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      The Complete Website Maintenance Checklist (20 Things You NEED to Do This Year)


      Affiliate Disclosure: DreamHost maintains relationships with some of our recommended partners, so if you click through a link and purchase, we may receive a commission. We only recommend solutions we believe in.

      Your site may be running smoothly now. However, there’s no guarantee that it will perform at this optimal level forever.

      Similar to a vehicle, your website requires ongoing work to keep it in tip-top condition. That’s why we’ve created this complete website maintenance checklist for your WordPress site.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why maintenance is the key to a high-performing, secure, and profitable online presence. We’ll then share a whopping 20 maintenance tasks that you need to do this year. We’ve organized the tasks based on how often you need to complete them to keep your site spick and span:

      Let’s get started!

      Why Site Maintenance Matters

      If you neglect important maintenance tasks, then the consequences can be disastrous. During the first six months of 2021, the Wordfence Web Application Firewall blocked over 4 billion malicious requests. With people actively trying to break into WordPress websites, even a small lapse in security could put your site at serious risk.

      WordPress maintenance isn’t just about spotting the big issues, though.

      Over time, small problems can gradually diminish your site’s performance and search engine rankings. By pinpointing and addressing these minor errors early, you can reduce the negative impact they can have on your site.

      Maintenance also involves evaluating various aspects of your site. This puts you in a strong position to identify opportunities to optimize your content and drive more conversions. In this way, you can keep your site ahead of the pack.

      Get Your Site Up to Date

      Technology is constantly moving forward and keeping up can be a chore. We’ll upgrade your outdated, insecure software to get you back on track.

      Weekly Tasks

      Let’s start with regular maintenance tasks. Here are five things we recommend you perform every single week.

      1. Review Your Metrics

      Most successful websites record a range of data. This includes tracking how visitors behave, your best traffic sources, and the content that drives the most conversions.

      By regularly analyzing your metrics, you can pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. Here, speed is everything. To remain competitive, it helps to review this data weekly.

      The Google Analytics dashboard.

      When viewed in isolation, you may struggle to properly evaluate your performance. If this is the case, you might also want to review your competitor’s metrics.

      2. Back Up Your Site

      Creating regular backups is one of the most important items on your to-do list. If you fall behind, then you risk losing all of your recent work — or even your entire website.

      While you can create backups manually, some hosting providers can perform this vital maintenance task for you. For example, at DreamHost, we offer automated daily backups.

      If you need to back up on-demand, you can also create a copy of your site with a single click. We store all of your backups in a central location and offer easy one-click restore for added convenience.

      3. Moderate Comments

      A lively comment section encourages visitors to interact with your site. However, comment sections can have a dark side. Attackers may try to trick you into publishing malicious content in the form of comment spam.

      Some comments may also contain irrelevant or offensive content. This can reflect poorly on your website. For this reason, you may want to use a comment moderation plugin such as Akismet Anti-Spam.

      The Akismet Anti-Spam plugin.

      You can also hold all submissions in an approval queue, using WordPress’ default settings. Visitors will expect their comments to appear on your site within a reasonable timeframe. If you withhold comments for review, it’s smart to check this queue at least once per week.

      4. Update Your Themes and Plugins

      According to research, 86% of hacked WordPress websites contain an outdated plugin or theme or even an outdated version of WordPress. This makes sense, as updates often contain fixes for known vulnerabilities or new security features.

      To keep the bad guys out, it’s smart to regularly check the WordPress dashboard for any available updates.

      The WordPress updates dashboard.

      While we’re including this task in our maintenance checklist, you may want to consider enabling auto-updates for your themes and plugins for added security. Assuming that you’re running WordPress 5.6 or higher, you can also enable auto-updates for WordPress core in the Dashboard > Updates menu.

      5. Scan for Malware

      WordPress has a good reputation as a secure platform, but no software is perfect. To keep your site in tip-top shape, it’s important to check for malware. Our DreamShield add-on can automatically scan your site for malicious code on a weekly basis.

      Activating the DreamShield add-on.

      If DreamShield detects an issue, it’ll notify you via the DreamHost panel and via email. This email will contain step-by-step instructions that show you how to resolve this problem and restore your site to optimal health.

      Protect Your Website with DreamShield

      For just $3/month, our premium security add-on scans your site weekly to ensure it is free of malicious code.

      Monthly Tasks

      By monitoring your site’s speed and search engine performance, you can stay one step ahead of the competition. With that in mind, here’s your monthly website maintenance checklist.

      6. Test Your Site’s Speed

      Your site’s performance has a huge impact on its success. Studies suggest that 40% of people abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Even if visitors do stick around, a sluggish website is unlikely to impress potential customers.

      Page speed can also impact your SEO, particularly with the launch of the Core Web Vitals project.

      You can test your site’s speed using a tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix performance monitoring tool.

      If you’re concerned about your Core Web Vitals performance, Google has also created a dedicated reporting tool. This evaluates your site against the specific Core Web Vitals metrics.

      7. Create New Content

      Regularly publishing interesting, relevant content is a tried-and-tested way to convert one-off visitors into loyal repeat customers. Content can also position you as an expert in your industry, which is great for conversions.

      It isn’t just people who read your posts and pages. Search engines will also use this content to understand what your site is about. So by regularly publishing materials such as blog posts and articles, you can maximize your chances of appearing in relevant search engine results.

      To ensure that you’re winning the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, you may want to consider partnering with an experienced SEO team. Our experts can create and publish a stream of five-star content tailormade to support your keyword strategy.

      8. Improve Your Site’s SEO

      With 40–60 billion searches happening on Google in the U.S. every single month, SEO is one maintenance task that you can’t afford to overlook. As an established site, chances are you’ve already identified the keywords that you want to rank for. However, keyword popularity can change over time, so it helps to check whether you need to adjust your approach.

      You can view the current search volume using a tool such as Semrush’s Keyword Overview or Keyword Magic tools. We’re so confident that you’ll love using Semrush, we’ve partnered with them to give you a 14-day pro trial for free. [f]

      Semrush & DreamHost Start your free 14-day trial

      Once you’ve made any necessary changes to your keyword strategy, you’ll need to review every part of your site to ensure that it’s helping you rank for those terms. That’s no easy feat!

      To help you out, we’ve created the DreamHost SEO Toolkit. With over 100 automated checks and verifications, you can use this add-on to create a personalized SEO plan. It can also help you implement your SEO strategy via powerful on-page optimization tools. You can add SEO Toolkit to your hosting plan for just $4.99/mo per site.

      Quarterly Tasks

      Let’s take a look at some website elements that are too often overlooked. Here are seven tasks to perform every quarter.

      9. Change Your Passwords

      A strong, complex password is essential for preventing unauthorized access to your website. When creating your password, it’s essential that you follow all the latest best practices, such as using two-factor authentication.

      Even if you’re following the rules, it’s still smart to change your password every quarter. Then, even if your password does get compromised, it will minimize the time the hacker remains inside your hacked account.

      Hacked Site? We’ll Fix It Fast

      With our Hacked Site Repair service, we’ll remove any malicious code and restore your website so it’s back up and running fast.

      10. Check and Fix Broken Links

      Broken links can occur for many reasons. For example, you might delete a page or implement a redirect incorrectly.

      They may be common, but these URLs are disastrous for the User Experience (UX) and your SEO. When search engine bots encounter a broken URL, they’ll crawl that link to verify that it’s broken. This wastes precious crawl budget.

      You can scan for broken URLs using tools such as Semrush.

      Semrush’s Site Audit feature.

      Semrush will scan your site and display any broken URLs in the Crawled pages section.

      Sometimes, you may be able to fix a broken link by manually adjusting the URL. Alternatively, you can use a plugin such as Redirection.

      11. Delete Unnecessary Plugins and Themes

      Every theme or plugin adds code to your website, which is a potential loophole for hackers to exploit. In fact, themes and plugins account for 96% of WordPress vulnerabilities.

      It’s a good idea to regularly take stock of the themes and plugins installed on your site and delete any you no longer require.

      You may be tempted to simply disable the software in question, just in case you need to reactivate it at a later date. However, hackers may still be able to access deactivated code, so deletion is always the safest option.

      The WordPress plugin management page.

      You can further reduce your attack surface by removing any images, videos, or audio files that you no longer require. To achieve this, connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client, then head to the wp-content directory to locate and delete those unnecessary files.

      12. Optimize Your Database

      WordPress stores all of your data and content in a database. The larger your database, the longer it will take the server to retrieve information from your tables.

      By optimizing your database, you can reduce the server load and boost your page load times. You can optimize your database using phpMyAdmin. DreamHost customers can access this tool via their hosting account.

      Logging into phpMyAdmin through your DreamHost panel.

      In phpMyAdmin, navigate to Databases. You can then select the database that you want to optimize.

      13. Test Your Site’s Forms

      Many websites use forms to capture leads and drive conversions. Some forms also deliver core functionality, including login forms.

      An example of a login form.

      Since they’re so important, it’s wise to check that your forms are functioning correctly. We recommend reviewing the entire submission process, including ensuring that you’re logging user input correctly.

      14. Test Your Checkout Process

      If you accept payments via your website, then the checkout process is at the heart of your business. If there’s an issue with this process, then you could be missing out on countless sales. In the worst-case scenario, your system may be completely broken, which will bring your revenue to zero.

      With this in mind, we recommend verifying that your checkout is working as expected. Most payment solutions have a dedicated testing mode, including the popular WooCommerce platform.

      During testing, it’s smart to look for any opportunities to improve the purchasing process. A complex payment process can prevent customers from crossing that finish line. In fact, 34% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they’re forced to create an account.

      If you can streamline the payment process as part of your review, it may do wonders for your bottom line.

      15. Check Your Social Media Links

      Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience and retaining your existing one. By frequently posting across social platforms, you can keep your company at the forefront of your followers’ minds and ensure that they remain engaged over the long term. Many websites feature prominent social media buttons, including links to follow your accounts and share your content.

      Social sharing buttons on the DreamHost blog.

      However, when dealing with third-party tools, there’s always a chance they may change how they process your requests. They may even implement technological changes that affect your site’s social content.

      If your social URLs are broken, then you could be missing out on countless followers and shares. Therefore, it’s important to check them once in a while to make sure that they work.

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      Join DreamHost’s Facebook group to connect with like-minded website owners and get advice from peers and experts alike!

      Annual Tasks

      You don’t have to perform these tasks multiple times a year. However, we recommend setting aside the time to perform them annually.

      16. Schedule User Testing

      This is where you evaluate how intuitive your website is by testing it on real-life users. Chances are you performed at least one round of usability testing when you first designed your website.

      However, the way people interact with websites has a tendency to evolve over time. New technical innovations, devices, or browser updates can dramatically change how your typical internet user interacts with your website.

      To ensure that you continue to provide a good experience, we recommend scheduling annual usability testing.

      17. Review Your Domain and Hosting Renewals

      Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you can make. A good domain will become an integral part of your branding.

      Now, imagine losing this essential part of your online identity. If you fall behind on your renewals, then you might try to access your site one day, only to discover that your domain has expired. Therefore, it’s smart to check your domain and hosting renewal status.

      Even if you activate auto-renewals, we still recommend manually verifying that everything is set up correctly, particularly your payment information. If your credit card has expired, the renewal will fail, and you may lose access to your domain or web hosting.

      18. Update Your Header, Footer, and Legal Policies

      Your header and footer are prime digital real estate. Typically, you’ll use these elements to display useful information, such as your contact details or opening hours. If this information is out of date, then you may lose out on conversions.

      The DreamHost footer.

      If you make any significant changes to your operations, you must immediately update the header and footer. However, it never hurts to perform an annual check just to ensure that no changes have slipped through the cracks.

      The header and footer also appear across your website. This makes them perfect for putting your most important pages at the audience’s fingertips.

      While reviewing these elements, consider removing any links that are no longer relevant. There may also be some new content that deserves a top spot in your header or footer.

      Most websites feature various legal policies, including a privacy policy and copyright information. Laws can evolve over time, so it’s always worth verifying that you’re in line with the latest regulations.

      19. Review Your ‘About’ Page

      A compelling About page can convince customers that you’re a company worth doing business with. It can also give people a sense of who you are as individuals.

      The DreamHost About Us page.

      Despite its importance, too many companies write their About page and then never revisit it. To ensure that this page is always representative of your company, it’s worth performing an annual review.

      An example of an About Us page.

      You can look for opportunities to add exciting developments, such as a major new client. You might also update any outdated information, such as changing an employee’s bio to reflect their new job title.

      20. Perform a Content Audit

      Publishing engaging, relevant content signals to visitors that your site is active and that you’re an expert in your field. This content can also help you improve your search engine rankings.

      To ensure that you’re getting maximum value from this content, we recommend performing an annual content audit. This is where you catalog all of your site’s content and evaluate its performance.

      This way, you can identify the topics and formats that attract the largest traffic and drive the most conversions. Conversely, you can pinpoint the content that doesn’t appear to resonate with your target audience. This is invaluable information that you can use to refine your content strategy.

      Ready to try the WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist?

      The hard work doesn’t end just because you’ve published your website. Running a successful WordPress site requires ongoing effort — and regular maintenance.

      By breaking this challenge into 20 tasks, you can keep your site in tip-top shape without becoming overwhelmed. In addition, if you add the right tools and services to the mix, you may be able to further reduce your workload.

      Running a website isn’t always easy, so why not let us lighten the load?

      Our DreamCare Service puts a team of DreamHost experts at your fingertips. With our 24/7 professional website monitoring, managed updates, and monthly security reviews, you can be confident that you’re smashing every item on your maintenance checklist.



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      Nameservers vs. DNS: A Complete Guide


      If you’re thinking about migrating your site to a new hosting provider, you may be wondering what it will mean for your domain registration. Perhaps you’re worried visitors will be unable to access your content if you switch web hosts.

      This is why it’s important to understand what nameservers and the Domain Name System (DNS) are and how they work. This understanding can help you manage your migration more efficiently.

      In this post, we’ll take a closer look at nameservers and DNS records. We’ll also show you how you can access these essential components of your site. Let’s get started!

      Nameservers vs. DNS Records: What They Are and How They Work

      A nameserver connects your domain name with the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the server that hosts your website. Thanks to nameservers, browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox can direct users to the right page when they type in a site address.

      Typing a site address into Google.

      For example, if you type “myblog.com” into Google, the nameserver tells the browser where that domain is located (i.e., the address of your web host). Without this information, the browser wouldn’t be able to display the site.

      Nameservers form part of an online database known as the Domain Name System (DNS). This system is part of the  Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which defines how computers communicate via the internet and private networks.

      DNS plays an important role, as it aids the conversion of simple domain names (e.g., myblog.com) into an IP address (e.g., 12.34.56.78), which computers then use to identify one another on the network. Effectively, DNS functions like a phone directory. It contains records of web devices, such as computers and servers, and their associated IP addresses.

      Every domain has its own DNS records, which include the nameserver. These are generated when you register your domain name with a hosting provider or a domain registrar. Therefore, your nameserver points your domain name to the IP address of your host or registrar.

      Your Great Idea Starts with a Great Domain

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      How the Browser Finds Your Website

      Everything that is connected to the internet has an IP address, including websites and servers. There are millions of IPs in use all over the world, and they are all unique. Your site will have its own IP address, which your host provides.

      However, your domain name needs to be able to connect with your site’s IP address. For example, when you enter a site’s URL into an address bar, your browser will try to access the corresponding page. To do this, it will go through some steps that the user doesn’t see.

      First, the browser connects to the target site’s domain registrar. Then the registrar points the browser to the target site’s hosting provider (e.g., dreamhost.com). Once the browser arrives at the web host, it will look for the correct nameserver (e.g., ns1.dreamhost.com).

      The process is practically instantaneous, so as users, we don’t fully appreciate the additional steps. However, should you decide to change your hosting provider, you’ll need to point your domain name to your new host. This is a vital step. Otherwise, users will not be able to find or access your site.

      How to Use Nameservers and DNS Records

      Knowing how to access your domain’s DNS records, including your nameservers, can help you arrange a smoother transition to your new host. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can locate and manage these important records.

      Locating and Managing Your Nameservers

      Your domain’s nameservers can be found in your web hosting account. These might also be available on the hosting company’s documentation page.

      The nameservers for domains managed by DreamHost are:

      • ns1.dreamhost.com
      • ns2.dreamhost.com
      • ns3.dreamhost.com

      If you’re a DreamHost client, you can also log in to your hosting account to view your nameservers. To start, navigate to Websites > Manage Websites in the side menu.

      Managing your websites in DreamHost.

      Next, find the domain you wish to edit and click on the DNS tab on the right side of the screen. This will bring up a page with your nameservers.

      Locating your nameservers in DreamHost.

      Note that if your domain is registered with a different company, you won’t be able to update your nameservers from your DreamHost account. To manage your nameservers, you’ll need to log in to your account with the company that manages your domain.

      If your domain is registered with DreamHost, you’ll be able to edit your nameservers. For instance, if you wish to replace your current nameservers, you can simply erase them from the box and type in your new ones.

      You can also manage your domain from the Registrations page in your account. For more information about this, you can read our complete instructions for editing your nameservers on DreamHost.

      Alternatively, you can find out what a website’s nameservers are by performing a WHOIS lookup. Nameservers are public records, so it is possible to find this information by using a third-party tool.

      Several sites offer this service, including lookup.icann.org.

      Running a WHOIS search.

      You can type the domain into the search bar, and a list of records will appear. For example, here are the nameservers for google.com:

      Viewing nameservers in a WHOIS search.

      Note that a WHOIS search can also show the personal details of the domain’s owner, including their name and email address. Some hosting providers and domain registrars offer WHOIS privacy, which protects the identity of the user.

      Locating and Managing Your DNS Records

      Your DNS records are just as easy to locate and manage. You can log in to your hosting account to view your records and make changes to them. If your domain is managed by a third party, such as a domain name registrar, you’ll need to log in to your account with that company.

      If you have a DreamHost account, your DNS records can be found on the same page as your nameservers.

      Viewing your DNS records in DreamHost.

      You can add a new DNS record to your domain by clicking on the blue Add Record button. As you may notice, there are different types of records you can create. Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.

      A Record

      The address record is the most basic type of DNS record. It is used to point a domain (or subdomain) to an IP address.

      CNAME Record

      The canonical name record points a domain to another domain, as opposed to an IP address. This is used when a site has subdomains, such as shop.myblog.com or donations.myblog.com.

      Adding a CNAME record in DreamHost.

      These are subdomains of myblog.com. Let’s say that each of these subdomains has a CNAME record containing the value “myblog.com.” Since the DNS is looking for an IP address, when the CNAME record is accessed, a further lookup is carried out at myblog.com (as this is the value contained in the CNAME file).

      It will then return the IP address stored in myblog.com’s “A” record. This means that these subdomains are aliases of the main domain, and the canonical name (or “true name”) of these subdomains is actually “myblog.com.”

      MX Record

      A mail exchange record is used to direct emails to an address registered on your domain (e.g., hello@myblog.com) per the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the standard protocol for email.

      It is important to ensure that your MX records point to the right mail server. If not, emails won’t be delivered to your account. We also recommend that you back up your emails before switching to a different host.

      Adding an MX record in DreamHost.

      NS Record

      As mentioned previously, this is the nameserver record. You can use this setting to change your nameservers so that they point to your new hosting provider.

      TXT (Text) Record

      This one allows you to insert text into your DNS records. Originally, the TXT record was designed for human notes, such as site descriptions or development details. However, it is possible to include machine-readable data.

      Adding a TXT record in DreamHost.

      This record can help you to protect your site against spam. It also enables you to verify your domain, such as by adding a Google Site Verification record. It is very common to have multiple TXT records for a single website.

      Monitoring Your DNS Records

      When updating your nameservers and other domain records, you’ll need to take DNS propagation into account. This is the time it takes for your DNS records to update across the internet. For example, when you modify your nameserver to point to your new hosting company, this change can take up to 72 hours to come into effect.

      At DreamHost, we offer a DNS propagation checker to help you monitor your records. To access this tool, simply click on DNS checker on your Records page.

      Accessing the DNS Checker in your DreamHost account.

      On the next page, you can check your website’s current IP address and DNS record information. Our interactive maps show you the status of your records across nameservers in different locations.

      Using the DNS checker to view the status of your records.

      The green checkmarks on the map indicate that your DNS is up-to-date in the specified locations. Meanwhile, a single red cross suggests there might be a problem with the DNS server in that location.

      If you see multiple red crosses, it may mean that you haven’t configured your DNS at the company where you registered your domain. However, this could also be a sign that your new DNS settings haven’t yet finished updating.

      DNS Management Made Easy

      Whether you need help identifying a domain’s nameservers, understanding a DNS query, or choosing a web host, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.

      Nameservers vs. DNS in a Nutshell

      Understanding how nameservers and DNS Records work can ensure a smooth transition when migrating your site to a new host. It is imperative that your domain name points to the correct nameserver. Otherwise, site visitors will be unable to access your pages.

      At DreamHost, we make your life easier by managing the entire transition process, including your domain transfers. We also enable you to manage your own domains and DNS from your hosting account, and our service comes with free privacy protection for your domain.



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      How to Start a Business: The Complete Guide


      So, you want to start a business? To strike out into the unknown, discover new opportunities, change the world, and make some money along the way?

      The road to becoming your own boss can be a long one. But we’ve got you covered.

      In this guide, you’ll learn all the steps — from creating a basic business plan to hiring your first employee — that you need to start a successful small business. You’ll learn how to:

      So, without further ado, let’s get right to it and learn how to start a business.

      The Big Idea

      Every creative endeavor has two halves: the idea and its execution.

      Many aspiring entrepreneurs can come up with some type of idea but end up struggling with the second part.

      Need proof? First, how many friends of yours have revolutionary app ideas? Now, how many have actually developed an app, released it, and built a successful business out of it? Chances are, the answer to the second question is a lot lower.

      When you start your own business, you need to have an execution plan ready from the get-go. So, let’s start things off on the right foot and make sure that you break your big idea down into small, realistic steps.

      1. Refine Your Business Idea

      Few things kill a new business like an idea that’s way too vague. How do you even start building your business if your idea is simply to “make a new type of social network?”

      The answer? You don’t. You either refine your idea into something tangible, or you put it to the side.

      But most ideas can be saved with a dash of refinement and a bit of polish. The key to doing so is asking the right questions:

      • Why are you starting this venture?
      • Who is your target demographic?
      • What product or service are you offering?
      • When will it be available, and when would someone use this product?
      • Where will your product be available?

      By answering these questions, you can turn a vague idea like “start a new social network” into “start a new social network for US-based professionals and recent college graduates to connect and find job opportunities in their alumni networks.”

      Once you get through your first round of questions, ask more questions: Why would this target demographic use this over LinkedIn? What are the features that separate it from the competition?

      Refining your idea is like making a sculpture out of a block of marble. Start by cutting away big chunks on your first pass, and then chip at the little details once you’re further along.

      But remember that sometimes, ideas simply won’t work, and it’s often more important to know when to give up on an idea than how to refine it. There’s no shame in admitting that a business idea isn’t a good one and putting it to the side so you can focus your efforts on another one.

      2. Create a Business Plan

      The next step is to start working out the nitty-gritty by working out a detailed business plan. Besides serving as a guide, your business plan can also come in handy when looking for investors or grants.

      According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a traditional business plan should have these elements:

      • Executive Summary: Sum up your business. Why will it be successful? What is your mission statement, and what are you offering? In short: Who are you as a business, and why should anyone care?
      • Company Description: Expand on some of the points in your executive summary. What problems does your business solve? What is your team like? What’s your competitive advantage? Your company description will likely overlap with your executive summary to some extent, but you need not only expand — you can include new information here as well.
      • Market Analysis: Explain how your product fits into the market. What are competitors doing? How can you do it better?
      • Service or Product Line: Describe the products or services you’re selling in detail. Include information about patents, the product’s lifecycle, and its benefits. This information will form the backbone of your business model.
      • Marketing and Sales: Explain how your marketing and sales strategies work. How will you get new customers? How will you keep them?
      • Funding Request: Include information about how much funding you’ll need over the next five years and what you plan to use that money for.
      • Financial Projections: Prove that your business is stable and ready for success by projecting what your finances will look like in the next few years.

      3. Decide on a Business Name

      Chances are that if you’ve made it this far, you already have some type of working name. But if you don’t, make sure you iron one out by this point.

      When coming up with your business name, keep these tips in mind:

      • Your name should be catchy and sound good when you say it out loud
      • You should be able to trademark your name
      • The name should be somewhat related to your product or service’s benefits or features
      • Make sure you can get a .com domain for it
      • Your name should be easy to spell

      Some entrepreneurs get backed up at this stage. While it’s definitely important to make sure your business name has some allure to it, don’t overthink it and hold your entire business plan up just because you can’t settle on the perfect name. Give yourself a reasonable amount of thinking time, and go with your favorite option after that time has elapsed, even if you’re not thrilled with it.

      4. Define Your Brand

      Businesses are like people — they have names and personalities.

      Once you’ve settled on a name for your business entity, start to consider what other features you want people to recognize your brand by.

      At this point, you’ll want to design a logo and set some brand guidelines. What tone will your business take in its communications? What colors represent it?

      Oatly, for example, has defined itself through its playful and irreverent copywriting, its logo, and the colors blue, brown, black, and white.

      Ideally, your branding should be recognizable enough that even if you release a new product, customers will immediately realize that it’s a new addition to your product line.

      Secure Your Space on the Web

      With COVID-19 still raging across the world and society showing no signs of retiring social distancing restrictions anytime soon, maintaining a strong digital presence has become more important than ever.

      Luckily, starting a website and building a social presence is easier than ever before. Here’s how.

      1. Register a Domain

      Your domain is the address that people will type in when they want to visit your website. It’s essentially your online calling card.

      For example, our domain is dreamhost.com. If your business were called Doug’s Donuts, your domain might be dougsdonuts.com.

      The vast majority of businesses will want to get a .com name. However, other domain extensions, like .ai, .inc, and .net, may be worth consideration in certain cases.

      Purchasing and registering a domain is a simple process. All you need to do is search for your desired domain on a reputable domain registrar’s website and purchase it. Most registrars will guide you through the process.

      Once you’ve got a domain, you’ll need to connect it to your website. Most website building platforms offer instructions on how to do this.

      Overall, the hardest part about registering a domain is finding one that isn’t already taken. In some cases, you may need to get a bit creative by adding words, i.e., Doug’s Delicious Donuts, or change your name entirely so you can get a better domain name.

      2. Secure Social Media Accounts

      It’s estimated that there are 3.6 billion social media users in 2020. To ensure your business’s survival in the modern business climate, you need to be where your potential customers are — on social media.

      But don’t be intimidated — you don’t need to actually develop your social media presence just yet; you just need to get your usernames. Like domain names, usernames on major social network sites are hot commodities and go fast, so you want to lock them down ASAP.

      Unfortunately, it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll end up finding that the same username is available across all social media platforms. Most businesses will need to edit their handles slightly or have different accounts per platform (i.e., @dougsdonuts on Twitter and @dougsdeliciousdonuts on Instagram).

      3. Create a Website

      What use would your domain name be if you had no website to go along with it? Once you have a domain ready to go, it’s time to start building your website.

      These days, there are tons of online website builders that make it easy to get a site up and running quickly.

      But if you want your website to run on a powerful, tried-and-true platform, building a WordPress site is one of your best options. WordPress powers approximately 38.4% of all websites, so there’s no lack of support, powerful features, and communities to get involved in.

      DreamHost offers a drag-and-drop WordPress website builder with shared hosting that combines the ease of a website building tool with the raw power of WordPress. This gives the business owner the best of both worlds.

      We’ll Support Your Dream

      Whatever your business goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      Deal with Laws and Finances

      Starting a business can sometimes mean navigating a lot of red tape. Between registering your business, structuring it, and opening a bank account, many entrepreneurs quickly find themselves with their hands full.

      Here’s what you need to know to get started.

      1. Find an Accountant and an Attorney

      If you’re serious about your business’s success, it’s a good idea to start things off on the right foot and hire an accountant and an attorney. Starting a business is a complex process with lots of legal requirements, and this team will be able to guide you through it and answer the many questions you’re sure to have along the way.

      If you’re on a very tight budget or starting your business as a side hustle, you may be able to hold off on this step. But keep in mind that you’re running a risk when you don’t have a professional helping you with complex tax, financial, and legal issues.

      Plus, an attorney and accountant will help you figure out how to choose a business structure — the next step in your journey.

      2. Decide on a Business Structure

      Choosing a business structure is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The legal structure you choose will determine how you pay taxes and how your business is viewed by government entities.

      Importantly, your business structure will determine whether your profits are taxed on a pass-through basis or not. Owners of pass-through businesses include their share of profits as individual, self-employed, taxable income. Owners of non-pass-through businesses pay themselves a salary and report their income and the business’s profits separately.

      The most common business structures in the US are:

      • Sole Proprietorship: This structure can be used by businesses without any employees. All businesses that do not formally register are automatically considered sole proprietor operations.
      • Partnership: Have a business partner? Partnerships are a simple structure for businesses with two or more owners. Profits are taxed on a pass-through basis.
      • Limited Liability Company (LLC): LLCs are among the most popular pass-through structures for small businesses. This structure separates personal and business assets so that you can’t lose your house or car if your business goes bankrupt.
      • Corporation: A corporation is a standalone legal entity. Profits are not taxed on a pass-through basis, so owners need to pay themselves a salary. There are several types, including S Corp, C Corp, and non-profits.
      • Cooperative: A cooperative is a business owned and operated by a group of people who use its products or services. These people typically own shares in the company, and profits are distributed amongst them.

      3. Register with the Government and the IRS

      Most business registration is conducted at a state level, so you’ll need to look into your local laws to see what’s required to legally form your business. An attorney can be a great help here.

      Once your business is registered, you might need to file to get a federal tax ID called an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can think of an EIN as a Social Security Number for your business. According to the Small Business Administration, you’ll need an EIN if your business does any of the following:

      • Pays employees
      • Operates as a corporation of partnership
      • Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
      • Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
      • Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
      • Works with certain types of organizations

      If you’re running a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, you don’t need a separate tax ID — your profits are taxed as personal income.

      4. Open a Business Bank Account

      Having a bank account for your business can help you keep your personal and business finances separate, making accounting and filing taxes much easier. It also offers an extra layer of protection for your personal assets, maintains a professional image, and allows you to open a business credit card.

      You’ll need to have all your business’s formation and tax documents, along with a business license and ownership agreements to open a bank account. Your accountant will be able to help you here — especially if you’re considering applying for a business loan.

      5. Purchase Insurance

      Many business owners forget this step or simply don’t realize how important it is.

      Don’t be one of them. Purchasing liability insurance can sometimes be the only wall that protects you against bankruptcy if you get sued for some reason. Plus, if you hire employees, you’ll legally need to have worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

      Set Up Your Daily Operations

      A business is like a machine. To keep it running smoothly, you need to make sure all the parts fit together and stay well oiled.

      1. Accounting

      Your accounting system is the backbone of your business’s financial operations. Without a good system in place, you won’t be able to process invoices, make payments, etc.

      Your best bet here is to speak with an accountant who can help you find a solution that works for your specific needs.

      2. Project Management

      A robust project management system ensures that projects reach completion in a timely and organized way. Project managers communicate with different team members, contractors, and other external businesses to keep everyone on the same page.

      Whether you’re going to be your sole proprietorship’s own project manager or you’re hiring one for your corporation, it can be a good idea to invest in project management software like Asana or Trello.

      3. Payroll

      If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need some type of payroll system. Gusto, Intuit Payroll, and Bill.com are all good options.

      If you’re hiring contractors, a payroll platform can also help, but it’s not entirely necessary.

      4. Communications

      If you’re hiring employees or contractors, you’ll need a way to communicate with each other. While email works fine in most cases, many businesses prefer platforms like Slack, which speed up communication and are more convenient than email.

      5. Shipping

      Businesses that have an e-commerce component will need to set up a shipping system. To figure this out, you’ll need to compare options like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL to see which one best fits your needs.

      Build Your Team

      A business is nothing without its team members. When building your team, you’ll have to mix and match three types of members.

      1. Employees

      Employees are full-time or part-time workers. Hiring employees comes with a slew of legal and tax responsibilities, such as paying payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, etc. If things don’t work out with an employee, you can’t just fire them so easily.

      However, there are benefits to hiring employees, such as having reliable team members always available at set times. You also get more control over the work produced.

      2. Contractors

      Contractors are typically independent businesses themselves, so you won’t have any legal responsibilities as their employer (outside of what’s covered in your contract). You can hire them at will without a long-term commitment.

      However, contractors are independent and not full team members, so you won’t have the same level of control over the work they produce. Plus, they may not be available when you need them — they have their own schedules and businesses to run, after all.

      Contractors are useful for businesses that need specific deliverables, like graphic design, writing, web development, etc. But businesses that need operations run around the clock, like customer service, management, etc., will likely want to hire employees.

      3. Vendors

      Some businesses choose to outsource some of their work to third-party vendors. For example, you may choose to hire a third-party call center to field all your customer service requests or for on-site security. However, this is typically only required for larger businesses, so it’s something to keep in mind as you grow.

      Grow Your Business

      Once you’ve planted your business’s seed, you’ll need to water it so that it grows into a successful startup.

      1. Develop a Marketing Strategy

      Marketing is essential. Without it, no one will even know your business exists.

      Marketing comes in many forms, from content marketing and PPC ads to email marketing. If you’re not familiar with these terms already, it’s a good idea to read up on them a bit.

      However, to really get your marketing going in the right direction, you’ll likely want to hire a professional.

      2. Set Goals and Create a Growth Plan

      Businesses rarely grow without goals. To ensure your business continues to evolve over time, it’s a good idea to set SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

      What does that mean? Instead of setting a goal like “grow my business,” write something like “increase sales by 25% by January.” Now, your goal fulfills the smart criteria.

      To build a growth plan, you simply outline a series of these sorts of goals for a period of one or two years. Typically, businesses divide this period into quarters, so you’ll ideally have eight goals for a two-year period.

      Ready to Grow Your Business?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, crafting the ideal digital marketing strategy, or outlining your brand values, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      How to Start Your Own Business: Key Takeaways

      Starting a business is a long and arduous endeavor.

      But it’s also incredibly rewarding! Few things are as satisfying as seeing others enjoy your hard work and benefit from your products and services.

      Really, what could be better than running your own business?

      If you’re ready to become a small business owner, DreamHost shared hosting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get your idea off the ground. For just $2.59/month, we give you everything — a free domain, SSL certificate, professional email address, and privacy protection — you need to thrive online.

      While there are no certainties in business, there is one guarantee: Whatever happens, you’ll learn a lot and grow as an entrepreneur. That much is certain.



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