Launching a website for the first time can feel like a daunting process, especially if that website is going to represent your business. The stakes are higher with a business website, as you need it to look professional. When you run an online business, your website is like your storefront: it represents your company and it’s what people will use in the first instance to make an impression about your business.
Therefore, there are several different aspects you need to think carefully about, three of which come into play before you even set up your website. I know it can be difficult to know where to start when setting up a website for the first time, so I’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.
Choose a domain name
The first step is to choose a good domain name. This is one of the most important steps to start a new website, as the type of domain name you choose affects your website’s SEO (how it is ranked by search engines), how many returning visitors you have, and the credibility of your business.
If that feels like a lot of pressure, here’s a few tips to help you choose a domain name that will help, not hinder your chance of online business success:
- Try to get your business name as a domain name. If you’re a solo provider, try to purchase your full name. This will improve your SEO, and make it easier for prospective clients to remember and find you online!
- Choose .com over .net or .org, as this is what most people will type when looking for your website. If you can only purchase .net or .org at this time, I strongly recommend purchasing the .com version of your domain at a later date and redirecting it to your existing website.
- Make your domain name easy to remember and unique. This reduces the chance that people trying to find your website will end up on a competitor’s site. Hyphens and numbers are a no-no, as people are more likely to forget these than they are words and phrases.
Useful tools for finding available domain names include our own “Check Domain Availability” tool, which you can find to the right of this page. Simple enter the domain name and the tool will check if it’s still available for registration.
If you need more domain name tools, you can find them in our previous article:
Tips to pick the Best Domain Name for your Blog
Purchase a domain
Once you’ve found an available domain you want to use for your online business, you need to purchase and register it quickly. Don’t wait as new domain names are being registered virtually every second these days!
For domain name registration services, I highly recommend GoDaddy and Namecheap, as they offer good prices and are really reliable. Most of my domain names are registered either through GoDaddy or NameCheap. Between these two popular domain name registrars, GoDaddy offers more features and constantly has good pricing discounts. On the other hand, NameCheap is comparatively easier to use and their registration process is more straight forward.
If you currently do not have any regular domain name registrars, you can check out any of them, as both of they are highly popular with webmasters and bloggers, and I can assure you that they are the best.
However, a number of web hosting companies do throw in a free domain name for free with their web hosting plans. BlueHost, my top recommended hosting company, offers a year’s free domain registration with their hosting package.
While registering your domain name, you will be asked about private registration. Everyone who registers a domain name must enter their personal details, such as name and address. This is searchable on a Whois database, unless you opt in to private registration. Private registration usually costs extra, but it protects your personal information and I highly recommend you to enable this!
Find a hosting provider
If you didn’t already purchase your domain name through your chosen hosting company, now is the time to find one. As a website owner, you have a lot of hosting options to chose from. Some offer an excellent service, while others might leave you scrambling to get out of your contract. Several hosting companies offer what appear to be great value hosting packages, however their unreliable service could end up costing your business more than the price you save on the hosting deal!
As you’re setting up a business website, you need to find a host that is reliable and that will be able to handle the amount of traffic and bandwidth you want. When looking for a web host, you should pay attention to the following basic features:
The closer a hosting company’s uptime are to 100%, the better. Uptime is the amount of time your website is live. If your website is frequently down due to hosting issues, this will deter visitors from returning and cause you to lose out on valuable traffic!
Test out a hosting company’s customer support service before committing to a package. You might not need to use it, but if your website goes down and you can’t contact anyone for help, once again you’ll be losing out on valuable traffic!
- Speed and bandwidth
The server speed and network bandwidth in your hosting package will affect visitors’ experience of your website. To be on the safe side, I recommend choosing a package that offers unlimited speed and bandwidth. Otherwise, as your visitor numbers grow, you could be charged hefty fees for exceeding your bandwidth allowance.
BlueHost is my number one recommended hosting service. It’s reliable, offers excellent customer support, and great additional features. HostGator is an excellent hosting provider too. I’ve partnered with BlueHost to provide special discounts for my readers.
Instead of the usual $6.95/month, you can sign up with BlueHost at a mere $3.95/month! Awesome discount! This special discount is only available through this website only. Visit BlueHost and see the special discounted pricing.
Is BlueHost better than HostGator? Check out BlueHost vs HostGator.
Choose a CMS software
The most popular blogging software and platform is WordPress. It is easy to use, comes with a range of professional-looking themes and is highly customizable. Other platforms you could use include services like Tumblr and Typepad. However, I still very much prefer to use WordPress for most of my websites as it has everything you need to get started as well as to develop a full fledged website!
When opening a self-hosted account with WordPress, you need to go to WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. The .com version is for websites hosted on WordPress. As you are running a self-hosted business website, you need to download the WordPress software from WordPress.org. Then, follow our step by step guide to install it on your hosted domain.
Choose a design
Once you’ve signed up a web hosting package, the next step is to work on the design of your new business website. This involves creating a logo for your business, if you don’t already have one, so that your brand is recognizable to your visitors.
You also need to select the appearance of your website. On WordPress, you can do this by choosing a “theme“. This is a template that gives you a basic ready-made site design. You can customize certain aspects of this to suit your business, and it allows you to create your own website without having to learn how to code.
I recommend testing your website in several different browsers to ensure it is compatible. Major browsers that your visitors might use include Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera. If possible, you should also check how your website looks on a mobile device too, as many people now access and browse the internet using smart phones and tablets.
You’re now at the final stages of your website process, but the journey to building a successful online business is just beginning. Once your website is ready to launch, you need to shift your focus to promotion and marketing to attract potential clients. You can do this by creating a blog, setting up a social media presence, guest posting on other popular blogs, or using online advertising through services like Google AdWords.
Some good web hosting companies offer free advertising credits. You can use this for free to start your advertising campaigns.
Launching a website might feel like a lot of work, but the reward at the end of the process is worth it: you’ll have a brand new, professional website that will be the basis of your developing business.
My website is here to provide you with web building related services reviews and recommendations so you can pick the services that will be right for your business. Take advantage of my special hosting deals and website tutorials, and build the website of your dreams today.