How to Set Up a Website for Your Small Business

Having a website allows your clients and prospective customers to easily find you and the product and services you are offering. A functional website is not only an essential part of online marketing, it also provides a pleasant user experience.

Here is what you need to get started:

STEP 1: GET A DOMAIN AND A WEB HOSTING
Before you build your website, you need to choose your domain name. This is simply the name you will give your website and that site visitors will use to access the it. Choose a domain name that closely describes your brand, products or services. Also, stick to a name that is easy to remember.

Next, choose a web host. A web host is a service provider for example GoDaddy, that has numerous computers connected to the World Wide Web. Once you activate your website on the web host’s computers, your web pages will be accessible to the global audience.

STEP 2: LINK YOUR DOMAIN TO YOUR HOSTING
Domain Name Servers (DNS) are servers that link the domain name you chose to your hosting and often look like ns1.example.com, ns2.example.com, etc. Linking your domain to the web host servers allows web users to find your domain name. To do this you need to introduce your server names from your host (usually received in an email) into your registrar’s system, in the Domain Management section.

STEP 3: BUILD YOUR WEBSITE
There are several ways you can build a website and these include:
• Building the website from scratch
• Using an editor
• Using a site builder
• Using a CMS or script
• Outsourcing it

1) Build it from scratch
You can build a website using a web language such as HTML. This is not the easiest option. You do not need to know the intricate details of HTML to get started with your website. However, it is valuable to understand the basics to help you build a basic HTML website, especially if you have a limited budget. Great and free resources for learning about HTML include:
• http://www.w3schools.com (this is my favorite resource that also offers valuable insights about CSS and PHP for website creation)
• http://htmldog.com

You have the option of validating your HTML at http://validator.w3.org. This is not compulsory and it is fine if your HTML code is not validated as long as the codes and of course, the website is functional on all the main web browsers. Use http://browsershots.org/ to test how well your website works in different browsers.

2) Use a web-authoring program
Web editors such as FrontPage are programs that enable you to create a website without the use of CSS programs or HTML knowledge. You can visually design the website on your desktop using just the keyboard and a mouse. Web–authoring programs are also known as ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) programs because what you see on your desktop monitor is how your website will appear. The editors create the HTML code for you, making them easier to work with compared to handwriting your own HTML code.

3) Use a template or site builder
Alternatively, you can use online site builders or templates to build your website. Site builders such as the one provided by HostGator or templates such as those offered by Genesis allow you to set up a website easily and to start adding content to the site. My favorite site builder is XSitePro; this one is particularly suitable for those who are not too tech-savvy. Overall, templates and site builders save you time if you are looking to build a simple website quickly.

4) Use a script or CMS
Scripts can make your website to become highly functional. They can be used to add widgets and buttons to the site, place drop down menus and pop-ups, detect browsers and operating systems. They enable your site visitors to interact with the website content easily. WordPress is a good example of a content management system (CMS) as well as a free publishing platform for a website.

5) Outsource
Finally, you can outsource someone to build your website. Use freelance sites such as elance.com or Odesk.com to outsource web designers and developers for an agreed fee.

STEP 4: MANAGE YOUR SITE FILES
Once you have a domain name, a web host and the basic structure of the website, you will want to upload files to the website. For this I highly recommend using Filezilla, that offers a free FTP (File Transfer Protocol) solution. This file transfer protocol tool enables you to transfer files to your website so that everyone can see them online.

STEP 5: INSTALL GOOGLE ANALYTICS
If you used WordPress to build your website you will only need to copy the Javascript code you get from Analytics and paste it into your Theme Settings in the header section.

STEP 6: BACK UP YOUR WEBSITE
When backing up your website you need to consider both: your database and your files. The WordPress plugin I’m using for this is called BackupWordPress that backups automatically both your files and database to your server. I suggest activating the backup completed email notification and every time you receive this email click on the link sent to you and save a copy of your site files and database to your drive, to be on the safe side.

STEP 7: USE AN EMAIL AUTORESPONDER
To connect with your audience I suggest using an email autoresponder such as MailChimp or AWeber.

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