Illustration of cartoons designing a website

Your website can make or break whether someone decides to hire you or buy from you. It says a lot about you and your business. And you have a lot of sway in what that message is. If you have a website that’s poorly designed, has thin content, or looks like you didn’t put much time or effort into it, that could reflect poorly on you. In today’s article, I’ll cover some of the top questions I get about website design from business owners to help you make the important decisions when it’s time to set up your own website.

1. What platform or CMS should I use for my website?

One of the first questions may business owners have about websites is, what platform should it be on? There are lots of choices. We’re a WordPress web design company, so we only make WordPress sites. However, you might be surprised that I won’t always recommend WordPress. While I do think WordPress is the superior platform when it comes to websites, and the world agrees with me as over 43% of websites online now are powered by WordPress, it isn’t always the best choice, especially if you are making the website yourself as a beginner. WordPress is a great platform, and it’s super easy to add new content to. But it’s not easy to design for a beginner, and if the look of your website is important to you, then you probably want to go with something easy if you plan to DIY the website.

Heed this warning – if you see a cheap or free WordPress theme you like, it’s not always a good idea to try to make that work for your website. For more info, read my post about buying low-cost WordPress themes.

2. How can I make my website stand out from competitors?

Have you ever noticed that certain industries tend to have very similar websites. For example, I did a search for attorney websites, clicked on the top 10 results, and of those, 8 of them used blue as the primary color. Why are attorney websites blue? I can’t say, but it is definitely a trend. And you know what? The one that used burgundy and silver instead of blue really stood out and grabbed my attention.

If you notice that most of your competitors are using the same color, choosing a different color palette could make your website stand out. However, it’s not always the answer. Is there a reason why so many attorney websites are blue? Maybe they convert better, which is why market research is important.

In a more general sense though, making a website stand out from competitors requires a blend of strategic design, compelling content, and a unique brand identity. Take the time necessary to develop your brand, plan thoughtful, well-articulated content, and have a professional designed website.

Then, think about things people are asking for, that maybe your competitors aren’t doing, and incorporate those features. Add online scheduling, online payments, or even things like finance calculators (if that is relevant to your industry), an industry blog, or a free download. There are lots of small ways you can work on your website to make it stand out from the crowd.

3. How do I do SEO?

I get asked about SEO probably more than any other question.

  • How do I get found for this keyword?
  • Why is my site not ranking?
  • How do I get to #1 in Google?

If I had the magic bullet answer that worked for every website, I’d be a millionaire, which I am decidedly not. However, SEO is not a single one thing, it’s something that should be consistently worked on to increase your visibility in the search engines for the keywords you want to be found for. In the most basic answer I can give you, it’s really a combination of four things: 1) keyword research to find the right keywords for your site, 2) write quality content and 3) on-page optimization to make sure you are using your keywords in all the right places and 4) making sure Google knows your website exists.

Some people complain that SEO changes too much you can’t keep up, but these four things really don’t change that much. Yes, the algorithm changes all the time, but those are micro-changes, not one single one (usually) making a huge impact. It’s the combination of all of these things that make a difference.

4. What security measures do I need to implement on my website?

Now more than ever, security is important. You can’t just launch your website with no security plan in place. Unfortunately, having your website is hacked is something that happens more often that you probably realize. What should you do to keep your website secure?

First of all, understand that nothing is 100%, but having some security precautions in place will reduce your risks significantly. At a minimum, here are the things I recommend.

  1. Use strong passwords. I have a lot of people share passwords with me so that I can access their different accounts and set up websites, and boy oh boy do I see some terrible passwords. This is the single biggest factor in getting hacked. Use strong passwords. Minimum 12 characters (although I like 30!), a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Use different passwords for all your websites. Using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password is easy and inexpensive. You can also add two-factor authentication to your website to prevent unwanted logins.
  2. Use a good web host. A really good, WordPress-specific web host that bakes security right in is one of your best strategies. Yes, it will be more expensive. But I’ve never had a website hacked on my number one recommended web host company.
  3. Update your software. Outdated plugins, themes, and core software is a big component in hacked sites. Check in once a week and make sure your software is up-to-date. Updates come out with regularity. In fact, this website has six that I’m going to run here in a bit. You can also set up auto-updates if you don’t want to have to remember to do it.
  4. Have multiple backups. I’m a big fan of backups of your backups. Make backups. Store them off site. Having a backup in a separate location from your website is important. I personally have my own backups of this website, 90 days of them, stored in the cloud, and then my host also keeps two weeks of daily backups. If you have backups, that’s one of the quickest ways to restore you site in the event of a hack.
  5. Use security plugin. Keep in mind that just installing a security plugin won’t mitigate every situation. I’ve seen plenty of sites get hacked that had a security plugin installed. But adding a plugin like Solid Security or WordFence, and configuring it properly, can minimize your risks.
  6. Set up an uptime monitor. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me with their site down for weeks or months and they had NO idea because they just don’t go to their website all the time. An uptime monitor will send you an email or a text within minutes of your site being down.
  7. Sign up for a support plan. Many web design companies offer support plans that deal with security on your behalf. We do the work so you don’t have to. Check out our support packages.

5. How can I track and analyze website performance?

Understanding metrics such as traffic, bounce rate, and conversion rate is essential for understanding how people are using your website. I always recommend using Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a powerful web analytics tool offered by Google that allows website owners to track and analyze various aspects of their website’s performance. It provides insights into visitor behavior, such as where traffic is coming from, which pages are most popular, and how users engage with the site.

Additionally, you can use a plugin like Site Kit to add Analytics to your site and see basic stats right in your WordPress dashboard.

6. What are the ongoing costs involved in having a website?

In addition to what you pay to have a website designed and developed, you will also have monthly and/or annual fees too. At the most basic level, you need your domain name (your which will usually cost around $20 a year. And then you will also need web hosting, which can vary from your big box economy hosts that can be found for as low as $5 a month to hosting plans that are much more.

If your site uses premium themes or plugins, then there’s often an additional annual fee for the licenses to keep those plugins and themes up-to-date. Don’t ignore those renewals, keeping your software up-to-date is important.

You might want to add in a support plan from your web developer to monitor your site and make updates, and that can include additional annual or monthly fees.

Got more questions? I’d be happy to answer them. Submit them in the comments below!

Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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