This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.
A website is an essential part of your online presence as an author. In this post, I will show you how to build your author website yourself using WordPress.org.
Before we get into the steps to building your website, let’s discuss what a self-hosting website is, since this is what you will be building.
What Is A Self-Hosting Website?
Self-hosting is where you pay a hosting company to host your WordPress.org website on the Internet. You own your website and can choose to do whatever you want with it, including monetizing it. Self-hosting is required if you want to monetize your website.
Why Is A Self-Hosting Website Important?
There are three main reasons why a self-hosting website is so important.
If you are using a “free” website platform, such as Blogger or Wix, then you do not own your website, the platform does, and they can shut down your website at any time. You will have very little control over your site or how it works.
With self-hosting, you own your website and the content and have complete control over how it looks and operates.
What looks more professional?
Option A: www.yourname.com
Option B: www.yourname.freewebsite.com
Option A, right? When you self-host, you get to use a custom domain name. A custom domain name looks more professional and lends you credibility.
With self-hosting, you also have a limitless ability to customize the look of your website, which allows you to create a unique and professional-looking website, instead of one that looks like all the other free websites.
Additionally, you get to make the decision when it comes to ads. With a free website platform, the platform owner can place ads on your website without your permission and they cannot be removed. The number, type, and placement of ads can really affect whether your website is seen as professional or not.
Free website platforms do not allow you to monetize and if any ads are placed on your site, you are not earning the revenue, the platform is.
Further, if you want to sell books or merchandise on your website, there are certain tools you are going to need that are not available on free sites. With a self-hosted WordPress.org site, there is a multitude of plugins and integrations available to let you sell products from your site.
How To Build A Professional Author Website
Step 1 – Pick A Web Hosting Provider & Purchase Domain
Pick Web Host
The first step for setting up for a professional website is to pick your web host and purchase your domain.
This is the most affordable option and is a good choice for those just starting out.
You can start with their basic plan for only $3.95/month for the first year before it goes up to $7.99/month. When you sign up for any plan, you get your domain name free for one year.
Initial Promo Price: $3.95-$6.95/month
Regular Price: $7.99-$14.99/month
A secure SSL certificate (I will discuss this more below) and a domain email are included ([email protected]).
SiteGround is another popular website hosting company and is currently my web host. SiteGround is one of the more expensive web hosts and it may not be the best option if you are on a budget
Initial Promo Price: $6.99-$14.99/month
Regular Price: $14.99-$34.99/month
You can purchase and register a domain through SiteGround, however, SiteGround does not offer a free domain.
I currently use SiteGround and have been happy so far with it. Some of the things I like about it:
- Secure SSL certificate
- Free CDN
- Free domain email ([email protected])
- Automatic WordPress updates
- Daily backup
One big pro of choosing BigScoots is that there is no price increase after you sign up. Their plans cost between $5.95-$17.95/month. All plans include a secure SSL certificate. A free domain is not included in the starter plan, but the other two plans do include a free domain. A domain email is included.
A few other web hosts:
After you’ve picked a web host provider and have started the process of creating your account, you are going to need to get your domain. Some hosts, like Bluehost, provide a free domain, otherwise, you can purchase a domina through your hosting provider for a minimal fee.
You can also purchase a domain from another provider such as NameCheap or GoDaddy. I find it easier to have it all in one place, which is why I purchased my domain through SiteGround. The total cost of my domain is $15.95/year. Others recommend having them in two separate places.
Something to keep in mind is that domains have to be renewed every year.
Step 2 – Install WordPress
Now that you have chosen a web host and a domain, you need to log in to your hosting account and install WordPress.
Both Bluehost and SiteGround have one-click install, so installing WordPress is very simple. Other hosts may have a multi-step process, so make sure you look up their instructions on how to install WordPress.
Step 3 – Install Secure HTTPS
For credibility and security purposes your website URL needs to start with https. BlueHost, SiteGround, and BigScoots all offer free SSL certificates and they are easy to install.
In SiteGround, you want to go to your Site Tools –> Security –> SSL Manager. From there you can install the free SSL certificates. Then you want to go to HTTPS enforce and turn that option on.
In BlueHost, the SSL certificate may automatically assign and install itself to your new and existing domains. If you need to manually install the SSL certificate, follow these steps:
- Log in to your BlueHost Control Panel (C-Panel)
- Click ‘My Sites’
- Hover over your site and click ‘Manage Site’
- Next click Security and then turn the switch next to Free SSL Certificate ‘on.’
Step 4 – Pick & Install Theme
Now that you have your domain, a web host, and WordPress installed, you need a quality WordPress theme to make your website look professional.
How to Pick a Theme
There are many good free themes available through WordPress. From your WordPress dashboard click Appearance –> Themes to go to the collection of WordPress themes.
I personally prefer to use a premium theme rather than a free theme because they are more secure, have better functionality, and include developer support.
I run my website on the Genesis Framework, which is an amazing and powerful theme system. Once you have the Genesis Framework, you can use any Genesis child theme.
Here are some places to get awesome Genesis child themes:
When deciding on a theme, I think it is a good idea to sit down and do some brainstorming about how you want your site to look and the kind of pages and content you want to include on your website. Think about what you would want your home page to look like. Do some research. Look at the websites of other authors. This can give you an idea of what type of pages and content your website will need.
How to Install A Theme
1. Purchase Genesis Framework and theme + download zip files
2. Install Genesis Framework
In your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance –> Themes –> Add New –> Upload Theme —> Choose zip File –> Install Now
3. Upload and Install Genesis Child Theme
Repeat the steps in Step 2 with child theme zip file. After uploading, you want to Activate your theme.
Once your WordPress theme is installed, you need to install plugins to make your website complete. Plugins help your website function but you should be careful how many are installed because they can slow down your website.
When you purchase a premium theme, it often comes with recommendations for plugins. What plugins you install depend on what features and functionality you are looking for.
Some plugins I recommend:
Wordfence –> Protect your site from hackers.
Anti-spam –> Prevent spammy comments
An optimization plugin. I use SG Optimizer which clears caches and data that are slowing your site down. It also compresses pictures for faster load times. It only works if SiteGround is your hosting provider. If you have another hosting provider, you might try WP Fastest Cache
A plugin for SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is so important but it can be tricky. An SEO plugin can really help you make sure your site is SEO optimized. I use Rank Math but another plugin that is often recommended is Yoast SEO.
A newsletter opt-in plugin. Some options:
A plugin that displays social media links. I use the Simple Social Icons plugin.
Step 5 – Change Permalink Structure
Before you start posting you want to make sure that your website’s permalink structure is set to use your post names.
Click on “Settings” and then “Permalinks”
Then select the “Post Name” option.
Step 6 – Set up Automatic Backups
Your web hosting provider may include backups with your plan, but you want to only use it as a secondary backup option. Instead, you want to install a backup plugin. There are plenty of free and paid options out there. I currently use the free version of UpdraftPlus.
Step 7 – Add Legal Pages
Before you put up any content, you want to make sure you have the necessary legal pages on your site. There are three pages you should have to ensure you and your website are protected legally:
Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this post or this website should be construed as legal advice.
Read this article to learn more about how these pages protect you and why you need them.
Are there free templates out there? Yes. Should you use them? No. Free templates are often very basic and lacking necessary provisions. And it is not always clear who has actually written the templates.
That is why I highly recommend investing in this starter legal bundle which contains all three legal pages plus some awesome bonuses.
Step 8 – Google Search Console & Analytics
It is important that you connect both of these to your website right away. Google Analytics allows you to monitor how people use your site and how they find it. With Google Analytics you can track page views and the number of visitors to your website.
You need to connect your website to Google’s Search Console so that you can index your website on Google’s Search Engine. It basically allows you to track your site’s performance in Google’s eyes.
Learn how to set up both here.
Step 9 – Add Your Content
Now that your website is all set up, it is time to make the site your own by adding your graphics and content. When you first install a theme on your website it is going to look very bare until you add graphics and copy. With some themes, however, you can install demo content and make your website look like the theme demo and then customize from there.
If you took my advice and did some brainstorming and research before picking your theme, here is where that information will come into play. If you didn’t, I recommend you sit down and do some brainstorming and research here to figure out the content of your website.
There are a few basics pages every author website should have:
- Home Page
- About Page
- Contact Area
- Links to social media channels
- Newsletter opt-in
- Book Page
Here are some other pages you might think about including on your website:
- Events Page
- Press Page
- Reviews Page
I hope you find these steps easy to follow. These are the basics to get your site up and running but there is definitely a lot of work that goes into creating your website content. Stay tuned for more blog posts addressing this topic in more detail. Sign up for my newsletter so you never miss a post!