Nailing Your First Startup Website
When launching your tech/ B2B SaaS startup the context is one of excitement, mixed with an overwhelming sense of urgency. You may be resource-constrained, time-poor, and facing an ever-growing list of things to do. Nailing your first startup website should make it to the top of your priority list.
Co-Founder / CEO
November 15, 2023
Let’s start right at the beginning. Congratulations - you’ve decided to make the leap. You have an idea and have started on your entrepreneurial journey. For this article, we’ll assume it is a tech start-up straddling anything from B2B SaaS to FinTech to Health.
In most cases, you’ll be both cash and resource-constrained, but you’ll need both a name and a domain name as an early priority. You’ll quickly realize this is not as straightforward as you’d initially envisaged. Pretty much every name and domain name combination you can think of is already taken. You may need to add a few syllables to your main name - appending words to the front to help you secure a .com or .io domain name. They are the only two domain options for any tech company. In some instances it is even worth writing a cheque and acquiring a domain - this is often where you’ll end up after exhausting all other avenues.
If you have some budget you can then consider engaging a freelancer (or agency if you’ve raised a decent Pre-Seed cheque) to create a visual identity covering everything from a logo to brand colors to font choices. If you don’t have much budget you are likely to be forced down the route of trying to use a template. The good news is that any decisions made are reversible and you can put some basic elements in place to get you going.
At this stage, you also need some content. You need to anchor your startup in some category so you are helping to make it easier for the buyer to place you. The best content relates to challenges and how your solution addresses those.
You will also need some initial messaging related to your proposition.
At the very least your B2B home page should cover some basics related to:
What are you offering?
Who is it for?
What the key features are?
How is it different from existing alternatives?
While your solution won’t be fully formed, or may only be at the ideation stage, committing your thoughts on a website helps get your idea out there and can help with any investor conversations you’ve got in place. It will also help with some early recruitment. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Can you skip all of this at this early stage?
You probably can, but sending a branded PDF across from a Gmail account to a prospective investor carries a lot less weight than one sent from a domain with a branded site backing it up.
In some senses, it is also a form of ‘escalation of commitment’ - by investing some additional time (and cash) to put together a basic site you are signaling to investors that you are serious about your intentions.
Your First Site
So how do you think about constructing your first site?
Firstly, start with the home page and follow the structure of a typical B2B SaaS Homepage.
There will of course be gaps, especially in terms of social proof (case studies and testimonials) and product shots but you can use icons, illustrations, and stock imagery as place-holders for now.
A long-form homepage that helps the visitor understand the problem you are solving is the primary aim.
You should also think about the main action you want them to take at this stage.
Depending on your maturity it could be some of the following:
For very early startups you can look to capture interest in advance of a launch with some of the following:
[Join Wait List]
[Get Early Access]
And this is a key point - you want to start capturing email addresses from Day 1.
Should you not just defer investing in a site until you are further along?
One of the real challenges with a startup site is you’ll start with negligible “domain authority” (a ranking score as to how much authority your domain has). It takes a while to warm a site up and to gain any organic traffic. Hence, the earlier you start committing to a site build-out, the sooner you’ll start generating traffic which will help you further down the track.
Alongside the Home Page, you can add the following pages:
About Us (Outlining founder credentials)
Contact Us (Simple contact form)
Terms of Service and Conditions (Standard legal form in the footer)
Product/ Solution Page (if you can)
GDPR (Standard legal form in the footer)
Careers (post funding - you can link out to Linkedin or an Applicant Tracking System (ATS))
Naturally, as time goes on, and your offering develops you continue to add sections and content. Fleshing the above out helps with your initial presence. After all, it will be the first place people look when you engage; be that in response to initial outreach efforts, when recruiting, or when looking to raise some initial finance. The harsh truth is that if your initial website falls short you’ll struggle to make the progress you need to generate momentum.
Finally, it is also worth noting that your messaging will likely evolve - the good news is it is pretty straightforward to update content so you can update older content on an as needed basis.
The Importance of Including a Blog
It is also important to add a blog from the get-go. A blog is your primary route to generating organic traffic. It is also a “free” form of marketing which is incredibly important at this nascent stage of your journey.
The content you write should be long-form, and designed to address questions your target buyer personas are likely to have about the challenges your solution addresses.
At a more technical level, you should start with a bunch of keywords that prospects might search for. You then look to comprehensively address related topics, while ensuring the structural elements are also covered.
For example - if this blog is largely about a “startup website” then that is the main keyword you are targeting.
This keyword should therefore appear in the URL, the H1, meta title, and description.
If you write any other blogs on contiguous topics that reference the phrase ‘startup website’ they should point back to this page.
Finally, when the page is published you need to index it in Google Search Console [GSC] (Ensure you install GA4 and GSC from the start).
By following these steps you are setting yourself up on the right footing for success.
Of course, a keyword-based approach should not be your sole focus when it comes to content generation. However, it should form a part of the strategy to ensure Google understands the challenges you are seeking to solve and the questions your site addresses in no uncertain terms.
Finally, it is worth adding a newsletter subscription option to your blog. There is nothing that beats generating your own marketing list instead of having to pay to rent access via other channels.
Your Content Management System (CMS)
You will also need to decide how to manage your site. A Content Management System (CMS) is the main application you’ll use for this.
In recent years, the default options have typically been to use a traditional CMS like WordPress, married to a drag-and-drop website builder like Elementor. In some ways, it is an obvious choice. The vast majority of local web development agencies are likely to push you in this direction. WordPress is, after all, one of the few well-known CMS brands, and has dominated the market for 20 years plus.
However, despite claims to the contrary, WordPress is not the most intuitive to use, and it does require maintenance that can be difficult to manage in-house. This is especially true when you extend its functionality using the array of plugins available.
If you are a non-technical founder, I’d argue against WordPress as your starting point. While it may appear to be the cheapest route - the hidden costs mean that the overall cost tends to be higher after you’ve launched. Similarly, there are a lot of issues with WordPress which only tend to emerge over time.
Squarespace and Wix represent two other popular SaaS alternatives. Again these are website builders, based on selecting a theme, which can be managed in-house. I’d argue these are better options to get a basic brochure-wear site up and running. However, these are also horizontal offerings, so not designed with any specific use case in mind. They tend to be more popular for B2C sites also.
With either of these options, you are also setting yourself up for a painful site migration down the road. Of course, this may not be a pressing concern in your formative years, but it is worth being aware of.
The Emergence of Headless
In recent years, Headless CMS [what is a Headless CMS?] has become popular as an alternative to traditional CMS like WordPress. It represents a fundamentally different approach to managing websites and usually offers a bespoke front-end design married to a content repository at the back end. What this offers in practice is a beautifully designed site, which is optimized for omnichannel delivery and facilitates a blazingly quick site experience.
However, up to now, the resultant benefits are only of value to mature sites with significant traffic where these features deliver value.
But what if you could start your journey on a Headless CMS?
Well firstly, you eliminate the downstream hassle of needing to undertake a painful migration once you outgrow your current CMS. But more importantly, in the here and now you gain access to the latest tech stack, offering you a blazingly quick website, optimized for SEO and one that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Why is Contento a Better fit than Wix or Squarespace?
If you are a tech startup then some of the following factors make Contento a viable option:
As a Headless CMS backed website it is a scalable, and future proof choice
The CMS is designed specifically for B2B Websites
It grows with you [and removes the need for a major painful site migration downstream]
It includes key functionality for B2B SaaS websites not available via Wix/ Squarespace incl SEO
You are not locked in - you can easily switch to other providers
You are taking advantage of the latest cutting edge technologies
You’ll have a blazingly quick site from the start
In summary, ensuring your first website is of a sufficiently high quality is an important signal as to the seriousness of your intentions. It is all too easy to make excuses, and to cobble something together as quickly and cheaply as is possible. As this blog has argued, some additional attention married to a modest initial investment to your first startup website will pay dividends.
There are lots of elements to consider as you build out your B2B SaaS website. The blog outlines some of the key things to think about.
13 September 2022