Are you thinking of starting a website for your business? Congratulations! It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do for your business and for yourself, too.
What a website can do for you
Your site becomes your online hub, your home on the web – and it can work hard for you and your business. While it takes some effort to keep current content and make it easy to use, your site can fill multiple “employee roles” for your business. It can be a 24/7 marketing machine, a storefront, a customer service tool, a lead generator, a community builder, and even an admin assistant.
At its best, your website takes your visitor by the hand and leads them along the customer journey you have created for them.
One of my clients had a website she hated, complicated and full of features she didn’t use. Once we simplified her site and added a resource page, she could send that page to her clients when they ask her for the links, again for the 37th time. It saves her time and headaches because the website keeps up with the links for her. (Yes, we check the links to make sure they stay up to date).
Websites make your business seem legitimate, help you get found on Google, and make a place for all your content to have a home. Your site can link to your guest posts, products, social media profiles, and all the other websites or resources you want your visitors to see. There’s so much your website can do – from creating a checkout/rental tool to bookings to a simple list of services and business hours.
Websites are not social media platforms
The point is, websites can do what social media cannot. They can give you a permanence and control over your content that you don’t get with your social media accounts. They allow you to help your site visitors go on a customer journey, one you’ve designed to help them get what they need from you.
Social media is excellent for what it is – an introduction, a branding tool, and a way to stay top of mind – at least it can if you can get people to actually see your posts. But your business depends on getting people to take steps beyond social media.
While social media platforms offer various types of content, different types of users, and a range of posting styles, we can tailor our websites to fit the business and the people they serve – both the business owner and the website visitors. In fact, this is pretty much my mantra and my purpose.
Where do you start?
So now that you’ve made this decision to start a website, where do you start? There are so many website platforms, articles, classes, and videos out there! If you want help building your website, should you go with a marketing agency, a website agency, or a freelancer? How do you choose?
Start with what you need
Start with what you need first. Go through your business and processes and see where a website could help you. Do you want to sell products? Do you plan to offer an e-course? Do you want to put a portfolio of your work online? Do you want to automate an onboarding process for your clients?
Then start thinking about the tech side. Are you pretty savvy or at elast willing to learn? Do you want to let someone else do it, or do you want to DIY? Do you want everything together in one platform, or are you ok with figuring out how to piece things together?
Once you know more about what you want, you can start thinking about how to build it. If you’re going to build it yourself, start making a list of what you’ll need. If you’d prefer to hire someone, make a list of questions to ask about what you’ll need.
Either way, here’s a list of website necessities to start:
- Website platform
How to choose a domain name
Your domain is your address on the web – this one is icodehappy.com. It’s how people find you, so make it as easy as possible. Some people recommend short domains – one word, even a made-up one. I don’t disagree, but my recommendation is to make it easy to remember. If it’s easy to say, it will probably be easy to remember.
I’d rather have beemerbusinessbooks.com than biznessbooks.com. Why? Because if I mention my website in a conversation, someone can go type in the first one and find it. The second one? I’d have to explain the misspelling for someone to find my site. Things like that can be a marketing strategy, but be aware of how you’ll deal with it.
Make sure your domain fits your business, not just now but long term. For example, if you start with an online bookstore – appybeemerbooks.com and expand into selling chocolate candy and organic health products on the same site, it might not work well. On the other hand, using a more broad domain like beemergifts.com might give the business room to grow.
This ability to grow or pivot business ideas is why you see many sites with a personal brand – like appybeemer.com – because any business fits there.
Some people recommend adding keywords to your domain name, but Google’s official position is that it is not necessary.
Finally, use a .com extension if possible. Over half of domains use the .com extension. According to growthbadger.com, .com domains are more memorable and more trusted than others.
Your website platform is a critical choice
You must choose the best website platform for YOU and your business. Of course, which platform you choose affects everything else about your website. There are tradeoffs to them all, so knowing what’s important to you before you start your search will help you decide.
Website platforms run from basic to complex, from convenient to flexible. Some platforms excel at one specific type of website – like e-commerce or online courses. Some platforms are great for beginners, while others offer many options and might be better for more advanced users.
Then there are “all-in-one” platforms that offer lots of features – mostly at basic levels. Still other platforms allow you to customize the site into precisely what you want, with nothing you don’t want to clutter it up.
There are so many options that it is important to know what you want first so that you can see what fits you best.
Do you need website hosting?
The answer is – not necessarily! Depending on your website platform, your hosting is included with your website if you choose a hosted platform. Popular platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, and even WordPress.com are all hosted platforms. You do not need to purchase hosting if you choose a hosted platform.
For self-hosted platforms such as WordPress.org, you will need to choose website hosting. Hosting varies greatly in both price and features. Website speed, security, and even maintenance are all part of the hosting choice. There are hosts out there that are very inexpensive – and in a lot of cases, you do indeed get what you pay for.
The hosts that are a bit more expensive offer faster website speeds, which offer better experiences to your visitors and help you rank higher in search engines. They also offer better website security. Some of these hosts even offer maintenance for your site, usually at an additional charge.
So who do I recommend? Siteground and WPEngine are two hosts I would recommend – I’ve used them both. Personally, I use Cloudways, but it is a more advanced host that requires some tech skills. None of these are affiliate links.
Website security – do I need to worry about it?
Well, yes. At the very minimum, use strong passwords for any website platform you choose. Be very selective in the people you give access to the log in to the site, and give them only the access they need to accomplish their tasks.
If your website platform is a hosted platform, most other security will be taken care of by the platform. Of course, themes or apps should be kept updated, but most of that should be automatic with a hosted platform. Make sure to choose apps that have good ratings. You can check the reviews to be sure you don’t get bad apps that may have a security risk.
If you choose a self-hosted platform, where you choose the hosting, then website security is all your responsibility. The software and plugins (for WordPress.org) must be kept updated.
What is website maintenance?
Website maintenance is the process of keeping your website software up to date. It is critical to prevent your website from being hacked and to perform at its peak.
For hosted website platforms, maintenance is much less critical. The website platforms keep their software updated. Your only responsibility is to make sure the themes, apps, or extensions you use have the latest updates. This is to ensure that you have the lastest features as well as the safest version of the software.
For self-hosted website platforms such as WordPress.org, the WordPress software itself must be updated frequently – and plugins and themes too. After updating, the site must be checked to make sure the updates didn’t cause any issues with the site. (For more information about website maintenance, here’s an entire post on the subject.)
You’re getting a website
I know this seems like a lot. It’s easy to give up and just pick one already. But choosing the right website platform can make your life easier in so many ways. If self-hosted platforms like WordPress.org just seem way too complicated – then hosted platforms are a better choice for you unless you can hire help you trust. On the other hand, if hosted platforms just don’t seem to fit exactly what you want, then it might be worth the extra time and effort to have a self-hosted site that you can completely customize.
If you are struggling with this choice, please reach out – I’d be glad to help!