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How I built my website in 3 hours for $27

The idea that websites take weeks or months to launch is a myth, and it could be holding you back from getting new clients or building a passive income empire. The sooner you hit the PUBLISH button, the better!

When I first got the idea for Frugal Business Tools, I knew I wanted to get started right away. After all, SEO can take a few months to kick in for a brand new site, and people were asking me for software recommendations all the time (literally every day), so I knew I wanted to create a resource to drive them to, instead of explaining the reasons behind my favorite tools every day.

3 step process to go from idea to minimum viable website, in 3 hours for <$30.

So here’s the process that I used to go from an idea to a ready-to-share website in just under 3 hours (2:39 minutes — I know because I track all my time using Toggl).

Website set-up: 72 minutes

Buy the domain ($12)

I use Google Domains for all my domains, even though it’s more expensive than some options on the market, because it’s brand i can trust to protect my privacy. Google’s domains cost $12/year, but you can easily get cheaper domains at places like GoDaddy or Hover (and yes, it’s worth it to pay for the privacy protection upgrade, but you don’t have to buy their hosting plans).

Sign up for WordPress hosting ($15)

I have 4 hosting solutions that I like for WordPress — they’re fast, secure, and reliable, and come at a variety of price points:

  • GreenGeeks: I adore GreenGeeks for a starter site. It’s only $4/mo for shared WP hosting, and that includes a caching plug-in (to keep sites loading quickly), the first year of your domain registration, one-click WordPress installation, and your SSL certificate is included. You really can’t beat this price!
  • Flywheel: I built this site on Flywheel, because I knew I wanted to get started quickly, and I don’t think that there’s a faster set-up process than Flywheel. (Back when I was building client sites as my full time job, I loved Flywheel for ease of set-up and managing multiple accounts … especially because it was easy to transfer websites over to my clients without a big billing hassle!) For this quick site, I’m signed up for $15/mo.
  • Siteground: This is the hosting service I use for Love At First Search’s website. I’m really pleased with Siteground, but wanted a change for this new site. (You’ll learn that I love to try out new software & online tools!)
  • WP Engine: For websites that get a ton of traffic, I think WP Engine is the best option on the market. It’s more expensive (starting at $30/mo) but the amount of upgrades & service you get from them is unparallelled.

For this site, I set up a site on Flywheel on the starter plan ($15/mo) to get things rolling, then connected the site to my Google Domain.

Upload a theme.

Because my intention with this site is to maximize traffic through SEO & keep costs as low as possible (within reason), I wanted to find the best low-cost theme for super fast performance.

I waivered back & forth between GeneratePress and Hello Theme — both themes that are known for being lightning fast for a low fee — and decided to build on Generate Press because the free version has way more functionality than Hello Theme (and since I’m not upgrading Elementor right away, I wanted the theme to do more out of the box).

Install a page builder.

When it comes to being frugal, there’s no better option than Elementor. I’ve built plenty of sites using Beaver Builder for clients, and my primary business site is built on Divi … but they both leave so many shortcodes all over the page that it can slow down performance.

Elementor is more affordable & runs faster. Nothing better than that when you’re building for SEO performance!

For the time being I’m using the free version of Elementor; at some point I may upgrade to the paid version in order to add extra widgets, pop-ups and more … but for right now, the most important thing is to press the publish button & go live ASAP.

Install plugins.

Here are the plugins (all free versions) that I know I need to get things running smoothly:

  • Akismet Anti-Spam
  • Contact Form 7
  • Webcraftic Robin image optimizer
  • Wordfence Security
  • RankMath SEO
  • Site Kit by Google (for Google Adsense account)

Set-up Google Analytics & SEO.

In the past, I’ve used the Yoast plugin, but on this new site, I’m trying out RankMath, so I took about 4 minutes to set up the SEO settings (I’d tell most people to do the “easy” set-up, but since I’m a big SEO nerd I customized it).

Because I already have a Google Analytics account, I added a new property & copied the tracking code into the RankMath plugin.

Basic website copywriting (41 min)

To get the site structure of the website ready to go, I made 4 top-level pages:

  • Homepage = I wrote a short paragraph including my Unique Value Proposition, and blurbs about the 3 categories I’m going to start with.
  • About = This page has an explanation of where the Frugal Business Tools concept came from, and the way that we’ll make selections about which tools we recommend.
  • Contact = used the free Contact Form 7 plugin
  • Blog = In the customization settings, I set it up so that posts would show up on this page. I also added 3 placeholder blog posts so that I could get the categories set up in the next step.

Minimal web design (48 minutes)

Right now my goal is a Minimum Viable Website, not a masterpiece, and the important thing that I need to work on to establish a foothold on Google is to start working on my content, not my color palette. Once the site is profitable (either through affiliate sales or display ads, I’ll invest either my own time building it or hiring a branding specialist … but the site can’t start paying for itself until it’s published, so I’m not gonna mess with logos until the time investment has proven itself. So here’s the basics to get your site up & running quickly:

Basic logo & color palette

On Pinterest, I searched for “color palette green hex,” found a green & gold pin I liked that has the hex codes in the description, and copied those hex codes into the Elementor color palette tool.

Then I opened up Canva and designed a temporary logo using one of the green colors; the name is Frugal Business Tools so I found a dollar sign & tool kit, made them green, and exported. It’s not my forever logo, but it’ll work to get the site up & running.

Simple web design

I started with the website settings:

  • Settings > Reading: I changed my Homepage display to Static and assigned my homepage and blog posts page,
  • Settings > Permalinks: I changed the permalink structure to “Post Name” without any dates
  • Settings > Discussion: I turned off comments (If you want to keep these for your site, cool … but I’ve always found that they’re more of a hassle than a benefit, especially given the number of spam comments that show up!)
  • Appearance > Menu: Added all my pages to my primary menu

Then I went to the theme customizer:

  • added my simple logo
  • set a full-width layout for main pages, and a right sidebar on the blog posts
  • on the blog archives page, turned off the post date, author, categories and tags, and turned on infinite scroll
  • swapped out my link colors
  • added a Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions and copyright info to my footer

And then I spent some time in Canva designing hero images for key website pages & a template for blog posts.

And that’s it!

Remember: As soon as your site goes live (and you take off any de-indexing or privacy settings that you might have set up while you were in staging/demo mode), Google can start indexing your site to evaluate what the heck you’re talking about and how to send traffic your way, and you can start using that data to plan future content (and world domination).

So if you’ve been sitting on a half-built site, go ahead and press PUBLISH. Even if it’s imperfect, start making a footprint and staking a claim on your expertise. The sooner your website is live, the sooner it can start bringing you new clients & making you more money.

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