One of the most important decisions to make when building an author website is choosing the content management system that is most suited to your needs. WordPress is a trusted and popular content management system used by several people to build their websites.
In this article, we’ll explore 5 simple steps to build an author website using WordPress.
Step 1: Buy a domain
Your domain is the address by which you’ll be known online. It’s also known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Let’s say, you are a non-fiction author whose name is John Smith. Your domain name could simply be www.johnsmith.com Domain names start after “http://” or “https://” in your browser’s address bar.
There are several registrars like namecheap and Godaddy where you can buy a domain. Namecheap.com is where we usually buy a domain. It costs anywhere from $9 to $14.99 per year. The payment for domain names is recurring each year. Namecheap as its name suggests is one of the cheapest places to buy your domain name.
Here is a step-by-step process to buy a domain from namecheap.
Go to www.namecheap.com You’re now on Namecheap’s homepage. You’ll see a prominent search field at the center of the home page. Type in the domain you’d like to buy, and click the orange search button, to check if it’s available.
If it’s available, then proceed to checkout and pay for your order. But, in some cases, the domain you want, won’t be available, and you’ll have to try variations of it. Namecheap will offer suggestions on similar domains you could purchase instead.
You’re not restricted to just one extension such as johnsmith.com You could also buy .net or .org or .online and others. But .com extensions are the most popular and it’s a lot easier to remember.
There are also features such as auto-renew and WhoisGuard for your site that you could check out.
Why would you need WhoisGuard? Whois is a database of all domain owners and their contact details. This is one of the sources that telemarketers, scammers, and spammers use to get people’s contact details. But, if you add WhoisGuard to your purchase, Namecheap will keep your details private and therefore inaccessible to them.
There’s a section: Improve Your Site. It offers additional features. I suggest ignoring them because they are upsells you don’t need.
Click the confirm order button and proceed to register your domain name. To do this, you’ve got to create an account with Namecheap. So, fill in with your details.
Now you can pay for your domain with a credit card or PayPal. Once you’ve paid, your domain will be activated in 5 minutes.
Once you’ve purchased your domain, let’s buy and set-up hosting.
Step 2: Buy and Set-up Hosting
What is hosting? Hosting is a case of renting space online. That’s where the content of your author website will be stored and made accessible to everyone. When the content has been uploaded to the host, each time someone types in your domain name, they’ll be able to view the website’s content.
Now, let’s look at the steps involved to buy and set up hosting. I’ll recommend you buy and host the site on siteground. It’s incredibly easy to manage and it’s the host trusted by millions of users. Their customer support is top-notch.
Siteground offers 3 affordable hosting plans:
You could get started with StartUp. To enjoy the special discounted price, you’ll need to pay for a year in advance.
There are so many features, such as SSD storage, servers on 4 continents, ultrafast PHP, free CDN, super cacher, anti-hack systems, proactive updates and caches, spam protection, automatic updates, and a lot more.
You’ll want your emails accessible via your domain, right? Siteground offers you that functionality. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, which you really won’t need because they offer one of the fastest and most reliable hosting services on the web.
To buy and set up hosting, there are 3 simple steps:
- Choose Plan
- Choose Domain
- Review and complete
Choose StartUp or GrowBig based on your needs. Then, enter the domain you bought on Namecheap. Click proceed. You’ll be presented with a form, fill in your personal details and payment information. There are some extra services. You may want to add the SG site scanner. Pay for hosting. And, you’re done.
Next, we’ll explore how to install WordPress.
Step 3: Install WordPress
The steps, like the ones we’ve been exploring, are simple and brief. But, before we install WordPress, it’s good we understand what it is. WordPress is a CMS, a Content Management System. It’s a software that helps you manage the content of your site in such a way that you don’t need any prior technical skills.
WordPress has two parts, your website, which’s seen by folks when they type in your domain, and a dashboard, which’s like the back-end. The dashboard is so easy to use. It’s where you easily make changes to your site.
Steps to Install WordPress:
Don’t be intimidated by the word Install. All you’ll have to do is click a couple of links and fill in some personal details and you’d be up and running in no time.
To install WordPress on your website, go to your Site Tools > Site > App Manager > Install New Application. From the Application drop-down menu, select the application you want to use. Fill in the Application Setup and Admin Info details. Click Install.
Another option is to install it from your Site Tools > WordPress > Install & Manage.
Now and then, you may want to work on your WordPress site via Siteground. Below is how you’ll easily access it each time.
Once you’ve logged into your Siteground account, go to Websites, then click on the Website Kit button, then click on the WordPress Admin. Your WordPress Log-in Page would open.
Make sure you keep your WordPress password a secret. You don’t want any other person to have access to it unless you specifically grant them access. Should you need to change it, follow these steps:
Go to Site Tools > WordPress > Install & Manage > Manage Installations > click on the Actions menu next to the desired domain > Update Admin Password.
Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next thing is to set-up your WordPress theme.
Step 4: Install a WordPress Theme
What is a WordPress theme and How to Install a WordPress theme?
First, what’s a WordPress theme? If we liken the step in 3 above (Install WordPress) to the engine, the machine that sets things in motion, a theme is a tool that allows you to change how your site looks.
The WordPress software we installed above makes your site functional, the associated theme takes care of the style. With a few clicks, you can change the theme, and so you change some design elements, color, typography, and layout of your author website.
The theme, whenever, you change it, gives your website a different appearance. It’s one of the most alluring parts of WordPress because you don’t have to pay a lot of money to a designer/developer each time you want to change the “look and feel” of your website. There are a lot of WordPress themes on the web. Some are free of charge, while some are paid. I’ll advise you to always choose the latter. After all, we get what we pay for.
Now, let’s look at how to install free and paid themes. Let’s get started looking at how to install free themes.
Log in to your WordPress Admin area, as I explained in the section before this one. You’ll be presented with a dashboard, which as you’ll recall is where you can make changes to how your website looks and its functions.
On the left side of the page, you’ll see the word Dashboard written at the top, look down, you’ll see Appearances, click on it, then, you’ll see the Themes page. Click the Add New button to add a theme.
On the next page, you’ll be presented with images of different themes and at the top of the page, you’ll see that you can choose from popular, featured, latest, favorite sections. You can Preview, check, the Details, or Install the site. Check the details, see if you like it. Then, preview it, to see how it’d look like when it’s live. If you like it, go ahead and install it. Then, you’ll see the Activate and Live Preview buttons. That’s it.
But some themes may require additional configuration. Perhaps there are certain changes you’d like to make to the layout or even the color. Click on the Customize button and follow the links. As you’d expect, free themes, leave little room for customization. But, if it’s a paid theme, you’d be able to do a lot of customization.
With the feature filter, you can also search for themes that have certain features. It’s a handy function. If there’s a type of theme, you’d prefer, the filter can help narrow the search.
There’s also a search field that you can use to search for a theme directly if you know its name. One of the ways to know awesome themes is to check the number of downloads and how frequently they’re updated.
If a theme is very good, a lot of people would be using it, and it’d be regularly updated. So be careful of downloading and installing themes that have a few users. To get a great theme, it’s best to research a couple beforehand. Restrict your list of themes to research to 5 or fewer. Why? There are thousands, perhaps millions of beautiful themes, you don’t want to get into the rabbit hole that leads to analysis-paralysis!
What if you want to install a paid theme?
Themify, Envato, Elegant themes, and Studio Press are some of the best places to get paid themes. Take the time to search through what they offer. Choose the one that best suits what you’d like for your author website. Pay, and download it. It’s almost always in a Zip format.
After the download. Go to Appearances >> Themes. Click on the Add New button. You’ll be taken to the page where one could access free themes. But since you’ve paid for a theme, ignore the free themes, click on the Upload Theme button at the top of the page.
You’ll get a prompt to choose the Zip file. Select it and click Install Now.
You’ll see a success message and a link to activate and preview your theme. Click the activate link and you’ve successfully installed and activated the paid theme. Based on the kind of theme, you may use the customizer to change a few things or follow instructions that’d be shown to you.
There’s also another option for installing themes, using FTP. But, it’s technical and is thus beyond the scope of this article.
Step 5: Install WordPress Plugins
What is a WordPress Plugin and How to install one?
First things first, what’s a WordPress Plugin? That’s what we’d get started with, then we’d look at how to install them. And, we’d wrap this section up with essential plugins your author website ought to have.
A plugin is a way of adding new functionality to your site or extending some of its current functionalities. Plugins are one of the things that make WordPress magical for most users. They’re like apps for your WordPress site.
Imagine that after setting up your site, weeks later, it occurred to you that you’d like to know how many people are downloading that free chapter of your book that you’ve uploaded to the site, and it struck you that the current theme has no such functionality.
Would you have to go through the process of searching for a better theme, installing it, activating it? Not at all, that where plugins shine. Just as you searched for a theme that suits you, you could search for free and paid plugins, too.
You could search for a plugin that’d help you monitor the number of downloads (or most other functions), and simply add it to your current theme. It’s a bit like buying (or getting for a free) a highly part that can be easily integrated to make your website work better.
Plugins come in a variety of forms, some simply add simple functionalities to your site, and there are some that you can even use to add really powerful capacities to your site. Perhaps you’d like to be selling a lot of books and other stuff authors and readers would like on your site, you could add a plugin that’d imbue your website with eCommerce functionalities.
Maybe you’d like to have a dedicated social network for self-publishers, there are plugins for that, too. By the way, plugins are not available if you’re using a free WordPress.com website (which I don’t advise). So, you can only use plugins when you’re using a site you’ve hosted yourself, as I explained in the earlier sections of this guide.
If you want to install a free plugin that you already know, simply use the search function on the dashboard. First, from the dashboard, look for Plugins, it’s usually under Appearance. Click on it, and you’ll be presented with a page, from which you can search for and install plugins. The page is similar to the one from which we installed free themes. On the plugin page, you’ll see images of the plugins available for download.
You can choose from popular, favorites, recommended, and featured. And, as I advised in the section on themes, here, also pay attention to the number of downloads and how often the plugin is updated. Take your time to review as many as possible, there’s almost always more than one for most functionalities.
Say you’d like to add a really cute contact form to your website, don’t just settle for the first one you come across. You’d find tons. Check the stats and the design (there are times there’s no design to check out), and then settle for the most impressive.
Once you’ve seen the one you like, click Install Now on it. WordPress will download and install the plugin for you. You’d notice that the Install Now button has changed to Activate. Click on the Activate button. Once you’ve activated it, the plugin is now live and functional.
So, how do you install a paid plugin? It’s simple. First, search online for the plugin. Pay for it and download the Zip file. Then from the dashboard, go to Plugins, and on the top of the page presented you’ll see Upload Plugin, click it. You’ll be given an option to select the zip file containing the plugin. Select it. Then, click on the Install Now button. You’ll be presented with a success message and an Activate link. Click the link. That’s it. Your plugin is live.
Essential Plugins for Your Site
Just as there are tons of themes, there are a lot of plugins, too. So, before we move on, let’s take a look at some of the most essential plugins you need. I’ll share a list, and then we’d look at a couple of the plugins listed (because of the constraint of space, we can’t explore all).
- Google Analytics for WordPress
- WP Forms Lite
- Yoast SEO
- Affiliate Links Lite
- Really Simple SSL
- Add to Any share buttons
- Widget Options
- Google XML Sitemaps
- WP Supercache
- Header, Footer, and Post Injections
- Ad Inserter Pro
- Simple Author Box
- WP Date Removal
- WP Forms Lite
- Yoast SEO
- Affiliate Links Lite
- 3 More Plugins for self-published authors
The above are some of the must-haves. Now, let’s explore Google Analytics.
What is Google analytics? Why do you need Google analytics? How to install Google analytics?
Google Analytics is a tool that helps you keep track of what’s happening on your site and it provides data so you can make informed decisions. Essentially it provides info on your traffic statistics. By traffic, I mean the people visiting your author website.
And, it’s free. It’s a must-have on all websites because it keeps a vast amount of data on what’s happening on your site and gives you reports so that you can manage your site effectively.
It’s only what we measure that we can improve. Google Analytics helps you with the measurement, for example, you’d like to know how many visitors are coming to your site, and what percentage of them are being converted into subscribers.
Some websites get a lot of visitors, but then, these visitors don’t stay! If this is happening on your site, it’s good to know, so that you can remedy the situation. What kind of information does it keep track of? These include the age, gender, the kind of device they’re using to access your website…
It even offers geolocation info, so you’d know the country the visitors are coming from and even the city. And, it helps you to keep track of all the content you’re sharing, so that you know the views and shares. This will help you to know what kind of content is resonating with your audience.
Now, let’s wrap up by looking at how to install a Google Analytics plugin. The first thing we’d do is sign up for Google Analytics, then, we’d install Monster Insights, a plugin that allows you to integrate Google Analytics with your website.
Enter this domain https://analytics.google.com/ and sign up for Google analytics. The process is simple, just fill in your details. If you don’t have a Gmail account, sign up for one here. While signing up for analytics, you will be prompted to check web or apps, choose web. Then you need to enter the website name, website’s URL, country, and time zone. After this, you’d be given an analytics tracking code. Copy the code, because you’d need to enter it into your WordPress site.
You can pay for the MonsterInsights plugin or use a free version. Just follow the installation process shown in the section on how to install plugins. Once you activate it, it’d be connected to your WordPress admin dashboard under Insights. Click on it and you’d be presented with a page to choose a category for your website.
Select what’s most appropriate, click save and continue. Then click on the ‘Connect MonsterInsights button, and you’d be shown a page to access Google and persimmon to allow MonsterInsights to be connected to Google Analytics. Click the “Allow” button.
Then select the profile you want to track and MonsterInsights will now install Google Analytics on your website. Choose the recommended settings and you can also add your affiliate link. Click on the save and continue button. You’d be shown some add-ons. You may ignore them or add them if they’re relevant. You’d also be prompted to add WP Forms, you can add or skip the step. That’s it, you’ve got Google Analytics connected to your website.
Doing it yourself can be an option for people who are technologically savvy. It can be quite simple setting up an author website using WordPress. But if you do not want to do it yourself and don’t mind spending a little bit of money to get it right, then choosing a service provider like PublishEdge that specifically deals with author websites might be an option.