As a freelance journalist, I consider myself an entrepreneur. Today, every entrepreneur needs to know how to embrace the Internet and Word Press is one of the easiest publishing platforms out there to build a website or blog. Millions of businesses, big and small, have websites built on WordPress.
I have two websites built on Word Press, so I jumped at the chance this past weekend (thanks to a free ticket from sponsor SiteGround, a web hosting company) to attend WordCamp Miami 2012, an annual conference that focuses on everything WordPress where I could learn more about how to get more traffic to my sites, have them look better and function better and help me make money. As a mother of three, it wasn't easy to give up an entire Saturday and so that you will benefit, too, I'm going to share a few key things I found most helpful:
1. Know the difference.I have a site build on WordPress.org and another on WordPress.com. The WordPress.com site is free and I used a pre-designed template, but I'm limited in how fancy I can get. WordPress.org requires you pay to have your site hosted but the capability for the look and the function is greater.
2. Don't be afraid. Everyone out there who is blogging, creating websites, using social media to make money experiments and constantly adds to their site. Make use of tutorials -- look for them on WordPresstv, wordcamptv and codex/wordpress.org. If you decide to hire someone, remember there are designers who make the site look good, developers who know how to make it function, and social media strategists who know how to tie your website into other social media platforms. You can do all of this yourself, though. It's easier than you think.
3. Develop a brand voice.Whether you are an individual trying to make money or a company, you need a brand voice. Ask yourself, "what is the expertise I'm offering" and take the time to think about how your target audience will experience your site. Speaker Jessica Jurick (@jessjurick) used MomGenerations.com as an example. The site has engaged moms and it's making money. You may want to get ads on your site, recommend products for paid sponsors, sell merchandise on your site or drive traffic to your bricks and mortar stores. You will need to set your boundaries for how to make money and still maintain integrity and your brand voice.
3. Open the door for interaction. Businesses that are making money have figured out how to get people talking online about them or their product. You want people to comment on your site and tell others about how much they love what you offer. One of the WordCamp speakers, Lisa Sparks of Constant Contact, used DINGO as an example. The dog treat company offered fans a $20 gift card if they helped get 9,000 people to "like" its Facebook page. They used their fans to get more fans. And, because people tend to spend more than $20, they were able to convert the gift cards into higher sales. DINGO also asks people to share photos on its site of how their dog is spending its Saturday. People post tons of photos. It's all about engagement and interaction.
3. Bring Search Engines to your site. Keyword searches are a big way that people will find you. That means you must update your site regularly -- that could be by blogging. Use Google Keyword Tool to suggest words that you can use on your site to draw more traffic. For example, criminal defense lawyer is not as good as criminal defense attorney in Miami. Broken links on your site can hurt your Search Engine Optimization.
4. Tie your WordPress site to other social media. You will want to have a Facebook fan page, use email marketing and maybe even have a YouTube channel that all work together with your blog or website to build customers. On your website, you can offer free coupons to people who sign up for your newsletter. (There are lots of subscribe forms that are WordPress plug ins and can be easily added to your site such as Subscribe2). Your RSS feed from your blog could become your newsletter.
5. Be safe. You will want to backup your site, that way in case you get hacked or if you want to experiment, you will not lose what you have. You can also install security plug ins...go to your WordPress dashboard, click add new plug in, and look for something called BetterWP Security or wordpress database backup.
I left Saturday's conference with all kinds of ideas for improving my website, The WorkLife Balancing Act, and my newer site,RaisingTeensBlog. In my struggle for work life balance, I've put making improvements to my sites on hold. Now, I'm motivated. Expect changes. Expect creativity. I'll expect the same from you!