In the beginning, setting up a WordPress website can seem like a monumental task. There’s so much to do, but where should you start?
Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll answer that question for you.
When you’re starting from scratch, there are three major stages that you’ll go through when creating a website with WordPress, as follows:
Stage 1: Lay the foundation. First, you have to buy a domain, get a hosting package, and install the WordPress CMS onto your hosting server.
Stage 2: Focus on site design and content. Next, you’ll get familiar with the WordPress environment, learn how to install a theme, and write your first blog post.
Stage 3: Optimize your site for search engines. Finally, you’ll deal with SEO to ensure that you get the most out of your new WordPress website.
We’ll tackle each stage in detail and show you everything that’s required to create a WordPress website.
By the end of this article, you’ll see that, if you take it step by step, building a website isn’t the difficult task that you thought it would be.
Let’s get started!
Stage 1: Lay the Foundation
You have to create a solid foundation on which to build your website. This section will go over the early steps you’ll need to take, which include buying a domain name and hosting package, installing WordPress, and familiarizing yourself with the platform.
Buy a Domain Name and Hosting Package
To create a WordPress website, the first two things you’ll need are a domain name and a hosting package. Here’s a brief explanation of those two critical building blocks:
- Domain name: Your domain name is the web address of your website. It’s what people will type into their browsers to go to your WordPress website. For example, our domain name is www.hostpapa.com
- Hosting package: A hosting package provides you with a hosting server and all the services you need for your website. This includes disk space, bandwidth, and more.
Where do you get a domain name and hosting package? From a hosting provider like HostPapa.
Just visit the website of the hosting provider of your choice and take a look at their hosting packages. When making your selection, keep in mind that there’s no need to go for a high-tier package in the beginning.
Once you purchase a suitable hosting package, you’ll be provided with the option to choose a domain.
Install WordPress on Your Hosting Server
After you’ve got your hosting server ready and you’ve purchased a domain name, the next thing to do is install WordPress on your hosting domain.
Pro Tip: Chances are, your hosting provider has installed WordPress on your hosting server. If they haven’t, and you’d prefer not to install WordPress yourself, you can ask their Customer Support to install it for you.
If you do decide to install WordPress on your hosting server yourself, you’ll find it’s easy. Here’s how:
- Log into your hosting server. Your hosting provider will give you the username and password.
- Once you’re inside, go to the cPanel dashboard and scroll down until you see the WordPress icon in blue. Click on it and follow the on-screen instructions to install WordPress on your website.
The on-screen instructions are straight-forward and you’ll only need some basic details about your website, like your domain name and SSL certificate information.
Get Familiar with the WordPress Dashboard
With WordPress installed, it’s time to log on to your WordPress dashboard. To do that, enter your domain name, followed by /wp-admin. Here’s an example:
This will bring you to the login page, where you’ll enter your WordPress username and password. These credentials are either provided by your hosting company, or you create them while installing WordPress.
Once in, you’ll see the WordPress dashboard. It will look something like this:
The dashboard panel is very easy to understand. It has four main areas:
- The overview area: This is the main area (the mostly white part) of the dashboard. Here you’ll find widgets that give you quick information and provide access to the most frequently used options, like writing a blog post, adding a new page, writing a quick draft, and more.
- The left-hand side panel: This is where you’ll be spending most of your time. Here, you can access your posts, media, pages, and comments. In addition, you’ll find the menus to change your site’s appearance, manage plugins, add users, and perform other admin tasks.
- The top menu: In the top menu, you’ll find a shortcut that will take you straight to your website from the dashboard, and a shortcut that will show your latest comments. On the far right, there’s an option that will take you to your WordPress account settings, and one to log out.
- Screen Options: This button, located on the upper-right side of the WordPress dashboard, allows you to add and remove widgets in the overview area.
Every setting of WordPress is easily accessible through this dashboard. It has a simple layout, so all you need to do is use it a couple of times and you’ll get the hang of it.
Stage 2: Focus on Site Design and Content
At this point, you’ve created a foundation for your website. Now it’s time to think about its design, functionality, and content. This section will take you through the steps to install a theme and needed plugins, write your first blog post and pages, and create menus to help your users navigate the site.
Dive into the World of WordPress Themes
Once you’re familiar with the WordPress dashboard, it’s time to install your WordPress theme. You have two options:
- Install a theme from the official WordPress store.
- Install a theme from a 3rd-party store.
If you want to get a WordPress theme from the online store, go to https://wordpress.org/themes/browse/featured/ and download the theme of your choice.
You can search for themes based on their layout, features, and subject, which will help you narrow down the selection. Keep in mind that not all themes are free—some themes will cost up to $50.
Choosing a 3rd-party theme is your other option, and you should know that they may be harder to set up.
Most 3rd-party themes come with advanced features, including a drag-and-drop builder. They also tend to cost a bit more than the themes found in the WordPress store. This higher price and complexity of the 3rd-party themes is often worth it due to the advanced features you’re getting.
Here are some popular 3rd-party theme stores:
- Elegant Themes
Once you have selected a theme, you’ll need to install it on your site. You may do this from a downloaded .zip file, or directly from the WordPress store.
Here are the steps for installing a WordPress theme:
- On the left-hand side panel of the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearances → Themes.
- On the Themes page, click the Add New button.
- At this point, you can either find the theme in the official theme store and install it from there, or, if you purchased a 3rd-party theme, move to the next step.
- To install a 3rd-party theme, click the Upload Theme button.
- Select the theme file from your computer, upload it, and click Install Now.
If you’d like to switch to a different theme later, simply navigate to Appearance → Themes, where you’ll be presented with all your installed themes. Click the Activate button next to the theme you want to use.
Explore the Power of WordPress Plugins
Plugins are probably one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of WordPress.
You can think of plugins as apps for your WordPress website. Just as apps on your phone give it features that it wouldn’t normally have, every WordPress plugin that you install increases your website’s functionality.
While it’s OK to get themes from 3rd-party creators, the best place to get plugins for your website is directly from the WordPress plugin store. It offers all types of plugins, including those for security, customization, and increasing your site’s functionality.
For a brand new WordPress website, we recommend these plugins:
- Jetpack: For all-around security and backups, along with some basic customizability.
- WPForms: To add a subscription form to your website.
- Sucuri: For advanced security, especially if you have an online store or collect sensitive information from your users.
- Optinmonster: To create attractive popups on your site; it’s great for presenting offers or other important CTAs.
- Shared Counts: To add beautiful looking social share buttons to your website.
When it comes to plugins, this list barely scratches the surface. The more you use WordPress, the easier it will be to decide what plugins you need.
There may come a time when you want to install a plugin that’s only available outside the WordPress store. To do that, simply download the .zip file and click the Upload Plugin button to upload and install the plugin.
If you decide to use a 3rd-party plugin, make sure it’s from a trusted source. Beware of plugins that hackers may have created as a way to attack your website with malware or viruses.
Create Your First Blog Post and Web Page
With your theme and plugins installed, it’s time to create some content for your website. For many, that starts with writing a blog post.
To do that, click the Posts menu on the left-hand side panel of the WordPress dashboard. Then, click the Add New button.
This will bring you to the WordPress editor, where you can type your blog post, add additional media, and then publish it on your website.
Pro Tip: If you want to edit your website’s content in HTML, you can switch from the Visual Editor to the HTML Editor.
After typing your blog post, here are a few things you need to do:
- Add a featured image: To attract people to your blog post, you should upload a high-quality, unique image that relates to the subject of the post.
- Come up with a good heading: The headline plays a huge role in attracting people to your article. Make sure it’s engaging.
- Add metadata and category: Adding metadata to your blog posts improves SEO. This includes the permalink of the blog post, the tags, and the post’s description.
In addition to creating new blog posts, you can also create new pages for your website. For most sites, just a homepage isn’t enough. You’ll probably want to create a Blog page, an About Us page, and a Contact Us page, for example.
To create a new page, click the Pages button on the left-hand side panel, then click the Add New button.
Create a Menu for Your Website
The last thing you should do at this stage is to create a menu for your website. Menus are important because they help users easily navigate your website. All the important pages of your site can be added to a menu to make them easier to get to.
Let’s look at the steps to create a menu for your WordPress website:
1. On the left-hand side panel, navigate to Appearance → Menus.
2. On the right side of the Menu page, you’ll find the option to create a new menu. Give your menu a name and click Create Menu.
3. On the left side, you’ll find the option to Add menu items. Click on the pages, links, and posts that you’d like to add to your menu.
4. Next, click the Manage Locations tab and choose a location for your newly created menu. Most themes will offer you the ability to add menus in multiple areas of your site.
5. Click Save Changes, then open your website to see how the menu looks. If you aren’t satisfied with it, simply go back to the Menu page and make the necessary changes.
Pro Tip: Click the Manage with Live Preview button to make changes to your website’s menu in real-time.
Stage 3: Optimize Your Site for Search Engines
The first two stages cover the basics of setting up your WordPress website. In the third and final stage, you’ll address a crucial factor—search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO is very important if you want your website to be discovered by as many people as possible. It helps your site rank higher in search results, which will lead to more traffic.
We won’t get too deep into SEO here. It’s a vast topic that deserves its own article. However, there are a few things you could do right away to improve your SEO, starting with the following:
1. Make sure your site is visible to search engines. Go to Settings → Reading on the left-hand side and deselect the option that hides the site from search engines.
2. Improve your site’s permalinks. Go to Settings → Permalink and make the links as simple as possible, removing numbers, dates, and other unnecessary information.
3. Install the Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin will help you generate an XML sitemap for your website, connect it to the Google Search Console, and optimize your blog posts for SEO. It’s highly recommended!
There’s a lot more to optimizing your site for search engines, but with these three steps done, your WordPress website will be off to a good start when it comes to SEO.
You’ve probably given it some thought, but if you haven’t completely decided what you want to do with your WordPress website, now’s the time.
Are you looking to create a blog and make money from it?
Do you want to build an online store and sell products or services?
Will the site be for showcasing your portfolio to advertise your talents?
Once you’re sure what to do with your site, you may need to change its design and content to attract the audience you want.
If seeing the flexibility that WordPress offers has sparked new ideas about what your site can be, explore the following profitable options:
- Build an online store. There are many convenient tools that can turn your website into a store.
- Create awesome blog posts. Having a blog with great content can make you a lot of money, solely by earning contributions from your readers.
- Get into affiliate marketing. If you can review books, electronics, clothes, or products from any other popular category, you can earn a commission when someone buys the product through a link on your website.
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking; there are so many directions you can take with your site, limited only by your ambition and imagination.
It all comes down to one question: What do you want to do with your new WordPress website?