You’ve decided you want to start a business (or maybe you’ve had your own company for some time now) - your next challenge is to set up a website for your biz. Others make it sound so simple, but if you’ve never done it, you probably have no idea where to start!
This quick guide can help you boldly go where many others have gone before…
7 steps to setting up your website
1. Decide on how you’re going to build your website
There are several ways to build a website.
The easiest way to do this, is to put a professional on it. They will have a chat with you about your needs and wishes, and create a website that has all the parts you’ll need to make your business work online.
If you’re like most solopreneurs though, you might prefer to build your own website - whether you hope to save money that way, or you want to learn how to do it (it’s one more acquired skill!).
There are two levels to building a website: the back end and technical stuff behind the scenes, and the actual content.
Wordpress is by far the most used content management system.
There are two different “kinds” of Wordpress: Wordpress.com is free and easy to use, and you’ll get a website with a url like this: https://masencanto.wordpress.com/.
Using Wordpress.org is a better choice, as it comes with its own hosting and domain name.
Although Wordpress is not expensive in itself, it does require the acquisition of plugins and themes if you want to do things “the right way”. Some of these might be free, but the ones you need to have a website that really works well usually aren’t.
Although the learning curve for the “backend” bit of Wordpress (setting up the website, making the lay-out exactly how you want it to be) is quite steep, there are ways to make it a bit easier on yourself. The Divi theme (by Elegant Themes) is a way to do this: the theme is easy to adapt to your own wishes, so you don’t need to pay a developer in order to set things up.
Squarespace offers a wonderful alternative to Wordpress. It’s got beautiful designs, is very easy to set up and use - and although the price seems high at first, it often comes down to the same level as a Wordpress website. Squarespace offers many possibilities that are included in its price (like built in SEO) - whereas you’d have to buy an extra plugin or app in order to do the same with Wordpress. I think it's pretty clear: I'm a Squarespace girl myself.
Others that are often used are Wix, Weebly, Blogger, Joomla,… - of these, Wix is probably the only one worth looking at, as the others just don’t have the same options and possibilities. Try to avoid working with free versions - doing this might mean your website doesn’t work as well, or it often means your visitors will be bombarded with adverts that hinder their browsing experience.
2. Decide on your domain name
Your domain name is the place where your potential customers will be able to find your website. It’s the address of your website, for instance www.bloggingapprentice.com. You could compare your domain name with having a house address (so people know where to come and find you); hosting (see 4) would be the actual house, or the actual place your content is going to live.
You don’t need to have a custom domain name, but it is advisable to do so; acquiring a domain name makes sure that nobody else will be able to buy it in your stead - it creates a placeholder for your brand or business. Also, a domain name looks more professional than if your business’ website url would include the name of the web builder (Wix, Wordpress, Squarespace).
Give your domain a name people will be able to remember: try to avoid a really long domain name, or words that are difficult or confusing to write. Ideally, it’s the name of your brand or business as well.
3. Register your domain name
If you choose to have a dedicated domain name for your business, you’ll need to register this with a “domain name registrar”. I’ve been using One.com for over ten years now, and have always been very happy with them. Purchasing a domain name is super easy and quick - and their customer service works perfectly for me as well. With every domain name you register with One.com, you also get e-mail addresses included. For instance since I registered BloggingApprentice.com, I can create addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and more.
If you wish, you also get “1-click Wordpress” hosting to go with your One.com domain name. In the control panel, you’ll be able to set up your Wordpress website in one go.
It’s often possible to register your domain name with your hosting provider (see 4). However, this is not advisable; it makes your website easier to hack, and more difficult to move.
4. Get hosting for your website
This website (and most of the other websites I’ve built in the past few years) is hosted with Squarespace. Since hosting is included in the price of a one year subscription, I’ve never had to think twice about it.
Most of my Wordpress-using blogging friends host their websites with Siteground. They are reliable, have an excellent customer service and give you a lot of value for a small price.
5. Make a plan for your website
You can choose to just start writing on your website, and take it one page at the time - however, I would definitely advise you to plan your website before you start building it. It will save you heaps of time!
Take a pen and paper and make a quick sketch of the structure of your website. People will often come in at your homepage - which page will be the homepage? And where should they be able to click from there?
Your website will probably include a blog, landing pages for your products or services, maybe even a web shop or a membership site.
Once you know how your website is going to work (more or less), it’s time to decide how it’s going to look.
Take another piece of paper (or another page in your notebook), and draw the composition of a page on your website. What elements do you want on there? How should the navigation menu look, where should people sign up for your newsletter? Do you want big pictures, or lots of text?
Have you decided on branding already? Branding is so very important for every business! Your biz doesn’t only need a logo, but it’s good to also have a consistent look for every piece of content you produce. From your social media profiles to the images you post, from your website to your products - try to give everything the same look and feel. Choose certain brand colours (I love Coolors to generate a colour palette!), and don’t forget to choose two or three fonts that fit your brand. You can read more on this here.
6. Write your content
Yes! Time to get creative. If you’re not very confident about your writing, you could hire a copywriter to create content for your website; if you tell them in broad lines what needs to be on there, they’ll be able to create a text that will attract your ideal customer and lead them exactly where you want them to go on your website.
Don’t write too much content to start with - remember that less is more. Having a basic website that has all the necessary information in order for your customers to know whether they want to work with you or not, is the goal here.
You’ll have plenty more chances to write content for your blog. Not sure you need one? Here’s why I think every business needs a blog!
When writing content for your website (whether it’s your permanent content, blog, landing pages or product pages in a web shop), make sure you pay attention to search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a number of techniques that can and will help your page get ranked higher when people look for certain keywords in search engines. An article on SEO is coming on this website soon!
7. Publish & promote your website
When you’re finished creating content for your website, it’s time to take it online and make it public!
Don’t forget to promote it on social media.
Make image for every page to pin to Pinterest - and make sure you share everything that is of interest to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - or other social media that are relevant to your niche. Not sure which social media your business needs? This article might help!
When your page is all ready to be shown to the public, make sure to come and share it in the Blogging Apprentice Mastermind group as well. We’d love to see what you’re up to!