Are you thinking of creating a website for your breeding program, or overhauling an old site? Have you thought about it but haven’t gotten started because there are so many options? Wix? Blogspot? Weebly? Hire someone? — Options overload; it can be intimidating!
Everyone will have an opinion on what program or builder to use for your website, but if I may… My recommendation is to use self-hosted WordPress. In my opinion, this is the best way to set yourself up today, and to make sure your site can easily grow with you to be useful and relevant in the future. The WordPress software is not only free, it is a power system that is flexible and feature rich. Behind the scenes, the code is clean and organized in a way to make it easy for search engines to find and understand the site. There is a reason WordPress is used on almost 30% of all websites on the internet!
You may be asking yourself what “self-hosted” means. In contrast to website builders such as Wix, Weebly, Breederoo and the many others out there, a self-hosted site means that you download and use WordPress files on your own site. When you use a website builder, you are using a piece of their site.
I won’t lie; self-hosted sites require a bit more time and effort. But it’s worth it. Dog people have special needs that require more than what website builders can offer. For instance, if you want to show pedigrees on your site, only Breederoo can do this. With many website builders, you are unable to change your template, you may have loading issues (slow site) and you cannot remove advertising for free versions. You’ll also discover there tons of upsells and unexpected costs while you are in full throes of creating your site, and you’ll you end up having to pay more.
For those interested in a simple website for your own personal enjoyment, website builders are great. They are easy to set up, and for a limited site, working around their restrictions usually isn’t a big deal. If your website is going to be a place where you need to show a professional image and to showcase your breeding program to the public, you will quickly outgrow a website builder.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to get started on your website with WordPress! If so, I hope the following steps will help you get started!
How to Set up a Website That Will Help Your Online Presence
Step 1 – Choose Your Platform
To reiterate, in my opinion, the best way to create a website that is easy to use, robust and professional, and that is easy to find is to use WordPress over website builders.
If you decide to go with WordPress, here’s what you should do so that your site can be found in a search and so that your website presents a professional image.
If you decide to go with another solution, please still follow Step 5!
Step 2 – Choose Your Domain Name
If you don’t have a website already you will need to choose a domain name. It should be Yourkennelname.com. Do not use any other extension such as .net, .org, .info, etc. The domain name is a part of what Google looks at, so don’t choose something weird.
Once you choose your domain name, you will need to purchase it. There are many companies that offer this. GoDaddy is one that you may have heard of. NameCheap, Dreamhost, Bluehost are others. I’ve used all of them, and they are more or less the same. The domain name should cost about $20 a year. If you Google “GoDaddy coupon” you can usually find a cheaper rate. Be sure to purchase the domain name only, not all the other add-ons. These are upsells and are unnecessary.
Step 3 – Purchase Your Hosting
Now that you have your domain name, your files need to reside somewhere. Hosting companies “host” or store your website files so when someone finds your site, your page(s) will appear. You are basically renting space on their servers, which are connected to the internet. I highly recommend that you use WPEngine for this. Their Personal Plan is $29 per month and will be more than sufficient for your needs. While I have used other hosting companies that are cheaper, I am recommending WPEngine because they will do the installation, security and updating for you and it is very easy to use. And their support is top-notch.
Step 4 – Install WordPress and Pick a Theme
Once you set up your account with WPEngine, you’ll automatically have WordPress installed and you are ready to start. If you are overhauling your site, contact your host to get assistance with installing WordPress. Many hosting companies have one-click WordPress installs.
I won’t be going through the step-by-steps on how to use WordPress such as adding a page, or uploading a photo and other basic tasks since there are many excellent and free tutorials to show you how to do that.
Since I am self-taught myself, and have gone through tons of courses, I’ll save you the search hassle and share that is one of best tutorials out there: https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Essential-Training/372542-2.html. You will need to get the 30-day free trial at Lynda.com in order to view this for free, but their courses are all top-notch and by industry leaders. There are no ads or promotions to wade through either. If you don’t mind the ads, the I also suggest http://www.wpbeginner.com/guides/ and https://www.youtube.com/wpbeginner (videos).
You can skip the first part of the tutorials that explains how to install WordPress because WPEngine already did that part for you.
Once you install WordPress, you should pick a theme. A theme is basically a template that already has the design of the site in place for you so you don’t have to start from scratch. There are endless (tens of thousands) choices, and many are free. All of them can be modified to your liking. You can find themes here: https://wordpress.org/themes/ or do a Google search on “Wordpress themes.” The best ones in my opinion are the ones that use the Genesis Framework, but these are paid themes. (You will have to invest about $150.) Otherwise there are good free themes readily available.
Step 5 – Populate Your Site
Now that you have WordPress and a theme installed, and know the basics from the tutorial of how to populate your site, here are few tips on what you should include in your site.
I know it seems obvious, but your home page should tell your visitors what your website is about. That means you should know why most people are visiting. Is it to learn about your breed? Is it to check out your breeding program? Is it to potentially purchase a puppy? Know why your visitors are visiting and then organize the menu on your home page to make it easy for them to find their answers.
Your About Pages
One of the most visited pages on any website is the About page. Take the time write some engaging content here. People want to know who they are dealing with. When I get inquiries through my local club about breeders, I tell them that there should be a relationship and a “good feel” between them and the breeder. Be yourself on your About page, and give the visitor a feel for your personality, your experience in dogs and let them know how special your dogs are. Don’t sound braggy, but at the same time, don’t make it hard for them to understand that you are a quality breeder with quality dogs.
Your Location and How to Contact You
I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve seen that do not mention where the breeder is located! In addition to this information being important for Google, many people will search for a kennel near them first before expanding their search. A contact form is easy to set up and an inquiry can be sent while they are browsing your site. You can include an email address and phone number as well for those that want to contact you that way.
Questionnaire (Optional but Recommended)
I’ve found that including a questionnaire right on your site will help pre-screen owners and it prevents a lot of baseless, looky-loo inquires. (How often have you received an email that simply asks, “how much”?) You can make one for free with a contact form plugin. (I like and use Ninja Forms.) This can be a short pre-screen questionnaire or a longer application. I will talk more about this, and show you a sample in a case study that I will post soon.
Your Dog Pages
You really should include information about your dogs, including photos and pedigrees. This will set you apart from backyard breeders, particularly with the inclusion of pedigrees, which is almost always missing from backyard breeder sites. Instead of pedigrees, backyard breeders often opt for buzz words like “champion lines” that often fool newbies. Show your visitors the difference and write up something about your dogs’ accomplishments and explain why their pedigrees are so great.
Keep Content Current
You should be blogging. You don’t need to be doing this every day, but your site should be up to date. For one thing, there’s nothing worse than for a visitor to see that the last update on your site was from two years ago. It makes them wonder if you are still breeding.
Second, content updates tell Google that your site is still relevant. At the very minimum, update four times a year; let people know what has happened with your own dogs and dogs you have bred. I know that you are posting on Facebook far more frequently than once a quarter, so if you are having trouble with this, go to your Facebook feed, and do a summary of what has occurred over the past three months.
Does This Seem Like Too Much Work?!
Creating, maintaining and marketing your website does take some time and effort, and this post aims to give you only the most important and key steps. If I could give you only one takeaway, I would advise you to get yourself a WordPress website and make sure you add a few blog posts now and then to keep it current. You will naturally be using the “right” keywords and Google will index your site, and you will eventually show up somewhere in Google’s search results. If you do just a few more steps above, you can successfully get your rankings up.
This is the only “pitch” I’ll give – If you don’t have the time to do all of this yourself, hire someone to do this for you. Kim and I started The Dog Did It to help our dog breeding friends attract great homes. We got sick of seeing mills and backyard breeders dominate Google, and it is our intention to get more reputable breeders savvy in internet marketing so that we can beat them. We gladly give out free advice to those that want to do it themselves, but we also service those that do not have time for this stuff.