What you’ll need to get your business online:
- Know your competition
- Content (Text / Images / Photographs)
- Website Design
- Domain Name
- Web Hosting
I put the above list in a specific order for a reason. A good strategy when developing your online presence is to decide what content you need first. This allows you to plan out your site in a more organized fasion. Once you’ve organized your site you’ll need someone to design the site and add the content for you, or if you know what you’re doing, you can begin to do so yourself. Then it’s a matter of choosing a domain name that is search engine friendly and relative to your line of work and finally choosing the right web hosting company to store your website and keep it online.
1. Purpose – Why do you want to get online, what are your goals?
Every great website starts with a good plan. Consider why you need a website – there is always a very specific goal for this. It could be to generate additional leads through a newsletter campaign, to generate revenue through an e-commerce store, or to drive awareness of your physical store and to get potential customers to call or visit. These are just some examples of course, but the goal here is to determine what that essential purpose is for your website. Most designers, myself included, will want to know this to help with both quoting on your website and to establish the direction of it.
Planning is a very important part of getting online, and it starts with determining what your exact need is. Here is a worksheet that you can use to help you plan your site.
2. Know your competition
For every website online, there is a competitor. Some other organization that is providing a very similar service to your potential customers. They are already established, have been online for some time, and are already effectively using their site to meet their goals. Using the search engines, try to find out who these folks / companies are. Here are some tips to find them:
- Act like a customer – if you were looking for your services on the world wide web, how would you find them? What specific search terms would you use to locate a supplier of this service? ( Think like a customer, not like a vendor – avoid industry jargon that the customer may not know ). Record your used search terms and the top 10 websites you came across in the search engines for each phrase or word you used to search. You may start to notice a trend.
- Review the websites that land on the first page – what do you like about them? what do you not like about them? Were you able to find the information you were looking for quickly? Did you feel convinced of their services after viewing their page(s)? If so, why?
- Notice the colors and the overall feel of these websites. Are they conveying any sort of feeling or emotion to you? What is the overall message you are receiving by the content, layout and images they are displaying?
This information is used to help you sort out exactly who your real competition is, and what they are doing that might be working. It also allows you to record some examples of sites that you like and that are in your industry so that you can begin to visualize your own website. This is another item that most designers, again myself included, will hope to obtain from you during the quoting process. It helps you and us to begin to think creatively about your design by establishing the emotion your site should deliver and the overall layout of the website itself.
3. Content (Text / Images / Photographs)
Your content should obviously be tailored to your field of interest. I mean that is clearly a given. It should, however, be carefully thought up and written considering key search terms that your audience may enter into the search engines in hopes of finding the information they are after.
Writing keyword / key phrase rich content is a process that will take some effort and time. For some of us, it is possible to just sit down and write out our content in natural human form and pretty well nail the peg on the head in terms of keywords. That’s because afterall, we’re human and we’d write content with wording that we would consider fitting for the field in question. Here is an example of a simple paragraph that is not too rich in keywords and therefore may not result in good search engine ranking:
So you’re thinking of purchasing real estate, congratulations! I am here to help you locate your dream home and to take the burden of placing your current home on the market and finding the right buyer, as well as locating that dream home for you.
Now here could be an example of a keyword rich paragraph that states the same thing, however will turn more results:
How to buy a house in Niagara
So you’re thinking of buying a home, congratulations! As a local Niagara Real Estate Agent, I am here to help you locate houses for sale that suit your needs and to take off the burden of selling a home (should you already own one).
The content above in green is content that has been optimized for better search engine results by using keywords that are producing great results already. The content in the yellowish orange is content that has been included as a means of localizing the search to your target area.
The process of choosing keyword rich content is simple really. Here’s the best tip I can provide you with. Write your content for each page out first, normally, then use Google’s Keyword Tool to find better word choices for the phrasing you’ve used and replace it with those keywords and phrases. Keep in mind for great results, each page on your site should have a specific purpose and offer unique information in comparison to the others.
Images on your site should , again obviously, be tailored to the content on each page and more importantly should be named with keyword rich file names and include “alt” text that is also keyword rich. Again you can use Google’s Keyword Tool to aide you in this process.
Rather than name a file “image001.jpg” think of what the image portrays and name it that, “home001.jpg” is a lot better, however still not good enough. A great idea is to name the image (in this case) with maybe the street address such as “55WallabyCourtSydney.jpg” and you could even append an image number to the end of that “55WallabyCourSydney_01.jpg”. This will yield better results, and will also localize your site in Google’s search engine.
Now, for this Real Estate example, name the house address is pretty easy. Not all images will be that simple to come up with a good file name for, so instead describe what the image is in say 4 words or less. Lets say it’s a photo of a duck flying in the air over a lake, well, there’s a good start.
Are both good examples. Let’s head over to Googles Keyword Tool and check ’em out.
Enter your keywords in the provided field. Press enter after each keyword or phrase to include more than one in your search.
Go ahead and enter in the words you would use to describe the picture and see what the results hold.
You’ll need to prove you’re human and not a robot. This is a common anti-spam tactic being used on the internet these days. enter the two words, non-case specific and press search.
The next table contains words and phrases using individual words you’ve used and mixes them up with other phrasing others have used to describe a similar object on the web.
The list shows global and local results for each keyword or phrase listed. This will help you to write keyword rich content that is targeting only local viewers, or global viewers.
So the results are in. Now you can look through this list and determine if any of the listed words or phrases are stronger than yours and make any necessary adjustments. You can also use it to gain insight into possible words or phrases you didn’t think of but are turning great results. With them you can add to the search list at the top and hit enter again to refine your keyword search and find even stronger words or phrases to use.
Here’s what I’ve found in my search for this:
Why? Because after using the keyword tool I found that the word duck itself turns over 13 million results globally and over 600 thousand results locally. Flight turns 68 million and over 4 million locally. So those two words on their own are high traffic words. Though flight is mainly getting traffic due to its airline nature, it will still bring in folks who may love nature and stumble upon your page in their search for cheap airfare.
So choosing content is as simple as writing down what you want to convey on your website, organizing the content into categories (which become your pages) and ensuring you use keywords in placement of your not so search engine friendly terminology on your first draft.
4. Website Design (return to top)
You may be someone who likes to do their own work, an avid do-it-yourselfer as it were. DIY folks love tinkering and toying with things to make them work (I myself am one). So if you’ve dabbed in web design already, then you already know a fair amount of this. However, if you want a refresher, or a great place to learn the new technology as it comes out, I’ve always relied on w3schools. They offer a great deal of basic to advanced knowledge paired with available quizes, and should you wish to, qualification or certification tests you can take to add to your resume.
If you’re not so much a diy type, that’s ok! You can still get online rather easily by either using my services or finding another great web designer. Trust me, there are a great deal of very talented web designers out there, many are far more talented than I. I find no reason why I should convince you otherwise.
The only advice I will offer you is do your research. Contact some of their past clientelle (easily done by viewing their portfolio) and ask them how they found their services to be both while setting up the site and post-launch. Did the designer keep in touch to ensure things are going smoothly? Was there a prompt response to any concerns or issues that may have come up? It is vital that you are treated with quality service.
If you would like to work with me, great! I’d be honored to add you to my portfolio and work with you. Contact me today to get started.
5. Domain Name (return to top)
A domain name is your physical address on the web translated into human language, or it least it should be. Think of it this way, when your house was built it was probably labeled as “Lot 32 Losani Drummond Road” or something to the like. Now it is 4332 Drummond Road (if you live their in reality, great house! just chose that address at random). It is a much simpler address identifier to deal with for all. The same applies to your domain name, or URL.
Ultimately, your domain or URL points to an internet protocol (ip) address out there on the www. It’s a computer that is housing your files and serves your site to the internet world. That’s why they call it a “server”. But you don’t want to have 126.96.36.199 on your business cards, and in many cases that ip address points to what is known as a shared hosting account (1 server, multiple websites). You want something that is easy to remember and again, tailored to your field.
An example of a bad domain name could be: http://www.everythingyouveeverwantedtoknowaboutrealestateintorontoontariocanada.com
Yeah, too long, too much to remember. Though probably good keyword wise! And yes, keywords should also be used in your domain name. Instead consider http://www.torontorealestate.com as a domain name. Contains the keywords real estate and the localized toronto, a strong name and easy to remember and type in for your audience.
Domains are often provided with hosting, and there are some great hosting services out there that include 1 free domain name when you sign up. Your domain name is important and should be protected from the not-so-nice out there. So choose a reliable domain registrar such as GoDaddy, or a trusted hosting provider that includes the domain name with their hosting services, GoDaddy offers this as well.
6. Web Hosting (return to top)
There are a number of hosting companies popping out like crazy these days. Many are great, reliable and trustworthy. Others not so much. There are also a great deal of hosting resellers out there. These are folks like you or I that are acting as salesmen for the hosting companies and getting profits for sales made through our accounts. While these can be bad, they can also be very good as well.
Some offer great returns per sale, however their services just plane stink. Others offer decent returns and are very reliable hosting companies. Here’s a quick list of some of the hosting companies I use. I am not a reseller, however I will be honest, I do have affiliate accounts with these companies. I only do so because I feel it’s only fair that I get some return back for my recommendation. It also allows me to setup coupon codes to save you moeny on reliable hosting. Let’s face it, if you want reliable hosting, these are the companies I would strongly urge you to look into, and if you can get the top web hosting companies at a discounted rate, well that’s just gravy!
I have brought a number of clients to each of these hosting companies, and only because I personally trust these companies enough to put my word on the line to my clients.
The above three are my top choices. Will you find better deals, sure. Will they be as reliable and provide you with the same peace of mind, maybe. But that is all I can say, maybe. I know for a fact that GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Host Gator are strong reliable companies that aren’t going anywhere and have always offered me great support and my clients even better
So do your research, find a solid hosting company that offers you a great deal, but most importantly is RELIABLE! Your site goes down, you need it back online quickly! When you’re sleeping, when you’re at work, how do you know your website is functional and will you get the instant support you deserve if it is not? That is essential to the success of your online business or personal website.
Here is a worksheet that you can use to help you plan your site. Complete this worksheet to get started with the planning of your website. If you would like to use my services, just email me the completed sheet as indicated in the document.
I hope you’ve found this helpful to get you started in your consideration of getting online. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.