These services can host your content on their servers free of charge, but in exchange for that zero cost, your online destination will have a less-than-elegant domain, such as jeffreylwilson.tumblr.com. That might be fine for a personal blog, but it will look too low-rent for a business that wants people to trust it enough to pay for whatever it's selling.
For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as a Lead Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web hosting, music, utilities, and video game copy, Jeffrey makes comic books, mentors, practices bass and Jeet Kune Do, and appears on the odd podcasts or convention panel. He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys a craft brew.
A domain name is the virtual address of your website. Ours is websitebuilderexpert.com. That’s where you find us. The New York Times’ is nytimes.com. That’s where you find them. And so on. Your site needs one too, and when setting up a WordPress site it’s something you may have to take care of yourself. Bluehost lets you choose a domain for free as part of the signup process.
Things to look as you vet hosts for ecommerce include drag-and-drop store builders, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) software for safeguarding financial transactions, and email marketing plug-ins, so that you don't have to work with an outside vendor to promote your business. There's nothing wrong per se with using an unconnected marketing service, but anything that adds convenience means more time to spend on the rest of your business. For more in-depth advice on getting started selling online, you should consider our story on the 6 Factors Companies Need to Consider When Choosing a Web Host.
Some site builders, such as Squarespace, Strikingly, Virb, and uKit, restrict you to placing page objects in spots that won't make your site look garish, which can be an advantage if design isn't your forte. Other builders offer more freedom; if that's what you're looking for, check out Gator or Wix. Gator in particular strikes a good balance between design freedom and reponsive restrictions.
Even if you don't sign up for those web hosts, you should look for services that offer similar features. You'll want a WYSIWYG editor that lets you adjust every page and add images, video, and social links. Plunking down a few extra bucks typically nets you robust ecommerce and search engine optimization (SEO) packages for improved Bing, Google, and Yahoo placement. Most advanced web hosting services include at least one domain name, free of charge, when you sign up.
The selection below should be plenty to get you started. Read the blurbs and then click through to the linked reviews to find the one that best suits your needs. And don't hesitate to chime in below in the comments section to report your experience with a site builder or praise one that's not included. For more advice and alternatives to DIY website building, check out our primer, How to Create a Website.
You can create a free website with Wix that comes with a Wix domain. To instantly look more professional online, get a custom domain name. It adds credibility to your brand and helps visitors find you online. You can start building your brand by using your domain in a custom email address ([email protected]), your social channels, email marketing campaigns and more.
The most important thing to consider about your site is the content, as this will be what draws people to visit and keep reading. Consider what you want your site to be about, whether it’s your business or a blog on a specific topic. Consider carefully because this will determine your web design direction, too. Once you’ve got some content ideas and a concrete plan, you’re ready to start your site building adventure.
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