So you’ve taken the leap and decided to start an online business to either fire your boss or at the very least give you a more comfortable retirement. Fantastic! Hopefully some of my other guides have assisted you with that. So what now? Well there’s a bunch of things but at the most basic level, you need to establish yourself a website. This immediately leads to a number of very common questions:
- What are the best free website hosting sites out there?
- What should you look for in web hosting generally?
- What are the best web hosting websites?
- What are your options for web hosting?
Lots of questions I know and I won’t pretend to have all the answers but this guide should help you make a more informed decision and get you up and running fairly quickly.
Basic things you will need
There are three basic things you need to establish you website. If this is your first this may seem pretty daunting but it’s not really as long as you do a bit of research. The three things you needs are
- A Domain – your online address and probably brand
- A hosting service – the place where your website will “live”and everything is stored
- Website builder – thew software that allows you to create and manage your site
This really is the easy bit once you’ve decided what you want to call your site. There are a bunch of domain name registrars out there and the prices are within a pretty tight range – $13-$15 usually. Your domain name is something you will own and is transferable between various hosting sites. It can also become a salable asset in its own right particularly once you’ve developed a popular website around it.
The main issue with the domain is finding the one you want that’s still available. That can take a bit of searching and creativity. My general advice is to try for a “.com” address because they rank better in search engines and to keep the name a short and simple as possible. Depending on what you want to do with your site, you can go for a generic brand name, a variation of your own name or a more product descriptive name. It doesn’t matter too much because your content will quickly overtake the importance of the actual site name for ranking; just make sure it’s not too cringe worthy or smarty pants clever.
I have included a free tool below to have a bit of a play with to see if your desired name is available and what it would cost through the tool provider.
I suggest you consider Namecheap or Siterubix to search for and purchase your domain name. Siterubix will also allow you to establish a free website if you want to as part of the package deal I discuss later. This can be a good way of trying some of your ideas out before parting with too much money.
Now that you’ve got a domain name you’ll need somewhere to “host” it. That means a place for your site to live. Hosting is very important as because the host ensures your site runs smoothly, assists with protection from hackers and other cyber nasties and provides technical support if something goes wrong. There is an element of “you get what you pay for” in site hosting but it’s not too bad.
You have another decision to make. For most people like us you can either go with a Shared Hosting model or a Virtual Private Server. The shared model means that your site will be hosted on the same server as a bunch of other sites. This system is not bad for a start and provides good basic services but a lot of people find they outgrow them quickly, they can have reliability issues and at times relatively limited technical support. Limited onsite email support and data limits are also things to watch out for. On the other hand it’s the cheapest hosting model around. You can expect to pay $8-10 a month after the initial “hook you in” offer period. Make sure you look at what extras you may want and need to pay for as often there are plenty of up sells which make the real price much less attractive.
The virtual private server model is a much more fully featured and are functionally equivalent to having your own dedicated server. They do however cost more as you would expect and will typically run for $30+ per month. These VPS packages tend to come all-inclusive with higher levels of security, fully featured email and website builders and no limits to the data transferred on fixed line bandwidths.
As you’ve probably guessed, my strong recommendations is to go with a virtual private server model. The extra professionalism and a more hassle free environment is well worth it. While we would all like things for free, some times free can cost more than it first appears and this is a business not a hobby you’re setting up so without wasting money things should pay for themselves as you become established.
What to look for in a good web host
- Reliability – when somebody looks for it your site must be there and everything on it needs to work as expected.
- Security Package – as well as the obvious protections of private information and from hackers generally, SSL level security for any client transactions is essential
- Backup Facilities – things do go wrong occasionally so the ability to reload your site from a backup is very important
- Technical Support – pretty obvious by it should be live or at least responsive within a few minutes and available all day every day
- Multiple Websites – I’m not encouraging you to start loads of sites but most people pretty quickly find that they’ll have two or three for various niches. You don’t want per site charging and you host should offer a reasonable number of hosted sites at no extra cost.
- Email Facilities – although a bit old school, email marketing is still alive and well so your host needs to be able to provide an ability for you to have several email addresses to you site. These will include the ubiquitous “admin” but also you and your contributors personal addresses to allow you to reply to comments and potentially a “test” address to test autoresponders, campaign and other functionality
- Site Speed – site loading and transfers between pages needs to be fast. We live in an instant world and people notice even a few seconds of delay. The servers need to be able handle loading your blogs, images even embedded videos fast.
- Value – value isn’t the same as price and not at all reflective of the cheapest price option available but the price asked can’t be miles more than the competition either. It’s a judgement call and ultimately up to you and your pocket. Watch out for the cheap offers which only last for the first year and then have you locked in. Similarly consider the extra costs of all the extra up sell features which may well be included in other suppliers slightly more expensive base prices.
My Web Hosting Recommendations
- I’d start with KnownHost’s VPS-1 package at $35 per month. This gives you excellent reliability and bandwidth with the facility for two IP addresses. They also have some good discount offers if you want to get a bit more serious in the future.
- Personally I use Wealthy Affiliate for my domain registrar, hosting and training/education provider. I have done a full review of their offer which I suggest you have a look at but their standard monthly rate is $49/month although there is a deal which reduces this to about $25 per month by buying an annual subscription during the “Black Friday” sale period.
- If you do decide that you want to use a shared hosting provider, I suggest you consider Bluehost or Hostgator. KnownHost also provides a shared WordPress service.
By far and away the most common website builder is WordPress. Pretty much all hosting services will provide a free method for developing a website using WordPress – if they don’t then go somewhere else.
WordPress is simple and easy to use although you need to be a touch careful about the “shiny object syndrome” i.e being distract and / or convinced to purchase a bunch of add on plugins you probably don’t need. The video below is the one I followed in my first website attempt although I subsequently followed the free Wealthy Affiliate step by step free training guide to develop it further and redo some things I got wrong.
Having read this far you should now have a good idea of what you need to make your own website and some suggestions about a few pitfalls to watch out for. You can proceed ahead on your own and that’s fine and that’s what I did initially. The second option which is my recommendation is to opt for a more package deal. I found this 100 times easier and ultimately quicker and cheaper. I learned a lot on my own but mostly by trial and error with some frustration. Using the package from Wealthy Affiliates I learned even more but without the error and most of the frustration – still had some “user error” issues but that was just me not following the guidance!!
If you want to give it a crack solo then follow these steps:
- Purchase Domain From Registrar
- Point DNS to your Nameservers (may take 24-48 hours)
- Log Into cPanel
- Go to Addon domain and create domain*
- Go to Site Software
- Choose Blogs, WordPress
- Create Username, Password, Email, Install URL, etc. info
- Install at root domain (leave installation URL blank)
- Select “Create New Database”
- Log into WordPress and Proceed
If, as I recommend, you want to go down the package deal route then sign up for your free membership at Wealthy Affiliates at one of the links on my review page, set up your account and follow the very easy steps to getting your first website up and running – perhaps in as little as 10 minutes although that’s when the development work to make it pay really starts. Upgrade to a premium membership when it suits you and once you’ve had a look around and a play with the tools.
In addition to a domain, hosting services and a website builder platform you’ll get:
- Comprehensive step-by-step training and guidance
- Access to a large active community who provide help and answer questions
- Rich keyword research tool
- Anti-spam & anti-hacking protection
- Email (unlimited addresses)
- No up sells after going “Premium”
- Ability to make money while you learn
- Weekly live training webinars and a range of self-paced training videos
So the bottom line is that you can do this on your own and maybe save a bit of money or you can join the webs largest and most successful affiliate marketing community. It may cost you a bit more but you’ll likely see more success, faster and you’ll have much more fun doing it together with the community at Wealthy Affiliates.
Thanks for reading this far. I’d be interested in any comments you may have and am always ready to answer any questions so if you have either please leave them below. If you like what you’ve seen or know of somebody who may be interested please share this article using the social media buttons on the page.