I firmly believe that every business should have its own domain name linked to its own website, but I frequently talk to business owners who don’t have a website, have a Facebook page as their sole online presence, and/or are using Gmail or Hotmail email addresses. And when I dig a little deeper, I often find that the main reasons for this are a fear of the technology involved, not knowing where to start, or (worse) a fear of looking ignorant when dealing with “IT people”.

In this easy-to-follow step-by-step guide I’m going to walk you through the process of setting up a WordPress website. It won’t even cost you anything to get started!

This article contains one or more affiliate links. This means that if you buy a product or service after clicking on a link I may receive a commission on your purchase (but you won’t pay any more as a result).


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What you’ll need to get started

Step 1: Set up hosting and install WordPress

Visit the Cloudways website

Visit the Cloudways website and click on the ‘START FREE’ or ‘GET STARTED FREE’ button.

Screenshot of cloudways.com home page.

Sign up for a free trial

Complete the signup screen and click on the ‘START FREE’ button.

Screenshot of cloudways.com free trial registration page.

Check your email

You now need to go to your email and find the activation email from Cloudways. Click on the Activate Account button.

Screenshot of cloudways.com account activation email link.

Launch your free trial server

You can now add names for your app, server and project if you want to. These are really meant for users who are running multiple sites or servers (and they’re easy to change later) so you can leave them at the defaults.

The next three choices you have to make relate to the server on which you’re going to host your WordPress site. The choices look rather daunting, but don’t worry – they’re really not (and Cloudways make it very easy to change things if you want to later)!

The server I’d recommend depends on what you’re trying to do. Specifically whether you’re just trying to learn WordPress and/or are building a test site, or building a site that you intend to publish live within the next month or so.

Trying to learn WordPress and/or are building a test site

  • Choose Digital Ocean
  • Set the server size to 1GB
  • Choose the nearest available location to where you are

Building a site that you intend to publish live within the next month or so

  • Choose Vultr
  • Choose “High Frequency” from the dropdown (rather than “Standard” which is the default)
  • Set the server size to 1GB
  • Choose the nearest location to where you expect your website visitors to be
  • Note: If the nearest location to where you expect your website visitors to be isn’t available then I’d recommend you follow the instructions for someone trying to learn WordPress and/or building a test site but choose the nearest location to where you expect your website visitors to be (rather than where you are). You can change it when the location becomes available on Vultr and you’ll save a bit of money in the meantime.

Click on the ‘LAUNCH NOW’ button.

Screenshot of cloudways.com server launch page.

Wait (you’ve probably got time to make a coffee) and then switch to the applications screen

In my experience it normally takes 7 or 8 minutes for the server setup process to complete.

Once it does, move the yellow slider at the top from ‘SERVERS’ to ‘APPLICATIONS’.

Screenshot of cloudways.com servers page.

Select your application

Click on ‘Your Application’.

Screenshot of cloudways.com applications page.

Make a note of your WordPress login details and launch WordPress

Make a note of your username and password.

Launch WordPress.

Screenshot of cloudways.com application access details page.

Login to WordPress

Enter your username and password and click on the Log In button.

Screenshot of WordPress login screen.

That’s it – you’ve set up a WordPress website!

Screenshot of WordPress administration screen.

Step 2: Choose and install a theme

Kadence is fast becoming one of the most popular WordPress themes. In this easy-to-follow guide I’ll show you how to install it on a WordPress website.

Login to WordPress

WordPress login screen.

Select the Themes admin screen

Select Appearance > Themes

WordPress dashboard with active Appearance > Themes menu.

Search for the Kadence theme

Type “kadence” into the search box.

WordPress themes admin screen.

Install the Kadence theme

Click on the Install button.

WordPress themes admin screen with install button for Kadence theme.

Activate the Kadence theme

Click on the Activate button.

WordPress themes admin screen with activate button for Kadence theme.

You’re done!

The Kadence theme is installed and activated on your website

WordPress themes admin screen showing Kadence as active theme.

Step 3: Choose and install a starter template

Kadence is fast becoming one of the most popular WordPress themes, and its creators provide a small range of free starter templates which you can install on a blank WordPress site in order to speed up the website development process.

Check out the range of Kadence free starter templates here.

Third-party website designers also create starter templates though, somewhat confusingly, these tend to be referred to as Kadence child themes.

In this easy-to-follow step-by-step guide I’m going to show you how to install your choice of starter template or child theme.

To follow this guide you’ll need a WordPress website that has no content on it that you need to keep. (This is because installing a starter template may overwrite and/or delete any existing content.)

If you don’t have a WordPress website that you can use then you can set one up by working through the following step-by-step guide:

You’ll also need to have installed the Kadence theme on your WordPress website. If you don’t have Kadence installed then you can set it up by working through the following step-by-step guide:

Login to WordPress

WordPress login screen.

Select the Add Plugins admin screen

Select Plugins > Add New

WordPress dashboard with active Plugins > Add New menu.

Search for the Kadence Starter Templates plugin

Type “kadence starter templates” into the search box.

WordPress Add Plugins screen.

Install the Kadence Starter Templates plugin

Click on the Install Now button.

WordPress Add Plugins screen with Install Now button for Kadence Starter Templates plugin.

Activate the Kadence Starter Templates plugin

Click on the Activate button.

WordPress Add Plugins screen with Activate button for Kadence Starter Templates plugin.

View the Template Library

Click on the View Template Library link.

WordPress Plugins  screen.

Choose a page builder

Click on the Gutenberg box.

Kadence Starter Templates plugin choose a builder screen.

Choose a starter template

Click on the starter template you want.

Kadence Starter Templates selection screen.

Start installing your starter template

Click on the Full Site button.

Kadence Starter Template customization options screen.

Confirm options

Click on the Start Importing button.

Kadence Starter Template confirm import options screen.

That’s it – you’re done!

Kadence Starter Template installation complete screen.

Step 4: Choose and register a domain name

Things to consider when choosing a domain name

Your business’s domain name is important. It’s what your website visitors type into their browser when they want to access your website and stays at the top of their screen all the time they’re on your website. The chances are it will also form part of your email address. It almost certainly appears on your letterhead, your business cards and (if you have them) your company vehicles. It is such an integral part of your brand that you may end up promoting your domain name more than your business name so it makes sense to give it some serious consideration.

So what exactly makes up a domain name? Well – in very basic terms it consists of two parts:

  • A Second Level Domain (SLD) which can consists of letters (a-z), numbers (0-9) and hyphens. The SLD for this website is martindurham.
  • A Top Level Domain (TLD) – sometimes called a domain name extension – which is selected from a long list of possibilities (of which .com, .co.uk, .org and .net are some of the most common). This website uses the .co.uk TLD.

The complete domain name consists of the SLD, followed by a dot followed by the TLD. So this website’s domain name is wordpress-493668-1598922.cloudwaysapps.com.

Consider basing your domain name on your business name (or vice versa)

If you’ve already got a business name then it makes sense to consider using that as your domain name. If you don’t already have a business name then it may be a good idea to consider choosing a domain name and then calling your business that.

Consider using keywords in your domain name

It may help people decide whether to visit your website if your domain name contains one or more keywords that explain what you do. For example, if I was a photographer then I might consider that MartinDurhamPhotography.com would help potential visitors get a quick handle on what I do and stop people confusing me with another Martin Durham that offers gardening services (who might, in turn, consider registering MartinDurhamGardeningServices.com).

Consider using geographical locations in your domain name

If your business services a particular geographic region then it may make sense to register a domain name that includes that geographic region. For example, if your business operates in Yorkshire then a domain name of AcmeYorkshire.com would probably stop someone in Cornwall or Scotland from spending too long considering your services but would reassure someone in Leeds that you might be the right business for them.

Consider using a brandable domain name

A huge number of businesses have business and domain names that are “brandable”, by which I mean that their business/domain name tells you nothing about what they do by itself but where they’ve built a brand to such an extent that we all know what that business/domain name stands for. I’m thinking Amazon, Google, Hoover, Xerox, IKEA, etc, etc, etc.

Check whether the .com domain name extension is available

In a perfect world you would probably own your preferred SLD with the .com extension. The biggest reason for this is familiarity. The .com extension is by far and away the most common domain name extension so if someone has an idea what your business or website name is then the chances are that they’re going to type that into their browser followed by .com.

Don’t get too hung up on the .com extension

If your first-choice SLD isn’t available with the .com extension.

Is it being used?

Are other domain name extensions available with your preferred SLD?

Consider buying multiple domain name extensions

Unless you have endless pots of cash there is no way you can own all of the domain name extensions for any particular website name but you might want to choose a website name where you own at least one of the most popular domain name extensions.

Try to make your domain name memorable

I’m rather hoping that wordpress-493668-1598922.cloudwaysapps.com is somewhat more memorable than wordpress-493668-1598922.cloudwaysapps.com.

Try to keep your domain name (reasonably) short

You are going to type your domain name a lot!

Make your domain name easy to spell and easy to pronounce

You are going to say your domain name a lot!

Avoid hyphens and numbers

Just use the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Yes – you can use hyphens and numbers. Don’t!

Try to avoid double letters

People will mis-type domain names containing double letters!

Watch out for “awkward” letter combinations

LawnsExpert.com

Consider the legal situation

Whatever SLD you come up with, do some basic checks to test whether someone is going to throw the legal kitchen sink at you for trying to use it.

  • Could you register it as a business?
  • Has it been trademarked?
  • Is there an established business using it (or some variant)?

Register your domain name

We’re going to use Namecheap.com because I have found them to offer consistently low prices and I find their website to be less cluttered and less pushy than some others I have used in the past, making it easy to register (and subsequently manage) a domain name.

Without further ado, lets head over to Namecheap.com, where you’ll be presented with a screen like this:

Screenshot of namecheap.com home page.

Enter your chosen domain name

Type your chosen domain name into the box and click on the red magnifying glass.

Screenshot of namecheap.com home page with domain name entered in search box.

Add your chosen domain name to your cart

Hopefully you’ll see your chosen domain name with the option to add it to your cart. Click on the add to cart button (which will change to show that the item has been added). The top bar will also reflect the value of items in your basket.

Screenshot of namecheap.com result page for domain name search.

Start the checkout process

Click on the checkout button at the bottom of the screen.

Screenshot of namecheap.com result page after adding domain name to cart..

Confirm your domain registration options

Screenshot of namecheap.com page for entering domain registration options.

Create an account

Screenshot of namecheap.com account login / creation page.

Enter your account contact details

Screenshot of namecheap.com account contact information page.

Enter your Whois contact information

Screenshot of namecheap.com Whois contact information page.

Enter your payment method details

Screenshot of namecheap.com payment method page.

Confirm your order

Screenshot of namecheap.com order review page.

Complete feedback survey (optional)

Screenshot of namecheap.com customer feedback survey page 1 of 2.
Screenshot of namecheap.com customer feedback survey page 2 of 2.

That’s it – all done!

Screenshot of namecheap.com thank you for your purchase page.

Step 5: Point your domain name at your website

Go to the Cloudways login screen

Cloudways login screen

Enter your login credentials

Enter your login credentials

Switch to the Applications screen

Step 3: Switch to the Applications screen

Select your WordPress website

Step 4: Select your WordPress website

Visit the Domain Management page

Step 5: Visit the Domain Management page

Enter your domain name

Step 6: Enter your domain name

Log out of Cloudways

Step 7: Log out of Cloudways

Login to Namecheap

Step 8: Login to Namecheap

Verify your device

Step 9: Verify your device

Go to the Manage Domain screen

Step 10: Go to the Manage Domain screen

Go to the Advanced DNS screen

Step 11: Go to the Advanced DNS screen

Delete existing records

Step 12: Delete existing records

Add a new record

Step 13: Add a new record

Log out of Namecheap

Step 14: Log out of Namecheap

That’s it!

Your domain name is now posted at your hosting but be aware that it can take up to 48 hours (though in my experience it is usually significantly less) before everything starts working.

Step 6: Install an SSL certificate on your website

Your website needs an SSL certificate so that visitors access it via https (rather than http). This step-by-step guide will guide you through the process of installing one.

Go to the Cloudways login screen

Cloudways login screen

Enter your login credentials

Enter your login credentials

Switch to the Applications screen

Step 3: Switch to the Applications screen

Select your WordPress website

Step 4: Select your WordPress website

Visit the SSL Certificate page

Enter your email address and domain name

Enable HTTPS redirection

Log out of Cloudways

That’s it!

Your website now has an SSL certificate.