foo site is my webmaster's playground. I hope you like it. This site experiments with the best webmaster tools, apps and open source website scripts to help you get started, because a business without a website, especially a small business, is losing out on a 24 hour brand sales representative that sends real customer traffic your way.
Without a website, you will fail. That's right, a good website is that important to your brand, your marketing strategy and message, your visibility and directs people to you. Would you rather bet me? If so, I guarantee it, go ahead and try to prove me wrong, you'll regret it unless you are a backwater bait shop. Our digital markets are not just global now, they define the local market, as well. A well designed website doesn't have to be flashy or showy (or expensive), as long as it showcases your brand in a great positive light and acts as a beacon in the search engines for anyone asking their smart phone where in the city your business is located. Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages. People access their phones quicker than looking things up in a book by asking the device direct questions, and if you aren't online, you aren't visible.
A well designed website is appropriately branded and stands to deliver with data, info, location, contact numbers and a marketing message that should come complete with a call to action to light a fire under your potential customer's butt to come in and get them spending money on your products and/or services.
Do you need to set-up a website? It’s the one most important great idea if you need a professional profile, an artist’s portfolio, are a small business, or even if you are looking for work you can provide a general online resume, allow users to download a professionally written doc or pdf version and print it out for themselves.
Branding IS Everything
A company brand isn't about a logo, a company seal, a corporate name, it is about people. Specifically, the people that you do business with are the people who judge you based on how you work and how well they are treated. After each interaction, including online, your customers reavaluate your company's performance and brand you based on their perceived perception of what your reputation is.
This is why the brand is absolutely everything. It is how well you treat people, from passers-by to visitors, to customers, to employees, to contractors and freelancers. Every head that comes directly or indirectly in contact with your operation is evaluated and the community (whether local or global) talks to each other and builds a little pillar of trust with defined measurements and places you and your business somewhere on it. And trust is the very most important factor in conceiving, designing and building any brand.
So if your employee runs a red light and broadswipes a pregnant young mother who has to be rushed to the hospital, the appearance of your company vehicle in that intersection will not make a good trust building relationship, especially if it makes it on the evening news. And although this is indirect contact with the community, and not a customer, you are evaluated by the community you serve.
This means you have to hire the right people. Notice I did not say the best people? You don't need miracle workers when you start out, don't hire a math wizard if you need, say, a graphic designer. Just because someone is smart does not make them the right person. You will need to manage a business efficeintly and effective, and some really cool smart asses with funny personalities don't make good managers. The business is your life and it's reputation is branded into your community's minds.
Your brand is everything. I cannot stress that enough. Businesses live or die on their reputation and a logo is a visual reminder of the trust your community values your brand to anyone and everyone who encounters it. That's why I recommend professional brand design.
Brand Concept & Design
Fortunately, there is a psychology to branding. We often refer to a company logo as intellectual property, and that couldn't be more accurate, because we use symbols, shapes, colors and effects, as is appropriate, to instill that initial positive feeling of trust. Yes, there is a whole well researched study of the psychology behind building a brand backing all this up. I've personally always been experimenting with it and haven't stopped studying it since college.
The DIY creative person, artist or designer may well get a great logo off without understanding the underpinning feelings that a logo communicates at first glance, and it may be good enough to get you started, but I do encourage you to spend the money and time coming up with a great brand. That will obviously start with the company name, but it will not end there. You will want a complete, professional identity package. DIY somewhere else, not the company name, the domain name, the brand Trademark, any slogan Service Marks nor the identity and letterhead package.
Today the company name and brand space has narrowed considerably as it has been invaded by the domain space. If, for instance, your planned company name is Smith Company, you may have difficulty landing a "Smith" domain name in about any extension without paying a premium for a showcase domain name. Because Smith is such a common name, it is quite popular and most of the Smith domains are snapped-up in the available extensions. In such a case, you may have to come up with an alternate brand name, acronym or slogan, even though you intend to keep doing business under your company name. But because the domain name is so vital, there are a whole host of strategies to account for it and make it an important part of your brand strategy.
What's in a Domain Name?
The most important tool to employ first is grabbing a good domain name. Most of the generic keywords are gone in any generic/global Top Level Domain (gTLD) name extension. Picking a good domain name with which to identify your business (or professional persona) online with is a crucial step in optimizing the possibilities for your business future. Because it is so involved, I'm going to use some outside reading material you can reference on my other web properties in order to backup some generalities and affirmations that I will post here. Though the links are not mandatory, they are offered as a more in-depth explanation of statements made in this article.
I wrote an article on the different available gTLD name extensions that are available at my Website Webmaster Blog, but I'll need to update it soon (once I get this site online and rework Domain Hostmaster on a WordPress platform). In this business, there's always another job waiting. Anyway, the new "ICANN Era gTLD name extension registries" are listed here...
These extra domain extension choices make finding a good name easier, as the .com namespace has gotten extremely crowded and stressed. That said, it will take a little while for some to stop typing .com. But most online promotion provides its own links, which will set in a user’s mind eventually.
Even though the basic search terms are already registered by by companies who hoard the best generic names, brand names are actually better. Catchy brand names get stuck in a person's head and become memorable, where a generic search keyword might change in a week, depending upon what is trending at a particular time of the day. Just make your brand easy to remember, easy to communicate. I wrote an article on how to choose the right domain name somewhere, I’ll find it and post it here.
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Some good places to register your new domain name that won’t hurt your wallet are:
I won't kid you, I run all of the listed hostmasters above and more. Originally, I started designing websites and got sucked in as a freelance designer because everyone liked my work. I learned new things, improved my marketing skills, pursued my love of branding & positive impact intellectual property creation, embraced social networks, added technologies, added capabilities, and now I have been offering the very best in domain registration, logo design, website development, online/offline marketing and safe, secure and reliable site hosting and web servers for 20 years, now.
Each domain registrar/host is different, and I offer different things at different hosts to accomodate the different needs of my very varied clientel. HD Web Hosting is my oldest web hosting operation, and is fully branded. Domain Hostmaster offers the very best prices you will find anywhere, and offers a heckuva lot of different domain name extensions. The new ICANN era gTLD name extensions that are not available there can be found at Domainance or Site Domains.
I started hosting and soon realized I needed a professional resistrar solution because the big boys were screwing me around and tying up my names, my company brands that my life was depending upon. I was completely at their mercy as they jerked me around and so I had to take matters into my own hands as quickly as possible. Even if just a reseller, I have a great deal more control and a support staff that answers to me.
Domain Hostmaster is a working store for W3DN
(Worldwide Web Domains & Networks), which might be a much better option for small to large name portfolio domainers, bulk order corporations, online professionals and hosting entrepreneurs (I qualify in almost every category, there).
Domainance has a reseller hosting arm, Domainants
. This avenue offers much more support for a variety of languages, but requires that you support your customers. Plus, it's a bit more work to get started.
The best option for someone starting out though, would be a reseller account where I started HD Web Hosting for free through LiquidNet
. These servers have become rock solid performers and are easy to setup and brand. The NOC (Network Operations Center) is Steadfast in Chicago, which is awesome, or you can choose one of the other NOCs on another continent more local to you.
LiquidNet powers HD Web Hosting, Site Domains, Site Host Pros & <S> webhost, and a few others, each of these solutions comes with a free SSL security certificate for every domain you want to host there. With lots of domains, that's a lot of savings on SSL encryption certificates, and they are absolutely required for any ecommerce activity, logins or web form transactions between you and your client.
I used to run this very website on my W3DN reseller store's Managed WordPress
web hosting account. I've since set this site up on a new mobile-first responsive static web design and powered it with another one of my web hosting platforms, HD Web Hosting. I'm happy to report that will work out better in the long run because this way each website will have an SSL encryption security certificate available and active on each site.
If you are going to run any number of sites beyond 2 (a website and a blog) and interlink a small network, you really do need to sign-up as a professional reseller just to get the best deals on domain names, web hosting and site tools (dedicated IPs, SSL encryption security certificates, ecommerce software, servers, etc..). You have control and can use advanced systems to your advantage. Free hosts are much more difficult to deal with, after all, and these are not usually full web hosting solutions.
Free Domain Hosting Solutions:
Free hosts come with some sort of risk. Often they will cap site traffic or account loads so that you have to upgrade immediately upon getting a steady traffic flow. I checked one out for a friend at one time, they were posting porn ads in the error pages (such as the "Page Not Found" because of a typo). Certainly, you don't want your site associated with porn unless that's what you do, adult exploitation websites.
The other drawback is that most websites and blogs require a secure web connection in order to rank well (the connection would be https:// with a green padlock indicating that it is secured with an SSL encryption certificate). The free sites rarely support SSL certificates.
With those warnings aside, there are some good free options, if you have to have them...
- Sites is a free Google solution that allows you to create a site using their clunky, proprietary interface and it does support your own domain name, the control panel will even tell you how to get your custom domain name setup so that it resolves to the website.
- Blogger is another Google solution that allows you to establish a blog style website quickly and easily. Blogger will even instruct you on how to set your domain name. Hosting is free and you do not have to show ads unless you want to monetize the site (usually with Google AdWords).
- WordPress.com offers free WordPress blog/sites, and this content management system (CMS) powers over 1/4 of the websites and blog sites on the internet. WordPress software is free, but this outlet allows you to host a blog on their servers using a subdomain on their domain. WordPress.com charges you a fee to map your domain name to their WordPress hosting system, and on top of that, they show vistors small web ads. So, it's not good if you need to brand the site, and a domain name is a requirement for any and every single online business presence.
- Tumblr used to be another easy to use and customize blogging platform, and also supports your own custom domain name. Unfortunately, after Yahoo bought Tumblr it went straight to hell with some of the spammiest advertising I have ever seen, and some of those ads were even distributing malware. I still have to move some of my blogs off this platform. But if Verizon starts running it right (once they buy it), like it was run before, then there is a good chance it will recover. To add your domain to a blog site, search the FAQs for “custom domain” and they will tell you how to set it up. The set back here is that they show ads to you in the control panel, but the site is ad free, and that’s cool.
Free hosting solutions such as the ones I point-out above are great ways to get started with enough info to introduce yourself and display your contact information to the world. However, once you get going, you will probably want to add features, and that usually requires a paid hosting solution so that you can add web scripts to accommodate those features. You can keep the accounts to run a lesser site that promotes your others from a different IP, though.
Once you have decided on your brand and registered your domain, the trick is putting it to good use. While it is easy to setup, you have to decide whether you want a free website, or if you want a complete site that offers you total control.
Other Paid Domain Hosting Solutions:
- Blogger can support multiple sites, so you can run one as a customized information website, portfolio or gallery, and the other as the main business site. The issue though, is that a business site requires the SSL and even a blog would rank better in the nitpicky Google and major search engines if it incorporated an SSL on the site.
- Once again, WordPress.com also offers their easy-to-use “free” blogging platform, but they charge you to add your own custom domain name, AND they still show advertising to all of your visitors which may conflict with the content you are presenting, or at least compete with it, unless you upgrade to a paid solution. I stopped using my “free” WordPress site for now.
There are online website builders that allow you to create your own website right through your browser interface using prefabricated template designs that you can customize according to your desires.
- ColorOfYou.com offers one such solution from Domain Hostmaster using our online Website Builder.
- I use the dedicated WordPress site solution from Domain Hostmaster for my managed WordPress site. The software is setup and kept up-to-date for me by my Domain Hostmaster technical/networking staff gurus and includes the hosting. It is extremely reasonable, but that package comes included with any of the W3DN reseller packages and it is much better than WordPress’ own solution (mainly because it's more affordable and supports more plugins).
Real Web Hosting and Server Solutions:
There is much more freedom in having either a quality shared web hosting account, a VPS, or a dedicated server of your own. You can create a completely custom website and add all the features you need, within the featureset of your server configuration. That means you can add scripts and web apps tailored to what you need for your business, either from software repositories or custom written. This time, I have more of these great solutions listed and hyperlinked below with an indication of whether the site is mobile friendly, or not, including a description highlighting each shop's strengths:
- Domain Hostmaster (desktop & mobile interfaces available)
- Domainance (desktop interface)
- HD Web Hosting (mobile first interface design for phone/tablet/PC support)
(mobile first interface design for phone/tablet/PC support)
(mobile first interface design for phone/tablet/PC support)
Site Host Pros
(mobile first interface design for phone/tablet/PC support)
Apache Website Hosting
(mobile first interface design for phone/tablet/PC support)
All of the above web hosts offer a generous selection of fast and reliable, secure web hosting and virtual or dedicated server selections.
I should mention that you could serve up your sites on your own computer, but then if your cable went out, your computer got sick with a virus, or if you were hacked, you will put your website in jeopardy, so I advise against anything but an experimental server in the home.
The Custom Website Design
But when you get your own web host, you still have to get a site designed. You can actually hire a designer such as myself (that’s how my real business, and I have all sorts of options from economic to complete, and how I wound-up expanding into domain name sales, site builders, business hosting & web server sales, and webmaster tools). OR, you can create a site easily on your own, check out…
CSSWebsites.com – Info on the current easy-to-use do-it-yourself WYSIWYG website creators that use good CSS & HTML design coding systems which I have reviewed (more reviews of other software is coming soon). Note that I am currently spotlighting a free website design tool that I really like.
You will need all sorts of little reference information sites when you are setting up a website on your own, or after you take delivery on a site from your designer & developer. I have some good ones:
Standard Logo for those who are doing everything themselves and are not equipped with Photoshop, just to make a logo to get going.
Font-Journal to locate just the right font for your logo, possibly find a nice web font to use on the website. Font-Journal specializes in trying to find good fonts that are free or shareware and can be used commercially.
HTML Character Code – use it to look-up the HTML code for special characters like the Copyright sign: ©, Trademark: ™ or ®, etc…
Glossary Index can help you figure out how to spell a word.
Meta Tags & SEO offers advice on how to quickly optimize your site using meta tags.
Robots File shows how to direct the web crawlers and spider bot traffic to your website. This can help optimize your site by keeping well mannered bots from wasting time crawling around where they shouldn’t.
phpinfo() File shows you how you can check your own Linux web hosting account or server configuration without bothering the tech support guys. This allows you to find out whether or not your server is compatible with any particular web application software that you might want to install.