If you’re looking for the best platform for your business website, you’ve no doubt run across WordPress. It’s hands-down the most popular website platform on the planet, powering roughly 35% of websites and 50% of ecommerce stores worldwide. Chances are, it’s right for your business, too.
We’ll explore how to use WordPress for your business website in this guide, plus look at the many types of businesses that run on WordPress and examine its pros, cons, and alternatives.
How to Use WordPress for Business Websites
WordPress is a highly versatile platform and, quite honestly, if you can dream it, you can do it on WordPress. From ecommerce stores and affiliate blogs to online training academies, service businesses, and everything in between, WordPress can power virtually any type of business website.
However, you need to clearly understand the five WordPress website building blocks—hosting, themes, plugins, payments, and integrations—in order to make it work for your business.
1. WordPress Hosting
First, you’ll need a website hosting service that specializes in WordPress website hosting. This is where your website “lives,” technically speaking. Most small businesses and startups can use “managed WordPress hosting,” available through top hosting providers like Bluehost, GoDaddy, WPEngine, WordPress.com, and others.
Managed WordPress hosting solutions deliver many built-in features, like a pre-installed WordPress environment, automated website backup, SSL security certificates, and malware protection. If this is your first website—or a new one—most WordPress hosting services also provide a domain name, or custom URL, with your plan. Essentially, managed WordPress hosting solutions are the closest thing to a one-stop-shop for a DIY WordPress website.
2. WordPress Theme
WordPress itself is simply a website development platform. To turn it into a functional website with content pages, images, headers, footers, and navigation menus, you’ll need a WordPress theme. WordPress developers essentially package all of the coding and basic website functionality into a plug-and-play module—or theme.
Divi is a WordPress site builder theme that gives you many pre-built single-page and complete website templates to kick-start your business website setup. Image source: Divi
WordPress themes drive the overall look and basic functionality of a WordPress website. There are thousands of WordPress themes on the market. Some are specifically designed for certain types of business websites, like real estate, ecommerce, and online magazine sites. Others, like Divi, work as “site builder” themes that let you create very customized websites for any type of business.
New users generally find that business-focused themes are simpler for building and launching business-specific websites. However, site builder themes deliver the most versatility in the long run and can be worth the bigger learning curve.
Many basic WordPress themes are free, but you can buy “premium” and “pro” themes for around $20 to $100 and get more built-in features. Most WordPress hosting services offer a suite of themes with hosting packages, too.
If you decide to use WordPress for your business website, it’s smart to spend time exploring and testing the universe of themes available to you. You can start with your hosting provider’s themes and major theme marketplaces, like ThemeForest.
You can also change themes at any time on WordPress, which is a big plus for this platform. However, theme swaps do require rework and setup. Testing out many themes upfront will help you find the best fit for your business to avoid time-consuming theme changes later on.
3. WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins add specific functionality to WordPress websites. Like themes, there are thousands of plugins in the WordPress universe, and many are very business-specific.
- Ecommerce plugins like WooCommerce add product pages, shopping carts, payment processing, order management, and shipping functions to turn WordPress websites into online stores.
- IDX plugins like iHomefinder let independent real estate agents create high-tech real estate search websites similar to Zillow and Realtor.com.
The free WooCommerce ecommerce plugin for WordPress powers more online stores than all other ecommerce platforms combined. Image source: WooCommerce
Likewise, there are plugins that drive any other type of business imaginable, here are a few more examples.
- Affiliate blog and magazine website owners can use plugins like AAWP to easily promote Amazon products.
- Ecommerce dropshippers can pair dropship marketplace plugins like AliExpress and print-on-demand plugins like Printful with the WooCommerce ecommerce plugin.
- Restaurant owners can publish gorgeous mobile-friendly menus online with plugins like Quick Restaurant Menu.
- Service businesses can use EDD Bookings to let customers book and pay for services online.
- Event promoters can promote events and sell tickets online using The Events Calendar.
- Online training businesses can manage students, video training, and class materials with learning management system (LMS) plugins like LearnDash.
Beautiful online menus made easy with the Quick Restaurant Menu plugin for WordPress. Image source: Quick Restaurant Menu
The plugin list goes on and on. Along with business-specific plugins, you can add useful functionality like email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), security, site speed, and more to any WordPress website using plugins.
Many WordPress themes, especially business-specific themes, come with key plugins already built-in, which makes it easy to launch a new WordPress business website. While you can add any plugin to virtually any WordPress theme, if you’re new to WordPress, choosing a business-specific theme with built-in plugins is the quickest way to launch a WordPress website.
4. Payment Processors
If you plan to receive online payments through your WordPress business website, you need to connect an online payment processor. In most cases, how this works depends on the plugin that enables the business functions on your website.
For example, ecommerce plugins like WooCommerce connect to an array of payment processing solutions through various payment gateways. Other online sales-enabled plugins might connect to just a few of the top online payment processing solutions, like Stripe, PayPal, and Square.
Clearly, not every WordPress business website needs payment processing functionality. Affiliate businesses that make money through commissions don’t directly accept money from readers. Likewise, websites that simply market a business, like a local restaurant or service company, don’t need a payment processor.
However, you can always turn a basic WordPress marketing website into an online sales tool by adding a sales plugin and payment processor. For example, a restaurant can start taking prepaid delivery or pickup orders, while service businesses can sell prepaid services or allow customers to conveniently book and pay online. Yet another example of the versatility that makes WordPress a top pick for business websites.
5. Other Connectivity and Integrations
Due to WordPress’s global popularity, many business services offer ready integrations for WordPress. Delivery services, fulfillment centers, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and an endless list of shipping, accounting, and marketing services offer plug-and-play connectivity to WordPress.
Some only connect through a business-specific plugin. For example, WooCommerce connects to fulfillment centers and shipping services to streamline ecommerce shipping. Others, like many CMS systems and social media and email marketing tools, connect directly with WordPress via standalone plugins.
WordPress for Businesses With Multiple Income Streams
Clearly, WordPress business websites can fit virtually any type of online sales and marketing need a small business owner can dream up. However, another major plus for using WordPress is how easily you can tap into multiple streams of income and maximize your profit potential.
For example, if you’re an ecommerce store owner or retailer, you can easily expand profits through affiliate marketing by blogging about related products and adding affiliate links to that content. When customers click the link and make a purchase, say from Amazon, you earn a commission.
This is a great way to make money off your website traffic without investing in added inventory and storage space.
This blog-based business is a great example of multiple income streams. It monetizes blog posts with affiliate links to earn commissions, sells online course content, and runs ads. Image source: Making Sense of Cents
Likewise, a blogger or influencer making money through affiliate sales can also design and market branded products on their WordPress website without any upfront costs.
It’s incredibly easy to sell customized T-shirts, apparel, mugs, jewelry, and home decor using print-on-demand (POD) vendors like Printful, CustomCat, and Printify. These easily connect to WordPress through ecommerce plugins like WooCommerce. Best of all, they take care of the printing and shipping for you for hands-free income.
Many entrepreneurs find success by combining several income streams within a single WordPress-powered website. Here are a few more multiple income-stream scenarios you can create on WordPress:
Online learning income streams include:
- Online course sales
- Digital download sales for class materials
- POD branded product sales
- Affiliate sales to make commissions on recommended products and services
Local service business income streams include:
- Online bookings for in-person services
- POD branded product sales, like a fashion line
- Dropship product sales of items related to the service
- Affiliate sales to make commissions on recommended products
- Digital sales for online lessons and how-tos related to your service
Ecommerce store income streams include:
- Sales of goods that you stock and ship yourself
- Dropship product sales to expand your collection without added inventory and storage costs
- POD branded product sales, like a fashion line
- Affiliate sales to make commissions on recommended products that you don’t carry
Even if you launch your WordPress business website with a single focus, like ecommerce sales or affiliate marketing, look for ways to spread your profit “eggs” across several income-stream “baskets.” That’s exactly how many innovative startups and solopreneurs found success on WordPress—and so can you.
Pros and Cons of Using WordPress for Your Business Website
With so many moving parts, WordPress is undoubtedly more complex than other website builders. This steeper learning curve is just one of a few potential “cons” to be aware of when considering WordPress. Here are a few more details in both the “pro” and “con” columns to help you decide if a WordPress business website is right for you.
- Versatility: We detailed some common uses of WordPress business websites above, but this summary just scratches the surface of all you can do with WordPress. By pairing WordPress with various themes, plugins, and integrations, you can craft any type of business or multi-stream income website you can dream up.
- Cost: WordPress websites can be extremely economical. With so many free themes and plugins available to WordPress users, the only unavoidable cost is your WordPress hosting. Even that is very startup-friendly, starting at just $2.95 per month with Bluehost.
- Customization: Once beyond the initial learning curve, most users find it easy to customize WordPress within the theme parameters. You also get a lot of control over your website content, like static pages and blog sections, and over key elements like navigation menus, headers, footers, and sidebars.
- Maintenance: WordPress business websites are made up of many building blocks—themes, plugins, and the WordPress environment itself—and each requires regular updates. The update process is generally simple, but it’s something that you don’t encounter with hosted website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify.
- Complexity: Reviewing, testing, and installing various WordPress themes and plugins can be a chore. Plus each requires setup, custom selections, and content arrangement to meet your business’s needs. Plus, on occasion, you might find that themes and plugins conflict and can’t be used together. All of this creates a more complex environment compared to other website builders.
- Learning curve: It takes time to learn how to put all of these elements together. Plus, the initial setup of your theme and of more complex plugins, like WooCommerce, take time.
- No direct support: WordPress is open-source software, so there’s no go-to support page or knowledgebase. Each of the services you choose, like hosting, theme, and plugins, offers support over their own product or service. However, there’s no go-to WordPress support source. You can find plenty of free tutorials online and on YouTube, plus economical freelancers on Fiverr and Upwork can help you build your WordPress site.
- Cost: Cost can be a drawback for complex WordPress business websites. If you need advanced sales, content, design, and marketing features, you’ll need to purchase the paid versions of themes and plugins. Also, if your WordPress website attracts a large audience, you’ll need an expanded hosting package for the added traffic. A robust ecommerce or business website with advanced sales and marketing features and extended hosting can cost $30 or more per month to run.
The Bottom Line
WordPress is the most popular website platform worldwide and it powers more business websites and online stores than any of its competitors. Unlimited versatility and customization top the list of reasons that millions of small businesses choose WordPress. Cost is another factor in its popularity since you can do a lot with free plugins and themes. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs run WordPress business websites for just the cost of hosting.
However, depending on your specific needs, your WordPress website can cost as much or more than sales-enabled plans on top-rated WordPress alternatives like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify. WordPress also has a much larger learning curve than these beginner-friendly platforms.
Ultimately, in overall versatility and customization, WordPress reigns supreme. If limitless options matter the most to you, it’s worthwhile to take the time to learn WordPress. However, if you’re looking for a quick-launch website with minimal fuss, WordPress alternatives like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and others can get you across the finish line faster.