Setting up Your First Website: The Basics
If you're one of the many people who are setting up, or about to setup, their first website, here's some important information that will help you get started. If you're already an experienced webber, you probably know most of this, and learned it the hard way, like I did.
1 – Theme
Stick to a single theme, or a group of very related themes. Don't run a site with a bit of information about dog grooming services, a few recipes, and a celebrity fan pics section.
If you really want to make a website, but you don't have any ideas of what to make it about, don't bother making a website. It won't work. Try again later.
2 – Domain Name
Already thought of a name for your site? You jumped the gun.
Think up a name, and check if [thatname].com is taken. If you can't get that exact name as a dot-com, choose another name. Your site title MUST be the same as your domain name. People won't remember your domain name, but they will remember your site title.
Keep it short
Make it memorable (see Branding, below)
Make it include your keywords (see Keywords, below)
This site was originally called "Pegasus". Obviously that was a popular name, so I couldn't get "pegasus.com". I settled for "pegaweb.com".
People remember the site's name easily, but they won't remember a different domain name.
It was too late to change my domain name, so I changed the site's name to just "Pegaweb".
3 – Branding. A name that sticks.
Your site has to stand out from the crowd. When people stumble across your site, that doesn't mean anything. If they stumble across it a second time, "branding" starts to occur. Major companies don't advertise because they want to provide you with information about their product. They do it because they're trying to "brand" its name and image onto your mind.
Name a soft drink as fast as possible... I bet your answer was the same as mine. :)
Choose a name that's part functional, part creative. Animal and plant names are excellent for this.
"professionaldesign.com" is bad. "kamikazedesign.com" is good.
Choose striking site design and imagery to go along with your site name. I wouldn't have a big flying horse and huge black writing at the top of every page of my site if I wasn't 100% sure it was effective. :)
4 – Google
If you don't know this part, you've been groping around in the dark.
Google is by far the largest search engine and will probably provide you with most of your visitors.
The higher you are in Google's rankings, the more people will find your site.
Google ranks sites by relevancy, and by their PageRank. PageRank is a number between 0 and 10 that Google calculates, based on the number of links that link to a site. (If there are lots of links pointing to a site, it's probably a good site.)
Approach high-PageRank sites in your topic, and ask to exchange links with them.
More incoming links = Higher PageRank = Higher Ranking in Search Results = More visitors find your site
If you're serious about getting more visitors to your site, I'd strongly recommend you get the Google Toolbar, at toolbar.google.com.
5 – The Open Directory Project
Once your site is established, and has some content on it, submit your site at www.dmoz.org - that's the Open Directory Project. It's a directory of sites, and it feeds many search engines. A link from these guys is valuable.
6 – Keywords & Content
Once you've done all this, and established your site, it's just a matter of getting incoming links and writing new pages for your site. The more pages your site has, the more likely they are to turn up in Google searches.
However, it's not simply a matter of writing just anything. It's important that you write articles and information that contain your "keywords". Keywords are words and phrases that are relevant to your site. You should remember to use these words whenever possible in your text, and make sure they appear in the directory and file names of your website, and in the text of any links on your site. I use "photoshop" and "web design" all over my site, as they're my main keywords.
7 – Selling Products on Your Site
Make your site 95% high-quality, free information, and only 5% saleable items. The free information will be picked up by search engines, and will draw visitors to your site. The free information will also help build visitors' confidence in your site, thereby increasing the chance that they'll buy something. You'll sell far more this way than if your site is 100% saleable items.
Don't make the common mistake of turning your site into a shop. Too many websites are simply catalogues of items for sale. You won't make any money doing this, as 99% of people won't be interested.
I've had a reasonable amount of success getting people to link to my site, as my site is mainly free information. Other people I know, who run wholly commercial sites, can barely get off the ground, because no-one will link to them.
8 – Advertising
If you just keep writing new pages, and gaining links from other sites, you'll quickly build up a steady stream of visitors. With advertising on your site, you can start to make money out of each of these visitors.
I use Google Adwords for the advertising on my site, as they pay more than the other networks.
9 – Conclusion
Whatever the topic of your site, being aware of these factors will put you way ahead of where you would have been otherwise. I've just skimmed the surface on all these topics, and there's a lot more to know about all of them.
Good luck with your webbing endeavours :)