LeanDomainSearch – A search tool to find domain names. You can enter words you would like to match in the name and this will generate available variations of that name. Free to use, no signup required.
Website SEO Checker – A free, no signup required site which will give you your Domain Authority and Page Authority scores.
Moz Link Explorer – Finds all of the sites linking back to your site (or a competitor’s site). This is a freemium tool which allows you a limited amount of searches per month for free, with a paid option to run unlimited searches.
WhyNoPadlock – If your pages are using HTTPS but you have pages which are still showing up as insecure (with no padlock), use this tool to analyze why. Enter your URL and run the test – free to use and you do not have to sign up.
Yoast Manual Page Checker – Here you can check the SEO of your page manually, without needing a plugin.
OneLook – A site that will give you many options for a single word including a dictionary, thesaurus, find words or phrases similar to that word or usage examples.
GTMetrix – Check your website speed with this tool which will return your page score from 2 different page tests and then give you advice on how to improve your site speed.
BuzzSumo Content Analyzer – Lookup social engagement and trends based on the keywords you want to analyze. This is a freemium tool, so up to a certain amount of results it is free.
Word Checker – Check on how many words are on a page. Note: WordPress will tell you the word count at the bottom of your editing page, but this is a good way to get the word count from other site’s pages.
Siteliner – Find any duplicate content on your site.
Magnify – This is a free tool that can create popups on your site with no plugin. Just create the popup you want and add the snippet code to your site’s header.
PDFEscape – Edit or open PDFs for free, online.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR BUSINESS STRATEGY
Who is Your Target Market?
Hint: It's Not Everyone
This is a hard thing to accept but whatever you are doing is not going to be for everyone, ever.
Haters: they’re not just for celebrities anymore. Haters come in all shapes, sizes, ages & genders. Don’t even bother trying to cater to the generic market of “all”. Some people will hate what you do, no matter who you are.
Niche down. Figure out and then cater to your market segments.
You want to know your customers/visitors, inside and out. It helps to create a tangible, visceral persona for each and every customer type you want to attract. You should hear their imaginary voices telling you how much they love your wonderful content and products.
Then take a pulse check when you have their real voices giving you feedback and see if you were on target. If not, don’t be afraid to switch it up some.
Who are the people that really want to hear what you have to say? Identify your fans’ personas down to the demographic: i.e., young-at-heart, 70 year-old females trying to go viral with their comedy talk show via YouTube videos.
Then, make sure you are always speaking to this demographic; these are your people, your peeps. My demographic loves the use of the term “peeps”.
Why Are People on Your Site?
Make Your Message Clear
Hopefully, you already know the answer to this question.
If not, spend some time thinking long and hard about why you are starting your website and/or business.
It can be simple or overly verbose, but you should have a few sentences that clearly conveys what your overall goal is. You don’t have to post this anywhere on the site, but your mission statement should resonate through all of your content and imagery throughout the site.
You also can include it verbatim on the site if you wish to – like on the About Us page.
Here’s an example from Coca-Cola’s Mission, Vision and Values page:
- To refresh the world…
- To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
- To create value and make a difference.
Like Me, Only Different
How Good Is Your Best Competitor?
Chances are, whatever you are working on has already been done at some level.
With that in mind, it’s important to assess and understand who your greatest competition is, and how your product will differ from theirs.
If you’re making the same thing they are, your “thing” needs to be cheaper, better quality, more convenient, or have some other appeal factor that will make someone switch from using a better known or more established company.
Don’t obsess over your competition, but know what their strengths and weaknesses are.
The most important thing is that you don’t look like you are a cheap copy of them and that you have your own identity and value-add.
Research your competition with tools for this purpose. Our favorite is SpyFu, which gives you a good handle on what is working for similar sites to yours, how much they pay for in ads, what keywords they target, and more.
Set Yourself Apart
Would You Use Your Product?
If you can’t answer that question – it’s time to go back to the drawing board. You should have a very concrete understanding of why your product would be a better option than someone else’s… and this part is important: it needs to be grounded in reality.
If you think you might sell a more expensive product because your marketing is cute and gimmicky, well you better make sure you’re targeting the right audience who cares about that marketing.
No one has a crystal ball on what trends will be the next rage, but there are some universal consistencies when it comes to selling just about anything:
- People appreciate substance, and they appreciate value. All other sales tricks are only going to be temporarily beneficial.
- Raise the bar on quality and value and you’ll be a contender.
- Always over-deliver, and you’ll have a fighting chance at success.
- It is the rare company that excels with laziness or lack of customer empathy.
- Be different enough to not have to worry about your competition. Apple is the best at this, they have products that are similar to other companies’ products, but they could care less about their competition because they have built their own unique identity that stands strong on its own.
HOW TO START A WEBSITE OR BLOG
Choose & Purchase a Domain Name
Pick a name that represents your business, your brand, or your message.
If you are having a hard time finding an available name, you might try some variations of the words you want to use with help from a site like this.
We recommend getting the extension .com if you are a professional business. The other extensions are not usually highly known or understood, and can be mistaken for a scam site.
Only use a free domain name (usually a subdomain of another site) if you are building your site for personal use or as a hobby with no intent to monetize.
Namecheap is our preferred and recommended domain name provider. We buy our domains through them because they always seem to have the best prices and come with free WhoIsGuard protection, whereas most other sites make you pay extra for this.
Choose a Content Management System
Research your CMS options
Each CMS will have its own set of pros and cons.
Here is a quick breakdown/summary of each:
WordPress – As ~33% of all websites are built on WordPress, this is the most widely used CMS today, and also has the largest amount of free and premium (pay) plugins and themes. This is the easiest beginner option for non-developers of all of the CMS choices. You will not need to learn how to code to use WordPress as a lot of the builders use visual drag-and-drop functionality.
Joomla! – Joomla! is the runner up to WordPress in usage, but falls to a mere 3% vs. WordPress’s 33% market-share. Available free and premium plugins and themes are limited compared to the selection that WordPress offers. Configuration is also more difficult and can require developer assistance. On the pro side, Joomla! is considered more secure than WordPress. However, a large drawback is that SEO performance is weaker.
Drupal – Drupal is faster than WordPress and Joomla! because it is less resource-intensive. The catch is that if you aren’t a developer, you will probably need to pay someone to configure your site for you, and you will also have to pay for the theme. Drupal doesn’t have ample free options like WordPress does.
Whichever CMS you decide to go with, make sure you understand what you are getting. If you change your CMS down the road it could require you to rebuild some or all of your site. Transferring your CMS usually comes with some hiccups. There are plugins made to help with these types of migrations, but chances are the site will need some manual tweaking/fixing after the fact.
Picking a Site Host
What to Look For
If there is a specific need you have you may be looking for something a particular host can provide, but in general I find there are 2 main things people care the most about, and then it just comes down to the best price. These things are:
- Customer Service
- Overall Reliability (up-time, speed, bandwidth all being stable)
I also advise making sure your host includes these factors:
- Included backups/restores
- Included Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Multiple Domains allowed (if needed)
- Unlimited storage/bandwidth
- Scalability if needed
- Free SSL
There are many great hosting companies to choose from. A few of our favorites are:
Find a Theme You Love
Pick Something That Represents Your Style
Your Website’s theme is such a personal decision. It all comes down to what you want to convey to your audience.
Is your tone confident, modern, quirky, happy, formal, informative?
Whichever the case, there’s sure to be a theme for that. Now, how to find it is sometimes a challenge.
Spend a few (thousand, in my case) hours looking at websites you love. If they use WordPress discover what theme they are using with this tool – WP Theme Detector.
Here are some of our favorite premium theme providers:
- My Theme Shop – Attractive, mobile-responsive and lightweight, you can choose to purchase a monthly all-access plan, or purchase individual themes. One of their hottest sellers is this theme, Socially Viral.
- Restored 316 Designs – Beautiful, feminine designed themes which require the Genesis Framework ($59.95 or free if you use WP Engine) to be in place before purchasing one of their themes. Check out their showcase here.
- Elegant Themes – This where you can find the well known builder Divi as well as other themes and it works on a membership package, so for $89.00/yr you have access to anything they offer. Divi is one of the top builders and themes available. Although it is packaged as a “theme”, it really accounts for what could be hundreds of different variations in themes as what you are getting is an interactive drag-and-drop system that will help you to visually create and edit your website’s appearance without the use of coding. Divi’s visual interface is a great option for someone new to building websites.
If it’s your first site, you might just stick with the WordPress free themes to get a feel for how WordPress works. Changing themes down the road is very simple, especially if you have no custom code in place. Astra or Customizr are great free themes you might try.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR BRAND
Choose & Purchase a Logo
Pick a name that represents your business, your brand, or your message.
Choosing your logo is exciting and fun, but can be frustrating if you are a perfectionist looking for that right image to represent your company and brand. Just remember that if you don’t already have an established reputation, it’s okay to change your image down the road.
Your company’s name however, should be well thought of before-hand. That’s a lot harder to switch later on, especially if you have to also change your website’s domain name.
For your logo, pick a symbol or font that represents who you are or the message you are trying to convey. For example, if your company is environmentally friendly, you might want to choose a symbol which represents the environment as well as add a color that also helps people quickly identify with environmentally-friendly thoughts. For this example an obvious contender might be a green leaf.
Here’s a hint, make it simple and obvious. Don’t try to be so cute with it that no one will ever figure out what your symbol represents. Most of the best logos are a simple font or small symbol like the Apple logo with a bite out of an apple.
Take advantage of some of the less expensive options for logo design, especially if you’re not sure that you’ll want to keep this down the road. If you are ready to invest in a designer right off the bat, there are some great options going through contract sites like Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer.
How to Apply Branding to Your Site
Where and How to Add Your New Logo
Depending on what you are using to create your site, there should be numerous options for you to add your logo to various areas of your website.
At a minimum, you should make sure that your logo is in these places:
- Your Site’s Header – For most sites this means, at the top of the page on every page of your site. You want people to know that they are on your site and to remember your name so that they hopefully come back. People are used to seeing your logo here so they will be looking for it.
- Favicon – This is the icon that shows up for your page’s tab at the top (or bottom) of your browser. It is typically your website’s symbol, as you can only get a very tiny image displayed here – think Google’s colorful G, which is all that shows up for a Google page’s favicon. You can get pretty creative with these, even make them animated – here is a tutorial on that if you’re interested.
- Social Media – The more consistent you are with using your logo throughout various channels, the more people will begin to identify and remember your brand. Try to use your logo whenever you can, including email correspondence and especially on social media.
Publicize, Publicize, Publicize
Now that you’ve done all the hard work to get yourself up and running, you need some traffic to get people to actually see what you’ve done.
Any which way you can, get people to your site. Ideally, these are targeted audiences of people who might be more interested in what you sell or discuss.
Here are some ways of generating traffic and marketing your brand:
- Word of Mouth – Loyal customers, friends, people who have had positive experiences with you and want to recommend your stuff are a great way of getting your brand out there. You can capitalize on these advocates by asking for and receiving reviews that can be used on your site or on Google/Yelp.
- Email Subscribers – Work on your list as soon as you build your website. Your subscriber list is one of the best marketing tools you have, as these are people who have signed up willingly because they were interested in your information or product (I shouldn’t have to say this, but obviously, that’s the audience you want – and the one that is statistically most likely to be receptive to your offers).
- Organic Traffic – Google and other search engines will do ranking algorithms to determine if your content is relevant for specific search queries. Keyword targeting and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) are ways of fine-tuning your content to make sure you are being found by these algorithms.
- Pay Per Click Advertising – Usually done through Google Ads or similar, Pay Per Click is when marketers will pay based on any clicks that bring traffic to their site. This can also be done through individual sites that run ads for other people
- Retargeted Advertising – This uses a level of intelligence (a la Machine Learning) in advertising. Ads for your product are shown to someone who has been looking for something similar to purchase, but at the time when the algorithm determines they are closer to the buying phase. This increases the chances of conversion.
- Network & Get BackLinks – Develop strategic friendships with people in industries that complement your business (not direct competition). For example, if you have a window installation company, it would be advantageous to have a business with blinds and window shades recommend your services to their customers.
- Social Media – If you’re not using Social Media to your advantage you are missing out on tons of free and inexpensive marketing opportunities. From Pinterest, to Instagram, to Twitter, to Facebook, pick one or several avenues to focus on, and spend a good amount of time building out your social presence. This can be done for free or through paid advertising, but the free version often means a large time commitment from you or your marketing team.