starting your first website in 2020 (part 1)

Regardless of what kind of business you have, whether you sell your own handcrafted jewelry or you have an auto body shop, you need a website.

If you’re a complete beginner, I understand. You’re probably overwhelmed with the pure thought of setting up a website when you already run a business full-time. Who has time to learn how to start a website too?

I feel you. But if you’re here, hopefully it means that you’re making an attempt to get the ball rolling because you see the potential there is learning how to market your business online.

Table of Contents

Why Does a Brick & Mortar Business Need a Website?

“Hey blue, I don’t sell anything online. Why in the world would I need to have a website for?”

Your website is basically your online business card. If you don’t have a well-made business card, or hell, no business card at all, you’re at a HUGE disadvantage compared to your competition.

Local brick and mortar stores need websites too. According to Hubspot, almost 3/4ths of people who did a local search visited a store within 5 miles of them and 97% of people learn about a local business online before anywhere else.

So whether or not you think your business needs an online presence, it needs an online presence, you get what I’m sayin?

Choosing a Brandable Name & Domain

What’s this mean? Let’s say you run (Your Name)’s Auto Shop. The first thing you might want to do is check and see if yournamesautoshop.com is taken.

Depending on how generic your name is, your target domain might already be taken, so you might have to be a little creative when finding an available domain.

What Can You Do If Your Target Domain is Taken?

The most useful tip I can give you is that as of now, dot com domains are still king, so if you can choose a .com domain, definitely go that route.

If you can’t, you can choose a different TLD, like a .net or .org. Try to avoid .us domains since you’re not able to create a private registration with those, and cheap TLDs like .info tend to be more associated with spammers and cheap websites and might hurt your SEO efforts.

Before Straying from a .com Domain, Try This

  • adding your location to your domain like “yournamespawnshoptx.com” might suffice if you’re in Texas
  • adding a verb like “try” or “visit” like in “tryyourappname.com” or “visityourtattooshop.com”
  • extend your company name. The other day I found out while trying to decide what blizzard I wanted from Sonic, that “sonic.com” is not the website I was looking for. Even Sonic had to settle for “sonicdrivein.com”

Choosing Web Hosting

You would think this would be simple, but you’d be surprised how many crappy hosts there are out there. At first, I was going to ignore the more expensive options, but I realized you deserve to know ALL of your options because only you know your budget. You may be willing, or hell, even HAVE to choose a larger scale, expensive option.

So this is all dependent on YOU and your needs. Let’s talk about what we need to keep an eye out for when choosing a host.

Reliability

Your web host needs to have a reputation and a high uptime rate. If a potential customer tries to visit your website because they’re looking for an emergency electrician, your page might not even load, and they’ll just hit the Back button and find someone with a working website. Don’t lose clients because you didn’t do research on your web host’s service.

99.5% and up is generally considered good, but keep an eye out for little known hosting companies and always check out reviews.

Storage & Bandwidth

Storage and bandwidth are two different things – storage is the amount of hard disk space your server will need to host your website (all the images, videos, the html for the pages, any plugins, etc.). Bandwidth is the data that is transferred every time a visitor loads your page and has to download elements to load your page, like the text, the pictures, or any time they play a video.

Generally speaking, you want to be able to have enough storage space to host your website ten times over. This leaves you plenty of space to scale your website, or host new websites if your business requires managing more than one.

Your bandwidth is equally important. If you choose a plan with less bandwidth than your traffic allows, you’re going to lose out on a lot of potential traffic having a dead website.

Server Types

Shared Hosting

The most popular type of hosting is shared hosting. The reason it is so popular is because its price point is typically very low, which is fine and dandy for beginners, but if you’re planning on taking your business seriously, you should consider a host where you have the option of easily upgrading later if you choose.

Cons of shared hosting is that, because it’s so cheap, you share server space with others who are also looking for shared hosting because it’s cheap, and a lot of times, that might include less than savory characters.

What does this mean for you? Well, let’s say a scammer creates a junk website intended to use stolen credit card numbers and they end up suspended because they very clearly broke their provider’s TOS, anyone else sharing space on that same IP address might be subjective to suspension too.

This could mean that your own website might be down or negatively affected because it was stored on the same servers as this scam website. Worst case scenario is you lose your account.

Also, if you use email through their hosts, there’s a good chance your emails might end up in someone’s spam folder, like all of mine did with my work email. Ended up costing us a few sales too.

This is all the absolute worst case scenario. There are some very reputable companies with affordable shared hosting, and if you know what companies to avoid, you can save yourself a whole lot of heart and headache.

Overall though, you can find a good shared host without sacrificing speed.

Cloud Hosting

What about cloud hosting? Simply put, it’s multiple servers working together to balance out the load and maximize reliability, which is the opposite of shared, where all your files are on one server.

Plus, it’s much easier to scale up your cloud hosting and can typically do it in sliding scales, depending on your needs.

It’s usually a little more expensive, but still a midway pricepoint between shared and dedicated or VPS hosting.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress Hosting has grown in popularity the last few years since it is specifically optimized for WordPress, which is already the most popular CMS in the world. So if you were going to use WordPress anyway, then this is a decent option.

Managed WordPress Hosting is usually a blend of shared and cloud hosting. Many times, this means that certain resources that are meant to optimize your WordPress site are already built in and ready to configure. This includes caching, CDN, WordPress site migrations, and one-click installs.

The cons are you still do share resources with other WordPress websites hosted with them, so it can possibly run slow sometimes, but again, this is where uptime is important. Keep an eye on reputation.

There’s also less flexibility if you work in environments beyond WordPress. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then Managed WordPress Hosting may do it for you.

More Expensive Options

If you need a website with the highest level of uptime and reliability, VPS and dedicated hosting is also available. Be aware – the entry price point is a bit higher than shared or cloud  hosting.

VPS, or virtual private servers, are more for medium traffic websites that exceed shared hosting resources but don’t necessarily need dedicated servers.

Dedicated servers are for those large companies who need to rent physical servers to run their websites. For most of us, this isn’t necessary, but it’s an option. Maybe one day, you’ll need a dedicated server. If you do, it must mean you’re doing well!

Scalability

If you have just one website, then most plans should be fine, but if you run more than one website, then you need to verify if you’ll be able to scale your business up easily. This includes for storage and bandwidth as well.

Although it’s tempting to go for 1 cent hosting, think more about the reliability of your hosting provider and how it will represent you and your business long-term.

I currently use Siteground for all of my websites.

For nearly ten years, I used a very popular web host because it was known to be local, but once it was purchased by a much larger company, the quality of their support, their uptime and reliability all suffered as a result. I tried to tough it out as long as I could, but once I tried to use a keyword research tool, it was blocked because of all the issues originating from a shared IP.

Essentially, I couldn’t even use the $99 monthly keyword tool to help grow my business. Enough was enough – I did a little research and settled with Siteground.

So far, no major issues. There is no CPanel. For non-beginners, this is probably not an issue at all.

As an important sidenote, be mindful of when your renewal is due because many of these companies lure you in with a good introductory price, then jack up the price after the first year or whatever. Which reminds me, I need to find out when my renewal is due in case I need to switch providers.

All Right, What Now?

Okay, so you’ve you got your domain picked out, you know exactly who you want to be hosted with, what are my next steps?

Stick around, I’m working on part 2 right now, where we begin putting all the pieces together to build a functional website.

Here’s where it starts to get a little fun…