There are a host of different options available to small businesses today when it comes to websites. A variety of different platforms exist but building a WordPress site is what we would strongly recommend. Why WordPress? It’s easy, it’s free (if you do it yourself), it’s flexible, you’re in control and – best of all – it’s great for SEO. Here we’ll walk you step by step through the process so you can see how it’s done.
Choose your domain name
When it comes to picking the domain name for your website you’ve got a couple of choices. Do you simply use your business name or do you go for an exact match domain (EMD)? An EMD uses keywords as part of the URL but these types of domains can sometimes appear a little spammy and used to work much better than they do now. We generally prefer building a website with a company’s name as the domain. You can use sites like Know.em to check whether domain names and social media profiles are available. You can then head over to somewhere like GoDaddy to buy your domain name. Most domains are pretty inexpensive and cost under £10 per year.
Set up hosting
Before you start building your website you need to find somewhere to host it. Why do you need hosting? Your website will have pages, images and other content that will all need to be stored and made accessible to the web. The best way to do that is to rent space on a server, typically provided by a number of hosting providers. There are plenty of options and if you’re using an outside designer or developer they should be able to help you. There are plenty of good web hosting companies around. Packages can vary depending on the size of your website and other variables, but you shouldn’t really have to spend more than £5-15 per month.
Once you’ve chosen which package to go with you’ll end up in your hosting control panel. First time there can be a little daunting, but most hosting companies have a good support section with step by step instructions on what to do. You’ll start off by sorting out your MySQL database and FTP account, then you can move on to actually building your site.
Building a WordPress Site
Once you’ve got all the basics set up it’s time to start actually building your site. The next step is to download the latest version of WordPress, which you can do from here. The WordPress files will be saved wherever you choose on your computer and then you’ll just need to upload them to your site using some FTP software (we use Filezilla). Follow along the instructions from your hosting company and you’ll end up with WordPress all installed and ready to go. To access and log in to your site you just need to type in http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-login.php, where yourdomainname.com is your own domain name. You’ve now got your very own WordPress site up on the web, all ready to design and customise.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
If you think of your website as a house, WordPress is the foundation and framework and the theme is the painting and decoration. There are a huge number of themes you can choose from or you can have a designer develop one especially for you. If you’re looking to keep costs relatively low then there are plenty of off-the-shelf themes available from reputable companies like Studiopress and DIY Themes. If you’re a small business then we’d also suggest looking at the Small Biz Theme, which our own Smart Local website uses. Once you’ve chosen which theme to go with you can purchase it and then follow the download instructions.
To install the theme in WordPress you need to navigate to the Install Themes tab, which you’ll find under Appearance in the main navigation bar on the left. Upload the files and activate your theme. Once that’s done it’s time to start customising your site to suit your business, along with installing some basic plugins. Most themes will allow you to install custom headers and backgrounds, but check that the theme you’re thinking about buying allows them before making your purchase. Depending on what sort of budget you have set aside, there are different options available to you. Crowdsourcing sites like this one are increasingly popular, but you’ll also be able to find a local designer if you prefer more face to face discussion about what you’re looking for (some good advice here). Obviously costs will vary, so the main thing to keep in mind is feeling comfortable that whoever is doing your design work fully understands what you’re looking for.
Customising your WordPress site
Right, you’ve got your design work done and now it’s time to upload your header and background (if you have one). This is done by heading to the Appearance tab in the left hand navigation bar and then clicking on either Header or Background to install. Just browse for your files and then upload them … it’s that simple.
Before starting to add content to your site it’s worth just installing a few basic plugins. We’ll cover WordPress plugins a little more extensively in a future post, but here are a few that you’ll want to check out and install:
WordPress SEO by Yoast – the best SEO plugin to use for WordPress. It includes everything you’ll need including XML sitemaps, Google Webmaster Tools verification, Google Authorship and a handy traffic signal SEO checklist for each page and post on your site.
Google Analytics – allows you to easily setup tracking with your Google Analytics code along with a few extra handy custom variables that you may find useful.
Digg Digg – there are masses of social media plugins available but we do like this one.
Not taking into account the design time for any header and background we reckon that building a WordPress site should take just a couple of days. All that remains for you to do now is to get your shiny new site filled up with quality content and you’re off and running!
If you’ve built your own WordPress site or if you’re thinking about it we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you feel like you’d rather have someone else do it for you then get in touch and we’ll recommend a top notch WordPress developer to you.
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