For those with little or no web publishing experience, building a successful presence on the web can be daunting. Although it's not necessarily easy, building a web business is not rocket science either. Almost anyone, with at least some computer experience, can build and operate a successful web business like we do. My wife and I own and operate a very successful retail Internet business selling nutrition supplements: Cactus Canyon
There are many pieces which need put together for the finished site to be effective. Most of the pieces fall within five basic categories.
1. Choose and Purchase a Domain Name: Before you can build a public web page, you will have to choose and purchase a domain name. For example, CactusCanyon is one of my domain names and is our main site. There are many domain registrars from which you may purchase the domain from. Their prices range from around $ 8.95 to $ 29.95.
There really is no reason to pay more than $ 8.95 for the domain name. GoDaddy is the world's largest domain registrar, and I purchase all of my domains from them for $ 8.95 each per year. On GoDaddy's home page is a search box which can be used to find available domain names. I suggest a .com name with no dashes for your main site. It should be easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and as short as possible. It is best if a keyword is part of your domain name, but this is not necessary.
For example, a good domain name for a site about dogs might be "dogstuff" Do not force a keyword into the name if it will sound awkward. Short, and easy to spell domains are the ideal – with or without without a keyword. IMPORTANT !!
Once a good name is found, do a search for that name in Google. You need to make sure if the name had a past owner, it will not bring you grief. In other words, if the site had connections with a spam or porn site, choose another.
If the name still looks like a good one, sign up for an account with GoDaddy and purchase it. You may purchase it for any number of years. I suggest paying for at least two years. There has been some discussion as to whether or not new sites registered for just one year may raise a caution flag with Google since most spam sites are only registered for one year.
2. Sign Up With a Web Host: Although some Internet gurus host their sites on their own servers, most regular people use a hosting service. A host will provide a server with which you upload your web pages files to. It is on that server where people will actually be viewing your site. Although there are wide ranges of hosting plans available, most new sites will do just fine with a low cost plan.
Cactus Canyon was started with a hosting plan with GoDaddy for $ 3.95 per month. Our current hosting / E-commerce plan with Yahoo Online Stores costs $ 99.00 per month. But they have great starter packages for $ 49.99 per month. The most important service a host should provide is reliability. Their servers need to be available 99.99% of the time!
The second most important thing is tech support. In my opinion, there is not a better, low-cost hosting plan available than GoDaddy's. Upgrading to a higher-end hosting package as needed is an easy process. I'm never in favor of going low-budget just to save money, but in this situation GoDaddy's economy hosting package is more than adequate for most new sites. Once hosting is purchased, the host will e-mail the details needed to publish your site via FTP.
3. Build Your Website The next and most technical step is actually building the pages of your site. Those with no web design experience will find the learning curve quite steep. I highly recommend enrolling in a short-term web design class at a local tech school or community college. It is possible to wade through the process with the help of a book, but as with many things, a short class will speed the process. Be aware that most of the people who begin the process of building a web business will quit during this phase. One could hire someone to get the job done, but without money is no object, this is usually not an option for the long term.
Anyone serious about owning an Internet business must learn web design. Although learning web design can be tedious at first, the good news is that only basic skills are needed. In fact, if a beginning web designer tries anything more complicated than text, border less tables and images for their site, the results will be counter-productive. As long as the site conveys a trustworthy atmosphere to visitors, all that is necessary for success is a simple, clean, and easy to navigate site.
Building trust can be as simple as talking to your visitors in a personal way, giving personal testimonials, including some pictures of yourself, etc. If you expect people to make a purchase or visit your brick and mortar store after visiting your site, they MUST trust you. Dreamweaver is the most popular web design tool. I use Dreamweaver and highly recommend it. FrontPage is another alternative, but I consider it a distant second place behind Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver will cost from $ 120 (on eBay) to $ 250 retail.
The good news is that there is a new option available for free! First Page 2000 is a great way to get started building websites. And it is FREE! It is not a robust editor like Dreamweaver, but it is more than adequate for beginners to make a great site with.
Here are just a few tips for getting started with your site:
O Unless the site will be very large, keep all the web page files and images in the same directory on your local computer where you are designing the site and on the host web server.
O Build your site within a borderless table about 790 pixels wide. Without this is done, visitors using 800×600 resolution will need to scroll sideways to view your site. You do not want visitors to have to scroll horizontally.
O Photos should always be in .jpg or .png format. The .gif format is fine for clip art, symbols, etc. You MUST optimize your pages with some program. You simply can not take a photo from your digital camera and put it on your site. Most of the time those photos have huge file sizes. You MUST resize it AND optimize it for small file size. If you do not have PhotoShop, go to eBay and buy and older version like PhotoShop 6. It will do all you will need and will not cost more than about $ 70.00. You will NEED a good photo editing software. Also, while you are there, buy a book on how to use PhotoShop. You have to know how to crop, resize, and optimize your photos.
O Keep your file names short with no spaces and no capital letters. Dashes are fine, but no more than two dashes should be in any file name. Multiple dashes in file names are often used by spammers.
O You may use either .htm or .html for your web page extensions. Use the same format for all your pages. Most sites use .htm
O Keep your site simple! Learn how to make a great looking site with only border less tables, images, and text. Trying to use Flash or fancy scripts will be counterproductive for beginning webmasters.
4. Upload (Publish) Your WebsiteAs I design individual pages for my sites, I like to upload them and view the pages as they appear on the Internet. Oftentimes there are path problems or other issues which do not show up until publishing occurs. Although Dreamweaver and NVU have built-in FTP features for easy publishing, I have always used a stand-alone FTP program for publishing.
FTP Comander is an excellent and free FTP program. CuteFTP and ACE FTP are other programs I have used. They have a small cost but have more features. Even if the built-in publishing features of the web editors are used, there are still instances where using an FTP program may be required. It is best to learn how to FTP with one of these programs.
After publishing your site, always check your site on another computer besides the one you built the site on. There could be issues, such as incorrect file paths, which will not show up unless the site is viewed on another computer.
5. Marketing Your Site After completing steps one through four, there is still one crucial step required before a site can be successful. No matter how great the sight looks, no one will ever see it without proper marketing. In fact, this step will be the most time consuming of all the steps. The marketing process is ongoing and will require steady work in order for the site to continue growing.
Although this step requires much work, it is by far the most rewarding. There is nothing quite like seeing your efforts rewarded with a first page listing in Google! Steps one through four are the mechanisms of building a web business. Marketing requires the most thought, creativity, and knowledge of all the steps. Much of this book will deal with the process of marketing your site. At least 80% of all the work you do with your online business should be in the marketing area.