I can still remember my first blog. I set it up on WordPress.com which is hosted and managed by WordPress. You can tell because all addresses end with .wordpress.com and they usually try to up-sell you to their premium services.
I recall browsing beautiful websites that were created on WordPress and I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something big. Turns out. I was! What I wanted was a self-hosted WordPress website. After I figured that out, my journey into building a brand on my website began.
So if you’re a first time starter to building your own website, here are some quick tips to help you get on your way.
First, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions regarding WordPress. There’s often some confusion between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, with good reason!
WordPress .com versus .org
WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress and managed on their server. There are limitations to these kinds of websites.
WordPress.org is self hosted. You will need to purchase your own hosting and install WordPress. Don’t worry, this isn’t too hard because most hosting providers offer Managed WordPress Hosting that allows you to do this with a click of a button.
Benefits of Using WordPress
WordPress tends to have a much better setup for search engine optimization (SEO) and allows you install different analytics software so you can keep track of your website visitors and make improvements based on what visitors are clicking on and looking at.
WordPress also allows you to install different themes to drastically change the layout of your website. And if you absolutely hate coding, there are drag-and-drop themes that make it easy to get up and running in a few clicks.
There are a few technical details required with WordPress and we’ll drive into them right now.
Where to buy your domain
Before you buy hosting you need a domain.
Your domain is the name of your website. For example: angelajford.com
You can buy your domain from a site like NameCheap or GoDaddy. I recommend purchasing your domain from the same place your purchase your hosting to avoid dealing with redirecting your DNS and nameservers.
Where to get your hosting
You’ve probably heard a handful of names, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, Bluehost, Hostgator. My experience with these hosting provides is that websites built on them are a little slow and have memory limitations. You’ll have to do some extra work improving your site speed, so I recommend beginning with Siteground.
Click here to set up hosting with Siteground (I recommend the Startup package – you can always upgrade later).
Once you have domain and hosting, your next task is to install WordPress. Many domains make this easy. If you’re using Siteground navigate to Cpanel. Scroll down for WordPress tools and select the WordPress Installer. Follow the steps to set up WordPress.
Upgrade your site security
Once your website is up, I recommend that you go ahead and make your site secure. You’ll want to purchase an SSL certificate and make sure your website points to https versus http. This ensures that your website is secure and Google will rank your website higher in search engines. Plus any communication on your website will be encrypted. This is a requirement if you plan to have a shop on your website or accept payments.
Setting up a shop? Read this!
Finding a Theme
WordPress offers out-of-the-box themes you can install for free. If you like those layouts, go ahead and install them and add your content. I recommend writing you the contact and determining what you’d like for each page before choosing a theme. I also recommend taking a look at websites you love to see if the theme you choose will allow you to replicate the layout.
Personally, I recommend the theme Divi by Elegant Themes. This allows you to do virtually almost anything you can think of. It has a drag-and-drop visual builder which makes it simple to setup your website. I also comes with hundreds of pre-made layouts, so you can simply replace the page with your image and text.
Divi is fantastic if you’d like to:
- Run a shop and sell autographed books, book swag or other products
- Focus on video including background videos and trailers
- Highlight your podcast
- Feature your blog
- Include visual elements with animations
- Conduct A/B testing
- Have support for anything that might go wrong while you’re building out your website.
- Build landing pages for selling books, adding offers, welcoming your email subscribers or upsetting them.
Check out Divi here.
All of my websites are build on Divi, and as you can see you have complete control over branding, fonts and layout.
Check out my website portfolio here
What pages do you need?
Let’s focus for a moment and say you have one book out. What kind of website do you need? Honestly, I think a landing page is enough. Your landing page should include a call to action to join your email list and links to purchase (or pre-order) your book.
Find out more about landing pages here.
If you are building out a full website here are the pages I recommend having:
- Sign Up (email list)
Must-have Plugins for your WordPress Website
Before we dig into the contact you need for your website, I want to bring up plugins. WordPress has thousands of plugins but there are a few I recommend installing and activating immediately.
CleanTalk – spam is everywhere and CleanTalk keeps my website spam-free. If you’re getting comments on your website or have the automated robots who hit your contact form, you need CleanTalk. It starts at $8 per year. Get it here.
Monarch – this allows you display social media buttons everywhere including follow and share buttons. I usually have a vertical line of social media share buttons on the left-hand side of every single page, and on my blog posts I have buttons at the beginning and end of each post. I also include social media follow buttons on the sidebar of my blog and footer of my website.
YoastSEO – if you want to improve your search engine optimization, use this plugin to ensure you maximize on-page SEO. YoastSEO offers quick and easy tutorials to help you start ranking on search engines. They also help you authenticate your site with search engines and ensure your sitemap is set up correctly.
GDPR Cookie Consent: If you are using analytics and pixels on your website, you need to let people know you are tracking them. GDPR Cookie Consent provides an easy popup that allows visitors to opt-in to tracking.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Analytics are a must have for your websites. You need to know who is visiting and what pages they are looking at the most so you can further optimize for traffic. You can setup a free Google Analytics account at analytics.google.com and use the plugin to display your analytics details on your WordPress dashboard. I love using this so I don’t have to log in to Google Analytics to view my traffic every day.
Bloom – create beautiful email popups. I use bloom for the popups on my website inviting visitors to join my email list. It’s easy to add an image that increases conversions. I love that Bloom has analytics so I can track the conversions and determine how effective the popups are. And they work!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.”
Where to get images?
Now that you have your website up and running, it’s time to fill it with content and images. Visuals are important for websites, and if you don’t have your own branded images, I recommend these sites for free photos.
How to set up integrations
Once you have everything setup, the final step is ensuring that all of your integrations are working. I usually integrate my website with my email marketing service (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit). Thankfully Divi makes it easy to setup up integration, often, you just need to find your API key and past it in. Most email marketing tools have a knowledge base that gives you a step by step guide.
How to setup your email
By the way, if you’re not already, make sure you’re using an email address at your own domain. For example, I use [email protected] instead of gmail for my emails. This does two things. It gives you an official business appearance and allows you to get approved for your email marketing service. Sometimes gmail goes straight to spam so I recommend upgrading to your own domain and telling your email subscribers how to whitelist your email address.
Use Google Suite Mail as an easy way to send and receive emails. You can set it up for a monthly fee here.
From there you need to log back in to your hosting and go to Cpanel. Find your MX records and there should be an easy checkbox to ensure everything is configured for Google mail.
There you have, the beginner’s guide to creating a website on WordPress.
Now, I do know that I’m super techie so if you need help from a pro? Stuck in any area? Book a tech call to help get you out of the weeds.
Share your thoughts:
1. What tips to you have for building a website?
Leave a comment below and then share this post with a fellow author.
Premade landing pages for indie authors are now available!
You know you need a landing page, but the cost and technical headache can make it tough. Especially when you have other things to focus on, like writing, coordinating with your editor, book cover design and book marketing. I firmly believe a landing page is essential, especially for list building, and there are hundreds of resources and articles out there that will concur. I also know the tech challenges can seem insurmountable which is why I decided to offer premade landing pages.
Ever since I saw premade covers come out for others, I wanted to do something simple but beautiful that would encourage authors to focus on having a gorgeous website and landing page, without spending thousands of dollars. (Unless you have thousands of dollars to dump into web design – go for it!)
What do you need for these landing pages?
- A domain (you can get one from NameCheap)
- Hosting (I highly recommend Siteground – you can buy both your domain and hosting from Siteground )
- WordPress (It’s a free download and most hosting providers offer a free install)
- Divi by Elegant Themes (it’s a premium theme but I’ll install it for free with purchase of a landing page)
Each landing page includes installation on your website and content updates. When you preview a landing page, you’ll notice it has demo images, text and links. If you provide your own, I’ll update your content with it.
Landing pages are built out with marketing psychology in mind. In fact, there are the 5 essential elements included in each of my landing pages.
#1 – Sales
One of my goal is to sell more books, so I usually include a link to purchase the ebook from Amazon. Since I have an international audience, it’s important to include a universal link that automatically sends the visitor to their store based on their location. Click here or on the image below for an example of a landing page focused on generating sales.
#2 – List building
Usually when I send out an email, my book sales double, and that makes a massive difference in royalties! Hence, building up my email list is #2 on my priority list. I usually include an invitation to my email list high up on my landing pages and again at the very bottom of the page. The idea is, if someone isn’t ready to make a purchase, I can sell to them via email. Click here or on the image below for an example of a landing page focused on list building.
#3 – Gorgeous book covers
Book covers can make all the difference when selling books, which is why I pride myself on having absolutely drop-dead beautiful covers. I always make it a point to highlight the artwork on my website just because I’m so proud of it! In addition to book covers, high resolutions stock images will work well to capture the theme of your book.
#4 – Social proof
Reviews from readers are a great way to encourage others to pick up your book and read it. Reviews can be a mixed bag, I’ve recently found it really don’t matter how many reviews I do or don’t have on books, they seem to sell just about the same. Regardless, it’s important to have the social proof for your book.
#5 – About the author
One reason I like the internet is because it’s so easy to connect with authors and readers. So make sure you’re using that personal connection and sharing a little bit about yourself. Share the good stuff but also share the odd stuff that no one would think to ask! On my series landing page I share some little known facts about me, just to provide something personable for readers. See a preview of it here.
Share your thoughts:
1. What is important to you when it comes to building a landing page?
2. Do you have any tips to share?
Leave a comment below and then share this post with a fellow author.
When I first started creating WordPress websites, I found myself overwhelmed with plugins. Can you relate? There are thousands in the library and it seems like you need them all! So many options, it’s easy to download and activate them all! Until your website screams at you there’s a conflict with a plugin, and your pages start loading all funky, in short, it’s a hot mess.
Creating your first WordPress Website? Get the step-by-step guide!
It’s time for some real talk, if you don’t have a criteria for selecting plugins for your website, you need one. Here’s the deal, in my opinion I believe the fewer plugins, the better, although I’ve heard some web developers claim it doesn’t matter. Here are the questions I ask before adding a plugin?
- Does it have a majority of 4-5 star ratings?
- Has it been updated in the last 6 months?
- How will this plugin help me meet my business goals?
- Is there a more efficient way to do this other than adding another plugin?
Over the years, I’ve found these six plugins have staying power, are frequently updated, and help make my business life easier and better.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to track your website traffic. It helps you determine what’s working, what’s not working, and what you need to do to improve your traffic.
You can use Google Analytics to discover what pages are performing the best, what your most popular blog posts are this week, the past 30 days or even the past 6 months.
You can also see where your web traffic is coming from, whether it’s social media or that guest blog you did on an uber popular site.
Google Analytics is a requirement for any website, however, it can be a hassle to keep logging in to track your analytics.
Thankfully, there’s a plugin for that. I have Google Analytics Dashboard on my WordPress Dashboard so I can easily login and get a snapshot of how traffic is today.
Click here to learn more about Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (free).
Jetpack by WordPress
Jetpack also tracks your analytics, and I prefer Jetpack statistics when I’m viewing from my iPhone. Jetpack also does a host of other things, like automatic plugin updates, security protection and more. While I don’t take advantage of all the features, the options are quite nice especially for beginner bloggers.
Learn more about Jetpack by WordPress by clicking here (free).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must have for every website. So what can you do to effortless improve your ranking on search engines? Use Yoast SEO.
I love this plugin because it analyzes every page and blog post on my website and makes recommendations for improvement. Each page starts out with a red light rating, as I improve my page the red light changes to green. How cool is that?
Additionally, Yoast SEO workes with Onpage.org which is a free step by step tuturial you can use to improve your site’s indexibility and page ranking.
Wow, there were a lot of big techie words right there! Here’s the short version. Yoast SEO helps you get seen on search engines and increases the traffic going to your website.
Check out Yoast SEO here (free).
Monarch by Elegant Themes
Social media sharing buttons are imperative if you want to get your blog posts seen by multiple people. The #1 mistake I see with most blogs is making social media sharing buttons are hard to find. Honestly, if I read your blog post but sharing it isn’t obvious, you’re missing out on free traffic!
I started using the Monarch social media plugin by Elegant Themes. It allows me to customize sharing buttons for each post and page. I can choose whether to have the buttons before each blog post, at the end of each blog post, floating on the left-hand side or even in the sidebar. My social shares skyrocketed after installing it, simply because my social media buttons are dead easy to click on.
Learn more about Monarch by clicking here (paid).
Bloom by Elegant Themes
Ever get jealous of those site with pretty email box opt ins? Well, you can have them too. I use the plugin Bloom on my fantasy book series website. It allows for pop up boxes (if that’s your thing), pretty email opt in boxes you can add to your website sidebar, footer and anywhere on the page that you desire.
Here’s the downside. It’s doesn’t integrate with ConvertKit which is the email marketing tool I use for my business blog and website. But if you’re using Mailchimp or one of the many other email marketing software it integrates with, you’re in luck.
Full details here (paid).
They market themselves as the only content calendar you’ll ever need, and I have to agree. CoSchedule is an editorial calendar you can use solo, as a team or as a business. I definitely recommend it for entrepreneurs who are starting online magazines, because it certainly helps keep your organized and on top of things. I use Coschedule to plan my weekly blog posts 1-2 months in advance.
CoSchedule is also a fantastic tool to draw more traffic to your website, they have social sharing recommendations and show you which blog posts are most popular and get the most traction. While CoSchedule is a paid subscription, I highly recommend, especially if you’re just starting out and need some tactics to make your blog grow.
Click here to start a free trial with CoSchedule (paid).
Want the full list of tools I use to make my entrepreneurial lifestyle easier and better? Here are my Top 6 Tools!
What plugins do you use on your WordPress website? What are some you can’t live without?
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