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You’ve decided to create your first website—great! I’m going to teach you to set up your site like you’ve done this thousands of times before.
Bluehost allows you to buy and register both a domain name and hosting plan.
You can start for free at WordPress.com.
To use the free plan, you will not need to register a domain name or choose a web hosting provider since your website will automatically be generated as a sub-domain of WordPress.com. For example, if you wanted to start a blog about vintage teacups, your URL could be www.vintageteacups.wordpress.com.
If you’re in this for the long haul, keep in mind that your audience will be much more likely to trust your brand if you own your domain name (i.e. www.vintageteacups.com). Investing in domain registration and hosting is the first step towards growing an independent business.
Ready to get started? These 8 steps will walk you seamlessly through the process from sign-up to beginner content building so you won’t have to worry you’ve left anything out.
Do you intend your website to be a portfolio of your work? A niche blog? An eCommerce site? You can do all of this and more via WordPress, which opens up the world wide web of possibility with its full-powered CMS.
How do you want to be known by your audience? That’s your business name.
And how do you want them to reach you? That’s your domain name.
Since your domain name will be a major face of your business, you’ll want to put some good thought into it.
A strong domain name serves your business goals by referencing your product or service. It should be catchy, memorable, and easy to type. Try for shorter rather than longer names where possible.
How can you come up with the right name?
Let’s take the two businesses we’re working with in this guide as an example.
WordPress is short, iconic, and evokes images of text (“word”) and potentially a printing press (“press”). It’s clear that their business model is based on sharing content.
Similarly, Bluehost includes the word “host,” suggesting they are a web host provider. The combination of “blue” and “host” is simple and catchy.
Both names are highly brandable and easy to remember.
The benefit of hosting on Bluehost rather than just WordPress.com is that Bluehost takes care of your site’s security, speed, performance, and updates for you.
We recommend shared WordPress hosting, which gives you access to a server specifically attuned to the WordPress software package. This means that safety, security, and speed are all built in—put another way, managed for you.
To choose a plan, go to Bluehost’s pricing page. You’ll see this:
Bluehost offers four hosting plans: Basic, Plus, Choice Plus, and Pro. At every tier, the plans include a free SSL certificate (adding an extra layer of security to your site), unlimited bandwidth, and plenty of storage. For most sites, the performance of the hosting will be more than good enough.
Select the plan and that’s right for your budget. You can always upgrade later.
After selecting a plan, you’ll be prompted to register your domain name.
If you already own a domain name, enter it on the right. You may need to change your DNS records to make sure your domain name servers point to Bluehost, allowing people to access your website.
If you are registering your domain name with Bluehost, enter it on the left. Domain registration is free for one year with a managed WordPress hosting account. Always be sure to note when your domain must be renewed so it doesn’t expire without your notice, leaving your website inaccessible.
You’ll be asked to fill in personal information before finalizing your purchase.
Be sure to choose a strong password for your Bluehost account (preferably not the same one you use to log into any other site). You’ll then be ready to install WordPress.
Connecting Bluehost with WordPress is incredibly easy. In your Bluehost account control panel, navigate to “MOJO Marketplace” and choose “One-Click Installs.”
This will bring you to the Scripts and Platforms page. After you click the WordPress icon—found under “Blogs” at the top of the page—an installation window will open. Click “Start” to begin installation.
You’ll now be taken to the progress page. After installation is complete, you will see your site URL, admin login URL, your username and password. Print and store this master list in a safe place.
Time to log in to WordPress! Log in at your admin URL and you’ll find yourself at the Dashboard, where you can begin on the visual design for your site.
Also called “skins,” your site theme is like an outfit for your website. The theme you choose will affect your site visuals, content layout, and some of the customizable design features you have access to.
WordPress has a number of both free and premium (paid) themes.
When choosing a theme, pay special attention to:
Most themes allow you to try a Live Demo so you can see how it will look and compare its appearance to your design and content goals for the site.
When you’re ready, click “Activate theme” to install. You can always add plugins for additional functionalities or switch themes when you are better accustomed to WordPress.
If your website theme is like a “skin” or outfit that gives the website substance, design, and form, your plugins are the accessories that pull the outfit together.
Plugins work alongside your theme to provide desirable functionalities, like a comment filter, contact form, or search engine optimization (SEO) toolbox, and are built to work seamlessly with WordPress’s back-end operations. While some are best-suited to a particular type of site, like eCommerce or blog, many are all-purpose. Plugins can be free or paid.
In most cases, you will need a WordPress Business plan or higher to use plugins. Aspects of Jetpack and Akismet (see below) are included with your blog.
Be sure to vet your plugins before installing: A large number of positive user reviews alongside information about the developer, functionalities, and latest release date can all help you make the best decisions for your site.
On WordPress, there are two meaningful distinctions when it comes to organizing your site content, pages and posts.
When you start adding content to your website, it may be helpful to get inspiration from existing websites, both those where you spend a lot of time and sites that have a similar function to yours. Ask yourself:
Here’s how to create your first page (ideally, the homepage):
After creating the essential pages, consider your website’s functionality from the point of view of your future site visitors. Although it may be tough in the beginning to put yourself in their shoes, successful site content is laser-focused on the audience. Ask yourself:
Don’t feel pressure to include all possible content at once; less is often more for a new website. Your site will likely change over time based on your evolving business model as well as the needs of your audience. You can always add more content as you go.
On the one hand, the beauty of website creation is that your site design is completely up to you. Depending on the purpose of your website, however, you may be required by law to include certain content, like:
Be sure to check the relevant law in your area and update your website regularly.
Do you want your homepage to appear as a traditional homepage or a blog?
WordPress allows you to choose whether you want a static (unchanging) or dynamic homepage (shows your ten latest blogs). The dynamic version is the default.
To designate a static homepage, find the “Site” category in the left-hand sidebar and click “Pages,” then “Add new page.” You can choose a premade layout or click “Use Blank Layout,” as in the photo just above. Then name your page and click “Publish.” For example:
Now, navigate to the “Design” category in the left-hand sidebar of your Dashboard and click “Customize.”
There are many things for you to play around with here, including adding your Site Title, Tagline, and Icon, adding a header or footer, and changing the site colors. For now, click on “Homepage Settings” and toggle the option for “A static page.” Beneath, you can choose the page you just created.
It’s time to start adding content to your homepage!
Once you add more pages, like About or Contact, they will show up as part of a navigation bar that is designated by your theme. In “Customize,” click on “Menus” to change the page order and location.
You’ve just created your first website. Congratulations on this exciting new step!
Now you can start familiarizing yourself with the WordPress interface. While creating Pages and Posts, you’ll be using the Block Editor, which uses Gutenberg blocks to help you add content and make your site engaging and interactive.
Since your website is a representation of your brand, I recommend building your content with a critical eye. At the same time, learning as you go is part of the experience. You can always delete or click the back button—no change is permanent, so feel free to play around.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Marketing campaigns get more complex by the day.
Which… is great news for the consumer experience but a nightmare for you as a marketing manager handling thousands of moving parts (and countless employees) on a daily basis.
To put it lightly, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.
Especially complex technical challenges that most consumers and employees will never see or fully understand.
But thankfully more and more automation tools are popping up to make your life a bit easier.
However, that means choosing the best marketing automation software for your business and team is harder than its ever been.
From enterprise-grade solutions to the most affordable options, my team and I have researched, tested, and used just about every software you can imagine. And I can honestly say… that’s not an exaggeration.
But the good news is that I narrowed it down to my top six recommendations, reviewed them, and developed an all-inclusive list of what to consider when making your final decision.
I stand behind all of my top recommendations. However, choosing the right one for you isn’t always easy because it depends on various factors.
So, before we dive in, let’s talk about how to narrow things down and find the best marketing automation software for your business.
B2B businesses have different marketing needs than D2C companies.
Furthermore, marketing agencies present a new set of marketing automation challenges. Because of that, specialized software may be necessary to meet your specific needs at a reasonable price point.
The size of your business matters too. Large companies run complex, massive-scale campaigns and have bigger pockets. So, small business tools aren’t a good match.
However, smaller companies will probably find enterprise-grade features confusing and wildly out of budget, which is why those small business tools exist in the first place.
So, pay attention to who the software is built for when making your final decision.
Most pricing plans depend on the number of contacts or leads you have. The larger your list, the more you need to pay to maintain it and stay in touch with them.
If you have tens or hundreds of thousands of contacts, enterprise-grade solutions are probably more cost-effective. However, that’s not the case if you have a few hundred or even a few thousand leads on your list.
Just be sure to keep this in mind and remember that specific plans may limit the maximum number of contacts you can have.
And if you hit those limits, you’ll need to upgrade to a higher plan or pay an extra fee.
Different marketing automation software supports various marketing channels.
And there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
From SMS and email marketing to social media and push notifications, it’s crucial to choose a software that handles everything you need.
Smaller businesses with simple campaigns may not utilize a wide range of channels and can get away using a more affordable tool.
However, large businesses with complex campaigns spanning numerous channels need something more robust to manage all the moving parts.
Furthermore, some software includes varying channels in different pricing tiers. So, you may start on one level and need to move up to gain access to more marketing channels. Or you may need to move to (or integrate) a new tool altogether.
It may help to map out your upcoming campaigns and decide which channels you plan to use.
Automation is at the heart of every tool on this list. But some offer more advanced automation features than others.
Do you need to score leads and prospects? Maybe you want to combine SMS, email marketing, and Facebook ads in the same customer journey. Or perhaps you need the ability to send hyper-targeted emails on autopilot.
Regardless of the complexity of your campaigns, don’t forget to consider:
You may not need all of them, and some tools don’t include them. So it’s critical to understand what you need (and don’t need) before making your decision.
It’s not uncommon for marketing automation software to include a handful of features typically found in a CRM tool, like live chat or customer support capabilities.
Before making a final decision, it’s essential to understand which additional features you need to fill the gap between marketing and sales or customer service.
You may already have these systems in place. So, you won’t need these additional features. But if you don’t, you might be able to save money, hassle, and time by choosing a software that includes everything you’re missing under one roof.
Hubspot is an excellent example of this.
It includes customer service, sales, and marketing automation tools in a centralized location to streamline data movement and foster automation across your entire business.
Marketing comes in all shapes, sizes, and complexities.
From physical mailers and print campaigns to social media and email marketing, the best marketing automation software helps you build, automate, and optimize all types of marketing campaigns.
Marketing automation software is often confused with customer relationship management (CRM). However, the two aren’t the same or interchangeable.
CRM software focuses on sales activities, while marketing automation software focuses on marketing tasks. Going further, marketing automation software is for generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads.
On the other hand, CRM software is to close the sale and foster communications or relationships after the sale.
In a perfect world, the two systems play well together and create a seamless flow of data from your marketing team to your sales team.
Taking things further, there are numerous subsets of marketing automation software, including:
Each different tool is powerful on its own. But true marketing automation software lets you create and optimize customer journeys across marketing platforms for varying complexity campaigns.
Around here, we’re big fans of Freshworks (if you couldn’t tell).
Freshmarketer is their intelligent marketing automation platform built to help small to midsize businesses save time, attract the right people, nurture their audiences, and make more money.
It’s my #1 recommendation for most users—and for a good reason.
From awareness to retention, you get all the automation features you need to gain more leads, turn those leads into customers, and keep those customers around for life. All while doing less work with better results.
Plus, you don’t need any technical skills or a dedicated support team to get started. And it takes about a minute to get up and running.
You also get access to incredible features like:
Furthermore, the software seamlessly integrates with Freshworks’ other tools, so it’s an excellent choice if you currently use or plan to use any of their business software.
You can try Freshmarketer on their limited free forever plan or a 21-day free trial of their paid plans, which are incredibly affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. However, they depend on the number of contacts you have, so keep that in mind.
Their plans include:
Just remember the cost for each plan goes up after you max out your 1,000 contacts.
As a B2B business, you market to other companies, which presents a unique set of marketing challenges. As such, you need a marketing automation tool built for the job.
Pardot exists to help B2B companies build relationships and turn those relationships into revenue. Plus, it’s a fantastic marketing automation software built around the world’s #1 CRM.
So, you know you’re in good hands.
From lead generation to sales alignment, the software offers a wide range of features, including:
Furthermore, over 2.8+ million worldwide users rely on Pardot for their marketing automation needs, making it one of the most popular platforms on this list.
But it is a bit expensive, so it’s best suited for larger businesses. Their paid plans include:
They also offer a few add-ons that come free in the Premium plan. Those add-ons include Salesforce Engage ($50/user per month), Analytics Plus ($3,000/month), and Engagement History ($300/year).
All plans and add-ons are billed on an annual basis.
Email is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. All the tools on this list include email marketing in one form or another, but ActiveCampaign specializes in it.
So, it’s an excellent option if you want to hone in and focus on improving your email marketing strategy. It’s also a super affordable tool that includes numerous automation features for leads anywhere in your funnel.
With that said, they also offer omnichannel automation, including instant messaging and SMS, live chat, and Facebook.
So, you’re not limited to just email marketing automation with ActiveCampaign.
Their most popular features cover leads at every point in the funnel, including:
You can also set up numerous types of emails like autoresponders, targeted or triggered emails, broadcasts, scheduled emails, and automated funnels.
And you can design those emails using their intuitive drag and drop designer, or start from one of their 25+ pre-made mobile-responsive design templates.
Whether you’re just getting started or interested in scaling and optimizing your email marketing strategy, ActiveCampaign is an excellent choice. They offer everything you need to capture, nurture, and close leads at scale.
ActiveCampaign offers four plans, with the price of each starting at:
Each tier includes more advanced features, and pricing is based on the size of your list, starting for up to 500 contacts.
So, keep in mind that you will have to pay more than the prices above as your list grows.
Acoustic offers an array of marketing automation products for centralized cross-platform multi-channel marketing. From personalization and email campaigns to web content management and experience management, they offer something for everyone.
Acoustic Campaign is their marketing automation tool, encompassing mobile apps, push notifications, SMS, group chats, social media, ads, email, print campaigns, and more.
You can also combine this with Acoustic Personalization and Acoustic Analytics for a powerful combination of campaign management, data, and using that data to deliver the right message at the right time.
With Acoustic Campaign, you get access to powerful features, including:
Furthermore, they have a community forum where you can publicly ask questions. They also provide an online academy packed full of educational videos and training so you can get the most of your custom automation package.
Note: Acoustic is built for moderate to large volume campaigns with countless moving parts. So, it’s perfect for businesses managing complicated campaigns across numerous channels.
But it’s overkill for a lot of businesses and anyone running single-channel campaigns.
Pricing isn’t available online, and you have to schedule a consultation to learn more. So, keep in mind that you won’t be able to sign up and get started immediately.
If you’re looking for an easy way to automate your sales, customer service, and marketing processes, Hubspot Growth Suite is an excellent and affordable solution.
And the best part? Hubspot goes beyond automating your business processes. It also helps integrate and optimize different departments in one centralized location, thus streamlining your entire business’s workflow.
This means teams don’t have to jump from software to software to get the information they need, and you can automate the data transfer process from one team to the next.
However, their marketing automation capabilities are powerful on their own, with features like:
Hubspot offers basic features, like emails, landing pages, forms, and live chat capabilities for unlimited users absolutely free. So, you can try it out without spending a penny.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a free demo to see all of their advanced features in action.
The Growth Suite (sales, marketing, CRM, and customer service) starts at $50 per month for two users and up to 1,000 contacts, making it extremely affordable for most businesses.
But they also have advanced plans for larger and more complex campaigns, including:
Each 1,000 contacts after your initial 1,000 cost $16.67 per month. And you can add more users to your sales and service hubs for $8.33 per user/month.
Plus, if you’re a current member or alumni of Hubspot’s approved incubator, accelerator, or Venture Capital partners with a round of Series A funding under your belt, you can get up to 90% off your first year.
As a marketing agency, you handle marketing campaigns for several clients (if not hundreds of them) at any given time. As such, you need marketing automation software with the ability to manage everything, including your own marketing campaigns, in one place.
And Act-On offers the perfect solution.
Their scalable software features unique child and parent campaign capabilities, meaning you can easily manage and handle all of your client accounts from a single Act-On login.
Plus, you can completely brand and customize everything to deliver custom reports to clients in just a few clicks.
With Act-On, you can learn more about your clients’ audiences to personalize and tailor their message to match. Not only does this make their life easier, but it also means your team can work less to produce better results.
When you sign up, you get access to powerful marketing features, including:
Plus, you can build custom real-time analytic dashboards for internal and external use, so you and your clients always know what’s going on.
Furthermore, you can use this information to improve customer ROI, build better technology stacks, and optimize entire marketing campaigns on behalf of your clients. From lead gathering and nurturing to transferring contact information to sales, you’re in good hands.
Sign up for a free demo to learn more and get started today!
Freshmarketer is my top recommendation for most businesses. It’s built for small to midsize companies interested in automating their marketing processes to grow their businesses and save time.
Plus, it’s affordable, easy to use, and packed full of powerful automation features.
However, it’s not the perfect solution for everyone. So, don’t forget to use the criteria we talked about as you sort through finding the best marketing automation software for you and your team.
What are your favorite marketing automation tools?