Setting up the online side of your business is exciting, isn’t it? Well ok, it’s also nerve-wracking for most people. Unfortunately, it can be a confusing process, and sometimes a bit technical. For this reason, many business owners outsource part or all of the setup process, sometimes to a savvy family member or friend or, if they can afford it, a digital agency or marketing professional.
And there is nothing wrong with outsourcing part or all of this. The problem comes in later when you either fall out with said friend or decide to part company from the agency. Then the fun starts. And by fun, I mean pain and stress. I have sadly seen this time and time again with my clients. Sometimes the issues are minor and the fixes easy, but often the process of getting your hands back on what is essentially your property can be time-consuming, frustrating and even expensive.
So today I thought I would highlight the main items that you might have had someone else do for you, and why you might want to consider doing some of this yourself. If you already have an online component to your business then you want to make sure you are the owner of all these various elements now, and have access to each account, before any problems crop up.
- Your domain name & registration
Many people think that their domain name and their hosting is one and the same thing. And whilst they often exist on the same account at your hosting company they don’t have to. If you are like me you collect domain names – every time hubby or I have a business idea the first thing we do is register the domain. No harm done if you don’t end up doing anything with it – the more familiar TLDs (that’s the .com bit) cost around $15 odd. If you wanted to go with a fancier extension like a .online or .capetown then you can pay a good deal more than that, but either way, it is a good idea to start by choosing and securing your domain name as a first step – the one you want may not even be available anymore.
If you already have a domain name then make sure you are listed as the registrant and admin at the very least. Check your listing via a good WHOIS tool, and if you don’t see your own email listed anywhere then transferring your domain in the future will prove tricky.
Fun tools: domain name generators are really entertaining when you are out of ideas.
Serious tip: use a reputable service like gandi.net to register your domain. They include basic hosting and 5 mailboxes for the cost of the domain and let you transfer away very easily if you ever want to.
- Your hosting
A lot of web developers also resell hosting, and so you may have ended up on a hosting plan not really of your choosing this way. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but again just be sure that you are provided with a login to your hosting account / cpanel once it has been setup.If you need recommendations on hosting companies or hosting plans then I am happy to advise you and makes some suggestions. Armed with that knowledge you can then sign up for your new hosting account directly with the company. Of course, I will talk you through the steps if you need some help at this point, and once the account is live I can jump in and setup any mailboxes etc. This way you stay in control of the account which makes things easier if we should ever part company. If you then eventually find that you have outgrown the plan or are not happy with the service then you can make the necessary changes and move elsewhere. This way you don’t run the risk of the developer deleting your website when you fall out with them – I have seen this happen sadly.
Serious tip: Make sure any hosting company you are looking at is not owned by EIG. There is a list and explanation here.
- Your email
Hand in hand with point 2 above is your email – more specifically your mailboxes. You need access to your hosting account to create mailboxes, delete them if necessary (if someone leaves the business) or setup aliases and so on. There is not a lot to say on this I haven’t said already in point 2, but if you can’t access your hosting account and have to rely on someone else to make these changes for you then it can be frustrating.
Serious tip: consider moving your mailbox to the cloud. G Suite (at $5 per email per month) is a solid alternative to traditional email hosting. This way you can use your new domain to create a business email address very easily. And with the interface we all know from Gmail it is easy to manage as well. Also offers a few other goodies like a usable calendar (NB if you need to be able to send meeting requests), Google Drive space, Hangouts (which you can use for online conference type calls) etc. It also means if you do change hosting your email is unaffected, and you don’t need to move your mailbox (always tricky). Also if your website host goes down your email doesn’t. And lastly, you can then get away with a smaller hosting plan for your website as your mailbox is normally the biggest disk hog.
- Google search console
“What now?” you may be asking yourself. Well, Google search console is an interface that lets you submit your sitemap to Google for indexing. Your sitemap is basically a list of all the pages, posts, products etc on your website that you want Google to know about. Submitting this helps you end up in Google search results for relevant searches as Google knows what to index. Search Console will also show you the search terms people are actually using to find your site, and how you are ranking for them. It will also alert you to any broken links or missing pages on your website.You need to go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and choose the “search console” option. Add and verify your site there. You can also add other people to this account, like your developer or someone helping you with SEO for example.
Top tip: you need a Google account to use this and some of the Google services mentioned in 5,6 7 9 below but you don’t need a Gmail account to create a Google account. Go to https://accounts.google.com/signup and choose the “use my current email address instead” to signup. You can then use this on any of the Google services mentioned (except Gmail).
- Google analytics
Once you have built your website and made it live the next step is knowing if anyone is visiting, where they come from and how they find you, which pages are doing well (or not so well) etc. As a website grows and changes over time it is important to keep tabs on what is working and what isn’t. Google analytics gives you a ton of data on your visitors but you do need to set it up and integrate the tracking code into your website (or have someone do that for you of course). Please make sure that your developer gives you access to this account if it exists already. Better yet have them add you as owner on the account. That way if you need to you can take the account over.
Find it at https://www.google.com/analytics/ using the account you created in #4 or your existing account linked to your Gmail.
Top tip: You create the account and give your developer access instead. Once you know your domain name you can go ahead and create the tracking ID – even if the site isn’t yet live it doesn’t matter it won’t record any data until it is.
- Google local business
Listing your business and verifying it on Google local business is a very useful (and free) step. That way if someone is searching on plumbers in Sandton or looking for nearby hairdressers on the map they will find you. This is normally something people just forget to do (or don’t know about) vs something that can go wrong.
It can be a little tedious to get verified as Google still sends a physical postcard with a PIN on it via snail mail (and we know how wonderful the mail service is here) but it does eventually arrive I promise. Find this at https://www.google.com/business.
- Social Media
Setting up your Social Media accounts is something you can do at any time once you have your business name clear. First prize is to create all the account usernames (or handles) the same, which makes them easy for you, and more importantly, your customers, to remember. Facebook pages can be created and left unpublished until you are ready. Unfortunately, Facebook will not let you create a handle or username for your page until you have a certain number of likes. But in the meantime make sure the name you want isn’t already in use by someone else by adding it to the end of the Facebook URL (https://www.facebook.com/…) and see if you get a match. Once you are sure you can go ahead and create your Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus accounts etc using the name you have in mind, and you can update the Facebook account to match later.
If someone else creates the social media accounts for you then make sure they use your email address and phone number, and that you get the usernames and passwords early on. If you are going to be the one posting then you can change the password later to eventually take ownership of the account. But at least if you need to reset the account the linked email is yours.
For Facebook, you can have more than one person managing the account in different roles, so ensure you are added to the page as admin as soon as possible even if you aren’t going to be posting.
Top tip: to manage the sharing of content across multiple social media accounts you might want to look at something like Buffer.com or eClincher.com. These tools make posting to several places at once a whole lot easier, allowing you to customise the post for each network at the same time so it doesn’t feel robotic.
- Facebook Advertising and Tracking Pixel
If you want to boost posts on your business Facebook page, or promote your page or website on Facebook, then you need a Facebook advertising account. This is created using the same login info you use for Facebook in general, via https://business.facebook.com.You must, of course, have already set up, and published, your Facebook business page. This business manager on FB will also allow you to create a pixel.
What is a pixel? This is a small piece of code that sits on your website and allows Facebook to track or log FB users who also visit your website. You can then target ads to people who have visited your website but not liked your page, or visited your website but not bought anything, etc. It is very powerful indeed.
Again here it is tempting to let the agency or freelancer you intend to use to run these ads also set up the account. The danger here is that if and when you part company some of the items cannot be transferred to you, and so you have to start over. The better option is to create this account yourself, and then give the agency “partner” access so they can manage the audiences, ads and so on directly. It also gives you more control over the spend directly with Facebook vs getting a monthly bill from them which may be more than you budgeted for.
Top tip: Facebook has quite a nice guide on this here.
- Google Adwords Account
Your Google Adwords account uses the same Google Account we mentioned before, via https://adwords.google.com.Setting up ads with Adwords is a little more complex than using Facebook or other social media advertising. For Adwords you first need to decide on the keywords you want to be found for, and how much you want to spend on each (your bid and cost per click). This can change daily as competition fluctuates based on other people’s bids, so you do have to monitor your ads quite closely or they might stop running if you aren’t spending enough.
Again you can create the account and add your billing info yourself, and then give additional people access to it if they are going to be helping you create and run your ads. Google, of course, has a lot of info available on this so a good place to start is https://adwords.google.com/home/resources/how-to-setup-adwords-a-checklist.html.
Some of these items, like an Adwords account, may not be necessary, or relevant to you, in the first stages of setting up your online presence. And using an agency or third party to assist you or even do it all for you, is not wrong. The idea is to be aware of the various elements and items that essentially belong to your business, and make sure you have the required access as the business owner, so you can take over if need be. I have seen this go wrong so many times, which is why I wrote this.
If you need any help or guidance on these steps then please do get in touch with us.