How to Start a Professional Self-Hosted WordPress Site in 2013
It’s a new year, 2013 is here so congratulations on making the decision to build a self-hosted WordPress site! Over the past couple years it’s become clear that WordPress is the platform of the present and future in terms of website development. However, if you’re struggling to get started then this comprehensive beginners guide to WordPress is for you. We’ll show you the exact steps that we use when starting a new self-hosted WordPress site using a combination of Godaddy, BlueHost, WordPress and Elegant Themes.
As you go through this tutorial, please keep in mind that the overall process for putting up a hosted WordPress site is basically the same regardless of where you decide to purchase your domain name, setup your hosting account or the WP theme you choose to use. It’s also important to note that there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This tutorial shows you how to create a professional self-hosted WordPress site (WordPress.org) so let’s get started…
Process for Building a Self-Hosted WordPress Site
Step One: Get yourself a Domain Name
Step one in the process of building a self-hosted WordPress site is to purchase a domain name. In this example we’re building a business style site for a fictitious boat rental service called “Captain Ron Rentals”. We purchased a 1 year “term” of the domain name CaptainRonRentals.com for $4.17 (we saved $11 with a promo code) through Godaddy. I almost always choose a term of 1 year when buying domain names because they can always be renewed the following year. There’s no need to spend a large sum of money up front purchasing a domain name for 5 years unless you really want to.
In regards to buying domain names, there are many registrars to choose from but the most popular is probably Godaddy. In this tutorial and for the majority of my personal domain names I purchase them through Godaddy mainly for the following reasons…
1. Coupons / promo codes are almost always available for Godaddy.
2. It makes the site transfer process (when buying and selling WordPress sites on Flippa.com) easier because most people have Godaddy accounts. It’s very easy to push a domain name from one Godaddy account to another which simplifies the site transfer process.
Regardless of where you purchase your domain names always use promo codes. Simply do a Google search for “Godaddy Coupons” and you’ll find plenty of sites that share the most recent working coupon codes. In terms of sites for finding the latest working promo codes, RetailMeNot.com is my favorite.
- Other popular domain registrars include NameCheap.com, Network Solutions and Domain.com to name just a few.
- You also have the option of registering your domain name directly through your hosting provider which makes managing them both easy. For example, Bluehost offers one Free domain name registration for the first year with a 12 month or longer hosting plan. If you’ve already purchased a domain name at a different registrar, you can have Bluehost transfer it over and the one free year domain registration would be added to the end of your current registration term.
Step Two: Select a Hosting Provider and Purchase a Shared Hosting Account
Now that you’ve purchased your domain name, the next step in the process of starting a self-hosted WordPress site is to setup a shared hosting account. Like domain name registrars there are many website hosting providers to choose from. However, my favorites are BlueHost and HostGator. Both providers offer very similar shared hosting packages, 24/7 support, cPanel and are priced about the same. They’re basically the industry standard in terms of web hosting and they make the process of installing WordPress easy. Bluehost is the hosting provider used in this tutorial and for the majority of my personal WordPress sites.
Once you’ve decided on a hosting provider, go ahead and create a shared hosting account. To create an account with bluehost click on the green “Sign Up Now” button. On the next page you’ll be asked if you “Need a Domain Name” or if you already “Have a Domain Name”. If you’re following this tutorial step-by-step and have already purchased your domain name through Godaddy (or any other registrar) then enter it in the “I have a Domain Name” text box. If you do not yet have a domain name, then enter it in the “I need a Domain Name” text box and click on the blue “Next” button. Complete the “Account Information” form to create your account with bluehost.
After your account has been created you’ll receive a series of emails from bluehost that contain important information. Specifically, the emails will include your cPanel and FTP log-in credentials which you should immediately save in multiple locations. Account verification is the final step in the process of setting up your hosting account. You’ll receive instruction on how to verify your hosting account and it takes about 3 minutes so make sure to get that done right away.
To create a shared hosting account with BlueHost Click Here (discounted link!)
Step Three: Point the Nameservers on your Domain Name to the Hosting Account
Now that you’ve created a shared hosting account, the next step is to go back to Godaddy and update the Nameservers on the domain name so that they point to your account. To point the domain Nameservers to your hosting account do the following…
Log into your Godaddy account and launch the Domain Manger > click on your domain name > on the Domain Details page scroll down to the Nameservers section and click the “Set Nameservers” link > select the “I have specific nameservers for my domains” radio button > enter the nameservers for your hosting account in the “Nameserver 1” and “Nameserver 2” text-boxes > click the “OK” button when finished.
If you use BlueHost then your Nameservers are as follows:
Nameserver 1: NS1.BLUEHOST.COM
Nameserver 2: NS2.BLUEHOST.COM
Please note that most of the time, nameserver updates are instantaneous. However, sometimes it can take up to a few hours for the changes to take effect.
Step Four: Go to your cPanel and Install WordPress
Now that the Nameservers point to your BlueHost account, it’s time to install WordPress. Start by logging into your cPanel. Once logged into the cPanel do the following…
Scroll down to the “SimpleScripts Installations” section and click on the WordPress icon > on the “Install WordPress” page scroll down to the bottom and click the green “Install” button > select your domain name from the “Where would you like WordPress Installed?” drop-down > select the “Terms” check-box > click the green “Complete” button and the SimpleScript will install WordPress.
When the SimpleScript has completed the installation it will give you log-in credentials to access the WordPress admin. Make sure to save the WP admin log-in info. The URL to access the WP login page is always… MyWordPressSite.com/wp-admin
For our demo site, the WordPress admin log-in page is: CaptainRonRentals.com/wp-admin
Important Note if using a domain name that is not already associated with your account: If you have a hosting account with multiple domain names on it then you need to “Add-on” the domain name before installing WordPress. In other words, if the primary domain name on your hosting account is different than the domain name you need to install WP on then you’ll need to first Add-on the domain name to your hosting account.
Here’s how to Add-on a domain name to your bluehost account…
Log into your cPanel and scroll down to the “Domains” section > click the “Addon Domains” icon > click on the “Use a domain that is not already associated with your account” radio button and enter the domain name in the text box > bluehost will automatically verify that that Nameservers on the domain name point to your hosting account (takes about 1 minute) > after verification is complete scroll to the bottom and click the green “Add Domain” button > the domain name will be added to your hosting account and you can then proceed with installing WordPress on the domain name.
Step Five: Configure General Settings and Install the Essential WordPress Plugins
After WordPress has been installed, the next step is to configure the General Settings and Install the Essential Plugins. Once logged into the WP admin, start by updating the General Settings. To update the General Settings do the following…
Go to Settings > General > update the “Site Title” which for our demo site is “Captain Ron Rentals” > update the “Tagline” which is the same thing as a slogan > update the “Timezone” to reflect where you live > make any other changes to the general settings that are appropriate for your site and when finished click the Save Changes button.
The next step is to install the essential WordPress plugins. Plugins add specific functionality to your site. There are a ton of Free and Premium (paid) plugins available for WordPress. Much like the huge list of Apps available for your Android or iPhone, the same is true for WordPress. There is most likely a plugin available to add any type of functionality you need to your site. Below is the list of basic / essential plugins that I use for every new WP site…
Essential WordPress Plugins:
- Akismet (spam stopper)
- All in One SEO (helps optimize your content for the search engines)
- BackWPup (Automatically backs up your WP site – check out our tutorial on Backing Up your WordPress Site)
- Better WP Security (WP security plugin – check out our tutorial on Securing your WordPress Site)
- Google Sitemap (creates an XLM sitemap that Google likes – sitemaps are important for SEO)
- Robots Meta (add the appropriate robots meta tags to your WP feeds and pages)
- Ultimate Google Analytics (keep track of site statistics / number of unique site visitors – watch our tutorial on How to Install Google Analytics in WordPress Site)
- W3 Total Cache (increase page load speed – makes your site faster)
Step Six: Get an Elegant Themes Membership
Now that WordPress and the essential plugins have been installed, it’s time to get an Elegant Themes membership. Before we do that, let’s talk about what WordPress themes actually do. Themes control the basic look and feel of the site and can be customized as much as needed. There are two main types of themes for WordPress. Free themes and premium themes. Premium themes typically cost anywhere from $49 – $99 for a single site license. The major advantages that premium themes offer is that they look much better and have more functionality than free themes. Investing in a premium theme makes sense for many reason. If you’re serious about building a professional looking site with WordPress then you need to start with a premium theme.
Like domain registrars, there are many WordPress theme builders to choose from. For this tutorial, Elegant Themes is the premium theme developer of choice. I like Elegant Themes for many reasons but mainly because the price of a standard yearly membership is just $39. The membership includes unlimited access to 81 premium WordPress themes (.49 cents per theme) and more are added on a monthly basis. All of the Elegant Themes have an “epanel” built into the WP admin which makes them easy to customize. The price point, quality and quantity of themes to choose from makes it hard to beat Elegant Themes.
Creating a membership with Elegant Themes is easy. Simply go to ElegantThemes.com and click on the “Join Today” link. Complete the registration form to gain access to all 81 premium WordPress themes.
To get your membership with Elegant Themes Click Here
Step Seven: Choose your Premium Theme and Download it
Now that you have an Elegant Themes membership, it’s time to select the theme to use on your site. Choose a theme that fits the type of site that you’re making. For example, CaptainRonRentals.com will be a site for our fictitious boat rentals service. Therefore, we decided to use a business style theme called “Trim”. If the intention of your site is to sell a single product then you might want to go with the Fusion theme or the Nimble theme. My point is, chances are excellent that you’ll find a theme that matches the intention of your site.
When you’ve chosen the perfect theme, the next step is to download it from the Members Area section of your Elegant Themes account. Log-into your account to access the Members Area. From the Members Area, scroll down the page until you find your chosen theme and click the “download” link. It’s a good idea to create an Elegant Themes folder on your Desktop and save the theme in that folder so it’s easy to find later.
Step Eight: Install and Active your Premium WordPress Theme
The final step in the process of starting a self-hosted WordPress site in 2013 is to install your theme. To install your theme of choice log into the WordPress admin and do the following…
Go to Appearance > Themes > click the “Install Themes” tab > click the “Upload” link > click “Browse” > find the theme (make sure it’s in a zip file) > upload the theme > after the theme has successfully uploaded click “Activate”
That’s it, you’ve completed the process of starting a self-hosted WordPress site! We’ll build out our Trim theme demo site, CaptainRonRentals.com, in the next tutorial so stay tuned for that. Thanks for taking time to read this entire “beginners guide to starting a self-hosted WordPress site in 2013” and be sure to watch the corresponding video below. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask by posting a Comment.