If you have done some research because you are particularly creative or because you are looking to save some cash, most likely a factor of both, then you will have seen that there are platforms online where you can build your own website. It’s not at all complicated, you do not need any level of coding really and you will actually have a live domain available on the internet for your site. So why then isn’t everyone building their own websites, especially for their companies? Well here are some key points below to keep in mind when you do so and some pointers on how the professionals do things differently.
Create your own website
You can create your own website from online software tools that offer website templates. Starting to sound a bit technical… well basically these platforms are like PowerPoint for grown-ups. They offer templates to build a website and once you choose and customise your template, you can then click on “publish” and your website becomes live on the real internet. No jokes, guys. It’s that easy and it’s really fun to work on your own site. You also get to choose a domain name and once you’ve published you can view that website from any device, anywhere in the world where you are connected to the internet.
These providers are WordPress, Wix and Weebly. WordPress is the most famous and most used one, and some well known companies have their sites developed off WordPress. The actual number of existing sites built of WordPress? 75 million.
That’s one website for every person in the Democratic Republic of Congo. About 50% of the published WordPress sites are on the free plan. Comparing the website host to another digital giant such as Amazon: WordPress employs 229 people. Amazon employs 88 400. WordPress receives 126 million unique users per month, Amazon is not to far off with 96 million unique users per month.
Side note: I think the WordPress team may be using the optimisation principles from 4-hour work week, follow the link to read a review of the book.
2. Generate business online
If it’s that simple and easy why isn’t every entrepreneur, new business and small business owner making their own website? Well this brings up a field called digital marketing. A website is the equivalent of a modern day billboard. If you found a company that provides beautiful templates for billboards and allowed you customise these templates for free, would that automatically mean you will generate sales for your company? You would need to determine factors such as which roads have the most traffic of my target market, which billboard images and information do my customers respond to, where do I measure how effective the billboard is, is there a way I can test the reach of two different billboards? In the digital world for websites, those factors can be answered with real time information in a matter of days. Most digital marketers use WordPress for their website development (the billboard) and their skills in SEO, A/B split testing, and social media marketing to answer all those questions.
As an example, a good digital marketer would know how to disable Google from picking up and analysing (crawling) your WordPress site. Why would you want to “hide” your site from Google? At the beginning of web development, you will most likely change some factors – the wording, images and content. If Google can “see” your site and your are making continuous changes all the time, your site ranking will become very low since your site is “unstable” by constantly changing information without generating new unique users. Once your website is developed and ready to launch, a good digital developer will make it go live and add the SEO function to make sure you receive traffic onto your site.
3. Search Engine Optimisation
Ah… finally the buzzword (haha) SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation is the technique used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine such as Google.
Personally, I prefer not using WordPress for building sites since you can only incorporate advanced SEO if you purchase their Business Plan. Also, the most basic WordPress site is free but will carry the suffix www.mywebsite.wordpress.com. There are further plans you can buy to add more functionality to the site, such as not having the “wordpress” in your domain name. The price plans are as follows (as dated in December 2016)
The prices quoted are per month and you will be billed per for one annual year of the plan you choose. So if you chose for example the Business plan, you will be billed once off just under 300 US Dollars. This is about R4200 at the time of writing this article. Only with the business plan can you really get the proper SEO tools.
Besides being given the actual online tool to perform SEO techniques on your site, the actual skill of SEO is something that needs a strategic offline plan. This is a key skill that a digital marketer needs to do really well. For example for the site nubianetwork.com, the company is a full online business activation agency which does the website development and digital marketing and is based in Johannesburg. So you would think that the search terms “website development”, “digital marketing”, “online business” and “Johannesburg” would be the keywords use to generate traffic to this site. Well strangely enough, people are not searching for “full online activation agency which does website development and digital marketing based in Johannesburg” every day. So how do we get people who are searching for this service onto the site? Well as a digital marketer, you are trained to find the terms which both relate to business and are high volume search terms. Here is the research we found for nubianetwork.com
This graph shows that the most searched term in South Africa over the last 12 months amongst the 5 keywords given is generally “online business”. In some cases, the word “company registration” was the most searched term. At some point, “company registration” was searched more than any of the terms for almost one month.
In fact, the term “website development” is not a popular search at all.
So using this information, we can tailor our website and marketing strategy to get people to visit the site and request our service.
4. Full functionality of the website
You will most likely be developing a website to reach customers and generate sales. And how do you do this? Well first let me tell you how not to do this:
Not having a social media marketing plan
No security on a site requesting payment
No content on the site
Not staying updated and relevant
Before I trained as a digital marketer, I tried launching my friend’s Aupair business through Facebook. We created a page with great visuals, invited all our friends and posted some cute stuff. The problem? Well most of our friends don’t have kids. And of our 1000 + plus friends, only about 15 actually liked the page (some were consequently unfriended). It makes you question who your friends really are (but that’s a story for another blog). The real point is, you are not reaching your target audience without trained social media marketing.
Most importantly though, if you have a site that requires users to give information and provide payment, you will need to make your users feel secure. This is done digitally by adding an SSL security feature. As an analogy, it is like renting an apartment in a nice complex block. The owner would provide you with an annual lease agreement and you have to pay a levy fee to the body corp which includes security of the complex. The owner is the “host” they are allowing you to occupy the space for the length of the rental agreement. WordPress and the others mentioned are hosts, there are also other private hosts that more trained developers typically use. SSL is the security, to block out people from entering your site and stealing information. How can you tell if a website is secure? Check your favourite bank’s website, or any online shopping store you use, if there is a lock in the top left corner next to the domain name, the site is secured.
The hosts mentioned: WordPress, Wix or Weebly do not offer SSL packages. To be fair, they do have plug-ins such as PayPal which you can add on their business or premium plans. Bear in mind, there are often other affiliated costs associated with the plug-in, besides there’s also the additional admin of running an account with PayPal or the offered plug-in.
Once you have a secure site and a properly run social media platform, you will then need to publish content. There is so much content available daily, so you really need to build up material that is fresh, engaging and will make your customers see you as a leader in the market. As an example, if you have a socio-political website and your most recent post reads: “How Brexit Affects Africa” after we’ve had Donald Trump as US President Elect, Saxonworld Shebeen saga, Aleppo destruction in Syria… well then people will think you are a joke. Seriously.
5. Tools of the trade
Now we arrive at a problem dear to all of our hearts as South Africans: data.
If you are building a website, at all times when you are doing this work, you will need access to the internet. In addition, it makes a notable difference on which hardware you use as well. If you are using WordPress or any other host, you will be better off on a laptop interface. It is not impossible to do the work on mobile or tablet, but will find it challenging to add content (pictures, audio, links) and use all the functionality possible of the website.
From a previous blog I wrote on web development, someone asked me to explain in more detail the difference between native and hybrid apps. A native app is more expensive and time consuming. Why? Because they can only be built on an Apple Mac. They need to confirm to regulated app publishing standards for iOS and you need to be registered as a developer who can publish apps. This is why app development is quite expensive.
In a similar way, if you are developing a website and you have better understanding on foundational principles as well as good hardware to optimise your operational tools, the better your site will be.
If you are still reading by now, well done trooper. I would advise you to try building your company site yourself using the tips given above. See how many people visit your site (WordPress gives you site stats) and how it affects/grows your business. At best, you will develop a great platform for your business and save quite a bit on the digital marketing cost. At worst, it will provide you with real life experience on the challenges of finding a unique domain name, customising a webpage to look as unique and appealing as possible, and ultimately generating sales from your online web presence.
If you are looking for a service to assist you in Johannesburg, contact nubianetwork.com