Your business needs a website. The keyword in that sentence is “needs“! Here’s my getting started tutorial on going live with a cost-effective website. In this resource, I go over how to use online promotional tools to attract customers and increase sales. Digital Marketing refers to promotion, branding, and sales through people’s computers and the Internet. These techniques are the fundamentals for cost-effective marketing that reinforce physical marketing methods. The following sections will quickly help you understand and implement the most important steps for marketing over the Internet.
Select a domain name for your website
Find hosting for your web pages
Create web pages
Launch your website
A website is a set of interconnected files (filled with graphics, text, media, etc.) that reside on a computer server with a designated address. This address is called a URL (uniform resource locator) which other people can use to view the files through an Internet connection on a computer. http://www.DemandGeneration411.com is an example of a URL. Your business needs one of these so let’s go over the basics of how you create and manage your own website. (and do so on a budget!)
Select a Domain Name
Domain names that end in “.com” can be purchased for around $10US/year. “.com” was originally meant to distinguish commercial business websites but has become the assumed extension. Domain names should be the company name or use 1-3 words that clearly indicate what your business provides. Funny or cute domain names or choosing an extension besides .com make it difficult for someone to remember your website or even find you in the first place.
We purchased demandgeneration411.com from GoDaddy.com. They have low prices, good support and a simple interface for managing your domain. Search for the domain name and extension you want. Often adding the name of your geography or another benign word with very few letters can help you find a unique “.com” domain name. Purchase the domain for at least 2 years as you may be penalized by search engines if you purchase for less. If you are considering purchasing extra services, carefully read what the offer is and make sure you want it. Don’t be lured into purchasing something because you are worried about NOT having it.
Choose a Hosting Provider
The domain name is your unique address for your web pages. Now you need a place to store those web pages. A hosting company has a bunch of computer servers and will charge you monthly for a certain amount of space and bandwidth. They will give you the names of the server for you to “point” your domain to. We use Site 5 because they are affordable and have excellent live chat support. There are A LOT of hosting companies out there and we’ve found out the hard way that not all of them are good. Here’s what separates hosting companies:
- Space: the amount of data you can upload to your website. 1 gigabyte (1 GB = 1,000 MB) is a lot of space and you should be able to get that for less than $10/month.
- Bandwidth: the amount of data that can be downloaded from your website during a month. If someone views 4 web pages (50 kB each) which has 8 pictures (100 kB each) then that person downloaded 1 MB (4 x 50kB + 8 x 100kB). If that person also downloads a 5.5 MB MP3 the bandwidth required jumps to 6.5 MB total. If you have 10 GB of bandwidth then you can have 1,538 people download that much data per month. Otherwise you will have to pay a hefty fee per extra MB of bandwidth needed.
- Server: the type of operating system the server uses. Most servers use Linux which is an open-source (read: free) operating system. You can serve HTML, java, php and other types of web pages on Linux servers. Web pages written in asp or aspx require Windows servers because they use a language developed by Microsoft. Make sure the hosting you purchase works with your web pages or template.
- Price: the monthly charge often paid in 1 year increments. Hosting has become a commodity so make sure you understand why you would pay more than a few dollars per month.
- Service: how well do they help you when you have questions? Live help hours, online tutorials, email support response-time, website uptime, and so on are things that you want to get a feel for before signing up.
Create Web Pages
Before starting to create your web pages plan things out. One of the best ways is to draft the following:
- Graphical sketch: shows the layout of a page including location of menus, logos, sections for text, pictures and other non-text elements you want to incorporate.
- Page Content: document with the text you want in each text section for each web page.
- Hierarchy Chart: an org chart for your website showing which web pages are linked together.
When designing your website keep in mind that you want people to buy your buy something and/or find out more. Thus, make sure your website is easy to read, breaks up text into small doses, uses appropriately-named menu items, and does not contain “broken links” (ones that don’t work) or offensive text or pictures. Standard pages for your website depends on your business – have a look at your competitors structure to make sure you don’t forget anything. Most importantly, make sure you can take orders and/or inquiries 24/7!
A clear understanding of what your pages will look like, what they will say and how they will connect will save you quite a bit of time. There are basically 3 ways to create your web pages:
- Design It Yourself: There are plenty of website design books and websites to help with this. This approach costs very little but requires more time. You may enjoy learning about web pages and expressing your creativity so don’t be afraid to try it!
- Website Template: Many hosting companies offer a free website builder as part of their hosting packages and you can also download free website templates. WordPress.org is one of my favorite tools to use because it makes it easy to manage your site and there are many of attractive and affordable designs that easily drop-in. If you are familiar with HTML code then you can grab pieces of code or graphics from these templates and use them in a site you are designing. If you see a website you like you can select “View” from the main menu and then “Source” in order to view the HTML code.
- Professionally Designed: Many online services will design a logo and/or website for you for a wide range of prices. The best way to get your money’s worth is to ask around for a referral. Think of your budget here and make sure you get at least 3 quotes. There are much better alternatives than spending $5,000 for a bunch of pages. Also watch out for services that include a hefty ongoing fee. You may need it but there are lots of advantages to fully controlling it yourself – cost savings is just one reason.
Here are some other useful resources and tools for creating your website:
- HTML color wheel for help picking & matching colors
- Cool Text for creating buttons and banners
- HTML goodies for some cool features
Launch Your Website
Typically you will purchase your domain name and hosting before you have completed your website. You will have a default page (index.html, index.asp, default.htm, etc.) that will be displayed when someone goes to your website. Put some quick HTML on this page so that people know you are working on it and how they can contact you. With a landing page up you can then upload and test your pages without people visiting them. On the day you launch your website, delete your temporary home page and your new home page will then become the default landing page.
Use an FTP client to upload all of your pages and graphics. Ace FTP Freeware is what we use. It’s great and free! Your hosting company will provide the settings to connect your FTP client to your website server space. You may also be able to upload files through a web interface provided by your hosting company. You will also want to setup at least one email account. A “catch-all” email will redirect all email sent to your domain (including spam) to you. Outlook or Outlook Express will download your website email just by setting up a POP3 email account through the Tools menu.
Your website is the hub of your online activity. If you are relying on social media or other pages hosted by others, it’s time to take control, get your own website drive your marketing efforts there.