The following is written by Kirsten Hall of Pet Sitters Unlimited.
I frequently read about Pet Sitters asking their colleagues (other Pet Professionals) about websites.
They want to know things like “Who do you use to design your website? Where do I get a website? Who do you use for hosting?”
Many seem to think creating a website is too hard to do themselves and I want to tell you, that’s just not true in 2015.
I have heard countless times people claim that they are not tech savvy, that they can’t create a website.
So lets just get this out of the way.
If you can write a word document, you can use a WordPress site.
In 2015, you don’t need to be tech savvy or a techie and even better, with the right people on your professional team you never need to worry.
Our well meaning colleagues will jump in and offer up suggestions like, using a Free web site builder that their hosting company provides or some will suggest paying monthly for a pre-made template in a box that is frankly, outdated design.
Then, there are the few sitters who have paid anywhere from $1500.00 and up to have a web designer build them a personalized website for them. Ouch!!
Here’s the thing, today in 2015, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have someone design a really great website for your business.
You don’t have to use a template in a box that countless other sitters in the industry use or a website builder from your hosting company.
You can actually have a really nice looking website using a WordPress theme of your choice and one that is as unique as you and your business are for a couple hundred dollars at most.
What Type Of Website To Choose?
It is actually pretty easy if you’ve ever worked with a word document and there are people that will help you along the way and I will tell you where to find them below.
First let me explain why the other options might not be such a great plan.
Free Website Builder:
When you sign up with a website hosting company, many will offer the option of using a FREE website builder.
This sounds great and they make it sound oh so easy and some of them are really easy, much like creating a word document.
The downside to this option is your website is actually their property. You can’t take that website and move it to a new host with the click of a button. [Think Vistaprint] You will have to recreate the entire site. Who wants to or has the time to do that?
No pet sitter I’ve ever met!
You can hire someone to do it pretty inexpensively but I’ll get to that in a bit.
The other thing I’ve found with these type of builders is that they are generally not Google friendly and in 2015, you really need a Google friendly website.
Google likes the WordPress platform and will favor the WordPress platform over a Free builder. In layman’s terms, your site will show up higher up in the searches using a WordPress site. If you blog (and you should be blogging and building content for your website regularly for SEO purposes) most of these website builders will NOT allow you to create a searchable title.
What does that mean?
When you publish a blog post, the title for the post that appears in the URL consists of a bunch of random numbers and letters instead of the title of the post.
Google doesn’t really like that and it can really affect the placement of your website on the search engines.
For example, if you were looking for an iPad and you searched iPad in the search field of any search engine, the top results are going to have the word iPad in the URL field. The same is true if someone is searching for Pet Sitter or Dog Walker and you happen to write an article about pet sitting or dog walking using those words in the title. If you are using a website builder and you are publishing your blogs thru the builder, it is highly likely that the url title is going to be a bunch of random letters, characters and numbers therefor the search engines will place little to no value on your blog post or website and place your website further down the search.
Not a good plan if your website is part of your marketing tool.
“FREE” might be costing you a lot of potential revenue.
Website in a box/template
Another option I frequently hear pet sitters recommend is a website in a box template that all the design is done for the user and all you have to do is plug in your words and you have a website.
Sounds easy enough and pretty straightforward, right?
While many of them are done on the WordPress platform, which makes them Search Engine friendly with a few
plugins they will have great SEO, the downside is that they do not offer a pay once and you are done option, meaning they are a monthly ongoing cost generally between $20-$30 every month for the life of the site.
If you add that up over the life of your business, you will actually be spending thousands of dollars for your website, for a template that in many cases looks like the company down the street.
The other caveat with the website in a box type of site is, that just like the Free website builder, they own the website template, so no hosting your content on their template with another, less expensive, higher quality hosting company. Your choices become limited to 1, having a new WordPress template designed if you want to move to another hosting company or 2, staying with the fixed monthly payment for the life of your business.
So why not just start out independent, with your very own WordPress template from the start!
BELLA NOTE: Why rent when you can buy?
WEB SITE HOSTING and WEB SERVERS
What is a server or a web hosting company and why do I need one and why would I ever want to move to a new hosting company?
To keep it really simple, you will need a hosting company to host your website on one of their servers.
A server is where your website is located so that it beams out onto the World Wide Web.
Why would I ever want to move hosting companies?
Three of the biggest reasons:
#1 Financial: You want the most for your money. A good hosting company is going to run you between $4 to $15 dollars a month.
I’d suggest reading reviews from around the web about several hosting companies and look at what they offer and compare the offerings.
Ask Questions: Do they offer free daily backup of your website? How much bandwidth do you get per month?Do they offer a service that automatically checks your website for hack attempts?
#2 Emails: Some other common reasons people often want to switch hosting companies are, they begin to notice that they all of a sudden they are not getting the emails that they usually receive (because of an issue with their host) or maybe they aren’t getting quality service from the hosting company anymore or the worst one, their site gets hacked and now the hosting company wants to charge you around $200 to fix the issue!
#3 Bandwidth: Bandwidth is boring but it is important.
Let’s say you write a blog post and it goes viral- whoohoo! What will likely happen is you will exceed the allotted bandwidth for your website (basically the amount of views to your website in a given month) and then your site will crash your hosting companies web server making your website crash.
If you anticipate activity like this or even if you don’t, your hosting company should see the increase in traffic and contact you to move you up to a larger bandwidth.
Too many times I’ve heard about websites that were just totally shut down because they didn’t have enough bandwidth to support their viral post and the hosting company never even tried to contact the web site owner, which is really bad customer service.
Most of the bigger hosting companies out there will offer a shared server for websites that get under 10 thousand monthly views. These are the less expensive plans that you will see when looking for hosting company. For most Pet Sitting companies a shared server will work just fine so don’t worry about needing a dedicated server.
Another thing I hear pet sitters saying that they like and want someone who they can send a support ticket to if they have a problem happening with their site.
Me too! So that is why I choose SiteGround as my web host. I can call them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and they will not only answer my call but they go above and beyond to resolve any issues that are “techy” in nature. If I screw something up, I know I can call them any time and it will have it handled as quickly as humanly possible. They are a big part of my professional team. A couple other hosting companies that I’d recommend but are a little more expensive are FlyWheel or WPengine running about $30 a month but both very good hosting companies.
When I was looking to move over to WordPress I wanted to know, where do I find a good WordPress template. The answer is, there are many templates available for WordPress for a wide range of prices. A few that were suggested to me were Theme Forest, WooThemes and Elegant Themes. You can Google WordPress Themes and your search will return with many to choose from. I ended up liking Elegant Themes and the package of 87 Themes to choose from or change up at any time. The company puts out updates that are free and any new themes are free as well. I choose the lifetime membership and I think I will be happy for many years to come.
FINDING A DESIGNER
The last step is finding someone to Design your new template. The best, most cost effective way to do this is today is Upwork (formerly Odesk). They have all the freelancers you will need for your site. I would suggest using a web developer with a sub category of web design. They should have the creative experience you will need to complete the site in a timely manner.
BELLA NOTE: I have a great person already who is taking referrals. Contact me if you are interested!
First, you will want to create a job posting in Upwork to save you countless hours of searching thru profiles.
You will need to set up an account to do this step. (In my experience, I found it was better to put a fixed price on the job.)
I also found it was important to make a list of the pages you want completed before you contract with the designer so that you and the designer both know what to expect the end result will be and you can both reference the list and check things off as you progress thru the design process.
This will be very helpful when making Milestone payments to the designer thru your Upwork account. Also, let potential designers know, in the job post, which WP template you have and that you would like someone who has experience with this template.
Once you contract with a designer, it will help to share a couple websites you like from around the web. These can be any website on the web however, I would suggest limiting them to just a few service based businesses which are going to look different then product based websites.
And that is it!
Once your designer is finished designing and adding your content to your new site, they will upload it to your host for you.
If you want to make changes to the content after that or add a new blog posts, it is just like working in a word doc.
T has been written by Kirsten Hall. She is the owner of Pet Sitters Unlimited and helps admin the private FB Jump Consulting FB group. We get these questions all the time so Kirsten was nice enough to write it all out. We hope you enjoyed!