May 142012
 

get-startedIf you already already have a website domain bought, hosted and running then you should skip this part and go straight to the Link Building tutorials.  Read about backlinks and how get awesome results from article marketing.  If not, and you are just getting started, then this post is for you.

Getting started

I wrote this post to help out my good friends, Matt, Gary and Eli, all of whom wanted advice on setting up their first site, choosing a domain name and hosting.  What helps them will help you too.  I will provide a short step by step guide to choosing a domain, hosting it on some web space, and setting up the website.  There are lots of in-depth tutorials online, so I wont try to repeat the detailed background.  Instead this page will help you get started with a new website in an hour, cutting through the more geeky “options” and sharing my expertise to let you set up a new site that will last for life, without having to learn all the lessons the hard way.

Ready to start?  Well, lets go.  You will be up and running in less than one hour.

Step 1: Choose a killer domain name

The domain name provides the first impression of your site, your brand, your company.  More than that, of all the aspects of your site the only one that will never change is the domain name (URL).  Choose carefully.

If you want to catch “passing traffic”, ie people who are doing a search and just spot your site, then consider a name that is descriptive.  Looking for news on the Olympics?  Then a site named Olympics-latest.co.uk is likely to catch your eye more quickly than a trendy name like consiglium.co.uk.  Give your visitors a clue to what your site is about.  On the other hand if you are setting up a new company then having a name without any meaning can be an advantage.  It opens up all possibilities for what you put on there, without restriction.  After all you’d struggle if you wanted to change direction and turn olympics-latest.co.uk into a site selling cars!

Is your name available?  Check using a domain name search tool, like this one:  Domain Search Tool

Once you have chosen the name, its time to spend your first few pennies and purchase the domain.

Don’t worry.  Domain names are cheap.  Generally you will pay around £10 + VAT for a co.uk domain and £25 + VAT for a .com domain.  And that is for 2 years.  I recommend using Easily (www.easily.co.uk) to buy your domain.  Personally I have been with Easily for over 8 years and they offer fantastic service.  If you want to host somewhere else there is no problem.  You can buy the name at Easily and just point it at another host.  I do that with many sites because I find Easily hosting a little expensive for my smaller sites.  Other than easily another good host in the UK is NamesCo.

So, go ahead and buy your domain now.  Don’t wait too long or it will be gone.  And once you have it its yours for life to do with what you wish, or even to resell.  There is a big market in reselling domain names as the good ones are going fast…

Think about:

  • Do you need the .com as well as the .co.uk?  If you don’t buy both how will you feel about that decision in 5 years time?
  • Is this a “quick and dirty” test site, or your ten-bagger.  If this is your main site how would you feel with the domain name on your business card?  If its a smaller money site then keywords in the URL are far more important than having a great sounding name.
  • Don’t try to save a few pennies by buying a .co.uk for less than £10+VAT.  Companies like Easily give you full rioghts to the domain to do what you like with it.  Many others actually just register the name themselves and let you use it, until you choose to move.  Then you find the name isn’t actually owned by you!

Step 2: Where to host your new site

Once you have purchased your domain you need to think where to host it.  Hosting a site allows it to be accessed 24 hours a day, from all over the world.  In theory you could host the site on your own PC, but nobody does that.  It means that as soon as you turn off your PC your site can’t be accessed.  Not a good idea.

There are literally thousands of hosting services available.  Prices vary from free to several thousand pounds a month.  For the average site a cheaper hosting provider will be fine.  Once you are earning a few thousand pounds a month you can think about upgrading your hosting package.  In fact the only difference between cheaper and expensive hosting is the number of customers it can serve.  For example, WebMasters hosting (which I recommend highly) offers an entry package for around £50 per year, which lets you host up to 100 domains and 300 databases.  Once your customer volumes go above 5000 or so a day you can upgrade to their next package with a single click.  At the top end sites like BBC iPlayer pay thousands per month because of the huge traffic volumes.  Something that is unlikely to be your problem for a while!

I strongly recommend WebMasters (www.webmasters.com) as the host if you are willing to pay.  If not, then there are some good free hosting providers available.  For my small test sites I have used free hosting from freevirtualservers.com and am very pleased with it.  Avoid freehostia.com.  Terrible availability with servers heavily overloaded.  I moved my sites from there and Freevirtualservers.com have stood up very well in comparison. Get started with a new website by choosing the right host.

Think about:

  • What is the importance of reliability of your site?  Free hosts are always overloaded and you will suffer high downtime.  I have tried many.  Don’t believe the “99% up-time guarantee”.  Its false.
  • Do you want to add extra domains later.  If so, choose a host that offers free “add-on” domains.  That way your hosting will let you add new sites without paying any more.  The great thing about these add-on domains is that as far as Google and the other Search Engines is concerned, each site is 100% independent.  They can not tell that the sites are on shared hosting.
  • Where will your customers come from?  Are they spread globally, mainly in the UK or mainly in the US.  Most hosting is in the US, which will work perfectly well for most regions due to the excellent high-speed connections that the US has.  However, if all nearly all your customers are in the UK you may want to choose a UK based host, such as UKHost4U (www.ukhost4u.co.uk).  I use them for my high-traffic football sites and have found them excellent, though a little more expensive than WebMasters.

Step 3: Install WordPress

Why did I call this step “Install WordPress”?  Why WordPress.  Cant I just build my site in HTML / Dreamweaver / Joomla / Other?

Well, yes. You can build a site from scratch.  But this article is about the best way to get a great-looking site up quickly so I am going to tell you to stick with WordPress.  It is quick, simple, looks great, and will let you maintain a scalable website that will last for many many years.

Before we continue, let me clarify one thing.  When we talk of WordPress here I am referring to self-hosted Wordrpess, not wordpress.com.  You can set up a site at wordpress.com, similar  to blogger.com, but then you are handing over ownership of all your content to a third-party.  They set the rules, and they can delete your site if they don’t like what you are doing.

Hosting WordPress on your own site means you remain in full control.  For ever.  If you want to move your site to a new host then you can.  Its yours, and no-one can touch it.

So lets go:

  1. Download WordPress from WordPress.org.  Save it to your hard drive.  This is only temporary.  When we have finished you wont need any software at all on your own PC.  Everything will be on the server so you can access it from any PC.  Great news if you plan to make updates to your site in your lunch hour from the office!
  2. Upload it to your hosting provider.  If you are using WebMasters (I recommend you do) then click File Manager -> Upload
  3. Alternatively, instead of Step 1 and 2, you may be able to install WordPress directly from the control panel of your hosting provider.  That can save a bit of time.  Look for something called “Install scripts”, “Intall WordPress”.  On WebMasters hosting it is called “Auto Installer” (see Figure 1).  The end result is the same.
  4. Go to your domain in Internet explorer and you will see step by step instructions.  WordPress is famously easy to use, but if you have any questions please post them below this article and I will help.
Install-Wordpress-control-panel

Figure 1: You can autoinstall WordPress from WebMasters control panel

Step 4: Configure WordPress

At this point it is time to experiment a little.  Most of the options in WordPress are very simple to access, and are intuitive.  Just try them.

The great thing about having a site in WordPress is that your customers see a fantastic looking site, and you manage everything via your control panel so you never need to see any HTML, unless you want to!

If you want an example of a site built in WordPress, you don’t need to go far.  This site (www.linkbuildingtools.co.uk) is entirely WordPress, using only standard WordPress plugins.  I haven’t touched any html.  In fact the only addition is changing the default theme to Suffusion (my favourite theme), which you can do by clicking the Add Theme button in the WordPress Admin console.

Step 5: Create Content

A site with nothing on it won’t attract much traffic.  So next step is to start writing.  Content is King!

At this stage many people slow down.  After all you have a working site right.  Content can wait eh?  Well don’t wait too long.  Try writing an article every single day.  Even if it is just 50 words.  if you can add a post every day, or even once a week, within a few months you will have loads of interesting and unique content, all being indexed by Google.  Search Engines love fresh content, and if it is unique to you then all the better.  Traffic and customers will just start pouring in…

Step 6: Promote your new site

Again, this is too big a topic to cover here.  So I wont.  But suffice to say promoting your content is crucial if you want it to be found.

There are many good articles on this site that I have written to help you promote your site.  I really recommend you read everything and try them all.  I have learned the hard way so I know what works and what is a waste of time.  Also sign up to the newsletter (that’s it over there in the right hand column) and you will receive an email alert every time I add a new article to this site.

If you want an absolute killer way of getting loads and loads of links and customers then look at Brute Force.  Nothing comes close in terms of the impact on traffic.

Linkbuilding is also crucial.  Its another topic, too big to go into here, but if you want the full works then nothing comes close to BackLink Builder.  It is a full-suite automation package.

For those with a little more to spend you can purchase links back to your site from Backlinks.com.  Well worth it to get additional Google pagerank and more traffic.

money-girlStep 7: Monetise your site

Why did you first create your site?  Whatever the reason probably the chance to make shed-loads of easy cash on autopilot was somewhere in the back of your mind.  If not, why not!

To make some money out of your site there are a few options:

  1. Google Adsense.  The easiest to set up.  You need to set up a Google account and Google will then post small text or image ads on your site in the pace you specify.  If you look around you will see some on this site (though not intrusively I hope!).  Done well, these can add to the user experience by offering relevant links to them.  The advantages:  Quick and Easy.  Google manages the ads so all you do is wait for the money to pour in (or more realistically to trickle…).  The disadvantages:  Google are strict on content so you cant place the ads on a site they don’t like the look of.  Secondly, the amount you get for a click can be very small, so don’t expect to retire on this alone.
  2. Affiliate adverts.  Sign up with an affiliate programme such as Affiliate Window (www.affiliatewindow.com).  Once you have signed up you have access to hundreds of companies, all from one place.  Click the company whose goods you want to sell and you will receive a simple link.  Add that to your site and you will receive a percentage of the sales.  You can add the link to photos too.  Advantages:  Quick and simple.  Many vendors in one place.  No need to handle payments, customer queries etc as all that is done by the site without you doing anything.
  3. Sell something. Selling directly can be lucrative.  You get all the profit for yourself and no-one else is involved in the payment cycle.  The disadvantage is that you need to create a shopping basket, collect the money, physically package and deliver the good and deal with queries and refunds.  You can save some time by selling “non-physical” goods, such as an eBook, but you still need to deal with queries, payments etc.
  4. Amazon.  Join Amazon’s affiliate programme and they will provide you with links, images, reviews and many other tools that you can place on your site.  When one of your readers clicks on the advert they are taken straight to Amazon.  From that point on you get a percentage (currently 5-10% but it changes from time to time) of all sales for the next 24 hours.   Advantages:  Amazon are the master of upsell!  You may refer someone to a cheap book, but what does everyone do on Amazon?  Firstly, they add another book or two to bring it up to the free postage limit.  Then Amazon suggest you may “like these too”.  So your customer adds another item.  You get a percentage of everything, not just the small item you referred the customer for.  Once your first customer buys a £1500 garden table and chair set, or £2000 3D TV you will recognise Amazon’s power to upsell!

Step 8: Optimise your Robots.txt file

I won’t go in to this in detail here, as it is more advanced.  However, the robots.txt file is really important.  It will increase the speed of your website, increase security, and provide you higher rankings in the search results.  If you are on a WordPress blog read how to set up the best robots.txt file for WordPress and start there.

 

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