This is the second post in my How to market yourself series, a personal account of the best marketing techniques you can employ for yourself or your business. Read my introduction to this self-marketing series here.
There are three things you need to do when setting up your website.
- Decide on your website address (URL)
- Register it
- Find a web host
How to decide on your web address
Many people spend hours thinking up a catchy URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or website address. The most important SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) point is to include some keywords (separated by hyphens). Your URL doesn’t have to be your name or your company name so why not increase your chances of being found in searches before you’ve even written a web page? So, if you are a web designer, why not try web-designer dot com? (OK, it’s already gone, but you know what I mean).
You can test out domain names at any domain name registrar. Which brings me on to the next thing you have to do.
Register your website’s address
Once you have decided on the name of your website it is necessary to register it. I use GoDaddy. There doesn’t seem to be a much cheaper option and GoDaddy are the market leaders. You can also try 123-Reg, particularly if you’re based in the UK and want a .co.uk domain.
One thing I would suggest is not to use your domain name registrar as your host. I like to keep the two operations separate because if you have a problem with one it is easier to move.
Cost: You’re looking at around $10 a year. When you register a domain name, your contact details are included in a publicly available database known as the Whois database which can lead to spamming. You can spend slightly more to hide these details.
An important SEO point: Search engines prefer if the domain is registered for a longer time into the future so that you don’t look like a fly-by-night website. For this reason, it’s better to register for five years rather than the minimum one year.
How to choose a web host?
The web hosting industry is highly competitive with seemingly hundreds of companies offering similar packages. Here are some of the things you need to take into account.
A great way to market yourself and get search engines to include you in their search results is to blog. The blogging software I’ll be recommending in this series of articles is WordPress.
The minimum specifications for the hosting of a WordPress blog are PHP 4.3 or greater, MySQL 4.0 or greater and the mod_rewrite Apache module. PHP is scripting language; MySQL is a database server. These are fairly standard specifications and will be offered by most quality web hosts but make sure you check! I recommend a few hosts here.
Other than that here are some more important points to look out for:
- Disk space. Once you have a host you will find it useful for a number of things not just your website. It is another bit of computer space to use. You can use it as your own personal FTP site for storing information. If you think you need this facility go for a web host that’s offering tons of disk space.
- Monthly transfer / Bandwidth. This refers to how much your website is accessed. For example, if your website consists of one page of 1MB (very unlikely) and is visited by ten people a month, you would need more than 10MB of monthly transfer to facilitate this. Of course most website pages are less than 100K so, unless you are expecting huge amounts of visitors, 10GB/month will be enough at first and your web host will be able to offer you more as your website increases in popularity. Keep your eye on it though. How?
- A control panel. cPanel is the most advanced web hosting control panel in the industry, designed to simplify administration of a website and I would recommend choosing a host that offers it. Through the cPanel you can set up and read email, manage and edit your website’s files, monitor your website’s traffic (making sure you don’t exceed any bandwidth or space restrictions), and loads of other things including backing up a MySQL database which is essential for good WordPress maintenance. cPanel sometimes comes bundled with Fantastico which is a set of scripts which automate the installation of, but not always the update of, CMSs such as SMF, phpBB, Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress and over 50 others, although I would not install WordPress this way.
- The validity of your web host. I would only choose a web host that had a professional looking website. Also, I would definitely insist on 24/7 email support, personally I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t have phone support.
Cost: You’re looking at around 8$/month for a decent shared hosting package. Shared hosting is fine if you are only going to have one website and you’re just starting out.
An important SEO point: The most important point for search engine marketing is the location of your website. If, for example, you are interested in the UK market you should use a UK based web host. However, if for example, you are a UK company wanting to market your services internationally, then I would choose a US host.
Recommended web hosts for WordPress users
I’ve researched this by asking WordPress professionals in forums and LinkedIn groups about the most reliable shared hosting and the following three companies came up with the most votes:
So, I’ve got a web address and a host, now what do I do?
Your new host should give you 4 useful pieces of information so that you can set up a website.
- IP address. An IP address is a unique number that every computer connected to the internet is assigned. It consists of 4 numbers separated by dots. This is the IP address of your server’s computer, not your personal computer.
- Your username.
- A password. These first 3 are necessary for uploading files to the server.
- Domain Name Servers/System/Service (DNS). A very important link between your domain name and IP address.
If, as I suggest, you register your domain name with a company other than your host you will need to return to your domain name registrar’s website and and fill in the name servers (usually one primary and one secondary) you got from your host.
That done, wait 24 hours (usually much less) and you can create your new website.
Next, use your favourite FTP client (eg. Cyberduck for Mac; Filezilla for PC) and, with the IP address, username and password, you can log on to your host. You may find quite a few directories. Look for one called “public_html” or similar. This is where your website should go.
Use your favourite text editor (eg. TextEdit for Mac; Notepad for PC) and make a new plain text document, write a message in it and save it as “index.html”. Upload the “index.html” file. Now if you type in your domain name in a browser it will display your message.
Congratulations, you have just created a website!
As always, I welcome comments, especially to notify me of anything I’ve missed!