need something straightforward to set up and use there are easy-to-use software options that are designed to make setting up your own website as simple as possible. The software is called a content management system, or a CMS for short.
For a business however, would you want to use static web pages, or would you use a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal? What are the benefits and caveats of each? That will depend based on the content of your website.
In order for your website to be seen by a visitor, they must make a request to the web server. No, not a spider in a suit, but a large computer server where your website is hosted. Upon request, the server sends your visitor the files, images, and scripts that make up your website. When that request gets sent to your server, the visitor’s browser expects to receive the fully-loaded web page as a response. This whole process happens in milliseconds.
That’s where a quality web server comes into play. The web server is like a home for your website. It is a program on a physical server computer, which takes files from the server’s storage (hard drive) and sends (or serves) them to the visitor that made the request by visiting your domain name. There are several different types of web servers each with its own unique pros and cons.
The web server is software that needs to be active inside of a physical server that is running an operating system. Different types of web servers include shared hosting, which allows for easier setup but has very little control, a dedicated server which gives lots of power and control at a steeper price point, and VPS hosting (Virtual Private Server) which tries to find the balance between the two, giving you a reasonable amount of power and complete control at an affordable price. The kind of hosting you should use will depend on your particular business needs.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) lets your website’s content load much quicker for all users across the world, no matter where your visitor or your servers are located. Since your server can have one physical location, people that try to access your site from another continent will have slower load times than those that live closer to the server. Despite these speeds being measured in seconds and milliseconds, in today’s must-be-instant times this lag makes your website loading times can be, and often is, the difference between a potential visitor becoming a customer or jumping back into Google and clicking on the next link down the list.
A CDN solves this problem by having your content copied onto hundreds of edge servers across the entire world, ensuring that no matter where a user loads the website, there’s a server nearby to handle the request significantly faster than your server ever could. A CDN is highly recommended for personal sites, but practically mandatory for a large, medium, or even a small business website.
Websites now use an added security feature called an SSL certificate to verify the connection between a user and the server. That certificate is also used to encrypt the data that is sent between the user and the website, keeping your visitor’s data private and secure.
It’s super easy to set up an SSL certificate, it improves rankings on Google, and it keeps the connections to your visitors safer. In fact, most technologically educated visitors will immediately turn away at a sight of a website with a “not secure” warning.
Just like a good foundation of a building helps you avoid future headaches, so too should you start from the ground up with your website, and it all begins with your server. Put simply, without a server to host your content, your website cannot exist on the Internet. We already mentioned that the three most common hosting types on the Internet are shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers. You need to think whether your business wants a hosting provider that offers only the basics, which usually makes set up easy and has a lower price point, but can be much harder or even impossible to customize down the road, and end up costing you a lot more in the long run. This will vary from business to business, though we always highly recommend chasing after value rather than price.
For a business we strongly recommend a hosting provider that has the following:
Managed support (best for beginners, busy owners, those lacking expertise, and those looking for a hassle-free proactive IT team to take care of everything)
A strong reputation (see how long they’ve been in business and customer reviews)
Free SSL installation
Up-time Guarantee of at least 99.99%
A Money-Back Guarantee
Shared hosting is like sharing the same bedroom with roommates – you share the resources and utilities available, and you’re surrounded by other people trying to do the same as you. It’s usually the most cost-effective option, but as such, it’s full of compromises.
Considered the “budget-friendly” option, shared hosting is not a VPS and does not give you the control or the dedicated resources that you would get from a VPS. Instead, you get “up to” a certain amount of RAM, storage, and CPU use for your resources, as well as an account only on a server that is shared with many other users. You can’t run more complex software that isn’t supported by the hosting provider, and you’re limited in options in terms of management and ownership of your data. Furthermore, should a neighbor sharing your server see a sudden traffic surge that can bring their site down, this can have an impact on your website speed as well.
This might be appealing to those that don’t know how to deal with running a server and not looking for a managed hosting solution. Usually, this is best for hobbyists looking to up-skill in web design, blogging, or similar, and generally not recommended for a business looking to make money online. Even if you are a hobbyist looking to learn and grow, a managed VPS may be a better choice since you’ll get the best of both worlds...
A managed VPS is like renting an apartment in a low building with built-in security, repairs, and installation of whatever you need to be included in the rent price. It’s the best balance between price and convenience and for most businesses, we can consider this the entry point.
This is really the best type of hosting for a business website – not prohibitively expensive, and not limited with resources, capabilities, or support. You get fixed resources that are guaranteed for you, a full operating system with all of the capabilities that a dedicated server has, as well as a support team that can help you with everything you might need in case you’re not technically knowledgeable on server administration. And unlike shared hosting, you can run an unlimited number of websites. Furthermore, as your site grows, you can very easily scale your servers to grow with the site by adding on more resources.
Getting managed VPS hosting is paying for peace of mind, knowing that there’s a team of IT experts and engineers waiting on standby to help you with anything you need. Whether it’s downtime on one of your services, or setting up some new plugin on your website, having that support team is exceptionally helpful in more ways than one. A good managed hosting provider will even offer proactive support so that any server issues get fixed before you have to even notice and ask for them.
Unmanaged VPS hosting is like the previous apartment example, however, the buildings could be larger here, meaning you might share space with more people. You also lose all of the conveniences like security, repairs, and installation. Everything is DIY and could become very messy.
An unmanaged VPS is the opposite of the managed VPS option, meaning it excludes any and all support. You look after your server, as well as all services and data on it. This is mainly for those that need even more affordable hosting but without the limitations of shared hosting. While that’s useful for those that have the time and will to learn every detail about the server and software that they plan to use, or with a dedicated IT and programming teams waiting on standby, it can also be overwhelming to those that want their server to simply work with minimal fuss. We find that the price you pay for managed hosting always ends up costing you less in the long run.
Whether it’s a managed or unmanaged VPS, just like different-sized apartments, you still have to decide on a plan size that fits your business’ potential visitor count without having resources go to waste. We recommend getting the largest plan that fits your budget – different providers will make different parts of their plans stand out, such as the storage, the RAM, or the CPU cores. Most providers focus on the RAM resource for their plans, and that is what allows more software to be run simultaneously on a VPS. We’d recommend going for at least 2GB of RAM for a website made using a content management system such as WordPress – if your business is already well-established however, going for 4GB or 8GB of RAM as a start would be a wiser choice. If you’re still unsure, figure out what your previous provider plan was and go with that. You can easily upgrade later should you need additional resources, but be cautious of going too low, as it can have an impact on the speed of your site, which will also cause a dip in your SEO and frustrate your visitors.
This is like having your own building to yourself. Your own mansion. A managed dedicated server is like having a mansion full of workers there to help you with anything you need. This is the ultimate option out of the three types of hosting.
Dedicated Servers are best suited for medium and large companies that have the potential to reach many users, or if their own internal systems would require a server used by many employees. A dedicated server offers exceptional performance that would outperform a VPS any day of the week. If you choose correctly, you can also find a managed dedicated server hosting providers that include managed support at no extra cost. For dedicated servers, this is virtually a necessity. However, if your business is not very large, it’s likely that you’ll be just fine using a VPS to start with as a dedicated server would be overkill.
Cloud hosting is like a farm – great at its purpose, highly specialized, and can adapt to different workloads. Managed cloud hosting is like a fully-staffed farm with personnel to maintain all aspects of your land.
This is a specialized hosting type that benefits developer teams best. It allows for continuous development and deployment of applications, and on top of that, it provides stellar reliability and scalability. Unlike the other hosting types, the resources can adjust dynamically in real-time to ensure that the website or service stays online, no matter what.
The caveat of this platform is the cost, with it typically costing more than other solutions per unit of resources. The ability to scale the resources on-demand and re-deploy in seconds makes the cost worthwhile for those that truly need it.
Overall, while shared hosting might be the most affordable, and dedicated hosting the most powerful, we’d recommend the middle-ground going for managed VPS (maintained apartment in a building).
The value provided by having a dedicated support team that’s not only always there to help you with your server, but that will also transfer your sites from previous host providers or help you install everything you need to get going free of charge, can’t be ignored, especially as a business owner. You might not always have the time or the technical expertise to fix every problem that you’ll run into as time passes and your website’s needs grow.
While a dedicated server (a managed one ideally) provides significantly more performance over a VPS, it can be a waste of resources if you don’t have the use for such powerful hardware. If you need a dedicated server’s performance, you’ll know it.
Pricing is a highly-volatile and varying topic in the hosting industry. Unfortunately, many hosting providers are purposely misleading with their prices and renewals — they list a price that you pay for the first billing period, then charge you a completely different price for the months afterward. Or they provide you with a too-good-to-be-true discount that only applies for the first month. Some even renew early so you don’t get a chance to transfer over in time, and charge you the full renewal price. This is why it’s
It is very important to go with a hosting provider that gives you transparent pricing. A hosting provider that is dishonest with its pricing is going to try and take shortcuts in almost every way possible and at any chance they get. We’ve seen countless people get burnt by this, so don’t fall victim to that business practice.
Beware of hidden costs. Some providers are only after your hard-earned loot.
A Shared hosting plan could cost anywhere from a few dollars a month for a single website to a few hundred dollars a year for a higher-end plan with unlimited websites, emails, etc. If you need to stick with shared hosting, make sure you know what you’re paying for and consider the limitations you might run into.
A VPS hosting plan can vary wildly from hosting provider to hosting provider, as well as from unmanaged to managed or fully managed. VPSes usually start at around $15-20 per month for a cheaper, less featured option and can quickly build up to hundreds of dollars per month for plans that offer loads of resources and features.
However, the cost of features varies between hosting providers as well. Some hosting providers charge a pretty penny for managed service (with some wanting over $100 a month extra) while others include the same service at no extra cost in their VPSes.
Dedicated servers are the highest-end option ranging from over a hundred dollars a month to thousands of dollars a month. This however is really only for larger businesses that really can benefit from the performance of such strong hardware. You’ll know if you need a dedicated server – if you have to question needing it, then you don’t need it.
Just like people who once used MySpace or Bebo to host their business properties had to rebuild everything from scratch, relying on website builders that also host your website is at best a band-aid quick-fix solution, and at worst a huge future financial sink and headache.
As such we strongly recommend avoiding website builders that host your websites and do not allow your business website to move to another platform or provider, effectively holding your site hostage. Their systems are designed to make it super straightforward to set everything up and build your website, which is very convenient.
However, there’s a big catch. You can never move away from a website builder service because their systems are completely proprietary. You will have to start over from scratch if you ever want to move away and take control of your data and website fully. No matter what future technologies come out and better alternatives for your type of business, you’ll be stuck with that website builder unless you decide to simply ditch all your hard-built content, SEO, and online brand and start from zero. To future proof your website and give yourself the space to stay agile, we highly recommend choosing a host that allows you to move away whenever you choose.
This assumes choosing a VPS or a dedicated server from here on out. If you chose to use shared hosting, then almost all of the steps are completed for you at the cost of flexibility. You can skip forward to the section “Choosing a method to use for serving your content” to see the next relevant information.
Operating systems are rarely taken into consideration when choosing one for your hosting. There’s software that doesn’t run on all of the common options, and some are very limiting in terms of support or the upgrade path down the line.
There are a few common Linux distributions that are most frequently offered by hosting providers nowadays – AlmaLinux, Debian, and Ubuntu.
Additionally, there is Windows hosting, which while useful in some cases is not really a good choice if you’ve never used a server before. Here’s the breakdown of what makes Linux a better choice for most:
1) Windows hosting is a lot more expensive than Linux hosting. Linux is free and open-source software. Windows is proprietary and licensed software, which is priced at over a thousand dollars for a server license. This drives up the price of Windows hosting.
Linux hosting, on the other hand, does not add any additional cost for the operating system – you are paying only for the hardware as well as any support you receive.
2) Linux hosting has easier-to-find resources online than Windows hosting. With Linux hosting, you can easily find tutorials all over the internet for installing a massive number of software stacks on all kinds of Linux operating systems. This makes it easy for those that want to do things themselves. Of course, if you use managed or fully managed hosting, then this is not that important since the support team can set everything up for you immediately.
3) Linux is more reliable than Windows. Linux hosting often has better uptime than Windows thanks to its simpler and more streamlined nature. Programs or services that fail rarely ever affect the underlying operating system on Linux.
4) This might be the most important one. Linux is less susceptible to malware than Windows. Windows is the most popular operating system in the world — therefore, the vast majority of malware, viruses, and so on are designed with Windows in mind. Windows server is no different – it too can run regular Windows programs just as easily, including malware.
Note that just because Linux is less susceptible to malware does not mean that it cannot be affected or infected by malware. We still recommend getting an antivirus solution or asking your support team for help with that if you have a managed server.
Overall, we think Linux is the go-to solution for almost everyone. If your business has unique use cases, such as running some software with Active Directory or software that is exclusively available for Windows. If you need Windows, you’ll know, and you’ll choose it. If you’re not sure, just go with Linux. Here’s a small rundown of the most popular Linux operating system choices offered by most hosting providers.
This is actually the de-facto successor to CentOS after they announced changes in the project back in 2020. If you see software that states being compatible with CentOS 7, it is almost certain to be able to run on AlmaLinux. If your software needs CentOS 8, then it will 100% work on AlmaLinux since it was designed to be binary-compatible with all software made for CentOS 8.
The downside of AlmaLinux (and CentOS) is the lack of an upgrade path. In order to upgrade to the new version, you would need to install the new operating system from scratch – you can’t update and keep all of your files and software in place.
Additionally, AlmaLinux uses a different package manager from Debian and Ubuntu, and programs usually are not compatible between AlmaLinux and the others. Pick this if you have software that can only be run (or runs best) on AlmaLinux or CentOS 7/8. AlmaLinux at this time is only available in one version (8), but that may change in the future.
If a stable site is the decider for you, then this is your best bet. Debian is designed to be as stable and reliable as possible, with it being able to run for years at a time without even needing to restart. Its package manager is the same as the one used by Ubuntu, and many programs are cross-compatible between the two.
A great benefit of Debian is that you can upgrade to the next release version of Debian without having to reinstall your operating system. This is helped by the package manager taking care of upgrading all packages to the latest version. Keep in mind that the more complex your server’s setup is (in terms of third-party software) then the more likely it is that upgrading will break something on your server.
The downside of running such a stable operating system is that most software that comes with Debian is already out-of-date by the time it’s included on Debian. This is to ensure maximum stability, but of course, that means it comes at the cost of features. Debian is also not as popular as Ubuntu, which could make it more difficult to diagnose problems online if you didn’t opt for managed hosting. Try to use Debian 11 as that will be supported for longer.
This is the “default” choice for those that need a reliable operating system that also provides the newest features. While its stability isn’t quite at the level of Debian, you’d need to do specialty tasks in order to reach the limits of Ubuntu. An additional benefit of Ubuntu is its LTS releases, which are supported for 5 years as opposed to Debian’s 1 year of support. This means you’ll continue to receive updates even after new versions of Ubuntu are released.
Some consider Ubuntu to be bloated, including software that users don’t always use, such as the Snap Store. While these features do exist and are not always useful to everyone, they can be disabled – some hosting providers disable them by default to maximize performance.
The community support for Ubuntu is some of the best available for any Linux distribution. It’s the most popular choice among Linux users. To top it all off, Ubuntu can also be upgraded in place without needing to reinstall the operating system. This means that Ubuntu gives you newer software, reliability, good performance, and long-term support with an upgrade path. It’s pretty clear to see why this is the default option if you don’t need specific software to run on a different operating system. Try to use at least Ubuntu 20.04 (or 22.04) as those are newer and will be supported for longer.
With all of this information, you should now be able to choose an operating system knowing that you’ll be getting the support and performance that you expect from your server. As always, additional research is encouraged - you might find more information that would help you make a better-informed decision for your business’ specific use case.
Now that you have a server plan and an operating system chosen to create the best business website, you’ll need to decide on a web server that would suit your needs best. These are the most popular options to choose from:
This is the “default” choice for a web server thanks to its excellent community support as well as great software support through the use of modules. With this, you could run PHP-based websites with minimal setup. Apache also has a more user-friendly configuration file that makes it easier for beginners to set up their own web server. Unfortunately, the downside with the ease of use is the performance, which makes Apache slower compared to other web servers.
This is another large competitor between web servers Nginx is designed with speed and flexibility in mind, performing faster than most web servers. On top of that, Nginx provides a highly-customizable setup with a configuration file that lets you tweak every small detail to get the most performance from your website. The downside of Nginx is that its learning curve is quite high compared to Apache – this however is not an issue if yo use a managed hosting provider, which would be able to set you up with Nginx with no problem.
This is a high-performance web server that outperforms even Nginx in large workloads when hundreds or thousands of visitors reach your website. It’s more efficient with resource usage, all while being easier to use than Nginx.
If you plan on using WordPress as your website’s underlying backend, then the LiteSpeed Cache plugin will help you get even more performance out of this web server. Note that LiteSpeed is paid software – makes sense since they offer superior performance over any other web server software.
For small startups/small businesses that choose unmanaged hosting, we recommend sticking to Apache for its ease of use and relatively low learning curve. There are also plenty of tutorials online that cover how to set up Apache for certain kinds of websites and software.
For medium/larger businesses that need the extra efficiency and power of Nginx, it’s well worth researching how to use Nginx to the fullest, since the benefits are measurable and website speed does in fact affect your rankings on search engine results. If you use a managed provider then this is an obvious choice – the team of experts there will be able to assist you in setting up everything to work as best as it can.
As for LiteSpeed, it is good and does have its use cases, it is important to remember that it is paid software – however, the benefits are measurable and you do get some of the best performance available.
With the web server chosen, now you can look into the kind of content you want to host on your web server, such as a content management system (CMS), an eCommerce platform, or a static website.
Whether you’re planning to run a website for eCommerce to sell products online, an informative website that provides information about your business, or a blog that promotes products and other businesses, you have to have a way to express that content on your website.
This depends on the kind of business that you’re running. Do you have a brick-and-mortar store that does business in person? Then using a regular CMS to post information about your business should be plenty since the website is purely informational.
If you plan on using your website to actually sell products online, then using an eCommerce platform is the way to go since it makes selling your goods online easy to do, with tools that make managing your online business as simple as possible.
Using an eCommerce platform provides your business with a great way to sell to users online. The platform is made to incorporate all aspects of an online storefront into one system, including inventory, order management, point-of-sale, and more, all within the same software. There are several big players in the eCommerce field — let’s go into more detail.
There are several options for an eCommerce platform – some are more complex to set up, while others are made to be as simple as possible. Also, some are free, while others have subscriptions to pay for. These are the ones we think you should consider:
Branded under Adobe Commerce, Magento is a highly-capable eCommerce system that provides a variety of features needed to get an online store up and running, including mobile optimization, instant purchasing, global selling, a webpage builder, and more.
The open-source version is completely free-to-use, however, that does mean that all maintenance, updates, etc. need to be done by you. For this we highly recommend going with a managed hosting provider — they’ll be able to help you stay on top of things and keep your Magento instance maintained properly.
This is not an eCommerce platform on its own, instead, it integrates into WordPress to create an eCommerce experience that builds on top of WordPress’ excellent features and plugin variety. WooCommerce also has its own extensions, with a lot of them being free. WooCommerce is open-source, making it free to use.
There are plugins and themes that cost extra, however, that’s the case for almost any eCommerce platform. The real benefit of this is getting a good-quality eCommerce solution that works with WordPress.
Offering a simple take on the eCommerce platform idea, PrestaShop is open-source and free to use for any size of business. It includes features such as a cart system, inventory tracking, multiple payment methods, and lots more. On top of that, it’s straightforward to set up with makes it great for business owners that are new to eCommerce.
These are just our favorite three options – there are several more out there that exist. You might have heard of Shopify, which is an eCommerce platform that is not self-hosted (you can’t host your own copy of it). We don’t recommend going for them since your online store is stuck with them forever, meaning you’ll have to start over if you ever want to change providers.
With the options we mentioned above, you can always change providers and migrate your store without ever losing your store and information, which we think is key when hosting your own business on the Internet.
Another way of getting your business website on the Internet is by using a CMS, or a Content Management System. There are many to choose from, such as Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and so on. All of these aim to accomplish the same goal, which is to manage and show your content off in an organized and stylish way. Some offer more customization than others, while others give you pre-made templates that make it easier to get started.
The installation/setup can’t be fully explained or decided in this guide since we can’t know for sure what sort of content you need to serve. Note that almost all CMSes require some additional installation, such as a database server (like MySQL or MariaDB) to store all of the information you’re adding to your site.
Luckily, that’s as simple as installing a database server using a package manager, creating a database, and adding the files for the CMS to be served by the web server. There are countless tutorials on how to install almost any CMS on almost any Linux operating system (such as Ubuntu, Debian, or AlmaLinux). However, we can explain a few different pros and cons of the most popular CMSes, which could be enough to tell you which to go for.
With many options out there, we’ll go over the 3 larger CMS platforms that you can set up and start using within an hour. There’s a reason these are the 3 largest – they tick most boxes for people, and they offer the ability to expand their functionality through plugins & extensions.
This is the standard for content management, with WordPress claiming that over 40% of the websites on the Internet run on WordPress. WordPress hosting is a highly-competitive market since there’s such high demand, meaning you’ll also find a large amount of support online for WordPress.
Once it’s installed, it would simply be a matter of adding your content and customizing the CMS to make it look and feel like your business. There are countless different plugins and themes to help make your website look nothing like the default appearance of WordPress while providing lots of new features.
One feature that makes WordPress really great is its selection of plugins that let you build your own website, much like those popular website builder services that lock you in. The catch is that you actually own your website in this case.
Ultimately, this provides you with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) builder experience. You drag and drop elements and build your website to look exactly as you want it to.
This builder makes use of existing themes to create your own website. Divi has a well-designed editor that lets you set up your website to look exactly as you want it to. Note that there’s a lifetime plan available for Divi which lets you pay once and keep Divi forever.
This builder is unique in the way it handles website building. This builder disables and does not make use of WordPress’ theme engine, instead, it is run from the ground up by Oxygen. This is an extensive builder that provides the most features, all with a license that includes an unlimited number of websites. And like Divi, you can pay for a lifetime license and use Oxygen on more than one site, forever.
Elementor is considered the SEO-friendly builder, optimizing its code and making your website as fast as possible in the backend. While this is useful, using a caching plugin such as WP Rocket or a CDN can also help you achieve faster page load speeds.
The big plus with Elementor is that there’s a free version to get you started. It is limiting, but it can at least let you get a feel for how their plugin works.
Website builders really give WordPress an edge over the competing CMSes listed below.
While WordPress might be the most popular CMS in the world, Drupal has been around for longer than WordPress. Drupal has a much smaller market share compared to WordPress, but some features could make it more appealing to those that absolutely need it. Access control and roles allow users to have different permissions within Drupal completely natively with no extra setup required. Custom post types let you set up post types that work for you and don’t fit into the presets that WordPress offers.
If your business needs multiple language support, Drupal has native integration for multi-language support whereas WordPress needs third-party plugins to do so.
Joomla provides all of the most common features of CMSes while also including some nice quality-of-life improvements to make your website that much more personalized. Features that set it apart from other CMSes include more SEO-friendly features, such as setting up meta tags and descriptions. This can be achieved with other CMSes however they depend on third-party plugins.
There are many CMSes to choose from, and in most cases, WordPress will fulfill most businesses’ needs. But to have the best experience, we highly recommend researching what your business specifically would benefit from, as well as the budget you have to invest in good plugins and a high-quality theme and design.
Odoo gets its own section because of how unique it is. This software can perform the tasks of a CMS, an eCommerce store, or both at the same time. Odoo’s main selling point is its expandable modules. With these modules, you can add a website builder module to make a nice website, a CRM module, a POS (point-of-sale) module to make purchases, an inventory module, and so many others as well.
This makes Odoo one of the most versatile software platforms out there for businesses, which is why its popularity has grown significantly over the years.
If you’re using software or a CMS for your website that supports theming, then choosing a good theme is important in making your visitor experience a good one.
Choose a theme that has the following:
The features you are looking for. Do you want a carousel on your home page? Do you want a sidebar menu? It’s important to know what you’re looking for when considering theme options.
A responsive design. This is absolutely a MUST nowadays – the vast majority of all web browsing is done using a smartphone. If your website doesn’t look right on a phone, then you are discouraging visitors from staying on your website.
A FAST theme. Web page speed is absolutely a huge factor in not only your visitor’s experience and bounce rate (how quickly they decide to leave your website), but also your search engine ranking is heavily affected by website speed, especially on mobile devices.
An SEO-friendly theme. Choosing a theme that is poorly coded will hurt your performance on search engine results, leading to fewer visitors. Pick a theme that points out good SEO optimization.
A readable font. Fancy fonts might look nice, but ultimately your website’s job is to inform your visitors and make sales if it’s an eCommerce website. If your visitors are struggling to read your content, they’ll be tempted to look elsewhere.
Aesthetically pleasant design. In saying that, you definitely don’t want an ugly-looking website. In fact, websites that look unsafe usually are. If you do not invest your time into user experience and aesthetic design, you give a pretty poor first impression. Various research studies have found that how a website looks is the very first factor your visitors look for in finding your website trustworthy.
Compatible on multiple browsers. You should at least target compatibility with Google Chrome and Safari since those are the two most popular web browsers on mobile devices. Support with other browsers (such as Firefox) is also great if you can get it.
Supports the plugins you want. In case you plan on using plugins, some CMSes and their plugins might not be compatible with every theme you find. Make sure to pick a theme that works with the plugins you need.
With these suggestions fulfilled, you’ll have a theme that you can use for years to come.
Now it’s time to build out your website’s pages and make your website look and feel unique to your business.
These two tips apply no matter the kind of page you are working on:
Make sure to place CTA (call-to-action) buttons in strategic places – places that your visitor’s eyes won’t have to search for. Make it as obvious as possible where they can learn more, purchase something, etc.
Also, leave out any fluff or useless content – make sure that each word, each image, and each link will benefit the user in some way. Quality over quantity applies here. You want to inform and sell the user something, not waste their time.
Having a good homepage is key to a high-quality website. Around half of a website’s visits are to the homepage. This means that you need a clear, and more importantly short message to grab your visitor’s attention.
This is the RoseHosting homepage – straight and to-the-point. It’s important to tell the visitor what your business is about and give them a way to explore and learn more as soon as they reach your website.
The longer your visitors stay on your website, the better it is for your website’s rankings. The better the visitor’s experience was, the more likely it is that they’ll want to come back.
We think that approaching sales pages from a straightforward and simple angle is best for giving off a good impression to visitors.
People don’t want to have to contact someone to see the price for a product or a service. It’s best to be upfront with your pricing, as it will quickly get rid of any visitors that were never going to be clients to begin with, saving you time and stress.
Keep it simple, but don’t hide information. If you have extra information, you can place it further down the page, ordered from most relevant to least relevant. You can also create new pages and link to them from your product pages if a topic needs a detailed explanation.
Make your business stand out. When someone visits your product page, they are already past the front door. Now is when you mention what makes your product or service better than the competition – sell your product as best as you can. You can make it the heading section of the page even.
Answer your visitor’s potential questions. If you’ve been asked questions about your products or services before, make sure to list the questions as well as answers somewhere on the product/service page.
With these notes, you’ll make your visitors feel better in choosing your business over competing options.
You need your checkout process to be as simple as possible. Any sort of friction or obstacles in the way will make your visitors want to go with competitors that make it easier than you do.
Have more than one way to reach the checkout process. Have an option to check out on your product/service page, in your cart (if you have a cart system), as well as anywhere else that makes sense to sell a product or service.
Have as few steps as possible. Ask for the information you need, payment info, and that should be it. The fewer steps there are between your visitor and a sale, the better. Make it clear how far along they are in the checkout if you have more than one step.
Make it mobile-friendly. Visitors coming from their phones shouldn’t have to switch to a computer to make a purchase.
Have the ability to checkout without signing up if possible. Signing up is a huge obstacle in making sales. They have to leave your product page, sign up, and come back to it, which can discourage them from even attempting to purchase.
Re-iterate what makes your product or service the best. The visitor could still change their mind. Make sure they feel like they’re making the right decision by going with you.
Focus on the checkout. Limit ways that they can access other pages by removing any unnecessary links if you can.
Be straightforward. If your item is in stock or out of stock, make sure they know that. Do your best to communicate to the client what they should expect when they purchase your product.
With this, you’ll make your checkout experience a pleasant one.
These are what give your website a larger structure and order – they describe what pages are part of a bigger theme. If you have an eCommerce website, for example, you could categorize the various products/services that you sell. If you have a blog, you could categorize the types of posts you regularly make.
It keeps your website organized, helps search engines understand what topics your pages are related to, and gives your visitors a sense of hierarchy on your business website.
We recommend implementing categories wherever possible – it can help your website look and feel more complete.
You have your content pages, your categories, checkout pages (if applicable), and your homepage. But, you still need additional pages to cover every aspect of your business.
These pages on their own don’t amount to much, but just like individual rides at a park, when you combine all these pages together, you get something which every visitor is familiar with, which in your cases is a website with all the familiar favorites.
You need these pages to make your website complete:
A “contact us” page. You need your visitors to be able to reach out if they have any questions that are not answered on your website. It could be the last push they need to make a purchase or to visit your location.
An “about us” page. The more information you can get out there about your business, the better visitors will feel about your business. They won’t be left asking questions about credibility, legitimacy, etc.
Pages for policies, terms of service, etc. whenever needed. This lets any interested visitor read and see what your policies are, better informing them. You can also set rules for your clients with your terms of service to ensure your business is run as you prefer.
Any other pages that you feel need to exist. This is up to you of course.
With these pages, your website will feel fully-fledged and properly done.
Absolutely! A blog can help your website out in more ways than one. Here’s what makes adding a blog to your business website highly recommended:
You can share new information about your business. Maybe you have special offers or an event you want to spread the word about, or you’re making a change to your business (business hours, new location, etc.)
You can monetize your blog. Placing ads on the blog can lead to some additional income on the side after some time passes and users start to visit your blog more frequently.
Your brand feels more approachable. When visitors see blog posts, it’s your opportunity to write in a friendly manner. This can help make your visitors feel like your business is one that they can reach out to talk to once they want to purchase something (either online or in-person).
A blog improves your website ranking. When you add new content to your website, it improves your website’s relevance on search engines. Additionally, you can add links to product pages, contact information, etc., and have these seen by new visitors that happened to come across your new blog post instead of your website.
You can market your products and services. Announcing new products or services through your blog is a good way to make people aware of your new products and services in a passive manner, where they read about it. It also dates your products, meaning they’ll know that the product/service is new.
We could go on, but we think that these are more than enough reasons to prove why having a blog can be the key to having the best business website in your industry.
While having a business website with all of the optimizations we mentioned earlier is nice, what you really need to achieve the best business website is good SEO or Search Engine Optimization. This means that to make your SEO stand head and shoulders above the competition you should be making technical and content improvements to your website to ensure that search engines will approve of your website’s features, speed, and security and know how to categorize each page in their search results.
When you create pages for your website, it’s important to know what you want that page to rank for on search engines ahead of time. That way you don’t have to go back and rewrite the content.
Choose a keyword that best describes your page’s purpose in as few words as possible. Once you’ve done that, when you write the content for your page, ensure that you place that keyword throughout the page’s content.
Additionally, make sure to use that keyword in the H1 tag (the main header of your web page), the title of the web page, as well as in any SEO tools (if you’re using a CMS or software that supports an SEO tool).
The goal is to make the search engines understand what that page is about as clearly as possible.
While this varies from software to CMS, it is key to remove unnecessary code and extensions from your website.
Whether this is by using a more efficient theme created with less code, or using fewer plugins, reducing the amount of code on your website will help in more than one way.
Your visitors will be able to load your website faster. That’s absolutely fantastic at improving their stay duration.
Search engines will like your website more. Faster websites are preferred by search engines, especially lightweight websites.
Of course, you obviously should keep the plugins that you actually need, such as an eCommerce plugin or a payment plugin.
Performing high-quality SEO can take a lot of time and effort – this is especially true with speed improvements.
This heavily ties into the previous point – using a lightweight theme or builder, along with fewer plugins will dramatically help speed up your website.
Using WebP format images (preferred by search engines) also helps speed up your business website.
We also recommend using a CDN (content delivery network) if possible to even further boost speeds.
You can use Google’s excellent PageSpeed tool to see how your website performs – you should aim for a score of at least 90 for both mobile and desktop visits.
We follow all of the best practices, and you can see that the effects really do pay off on the RoseHosting website:
And the next image is our desktop version:
Search engines heavily prefer faster websites over slower ones.
In a nutshell, search engines will heavily penalize your website if it is not responsive (adjusts to many different resolutions).
Most of the Internet’s traffic is done on a smartphone, that includes search engine searches and website visits.
To best improve your chances at great SEO, having a responsive website design or theme is a must-have.
These files are critical to telling the search engine bots what pages you do and don’t want indexed by their indexing bots from your business website.
The robots.txt lets you set rules for how you want search engine indexers to treat your website and the paths that it finds on your web pages.
You can exclude certain paths, folders, or specific web pages even, such as the cart or checkout section of your website if there is one.
You can check out Google’s official documentation on robots.txt if you want to see how to set up robots.txt specifically for Google.
Other search engines use their own format for robots.txt – you can simply add their rules into that file as well, and they will all look at their own section.
A sitemap.xml file on the other hand is like a list of all of the web pages that exist on your business website.
Sitemaps give search engines a hint as to what pages exist, giving them a head-start on indexing all of your pages sooner.
You can make one yourself using an online generator, or you can use a plugin if one exists for your software or CMS.
We recommend going the plugin route if possible, as it will automatically take care of updating the sitemap for you as your site changes.
Structured data is another tool that businesses can use to target search engines even better about their products and services.
This is a specially formatted code you place on your web page that lets you tell search engines what product or service is on that specific web page.
Depending on your website’s software, you might be able to use a plugin to automatically add this information about your products on each product page.
By using structured data on an online store, you can make your products show up in the shopping section of various search engines, further boosting your exposure to potential clients.
While this might not help your SEO directly, it will help guide you in the direction you need to go in order to have the best business website.
Analytics (such as the ones offered by Google and Microsoft) help give you an insight into the visitors that go to your business’ website. Where they are from, how long they stay, what pages they visit, and so on.
With this, you’ll be able to see the pages that are most popular, and overall have a better understanding of how popular your business is.
If you want to avoid using third-party analytics, you can also install your own analytics by using open-source analytics software such as Matomo. This will give you control over your visitor data and stay separate from any large corporation.
A combination of both third-party analytics and self-hosted analytics is best if you can manage such a setup.
Webmaster tools (such as Google’s Search Console) can give you an inside look at your website’s technical setup and help give you insights on what you can improve. Detecting slow load times, large images, and broken links are just a few of the ways that they can help.
Finally, goal tracking enables you to set goals for your website and find out when a visitor reaches those goals that you set. You can then see the path they took to reach that goal and optimize your website to make more visitors achieve that goal.
This could be done by adding more links to take users to a page that is highly optimized to make sales, get them in touch with you, or visit your physical location.
In today’s age of social media, having social media presence can do wonders for spreading the word about your business and its great products or services.
Register your profiles on social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook if you can.
Which social networks you use also depends on the kind of business you are running. If you are trying to promote products or services to children or teenagers, targeting social networks that are primarily used by younger audiences is better, such as TikTok and Instagram.
Older audiences might use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, where you can target to them more effectively.
Ultimately, having some sort of presence is miles better than not having any.
Social media can also be an additional method of creating links to your website, making new ways for organic traffic to reach your business’ website.
Interlinking means linking to your social media accounts, sites that review your business, as well as any relevant websites from your business website.
Also, linking to any other relevant page on your website from an existing page is really great for SEO.
This improves the amount of time a visitor spends on your website, which improves your search ranking. You also reduce your bounce rate in the process.
Additionally, this helps search engines crawl through your website’s pages in a more natural manner, giving the search engine a better understanding of how your pages link together.
Over time, some other websites will link back to your website. Maybe for a product page that has a sale, maybe a blog post, etc. This will also help improve your ranking – other websites are linking to yours for a specific keyword.
There’s more than one search engine out there – Bing, DuckDuckGo, Brave Search, Ecosia, Yahoo – the list goes on.
You could also research what SEO tricks work best for each search engine – just note that the ultimate decider for your search engine ranking is the quality of your content.
If your business website has lots of quality content, it will rank better as time passes and it gains credibility.
Creating the best business website unfortunately takes time – you won’t achieve great search engine results overnight, even by following best practices.
Keeping a good tempo of new content and links will help grow your website’s reputation and credibility over time. Search engines reward effort, so it will take effort to be noticed.
Tests, tests, and more tests.
Click on links, use different devices, try slower connections, use online tools – leave nothing to chance.
If anything will affect your reputation, it’s something that’s affecting your business website’s visitor experience.
Look for alt tags, and titles in images, make sure images are sized and compressed correctly.
We recommend setting up a staging website on a subdomain (something like staging.yourbusiness.com) that is password-protected and is ignored using robots.txt – that way you can make changes and test your website’s appearance without anyone seeing.
If you’re using managed hosting, you can simply ask their support team to set up a staging website for you that’s the same as your live website, and they’ll happily help you out.
Maintenance is also important – updating plugins if you have any, updating your web server, your server’s packages, blocking any malicious traffic if you’re not using a CDN... there’s lots to do.
We recommend looking at how your website is doing at least once a week. You can also look at any search engine trends/news and see how they could affect your business website’s rankings. You might need to account for some change.
This is again why we recommend going with a managed hosting provider - here are lots to look after that can take up a lot of your valuable time that could be spent running your business.
A CDN (or a Content Delivery Network) provides you with the ability to have a copy of your website made on many different servers run by their network around the world. No matter how far. This lets visitors from anywhere on the Internet access a copy of the website that is much closer to them, which drastically speeds up the performance of your website. This improves your search engine rankings, your visitor’s website experience, as well as their impression of your business. A business with a slow website makes it look less professional than one that is lightning-quick and loads pages instantly.
Realistically, if your use case allows a CDN, then you should absolutely use a CDN. This not only gives you better performance for all of your visitors, but it also protects you from malicious visitors that try to bring your website down with DDOS attacks and vulnerabilities. When the malicious visitors try to attack your website, they would really be attacking your website’s copy on the CDN and not your actual server. Those systems are state-of-the-art and will stop those attacks from ever making your website unreachable.
You will need to make sure to exclude any dynamically loaded information, such as your cart/checkout so that someone else’s cart or checkout does not get cached and shown to other visitors.
The answer is almost always YES, you need an SSL certificate for your website. SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that allows for secure connections between computers on a network. This connection is verified using a certificate, which is basically a file that contains a code that proves that your web server and website are who they say they are.
This allows the connection between your server and the visitor to be encrypted, which improves security and prevents other servers and computers in between your website and the visitor from listening in on the connection and the data transferred.
You need an SSL certificate because Google has mentioned in the past that they acknowledge and prefer websites that use secure connections over ones that use unencrypted and insecure connections. This means that using an SSL certificate will make your ranking better than if you were to avoid setting up SSL on your website.
Setting up an SSL certificate is as simple as installing “certbot” and installing a free Let’s Encrypt certificate. We have several guides on how to install Let’s Encrypt certificates on your server (such as installing Let’s Encrypt on Ubuntu 20.04 with Apache), or if you use a managed hosting provider you can just let them know and they’ll set it up for you.
With everything in mind now, we think you should have the majority of your questions answered about what you’ll need to create a website for your business. You should now be able to pick out the kind of hosting you need, the underlying software to use, and the kind of website you want to run for your business.