Setting up your Online Presence

Posted on October 21, 2015

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In this ever increasing digital age, you might find that you want to feature your business, market yourself and your talents, or just have an online presence under your personal domain. Whatever your motivations, it’s not as hard as it seems to set up a website and get your online presence together. You can have it done and ready to go in less than an hour or at least 24. 😉 If you’re really new to all this domain name stuff, I really like the breakdown on this PDF from the domain name experts, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers- yes, the self-proclaimed online overlords of your internet address the ever-mighty domain name).

  1. Pick a domain name. If you’re unsure of what you’re going to call your business but you still want a professional online presence, register your own name as a domain. You can always have two websites when you’re finally ready to have your business name— your business site and an online portfolio-esque site under your name. Or, you can always redirect your personal site to your new business site (when and if business takes off for you later). Check whether your domain is available via ICANN.org (look in the top left corner) or another reputable site.
  2. Register your domain. You can register through a provider like HostGator (use my affiliate link and get a discount on your sign up fees!). GoDaddy is a popular un-recommended service as most developers will tell you it’s not really worth it (ideologically you might want to use HostGator or any other company or consider moving your domains). To register a domain with HostGator, the most it will cost you is $15 a year though I’ve paid as little as $7 depending on coupons. You can pay an extra $9.99 to have your domain information private (no one can see your personal name or address) or skip that (I often do). HostGator often gives you coupons on top of other discounts (use coupon SNAPPY and be sure to use my affiliate link if you do sign up) which is awesome but most hosting providers will.  If you are looking to keep your personal information private, you will want to pay the extra money. You will need to provide an address for ICANN regulations that is verifiable and attached to you. Otherwise you can face repercussions including losing your domain and fines. It’s annoying, for sure, but you can either sign up for a P.O. Box first and then purchase your domain, just purchase the domain and have the information searchable, or make it private for an extra charge. You will pay money with almost any domain host and the prices are pretty much the same unfortunately though I’ve read some hosts do this for free, I can’t verify any and don’t know of them.
  3. Get a hosting plan. There are a ton of great hosting services out there and while I was recommended and have subsequently stuck with HostGator, you might have other hosting services in mind or find some well suited to your needs. If you are just starting off (coding, web-design, etc. wise) then you will be well served with a basic service like HostGator. I’ve also heard good things about most other hosting platforms except GoDaddy since signing up with HostGator. Whatever your choice, remember nothing is set in stone and you can change providers if you find a better one down the line. Hosting providers will often charge you for the year, not per month, but the cost is low overall so you don’t spend too much money as a whole plan if you’re just hosting a single domain (or only a few).
  4. Set up your website! Now that you’ve gotten your domain and hosting plan set up, you can set up your website! While people have all sorts of opinions on what websites are best (will you use JoomLa, Drupal, WordPress or something else?), I personally recommend a WordPress.org site because of the ease of installation, ease of updating, and just all around ease. WordPress is very popular so there’s lots of information out there for it and many developers take time to create content for WP sites. Additionally, if you don’t have a web designer, WP allows you to set up a professional-looking site by yourself with minimal coding knowledge (if any). You can find tutorials online and often the providers will have tutorials in their FAQ or forums as well. Of course the internet has all kinds of tutorials so surely you’ll find tutorials on all of the above as well so again, don’t feel “stuck” with one thing. You can always change it later. 😉
  5. Market yourself and your business! Even if you’re doing an online portfolio for your services or work, this is the perfect thing to advertise to your friends and family if you haven’t already established a social media marketing channel through which to promote yourself. Share your hard work with your friends and family through social media (your personal and professional channels if you have them) and put it on a business card!

Additional Thoughts:
Getting help: WordPress.org has a great online community with help for almost any conceivable question— if you happen to have a question you can’t find an answer for, you can post it to the forum and a community member will help you resolve it which basically rocks if you’re doing this on the cheap, by yourself or with limited help from others. 🙂 Just a note, WordPress.org is not the same as WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a blogging community like BlogSpot. WordPress.org is a web-building service that offers you a download that comes stock with tons of free templates to choose from as well as “widgets” (which are like apps) that add everything from social media boxes to website forums and classifieds to your site.

Blogging Exposure: WordPress.com is a great tool you can utilize as well if you’re looking for more exposure that’s centered around writing. You can pay $15/month to have WordPress host your domain and redirect your WordPress.com blog to your official web domain. The benefit in doing this if you’re focused on blogging is that your content is linked within the WordPress.com community and you benefit from WordPress.com SEO (search engine optimization). Essentially, they handle some of the marketing of your content on your behalf which can help you grow  your following if you’re lacking that and hoping to maximize your reach with blogs. This is slightly more expensive an option but it does have that palatable bonus of featuring your work without you mastering SEO and marketing to get your blog out. You can also do this with BlogSpot and Tumblr though you will have to host your domain separately and have it re-direct to your free blogging account URL. As an example, if I purchased sarahmascarah.com but wanted the benefit of an online social network, I would have my domain address redirect visitors to sarahmascarah.tumblr.com so I can take advantage of tumblr’s SEO and features but still have my domain do something while I figure out what I want to do). To be quite honest, you can have your domain redirect to anything you want so don’t feel limited to the blog options listed above.

Online Shops: If you’re looking to start an online store or already have a store but you want the domain, you can either use the steps outlined above to set up your website and link to your store or you can have your domain redirect to your store. If you have an Etsy for example, your domain might point to your Etsy store so when someone types in sarahmascarah.com, it will take them right to my Etsy shop instead of somewhere else. If you’re just looking to have a central website with a shop, you might integrate Shopify, Big Cartel, Shoply or Etsy with your website so you can have other information listed like your “about me”, a blog, your social media channels, a newsletter sign up and so on.

Just remember, it seems overwhelming but it’s not that bad! If you need help, tons of people have been down this road before you- you’re not alone. 🙂

To Recap:

  • ICANN has a crap ton of information on internet and domain name stuff.
  • Pick a domain name for your business or yourself (or both).
  • You can direct your domain name to anything you want.
  • You can have multiple domains pointing to the same information (in case you have multiple domains).
  • You can keep your online address information private when you register your domain if you choose, otherwise try signing up for a P.O. Box first (about $25.00 depending on duration of contract, size of box, and your location in my experience).
  • Get a hosting plan (use my affiliate link please!) for your domain.
  • Set up your website– recommended to use a WordPress.org installation. You can find directions on manual installation here or, if you’re awesome and went with HostGator for hosting through my link, you can find directions on installation here. After installation, add your content (another beast entirely ;)).
  • Share your website on your social media channels (private or professional- share widely and proudly!)
  • WordPress.org has a robust online help forum so if you’re struggling with WP, ask for help
  • WordPress.org and WordPress.com are not the same thing but yes, they are both WP.
  • If you’re primarily blogging but don’t know anything about websites, try having your domain point to a free blogging platform url like BlogSpot, WordPress.com (.COM not .ORG), or Tumblr to take advantage of built in features like SEO and searchable content in a wider and larger community of people.
  • If you’re primarily selling items, and aren’t ready to set up a website, have your URL point to your online shop.
  • If you’ve set up your website and want your shop run through your site, link your Etsy, Shopify, Shoply, Big Cartel, et al through your webpage.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
  • Don’t feel bad if you want to hire someone to do this. While knowing how to hire someone reputable who will deliver is another blog entirely, there is no shame in knowing you’d rather pay someone to set up your website for you. 🙂

Best wishes!

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