Tag Archives: small business website

What’s the Easiest Way to Setup a Website for My Business?

How can I setup a website for my business is a question I get asked a lot. If you have a real world business you may know that you need to have an online presence, you may even realise that its the cheapest form of advertising you can buy. If money is no object then I can assure that you can spend thousands on getting a custom designed website. A website that may not rank well in the search engines, so your potential customers will never find you. I strongly suggest that instead you invest a little time and a lot less money and setup your own website.  There are three steps:

  1. buy your domain name;
  2. buy some hosting for your website;
  3. install and configure WordPress for that site.

But WordPress is for blogging you say? Well no its not – WordPress is just a tool which you can use to create a blog, a static website, a portfolio page or an online resume. In the same way you can can chose to use Microsoft Word to write the next great Australian novel, or the shopping list. Its just a tool.

Buying Your Domain Name

Many small businesses will automatically think that their domain name should be TomBrownPainter.com if they happen to be a painter called Tom Brown – that’s not a bad choice, but you may actually want to consider a more SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly url around “painter” and any other skills you might have and the local area you serve.  PainterDecoratorMyTown.com or MyTownHousePainter.com may be better. Don’t worry – you don’t have to build separate websites for all of them. You can point all of your domains to your main website and each domain will cost you less than $10 year.

Buying Hosting for Your Business Website

You may be offered a free domain with your hosting – I’ve explained before about hosting scams. Domains are cheap, hosting is cheap don’t try to go with the more dubious options of free.

Install WordPress

Chose a host which includes something called “fantastico” on its feature list – a good webhost like Hostgator will do so. Using fantastico its only a couple of clicks to install the software – and you are ready to start making WordPress your own by installing some useful extensions to the software – called plugins.

You will also need to chose a theme which controls how your website looks – but that is a whole different post!

Unique Content and Legitmate Online Businesses

Is unqiue content important for your legitimate online business? Many blogs about blogging will say YES it must be unique! Google loves unique content – it won’t rank anything else – well yes and no. So lets look at the case for unqiue content in the post and then look at the others options later.

Content to Promote Your Real World Business

If your business website is supporting a consultancy or a real-world business then your site should be well written and the content should be unqiue – you are after all trying to differentiate yourself from your competition.  The more you write the more content you will have on your pages so that google can read it.  Try to write content which includes terms that your customers would use – not necessarily the language that you, as an expert in the field, would use when talking to a peer.

Why? Because those are their terms your potential customers will use to find your website. There may not be an awful lot of people searching for the “a local widget maker in mysmall town” – but if someone is and you are the correctly located widget maker you almost certainly have yourself a very good lead.

Content for a Residual Income Website

If you are building  niche websites then your type of content depends on your monetisation method to some extent. If you are going to be using Google’s Adsense program – then you must have unique content – the more the better. Using spun or duplicate content will get you penalised and at worst dropped from the program. Its hard to argue that your site is designed just to make money from Adsense if you are using duplicate or very poor quality content. Your content should provide value to the reader. And the longer the better – why? Because the more you write about a topic the more likely you are to come across random phrases that  people are searching for – the so-called “long tail keywords” – keep an eye on your statistics and you will no doubt be very surprised about the topics that people are finding your website by searching for.

If you are promoting affiliate programs then you really need to be writing pre-sales copy. Again keeping the content of your own website will allow you to rank quicker with fewer backlinks – but copywriting is a specific style of writing and if you are not familiar with writing in this style then check out some specialist resources.

Content for EzineArticles.

Ezinearticles.com is one of the best article directories to submit articles for – you will get both a powerful backlink and also, quite possible visitors from their site. For this reason they are extremely picky about the quality of articles that they will accept from you – particularly if you are a new author with them. Make sure anything you submit to them is not just unique but grammatically and spelling-wise perfect.

Content for Other Support Articles

Many people will use software to distribute the same, or similar, articles to many different article directories.  Although these don’t provide terribly strong links – they are links and they will be counted – in fact Google will index and even rank unqiue content – but that’s for the next post.

Hosting and Domain Names – Make the Right Choices

If you decide that you do want to move beyond ways to make residual income without a website and want to setup your own website – you need two very important things: you need to register a domain name and you need to get some hosting for your websites. If you read nothing else of this post nad remember less – remember this:

DO NOT EVER HOST YOUR WEBSITE WITH THE SAME COMPANY WHO SOLD YOU THE DOMAIN NAME

Sorry for shouting but it really is that important – why – because quite simple if something goes wrong with your hosting arrangement they can hold your domain to ransom. Doesn’t happen? Couldn’t happen to you – sorry its fairly frequent – read a friend’s of mine Dreamhost Review where exactly that happened – and its costing him a lot of money too (the language is a bit rough -he’s very angry I think you would be to).

So stepping back to the basics:

What is a Domain Name Registrar?

This is the company who rents, yes rents not sells, your domain name to you – for example I buy my domains from godaddy.com and I pay around $7.60 a year to rent this domain: netmarketingtoday.com. People talk about buying their domain – but you don’t ever buy a domain – you rent it – so long as you keep paying the fees your will keep the domain name, but if you stop paying you will lose the site name and someone else may buy it.  Domains come in too main flavours : local country domains  e.g. google.co.uk or stuff.co.nz or abc.net.au  which are domains associated with UK, New Zealand and Australia respectively . Generally the last two-l.etters refer to a country – .ws isn’t “website” its Western Samoa  (in the Pacific) .tv isn’t television its Tuvalau (another small country in the Pacific); though more recently  new “top level domains” have been set up which include .biz and .me for business and personal websites respectively. You will generally pay quite a lot more for these TLDs.

The registrar who rents the domain name is critical – if for some reason you lose your domain name you may lose your business. I use godaddy for all my domains – they are cheap for  US based domain names (.com .net .org. info). If I wanted a local .au or .nz domain I would probably use a domain registrar in the appropriate country -they tend to be a lot cheaper.

Tips to avoid losing your domain:

  • give real information – your legal name, your address – if you are worried about privacy you can add a privacy option to any domain name,  or use a PO Box
  • use an email address you check regularly and which is not going to get lose e.g. an email attached to your Internet provider – this is the email that is used to send you renewal notices you want to recieve those notices
  • you can pre-pay up to ten years for important domains – and there may be a slight SEO benefit for registering a domain for more than one year.

What is Hosting?

Hosting is where you keep the files which are your website – if you domain name is lease on a  property then your hosting is your house. Now you don’t need to buy hosting – you can set up your own hosting on your own PC in the back-bedroom – but it takes quite a lot of technical knowledge. Most people pay for hosting – its very cheap anyway – you can get a basic account for $5/month – even less sometimes, and it means that you have someone to call if anything goes wrong. Regardless of where you host your website you should have backups of your files (I use a WordPress plugin which automatically emails me a backup of my database everyday).

There is however a catch to cheap hosting – they all offer “unlimited bandwidth, unlimited disk space” – most beginners are more worried about disk space than bandwidth. They are wrong – bandwidth is the issue particularly if you are running WordPress. Why hosting is so cheap is because the vast majority of websites use very, very fewer “resources “(ie bandwidth and disk space) . But if your site becomes popular you will suddenly use an awful lot of bandwidth – and your hosting company, if you are on “shared-hosting” will shut you down.

The reason they shut you down is quite simply to protect their other customers on the same machine – your sudden demands may take a whole lot of websites off-air – not just yours. I don’t have an issue with companies doing this – though its a shame they are not more open about it – the issue is – what happens next.

What should happen is that you are given the option to upgrade your plan, quickly – remember your site is down because you are finally getting some traffic! If you don’t like the option provided – you should be able to move to a new host – again quickly.

Now moving hosts should be very, very easy – particularly if you have a recent backup of you website. You contact another web hosting company – set up an account. Go back to your domain registrar and change your “nameservers” to point at the new servers whcih your new hosting company will have given to you.  It will take maybe 24 hours for the Internet to recognise that you have moved nameservers – you rebuild your website and you are on-air again.

Unless of course the company you have a dispute over hosting also controls your domain. NEVER accept  a free domain as part of a hosting deal – at least not for anything more important than Aunty May’s 80th Birthday Album because as I said before

DO NOT EVER HOST YOUR WEBSITE WITH THE SAME COMPANY WHO SOLD YOU THE DOMAIN NAME

Issues such as my friend’s experience with Dreamhost: deal with the host holding your domain to ransom until you do what they want with your hosting – do not put yourself in this position. Dreamhost is notorious for doing this – so is Godaddy – note I use Godaddy for domains NOT for hosting no matter how much they try to upsell me to do so.

Another option maybe to consider reseller hosting – I use reseller hosting form HostGator this costs a lot more (around $25/month) but means that every domain I have is totally separate – each has its own hosting panel (cpanel) – if one domain runs out of resources – it has no effect on my other sites.It also has the advantage that if I sell a site I can sell the hosting with it – I simply change the login to the cpanel and tine new owner has access – no downtime – not transfer – no mess.

If you have a really big site you need  a dedicated server  -but that is far more than than the most of use.  Again if this is all a bit technical at the moment don’t worry – there is one thing you need to remember:

DO NOT EVER HOST YOUR WEBSITE WITH THE SAME COMPANY WHO SOLD YOU THE DOMAIN NAME

If you have had good experiences or bad with hosting companies or domain regsistrars please leave a comment below – remember you never really know how good a company is until you have a problem. I personally have found hotstagator chat support (I live far from the US so I don’t call them) to be excellent and response both then I have had sites hacked and when I have broken them through my own stupidity. I would never go with a hosting company that did not provide a number to call and chat as well as email – email is just not good enough sometimes.

SEO and Design – Are they Mutually Incompatible

Its tough being a small business owner and trying to get your SME online without being ripped off. Its the classic problem of not knowing what you don’t know. You think you need a website – and they guy who designs your brochures offers websites as well – that’s logical right? Or you nephew is a wizz and design and said he’d come up with a cool flash-enabled website for you for – for free.

Well – probably not.

A website isn’t just an online brochure. Well it shouldn’t be anyway. No I don’t mean you need a fancy online shopping site either. What I mean that though a picture is worth a thousand words, a website which has good SEO is worth a whole lot more money than one that is not.

Here’s why.  A well-SEO’ed website will make it easier for the major search engines (aka Google) to find your site. That means if your potential customer goes online searching for widget makers – they will find your site and not your competitors.

So do yourself a favour – don’t rush into the cheapest or first deal you find to put your website online – try to find out if your designer has some idea about how to make your website “accessible to Google” – if he doesn’t find another one!

Even if you don’t understand it all check out this great article by a friend of mine on how to Combine SEO and Attractive Website Design – and forward it on to your designer!