HostGator strives to find ways to make it quicker and easier for you to get a website up and running, so we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to get your website online, hassle-free. In just five simple steps, we'll walk you through choosing your domain name, selecting the right web hosting package, building your website, populating it with content and publishing. In just a few hours time, you can get your website online and start engaging your visitors.
1: Select And Register A Domain Name
Deciding on an appropriate and easy-to-remember domain name for your business is very important in building your online presence. Consider the following when selecting and purchasing a domain.
In deciding your business’s name, you might consider including the name of the service or product you are selling in your domain name; this will help you get better traffic, especially from search engines. Don’t be afraid to get creative though as some of the biggest brands doing business online (the Googles and Facebooks of the world) were once upon a time unknown.
Keep it Easy to Type and Remember
Try to only use words that have one possible spelling, as it’s easier for visitors to remember and type. Also consider keeping your domain name singular. For example, if mydomain.com has already been registered by someone and you select mydomains.com, you will likely be sending your traffic to mydomain.com as most domains are singular rather than plural. (However this is not so much the case when it comes to picking keyword rich domains.) A shorter domain also helps memorability. Aim for 6 to 10 characters.
Use Keywords and Target your Area
Keyword-rich domains do not significantly impact your site’s SEO, however they can help. If people search for “Texas Tailgating,” texastailgating.com could be a great domain name given that is exactly what they are searching for. Businesses with predominantly local customers may want to consider incorporating the city, state or region into their domain. For example if you sell doors, AustinDoors.com might be a better alternative to Doors.com.
Avoid Numbers and Hyphens
Hyphens in domain names are difficult for visitors to remember, especially as people are using multiple devices more. If mydomain.com is already registered and you decide to purchase my-domain.com because it is available, you will likely lose or confuse your visitors as they end up on mydomain.com. Using numbers in your domain can also hurt with memorability and confuse your visitors as they access your website on more than one device. Numerical substitutions to letters or words are also confusing. For example, tell someone your website is “v3st.com” or “4BetterDentistry.com” and there is immediate confusion.
This is common sense, but a friendly reminder that could save you some headaches down the way. Check for copyrights and trademarks before registering a domain. If someone owns a domain you want and you see they are not using it, run a WHOIS to find the owner’s contact information and communicate your interest in acquiring the domain. If you have a business partner or trusted mentor, work with them to brainstorm a list of possible names and narrow it down from there. For more tips on selecting a domain name you can also check out our Support page.
Use the Correct Top Level Domain
A .com TLD is the most widely used domain extension with other possible choices including .net, .org, .biz, and .us. We don’t recommend picking one of those alternates TLDs if the .com version of your domain is already in use as you are highly likely driving traffic to another website as visitors mistakenly visit a website they did not intend to view.
For businesses based out of the United States, you may also want to register a local TLD.(.uk for the United Kingdom, .au for Australia, .ca for Canada, .de for Germany, .cn for China, etc.) , but make sure the .com is not already in use and possibly register that as well.
2: Select A Hosting Plan
Once you have decided on a domain name and checked the availability, you’ll need to select a hosting plan. Your web host will provide a space for you to store your website online. You wouldn’t just pick a business name and get started; you’d need to find a space to run your business. Your web host is your digital place to run your business. Most web hosts provide different kinds of hosting plans, depending on the needs of your site. The following are the hosting plans offered by HostGator, as well as some info on why that might be the right choice for you:
With Shared Hosting, more than one website resides on a given web server. For new websites, shared hosting is the most recommended and economical solution. This allows you to host as many sites as you want and includes a 99.9% uptime guarantee starting as low as $5.56 per month.
Optimized Wordpress Hosting
Optimized WordPress Hosting (OWP) is a hosting platform built for an optimized and managed WordPress experience. Optimized WordPress hosting packages come pre-installed with a variety of necessary applications and plugins and HostGator will handle all of the core, theme, and plugin updates without you having to lift a finger
Virtual Private Server
For more advanced users, VPS hosting allows more flexibility in software installations, Apache configurations, and other custom software.
Dedicated servers or servers only hosting your site(s) may be beneficial for big business websites with heavy amounts of traffic or large customer databases.
3: Select A Content Management System Or Website Builder
Now that you have selected your domain and hosting plan, how are you going to build and manage the content on your website? Save time and money on designing your website by using a Content Manage System (CMS) or for more simple sites, use one of the following Website Builders.
Content Management System
A CMS or Content Management System can be downloaded and installed with your account at HostGator. Selecting one of the following CMS options may be your best bet if you intend to add new content regularly or need more advanced features.
WordPress is the most widely used CMS today. Combined with QuickInstall, it can be used to easily set up and customize. Users can easily edit how their website looks by installing a theme and extend the functionality of a website using plugins.
For users with some CMS or coding experience, Joomla provides a customizable CMS with a large variety of plugins for additional functionality that may be necessary to websites requiring more robust features such as an e-commerce store. Joomla can also be installed via QuickInstall.
Drupal is the most developer friendly CMS. Very advanced websites can be built using it, however it requires the most technical expertise and does require significant a learning curve for novice users.
Magento is primarily considered to be an e-commerce platform HostGator's Business plan includes everything you need to automatically install Magento, along with a free dedicated IP and private SSL to securely accept credit card transactions right on your website.
HostGator provides a Website Builder to quickly and easily set up their website without having to download additional installation software.
The Weebly Website Builder is a very easy to way to create your website and requires no technical knowledge. However keep in mind Weebly has a small number of themes or design options that you won’t be able to customize with a much smaller number of advanced features compared to the other previously mentioned solutions.
4: Create Content
With a CMS to manage your content, you will need to create the content for each page to communicate the products, services, and/or knowledge your business provides.
Logo or Header
A company’s logo is commonly found on the header, or top portion separated from the body of text, of a business’s website. Ensure your logo communicates the service or product you are providing to customers.
As you develop your company’s brand you may also want to consider creating a basic style guide covering logo usage (possible appropriate variations of the logo for things such as t-shirts), fonts, voice, and brand colors.
The following list of common website pages should be used to ensure you provide all the necessary information to your visitors:
The Homepage is the first thing many people see when they visit your website so make that first impression count. Consider it an introduction and opportunity to communicate exactly what your business does, and why someone should become your customer (as part of this, also include awards or any recognition such as media mentions as a way to build credibility). Also have a clear call to action, and clear navigation to the rest of your website.
The About section of a website is where website visitors go lo earn more about a business and hopefully answer the following questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- How can you help and how do you do it?
- Where are you located?
- When did you start your business and in that same vein, what got you here?
For smaller businesses don’t be afraid to make it personal as people can identify with your story as long as you’re honest.
A Services/Product page should include an overview or summary of what your business provides, descriptions for each service or product you provide, and the benefits of each service. Consider also creating separate pages containing more about each service or product if you have many offerings along with information on how your service compares to competitors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
These are either the most common questions your customers have been asking you so far for your business or a place to share facts about your business that you want customers and potential customers to know about. FAQs also reinforce policies you set and should focus on the problems you are solving for customers.
Keep this page brief. Make sure people are able to reach you via the information you provide, and link to your social media pages as well. If you have a physical location with in-person, customer traffic you may also want to consider inserting a map. Add special directions for any location that’s off the beaten path.
The Testimonials page should showcase your best customer success stories with quotes from your satisfied customers. For more technical product or services, such as a SaaS, you may also want to consider building full case studies that cover the issue your customer was experiencing and how you solved it in more detail.
A business blog above all else should be useful to your visitors and customers. As you blog more, the more useful posts will become clear in your analytics and how much a post is shared on social media.
Creating Web Friendly Content
As you develop your business you are not only developing relationships, you are also hopefully developing an audience. One of the biggest drivers for developing said audience is writing good, useful content.
Picking a writing voice should go back to your brand and reflect your business’s style and personality. Whether you choose to be formal or more casual in nature, you should establish a relationship with the reader and remain consistent throughout your posts.
Great content is informative and will build up your business’s credibility to existing and potentially new customers. The more useful it is, the more likely visitors will return to your website and view you as a trusted source.
With the amount of convenient distractions on places like YouTube online, bullets are an easy way to break up content and keep a viewer’s attention. It’s also a quick way to get more than one point across.
Include images, videos, and other visual elements to highlight points you are making and communicate those points to people who learn more successfully when they see something communicated visually.
There is a wide selection of fonts available online to incorporate into your website that will work across browsers. You will want a font that works cohesively with the rest of your website’s design and ultimately be easy to read across devices.
Once you have a domain, an active hosting account, and a completed website, it is time to publish your website online. In a CMS like WordPress this can be completed by logging into WordPress (If you have WordPress installed you access the panel by visiting http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin) reviewing the Pages section, selecting the page you wish to be live, and ensuring any pages you wish to be live have a status of Published. If the status of the page is Status or Pending Review, the specific page is not live.