Planning Your Website
Before you get into registering, creating and promoting your website, it's best to have a plan in place for your site. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time down the road.
Selecting a Topic
First of all, select a topic for your website. Make sure the topic you select for your site is a topic you would enjoy talking and writing about. The topic can be anything from the job you do for a living, to a hobby you enjoy on the weekends. I have selected to write about everything you'd need to know to develop and promote a website, because that's what I love to do. I do this in my job and on my own time.
Website Design and Layout
Make sure to consider the look of your website in the planning process. A professionally designed website will send the message that you're serious about what you do. Each person has their own opinion about a good looking site. I've always tried to blend simplicity with functionality without distracting the website visitor from the purpose of the website.
The website design and layout are certainly part of usability, but there's more to it than that. Navigation is very important in web design. A visitor to your site must be able to find what they're looking for, or else they'll leave frustrated.
A domain name is the name of a website address, such as webmastersessions.com. This is how people will know you on the Internet.
How a Domain Name Works
Each web server on the Internet is assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address. An IP address is like a postal address in that it uniquely identifies the computer you're trying to connect to. The domain name was created to connect to a web server without having to memorize an IP address.
Domain Name Tips
When selecting a domain name for your website, try to find a domain name that is as similar as possible to the topic of your website. This will not only help search engines figure out what your site is about, but it will make it easier for a visitor to remember your website. Shorter domain names are easier for visitors to remember, but make sure the name is meaningful to the topic of your website.
When selecting a domain name, there are many top-level domain choices available. A top-level domain is the last section of a domain name, such as ".com", ".net", or ".org". The ".com" top-level extension is the most popular and widely recognized. Whenever I choose a domain name for a website of mine, I try to find an available ".com" extension.
Where to get a Domain Name
There are many domain name registration companies on the Internet. Purchasing a domain name will range in price from as low as $8.00 to as high as $30.00. Each registrar offers a different level of control over your domain name.
First off, what is web hosting and how does it work?
Web hosting is the business practice of providing space and bandwidth on a high-powered computer server that is connected to the Internet at very high speeds. Hosting companies maintain large networks of high-powered web server computers in a physical location known as a data center. These computer servers are connected to a very fast, and generally redundant, Internet connection. The data centers have primary and backup power, a fast connection to the Internet, and a security monitoring staff.
The web hosting companies provide a share of disk space and available bandwidth to a customer for a monthly fee. Once the customer is signed up, they can upload files to their personal space on the web server and the information is then viewable to anyone interested on the Internet. The monthly fee the web hosting company charges is much less than what it would cost to run a server out of your own home or data center. This is the reason these companies exist. They take care of all the hardware, software, and other technical needs for you.
Types of web hosting
There are many different types of web hosting offers, but the main three are shared, reseller, and dedicated. Each type of hosting is for a different purpose.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared web hosting is the most popular form of hosting. Shared hosting is a portion of disk space and bandwidth provided to you by the web hosting company on a high-powered server. There are many other web sites hosted on this server, and the hosting company is likely to have quite a few of these servers in a large data center. The resources of the server are shared by as many other websites as are allocated to that computer.
Shared web hosting is the best form of web hosting if you are looking for a great price and don’t have more than a couple thousand daily visitors to your site.
Reseller Web Hosting
Reseller web hosting is a popular, low-cost solution to starting your own web hosting business. There are two types of reseller hosting, private-label and a reseller of services.
The private-label is the best type of reseller plan because it allows you to retain full control over your customer’s websites. A private-label plan allows the reseller to keep the full monthly payment of the web-hosting customer, but the reseller must pay a monthly fee to the larger hosting company for the reseller space. The more hosting accounts a private-label reseller can sell, the higher the profit for them. Private-label hosting allows you to host many more websites than if you were using shared hosting for each. This is a great solution for someone who has many sites they need to host in one location to save money.
The reseller of services plans resell the regular web hosting plans of a larger web hosting company, but you get a discounted price for providing the customer and earn a monthly fee for as long as they remain a customer. This plan does not allow control over customer web sites and you only keep a portion of the potentially monthly revenue.
Dedicated Web Hosting
Dedicated web hosting is the most powerful and cost effective solution of hosting a busy web site without resorting to buying your own equipment and paying hundreds of dollars per month for a fast Internet connection. Dedicated hosting consists of single server with no one else hosting on that computer. This allows for the greatest of configuration options. Anyone who has a busy website will find dedicated hosting is the necessary choice.
Web Hosting Considerations
Wondering about all the other information listed in web hosting plans? In this section, I will explain the most important considerations in choosing a good web host.
The price of web hosting services is one of the most important. There are many hosting companies out there with cheap hosting packages, but they may be lacking in other areas. Don’t let the price of a hosting package fool you. There are some hosting companies out there who have great prices and the other features are just as good. Price may be one of the most important decisions of a web hosting plan, but there is much more to consider in choosing a quality web host.
Disk Space / Storage Space
Disk space is the amount of physical storage space a web host gives to you to store your web files. Hosting companies these days have plans with disk space being measured mostly in terms of gigabytes, but some are still offering plans in the megabytes for storage space. Depending on your needs for file storage space, you may need more or less. Generally the more disk space offered, the better.
Bandwidth / Data Transfer
The amount of bandwidth available can make a big difference in choosing a quality hosting plan. In general, the more bandwidth a hosting company makes available to you, the better. This means you can support more traffic to your web site as your business grows. Be wary of web hosting companies that offer unlimited or unmetered bandwidth. While many of these are legitimate offers, there are some out there who are overselling their bandwidth in hopes the average user won’t use much.
In any business, it is very important to provide exception customer service. Web hosting is no exception to this. Many of the hosting companies are available all day and night in case you have a problem with your web site, but there are some who are just available specific hours of the day. If your web site goes down in the middle of the night when they’re not available, this means lost revenue for a business. You should make sure the web host you select is always available for support.
Money Back Guarantee
Most web hosting companies will provide a thirty-day money back guarantee. Some will provide one even long, but be wary of the ones who offer no money back guarantee. I would not purchase web hosting services from a company who does not offer at least a 30 day money back guarantee, unless they have proven themselves to be a leader in the industry and have an excellent reputation.
An operating system is a piece of software that controls the interaction between the computer user and the physical hardware of the machine. A vast majority of all web sites on the Internet run on the Linux operation system. Linux is generally much more stable than Windows. Stability is critical in running a web site. For this reason, I prefer to host my web sites on the Linux operating system. Some sites have specific requirements that only the Windows operating system can satisfy, but there are always alternatives to those requirements.
A good web hosting company will have a regular schedule to backup the data on all the web servers. The more often the data is backed up, the better. At the very least, a web hosting company should backup web site files daily.
The control panel is the point of contact the web site administrator will have between the host server and their own machine connected via the Internet. It is essential to have a well organized and easy to use control panel interface. My favorite control panel is cPanel, which is one of the leading web hosting control panels out there today. Plesk is another good one, and many companies will create their own control panel for you to use. Most web hosting companies will provide a link to a demo of the control panel they use with their hosting plans. The control panel used is a matter of preference, but it should be user friendly.
Email is essential part of communication on the Internet. Most web hosting companies out there will give you more email addresses and more space to hold email messages than you will ever need. What you need to watch out for is the companies that have decided to be a little strict on their email accounts and only offer a small number or a small amount of message space.
Uptime is a term used to describe how often the average web site hosted by a company is available online. No company should be expected to provide an exact 100% uptime. This is impossible due to things such as hardware, software, and power failures. A vast majority of the companies are very good with uptime, and they guarantee it. It is still a good idea to be conscious of the uptime posted by the company. If it is not at least 99.5%, it is probably not worth hosting with that company.
As a webmaster, it is nice to know how many visitors you’ve had, where they came from, how long they stay on your site, and how much bandwidth they’ve used. This information is collected by the web server and is placed in a log file. A statistics software package can read this data and provide meaningful information to the webmaster. The information gathered from these logs can be very valuable in improved services to the viewers of the web site.
FTP stands for file transfer protocol. It is a way of quickly uploading or downloading many files to and from a web server. Most web hosting companies will allow their customers access to their web hosting accounts via FTP. FTP is very useful and is a great feature to have when paying for a web hosting account.
A database is a place to store data that can be used in a large variety of ways. Databases are used on the Internet for applications such as shopping carts, message boards, and product catalogues. The more databases the web hosting provider allows you to create, the most applications you can deploy on your web server. Databases are used by the more advanced web master, but information is freely available online should you be interested.
Developing a website can be overwhelming because of the amount of code and markup involved in an interactive website. Luckily, there are a large number of tutorials on the web to learn about coding a website. There are also many tools available where no coding knowledge is necessary.
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML defines sections of a page and how to display the content. To develop a simple website, HTML is all you need to know, but the complex websites of today require tools to help you complete the project in a reasonable timeframe.
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is used to present a website in a more readable format. It is used to define fonts, colors, backgrounds, and much more. Using HTML and CSS together, you can create a professional looking website layout.
To create the dynamic websites of today, you need to use a server side scripting language, such as php, asp, Java, or ColdFusion. Each scripting language has its strengths and weaknesses. I prefer php, since it is can be blended well with HTML and is learned quite easily.
Once your website is designed and has some content, it's time to let everyone know about your website and how to find it. This is the most challenging tasks of running a website on the Internet, but thankfully there is a ton of information available to help you. In this post, I will explain the basic behind promoting your website, and then provide some links to external resources to help you learn more.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the best way of promoting your website, especially since the traffic doesn't cost you anything. SEO includes on-page and off-page optimization tactics. Some examples of on-page optimization are a descriptive page title, meta descriptions, clean html code, and keyword rich copy. Off-page optimization tactics include article submission, directory submission, link building, and press releases.
Paid Search Advertising
Paid search is the easiest way to quickly generate a good amount of traffic to your website. If done properly, this can be a very effective technique. You can see paid search ads most often in the right column of a search results page. The objective of a paid search campaign is to drive the most traffic to your website, for the lowest cost and best possible traffic quality. By traffic quality I'm talking about visitors who will be interested in your site topic and what you have to offer.
Affiliate Marketing is the practice of sending traffic to a website in return for compensation, most often in the form of cost per action. Cost per action occurs when the visitor takes a certain action, such as purchasing an item, filling out a form, or joining a website. Affiliate marketing has become very popular in recent years and there are a large number of affiliate networks bringing advertisers and publishers together for mutual benefit.
Social Networking is a new form of networking and marketing that has emerged in recent years. Some social networking websites include Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and Plaxo. Through these social networks, you can network with people around the globe, share your interests with them, and even promote your website. Many of these social network websites are considered part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon.
Maintenance and Upgrades
Maintenance and upgrades are an important part of the life of a website. Once the initial site is launched, it's time to start working on upgrades on a consistent basis. Maintenance occurs when a piece of the website needs to be fixed.
Some of the maintenance tasks involved in running a website include fixing spelling and grammatical errors in text, patching security holes in applications, and keeping website code up to date.
Upgrades to an application or website are necessary to keep the design up to date and to keep visitors returning to the website. Say a website launched today. It may be quite popular for a while, but without upgrades and enhancements, it will fade into history. Part of keeping the website up to date is including regular content updates. You need to give your visitors a reason to return to your website.