Websites: The Basics
Websites are as necessary to your business as a phone number, whether you’re brick and mortar or exclusively online. WordPress is the best solution for a small business website, as it allows you to retain control over your site and make changes as you wish without hiring a developer.
Here are the basics of what you need to know about your website. First, some vocabulary.
- Your domain name. A domain name is a domain name. By that I mean it doesn’t make one bit of difference where you buy it. Your domain name is the address of your website on the internet; the domain name for this site is bethganders.com. I use NameCheap.com to buy domains because, well, they are cheap. The only thing you need to do with your domain is to point the nameservers in the right direction. Domain names are generally inexpensive, so it makes sense to buy variations on your name; perhaps your name is frequently misspelled, so you may want to buy the most frequent spelling error for that domain. Get as many variations of your name as possible: .com, .net, etc. Even if you don’t plan to use them, you’d rather others not have them, right? Buy your domain as soon as you decide what it is, as you have no special rights to your own name; in fact I originally bought this domain because BethSanders.com wasn’t available. Even famed singer Madonna had to wage a court battle to secure the Madonna.com domain. So buy it quickly.
- Your hosting. Web hosting is simply space you buy on a company’s server to put the files that make up your website. It’s not that different than your own computer applications: each piece of software has files included are required for it to do its job. In the same way, you upload website files to your server space. If you use WordPress, you’ll upload the WordPress files to your server, which uses the programming language PHP to connect with your database. Good hosting is absolutely necessary; this is not the time to be a cheapskate, as it can impact your site security, speed, and overall performance. Be sure that the hosting package you buy is from a reputable company and that it is WordPress compatible.* Most hosts will mention WordPress is their advertising if they are compatible. You want a host that offers a one-click install.
Now that you know what you’re talking about, here are the steps if you’re just starting out.
Decide on the name of your business and domain name and get the domain. Be sure it’s something that’s easy to repeat and tell potential visitors.
- Buy a hosting package. The host will provide you with nameservers. All you need to know about nameservers is that they tell your domain name where the files are.
- Go into your domain account and add the nameservers. If you don’t know where to do this, either search for it on the site where you registered your domain or check Help. Then all you have to do is copy/paste the nameservers given to you by the host. There will probably be two or three nameservers depending on your host. Once you’ve added the nameservers to the domain registration account, all you have to do is wait. It can take up to 48 hours for them to resolve — my experience is that it rarely takes that long.
- Once you have your hosting up and running, you can install WordPress on the server. This should be easy as you’ll have a one-click install. The host will now create a database for you and install WordPress. You’ll get an email and login name along with a link to set your password, then you’re good to go.
- Choose a theme. Your theme is what will determine the look and feel of your site. This post gives you an overview of how to choose the best theme.
Tips For An Effective Website
Be mobile. Don’t even bother if you don’t plan to build a mobile-ready website. According to Statista, 52.2 percent of all website traffic comes from mobile devices. Unless you can afford to alienate more than half of your readers, be mobile friendly.
- Keep the keys. If you hire a designer or developer to build your website, be sure that you retain control of everything related to your website. Ask any professionals you use to set up accounts in your name. When I design a website for a client, I leave them with the keys to everything, but some designers will not, in order to keep you dependent on them. Don’t agree to this; it’s like giving them the key to your business, then hiring them to come and let you in every morning.
- Content first. Fit your theme to your content; not the other way around. Before you even begin to think about themes, plugins, and colors, get your content written and organized.
- Suggested plugins. Here’s a list of plugins I use on every site, all of which have free versions. All plugins available from WordPress.org have been reviewed and approved by WordPress experts and are safe to use.
- WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache. These plugins speed up your website, which matters to Google and will matter to you if you want to maximize your traffic.
- WP Smush. Optimizes images and makes pages load faster.
- Yoast SEO. Gives guidelines on how to optimize your posts and pages to be found on search engines.
- Auto-Optimize or WP Optimize. Keeps your database clean and uncluttered, which helps site speed.
- Updraft Plus. Excellent backup program that lets you schedule backups at whatever intervals you choose and allows you to restore with one click.
An effective and well-designed website is the first step toward a powerful online presence. You can read more about building excellent websites in my book, Online Success: 7 Steps to a Powerful Internet Presence. Click the link below this post to learn more.
*For this site, I use and highly recommend WP-Engine. It’s a little more expensive, but worth it. I’ve also used Dreamhost and Bluehost, and have heard excellent reviews on Siteground, though I haven’t used it myself. Note: these links are affiliate links, which means I may get money if you click on them and purchase. However, you should know that there is not enough money in the world to make me recommend anything I don’t believe in.