#HandMadeChat No. 54: How To Launch A Powerful WordPress Site

On Thursdays, Indie Business Network hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to educate, train and inspire creative and artisan entrepreneurs to become profitable business owners. While the show is aimed mainly at entrepreneurs who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.

This chat was sponsored by The Box Co-op. Custom full color printed box packaging for your creative and handmade products.

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Our guest yesterday was Jennifer Smith from Gray Court, South Carolina. Jennifer owns EcoOfficeGals in Grays Court, South Carolina, where she offers WordPress site design and virtual assistant services. Here is some of what Jennifer shared about how to launch a powerful WordPress site.

I ALREADY HAVE A WEBSITE AND A FACEBOOK PAGE, DO I HAVE TO HAVE A BLOG TOO? WHY?

Jennifer Smith: It is highly recommended that you have a blog, whether or not you have a Facebook page. A blog post generates dynamic content that can be easily shared on the Web and among your social networks, and can even go viral at any time. If you only have a static platform, like a website, search engine bots will not visit your site frequently because static websites are not updated frequently. A blog allows you to easily post fresh as many times a week as you wish, keeping your site fresh and appealing to search engines and to your customers and prospects.

WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS TO ENSURING MY WORDPRESS BLOG WILL BE POWERFUL AND WORTH THE INVESTMENT?

Jennifer Smith:  First, find a good hosting platform that has good speed and will keep your data secure and allow you to install your WordPress blog easily. While WordPress is not you option, I highly recommend it because it's flexible and allows you to make changes easily. WordPress is supported by experts who work together to make it the most robust and feature-rich option on the Web. I also recommend that, whatever you do, you choose a mobile responsive platform that is easily visible on the mobile devices your customers are carrying around with them 24/7.

Remember that nothing on the Web is permanent, and you will have to update your platform from time to time to remain current with the latest technologies.

WHY DO YOU RECOMMEND WORDPRESS OVER OTHER BLOG PLATFORM OPTIONS?

Jennifer Smith: WordPress is an opensource, free content management system (CMS), which means it can serve not only as your blog, but also as your main website — complete with things like pages, e-commerce capabilities, database options, membership platforms, photography portfolios, etc.

WordPress is exceptionally user friendly, and with a little training, you can maintain your own site and avoid having to pay designers to make simple content changes. There are numerous WordPress theme and plugin options you can use to make your website look and function anyway you want it to.

CAN I TRANSFER MY CURRENT BLOGGER OR TYPEPAD BLOG TO WORDPRESS?

Jennifer Smith: Yes, but it can be a cumbersome process. For example, Typepad will allow you to port all of your text, but not your graphics. (This is their way of making it hard for you to leave.) In fact, Donna Maria tells me that she ported this blog from Typepad to WordPress. If you go back far enough in her archives, you'll find older post with text but not graphics. That's because Typepad would not release them and there was no way dM could insert thousand of blog post graphics manually.) In the end, all the hassle is worth it to move from an older, less proactive platform, to WordPress.

SHOULD I HOST MY BLOG AT MY E-COMMERCE SITE, OR ON ITS OWN? WHY OR WY NOT?

Jennifer Smith: From a technical perspective, this depends on your hosts capability. If your host is platform specific, you may not be able to host WordPress on it. If you're using a standard cpanel host then it shouldn't be an issue. YOu need to ask your hosting company before you make a decision.

From a practical and aesthetic perspective, you must decide what will work best to accomplish your business goals. A blog separate from the main site works well with some business models, but not with others. You have to make that decision.

WHAT ARE “THEMES” AND “CHILD THEMES?” HOW DO I SEARCH FOR THE BEST WORDPRESS THEMES AND CHILD THEMES FOR MY BUSINESS?

Jennifer Smith: The easiest way to answer this question is to think in terms of your house. WordPress itself is like the foundation and framework of your home. A “theme,” like Genesis or Thesis, for example, is like the model home you might choose to buy. A “child theme” is everything else — the paint and carpet you choose, the color hard wood flooring you like and where you put it, etc. Essentially, the child theme is composed of aesthetic items that you can move in and move out, or change at will, without affecting the underlying structure of your home.

Applying this to a site, first you choose the framework, then you choose a theme, then you choose all the “extras.” YOu don't have to know how to build a house in order to change the paint color on the walls. Likewise, you don't have to know how to build a blog to choose a child theme you like.

WHAT ARE WORDPRESS PLUGINS, AND HOW CAN THEY HELP MY BLOG BE POWERFUL?

Jennifer Smith: WordPress plugins are inexpensive ways to further customize your site. There are WordPress plugins for everything: e-commerce, membership sites, directories, and more. They are free or low cost, and allow you to add ways to make it easier for you to serve your customers.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST POWERFUL PLUGINS FOR CREATIVES AND HANDMADE ENTREPRENEURS TODAY?

Jennifer Smith: For e-commerce, Woocommerce is a great plugin to sell products easily.

There are also some great light box plugins for image display. For example, jQuery Colorbox.

Of course, you need a good social media sharing plugin, such as Jetpack.

You also need a spam blocker for your WordPress site. A good one is Akismet.

For more search engine optimization (SEO) juice, use a plugin like Yoast.

WHAT ARE WORDPRESS WIDGETS, AND HOW CAN THEY HELP MY BLOG BE POWERFUL?

Jennifer Smith: WordPress Widgets add content and features to your Sidebars, footers or areas of your home page. With widgets, you can style your blog differently on different pages to add texture and variety. Widgets allow you to put content in neat places, and move it around when you want to. Widgets help connect to your social networks, other websites, posts, categories, archives, and ads.

HOW DO I MAKE SURE PEOPLE ON GOOGLE AND SOCIAL NETWORKS CAN FIND AND SHARE MY BLOG?

Jennifer Smith: As appropriate, leave your URL around the Web when you comment on social media, so people can come back to you easily. Add your site link to your email signature. (I love using WiseStamp for this.) Always share your blog posts on your networks, and comment on other blogs too. As you drop your URL into other people's blog comments (as you leave substantive comments, not spammy stuff), you also drive traffic back to your site. Share other people's posts, and they'll be more likely to share yours.

WHAT KIND OF UPKEEP AND MAINTENANCE DO I HAVE TO DO ON MY WORDPRESS SITE?

Jennifer Smith: Regular updates are important to do regularly for the performance and security of your site. Update plugins, platforms, etc., when notified to do so. Most hackings result when you don't update your site. Also, importantly, dn't overdo plugins. The more plugins you have, the more updates you have to do and the more load time you add to your site. Also, not all plugins are compatible. Choose only the ones you need to accomplish specific goals.

WHAT OTHER THINGS ARE IMPORTANT BEFORE I BEGIN TO SET UP MY WORDPRESS BLOG?

Jennifer Smith: If you don't currently love your primary site, consider redeveloping your entire site on WordPress. It's always better to have everything in one place and WordPress can handle it all.

Decide if you are going to regularly update your WordPress site, or if you'll have someone do it for you. This should be part of the planning process.

Read up on popular design trends. For example, at present, gradients and small images are out. Flat designs and large images are HOT now! Long and single page sites with no sidebars are gaining popularity. Always be prepared to continually adapt to an ever changing Web.

Be on the lookout for HTML5, which is gaining popularity among themes and child themes. This will require some tweaking for all WordPress sites in the near future.

Above, all create a site that reflects your passion and you can't go wrong. Have fun!

More About Jennifer Smith

Jennifer is a WordPress site designer and a green virtual assistant. Jennifer Smith: Check out her “Hot Summer Deals” here. She also offers complimentary basic WordPress install with the purchase of any reseller hosting package.

For Indie Business Blog readers, Jennifer is offering a special deal for your WordPress updates now — she'll update your site for $30! That's $20 off the regular price of $50! She'll also give you a “WordPress Facelist for just $50.

Mention #HandmadeChat and get 20% off a single WordPress theme customization package or web graphics work (excluding logo packages). Some conditions apply; check with Jennifer for details.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?

The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, June 13, 2013, at 8pm ET. According to a new report, Mothers Are The Primary Breadwinners In 40 Percent Of US Homes Our chat on this evening will explore how creative entrepreneurs (men and women) and their families are integrating this new reality into their lives. Are you a woman and/or mother, and the primary breadwinner in your family? (I am.) Is this empowering for you? Stressful? How do you integrate this into your life?

Here's how to participate in #HandmadeChat.

Take the #HandmadeChat Survey so we can make #HandmadeChat even better!

Follow #HandmadeChat on Twitter.

QUESTION: Do you have a WordPress site? Are you thinking about getting one? What questions do you have, and what things do you recommend others consider before moving to WordPress?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.