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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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).
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.
- Call your hosting provider, and ask them to show you how to install WordPress.
- 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.
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.
When you hover over the WordPress section, there will be a dropdown that looks like this:
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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:
Browse free themes by clicking between “Featured,” “Popular” and “Latest.”
Above those menu items is where you can upload premium themes to your site.
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.