Anyone interested in creating a personal brand must start with a personal website. A website is your face to the world; it is what allows others to see who you really are and what you are really about. It is not subject to brick and mortar and it can be updated from any location and on-call for whomever and whenever. It is as if you could personally meet anyone and everyone and communicate your ideals and endeavors instantaneously, with simplicity, in any language, intuitively, etc. Basically, just do it if you care about yourself and your business. It shows acumen, dedication, and a willingness to succeed. If you haven’t already, this post can help you do it immediately and today. In fact, it will – so keep reading.
Hosting a website must be done through another party, not WordPress, and so comes Microsoft Azure. Bluehost is typically suggested because of its easy integration with WordPress, however – Azure is a cloud-hosting platform offered through Microsoft and it can and will basically solve all of your hosting needs. Let’s say for instance you create a small personal branded website just to document your ideas and help fellow entrepreneurs get started learning from what you have done – it can do this – but let’s also say three years down the road your website turns into an enterprise grade blogging site viewed by millions of people globally as it has become the world’s premier entrepreneurial resource accessed hundreds of thousands of times per day at any given time – it can also scale and be made available to handle these requirements as well securely and without fail. This is why Micrososft Azure is used. It can also be accessed via their, soon to be your, secure web portal anytime and anywhere. What’s more, once you set it up right you’ll rarely need to access, at least in the context of this post and for what we are asking of it today.
The Azure portal provides an easy to use and an easy to learn interface with drag-and-drop like functions making it very low cost – and by cost here I mean time and effort – and easy to setup.
The website content itself will be handled through WordPress – according to WordPress.org (not the .com and the one you are going to want to use to start unless you have previous coding experience and/or unbelievable amounts of extra time on your hands) – it is an open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app. It harnesses beautiful designs, powerful features, and the freedom to build anything you want. It is both free and priceless at the same time.
Great, so what does that mean. It is powerful. So powerful in fact that WordPress claims 28% of the web uses its services, from hobby blogs to the biggest news sites online. See them for yourself or just keep reading to get to the good stuff. WordPress also offers many powerful features granting you limitless possibilities and they include: customizable designs, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly, responsive mobile sites, high performance, on-the-go management from anywhere, high security, powerful media management, and simplicity and accessibility. In fact, WordPress has over 45,000 plugins, both free and paid, that help your website meet your needs such as: online stores, galleries, mailing lists, forums, analytics, and so on and so forth. Imagine the possibilities. This is about creating a foundation that you can truly build from in any which direction, way, shape, or form.
Lastly, the domain – or rather the ‘name’ of your website, and since it is a personal brand website we are building today, hopefully your name or some variation of your name or your organizations name or what you and/or your organization do – will dictate and define your brand image. It is just as powerful as your site and its content so take further heed and choose wisely. It can always be changed later, but why bother not making it right the first time. Another consideration may fall under coinciding your branding endeavors with and/or on other social network sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Generally, its good to keep cross-functional site branding similar in an effort to build awareness, establish image, and most importantly not confuse users of your brand’s products and services so that they can and will keep buying from you and only you, forever. Regardless, Microsoft Azure makes it very easy to link the custom GoDaddy domain name you create with its hosting services and ultimately your WordPress site for a single, unbelievably value added solution in which you can begin building your personal brand and ultimately your new and significantly better and hopefully more prosperous life.
The directions should be followed in order to avoid complications and are as follows:
Create Microsoft Azure account to host your WordPress web app
Navigate your web browser to the Microsoft Azure site at https://azure.microsoft.com/ and continue into the portal. Select or click your mouse on the word ‘PORTAL’ to either log in with an existing account or register and create a new user name and password for access.
Once completed and access is granted you will be immediately directed into your new Microsoft Azure Portal page shown below – all of your functionality for creating any sort of web application or app you can imagine is located here. We simply want to create a hosting environment for our WordPress web app or web site today, whichever nomenclature you prefer is irrelevant for this article, and so further detail into how the portal works can be discovered by you on your own time in the future. It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with your environments in which you work; I strongly suggest you research the difference later down the road for knowledge intensive purposes in the future. For the purposes of this article we move forward.
Create a brand new WordPress app within the Microsoft Azure portal
Next, select the ‘+ New’ button.
Once the dialogue window opens the Azure Marketplace of prebuilt applications becomes available. As you can see there are many to choose from. For us we only need to choose one – the easiest way to find the prebuilt WordPress app in which we will host our environment is to type ‘WordPress’ in the search box located at the top, or scroll down through the Popular app section located on the right/middle side of the newly opened window. Once selected, you will be shown the screen below. Select the WordPress app which should be the first one located immediately under the results page.
You will then be presented with a new dialogue window beside the current one asking you to create your new WordPress app. Click ‘Create’ as shown below.
Once you select ‘Create’ – you will be given the new window similar to below. This is where you input all of your new WordPress web app’s information. For demonstration purposes, I have named the App name as ‘testapppreview’ – feel free to name yours whatever you like, preferably something descriptive of what you are trying to create that isn’t already taken in the marketplace as two apps cannot have the same name. I have also selected the ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ Subscription feature – for initial setup this works and is very inexpensive. I have then created a ‘New Resource Group’ and appended the words ‘ResourceGroup’ to the end of my app name – you will be wise to do the same as your Resource Group is your container for all of your app’s resources or information rather that it will need to function properly. The reason you want to follow these methodologies is because later down the road as you choose to expand your application you will need to easily remember what is what and where things are located. Trust me, do this now rather than later, no reason having to double back and waste time. I further selected Application Insights as ‘On’ because this helps you understand how your WordPress app is being used by your viewers – Azure analytics for your specific web app if you will, you can expand on your own later if interested. Once again, no reason doubling back. When selecting locations for Application Insights, select on in which you are located or rather in which your app will mostly be used as service calls to the cloud server itself become more expensive the further the distance and the more times used – imagine having millions of viewers calling information half way across the planet rather than right in your own neighborhood multiple times per day – it just makes sense and is good business to use your resources wisely. Another valuable piece of advice – set the standard early if you can so that later you won’t have to. This tip applies to other forms of business and personal life as well. Think on it and when the situation arises you’ll understand what I mean and feel confident in being able to rise to the occasion. Also to note is the database provider – for the purpose of this tutorial we will choose ‘MySQL in App’ as it serves our purposes for setup, feel free to expand on this later as well.
The red arrows are of concern here, for demonstration purposes we want to keep the hosting as inexpensive as possible while at the same time integrating functionality that allows us to create and utilize our own custom domain name, or web app or web site name – the names can be used almost interchangeably here for future reference. This must be done prior to selecting ‘Create’ at the bottom denoted by the second red arrow. In order to do this we must further select the ‘App Service plan/location’ button denoted by the first red arrow – do this now and follow below this screenshot below.
Once the ‘App Service plan/location’ button is selected you will be presented with the following three dialog windows show below once the proper selections are made in each of the aforementioned windows consecutively. Follow along intuitively once again by clicking the ‘Create New’ option in the first new window, followed by correctly naming the new ‘App Service Plan’ the same name you created for your ‘App Name’ with ‘AppService’ appended as shown below for consistency and relevancy purposes, followed by the location in which you or rather your WordPress web app or web site will be most used. Next and for the purposes of this tutorial, select the ‘Pricing tier’ button and then scroll down the the bottom of the newly opened window and select the ‘D1 Shared’ option. For more information on which pricing options are best for you, continue research on your own time. For this tutorial however, this is the best and cheapest option you will be presented with that allows you to choose your own custom domain name – this can always be changed later as your app scales so select this option and let’s move on below. Make sure the ‘Pin to Dashboard’ checkbox is selected from the initial window that appeared when you created your WordPress app and then click the ‘Create’ – your app will then validate.
Once ‘Create’ is selected and the app is validated it should automatically be loaded for you in a new window dedicated solely to your new WordPress site. This is your new WordPress web app’s custom dashboard page in which you can access all of the pertinent information about your site in an attractive and easy to use dashboard like fashion. If nothing appears, navigate to the dashboard from the menu on the left and then select the box with your app name on it. Your window will then be loaded and look something like the following.
Congratulations! Your brand new personal WordPress web app has officially been created. Before we load it up however and log in, we must first navigate over to GoDaddy and create your own custom domain name. Once created, you will then have to setup your GoDaddy domain’s DNS (Domain Name Server) settings to coincide with those of your Microsoft Azure hosting environment through the portal as show in the screenshot above so that they can communicate together to present a solid WordPress web app to your viewers with the custom domain name or website name that you are about to create. Sounds complicated but I promise to walk you through step-by-step and get you going quicker than you think. We are half way there – continue below.
Create a custom GoDaddy domain name to link to your custom WordPress app
Navigate your web browser over to the GoDaddy website at https://www.godaddy.com/ and either sign in if you have an existing account or register for a new one. If you do not have an existing custom domain name that you would like to use for your WordPress site, then create one for yourself and then continue following along for the remainder of this post. The methodology is extremely intuitive, simply enter your intended domain name into the search bar on the main page, select the ‘Search Domain’ button, and if it isn’t already registered to someone else then purchase only the domain name – NOT THE HOSTING/ONLY THE DOMAIN- as Microsoft Azure is the hosting platform for your new site. GoDaddy will generally attempt to sway you into purchasing more than you need, ironically its still sales after all, but generally just select the .com or .net or .co or whichever domain name extension it is that you require and move forward – you can always add more later and there is absolutely no reason purchasing more than you have to now, especially if this is a simple site for the time being. Remember, you can always expand and grow later. Don’t let excitement get the best of you yet. Plan wisely and remember, we are just now getting the basics setup today. Once satisfied and you have a domain name of your choosing to work with, continue below.
Once signed in from the sign in menu above in a fresh window you will be presented with a screen that looks something similar to the following. Select the ‘DNS’ button that correlates to the domain name you wish to use with your WordPress site. You will be presented with a screen similar to the one below.
Notice where the three green arrows above point – everything else will remain the same. You will then navigate back to your newly created WordPress app in the Windows Azure portal to get the required information that you will be required to input into the ‘Value’ column for the rows corresponding to the ‘Type’ column’s ‘A’ record, ‘CNAME’ record, and ‘TXT’ record as show above. Let’s do just that now- once done, your new WordPress web app will officially be ready for your own edits and for public display! We’re almost done.
Connect the newly created WordPress app that is hosted in Microsoft Azure to your newly created custom GoDaddy domain
Navigate back into your Microsoft Azure newly created WordPress web app and select the ‘Custom domains’ option as shown below. If you cannot find it or exited out, simply log back in and locate your dashboard via the menu icon on the upper left portion of your vertical navigation menu on the left side of your page – once the dashboard is selected, your app should be shown on that main page with the name you initially created, in our case ‘TestAppPreview’ – select and move forward as shown below.
Once selected, you will see a page similar to the following. Take note of the IP address as you will need to use this to replace the one GoDaddy has given you automatically on setup under the DNS record menu we just saw previously. Replace the Value field of the the ‘A’ name record under the column ‘Type’ with this new IP address and then save it immediately. It may take a few minutes to load as the servers may have some initial lag setting up communications – wait, it’ll happen and that step will be complete.
Next, select the ‘+ Add hostname’ button below your WordPress web app’s IP address as shown above. You will be then brought to a new page as follows. Notice how the information for the ‘A’ name record you just updated in GoDaddy is shown once again below. this time, however, GoDaddy should have had the opportunity to update itself with the newly inputed information you just inserted and saved – click ‘Validate’ and wait for the red circle with the exclaimation point at the bottom with the words ‘Domain ownership’ to turn into a green circle with a check in the middle. This means everything worked and your ‘A’ name record is completely updated. We still have to update the ‘CNAME’ record too as shown below.
After the ‘A’ name record is updated it is time to update the ‘CNAME’ record and thus your new WordPress app you created is officially linked to your custom domain name you also just created with GoDaddy. This means that when someone navigates in their browser to your custom domain name address, it immediately and automatically loads your WordPress site hassle free, forever. As long as you keep paying your dues of course. Basically, you’re now a professional with a professional web site and a professional brand that anyone can access from anywhere on demand with your custom web address.
To update the ‘CNAME’ record as shown below, simply drop down the selection box below the title ‘Hostname record type’ and select ‘CNAME (www.example.com or any subdomain)’ and then let the page load. Notice that immediately below the directions displaying what a CNAME is used for under ‘CNAME configuration’ the slightly shaded box changed from the numerical IP address given with the ‘A’ name record to one with actual letters. Copy these letters, for this example given by ‘testapppreview.azurewebsites.net’ – for yours it will be [yourcustomdomain.azurewebsites.net] – and paste it into the Value field of the GoDaddy DNS server row entitled ‘TXT’ – click save and wait a minute. Once done, come back to this page and change the ‘Hostname’ field to include a prefix of ‘www.’ – in this case and for this tutorial it will look like ‘www.testapppreview.com’ and for your custom site it should look something like [www.yourcustomdomain.com] and then click validate once again. Once validated, the red circle with the words ‘Domain ownership’ will once again change to a green circle with a check letting you know that everything has registered perfectly. You are more than welcome to and maybe should attempt this last portion again without the ‘www.’ just to ensure things mapped correctly.
You have now completed the setup process by creating a self hosted WordPress app in Microsoft Azure and have successfully linked it to your new custom GoDaddy domain – this is quite the achievement. Only one step left and that is to officially launch your new app and then you can take the edits and customize your site any which way you want from there which will mark the completion of this tutorial. Let us continue below.
Officially launch your new WordPress web app and customize to whatever format you choose
Now that everything is setup properly and validated, navigate back to your main app page in the Microsoft Azure portal and select the ‘Browse’ button as shown below.
You will immediately be brought to your new custom WordPress app setup page in a new window in which you will select a language for you to use – for this tutorial we will select English. Once selected, click continue to move on.
Once selected, you will be brought to your last setup page in which you will select a site title, username, password, email, and whether or not you would like search engines to locate your new site – always a good idea to leave this unchecked if you wish the public to easily be able to find you online through any search engine like Google or Bing. Once you decisions are finalized and validated, click install WordPress.
You will then be presented with this log in page marking your success. Select login to continue into your new WordPress environment in which all of your customizations will be made.
This is a preview of what your new WordPress environment will look like for your new custom site.
You will log in by navigating to the custom web address you created, in this tutorial’s case – http://testapppreview.com/wp-admin – where you will then use your username and password that you created to log in each and every time, unless you have setup your browser to automatically save your passwords for you.
To official view your new site simply navigate to the web address you purchased from GoDaddy or type it into your web browser yourself. The rest of the content editing is up to you! Also remember, it is always a good idea to backup. Now you’re done!
Congratulations, this post tutorial is now complete showing you how you can create a custom branded website using WordPress that is hosted on Microsoft Azure with a custom GoDaddy domain. Personal Branding 101 is complete!