This is the first article in our new cornerstone series, Build your own WordPress website in 3 hours (or less). In this series, we will be guiding you through the ordeal (not!) of setting up your own WordPress-powered website, step-by-step.
The advantages of self-hosting your own WordPress site are many. The primary reason we recommend authors self-host their own website is so they have full control and ownership over their web content. The main reason why most authors choose a hosted solution (e.g. Wix, Blogger.com, Weebly, etc.) is because they are easy to set up. We’ll show you that you CAN set up your own WordPress website (and keep all of your hair)!
You will learn how to get your own domain name, set up a hosting account, set up WordPress, learn about “themes” and how to choose and install one, what plugins you should and shouldn’t use (what’s a plugin? We’ll answer that, too!), and how to customize your theme.
First step: buy a domain name
(Estimated time: 15 minutes)
The first thing you’ll need to do is get yourself a domain name (e.g. the ‘launchthebook.com’ part of the website address http://launchthebook.com). You’ll need to make a couple of decisions: what domain name to buy, and where to buy it.
What domain name should I choose?
As an author, ideally your domain name should include your name, or your pen name if you write under a pseudonym, and it should be a dot com if at all possible. Unfortunately, unless you have an out-of-the-ordinary name, you will probably have to get a little creative. For instance, johnsmith.com is pretty much a non-starter; you might try johnsmithfiction.com or johnsmithauthor.com. Keep trying until you find one that is still available. It should be descriptive, not too long, and easy to remember and spell if possible.
How can you tell whether a domain name is available or not? Two ways to do it: one good, and one not-so-good. The good way? Go to http://whois.net and type the domain name into the form, and click Go.
The not-as-good way? Go to a domain name registrar (a registrar is an accredited company that allows you to “lease” the right to use the domain name — sometimes referred to as a domain host, not to be confused with a web host) and type the domain into their search box. Yes, you’ll find out if the domain name is taken, but if you’re not quite ready to hit the ‘buy’ button – some domain registrars have been known to tie up the domain name that you searched for, and force you into paying a higher price if you come back to buy it later.
Once you’ve found a domain name that is available, the next step is…
Finding a domain name registrar
There are a number of registrars you can buy a domain from. It’s our recommendation that you buy from one of the ‘big names’. I know when I buy a domain from one of the following companies, I’m less likely to run into problems.
Here are a few of the major players:
Listen, I know I’m going to catch hell from some quarters (including my partner) for putting GoDaddy on the list, but hey – if you don’t like their advertising or their practices, don’t buy from them. I have 40+ domains registered with them, and almost as many split up between the others. Honestly? I go where I can find the best deal.
Once you’ve figured out who you want to buy from, click one of the links above to go directly to their site. Each of the providers are a little bit different, but they all make the buying process easy to figure out. Search for your preferred domain name and when you find one that’s available, follow the steps to purchase.
There are a couple of things to beware of, though: what we call ‘addons’, and domain privacy.
What is ‘domain privacy’? Wikipedia tells.
Generally, I don’t pay extra for ‘domain privacy’. I’m not doing anything I want kept secret. Ultimately, it’s optional and up to you.
Do not – let me repeat that: DO NOT – buy anything ‘extra’ when you’re buying a domain name. You don’t need it, whatever it is. You don’t want it. You don’t need to pay for email, you don’t need to pay for whatever fancy marble they want to sell you. Bottom line: if your domain (a dot com) costs you more than $10 or so, you’ve probably signed up for something you don’t need or want.
That’s about it for buying a domain name. Questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll answer.
Step 1: 15 minutes
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