Creating a WordPress website: Tech terms explained PLUS find your ideal domain, WordPress hosting (FastComet vs WP Engine vs BlueHost review and comparison) & WordPress themes.
Roadmap to a Successful Online Business – Part V | How to Create a Website All by Yourself
If you are toying with the idea of building your own online business but are feeling totally lost and don’t know where to start – you have come to the right place! 🙂
My mission is to help you get out of that confusion and overwhelm and break things down for you, so you can follow along easily. My Roadmap to a Successful Online Business blog post series will take you through all the major steps of building your online business. Download your FREE overview business guide and let’s get going!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means when you purchase something through those links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions expressed here are my own!
How to Create a Website
Today is the day! You have a concept, a business plan and nailed your branding – now it’s time to set up your website and make things happen! 🙂 Here is what you need to do.
Getting a Domain Name for Your Website
Think of your domain name as the street address to your business – that’s what the potential customer needs to type into their browser navigation bar to directly go to your page without having to search for it.
The Perfect Domain Name
Chances are, however, that the majority of people won’t know you and your website exist, so you wanna make sure the website shows up in Google search results for relevant searches. We talked about this before, from an SEO (= search engine optimization) point of view, choosing a domain name that is relevant to your business is a great idea. Ideally, if you already know the core keyword that you are going to build your website around, then using this EXACT keyword in your domain name would be ideal. For example, if your core keyword was “weight loss for women” then “www.weightlossforwomen.com” would be your perfect domain name. If you wanna learn more about using keywords, check out my posts on keyword research and keyword research tools.
Availability of Your Perfect Domain Name
Deciding on your perfect domain name is one thing – whether or not you are able to buy that exact name, is another thing entirely… You can use check domain availability on any domain name registry, like BuyDomains for instance. But there are lots of other options too, like namecheap or 1&1, to name just a few more.
Just enter your ideal domain name into their domain search and they will tell you whether or not it is available. If it isn’t available, they will offer you some alternatives. Now it’s up to you to pick and buy one of those or to put your thinking hat on again and come up of another great domain name that might still be available. If all else fails and all names you can come up with are already taken, consider using your own name and building a brand around your person.
Availability of Relevant Social Media Accounts
There is one more consideration, that I never see anyone mention at this point, but that’s going to be important for your business: Don’t forget to check your name’s availability across social media platforms as well. You can go to namecheckr to see which accounts are still available.
Found a domain name you love and that is available on all relevant social media you are planning to use for your marketing strategy? Woohoo! *happy dance* You wanna buy this pretty baby before it’s gone!
Be aware that the price for your domain name is not a one-off. It’s an annual fee. Therefore, you should also start thinking about the duration of your commitment. You might get a discount for committing to a longer period of time (two years or more). Moreover, Google likes dedication! It tells Google that you are taking it seriously and that you are in it for the long run, not for quickly making some bucks and then disappearing. Let’s just say it gets you some street cred with almighty Google. 😉
Don’t jump the gun on buying that awesome domain name yet though, there are a few more things to consider first.
Choosing a Platform
One important point to address when learning how to create a website is finding the right platform.
According to your goals, you’ll have to choose the right CMS (= content management system) for your blog or business website. You can think of a CMS like the scaffold for the online business you are building. It’s like a program that you can install on your web host server. You then add your content and the CMS helps you display your content the way you want. In a nicely arranged webpage that is. As opposed to just having all images and text strung up one after the other.
But unquestionably, WordPress is the best known and most widely used platform. About 31% of all websites are powered by WordPress. That is quite an impressive number! And my website is one of them. 🙂 Which is why I will concentrate on WordPress as a content management system for this post.
Be aware that there’s www.wordpress.com, which is free but limited in its functionality and customisability and then there is www.wordpress.org, which you’ll have to pay extra for web hosting but which offers higher functionality and flexibility.
This is where it get’s really confusing, right? *o_O
Hosted vs Self-Hosted WordPress
Bear with me, I’ll try to explain! You have likely come across the WordPress “hosted” vs “self-hosted” debate. Maybe you always shrugged thinking “What the hell are those people even talking about??”. You are about to find out. 😉
www.wordpress.org is the complete version of the WordPress content management system. You can download those files for free, but then need a place to store and run those files – that’s the web hosting you need to pay for. This means you are “self-hosting” those files. Because YOU have to take care of finding that storage space.
Then you have www.wordpress.com. This is a modified WordPress version, that doesn’t allow you to use themes, plugins or alter the code in other ways. In this case, you don’t have to go buy storage space somewhere else because wordpress.org hosts the files on their servers for you. So this version of WordPress is “hosted”.
In a nutshell, if your aim is to make money with your website, self-hosted www.wordpress.org is what you want to choose. So let’s find you a good hosting provider, shall we? 🙂
Choosing a Hosting Provider for Your Website
Next thing to consider when figuring out how to create a website, is choosing a web hosting provider. What is web hosting? Web hosting companies provide storage space on their servers – you buy some of that space to store all your website data (like images, posts, etc) on.
So just to be clear – your URL does not have any data associated per se. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because your URL ends in xyz.com doesn’t mean you are automatically self-hosted. Your data is stored on a web hosting server of whatever company you choose. Your URL just tells the computer where to access and display those data.
To continue the analogy from before – think of web hosting as that section you build your virtual business on. Just like in real life, the infrastructure around your property matters. Your web hosting provider is what connects your website to its users by providing all the necessary technical aspects (= infrastructure). Whether the road to your online business is just a dirt track or a 6-lane motorway depends on your web hosting provider.
So where do you start? Oftentimes you can buy hosting from the same place where you bought your domain name. So it pays to compare offers before you buy your domain name and then get it all from the same place.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Web Hosting Provider
Choosing the right web hosting provider for you can be tough. There are SO MANY options out there… Here are a few general pointers to help you pick the one that’s the best fit for you.
Shared hosting is usually what most hosting providers use when your website is stored on their infrastructure. This means that your site is on the same server as a number of other sites, and you share the resources that that server has to offer (disk space, processing power and network bandwidth for example). The servers are fairly generic and may not be optimised for any one particular system – eg WordPress. This is normally the cheapest hosting plan with the big providers.
Dedicated hosting is another step up. If your site generates so much traffic that you need to guaranty a certain level of performance at all times, you have a server for yourself. The main benefit of dedicated hosting after performance is security – as long as your website is secure, there are few other places for attackers to gain a foothold.
Cloud hosting is another ballgame altogether. Your website is on a “server” that is hosted in the cloud on a virtual machine that can share the load with other machines, have additional resources allocated as required, or be moved to another server if your one should fail for whatever reason. This means your uptime is almost 100% and you shouldn’t see any issues with performance.
So ideally, your web hosting provider offers those options in case you need to scale up.
Managed WordPress hosting, is a nice feature if you’re starting out and don’t have much experience with the technical aspects of a website. The installation of WordPress takes a single click, and the hosting provider will look after security updates and patches to keep your site running smoothly. That’s why I’ve chosen to go with the managed WordPress option for my website. And I’m glad I did! Fewer things that I have to take care of. Yay! Additionally, they can optimize the site to increase speed, security, and provide expert support. You can normally change from managed to non-managed without a problem, but going back the other way is usually not (easily) possible.
The only thing I don’t like about it is that I can’t access and change the PHP files directly. This means if there are little things I want to change, I use custom CSS. That, however, is not a great practice. Then again, for someone with next to no coding experience, not being able to access and mutilate those PHP files is arguably a good thing…
How quickly your website responds to a request is a very important factor for optimizing your website’s performance. And – FYI – for optimizing its Google ranking as well. Your website speed is partly determined by how far the web host servers are away from your customer. So, for instance, having the web host servers in the UK, but your main audience in the US might not be your best choice. Check if the web hosting provider has additional data centers across the world or choose one that’s closest to your audience.
Bandwidth is a measure of how well your web hosting provider connects your website. Remember the dirt track vs 6-lane motorway analogy? Bandwidth is usually measured in bits per second and tells you how much data can be transferred in a given time. If you don’t get much traffic and don’t have data-heavy media like embedded videos on your site, it probably doesn’t matter too much. But if you generate a lot of traffic and/or use a lot of media, you’ll start to notice the difference. Larger bandwidth then correlates with longer page load times. And you don’t want that, right?!
Ideally, your website would be accessible ALL THE TIME. But hey, the world is not perfect and even web hosting providers run into the occasional technical difficulties. Uptime tells you well providers manage to eliminate those problems and keep your website up and running. This should be as close to 100% as you can get.
As an online business owner, you depend on your website running smoothly. Therefore you need to be able to get support 24/7 in order to fix any problems as quickly as possible. Of course, you want a support team that’s dedicated, competent and friendly.
Ever noticed that some websites start with “http://” in their URL, while others start with “https://”? The “s” at the end stands for SSL (= Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. If you handle sensitive information like payment information etc, this is a must for you. Besides, good ol’ Google fancies secure websites and rewards them with better rankings.
Who are we kidding, for most of us, price is definitely one of the major factors when choosing a service provider. BUT, you get what you pay for, so don’t limit yourself by choosing a provider that’s cheaper over one that’s a better fit for your needs.
Reliable Web Hosting Providers
How are you doing, lovely? Is your head spinning from all the information yet? 😉 I know, it’s a lot to take in. Especially for tech-challenged persons like myself… Bear with me! Your future self will thank you for putting all this time and energy into getting set up properly. *promise*
This is a tricky bit. As I mentioned before, there are A TON of web hosting providers out there. To make it less confusing, I wanted to highlight three outstanding hosting providers, so you can make an informed decision. Again, there are lots of providers out there, please feel free to check out more options, if you wish! But those are providers that I read really good reviews about and I’m confident would be a solid option for you.
- FastComet web hosting comes with a free domain, 1-click installer, daily backups, and a user-friendly interface.
- Data center locations around the world.
- Three service tiers available (StartSmart, ScaleRight, and SpeedUp).
- It also uses advanced technology to speed up your website (SSD (=solid-state drive)-Only Cloud and Cloudflare CDN (= content delivery network), if you really wanna know. *tech term overwhelm*).
- Moreover, it offers two page builder options: One with nine ready-to-use templates for the less-experienced user or the ones who want results fast. The other option being a drag-and-drop version for building more customised websites (no HTML and CSS coding required).
Furthermore, they provide a comprehensive knowledge-base and 24/7 priority customer support.
- Free SSL certificate only comes with SpeedUp Package (not lowest tier service option).
- The only negative things I found about them was that their phone customer service wasn’t always the most helpful.
- And that there’s a somewhat hidden $19.95 USD setup fee for their one-month plan.
If that something you can live with, just click on the banner below to check them out.
Prices start at pleasingly low $2.95 USD per month and you even get a 45-day money back guarantee!
- Another first-class option for managed WordPress hosting.
- Various data center locations available.
- WP Engine features include 24/7 award-winning customer support, a huge resource center to help you learn more, daily backups, automatic security updates, free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate, advanced security features, content delivery network to make your website faster, scalable service plans and last but not least a 60-day money back guarantee.
- In other words, they are reliable, WordPress pros, secure, optimize your website’s speed and get you helpful customer support when you need it.
- You get the Genesis framework AND all StudioPress Genesis child themes for free as a WP Engine customer (value over $2,300!).
- On the downside, they don’t offer domain registrations, so would have to go and buy your domain from a different provider.
- You are a little restricted when it comes to installing additional plugins – WP Engine won’t allow you to use certain plugins because the might cause conflicts with their features. Does seem like a reasonable thing to me. Why would I want to install conflicting plugins in the first place?
- WP Engine is definitely not your cheapest option out there. Prices start at $35 USD per month. At least you get 2 months free with annual prepay.
Then again, you get what you pay for: A premium done-for-you hassle-free, super-fast and robust hosting solution that is trusted by big brands like National Geographics, SAP or Dropbox.
I’m sure you’ve read lots and lots about BlueHost before because a lot of the big blogger rockstars like Alex and Lauren from Create and Go use BlueHost as their web hosting provider. And if they do, you bet they have their reasons (besides Blue Host offering an enticing affiliate program…).
- Comes with a free domain.
- Multiple data center locations.
- Free SSL certificate.
- Excellent knowledge base.
- User-friendly 1-ClickWordPress Install.
- 24/7 support.
- 30-day money back guarantee.
- Scalable pricing packages for shared hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting. Despite saying differently on the banner below, I just check their website and prices for shared hosting start from as low as $2.95 USD per month – at least for a limited time!
- Customer support doesn’t always seem to be the most knowledgeable.
- Only one data center in Europe (London), so might not be ideal if most of your audience is located in Europe.
- Ranks only average in regards to speed and performance when compared to other big web hosting providers.
That being said, if their services are good enough for the big blogger rockstars that get a huge amount of traffic to their websites, I’d argue that their services will be good enough for most of us.
Ok, time for a little side-by-side comparison in table form!
Found something that suits your needs? NOW you can go ahead and buy that domain name and hosting plan. 🙂
Once you bought a hosting plan, you’ll need to install WordPress. Now, this may sound scary for those who are less tech-savy. Lucky for you, it’s not difficult at all! At least not, if you choose one of the providers I mentioned above, because they offer a 1-click WordPress installer which makes it super easy for you to get started.
Choosing a Theme for Your Website
Congratulations! 🙂 You now own that gem of a domain name, you have your platform and hosting figured out, now the next thing you need to do is choosing a pretty theme and maybe additional plugins for your website. IF you went with the self-hosted WordPress option that is. If you went with the hosted option, you can skip this step.
Sticking to that street address/property/scaffold analogy – what you’ve built so far is the bones of your online business. Now you want it to look pretty to attract your ideal customers. Enter: themes & plugins. They combine different styles and functionalities to help you build the front end you envisioned for your online business.
WordPress comes with a variety of free themes to choose from. If you want a less generic look and advanced functionality and flexibility, however, there are a lot of paid options available. A good place to start looking for interesting themes is Creative Market.
That’s where I bought the theme for my website (“Tuulikki” by Sparrow & Snow, in case you were wondering). Another great option for finding themes is StudioPress. As I mentioned before, if you choose WP Engine as your web hosting provider, you’ll get the Genesis framework and the gorgeous StudioPress themes FOR FREE.
Considerations for Choosing a Theme
When deciding on a theme, there are a few important criteria that you should definitely look out for:
- easy navigation
- responsiveness (= displays well on different screen sizes)
- support (paid themes offer better support)
The rest is really up to you, your personal preferences and of course your business needs (think own online shop for example).
Choosing Plugins for Your Website
Ideally, your theme should include most of the functionality you need. But there a few extras that you’ll need to add via plugins, like handy SEO help, Google analytics or mail service integration.
As a rule of thumb, I would say limit yourself to those Plugins you really need. Having too many Plugins is not a great thing – as you’ll find often enough they don’t play well together…
You can find a few helpful free WordPress Plugins for new blogs here.
When deciding how to create a website, you need to consider your domain name, choose a platform, buy a hosting plan and decide on a theme and plugins for your website. Once that’s done, you can start adding content and conquer the world! 😉
I seriously applaud you for sticking around till the end of this post! Those technicalities are not the most exciting topics to write/read about… I know. But they are important and so we have to deal with them. *cheers to acting like a responsible adult* 😉
As usual, I’d love to hear your comments and I would seriously appreciate if you could pin and share this post to help others as well.
And if you sign up for my newsletter, you make sure not to miss the next part of the Roadmap to a Successful Online Business blog post series! 🙂
XIII: 6 WORK-LIFE BALANCE TIPS FOR SOLOPRENEURS