How to Make Your Own Free Website: And Your Free Blog Too
Before getting started, think about these questions:
· Do you want a website or a blog or both, and do you understand the difference between the two?
· Will the site have multiple pages, and will some of them have special functions like a forum or contact form?
· What would be a good domain name for your site?
· Will you sell products or need PayPal buttons?
· How will you drive traffic to visit? How will you optimize SEO rankings with Google?
These are just some of the questions you're likely to come across. I'm going to discuss each of these and many other topics in this book.
The most important aspect for building websites and blogs, for those who aren't computer experts and want to keep it simple, is to use free hosting sites that come with "site-building" software. This is a built-in program allowing you, the designer, to easily manage a template and add the elements to webpages that you'll need to accomplish goals.
I stumbled across these things several years ago while waiting for the last professional web designer to build a site for me. I was goofing around online and discovered a place where anyone could create a site for free. And so I made a "mock version" of the site I was presently hiring out for. In just a few hours, it amazed me to see a perfectly functioning site of what I was trying to do. It came together easily, it cost nothing, it worked, and I did everything myself.
Just to make things clear, I don't know advanced HTML coding (webpage language), and no one has to learn this anymore to create a website. Yes, you could learn advanced HTML if you want but many people don't have time for that, and the good news is you don't have to. With site-building software at your fingertips, you can easily create a functional and professional website.
But before we get to all of the instruction that follows, let me mention a few things. First, the order in which you do the coming tips is not meant to be in any sequence. You can do them in several orders and still succeed. This is just my recommendation. Some of you may not need much advice on social media links, for example, and so you may want to skim those parts. I also recommend you read through this entirely before getting entrenched in any one area. It's not a big book but it's jam-packed with information. Reading through it once entirely will give you a clearer idea on the whole scheme of things before getting started.
Secondly, I'm going to present you with a wealth of information. For some, most of this will be new; for others there will be parts that feel like a review. All of it has to do with online methods for accomplishing goals, so those who are less familiar with the internet and their computers may at times feel overwhelmed. Not to worry, feeling overwhelmed by this is a natural response and something I've experienced plenty of times. For those who feel inundated by this, please think of it as a diet or exercise program. All you need to do is a little bit each day. Follow these tips, and I promise that you'll create a totally free website and/or blog that does everything you want and receives traffic from all over the world.
There are always tutorials that go into great detail on any one of these tips I'm about to share. YouTube.com is an excellent place to watch videos that explain more fully how to do these things. I will touch on them all, some in more depth than others, but if you still need extra info just go to YouTube or do an internet search with "tutorial on the subject you're looking for." I do this frequently, even for the research to write this book.
Thirdly, you're going to create accounts at websites with new usernames, passwords, images, files, all kinds of things that could become a really scattered mess across your brain and computer. It will be seriously helpful to get organized from the start. Create a new folder and call it something like, "yourownfreewebsite," where you can store everything related to this process. Keep it on your desktop for easy access. Here's how to create a new folder:
· Go to your desktop and place the cursor in empty space.
· Right click your mouse and drag down to New and then Folder and choose it. It creates one.
· You can rename it by clicking the cursor over the letters. Name it "yourownfreewebsite" and use it to store all the new stuff we're going to be creating so that you can easily access it in the future.
Finally, if any customer of this book would also like a free pdf version that might be handier on her/his computer with all the active hyperlinks, just let me know. I don't have any way of verifying who bought the book through a retailer other than if she/he left a review, so if that sounds fair just direct me to the review and receive a free pdf copy. It is wise to give it a quick read first, then leave a review and get your free pdf with all the hyperlinks. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with free pdf for my review in the subject box.
What's the difference between a blog and a website? Actually there's not a lot of difference, just subtle things. Blogs typically are updated with new additions while websites change less frequently. Characteristics that set most blogs apart from websites are: entries are a series of posts, they're arranged by date of entry, they usually have comment boxes for visitors, often an RSS feed (Really Simple Syndication) or subscription link, previous posts are categorized by month and archived, and they often don't have an email account associated with them.
Blogs don't have to be updated regularly; they're just designed that way. They can have totally static pages and can function very much like a website. Both blogs and websites are extremely important, and both can be acquired and easily designed for free.
A lot of people have no idea how important a blog can be to their online platform. You can think of your blog as your home base, the one area that leads to everything else online about you. At the blog site you can have as much information about you as you want, plus it can be updated regularly with new articles, photos, video, etc. Fortunately, there are free places to create a blog. Notice, for the free domain name your site will have a URL like domainname.wordpress.com or domainname.blogger.com, but it really doesn't matter. The vast majority of people click links to get to websites; they don't have to manually type or remember a URL's name. Or you can pay about $10 per year for a custom domain name, like example.com, and still have free hosting.
There are dozens of options for venues to create a free blog and/or website. There are even more hosting companies that can provide space for your sites. However, unless you know or want to learn HTML coding it will be necessary to build a website and blog that has everything provided plus an easy to use site-building program. For those who really want to make a site from scratch, I'll be talking about how to do that with a program called Kompozer in a later chapter called Other Things You Can Do. The advice for all the widgets, hyperlinks, SEO tips, shopping cart, PayPal buttons and everything else will still be handy to learn for the Kompozer people. For the rest of us, having a site-building program makes it so much easier.
That's the key which makes it possible for anyone to do this: a site-building program. If you're familiar with software like Microsoft Word, Mac Paint or Microsoft Paint programs, or even if you've designed a Facebook page, then you can easily work with a site-building program. And if you haven't used those things yet, you can do this. There are tons of online tutorials at these venues and at YouTube, and I'll be giving plenty of basics as well.
Before we begin building a website and blog, you'll have to decide on a URL domain name. It's among the first thing these companies will ask for and once you choose a URL name, that's a done deal. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator which is fancy talk for your website's address, like http://www.example.com. Of course, you can always use a 301 permanent redirect or create an entirely new site with a different URL later if you don't like the name, but you can't change your URL as easily as you can rename a folder, file or document. It can be done, but because of the efforts involved it's best to come up with the great name from the start.
Before you run off and create any website or blog, take some quality time (as in hours or even days) to think about and research the domain name you'd like. It might be catchy while conveying some aspects of you, your book or business. It will also help dramatically with search engines if the words within the URL domain name are related to any possible internet search terms for someone looking for what you have to offer.
As an example, let's say you build and sell solar powered birdbaths with little fountains and heated water for cold winter days. (These things actually exist.) You were thinking of naming the website cutelittlebirdiebath.com. While it's an adorable name, nobody ever searches that term on Google and therefore that name won't help with people who are searching for your product. A smarter named would be solarbirdbath.com or something similar. Perhaps it's boring, but that would help a bunch if someone wanted a solar powered birdbath with a fountain and heated water, and so they went searching online by typing the phrase "solar birdbath." Hard to believe, but it's actually a term which gets typed into Google searches 260 times per month (stats from September 2013). As for the plural of the phrase, "solar birdbaths," that only gets searched 90 times a month in comparison. Based on this data, it would be smarter to name your site solarbirdbath.com than solarbirdbaths.com. Surprisingly, the "s" at the end makes a difference with search engines, which attempt to give searchers exactly what they're seeking. However, what if you knew “solar bird bath” with the extra space was searched 1,600 per month and “heated bird bath” was searched 1,900 per month?
Homework is mandatory to discover which terms and phrases related to your website title will be searched the most and how much competition from other advertisers exists already. How did I come up with those statistics and how will you do similar research?
By using Google Keyword Planner and researching keywords in general. This advice is not just for making websites but for research before anything you post online (press release, articles, blog posts, etc.)
Keywords are essential to help search engines like Google and Bing link any webpage to certain words, terms or phrases. It's best to add keywords to every site, blog and location that has boxes for them, keywords that describe the content of what your site is about. And, as shown above, you can even figure out ways to include keywords in your domain name.
For example, let me explain how I came to decide on the title for this book and the websites. The book is entirely focused on teaching others to create free websites and blogs. During the initial brainstorming sessions, I wrote down the major keywords and phrases that came to mind. Here's the partial list:
Create free website
Build free website
Make free website
Make free site
How to build free sites
Create free blog
Make a free blog
How to make free websites
Make my own website
Make your own website
My free blog
Your free website
And so on. The next step is to go to Google Keyword Planner - http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner (formerly known as Keyword Tool, and now you will need a free AdWords account). There you can input these phrases individually or altogether and get valuable feedback from Google on which search terms are used the most and how much competition exists from other advertisers. By comparing each of these plus the synonyms, or similar terms Google automatically provides, it becomes clear which keywords should work best over time.
Back to our example. By comparing extremely similar phrases like "create free website," to "build free website" and "make free website," Google told me that "make free website" was a more common search term than the others (back in 2010). I also learned that "website" was more commonly searched than "site" and "blog" when mixed with the rest of the phrase. Another revelation was that "your" was more commonly searched than "my" when mixed with these other phrases. I also wanted to include the word "own" because it implies ownership and only slightly reduced the number of searches per month. Making sense?
In less than an hour I had narrowed my book title and website URL down to these possibilities:
Make your own free website
How to make your own free website
Your own free website
I checked the competition from other advertisers, which is also included in the Keyword results. It turns out when comparing "make your own free website" to "your own free website," they had identical monthly searches and similar competition from other advertisers, so this left the decision up to me and I prefer to go with fewer words when possible.
Then I checked name availability at both Godaddy and the websites where I wanted to create free examples for this book. Although this domain name was not available at Godaddy as a pure dot com, it was available at the venues to create my examples. And so I registered it as yourownfreewebsite.webs.com and yourownfreewebsite.yolasite.com. (Know this; the free version will have the extra suffix, and a change to a pure dot com or other suffix is only about $10 per year. I have both versions of domain names: free and custom, but the custom domain names admittedly do better in time with search engines.)
Additionally I battled with whether to use dashes, underscores or nothing to separate the words in the URL. Should the site be called your-own-free-website, or your_own_free_website or simply yourownfreewebsite? All of the research indicated that Google would find it just fine since they have such a complex algorithm with over 200 variables for detecting keywords, so this really boils down to personal preference. In the end I liked it this way, your-own-free-website.com because I believe it's the easiest to read. Remember, you don't have to use dashes or underscores for Google to find the keywords in a URL. For that site I spent a few bucks to have the custom domain name without the extra suffix, though for demonstration purposes I also created your-own-free-website.webs.com to show others not to worry about the extra suffix.
So take your time not only brainstorming for names but also using Google Keyword Planner to research the intelligence of your options. Ideally you can find some keywords that have low competition from other advertisers and high numbers of searches from users each month.
Remember to also check its availability as purely a .com, as in solarbirdbath.com, because someday you may want to spend a few bucks and make the conversion. Name availability is easy to check at many places including Godaddy - http://www.godaddy.com/. If you find the perfect name for your website and a registrar like Godaddy confirms that it is available, then you might want to spend around $10 per year to reserve that domain name even if you're not ready to install it. The reason is so it will be there when it's needed, and no one can take it from you. Even if the dot com is not available, there are also options like solarbirdbath.info, solarbirdbath.net, solarbirdbath.biz and solarbirdbath.me.
Next step, let's look at website and blogging hosts with site-building software.
This concludes the sample.