Starting a website is one of the simplest, most difficult things a company can do. OK, a bit of a confusing sentence there, but if you think about it, it’s right on target. You buy a URL (web address), get hosting, make a page and voila, your site is born. Now, of course what appears to be incredibly simple is incredibly complex in many things. Let’s take this one step at a time and you’ll see that a tremendous amount of thought needs to go into planning a website before you ever get to the URL purchase stage.
Find a URL
Finding a URL requires some research. First determine what your website is goign to be and going to sell. Google ranks your domain name in it’s search criteria, so a business selling bracelets would do best to have the word in it’s domain name. Look up your domain on a respected domain selling website, I prefer GoDaddy, but any large hosting company site will also sell domain names. Once you’ve exhausted all the names in your head and not found one to your liking, do a keyword search for your product with Google’s Keyword tool. When you decide to purchase your domain name, make sure you do not make a 1 year purchase. Do it for a minimum of 3 years, that says to Google that you’re serious about your business and not some fly-by-night site, it works into your page ranking and your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) listing. But don’t buy your domain name yet, because there are combo deals to be had with your hosting package…
Find Website Hosting
Websites can be hosted on any server in the world. You want a company with 24/7 support and the promise of 99.999% uptime. Don’t do it yourself! The cost of hosting is so reasonable, it mitigates you having to do server maintenance and the headaches of server attacks. Again, I recommend using a big company and secure more than a one year deal. Most companies will price it out month to month, but you’ll save a bunch by going with a multi-year package. And they tend to reduce the domain purchase to extremely minimal.
Build Your Site
Now here is where we get into the investment in your new business. Building a website can cost you anywhere from nothing to hundreds of thousands of dollars and everywhere in between. Be realistic. Storyboard it yourself so you know EXACTLY what you want. A storyboard is a series of pictures telling a story. Your website is going to be your business’ story. So, lay out what you envision it to be. Home page, product pages, about company page, informational page, etc. Every site is different, but before you ever start buiding, give yourself an idea of what it’s goign to be. Do some research on the big players in your industry. Get some ideas on what they do that you like and dislike.
Now, there are several ways to go with building a website.
Do it yourself
If you have the time and technical capbilities, doign it yourself lets you have complete control and artistic freedom. There are many programs to help you along such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expressions. Most hosting companies have content management systems where you can build pages and manage content.
Hire a Local College Kid or Relative
I know this sounds crazy…and it is. Many sites are built like this, however and while it will get you started and online more quickly and cheaply, these sites always look amateurish and rarely get the traffic back that you lose initially. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Hire a professional
If you have a serious business, then be serious about building a website. There are thousands of companies out there that create websites. Look around at other sites and see what you like. Then find out who made it, many web design companies add their own link at the bottom of each page. Shop around. The be ready to let them know EXACTLY what you want. Make sure they know SEO, so you don’t have to have your site redone later on.
Things to think about
- Social Media
I’ll cover each of these in future blogs.
Now, I’ve shared my thoughts, how about yours?
Google Page Rank is one of the holy grails of SEO. The way Google ranks a website is based on it’s spiders and the web they weave. Now, many people think that trading links with other websites will get them the desired results. That’s only partly true. Linking to your site from other similar websites is critical to gaining consitantly solid organic search results. The way Google figures things, if you are being referred by other sites in your field, then you are offering something of value, something more than a great sales pitch.
Creating a linking network requires work. The best way to get links to your website is by creating helpful articles or blogs. There are thousands of places to post articles. In forums, in a blog, through article submission services and on social media websites. Craft your article to inform and entertain, not to sell your product or service. If what you say and how you say it is good enough, people will visit your site. Other sites will report your article and will link to it.
Now, this is not going to happen overnight. Which is why there are many paid submission websites to submit articles to. The problem with them is that they carry no influence with the search engines. Remember, the key here is to get sites linking to you that have something to do with your industry. If you post an article about drain repair and a website that links to all different kinds of websites links to your site, it gets no “seo juice”. However, if you post the same article in the plumbing repair section on e-How.com, and others link to it, that will give you credibility with the search engines.
Building a network of in-bound links for your website is something that takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth the effort.
I read in many places about how pay-per-click advertising is part of their overall SEO strategy. Pay-Per-Click is when you literally pay for each click on a sponsored link, you know those links in Google on the top and right of the page. Now, it’s not just Google that has this, of course, it’s on all the search engines and all the social media networks, heck, just about anyplace that a lot of people go to.
SEO means, literally, Search Engine Optimization. Now there is generally some disagreement and confusion about what exactly this entails, leading to a rash of definitions. Well, since this is my blog, here’s mine. I think of SEO as ORGANIC optimization, meaning that I optimize the website itself for all the things that the search engines, not just Google, look for. Then I focus on link building from article submissions and target relevant sites to work on linking. I view Pay Per Click as marketing and a quick, strategic fix for traffic. You get your organic SEO set and then work on your PPC campaigns on a basis for a specific campaign.
Setting up a Pay-Per-Click campaign takes research and some time. Look at your target demographic carefully and then find the best venue for your product or service. Most social media networks offer PPC advertising, so if your product is appropriate to a specific social media outlet, you may do better trying a campaign there versus a campaign on a search engine. The whole point of pay per click is to maximize each and every click to turn that click into a sale. SEO is more about getting the most people possible to your site, utilizing specific keywords to generate the click to try to target the user, but you’re not paying for those clicks, so you can open your net a bit wider.
Do you have a PPC campaign running? How much time do you put into fine tuning it? How much time do you put into keyword research? Where do you run it?
Optimizing your website is the single best way to improve your website traffic. Optimizing is the process of going through the details of your website and making all the little things right for the search engines to find you. The goal is obviously to be found as close to page one as possible, but also not to be found for search terms or “keywords” that will make your visitor leave right away. I’ve put together 10 tips that you can use to improve your website immediately. Follow them all and see your traffic increase as well as your profits.
- Be Clear and Targeted: Your website is the front door to your business, why would you not want a clear sign to let your visitor know what they are there for. Who, what and why are the key questions to be answered on each and every page.
- Treat each page of your site as a separate entity: Google does, why shouldn’t you? Every page of your site has a unique opportunity to be the landing page for someone looking for something specific. As people become more adept at searching, they fine tune to exactly what they want, which brings us to….
- Keywords are not just single words: No longer can you expect to be number one for a term like “gifts” and not have a huge bounce rate. People want something specific and that is more and more what is being searched for. So, make sure your keywords, both in your meta tags and in your AdWords campaign, are specific and multi-word.
- Each page deserves a title: Your store has a name…your page has to have a title. You know that line up at the very top of the screen telling the world where they are. Each and every page needs one and make sure you fill it with keywords specific to that page..not HOME!
- Every picture is another opportunity: Image searching is rapidly gaining on text search. Your images should be fully optimized to take advantage of this. Name your images properly and fill in all the behind the scenes tags. No one searches for “DSC0012344”, but they do search for “Hawaiian Sunset over Mauna Kea”.
- Links coming to you are important, but be careful where they come from: In-bound links, links to your site from other sites are critical in getting a high page ranking from Google. But with the prevalence of reciprocal linking and link farms, where that link comes from is key. And if you have a page full of links to other sites, don’t name it LINKS, kind of a dead giveaway there.
- People like simplicity: Keep your site navigation simple. Can your site be navigated by an 80 year old retiree who just got online? Are your pages named properly? Do you have a clear contact email address? Is your contact info on every page? Is the point of your site clear on how to get whatever you want your visitor to get?
- Analytics and AdWords: Google gives us 2 amazing tools, for free. Analytics not only gives you the raw numbers of how many visitors your site is getting, but much more in-depth so you can truly see how you’re doing and where to make changes. AdWords is quite simply the best Pay-Per-Click program out there. It’s intuitive enough for a novice to begin, but complex enough to be able to customize down to specific demographics and ad times.
- Blogs and forums: The best way to get your site out there is to be known as an expert in your area. Posting a blog and on forums is your way to tap an existing network and to show off your know-how. The keys to posting in these two places are professionalism and honesty. Don’t BS, people will know. And be professional. You only make a first impression once. If you choose to blog, be consistent. Whether it’s once a day, once a week or once a month, doing it with consistency and don’t “phone it in”. And don’t be salesy, just present your ideas to help people.
- Have a professional do the work: You can only do so much yourself. Like any major undertaking, do what you safely can and then get a pro in to look things over, give you ideas and then, go with what makes sense to you. SEO consultants come in all types. Some specialize in huge campaigns, some in smaller, some may use questionable tactics or make Page 1 promises (a note: NO ONE can FULFILL THE PROMISE of Page 1 of Google, if they do, move on.).