As the official “IT guy” amongst my friends & family, these are the exact steps I would take to build your website, setup your email, and get your business registered. Your very own business in a box.
Open for business by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash.
What’s in the box?
- The perfect (domain) name. What must people type into their computer to reach your website? Hint: make it easy to read and easy to spell. Something like newidea.io ✅ and not therapistsguidetohappiness.com ❌
- A simple website. Something short and sweet and to the point. You won’t be winning any awards for web-design, but visitors will know exactly what you do. That’s what matters.
- A professional email address. Something like firstname.lastname@example.org ✅ and not email@example.com ❌
- Being discoverable by Google. Don’t forget to tell Google that you exist, otherwise people searching your name won’t ever find you.
- (Optional extra) A locally registered business. Avoid personal liability by doing business through a legally registered entity.
🎁 If you’re looking for the 5 second guide, then scroll down to the bottom of this article for an executive summary 🎁
When it comes to building your website, there are 4 things to consider:
- Domain name. The name of your website (eg: newidea.io).
- Web hosting. The physical place where your (website) files live.
- Email hosting. The physical place where your (email) files live.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Telling Google about your website and where it is on the Internet.
1. Buying a domain name
There are two ways you’re going to tell people about your website a) using your mouth or b) sending them a direct link. To avoid sounding out the entire alphabet over the phone, pick a domain name that is easy to say, easy to read, and easy to spell.
If you’re a local business, it’s best to buy a local domain name. Each country has their own domain extension like South Africa has .za, Philippines has .ph, and Sweden has .se. However, you’re not limited to only the domain extensions of your own country, so feel free to buy any.
When choosing which domain name registrar to buy your domain name from, consider these 3 things:
- Price. Domain names all do the same thing, so the cheaper the better.
- Security. Are you comfortable putting your credit card details into their website?
- Variety. Do they have a wide variety of domain names to choose from? You really don’t want to shuffle between 20 different registrars to manage all your domain settings. Keep it as simple as possible.
I personally use Namecheap for most of my international domains, and Hostking for my local South African domains.
Sub-conclusion: Buy a domain name from Namecheap or Hostking.
2. Buying web hosting
Finding a web hosting company that doesn’t screw you over with hidden limitations has been tough. A common trick you’ll see is web hosting companies advertising a heavily reduced monthly fee for the first year, but hiding the normal price which is 400% higher. The classic “foot-in-the-door”. No one wants to move their website after a year, so you might as well find a reasonable standard price you’re happy to pay from the beginning.
Beware of the do-it-yourself website builders like Wix, SquareSpace, and Weebly. If it’s free now, you’re definitely going to pay for it later. Sound advice:
- Upgrades. Are you happy with paying the cost of upgrading to the premium package when you eventually need those extra features? The price jump is often way too high to even consider.
- Portability. Can you ever move your website to some other web hosting provider? For example, Wix is a custom website builder, no-one besides Wix can host a Wix website. Avoid being locked-in.
By far, the most popular web hosting setup is a combination of cPanel + Wordpress. cPanel helps you manage the physical files and advanced settings (DNS, SSL, etc) in a point-and-click fashion, while Wordpress helps you design and administer your website content (pages, blog posts, images, etc). Because Wordpress is so popular, you can easily move your website between web hosting providers. So no web hosting lock-in. Wordpress itself (with all its basic features) is free, but you can also purchase more advanced features & themes from its active plugin marketplace.
Again, I personally use Namecheap for hosting my international websites, and Hostking for my local South African websites.
Sub-conclusion: Buy a shared hosting plan from Namecheap or Hostking, use cPanel to install Wordpress, then use Wordpress to design your website.
3. Buying email hosting
This is the number one “gotcha!” when it comes to building your own website. After you’ve got your fancy new website at your fancy new domain name, you also want to receive emails on that same domain name. The only problem is that the do-it-yourself website builder (Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, etc) you’ve decided to use doesn’t provide email accounts. Gotcha!
A very good, but pricey option is to use Gmail for work (GSuite), which is a paid for Gmail account that allows you to send & receive emails from your custom domain name. If you’re more than one person in your business and want extra features like a shared Google drive for sharing company documents, then I highly recommend this option.
However, if you’re a one-person show or looking for a free option, then choosing the cPanel + Wordpress web hosting option (we spoke about earlier) almost always includes a few free email accounts. These email accounts can be managed via your cPanel. Bonus: for those of you who use a free Gmail account for your personal email, you can easily link it up to your custom email address (the one you created via cPanel). This allows you to send and receive emails from your custom email address right from your personal Gmail account for free. Link.
Sub-conclusion: Use cPanel to create an email account and then link up the newly created email account to your free Gmail account. Link.
4. Basic SEO
Once your website is looking good, it’s time to tell Google that your website exists. Google calls this “indexing”, which just means adding your website to their library of possible search results. This process is free and is just admin work. Simply sign-up here with your Google account, verify that you own your domain name, and submit the URL (to your website) for indexing.
Sub-conclusion: Submit your website to Google for indexing. Link.
(Optional extra) Register a local business
If your website is meant to represent your business, then having a legally registered business to represent is a good idea. Here in South Africa (and probably in other parts of the world), registering a business with the local government isn’t exactly a 3-step process. There are many decisions to make and a mountain of paperwork to sign. However, just like there’s software to help you build websites, there’s software to help you register businesses.
In South Africa, there’s a great service called Govchain which automates the entire business registration process, essentially creating that desired 3-step process. South Africans only.
In the United States, there’s a service called Stripe Atlas which take things one step further by allowing anyone in the world to register a legal US business, all with just a few clicks. Registering a business is really not that difficult anymore.
Sub-conclusion: Register a business with Govchain or Stripe Atlas.
My final to-do list
- Buy a domain name from Namecheap or Hostking.
- Buy a shared hosting plan from Namecheap or Hostking.
- Use cPanel to install Wordpress.
- Use Wordpress to design your website.
- Use cPanel to create an email account.
- Link up the newly created email account to your free Gmail account. Link.
- Submit your website to Google for indexing. Link.
- (Optional extra) Register a business with Govchain or Stripe Atlas.
If you didn’t have the time to read this article, then you surely don’t have the time to build & manage your website. You’re effective at running your business and I’m effective at maintaining all this techy stuff. Let me be your private Internet nerd and get you from zero to online for R290 / $20 per month. Email me for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org