This step-by-step guide is for beginners and is super easy to use. You’ll love this WordPress website setup guide. I update this guide every 3 months so you always get up-to-date information.
Why make your website using WordPress
Before we dive into the guide, let’s see why WordPress is the best option to make a website for your business.
Since you are building a business, it’s important to build your site using a stable, powerful yest easy to use platform. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that makes it super easy for you to manage the content (pages, images, blog posts etc.) on your site. WordPress is also one of he easiest website platforms or CMS to setup and manage. It’s the most popular website building platform – over 29% of sites on the internet use WordPress according to this study by W3techs.
Automattic, the company behind WordPress, releases new versions of WordPress almost every month to keep it up-to-date with latest development in web technology.
The structure of WordPress make it highly flexible. You can give your site any look and adding almost any feature or functionality. Just use the right theme and plugins – there are thousands of them available for free. If you need something not available for free, you can always buy a premium theme or plugin for it.
Now that you know why you should use WordPress to build your site, let’s jump in and start creating your site using WordPress.
Step 1: Decide the type of website for your business
Setting up a website is the first step in creating an online business. While you can set up a Facebook page to market your business, a website gives you more control over your online presence. You can also promote your website using multiple channels through a website.
The most basic website consists of a few pages with a contact form and phone number for customers to call or contact the business. Depending on the type of business and goals for the online channel, a business can have a basic website or a very complex one.
A well-designed website is one of the most effective ways for a modern business to sell its products and services. With so many options available for building a website, it is both easy and affordable for even a small business to build one.
Business Websites can be broadly categorized into the following types:
- Blog / Content / News sites – these sites are primarily content sites. For example, CNN is an online news site. Many individuals write blogs to share their knowledge and expertise with others. Most media or newspaper / magazine sites are news sites. News sites are designed to handle large number of daily visitors but they are generally not capable of selling online. Most of these sites make money by displaying advertisements.
- Lead Generation Sites – Many things are too complex to sell online. Most services cannot be sold online because they are customized to the needs of the buyer. In such cases, businesses set up a site that describes their services and has a lead form that prospects can fill out to contact the business. If you plan to sell a business service like website development, you will need to create a site that can generate leads.
- Software as a Service Sites – Software as a Service (or SaaS) is a class of software that is hosted on a website. Instead of downloading and installing the software on a computer, users log into the website and use the software. SaaS companies generally charge users a monthly subscription fee instead of a one-time license. If you plan to set up a website to sell SaaS, you will have to integrate your software with a payment gateway so users can sign up for the service online.
- E-commerce Sites – These are sites, both big and small, that sell products online. Many e-commerce sites sell millions of products. Due to the sheer size of products, visitors and number of transactions happening each day, these sites require specialized technology infrastructure that other sites don’t need. At a minimum, an ecommerce site uses shopping cart, inventory management system and payment gateways.
The type of website you need depends on the purpose of the website. If the goal is to sell products, an e-commerce capable site is needed. On the other hand, if the goal is to build awareness about your business, generate leads or simply blog about something, a blog site is enough.
A website provides information about the company or acts as a way to sell directly to customers. If you don’t intend to collect payment on the website, then setting up the site is a lot easier and faster.
Step 2: Book a Domain Name for Your Website
Domain name is your website’s name or address. For example, Amazon’s domain is www.Amazon.com.
Deciding your domain name is one of the most important decisions about building a website. You want a domain that is same as the business or brand name.
Since the domain is your business’s address on the web, it is important to have a domain people can easily remember and enter in their browser. A good idea is to keep it short and include the company name, brand name, product name or a commonly used phrase used to describe the product. Use a domain name with simple spelling, as people need to type it into their browser.
If you are going to create a blog or a niche website, consider using a domain with the main keyword in in. For example, if you are going to blog about how to set up a WordPress website, you can use a domain name that includes “WordPress” and “Website“. A good domain name for this site could be www.howtomakewordpresswebsite.com. Including the keyword in domain sometimes helps the site rank higher in Google search results for that keyword.
Read our blog post to learn how to select domain name for your website.
You can book or purchase the domain name through a domain registrar like GoDaddy. However, I recommend you buy it along with webhosting as most web hosting companies will give you a free domain when you buy hosting.
Since all domain names must be unique, there is no guarantee the domain name you are looking for will be available when you want to book it. Therefore, the first step is to go to a domain registrar and search for the domain name.
In the above picture, the user is searching for domain name ‘mbaindigitalmarketing.com’ on GoDaddy’s website. The image below shows the search result:
As you can see, the domain name is available for purchase. The user can pay the registration fee and book this domain. In case the desired domain is not available, you can either choose another domain, change the TLD or try to buy the domain from existing owner.
Step 3: Buy WordPress Web Hosting for Creating Your Website
Once you have decided the domain name and checked its availability, the next step is to buy web hosting and domain name.
All websites need a server to run on. While you can set up the site on a computer in your home or office, it is not going to be safe and reliable. The computer may crash, there may be power loss or someone may accidentally switch it off. For most businesses and individuals, a computer sitting in office is not secure. Anyone can access the computer, change the website or steal information from it.
It is also quite expensive and time consuming to install and maintain all the required hardware and software on the computer. Therefore, most businesses rent space on a web server maintained by a specialized company called web hosting company.
A web hosting company has a secure and large data center with thousands of servers. It has the technical expertise and resources to maintain these servers. The hosting company rents space on servers to small businesses, individuals and other businesses. The rental includes internet bandwidth for serving the site, server space, software and support needed to keep the server running. The service is called web hosting or simply hosting.
Most businesses buy web hosting service from hosting companies. There are two types of hosting services:
- Shared Hosting – in this option, multiple companies rent space on the same server and host their website. This is a cheap option and most businesses start with a shared hosting. The main drawback is that a website in shared hosting can handle a limited number of visitors, usually up to 10,000 per month before becoming too slow. Shared hosting plans generally restrict the kind of software you install and run on your site as it may interfere with other sites hosted on the same server.
- Dedicated Hosting – in this option, you can rent an entire server for your website. Having your own server makes it more secure, and fast. Dedicated servers can also handle more traffic. You can also install software and tools specific to your needs. But dedicated servers are also more expensive.
There are literally thousands of companies selling web hosting. Finding the right web hosting company is a big challenge for most small business owners and individuals. I have created a separate post with detailed review of top ten web hosting companies.
I recommend you buy web hosting from Bluehost since you are just starting with your first website. They offer affordable plans with good service and the starter plan has everything you need to get make your first website. They offer 1-click WordPress install that makes it very easy to setup the site even for beginners.
To buy web hosting, go to Bluehost.com
They are always running offers that can save you 50-60% on the listed price. While the name of the promotions varies, the actual offer is rarely any different.
Click the green get started now button to go to plans and pricing page.
You will see three shared hosting plans listed here. You should select the Basic plan since you are going to set up only one domain or website. You get 50MB disk space and unlimited data transfer in this plan which is more than sufficient for your for your small business website. The only limitation is the number of emails (you get 5 personalized email accounts) but it is usually enough for most starters.
The next step is to book your domain. You will get a free domain with your hosting plan so go ahead and enter the domain you selected in step 2 in the new domain box on sign up form.
Click Next to go to Create your account page.
Enter your personal information on this page. You can also sign up with your Google account to speed things up. After you have entered personal information, scroll down to select your package and options.
Make sure you select the right duration in the Account plan. You get discounted price for selecting longer duration so choose wisely. If you want your site to be backed up regularly, select the $2.99 / month back up option. You really don’t need the Search Engine Jumpstart package.
SiteLock Security Find is a good thing to have, especialy if you are creating a site for your business. It will protect you from malware and increase trust in your business. SiteLock Security Find covers:
- Basic Spam Monitoring: Checks your site daily to make sure it is free of spam lists
- Basic Business Verification: Validates that your business exists and can be trusted
- Site Verification Certificate: Increase conversions and develop customer trust
- Blacklist Monitoring: Avoid your site being quarantined by search engines
- Basic Malware Monitoring: Scans your site daily for malware that would block potential visitors
Finally, enter your card details, select the Terms & Conditions check box and click Submit button.
Step 4: Install WordPress to Create Your Website
This should be a breeze with any web hosting company you select. Most hosting companies offer 1-click WordPress install.
Follow these steps to install WordPress on your domain:
- Log into your hosting account
- Go to cPanle or whatever control panel the hosting company uses
- You should see an option to install WordPress using installer. Click the WordPress icon to go to installer
- Enter your domain name, select administrator user id & password and click install button
That’s it! Your WordPress site is now ready for you to setup. You can customize the look and feel with a theme, add features using plugins and start adding pages & posts to your website.
Step 5: Configure Your New WordPress Website
Once you have installed, WordPress, you can log in using one of the two urls:
If you domain is abc.com, go to http://abc.com/wp-admin to log into the site. You can log into WordPress using the admin user id and password created during installation. Once logged in, you will see the WordPress dashboard:
You can install new themes and plugins from the dashboard. You can also create pages and posts from here. The first thing you need to do after you log in is to configure WordPress settings.
In the General option under Settings, you can set Site Name and Tagline. You can update the admin email id, set time zone, site language and date format. You can also control whether a visitor to the site can register as a user with WordPress or not.
Under the Reading option, you can configure your home page as well as whether search engines can index the site. You want your site to be indexed so it can be included in the search results. However, if the site is not yet ready for the external world, then you do not want search engines to index it.
You can set your home page to display your latest posts. But in most cases, you will want to create a home page that talks about your business or products. So you will create a new page from the Pages menu and select it as your home page.
Under Permalink option, you can configure the URL structure for pages on your website. It is a very important setting with huge impact on your site’s performance in search results. Normally, you would select the Post Name option. When you do that, the URL of a new page will be the same as the title of the page. You can always change the default URL generated by WordPress.
WordPress has three main elements:
- The core WordPress platform – this is constantly updated by Automattic and individuals who contribute to the code base.
- Themes – they control the look and feel of a WordPress site. A theme includes layout, styles and elements for home page and other commonly used pages like ‘About Us’ and ‘Pricing’ page. There are thousands of free and paid themes available for any specific need. By using an appropriate theme, you can give your site a unique look.
Themes and Plugins together make WordPress highly customizable, a big reason for its popularity.
- Plugins – these are add-on modules you can install and manage from the WordPress admin panel. Plugins are written by individuals and businesses who want to add new features to WordPress. This is one of the key reasons for WordPress’ success as you can add pretty much any feature through a plugin. Most plugins are free but there are many paid or premium plugins also. If you can’t find a plugin for a specific need, you can always write it yourself or hire a programmer to develop the plugin.
Once you have done these configuration settings, its time to select a theme and required plugins for your site.
Installing a WordPress theme on your site
When you setup WordPress on your site, a collection of basic themes is also installed. These themes are free and come with the standard WordPress setup files. But if you want to build business online, you would want to give your site a unique look. You do that by installing a theme that gives you the look you want.
The great thing about WordPress is that it is more than just a software – it’s an ecosystem. There are thousands of developers creating themes and plugins to meet every conceivable look and functionality. Many of these are free and I highly recommend using a free theme till you have figured out the exact look for your website.
To find a free theme and install it on your site, click Appearance > Themes from the left navigation menu in the dashboard.
Click Add New button to search for themes. You will see a page full of free themes:
You can search for the type of theme you want using the search function. If you mouse over a theme, you can see options to preview your site with that theme and an Install button. Once you have found the theme you like, click the Install button.
After you have created some pages & posts and played around a bit with the theme, you will most likely want to buy a premium (paid) theme to give your site a specific appearance. There are many WordPress theme companies selling premium themes. But there are two themes I recommend depending on what you want to do:
If you want a general purpose theme with all features to make a small business website, get Avada from Themeforest. Avada is one of the most popular WordPress themes powering almost 400,000 sites. You can do virtually anything with Avada. Themeforest is the world’s largest marketplace for software, tools and templates. Anything you buy from Themeforest comes with one year support and lifetime updates.
If you want to create a blog, sell digital products or memberships, I recommend OptimizePress. Select the core package that gives you 3 licenses so you can install OptimizePress theme on up to 3 websites.
I made this site with OptimizePress and it’s great for building an online business. It has everything you need to create and set up offers (downloads), sell courses, eBooks, set up memberships and of course, create a blog. It’s very easy to use and you get lifetime updates with your license. There is a 30-day money back guarantee in case you don’t like it.
Installing a WordPress plugin on your site
WordPress comes loaded with some cool features but you can make it even better with plugins. You can find a plugin for almost anything you can imagine – from adding social sharing buttons to adding eCommerce functionality. Adding a new plugin is just like installing a new theme.
Click Plugins > Add New from the left hand navigation menu. You will see a page full of plugins. Search for what you are looking using the search box. In the image below, I searched for social sharing and got these results:
For each plugin, you can see the number of active installations and ratings. Always select a plugin that has been installed on large number of sites and has at least a 4-star rating. If you click the More Details button, you can see more information about the plugin such as whether it is compatible with your version of WordPress and how to use the plugin on your site.
Here is a list of plugins you should install on your site:
- SEO by Yoast – the most powerful and popular SEO plugin for WordPress. use it to generate sitemap and optimize your pages & posts.
- 301 Redirect – used to redirect old / non-functional URLs to new URLs. As your site grows, you may end up with a bunch of pages whose URL has changed. You can redirect people trying to access the old URL to the page’s new URL using this plugin.
- Contact Form 7 – Your website will need at least one form for visitors to contact you. In reality, you will need multiple forms on the site and Contact Form 7 is the most popular free plugin for creating forms. If you need more control over styling and form behavior, you can buy a premium form plugin such as Formidable Pro.
- Postman SMTP – This plugin is a must to control the emails sent by your website. By default, your site will send email using the php email function built into WordPress. A more secure and flexible method of sending emails is to use a SMTP plugin like Postman.
- WP Smush – This plugin crunches images you upload to your site to reduce their size and make them load faster. If you are going to use high quality images on your site (which site doesn’t?) then this plugin is an absolute must.
After you have installed the required theme and plugins, you are ready to start adding pages to your site. In WordPress, you can create two types of pages:
- Page – Page is used for permanent pages on your site or for pages that may need custom styling. For example, the Home, About and Contact pages on your site require different layouts and styling. You will create them using the page option. To create a page, click Pages > Add New from the left hand navigation menu. Each page in WordPress follows a standard template or style. You can select the template for the page in Page Attributes box. The template controls the layout of the page. You need to give the page a Title. In the text editor section, you will enter the page content, including images and video embed codes.
- Post – A post is a special type of page in WordPress. It is generally used for writing blogs posts or articles. All posts follow a standard layout that you can set in your theme. Posts are meant for creating marketing content (like this page). Most of the pages on a WordPress site are posts. You create a post exactly like you create a page. You can also assign your posts a category to better organize them and to control how they are listed on the website.
Once you have created all the pages and posts you want, you are ready to go live. You can now tell the world about your cool new site.
Bonus: What to do after you launch your website
After you launch your website, you need to optimize it for SEO, build backlinks to improve its authority and promote it using social media.
When adding a new page or post, research the keyword you would want the page to rank for in Google search results. Make sure you optimize the page using SEO Yoast plugin. Here is a great post that describes how to optimize a WordPress site for SEO.
If you want to learn how to build backlinks, read this epic guide on link building by Brain Dean of Backlinko.
To learn how to promote your site on social media, read Neil Patel’s Social Media strategy blog.