When I first began planning and building my online marketing business, the thing I struggled most with was understanding what I needed to put in place before I launched my business. First impressions are important, so you can’t go to your audience with broken links, unfinished articles or a website that looks like your dog designed it. However, you also don’t want to spend a fortune on expensive Web designers on day one.
I want to take you through what I have learned and hopefully you will avoid some of the common mistakes. Most of which I have probably made at some point!
Now some people will tell you that all you need is a good landing or sales page and you are on your way. Others will say just write a blog article that ranks well in Google. Whilst this is true in isolation, there is much more that is required to build a repeatable business and a regular income.
Another common issue is trying to do everything from day one. Facebook ads, backlink strategies, You Tube videos, podcasting, the list goes on. It is easy to get overwhelmed and end up getting nowhere. Yes I have been there as well.
Planning Out What You Need
Start by mapping out what you need in place as a minimum for the business to really function. Think of it as a kind of jigsaw puzzle where you need all the pieces or you won’t get the right result. It doesn’t have 1,000 pieces, but it does need to be completed.
I believe that this is the case whatever niche you are in. It can also apply as much to a small business that is trying to build a web presence as it does to a budding online entrepreneur or blogger just starting out.
Here are some of the key things you need to have in place.
- Hosting provider or web content platform
- Domain name
- Theme for your blog or website (if you are using WordPress)
- Content pages – the basic content on your blog or website.
- Navigation on your site – menus that link to the various sections.
- Forms to sign up for your email list.
If you are looking to monetize your blog or website you also need:
- Affiliate links
- Landing pages
- Email list (organized into categories)
- Methods for taking payment or at least a PayPal account.
Putting all this together takes time and you may choose to offload some of this to a 3rd party to put together, but you still need to know what you need.
So let’s break it down into steps.
Step 1: The Foundation
I don’t believe you can successfully operate an online business without a website or blog. This is the place where people come to see what you have on offer and learn about you and your business. You can certainly set up landing pages and social media content outside your site, but everything should bring people back to your site or blog at some point if possible. It is the base for your online business. I have explored using Landing Pages instead of web pages and believe they can actually make things easier if used correctly. That is discussed more in Part 2.
Here are the components you need for step 1:
- Domain Name
- Hosting Provider or web content platform
- WordPress Framework and Theme
Hopefully you have decided on what your business niche is and have a name for your business. If you haven’t I recommend you purchase a copy of “Will it Fly” by Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. This will take you step by step through choosing your niche. I was part of the Founder’s group for Pat’s “Smart From Scratch” Course, which takes you step by step through selecting and testing a niche. Pat has recently launched this course to the public and I recommend you sign up for the next session, if you are still deciding on your niche or are unsure about the viability of the niche you have chosen.
I would also like to point out that I went in a number of different directions whilst choosing my niche and my business model is constantly evolving. Whilst it is important to choose your niche early and stick to it, you can start with a broad topic and niche it down over time if you prefer. Dont be afraid to pivot and take a different direction if you find your first niche isn’t working for you.
Choosing a Domain Name
One of the first things I recommend you do is choose a domain name. This is quite important as it can tell people a lot about your business.
If you are trying to build a personal brand, it may be just your name. People with common names may not have this option or they may have to use their name as part of a longer domain name. A good example is Jeff Goins, who uses www.goinswriter.com This still works because it tells people that he is a writer.
If you are like me, you can choose a name that reflects the focus of your business. One of my aims is to develop a business where I can earn while I am asleep, hence the name www.silentearning.com. This also tells people, who visit my site that they can potentially learn how to do the same. I say potentially because I am still learning as I grow my business and am documenting my progress so others can learn from my successes and failures.
Either way you need to find and purchase a domain name. If you are looking for inspiration, I recommend www.Hover.com. Here you can put in the name you want or a keyword that represents your business and it will come up with some suggestions from those that are still available. I would recommend getting a .com domain if you can and avoid hyphens or words that can easily be misspelt and this could lose you traffic. It’s not essential. I recently purchase nigelwright.online, because the .com option was taken.
Choosing a Web Hosting Platform
If you know what your domain name is, you are ready to choose your platform and hosting provider.
If you are looking for an easy to use Web platform that needs minimal design skills, I suggest you look at www.Wix.com. When I took over the design of my company’s web site, I initially used Wix. It is really easy to use, with a host of ready made themes that help you create a great looking site.
Another option, that is also easy to use is Www.squarespace.com. I used it as a platform to redesign my company’s site a couple of years ago, when we wanted to move away from using a programmer. Squarespace has a slightly steeper learning curve than Wix, but can be used to create a larger, more complex site. Both platforms are ideal for small businesses who don’t want to rely on a programmer to set up and maintain their web site.
If you are setting up your own online business or blog, I actually recommend using WordPress.org. It is worth mentioning why I use and recommend WordPress. Quite simply it is the industry standard platform that is used by the majority of bloggers and online marketers. It has excellent SEO tools and a whole host of plugins and themes to help you to make your site look wonderful and integrate with any third party tools.
Specifically, I am referring to WordPress.org. There is also the hosted version, WordPress.com. I would avoid this because it doesn’t offer anywhere near the flexibility or features of a WordPress.org site.
In order to run a WordPress.org site, you need a hosting provider. This is the company that provides the compute resources on which your site will run, so you need a reliable provider. I personally recommend Bluehost as a WordPress hosting provider. They provide consistently reliable service and performance at a competitive price. The setup process is also simple with a number of online tutorials available.
They also offer a simple WordPress install which means you will be ready to go quickly and easily. If you haven’t purchased your domain name elsewhere, you can also purchase it through Bluehost and they will link it to your site for you. I recommend this if you are new to setting up a website as it it one less thing for you to learn. If you do this, it is worth paying the extra to add privacy. When I registered my name, I made the mistake of adding my mobile number. Before long I was getting regular phone calls from random callers, who had looked up my contact details. Very annoying and easily avoided.
Another widely recommended hosting option is Hostgator. They offer a similar range of startup packages to Bluehost and have excellent performance. I suggest you take a look at both providers and see which package works best for you.
Choosing a WordPress Theme for Your Site
Once you have your domain name and hosting provider, you then need to choose a WordPress theme. This affects how your website or blog will look and how easy it is to change that look. It will also affect things like search engine optimization (SEO) This is quite an important step and I have to admit that I went down several blind alleys getting this part right. It is very easy to choose a theme that has poor SEO capabilities or is difficult to customize and you can spend hours trying to get your site looking like you want it to.
The Theme Framework
One thing I do recommend is going with a framework based theme. It has two components: the framework and the child theme. The framework is the back end engine which handles all the SEO and functionality of your site. I use the Genesis Framework from Studiopress.
If you want to learn more about the Genesis framework and how to use it, here is an excellent intro resource from Philip Gledhill.
The child theme is what sits on the framework to give the look and feel to the site and there are literally hundreds to choose from. The big advantage here is that you can change out your child theme, if you want a new look, but the framework stays in place.
Here is an article that provides more information on Studiopress themes: Introducing StudioPress Sites: WordPress Made Easy … Without Sacrificing Power or Flexibility
I chose the SPI child theme as it fits well with my needs. StudioPress puts together a comprehensive theme setup guide that takes you through how you can customize the front page to get the look and functionality you want. You will see from my site that I have used a similar look and feel and also shared a lot of The demo theme navigation ideas. It is easy to change to color scheme to match your branding.
Part 1 Result: You now have your domain name and have your site or blog hosted online. You have chosen a theme and you are ready to start adding content.
Full disclosure, these are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you purchase or signup for any of these products or services. It doesn’t add anything to your cost.