Top tips on using WordPress for a small business website

WordPress logoWhile we’re not a web company we do get asked about small websites all the time from our clients, and prospective clients.

Since we provide IT support in London for businesses with 1-50 staff, and are their “IT Department”, we need to know enough about all facets of technology to help out.  Web services – like website design, development, maintenance and even Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising (e.g. Google AdWords) – is a small part of what we do.

As with any area of technology for small business, if it gets too complex and is really important to their business, we help them find an expert.  But we do basic websites, and mostly now in WordPress.

We made the decision to move our web development to the powerful WordPress platform a few years ago, and haven’t looked back.

Initially starting out as a blogging engine, WordPress is now a fully-blown CMS (Content Management System.) And, a very good one at that.  It’s big, here are some facts from a recent TechCrunch article on an interview with the WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg in December 2010:

“There are about 30 million publishers right now. That’s roughly 10% of all websites in the world. We’re currently getting about 300 million unique visitors on WordPress.com a month.”

That’s huge.  Let’s say it again – “10% of the websites in the world use WordPress.”

Our recommendation to any small business thinking of getting a, or upgrading their current, website is certainly to use WordPress.  Even if they need eCommerce in their site (so they can sell products online to people), WordPress (in most cases) is still the best path.

Why is WordPress a good choice for small business websites?

  • Access to thousands of cool and mostly free plugins (a plugin is a piece of code someone has written in the language WordPress runs on. With a few clicks in the WordPress Admin Site you can ‘bolt on’ that code easily and without fear of breaking or bringing down your site)
  • Your site will be SEO friendly at launch, you don’t have to do much for the search engines to love your site.  Also, there are plenty of easy plugins to implement which can help boost your search engine ranking even further
  • Easy to set-up – you can set up a site yourself if you have a bit of technical knowledge
  • WordPress TV logoReally simple to maintain – you can add pages, posts, text, images, videos and documents to your site quickly and simply.
  • It is a large, stable and proven platform
  • There is plenty of free training materials out there (especially see the delightful WordPress.TV site for training videos)

Should a small business go with wordpress.org or wordpress.com?

Now this is the confusing bit about WordPress – there are two different sites, or platforms really.  The .com and the .org use exactly the same blogging software (known as WordPress), it really is how they are hosted that is the difference.  We’ve re-worded some of the WordPress Org v Com support article to make it a bit easier to understand.

“WordPress.com is a commercial enterprise owned by Automattic, a company started by the founding developer of WordPress[.org] and staffed by full-time developers, designers and support agents. It runs a multi-site version of WordPress. WordPress[.org] is also free, Open Source software. Developments sponsored by Automattic are regularly contributed back into WordPress.org so the community can benefit.”

WordPress.org is a non-profit organisation which owns the WordPress trademark.  The code in the WordPress software is Open Source, so it is free.  All very confusing we know, we hope the below helps a little more.

WordPress.org is where you download the free WordPress blogging software, but you must host it on your own server.

Benefits include:

  • Ability to upload themes (these are like the skin or design of the site, see below for our top 3 recommended )
  • Ability to upload plugins
  • Great community
  • Complete control to change code if you’re technically minded

Cons include:

  • You need a good web host, which generally costs $7-12 a month for small sites
  • Requires more technical knowledge to set up and run
  • You’re responsible for stopping spam
  • You have to handle back-ups
  • You must upgrade the software manually when a new version comes out
  • If you get a huge spike in traffic your site will probably go down unless you have a robust hosting setup

WordPress.com is hosted by the people who wrote the free WordPress blogging software, so it is much quicker and simpler to get a website live (even if you want to have your site/blog on your own domain/web address.)

Benefits include:

  • It’s free and much easier to setup
  • Everything is taken care of: setup, upgrades, spam, backups, security etc
  • Your blog is on hundreds of servers, so it’s highly unlikely it will go down due to traffic
  • Your posts are backed up automatically
  • You get extra traffic from blogs of the day and tags
  • You can find like-minded bloggers using tag and friend surfer
  • Your login is secure (SSL) so no one can get into your account if you use wifi

Cons include:

  • They provide 100+ themes (and adding more every day) which you can modify and edit the CSS, but you cannot run a custom theme
  • You can’t hack the PHP code behind your blog
  • You can’t upload plugins

If you are DIYing a site yourself and you’re not that technical, then we recommed you go look at the one-click sites at WordPress.com option, it is pretty straightforward.  You can still map your own domain to it (so it is www.yoursite.co.uk, not yoursite.wordpress.com.) Be sure to check out the .com videos at WordPress.TV, it makes it much easier.

The top 3 WordPress theme template sites a small business can choose from

Here are the 3 sites we’d recommend you look through to choose the design of your site. Even if you want a custom site done, it’s good to look through these sites to garner ideas and give your designer more direction.  And, it may be smarter for you to buy the closest theme template to want you want, and have them adapt that.

We recommend most small businesses also undertake email marketing – leveraging their site.  People subscribe to your newsletter on your site, and you send out a professional looking newsletter (we recommend monthly.)  Read our top 7 tips on email marketing with newsletters.  You can also easily implement Google Analytics in your WordPress site, which we highly recommend, so also read our top 5 tips for a small business using Google Analytics.

If a successful website is important to your business we strongly recommend you come along to one of the monthly technology seminars we hold at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre – the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) session in particular would be relevant to you.

After all that, if it’s all still a little too much to work out for yourself, give us a call on 0844 414 2994 or email web@lucidica.com and we’ll see if we can help you out.

Find out more about what we do at Lucidica here.