WordPress has been my favourite content management system (CMS) from the first time I tried it. While it’s known as a blogging platform, it can be used to create any kind of website you can imagine. The versatility and vast number of options allows it to be used for all types of online businesses, from sales to services. The user-friendly design makes it easy (and free) for anyone to use. That’s why it’s the most popular CMS in the world. In Canada, a July 2021 quarterly report from CIRA found more than half of Canadian businesses with .ca domains use WordPress.
How to Start Any Online Business With WordPress
To give you an idea of how your web presence will work, think of it as building an offline store:
- The domain name (yourdomain.ca) is your street address.
- The CMS (WordPress) and the theme you choose is the store you’re building.
- Plugins are the furniture and finishing touches.
First, Choose WordPress-Friendly Web Hosting
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You can register a domain name with your host, or register it somewhere else to use with your host. Our host, GreenGeeks, offers a free domain name for the first year with your hosting package, saving you money and a few headaches. Additionally, they have an unbeatable introductory offer for WordPress hosting that you can lock in for up to three years. This package is specifically designed to provide the optimum level of services and support for WordPress users. If you use WordPress hosting, there will be experts to help you every step of the way.
I’ll use GreenGeeks to illustrate the ease of auto installation through their user interface (cPanel). To get there, just log into your hosting account and click on cPanel.
Once you’re there, you’ll find lots of options for various purposes. You’re looking for ‘WordPress’ under ‘Softaculous Apps Installer’.
Select WordPress, then click Install to be taken to a page with a series of installation options. Wait for it to install and you’re done!
A few tips:
- Install WordPress on your root domain (yourdomain.ca), delete anything in the Directory field.
- Your Site Name is your domain name without the extension (such as .com). Ours is ‘canadiansinternet’.
- Start with the default theme. You can change it later.
A good web host will help you up to this point, so don’t hesitate to ask them.
Once WordPress is installed, you can go to your Admin page to customize it at yourdomain.ca/wp-admin.
Choosing a Theme
At this point, you may want to consider hiring someone to set up the theme and plugins you choose. There’s a learning curve that’s manageable for most, but it takes time. If you can find someone to set it up and walk you through using the platform & your theme, you’ll be able to go straight to work on building your business. If not, you will benefit from learning how to do it yourself by building it from the ground up, because you can easily make later adjustments yourself.
Either way, you’ll find theme options on the WP-Admin page, under Appearance >> Themes >> Add Themes. Narrow down your options using the tabs at the top, or do a search for a specific type of theme. If you can’t find a suitable theme there, you can explore paid themes on various websites, such as Template Monster. Paid themes usually come with a year of support, which can be invaluable if you’re setting it up yourself.
Select the Feature Filter tab to narrow your search down by features, layout or type of business:
- Food & Drink
It takes time to go through the many themes and narrow it down to the one you want. Make a list of any considerations or requirements you have and begin the process of elimination. Choose a theme that’s user-friendly (for both you and your visitors) and has the functionality you require. We have an info site so we went with a ‘Magazine’ theme. A ‘News’ theme would have worked well too.
From here, things may be different according to what theme you’ve chosen, but the to-do list is the same.
- Create your business Pages, such as the Homepage, About Us, Policies, Press and Contact Us.
- Create Blog Posts if your site will include a blog, articles or any type of regularly-updated content (recommended).
- Create your navigation Menu for visitors to click on to reach specific pages & posts on your website.
Plugins may be offered by WordPress or independent programmers. They’re used to add functionality to your website, such as design tools, security, search engine optimization, spam control, forms, editors, social media sharing, ecommerce, display options, directories, or what have you. Many are free, while others (like Tribulant) charge a nominal fee for additional functionality, support and updates. Your theme will come with plugins as well.
In WP-Admin, you’ll see Plugins in the left menu. Select New to be taken to the plugins page. You’ll find lots to choose from within the WordPress platform, or you can purchase plugins and upload them yourself. Simply click on the plugin and follow the prompts. Once installed, click activate and your plugin will be available for use. You can add plugins at any time, so don’t rush yourself.
Plugins can add a wide range of options and customization to your site. Following are free plugin examples to help you customize your site according to the business model you choose. There are many more to choose from if these don’t suit all of your needs. The goal here is to provide examples of what is available, to help you build the perfect online presence for your business.
- Ecommerce & Omni-Channel: WooCommerce is a plugin that can be expanded and customized to suit any kind of online sales.
- Multi-Vendor Marketplace: WC Marketplace
- Affiliate Marketing: ThirstyAffiliates Affiliate Link Manager
- Membership (Gated) Site: Paid Membership Pro
- Digital Downloads (ebooks, special reports, courses, etc): Easy Digital Downloads
- Services: WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart
- Directory: Business Directory Plugin – Directories for WordPress
- Reviews / Influencer Marketing – WordPress Review Plugin
- Website for an offline business: WP Google Maps and WP BASE Booking of Appointments, Services and Events will help you serve your offline customers.
- Other: Search for the functionality you want and chances are you’ll find the plugins you need to make it happen.
Note that not every plugin will work well with all themes or other plugins. Install them one at a time and test your site. If something goes wrong, simply uninstall the offending plugin. You’ll find the option to do so under the plugin on the Plugins page of WP-Admin.
Tip: Limit the number of plugins, as each can slow your website down and some may cause compatibility issues. Avoid bells & whistles and focus on functionality and the user experience.
You’re In Business!
Between the themes and the plugins, you can use WordPress to build a website that is suitable for virtually any kind of business.
Checklist: How to Start a Profitable Online Business in Canada
If you need more WordPress guidance, there are Udemy courses available to help you through the learning curve.
Please post any questions you may have in the comments below, or join us in our Facebook Group!
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.