Are you thinking of launching a website? If you are, you’ll want to go through my handy website launch checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Bon voyage!
1. Domain Registration
Do you have your domain, or website address, registered yet? If not, that’s the first thing to take care of. Fortunately, domains are pretty inexpensive – costing only around $10-15 annually. You really shouldn’t be paying more than that for a .com domain name. Other extensions may be a bit more expensive. Look for discounts on your first year.
There is a bit of a science to coming up with a great domain name. You want to keep it as short and as memorable as possible. You also want to make sure it is representative of your brand. If you have a different spelling of your brand or name, you may want to register domains with multiple spellings of that name and have them all redirect to your one main website.
I would also recommend keeping your domain registrar separate from your hosting company, but it’s not a total necessity.
My personal recommendation would be NameCheap.com. If you decide to go with them, I would appreciate it if you used my referral link here. Thanks!
Note: Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you might not even need a hosting account. If you just want to put up a single landing page, you may not even need a hosting account to develop a website. (See the section about MailerLite under Autoresponders below.) However, if you are wanting to build a website, or have one built for you, you will definitely need hosting.
Warning: I will caution you to stay away from do-it-yourself website solutions like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Bandzoogle, Hostbaby, etc. These are traps for the uneducated.
The biggest factor, when it comes to hosting (I’ve discovered), is customer service. A lot of services do basically the same thing for roughly the same price. I have used many hosting companies, and the best customer service I have found is with SiteGround.
There’s going to be several things coming at you in considering a hosting solution. You’ll see words like…
cPanel – This is the control panel where you can administer various aspects of your website. Most hosting companies will have a cPanel.
Shared Hosting – This is where several websites share the same server to keep costs down. This is usually sufficient for most websites. There may be different levels based on how many add-on domains you wish to have with your hosting package. An add-on domain is simply a domain that you can add on to your hosting package. Basically you can use just the one hosting package to host multiple websites.
Cloud Hosting – Typically a bit faster than shared hosting solutions.
WordPress Hosting – Specifically designed to handle the particular load that WordPress puts on servers. Technically, it’s supposed to be slightly faster than standard cloud hosting. It may also come with special WordPress backup and security features. I’ve used it. I’m not terribly impressed with it. It limits the amount of hands-on technical stuff you or your developer can do. I would stick with cloud hosting or shared hosting.
VPS – Virtual Private Server. This is like having your own dedicated server. It’s just not actually a dedicated server. If you’re just starting out, you won’t need this.
Dedicated Server – Unless you are a major online retailer, you’re probably not going to need this service.
SSL Certificates – The difference between a normal (http://) url and a secure (https://) url comes with the SSL Certificate. It used to be that you only needed an SSL Certificate if you were processing online payments through your own online merchant account. Now, however, Google will actually penalize you in its search rankings if you don’t have an SSL. Furthermore, Every web browser nowadays will alert your visitors – and possibly not even allow them access to your site – if you don’t have one. Fortunately, most web hosting companies now offer a free SSL Certificate for your site. Before purchasing a hosting package, be sure they provide this free service.
Having equipped you with all this technical jargon, I will make two recommendations to you:
Hostgator – I have personally used this company for years. They have multiple plans with multiple levels to fit your budget. The longer the terms of service, the lower your monthly price will be. I would sign up for the longest service plan you can afford. You can always get your money back for unused time. They also have phone support. Visit their website via my referral link here. (Thanks!)
SiteGround – For just a few more dollars a month (totally worth it) I would recommend using SiteGround. Most reliable and customer service friendly hosting platform I’ve ever used. Visit their website via my referral link here.
One thing every business needs is a way to communicate with customers. The best way to do that is still with email. Having your own database of customers, as opposed to relying on a social media or other platform, is crucial to the long-term success of your business. For more information on autoresponders, see my article on What to Know About Autoresponders.
I would stay away from hosting accounts that include autoresponders as a part of their service. Stick with a dedicated autoresponder service.
Here are my top three recommendations:
Aweber – Best customer service I’ve seen possibly in any company anywhere…ever. Cost is currently $19/mo. for 500 subscribers. It comes complete with full automation tools and integration with most other websites and platforms. Visit their website via my referral link here. (Thanks!)
MailerLite – This is the platform I am using now. This company is growing rapidly and new services are being added constantly. You can have up to 1000 subscribers for free, with the ability to schedule a series of follow-up emails. One interesting feature they have is the ability to build landing pages. Visit their website via my referral link here. (Thanks!)
MailChimp – I mention them because you can have up to 2500 subscribers for free. However, with the free plan your automation is very limited, and you cannot schedule a series of follow-up emails. I’ve also found the user experience to be difficult to navigate. If you just plan to send out individual broadcasts, this might be a place you want to start if you’re on a tight budget. Visit their website via my referral link here. (Thanks!)
4. Google Account
Regardless of what platform you build your website on, one of the things you will want to do is track your website activity with Google Analytics. You can sign up for a free Google account at Google.com. Next, sign in to Google Analytics using your Google account here.
If you’re NOT planning on using WordPress…
Please see my article entitled Why I Recommend WordPress.
If you’re going to be using WordPress…
5. Free WordPress.com Account
While you don’t need it, a free WordPress.com account is really helpful for one main reason. They have a really great WordPress plugin called Jetpack that integrates with your site. This plugin has a ton of really cool features that become available when you connect it to your WordPress.com account. You don’t even have to use or build a website on WordPress.com, but you won’t be able to use all the awesome features of the free Jetpack plugin if you don’t sign up. Sign up at WordPress.com.
6. Theme for your WordPress Site
While there are many free WordPress themes that are really great (yet limited), you may want to consider purchasing a premium theme for your site. There are several places to shop for themes, but the best place I’ve found is Envato’s ThemeForest. Visit their website via my referral link here. (Thanks!)
7. Site Assets
Before beginning work on building your website you’re going to want to gather all of the assets that you will be using to populate your website. That would include things like…
- About Us description
- Contact Info
- Images (Optimized for the web)
- Links to social media channels
- Testimonials from clients
Let Me Walk You Through It
This stuff can be confusing, right? Let’s schedule a phone call. I’d be happy to talk you through the various options, go a bit deeper if you’d like and answer any questions you might have. Email me to schedule a call.