A couple times a month or so I get an email or a message from someone interested in building with WordPress. They ask some similar questions and I thought I’d add it to our library here at freewheelings. I’m not going to try and sell you anything here. There won’t even be a single affiliate link on this page. This is just my honest to goodness thoughts on what’s out there and how to use it successfully.
How did you learn WordPress?
Trial and error. Lots of it. Six years of it. Thousands upon thousands of hours of it. If there was a snapshot of how this site looked when it went live you’d laugh your ass off. Thankfully, the wayback machine messed up the formatting on the originals – actually making them look better.
There aren’t any secrets on the internet. The answer to every question you’ll ever have about WordPress is out there. It’s just a matter of sifting through the nonsense. I come from a technical background. Sifting through nonsense on the Internet is second nature to me.
Yes, there are tutorials out there. I’ve read hundreds of them. Some are better than others. I’d recommend starting with an overview. I’m not going to recommend any one specific tutorial. I think it’s part of the learning process to wade through them and figure out what’s useful for your particular circumstance.
What I will say is get friendly with Google. Learn to speak search engine. You’ll be amazed how much more sophisticated Google is than your basic “How do I shave a poodle?” search.
WordPress is Free, but You’re Going to HAVE to Spend Money
WordPress is one of the best free pieces of software on the face of the planet. However, by itself, it doesn’t do a whole lot. It’s a framework. Let’s talk about two separate groups of people for a second. There are the ones who want to keep a journal for their friends and family to look at online – and then there is everybody else. The first group can likely use WordPress for free. The second cannot. We’re focusing on the second group today.
Take it from the top.
- Domain – www.freewheelings.com is a domain. You’ll need to register one. Remember, Google likes long registrations (In terms of years). It says you’re going to be around for a while and it saves you money in the long run.
- Web Hosting – Sure you can find free, clunky web hosting, but it’s not going to have much to offer. And it’s slow, very slow. Google likes fast sites and if you want to rank you’re going to need fast web hosting. All of my sites used BlueHost at the time of writing this article. They turned out to be a terrible webhost and I’ve moved all my sites to a self built VPS in the Amazon Web Services Cloud.
- Hint: If you’re just getting started, most hosting companies worth their salt will offer a free domain registration when you sign up for a year of hosting.
- Hint: Most decent hosting companies will have “one click” WordPress installs from their cPanel. These installs are more secure than what a novice will do manually and they offer automated software updates. Win win.
- Themes – Hold onto your hat. There are a bajillion free themes for WordPress. Some of them are slick and will work just fine for a static site, but if you want to do anything more elaborate or tackle on page SEO with limited knowledge – you’re going to have to spend money. Warning! This is where fact ends and opinion begins. These are the two premium theme providers I use and my thoughts on them. In my opinion, they belong at the top of any premium themes list.
- Thesis –
What you’re looking at right now. This site runs on Thesis 1.8.X. (See Update) Three or four years ago when I was taking this site to the next level beyond a personal blog Thesis was the end all be of premium themes. It’s highly customizable and will keep anyone from the super technical to the novice occupied for hours without tremendous frustration. Thesis 2.0 was released a little over a year ago. Coming from Thesis 1 the learning curve is steep. It would probably take me a week to completely upgrade and reformat this site, which is why it hasn’t been done.My honest opinion is that there are so many Thesis based sites out there that it will be around for a long time, but will ultimately die a slow, painful death. Here’s why
- Genesis – Is what’s hot in the premium theme market now. Why? It’s easy to use, highly customizable and creates some darn slick sites that integrate rather painlessly with most popular plugins – even eCommerce. Here’s the catch. Genesis isn’t even a theme. It’s a framework for a theme. Once you’re done buying the genesis framework you still need to purchase a theme to sit on top of it. So, WordPress is a framework for themes, right? Right. Then, what is genesis again? Genesis is a framework for themes. Don’t we already have WordPress for that? Yes. And now you have Genesis that sits between WordPress and the Genesis compatible premium theme and widely extends the capabilities of the entire outfit. All the sites I’ve done in the last couple years use this philosophy. Check a couple of them out:
- Thesis –
Thoughts on eCommerce
I’ve only used WooCommerce. So that’s what we’ll talk about. WooCommerce is super easy to use once it’s installed, configured and integrated. Getting to that point is another story entirely.
Walking Stick Trader uses WooCommerce integrated into Genesis. They weren’t made to mate, but they do rather nicely with a little footwork. Keep an eye out for third party, WooCommerce compatible, Genesis premium themes. Web Savvy Marketing turns out some little Gems in this department.
Though I don’t have any experience directly with WooThemes, they are designed specifically to integrate with WooCommerce. Perhaps that would be the best/easiest place to start if you’re looking to get your first eCommerce site up and running.
There is a long and arduous journey between the idea of a site and the reality of a site. If you’re starting from scratch it’s probably in the hundreds of hours range. You’ll spend days or weeks reading, researching, implementing and re-implementing until you finally have something that looks like the vision in your head.
Sheesh. Glad that’s done. Bad news: That was the easy part. You know the old adage if you build it they will come? It’s not true. At least not on the internet. You can have the most beautiful site ever and if nobody knows about it, it’s worthless.
Now the hard work begins. Get ready for a crash course in SEO and SMO. I wrote an in depth article on the subject a few years ago. Some of the information is a little dated with the latest Google algorithm updates, but the fundamentals are still the same.
Check out my four part series SEO for Travel Bloggers (and everyone else).
And if you ever have any trouble, remember, freewheelings.com does provide WordPress consulting services.
Rick Rouse says
This is a great article, Brandon. I couldn’t agree more with what you said about having to spend money in order to have a successful blog.
I would like to recommend that folks never register their domain names with their web hosting companies. It’s much better (in my humble opinion) to register your domains with a third-party registrar like Godaddy or Enom.
The reason I say that is I’ve seen more than a few webmasters have their domains held hostage after having a falling out with their web hosts. A few of them even had to register new domains because of the hassle they were enduring.
I’m not nitpicking here, just making a recommendation based upon many years of personal experience.
Again, awesome post (and awesome blog)!
Brandon Edward says
Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been keeping my domain registrations completely separate with Google Domains for a few years. Thanks for stopping by.