If you’re just starting out with your first business website I bet you’re probably trying to get your head around all this stuff like web hosting, domain names and web design.
It can get really confusing and often people can end up either spending way over the odds or not getting the results they wanted.
I remember when we were first starting out there were loads of things to try to understand really quickly. I’ll be the first to admit that we made a TON of mistakes.
But that was years ago. Nowadays there is so much more expert advice (maybe too much in fact) as well as loads of tools that have developed to help newcomers to get online and build the website for their business that does them proud.
So I’m going to outline exactly what you’ll need so that you don’t run down any blind alleys and you can get online with the minimum of fuss and cost.
Does that sound like a plan? Great, let’s get started.
Choosing The Best Domain Name For Your Business
First up, you’ll need to register a domain name. Your domain is your internet real estate so it’s worth taking the time to think it through and choose the right one. Of course you can change it later on down the line, but it’s best if you can get it right first time.
We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best domain name, but here are the main points you need to consider:
Which Domain Extension Is Best?
If you are a UK business we would recommend getting the .co.uk, .uk and .com domains as a minimum.
This serves two purposes. It takes all of the options off the market so that you own them and can decide which ones to use and it prevents anyone from cybersquatting.
Does My Domain Need To Be The Same As My Business Name?
Your domain name does not have to be the exact same as your registered company name. If your company name is ‘Webbs Jewellery Ltd’ then your domain name could be any one of the following (just add eg: .co.uk to the end)
The point is, don’t feel restricted – choose whatever domain you want as long as you aren’t infringing an established trademark you will be fine.
Should I Use My Town In The Domain Name?
On that last example above (Webbsjewellerslondon) you may have noticed that we included ‘London’ in the domain name. Using the town in a domain name can help Google understand where you are located. If you feel that is important then you can use it to help your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but don’t get too hung up about it. If it starts to get too long and look spammy then don’t use it.
Try To Avoid Hyphens In Your Domain Name
One thing we recommend that you should avoid is the use of hyphens in your domain name, eg: Webbs-Jewellers.co.uk. The reason for this is that people can forget where the hyphen goes and they may mistype it and not end up at your website.
Copyright And Trademark Issues With Domain Names
Another point to consider is one we touched on previously and that is trademark and copyright. Now we aren’t legal experts, but try to avoid getting a domain that infringes someone else’s legal rights.
How To Redirect Domains
If you do decide to purchase several domain names either to take them off the market or to get mispellings then you can easily redirect these to the main website. For example, if you have settled on the .co.uk domain and you have also purchased the .com equivalent then you can use domain parking to ‘park’ the .com domain on the .co.uk. That way, if someone types in the .com by mistake they will still end up at the .co.uk site.
Domain Privacy – How To Protect Your Privacy
Another important point is regarding domain privacy. When you register a domain your details may appear on the public Whois database. However you can hide your personal details and prevent them from appearing. To do this you need a Whois Privacy service. With Top Level Domains like .com, .net and .org this is a paid for service. With UK domains like .co.uk it is free for individuals but companies can not hide their details.
When it comes to ownership you or your company can own the domain name. If you are registering for a business then you need to agree the legal ownership of the domain name with your associates or shareholders to prevent issues further down the line. But the point is that a person or a business can own the domain name.
What Happens When Your Domain Is Due For Renewal?
When it comes to renewing your domain name you will be sent several reminders inviting you to renew the domain. Even if you don’t renew your domain name you still have an opportunity to renew it after the expiry date.
What’s The Best Way To Build Your First Business Website?
Now comes the fun part. You need to build your first business website. This is an important decision so you need to get it right.
Now you do have a few options and I’m going to spell them out for you so that you understand what’s involved so that you can make an informed decision.
We’ll look at them in turn. They are:
- Website Builder
- Content Management Systems
- Custom Built Website
Building Your First Website With Website Builder
Website Builder is an intuitive, easy to use tool designed specifically to allow non-technical people build and manage a fully featured and attractive website.
It is included for free with our hosting plan and we have a free website builder demo for you to try.
We’ve also got a step by step guide to help you build your first business website.
The way it works is that you choose a ready made template from the template store and then you can add pages, content, images etc..
It has loads of features that you’ll need to get up and running. You can add your logo, add text and create as many pages as you like.
If you run a local business then you can add a map of your office and you can easily create a contact us form to start capturing leads through your website.
When it comes to getting traffic to your website this is a really important area. In fact this is something we have done some research on and we looked at over 540 local UK businesses to see if we could determine what common factors the highest ranking websites had in common.
We prepared a summary report for you which you can get here, but the headlines are that the best websites had just knuckled down and got the SEO basics right. Things like including their industry and their location (e.g. Printer Northampton) in the metatags of their website and in the Headings.
Also, Social Media is massive these days and it’s easy to link up your website to your favourite social media channels too.
So if you’re on a tight budget and you want to be able to to build and maintain your own website then Website Builder is an excellent choice to get you up and running. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, believe me. The important thing is to get started. You can always upgrade or get a designer on board once your business case justifies that extra investment.
Building A Website Using A Content Management System
A Content Management System or CMS for short is a software tool that you access across the internet and which allows you to build and maintain your own website.
The most popular ones we’ll look at here are WordPress and Joomla. There are other ones for Ecommerce such as OpenCart, PrestaShop and Magento. We’ve done a comprehensive side by side review of the most popular CMS, but for now we’ll focus on non Ecommerce sites.
There are several compelling reasons why you should consider a CMS like WordPress or Joomla.
They are also extremely popular – WordPress itself powers over 20% of all websites. This means that they are not exotic tools. There is a huge community supporting them and they are developing new features all the time.
They are extremely stable applications. There won’t be any nasty or expensive surprises.
The market for these skills is very competitive so designer and developer costs are not high – these are not exotic tools.
They are extremely powerful and scalable. If you choose one of these CMS then it’s unlikely you’ll outgrow it any time soon.
There are loads of pre-made templates and addon software so you can usually find exactly what you need for your site.
WordPress in particular has a fairly gentle learning curve. If you’re prepared to roll our sleeves up and have a look under the bonnet then you should be able to build and maintain your own site.
Joomla admittedly is more complex but if you have some technical skills then you should be able to master the basics, even if you hand over to a more experienced designer at some point.
Also, there are loads of pre-made templates for both WordPress and Joomla. They are called Themes in WordPress. This could be the best way for you to get a really amazing looking website at the fraction of the cost of a custom design.
If you do go down this route then one thing to look out for is to check whether they are Responsive Design templates/Themes. Responsive Design is a web design technique whereby the website looks good on any device whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone screen. These days mobile is becoming more and more important so you need to make sure your website looks good on any device.
The important point here is that even if you have a go yourself and manage to build a site that you are happy with, when the time comes to improve it you’ll find it easy to get a skilled designer to improve on what you’ve got because you’ll be using a tool that they’re familiar with.
Getting A Custom Built Website
If you feel that you either just can not build your own website for whatever reason or you just want the confidence of knowing that your site has been professionally built then obviously you can get a professional web designer to build it for you.
If you decide on this route then the best advice would be to try to stick to a known platform like WordPress or Joomla. The last thing you want is to be tied into an exotic tool that only your designer knows how to use. With WordPress for example you will easily be able to find designers who can help you.
Also, as above, consider a ready made template/Theme. That way you know what you’re getting from the start. Just do a search in Google for Responsive WordPress Themes.
Of course, whoever you choose, insist on asking to see previous examples of their work and make it clear at the outset that you would like some references – you want to speak to previous customers to check how the relationship went between them. Of course, maybe you choose not to, but you should let them know that this is your intention so that you make it clear that you are looking for serious designers who value their relationship with their clients.
Great – I’ve Got My First Website Ready – What Next?
OK, once your website is live you’re going to need to start getting traffic. Fortunately we’ve created a Definitive Guide to Local SEO for you. Here are the headlines:
- Set up local listings like Google, Bing and Yahoo
- Start getting local reviews
- Get your Name, Address and Phone (NAP) Citations in local business listings on a regular basis
- Get listed in Industry and Trade Directories
- Create Service specific pages
- Create longer pages (500 words minimum)
- Optimise all of your pages with keywords
- Get some quick, easy backlinks
- Set up a company blog (check here for hints on business blogging)
It looks like a lot, but seriously most of this stuff is easy. You don’t have to do it all in a day – just tick one thing off every week and then longer term get into a blogging rhythm and I promise that after a fairly short time you’ll be sitting pretty in Google with a good ranking and getting a steady stream of traffic.
Getting online involves a few steps. You’ll need a domain name of course. Try to get the main extensions like .co.uk, .uk and .com to take them off the market. Don’t worry of the domain isn’t exactly the same as the registered business name. You can use your town in the domain if it makes sense and isn’t too long but try to avoid hyphens.
If you’re worried about privacy then you can order a whois privacy service. It’s free for UK domains but there is a fee for .com domains.
When it comes to building your website you can build your own site using a tool like Website Builder. Another option is to use a CMS like WordPress or Joomla. If you build it yourself you could use a template/Theme. If you do, make sure it’s Responsive so it’s mobile friendly.
If you get a designer to build your site then you could also go with Joomla or WordPress. That way you are working with a tool that any designer can pick up later if necessary.
The important thing though is to get stuck in and start building your new website. It’s not as difficult as it might appear.