I was moved to post this article based on a recent issue with a client of mine. I don't mean to single them out, but I believe this post just might be of use to many small business owners out there that have limited knowledge of how websites work. It's not until you change a strategy and bring in outside help that this gets exposed. If you don't know where your website data is stored, how it is stored, who is responsible for what, and the different components of how to set up a website, this article is for you.
How To Get Found Online With Your Website
Rule #1: Know thy vendor and what they do
We'll get into just how many vendors it takes to put up a website, but this is the cardinal rule to website administration. Know your vendors and keep passwords and registration information for your website next to your articles of incorporation or your legal business vendor agreements. Today, different software talks to each other for the sake of expanding and adding different vendor services for various thing such as email clients, marketing automation, analytic software, or social media platforms. You need to know how to log in and what all passwords you need for the various places your site controls.
Website Hosting 101
I am not a technical professional and I don't claim to write this article claiming I know the in's and out's of website hosting. So I did some research and found out some things on my own that might help small business owners determine what kind of website they might have or need and how it's put together.
Popular sites like GoDaddy can offer different types of hosting services but which one is best and ideal for your type of business and how cheap is cheap? To start off, there are 4 different types of hosting:
- Shared server hosting - built to be the cheapest option with decent performance and low technical knowledge that supports various software types. This server hosts your website on the same server as many other sites that share common resources to run the sites. The main disadvantage is limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes, site performance can be affected by other sites on the same server.
- VPS (Virtual Private Shared) Hosting - hosts your website in a virtual server with other shared websites but with root access and greater control. This is just shy of having your own dedicated server minus some spec's. The main disadvantage here is limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes, your site performance can still be somewhat affected by other sites on the server.
- Dedicated Server Hosting - is for site owners who want maximum control at a maximum part of the cost. The server you rent is yours and yours alone. The main disadvantage here would be the cost, if anything, as performance, stability, platform support and more is the highest of this level of hosting.
- Cloud Hosting - is where a group of computers pool their resources to run multiple sites with the ability to handle high spikes in volume. A disadvantage here is minimum root access and high cost.
Domain names and the registration process
Once you decide on what kind of server you will need, you need to register a domain. If you want to think of servers as the house you want to buy, the domain is the address where the house will be located. However, you need to register that address with a domain provider who is governed by theInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
However, not anyone can register an address or a domain. The ICANN requires certain parameters to be met before they can approve you for a certain domain. For instance, all .us domains must be verified that the owner of this domain is a US citizen and all .org domains must be actual organizations.
One important note here: DO NOT LET YOUR DOMAIN EXPIRE WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE. This came as a painful lesson in administration and organization from a client of mine who realized as we probed to make some changes to their DNS records that they had let their domain expire and a private group bought and registered the domain without their knowledge. So in essence, any traffic and SEO that you build on a domain that you do not own, basically is not even yours. This is a quick way to go from working for yourself to working for someone else again!
Whos data and domain privacy
Have you ever wanted to find out who owns a certain domain on the internet? Go to Whois.com and put in the url and find out. It's that easy. However, your information is public as well as all domain registrations are public domain. Yet, you can register with some companies and keep things a bit more discreet, just check with your registrar.
So, why is this a big deal? Your domain record may also be used in ways that aren’t legitimate or desirable. Since anyone can look up a Whos record, spammers, hackers, identity thieves and stalkers may access your personal information! Unethical companies check domain expiration dates then send official looking “renewal” notices in an attempt to get the domain owners to transfer domains to their company, or send invoices that are service solicitations for search engine submissions and other questionable services. Both email and snail mail spammers use the Whos databases to contact domain owners with solicitations as well.
Choosing the right hosting
Choosing a hosting solution can be challenging and, frankly, a big headache if you aren't a native digital or technical person. This site has over 30 questions you should consider before picking the right hosting package - we picked 15 of them we thought were the most appropriate for small business owners.
- If you are looking at a tangible data center/ service model, where are your servers physically located? Are you given a choice in location?
- What level of customer/ technical support do they offer? Online only? Phone? Email? Etc.?
- What are their customer service/ technical support hours by method? If online chat is available 24/7, what are their phone support hours?
- What type of set-up assistance is included at no additional cost?
- What types of e-commerce features are included with the plan that you are considering
- What payment plans are available? For example, if you sign up for a two-year subscription term, do you need to pay that full amount upfront or is it divided into increments?
- What are the renewal terms and fees? (Know that if you are a first-time subscriber, you will likely sign up at a discounted rate that the changes when you renew your contract – make sure that you know the full ramifications.)
- What type of scalability potential is there? For example, if you start with a shared server plan, are you able to expand your space later or even switch to a dedicated server environment? Or does the provider you are considering specialize in one environment?
- Are they the original hosting provider or a hosting services reseller?
- What are their security measures and server back-up protocols?
- Is their support center outsourced? Where is it located?
- Are there limitations to the types of software that you can run or install?
- If someone does manage to hack their network and servers, what is their guarantee of being able to restore your data? What measures do they have in place for this?
- In a shared hosting environment, how many clients are assigned to each server? Is there a maximum? (This can be helpful in determining whether the host oversells space as well as whether you are likely to experience bandwidth or space issues)
Last but not least I wanted to cover 2 types of platforms out there - CMS and COS website platforms. CMS stands for Customer Management Systems. You might be familiar with CMS platforms if you have ever tried to design a site on your own such as Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal. These sights can be quite intricate and take time to master. I have worked with Wordpress sites only at the admin and maintenance level and find it to be a bit hard to understand if you are not working in the software most of the time. The key with CMS systems is the ease and popularity of its kind. It's what a majority of sites use for design and content purposes.
The COS offers a unique perspective on website strategy and design. COS stands for Customer Optimization Systems. This type of platform surpasses the digital marketing needs by making your website personalized for content purposes. By utilizing smart fields and linking to your marketing data, the COS lets you plan out how your site visitors will experience your site at a personal level. Most other sites stay static unless you go through a re-design process and update the site. With the COS, your site changes with your strategy with each unique experience.
If your visitor confirms their interest in a particular topic, offer, or interest your site will alter it's content based around the interest of that particular user. No longer will a visitor be curious at their first interaction with your site and come back to navigate the site again looking for that one page they found of interest. Now, that same visitor will enter from the front page with a personalized greeting and message that speaks to their interests and where they are in the buying cycle.
If you are interested in how the COS really works, feel free to give me a call and set up a time to meet for more information.
I hope you enjoyed some of the tips on how to get found online with these website basics for small business owners. Not everyone can come into knowing how to set up a website so don't feel bad. If you need further help or consulting in this and other inbound marketing and content demands, feel free to reach out to us here!