This action plan will guide you through the process of getting your business website online with WordPress. Follow these steps to build a customer-centered business website that gets results. If you prefer, you can download the PDF version of this plan.
Pre-planning: Do these things before you start building your website
If you’ve been in business for some time this section will be easy. However, if your business is new you’ll want to think these through. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to build your website before answering these questions. All of your online activities will yield better results when you have a clearly defined goals and an understanding of who your customers are and what they want from you.
1. Define your vision
Your answers to these questions will inform the way you build your site, the features you add to your site, and the content you publish to your website.
- What is the purpose of this website?
- What is supposed to accomplish?
- What are your specific goals related to moving your business online?
- What does success look like?
2. Define your ideal customer
You’re building this website for customers, not for yourself. The more you know about your customers the better positioned you are to provide them with exactly what they need.
Who is your ideal customer and what does she want/need?
3. List of your competitor websites
Take some time to identify your top three competitors, then spend some time browsing around their websites.
This exercise will help you identify and think about your content needs, how to organize that content for maximum impact, and specific features that should be included on your site.
Beware: it’s not always wise to copy your competitors. In doing so, you risk copying their mistakes too. This isn’t plagiarism. It’s about gathering information to inform your decisions later on when building and organizing your site, as well as writing copy that appeals to your customers.
Building your website
Follow these steps to get your business website site online with WordPress.
1. Choose a domain name
Your domain name is your permanent address on the web. Before you can even think about building your business website, you’ll need a good domain name.
Sometimes it feels like all the good names have been taken. If you get stuck finding a suitable name, use a tool like DomainsBot to brainstorm ideas.
2. Signup for a web hosting account
You need business-class web hosting. That’s not necessarily as expensive as it sounds, but it’s also not super cheap. A $5 a month shared accounts will not provide the kind of reliability, security, and site speed you need for your business website.
Site performance will suffers on the cheap web hosting services. And Google now tells us that they take site speed into account when ranking search results. Worse, there are many studies that show that site visitors move on quickly when they encounter a slow website. So, a cheap web hosting account means fewer visitors. And fewer visitors means fewer customers.
There are many good managed WordPress hosting services in the $30 to $50 a month range. It’s a small extra expense that will pay off over time.
WP Engine is one of the most highly rated WordPress hosting companies (it’s also the hosting service we use on WP Apprentice). Don’t let the pricing scare you off. Their Personal level is every bit as robust as their Business level. It just happens to serve fewer visitors. That won’t be a worry for the vast majority of new business websites. It’s unlikely your site will receive more than 25,000 visits a month in the early days.
It’s free! And it’s the most widely used web building tool in the world. Most web hosts offer a one-click installer in their web control panel. And the managed WordPress hosts like WP Engine pre-install WordPress automatically.
4. Update your DNS to point to your new web host
This is a technical step that directs visitors to your website when they type your domain name into their web browser. Watch this video for more information on DNS.
Congratulations your site is now online, but it’s very very basic. In the next few steps we’ll really spruce things up and add some important functionality.
5. Pick a business theme for your WordPress site
WordPress themes are pre-built designs that plug into your website. The theme controls your site’s colors, fonts, and page layout. There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from — many created by professional designers. And if you have very special needs it’s possible to have a completely custom theme designed for your site.
You can install a new theme right from inside the WordPress Dashboard. Just go to the Appearance -> Themes menu option, and choose Add New. You’ll have a couple of thousand free themes to choose from. There are far more available from various third party sellers. Most are in the $50 to $75 price range. Not bad for a professional design.
I’ll have lots more to say about picking the right theme in a future email.
6. Add your business content
Don’t obsess too much over your site design. It’s important that your site look good, but your content is even more important. Unfortunately it’s the area where many site owners cut corners.
Your business content should be informed by what you know about your customers (remember that exercise we did a while back?).
At minimum you’ll want to include:
- An about page that explains who you are and what you do
- Information about your products and/or services
- Your location(s)
- Bios of key employees
- Frequently asked questions
- A blog or news section
That’s just a short list to get you started. I’ll send a more detailed business content checklist in a few days.
7. Add a customer feedback form
This is a simple web form that provides customers and site visitors with a way to leave feedback. You can also use this as a support form.
Forms like this are really easy with WordPress. Just use this free plugin.
8. Setup an email marketing service
Email marketing is essential for anyone doing business online. Studies show that email converts 40x better than social media (that’s 40x, not 40% — it’s a huge difference).
Your website needs to be setup for email marketing from day one. It’s a huge opportunity that you can’t afford to miss out on.
If you’re just starting out I recommend MailChimp — it’s free for the first 2,500 subscribers. Once you get over 2,500 subscribers I have a better recommendation, but you don’t have to worry about that right now.
9. Add an email subscription form
With your email marketing service lined up, you need a way to turn web visitors into subscribers. Of course, there’s a plugin for that. If you’re using MailChimp, use this plugin.
10. Add Google Analytics
Install Google Analytics to track your activity on your website. You’ll get all sorts of useful data about which pages your visitors are looking at, how long they stay on your site, and how they got to your site in the first place.
Google Analytics really is a treasure trove of actionable information for business site owners. But here’s the thing: You have to actually install Google Analytics on your site before you start collecting data. The longer you wait, the less data you have. Historic metrics are quite valuable when you’re working on improving your site.
So, don’t delay. Be sure to install Analytics as early soon as possible. Activate your free Analytics account here (you’ll need to be logged in with your Google account). Then use this plugin to install the Analytics code on your site. Yes, there are other ways to install the code on your site, but this plugin is the easiest and it avoids a whole bunch of potential problems later on.
11. Install an SEO Plugin
If you aren’t already obsessed with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you will be soon. This free SEO plugin takes care of the most common on-site SEO challenges. Mind you, the plugin won’t guarantee good rankings in Google. That part’s up to you. You’ll need to create high quality content that your customers crave. By now you should be seeing a connection between customer happiness, relevant high quality content, and your future success online.
12. Add Shopping Cart (optional)
Not all businesses need eCommerce. At the very least, you should know that there are plenty of ways to sell things from your WordPress website. The most popular eCommerce plugin is called WooCommerce. It’s actually the most widely used shopping cart system on the web. And it’s not just for traditional eCommerce either. You can use WooCommerce to sell digital products, memberships, subscription products, and even professional services.
It’s time to take action!
This action plan should keep you busy for a few days.
The key is to just get started. Your website doesn’t have to be perfect on day one. No website ever is.
With WordPress it’s easy to make adjustments along the way. That’s why so many people use WordPress. Nothing is set in stone. Complete redesigns are as easy as changing your WordPress themes. Content and site navigation can be easily re-organized without having to perform major surgery.
WordPress is a surprisingly forgiving environment. So get out there and get started.