I frequently help people create websites. This is the link I send them to so they can get things started at their convenience. If you’re interested in hiring me to help you build your website, just contact me.
Some links below are affiliate, but my experience with all links below is true.
The steps to building a brand new website and brand
- Consider your name. What are you going to call yourself? You’ll want to make sure this name, or a simple adaptation of the name, is available as a domain (.com), in Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and any other social media sites that you might love. You may not use those social media sites immediately, but it’s better to claim your place while you can. Please note: I personally think that it’s just easier when all of your names match through social media. But, if you can’t find exactly what you want, doing a variation of the main name that’s used for social media is a good alternative. For example, if KidsTravelBooks wasn’t available, I may have tried KTBooks. Though people may disagree with me, just my thoughts. Also, make sure there isn’t someone doing something similar with a similar name. If your site is KidsTravelBooks, you don’t want to find out there’s another more established site called The Kids Travel Books. This is also something that has happened to me in the past.
- Get your .com. There are very few instances where something other than a .com is preferred. If you’re blogging in a country outside of the US or to an audience outside of the US, you may want to consider getting the .country instead (for example .de for Germany). And if you’re really stuck on your name and .com isn’t available, then do what you need to do. 🙂 I get my domains via GoDaddy. And while GoDaddy offers a bunch of other services, I only purchase domains there. For hosts, check out the fourth step below.
- Create the blog via WordPress. It’s just easier that way. It’s popular and reliable. You can either have a free WordPress site or you can go self-hosted. Go self-hosted. It gives you more flexibility, allows you to make money off of your site, and you’ll own your own domain. You simply download WordPress and upload it to your domain after you’ve purchased it.
- Pick a hosting plan. There are two options I want to share here. For beginner bloggers, Bluehost is almost a given. It’s simply one of the more popular hosting services available. The low monthly fees are a huge benefit, as well. They often have specials that keep pricing as low as $3.95 for basic service and up. You can adjust it as your needs change. The other option is one that we use, Host with Love. Host with Love offers packages from shared hosting (cheapest) to dedicated servers (much more expensive). Host with Love also has server locations around the world which helps make your site run faster. In most cases, you can adjust to a more expensive hosting package as your needs grow.
- Pick a theme. This is one of my favorite parts of building a new website. Finding the theme – or the look of your site. I encourage you to check out features of sites you love and think about why you love them. Keep note of those things as you go on the search for a theme. Then head to StudioPress. Why StudioPress? Well, this site you’re looking at was originally built via a theme from another company I hear many bloggers recommend. However, they did me wrong. The theme’s designer removed all support, and unfortunately, the company decided to invalidate my account when I had a support-related question. Yikes! Other sites I’ve built with other platforms and themes have required an annual fee just to update the theme. Not good. StudioPress uses a Genesis Framework, which (feel free to Google) is the best of the best. And StudioPress has been around for a while, stands by their themes, and offers amazing support. So, I only build sites on a Genesis Framework with a StudioPress theme. Another thing you may consider is StudioPress’s Rainmaker Platform. The people that brought us StudioPress also brought us Rainmaker. It’s a more expensive, more inclusive platform that allows for easier and simple ways to use more complicated or space-heavy options (like hosting podcasts on your site). In most cases, I think StudioPress is more than enough. But, if you want a right out of the box option that just works without worry – try Rainmaker.
Now you can start adding content
Building your basic content
You need something to put on your website. Here’s where your content comes in. This can be done while you simultaneously complete the activities above. The basic content and ideas you should consider before officially launching your website are:
- Your brand. Whether you go professional (recommended) or DIY, consider what your logo, colors, font choices, and “look” and “feel” of your brand. I do not do this professionally, though I can offer some advice and suggestions for further reading. Getting that consistent look and feel from the beginning is going to help establish your credibility immediately.
- A Menu and a Site Map. Think about how you want people to navigate around your site. Drawing it out helps. This will determine other items you may need on your site other than what I list below. If you aren’t sure, refer to some of your favorite websites for ideas.
- An About Page. Let your readers know what you are all about, what your company is all about, and why they should trust you.
- Your Offer. If you have a service or product that you are selling, start preparing all of the copy for it. You will also need to consider how people will contact you for more information, and pay you for those services. You can update things whenever, so don’t get hung up on the details.
- A few blog posts. When new readers come to your site, they’ll stick around the more content there is. Start writing some blog posts. I read once that blogs shouldn’t be written as a continuous story but as separate entities. So, again, don’t get hung up on the details. You can make your first blog post about books set in Spain and your second and author interview.
Now that you have the basic part of your website done, here are some plug-ins I recommend. (This is not a complete list of plug-ins I use, but the ones I tend to use regularly.)
- Akismet Anti-Spam: I can’t stand spam in my sites. Akismet does a good job blocking it. Right now I just have my comments turned off, but if you want comments you’ll want Akismet. This is also a good time to mention that on one of my old sites they were sending my comments to spam. They worked with me to get my comments not automatically marked as spam and were very friendly and efficient.
- Better Click to Tweet: I love including a “tweetable” quote within my blog post for readers to click and tweet. This blog in works wonders.
- Revive Old Post: I retweet old blog posts on my twitter account because it’s a nice way to bring them back to life. You can customize it to do exactly what you want, and there’s a paid option to give you even more ability.
- WooCommerce: WooCommerce is basically the tool I use to share the books in the bookshop. It’s awesome. There’s a variety of WooCommerce tools available so that you can get the look you are looking for. If you have the Genesis Framework you, you’ll also want the “Genesis Connect for WooCommerce” plug-in. If you run into any issues, go to the StudioPress forums (if you have a StudioPress theme) and someone will help you out.
- W3 Total Cache/WP Smush: These two plug-ins have different purposes, but I think of them the same. They both make my site load-time faster through very different ways: caching the database and smushing the images.
- Yoast: SEO is one of the easiest ways to get your website seen. Good SEO gives you higher ranking when someone searches for your site on Google or Bing or Yahoo. Yoast gives you tools to help each page on your website perform at it’s search best.
- Google Analytics: One thing you’ll want to know is who your audience is. Google Analytics will help you with that. Set it up immediately and it’ll be there for you when you are ready to delve deep into the statistics.
- Grammarly: It’s always nice to have someone proofread posts, but since I can’t always do that, I use Grammarly. It catches an amazing amount of errors for an automated program. The best features, to me, are checking the grade level of my posts. I like to stay consistent. I can also check for plagiarism (great when I accept a guest post), and make set that casualness of the post. This site isn’t meant to be for an academic journal and Grammarly helps make sure that it never gets that way… (not that I’m really ever worried about that happening, but who knows?)
- Canva: Above I mentioned branding. Canva is a great tool for helping you create consistent and beautiful images simply. It’s free to sign up and Canva offers many templates. The templates are automatically sized to look good within the restraints of pretty much every social media site. Just find one that fits and adjust to your needs. I recently purchased Canva Pro and I LOVE it. It stores information about my brand’s colors and fonts, provides even more templates.
You built your site, now you need to build your audience. Best practices in blogging include being consistent, sharing on social media, and optimizing SEO. There are a million and one resources on all of this, so Google away. I do suggest looking for current information because trends change frequently. Also, don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed with all of the options. Just keep going. You got this.
- Destination Specific-Tips (Personal recommendations)
- Travel Gear Tips (My favorites)
- Travel Journaling Tips and Resources (Coming Soon)