A website is one of those vital pieces of author success. It's the "home-base", as you will, where you will connect with your readers, nurture them, and more importantly spread knowledge about your writing. Today, I'm giving you step-by-step tutorial on how to set up your author website on WordPress.
Why WordPress? Because it's, hands down, the best out there for business owners and authorpreneurs like ourselves. Let's get started!
Step 1 - Set Up Your Hosting Account
So the very first thing that you are going to need is a hosting account. I always recommend Siteground because their customer service has been amazing and I've had no issues with any of their services in the past. (Please see update in bold.)
Note: One hosting service that I feel as hyped up a lot is Godaddy and I absolutely recommend not to go with Godaddy. From my experience and talking to a bunch of other business owners and website owners - is that people just get more struggle than benefits out of Godaddy.
2020 Update: I now use EasyWP through Namecheap for hosting and absolutely recommend it for beginners. I had a huge issue with Siteground (won't go into details) but I won't be using their services again.
Step 2 - Purchase Domain
So then you're going to want to get your domain and a lot of the time when you signed up for a hosting account, your first one is usually free. So if you are starting out with a hosting service, then it's likely that they will offer you a free domain, otherwise, it can be purchased through your hosting account for a minimal fee, if that is something you're interested in doing. But, what I have recently started doing is using Namecheap to purchase my domains. This is because their customer service has proved to be phenomenal. They've helped with any issues that I've ever had. And, they are also one of the less expensive services that I have used or seen in my web design history. That said, I'm not a web designer. I'm all self-taught, but I do all of my own website designing and upkeep.
Something to keep in mind is that domain names need to be purchased or renewed once a year. Sometimes they have packages where you can go ahead and purchase a few years out if you know that you're going to be keeping that domain for quite a while. A domain is generally pretty cheap. They are usually under $10 per year. And with Namecheap, I have been able to purchase domains for about $8 each.
Step 3 - Install WordPress
Once you have your hosting account and you have your domain, all you are going to need to do is to log into your hosting account and install WordPress on your actual site. My hosting service, which is Siteground, has a one-click install. Seriously, just one click and they literally install it for you. So you don't have to be a techie, you don't really have to know what you're doing because you just click a little button and they get WordPress all set up for you.
What you'll do is go to your C- panel, which is where you control all the different aspects of your website through your hosting account. Once you are on C-panel, look for the button that says "Install WordPress". You're going to click it, you're going to select the domain that you want to install it on and what you want your login information to be. And, then you click the install button. And, you're done.
Step 4 - Pick A Theme
Now you've got a host, you have your domain and you have WordPress installed. You are going to need to get a premade theme or a template. In WordPress, there are going to be a ton of different options. All you've got to type into Google search bar "Wordpress theme" and you're going to get bombarded by a bazillion options. Some of these are going to be free. These are usually not the best ones. They're not going to be as visually appealing; they're not going to have as many customization options. And then there are the paid ones and like I said earlier, there are going to be a whole lot of paid ones. It can be a little overwhelming if you let it be.
I always, always suggest going with one of two different services. Both options are easy to set up. They're not techie for those who don't have the knowledge needed to run the complete back end and do coding and all of that stuff. They are Divi and Thrive Themes. I recommend looking at them and doing your research to see if one of them will work for you.
Of the two, Divi will be your best bet for ease of use and customer service in an entry-level option. It's drag-and-drop so you don't have to know coding. They have modules that you just click and it shows up on your website. You can customize colors, text size, and design. That said, Divi is owned by Elegant Themes, which is a membership-based service. You will have to become a member to Elegant Themes which runs on a yearly recurring payment. But I will go ahead and say it is absolutely, completely worth it for ease of use, for visual appeal, and for so many other reasons.
Now, the other one that I like to recommend is Thrive Themes. Thrive Themes is another membership run service, but you can get just the Thrive website builder and themes without joining the membership, although the membership is completely worth it. But as a new website builder or somebody who is just starting out and maybe doesn't have the funds to be able to afford all of their services, then you can buy their website builder and themes separately from the rest of the membership.
2020 Update: For a free theme with full customization options, I recommend OceanWP theme with the Elementor page builder, which is also free and very similar to Divi! Both OceanWP and Elementor have paid upgrades but you do not need them to build a solid, beautiful site.
Step 5 - Install Theme
Once you have your research and you have your theme, the next thing that you're going to want to do is install this theme. When you purchase your theme, you're going to get it in a zip file. You are going to log onto WordPress on your site, under the admin, and you will click on install a theme. Then you will just upload this file directly into WordPress. It's very easy, it's not a lot of tech or coding.
From this point, you may still want to add different things to your website. Different features or special design aspects or things like that. The way you do this is through plugins. A plugin will make your site function the way that you want to. They will add certain features and allow you to customize your site even further.
For instance, a few things that you may want to add a plugin for would be things like SEO. One of the best SEO plugin that I always like to recommend is called Yoast Seo. This is used to help boost your ratings, help you show up on Google easier, and optimize your website for search engines.
You may also want a contact form plugin that is connected to your email host so that you can connect your sign up forms directly in to your newsletter service. Or, let's say you want to have an Instagram widget on your website where links to your Instagram and shows the first few photos in your feed. Then you'll need a plugin for that.
Step 6 - Add Your Content
Now that you have your theme installed and you have the plugins that you want installed, the next thing that you're going to need to do is to add your graphics, the content, and make the site your own. This is where you're going to have fun customizing the copy and uploading pictures of your book covers if you have a published book already. This is just really where you're going to make your website look the way that you want it to look.
Now, if you decided to go with either Divi or Thrive Themes, then this is going to be super easy because like I mentioned, they both have really powerful page builders and so you're going to be able to drag and drop and customize the color and do all of that without ever having to go onto the back end or use any type of code.
So I'm going to go ahead and give you a warning. When you first install a theme on your website, it's going to look very bare and definitely not like any of the demos or websites that you have seen that use the same theme. It will be very bare-boned and you're going to have to put in some work to make it visually appealing and how you want it to look.
Once you add your content and you have your graphics all set up and you have used your plugins like your SEO to optimize your site, then you are all done. It is really that simple. You can DIY your own author website and then you can start blogging, putting out videos, or linking your social media to your website to have readers drawn there.
Now that said, the process can be time-consuming. I do want to add that it is okay if you look at all of this and still feel a little overwhelmed, especially when it comes to the different theme options and plug-in options because it really can be intimidating at first. And I just want to let you know that that's okay. It is fine to take your time here and go slow. I recommend sitting down making a list of exactly what you want to include on your website and do your research first, then put together the website. This would work better for you instead of trying to set up your hosting first and end up wasting time not knowing what theme you want to use or what plugins you need to use. Because from the point that you have your hosting and have your domain, this is time that you are already paying for.
So I recommend sitting down and brainstorming:
- What different pages you want to include on your website
- What different content you want to include on your website
- What plugins will you need to make this work?
- Are you going to purchase one of the themes that have a drag and drop builder, or are you going to try to learn to code and get that all set up for yourself?