Here are some quick links to help you jump to the relevant section:
Marketers underestimate the importance of a domain name, often choosing names without giving it a second thought. There should be many considerations before choosing a domain name for your business.
- Does it represent your line of business well?
- Is it easy to pronounce?
- Is it easy to communicate over the phone? Will you have to spell it out multiple times before a customer can understand it?
- Quirky names that misspell words like Kwik, Phalcon, Krimson etc. sound interesting. But you will have to constantly keep reminding your customers that it’s ‘Crimson with a K’ or “Quick that’s spelt K-w-i-k’. So think twice before using misspelt words as your brand name.
- It is good to have your primary keyword in your domain name. So if we can get leadgeneration.com or leadgenerationservices.com, go for it. It can help you rank better for those keywords.
- Before you get carried away, and fall in love with a name, check for domain availability. Even if you are willing to pay through your nose, some domain names would just not be available.
- Make a list of preferable domain names, shortlist a few, check their availability.
- Once you see that they are available, do not delay. Domains do not cost a lot of money. So if you are unsure about 2 names, book both of them. You can definitely cancel one later. But you cannot get a lost domain back.
Here are a few popular domain name providers you would go with:
- Network Solutions
- Google domains
Remember that you owning the domain is very important. Do not let an agency or another company own the domain name. It should be in your name, in an account that you have the credentials for.
YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHERE YOUR DOMAIN IS, and have ownership of it. I cannot stress this enough!
Once the domain name is in place, the next crucial step is to decide how big or small your website will be, how many pages it will have, and what the navigation will be.
A good exercise at this point is to take a piece of paper and draw what you want the website navigation to look like, the header, footer, text arrangement etc. This will give you an idea how big your website would be. A small website will have anything between 5-25 pages, medium-sized one will have around 26-500 pages. Anything above 500 pages can be classified as a large, though actual large websites can have thousands of pages.
CMS is an easy option to get your website up and running quickly. Sign up with Wordpress, choose a template, customize your design and in a few hours, your website can be live. Any CMS would have limitations in how much you can customize the website, but ease of maintenance and ease of publishing new content makes up for that inconvenience.
Top CMS available are:
- Shopify – For Ecommerce websites
- Woocommerce – For Ecommerce websites
Though CMS is the easier option to create and maintain a website, it does have its own limitations on how much tweaking you can do to a design, or changing the layout after some time.
If you have the time and resources, hire an agency or better still, your own digital marketing team. You can code the website from scratch and have your team update it regularly. A good UI/UX person can work with you, get ideas from you and create a website the way you want it.
If you are not using CMS, you have to take HOSTING on a separate platform. Which brings us to the next step.
All the above-mentioned domain name providers have hosting services as well. Talk to the customer support to help you choose the right server, depending on how many pages you would have, and what traffic you are expecting to your website.
- Questions you would face at this juncture are whether you need a Linux or Windows server. If you have databases associated with your account, or have an ASP.NET or .NET framework, it is best to choose a Windows server.
- You also have to decide whether you need a Virtual machine or dedicated machine for hosting. With current security features and better controls, a Virtual machine is sufficient for most websites.
- But is you want complete control of your server, and mission-critical applications running on it, you should pay a little extra and get a dedicated server. There are also variations in RAM, processor, storage, support and a host of other features depending on your provider.
- Remember that this is like buying a new computer, but a more important one since you do not want your website to go down, EVER! So choose wisely and do not cut corners here.
Checklist before choosing a hosting provider:
- Do you need a Windows server or Linux server?
- Do you need a virtual private server or a dedicated server?
- What uptime guarantee does the provider give?
- What processor options are available? Common ones are Intel and AMD similar to your personal machine.
- Do you want to have a choice between SSD and HDD? A simple online research can give you the answers to whether you should choose the traditional spinning disks.
- RAM and storage – The hosting provider should be able to help you decide this based on how big your website is, and how much traffic you are expecting.
- Security – Never ever compromise on this. Drill your hosting provider on security features, alerts, backups, protection again hackers and viruses.
Here are some popular hosting providers:
- Network Solutions
- Inmotion Hosting
The first question here is, “Why do you need an SSL certificate?” You must have seen Google Chrome throwing up errors when you browse to some website that says the website is not secure. If you install an SSL certificate your URL changes from http:// to https://, a more secure form of encrypted HTTP.
SSL companies verify the credentials of your organization before granting the certificate, thereby reassuring your visitors that your company exists. A standard SSL certificate usually shows:
- The organization to whom it is issued
- The organization issuing it
- Certificate validity
- Public key
- Number of cookies used
Google gives better rankings to websites with SSL certificates. If you are collecting information from the customer on your website, which most websites do, SSL certificate is essential.
Now that you have decided to have an SSL certificate, the next step is to decide which one. Below are the types of certificates you can have.
- Extended validation (EV SSL) – Most expensive, most secure
- Domain Validated SSL (DV SSL) – Second most expensive, secure
- Organization Validated SSL (OV SSL) – Minimal validation
- Wildcard SSL – Secures one main domain and unlimited subdomains
- Multi-domain SSL – Secures multiple domains
Websites offer a range of options within this, with various plans, SAN(Subject alternate name), free options etc. Research a little before choosing your SSL certificate. It is usually renewed every year, and they have a validation process every year. So it’s a good idea to stick to one provider for couple of years, to minimize headaches related to yearly validation.
Popular SSL providers are:
- Comodo SSL Store
- Network Solutions
- RapidSSL – Rapid SSL also sells certificates from Digicert, GeoTrust and Thawte
Branding is not just about a logo design, it’s about defining what your brand represents. Here are some funky, but very useful questions you could ask yourself to help you define your brand:
- If your brand is a person, how old would he/she be?
- Which car would your brand drive?
- Where would your brand vacation?
- What clothes would your brand wear?
- Which social media platform will your brand be active on?
These questions help you define whether your brand is young and exuberant, middle-added and successful, or older and wiser.
And that will help you define your brand to the logo designer, website designer, branding team and all those people who need to understand who your target audience is.
These are the elements you are least likely to work with on your website. You would either get a CMS platform, or get somebody to code the website in HTML(Hypertext Markup Language), the standard code used to render websites.
Though you do not need to know actual HTML, it is good to press Control+U on any website and see what the code looks like.
CSS or Cascading stylesheets are needed to specify how your website will look like - the colors, designs, padding, borders and so on. Remember to tell your developer not to use inline CSS in your website, since the best practice is to have a separate CSS file with all the classes defined and then declare the CSS file on your HTML page.
When it comes to website code, remember:
- Keep it clean
- Keep it simple
- Always remember that elements would need to be changed. So don’t set anything in stone, and keep things easy to maintain.
- Have a person, agency or system in place to stay nimble. You should be able to make changes quickly on your website, and not go through a long process.
- Each element that you add will affect the loading time of your website. So it is best not to get too fancy.
If your website is up and running now, use W3C markup validation to optimize your code. This is important, and you have to do it once every year to keep your website shipshape.
I’ve placed DESIGN in Position 6 not because I think it’s very important, but because I know that you would consider it important. It’s not that important.
If you would be getting your traffic mainly from search engines (as most websites do), you have to know that Google couldn’t care less about that pastel purple you struggled for weeks to get right. Search engines do not see the colors, borders and design elements you fought with your designer about.
The amount of time a user spends on your website helps search engines determine whether they are good enough. So put USABILITY and NAVIGATION above design any day.
Things to remember:
- Keep it simple, make it easy for people to find things on your website.
- Core web vitals, the latest algorithm update from Google considers page loading time as a key factor. So it’s important to keep your design elements lightweight.
- As much as possible, keep your important content within the first fold, or the first scroll of the page.
- Make it easy for customers to contact you, or sign up, or fulfill whatever is the goal of your website.
- Contact forms, Phone numbers, Pricing, About us pages should be easy to find.
And please don’t spend ages finalizing your website. Design, color and navigation can be changed later if you are not happy. Launching your website is key to get moving.
If you have an existing website that's not doing well, think about usability or about adding content first. Not about redesign. It's not worth the money, effort and time spent on it.
GOOGLE ANALYTICS, GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE, GOOGLE TAG MANAGER
All these are essential for you to get information about your website. If you are working with an agency or your own team, ask them to set these up for you and MOST IMPORTANTLY, to set them up in your name.
Google Analytics – The world-famous, most popular, web analytics platform that gives you comprehensive information about your website visitors, you cannot do without GA. Insert a small piece of code on the header of your website, set up your property, add filters if you want, and you are ready to go.
Google search console – Search console will tell you how well your website is performing with the search engines, if there are any errors and also to inform search engines of any changes to your site like URL removal.
Google tag manager – Each click on your website is an event, and if Google Analytics has to measure that, you should tag the event. This tagging is done using GTM. Google tag manager can also be used to insert any third party code more efficiently into your website.
This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your website. Though you can get others to write content for you, there’s nothing like you expressing what you do, in your own words. A content writer will most likely read up 10 different pages and summarize them for you.
But when you write, write from the heart. Talk to your customers. Let your passion and your reason for creating the website talk loud and clear.
- Keep the content simple and straight-forward
- There are studies on the optimum number of words that can help a page rank better. Different studies give different answers. 300 words is too little, and 5000 words is too much. But that's my personal opinion. The length of content depends entirely on what kind of page you have, and how informative it is.
- If you are publishing a research paper or an in-depth analysis, you would obviously have lengthier pages.
- Outsourcing content, getting ghostwriters – all this works. But make sure the content reflects your message clearly.
- No plagiarism - not one sentence, not one phrase. Use copyscape.com to check for content plagiarism even before your content is published. Even if your content is already published, you can enter URLs in Copyscape to check for plagiarism.Other companies could complain against you and Google could remove you from their search results for plagiarized content. If you find that your content has been stolen, go ahead and file a DMCA complaint.
- Remember, the right message, marketed right can change the world, and make it a better place.
And though it is a pain, it is important to include the right keywords in your content. Here are some tools that can help.
- Google keyword planner – This wonderful tool can tell you what phrases people are searching for, and the search volumes. Try variations of your main website keyword, and include the more popular keywords in your content.
- Google Trends –Though not as advanced as Keyword planner, Google Trends can give you a rough idea whether your keywords is trending upwards or downwards in search volumes.
- Ubersuggest – The uber-cool tool from Neil Patel, the digital marketing guru, Ubersuggest can give you related keywords that can be added to your content.
- Buzzsumo – This tool gives you the list of articles related to your keywords that have gone live in the recent past. 6 months data is given for free. 1 year, 2 years and 5 years data is available with a paid subscription.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
The mystery game that has flummoxed many over the past years, there are over 200 factors that affect your page’s search engine ranking according to Google. Here are few things you can take care of.
- URL – I had already mentioned about having your primary keyword in the domain name. Even if you can't change that now, take heart. Having good URLs with primary keywords in it can help too.Have a good folder structure in mind for your website, classifying services, sub-services and articles correctly into folders. That can clean up URLs and give a good structure to your website.
- Page title – Go to any webpage and press Control+U to view the source code. Search for title and you will be able to see the page title. This is very very important from the point of view of the search engine. The rule is to keep title tags within 60 characters, which if exceeded, will be truncated in the search results.
- Meta description – This key piece of information tells the search engine what your page is about. While displaying your page in search results, Google might show the meta description if it’s good, or it might pick up some of your content from inside the page. It’s a good idea to write key information like pricing in your meta description.
- Alt tags – All your images should have alt tags and titles to describe it, so that search engines show them in image results.
- Structured data or Schema – These are specific tags that you can add to you pages, to specify extra information like author, location, pricing, reviews etc. This extra information will show up in your search results, getting you more clicks and hence higher rankings.
- Inbound links – Link building is another beast that many websites find difficult to tame. Directory submissions, article submissions are age old tricks to get links into your websites. But now there are many new ways to get links from other websites like:
- Create an awesome infographic that people would want to link to.
- Engage in your area of expertise in Quora, answer queries related to your website, and you could link back to your website to give more information.
- PR activities can give you visibility on the web, as well as valid links to your website.
- Guest blogging, though old, is still a popular method to get inbound links.
A fairly new area in digital marketing, social media channels are growing by the day. And your job is to find the channel(s) that work best for you.
- Go ahead and create handles in Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Quora, LinkedIn, Clubhouse etc.
- But each channel has their profile of audience you could get. A B2B company might not find Facebook very useful in reaching the audience, but a B2C company like a salsa class or theater workshop will find that Facebook still works.
- Try the channels, update them regularly and engage with your visitors for some time before deciding what works best for you.
EMAIL MARKETING AND MARKETING AUTOMATION
The best way to nurture and generate leads, email marketing is now gaining more popularity than ever. The age-old wisdom says that it’s easier to retain and grow an existing customer, than to acquire a new customer. Most companies, once they finish a project, will lose touch with that customer.
With regular emails, newsletters and updates, you can keep your brand fresh in the minds of customers, helping them remember you when they have a requirement.
Marketing automation tools can help you nurture your customers, segment them, rate them and predict the possibility of them converting into a project.
Remember a few things:
- Keep the email simple and to the point.
- Don’t boast, since customers can see through that very easily.
- Don’t send image-only emails, which will not be displayed on most email clients like Outlook.
- Don’t attach heavy brochures and portfolio files in email.
- Don’t bombard your customers with emails every other day. Have a schedule that helps them remember you brand, but not be irritated by it.
- And the most important point – have a system in place to respond to an email as quickly as you can, preferably within 30 minutes. That will show your company’s discipline and commitment to work.
Here are a few marketing automation tools you could try out:
- Constant contactli>
- Dialog tech
So your website is set up and you’ve started getting leads. Initially, the leads might be coming to your email or to a database. And that’s good enough to start. But when you leads increase and you need a sales or business development team to handle your inquiries; emails and excel sheets become inadequate.
You need a CRM to segregate sales and marketing qualified leads (SQL and MQL), allocate them to your team members, assign stages to the leads when they move through your sales funnel and so on.
Though the set up might take some work, a CRM can make life easier once it’s in place. Here are a few CRM software you can look at:
- Zoho CRM
Discipline and Consistency
Rome was not built in day. Nor will your digital marketing efforts get over quickly.
You have to be disciplined enough to keep working on your websites, social media and email marketing channels, updating them regularly and consistently till they yield results.
Keep at it patiently. Your efforts will yield results, taking your business to new heights. All the best, dear reader!