What I Wish I Had Known About Websites When Just Starting My Business

What I Wish I Had Known About Websites When Just Starting My Business

I have been around computers for several years, but only really started to embrace websites in the past 3 years.
As I have learnt and grown there is a pile of stuff that I wish I had known about websites when I was first starting out.
Recently a number of start-ups have been asking my advice for beginners, so here are a few of the things I wished I had known when I was starting.
1. Domain names and web hosting are two different things
Your domain name is just like your registered business name.
It is the name of your business on the web.
It can be your regular business name or it can be your keyword or keywords.
Your web hosting is the electronic equivalent of the landlord who leases you office space for your business. 
Your web host is the place or location where your business lives.
The other big lesson about domain names and web hosts is it pays to shop around.
You can and will save thousands per year by doing your own research.
Check out the forums and reviews for the most reliable companies with the best prices.
Don't take your web developer's word as gospel.
Generally they want to sell you their own package (with a huge cut in it for them).  
The other thing I wish I had known was to buy more bandwidth, email accounts and domains than you think you will need in future.
1. Giga Byte storage, 3 emails and only 1 domain will get you nowhere fast and if you are like me you will max it out at the most inconvenient time.
It's not that big a deal to change your hosting.
If you find a good one, they will manage the transfer for you, making it all quite seamless.

2.  80% of all web designers don't know what they are doing (but will charge you a fortune in the process)
This is the most frustrating thing I have learnt.
Most web designers (especially the ones at the budget end of the market) cannot build a website that will generate good search engine rankings if their life depended on it.
They have absolutely no clue about SEO (search engine optimisation) and will sell you designs that are search engine poison.
The problem is most of them can talk a good fight and will baffle you with jargon that hides that they have no idea what they are doing.
You may get an attractive site, but it has no way to be found in search engines.
Often the sites are all in flash, the keywords are useless and there are no decent metatags.
And it generally would have cost the poor business many thousands of dollars to do.
If any of your web designers tell you it will take at least 6-12 months for search engines to find you then run away.
A good SEO designer can have you ranking in search engines in less than a week.
If your designer insists they will make all the edits for you and that you can't do it - sack them.
They are just trying to keep you hooked in to them.
If your designer insists on building you your own personal programs to run the back end of your database, newsletter or autoresponder - they are ripping you off just to
You can choose a new web developer to update your site or hire an SEO expert to go over your site and improve things.

3. Good SEO Copy is vital to your website
Your website has 2 audiences - humans and search engines.
Unless you write in a way that search engines like and "get", your human audience will never find you to read your information.
But ... if you write only for search engines, then it will appear stilted and unnatural.
You need to write your copy so that it is persuasive to both humans AND search engines.
This is an art form and a science that takes many years to master.
Most copywriters are not trained in SEO, so while you may get great persuasive copy for your human readers, you may not get the search engine results you are looking for.

4. Buy pre-packaged rather than tailor made

Wherever possible buy commercial pre-packaged products for things like your auto-responders, affiliate programs, shopping carts, newsletter broadcasts. This means that the bugs in the programs generally have been ironed out before you get to them, they work with the features that you want and need, and they are cheaper!

The most critical piece is your auto-responder. You get one shot at choosing the right one, as every time you change your auto-responder program due to tough anti-spam laws, all of your lists must elect to resubscribe to your mailing list. You can kiss up to 75% of your list good bye each time you shift.

5. Akismet and Captcha are your best friends

If you have any forms on your website, comments sections on your blog or other methods of interactivity, insist on some form of human identification such as Akismet or Captcha. They are the boxes down the bottom that ask you to type in the letters you can see. 75% of all comments on blogs these days are spam. Akismet or Captcha reduces the number you see, so you are not manually deleting them every few minutes.

If you don't have something like these on your website and you have a form, expect your email box to attract the attention of spammers when their robots (yes they have their own versions of spiders out looking for vulnerable sites) find your address.

6. Host your own blog on your own website

Blogs are brilliant - but don't be tempted to host your blog on a site such as Wordpress or Blogger. If you are going to go to the trouble of hosting a blog, do it on your own site (and not just publish to your site).

7. You can learn to do it yourself

There are piles of courses out there to help you learn. Some are great and some are very expensive wastes of time. Do your research before you sign up for anything and check out some of the free courses available.