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Local business websites are usually designed on small budgets. The businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing department, and they certainly don’t have a dedicated web designer. But even without big budgets and a dedicated marketing team, you can still get a killer website for your local business.

Most people start their website in the wrong order. They contact a web designer, pay a deposit, and only then do they begin thinking about the content that will appear on their website, and how their website will be structured. When you have a small budget, it’s unlikely that the designer is going to spend time developing your content strategy, writing your sales copy and developing your brand.

To make your budget go further, you need to do as much as possible on your own.

Start by researching competitors’ sites and see what everyone else is doing. If you’re a local business, I suggest looking well beyond your local market, and seeing what similar firms are doing in other cities. It’s unlikely the best website is in your town or even in your state, so the first step is to come across the best-executed websites you can find.

The next step is to start planning how your website will be structured. In an article for Six Revisions, Cameron Chapman does a great job of outlining how to develop the architecture of your website:

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Every site should have a clear purpose, whether that’s to sell a product, inform people about a subject, provide entertainment and so forth. Without a clear purpose, it’s virtually impossible to create any kind of effective IA [information architecture].

The way the information on a site is organized should be directly correlated to what the site’s purpose is. On a site where the end-goal is to get visitors to purchase something, the content should be set up in such a way that it funnels visitors toward that goal. On a site that’s meant to inform, the IA should lead people through the content in a way that one page builds on the last one.

Once you decide on your information architecture, begin thinking about your sales copy. You could write this yourself or you could work with a copywriter. Either way, you should keep the language clean and simple. And you should focus on the benefits of your products.

The copywriting process can often take longer than you’d expect, so it’s a good idea to get it started as soon as possible, especially if you are doing it on your own. Once you engage a web designer, you may be under pressure to finish your content quickly, and you won’t have enough time to do it properly.

You also need to think about how you are going to market your website. You may want to start a blog, like the Yellow Pages United Blog. If this is the case, you need to build this into your information architecture. If you want search engines to be a big source of traffic, you will also need to consider the SEO implications of your chosen architecture.

image source: fotolia and sixrevisions