When you’re starting a website for your business, there are so many choices to make. Where do I host it? What should it look like? Do I design it myself or hire a designer? The list goes on. To make some of these choices easier I’ll explain the three most important website launch decisions for long-term SEO success and how to avoid getting stuck in the “sunk cost fallacy.”
Which online marketing strategies will you use?
Before I get into the heart of how to start a website that can eventually use SEO as a marketing strategy, let’s cover a few potential online marketing tactics you could use: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, social media marketing, Pinterest Ads, Pinterest, Twitter ads, or Yelp. All are great options.
The only online marketing tactic that requires your website to be set up a certain way is SEO. Although I believe holistic SEO tactics help add value for your business beyond getting organic traffic, the process of setting up an SEO-friendly site is a bit more time-intensive and requires more technical knowledge.
What is SEO
I’ll let Search Engine Land explain this one:
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines.”– Search Engine Land
Why use SEO as a marketing tactic?
Organic Search remains the dominant source of trackable web traffic and– BrightEdge Research
in the dominant position as a channel. Paid Search continues to grow.
Organic Social Media is flat since 2014 at 5%, and though ubiquitous,
contributes on average 1/3 as much traffic as Paid Search and just 1/11
as much as Organic Search.”
The goal of most SEO strategies is to generate free traffic from search engines. The way to do that is to create a well-designed website that’s fast, accessible, user-friendly, and provides useful and trustworthy information for current and potential customers.
The tactics used by good SEO’s should boast every other aspect of your company’s marketing strategy. In the end, a good SEO strategy will not only help you get more potential customers to your website, but it should also make every interaction customers have with your website a positive experience. A good SEO strategy won’t just help you show up on the search engine results page (SERP), it should also help you build trust and brand loyalty for all your customers.
Three pre-website launch essentials if you want to use SEO as a marketing tactic
If you’re looking to create a long-term digital marketing strategy that includes SEO – or many of the tactics used by SEO professionals to improve customer user experience – then you should set your website up correctly from the beginning. I’ll explain how to do that below. But first, let me explain why I believe this is important. There’s a financial term called the sunk cost fallacy.
“The Sunk Cost Fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.– The Decision Lab
I talk to entrepreneurs all the time that are working on websites that were set up on the wrong content management system, on a bad theme, or with a bad hosting company. It’s hard to change because of the sunk cost fallacy.
For example, you paid for hosting for two years to save money. You bought a theme that requires you to hire a developer every time you want to make a change. You’re using a website builder that’s causing problems, but switching to WordPress.org sounds hard and expensive. I get it. It sucks. I’ve been there too. It’s hard to change the path you’re on when you’ve already invested time and money into a sunk cost. That’s why I recommend these three essential steps to setting up a website the right way from the beginning. So you can avoid the sunk cost fallacy altogether.
1.) Choose a good content management system
The first choice you’ll probably make when deciding how to get your website live is which content management system to use. Don’t make this choice without doing your research.
What is a content management system (CMS)?
Your content management system is the interface you use to add copy to posts and pages. It contains your website’s media library of images and videos. The CMS also includes the template (also known as the theme or child theme) that creates the structure, brand colors, and layout. It’s the central point where you’ll login to manage your website.
Most SEO’s – including me – will recommend using WordPress.org (not WordPress.com) as your content management system. It’s the gold standard. WordPress.org is the leading free and open-source content management system (CMS) in the world. If you’re serious about running online marketing campaigns, using WordPress.org as your CMS is foundational.
“It powers more than 40% of the top 10 million websites and has an estimated 64% market share of all websites built using a CMS,” according to WordPress.org.
Website builders can be a great option if you’re not planning on using SEO as a tactic in the near future or you just need to get a website up fast and cheap. However, these all-in-one content management systems create problems with page speed and website structure. They also don’t come with all the support and options you’ll find on WordPress.org simply because WordPress.org has so many users and companies working on services that help make it better.
Note: Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy Websites + Marketing are examples of website builders.
2.) Start with a good theme
If you go with WordPress.org, the second choice you’ll make is what kind of theme you want (or if you want to use a designer). Again, choose wisely. Some have a lot of options that make updating the look of your site easy, but most do not. This site is on a theme from Restored316Designs.com (I’m using one of their themes on this site) and it’s super easy to update. But not all themes are created equal.
Make sure any theme you buy is: Mobile responsive, offers good customer support, includes custom blocks, and allows you to easily update brand colors and fonts.
What is a theme?
The theme contains the HTML and CSS files that create the structure, layout, colors, and fonts of your website. A theme can also be referred to as a template or child theme.
Note: I’m often told that people don’t want to use a theme or template because they want a professionally designed website. I hear you and I get it. I love website designers and I’m happy to recommend great designers. But just remember, most professional website designers will either create a custom “theme” for you or design your website using a plugin page builder like Elementor, Beaver Builder, or Page Builder. Few website designers create websites from scratch these days. So if you want to go live fast, pick a good theme and upload it to WordPress.org.
3.) Use a good hosting company
If WordPress.org is your content management system you will also need a hosting company. I recommend starting with a hosting company like BigScoots. They offer a free SSL certificate and 24/7 customer support via email. (If you’re using a website builder like Squarespace, then hosting is included.)
Why does hosting matter?
The hosting company “hosts” your website on a server.
Think of your server as the neighborhood your website lives in. You want your website in a desirable neighborhood near good schools and friendly neighbors. A cheap hosting service may contain a lot of spammy websites that are only designed to send a lot of traffic to shady publishers and affiliates. Being on a server with a lot of spammy websites can make your site look guilty by association from Google’s perspective.
The hosting company also plays a big role in page speed. Page speed is considered a Core Web Vital and Google absolutely uses it as a ranking factor.
What’s most important though is to think of page speed from a potential customer’s perspective. Slow websites are annoying at best and impossible to use at worst. If your customer needs to access something they’ve paid to use on your site, your hosting company better serve that content up real fast or you risk irritating or losing customers.
I hope you’re feeling a little more clear on how to set your website up for success. If you get stuck, schedule an appointment and I’ll get you moving in the right direction again.