How to start a website in 20 minutes
Starting a website is one of the best kept secrets for making money and passive income. Let's get you set up with your own WordPress blog today! Disclosure: this post contains affiliate linksI've been a website developer for more than 14 years, so I've learnt the easiest methods to get started as well as sourcing the best prices available.
Click here to open the setup page in a new window, then follow my quick and easy steps for total beginners.
You will have a live website and your own (free) domain name within 20 minutes, for less than the cost of a coffee a month.
5 reasons to start a website
- Worth it just for your CV and a professional email
- Generate passive income (make money in your sleep – keep reading)
- Gives you freedom to work from anywhere
- It's ridiculously easy and affordable (and fun)
- So my grandma doesn't show you up… here's what you're up against:
4 steps to start a WordPress website
WordPress is a free Content Management System (CMS) that allows anyone to make, design, write and manage their own website. The platform powers 25% of all websites (including CNN, NASA and this site!) and is totally beginner friendly.
WordPress needs to be installed on a web host. We'll be using Bluehost who have a 1-click install and also handle many other parts of starting and running a website for you. Their process is easy and costs next-to-nothing.
Choose and register a domain name
A domain name is what people type into their browser to view your website. savethestudent.org is a domain name. It's also used for email, such as [email protected]
There's a wide range of domain name extensions available, including .com, .org, .net, .info. .com is considered the best, but also the most popular so your preferred .com name may be registered already.
Registration typically costs £10 ($13) a year, but you can get yours free only with this link:
a. Click here to lock in the free domain name offer
b. Click “Get Started Now” and select the “Basic” plan for now
c. Type in your preferred domain name to check availability.
If your domain name is available, you'll see the “Create your account” page. Congrats! Continue to Step 2.
If it's not available, you'll be told to try another variation. Consider changing a word (wordhippo.com is handy), using hyphens (-), adding a number or pick a different extension (such as .info).
Setup website hosting
Every website needs to be hosted. A web host is just a home for your site and its content (like a remote computer). The host then ‘serves' the website to visitors when they type in your domain name. It sounds much more technical than it is! In a few clicks you'll be set up and ready to start posting for the world to see.
There are hundreds of web hosts out there, but Bluehost is by far the best choice for beginners.
Why Bluehost? 6 main reasons:
1. Affordable (from $2.95pm)
2. Reliable (99.9% uptime)
3. Free domain name, email addresses & 1-click WordPress install
4. Brilliant support and training guides
5. 30 day full refund policy
6. Officially recommended by WordPress
Once you've found a domain name, simply continue to create your Bluehost account.
The “Basic” package is more than enough for most websites, and you can uncheck the other paid options for now if you don't want them. You don't need to enter a VAT number if you don't have one.
To secure the super-low monthly price, you need to pay for at least one year ($71.28) but it's cheapest ($2.95pm) for three years ($127.44). It's ridiculously cheap for what you get.
There's no contract and Bluehost have a no-hassle 30 day full refund policy. Even if you want to cancel after that, you can get a refund for what you won't use!
Make the upfront payment using your normal card details or PayPal (click “more payment options”). Again, it'll be in USD but you don't need an American bank.
Installing WordPress on Bluehost
Technically your online presence is secured at this stage, but if anyone goes over to your site, there won't be much to see! That won't be for long though… you're about to install WordPress which allows you to easily manage your whole site, including content and design, without any technical background or coding experience.
WordPress is used by 80 million websites, including this website 🙂 It was first designed for blogs but even online stores and major news sites like CNN and MTV use it today.
UPDATE: Bluehost now install WordPress for you automatically when signing up, so you can skip this step and choose your theme design right away!
Login to your Bluehost account, and from the Control Panel click “Install WordPress”.
Congratulations – your site is live to the world! Exciting, isn't it? 😀
Choose your WordPress theme
If you go to view your site now, it'll look very basic and empty. So go ahead and change the theme of your new site.
Just go to your WordPress Admin panel, click on “Appearance” > “Themes” and browse hundreds of free themes.
When you find one you like, click “Preview” or “Install” to apply the theme with just a click!
As you'd expect, WordPress also makes it incredibly easy to start writing content that looks great. Clicking on “Posts” > “Add New” will open up the editor window, which looks similar to your typical word processor.
Once you have a couple of articles published on your website's topic, there are endless opportunities to start growing your audience and even make some money!
5 ways to get free traffic today!
Aside from publishing high quality content, the most important thing is to get visitors (traffic) to your website. How do you get visitors to your website? Here are some practical ideas to get you off the mark right away!
Post on Twitter using hashtags
Twitter is an awesome marketing tool for website owners. One of the best ways to get your content noticed is to use hashtags relevant to your audience.
A handy free tool like Hashtagify allows you to search for hashtags you’re considering using and view popular related hashtags.
From these results, you can find well-known hashtags to add to your tweets – just be careful not to use too many tags. Two to three are best to avoid looking spammy!
If you don’t have time to spend on Twitter, consider using a scheduling app like Hootsuite to plan your social media content for the week ahead.
Share links on Facebook groups
There is likely to be at least one active Facebook group related to your topic (use the search field on Facebook). And because they are already focused on a niche, they are a powerful way to build a loyal audience and traffic quickly!
Many groups offer ways to share your content with others, for example, posting links on particular days. If you’re sharing your content, it’s important to be authentic by creating conversation with other members and never just spamming.
Feel free to share your website on my Starting a Website Facebook group.
I also recommend starting your own Facebook group to complement your website. It means you have full control over it, and you'll soon attract new members searching for the topics you cover!
Join Pinterest groups
Pinterest is one of the most underrated methods of growing your blog traffic. Engaging with other users is guaranteed to boost your website hits, providing you use the right strategy.
A Pinterest group board is one with several contributors and it normally has a small two-person icon in bottom right hand corner. Group boards tend to have more followers than regular boards, meaning more people will re-pin your content and visit your site.
To find groups boards in your niche, take a look at PinGroupie. This free tool reveals how many subscribers and re-pins a board has. If you want to join a group board, you’ll usually need to email the Pinterest account holder to get an invite to pin on that board.
Share posts on StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is more of a social bookmarking site than social media.
It’s a site where users can share their web pages and readers can decide whether to interact with the content shown.
StumbleUpon has over 25 million users but if you want readers to stay on your site and visit other pages, you need to ensure your site is well optimised with engaging article headlines, clear photographs and easy to read quality content.
Comment on well-known blogs in your niche
While commenting on popular blogs in your niche may seem like an exhausting exercise, it’s still one of the most effective methods for getting traffic to your site.
Instead of spamming other blogs with your website URL, craft thoughtful comments related to the blog content and leave your site link as a by-line – this is a genuine way of attracting new readers to your website.
Set up Google Alerts for related phrases to be emailed to you when blogs post on a topic you can comment on!
BONUS: Facebook Ads
Ok I said 5, but this one isn't free so let's just call it a bonus 😉
Despite it being a form of paid traffic, Facebook Ads is insanely effective at building you an audience in literally no time. When you create an advert on Facebook, you're able to hone in to reach a very, very specific demographic.
For example, at Save the Student we could target ads towards Facebook users who are at university, live in Manchester, are interested in doughnuts and are single.
You can start with as little as $10, but I appreciate most new bloggers aren't in a position to spend right away (unless you're already monetising your site), so this is just something to keep in mind!
Generally building social media pages and links to your new site should be your main focus. Not only do they directly send new visitors your way, but they're also the main indicators search engines like Google use to rank websites (SEO). And free Google traffic is the best kind of traffic 😉
How to make money from your website
Once you have some kind of traffic, your website can then be monetised in dozens of ways!
The most lucrative opportunities for new bloggers to make money tend to be:
- Sponsored articles
- Google AdSense
- Product reviews
- Consultancy (or freelance work)
- Email marketing
- Affiliate marketing (the big one!)
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is earning commission from a company for promoting an online product or service to your website visitors. The retailer or merchant provides you with a unique link that will track any sales which originate from you. The link could be placed within a relevant article, an email or on social media.
This is now a huge industry in itself, which is unsurprising when you consider how many e-commerce websites there are today!
But don't get overwhelmed by the scale of the opportunities yet!
Sign up to Affiliate Window from day one. They are an established and large affiliate network giving you instant access to thousands of online retailers and services who pay you a commission for any leads. It's just a case of copying the link across and including it within your content!
For more of an insight into how websites generally make money, have a look at our guide to making money as a blogger.
I started my first site way back in 2002, it wasn't pretty, but honestly it was the best decision I ever made. It ultimately led me to found STS in 2007 and kick-started my career (read about my 10 year journey).
Every week I come across more and more bloggers who have quit their 9-5 job and are making a living from blogging.
Obviously this doesn't happen overnight, but you have to start and take the first step.
That's why I wrote this guide to starting a website, and thankfully today it's MUCH easier to get a site live. You don't need to know a thing about coding or servers – as my own grandma has proven! – thanks to Bluehost and WordPress.
If you still haven't created your Bluehost account, click here to take advantage of the limited discount and free domain name.