Always wanted to build a decent website for your business but not sure how to begin?
When I first started my recruitment business in 2004, there wasn’t WordPress. Blogspot was the more popular medium then, but that was more for doing up your blog.
Since then, the business had gone through 5 website versions, and each of them was heavily reliant on the vendor to execute. It costs us from $1,500 to as much as $8,000, depending on the complexity of the website.
And still the final version often leave much room for improvement.
The thing about using vendor is they restrict the number of changes you can make. And being a pretty fickle person, I try to inject new ideas and variations whenever I come across new stuff. Obviously, the vendor wasn’t happy.
Why You Need A Professional Website
Why not? It is your proprietary online brochure that can be updated anytime you want. And because it belongs to you, you don’t have to worry about unforeseen restrictions and obstacles that you otherwise might if you are just reliant on a Facebook Page.
And it is simple to have one now than ever before. In fact, I take it as a sin for any modern business not to have a decent website.
The most popular platform currently is WordPress. There are 74 million websites that are running WordPress. The ease and simplicity of use are incredible.
Because of that, the days of paying for tens of thousands for a website is way over.
I remember a quote I gotten from the website development subsidiary of a marketing agency. They wanted to charge me SGD$30,000 for a site. It’s crazy.
Would you go to a meeting with a client with unkempt hair, shirt tucked out and an overbearing body odour? That is the same message you are sending out when you have a lousy website that is supposed to represent your business.
You are not going to get much business with that kind of approach.
As competitions stiffen, every single bit of detail counts. And you want to make sure you position yourself well, and it starts off with the website because that is the first thing your potential lead will come across.
Doing It Yourself
It is easy now to set up your website and to do it to the kind of level that appears to be put together by a team of seasoned professionals.
Depending on the time you wish to allocate for this, you could do everything yourself or project manage the whole thing and leave the execution to freelancers.
Either way, you will get a fantastic website that looks gorgeous, professional and potentially becomes a lead generation magnet for your business.
That was what I did when I decided to set up my website for my blog and also the internet site for my career coaching site.
They were done entirely by me, with exception to the website and search engine optimisation which I outsourced to freelancers on Elance.
It wasn’t easy at first.
I had never done any website before so many mistakes were made along the way.
Luckily for you, that means you won’t be making these mistakes if you follow the correct steps that I had taken.
[callout]Need addition resources? Check out firstsiteguide.com for free resources, guides & help for web newbies.[/callout]
Finding a good hosting provider
There are way too many web hosting companies in Singapore. Don’t believe me? Google for “web hosting Singapore”. I’m looking at 1.6 million results.
Most people would give up at this point. It is simply too overwhelming. And you shouldn’t take the shortcut of just taking up the first one you come across.
Firstly you need to know that the web hosting business is saturated. Because of that most service providers tend to cut corners to bring the cost down. That would lead to frequent downtime, poor customer support, slow loading speed and just massive frustration for you.
The nicest website won’t get any traffic if the site is down. So the selection process of the right web hosting provider is crucial.
Personally, I’m using Digital Ocean. This is on the advice of the freelancer I engaged to clean up the code on my site as I’m very particular about loading speed.
However, that might be a bit overkill if your site is only appealing to the local audience. I’m thinking of migrating it back to Singapore once my current subscription is up.
If you are just targeting the local (or Southeast Asia) market, I suggest you take a look at this comparison chart. It shows the top 10 web hosting provider in Singapore and the conclusion was arrived base on a number of criteria such as:
- Disk storage – Cost Ratio ($/GB/month)
- Scalability (e.g., number of mySQL databases)
- Reputation (number of featured big clients) and customers’ reviews over the web
- Customer Service
I have heard rave reviews for Vodien, and I used Oryon thrice. Their customer support is unparalleled. Although you have people with weird names replying to you, their responses are quick. I even had one reply coming in around midnight which was appreciated as my site was down.
The web host can also assist with the registration of your domain if you don’t already have one.
2. Instaling a Content Management System
You could choose many platforms you could use to power your new website. The more popular ones would be Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Personally, I only have experience with WordPress, so I could only recommend them.
If you are using Oryon as your host, you can follow their step-by-step guide on instaling WordPress using cPanel.
cPanel is a control panel available on Linux-based hosting accounts and servers. It lets you easily manage many aspects of your account, including the files, applications, and email hosted on your account or server.
If you happen to be not using cPanel, you could refer to this WordPress setup guide by wpbeginner. It covers installation using SimpleScripts to FTP.
Once WordPress is installed, you need to set it up before you decide which theme to go with.
The WordPress dashboard can be confusing. The people at wpbeginner have created a free WordPress video tutorial series, so use it to your advantage. Most places are charging around $300+ for the same WordPress training.
3. Choosing Your Layout (Or Theme)
With WordPress up and ready, you need to decide on the design element of your website. Fortunately, you don’t have to create it from scratch.
WordPress comes with hundreds of themes you could cherry pick from and use that as the basis to work your vision into.
These 4 are a sample of a filtered results that show themes that are associated with the keyword business. Not too shabby. I especially like one on the top left.
There are many others and some you would need to pay.
My advice is to go for a paid theme because of the support (there will be particular customization you just can’t figure it out) and it minimises the probability of some other company websites that look like a replica of yours.
Some paid themes are even highly customizable so you can choose the colour and layout to give it a unique design.
But you can’t purchase a la carte. If you buy one, you buy them all. Given so I spend some time exploring the themes that came with the package and decided to give Divi a go given the good online reviews, and it is extremely customization.
CareerLadder website is currently on Divi theme. It took a bit of time to tinkle around and achieve the current look and feel, but the way Divi was created is simply just point-and-click.
So it goes from the building blocks….
The tough part is getting the content right. It took a fair bit of tinkering along the way to make it to what I believe to be better. Of course, you can always outsource it to a copywriter, but if this is going to be your first website, I think it is more efficient for you to put your vision into words.
4. Get The Right Plugins
Another fantastic thing about WordPress is the trove of plugins. Think of them as apps for your iPhone. You only install, configure and you are ready to go.
Here is a list of plugins I’m currently using for CareerLadder and my blog:
1. Advanced Excerpt
Advanced Excerpt is used to support the RSS-to-email MailChimp configuration that I have in place. RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication. I use it to populate a newsletter automatically whenever I have a new blog post. But the default settings tend to truncate the excerpts at the least appropriate portion.
With Advanced Excerpt, I can make sure the excerpts is cut off after a complete paragraph.
Bloom is an opt-in email plugin that helps you to gain more subscribers easier and quicker. Just like how WordPress has different themes to begin with, Bloom also carry some pre-defined variation so you don’t have to do it from scratch.
3. Compress JPEG & PNG images
Compress JPEG & PNG images automatically optimise your images by integrating with the popular image compression services TinyJPG and TinyPNG. This will help your website to load faster, reduce bounce rate and aid in Google ranking.
4. CoSchedule by Todaymade
Social media traffic is one of my primary source of referrals given how new my blog and website are. But managing that process can be a pain because there are so many platforms (I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+), and you have to keep always at it if you wish to extract maximum value from your content.
To better manage this, I use CoSchedule to schedule the content in advance. It even allows me to stipulate a different visual and message every single time. And I love the fact that I can send the post to Buffer so it could go out at the optimal time.
5. Disqus Comment System
By default, WordPress provides a built-in commenting system which is easy to use. But it felt too bare bone to me. I wanted something more robust. Something that will generate traffic for other postings as well.
Disqus is the commenting system WordPress should come with. All you need to do is log in with your Facebook account and start commenting. It’s that simple.
6. Google XML Sitemap
The best website still needs to be found to get traffic. Google XML Sitemap will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to index your blog better.
With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally, it notifies all the main search engines every time you create a post about the new content.
7. Hyper Cache Extended
I had mentioned about some outsourcing I did with my site. It was loading rather slow, and I’m unsure what went wrong. I engaged someone on Fiverr to optimise it, but that didn’t help.
So I turned to Elance and decided on a Web Performance Optimisation expert to help me. He did wonders and brought my loading speed from 19 seconds to 3 seconds.
Hyper Cache Extended is the cache plugin that is highly recommended by him.
8. Monarch Social Sharing
I must have tried at least six different social sharing plugin before settling on Monarch Social Sharing. As much as I had read the good reviews, I was trying my best to find a free alternative.
After too many attempts, I still couldn’t find a good free one. It is either too clunky or good but full of advertisements.
So I finally gave in and bought Monarch. And damn it, I should have done it much earlier.
When I first had the website up, my excitement continue. I spent a few hours tinkering with it, not aware that I’m breaking the pages and links unknowingly.
Google Webmaster would pick these up, and you can use Redirection plugin to redirect the visitors to the new and valid URL so as to preserve your traffic.
10. Yoast SEO
This is the easiest way to improve your SEO. Yoast SEO makes technical Search Engine Optimization dead easy and advises you on how you can make your content better by showing you a rendering of what your post or page will look like in the search results, whether your title is too long or too short and your meta description makes sense in the context of a search result.
This way the plugin will help you not only increase rankings but also increase the click through for organic search results.
wpbeginner also have an excellent guide on how to do a setup for Yoast for the very first time.
If you opt to do your SEO, the total cost of getting your website up will be less than $500. I paid about $20 per month for hosting, $89 for the theme and plugins. WordPress platform is free. Throw in the web optimisation cost of about $230; you are looking at USD$339.
That’s about SGD$477, saving you thousand of dollars from engaging a vendor to do the same thing for you.
For a new business, every dollar counts. Make it so.