wordpress for small business

Getting Started With WordPress for Small Businesses

I might be a little bias, but I think WordPress is the best website option for 99% of small businesses. Although WordPress is a great option, it can be quite challenging for non-technical people to get up and running with a website built on WordPress. If you make it as far as getting a website up and running on a web host, there is always the question of “What next?” What do you do about backups, website security, should you buy a premium theme, etc. etc.

While “Getting Started with WordPress” could easily be a book, this post will take a look at some simple next steps business owners can take after they get their WordPress website set up.

Backups

Let’s be honest, WordPress is a double edged sword. It’s so simple and easy to set up, but a lot of users usually forgot to set up two very important features. The first thing any website owner should do is set up backups. The great thing is, WordPress offers a number of free and paid options for backing up websites. These options include different features and different prices but they all do the main thing, back up websites. Let’s look at the options for backups:
Free Options

  1. BackWPup – This plugin does come with a paid version but the free version offers more than enough functionality for backups. BackWPup is simple to set up and allows users to backup their website to FTP, Dropbox, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, RackSpaceCloud, and SugarSync. BackWPup also comes with some additional features like database repair and optimization.
  2. BackUpWordPress – Another great free option for your backups is the plugin BackUpWordPress. This plugin allows users to set multiple schedules to automatically back up your website. You can also select certain files or folders that you do not want to be backed up.
  3. UpdraftPlus – This is one of the most popular free plugins for backing up WordPress websites. UpdraftPlus offers multiple solutions for storing your backups, such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud Files, Google Drive, Google Cloud Storage, DreamHost DreamObjects, FTP, OpenStack, and email. If an upload fails, the plugin will automatically retry the to upload the backup.

Paid Options

  1. VaultPress – VaultPress is a paid option for WordPress backups and was developed by the same company that builds and runs wordpress.com. The plugin is a monthly subscription that starts out at only $5 a month. One great feature that VaultPress includes a security scanner for your website files. If any suspicious files are found, the plugin will automatically email you the information.
  2. BackupBuddy – This is a fully featured premium plugin that offers multiple features outside of just backing up websites. Pricing is very reasonable and starts out at $80 per year for two websites. Outside of the variety of backup locations BackupBuddy offers, this plugin also offers unique features such as database mass text replacement, malware scanning, and an interactive site directory map that shows exactly what is taking up the most space on your website.

WordPress Security

Have you set down and researched the various security measures that need to be implemented into your WordPress site? If not, stop reading this post and start researching! There are hundreds and thousands of website owners who think, “I just have a small website, no one will want to hack my site.” That is a huge misconception. One of the most common WordPress hacks is called a pharma hack.

There are two main sides to a pharma hack. First, the attacker will inject a large amount of spam links for pharmaceuticals, such as Viagra of Levitra, into your website content. Oh, and those links are usually invisible to humans but not search engines. What does that mean? It means Google, Bing, and other search engines will read those spam links on your website and they will most likely penalize your website for promoting spammy links, this will really hurt the search engine ranking of your website. What happens next is that even more spam links and unwanted content will be added to your actual website database. Trust me, a database that has been compromised and stuffed full of pharmaceutical spam is not fun to clean out.

Another side of pharma hacks includes adding files to the root directory of your website. These files are html files that are also full of pharmaceutical ads and links. When these files are added the root directory of your website, they are completely visible from your website. For example, someone can visit www.yoursite.com/spamfile.html and they will see the pharmaceutical webpage. You might not think this is a big a deal because you don’t have any links on your site to those specific spammy pages, but that is where search engines come into play. If you have malicious webpages added to your website, search engines will see those pages and add them to their index. If someone runs a Google search for your website, it’s possible that might see a webpage about Viagra on your website in the search results.

WordPress Security
Pharma hack? Yep, pharma hack.

It’s important to understand, that is just one example of a website hack. There are actually many different types of hacks and motives of hackers. Some hacks are just for bragging rights, hackers will take a website down and leave message saying something along the lines of “This website has been hacked by ‘insert hacker name here’.” Of course, the messages are usually a little more colorful than the example above.

Thankfully, there are a few basic security measures that can be taken place in order to help secure your website. Here are some introductory ways to secure your WordPress installation:

  1. Avoid shared hosting – Outside of speed and stability issues, shared hosting isn’t the option if security is primarily a concern of yours. Shared hosting is cheap for a reason. Think of shared hosting like a public transportation bus. There are tons of people who pay a cheap price to all ride the same bus. With shared hosting, there are lots of people all on the same server. This means it’s very possible for all websites on the same server to get hacked if only one website is insecure.
  2. UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE! – WordPress has a pretty regular release schedule and most premium plugin authors actively release updates for their plugins. Most of the time, these updates contain security fixes. Unfortunately, most people don’t update their WordPress installation and plugins on a regular basis, that opens up their website to hackers or those with malicious intents. One thing to remember, before you update any plugins or your WordPress installation, it’s very important to back up your website
  3. Install the Sucuri Security plugin – Although website security can’t be boiled down to simply installing  a plugin, the Sucuri Security plugin is a very good place to start. This plugin offers activity auditing, file integrity monitoring, malware scanning, and several other great features.
  4. Use strong passwords – This goes without saying, use very strong (10+ random characters) passwords for your WordPress user accounts.

Invest in a Premium Theme

A great quality custom designed website built on top of WordPress will cost a few thousand dollars at the very least. A lot of small businesses don’t have the resources to spend $5,000 to $10,000 on a new website for their business but that’s ok. One of the great advantages of WordPress is that it supports themes. Basically, you can completely change the look, layout, and design of your website by installing a new WordPress theme. Setting up a theme doesn’t require any coding or in depth knowledge about web development. It gets even better, there are a lot of very professional looking and functioning WordPress themes that have a very reasonable cost.

Sure, you can create a completely sleek professional website with free WordPress themes and a bit of tinkering, but you can really get the most bang for your buck with a premium theme. Premium themes are paid for and can vary anywhere from $20 to hundreds depending on what you need or like. One very huge advantage to using premium themes is support. Almost every premium theme comes with customer support. If you have a question about the theme or you need help setting something up, chances are you can email the theme developer and the business or person will help you out. With free themes, the opposite is the case. Most authors of free themes only offer very limited support if they offer any at all.

Here are some great options for premium themes:

  1. Upthemes – Upthemes might not offer a large amount of themes, but what they lack in quantity, they definitely make up for with quality. Upthemes currently offers seven beautifully designed modern WordPress themes that cover a variety categories. If you are a blogger, musician, Church, photographer, or creative agency, Upthemes has a theme build specifically for you.
  2. Studiopress – Studiopress has over 134,000 customers…and for a good reason. Every Studiopress theme is powered by the elegant and feature rich Genesis Framework. At the heart of every Studiopress theme is SEO, modern HTML5 and responsive development practices, unlmited support and updates, airtight security, and easy customization. Oh, and they also have tons of themes you can choose from.
  3. Michael Hyatt – Michael Hyatt isn’t your typical WordPress theme company. Michael is actually the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers but has since transitioned into a full time blogger, New York Times best selling author, and business coach. Michael uses WordPress to power his extemely popular blog, michaelhyatt.com and recently released the custom built theme his blog runs on. The Get Noticed theme is built specifically to help people build a powerful personal online brand. This theme puts your content at the forefront of the website so that your audience can see and directly engage with you. It also offer code free customizations, an amazing aministrative dashboard, and powerful sidebar widgets.

Small Business WordPress Themes

Add Ads to Your WordPress Website

One aspect of having a website that many small businesses don’t realize is that they can have ads on their website to sell complimentary but noncompeting products and services. For example, if you are a photographer and have a blog on your website, you can put up on add for pictures frames. It’s obvious that your website visitors are interested in your photographs and photography. Since your visitors are already in the “photography” mindset, they are more likely to click on an ad for a photography related product instead of something random.

When you have ads for other businesses, you are helping out your website visitors. Your website also comes off as less “salesy” if you are helping other businesses get customers. Back to the picture frame example. If your visitors are buying pictures off your website, chances are they will need some picture frames too. Why not research and suggest a great picture frame business to your visitors? Of course, ads don’t only help your visitors, they help you too. It might not be very much, but you can also make money from the ads you have on your website. Say you have PPC (pay per click) ads, every time someone clicks the ad you get a small amount of money in return. There are also affiliate programs that can be especially helpful and lucrative. Every time someone clicks your affiliate link and purchases something, you are rewarded with a percentage of the sale. Affiliate ads can really work for any business or service.

WordPress makes it very easy to add ads to your website. With the use of plugins and widgets, you can have ads up on your in just a few minutes.

Learn How to Write Killer SEO Blog Posts

If you really want to get the most out of your WordPress website, specifically your blog section, you need to learn how to write blog posts that people and search engines love. Every business should have a blog and if you use WordPress, you have no excuse. Writing amazing blog posts really isn’t difficult and you don’t have to be an English major to do it. Formatting blog posts for SEO also Is not very hard.

Blog posts on a small business website should serve the purpose of further educating and helping customers, whether or not they buy your product or service. Offering something valuable without a catch is something everyone loves. SEO is a very in depth topic but here are some basic steps to getting started with SEO friendly blog posts:

Essentially, your blog post needs to:

  • Have a title that is self-explanatory and hooks the reader
  • Contain valuable information, pertinent to your target audience
  • Invite the reader to continue the discussion in the comments section
  • Include images with proper alt and title html tags
  • End with a call-to-action (i.e., share this blog post on social media or sign up to my newsletter to learn more about this subject)

Your blog post should also be written around one specific topic or keyword. For example, if you have a small business that sells custom built wood furniture, you don’t want be writing blog posts about the upcoming football season. Here are few blog topics that would be great for a custom furniture small business:

  • 10 Ways to Keep Your Furniture Looking Brand New
  • The Best Tips for Moving and Traveling with Wood Furniture
  • A Beginners Guide to Building Your Own Furniture

All three topics offer some sort of value to the reader. Once your readers see that you are a trustworthy resource, they will feel more comfortable with buying your products. Not only does blogging help with SEO but it also helps with customer acquisition.

Track Your Website’s Traffic

Monitoring traffic and website analytics is one necessary aspect of owning a business website. Thankfully WordPress make this extremely easy. Monitoring your traffic is a great way to understand not only where your visitors are coming but how they are finding you i.e. what phrases are they searching for in Google or what social media website they are coming from. Knowing these things will help you adjust your marketing techniques by showing you what methods are working and what methods are a waste of time and/or money.

If you are spending hours each week on Twitter, but you are only getting a small amount of visitors from Twitter, It would probably be best to focus your efforts on another outlet. Bounce rate is also important. Bounce rate is the percentage of single page visitors. In other words, it’s the percentage of people who, after coming to your website, did not visit any other page. It’s important to monitor bounce rate because it can show you what webpages you need to optimize.

The two easiest ways to monitor traffic is through plug-ins and Google. Google Analytics is a website analytics tool that offers hundreds of statistics and tons of information about your website visitors. The best part is, Google Analytics is free and there are multiple WordPress plugins that can integrate your Google Analytics into your WordPress dashboard.

My favorite plugin is called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. This plugin shows the number of visits, number of visitors, bounce rates, organic searches (searches from search engines), and pages per visit all on your WordPress dashboard.

Add Alternative Content to Compliment Your Website

Blogging isn’t the only way to provide valuable content to your readers, customers, or clients. There are many ways to provide something valuable and increase sales simultaneously. One type of alternative content that can work very well for small businesses that sell a product are videos. WordPress makes it very easy to add videos to websites. There are actually some WordPress themes that come with the option of setting up a video gallery on your website.

People love videos and will often prefer to watch a video over reading a blog post. Videos give a more conversational, inviting tone to your products since they can see a human behind the screen. Videos allow you to showcase products and show them in action, something that can be difficult to do with text. Videos are also great for small business owners because they save time. Writing an 800 word blog post will generally be more time intensive than filming a 2-3 minute video.

A secondary benefit of uploading videos to your website is that you can also upload them to YouTube. While Google is the King of search, YouTube is the king of video media. Uploading videos on YouTube will increase your exposure and improve your SEO rankings.

It’s also very easy to repurpose content that is already on your website and turn it into a video. Have you written several blog posts? Why not turn each blog post into an informative video. The videos do not need to be flashy, shot with expensive equipment or edited by a professional videoagrapher. Tons of YouTube videos are just people looking at a camera and talking. If your content is good and helpful, you should have no problem pulling in some additional website visitors by creating videos and uploading them to YouTube.

As I mentioned before, I think WordPress is an excellent option for business owners. While it takes time to become a WordPress expert, it is one of the easiest platforms to use if you want to get a good quality website up and running. Do you use WordPress for your business? What do you like about it, what don’t you about it? If you have any comments or questions about WordPress feel free to leave a comment below.

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