Getting to the point
Okay, so there are some obvious items that you will need to have a successful website. But I wanted to start off by drawing attention to some items that I think are critical, that sometimes get overlooked. These can save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run.
A Business Gmail account
Google provides so many fantastic free tools, yet I've seen so many website owners only half heartedly using them. And worst yet, when they do get these business tools, they attach them all to personal Gmail accounts.
- Google Analytics - free extremely in-depth website statistics
- Google MyBusiness - this is how you control your business profile on Google, the biggest search engine in the world
- Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) - here you can control many aspects of your website in Google's eyes and it can help you troubleshoot issues with your site
- Google Calendar - keep track of your teams
- Google Gmail - many companies use G suite for business and I highly recommend it or Microsoft Outlook's offerings for their excellent spam filters and integration
An excellent web host
Much of your experience in owning a website will come from the quality of your website hosting company. And I wish I could say there was a perfect go to for this and that all web hosts kept up their quality as they grow, but there will be a time when you have to move your site and it is never easy (even if they say it is).
So here are some things that I've looked for over the years in a good web host:
- How easy is it to contact them? - do they have chat, phone and/or email options for you to use? How long are wait times?
- Do they speak your language? - if they are talking over your head during the sales call, ask for clarification. If you still don't understand, look elsewhere.
- How fast are their servers? - or better yet, do they have a money back guaranty so you can test them out? Speed is critical for SEO.
- Do they jack up their prices after the introductory period?
- Can you easily transfer to more space with ease as your business grows?
- Do they offer SSL Encryption with your site? - thanks to the browsers like Google Chrome, your site may show as "Not Secure" without one and this could be a red flag for your visitors. Many hosts now how free options for security certificates that meet minimum requirements.
- And specific requirements for your site - if you have a shopping site, will they assist with PCI Compliance?
There are lots of resources around the web for finding reviews on hosting companies. Beware though, some look like they may be sponsored by some of these hosts and may not provide the best detail. A trick I use is to follow the host on Twitter and see how responsive they are when a client is on their last nerve (this is usually when they go to Twitter). If you're a club member, I have a few companies my business has had personal experience with a few that you can check out under "Resources."
Be the registrant of your domain name
I truly believe the domain name is the most critical item of all. And it's amazing how many people let their web designer or marketing firm buy the domain name, but don't pay attention to who the domain name was registered to.
This is not an underhanded move by the agency, many just buy the domain and use their default settings. However, think about how valuable your domain name is. All of the ranking you get from the search engines is tied to that domain name. If you've spent thousands on a website and SEO, it can all be thrown away by you losing control of your domain name. And the "Registrant" is the person the domain company sees as the true owner.
How do you know if you're the registrant? Check out https://whois.icann.org/en and enter your domain name. If you're not listed as the registrant, it's time to reach out to the person managing your domain.
Note: If you use privacy features with your domain name, you may have to contact the registrar directly to verify the registrant information.
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