DIY WordPress for Small Business & Non-Profits

1. Reserve your domain name

Namecheap cost: less than $10 per name, per year for most domains

I’m partial to Namecheap. True to its moniker, the names are cheap, plus the dashboard is easy to use. Lots of people use GoDaddy, but there are also lots of complaints about their service and quite frankly their Playboy-esque ad campaigns turn me off.

You might be prompted to sign up for web hosting, email hosting or other services. Pull a Nancy Reagan and, “Just Say No.” (It’s important to keep your domain registration separate from your hosting—gives you more flexibility.)

2. Decide where to host your WordPress site

You have lots of options, but I recommend checking out the following three:

  • WordPress.com (cheap and very easy) cost: $12 to $17 per year for most small sites

    You can be up and running in minutes. The great thing is that WordPress.com manages all the software updates, protects your blog from comment spam and takes care of security.

    The core WordPress.com service is free, but to use your own domain name (www.mycompany.com) rather than the wordpress.com domain (mycompany.wordpress.com) will cost between $12 and $17 per year. There are other premium add-ons that you might grow into as well.

    The downside is that WordPress.com was designed to host blogs, not business websites. As a result, it’s missing a few important inbound marketing tools. For example, you can’t use Google Analytics, which helps you understand what content is working and what’s not. You are also really limited with the customizations that you can make. For example, you can’t add plugins.

    All this said, if you don’t have a website and want to get one up and running quickly, WordPress.com is an easy way to get started. Expect to outgrow it.

  • Hostgator (cheap and somewhat easy) cost: ~$10 per month for most small sites

    Hostgator is one of the commonly recommended hosting providers. What I like about them is that they include 24/7 support in all their hosting packages. Like most of the other recommended hosts, they offer one-click WordPress installations.

    Unlike WordPress.com, you’ll be able to make unlimited customizations to the functionality of your site. You’ll be able to use plugins to your little heart’s content. Adding Google Analytics is a snap.

    But you will be responsible for updating software, maintaining the security of the site and making backups. (That’s why this model is called self-hosted—the host is only responsible for maintaining the hardware, you’re responsible for the rest.) This isn’t necessarily hard and there’s a helpful community at the ready to provide guidance, but if you have neither geeky inclinations nor geeky relations, this probably is not a good option for you.

  • WPEngine (somewhat cheap and easy) cost: $29 per month

    I put all of my clients on WPEngine, which is a “managed” WordPress hosting company. It offers the flexibility of a self-hosted WordPress installation without the IT headaches.

    WPEngine will run daily backups of your site and can help you restore if something goes wrong. When WordPress releases a new version of the software, WPEngine will do the updates. They are constantly tweaking the platform to deliver optimal security and speed. Your site will be faster, safer, more reliable.

    When you consider what it would take for you to get your site back up and running if it were to get hacked or a software update were to break something, the extra monthly cost for WPEngine is totally worth it.

3. Start WordPressing!

Once you’ve done the famous five-minute WordPress installation, let the games begin. First up is to find a theme. Sara Rosso who works for the company behind WordPress.com makes this analogy: “If WordPress [and the content you add] is the body, the theme is its clothing and plugins are the bling.”

A theme I recommend playing with is Twenty Eleven. It comes pre-installed with WordPress. It uses responsive design, which means that when people view your site on different devices (computer, ipad, iphone), the theme automatically responds and displays the content accordingly. Big screens spread content wide, small screens stack content vertically. Cool!

Different themes will let you customize different element out of the box. Most will let you upload your own graphics to replace the defaults.

You can try out different themes in the WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Themes.

4. Set up your email

Google Apps cost: $50 per year / per user

I recommend using Google Apps for Business. It’s easy to use, powerful and used by many businesses of all sizes.

When I tell small business and non-profit folks to use Google Apps for their email, I often hear, “But I don’t want people to send messages to me at a Gmail address! I want to use my own domain (e.g. name@mycompany.com).”

No worries, mate. Google Apps lets you do this. You’ll have to jump through a few geeky hoops to get it working, but it’s worth it.

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