12 Steps to Building a Small Business Website with WordPress

12 Steps to Building a Small Business Website with WordPress

Setting up a website for your business can be costly if you are using professional web designers and developers. Fortunately, if you’re anticipating that your website isn’t going to be too complex with too many pages and features, you can design and build your site yourself using several cost-effective tools.

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through all of the main steps you will need to consider when designing and building your own WordPress website. This will ensure that:

  • Your website has the type of content your visitors want,
  • Your website is optimized for search engines,
  • That there is a consistent design across the site, and
  • You will only require minimal coding knowledge.

Specifically, we’ll cover:

Without further ado, let’s start building your new website.

Note: This is not a beginner’s guide to building a website as we’ll be looking at intermediate-level concepts such as keyword research, designing with wireframes and analytics. If you’re interested in getting started building your own website, check out our Academy course WordPress Development for Beginners, which teaches you the basics of how to build a site with WordPress.

What Do You Want Your Site to Do?

Before you do anything, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you want your website’s visitors to actually achieve when they visit your site. What is a conversion for your business? This will vary from business to business, but some common examples of website conversions are:

  • Submitting a contact/inquiry form
  • Completing the purchase of a product
  • Calling a telephone number on the website
  • A bricks and mortar store may want customers to get the address details from the website and visit the physical location of the store

As you can see, some conversions are easier to track than others. It isn’t going to be easy to trace customers visiting a store back to them finding your business via the website, but tracking online sales and form submissions is simple with free analytics tools.

The conversions that are relevant for your business will not only impact which pages are needed for your website and their design, but also the functionality required. Figuring out what is required for your website early on will save you needing to go back and make changes once the design and development process is underway.

Domain Name and Hosting

You’ll need to decide upon a domain name, register it, and then purchase web hosting for your website. Choosing a domain can be difficult as many of the most popular names will already have been registered.

Check to see if your actual business name or your desired domain name has been registered, e.g. mybusiness.com. You can check domain name availability through whichever domain registrar you will be using. If your domain name has been registered, then you’ll need to be creative, e.g. many digital marketing agencies may add ‘digital’ onto the end of their business name such as ‘mybusinessdigital.com’.

Once you have your domain name, you’ll need to purchase web hosting for your website. This provides a place on the internet for people to be able to access your website. Shared hosting can be found for a very low cost nowadays and this should suffice if you have a low traffic website. If your site does start to drive a lot of visits, then you can always upgrade your hosting in the future. If you are not sure whether shared hosting is the right choice for you, then you can read more about the various WordPress hosting options here.

SEO and Keyword Research

You now need to figure out what it is that your potential customers search for. This is generally an SEO task, but it can also be good for user experience by identifying what information your visitors expect to find on your website.

Head on over to Google AdWords Keyword Planner (you’ll need an AdWords account). You can use this tool to generate lists of keywords and their monthly search volume. You can filter your results by location, so if your business only serves a specific area, you will want to set this to your location.

Generally, the higher the search volume is, the greater the opportunity, but the more difficult the competition will be. You want to target keywords that are as relevant as possible to the service or products you provide. For example, if you provide a computer repair service, you shouldn’t really be considering ‘computers’ by itself as a keyword to focus on. It is going to be too competitive and because it is very generic, conversion rates are likely to be very low. Instead, you would want to target a keyword along the lines of “computer repairs in [insert your location].”

What you want to do at this stage is:

  • Identify all the keywords relevant to your start-up and their search volumes
  • Categorize these keywords into logical groups that you can assign to webpages

Make sure you have saved this data in a spreadsheet for later use.

Figure out what it is that your potential customers are searching for with Google's Keyword Planner.
Figure out what it is that your potential customers are searching for with Google’s Keyword Planner.

Website Content

Now you know what keywords your target audience are searching for, you’ll be able to decide what content you want on your website. Try and create enough content to target all the keywords you think are relevant to your business. If this is too much to feasibly do within the timeframe that you want to launch your website, then prioritize your keywords and create a content calendar for updating your website after launch.

Your content does not need to be text only, in fact, it would be good to use various types of media to better engage your visitors. The following is just an example of the types of content your website can include:

  • Video
  • Images
  • Articles
  • Podcasts
  • Interactive tools
  • Testimonials
  • Infographics

Below is an essential SEO checklist for your new website’s content:

  • Use your main keyword within your title element
  • Use your main keyword within your meta description
  • Use your main keyword within the URL (page slug)
  • Use your main keyword within your H1
  • Use your main keyword and variants of this keyword within the main copy
  • Use your main keyword and variants in the anchor text for links to this page
  • Do not duplicate your content across your site, e.g. do not have the same copy on page A, page B, page C etc.

If you’re not confident in your ability to write content for your website, then you could always hire a copywriter. Of course, this is going to be an additional expense and consider that the quality can vary greatly from copywriter to copywriter.

Website Structure

The keyword research you carried out previously can also help you to create your site’s structure. Keywords with higher search volumes tend to make great main categories and lower search volume keywords tend to be more specific versions of these top-level keywords, though this isn’t always the case.

If you think about your website’s hierarchy, generally you would want your most important pages to be higher up, although sometimes this may not be possible. For example, imagine an eCommerce site where one of the products sold brings in the most revenue. In the website’s hierarchy, this may be homepage > category > subcategory > important product. In this scenario, the page for this highly important product would sit quite low down in the website’s structure.

However, you do not have to let your website’s structure define the internal linking of your site. In our eCommerce site example, with the important product that generates the most revenue, we would expect this important product page to be linked to from the homepage, possibly in the main navigation, the footer and many other places since it is so important. This would mean that not only would search engines understand that this is an important page, but also that visitors will easily be able to navigate to it.

Reviewing your keywords, your understanding of your target audience, what customers require and some research into your competitors’ websites, you should now be able to define all of the pages you need and their relationships to each other.

Some common pages that many sites often have are:

  • Homepage
  • About page
  • Contact
  • Features
  • Products/Services
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Privacy Policy
  • Portfolio
  • Testimonials

You could also choose to have a one-pager website. These have become popular in recent years and if you don’t feel as though you have much content for your website, this might be the right option for you.

It’s worth noting that it is generally easier to rank within organic search results by having highly targeted content. If your business has multiple distinct products and/or services, you should really have a page for each. Also, if you are thinking about running paid search, social, display or email marketing campaigns, your website is more likely to convert people that click on those ads if the page they arrive on has a strong message match to the advert. This may not be possible if you choose to only have one webpage for your entire site.

Designing with Wireframes

It’s now time to start deciding how your website will look. The wireframe stage is where we will decide how the content will be laid out on the page. There are several tools, such as wireframe.cc, which you can use for this. If you don’t have access to any, you can simply use a pen and paper to sketch out how you want your website to look. To create the wireframes, outline where elements will be on a webpage and their approximate sizes.

Before you start building your website, design it with wireframes.
Before you start building your website, design it with wireframes.

If you are unsure of this stage, you can look at other websites for inspiration. At this point, you don’t need to consider colors, fonts, the types of images or any other visual details such as those. All we want to do during this stage is understand where on a page different types of content will be placed.

When laying out the content of our webpage’s, we need to at least consider the following factors:

  • How the visitor will scan the page, i.e. where you want their eye to be drawn
  • What the goals of the visitor are, i.e. purchasing a product, submitting a contact form, creating an account
  • Keeping the layout simple and easy to navigate

There are numerous user interface patterns that have been identified. These provide guidelines for how your layout should be structured based on the way that people scan web pages as well as the type of content you are presenting.

Some common UI patterns are:

  • F pattern
  • Z pattern
  • Cards
  • Grids

The following are two great references for UI patterns. The first is an informative article on UXPin covering the design patterns mentioned above and more. The second is ui-patterns.com, which is an online resource that goes into detail about UI design patterns for specific elements and types of content, such as drop-down menus, forms and articles lists.

Branding and Style Guidelines

After creating wireframes for your new website, now you need to define how the elements within those wireframes will be styled. You won’t need to go into as much detail as the style guidelines for things such as Google’s Material Design, but it would be good practice to document key elements of your website design so that the style remains consistent between different sections of a page and across the entire site.

Not only that, but if you have third parties working on the design of some of the elements for your site, you can provide them with your style guidelines to ensure any work they do is consistent with the rest of your website.

There are several key areas you will want to include within your style guidelines:

  • Typography
    • Font families
    • Font sizes for different elements, e.g. H1, H2, H3, paragraphs
    • Font weights
    • Line heights
    • Colours
    • Free resources: Google Fonts
  • Colour Palette
    • Primary, secondary, tertiary etc. colors
    • Shades of gray for text or subtle backgrounds to contrast white
    • Free resources: Paletton, Adobe Kuler
  • Imagery
    • The type, e.g. photos, vectors, illustrations
    • The subject of the image e.g. people, landscapes
    • Styles or effects e.g. photo filters
    • Free resources: Freepik, Librestock
  • Iconography
    • Which (if any) icon sets are being used
    • Icon style e.g. line icons, flat icons
    • Colours
    • Free resources: Font Awesome
  • Spacing
    • Margins
    • Padding
Google Fonts are free to use.

Installing WordPress

It’s now time to start building your website. You might already have your hosting and it is possible to develop your site in that environment, but it is generally quicker and easier to develop locally on your computer. To do this you will need to set up a local development environment. There are numerous options out there such as XAMPP and Vagrant. You can read a guide on how to setup DesktopServer here or you can find out more about setting up the ultimate WordPress development environment.

Once you have your development environment setup, you can install WordPress. This is a simple process. You can download the latest version of WordPress here. Unzip these files into the root directory of your locally hosted domain. Open your database management tool, e.g. phpMyAdmin, and create a new database for your WordPress installation. You can find detailed guidelines for installing WordPress here.

Once all of that is done, you can visit your virtual host domain name and go through the regular WordPress installation process. Once this is complete, your WordPress site is setup and ready for you to start building the theme for your site.

Installing WordPress Plugins

There are several plugins we want to use on our website. These will help us with tasks such as optimizing our site for search, improving performance, and boosting security.

The plugins you will want to install are:

For additional essential plugins you can install on your site, see this tutorial.

Building Your Site

Now you get to put all your research and preparation into action. A simple way to build your new site is with a drag and drop page builder like Divi, Elementor, or Beaver Builder. You can create a lot of great layouts with these solutions, so if you want to save time on building, give them a shot.

You can also check out our course, WordPress Development for Beginners, if you want to start learning WordPress. This course will teach you about PHP, building themes, widgets and menus, and building plugins and it’s the best place to start if you’re looking to create something custom.

And when you’re done with that, check out the intermediate and advanced development courses too.

wordpress development for beginnners home page
Academy courses are part of your WPMU DEV membership

Tracking Users with Analytics

Before finally launching your website, you’ll want to track where your visitors are coming from and how they are engaging with the site. This will allow you to optimize your website over time by identifying pages that don’t perform well, marketing channels that you should invest further in and more.

Although there are paid analytics platforms out there, you should be able to get all of the functionality you need with Google Analytics. This platform is free and provides extensive data. There is a paid version, but unless you are an enterprise-level business you won’t need this.

Installing Google Analytics is easy. You just need to get your tracking ID and add it to your Google Analytics + plugin under Settings > Google Analytics within your WordPress admin. You can get help finding your tracking code here.

Quick tip: Create a filter for your home and work IP address so your analytics does not report your visits. Even better, if you use Chrome you can block yourself from Google Analytics using the Block Yourself from Analytics Chrome extension.

Launching Your WordPress Website

Note: if you happen to have a site already and you are just updating it, please make a backup of not only your existing theme files but also your existing database in case anything goes wrong.

Your website is now ready to launch! If you choose to develop your website locally, you will need to transfer your final theme files and database to your online web hosting. You can do this in a number of ways, either using plugins or manually.

If you want to use a plugin to migrate your website from its development environment to your live hosting, then consider trying Duplicator, an excellent free plugin, or Snapshot Pro, our solution for backing up and restoring your website. We also provide 10GB managed backups for all members.

If you prefer the manual approach, then what you will need to do is export your local database and import it into your live hosting database. This is simple to do using phpMyAdmin by navigating to your database, clicking on Export and then clicking Go.

With this exported database file, you’ll want to open a text editor and change any references to your development domain name you were using locally and replace it with your live domain name, e.g. replace mybusiness.dev with mybusiness.com. Make sure you have created a database within your hosting and then you want to import this file into your database via phpMyAdmin.

Next, you will need to transfer your website’s files from your local development environment to your hosting. To do this you’ll need to download an FTP file management tool, such as FileZilla (it’s free). You’ll need to set up FTP access via your hosting. With your FTP login details, you’ll be able to connect to your hosting and upload all of your WordPress site’s files. Make sure that your wp-config.php file has the correct details for the database you’re using for your live site.

Note: For security purposes, we recommend using SFTP instead of FTP.

You should now navigate to the homepage of your production site and you should see your new website. You should now review all your pages and content to ensure it has migrated across correctly.

The last step is to sign up for Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools and submit your XML sitemaps to them. This will ensure that search engines will crawl and index your site quickly. If you’re using SmartCrawl, then you can access your XML sitemap like so mybusiness.com/sitemap.xml

Wrapping Up

Building your own website is really quite straightforward, it’s just that there are a lot of different parts to consider. Of course, it’s great to hire professionals, but if you’re on a tight budget then why not give building your website a go yourself?

Do you have any questions or tips for building your own website for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

Aileen Javier

Aileen Javier A past writer for WPMU DEV