The ever-growing offer of affordable web hosting, cheap domain names, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage have made owning a website easier and more affordable than ever before. On top of that, thanks to numerous content management systems, plugins, and website templates; users don’t need to learn coding to be able to set up a fully professional online store or blog.
But the fact that you can start a site in five minutes from now doesn’t mean you should – at least not until you go over our this article.
The first question which you should answer is what kind of site you want to create and why. The reason why having a solid plan for your site right from the start is so important is that it's easy to get lost in the crowd. In the end, there are hundreds of new websites created every day.
That’s why you should always look for a way to stand out. For example, let's say that you want to create a professional blog to help you boost your career. In this case, it's essential that you don’t just rehash things you've found online. Always focus on what you are good at and add a unique twist that aligns with your skills and interests.
By highlighting your strengths and showing your expertise, you can not only build a positive image and authority but also reach new potential employers. On top of that, if you're knowledgeable and passionate about the topic of your site or store, your web property will become more than just another blog on topic X or a niche eCommerce store. People will perceive you or your brand as an expert in the field and trust you a lot more, choosing you over your competitors.
It not only helps you distinguish your website from the crowd but also leaves you the room for growth. Remember that even Amazon was once just an online store selling books. To get where they are now, they’ve distinguished themselves from competitors by offering excellent customer service and always putting the quality of their service first.
The second point is your readers and potential customers. Who are they? Remember that your target audience is never everyone. Even if you believe that your blog or store is targeting a very narrow audience, it's almost always possible to make it even narrower and find that one perfect customer. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should target a very small group of customers in the long run.
But if you start with that small section of your audience and understand their needs perfectly, it will be easier for you to grow your store down the road. Over time, as you get traction, you will be able to start adjusting your message to fit a slightly broader audience. What are the questions which you can ask to find them?
Are they going to look for a product to buy? Or do you think they might be interested in learning some new cool stuff about the topic that you happen to specialize in? Knowing that will help you understand their intentions and also prepare your visitors for spending their money – see #5.
What problems do you think they're trying to solve?
Now that you know what they might be looking for, it’s time to look at why they could be doing it. Knowing this can also help you change the perspective – from looking at how your visitors can help you (hire you, buy your product, subscribe to your email list) to how you can help them. This change in thinking is what distinguishes successful websites from the struggling ones.
Who are they?
This question focuses on their demographics. By knowing their age group, gender, location, income, education level, and occupation, you can adjust the language, as well as marketing materials that you use on your website. If you think that it’s too early to think about any advertising materials in the first place, remember that even your logo and the graphics that you add to your blog posts should reflect your target audience.
Of course, there is a lot more to defining your target market. Nevertheless, the above three questions should give you enough information to get started without worrying about going in the wrong direction.
Whoever told you that you could run a business for $0.99/month was wrong. Of course, there are amazing deals on hosting, especially during an event such as Black Friday. But that still doesn't mean you should get just about any hosting. Instead of going for a cheap shared package, you should consider getting a VPS (virtual private server). Why?
While there are many benefits to using a VPS, starting with one will teach you a lot about managing your web property, taking care about its safety and can also teach you skills which can be useful should you want to scale your business. And, speaking of scalability, upgrading your VPS server is usually a matter of just a few clicks. No migration is necessary.
Of course, you might be planning to create just a personal site to impress your potential employers. And I fully understand that. But I still believe that it’s better to provide them with smooth user experience – something that shared hosting cannot always guarantee.
And what about adding the actual content to the site? Luckily, this one is much simpler. All you need is a good content management system which you can use to add new posts and pages to your site, edit graphics, as well as many other important settings – no coding skills necessary. Which one to choose? The only one I can recommend is WordPress – when it comes to content management systems, it has no competitors (and it’s free!).
Knowing why you want to create the site and having all the technical stuff planned is essential. But, no matter what kind of site you create, you need to keep in mind that, in the end, you’re always building a new brand. Whether it's a personal blog or an international online store, a good brand name can make or break your site. That's why getting a catchy and memorable domain name is so important.
How to get one? Before you start any brainstorming, keep in mind the three following rules:
More often than not your first few ideas will be taken. But don't get discouraged. To speed up the process, use a domain search tool that can not only process your queries but also provide you with a few ideas of available names and TLDs on its own. If you already have some ideas in mind and would like to check their availability or see some suggestions, you can start here by searching for the ideal domain name.
Once you have everything in place, from the idea, all the way to a fancy domain name, it's time to think about one last, probably the most crucial element – monetization. Remember that your venture won’t make sense if isn't be profitable. Whether it is selling a product, offering a service or even getting you a new, better-paying job, you should always be marketing.
Of course, if you are starting an online store, you will have a bunch of products for sale right from the start. But, if you are starting a blog, sooner or later, you will want to profit more than just a few cents from ad clicks here and there. If that’s the case, you might want to consider offering consulting services or selling online courses.
Keep in mind that if you don't do that – someone else will, so why not take the advantage and add in some extra bucks? Who knows, maybe soon you'll be able to work on your website full-time?