Starting an online business can be a difficult thing to do. You’ve got to learn a ton of things from building a website, blogging, SEO, setting up a blog, traffic generation, email marketing, Twitter, Facebook, commenting, product creation… wow aren’t you scared yet?
What about expenses? Do you need to spend a ton of money on setting up your business?
Yes you can. There are tons and tons of services online that can help you do that and you will sometimes pay a hefty price tag for that. OR..
You can choose to take the poor man’s way of starting your business, well.. at least in the beginning. Whatever your background is, starting a business whether it’s a brick and mortar business or an online business requires some form of investment UPFRONT. Don’t kid yourself on this.
The First thing you need to do is to setup a website. How do you do that?
1. Choose either a Website OR A Blog
2. Get A Domain Name
3. Get Your Domain Hosted
This is going to be quite a detailed post so make yourself a cup of coffee and come right back
CHOOSING A WEBSITE OR A BLOG
One of the biggest headaches when starting a business is to answer this question. Should I start a website or a blog or BOTH? There are lots of articles written over the years about this issue but this is my take on WHY I chose a blog.
1. Easy To Setup!
Seriously all you got to do is to register to WordPress for a blog and the next few things to do is to write a post and hit PUBLISH! Compared to a website, you’ve got so much things to fiddle with, design, content, navigation. Blogs take away all the hassle of design and navigation (mostly) and all you got to do is write a blog post.
2. Your Personal Brand, Your Voice
It is really not fair to write about this in just one paragraph because there are heaps to talk about building your personal brand through blogging. You really need an entire blog post to explain this. Basically, blogging gives you your individual voice. The way you write and convey your messages is a reflection of your individuality. People relate more to a real person and people are far more likely to enjoy reading an article with the subtle nuances of character which you can’t pick up from reading articles from article directories or static websites.
3. Blogs Build Relationships and Encourage Engagement
Compared to static websites, visitors are only able to interact with existing content there. Any content you see on static websites is there and that’s it. You don’t see a website updating on a daily basis don’t you?
Blogs also give you the ability to interact with visitors and readers through commenting, questions and blog posts. Blogs are really about conversation and it is through commenting that you can build a community of followers and establish trust. RSS subscription and email subscription extends the interaction beyond your blog and allows people to keep in touch with updates and blog posts. A lot of blogs are in fact a platform to start your business though some may argue that a blog is in fact their business.
4. Blogs Are More Social Media And Search Engine Friendly
You’ll realize content retweeted and shared on Twitter and Facebook are mainly content from blogs. The reason is simple, blogs are a base for interaction while social media helps distribute this further beyond the blogosphere. Together blogs and social media go hand in hand with building your voice and personal brand.
There are also very few things that make it to the first page of Google.
- Article Directories,
- Blogs and Forums.
- Keyword Related websites
The second and third is true simply because there is constantly updated content. Actively updated content are far more search engine friendly than static websites.
There are many reasons why you should choose a blog but by far those are the most important reasons why you should choose a blog.
You might ask.. Can I have a Website AND a Blog together?
YES. In fact this site I have here has both a main site and a blog. You might choose to do this simply because:
- Your main site is not doing well and having a blog adds all the positive things about having a blog that I mentioned earlier.
- Use blogs to market and static website pages to sell. You can promote and sell on blogs too. But it really depends on what works for you.
- Use blogs as a business platform and websites e.g Membership sites as your core business.
Otherwise having a blog is just fine. I personally prefer WordPress because the majority of bloggers use it and it’s search engine friendly. The other advantage of choosing WordPress is that you can have both a Page and a Blog on one hosted domain. You can choose a Page to add in your services, products and contacts just like how a static website works. I’m actually considering deleting my main site and convert this whole blog into the main site itself but that will not happen so soon.
CHOOSING A DOMAIN NAME
Remember I mentioned that every business requires an investment?
This is the FIRST thing you need to do. It is relatively inexpensive to buy a domain these days and with the availability of domain coupons, you can actually get pretty cheap domains from domain registrars like Godaddy. Namecheap is also another alternative to consider.
Why Choose A Domain Name?
Business and Personal Identity
You must choose a domain name because it reflects your business and your personal identity. Let’s take Nike as an example. We all know that Nike’s website is Nike.com and this tells us straightaway that the website is associated with Nike and everything about them. Similarly, choose an appropriate domain name that reflects your business.
it is very important to keep in mind about professionalism when starting an online business. Personally, I have a much better impression of a website with a business / personal name followed by a .com in a domain. Also, if I see an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, I will have a much better impression that your business is genuine and not a scam.
Search Engine Ranking
There is quite a lot of debate on this topic but I personally feel that I’m more able to relate to a website with a specific keyword if that keyword is in the domain name. It is very important to choose the right keyword for your business in your domain name. Alternatively, choose your own name and build your business around your name. Doing the latter
How To Choose A Domain Name?
A good way to do this is to get a notepad and write down a list of keywords you want to include in your domain name. Make sure it’s related to your business. You can also choose 3 different tools for this.
Use any of these 2 websites to search for relevant domain names and keywords to your business.
Market Samurai gives you the ability to choose relevant keywords for your site name as well as synonyms and also factor in potential SEO traffic and competition for a domain name of your choice. It also tells you if the business you are choosing will face stiff competition or not. This tool is my FAV. Be sure to check these features out!
Brand Your Domain Name
Even if you want to choose a weird word or your name for your domain, you won’t be left behind those who chose to use keywords. Choosing a personal name for your site builds your business around your brand and allows people to relate you to a particular business. In fact, I’m thinking of creating a website around my name in future. There are also sites like Mashable which has no direct meaning to the content on the site. Boingboing is another example. Till today, I have no idea what boingboing is about and why is it so popular.
The problem with choosing an unrelated or unspecific name is that you will need to work harder on building your business or personal brand. If you want to avoid getting into the headache of doing that, then be sure to choose a more specific domain name.
Choose A Short Name / Long Name?
It is getting harder and harder to choose short domain names these days and most will have to settle for longer domain names. Shorter names are definitely more memorable. Longer names may not be easy to remember but could have some SEO value if the right keyword is chosen. Whether you’ve chosen a short or long one, make sure you use the tools I’ve mentioned before choosing a domain name.
.COM, .NET OR .ORG?
There is quite a lot of debate on this, although I’m not sure if there is an SEO basis for this. The overall impression is that if you can secure a website with .COM, people are more likely to believe that your domain is of higher quality. My personal preference would be .COM first and .NET second. The other way to get rid of this dilemma is to purchase all three domain TLD extensions if you have the funds
What about a local TLD domain?
If you are thinking of focusing on a specific location or country for your businessm, then choosing a domain with a country code will definitely get you more traffic from your local country. Sites with country codes in their TLD domains are more likely to be indexed in their local country then other parst of the world.
GET YOUR DOMAIN HOSTED
This is the SECOND investment you HAVE to make. Getting a website hosted on another site like Weebly or on WordPress.com is the biggest mistake to do for your business. Let’s take WordPress as an example.
The BIG Disadvantages of choosing a FREE WordPress Platform.
1. No Control
Can you imagine if WordPress.com gets hacked? Your blog goes offline and your business will be offline as well. What about the Terms of Service (TOS)? If you do anything that is not according to the TOS, you will be in trouble. Getting your own domain makes you the BOSS. You set the rules and you determine the TOS.
Choosing a non self-hosted website or blog gives you limited themes and control over things you can do. Let’s take WordPress.com as an example.
Choosing a non self-hosted blog on WordPress.com:
- NO plugins.
- NO ads or selling ads.
- CANNOT remove discreet WordPress.com Ads. ($29.97 per year to remove it)
- LIMITED FREE WordPress Themes.
- LIMITED Widgets.
- NOT allowed to customize FREE WordPress Themes CSS code ($14.97 to customize CSS per year).
- NOT allowed to upload premium or paid themes.
- LIMITED Upload Space (3.0GB). That might sound a lot but in the long run that will not be enough. ($19.97 to upgrade to an additional 5GB per year and so on…)
- CRAPPY Analytics Report. You need Google Analytics period.
- Cannot backup database or files. If your wordpress.com blog is marked as spam, there goes ALL your hard work.
Here is an infographic to explain the DIFFERENCES between self-hosted WordPress blogs and non self-hosted ones if you prefer not to read.
I hope you are still with me.
Do you need help with Starting A Wordpress Site?
Then...use Thesis just like the pros around. Even if you are not a pro, Thesis has a great supporting community and forum to help you with questions on how to use Thesis. Finally, if you need access to resources that I use for my business online, check out my resources page. You will find goodies and gems that might help you as well.