If you’re brand new to the concept of blogging or authority site building then it’s easy to get intimidated about the technical side of things.
After all, while the idea of starting a profitable website may sound wonderful; what steps must be taken to create your own site?
Here there’s good news…
These days it’s easier than ever before to set up your own site from scratch, and with minimal technical knowledge.
The reason is that a huge range of products and services aim to make the setup process as simple as possible. Generally speaking (particularly when you choose the right services and tools) you’ll find that setting up your site doesn’t have to be difficult at all.
Indeed, I would argue that setting up your first profit-producing site is perhaps the most exciting step of all. It’s the step in the process where you suddenly go from “idea” to “reality”.
In this section I’m going to take you through exactly how to set up a blog.
I’ll assume no technical knowledge. If you managed to make your way to this page today then you have all the skills necessary to build your first website in record time. I’ll also show you how to do it on a tight budget – so don’t worry about the costs involved.
For those readers concerned about their lack of technical knowledge I have aimed to make this a detailed step-by-step guide. In a surprisingly short period of time you’ll be proudly emailing your friends so they can admire your work of art!
Here’s what you’re going to learn in this section:
- 6 key steps for choosing the perfect domain name
- How to set up your brand new site in just 7 simple steps
- A detailed introduction to using WordPress for the first time
- 7 technical changes you should make to WordPress before launching
- How to change the appearance of your site with no technical knowledge
- My list of 23 tested plugins to add incredible functionality to your site
By the end of this section you’ll have chosen a website address, you’ll have setup the software that runs your blog, you’ll have changed the appearance of your blog to suit your unique tastes and you’ll have added some cool plugins that add functionality to your site.
In short – you’ll have a blog or authority site ready and waiting for you to start writing.
Excited? You should be…
Let’s get started…
An Introduction to Web Hosting
Your website needs a home; somewhere where it can be accessible at all times of the day irrespective of what you’re doing. Such a service is known as a “web host”.
Possibly the best analogy is to think of a web hosting account as like renting space on a powerful computer that’s always connected to the internet. We build your website there, so that even when you turn your own computer off your web hosting account allows visitors to access your site.
Free Vs Paid Web Hosting Services
There are dozens of ways to launch a blog or authority site. Indeed, knowingly or unknowingly you’ve probably heard of at least a few of the options. Perhaps names like WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger ring bells?
At each of these sites you can set up a blog completely for free. For this reason such web hosting options tend to be popular. However there are some significant weaknesses with such options…
Most of the free blogging platforms don’t provide you with your own website address (unless you pay extra). Instead, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:
I think you’d agree that such a website isn’t overly professional. If one of our major goals is to create a professional-grade website that visitors will trust then having your own website address (“domain name”) is essential. A website address like the one above doesn’t scream trustworthy and professional.
An even greater concern when it comes to free web hosts like this is you will find yourself tremendously limited on what you can do with your blog. Such hosts typically offer very little flexibility to really let your imagination run wild; you’ll be limited to certain designs, layouts, features and so on.
In contrast to this, paid web hosting accounts (even budget versions) offer you much more flexibility and control over your site. You can easily add features and have unlimited control over your site appearance and functionality.
Getting any kind of tech support can be frustrating when you’re running a blog on a free web hosting service. This isn’t really surprising; if you’re not paying anything to your web host then what motivation do they have to assist you with any issues?
Even with the cheapest of paid web hosts I have personally found the levels of support to be superior.
Risk of Closure
The fourth reason why building your site on a free web host isn’t recommended is simply that sites can disappear.
Many bloggers have logged into their account one morning only to find that their blog has been removed – either deliberately or accidentally.
Imagine how you’d feel if you spent years building up your website, only for it to vanish without explanation one day?
No, the long and short of it is that in my opinion building your blog or authority site on a free web host is like building your house on quicksand. You just never know what’s going to happen round the corner.
If you’re serious about creating a profit-producing website that can reliably bring you an income each month then it’s much better to get started on the right foot to begin with – and to get a proper web hosting account from the outset.
Factors To Consider When Selecting a Web Host for Your Blog
Choosing a web host is like selecting a credit card; there are thousands of options out there, and trying to tell the differences between them can be very difficult for the uninitiated. In my experience of dozen of web hosts, here are the key elements I suggest you look out for:
Ease of Domain Name Purchases
We’ll cover domain names (website addresses) in the next section of this guide, but for now all you need to know are that there are two ways to get your blog set up.
The first of these is to buy your website address and hosting from the same company – at which point they work together seamlessly and automatically.
The second option is to buy your domain name and your web hosting from two different companies – then do a little technical magic to get the two services to work together.
While the process of getting your domain and hosting to work together isn’t overly complex, it is just one extra thing for a beginner to learn; and one more opportunity for something to go wrong.
If you’re just setting up your first authority site or blog then I recommend selecting a web host that will you let you purchase your domain name at the same time.
It’s just one less thing for you to worry about; and can actually work out more cost-effective too.
Ease of Installing WordPress
As you’ll see, the software we’re going to use to build your blog is called “Wordpress”. The software is free, but depending on the web host you select the process of installing WordPress can vary significantly.
The “best” web hosts for bloggers make it “push-button” simple. You simply click a few buttons and WordPress is installed automatically for you – with nothing technical required.
Later on in this section I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of installing the WordPress blog software on Bluehost and you’ll be shocked at how simple it really is.
There’s little point in spending money on a web hosting account if they’re always going down. Why would you invest time and energy into growing a blog if half the time when someone visits your site it doesn’t work?
This is why I recommend that new bloggers avoid less well-known web hosts, where the quality of service can be a little sketchy. Instead, it’s better to focus on a tried-and-tested web host used by thousands of other successful bloggers such as Bluehost or WP Engine.
We all have to start somewhere when it comes to web hosting. However over time you’ll find that your blog grows and prospers. Traffic starts to increase, and with it the strain that your web hosting account is put under.
Also consider that your blog will be constantly undergoing a process of evolution, as you add new features and services over time.
Lastly, consider that once you’re bitten by the “blogging bug”, one website is very rarely enough.
Right now, as an example, I maintain 4 main blogs, 3 secondary blogs that are in their infancy, and a network of content-based affiliate sites. Realistically, I own 20+ sites, all attracting visitors on a daily basis. All requiring reliable web hosting so they don’t need to be “babysat”.
All these factors point to one thing; when signing up for a web hosting account for your blog, you should take the time to consider how much room your account has for growth. Those that are severely limited may get frustrating very quickly indeed.
Factors you may want to look out for when selecting a web hosting account for your blog include:
As you set up additional sites – as you almost certainly will – it can be very useful to be able to add them to an existing web hosting account. Not only does this help to keep your costs down, but it also makes managing all your sites much easier if it can be done from one central control panel.
Adding new sites to your portfolio then becomes simplicity itself. As an entrepreneurially-minded individual, I would therefore encourage you to give preference to those web hosting accounts that allow you to host multiple domains/sites on a single account.
Disk Space Limitations
Websites and blogs obviously take up space just like any other computer files. The bigger your blog is – the more posts it has for example – the more space it will take up.
If you plan to be adding memory-intensive content like videos and podcasts to your blog then you’ll need even more disk space. And don’t forget that you’ll likely end up with a number of different sites on a single hosting account.
Once again then, this is a case of “the more the merrier”. I would advise you to prioritize web hosts that offer large amounts of storage space – even unlimited disk space – so as to avoid having to limit your creativity when building your blogging empire.
Every time someone visits your blog they use up “bandwidth”. The more visitors you get, the more bandwidth you’ll use. Of course, the more (qualified) visitors we can get to our site, the better.
The last thing we want to do is send visitors packing because we’ve reached our bandwidth limitation.
Believe me, it happens all the time.
Indeed, one of the key reasons why I stumbled across Bluehost originally was that my current host at the time was placing severe limits on my bandwidth.
My sites were growing, yet time and again I was breaching my limits, and visitors were arriving at my blogs to be greeted with nothing more than an unfortunate warning message.
Hardly what you’d call a professional first impression, I think you’d agree.
No, if more visitors are better then you need to make sure you’ve got enough bandwidth to service the needs of all those readers you’re going to service.
For peace of mind, selecting a host that offers “unlimited” bandwidth is often the best bet; that way even if you get lucky and one of your posts goes viral on social media you can feel confident you’ve got the bandwidth to receive all those visitors.
There’s one key factor you can’t assess from a web host’s website, and that’s the customer service levels on offer. A cheap web host with all the features you’re looking for still isn’t worth the hassle if the customer service sucks. In such cases I’d rather pay a tiny bit more and know that the support available to me is world-class.
That means that when you’re looking at web hosting plans, a useful factor can be to consider how long the guarantee is. The last thing you want is to get two weeks in and realize the service sucks, only to be stuck for the rest of the year.
Remember: the longer the refund/cancellation period, the safer the deal is for you. Furthermore, if web hosts are willing to offer favourable terms like this its normally a good sign about how confident they are in their offering.
The last factor here is of course price; you don’t want to be paying more than necessary when you’re just starting out. Once your site starts to grow you can always consider upgrading to a “super host” like WP Engine; to start out I would suggest signing up with a simpler host perfect for most blogs.
Bluehost, for example, will host your website for less than $10 per month (depending on which package you opt for) which really helps to minimize your risk.
After all, you don’t need to start making very much money in order to be cashflow positive on such a deal.
The Best Web Hosting For Bloggers
There are dozens of web hosting companies out there, offering all sorts of different packages and different prices. Indeed, a whole industry has cropped up around web hosting and helping you find the most suitable solution.
As someone who has, over the course of the last decade, built 100+ websites and blogs, I’ve tested out my fair share of web hosting companies, and I keep on finding myself coming back time and again to the same web host.
I use either Bluehost or Hostgator to host pretty much every single website and blog I create, and even now where many of my sites are seeing thousands of daily visitors I’m still very happy with the experience.
It’s worth noting that anyone who has done business online for long enough will from time to time run into problems. For me, as an example, I had a few websites hacked some years ago. The hackers installed a virus directly onto my sites and I spent weeks working with a website security expert trying to get rid of the problem.
Eventually out of frustration I emailed the support team at Bluehost, explained the problem and asked for any suggestions they could make. Within a matter of hours they had successfully located and eliminated the problem, before rolling back my sites to a version they had saved.
In less than a day they had fixed the problem – the very same problem my security “expert” hadn’t managed in the space of two weeks.
The message here is clear. I’ve always received top quality service from Bluehost – and this is something that you simply can see when you compare hosts on features alone. If you’re looking for what I see as the perfect combination of value-for-money and customer service then I’d encourage you to set up an account with Bluehost.
If you’d rather shop around then other hosts with good reputations among bloggers include:
Domain Names for Bloggers
The name you choose for your blog is of critical importance.
It helps to set the tone for your blog, it hints at the overall subject you’ll be covering and it affects just how easy (or otherwise) people find it to remember your blog. The importance of choosing the right domain name can therefore not be understated.
That said, there is an important lesson here; be aware that each domain name is unique. That means realistically that you’re probably going to have to go through a whole list of possible options until you find one that is suitable. Then, even when you find an appropriate domain name you’ve then got to decide who to register it with. This alone can be something of a challenge.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start off by looking at how to choose a domain name, then we’ll get to the subject of actually registering it…
6 Key Lessons For Choosing A Domain Name For Your Blog
When it comes to selecting a suitable domain name for your blog there are a number of critical factors you should consider.
Top Level Domains
Domain names or website addresses come in two distinct parts. Let’s take this site as an example. Firstly, there’s the “TechToucan” part – that’s the main “brand” of this website. Then there’s the ending – in this case “.com”. There are a variety of these endings, with new ones being introduced all the time.
The most popular domain endings are:
These are what are known as “top level domains” or TLDs – they’re basically the endings that everyone remembers.
There are, however, a whole range of other domains, including:
…not to mention all the country-specific endings used by local businesses (.co.uk or .ca as examples).
The point is that you need to select a domain name that people will remember. And that generally means selecting one of the first endings.
The best – bar none – is to find a suitable domain that is available and ends in .com – simply because it looks professional and people will remember it.
I would therefore strongly advise you to find a .com domain. Worst case scenario go for a .net or .org, but I’d advise you to stay away from most of the other endings simply because they look less professional.
Branded Vs Keyword-Focused
In the recent past, Google gave websites with keywords in their domain priority over other sites.
So, for example, if you wanted to rank for the phrase “how to start a blog”, the best-possible domain was HowToStartABlog.com. Having this domain meant you had an unfair advantage in the search engines and stood a better chance of ranking for this keyword phrase than your competitors.
Now, though, this has largely changed. Indeed now you’re more likely to get a penalty than a bonus for a domain that very obviously tries to manipulate the search engine results.
In other words keyword-rich domains are out, and branded domains are back in. Ignore any advice you may see to the contrary – this information is some years out of date and sorely needs updating. Go after domains that sound cool and catchy, not like they’re just a keyword phrase with a .com on the end.
Ideally the domain name you choose for your blog will have some kind of relevance to the overall topic of your site. This site, while now focusing on blogging and content marketing, actually started off as a blog all about technology, hence the domain. Over the years it has evolved and refined to its current remit.
Examples of domains that do a fair job of describing the overarching topic, without sounding too “spammy” or keyword-focused include:
… and so on. Hopefully you can see how these domains are both branded and descriptive.
Pleasantly, ladies and gentlemen, here’s one example where longer isn’t necessarily better 😉
Shorter domain names tend to be more memorable and to look more professional than longer domain names. They may be hard to come across – specifically because they’re in such demand – but it can be worth taking the time to find a short(ish) domain.
Avoid The Dashes
Due to the fact that domain names are unique, one common problem experienced involves coming up with a “killer” domain name only to find that someone else has registered it.
Indeed, there’s little more annoying for an online entrepreneur. And so it is that some bloggers try to get around the problem by adding dashes between words. So, for example, if TechToucan.com was gone, some bloggers might have instead gone for Tech-Toucan.com – almost the same, just with the addition of a dash.
Over the years, however, this has repeatedly got out of control. Domains like Best-Web-Hosting-For-Wordpress-Blogs.com are sadly rather commonplace and – as you can see – look less than trustworthy.
In general then I would caution you to avoid domain names with dashes. One dash you might just get away with; any more and you risk looking like a spammy affiliate site. And nobody wants that (not even spammy affiliates).
Social Media Profiles
As you’re going to see later on in this guide, one of the very best ways to start driving profitable visitors to your new site is with social media. Popular examples include Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, though you may also want to consider sites like Instagram or Tumblr depending on your niche.
One final check – though arguably of less importance than the other steps – can be to check whether your chosen domain is available as a social media profile. So, if you chosen domain is MomsGettingFit.com then check whether the following options are available:
While it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if these social media profiles aren’t available, it’s always nice when they are. After all, being able to expand your “brand” onto social media in an organised and logical fashion looks professional.
How to Brainstorm and Select the Perfect Domain Name
Over the last few sections we’ve discussed the basics of web hosting and domain names; this is where we start to really take action and make your dreams of owning your own profitable website a reality!
In this section we’re going to brainstorm a list of potential domain names, check which ones are available, then we’re going to actually register your domain and web hosting.
In other words, this is an “action step” in which you’ll be carrying out a few enjoyable steps and ending up with the first semblance of a blog or authority site.
The first step in selecting a suitable domain name for your website is to do some brainstorming. Put your thinking cap on and consider the niche that you’ve chosen for your blog or authority website. Can you think of some catchy domain name ideas?
I like to start a new text document for this brainstorming phase, trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, taking into account the recommendations for choosing a domain name covered earlier.
Let’s assume for a minute that we are planning to create an authority blog on the subject of feeding dogs raw food – sometimes known as “Bones and Raw Food” or “BARF” for short. Some ideas we might brainstorm could include:
..and so on.
Each of these is short and sweet. Each ends with a .com. Each is quite branded yet descriptive about the purpose of our site, while avoiding hyphens.
Of course, we don’t yet know if these domains are available, but that’s not important at this stage. We’ll check what is actually available later; for now just go mad with pen and paper or a text document on your computer to come up with as many ideas as you possibly can.
Remember: nothing is a daft idea so let your imagination run wild. If you can, try to get friends or family members involved too, giving you a different perspective.
Expand Your List with Domain Brainstorming Tools
A really handy trick for greatly expanding your list of possible domains is to use the range of domain suggestion tools available free-of-charge online. With these tools you simply enter one or two relevant keyword phrases (in our case “raw” or “barf”) and then the tools generate hundreds of potential domain ideas for us to consider.
Here are some of the best domain suggestion tools that I use:
Simply take your time to comb through the suggestions these tools make and you’ll likely find dozens of potential ideas to add to your master list.
Indeed, while I’m perhaps not the most imaginative website creator out there, I almost always find that Lean Domain Search generates not only far more ideas than I do, but also considerably better suggestions too! Therefore don’t underestimate how useful these tools.
Added them to your list? Great, then let’s move on with your giant list of potential domain names and actually check which ones are available to register…
Bulk Check Domain Availability
Traditionally, domains are checked for availability one-by-one.
As domain names have to be unique, however, and ever more domains are registered each day, it gets tougher and tougher to find one that hasn’t already been snapped up.
These days, therefore, I recommend you check your domain names in bulk to see which are available.
Checking 50-100 potential domain names in one go saves you a lot of time (and disappointment!) over doing them individually.
Here we’re going to use a bulk checking tool from GoDaddy.
In this step you’ll want to navigate to: https://uk.godaddy.com/domains/bulk-domain-search.aspx
Now paste the list of domain names into the box. If your domain ideas already have the .com ending on them then simply click the “Go” button.
If you didn’t add the .com ending to each of your potential ideas then be sure to check the .com box before clicking “Go”.
Now the magic happens; GoDaddy will check each of your domain ideas one-by-one and bring back a list of all the domains from your list that are available to register. One of these will be used for your website address!
Select From the Available Domains
By now you’ve got a list of the domains that are available – so it’s time to take action.
Go back through your ideas, considering each in turn in order to decide on which you’ll register for your blog. Ideally ask the opinions of a friend or loved one, who will help you to narrow down the options to just one domain.
As a side note, remember that domain names are unique. That means that just because a domain name is available to register right now doesn’t necessarily mean it will be tomorrow or next week.
New domains are being registered all the time, and there’s little more disappointing than taking some days to decide on exactly which domain name you like best, only to go back to register it and find it’s already gone.
No – once you’ve done your bulk domain check you should aim to make a final decision as rapidly as possible and then to register your chosen domain as soon as possible – ideally within minutes.
So make your decision on which domain you’ll use for your site without hesitation – then snap that baby up before anyone else can beat you to it.
Register Your Chosen Domain Name & Web Hosting
The final step is to actually register that domain name as soon as possible.
As discussed in a previous section of this course, it is generally easiest to buy both your domain name and web hosting from the same company. In this way you don’t need to worry about the technical side of making the two work together when you’ve used two different companies.
For the purposes of this stage I’m going to be using Bluehost, though you can of course use a different host if you opt for them…
How to Start Your Blog or Authority Site in Just 7 Simple Steps
Lets make this as simple as possible. With your carefully-chosen domain name at hand lets walk through the seven simple steps that will register your domain and order your web hosting package. In the next few minutes you’ll have taken the incredible leap from “idea” to actually having your first authority site or blog!
I therefore recommend that you follow these steps now in order.
Lets get started!
1) Click Over to Bluehost
Navigate your way to Bluehost and click on the big green “Get Started Now” button.
2) Select Your Web Hosting Package
Bluehost offer a range of different packages. I would personally suggest you opt for the “Plus” account as it allows you to host more than one website and offers unlimited everything.
This is important because many bloggers end up setting up second or third blogs in time to grow their income yet further. The “Plus” account therefore can save you considerable money in the future as your empire expands.
If you’re on a really tight budget you can of course opt for the lowest package, but just appreciate that the limitations present might get a little frustrating in time.
3) Choose Your Domain
Simply enter the domain name that you chose earlier into the box on the left of the page and click the button.
4) Enter Account Information
Once you’ve selected your domain, simply fill in the form with some basic details.
5) Package Information
Here you’ll confirm your package. Take some time to double-check that everything is correct. Remember, also, that the longer you register your site for, the cheaper the monthly cost becomes.
6) Enter Payment Information
Pop your card number in, click the “Submit” button and prepare to become the proud owner of your brand new blog!
7) Select Your Password
As soon as your payment has been processed you’ll be able to take the final step of selecting a password for your account.
Then go check your emails, where you should have a confirmation message.
Believe it or not, you now have your own website!
In truth, there is still a little more work to do in order to make your new site look beautiful, but the “hard” work is already done. Congratulations!
How To Install WordPress on Bluehost
By now you have found a suitable domain name, registered it and set up your web hosting. Believe it or not, in these few steps you’re already well on the way to having your own blog.
The next step in going from web hosting account to functioning blog is to install WordPress on it.
After that it’s just a matter of “playing about” to give your blog the look and function that you’re after. And if I’m honest, that bits kind of fun. This is, then, really the very last bit of “real work” you’re going to have to do when setting up a new blog. And luckily it’s simplicity itself.
When you signed up for your web hosting account you should have received an email, providing information on how to access your own web hosting control panel. From here you can control what happens to your web hosting account, including setting up email addresses, uploading files and so on.
You can also, if you’re lucky, install WordPress with just a few clicks of your mouse.
Here’s how to do it…
1) Navigate to Your Control Panel
You remember the email you got yesterday when you signed up with BlueHost? Go grab that, and follow the information so you can log into your web hosting control panel.
2) Go to “WordPress Tools”
Once you’re logged in, select the “WordPress Tools” option at the top of the page.
3) Enter Your Details
Here we’ll install WordPress in a matter of moments.
You’ll want to fill in some basic details, using the tips below…
Domain – Make sure this box shows the domain you chose above.
Path – Leave this blank.
Site Title – Give your site a name. You can always change this later so it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Admin Username – A username that you will use to log into your blog to add content. Make this whatever you like as only you’ll see it.
Admin Password – Choose a password for WordPress, making sure it’s different from your BlueHost password. Be sure to make a note of both the username and password you’ve chosen.
Admin Email – Just enter your email address here.
Then click the green “Install WordPress” button and you’re good!
4) Go Visit Your Site!
Once you click the button, WordPress will be installed. Try visiting your domain name and you should see your own shiny copy of WordPress ready to show the world: at this point you could honestly say that you had set up your own blog.
Note that it might not look great, and it’ll be full of junk content, but this is all easy to change.
Infact, we’ll start making the necessary changes to take your site from “ok” to “wow!” in a short while. First, however, lets show you around your WordPress website…
Recommended WordPress Technical Changes
Whenever I start a new WordPress website there are a few changes I like to make to the core settings.
In this section we’ll discuss exactly what I like to check, why I make these changes and exactly how to do exactly the same yourself.
In this way, you can follow along with me, making all the changes necessary to set yourself up on the right foot from the very beginning.
Let’s start with some general settings, as you’ll find in Settings > General.
Here I like to check that everything except the tagline is filled in correctly.
For example, is my site title correct, and are my WordPress Address and Site Address the same? Is the email address the one that I want to use for this site?
If so, we can move on to the next step…
One of the few downsides of being a blogger is that sooner or later you’re probably going to get bombarded by spammers. They’ll pelt your site with dozens – perhaps even hundreds – of junk comments in the hope that you publish some of them. In this way they’ll get links pointing to their website – which will help them to rank better in the search engines.
It is the “Discussion” area (Settings > Discussion) that decides how people can comment on your site.
It’s a lot easier to make sure the settings are correct before your site starts to get lots of visitors, as opposed to trying to fight thousands of automatically submitted spam blog comments at a later date.
In essence, what I want to do is to ensure that blog comments are not published automatically. Instead, I like to manually approve comments to ensure that only high quality comments are getting added to my site.
Also, as most of my sites get a fair number of comments, I don’t want to receive an email every time a comment is left or my inbox would unmanageable.
Here are the settings that I personally use in the Discussion area of my websites…
I would suggest you change yours to match these in order to help control spam comments and keep your site in good condition.
A permalink is the full address of any individual blog post on your site. So, for example, in the case of this article, it’s the bit after TechToucan.com is the permalink.
Including keywords in the URL of an article brings two distinct benefits.
Firstly, it can help you to rank higher in the search engines for the phrase within the URL.
Secondly, a keyword-rich URL can help potential visitors to understand what your article is about before they visit.
As a result I change this setting to ensure that rather than using random numbers or the date that a post is published, the URL (permalink) is keyword-rich. Fortunately this is easy to do, by just ensuring that your Permalink section (Settings > Permalinks) look as follows:
Delete Old Content
Lastly, when you installed WordPress on your Bluehost web hosting account you will have found that a standard page, post, and comment were added.
The goal here of course was to help you see how these different elements look on your site – but they’re not something you’ll want to retain when you start your site properly.
To avoid forgetting to delete these elements at a later date, I therefore like to do this when I am first setting up the site.
Luckily it’s very simple to do.
To delete the dummy page on your site navigate to Pages > All Pages. Here you’ll likely see a page that you didn’t create.
Simply hover your cursor over the page title and you’ll find that a little mini-menu appears, with a “Trash” option. Click this and you’ll remove the page from your site.
We’re now going to follow a similar process to delete the dummy “Hello World!” blog post and comment.
You will likely have a dummy comment on the dummy “Hello World!” blog post that comes with WordPress. Removing it isn’t strictly necessary, because when you delete the blog post itself in the next step you’ll also remove the comment.
However, I include this step here just to give your first opportunity to see the comments section and to delete one.
Simply navigate to the Comments section, hover over the text of the comment, then select the “Trash” option. The comment will be removed.
To delete the “Hello World!” blog post from WordPress simply navigate to Posts > All Posts. Follow the same process above, hovering your cursor over the blog post title, then selecting “Trash”. This blog post should now be gone from your blog.
With these simple steps completed you’re ready to move onto the next stage of setting up your WordPress blog. In this case, we’ll discuss themes, and how to use them to give your site a unique appearance…
Using WordPress Themes
If you’ve taken a look at your brand new WordPress website then you’ve probably realised that the default styling of your blog isn’t very appealing.
One of the most exciting things about building a website with WordPress is simply how flexible it is. As you’re going to learn, it’s super-simple to change the entire appearance of your website including colors, fonts, layout and more to perfectly suit your content.
The way we do this is through the use of “Wordpress themes”.
What is a WordPress Theme?
Forget about the old days of piecing together a website design bit-by-bit – a long and complicated process. A WordPress theme can be thought of a whole new “outfit” for your website – covering every aspect of its appearance.
A single WordPress theme will have an effect on the layout of your blog, the color scheme used, fonts and more.
In other words, changing the appearance of your site is as simple as uploading a single theme (we’ll cover how to do this a little later on).
The entire process of taking your blog from it’s current basic look to something super-professional takes a matter of moments.
What’s even better, is that many premium themes even come with their own control panel within your WordPress back end. This theme control panel gives you control over the overall design of your site, letting you just turn things on and off at will, to get the exact design you’re after with no technical knowledge.
Sound good? Great – then let’s dive in…
Free WordPress Themes Vs Premium WordPress Themes
When you start looking at WordPress themes you’ll quickly realise there are two broad categories. To start with, there are hundreds of free WordPress themes, perfect if you’re on a very budget but still want a professional-looking site.
On the other hand, there are paid WordPress themes – so-called “premium themes”.
So why would anyone pay for a WordPress theme when there are so many free ones?
Here there are a number of answers:
While there are plenty of free WordPress themes available, the range pales in comparison to the premium theme market. This does of course make sense, as web developers are far more motivated to create themes when they can earn revenue from their work, rather than having to give it away for free.
Being willing to stump up for a premium theme therefore gives you plenty more choice in getting your site to look just how you’d like.
By the way, don’t think you’ll be paying a fortune for one of these premium themes – many of them can be bought for $50 or less – which is quite a bargain when you consider what you’re getting for your money.
How many times that would it cost to hire a professional web developer to make a bespoke theme specially for your site?
There’s no denying it; experienced, professional WordPress theme developers know that their work has value. You’ll invariably find that premium themes look much, much more professional than free themes. This, in turn, makes your whole site look more established.
If you’re someone who really appreciates the “wow” value of having an attractive site will find plenty of options in the premium theme market. And don’t forget that it’s not just your friends and family members that you’re trying to impress; you want your normal visitors to feel comfortable and confident in your website when they arrive.
Only in this way will you make the most money possible from your site – so a premium theme can be thought of an investment into future profitability in this way.
As mentioned previously, most premium themes come with their own control panel which you can access from your standard WordPress back-end. These control panels allow you to change fonts, colors, layout and so on at will simply by clicking a few buttons. It’s almost like you just magically became a web developer.
This greater level of control – rarely seen in free WordPress themes – ensures that you can modify your site’s appearance with ease.
In such a way, you can feel confident that your site’s appearance is not only exactly what you’re looking for, but that it is also unique from anything else your visitors may have seen before. Which brings us to…
Premium themes help to make your site design unique thanks to two factors. Firstly, as mentioned, you’ll be able to modify and change your site’s design with no technical knowledge. Secondly, of course, as there are so many more premium themes than free themes you’ll struggle to find another blog out there using the same theme as you.
When you combine these two factors it’s easy to see how unique your eventual design can be. This ensures that your site does exactly what you want it to, while standing out from the crowd of “me too” websites using the same, tired old free themes.
One final aspect worth mentioning when it comes to premium WordPress themes are the advanced features that a new generation of themes are including.
These can include anything from the ability to accept bookings for conference calls, to adding directory listings, showing related posts, attractive modern sliders and more.
Indeed, many paid WordPress themes come bundled with premium plugins that makes them do all sorts of cool stuff.
As you can see, premium themes really are the way to go if you’re serious about building a profitable authority site or blog from the outset. Only if you’re on the tightest of budgets would I suggest you use a free theme. Even then, I would prioritize saving up for a premium theme as soon afterward as possible if you want your site to scream professionalism.
Where to Find Free WordPress Themes
While I want to focus on helping you find the perfect premium theme in just a minute, I also don’t want to ignore those readers who simply can’t afford the $50 or so to make their site look it’s best.
So before we talk about where to find premium WordPress themes, and how to install them on your website, let’s take a quick look at where to find free WordPress themes.
Possibly the best way to find free WordPress themes is to actually log into your WordPress control panel itself.
In the navigation menu down the side select “Appearance” then “Themes”.
This will bring up a page which shows all the “standard” themes that come with WordPress.
Simply click on the “Add a New Theme” box. At this point you’ll find a search box that allows you to find free themes.
Simply scan through to find one that you like the look of.
However if you don’t find a suitable option, or you really want to make your blog beautiful, you might want to consider one of the many “premium themes” that are for sale.
Where to Find Premium WordPress Themes
Premium themes cost money; but perhaps not as much as you might think. For $50 or less you can land a stunning theme that really sets you apart from the competition.
There’s more. Premium themes also come with a whole host of premium features; with a good quality WordPress theme you can customize almost any element quickly and easily. Most of them come with a “configuration” page which lets you change the color-scheme, type face, homepage layout and more. They therefore offer far more opportunity to really customize your blog and make it your own.
Just as importantly, there are many, many times as many premium themes as there are free themes. What this means is that using a premium theme increases the odds of your site looking totally unique.
Personally I always use a premium theme for my blogs thanks to the professional appearance and flexibility that they offer. Remember that the better your site looks, the easier it will be to market and promote in time.
OK, so where do you find premium WordPress themes?
Well here there are a range of options. My personal choice is ThemeForest. Here you’ll find thousands of different WordPress themes, all categorized and searchable.
So you might opt to search for “feminine” themes, or “real estate” themes, or “craft” themes and so on. No matter what the topic of your blog will be, and what your sense of style, you’ll find there’s a whole host of suitable options.
How to Install a WordPress Theme
Once you’ve chosen your theme, the installation process is surprisingly easy.
Here are the four steps to installing a new theme…
1) Download It
Start by downloading the theme that you have purchased from ThemeForest onto your home computer.
2) Upload It
Once the theme is on your computer, next you’ll want to unzip it. Within this unzipped folder you’ll find a variety of files and folders, including an “installation guide”. Have a quick scan through this guide to figure out the exact name of the folder you need to upload to your site – it’ll invariably end in “.zip”.
Once you’ve isolated the folder you need to upload, it’s time to actually get it onto your blog.
Go into WordPress, select “Appearance”, then “Themes”, then “Upload Theme”.
On the theme installation screen simply locate the theme on your computer, click the “Install Now” button and let the magic happen.
If all goes according to plan you should receive confirmation that your theme has been uploaded.
3) Activate It
At this point your shiny new WordPress theme is sat on your blog – but can’t yet be seen. To actually show the theme you’ll need to “Activate” it.
Fortunately this is the simplest step of all. Simply navigate within WordPress to “Appearance”, then “Themes”. Find the theme that you just uploaded, and click on the “Activate” link.
Now go and take another look at your blog homepage and you should find that it has changed to the new theme!
4) Customize It
All premium themes have a “control panel” or “options” area that lets you change the overall design of your new theme.
This is arguably the most fun bit of all. You can simply go through the options, changing font sizes, colors and so on until you’re happy with the final design. While it can take a little time to get things “just right” it’s a fun and very rewarding exercise.
Adding Functionality to Your Site With WordPress Plugins
Plugins are one of the single most exciting features of WordPress in my opinion.
WordPress plugins essentially allow you to extend the functionality of your site. There is virtually nothing that WordPress plugins cannot do.
- Want an easy way to add copyright-free images or social sharing buttons to your site? Easy.
- Want to collect email addresses or your visitors, or accept orders for products. No problem.
- Fancy adding great-looking tables, charts or videos to your site? Bring it on.
Once you’ve got WordPress installed your site’s functionality is really only limited by your imagination. Any idea you come up with can be implemented with one plugin or another.
This not only makes building a site a whole lot more fun, but also makes it easy to add advanced features to your site, which improves the overall visitor experience of people landing on your carefully-crafted content.
In this section, therefore, we’re going to take a closer look at WordPress plugins. You’ll learn how to find WordPress plugins for your site, and how to quickly install them with no technical knowledge.
Then, possibly most valuable of all, I’ll give my my own list of “must have” plugins after years of testing hundreds of the options available. You’ll find a huge range of tested solutions to the most common issues that bloggers and authority site builders experience.
Where to Find WordPress Plugins
Just like WordPress themes, you’ll quickly find there are two different types of WordPress plugin. The first of these are free plugins. The second are – as you might have guessed – paid (or premium) WordPress plugins.
The cool thing is that there are so many high quality free WordPress plugins available that it is only in rare situations where you’ll need to pay for a premium version. Even then, most paid plugins are very cheaply priced and can be sourced for much less than a premium theme.
These two kinds of plugins, however, mean there are two ways of finding plugins for your site.
How to Find & Install Free Plugins
Most of the free WordPress plugins available are stored in a central WordPress theme directory. Here you’ll find thousands of plugins, all tried-and-tested and many of them are even reviewed and rated by other WordPress users. In this way it can be quite easy to identify the “best” solution to any problem you may have.
The easiest way to search this directory to find the plugin you’re looking for is from within WordPress itself.
Within your WordPress control panel simply navigate to “Plugins”, then “Add New”.
You’ll find a search box at the top.
Simply search for the name of a free plugin, then click the “Install” link.
Once installed, just “Activate” it and you’re all good. The whole process takes a matter of moments and you’ll find that after your first few installations you can add plugins in your sleep.
How to Find & Install Premium Themes
There are lots of web developers who sell premium WordPress plugins. Some sell their plugins from their website, while most of them use an online marketplace. Over the years I’ve tested out dozens of these different theme marketplaces, and my own personal preference now is for Code Canyon.
Code Canyon has a ridiculous number of super-smart developers, all creating and releasing exciting new plugins. Any time I can’t find a suitable plugin in the free WordPress plugin directory I jump over to Code Canyon and invariably find an ideal solution for just $20-30 in average – a small price to pay to take your website to the next level.
Of course, as these premium plugins aren’t housed in the standard WordPress plugin directory installing them involves a few extra steps. All the same, these steps are well within the ability of almost anyone – even brand new bloggers. Here’s how to do it…
Start off by downloading your chosen plugin after purchase, unzipping it, find the filename of the plugin and then upload this to WordPress manually.
This is very easy to do. Simply go to “Plugins”, then “Add New”, then “Upload Plugin”.
Once the plugin has been uploaded to WordPress all you need to do is to activate it just as you did with the free plugins and you’re ready to go. Easy as that.
My Top Plugin Recommendations
Before we discuss my top plugins that all bloggers and authority site owners should know about it’s only fair to make a disclaimer. Adding hundreds of plugins to your blog will slow down how quickly your site loads.
As a result, I don’t recommend that you install all of the following plugins in one go – unless you really need them.
Instead, carefully read through the description of each one and decide if the functionality discussed would be beneficial for your site. If so, then you know exactly what to install. If not, then move along to the next description.
If in doubt, bookmark this page now so that you can refer back to this list in the future. I’ll be keeping it continually updated, adding and replacing the list as I discover and test new plugins.
We talked previously about the issues surrounding spammers firing junk blog comments at your site. Logging in to find you’ve got thousands of low quality comments sat there that need sifting through is nobody’s idea of fun.
Luckily, Akismet helps to resolve this issue. This free WordPress plugin looks for common signs of spam comments, and automatically filters out those that it thinks are junk.
If it makes a mistake, it’s easy to publish a genuine comment. A massive time-saver that every blogger should consider.
In other words, they’re a sign of a responsible, professional website.
That said, getting a lawyer to create these document for you can be expensive and inconvenient.
Slow-loading websites should be avoided for a whole host of reasons. They make for a bad user experience, they reduce the chances of your visitors seeing your adverts and/or affiliate links and a website that loads slowly can also rank lower in Google.
Autoptimize is a handy plugin for speeding up the loading speed of your WordPress website. While the results can be impressive, I would issue a warning as I have seen cases where the plugin caused some pretty serious issues. If you’re in any doubt I recommend you take a look at WP Rocket (discussed below) which is far easier to run.
Broken Link Checker
Broken links can lead to frustration for your visitors, as they click on a link only to find that it doesn’t go anywhere. Worse, of course, is if your affiliate links suddenly stop working for some reason without you noticing. Lastly, as Google is paying ever more attention to user-experience, a website with plenty of broken links can find it’s rankings reduced.
As it’s name suggests, Broken Link Checker regularly scans your site, looking for any links that aren’t working any more. You can then tell the plugin to ignore the issue, to correct the link URL or to remove the link entirely.
Note that Broken Link Checker can be a bit of a “resource hog” so it is often best to just activate it, run it, and then deactivate it again from time to time. This is in contrast where the plugin runs continuously, which can slow down your site or frustrate your web host.
Thanks to today’s superfast broadband speeds, including eye-catching images in your blog posts is more important than ever before. Finding suitably images can be challenging, however. What’s more, you need to make sure that you’re using images legally; publish a blog post with “borrowed” images and you could find yourself in some hot water.
Compfight helps to eliminate this issue, allowing you to search through thousands of royalty-free images from within WordPress.
Just click the image you want to use and it’ll be added to your article instantly. In other words, this plugin makes it easy to find and use images legally in your content.
Compress JPEG & PNG Images
The images used on your website can have one nasty side-impact – they can greatly slow down how quickly your website loads. Over the years I’ve tested out all manner of different tools that compress down your images. In essence these tools reduce the file size of your images without impacting their appearance.
The end result is a website that loads much more quickly. In all my tests, this free plugin from TinyPNG has performed most strongly. A highly-recommended tool if you’re going to be using a decent number of images on your authority site.
Contact Form 7
If you’re a blogger or authority site owner then it makes sense to let your site visitors contact you. You may find ideas for producing new blog posts, you may get offered products to review or new opportunities to monetize your website.
That said, publishing your email is a very bad idea, as it can result in spammers finding it and then deluging you with spam emails. A better alternative is therefore to create a contact form on your site, which then hides your email address from prying eyes.
Of all the various forms I have tried over the years it is Contact Form 7 that seems to be the easiest to work with while giving the most reliable results.
Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress
There are dozens of different social sharing plugins, and I have tried most of them. Most are painfully slow to load, or give very few options for deciding exactly where you’d like your sharing buttons to appear, or to style the appearance of these buttons.
This is one of the few premium plugins that I now rely on. If you want a fast-loading plugin that offers complete control over the design and placement of your social sharing buttons then Easy Social Share Buttons is the plugin for you.
Feature Box Pro
As we will see here, starting your own email newsletter is a critical part of the blogging puzzle. The question is how you build attractive signup forms for your newsletter, which are both highly visible to your visitors but without being intrusive. The answer is a “feature box”.
A feature box sits at the top of the your blog, typically under your standard navigation. It is designed to be eye-catching and to maximize optins without annoying your visitors with popups. While this is a premium plugin, the cost is minimal, while the impact of gathering thousands of email subscribers quickly outweighs this small investment.
Google Analytics is the best-known free service for tracking your website visitors. In order to install the Google Analytics code on your authority site, however, you’ll need to have a little technical knowledge.
The free Google Analytics plugin removes the technical knowledge necessary, allowing anyone to quickly add the required tracking code to their website.
ManageWP is a tool designed to help you to manage a variety of aspects of your WordPress website. For example, it makes it super-simple to update plugins and themes as new versions are released.
More importantly, however, are the various security and backup features offered by ManageWP. Set up is super-simple, and now my websites are backed up every single day like clockwork, while being regularly monitored for any malicious activity.
Whilst the ManageWP plugin itself is free, I recommend that you combine it with a paid account for maximum results. In this way, you can feel confident that you’ve always got your blog backed up incase of problems. Re-installing your site is a piece of cake, ensuring that all the hard work you put into your site isn’t going to vanish one day thanks to a hacker or other technical issue.
Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions
Your WordPress website sits on top of a database that holds all the data, images, blog posts and more. As things are added and taken away this database can get bogged down, which makes your website load more slowly.
This plugin helps to speed up your database – and so makes your site more quickly – without needing to understand all the technical aspects of dealing with MySQL databases. Just run the plugin from time to time and see just how much space you can save in your database.
Possibly the best-known and most feature-rich plugin for creating attractive opt-in forms, if you’re serious about growing your newsletter subscribers this is my favorite plugin of all. Now, in truth this is a premium plugin, but in my experience it stands head and shoulders above similar competing products.
Optin Monster comes complete with a huge range of premade, eye-catching templates and the ability to create an almost unlimited range of optin forms including slide-ins, popups, welcome mats and more.
Just as importantly, Optin Monster lets you split-test different designs to find those that get you the very best results. Worth it’s weight when it comes to growing your newsletter – and hence the income produced by your authority site.
Pretty Link Lite
One of the key ways to turn visitors into revenue with an authority site is through affiliate marketing. We’ll cover the subject in much greater detail later on, but for now let’s just consider how a standard affiliate link appears.
As an example, your affiliate link might look something like the following:
Hardly what you’d call memorable or trustworthy, wouldn’t you agree? You can imagine someone hovering over your link and wondering what all that junk is about. There’s more. How do you constantly remember these links so that you can add them into your affiliate articles?
Additionally, what happens as your website grows, you’ve used a specific affiliate link across dozens of articles, then they change their affiliate software. Have fun manually changing all of those links one-by-one!
Pretty Link helps to resolve all of the above issues. It turns an otherwise unattractive and complex link into something simpler and more beautiful. The above affiliate link could simply be recoded as:
Now that looks a lot better, doesn’t it?
It’s also a lot easier to remember your affiliate link when you’re producing a new article, and by updating this one link everything across your site can change.
Pretty Link comes in two varieties. The first is the free version which does everything above.
If you want to go all-out, however, the paid version (which I use) also allows split testing.
That is I can become an affiliate for a range of similar products/services and the plugin will then send people to each site in turn. This is handy because I can see which site converts best and earns me the most revenue. I can then drop the underperforming sites and maximise the income I receive from my affiliate links.
We’ll talk later on in depth at the concept of “push notifications”. In essence, this is an alternative to your visitor needing to sign up for your email newsletter to receive notifications of new content. They simply click a button, and then when you publish a new article they receive a little message in their browser.
While push notifications are still in their infancy, Pushcrew is my personal favorite from the available options and helps me to draw significant qualified traffic back to my site each and every month.
If your WordPress website is like most then you’ll have a search box somewhere, allowing first-time visitors to quickly find the content that they need from your archives.
Search meter is cool because it actually records what people search for through your form. Why does this matter? Well, it’s like your visitors are suggesting content topics for you.
Every so often you can check in to see what people have been looking for on your site, and you can then create new blog posts to specifically address any search strings that aren’t already covered on your site.
Internet users – rightfully – expect a great visitor experience. The days of huge blocks of boring plain text are long gone. Instead, it is a smart move to format your blog posts beautifully with images, subheads and more.
Shortcodes Ultimate is an easy and free way to deal with the “and more”. It lets you add everything from text highlights, to drop letters, tabs, quotes and more. And it does all this with no technical knowledge being required.
Just highlight the text and decide what formatting you’d like. In short, Shortcodes Ultimate makes it super-simple to turn your plain text articles into something beautiful, eye-catching and more interesting.
Table of Contents Plus
Have you ever got lost when reading through a long article, especially if you’re looking for a very specific section within the article?
Table of Content Plus, as you might imagine from the name, makes it super-simple to automatically add a table of contents to your articles. The various sections included in the table of contents is clickable, and will take your visitors straight to the section they click.
Just as good, Google is also adept at reading these tables of content, and may include these links under your standard listing in the search engine results. In other words, the Table of Content Plus plugin can mean a better visitor experience and improved search engine traffic. What’s not to like?
Sooner or later you’re likely to want to add tables to your WordPress site. Tablepress is the best option I have found to achieve just this. Easy to use and highly flexible, Tablepress makes creating product-comparison tables ideal when you’re reviewing products.
Thrive Content Builder
One of the few premium plugins mentioned here, Thrive Content Builder makes it super-simple to create mind-blowingly beautiful web pages. This is one of the “secret sauce” plugins used by many authority site builders and affiliates to create beautiful, professional landing pages for their site. In moments you can add beautiful text boxes, pricing charts, product comparison boxes and more.
If you’re someone who wants your affiliate articles to stand out from the crowd then the Thrive Content Builder is well worth the small investment.
Visual Composer is another page builder tool like Thrive Content Builder, useful for creating almost any web page that your mind can conjure up. Personally I use Visual Composer in conjunction with the “Ultimate Addons for Visual Composer” add-on to give me almost limitless design possibilities.
With Visual Composer you can easily make those modern-style websites that have big header images, text over videos and more.
Getting your WordPress website to load as quickly as possible is far from easy. To this end, there are a whole host of different plugins designed to help speed up your site. Up until a year or so ago I was using a free plugin called W3 Total Cache, which is a decent option. The downside is that it can be downright muddling to set up, and requires a fair amount of “tweaking” to get things just right.
Exploring other options I stumbled across WP Rocket, a plugin which I now use extensively. It’s much simpler to set up and super-charges your site’s loading speed. Just appreciate that as a premium plugin you will need to shell out for this service if you opt to go for it.
If you’re serious about building a high traffic, profitable affiliate site or blog then you’ll need to do everything you can to rank well in the search engines. WordPress SEO is a free plugin that helps you do just that.
Indeed, I consider this plugin so central to the effective marketing of my sites that we’ll cover it in depth later on in the website marketing section. You’ll see exactly what the plugin does, and how to use it to maximum effectiveness. For now, all you need to know is that this is one plugin that every WordPress website should use in my opinion.
By now you should have successfully set up your own blog or authority site from scratch. You’ve chosen a domain name and a web host, you’ve installed WordPress, then modified it’s appearance with themes and its functionality with plugins.