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Organizations & Associations

If possible, use organizations and associations to help promote your website or digital marketing efforts.  These groups have spent many years developing their own branding and websites, and have gained a following that is not only substantial in size – but composed of highly targeted individuals – who no doubt have interests like your own.  If you’re able to get a link (or even better, a profile) on one of these sites that links back to your website – you’ll have the benefit of a quality link, from the organization or association that has high-value, established trust & history with your target audience.  

Chamber of Commerce

Your local chamber is a quality source for link building opportunity.  Don’t have a membership?  Well, this might help justify the cost – as most members will search the chamber for service/product providers in their area, more often that advertising or other methods.  Apply for a membership by calling your local chamber for information.  Ask the representative on the phone about building a member page, or providing contact information for your chamber member listing page.  Ask them if you’re allowed to add a link to your website on the page as well, as this can prove valuable for SEO purposes.  If you remember in the SEO section of this book, we described the ‘gold-dust’ principal – and the chamber websites are absolutely littered with gold dust.  Give them a link, and the chamber visitors will track some of that value back to your property!  

Local Business Organizations

When you are searching for your business online, you’ll no doubt run across an organization or two, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry.  If you’re a lawyer, doctor, zoologist, dentist, construction worker…  there are more organizations than there are individual industries.  There are a wide variety to choose from – and if you’re able to qualify for a membership (some might have strict rules/regulations to qualify), you may be able to create a page full of contact information, details on your services/product, and (most important) your website address.  Use this link to your advantage!  Build out a page just for your organization – add content that your organization would be looking for, such as discounts, details for other members, and information that might pertain to a fellow organization person.  Adding this information to a specific page will help build up that page for other people who could potentially be looking for a service/product provider who is also a member of a certain organization. The potential costs of membership to an organization should be weighed against the benefits (this sounds very simple, but is in fact a completely overwhelming chore).  Think about any potential traffic that you could gather from the organization, along with any opportunities/’extracurricular’ activities that you might be able to attend and hand out business cards.  Think about social events, ‘grand openings’, or members-only events that you could visit and gain some interest in your services or product.  If you could calculate the sales potential from these events, and come up with a percentage of actual sales from the events, you could effectively come up with a ‘conversion rate’ for the organization.  Each organization could have different quantitative values, so it’s important to not lump a more ‘social/community/education’ organization with one that is more ‘business/sales’ oriented.  Choose your organization wisely, and think of the possibilities for marketing your business (besides link building) in your advertising ventures.  

Meetups

If you have the chance to take part in local meetups, you should attend.  These meetups can be centered around a discussion, small business growth, or other interests.  I would highly suggest you attend a couple meetups that have to do with digital marketing, or how to market your small business.  These meetups are usually informal, don’t have a very structured or rigid timeline, but allow for the attendees to speak up and voice their opinion or thoughts on any number of topics.  Usually, the topic is pre-chosen for a meetup – so you don’t have to worry about being steered off into left field by someone who wants to hijack the conversation.  Besides being a great place to learn about the topic in general, it’s a great way to network with people who are working in the same industry – and are willing to work together towards the common goal.  

Business Cards

Bring business cards and some basic marketing material to any events you attend, and distribute them to anyone you meet.  You never know the next time that someone you meet will have a question about your business or skills!  Also, make sure to collect business cards from people you meet so that you can call on their services/skills when necessary.  Business cards are a very inexpensive way to show that you are serious about your business, and that you understand the worth of networking offline.  I know, this is a digital marketing book – but sometimes it’s nice to think about some of the traditional methods that are still working as they have for many years.  A well printed, cleanly presented business card – along with a good handshake are still two of the best ways to gain respect from a potential customer.  Next on that list…   a clean website, and a solid digital marketing presentation.

Business Listings

Online business listings are an important part of local search engine optimization. Creating links that lead back your website, in conjunction with consistent NAP citations, raises your business’ online visibility and signals to Google that your website is relevant and trustworthy.  The most important business listing online, is your Google My Business Page – which can show up alongside (not just among) the search engine results in Google.  This page information can leap off the page  

Fill Out Your Google My Business Page

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to boost your local search ranking is to register with Google My Business.

Login to your Google My Business Page:

https://business.google.com/   To get the most out of the listing, fill out all the fields, including your address, phone number and business hours. (You get bonus points for adding photos of your location and staff to personalize your profile even further.)

Examples of Business Listing Sources

When Google crawls the web for search results, it looks for mentions of your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP). Even slight variations, like an abbreviated street address or alternate phone number, can confuse Google, so it’s important to make sure that your NAP is consistent in every citation, on or off your website.

Online Reviews (How to get them, and what to do with them)

When customers leave reviews on Google or any other website, it helps boost your search ranking. You can encourage customers to go online and leave reviews, and if they do, it’s important to respond gracefully to both positive and negative comments. This will help improve your reputation with searchers as well.  

How can I get more reviews?

One good way, is to make the option easy for potential reviewers.  Put a link on your homepage to the review location in Google.  If you go to your business page (more on this later in the book – under Business Listings), and copy the link to the page – then go to your website and add a link that says something like “Like our service? Want to leave us a Review?” and make it link to that review webpage. Another option, is to simply ask.  Talk to your customers, and let them know that after the job is complete – if they would leave a review on Google, it would be highly appreciated.  Wait until the service is nearly complete (or fully, in some cases) before asking for a review.  If you are selling a product – as frequently, either place a sign on your front door – or print the request for a review on your receipt.  

Bad Reviews

If you have a bad review online, the worst thing you can do – is to either ignore it, or try to get rid of it.  Your best solution for this – is to simply respond.  Collect your patience, and take a deep breath – and type calmly.   Don’t escalate matters by stooping to their level!  Instead, voice your desire to help them – ask them what caused them to be so upset, and work to calm them down. Don’t act ‘clueless’ – as you could have caused them some sort of hardship – but not everyone on the internet needs to know this.  If you know exactly what caused the bad review, or it is some sort of personal matter – ask them to call you to discuss amending the issue, or some sort of resolution.  Make sure to express how you are sorry, apologize for any hardship your product/service caused – and own the mistake. If you take 5 minutes and request information – the next time someone sees the review, they will see that you were responsive and helpful – and maybe there’s a chance that someone just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  

When to Avoid Reviews

Requesting reviews will NOT work in your favor if you purposefully back-stabbed someone, or sold them a miserable product or service.  If you did, no amount of backpedaling or apologies will keep the bad reviews from coming in. We’re all human, all capable of mistakes – but people can spot a shady company from a mile away.  If your purpose in life is to profit off shady business practices – you should avoid reviews at all costs. (This is not an endorsement of crappy services, but a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why we ALL need to focus on good reviews online.)

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

When you use a search engine to display the results of your question (for example – when you type a question into Google – and what is listed on the screen after you press enter), there will be some results that aren’t ‘naturally’ there – but are branded as ‘Advertisement’.  

Paid Placement in Google

Go to Google, and search for a product or service, such as “doctor in my area” – or something similar. On your screen – you’ll see the advertisements (3 of them) across the top, as they must pay for that position in the search results.  Before you ask, the price varies wildly.  Some searches are relatively inexpensive – due to the low average search volume and low level of competition.  Some search terms are HIGHLY competitive (such as real estate agents, lawyers, and doctors), and have a very high search volume – so the price skyrockets accordingly.  If you could be the #1 lawyer in search engines, you have a much higher chance of being clicked on.  As the metrics show, nearly 60% of clicks from search engine results go to one of the first 3 “organic” websites listed. Wait… What does Organic mean?   Search results are broken out into several separate categories, but I’ll only explain the top three in this book.  The categories are established to explain what type of ‘link’ a search engine result is displaying.  

Organic

An organic link is the most natural way to draw in website visitors, and takes the longest to establish.  When your website shows up towards the top of search engine results – it is the result of a lot of hard work, length of time the website has been online, and many, MANY other factors.  Since the website took a lot of work to show up ‘organically’ – it also takes a long time for the link to disappear once the work is stopped.  If you stop working on search engine optimization (see previous chapter) – the link will remain in place for quite a while, instead of dropping off the face of the planet overnight. These links are very ‘honorable’ links, and when shown in search results – they let the person viewing the search results know that the link they are about to click on is legitimate, and isn’t trying to ‘fool’ someone into visiting their website.  All organic results are subject to the rules and ‘regulations’ of the search engine itself – so in Google’s case, if you’ve ranked highly on their website – you’ve gained a token of respect from them – and they’ve brought your website higher in their ranks.  

Referral

These links are based on a reference from another source.  Either a paid advertisement link, a link from a social network, or an advertisement on a third-party website.  This link is based on the amount of worth you can find in the “linking source” material.  Imagine you want to pay for a link on your local newspaper website for your services.  Chances are, you’re going to get some response for your advertisement – and you’ll get some clicks onto your website due to the advertisement being clicked on.  The cost that you will pay can be based on how many people view your advertisement (brand awareness strategy), or how many click to visit your website (PPC – Pay-per-click).  Again, these values depend on the amount of traffic to either the third-party website, the number of followers you have on social networks, or the amount of traffic from the search engine for any search ‘phrase’.   Referral links don’t usually last very long – and usually fade into the background after a short period.  Any traffic generated from the source will also fade away.  For any paid advertisement, the amount of traffic you acquire from the advertisement will (obviously) disappear once you retire the advertisement, or it has run its course.  Paid advertisements in search engines usually take up the first three results – but many people have become aware that the first results are advertisements, and skip right past them to the ‘actual’ (organic) search results.  

Direct

When you share a link to another person, or they type in your domain name into a browser, this is considered a direct visitor.  The link they click, or the address they type in, are a direct method of visiting your website – since browsers can’t “see” the source of the traffic initially.  After the visitor ‘lands’ on your website, the visitor can then be tracked as they view your content – moving from page to page.  Direct links don’t have any ‘shelf-life’ – and do not relate to search engines.  

Google Adwords

A separate form of advertising that can reach outside the bounds of the search engine – and can be presented on other websites, is Google AdWords.  In order to create an account, you will go to https://adwords.google.com and create your free account.  You’ll be able to research keyword search volume, review how much a ‘click’ will cost your company, and many other metrics that will be invaluable to your company.  But, as the interface can be a little confusing – you could end up spending quite a lot on advertising using this method.  Since you pay two-fold, on a pay-per-click campaign – or through an ‘impression’ campaign – you could end up burning through a majority of your advertising campaign without any sort of target audience in place.  

Pay-per-Click (PPC) Ads

If you only want to direct people to your website, you can focus on exactly what you’d like to pay for a person to click on your advertisement – and then set a budget for your advertising campaign.  Note: If you click your own ad, you are spending your own money!  If you can’t see where you can test your ad before launching your campaign, and make sure that it works – don’t click too many times, as you could essentially eat up your entire budget.  When a potential visitor sees your advertisement in Google, and they click on the advertisement -  you are paying the current rate for that single click.  Rates are available in Google AdWords’ dashboard when you build your ad campaign, so there shouldn’t be any surprises in cost per click. If your business is in a low competition, low volume industry – each click might hover around $0.10 cost to your budget.  In a highly competitive, high search-volume industry – you might run across clicks that cost above $50 each time someone clicks on your advertisement! When you establish a budget for your campaign, it might be a good idea to start researching your ‘conversion rate’ of your website, along with your average profit per customer, so that you can establish what your return on investment (ROI) will be during the campaign.  I mean, it doesn’t make much sense to invest $1000 in Google AdWords per month if the outcome would be to sell ten more goldfish.  On the other hand, if you are in real estate - $1000 per month could equal another house sold at a $5000 net profit, which you could then invest in more Google AdWords campaigns!  

Impression-Based Ads

If your business is just starting, and you’re not sure you need to get a bunch of random people to your website – you might consider advertisement that is called “Impression-Based” advertising.  The sole purpose of this type of ad, is that you want the advertisement to hit as many eyeballs during a course of a week or two.  Traditionally, an example would be a 30-second TV spot – which would serve over the course of a seven-day spread – equally to as many people as possible.  The cost of this sort of advertisement is based on ‘inventory’, so with Google as an example – you could target the same high volume keywords – but would have to ‘outbid’ the next person.  Another example of this type of advertising will be covered in the “Third-Party” section below.  

Facebook Ads

The whole experience with advertising on Facebook has changed throughout the years, but recently – the interface that you use has been improved to provide help hints, tips, tricks and even allows you to boost posts to gain more viewers.  Each step of the way you’ll see helpful hints that will get you to spend more money at Facebook, but they provide the numbers that you need to see to make an educated decision.  If you don’t have the budget to advertise on Facebook – I’m not so sure you’d have enough budget for any of the other options above!  It’s inexpensive, and you can start very small with your campaign.  The options to advertise to a targeted market is also extremely helpful!  

Other Sources (Third-Party)

If you choose to advertise on a newspaper website, blog, video posting website (i.e. YouTube), there are a variety of options to choose from -  but most of the above options will work until you start to get into video advertising, as you’ll have to create the content (video) that will run on their service. Newspaper ads usually have you build an advertisement (or they will have their creative department develop some ‘creative’ for you), but I would say that the most successful advertisements come from your own company.  If someone you know can help you, or at least be a ‘sounding board’ for your advertisement ideas, you’ll be ahead of the curve.  

How do I make an Ad?

Come up with a goal in advance, and create the ‘pitch’ (what are you trying to say?) for the advertisement.  Start with a 300 pixel wide by 250 pixel tall space on your computer – which is nearly the same ratio as a piece of printer paper – and create your ad.  

Helpful Hints

Don’t make the text too small – as at a smaller size on a screen, it might become illegible. Use bright colors if they match your branding – just don’t be obnoxious. If your overall goal is to be obnoxious, use several contrasting bright colors that will attempt to give your potential visitors a migraine. Some advertising sources (newspapers, blogs) might allow you to use some basic animation, such as two or three ‘slides’ – served as a single, looping, animated ad.  This can help to collect eyeballs, and draw people into clicking on your advertisement. Use animation sparingly, and don’t get too complex – as you want to leave the potential visitor asking for more information.  If your entire sales pitch is in the ad itself, you don’t need to have them click the link for more information – and you’ve lost out on the reason for the advertisement in the first place. A good rule of thumb for a great ad, is to have it ask a question that you know they must click to get the answer.

Tools to Help you with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Most small businesses have limited resources, budget and expertise to incorporate SEO into their strategy, so this is where the help of a few free tools comes into play. By using them, you’ll better understand your competition, your SEO strengths and weaknesses, and your market opportunities. Google Speed Test (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed) Quickly understand where your website’s speed stands against similar sites and receive a list of optimizations to help make improvements.  Some of these can be highly technical – but at least you’ll have a to-do list to hand to a developer/designer, who can apply the changes.  One thing to keep in mind, the slower your website – the less Google (and other search engines) will promote it, and there’s a better chance it will slide down the search engine results page – due to the slow, poor experience you are delivering your website visitors.   Google Webmaster Tools (https://www.google.com/webmasters/) Extract useful information about your website, traffic and technical errors that may impact your SEO potential.  Again, some of these tasks can be very simple to address – such as creating links from other websites, and making sure you have specific pages on your website – but if you run across something that you don’t understand – reach out and talk to a professional.  Most times, they will be able to teach you important steps about the situation, but please realize that they still need to make money to survive – so try to offer something if your needs become extensive.   SEMRush (http://www.semrush.com/) Review competitor analysis data around both organic and paid marketing.  This tool works well to see how you are competing online – against your direct/online competitors, but also brings some other features to your attention, including social networking, overall (global) site rank – and many other metrics that can help you gain ground online.   KeywordIO (http://keywordtool.io/) Uncover what your audience is typing into search engines and find the best keywords for your content.  Having trouble understand what is being ‘searched’ online more often than other keywords?  Use this tool to help uncover diamonds in the rough.   Google Trends (https://googletrends.com) If you are just starting out – or are branching out to find new keyword opportunities, this tool is a great way to measure average monthly search volume of individual keywords, but also allows for multiple keywords to be entered – showing a relative chart, most searched vs. least searched.  As with any part of marketing, you want to make sure you are ‘making what you can sell’ and not just ‘selling what you make’.  If you target the high-volume keywords, you’re helping your chances of being discovered by your potential customers. ScreamingFrog (http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/) Export your site’s “raw” files and easily review your meta tags (title, description and keywords) along with your content structure.  This tool works incredibly well for taking ‘snapshots’ of your website at any given time – showing all the vital pieces of information that is used to rank your website in Google (or other search engines).  If the information doesn’t show on this report – chances are, it isn’t being seen by the search engines (or at least it’s not a factor in ranking your website).   With a few good tools, you can keep your website in tip-top shape to play nicely with search engines and make sure that customers can find you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Local search is a powerful way for small business owners to reach new customers and generate leads. When a customer uses the internet to research products or services, they’re not just looking for any business—they’re looking for a business in their neighborhood or city. And you want to make sure your business is at the top of those local search results.   Although we don’t recommend any attempt at advanced techniques in this book, due to the amount of regular changes that happen in the world of SEO – we will give you enough information to understand exactly what it is that your provider is offering.  To properly juggle the tasks necessary to accomplish your SEO goals – you should think of all the moving parts involved.  

What is SEO?

SEO doesn’t have to be confusing.  Just think of the separate parts, and you’ll have a good idea of how we manipulate the search engine results – but altering parts of your website.  

Separate parts of the Search Process

  • Browser (the software you use to access the internet – not to be confused with a search engine, which is a website you visit to get search results. By default, many browsers are set to either Google, Bing, or MSN when you first open them – which is the cause of the confusion.  The following are browsers:
    • Google Chrome
    • Microsoft Edge
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer
    • Safari
  • Search Engine
    • Google
    • Bing
    • Yahoo
    • DuckDuckGo
  • Search Engine Results
  • Search Engine Results Page
  I’ll describe each piece individually, along with how they all fit together in general.  

Browser

Your browser is the software installed on your computer that allows you to access the internet. When you open the software, many times the first thing you see is the search engine – which can be confusing to some users.  Although we won’t go into much detail in this book – there are many great resources online that you can review to learn more about the differences.  

Search Engine

The search engine’s purpose – is to go out on the internet, and provide ‘results’ for what you would like to find.  If you type in a request, the search engine will check it’s ‘index’ – and post the results for you on your computer.  Although these results aren’t 100% live, they reflect a lot of work that is completed by the search engine to properly ‘index’ billions of search results – and rank them in proper order depending on the search request.  

Search Engine Results

The results page is the output of a variety of equations and algorithms built with the express purpose of delivering the best (right) content every time, and to penalize people who try to cheat the system. For search engines to be relevant – they need to continually produce quality results, or a competitor will start to take advantage – and grab more traffic for their search services.  At the advent of the internet – there were many search engines, but with it’s simple interface – Google jumped to the top of the list, and became the search engine of choice for nearly a decade now.  

On-Page Metrics

Each page of your website could have up to 20 different variables, and if you have 20 pages on your website – you have a total of 400 pieces of “on-page” information that must be individually altered and then measured, then re-altered, and measure again.  The measurements happen once per month – but there are times when the results from search engines don’t publicly release until 3+ months have passed.  Any changes that you’ve done to your website must be meticulously documented – so that you can return to the information after several months have passed.  

Off-Page Metrics

When you look at your website, any visible (or invisible, coded) elements are considered on-page.  Every other metric, whether you’re measuring the number/volume of links from other websites, links from social networks, reviews in Google/Yelp/Yahoo/etc., or considering the relation between government or organization websites – you’re looking at “Off-Page Metrics”.  These measurements are a lot more difficult to control, as you could be linked to a ‘bad’ website – that has a miserable reputation, and could be in a different country.  Removing that link would require a lot of time and effort by someone who doesn’t have experience in the procedures necessary to successfully complete the removal.  You could have an article written about your company that doesn’t have a link to your website, and there’s a chance that you may be able to contact the author to request a link to a specific page on your website.  You could ensure that each post you send out on social networks has a link to information on your own website, which can help as well.  

Links

A link from your website to another might be ‘shoving your customer out the door’ – but if you create the link correctly, you are helping your customer – along with boosting your ranking in search engines.  Remember that search engines just want their users to get to the right information as quickly as possible. If a website is ranking well, and you send a visitor from your website to the higher-ranking website – search engines see this connection, and the ‘trust-factor’ is boosted on your website.  If a high-ranking website links to you – the link also adds trust.  An easy way to think of this connection, is to imagine your website being covered by gold dust.  When one of your visitors enters your website – they gather a bit of that gold dust on their shoes.  If you send them to another website, they track that gold dust over to the other website – increasing the value of that transaction.  If you want to gain more gold dust at your website – all you need to do, is increase the volume of links at high ranking websites!  That increases the potential of your website visitors bringing as much of that gold dust back to your website as possible.  But, don’t forget what search engines are looking for…  they want users to find the right information!  So, when you create a link on a social network, business listing, or other high ranking website, make sure to link to a page with information that will help your brand-new, gold dust tracking customer!  

How does SEO effect your business?

Well, if the internet is a library – the search engine is the librarian, and your customers are the people asking the librarian to find some information for them.  Your website is simply a single book in this massive library.  I mean, every website in the world is a separate book – so you can imagine it takes a while for the librarians to read YOUR book, along with every change to every ‘book’ on the planet.     With social networking, people posting pictures of their meals, and altogether too many selfies online, the library is growing out of control.   The librarians are extremely busy, sorting this information – and cataloging an endless flow of data for search engines to work properly. When you simplify the overall situation to these small pieces, I can easily explain how each part can be used to help market your company online.  “How do you get to the top of Google?” you might ask, and I can easily say: “The librarian has to effectively read your book, take notes, and verify pieces of information to be ready the next time someone asks for related information.” If the librarian was an actual person, your website would never hit the top of the list.  At the rate of data expansion in 2017, and forecasted into the future – it would never even reach a search engine at all.  There is no possible way for humans to sort this information on time.  Fighting against this stream, you should ensure your website has the proper elements to be quickly read and understood by the search engines.

These parts are defined/described as:

  • Title Tag (Book Title)
  • Heading (Headline/Chapter Name)
  • Content (What is the book ‘about?’)
  • Images (Are there pictures?)
  • Meta Description (Short description in dust cover)
  • Geographic Location (Where?)
  • Update Frequency (when was the book published last?)
  These are a few of the factors that are used by search engines to sort and rank your website, but this list goes much further – with nearly 200 factors involved in the detailed listing for your website on the search engine results page.

WordPress Websites

If you haven’t heard of WordPress – it’s one of the easiest ways to set up a website.  Training on the use of WordPress can be accomplished before your cup of coffee gets cold, and the interface is simple and clean. There are thousands of ‘themes’ available online, which can change the look of your website in minutes, and plugins are available for nearly any feature that you’d like to see. (Note: If you’re looking for a good plugin for your website, but don’t know the right option – send me a message using the contact information on this website, and I’ll help you find the right solution!)   Security and feature updates happen about once per-year (for free) – and don’t change the interface enough to notice anything even happened.  There are still websites online that were originally built five to ten years ago, that are still running smoothly on the WordPress CMS (Content Management System).  So, my suggestion – is to aim for WordPress as your software of choice. When you have the option to install WordPress – you’ll have to set a Username and Password for the administrator account (this stage is very different between providers, so I apologize for the vague nature of the following statements) so that you can log in and get to the WordPress Dashboard. The WordPress Dashboard allows you to add pages, upload images, access the page content (what shows visually on each page of your website) and edit your menu options.  One of the greatest aspects of using WordPress for your website – is that there are thousands of people uploading tutorials in regards to using WordPress in a variety of situations.  How do I add a “Theme” to WordPress?  Jump over to YouTube – and search for Basic WordPress tutorials.  You’ll be designing your very own website in no time! There are literally 100’s of tutorials on YouTube for each step of website development.  

Need Help?

As with any of the services on this website – I don’t want to overemphasize how important it is to realize your strengths and weaknesses when trying to accomplish these tasks, or learning this information.  If you aren’t ready to tackle ‘setting up a hosting account’ – get in touch with a local provider who can assist you through these steps! If your eyes glaze over during this post, realize that this is the most important part of your marketing efforts – so you can get someone to help you build your website – and spend more of your available time on other marketing tasks!  If you have any questions – contact me using the contact information on this website.

Website Hosting

If you’re using a DIY provider – you most likely won’t have to deal with a domain registrar or hosting – as those services will be included in your monthly contract.  But, to teach you the proper terminology and use of each part of the online experience – I’ll explain a little about what hosting is, and how it’s used in the whole process.  

Definition

The definition of ‘hosting’ can be complicated, as there are many different options, features, and perks to separate hosting accounts.  Describing each of those factors would take much more time and resources than this book can carry – so I’ll simply explain it in an analogy, and hope that you can catch on… Hosting is like the piece of ‘land’ your website is built upon.  

Relationship to Your Domain/Website

The hosting account is tied to your website, and by relation – tied to your domain.  To best describe the relationship between these three pieces, you can think of your website as your ‘house’, your hosting as the ‘land’ the house is on – and the domain as the ‘address’ for your property.  When people go to your house, they are using the address as a placeholder – like how your domain name is used as the address to your hosting account.  When your visitors come to your property (hosting) – they are presented with everything that is on your land, but are mainly interested in the home itself.  Your hosting account, and the website built for entertaining your visitors – is created to automatically display your website first, along with any other features you want to provide for your visitors. Along with your ‘home’ (website), you can provide customer ‘portals’ (bill pay, plan submissions, secure logins, etc.) that are like other buildings on your property.  This analogy still holds up – because if you told your website visitor where your lawnmower is – they wouldn’t immediately go to the front door, but would head in the direction of the garage or shed.  

Subdomains

Your hosting account can be divided up into separate sections called ‘subdomains’ – to redirect visitors to specific ‘buildings’ on your property.  Separate websites or software can be installed on your hosting account to display specific information for those visitors. An example of a subdomain would be https://maps.google.com – which shows Google Maps – instead of the main Google domain.  They know you want to search a map, and the hosting account is smart enough to bring you to that specific page – instead of the main homepage (https://google.com).  

Bandwidth

Other features of a hosting account can be a bandwidth limit, which caps the amount of data that can be stored and recalled for all your websites, portals, etc. for a hosting account.  In the past, this limit denied website creators from building big, expansive websites – in favor of two or three pages online.  In recent years, this limit has stretched up to ‘unlimited’ – which means that the average website doesn’t reach what would cause the server (which holds your hosting account) from being overloaded.  

Storage

Storage was also (and can still be) an issue with hosting providers in the past – but has also increased to ‘unlimited’ values in some cases.  There shouldn’t be any reason (as of the time of this writing) to need more than 5 gigabytes of storage for your small business website.  This would allow a LOT of images, text, background pictures, and even videos on your website – all within what is allowed by your hosting provider.  

Memory/RAM

The most important feature that you should keep in mind – is the amount of RAM (random access memory – but easier to remember as ‘short term memory’ for quick decisions) available to your hosting account.  Too little (less than 1GB) – and you could have a website that struggles to load quickly.  If your website features large images, you should look at a hosting account with at least 2 gigabytes of dedicated RAM – which will allow your hosting account to be nimble enough to load quickly, and get your website loaded before your potential customer has a change of heart, and decides to go to check out your competitor’s websites.  

Hosting Providers

Hosting providers are available all over the internet, each saying they have better services than the next, but in my experience, there are three very good hosting providers that have stood the test of time, and if you don’t like the pricing available from these sources, you are free to choose the provider you like better!  Just do a search in google for ‘hosting provider.’  

Website Hosting Provider Examples

  • GoDaddy
  • BlueHost
  • HostGator
These three providers have reasonable pricing, great customer support – and are willing to help you get started, without trying to get you to purchase more than you need to get your business rolling.  

Hosting Setup

Each hosting company has a different method of setting up their service, so I won’t go into depth in this book – but I will cover some of the basics (that should translate, albeit very roughly) of all web hosting providers’ setup process. When you purchase a hosting account – you will be given the option to set it up with popular software, which can be a choice that is both difficult and very easy.  The sheer number of software providers who aim to cure the world of ‘difficult web development’ is overwhelming to say the least.  There is rarely a month that goes by without another player in the game, but overall – most non-techy people have migrated over to one of the options.