Maybe you want to start a profitable blog. Or maybe you want to start a membership site around a niche.
And it's difficult not to get started right away.
When you decide to pursue your idea, you’re excited. It’s tempting to get your website up and running and start posting right away, but that’s a huge mistake.
In this article I'll show you how to launch a website the right way.
When I started my first website (an ecommerce store) in 2008, I spent a day loading product into the Yahoo! Website Builder tool (big mistake), and was up and running the next day. I thought that if I just put the website up and ran a couple of ads to the homepage, I would start making sales.
But that didn't happen.
I ended up selling all of my product at less than 25% of my cost because I had no idea how to run an online ecommerce business.
I've learned quite a bit about launching and business since then, and when I launched Unsettle on January 5, even after making several mistakes with my launch plan, my brand new blog saw 3,267 views.
I'm going to walk you through exactly how I did this.
Many of you have gone through the free course that I created to help people find the perfect lifestyle business idea. This is part one of a series of articles about launching your website.
This is a step-by-step article that you need to start with. The not-so beginner information will come in the later parts:
If you’re part of the course, you’ll receive a full report with all of the portions on the last day. Check your email.
Why You Need to Build a Launch Plan
Think of your website like an airplane. A website launch plan is your runway.
Without a runway, you have to get really fancy to get the plane off the ground. The longer the runway, the more speed you can get, and the more speed you get, the easier it is to get off the ground.
- Launching your site the right way will help you know your audience, which maximizes the impact of everything you do when you do launch.
- A launch is “buzzworthy”. By launching the right way, you’ll get people talking about your blog or website
- You're launching to a pre-existing audience, rather than launch to nobody. If you’ve already built a small audience, those people will be the jet fuel to get you off the ground.
If you did a soft launch on your blog, you should board it up and go through these steps to re-launch your site.
Here are the steps I use to go through a launch with my coaching clients.
Step 1: Pick a Launch Date
The one thing you need to do right now to launch a website with a bang is set a launch date.
Most people launch like this:
- They choose their domain
- They registers with a web host
- They upload Wordpress on their website
- They publish their first post.
They’re blogging five minutes after they think up their blog topic, and that’s a mistake.
Think about it: if you were to start a business, you wouldn’t register the business with the government, sign a lease at the local mall and open your doors the same day.
No, there’s a lot of planning that goes into launching. And that is true for a website as well.
Set a launch date 1-3 months in advance. No longer than three months (that’s an excuse for procrastination). I launched on a Monday because I wanted to have the weekend to prepare.
Avoid holidays like Easter or Christmas and aim to launch at the beginning of the week. Make sure you have some time off surrounding your launch or you’ll be one exhausted new blogger!
Step 2: Make a Public Declaration
This might scare you, but…
Once you have your launch date, tell somebody about it!
Don’t just file your launch date away in your brain. Tell somebody you know will be expecting you to follow through, and put something on the line. Here are a few ideas:
- I told my friend Cait that if I didn’t launch on January 5, I’d owe her $500
- Hire a coach or a web designer. Make an investment so you want to get your money’s worth. If you want to lose weight, hiring a personal trainer and shelling out to pay them will make you want to stick with it!
- Use a program like StickK to automatically donate money to your most hated charity if you don’t launch
- Join the Unsettle private Facebook group and make a public declaration of your launch date. We’ll hold you to it!
No matter what, set that date and stick to it.
Step 3: Choose an Awesome Domain Name
When I got pregnant, it didn't feel “real” until Ryan and I chose a name for our baby.
Same with a website. As soon as you name it, you’re going to feel a sense of renewed responsibility to get this thing up and running (the right way).
Choosing a domain name is hard work, but it's important to choose the right domain for your site, so don't just take a shot in the dark and pick the first thing that comes to mind.
Follow this process to choose the perfect domain name for your website.
Then, come back and finish the launch plan.
Step 4: Stake Your Land
After you set a launch date and choose a domain name, it's time to choose a host.
Think of hosting like your website's land. You can have a house (your website) but nobody can come visit you if it’s not sitting on a piece of land (your host).
There are two types of hosting:
- Free (WordPress.com, Wix)
- Paid (WordPress.org, private hosting)
Think of the free hosting like renting. You don’t have ultimate control over your website and (importantly) you can’t make money from it. You’ll always have the “renter” label – if I were “renting” space from WordPress for instance, my domain would be unsettle.wordpress.com (nobody wants to read a blog where the owner doesn't even take it seriously).
Think of self hosting like being an owner. You can do whatever you want with your property. You can have whatever domain name you want, you have freedom over your website looks like and functions. It’s professional and you can create a business from it.
If you can’t afford hosting right now (it’s about $65/year with Bluehost), save until you can, or pick up a gig on Fiverr or eLance to earn the money.
I recommend Bluehost for your web host. It’s easy to use, it takes five minutes to setup a WordPress website (tutorial here) and it’s affordable at about $65/year. Get a free domain name with Bluehost by clicking here to sign up.
(Disclosure: this is an affiliate link. If you choose to buy through my link I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for the support if you choose to).
BONUS: To get you to take action and actually start your website, when you use my referral link to get your free domain with Bluehost and email me your receipt (to sarah @ unsettle.org) I will send you a free 52-page training tutorial to help you turbo-charge your website (even if you’re not a techie).
When you’ve registered with a host, you can install WordPress. Most websites use self-hosted WordPress – in fact, over 74,000,000 sites use it – for good reason.
WordPress not only has a ton of great plugins you can use to do various things on your blog, but it's open-source, so it's free. If none of that made sense right now, that's okay. It will later, and you'll be glad you used WordPress.
Alternatives to WordPress include SquareSpace, Tumblr, Blogger, and sites like GoDaddy and Wix (not recommended).
Step 5: If You Only Do One Thing In This Guide, Do This
If you have a day job, you probably recognize the term “strategic objectives”. Your company probably have a list of goals and objectives you’re supposed to be working toward and metrics to track.
But this is silly. Companies, individuals and entrepreneurs should have one goal, one metric, and one focus.
Yes, only one. There never should be more than one priority. If you have more than one priority, nothing is a priority.
“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
When you're building a lifestyle business, your one priority absolutely needs to be building your email list.
Your email list is your audience. And lifestyle businesses are built almost 100% on the platform of your audience. I can’t stress the importance of having an email list. But I’m going to try:
- When people give you their email, they're giving you permission to be part of their life. When you do offer a product or service, those fans who give you their email address are the ones that will buy.
- Email has an ROI of 3800%. Eventually, when you want to make money from your blog (which you should!) it's the #1 channel through which to do so. Compare this to a social media ROI of less than 2%. My email list is the only reason I was able to build Unsettle from $0 to a $10,000/month business in under a year. It's how I earn most of my affiliate income, find most of my clients and sell courses.
- Emails build a deeper connection. Showing up in somebody's inbox regularly allows you to build a connection. People do business with people they know, like, and trust.
- With email, you make an impact. People might not check your site every day, but how often do you check your email? If you’re like most people, it’s multiple times a day.
- You own your email list. You’re a squatter on social media – you can’t take those followers with you if you leave Twitter, but you can take emails with you if you rebrand your website or anything ever happens.
- Building an email list is like having traffic on demand. When I publish a new article, service, or podcast episode, I send an email to my email list. Thousands of eyes land on whatever it is I want eyes on with the push of a button.
- Your email list is the easiest, best way to do “market research”. If you want to know everything about your audience, including exactly what they want to read, what they need help with and therefore what type of products to develop to serve them, the easiest way to find out these things is to ask. And who are you going to ask if you don’t have an email list? Sure, you could write a blog post, but the people who answer might not be part of your audience – they could just be people passing by.
As Derek Halpern says, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot”.
That's why your subscriber numbers are the only metric you be paying attention to – at least until you monetize, and at that point, your email list and the money you make will have a direct and strong correlation.
So, now that I sold you on the fact that you absolutely 100% need an email list no matter what, you need to choose your email service provider.
An email service provider stores your emails for you and allows you to send emails. I recommend ConvertKit for any blogger's email service provider. ConvertKit was literally made by bloggers, for bloggers, and is a one-stop shop, allowing you to:
- Make landing pages
- Integrate email forms
- Resend your emails to those who didn't open
- And a lot more.
(Please note: this is an affiliate link. If you choose to buy through my link I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for the support <3).
Whichever email service provider you choose, you need the autoresponder function (which means that yes, you'll have to pay).
Remember that you're starting a blog which is starting a business. Some things you'll have to pay for… which should be expected. You're building a career here.
I started with Mailchimp because it was free to 2,000 subscribers, but without the autoresponder function, my email list was useless and I had to start over legitimately.
Step 6: Prepare for Landing
After you've chosen your email service provider the next step is to set up a landing page. There are both free and paid options for this.
If you signed up for ConvertKit, they allow you to create free landing pages within their software:
I use LeadPages for all of my landing pages because it's super easy to use and I'm not a designer. Here is a landing page I created with Leadpages (click on the image to take you to the full page):
ConvertKit landing pages will work fine, but they won't be as high-converting because they're quite basic. If you're serious right off the bat, sign up for Leadpages by clicking here.
My conversion rate (the percentage of my visitors who subscribed) on that Leadpage is about 36%, compared to about 10% on my previous landing page):
No matter which you choose, the purpose of setting up a landing page is to capture emails. Remember that one goal we discussed?
So, keeping that goal in mind, here are a few ways to make your landing page work harder for you:
- Your landing page needs to be clear. It needs to immediately communicate what your website is about the second the visitor lands on the page.
- Your landing page needs to have an opt-in form. Since your goal is to collect emails, don’t forget this!
- Your landing page needs to outline the benefits of signing up for your list. What will the visitor get if they subscribe? Don’t just outline how many emails they will get per week. Outline exactly what the emails will help them achieve. Use the language your target market uses that you found in your research.
- Your landing page should have a sentence or two about you. It’s not an about page, but it should concisely describe who you are.
- Your landing page should include the launch date. If you are using LeadPages, there are many page templates with countdown timers. If possible, use one! They are great to give a tangible feel of time and also create some urgency.
After you have your landing page up and you're ready to start collecting emails, you can focus on driving traffic to that landing page and increasing your conversion rate.