From building relationships to being a digital extension of your brand, we look at why it’s so important to have a strong online presence in today’s digital age with 10 simple steps.

The benefits

Having a website can be useful for businesses as it is a place to promote your brand and can result in a higher turnover.

A website also showcases your business 24/7 to prospective customers.

Even if you’ve been successful on social channels or third party sites, you may find having your own website useful. It allows a more direct relationship with users. This is particularly important if you have products and services you can sell online.

But even if you don’t sell anything digitally, you can use a website as an extension of your brand and your business card. You can offer information about your business and services, show happy customers with testimonials and showcase your experience, knowledge and other credentials.

Other benefits of websites could include:

  • Increase in sales.
  • Supporting the automation of the sales process.
  • Access to a global marketplace.
  • Access to niche markets.
  • Reduction in overheads.

10 steps to consider when setting up a business website

1. Decide on your website’s purpose

First you need to decide what you want your website to do for you and how you want it to operate. Will it be a shop? Will it be mostly static with information about your business and its products or services? Or do you want to make regular updates to show what your latest thinking is, highlight your knowledge and provide your customers with useful insights?

If you are thinking about regular updates, consider whether you have the resources and time to do these.

Knowing what you want to do can help you decide how best to develop your website, how you update it and whether you need shopping software and the ability to handle card payments.

It is, of course, possible to start with a simple website and grow it over time. Understanding what you want your website to do and who its audience is can help you decide which channels to promote it on – whether that is Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) or elsewhere. 

Once you know why you want a website, and what you want it to do for your business, you can start getting one set up.

2. Buy your domain

You can’t have a website without a domain name. You’ll generally want one closely related to your business name and then decide the domain type, for example: ‘’, ‘.com’ or ‘.org’. What you select may depend on availability, cost and your type of organisation.

You can purchase a domain name ( from a domain registrar, such as Easyspace, Godaddy or UK2, or through the third-party website builder you use to create your website.

3. Get a website created or build your own 

  • Hire a web designer to create a website. Ideally it should be one that you can edit and update yourself using a content management system (CMS). That way you can easily make changes in future without going back to the developer.


  • Build your own site using a third-party website builder. For example, sites like Moonfruit, Squarespace and Weebly allow you to build a website using simple, customisable templates. They usually say that you won’t need any coding skills. Some will offer a free trial that will give you an insight into how challenging building your site could be.

If you decide to build your own site via a third-party website builder, make sure they offer the features that you want for your site. Features such as galleries, animations, video, mapping tools, links to your social accounts and forms are all useful. When adding a shopping cart, you’ll need to make sure that you can integrate it with the rest of your site.

Ideally, make sure your site design will work equally well on a mobile phone as it does on a laptop or desktop computer.

4. Add shopping carts to your site if needed

If you want to build an online store, you may want to opt for a specialist ecommerce provider. Examples of shopping cart software include, Big Cartel, OpenCart and Zen Cart to display your products, as well as to track orders and manage inventory. Check out the reviews to find the best one to suit you.

5. Use secure online payment software

Keep your customers’ details secure by using trustworthy third-party payment software. As well as Bank of Scotland Cardnet, which allows you to accept online payments quickly and securely, there are other providers such as Google Wallet and Paypal that you can use for your online store. Integrating this software may be possible through your third-party shopping cart software provider. Non-profit organisations may also use software specifically designed for fundraising, such as Blackbaud, DonorPerfect and thankQ. For more details, see our guide to accepting online payments.

6. Select a web host

You’ll need to decide how to host your website. Web hosting is the technology that holds your website on a server and then delivers the web pages to your customers’ browsers through the World Wide Web.

What you need will depend on the likely number of visitors to your site and how quickly numbers will scale up. You may get web hosting as part of your package with your domain provider or website builder. If you haven’t opted for that type of solution, then when choosing a web host you may need to consider things like:

  • The location – this may affect speed and the language that is used to service customers.
  • The speed that is on offer and how quickly a page loads when a customer tries to access it.
  • The reliability of the hosting platform and any guarantees offered.
  • Whether you are being offered shared or dedicated hosting. Shared hosting is where different websites are on the same server.
  • The security of your data – understanding what the back-up and continuity arrangements are. If you want to do online sales does the host have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate – which gives you the green padlock in your browser – to encrypt data from browser to the web host?
  • What, if any, email services are included and whether there are space limitations?
  • What technologies can be used? You need to make sure the host can handle any scripts and codes that run your site, such a PHP and MySQL – and also whether the host technology will run smoothly with whatever CMS you are using.
  • Costs – any upfront, monthly or annual costs?
  • If you want to swap providers what happens to your website and information? How easy would it be to move your website to a different host and for it to look the same?
  • What support is offered? Is there 24/7 customer support for when things go wrong?

If you have not bought your domain name through the hosting company, you will need to make sure your provider will allow you to use this domain name for your website. You need to be able to set the name you have selected as your primary domain – the one that customers see in their browser address bar. Most of the large providers allow you to do this.

7. Fill your site with useful, engaging content

Write copy and use images that help visitors learn about your business's unique brand. Think about your website from the point of view of a user. What do they want to know about your business? Make it easy for visitors to find the information they're looking for by including the following pages:

  • About us – Give visitors to your site an overview of your organisation, its history, and your mission statement.
  • Web shop/donation page – Include a shop that displays your various products, or, for non-profits and charities, create a page where visitors can make donations.
  • Contact us - Provide your visitors with a way to get in touch with you by post, email, and phone or through social media.
  • Product pages – If you are selling online then you’ll need to make sure you add good descriptions of each product along with photos so customers know what they are buying. You’ll also need to provide shipping information and terms and conditions.

If you have decided to add content, think about how you will manage this; for example will you have a blog or offer whitepapers or opinion pieces? How will you promote your content? Can you do this through social media?

You also need to be sure that you can update your website yourself without needing any technical skill or incurring too many additional costs.

8. Make security a priority

Protect your business data and keep your website secure by performing routine security checks on work computers and developing an IT security policy for staff. This includes:

  • Installing antivirus software to protect you from malware or other viruses.
  • Using spam filters to reduce your chances of clicking on harmful links or downloading suspicious email attachments.
  • Changing your passwords regularly, making sure they are always at least eight characters long with a mixture of symbols, numbers and letters (both upper and lowercase).
  • Explore our fraud guides and resources.

9. Optimise your website

You also need to make sure your website is accessible to everybody including people with different disabilities. It should also be discoverable by search engines.

To judge your site’s performance, you’ll need an analytics program such as Google Analytics. This will show you, among other things, where your visitors are coming from and which pages are being looked at and how often. You can use this data to help you improve the visitor experience. 

Importantly, knowing where visitors leave your site can help you understand how well it is working. For example, you may get an idea of whether a visitor left after finding the information they wanted or if lots of users are leaving in frustration because something does not work properly – or they can’t find what they need.

10. Join up your marketing efforts

You may want to consider how your website can integrate with your marketing ambitions. For example, in exchange for a whitepaper or brochure, you might ask users for their email address to send them a link to download it. You can then use that opportunity to ask if they would like to hear from you more regularly.

You may also want some automated email programmes that automatically send follow-up emails when someone has shown an interest in a brochure or a product. Some systems will remind customers that they left something in their basket without buying as a gentle nudge to get them to complete the purchase.

You might also want to consider setting up a regular newsletter to stay in touch with customers. This means setting up a subscription mechanism too.

Some third-party review websites will allow you to add a module into your website that shows reviews of your products and services for a fee. If you share regularly on X you can also add an element that will showcase your latest posts . 

This can remind prospects or customers to follow you.

If you are running a campaign, you may be able to create specific landing pages with their own web address included in the campaign. This will show you the number of visitors going directly to that page.

Useful links

For further information, you can visit pages listed below.

Bank of Scotland Academy: videos and resources

YouGov online: rules for selling online 

Information Commissioners Office: A guide to data protection

National Cyber Security Centre: Advice on keeping your organisation secure

Google - The Digital Garage: Free online training courses

Tech Nation Digital Business Academy: free courses covering SEO, data analytics and how to get your first 100 users

1Please note that these are just examples of the types of software available and Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide.

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