You’ve taken the time to think of a business name and are ready to take the first step to getting your business online, but don't know where to start. You've come to the right place, this series with guide you through the 12 Steps to Building and Promoting a Website.
I'll provide you with tips and resources that I've used and learned over the past 10 years working in web design and development industry. I'll cover topics from choosing a name to the best marketing strategies, that will help you get the most out of your website and put you in the best position to succeed.
Let's begin by Choosing a Domain Name.
Choose a Domain Name
After determining a name for your business, you’ll want to get a domain name. A domain name or web address is the address where you can be found online.
When selecting your domain name, I suggest you purchase a domain name that is similar to your business name. This will help with branding your business and making it easier for customers to find you.
For example, I purchased two domain names for my business: thehoppercompanyllc.com and thehopperco.com. I did this for two reasons, ease of use for my customers and visitors and to secure the legal name of my business.
The first thing I think of, in anything I do, is what’s going to be easiest for people trying to find my business. By doing this, I am creating a user-centric model that places users - visitors, customers, partners, etc. - at the center of my business.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when selecting your domain name:
- Keep the domain name short.
- Use keywords that describe your service or company.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens.
- Be memorable.
- Use an appropriate domain name extension by knowing what the different TLDs (top level domains) mean by conducting an online search (e.g. .com = commercial business, .us = local US site, etc.).
Nowadays, there are several different TDLs that can be perfectly suitable, but the most common is .com. If you are not sure of who to use for a domain name registrar, please take a look at our Toolkit & Recommendations page for suggestions.
If you would like help thinking of a domain name for your website, you should checkout the domain name suggestion tool called NameMesh.
Decide on a Web Hosting Service
After selecting your domain name, you should determine where you want to host your website by selecting a web host or web hosting service.
A web hosting service provider is a business that provides a service and the technology required to make a website available to be viewed on the internet. This is one of the most important steps in this process before building your website.
You will want to make sure your web hosting company is using SSDs (solid state drives) for faster website performance, can provide you with a free SSL (for shopping and better ranking in search engines) and can provide support 24/7.
In addition, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind when selecting your web hosting service:
- Know what your hosting needs are – are you selling products online or just listing services and having people call or email you?
- Investigate the reliability and uptime guarantees of the web hosting service provider.
- Select a web host that will allow your site to scale – know what upgrade options are available.
- Determine and check for the hosting features you need – email, add on domains, etc.).
- Check prices for both signups and renewals – determine monthly or yearly pricing.
- Pick a host with a hosting control panel (ex: CPanel).
- Does the host provide support and support availability that fits your needs?
- Terms of service for your account pertaining to their server usage policy.
You can learn more about them on our Toolkit & Recommendations page.
Design and Build the Site
As a business owner wanting a website, you are faced with two options: build the website yourself or hire a professional to do it.
If you want to build the website yourself, you can use services like Wix, Squarespace or GoDaddy, but I would highly recommend hiring a professional web designer to build it for you.
Hiring a professional website designer will:
- Save you time.
- Create your site with the latest technologies.
- Make your site unique and easy to use.
- Position your website ahead of your competition.
- Properly communicate your message.
- Build your site so that it’s search engine optimized and SEO compliant.
- Make your business appear professional and high quality.
- Help your business establish greater credibility.
Think of your website as an investment rather than an expense. You should see anything you put into your website as a value that you seek to get some type of return on, whether that is inbound leads or a monetary value.
When using a template from a website builder, you are limited to the design and functionality of that template, which is often a one-size-fits-all design, meant to cater to the masses, rather than an individual solution custom-developed around your businesses goals like a professionally-built site would be. Instead of limiting your website’s capabilities with a template, you should have your website custom built to help convert visitors into leads and leads into sales.
Publish Your Site
Once your website is complete, you can publish your site and make it "live" for everyone to see.
If you hired a web designer to create your website, they should move your files from a test server over to the "live" server. This is usually included in the price of the project.
Before going live, you’ll want to double-check all of your links, pages and content.
Once again, if you hired a professional to design your website, then this usually done by them. If something does wrong while transferring the site, your web designer should be able fix it.
Start Promoting Social Networks
Social networks are great for building credibility and getting people to help promote your business. By using social networks you can:
- Reduce overall marketing costs.
- Build your brand and generate traffic to your website.
- Increase your organic search engine results.
- Connect and associate your brand with other businesses.
- Help customers validate your business by providing likes, testimonials and reviews.
- Increase brand awareness and increase sales.
- Distribute content from your blog by sharing it with your social network.
- Reach an impossibly large and diverse amount of people.
If you are planning on hiring or have hired a professional web designer to build your site, you can use the demographics of your target audience to help interact with people likely to buy from or engage with your brand.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) can have a huge impact on the success of your business. SEO is defined as the process of generating traffic to your website using non-paid, organic search results.
I highly recommend hiring a professional to implement it. With more than 200 SEO ranking factors out there, it takes a lot of time and research to understand this ever-changing world and make sure that your site is properly optimized. As someone who has been in the SEO industry for more than 10 years, I’ve compiled a list of important SEO factors that we examine every client’s site against to help increase their search engines rankings.
When thinking about building your business and the value that can come from SEO, you should look at every dollar you spend as an investment that can produce a massive return.
Some benefits and reasons to hire an SEO expert to grow your business are:
- Low costs compared to PPC and Adwords.
- Higher brand credibility with higher Google rankings.
- Increased sales without increasing your marketing costs.
- Definite increase in traffic.
- Permanent results.
- Access to the data and get to keep it.
Register Your Site
After your website is complete, you should register your website with search engines. Submitting your website to search engines will help crawler find and index your site faster and more completely.
Register your site manually to avoid potential harm to your SEO ranks from free search engine submission tools. I recommend registering your site with the top search engines, Google and Bing.
Register on Maps
Online mapping sites can be a great way to get your name out there. Online maps offer reviews, directions and contact information for people searching for your business or services you provide in the area.
You can also use Yext PowerListings to control your listings for Google, Yahoo, MapQuest and Yelp.
Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-Per-Click (PPC), also known as Cost-Per-Click (CPC), is an advertising model on the internet in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads are clicked by a user.
PPC campaigns are great for driving traffic to your site for a special promotion or a sale you may be running. However, using PPC campaigns can be expensive, which is why I suggest hiring a professional; you can lose a lot of time and money if you don’t know what you are doing.
As I mentioned earlier, SEO is going to be a better investment for your business because the results are permanent and not temporary like PPC ads are.
Other Marketing Avenues
As there are many other marketing avenues, you will have to determine what avenues are best for your business and audience. Some examples include:
- Email marketing
- Referral programs
- Earned (free) media and PR
- Networking events
- Retargeting ads and popups
- Social media marketing
Maintain Your Site
Maintaining your website is not only important from a security standpoint, but also gives your customers a reason to come back.
Here are some more reasons why you should properly maintain your website:
- Make a good impression by having fresh content.
- Keep your site content relative and informative to help visitors accomplish their goals.
- Rank better with search engines – they love websites that produce new content.
- Eliminate threats and vulnerabilities by staying up-to-date with the latest security patches.
- Keep current with the latest technology and coding standards.
- Check links to other websites and internal pages you may have changed over time.
- Monitor website outages and availability.
- Create and manage offsite backups in case the server crashes or your site gets hacked.
Every website should have a way to measure and analyze traffic. By tracking visitor activity on your website, you can learn what content is of value on your website by monitoring page views, time spent on different pages, bounce rate, etc. Knowing how your customers are using your site tells you what is working, what isn’t working and what to do more or less of to ensure your customer is having the best experience possible to keep them coming back (as well as gaining new customers).
Our web analytics tool of choice is Google Analytics. With Google Analytics you will be able to:
- Understand how your visitors interact with your website.
- Learn how to improve your visitors’ site experience.
- See how people are arriving to your website.
- Determine which pages are performing best and how to improve them to convert them to leads or sales.
- Get key insights to who your visitors are and build targeted marketing campaigns around them.