You've heard the advice a thousand times before, right?
"If you're going to start a blog, use WordPress."
And on the surface that makes sense.
WordPress is the most popular and flexible platform.
Until you login to your WordPress dashboard for the first time.
And you wonder where the heck you’re supposed to start.
We’ve all been there.
That sense of overwhelm and confusion as you attempt to build your first WordPress website.
Fortunately, you can learn if you follow a few simple steps, and today i’m going to show you, how to use WordPress to build a blog or website, that grows your business.
And I break it down in a language you will understand - no industry speak, jargon or gobbledegook!
Let's dive in...
How to use WordPress to grow your business
From setting up WordPress to customising your WordPress theme and accepting payment on your website, this guide has you covered.
Why choose WordPress
#1 WordPress is the most popular content management system powering over a quarter of all websites. -W3 Techs.
With popular bloggers such as Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuck, Noah Kagan, Patt Flynn, Derek Halpern and Brian Dean all using WordPress to run their websites.
#2 WordPress is also the most flexible content management system. With tens of thousands of plugins available to extend the functionality of your WordPress website.
Case in point:
Want to add social sharing icons to your site?
There are over 1,000 social sharing plugins in the WordPress plugin repository.
Whatever you want to do, beyond the limitations of your existing theme - you will find a plugin to help.
#3 WordPress has become a popular content management system for website development. But very early on it it’s history, WordPress also became popular with bloggers. So the user interface is easy to learn and use.
But data aside...
These are just a handful of reasons you should use WordPress to grow your business.
Question is, how do you get started?
The first decision you have to make is to choose between WordPress.org or WordPress.com.
WordPress.org or WordPress.com
Deciding which WordPress platform to build your blog on is one of many frequently asked WordPress questions by business owners.
If you’re on the fence about which to choose, this infographic by WPBeginner will help you compare the pros and cons of both.
The best way to decide between the two is to understand the goals you’ve set for your blog.
Here's what I mean.
If you want to start a hobby blog or personal blog, you have no intention of monetising, choose WordPress.com
But, if you’re starting a website to start a side hustle, build a business or start blog you hope to one day monetise - choose WordPress.org.
Yes, WordPress.com is free to start, but as soon want to expand your site beyond the basic limitations of WordPress.com, you will struggle.
You can only use the themes that exist in the WordPress repository.
You cannot upload any plugins.
And have limited ability to monetise your site. No selling ads, adding affiliate links or creating membership sites.
It’s clear, if you’re serious about using your website to grow your business, WordPress.org is a must.
So, from now on when I mention WordPress, I’m talking about WordPress.org!
How to setup WordPress the right way
The first time you login to WordPress you'll notice two menus.
The WordPress admin bar spans the width of your page. And is there to give you easy access to common tasks such as, creating new posts, updating plugins and customising your theme.
If you visit your homepage whilst still logged into WordPress, the WordPress admin bar stays visible.
To perform all other tasks in WordPress you'll use the left hand side menu.
From there you can create posts and pages, add media, change your WordPress theme install plugins and a lot more.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make before customising your website. Is how you want your homepage setup.
Let me explain.
There are two types of homepage you can create with WordPress.
By default, WordPress uses the first option to display ‘your latest posts’ which displays your latest posts (duh!) in a dynamic layout.
Or you can have a ‘static homepage’ which you can use to show custom content.
To create a static homepage, first thing you need to do is create a page and name it something like ‘home’ save and publish the page.
Repeat the process again but this time name your page ‘blog’ - all will become clear in a second 😉
Next, go to ‘Settings’ ‘Reading’ select the ‘A static homepage’ radio button, where it says ‘front page’ select your saved ‘homepage’.
Where it says ‘Posts page’ choose the page you named ‘blog’.
When you choose a static homepage you can create a dynamic blog homepage which will display a handful of your most recent posts.
Save your changes.
How to create SEO friendly URL’s
There are a number of options for setting the permanent URL structure of posts and pages etc
To change or check if this is setup correctly
Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Permalinks’.
You’ll see a number of common setting but the best for SEO is ‘post name’ if it’s not selected, select it. Save changes.
Then click on ‘General’ and fill in your ‘Site title’ and ‘Tagline’ if you didn’t complete those steps when you installed WordPress. Save your changes again.
5 essential plugins to get you started
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that can extend the functionality of your website.
There are tens of thousands of free WordPress plugins available from the WordPress plugin repository.
There are also many premium (paid) plugins available to purchase from third party vendors.
A note of caution:
Only use or buy third party plugins from trustworthy sources.
To use a plugin you need to upload it, install it and activate it.
Lets run through the steps.
Select ‘Plugins’ in the left hand side menu, click on ‘add new’ and you’ll see you have two choices.
1. Search for a plugin in the search bar, click on ‘install’ and once it’s installed ‘Activate’ it.
2. If you’ve purchased or downloaded a plugin elsewhere click on ‘upload plugin’ ‘Choose plugin’ and browse to find your downloaded .zip file (you don’t need to unzip the plugin) ‘activate’ it once it’s installed.
With a fresh install of WordPress you should already have two plugins installed - Akismet and Hello Dolly.
Whilst Akismet is a useful plugin - worth keeping for protecting your blog from spam. Hello Dolly is pretty useless and can be deleted.
Beyond that here’s a basic set of plugins to get you started.
I recommend installing plugins to help you in these 5 areas:
The plugins I recommend to handle each are:
As we’ve already seen Akismet come preinstalled and is a powerful plugin for handling spam.
Caching plugins allow your web pages to be delivered with super-fast response time, without having to do all the heavy processing, every time the page loads.
Yoast SEO is my favourite SEO plugin another to check out is All in One SEO Pack.
Backups - There can be any number of reasons you may need to restore a backed version of your website - your site has been hacked, an update has gone wrong or you’ve made an error either by deleting a file or editing code - incorrectly.
When it does, you’ll want to hope you have a recent backup, so you can restore it.
Plenty of backup plugins - BackWPup is a popular free plugin and Vaultpress is a popular premium backup solution.
The final plugin will help you get started with securing your site by scanning, monitoring and hardening.
If you want to take security a step further consider Securi Firewall a website application firewall.
Installing Securi is a starting point.
WordPress security is important and complex and cannot be covered by installing a simple plugin.
If you want to read more on WordPress security, read this article by WPBeginner.
A word of caution:
Be careful with WordPress plugins, plugins can add a lot of unnecessary bloat to your website which can dramatically slow down your site.
How to customise your theme without code
A WordPress theme is the design of your website. With each theme comprising several page templates such as, landing page, blog page and author page.
There are both free and paid WordPress themes.
But be wary of FREE themes.
There are only a handful of ‘free’ themes I recommend, they are, Make by Theme Foundry, WP Page Builder Framework, GeneratePress and Astra.
Most free themes are badly - if at all supported and are built on poor quality code which can slow your website down and leave you vulnerable to attacks.
Which is why I use and recommend the Genesis Framework with a StudioPress Child theme.
The Genesis framework was developed by Rainmaker Digital.
The Genesis framework is built on lightweight code, is lightning fast and built for performance. You get unlimited lifetime support from Genesis and the StudioPress team as well as an active forum and Facebook community.
Checkout the amazing range of StudioPress themes here.
Whichever theme you choose you’ll need to install it.
To install a new theme. Click on ‘Appearance’ ‘Themes’.
Then ‘Add new’ and ‘Upload theme’ and 'Choose File' to browse and upload your theme.
When it’s installed move your cursor over your theme and click ‘Activate’.
Every WordPress theme has a basic set of features that you can edit, some themes will have more options than others.
Select 'customise' to edit your theme.
Make your way down the list to begin setting up your theme.
Beyond these basic set of customisations - Tweaking your theme is difficult, unless you know how to write HTML, PHP and CSS.
What should you do instead? Use a WordPress page builder like Beaver Builder.
Page builders empowers users to tweak design without having to learn code.
Demand for WordPress page builders has grown in recent years, due to increased demand from WordPress users who want more flexibility and control of their own websites.
Want to know the best part?
You can get started using Beaver Builder for FREE. Beaver Builder comes in both a free and premium plugin and theme check out their website here.
By using a page builder you can break free from the limitations of most standard WordPress themes.
I’ve written a detailed guide on some of the most popular WordPress page builders, you can read it here.
How to speed up your WordPress website
The time is takes your website to load, matters.
A recent study by Backlinko revealed that fast loading websites rank higher than slower loading websites.
And found a correlation between website speed and google rankings.
Google's new page speed industry benchmarks also found that as page load time goes up, the chance of someone bouncing increases.
In fact Both Google and Bing use pagespeed as a ranking factor.
If you want to dominate the search engines and prevent people bouncing from your website. You must address website speed.
To check your website speed, I recommend using a Pingdom a free tool that allows you to check your speed from different locations.
As we’ve seen, you should aim for a pagespeed time of less than 3 seconds.
What slows down your website?
The main causes for a slow WordPress website are:
- Web hosting
- WordPress configuration
- External scripts
- Page size
Whilst shared hosting providers like SiteGround take important steps to optimise your website .
Shared hosting means you share server resources with others. And if those websites get a lot of traffic, it can impact the whole server and slow down your website.
With cloud hosting, you share resources across multiple servers. So if one server is being used, you will be switched to another.
If you’ve just started your blog and have limited budget, it makes sense to stick to a shared hosting plan. And as soon as you scale, switch to a managed WordPress cloud hosting provider such as WPEngine.
Install a WordPress caching plugin
Every time someone visits your website, WordPress has to run a process to find all the required information, before it can put it together and display it on their device.
Which can slow down your website if you have multiple people accessing the site.
A caching plugin makes a copy of the page, the first time it loads. And serves the cached copy to every subsequent visitor.
Smaller files means faster load times!
Optimise your images
Images are one the main culprits for slowing down your website.
And I get it, we all want to use good quality images.
But quality images can be very large in file size.
The biggest mistake website owners make, is not cropping images to the correct pixel dimensions for the page or post.
If your blog post width is 700 pixels wide. Don’t upload images 2,000 pixels wide.
To check the width of any content area - in a Chrome browser right click and select ‘inspect element’.
In the new window that opens at the bottom of your screen, move your cursor around the code until you see a content area highlighted.
You'll notice a black call out, the first number is the width.
Resizing your images is the first step. Even the same sized images can vary in file size.
Top optimize your images, you must compress them.
You can use Photoshop, an online compression tool like TinyPNG or you could use a free image compression plugin like Imagify.
Imagify offers 3 levels of compression, will keep a backup of your original and will resize larger images to a set width.
Another solid alternative is Smush Image Compression and Optimization.
Unless you’re a wiz with Photoshop I recommend installing one of the many image compression plugins.
Be wary of plugins
Poorly coded plugins can slow down your site.
To check which plugins are guilty of slowing down your site.
You can install a free plugin called P3 profiler.
Install and activate the plugin and run a scan, to see which plugins are impacting your load time.
Consider deleting poor performing plugins.
How to email opt-in forms to your website
If you want people who don’t know, like or trust you to buy stuff from you online - you’ll need an email list.
Building an (engaged) email list is one of the valuable assets you can build.
It’s why smart marketers like Derek Halpern, Amy Porterfield, Patt Flynn and Bryan Harris focus so much attention on building their email list.
To build an email list, you need a good email service provider.
After using most of the ‘leading’ email service providers and sending thousands of emails I recommend ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is easy to get started and use and powerful features you’ll find on some of the most sophisticated software.
If you want someone to sign up for your email list, you must give away something of value, in exchange for their email address.
Question is what?
Develop a free information product and use it as an incentive to build your email list.
It’s a basic exchange.
You offer something of value, in return you get your readers email address.
To get started first ask yourself; what are the most common questions my audiences asks - what are their problems, what are their frustrations and what keeps them up at night?
Then, offer a detailed solution packaged up in ebook, cheat sheet, free email course, etc.
To give away your incentive, you’ll need to add an email opt-in form to your website.
The opt-in process goes a little something like this:
- A reader enters their email address through a form, on your site
- You collect their email address in your email software.
- And your email software delivers your incentive in a kickback email!
So, how do you add an email opt-in form on your website?
Start with the forms provided by your email software.
Here’s what I mean.
The easiest way is to add an email opt-in form to your website is to grab the ‘embed’ code of your form. And paste it into a widget area on your website.
Copy from here:
One of the BEST ways to add email opt-in forms to your site is to use one of these popular list-building plugins.
Which include, lightbox pop-ups, exit intent pop-ups, floating bars, full page welcome mats and more.
Now you know how to add an email opt-in form on your website. You need to know where to put them.
The best way to get more email subscribers is simple:
Convert more of your existing visitors into subscribers.
Use the ‘Spotlight Formula.’
I wrote a step-by-step guide about this strategy right here.
Accepting payment on your website
Whether you sell information products such as digital books or online courses or you sell consulting coaching.
Accepting payment on your site is a must.
To accept payments, you need a payment gateway and checkout page.
let me explain the difference.
A payment gateway authorises credit card purchases on your website. By transferring credit card information, between your website and bank.
Examples of payment gateways you might be familiar with include PayPal, Stripe and Authorise.net.
A checkout page is a page on your website where customers enter their contact and payment information.
One of the easiest ways to accept payment on your website is to use PayPal.
To get started, create a PayPal ‘button’ which you’ll embed on your site. The PayPal button sends customer to a PayPal checkout page.
The screenshot below shows the PayPal button code as a link. Copy the code.
And append it to the CSS button class for your theme. Like this.
<a href="#" class="button arrow-right">Arrow Right</a>
Replace the pound (#) sign with your link.
<a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SKJ83GUEJB7LS" class="button arrow-right">Add To Cart</a>
Which will create an add-to-cart button:
And if you offer services.
You can also send invoices from your PayPal account.
PayPal forms are ugly.
If you want a better looking (and higher-converting) checkout page.
I recommend SamCart.
With SamCart you can create effective checkout pages (that integrate with PayPal and Stripe) offer one click upsells and integrate with your auto-responder, CRM or membership site.
SamCart is the easiest way to sell your digital products and services on the internet and increase your revenue and profit.
And that's it.
There will always be more you will want to do, and that's great, that's the benefit of using WordPress.
Building a profitable blog stats with building solid foundations.
Now I showed you how. It's over to you.
If you want to collect more subscribers on your homepage, you should download this eBook:
You will get step-by-step instructions on how to create a high-converting home page. Plus, you’ll also get all the tools I recommend for creating your homepage and collecting your first subscribers.
I hope you enjoyed this post.