Setting up Accounts

In order to put a website online, we have to go through a number of initial steps.

  1. Registering a domain (required)
  2. Setting up hosting (required)
  3. Setting up email accounts and forwarders
  4. Setting up Google voice (suggested)
  5. Setting up Google My Business (highly suggested)
  6. Setting up Facebook "page" (suggested)
  7. Setting up other Social Media accounts (suggested)

Registering a Domain

A domain name is a name used to find your website… ie, website.com. When someone types in your "address" it then "points" to the location of your hosting (more below) and shows your website! Picking a domain name carefully is important. Make it short and descriptive… ie, easy to say/remember, and includes your business name/location if possible.

You must purchase a domain name either before or with your hosting. Many hosting services allow you to register a domain name for free for the first year, but I typically keep the domain name and hosting separate. While MOST business websites end with .com, you can also use a number of different extensions, like .net, .biz, .us, and many more. The .com/.net prices are typically LESS than others and are more common. 

Domain names cost around $12-20 a year. Once you have the domain name, do NOT let it lapse otherwise it can be a real hassle, so I suggest that you buy 3 or more years. You can always purchase a new domain name if you need a different website name, but realize migrating your site to a different domain name can start you at ZERO for SEO and Google search. We would have to be strategic about changing a domain name of a well-established site.

I suggest using https://domains.google/ as it offers free domain privacy. Options like namecheap.com, or networksolutions.com, and many others, are also possible as domain registrars. More info at https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/how-to-choose-the-best-domain-registrar/. Personally, I prefer having the domain name separate from the hosting, but these can be done at the same time (like on Godaddy, SiteGround, or BlueHost.

Google Websites… aka a temporary site

With Google Domains you can set up a FREE website using https://sites.google.com/, which serves great as a "temporary" website/landingpage while you are working on a more robust website. Once you have a domain, it is a good idea to put something out there on the internet. The day you "launch" your website is the first day that Google starts to index, and provide you SEO search results, so it benefits you to launch even a simple landing page as soon as possible.

We can work on a "real" site using a temporary URL. Then after we are ready, we simply "point" the hosting at the new website.

WordPress… the open-source platform

WordPress is a "platform" for website and blog development. There are two versions. 

WordPress.com is the for-profit "commercial" version of WordPress… where you can easily sign up to create a FREE blog. You receive a subdomain like myblogname.wordpress.com for free. It is a great platform to learn on, but is limited in features. You CAN purchase and use your own domain for the website for only $35/yr… but you are very limited by themes, plugins, and capabilities. For example, you can't create any layout or styles you want.

WordPress.org is the "platform" you can download and install, or automatically install on almost ALL hosting services. It gives us FULL control, allowing the installation of themes, builders, and plugins of our choice. WordPress powers as much as 34% of ALL websites in the world.

More at https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/self-hosted-wordpress-org-vs-free-wordpress-com-infograph/

Although you can choose a service like WordPress.com, Wix, or Squarespace, all of my websites are created using WordPress installed on hosting we can control/manage. The benefits of using WordPress greatly outways the cons.

Picking hosting for your website

In order to put your WordPress site online, we need hosting. Hosting is where your website files reside. With hosting, you get what you pay for… ie, cheap hosting can be slow and sometimes be problematic. Faster, more secure hosting typically costs more. Typically hosting costs $5-$30 a month… depending on your needs and budget. 

There are different versions of hosting… shared, dedicated, and cloud.

  • Shared hosting is where multiple websites (and people) are put on the same server. This makes your website slower, and possibly less secure. Shared hosting providers like Bluehost, SiteGround, among others, seem like a "great deal" at cheap monthly prices (like $4.99/month), but realize that they can go up significantly ($14.99 or more monthly) after your initial setup of 2-3 years. The benefit is that most offer pretty decent support… as they are meant for people with less experience who might need help more often (IMHO). https://www.google.com/search?q=best+shared+hosting+for+wordpress
  • Dedicated hosting is where only YOUR website(s) are on a single server. It can be very expensive… so I will skip it. More at https://www.google.com/search?q=best+dedicated+hosting+for+wordpress
  • Cloud hosting is common now, where your website is on a "virtual" server, spread across multiple computers. It varies greatly in price, but overall provides better speeds and security. Cloud hosting is often easy to scale up too… if you need more resources. Right now, Cloudways (LINK TBD) is my favorite, with different options such as Digital Ocean (as low as $10/month), or Vultr High-Frequency (as low as $13/month for faster performance). More at https://www.google.com/search?q=best+cloud+hosting+for+wordpress

There is one more term to know… "managed" hosting. This simply means that your hosting provider has tools and services that are meant to "manage" your server and site. Often they have great backups, caching and security. Managed hosting may be on shared, dedicated, or cloud hosting… but I like cloud best. Typically, it is best practice to use managed hosting for WordPress sites in order to achieve better speed, security, backups, and support.

Occasionally there are special hosting deals out there. Certain times of the year (Black Friday, Christmas) might offer steep discounts… for a year or two. I have also found some decent LTD (life-time deal) hosting that is worth a look. (Right now, I have been using RootPal from https://appsumo.com/products/marketplace-rootpal/ with some success). There is a little bit of risk with LTD hosting… but I think the risk can be worth the price.

No Hosting yet? We still have options!

Sometimes we start the process of developing your site on my personal server. If you currently have hosting (such as an existing site) we may be able to develop on your server. If it is not possible, I can start the process on my own server. If using my own server, I would generate a "temporary" URL for the site… such as https://websmx.com/clients/yourbusinessname. This would allow me to design, and you see the progress. This website would not be a "public" URL… ie, not on your domain yet. At some point, we would then "migrate" the site to your hosting account. In this case, I would suggest at least launching a temporary Google site, in order to start receiving SEO value from your new domain. Once migrated, the Google Site would be replaced by the WordPress site.

Setting up Email Accounts

I think it is best to have an email that is unique to the business, ie, not your personal email account. The notable exception is when setting up your domain, it is common to use personal email (Gmail) accounts. You can either use Gmail, or we can set up a custom email account through your domain.

In general, there are multiple ways to set up your email accounts:

  1. Using Gmail (easy)
  2. Custom email accounts (using your domain name)
  3. Using your hosting account email service
  4. Using a 3rd Party email service

Gmail accounts are easy to set up and access, and so it is pretty common to use them… even instead of having your own user@mywebsite.com addresses. Make sure that the gmail address is meaningful and hopefully easy to remember and use. It should have your businessname if possible.

Custom email accounts are also possible. Once you have a domain name, you can have a user@mywebsite.com address. We can either set up a "real" email account, or simply forward the custom email address to different (gmail) address. For example, user@mywebsite.com can forward email to mybusinessname@gmail.com. We can do this two different ways: 1) by setting up the alias in your Google Domain account, or 2) by using the email system of your web hosting service.

  • The "alias" method only forwards the email to your Gmail account. There will not be a separate mailbox you need to access. Note: This simple method is for domains registered on Google Domains only.
  • Setting up "real" email on your hosting allows you to have a domain email account, ie, user@mywebsite.com. We can set it up so you can access the email directly, or we can forward the emails to your gmail account. (This means there will be two copies of the email… one in the original and one in the gmail account)

Note: if using Gmail, we can even send emails using your custom domain email address. (a bit tricky, but possible to do). 

If you choose to use user@mywebsite.com for your email, likely this will go through your hosting account. In that case, just be aware, if you choose to move your hosting to a different provider, you must also migrate the emails to your new hosting (or lose them all). 

It is also possible to use a 3rd party email service, such as Microsoft 365, or Google Workspace, for around $5-6/month per address. These also come with additional services, such as business apps and additional cloud storage. If using Cloudways, rackspace email accounts are easy to set up for a nominal fee of $1/month per email.

Setting Up Google Voice

Google voice (voice.google.com)is a quick and easy way to set up a phone # that is specifically for your business. Best of all, it is free. Register the phone number wit the business gmail account instead of your private email account. When receiving a call, it will ring your normal phone just as you would expect… and you can send them to voicemail that is specific for the business, rather than personal.

Setting up Google My Business

As a business, you will likely want to set up a Google My Business (business.google.com)page. This is your "business listing" on Google search results. It requires that you aign up using a physical address in order to receive a postcard in the mail with the verification number. It is essential that you verify the business on Google, or it will not show in Google My Business

After the business is set up and verified, I will ask for you to add me as a manager in the account, to help you manage the page.

Setting up Google Analytics

As we close to launching your website, we will likely want to set up Google Analytics and Seach Console. I typically set these up in my accounts using the Google Site Kit plugin, and then share the properties to your Google account. Or, we can do it the other way… where we set up the account in your Google accounts and add me as a manager. More at support.google.com.

Setting up a Facebook "Page"

Facebook is still the gold-standard for social media marketing. Creating a "page" in Facebook allows you to have a business presence on Facebook without it being a personal wall. You can connect with people through the page without ever being personal "friends" with them. More info at https://www.facebook.com/business/pages