How to Start a Website

A collection of articles and resources to help you figure out your first, or next, step in starting your website

With over 15 years of experience creating websites for clients, I started to realize there were questions nearly everyone thinking of starting a website had on their minds. In this page, I'm sharing with you the plain-english answers to many of those questions.



First things first: Planning a website

Instead of diving into your website project too fast, take some time to think through your strategy and goals.

Designing a website (or paying someone to design it for you) is not the first step, believe it or not!

The crucial first step to your website project is creating content that will engage your target audience(How to figure out who your audience is and what they need) and will help drive traffic to your website with keywords (What are keywords why are they important) and search engine optimization (How do I improve my search engine ranking on a budget). Read more about why content comes first.

Oh, you thought your website was a vehicle for marketing and advertising? I’m afraid not. (Websites aren’t marketing tools) Although a website can help you grow your business, a website isn’t like placing an ad, creating a commercial, or advertising in the telephone books of old. A website itself needs to be marketed, as I wrote about here. (8 tips on getting started marketing your website)




The Tools of Website Ownership

To start your own website, you’ll need certain tools in place. However I can’t stress enough — always start with well thought out, goal-driven and keyword-optimized content. This will give your website the best odds for success. Understanding what your target audience is likely searching for when looking for a business like yours will help you figure out the best keywords to use on your site, and it will help you in the following steps too.

Your domain name is one of the first things you’ll purchase for your website. A domain name is usually purchased alongside your web hosting. Think of web hosting like renting office space, and the domain name is the address. Your domain name is your “mywebsite.com”, although there are many other domain suffixes available now (including .art, .work, .us, .faith, or .me to name a few).

In terms of optimizing your site so that the search engines will show your site to people searching, choosing a domain name is very important. You’ll want a domain name that is easy to spell and easy to remember, and preferably with a good keyword relating to your website in it.

When it comes to web hosting and domain names, I love Namecheap! Here’s why I recommend them to all my clients and use them myself.


The Value of a User-Friendly Website

In my younger years, I always made things far more complicated than they needed to be. There’s something to be said for making things easy — easy to use, easy to maintain, easy to navigate, easy to understand.

Easy is good, especially when it comes to your website.

Ideally, your website should be both user-friendly to your target audience — the people you are trying to reach and sell to — and user-friendly to whoever is tasked with keeping it updated. Google and other search engines use different factors to judge the “usability” of a website (that is, how user-friendly it is) when deciding whether or not to share a website as a top result

One way to help your customers have an easier time using your website is to make sure it is mobile-friendly. You want your website to be easy to use and read while on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.

You can also make a website more user-friendly by organizing your content in a simple, logical way.

A CMS like WordPress will make your website more user-friendly for whoever is updating and maintaining it. WordPress is not just for blogs but can power any kind of website with relative ease.


Learn and Grow with your Website

The best part about websites is how fluid the whole thing is, as opposed to being “one and done”. You are not stuck forever with your choices or mistakes. Do-overs on the internet aren’t too difficult.

When it comes to your website, it’s important to be always analyzing how your visitors are finding your website and using your website. This is done through programs like Google Analytics, which is free.

As a website owner, you can use Google Analytics to set goals and sales funnels for your website to see if your visitors are taking the actions you want them to take, or if there is a drop-off point somewhere along the way. Why does this matter? If you are losing people regularly at a certain point in the conversion or check-out process, you’ll know to look carefully at that spot for problems to fix or content to make clearer.

By looking at how different pages and articles are received by your audience, and whether or not people click on to make a purchase, you can plan out future content — creating more of what works, and fixing what doesn’t.


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