Hosting, SEO, Google Analytics, Backlinks, Domains… When Internet guys start throwing around technical terms, it can sound like a different language. Sometimes they use that as a sales tactic or try to impress you with their knowledge.
They just forget that the average business owner doesn’t deal with this stuff day in and day out.
Don’t be intimidated. Regardless of their motives, there are a few terms you do need to be familiar with. You will need to have a basic understanding in order to make smart decisions and avoid wasting money. Even more important, you want to avoid having your website held hostage by an unscrupulous web designer or marketing company.
A domain is a unique address that people can type into a web browser to view your website. It typically ends in .com, .net, or .org. It’s also called a website address or a URL. It’s important to understand that this is not your actual website. It is simply an address that a website can sit on.
You can think of a domain like a street address and the website as the house that the address is assigned to. You never permanently own a domain. You pay to register your domain each year through a company like GoDaddy.com (highly recommended). Once it is registered to you, it will remain assigned to you unless you let it expire or sell the registration to someone else.
A lot of people get domains confused with website hosting. Registering a domain and registering hosting, however, are two different things.
If you have a website, you will need pay a hosting company to provide space on a special web server. This allows people to access the website on the Internet. Hosting is just a space you are renting on a server so your website can be viewed live on the Internet.
You can think of your hosting like the lot that your house sits on. It is not the address and it is not the actual house. The hosting is simply the space that your website sits on. The fee you pay for the lot can be compared to Home Owners Association dues or yearly taxes on the land.
Ok, you think know what a website is. We all look at websites every day. But how does it play into this conversation? If we all know what a website is, then we need to be sure we recognize what it is not. It’s not the domain address, and it’s not the hosting space.
It’s all the words, pictures, videos, links, etc. It’s all the stuff people can see and interact with. As mentioned before, you can think of your website like a house. It’s the physical stuff you can see, hear and interact with.
How should you choose a domain?
Before we get into the specifics of choosing a domain, there are a couple of issues you need to know about.
If your website is like your house, then the domain is like your address. You can’t always get the domain you want. Someone else may have already registered it. Think of it like someone may be leasing the property. So before you can use your favorite domain, you need to check to see it it’s “on the market” and available for you to use.
You can do a quick check online by simply typing in the exact domain name you wish to use in the address bar on your screen. If a website pops up on your computer, you’re out of luck; that domain is taken and not available to you. I recommend using Godaddy.com to check domain availability.
If you already have a domain then don’t worry about changing it. Having a domain with a solid history of one year or more is more important for SEO than everything I am about to discuss.
I see people spending way too much time worrying about getting the “perfect” domain. First, try to get the domain that is your exact business name followed by a .com (for example, www.BillsHomeService.com). This will be good for branding and in the past few years Google has been giving branded domain names a little boost in rankings. Like I said, though, it’s not a deal breaker. If you already have an established domain, don’t worry about it.
If your business name domain is not available, then you can always tack on a city or state name to make it unique to you. For example: if www.BillsHomeServices.com is not available, then go with something like www.BillsHomesServicesTexas.com. Once again, don’t agonize over it. In the “Big Picture” it is not that crucial.
What About Exact Match Domains?
An Exact Match Domain (EMD) is a domain that is made of words that match popular search terms. It used to be a slick way to trick Google and get higher rankings for domains that matched popular search terms. For example: “Chicago Carpet Cleaner” is a very profitable search term to rank for in Google. In the past, if you had the domain www.ChicagoCarpetCleaner.com, you would have a sizable advantage in ranking very high very fast.
Google caught on to this game pretty fast and it just isn’t a good option any longer. In some cases, it can get you into trouble as it is very easy to “over-optimize” an Exact Match Domain and acquire a nasty Google penalty.
I know I just used a couple of technical terms. This will make more sense when you read the chapters on SEO.
Things to consider when you are choosing a domain are to keep it as short as possible, make sure it is easy to spell, and avoid hyphens or dashes. Also, try to get .com or .net. Avoid all the new fancy extensions like .biz, .me, .co. There is less of a trust factor with both Google and consumers when it comes to anything other than a .com or .net.
How to Register A Domain
There are thousands of options when is comes to registering your domain. Do yourself a favor and use Godaddy.com. They are the leader when it comes to domains. They have amazing customer support 24/7 and are based in America.
If it is your first time dealing with this stuff, just go to their website and call the phone number. They will step you through the process and get you up and running in about 10 minutes.
Beware, they have a very aggressive upsell program. Once you make your purchase, they will try to sell you all kinds of extra stuff that sounds important. My advice is to stick with the very basic domain service, which is around fourteen dollars per year. Just register the domain for two or more years and be done with it.
Keeping Control Of Your Domain
It is very important that you register the domain in your name. Don’t let a web designer or anyone else register it for you. Would you put the title of your car in your mechanic’s name? No, of course not. The same goes for domains.
I don’t know how many times I have seen unethical web designers convince a business owner to let them take care of the domain registration. Then when it’s time to get a new website, they are held hostage by that web designer because the registration is in the web designer’s name. They own it and won’t let it go or want to charge a ridiculous price to transfer it over. Or they go out of business and have disappeared from the face of the earth.
This can be detrimental to a business if you have an established domain that appears on Google search results, on website directories, business cards, van wraps, etc. If you have to start over with a new domain it can really set you back.
Choosing A Host
Just like with domain registering there are lots of options when it comes to hosting. It is very important to understand that, just like all service companies are not the same, not all hosting companies are the same.
If price is a major concern, then choose Godaddy. Since you probably already have your domain with Godaddy, it makes sense to keep everything in one place. The only drawback to using Godaddy hosting is that they are a budget hosting company, which means that although they will provide support for your hosting account, they will not maintain your website and provide fully managed services.
They do have a program called Managed WordPress Hosting, but based on my research, it is not true managed hosting. They offer installation of WordPress and some extra security features, but you still have to make your own updates.
I have also found that with Godaddy or other budget hosting companies, you will occasionally have slow load speeds when their servers are having problems or lots of traffic. This can hurt your business if it takes someone 10 or 20 seconds to pull your website up. Remember, people have short attention spans and if they don’t get what they want quickly, they are moving on to your competitor’s website.
If you want true managed hosting that is completely hands off with all updates taken care of for you, then spend the extra money and go with www.wpengine.com This is truly a hands-off option. They will handle everything for you, including all WordPress updates. And they have blazing fast speeds and top-notch customer support.
Some web design companies offer in-house hosting services along with their design services in order to make technical issues easier to handle and have more control over the entire process. Our company, Big West Marketing, offers a fully managed hosting service for these very reasons.
If you feel like you are working with a stable company, then this may be a viable option. Just make sure they offer true managed hosting so everything is taken care of for you.
Choosing A Website Platform
Once you have your domain and hosting set up, it’s time to put the actual website up on the Internet. There are several popular website platforms to choose from including: WordPress, Joomla and HTML.
Then there are the do-it-yourself options like wix.com or squarespace.com. Although many of these DIY options have come a long way in their software programs, you will still have many limitations. You will be limited when it comes to design, especially in implementing some of the crucial elements like big phone numbers with calls-to-action and a mobile tap-to-call button as discussed in earlier chapters.
I’ve already mentioned WordPress as a website platform. In my opinion it is by far the best choice. Wordpress is the most widely supported web development platform in the world. Over 40% of all small business websites on the Internet are built on WordPress. Our company designs exclusively in WordPress because it gives us the greatest amount of flexibility when it comes to web design and search engine optimization.
Most web hosting companies will take care of the installation and initial setup for WordPress at no extra charge. I highly recommend you have your hosting company do this for you in order to save time. But if you want to jump in and do it yourself, just visit www.wordpress.org to download the free startup files.
Note: Be aware that www.wordpress.com is an independent platform and is very different from what we are talking about.
The drawback to WordPress is that there is a learning curve for those that want to build their own site. You are reading this book because you want to be successful in your own business. You want to do those tasks that show your skill and talent to the highest degree. You do so many things really well and that is where the bulk of your profit is going to come from.
It is very possible to create an amazing site yourself using WordPress with little web design knowledge. Because you want to focus on what you do very well, however, you must ask yourself: “How much time do I want to take away from my business to do this?”
In most cases, it makes better sense to find a professional to take care of it for you, so you can be up and running as soon as possible. Remember the goal of the website is to be a Job- getting, Deal-closing, 24/7 Money-Making Machine. The sooner you are up and running, the sooner you are in a profit-making position.
Now that the technical stuff is handled, it’s time to really set yourself apart from the competition by building trust.
Table of Contents
Intro to Book: The Service Business Money Machine
Chapter 1: The Power of Making It Easy
Chapter 2: Navigation Menus and Pages
Chapter 3: Going Mobile
Chapter 4: Website Look and Feel
Chapter 5: Domains, Hosting and Websites
Chapter 6: Building Trust On The Internet
Chapter 7: Video Power!
Chapter 8: Closing the Deal
Chapter 9: SEO – Understanding the Game
Chapter 10: On-site SEO
Chapter 11: Off-site SEO
Chapter 12: Google My Business FAQ
Chapter 13: Facebook Marketing
Chapter 14: Bringing It All Together