Building a website is one of the best things you can do for your pet sitting or dog walking business. But how does a beginner build a website? In this article, I discuss the basics of three of the top website builders that are best if you are a first-time website owner. And I explain things like domain names, website hosting, and have advice on how to design your website.
Website builders: A guide for beginners
This is near the end of my series of creating an online presence for your pet sitting or dog walking business. Here is the basic outline of things you need to do to get clients from online sources:
- Chose a strategic business name
- Create a Facebook Business page
- Get a free Google My Business account
- List your business on online business listing & review sites
- Use a Website Builder to create your website
- Add pages and blog posts to your website while…
- …optimizing for search engines and social media
- Promote your website
I’ve created articles for the first 4 steps and this article will focus on which website builder is best for you to create a website.
- Which website builder to choose? I’m recommending WordPress but I also look at Wix and Squarespace. You want a responsive design, a contact form, main pages, and posts for blogging. All three have that capability.
- Which hosting company? Wix & Squarespace include hosting, WordPress.com does – WordPress.org does not. I’ll explain hosting in a section towards the end.
- Choosing a domain name. You want to use your strategic business name as your domain name. You’ll have to check the availability of your domain name (links below).
- Buy the domain which can be done with your hosting company. Just let your hosting name buy it for you during sign-up and renew it every year.
- Design your site on paper using your competitor’s sites as reference. Use the basic design on paper to start building your site.
Choosing a domain name is all on you. I will recommend a hosting company and website builder but the final decision is also up to you. And sketching the design of your overall page design helps you visualize what your site will look like.
Let’s start covering all of that with a quick comparison of Wix and Squarespace.
Wix vs Squarespace
Plain and simple, Wix seems to be better than Squarespace if you are interested in having a pet service business and also intend to create a blog section for your site. Squarespace is the better option if you are interested in a small eCommerce site, although Wix has good eCommerce capability as well.
If you are going to have a brick & mortar business where you sell products or offer dog daycare, then Weebly is another option. Check out Weebly if that will be your type of pet service business.
Both Wix and Squarespace are good for beginners and each has pros and cons to consider. If I couldn’t choose WordPress I’d go with Wix. Both Wix and Squarespace offer web hosting and are relatively the same in overall cost, though I believe Wix is slightly cheaper.
Check out the following two links that compare the two to see which one you prefer.
Wix vs WordPress
WP has 100’s of millions of website, some estimates are 455 million – nothing comes close to that.
There are also two different versions of WordPress available – .com or .org. I suggest the .org version for many reasons but check out the following link to understand the difference between the two options:
There are approximately 160 websites that were built with Wix. It’s a simple to use drag and drop website builder that does not require the user to know much at all – no techie stuff. But keep in mind that basic drag & drop website builders have extra code and the price is slower loading web pages.
Wix pros and cons:
- Everything happens within Wix.com. You don’t have to go anywhere else to set up your site.
- You don’t have to worry about any technical stuff.
- It’s better out of the box than WP for eCommerce — that doesn’t matter for your dog walking business.
- It’s got drag-and-drop site-building but drag & drop create slower loading websites. WordPress sites on average load faster.
- Wix has customer service & support — no such support for WordPress although you don’t need it (forums, FB groups, hosting company).
- Wix can take your site down if they want to.
- There are not a lot of unique designs so your site will look like other sites and once you choose a design you can’t change it.
- Not all designs are SEO friendly. I’ll cover SEO in a later article but it’s how people find your site over your competitors.
- Blogging and customizing with Wix is not that good.
WordPress pros and cons:
- WordPress — free software.
- There are thousands of themes and plugins available — many more than Wix.
- Far superior design capability with WordPress than WIX or any other website builder.
- It’s the most popular Content Management System (CMS) on the web.
- It’s a better blogging website builder.
- WordPress is highly customizable — you can build any kind of website you want.
- You have total control over your website.
- You have to find and choose a hosting company (see below on who NOT to choose).
- There is a learning curve to WordPress, but you have plenty of time in the beginning.
Why choose WordPress
Let’s be real. It’s going to take many months before you get any organic visitors to your website. And what I mean by “organic” is people who find your website from online search terms like “dog walkers near me”.
You have a better chance of getting new clients from your social media posts, Facebook Business page, Google My Business Listing and posting flyers around your neighborhood.
The bottom line is that you will have more than enough time to learn the basics of WordPress and build a fantastic website. Literally, you easily have 3 to 6 months before your website will begin appearing in local online searches.
You can have a website up in a day using WordPress. Then you can post links to your website on Facebook and share it with all your friends and family. Also share it on all other social media sites and update your business listing accounts.
What you then do is optimize your website design a little bit every day.
My next article will be on all the options that I have with my theme and plugins. In the meantime, here are the YouTube channels that I think have the best content on all aspects of WordPress: (check links)
Search their videos for any questions you have on using WordPress until I create the next post.
Also, WPLearningLab and WPCrafter have Facebook groups which you should join and ask questions when you get stumped. You also what to post questions on the WordPress forums, especially forums for your theme and plugins.
Web Hosting: What is web hosting?
You can’t have a website without a web hosting company. What web hosts do is “host” your pages, posts, media files, etc. so that they are accessible by people using the internet. Or an easier way to understand hosting is that someone else has your website on their computer (server).
No matter what, don’t choose a hosting company owned by EIG. Here is a brief list of hosting companies owned by Endurance International Group:
HostGator, BlueHost, HostMonster, iPage, FatCow, JustHost, Arvixe, A Small Orange, HostNine. Constant Contact, Sitebuiler, …
Check out the following article for more about EIG: Endurance International Group (EIG) Hosting
I currently have two websites hosted by Siteground and it costs just under $20 per month to renew each year. I’m on the GrowBig package and I recommend that or their StartUp package.
For more options on hosting companies, check out this excellent video by Darrell Wilson on the best hosting companies.
Hopefully, you have chosen a strategic business name. You want to use that name in your web address – myawesonemane.com. Next, you have to check to see if the domain name is available. Go to one of the following links to check domain availability for your domain name:
Buying and renewing a domain name costs approximately $10 or $15 per year but some hosting companies include it in their hosting package.
You need to sketch out your design – copy your competitors. The main pages you need are:
- Home page: This will be the first page visitors see so make it good.
- Services & Rates: This will probably be the next page visited to see your services and how much you charge. Make sure to include a lot of keywords.
- About: Not a highly visited page but you still need an About page. Get a great profile photo of you with a dog!
- Contact: Hopefully, this is the page that visitors go to after your other pages.
Other good pages to have are testimonials, reviews, credentials, privacy & cookies, etc.
Here’s what you do. Search on Google for the services you provide. Do different searches for every town or neighborhood in your service area. You want to look at the websites of your competitors that appear on the 1st page of the search results.
Go to their websites to see what their design looks like. Then rough sketch a design that you want on your side. The main parts of most pages are:
Main content area
Look at everyone’s header, sidebars, and footers. Sketch what you want in your header, sidebar, and footer. Take a look at this page as an example. Here are some great YouTube videos on how to build a website with WordPress:
A note on that last YouTube link. That guy has a recent video that I think shows using the Gutenberg Editor to build pages and blog posts. I do not use Gutenberg so I installed the Classic Editor plugin. You may like it so check out both videos. All the videos are over an hour long so grab some snacks and a notepad to take notes.
For the record, I built both of my sites using the OceanWP theme and Elementor Page Builder. I’ll cover all the plugins and custom mods I made for my sites in my next article.
First off, you need a website! I believe that WordPress is your best option. I suggest using Siteground hosting. You can get a site up and running in a day and have a contact form. Then spend a month or two writing content and improving the overall design and functionality of your site.