So you’ve decided you want a professional website for your blog, hobby, or business. You’ve looked around on Google to find a web development company or freelancer near you. (You have looked on Google right?).
You’ve hopefully gotten over the sticker shock of how much it costs to build a professional website. (It ranges between $2,000 to $6,000 depending on what you want) I’m sure you’ve compared the prices between different companies and decided which one offers you the best deal based on your business needs. (If not, you should do that now)
Maybe you are like most people and have no idea why its so expensive, how websites work, how they are built, or how to use one to earn you money. Maybe you’re looking to find the cheapest person who can to build you a site quickly. Maybe you think once its up you can take over and do it yourself.
That is the road to ruin my friend. You get what you pay for. In other words, how can you expect them to do something for you that they haven’t done for themselves? Seems reasonable but few people apply that kind of logic when they want a shiny new website.
For those “Do-it-yourself” type people. Don’t assume because you’ve used Facebook and Google that you know how to build a website. That’s like assuming because you drive your car to work, you somehow know how to fix it when it breaks down. Or worse, you think you could build one from scratch.
If you do not already know how to write code or how computers work. Trying to do it yourself will be like trying to put IKEA furnature together in the dark. Of course I am not saying you cannot learn. There are tons of YouTube videos and whole websites where you can learn web development for free. I encourage everyone who has interest and time to learn how to write code. The question is do you want to be a developer or just own and run your own site?
Technically speaking you do not have to know how to write code to setup and run a functional website for your business. Unless you want a custom design and special features. The learning curve is much less if you are simply writing content and marketing your products and/or services.
For those of you who are busy trying to run a business it would be wiser to save your time and hire a professional, like me, who knows what they are doing. Just be willing to listen to that professional since that’s why you’ve hired them. They have put in the time to learn all this stuff.
Keep in mind having a web site doesn’t mean people will instantly find you online or give you money. Its not like winning the lotto. Making money online is hard and takes time. There is no silver bullet. You have to build your site correctly from the start so people can search for you on Google. This is based on things the are already looking for that match with what you are selling. How do you do that? Its call Search Engine Optimization or SEO. There are whole companies that specialize in just doing SEO for websites. That’s how deep this rabbit hole goes.
Having a website is like owning a puppy. You have to feed it, walk it, and clean up after it. With a website you have to set it up correctly, SEO, Marketing, add some kind of payment system to sell products and/or services so people can buy from your site. Then you have to maintain it with constant content updates. Otherwise it will be a boring static site few people will want to visit. It will cost you money instead of earning you money.
If you just want a free site to post your thoughts I suggest you go to WordPress.com. You’ll get a limited free blog with a free domain of your choice. However, if you want to make custom changes or use your own domain it will cost you. Still, if you just want to post your thoughts and add some photos its a good way to get familiar with the software. Beware WordPress.com’s free account is very restrictive.
To earn money from your website you’ll need to pay for a hosted version of the WordPress software. Then you will need to sell a service, product, and/or advertisements. The design of your site and your content (written text) are all part of presenting whatever you are selling in a compelling way to entice your viewers to buy from you. There are tons of books, videos, and websites that can teach you how to do all of these things. However, as I pointed out previously it takes years to learn everything you’ll need to know.
In an effort to save you time and money I’ve written a short summary of how to setup a web site for beginners. This is a bare bones broad strokes overview of how to do it. If this doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t want to take the time to read this and follow along, then you should hire a professional.
1. Go to GoDaddy.com and pick a domain. Make sure it is focused on the thing you want to be known for or the thing you are selling. Consider thinking from the point of view of someone who’s putting a search in Google. What would you need to type in to find the thing you are selling? This is called Search Engine Optimization. If you start building your website with the idea of making it easy to find on Google, you’ll get more traffic later on.
Buy your domain if it is available and make sure to pay the extra $7.00 – $10.00 for privacy. It prevents people from getting your email address and spamming you. We all get enough spam as it is. Plus, people with a bit of knowledge can use your domain to look up your home address. Do you really want them to show up at your house? Trust me, get the privacy. It will prevent headaches in the future.
2. You can get hosting separate from your domain from many other companies. Just search on Google for “web hosting”. However for the simplicity of this article I will suggested sticking with GoDaddy.com as well. Having your domain and hosting in the same place, with the same company, will make it really easy to connect the two together. They have excellent customer service and will setup everything for you if you ask them nicely. Just ask them for WordPress hosting. Which is cheaper than standard hosting. Or, if you’re technical you can follow their setup guide. Either way it will only take you 10 minutes to get your site up and running.
3. Sign-in to your site with the user name and password you created. Use a strong password. Make sure to save it some place secure. Pick a free theme within WordPress. Or buy theme from Themeforest.net. Customize your theme with colors and photos.
4. Add content. Write up a compelling story about who you are, what you do, and what you’re selling. Write it from the point of view of the people who are going to read it. Speak directly to them and tell them how your product or service will benefit them. Keep it simple.
5. Add plug-ins. WordPress has tons of free plug-ins that let you customize your SEO, Google Analytics, Contact Form, while pulling in other website functionality. You can use YouTube for video, SoundCloud and iTunes for music. Amazon for product sales. MailChimp for email marketing. Plus tons of other Social Media Marketing plug-ins. These help you bring people to your site so they will read your content and buy your products.
6. SEO – Which means Search Engine Optimization. This is how people find you on Google. Search engines like Google will scan your site on a regular basis and rank it based on how active it is, how recent you updated the content, how relevant your keywords are, and how many people are linking to your site, among other things. Learn more about SEO here: Beginners Guide to SEO.
7. You can learn inbound marketing for free on Hubspot.com This will give you a primer on how to capture people’s attention and drive traffic to your web site.