What You Really Need to Know About Setting Up a Website

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setting up a website guide, computer on a deskSo, you’re a small business owner ready to take the plunge and set up your own website. The only problem, you have no idea where to begin!

Sound familiar?

Thankfully, setting up a website doesn’t have to be nearly as scary as it sounds.

Once upon a time, people had to actually code their websites in order for them to actually get up and running.

Thanks to the creation of themes and site builders, that isn’t necessary anymore.

Can you still get a website custom coded? Absolutely!

Should you get a website custom coded? I think that really depends.

If you have a very complicated business with a lot of moving parts and very specific search situations, then a custom website could be useful.

The problem with custom sites is that they take a ridiculously long time to create (we’re talking months at a minimum) and they are going to be very expensive since you’ll most likely have to hire a developer.

You’ll also have to keep that developer on the payroll because the likelihood of you being able to make any changes to your website after the fact are slim to none.

Just don’t do it.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means that should you purchase anything through one of my links, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. You may view my Disclosure Policy for more information.)

Setting Up a Website

In the grand scheme of things, setting up your own website isn’t hard, it’s just time consuming.

If you’ve never worked online before and have never seen the backside of a website before, then it can be a little intimidating at first. The main thing to remember is to stay calm. Just take things one step at a time.

You’ll need:

  • To purchase your domain
  • Choose a hosting provider
  • Install WordPress
  • And start designing

That’s pretty much it.

Setting up a website is kind of one of those things where you never really know how to do it until you do it. It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take some trial and error to get some of the kinks figured out.

Just remember that there are always others out there willing to help, like me! Give me a shout and I’m happy to help you out in any way that I can.

Cost of Setting Up a Website

Let’s talk cost.

If you’ve done ANY searching online about setting up a website, I’m sure you’ve seen several things suggesting that you can set up your business website for free.

That’s completely true.

What you have to keep in mind though is that those sites letting you do that for free have restrictions on the types of activities that you can do on your site.

Many limit your ways of monetizing your site such as using ads or affiliates. I personally love using affiliates on my sites to help bring in some passive income. Who wouldn’t?

The other thing about those free sites is you don’t actually own your domain.

When you go through the domain purchasing process, it’ll end up being something like www.yourbusinessname.wordpress.com. That isn’t very professional if you ask me.

If you want to look professional, with full ownership over your website, and unlimited access to all of the resources that the internet has to offer, you need to spend a little money. This is all about investing in your business.

Domain

First things first, you’ll need to register a domain name.

Your domain is the address where your site can be found. It’ll be something like www.yoursite.com.

There are many, many places where you can purchase a domain name online. Some people do it through the host (which we’ll discuss in a minute), and others purchase through a site like NameCheap.

Both have their perks.

Purchasing through the host means that everything is all together, but purchasing through a service like NameCheap may give you some additional domain name options.

There are so many interesting and unique domains popping up these days. Sites with endings like .shop or .baby have become very popular.

While there are a ton of different options out there for domain names and the ending of the URL, “.com” is still the most popular.

It’s become pretty common knowledge that most websites have .com attached to them. Keep that in mind when choosing your domain name.

The other thing to pay attention to is how complicated a name it will be.

If you want to use something that is extremely long or hard to spell, then you will probably run into some issues later on with your readers and/or clients not being able to find you.

Try to keep your domain name short, sweet, and to the point.

And please, for the love of all that is good in this world, don’t use any words that could easily be mistaken for other, less pleasant, words.

Words such as “therapist” can come off a little differently when they’re written with other words in all lowercase. Just keep those things in mind.

Just check out some of these domain name fails if you don’t believe me

Most domain names will cost you around $15.00 a year on average. It really isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things.

setting up a website, choosing a domain name

 

Host

Your hosting company is a very important decision. Your host is the actual place where your website lives.

If you don’t have a way of hosting your site, then you don’t have a website. It’s as simple as that.

My personal favorite for first time site owners is SiteGround. Their customer service is second to none and I’ve never had any issue with them that couldn’t be easily fixed. They’re fantastic.

SiteGround, like most hosting companies, will offer a pretty great discount to first time accounts. It comes out to anywhere between $3.95 a month to $11.95 a month depending on which plan you go with.

The best way to make the most out of that discount, is to actually purchase a full three years of hosting all at once. You’ll get the big discount for three years and you won’t have to worry about renewing your hosting until the time is up.

It’s definitely worth it.

Just head over to SiteGround and select WordPress Hosting.

 

siteground hosting packages

 

From there, you’ll need to select your plan. While you can select the StartUp plan, I’d strongly suggest the GrowBig plan. This plan will give you the ability to grow your website traffic a bit before having to worry about upgrading your plan.

The StartUp plan only works well for sites less than 10,000 pageviews a month, and while that may not seem like much, you can hit that number very quickly. My first site hit 20,000 pageviews in the second month after launch.

 

siteground wordpress hosting plans

 

Once you choose your plan, then you’ll need to enter your domain name. You can either purchase one through Siteground, or you can bring over one that you have from NameCheap or some other domain name site.

 

domain name set up

 

Now it’s time for all the account information.

I would strongly suggest purchasing the 36 month plan rather than the 12 month plan. This will ensure that you get that really great discount for a full 3 years. Once the 3 years are up, you can go back to a yearly plan or even look at switching hosts. Whatever you need to do for your business at that time.

The other thing that isn’t required, but I would suggest, is the Domain Privacy. This will keep your name and personal information from showing up anywhere and everywhere on the web. It’s just a little added precaution against anyone you don’t want to tracking you down.

 

setting up a website, siteground walkthrough

 

There you go! That’s the basics.

Once you’ve purchased your plan, you’ll get an email from SiteGround walking you through the next steps in installing WordPress. From there it’ll be about the design elements.

 

choosing a website host

 

Once You Set Up WordPress

Choose a Theme

Once you have your domain purchase, your host set up, and WordPress installed, it’s time to choose a theme.

Your theme is the foundation on which you design your website. It adds to the look and feel of your overall website and can make or break your design efforts.

There are several options out there and the costs can vary widely.

WordPress comes with a variety of free themes easily accessible through your dashboard. You are welcome to search through there and see if you find one that you like.

I personally haven’t had much luck with those themes for a few reasons.

  1. Rarely do they allow me the full customization that I’m looking for.
  2. They aren’t always as mobile friendly as they claim to be.
  3. There are so many options that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

I don’t like it.

For free theme options, I’m actually a big fan of Astra. That is the theme that this site is built on. While I have the pro version since I use it to build client sites, the free version is still a great theme.

Easy to use, fully mobile responsive (absolutely necessary!), and I can easily customize the elements that I want. I love it.

Just like with Astra, many themes have a “pro” or paid version available, and some themes actually require you to purchase it before you can even use it.

Determining whether a paid theme is “worth it” has a few factors.

  • Will you be using it on more than one site?

If you plan to have more than one site, then having the pro version of a theme can be great because typically you’ll be able to use that paid theme on all of your sites.

Having the same theme on every site makes setting up a website much easier since you’re already familiar with the process.

  • Does the pro version have additional features and support you want?

Many pro versions of a theme will have additional features, and typically additional support than the free version will.

I’ve even seen some that will give you access to private Facebook groups where you can connect with others using that theme for help, and even access to additional online tutorials to help you get the most out of your theme.

The pro versions will also have additional licensing that can be very useful if you plan to do any kind of work with client websites.

For instance, I build websites for clients. Not only that, but I also create custom themes to sell to make things easier for business owners to design their own sites.

Having the pro version of a base theme like Astra makes that much easier since I have full licensing allowing me to do that.

No matter what business you’re in, always, always, ALWAYS pay attention to the terms and conditions of the products and services you use. You have to protect yourself and your business. Always read the fine print.

Install Plugins (Carefully)

The key to keeping your site fast is to reduce all of the code that your site has to load each time a user clicks on one of your links.

That is especially true for plugins.

Some plugins are MONSTERS! They are big, bulky, and leave behind a lot of unnecessary code that can have a big effect on your site speed.

I’m looking at you Jetpack.

I personally try to operate on the fewest plugins possible depending on what I need for a site.

best plugins for a new website

Those are what I would consider the base essentials for a new site. You have to have some sort of firewall protection because it doesn’t matter who you are, someone will try to hack your site. It just happens.

Even if you don’t actually pay attention to many of RankMath’s features right now, it is still extremely useful for simple things like adding your meta descriptions to your posts and to give you a better understanding of how your post may rank.

Getting rid of spam comments from bots floating around on the internet will save you a HUGE headache later on when you realize that all of your comments are just garbage. No one wants that.

And being able to have a backup of your site’s files and database will keep your panicking to a minimum if you try to edit something and your site decides to break. It happens, that’s why having backups and a caching plugin are so important.

Decide on a Builder

Unless you have some coding skills, you’re most likely going to want to install a website builder to help you design your site.

My personal choice is the Elementor Page Builder. The free version works really well and has some great functionality, though I do love the added options that come with the pro version. I use the Astra and Elementor duo on most of my client sites since they’re easy to use, have great functionality, and they make it really easy for the client to take over after the fact if need be.

I’ve used the Divi Builder and while it works really well and is very user friendly, it’s bulky and very likely to slow down your site. You’ll also run into the trouble of having to go through your entire site and delete all the shortcode that it leaves behind if you ever decide to change themes. It’s a mess!

Stick with Elementor, it’s much easier.

The Necessary Pages

Unless you’re just looking for a 1-page landing page, there are a few pages that you need to make sure that you have on your site.

About Page

This is to let not only your readers, but also Google know who you are and what you do. This will help your readers feel connected to you as well as let Google know that you have the knowledge and experience to talk about what you’re talking about.

Authority goes a long way with your SEO rankings. Google wants to make sure that you aren’t just pulling information out of thin air and calling it fact. Google wants to know that you have either the knowledge or the experience to know what you’re talking about.

Having an About page is huge for that.

Contact Page

No matter what type of business you’re in, you need to have a way for people to reach you. Having a contact page is also an additional way to prove to Google that you are, in fact, a real person.

Legal Pages

These are the pages that most new site owners overlook. You must, I repeat, you MUST have the appropriate legalities on your site to protect you and your business.

There are plenty of templates available out there to help make the process easier for you, but you have to have a way for your readers to find out about the way you do business.

A Privacy Policy, a Disclosure Policy, and a Terms and Conditions page are the most common to have on a blogging website. If you have a service-based site, then you may have a Terms of Service instead.

These documents will let your readers know who your affiliates are and what your policy is for that. It’ll explain how your site uses personal information gathered from your readers both intentionally and unintentionally. As well as make it very clear what type of activities are allowed on your site and which are not.

Always, always, always have the appropriate legal documentation on your site at all times. Whether you are a sole proprietor or a full-blown corporation, your website is still a part of your business and you should treat it as such.

Hiring Someone to Design a Website

Whether you choose to build your site on your own or hire someone else to do it, it’s going to cost you something. Either time or money. You just need to figure out which one you’re willing to part with.

Website designers can charge a wide range of rates depending on how long they’ve been in business and how many additional services that their design packages include.

Some designers include the branding, some include the website copy (like me!), and some only supply the basic foundation.

It’s important to remember, that like with any expense, you get what you pay for. A $50 website is going to look like a $50 website and a $5,000 website will look, and function, like a $5,000 website. It’s up to you to determine what you want out of your relationship with your designer.

Just make sure that you designer is someone that you trust. Make sure that he or she can break things down for you in an easy to understand way and that he or she will help you understand how to use your website once everything is all set up.

The last thing you want is to have someone build you a site and then leave you to fend for yourself in order to actually get it functioning.

I’ve also seen some designers put in so much custom coding that the business owner is basically required to keep them on staff just to make simple edits to the site.

I’m not a big fan of that mentality, but to each his own I suppose.

Know that a good quality site will probably cost you between $2,000 and $5,000 for a 5-page design going through a designer.

Doing it yourself though will likely cost you 50-100 hours. You get to decide which is more important. Your time, or your money.

Look at it this way, how much are you charging your clients hourly to work with you? Now multiply that by the 50-100 hours it’ll take to build your site. If it makes more sense for you financially to use that time with more clients rather than struggling with your site, then hiring a designer could be your best bet. Just something to think about.

setting up a website pricing graphic

 

Creating a Website for Your Business

Not all businesses need a website when they first get up and running, especially if you can function off of word-of-mouth or referrals.

I’ve seen many freelancers get their businesses started completely through social media and cold pitching and then choose to have a website years later once they’re ready to scale.

Each business is different and the needs of your business may be different than the needs of someone else’s.

If you are just getting started in the online space and your business doesn’t need a website to function, then don’t feel like you have to do this right now. Take your time with it.

That being said, when you get to the point where you’re ready to grow and scale your business either by creating more passive income options, using a blog as a traffic driver, or simply expanding your email list to generate more leads, having a website will only help you.

Common Mistakes in Setting Up a Website

If you are ready to get your website up and running, then make sure you aren’t making any of these extremely common mistakes. They’ll only hurt you in the long run.

No Plan

It doesn’t matter how big your business is, it is still a business. You should always have a plan for your business. Even if you’re just trying to figure out how to make it to next month, that’s still a plan.

Your website is no different. Set up your website with your business plan in mind.

What kind of functions does it need right now? What kind of functions will you need in the future?

Will you be selling any digital or physical products? If so, then having the ability to easily integrate the systems needed will save you a major headache down the road.

What about scheduling client appointments? You’ll need to be able to have a way for your clients to do that quickly and easily.

Always, always, always keep your user experience at the forefront of your mind. Just because something makes sense to you doesn’t mean that it will make sense to your audience.

If a 7-year-old can’t navigate your website, then it’s too complicated.

No Branding

Branding is something that WAY too many business owners overlook, especially when they’re first getting started.

Many people believe that your branding is the color palette you use and what your logo looks like, it really isn’t.

Don’t make the mistake of building your business without first building your brand. Your brand is the foundation of your business just like the foundation of your home. Do you want to live in a hut or in a fortress?

Building a strong brand identity is essential for making sure that your business will last for years to come.

No Marketing Strategy

I’m not saying you have to start your website and have every single piece of your business laid out and ready to rock. Though if you do then kudos to you!

You should have some sort of plan for how you’re going to be using your website. Not only will this help you make sure that you have all of the right stuff set up from the get go, but you’ll also have a better idea of how it needs to be set up.

Knowing how you plan to monetize your site will allow you to have a better understanding of what your potential clients and/or readers will need out of your site. That will also help you to know how you’re going to reach them.

Will you be using Pinterest, social media, Google SEO, or a combination of everything? You need to know who you’re talking to and how you’re going to get those people to your site before you should even start worrying about the look of it.

Poor User Experience

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will kill your site faster than a bad user experience.

Whether the site has a bold background color, difficult navigation, or annoying popups doesn’t really matter. It still leads to a poor user experience.

Have you ever noticed that the vast majority of the websites on the internet all have a white background with black font? That isn’t because it’s simple, it’s because that is the easiest way to read text on a website.

I’ve come across sites that have strange background colors and no amount of quality content will be able to keep me there or make me come back. It’s just too hard to read.

And I’m just going to go ahead and say it. No one likes popups. No one.

The ONLY acceptable popups are exit popups. They only appear when the cursor leaves the main field.

If I go to a website and am immediately assaulted with popups and ads before I can even get to the content, then it doesn’t matter what you have to say, I’m leaving.

Always, always, always think about your audience when you’re putting things together.

user experience graphic

No Focus on SEO

It doesn’t matter what your marketing strategy is for your website and your business, spending time focusing on SEO is an absolute must!

Google boasts more than 60,000 searches a SECOND! That’s an insane number of searches a day to ignore. Figuring out how to target just a portion of those people will make a HUGE difference in your business.

Having a strong SEO strategy can make or break your business. If you want to chat about how to up your SEO game, then give me a shout. Otherwise, I strongly suggest taking Stupid Simple SEO. At the very minimum get on the mailing list.

Mike Pearson is the guy that runs it and he is insanely knowledgeable and sends out amazing emails full of valuable information.

I was on his email list for months before I finally got up the nerve to purchase his course and I am SO glad I did.

Time to Set Up a Website for Yourself

Setting up a website doesn’t have to be as difficult as many people make it out to be. The hard part is when you actually start designing it. There’s something about designing your own website that can just drive you nuts.

I know, I’ve been there. This is the second version of this website and I don’t even want to tell you how many times I redesigned my first blog’s website.

Someone once told me that you can’t read the label from inside the bottle and nothing has ever been so true in all my life.

So, if you get hung up at any stage of the setup and/or design phase and you’d like a little help, I am more than happy to jump in and help out in any way that I can.

If you don’t actually need my help and just want to chat, I’m good for that too. Everyone needs a business bestie!

Are you excited about setting up your website? Leave me a comment below and let me know the good, the bad, or the ugly. I’m all ears!

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