Building your website should be one of the very first steps in your business marketing plan.
Your website is one of the first points of contact with customers. It’s where people will go often to find information about you or to begin the hiring process.
So knowing how to build your website and manage it on the back end is a skill that will help you be able to grow as your business grows. And if you’re going through work slumps, being able to redesign and optimize your website yourself can help you bring in more clients.
But before you start building, it’s super helpful to have some basic knowledge. Let’s start at the very beginning:
How Websites Work
If you made it this far, you almost certainly know what a website IS — but do you know how they WORK?
In their most basic form, websites are a series of files saved on a computer that is always connected to the internet. Since there are a lot of companies that offer to host those files and keep them online (called Hosting Companies), you also need an address people can put into their browser that is registered with ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) so they know where to tell computers to look for those files when someone types in your domain name. You buy a domain name and register it through a domain registrar.
So, to create a website you need 3 things:
- A domain name, purchased through a registrar
- A hosting company
- Website Files
Before You Build, You Need a Plot of Land
Think of building your website like building a house.
To build a house you’ll need the land where you want to put the house. On the web, that’s your hosting.
Then you need to register an address with the postal service; that’s your domain name (the address) and the process of buying it through a domain registrar ensures it gets registered in the right places.
There are a lot of options for where you can do both of those things. I generally recommend doing both in one place: Siteground (affiliate link).
In my opinion, Siteground offers the best value. It offers good service (including chat support if something goes wrong) for a reasonable rate, and allows your site to load quickly, allows you to use the most up-to-date PHP, and doesn’t try to upsell you every time you need help.
Note that you can absolutely buy your domain from another place (some folks recommend NameCheap), but that just means remembering login and billing information for yet another website. By buying a domain AND hosting through Siteground, it just simplifies your process (and what you need to remember later).
Then You Build the House
Finally, you need someone to chart out and build the actual house — your architect and contractor. The website equivalent of this would be your website builder: a program you use to design the layout of your page.
Most website builders offer ready-to-use templates (the equivalent of hiring a contractor to take care of building it all out for you). Some give you lots of options you can tinker with to totally customize the website (you use the architect’s plans but build the house yourself).
You may be familiar with the names of some website building programs: Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly… These all have their own pros and cons, and it’s worth spending a little time researching them, because it can be tricky to move between them if you change your mind later.
What to Consider in Choosing a Contractor
Just like there are tons of different types of houses, depending on how big you want your house to be and whether you want an indoor slide or dog training room, there are tons of different frameworks for websites.
Choosing and installing one of these on your hosting account is sort of like building the framework for your house — it doesn’t decide what colors the walls will be or where you’ll place the furniture, but it may influence the number of rooms you decide on, and where you put the walls.
What you choose will influence the functionality you can add to your website and how easy or difficult it is to make changes or add that functionality.
I always recommend using WordPress when building your website because of the flexibility it offers. Want to read more about why? I’ve got you covered here.
I’ve Got a Website… What’s Next?
Once you’ve got a website, you’ll want to think about three things — these three steps make up the core pieces of any marketing strategy:
The first step in the digital marketing funnel is to attract people to your website. This is where social media, SEO (search engine optimization), and even your business cards come in.
Then, since people rarely buy on their first visit to your site, you want to create content that convinces them to trust you enough to leave their contact details — usually for an email newsletter.
Finally, you need to actually stay in touch and gradually convince them to give up their hard earned money and pay you to do what you do best. That’s where your awesome copywriting comes in.
Knowing how to build and manage your website — and understanding how it fits into your marketing plan — will ultimately help you draw more eyes to your business and convert those visitors into clients.
If you’re interested in learning more, I offer a website building class and a business marketing class once a year. My marketing class will be coming up soon, so keep an eye here for when I announce registration opening!
(I also offer plenty of freebies through the blog, so definitely sign up for my newsletter to be notified when new posts are up!)