WordPress blogs have become extremely popular as cost effective website solutions. I started receiving more inquiries this year about setting up WordPress to use as a blog platform to complement a current website, as well as using WordPress as the website itself. However, many people still do not know the real power of using WordPress, whether it be for a blog or a website, so in this article I will explain a bit of what WordPress is and how it can save you a lot of money in website development costs, as well as helping your website rank on the major search engines.
The first question I am usually asked is “what is WordPress? I have heard a lot about it and how it can help me rank on search engines”. WordPress is primarily a blog platform (what is a blog, you ask? if you still don’t know what a blog is, then you should start here). The main point of a blog is to regularly (I cannot stress this enough) post articles about topics related to your blog. The idea is that your blog will develop a following and people will subscribe to it, so every time you write a new article, they will automatically get a copy via the RSS feed or Feedburner (a Google tool which allows people to subscribe to your blog via email). As your blog becomes more popular, and gets more and more traffic, it becomes more important in the eyes of the search engines and starts to rank well.
Blogs are designed to rank well. They have all the nifty tools built right in, like RSS feeds and the ability to tag articles (tagging is like using keywords), and there are hundreds of plugins, for free, which you can install in seconds to help your blog rank well, add functionality, and more. By far, the best blog platform I have ever used is WordPress. Now I’ll explain the technical things about it.
WordPress is an Open Source project. This means you do not have to buy the application, you can simply visit their website (http://wordpress.org) and download the files. Many developers from around the world contribute their time and expertise to improving WordPress, which helps everyone in the end. If you set it up yourself, you’ll need to know how to set up a MySQL database on your hosting package, and use an FTP programme (File Transfer Protocol) to copy the files to your hosting package. The good news is many commerical hosting companies offer 1 click installation of WordPress, so if your host provides this ability, it’s much easier for non techies to set it up.
Now that you understand a bit of what WordPress is, how can it help you save money and rank well on search engines? Simple. WordPress being an open source application, it is FREE to download and install. This (naturally) saves you money if you can do it yourself. If you can’t, most developers will charge a nominal fee to set it up for you, as long as you don’t ask for a million changes and upgrades. A straightforward WordPress installation will take literally 5 minutes. After that, you can use a default template or buy a premium template to make it look pretty (premium templates range between $30- $100). Once WordPress is set up and you have your template installed and everything looks great, it’s time to start populating the site with content. This now depends on how you will use the site: Will it be your primary website or will it be a blog, or both?
Using WordPress as a website is very simple. It allows for both pages and posts, which means you can use the pages for your normal information, like about us, services, contact, etc and you can use the posts for the blog part of your website. The main benefit to setting it up like this (in my opinion), is that you have a website and blog, all seamlessly integrated and everything looks exactly the same in terms of look and feel. I believe this makes everything looks a lot more professional. To achieve this, make sure to look for a template which is set up like this- there are hundreds of free and premium templates which are organized like this, and come with their own plugins to help you organize everything.
Now that you have your site (and blog) set up and ready to roll, how do you promote it? The best way to promote your new WordPress website/blog is to treat it as both a website and blog. This means submit the pages (or home page) to search engines like a normal website, and submit the RSS feed to directories and repositories. This double submission will help promote your website in different ways, and the chances of ranking increase. Based on my experience, the blog part will probably begin ranking before your informational pages, but that’s ok- the goal is to get visitors to your site by any means possible.