create a website for your online business

How to create a website for your business

Your business needs a website. More than 80 million businesses use Facebook business pages and for some, that’s all they have.  Our stance is that your online business needs a website.  There are a many other considerations but before you have a website, you are working at a disadvantage. Starting a business is hard enough so why start with a disadvantage? Create a website, use it, and your business will benefit.

Below I explain the basics of getting your business on the web.

3 choices when creating your website.

To create a website for your business, you have 3 options:

1. Hire an established company

Hiring an established company to create your website is a great approach if you have the funds.

As mentioned in our Mindset page, acting like the CEO means you aren’t doing the grunt work.

If you can go this route, so much the better.  I urge you to research the company and, if possible, go with a local company to ensure you can know the folks who will be creating the single most important piece of your business.

You will end up with an amazing and highly functional site and they’ll take care of the domain registration, maintenance, DNS redirection, performance, etc.

The downside here is up front costs as well as ongoing cost.  Expect to spend thousands on a good looking and functional website.

A considerable downside, in my opinion, is also the lack of knowledge you will have around your own website.

2. Hire your 16 year old neighbor

Hiring your 16 year old neighbor to build it isn’t a terrible idea.  Sounds like it could be but in the end, you’ll most likely end up with a functional website.

Pay him or her a bit extra to spend time going over it with you so you have a good understanding of how it works.

3. Build it yourself

Build it yourself is our preference.

I say that knowing there’s a LOT of folks out there who have little inclination to do so but bear with me a bit.

Building your site isn’t that hard and doing so keeps your fingers on the pulse on one of the most important aspects of your business.

It’s not something to be left to chance or to move forward without understanding.  That’s why we spend a good bit of time going over this on these pages.

 

Before we discuss the building of your website, there are a couple of concepts to be familiar with.  You’re going to need a domain and you’re going to need somewhere to host the website.

Your website domain – the URL

Snugdata.com is the domain of my site here.  It’s what you enter into the browser to access a website. People will come to associate your business with the domain of your website.

When you reference a page on a website, what you see in the browser will reflect the domain and the page you are viewing.

website domain and url explanation

We refer to this entire string as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

You may or may not see a padlock in the browser.

A padlock indicates a secure site that running on “https” instead of “http”.  All sites should be https.  Google has noted this is a ranking factor.

You’ll have the option of purchasing an SSL certificate where you buy your web hosting.  Many web hosting companies provide them for free.  This is explained in more detail a bit further below.

You’ll want a domain name that represents your business.  It doesn’t have to be an exact match but ideally it should be easy to remember and as short as possible.

Avoid hyphens and numbers (unless you have a very good reason to use them) as they tend to make your domain look amateurish or spammy.

How to find a domain name for your business

If your business name is Joe’s Pizza and it’s in Atlanta, joespizza.com would be a great domain.

But, that’s most likely taken (all the easy and good ones are).  So you may have to get creative with something like the following:

  • joespizzaatl.com
  • pizzafromjoe.com
  • joeyspizza.com
  • josephspizza.com
  • atlpizza.com

If you can’t find a .com name, which is the preference for businesses, you may want to try one of the other “TLD’s” (Top Level Domains).

Common ones are .net, .org, etc.  There are literally hundreds of TLDs these days but you want to be picky about which you use.

Namecheap does a good job of showing and explaining them.  There are many successful businesses that are not on .com domains so it’s not a requirement but it’s worth taking the extra time to try to find a .com before deciding on something else.

You might be able to find joespizza.net or joespizza.org.

Bear in mind there are some expectations around some TLDs.  They are not enforced but they can be a bit misleading.  As an example, .org domains are often non-profits.

Namecheap is where I get all of my domains these days. They are at the top of their game with regards to ease of use, their support, and pricing.

They have a great discovery tool (with beast mode, shown below) where you can combine names and set filters to streamline the results you see.

namecheap domain search beast mode

From the “Beast mode” screenshot below, you can enter multiple keywords, select the TLDs, append/prepend common words such as “the”, “best”, “hq”, etc and then Namecheap goes to work finding you all the available domains based on your selections.  Very cool stuff.

Create a website - namecheap beast mode to find domains

Here I’ve filled out some details to find a domain for Joe’s Pizza:

Build a website - Namecheap beast mode to select domain based on metrics

 

And here’s a screenshot of the results.  I’m showing a few as there were hundreds, if not thousands, of rows in the results.

It’s important to note that the prices you see below are representative of what you’ll see elsewhere.  I’ve had little luck trying to find the same domain available at a different domain provider for lower cost.

Building a wordpress website - domain selection via Namecheap

 

I’ve owned as many as 60 domains at one time and made the mistake of purchasing them across multiple vendors.  It ended up being a real pain.

If you will be buying multiple domains, I recommend picking a single domain vendor and going through them for any domain purchases you make.  Having them all in one place makes things much easier down the road.

How much does a domain cost?

I’ve bought good domains for as little as $3/year.  I’ve also spent hundreds for them.

If you look at the above screenshot from the NameCheap beast mode results, you can see some are high priced, some aren’t.

A lot goes into determining the price.

You’ll find shorter .com domains can get expensive.  A .com with 3 or 4 letters will cost more if you can even find one.  You could find the same root with a .io or .me domain and probably spend $10/year or so.

So there’s no hard and fast answer to how much a domain costs.  Your job will be to find the domain you like, that suits your business, and decide if the price is right.

Buy other TLD domains that match for your business

Another consideration is to also buy other popular TLDs that match the main one you are going to use.

“joespizza.com” isn’t available but if it were, and you bought it, you might also want to consider buying joespizza.net, joespizza.org, joespizza.hub, etc.

You can redirect them to joespizza.com.

This helps ensure competitors don’t infringe on your domain and also to ensure your customers, if they mis-type your domain, still land on your actual website.

Often times you’ll find those domains are available for $2 or $3/year so not a huge expense. If it’s a few hundred (and sometimes it will be), that’s a different story.

Where to buy your domain name

In my opinion, after having worked with several, there’s no reason to not use Namecheap for all of your domain purchasing needs unless you are able to buy your web hosting and get a free domain thrown in (many are doing this).

Even in this case, though, you may still want to use a company such as Namecheap if you are buying the additional TLDs around your main domain.

Another benefit of having your domains in a place such as Namecheap is that there may come a time when you decide to move your website to another web host.

If you’ve bought your domain as a part of your web host package, you’ll still own the domain but it will be held by that web host company so you’ll have to work with them.  You can transfer domains to other domain registrars such as Namecheap.

You may end up buying your domain and your web hosting at the same time.  You sign up for an annual web hosting plan with Bluehost and they throw in your domain for free.

In this case, I recommend taking them up on that as you’ll be able to manage your domain and your website in a single location.  But again, if you decide to change web hosting services down the road, your domain will still be held by them unless you transfer it.

Buy expired or expiring domains

When a website stops being used, it’s domain often expires and ends up for sale. Buying expired domains lets you take advantage of past efforts to improve that domain.

Caution here, though, in that you can end up buying a domain with 10,000 backlinks from Chinese porn sites. I’m speaking from experience here.  A backlink profile like that ensures no love from Google and your site will most likely never rank well.

So if you choose to go the route of purchasing an expired domain, and I encourage it when possible, please proceed cautiously.

Take a look at our article on purchasing expired domains for additional information.

Show Google you are serious about your domain

When you first buy your domain and create your website, you may have a hard time getting it to rank in the Google search results.

Often Google will put place new websites into a sandbox of sorts and not take them seriously for the first 90 days or so.  This is due to the large amount of spam sites that spring up every day.  This is Google’s way of preventing them from showing in the search results.

There are a few things you can do that reportedly help with this:

  • Register your domain for 2 or 3 years instead of one.  This sends a signal to Google that you are not building a spam site that may be gone in 60 days.
  • Set up your site with SSL (described below). This also sends a signal to Google that your website is serious
  • Get good, lengthy content visible on the site and indexed in Google quickly. Obviously, here’s another signal to Google that your website is one to be taken seriously.
  • Set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics so you can keep tabs on how your pages are indexed

Note that Google is notoriously tight-lipped about how they rank websites.

There is no confirmable or validated list of ranking signals that Google has ever released or even agreed upon publicly.  How they rank websites is one of their most closely guarded secrets.  BUT, there are many companies who endlessly various configurations and then track how the changes affect their rankings.

Through efforts such as this, we have an understanding of what is important to Google.

Decide on web hosting services – where your website lives

Great, you have a domain!  Congrats on taking that step. Before you create a website however, you must have somewhere for it to live.

Think of the domain you just purchased as your name.

The webhosting your choose will be the address on the particular street where you live.

Later, we’ll create the website which is analogous to the house itself.

This is an accurate representation as, if you move (and it’s common) to a different web hosting service later, you’ll leave your house and your address but you’ll take your domain with you.  You’ll find a new web hosting service (address) and move into a new house (web site).

The analogy breaks down a bit here in that you can migrate your old website to your new hosting service.  I guess that could be like your movers moving your furniture from one house to another.  But what about the dogs in the back yard?  I digress….

Technically, you could build a website on your computer and host it from there but a plethora of considerations need to be taken into account so 99% of the websites you find on the internet are not hosted like that.

Unless you are extremely technical and want to spend most of your time managing your website rather than running your business, I recommend purchasing web hosting rather than building it.

It’s really not very expensive.

You pay an amount, you run your website from their servers. They take care of all of the maintenance, etc.

This is the approach you should use.

I’ve used a quite a few over the years, from very inexpensive $1/month sites to more expensive reseller accounts where I’m able to resell hosting services to my customers.

Build your website on NameHero

These days, I host entirely with NameHero as they offer excellent services, unexpectedly quick customer support, and features for your web hosting that cost extra with other companies.

They also offer free migration so if you have a website on a different hosting company, they’ll move it for you.

NameHero hosts over 300,000 websites around the world.

And that kid on their main page makes me smile every day.

create a website at namehero | web hosting

 

NameHero’s pricing is highly competitive. I’ve highlighted a couple of the important features they provide (or don’t provide) as standard in the plans.

There’s no reason to opt for anything but the least expensive program if you are starting a new site.

You can upgrade to elevated plans to support your business and website growth down the road.

 

Building a website - NameHero plans and pricing

Aside from NameHero, I’ve also had success with Bluehost and Liquid Web.

Create a website with Bluehost

Below is the current Bluehost pricing and feature list.  Notice on all packages you get a free SSL certificate and a free domain for the first year.  Bluehost advertises that they currently host over 2 million websites.

Build a website at Bluehost for your online business | packages and pricing

Create a website with Liquid Web

Liquid Web hosts over 450,000 sites for 150,000 customers around the world.  Notice the pricing below. Everything except their Spark package offers more than one site, which is great if you want to resell web hosting yourself.

It’s not shown in the screenshot below but all packages include free SSL.

Again, I don’t see any reason to not go with the least expensive plan if you are just starting out as seamless upgrades can manage your growth down the road.

Create a website at Liquid Web for your new online business | pricing and packages

I’d say you can’t go wrong with either although my preferences and loyalties lie with NameHero.

Create a website with Wix

The last one I’ll highlight here is Wix.  Here you can purchase your domain name and get your website up and running practically immediately.

Wix started as a niche player and transformed this method of building websites into a huge business.

I didn’t much care for them early on but they have taken great strides to make their sites easier to build and also highly configurable.

My concern with them (early on) was that it was difficult to highly configure Wix sites for optimum SEO but these days, that’s not the case.

Wix is an attractive, inexpensive, and functional choice.

My current concern with them is that you don’t really “own” your website.  If you decide to leave Wix and move elsewhere, you can download your content but you can’t package up your entire site and take it with you (like you can with WordPress, for example).

Createing a website - Wix plans and pricing

The Wix plans and pricing screenshot above is cut off, there are more features (paid and unpaid) that continue down the list so I encourage you to visit their site to learn more.

I would say that choosing Wix will most likely result in you getting your website up and running the fastest.

I’m not sold on them being the best but I do believe it’s the fastest route to getting a presence for your business on the web.

Website builder – your choices for building a website

Allright, you have a domain and you have somewhere for your website to live.  The next step is to actually create your website and to do this, you have to know what kind of website, or platform, you’ll use.

The choices are numerous but my strong preference is to use WordPress.

WordPress has evolved from a niche content management system into one of the most popular platforms worldwide.  It does everything you need it to do.

If it’s good enough for The New York Times, Mercedes Benz, and Beyonce, it should be good enough for you to at least start your business with.  WPBeginner posted an interesting article that details many large or well known companies using WordPress.

Don’t let the fact that the New York Times uses WordPress make you think it’ll be too complex.

That’s the beauty of WordPress.  You can start small and scale up as you grow.

If you decide to go with WordPress, you’ll find that almost all web hosting companies will provide a customized WordPress package that will include your web hosting with WordPress already installed.

Or, you can install it yourself in about 5 minutes if you type real slow.

Seriously, it’s that easy.

Bluehost offers WordPress packages that range from $3.95 to $6.95/month.

Yes, you read that right.  Their high-end offering is a whopping seven dollars a month.  And they throw in an SSL certificate and free domain.

  • SSL certificate can cost as much as $60 per year elsewhere.  This is what allows you to have an “https” instead of “http” in front of your domain.  This provides strong security, gives your website visitors the comfort of knowing your site is secure, and benefits from improved Google rankings as they have made it known they will consider https websites for higher rankings.
  • Free domain – as mentioned previously in this article, we recommend NameCheap if buying the domains separately but if you can get a package deal, all the better.

If you decide to go with something even simpler, you may opt for a Wix experience.

Using Wix, you can create a website using drag-and-drop blocks of information, images, content, etc.

In the early days, I was anti-Wix just because it seemed to gimmicky and not configurable enough.

These days, their success shows they are not a gimmick and they have become more and more configurable. Wix currently works with over 160 million customers.

Create a website on WordPress.com?

If you decide to move forward with WordPress (I hope you do!), you’ll to notice that there is wordpress.com and wordpress.org.

It’s important to understand what’s going on here as many have made mistakes.

WordPress.com is place where you can build a blog and start just about immediately with creating content, etc.

It is not the same as installing wordpress for use on your website.  Using wordpress.com means you do not really own the website, you own a blog on a wordpress platform.  You will not be building any domain credibility and will have trouble down the road ranking your business in the Google search results.

WordPress.org is the website that provides support, articles, insights, etc into the wordpress platform.  If (when??) you install wordpress for your website, you may find yourself coming back here for support articles, etc.

My very strong opinion is to not use wordpress.com but rather purchase web hosting at one of the companies named above and install wordpress.  This way you own your domain, you own your website and everything you do to improve your domain’s credibility is a direct reflection on your business.

After you have built your website

Now that you have a domain, webhosting, and a website, you want to do everything to ensure it is optimally set up to earn the highest rankings from Google.  This is the realm of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.  SEO is the practice of ensuring your website is configured to send all the right signals to Google, performing keyword research, and earning backlinks.  Our article on the basics of SEO will help you understand what is important about the website itself.

Summary – create a website

  • When you create a website for your online business, it’s success depends on how it looks and the ease of use for your visitors. Do not skimp.
  • I recommend purchasing your new domain for at least 2 years, 3 is better.  You will be in business that long, right?
  • You need a domain, make it a good one. I recommend you research and purchase your domain at Namecheap.
  • You have almost unlimited options as to where you website will be hosted.  Our recommendation is to go with the pros at either NameHero, Bluehost or  Liquid Web.
  • Get good, detailed content on your website quickly.
  • Configure your website for SSL so you are using “https” rather than “http”.

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