Choose a domain name, hosting provider and WordPress theme

To get your site up and running, you’re going to need:

  • A domain name – a professional web address, such as laurenholliday.com or freelanship.com or yourdomain.com.
  • Hosting – a service provider that connects your site to the Internet, using your domain name.

Think of hosting like this: Website hosting is like rent for a brick-and-mortar store – except it’s online rent. You must pay to have a space of your own online just as you have to pay a fee to a landlord.
Depending on which hosting provider you choose, hosting will cost you a recurring monthly fee of $6.99 or less or an annual fee of less than $100.

Use this perk from GoDaddy, and get managed WordPress hosting for just $12 / year. You’ll also get a free domain. The coupon code is “cjcwph1”

Why do I need a domain name?

Owning your own domain name looks far more professional than having your site on someone else’s domain (like yourbusiness.freewebsite.com), and it’s super affordable so there is zero reason why you shouldn’t do this.

Another HUGE reason to purchase your own domain name is because you’ll be able to get your very own professional email that YOU OWN. That’s huge! I rarely respond to people – or even see – emails in my inbox sent from a generic account, using something like Gmail and/or especially YAHOO! and AOL.

If you (or your client) already own a domain name, skip ahead.

Where do I buy a domain and hosting?

In this course, we’re going to purchase hosting with GoDaddy because their support is fantastic, and it’s cheap and user friendly, meaning it’s easy to learn.

GoDaddy is also where we’ll buy our domain name from as well because it’s easier to buy your domain from your hosting provider (plus they give it to you for free with that code I gave you).

If you create a new account on GoDaddy, then you get a non-premium .com domain name for free; therefore, I’d create a new account for client(s) who don’t own their domain name already, and I’d create my own personal account to get my own basically-free domain name for my portfolio site, which we’ll make in the last section of this course.

How do I choose a domain?

Which domain you choose depends on what the site’s purpose is.

If you’re making this site for a small business or startup then your domain should be the company name. For example, I chose hollidaycleaners.com because my dad’s business name is “Holliday Cleaners.”

But if you’re making this website for yourself or an influencer, who is a personal brand, then you should go with their name. Two examples are: danschawbel.com and neilpatel.com.

Which type of domain should I choose?

Always go with a .com address if you can. While loads of new extensions are being added constantly, I’d try to avoid them.

“While .com, .org and .net (and now, .io) are commonly used and easily remembered, the domain extension craze hasn’t really gone mainstream yet (although they’re pretty widely accepted by early adopters in the startup world) – so people may not find you if you use a really different domain extension.” – (Source)

What if I can’t get the domain name I want?

It’s likely that someone already owns or is selling the domain of your liking since there’s approximately 150 million active domain names in the world currently.

If someone already owns the .com address or if the domain you want is up for auction at an outrageous price then you need to think creatively.

Pocket is a good example of a wildly popular startup that got creative when their domain name was taken. The read-it-later app purchased “getpocket.com” and users find it just fine.

If you’re building a website for a startup then you can veer outside the .com box, and purchase a .io domain, which are becoming increasingly popular, or another cool extension, like college.dropout, if my course was named “College Dropout.”

For small businesses, I’d stick with .com every time though since their customers and prospects are most likely more traditional. Therefore, getting creative with a small business’ domain name might require you to research search queries(i.e. what people are Googling to find that business) as the domain name, as opposed to the business’ name.

When I have this problem, domain name generators, such as Agile Domain Search and Dotomator, save the day as well as GoDaddy’s other recommendations that show up below the domain you last searched for.

Some more tips on getting a good domain name

  • Keep it short: Keep your name short and memorable. One or two words is best. Keep in mind that the top 100,000 websites, on average, have nine characters in their domain names.
  • Make it easy to type: Finding a domain name that’s easy to type is critical to online success. If you use slang (u instead of you) or words with multiple spellings (express vs. xpress), it might be harder for customers to find your site.
  • An example of a bad domain name is freelanship.com. I bought freelanship.com a long time ago, before I realized everyone spells it freelan**ce**ship.
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens
  • Try to stick with .com (familiarity factor)
  • Use keywords: What are people searching for? Use those search queries to help you decide on a domain name.
  • Try using keywords that describe your business and the services you offer. For example, if you’re a glass replacement business, you may want to register GlassRepair.com or GlassReplacement.com.
  • Include keywords people enter when searching for you or your client(s)’ products and services.
  • It helps improve your rank on search engines (which increases traffic) and just makes more sense to your customers.

I also like Robert Mening’s advice for choosing a domain name:

Is it brandable? For example, if you make a site about poetry then best-poetry-website.net is not a good choice: poetryacademy.com or poetryfall.com is much better.

Is it memorable? Short, punchy and clear domain names are much easier to remember.If your domain name is too fuzzy, too long or spelled in a strange way, visitors may forget it.

Is it catchy? You want a name that rolls off the tongue, describes what you do and sticks head. Coming up with a cool name can be a bit tough since there are approximately 150 million active domain names in the world right now – but don’t give up.

What if you’re not sure which domain you want?

Maybe there’s three to four domains you feel equally great about, what do you do? If I were you, I’d buy all of them, if you can afford it.

You can always let it expire after the year is up, if you decide you don’t want it. OR you could sell it on a domain flipping site, such as Flippa.

Maybe you want to use all the domain names for your site. That’s fine too. You could just set up one main domain and set the other two domains to forward to your main URL. This way they’d up show up in the search engine page results (SERPs).

Don’t let choosing a domain name stall your momentum. Keep moving!

Note: Today, I no longer use GoDaddy for hosting because I’ve outgrown them. It was very easy to switch hosting providers recently. I was testing out a few different managed WordPress hosting providers – MediaTemple, Flywheel and WPEngine – and I ended up choosing to consolidate my hosting to just MediaTemple (best bang for the buck). I don’t recommend these hosting providers to you because they cost more money, but they are definitely more secure and provide phenomenal support as well.

Challenge

Purchase a domain name, and purchase hosting on GoDaddy. Be sure to use the code “cjcwph1” so you can get Managed WordPress Hosting for just $12 / year. After you purchase, follow the steps to “Install WordPress,” and login to your new WordPress dashboard. The two videos below walk you through this challenge.

If you have different hosting, and aren’t sure how to install WordPress, you have two options.

  1. Call your hosting provider, and ask them to show you how to install WordPress.
  2. Google something like “how to install wordpress [insert hosting provider name].”

You can always ask for help from the group, including me, as well if you get stuck.
Note: While you can choose any theme you want for your site, I’ll show you how to build a website with the Jupiter theme ($59).

How to choose a premium theme

I’ve always purchased premium themes – from day one – because it looks 1,000 times more professional.

Here’s how to decide which theme to buy.

NOTE: Yes, this is a referral link, but I ONLY use Themeforest, and I LOVE Themeforest… I’d NEVER EVER recommend something to you just to make money.

Now, that you’re on Themeforest, go to the WORDPRESS section.

themeforest

When you hover over the WordPress section, there will be a dropdown that looks like this:

themeforest

IMPORTANT NOTE: No two themes’ backends or dashboards (what you see when you login to your site) are the same. Different themes will be laid out differently, and premium themes will most likely have more menu items, which can be confusing. Remember, I’ll be using the Jupiter theme.”

Ignore the “Miscellaneous” page because that’s for more advanced WordPress sites that you shouldn’t be working on yet because you don’t even know how to make a simple WordPress site yet.

Because I visit Themeforest a lot (embarrassing, I know), I prefer to always start by just clicking on the WordPress page itself, which is organized from newest to oldest WordPress themes.

Popular is another great place to go, but I don’t necessarily recommend starting here because these themes usually tend to be – while very good looking – pretty difficult to navigate for a newbie.

Here’s an example of what the theme, Jupiter, looks like from the backend.

wordpress dashboard
See how many more menu items there are?

I’ve purchased a lot of themes in my day. In fact, when I first began making WordPress sites, I would purchase a different theme every time, but then I’d have to learn a new theme every time, and I began leaving money on the table because there was a learning curve.

Time is money so I recommend sticking with one theme – at least for a while.

I love Jupiter so much because you can make a bunch of totally different looking sites with the same theme.

And not only does using the same theme save you time, but it also saves you the $50-$60 it costs to purchase a new theme each time you make a new WordPress site.

But what if you don’t like Jupiter?

If you don’t like either of the themes I recommended, then here’s how I’d choose my theme. While I’m scrolling through the new WordPress themes, I’d look for:

  • A theme with 4 stars or higher
  • A theme that has a lot of sales
themeforest
Then when I clicked on the theme and landed on the theme’s page, I’d look to see if the theme author is an elite author.
themeforest

I just feel like elite authors are more trustworthy, but I suppose that’s the least important factor when deciding whether or not to buy the theme or not.

You also must make sure the theme is responsive, which means it adjusts to your devices’ screens.

How do you know if a theme is responsive?

I think it’s safe to say that all the latest themes are responsive, but here’s how I’d check to be sure.

Go to the theme’s page, and:

If you’re using a Mac, click: Command + F
If you’re using a PC, click: Control + F
responsive themes

As you’ll see in the screenshot above, in the upper right corner, a search bar pops up, where you’ll type “responsive.”

Now, I know Jupiter is responsive because the word appears 5 times on the page, and it’s right in its title / headline, which is a good sign.

There’s also another way to test.

Just open the theme demo on your laptop, and minimize the screen and see if the website theme demo responds, meaning it restructures itself the smaller you make it.

Free v Premium Themes

Is there really a difference between free and premium themes?

Most definitely. One-hundred percent. Without a doubt. “You get what you pay for” rings true for WordPress themes as well. Free themes are usually very barebones, with little customizing capability.

Every site I’ve ever built used a premium theme. They just look nicer, work better and have phenomenal support with regular updates.

If you really want to try working with a free theme, you can browse FREE WordPress themes in the theme directory, which you can find by:

Login to your WordPress dashboard, and look on the left-hand menu for Appearance > Themes.
wordpress themes
Now, you should see a page (similar to the screenshot below) with the one theme that is installed on your new site.
wordpress theme
Click on “Add New” in the top, left corner, which I highlight in teal in the screenshot below.
freethemes

Browse free themes by clicking between “Featured,” “Popular” and “Latest.”

Above those menu items is where you can upload premium themes to your site.

If you wish to preview or install a free theme, just hover over the theme you like, and click on either “Preview” or “Install.”

As you see, installing a free theme is pretty freakin’ easy. All you do is click “Install,” and it downloads in less than two minutes.

While there’s more than 1500 free themes in your WordPress dashboard alone, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a premium theme on Themeforest, which has a gigantic library of premium WordPress themes (between $30 and $60 each – and that’s with support!). And more specifically, I recommend the Artbees’ theme known as Jupiter because that’s what I’ll be building my website on and showcasing in this course.
NOTE: Changing themes won’t delete your previous posts, pages and content. You can change themes as often as you want without having to worry about losing what you’ve created. Although the layout will be messed up… unless you reactivate the former theme you created your pages in and customized previously.

Challenge

Purchase a theme (Jupiter if you want to work alongside me) or decide on a free theme. If you purchase a premium theme, make sure to register for the free 6-month theme support in case you need it.

NEXT: WordPress Dashboard and Plugins