Create a website from scratch, no technical experience required. Use your website for blogging, making money, freelancing, writing, authoring, side hustling, podcasting and so much more.
Setup is exactly the same for a website or blog.
What you’ll have by the end of this page
- A self-hosted WordPress site, the best all-around choice
- The streamlined settings I recommend as a 18-year veteran
- A customizable theme
- A domain email address ([email protected])
- Important tracking codes installed (like Google Analytics)
Who shouldn’t use this page?
If you sell physical products, start on Shopify. If you sell handmade goods, start on Etsy. Then follow the other pages in this guide, starting with #2.
How much will this cost?
This guide is free. You only pay for services necessary to get your website online. Your total today depends on how far in advance you pay, but $100 – $200 will cover your costs for at least a year. Not bad for your own website, right?
Before you start, do this
- Use Google Chrome as your web browser.
- Keep all tabs open as we go. We will jump around.
- Identify a place to record login info for each service, like a digital note or a simple piece of paper. And save your email receipts.
- For efficiency, print this page (or load it on your phone) while you work on your computer. It works like a checklist.
Ready? Let’s get started!
1. Set up your website
- Go to Bluehost.
- Click Host Your Site.
- Select the Choice Plus plan.
- Enter the domain name (web address) you want to use for your site. Use .com. Examples: yourdomain.com or websitehowto.com. Click Next. (Domain taken? Scroll down that Bluehost page to try another. Or choose one later.)
- Enter your account information.
- Under Package Information, choose an account plan based on how far in advance you want to pay. (There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee so zero risk.)
- Uncheck the package extras.
- Enter your payment information, agree to the terms and submit your payment.
- Create your account, choose a password and log in to Bluehost. (Jot down your Bluehost login information.)
- Answer (or skip) the questions about your site, but add a blog when asked, even if you don’t plan to blog.
- Don’t choose a theme yet. Click the skip link at the bottom of the page.
- You’ll see “Nice work!” This is your Bluehost Dashboard. Keep this tab open.
- Click the WordPress button. You’ll be taken to your WordPress Dashboard in a new tab. Keep this tab open too.
2. Set your WordPress settings
These are the settings I use for new WordPress sites. Looks intimidating but will only take a few minutes!
- In the left column of your WordPress Dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks. Select Post Name. Scroll down > Save Changes.
- Go to Settings > General. Choose your timezone from the dropdown menu. Scroll down > Save Changes.
- Go to Settings > Reading. Next to “Your homepage displays” select “A static page.” From the Homepage dropdown select Sample Page. From the Posts page dropdown select Blog. Scroll down > Save Changes.
- Go to Users > Profile. In the Nickname field, enter your first name. Next to “Display name publicly as” choose your new nickname. Scroll down. Click Update Profile.
- Go to Settings > Discussion. Next to “Default post settings” uncheck “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the post.” Also uncheck “Allow link notifications from other blogs.”
- Stay in Settings > Discussion. Do you want comments open on your posts? If not, uncheck “Allow people to submit comments on new posts.” Scroll down > Save Changes. (I prefer no comments. You can always turn them on later.)
- Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Select all the plugins in the list. From the “Bulk actions” dropdown menu choose Deactivate. Hit Apply.
- Stay in Plugins > Installed Plugins. Select all the plugins in the list again. This time, from the “Bulk actions” dropdown menu choose Delete. Hit Apply. Confirm.
- Go to Plugins > Add New. In the “Search plugins…” bar, enter “Insert Headers and Footers” (no quotes). Look for the one by WPBeginner. Click Install Now. Click Activate.
- Go to Appearance > Themes. Hover over any inactive theme. Click Theme Details. Click Delete in the bottom right corner. Confirm. Repeat for all inactive themes.
- Stay in Appearance > Themes. Click “Add New.” Search for Kadence. Hover over it, click Install. Click Activate.
Can I customize my design?
Yes. Endlessly. Watch this video to start. For even more options, upgrade to Kadence Premium.
3. Secure your WordPress site
A secure web address begins with https. An unsecure one begins with http. A secure website gives visitors peace of mind. It also keeps your site on Google’s good side.
- Open a new tab in your browser. In the browser address bar, type in your domain. (Ignore the look of your site for now.)
- Look at the address bar again. Is your domain still there? If so, continue. If it forwarded to an unfamiliar (temporary) domain, wait another 2-12 hours and start at this spot again (Step 3).
- Go to your Bluehost Dashboard in a different tab. Click My Sites > Manage Site.
- Click the Security tab. Under Security Certificate, make sure the Free SSL toggle is ON. Your URL will start with https.
- Go back to your WordPress Dashboard tab. Click Settings > General.
- Enter your secure URL (https://mydomain.com) in the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields. Scroll down > Save Changes.
4. Get a domain email address
A domain email address is [email protected] It’s more professional, plus it’s essential when you set up your email list.
- Back in your Bluehost Dashboard, go to Email & Office.
- Click “Go to Google Workspace” (formerly G Suite).
- Select the number of users who will need an email address associated with your new site (1 if it’s just you). Make sure your domain shows in the dropdown menu.
- Choose whether you want to pay monthly or yearly. (Psst…a discount often shows up on the next page.)
- Click Add to cart and process your order.
- Enter your desired email address. Use your first name or something simple ([email protected]). This is your domain email address. Use it for everything going forward.
- Complete your contact information and click Create.
- Log in to your Workspace account to get to your Admin Console.
- Follow the prompts to access your Gmail account within Workspace. Leave this tab open.
Does Workspace have support?
Yes. If you have any trouble, contact Workspace support.
5. Install Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager organizes the tracking codes and tags necessary to measure your site’s success, like a filing cabinet organizes important documents.
- In a new browser tab, sign up for Google Tag Manger using your new domain email address. In another browser tab, watch this video from minute 4:54 to minute 7:00 for a walkthrough.
- Copy the 1st part of your 2-part code in Google Tag Manager. (See minute 6:57.)
- Go to your WordPress Dashboard. Click Settings > Insert Headers and Footers.
- Paste the 1st part of your Google Tag Manager code in the “Scripts in Header” box. Save.
- Go back to Google Tag Manager. Copy the 2nd part of code.
- Go back to your WordPress Dashboard. Paste the 2nd part in the “Scripts in Body” box. Save. Keep this tab open.
- In a new tab, go to the Tag Assistant Chrome extension. Click Install. (You must be using Chrome.)
- Go back to the video. Resume watching from minute 10:33 to 13:00. Follow Jason’s instructions to make sure Google Tag Manger is installed properly.
6. Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics measures traffic, how many visitors you get and where they come from. So important and helpful!
- Open a new browser tab. Go to Google Analytics. Sign in with your domain email address.
- Add your general business / organization name as Account Name.
- Select Web.
- Create a Property. Enter your website name and secure URL (https://mydomain.com).
- Choose a category that makes sense and set your timezone.
- Click Create.
- Click Admin (gear icon) in the bottom left.
- Copy your Google Analytics tag. It will start with “G-XXXXXXXXXX“.
- Go back to the tab with Google Tag Manger. Click New Tag. Name your tag Google Analytics 4.
- Click Tag Configuration. Choose “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration.”
- Paste in the tag you copied above (G-XXXXXXXXXX).
- Hit Triggering > Select All Pages > Save.
- Open a new tab. Watch this video from 16:07 to 18:30 to make sure it’s installed correctly.
7. Set up Google Search Console
Google Search Console tells you how much Google likes your site. Also important and helpful!
- In a new browser tab, go to Google Search Console. Log in using your domain email address.
- Click on the dropdown menu in the top left corner and select Add Property.
- Under Domain, enter your domain (mydomain.com) not your URL (https://mydomain.com). Continue.
- Do you see a green checkmark indicating it’s verified? If so, skip the rest of this step. If not, copy the TXT record in the popup and keep this tab open.
- Go to your Bluehost account. Go to Domains > Manage > DNS.
- Scroll down to the TXT section. Click Add Record.
- In the Host Record field, enter @.
- In the TXT Value field, paste what you copied above.
- In the TTL field, leave it at 4 Hours.
- Save. It may take some time to process so try back in 30 minutes before proceeding.
- Go back to Google Search Console. Click Verify > Done.
Next step? Good job setting up your website! Now it’s time to start an email list.
How do I choose a domain name?
- Go with .com. Otherwise you’ll have to explain. And you might lose traffic to the person who has your domain with the .com.
- The shorter the better.
- Easy to say and spell.
- No hyphens.
- Niche down in topic, but not in your domain name, so you can expand later.
- Make sure it’s not trademarked. If you’re in the US, search here.
- Make sure the name is available on social media sites. Search Namechk.
- Don’t overthink it. Pick your best option and go!
What is domain privacy and why do I need it?
Domain privacy keeps your personal contact information hidden from the public in the WhoIs database which is accessible to everyone. If you selected the Choice Plus plan, domain privacy is included. If you selected a different plan, contact Bluehost to add domain privacy.
How do I choose a domain later in Bluehost?
In your Bluehost dashboard, go to Domains > Register. Enter your desired domain and follow the prompts to check out. (I recommend automatically renewing and adding domain privacy.) Then, contact Bluehost. Ask them to replace your temporary domain with your permanent one. Done! It may take a few hours to take effect.
What is a permalink?
A permalink, or permanent link, is the unique URL — web address — for any webpage on the internet. Permalinks make it easy to find and link to specific & individual webpages. A permalink is made up of a few parts. For example, for this page:
- Permalink (URL) = https://websitehowto.com/make-a-website/
- Domain = websitehowto.com
- Slug = make-a-website
Should I trademark my name?
Maybe. I can’t give legal advice but I can tell you what I did. The only trademark I have is The Useletter®. I worked with Gerben Law.
How do you deal with warnings and errors?
Don’t panic. Don’t start madly pushing buttons. Undo the last thing you did (Control-Z). See if it’s just you. Take a screenshot or copy the error. Save it. Google it, share it with support or give it to someone you hire for help.