So before we dive deep into strategies to monetize your site…
I thought it would be helpful to do a brief overview of the steps involved in setting up a website and review some basic website terminology, so that we’re all on the same page moving forward.
The goals for this post are to:
- Describe the basic steps involved in setting up your own website.
- Define some of the confusing website lingo that gets thrown around.
- Help you feel like you understand the process a whole lot more than before you read this article!
Why do you need a website in the first place?
These days, it’s pretty much a requirement to have a web presence.
Your website is, at the bare minimum, the place where people will go to learn more about you and your business, and find out how to contact you about your services.
At its best, your website is a space where you can build community and relationships with those you serve, and get them to know, like, and trust you before purchasing your services.
But, before you can get started building your online presence, it’s important to have a general understanding of what’s involved in building a website.
A website requires a few things:
1) A domain name
3) A content management system
4) A theme
Once you have all four of those items, you’re good to go!
Now…. let’s talk about what these items are, how to set them up, how much they cost, and why you need them.
#1: The domain name.
This is the URL that people to type in to get to your website.
Domain name registration is relatively cheap (around $12 per year), but you have to continue paying that fee annually for as long as you use the name.
As websites become more and more ubiquitous, it’s becoming harder and harder to think of a domain name that hasn’t already been registered!
Before you get too attached to your dream domain name, I recommend doing a quick domain name availability search in GoDaddy or Google Domains.
You’d be surprised at how many URLs are already taken!
(This is in some part due to domain name squatters who scoop up popular sounding domain names, and then try to sell them for thousands of dollars)
If your ideal domain name is already taken, you can:
1) Scrap the name and come up w. a new one.
2) Purchase a slight variation of the name, perhaps using a different ending than .com (for example, if nutritioncompany.com was already taken, you could try a spin off name, like nutrition.co instead).
3) Purchase that ideal domain from the person who already owns it.
(Hint: even though the current owner may SAY they want thousands of dollars for it, I’ve heard of many people who contacted the owner and were able to purchase it for a few hundred instead. Especially if they are just squatting on the domain and not actually using it).
Overall, registering for a domain name is pretty easy. The hardest part is usually coming up w. the name!
Once you’ve found a name that is available, you will be faced with the option to just purchase the .com, or also buy the .net, .org, .info versions.
I’d say 99% of the time, you only need the .com.
Next, you’ll be asked whether or not you want to add privacy to your domain.
What the heck is privacy?
Basically, you’ll pay another annual fee (~$8/year) to keep your personal contact information that is automatically linked to your domain (name, address, email address, & phone number), private.
*Of note, Google Domains does NOT charge an extra fee for the privacy feature. It comes included in the cost of your domain.
I personally always choose the privacy feature. It helps cut down on some of the spam emails & calls you’ll get from web design companies etc.
Lots of websites, like GoDaddy, will try to upsell you on a bajillion things along the way, like custom email addresses, website set up, etc., but you don’t need any of those things right now. All you need is the domain registration & privacy.
They’ll also try to get you to purchase multiple years of domain registration, but that is unnecessary at this point. What if you change niches, or want to start a new website next year? No need to lock yourself into a 5-year plan. You can just set it to auto-renew annually, and cancel the service if you no longer need that domain.
Alright, so now you have your domain name chosen and purchased. You’re all good to go, right??
So far, all you own is a URL, like www.ericajulson.com, but right now, there is currently nothing ON your website.
If you type in the URL, you’ll just see a page that says “This website is parked for free, by GoDaddy.com”
To build an actual website, you’ll need item #2….
What is hosting?
Well, all websites require files to run, and these files have to be stored somewhere, right?
This is where hosting comes in.
You pay a company to “host” (aka store) your website files on their servers, and make sure that they are accessible & running smoothly.
Then, when someone types your URL into their web browser’s address bar, their computer will connect with your host’s server, and display the pages of your website.
Honestly, I’ve been purchasing my domain names and hosting through GoDaddy since 2011, mostly out of habit/convenience, & I’ve been satisfied with their services.
HOWEVER, as my traffic is starting to grow, I am looking into switching my hosting to WPopt or SiteGround, of which I’ve heard fabulous things. My main concern is website loading speed. Having a slow site can negatively affect SEO, and I’ve heard GoDaddy is among the worst.
Anyways, back to the topic of hosting…
Generally, there are two types of hosting:
1. Shared hosting.
2. Dedicated server hosting.
Shared hosting is what most small business websites and small blogs use.
With shared hosting, the files for multiple small websites are hosted on the same server, and the cost is split amongst the various website owners.
This saves the hosting company money, since they don’t need to build a server for each customer, and saves the business owner money, since they probably couldn’t afford to pay for a private server right off the bat.
I’d say 95% of the time, shared hosting works just fine. The only time it can become a problem is if, for example, you have a post go viral, and so many people try to access your site at once, that it overwhelms the capacity of the shared server, and your site goes down.
Be aware, that technically if ANY of the sites on your shared server “go viral” or have a huge surge in traffic, ALL the sites on that shared server will be affected. But, that is a risk many are willing to take for lower costs.
If/when you start to suffer site outages or super slow loading times due to high traffic volume, then it’s time to start thinking about moving away from shared hosting. But for beginners, it’s a great affordable solution, and should remain so until you reach traffic levels of thousands of visitors per day.
Shared hosting typically costs around $10 per month, paid upfront annually (so about $120).
Dedicated server hosting, in contrast, is just what it sounds like.
You pay a premium to have your OWN private server, and not have to share it with anyone.
The capacity of that server (and the amount you pay monthly) will depend on the amount of traffic visiting your site each day/month. More traffic = higher cost.
Most bloggers don’t need to switch to dedicated hosting until they consistently have several thousand visitors per day.
Once you reach ~100,000 pageviews per month, you may want to check out Orange Geek for dedicated server hosting. It has great reviews from other food bloggers, and costs anywhere from $50-$115/month for up to 2.4 million monthly visitors.
I personally use one of GoDaddy’s shared hosting plans: Deluxe Linux Hosting with C-Panel.
I chose the deluxe option, rather than the basic plan, because it allows you to host multiple domain names under the same hosting plan (yay, saving money!).
If you only have one website, then the Economy plan is probably for you. You can always upgrade later if you choose to add more sites.
Now, there is an additional option on most hosting sites: Managed WordPress hosting.
If you sign up for managed WordPress hosting, your hosting company will take over the management of your WordPress install and updates.
If you are not a technology-minded person, and want support in setting up your website, then managed WordPress hosting might be a good option for you.
However, you do lose a small amount of control/customization abilities (like which plugins you are allowed to install). Probably not a big deal unless you want to get really technical with your website!
Managed WordPress hosting may also have slightly faster website loading speeds, since all of their servers are optimized for JUST WordPress.
Once you’ve purchased your hosting, you will be asked to link the hosting to the domain name of your choice.
YOU’RE ALMOST DONE!!!
Now, you’re ready to install the third piece of the website puzzle:
#3: Your Content Management System (CMS).
What is a content management system?
It’s basically an interface that allows you to:
1. Design your website
2. Add content
3. Keep everything organized and functional (without having to know any coding….phew!).
By far, the most popular and widely used CMS is WordPress.
WordPress has been around since 2003, and is what MOST people use to manage their websites.
Since it is so popular and widely used, it is constantly being updated, bugs and security risks are being fixed, and there are an endless number of companies offering free and paid themes and plugins to make your website look great and function at its best.
You can learn more about WordPress on their website, www.wordpress.org. (Note: this is NOT the same things as www.wordpress.com, which is a free blogging platform and NOT a content management system for your own website. You want to visit the .org to learn more about the CMS).
Another huge perk? It’s super easy to install WordPress on your website. Like literally one click.
In GoDaddy, you go to your hosting control panel (easy to find once you’re logged in), and choose “WordPress One-Click Install”, wait for it to finish, and you’re good to go!
Now, how do you log into your website to start adding content?
Well, the easiest way is to go to the default login url.
Basically, just type in your url, and add /wp-admin to the end of it, like so: www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin
(You can always change the login URL later, but that’s what it will be when you first install WordPress).
This will bring up a login portal that looks like this:
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a dashboard that looks like this:
And from here, there’s just one final step to get your website up and running:
#4: Choosing a theme.
What is a WordPress theme?
It’s basically the “design” of your website.
WordPress themes are packages of code that web designers have put together that will make your website look a specific way once you’ve installed them.
There are a bunch of free themes offered within WordPress when you first install it…. But honestly, they are dated and not very easy on the eyes.
These days, many people either:
1. Purchase a theme for a relatively low cost ($20-$150).
2. Hire a designer to create a custom website for them (this usually costs at least $1,500 though).
The choice really depends on:
– Your comfort level with computers/coding.
– Your ability to teach yourself new skills and implement them.
– The amount of time you have available to work on it.
If you’ve got some extra cash stored away, and time is of the essence, by all means, hire a designer!
Just make SURE that at the end of your relationship with them, that YOU own the access to your website, and don’t have to pay your designer a fee to access/log into your own site every time you want to change something.
A few web designers that have been recommended by friends/colleagues include:
When trying to decide which designer might be right for you, it’s helpful to look at the “portfolio” section of their website & view other projects they have worked on.
No portfolio tab? Probably not a good sign!
However… if you….
– Love learning new things.
– Have the time to take on a new project.
– Need to keep on a budget.
Then purchasing a theme and making small tweaks to customize it is probably the best option for you.
You can find some really great themes out there for relatively cheap prices.
As of the date I wrote this post, there were almost 3,000 WordPress themes available from independent designers on Creative Market! Awesome! You’ll have no trouble finding one you like.
Once you have chosen your theme, you simply download the file, zip it, upload it to WordPress & select it as your theme.
Then you can teach yourself how to customize the layout.
The theme should come with some instructions for customization, and Google will be your BFF for the rest.
For those who want to have FULL design control over their website, without knowing any code, there is a third option:
Divi is a gamechanger.
It basically allows you to customize each page on your website using a visual WYSISWYG editor. (That stands for What You See Is What You Get).
Until Divi came around, WYSIWYG editors were not available for WordPress websites. They were only options on other third party sites, like SquareSpace or Wix.
With Divi, you can visually build your website, and still maintain complete control and ownership of it.
By purchasing your own domain and hosting, and managing it with WordPress, YOU own your website and have complete control over it.
With Wix or SquareSpace, you are relying on that company to help you design / manage your website. This makes you pretty reliant on them, and makes it difficult to later switch to your own hosting as your traffic and/or website needs change.
Here is a cool picture of me using the Divi visual editor on this post!
I’d be going down a huge rabbit hole if I discussed this any further… but here’s a video explaining the Divi Theme’s Visual Builder, in case you think it might be a good fit for you. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!
If you choose to purchase Divi, here’s my affiliate link to sign up.
Just FYI, I think the ONE downfall of using Divi, is that the way the layout of your website gets coded makes it VERY difficult to switch back to a traditional theme. You’d definitely have to pay a developer to help you. So before you jump in, try playing around with it and make sure you like it 🙂
One last note:
If you’re a blogger & want to build your website yourself, but still feel lost on the details of how to get started, I would really consider joining Food Blogger Pro.
Food Blogger Pro is a membership site run by Bjork Ostrom, wife of Lindsay Ostrom – blogger extraordinaire at PinchOfYum.com.
It’s $29/mo, but it walks you through each step of setting up your WordPress site, and even includes video demonstrations! (Which we know can be SO helpful for tech stuff).
It’s WELL worth the cost.
Plus you get to join a freaking amazing community of supportive food bloggers in the process! And we all know feeling connected to a community is a huge part in staying motivated and not feeling isolated in this home-based world of blogging.
I’m a member myself, and have found lots of great advice in the modules & community discussion boards.
To recap, here are the four things you need to do get your website up and running:
1. Register a domain name.
2. Purchase a hosting plan & link it to your domain.
3. Download and install WordPress.
4. Purchase and install a theme.
I hope this post was helpful for those of you who are still in the planning stages of launching your site!
From here on out, most articles will be for people who already have a WordPress website up and running, so stay tuned for more content on blogging, growing your traffic, and monetizing your site!
If you haven’t checked it out yet, I totally recommend joining The Unconventional RD Community on Facebook, signing up to get my 25 Must Have Resources for Online Entrepreneurs (seriously, this list will save you hours of googling), & connecting with me on social media! (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)