How to Start a WordPress Website or Blog in 7 Easy Steps

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that learning how to start a WordPress blog or a small business website sounds like a difficult task.

Well, as it turns out, you can get it done pretty quickly if you weed out most of the noise and follow a simple system.

 

In this post I’m going to show you what the 7 easy steps are that you need to perform to start a WordPress website or blog, and what to keep focus on so you won’t get distracted along the way.

Table of contents

To get up and running quickly I advise you to read this post from top to bottom. However, if you came back to lookup information for a specific step, here is the table of contents so you can quickly jump to each section.

  1. Clarify your WordPress blog or business website idea
  2. Find a hosting provider
  3. How to get a domain name
  4. Install the WordPress CMS
  5. Design your website with a WordPress Theme
  6. Add necessary with WordPress Plugins
  7. Publish your content

Clarify your blog or business website idea

Whether you want to start a blog or setup a WordPress website for your business, there is no better time to start than right now.

You probably already had thoughts about what you want to do and how the website should look to your visitors. And that is awesome! But to make it into a reality you need to take action..

Therefore, the first step right now is to clarify your why and what.

Why do you want a website?

To be successful as a blogger or solopreneur you will need to have at least one of the following requirements:

  • you have an irrational passion for your topic
  • you have an interest in the topic and be naturally curious to learn more about it
  • you need a platform to showcase your business or skills

Yes, there may be other reasons to start a website, like life experiences, but if there is one thing history teaches us, it is that the most successful blogs were started by people who had either one of the first two.

The business reason speaks for itself, although having a passion for what you do in your business is pretty mandatory to become successful.

A business blog is actually something I always recommend to solopreneurs. This will help establish authority and attract new clients if done right.

Being passionate about it will also make it a lot easier for you to keep writing valuable information for your visitors. Plus, your readers will notice your passion shining through in your articles.

In case you find it hard to come up with anything, think about why your family and friends come to you for help. It’s a sign you are good at something, and definitely worth exploring.

What are the goals for your WordPress website?

This is actually something that is quite often skipped when people start a WordPress website. But as with everything you want to achieve in life, you will need to define your goal, make a plan and go out to achieve the goal.

You need to set clear goals so you know where you are heading.

But wait just a second….

Everything I just wrote is all about you! How about your audience?

Finding out why and what YOU want is definitely important, but when people start to visit your website, they will always have one question in mind:

What’s in it for me?                              

People come to your website so they can

  • solve a problem they have
  • get rid of their fears
  • learn something new
  • be entertained or have a good laugh
  • reach THEIR goal.
VA Speech Balloon

As you can see, it’s all about them. So when you think about how to start a website you always need to keep in mind that your visitors look at your website in a different way.

It’s good to remember the following:

“ The goal for any blog or business website is to become the go-to source for information on the selected topic.

Yes, that also applies to a business website. It’s a marketing tool, not an online flyer.

For example, if you have a photography business, write technical articles about photography or articles on how to shoot family portraits. You can even offer training or your photography services to monetize your work.

Potential clients will notice your work and consider you as the go-to expert. Remember, if they perceive you as the expert, that automatically means your competitors aren’t. J

So take the time to find out why you want to start a website, what your goals are, and how you can help your readers achieve their goals as well.

A few question you can ask yourself about your readers:

  • What do they love?
  • What do they hate or despise?
  • What excites, intrigues or stirs passion in them?
  • What are common challenges or fears they have?

This will help you get an idea where your readers will be at when they get to your website. And that is extremely important as you want to trigger them to get the feeling to have to read all you have to offer.

It can also help you find a name for your blog, your business, or both. Something that resonates to your audience works better than some random name. But more on that later.

Find a hosting provider

I have talked about why you want to start a WordPress website, and what your goals are. Now it’s time to look at how you setup your website.

But first I need to make something clear about WordPress Hosting. This is especially important if you want to start a blog.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

wordpress-com-vs-org

You see, there are actually two WordPress options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They look the same, but have some big differences you’ll need to take into account.

With WordPress.com:

  • You don’t own your blog – it can be taken down anytime without warning (yes, this happens all the time…really)
  • You cannot use your own domain name. It will be your-name.WordPress.com
  • The monetize options (making money with your blog) are greatly limited
  • Storage space is limited
  • Adding useful functionality through plugins is limited
  • Support for themes (how your website looks) is limited
  • It has the WordPress branding on your website. You can pay to get it removed.

With WordPress.org:

  • You host your WordPress website yourself
  • You control everything when it comes to making money
  • Storage varies based on the chosen hosting provider
  • Use any plugin you want (unless restricted by your hosting provider)
  • Use any theme you want

For these reasons I advise everyone that is serious about their blog or business to go for a self-hosted WordPress solution.

WordPress.com is nice if you just want to put out some content and don’t care to build an asset for the future. Otherwise, self-hosted is the way to go.

How to select a hosting provider?

To make your website accessible on the internet you need a ‘host’ . A host offers space to setup your website and makes sure your site is shown in your reader’s browser if they visit your website..

Here comes the first part of the noise I mentioned earlier. There are numerous hosting providers offering their services. It’s a jungle, and you can easily get lost. Before you know it, you’ll be the next Tarzan, swinging from one host to the other because ‘something just didn’t work as you would like to’ .

Honestly, moving a website from one host to the other can be a real PITA, although a good hosting company will help you migrate your WordPress website for free.

Fortunately for you, we did all the research. You can read our reviews for the top 5 shared- and managed hosting providers for 2019 by clicking the link.

What is important to check when you select a hosting provider?

Every host has its advantages and disadvantages. To find a good host you need to consider the following elements:

  • Price – what are the monthly fees?
  • Simplicity – is the control panel easy to use?
  • Security – how safe is my website?
  • Support – how can I get help if I need to?
  • Customer feedback – what are other people’s experiences?

Another thing you can consider is how fast your website is. However, speed depends on so many factors that it is hard to get a good idea without running your website first.

If you value speed from the start, I advise you to start with a managed WordPress hosting plan instead of shared hosting. If price is more important, go for shared hosting.

You can read our reviews for managed WordPress hosting and shared WordPress hosting here.

Some hosting providers offer a free domain with your hosting plan, so before you go and buy a hosting plan, you need to think of a domain name.

choose the right domain name

How to get a domain name

Your website name is the first thing people see when you show up in search results and can often tell them about who you are, what you’re writing about.

Sometimes hosting providers offer you a subdomain on their domainname (like your-name.webhostname.com ). Although this sounds like a nice option, it won’t help you establish your brand or blog name.

The best option is to get your own new domain name. It costs around $10 a year and it’s exclusively yours to use. Or you can buy an existing domain name. They will be more expensive,  but you can get a good deal on great domains here on HighKeyDomains

When you going to look for a domain name there are two things you need to consider: the name, and the domain extension.

Finding a name for your WordPress website

Finding a good domain name can be a challenge. Why? Because there are millions of domain names already been registered by other people. There is a chance that somebody had a similar idea already and beat you to it.

As I said earlier, doing research about why you want a website, and what your (and your reader’s) goals are will give you more ideas to name your blog or business website. Simply check the availability.

A tip I give regularly to bloggers is to add small words like ‘my’ , ‘the’ , ‘zone’ , ‘HQ’ etc. Or to add an ‘s’ to create the plural version – or make a plural term singular.

A good tool is Lean Domain Search. 

You type in your most important term and they will search for websites that have not been registered by adding common words to that term.

As an example, I searched for ‘blog’ and the term ‘mantrablog’ is still available. Then I checked with my domain registrar and the domain is indeed still available. If I wanted to blog about mantras this could be a great name!

Just a small thing to keep in mind: you cannot use any spaces or punctuations in your domain name. Dashes are allowed, but I recommend not to use them.

Domain Extensions (or TLD – Top Level Domains)

As of December 2018 there are 1.534 top-level domains to choose from. So what is the best choice for you?

The first six TLD’s launched were .COM, .ORG, .NET, .EDU, .GOV and .MIL . Companies and organizations went with the .COM and .ORG, all internet related sites got a .NET domain. The .EDU is for educational organizations, .GOV for government and .MIL for military.

As the internet constantly grows, so does the number of TLD’s. It started with 2 letter country codes like .US, .UK, .CO and about 200 more. Nowadays, you can also register .CLUB, .SOLUTIONS, .DESIGN, .XXX, .SUCKS and many, many more.

Personally, I think it’s way too much, but apparently there is a market for it.

Right now, the .COM is still the most popular one, but it gets harder to find a good domain name. Still, if you can get a .COM domain extension by all means go for that.

Otherwise, .NET, .ORG, .CO and .IO (technical) are good alternatives. Still, I would try to make small adjustments to my preferred name until I find a free .COM domain name.

Why? Because .COM is embedded in people’s minds. If they remember you website name, automatically they will add .COM behind it when they type it into Google. For example, if you registered the .NET domain and they forget that, they could end up with your competitor.

Last thing to keep in mind: If you use another TLD, always go and check the .COM domain. Why? Well, for trademark reasons. If a company holds the trademark for the name, you could get in trouble in the future if you do business in the same niche or sell the same products.

You can check US trademarks through this link. https://www.uspto.gov/ For EU trademarks click here: https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en

If that happens it’s better to be safe than sorry. Move on to another name that you can use to brand your company or blog.

You found a suitable domain name

That’s awesome! It’s time to register the domain name. There are two options:

  • Register it at your new hosting provider

If you are offered a free domain name, you can register it at your hosting provider while signing up for the hosting.

  • Register it at a domain name registrar.

There are numerous registrars where you can so this. However, there are a few that actually stand out.

Our preferred registrar is Namecheap. They offer free Whois privacy, have an easy to use dashboard and offer domains at great rates.

They offer discounts from time to time, and your renewal rates are clearly shown when you buy. 

Here’s a tip: Keep an eye on them around Black Friday, as they offer up to 90% discounts on a lot of domain names.

Install the WordPress CMS

Now that you have registered your domain name and gotten a hosting plan, it’s time to setup your website. We’re going to install WordPress.

Installing WordPress can be done in multiple ways. You will have to check with your hosting provider which ones they offer. I’ll list them below so you can follow along with the right way for your hosting provider.

Pre-installed WordPress

This is basically the best option you can have, and one that almost every managed WordPress hosting provider offers.

Once you have signed up they will install WordPress for you. You will instantly be able to go to the WordPress login page and sign into the admin area.

1-click WordPress installer

If you choose to go for shared hosting it will take a few steps to install WordPress. Most times you will be confronted with a cPanel. 

Although cPanel has a learning curve, they also offer a 1-click installer for WordPress.

The term ‘1-click’ is a bit misleading as you will still have to enter some details before you click the install button. But it’s not rocket science and I’m pretty sure you will get it done in no time. 

If you find it hard, just contact support or read instructions in the knowledge base.

Here are the steps to take:

First, login to your cPanel account. Check with your hosting provider how to do this.

Once you are in your cPanel, type ‘Softaculous’ in the search bar at the top of your screen.

If you don’t see the WordPress icon, try searching for ‘Wordpress’ instead. (Sometimes cPanels are branded by the hosting company so the look and feel is different).

cpanel step one

Click the WordPress icon, you will be redirected to the Softaculous WordPress install page. Click the ‘Install now’ button

cpanel step two

You will be presented with a few options to fill out. Always install the latest version of WordPress.

If your host offers a free SSL certificate you select ‘ https://’ as a protocol. Next, select your domain name you want to install WordPress on.

The next one is important. In 99% of the situations you want to install WordPress in your main directory.

In that case, remove the ‘wp’ or any other value that is in this field. Bottom line: This should be empty.

cpanel step three

Next, fill out the site settings and setup an admin account.

As you can see the standard values are ‘admin’ and ‘pass’ . Needless to say, those are not secure.

Choose an admin name you can remember but is not easy to guess by other people.

As for passwords, always use a strong password with letters (upper- & lower case, numbers, special characters). A minimum of 8 characters is good, longer passwords are better.

If you find it difficult to remember passwords, get a password manager like LastPass.

cpanel step four

When you are done, press the install button at the bottom of the screen. You can skip all the other fields or selections, you can do that after WordPress has been installed.

cpanel step five

Ask hosting support to help you

Honestly, that is what they are for. They know their hosting platform best, so they should be able to help quickly.

Unfortunately, some hosting support is just ehhh… let’s call it not optimal. You may need to wait a while before they answer, if they answer at all.

In most situations you should be good though, and get a quick solution for installation issues.

Manual install

If neither of the above is an option you have one option left: manually install WordPress on the server. This is something I would not recommend you to do yourself if you have no technical experience.

If you would like to know how to do it, you can find a very detailed explanation on WordPress.org. 

Design your WordPress website with a theme

Your website is online, congratulations! The world is ready to see your….

“Hello World” post.

Yes, it actually starts now. It’s time to design your website the way you had in mind when you decided to start a website.

When I mention the word ‘design’ to people, the first thing that comes to mind is how the website looks in terms of graphic design. And although that is important, I think it’s more important to focus on the website structure first.

A website structure should be based on two pillars:

  • Necessary pages you need to add to your site
  • Setting up the ideal ‘flow’ you want your readers to take (also called a ‘funnel’) so they do what you want them to do.

Let’s have a look at both pillars.

Necessary pages you need to add to your website

Whether you run a blog or a business, there are a few pages you need to have on your website. These are:

About Me Page

People want to know who’s behind the great valuable content they just read. If you are able to help them in a way I described above, they will have want to get to know you to see if you can relate to them, and if it’s worth their time to follow you.Here are a few things to consider when you write an About Me page:
  • Who your blog/website is for
  • What value you are creating for them
  • Show proof you’re a part of the community
  • Display credibility signals (“As Featured On” and testimonials)
  • Why would they listen to you?
  • How can they get in touch with you?
  • Where do they go next?
Especially the last one if often overlooked. Redirect readers who show an interest to the page you want them to visit. Most times, this is your money page or e-mail signup page (on a blog) or your services page (on a business website).Having a solid About Me page helps you to turn readers into loyal followers.

Contact Page

When running a business it’s pretty normal you have a contact page so clients and prospects know how to reach you.

When you’re making your Contact page, it’s not enough to just put up a contact form, however. You need to think about why someone would want to get in touch with you.

Can you answer basic questions upfront with an FAQ on your contact page? If you’re selling your services, can you tell people basic requirements so you don’t waste each other’s time?

But even if you run a blog you should offer a way for people to contact you. Most often this is done through social media pages. And that is a perfect way.

Whatever you choose, don’t be a stranger. Make sure people can contact you.

Legal Pages

I need to start with a disclaimer here:

I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to have in-depth legal knowledge. Therefore, anything I write about legal issues is based on my personal knowledge and experience from my business, and this may not apply to your jurisdiction. ALWAYS contact a lawyer in your jurisdiction if you have legal questions concerning your business or your blog.

Now with that being said, there are a few legal pages you need to consider.

GDPR regulation banner
Privacy Policy

When you handle personal data, you will need to inform your visitors how you handle this data. This is especially true when you handle data from people from the European Union. It does not matter if you are not based in the EU, the moment you grab EU citizen’s data, you need to comply to the GDPR laws.

As an example, your visitor’s IP address is considered personal data as you can reroute the number to the location the visitor came from.

Also, if you consider advertising through Google or Facebook, a privacy policy is mandatory.

Especially because of the GDPR regulations it’s better to be safe than sorry. Contact a lawyer if you need more information on what’s applicable for your blog or business.

Cookie Consent

The Cookie Law is a piece of privacy legislation that requires websites to getconsent from visitors to store or retrieve any information on a computer, smartphone or tablet. … The Directive gave individuals rights to refuse the use of cookies that reduce their online privacy.

Under GDPR rules, visitors need to consent to the use of cookies as they can contain personal data.

Terms of Service

If you do business you will need to have clear terms of service so people know what to expect when they use your services.

The best advice I can give you is to see a lawyer and get your stuff set up correctly. It can make the difference between becoming successful or literally going bankrupt.

Affiliate Disclaimer

If you have affiliate links on your website, you will need an affiliate disclaimer based on FTC regulations. This holds especially true if you are an affiliate through the Amazon Associates Program.

You will have to place a piece of text in a specific way so people reading your blog or website know that when they follow your link and buy a product or service on the other website you will get paid a commission.

DMCA / Copyright Notices

If you run a blog it’s a good idea to add a DMCA page to your blog in case somebody wants to issue a DMCA takedown notice to you.

Clearly state the steps they will have to take in order for you to take the takedown notice. This way you can prevent that every blogger and his mom starts sending you notices that ‘you stole their content’.

That being said, if you get hit with a genuine DMCA takedown notice – or any cease & desist request, legal advice might save you a lot of money as these cases can be a real pain.

Setting up the ideal ‘flow’

Your website will eventually have a lot of content. Some content is to inform people, some content is to get people to take action in order for you to reach your goal.

You will need to think about the ideal flow you want your visitors to take in order to get them to that content.

For instance, if you run a business website, make references in your content to visit your services page or to contact you (whatever your goal is).

If you have a blog, most times you want them to visit the page where you sell something, or a (newsletter) signup page so you can follow up with them by email.

In SEO, this is called Silo-ing your content. I’ll write a post on it later this year. For now, keep in mind that when you create content, the reader should be able to get to the page you want them to go basically with one click.

How to choose a WordPress Website theme

In a 2012 study from Google and the University of Basel, researchers found that users judge a website’s aesthetic beauty and perceived functionality in 1/20th – 1/50th of a second.

Plus, thanks to a little psychological bias called the Halo Effect, people extend that judgement to all parts of your website.

So to sum that paragraph up, you need a website that looks trustworthy as visitors will decide in a split second if they trust the website or not.

Here is the solution: Good design builds trust.

The design of your WordPress website is handled by WordPress themes. There are hundreds of WordPress themes out there. A lot of them are free, even more are paid.

Opinions on this differ, but paid is not always better than free. It all comes down to the company who developed the theme, and how actively they support the development.

You have to remember that WordPress is regularly updated and further developed. If your theme developer suddenly decides to stop developing the theme, your website may ‘break’ once a major WordPress update is released. Or worse, it will open the gate for hackers to exploit your website.

Yes, it’s true that premium paid themes are better supported and updated quicker than the free ones. Still, there are free themes that can compete with paid ones, especially with all new page builder tools to help you create a website.

Which WordPress theme is best for your website?

There are so many themes to check out, that it’s easy to get swept away by the ones that look awesome, but might not be functionally great.

Remember, design isn’t just about how your blog looks. It’s about how it works. And the easier it is to navigate and read, the better.

Here are some things to consider when you choose a WordPress theme:

  • Simple to use
  • Page builder friendly
  • Responsive on all devices
  • Browser friendly
  • SEO optimized
  • Reputable WP developers
  • Fast support /
  • Good user reviews

When you’re in doubt, you can always start with the TwentyNineteen theme that comes standard with a WordPress installation. It’s a good theme to start with, and you can be sure the guys and girls from WordPress will update it in time.

graphic design tablet

Should you hire a blog designer?

For most bloggers and small businesses, I don’t recommend hiring a designer to start.

Good designers charge thousands of dollars for a new design which is prohibitive for most. But it’s also very likely the design you think you want at the beginning may not be the design you want in a few months.

A nice looking blog is great, but excellent content is greater. Concentrate on your content first and foremost.

Add functionality with WordPress Plugins

I could write for days about WordPress plugins. There are thousands of them freely available in the WordPress repository. As you may guess, I’m not going to do that. I’ll keep it short and simple.

Plugins add functionality to your website. Therefore, you should only install plugins that your website actually needs.

What I wrote about themes is also true for plugins: You have to make sure your plugins stay up to date. Even more than with themes, plugins are constantly exploited by hackers, so keeping them up to date will minimize the risk of your website being hacked.

I will list a few categories of plugins you should consider for your website:

SEO plugin

Search Engine Optimization is important if you want people to find your blog in the search engines. Using a plugin that helps you optimize your website is not mandatory, but highly recommended

Opt-in forms

If you want to build a list of e-mails from your visitors you will need to use some kind of opt-in form. Building an email list is pretty mandatory if one of your goals is to make money.

Contact forms

These are a user friendly way to get in touch with you. There are multiple plugins you can use to create forms, both free and paid.

Social Sharing Plugin

When you create great content, people love to share it. Make sure they have an easy way to share to the most popular social media platforms.

Analytics Plugin & Search Console

I’m pretty sure you want to know what is happening on your website. Therefore you should at least install Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Those free services will give you a lot of insights on what is happening, and how to optimize your website.

Backup Plugin

No matter how great your hosting is, and how many backups they make, I strongly advice everybody to always make a manual backup periodically. You’re spending a lot of time building your website, you don’t want to take the risk losing your website. Stay in control!

We wrote an article on how to backup your WordPress site to make your life easier. 

Caching Plugin

This will get a little technical, but I’ll keep it simple.

When somebody visits your website, the server (that’s the machine hosting your website) get a request to ‘serve’ the website to the browser of the visitor. This takes a certain amount of time as the server has to create the web page from different available WordPress templates.

If you use caching, the plugin helps the server by preparing ‘ready to serve’ web pages. Therefore the page loads faster for the visitor.

As said before, when it comes to speed, there is more going on besides caching. This will be something I will explain in a future article.

Publish your content

The last step is to publish your content. Easy right?

Well, by experience, I can tell you that writing content is something that takes time (by this time, I’m close to five hours in for this article’s first draft). Again, if you’re passionate about the topic, it will make your life easier.

Should you just write content and post it? Definitely not.

There is a reason I told you to design your blog and visitor flow: It will help you decide which content to write to start with, and which content you should create later.

Having a content strategy is important.

Now you don’t have to buy a huge whiteboard, hang it above your desk and start planning. 

You can simply use a tool like Trello or Google Docs to make a plan what content to write and when you need it to be done.

Trello Content Calendar

Personally, I prefer Trello over Google Docs.

It helps me create an overview. I have 5 columns on my board:

  • Ideas
  • Research
  • Planned
  • In Progress
  • Scheduled

It makes it easy for me to see what I have to do, and when I need to finish it.

I use color codes for different subjects (also called ‘content pillars’). That makes it easier for me to find what I need.

A big advantage is that having this overview makes me commit to creating and posting content consistently. There are a couple of reasons why consistency is key:

It sets expectations with your readers: 

People know when to come back and check out your blog and will check in regularly for new content.

It sets expectations with yourself:

It can be easy to get out of the habit of publishing regularly if you miss a couple days. However, if you decide on and commit to a schedule, you know when you have to publish. We all do better with a few deadlines in our lives.

That being said, there is something else that’s important: you should only commit to the minimum amount you want to publish, and try to stick to that religiously. No need to overdo it, you do have a normal life as well.

And to quote some ancient wisdom:

” Perfectionism is a deadly killer. Remember, done is better than perfect.

So... Are you done now?

Nope, now you are ready to start.

After publishing your content, the marketing starts. It’s time to promote your content. It’s time to tell everybody who can benefit from your content that it’s freely available for them.

How?

Start with places where your readers usually hang out. This can be social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. 

But also on related forums and sites like Reddit and Quora you can find a lot of people who may be interested in what you have to offer.

Conclusion

Setting up a WordPress website is easy. Creating one that will be successful and help you reach your goals requires hard work, dedication and grit.

I’m pretty sure the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Like anything else in life, there will be obstacles that attempt to throw you off course. 

But I encourage you to go forward with your passion and share it through your own blog, or build a business website that will get your enough clients so you can provide for your family.

You have everything that you need to get started and be successful.

So be you. Be adventurous. Be honest and transparent. Be as human as your readers.

I wish you all the success you allow yourself to have.

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