How to start a website with WordPress
You login. You’re eager to write the first blog post, create your homepage, maybe design a sexy landing page… and BAM you’re lost in a forest of unfamiliar weirdness. You’re wondering how to start a WordPress website and the answer isn’t clear.
People told you WordPress.com was the best platform for blogging, e-commerce, small business websites, etc, but you can’t understand why.
Those people were not lying to you. WordPress is wonderful. What they failed to mention is that the interface is not very user-friendly if you’ve never used it. It’s a remarkably powerful platform, but with a steeper learning curve than most.
Do not give up. You’re in the right place. I once sat right where you are as a tech-savvy guy with a blank stare on my face, hopelessly trying to figure out how to get started on my WordPress site.
43% of all websites are WordPress websites. You don’t get to own nearly half the market share of a massive industry by being mediocre. I want to help by showing you how to set up, maximize, and maintain your WordPress website.
In this article we will look at:
I promise not to confuse you or speak like a nerd. Let’s dive in!
People like to know what they’re getting into before they start. WordPress has simple, upfront pricing plans that include a little something for everyone.
How much does a WordPress website cost?
WordPress offers 5 pricing levels for creating websites on their platform. The higher the level, the greater the capabilities and features. Prices go from $0 up to $45 per month. The free version is fine if you’re just testing the waters. Try it out. See if you can make it happen. The bottom line is consistency. If you’re consistent, you can build a successful website. If you decide to go all in, you can always upgrade your site later without losing any of your posts or pages. Here’s the wordpress.com subscription pricing breakdown.
|$0||$4 / month||$8 / month||$25 / month||$45 / month|
|15 themes to choose from||15 themes to choose from||Over 900 premium themes included||Over 900 premium themes included||Additional e-commerce themes for online stores|
|Ads are displayed in the footer||Ads are removed||Upload videos||50,000 plugins available to improve your site||50,000 plugins available to improve your site|
|Branded with wordpress.com||Branded with wordpress.com||Live chat support||Advanced SEO tools||Accept payments in 60+ countries|
|Unlimited posts and pages||Unlimited posts and pages||Google analytics integration||Remove wordpress.com branding||Integrates with shipping carriers|
As you can see, there’s a ton happening here. So let’s go a little deeper. Each of the free themes is attractive, mobile responsive so they work great on computers and phones alike, and they’re easy to edit once you get the hang of the interface.
However, you don’t want random advertisements appearing at the bottom of your web pages. This is why I strongly discourage using the 100% free plan. Especially if you want to give your best effort toward making this work for you. Notice as soon as you pay $4 per month for the “personal” plan, the ads disappear. That’s only $48 per year (it’s cheaper to pay annually). It’s worth it.
The WordPress branding in the footer doesn’t bother me. It’s discrete enough that it doesn’t interfere with your site. Plus, I’m happy to let people know that my site is a WordPress site.
PRO TIP: Don’t over do it! You buy the most expensive site out of the gates, write one post and half a homepage and call it quits… poor investment. Also, don’t overthink it. As I said, you definitely don’t want ads popping up on your site, but if you realize you need more from your site after you purchase a plan, upgrades are simple and seamless.
Choosing Your Theme
The look of your WordPress site communicates a lot about you, your products, your business, your knowledge, and what you write about. Choose a theme that fits your personality and purpose. The proper look connects at a visual level with your audience and strengthens your message.
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a pre-built website template with a specific, unified look that includes fonts, colors, and page layouts. Themes make it easy to add content and build pages without knowing how to code. The beauty of WordPress.com is the vast number of themes you can choose from.
If you subscribe to Premium or better, you can customize your theme for an even greater look and feel. From simple items like fonts and colors, to more advanced options like custom CSS (cascading style sheets is a rule-based coding language) for stylizing buttons, graphics, and text.
Let’s look at how to choose the right theme for your purpose so you can avoid getting lost in the rabbit hole looking at every single theme available.
Free vs Premium Themes
With the “free” and “personal” plans, you are limited to 15 free themes provided (although, there’s more than 15 because you will likely have access to last year’s themes as well). This makes your choice relatively simple.
You will notice there are themes that support different niches. There are WordPress themes for blogging, music, education, a newsletter, several product-focused themes, and a couple of portfolio themes. Don’t be fooled. Simply activating the theme doesn’t make your site look like the beautiful pictures. There is customization required.
With a “premium” or higher subscription, you can use themes labeled “free” or “premium”. You also have the mysterious button in the top right corner of the theme selection screen that says “Install New Theme”. This is the rabbit hole that I mentioned earlier.
Clicking “Install New Theme” shows you a few thousand WordPress.org themes. The “free” and “premium” themes I mentioned above are built by WordPress. The WordPress.org themes are typically built by a third-party company that designs WordPress themes to sell. With Premium and higher subscriptions, you have access to these themes for free, however, many have a subscription fee to unlock all the features of the theme. Make sure you read the description.
Are you blogging? Which blog template appeals to you visually? Look at the fonts and the colors. Look at how others have used it. Check out the “live demo” to see it in action.
Are you a photographer? Portfolio or magazine themes will work well for you. These are visually pleasing layouts with beautiful galleries and clean lines.
Are you selling products? The product-focused themes are abundant and each one is unique. Depending on how much business you plan to do, you will want to look into Business or E-Commerce subscription to see if incorporating payments and shipping options is needed.
Once you’ve figured it out, click on the pink “Activate” button. Remember, you can always change your theme. It may take some work to make it look right, but you’re never married to one theme.
Adding Your Content
Now that you’ve chosen a design for your WordPress website, it’s time to add your content. There are a few different ways to do this. Let’s look at 2 different ways to present your content: posts and pages.
What is the difference between posts and pages in WordPress?
A post is a blog post. It is categorized and tagged and automatically appears in your “post feed” and on your “blog” page, which is already created for you. A page is a static page on your website, which is typically accessible from the main menu.
Editing Posts and Pages
Both posts and pages are editable in what’s called “block editing”. For example, there is a block for a paragraph of text, there is a block for an image, there is a block that contains an image and text either side-by-side or top-over-bottom. There are hundreds of blocks and they all have their own purpose. You simply click on the block you want to add to the page and it appears.
You want to pay special attention to the blocks listed under the “design” section when you’re designing a page or post. These blocks help you to design a layout so you can place other blocks where you want them to go. For example, when you add a “columns” block and select 3 columns, you can then choose a content block to go in each of the columns. Like one text block, one image block and one button block horizontally aligned across the page. The columns are just empty space holders until you add something to them.
Using the “columns” block also allows you to determine the width of your content. A “full width” column extends from one side of the screen to the other. A column with “wide width” (like this paragraph) doesn’t quite extend all the way across the screen, leaving white space on the sides.
It’s important to experiment with different design elements to create the look you are trying to achieve. Alternatively, you can select a pre-built page from existing templates within your theme. You can do this by selecting “page” in the upper right corner of the page you’re editing and clicking on “template”. You will see a list of available templates you can use.
Your blog is like a magazine or newspaper. Blog posts are the articles that make up the contents of your blog. Note that if you’re only planning to build a small business website, a blog is still an important piece of the puzzle.
To create a blog post, click “posts” in the lefthand navigation within the WordPress interface, and click the pink button that says “add new post” in the top right corner. Give it a title and start writing.
The pages of your website convey information about you, what you do, your products and services, social proof and testimonials, how you help people, and calls to action.
Your pages should be clear and concise. How do your products and services solve problems? Use customer pain points to speak to how your specific products and services can help relieve their pains. The potential customer should have no questions about what to do if they want you to help them.
Calls to action can be simple contact forms, questionnaires, free downloads, calendar links, and a whole host of other things.
Adding a page is just like adding a post. Click “pages” in the lefthand navigation, then click the pink button that says “add new”. You will be prompted to choose a pre-built template from your theme, or “blank canvas”, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Titling your page is a bit different than most people think. For example, your homepage should not be titled “home”. You want to use keywords that your ideal client would type into Google to find you. Once you have a title, a design, and content, it’s time to customize.
Customizing Your WordPress Site
One of the best things about WordPress is the ability to customize your entire site. So, if you don’t like one of the fonts in your theme, you can change it. If you want specific colors for certain parts of your site, you can add them. On a more advanced level, you can add custom coding to really punch up the look of your site.
As long as your theme supports full site editing, you can create a style for the different blocks you use to build your site. Your theme will tell you whether it supports full site editing in the description when you first choose it. You can click on “Appearance” in the lefthand navigation to see your theme’s description.
To create a style for your site, roll over “appearance” in the lefthand navigation and click on “editor”. From here you can click inside of the window that displays your site.
Then you will click the black and white circle icon in the top right of the screen. This opens up a long list of blocks for customization. For example, you can make all buttons on your site use a specific font and color scheme. You can choose that all your headings be a certain size, font, and color. This saves time instead of changing each element every time you add it. The customizations are never ending. Explore this at great length.
Adding Widgets and Plugins
Within each WordPress website theme, there are designated areas where you can place widgets. Most themes have a widget area in the sidebar (left or right side of each page) and the footer. There are themes with special widget areas. You can customize your widget area once and it will appear the same on every page.
What is a WordPress widget?
A widget is a small block of content that is able to be placed in the sidebar or footer of your WordPress website. Widgets can connect to your social media feeds, capture email addresses, or contain a simple call to action like “Subscribe”, or “Book a Meeting” buttons.
There are shopping carts, blog post carousels, contact forms, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and the list goes on. Use widgets to drive people to your social media page or download resources. Make sure you preview your page before you publish it after adding a new widget. They don’t always play nicely with certain themes and you will need to adjust the settings to make them look right if that’s the case.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
WordPress plugins are powerful add-ons that extend and strengthen the functionality of your site. Most are installed with one click and require little effort to set up. There are more than 50,000 plugins that range from boosting your SEO to creating a more friendly “drag-and-drop” style page editor.
Search through the plugins library to find help with marketing, driving traffic, optimizing your images, creating pop-ups, or building subscriber lists. You need to be careful with how many plugins you install as they can sometimes slow down the performance of your site. If you find that you have no use for a plugin that you’ve installed, you should delete it immediately. You can do that by rolling over “Plugins” in the lefthand navigation and clicking on “installed plugins”. Find the one you want to delete and click “deactivate”. Once it has been deactivated you can click “delete”.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization, when done properly, will increase visibility and traffic for your website by making it clear what your website is about across the whole site, and structuring it in a user-friendly way. SEO is constantly changing and evolving, however there are some foundational principles that you can use to help your pages rank higher on Google.
I have created a FREE downloadable On-Page SEO Guide and Checklist for you to use.
Starting a great website on the WordPress platform doesn’t have to be difficult. Take your time and pick a pricing plan that works for you now, knowing you can always upgrade later. Choose a theme that speaks to your personality or your brand, something that will strengthen you message. Choose how you want to lay out your site and start adding pages and blog posts. If anything becomes out of date, update as needed. Choose your plugins and start optimizing your site. Think of it as a journey instead of a destination. Your website will never be finished and that’s ok. Just start building!
Don’t have time for this? Schedule a call to see how we can help! Or send an email to email@example.com.