How to take your business online

1 February 2023

9 min read

Please be aware that this is a guide only and you should seek specific advice for your business*

Taking your business online by building a website is a great way to reach new potential customers, grow an online presence and build credibility for your business. However, we understand this can be an intimidating process if you don’t have the technical expertise.

To help you get started, we’ll take you through some of things to think about before creating a website as well as where to go to build a website, how to register a website name, what pages to create and how to promote it.

Why having a website for your business is important

With the internet a huge part of our daily life, having a functioning website is a great way for your potential customers to find you. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, having an online presence is even more important should another situation occur where those visiting physical stores and requiring physical services significantly decreases.

Investing in a website not only can help to improve awareness of your brand but also can open up wider areas of marketing such as search engine optimisation (SEO) which is when Google will display your website for searches relating to your business. Or somewhere to direct people to when you talk about your business on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Planning your website

Before creating your website, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:

1. Who is your target audience?

2. What do you want your website to do for you? Such as selling products, generating leads and building your online presence.

3. How much budget do you have?

4.What information will you want to display?

5. How much control do you want over the website?

6. What functionality do you want the website to have?

Also, consider the websites you visit frequently. What do you like them about? What keeps you returning? You can use that as inspiration for your website to create something both functional and engaging so your visitors will want to come back to your website.

Choosing a website host

If you use a CMS to build your website such as WordPress then you’ll also need to choose a web hosting company, which is a company that publishes your website on the internet. Web hosting companies include sites such as GoDaddy, and DreamHost.

It’s recommended you research the web hosting providers as they can vary in cost and what additional benefits they provide. For example, shared hosting tends to be much cheaper in price but it means that you share the server with other websites which also means shared resources such as hard drive space.

Choosing a VPS (Virtual Private Servers) means your resources aren’t shared which are good options for sites that expect to receive a lot of visitor traffic or you plan to have lots of websites hosted together.

If you build your website using a website builder such as Shopify, Wix or Squarespace, web hosting is automatically included which is one less thing to worry about. However, if you choose to change website provider, then you would need to build the website from scratch.

Choosing a domain name

Choosing a website name and address (URL) is another important step in creating a website and taking your business online. This is what your customers will be searching for and typing into a browser to find you.

A website URL should be relevant to your business (such as the name of your business), easy to type in and remember as well as been unique as no two websites can have the same URL. It’s important to consider the length of your URL, spelling and also location if applicable.

You’ll also need to register the website name with a website name registrar such as GoDaddy or, which are also website hosters and can offer both web hosting and website name registration. Website builders can also provide domain registration as part of their packages.

It’s recommended to register your domain name as soon as possible to avoid it been bought by another company.

Building your website

You can either build your website yourself using an online website builder or you can outsource this to a professional web designer or agency. The choice of this will come down to your time, resource, technical experience and budget available.

If you want some bespoke features, then using a web designer or agency would be a better option if you don’t have the technical experience. Also, having an idea of what type of website you want and the functionality needed will help you to brief the creation of the website to get an idea of the time and cost.

If you want to build the website yourself, then you can either use a content management system (CMS) platform such as WordPress which is free to use with options to pay for additional designs and functionality or you can use a website builder such as Squarespace, Shopify or Wix.

Using WordPress will require some technical knowledge but website builders are purposefully created to be user-friendly so you can build the website yourself. Dependent on the features you want on your website, it’s recommended to research the different website builders so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

If you did want to learn more about using WordPress, there are plenty of free online guides from Wordpress themselves.

Creating content for your website

Once you’ve chosen your website hosting company and website address, it’s time to start planning out the content of your website and what pages you’ll need. It’s important to think about design elements such as navigation so visitors can easily make their way around, logos, colour scheme and overall layout of the pages.

Not every page you want needs to be created for your website launch, this can be a work in progress as you add more content to your website. However, you need to think about what pages would be needed for launch dependent on your business and what customers will use the website for.

Here are some basic pages that are recommended for when you launch your website:

  1. Homepage: this is the first page a visitor will see so it’s important to make this engaging so they want to stay on the website and also easily navigate to other areas of the website.
  2. Product pages: dependent on your business and what you offer, you’ll want to have specific pages about these so customers can buy your product or find out more information about the services you offer.
  3. Contact us page: this is information for how people will get in touch with you, you can also use this page to promote your social media channels.
  4. About us page: you can use this page to talk about you and your business, along with your history.
  5. Blog/News: having a blog or news section which is an area that you can add non-product content to can help to drive traffic to your website and also keeps your site regularly updated.

Optimising your website

When creating your website, it’s important to think about search engine optimisation (SEO) which is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility for relevant search terms relating to your business on search engines like Google and Bing. Also, making sure it works well technically to offer good user experience.

You can find out more about Search Engine Optimisation on our guide to online marketing as well as other channels you can use to drive traffic to your website.

Driving visitors to your website

Whilst SEO is a great way of driving visitors to your website from search engines, this can take some time, so it’s worth thinking about other ways to get visitors to your site.

For example, if you already have a customer’s email addresses and providing you have the correct marketing permissions you can email them about new products, promotions and content that direct them to your website.

You can also use your social media channels to drive visitors to your website, with most social media channels allowing you to include a link to your website on the posts and also on your about us sections.

Google My Business is also a great free tool that allows you to highlight your business's profile and website in Google Search and on Google Maps so you come up on Google when someone searches for your business’s name.

If you’re new to the world of marketing though and would like to learn more about it, you can read our beginners guide to online and offline marketing.

Regular website maintenance

Having a website is an investment and something that will require regular updates and maintenance. As your business grows, so should your website and you’ll need to think about how to make sure it’s updated and aligns to your wider business growth plans.

You should also consider using an analytics platform such as Google Analytics which allows you to see information about your website such as website traffic, which pages are performing best and the return on investment from different marketing channels. These learnings can be used to keep improving and optimising your website by feeding into your regular updates and new content.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best sites that offer both free and paid for online marketing courses, which include sites where you can learn about Google Analytics and building websites if you’d like to learn more.

Taking your business online and building a website can seem like a big project, but planning out what you need and researching the best website builder for you can be a great step in the right direction.

If you’re looking for more helpful support and resources, our Business Exchange hosts a wide range of content tailored to you and your business.

*While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by The Co-operative Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. This is merely a guide and each business is unique in its requirements. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.