How to Build A Web Site
How To Build Your Own Web Site and Get It On The Web (Easily & Cheaply)
Many people have asked us about the steps necessary to build their own web site. Whether you want to share your knowledge in metaphysics or in any other field, owning and building a web site can be a satisfying, profitable, and exciting way to share your personal passions, hobbies, and know-how.
There are completely free (but limited) options that are most appropriate for those who don’t mind a web address that is cumbersome and who don’t require the freedom of adding leading affiliate links to their site.
However, there are ways to get your very own web site domain name and run a web site quite inexpensively. This article explores the steps for the latter option. Once your own site is up and running, you can begin submitting it to search engines and getting involved in affiliate programs that are free to set up, but that can earn you some returns. Many people start with the goal of earning enough to pay for the site itself–and that is very easy to do with the availability and inexpensiveness of tools for building webs nowadays.
This article explores the key steps to building your own website:
- Getting Your Own Domain Name
- Getting a Hosting Package
- Building Your Web Site
- Getting Your Site Listed on Search Engines
- Choosing the Best Affiliate Programs
Getting Your Own Domain Name
Unless you opt to go with a free web site, getting your very own domain name might be your first step. However, many hosting companies offer domain name registration along with their hosting packages at an attractive price, so see our section below about web hosting before you jump to register your domain.
What is a domain name? A domain name identifies one (and sometimes more) IP Addresses. If you look at what appears in your browser as the URL address of this page, for example, you’ll see:
The domain name in this address is cafeastrology.com.
What appears after the “dot” (in this case, “com”) reveals which top level domain the name belongs to. Popular TLDs include com, edu, gov, net, ca, and so forth.
You’ll need to think up a name for your domain. This name will, of course, be very important, so you’ll want to spend some time on it. Of course, many popular names are already taken. You can explore which names are available at this site:
At register.com you can search for, and register, a domain name.
Dotster.com is another domain registrar that costs only $14.95 a year.
Search for a domain name at any of these sites – it’s fun! Some offer alternatives to names you run searches for. Spend a lot of time on this process, because your domain name is your basic identity on the web. (It also has an impact on your search engine rankings as you move forward).
Factors to consider when choosing a domain name:
- An understandable and easily remembered name is usually best.
- Including some of your site’s important keywords–that is, words that people might put into a search engine to find your site–can be important in terms of how high your site gets “ranked” in search engine listings.
- Your domain name establishes your online identity. Try to select a name that describes what you are setting out to do, without limiting yourself for possible future expansions.
Registering a domain name: You will need to register your domain name with a domain registrar. Originally, there was only one domain registrar, Network Solutions. Now there are many options for registering your domain name. It can be confusing, but it also means competitive prices!
Most domain name registrars charge a yearly fee for domain name registration. Many offer discounts for registering with them for multiple years. It makes sense, if you are just starting out, however, to register a domain for one year.
At register.com you can search for, and register, a domain name.
Getting a Hosting Package
Once you have a domain name, you’ll need to find a web hosting service. There are plenty of hosting services available. Again, this fact might seem overwhelming at first, but it also translates to extremely competitive pricing, so you win.
Factors to consider when choosing a hosting service:
- You’ll need to find a package that provides you with enough data storage, measured in Megabytes. A standard is 50MB.
- Find a package that includes traffic statistics. Knowledge of your site’s traffic statistics is not only interesting, it can help you improve your site as you move forward.
- Many people prefer to edit their web pages on their computer, and then upload the changes and additions to their site using an FTP program. If you’re one of them, make sure the hosting package includes FTP access in their services.
- Find a package that supports full domain names. It’s much more professional to have your own domain name, as we have mentioned above.
Our choices for inexpensive hosting packages:
We only recommend those hosting packages that we have used and still use. Customer service is important to us, as well as pricing and features:
InMotion Hosting is my personal favorite.
Professional Web Hosting $6.95 at Host Monster.
Building Your Site
If you don’t know html, or you prefer not to play around with html code, you will want to find an html editor. You can download free html editors, such as FrontPage Express or AOL Press 2.0 (for instructions on how to download these, click here). Both are easy to use and quite sufficient for many users.
For a more professional, yet still easy-to-use, web page editing program, you can purchase Microsoft FrontPage 2003, our personal favorite. FrontPage is ideal for those people who have no desire to learn html, yet it is flexible for those who do know code or for those who want to learn it as they go along. In fact, the 2003 version of FrontPage includes features, such as the “Reveal Tags” feature, that help users learn code (only if they want to) as they create their web pages. We use FrontPage 2003 for Cafe Astrology. We originally started with FrontPage 2000 and recently upgraded to 2003. I was skeptical at first, presuming that the updated features wouldn’t be snazzy enough to justify the expense of the upgrade. After working with 2003, however, I wish we had upgraded sooner. Re-designing a site is far easier with 2003, and the sleek and easy interface makes it all the better for new users to create web sites with cleaner code. Remember that you don’t have to know or learn html code if you use FrontPage, but if you think you might want to learn as you go along, this is the software package best suited for you.
Those who are familiar with html code will find more versatility in the pricier but flexible Dreamweaver MX.
Nowadays, it doesn’t make a lot of sense paying loads of money to web site designers. FrontPage 2003 includes a number of templates that users can customize. We are not thrilled with the included templates, but there are templates that you can purchase (FrontPage Templates) for as little as $35, download, and install into your FrontPage program. Templates are fun to browse, and categories are abundant — from personal pages or hobbies to stores and business styles. We have purchased templates from a few designers, and they are well laid out, easy to customize, and filled with instructions to personalize the multiple pages. You can try PixelMill.com (we have bought templates from Pixel Mill and were happy with our purchases and the service), and browse through their FrontPage or Dreamweaver Templates.
Note: PixelMill.com also has a number of free FrontPage templates ready to download. If you own FrontPage 2000 or higher, I recommend downloading one of these free templates (such as the Gradient Grey 01 template) to try out. You can play around with the template to see if templates are for you. Of course, you can also save money and use one of the free templates, or use a template already packaged in the FrontPage software.
You might want to take the time to browse through templates (it’s actually fun to do). Re-designing a site later is always feasible, and sometimes necessary, but it is time-consuming. As such, settling on a design that you are very comfortable with right from the start makes a lot of sense.
Getting Your Site Listed on Search Engines
Once you’ve built your site to a point where you feel it’s ready for some visitors, you’ll want to get listed on search engines.
Some tips for optimizing your web pages for search engines:
- Pay close attention to keywords. Your keywords, included in your title tags, meta tags, and main content of your pages (or “copy”), should be specific and relevant.
- Add a Title Tag to each page and use Meta Tags. Be sure to include a title for each of your pages first and foremost, and then add “description” and “keywords” meta tags (instructions below).
- Try to include a fair amount of text on each of your pages. Many search engines “read” your page, not just the title and meta tags. Include specific keyword phrases, not just general ones, in the text of your pages. Although this tip is listed last, it is actually the most important. Content matters! Offer original content, and you are off to a great start.
A good web site that will not only help you with your title and meta tags, but will submit your site to a number of search engines at once–for free–is Submit Corner.
In Front Page: Title and Meta Tags:
Composing your title tag for each page on your site is probably the most important step in optimizing your site for search engines. In FrontPage, you can quickly add a title tag to a page by right-clicking anywhere on the page, selecting “Page Properties”, and typing in your tag under “Title”. The tag should be approximately 50-70 characters long, including punctuation and spaces; and it should include a concise description of your page, carefully composed to include a couple of important keyword phrases.
Meta tags used to be much more important than they are today. Still, it is wise to include these tags since some search engines still use them.
In Front Page 2000, you can add “description” and “keywords” meta tags by right-clicking on your page, selecting “Page Properties”, and then clicking on the “Custom” tag. Under “User Variables”, click on the “Add” button and enter the word “description” in the name field. Under “Value”, type in a description of the page of your site, incorporating important keywords. Add another Name to this section — “keywords”, and under “Value”, type in a string of keywords separated by commas. These keywords can be single words and phrases, and it is often wise to add common misspellings of important keywords. In Front Page 2003, “title”, “description”, and “keywords” meta tags are even easier to add to any of your web pages. Right-click on the page in question, and a box that includes all three variables will pop up.
Once your site is up and running, you may want to begin making some money for your site, if only to cover the monthly expenses of maintaining it. The best way to begin is by using affiliate programs.
What is an Affiliate Program?
Many businesses on the web offer affiliate programs to other web sites. These are “pay-for-performance” programs that generally involve adding links to your site that take your visitors to the company’s page where they can buy products. If your visitors make a purchase, you get a commission. Most affiliate programs are free to join, and many take a few days to approve your application to join.
An excellent way to begin looking for affiliate programs is through an affiliate marketing network. These are third-party companies who manage many different affiliate advertisers. Two of the most popular such programs are:
LinkShare.com Commission Junction
Some excellent individual Affiliate Programs include:
Amazon.com Amazon’s Associate Program is well run and easy to use. Associates have a variety of linking options available to them, including links to individual products (such as specific titles of books, software, CDs, DVDs, and so forth), bestsellers links, banners, search boxes, and more. They pay anywhere from 2.5% to 15% commission on products sold through associate links, depending on the products. If you click through this link and sign up to earn, it will earn this site a small commission.
AllPosters.com sells posters and art prints. Their affiliate program is also very easy to use, and their commissions are relatively high–for most products sold through affiliate links, you receive 20-25% commission. Art.com and AllPosters.com have recently merged, and the selection of art prints and posters is truly enormous. You can dress up your site with images (that are clickable) using this affiliate program, and, of course, signing up is free.
Although it may be tempting to join as many affiliate programs as possible, try to remember the age-old “quality over quantity” rule. Provide links to sites that offer products that are relevant to your site’s content. Invest some time into providing links that are actually helpful for the readers of your site.
Because these affiliate programs are free, it is truly a win-win situation. As far as your readers go, if they buy something after clicking through your site’s links, they don’t lose anything, so you can be confident that you are not doing anyone a disservice. This fact is important for many people, including ourselves, who are investing time in building web sites to share their knowledge, not to bleed anyone dry or to use sneaky tactics to make money.