The purpose of this article is not to teach you specifically how to make money online, it is to present the fundamental knowledge required before you can even start building an internet based business with which you could then hopefully make money. It will explain the terminology in simple, clear language. It will tell you what basic infrastructure, software tools and utilities and web based services you need and perhaps even more importantly – what you actually don’t need right now (but may need in future).
The knowledge presented here should enable you to go from zero knowledge, beyond the ability to use email and browse the web, and take you to a point where you will better understand what is talked about in more advanced internet marketing or ‘make money online’ guides you may find online and that includes the tips and tricks and methods presented in the “Bank of Home” ezine.
After you have completed reading this you should be better able to make informed decisions about your future internet marketing activities, choose the right software and services and not waste money on things you simply do not need right now, while also helping you to not waste valuable time doing things the hard way when there is a faster and/or better system you could be using. So let’s get started..
Perhaps the most fundamental of all fundamentals for web users and internet marketers is the domain name. Every server (computer) on the internet has an address called an IP address which is just a series of numbers and dots such as 192.168.1.123 which is not exactly easy to remember so the domain system was created to add user friendly names instead. So for example google.com is simply an easy to remember address which behind the scenes maps to an IP address (actually a great many ip addresses but that is not important for you now).
Domains have what are called ‘extensions’ which in the case of google.com is the ‘.com’ part. Traditionally .com was for commercial web sites (and is the most popular) while .org was for organizations and .net was for techy stuff. These days people grab whatever they can get because all the good names were taken years ago.
As well as the big three extensions there are also country extensions such as .co.uk for United Kingdom, .ie for Ireland, .us for United States etc. and even .eu for European Union. There are also others such as .biz and now a whole array of new extensions is being created. So there is in fact a huge choice of domains and extensions which you could use (subject to trademark restrictions and such like).
To get a domain for your own site you simply go to a domain registrar such as Namecheap and use their search form to find an available domain (which can take a while!) then when you find one you like which is available you register it there and pay a small fee of around $10 – it is important to understand that you only ‘own’ that domain for as long as you keep paying for it and that $10 fee is per year.
Once you have registered your domain name you need to point it to your web site, wherever that may be. To do this there is a system called DNS or Domain Name System which just maps easy to remember domains to hard to remember IP addresses. Any time you type in a website address in your browser, such as http://google.com, your browser is actually doing a DNS lookup (often cached) to find out where the actual location of that site is on the internet so it can present you with the content hosted and served from there. DNS is actually a distributed system and DNS records (the thing that translates your domain to your IP) are propagated around the net and can be cached locally by your ISP for example to enable faster domain name lookups.
Your web site hosting company will tell you what IP you can use and it may be dedicated to you alone or it may be shared with other users on the same hosting server. You will need a minimum of two DNS servers (also called nameservers) to point your domain to an IP – this is to ensure if one DNS server crashes, your site can still be reached.
When you’ve registered your domain name you need to point it somewhere, a place where your actual web site will be “hosted” on the internet – for this you need a web host. Hosts usually provide a number of options going from the simplest shared hosting account to the full dedicated server.
Shared hosting – this is the cheapest and simplest option and consists of an account on a server which is shared with many other people. It is basically just a directory on a computer where you can upload your web site and related files. Then your domain is pointed to that directory and you can usually install wordpress and many other web applications through a simple site management interface (control panel). Shared hosting will also usually provide you with email accounts using your own domain and a database (MySQL) and file uploads would typically be done using an FTP application (file transfer protocol) or through the web based control panel.
Shared hosting accounts are somewhat limiting but they do hide much of the complexity of managing your own web site or server and as such they are useful for beginners or anyone who simply wants to get a site online with the minimum fuss but who does not require the deeper level of access and control provided by more advanced hosting packages.
VPS – a Virtual Private Server is the next step up the hosting ladder and well worth getting. It is still sharing one server between many users (but less than the above type) however it provides all the functionality, access, security and control that a full dedicated server provides but for less money. With a VPS you have what is called “root access” which means you can access the superuser or administrator account on the server and you usually use an SSH application (secure shell) to login instead of FTP. SSH is much more secure than FTP and gives you command line or console access where you can run commands, install software and of course break stuff.. 😉 You may also have a control panel which in most cases allows you to avoid the somewhat riskier and more complicated SSH access method to manage your server although more experienced server admins generally prefer to use SSH and the command line.
Cloud – “the cloud” is a buzzword these days but functionally a cloud “instance” as far as hosting is concerned is pretty much the same as a VPS with the major difference being you pay by the hour and you can create (and shutdown) multiple such instances at the press of a button which allows for sites to scale up when traffic rises and scale down again when it drops. Cloud hosts usually offer all sorts of additional cloud services for more advanced uses such as load balancers, databases and more. Probably the biggest and best known cloud services provider is Amazon with their AWS system. While cloud hosting is certainly convenient it can actually cost much more than just a regular VPS or other monthly server rental so don’t go rushing head first into the cloud just because it’s cool – crunch the numbers to see if it is worth the cost for what you need.
Dedicated Server – when you outgrow (or plan to) your VPS a dedicated server is the likely next step. You rent an entire server just for your use – nobody else has access to it (although your host could gain access if they needed and of course the NSA!) and none of the resources it provides are shared with anyone else. Your server is hooked up to the network either with a 10Mbps, 100Mbps or sometimes even 1Gbps connection and hosts will often say you get “unlimited bandwidth” subject to the size of the network connection your server has, in reality the small print will likely have a fair usage restriction or something like that, however the cap will still be quite high and most people will not ever manage to use it all.
Co-Location – this is basically the same as a dedicated server except you actually own the server and instead just pay for “rack space” and network connection in a datacenter. A datacenter is a hosting facility where thousands or sometimes even tens of thousands of servers are stacked in racks and connected to the internet. Rack space is usually priced in units of “U” with servers typically being 1U, 2U, 4U or sometimes more and a full size rack will contain up to 42U although not all of that will be used for servers as other networking equipment may also be there such as routers, switches, power strips and others. Note also that these days you can get high density systems with multiple servers squeezed into each ‘U’.
Control Panels – servers can be complicated to manage which is why sysadmins get paid lots of money, however most web hosts these days offer web based control panels which make the whole process much simpler. Panels such as WHM/CPanel, Plesk, Webmin and several others are commonly offered although mostly for an additional fee. With a good panel you rarely, if ever, have to deal with the command line and logging in with SSH or anything techy like that.
Operating Systems – hosts offer servers with a range of operating systems but for the most part there are two main offerings: Linux and Windows. Within each there are multiple variations such as Centos Linux v6 or Windows Server 2008 Web Edition. It can be somewhat confusing with all the strange variations but my advice would be this: for hosting your website you should choose Linux and preferably the latest version of Centos (currently v6) or perhaps Ubuntu Server.
A common use for Windows Server amongst internet marketers is just as a remote “always on” desktop to run various internet marketing research and SEO software such as the excellent Ultimate Demon – these are programs you might normally run on your own windows PC but since they can run attended for days or weeks performing scheduled tasks it is better to simply rent a VPS with Windows and install all your marketing applications there so you don’t need to leave your own PC running all the time using precious computing power, electricity and bandwidth by constantly running such apps.
Once you have chosen a server or hosting you will need to configure it and install any software you require. For web sites this typically means you need a LAMP configuration – LAMP simply means Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python which form the basic technology stack for a web server. You don’t usually need to worry too much about the details as your host will frequently provide such a stack pre-installed (certainly if you choose shared hosting or have a control panel installed since that also depends on a LAMP stack!) or worst case you can install it easily using the operating systems package management system – if case you are not quite convinced how easy it is to do that, here is the process for Centos.. login to your server and on the command line just type this and press enter:
yum install httpd mysql-server php
Mainly you just need to make sure you have Apache (the http web server software) so that web pages will be displayed, MySQL which is a database server software widely used for web sites and applications including WordPress and PHP which is simply a programming language that many such web applications are developed in – you do not need to know any PHP, just that it is installed. Linux of course is the server operating system – you could use a similarly setup Windows server and in that case such a stack is known as WAMP instead of LAMP.
This may all sound complicated and indeed there is much to learn but you do not need to know everything to get started – go with a ‘shared hosting’ option from a good hosting company and all the technical stuff is taken care of for you so you can focus on building your business and making money. You could even build your entire internet business without ever having to deal directly with this stuff so don’t worry about it now.
One of the fundamental components of an internet marketing business is the blog. A blog (short for web log) is simply a web site where you publish articles, traditionally as a form of diary online. Such articles are generally displayed in chronological order with the newest article showing at the top although that can be changed and in many cases the date is not shown at all so there is no indication of when an entry or article was posted. Blogs are very simple to create and manage these days thanks to the existence of free platforms and software such as WordPress.
While you do not actually need a blog since you can just build a site using static HTML web pages, or even a fully dynamic database driven site if you know how, using a blog system such as WordPress makes it very easy to build and manage a web site without having to worry about the technical stuff that makes it all work.
Probably the most popular blog software (sometimes also referred to as a CMS) in use today is WordPress which is offered both as free software you can install on your own server or site hosting, and also as a web based service (again free) which requires no installation – you just fill in a form and click a button to get your very own wordpress blog online and ready to use.
- WordPress.com – this is the web based service where you can signup for free and get a blog with an address (URL) in the form: http://yourcatchyname.wordpress.com and for a hobby blog this is fine but for serious internet marketing you will need your own domain name such as http://bankofhome.com You can actually pay a fee to WordPress to use your own domain name with their service but it is generally far better to have your own copy of the WordPress software installed on your server where you have more control and fewer restrictions.
- WordPress.org – this is where you can download your own free copy of WordPress to install anywhere you like. Installation is quite easy once you are familiar with the basics of web site hosting and they provide a “5 minute install” guide. With an installed copy of WordPress you will need your own domain name so people can find your blog online.
Once you have your wordpress blog installed you then choose a theme (how it looks) from the many which are available free or for a small fee, or you can get a custom theme made by a designer. You can also install a number of plugins which extend wordpress by adding new functions such as better search engine optimization, integration with social sites (Twitter, Facebook etc) and countless other handy features. All of this can be done through the WordPress admin panel – no messing around with the command line, just a nice simple point and click through the panel.
This is the beauty of a powerful CMS such as WordPress which has been around for long enough to mature and become what it is today – once installed it is trivial to manage your entire site, even multiple sites, everything from changing the design to adding new content and even updating wordpress itself is done through the web panel. After all, the purpose of a website or blog is for you to place your great content online so you can make money – not to waste your time with technical trivialities.
<html> <head> <title>Some Title</title> <meta name="description" content="A description of the content of this page"> </head> <body> <center>Hello World!</center> <br /> <a href="http://bankofhome.com">this is a link</a> </body> </html>
To use the above html code you just copy and paste it into a file with any text editor and save it with a .html (or .htm) extension such as mypage.html then you can open that page in any web browser such as Firefox or Explorer.
You will notice that the page is made up of “tags” such as <center> and that there is always an opening tag and a closing tag (although in some cases the closing tag can be left out and the browser will still know what to do). There are also two sections – the header and the body.. the body is everything which appears between the <body> and </body> tags and is what will actually appear on the web page when it is viewed in the browser. The header section is everything between the <head> and </head> tags and contains meta data which is not visible in the web page but is important and it is useful to search engines – page title and description for example. The entire page is then wrapped in <html> and </html> tags.
That is really all there is to it, now you can (if you want) use raw html to construct a web page! You can find the full list of valid html tags online on many html tutorial sites. To make web pages look pretty you would also use CSS (cascading style sheets) which tell your browser how certain elements of the web page should by styled, for example what fonts to use, what colours, where to place things.. when you install a theme in wordpress it comes with a CSS stylesheet which handles all this so you do not need to worry about it – it is the job of web designers to fiddle with CSS unless you really want to also dig in there.
End of Part 1 – tune in next week for Part 2 which contains even more essential fundamentals to get you off to a running start! Got any questions or suggestions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below..