This will be the first post in a series aimed at conveying what I’ve learned about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as it applies to entrepreneurial start-up. I live in Utah where starting your own company has become akin to brushing your teeth in popularity. Interacting with students and co-workers alike, I’ve been asked hundreds of questions about SEO and internet marketing. Everything from “what should I do for SEO?” to “who should I hire?” to, of course, “what in the crap is SEO anyways?” The purpose of this post, and others to come, is to put many of my answers into writing for those of you that are asking and provide a much needed resource for those of you trying to get your companies off the ground.
Before You Get Started
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of building a website and web presence on the internet that fairs well in Google’s (As well as other engines’) search algorithms (In other words, making your site rank higher where it is being searched for). Before you get into even the first bits of SEO there is a small caviat of actually having a website. Often times I have seen start-ups and small businesses completely ignore this fact as they have no idea where to start. Here’s what I plan to go over today to get you off the ground as cheap as possible:
- Your Domain Name
- Hosting Your Website
- Building Your Website (Yes, you can do this yourself!)
- A Brief Introduction to SEO
Your Domain Name
This is one of the most basic touch points for your customers. The domain name is the site’s name as displayed in the URL bar near the top of your browser (See Image >>). This name doesn’t necessarily need to be your company’s name (And in some cases may not be possible or may be too expensive). When considering your domain name there are several things to consider:
Availability. First and foremost if your preferred domain name is being used by someone else it may become expensive to acquire. I generally will stick to available names with my clients and my own work, however, depending on your resources, it may be worth it to you to reach out and purchase a domain. GoDaddyoffers an easy to use interface for searching domain name availability and I have found their prices to be very comparable (Domain names are generally between $5 and $15 depending on the suffix ie. .com, .net, etc.).
Exact Match vs. Branding. This is a debate for the ages. Often times domain names are chosen that “exactly match” the terms your customers are searching for in order to take advantage of search engines’ dependency on keywords (ie. bookoo.com vs. kingwoodyardsales.com). My opinion is that a brand name play is a long term strategy that will pay off although there is a huge place for exact match domains in your campaign strategy. In the end it will be up to you how you decide to proceed.
Hosting Your Website
The next step to getting your site live on the world wide web is finding a place to put it. The way the internet works is that each website is basically stored on a computer somewhere out there in the world and each time it is visited by someone they are accessing that computer’s copy of your website. Companies that own these computers are known as hosting companies. You may have heard of GoDaddy, Bluehost, or DreamHost, to name a few of my preferred hosting companies.
This is where some of the technical aspects of creating a website get in the way. In reality, setting up your website is much simpler than you may suspect. Pay someone to set it up for you if you feel that the issue is beyond what you can learn, but learning it yourself will save you thousands in the long run. If you plan to do it yourself, I suggest using Godaddy over any other because of their simple setup process and extremely helpful support line. Coming down to price, expect to pay around $5 per month for basic hosting (Often there are specials that take that price down even further).
Nee some extra help setting up your hosting? Here is a walkthrough for setting it up with GoDaddy.
Building Your Website
Once your hosting is set up with your domain name connected to it, you can start with the fun part. You may be remembering a class you had in HTML some time ago or simply not want to get into coding. Either way, the process I will describe can be done in it’s entirely without looking at one scrap of code. (Of course knowing code will always help, but my point is you don’t NEED it today.) This is achieved through a piece of free software called WordPress. Not only is it free, it is so easy to use that I’m very confident that you can very quickly learn to use it (Or hire a cheap/free intern to do it for you if you want).
If you are using GoDaddy to host your website, installing wordpress is as simple as clicking the “install wordpress” button on your hosting dashboard. (If you’re still having trouble with that, here is a great GoDaddy tutorial) If you have chosen another hosting service, most do not provide such an easy option, but installing wordpress on your own is fairly simple as well. WordPress is famous for its “5 minute install” for a reason after all.
Other options for managing your site’s content are available instead of WordPress and using these other options depend very much on the purpose behind your site. For example, ecommerce sites are often run on a platform called Shopify. These platforms are called Content Management Systems (CMS) so if you feel inclined to look around at other options simply Google the term.
A Brief Intro to SEO
My next post will focus on SEO for your website within a WordPress platform. I’ll focus on WordPress but the principles are the same whichever CMS you choose or even even you were to code out your site on your own. The same tactics can be scaled to larger websites in order to increase and improve traffic and therefore drive profits.