Hands-On WordPress for Beginners Meet-Up Notes — September 13, 2011
Examining the Power of WordPress as Personal and Commercial Blogging Platform
In this month’s Hands-On WordPress meet-up, we examined the power of WordPress as personal and commercial blogging platform. To give our WPATX members the best, most up to date information possible, Jackie Dana has reached out to Ilene Haddad and Julie Gomoll, organizers of Blogathon ATX. This is an annual, day-long event in which bloggers get together to write blog posts, talk about successful blogging strategies like finding your point of view, and the best ways to market your blog. Several of our WPATX Developers, including, Pat Ramsey, Nick Batik and Jackie Dana will be on hand at this year’s Blogathon to provide tech support for Bloggers who are using WordPress. To offer a look at the technical side of the very successful blog, Android and Me Pat reached out to WPATX member, Clark Wimberly.
WPATX Beginners Meet-up Announcements:
- Getting Started with WordPress (WP 101) class: Sept. 20th, 7-9pm at Cospace.
- Blogathon Austin – October 01, 2011 at Link CoWorking. All-day blogging, conversations, tech support for bloggers. Join us!
- Submit a question for next month’s meetup
Jackie Dana opened tonight’s session by introducing Blogathon Organizer, Julie Gomoll and WPATX member, Clark Wimberly, and asked them to share their insights about using Blogging to bring visitors to your WordPress site. Additionally, Jackie asked Clark to address some of the technical aspects of using WordPress as a blogging platform.
Julie Gomoll is a graphic/web designer and entrepreneur. In the 90s Julie started up Go Media, which she sold to Excite. She “rode the internet wave” going from 35 employees to 3500. She started blogging in 2004 or 2005, but when she got into WordPress she felt she could control her own destiny. She feels like she has a lot of power with WordPress without being a coder.
How to Develop a Content Strategy
When you’re planning a blog, you need to have several ideas at hand. You should have a plan for at least a couple of months or you’ll run into trouble. Do they all have to be all long thought-out articles? Actually a mix might be ideal. A long post makes people realize you’re serious. But there’s nothing wrong with a post that’s brief and spontaneous, as in, “this is a cool thing I found today” so you are generating content on a regular basis. A blog is a living thing.
Plugin to help with this process: Editorial Calendar – allows you to plan and schedule your posts.
Actually reposting content is a bad idea because Google will penalize you for duplicate content, even if it’s on another website/blog. But referencing a previous article is a great idea because it will drive more traffic to your site and help with your search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is using keywords, headlines, names of categories and navigation so that when people are searching for things, they will find your blog.
Inserting a “click here link” isn’t useful for Google. Instead, make the links contextual, so make your links more along the lines of “see another recipe”.
Coming Up with Content for Your Blog
An opportunity for new content that helps also bring traffic to your site: interviews. The subject of your interview will tell their friends, it will add credibility to your site, and is always a good way to generate content if you’re out of ideas. You can ask someone a few questions via email and then post the answers on your blog. Keep in mind that videos are also great but they won’t help you with SEO as much unless there’s a transcription.
Don’t be Afraid of Controversy!
Your readers will follow your Blog because they either strongly agree with your Point of View are they strongly disagree with you. Either way they click to your site and leave comments and discuss your POV with their peers.
Where to Find Images for Your Blog
DO NOT use unattributed photos. Either use a ‘For-Fee’ Stock Photo source for photos or try Flickr – search for Creative Commons photos that allow for republishing
What’s the difference between a blog and a website? A blog is a website. It just has posts in chronological order with the most recent on the top.
What are good themes? There are great premium themes (ones you have to pay for) including Thesis andGenesis. There are also a lot of great free themes, but there are also some really bad free themes. Be sure to get your ‘free’ themes from https://wordpress.org/themes/. The WordPress team has reviewed these Themes and you do not have to be concerned with finding ‘bad-code or ‘Mal-Ware’ in your Theme.
Register with MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. first; they will then have a plugin that you can add to your site. –
Meenews – lets you style your newsletter to match your blog. (Nick recommended)
WP-Instapay – Sales Processing and Order Fulfillment system (Sandi recommended)
How to Monetize Your Blog
People have been successfully monitoring their blogs with some of the following:
- Google Adsense – ads on your blog
- Join ad networks in niche markets
- Sell your items – ebooks, merchandise
- Affiliate sites – Amazon Associates, , Commission Junction
(Keep in mind that you need to state that you are receiving compensation for items. You can have a disclaimer page that states that the read can treat all links as endorsements.)
- Free stuff (like ebooks) can generate business leads, mailing lists, etc.
- The best way to monetize your site: If you are becoming an expert and getting traffic, you will gain credibility all over the place. You might be asked to speak at conferences or given other opportunities to consult or write guest blogs – all of which can bring you considerably more compensation than ads or affiliate links will ever achieve.
- Need really compelling content that people want to read
- Are people who are looking for that content able to find it?
- Comment on other blogs
- Do you have compelling headlines?
- Write about issues people are searching for
- Contribute to local print media/newsletter with links to your blog
- Follow other blogs in your field/subject matter and see what they’re writing about (and do this regularly)
Categorizing and Tagging
Categorizing is great for SEO, especially if the category is in your URL.
Tags are not useful unless you have a strategy for using them. Each tag creates new pages and it can lead to site bloat. However, if you tag effectively, it can keep people on the site as they follow the tags like breadcrumbs.
Technical Advice From a Pro-Blogger
Clark Wimberly is a skilled technical blogger and a valued member of our local WordPress Developer Community. He has built a thriving community around his passion for all things Android. His Android and Me blog is a great example of successful minimization.
Backup often: use import and export; back up via FTP; backup with phpMyAdmin; store offline with VP (Vault Press) or other backup plugins.
When code editing (CSS, PHP, etc.) – Edit smarter: use a real text editor; avoid the built-in editor; practice version control; run a development server.
Test smarter: use a staging area; run it locally; do it online with subdomain; find a fancy host —Clark currently runs Android and Me on WP Engine as is VERY happy with their service.
Know the Loop
When you are starting with WordPress use the Codex. IT will explain everything you need to know. “The Loop is PHP code used by WordPress to display posts. Using The Loop, WordPress processes each post to be displayed on the current page, and formats it according to how it matches specified criteria within The Loop tags. Any HTML or PHPcode in the Loop will be processed on each post.
When WordPress documentation says “This tag must be within The Loop”, such as for specific Template Tags or plugins, the tag will be repeated for each post. For example, The Loop displays the following information by default for each post:
You can display other information about each post using the appropriate Template Tagsor (for advanced users) by accessing the $post variable, which is set with the current post’s information while The Loop is running.
For a beginner’s look at The Loop, see The Loop in Action.
Own Your Own Theme
Don’t just use a theme that sort of works. Customize and optimize it to server you and your community. Learn the template hierarchy; create custom templates; make a child or sibling theme
Google like crazy: Answers for everything; try, try again; check the date; copy and paste and tinker.
Throughout tonight’s conversation our presenters and attendees shared a great ways to develop and promote your blog. The the direction of the conversation veered to very technical with Clark, but we also discussed “must have” WordPress plugins and other technical tips to improve your blog’s functionality and visibility.
All the active Bloggers in the WPATX community stressed that strong writing and marketing strategies are also necessary to build passionate communities around our WordPress sites. Our panel and the other WPATX meet-up organizers encourage all our members to consider adding a strong Blogging strategy to their WordPress site master plan