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How to approach building a new website

How to approach building a new website

What do I need to build a website?

You have a new business, interest, gig or side hustle and you want a web site to inform your audience what you are able to do.

What do you need to set it up?

Primarily content: text, video, and images.

Think of your elevator pitch. What do you tell people in the first two minutes when you meet them?

That is your home page.

Ok. You say. If I have that how do I make it http://mywebsite.com?

Let’s start at the beginning and discuss hosting options and domain names.

Decide what platform you are going to use.

Are you going to use a platform that hosts the site for you or do you want to host it yourself?
Drilling down to details: Are you going to go for a free site to get started like WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace, Blogger or Weebly? Are you going to host your site yourself and have full control?

What is hosting?

Think of a website like a home in a neighborhood. In order to build a home, you need a plot of land. In the website neighborhood, you cannot purchase your plot. You can rent it from year to year. That is the hosting. In order to have a home, you need services like water and electricity. The hosting company provides the services that you need to build and make your website visible as part of your plan.

A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. The software is stored on special computers called servers.

Hosting flavors

  1. Hosted
  2. Self-hosted
  3. Hybrid – hosted with extra functionality.

 

  1. Hosted
    Hosted platforms provide a package deal where they take care of the heavy lifting and more complicated technical details such as software updates, hosting payments or web server management so that you can focus on building your site and content. Examples are WordPress.com, WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace, and Blogger. Many offer free trials to test the software.

The advantage is that if you have your content ready you can quickly build a website. I built a travel blog on WordPress.com in 20 minutes that would normally take about 10 hours on a self-hosted platform. Usually these platforms are free.The drawback is that functionality is limited. I call these micro-sites. They are similar to a Facebook page. That means that your website is a page on their larger site and includes their domain name. For example https://mywebsite.wordpress.com, or https://mywebsite.wix.com, etc. If you want to move your site to a different service or the company goes out of business, you will lose everything since you do not have access to the files or code.

The rules regarding content are very strict. If someone reports your blog, your site may be suspended without any notification and you can lose your content.

  1. Self-hosted

Building a self-hosted site gives your greater flexibility. You can choose the content management system (CMS) you like for your website. Hosting usually includes domain registration services and you can auto-install your CMS, like WordPress, Shopify etc. Many include tutorials on how to navigate the CMS in the Help section. WordPress is free. You do not need to pay to use it and can download it directly from https://wordpress.org/download/

The advantage is that the website is in the files and database on the hosting platform. You have access to that so you or your developer can easily pack that up and move it elsewhere if you are unhappy.  There are no restrictions to the functionality of your website. Extra functionality on WordPress sites is provided by software plug-ins. For example, do you need a contact form? There are plug-ins for that. Do you need an online store, or merely want to provide a way for clients to pay you online? Plugins provide that functionality. Many of them are free. In addition, you can have someone customize a plugin for you specifically only if you are on a self-hosted site.

  1. Hybrid

This is actually a version of a hosted platform. You pay a fee and gain extra functionality such as a domain name that does not include their domain name ( https://mywebsite.com), options to accept payments via the site, run ads and upload videos. The functionality changes from platform to platform.

Comparison of Hosted vs Self Hosted Websites

 

FeaturesHostedSelf-hosted
Service providersWordPress.com is a hosted service where you can set up a website or blog that runs on WordPress.WordPress.org is free software that you can download and use on your hosted account.
CostFree up to 3GB space
Pay for extra functionality
Free
Hosting costs about $4-$10/month
AccessRequires you to sign upRequires a web hosting account
Enables you to have a website within minutesMost hosts offer one click installation of the software.
FunctionalityNo pluginsUpload your plugins
No code accessAccess all code
Limited theme options (look and feel)Upload your theme or build one yourself.
Your host may run ads on your siteMake money by running ads on and selling goods from your site.
You can track activity using Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel
URLSubdomain of wordpress.com
https://mywebsite.wordpress.com
Use your custom domain name
https://mywebsite.com

 

Can I switch from Hosted to self-hosted?

It depends on the platform.

WordPress.com, Tumblr, Movable Type and Blogger users can move their content, i.e. posts, pages, comments and associated images to a self-hosted account. However, the structure of the site will not be transferred.

As far as I know on other platforms there is no automated way to transfer content.

Which one should I choose?
Choose the one that is right for your situation and budget.

Think of Lemon cake.

When I want lemon cake I go to Starbucks and buy a slice.

The problem is that I like my lemon cake to have pecan pieces inside and I don’t know of a company that provides that.

That is why I often just bake my own.

The hybrid option is to purchase lemon cake mix from the grocery store and add pecan pieces to that and bake it.

Which one do you prefer?

If you need a website that is scalable, definitely choose self-hosted.

You can have someone help you to set up your site.

What is a domain name?

The domain name is the name that your website will use in order for your audience to find you. For example https://blockbusters.com. It is actually a translation of the IP address used by computers to find the location of your website and translate the numbers into something that is user friendly for humans.

Where can you get a domain name?

Most hosting providers will provide domain registration for free for the first year. If you are anxious to get yours immediately, try GoDaddy.com or namecheap.com. If you are not in a hurry wait for deals on major US holidays. If you purchase domain registration for 3 years it may indicate to search engines that you are invested in your business and are not a pop-up site.

Domain registration needs to be renewed every year. If you forget, you will lose your domain.

If you do not purchase domain registration from your hosting company you will need to point the site to the hosting account.

If you are on a hosted platform, you do not need to purchase domain name registration since it will be provided by the company
mywebsite.weebly.com

Think carefully about the relevance of the domain name and how it relates to your business or interest. If you are selling shoes then it is less likely for clients to find you if you call your site themagnoliatree.com unless they are familiar with your brand.

I believe in keeping it short, sweet and easy to pronounce so that users can remember it.

Numbers confuse people. If you include numbers the visitors will not know whether to spell out the number or type the numeral. They will never find you.

Steps for self-hosted WordPress sites:

  • Install WordPress
  • Choose a Theme
  • Install Content and Pages
  • Download plug-ins
  • Publish

The last step is one that is often forgotten and can endanger your site.

  • Maintain

A good site provides new content regularly via the blog and always keeps software up to date.

The rigors of life often cause us to forget our website. Ignoring the software updates can make the site vulnerable to hackers.

New content can be loaded onto the site a few weeks in advance and released on pre-determined days.  Search Engines boost sites that have new content and demote the “Halloween sites”.

If you are unable to commit to updating and maintaining your site, you may like to have someone take care of that for you.

Having a website is like printing a business card. The card cannot help you if it’s sitting in your drawer. The site needs to be promoted. When people visit the site, they will notice that your last post was from 2 years ago. If you have posts that are still relevant from some time ago, consider editing, adding something new and giving them a new date to freshen up the site.

Leaving some older content is helpful since potential clients will realize that you have been in business for some time.

 

 

 

 


I help people who are interested in building self-hosted sites using WordPress. I help them choose a hosting provider, register their domain names, install WordPress and build their website according to their specifications. Once the site is complete if they are interested, I show them how to make small edits and load blog posts onto the site. This can be performed from a mobile device whilst waiting in line at the MVA…

In the coming weeks, I will be expanding on some typical questions that clients have asked in our coaching sessions.

 

 

 

What are Google’s Featured Snippets?

What are Google’s Featured Snippets?

You may be wondering what those little boxes with information or videos are called at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) and how you can get your website to feature there.

Some of you have been writing perfectly valuable and informative content that interests and delights your audience, but your content is not in Google Featured Snippets.  If you are one of those people who has an active blog rating in the first 10 places on Google Search Engine, this post is for you.

If you are not ranking in the first 10 places, then you will find lots of valuable information on how to boost your ranking.

In this post, we will discuss snippets, the main types of snippets that we see, how to optimize your website and content to appear at the top of the search results, and the criteria that Google search engine is looking for.

What’s a “snippet”?

The snippet is a single search result in a set of search results and generally consists of a title, a URL and a description of the page. The content of a snippet matches parts of the search query and you’ll see your keyword highlighted in the snippet description. Search engines often use pieces of your content to fill in the parts that make up the snippet. (Yoast )

The Google bot scans the websites and uses the data to formulate an index of information in the search engine. If your site is structured in a manner that the bot can easily process, there is a better chance of your website or social media properties being featured in the search results.

What’s a “featured snippet”?

A featured snippet works by pulling a short answer ranking 0 in the search results, directly into the SERPs, thus eliminating the need for the user to click on an organic search result. Featured snippets are a type of “answer box” or “rich answer. Since they are located on the most valuable piece of digital real estate – the top of the SERPs, they receive far more clicks and impressions.

“We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.” – Google

This is what a featured snippet looks like:

screen shot of a Featured Snippet

Google Featured Snippet: Paragraph type

 

The Google Featured snippet guide  will provide you with detailed information regarding when the featured snippets are activated.

Note: Your content has to be ranked within the top 10 on Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Why Featured Snippets?

More traffic, better brand awareness and more conversions…

Getting a featured snippet could get more people to land on your landing page and improve the sales of your products or visibility of your site. If you are not looking to improve your Click Through Rate (CTR) then consider whether it is worth investing the time in optimizing your page for a featured snippet.

Voice SEO

The importance Voice Search Engine Optimization  has been discussed previously on this blog. With the increasing number of voice queries the importance of the featured snippet rises, since the voice query responses are pulled from the featured snippets.  DBS Interactive  claims that 1/3 of all queries will be Voice Search by 2020. Other studies claim that 50% of queries will be Voice Search.

Types of featured snippets

Here are the most common types.

  • Paragraph
  • Table
  • Suggested Video
  • Numbered List
  • Bulleted List

 

Paragraph Featured Snippets

This snippet includes an answer given in the text. It can be a box with text inside or a box with both text and image inside. Often, they’re displayed alongside an image chosen from another source. Typically they answer the following types of questions:

  • How To …
  • Who is….
  • What is…
  • Why is…

Table Featured Snippet

These tend to answer questions on pricing, rates, and data that are displayed to the searcher in a table format.

If you have a page where the data needs to be presented in a table format, the search engines will display the content if it is coded as a table in html markup. You can also mark it with the dataset schema markup.

Example of a table Featured Snippet

Example of a table Featured Snippet

 

Video Clips Snippets

Search engines can also answer specific questions using text from video descriptions and offers them as a response when the query is asking for an instructional tutorial or when the user might benefit from video content. Video results are also a form of featured snippet.

Justin from Briggsby offers a great guide on how to get your YouTube video to appear on featured snippets.

Numbered List Featured Snippet

It is a response to a How do I… type of query and the response is formatted in an HTML numbered list.

Numbered List Featured Snippet

Numbered List Featured Snippet

Bulleted List

Essentially it is the same as the numbered list, but the order of the list is less important.

Bulleted List Featured Snippet

Bulleted List Featured Snippet

There are additional types of featured snippets that are less prominent.

How do you get started?

Google offers a rather cryptic guide to featured snippets since it merely informs the reader how to opt-out of having the content used for featured snippets.

If you are eager to learn how to optimize your post aiming to get a featured snippet, here are some tips:

How to get a featured snippet

Google and Bing search engines have different criteria, so content that appears on Google does not always appear on Bing. Google results tend to be more impartial.

1. Rank in the Top Page of Google

You must rank in the first top 10 pages on Google to get your featured snippet. This can be a challenge and involves some effort, like

  • Follow good SEO practices
  • The page should be mobile friendly
  • Include good keywords,
  • Inbound links  from authoritative sources,
  • Internal linking,
  • Have an error free website,
  • Load quickly,
  • Use SSL, and
  • Be built for humans, not only for robots or machines.

Here are some tools that can help you test your site:

2. Do keyword research and aim to respond to search intent

Your content must be perfect. Use E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness) Principles  to perfect your post. It should include factual data written for humans, that is supported by other resources. Do not stuff your posts with the keywords. Carry out Problem and Solution Search, not just keywords (Izzi Smith– Sixt Case Study).  Make sure to answer all the questions that your target audience ask. Leave the user thirsting for more information so that s/he will click through.

Google uses a strategy called the Intent Matching Engine to discover whether users are finding what they are searching for.

Check the Search engine results pages to see how the SERP is formatted.  In order to rank, you must offer the Best Answer. Check out the “People also ask” section. A lot of times you’ll find this section beneath a featured snippet to see what the intent is. This is a good resource for you to find out what users may be asking that you can answer.

Additional research tools to help you:

Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool

Answer the Public

Seed Keywords

Check Competitor Sites to see what they are ranking for. Perhaps you can discover another spin on your topic.

Simply ask your audience what they prefer to receive from you.

3. Create correctly formatted text at the top of the post for the featured snippet.

The text should emulate what an abstract does for a scientific paper. That text should contain a clear answer to a question in 40-60 words. SEMrush analyzed nearly 7 million Featured Snippets. And they found that the most Featured Snippets are 40-60 words long

4. Markup your content correctly

Markup your content correctly with HTML markup so that the bots can understand what you have. Correctly mark headers, lists, bullet points and include a description of your images. Also use dataset schema markup. And Schema.org markup so that the robots can understand what you are presenting.

5. Pick good original images

Generally speaking, use high quality images that have been compressed for viewing on a web page, be appropriate for the topic discussed, and be of a 4:3 aspect ratio. Remember to fill out the title and Alt Text when you load the image. This is the data that the bots use to know what your image portrays. Here is Google’s guide.

Here’s more about image optimization.

6. Include a Q& A section on your website

Research related keywords and include those questions in a section on your site dedicated to the topic.

What are the search engines like Google looking for in the Snippet?

They want a specific response to the users question so that in many cases, he would not need to click in order to find the answer.

In order to rate, the content must “Fully Meet” the criteria:

  • The user is clearly looking for a specific webpage or website and the result block with the specific webpage or website Fully Meets the user’s need.

  • The user is trying to complete a device action and the result block accomplishes the desired request.

  • The user is looking for a very specific fact or piece of information and the result block provides the information immediately, thoroughly, accurately, and clearly. No other results would be needed.

Before using the Fully Meets rating for queries seeking a very specific fact or piece of information, you must check for accuracy and confirm that the information is supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists. – Raterhub 

How long will you keep the Featured Snippet?

It seems that the ranking is pretty unpredictable. Also you cannot track it from Google Search Console. You will need an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to be set up to track that.

Google has indicated that Featured Snippets will be around in the near future and Bing is also testing this feature.


Thank you for taking the time to read my post about SEO. I am inspired to write about topics that will help your digital visibility and use questions that you ask. If you have found this article valuable, please

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