Creating a website can and should be a fun and profitable endeavor. If done correctly, the entire process of establishing your web presence can be done in as little as 48 hours. In this article, I will establish some basic guidelines any newbie webmaster will want to know in order to make this process as smooth as possible.
The first and most important step is the Planning Stage. This stage is so critical; I could easily devote an entire separate article on this step alone. For this however, I will summarize the important steps and try not to go into too much detail. You will need to decide what you intend to sell or promote. Once this done, you will need to determine your target market. Then you will want to decide on your domain name and targeting keywords. Be sure your domain name is as relevant to what you are selling as possible and try to make it contain that keyword. Now you want to determine the overall layout of your site. Be sure to choose your words and graphics carefully, and try to optimize your site as best you can.
This brings us to our next step, properly designing your website. It is always a good idea to design with both search engines and customers in mind. Proper search engine optimization can provide your site with many free visitors and potential profits. For those looking to do it themselves, proper education should be their number one priority. The best part about this education is most of it can be received free of charge. You have hundreds of resources in article websites such as Goarticles.com and Ezinearticles.com. Plus with hundreds of good webmaster forums also available, the extent of your education is only limited by the amount of time and effort you are willing to commit.
With this knowledge of how to design a site, you will now want to create it. Using HTML editors such as Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedias Dreamweaver, you will find that the actual task of creating your site is quite easy. You can also find other free HTML Editors online by doing a search at www.download.com. Other ways of creating your website can be done using templates, or pre-built sites where all you change is the payment link, or web site generators, where you would enter some basic criteria of what you are looking for in your site, and it will create the code for you. You would then use this code for your site.
Of course, you could always hire a programmer. I do not really recommend this because it is good to know how to do things yourself. Plus, programmers can get quite expensive. In the end, the money used to hire a programmer is usually better spent adding to your own product line, or advertising your site.
Now that we have our website design complete, we need to put it on the web to reach our target audience. You will now need to purchase your domain name. Your domain name needs to be planned out in advance and should contain a keyword you are targeting. It is also a good idea to purchase your domain name from a well known and reputable company. Sites such as Yahoo!, GoDaddy, and Network Solutions offer domain names and the support and reliability you are looking for in your web business. Once you have your domain name set up, you will need to set your Name Servers that you will receive from your hosting company.
Which brings us to our next step, Hosting. Web hosting is a necessary component of your business; however it does not need to necessarily be a large portion of your budget. I have found excellent deals on hosting packaging just by knowing how to do my homework. First you will need to evaluate your hosting requirements and your budget. Determine the disk space and bandwidth necessary to properly operate your business. Disk space is the amount of room, or how big, your site is. The bandwidth needed is the size of your site multiplied by the number of visitors you anticipate on receiving. If your site is rather small, 10 pages or less and does not have too many graphics or flashy animations, your required disk space may only be a few megabytes. However if you selling many items, or if you are selling downloadable items or software, your disk space may need to be a few gigs or higher.
Compare plans and do your homework. Consider using sites such as Findmyhost.com or Ratemyhost.com to help you with your comparison shopping. There are a few things I would suggest you look for while searching for your host. The servers uptime or how long it has been up and running is important. When your server is up, you are able to conduct business. If you server is down however, your sites doors are closed and you could be losing potential customers and sales. It is also a good idea to look at the customer reviews of the host you are considering. If you spot a trend of poor reviews, you may want to reconsider your choice. Does your host offer you real time site statistics and the ability to analyze this info? I have found many more hosts offering CPanel, Fantastico, and AwStats because of the many features of these valuable software programs. Bandwidth and Disk Space limits should also come into consideration along with an email client. Most good hosts offer step by step instructions on integrating your Microsoft Outlook to receive your sites emails.
Now that we have our store up and running, how are we going to accept payments? Enter the payment processor. A payment processor allows you to accept most major credit cards, checks, and sometimes cash for a small fee. Not only do they allow a smooth and secure transaction, they also help protect you and your rights should a dispute arise. Popular payment processors include Paypal, Clickbank, and 2CheckOut.
You now have a complete site, and have tested every link to be sure they all work properly. Now we need to get this site from your computer to your web hosts computer. Piece of cake with an FTP program. FTP, or file transfer protocol allows you to transfer your files from your computer to another computer. You can find free FTP software by doing a search on www.download.com. I have had good results with FTP Commander and CoreFTP, as they have easy to use interfaces. Once you have your FTP software, you will need to open the folder that contains your site and send it to the correct folder on your sites servers. This information is obtained from the confirmation email you have received from your hosting company.
Finally, we come to my personal favorite stage, promotion. Good promotion is very important because if no one knows you exist, your product will not sell no matter how good it is. Quite possibly the best type of promotion is search engine optimization. This traffic is so coveted because not only is it highly targeted, it is also FREE! Sites with high search engine rankings on even moderately searched keywords can get hundreds or thousands of visitors each month. This can lead to dozens of free sales. However, keep in mind, search engines algorithms can change at any time. This could devastate your rankings and your traffic if you depend entirely on search engines to bring you visitors. Of course if you cannot earn your way to the top of search engine rankings, you could always buy your way to the top. Using PPC or Pay-per-Click, marketing you pay only for each visitor that comes to your site through that search query. This is a great way to gain customers, but can become very costly; with some keywords receiving bids in excess of 5 dollars per click. Some popular PPC networks are Google Adwords, GoClick, and Yahoo! Search Marketing, formerly Overture.
There are also some free ways to earn traffic to your site. Exchange Networks usually work on a you view my site or ad for X seconds, and I will view your site or ad or similar method. This can bring you lots of free traffic fairly quickly. You will generally see these services listed under Traffic Exchanges, Banner Exchanges, or Link Exchanges.
Message Boards, Forums, and Safelists are also excellent ways of promoting your site with minimal investment. Sites such as Yahoo! Groups and Herculist allow you to email messages to other members with similar interests. PTC, or Paid to Click marketing is similar to the search engines PPC but instead of search queries, you are targeting a user database. This can bring you a ton of visitors to your site in a short amount of time, but sometimes this traffic is low converting due to the visitors are paid to visit your site. They are just after the incentive and really do not care so much about the actual product being promoted.
The last topic of promotion is article marketing. This is perhaps some to the best marketing you can do. When you write an article, you place your signature or brief bio about yourself at the bottom. You then submit it to article directories. These article directories give you a free link to your site, helping your search engine rankings. These directories also allow other webmasters to use your article on their site, thus providing you another link and further increasing your search engine rankings. Another great feature of article marketing is based on the quality of your article, you could become an authority on your subject; thus building trust in what you have to say, which usually leads to more sales.
As you can see, creating a website is much easier than you probably first imagined. With just a little time and effort, and even less cash, you can create your own web store open 24 hours a day. Using these tips will provide you a solid foundation to build upon when fashioning your new site. Please note that this article is not meant to be all inclusive, but more like a beginning of your webmaster career. And always keep in mind as with any endeavor, your sites success is largely dependent on your commitment to get it done.
Noah Ulrich is webmaster of http://www.informativeresources.com, http://www.sterlingwebtraffic.com, and http://www.realsitetraffic.com. His sites offer a variety of webmaster tools and resources, master resale rights, guaranteed USA and International signups, real website visitors, and a new premier traffic exchange.