One of the first things I hear from coaches building a new coaching practice is that they need to get a coaching website up and running as a priority, but they are not sure how or where to start. Consider this your simplified guide to building your coaching website.
First of all, I want to alleviate the pressure. Having a website up and running is NOT essential to start working on your business, especially when you are in a start-up with limited funds. A website serves to present information about you and your business to potential clients that may be interested in your services. A website, also known as a CMS – Content Management System, is designed to hold important content that you want to put in front of potential clients so that they can understand how you can help them and what specifically you do. It can also manage some of your operation and administrative areas depending on how it’s built, such as capturing client information, getting sign-ups for your services, acting as a client portal and onboarding system and many other tasks; however, it serves no purpose at all unless people are actually going to your website and it’s certainly not as easy as putting it up and hoping that people will come.
Your website may or may not come up in searches; chances are, unless potential visitors are Googling your name or the name of your business, they will not see you in the search results. This is because your website needs content that matches what the consumer is looking for. This is known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Googling “business coaches Calgary,” for instance, will bring up websites that have those keywords on it, but it’s still not guaranteed that you will come up on the first page of Google, even if you have that description on your website somewhere, it depends who else has those keywords, how many other websites have paid for ad’s that are usually all listed first and a whole slew of other criteria that Google looks for in a website to show it in the search engine results pages (SERPS)
There are many ways of driving traffic to your website; however that can take a lot of work and requires planning. For now, be aware that it’s not an “if you build it, they will come” scenario.
So why then should you even have a website?
Consider it as a storefront for your business. One of the first things consumers do when looking for a new service provider is to Google what they are looking for and then spend time finding a website that resonates with them and gives them the information they need to make buying decisions. If you don’t have a website up and running and looking good, you miss out on potential clients finding you.
Think of it as driving to the store to pick up milk; on the way, you pass a new clothing store that you haven’t seen before, and from the outside, it looks like a pretty cool place, so you stop in for a look. This is called organic traffic, users stumbled upon your website almost by accident, but it appealed to them, so they took a look. There is also direct traffic, where people have your domain address or URL, so they type that into their browser and go straight to your website; this might happen when a previous client, friend, family member or colleague refers you and gives out your web address. It is for the organic traffic and direct traffic that you want to create a website to capture the few enquires you may get when starting up.
You can also direct traffic to your website from other websites such as Social Media or email marketing campaigns by sharing the link to your website; as well, if people are emailing you and you have a lead capture form on your website, you might want to refer them there to see additional details about you and your coaching business.
Ok, you’ve convinced me; where do I start?
Before you do anything else, you want to pick your domain name. This is where your website is parked on the internet and when clients will find you if they have your URL(Uniformed Resource Locator, also known as your web address). The URL is the entire address a person needs to get to your website, such as www.google.com. The domain name is the google.com piece.
Picking a domain name is not something you should take lightly. This could be part of your web address for years, so be careful not to pick something too gimmicky. Your domain can also make up your email address if you create email addresses through your domain provider. Most companies and individuals pick a domain name that matches their own name or their business name. This makes it easy to find you on the web if people know your name but don’t necessarily have your full URL. You are not limited to choosing just one and can have several that all direct to one main website, especially if you think people will search for a few different terms; you can have a domain name that incorporates these search terms, but you do want to keep your domain daily short, so it’s easy to remember. Most domains cost around $20 per year, so they are inexpensive to start off with one or two but can soon add up if you buy a bunch.
Once you’ve got your domain name, it’s time to consider hosting your website and picking a hosting provider. Now, things can start to get a bit complicated here, as you can do stand-alone hosting, or you can have hosting included as part of your website platform, depending on what platform you choose to build your website with- we’ll get to that shortly.
What is hosting?
Hosting is what makes your website live so that you appear on the web. While the domain makes up your address, hosting is the actual house; without it, there is nothing there, just an empty spot on the internet. Depending on where you got your domain name from, there may be a coming soon placeholder or similar, but even if you managed to build your website already, it would not show without hosting.
There are many hosting providers, each with slightly different offerings and packages. You can often find a hosting company that will also take care of your domain to have both pieces housed in the same place. I find this preferable when you get into some of the more complicated stuff like setting up email services through your domain and white labelling other platforms to match your domain it’s good to have everything under the same provider.
Hosting is what also controls the speed of your website in terms of how quickly your pages load. Your viewers do not want to wait what seems like an age for your website to load, and many things can cause loading issues however the speed offered by your hosting provider will be one of the culprits. Look for a hosting package with tools such as an SSL certificate and good speed options. An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection. It is deemed safer for consumers to browse than a website that doesn’t have an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate used to be a paid add-on, but many hosting providers now include it in the package.
Generally, any TTFB (time to first bite) score below 350-400ms is considered fast.
Some reputable providers include:
Self-hosted websites vs hosted websites
Remember when I mentioned that choosing your hosting provider depends on the website platform you choose to use? We are talking about self-hosted websites vs hosted websites. This is also a big decision, and I have my opinion, but I’ll keep that to myself for now as I present you with the facts!
A hosted website is built on a website builder such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress.com, or others that pop up almost daily. These fall under Software as a Service (SAAS) platforms offering an all-in-one website solution. Often times they can seem easier to use and relatively cost-effective to get started. They provide the hosting and the software to build your website, usually drag and drop or “What you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) type interface. But you’re limited to using their tools and templates, and you have limited access to the code for customization if that is something you wanted to be able to do. Here is the kicker, if you ever wanted to change hosting providers for your website, you can’t. You are locked into that platform with that pricing, and if you read the fine print, you don’t own the content; the platform provider does.
WordPress.org is your self-hosted option. It’s open-source software, meaning you can download it and modify it as you like. The software is free, but you would pay for the hosting.
More great reasons to choose WordPress.org
- It is the most popular web platform – 29% of the web use WordPress. Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace combined are less than 1 %.
- No one can delete your site (as long as you are not doing something illegal). You are in full control.
- You can make money by running your own ads. (Google AdSense)
- You can use powerful tools like Google Analytics for custom analytics and tracking.
- You can create any type of site you want. WordPress.org has thousands of free and paid themes and plugins you can install on your website. For example, add an online store, galleries, mailing lists, forums and more!
- You can also create membership sites and sell memberships for premium content, courses, etc. and build an online community around your website.
- Open source software – no one owns it. It’s free to use outside of the hosting. No prices are being raised. If your host raises prices, you can look for an alternative without losing your content.
- Massive theme, plugin, and ecosystem to make your website truly unique while running your business how you want to do it!
Self-hosted websites are like owning your own home; it is yours to do what you want with; yes, you are on the hook for the repairs and maintenance, and you can choose to learn to maintain it yourself, or you can hire someone to do it for you, but you own the content, and if you don’t like the cost of your current hosting or the tools you get with it, you can move. Hosted websites are like renting; you a limited with what you can do and have to follow the rules put in place by the software owners. Yes, they will take care of repairs and maintenance and even build some of your website for you (depending on the price and the package you choose), but the minute you decide to move away from them, you lose your entire website!
Making it look pretty
With both hosted and self-hosted websites, there are usually templates you can use to create some great-looking pages on your website which can be customized to match your brand. Templates are only the containers that hold your content, though. You still need to develop original content showcasing you and your coaching practice.
You don’t need to create reams of content to start with; you can use a simple one-page website. However, most people settle for a 5-page website which includes a home page, about page, services page, contact us page and a blog page for adding additional content. This is all you need to start your website development and give the people and the Google gods enough information to find you.
In conculsion, if you are brand new to starting your coaching business, getting a website up and running is not the first priority. Getting coaching clients through word-of-mouth referrals is where your focus should be to start with. Once you are in a position to invest in your business, a clear branding strategy that includes website development should be your first big investment. If you are feeling resourceful, you can create a simple one or 5-page website to get yourself started, but try to at least have your branding solidified so you can represent yourself well with that first website.
If you need help deciding which option is right for you, I’m happy to offer you a free consultation to discuss. Just shoot me a message, and we can arrange a time to chat.