I recently ran a free online training for the VACT Community on how to build a WordPress website for under £20. I shared the 8 steps you need to build a website and a heap of strategies that I use when building websites for myself and clients. This is a long post so grab a coffee and notebook! Or better still, bookmark this page so you can keep coming back to it.
Why do I need a website?
You, me, everyone researches online today when they’re looking to buy a product or service. When we have a problem or issue that needs resolving we now instantly turn to our mobiles for an answer. We check out what potential solutions there are, who is providing the solution and what it costs. We ask for recommendations and check testimonials. We check their website to see if that business can help.
And our potential customers are doing the exact same thing! Your prospects could be searching for your products and/or services at any time 24/7 so having presence online both while you’re sleeping or busy serving clients, it can be filtering out time-wasters and nurturing potential ideal clients.
Which is why any new business needs to have a website. It’s tells people you’re a serious business, it allows potential customers to check you out before they pick up the phone or contact you. With a website, you can reach a much wider audience beyond your own network of people who know you.
So here are the 8 steps how to build a WordPress website
How to Build a WordPress Website (8 steps)
STEP 1 – Domain name
Your domain name is the www bit of your web address. It’s a nice easy way to tell a web browser where to find the files that make up your website. It’s a bit like your postal address so the postman knows where to send your mail.
Domain names come with extensions like .co.uk, .uk which indicate that you’re UK based (the one to get if you only serve UK customers). They can also end in .co .com, .biz which are not country specific and indicate worldwide coverage. There are also more tailored domain extensions like .store, .tech, .plumbing, .marketing, .support – however be aware that these are more expensive, from double to quadruple the cost of .co.uk and .com which are from £6/year to £10/year.
Beware: When you see headlines of domains for 99p – providers offer introductory offers on the first year, so be sure to check what the recurring annual cost is, because this is not a one-off fee.
Where to buy a domain name
There are literally hundreds of places to buy domain names from and they are not all equal. I’ve bought domain names from GoDaddy, 123-reg and TSOHost.
Before you go ahead and buy a domain, you need to check out hosting which is the next step.
STEP 2 – Hosting
If your domain name is your address, then hosting is the land that your house sits on. In real terms, it’s the server (like a computer) where the files that make up your site are stored. These servers are contained in huge environment controlled buildings.
You can buy your domain name from a different place from your hosting. You just ‘point’ your domain name to the server (a bit like getting the post office to redirect your mail), so the postman knows where to go. Sometimes it makes sense to buy your domain and hosting from the same place, particularly if they’re offering a free domain with their hosting package.
Where to buy hosting
Like for domain names, there are literally hundreds of places to buy them and they vary in price and services. So here’s what I look out for.
- 1-click install – Do they have 1-click install and are they geared to support WordPress (see my next step 3)
- Support – What kind of support do they provide – telephone, chat, ticket support? How quick are they to respond and what are their reviews like
- Back ups – do they provide automatic backups and restoring facilities. If your site is hacked or you do something that breaks your site, then having a back up means you can roll back to a version you know worked. Even if it’s not you that does the restore, whoever does the restore needs to have something to restore from!
- Let’s Encrypt/SSL – this is the little padlock symbol that appears in the address bar next to the URL/domain name and indicates that your site is safe. Without it, some browsers will show a ‘site not safe’ message. Let’s Encrypt is free and perfectly adequate for most sites if all you have is forms to collect names/emails. If you’re intending to take payments online and collecting payment details, then you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate which can start at £40.
- Email – It always looks far more professional to have an email address with your domain name rather than free email accounts like Gmail or Hotmail. I always look for hosting that provides me with a few email addresses as my business grows or I need different email addresses for different functions.
- Price – lastly, I compare price. Providing they tick all five boxes above do they make it to the final price comparison.
My favourite that I currently use is TSO Host – Support is really important to me and they respond instantly to my questions and issues. It also just happens to be cheapest* among the four big providers – GoDaddy, 123-Reg and ionos (*at the time of writing June 2019)
Disclosure – This TSO Host link is an affiliate link which means I get a small kick back if you click on this link and go on to purchase. It doesn’t cost you anything more by using this link. I’m recommending them because I think they provide a great value for money service. It’s a bonus for me that they give me a small reward for the recommendation.
STEP 3 – Install WordPress
If a domain is your address and hosting is your land, then WordPress is like the frame of your house or a pre-fab house that you put on your land. It’s already built – the builders deliver it and install it on your land. It’s got all the plumbing and electrics installed, windows, doors, staircases so you don’t need to worry about building them from scratch which is technically quite challenging and easy to get wrong.
It used to be that you had to download a bunch of files from wordpress.org, then upload them the host/server, then unzip them, then create an SQL database and link the two up…. Lost already?
Don’t worry, because that’s why I said make sure your host has 1-click install. WordPress is one of those programmes that can be installed with literally 1-click – no programming knowledge required at all or having to download any files and making databases.
And good news is, WordPress is Open Source, which means it’s FREE! It’s also very easy to use – if you can work your way around MS Word, then you’ll be able to work WordPress.
To be clear, I’m talking about WordPress.org not WordPress.com – which is a different thing altogether. WordPress.com is ‘hosted’ which means WordPress controls what can go on your site, which is quite restrictive (which is fine for non-commercial blogging).
For business you would have to upgrade to a paid plan so you could link your domain name and be able to trade – and that’s when it’s more cost effective to have your own WordPress.org site that you host and you can have as many pages as you like and determine what will be on the website including selling products.
STEP 4 – Themes
If WordPress is the frame of your house, you now need to engage an interior designer to paint your house and make it reflect you and your values. That is what a theme does. It’s a template that determines the look and feel by colours and fonts and layouts i.e. your branding.
There are hundreds of free themes. The default themes that WordPress install are Twenty-Seventeen or Twenty Nineteen and you can customise them, although what you can customise is fairly limited.
There are also loads of premium themes available – i.e you pay for them. There will most probably be a recurring annual maintenance fee and it’s important to check what’s included. You definitely want updates as WordPress is continually improving and updating their core files, plugging potential securities breaches, which means the theme needs to keep up to date too.
My favourite premium theme is Divi by Elegant Themes. It’s totally customisable, you can edit and tweak from the front end, drag and drop items and see exactly how it’s going to look without the palaver of previewing it in a different window. In addition they are continually adding loads of premade templates for different industries that are right out the box that you can use as they are or further customise and brand to your colours. They provide chat support too, which is brilliant and saves hours hunting through how-tos and tutorials.
Divi currently costs $89 however, they do from time to time offer discounts and they also have a life-time developer option which is well worth it if you’re planning on building websites for others.
Disclosure – This link to Elegant Themes is an affiliate link which means I get a small kick back if you click on this link and go on to purchase. It doesn’t cost you anything more by using this link. I’m recommending them because I think they provide a great value for money service. It’s a bonus for me that they give me a small reward for the recommendation.
STEP 5 – Security
Even though WordPress are continually updating and patching any potential security holes, and the hosting is also secure, it’s always, always, always wise to add an additional layer of security and you can do this through a plugin.
Plugins are like apps on your phone. Or to go to the house analogy, it’s extra features that don’t come with the standard house, like furniture, power showers, pictures, shelves, wardrobes, and a security plugin is like fitting a 5-lever Chubb lock on all your external doors.
Plugins can be installed directly inside the WordPress dashboard environment.
The security plugin I always install on all sites that I build is WordFence. They do have a premium/paid version, but I’ve found that the free version is perfectly adequate.
The other plugin I install which although not security does protect from skimming robots farming websites for email addresses to sell to spam companies – it’s called Email Encoder and it’s also free. It encases any email addresses I put on my website in code that can’t be recognised by the skimming robots as email addresses, but it looks as it should to humans. If we use the house analogy – it’s like putting frosted glass on your bathroom windows or curtains in your bedroom where you keep your valuables – no-one from the outside can see in and see what valuables you have, whatever their intent.
STEP 6 – Add Tracking
It’s absolutely vital to know where site visitors are coming from, the pages they visit and flow through, how long and what search terms they came by you from. With this information you can see what your popular pages are and how successful they are. So early on, I always install Google Analytics. It’s a free tool. You just need a free Google Account to set it up and it gives you code that you install in your WordPress site. The code goes in what’s called the ‘header’ section of every page. It’s not seen by humans but it tracks visitors actions anonymously.
The Divi Theme (and I’m sure other themes do too) have a place where to put this code. But if you’re not using Divi or a theme that has a place to edit the header code, then there’s a plugin to do it, called ‘insert headers and footers’ that makes installing this code simple.
STEP 7 – Add content
Your address (domain) and land (hosting) has been secured. Your house (WordPress) is built and the interior designer (Theme) has branded your website to your colours look and feel and the extra locks (Security Plugin) is in place keeping everything safe. Now is the time to fill your house with your possessions or content.
Content is the words, images and videos.
There are 3 main places that content can be added:
The very top of the webpage – here you have your logo, contact phone/email and the navigation bar. It appears the same on every page.
The very bottom section of the webpage. Usually you have the legal information about your business’ status (e.g. company name and registration number), address, copyright notice, sign up box. It’s also good practice (but not necessary) to include a site map here or more navigation.
This is the section in between the Header and Footer and can be comprised of a combination of 3 different types of content – page, posts and projects.
Pages are static – that means the content doesn’t change. An about page or services page are usually static.
Pages can also contain dynamic content but they are not dynamic in themselves.
Posts are dynamic.
Posts are like pages, in that you can add text, images and video to them, however unlike pages, you can apply categories and tags to them and that what makes them dynamic.
The categories and tags are clickable, so if you have several blog posts that are categorised the same (for instance how-to articles), then clicking on that category will bring up a list of all the blog posts with that category.
Projects work in the same way as posts, in that you can categorise and tag them. The advantage is that project categories and tags work independently to post categories and tags, so you could keep them separate. For instance you might put all your articles and blogs in as posts and case studies as projects.
STEP 8 – Converting visitors to paying clients
So now you’ve built your website, the next challenge it to get people to visit it. Preferably people who are your ideal clients! And this is where a lot of website fail. Let me explain…
Building a website is a bit like building your business on an island. You can make it really beautiful and have lots of useful information on there, some of it’s available to any visitors for free, some of it is premium and you may even have some VIP areas for your very special clients.
But like an island, your website is in the middle of the internet ocean. No-one knows it’s there! Relying on search engines to bring new clients your way is a bit like throwing out a fishing line from one corner of your island. If you’ve got a product or service that is new and/or unheard of, then no-one swims by (or knows what to type in the search bar). If you’re in a competitive market, then it can be a huge challenge to get to the first page of google search results.
Getting to the top of search engines is called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation and this doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be the only way to get people to visit your site.
You have to do some work to get people over.
This is done through your Broadcast Tower on the mainline. It’s the place where you control all your marketing activity including PR, social media, leaflets, networking (online and offline), paid ads, giving talks, telesales etc)
It’s where you start conversations and then in the conversation you direct them over to your website island.
Once on your website island, they’ll have a look around and likely leave without buying anything. Unless, of course, you’re super clear and compelling in your message and providing some super cheap service or product that is cheap enough to risk a punt.
The reason people don’t buy immediately on first visit is that they are most likely shopping around and what to see what else is available. They may not have an immediate need or their pain isn’t great enough to prompt them to take action on it. They may be shopping around. They don’t really know you yet, so there’s no know, like and trust.
Or when they arrived, they couldn’t assess quick enough that they were in the right place.
How do we resolve this in our website?
FIRST – make sure the headline is clear, stands out and has a compelling message that immediately answers the question – do this place serve people like me? And can they solve my problem.
If the message is right for them, then they’ll dig deeper in the site.
Mistakes I see are when companies talk about themselves and use generic phrases that could apply to any industry e.g. “We have the experience to deliver on our promises”. Or “We are a world-wide award winning service provider”. Can you see these phrases actually don’t convey what they do or who for. Or they make their logo the primary focus. It may be pretty but if it doesn’t convey who you serve and the problem they have that you cure, then it’s a wasted opportunity of having someone visit and they will click away within seconds (called bounce in a google analytics report).
Check out this article I wrote about homepages and making a good first impression.
Provide A Tempting Goody
SECOND – provide a free goody that will solve a problem/pain (note – not ALL problems/pains). They get information. They pay you to get ACTION.
In exchange for your free goody, they hand over their name and email and give you permission to email them that free goody.
It’s like they’ve bought a ticket to your ferry service and your ferry service is your regular newsletter. If you don’t follow up with a newsletter, you’re doing them a disservice as they are expecting more information from you.
This helps them see you as the expert in your field as you’re sharing more useful information and case studies. With consistency, they get to know like and trust you – vital stages potential customers must pass through before they buy from you.
There are challenges surrounding the ferry service/newsletter.
Firstly you have to get them on the ferry. Aka to open your email. The subject has to be compelling and intriguing. They need to recognise who it’s from and the timing has to be right for them.
More useful information
Get those right, the next challenge is to know that they have consumed your content and you do this by providing a link for them to click on. That way you register engagement.
You do this by providing an intriguing intro paragraph and then a link to read the rest. That link is to your blog post which sits in the info booth on your website island. When they click on that link it’s like they’ve jumped off your ferry and made their way to the info booth to read the rest of that article. While they’re there they take another look around your website island, get sand between their toes and be reminded about you and the service/products you provide. When they get the right message and the time is right, they’ll become a paying customer.
Another by-product of the info booth is that you have content to use in your broadcast tower to bring even more people to your website island. Google likes it too as it learns to visit frequently to check out the new content you’re adding.
What Newsletter Tools To Use
There are hundreds of tools available at all different price levels.
Free ones include Mailchimp and Mailerlite which are good for starters.
Be aware that there are limitations to the number of emails and subscribers you can have and there may also be issues on deliverability.
When you’re ready to upgrade (or don’t like monkeys), then Constant Contact is my favourite as it is intuitive to use and you get telephone support. It also works as a great CRM tool where you can write notes against individual contacts.
Constant Contact plans start at £15 per month and you can get a free trial here.
Disclosure: Note that this is my partner link, so as well as being able to get support from CTCT you can get my support. I also get a small kickback for the recommendation.
As your business grows and your database grows, you’ll want to progress to CRM/newsletter tools that have even more features like automated tagging and workflows (and a bigger price tag!) – take a look at Drip and ActiveCampaign.
Check out my article that compares Mailchimp, Constant Contact and Drip
There you go, that’s how to build a WordPress website.
Here are all 8 steps you need for your WordPress website build:
- Buy Domain name – your address (free with hosting)
- Buy Hosting – the land where your website will live (from £2.93/m)
- Install WordPress – the pre-fab house (free)
- Install Theme – the interior designer (free – $89)
- Security Plugin – extra locks and padlocks (free)
- Google Analytics – Track visitors movements through your site (free)
- Content – that clearly shows who you serve, the problems they have that you help solve (homepage) plus your words of wisdom and expertise (info booth) (free)
- Email Marketing – to nurture visitors to paying clients (free to £15/m)
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more things I do in website builds and what I share in my Biz Website Course, but there is enough her to get you started.
This is a brief (!) overview of how to build a WordPress website and there’s three options if you want to take it further.
Option 1 – Pay someone (like me) to build your website. You can expect to pay anything from £3,000 upwards depending on the complexity and features you want to have.
Option 2 – Use the information in the article and do it yourself. There’s loads of free resources online to search through and figure it out yourself.
Option 3 – DIY with my assistance through my Biz Website Course. The Biz Website Course is an online course of 10 modules of short videos that show you exactly what to do, small step by step. It’s like having a guide showing you want to do and who can give you instant answers instead of trawling the internet for how-to’s, trying to work out whether it’s up to date or old advice. You can spend days, weeks or months figuring it out on your own or you can get my up to date guidance and learn how to build a WordPress website without having to learn any code.