Web Presence 101

I originally created this page because my sister asked me about creating a website, and it occurred to me that is considerably easier than many people realize, and is getting simpler every day.  Things have changed for the better since I published this post originally in 2010, so today it gets a refresh.  Let’s get started.

Today’s guide will get you up and running with a web presence so that all you have to do is remember to add content.  I hope you find this guide helpful. Please let me know by posting a comment at the end of the post.

  1. Name your brand.  It can be your personal name, your company, an idea… really anything goes.  The most important thing to do here is to choose something that doesn’t already exist.
  2. Register your fabulous name on the Internet.  I like to go to Google Domains and check for availability.  Your domain name will be as unique as you are – that is to say there can only be one.  A small annual fee is required to register your fabulous name on the Internet, and in my opinion Google is a great choice.  They offer a fair price and most importantly make the process very simple to do.
  3. Now that you have your name registered, you need a home for your website.  I recommend Gear Host.  Gear Host allows you to purchase a space for your website and start small — small as in free.  Their most basic package costs nothing and is a great way to get started on the web for the least investment.  If you need faster service or if you become popular, or just want to plan for the future, you’ll need to pay a small monthly fee to keep your site up and running.  That fee starts around $5 per month.
  4. Install WordPress on your website.  This is done with a click of a button once you’re set up on the hosting site (see step 3).

At this point you have a website, registered under your own name, living on the Internet, just waiting for you to add content.  The next steps guide you on how to create a great site that will deliver real value to your visitors and keep them coming back for more.

  1. Create PAGES for things like contact information and text telling people how awesome you are or why you’re better than the next place that does the same thing you do .
  2. List a physical address and phone number on your site.  Use Google Voice to set up a phone number other than your personal phone number.  If you’re already well established or don’t need to bootstrap your online presence for free, there are other services such as Ring Central, Grasshopper, and ShoreTel that can allow you to have a sophisticated virtual phone system without the hassle of all the equipment.  All these services allow you to specify the hours you wish to receive calls and how you wish to deal with incoming callers.
  3. Get a Facebook fan page.
  4. Get a Twitter account.
  5. Sign up for any other social networks that are relevant to your audience – AND PARTICIPATE IN THEM.
  6. Use pictures on your site.  This post is an example of why.  If you have read this far I guarantee you’re bored and and have considered jumping ship at least once.  Pictures help keep visitors engaged.
  7. Update your site frequently.  At least twice a week.  Even if you have nothing to say, let people know you will be posting something new in the next few days.
  8. Sign up for Google Analytics to help you track your visitors.
  9. Get a good commercial analytics application (I like analytics app for iPhone) for your smartphone to help you keep tabs on who is visiting your site and what they like to see. Don’t stop there; use that information to keep your site relevant to your visitors.
  10. Set yourself reminders to periodically update your site and post updates to the social networks.  I recommend every day or two at a minimum to keep people interested.  Bear in mind that people will primarily be following you on their social networks, not browsing to your website, so your posts will have to be seen among pictures of your vistors’ nephews and nieces, the latest deal on pizza delivery, and the latest whimsy from their crazy cousin with the twisted view on politics.
  11. Set up reminders to review your analytics information.  This can take some time so block off a few hours every month or two, or more or less frequently depending on how active your site is or how frequently your customers habits seem to change.  If you’ve never done it before, I recommend blocking off 2 hours once every two weeks to go through every option on your analytics provider, and take notes on what has changed since the last checkin.  TIP:  print the reports out the first time or two to make it easier.
  12. Post customer reviews and testimonials on your site.  WordPress gives you the ability to post static pages for just this sort of thing.
  13. Register your site with the search engines and get your friends and family to post links anywhere that is crawled by the search engines.  If they participate in a forum, having your URL dropped in a post helps your page rankings.  Add a link to your site or Twitter or Facebook page to the bottom of your emails and forum posts.  Every little bit helps.

Optional Steps

  1. Live chat is a nice bonus and can be done easily using a Google Hangouts badge, which costs nothing, and can be set up to allow you to chat with customers live from your smartphone.
  2. Get a PayPal account and a merchant account if you intend to accept credit cards.
  3. Optional: Get a professionally-developed theme for WordPress.  If you’re a coder or hardcore DIY person you may want to do this yourself. There is no denying that getting a professionally-developed theme will help your credibility online.  Don’t have a lot of cash?  Don’t worry.  This step is optional and can be done later at any time.
  4. If you’re selling products, set up a shop on a big site like ebay or Etsy.

I’ll try to post some screenshots soon to help give this guide better clarity.  I had to get the post out to make sure I didn’t let the idea die with the day.

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