Website Must Haves

For the next week, we’re going to explore websites – why you need one and how to build a successful website that in turn, will help you grow your business.

Whether you like it or not, websites are a necessary evil for all businesses – for brick and mortar, just as much as those that operate online. Without a website, your company hardly exists in the modern connected world, and you’ll only be known to the few people who actually pass your store, business premises or office.  The bottom line?  Your website connects you to the world.

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Day 1: The Basics

Let’s start things off by defining what a website actually IS…

  • A location connected to the Internet that maintains one or more web pages (Wikipedia)
  • A place on the World Wide Web that contains information about a person, organization, etc., and that usually consists of many web pages joined by hyperlinks (Merriam-Webster)
  • A website is a related collection of World Wide Web (WWW) files that includes a beginning file called a home page. A company or an individual tells you how to get to their website by giving you the address of their home page. From the home page, you can get to all the other pages on their site. (TechTarget)

These are obviously technical definitions.  For our purposes, let’s instead think of a website as a ‘Command Central’ for your business. That is, it’s going to form the foundation for all the marketing you’re going to be doing for your company in the virtual world. At a bare minimum, your website should contain useful information about what your business does, and vital contact information. Depending on your business, however, it may also serve as your online store, your blog, and a gateway to all your social media profiles (don’t worry, I’ll be covering social media in a later chapter).

Some Common Terms

If you’re like most people, you’re probably already familiar with the terms used in the definitions below, but if you’re just ‘catching up,’ you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the following lingo:

  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – A URL is an address that tells a server where to find a particular set of documents, like a website, on the World Wide Web. http://www.mycompany.com/index.html is an example of a URL.
  • Domain Name – Your domain name is the official name for your website. It does not have to be your company name, although it is best that it is. There are international rules on how to create a domain name. This is called the Domain Name System, or DNS.  In the URL http://www.mycompany.com/index.html, the domain name is mycompany.com. The ending after the full stop (called ‘dot’) tells you something about the type of organization using the domain name.  Common endings include:
    • .gov – Government agencies
    • .edu – Educational institutions
    • .org – Organizations (nonprofit)
    • .com – commercial business
    • .net – Network organizations
    • .ca – Canada

In reality, except for country endings, these endings often do not relate to what the organization does and .com has become the overwhelming first choice for almost all businesses and other organizations too.  For example, many schools use .com.

  • Web Server – Your website is nothing more than a collection of computer files that are stored on server, which is a large computer somewhere else. Only large companies have their own servers.  Most small business owners, myself included, use a web host.  A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for a website or webpage to be viewed via the Internet.  Most web hosts charge a small monthly fee to host your site and keep it up and running 24/7.
  • HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) – This first part of most URLs is a message that tells your server where to look for the web page. There are other protocols, but this one is by far the most common.
  • Home Page – This is an easy one!  Your home page is the hub of your website. It is typically the first page someone sees when they come to your website, so it needs to be attractive and easy to navigate.
  • Link or Hyperlink – A link takes you from one page to another page of your site. For example, if you’re on your homepage, it could be a link that takes you to your contact page, or to the pages showing the goods or services you offer.
Why Is A Website Important?

Since your website is going to be the foundation upon which all your other digital marketing efforts are built, it’s important.  Here are 2 primary reasons why websites are so important:

  1. Websites provide information – If someone wants information about your company, they will often just go to your website. If they want to purchase a product, they will go to your website. If they need useful information on a topic pertaining to your niche, they will go to your website and hopefully find it on your blog or on other pages you’ve created that provide such information. Everything you do will be connected to everything else through this all-important central location.
  2. Websites generate leads, which translates into sales – If you are in business selling goods or services, then you need customers. And in order to get customers, you need leads (aka: people with a potential interest in actually buying your products and/or services). Every business needs leads, and your website can generate countless leads, if it has first been set up correctly to do so. Since you are in business to make money, you need leads.

Day 2: Locking In Your Domain Name And Hosting

Choose a Domain Name

As explained previously, your domain name is the name of your company as it appears as a URL. The best domain name you can choose is the exact name of your company, but sometimes, you will find that the domain name is already ‘taken.’  It could be that another company is already using it or it could be that someone bought a large number of domain names with the intention of selling them at a higher rate than what they were originally purchased for. If the latter happens to you, it might be best to suck it up and pay the asking price, as good names are hard to come by.  If money is tight, however, the good news is that there are workarounds.

Here’s an example. Say that your company name is Southern Crafts and Gifts. The ideal domain name would be southerncraftsandgifts.com.

Now, let’s assume that someone else has already taken it. You could try ending the URL with a different extension – .net, .biz, or, .org. This creates a different domain name, but in practice, you will probably find that all these variations are already taken as well, as companies often take all the domain names like their own, so that anyone typing them in will automatically be sent to the main site. This is because a customer might not remember the URL properly.  This is an extremely simple technique for making sure all variations of your domain name point to your main website, and is something you should seriously consider doing with your own domain name.

If you can’t lock in a domain with a different extension, an alternative would be to try using an abbreviation, like SCAG.com, or southernCandG.com. You could also try adding ‘online’ to the ending of your domain.  So, southerncraftsandgiftsonline.com or SCAGonline.com.

Your primary goal here is to make your domain name as close as possible to your actual company name, as having a different name for your company and your site will confuse your customers.

Here are some other things to consider, as well as tips to help you come up with the best domain name possible:

  • Choose a name that is your brand. If you can’t get the brand name you want, it might be better to adjust your brand name to fit what is available.
  • Make it easy to type and pronounce. A complex name is off-putting and will make people feel uncomfortable if they can’t even figure out how to say it.  Bottom line?  Avoid unusual words that are hard to speak or type. Also, avoid numbers, hyphens and other symbols that could cause confusion.
  • Keep it short. Long names are automatically complex, so avoid them.
  • Make it obvious. If you don’t already have a strong brand, then your domain name should suggest what your company is all about. Names like ApexLinens immediately tell us you sell linens.
  • Incorporate broad keywords. If you sell legal services, then having the word legal in your domain name automatically means it is more likely to appear in relevant searches.
  • Don’t infringe on copyrights. Make sure you name is not already owned by someone else, or is very similar to someone else’s name.
  • Choose the right extension. The.com extension is very popular, which means the availability of names will be somewhat limited.  Using a different extension may allow you to get what you want, but be careful that it doesn’t cause confusion.
  • Protect your brand. Once you have a suitable name, also take the same name with other extensions, as well as names that are almost the same as yours, so that competitors and scammers can’t take them. Something bad done by someone who seems to be you can really hurt your reputation, so try and protect yourself as much as you can.
Choose a Host

The very first step in creating your website is choosing a company to host your site. As mentioned above, a web host is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for a website or webpage to be viewed via the Internet.  A large number of companies provide hosting, and a number of different options are available for varying levels of service with a single host. Some of these options carry a fee, while others are free. Some companies offer more storage capacity than others do. Some provide you with just a simple interface, while others offer more advanced services. Some companies value customer service more than others may.  Whatever web host you choose will depend on your specific needs, as well as the size of your budget and the things that are most important to you.

Types of Web Hosting Companies

There are 2 types of web hosting companies for you to choose from.  You can do your own hosting – self-hosting – or you can use a company to do it for you – 3rd party hosting. Deciding which route to take is an important decision, so let’s look at the each method in more detail.

SELF HOSTING THIRD PARTY HOSTING
Set-up costs involved Free or very cheap – but there are often hidden costs
Complete flexibility – can completely control the look of your website Limited flexibility in terms of branding options
Need to know at least there basics of coding Don’t need any design or coding knowledge
Still need a web host Everything is done for you
Can backup your own site Dependent on the host
Complete control over your own domain name Domain name may have to include the name of the hosting company

A Closer Look at Self Hosting

Put simply, self-hosting means that you run your website yourself. Its design and appearance are entirely up to you, and you will have your own clear domain name. The ONLY thing that your webhost will be providing to you is a place to store the files of your site so that it’s accessible on the Internet to others. This type of web host simply provides your site with a home – this company will have no control over your sites appearance or content. These responsibilities will fall directly on your shoulders. You are also responsible for backing up the site yourself, so that you don’t lose it in the event the host has a major outage or a hacker destroys it.

Here are a few options you may want to consider…

Pros – Linux or Windows servers

– Managed WordPress hosting

Cons – Low security email service

– No Windows at VPS hosting level

Advantages – Best choice for novice webmasters
Disadvantages – Emphasis on shared services
Pros – Linux or Windows servers

– Full range of services

– Top customer support

Cons – Short guarantee periods
Advantages – Best WordPress hosting service
Disadvantages – Premium service needed to add code
Pros – Unlimited emails

– Good uptime

– Easy to use

– Money-back guarantee

Cons – Separate log-in for each add-on

– No Windows based servers

Advantages – Big range of features
Disadvantages – No Managed WordPress hosting
Pros – Security

– Domain-management tools

– Unlimited data transfers per month

– Cloud storage

Cons – No site-building capacity

– No Windows based servers

Advantages – Powerful

– Flexible

– Good Pricing

Disadvantages – Need experience to use effectively
Pros – Many hosting options

– Lots of uptime

– Weebly enabled

– Easy to use

Cons – Paid add-ons needed for most functions

– No Windows based servers

Advantages – Best choice for experienced webmasters
Disadvantages – Lacks some common functions
HostGator 1&1 Inmotion DreamHost Bluehost
Pros – Linux or Windows servers

– Managed WordPress hosting

– Linux or Windows servers

– Full range of services

– Top customer support

– Unlimited emails

– Good uptime

– Easy to use

– Money-back guarantee

– Security

– Domain-management tools

– Unlimited data transfers per month

– Cloud storage

– Many hosting options

– Lots of uptime

– Weebly enabled

– Easy to use

Cons – Low security email service

– No Windows at VPS hosting level

– Short guarantee periods – Separate log-in for each add-on

-No Windows based servers

– No site-building capacity

– No Windows based servers

– Paid add-ons needed for most functions

– No Windows based servers

Advantages – Best choice for novice webmasters – Best WordPress hosting service – Big range of features – Powerful

– Flexible

– Good Pricing

– Best choice for experienced webmasters
Disadvantages – Emphasis on shared services – Premium service needed to add code – No Managed WordPress hosting – Need experience to use effectively – Lacks some common functions

Originally, if you did your own hosting, you needed to be able to code, and build your site from scratch. This gave you great control over the look and functionality of your site, but it came at a price in that it required a in-depth knowledge of coding.

With the advent of Content Management Systems (CMS), however, things have changed dramatically. A CMS allows you to build your own site with almost complete freedom, with little to no coding knowledge required, depending on which platform you choose.

There are several main CMS providers you can use – WordPress (not to be confused with WordPress.com, which is a third-party service), Joomla, Drupal and Magento. All are free or low-cost, but there are differences, so let’s take a look at them.

Popularity High
Skills Required Few
Best Uses Blogs, small and medium business sites
Level of Add-ins High
Advantages and Disadvantages Flexible, quick to set up. Strong SEO capability, Low security
Popularity Moderate
Skills Required Some
Best Uses e-commerce and social network sites
Level of Add-ins Low
Advantages and Disadvantages User friendly, Limited flexibility
Popularity Low
Skills Required Moderate
Best Uses All uses
Level of Add-ins Moderate
Advantages and Disadvantages Very flexible, Needs more skills
Popularity High
Skills Required Moderate
Best Uses e-commerce and small or large business
Level of Add-ins High
Advantages and Disadvantages Easily integrated with other sites, Online marketing tools, SEO and reviews
WordPress Joomla Drupal Magento
Popularity High Moderate Low High
Skills Required Few Some Moderate Moderate
Best Uses Blogs, small and medium business sites e-commerce and social network sites All uses e-commerce and small or large business
Level of Add-ins High Low Moderate High
Advantages and Disadvantages Flexible, quick to set up. Strong SEO capability, Low security User friendly, Limited flexibility Very flexible, Needs more skills Easily integrated with other sites, Online marketing tools, SEO and reviews

There are many similarities between each of these platforms, so I DO understand that making a final decision may be tough. At the end of the day, however, no one knows your needs better than you, which is why I am not making any recommendations in this section. What I will say is this: each platform is constantly evolving and as this progression continues to take place, they are becoming more and more similar.

OF NOTE: although each of the CMS’s covered here has been designed to give you complete control over the look and feel of your website, this doesn’t mean you have to create your sites design from scratch. Many people find it more convenient to use free or low-cost templates instead. For our purposes here, unless you have insane coding skills, this is the route I would suggest. It’s inexpensive and will cut down on development time, which means you can focus on other aspects of your marketing strategy much more quickly.

One of my favorite sites for WordPress templates is ThemeForest.  Here’s a comprehensive list of sites you can peruse for WordPress templates, however.  SiteGround has some really great Joomla templates, as does JoomlaShine.  ThemeForest also has Drupal templates, as does Drupal.org and TemplateMonster.  TemplateMonster also has a decent selection of Magento templates, as does ThemeForest and RocketTheme.

Top Things to Consider When Self Hosting

If you’re like many people, you may find the decision of which web host to choose to be complex, since you’ll need to consider your exact system requirements, which vary from company to company. To try and make this process a little easier, here is a list of questions that you should be asking EVERY web hosting company you’re researching:

  • What is my budget?
  • How comfortable am I with technical matters?
  • What is the level of security I need?
  • Do I need email hosting?
  • Will I have more than one site?
  • How much data do I need to store and make available to users?
  • What volume of traffic do I expect now and in the future?
  • Does this company offer the technical requirements I need for my site?

A Closer Look at 3rd Party Hosting

With third-party hosting, much of the work is done for you, but the price you’ll be paying for that convenience is some loss of flexibility. A large number of companies provide third party hosting, and a number of different options for levels of service are available. Some of these options carry a fee, and some of them are free. Which one you choose depends on your specific needs – and of course, the size of your budget.

Here are a few options to think about…

Pros – Email service

– 24/7 email support

-Flexible styling editor

– Mobile responsive templates

Cons – Overly complex

– Poor payment processor interface

Advantages – Top for designs
Disadvantages – Limited value for e-commerce
Pros – Newsletter creator

– Big range of quality templates

– Advanced but easy to use

– Full support

– Customized domain names

Cons – Ads on the free platform

– Limited usage for e-commerce

Advantages – Best all-round builder
Disadvantages – Not mobile friendly
Pros – Newsletter creator

– Improved template design

– Pre-designed page layouts

Cons – Limited ability to customize

– Expensive to be off Weebly domain

Advantages – Easiest to use
Disadvantages – Poor blogging abilities

 

Pros – Strong 24/7 full customer support

– Easy to use design interface

– Extended SEO services available

Cons – No e-commerce tools

– Relatively expensive for upgrades

– Subject to outages

Advantages – Low basic cost
Disadvantages – Must reload pages if design changed
Squarespace Wix Weebly GoDaddy
Pros

– Email service

–  24/7 email support

-Flexible styling editor

– Mobile responsive templates

– Newsletter creator

– Big range of quality templates

– Advanced but easy to use

– Full support

– Customized domain names

– Newsletter creator

– Improved template design

– Pre-designed page layouts

– Strong 24/7 full customer support

– Easy to use design interface

– Extended SEO services available

Cons

– Overly complex

– Poor payment processor interface

– Ads on the free platform

– Limited usage for e-commerce

– Limited ability to customize

– Expensive to be off Weebly domain

– No e-commerce tools

– Relatively expensive for upgrades

– Subject to outages

Advantages – Top for designs – Best all-round builder – Easiest to use – Low basic cost
Disadvantages – Limited value for e-commerce – Not mobile friendly – Poor blogging abilities – Must reload pages if design changed

Top Things to Consider When Using a 3rd Party Host

When evaluating 3rd party hosting companies, here are the main things you’ll want to consider:

  • How much control do you want? With many 3rd party hosting companies, will only have a sub-domain name for your website. So, for example: http://tabithanaylorclearwater.weebly.com as opposed to com
  • Do you need WordPress Support? One definite advantage to some third-party hosts is the availability of Managed WordPress Hosting There IS a moderate cost involved, but you receive high-level support for your use of WordPress, right on your host, without having to go elsewhere.
  • How important is the appearance of your site? With a 3rd party webhost, you’ll have far less control over the look and feel of your website. This may limit your options as it relates to actually developing your brand presence.
  • Do you want to create a strong brand? Sub-domain names look less professional, and users may view you as not serious about your business.
  • Will you need lots of storage and bandwidth? Videos, images and graphics take up storage space, and need plenty of bandwidth to download quickly. The more storage space you need, the more you’ll need to spend on a monthly basis. These numbers can quickly add up and lead to a hefty recurring monthly expense.
  • Do you need full support? 24/7 support is usually lacking with 3rd party web hosts, so if you’re someone who needs a lot of hand-holding and wants to know that things will be addressed ASAP as they arise, this might not be the best option for you.

At the end of the day, 3rd party hosting is an easier way to get a website up and online, since a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done for you. But you’ll be sacrificing individuality and functionality in the process. It all boils down to what is most important to YOU right here and right now.

Day 3: Building Your Site

The design of a website can make or break a company, so this step is definitely one of the most important ones. The design of your website is going to be the first thing a customer sees when they visit, and the last thing they see before they leave. If it does not leave a good impression, you are much less likely to have repeat customers. And if it leaves a bad impression, the chances of someone ever coming back are slim to none.

webdbanner

What Makes For Good Web Design?
  • A Unique Look – Although it’s easy to find free ‘cookie cutter’ content and templates, they make your site look cheap and ‘down-market’. Invest in original web-design if you can.
  • Design your website based on what your customers like, not what you like. This will require some research on your part, but it’s well worth the time spent.
  • Always keep the links you place on your site fully functional. Nothing is more annoying than clicking on a link that does not work properly – you probably already know this based on your own personal experiences.
  • Always optimize your website for page loading time. The faster pages on your website load, the happier your visitors will be.
  • Include at least one or two calls to action in your basic design. Make these clear and brief, so that people know what you want them to do. Here are three good examples of clear, brief calls to action:
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  • Your 2 primary focuses for your websites design should be on functionality and ease of navigation. If people are confused about where to go for what they need, or if the items on your site do not work as they should, you’re going to lose out.
  • Keep the design of your website as simple and clean looking as possible.
  • Focus on security. This is vital if you are selling anything online, but all websites should be as secure as possible, especially if you are storing personal information that could be hacked. Even big companies have had their reputations badly damaged by data hacking.
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly. People are more reliant on their smartphones than ever before and will quickly leave your site if your website is impossible to read on them.
  • Use meta tags to make your site show higher on searches. Meta tags are pieces of information containing key words that are not visible on your site, but are visible to search-engine spiders.
Some Things To Avoid
  • Bright or neon colors
  • Fonts that are hard to read
  • Carousel banners – these are pictures and text at the top of your page that change automatically every few seconds. Some web designers think they are cool, but studies have shown that they just confuse users and obscure valuable information
  • Falling images – these images cascade down the page like rain or snow. Again, you might think they look cool, but they obscure the information on your page, which is always going to be unpopular.
  • Flashing Images – Rapidly flashing images can distract a site visitor.
  •  Music or videos that automatically play when someone enters your site – resist the urge and do NOT use them. Users might be at work or in a quiet place like a library. Nothing shocks quite like remembering your volume is on high when a video or website starts blasting.
  • Blurry, low-quality images, or images that are too small or too large
  • Too many – or too few – calls to action
  • Confusing arrows or other objects pointing in different directions
  • Pop up advertisements – you might be tempted but most people find these extremely annoying
  • Content that requires other applications or software to view or use it

bad-good-examples-of-websites-creative-media-3-728-1

2-example

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Build Your Website Page by Page

Now that you have planned your overall design, it is time to start creating the individual pages for your website. The exact pages used will vary from site to site, but here are the basics:

  • Homepage – Your homepage is like the front door to your house. It introduces your company to the world. From here, all your other pages branch out, showing your goods and services, blogs, company information, etc. Your homepage is the place where first impressions are made – and you want them to be good ones. Research shows that people only spend about 10 seconds on the homepage before either hitting the ‘back’ button, or looking at things more closely. So your home page has to work fast in projecting your brand and tempting your sites visitors. They have arrived there with a problem or need, and they want to know if you have the solution.  And if you do, they want to know why it’s better than what your competitors offer. Your homepage should include a brief welcome that tells people the purpose of your website. It should also include your company’s logo, links to your content, calls to action, links to social media, and an email subscription form.
  • Content Pages  This is a general term for all the subpages of your website – particularly those designed to showcase your products and services, as well as to inform and educate the end reader. Most websites have many different pages of content.
  • 3-1
  • Contact Us – All websites should include a contact page so that people can contact you if they have any questions not answered somewhere. You should ALWAYS include the following items on your ‘contact us’ page:
    • Email address
    • Physical address (* if you have a physical store or office)
  • A Contact Form (* this is optional, but highly advised, since it makes it easier for people to get in touch with you)
  • Links to social media accounts
  • Phone Number
  • FAQ – FAQ means frequently asked questions. This page is important because it allows people to find answers to common questions without having to wait for you to get back to them. A good rule of thumb is to update this page regularly as you receive and answer questions from customers. If multiple people are asking the same questions, then clearly they belong on your FAQ page.
  • Terms Of Use – The terms of use sets out the rules for using your pages. This includes restrictions on copyrighting, age restrictions, and what uses people can make of the information they find on your site. This page will come in quite handy if you’re ever involved in a lawsuit over copyrighting issues. Without it, you’ll be positioned weakly. Drafting the terms of use is something an attorney should do, although many people use a basic standard sets of terms. If you use standard terms, make sure they are suitable for, and relevant to, your industry niche.
  • Privacy Policy – Your privacy policy tells your websites visitors what you can and will do with any information they share with you. It should be a plain, no frills page.
  • Blog/Content – If you want to drive traffic to your website (which let’s be realistic here, you know you do), you need to have a blog. If you are a B2B business, research shows a 67% increase in leads for businesses that blog, over those that don’t. You are also 13 times more likely to have good ROI numbers if you make blogging a priority. Your blogs content should focus on useful and interesting information, with only minimal direct selling – otherwise it will turn people off.
Landing Pages

I’ve created a separate section for landing pages since using them is an advanced marketing strategy that you may not want to focus on right now.  But what I will say is that using landing pages will help tremendously as it relates to lead generation since their fundamental purpose it to take random visitors to your website and turn them into leads.  In fact:

  • Landing pages are better places to send someone to through your CTA’s than your homepage. This is because the content is targeted, more limited, and specifically designed for a conversion.
  • You can use landing pages to collect demographic information, through your page analytics, on your leads. You can then aggregate this information to more effectively target your marketing efforts.
  • You can more easily track the results of specific marketing efforts by having a landing page for each one.  This makes tracking ROI much easier.

It’s important to note that landing pages are NOT the same thing as your homepage.  Here’s a high-level overview of how they differ from each other.

Home Page Landing Page
Many subpages No subpages
More complex menu-guided navigation No menu
Multiple features – menu, links, ads The main feature is a conversion button
The user has multiple choices The user has only one choice
Generates a low conversion rate Should generate a high conversion rate
Information is spread across multiple subpages All the information and benefits are on one page
Common content designed for all users Content designed for certain user, product or key word

Here’s how landing pages work…

Imagine that you have a blog. A visitor comes and reads your blog. Towards the end of one of your blog articles is an offer for a free e-book that shares more details on the subject of the blog article itself – that is, there’s a call to action (CTA). When that website visitor clicks on the CTA, she is immediately taken to a page that gives her more information about the e-book. That page is called a landing page. If she wishes to download the e-book, she must provide her contact information in a ‘conversion form.’ When she completes the form, as its name suggests, she is then ‘converted’ into a lead. Now you have someone who is interested in your products or services that you can sell to. After all, if she was reading your blog article and interested in the subject matter enough to fill out a form to get more information related to the topic, chances are she’s a great prospect for whatever it is that you have to offer.

It’s important to note that your blog doesn’t have to be the the only way a person arrives at a landing page. In fact, I would highly encourage you to promote your landing page through social media, email marketing and referral marketing as well.

A good landing page will have several important design features:

  • Headline: this tells the visitor exactly what they are getting – briefly, but clearly – and is prominently displayed at the top of the page
  • Content: a brief chunk of text that tells the visitor more about what they will be getting (for example, a free ebook) in an exciting way that sells your offer
  • Keywords: as is the case with ALL content on your website, you should be using appropriate keywords throughout the text
  • Image: a suitable, high-quality image makes the page more visually appealing
  • Conversion Form (also known as a ‘lead-capture’ form): this is where visitors give you their information in exchange for the offer
  • Sharing Buttons: these extend the reach of your landing page into the visitor’s own network by making it easy to share on Twitter, Facebook , LinkedIn and other social media

Day 4: Finalizing Your Masterpiece

Since one of the primary goals of your website is to generate leads, which subsequently turn into sales, including the following on your website can help facilitate that process:

  1. An introduction – Include a short but informative page on your website that tells people about your company – specifically, what you do, where you started, and what you stand for.
  2. Full contact information – Customers are suspicious of websites with no information on what country they are from, their address, and a way to initiate contact off the web, either by mail or phone.
  3. All the appropriate forms – These are the parts of a website that let people enter information, like their email, phone number, and address. Forms can also be used to give special instructions, or as a way for people to contact you. Make sure all the forms that a customer could possibly need are on your website.
  4. Images of your products and/or services – As the old saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and this is more true on the Internet that just about anywhere else.
  5. Reviews and testimonials – Your customers are your best sales-staff, and genuine customer reviews are great selling tools that build confidence. Don’t expect every review to be 5-star. In reality, the honesty of having some 3 and 4-star reviews gives you a lot more credibility.
  6. Quality content – Make sure all your content is well written, free of even the smallest errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar, and unique. Identify and highlight your best content.
  7. Images of your team – Professionally photographed images of you and your team can make a good first impression and give people more confidence in your services.
  8. Strong, clear calls to action (CTA’s) – A ‘call to action’ is a request for a customer to do something, like click on a link or go to a certain page. Properly utilize CTA’s since they help direct people where you want them to go, which in turn, drives sales.
  9. SEO keywords – Keywords are the words that someone would type into a search engine to find the types of products and services you offer. If your content is properly optimized, it’ll be a lot easier for people to find you.
  10. Links to your social media accounts – Since you’re going to need to establish presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s a good idea to link them from your website, and vice versa.
  11. Say ‘Thank You!’ – After a customer makes a purchase, or interacts in any way with your site, they should always be re-directed to a ‘thank you’ page so that they feel noticed and appreciated.

Including everything on this list on your website will help you to generate leads. The key to success is to set up your site properly so that it’s working for you 24/7.

Create Valuable Content

Content drives traffic to your website, which means creating valuable content for your website is critical. So what types of content should you create for your website? Here are a few ideas to help get you started…

  • Information relevant to your particular business niche – For example, if you create handmade ballet clothes, you can write informative pieces on sizing, dance, costumes, etc.
  • Tips and tricks related to your business niche – For example, if you are a published author you can write about writing, editing, and marketing your work.
  • Soft sell posts – It’s fine to promote yourself, your company, your products and/or your services from time to time. Just keep them to a minimum. No one likes to get hammered day after day after day with sales promotions and ads.
  • News related to your business niche – Any news releases, information on sales, etc., especially positive things like growth of your niche and successes.

When creating your content, there are 2 things that you should ALWAYS include along with the text:

  • Images –Whether you like it or not, people pay more attention to blogs and content that has images included along with it. Always include at least one image that is relevant.
  • Calls to Action – I’m sure that you’re sick and tired of me hammering you over the head about calls to action, but they are a CRITICAL piece of the marketing puzzle. Always use a short, clear call to action at the end of your articles. This could be a request for comments, a link to a related article, or a free e-book download. It could also be a ‘like’ for your Facebook page, a ‘follow’ link to Twitter, or a link to subscribe to your newsletter.

Day 5: Go-Time

Ahhh, we’re almost there – you have your domain name, your hosting company all set, your pages created and your content written. Now they are just two things left to do.

Check for Errors

This first part of this step is simple since all you have to do is go back over your work and check it for any errors. Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors on the pages of your website and that all links work appropriately. Check that you have included all of the necessary pages and information. If you can, have someone else do all this for you – it is easy to miss something that you’ve invested so much time into.

Once you’ve checked for basic errors, you’ll need to check how your pages load on all the major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. It’s a hassle, I know, but the last thing you want is a website that looks great on Safari but looks terrible on Firefox. Using a site like BrowserStack can significantly cut down on the time you’ll spend doing this.

Publish

Now comes the easiest part. You just click ‘publish’! Publishing your site will make it public, meaning that everyone accessing the Internet can now view it.

Start Marketing Your Website

Marketing your website is just as important as creating it – and even more so if you want to make any money. Think about it this way: what’s the point of having a website if no one knows it exists?

You should begin marketing your website the second you click publish.

Not sure how to carry out an effective marketing plan?

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make good use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in all of your articles and pages of text.
  • Keep up to date on your blog by posting regularly, as each new post helps increase your search engine rankings and promotes customer awareness.
  • Utilize guest blogging. This is when you write a blog post that is published on another site and links back to your own website. You can also invite other people to write guest blogs on your site. Both methods are effective at expanding your primary reach and extending your network.
  • Pay for advertising on various websites and search engines, if it is in your budget. Google, Yahoo, and Facebook are all popular sites to place ads, sometimes at surprisingly low costs.
  • Leverage social media when marketing your website. Use calls to action on your various posts, pictures, or videos that will bring people to your website.  More on this in the next chapter.
  • Press releases are a viable way to help market your company, including your website. Although media outlets will only rarely take them up, press releases published digitally help you rank with the search engines.
  • Register your site with all the major search sites.
  • Place share buttons on all of your posts and pages. Making it easy for people to share your information on social media sites can drive boatloads of traffic. This creates an easy ‘word of mouth’ marketing option.
  • Include your URL on everything you can. That means it should be part of your email signature, on your business cards, and included in your forum signature.

The key to success in marketing your site is to be diverse – and persistent. Oh, and NOT to spam!

Moving Forward

Monitoring Your Website

Once your website is up and running, you need to keep track of what is happening on it. Tracking and analysis will provide you valuable information on traffic levels, user activity, and page popularity, amongst a laundry list of others.

Google Analytics is a free service at the basic level, with fees for more advanced activity. You simply provide Google with some basic information about your website, and in exchange, you receive tracking code to insert on your website. This code allows Google to monitor what’s happening with your website, including:

  • Where your site visitors where before the came to your site – these are known as referral sites
  • How long visitors stayed on your site
  • The geographical location of your visitors
  • Which pages are performing well, and which ones are performing poorly

In addition, Google Analytics can help you track sales activity.

And while we’re talking about Google, it would be remiss of me to not talk about Google’s Search Console (perviously known as Google Webmaster), since it provides an arsenal of additional data, including:

  • Click Count: the number of searchers who came from a search page to you
  • Impressions: how many links to your site a user saw
  • Click-through Rate: a metric of click-count ÷ Impressions
  • Position: the average position of the top result for your site
  • Crawl error reports: these show you how often the search ‘spiders’ could not access parts of your website or your URL. This is usually the result of changes you made to your site, and this report will help you identify and fix the errors.
  • Fetch tool: this is a way you can actively research your site to find crawl errors and fix them

Unfortunately, Google’s Search Console is a bit technical to set up, but I found this easy-to-follow tutorial that walks you through it.

Building Links

I talked about the need to link to authoritative blogs and your social media profiles earlier this week. But now I REALLY want to highlight the importance of links and how they can impact your website rank.

Google cares about your links – a lot. But it’s important for you to understand that not all links are created equal. Some links will help your website rank better, while others won’t help at all… and in some cases, may even hurt your ranking.

What influences link quality?

To start, Google looks at how many other links are on a webpage, as well as where they link to. If the page that links to yours is a good source of relevant information, then it will be considered a high-quality link. Think about Wikipedia, for example. It’s an extremely large site, and each page is filled with high-quality information and links out to other quality, authoritative sites. Your websites link on a site like Wikipedia will carry a lot more “weight” than having a link on some no name, rinky-dink website with a bunch of terribly worded content.

Something else that influences link quality is where the link itself is positioned on the page. Google will look at whether it’s positioned in the main body of the text, in a footer, in a sidebar, or lower on the page than other links. The more prominent your website’s URL is located on the page, the more weight it will carry. And the more weight it carries, the higher the quality of the link.

Google also factors in what anchor text is used to create the hyperlink to your website. Anchor text is the text that appears highlighted in a hypertext link, and that can be clicked to open the target web page. In most browsers, it’s often blue and underlined, and looks like this:

link-img

And last, but certainly not least, Google considers whether the page from which the link originates is an authoritative source for the subject matter. For example, if your company teaches people how to make money on the Internet, links coming from a website related to cat training won’t really help you. What WILL help you are links from websites that also talk about making money online.

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s talk about domain links.

This refers to the number of links and quality of said links that point to your website as a whole. Your website will earn its reputation by earning links. As such, you want reputable sources giving you links too. You’ll be much better off getting one link from a highly reputable source versus multiple links from untrustworthy sources.

Page-specific links refer to the number of links – and the quality of these links – that go directly to a page on your website…NOT to your website as a whole. This includes links from your own website and other websites. If you want to rank one particular page on your website really well, you can link to it near the bottom of other pages on your website.

Google wants you to earn the links to your site, so don’t build links in a cookie cutter fashion. You need to be EXTREMELY careful about the link sources and styles of links you get.

Once you’re regularly keeping tabs on your website and building backlinks, you’ll want to check out your competition to see exactly what they’ve been doing to earn high rankings.

Learn From Your Competitors

Some websites will outrank you. They’re the sites to beat. But what are they doing that you haven’t done?

We’ve already discussed links to all the pages on your website, but there are three more areas that will make – or break – your efforts.

Page Titles

A page title (also known as a page title tag) is a brief description of a web page. Think of it like this: your page title is like the title of an article and your webpage is like the body of that article. Simple enough, right?

Your web site likely has multiple pages, so each page needs a unique, interesting and eye-catching page title. “Men’s House Shoes On Sale” is a good page title. “Shoes” is not. “Page 2” would be even worse.

Each page title should tell someone what that particular page is about, so be descriptive! If you have a page on your website that features cheap running shoes for men, “Discount Men’s Running Shoes” would be a good page title. ALWAYS match each webpage to its title tag as accurately and concisely as possible. Only 70 characters (NOT words) will show up in the search results, so anything more than that will just get cut off.

Page Content

Keywords help Google determine your site ranking. The percentage of keywords to all other content on any given page is what’s known as keyword density. Keyword density is a case of more not always being better. Using keywords appropriately will help boost your ranking, but bombarding a visitor with them won’t add value… and in fact, may result in your site to ranking lower. Google frowns upon keyword stuffing, which is essentially just using the same keyword(s) over and over on a webpage, in an attempt to get it to rank higher. A one to three percent keyword density to overall word content is a good sweet spot. To calculate this, divide the number of times that you use a specific keyword by the total number of words in the text that you are analysing, and then multiply that result by one hundred.

Here’s an example for you: let’s say that your keyword phrase is “cheap men’s dress shoes.” You use this phrase 3 times on a page that has 400 words of text overall. You would take 12 (your keyword phrase is 4 words and you’re using it 3 times) and divide it by 400. This gives us .03. Multiply this number by 100, and we end up with 3%. So, congratulations! You’re underneath the threshold of what Google considers keyword stuffing.

Page URLs

A URL needs to be descriptive, easy to read AND even easier to remember. ClearwaterAccounting.com/taxprep is easy to read and remember. ClearwaterAccounting.com/taxpreparationandlongtermfinancialplanning is not.

A URL should never be a sentence, but it should contain the main keyword of that particular page. Get rid of stop words like “and,” and “or,” if at all possible. Stop words won’t add any value to your URLs. If you must separate words in your URLs, hyphens are the way to go.

Make it as easy as possible for your audience to remember your URLs correctly.

Maintenance: Moving Forward

Once you have created your website and launched it, you are far from being finished. Here are my recommendations for activities to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis to ensure that your site is always performing at its best.

Helpful Tips To Keep In Mind

Since one of the primary goals of your website is to generate leads, which subsequently turn into sales, including the following on your website can help facilitate that process:

  1. An introduction – Include a short but informative page on your website that tells people about your company – specifically, what you do, where you started, and what you stand for.
  2. Full contact information – Customers are suspicious of websites with no information on what country they are from, their address, and a way to initiate contact off the web, either by mail or phone.
  3. All the appropriate forms – These are the parts of a website that let people enter information, like their email, phone number, and address. Forms can also be used to give special instructions, or as a way for people to contact you. Make sure all the forms that a customer could possibly need are on your website.
  4. Images of your products and/or services – As the old saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and this is more true on the Internet that just about anywhere else.
  5. Reviews and testimonials – Your customers are your best sales-staff, and genuine customer reviews are great selling tools that build confidence. Don’t expect every review to be 5-star. In reality, the honesty of having some 3 and 4-star reviews gives you a lot more credibility.
  6. Quality content – Make sure all your content is well written, free of even the smallest errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar, and unique. Identify and highlight your best content.
  7. Images of your team – Professionally photographed images of you and your team can make a good first impression and give people more confidence in your services.
  8. Strong, clear calls to action (CTA’s) – A ‘call to action’ is a request for a customer to do something, like click on a link or go to a certain page. Properly utilize CTA’s since they help direct people where you want them to go, which in turn, drives sales.
  9. SEO keywords – Keywords are the words that someone would type into a search engine to find the types of products and services you offer. If you content is properly optimized, it’ll be a lot easier for people to find you.  I’ll be covering this in MUCH greater detail in a later chapter.   
  10. Links to your social media accounts Since you’re going to need to establish presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s a good idea to link them from your website, and vice versa.
  11. Say ‘Thank You!’ – After a customer makes a purchase, or interacts in any way with your site, they should always be re-directed to a ‘thank you’ page so that they feel noticed and appreciated.

Including everything on this list on your website will help you to generate leads. The key to success is to set up your site properly so that it’s working for you 24/7.

Daily

  • Publish a blog post or article to your website. Be consistent. If you are unable to do this daily, do it as often as you can.
  • Check your site for recently completed forms.
  • Check for any emails regarding your website and answer them as soon as possible.

Weekly

  • Check that all links are still working properly.
  • Write at least one guest post on another blog each week, if you can arrange it.
  • Host at least one guest post on your own blog each week, if you can.
  • Test the forms on your website to make sure they are still working properly. If they aren’t, fix them immediately.

Monthly

Review your websites statistics and run Google’s Webmaster Tools. Take action when needed.

Annually

  • Review your website marketing strategy and update it as needed.
  • Review each page on your website for consistency in text, load time, basic design, etc.

12 Tips for Success

If you want your website to be as successful as possible, here are my top tips for success:

  1. Choose a good website hosting company from the very beginning. I cannot stress this enough.  The last thing you want to do is invest so much time and effort into creating a website, and then have your webhost accidentally wipe it out.
  2. Keep your target audience in mind for everything you do with your website design, functionality and content.
  3. Build your website for functionality and ease of navigation. Keep all of your contact information up to date.
  4. Simple is best for everything you do with your website, but especially for your design.
  5. Make sure all links work the way they should.
  6. Optimize page load times as much as possible.
  7. Post to your website regularly.
  8. Always include calls to action in your articles and blog posts.
  9. Make your calls to action simple, clear, and to the point.
  10. Focus on SEO (aka: proper keyword usage) in your content.
  11. Update and improve upon your initial research. Times and people change, so make sure you stay up to date with things.
  12. Engage with your readers as much as possible. If someone reaches out to you, don’t wait for days on end to get back to them.

6 Things to Avoid

  1. Never spam your users with content telling them to buy your products or services. Providing valuable information relevant to your business niche is a much better option.
  2. Avoid calls to action that are lengthy, confusing, complex, or ask a person to do more than one thing. If you have multiple things you want your readers to do, space them out over multiple articles or posts.
  3. Avoid bad design strategies, like falling objects, carousels, confusing arrows, neon or bright colors, hard to read text, and low quality images.
  4. Never use pop-up advertising.
  5. Avoid anything that automatically plays when someone enters your site – be it videos or music. This is very annoying. It also can drastically reduce load times.
  6. Never, never copy something from another company’s website. Using material you saw elsewhere for inspiration and then reworking it for your own purposes is fine, but blatant copying is not!

Your Top Daily Priorities Moving Forward

Although everything is important in the continual upkeep of your website, I do understand that there are only a limited number of hours in the day. If you only have five minutes each day to dedicate to the upkeep of your website, here’s how I would suggest you spend that time…

    • Monday, Wednesday, Friday

    • Develop ideas for informative blog posts or articles for your website – and write them when you can (Estimated Time: 5 minutes)

    • Tuesday, Thursday

    • Like and respond to as many comments on your website as possible (Estimated Time: 5 minutes)

    • Saturday

    • Do a quick check of all links and pages on your website to verify that they are still working correctly (Estimated Time: 5 minutes)

    • Sunday

    • Post a call to action directing people to your blog on at least one or two social media sites (Estimated Time: 2-3 minutes)

    • AND

    • Quickly look over your website’s analytics to see how well it is doing (Estimated Time: 2-3 minutes)

Although this is what to do if you have only five minutes a day, a better option is to hire a professional to help you complete these tasks.  After all, you have a business to run!

When Will I See Results?

Building your website should only take a week to ten days, depending on its complexity. Marginal results will show as soon as it’s live, IF you have developed a good marketing strategy and put some effort into it. In fact, you should start seeing traffic within the first 48 hours or so. Leads should start coming in within the first one to two weeks, although if you dream of being an overnight success, you will probably be disappointed! PLEASE be realistic in your expectations.

Maximum results might take a year or more to achieve, but are well worth the time and effort spent. The benefits of having a strong, well-marketed website are aplenty, including increased sales, better customer awareness, more repeat customers, and stronger branding for your company.

How to Measure Success

You can measure the success of your website in several ways:

  • Metrics and Analytics – The first and most obvious way is to study and track your metrics and analytics. They will tell you how any people have visited your site, where they come from, and how long they stayed. You should make note of this information for future research and analysis purposes. Tracking your metrics can also show trends in page views and view time over an extended period of time.
  • Customer Interaction – You can also measure the success of your website by measuring customer interaction. How often are customers clicking on your links, commenting, or liking posts? If this number is steady or rises with time, you can assume your website is successful. If it decreases, you know it is time for a rethink of your goals and methods.
  • Sales – Lead generation and sales are the bottom line of the majority of websites, so obviously these will need to be measured to determine just how successful your website actually is. If you are not making sales, you cannot really say your website is a success, now can you?
  • Surveys/Polls – This is a VERY under-utilized tactic, which is sad, since it’s so darn effective!  Asking your customers to complete surveys or polls will give you useful information on how they feel about your website. Surveys also help you see how customers are interacting with specific aspects of your site, how many times each customer has come onto your site, and other useful data (depending on what you ask, of course).  Sites like SurveyMonkey make it extremely easy to create surveys – and the best part?  SurveyMonkey is free!

Summary

In this section of the course, we covered the following topics. Make sure you understand them all before moving on to the next section:

  • What is a website? – the nuts and bolts of a website
  • Why is a website important? – it is your window on the world
  • Seven steps to create your website
    • Choose a Domain Name – the ins and outs of this key task
    • Choose a Host – defining your needs and finding the best one for you
    • Choose a Design – vital tips on creating the best
    • Build You Website Page by Page – getting down to work
    • Create Valuable Content – the key element of a successful site
    • Check for Errors & Publish – get your site up and running
    • Market Your Website – how to attract the traffic you need
    • Monitor Your Website – tracking performance
  • Upkeep of your website – make sure it always works well
  • Tips for success
  • Things to avoid
  • Your top priorities
  • When you will see results
  • How to measure success

Conclusion

A website is a vital part of any company’s online presence. Although a lot more goes into a website than many people assume, setting up an effective, productive website yourself is certainly do-able. By following the steps and tips described in this chapter, you can to set up your own website with ease.