It’s now easier than ever to create your own website, even if you have limited technical skills. While it may be tempting to outsource the job to a freelancer, that approach has its drawbacks. It costs more, you won’t be able to make changes yourself, and you’ll have limited knowledge about your own website.
Our comprehensive guide answers the most common questions about building your own website, including which platform is best, and also provides useful tutorials to walk you step-by-step through how to build a website.
Regardless of your skill level, this guide offers all the information you need to create a functional, unique website for your small business and detailed instructions on how to make a website.
Find What You’re Looking For
1. Identify Your Website’s Purpose
Before starting to build your website, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your website needs to do. This will help you decide which website builder is best for your website as different platforms are better suited to different purposes. For example, if you’re starting a website for a small business or online store, you’ll need to build a website with e-commerce and customer engagement options.
But, if your website is meant to be an online portfolio for personal branding, then a simple but professional-looking website should suffice. Also, consider your audience (aka your customers). What information and functionality will they expect from your website?
Pro tip: Research the websites of similar businesses to see what they do well and what your site could do better for inspiration.
2. Choose Your Domain Name
While you won’t execute this step until you choose a platform for building your website, it’s important to start thinking about your website’s domain name now. Your domain name is the URL or website address that users type into their search bar to visit your site.
If you are using WordPress, you will need to acquire your custom domain name separately through a domain registrar. Domain names are very affordable, typically costing $15 or less per year. Namecheap provides you hundred domain possibilities to choose from.
Besides brand representation, your domain name also impacts your site’s SEO. Domain.com is a domain name generator that easily integrates with WordPress, WebsiteBuilder, and SiteLock to establish your business presence. Your domain name should be easy to spell, short, and memorable, GoDaddy’s domain name registrar automatically creates a list of domains based on those words using various domain name prefixes and suffixes. Consider opting for the more popular “.com” domain over TLDs like “.net” or “.co.”
Good domain names should be relatively short, and easy to remember, type, and say. Since this is how people will find your website, it should be as accessible as possible. In most cases, you’ll pay for your domain name annually. Registering and owning your domain name means that no one else can have the same web address as you
3. Decide If You’ll Use WordPress or a Website Builder
The first step in creating a website for your small business is deciding which platform to use to build the site. If you are doing it yourself, you have two options:
- Use a Website Builder, like Squarespace, GoDaddy, or Web.com.
- Use WordPress, which is an open-source content management system (CMS).
A Step-by-Step Guide To Building a Website With WordPress
If you’ve chosen to create a website through WordPress, great! All of the instructions you need for getting started with WordPress are below. If you want to use a website builder instead, go here for further guidance.
- Step 1: Choose a web hosting service
- Step 2: Register your domain name
- Step 3: Install WordPress
- Step 4: Customize your WordPress site
- Step 5: Manage your WordPress site
A web host is the server ocation where the data that makes up your website lives. If you think of your website as a building, the domain name is the address where people can find your property, and the web host is the real estate on which the property sits. WP Engine offers one of the most innovative WordPress hosting services that help beginners and experts to take advantage of the digital space.
Organizations with huge, high-traffic websites have their own dedicated servers, but for most small businesses and professionals, shared web hosting is usually sufficient to handle the website’s traffic and storage needs. There are many website hosting services available; we recommend Bluehost for its versatility, accessibility, and affordability.
Besides coming with WordPress software pre-installed, Bluehost includes a free domain name, the ability to create unlimited email addresses, free Solid State Drives (SSD), and more. Other popular hosts that work well with WordPress include Inmotion Hosting, Siteground, and GoDaddy.
Step 2: Register Your Domain Name
Once you decide on a web hosting service and choose your plan, the next step is registering your domain name. If you are using InMotion Hosting, your domain name is included with your hosting plan. If you are using GoDaddy Hosting, your domain name is included with your hosting plan. If you are using another website host, they will walk you through the domain name registration process.
This is also a good time to set up a dedicated email address for your business if you don’t already have one. By a dedicated email address, we mean one that has your business name as the domain name, not @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc. Because your business now has a domain name, you can do that! Depending on your web host and plan, you may have the option to create multiple email addresses, or just one. There may also be an option to forward emails to your business email account to a different email account.
Siteground’s WordPress hosting services come with a lot of perks such as pre-installed WordPress so you don’t need to do anything else to start building your website in WordPress. Your WordPress login details will be included in your InMotion welcome email. Many other popular website hosts come with pre-installed WordPress software. If you are using any of those hosts, this is a relatively simple step. You can also install WordPress manually:
- Log into cPanel.
- Under MySQL databases, create a database. Write down the name, including the prefix provided; you’ll need it later.
- Create a new database username and password on the same screen. Write down these details as well, including the username prefix provided.
- Add the user to the database. Give the user all permissions when prompted.
- Open your FTP client and log in to your hosting account.
- Download the latest WordPress release from WordPress.org.
- Unzip WordPress and upload it to your public_html folder (or a subdirectory, if you prefer).
- Navigate to yourdomain.com and follow the installation instructions. Leave the hostname as localhost when prompted.
WordPress will set itself up in the directory that you chose in step 7. You can log in using your new WordPress login details and start setting up your site.
- Delete pre-installed content: Your newly installed WordPress website comes with pre-installed “dummy” content, which you can safely delete.
- Change permalink structure: Permalinks are the technical term for the URLs of the content that you publish on your WordPress site. Although you can change your permalink structure at any time, it is best to do it as part of your set-up process. Changing the structure later will deactivate any previously established pages.
- Disable comments: WordPress lets you easily disable users’ ability to comment. You can also enable or disable user registration, if necessary. If you want to keep comment and registration functionality, there are plug-ins that will help you block spam.
- Choose a theme: Choosing a theme is one of the biggest decisions you will make when creating your website. The theme or template you choose will determine the look and feel of your website. WordPress has thousands of free and paid themes to choose from, as well as frameworks, which let users build their own themes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so here are some tips for choosing the best theme for your WordPress website.
- Add plug-ins: Plug-ins are the key to customizing your website’s functionality. They are apps that let you add new features and functions to your site. As with themes, there are thousands of free and paid plug-ins available. Here are some of the most popular plugins for small businesses to get you started.
- Install Google Analytics: Google Analytics helps you understand how many visitors your site has, where they are coming from, and how they engage with your site. Various plugins are available to help you install Google Analytics, so you can improve your website as a customer engagement tool.
- Create a contact form: A contact form gives your users an easy way to reach you without using your email address. You can create a contact form by adding a plug-in; we recommend using Contact Form 7.
- Automate backups: You should be backing up your website, otherwise, you risk losing all of the information it contains. Using an automated WordPress site backup and restore service will give you peace of mind. You will also want to make sure your site is secure from hacking, viruses, and other threats.
In the final step, we discuss how to manage your WordPress site, including creating pages and posts, adding categories and tags, and effectively using images and videos. Lastly, we’ll dive into how to optimize your WordPress website for SEO, e-commerce, social media, and mobile devices.
- Create pages and posts: When adding content to your website, you have two options: pages and posts. Pages are static, while posts appear in reverse chronological order. Your site will likely contain a combination of both as they fulfill different purposes.
- Create categories: Once you create pages and posts, you can use categories and tags to classify your content and make it easier for users to find. Using categories and tags effectively can also boost your SEO.
- Create navigation: WordPress’s built-in menu system allows users to navigate your site via links to pages, categories, custom links, and more. Optimizing your website’s navigation will ensure your visitors can find the content they’re looking for quickly as well as explore the rest of your website.
- Add widgets: Widgets help you customize the look of your website by adding content in the sidebars and footers. WordPress offers many different widgets for social media, e-commerce, communications, and more.
- Add images and videos: Visual content helps engage your users and hold their interest, so it’s a good idea to integrate photos and videos into your website. Images and videos you upload to your WordPress site are stored in your media library.
- WordPress SEO: WordPress is “out-of-box” SEO-friendly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t search engine optimize your site further. Yoast SEO is WordPress’s most popular SEO plug-in.
- Add social media functions: Sharing buttons make it easy for your users to share your content and to get the word out about your business. Social Warfare and SumoMe are two of the most popular social media plug-ins for WordPress.
- WordPress security: Basic security measures are built into WordPress, but you should take extra steps to protect your site from hacks and malware. Our recommendation for WordPress security plug-in is iThemes Security Pro.
- WordPress E-commerce: WordPress can power just about any type of website, including fully functioning online e-commerce stores. WooCommerce is one of the most popular e-commerce solutions for WordPress, but there are many other plug-in options to choose from.
- Mobile optimization: Ensuring that your website looks good on mobile devices is crucial. Nearly 60 percent of users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, so be sure to test your website on multiple platforms, and make it as mobile-friendly as possible.
- Start an email list: Email marketing and building your email list is an effective, low-cost, and high-conversion monetization tactic. There are a number of different plugins available to help you build your email list.
A Step-by-Step Guide To Building a Website With a Website Builder
Website builders offer all-in-one web design and maintenance services. GoDaddy’s website builder is ideal for individuals with no coding or technical skills, who want to build a website quickly and don’t mind sacrificing some flexibility for simplicity, or for websites that do not need to be very complex or customized.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to which type of website builder software is better — each approach has its own advantages, disadvantages, and supporters.
Squarespace makes it easy to build your website with a drag-and-drop design scheme. They also provide web hosting, storage, maintenance, SSL site security, and 24/7 support. Web.com is also a great website builder, it has a user interface that is beginner-friendly with drag-and-drop templates with preassembled elements that are easy to navigate.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide which option is going to work best for you. Below is a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option.
The Pros And Cons of Website Builder
- Easy to use — most website builders use a simple drag-and-drop or “What You See is What You Get” style of editor
- No coding knowledge needed
- Includes website hosting
- Typically less time-consuming to build
- Website builders have less flexibility in functionality and design than WordPress
- Cannot switch website hosts; moving to a new host means rebuilding your website from scratch
- Not as useful for more advanced, complex websites
- Slightly more expensive than WordPress.
If you’ve decided that a website builder is the right choice for you, this section will give you an overview of the set-up process, including tips for choosing the best website builder and plan. As each website builder has its own unique interface, you will have to refer to their website for exact instructions on how to customize your website, although we give you a general checklist for things you will need to do to get your website up and running.
- Step 1: Choose a website builder and plan
- Step 2: Register your domain name
- Step 3: Select a website template
- Step 4: Customize your website
- Step 5: Manage your website
The next choice you have to make is which website builder to use. We compare the most popular website builders below, but you should also do further research to find the platform that best fits your needs and aesthetic.
Some website builders like GoDaddy, Web.com, and Squarespace offer free trials that let you get a feel for their interface before committing to a paid plan. You will also want to think about what kind of plan or subscription you need. Most website builders offer tiered plans with a range of features for advertising, marketing, e-commerce, support, and more.
If you’re not sure right now exactly what your website will need in the future, don’t worry. You can typically start with a lower-tier plan, and upgrade when necessary.
Which Website Builder is The Best?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to which website builder is best. It ultimately comes down to your particular needs and wishes. However, there are a few important things you should consider when making the choice, including your budget, what features and functions are most critical to your website, and whether the website builder has an interface that you understand and feel comfortable using. This comparison chart offers a look at the price ranges for various website builders, as well as a brief, basic overview of some of their key pros and cons.
|Squarespace||$12-$40/month (when paid annually)||>Good theme selection|
>Themes optimized for multiple platforms (computer, smartphone, tablet)
>Excellent blogging tools
|>No back-up and restore feature|
>Limited app selection
>Not as easy to use as some other sites
>Adding and removing page elements is easy
|>Limited editing layouts|
|Web.com||$1.95/month||>Award-winning customer >Seamless installation|
>Websites with 99.9% uptime
|>Does not offer free trial/version|
|Leadpages||Custom Quote||>SEO-friendly pages|
|>Drag-and-drop tool lacks flexibility|
>Mobile pages aren't fully customizable
|Zyro||$2.90/month||>Affordability and Ease of Use|
>Fast Website Loading Speed
>24/7 Live Chat Support
>Slow customer support
Once you select a website builder and sign up for a plan, you will have to register your domain name. Depending on the website builder and plan you’ve chosen, you may be able to register your domain name for free (at least initially) through the website builder, or you can register the domain name separately through a registry service like Domain.com, Namecheap, or GoDaddy.com.
This is also a good time to set up a dedicated email address for your business if you don’t already have one. By a dedicated email address, we mean one that has your business name as the domain name, not @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc. Because your business now has a domain name, you can do that! Depending on your website builder and plan, you may have the option to create multiple email addresses, or just one. There may also be an option to forward emails to your business email account to a different email account.
Templates are a website builder’s superpower. These ready-made layouts let you easily visualize what your website will look like with your own content. Website builders offer hundreds of different templates, usually grouped by categories like business, creative, online stores, and more.
While you can choose any template you like, searching by category is a good way to find the optimal template for the type of site you want to build. Keep in mind that with most website builders, you can further customize your chosen template by changing the color scheme, fonts, graphics, and more, so even if a template isn’t exactly what you want, you can usually tweak it to meet your exact requirements.
Take some time to play with multiple templates before choosing one, to be sure that it’s the one you want. Depending on the website builder, it can be difficult to switch the template once you’ve built your website.
This is the point where you really make your website your own. Using the tools provided by your website builder, you will add content, navigation, communication, e-commerce, and other functions to your website.
The exact instructions for customizing your website will vary based on the builder you use, but below we give you an overview of the steps you’ll take to create a fully functional website.
- Create pages: Most website content comes in the form of pages (static or evergreen content) and posts (regularly updated content). With a website builder, you can create a page or post with the click of a button, and add content by dragging and dropping elements like text, titles, dividers, images, and videos.
- Add images and videos: Websites rely heavily on multimedia elements to engage users and hold their interest. With website builders, you can add individual photos, photo galleries, videos, audio files, and more by dragging and dropping those elements wherever you want them on your website. You can upload photos and videos from your computer, embed videos from sites like YouTube or search the website builder’s existing media library.
- Build navigation and menus: It’s critical that visitors be able to find what they are looking for when they visit your site. In most website builders, you will create your pages, and how to navigate to them, simultaneously. Once you have pages set up, you can also create dropdown menus to help visitors find their way around your site.
- Create a contact form: A contact form gives your users an easy way to reach you without using your email address. Most website builders include contact forms as a drag-and-drop element that you can place anywhere on your website.
- Add apps: Website builders offer dozens of different types of apps to help extend the functionality of your website. You can add apps to your website for communication and social media, e-commerce, marketing, design customization, and more.
- Block spam: With many website builders, it is easy to turn commenting on and off. Having comments turned off will control the amount of spam your website receives. However, if you want to give your users the ability to comment, most website builders give you various settings and apps to help you control spam.
Below are some ways to successfully manage your website. Because each website builder is different, these things may be offered as part of the set-up process or specific theme, while others you may have to source out a plugin or widget.
- Start an email list: Website builders make it easy to create email lists and connect with subscribers with included newsletter forms or email list builder apps.
- Mobile optimization: Increasingly, website builders are creating templates that automatically adjust for mobile optimization, but it’s still important to check your website on multiple devices to make sure it looks good across various platforms.
- Ecommerce features: For some website builders, you have to have a specific online store or e-commerce plan to sell items on your website. Others allow you to use e-commerce features or apps.
- Social media functions: Social media apps and sharing buttons make it easy for your users to share your content and to get the word out about your business.
4. Optimize Your Site for Organic Search
SEO is a critical aspect of digital marketing and building an impactful business website. SEO determines how high your website ranks on search engines when users search keywords relevant to your business. Zyro provides excellent web-hosting services for e-entrepreneurs. Their built-in SEO features help in optimizing your website pages for visibility.
For example, if a user searches “electronics store near me,” Google will display the most relevant results.
There are several steps you can take to improve your website’s organic search results.
First, optimize your website’s load time. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load, users are likely to go back and click on one of your competitors. To optimize your site, compress all image and video files, and be sure to choose a web hosting provider with good load speeds.
Keywords are another important aspect of SEO. These are specific words or phrases that potential customers may search for when looking for a business such as yours.
Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding high-ranking keywords. Just be sure to use them sparingly as search engines punish websites for overstuffing their content with keywords.
Lastly, be sure to test your website on mobile devices to make sure it is responsive to different screen sizes.
5. Publish, Maintain & Market Your Website
After building out your web pages and optimizing them for SEO, you can publish your website and begin marketing it.
Marketing can include paid social media ads, planned social posting, PPC, and more. Also, keep in mind the importance of regular site maintenance and updates. Periodically adding new blog posts and product entries, or refreshing existing pages helps keep your website relevant to your customers. Updating your website can also help improve your organic search rankings.
Don’t forget to periodically check your installed apps and plug-ins to make sure they are up to date. Outdated applications can present security risks, so be sure to stay on top of them.