Ten Website Commandments

Why are the commandments significant?

When you launch a website there are ten inviolate commandments to follow for success.  They will keep you from struggling with having a poor user experience, being unable to quickly recover from a disaster, and being irrelevant and having zero traffic.  Ignore these commandments at your own peril!

Thou Shalt have a Rock Solid Hosting Provider!

Your hosting provider is the foundation your entire digital presence your website will be built on.  It is vital that it is reliable, performs well and makes your life easier not harder.

A good hosting provider will make it easy and affordable for you to launch a website with minimal configuration needed on your part.  You should simply have to select the level of resources (memory, processor power, and CPU) for the server that will be hosting your site and press “GO!”

From there the only thing you should need to worry about is setting up and configuring your website.  With a good hosting provider you will not worry about your site going down, being slow to load, or driving you crazy trying to get it running.

I’ve tried numerous hosting providers in the past.  The one I am most impressed with is Amazon’s Lightsail hosting service.  I have no affiliate relationship with Amazon, I just use it myself and find it the simplest and most reliable hosting option I have tried,  Lightsail has offerings starting at $5 a month for a server of your very own to host your website.

If you have questions about getting setup with a hosting provider, Lightsail or otherwise, tweet me (@natfyi) or email me (nat@natthompson.com) and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.

Thou Shalt have a Devoted Web Master!

To make sure your website runs smoothly and experiences zero hiccups from day to day, you must have someone that is assigned the role of Web Master.  In the beginning this is going to be you by default if you are going the DIY route with your site.  However, to get the best result, you want to assign this role to someone with years of experience managing websites and a bullet proof checklist of what to address daily, weekly, and monthly for your website.

The Web Master is a mechanic and an engineer.  They keep the gears well oiled and the service engine soon light from coming on.  They provide advice on how to structure your site to keep it organized well and they manage the components that make it visible and functional to the user community your site serves.  They are specialists that make your life easier by taking the administration of your site off your plate.

If you have questions about how to choose the right Web Master let’s talk (Contact Nat for consultation).  I’ve had years of experience finding the right fit for organizations when it comes to this critical role.  I can help you make the right choice.

Thou Shalt Keep thy System Patches up to Date!

This task is a responsibility of the Web Master but it is so important that it needs to be called out separately.  If you don’t keep your system patches updated on both your server and your website content management platform you are exposing yourself and all your users to attack.  It is your responsibility as a website owner to keep your users safe and this means patching for any vulnerabilities.

If you are not a technologist or systems administrator by trade you want to have a capable professional responsible for this (see commandment two above).  You can learn what it takes to tackle this task but there will be a learning curve and your site could be exposed if you miss something.  Either follow an iron clad checklist or get a pro to make sure this commandment is followed.

Thou Shalt Have an Automated Backup Plan!

You’ve worked hard on your site.  It would be a shame to lose all that work to a mistake or a disaster.  Learn what is needed to have a backup of your server, site, and content and put that in place.

Automate!  Automate!  Automate!

Backups should happen while you sleep with no intervention required.  Backups aren’t flawless.  Make sure you have notifications that let your know if your backup failed.  Also, have a manual check weekly to confirm the validity of your backups.  This will prevent a nasty surprise if you have to restore a backup and find out you either don’t have one or it’s invalid.

If you need help setting up automation I can help.  Setup a session with me to plan your backup automation strategy.

Thou Shalt Have a Valid Contact Page!

Ok, the main purpose of your website is marketing your business.  Why on earth wouldn’t you have a page that lets your customers easily get in touch with you?  You would not believe the number of websites I’ve encountered that either don’t have contact information or have invalid contact information.  It makes no sense!

Put your phone number, email or a contact form that delivers messages to you.  Test the form to make sure it works.

Oh!  Also, be responsive to the messages you receive.  Nothing makes a terrible first impression like not following up on messages from your customers.  They have reached out to you.  They are your most likely source for additional business.  Get back to them quickly.

Thou Shalt not Plagiarize!

You learned this one in first grade.  Stated more simply, don’t steal from others!

This includes pictures, ideas and writing.  If you didn’t come up with it you don’t have the right to post the content on your site.  You can get in serious trouble.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act the true owner of any content you have stolen can report you to your hosting provider who is required by law to take down the content, usually by taking down your entire site.

A really great podcast on the topic of Copyright infringement can be found on Smart Passive Income Session 307.

If it’s not yours don’t post it on your site!

Thou Shalt Have Unique Content!

Your site should have a unique perspective when it comes to content.  That doesn’t mean you won’t cover topics that are being covered elsewhere.  It does mean that you will apply your own unique perspective to the topic covered on your website.  Your viewpoint is valuable.  Make sure it comes through on your site.

To get a head start on making sure you have plenty of unique content do some brainstorming exercises to get your creativity flowing.  The simplest exercise to start with is the “Ten Minute Blank Paper” exercise.  Grab a blank sheet of paper, your favorite writing instrument and set a ten minute timer.  Write down every topic you can think of until the timer goes off.

No editing!

If an idea pops into your head write it down.  Your goal is to get as many ideas as possible down on paper.  You can filter and organize the items on the list later on.  Right now, just fill up the blank page with everything you think of.

These ideas can be turned into articles, videos, interviews, quizzes and countless other items of unique content based on your perspective.

Thou Shalt Have Relevant Content!

Your site should have a central theme.  Your content should support that theme.  If the content is out in left field compared to what your audience expects they are going to be confused and dissatisfied with it.

If you come up with an idea that is great but doesn’t solidly support the theme of your site, hold on to it.  You may have an opportunity to use it later in a different venue with an audience that it resonates with.

Thou Shalt Maintain Updated Content!

It’s great to have Evergreen content on your site.  An article or video that remains relevant after years and years.  However, once this content has been consumed it is rare that it will bring users back to your site.  To get those repeat visitors you need to be producing valuable new content on a regular basis.

As you develop an audience or customer base they will return over and over again to get the benefit of the new content you are offering.  It is on these return visits that you can offer them new products or services for a fraction of the cost it would take to advertise them and hope you hit on a customer.

Thou Shalt pay Attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)!

Search Engine Optimization seems like sorcery when you first start to learn about it.  Truthfully, the rules of the SEO game change frequently and professional SEO experts can charge a hefty fee for their services.  It is possible though to develop some habits that improve your site’s odds in the great SEO lottery.

The first rule to remember is to write for your human audience.  The technology behind SEO is simply trying to analyze your content and determine if a human user would benefit from it.  If your content benefits real live humans it is going to fall in line with what the search engines deem valuable.

This means SEO tricks aren’t really worth the time you invest in them.  Tactics like keyword stuffing, paid link farming, and other black hat techniques that may work today are going to disappear in the future.

More valuable approaches are providing helpful and valuable content that other websites appreciate enough to link back to.  Even better, great content is going to get word of mouth recommendations via social media and email.  Those referrals are going to be the best source of true growth in visitors to your site.

All that being said SEO is still driven by automation.  There are things that you can do to help the search engines and their crawlers make more sense of your website.  Make sure you sign up for Google and Bing Web Master tools.  You should register your site and submit a site map document.  If you are using WordPress for your website a great plugin to automatically generate an XML sitemap for your site is the Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator.

The other plugin I recommend, if you are using WordPress, to install is the All in One SEO Pack plugin. It makes it easy to add title and description meta-information to each post on your website.

These plugins aren’t SEO tricks.  They are valuable hints to search engines to help them better classify and describe your site.  It’s these hints that make it easier for users to find.

I am focusing on SEO for this website right now.  I will be publishing more information as I find more resources and strategies that work.  If you want to get the latest information as I publish it sign up for my website technology email newsletter and you will get the content immediately as it becomes available right in your email in box.

Conclusion

A website is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have for your business.  It is your home base on the Internet.  It is your digital stronghold where you have complete control and are not subject to the outside forces that come with other platforms.

You can use it to build and maintain your brand, communicate with your customers and conduct business online.  It is critical that you follow the steps needed to make it successful and protect it.

These commandments give you a set of guiding principles.  Make sure what you do with your website follows them.  This will insure you are taking the steps that lead to a successful website.

There are plenty of supporting resources for each of the commandments above.  I’ve linked to those that I think you will find the most helpful.  If you have questions or recommendations of your own please post in the comments below.  If you have a question you don’t necessarily want to place in a public forum feel free to contact me directly.  I will respond as quickly as possible and be happy to help in any way that I can.

Before I go…

I’ve got a quick question for you.  What’s the most challenging aspect of getting started with your own website that you’ve encountered so far?  Please post your answer in the comments below.

Thanks!

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