You have decided to set up your author website. Congratulations! There are many aspects when it comes to setting up a web site and this ultimate guide should help you as you go step by step. Okay, you’ve picked out your domain name and hosting company, and now you’re trying to figure out what theme you want to use.
Themes: Free or Paid
There are lots of different templates out there for you to use. The question is, should you use a free or paid theme?
It can be tempting when you don’t have much money to use a free template for your site. I did this when I first started and went through three “free” models before I got my site looking like I wanted it.
I was very proud of it when I first put it together. It took a friend pointing out the horrible colors and hard to read font that convinced me to make a change.
I switched to a paid template last year. There are also some other things I have learned about free templates that make me wary of recommending them.
- They don’t cost anything.
- They are easy to set up and use.
NOTE: WordPress officially approves free WordPress themes.
- Sometimes you have to pick the color scheme for your site. If you’re not a graphic designer, this can be a gamble.
- They don’t always look as professional as a paid theme.
- There is no support to contact if you have questions.
- Sometimes, but NOT always, they can contain viruses and malware.
- They are not always compatible with specific plugins.
- Limited features.
- The designs are not unique.
- Free themes are rarely updated.
- They can be “buggy” and be a security risk.
- Not all free themes are created equal. You need to read the WordPress license and see what you can do with it.
- They look more professional than a free template.
- They are easier to set up and put together.
- You can contact support if you have questions or issues.
- The theme is frequently updated.
- There is more freedom with customizable options and better security.
- The designs are unique compared to a free theme.
- A paid theme is standards-compliant to WordPress standards.
- Paid themes are compatible with all different browsers-PC, laptop, tablet, and phone.
- A paid theme has a better chance of being compatible with different plugins.
What About Wix and Weebly?
There are many companies out there that let you set up a web site for free. Companies like Wix and Weebly make it very easy. The problem? You don’t own your domain name therefore you don’t really own your site.
Say you are a cookbook author and your site is called Cathy Cooks. If you buy your own domain it would look like this, www.cathycooks.com. If you set up your site on Wix or Weebly your domain would look like www.cathycooks.wix.com which not only looks unprofessional but there’s a chance your site could be taken down for any number of reasons. This is why having your own domain is so important.
However, there are many pros and cons to making this decision. If you can’t afford to pay for a template right now, then use a free one. There is no shame in this. We all have to start somewhere.
My only advice is to make sure you backup your site at least once a week and download it to your computer once you get a notification of the backup from your hosting company. This way if something goes wrong, you will have a copy and can restore your site. Regardless of what you decide, go out and start building your site today.
To learn more about how to set up and run a successful blog, please read my post How to Start and Run a Blog Like a Boss.
The Importance of Updating Your Web Site
The importance of updating your web site is critical when you are in online business. This point became glaringly clear to me recently, thank you to my friend Jamie.
She is studying a lot about social media. She gently, but firmly, let me know that both of my sites were not exactly pleasing to the eye.
Why the Struggle?
I had heard this before, but I just kind of kept my head buried in the sand. Why? I think it was a few things.
- I was having a hard time letting go of something I built myself that took me forever to do. I knew it wasn’t great, but I was proud of it anyway.
- I didn’t know how to change my theme or what I even wanted for a theme.
- I didn’t want to go through the headache of having to build a site all over again. It took me messing with three different web site “themes” in the beginning to finally get it right.
Since I used to have two sites, one for my “books” and one for my “freelance writing” I had no idea how to transfer all the blog posts and other info to the new site.
Thankfully, my friend offered to help me. She showed me a ‘mock up’ of my site with a theme she bought and didn’t use. I absolutely fell in love with it. If I bought the theme from the designer, she would install it and set it up for me. I agreed and bought it so she could get to work asap.
I now have a site that I am extremely proud of. It looks more professional and is much cleaner and more polished.
Ideas for Finding Help Updating Your Website
If you are just starting out or want to update your site, but are not sure how to go about it, there are a few things you can do.
1. If you have a friend who specializes in web design, ask them to help you.
2. Ask around online in groups and such to see if you can find a recommendation.
3. If you have a bigger budget, research designers in your area and contact them for pricing.
Having a beautiful web site doesn’t have to be complicated. With a little research, you are bound to find the resources you need to fit your budget.
Let’s Break It Down
Here are the steps to keep in mind to start your site off on the right foot.
- Buy domain name
- Purchase hosting
- Purchase a paid theme
- Install your theme and build yourself or hire a friend (with graphic design experience) or a professional to help you.
- Hire an SEO expert to help you get traffic (On page SEO you only have to pay for once, Off Page SEO is a monthly service you will need. Look on Fiverr to find someone to help you.)
- Write amazing content
- Keep your content fresh and updated. (I recommend posting once a week.)
Here are some resources to help you:
Fiverr (for hiring for things like SEO, blog post editing, blog post writing, etc.)
Master Content Marketing by Pamela Wilson ( I recently received this e-book in a free giveaway and it blew my mind. I wish I had found this book earlier when I first starting writing this blog. If you are looking to get a solid grasp of writing amazing content and content marketing, you need this book. I recommend getting it in paperback so you can highlight and take notes.)
WordPress (Go to “features” and choose “themes” and then “premium” to find paid themes.)
Many people get overwhelmed at the thought of setting up their own web site. However, it really isn’t that hard. With a little research, you can find the perfect theme and the help you need that fits your budget. It really is easy these days to make a beautiful web site that converts and draws people in.