If you have a small business, or are a professional or entrepreneur, chances are you have or need a website. The problem with being a small company, or just yourself, is you have to learn to be everything that a bigger business can afford, such as the accountant, salesperson, and marketer.
If you own or need a website, make sure you know the bare-bones basics
Owning a website can lead you down a path of hell if you’re not savvy enough to understand it all, not to mention the muck that is called social media.
This little post is an introduction to untangling the mess that is website, branding, and the internet.
There are three steps to owning a website: First your website needs an address (Domain Name), and then you need a place to hold the website (Hosting Company), then you need a website.
Domain Name: This is the name of your website that you purchase from a registrar that reports it to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The cost of a name is roughly $15 a year, as of this writing in spring 2016.
Your domain name becomes an internet address by adding “http://” to the beginning of your name. Some sites use “www.” after the two slashes, and most sites use both versions. The ending of your domain name is called the domain suffix. It’s the last few letters after the name. There are thousands of domain suffixes, with “.com”, “.org”, and “.net” being the most popular. For example your domain could be: http://myname.com or http://www.myname.ia.
Hosting Company: Your address needs to point to a place where the files are accessible to the world. This is accomplished by making a purchase from a hosting company. Hosting can cost roughly $12-$150 per month for shared hosting or up to hundreds a month for a private server.
There are two hosting companies that I recommend for running your website (which one is best for you will depend on your individual site needs).
The main host I recommend that’s good for most small businesses and professionals is Cloudways. Their prices are great, and they also have excellent customer service.
Siteground has its own cPanel and the hosting is all-inclusive. This means you can buy a domain via their reseller service, and get emails, SSL, and hosting in one place. They have great introductory rates, but I find them costly when your intro runs out.
Both of those site links are linked to my affiliate account, in case you’re reading this and need a website in addition to hosting. I always make sure my clients know that I do make a few dollars from promoting these hosts.
Website: Your website is made up of files on a server at your hosting company. Many hosting companies supply some sort of building software to make your own site, or to install a script of a free content management system. If it sounds confusing, just think there are many different approaches to making your website appear on the web. You may want to pursue various articles on what is best for you, or you can talk to a website professional and discuss your options.
2. Social Media
Social Media is basically having a spot for your business on a website that connects people with each other and with businesses. Your business should have some sort of spot in at least one of the major social media platforms to stay viable in the public eye.
If you have an incorporated business or a business with a DUN number, then it’s more than likely your business is already listed on many social media websites or listings. It would be prudent for you, the business owner, to claim the listing and control the content instead of just letting it run wild.
Branding is basically how you present yourself to the public. It’s your logo, the photos you use to represent yourself, your voice on social media, and any print advertising including business cards, letterhead and stationery, all tied together to represent your business or yourself as a freelancer, professional or entrepreneur.
SEO means Search Engine Optimization.
One of the main reasons you need a website is to enable new customers to find you. This is where SEO comes into play. There are two types of SEO. Here is the simplified version of each:
a. On-site SEO: This is all about the technical end of a website. It’s making sure your page is set up for the type of audience you want to attract. This way the major search engines will bring you close or to the top when people search for your services or goods.
b. Off-site SEO: As the name suggests, this is all about getting your website attached or linked to other websites, or getting some good PR (and sometimes bad).
The word Blog is short for “web log,” which is writing an article, essay, or journal piece online. Blogging is not a necessary component to owning a website, nor do you need to own a website to blog, since there are many places you can set up a blog, such as Blogger by Google.
The reason I mention Blogging in reference to websites, is that Blogging is a great way to add content in a friendly, easy, less formal platform. This allows small businesses or professionals to add their own content without hiring a copywriter or SEO specialist to get words relevant to their business on their website. This ties in with on-site SEO, as mentioned in item #4.
6. Mailing List
Again, this isn’t necessarily something that you must have to own a website, yet it’s not something you should ignore. If you’re going to take the time to have a website created, capturing all the potential clients is important. Setting up a Mailing List sign-up allows you to keep a customer list to send out specials, newsletters, private invites, or promotional material.
This is the bare-bones digest of what it entails if you need a website or to make an existing one work better for you. It can get dizzying and overwhelming to anyone. Heck, I’m in the business, and sometimes I find myself in total information overload. My job is to sift through the chaff to find the gems, so small businesses, entrepreneurs, and professionals don’t have to spend a fortune to have spectacular media.