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I’m often asked the question “What software do you use for your website?” This article is meant to answer that question.

In 1998, a website of 5 pages, with very few graphics cost $5K.  That was the year I started my business.  Like many new business owners, I had much experience and knowledge about the type of business I choose.  I had plenty of time on my hands and didn’t have the 5K needed for a website.

Unlike most business owners at that time, my business was going to have a virtual office.  That meant in order to be found online, my ideal clients had to be computer literate and I needed a website so they could easily find me.

So, I attended Wake University’s 18-week HTML Class and learned how to hand code a website using NO software.  Now don’t laugh, here’s that first website, minus a few graphics, as you can see.  The site was very much a 1998 website.

Between designing websites and using a computer since the early 1970’s, once I started my consultative-coaching business, I was offered the opportunity to teach computer and internet classes at a variety of local schools.

Fast forward 20 years, I have 6 websites using WordPress and help my clients get their sites up and ready for professionals to design.  I’ve been known to go into their sites to “fix” something that was annoying them because it didn’t line up correctly, wasn’t the right size, or to teach them about plugins and bring extra features into their sites.

 

Your Website 2020

Website design prices vary from $750 to $10,000 depending on your needs.   If you do it yourself, you’ll need time, knowledge, and patience.  Even a one-page website takes a while to design, write, and create.  Plug and play?  There is a learning curve to that concept, too.

If your clients are doctors, they’d expect to see a certain kind of website from an advisor they are considering hiring.  If your clients are single mom’s, you need a website geared to them.

But what if you don’t have thousands to have all the components of a website built for you?  What could you do?  Below are some options I recommend to get you started.

 

What’s On This Page

If it has to do with ecommerce, web marketing, or blogs, chances are you will resources on this page.  From creating a website, to your newsletter, to blogs, to plugins.  I’ve tried to include everything I could think about.

However, if you’d like a trusted resource that I missed, please submit a request in the comments area of this post.  I’ll see your message and send you an answer.

Here is my advice:

  1. Always buy your domain name (name of your website) yourself and make sure that all the admin, technical, and billing codes are in YOUR companies name. Why?  Web designers have been known to hold domain names hostage and you don’t want to take a chance to lose your URL.   In fact, buy your name.com and a name for your business website.  For a total of $20 owning both will be useful. (My resources below)
  2. Purchase your domain from a different place than you host your website. If something goes wrong with the hosting (as in you’re reported as a spammer, when you’re not spamming and your site gets shut down) you’ll still own and have your domain name.
  3. Today, most hosting companies back up your website, BUT ALWAYS CHECK!  Some hosting plans come with monthly back up, others come with daily back ups.  It’s also good to back up your own site to a hard drive.   I also use the plugin UpDraftPro that backs up my WordPress site every time I update my theme or plugin.  This way if an upgrade breaks my site (doesn’t work right)  I haven’t lost a thing. (Cost ranges from free to $195)
  4.  Create a blog. If I had to do my website again, on it, I would put a 2nd copy of WP into a directory on my site, just for my blog.  I haven’t found many themes, even themes I’ve purchased have good design for pages on a site and blog  areas. Also, blogs are more prone to be hacked.
  5. Write articles about your ideal client’s (and your) interests.  WordPress provide you with a MS Word type experience.  This makes posting your articles much easier for your team members.  If you have a WordPress website, a basic blog will take less than 10 minutes to set up.
  6. Web Pages That Suck is an excellent website to visit to learn what not to do. Visit Web Pages That Suck. However, also keep a list of websites you like, and what you like about them, too. Knowing both what you like and don’t like will help you or your web designer create a better website for your business.

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How Important is Your Website?

Backup your files! I can’t give you an exact idea of how often you should back up your website.  That depends on how often you add information to it.  Besides having website problems, there are hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and floods.  And as we’ve seen over the past 15 years, we never know what could happen to us or the servers our websites are on.

  • Buy an external hard drive. Backup your files. Here are instructions from Microsoft
  • Microsoft has One Drive that is included in Office 365.  Google has Google Drive. Back it up!
  • There is also Dropbox, which has a free and paid version.  Box, Mozy and Carbonite are other options to review with your IT person.

Tutorials

There are millions of tutorials on the web about creating your first website.  I recommend you read this book from your library or favorite online retailer.  Don’t Make Me Think! Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition)   Besides giving you great advice, it will keep you grounded as you create or update your site.

Follow the guidelines in one of my most popular articles.  “31 Ways to Make a Website Trustable”.   Because even websites created by you, need to follow some rules!

 

Creating Your First Website

  • Help! I want to create my first website, by Maria Marsala A Resource Guide with Checklist. The program will be available again in 2021.  However, if you’re looking to hire a speaker or interview me on this topic, contact me.
  • Today, hosting services offer easy ways to set up WordPress on your site. Others come with built in site builder, and content management system. This makes building your first website easier.
  • Create a list of sites you like, and ones you don’t like, with reasons “why” to send your web designer.
  • Purchase a theme for your first site.  It’s amazing how different the internet will look once you have a site up and running. Chances are that you’ll want to create something better in a year.
  • Consider hiring a Fivver to set up your site, theme, and maybe 5 pages to get you started. It could cost you under $400 for WP to be set up, a theme, and 5 pages designed (not text, just the look).
  • Whenever possible buy a name for your website that is NOT your name for your business.  Buy .com whenever possible.  Don’t use hypens or words like 2 (two, too, to) .

 

Web Designers – On the Cheap

On the cheap, which often may not be the best choice, but since many ask, here are the resources.

  • Fiverr comes in two flavors. Cheap or professional. I would rather a new business owners find a cheap but good person to set up and design your site, then for you to create the site yourself!
  • Guru.com
  • Upwork

Designers – Professional

These professional firms offer websites that are CoachMaria approved.

 

Domain Names

Your domain name is the name of your website.  You’ll also hear it called the URL.   So, right now you’re on my domain “ElevatingYourBusiness.com”.  When they were first available they cost $70 a year!

I purchase domain names from  Dynadot   for around $10 each.  No need to spend more at this time.

If you’re paying much more consider transferring your domain name to the service.  You can transfer a domain name any time, although there are some guidelines that you’ll find on the transfer website.   What the new company does, when they charge you a yearly fee for the transfer, is to extend your license another year.  Some domain name companies, and hosting companies, will also charge you a transfer fee.

 

Hosting

Only use a hosting company “hosts” your website for others to view.  They also offer you email addresses and much more of course.  Purchase hosting from a company who offers you an easy way to secure your website.  It’s called “SSL” and it puts a “s” at the end of the http in a URL.  Some companies will offer the service free, others charge $50-$75 for a certificate to make your site secure.

Choose a hosting firm that can grow WITH you.  What I mean by that is that you can buy a basic package now, but as your website grows, you can upgrade to another package without leaving the hosting company you originally choose.

SiteGroundTheir Startup program  is best for small business owners.   They offer a website builder and an easy way to put a basic WordPress website and blog on the site.  Add as many email addresses as you’d like through the control panel.  Once you put WP on your site, it’s up to you to find and buy a theme*.

To save the most money possible, using SiteGround, or other hosting services, consider purchasing as many years of hosting at a discount as possible.  When your contract runs out, the price maybe 3x higher than you originally paid.

If you already have a website that is hosted on another hosting platform, SiteGround will move the site over to their service for you.  But it’s up to you to make sure everything works right!  SiteGround also will put an SSL Certificate on your site, with no extra cost.

 

Graphic Designer ∧ Branding

Specialists who do branding work can create your logo, but also your other marketing materials for print or the web. Here are two whose work I’ve reviewed and recommend.

I really don’t have a specialist I can send you to.

I only recommend Fiveer if you’re brand new and don’t have funds for much. My tip here is to send them your ideal client profile, value proposition, and other branding information including your colors.   Fnd 3-4 few designers you like, hire them to do a draft of your logo for $5 or $10.  Get the results and then choose a designer whose work you really like (at their higher end price) to finalize the work.  You can also use Fiverrs pro service.

Other logo services my clients have used are:  99 Designs.

But please, don’t create your own logo!

 

Page Names

For a start-up website, 5 pages belong on your site.   You can have others, but don’t leave these 5 out:  Home, Services, About, Who We Serve, and Contact page.  I would also add a link to wherever the New Account documents can be found and to any portfolio management systems that clients can view directly from your site.

 

Themes

A theme is the overall look, color, and feel of your website.

If you create a website yourself using a platform such as WordPress, Joomla, etc. you’ll need a theme.  Let’s say you decide to use WordPress. Once its installed, on the left hand side of the dashboard, you’ll see an option for “themes”.  These are free themes you can choose from.  However, my experience with clients is to send them to view the free themes, and lots of websites, to get a better idea of the look they want for their own site.

  • DIVI by  Elegant Themes.  I like how easy to move things around on a page, or change them.
  • Architect by Thrive Themes.  Basic visual theme builder and marketing plugins.  I especially like the Leads plug-in to help clients build their email list.
  • Astra Theme There is a free version, but if you need more I recommend the pro version.
  • I purchased Optimize Press for my sales and marketing pages (only).   It’s on the lower end pricing of such pages.  For advisors creating webinars or podcasts it’s a good way to set up promotional pages for those events or your newsletter.

 

If you hire a company to design your site, chances are they’ll:

  • give you options for themes to choose from or
  • take a theme and customize it for you or
  • create a customized theme from scratch

They’ll set up the theme for you. And do work based on what you’re paying them.  The company I recommend, whose niche is financial professionals, is https://twentyoverten.com/

 

Web Copy/Content Writers

Remember…. cheap is not always the wisest way to go. Look for quality when choosing a contractor.

*There are also many web designers on Fiveer and Upfront who can fix what you created using your time and theme.  Test them out on a small project before paying them for a larger project.

 

Online Newsletters

When newsletters for business started, there were 2 options, both were free and included an ad at the end.

Today, the options of programs/apps are limitless.  As are the prices and features.

The cost to set up an email system with a template runs from $200-$1000.  The cost for a marketer to create a newsletter article could run you between $300 and $1000 a month. If you’re a financial advisor your B/D or custodian may have an article systems and/or newsletter process in place. ready for you to use.

 

ESPs (Ezine or Enewsletter Service Providers)

As I mentioned, you want to have a way to capture the email addresses of strangers who are interested in your services, but not ready to buy — yet.  Below are my recommended resources for programs or software to do that.

Mailchimp is free or $10 and it’s a program that can grow with your firm.  It includes templates for you to update and “make your own”.

Constant Contact is a fee based program used by many business owners.  Chrissy, who does my marketing is a Constant Contact expert. Rates start at $20 a month. It offers a h ost of features.

Campaign Monitor is another service I like.  The cost is $9 for under 2500 emails a month. Also with many features to help you create and monitor your newsletter.

I use Sendy and Amazon SES.  Sendy program cost $59.  I believe they will set it up for you for $60 or you can hire an experienced Fiveer to set it up for you.   It has no template samples.  Instead, you must create a template or have a template created for you and upload it to their system.  Or you can send out plain text emails (no images, just text).   The cost per month is charged by Amazon SES and runs under $2.50 for up to 10,000 emails.  Includes multi-newsletters, auto responders, and much more. If you’d like a demo, I’d be happy to show you my set-up.  Schedule an appointment here.

 

Stop losing visitors and start converting them!

Most websites and blogs lose 98% of their traffic without converting visitors to subscribers.   Your website is a waste of your money if it doesn’t have the ability to turning a stranger into a prospect.   Make sure your phone number and full contact information is on your “Contact Us” page.  But also have a freebie and newsletter to offer those strangers who aren’t yet ready to buy your services.  A free report and newsletter you send email at least once a month are wonderful to help those strangers see that you’re the right service provider for them.

Here are two ways to get more subscribers out of the 25 or so programs I’ve vetted, one of these is all you need.

ConvertPro   Top of the line.  $99 yearly, or $299 for life.

ConvertPlus   $24.  Yearly support $17.  A very good start and the program I use.

 

(c) 2015  Elevating Your Business, Updated 2017, 2019, 2020