A couple months ago, I was asked to contribute to an article for business owners on getting started with WordPress. The article was just published and I made slot #4 (I don’t think there’s anything special about that, btw ). There was some great advice in the article, especially #1:
Don’t be afraid to get it wrong the first time…
However, since only a little bit of what I contributed was shared in the article, I wanted to post the rest here.
Just in case any business owners are wondering about getting started with WordPress, please know:
You’re not alone in this.
There’s a lot of help available.
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you don’t understand something.
It’s all going to be ok.
Here’s the rest of what I recommend when getting started with WordPress.
Note: the following advice applies to folks and companies with self-hosted sites, not those on wordpress.com.
As Deep as You Want to Go
Stealing a thought from Augustine, WordPress is “shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is its accessibility and proven ease of use. You can be up and running in 5 minutes, and if you are quick with the keyboard, you can have your first blog post or “About Us” page up in another five minutes. The WordPress admin area is pretty intuitive, but after the first hour, you might find yourself asking more, “How do I…?” questions. This is normal and natural, and you need to know where to go to get the best, up-to-date advice.
If you like structure, you should look at WP 101. It’s paid, but it is well worth it. They keep their courses updated with the latest versions of WordPress, and there are several different levels you can jump into: Basics (if you’re just using WordPress for an informational website), Standard (if you want to dig into Yoast or WooCommerce), or Ultimate (if you want to dig into customizing your theme with Beaver Builder or setting up Gravity Forms). WPBeginner is another great resource if you’re just getting started. It is free, and you can checkout their WordPress Basics playlist here.
Peace of Mind: Hosting and Backups
When my clients start asking about SEO optimization, page speed, and security, the first question I always ask is, “Who are you hosting with?” Your host (where your website files and database actually live) is foundational and crucial to your experience with your WordPress site, and can also be a massive help (or hindrance) when it comes to speed, and therefore SEO. Many folks want to pay for the cheapest hosting possible. Please don’t! You get what you pay for.
There are very good hosts that are affordable and offer great service. What should you look for in a host? Look for the following :
- Is it recommended (or not)? Chris Lema’s list here is a good place to start (actually, you should also read through Chris’ archives of posts; he has some amzing resources and insight!).
- Solid, accessible and on-demand backups? Sometimes, you will make a change to your site, click “Save”, and everything goes white (this does not happen very often, but when it does, it’s a real bummer!). You need to be able to restore your site quickly so you do not lose more time or money than absolutely necessary.
- Does it have chat or call-in support? You will run into problems at all hours of the day (see #2). You will have questions you do not know how to answer. My experience is that hosts with great support can quickly solve problems or point you in the right direction. They can also roll back your “broken” site to a backup quickly and get you up and running again in no time.
There are many great hosts out there, but two great recommended hosts with backups and 24/7 chat support are SiteGround or WPEngine. There are definitely difference in the way they managed sites and the price you pay, but any of their plans will help you get started. Just remember: this is where your website lives, give it a good home.
If you are not hosting with one of the above and you’re paying a super low price for hosting, I’d at least recommend VaultPress. It is a great backup service and they have easy site resotration and great customer service as well. This integrates with your JetPack plugin, which you may already be using.
Get Found, Send the Right Signals
Everyone is worried about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and speed and understandably so. If the three most important things for a business is, “location, location, location”, then your customers need to be able to locate you. This is what SEO is meant for: allowing the people looking for you to find you through the content on your website. How can you get started?
The Yoast SEO Plugin is great places to start. Many people and small business use Yoast for several reason. Yoast:
- is very helpful for the beginner.
- automatically evaluates your content for keyword optimization and readability
- provides an easy to evaluate “red, yellow, and green” system to let you know when your content is optimized.
- provides a lot of other tools like social media integration and sitemaps so you don’t have to think about them.
As noted before, the WP101 course can help you get Yoast setup, or WPBeginner has several videos available to help with the same.
Going the Extra Mile: Tweaking, Customizations and Finding Good Help
WordPress offers a lot of free themes and plugins to help get you started. You can run a basic information, e-commerce, membership, or learning site all with free or low-cost themes and plugins. However, out-of-the-box themes and plugins sometimes will not get you where you need to go. All themes and to an extent plugins can be customized in some form or fashion. You can typically google how to do this (make sure you back things up before you make any changes!!)
However, perhaps there is not the perfect solution out there for your needs. You might want to develop some custom functionality or a custom theme for your site. It could be that you want your users to have a certain experience not provided by other themes, plugins or sites. This is where finding good help is crucial.
To take the pain out of finding the right developer or designer for your WordPress project, two companies have done the vetting for you and only hire and recommend the top 2% – 3% of applicants. Whether you need a small tweak, a custom theme or plugin, or just want to spend an hour consulting with someone on the phone, Codeable will get you matched with a WordPress expert in no time. I have used Codeable for my own projects and have been nothing but pleased. If you’re looking for a more long-term solution or contract worker, or something a in addition to WordPress, Toptal will get match you with a professional developer to help you along the way. I work as a contractor for both companies now, and the companies as well as the clients are top notch!
Oh, and don’t forget…