Where do your prospective learners go to get details about you and your business? Where can they find strong evidence of the value you offer? Where will they return over time to find new offerings and continue their relationship with you?
For most of us, the answer is – or should be – our main Website, or home base website, as I refer to it in Leading the Learning Revolution.
“Home Base” is your own place on the Web – not Facebook, not Udemy, not any platform where you don’t control the content and the branding completely and have access to all of the data generated on and collected by the site. Anyone serious about growing an expertise-based business needs be serious about maintaining a top-notch home base, even if you make use of other platforms.
Yes, it may be desirable to have a dedicated platform for managing and delivering your online courses, but most of these platforms don’t really have the flexibility to serve as the focal point of your online presence – especially if you sell products or services beyond online courses.
What you use for your home base website will depend on your particular situation. If you work for an organization where you don’t have much say about the Web site, then you will probably just have to use your best negotiating skills to gain whatever control you can.
Whatever you do, though, don’t rely on third-party sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Udemy to serve as your home base. You never know when or how these sites will change, and you always want to have control over a Web domain that is associated with your brand name.
This topic has been top of mind for me lately because one of the projects I’ve undertake is to refresh and revamp my various Web sites. (Yes, I actually have multiple sites that serve as “home bases” for different lines of business.) So, here as some key aspects of how I manage my web sites.
WordPress as Foundation
First, I stick with WordPress. Time-tested, used by millions, plenty of these and plug-ins, huge numbers of freelancers who can help you with every aspect of it – it’s just hard to see why to use anything else these days.
And, of course, WordPress is open source, so the code for it is free. You can grab it at WordPress.org, or pretty much all of the best Web hosting services are going to have an option for you to install it on your account. (More on hosting below.)
Second, I use WordPress themes – i.e., the part that control most of how your site looks for visitors – that I know will not slow the site down (Google cares about this more and more) and that I know are search engine friendly.
I put particular emphasis on this second point – i.e., SEO friendly. While there are all sorts of pretty themes out there, many of them are programmed in ways that can hurt search engine optimization (SEO). For piece of mind, I stick mostly with StudioPress themes. They are fast, SEO-friendly, and they can be tweaked to do pretty much whatever you want.
I use the Mai Law theme for Learning Revolution, the Magazine Pro theme for my Leading Learning podcast site, and the Author Pro theme on my personal site. (Actually, what I really have is the all-theme package, so I can get access to whichever theme makes sense for each of my sites.)
Top Notch Hosting
I take hosting seriously – and urge you to do the same. Yes, you can go for the DreamHost or BlueHost cheap hosting, and if you are just starting out, that may be the best thing to do. But as your traffic and audience grows, it’s really important to have truly rock solid performance, reliability, usability, and support.
That’s why my preferred hosting provider is WP Engine, a high performance WordPress host I started using years ago and now use for all my sites. They provide outstanding support and rock solid performance. While a bit pricier, this is really the kind of hosting you want if you are serious about running an online business.
Bottom line, it’s worth taking stock in what you are doing with your home base website – regardless of whatever course delivery platform you are using or considering – and taking some steps to up you game.
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