I talk a lot about helping moms escape the 9-5 grind by building online businesses. I often get asked, “does this mean I need to start a blog?” Followed by “how do I start a blog?” and then “but I don’t want to be a blogger!”
Here’s the deal: if you want to build an online business, you NEED a website. You can’t build your brand online without a website. Think of a blog as another way of saying website. You know you need a website, right? A blog is just an extension of that. It’s a way for you to communicate and provide value to prospective customers.
Affiliate links are included below. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself.
Nowadays blogs are not chronological feeds of articles. Almost every blog you’ll visit has a landing page that showcases their brand and their blog is simply a portion of the website.
Are you convinced?
Good! You should be. Now let’s cover the technical basics of setting up your website.
The Basics of Setting Up a Website
What is a domain?
A domain is your website name (also known as a URL). Your domain is what people will type into their browsers to access your website. Mine is https://redefiningmom.com.
Before settling on the name for your business, you should always make sure your domain name is available. You can check this for free here using GoDaddy’s name search.
I suggest checking all major social media channels to make sure your business name is available before settling on a name. The major ones I would consider: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. This doesn’t necessarily have to hold you back. I was able to get @redefiningmom in most instances, but on Pinterest I am @redefinemom.
DO NOT register your domain name yet. We will discuss whether or not to pay for your domain name through a company like GoDaddy, or to use your hosting provider to register your domain name later.
What is website hosting?
A website hosting service provides a server that maintains and hosts the files for your website. Every time someone accesses your website by going to your URL, they will be accessing files that sit on the hosting provider’s server.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS). It is the backend of your website that you will access to control what people see when they go to your website. Your WordPress install is hosted on your hosting provider’s server.
Do I need to have a self-hosted website?
YES! A self-hosted website is necessary for having complete control over what you do on your website. A website is yours and it is COPYRIGHTED to you. If you do not self-host, you are giving up control over your most valuable asset. Blogger is a popular blog platform run by Google. What happens if Google decides to stop supporting Blogger tomorrow?
The same is true for social media. Growing your platform solely on Pinterest or Facebook puts you at the mercy of their algorithms—and they can shut you down at any time.
If you plan on taking your business seriously, a self-hosted website is a necessity, not an option.
What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress is the most popular CMS for running a self-hosted website.
If you Google “WordPress,” you will find two different sites: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.com is NOT for self-hosted websites. For our purposes, you will be using WordPress.org. A few benefits to using WordPress.org are: it allows you to self-host your website, be in control of your own data, use any WordPress plugin, create custom themes, make money from displaying ads, and track analytics and conversions to your site.
What is a parent theme and child theme?
A basic way of explaining this is that the parent theme is the guts to your computer; it’s not something you touch or modify. The child theme is the operating system where you can add programs and modify functionality. 99.9% of the time, you will never touch your parent theme—but just like you want a powerful computer processor to be able to handle how you use your computer, you want to choose a reliable and powerful framework for your site. The child theme is where you modify the design of your site. Both the parent and child themes are installed in WordPress.
Do I need a mobile responsive theme?
Absolutely! Google penalizes websites that are not mobile responsive in their search results. The good news is that all StudioPress child themes are now mobile responsive!
Setting Up Your Website
Here I am going to take you through the steps of setting up your domain (URL), hosting, and WordPress.
Step 1: Choose a hosting provider
I use inMotion for my hosting company. Their starting packages are $5.95/month, and some key features include:
- Up to 2 websites.
- FREE setup.
- Friendly US-based tech support.
- SSD drives—which means that their servers operate much faster than a lot of their competitors, keeping your website load times best-in-class.
- FREE backups.
In May 2016, I switched from another hosting provider that is very popular among bloggers. This other service can be found for as low as $2.95/month during their sale periods. I want to caution you that you get what you pay for. I used them for 3 years with only a few issues, but as soon as I started seeing a decent amount of traffic to my site (around 30,000 page views), my site began to crash all the time. Their customer service was very unhelpful and downright rude. If you spend some time researching hosting companies and look beyond the canned recommendations from bloggers who make money via affiliate sales, you will see that their business model is to bring you in low, provide terrible customer service, and then upsell you at a time when you will be most desperate. This happened to me during a spike in traffic when I was in the middle of a product launch.
In the spirit of complete honesty, I will tell you that the other hosting provider is Bluehost, and if you decide to go with them, I understand. Please know that as you grow, it will inevitably become a pain point for you. If you purchase Bluehost through my link, I will receive a $65 commission. I do believe that their generous affiliate payout combined with their low cost makes them an attractive option to recommend to bootstrapping new bloggers and business owners.
If you purchase through my inMotion link, I will receive a $50 commission. I can’t get any more honest than this. The choice is completely yours! My opinions expressed here are based solely upon personal experiences with both companies.
Now on to showing you how to set up an account with inMotion!
Step 2: Select your plan
I recommend starting with the Launch plan. The great thing about inMotion is that you can seamlessly upgrade as you go, and the upgrading costs are clear.
Step 3: Choose your domain
I register all my domains with GoDaddy (video tutorial below). Keeping your domain registration separate from your hosting company is something you may want to consider. If you ever have an issue with your hosting company, or if your hosting company gets hacked, it creates a level of security for your domain if you keep it separate.
However, you can opt to register a free domain with inMotion to save money. The choice is yours. Select “I would like to purchase a new domain” to receive your free domain from inMotion before hitting “continue.” If you opt to purchase your domain through another provider, select “I already own this domain or will handle the registration separately.”
Step 4: Enter billing information and install WordPress
Setting up WordPress on your new site is super easy using inMotion. They offer an auto-installer option on the billing page that you can select. Plus, they have 24/7 support via phone, live chat, and email if you run into any problems.
On the billing screen, fill in your personal information.
Next, select “yes” or “no” for domain privacy. I always select “yes” because there is a directory, Who Is, where anyone can look up the personal information provided by a website owner. Since most people use their home address, it is safer to select the privacy option. This will mask the owner of the domain.
Select “Install WordPress” for your content management system and enter your credit card billing information.
Step 5: Install a WordPress theme
Once you have set up your domain, paid for hosting, and used inMotion’s auto-installer, you will be sent your login credentials for access to the backend of your WordPress site.
To access your WordPress panel, you will go to http://yourwebsiteurl.com/wp-admin and enter the credentials that were emailed to you.
Now it’s time to select a theme for your website.
After you log in to your WordPress dashboard you will go to: Appearance → Themes → Add New, or activate a pre-installed theme from this page.
I use the StudioPress’ Genesis Framework with the Lifestyle Pro child theme (also sold by StudioPress). Genesis is widely recognized as the best framework for building a WordPress website with a ton of free tutorials available on the web to help you properly configure your setup.
All StudioPress themes are mobile responsive. As I mentioned earlier, if you do not have a mobile responsive theme, then you will be penalized by Google in search results. When I changed my theme, I used the StudioPress mobile responsive tool to check the mobile responsiveness of my website.
Step 6: Install important plugins
These are the plugins I recommend that you start with. You can install these after you have installed your theme.
In your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins → Add new → Search for desired plugin → Install now
- Akismet provides spam protection for your blog.
- BackupBuddy backs up your blog’s database for an extra layer of protection.
- CommentLuv shares the love with your readers by allowing them to link-back to their most recent blog post in their comments.
- JetPack offers many features that can be used to enhance your blog. I primarily use the feature that auto-posts my new blog posts on social media.
- Social Warfare adds a section in WordPress below your content that allows you to control the picture and description that preload when someone uses the social share icons on your articles or pages.
- Wordfence Security protects your site against hackers.
- Yoast SEO optimizes your website and articles for Search Engine Optimization (SEO); it basically gives your content visibility in Google search results!
Step 7: Set up Google Analytics
This is how you will track how well your site is performing. It’s the industry-standard way of monitoring the traffic to your site.
- Sign up for a free account
- Get your tracking code: Admin → Tracking info → Tracking code
- Copy and paste the code in WordPress: Genesis (requires the Genesis framework to do it this way) → Theme settings → Header scripts → Save settings
Do You Need Professional Email?
One thing that I avoided doing for a long time was setting up professional email. That means instead of using a Gmail or Yahoo! account, you would use email@example.com. It is much more professional to do it this way, and it looks much better when reaching out to other businesses.
You can set this up for free through your inMotion hosting account and have your email route into your personal (or separate) Gmail account. I did this for a long time, but then I heard that sometimes hosting providers filter emails as SPAM.
After doing some investigation, I settled on G Suite for Work. It allows you to use your domain email address and all the Google Apps such as Google Drive and Google Calendar. I highly recommend that you do not filter your email through your hosting provider. The cost is minimal at only $5/user per month.
Setting up G Suite for Work
- Sign up here.
- Choose whether or not you will be using an existing domain (you should be using your website) or purchasing a new domain.
- Create a username and password. For example, my username is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In order to verify your domain, you will paste the HTML tag in the same place you put your Google Analytics code. Genesis (requires the Genesis framework to do it this way) → Theme settings → Header scripts → Save settings.
- Add MX records to your DNS server. This will happen where you registered your domain. For example, if you got a free domain with your hosting company, it will be done there. If you bought your domain through GoDaddy, it will be done there. The easiest way to do this is Google “adding MX records to DNS (fill in where you purchased your domain).”
- After you have updated your MX records, Google will verify that you own the domain, and you can start logging into Google with your username and password!
Ready to take your blog to the next level?
Work with me
Busy Moms Building is my eBook for moms who are looking to turn their passion into a profitable business! In 12 easy to follow steps, you can build your own online business in 45 days. It’s now also available in course format!
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