How to Use WordPress for Business Purposes
If you are looking to incorporate blogging into your marketing mix, look no further than WordPress. WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform, supporting approximately 19% of the world’s blogs and websites as of 2014. It is not only the most well-known brand in the blogosphere; it has grown to become one of the most popular website content management systems in use today.
WordPress was founded in 2003 by web developers Mike Mullenweg and Mike Little. It began as a fork – an independently developed project built from the source code of an existing software package (in this case, a blogging project known as b2/cafelog). The following year, WordPress rapidly gained users and contributing developers after the main competing blogging software at the time, Moveable Type, increased its prices. In subsequent years, the functionality and flexibility of WordPress grew, as did its user base. As of February 2014 – 11 years after its creation – WordPress supported 74.6 million sites, six new WordPress.com posts were made per second, and 22% of new registered domains in the U.S. were through WordPress.
In this article, we will look at, 1) purpose of WordPress, 2) benefits of WordPress, 3) how to setup a WordPress account, 4) using WordPress for business blogs, 5) SEO, 6) terms specific to WordPress, 7) WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com, and 8) case study: Marriott International.
PURPOSE OF WORDPRESS
WordPress is an open-source blogging platform and content management system (CMS). It was originally designed as a blogging software package, but its functionality makes it attractive to web developers as a CMS for personal and professional websites. It can be used as either, and many major brands, such as Samsung, Yahoo, PlayStation, General Electric, and Forbes, use WordPress to power their corporate websites.
WordPress Tutorial 1: An Introduction
BENEFITS OF WORDPRESS
There are many benefits to blogging in general and using WordPress in particular. If you are an entrepreneur, you may wonder why you would spend time blogging to begin with. There are a number of reasons:
- A regularly updated blog with insightful content can help raise the profile of your leadership team and brand them as influencers in your industry. It establishes you and your firm as an authority in your industry, especially if the media, other bloggers, and social media influencers share your content.
- A staff-authored blog can help build or strengthen a personal connection your customers have with your brand.
- A blog can broaden your reach. The blogging ecosphere can spread your content beyond your target market. WordPress blogs also are easy to search engine optimize, and can enhance your overall visibility in search results.
- Blogging drives traffic to your other digital assets, most notably your website.
- You can generate leads through your blogs. You can capture potential customer info by offering free incentives in exchange for contact information
Now consider the benefits of blogging using WordPress:
- WordPress is massively customizable and can be configured to fit your marketing vision and business needs.
- It is easy for a single user or multiple users to add new and/or update existing content; it is also easy to integrate social media to increase the reach of said content.
- You can monetize your blog by integrating an ad-serving platform like Google AdSense.
- As an open source package, there is a significant amount of product support, from online resources to user forums to WordCamp unconferences (conferences for WordPress web developers). There is also continuous development of new features in the form of Themes, Plugins and more.
HOW TO SET UP A WORDPRESS ACCOUNT
For the purposes of a business blog, you will want to set up your account on WordPress.com, rather than WordPress.org (we will cover the difference between the two later in this blog). You can easily do this by visiting WordPress.com and selecting the domain name at which you would like your blog to reside. You will then be prompted for an email address, username, and password and be offered the option to purchase the domain name you have opted if it is available. You will also be shown a list of free or paid WordPress.com options. The WordPress for Business option, which costs $299.00 per year (as of July 2014) affords you an unlimited choice of Themes, file storage space, and e-commerce tools, along with a free domain name. Select this option, enter your payment details, and get ready to launch your blog!
Choose a WordPress theme
Once you have your basic WordPress account set up, and logged in, select the Dashboard link. Your Dashboard allows you to control all areas of your blog, including its look and features. The first thing you may want to do is determine the appearance of your blog. In the left-hand menu, select “Appearance” and then “Themes.” This takes you to a library of different Themes – software packages that control the appearance of your blog. You can choose one of the many themes offered by WordPress for free. The company also allows web developers the opportunity to sell Themes they have developed to you and other WordPress users. Many of these themes incorporate different aesthetics and functionality then basic WordPress themes. When browsing Themes, you can select “Preview” to see how a particular theme would look applied to your site. Once you have a preferred Theme in mind, click “Activate,” and the Theme will automatically be applied to your blog. You can change Themes at any time but once you have begun to upload content (and especially customizing your Theme), changing it may affect how your content appears.
Customize your Theme
Under “Appearance” and “Themes,” select “Customize” to modify your Theme further to your firm’s specifications. For example, your preferred Theme may not have your firm’s colors. Here, you can change them. You can also modify the theme’s widgets – software components that users see and interact with, such as a form or calendar. Please note that customization at this level is through a WYSIWYG editor. Deeper customization requires knowledge of PHP and CSS.
Managing a corporate blog can be difficult for a single user. WordPress allows you to provide other individuals with the ability to access your blog. You can assign them one of five roles – Follower, Contributor, Author, Editor, or Administrator. Each role carries a different level of access to your blog, with a Follower having the least access and an Administrator having as many privileges as you. You grant people user roles by entering their email address into the form that appears on the “Invite New Users to Your Blog” (accessed by selecting “Users” and then “Invite New” below it.
Customize Your Blog’s Settings
The “Settings” menu contains many important items to configure. For example, how many items should appear on your main page at most? Should search engines be allowed to index your site? What should be the default size for images you upload? It is worth selecting “Settings” and running through each submenu to ensure that your blog functions exactly as you intend.
USING WORDPRESS FOR BUSINESS BLOGS
Once you have configured your blog’s functionality, customized it, and familiarized yourself with the back-end, you are ready to get started. You could launch your blog by drafting a post about the first thing that occurs to you. However, that would be a mistake. Too often would-be bloggers post as ideas occur to them and struggle with uneven output. Or they struggle to keep a regular schedule of posts, lose their passion for the process, and their content suffers. To ensure consistent compelling content appears on your blog, it is critical that you start with a content strategy.
Creating content strategy
A content strategy is simply a plan that outlines for a particular publication how you will obtain content, what kind of content you will obtain, and when it will be published. In a business context, this should always be aligned with the firm’s broader strategic marketing goals, and should incorporate an analysis of existing data and metrics. For example, if the primary objective of a particular marketing department is to generate sales leads for the sales department, then a blog’s content strategy might provide daily or weekly free incentives, available only to blog readers who provide their contact information via an online form.
The first part of your content strategy should include how you will create your blog content.
There are a number of ways to create for your blog including writing it yourself, curating content from the web, and outsourcing content.
Writing content yourself is usually the first option you will consider. No one knows your firm, and perhaps your area of expertise, better than you do. However, writing the content yourself can also be tremendously time-consuming. When blogging for business, you are usually not just writing. You are paying attention to keywords and phrases that are trending, you are framing your content, – text, picture, and video, in such a way to increase search engine visibility, and you are considering how sharable your post is across social media.
If you do opt to create the content yourself, it is even more imperative that you create an editorial calendar as part of your content strategy and determine, as much in advance as possible exactly what blog posts will be published when. One advantage of WordPress is that it allows you to schedule when content will be published to your blog in advance. Create drafts of blog posts based on planned events, product launches, holidays, and other events that are known in advance. You can then tweak them to ensure that they are still accurate near the date of occurrence.
Another strategy is to curate content. You can select content online and reblog it easily through sharing buttons on the content itself or through specific WordPress plugins. You can reblog as is or add a short opinion on the content yourself. By regularly scanning the web for compelling content and posting about it quickly, you can take advantage of the web traffic garnered by trending topics and viral stories and direct it to your blog.
You can also outsource your content’s creation to a freelancer, a content creation company, or a full-blown marketing firm. There are many options available to an entrepreneur who does not have the time to post their insights every day.
You want to make sure that your content is shared automatically across your other digital assets, such as your corporate website and social media accounts. This will drive traffic to your blog and help you achieve the marketing goal(s) your blog was designed to achieve.
Other social media platforms
Selecting “Sharing” under “Settings” in the Dashboard allows you to link your social media accounts to your WordPress blog. Once connected, your blog posts will automatically be shared with your social media accounts. WordPress also offers you the capability to add share buttons under each post to ensure that blog readers who like your posts can share your content across their social media accounts. This will help you broaden your reach and increase your visibility.
From the “Sharing” link in your Dashboard, your content can also be connected to LinkedIn, which is critical. LinkedIn is the network for industry professionals and industry thought leaders. Ensuring your content appears here will help you establish credibility. However, do not stop at LinkedIn. Look into sharing your content with other similar networks like Entrepreneur Connect or CoFoundr. The wider you distribute your content, the more you’ll extend your visibility, grow your blog audience, and establish credibility.
When you have designed and launched your blog, have started gaining traffic and engagement, and begun to gain some recognition among your corporate peers, you may notice that you now appear higher in search results. Why is this? First, your blog helps to rank higher SERPS and hence should be bringing traffic not just to itself but also to your website. While search engine algorithms remain a closely guarded secret, high levels of traffic undoubtedly play a significant factor. A blog also provides a mechanism for creating fresh content and inbound links, which also help improve SEO.
Matt Cutts From Google On WordPress and SEO
TERMS SPECIFIC TO WORDPRESS
There are a number of key terms, specific to WordPress that you should know before setting up your WordPress blog. Among them:
Gravatar – stands for “globally recognized avatar,” both a series of graphic avatars and the WordPress affiliated service that provides them
PHP – stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, and is the programming language in which WordPress is written
Plugin – a bit of software code unique to WordPress that provides extra functionality
Theme – a software package that determines the appearance of a program, in this case a WordPress blog
A more comprehensive list of WordPress terminology can be found here.
WORDPRESS.ORG vs. WORDPRESS.COM
WordPress offers two versions of its blogging software, one through WordPress.com, which you can link to your own website. The other is a free software installation through WordPress.org that you must host either on your server, or on that of a web-hosting company. The advantage of this version is that you can manage every aspect of the site – more so than the WordPress.com version. The disadvantage is that a deep level of customization requires technical expertise, which you may not have in-house. The self-hosted version is likely better for firms wishing to use WordPress as a content management system for their corporate website and thusly needing a high degree of customization. However, for a straightforward business blog, the .com version of WordPress is best.
CASE STUDY: MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL
In it, he shares his business insights, as well as personal stories. His readers are able to interact with him, deepening their connection with the brand, and, through social media share buttons, spread his words of wisdom. The WordPress powered blog integrates e-commerce functionality, YouTube videos, social media sharing buttons, and regular, compelling content. It is a great example of the flexibility of the platform and the potential of blogging for business.