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Need to launch a website to promote your Caribbean brand or event but not sure where to start? Well, below I (Ursula Petula Barzey) have put together a list of digital/online products and services that I use directly on Caribbean & Co. or in my freelance digital marketing consultancy practice. The goal here is to help demystify the whole process in 4 easy steps so that more Caribbean SMEs can establish or improve their online presence.

1. Register Domain

DOTSTER is the company I have used since 2002 to register the majority of my personal and business domain names as they are reasonable priced. And importantly, they are activated and available to use straight away. They are also very good at sending out reminders for domain renewals. Dotster also provides other digital/online services like web-hosting and email services, but preference is to keep these separate. Register a new website domain for as little as US$14.99/year.

2. Setup Web Hosting

SITEGROUND which also offers domain registration is my web host of choice for Caribbean & Co. as their dedicated servers located in the United States, Europe, and Asia are optimised using the latest technology plus they are speedy and secure.  Furthermore, their knowledgeable staff are extremely responsive and unlike a lot of hosting companies, in addition to email and chat customer service, they provide 24/7 technical phone support.  Key to note here is that Siteground will help you migrate an existing site or provide assistance with setting up a new one. Also, their hosting plans are extremely competitively priced and it is easy to upgrade as your traffic builds.  So sign up for a hosting plan — their StartUp Package is only US$3.95 per month. NOTE: If you prefer to deal with only one company to register your domain and host your website, hands down, I recommend SiteGround for both.

3. Install Content Management System, Design & Load Content

With web domain and web hosting sorted, the third step is to install a content management system (CMS) to make it easy to upload, publish, edit, and modify content on your website. And having worked with a wide variety including Drupal, Joomla!, Moveable Type, Sitecore, etc., my CMS of choice is WordPress as there are thousands of themes/templates that can be easily purchased or downloaded for free which can then be the basis for a beautiful website. Of course, the theme would then need to be tweaked to meet your brand guidelines and best showcase your products and services.

FREE THEMES FROM WORDPRESS – If funds are tight or you’d prefer to start with a free WordPress theme, there are thousands to consider. Would recommend selecting one that has a four or five-star rating and is suitable for your niche, industry, and/or business.  Thus, if your industry typically showcases their work portfolio style, then select a WordPress theme with a portfolio. Ideally, it should also be mobile responsive since more and more people are accessing the Internet from their phones.  Find a free theme via the WordPress Theme Directory.

PAID THEMES FROM WORDPRESS – The main benefit of a paid theme is that they typically include more features and functionality.  Plus the developer is continually making improvements and also more likely to be providing support.  With this in mind, my go to source for a paid theme is Themeforest as they have over 18,000 themes some costing as little as US$3. So spend some time researching via Themeforest to find one that works for your niche and is mobile optimised.  Be sure to look at the best sellers and those with the highest rating.

4. Useful WordPress Plugins

Irrespective of whether you move ahead with a free or paid WordPress theme, here are some mostly free WordPress plugins you should install with a view to enhancing your website:

  • iThemes Security: This plugin provides more than 30 ways to secure and protect your site.  For example: hiding vital areas of your site, protecting access to important files, preventing brute-force login attempts, detecting attack attempts and more.
  • W3 Total Cache:  Caching is one of the best ways to easily improve the speed of your website without having to make changes to your site’s content.
  • EWWW Image Optimizer: This plugin optimizes image files to help improve your website speed. This plugin strips meta data from JPEGs, optimises JPEG compression and strips un-used colours from indexed images.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast: This plugin allows you to easily boost your website’s search ranking by ensuring you include SEO titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs & much more.
  • Google Analytics by Yoast: This plugin allows you to track your website easily and always stay up to date with the newest features in Google Analytics which you will need to register for — this is also free!
  • Redirection: This plugin allows you to manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors (think broken links!).
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin: YARPP displays pages, posts and custom post types related to the current post, helping your visitors to discover other relevant content on your site.
    AddThis or ShareThis: Both are social sharing WordPress plugins that let your visitors easily share a post/page with others via social media, email, etc.
    Akismet: This will protect your website from comment and trackback spam.
  • Disquis: An enhanced commenting system that lets your visitors easily comment on your blog posts using their Facebook or other logins.
  • Contact Form 7:  No doubt you’ll want people to get in touch and this plugin allows you to install multi-contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup.

Beyond the installation of the mostly free WordPress plugins, you should also integrate a couple Google products – also free –  to track and manage the activity on your website. This includes:

  • Google Analytics: This will generate detailed information about your website’s visitors (age, gender, geographic location, mobile technology, etc.) and traffic sources (social media, referrals, etc.).  It will also help you measure conversions and sales.
  • Google Webmaster Tools:  This also provides additional data on your website and has a number of tools and diagnostics to ensure that your website is healthy and Google friendly.

5. Promote & Share Website Content

MAILCHIMP: Once you’ve set up your website and are continually adding content via your blog, an important part on your digital marketing strategy should be promoting and sharing this content with your customers, prospects, partners, etc. It is popular today to do this via your social media channels.  But another tried and tested way which most often achieves greater return on investment, is email marketing.  And having used a number of email marketing tools over the years including iContact, Constant Contact, Pure360, etc. I recommend MailChimp as it is simple, powerful and they have awesome customer support.  Plus, MailChimp’s A/B testing is very intuitive, unlike some of the other email marketing contenders.  There is even a MailChimp WordPress plugin you can integrate on your website to help you collect more email addresses.  Still not convinced? Then why not try the product by setting up a free account which will allow you to send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above (domain registration and hosting) are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, Caribbean & Co. will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your business goals. 

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