Are you wondering how to setup a business website?
This information is provided for everyone who wants to know exactly what is required to go online, but who want to avoid getting bombarded with a bunch of technical mumble jumble. A bit of tech talk is necessary. But I’ve tried to keep the tech talk light.
Here are the steps:
1) Choose a domain name www.yourname.com. I recommend using godaddy.com to register your domain. Highly recommended for that, but ONLY for domain registration and SSL. I NEVER recommend using their hosting services. I’ve given their hosting services more than one try and found them lacking. Why? because Godaddy offers an excessively limited proprietary hosting system that will cost you more money overall. Plus more time to setup. Really, the services godaddy charges ‘extra’ for almost all other hosts generally provide for free. Using godaddy for hosting is like buying a new tv from BestBuy but then paying extra for the power cord. No joke. Godaddy removes features that are by default already part of the linux/unix system, then charges extra for those ‘features’. Save yourself the headache, stick to godaddy for what godaddy is good at — domain name registration and killer SSL registration.
2) Choose a web host and setup web hosting services for your domain. Hostgator.com is highly recommended. They bend over backwards to help you, even when you yourself screw things up on your site. Yeah, I know firsthand *blush*
4) Once your nameserver info is pasted into your Godaddy account, return to your new Hostgator.com account so you can begin setting the appearance of your site.
5) Install WordPress to your site (use the fantastico link in your Hostgator.com control panel). Why WordPress? It is a simple, free, and flexible site design and management system. Plus Google seems to love WordPress sites == more free traffic to your site.
6) Find a free or paid design/template for your site. Or hire a web designer to create a custom site design for you.
Both free and predesigned themes (as WordPress site design templates are called) are a cost effective way to get a site live. Instead of spending tens of thousands getting a site designed and put online, you can simply use a pre-existing theme that is free. Or if you prefer ttle something extra, you can pay for ‘premium’ themes. Usually these themes contain elements that are excluded from free themes. But not always. There are thousands of pre-designed themes to choose from. Free and fee-based.
The downside to pre-designed themes is restricted appearance and third-party branding. Unless you know CSS or html, changing a predesigned theme can be a major hassle — trust me, I’ve done it a number of times. Customizing someone else’s theme is NEVER fun.
Hiring a WordPress designer is less hassle. So is using a template system like Thesis which allows you to control the design yourself. Generally less hassle than trying to alter someone else’s design by hand. Especially if you are unfamiliar with CSS or html. I would not recommend trying to change someone else’s theme by hand if you are not a skilled designer. Not worth the hassles.
Choose a predesigned theme if you can find one you like and if you don’t plan on ‘tweaking’ the theme’s appearance much beyond adding your own content or images. Any changes beyond adding your own images and content ie blog posts requires a knowledge of CSS and html. Your time is best spent marketing your business and making money, not learning technical skills such as CSS or html if you don’t already have those skills.
Trust me when I say you will lose tons of sales and marketing opportunities when you spend [waste] days, weeks, or months learning css or html. Instead focus on things like cashflow or building a list of customers for your business. Leave the techie design stuff to techs. You don’t make money doing those things anyways. Focus on what brings in the money — marketing your business.
7) Once you’ve settled on a theme personalize it by adding your own content ie ABOUT US/CONTACT/ORDERING DETAILS/ETC/ETC and photographs etc into your selected theme.
8) Setup online order processing/ecommerce if you plan to directly sell online.
If you do plan to sell online you’ll need:
- a) a payment processor
- b) some form of online (ecommerce) order processing software
As far as payment processors go, PayPal is easiest to work with starting out. But not the most ethical of processors. And not the cheapest in the long run either. Google checkout is the most reliable I’ve ever used. They are a real payment processor bound by credit laws. PayPal is not.
Google can require a little more ‘techie’ setup though. The process is not recommended for the faint of heart. Especially if your webhost is different than the place where your domain is registered. Example: hostgator hosting but godaddy domain registration. Not fun to setup Google Checkout in this circumstance. Best to pay the extra $20 or so bucks to let hostgator do all the techie setup for you. Will save days of hassles trying to learn the ins and outs of techie crap. If you are a tightwad don’t whine when you realize I told you so! Just pay the one-time extra for some onhand help and be done with trying to handle Google Checkout and SSL setup on your own.
As far as ecommerce software goes, which software you should go with depends on what you plan to sell and how you plan to sell it and how much money and how many transaction you realistically expect to process in any given month.
There are straight simple shopping carts. Catalog carts. Membership systems. Affiliate systems. Auction sites. And more.
For non-membership sites you have a ton of free and not-so-free payment processing carts. Your technical proficiency will also play a large part here in determining which cart is best for you.
I always recommend self-sufficiency, so you keep more of what you earn. But self-sufficiency requires more administrative and technical headaches than using a hosted service.
Hosted services usually cost you money every month, often whether you sell anything or not. But you have the advantage of eliminating nearly all technical and security hassles that come with ecommerce self-sufficiency. Is a trade off. Either save time and hassles by using third-party cart (Google Checkout, PayPal, etc) or save money by using aMember or one of the many carts similar to the carts listed below. You keep more of what you earn but security and technical challenges fall on your own shoulders.
Here are a few sample carts:
- Magento Commerce.com [Ideal for catalog-type site. A slightly limited and unsupported free version of this cart is available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/magento/]
- x-cart.com/ [a free version is also available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/x-cart/]
- OScommerce [a more updated paid version may be available]
- infusionsoft.com/ [one of the more expensive carts, but most reliable, feature-rich, and flexible]. Only recommended for serious ecommerce merchants.
Several carts are pre-installed for no extra charge at Hostgator.com. Unfortunately not all automatically integrate well with pre-designed WordPress themes.
You’ll need to know in advance a) what type of site you plan to build (i.e. catalog site, single-product sales, membership site, etc) b) what type of email followup needs you will have and c) what level of security you need, before selecting a cart.
Not all carts internally support email sequences, ongoing followups, or work standalone on your site without extra SSL or other requirements in addition to installing the carts.
9) Promote your site. Use my Core-3 Web Marketingtm approach to online marketing. Core-3 Web Marketingtm is simple, practical, and easy to apply techniques for properly promoting a site online. The method uses a combination of onsite and offsite and visitor tracking/conversion techniques to dramatically boost traffic and online sales.
Offsite promotions include things like:
- news releases
- joint ventures
- local SEO activities
- niche specific SEO
- Adwords testing
- social media marketing
- syndicate content to online media outlets to indirectly promote your site
If you plan to go the Adwords route [which I do NOT recommend for any company new to launching a website] you should ideally have around $10,000 or so ‘to play with’ for testing Adwords. To make serious money with Adwords you MUST seriously niche your Google ads and carefully scrutinize every Adwords dollar like a hawk. Otherwise you will lose money and not generate conclusive testing results. So unless you have tons of money on hand to test with you MUST become extremely methodical about daily tracking your ad performance. Maybe track hourly if success and positive returns are critical.
Onsite marketing activities often require a higher level of technical knowledge than offsite marketing activities. Onsite web marketing activities might include steps such as:
- make sure your content (the actual human readable words and phrases used throughout your site) is structured properly for the best SEO positioning possible i.e. SEO copywriting
- make sure to structure the layout of your content and internal links to get the best possible SEO milage. You need to organize your content in a way that it maintains your natural human organization, but at the same time indicating to the Google bot what content in your site is most important and where to go to get that content. This is no easy task. For a large site this is nearly humanly impossible. Automation is required. But for a local small business site, this can be doable. It will just take a bit of work and forethought.
- make sure the header for your site and each page of your site as well as all other elements not seen by users but seen by the search engines are properly SEO optimized
These are the basic steps needed for marketing any site online. There unfortunately isn’t enough time in my day to document all Core-3 Web Marketingtm steps in detail here. However you can read an SEO overview here. Much is detailed there about marketing an offline business online. And one final recommendation is this free search marketing webinar excerpt. All three steps are introduced throughout the short 18 minutes search marketing webinar.
Oh. Of the nine simple steps for setting up a business website I forgot to mention one step earlier. So lets call it step 5B.
Here is step 5B: before selecting a design you must first determine the type of site you plan to setup.
This is largely determined by who you are marketing to and what you are marketing. For instance you could go with a simple squeeze page, a catalog layout, glossary, or one of a number of other approaches. Here are a few catalog layouts just as examples:
This approach is NOT necessarily recommended for starting out though. Catalog systems work best for an established client base of repeat buyers. For most everyone else you need a way to feature each product independently in some format other than as a catalog. Sales will suffer if you try to use a catalog layout inappropriately. Selecting the type of site right for you is largely driven by what you are selling and to whom. Get this wrong and your site will bomb.
Back when I used to help businesses setup new sites from scratch, sorting out the right type of site to use was the type of thing I helped clients determine. Now I work primarily with companies that already have established sites but want greater online sales and profits. Is easier for me than spending time trying to ‘educate’ someone about web marketing who hasn’t already experienced that more is required for online success than simply posting up a web design.
Seems only existing site owners who’ve experienced the frustration of failed sites or sites that are far from the success the company would like to see appreciate the real significance of Core-3 Web Marketingtm. Everyone else imagines putting a site online should cost only a couple hundred dollars to design and setup. They can’t understand Core-3 Web Marketingtm principles at all. So I no longer bother trying to convince anyone.
What To Do With This Information
If you are sold on the importance of Core-3 Web Marketingtm approaches then by all means use this information. But if you are like most people I’ve spoken with, these nine primary steps for getting a business site up and running probably sounds daunting. At times even consultants get frustrated trying to determine all the correct steps. That’s why I created an SEO training program for future consultants. For small business owner the information is overkill, though. The training is for anyone who wants to enter the field of online SEO and web marketing consulting.
If you own a business that you plan to put online, or already have a site online that you’d like to improve, just take each step listed in this post one step at a time. Apply them to your online activities. Then you’ll be ahead of most any local competitor. How much activity you take on is determined by how much competition exists online. The more entrenched your online competitors, the more work is required. The less competition exists online, the less work required.
As you can probably imagine getting a site online and profitable quickly is a lot of work. Dedicating at least 60 to 100 hours of work by following Core-3 Web Marketingtm approach is not uncommon. All three steps are required for building a quality site that actually makes money online.
In the past I handled all of the above steps for clients. But because starting from scratch takes so much work I now work with established companies to create total marketing packages. Not start ups. My total marketing packages include promoting their existing sites –all Core-3 Web Marketingtm approaches– and more. I no longer accept work that only includes designing and setting up sites. There are a ton of web designers available for that. I focus on making money for clients. Whether I’m working on SEO optimizing a website from the ground up or doing site makeovers I do so with complete anonymity. I create a veil of transparency for clients. This way competitors of those I work with can’t easily find exactly how to reverse engineer my clients’ online successes.
If you have been contemplating launching a new business website and have the time to make a solid go at it, I understand this is a lot of work. Still, I hope this step-by-step snapshot gave you a bit of direction for getting started. Or at the very least gives you an idea what is involved in getting a site up and running and making money–whether you choose to hire someone else to do the work for you or handle all these steps yourself.
Oh. You should probably use these steps as a makeshift checklist when talking to anyone who says they can build a site for your business.
Use these nine areas of focus to ask questions that help you weed out scam artists who charge $5,000 to $20,000 or more for doing nothing more than the first 8 steps above. They almost always exclude one or more of the Core-3 Web Marketingtm approaches for making a site profitable. Basically you end up with a stagnant and passive online brochure, not a dynamic responsive site that sells.
Oh. If you plan to create your site yourself here is a coupon code for 25% off your hosting fees if you choose to go with Hostgator.com: 8pnfNL2fLx7
Yes, it’s an affiliate link. I use the link to track how many people really act on the information I provide. Even without the affiliate link I’d still recommend Hostgator.com. I think they are an awesome host to work with. Give them a try. I think you’ll be impressed too.
Would you rather someone else handle all the details of putting your offline business online? Are you ready for Core-3 Web Marketingtm Methods?
I might be able to help. I help select clients put their businesses online and up and making money fast. I also help companies determine a web design and custom marketing approach best for their specific circumstances and their market.
As a trainer of future web marketing consultants you can have the confidence I can recommend the strongest onsite SEO approaches to implement offsite web marketing and visitor conversion techniques so your site makes money and not just sits stagnant, like a glorified passive brochure. And if I’m not available to help I can usually recommend one of my students who is.
Simply contact me online and ask. I don’t bite. Usually.