Many new businesses run a lean operation, focusing their time and budget on so-called necessities. They regard a website as an unnecessary expense, assuming that a Facebook and Twitter page is enough to establish an online presence. But the truth is, in today’s digital world a website is a fundamental tool that’s crucial to success.

When looking for a product or service, more than 90% of people will start their search online. And they won’t head to Facebook; they’ll go straight to Google. So before you spend a penny on print advertising or business cards, get in touch with some website designers. If you’re not sure where to start, these tips will help.

1. Review Your Competition

Find out who you’re competing against by conducting a Google search. Assess their strengths and weaknesses: what keywords do they rank for? How much content do they have on their website? Is their website easy to navigate? Try to figure out how you can do better.

2. Register A Domain

You can buy a domain name and hosting package from GoDaddy for just a few dollars per month. Google considers time an important element of their ranking criteria, so the sooner you get registered and indexed in their search results the better. But that’s not to say you should rush this early process and upload something that just scrapes the bar. Remember, in business first impressions are everything.

3. Write Some Content

This is probably the most important element of building a new website — more so than the design itself. Great content does three things: establishes you as an authority in your field, enhances rankings within Google’s search results, and most importantly, sells your product or service. If you don’t have the ability to write engaging copy in perfect English, hire someone to do it for you.

4. Invest In Visuals

Most people seem to assume that the word “content” means “copy,” but text is only one part of it. You could have the best copy on the web, yet most of the people browsing your site will not read it. Split up text with images, videos (use stock footage libraries if you don’t have your own) and infographics. Keep all of the crucial information easily digestible by using bullet points and lists. If you’ve got a lot of white space, you’re on the right track.

5. Keep It Simple

Steer clear of flash websites. While they can look the part, they’re not search engine or mobile friendly. If you’re really desperate for some movement, an animated slideshow is a much better option. In addition, stick with a colour palette that matches your brand. Avoid anything that’s too bold or could be difficult to read.

6. Install Google Analytics

When your website is online don’t just let it simmer away in the background. Install Google Analytics so you can assess your traffic sources and figure out which pages are/aren’t working. Use the results to amend, tweak and replace your content.