Tiny Tips About WordPress

Guy-pushing-wordpressWeb/blog design can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning, you wonder where to start.  Most of us back in the day landed on blogger and as blogger evolved so did so many other “blogger” type sites. Over the years, I stayed true to Blogger, up until WordPress took over the blogging scene and started flexing its superhuman design muscles.  I became captivated by the quality themes, design options, affordability and robust functionality all wrapped up into one neat little package. And the rest is history…

When prepping for whichever blog/website you do choose to design, you have to elect a domain name, you can do this through any site really, but WordPress manages to keep everything in house right down to hosting your site and giving you the option to select a free WordPress domain name or the option to purchase a premium domain name as well, sans WordPress part of the domain:  www.mywebsite.wordpress.com. I love WordPress because it keeps things simple and fluid. Check it out!

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

When you first start dabbling in the lovely world of WordPress you will find that there are two different sites, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. This is simple discernment. WordPress.org is for building websites and robust blogs and WordPress.com is for building a free simple blog which is also indexable through Google, Pinterest and Bing.

  • WordPress.com benefits: Free, easy to setup, secure, your content is automatically backed up on hundreds of servers.
  • WordPress.org benefits:  Ability to upload custom themes, plugins and if you are HTML savvy you can customize code.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

Choosing a theme is like choosing a pair of shoes. You try them on, walk in them for a while, and you love them, hate them, or add them to your collection of shoes. Themes in reality are very similar. To start with, WordPress  gives you several default themes, such as the twenty-ten, twenty-eleven, twenty-twelve and now just released the twenty-thirteen default theme. These are great starter themes to acclimate you to using WordPress and the back end functionality of this very robust yet simple CMS (content management software). In addition to these default themes, WordPress also affords you the option to select from a large array of FREE themes as well. Surprisingly, the list of FREE themes grows everyday and some of these themes are incredibly beautiful, functional and easy to use for your blog/website and most of these themes are good for either a blog or your website. You also have the option to purchase premium themes as well. Premium themes usually have more styling options and custom CSS. Premium themes will cost you though, typically between $25-100 depending on the extensiveness of the theme. It’s ok to collect themes are try out different ones and their functionalities.  You also have the option within the pre-download portion of the theme to look at it live as well, a great way to try it on quickly to see if it fits your style! TIP: Info-Way inkthemes.com is a great place to download theme packages for very little cost, they have excellent forums and customer service!

How do I….?

When initially trying to learn WP, you are faced with an interesting challenge; you are either here for a simple blog design or a website design/extensive blog. The disparity between the two can be vast but learning WordPress is very similar on either platform. WordPress manages to keep things reasonably balanced in regards to blog vs. website design. My suggestion, if you are a beginner and trying to learn WP, start with a blog and get your feet wet there first. And of course, it is good for any entrepreneur to blog anyways, this is a great way to learn WordPress and to launch your first published work!  Another suggestion is to purchase “WordPress for Dummies”  keep in mind there are two versions, make sure to take notice, ”WordPress” for Dummies & “Wordpress Web Design for Dummies”, both are outstanding resources  and  will take you through WordPress step by step. It will also reveal some great secrets of WordPress and give you tips and tricks as well.  I still reference these books to this day and as WordPress and the world of CMS are constantly shifting I continue to get the updated versions on my iPad.  Note: WordPress also has a great support page and a forum page as well. Both will help you with most any issue or question with WordPress.

Plugins

One thing you will see and hear a lot of is the word “plugin”.  Wordpress.org presents an array truly incredible tools for you to download, install and diversify your WordPress powered website  these are called plugins. What is a plugin you might ask? Plugins are undersized programs, or combination of programs rather, that sit on top of your WordPress system and enhance the function of your website dependent on the chosen desired plugin(s). Basically the way plugins emerged were from programmers wanting to give WordPress sites that little kick and capability to do one more extra thing or element without having to alter the code, and voila the plugin was born!  Now, there are over 23,000 different plugins all used for different purposes, and when you start looking at the list of plugins, it’s easy to get a little lost and beleaguered. But a word to the wise, make sure you do your research and read reviews and ratings about plugins. One plugin can crash your entire site, and this is no joke. Don’t be cavalier about what you decide to download onto your site; and before you start getting crazy with plugins always make sure you have good back up of your website.  But don’t be deterred from using plugins, if you do your research and download from reputable sources, then you are good to go and honestly there are some plugins you just can’t live without! Here is a list of must haves:

  1. All in One SEO Pack -Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog (Love this one!)
  2. Google XML  Sitemap -This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
  3. WordPress Database Backup
  4. Google Site Verification -One-click Google verification for your website – This is great for veryfiying and indexing your blog on Google. Make sure you have a Google Webmaster Tools account (it’s free)
  5. Bing Site Verification- Same as Google
  6. Contact Form 7
  7. Google XML Sitemap for Videos – same as above but specific for video sites
  8. Simple Pull Quote – This is just a really cool way to pull out certain text and put it in cartoon-like quotations.
  9. Thank Me Later – An automated “thank you” to anyone who comments on your blog, great for your blogger on the go!
  10. Ultimate Google Analytics – adds JavaScript to each page (without making any changes to your template) so that you can track outbound links, downloads from your own site, mailto: links, and more without requiring you to install the code manually. (you must have a Google Analytics account – this is free)

Social Media

WordPress also gives you the option to add all or some of your Social Media pages to your blog/website. Take advantage of this option because this is your way of reaching the outside world, outside of your WordPress family.  And if you don’t have social media pages setup in your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ then do so!  You are missing out on the internet’s biggest party and a key function to SEO! With just a few clicks you can quickly reach numerous audiences and besides what good is a published work if no one can find you and read what you are writing!?

There is a learning curve to all of this WordPress stuff, and at first it might feel overwhelming almost like learning a new language, but in the end if you are willing to get past some minor nuances you will find that this very robust CMS is compelling and intuitive. WordPress is dominant because it gives you a toolbox full of tools, you just have to learn how to use them, when to use them and where to use them. This is something that will come quickly, if you are willing to put in the effort and hours it takes to learn WordPress. Once you’ve done that, the rest is cake! Trust me, learning WordPress will be the best investment in your blogging/website future. WordPress has changed the face of CMS and things are changing rapidly so get on board and be a part of this incredible ride!

Surveys Are Social Media Too!

vectorstock_926108In spite of what type of business you are whether it be an ecommerce or brick and mortar; surveys are unfortunately one of the most disregarded pieces of intel you aren’t using, yet! After having a very causal conversation with a close friend who’s company does $50,000 a day in business transactions by selling merchandise online, I asked a very simple marketing question when responding to his frustrations with customers who were discontented. I asked, “do you send every customer a survey after they make their transaction? And do you send them a survey if they had a return?” The answer was no, on all counts, and this started to make me speculate. A company this successful, which is a start up mind you, that has amplified their revenue almost overnight, managed to neglect a very uncomplicated yet extremely imperative piece of information in customer satisfaction verification…THE SURVEY! How could this be? To be honest it is more common than you would think and in the most unlikely industries as well. Living in Austin, TX the second Silicon Valley, there are startups everywhere that do not send surveys to customers but it’s not out of laziness, just simply because like all startup businesses, you get busy!

How is it possible for something so vital go unnoticed or untouched?
Simple, success! People don’t question what is going wrong with their business when they are flourishing. However, can you imagine the increase in success if you knew what your clients were happy/unhappy about? Disregarding client intel is the biggest “no no” in business and customer service. When you make a large purchase, whether it is a car, furniture, electronics, you are typically sent a survey. If you are an e-commerce/service industry business and you are not sending out surveys to ALL of your customers, then your marketing plan has gone awry and needs to be re-vamped. This information is so essential to the growth of your business and let’s face it there will be a time when you are not as successful as today and you will be scratching your head wondering why.

Why is this important to my business, I don’t have time or the manpower to send out surveys?
Good! Then pay someone to do it for you! No excuses though, here’s the little inside secret to surveys, they are a genius way to get your customers to vent to you first if something has gone awry during their transaction. Whether they are wrong and you are right, doesn’t matter, it’s all about repeat business and exuding excellent customer service. Surveys give you the opportunity to respond! So when a bad survey comes back, this is your opportunity to shine and woo these clients, and 9 of 10 times they will return if you make it right. Furthermore, do not afford your customers the opportunity to spread it all over the internet with nasty reviews. We know as business owners that we make mistakes and we cannot make everyone happy, but we can sure as hell try. And when you get those 5 star reviews from customers go back to them and ask them to write a review about your business on Facebook, Google, Yelp etc.. By looking for trends on your reviews you can capture the information you need to make your business healthier, whether it is customer service, sales or product, you have the opportunity to listen and they have the opportunity to speak, so respond! Trust me; just like a bad review on the internet, if it goes unreplied to, then you are guilty.

I’ve compiled a list of online survey sites I recommend. Most of these you can generate your own surveys and some will give you suggestions or have existing templates in place for you to choose from. It is a nominal expense for great information about your business from an outsider’s perspective. And always appreciate that these surveys should NOT be used as a witch-hunt, because let’s face it everyone has a bad day, so take that into account and extract the real information about you business and apply this to your day to day operation and annual improvements. Look for trends, answer questions and respond, respond, respond!
Here’s a compiled list of sites:

Create Survey http://www.createsurvey.com/
I like this one because you can link your positive surveys to your social media sites. Plus, they are reasonably priced $800 p/year unlimited responses

Survey Monkey http://www.surveymonkey.com/
Like Create Survey they are reasonably priced for unlimited surveys but you an also custom design and keep your branding in tact!

Poll Daddy http://polldaddy.com/
I like Poll Daddy because they are brought to you by the creators of WordPress and who doesn’t love WordPress. Pricing is a little steep but they have more robust package.

Google Docs
You can create a survey through your Google Docs. I personally haven’t used this survey option, but from what I’ve read it pretty sound. If you are a small establishment wnating to save extra money, check out this blog, they will explain step by step how to set up a survey with Google Docs.

The Social Media Flex on Social Issues

Gay Marriage-Viral Logo.JPEG-0c75bOn Tuesday, March 25, 2013, social media proved a movement, and a very big one at that. One of the most visually persuasive movements I have ever witnessed. The Supreme Court heard two cases on Tuesday and Wednesday concerning marriage equality in the matter of gay rights and same sex marriage. Both cases presented to the Supreme Court were epic on many levels, more importantly the shape of such a subject matter which at one time was a contentious subject matter overpoweringly took Facebook and Twitter by storm in a very short period of time. By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning I took notice, as it was more than difficult to not. The customary blue and yellow human rights emblem was altered, now displaying an audaciously pink and red. The movement began with a couple of my friends who made the new equality sign their profile pic and then another and another, and soon I joined in, the next thing I knew, there was a swath of red and pink all over Facebook, not just my gay friends, but straight friends who openly support marriage equality as well by replacing their typical profile pic with the new dashing pink and red sign of equality. By noon, a sea of pink profile pics corrupted my Facebook, along with disagreements, arguments, support, and opposition as well. I read more than once that people were deleting friends, family members, acquaintances that were in opposition of the movement in addition to an overabundance of thank you’s to people who were unsuspectingly supportive. It was a poignant 48 hours and still even a week after the hearings there are copious sums of lingering pink and red profile pics displaying their version of the altered equality sign.

Being a social media consultant I considered this to be more than a movement, it was revolution. A moment, where we as individuals openly connected, supported and opposed a key social issue. Social media brought so many people together on those two days and in the same breath, tore so many people apart. That is the power of social media. Without it, who’s to say what kind of movement this would’ve been. But in my opinion, without social media and blogging, I believe that equal rights and marriage equality issues would simply be a blip on the radar. You can’t count on true broadcast media to report fully the extent of all issues without placing their spin on it and distorting fact from fiction. With social media, we are able to keep up to date on everything, see what others are honestly saying regardless of their bias; it is an natural faction, a movement that has given so many individuals a voice that didn’t have one or at least one that couldn’t be heard because it wasn’t and couldn’t be adequately strident.

We can look at this movement not just from a social standpoint but as a progressive societal viewpoint. Granted, there is always going to be some ugliness when these issues have severe antagonism, but when we appraise where we were on these very same social issues 10 years ago to today, we have seen a society transform, one that is not diluted by what the press and media are feeding them, but one that is creating their own press, their own news media through social media and blogging. It’s luminous. And because of this movement, and the state of its evolution, we are finding that being gay isn’t such a tragic and horrible thing in society’s eyes as the media has portrayed it to be. We are seeing more and more support for marriage equality than lack thereof. I think this movement has proven that this is a miraculous time in our country and world. When you think back to the civil rights movement in the 60’s and how many lives were destroyed because of this, it’s interesting to think that nowadays, we can click, delete or add and move on if need be, without very little destruction. Social media has saved the social anguish over social issues.

It’s compelling if you think about it. At times we look to social media as the grand interpreter and destroyer, I’m quite sure that because of social media, marriages, relationships, jobs have been destroyed because when something is posted to the internet, it is written in ink not pencil. However, in the light of this, now people have been given a voice; and now, in a non-violent way people can disagree without vast consequences. We can block people from comment lists, unfollow, unfriend or whatever if that is what makes us feel more in control of our social atmosphere then so be it; this, all due to the flex of social media. Now, people are uniting over a subject matter whereas 10 years might have not. Why? Because social media has connected so many people from high school, college, home towns and now because of these spider webs of connections, more and more people know more and more people that are gay, and are like, “ya know what, who cares!”

In the end, when looking at social media as a whole, I think in its entirety it has brought people together in unlikely times and as do most mediums it has the propensity to raze as well. However, if it weren’t for social media, we wouldn’t have the ability to exercise the freedom of speech, support or oppose issues openly without the feeling of prosecution. I think in general, we undervalue social media and the flex it has on our society and how we function within that society. On those two days in March, I was able to witness something extraordinarily implausible; I saw a country come together on an issue that is so vital to our society and its very existence as Americans. It is beautiful to say I was a part of that moment, even it was just as simple as changing my profile picture in support, I felt like I was part of a very powerful and important movement, and that in itself was a captivating emotion…