Launching your first WordPress site doesn’t have to feel scary or daunting. You can do this. There are a few critical processes you need to get right in the beginning, but after we get those out of way, you are set.
What are the steps to setup a WordPress site? To setup a WordPress site, you’ll need to pick your hosting provider, choose your domain name, install your WordPress theme, install necessary plugins, select your homepage, design your core Pages, and begin writing posts.
Setting up a WordPress site isn’t super easy if you’ve never done it before. I have no doubt that after you’ve done it once, you’ll be able to do it again and again. This guide should help you navigate the WordPress waters with ease.
Pick your hosting provider
Trying to find the best WordPress hosting can be a real challenge, especially if you aren’t familiar with web hosting companies. There are quite a few popular WordPress hosting companies and many of them are awesome.
What is web hosting?
When you start a website, you’ll need someone to save all your text, images, videos, and site design elements. This is where a web host comes in. Web hosts have servers (storage hard drives) all over the world to save your content and deliver your content when people land on your website.
Finding a good host is really important. I liken a web host to a bank. You don’t want to put your money in just any old bank. You want to make sure they are reputable and have robust security protocols.
The same goes for web hosting. You want them to store you website data safely and securely.
Each hosting company has pros and cons. Let’s explore a few and talk about the reasons they may be a good fit.
GreenGeeks hosting, in my experience, has been the best web host provider to date. GreenGeeks isn’t the cheapest nor are they the absolute fastest, but they are an amazing bargain for your dollar.
What’s more, GreenGeeks is one of the only environmentally-friendly web hosting providers in the market. For you eco-friendly consumers, this is a really great choice.
GreenGeeks offers a 99.95% uptime rate as well as an incredibly fast load time (.49ms). But these aren’t even the best selling points for GreenGeeks. What makes GG an incredible value is their world-class customer service, free domain name with hosting, and free site migration service.
At the time of writing this, you can get their Eco-site plan for $2.95 per month. This is a really good bargain. They do list a free SSL certificate with the Eco site starter kit, but you will have to install the SSL certificate yourself. This isn’t a hard thing to do, we can teach here.
I mentioned their incredible customer service earlier, but I need to mention the importance of great customer service again. They have 24/7 customer service that I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes to speak with anyone.
Their customer service is incredibly responsive and available through phone, email, and chat. Whenever I’ve had an issue arise, they’ve been unbelievably responsive to my needs.
This kids of support is really invaluable to a website owner.
SiteGround hosting is another very good WordPress hosting service. I have used them on many personal sites as well as client sites. I would trust them with any website or blog in my portfolio.
As of writing this, SiteGround cost $3.95 per month at a minimum of 12 months. Much like GreenGeeks, SiteGround is not the cheapest nor are they the most expensive.
A few great features that SiteGround includes is a free SSL installation, CDN, free email accounts, daily backups, and help with your site migration if needed. SiteGround’s uptime is 99.9% and their support is just as good as GreenGeeks.
Side note: Their SSL installation is SOOOO easy. You call their customer support and tell them to install for you and then it’s done. It’s that easy.
As with all hosting providers, SiteGround isn’t perfect. If you want monthly billing then you’ll be required to pay a setup fee.
But the biggest strike against SiteGround is their limited storage space. You’ll only be given 10 GB of storage space. With many themes and plugins taking up more and more space along with your media and data files, you may hit 10gb quickly.
If you are running a blog/site with a low volume of visual content, won’t find 10G to be a problem.
Hostinger is a really cool provider that’s fairly new on the scene–at least in their rise to popularity over the last few years. They are known as the budget hosting service. With respectable uptime rates, 30-day money-back guarantee, and their cheapest plans starting under $1, Hostinger is quite the bargain.
I have not personally used Hostinger, but many reputable blogs have sung their praise. Amazingly, they have blazing-fast load times (under .4 milliseconds) for such low prices. I will be testing their service soon enough.
But not everything is perfect with Hostinger. Unlike GreenGeeks and SiteGround, they do not provide a free SSL. Their SSL starts at $11.95 for a lifetime activation. This isn’t necessarily expensive, but it’s unnecessary when other providers aren’t charging for SSL certificates at all. This model just seems dated. It’s one thing if you are selling a al carte services, but SSL is basically a requirement now.
We feel the reason you may want to give them a shot is their low price in combination with their fast loading speeds. For $0.80 per month, you will receive one website, one email account, and a hundred gigabytes of bandwidth. For $2.15 a month, you’ll receive unlimited websites, unlimited email accounts, unlimited bandwidth, weekly backups, and double the processing power and memory.
That’s serious value.
If you have a big budget and ultimate speed and security are everything, then Kinsta and WP Engine are your best bets.
There feature lists are long, speeds are blazing, support is world-class, security is Fort Knox, and the experience unparalleled. There aren’t many cons other than cost and limited number of visits.
If you are building a blog and anticipating making all your revenue from display ad networks, then this might not works as well depending on your budget and traffic.
Which one should you choose if money is no object? That’s totally up to you. You can’t go wrong with either.
You can’t go wrong with any of these hosting Services. They are all great, fast, reliable, and provide unique benefits in the hosting space. Most of our websites are currently using GreenGeeks because reliability, budget, and awesome customer service are most important to us.
If you are a new website owner, GreenGeeks or SiteGround will probably be your best bet with access to world-class customer support. If price is your biggest concern, Hostinger Is probably the best hosting service for you. If you bigger pockets and require red-carpet hosting, Kinsta or WP Engine would both work equally as well.
Choose a quality domain name
After you find the perfect hosting provider, it’s time to choose the perfect domain name. Your domain name is the web address that people will type in. My domain name is Buildstrongmarketing.com.
Finding a great domain name is a critical step for your website because it will stick with you for the remainder of your website’s life—in most cases.
While you can change to a new domain name later on, there will be important SEO considerations when doing so. I suggest getting it right on the first swing to save yourself the headache later on.
The following are important considerations when choosing a great domain name:
Domain names should be easy to type
This is the first rule when choosing a great domain name. Don’t get fancy or cutesy, you want people to remember your domain name and type it in the search bar effortlessly.
Also, people will be looking at your domain name and search engine results simultaneously. If you nail your headline put your domain name doesn’t seem relevant, they are less likely to choose your article.
I understand that you want your domain name to reflect your brand and personality, but do your best to mix creativity and practicality. A simple test you can use is to write down 10 domain names and then test them with family and friends. If they can remember the name and easily write it down correctly, you probably found a great domain name.
Shorter domain names are often better
Shorter domain names are often better than longer domain names for many of the reasons mentioned above. Shorter domain names are easier to type and that’s a really important factor when you’re building a brand. You don’t want to lose pageviews, new visitors, or potential customers because they were unable to remember your long domain name.
Think “elevator name”. If you could tell someone your domain name in an elevator and they could remember it with ease, you’ve nailed it. If their first question would be, “How do you spell that?” You’re probably in trouble.
Domain names should be relevant in most cases
Domain name relevancy implies that your domain name represents your business niche. If you are selling toasters online and your domain name contains the words “biggoats”, this will create product and name dissonance.
We understand that not every brand has a name that represents a product: Zillow, Google, Zoho, and GoDaddy are all examples of website domain names that are unrelated to their product and these are working really well. for them.
But in most cases, it’s good if your domain name is relevant to your niche. It’s just easier to read and connect to.
Choose a .COM if possible
.COM domain name extensions are typically the best domain name extensions for websites. The reason is because they are far more popular and common than any other domain name extension. People associate .COM extensions with legitimacy.
Young websites can really benefit from having .COM legitimacy behind their domain name. Most English-speaking audiences will associate .COM with authenticity and reliability.
There are many domain extensions that are rising in popularity such as .IO, .LY, and .APP, but we suggest you buck the trend for the traditional .COM. Give yourself the best shot at easy domain credibility.
Make sure to research close competitors
If you think you’ve found the perfect domain name, type it into a search engine and see what comes up. We’ve seen many instances where people build a ton of content on a domain name that was associated with a negative brand all along.
Or, they picked a domain name that was associated with a close competitor—not good!
Not only do you risk being sued for your domain name, but you also have reputation considerations and brand confusion issues. The best thing to do is to choose a domain name with both originality and non-competing wording.
Before choosing a domain, type it in Google. See what comes up. If the terrain looks open, you’re probably set to move forward.
How to search for domain names
Our favorite way to search for domain names is to use namemesh.com. NameMesh isn’t a super popular tool yet, but we think it’s one of the best resources for finding unique domain names. All you have to do is type in your domain name idea and NameMesh will give you hundreds of results to choose from. So cool!
They will separate the results by domain name extensions, common wording, new and exciting domain names, shorter domain names, fun and eclectic domain names, and a mix of your wording in different formats.
We have found some really great domain names for clients using NameMesh.
Keep in mind that their ultimate goal is for you to purchase your domain name through NameMesh. We don’t think that’s a great route to take.
There is a good possibility that your hosting provider will either give you a free domain name (GreenGeeks), or sell you a domain name for cheap. We always recommend getting your domain name from your hosting provider because there is typically a 60-day waiting period to transfer your domain name into your hosting provider.
While you don’t necessarily have to transfer your domain name to begin your website, it can be a pain to point the NameServers from NameMesh to your hosting provider to get your website working. Add in the complexities of establishing an SSL certificate from a domain name and hosting in different locations, it now becomes an unnecessary burden.
The main point: Buy your domain from your host. It may cost you a few more dollars, but it’s worth the hassle-free experience.
Install WordPress on your domain
We are going to keep this section pretty short because most WordPress hosting providers are capable of one click WordPress installations. You do not want a hosting provider that doesn’t offer this service.
Most hosting providers will use a built in website manager like Softalucious, Cpanel, or Fantastico which installs a clean WordPress site on your domain.
A one-click WordPress installation means that with the click of a button, WordPress will automatically be installed on your domain. You will typically select your username, password, and a few configuration settings.
After this is complete, you’ll receive an email with your credentials and WordPress site URL. Easy as pie.
Your WordPress Admin URL is always www.yourwebsitename/wp-admin. If you aren’t familiar with using the WordPress admin site, you will become familiar in no-time.
Choose a quality WordPress Theme
Choosing a WordPress theme can be really confusing, but lucky for you, we are here to clear the air. There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from, both free and premium.
Let’s talk about our recommendation for the best free WordPress theme, the fastest WordPress theme, and the best-in-class WordPress theme setup:
Choosing the right theme early on is pretty important. You want to make sure you choose a theme that fits both your image and your WordPress skill level. Not to mention, switching themes later on is a giant pain.
Be warned: not all WordPress themes are easy to use and navigate. Some are downright bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating.
Because WordPress is an open platform for developers and creatives, you will find different features from different theme developers in different areas of WordPress. It’s like a maze.
This is the most confusing aspect of using WordPress for people who are unfamiliar with their ecosystem. But we’ve got you covered. Our battle wounds have healed and we’ve tested dozens of themes to find the best of the best.
The best free WordPress theme
Astra is by far our favorite free WordPress theme. We weren’t always Astra theme users, but after the first two websites we built with the Astra Theme, we were sold. Like REALLY SOLD.
We’ve tested dozens of free themes and this one is Bar-None the best.
Over 300,000 websites trust Astra with their content. Astra comes with pre-built websites, blazing fast performance, customizable layouts and settings, customizable header options, and terrific styling capabilities.
Along with all of these features, Astra is also incredibly easy to use. Best of all, we love that Astra can grow with your WordPress business needs overtime. If your only requirement at this point is a fast and free theme to get your blog started, Astra free theme is perfect.
When you are ready to grow because your blog is skyrocketing to fame, Astra also has a PRO version that can do virtually anything on you can imagine. We’ll get to that later.
Runner up: OceanWP.
OceanWP has blazing fast load times, free pre-built websites, and the ability to upgrade later to their amazing pro version. I accidentally installed this theme and thought for sure it was a premium theme.
1.5 million people currently using OceanWP. They can’t all be wrong.
The fastest wordpress theme
One of the top ranking factors for search engines is website speed, and so it makes sense that you would want to begin your website or blog with a really fast theme. We haven’t personally ran side-by-side speed tests on all of the themes that we’ve used but we do trust the folks over at WP Rocket.
WP rocket is one of the best caching plugins for WordPress (increases your loading times and webpage speed). This is why we trust these guys to give a non-biased opinion on the fastest themes available—they don’t have a horse in the race.
They ran tests on a ton of themes and found what they believe are the 10 fastest. They most likely have the best data points out of anyone to do this test.
They found the following to be the 10 fastest WordPress Themes:
- Generate Press
- Astra (we told ya)
- OceanWP (we told ya again)
- Twenty Nineteen
You could choose any of these themes and they will be lighting McQueen. But again, we think Astra is the best mix of speed and “free-ness”.
The best-in-class WordPress theme setup
While free is good and fast is great, we believe that there are top-shelf WordPress product stacks that get you the best results possible—if money is no object of course.
Our favorite WordPress stack is:
- Astra Pro (WordPress Premium Theme)
- Beaver Builder (WordPress Page Builder)
- Ultimate Add-ons for Beaver Builder (More options for Beaver Builder)
- WP Rocket (Caching Plugin)
- Paperform (Website Form Builder, shopping cart, registration builder, surveyor/quizzer, and lead capture)
Astra Pro gives you all the benefits of the Astra free theme, plus more controls over things like navigation, layouts, WooCommerce, headers, colors, typography, and many other aspects.
While other premium themes like Divi and Avada are more popular in the WordPress community, we’ve had the best experience with Astra Pro out of all of them.
Astra Pro has three different packages to choose from:
We personally like the Agency Bundle because it also gives us other useful plugins like Convert Pro (soooo good) and Schema Pro. However, if you are a single website and only building one or two websites at most, we think the mini-agency bundle is a great deal. The Ultimate Addons plugin is included with this package (more on that below).
On the other hand, if you are planning on using a lot of popups, info-bar style popups, convert mat’s, or popup split/test’s, then the Agency Bundle might be worth the 1x price to Convert Pro as well.
Beaver Builder is a WordPress page builder with over 1 million loyal followers. What makes Beaver Builder amazing is the ability to edit your site on the web page screen. You can change text, images, column positioning, and more with a front-end drag-and-drop website experience.
This plugin is a game-changer for WordPress website builders. We can build websites up to 20 times faster with Beaver Builder. That’s not an exaggeration .
Beaver Builder Has three different packages:
If you are only building sites for yourself, we think the standard package is just fine. You won’t require the Beaver Builder Theme if you have the Astra theme already. We think the Astra Theme is a bit more robust in its offering.
Ultimate Add-Ons for Beaver Builder
This is one of those plugins that is just “cool”. Honestly, we use this plugin on almost every site because of how it expands what Beaver Builder can do.
If your focus is on building a blog with lots of text and very little pizzazz, you probably don’t need this. It could be overkill.
On the other hand, if you’re building a site with a landing page and multiple product pages or company pages, the Ultimate Add-ons plugin will give you a professional polish that you’d otherwise never be able to accomplish in the same amount of time.
Check out what this baby can do!
Ultimate Beaver Builder addons isn’t cheap, but it’s really good. If you purchase Astra Pro Agency Bundle or Mini Agency Bundle, it’s already included. Take a look:
WP Rocket is WordPress caching plugin which speeds up your website by loading only the good stuff and removing the unnecessary garbage behind the scenes.
We’ve seen really fast loading times with this plugin, improved search engine optimization, better search engine crawling, and improved file compression.
If you’re familiar with Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, then you’ll be familiar with WP Rocket. The difference between these three caching plugins is that WP Rocket is more robust, with more options, and more expensive ($49-$249).
It’s the best of the best and it costs some money.
Paperform is the best website form creator you’ve ever seen. It’s like the Masserati of form builders. Once I began using it, I replaced every other form builder on every website.
If I had to rate Paperform out of 5 stars, I’d give it 6 stars.
Here’s the deal: you don’t need Paperform right away and there are free plugins that can do many of the functions (WP Forms, Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms, Wufoo, etc). All of these are fine options. But they aren’t in the same universe as Paperform.
- Paperform is super easy to use
- Design rich
- Great for lead capturing
- Incredible landing forms
- Perfect for event registration
- Integrates with Stripe and Braintree to accept payments
- Sweet surveys and quizzes
- AND SO MUCH MORE
But…this is a premium marketing software. You probably don’t need this out of the gate. But as your site grows and your business grows, this baby is PRIMETIME. Once you master Paperform, you can cancel a few other subscriptions you might have.
If I had to rate Paperform out of 5 stars, I’d give it 6 stars.
How to install your WordPress theme
This part is actually really is. After you buy a WordPress theme, you’ll be given a compressed zip file. DON’T UNZIP IT. You’ll upload the zipped file to WordPress.
You go to Appearance > Themes > Upload > Add New > Upload
Once you install your theme, press activate. And then your up and running. Your website will have the theme installed on it. Now it’s time to decide which page will be your homepage and which pages you need to keep that were pre-installed.
Select your homepage format in the WordPress dashboard
WordPress by default will automatically use your blogs as your homepage unless you tell it to do something else. For bloggers in the beginning, this is perfect. For business websites and e-commerce stores, not so much. Go to Settings > Reading > Homepage Displays
If you are a blogger, it’s probably best to just get started on creating posts and figure out your core pages later (read below). You can select “Your Latest Posts”. But if you are a business website, you’ll want to create your first few core pages first like Home Page, Contact Us, About Us, etc.
Create those core pages first by going to “Pages”, and then comeback to Settings > Reading > Homepage Displays to pick your Home page.
Many themes will have some core pages already included in the layout. Check what your theme has given you. You’ll need to update them for your business.
Start writing posts immediately
For most websites that are looking to generate traffic, start writing immediately and creating loads of posts. Don’t spend too much time on your core pages.
There is no need for young websites to spend tons of time building the perfect landing page when there is ZERO traffic. It’s like building a billboard in area with no roads. Ain’t nobody gonna see it!
Instead, you would be far better off writing blogs, writing more blogs, and then finish off with writing blogs. The reasons are many, but it’s where the success is.
We’ve talked a lot about creating epic content to drive traffic. And this is the surest way to do so, outside of buying ads.
If you are a business looking to build really good landing pages, use this guide and then get busy. I can’t really tell you how to build your exact page because it’s impossible to know which themes you purchased, whether or not you are using a front-end builder (highly recommended), and what your design esthetic is.
But there are so many resources on how to do this depending on your theme. Astra has some really great pre-build websites. Just change the images and text to make it your own. Delete whatever Pages you don’t need.
What is the difference between WordPress Posts and WordPress Pages?
WordPress Posts are blog pages. They are where you create consistent content. This new articles, updates, product reviews, guest posts, and more.
On the other hand, WordPress Pages are the core pages in your website that are used for navigation. Your landing page, contact us page, about us page, shopping cart page, and product pages are all examples of Pages. These type of pages are generally accessible from your website navigation menu. They are considered “core” pages.
On large websites, you may have 10-20 core pages and 500-600 post pages.
Can I change my WordPress theme later on? Yes, but we wouldn’t recommend it. It can really mess with your SEO by restructuring your site. We suggest choosing a theme that has a free offering and a professional offering. That way, when you decide to move up to the professional version, it won’t destroy your pages. Our favorite for this is Astra Free and Astra Pro.