With the busy lifestyles we live today, it’s no surprise that consumers are becoming more technologically savvy than ever before. Not only do they turn to the web to make everyday purchases, but they rely on it to search and find the products and services that they need. In fact, an estimated 8 out of 10 consumers use the internet to find what they are looking for. With statistics like that, it’s safe to say that if your business does not have a presence on the web, your business does not exist where most of the people are trying to find it.
While social media websites like Facebook and Instagram can certainly help you establish a web presence and build a brand for your business, they can’t be the only thing you rely on. There are so many organisations that use these social sites for their marketing efforts that you can easily get lost in the crowd. And, though there are now literally billions of Facebook and Instagram accounts, those accounts aren’t always used on a regular basis. Another thing with these social media sites is that they tend to change their algorithms on a regular basis, which means you spend more time trying to work out how to keep improving your profile rather than building your own strong foundation. Furthermore, with the ageing Central Coast community, there are still a lot of people who simply don’t use social media sites (hard to grasp, I know).
In short, if you’re relying solely on social platforms to establish your web presence, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be overlooked by your target audience or that you won’t be seen at all.
What’s the best long-term solution to make your business visible on the web?? Your own website!
A website is an excellent way to promote the products and services that your business offers. It’s also a tool that can be used to provide your existing as well as potential customers with the important information that they may be looking for about your business, information that they can access with just a few clicks of their mouse or taps of their fingers.
The bottom line: If you want to make your business more visible and boost your success, you MUST have a website: there’s no way around it.
In this tutorial, I am going to show you:
How to plan the content for your new website
Selecting the right platform based on your requirements
How to buy a domain name
How to choose a reliable web hosting and set up your WordPress install
How to install your WordPress theme
How to customise WordPress with plugins
How to add your content to your WordPress website
Provide you resources to learn and grow your new website
Before we get stuck into building the website, I want to do a planning session with you. Content is one of the most important elements of a website. It tells the story of yourself or your company, it describes the products and services you offer; basically, content makes your site and your business come to life.
It’s not enough to have so-so content. You need excellent content. If you want to rank well with Google, get more visitors, sell more products and really connect with your audience, you’re going to need amazing content that really provides value to your visitors.
Since the words on your website are so crucial, it’s important to think about what type of content you are going to include on your website before you start to build it. Why?? It’s simple: the number 1 reason websites fail is because of poor content and failing to get their message across.
I have created a Website Content Planner PDF document to get you started in the content creation process. Download it and use it for the Website Content Exercise below. This will allow you to determine the structure of the navigation for your site. In other words, once you know what type of content you want to feature on your site, you can then start designing a site that will make that content shine.
I encourage you to complete this handy content writing exercise before you start designing your new site.
Think about the purpose of your website and what type of messaging you want to present. What will really make your company stand out against the competition, establish brand awareness, and help you become an authority in your industry?
While you might think your content is amazing, others may not. Make sure you share your content with people you trust and ask them to review it. Encourage them to give you their honest feedback and ask for suggestions or if they think anything should be changed. Edit your content as needed and make sure it is polished just enough so it’s ready to be added to your new website. (Remember you can always change it once the website is live).
Now that you’ve put some serious thought into your site’s content, it’s time for the fun stuff! Let’s move on to step 2: Building your website.
In my experience, a lot of business owners put off creating a website for their business for one of two reasons:
– They think that they will have to spend tons of money hiring a professional to do it for them.
– They don’t know the first thing about building a website.
These reasons for not creating a business website are understandable, but they aren’t valid. Not only do you NOT have to hire a professional to create a website for you, but you don’t have to have a tremendous amount of knowledge to do it on your own! In fact, with the resources available today, building a website is quite simple. With a few simple tips, you can have it up and running within just a few hours!
Today I’m going to show you the exact process I use to create stunning websites. Below are the simple steps that you can use to build and create a website for your business or personal blog. Believe me: following these steps and creating your own site will definitely pay off in the long run!
First things first: You’ll need to select a platform for your website. There are literally dozens of platforms out there, so how do you know what to choose? Building websites for over 13 years, I have had quite a lot of experience with most of them and here’s what I recommend for two of the most popular types of businesses:
Brochure-based content websites
For businesses that are going to be brochure-based content sites, this includes businesses that offer specific services to their clients, such as my friends over at HD Accounting & Business Consultants, I suggest using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform for your website.
To use the self-hosted WordPress option, you do have to pay a monthly or yearly fee for website hosting, a domain name and possibly a theme, it is far better than free services like Wix. Why?? Because by using WordPress, it’s not a proprietary content management system, meaning it’s not centrally owned by one company. This means you own the content, you can scale when needed and the website can be easily transferred to a new server.
I generally I don’t like the idea of using a proprietary content management system whether it’s a platform like Wix, Weebly, or one developed by an agency. More than likely you will outgrow them and it will become a nightmare if you decide to start with one of these platforms only to find out you need to start again because they cannot handle your requirements. Platforms like this also have a tendency to have terrible page load speeds and poor Search Engine Optimisation features.
Businesses that want to sell products online
If you operate a business that sells products, clothing, home goods, workout equipment, or anything else the platform that I suggest you use is Shopify. It’s an all-in-one solution for online stores that sell products that literally provides you with everything you need to get your e-commerce site up and running instead of having to piece everything together. e-commerce is a different game when it comes to websites, and can become very costly, very quickly.
Shopify has some great features to get up and running quickly, has a heap of integrations and has good SEO features. When it comes to running an online store, Shopify really is the best solution for an e-commerce website. I will create a new tutorial soon for creating a shopify store.
The next step in creating your own website is purchasing your own domain name. Your domain name serves as your own, unique identity on the Web and is the address where people can gain access to your website. It gives your business a more professional look and certifies your authority and reliability.
For domain name purchases and management, I use GoDaddy. It’s the largest and most reputable domain registrar in the world. They have improved quite a lot over the years, purchasing and managing domains is relatively easy and the prices are affordable.
If you’re a local Central Coast business who mainly deals with customers or clients nationwide, I suggest using a .com.au domain name extension rather than a general .com. Why?? because the latter is a global extension, whereas the former is local. This is a strong indicator to your target audience that you are an Australian business, which will also make your business more accessible to people located in Australia as they are likely looking for Australian based businesses when doing a Google search.
Step 3 for those of you going with a WordPress solution is to choose suitable web hosting.
Website hosting provides all of the services and technologies that allow a website to have a place to live on the world-wide-web. In other words, without hosting, your site won’t be able to be seen on the web.
This is the technical side of the project and where a lot of people get caught up and potentially give up. Bare with me though and I will explain the setup process.
There are a lot of hosting options out there, and again, over the years I have had experience with quite a few of them and currently, WP Engine has worked out the best for me. It’s easy to work with, offers great support, is super reliable, and has tons of options to choose from to suit your needs.
WP Engine also manages the infrastructure of your website so that you don’t have to worry about managing it yourself and can focus on more important aspects of your business. I much prefer to spend my hard-earned money on a solid infrastructure I know I can rely upon over the website design and set up that I have control over myself and can update until my heart is content.
You can either spend a bit more on a solid foundation and have a great performing website that people can use or you can spend it all on the look and feel of the website but it has poor performance because you decided to save money by going with a shitty web host.
Another reason why I love WP Engine is that it gives me peace of mind knowing they do backups on a daily basis. Should anything go wrong (and believe me, things can go dreadfully wrong), you will be able to restore your site using the backup from the day before.
(You get 2 months for free if you go with a yearly plan.)
Once you’ve finished the signing up for your account, you can create your new install. An ‘install’ is what WP Engine refers to as your directory that houses all the website files. A Startup plan allows for one WordPress site to be installed, or a Growth Plan allows up to 5 sites to be installed.
Awesome work, you’re now ready to set up your new website using a WordPress theme! Allow me to show you how.
Now you’re ready to choose a WordPress theme. The theme creates all of the front-end stylings of your site it’s what your site looks like to your visitors. It incorporates the font style, the colours, the layouts of your pages, the styles for all of your blog posts and archives. In other words, the theme dictates the overall design of your site, so you want to make sure you choose a good one.
There are tons of WordPress themes available from websites like ThemeForest, Creative Market and Themeisle. WPEngine recently purchased StudioPress which you will have access to from your admin panel. Each theme gives an overview of its features and you can also view the demo site that shows you a live version of the website. Select a theme that you think will work for your business and helps deliver the message you are trying to send.
An important note on themes: there are free options, as well as premium themes that you can pay for. Which is better? That really depends on what type of theme you are looking for and what your budget will allow.
Although you don’t want a bloated theme with 1000’s of features that you will most likely not use straight away, they can come in handy as your site grows and additional features are required. A good premium WordPress theme will cost you under $100 and can save a lot of time and headache once you get in to building and growing your website.
Once you’ve purchased or selected a theme to use, you will need to install and configure it. Configuring = customising. It involves making changes to the title, tagline, the time zone, the permalink structure, the reading settings, and so on. It’s best to make these changes before adding your content, you can tweak any styles for the content as you go.
Firstly; If you purchased a premium theme, the developer should provide in-depth documentation WordPress theme installation so be sure to read these instructions.
The general settings page of your WordPress website lets you set up some basic conventions about how your website will be displayed, including title, timezone, the format for date and time, and more.
To access this page, go to ‘General’ under the Settings link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.
Site Title – The title may be displayed in several places, including the web browser title bar, and the header (if your chosen theme has that option). It also appears on the Admin bar in the upper left, if you’re in the dashboard or viewing the site while logged in. Some themes have the option to include the Site Title as part of the title tag on each page, and it may also be used as an identifying name in your syndication feeds.
Tagline – For most installations, the default tagline will be ‘Just another WordPress site’, so be sure to change it to something related to your business.
Timezone – By default, this is set to UTC+9 – being in Australia this doesn’t help us so we need to update it to an Australian option such as Sydney.
Date/Time format – These should be good to leave as default.
At this stage, you can leave the other settings on this page as default. Be sure to click ‘Save Changes’.
Permalinks in WordPress = ‘permanent links’. Those are the permanent URLs of the pages and blog posts on your WordPress website. For example, the permalink of this very page that you’re reading right now is:
To access these settings, go to ‘Permalinks’ under the Settings link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.
Select the option ‘Post name’ and click ‘Save Changes’.
This step will vary depending on your theme settings, I recommend referring to the documentation that came with the theme.
Generally, there will be Theme Settings that will have a section to add the logo or the other option would be in the Customize area which is found in the Appearance link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.
If no logo is added most themes will show the text that has been added in the Site Title field.
You’re now ready to add content to your site, as well as the plugins.
Content is one of the most important aspects of your site, which is why I got you to plan it right from the start.
WordPress gives you the option to create Pages and Posts, posts should be used for blog posts about your business, where as Pages are static content that will not change much over time.
To add your websites pages;
Depending on your theme settings, you may need to select a page template or you would use the Default Template
You are able to set the order of your website pages by numbering them. By default, pages are ordered alphabetically. A tip here if you want to arrange them yourself is to number them in blocks of 10, starting at 0, 10, 20, 30 – this way you can easily slip new pages in between.
Preview the page to ensure you are happy with how it looks, then click Publish. If you are not ready to publish it click Save Draft to simply save the page and you can come back and finish it later.
Congrats! You’ve just added a new page to your WordPress site.
Repeat the above steps for all pages you set out in the Content Doc you completed at the start of this exercise.
Now that you have created the main pages for you new website, we need to set up the navigation menu on the website so your visitors can access your pages.
To set up your website navigate;
You can ‘drag and drop’ the menu items to rearrange them. You’ll need to ‘drag’ each subcategory to the right until you see the dashed line move in. Then just ‘drop’ it there. You can also reorder the menu items up and down to best suit your needs.
Drag-and-drop refers to manipulating objects on a computer by using the mouse.
Drag-and-drop objects by following these steps:
Next, we need to set the Menu Location, select the Manage Locations tab at the top of the page. This step is required to actually make the menu visible on your blog.
You will see how many custom menus your theme supports. Most themes will have 1-2 menu locations to choose from.
In the drop down box, select the custom menu that you wish to display in this location. (For our example select ‘Header’ in the left sidebar location.)
Click ‘Save Changes’
As for plugins, they’re pieces of software that feature a collection of functions. They can do a number of things, such as enhance the functionality of your site, add new features, and let you keep tabs on how your site is performing.
For example, the first plugin you’re going to add is a plugin called Yoast SEO – Refer to this article on how to set up Yoast SEO on your WordPress website. (coming soon)
Another excellent plugin to add is Monster Insights which I go into detail with in this article.
WordPress offers a plugin directory that you can use to search through thousands of available plugins. Think about what you want your website to do and what types of features would be the most useful to you and search for plugins that will meet your needs.
Visit the You built your website, what now? Recommended plugins article for an in-depth tutorial on the best plugins to improve your website speed, security and more.
Once your site is set up and you are happy with the way it looks, it’s time to go live! To do this you will need to update the domain records to point to the server your new website is hosted on.
Updates may take up to 48 hours to take effect.
Once everything has updated you will be able to access your website via your new domain name.
But remember, it’s important to keep tabs on your website as this is not just a set and forget project. It will require routine maintenance and on-going content updates are crucial for your success.
Now that your website is live, it’s time to head over to the Resources page to view the variety of business resources that can help in the day to day operations of your Central Coast business.
If this is all too much for you to take in right now, you can always get a quote for your next website project and I will be happy to help out.
Helping Central Coast small businesses succeed in the online world.
CentralCoastWebDesigner.com.au was started in 2018 as a toolbox for local Central Coast businesses who want to build and grow their online presence.