In the last couple of years, WordPress has morphed from a niche blogging platform to one of the most powerful and flexible website creation tools available.
WordPress has democratised web-design. You no longer need coding skills to create great websites which are sure to attract and impress your customers.
Even better, WordPress allows you to easily update your content and optimise it for search engines. WordPress also has a huge online support system and an industry of dedicated WordPress experts and coders to help out with any difficulties along the way.
That said, WordPress does have its downsides. It’s is not necessarily the best choice of platform for ecommerce companies, and if you want to customise your WordPress website in any significant way, you’re likely to need expert help.
Here are our 6 things your small business needs to know about WordPress.
You’re probably aware that if you want to rank well on search engines like Google, you need to regularly update your website with well written content. Content is becoming one of the most important aspects of SEO for small business owners. With great content, small businesses can improve their inbound marketing results, generate more traffic to their site and improve their rankings in search engines.
This is what makes WordPress so great; it’s incredibly easy to update your content. A lot of small business owners balk at the thought of updating their own website. However, updating the WordPress site is easy to learn and understand, whilst being extremely powerful. You don’t need to know the first thing about coding to create great looking, functional pages and blogs.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to small business owners who have had to shell out £50 to their webmasters to change one sentence or make a minor change on their site. It’s a disgrace! WordPress removes the need for web developers and webmasters, allowing you to be in complete control of when your content is updated.
Getting a good Google ranking and having good Search Engine Optimisation is one of the aspects of building a website small business owners are particularly worried about, however, WordPress is designed with great SEO in mind.
Straight out of the box, the way the pages are put together is automatically primed to perform well in search engines, as every page can be updated with Google friendly information such as a unique title, an excerpt from the post, meta descriptions and clear headings.
Crucially, WordPress is easy to tweak too, with loads of dedicated plug-ins which can boost your SEO and help you craft SEO friendly copy.
3. WordPress Themes
As well as plug-ins, there are hundreds of different themes for WordPress. Themes are essentially pre-made websites which you can apply to your WordPress site to change the look and feel of it.
There are lots of clean and well-designed themes out there which will make your website look great. Here are some examples of WordPress websites which you can look to for inspiration when you set up your own site.
One of the downsides of using WordPress is that really customising the nuts and bolts of a theme requires an in-depth knowledge of coding. If you want your website to do much more than WordPress offers out of the box, we recommend you hire an expert. Remember, your website is going to be one of the first places a potential client visits when they’re scoping you out, so it is extremely important that it looks and feels professional and trustworthy.
Therefore, if you are going to be heavily customising how your website works, don’t be tempted to go for “your mate’s brother who dabbles”. Make sure that you hire an expert with a proven track record. We’ve had great success hiring UK-based freelance experts from People Per Hour in the past, and we strongly recommend you check them out if you ever need to hire a highly skilled freelancer.
Before settling on a theme, it’s important that you do your research and find one which you are really happy with. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of great free themes out there, so spend some time finding one which has all the functionality you need and suits your business visually.
When choosing a theme there are a couple of things you should keep in mind:
- Is the theme widely used? If a theme has thousands of happy users, that’s going to be a pretty good indication that it’s a good theme. An added bonus is that if loads of people are using a certain theme, it is more likely that any problem you encounter will have already been solved by someone else on the WordPress support forums. Also, it’s much easier to find dedicated WordPress experts for the more popular themes.
- Does the theme have loads of adaptable designs? Will you be able to do what you need to do with this theme? Look around at sites which you like and see what they used.
- Is the theme well supported? One of the biggest differences between paid and free themes is the support available. When using a free theme, if something goes wrong you’re on your own. However, most paid themes offer support too, so if anything goes awry you can easily get assistance.
- Is the theme well respected and reviewed? Pay attention to what others are saying about the theme. Is the feedback good or bad? What aspects do people not like? Choosing a great theme could be the difference between a great website and a bad one, so make sure that you trust whatever theme you choose to use.
- Is the theme responsive for mobiles and other devices? Smart phones now make up 28% of all web traffic. This means that it is becoming increasingly important that your website is set up to be easy to use and read on mobile devices and other small screen sizes. A good responsive theme literally transforms your whole website so that it is easily accessible by mobile. Therefore, in 2014, it’s essential that you choose a theme which is responsive out of the box.
Paid themes don’t usually cost much more than £40-60, so do not, for the sake of £50, skimp on your theme. If you want a robust, professional looking website which converts, we strongly recommend that you get a paid theme. Remember, WordPress support from a freelance expert can cost upwards of £50 an hour, so the support available with most paid themes is more than worth it.
Grow use the Genesis theme, which we’ve found to be a great option for small businesses- we’ve even had clients choose us over competitors based on the strength of our website. That said, it is important to note that we have done a lot of customisation, using advanced coding techniques! Genesis and Thesis are among the most popular themes used on WordPress, and we’ve found the support to be exceptional. Most importantly, Genesis is extremely robust and trustworthy. If you want a great, responsive and hugely adaptable WordPress theme, Genesis is definitely an option you should look into here.
As well as Genesis, Thesis is also a great option for a WordPress theme. It’s probably the most popular and well received WordPress theme available, and is well worth a look at here.
With WordPress’s huge range of free plug-ins and themes, it is very easy to change the way your whole site functions and looks.
A huge community of programmers and coders have developed an extensive library of free “plug-ins” – small programmes which do specific functions or add things to your site. For example, the social media buttons on the top and bottom of this blog are from a free plug in. Plug-ins can do anything from adding contact forms and e-commerce platforms to embedding audio files.
For example, our testimonials pages were originally a free plugin, which we customised ourselves to display and function differently.
Years ago, this kind of thing would have cost you a small fortune in developer’s fees, but with WordPress, small businesses can do this all for free. You are also able to tweak how plug-ins work, if you can’t find one which does exactly what you need. Once again, this level of customisation will almost always require expert assistance.
WordPress is without doubt one of the most popular web publishing platforms out there with 100,000 new WordPress sites being created every day.
Thanks to this popularity, there is a whole industry of coders working specifically with WordPress. As a result, it’s very easy to find WordPress programmers and hired help if you run into any problems.
As we mentioned above, we’ve hired great programmers through People per Hour in the past, and it’s a great option for hiring short term help.
Even better, WordPress has a thriving online community of coders and WordPress users, who are all keen to help each other out on forums and discussion boards. Because WordPress has so many users, pretty much anything you want to do will have already been done, which means that the answer to most WordPress problems are only a Google search away.
6. Low Cost and Easy to Set Up
WordPress itself is totally free. Unless you want to pay for a theme, the only other cost of setting up a WordPress site will be getting website hosting and renting a domain name. Website hosting and domain names are a nominal cost which shouldn’t come to more than £50 a year.
Grow use and strongly recommend Vidahost; they’re a UK based company who are very reasonably priced. More importantly, their customer support is excellent. When we had problems in the past they were extremely responsive and went out of their way to sort it out quickly. Installing WordPress on Vidahost is also extremely straightforward, thanks to its “1-click install” system.
The only other thing a WordPress site will cost you is your time. That said, with a bit of creativity and an eye for design, it’s easy and fast to set up a fully functioning business website which looks and feels great for your users.
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