In this article we’re going to provide a breakdown of each of the components you need in order to have a website on the Internet. When you register a whole new domain and host it all in the same place, it’s not always obvious that the service being provided is actually broken up into multiple services. This is because all of those services are automatically set up for you in one move: when you place your order.
Unfortunately, sometimes registrars and hosting providers take it one step further by trying to hide the components to try to keep you from changing providers! Because of this, it’s in your best interest to know how it all works, so we’re going to explain it all right here:
Here’s a quick overview of everything you need to set up a website:
- Domain Name Registration
The address for your website, like websavers.ca. Can be likened to your physical street address.
- DNS Hosting
This is needed to tell browsers, like Google Chrome, or Firefox, where to find your website and email services. It is similar to the old-school white pages in that it converts a name into an address.
- Website Hosting + Email Hosting
This is where your website and email actually reside, whether the same server or different servers. This is similar to your physical house or apartment.
- Website Design & Development or Build it Yourself
Once you’ve got all the structural elements in steps 1-3 above, you then need to actually have the website content. This can be likened to the wall colours, furniture, plants, and all the elements that make your home uniquely yours.
- Online Marketing (SEO, ads, etc)
If you wish to attract visitors to your website, you’ll need to spread the word. You can do that offline or online, though online is likely to be necessary to get sufficient numbers of visitors.
If we were to visualize how the technical aspects of your website work, it looks like the following diagram. In most cases the DNS Record management function is built in to either the Registrar or Web and/or Email Host, so it doesn’t seem like an extra step.
Hot Tip: for every domain that you host with us in a shared hosting account, our Client Centre will show you the live status of each of these services: Registrar, DNS, Mail, and Web. This way you can keep on top of everything in one spot!
Domain Name Registration
Just like when starting a business, you first need to come up with a name to call yourself. Your domain name could be the same as your company name or your own name or it could be more indicative of what your business does or what you like to do. When looking for a domain name registration provider, here are the key features to lookout for:
- The registrar should be fairly cheap. You probably shouldn’t be paying more than $25 for most domain names (.ca, .com, .net, .org, etc). Note that some TLDs (the ending of your domain, like: .com) are more expensive than others, such as .tv or .im.
- The registrar should have a control panel that allows you to manage your domain entirely without their help, otherwise you’re left high and dry if the company becomes unresponsive. Particularly useful features to have immediate access to are your Domain’s EPP/Auth-Info transfer code, name server controls, domain lock, and the ability to change the auto-renew functionality.
Although this isn’t always the case, most web hosting providers now include hosting of three key services: Websites, Emails, and DNS.
Sometimes your registrar can host your DNS and/or Email for you, but often they charge extra for the service (usually called “DNS Management” or “Email hosting or forwarding”). Rather than paying your registrar more money, the company offering your web hosting will usually do both services for free!
All of our web hosting plans include free DNS hosting and Email hosting along with the standard Website hosting features.
There are 5 key types of hosting services these days:
Shared web hosting is the most common type wherein you’re provided a bit of space to store your website, emails and databases on a server that is hosting dozens or possibly hundreds of other websites. You don’t gain access to the entire server, but rather just the components you require.
Reseller hosting is typically the same underlying structure as shared web hosting, but it allows you access to add your own customers with their own subscriptions (or just one — up to you) and perhaps most importantly, their own login details to manage their hosting. In some cases the web host will purposefully under-sell their servers for reseller hosts in order to provide optimal performance. We do this.
VPS hosting (or Virtual Private Server hosting) gives you your own server within a server by splitting one high capacity dedicated server into smaller containers. To operate a VPS you must know how to administer an entire server yourself (in our case a CentOS or Ubuntu linux system), which you can do from command line and using an optional control panel like Plesk or cPanel. A VPS is often considerably cheaper than a dedicated server and has the major benefit of being able to scale up its resources at any time.
Virtual servers give you the ability to set up just about anything you might need just like a dedicated server, but without the higher costs.
Cloud hosting is very similar to VPS hosting except it’s not quite as well defined. Most cloud hosting providers will give you some combination of the following features:
- Per second billing rather than monthly plans. Basically pay what you use, like the way the power company bills you
- Your own container, sometimes with full access to the server, but often limited access to specific resources; kind of like a cross between VPS hosting and Shared hosting
- The ability to scale to larger capacity when necessary (also often available with VPS hosting)
- Most often the resources (DB server, Web server, File server, Mail server) are split across completely separate hardware, whereas a VPS will typically reside upon one hardware server.
Dedicated Server Hosting is the longest running type of web hosting and is simply making use of an entire ‘bare metal’ computer as your server. It has similar features to VPS hosting, however you cannot easily scale by adding resources — the server must be shut down to make that happen or you must purchase a new one and move your data and services over to the new server.
Websavers does not currently offer cloud hosting services nor dedicated servers because with the combination of powerful dedicated hardware and well optimized hosting software, VPS servers tend to cover the needs of just about everyone!
Website Design & Development
You could have your website created for you by a professional design and development firm, or you could make use of some great free web software, such as WordPress, and get your own site launched without spending a dime.
Websavers offers the guide linked above to help you get your own site up and running on our rock solid web hosting platform. If you’re not the tech savvy type, the guide above is written for everyone, so we recommend giving it a shot!
Perhaps you don’t have the time or patience to read through our guide. No problem! We can design your site for you at a fantastic price. You also get free domain registration and free hosting for a year with all of our designs.
Once you’ve created your website it’s not quite as simple as a ‘set-it and forget-it’. You’ll need to be regularly updating content (more on that in the Content marketing section below) as well as your content management system. There are updates to WordPress and its plugins and themes on a weekly (if not daily) basis and failing to keep them updated could mean your website gets hacked and information is stolen or your site becomes defaced.
If you’re not sure how to keep your website updated, check out our Platinum management — we’ll keep it updated for you!
Once you get your website up and running, you then need to drive traffic to your site. This can be done with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Online Advertising (ex: Google AdWords), Social Media, or the old fashioned way: print out some signs and hand out business cards.
Search Engine Optimization will improve the number of visitors reaching your website by selecting specific search terms that your target market will be searching on Google, Bing or Yahoo. You’ll then need to build high quality relevant links to your website to boost your site’s ranking when Internet users are searching for the selected search terms.
We have a great resource to learn all about search engine optimization and how it works right here.
Advertising online is usually done in one of three ways:
- PPC (Pay Per Click) Search ads: these are in the same territory as SEO in that these are the ads that appear at the top or on the side of a Google search.
- PPC Network ads: these are ads that appear on other people’s websites that are provided by an online advertising agency like Google AdWords or Microsoft’s Bing Ads. They usually detect the content on the person’s website and match it to your ad. By doing this your ad appears in more relevant locations online, such as on a blog article discussing your product or similar service
- Self-Managed ads: these are ads that are put up by the owners of the website themselves and which are not connected to a network. To advertise on these sites you need to contact the website owner and inquire about the necessary costs.
Social Media & Content Marketing
Although we don’t currently offer social media management campaigns in-house, we have worked with some great social media experts in the Halifax area! We’ve also got an excellent resource to learn how to use social media tools in the best possible way to promote your website.
Content Marketing is closely connected to social media, but it’s a mostly one-way communications tool rather than two way like Twitter or Facebook. Typically one will start by creating content, like blog posts or videos, then spread it via social media to generate a conversation around the topics of your content. Read all about content marketing in our web marketing strategy guide.
We highly recommend a mix of digital methods as detailed in our comprehensive web marketing guide, and the more classical print advertising systems.
This article was originally written in June 2014, but has been updated more recently.