A good friend of mine is an author, speaker and radio talk show host. Her story is amazing. Just to give you an idea, the tagline on her website is “From the Crack House to the State House.” And the other day we were discussing how to market a business on the internet. The first step, of course, is to build a website. As we discussed this, however, one thing she said really caught my attention. She said she had no idea how to build a site or even where to begin.
She then described marketing seminars she has attended. At these seminars, folks pay thousands of dollars to have somebody create a website and social media presence for them. In one case, she told me that a lady was “helping” businesses with social media for $8,000!
So today we are going to walk step-by-step through how to build a professional website for your business for about $100. Forget paying thousands of dollars, attending a seminar, or putting the future of your business in the hands of somebody you don’t know. And building a site is much easier than you probably think.
When I started Dough Roller, I had no clue how to build a website or blog. So I sat down at the computer and starting searching Google for all the answers. Today, it takes me about an hour to set up a site.
To build your business website, you’ll need just four things:
- A domain: Sometimes referred to as a domain, domain name, or url, this is the web address of your site, as in www.your-business-name-here.com. Domain names cost $10 a year.
- Web hosting: A web host is where your business website will reside. There are many web hosting companies to choose from (see below). While the cost can vary significantly, it’s easy to find a good web hosting service for less than $10 a month.
- WordPress: WordPress is software that can power a website or blog. While it isn’t the only option, I think it’s the best option for many small businesses. And it’s free.
- A WordPress theme: When you install WordPress, it doesn’t look all that great. Fortunately, WordPress developers have built what are called themes that can make a site look great. While there are free themes available, my recommendation for a business is to use a theme called Genesis. I’ll explain the hows and whys below.
Not only is this approach to a business website inexpensive, but you should have your site up and running in a few hours. So now let’s walk through exactly how to do that.
Domain Name & Web Hosting
For most businesses, the best domain name is simply the name of the business. Because a domain name that matches your business name may not be available, however, you may need to get creative. It’s easy to determine if a domain name is available. To check availability, go to Hosting Sesame. On the home page you’ll see a search box where you can see if the domain you want is available.
If the domain name you enter is not available, Hosting Sesame will recommend similar domain names that are available. And you can of course try other names until you find an available domain that you like.
Once you have a domain name, you need to sign up for web hosting. I think Hosting Sesame is a good option for several reasons. First, it’s cheap. You can get web hosting for a few bucks a month. Second, they offer free telephone support, which many hosting companies don’t provide. Particularly if you are new to websites, the telephone support is invaluable. I use Hosting Sesame for some of my sites and have been very happy. While you may end up going with a different hosting company, I’ll use Hosting Sesame screen shots for the rest of this tutorial.
Once you’ve signed up for web hosting, installing WordPress is a snap. BlueHost offers what is called SimpleScripts, which let’s you install WordPress with one click.
When you first log into BlueHost, you’ll see what is called the cPanel. The cPanel is a list of icons for all of the programs you can run on the server. And at first glance, it’s intimidating. The number of icons can be overwhelming. The good news is you can ignore just about all of them. All you need is to find the SimpleScripts icon for WordPress, which looks like this:
Click on the WordPress icon under the SimpleScripts heading. On the next screen you’ll see a button to install WordPress. You’ll be asked which website to install WordPress. Remember that you can host more than one website on the same server. If you’ve just purchased a single domain, however, you’ll only have one site to choose form. Under advanced options you can give your website a name, choose a username, and set your password.
Important: Be sure to write down the username and password. You’ll need these to log into WordPress once the installation is complete.
Once you’ve filled in the information, click the “complete” button and SimpleScripts does the rest. Congratulations, you’ve just installed WordPress.
WordPress Genesis Theme
If you visit your new website, you won’t like the way it looks. The standard WordPress theme is not much to look at. While there are free themes, in my view a premium theme is a much better option for a few reasons:
- They don’t cost much
- They look great
- They come with a lot of flexibility in terms of layout
The theme that I think is best for a business is called Genesis. It was developed by StudioPress, and there are several reasons why Genesis is perfect for businesses.
First, it comes with several pre-designed templates to choose from. Rather than paying somebody to custom design a site or trying to do it yourself, for less than $100 you get a professional looking layout.
While StudioPress offers dozens of designs to choose from, here are a few of my favorites for small businesses:
Second, it is extremely easy to customize the Genesis theme. Whether it’s adding unique content to a sidebar or changing the layout on a page by page basis, it all can be done in Genesis with a few clicks of the button. Third, it’s inexpensive. You can get Genesis and one design (they call the designs child themes) for $79.95. If you want all of the child themes (there are more than 40) the cost is $299.95. Finally, Genesis comes with a forum that can answer any question you may have. It is well moderated with folks who really know their stuff. And it includes text and video tutorials that walk you through how to set up the theme.
In the end, whatever theme you choose for your site, you need to install it on your serve. To do so, you need to download the theme to your hard drive (from the theme website) and then upload it to the server where your website is located. When you download a theme to your hard drive, it will be zipped, which is fine. In the current version of WordPress uploading the theme to your server is extremely easy.
To upload the theme, the first thing we need to do is log into the administration panel of your WordPress installation. I can recall back in 2007 installing WordPress and then spending about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to log in. Anyway, just type in the name of your website in your browser followed by /wp-admin. So if your website were www.mybusiness.com, you would type in www.mybusiness.com/wp-admin. You’ll be asked for your username and password, which you set when you installed WordPress (remember I told you to write them down!).
After you log in, you’ll see a menu of links down the left side of your screen. Look for the “Themes” link under the Appearance category. Once you’ve navigated to Themes, you’ll see a menu to install themes. From here you can upload the theme you’ve downloaded to your hard drive. The upload screen will look like this:
When you select the theme to upload, WordPress will ask you for “Connection Information.” The connection information is what WordPress needs to transfer the theme from your computer’s hard drive to the server at the web hosting company where you have your website. Here’s what the screen looks like:
This is probably the trickiest part of the whole process, and it’s not that tricky. The key to remember is that the username and password needed here is NOT the user name and password you use to log into your WordPress panel. Instead, you need a username and password for what is called an ftp connection, or file transfer protocol.
FTP is simply how you can upload, download, and edit files between your web server and computer. To set up ftp, log back into your web hosting to create the account. In Bluehost, recall that from the cPanel you clicked on the WordPress icon under SimpleScripts to install WordPress? It’s basically the same process to create an ftp account, except that you of course click a different icon. Here’s what it looks like in cPanel:
You can see the icon to the far right for FTP accounts. Once you’ve create the account, including a username and password, you can use this information within WordPress to upload your theme. And if you have any trouble creating the FTP account, give Bluehost a call, and they will walk you through the process.
Now all that’s left is to activate theme. Keep in mind that you can uploaded multiple themes into your WordPress installation. As a result, WordPress needs to know which one you want to use. So under “Appearances” go back to “Themes.” There you’ll see thumbnail images of each theme you’ve uploaded to WordPress. Simply click the one you want and activate it. All that’s left is to check out your site.
Of course, you’ll need to add your own content, including images if you want. You’ll undoubtedly have questions, most of which can be answered with a simple search on Google. Also, feel free to e-mail me at dr [at] doughroller [dot] net.
Published or updated September 5, 2011.