WordPress has revolutionized the internet, without a doubt. If you’ve had anything to do with the internet since it started, WordPress is a breath of fresh air. No more battling with HTML or trying to understand complicated programming languages. No more spending weeks trying to build a fully-functioning and attractive website or paying thousands of dollars to a troglodyte who only works between midnight and 4am and holds all your passwords for ransom.
You can have an attractive, Google-friendly WordPress site up and running in just a couple of hours.
The first thing you should decide is whether your WordPress site is going to be for business or personal reasons. There’s a big difference between sites made on WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com v. WordPress.org
Both platforms are simple to set up withWordpress.com sites being the easier of the two, but they do have their limitations. There are somewhere around 200 different free themes you can use and security, backups, upgrades and most of the technical stuff (what little there is) is taken care of for you. You can’t upload a custom theme of your own. It is purely a blogging platform. It’s great for families or those who just want to communicate with others about certain subjects. (Perhaps similar to FaceBook in a way). The biggest downside is you can’t advertise (yet) and you don’t really own it.
WordPress.org sites are highly adaptable. Although WordPress was originally designed to be a blogging platform you can build a site that looks exactly like a “normal” website and still have the ability to interact with visitors via the blogging side of the theme. You can turn comments off if you don’t want to deal with them. It’s very flexible and customizable. You can use any of the thousands of free themes, pay for a ready-made one or have your own designed. You can also have as many ads as you want. (great for those looking to monetize their blogging/website efforts!)
WordPress Themes – Design is Important
The most difficult part of building a WordPress.org site is choosing a theme. There are so many free ones it’s ridiculous. If you come across a site you like while you’re browsing the web, if you look at the bottom of the page you’ll often see the name of the theme. You can then find out if it’s free or you have to pay for it.
The theme you choose should be appropriate for your subject obviously. The better the user experience on your site, the more successful it will be, so consider the design and layout carefully. Many WordPress themes allow you to upload a custom header graphic. If you have a business logo and a tag line you’ll want to add it there. Make it clear and uncluttered – pleasing to the eye.
If you’re an artist or photographer there are free themes built especially for you, where it’s easy to post images of your work, gallery-style. If you want your site to look like a newspaper you can find themes with multiple columns that will give that effect.
You should always think about your visitor when you choose a design. Your site should be easily navigable. If a visitor is on any part of your site, she should be able to move around with no more than two clicks.
You can sort the free themes by color, layout or any important qualities you want your site to have. Some themes give you a choice of color. You can have a column on the right or left, which will contain your opt-in box, advertising, categories, archives or Twitter feed if you want one. Anything a widget can accommodate. The choices are endless. The knack is to decide what is necessary without making the site look so complicated that it scares people away! Google, by the way, hates tons of advertising at the top of a site or “above the fold” so less is more.
Pages or Posts?
A lot of work? No. There’s a free plug-in that downloads all these for you (except the Contact and About Us page) and many more that you may find necessary. All the legal jargon is written out for you, all you have to do is plop in a few lines such as your business name and email address and the plug-in will create those pages in a few seconds.
All these pages are very important for transparency reasons. If you want to sell anything on your site, be it a physical product or earn commissions from Google advertising, people will trust you more if they have some idea who you are and what you’re up to. About Us/Me pages may seem superfluous but you’ll be surprised at how many hits you’ll get on that page.
If you want to have your WordPress site look like a standard website you can continue to add your articles as pages. Posts are listed in reverse chronological order in the left or right hand sidebar as you choose. They will disappear into archives each month and those monthly archives will also be listed.
However if you choose to build pages for your articles they appear permanently and are better for small businesses or those who don’t intend to add tons of content every day. Using the Pages widget, the names of each article will either appear in tabs at the top of your site or in the sidebar, or both, it depends on the theme and how you want your site to look.
If you have 100 pages they will all be listed, by which time your sidebar will be three feet long or your header a foot thick with tabs. If you reach a point where you think you have too many pages (or not enough posts) there’s another free plug-in that efficiently converts one to the other!
Free v. Paid-for Themes
One thing about starting a business on the internet, or creating a site for your bricks-and-mortar business is you want your site to be unique. Despite the fact that there are thousands of free themes to choose from, you may not be able to find one that is absolutely right for your business.
You have two alternatives, you can purchase a theme from any of the hundreds of online companies that build them or have someone build a WP theme for you. Visit all the different sites that sell WordPress themes and browse around until you find one you like, then purchase it. Uploading a theme to your WP host is easy. It will be delivered to you as a zip file and you simply upload it.
If you want a custom-made WP theme then you must be absolutely specific about what you want it to do and how you want it to look. Hire someone on Fiverr.com and you’re probably not going to get what you want (although there are many talented people on there). Do your due diligence on the company you’re going to hire as well. Make sure they have great feedback and plenty of verifiable testimonials and sites you can visit to see their work. A custom-made WordPress theme shouldn’t cost anywhere near what a site used to cost in pre-WP times. $99 may get you exactly what you’re looking for.
A plug-in is basically a program that performs a specific task on your WordPress site. We’ve already mentioned the plug-in that compiles static pages and one that converts posts to pages. There are hundreds of free plug-ins that perform amazing little tasks that will save you time and help you to make you money.
SEO or search engine optimization is very important and there is a plug-in called All in One SEO that works incredibly well and it’s free. It allows you to put in your keywords and add the two sentences that appear in the SERPS (search engine results pages) below your page’s title and URL.
The construction of those two lines is important BTW, because those words should entice someone to click through to your site rather than a competitor’s. Alternatively you could pay for a plug-in such as SEOPressor, a very handy plug-in that tells you exactly how well your page is optimized, so you can keep improving it so it will be the best it can possibly be. Pay for it once and you can use it on any of your WordPress sites, even if you have 100 of them.
All plug-ins come with basic instructions about how they work and some have paid upgrades that you might want to look into. Just make sure they have been recently upgraded and are compatible with the version of WordPress you are running. There are plug-ins for everything from translating your site into Japanese to one that can display useful statistics.
Everybody loves WordPress. Even if you choose a theme and you decide you don’t like it, you can change it, most of the time without any problems. Just don’t keep changing themes because it can be confusing and off-putting for regular visitors.
If you pay your hosting bill and renew your domain name registration when it comes due, your WordPress theme will work for you forever. And Google loves WordPress too.