Today, every entrepreneur — whether it’s an artist creating handmade crafts in a garage or a tech innovator who wants to build a global empire — needs a website. And one of the best and fastest ways to launch a small business site is with WordPress.
WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that’s been going strong for over 15 years. Today, nearly 60% of websites that use a CMS, including those of the Obama Foundation, Bloomberg, and the official Star Wars blog, run on WordPress — and for good reason. Even if you’re not a web developer or an experienced coder, it’s easy to learn. And if you run into any problems, a gigantic online community of users is there to lend a helping hand.
Excited to get started? Here’s what you need to know to build an incredible WordPress site.
- Choose the Right Web Host
The first thing you have to do is choose a web host, and there are quite a few options on the market. But if you’re powering a site with WordPress, it’s imperative you find a WordPress web host with packages specifically built to power the CMS — and, better still, a host directly recommended by the WordPress.org Core Team like Bluehost.
Price is another consideration. Many beginning site owners experience sticker shock when they see the monthly premiums for managed WordPress hosting. So be sure to check out a list of the top budget-friendly WordPress hosts before pulling the trigger.
The most effective WordPress hosting packages include one-click installs of the software, automatic updates and security patches, and SSL certificates. And, in the event you get stuck or need help troubleshooting, effective, around-the-clock support should be top of mind when selecting your hosting provider.
Building trust and a good reputation is integral to any business’s success. And a good way to accomplish that online is to partner with a host with high uptime rates, quick page load times, and strong security. A money-back guarantee should also be a selling point. If a host is confident enough to let you try its services risk-free, it’s a good bet the product will live up to expectations.
- Pick the Perfect Domain Name
Location. Location. Location. The old real estate adage also rings true in the digital world. You want to make it easy for customers to find you, and the easiest way to do that is through a simple, memorable domain name.
The best bet is to go with www.[insert_business_name].com. However, if a .com isn’t available, other top-level domains (TLDs) can be just as effective. For example, if you’re a photographer, employing the .photo TLD is an effective way to help potential clients remember your URL.
But keep in mind that .com, .net, and .org are still the most widely used TLDs, and also help sites rank better in search results.
If your exact business name isn’t available on a .com, don’t fret. Brainstorming another name that sounds great and describes what you do can be equally effective. Try adding an extra word that defines your business – for example, the city where the company is based (think www.widgets.seattle.com) or the product that it sells (for example, www.cola.soda.com).
- Choose a Responsive Theme
The fastest and most efficient way to set up your site is to use a pre-existing theme. While some design agencies charge high fees to create custom templates, there are thousands of free professionally designed themes available, and many of them have been designed specifically for small businesses.
Whatever theme you choose, make sure it’s responsive — in other words, choose one that is mobile-friendly and adaptable to varying screen sizes.
In 2017, over 50% of all web traffic originated from mobile devices. So, if smartphone users have trouble using your website, you’re going to lose a huge chunk of your potential customer base.
- A Great Logo is a Must
Every business needs a compelling logo that speaks to its brand aesthetic, whether it’s Coca-Cola’s iconic cursive can design, Amazon’s A to Z arrow, or Apple’s, well… apple. But not all entrepreneurs are seasoned in the art of graphic design.
If you believe in your vision and want to give logo-making a go, you can use a free tool like Canva or a more advanced service like LogoMaker. If you want to take the professional route, you can try to find a designer you like at Fiverr, or get designers to compete for your business at 99Designs.
- Do It Yourself — or Don’t
Even though WordPress is easy for novices to master, busy entrepreneurs might not have the time to design their sites themselves — or maybe just won’t want to. Whether your schedule is already packed or you simply don’t have the confidence you need to build a professional website, you can always hire a designer.
You may want to use Toptotal’s “top 3%” of freelance talent, get a pro on Gun.io, or find an inexpensive designer at Upwork. The design-phobic small businessperson has plenty of solid options.
- Get to Know the WordPress Dashboard
If you’ve got a DIY attitude and want to design your website without any hired help, the first thing you’ll have to do is get familiar with WordPress’ dashboard.
When you log into WordPress, you’ll see your dashboard on the left side of the screen. If you want to add a new post to a blog, go to Posts. If you want to put a video on your site, go to Media. If you need to manage comments from site visitors or customers, head to Comments.
Use Appearance to manage everything from your site’s colors and layout to its widgets and content menus. If you want to add plugins (which is discussed in-depth below), click Plugins. Go to Users to give developers and coworkers access to your WordPressaAdmin page.
The more you work with the dashboard, the more you’ll learn about everything WordPress lets you design and build.
- The Best eCommerce Plugins
Plugins add incredibly valuable functions to your WordPress site. No matter what kind of business you have, you’ll want to use at least one of these powerful plugins:
WooCommerce is a must-have for any entrepreneur who sells physical goods online. The plugin comes bundled with Paypal, making payments incredibly easy, and helps you deliver your goods to your customers.
Easy Digital Downloads is for businesses who sell digital goods on their sites. If you want your customers to be able to download your products with the click of a button, it’s your go-to plugin.
If you sell a subscription-based digital product, MemberPress helps you start generating recurring income and manage that income as your customer base continues to expand. It supports a number of payment gateways, including Stripe and Authorize.net.
- Build an Online Community Around Your Business
Whether it’s Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter, many of the most successful online brands are built around community. Just because your eCommerce business isn’t a social network doesn’t mean an online community can’t help you expand your customer base.
For example, you can encourage users to create content, then share it on your homepage. If you sell a complex product that can be used in many different ways, have users who have built amazing things create videos that show how they got the most out of your tools. Set up review pages and community forums where your customers can gather and chat. Give people spaces where they interact with other fans of your service.
Some plugins, like BuddyPress, will help you manage your social media and create forums. But all successful communities eventually attract spammers, so be on the lookout for dishonest actors and clean your thriving garden of any invasive weeds.
Machielle Thomas is the Content Manager for Bluehost. She writes curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.