One of the most important agents and possibly the one with the widest outreach is your company’s website. The website is the online front of your business. In this day and age, when most of your customers will come from the online community the importance of having the best possible website represent your business cannot be over emphasized.
However, you may not always have the resources or the kind of technical manpower required to develop and run a top notch website.
Fortunately for you, there is help to be had. There are many open source platforms that allow you to use their facilities to build your own website. Using them, building an attractive website is now easy as pie. One of the best open source platforms for the job is a Content Management System (CMS) called WordPress.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a free and an open source CMS which also functions as a popular blogging tool. It is built upon PHP and MySQL. It was released on 27th May, 2003 by Matt mulleweg and has since then become the most popular CMS available on the web. As of June 2012, WordPress is being used by 33% of all new websites. Around 25.7% of all websites listed in Alexa’s Internet’s “top 1 million websites” use WordPress. Version 3.2 has been downloaded almost 65 million times as of June, 2012. To find out even more and download WordPress check their official website.
Why do you need a WordPress website?
As already explained earlier, the importance of websites for your business demands that nothing but the best will do. Here are the top reasons why you should go for a WordPress website.
- Creating an optimized website is not an easy task. A website is customer service, relationship builder, sales, advertisement, and more all rolled into one package. WordPress makes this process a lot easier for you by providing you with custom built tools.
- WordPress is an open source program. That means that it is completely free. It can be used on any commercial or personal projects under the laws laid down under the GPL license. There are no particular restrictions imposed upon the utilization of this technology. Instead of paying an annual fee to a company to develop and maintain your website, it will be much cheaper for you to keep the development of the website in house by paying one employee to do the same job using WordPress.
- WordPress is very user friendly. You do not need to be an expert to either install or use WordPress. Most web hosting services offer one click setup options. A lot of documentation and online tutorials are available to help you on your way. In case you want someone with experience in WordPress to do the job for you, then there is no dearth in the market for such developers.
- WordPress has a huge collection of free website themes to choose from. If you are not satisfied with the free themes, there is a host of low cost themes to choose from. You may also hire a developer to develop a theme as per your requirements.
- WordPress also provides you with a huge range of open source extended plugins for every possible task. Using these plugins you can make the website look the way you want. Installation of these plugins is really easy – often just a simple click from the admin panel is required. The plugin database numbers over 18,000.
- WordPress code is in compliance with the standards laid down by the World Wide Web consortium. This is important for compatibility across browsers, for usability and also for SEO purposes.
- WordPress comes with stringent inbuilt checks to eliminate all spam elements and comments that find their way to your website. A large number of constantly upgraded plugins keep being released that add that much more bite to anti spam measures.
- WordPress comes with a well designed user management system that allows only authenticated users to leave comments. Comments for non registered users can be closed down. Plugins are also available which can hide comments from users without the necessary rights.
- WordPress also offers native applications for mobile operating systems such as WebOS, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.
WordPress is simple enough to install. All in all, the entire process of installing WordPress takes under 5 minutes. Additionally, many web hosts also provide tools which automatically install WordPress. There are 4 key elements that you need to have access to before you install WordPress. These are:
- A text editor
- Access to a web server
- FTP client
- A web browser.
Follow the steps as listed below to install WordPress on your system.
- If you meet the above requirements, download the latest release of WordPress and unzip it. You will also have to create a database on your web server in addition to creating a My SQL with admin rights to the database.
- In the folder, locate a file titled wp-config-sample.php. Next, rename the file to wp-config.php. Now open it in a text editor and put in the details of your database in order to generate and use your secret key.
- Now you need to upload the WordPress files in any desired location on your web server.
- Now run the installation script by opening wp-admin/install.php in a web browser.
And that’s it. It’s as simple as that!
WordPress and SEO
WordPress is specially designed to return optimal returns to search engines. In other words, WordPress is Search Engine Optimized. The features and tools used by WordPress help search engines to achieve greater accessibility to information inside a WordPress website so as to include that information/content in its database. Several plugins and hacks also aid in this process of achieving search engine optimization. After all being listed in the first page of top search engines will help your business by a great deal by getting you noticed by a wide untapped customer base.
However, the great many number of WordPress themes in addition to the customizability feature of WordPress might interfere in the working of the plugins that support SEO. In order to avoid this, a few simple tips should be followed while customizing your WordPress website.
- Errors in your website code may interfere in the ability of a search engine to go through your website for good content. So make sure that any code you write is completely glitch free.
- You need to understand that an attractive website will not aid greatly in getting a lot of new customers to visit your website. At least not like the way good words can. Search engines cannot see websites. They can only read a website’s content. So remember not to neglect content quality. It is not a good SEO practice.
- Most search engines only scan through a part of an article before they move on. They scan the content using a top down approach. That is why in its default state WordPress keeps all the readable content on the top and keeps the styling elements including sidebars and footers towards the bottom. Try not to change that too much.
- The way search engines work is that they pay attention to some words or phrases. They check for any similarity between words found within the content to words found within the links and titles. Matches are awarded higher points and those pages generate better rankings.
- WordPress has features such as pingbacks, blogrolls and trackbacks built into it. Search engines also take into account the popularity of websites and pages that are linked to yours. Using the above mentioned features you can create such links which if reciprocated will help you achieve higher search engine rankings.
- A search engine ‘crawls’ through your webpage. In that light, a search engine may not be able to cover all the content on your website. Providing better navigational links in your website will help the search engine move more efficiently through your website and hence consider more content for inclusion in its database. This ultimately helps you to advertise your business.
A few recommended plugins would be:
WordPress SEO by Yoast
This plugin is written from the ground up by WordPress SEO consultant and WordPress developer Joost de Valk to improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. While this WordPress SEO plugin goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimization, more on that below, it first and foremost helps you write better content.
All in One SEO Pack
One of the most popular plugins ever for WordPress, this plugin does a bit of everything for you from helping choose the best post title and keywords, to helping you avoid duplicate content and more.
Google XML Sitemaps
An essential tool in any blogger’s armory of SEO tools. While the name only mentions “Google”, this plugin creates an XML-sitemap that can be read by Ask, MSN and Yahoo also.
SEO Friendly Images
Images can be a great source of traffic as people search for images of various subjects, and this plugin helps you with making sure that you have “alt” and “title” tags on all of your images so that the search engines can properly index them.
Social Media Plugins
SEO and social media are heavily interdependent. Social media websites are becoming increasingly popular among all age groups. As can be guessed, they have a really huge outreach. Ads and links posted on to such social media websites can be seen by a huge number of people all across the world. These websites are the perfect tool to popularize your business. This fact is not lost on WordPress. That’s why a great many social media plugins are provided by WordPress which support all the top social media websites. After all these social media websites are the second biggest source of traffic to your webpage after search engines.
Here is a list of my favorite Social Media Plugins:
The first one is a very well known plugin called DiggDigg. After installing, you will have the option, to either put a beautiful floating sharing bar on the lefthand side of your posts or use a set of sharing buttons on the top or bottom of articles. The plugin is one of the most updated ones in the directory and is constantly adding new features. It features some of the latest new sharing options such as Social Networking newcomer Pinterest and Buffer button.
Of course, one of the most well known sharing plugin is the option from ShareThis. You have a great pool of options to choose for your display including a single icon, a series of icons or buttons, or a series of widgets with the number of shares or retweets displayed.
What also comes in very handy are the great reporting tools from ShareThis to help you understand better how your articles have been shared. If you are an analytics geek, this is definitely something to look into.
Another popular sharing bar to add to your site is a plugin called ShareBar. Whilst it hasn’t been updated for a while, it is still a solid option to create an easy to use sharing bar for your readers.
What is also very useful is that as you minimize the browser window, the buttons automatically change to be displayed at the top of posts instead of as a floating bar. Whilst the button options aren’t immense the design is fantastic.