Some thoughts about building your own website – in New Zealand

Well, maybe not so much a series of thoughts as some really simple definitions. I’ll start with a nice jargony sentence.

If you want a website, first you need to choose a domain name, get a webhost, build it using a CMS, draw some traffic to it, then update it. You should have a way of measuring visitor behaviour and engage with your visitors.

A website is a place you visit on the Internet. It might provide:

  • a service (Google provides a search service, TradeMe helps people sell stuff)
  • a product (Apple sells computers)
  • entertainment/information (I’ll put blogs and Social Media into this catagory)

A domain name is your URL. It’s what you type when you want to go to a website. This site’s domain name is You can buy a domain from somewhere like domainz. This is purchase number one.

A webhost is the company that stores your website. Basically, a website is actually a bunch of files and folders. They store the files and folders and make them available to the public. You have the tell the domain host the IP address of the webhost in order to link the domain with the files and folders. This is purchase number two.

The webhost part is the reason I mentioned the country I live in, New Zealand. I’m currently moving to an international host because none of the local ones had the technical spec I need (php 5.3x). This is so disappointing.

CMS stands for content management system. It’s really a web application, like google docs, that enables you set up and maintain a website. I use wordpress, but lots of people use ones with much sillier names like Drupal, Joomla etc… The CMS gets installed in your folders on the webhost. It has a dashboard – the bit that only you can see. WordPress is free, so there’s no purchase, unless you want help.

If a tree falls in the woods, but there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you make a website, but you don’t tell anyone, no one will find it. In fact, people may not even find it if they’re looking for it. There are two main ways I draw traffic:

  1. Social Media. I tweet about my site. I stick it on my Facebook wall. If fact, I have a special Facebook Page for it. I email people about it. I talk to people about it. I have even advertised it in periodicals. Free.
  2. SEO. This means Search Engine Optimisation. This is where you follow a bunch of rules to make sure you have effective key words. The idea is that Google will direct people to your site if they search for the right things. This is much easier said than done. I don’t think you should obsess over it – word of mouth is more effective, but you should pay a little attention to this aspect. Free.

You need to update your website. People are drawn to good, current content. This is the reason that I love the idea of a blog-based site that also has other functions. If you make blogging your focus and the other functions secondary, you’re more likely to build a loyal customer base. Free.

If you opt to use wordpress, install the jetpack plugin. It’s a really simple way to track visitors. You’ll know what’s popular and how visitors came to your site. The Rolls Royce tool is Google Analytics. With this you can tell who long they were on each page, which town they came from, if they’ve been to your site before… It’s all quite overwhelming – and unhealthy to obsess over. Free.

The last thing you need to so is engage. It’s actually really thrilling when someone replies to you blog. And it’s cool for them if you respond to them – so try and reply to everything. If you need to , employ someone to do this. Not free.



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