There are many channels on the internet to market your business and product. From classified ads on GumTree, to auction websites like Bid or Buy and of course social media which is often the preferred channel these days. We will cover online marketing in future lessons but for now all you need to focus on is that you will need your own website to start a legitimate online business.
You cannot operate your online business with a free blog from Google’s Blogger.com or a free website from Weebly. Needless to say it is not as professional as having your own branded website. It’s not just your website that makes the difference but also your email accounts.
If you are serious about setting up any business with an online presence then you will need a legitimate branded email account. Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Webmail are service providers for the masses to have email access. They are all great free services. But it is not professional for an entrepreneur or business.
Think about it! Would you hand over your hard earned money to an online business that operates from a Gmail account?
In today’s lesson we will cover the fundamentals of setting up your own website. It is important to first understand the anatomy of a website and how it works. The technical knowledge that we are imparting to you is necessary if you want to establish yourself as a successful ontrepreneur (online entrepreneur).
Do not be intimidated by technology. It is far easier than most people realise.
Anatomy of a Website
We have simplified these concepts so that every person can understand it, irrespective of their technical background. A website is made up of three parts:
- Domain – basically this is your website address like www.ontrepreneur.co.za is our domain. Without an address, nobody will be able to find your website.
- Web hosting – a space on a server where your website will be located. Think of it as a small portion of a massive hard drive or memory stick where you can set up your business.
- Content management system (CMS) – an easy-to-use platform where you can enter content (articles, blog posts, pictures or videos) and have it published live on your website with a few clicks.
If you know how to use an email service like Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail then you have all the computer skills to set up and operate your own business website. Yes, it is that easy.
1. Choose Your Domain Name Carefully
When you go to a shop the first thing that catches your eye is the massive sign above the main entrance. Think of your domain name as that massive store sign. It not only identifies you but it is also a brand to market your business.
We always advise South Africans to start with a local domain meaning a .co.za since it has more of a local appeal. But if you are planning to establish a cross border presence then you may want to opt for a .com, .net or .org.
Simply decide on the domain name that suits your business, products or services. For example if you are selling detergents in Newlands (Cape Town) then you may want to choose the domain www.newlandsdetergents.co.za or even www.capetowndetergents.co.za.
Your domain name should be product relevant, market relevant and/or geographically relevant.
But this is not always necessary if you are setting up a broader business that may be promoting and selling many different types of products. Your domain name can then be built around your business brand although it will take some effort to establish your brand in the market.
For example a hypothetical company known as Super Duper Clean may look at the domain www.superduperclean.com because they want to market their brand Super Duper Clean.
Some entrepreneurs build the brand around themselves. This works well if you are a celebrity but even if you do not have the fame and glory, you can establish yourself as a trusted name in a market. If you are setting up a website or blog to market yourself then you may want your domain to be your own full name.
Take some time. Think about the domain name that will best suit you and your business before you make any purchase.
2. Buy web hosting space
Once you have your website address, you will need web hosting space where you can build your website. Web hosting is the same concept as buying property or vacant land. When you purchase web hosting space, you own a small part of the internet which you can use to build your property, in this case a website or blog.
You need to link your domain and website space which is simple to do but can be a bit confusing if you do not have a technical background. Fortunately many web hosting providers will guide you and tell you what to do although they will not actually do it for you.
However, the choice of web hosting provider is yours and you can shop around for other local or international companies that offer these services.
Selecting a CMS
Once you have your domain name and web hosting space, it is time to build your website on your ‘vacant property’. In the past you would have to know some computer programming to do this but these days it is as simple as a few clicks and your website is live.
A content management system (CMS) works in much the same way as writing a document through a word processor like Microsoft Word. Click to add a new article. Enter the information in the boxes. And hit the publish button for it to go live on your website instantly. No technical skill needed.
You can go back at any time to add new articles, edit existing articles or even delete articles you no longer want. We recommend WordPress which was initially a blogging software but is now used by small and large businesses for their website needs. WordPress is the content management system of choice for over 70 million websites and it’s free.
A Complete Website
By now you should understand the three components that make up a complete website. If you did not grasp these concepts then we recommend that you scroll up and read about it again.
It’s really simple. A website is made up of 3 components – the domain, the web hosting space and the content management system. Look at the picture of a house below. The little sign at the front of the house (in red) is the domain name (www.). The land on which the house is built is the hosting space (in grey). And the house itself is your content management system (in purple). Collectively this makes up a website.