After you get your web hosting account setup, the first order of business is to install WordPress into your hosting account. Almost every major web hosting service will allow you to do this with a single click inside your hosting account’s control panel. The easiest way to figure out how to install WordPress on your particular web host is to do a Google search for the name of your webhost and the words “install WordPress.” If you are unable to figure out how to install WordPress on your hosting account, email your web hosting provider’s support email address and they will often either do it for you or point you in the right direction so that you can do it yourself.
Choosing a Theme for Your Website
Once you get WordPress installed, the next step is to choose a theme for your website. Your website’s theme will provide all of the visual and design elements for your website, so make sure that you choose a theme that you like. WordPress does include a standard theme, but you should take the time to install a custom theme that better matches the brand you are creating. There are a number of websites which offer a directory of WordPress themes that you can use on your website. Some WordPress themes are available for free, but higher-quality and more customizable themes usually cost between $20.00 and $50.00 to use on your website.
Here is a list of theme directories you can browse:
- Creative Market – https://creativemarket.com/themes
- Color Lib – https://colorlib.com/wp/free-wordpress-themes/ (includes free themes)
- Elegant Themes – http://www.elegantthemes.com/
- Simple Themes – https://www.simplethemes.com/
- Theme Circle – http://www.themecircle.net/
- Theme Forest – http://themeforest.net/category/wordpress
- WordPress.org Theme Directory – https://wordpress.org/themes/ (includes free themes)
When you purchase a theme or download a free theme, you will be given a Zip file that contains all of the various elements of your theme. In order to upload and install that theme, login to WordPress on your website. Click on “appearance” in the left navigation menu then click the “add new” button at the top. You will then see a button that says “upload theme”. Then, select the theme file from your computer and click the “install now” button. After your theme has been uploaded, activate your theme and your entire website will adopt your theme’s look and feel.
You may want to further customize your website after installing your theme. For example, you might want to add in your own logo, change the colors or move elements around your theme. Most paid WordPress themes come with their own control panel that allow you to customize most elements of your theme. Look for the “theme options” menu item under WordPress’s appearance tab. Some themes also create their own top-level menu item in WordPress’s navigation. If you want to customize something that your theme doesn’t allow you to change inside of its provided control panel, you may need the help of a freelance web designer to make the changes you desire.
Must-Have Plugins For Every WordPress Website
The features and functionality of WordPress can be expanded through the use of add-on software, known as plugins. There are plugins that available that add forms to your website, prevent spammers from posting comments on your website, add an e-commerce store to your website, place landing pages on your site, improve your website’s search rankings, track how many people visit your website and perform many other useful tasks.
Here are some of the plug-ins that I add to every WordPress website that I use:
- Super Cache – Super Cache will create a static copy of the pages on your website to improve performance and reduce your website’s load time. Using a caching plugin like Super Cache will also allow your server to have more people on your website at the same time without slowing to a crawl.
- Clean Contact – Clean Contact will put a basic contact form on the contact page of your website. It’s lightweight and works well. If you want to include more complicated forms on your website, consider using Contact Form 7 (www.contactform7.com).
- Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will create an XML sitemap that Google, Bing and other search-engines can use to make sure that they have properly indexed all of the pages on your website. After installing this plugin, make sure to submit your sitemap to Google with the Google Search Console (www.google.com/webmasters/tools/) and to Bing with Bing Webmaster Tools (www.bing.com/webmaster/).
- Yoast SEO – This plugin will take care of all of the technical optimizations need to have your website rank well in search engines. Yoast SEO also forces you to choose a keyword to focus on in your articles and then makes sure that you use that keyword appropriately so that you have a better chance of ranking for it in Google and Bing.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics is a free visitor tracking services from Google. By placing a snippet of code on your website or using a Google Analytics plugin, Google will track each of your visitors, how they got to your website and what pages they visited on your website. Everyone hoping to sell something through their website should have Google Analytics installed because it shows how many people are on your website and what they do when they are on your website.
- Social Sharing Plugins – There are a variety of plugins that will add social media sharing buttons to your website, which will easily allow your readers to share your content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. I have personally used the plugin Social Media Feather to add social sharing functionality to my websites, but there are many other equally good social sharing plugins available for WordPress.
- A Backup Plugin – Given the amount of work you’re doing to build your website and fill it with valuable content, you’re going to want a backup plan in case something goes wrong and your files somehow get deleted. There are many plugins that make it easy to regularly back up your files and your database of posts automatically, such as WPBackItUp. Install a backup plugin right away, even though you hope to never need to use its restore function.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of plugins that are available for WordPress. You can view a list of the most popular WordPress plugins at https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/popular/. To install one of these plugins, click the “plugins” menu item inside of your WordPress installation. Then, click the “Add New” button at the top and search for the name of the plugin you want to install. Click the “Install Now” button next to the plugin you want to install, then click the “Activate Plugin” link after the plugin has been installed to enable the plugin.
Try to limit the number of plugins that you install to the essentials. Installing too many plugins will slow down your website. Since 40% of web users will abandon a website that doesn’t load in three seconds, it’s important to make sure that your website is quick and snappy (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/). You should also delete any plugins that you aren’t actively using, for both security and performance reasons. You can always go back and reinstall a plugin that you deleted if you decide that you want to use it again.
Additional Tasks to Complete Prior to Launch
At this point, all of the technical infrastructure you need for your website is in place. You have setup a copy of WordPress on your web hosting account. You have chosen a theme for your website and have installed some basic plugins to extend the functionality of your website. You have submitted your website to Google and Bing and have setup Google Analytics to track how many people have gone to your website. It’s now time to start filling out some of the base content for your site and complete a few other remaining tasks before launching your website:
- Setup Email Opt-In Forms – You should start collecting email addresses on your website from day one. Setup an account with an email service provider like Drip (www.getdrip.com), MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) or Aweber (www.aweber.com) prior to your launch and use a plugin or service like Opt-in Monster (www.optinmonster.com) or SumoMe (www.sumome.com) to collect your initial opt-ins. Setting up your email service provider and creating effective opt-ins is covered in detail in my other book, Email Marketing Demystified, which is available at www.myemailmarketingbook.com.
- Create Your Navigation Menu – Your navigation menu is a hierarchical directory of the types of content that is available on your website. Your navigation menu should link to the important pages on your website, such as your about page and contact page, and the top-level categories that you create in WordPress. You should create a category for each subject you plan on writing about, then tag each post that you write with that category so that readers can easily find the content they are most interested in.
- Write Your About Page – Your about page should contain the mission statement for your business, some personal information about you and highlight some of the best content on your website. Include a picture of yourself so that readers can have a personal connection with you. HubSpot has put together a list of well-written about pages that’s worth checking out at http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/remarkable-about-us-page-examples.
- Write Your Contact Page – Your contact page contains information for people that want to get ahold of you. Include your email address, links to your social media profiles and a contact form (such as the one offered by Clean Contact). I recommend against putting your phone number and mailing address on your contact page, because there are crazy people on the Internet and you don’t want to make it too easy for people to find you.
- Write Your First Five Blog Posts – You need to have something available for people to read when you launch your website. You can’t simply publish one article and tell people to come back next week to read your next post. Put several articles on your website prior to launch, so that readers can spend some time on your website and become further engaged with the content that you create.
- Fill Out Your Sidebar – Almost every WordPress theme comes with a sidebar, which is a relatively-narrow column of content that sits next to the main body of each article. In your sidebar, you should place a brief bio about yourself, links to your most recent articles, any ad placements you want to include and an email opt-in form. You can setup various sidebar elements using the built-in widget functionality that is included with WordPress. You can view how I have put the sidebar together on my personal website at www.mattpaulson.com.
- Setup Your Ad Placements (Optional) – Create an account with an ad network like Google AdSense and place ad units on your website so that you can begin to generate revenue. This is not critically important to do before launching your website, but you should put up your ad-units early-on in the life of your website. Working with ad networks and placing ad units is covered in detail in chapter 6.