When it comes to launching a WordPress website in 2021, you’re not alone. If you’re one of the millions of small business owners that have been forced to take your operations from the brick-and-mortar world to the virtual world because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, this guide is for you.
Grim reports indicate that 800 small businesses in the United States are permanently shutting down operations every single day. And while this is certainly a sobering statistic, it’s important to take steps that will allow you to avoid becoming a part of the stat.
Even though the way we do business has changed due to the worldwide pandemic, new opportunities for growth and new profits continue to present themselves to us every day. One of the biggest changes has been a major consumer move from in-person buying to online buying. And 2020 was only the beginning.
Why Launching a New WordPress Website In 2021 Is So Important
While the official statistics are still being compiled, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2020 will be the biggest online economy of all time.
In fact, on Black Friday of 2020, online shopping surged a whopping 22% over 2019 to a record $9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics data.
That’s correct: Consumers spent $9 billion on the web, all in one day, on the day after Thanksgiving.
And while you may be hesitant to move your business online for various reasons, the reality is that if you’re not taking your online presence seriously, doing business is probably going to become increasingly more difficult as we move forward.
According to the Finances Online Research Center, worldwide online sales are poised to hit nearly $5 trillion during 2021. That’s trillion with a “T.”
And by 2023, it’s expected that online sales will top the $6.5 trillion mark. That’s nearly double the total amount of online sales in 2019 ($3.5 trillion), prior to the pandemic.
As you can clearly see, 2020 drastically changed the way people spend their money. We’re heading in a direction where twice as much money is being spent online than what we’re used to. This means that only half of what traditionally gets spent in brick-and-mortar business has continued after the pandemic.
It’s becoming more obvious that you need a powerful website to keep your business in line with this major shift in consumer spending.
But where should you start? Do you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have a professional website built by a trained developer?
Or is this a project you can take on yourself, with a minimal investment? Is there a way that the average small business owner can create a website that competes with (or even out-performs) the online big box competition?
WordPress Is More Powerful Than You May Think
If you’ve considered building your own website in the past, you’ve probably done some research on the WordPress platform. In fact, you may have even heard a lot of positive reviews and comments about using WordPress to build a business website.
But you might still wonder if it’s the best option for you and your business.
As we continue through this guide, we’ll discuss exactly what the WordPress platform is, talk about the pros and cons of using it to build your business site, discuss associated costs, and begin walking you through your new site launch.
What Is WordPress?
In a nutshell, WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that allows users to easily create and manage all key features of a website without needing to learn any website programming languages or coding skills.
In even simpler terms, WordPress is a robust website builder that makes launching a professional website easy for professionals and beginners alike.
The WordPress software is 100% open-source. This means that you’ll be able to use it for free and that it can be used for any purpose that you see fit.
So is it completely free to build a WordPress site? Not exactly.
You’ll still need to pay for web hosting and register a domain name. But these expenses are very minimal, and we’ll discuss them in more detail later in the guide.
Also, it’s important to understand that there’s a major difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is what’s known as a “freemium website hosting service.” WordPress.org is self-hosting website building software.
Although it does have a 100% free option, with WordPress.com you’ll run into a lot of restrictions and limitations on how your build your site.
When you use WordPress.org, you’ll have total ownership and control of your website.
As we move forward in this guide, we’ll be covering how to launch a website using WordPress.org.
WordPress Is Popular Because It Works
WordPress currently powers about 40% of the entire Internet. That makes it the most popular CMS used in the world. In fact, its popularity dwarfs that of other CMS systems, such as:
It’s popularity alone is enough to convince some people that WordPress is the best solution to build their business site.
But also consider that:
- Fifteen of the top 100 websites in the world are WordPress-powered
- WordPress has a 60+% share of the worldwide market for content management systems
- Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power a blog or website
- Nearly 50,000 new WordPress sites are made every single day
If the saying “there’s safety in numbers” is true, it’s a safe bet that using WordPress to launch your site will work as well for you as it has for millions of others. Just check out this entire guide on why WordPress is the best website platform out there.
How Flexible Is WordPress?
Back in 2003, WordPress began as a simple blogging platform. And while many people still think of WordPress as a way to build a blog (you certainly can use it for that purpose), it has evolved a lot in the last 17 years.
Today, the different types of websites that can be created with WordPress are endless. WordPress offers its users thousands of free and paid plugins and themes that allow them to customize their site to specific needs and design goals.
Because of this, businesses of all types can use WordPress to build their sites. This includes sites for:
- B2B or B2C businesses
- eCommerce sites
- Online communities
- Portfolio sites
- Job boards
- A lot more
WordPress truly does have enough power to build any kind of website you can envision.
WordPress Pros and Cons
Before we go any further into the specifics of launching your new WordPress website in 2021, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the CMS you choose to run with it.
As with any other website builder, there are some important pros and cons that need to be looked at before determining that WordPress is the best solution for you.
First, let’s take a look at a list of the key pros of using WordPress as your CMS of choice:
1. It’s free. The software powering WordPress is always free to download and use. All that you’ll have to pay for is web hosting and a domain name.
2. It gives you freedom of ownership. Using the WordPress CMS gives you complete ownership of your site. In fact, you can even move web hosts whenever you choose.
3. It gives you complete customization. The WordPress platform gives you thousands of beautifully designed themes to build your website around. Many of these are 100% free and allow you to instantly change and customize your site design to your unique preferences and needs.
4. It has unlimited plugins. WordPress offers thousands of add-ons, extensions and plugins to add features and power to your site. Again, many of these are free to use.
5. It gives you simple integration. Because the platform is popular, you’ll be able to continue using your favorite software tools in conjunction with your WordPress site. The majority of apps and tools easily integrate with WordPress, such as Customer Relationship Management software, email marketing tools, payment gateways, and a lot more.
6. It has a great community of support. The community of WordPress users is so large that there are thousands of different tutorials, forums and websites that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about using the WordPress software and platform.
Of course, nothing in life is perfect and neither is WordPress. It’s important to take the pros and weigh them against the cons when making your CMS decision.
The cons of WordPress are:
1. There’s no direct support. While there are countless online resources that’ll help you solve any issues you have with WordPress, it doesn’t have direct support via phone, email or live chat.
2. There is somewhat of a learning curve. Overall, WordPress is pretty easy to use. But you will experience a bit of a learning curve before you’re comfortable and familiar with how to use the software. It’s not a drag-and-drop website builder. But you can use the WordPress page builders to make the process much easier.
3. Security and maintenance is on you. WordPress users are responsible for all of the security and maintenance on their sites. Some other website builders take care of this for you. What this means is that you need a WordPress security plugin and WordPress backup plugin running on your WordPress site at all times. In fact, those should be the first two plugins that you download, install and activate.
It’s also important to run software updates on WordPress core, your theme and plugins whenever you’re alerted to an update. Keeping your software up-to-date is a big part of your security strategy.
Using WordPress and Creating Your Website
Now that you’re a lot more familiar with WordPress than you probably were a few minutes ago, it’s time to take a look at what features WordPress has that allow you to easily and powerfully create your site.
WordPress has three main elements:
The platform is designed to allow you to create, edit and manage each of these elements independently without impacting the rest of your site.
For example, if you change your site’s design (theme change), all of the content you’ve written or uploaded will remain the same and all of your plugins will continue to function as they were before the change was made.
However, all of that content would now be displayed within the context of the new theme design.
Designing With WordPress
When you create a WordPress site for your business, you’ll have access to thousands upon thousands of free themes that will instantly give your site a professional (or fun, if you prefer) look.
To start out, browse the many downloadable WordPress themes within your WordPress admin dashboard, or in the WordPress theme repository.
When you find a theme that matches the look and feel of your brand, you can transform your site into that design with a few simple clicks.
What’s even better about themes on WordPress is that they’re highly customizable. You’ll be able to edit theme text, add your logo and images and a lot more.
But beyond that, many themes allow you to change layouts, colors and fonts. Of course, if you are familiar and comfortable with code, you can make theme customizations that way as well. If you’re not familiar with code, it’s always a new hobby you could consider taking up!
There are a lot of premium (paid) third-party WordPress themes available beyond the free ones in the WordPress repository. If you’re looking for a more robust theme that isn’t downloadable for free, start Googling WordPress themes for your business type and you’ll see a treasure trove of options.
Yet another option is to use a drag-and-drop page builder, such as Beaver Builder, to build a custom theme that only your site uses.
Adding Content In WordPress
Adding content, such as web pages and blog posts, to your new WordPress site couldn’t be easier. You do this using the WordPress editor.
Whether you’re creating a post or a page, your WordPress editor will look exactly the same. Also known as the Gutenberg WordPress editor, or Block editor, the WordPress editor allows you to add blocks of content elements, called WordPress blocks, to help you create a layout in posts and pages.
For example, you’ll add new blocks for elements such as:
- A lot more
Gutenberg’s default begins you with a heading and paragraph block when you create a new page or post. If you want to add additional blocks, click on the button that says “Add New Block” in the top left corner of your editor.
The button also appears on the left side of each block, or below existing blocks.
Every block will also have its own toolbar for formatting and block settings. For example, a paragraph block with present you with options such as italic, bold, text alignment, etc.
While there’s no built-in drag-and-drop builder in WordPress, it’s still incredibly simple to add images, videos, bulleted lists and other more complex elements into any layout.
Those who prefer drag-and-drop builders for content creation can use plugins such as Divi, Elementor or Beaver Builder.
Are you starting to see how incredibly flexible WordPress is?
Using WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are where you really begin to take your site to new levels. WordPress offers thousands of free plugins in the WordPress plugin repository that can add almost any feature imaginable to your site.
In fact, at the time of this writing, there are over 58,000 plugins available for download in the repository.
Plugins couldn’t be easier to download and use. You can almost think of them like apps that you download and use on your mobile phone. All you do is download the plugin, activate it, and boom: You’ve just transformed something major on your site.
There are a number of additional plugins that every WordPress site owner should be running right from the very beginning.
- iThemes Security. This plugin adds over 50 ways to secure and protect your WordPress website.
- BackupBuddy. WordPress doesn’t have a built-in backup system, so you’ll need a plugin to handle website backups.
- Yoast SEO. This plugin helps to boost your online presence and get you more traffic.
- WPForms. With this, you’ll be able to generate more leads and connect with your customers via a professional contact form on your site.
- OptinMonster. It’s important to grow your email list. In fact, the ROI for email marketing is over 4,400%. OptinMonster will help you generate more email signups.
- MonsterInsights. This will help you track your site traffic and other key analytics from within the WordPress dashboard.
- Shared Counts. This will increase your brand’s shares and engagement on social media.
- WP Rocket. Website speed is hugely important. This plugin will get you going in the right direction of a having fast site by providing WordPress caching.
These are just the basics that every website should have before starting to make further customizations.
For example, if you plan on running an eCommerce store, WooCommerce is an incredibly powerful plugin that will make your site look and respond just like the big box online stores.
For membership sites where your users pay a monthly or yearly access fee, you can use a plugin like MemberPress.
When it comes to plugins, the sky truly is the limit.
Is WordPress Really Free?
Yes, WordPress is free to download and use. However, to build a live website for people around the world to see, you’ll need to register a unique domain name and choose a web host.
Most domains can now be purchased for a little as $11 per year. This is where your users connect with your site, such as http://yourcoolsite.com.
Hosting is the place where your site lives. It’s where the files for your site are stored and delivered.
You can find WordPress web hosting for as little as $4 per month, typically payable on a year-to-year basis. However, serious websites don’t necessarily run on $4 per month site hosting. Like anything else, you’ll probably get what you pay for.
As you can see, in order to launch your new site in 2021, all you need is the WordPress software, a domain name and a site host.
Is WordPress Your Best Choice For a Website Builder?
There are many reasons why WordPress is the most popular CMS on the market. This guide has only discussed the high-level benefits you’ll experience when using the platform.
With WordPress you’ll always have 100% control over your site. You can customize it any way you want. This becomes even truer as you learn more about how WordPress works and the ways you can make it work for you.
If you understand the importance of launching a new website for your business in 2021 and want it to present a professional feel without spending more than a couple hundred dollars, it’s difficult to go wrong with WordPress.
It’s easy to use, offers tons of online tutorials (including in our blog), and can help you immediately capitalize on the popularity of the new online economy.
An Exciting New Direction In 2021 and Beyond
As a business owner who refuses to give up on your dream, there’s never been a better time to give your entire business a refresh and take it online in the simplest, most impactful way possible.
In this guide, we did our best to walk you through the steps of how to get started. Now, it’s time for all of us to start taking our online presences more seriously.
Kristen has been writing tutorials to help WordPress users since 2011. You can usually find her working on new articles for the iThemes blog or developing resources for #WPprosper. Outside of work, Kristen enjoys journaling (she’s written two books!), hiking and camping, cooking, and daily adventures with her family, hoping to live a more present life.