Looking to start a news website? This detailed guide answers all your questions around building a news website from scratch. Gone are the days when you needed sound technical knowledge to build a website. There are plenty of website building software readily available, some for free, that delete the jargon and make it extremely simple to start a website. WordPress is a popular tool that offers free themes for web layout, editing tools for creating content, it lets you add multimedia content such as photos and videos easily, and also offers a host of customisation options. WordPress has become a popular choice among bloggers who are looking to start a website on their own.
For a news website, a lot of things need to be considered apart from WordPress. It is also important to understand how to build engaging content, knowing your target audience, the five Ws of fundamental journalism, the importance of real-time news in the digital space, introducing a reader-friendly layout, social media sharing options, importance of indexing on Google, and integration of RSS feeds. This guide will answer all of these questions and take you through all the steps of making a news website and running it successfully.
Begin with Choosing a Good Web Host
The first step is to build a website, and for that you need a web host. Now, there are plenty of web hosting services out there, but it’s best to go with the popular ones such as Bluehost, SiteGround, Hostinger, and HostGator. All of these offer hosting solutions under $4 per month. There are varied plans offered, depending on the needs of the user. Of course, there are some free web hosting options such as AccuWeb, Byet.host, and Award Space, but the features offered by these services are limited.
Certain web hosting platforms have specific servers to host WordPress websites. Bluehost and WP Engine do offer WordPress preinstalled which helps you set up your website faster.
First Impressions Matter
A well designed website complements its content just like a tailored suit. For a news website content is crucial, so the theme needs to look good while being functional. It needs to support multiple formats i.e. video, photos, and text, we need a responsive theme (a layout that works on desktop, mobile, and tablet), and a layout that is designed for good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Optimum SEO will ensure better ranking on Google which will result in good website traffic.
By default, a WordPress site comes with a basic theme but you can switch to a professional looking one by choosing one from the thousands themes on offer by WordPress.
On the WordPress admin dashboard, click on Appearance > Themes. You can search for themes using the search option and filter it according to your preference (layout, industry etc). Some themes are free to use, while some are paid. You can install the theme and customize it by going to Appearance > Customize.
Some themes that you must try out are OceanWP, Magazine, Public Opinion, Astra, Prime News, Hive, Ultra, SeedProd, WonderWall, Divi, and Editorial. Out of these, Editorial is a free WordPress theme that offers a responsive layout and is an ideal choice for a news website. It is built on Customizer which allows the user to tinker with most of the theme settings easily with live previews. It is also translation ready enabling you to create a multilingual website if needed. If you are just starting out, Editorial could be a good layout option. It requires no code to design and tweak settings. You can view the demo of the Editorial theme on the Mystery Themes website.
SeedProd is also a very good premium WordPress theme as it comes with a page builder plugin. This allows the user to create a completely custom website with an easy drag and drop visual builder, eliminating the need to know HTML/ CSS code. The page builder offers features like contact forms, social profiles, content blocks, social sharing, opt-in form, countdown, progress bar, testimonials, and more. We will talk more about plugins and their importance while building a news website a little later in this guide.
Doing Content Right
It is recommended that you fill up your static pages first and be done with. You can always edit and add something later on. To add content on Pages, click on Pages in the WordPress hamburger menu and then press Add New. Insert the title to your page, enter the text, add in videos, photos, and other required media before you publish. Once you hit publish, the page will go live on your website.
The similar process needs to be followed for posts as well. Go to Posts > Add New from your WordPress dashboard. Enter the content of your first post, embed videos and photos, link wherever necessary, and save your work as draft. You can preview your article using the Preview button before publishing your first post on the website.
When writing articles for your news website, remember the five Ws of journalism – Who, What, When, Where, Why. These questions must be answered in your article, to make it a wholesome piece. Furthermore, when writing for the digital medium, it is very important to keep SEO in mind. You should include keywords especially in the title, meta description, and the body. Linking back to your own original content helps in improving traffic, and incorporating imagery and video improves time spent. The structure and the layout of the article is also an important aspect to consider before hitting the publish button. Lastly, do not forget to push your content on social media, a powerful medium to generate traffic.
WordPress also has a built-in comments system, and these can be customised by going to Settings > Discussions. You can opt to manually approve all comments before they go live to avoid spam. It is a good practice to reply to site visitors comments on your posts.
To add navigation menus on your news websites, head to Appearance > Menu. The navigation menu system allows you to go to different pages of your website from your homepage. WordPress also offers the ability to select where the navigation menu will show up on your website, but this is also influenced by the theme you choose for your website.
Adding Functionality and Features to Your Website
Now that you’ve understood how to go about WordPress, here is how you can add more functionality to your website. WordPress itself houses thousands of plugins to choose from but you can also install third-party paid plugins. You can go to the Plugins section in WordPress and search for the plugin to add the functionality you need. Installation is pretty straight-forward but you will need to click activate to integrate it with your news website. There are other methods to install third-party plugins and you can find the detailed guide here.
Some of the plugins that you must include on your news website are All in One SEO that helps you improve your WordPress SEO and get more traffic from Google, iZooto that helps you handle push notifications after a reader leaves your website, and the MonsterInsights plugin that integrates Google Analytics to help you understand where and how your traffic comes from. Google Analytics tells you which articles work and which don’t. This will in turn help you make sound content strategies for the future.
There’s also the News Announcement Scroll plugin that allows you to showcase a significant notice on your website or highlight any upcoming articles. There is the WP-Polls plugin that lets you add a poll to your news website. This could be useful to get more engagement from readers. If your theme does not offer a news ticker, you can easily add that functionality using a plugin. The Ditty News Ticker does a good job of adding a custom news ticker to your site. Other plugins that may come in handy for your news website are WP News and Scrolling Widgets and Live News. You can also try the Smash Balloon plugin to easily add social media widgets to your website.
Importance of SEO, and a Content Strategy
Now that your website is ready, with the required functionality, it is time to populate your website, as frequently and as consistently as possible, keeping SEO in mind. It is best to have a content strategy, plan important events in advance, and have those important stories ready in draft so that you can publish them as soon as the news breaks out. These rough drafts could include all relevant information except for the specifics which can be filled out, as soon as the news comes in.
Keep a track on Google Trends, follow the most searched keywords, and try to build your content strategy around that. This guide on SEO by WPBeginner gives some great tips on how to write a SEO-friendly article. In order to push out articles fast, you can schedule some stories for the next morning, the night before. This practice can help with Google indexing and help your website rank better in search. Indexing is a process wherein Google crawls your website for new content and then shows it in relevant search results. If your website is not indexed, then it will not show up in Google search results, one of the biggest sources of website traffic. Therefore, indexing is an important webmaster tool. To learn more about indexing, you can read this detailed article.
Distributing Content is as Important as Creating it
Once you do your SEO right and start ranking, you will get visitors on your website from Google. However, you shouldn’t purely rely on Google for your traffic. A good practice would be to start developing an audience on social media platforms. Ensure that you create social media profiles for your news website and populate it every time you post an article. Regular engagement on social media will lead to building a bigger audience for your website. Apart from sharing your articles, you could create polls, ask for opinions, break news, and make short news videos just for social media to generate more traffic. You should have a presence on popular social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
That’s it. We have covered some of the broad aspects to help you on your news website journey. News is a broad industry and if you are just starting out, you may want to take help from RSS feeds and wire subscriptions to help populate your website. There are several RSS plugins to help you kickstart things on your website. Some popular wire or news agency subscriptions are Reuters, Associated Press, ANI, IANS, and Bloomberg. You can choose and customize your subscriptions, based on your needs for the website. The digital news space is all about real-time updates, short videos, and page experience. Ensure that you are fully committed and build expertise in writing news articles quickly since this is a fast-paced industry.
Looking for different plugins for your website? Check out the best WordPress plugin for you blog. We have a list of 14 plugins to choose from.