Ask almost anyone who works in the website industry what they would recommend for anyone desiring an online presence, and most will recommend Wordpress.
And there’s a good reason for that.
Wordpress tends to be one of the most versatile ways to create a website, and anything you want on that website, without becoming too overwhelming or requiring any coding.
That said, Wordpress can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not technically savvy, and if your needs are simple (as in you need just a simple landing page to offer a signup for your reader magnet, links to your books, etc.), then you might not even need a Wordpress website and would be better off with a drag-and-drop builder.
However, if you want to do more with your website, or have increased flexibility, then read on, because this article will help you set up that Wordpress website.
- Why you should use Wordpress
- How to set up your host and domain
- How to install Wordpress and get started
- Tips for creating a great-looking Wordpress site
Table of contents
- Why Use Wordpress?
- Wordpress.org vs Wordpress.com
- Step 1: Set Up Your Host
- Step 2: Pick Your Domain and Link to Host
- Step 3: Install Wordpress and Familiarize Yourself
- Log In and Explore the Dashboard
- Step 4: Choose Your Wordpress Theme
- Step 5: Install the Essential Plugins
- Step 6: Create the Basic Pages
- Step 7: Design Your Homepage
- Put Your Reader Magnet Above the Fold
- Other Homepage Essentials
- Step 8: Set Up Your Navigation
- Finalizing Your Wordpress Website
- Frequently Asked Questions About Wordpress
But first, let’s start with a question that many people ask…
Why Am I Qualified to Talk to You About Websites?
It's totally understandable to ask, why is this guy talking to me about building a website? How can he prove the he knows what he's talking about?
Totally understandable question.
Well, for one, I've been the content manager for Kindlepreneur for many years now, and in that time I've learned from the best, and built Kindlepreneur up to the point where it gets more than double the organic traffic that it received when I started.
Additionally, I've built a variety of author websites in my time, including MythBank, which is for my fiction audience.
But before Dave and I even started writing this article and all of the other related articles, we put our heads together to figure out the best approach, then surveyed hundreds of thousands of authors to learn what they do when building author websites.
When putting all that expertise together, I believe I have a good idea of the best routes authors should take to build their website.
So let's dive in.
Why Use Wordpress?
As I mentioned in the intro, many website gurus (and I include myself among those) will tell you that you should use Wordpress for most website needs.
In fact, the only reason I wouldn’t use Wordpress is if your site requires some kind of special coding, or was built for a specific purpose other than web content (like selling direct).
For everyone else, Wordpress is the way to go. But why?
There are a couple of reasons, but here is a quick rundown of the big ones:
- Open Source: Wordpress is open source. In layman's terms, its source code is open to everyone. You can modify it and customize it to suit your needs. And this means it is also constantly improving because anyone can work on it.
- Cost-Efficient: It's free. Starting a new venture? Pinching pennies? Wordpress won't add to your financial stress. You can download and use it without shelling out a dime (although you will still have to pay for your host and domain).
- DIY: Wordpress is the ultimate DIY solution for creating websites and online stores. Not a tech guru? No problem. It has a user-friendly interface, where you can craft a professional-looking site easily.
- Versatile and Flexible: It’s incredibly versatile. From blogs to e-commerce stores, Wordpress can run any type of website. You can customize it to align perfectly with your unique vision.
- Fast, Optimized, and Secure: Wordpress is fast, optimized, and secure. With the right plugins, it ensures your site runs smoothly, loads quickly, and stays safe from cyber threats. Crucial for a seamless user experience and maintaining trust with your visitors.
- SEO-Ready: Wordpress is SEO-ready. This means it's designed to help you rank higher on search engines, increasing your site's visibility. More visibility equals more visitors.
- Social Media Friendly: Finally, Wordpress makes promotion on social media easier. Seamless integration with various platforms means your content can reach a wider audience.
In a nutshell, Wordpress is a one-stop-shop solution for anyone looking to create a distinct online presence.
Wordpress.org vs Wordpress.com
WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two popular platforms often mistaken for one another due to their similar names. However, they offer distinctly different services. Understanding these differences is essential to make the right choice for your website needs.
Often referred to as the self-hosted WordPress, WordPress.org is a free, open-source platform. Here are its key features:
- Complete Control: You own your website and all its data, providing full control over every aspect, including design, functionality, and monetization.
- Plugin Freedom: You have access to over 50,000 free plugins and countless premium ones, enabling endless customization and functionality.
- Custom Themes: You're free to use any WordPress theme or even create your own, ensuring your site looks and functions exactly how you want.
- Monetization Flexibility: There are no restrictions on ads or sponsored content, providing various avenues for monetization.
- Cost Considerations: While the software is free, you'll need to purchase your domain name and hosting.
WordPress.com is a paid service that handles hosting for you. Its key features include:
- Ease of Use: With hosting taken care of, you can focus on content creation without worrying about technical aspects.
- Limited Themes and Plugins: There's a restricted selection of themes and plugins unless you opt for the costly Business plan.
- Monetization Limitations: Monetization is limited to higher-tier plans, and WordPress.com takes a cut of your advertising revenue.
- Limited Control: You don't own your site, meaning WordPress.com can place ads on your site, or even take it down, if it violates their terms of service.
I talk about Wordpress.com in my drag-and-drop website builder article, and there are reasons you might want it. However, for the purposes of this article, I do NOT recommend Wordpress.com and instead I recommend going with self-hosted Wordpress.
However, you don’t need to visit Wordpress.org to use self-hosted Wordpress. Most hosts will provide Wordpress automatically, so you don’t have to worry about installing it manually.
Which leads me to…
Step 1: Set Up Your Host
Navigating the world of WordPress can seem daunting at first glance, but with a few simple steps, you'll be up and running with your own WordPress site.
Understanding Costs: WordPress, Hosting, and Domain Names
Before I delve into the process of setting up your WordPress site, let's get one thing clear: WordPress itself is free. That said, your site has to live somewhere on the Internet, and for that you'll need a domain name and a hosting service, which aren't free.
If you're wondering about the best hosting services for WordPress, check out my comprehensive article on the topic.
In a nutshell, my top pick for most sites is Siteground. It provides a fantastic mix of affordability and essential features. You can expect to pay just a few dollars per month for Siteground hosting, while a domain name usually costs around $10-15 per year.
In other words, the costs are very low.
Setting Up Hosting on Siteground
To help you get started with Siteground, follow these step-by-step instructions:
- Navigate to the Siteground website.
- Click on the ‘WordPress Hosting' section.
- For the best blend of affordability and features, I recommend choosing the GrowBig plan.
- Follow the registration steps as prompted by Siteground.
- Once you've completed registration, take some time to familiarize yourself with Siteground's dashboard.
These steps should help you set up your WordPress hosting on Siteground with relative ease.
Applying These Steps to Other Hosts
While this guide focuses on Siteground, it's important to note that you can follow similar steps for any hosting service. Your choice of host should be based on your specific needs and preferences.
However, I stand by my recommendation: for most authors, Siteground hits the sweet spot of affordability, user-friendliness, and essential features.
Step 2: Pick Your Domain and Link to Host
Taking your website live involves more than just selecting a hosting service. You'll also need a domain name. This is the unique address where users can find your site on the internet. Let's explore how to connect a domain to your host using Siteground as an example.
Siteground's Domain Name Service
Siteground conveniently offers a domain name service that integrates seamlessly with its hosting. This will make it (slightly) easier to connect with the host.
However, there's a potential caveat.
You might consider hosting your domain elsewhere in case you decide to switch hosting providers in the future. For example, if your site outgrows Siteground's capabilities, you might need to make a move.
Choosing the Perfect Domain Name
When selecting a domain name, keep these tips in mind:
- Personal branding: Your own name can often work well. If it's taken, consider adding extensions like “books”, “writes”, or “author”.
- Make it memorable: The domain name should be brandable, short, and easy to remember.
- Target your niche: If your site targets a specific niche, incorporate a relevant keyword into your domain name.
- Avoid complexity: Steer clear of dashes, numbers, or hard-to-spell words.
- Trademark check: Always check for existing trademarks before finalizing your domain.
- Go for .com: Opt for a .com extension when possible, as it's widely recognized and trusted.
Web Registrars for Your Domain
There's a wide array of domain hosting providers out there (known as domain registrars). Some popular options include
- Google Domains
Siteground is also an excellent choice if you're already hosting with them.
Connecting Your Domain To Your Webhost
Once you have a domain and your hosting set up, you will need to connect the two using DNS settings.
Think of your host as a house where you live, and the domain as the address that leads people to your house. You want to make sure that address is pointing in the right direction.
If you’re hosting both your website and your domain through Siteground, this should be relatively straight forward. But if you’re using a different domain registrar, you can connect the two using these instructions from Siteground.
Step 3: Install Wordpress and Familiarize Yourself
If you've selected Siteground as your host, you're in luck. WordPress installation is easy with this hosting service. Let's walk you through it.
Installing WordPress on Siteground
During the initial setup of your site, you'll be prompted to specify if your site will be a WordPress site. If it is, WordPress gets automatically installed.
Alternatively, you can use Siteground's App Installer for WordPress installation. Simply go to “Site Tools > WordPress > Install & Manage”.
During this process, you'll provide your admin information like a username, password, and email. These are crucial for logging in, so keep them handy!
Here’s Siteground’s guide for setting up Wordpress.
Log In and Explore the Dashboard
Next, it's time to log in to your Wordpress dashboard with the username and password you've just created. Start by visiting your website at “yourdomain.com/wp-admin/”.
This will take you to the WordPress dashboard – your command center for managing and customizing your website. To set a strong foundation, there are a few initial setup items to tackle:
Permalinks: Opt for simple permalinks that exclude dates and use the title of each page or post by default. You can find this under Settings > Permalinks.
Title and Tagline: Ensure you've set up the title and tagline for your site. Find these settings under Settings > General.
Comments: Determine whether or not you want to enable comments on your posts. Customize your preferences under Settings > Discussion.
Disable Pingbacks/Trackbacks: To maintain a clean and uncluttered website, turn off notifications for when you link to others. Find this option under Settings > Discussion.
Timezone: For the ease of scheduling posts, ensure your site's timezone matches yours. You can adjust this under Settings > General.
With these initial setup tasks completed, you're off to a fantastic start with your WordPress site. By familiarizing yourself with the dashboard and its various settings, you'll be able to manage your website effectively and efficiently.
Step 4: Choose Your Wordpress Theme
Your WordPress theme is the backbone of your website's visual appeal. It sets the tone for your visitors' experience and adds to the overall functionality of your site. So, how do you choose the right one?
Here are a few things I recommend:
- Simple and Speedy: Your theme should prioritize simplicity and speed. A complicated, heavy theme can slow down your site and create a frustrating experience for your users. Additionally, a simpler theme is easier for you to manage and update, saving you time and potential headaches.
- Love What You See: Beyond functionality, your theme should resonate with you aesthetically. After all, it's your digital home! Choose a design you love, one that aligns with your brand and keeps you excited about your site.
For authors in particular, I have curated a list of WordPress themes that balance simplicity with unique features suitable for showcasing your work. Be sure to check out my list of recommendations, although I’ll save you a bit of time:
Installing Your WordPress Theme
Once you've chosen your theme, installing it is a straightforward process. Here are the steps:
- Navigate to the Appearance section: In your WordPress dashboard, go to the left-hand sidebar and click on ‘Appearance'.
- Access themes: Here, you'll find the ‘Themes' option. Click on it to view the themes you have available.
- Add a new theme: At the top of the page, you'll find the ‘Add New' button. Click on it and search for your chosen theme in the new window.
- Install and activate: Once you find your theme, click on ‘Install'. After the theme is installed, the install button will change to an ‘Activate' button. Click on it, and your theme is live.
- Customize your theme: Under Appearance > Customize, you usually have a lot of options to customize the look of your site. Although sometimes these options are found elsewhere in the dashboard depending on the theme. So you may have to hunt for it. It’s important that you customize your theme to fit you and your brand as much as possible.
Step 5: Install the Essential Plugins
Plugins can enhance your WordPress site's functionality, making it more powerful, secure, and user-friendly. Here are some essential plugins that I recommend you start with, but there are many more you can explore as well.
1. Yoast SEO
In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Yoast SEO is by far the best (and is what I use here at Kindlepreneur). This plugin assists you in creating SEO-friendly content, ensuring your site ranks higher in search results. It offers keyword optimization, readability analysis, and even a breadcrumb control feature, making your site more Google-friendly.
2. Google Analytics for WordPress
Google Analytics for WordPress allows you to keep an eye on your site's traffic, track user interaction, and gain insights about your audience directly from your WordPress dashboard. It's an invaluable tool for assessing your site's performance and planning future content.
3. Wordfence Security
Security should always be a priority. Wordfence Security protects your site from potential threats like malware and hacking attempts. It offers real-time monitoring, firewall protection, and malware scanning, giving you peace of mind about your site's safety.
4. Updraft Plus
To prevent data loss, regular backups of your site are a must. Updraft Plus makes this process easy. It automates backups and allows you to store them in the cloud. If something goes wrong, you can restore your site with just a few clicks.
For improved user engagement, WPForms is your go-to. This plugin lets you create beautiful contact forms, email subscription forms, and more. It's user-friendly, highly customizable, and mobile-responsive, making form creation a breeze.
Installing Your Essential Plugins
To install these plugins:
- Navigate to your WordPress dashboard and select ‘Plugins'.
- Click ‘Add New'.
- In the search bar, type the name of the plugin you want to install (e.g., ‘Yoast SEO').
- Click ‘Install Now' next to the plugin. Once installed, this button will change to ‘Activate'. Click it, and your plugin is ready to use.
Each plugin offers unique features that can transform your WordPress site, enhancing its functionality. Make sure to keep them updated regularly for the best results, but also to increase security (I recommend enabling automatic updates).
Step 6: Create the Basic Pages
Building a website can feel like an overwhelming task, but a good starting point is creating a few essential pages. Here are five basic pages to start building on your WordPress site:
1. The ‘About' Page
Your ‘About' page is a good one to start with, as it will get you familiar with the page-building process, and it’s an important page to have.
This is where you introduce yourself or your brand to your visitors. Include information like who you are, what you write, and why you do it. Make it personal and engaging to connect with your readers on a deeper level.
2. The ‘Contact' Page
Having a ‘Contact' page is important. It's the bridge between you and your audience. Whether visitors have questions, feedback, or business inquiries, this page provides the necessary details.
Be sure to include an email address or a contact form, and any social media profiles.
4. The ‘FAQ' Page
An ‘FAQ' (Frequently Asked Questions) page saves you time by answering common questions your visitors may have.
This page provides instant support to your users and can cover everything from what you do, to how readers can get ahold of your books, to your favorite reads, to your writing process.
5. The ‘List of Books' Page
If you're an author, a ‘List of Books' page is crucial. This is your digital bookshelf, showcasing your work. Include a brief synopsis of each book, cover images, and links to purchase. You could even include social proof, i.e. reviews or excerpts to engage your readers' interest.
Building these pages in WordPress is straightforward. From your dashboard, go to ‘Pages' and click ‘Add New'. Choose a title for your page and start adding content. Remember to hit ‘Publish' when you're done.
Start with these pages, and you'll have a solid foundation for your WordPress site.
Step 7: Design Your Homepage
As an author, your homepage plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining readers. It should be simple yet enticing, showcasing your best work right off the bat.
Here's how you can design a compelling homepage in WordPress:
Put Your Reader Magnet Above the Fold
The key feature of your homepage should be your reader magnet, positioned “above the fold”.
Side note: The term “Above the Fold” hails from newspaper design, and in this case refers to the portion of your webpage that's visible without scrolling. It's the first thing visitors see, so it's prime real estate.
Your reader magnet is a free piece of content offered to visitors in exchange for their email addresses. This could be a sample chapter, a free novella/short story, or a character guide. By featuring it prominently, you encourage sign-ups to your author email list, which is pivotal for building a loyal readership.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not include anything in this prime real estate other than your reader magnet! The #1 goal of an author website should be to encourage signups.
There is just one exception to this, and that is if you are selling direct. In this case, you’d want to swap the reader magnet for your bestseller, and ONLY your bestseller.
Remember, a confused mind always says “no”, so we want to make sure it’s perfectly clear what we want readers to do when they arrive on your page. Don’t give them too many options.
Other Homepage Essentials
If all you've got is a signup for your reader magnet, that's perfectly fine. That’s honestly all you need to get started. But if you'd like to include more, you could consider adding:
- A list of your latest blog posts
- A brief author bio
- Links to your books
- Information about your story world or characters
Your homepage is your digital handshake, the first impression visitors have of you and your work. Make it count by showcasing your reader magnet or bestseller, and your homepage will become a powerful tool in building your author brand.
Step 8: Set Up Your Navigation
The navigation menu of your website is akin to a roadmap, guiding your visitors seamlessly through your content. It’s one of the last things I set up once all my pages are complete.
Here's how you can easily set it up in WordPress:
Creating the Main Navigation
The main navigation typically resides at the top of your website. It's the first place visitors will look when they're seeking specific information. Here are the steps to create it:
- From your WordPress Dashboard, hover over ‘Appearance' and click on ‘Menus'.
- Name your menu (e.g., ‘Main Navigation') and click ‘Create Menu'.
- On the left side of the screen, you'll see options for ‘Pages', ‘Posts', and ‘Custom Links'. Choose the content you want to add to your menu and click ‘Add to Menu'.
- You can rearrange the order of the items by dragging and dropping them into place.
- Once you're satisfied with your menu, select ‘Primary Menu' (or similarly named option) under ‘Menu Settings' to set it as your main navigation.
- Click ‘Save Menu' to apply the changes.
This primary navigation is the go-to place for users seeking to explore your content, including your about page, contact page, or list of books.
Crafting Additional Navigation Menus
To create these, repeat the same steps as above, but instead of assigning the menu to ‘Primary Menu', you'll use the ‘Widget' feature. Here's how:
- From your WordPress Dashboard, go to ‘Appearance' > ‘Widgets'.
- Drag the ‘Navigation Menu' widget into the desired widget area (e.g., sidebar or footer).
- Select the menu you want to display from the dropdown list.
- Click ‘Save'.
Finalizing Your Wordpress Website
You've successfully navigated the critical stages of setting up your WordPress website. From securing hosting and domain to tailoring your theme, optimizing with plugins, and building your site's pages, you've created a functional, user-friendly platform for your audience.
But remember, a successful website demands ongoing attention and updates. Stay proactive. Keep testing, learning, and evolving your site to meet your readers' needs.
And once again, if you've yet to decide on a host, check out Siteground. It provides the best blend of cost-effectiveness and integrated WordPress features. Visit Siteground now and kickstart your author journey.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wordpress
Can you build a website on Wordpress for free?
Yes, the WordPress software is free to use. However, to get your website live on the internet, you'll need to pay for web hosting and a domain name. These services are offered by third-party companies, so costs can vary based on the provider and the package you choose.
Can I use Wordpress without a domain?
Technically, you can use WordPress.com without purchasing a domain, but it will impact the professionalism of your site. Without a custom domain name, your website URL will include the name of your host, such as “yoursite.wordpress.com,” which may not provide the polished appearance you desire.
Can I build a Wordpress site myself?
Absolutely, WordPress is designed with do-it-yourselfers in mind. It has a user-friendly interface and extensive online resources, helping you to build your own website, even if you have no coding skillst. It may take a bit of time and patience to familiarize yourself with the platform, but it's definitely achievable.
Do I own my website on Wordpress?
If you're self-hosting your WordPress site, you have complete ownership and control over your website. On the other hand, if your site is hosted on WordPress.com, you don't have full ownership, as the platform has certain restrictions and your site could be affected by changes in their terms of service.
How many hours does it take to build a Wordpress website?
The time it takes to build a WordPress website can vary greatly depending on your experience level and the complexity of your site. For beginners building a basic site, it might take anywhere from 5 to 20 hours. This includes the time for setting up your hosting, choosing a theme, customizing your design, adding content, etc.
Is Wordpress the only way to build a website?
While WordPress is a popular choice for building websites due to its flexibility and large community of users, it's not the only option out there. There are many other platforms like Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify (for ecommerce) that offer user-friendly website building tools. The choice depends on your specific needs, budget, and technical comfort level.