Over the past few months, I've been sharing some online strategies for growing your holistic health business, including why I deleted my $10,000 website, why blogging is the #1 biz building strategy you need to be doing, why you need a brand instead of a pretty logo, and 3 ways to grow your e-mail newsletter list.
It occurred to me the other day that I didn't start at the beginning! Here I am talking about some of the advanced strategies that I've been using when most of you don't even know where to start. That all changes today.
Before you can blog, before you design a pretty logo, and before you start building your e-mail newsletter list, you need a website where all those things can live!
It's like buying a new couch, new appliances, and a beautiful area rug, and not having a home to put them all in.
Your website is a digital representation of you, your business, and your holistic health practice. It's where new people who are virtually meeting you for the first time decide in under 10 seconds if they like you or not. No pressure.
How do you even go about setting up your website? You need 3 things:
1. A website host: Keeping with the house/home analogy, your website host is like the piece of land that your house sits on. Your website IS the house, but the house doesn't float in mid-air, it needs to sit on a piece of land somewhere. Common website hosting companies include GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, and about a million other companies. Literally.
2. A domain name: Your domain name is the address where people can find your website. If the land is the host, the domain name tells people how to get there. To find your house, you don't say "you know the main street in my city? Just follow that until you see the green house. Then take a left, and I'm live in the 5th house on the right on the 3rd floor". No, you tell them "I live at 123 Maple St, Apartment 6". Your domain name can be anything you choose it to be. It could be yourname.com, yourbusinessname.com, or a totally other name. Personally, I don't think that the domain is super important, as most people are clicking to your site from a link from social media, your business card, or maybe an organic search. They're hardly ever typing in your domain name from memory.
3. A website creation platform: You can think of the service you use to create your website like hiring a builder for a home. A builder will generally come with an architectural plan, with all the engineering and structures already figured out for you. You can move a wall here and there, and change the flooring, finishes, and paint, but you're merely customized the framework of the builder.
Today, we're going to dig deep on two of the most common website creation platforms: WordPress vs. SquareSpace.
WordPress is one of the oldest website creation platforms. All of my previous websites (other than the one you're looking at) were build using WordPress.
To start with WordPress, you go to www.wordpress.org and then click on "Download". It will take you to the download page where there's a 5-minute set-up process and a handy guide to get you through it.
NOTE: do NOT use www.wordpress.com, as you can't customize the domain name. Nothing screams brand new business or unprofessional more than a website like ashleysrokosz.wordpress.com.
WordPress is merely the house, but you need to buy the land that it sits on. You'll have to go through a separate hosting company (like GoDaddy or BlueHost) and follow the directions to point your new house to the right piece of land. The web hosting company that you decide to use will help you through this process. You can generally purchase your custom domain through your hosting company as well. Your web hosting generally costs about $100 a year, and your domain about $10-$20 a year.
So, you've gone through the set up process, have a hosting company, and have a shiny new domain ... now what? Well, when you log into the back end of your website (i.e. where you make all the changes, make it pretty, write your blog posts, etc), you'll see this dashboard:
All of the functions for your website can be customized using the left hand menu. The thing to start with is the appearance. WordPress comes with a few pre-designed and free templates, but it's best to find a template that you like that you can purchase and use on your website.
To find a template, you can do a Google search and find about a bajillion that are anywhere from free to $300. The most important part is to not look at the pretty pictures, but to look at the functionality and the framework. The pretty pictures in the previews of other people's sites are not the pictures that you're going to have on your own website, so yours isn't going to look like the examples.
Some important things to consider with the functionality and framework includes:
- is the template automatically optimized for mobile devices? This is the #1 thing to consider, as Google ranks and your websites' searchability (totally a word, BTW) is affected by it's mobile compatibility.
- are the headers able to be changed on every page? This results in a super customized looking website without being hard to do.
- can you choose which pages have sidebars? You don't want sidebars on every page, as it's distracting for readers (especially on sales pages).
- is it clean with lots of whitespace? This makes it easier for readers to click through your site.
After you upload your theme, you can then customize it to your hearts content, but each theme is different as to how and what you customize.
To publish different pages on your website (About page, Work with Me, Contact me, etc), you just click on Pages from the left-hand menu, and then go to work adding pictures and text.
There are pros and cons of using WordPress, so let's break it down.
- there are tons and tons of templates to choose from (depending on what you're willing to pay) to make your website look pretty and functional.
- there are thousands of plugins that help the functionality of your website. The Yoast SEO plugin will make a world of difference in getting your blog posts and website into more organic Google search results, and the Recipe Card plugin makes your original recipes easy for readers to save and print right from their computer.
- it's the most popular web creation software on the market today.
- until you get the hang of it, it's super clunky to operate and can be very complicated.
- unless you're proficient in custom HTML, you are going to be limited in the design of your pages and blog posts (the above page picture was a custom picture that I designed in Photoshop and uploaded into a page).
- it can be annoying to integrate your e-mail software (like MailChimp or AWeber) and make pretty sign-up forms without knowing custom coding like HTML or CSS.
- you have to use 3rd party shopping cart software, like Shopify, if you want to collect payments for services directly on your website or deliver online programs or digital products.
I can't tell you how easy SquareSpace is to use compared to WordPress. I was very proficient at WordPress, and was comfortable doing some HTML and CSS coding (now that's a sentence I never thought I would say when I became a holistic nutritionist!). I could make my pages look gorgeous, mainly though using pictures that I custom designed in Photoshop.
I really didn't think that another platform would be able to help me make a pretty and profitable website, but in the summer of 2015 I decided to give SquareSpace a try because I knew of a lot of big online entrepreneurs and graphic designers who were using it and giving it rave reviews.
I'm so glad that I decided to give it a try because it's so easy to use. For all of you out there reading this who don't know where to start, just start with SquareSpace. Unless you want to spend weeks (or months) pulling your hair out with WordPress. By all means, knock yourself out.
With SquareSpace (SS), your web hosting, domain name, web creation software, beautiful templates PLUS your shopping cart software is all wrapped up in one yearly (or monthly) fee. Switching to SquareSpace saved me at least $1,000 a year because I didn't have to pay for separate shopping cart software that was also a pain in the ass to use!
You can get started with a free 30 day trial by going to www.squarespace.com and clicking on "Get started". You pick your template and you're on your way!
When you login, this is your dashboard:
What I love most about SS is that it's a drag and drop builder. You can insert any sort of blog, anywhere you want, and then if you want to move it somewhere else on the same page later, you just drag it there! You have the option of inserting text, pictures, videos, newsletter sign-up boxes, forms, buttons, and about 50 other options. It's incredibly flexible.
You also can customize all features directly from the design tab on the homepage. You can either scroll through all the options as per the picture below OR you can click on a specific paragraph or picture and all the customizable options for that feature can be changed.
If you want to change the colour of your medium buttons across your entire site with two clicks of your mouse, you can.
There's also a commerce section that integrates with Stripe merchant services, so you can set up a store and sell your digital or physical products right on your website within 60 minutes, plus the price is already included in your monthly or yearly fee!
Clearly I'm an advocate for SS, but it's not perfect either.
- drag-and-drop website builders are infinitely easier to use than ones that require HTML or CSS coding (like WordPress). If you can attach a document to an e-mail, you can use SS.
- the templates are beautiful and modern, and all templates are automatically mobile optimized.
- your shopping cart is already built into the platform.
- your domain hosting, domain name, and content creation platform are all included in one fee.
- things that are really hard to do in WordPress, like making custom forms that open when you click on a button, are super easy to do in SS.
- it integrates with MailChimp, making it really easy to drop in e-mail newsletter sign-up boxes wherever you want on your website
- there is no recipe block or plugin, so it won't be as easy for people to save and print your original recipes directly from your website without extra work from you.
- not all templates have all the functions that a holistic practitioner might need on a website, like the option to turn sidebars on and off for sales pages.
- you can't add in a e-mail newsletter sign-up box right below headers (a lot of people think that's a really good spot for your opt-in ... I personally find it doesn't convert well, but that's just me).
- it only has the option to share Instagram pictures on your site, and not Twitter or Facebook updates. While I LOVE Instagram, it doesn't send a lot of paying customers to my site (actually, hardly any at all), so I'd rather funnel people in a pretty way into following me on Facebook.
For me, the pros for using SquareSpace far outweigh the cons. I estimate that a holistic health practitioner with no prior experience can design and build their own website in less than 1 week if you really focus on it. No joke. It's that easy.
However, I know that most of you really want someone to hold you by the hand and show you exactly how to do this. What template is the best? How do you upload your logo? Change the navigation bar at the top of the website? Start blogging? Don't worry, I've got you covered.
I recorded a free training session called "Intro to SquareSpace: Build your Website in a Week"!
This webinar includes:
- what template to pick so that your website is beautiful and easy to use, but still has all the features you need to grow your business.
- how to add a blog to your website in less than 5 minutes.
- 3 features that every website needs to add e-mail subscribers to your list every single day
- how to integrate your MailChimp account to a newsletter opt-in box with just 3 clicks.
- the 5 pages your website needs.
- how to write the most popular page on your website so people will want to work with you.
If you don't know where to start, join this training. If you hate your current website, do something about it. Technology is amazing these days, and with Google and YouTube there's just no excuse for not having a pretty and profitable website!
I wanna know: what platform is your website on? Have you heard of SquareSpace?