This is the ultimate guide to help you figure out what route you should take when building your brand / website online.
Right now things are more complicated than ever in the world of web because there are so many options on the market. Where do I buy my domain name? Should I build my website myself? How much does all of this cost?
In this guide we walk through all the things you need to know to make the right decision for your business.
- Chapter 1 – How to Stand Out with Your Domain
- Chapter 2 – Making Your Mark: Designing that Perfect Logo
- Chapter 3 – Which Platform is right for you?
- Chapter 4 – Why the Content of Your Site Matters
- Chapter 5 – How Hosting Can Make or Break Your Site
- Chapter 6 – How to Set Your Site Up For Success
Chapter 1 – How to Stand Out with Your Domain
Whether you’re starting a new company or building out an existing brand, your domain name has a huge impact on your potential success online.
It plays a major role all over the web for things like social media URLs, brand recognition, click-through rates, and even SEO.
So now that we know domains are important, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of what you should be looking out for.
Keep it short and sweet:
You want to make sure your domain is easy to remember and not too long. The shorter it is, the easier it is to share, type, say, etc.
An easy way to remember it: Shorter = Better.
Try to get the .com TLD:
The .com TLD (Top Level Domain) is still highly relevant today in the sense that it still holds the most credibility with consumers as well as most search engines. If the .com domain you want is taken then you can still opt to use a .net, .org, or .co TLD and Google will not punish you for it, but your customers might mistype your domain if searching for you manually.
Where to buy domains?
Where you buy your domain isn’t super important and you can always transfer later but these are some big name providers we recommend:
You can expect to pay anywhere between $10 – $20/year for a domain name. It all depends on which domain registrar you end up using so it’s worth checking with all of them to see which offers you the best deal.
Chapter 2 – Making Your Mark: Designing that Perfect Logo
Your logo is a crucial part of your business. It represents who you are, what you stand for, and to whom you provide services. You must encapsulate all of these features into one mark that communicates that with your target audience.
The Automated Route
There’s a few different approaches you can take when creating your logo. You have a few automated builders out there that work well enough to get something off the ground. These often use stock imagery / font, but can produce some pretty decent results.
Here are a few examples of these builders:
Hiring a Designer
Although the above solutions can be great when in a pinch for time or money, there really is no substitute for a real human designer working on your branding. Although a bit more expensive and time-consuming, a good designer can offset their cost if they can perfectly encapsulate your brand.
A human can listen to your input, learn about your business, and take that knowledge to create something that perfectly represents your business and what it stands for. As convenient as an automated algorithm may be, it’s really tough to get something thoughtful from them. Humans know humans best.
Chapter 3 – Which Platform is right for you?
There are a myriad of different platforms to choose from when creating your website, ranging from the most complex to simple drag and drop builders. You really need to ask yourself what you’re trying to get accomplished, and what tool helps you get there the best.
We’re going to break down several of the most popular for you to help make your decision that much easier.
DIY Website Builders
Platforms that fall into this category are generally drag and drop builders that make it quick and easy to get a basic site off the ground. The downside to this is that a lot of the time the themes that they provide can be limiting and usually incur a monthly cost to keep up.
The most popular of these types of platforms is SquareSpace.
SquareSpace is one of the most popular DIY builder platforms on the web today. It’s made it super easy for beginners to get a beautiful looking website up in a short period of time. SquareSpace utilizes a user-friendly drag and drop approach to create websites using their blocks.
The software is built on a library of templates for you to select and then iterate off of. This is wonderful for users trying to get something nice up in a hurry, but can be lacking when it comes to customization.
Squarespace has straightforward monthly pricing options. Starting at $16/mo for basic websites and $30/mo for online stores.
SquareSpace is a great platform for people trying to quickly get a beautiful site with basic information on the web. They have a robust library of templates that cater to many different people / businesses needs. You could find customizability lacking if you’re looking to do anything other than the basics. It’s a very low barrier to entry solution for businesses just starting out.
Wix is another popular DIY website builder. Much like Squarespace, users can drag and drop elements, such as paragraphs, images, and even custom code to build a decent website within a few hours using a pre-built template.
Wix can be great for designing a website for a small business, but it’s not dependable if you plan to grow your business in the near future.
Wix offers tiered pricing plans depending on the type of website you create. For a standard website, you can spend $14/month. For business and e-Commerce websites, you can pay a minimum of $23/month.
Again, using Wix is a suitable option if you run a small, local business. However, the platform has a limited variety of themes and apps, which can result in a basic website that can’t perform the way you need. If you get stuck not being able implement a certain feature you may need to create your website from scratch on an open-source platform.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Unlike DIY website builders, CMSs are open-source software that make it possible to purchase a pre-built theme and create the pages from scratch using a page builder. Once the website is finished, users can download plugins to make the website more feature rich.
The most popular CMS in the world is WordPress.
WordPress is, without a doubt, the most widely-used CMS in the world. In fact, 20% of all self-hosted websites were created using WordPress in 2020. In short: Anyone can use WordPress.
When you sign up, you’ll be directed to fill out forms that best describe your business, choose your domain name (www.examplesite.com), and select your theme. WordPress is completely customizable.
Whether you choose to rely on the design of your chosen theme or add to it, you can often build a great website by using the platform. WordPress offers a wide variety of themes to choose from depending on your niche.
WordPress is an extremely affordable option for freelancers and small businesses. A personal website costs just $4/month, but you will be forced to pay for a yearly subscription.
To install plugins and create a customizable website, however, you’ll need to purchase WordPress’ $25/month business plan.
WordPress is the recommended option for building a customized, self-hosted website. It’s affordable and easy-to-use.
Like WordPress, Drupal is an open-source content management system. Users can access the platform to build blogs and business websites.
To use Drupal, you must create an account, choose a theme, and customize it using plugins. Drupal isn’t as intuitive as WordPress so you will need to have competent web development knowledge to build a website.
Drupal is fairly expensive, especially compared to WordPress and other DIY website builders. If you hire a website developer, expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 on a project. Website maintenance fees can also range from $150/hour to over $300/hr.
In our opinion, Drupal is a very difficult CMS to use, and it’s very expensive. WordPress is the better option for most businesses.
Custom Web Design and Development:
Your final option is hiring an agency or freelancer for custom web design and development services. By hiring a seasoned web designer, you’ll be able build your website exactly to your specifications and better position you to be successful online.
This option can vary quite a bit depending on the agency you choose but typically you’ll see your traditional websites go for $8,000 – $25,000.
For growing businesses, this is the best option as you get to design everything from the ground up and ultimately end up with the best end product.
Chapter 4 – Why the Content of Your Website Matters
Building just any website isn’t going to suffice. To put it simply, the content of your website, which is the text, images, and elements, must align with the standards that both search engines and users are looking for.
Search engines have a duty to rank only the best websites. Therefore, if your website looks subpar, superior websites will outrank yours. That’s if your website even ranks at all.
Not only that, but users must get some type of value from your website. Otherwise, they’re going to leave without converting into customers which renders your website useless.
To break it down simply: There are four areas of content you should pay close attention to when building your website.
The rough layout is simply the wireframe or makeup of the website. A rough layout looks something like this:
Arguably, the rough layout is the most important aspect of your website. The layout you choose allows users, and your potential customers, to easily navigate throughout your website and understand everything you do.
For this reason, it’s best to stay simplistic and choose a minimalist layout that doesn’t look like a maze to potential customers.
In website design and online marketing, copy is persuasive text that appears on a website. Therefore, copywriting is the activity of creating copy for a website. All in all, copy is going to be the text that seals the deal for your business.
It’s going to persuade a potential customer to check out your products and services, and ultimately convert. When creating copy for your website, it’s important to follow these tips:
- Create concise copy. Break up your paragraphs into small, digestible chunks that don’t take up much of your audience’s time. Most website users skim anyway.
- Don’t use jargon or insider terminology. If someone doesn’t know anything about your product or service, it’s not wise to confuse them with other terms you know.
- Avoid salesy copy. Don’t speak about how you’re the best company. Show your audience through testimonials and other persuasive tactics.
If you’re creating a small website, you should be able to write your own copy. However, copywriting is an intricate art. Hiring a professional is often the way to go if you want to build a website that sustains a high conversion rate.
The theme of your website also plays an integral role in its success. The theme of any website determines its appearance and attracts the attention of your target audience. If you do use a website builder, choose a theme that’s simple and aesthetically pleasing, while representing your brand.
Avoid complex themes, and try not to select a theme that doesn’t represent your industry.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of ranking a website on major search engines like Google and Bing. The higher you rank on a search engine, the better you’ll appear to potential customers ready to buy.
Let’s face it – we all click on the first few search results on Google anyway. Having your website featured there is a great way to profit from your online presence. To improve your SEO, as far as content is concerned, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Create a responsive website. Most search engine traffic is derived from mobile devices. This means that your website needs to be accessed on a smartphone or tablet the same way it can be used on a desktop computer.
- Your website must also be fast. Beware of DIY website builders that use Flash or other outdated web plugins that modern search engines have trouble reading.
- Perform keyword research. In order to improve your SEO ranking, you’ll need to research the keywords or search terms people are using to find websites like yours.
- Use your keywords. Implement your target keywords in your copy to let search engines know that you have relevant content relating to the keywords you’re using. This fundamentally helps Google rank your website for the keywords you’ve chosen.
Chapter 5 – How Hosting Can Make or Break Your Website
Hosting used to be an afterthought when building a website. After all, the hard part was actually creating the website. There are millions of hosting providers that will do the job. Nowadays, this isn’t true.
Hosting speed now plays a big role in how your website ranks. Again, search engines will only rank the best websites for a given query so If your website is barely online or has a slow page speed, it’s not going to rank well.
We like to practice what we preach and have optimized this website to be as fast as possible:
If you’re going to use WordPress we HIGHLY recommend using WPEngine as your hosting as they are the best in the business.
Chapter 6 – How to Setup Your Website for Success
Now your website is complete!
The next phase in building a successful website is optimizing it for SEO. We’ve mentioned SEO a few times already, but what exactly does it mean? Basically, your completed website needs to be crawled by search engine bots. These are robots that scan and analyze websites before they are ranked.
Below, is a complete checklist for optimizing your website for success.
On-page SEO is the main optimization process that happens “on the website”. It involves implementing the use of keywords, optimizing website speed, and a bunch of other technical tasks.
If you’re using WordPress, you can optimize your website using Yoast SEO. Otherwise, you can rely on the following tools to quickly expedite this process and check for issues and areas of improvement:
Submit Sitemap to Google:
A sitemap is basically a tree of all of the web pages on your website. In order for your website to rank quickly, you must submit a sitemap to Google through Google Search Console.
Sitemaps typically have to be in a .XML format. If you use a website builder, then you’ll need to check with your provider to see if your website already have a sitemap and how you can access the file in order to submit it to Google.
Every website builder should tell you how to locate your sitemap. Once you have the file, submit it straight to Google to begin the indexing process.
Google My Business:
Google My Business is a platform that allows local businesses to create a business listing on Google Maps that look like this:
Fortunately, creating a Google My Business listing is really simple. You can access Google My Business by clicking here. Remember that your business information needs to be accurate and consistent.
Did you know that more than 30,000 websites are hacked every day? If you run a website that compiles sensitive data like credit cards, social security information, and passwords, then you need to make sure it’s protected.
Having an SSL certificate encrypts the sensitive data on your website, making it inaccessible to even the most intelligent hackers. You can receive an SSL certificate from your hosting provider.
If you ignore it, then website users are going to see this when they visit your site:
This is frankly embarrassing and unacceptable. Fortunately, most hosting providers will give your website this type of basic protection for free.
Setup Social Accounts:
Before your website is completed, make sure to create social media profiles to advance your marketing campaigns on widely-used platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You can even advertise your products through Facebook Advertising, a platform used by millions of businesses across the world. Social media advertising is very inexpensive still, allowing you to showcase your products and services to millions of people.
The last step of setting your new website up is being able to measure it’s growth and performance. This is done by using Google Analytics.
Google Analytics gives you regular insights that will allow you to make adjustments and maintain a profitable website.
It’s easy to set up Google Analytics for your website by following the steps listed on Google’s official website.
Back to You…
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to any website design project. If you have the time, money, and effort, you can get the job done. Otherwise, it’s best to hire a professional website development agency.
Luckily, the team at Icepick is willing to help you turn your website dream into a reality. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.