By Amanda Goldman-Petri
As a small business owner it is important to understand the technical side of building a website. Understanding this will allow you to choose the proper platform for growth and functionality, and will help you save on your budget for building the website. Before I started my virtual assistant business, I worked as a project manager for a successful website development company. It was working at that company that I learned the technical side of building a great website, and today I want to share with you the steps that are involved:
STEP 1: Purchase a Domain. *Go to a place like MediaTemple or GoDaddy and do a search to make sure your desired domain name is available, then purchase it. I recommend you set it up to auto-renew so that you never have to re-buy your domain and don’t run the risk of losing ownership of your domain name or having your website go down when it is up for renewal.
You typically should buy variations of your domain name that you might expect viewers to type in by accident when searching for you online. Determine what those variations might be and buy them, but don’t go crazy. I know some entrepreneurs who are domain-happy and have 50+ domains. That’s overkill and totally not worth your marketing budget.
STEP 2: Purchase Website Hosting. A lot of entrepreneurs misunderstand the difference between buying a domain and buying hosting. Domain hosting is NOT the same thing as website hosting. You MUST purchase a domain, and then purchase hosting for that domain too. Typically a domain is $3-$15 per year, while hosting is $10-$25 per month.
Another common misunderstanding is that you have to have the domain and hosting purchased at the same place… Nope! You can buy your domain at Media Temple and then host at Host Gator like I do. As long as you or your website developer knows how to edit the DNS settings to point to the correct host, your website will work.
STEP 3: Install WordPress on Your Website. Once your website hosting is purchased, there is usually an area within your account where you can “One Click Install” WordPress. If you are not sure how to do this, please ask your website developer to do this for you to prevent any errors in set up.
STEP 4: Design and Develop, or Purchase Your Theme. Typically, I prefer to have a designer do a mock up of what the website will look like before I have the developer start coding and customizing. That way, the developer is really clear on what you want and doesn’t waste time coding. If you have a developer code without a design, you will likely either (A) end up with a website that isn’t well branded or thought out, or (B) end up paying a lot for revisions on your site. So figure out the design before you get it built.
The other option is to go to http://themeforest.net to buy a theme, and then give that to your developer to customize.
STEP 5: Install Your Theme And Upload Your Content. Once the theme is ready, you’ll want to install it on your website. This way you can upload and customize all of your content. This means, creating the necessary pages, blog posts, videos, images etc so that your website does not have any more placeholders and can get ready for launch.
STEP 6: Test The Site, Links, Opt Ins, and Pop Ups On Multiple Browsers and Platforms. Before you send traffic to your site, you want to make sure that all links are working and opening in new windows. You want to test all opt-ins to ensure they are taking people to the proper thank you pages, and their information is being added to your email marketing software. You also want to test all timed and exit pop ups to ensure they are showing up properly. All of this testing should be done on multiple browsers (ie. Firefox, Chrome, IE) and platforms (ie. mobile, tablet, desktop) to ensure that it looks correct and works properly no matter how the visitors find you.
STEP 7: SEO Your Website For Certain Keywords. Generate a list of keywords that a visitor may use to find you on the web. For example, in my VA business, people may search “virtual assistant” or “virtual assistant services” in Google, and that’s when I want my website to show up.
Install SEO plugins like “SEO Ultimate” to customize the Page Titles and Descriptions for those keywords. I recommend before you do this, that you research SEO best practices, or hire an SEO expert to do this for you. (hint: if you do SEO incorrectly, it can actually HURT your rankings)!
STEP 8: Install Analytics So You Can Track The Results. Go to http://google.com/analytics and set up your Google Analytics account. Grab the tracking code from Google Analytics, which you will then add to every page of your website. A quick way to add this code to every page of your site is using a “Google Analytics” WordPress Plugin which will automatically add it to every page for you.
STEP 9: Install Website Security To Protect Your Website. Before you go live, you want to make sure you are protecting yourself from hackers. This means, choosing usernames and passwords that are hard to figure out (ie. do not choose “admin” or a variation of your name or business name for the username, and choose passwords that WordPress classifies “Strong”). Install a “CAPTCHA” plugin to require people to prove they are human before posting on your site or becoming users. Delete any unused plugins and set up a reminder for yourself to update your plugins and WordPress every month.
Install Sucuri Scanner to notify you of attempted logins, and set up a reminder for yourself to routinely scan your site for malware.
STEP 10: Take the Website Live and Get Going With Your Marketing!. Once you’ve completed steps 1-9, you are ready to go! Move your website from your test site to your live site, or take down your “coming soon” page if either of those are applicable to you.
*Start sending traffic!
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