Digital 101: An Introduction To Websites & Digital Marketing


This guide can be used to learn how to create a WordPress website for free, learn a little digital marketing strategy,  and then set up your digital marketing tools on your website. This guide is written for my students at Colorado State University but it is set up so that anyone can use it.  The only difference for some of these guides is that the software provided will be free for my students as it is donated by some generous companies. If you follow this guide, and are not a students the total cost will be less than $100 to get online.

How To Create A Self Hosted WordPress Website Set

The instructions below will show you how to make a nice, self hosted WordPress website. If you have no experience with website development, then the easiest way to get a website up is going to be to use a website template. A template website isn’t going to be as nice as a custom designed website, but it is a good way to get up and running quickly and will be much cheaper. Setting up a website on a WordPress template is better for your business than using an auto website builder such as Wix or Squarespace.  WordPress is much more powerful when it comes to digital marketing tools and will do much better in the search engines.

Despite template websites not looking as great as a custom websites they can still turn out pretty nice with a little bit of effort.  Here are a few website my undergraduate students made in recent semesters using Themify WordPress templates.

La Creperie

Silver Grill Cafe

Jennifer B Styling

We have also launched a student run digital agency at CSU.  You can check that out here:

GreenHorn Digital Agency

How To Quickly And Easily Get A Website Up & Running:

1) You will need hosting:  Siteground offers free hosting for students. This guide will show you how to sign up for free hosting with Siteground. 

2) You will need a URL: NameCheap gives a free .me URL for students to use for a year. This guide shows you how to claim your free URL on NameCheap. If you do not have  a .edu email address to get a free domain, or if want a .com then you can go to and get a URL for cheap for the first year.  Just google “GoDaddy coupon codes”  and there is always a coupon code for a 1.99 .com domain.

3) You will need a CMS. A CMS is a content management system. With a CMS you do not need to know how to code to upload and move content around to make a website. The most popular CMS is WordPress. WordPress websites do really good in search engines and are very powerful.  This guide will show you how to install WordPress into your Siteground hosting (or any hosting company that uses Softaculous).

4) You will need a template. You can use a default install of WordPress to make a website or a blog.  However, it will look very plain. There are limitless templates you can install from a website such as ThemeForest. There are also Frameworks for WordPress that have powerful website builders with easy to use layouts, skins and templates.  The framework I use in my classes is called Themify. This guide will show you how to  set up Themify in your WordPress.  This guide will show you how to get started with a Themify template.  I also have about 15 Themify guides on this website.  If you want more Themify tutorials go to the search bar at the top of this website and search for Themify.

Blank WordPress Install Graphic


With those four steps you can easily get a website set up. Once you have your website set up, you will need to implement a digital marketing strategy by setting up your initial digital marketing tools.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the marketing of your products or services using digital technologies such as the internet, mobile phones or apps. The initial step in most digital marketing strategies is creating a website. Once you get your website up the first thing you do is install analytics and set up your webmaster tools in the Google Search Console.  If your business has a physical location, then you also need to immediately set up your Google My Business account.

Digital Marketing Tools

1) You need to set up Analytics to be able to track how people access and use your website. This guide will show you how to set up and install Google Analytics into your website.

2) You need to verify your website with Google Search Console so that you can track how your website does in the search engines. This guide will show you how to get your Google Search Console account set up and verified.

google search console home screen

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is the process of helping your website get ranked higher in search engines through on-site optimization and off-site optimization. Your website needs to come up when people search for something related to your product or service and search engine optimization is the process to help make that happen. Here is my summary of what Search Engine Optimization is is in 100 words or less:

Good SEO starts with amazing content. If you have content that people love then you will have an invisible army of people sending triggers to Google about what a great page you have. Besides content, you need a responsive website that loads fast and this starts with good hosting and optimized images. You need very descriptive meta tags and an XML sitemap so that Google knows where your content is and what your content is. You also need an effective keyword strategy that naturally incorporates your keywords into the correct areas of your website. You also need to monitor and improve your pages with SEO tools.

Keyword Research: You cannot optimize your website for the search engines if you do not know the best keywords to try to rank for. If you try to rank on an impossibly competitive keyword or a keyword with no search traffic then you will be wasting your time and handicapping your website. Google Trends is my go to tool for this.  This guide shows you how to conduct keyword research.

On-Site SEO: On-site SEO involves  the changes you make on your website that helps make it easier for Google to rank you higher in the search engines. This guide will show you some On-site SEO basics for your WordPress website.

Off-Site SEO: Off-site SEO involves what a webmaster does in order to get links back to his or her website. Google considers a link from another website as that website vouching for your content. So the more links back to your website the better chance you will have of ranking higher on certain keywords. This guide will give you an introduction to off-site seo.

Search Engine Results Page Example

Paid Search

Paid search involves paying to get your website listed in a search engine.  This is generally carried out on a pay-per-click basis. A website owners bids on a keyword that is relevant to their product offering and Google will show the website page related to that product at the top of the search results. The most common used paid search program is called Google Ads.  This guide will show you how set up Google Ads for the first time to get access to their keyword planner. This guide will show you how to plan out your first campaign. This guide will show you how to set up some initial campaigns, ad groups, and keywords in Google Ads.

Local Search Marketing

Here are some interesting stats related to Local Search Marketing

  • Over 47% of Google searches are No Click Searches. These are search results that don’t lead to a click on a website.
  • A stat from Search Engine Land shows that 68% of people will contact a business directly from search results, without even visiting their site.
  • 93% of local searches feature Google My Business listings before normal search results.
  • Even if your site is ranking highly, it’s only getting a fraction of the traffic it used to.

If you have a storefront that serves customers in a certain geographic area, or if you have a business location that serves customers at their location in a certain geographic area then you need to concentrate on your local search marketing.  Local search marketing is the steps you take to try to get listed as high as possible in the Google local search results. The ultimate goal is to get listed in the 3-pack. This guide gives an overview of the steps you can take to improve your local search marketing.

Local Search Results Example

Content Marketing

Content marketing is an important part of digital marketing that involves the creation of  content (blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.) that helps to stimulate interest in a product or service. Content marketing is important for SEO because it helps websites to show up in the search results for more search terms. Content marketing is also important for social media marketing because it helps to keep customers engaged with the brand and hopefully become brand ambassadors. You cannot have successful social media without a content strategy. This guide talks a little more about content marketing. 

Here is one of my favorite podcast that talks about how to be successful with content marketing (skip to 9:37 in): 

Social Media Marketing:

A form of internet marketing that involves creating and sharing content on social media networks in order to achieve your marketing and branding goals and to drive user engagement and sharing. With social media marketing there are several benefits to your company:

  1. Increased Brand Awareness – The more posts they see from you the more knowledgeable they are about your brand
  2. Increased Website Visitors – Social content can help bring new visitors to your website and keeps existing visitors coming back
  3. Improved SEO – The more people share your content the better it does in the search engines by acting as a signal
  4. Higher Conversion Rates – the more interaction on social media , the more people trust the brand and maybe learn more uses of a product.
  5. Improved Customer Satisfaction – SM allows a one to one interaction so that people can ask questions, or complain and actually get a response.
  6. Increased Brand Loyalty: Social media helps to hammer home the brand message over and over again and more exposure to the brand in a positive light is going to increase loyalty.
  7. Increased Customer Service
  8. Teach Customers about product: Or new ways to use product.
  9. Create demand for product:  Or add on products or services.

Social Media Help

Social Media Challenges:

Always Changing – Social media is not a set it and forget it strategy. The “voice” of social media in every industry is always changing.  Your strategy needs to be updated on a consistent basis.  At a minimum you should review your strategy once a month.

Increasing Cost –  “Facebook Zero” has made it is so that organic reach of business posts is down to 1 t0 7%. This makes engaging content even more important.  You need to find platforms with better value such as Instagram.  You will need to consider a paid search strategy with social media. Video content shows more than static posts.

Creating Good Content Isn’t Easy – Creating top of the line, engaging content can be time consuming and sometimes expensive if it involves a video. You need to have a strategy and budget worked out to create good content.

Social Media Resources:

Content Calendar:  A content calendar helps you to stay organized and plan your content each month.  It is almost impossible to do social media on a day to day basis. This guide talks a little more about content calendars.

Graphic Design: In order to post content to social media you need to be able to create social media graphics.  Text posts are a thing of the past any rarely used effectively anymore. One program that helps to make simple social media graphics is called Canva.  With Canva you take their social media templates and make social media images in a matter of minutes. This guide shows you how to easily learn Canva.

Canva Tutorial Screen