WordPress is a powerful platform for people who are interested in running their own websites. It is flexible, relatively scalable, and easy to update. The content management system can be used for blogs, online stores, membership sites, video sites and even e-learning platforms. Launching a successful site, however, requires planning in terms of technical and aesthetic challenges.
Choosing a Good Web Host
Web hosting can vary massively in terms of feature set, performance, and price. Shared hosting packages may be suitable for a personal blog or a small website aimed at visitors in a narrow niche. For more sophisticated sites and ones that will get substantial volumes of traffic, a more powerful hosting package may be required. Hosting can, broadly, be divided into a few distinct categories:
- Shared hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated Servers
Shared hosting packages are the most affordable, but also the most limited. They require very little technical expertise to manage, and there are often options for one-click installers to allow a user to deploy a basic WordPress setup without needing to understand how to use FTP, edit configuration files or manage databases. The downside of shared hosting is that space, data transfer limits, memory and server speed are all strictly limited so if a site becomes popular there is little room for the hosting to ‘grow’ to meet the increased demand.
Cloud hosting is a step up in terms of flexibility. Users buy server capacity and as their traffic increases or decreases, they can use more or fewer resources. Since the users pay only for the resources they are using, cloud hosting can be good for sites that see peaks and troughs in demand. Using cloud services well requires some technical expertise, but there are managed hosting packages that can shoulder some of that burden.
VPS, or Virtual Private Server hosting is good for those who want full control over the configuration of their server, but who do not need a lot of resources. A VPS is a ‘virtual server’. The hosting provider runs several virtual machines on one powerful server, allowing multiple clients to share its resources, while still having control over the operating system and the way it is set up. Dedicated servers are exactly what they sound like, with the client renting the entire machine to themselves. For most people who are looking to launch a site for the first time, dedicated servers are overkill in terms of capacity and price.
WordPress Themes that Convert
While WordPress is designed to be a blogging platform, it can be used for many other purposes. The CMS has an active community of developers and designers who have invested a lot of time and effort into making magazine-style themes, newspaper layouts, online stores, endless scrolling landing pages, and other templates to suit pretty much any kind of site you could imagine.
A good theme puts the information that you want your visitors to see up there in front of them the moment the page loads. The most important points should be ‘above the fold’ so that the user doesn’t need to scroll to find what they want. There should be strong, clear calls to action presented at key points too, so that there’s no confusion as to what the visitor should be doing, or where they should go from here. Have you ever used a website and found yourself thinking “Yes, yes… but HOW do I download this tool?” or “Stop playing this stupid video and let me book a hotel room please?”. Those are great examples of what not to do with your website. Make it easy for people to navigate your website and accomplish their goal of “going, doing, or knowing”.
The themes themselves are highly customizable, too. This means you can buy a theme that looks vaguely like what you’re after, and then change the colors, header images, fonts, and other parts of the design to suit your brand. It’s even possible to customize a theme without having extensive coding and markup knowledge, thanks to tools such as Elementor that allow you to design your site using drag-and-drop elements. Elementor puts the power in the hands of the person with the ideas, saving you from getting bogged down with opaque code and funny symbols. You know what you want your site to look like, and Elementor will let you prototype your design, see how it looks on the screen, see how it feels to use, and get up and running in minutes. Some WordPress themes are free, some cost money. Whichever you choose, it is worth customizing the theme further to make sure your website looks unique. Invest in Elementor to give your website a polished and professional look.
Plugins, Programming and Features
Out of the box, WordPress is a good platform for publishing long-form articles, news, opinion pieces, and other rich media posts. If you want to have more than a simple “publishing platform”, you will need to extend WordPress with plugins. It is possible to turn the platform into a member site, a social media platform, or an online store using plugins such as WPMember Pro, BuddyPress or WooCommerce.
Even if you just want to run an online magazine, you’ll find that there are plugins that will make the WordPress experience better for website admins and users alike. Plugins such as Smush to compress images, broken link checkers to help keep your site up to date, improved TinyMCE editor widgets, and database optimizers to make your site load faster will all help to attract and retain users, boost your site’s rankings in the search engines, and make it easier to maintain the blog as it grows.
So, before you add too much content to your site, check out some of the top-rated plugins for WordPress and take a few moments to set up the ones that look most useful to you.
SEO and Content Development
Up to this point we have discussed the purely technical aspects of running a website. Content is the final, and in many ways the most important, ingredient. Content is important both for the search engines and for your visitors. Before you launch your website, it’s a good idea to build up a database of keyword-rich content that serves a clear purpose.
Depending on the purpose of your website, some content may be sales-focused. Other pieces could be guides, lists, how-to’s, frequently asked questions, or even opinion pieces. Google provides some good keyword research tools to help you pick out long-tail keywords to target in your writing. Once you’ve selected your keywords and worked out a plan of posts that will cover them all, the next step is to draw attention to that content.
One of the most effective ways to improve your rankings in the search engines is through link building. Attracting relevant incoming links to your website will help to increase your organic traffic (traffic that comes from human visitors), and also improve your search rankings.
Why Links Matter for SEO
Incoming links are important SEO because the major search engines such as Google and Bing use links as a part of their ranking algorithms. They take into account the popularity and authority level of each site that they index, assess the content on the site to work out what it is about, and use that to give the sites a ‘score’. If a site that is high quality and considered to be a good source of information about a subject, then when that site links to another website, the search engines will assume that the other site is also a reliable source of information about that subject. It’s the digital equivalent of getting a glowing reference from an employer.
It’s possible to get some good quality incoming links simply by writing great content and sharing it on social media, but it would take a long time to get enough links that way to make a difference. There are tools such as Backlinks Complete that can help you to get incoming links by finding quality sites to work with, showing you who is linking to your competitors, and also showing you your existing link profile.
Once you’ve got a list of sites that you’d like to work with, you can embark on an outreach campaign that will get your links on interesting, relevant and high-quality websites, raising your profile for real, human visitors and earning you some “link juice” with the search engines too.
Update Your Website Regularly
After launching your website, the next step is to update it regularly. The search engines like to see sites have content posted to them on a regular basis. WordPress itself should be updated every time a new version is released. Themes and plugins receive updates too and you should always install new versions to ensure that your site is secure and works well.
If you find any of those tasks too troublesome or would like advice about installing, configuring and maintaining a WordPress site, don’t be shy about calling in the experts. Professional web developers such as J&B Web Dev can help you create a professional-looking site that is easy to maintain in the long term.