Everyone is telling you to get online, start promoting yourself, get into social media, write a blog, use WordPress, make a movie …
So where do you logically start?
Here’s a quick step-by-step process to getting yourself online now with WordPress.
1. Domain Name
Brainstorm potential names for your site. If you are already in business check the availability of a relevant domain name, if you are providing a service or are an author check if your own name is available.
Make sure you have plenty of ideas ready as your chosen domain name may not be available. If you want to get ‘yourname.com’ you may have to consider alternatives, like adding your middle initial.
TIPS: Don’t make your domain name too long or use words that are easily misspelled. Also consider how the words look together as a domain name not just individually.
Since it’s your first site you can probably go for a cheap package not a full-on business package, unless you are planning on building a large site straight up and expecting to generate a lot of traffic.
TIPS: If finance is tight search for a hosting provider that allows monthly payments. If you intend to use WordPress (for a blog or to manage a website) find a host that includes an easy install process for WordPress.
I personally recommend Bluehost.com as it is a reasonable price and does a super fast and simple WordPress install. They also include the cost of your domain name in your package and there are no extra setup fees. On the downside you do have to pay for 12 months of hosting in advance. (For alternative hosts, see the hosting ads below.)
3. WordPress Install
I recommend WordPress (the self-hosted version) for blogs and websites alike. It is an excellent Content Management System (CMS) which enables you to easily manage your own website and/or blog.
There are two version of WordPress and people often get confused by them. You can create your own blog site at www.wordpress.com for free and your site will be named www.yourname.wordpress.com. The benefits are that it is completely free, a great way to try out blogging and WordPress, and, you can even purchase an add-on to use your own domain name. On the downside you can’t have ads on your site and your theme choices are limited. This is great for a beginner or ‘hobby blogger’.
If you are planning to be a ‘pro blogger’ or wish to use WordPress as your website CMS I recommend purchasing hosting and installing WordPress (the version you can download from www.wordpress.org and install on your site or install via your control panel).
This version is also free, you just need to have your own hosting package. The benefits are that your content is all hosted on your own webspace, you can basically do anything you want with it since WordPress is incredibly customisable, you can place ads on your site (not allowed at www.yourname.wordpress.com) and you can install any one of the thousands of themes available for WordPress.
TIP: To install WordPress with Bluehost login and click on the cPanel tab. Scroll down to the Services / Software section and click on the WordPress icon, then follow the prompts. Note: They have a video on how to install WordPress in the Help section.
4. Theme / Design
“Content is King!” they say and it’s true. If you have nothing worth reading people won’t visit or stay long on your site, but it’s also true that some people will be immediately turned off by your website design.
No matter what your aim is with your website it needs to look professionally designed and the great thing about WordPress is that there are thousands of professional looking themes (designs) out there that you can apply to your site in seconds.
You can opt for one of the free themes or pay for a premium theme. Again, if funds are limited, take the freebie now and upgrade to a pro theme later if you wish.
The important thing to consider when looking at themes is not just the overall look but the functionality as well. If you want to display info or a menu on the left, the theme you choose must incorporate or allow this option.
TIP: Don’t get too bogged down looking for the perfect theme for your site at this stage. You can spend literally hours or even days checking out themes (I know, I have!). Pick something that looks OK for now and you can always change it later after you have the basics in place.
WordPress is infinitely customisable. Plugins are fabulous (and fun too!)
You can use plugins for practical things like contact forms, and for fun things like the Cumulus animated tag cloud I have used on my site (well, I think it adds a fun element!).
Search for plugins on the WordPress site or from the WordPress admin area > Plugins > Add New. Arrange where the plugins will be displayed on your site via > Appearance > Widgets
TIP: I suggest installing your theme before plugins because some themes include functionality that overlaps with plugins, eg. the theme I am using includes a contact form so I do not need to add one via a plugin.
You can add your content now (or you may have chosen to do so prior to playing around with themes and plugins).
The key things to understand when you are adding content is the difference between Pages and Posts and how to use Categories and Tags.
Pages are generally used for static content, like the pages of a website. If you are using WordPress as CMS for your website and don’t want to include a blog section, use only pages. Note that pages can be designated as Parents (the default) and Children (hierarchical pages beneath the parent page). Parent pages will appear in your top level navigation and the hierarchical pages will appear below them.
Posts are generally used for blog posts. On this site I tend to think of my blog posts as ‘articles’, but you may choose to write more informal style blog posts or use them in a different way on your site.
Categories are generally used as the broad topics of your blog posts. This article (blog post) fits into several of my categories: How to, WordPress, Social Media. Categories help people find content on your site that is of interest to them, for example if someone clicked on the WordPress category they would see all the articles here on WordPress.
Tags are similar to categories and may also be used to find content of interest to your reader. Tags can be used like sub-topics or keywords in your posts. For example, this article is about WordPress (category) and I also talk about getting your domain name and hosting, using cumulus, themes, plugins, categories and tags (tags).
TIP: Categories and tags can be used in different ways to organise your blog and make your content more searchable. There’s a great article on Categories vs. Tags over at UsabilityPost.com
7. Social Media
And now to promote your site and interact with your audience you need to ‘get into’ social media!
“But it’s all so confusing” you say. Check out this list of social networks on Wikipedia – you will see there are a LOT and the list will continue to grow.
At this point in time it’s almost a given that you will be using Facebook and Twitter but they are not necessarily the right ones for you. You need to try to identify which networks your target audience is using and which ones you resonate with. Talk to your friends, family and associates and find out what their favourite social network is and why. Ask your clients what social networks they use. Check out the sites yourself and decide which ones resonate with you.
TIP: You don’t have to to do this right now. You can take time to concentrate on developing your site first and come back to social media later.
I hope something here has proved useful for you. Feel free to add questions or comments below.