Websites through WordPress

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

More often than not, businesses that have not yet invested in a web presence have common reasons. Cost is invariably a major part of the decision as is considering the ongoing maintenance to keep the website up to date. Another obstacle might be the lack of knowledge to build a website and, once subbed out to a webmaster, the inability to have total control over the content and how it is presented. But there is a new tool that helps users build and maintain a website without needing a ton of education on the process. This tool is WordPress.

Meet the press

What started as a blogging software, WordPress has come a long way over the years and is now used by millions of businesses around the world to build websites rather than blogs. It offers a simple and easy-to-use interface that works just like a word processor. The program is free and can easily be installed on a web server that meets system requirements. It is database-driven, enabling any information and web pages to be backed up or even used elsewhere if needed.

Maintenance features include the ability to add users with individual and unique logins, and the scope of the access for these can be controlled. For example, if there is a page on the website where customers can check the status of an order, a login could be assigned to the production manager to maintain that page and keep it current. 

WordPress additionally has an easy-to-use upload feature for including pictures and/or document downloads to offer site visitors. And of course, it comes with a blog with RSS feeds to easily stay connected and keep your business in front of a target audience.

Designing the site is also simple for anyone and yields great results. A quick search on Google using the term “free WordPress themes” will offer up thousands of pre-designed sites available for download. These backgrounds and templates can also be modified to suit any particular style that will help to promote your brand. 

Because WordPress is database-driven, users can switch themes (background graphics) throughout the year with the simple press of a button to keep things fresh and exciting. Adding extra features such as calendars, contact forms, slide show widgets and more are also available for quick and easy installation.

Visit the WordPress website at http://wordpress.org/ and check out the list of available plug-ins and widgets—pre-developed features for your WordPress website. The advantage here is that common features don’t have to be developed from scratch. 

Plug-and-play

Many of the plug-ins offered can also help Internet marketing campaigns and search engine exposure. Some communicate directly with Google and other search engines while others provide user statistics that monitor who exactly is visiting the website and what they may have been looking at. The Google XML Sitemaps plug-in, for example, generates the XML sitemap which helps search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others to better index your website, which means you won’t need to know the required format to create the XML file manually. 

While we’re talking Google, check out the Google Analyticator plug-in that adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google Analytics on your site. It also includes a widget for your WordPress dashboard that displays statistics including the last 30 days of visitors, a summary of site usage, the top pages, the top referrers and the top searches.

Another useful plug-in is the AddToAny Share/Bookmark/Email Button for allowing users to share, bookmark and even email your blog posts and pages using any service such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, MySpace, LinkedIn and many more.

Not to be forgotten is the All-in-One SEO Pack which optimizes your WordPress website for search engines. This nifty plug-in automatically optimizes titles for search engines, generates Meta tags automatically and gives advanced users the ability to modify them if they so desire. (Note: Meta tags are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a webpage. They are generally used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through other attributes of a site.)

The Simple Paypal Shopping Cart plug-in and a valid PayPal account can give your site instant e-commerce capability. Have a need for offering customers a special online form for placing orders or submitting quote requests? When it comes to contact forms, the variety of plug-ins is almost endless. You can select from hundreds ranging from the simple “contact us” requiring the basic information (name, email, message) to custom forms that include easy-to-use check boxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus and even Captcha capabilities that keep spammers and unwanted robots sending mail through your contact form. The contact plug-ins also allow users to create a custom auto-response message so customers will receive an immediate response to ensure them their form was submitted and processed.

With the benefits of WordPress, if you haven’t already established a website for your business, the only thing you need is a little time. Take a close look and bring your business to the world of online marketing.