So you’ve decided to start a blog with the hopes of turning it into some extra side hustle income, or even turn it into your main source of income. Well, if you plan on making money from your blog, it’s time to start treating your blog like a small business.
But when it’s time to start designing the website for your blog, it’s important to understand how your design and layout support your goals as a blogger. It’s also important to know how a small business website differs from a blog.
See, there are specific features that most blog designs have. Most times those differ from the design of a small business website that just so happens to have a blog section. It can be confusing to understand the difference between the two. For the purpose of this article,, I’m going to explain how the design for a blogger’s website differs from the design for a small business owner’s website.
Blog Design vs. Small Business Design: Which One Suits Your Website
1. Consider Your Website’s Goals
A successful money-making blog relies on website traffic and page views, but a small business website doesn’t. A small business site relies on selling products and services.
Blog Site: The whole point of blogging is to get lots of visitors to read lots of blog posts. Keep those readers clicking on your internal links to related posts. The more website traffic you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to generate revenue from affiliate marketing, ad revenue and sponsored posts.
Small Business Site: The whole point of a small business website is to sell your products and services to your ideal client. If you run an online business, you’re definitely going to care about bringing traffic to your website, but you don’t have to rely only on website traffic to generate income. Instead, your services and products generate the bulk of your income.
What they have in common: Both types of websites need people to actually visit them so you can get your name and brand out there. No visitors? No opportunities to make money.
2. Consider Your Homepage Layout
One of the biggest differences between a blog’s website design and a small business’s website design is the homepage layout.
Blog Site: Your blog’s homepage should be chock full of blog posts for visitors to read. Make your posts obvious to find. Including several blog posts on your homepage gives your visitors a better idea of what kinds of content to expect from you. It also helps keep visitors on your page longer, while they’re scrolling through your page and browsing your content. This helps you analyze how well your blog posts are performing.
You can also include a right sidebar on your homepage, which is not a standard feature on a small business website. Here’s a post on how to use your blog sidebar as a marketing tool.
Small Business Website: Your website’s homepage should act a mini sales page. It can be used as the first step that your visitors take to enter your sales funnel. It should introduce your business to your visitors so they know what you offer.
You might want to invite your visitors to learn more about your services by including a button that leads to your services page or a link to book a free consultation with you. Here’s a list of my suggestions for the features every small business website should include on their homepage.
What they have in common: Both types of websites can benefit from using email marketing to reach out directly to people who want to get more value from you. Make sure you have an email opt-in form on your homepage so visitors can sign up for a freebie in exchange for their email address.
3. Consider Your Main Menu
Your website’s main menu, or navigation bar, also differs depending on if your website is for a blog or a small business.
Blog Site: You want to use your navigation bar to draw attention to the variety of content and posts you have to offer. For example, If you have a lifestyle blog that focuses on travel, beauty and fashion, your menu would look something like this:
Or if you focus on few topics, your menu tabs could include:
If you start selling custom merchandise, you would definitely want to add a Shop tab to your menu.
Small Business Site: Your main menu can be pretty straight forward. The three typical pages (home, about, contact) would apply to you. Make sure you include a menu tab that leads to your services (consider calling it “Work With Me”) or shop.
What they have in common: If you decide to generate affiliate income by recommending products and services to your visitors, you could include a Resources tab to your menu.
4. Consider Your Photos
A subtle difference between a blog website and a small business website is how photos and images are used. Blogs tend to use way more images than the average small business website.
Blog Site: Each blog post usually includes a featured image. It’s eye-catching and it helps illustrate the topic of the blog post. When you have a gallery of blog posts displayed on a page (like your homepage, for example), all of a sudden you have a really cool visual grid to entice visitors to stay on your page.
This all ties back to your metrics and analytics. You want readers to stay on a page for a long time, not just view multiple pages. Using photos and other images on your blog creates a little hack that makes people keep reading and scrolling on your pages.
Think of the last time you read a blog post for how to cook a certain food dish. I can guarantee that post included photos of every single step in the process of making that dish. Well, those photos aren’t just for educational purposes. They also keep you looking at the page for a long period of time.
Small Business Site: You don’t need as many photos on your site compared to a blog site. At the very least, you should have a photo of yourself or your team, and graphics or images that help break up large blocks of text. It varies from business model to business model, but you don’t have to rely on images as much as a blog does.
What they have in common: Including images on your website helps break up your text and illustrate your main points. Using images will also improve your SEO (search engine optimization). You can use alt-text to optimize your images with relevant keywords.
5. Consider Ad Space
Many bloggers want to generate income from placing ads on their site. Small businesses don’t rely on this website feature as much, because their revenue comes from making sales and booking clients.
Blog Site: You have to consider how including ad space will affect your layout. Typically, ads will end up looking like other photos on your pages. However, you can’t always control the ad designs or the size of the ads. They may end up pulling focus from your content. You could even increase your bounce rate if your visitors feel like they are being bombarded with ads and then just leave your site altogether.
Small Business Site: If you are an affiliate member for any services you use to run your business, you might consider adding a few ad banners to your sidebar or a Resources page. Otherwise, I’d suggest steering clear of using ads on your site, because they will pull focus from the products services you provide.
Whether you’re a blogger who’s in it for the money or for the love, you want to make sure that your users are having a cohesive and rewarding experience when they use your site. Once you have a clear understanding of that, you’ll be able to create a design for your website that makes sense and meets your marketing goals.
When you hire a designer to create a website for your small business, the most obvious benefit you get is not having to worry about figuring out all of the tech on your own.
But there’s actually a bigger, less obvious benefit to working with a web designer.
When you hire a web designer who has experience working with small business owners, you’re working with someone who understands the role that your website plays in your overall marketing strategy.
And now you’re getting way more value out of your design project.
I specialize in designing and developing websites for small business owners, especially online entrepreneurs, and there are standard elements that are essential for their websites right out of the box.
So keep reading if you’re a small business owner or online entrepreneur who is looking to launch a new website (or upgrade the one you already have). Your web designer should ask you for all of the information I’m about to discuss, and they’ll be super impressed if you come to the project prepared to give it to them.
6 Things Your Web Designer Needs Before Your Next Project
1. A Strong Understanding of Your Business
The more your web designer knows about your business, the better they will understand how to build you the best website to market it.
All websites are not created equal.
If your business is brand new, it’ll have different components than a website for a business that’s been around for years.
Your web designer will need to know the answers to questions like these:
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have a physical location or are you online-only?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What services and products do you offer?
- Will you be selling anything on your website?
- Do you plan on adding new content regularly?
Simple questions like these will affect how your web designer creates your page layouts, and which pages will be featured on your main menu.
For example, if you do one-on-one client work, your website would need different pages and features than it would if you sell handmade jewelry.
Or, if you market your business with weekly podcast episodes, your designer might make different choices than they would if you publish blog posts once a month.
You may be taking these factors for granted, or they may not occur to you at all.
A good web designer can process all of the information you give them and help you make the most logical choices for your website.
And those choices can make a huge difference in how well your website works as a marketing tool for your business.
2. The Most Important Things You Want People to Do on Your Website
Getting people to take action on your website is a big part of converting your visitors into customers. You need to identify what actions you want people to take so your web designer can make it easy for your visitors to do them.
If you’re not sure what you want your visitors to do on your site, that’s okay. It’s not always that obvious when you’re just starting out
Here are some examples of important actions your website visitors can take:
- Find out about your business in general
- Sign up for your email list
- Book a free consultation
- Browse your services and pricing
- Pay for your services
- Buy your products
- Read your blog
- Watch your videos
- Enroll in your course
- Get answers to frequently asked questions
- Contact you directly
Pick three of the most important actions you want visitors to take. Then your web designer will be able to make better design choices for your website. You’ll want to draw attention to those items so your visitors are more likely to take action.
On the flip side, you don’t want to draw attention to something on your website that isn’t ready yet.
For example, if you want to add a Resources page with affiliate links, but you aren’t a member of any affiliate programs and you don’t have anything to recommend, I’d tell you not to include a Resources page in your main menu. Why draw attention to something if there is no pay off when your visitors get there?
3. A Signed Contract and Deposit
Most web designers won’t even start the development phase of a project until your deposit clears, so be prepared to pay something up front.
Just like you, a web designer is a small business owner who gets paid to provide services. If you’re a service provider, you can appreciate the importance of securing payment and protecting yourself from unforeseen issues like clients who ghost you halfway through the project.
4. Your Website Content
Gathering content is the first phase of any design project, and it’s the part of the project where the client has the most homework and responsibility. The more you can prepare in the beginning, the more smoothly your project will run.
Giving your website content to your web designer as soon as possible is crucial. Missing content can delay your whole project. If you don’t have anything to give your designer, they can’t fully design your website.
Here are some standard content items your web designer will need from you:
- Visual branding elements (logo, colors, fonts, etc.)
- Graphics, like a homepage banner
- Photos (preferably of you, but stock photos can also be considered)
- Your business’s contact info
- A list of your services/products
- Your social media links
- Account info for your web hosting & email service provider
Most web designers can work with you to gather a lot of this content. When I work with my clients [insert link], I offer services for branding design and email set-up. It takes the pressure off of my clients to gather all of that info on their own.
If your web designer doesn’t offer additional services, they should have a network of graphic designers and photographers that they can refer you to.
5. Your Website Copy
Submitting copy to your web designer is just as important as giving them your other content. Most web designers are not copywriters, so it’s not technically their job to fill in your headlines, product descriptions or even the snappy words you use on your “Learn More” buttons.
Of course, your web designer isn’t going to delay your project so you can give them an alternative to the “Sign up for my newsletter” prompt, but they’ll secretly love it if you did.
The copy you really need to focus on is what goes on your homepage, your about page and your email opt-in offer. That’s where you’ll be marketing your business to your website visitors so you can warm them up new leads.
Your web designer uses your website copy to create layouts that take your visitors through a journey on your website that should lead to taking action. So get that copy written and ready to deliver.
6. Your Email Opt-In
Your email opt-in offer is the main thing that transforms your website from a static info site into a marketing tool that works 24/7.
Once you’ve created your email opt-in offer, your web designer can set up the tech to connect your website to your email service provider (like Mailchimp or ConvertKit*). Then you’re ready to start building your email list from the moment your website goes live.
It’s possible to launch your website without an email opt-in offer, but why would you? That’s just going to delay any opportunity you have to generate warm leads and convert your visitors into potential customers.
Working with a web designer isn’t just about paying someone to set up your website for you. It’s an investment in your business and your ability to create a strategic marketing tool. If you’re a new entrepreneur, your web designer can also become a valuable resource for information and guidance.
*This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission from your purchase.
As a small business owner, your website is an important marketing tool. Your website should be designed to grab people’s attention and invite them to start a “customer journey”. Most of your website visitors won’t stay on your website for more than a few seconds, so making a clear impression right away is going to make a huge difference.
Your homepage is where you can get straight to the point and introduce your business. No matter what business you’re in, your homepage should include a few key features in its design to make sure you’re covering all of your marketing hot topics.
Don’t get hung up on all of the cool graphics, images and icons you include in your homepage design. As long as you have the five features I’m about to discuss below, you will be in a great position to market your business.
5 Features You Need on Your Small Business Homepage
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to list these five features in order of where they should be placed on your homepage, and not how important they are.
1. A Picture of You
One of the best ways you can connect with your visitors right away is by adding a picture of yourself on your homepage. That’s how they will get to know the face behind the business. It’s a little marketing trick that draws people in so they can feel like they know you.
Once your visitors see you and can look you in the eye, they are more likely to trust you. If you’re trying to sell something, you need to build that trust.
Your picture should sit with a bit of copy so it’s not just floating around on your homepage without any purpose. That’s where your tagline comes in (more on that later).
Place your image right at the top of your homepage. There are lots of creative modules and elements you can use for the design. Canva has a lot of free templates you can use to create homepage banners where you can layer images and text.
2. A Tagline
Some websites are designed to include a tagline near the logo, so it appears on every page. If your website isn’t designed that way, you definitely need to add a tagline.
Think of your tagline as your slogan. It explains what you do in a few words or a short sentence. You also want to identify who you serve if you’re targeting a specific type of customer. Keep it simple. Describe what you do and who you serve. Here are some basic examples:
- Helping New Moms Find a Time-Saving Self-Care Routine
- Crafting Artisanal Coffee & Vegan Baked Goods
- Pampering Busy Hands One Manicure at a Time
In the previous section, I mentioned including a picture of yourself at the top of your homepage. You can add your tagline in the same space as your image so visitors can associate who you are with what you do.
3. An Email Sign-Up Form
For the purposes of online marketing, the most important thing your website can do is grow your email list. You want to stay in touch with people who visit your website so you can market directly to them later on via email.
Your email sign-up form should be obvious to find. Don’t be shy about including it on your homepage. You want to place it “above the fold” on your homepage, which means it should be seen before someone ever needs to scroll down on their screen.
When I’m building a website for one of my clients, I like to use a horizontal banner that runs across the screen. Combining your email sign-up form with one of the accent colors in your branding palette draws attention directly to that part of your website.
Using a banner with your form also gives you space to include some snappy marketing copy. This will show your visitors what’s in it for them when they sign up for your email list.
You may be wondering if a pop-up can replace an actual sign-up form on your homepage. The answer is NO. Absolutely 100% no.
If someone closes that pop-up, you don’t want to lose an opportunity to get them to sign up in the future. Don’t worry about coming off as too “salesy” or too pushy. Promoting your email opt-in on your homepage is the very least you can do. Here are a few other suggestions for promoting your email list on your website.
4. A Mini or Modified Version of a Sales Page
At this point, your homepage has all of the necessary features for the “above the fold” area of your layout. But your visitors need to see a little bit more once they scroll past that.
In this area of your home page, you can add some copy that dives a little deeper into what your business has to offer. This is where you can position yourself as an expert in your niche.
This section of your homepage is where you can let your brand’s personality really shine. Use this space to show off your brand’s voice. Speak directly to your ideal client here.
You don’t need to write tons of copy here; just enough to keep visitors scrolling a bit more.
Not sure what to talk about? Here are some suggestions:
- Show your potential client that you understand their needs and what they’re looking for
- Description of how you can help
- Point out your signature services or products
Flesh out your ideas with H2 size headers and a few lines of paragraph text.
5. A Call To Action
Having a call to action invites your visitors to do more than just read your website and then leave altogether. The action you want them to take depends on the type of business you have.
A typical call to action is usually designed as a button that sends your visitor to another part of your website. Here are some examples of CTA buttons you can include:
- Learn More About Your Services
- Book a Consultation
- Watch Your YouTube Channel
- View Your Portfolio
- Read Your Featured Blog Posts
Be careful not to include too many calls to action. When you give your visitors too many choices, they may get overwhelmed and abandon your site.
At the very least, your call to action could be inviting your visitors to sign up for your mailing list. If your homepage has enough content to keep your visitors scrolling for a few swipes, you could certainly add another email opt-in banner above your footer.
When your homepage delivers a clear message about your business and how it can serve your target audience, it’s already on its way to supporting your marketing goals. When you add an email opt-in and a call to action for visitors to do something else on your site, you’re making the most out of your homepage.
As small business owners, we are living in a pretty cool DIY era. There is so much we can accomplish with the click of a mouse and the swipe of a smartphone screen. When it comes to running a small business online, we have so many options for disruptive technology that lets us cut out the middleman. Even our small business websites can be created with simple drag-and-drop solutions.
But I gotta tell ya, one of the best things you can do as a small business owner is hire a professional to build your website.
Why’s that, you ask?
Well, simply put, most small business owners would rather be running their business instead of learning how to design and build their website.
Am I right?
Here’a thought experiment for you:
Think about the services and products you provide to your clients.
How much time did it take you to study your craft? Think of the expertise you’ve obtained. Think of your ability to anticipate your clients’ needs. What skills have you learned that your clients don’t even know exist, and how you can solve your clients’ problems simply by sharing what you know?
Now, what if your client is thinking, “Oh, I’ll just figure all of that out on my own and I’m sure I’ll see the results I’m looking for.”
What would you say to that?
Maybe, “Sure, you could do that, but if you work with me, I’ll get you the results you’re looking for without all of the extra time and effort. I’m in the business of helping people just like you.”
Well, that’s exactly what I want to say to every small business owner who wants to build their own website.
Yes, you can do it, but if we work together, I can help you take your project to the next level. A level above something that is beautifully dragged and dropped.
5 Ways My Web Design Business Can Help Your Small Business
1. Taking Out the Guesswork & Guiding You Through the Process
The biggest value my web design business can give you is peace of mind.
You’ll know that your website is built to do all of the things you need it to do, without you having to learn how to do it yourself.
At face value, a small business website is pretty simple.
You’ve got some tech that literally gives you a homepage to send people to. You’ve got a few pages that show off your services and products. You may even have some automated booking and payment functions.
What could be so complicated about all of that?
Well, as the old saying goes: The devil is in the details.
When we work together, I’ll handle all of those devilish little details for you.
There are dozens and dozens of options to choose from for all aspects of your website. Quite honestly, it can be overwhelming and intimidating when you start to do your research.
All of a sudden you’ve found yourself at the bottom of a rabbit hole after comparing your options for hours, and you’ve got a wicked case of “analysis paralysis”.
But I’ve already done the research.
You don’t have to worry about which web hosting to choose or which WordPress theme to use. You won’t have to worry about sorting through plugins or how you’re going to get your website to automatically send your freebie when someone signs up for your email list.
That’s what I’m here for. It’s my job to have specific knowledge about how your website should operate. Even if you throw me a massive curve ball, I’ll know where to go to find the solution.
And we’ll check in regularly throughout the entire process so we’re both clear on what’s happening. If we hit a roadblock, I’ll take the wheel and get us past the obstacle.
Imagine how relieved you’ll feel when you don’t have to figure out all of that on your own.
2. Building a Website That is Your Best Marketing Tool
Basically, your website needs to say, “Hey there, prospective client, you’ve come to the right place! Take my hand and I’ll guide you exactly where you need to go to become my next dream client.”
Your website’s goal is to make everything as simple as possible for your visitors.
You don’t want to confuse them with too many choices. Instead, you want to create a specific journey for them.
And that’s how I can help your small business.
When I design your website, I’ll keep that customer journey in mind. Every web page serves a purpose.
I can always tell when a website wasn’t built with any marketing strategy in mind. The pages have arbitrary layouts and are missing a strong invitation for the visitor to take any kind of action at all.
When we work together, the end goal will always be client conversion, from the overall layout to the specific placement of each button and title.
3. Designing a Visual Brand That Tells Your Story
The narrative surrounding your small business is just as important as what you’re selling. It’s a story you craft, and it should be inspired by something.
That story is your brand identity.
Your website should tell that story with visual branding elements. Everything from your logo to the colors and fonts you use, and your photos or graphics should all illustrate your story.
Another way that my web design business can help your small business is by designing a visual brand that is cohesive and unique.
Your visual brand needs a few elements that you can use everywhere from your website to your social media profiles and stationery.
My approach to branding is intuitive.
It’s almost like creating subliminal messages created specifically for your target audience.
I’ll get to know your personal style and how that connects to the story you’re telling, and then translate that into the elements that you will find on your website.
Then I’ll present you with few choices and you can give me feedback on what you like and what you don’t. It’s a lot like working with a clothing stylist.
When we work together on your branding, my goal is to have you say, “I love the way this looks! You totally get me. How did you do that?”
And beyond that, my goal is to have your website visitors say, “Oh yes, I see myself in this business. They totally get me.”
4. Creating Website Copy That Speaks Directly to Your Audience
Website copy is the secret ingredient to building a successful small business website that supports your ability to snag clients and make sales.
As it turns out, what you say on your website is just as important as how your website is designed and how it operates.
Your website copy should speak to your target audience using language that they relate to. When they read it, your audience should feel like you’re in their head.
But a lot of small business owners get stuck trying to write their own website copy.
Let me tell you, it sure did trip me up before I started studying writing techniques and using exercises to help me get my message across.
So that’s why I offer a copywriting service to my web design clients.
I’ve got a system in place to help you speak to your audience in your own authentic voice. It’s a system designed to connect you with your audience and position you as the business that they want to work with.
And once you have all of your copy in hand, your whole project is more likely to run on schedule. No more delays because of writer’s block!
5. Providing Website Solutions as Your Business Grows in the Future
Just because one of our project comes to an end, that doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye forever.
Now that you’re running a growing business, you’ll have even less time to devote to your website.
You can hire me to help you maintain your website on a regular basis or update your content when you have something new to share.
As your small business grows and you start setting new goals, your website will need to support that, too. We can always work together to add more automated tasks, courses or an online store.
It would be my pleasure to keep providing you with website solutions for your business for years to come.
This post contains affiliate links and I may make a commission from your purchase.
When it comes to promoting your small business online, writing blog posts should play a large roll in your marketing mix. Each blog post is an opportunity for you to answer common questions your target audience may have, which is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your niche.
So if someone from your target audience finds one of your blog posts in their search results, that particular post may be the only page they visit. It’s up to you to make a clear first impression and let them know what you have to offer.
And your blog sidebar is the place where you make that first impression.
I bet you’re thinking, “But wait, isn’t my homepage supposed to do that? Can’t they just click on my About page to find out everything they need to know?”
The answer is: Not always.
See, for the purpose of this post, I’m talking about the experience you want to create for people who land on your website by clicking on a blog post.
How often do you read a blog post that you find on Pinterest or via Google search and then actually hang around and surf through the rest of the site?
You can’t guarantee that someone is going to stay on your website long enough to move from page to page.
So do yourself a favor and create a blog sidebar that acts as a tool to market your business for you. After you’ve set it up with the most essential widgets, it will operate on autopilot next to all of your blog posts.
How to Use Your Blog Sidebar as a Marketing Tool
Avoid adding too many widgets to your sidebar
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need to include all of the widgets you can into your blog sidebar. Having too many options to choose from will confuse your readers.
When your readers are confused, they don’t take any action at all.
Here’s a list of widgets you can leave out of your sidebar:
- Search Bar: A search widget works best when your blog posts are efficiently organized with blog tags and keywords. If they are not, your visitors will probably not find what they are looking for. Also, if your blog is relatively new, you may not even have the content to justify adding a search widget. Don’t diminish your credibility. Avoid inviting someone to search for something if you know you can’t deliver.
- Archives: This widget serves zero purpose unless you have a large back catalog of posts. Since archives are organized chronologically, most visitors don’t have the patience or attention span to sort through all of the months and years.
- Categories: If you have more than a half dozen blog categories, narrow them down to the four most important or popular categories and leave all of the others out of the widget
Five Must-Have Widgets for Your Blog Sidebar
1. An introductory statement or tagline
Introduce yourself. Let your blog readers know who you are and what you do. You may think it’s obvious, but it isn’t. A sentence or two will do.
2. A picture of yourself
Show your readers the person behind the blog post. Make eye contact with them. Give them the chance to know you, like you and trust you. Otherwise they won’t know who just gave them all of that valuable information in the post they just read
3. A Mailing List Opt-In Form
Invite readers to stay connected with you by joining your mailing list. My favorite opt-in form creator is Bloom by Elegant Themes (I also love it for creating pop-ups, too). If your new reader found some value in your blog post, give them even more value by offering a freebie in exchange for their email list.
4. An Invitation to Follow You On Social Media
There are a few ways you can do this. One way is to add a widget with social media share buttons for all of the platforms where you hang out. I like the Simple Social Icons plugin for WordPress.
Another option is to feature the platform that you use the most.
For example, don’t include a Twitter follow button if you haven’t tweeted since before the Kardashians had kids.
Showcase the social media platform where you hang out most (and where your target audience hangs out the most).
If you’re particularly proud of your Instagram feed, just focus on that. My favorite Instagram plugin is Instagram Feed, which offers a sidebar feature.
5. Recent Posts List
Unlike adding widgets for searching, blog categories or archives, which can be vague and have too much scope for one visit, a recent posts widget offers a better payoff. People will be more likely to stay on your website longer and read one more post. Keep your list to 4-5 blog posts to avoid decision fatigue.
Use your blog sidebar as an abbreviated and combined version of your home page and about page. Curate your sidebar to draw attention to the most important things that readers should take away from your website. Don’t overwhelm them with too many options.
Let your blog sidebar keep warm traffic warmer by creating an invitation to connect with you via email and on social media.