How to Set up Your WordPress Author Website in Less Than 20 Minutes
If you’ve chosen to use WordPress for your website, this post will detail how to choose a hosting company, get a domain and set up it all up in under 20 minutes.
Warning, this is a very long and quite detailed post about the process. Skim first but the real value is in the details so I suggest to get a coffee cup for that!
If you are ready to get your author website up, the technical part of setting WordPress is quite easy and fast these days. This post will show you how while helping you pick a hosting company and also giving few tips on choosing a domain name.
So lets dive in!
Picking the right hosting company can be tricky!
There are so many hosting companies that look very similar in terms of features and pricing. Many have very low initial prices to get your attention BUT then spike up the price once you need to renew the contract.
There are also plenty of ‘web hosting review’ sites but they are often written by someone who just wants to make commissions from recommending a hosting company they may not even have tried or they don’t know what authors actually need. Thus you can’t always trust reviews online either… which is annoying and I’ll share resources I trust for picking hosting company and some things to be mindful of.
How does the website setup process looks?
The process is quite simple and consists of 5 phases:
1. Pick a Hosting company
2. Pick your domain name
3. Purchase them
4. Install WordPress on your server
5. Install Plugins and Theme
That’s the outline of it. You’re then set up and ready to start designing your site ( which will be a separate article I’m working on) and fill it up with content. This set up part is usually done in under 20 minutes but can depend on how long you’ll be thinking about domain name etc.
NOTE: You don’t have to buy the recommended hosting. No expectations. Just follow general tips on choosing one if you don’t like my suggestion. If you do use one of these and use my affiliate link that’d be great, but choose whichever company you prefer. I’m hoping that the info will be very helpful to you on it’s own otherwise! 😉
Step 1: Choosing Your Website Host
So how to pick a host?
Companies have similar offers, all full of technology jargon that promises best results like ”we’re the fastest”, ” we have the lowest prices”, ”we offer unlimited resources” etc… Sadly, most of them are hype which comes with an asterisk that then mentions ‘terms and conditions apply’. Be aware that there are things that will not be spelled out and hidden.
First, you need to know what to look for in a host. Best start for authors is so called Shared Hosting (means many people have websites in the server, thus share resources). This allows for lowest hosting costs and cheap start. Hosting prices will rise later on but by then you will know if it’s worth continuing or not.
The main things to look in Shared Hosting would be customer support, pricing, domain name, server resources, website loading speed and server uptime. A little more about each:
Customer Support – truth is… all website hosts mess up. Because all technology gets a glitch every once in a while, servers go down. That’s unavoidable. So the main thing is to minimize those and provide as good support for those instances as possible. The more options of support are provided by hosting company the better (emails, support tickets, and live chats). And at least one channel should be 24/7 (or few channels cover it).
Pricing – I wouldn’t say this is THE #1 thing but it’s one of the most important things for sure. The price range to look at is $3-9 dollars a month. Higher prices are not worth it for your first author website and are for more highly visited websites (over 1000 visits a day). Anything under $3 is suspicious because the price is too low and they must be cramming too many websites into a server to save on costs.
There is one annoying and shitty trick that 99% of the companies do with pricing though – it’s the cheap price given for your first order and then a price hike that comes as you need to renew for next term. Sadly, all of them do it. I knew one that didn’t but even they recently changed their prices to this.
Domain name – a free domain for a year included with your hosting is a standard practice. So this must be included and don’t even look at the host if they don’t. Often then the domain renewal price will be around $10-13 bucks a year.
Server Resources – this mainly includes how much space and traffic (also called Bandwidth) is included and how many websites can you host in the plan. If they say both are ‘Unlimited’ then that’s a sign that there are silent ‘terms and conditions’ that apply for other resources which are limited. Your site might get taken down or suspended for exceeding some limit (but warnings should be sent before). So kind of avoid these. It’s better to see some kind of real number of space given (5-20 Gigabytes) and ‘Unmetered’ traffic (not ‘Unlimited’). Unmetered means they aren’t really limiting the monthly visits your site can get but it’s also not unlimited (because that doesn’t exist, internet cables do have a limit for data transfer, they are just so huge that one author website would never exceed it). But even with Umetered traffic, there are ‘fair use’ limits which hosting companies have to make sure that server doesn’ get overloaded by one site traffic and others don’t get hurt by it (it’s a fair thing, after all, one site shouldn’t be getting all the resources). The limits are usually good and enough for small websites like author websites (no ecommerce with thousands of products).
Now, what other resources are limited and have those terms and conditions? These apply to things just like your computer has – servers have a limited amount of space in hard drive, limited memory (RAM) and limited processing power (CPU power). Thus the limits that companies set. The hosts that offer unlimited resources are cramming a huge number of websites into the server, which slows it down and overloads it for all. That’s why it’s better to see that hosting plan has a limited number of websites you’re allowed to have. As you’ll notice, companies do not publicly feature these limits in their pricing plans.
Website Space: Look for companies that provide SSD hard drives. These are same memory hard drives your computer has in principle, and they really impact how fast servers work. If they have HDD drives and not SSD written, know that it’s slower hosting and it’s not ideal. So try to stick with SSD drive hostings.
Website Loading Speed – even though we live in times where internet is very fast in general, there are still slower mobile internet users and how long it takes for your website to load is a crucial thing. The faster the better. Thus one of the most important tests for your site is loading speed test. Google actually really made it important by stating that they will use it as a factor in how they rank websites for search results (so speed helps website SEO). I’d go as far as to say that if your hosting has everything but speed is super slow, you have to move to a different company. No need to panic if the website loads up in less than 3 seconds. But speedy site goal is 1-2 seconds. If site takes over 5 seconds. Consider a move or fix up your site by optimizing it.
Server Uptime – this is a measurement of how reliable your companies servers are as it counts how much time they are connected to the internet. If the server is down, your website is down. So the goal here is to have a host that does over 99.95 percent uptimes. 100% is almost impossible. So 99.99% is best.
Secondary features to look at: free SSL, free CDN, Email inboxes, server location in your country (pick the one where most of your readers live in), daily or weekly backups, free website migration (if needed). If all these are available, then the hosting plan is good.
AWG’s Hosting Company Recommedations
So what would be a good hosting company for authors? I’ve wracked my head and went back and forth multiple times trying to choose one recommendation and it’s really hard. But after lots of digging, I will recommend two options, one for best start and one premium option which is more useful for those who want to upgrade as their website has grown.
Best value for money – Siteground.com
If you want a fast hosting that doesn’t have super high price but they aren’t only recommended by fake review sites, that seems to be Siteground these days. They have all the features and resources I mentioned above and are faster than most cheap hosting companies. They have also been around a bit longer and have over 2 million domains hosted!
People love their customer support, it’s fast and helpful.
Their prices after renewal do hike up and are not cheap. But by then you will know if you should keep your site live and with them.
Siteground has also been growing rapidly last few years and has very positive reviews online and great reviews from technology tester blogs (not fake affiliate review sites alone). They also innovate and improve their services and behind-the-scenes stuff often. Looks like they aren’t just sitting on their laurels and try to sign up as many customers.
A big selling point for me was that their blog is also really active and transparent – they feature best customer rep every month for example, it’s good to see real faces behind the company (I don’t like when companies have that 3rd person ‘perfect robot’ speak and have no real people from their team shown. It’s lame in 2019.
Here is a good website for reviews of Siteground – https://hostadvice.com/hosting-company/siteground-reviews/ and https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.siteground.com
More Premium Hosting – WPXHosting.com
This is a host I moved my most important website (my book cover designer services website) after good 6 years of cheap hosting.
They cost $25/month as their cheapest plan, so they aren’t a great option for a new author website. A more established website with active blog and thousands of visitors every month would benefit from this host. I moved my most important website to them because I needed website speed improvement for my huge website (few thousands of book cover images posted there) and it did it’s job.
Their support is great, managing their hosting is easy and simple. And I was completely blown away by how they migrated my big website (over 3GB in size) for free in less than a day. Along with my email inboxes. Those two were scary and crucial things for me because my livelyhood depends on the website and email working 24/7. So migrating site from one host to another was making me sweat!
Some of known indie publishing world experts use them for hosting too, like Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur.com.
I would not tho, suggest using this hosting for your first website! Too early. I’d recommend ‘graduating’ there.
For more reviews of them go to https://www.trustpilot.com/review/wpxhosting.co
Now if you go around the industry blogs and look around for recommended hosting, other hosts that are often recommended for authors are Bluehost or HostGator.
Both come from older days in early 2000’s when they were the ones with biggest paying affiliate programs so some sites promoted them, made a lot of money, which inspired others who needed to make recommendations to start promoting them too… thus you will see Bluehost as the most popular recommendation online. I wouldn’t go claiming that they are bad, but I’m not sure I’d put them in the 3rd place either. Some time in 2000’s they were bought out by a big hosting conglomerate company that is notorious for cutting costs and killing quality of hosts they buy. Therefore, I personally, avoid recommending them.
In the end, the final decision is up to you. I hope this was an informative section. Buying and setting up hosting is not hard and won’t take longer than 20 minutes from here once you pick. To do some further research, feel free to look at HostAdvice.com as it seems the least bias website and has tons of reviews of each hosting company.
Step 2: Choosing Your Domain Name
Now for your domain name, try to get your full name or the pen name along with .com as the domain extension (so johndoe.com etc).
Some other general tips and guidelines:
1. The shorter the domain, the better as it’s easier to remember
2. No dashes. Avoid dashes and other symbols that aren’t letters as much as possible. The more people need to think how to spell the domain the more of them won’t visit or remember/share the website.
3. Think about branding too, if you’re not gonna use your name for it then come up with a nice, short(ish), snappy domain. ‘The Creative Penn’ or ‘CreativIndie’ are nice names (altho the latter is not easy to spell).
4. For inspiration, you can use domain name generators which not only suggest the domain name according to your input but also check for availability of them. I’ve used https://www.namemesh.com/ on multiple occasions. Few more are http://wordoid.com/ and https://www.shopify.com/tools/domain-name-generator.
5. Do check if domain idea is not already used in some form, do a search on Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see what comes up for it. If someone is already using it (substantially) you might have to move on. But if it’s a dead social media profile than it might still be ok to use domain.
6. Sometimes the name domains are taken so others add word like ‘author’, ‘writer’, ‘writing’, ‘writes’ (like kriswrites.com etc)
7. There are all kind of new domain extensions like .blog, .design, .pro, .fm etc They are more expensive and little adopted yet. I’d avoid them unless it really really matches the domain idea and creates a super memorable name. Otherwise, .com is still the best.
Once you’ve settled on the domain name, it’s time to buy the hosting plan with it and then create social media profiles (which you will be using in future).
Step 3: Purchase (OUT OF DATE)
EDIT: Currently working on new step-by-step process to purchase hosting with Siteground. I’ve changed the recommendation from previous and these instructions below are no longer relevant!
Purchasing a hosting plan is quite easy and simple, pretty much the same in all hosting companies. Pick a domain name, pick a plan, enter your payment info and after payment, you’ll receive an email with log in details to your account. Here is a purchase process for Fastcomet:
1. Go to Fastcomet.com and in their navigation menu click on ‘All Services’. Click on ‘WordPress Hosting’ as that’s the hosting optimized for installing and running WordPress websites.
2. Then pick a plan you will want to use and click ‘Get Started’ button.
3. Enter the domain you want to buy. Or if you already have one bought somewhere else you can transfer the management of it to FastComet(but you won’t get a free domain for life from them then). Click ‘Use This Domain’ to move forward.
4. Once a domain is picked you will need to enter your billing information. I don’t suggest paying for any addons that are available there. No need for them really. Crucial thing – pick the right server location! That will depend on where will most of your readers are. If they are Americans, choose a server located in the US. That makes website loading speed faster for them. As you see in the screenshot the default setting for it will be picked closest to you but that may or may not be right for your readers.
5. Pick your term for however long you want to be hosting and the price of hosting will depend on that. Their $2.95 a month price is for 3 years. You can pick an option to pay with Credit Card or Paypal, do whatever is most convenient. 45-day money back guarantee is given too, so that’s better than average 30 days others give. From there you will receive an email with your account and log in details.
Note: If you want to test drive how their control panel works, you can do a 14-day free trial and see how things are, it’s available- https://www.fastcomet.com/wordpress-demo.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Next you’ll need to install WordPress in your hosting you just bought. You’ll get log in details to your email and will need to log in like this (I’ve blurred out my details)
Next you will see your main control panel for all hosting related services – you can place new orders, create support tickets, see how much resources your website uses etc All done from one convenient place.
This is where you can also install WordPress in your server. To do that, you need to scroll down to your Product section and on the right side, click ‘App Installer’ icon (marked red in the screenshot).
That opens a new window with Softaculous software that will allow for easy WordPress installation. It usually is the first app on the screen, but if not, just search for WordPress on the left side in the search bar.
In the new page enter your details for WordPress, like your log in name and password you want. I don’t recommend leaving ‘admin’ as a default log in name tho! Too common and unsafe. Come up with your own. Here is a preview of that setup page:
After all info is in, just click ‘Install’ and it will automatically install WordPress on your server and send an email to confirm. Do make sure you keep your log in details written down somewhere too. For future references. And that’s it. Your basic site is installed and you will get a log in to it to your email. From there you will not be using this control panel much, unless you want to take a look at your server resource use often. All website stuff will happen in the newly installed WordPress now.
Next phase is preparing your WordPress site for designing and installing the plugins that will make maintaining it, securing it, and marketing it simplier. Now you’ll need to log in to your WordPress from that installation sent. It has your log in address (Admin URL in the screenshot below) that you should bookmark for future use.
Step 5: Install Plugins and Theme
Now you’ll need to log in to your WordPress from that installation email sent. It will open an log in window where you need to enter your login name and password.
And then you’ll get into the backend of your site, your WordPress Dashboard which will control everything on your site. You are seeing an example below that is this site’s dashboard so it’s not 100% the same as new isntallation (it has more things, like Elementor designing plugin already installed and you can see it straight away). You see the main menu on the left, you can go and create Posts, Pages, moderate comments, add media (pictures, video etc) and other stuff.
First, lets get the plugins. I’ll name the main free plugins to use on your author website and few paid ones as options. As always, pick whichever you think is best for your site.
On the left side menu go to the ‘Plugins’ section and click on it.
In the new page opened, you will see the plugins that are already installed and can enable or disable them etc. To install a new plugin you need to click ‘Add New’ button that is in the top left corner.
Now you will see some suggested plugins and towards the right corner you can find the search bar. You can enter keywords like ‘security’, ‘SEO’, ‘contact form’ etc and that will open a list of available plugins for that. You can pick some of their Popular or Recommended plugins too. I really recommend installing Elementor plugin which is what will make designing your website easier.
In the search bar, enter ‘Elementor’ and press Enter. As you type you’ll see the search results pop up and pick the ‘Elementor Page Builder’ plugin. Press the button next to it that says ‘Install Now’ (in my screenshot it’s already installed so it says ‘Active’ instead, that’s how you know you have a plugin already). From there the page will refresh and installation will start. It will take few seconds and then the plugin will be installed.
You can go back to Plugins page and install other plugins with the same basic process. Don’t forget to click active the plugins you install. It’s just clicking the ‘Activate’ word next to each.
Plugins to install:
Elementor – for designing on any theme and making it easier. You can use the free version alone but a Pro version adds more design features.
WordFence Security – a plugin that will keep your website safe. I’t’s free and you don’t need to upgrade to Pro version (which has premium features and is even safer).
Contact Form 7 – a plugin that allows you to easily create a contact form for your Contact page. You just need to enter your email address you want to use in it’s setting and then copy/paste the shortcode to the page you created for ‘Contact page’.
Social Warfare – a plugin that adds social media sharing icons on your site. You can see it in action on this website, at the bottom of each page. Pro version is available but not neccessary.
Yoast SEO – a plugin that simplifies optimizing your website for SEO and ranking better on Google for your relevant keywords. Again, has a Premium version but free one is perfect too.
Limit Login Attempts – as the name says, it limits the amount of attempts one can make in a certain time frame. It’s a security plugin that bans a person or computer for trying to log in too many times quickly. Automated viruses and do that, they will automatically try to different versions of password and login name to break into your site. This plugin helps prevent that. It might ban you if you forget your password too many times but you can restore it as an administrator of your site.
Google Analytics – if you want to see the visiting stats for your website, install Google Analytics (which you need to create an account for and then authenticate with the plugin) or you can install other kind of analytics plugin (just search for ‘analytics’ in the plugin directory). Slimstat Analytics is an option.
Installing a Theme
Next comes the choosing of a ‘theme’ to use for your WordPress. Think of it as a ‘skin’ that you have for WordPress and it goes ‘over’ it. Themes can be changed as there are thousands of them, but you do lose the previous look and work invested so some more design work is needed then with a new theme chosen. Plenty of free themes are available too. Each theme has it’s own design settings and structure and that sets the tone on how your website looks.
I recommend using OceanWP theme. It’s free, modern and fast to load (if you don’t add ton of images, no theme will be fast then). There is a premium version of it available but with Elementor plugin it’s not needed. Better buy the Pro version of Elementor than OceanWP.
To install it go ‘Appearance’ tab on the left side menu. You can click on it or on the ‘Themes’ tab as you hover over ‘Appearance’ word. There are other tabs as you see which do other functions that allow you to edit what pages appear in your Menu on the site, or Customize tab that allows to edit general design settings for a theme (will be used later).
Then a new page will open and just like with plugins, you will see what Themes are already installed and used. Mine is already using OceanWP so that’s what you see used, yours will be different. WordPress has free basic theme that the default one but I’ve removed it after installing OceanWP.
Just like previously with plugins, need to click ‘Add New’ button up top and then a directory of themes shows up. Then just enter ‘OceanWP’ in the search field and it will show up.
From there you just have to click ‘Install Now’ button when hovering over the theme preview.
And that’s it. Your website is ready for the designing and entering content (text for About page etc). You now have all the needed fundamentals for a successful author website. Designing part is left for another article or you can hire an designer to do the work for you and they’d customize the theme to look how youw want. I will be updating the post as needed with new plugins or hosting recommendations if something changes. I work with author clients and monitor things so I try to keep my ear to the ground, so to say. Have fun with your website!
If you found this article helpful, please share with your author friend who needs a website!