The Ultimate Guide to Building a Website with WordPress

So you want to build your own website, but have no idea where to begin? I’ve got you covered! Building and maintaining your own website or blog can be very rewarding (and possibly very lucrative).  This ultimate website building guide will show you step-by-step the process involved in making your own website with WordPress from scratch. I will share my own experiences with you, as well as give recommendations. First of all… why WordPress?

What is WordPress and Why Should You Use it to Build Your Website?

WordPress is an all-in-one website creation and management tool. There are other platforms out there, but in my opinion, WordPress is by far the best website building platform available (especially if you’re just getting started). It’s very user-friendly, and is constantly being updated. Not only this, but there are a crazy amount of add-ons and support for website builders and bloggers who use WordPress. Most hosting sites (as I will discuss in a moment) offer the ability to automatically install WordPress for you. Whether you want to set up a blog or a professional website, WordPress offers endless customization. So where do you being?

1. Choose a Domain Name

This step is important, but not as important as others will tell you. Make sure to pick a domain name that clearly tells your visitors what your site is about. Don’t worry if you can’t get the exact name you wanted; usually adding an extra word or letter will solve that problem. You can always look up synonyms to change a word. Another option (that I’m not a huge fan of) is to create a word (think Google, Bing, Quora), but be careful: unless it’s a memorable word, people are likely not going to know how to get back to your site. There are multiple sites you can purchase a domain name from (I originally purchased my domain through GoDaddy), but I recommend first purchasing a hosting plan as most of these plans include a free domain name (such as SiteGround). Otherwise, you can point your domain to your hosting service (here’s a good tutorial on how to do this).

2. Choose a Hosting Plan

Now you need a place where your website and all of it’s files will be stored. There are many, many hosting plans out there. If you are using WordPress, there are several hosting options that are better than the rest. They will usually install WordPress for you with the click of a button. Also, keep an eye out for extra freebies that come with the hosting plan (email accounts, backups, support, free domain). I attempted to break down the features of each hosting site:

  • SiteGround (What I use for this site, and can fully recommend)
    •  Plans range from $3.95 to $29.95 per month depending on sales
    • Cheap Prices
    • Official WordPress recommended host
    • Free Domain Name
    • Free Email Accounts
    • One-Click WordPress Installation
    • 10, 20, and 30 GB Plans
    • My Opinion: Using SiteGround to host several of my websites for years, I have only had one instance of my site being down for about 10 minutes. It has overall been great for me and cheap.
    • Go to SiteGround’s Plans
  • WPEngine
    • Plans are $29.99 per month and up.
    • Great support for WordPress
    • Optimized for WordPress – meaning fast, secure, and reliable
    • Great customer service (will usually respond in minutes)
    • One-Click WordPress Installation
    • Pricey
    • My opinion: If you don’t mind a higher price compared to other hosting plans, WPEngine is one of the quickest and most reliable hosting sites out there for WordPress.
    • Go to WPEngine’s Plans
  • BlueHost
    • Plans range from $3.95 to $23.99 per month depending on sales.
    • Cheap Prices
    • Official WordPress recommended host
    • Very large storage (cheapest plan has 50 GB of space, while the rest are unlimited)
    • Free Domain Name
    • Free Email Accounts
    • One-Click WordPress Installation
    • Possibly slow page loading times
    • My Opinion: BlueHost offers many attractive features, including unlimited storage for some plans, but users have complained of slow page loading times. This is a good option if you’re just starting out using WordPress, but you may eventually feel the need to move to another hosting service (which most hosting sites will assist you with).
    • Go to BlueHost’s Plans
  • HostGator
    • Plans range from $3.95 to $14.90 per month depending on sales
    • Cheap Prices
    • One-Click WordPress Installation
    • Unmetered Bandwith
    • Free Email Accounts
    • Unlimited Storage
    •  Slow Support Response
    • My Opinion: For the price, HostGator is a top pick for beginners. Unfortunately some have complained of slow response time when contacting support. If customer service is not a priority for you, HostGator is a viable hosting choice.
    • Go to HostGator’s Plans

3. Install WordPress

Most hosting sites offer a one-click installation. This is usually within the site’s cPanel (once signed up for a plan, you should be sent an email giving you directions on how to access your cPanel). If for some reason your hosting service does not offer an easy installation, you can find a tutorial on WordPress’s website on how to manually install it. Once installed, you can access your dashboard by adding /wp-admin to your website’s URL (example.com/wp-admin).

An example of a WordPress installer on SiteGround

4. Choose, Install, and Customize a Theme

Now that you’ve installed WordPress, the next step is to install a theme. What is a theme? It’s a blueprint for how your website is going to appear to your visitors. Try to stick with a theme that’s simple, but professional. You can find free themes or pay for more professional themes that offer more customization abilities. I have used several different theme sites, but have found ThemeForest to have the widest selection (and they offer both free and paid themes as cheap as $2). For this site, I am using the Throne Theme found on ThemeForest. Once you have your theme (it should be a .zip file) follow these steps to install it on WordPress:

  1. On the left hand toolbar in the dashboard go to Appearance -> Themes 
  2. Click on Add New at the top of the page.
  3. Click Upload Theme
  4. Click Choose File, then find the .zip file for your theme.
  5. After several minutes your theme will be installed.
  6. On the Themes page hit Activate underneath your Theme. Your Theme should be installed and activated on your site.

Now that you have your theme all set up, you can customize it to your liking. Most of the paid themes will have their own separate customization menu in the left hand toolbar (that will allow you change almost anything in the theme). If your theme doesn’t have this, go to Appearance -> Customize.

ThemeForest offers a large selection of themes. Each theme usually comes with a month or longer worth of support.

5. Install Plugins and Widgets / Set Up Comments

  • Plugins
    One of the benefits of using WordPress for your website is the endless amounts of plugins. Plugins allow you to do just about anything with your site. Add sharing buttons, a store, an email signup form, visitor tracking, SEO assistance, and much more. In order to install these plugins go to Plugins -> Add New on the left-hand toolbar. Here you can see the most popular plugins being used. You can also search for a specific one or upload your own. In order to use a plugin all you have to do is hit Install Now. Some of my favorite plugins are:

    • Jetpack – More of a complete toolkit than a single plugin, Jetpack provides site statistics, security, downtime alerts, comment integration, and much more. It also has several tools to help speed up your website.
    • Pretty Link Lite – A very useful plugin that that turns any link into a ‘pretty’ URL. For example, TheHighTechHobbyist.com/Facebook leads straight to my Facebook page.
    • All in One SEO Pack – A great way to simpify SEO (search engine optimization). This plugin gives you a toolkit at the bottom of your post editing page that allows you to set title, description, keywords, and several other things that search engines will detect and display.
    • SlimStat Analytics – As I will discuss toward the end of this guide, tracking visitor stats is essential for your website. SlimStat gives you all the information you’ll ever need.
    • WP Super Cache – By using caching, this plugin will speed up your website for your visitors.
    • WooCommerce – Set up an online store using this popular plugin.
  • Widgets
    Widgets are useful tools that can be inserted into sidebars and footers. Use widgets to display latest posts, most popular posts, ads, social media icons, menus, search bar, and much more. In order to access these go to Appearance -> Widgets (on the left-hand toolbar). You can then drag and drop widgets into the area you would like to display them. Widgets are installed using the same method as mentioned above for plugins.
  • Comments
    Comments are an important part of any website that wants visitor interaction. There are multiple services that allow comments, and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. On this site I use Disqus. It not only provides me with a lot of control over it, but also allows visitors to post comments as a guest or by logging into several different social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google). This flexibility promotes visitors to comment. Using Facebook comments is another option. Most people have a Facebook account, however, many people seem to rather post anonymously (which is why I don’t use it).

6. Set Up Your Permalinks

This is what visitors will see in the URL box when visiting your site. By default WordPress sets the URL of each post to an ugly number (ex: TheHighTechHobbyist.com/?p=254). Make sure you switch it so it appears with the title of your post (ex: TheHighTechHobbyist.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-building-a-website-with-wordpress). Follow these steps in order to do this:

  1. On the lefthand toolbar of your Dashboard go to Settings -> Permalinks
  2. Click Post Name under Common Settings

7. Start Posting

Now for the fun part! The most important component of a successful website or blog is content. WordPress allows you to very quickly add this content through the use of posts. They even offer a mobile app to post on the go. In order to add a new post through your dashboard go to Posts -> Add New. Here you’ll see something similar to Microsoft Word, where you can add and format text. The top of this area will have all of your common formatting options: Bold, Italicize, Bullets, Link Insertion, etc. There is also a button for proofreading (always proofread your posts).

Near the top right corner of the post editing area there will be two tabs: Visual and Text. The Visual tab will be something similar to what your visitors will see. The Text tab will show all of the code for your page. If you need to add any code to your page (maybe for ads or signup forms), add it to the Text tab.

Make sure before publishing your article to add a featured image. The featured image is what readers will first see, so make a good impression. It can be simple text or a picture (or both). I try to make the text as easy to read as possible so if someone shares the article on social media people will know exactly what they are clicking on. There are several programs that I use to create featured images including Canva (a free online editor) and Photoshop (my favorite, but costs a little money).

Once you are finished building your post, hit Publish to add it to your site immediately or you can schedule the post to go live at a certain time by hitting Edit next to the calendar icon (above the Publish button). You can also save a draft and preview your post. Try to save a draft of your post as often as possible in case you have a computer or internet problem (trust me, I’ve lost a good amount of work before due to technical issues).

The quality of your posts can be greatly enhanced using media. Whether it’s an embedded Youtube video, charts, or pictures, visitors tend to be more engaged when you include media. You can add these media files by clicking Add Media above the post editing box. Pictures can be tricky, as you do not want to post copyrighted images. Google Images has a search filter that allows you to search just for images you can reuse for free. Another option is paying for stock images. While not always cheap, you can usually obtain higher quality than searching through Google. I use Adobe Stock, which offers single purchases or a monthly fee.

You may also want to create a page without it automatically being included on your front page. In order to do this you can use Pages instead of Posts. A Page is something you can use on your website to feature a Contact form, or an About Me page. To add a new page from your dashboard go to Pages -> Add New.

8. Track Your Traffic

Once you’ve published a few posts, it’s  important to start tracking your traffic. While there are several ways to do this, I use Google Analytics (implemented using code) and SlimStat (a plugin). Both of these provide real-time visitor information, along with summaries of anything you’d ever want to know (views, unique IPs, traffic sources, outbound links, visitor country, session duration, etc.). This information really helps me in deciding how I want to write and promote my posts. For example, if I see a lot of visitors coming from Facebook, I will try to promote ‘liking’ my Facebook page. It’s also very rewarding seeing your views start to grow!

9. (Optional) Start Monetizing

There are several methods website owners and bloggers use to make money through their site/blog. One of the most common methods is through ads. While using ads is not the most high paying method, they are usually pretty reliable. Most ad networks offer an average of $1 to $10 per thousand views of the ad (based on several different factors). On this site I use both Adsense and Media.net. I have made about double the amount of income per month using Media.net, but the ads are usually not as visually appealing. Both of these advertising networks offer customized ads that aim to increase the click rate of your visitors.

Another way to make money through your site is by using affiliate links. When users click on a link and purchase something within a certain period, you will receive either a flat fee or a percent of the sale. Many bloggers and website owners have found much success using affiliate marketing. Amazon offers an affiliate program where you receive a commission of any sale made 24 hours after clicking an affiliate link on your website. I have set up a website, Golfer’s Buying Guide (you see see my first article on golf gps watches), where Amazon is my primary affiliate program. There are other affiliate programs I have found success with including Rakuten Linkshare and ShareASale. These both offer higher commissions than Amazon, but a smaller selection of products.

You may also opt to allow sponsored posts on your site. A sponsored post is when a company pays you to write a post about their product or service. While this can earn you a nice income, many bloggers feel this ruins the relationship between them and their readers. These are just a few of the many ways to monetize your website. In later articles, I will discuss each of these methods in detail.

10. Stick With It and Promote Your Posts

A lot of website owners and bloggers get discouraged after a month or two of low traffic. While it may seem like your website is going nowhere, it usually takes time and some effort for it to grow. If you’re counting on Google search traffic, it will take some time for your posts to be ranked higher (but they eventually will be). Some of the best ways to promote your website’s posts are through forums, Facebook groups,and Google Communities. Find people who have similar interests, and share your posts. Be careful though, don’t spam your links. I’ve found the best method of sharing links to your posts is by first offering quality help or discussion, and then offering a link to a post on your website that might explain something in more detail.

So that’s it! Hopefully this ultimate step-by-step website building guide with WordPress has aided you in creating an awesome website or blog! Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below, and I will respond as soon as possible. Don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get updates on more ‘HighTechHobbyist’ tutorials like this one.

  • Sean

    Thanks, awesome guide. You got any advice for a guy wanting to start a woodworking blog on how to make money from it?

    • Glad you found it useful! I don’t know much about woodworking, but you could possibly post Amazon affiliate links to woodworking tools.