WPEngine - The Red Pill

So, you have taken the path of the Red Pill, congratulations. Let us begin your journey towards building your own awesome blog. For this, I will be looking at and using WPEngine, they are an all in one website builder, that allows you to host your Blog, with a free SSL and 10gb of data for $29 a month.

Which is pretty good considering what they offer. You can save an extra 20% if you use code WPE20OFF

For both options, I would also recommend reading the 'Deserts' section that shows you plugins that I would recommend installing that help with things like SEO and List Building and adding pretty links across your website.

Right, now on to the good part, how to set up WP Engine.

The Starters

Using the WPEngine site does mean you will not need to look for hosting or SSLS, but you will still need to look for a domain/URL.

I recommend looking into either NameCheap or 123REG. They both offer domains names for fantastic prices, and it's worth looking into both to see who currently has the best deal on.

We will cover this later on how to buy and switch over to your own custom URL. You will also need to look for a theme, but again this is covered later on.

After you have sorted out your domain, you need to head on over to WPEngine - From here, they give you 3 different options, you will only need to choose the Personal tier, as you can see from the image below, it gives you 1 install, 25k visitors a month and a free SSL certificate (great for e-commerce!). They do also give you a 60-day money back offer, so if you change your mind, cancel and they give you your money back, always nice.

Wp Engine Pricing

Oce you have selected your plan, you will be sent to the checkout page. Once on this page be sure to use the code  WPE20OFF - This will knock 20% off your first payment - Nifty huh.

WEngine Checkout

Once inside you will now be shown a page with the following info

  • Your WPEngine Hosting Portal
  • Login information
  • Current Site URL
  • The WordPress admin URL and some login details

Keep that information safe..it's vital.

Once you have written all this information down or store it securely, it's time to get started. You should receive an email to the login page.

The main course - Setting up WpEngine

From here you will then be told to set yourself a password. Be sensible, don't use your dog's name.

You will now see your next screen and a popup.

IF you have a site up and running already, for example, you swallowed the blue pill in the past then you will want to use the Migrate Site button, else you will need to select the 'Don't show me this again' button.

Wp Engine Signup Manage

You will want to select your 'install' now and be taken to the Overview of the domain you set up.

You will see that the domain is probably called 'yourchosenname.wpengine.com' - Click on the URL next to CNAME

Welcome, to what will become your new blog!

Now that you have seen the front end, it's time to take a look at the back end.

Wp Engine WordPress Backend

This is where you will spend a lot of your time (and you may be familiar with it if you have done a WordPress website before, seriously they all look the same).

From here, we are going to go find a theme

Select the 'Theme' Tab (looks like a paintbrush) and you will be taken to a theme selection screen. You have the ability to upload your own, or go searching on the WordPress database - They have loads. One option is to look into ThemeForest (they offer free and premium themes) but for now, I would just find one that suits you via the 'add new' and search functionality.

Installing a theme with WP Engine

 You will find hundreds, and hundreds of them, so have a scroll through and start selecting and previewing ones that take your fancy.  You do want to keep in mind the primary function of your site. Are you going to be building a Blog primarily, or will you be looking at providing reviews, maybe you want splash pages with free giveaways before you direct to your blog?

Once you have found one that you like,  just click Install.

Installing theme with WpEngine

You will be shown an install screen and either a success or failure, the only time they fail will be if you have found one on the web and it's got a corrupt file zip file or it's incomplete

Now you have installed it, you will want to activate it, so go ahead.

Brilliant, you have a new theme set up and ready to be customised to your liking.

Depending on theme you have chosen you will most likely see the customise button on the Theme Tab you chose earlier

Building a blog with WP Engine

I happen to have chosen a theme that requires an extra plugin, but it will turn the theme into a drag and drop theme, so for this example, I am going to install the Plugin and get on with customising.

Installing a Plugin for WP Engine

Now that I have installed the plugin, I can get on with customising my theme. You really want to take your time with this. You need to think how you want your website to flow, and how it should be laid out.

Do you want big striking images that grab your readers attention, or do you simply want to show people a small piece of text with your blogs name?

You also want to think about how you want the rest of the front page to look, again do you want individual sections, maybe split up with what people could learn or links to parts of the website they would find useful? The world is your oyster and I would recommend taking your time here.

If you are after awesome images, I would recommend looking into PixaBay they offer both royalty free and pay for images. A lot of the images you see on TheOnlineStudent come from this site because they are of such high quality.

The Cheese Course

Congratulations, you have a blog, you have a theme and you may even have some content on it. But now it's time to get you a domain that helps you stick out from the crowd and also gives you a bit of an SEO boost.

123Reg Building a Blog

I recommend looking at either NameCheap or 123Reg for your domain name choices. You want to purchase a URL that helps people identify your blog, or you. For example, I named this blog the online student, as I want a student that was learning and running online businesses, I know, mind-blowing. 

 Having the a good URL can also help boost your SEO, especially if you want to target a certain niche or area of interest - For example having XboxGameGuides would be really good for getting you high up in the google ranks when people search for 'Xbox game guides' and will give you a huge weighting against other places like 'JamesPalaceofXboxGames' - Because who would be searching for that...

Once you have found the domain of your dreams, its time to add it to your WpEngine account. Depending on your chosen Registrar, will depend on the back end and how you swap your DNS. I would recommend reading either this guide from NameCheap or this guide from 123Reg.

You will essentially need to change the URL for your CNAME to be yoursite.wpengine.com.

Now you have done this, head back to your site, using yoursite.wpengine.com/wp-admin and click 'Settings', and then 'General'

DNS Update WPENGINE Manual

We will be updating both the WordPress Address (URL) and the Site Address (URL). They both need to be updated from http://yoursite.wpengine.com to http://yourdomain.com. For example, I will be changing mine from http://theonlinestude.wpengine.com to https://theonlinestudent.co.uk.

DO NOT MAKE ANY TYPOS as this can mean your website becomes misconfigured. You may need to wait for 48hours for the changes to take place, this is called 'DNS Propagation' and putting the incorrect details in can mean that your website sits in limbo for a while.

Once you have made the changes, you need to scroll down and click 'Save Changes'

WPENGINE Manual Config

Now, head back to my.wpengine.com and click the 'Domains' section.

WPENGINE Manual Update Domain

Hit the 'Add Domain' button and type in your URL.

WPENGINE Manual Domain

Now, on the left-hand side click 'Site Migration'  and click the 'Manually Migrate Your Site'

WPENGINE Manual Update

Once you have completed this, you will now need to wait a little while (up to 72 hours). I have had websites switch within 10 - 15minutes and I have had others take the full 72 hours. You can be notified of when the site has been moved, just enter your email and wait for the notification from WPEngine.

Congratulations, you should now have a live site with a sexy new URL!

I am happy to say you have now set up WP Engine wasn't that nice and easy!

The Desert

So, you have your website set up, it has content, you have a beautiful domain name and you have images across it now. Awesome.

Now it's time to add some cool features and to start building up your newsletter list or increasing your social following.

One of the apps I like to use is called Sumo it's an easy to install Plugin that allows you to have tools much like you see on this website, including an email catcher popup and an email newsletter bar. All of which allows you to start building up a newsletter list. This list can be really useful for sending notifications of new blog posts, you can send recommendations or even send a great offer you have got from a sponsor or affiliate too them.

Firstly, you want to head to Sumo and sign up for their free service. Doing so is quick, easy and painless. Add your website, but don't worry about attaching it just yet, we will do that via the WordPress app.

Adding App Sumo WordPress

To get the plugin, you need to head on over to your WordPress admin panel and select the 'Plugins' option.

WPENGINE PLUGINS SUMOME

Select, 'New' and search for Sumo - You will find the SumoMe app made by the guys at SumoMe. Once you have installed the Sumo plugin, you need to activate. Simply click 'Activate' and WordPress will do the rest.

Now you will see a Sumo icon appear on the left-hand bar, click that and open the dashboard. Once here, you will be taken to the Sumo in-house WordPress dashboard. From here you can connect your website. You will be required to sign in with the details you made earlier

Sumo Login

From here you can now select 'MyApps' and you will be taken to the dashboard.

Sidenote: if you want to access the store, you will need to upgrade to one of their premium packages (I would recommend it just for the new templates alone!).

It's now time to create your first email capture form. I recommend using the standard collect email and 'Pop Up' form.

Sumo List Builder

From here you can start to decide how you want it to display, different themes (if you have pro) and where the collected emails go. I would recommend using Aweber for your email collection, just because they allow you to send affiliate links via your emails and you will want to be doing this in the future.

Congratulations again, you now have a blog, a sexy theme, an awesome URL and a way of capturing those visitors who want to learn a bit more about you. Now it's time to go forth and write!

Good luck.

Want to have a bit more freedom with your WordPress or want to pay a little less for hosting, check out the Blue Pill.

The After-dinner Mint

If you have made it this far, congratulations. That means A) You can read a lot of text and B) You are serious about creating your blog. So I wanted to give you a little sweet chocolate treat. 

Make Money While Blogging

For those who sign up and enjoy using WPEngine, you can actually make money from referring them (obviously if you enjoy them). For every person who you refer (via your own link) WPEngine will pass on $200 (or about £150 to you). Yep, it's as easy as that. All you need to do is sign up

You can add your own referral link to your own blogs, send it to friends or family who are interested in blogging or just add a small banner on a home page or something. Happy blogging!

James started The Online Student as a typical blog telling people about his struggles and woes with DropShipping, Amazon FBA and even Affiliate marketing. He then decided that blogging about it all would give people the skills, knowledge and apps to get up and running (while making a little extra on the side). After a few months he realised it was quite lucrative and decided to work his ass off making it a bit more than just a hobby!

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