When folks first started building content managed websites in the early 2000s, there were very few free options or management software. Many of the website content management tools in those days involved a custom WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor requiring a company to purchase more software or find a programmer to build from scratch.
Only mid-size and large companies could afford to build a website with professional content management (CMS) tools. IBM had a CMS solution, Microsoft has a CMS, then there was Adobe Dreamweaver, and an HTML/CMS hybrid technology called “Cold Fusion”. No, editing copy on a webpage without HTML wasn’t rocket science but it sure seemed like it in 1999. All of these paid software tools had their limitations but most did the job just fine.
Small businesses really only had one or two good options. Pick a pre-coded Dreamweaver template and slap your logo on the top or have a web designer build a custom website with no content management tools. Fast forward to 2017, and there are several free or relatively cheap content management solutions, including one of the most popular solutions called WordPress. Just because a lot of people use WordPress, doesn’t always make it the best choice for marketing your business or SEO.
What is WordPress?
One of the most popular content management software, CMS for short, solutions is WordPress. WordPress has grown from 2006 to the leading blog and CMS software. WordPress now powers 28% of the internet. Almost every type of organization in the world of all shapes and sizes are now using WordPress to run their website.
“WordPress powers 28% of the Internet”
What makes WordPress so popular? Mainly because it’s free CMS software and there are several free plugins used to extend the website’s functions. Developer support is fairly deep, which means most of the software plugins get updated frequently.
Should I Use WordPress?
Well, not everyone uses WordPress and for different reasons. There are a few things to consider before making the leap to WordPress. Are you a large company with security needs. Are there limitation for marketing such as SEO performance? Let’s take a look.
What Type Of Server Are You Running?
When deciding what CMS software is right for your business, you need to start with the server that runs your website. If your company uses Linux to host websites, you’re in luck. WordPress is an open source PHP driven CMS that runs very well on Apache/Linux with few if any problems.
If your server is running Windows IIS, there are free pre-built Windows solutions to adding WordPress. The challenge with running WordPress on IIS comes during testing and configuration. Most IIS servers are set to hide code errors. This can be a real problem when your development team makes a small code mistake or a plugin install causes your site to break. Always have a dev test site running Windows before you deploy your new WordPress site live. Unless your IT team absolutely must run Windows only, I strongly recommend running your WordPress install on an Apache/Linux host.
What Are You Looking To Do With WordPress?
If your goal is to have a basic 15 page brochure-ware website with a contact form, WordPress is an excellent choice. If you need e-commerce features to sell products online or want to add CRM integration, WordPress may not be the best answer. I usually stop recommending WordPress when I hear things like “sell products”, “email marketing”, or “must work with our CRM”. Like any software, WordPress has it’s limitations. There may be a better long term solution that requires less customization. Make sure you have rather firm requirements before making the leap.
Looking to sell products online? For most small businesses and startup companies, Shopify is an excellent choice. Shopify gives you all the basic retail features and best practices. There are several other marketing tools that work very well with Shopify.
Woocommerce is another retail solution for WordPress. This CMS solution is very similar to Shopify only this runs on top of WordPress.
“Make sure you’re not adding to many bells and whistles that slow down your site and kill your SEO performance.”
WordPress can slow down a site pretty quickly, the more plugins and features you add to the site. Make sure you’re not adding to many bells and whistles that slow down your site and kill your SEO performance. Site speed is a major factor in how Google ranks your site relative to competitors. Your PPC campaigns can also be hurt by a slow performing site. WordPress optimization is a worthwhile task to keep your site ranking well and visitors coming back.
Are You Tech Savvy?
If you have hired a marketing firm or have a tech savvy web developer handy who can make updates to your website, then you are in luck. Making changes to WordPress is easy for someone who knows the software. Adding, moving or deleting pages and blog posts is very simple. If you don’t feel comfortable making changes to your site alone or you don’t have an experienced WordPress user on staff, even the most simple changes can take days or weeks.
“Regardless of what you hear about WordPress being easy to use, it still takes someone with a little tech savvy to make some changes and avoid breaking your site.”
Regardless of what you hear about WordPress being easy to use, it still takes someone with a little tech savvy to make some changes and avoid breaking your site. I have heard countless stories of an agency that turns over a great looking website to their client, only to have the site frequently break due to user error. Save yourself the agony of dealing with downtime and let a professional manage your website if you don’t have the experience on staff.
What Is Your Budget?
WordPress is open source “free” software. That doesn’t mean the firm or person your hire to build your website should be next to free or cheap. It’s true you can save money on software fees by opting to use WordPress. Paying someone overseas to build your site for $10 per hour may not be the best decision. Don’t waste your money on cheap developers only to rebuild the site several months down the line.
If your budget is very small, take the time to learn WordPress through books or online tutorials first before hiring help. Several free and paid “Themes” are available to help you with your first site. If you have a modest budget and want a custom design, hire someone with WordPress experience to help you create what you need. A good WordPress developer will charge $60+ per hour. A custom site will start around 10k. Keep these numbers in mind as you shop around for talent. Also ask to see a couple examples of past sites.
Steer clear of a developer that looks like they slapped a logo on a $200 theme, then charged their client 2-3k for 4 hours of work. If you have a very small budget, this may be all you can afford.
An agency or digital marketing consultant will have extended capabilities to support your goals once the new WordPress site is live. Partnering with an agency is important once your site is live to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment. Very few sites perform well with little or no ongoing marketing. Have a monthly budget for digital marketing in mind as you plan your site.
Avoid Cheap SEO and PPC Plans
Now that you have your WordPress site running, it’s time to get marketing. You will need online advertising to help generate visitors, social media marketing, and a strategy for growing visitors in search engines. Don’t assume your website will generate leads or sales on its own. Avoid $499 per month SEO or PPC plans. Many of these are a scam targeting small businesses with few resources and low budgets. If it sounds to good to be true, it is.
Growing Your Business
As your business grows, you may look to increase the size and features of your site. WordPress is very flexible and may be the best choice for a growing small business. Add a plugin here and there to extend WordPress based on your needs.
In an enterprise setting, you have the option of hosting the website on the company server. If there is too much red tape involved in getting IT to support WordPress, you may want to consider opting for WordPress VIP (aka Enterprise). WordPress VIP offers the option of hosting your site with extra bandwidth on WordPress servers, bypassing the need to get your IT folks involved. Having an agency host your site is another option that could make the leap to WordPress easy.
Whatever solution you decide on, be aware there are many options when it comes to hosting, designing and building your new site. Just like any other website, the more planning and expertise that goes into the final product, the better the results. Good luck!
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photo credit: Arman Dz. I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles threaded together by wires… Changed color and cropped (license)