A lot of your business’s success depends on its web presence. However, it’s not enough that customers can find your site’s content. To attract customers and retain their business, a part of your marketing strategy needs to be dedicated to your own website.
One way to build your website is through WordPress. This article serves as a step-by-step guide on getting started with your new website on WordPress.
- What is WordPress?
- Why do most people build a WP website?
- Intro to WordPress
- Choosing a web hosting provider
- Installing WordPress—Adding themes, pages, posts, and plugins
- WordPress best practices and tips
- Consider hiring a WordPress developer to help build the website
What is WordPress?
WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that allows users to customize and maintain their websites. WordPress’s customizability includes premade themes, widgets, add-ons, and plugins.
Why do most people build a WP website?
The reasons WordPress is one of the most widely used online platforms include:
- It’s fairly easy to install and set up. Because users don’t start from scratch when starting with WordPress—meaning they just need to add content and customization—WordPress is attractive to users of all skill levels.
- It’s very customizable. WordPress offers various ways to customize your website with themes.
- It has a lot of plugins. Plugins can help you do everything from using Google Analytics to increasing the design control you have for your website.
- It has a large community and support. Since so many people use WordPress, there is an extensive online community to find answers or pick up tips.
Intro to WordPress
When setting up a website using WordPress, there are several ways you can host your website. We’ll break down the options below.
Wordpress.com vs. self-hosted WordPress
Using Wordpress.com means the platform provides hosting, backups, and security. If you self-host, you would purchase your domain name through another provider and install the WordPress software on the site. You would have to perform all the backups and other maintenance on your own.
Hosting your site through WordPress.com takes care of all the background work and allows you to take full advantage of what the platform has to offer. There are enough themes available to help you find the perfect one for your business. You can also fully integrate your website with social media platforms. With the right upgrade, you can customize your domain name, customize your site’s look, and include more plugin options.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to consider with WordPress.com:
- Ability to include polls, comments, sharing options, and more without plugins
- Full support from WordPress.com and the online community forums
- No need for technical website knowledge
- Free website publishing options
- Upgraded plans allow you to move toward self-hosted functionality where needed while still maintaining all the support and ease of use WordPress.com offers
- Without a premium plan, your site will include advertisements that you have no control over. Additionally, you can’t use affiliate links to monetize your website without upgrading.
- Unless you upgrade to a premium Business plan, your website URL will include WordPress.com. For example, if you named your business Wilson Florals, your website would be wilsonflorals.wordpress.com, potentially confusing customers.
- You don’t own your website. WordPress.com can delete your site if you violate their terms of service.
- The amount of customization available to you depends on the plan you purchase.
- If your site requires e-commerce, needs to accept payment, or uses third-party features like Google Analytics, you’ll have to upgrade to a Business plan.
With WordPress.org, you choose to self-host your site. While WordPress.org is free, most people opting for a self-hosted plan will need to pay a company to provide hosting services. There are some benefits to having a self-hosted WordPress site. Most of the plans allow for customized domain names and customized emails. A self-hosted site will also give you complete control over what your website looks like—including more themes and plugin options to keep your site more secure and work at a faster speed. With fewer restrictions on what your website can look like and what it can do, you have more opportunities to expand the reach of your business.
Choosing a web hosting provider
Choosing the right hosting service for your website can save you a lot of time and trouble. But what should you look for when making your selection?
- Ease of use. Be honest with yourself and the companies you want to work with about your website knowledge, how much support you’ll need to create a website, and the time or expertise you’ll have for ongoing maintenance.
- Scale. In addition to the features a web host offers, ask questions about the ability to upgrade or downgrade your hosting account when necessary.
- Server options. Ensure the location, speed, security, and performance of the server will work for your business needs.
- Support. Understand what kind of support options will be available when needed. If something goes wrong with your website, who’s responsible for the fix and how long will it take to get help?
- Price. Don’t be pulled in by a hosting company that offers low signup costs but then charges much higher renewal fees. Look at both the initial and long-term costs of working with different hosts.
Examples of hosting providers:
Most hosts have out-of-the-box support and an easy WordPress installation process. They include:
- Bluehost. With Bluehost, you can design and build your website with support or purchase a package to have the company make it for you. You can buy a domain, select the hosting level (the price will vary depending on what you choose), and install WordPress. Their most basic package begins at $3.95 a month for 36 months, and your domain name is free for one year.
- WP Engine. WP Engine offers a Managed Hosting Startup plan for around $25 a month for one site. You can include more websites for an increase in the fee, and they also have an option to customize your website needs. The package includes their support, over 30 themes, free migrations, daily backups, and a one-click staging site. Upgrading your package to Managed Hosting Plus gives you access to plugins.
- Siteground. The WordPress hosting packages on Siteground begin at $6.99 a month. It includes one website and 10GB of webspace. The package is best for websites anticipating 10,000 visits monthly or less. It also comes with WordPress Migrator, auto-updates, a daily backup, and a free email.
- GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s WordPress hosting plans begin at $6.99 a month and go up to $9.99 a month at renewal. This includes your domain name purchase, SSL certificate, and business email for the first year. It also comes with 30GB of storage, website backup, and daily malware scans. GoDaddy suggests this plan for sites anticipating up to 25,000 monthly visitors.
- DreamHost. At DreamHost, WordPress plans begin at $2.95 a month. That includes one website and free domain name, unlimited traffic, pre-installed WordPress, free WordPress migrations, the WordPress Website Builder, and a free SSL certificate. You can add email beginning at $1.67 a month. The plan comes with monthly, one-year, and three-year options.
- Kinsta. The basic WordPress package on Kinsta begins at $30 a month. This includes one WordPress installation, 25,000 monthly visits, 10GB of storage, one free premium migration, a Google Cloud platform, 25 global server locations, daily backups, hack and malware removal, 24-hour support, staging areas, and SSL certificates.
Browse Project Catalog for more WordPress services.
Installing WordPress—Adding themes, pages, posts, and plugins
When you’re ready to start building your website, there are many features you can choose to make it your own. You’ll be able to decide the site’s theme, the pages you need, plugins, and more. We’ll break down each major decision below.
Selecting a theme
Themes customize the layout and appearance of your website. Everything from how many columns to what kind of font and color scheme you want is included in the theme you select.
You can begin researching themes from the “My Sites” section and clicking on “Appearance.” Many themes are free, but some only become available at certain package levels. You can search for them by the type of website you’re building or by feature, layout, columns, subject, and style. While you are choosing, you can review the live demos to understand how the theme works. Once you’ve found a theme, you can:
- Click “Try and Customize.” This will load any existing content into that theme so you can play around with how your website will work with that theme.
- When you are ready to go, click on “Activate and Publish.” That makes the theme live on your site.
Customizing a WordPress theme
There are several ways to customize a WordPress theme.
Most of the customizations you’ll make will be accessed by first going to “Appearance” and then clicking on “Customize.” This takes you to the “Customizer” section, where you can do things like add a logo, tagline, or footer. You can determine which color and background your website will use, select fonts and images, and decide which content you want to include.
Widgets are used mainly with the sidebars on your site. You can add new widgets or arrange and remove widgets through the widgets tab in the “Customizer” section. To find the ones you want, scroll through an alphabetical list or use the search feature. There are a lot to choose from, including “About Us,” social media icons, OpenTable, and customer reviews.
Menus are a valuable way to add to your customers’ experience on your website. You can customize the way pages appear in your menu to lead them to more important pages. Menus are found in the “Customizer” section. With it, you can create drop-down menus. You can add links to other sites, blog pages, testimonials, links to specific product or service pages, and more.
Many of the themes include options to customize the header image and text. If your theme supports a custom header image, you’ll find it in the “Customizer” section under the header image. From there, you can upload and select the image you want. Some themes also include a flexible header image, which helps avoid cropping an image to fit preset sizes.
Adding pages and making a homepage
Your website will likely need more than one page. For example, most websites include a homepage, contact page, and service or product pages.
You create new pages on WordPress by accessing “My Sites” and clicking on “Pages.” Once there, you can edit pages to make changes, view what they look like, check page stats, create copies, or add pages. While editing a page, you can make changes to the text and embed links and upload images.
The quick edit option also allows you to make changes to the page setup. For example, you can change the title, template, and status of the page. The bulk edit feature allows you to make changes to multiple pages at once.
Editing pages is also where you designate a page as your homepage. Some themes have homepage templates, which vary. Once you’ve created and customized the page you want to use as your homepage, there are a few additional steps to set it up:
- Click on “My Site”
- Look for the “Appearance” section and then click “Customize”
- You will find the “Homepage Settings” option
- If you want your homepage to be unchanging, choose the static page option
- Choose the correct page from the drop-down menu
- Make sure to click “Save” before moving on
Posts vs. pages
Posts are information, updates, or news items that you create and add to your website over time. The most commonly used form of posts is blog posts, which contain basic information that doesn’t change much. If you include posts on your page, you’ll want to update them regularly.
You can include posts on your website in two ways. The first option is to create a posts page by using the homepage settings screen. You can also create a blog post block on a page that will contain your most recent post. If you mark a post as “Sticky,” it will be pinned to the top of your blog posts. Don’t forget that you can select categories and tags that will make your post easier to find in a search when you create a new post.
Installing plugins for your WordPress site
Think of a plugin as an add-on function that gives you an additional feature to use. WordPress plugins allow you to do more, including track analytics, connect with your customers, and improve how your website works.
Some of the most popular plugins have already been installed for your WordPress site, including search engine optimization (SEO), social media, contact forms, anti-spam security, email subscriptions, polls, and more.
Examples of common plugins
Let’s explore some of the more popular plugins that can improve your website.
- Google Analytics. Google Analytics is available for WordPress at the Business package level. With Google Analytics, you can see a dashboard that gives you instant reports to track e-commerce, popular posts, affiliate links, and more.
- Yoast. The Yoast plugin can help boost your SEO and help you rank higher. Yoast includes advanced XML sitemaps, meta tag templates, and integrations to help search engines understand your site.
- WP Rocket. This plugin can help speed up your website and improve your SEO rankings. One nice feature is that you don’t have to understand coding to make it work.
- WooCommerce. A popular e-commerce plugin, Woo Commerce can help you create an online store that will draw in customers. It has many customization features for your business.
- Contact form. The Contact Form Builder comes with a free or pro version. The free version includes unlimited fields, the ability to mark fields as required, and more. It is also customizable.
- Wordfence. Wordfence includes a firewall and malware scanner built to protect WordPress sites. Pricing depends on the number of licenses you need.
- Sucuri. Another security plugin, Sucuri is free for WordPress and includes security auditing, file integrity monitoring, malware scanning, post-hack security actions, and notifications. There is a firewall option at the premium level.
- Jetpack. This plugin is a jack of all trades. It will enhance your website’s security while also increasing its speed. It includes marketing tools to help you grow your business.
- Akismet. Akismet keeps tabs on your website comments and compares them to their spam database. They will remove spam comments when they occur.
- UpdraftPlus. UpdraftPlus is a backup plugin that will create backups at set intervals. It allows you to restore your website to a backup version in the event of a crash or hack.
- Really Simple SSL. This plugin helps you once you receive an SSL certificate by automatically detecting settings and configuring your website to run safely using HTTPS instead of HTTP.
- Elementor. Elementor is a website builder. You can use it to build your site with fewer design restrictions. It moves quickly, and you can see your changes in real time.
- WPBakery. Another website page builder, WPBakery will help you build any layout you want with its drag-and-drop feature. Similar to working in WordPress, no coding experience is necessary.
WordPress best practices and tips
Here are some of our top tips for using WordPress:
- Use custom permalinks. Permalinks are the URLs assigned to your website’s pages and posts. By customizing the permalinks, you can change it from random letters and numbers to something your customers will recognize.
- Have a clean navigation. Making it easy and logical to navigate your website is not just a benefit—it’s the new normal for online business. If your potential customers get lost within your pages and never make it to the most important ones, you’ll be much less likely to complete a sale.
- Start on HTTPs. You are probably familiar with HTTP. When you add the “s,” it means secure. Everything looks and works the same, but the information used is more secure.
- Compress and lazy load images. Using image compression and the lazy load option means your website will run faster. Faster running websites mean better search engine optimization (SEO) and customers using your site quicker.
- Create a mobile-first WP site. Our mobile devices are the smallest screens and designing for them first means users will have the same experience across devices. With more and more people using their phones to shop, this option will reap rewards.
- Use trusted plugins. Using plugins that are well-known, have reviews, and are designed to work with WordPress means you’ll spend less time fighting a widget and more time growing your business. It also means you and your customers will be safer and have a better experience.
- Try multiple themes. It’s possible to incorporate various themes on your WordPress site. With the right plugin, you can have one theme on your homepage and try different themes for other pages. The benefit is branding. For example, you may want to use this if you have multiple business lines with their own style.
- Add 2FA for security. 2FA stands for two-factor authentication. Incorporating 2FA gives you an added security layer if you are using the same password across several accounts.
- Have links open a new window. Links that open in a new window mean your customer never loses track of the original site. It’s a helpful navigation tool.
- Keep URLs unique and short. Keeping it simple creates a better navigation experience. It helps customers find what they need more quickly and also improves your SEO.
- Use alt text for accessibility. If you use any images on your website, using alt text will increase your accessibility. Alt text means the description of the image is read aloud to someone who may have difficulty seeing.
- Learn Gutenberg. As WordPress continues to implement and expand its Gutenberg iterations, learning how to use it will be helpful. The Gutenberg block editor style is designed to be simple and easy to understand.
- Keep plugins and themes up to date. Hackers and other security risks will always keep developing new ways to get your information. Make sure to keep your themes and plugins updated. The companies that create them are constantly releasing new patches and software to thwart security breaches.
- Test in a dev environment. Make sure you are testing your website and any new features while it’s still in a state of development. You don’t want to go live and then find out from a customer that a section didn’t work correctly.
Consider hiring a WordPress developer to help build the website
When it comes to your business, you want a website that engages customers and helps them find what they need. There are many benefits to hiring a WordPress developer to build your website. Some benefits include:
- Save time. Building a website takes time, especially for someone new to website development. An experienced web developer can do it faster and with much fewer mistakes.
- Technical expertise. Hiring someone who knows web development ensures you end up with a website that gives your customers what they need.
- More customization. Hiring someone who can get into CSS coding will mean even more customization than you can accomplish on your own.
- SEO. If you create a website on your own, you can create an SEO-friendly site without coding experience, but it will take a lot of work. Someone who knows how to set up the coding in an SEO-friendly way—for example, by building a sitemap or by adding structured data markups—will get the job done more quickly.
- Integration. If you need your website to integrate something like e-commerce, it is better to have someone with experience who can build exactly what you need.
- Ongoing support. If you realize a change needs to be made or if something stops working after your website is live, a web developer can help fix the problem and get you up and running again.
- Latest technology. Using cutting-edge technology can give you an advantage over your competition and require less maintenance. A website developer will know what to use.
Take some time to consider all the options for hosting, themes, and the customizations you need. With a bit of research, time, and support, you can build a website to be proud of.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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