Tips for Starting a Website

When people find out that you’re a “computer guy,” they ask you a lot of questions. I think “Which laptop should I buy?” is the current leader. One of the other popular questions is “I want to start a website, what do I do?”. You’re on your own for the laptop question, but I’ll give my thoughts on the website question here. If you already have website, this article may not for you, but feel free to forward to a friend or family member who is thinking about starting one.

The first choice you likely face: should you use a free blogging site (like blogger) or buy your own domain? There are many good reasons why you should buy your own domain, and only one real negative one, which is: you’re going to spend around $80 a year for your domain name and hosting. If that price is acceptable to you, go for it.

A gentle warning: don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll start off with a free blog and transition later to your own domain. While you can copy and paste your articles to your new site and tell your fans where you’re moving, any authority and credibility you’ve built with Google stays with the original blog and is not conveyed to your new website. You do NOT want to split the authority and credibility you’ve established with Google. One website on page one of Google search results gets far more traffic then two separate websites on page 2 or 3.

Ok, I’ve broken down the main steps in creating your website.

Step 1: Choose and buy your domain name (.com)

Go to and start plugging in names you like until you find one that’s available. Me personally, I buy the .com I want, pay a couple of extra bucks for a private registration (to cut down on spam) and that’s it. Godaddy will try to up sell you on EVERYTHING, but don’t fall for it. The links in this article are affiliate links. I get a few cents if you buy extra services from Godaddy, and I’m still telling you just to grab your .com and make it private.

The first thing they will try to do is convince you that you need the other extensions. “Grab the .net & .org before your competitors do!” . “You want your site to be visible on on peoples phones right?? Make sure you buy the .mobi!”. I never buy them, and I tell my friends not to waste their money either.

The next round of upsell is the most devious of all. “You want your site to be visible in search engines? You need our search engine power pack!!” & “You want email right? add on this option”. Don’t fall for it. The stuff they’re offering is free elsewhere. Trust me. The private registration is all I ever pay for. People who consult with me first about their websites end up with a $18-$20 bill from Godaddy a year. Those who talk to me me about their Godaddy experience after they’ve paid have usually paid over $200 for things that Godaddy makes them believe are necessities.

Why even use them at all then? Because they’re cheap, and most importantly, stable. If you buy your .com from ebay or some site you’ve never heard of, there’s a chance that they go out of business or one of 1000 other malicious things happen to your site.  You’re then fighting for control of your own website. Sound far-fetched? I’ve seen it with my own eyes from a cheap domain name registration/web hosting package on ebay. Don’t do it. Give Godaddy their $18-$20 a year and move on to step 2.

Step 2: Web Hosting

The last round of Godaddy up-selling is website hosting. They offer the lure of your website already being there, you might as well host it there. Where to begin with this one….

I’ll start off by saying their web hosting is bare bones. Things that a lot of other web-host’s throw in for free (like email) they don’t, because they try to charge you for it. If that alone doesn’t seem like a deal breaker, check this story out.

When we first started this site, we bought the domain from Godaddy and a hosting package as well. There were a lot of features that good hosts have that Godaddy either didn’t or wanted to charge extra for but nothing that forced us to switch. Our first big day came on January 25th, 2011 when “Damain’s Oracle” hit the front page of getfreeebooks. Our site had 271 visits that day and we were thrilled!! Our baseline after that was around 100 visits a day, but we were just waiting until “Damian’s Assassin” hit getfreeebooks for our next big spike. Our website started to run a lot slower than it should of (Google even flagged our site as flow saying it took around 7 seconds to load) and our site seemed to go down a lot. I contacted Godaddy support and they assured me that they were working on it. I knew I should have switched hosts, but it was already paid for and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

The day we had been waiting for came March 14th. “Damian’s Assassin” hit the front page of getfreeebooks and hundreds of people clicked on the cover to download it. What a lot of them found was a website that tried to load for a long time and then failed. We felt like our big break had arrived, and we were wasting it. A few hundred visitors was a ton to us, but nothing close to the amount of traffic it takes to crash a server. I instantly called Godaddy tech support and basically got a yawn in reply. They were working on it, maybe in a week or so. Of course in well under a week, “Damian’s Assassin” would be off the front page of getfreeebooks and our opportunity wasted.

A non-technical podcast that I listened to a few months early had spent half of one episode raving about hostgator and how good their technical support and customer service was. I knew they were one of the biggest and most popular. Based on the podcast’s recommendation and our site (which was down for a day at that point) I got an account from hostgator that afternoon. When I got home from work that evening, our website was still a joke, loading up in about 15 seconds, if it even loaded up. I backed up all of the files for our site and tried to work up the nerve to transfer them to another server. I moved the files, modified some code, and after about a grueling hour I went to load up our site and got an error message. I had been a hostgator customer for only a few hours and it was already time to put their famous customer service to the test.

I went to their website site and there were 3 options: email, chat and 24 hour phone, all of which were 100% free. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I picked chat. Within seconds, a rep joined the chat with me. We spent several minutes trying to figure it out, and nothing worked.  What we found was that the hosting wasn’t the problem – I’d done something wrong with my WordPress migration.  What was awesome, though, was how much the customer service rep knew. A LOT of companies wouldn’t have helped me, because their hosting wasn’t the problem. After ten minutes or so, he said he was going to go grab his WordPress expert. A minute later he came back and within two minutes he said ok, the problem is fixed and explained to me what the problem was. I tested our site and it worked great. That was by far the best tech support experience I’ve ever had in my life, and hostgator made me a fan for life. I haven’t used tech support one time since, but I now understand the hype from the commercials.

In addition to the tech support, they are also cheap. Their basic plan, which is all you need, starts at $4 a month, and they offer everything you could imagine, all for free. Email, easy WordPress setup, unlimited bandwidth and storage space, all for $4 a month. Switching to them was the best move I’ve made.

These horror stories weren’t to scare you away from getting a webpage.  These are just things I wish I would have known before I started. Last week my buddy Lee at work told me he wanted to make a webpage. I told him what I’ve told you here. When I walked in the next morning he couldn’t wait to call me over to his desk. He showed me the site he had made the night before. He bought his .com from Godaddy, got his hosting at hostgator and setup WordPress at hostgator (which takes literally about five minutes). He even had two articles on there and had a nice banner and background. His total cost for a year’s domain registration at Godaddy and a year of hosting at hostgator was about $80. It’s not hard and it’s really quick, as long as you make the right decision from the beginning. He will most likely never have a problem on his site like I had.

Another note of caution: if you’re considering trying one of the free web-hosting services, be very, very careful. One thing that Google looks at is the IP address that your site is hosted at, and if you’re hosted in what Google considers a “bad neighborhood,” then your rankings and web traffic will suffer severely. If your website is hosted on the same server as adult content, hate sites or other things that Google frowns upon, then you will find yourself almost invisible on Google. I haven’t experienced this problem yet, but there have been people who’ve poured a ton of time and resources doing SEO work on a site and were unable to figure out why they weren’t seeing an improvement in their rankings. One day they thought to do a scan of other sites on that IP and saw that their web host had been kind enough to host them with several undesirable sites. After moving to a separate server and an “adjustment” period, their rankings rose to the appropriate level.

I really hesitate to spend money on anything related to our internet presence but the $80 or so you’ll end up paying your your .com and a reliable host is money well spent.

I’ll cover step 3, why you should strongly consider WordPress in a separate article.

One last thing, if you’re using something else for your website and you’re happy with it, STICK WITH IT!!! This article is mainly for those starting out and not an encouragement to leave something you’re happy with to go somewhere else.

5 thoughts on “Tips for Starting a Website

  1. Great advice! as always. I’ve heard lots of good things about both but never personally used them. I use ipage which is pretty good for the most part. I haven’t had any issues out of them. The one thing I ALWAYS look for is the unlimited bandwidth/storage/email and that it supports PHP and mySQL. When we first started we had a hosting server that didn’t support the proper PHP and we had major issues with some of things working properly like contact forms and members registration.

    • I can’t believe ANY web-host would not support PHP!! It used to be PHP was around 50% of all websites, I think all of the CMS systems like WordPress have pushed it up to around 75%.

      I’m a huge PHP fan. I can get by in a few other languages but PHP is the only web based language I ever care to deal with. I had to write some code using visual studio about a year ago and while I got the job done it did nothing but frustrate me.

      I’ve got to write some code (for my real job) in the next week or so that isn’t web based so I’ll be using Python for that project. The structure takes a little bit of getting used to but it’s a very nifty little language.

      Now that I’ve ran off EVERY reader of the page, back to the book talk 🙂

  2. Great advice as always.

    And I’ll handle the laptop questions for you. My answer:

    1st choice: Apple
    2nd choice: HP

    And just to keep things simple: If one needs a laptop only for writing, go with a small one, even a little 11 incher. If one wants to do graphic design, intensive browsing, etc., get a big laptop, 21 inches or bigger.

    If one just wants to look cool at the coffee shop, get a tablet.

    There. Simple. Silly. But it works.

    • I like your list 🙂 An Apple computer is the #1 thing on Lizzy’s “things to buy when I’m rich” list.

      Whenever anybody asked me what computer to buy I always used to ask “do you play games?” When they said no, I said the “cheapest new one you can find”.

      I stopped saying that when the netbooks arrived on the scene. They are cool looking and a good fit for some situations, but I know a lot of people who ended up being dissatisfied due to the lack of extravagant features such as a disk drive.

      One finally word on Apple. I have an iPhone and love it. I would love to write apps for my iPhone but I can’t since I don’t have a Mac. I can understand that.

      What I have a hard time swallowing is the need for me to have a Mac in order to upload a book to the Apple bookstore. That’s a big turn-off.

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