Starting A New Consulting Business: Website Design
It can be intimidating to start a new website from scratch. There are literally hundreds of tools designed to simplify website building – These options actually make the process building a website more confusing.
Even with my IT background, I invested months to research the tools and best practices for starting a website for my new consulting business. I tested numerous hosting providers and sitebuilders to find the combination of services to allowed me to create a well-designed website that is super fast and ranks high in Google search results.
In the below, I share my key learnings and the best tools I found for building a new consulting-focused website. I hope this how-to guide saves you some time and effort in your own quest to build a website for your new consulting business.
Key Principle: Prioritize Speed
Before I begin, I wanted to first share one of the most under-appreciated principles in website design: Website speed is a key ranking factor in search results. In fact, Google suggests that a page should completely load in under one second.
I didn’t understand this principle until after I built the first iteration of the website for my own consulting business, People First Planning. My first website took nearly ten seconds to load, and I struggled getting any visibility in search results. I then re-created the website with speed as a priority, and my website now loads in under 0.6 seconds. As a result, you will find various pages of my site in the top ten search results in Google.
Because of this, you will note that I frequently reference website speed in this post. The only way to reach load times under one second is to make speed a priority in every decision. Choose a fast hosting provider. Choose a lightweight theme. Add a caching plug-in. Use a content delivery network. All these choices impact performance of your site.
Step 1: Choose a Hosting Provider
Choose a Fast Hosting Provider. It Won’t be the Cheapest.
There exist literally dozens of web hosting providers to choose from. Many advertise insanely cheap prices. However, the reason they are able to charge such low prices is that they spread their resources very thin. Some hosting providers maintain hundreds of customer websites on a single shared server, resulting in very slow response times. This is fine if you are hosting a personal blog. But, you don’t want potential consulting customers to wait 20 seconds for your webpage to load. Also, slow websites rarely rank high in search results.
When I initially created my consulting website, I started out with one of the cheapest plans with Bluehost. But, the server took over ten seconds to load my website. This was too slow for potential consulting clients, and I also learned Google would never include a site this slow in their top search results.
After some research, I found that developers who want responsive websites often recommended SiteGround as their preferred choice for web hosting. Siteground focuses on speed, and has a couple nice features that make it faster than its competitors:
- Caching: SiteGround uses proprietary hardware caching on their servers, which reduces the time to load a web page
- Content Delivery Network: They have partnered with CloudFlare, which caches your web pages on servers in numerous points around the world. This allows your website to load quickly regardless of where your customers are located.
Because of their focus on hosting fast and responsive websites, I recommend SiteGround as the best choice for hosting the website for your new consulting business.
SiteGround Account Tiers
Step 2: Choose Your Domain
Purchase your Domain from Your Hosting Provider
If possible, you should purchase your domain name from your chosen web hosting provider. Your hosting provider can automatically link your domain with your hosting account, and this greatly simplifies the setup process. It might be a few dollars more expensive compared to the cut-rate domain registrars, but you will likely save potentially hours of hassle.
Be Thoughtful in Choosing a Domain Name
All too often, the domain name is a hurried decision, even though the domain name has big consequences for both branding and search engine optimization.
Here are some things to consider:
Pick a domain name with a .com suffix
The alternate domain suffixes (.net, .info, .biz, etc) still have not gained acceptance among established businesses. These domains scream “I didn’t have money to buy a real domain”. As the owner of a new consulting business, it is important that you appear established. Avoid anything (domain name or otherwise) that sounds cheap.
Your domain name should reflect your unique value
A domain like ‘supercoolconsulting.com’ doesn’t really tell the reader much about your new consulting business. Unless you have established name recognition, I would also avoid using your personal name for a new consulting enterprise. Rather, focus on the specific services that you can offer. If you provide marketing consulting for startups, you may pick something like ‘earlystagemarketing.com’.
Also, keep in mind that your domain name is a ranking factor in Google search. For two sites with nearly identical content, the one with the domain name that contains keywords from the website content will always rank higher in Google.
Step 3: Choose a PageBuilder
Create a Beautiful Site with No HTML Experience
With page builders, everyone can create a pleasing website with no HTML coding. Once installed, the user creates a new web page or blog post by dragging/dropping text boxes, images, etc into areas on a webpage. With a little practice, you can create a nice-looking webpage with very little effort.
Why I Decided on Elementor
Page builders are great, but their usage often results in dramatically higher page load time. Remember, you need a page load time under one second for pages in your consulting website to get a competitive ranking in search results. I tried numerous page builders, but most of them resulted in very slow pages.
Elementor is the one exception – This page builder was designed to be super lightweight, and adds minimal delay to the page load time. I found it perfect for my new consulting business – Once I got comfortable with the tool, I could quickly build/re-arrange a web page in a matter of minutes. It operates on ‘widgets’, which are essentially boxes that contain either text or images. You simply drag and drop these widgets onto a blank canvas to create your page.
Suggestion: Utilize the HELLO theme in Elementor
One thing to know about WordPress themes: All pre-built themes contain extra bells and whistles that simply add to the page load time. All those image carousels, videos, and animated drop-down menus will slow down your website. Remember, only the fastest sites appear near the top of Google search results. You want speed!
Elementor offers a theme called ‘Hello’, which is basically an empty shell. You will need to create your own custom header and footer, but it is all drag and drop within Elementor’s theme builder. You can add only the elements you want, without the extra weight (and sluggishness) that comes from all the extra gadgets in popular WordPress pre-built themes.
The above table shows the load times for the same page created with different page builders. the Hello theme almost always outperforms the other competing themes. I purchased Elementor Pro for my website – It costs $49 per year, and is well worth it. It includes the Hello theme and the theme builder I mention above, as well as bundled technical support.
Practice: Replicate the look of websites for other consulting businesses
The website for your consulting business will no doubt look a little amateurish on your first attempt. Visit some websites of established consultants with a strong web presence, and practice recreating the layouts on your own through the Elementor interface. Elementor provides all the tools to replicate virtually any layout, and this process will help you get comfortable with the Elementor pagebuilder.
Step 4: Speed-Enhancing Plug-ins
Wait? Another Investment in Speed?
Yep, a high quality web hosting provider like SiteGround will give you the hardware to help your consulting website run fast. However, you still need to optimize the WordPress application to run as efficiently as possible. A good caching plug-in will compress your site content, and will provide various levels of caching of your web page. Combined with the hardware caching provided by SiteGround, this will ensure your site runs as fast as possible.
Why I chose WP Rocket
There are any number of WordPress plug-ins that promise to make your site run faster. Most provide some benefit, but they are frequently very complex to set up. Further, most don’t provide a comprehensive solution to improve the overall efficiency of WordPress.
WP Rocket is arguably the most popular caching plug-in available. It provides a holistic suite of functions – Once installed, it automatically initiates server and browser-based caching. It also simplifies scripts running on your WordPress installation, and compresses / cleans database files. The great thing is that you don’t need to know the technical details of this – WP Rocket does all this in the background, and presents it into a simple interface. Further, it is designed to work with the CloudFlare CDN that is included in SiteGround web hosting.
I tested several of these plug-ins on my own consulting website, and deermined that it would take several plug-ins to collectively provide all the features offered by WP Rocket. WP Rocket is not free (I pay $49/year), but I found it is worth it to have a well-supported plug-in with large adoption.
Step 5: Optimize Content for SEO
Why SEO is Important for your Consulting Business
Now that you have a fully functional (and fast) website framework, let’s focus on getting your content structured such that it can be easily found and indexed by search engine crawlers.
To begin, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is best thought of as a holistic approach – It is not as simple as dumping a thousand keywords into one webpage with the hope the search engine will show your site for that keyword (it won’t). Rather, good SEO is structuring your entire web page in a manner that helps the search engine (and your potential consulting clients) know what your website is about. The clearer you make your structure, the more likely your clients (and the search engines) will know what it is about.
An Example of SEO in Practice
Let’s say that you are a business process consultant, and you wish to share your knowledge of creating business processes for a remote workforce. If you followed effective SEO, your article would include the following:
- A heading structure that allows the reader to clearly follow the main points of the article
- Article text will naturally include such keywords as ‘business process consultant’ and ‘remote processes’, but only as they occur in natural language (search engines can spot keyword stuffing)
- Images that illustrate business processes. Each image includes alternate text to help the search engine know what the image is about
- Ideally, even the domain name and other pages on the site are loosely related to the article. In this case, the entire website may be devoted to different aspects of business processes.
Tools to Automate SEO on Your Website
As with everything in WordPress, there are no shortage of add-ins to help with SEO optimization. I tried a few tools, and settled on SEOPress. It has a large install base, and is one of the most reputable SEO plug-ins on the market.
Of special note, SEOPress is one of the few plug-ins that support site schemas. You most likely have entered search queries and gotten a search result that showed frequently answered questions relating to your search query. To get included in this type of result, you need to have a schema defined on your website. SEOPress automates much of this work, making it easier to get your site included in some of these special search result pages in Google.
I purchased the pro version, which costs $39/year. In addition to assisting with schema markup, it also helps ensure consistent title and descriptions for each post, and makes sure there are no obvious errors (i.e. missing sitemap) that could impact your position in search results.