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November 8, 2007

Advice On Building Your Own Website

So you want to build your own website, but where do you start? Once you decide that your company will benefit by going online, you should know that building a website requires a lot of time, hard work and dedication. The most important part of building your website is the planning stage; only once you’ve put all your ideas on paper can you move forward with purpose.

The First Step, Choosing a Domain Name

Choosing a domain name for your website can be exciting but also exasperating. It is easy enough to find a domain name which is catchy and suits your company, but is it available? The best and most obvious domain names are often already taken, which leaves you back at square one. The best way to go about choosing a domain name is to brainstorm a few ideas; sometimes it’s the most obvious or descriptive domain names that are available to register.

Now Register It

Once you’ve checked the availability of your chosen domain name you should register it to make sure that somebody else doesn’t beat you to it. If you’re aiming to receive South African traffic on your website you can register your domain name as a .co.za site and if you’re aiming for global traffic you can register as a .com website. You may find that your domain name is available as a .co.za, but not as a .com or vice versa. Consider choosing a domain name that is available in both, so that if your website grows you have the option of transforming it into a .com site, also, if a visitor mistakes your URL they won’t land on someone else’s page.

You can register yourself or you can ask a web hosting company to do it on your behalf, provided that they register the domain in your name. This is crucial if you wish to switch service providers at a later stage. Site registration takes between 24 and 72 hours for the process to be completed after which your site will go live. Once it’s live, everybody who navigates to your URL will be able to see your website.

Finding a Web Host

There are a lot of web hosting companies out there, so when searching for the ideal web host for your site, get quotes from a number of hosting companies. It’s always better to get a second opinion – and even better if you get a third, fourth and fifth.

Some web hosting companies ask you to sign annual contracts which means that you won’t be able to get rid of them if you’re not happy with their service, so before you sign anything, check them out thoroughly. Support is typically the number one priority, so look into this aspect very carefully; call or e-mail the support team of a prospective host to see what the response is like.

Make sure that the host is established and that their business is stable. Look at the quality and locality of their data centres. If you don’t know anything about data centres, ask an expert so that all the relevant questions can be asked. Make sure that their hardware and software packages are up to standard and that their network platform is reliable. You don’t want constant crashes when your website is up and running, so do your homework well.

Adding Content to Your Site

Building a website is not a once off event; it is an ongoing business process, requiring a commitment to maintenance. The more time and effort you are willing to put in, the more reward you will get out. It is difficult to get a site to start off with a bang, so continue adding content if you want to see traffic increasing.

You have to please your target market, so naturally your content should be centered around what your target market wants to read. Do your research and find the topics that your prospective customers want to read about.

Steer clear of Flash, unless you know exactly what you are doing; the design of your site is typically not as important as the content. People would much rather pay attention to the type of articles you have posted on your site than images that move around the screen. Having said that, good design should not to be neglected, because you can have the best content on your website, but if the layout and overall look of your site is not appealing then the content won’t look appealing either. A great website will have the balance of both; excellent content and a creative design.

Contact Details

When setting up a website you’re going to need an email address so that your visitors can contact you. Registering your own domain name means you can use the name for email too. It is important that you use a company or business email in order to portray a professional image. These are just guidelines to get you started, but they are not set rules. It’s not about following rules; it’s about playing around with the web and finding a formula that works for you. Once your website is off the ground all you’ll need is content and the World Wide Web’s your oyster.

Author:  Roger Theron is a copywriter for AlterSage, a company offering online marketing services for increasing traffic to your website.

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