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How to Build a Website for Beginners Part 4 – Marketing

blog, social media, marketing, website, building

In this series, I’ve covered the initial terms of website builders, the features every website needs, and the overall design of a website. Obviously, there were some gaps in the information since it’s hard to cover everything in just four posts. This is why I spoke a lot about doing research on your own when you’re building your website. But there’s one more category to go over: Marketing.

Marketing allows you to make sure your website is seen by others, whether they’re customers, readers, or followers. Even the perfect website isn’t much without visitors.  Social media is the best way to market a new website, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on. Some other methods exist, but most of them use social media in some manner. Since it’s different depending on whether you’re creating a personal/individual website or a company website, I’ll be splitting this up into those two sections, though there is some overlap between the two.

Marketing Company Websites on Social Media

For marketing company websites, you need to focus on where your audience is and what they’re expecting. The first thing you can do is include your website URL in your social media profiles, especially LinkedIn. If you haven’t yet, you need to create social media profiles to reach your online customers. LinkedIn is one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses. Creating a LinkedIn, a Facebook page, and a Twitter can greatly increase customer interaction on top of putting a place to market your products, services, and website. These are the main social media platforms, where are large chunk of people are. YouTube is another important main platform, but it’s best to use if you know for sure you’ll be making company videos. You can share the videos you make on the platform to Facebook or Twitter to increase your company’s reach online as well.

If you run a fashion, travel, or crafting company, Pinterest is an excellent platform to post products, blog posts, and photos from your site. Pinterest caters to a specific group of women who enjoy or want to learn about cooking, sewing, crafts, and makeup. Users also pin clothing items and accessories that they want or pictures from places they want to visit. Instagram is another good platform to use if you’re in any of these businesses as well. You can link your website in both social media platforms and post/pin pictures from your site.

Tumblr is an option if you can angle your content for a younger audience. Tumblr is a micro-blogging site where many folks from age 13 to late 20s and older post about what they enjoy and respond to posts by others. Denny’s is one of the few companies to efficiently use the platform. You can share posts and photos from your website and link to it on your profile as well. If you have a younger staff member familiar with tumblr, it’s worth trying to start a tumblr blog. Just know it’s not for everyone.

Marketing Personal/Individual Websites on Social Media

For personal websites, especially blogs, marketing on social media is a little easier. Obviously using a Twitter and Facebook help the most, considering the large number of people on those sites. Once again, if you focus a lot on images, food, fashion, DIY projects, or travel, Pinterest and Instagram are two excellent platforms for sharing your website content. Tumblr also works a lot better for bloggers and individual websites than business, so getting a tumblr can help market your website. If you’re into vlogging, YouTube is another good platform to try. Sharing videos from YouTube to your other social media can boost your online presence as well.

Another thing to do with social media is find groups and communities to connect with other bloggers or individuals in your industry. This can help you gain followers and credibility as an individual online. Many groups exist on Facebook for this exact purpose, and following those people on other social media like Twitter and Instagram can help you build connections in your industry.

Social Media Tips for Both Website Types

No matter what type of website you’ve created, you need to remember to share/pin/post product images, blog posts, photos, and other text from your website. Posts linking back to your website will help get your website name out there on top of your content. Plus, it’s an added bit of free advertising when others share your content as well.

Another tip is, after setting up your social media, to get the business versions. I did this with my Twitter and Pinterest, and it’s been very insightful to what performs well on my profiles. I’m looking into changing my Instagram into a business account as well, and Facebook pages are made for business interactions and data. Facebook pages can be used by either companies or individuals looking to promote themselves without cutting into their personal profile. That way it doesn’t look preachy to post a bunch blog posts, especially if you don’t use your personal profile often.

Conclusion

And thus ends the last part of me “How to Build a Website for Beginners” blog series. I know I haven’t been very specific in most of what I’ve written, but that’s because there’s far too much information to include in just four posts, even ten posts. This is why I constantly stressed doing outside research on the type of website you’re building. Look up websites within your industry of choice. What are they doing with their website design? How are they marketing their page? Is there something they’ve done successfully that you can try?

In the end, there are many subjective or complicated answers to these and other questions. While I can’t definitely answer them for you, I can at least try to point you in the right direction. And that’s what the purpose of this series is. To point you, the website owner, to where you need to look next. Wherever that next step is, I wish you luck. And remember to keep trying no matter the struggle. Thank you, readers. Until next time!

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How to Build a Website for Beginners Part 3 – Design

blog, website, building, design

The last two parts have covered the basic lingo of website building and the basic features every website needs and some that might be wanted. While these two topics contain elements of subjectivity, depending upon what site you’re creating, this post covers a more objective topic: Design. Design is crucial for making your site look legitimate. Now if you’re basing your website off of another site that is well-designed, chances are your site will also be well-designed. But what makes a well-designed site?

Design can be tricky to maneuver for someone unfamiliar with the terms and function of details. Some important terms to keep in mind are fonts, headings, ad placement, and sidebars. These terms refer to specific details tied to your website and how it looks. These are necessary parts of a website, and if they aren’t used correctly, can make a website look unappealing. Each element impacts a website differently but still holds the same weight. There’s a lot to cover, so bear with me.

1: Fonts

Fonts are the backbone of the site’s content. Fonts refer to the style the text is written in on the site. There are many different types you can use, but they generally fall into two categories: Serif and Sans Serif. Serif fonts are often used in books and as titles, and are characterized by extra details in the letters. Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond fall under this category. Sans Serif fonts are popular online fonts that are characterized by minimal and simple details. Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri belong to this category.

Of these, it’s generally best to use Sans Serif fonts, especially Helvetica if you can get access to it. Serif fonts are best for headers and heading text, though it can be used for blogs depending on its style. Using extremely fancy script fonts should be kept to a minimum unless it serves the purpose of a super header, like the title on my website. Even then, script fonts don’t belong on every site, especially if you’re making a site for an industrial company.

One rule stands for sure: Never. Use. Comic Sans. That font had it’s time, and that time has long past. The font is universally seen as unprofessional and childish and has no place on a website.

2: Headings

Headings as a feature is a little more forgiving. You can use more elaborate fonts for them, especially as titles for pages or the homepage. For post headings, you want something in a similar font to the main body text that is larger and slightly flourished. Title headings can be a little more elaborate, sometimes in script depending on the website. Normally, an elaborate or strong serif font works best, like Times New Roman or Perpetua or Garamond. For more industrial-type websites, a Sans Serif font like Helvetica or Arial works for headers.

In terms of content, headings should short and sweet. Using long and drawn out headers can bore readers and and contributes to poor performance on the website. Instead, use short and straight-to-the-point phrases, but don’t be deceptive. If a heading needs to be a little long, than that’s okay. Just don’t make a habit of it. Headings are sign posts after all. No one wants to read sign posts as long as a dictionary entry.

3: Sidebars

Sidebars are the parts of a web page on either both or one side of the page. Usually these contain ads, recent blog posts, blog categories, blog tags, page links, short bits of information about the website or website author, or links to specific pages. The exact content depends on the type of website you’re creating, blog or business or informational. However, there are a few things necessary for sidebars.

While most website themes and builders, especially if you use WordPress, will allow you to choose which side the sidebar is on, many website creators choose to have the sidebar on the right side of the page. I have it like that, and most of the websites I’ve visited (besides maybe some academic websites) have sidebars only on the right side. Some academic and business sites will have sidebars on both sides, but the typical choice is the right side.

Another thing to realize is that if you don’t include a sidebar on a page, you’ll need to find a way to turn sidebars off for that page. Most WordPress themes have an option to switch sidebars on and off. For Wix and Weebly, you can simply opt out of adding sidebars. If you’re using WordPress, and leave the sidebars empty, the website will have empty space where the sidebar is supposed to be. This can look unappealing to visitors, so you need to either use the sidebar or turn if off/don’t add it where it’s not needed.

4: Color

Color is usually dependent on the color scheme of the company you’re working for, but in general there are several colors you want to avoid. Neon and bright colors especially don’t show up well on computer screens, unless they’re either part of a gradient color or placed against a black background. Also, colors of similar hues can be used, but not side-side-by-side. If one color is placed against another that looks very similar, it’s hard to distinguish between them, especially is one is text and one is background.

It’s preferable to use either a light background and dark text or a dark background and light text for websites. Adding gray tones to colors can also make them easy on visitors’ eyes and looks better in general. It’s also preferable to only have two or three, maybe four, main colors for the website. Having more than four can clutter a website’s screen, and the colors will often clash with one another. The extra colors will also take people’s attention away from where it should be on the page.

5: Advertisments

The last one might be one of the most important parts of website design. If you’ve created a website as a means of revenue, then you’d most likely use ads as one way to earn money. This an incredibly popular way of earning money online, usually on blogs, news sites, and pretty much any type of website made to earn money. There are two things to note with this section: ad types and ad placement.

Ads can be created for all sorts of organizations and businesses from banks to groceries to video games to technology to appliances to hardware stores. You name it, there’s most likely an ad out there for it. When choosing ads, you want to make sure they match the audience your blog attracts. So if your website is for an industrial company or a blog on food and recipes, video game and technology ads might not be the best choice. You also want to make sure the advertisements are coming from legitimate sources. Many fraudulent people will create fake ads to scam people or download viruses.

Ad placement is also crucial, especially if a fake ad makes it onto your site through the ad source. Poor ad placement is detrimental to a website’s design. Poor ad placement intrudes on in-page content and makes ads huge. This makes it hard for visitors to read content and makes it easy to click on ads with a finger slip on mouse or touchscreen.  Instead, put ads on the sidebars, where they don’t disrupt visitors’ view of the page, and don’t make them pop-ups. For mobile, you can place small ones at the top and bottom of the page content. Above all, make sure ads take up no more than about a sixth of the width of the page.

Conclusion

Website performance depends a lot on the design and presentation of the front page. Many visitors come through the shiny gates of the front page, so making sure it’s presentable a good way to make sure they stay to visit for a while. That doesn’t mean the rest of the website can be left in disrepair. Make sure colors and fonts are consistent through out the entire site. Make sure sidebars perform properly or don’t existent. Make sure headings don’t take up too much of the page and are clear so readers know where they are. And make sure ads won’t sneak up on anyone through pop-ups or from within the page content.

Design is incredibly important for a website’s performance. Without it, a website can be brushed off as cheap and behind the times or simply ugly. Keeping an eye on the above sections and  following the above guidelines can help your website look appealing and well-designed. And that’s it for Part 3 of “How to Build a Website for Beginners”. Next post in this series will cover the final step: marketing your website. Until next time, readers!

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How to Build a Website for Beginners Part 2 – Features

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Now that you’ve chosen your domain name and your hosting site, it’s time to build your website! This is dependent on what type of website you’re creating. If you’re creating a business website, you’ll need to consider your brand’s logo, the font for your brand, your tagline, your marketing strategy, and the commerce area for others to buy your product. If you’re building your own personal site, however, you’ll need to consider you logo, the font, the tagline, and what you’re marketing.

How you build your website will also differ depending on which type of website you want and which industry you are in. I’ll be going over the basic differences between business and personal websites, and mentioning the main features of each.  There is a lot to cover, though, so I can only go over the major areas. I recommend searching for your specific industry or find a website of a well-known brand within your industry to see what they did with their website.

Business vs. Personal: Choosing the Basics

First thing’s first though. You have to choose which type of website you want to make. This is pretty straightforward. If you’ve created a company and want to promote it or if you’re a part of a company that needs promoting, you’ll need to create a business website for the appropriate industry (music, commerce, food, technology, etc.). If you’re an individual looking such as a blogger, a singer, an author, a photographer, any type of entertainer or personal brand, you can set up a personal website to promote yourself.

Where it gets tricky is the specifics of what is featured in each type.

Business vs. Personal: Features

With each type of website comes different features. Business websites usually have a home page, a commerce section, an about page, a contact page, an events page, and maybe a blog depending on the type of business. Most often a phone number, an address, and an email will be placed multiple spots on the site, above the header or in the footer especially. This allows customers to easily reach the business when they can. Some websites, especially for services and eCommerce, will have a chat box where a customer can speak with a representative. The basic features a business website needs, however, are the about, contact, events, commerce, and home pages with a phone number, address and/or email somewhere easy to spot.

Personal websites have some of these same features, particularly the home, about, contact, and blog pages. Some personal website (eg. an artist’s or a musician’s page) may include an events and/or commerce page. Phone number, address, and email aren’t included unless it’s for an individual business like a photographer or an event planner. Personal websites can include other pages relating to the owner’s creations, like books, videos, or panels on specific topics.

From there, it’s time to build the website!

Subjectivity

Building the website itself has a lot to do with subjective content. What your site is about and whether it’s personal or business changes the features and basic layout of your site. But this is also highly dependent on what you want your website to do. Maybe you’re a musician, and you want samples of your songs to be played on your webpages. Maybe you’re an artist and want to place former pieces you’ve created on your site as samples. Or maybe your business that specializes in specific services and want a page for client reviews. All of these points require custom pages that not all other websites have.

Pages and features on a website can be different depending on the website. As mentioned above, the content of a website is dependent on what your purpose is in building the website. Whether it’s to promote yourself or your business, the content itself depends on what specifically you’re promoting yourself or your business as. Thus, it’s up to you to determine what’s on your site and how you want to design it. I would highly recommend looking up websites of rival businesses or other people in your industry to see what they have done with their websites.

To Conclude…

It’s all up to you, the creator, to decide the features you need and want. Not all of them are necessary, but most are nice additions to create a more well-rounded website. Here are few feature pages I have seen that are invaluable:

  • Home Page: if you’re creating a blog, this might be a list of blog posts, or maybe a recent post section with a photo album below or above it. If you’re creating any other website, this can include products, photos, other posts, or a preview of customer reviews. Again, be sure to look at websites for other companies and people in your industry.
  • About Page: No matter what type of website you’re creating, you need to have a page explaining your business or yourself to your customers/audience.
  • Contact Page: Similar to the about page, you want your customers/audience to be able to reach you easily, even if it’s just a list of social media they can contact you through.
  • Blog/New Page: Even if you’re not a blogger, a blog is important connecting easily with your audience and vice versa. If your company is B2B (business-to-business), this can become a news/events page so you’re communicating with your audience while remaining professional.

If there are any features your website needs to have, it’s these ones. So make sure when you’re building your website you have the features listed above, and then add on other features appropriate for your website.

And again, check out either rival companies’ or fellow individuals in your chosen industry to see what they did with their websites. Use it as inspiration in creating your own page, but don’t forget to add your own spin. What makes your website stand out among the others? Use that in creating the site, whether it be general design or colors. Make the site unique to your image while still being easy to navigate. I’ll be covering what these entail in the next post.

In the end, check what others in your industry have done and make sure you have the above-listed features and pages in your website. And that’s it for Part 2 of “How to Build a Website for Beginners”. Next time, I’ll be getting into the more specific side of website building: design and layout of links, photos, and font styles and sizes. Until next time, readers!

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How to Build a Website for Beginners Part 1–The Basics

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I’m not exactly the first person most think of when they look for marketing advice, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have wisdom to share. I’ve attempted to start one blog, though technically two websites, before this one, so I have some experience in this area. Like me when I first started, you’re probably feeling completely overwhelmed by all the choices out there for website hosting, building, and other technical phrases. So, let’s start with the basics: what type of builders are out there?

Words and Phrases

This is one part that took me a while to figure out. Two really popular buzzwords tossed around in website building are “domain” and “hosting.” These refer to how the website is first configured. “Domain” refers to the domain name of a website, which is just the main url of a website. For example, mine is “maeghonrhoads.com”. Facebook’s domain name is “facebook.com” and so on. Most often, this includes the “www.” that also goes in front of the name of the page. Domain names can be registered and leased through domain sellers like GoDaddy, Register.com, and Name.com.

“Hosting” refers to where your website can be built. Some are hosting and building sites, like Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. Others are just hosting sites that you use in conjunction with WordPress (the .org one, not the .com version; I’ll explain the difference below). Hosting sites without builders are ones you have to be careful about because there are so many of them. Some are very widely used like BlueHost, HostGator, and SiteGround. I currently use HostGator for this website.

Another important term to remember is SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization. This essentially determines how your site will get ranked by Google.

Builders, Which is Better?

In terms of which is better, personal preference is huge. One thing I would recommend is not getting a free host site. Weebly and Wix offer a default free version of their site, though that won’t get as highly rated on Google. Going with their paid version is a much better choice in the long run.

Comparing The Two Kinds

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of options for hosting. However, it comes down to one big factor: do you want to use WordPress or not? Your answer to this question will determine whether you go with a website host and builder or just a hosting site. If you want to use WordPress, you will be using sites like BlueHost, HostGator, Siteground, and others because they support WordPress. WordPress is a nice website builder, though it can take some getting used to and does need regular upkeep for the themes and plugins.

A word of warning: Don’t use wordpress.com to set up your site. WordPress.com is the free version of WordPress that attaches a .wordpress.com at the end of your website. You can upgrade to take that off, but it’s best to just host with a hosting site instead.

If you prefer not using WordPress, you can choose between Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace. Now some bloggers will tell you WordPress is the way to go, but I’ve found that Weebly has a very similar set up to the basic WordPress functions with the added ability to control the html and css codes much more easily. Wix is also very user-friendly for those who aren’t super tech-savvy but still want a lot of control over their website. Squarespace is another good option for those who want control and a professional-looking base template. Keep in mind that Squarespace doesn’t yet have the ability to just host yet (though they are working on that). So if you decide build your website with Squarespace, you will need to buy your domain name with them for now.

I highly encourage you to go out and dig a little deeper into the differences between using WordPress and Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. You can test out Weebly and Wix to see if you like the layout by starting a free account and not launching the website. This way, you can test out the builders to see if you feel comfortable with them before making a final decision. Squarespace also allows you a 14 day free trial to test before you commit to publishing your website. You can also test the basics of WordPress with a free WordPress.com account. This is the only time I would suggest using the free versions of WordPress, Weebly, or Wix.

To Conclude

As I mentioned above, choosing a builder is a largely based on personal preference. I can give these main tips:

  • Don’t go for the free accounts when you publish them, only for when you’re testing whether they’ll work for you.
  • On that note, test out the free versions. It’s best to decide for yourself if something will work rather than taking someone’s word
  • When going with WordPress, make sure to keep the plugins and themes up-to-date and compatible with each other.
  • Be careful to check reviews and performance rates for hosting sites if you chose WordPress. Not all are made equal.

Paying attention to these tips can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. And, once again, it’s all a matter of personal preference which builder you go with. I don’t agree with those who say Weebly or Wix are horrible options because they have a free version. Those builders still have a very large user-base for a reason, and I don’t think this should be overlooked when choosing a website builder. So if you check out the options and decide you like those ones, go for it! After all, it’s up to you to make your site yours, not that of other bloggers.

And that concludes the first part of “How to Build a Website for Beginners.” Next time, I’ll be going over the build basics and what I’ve seen that makes a good website. Until next time, readers!

If you want to get updates, you can follow my blog with Bloglovin.

(PS: There are probably other builders out there, but I am not familiar with them. I would recommend looking up different website builders on top of the ones mentioned above.)