wp dashboard

How to make a WordPress blog for your business (for less than $10 / year)

This post is a ‘how to make a WordPress blog for dummies’ tutorial with step-by-step photo instructions. You will be able to build a WordPress blog / website and online store, with all the SEO and email marketing tools you need for marketing your business *completely from scratch* (including hosting and domain registration!) in less than 2 hours, for less than $ 10 a year! 

This tutorial is going to cover:

  1. Buying hosting and domain

  2. Customising your website template

  3. Setting up your online store

  4. Setting up your email marketing tool account

  5. Email Opt-in forms and Pop-up boxes

  6.  SEO tools

  7. Social media buttons

Ready? Good luck!  

So you’ve just started your business (or you have an *amazing idea* that doesn’t let you sleep at night so you are planning to do so) but you’re thinking: how the hell am I going to sell and market my products/ services?!

Of course you know that a website and an online store are something you need to have. An integrated blog and some newsletter signup forms so you can convert the traffic into leads would also be nice to have. But you happen not to be a web developer and once you’ve asked around a bit, it turns out you’d need to lay out upwards of $ 1000 to start a very simple website, just to test if your idea actually works?

Fortunately – for people like us – there is WordPress. WordPress is an open source software used by 31% of all sites on the web – and that for a good reason! You can build amazing things with – even if you’re such a complete computer dummy as me (trust me, if I can do it – anyone can!)

But still, it can be quite challenging if you’ve never done it before – as I’ve learnt the hard way. The blog that was supposed to take me 30 minutes to set up has eaten up at least 30 hours of figuring out how to make things look the way I wanted them (they *never* quite did) and how to make all the plugins I needed to have email marketing funnels, an online store and pop-ups set up. And yes, I cried just a little bit…

So – to spare you the tears – in the post below, I am going to write how to create a WordPress blog with an online store, newsletter signup forms and pop-ups for less than $ 20 / year. 

But why do I even need a blog? I can just use Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest [insert a social medium of your choice]

OK, I hear you. I hear that a *lot*. Social media are hot and sexy and all range. BUT there is a catch with social media:

  1. social media posts are of very temporal nature – i.e. they have a very very short life-span. Once you’ve posted something, and it has (or especially has not) attracted a few comments – it’s gone. It will be buried under zillion following posts and will soon be forgotten and hard to find.
  2. also, it won’t be really searchable via search engines due to privacy settings of groups, pages, and walls. So it will not appear in search results, and – as I mentioned before – once it’s gone, it’s gone  – and it doesn’t drive traffic anymore. But if you post a well-optimised post (you need to make sure you are including the right keyword – have a look at this free tool: https://kwfinder.com/ ) on your blog, it keeps driving traffic forever.
  3. which means – by posting exclusively on social media, you are not building anything to last! If you write a few *really good* blog posts on your blog, that are well-optimised for Google (I got into no 1 on Google with 2 posts in May for certain long-tailed keywords and these posts are still driving hundreds of visits per week. More on that in another post!) you will build your website’s authority and they will keep driving visitors for a very long time.
  4. you don’t own the content you post on Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg owns it. Which means, you are putting all your work in the hands of some organisation, which may decide to delete it, block your account (for any reason – have you read Facebook’s terms and conditions? Me neither. Which means we don’t really know what we are signing up for, and we don’t know if our content complies with Facebook’s regulations or not. I’ve had situations when FB was blocking my ad account for ‘policy violations’ and I had really no clue what I was doing wrong! It all seemed very OK and very much like other ads I’ve seen on Facebook. And I know dozens of people who have had the same problem.)
  5. So – publish your posts on your own blog, and then use social media as a promotion tool – post an under-200 word teaser and then ask people to read more on your blog.

Ok, so after I have hopefully convinced you to get a website and a blog, I will walk you through the process of setting it all up step-by-step.

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What does it mean to build a blog ‘for SEO’?

Ultimately, the reason why you will be writing a blog for your business will be to sell more services or products.  From my experience, the best way to promote your product / service is to drive qualified traffic to your website through content that is optimised for search engines. SEO (= Search Engine Optimisation) has now grown to a form of dark art, but you can still do it *really well* as a complete beginner and rank on #1 in Google for less popular keywords (I’ve done it *as a complete beginner* and will show you how later).

To achieve this though you will need:

  • SEO tools that will help you rank high in Google and drive traffic to your website from search engines
  • tools that will allow you to build email marketing and sales funnels and checkouts to convert this traffic into warm leads and then – ultimately – paying customers.
  • Google Analytics tools, in order to make informed decisions about what type of content works best for your audience you need to be able to analyse your results. 

So, in the tutorial below, I am going to walk you through not only setting up a WordPress blog (which is simple and you can probably do yourself!) but also:

  • How to build an online store into your WordPress – for free and in less than 5 minutes – and how to sell digital, downloadable products there;
  • How to create newsletter sign-up forms and integrate them with your blog posts (this is the so-called ’email marketing funnel’ – you can read a good post about why you need it here)- so you can capture the attention (and email addresses 😉 ) of your readers when they are there (but not yet ready to make the purchase)
  • How to build pop-ups so you can grab the reader’s attention even more with your special offers, newsletter sign-up forms and calls-to-action 😉
  • How to integrate SEO tools like Yoast SEO that will help you optimise your blog posts for SEO into your website;
  • How to integrate with your Google Analytics account
  • …and your Social Media accounts
How to set up a WordPress website with a blog, online store, and subscription forms for your newsletter

You can just follow this recipe blindly as if you were cooking something from a cookbook and it will work. I know we entreprenuers have a lot to think about already, so you won’t need to do much thinking with this ;p

A word of warning: this is of course not the only way to do it. If you have some experience with WordPress.org, you may disagree with how I’m doing it, and you may not like the results. Maybe you know a better way to do it, but this post is intended for people who have *no idea* how to build a WordPress blog with an online shop + email marketing integration, and need a very prescriptive and authoritative post that will just let them do it and forget about it 😉

Heather’s website + blog + online store

OK, since I don’t want to mess with my website for this tutorial, and since it’s always better to explain things live on something real, I am going to build a simple website for a friend of mine, Heather. Let me tell you a little more about Heather.

Heather is an artist. She’s never really done much to sell her art, but I think it’s amazing:

Heather Fleming's artwork

It could be used to illustrate children’s books, clothes, for decoration, stationary, birthday cards…

And yet, Heather, as many talented people out there who don’t feel confident enough to mess with marketing, has done nothing to let her art see the broad(er) light.

So let’s do something for Heather! (Heather doesn’t know that I’m building this website for her yet).

Buy hosting + domain

Hosting is basically leasing commercial space for your website on a server – imagine you want to open a cafe but you don’t have your own place for it…you’d rent it, right? The same goes for hosting your website.

I have personally gone for the cheapest and easiest to set up WordPress hosting I could find – which was NameCheap Hosting– for $ 8.99 for the first year (I am using their hosting myself and I was happy with their hosting and customer service when *something* wasn’t working for me, so I’m recommending them.)

Go to https://www.namecheap.com/

Select: Hosting > select: ‘WordPress Hosting’ from the drop-down menu

name cheap screenshot

Click on ‘buy now’

Enter a free domain name – you will be able to buy and link a paid domain later…

free domain

Click ‘Continue’ and go through the checkout (you may need to register an account if it’s your first website on NameCheap) …

By now, you should have got an email with your wordress dashboard credentials:

 

wp dashboard login email
Domain registration

 

STEP 1: buy the domain

Now, the *VERY* last thing we need to cover, is how to change your domain (the website ‘address’ 😉 )

Go back to NameCheap and log in using the previous login/ password you used when registering the account with NameCheap.

Go to Domains 'domains' and search for your preferred domain:

domain search

Add the domain you want to link to your website to cart and then proceed to checkout.

STEP 2: Link the domain to your website

Go back to https://easywp.com/ and log in with the credentials you used to set up the website.

Click on the right website:

And then move onto the ‘Domains’ >  Instead of the ‘No registered domains found’, you will be able to see your purchased domain (but I  need to ask Heather which one she likes first 😀 )

Simply click on the selection and..you’re done!

 

 

Click on the link to the WordPress dashboard (this is where you will be able to edit your website) and log in with the login and password provided in the email.

wp dashboard

Customizing your website template

 

Choose a template and customise it to make it look how you want

Now, select the blue button ‘customize your Site’

Your template, ‘Twenty Seventeen’ is very nice in my mind, so we’re gonna leave it and just change a few ‘cosmetic’ elements from the default to make the home page look personal:

I’ve changed the header image in ‘Header media’

Then I changed the favicon (the little picture you see in the tab of your browser) in ‘site identity’. This is also where I changed the Header and Subheading text.

  • Edit default pages

Press the blue ‘Publish’ button to save changes and then press the ‘X’ button next to it to return to the main dashboard.

Now we’re going to edit the pages: ‘About’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Contact’.

Click on ‘Edit’ and change the text and header photos.

This is where you change the featured image, which also appears on the home page panes in this theme:

change the featured image here

 

Setting up your online store

WooCommerce is an amazing WordPress plugin that allows you to sell anything – including ‘downloadable products’, create user accounts and accept payments through your online store!

Install and set-up your online store through the WooCommerce plugin + add ‘Shop’ to the menu

Now, go to ‘Plugins’ on the left hand side of your dashboard.

Search ‘woocommerce’ by keywords, and press ‘install’ next to the icon:

After the installation has finished, press ‘activate’.

Then, when you get the on-screen message that your WooCommerce account is active, press ‘run the setup wizard’ – fill in your address, currency, and payment information.

Keep pressing ‘continue’ until you get to the end and can add your first product:

woocommerce

WOO-HOO! You now have an online store! That was easy!!! ;0

Before moving on to the next step, add a few products to your store 🙂

Add product description, short description, tags, product categories (on the right) and product image.

Let’s say Heather wants to sell high-res printable downloads rather than physical products – WooCommerce allows you to add a downloadable product – so if you want to sell information products such as ebooks, PDFs or printables – it’s easy as a pie!

 

Setting up your email marketing tool account

 

You will need an email marketing to collect email addresses of your readers – so that you can later send them newsletters 🙂

  1. Open an email marketing account (I’m using MailChimp and it’s quite good for beginners – you have 2000 free contacts, can do fun stuff like landing pages, and there are a lot of plugins for MailChimp on WordPress) and install MailChimp for WordPress to build a sign-up form for your newsletter

Go to https://mailchimp.com/ and if you don’t have an account, create one (it’s really easy). If you do, log into your account, press your name on the top right and click on ‘account’ on the drop-down menu;

mailchimp.API1

Then go to ‘Extras’ and select ‘API keys’

API_step2_mailchimp

Copy the API key. We will need it soon!

 

Setting up your Opt-in forms and Pop-up boxes

These tools allow you to convert your readers’ into subscribers more efficiently. I personally love OptinForms for how easy they are to use and how many things you can build with them for free!

Now go back to your WordPress dashboard and to the  ‘Plugins’ tab on the right.

Install the ‘Mailchimp Forms by Optin Cat‘ plugin and follow the instructions on screen.

install MailChimp Forms by OptinCat

After you have installed the plug-in, click on ‘Activate’.

This should proceed automatically and take you to the plugin list:

add new optinform

Then, you will need to choose type of the form you want to create (select ‘postbox’ to create an opt-in form you can add to your blog posts) and layout/style of the form:

 select form type and layout

 

This is also where you can customize your form and also where you paste your API key you copied from MailChimp earlier here and press ‘save changes’:

Once you have pasted the key, you will see a little green tickbox when your MailChimp account has connected, and you will be able to select a list that you want the subscribers to be automatically subscribed to:

subscription form API key

! If you don’t have a list , you’ll need to go back to Mailchimp and create your first subscribers’ list (if you don’t have any yet):

Create List in Mailchimp

Now, after selecting the list, scroll down to the bottom of the page on the Optin Forms Dashboard to add your form to the post: 

adding your form to your post

Now, this is the place where you choose where your post will be displayed: simply tap on the ‘Type to search…’ box and you will see the following options:

where to put your post

Select the place where you’d like your form to be displayed (I’d recommend you select POST > ALL  for starters, so you can forget about adding them under each post 🙂

Don’t forget to click ‘SAVE’ before you move on! 

Woo-hooo! You set up your first email marketing funnel!

Now let’s make sure you get as many conversions as you deserve with a nice pop-up 😉

Build a pop-up with Optin Forms

Go back to your Optin Forms option on WP dashboard.

Select ‘Add New’ > Popups

Follow through the same routine as with the opt-in box (adjust your pop-up formatting and put in the same MailChimp API key as before)

When you’re done, scroll down to the publication settings to set how often your popup will be displayed: 

popup-frequency

After finishing, move the ‘GO Live’ slider and press ‘SAVE’. 

Et voila! You’ve created your first popup! 😀

 

Setting up SEO tools

These are essential for you to monitor traffic growth and user behaviour on your website! After all, if you don’t know which posts are working and which not, you may end up wasting way too much time creating the *wrong* kind og content.

Get your SEO toolkit 1 – Set up Yoast SEO plugin

Yoast SEO is an *incredible useful* plugin that basically works as an SEO writing coach – it gives you promts and suggestions on how to improve your blog post’s SEO visibility and readibility score as you write!

To set up Yoast SEO, simply go to Plugins > Add New > Yoast SEO

yoast seo

After installing, simply press ‘Activate’ and you’re ready to go! You will see the Yoast SEO guidelines under every post…we will go through how to use it to get best results in another post 😉

Get your SEO toolkit 2 – Google Analytics on your page

! If you don’t have a Google Analytics account, follow the instructions here to create one first!

Assuming you now do have a Google Analytics account, let’s install the Analytics Plugin!

Go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’ on your dashboard and install ‘Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics (formerly GADWP)’ plugin:

After installing, as usual, press ‘activate’, find your newly-installed plugin on the plugin list, and go to ‘settings’:

google analystics plugin 2

Then click ‘Authorize Plugin’

Make sure you’re logged into your Google Analytics account and then click on the ‘get access code’ link:

It will open a new window where you will need to authorise the plugin to access your account. Press ‘authorise’, copy the generated code,  paste it into the ‘Access code’ box and click ‘save’.

google analystics plugin 4

And you’re done! You can now access your website analytics both from the Google Analytics account and the WP dashboard.

 

Social media buttons

 

Integrate your social media

Last but not least, you may want to link your social media profiles to your website.

Go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’ and type in ‘Social media’:

Install and activate ‘Social media share buttons…’:

social media

After you have activated the plugin, click on it on the dashboard and then select where you would like the Social Media icons to redirect the visitors: you will need to paste links to your profiles into the boxes and then click ‘SAVE’.

 

After clicking ‘SAVE’ and move on to point 3: where you would like the icons to be displayed:

social media 3

Click ‘SAVE’ again after choosing location, refresh your website and voila! Your social icons are not displayed where you wanted them to, and…

…you’re done!!! 😀 Your website + blog + online store are up and ready to drive traffic to your business!

Woo-hoo! Bring on the champagne 😉 or…if you have any problems / questions – contact me here 😉

Want more templates and tips like that?

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