I’m back with yet another installment of the complete step-by-step guide to building a long-term niche content website with WordPress.
It’s been a while between takes for this particular guide (the last installment was back in August) because I’ve been head down with my other sites (creating new content, increasing conversions, and getting ready for the end of year sales rush) so if you’re following along with this guide please bare with me. It WILL get done.
Creating massive in-depth guides such as this also just takes time. To be frank, insane amounts of time.
But my aim is to create something truly valuable and highly actionable so that you have a high chance of replicating or bettering my success with creating niche websites.
Ok, if you’ve followed along with the previous four parts, by now you should have decided on these things:
- Chosen your specific niche topic and defined your target audience
- Decided on the unique angle you’ll be coming at the topic with, or how you’re going to do things differently/better in your niche (especially if your niche is competitive)
- Have a decent idea of your content strategy and researched solid keywords to target with your content to maximize SEO (and therefore maximize traffic)
- Have your monetization plan layed out (affiliate marketing, advertising, creating your own product, or a combination)
In this part it’s finally time to choose a good domain name for your niche site/niche blog, then register your domain with a reliable company, set up a hosting account, and then install WordPress with a nice looking theme and plugins.
If you’re not the tech-type, don’t worry you have absolutely nothing to fear as it’s all very straightforward stuff. These days you truly don’t need to be a tech-whizz AT ALL to setup and build a nice-looking site. And WordPress, the platform we’ll be using, is simple to use once you get the hang of it.
Table of Contents: Part 5
1 – How to Choose a Good Domain Name
Don’t rush into your domain name choice as there are some important things you’ll want to be aware of first. Remember your aim isn’t to just build a website, but a business that will last, and so you want a great name that you’ll be happy with that represents your site well.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be good enough that it doesn’t hinder the chances of your site becoming somewhat of an authority within your particular niche topic. If your domain sucks and is offputting to others, you’re just making things unnecessarily harder on yourself.
In saying that, try not to be a perfectionist and overthink it for days and days, even weeks (easier said than done, I know) and let it stop you from moving forward. You CAN always change names later down the track (though it is a hassle).
You can check if a particular name is available by using a site like CheckDomain.
1.1 – Brand VS Keyword Domains
In the past, keyword-focused domain names were highly encouraged because they would help your site rank better in the search engines.
When I say keyword-focused domain, I’m referring to a domain name that includes your main site keyword (the keyword that you’ll be targeting with your homepage – remember that a good SEO practice these days is to target one good keyword per page) within your domain name.
Just to clarify, whether or not you include other words as well as your keyword in your domain (such as a suffix or prefix) doesn’t matter and either way it’s still regarded as a keyword domain.
Technically they’re called EMDs (Exact Match Domains), or PMDs (Partial Match Domains) which as the name implies is a domain where you only include part of your main site keyword.
However, these days the potential SEO gain you get from including a keyword in your domain is believed to have been greatly reduced, if it even remains as a ranking factor at all (only Google really knows for sure).
Some believe there is absolutely NO benefit whatsoever to having a keyword-focused domain these days, whilst some still believe it can help slightly in terms of ranking for the keyword you’ll be targeting (just a lot less than it used to).
Then there’s those who claim it may even hinder your site in the eyes of Google due to the fact that some keyword domains can seem overly manipulative or a little “spammy”.
So what should you do? My opinion, which is also shared by most top internet marketers, is to ALWAYS favor picking a brand-focused domain name over a keyword-focused name.
ESPECIALLY if you’re building a long-term site (as everyone should aim for) with the aim of becoming as much of an authority within your specific niche as possible.
By a brand-focused domain I mean that you forget about including your “main site keyword” (the keyword that you’ll be optimizing your homepage for – remember that targeting one good keyword per page is healthy and natural SEO) and conjure up a creative, sharper, more “attractive” name that will represent your site and your business. A name that you’ll use as your logo and everywhere you mention or talk about your site.
There are many benefits to having a nice brand name as your actual domain instead of forcing a possibly “hokey” name that includes your keyword exactly but that isn’t so attractive.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re creating a site related to the Yoga niche, and you want to target the keyword “best yoga tips” on your homepage (not saying it’s a good keyword, just a random example off the top of my head).
Which sounds better and more professional?
A keyword-focused domain like BestYogaTips or YogaTips?
Or a brand-focused domain like as YogaPlanet, YogaDaily, AmazingYoga, or more creative name that doesn’t even include the word “yoga” in it?
Yup, a cooler and snappier name is obviously more attractive, memorable, and more easily shareable compared to a potentially clunky keyword domain. With a brand it’s also easier to grow and/or expand your business later on if you choose to.
Also, as time goes on and search engines continue to become more sophisticated in their ranking algorithms, having a keyword-focused domain is only going to matter less and less in terms of boosting rankings (if it still even matters at all).
I have older sites that I started years ago that are keyword-focused, and these days they just sound and look silly.
In saying that though, if you can have the best of both worlds, that is having a domain that is not only your brand name but that ALSO has your keyword in it, go for it. It also really depends on your keyword though – some may be easily blended into a nice and creative brand name, whilst others would just make for a butt-ugly domain.
Overall, personally I would not worry AT ALL about keywords when it comes to domain names. Go for what YOU think is the best, coolest, most awesome name that you’ll be happy to share with others. Humans > SEO my friends.
1.2 – What About Expired Domains?
Personally I’ve never used an expired domain before, every time I’ve started a new site I’ve thought up a brand new domain, but I can see the allure of an expired domain.
Brand new sites can take a long time to build up trust and authority in the eyes of Google and friends, and so if you pick a quality established domain that already has a decent backlink profile (good links pointing to the site from other related sites in that niche) then you could potentially rank your site a lot faster and easier.
Links are hard to build up when you’re new, and links are one of many important ranking signals in the eyes of search engines. Site factor is a factor too, and so with a new site it can take months or start ranking for different keyword phrases and get decent organic traffic.
So whilst I can’t comment on getting an expired domain because I’ve never personally done it (I may look into it for a new in the future, or maybe I won’t), I will say this: only get one IF and ONLY IF you know what you’re doing and you do thorough and reliable research on your domain. If you use a tainted domain (one that could have lots of spammy, low-quality links pointing at it) it could hurt you and your site will never take off.
Personally, I always use a brand new domain because I like choosing my own creative name, and I’m not fussed about possibly waiting months and months until I start getting organic traffic because I always play the long-game. When I build a new site, I’m thinking long-term and how I can slowly build it up to become an asset that lasts. I don’t really care about short-term results. Just my 0.02 cents.
1.3 – Plan for the Future
As difficult as it can be to think ahead right now when all you’re really thinking about is getting your site off the ground, try your best to consider things like whether you’ll still be happy with your name in a few years time, whether it’s flexible enough to allow you to easily move into other opportunities in your niche should you decide to, and whether your name is evergreen and won’t be meaningless in a few years.
For example, you may want to venture out later into YouTube, a podcast, or some entirely different opportunity by building on your niche site.
Don’t worry TOO much about this, just do your best to plan ahead. It’s not the end of the world if you end wanting to change your name one day. You can do it, but it is a fair hassle and may temporarily affect your business.
I actually changed the domain of this very blog earlier this year and documented it in my first ever income report. To sum up the process, it was a lot more work than I had imagined, and I lost some initial traffic (although I eventually regained the loss).
Also, be wary about going TOO narrow with your domain.
Whilst you obviously want your domain to represent the specific niche you’re in, you want to think about whether or not there’s the possibility that you’ll want to expand upon your topic one day, and take that into account when choosing your domain. I’ll give you an example.
Let’s say you start a site called Car Audio Reviews, and then one day you decide to not only do reviews but other things related to car audio too. In that case you were probably better off going with a slightly more general domain (but still related to car audio of course).
I’m sure you get what I mean. This won’t apply to everyone, but it may be something to think about for some of you.
1.4 – Other Domain Name Considerations
- Short & Sharp is Best: You want a domain name that you can easily tell people about without them having to rack their brains having to remember or spell it when going to look it up. Try not to make it too long and complicated.
- Stick With .com: Nothing beats a .com domain, so unless you have a really good reason, stick with that (.net would be the next best thing). If you have a local site to only serve a particular country, then you may want to use that country’s extension (such as .co.uk for the UK and .com.au for Australia), but for 99% of people I highly suggest a dot com.
- Clear Meaning: You want people to know what your site is all and what sort of people it targets just by reading the domain. This won’t apply in all cases, for example if you’re conjuring up a very unique and creative brand name, but it’s something to think about.
- Avoid Hyphens: Once upon a time hyphens in a domain name was quite popular, and even encouraged by some to break up longer domains. These days they’re ugly and never, ever recommended. Don’t use them, period (I’ve made that mistake with my oldest sites).
- Be Creative: If it seems all the domain names you want are taken, you just gotta be creative. You could add a suitable prefix or a suffix like HQ, Guide, Pro, Insider, Digital, World, etc. Or think of a completely unique brand name that people in your niche will (hopefully) get to know and love.
- Avoid Legal Troubles: Whatever you do don’t risk getting a copyright infringement with your name. It’s rare but it could happen, especially if your name has something to do with an established brand. If you’re concerned about your name, search around at Copyright.gov to see if your domain infringes on someone else.
2 – Set Up Hosting and Register Your Domain
Once you’ve conjured up an awesome name that you’re happy with, and that is available (using a site like CheckDomain), it’s time to get your hands dirty and set up your new site. Finally!
I’ve included both setting up hosting and registering your domain into this same step because if you choose to use the host I recommend (BlueHost), you get a free domain name with a new account so you can do both steps in the one go.
On the other hand, if you wish to use another host other than BlueHost, you can register your domain name separately with a company like NameCheap. They’re the company I use and recommend to register new domains because they’re great value and a trusted name for domain names.
Ok, let’s get you set up with a hosting account for your niche site or blog.
2.1 – Why Free Hosting is a Bad Idea
Free hosting, such as hosting your site on services like Blogger, Blogspot, or WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org which is the REAL WordPress and what we’ll be using) is never, EVER recommended for many reasons:
- Free hosting = You don’t actually own your site, and you don’t have your own domain. The site you sign up with has full rights to your content. Not good
- Free hosting = WAY less control over your site, how it looks, functions, and horrible for branding
- Free hosting = Bad for SEO as there are tons of junk sites on free hosts and your site will be associated with the trouble crowd
2.2 – Where to Host Your Niche Site
I’ve used a few different hosts over my 9 year journey with online business, and the one I recommend to anyone who wants to spend as little as possible is Bluehost. They’re great value and I’ve never, ever had a problem with them personally.
Any of their Shared Hosting plans will do, and in terms of their extra features the only one I’d suggest getting is the Domain Whois Privacy which hides your personal information from anyone who looks up your domain info:
Whilst I suggest Bluehost to the majority of new site owners, if you have the money to spend on a premium host that is faster, has enhanced security, and better service, the premium host I recommend and use myself is WPEngine. They’ve been nothing but first class for me so far.
But for the majority of people, and especially if you’re starting your very first site, you’ll do just fine with a basic shared hosting plan with a company like Bluehost. You can always upgrade to a premium host later down the track when your business grows and it makes sense to.
2.3 – Set Up NameServers
This step is only if your domain and hosting are with separate companies, for example if you choose WPEngine for hosting, and NameCheap for your domain.
When I say “setting up nameservers”, all I mean is that you need to tell your domain registrar (ie NameCheap) where your hosting is at. How you do this depends on the companies you’re using, but is as simple as copying a few numbers and pasting them somewhere.
3 – Install WordPress with a Good Theme & Plugins
Ok, now you have a hosting account and a domain locked and loaded, it’s time to install WordPress, select a good WordPress theme, and install some important plugins for your site.
WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System) and is hands down your best option for building a content website/blog in this day and age.
3.1 – How to Install and Login to WordPress
Installing WordPress could not be easier. It depends on your host, but if you chose BlueHost as many will, all you need to do is login to your cPanel (instructions would have been provided when you signed up) and go to the “Website Builders” section and find WordPress:
Then simply follow the prompts. Once it’s installed you can access your WordPress dashboard, which is where you’ll do everything to build your site. Go to this URL:
Replace “yourdomain” with your own domain of course. When you do this for the first time you’ll need to set up your WordPress username and password.
As with every password you create, make sure it’s complicated (this matters more so as an online marketer where your passwords are actually worth something). Security breaches are very real in this game – trust me on that one.
3.2 – Choosing a Good WordPress Theme
The theme you choose will dictate how your site looks and feels, and also plays a part in how you actually build your site. There are tons of different themes out there, but one thing’s for sure; there are definitely NOT created equal.
You want a high-quality theme that has all of the following:
- Looks crisp and clean – design counts for a lot these days
- SEO-friendly (some themes suck at this)
- Easy to use and customize
- Well supported
- Must be mobile-responsive
- Must be fast enough – a slow site can negatively affects SEO not to mention it’s annoying to people
So which themes cover all of the above and would be a good fit for a niche content site?
- Genesis Themes – In my opinion, the absolute best of the best. Genesis is the base theme, and then you add a child theme on top of that, of which they have tons of great options.
- Thrive Themes – Another solid selection of good quality themes.
- Elegant Themes – Yet another place to find good themes.
Have a browse around the different themes these companies have, and find one that you like the look of and that will fit in nicely with your niche topic and target audience.
To install your theme simply follow the instructions that come to you when you buy one. It’s extremely simple and involves downloading the theme to your computer, and then within your WordPress dashboard going to ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Themes’ and uploading and activating your theme.
Remember if you’re going with Genesis, which in my opinion is definitely worth the higher price compared to other themes, you’ll need to install the Genesis framework first, and then ALSO the child theme.
3.3 – Important WordPress Plugins for Niche Sites
After you’ve installed your theme, the next thing you should do is install some important plugins (add-ons for WordPress). These are the ones I highly recommend any new site owner install, and they’re ALL totally free:
- WordPress SEO – A great plugin that makes SEO a LOT simpler. I’ll explain how to use it when we get to content creation.
- WP Super Cache – Very popular free plugin that speeds up your site (note that WPEngine disallows it because they use their own caching instead).
- Contact Form 7 – A popular plugin to easily add contact forms on your site so people can reach out to you.
- Limit Login Attempts – A handy little plugin that slightly increases your WordPress site’s security.
4 – Wrapping Up Part 5
That’s it for this installment, nothing complicated whatsoever even if you’re totally new to the internet marketing and online business world.
Coming up next is the important stuff: how to actually create your niche website, including SEO guidelines, creating your utility pages, further designing your site, and then adding affiliate links and advertising.
Then after that I’ll talk about how to promote, market, and build links for your niche site with the latest strategies, which is a key step.
I hope you’ve learned a lot and as always, if you have any questions I’m here to help.
Also, if you have anything to add from your own experience, I’d love to hear about it. I’m all ears on how to make this guide better.