Achieving Website Success
Although it seems like the Internet has been around for years, it has only been heavily used for the past twenty years. Compared to most innovations, it’s still in its infancy stages, just waiting to be fully utilized. As the Internet continues to grow, it has become increasingly important to have a presence online for:
- Promoting brand recognition
- Reaching and influencing an entirely new audience which never would have been possible before the Web was born
- Increasing profits, through advertisements or direct sales.
While no one can predict exactly what the future holds for something as dynamic, complex, and decentralized as the Web, owning a part of it now, while it is still developing, will surely pay dividends in the future. If you’ve been thinking about building a website for yourself or your business, and you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling, fear not. Follow along as we run through the basic steps necessary for website success.
Preliminary Research – Identify a Problem, or Fulfill a Need in the Market
In order to facilitate growth, naturally and organically, your site needs to be built on a firm foundation. This starts with identifying a need in a given market, something that is under-served or ill-served by the current on-line landscape. If you already run a business and are simply looking to build a site around your vision, this step likely has already been handled. If not, this may require some research into what is currently being offered by your competitors.
Choosing too-broad a category to cover, positioning yourself head-to-head with a large, well-established industry leader, or conversely pigeon-holing yourself into too specific of a topic are all ways to remain irrelevant. If you want to create success on the Web you need to find your niche or define what differentiates you from the rest of the market. Examining the birth of a site from this perspective will help set it up for long-term, stable success, and help you rise above the noise.
Once you’ve figured out your positioning, or if you already have a business up and running, you are ready to take the first concrete steps towards creating your own, functioning web presence.
Step One – Buy a Domain Name
Before you build a house, you need a plot of land on which to build. Likewise, before you can build a Website, you need a domain name where your site can be found. This is your real estate, the www.YourWebSite.com part, and it should clearly communicate to the casual web surfer who you are and the product or service you provide. To buy your domain, you need to visit a domain name provider. There are many options from which to choose from:
Using the domain provider, you can search for a domain that fits your business or business idea. While you don’t need a “.com” extension for your domain name in order to be taken seriously these days, the “.com” extension should be your first choice. If “.com” is not available, consider finding the most appropriate domain name, ending in the “.net” extension.
Note: There are some hosting companies such as Bluehost.com that will give you a free domain name if you host your website with them. The advantage to this is that it can save you a few bucks usually between $5 and $15 dollars, but also when it’s time to update or renew your account(s), having it all in one place is very convenient.
Step Two – Choose a Website Hosting Company
Once you have purchased your property (A.K.A. bought your domain name), it’s time to build your site. In order to have a place to put the materials that go into building a site, you need to find a hosting service, a place to store all your webpages, images, videos, and other information. Usually, the domain name provider you have chosen will offer you the option of hosting your site directly with them. On the other hand, you can find an independent hosting service, which gives your future site more flexibility and features, and expansive options. Consider using one of the following:
Step Three – Direct Your Domain Name Servers to Your Hosting Service
If you purchase hosting services directly from your domain name provider, you won’t need to do this. If you go the independent hosting route, you will need to connect your real estate, the domain name you purchased, with the site’s building materials, your hosting service. To do this, you need to log in to your domain name provider, like Bluehost.com and look for the “DNS,” or “Domain Name Servers” link. Once there, you will enter in the unique server address of your hosting service. For example, with Blue Host, the DNS is ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com. This will link up your domain name to all the files that will make up your site.
Step Four – Choosing a Content Management System
Now that we have the real estate and the materials for our site in place and connected to one another, it’s time to start building. A Content Management System (A.K.A. a CMS) will help you do just that with little to no web design skills needed. A commonly used and easy to work with example is WordPress. Facebook, CNN.com, eBay and many other commonly used sites are run with WordPress. Its flexible, offers many design options, and will grow in complexity while remaining flexible as your own business grows and your site requires new features. Most hosting services offer a one-step WordPress installation right on the admin panel, which means that setting up your site with this service couldn’t be easier.
Step Five – Growing and Engaging with a Captive Audience
The old adage, “If you build it, they will come,” is unfortunately not the case, when it comes to the Internet. It’s estimated that, there are almost 600 million active websites on the Internet today, and this number is rising rapidly. This doesn’t have to mean that you are destined for insignificance, instead it is an indication of just how much competition is out there.
Once you’ve built your site, the true task is rising above the noise, proving your worth and your value to people, and learning to adapt and grow based on the needs and wants of your audience. This ties back directly to the foundation your site is built on, the niche/business you are getting in to or other differentiators that set you apart. If this step was properly considered, the next steps will be much easier, though will still require work and creativity. Some simple tips are:
- Produce valuable content on a regular basis
- Give readers and customers a reason to come back
- Build trust with your audience
- Engage with thought-leaders and experts in your field
- Think about creating lists – the most sharable form of content
Note: The best way to accomplish this is through the use of Social Media and SEO. Never has it been so easy to connect and engage with people than in this day and age, using tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, just to name a few. SEO, short for search engine optimization, is the process of making on-page and off-page changes to your website that allow it to rank better in the search engines.
Final Word on Website Success – Patience, Promise, Progress
The time and effort it takes to build a solid online presence may seem daunting at the beginning, but in the end will more than pay for itself, in your ability to establish your expertise, learn from the input of your customers, and engage with other “thought leaders” in your field.
The Web takes the world from a geographically separated place, and gives us all a chance to have a voice. It connects us all. Engage with your audience, deliver valuable content, and use the Web as a platform to thrive in your market. If you carefully navigate and follow the steps above, you will be well on your way to achieving website success.
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