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The Web Host Guide for New Site Owners
Welcome to our Web Host Guide, designed and organised specifically for new site owners. Congratulations too, If you landed here, it is probably because you recently decided to go ahead with a fantastic website idea! We put together a guide to help our customers, and all new site owners, take their first steps into the online universe. We have also structured this guide as a step-by-step, so you can follow each step as your develop your online presence or just take the bits you need.
- Find Your Web Host
- Know Your Control Panel
- Your First E-mail
- Getting a Website
- Search Engine and Tracking
Find Your Web Host
The first journey to a new website is to find a web host that can store your site and e-mails. That is essentially what a web host does, they store and host your website, e-mails, and do a little domain magic too.
If you are not sure how it all comes together yet, let me quickly explain it to you. A Web Host provides storage space on a server that you use to store a website. That server is also setup to send and receive e-mails. For visitors to find your site on the server, it needs a name; we call this a domain name. With me so far? If not, don’t worry, there is a great guide that explains it all in more detail on How Stuff Works
As a web host we turn all that technical stuff into a user-friendly control panel. The control panel is where you can manage and control most aspects of your website and the web hosting more generally. When you have picked your web host and signed up, you should make a point of going to your control panel.
Know your Web Host Control Panel
The nerve centre of your Web host experience, the control panel is where you manage everything that can be controlled. At Penseth our control panel is known as cPanel. cPanel is our preferred choice for control panel as a Web Hosts because it combines stellar functionality with a super simple interface. You can access your control panel from within your Penseth My Account Page, and we have even included some cPanel features directly on the My Account page for even easier use. If you host your website with someone else, you should check your account pages to find your control panel.
You should explore your control panel to get an idea of what you can and cannot do with your web host account. A few areas you should dig into early for long term benefit are; e-mail, domains, file manager, and FTP. E-mail is where you can create email addresses or email forwarders. There’s also much more you can do with e-mail, but you will not need to explore that until your needs increase. Domains are the name of your site, and you can even direct multiple domains to a single web host and site. Something that is handy if you have a .COM and .CO.UK domain as you can link both to a single website. File Manager is a simple and secure way to upload files to your web host, like the ones that make up your site. It is easy to use, but some web hosts place limits on the size of files you can upload so always check this before you sit down ready to upload your site in one go. Finally, FTP is the more technical way to manage files on your web host. When you want to progress onto FTP, you should check out this guide to getting started with FTP.
As I said, there is a lot more you can do from your control panel, but this does not need to happen as soon as you sign up. Get comfortable with some of the basics, and when you are ready, you can dig deeper. If Penseth is lucky enough to have you as a customer, our Support Team are always here to help you understand the Control Panel and its possibilities in more detail.
E-mail me at…
When you have settled into your control panel and have an idea of where the important things are, it is time to start building an online presence. You start this by creating an e-mail address for your website. Something like email@example.com. When you give someone a branded e-mail address like this, it immediately increases your professionalism. It shows people that you are committed to this project and expect it to last a while.
When choosing a Web Host you should always check the full package features. The number of e-mail addresses or forwarders you can create is limited by some web hosts. Penseth does not apply any limits to the number of e-mail addresses you can create on our packages.
You will need to decide on the name for your e-mail first. It could simply be ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or you can go more general with ‘email@example.com’. The choice depends on how you intend to use the mailbox. It is always a good to choose a name that is easily recognisable and also readable (words from a dictionary). Jeremy Marsan over at FitSmallBusiness has done a whole post on choosing a professional e-mail address. Remember that the e-mail address you create will be ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. The domain you pick is also important, and luckily we have a great domain search feature that shows if your domain is available and also awesome suggestions for other names you might like.
Once you have your e-mail address, remember to add it to your mobile or desktop devices. There’s no point having an e-mail address if you have no way of checking your e-mails. Your Web Host should also have a link to a browser based webmail, like Gmail or Outlook.
Getting a Website
With e-mail setup and ready to go you will now, if not already, be thinking about your getting your site up. An online flyer, a digital business card, an event promotion, there are many possibilities. Your website should be everything you wanted and more. A common question we ask customers is “What do you want from your website? and almost all our customers respond with “I’m not sure”. That is because most people don not know what the internet or websites can do. Well, they can do a lot, and we mean a lot! Every month new people are discovering, creating, and reinventing new methods to use the internet and websites. Remember, there was a time when the ability to purchase products from Amazon online was revolutionary!
Planning your Site
A good rule of thumb is to plan your site in advance. Think about your goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve? Some example goals could be; getting new readers, growing your lead generation or selling your handmade crafts. With a goal in mind, you and any potential designer can focus on building a website that meets your expectations. Smashing magazine have produced a really comprehensive guide to planning your site.
Search the internet for similar websites, sites that you like to visit a lot, and if you have them, competitor websites. In looking at what other people are doing on their website you can find inspiration for your own. Think about the colours they use, font, layout, and what attracts your eye. Reviewing and comparing other websites will give you some insight into what’s possible on your site.
Getting it Made
There will come the point when you feel like you have planned enough. You are now to get your website made. There is much debate about whether to build yourself or have a professional website designer do the hard work for you. At Penseth we always recommend going with a professional. You are not just paying for design but also their experience, expertise, and skills in crafting websites to achieve goals. A good site design does not just look good. Behind the scenes, it brings together multiple coding languages, several technologies, usability, accessibility, and more.
Of course, it is true that many new site owners do not have the budget for a professional website design. There are many alternatives available too, from the DIY approach to using WordPress, or a dedicated site builder. WordPress is our alternative recommendation. With it, you can launch a professional looking website in minutes, and there are thousand of free themes that you can install on your site in seconds.
A final note on setting up your website. Think carefully about the content on your site. Good, engaging material, that has been well researched, and contains informative links and complimentary imagery is essential for long-term development. Good content is what will keep visitors engaged, new visitors coming, and form the foundation for future development.
Search Engines and Tracking
Question: Do I need to register my site with Google?
Answer: No, but you should.
Google and Bing (from Microsoft) have become excellent at finding new websites. They have robots crawling the internet all day, every day, to fill up their search results. By default within a few weeks (or even a few days) these search engines will find and log your site. So, it is not essential that you register with the search engines for them to find your website. However, we always recommend that do you.
Both Google and Bing have developed a stellar set of tools for site owners to see how your website is performing in search. Google WebMaster and Bing WebMaster Tools are their names, and they are both free to use for site owners. They also allow you to verify your site with them and your web host. As the registered owner of your site, you will gain the ability to customise how your site looks in search engine results and the pages or posts available in search engines.
The best place to find more information on how search engine works is through Google themselves. They have two guides we recommend for new site owners.
Finally, you will want to start monitoring your website. Analytics as it is known is the technology that tracks website visits and provides owners with the ability to measure site performance. By installing tracking code from a service like Google Analytics or Piwik you can discover tonnes of information on your website. You can see what pages visitors are looking at, how long they spend on pages and how they find your site. This is just for starters, Analytics software is incredibly powerful and can be used to amazing effect.
Web Host Guide Round Up
We put this guide together because as a web host, we wanted to make our customer’s first steps super simple. So, let’s take a quick look back at what we covered. It started with your control panel, get to know it, play around with it, it has everything you will need for your website today and in the future. When mastering the control panel, we set up our first e-mail address and hopefully got it working on our mobile. Then came time for creating and launching a website. Something you have probably spent a long time developing and something you should be proud of. Post site launch we turned to the search engines and how to submit your websites to them. In the last step, we covered analytics and site tracking. Setting goals for our website and measuring them in analytics is a route for growing your site and making your success on the internet.
We hope you found this guide helpful. The aim of our website as a Web Host is to make hosting as super simple as possible, and we would love your feedback. If you have any ideas or questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, and we will answer. You can also discover some tips on how to increase visitor engagement in the Penseth Universe.
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