Your Website, Your Way! (Part 4)
Your Website, Your Way! (Part 4.)
Establish An Online Presence (But PAY nothing)
The online world is a scary place for those who have never been there before and for those who don‘t know any better can culminate in a lot of unnecessary expense and disappointment! Most of this horror can be alleviated using careful planning, a little bit of ken and a whole lot of cunning…!
We have talked in-depth in this series (Read Your Website Your Way; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) about domain names and establishing both paid for and free websites. This, Part 4 of our ‘Your Website, Your Way’ series; is a move right back to basics; for all those out there screaming; ‘HELP ME!!!!! Where Do I Begin…!? Precisely!?’.
Many who will read this article will know much, if not all of that which is covered here-in, but in order to cover everything from start to finish which one needs to know about setting up one’s own website and/or establishing an online presence, we felt we should end this series of articles by starting at the very, very beginning; where, in fact we began ourselves, with no help, knowledge, know-how or guidance to hand, whatsoever. Determination to get the job done, coupled with search engines and a little logic, got us there in the end. Here’s how it can get you there too!
Back To Basics
Before beginning to establish your own website and/or online presence, there are a few little things you will need to take care of; the first and most certainly the most critical is deciding on a name. Whether it is your own name, a pen-name or alias, a business name, or some other label under which you wish to become known, this is the name which will be recognisable as YOU all over the internet and it needs to be unique. (e.g. ours is TEZI MAGAZINE)
Many people choose internet names which have similar sound, spelling or content to other already well-established online people or businesses. Most do this in the (mistaken) belief that when the well-established name, title or word is dialled up in search engines, so too will theirs pop up in search engine results. Unfortunately it rarely works in this way and generally speaking their common-as-muck name will be lost somewhere in the quagmire of several million other listings of people entertaining the same idea.
Fiction writers wishing to make their mark on readers with the invention of a new, unique and memorable character often use a phonebook, not to find a new character name, but rather to make sure that name doesn’t already exist. In the same way, you should use search engines and domain-name search bars to type in your chosen names until you find one that is so unique that it either doesn’t come up, or appears over the internet in minimal doses. Take your time, use a thesaurus, think outside of the box and just like a fiction writer, only settle when you know you have found something which is that little bit catchy, memorable and unique.
Having decided on a name (which believe me is the hardest part of this entire process if you are doing it right!) the next vital step one needs to take first and foremost before any other online is to get your own email account, using this name.
Where To Begin?
Setting up an email account sounds a very basic move to anyone who already has a well established online presence, however, you may well be surprised at just how many people do use the internet, for browsing, researches or other means, yet have no email account, of their own, or conversely, have an email account and have no idea how to use it, or indeed how to use the internet in general.
Basically, no-one can function effectively online without their own, personal email account. If you have a decent internet provider you will be given one or more free email addresses of your own when your internet connection is established in your home or workplace. (We highly recommend Australian ISP provider www.Internode.on.net They are an excellent, reliable internet provider and supply 5 free email addresses with their unlimited internet packages starting at around $30 per month.
If you don’t have an email address DO NOT pay for one. EVER! They’re free, just about everywhere.
You can set up email accounts for free through places such a gmail.com, ymail.com, hotmail.com and outlook.com, just to name a few. Be aware that you do not need to use your real name or give your real address to set up this email and in fact the best advice is not to! You can use only your initials, a fake name or the name you have elected to use across the internet. Be conscious of your personal security at all times when operating online and only give out personal information if and when it is absolutely necessary and then only to those people and companies you know that you can trust absolutely; which, let‘s face it–is no-one!
Some email companies require a real contact number in order to verify the account; A code is sent to your mobile phone, which you then enter where indicated in order to verify your email account. Alternatively, they will ask for a second email. It is usually best to set up a second email and use each account to verify the other, leaving your personal mobile number completely secure and private.
Developing A Free Online Presence Using Social Media
Word of mouth speaks volumes for any business and the best form of word of mouth online is through a Blog or by using Social media outlets. Social media is a good way to get the word out about yourself online. Do be aware, however, that some sites, once on there, never let you leave, or if they do, the hoops one must jump through in order to either shut down, change or even delete aspects of your social media pages are so complex as to be impossible. Everyone is different and you cannot know what you like and what you don’t until you have tried one or two. For example, we like LinkdIn, but feel it is a bit lame and thus never use it, we like Twitter and use it often, we don’t like Facebook and don’t use it ever.
Twitter Is For Twits?
Twitter is an online Social media resource; it is free to open an account and a good way to get the word out about you and/or your business at no initial expense. Fifteen minutes or so per day is all you need! Deleting your account is simply a matter of pressing a button and changing any aspect of you account is easily done by entering the ‘Your Profile’ section and making amendments as you see fit. Any details you use when signing in can be changed later so don’t panic if you don’t get it right when you first sign in.
Which Twitter Username?
It is best to use the same business name you intend to use as your website domain name if you can, as the more frequently this is used online, the higher your search rating will be when people are hunting for your business down the track. (e.g. our Twitter name is @TeziMagazine and our website name is tezimagazine.com Get chatting in 140 characters or less about yourself and/or your stuff. Follow industry relevant people or those that interest you and generally they will follow you back. It does not matter if no-one is listening, it‘s just important that you tweet at least once a day in this way. Most importantly, use words with hashes in front of them which are industry relevant, for example, if you run a bookstore use #books and/or your name in every possible tweet. Hash tags allow other people who are interested in that subject to find you, follow you, chat with you, re-tweet (RT) you and thus help build your online profile. These words are also picked up by search engines, which, again, will help down the track when others are looking for your website.
Facebook is another online social media resource which many people often opt to utilise in lieu of using a combination of a Twitter account, a Blog and establishing their own Website. However, if you want to establish an online presence that is your very own, it is best not to place all your eggs in one precarious basket–as so many people foolishly do with Facebook!
Be aware that for the most part Facebook allows only those who are on Facebook to see and communicate with each other. No-one else outside of Facebook can generally see anything that is on there. This means that if you are on Facebook and do not have your own website, blog, twitter account or other webpages or online presence, anyone who is not on Facebook will never know that you even exist… In addition to this, should this site ever go bankrupt, sell-out, crash or be hacked you risk losing everything you’ve built to date online! Many people who sign onto Facebook, do so in the mistaken and misguided belief that they need do nothing else online in order to establish a solid online presence and operate a successful online business or campaign. This is a narrow-minded and foolish way to go if you are looking to build a large, well-established, wide-spread and long-term internet presence for yourself or your business. Placing your entire self, family or business in the hands of any singular online account is a very restricted way to go.
Many individuals and businesses are beginning to once again seek alternatives to using social media sites online, steering clear particularly of sites like Facebook, due to concerns regarding their policies re their use of personal data, images and information, in addition to the constant inability to change or delete information/accounts once established or posted–not to mention the lack of control regarding advertising (among other things) which, let’s face it, is maddening! The choice, however is up to you…
Blogs Are Free!
Get a free blog!
There is no harm ever in getting a Blog and you will be found easily this way by anyone searching for you until such times as you have developed your website. Blogs are a form of online journal and are available through sites such as WordPress.com, Beep.com and Webnode.com. (Read more about free blog sites we recommend here)
Each entry in a blog is a new posting and generally speaking, each new posting gets it own web page which search engines ‘crawl’ through and thus create a search engine listing of that page and your website. The more often you use your blog to mention yourself and your wares, the higher your search engine rating will become and the easier it will be for your customers / internet browsers to find you. Finish every posting with your name and a link back to the homepage of your Blog–and–eventually–your website. Title the Blog with the same name as your business, Twitter account and intended website name (if possible). Use this Blog to let the world know you are out there in every way possible. Generate interest in yourself, your subject and wares by talking about it/them and posting photographs and any other information that you can. Let people know you are online so that you already have an established readership and market online by the time you launch your website.
Getting a Website
You do not have to pay for a website. Ever. Unless that is what you choose to do.
The best way to experiment with precisely what it is you are looking for in your new website is to try one out for free. (Read our article on setting up your own, free website.) It may not be in your overall plan to set-up a freebie website, however it is the quickest, easiest and most importantly, cheapest (free!) way to get your website started and create a space for you or your product immediately online. You will find that if you use the same name on your free website as your have used on your blog and on your Twitter accounts folk will be able to readily find you in any search engine.
Most free website providers have ‘Upgrade options’ and the best advice is to utilise a web host who offers this option for your ‘free’ site as it simplifies matters later and will save you the great expense of hiring expensive IT professionals if you do decide to move from a free site to a .com (or other ‘dot‘ extension, such as .org, .net, etc) domain registered website. Selecting the upgrade option will mean your free website will become a .com website with the click of a button and payment of your fee; no hiring required.
Decide How To Develop Your Site
Next, having had a play with a free website and set it up just how you like it, you will now have gauged a pretty fair idea of your market and whether or not you feel it is worthwhile launching into the expense of establishing a professional .com website.
Based on your market on your free website, blog and Twitter feed, decide what is best for you; a blog style website which allows daily or weekly updates on information about you, your services and/or product or a more static theme that is basically an online ‘shop window’ style advertisement which directs customers to the real you and/or your real store and which requires no further input from you once established, except perhaps the occasional overhaul and revamp every six or twelve months to keep things fresh.
Upgrade From Free to Professional
Having decided which type of website best suits your needs, now you can upgrade whichever free site you feel most comfortable with… and purchase your very own, professional .com domain name. This is a very simple process and most free websites offer this option in an upgrade package. Generally speaking, all one must do is enter one’s chosen domain name, pay for it and your away!
Your Website Is A Reflection On You!
There is no worse feeling for someone trying to establish an independent, online presence than to feel stuck in the grasp of an outside control source; unable to implement things just how they want them, when they want them done. This is so often the case for both established and newly launching website owners.
Remember that everything about your site is a 100% direct reflection upon you and your business. You need to feel good about that which you are doing and what you have and what you hope to achieve. Thus it is so very important to always do things your way, in your own time and stay within your allocated budget. If you feel good, it will reflect in the pages of your website and those who visit it will also, in their turn, feel good and return… hopefully, again and again and again!
I Want Complete Control!
The frustrating part of developing a website is that no matter how much money you pay, or how much you teach yourself, which path you take, which host you use… whether you opt for a free site or pay gallant amounts of cash for the most touted professional services on the net; there is always–absolutely always–some or many aspects which are frustratingly out of your control!
There is no such thing as ‘it is all mine’ on the internet. When you set up a website and claim your ’very own’, paid for domain name, your website itself and your domain name is in the hands of your web host, your email account is in the hands of whichever email provider you use, the server used by your web host and your Internet Service provider is owned, generally by yet another consortium, and the list goes on… Always, but always be aware that when establishing anything online, everything is public and even when it is yours, fully paid up and receipted, there are no guarantees it will ever stay that way.
‘Never put All Your Eggs In One Basket!’
There is an old expression; ‘Never put all your eggs in one basket’. This is an adage which you should always keep in mind when doing anything online. Don’t, under any circumstances take it for granted that because you are all set up online, your business, website, email or other accounts or web pages are safe. They aren’t. The mere fact that they are online means they are NOT secure, no matter how encrypted, coded or secure any company claims their site is; it isn’t secure enough. Ergo, never put anything–anything at all online which you aren’t happy exposing to either your Grandma or your worst nemesis. Quite aside from the security aspects, one system crash or failure and you can lose everything you‘ve put out there!
Back-up! Back-up! Back-up!
The best way to secure yourself from hackers and computer failure is to back-up everything offline!
Anything and everything you create online is basically a non-entity. It has no actual substance. Everything online is just words and images floating in cyberspace in whatever coherent or non-coherent form we elect to place them in. If someone or something decides to or accidentally pulls the plug; you’ve lost the lot!
Thus it is so very important to create everything you wish to put online, offline first. Use your own word-processing program of choice to create document files and your own image editing software to set up any images you intend to use. Save back-ups to an offline location such as a separate USB memory stick, CD or plug-in, portable hard-drive, non of which can be accessed by hackers unless they are plugged into your computer while you are online. In addition to this make hard copies (print versions) of everything. That way, no matter what happens to your electronics, you can always start from scratch if necessary, without too much pain, using your hard copies as a reference!
Safety & Security?
The important thing to remember about the internet is that it was designed as a free public resource for anyone to use in order to put information out there or seek information which has been put out there. No-one actually owns it or anything on it. Most people don’t know this and this is why the big corporations such as Apple and Microsoft constantly vie for control over major aspects of the internet by building programs into computers which when launched onto the internet create all kinds of blocks and obstructions where there were never meant to be any so we all must purchase upgrades to overcome them. It is fairly common practice and something you should be aware of. Everyone wants the controlling share of the internet world and all want to make major profit from internet users the world over, yet no-one–as yet–despite their determination to do so–has figured out precisely how to gain complete control of everything on the internet–and let us hope they never do!
The best precaution when launching into cyber-space, is to always assume that anything you put out there online is public property, accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, that way, should the worst happen, your pain, though horrific, will be as minimal as possible!
It takes only one hacker to expose, alter, destroy or forever lose everything that is online about you. If the company hosting your website goes into financial distress, your website may disappear overnight. If an ex-lover goes on an online rampage, suddenly, overnight the reputation of you, your work, and your business is forever tainted with stinking mud. It all happens so often to the best and the worst of us; sadly, that is life online; there are no guarantees, no true safeguards and internet security programs are an expensive waste of time; they’re just not all they’re cracked up to be. The fact is, if you’re plugged into the internet or hooked up to wireless, anyone who knows how can access anything held within your computer. It’s really that simple. There’s nothing to be done about this particular predicament, except to follow the advice that when you enter the cyber-realm do it with your eyes wide open, completely aware that in going online you are placing your online self and any online aspects of your business in the hands of anyone and everyone who has access to a computer and the know-how to use it.
If It Is Online, It Is Public Domain
There is one simple rule to remember; whether true or not, it is a good fail-safe stance to take and that is this; if it is online, it is public domain, accessible to anyone, anywhere, to do anything with they wish–if they have the desire–and/or the know-how.
So be sensible, be realistic and make your first steps into the online realm, steady, but sure ones by knowing what you are getting into, precisely what it is you want out if; how you want it done and who you intend to elect to do it; well before you pay a single cent to anyone for anything!
Search Engines Are A Novices Godsend!
The first thing one must be aware of with regard to using search engines is that they are a tool put in place to help internet users find that which they are seeking. Despite what the online propaganda would have you believe, the first page of results which a search engine produces is NOT always necessarily the best; in fact it rarely is. Click on a few different page numbers and scan down each one until you find something that is in line with what you seek; often the best answers are in the lower pages, written by those aren’t necessarily high-ranking in search engines, but clearly know what they are talking about–the geeks who have the knowledge, but little money to buy themselves high search engine rankings!
If In Doubt, ASK!!!
Remember, no matter what happens online, there is almost always someone who has been there before you. Never be ashamed of having no knowledge; even the smartest and geekiest of knowledgeable nerds began their internet experience with no knowledge whatsoever of what to do. Everyone must start somewhere!
If you encounter a problem, have a query, need an answer, or simply need to assuage a fear before undertaking any step you are about to make online; use your favourite search engine (or all of them!) to ASK QUESTIONS!
Search engines (google.com, blackle.com, chrome.com, firefox.com & others–there are many!) are not monsters; they won’t bite you and there is no right or wrong way to use them. You can type in a single word, (called ’keywords’) or even write a normally formulated sentence, both will work equally as well.
e.g. if you want to know how to write an email, you would type the keywords; How, Write, Email. Or, alternatively ask the question, just as you would of a human being by typing a sentence; e.g. ‘How do I write an email?’ and it will bring up the same, or more and different search results.
Remember, search engines won’t always provide the answers you seek at first, but oft-times rewording your query will present new results. Read them all until you find what you are looking for; the help you need will turn up eventually!
We hope this series of articles has been of benefit to some of you out there, particularly those of your who are taking their first serious steps into the online realm and looking to establish a website of your own!
Let us know your thoughts and opinions and remember you can always reach us if you need via our contact page or by leaving a message below any article!
‘Your Website, Your Way’ (Part 4) [You’re Here!]