9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My First Website


My First Website

Whether you are DIY-ing your website, you’re working with a designer, or you’re wondering if your existing website is up to par, this episode will give you tons of insight into setting yourself up for long-term success. I’m sharing the nine things I wish I had known before creating my first website.

We all know how important it is to have a website for our businesses to build your brand, drive your audience to valuable content, and give you a place to build trust with your current and potential customers. But it’s so easy to only focus on creating a pretty website and not even consider how it will perform in the long term.

In this episode, I’m sharing the value of having a clear vision and how it can impact your website’s success, how to choose the right website platform and the different options available, the critical reasons to keep your website host and domain host separate, and the value of high-quality content and SEO on your website.

01:22 The importance of having a clear vision before starting to create a website 

03:15 The difference between the most common website platforms and my top recommendations

11:32  The key to maintaining flexibility and control over your website

13:52  The significant role your hosting provider plays in your website’s success

17:57 – What is the Caveman test, and how to make sure your website passes

Hey, TPT sellers, ready to see growth in your business? You’re in the right place. Welcome to the Savvy Teacher Seller. I’m Kristen Doyle, and I’m here to give you no fluff tools and strategies that will really make an impact on your sale. Let’s get started y’all.

Hey, y’all, and welcome to this episode of the Savvy Teacher Seller. I’m your host, Kristen Doyle. And today’s episode is all about your business’s website.

Having a website for your business, even if you primarily sell on a marketplace allows you to build your own brand. It lets you engage directly with your audience through providing them valuable content that serves them. And it ultimately acts as a central hub, where visitors can learn more about you. And you can build trust and loyalty with your customers.

Whether you are DIY-ing your website, you’re working with a designer, or you’re just wondering if your existing website is up to par, you will learn a lot in today’s episode. I am breaking down nine things that I know now, that I really wish I had known before I was a web designer and before I even created that very first website for my own business.

Now, my outline for this episode got really long. So let’s jump right into it. Number one, is to have a vision and think long term. Before you even get started on your website. It is important to think about long range goals. Having a clear long range vision for your business and your website keeps you really focused on the right things so that you stay on track to meet those goals you’ve set for your business and you make the right decisions for your website long term.

Who are you trying to target with your website? Where do you see your business going in the next five years? Those questions can help you decide if you need a professional style website, or a more personal blog or lifestyle site. Do you need a heavy focus on your online store or maybe your podcast instead?

When I created my very first website for my teacher seller business, for Chalks and Apple. I didn’t think through any of those things. I just made a blog and started adding random posts to it. Now it was 2014 and I think we were kind of all building our airplanes while they were flying at that point. But I would have been in a much, much better position, had I really thought ahead about where I wanted my business to go.

That doesn’t mean you have to do everything now. Or even that there won’t be changes to your website over time because there absolutely will be. But what you want to try and do is make sure that the choices you’re making now are setting future you up for the direction that you’re headed in your business.

And that they don’t require you to start all over with your website in a couple of years. See a good website should be able to grow with you and not require a total overhaul, just to add a small new feature or to freshen up your design.

Number two is to choose the right platform. One of the first choices you’ll need to make about your website is which platform you’re going to use. There are dozens of options out there, but the most popular among my audience are WordPress, Squarespace and blogger. And then I also know of some people that are using Shopify, Wix and Weebly, although those are less popular for websites.

All of these platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses, the things that they do well, and the things that they don’t do quite as well. So when you’re picking your platform, it’s really important to keep in mind what each platform was designed for and what it does best, so that you pick the one that lines up with what you need for your business.

So blogger, for example, is really only meant for blog posts, it doesn’t do very well with anything beyond that. Now it is free, which is a big draw if you’re just starting out. And so it might be the right choice for you if you’re just starting out in your business. And all you want right now is a blog.

Now, the rest of these are really all about the same cost when you compare the same levels of features. So I wouldn’t let the price be your determining factor in choosing between any of the rest of these, absolutely choose based on features and what you need for your business.

Squarespace has gotten a lot more popular lately. It is really created to make beautiful websites, but unfortunately it does lack a lot of flexibility. It works well for portfolio type sites, for blogs and for really small e-commerce sites. But it doesn’t work as well if you need something more robust, and it doesn’t work as well if you need a super custom design with a lot of flexibility.

Shopify is an E-commerce shopping platform. And while there are some ways to use it to create a blog or to make some landing pages and website, it really isn’t the best choice for bloggers or service providers. It truly is a shopping site. So unless the main goal of your site and the primary content is going to be just your products, it’s probably not the best choice for your whole website.

Now, I do know some people who use other platforms for their blog and link to a Shopify site. And if that’s you, then that’s great. But it isn’t the best for your website as a whole. Wix and Weebly are so similar that I’m going to talk about them together, they both have easy to use interfaces, lots of drag and drop kind of options. And they work best for people who need a very, very simple website.

What they’re lacking, though, is definitely flexibility and scaling options as your business grows, you’re kind of stuck with a pretty basic website. Now, if you’ve been around my world very long, you know that I design in WordPress, so it should be no secret that that is the one I’m going to tell you that most people should probably consider using.

WordPress started out as a blogging platform. But it has since expanded to be one of the most versatile and scalable platforms that there is available. And it’s not just for small businesses, everyone from ABC, to Walt Disney to Sony Music, even the White House website is on WordPress. In fact, 45% of all websites, and 63% of what we call content based sites that we’re talking about sites that primarily exist as blogs or for podcasts, things like that are on WordPress.

And the closest competitor to WordPress in terms of market share is Shopify. And that falls it under 6% of websites. Now, this popularity means that a ton of resources are out there available from themes to plugins to updated features and functionality, tutorials, courses, just about anything you need for WordPress is out there and available to you. And you really can do just about anything with a WordPress site.

So that means if you start with WordPress, even if you start with a really simple blog, you’ll never need to migrate platforms, your site will be able to grow right along with you. You can add memberships, you can add shops, you can add a podcast to your existing blog, so many things that you can do with WordPress. And so that is where I really recommend that most people start out if you’re at the point where you’re ready to invest in a paid option for your website.

Now, if you are not feeling ready for all that WordPress entails, and you’re wondering, can I just start somewhere a little easier and test out the waters on this website thing. Of course you can. If you just want to start with a blog, then I would recommend blogger. And when you’re ready to add more to your website, then I would tell you to go ahead and make the move to WordPress.

I would not tell you to move somewhere else, and then to WordPress though, see, if you’re on Blogger, those blog posts you create can easily be imported into WordPress. And a good web designer will be able to help you redirect everything so you don’t lose search traffic when you make that migration. None of the other platforms provide an easy way to migrate if you ever decide to leave. In fact, some of them require you to physically copy and paste and re upload every image for every single blog post.

So if you start with one of those other platforms, you might feel like you are stuck there long term and that is really not ideal. No, I’m not saying it can’t be done. But it is harder. And like I said, some of them require manually copy pasting every post and that is a ton of work.

When I started my very first website, everyone in my niche was using Blogger, so I did too. And it was fine for a long time actually. But eventually I did find things that I wanted and needed my website to be able to do, that blogger just couldn’t handle. So I migrated over to WordPress and I have been very happy there ever since.

Number three is to keep your hosting and your domain registration separate. Now in order to create a WordPress website, you’re going to need two things first, domain registration and hosting. Although they are often offered together by the same providers, they are very different things and I don’t recommend that you purchase them together from the same place.

I recommend that you have one company that you use for domain registration and a different company for web hosting. Now, if those words sound like greek to you, or maybe you’ve heard them before, and you just don’t know what they mean. Let me explain. Domain Registration just means purchasing your web address, your URL, your.com. And once you purchase it, it’s yours as long as you keep renewing it.

That typically happens on an annual basis and I highly, highly recommend that you set this up on auto renew with a credit card so that you don’t accidentally lose your domain. I have seen multiple clients who somehow missed the emails that their domain registrar sends, letting you know that your domain is coming up for renewal and that it’s about to expire. And what happens is if you fail to renew on time, there’s a little bit of a grace period. But then after that someone else can buy it, and you’ve lost your web address.

In fact, there are companies who just kind of watch for URLs to expire, for that registration to expire, and they will buy them so that they can turn around and sell them to you for a ridiculous price, because they know that people will be desperate to get it back. So make sure that you have that setup on auto renewal and that you are using a credit card that’s always going to go through and process carefully.

In addition, if you get emails from your domain registrar, don’t ignore them. Don’t filter those to archive or mark as read, make sure you are reading all of them, because sometimes it is something super important. Now, web hosting, on the other hand, is the service that allows your website to actually be accessed on the internet, so that when someone types in your domain, your.com, your URL, it actually shows your website to them.

Think of it like a storage unit for all of your website’s files, the text, the images, the links, all the coding and files that make your site run, have to get stored and then served up to your visitors. It is really important to choose a good quality host. But we will talk more about that in a minute.

There are a handful of reasons that it is really smart not to register your domain with your web host. And to keep them separate. The biggest reason I recommend keeping them separate is flexibility and control. See, web hosts just like any other business can sometimes go downhill. And if you find that you need to change your hosting provider for any reason. Maybe you’re getting poor site speed, there’s pricing increases and you find better pricing somewhere else, you have increased traffic on your website, or they have poor customer service.

Having a separate domain registrar makes that transition a lot smoother. You don’t risk losing your domain name just because there’s a problem with your hosting company. And I will tell you, in my years on WordPress, I have been on three different hosting companies and I did my due diligence, and chose good quality hosts all three times.

But over the years, those hosts began to not be as good. I had some issues with them. And so I ended up having to move and I’m very happy with my current host. But you want to make sure you have the flexibility to move when you need to.

Now, security is another reason to separate them. See, when you separate your hosting and domain, you add an extra little layer of security to your website presence. If your hosting account gets compromised, your domain name will still be safe because they haven’t gotten access to that and vice versa. This just makes it harder for hackers or other attackers to take over your entire online presence.

And one last reason is that keeping them separate avoids getting yourself locked in with a certain hosting provider. See, some hosting providers out there will offer a free domain as part of their hosting package. And that can seem like a really great deal at first. But if you do need to move hosting, which like I’ve said, it happens more frequently than you might expect.

It can lead to a huge headache where transferring your domain away from the host is expensive and difficult. I have even heard of one host, that I have put on my absolute no no list, you can find it on my website. One host who has even told people that they refuse to transfer their domain away to a different domain registrar. And you don’t want to ever get stuck in that kind of a situation.

Number four, I wish I had known to begin with that when it comes to hosting you get what you pay for. Just about any domain registrar is going to be fine. But choosing a good web host is really vital for your website. Your hosting provider plays a big role in your website’s uptime, it’s site speed and your security. And those are some factors that directly impact your website’s ability to attract visitors and to keep them on your website.

It’s very tempting, especially when you’re just starting out to choose the cheapest hosting option available. But this is one of those things where you really do get what you pay for. So it’s important to consider the long term implications of the choice that you’re making and if it is worth maybe a little extra investment.

Cheaper hosting often means slower website loading speeds, less reliable uptime, meaning your website goes down more often. And a lot of times those cheaper hosts have really mediocre customer support at best. So investing a little bit more in a good quality hosting company can make a huge difference in terms of your website’s performance, security and the amount of customer support that you get.

Keep in mind too, when you’re comparing costs, that many of the cheapest hosts increase their price dramatically after the first year, or they create these very low cost starter plans that looks super attractive. And what you might not realize is that the plan limits are so small on those low cost starter plans that you will very quickly outgrow them.

In fact, I know of one web host who has a really attractive starter plan price. But they flat out tell you, if you have a store on your website, you can’t use the starter plan because it won’t be able to handle a store. So you want to make sure that you are really comparing apples to apples and that you’re not looking at that introductory price.

I’ve seen lots of clients in up over the years paying way more for low quality hosting than they would pay for a better host because they got locked into what they thought was a good deal. And their price just keeps going up and they don’t think about shopping around for a better host.

When you’re looking for a web host make sure that you are getting recommendations from web designers, not just other business owners like you. See, the typical business owner is only familiar with their own website and the experience that they’ve had with their host.

Web designers, on the other hand, we’ve work with a multitude of websites, different situations, lots of different hosts. And a lot of times we get called in to help when there are problems. So we’re going to have more insight into which hosts are reliable and high quality and which ones cause issues. I keep an updated list of the hosts that I recommend on my recommended resources page on my website. And I will link to that in the show notes, along with an article that talks about some hosts, I do not recommend.

Alright, number five, now that you have figured out your platform, you have your hosting and your domain registration, probably your mind immediately goes to how your website is going to look. But it is important to map out your website to plan out the pages that you’ll need on your site in advance, before you start building, before you start thinking about how you want your site to look and all of those things that might be so attractive and fun for you.

Now, there are lots of free tools online that you can use to start mapping things out, I’ll link one that I like in the show notes. The web design term for this is wire framing. And it basically just means sketching out a rough plan for your website. What goes on the homepage? What other pages do you need on your site? And what info is going to go on those? What links do you need in the top menu bar? How are people going to get to all of the pages that are on your website? All of those things really should come before you ever start thinking about fonts and colors and designs and those sorts of things that are so much fun for us.

Now, speaking of fonts and colors and designs. Number six, I wish I had known from the beginning, that a pretty website isn’t enough. And that conversions are what matters. I know we all want a pretty website. As a web designer, I probably love looking at beautiful sites more than anyone. But a website can be absolutely gorgeous, and still be a complete waste of your time and your effort and your money.

I actually saw one such website as I was outlining this episode, and I had to come back and make a note to mention it to you guys. I was outlining this at my co-working space. And I saw a new person who had moved into the space, they had a business card up on the outside of their office door. And I grabbed it and took a peek at it and checked out their website. This site was gorgeous.

It was very well designed, polished, sleek, professional, I guarantee you is very expensive. And I could not tell you until I got to the third page that I clicked on what this person actually does, or what they sell. To be perfectly honest, I am still not sure who their target audience is and I clicked around almost every page.

You want to make sure that your website passes what is often referred to among designers as the Caveman test. When someone first lands on your site, they should know before they even start scrolling, who you serve, what you offer those people and how to get it. It should be so simple, a caveman understands it. And then by the end of the homepage, they should have a really clear picture of all that you have to offer.

Tip number seven, content is king and SEO is the key to being found. Your website has to have content on it and not just any content. It needs content that attracts your target audience, that engages those people and serves them. Whether you are writing blogs or you record podcasts or videos, consistently adding long form content to your website helps to serve your audience. And it boosts your site’s reputation and search rankings so that you’re getting more traffic to your site.

When you’re creating that content, make sure that you are answering the questions and the needs that your target audience has when they head over to Google to search for something to try and get help. Before you start writing that content, make sure you’re doing some keyword research, to be sure you are using the right words to get that search traffic over to your website.

Number eight, once your site is up and running, and you have content, you need to be measuring your success, it is important to track how your site is doing, in the same way that we all track our sales numbers. And I know some of us track them less often or more often than others.

I know of sellers who track their sales numbers multiple times every single day, the same way that we’re tracking those sales numbers and keeping an eye on those to make sure our store is healthy. We should be watching our website traffic and analytics to make sure that our website is healthy and performing well.

There are three tools that I recommend for this and the good news is you can use them all for free. Google Analytics gives you basic data, like the number of visits to your website and to specific pages. But it also offers a lot of insights into user behavior, how they’re clicking around your site, and their demographics, you can tell if your users are primarily male or female, how old they are, where in the world they live, even what devices and web browsers they’re using to access your site.

Google Search Console works alongside Google Analytics, and it gives you info on how your site performs in search. What are the keywords that are getting you the most traffic? Where do you rank for certain terms? Are you getting click throughs from the search results page on those terms? And it also helps to identify if you have any website issues that are preventing pages from showing up in search. So that’s important to look at as well.

The last tool I’m going to recommend is called Hotjar and it essentially records how people are interacting with your website, it is super useful for things like seeing which ones of your links or your opt ins are getting the most attention and what parts of your site people do interact with versus parts they just scroll past.

Technically, Hotjar does have free and paid options. But I have mostly just use the free plan. If you find that you want more data, maybe during a launch or something like that it is the kind of tool that you can pay for a month or two of a higher level plan and then switch back to free and I’ve done that in the past as well.

Number nine is you have to keep your website healthy. This really is a non negotiable. Your website needs regular updates and maintenance. This is how you make sure that your site stays safe and secure, that it’s providing a good experience for your users and that you don’t lose this investment that you’ve made, both in time and money.

At a minimum, you need to take daily backups of your website and monitor security. At least once a week, you should be updating your WordPress version, your plugins and your themes. And then every month, give your site a once over to make sure there are no broken links or images, no out of date info or anything else that makes for a poor user experience on the site.

You can expect to need a web design update about every three to five years. To help keep your site looking modern and fresh and keeping up with current trends as far as how websites are being designed.

Wooo, we have made it to the end of the list. Remember, while we all love a pretty website, it is the strategy behind it all that really gives you a successful online presence. And that makes a difference for your business. Each one of those decisions that you make along the way from your host, to your vision for the site, to how it engages your visitors. Those are the things that matter most and give you a return on the investment that you’re making into your website.

If today’s episode sparked a new idea or prompted a reminder for some much needed updates, then I would encourage you to take action. Visit your website, assess where you are and make one change today that sets you up for success tomorrow.

Whether that is revisiting your long term vision, evaluating that homepage content to see if it passes the Caveman test or maybe doing some of that regular maintenance that you’ve been neglected. Take just one step today to make your website better.

And if you are ready for a website redesign or you’re ready for that very first website, then I would love to chat with you about a VIP day. If that’s you feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @Kristendoyle.co or use the contact form on my website. Thank you so much for listening today. I will talk to you soon.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you did, please share it with another teacher seller who would also find it helpful. For more resources on Growing Your TPT business, head to Kristendoyle.co/TPT. Talk to you soon.

Ready to see growth in your business? You’re in the right place.

I’m here to give you no-fluff tools and strategies that will really make an impact on your sales. We’re talking SEO, improving product listings, leveraging your website, and more. 

About Your Host

Your host, Kristen Doyle, has a decade of experience selling on TpT and has made all the mistakes so that you don’t have to! As a web designer and the go-to SEO expert in the TpT world, she loves helping TpT sellers stand out in the crowd & grow their businesses with passive income strategies.

Tune in to hear Kristen cover all aspects of running a TpT business – from leveraging SEO, to improving product listings, to effective TpT seller strategies for your store and website.