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Many people are setting up their own website each day; whether it is to sell their own product, offer opinions in the form of a blog, or even to build a community around a niche that they are passionate about.
However, for someone who has never taken the steps to create a website before, the process to get started can be daunting.
In order to help you out, I will be answering eight of the most common questions that people have when starting their own website!
Step 1: Self-hosting or Shared Hosting?
The first question you need to ask yourself is really based around your ambitions for the site.
If you are creating a hobby site, then you can use the following free platforms offer you the ability to post on their shared hosting platforms such as Blogger.com, and WordPress.com.
Typically the trade-off here is that you are taking ease of use, over the potential for more customisation.
Be aware though that as you are posting on their hosting, they have the right to remove your content at any time, and can shut down their services at a moment’s notice, meaning you may have to back up your site, and re-upload it to another service.
If you are looking for more control over your website, it is highly recommended that you go for self-hosting.
This means that you are storing all files related to your website on your personal server (as opposed to them being stored in a shared location).
It is important to pick a good hosting company as they can help your site to run super-fast, and they typically offer 24/7 support in the event of any issues with your hosting.
Unlike free hosting platforms, they don’t come bloated with adverts and disclaimers, which can limit your legitimacy, and negatively impact the experience of your readers.
If you would like to start your own self-hosted website, I created a tutorial here that will show you how to for just $3.95 a month! You can even receive a free domain (worth $15) for your website if you purchase a minimum of a 12 month plan. It is a very cheap way to get started!
Step 2: How to Pick a Good Domain Name
Now that you know what sort of hosting you want to pick, you need to come up with a good domain name.
If you’re already an established business, then picking the .com extension is going to be the best for you, though if this is not available, it is not a majorly limiting factor.
As I mentioned above, you can get a free domain name with 12 months self-hosting with the cheap Bluehost offer.
If the .com is taken, then the .net and .org are the next best in my opinion, followed by the extension of the country you are in (e.g. United Kingdom uses the .co.uk extension).
If you are just starting, and are trying to come up with a name, there are a number of resources to help you do so.
Typically what I do is take a list of keywords which related to what my niche is about.
For example, I want to write about Travel. I would start with “Travel”, and put this into a thesaurus to get more word ideas:
Then I take “Guide”, or “Information”, and put them into the thesaurus too:
We can combine two words from each (which make sense), to create a potential domain name. These are a few I like from above:
With these potential names, I check whether the .com, .net or .org extensions are available using a tool such as ‘bustaname.com’:
The .net and .org domains are available, and you may wish to take them.
If you are adamant that you would like to take a .com domain, then you can start changing the domain addresses to be a bit more exclusive.
We can do this by adding words such as “the” at the beginning of the domain, or by changing letters for others with similar sounds (e.g. Trektip becomes Trektyp).
By checking ‘thetrektip.com’, I can see that .com is available, and will register that before anyone else does.
The typical rule of thumb for a domain name is that it shouldn’t be too long. It should also be recognisable, something you can brand relatively well, and something that people can remember (else they risk forgetting your site forever!)
Once you have your domain, then you can pay for WHOIS privacy which means that your personal and contact information will be hidden from the public.
If you like getting multiple daily cold calls from SEO experts, and website designers, then don’t bother about getting the WHOIS privacy!
Step 3: Which Platform Should I use?
As mentioned above, your choice for self-hosting, or shared hosting will have an impact on the options available to you at this stage.
If you want to take the free route, then Blogger.com, and WordPress.com are the two best platforms out there which can allow you to post your own content online.
They are very user friendly, but are difficult to customise, which means that your blog will look unmistakably like it is hosted with one of the free platforms.
If you take the self-hosted route, then by far my biggest recommendation, is to use WordPress.org (NOT WordPress.com which was mentioned above).
The .org version gives you an easy to install Development Toolkit which can be customised extensively.
With the Bluehost link I provided, you can install WordPress on your server with a single click, which makes the integration effortless. Best of all, it’s free!
The fact that over 50% of the world’s websites use it should convince you that it is a tried and tested platform that works for so many.
Major global brands such as Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, and even the official Sweden website are all using the power of WordPress.org.
Step 4: Choose a Theme
Once you have set up the basic installation for your site, you will then need to install a theme which is going to align with the branding of your website.
If you have gone the free route, then Blogger.com can be changed within the application (changing colour schemes and default themes), with the more advanced user amending the html code itself.
There are many online resources where you can take free and paid templates, and install them in Blogger.com.
Whether you went WordPress.com or WordPress.org, then you can choose from a number of the templates within the dashboard.
What you are looking for in a good theme is:
- Efficient: Try not to bloat out the theme with multiple features that don’t benefit the user,
- Speed: As with the efficiency, limiting the features should speed up your website,
- Responsiveness: Make sure your theme works with desktop, tablet and mobile (very important!)
- Navigation: Can a fresh user find what they need on your site easily?
- Customisability: If you want to amend a feature, can you do so without significant issue?
- Uniqueness: Your website is your brand. If you take a cookie cutter theme that is the same as everyone else, then you won’t stand out.
Step 5: Which Plugins?
If you have gone with WordPress, then the plugins will be relevant to you (otherwise just ignore this section).
There are a number of very powerful plugins which can really help transform your site into the service offering site you imagine it to be.
This is a list of the plugins which we recommend:
- Yoast SEO: Typically the first plugin we recommend for anyone with a WordPress site. The plugin allows the user to check the content of each page to help them ranking in Search Engines. It can check keyword density, readability (Flesch Score), whether your content needs more subheadings, internal/external links, and more.]
- Elementor: My website uses a free theme (OceanWP), but is completely redesigned by myself. Elementor Pro is a fantastic tool that allows you to customise the elements on your pages to look how you want them, without paying for an expensive premium theme. Also, you can create templates which can be applied to any page you require (so a default blog post template can be used every time!)
- WordPress Super Cache: Very important if you are looking into speeding up your website. This caches those heavy php scripts so that the user experience is improved dramatically.
- Backup Buddy: Make sure that your website is fully backed up in case you do something which messes it up; such as installing a plugin that doesn’t work well with other plugins, or wrongly amending the .htaccess file.
- Redirection: This was very important for my site as we moved it from the Blogger.com platform, to self-hosted WordPress.com. My permalinks were in a different format than they are now, so I set up redirects from the old links, to the new ones. The plugin offers a report of all attempted links that lead to 301 pages, so you can slowly redirect all pages over time to the correct URL.
Depending on what you are trying to achieve, Google will allow you to find the most appropriate plugins for your website.
Step 5: Building the Website Content
Content is the most important thing on the web!
If you have content that contains ‘keywords’ which are words or phrases that your target market are searching for in the Search Engines, then you have the potential to rank highly on these Search Engines, and have your content put in front of them (to drive organic traffic).
Find your competitors, or websites you wish to emulate, and try to do better.
Look at their writing styles, do they use 1st person, or 3rd person?
Do they use formal or informal language?
Does their content feel dry, or is it engaging?
Once you know what style you wish to use, then you need to find content to write about.
Rather than just writing about whatever (a mistake we made early on), you should find topics which are trending, or are consistently driving many views in the Search Engines.
You can check my guide on Free Keyword Research to find topics to write about.
If you are not writing a blog, and have decided to set up a website just for a product, then you should still potentially look into increasing the word content on your site.
If you are selling Cycling Accessories, maybe consider writing some content each week on “Why Cycling is Good for You”, or “Why is Cycling Good for Weight Loss?”
By building content, you can potentially drive traffic from multiple target keywords, which can then be directed to your products.
Make sure that you engage with the reader in your headlines, and excerpts (your opportunity to grip the reader’s attention).
Websites such as BuzzFeed do this amazingly well with their ‘clickbait’ titles.
You could post “The Seven Best Cycling Accessories, we love Number Four!” – this would intrigue the reader into a click to see what the accessory at number four is.
Finally, make sure that you add appealing images on your posts.
If you have people looking to share your content on Social Media, you can drive good traffic from images alone.
Step 6: What Now? Where is the Traffic?
So you have set up a website, and you have filled it with content, but no one is coming to see your hard work?
There are many aspects to consider when you look to increase your audience:
Is my Website Search Engine Optimised?
As mentioned above, your Search Engine Optimisation is key if you want to rank organically in the Search Engines (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo).
You can check the SEO of each of your pages and posts using the Yoast SEO plugin mentioned above.
I will cover this in more depth later.
Will I Consider Paid Advertising?
Paid advertising can drive customers to your website through Search Engines or Social Media.
There are multiple dedicated guides online to help you navigate the tools on each of these platforms, but if you are looking to drive traffic, then paid advertising may be the best option for you.
Generally, your spend on traffic should not exceed the amount you earn when monetising your website.
Should I Post to Online Communities?
Websites such as Reddit, and StumbleUpon are very useful to get traffic to your blog.
Reddit in particular offers ‘subreddits’ which are smaller, niche communities which can be incredibly powerful to show your links to.
An example is r/frugal (https://www.reddit.com/r/Frugal/) which is a subreddit dedicated to frugal living, and ‘effective allocation of resources’.
If you are looking to reach people who are looking for Personal Finance tips, and you are a Personal Finance blogger, then this is a fantastic community to target.
Be careful though because Reddit users are very aware about marketing, and if you are seen to just be spamming your content, you can get downvoted and banned quickly.
Make sure to promote other content as well as your own to not be seen as spammy.
Should I Post to Social Media?
Yes! If you are running a website, and you are looking to improve your Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP), then you should be building as many backlinks to your website as possible.
Posting your content on multiple Social Media channels, and getting the content shared can really help boost your authority in Search Engines.
If you have content which could be shown in a visual way, then you should look into Pinterest, and in particular, the Tailwind app which can help schedule your pages for automatic posting.
Also check out the tribes which can give your pages a huge boost in traffic by targeted viewers.
Should I Do Guest Blogs?
Guest blogs are powerful as they can get your name out there in front of an already established audience, on a site within your niche.
By creating a guest post, you are signalling to those readers that you have knowledge on the subject, and you may see a boost in the number of your subscribers as a result.
You should also ask for some nice backlinks on your post to help boost your Search Engine rankings further.
You can find blogs that offer guest posts by using the Google search template: “[Keyword] guest post” or “[Keyword] guest post by”.
Should I Have a Mailing List?
If you haven’t already started a mailing list, then start today!
Plugins such as that offered by MailChimp can allow you to retarget your subscribers with your latest content.
Rather than waiting for your readers to just keep checking if you have posted a new article, you should email it to all your subscribers at once for immediate traffic.
It takes time to build your mailing list, but there is no reason to put it off. The sooner you start, the better!
Interview Experts in your Niche
You can create interview articles with those experts that are posting content in your niche.
You can ask questions to gain valuable insights which can be offered to your readers.
Similar with the guest posting, it is likely that there would be a backlink placed on their website asking their followers to visit your article.
Speak to the Community
You have already likely been on community sites like Reddit, but have you thought about looking at what is being asked in your niche on sites like Quora?
If you have a particular area of expertise, you can answer the questions being asked, and can place yourself as an authority.
As more people view your helpful answers, they curiously may decide to visit your website!
It is also a fantastic way to find potential articles for you to write about in the future.
Should I Comment on Other Blogs?
Yes! If you are looking to build backlinks to your website, then leaving comments on blogs in your niche can help to do so, though it is not as important as before (it lead to people abusing the system by leaving spammy comments everywhere).
If you leave thoughtful comments on blogs, their readers might be interested to view your website from there. Just don’t expect to build much domain authority as a result.
Step 7: Earn Money from your Website?
There are many ways that you can turn your website into a profitable venture. You need to know what your website is offering from the outset.
When you are starting to build a following, you can monetise the viewers to the website with placed adverts.
Early on, you can monetise by signing up to Google Adsense, but as your viewers increase, there are companies which can offer higher RPM (Revenue per Mille, or ‘Earning per 1000 viewers’), such as Mediavine, Ezoic or AdThrive.
Affiliate Marketing is huge. Those who are making money with this method typically produce a piece of informative content which acts as marketing for a product or service.
A tracking link is provided by the company to the affiliate marketer who places it on their content.
If and when a customer clicks through the tracking link, and purchases the product or service, then the marketer will earn an affiliate commission.
It is a win-win-win for everyone involved!
The company gets a sale, the affiliate marketer earns a commission, and the customer gets the product or service best suited to what they were looking for in the Search Engines.
Launch your Own Product
This one takes time, but if you have the creativity and patience, you could create your own product to sell on your website.
Places such as Alibaba.com can put you in touch with manufacturing companies around the World (not just China) who can take your product designs, add your logo, and produce it on a mass scale.
With this method, you are allowing companies or individuals to post an article directly onto your blog, with a payment to do so.
You are already putting content on your blog, so why not take advantage of some earnings on top?
The difference between Sponsored and Guest posts is that Sponsored will pay you to put up content for a topic of their choice, while Guest posts will pay you to put up content that they have already created.
Given that Guest posts are easier for you, they typically pay less than a Sponsored post where you have to do the work.
Step 8: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
I saved this section for later after referencing it in the traffic section. This is because it is a huge topic that can’t be covered even by this section.
You will need to do your homework here, and be prepared to learn a lot before things start to work. It is an evolving art.
Organic traffic is one of the best sources of traffic you can get, because it is persistent, and free!
If you are looking to make sure your SEO is in tip-top shape, be prepared to spend countless hours of trial and error before you find a system that works for you and your readers.
You will need to focus on two areas:
On-page SEO: This is where your site is Search Engine friendly. In other words, the Search Engines are going to crawl through your content, and determine a relevancy rating. This rating is algorithm based where internal/external links, keyword density, headlines, Flesch readability score, and more are taken into account.
Off-page SEO: This concerns the number of backlinks to your website. If someone likes your content enough, they might post that on their social media, or share through other means. Big websites like Forbes, or Wall Street Journal might pick up your article, and link back to it for their readers to visit.
Before you go posting your website URL to every site you can think of, be aware that there are good and bad backlinks.
The quality of the linking domain is very important.
Spend some time reading one of the numerous SEO guides on the internet for a brief introduction.
Try out some of the free tools available before you delve into the professional tools.
So there you have it, eight important steps to get you on your way!
Take a note of this list, and try to work your way through it to create your first website.
Once you have put in the work to get the content ready, then the majority of your work begins.
Those running top websites mention that the marketing efforts for their websites to be successful, take up around 80% of their total time!