Module 3, Step 1:
Basics of building site: domain, hosting
You most likely already have a website
Yes, you may have purchased or built your website a few years ago, but you’re doubting that the domain is right, or if hosting is an issue… perhaps you did it in Wix or GoDaddy’s Website Builder and you’re not sure if its capable of converting leads.
All of these things MAY be an issue… or they may not. I’m simply going to briefly relay to you my best recommendations, and what NOT to do and you decide if you need to revise any of your choices.
Purchasing your domain name
I have a thorough article here about the do’s and don’ts of deciding on a new domain name. How to avoid getting penalized, yet still find the best fit for your website… and social media.
I must repeat this though – if you’re intending to use a new company name as your new domain, such as, “paulscustomcabintry.com” make sure the name is legally available for incorporation first.
Yes, I’m a huge advocate of using WordPress unless you’re selling a large catalog of products. In that case, I’d consider Shopify or Megento. But, for the people I’m targeting with this course, I overwhelmingly recommend WordPress because:
Staying power: WP powers 34% of all websites online. When GoDaddy decides to pull its support of your custom built site, or Wix finally goes belly up, WordPress will still be thriving.
Upgradeability: The ability to add plugins to add functionality as needed is HUGE. It also means that you can keep your site as lean as possible.
Content Management System (CMS): WP has the most user-friendly CMS out there, which means you can easily learn how to add that all-important content to your blog even if you needed someone else to produce your website for you. With relative ease, you can learn how to add Google-friendly content to your blog to increase your page rankings.
You own it: You put your own WP package on the server of your choice. No one can hold your site hostage or disappear with your years of content (without your naive consent) as long as you have backups and access to them.
Finding the right web hosting company
Three things to look for to make sure your host is user-friendly:
- Control Panel: Also known as “cpanel”. This is a dashboard of standard tools, so you can tend to your database, email and site files efficiently.
- Tech Support: There will be plenty of unforeseen issues that us common folk won’t be able to tackle on our own even with the Control Panel tools. Good tech support is extremely helpful.
- Site speed/reliability: I’ve found site speed and site responsiveness to be a growing concern today. We pack a lot more code into our websites now. As such, I’ve found that I had to move to a “WordPress Managed” host. This means they specialize in WP sites and their servers and software is optimized for them.
Recommendations: For WordPress users, I highly recommend BlueHost or SiteGround. I moved my sites to SG and found about a 10X increase in speed. So why didn’t I list them first? Because they do this slick “intro pricing” for your first year, then triple the hosting charge annually thereafter. Their tech support and server performance have been impressive these past couple years, but the bait-and-switch policy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Nonetheless, ask me a couple years from now and I’ll likely have a different opinion on website hosting as the players leap frog each other so often.
Building your site: Do’s and Don’ts
I’ve re-done a lot of sites in my career due to bad structure, design, performance and page rankings. Getting a clean, well-structured site put together is important for Google rankings as well as future content development.
I primarily build my client’s sites so that the basic Pages (Homepage, About, Services, Contact…) that won’t change much are very well structured and SEO-friendly. These pages really establish the brand’s professionalism, so I normally suggest that only I edit them. But, as a DIYer, I suggest that you learn to edit and update them as needed, but always prioritize clean and simple. Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects (design).
Which brings us to blog Posts: I expect my clients to continue to grow their sites themselves by adding to their blog. I create categories that are appropriate for their industry, offer as much training as they need, and encourage them to add regularly. Often, I create a “Case Studies” category and auto-feed excerpts into the Homepage. This keeps their website fresh and continues to better their page rankings with Google. This is also valuable content that should be pushed out to your social media channels to attract more prospects.
Make sure that you DO:
Craft the style of your headings and subheads (H1, H2,H3 and H4 tags). When you have these beautifully tweaked, it makes styling your blog content a breeze. Google HATES a lot of manually styled text. Always remember, Google loves good, clean design and structure — and you should too, as it will make adding to your content easier and more fun.
Use H1, H2 and H3 tags: They make the hierarchy of your content much more clear.
Use bulleted items: These again make content much more clear for the reader (so Google likes it).
Learn how to scale your photos under 1200 pixels: You can do this automatically with a plugin such as “Smush“. I run it on most of my sites. You can quickly and drastically kill your website’s performance by uploading large files.
The importance of HTTPS: Make sure that your site runs through a Secured Sockets Layer (SSL). It protects your visitors against phishing. Look next to your domain name in the URL bar at the top of your browser. If your domain is protected, it will show a lock next to the domain name (in Chrome anyway). Google now penalizes sites for not having “https”.
Responsive: Make sure your site works as expected on your phone, tablet and desktop (or laptop). Prospects will come from every avenue, and again, Google will penalize you for poor responsiveness. This is another reason to keep your design relatively simple, but clean.
Use a content delivery network – especially for videos. It will keep your site from getting bogged down with heavy files.
Install Google Analytics if you haven’t done so already. Knowing how many prospects come to your site, where they go, and how many convert into true leads is imperative for future improvement.
Make sure that you DON’T
Use a lot of custom styling of text or buttons. These should be clean and consistent.
Steal content or images: Google penalizes severely for duplicated (plagiarized) content. If you already have a website that consists of a lot of copy/pasted verbiage from your competitors, it’s a slow climb uphill to rectify that. Images lifted without permission — that’s more of a problem with lawyers… and it’s big business for them.
Don’t use more than 3 fonts: And these should be programmed into your style sheets, not chosen willy-nilly. It will keep your site looking clean and consistent, as well as keep its performance up to par.
Use the same, consistent colors: Your brand consistency should be as important to you as it is to Google.
Don’t overuse stock photos: So, not only “don’t steal them”, but don’t use many of them. They look fake, so they take away from the important trust factors. We all have cameras in our pockets – it doesn’t make us pro photographers, but we can get some useful photos from them.
A final word…
I know you’re sick of hearing “Google” by now, but my first priority when creating a website is making sure we’re doing our best for it to get found while spending as little on additional marketing as possible.
If you learn the basics above, it will help you stay focused on what’s important (feeding your site great content).