Empower Your Brand: Strategies for Developing a Successful WordPress Site

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1. Introduction

WordPress has become very popular in recent years and gives its users the power to create various types of websites. It is a powerful content management system (CMS) which gives its users the ability to publish their content in style. It is mostly associated with blogging but supports other types of web content including mailing lists, forums, membership sites, and online stores. A notable feature is its plugin architecture which allows users to extend its features beyond the features that come as part of the base install. The book is aimed at anyone who is using or considering using developing WordPress site, whether to create a blog or website using its built-in features, or developing a custom website with your own code or a client site. It aims to give the reader a deep understanding of WordPress from the inside out, and the knowledge around making WordPress sites successful and the process behind doing that.

2. Choosing the Right Theme

The quality of a WordPress theme cannot be determined by the price. Common premium themes these days are being created by amateurs and are no better than free themes. In fact, many free themes are becoming a lot more innovative and are beginning to create their own unique features. Prior to choosing a theme, use a search engine and type in the theme name followed by ‘wp theme review’. This will give you an indication as to whether the theme is of good quality. Always test the WordPress theme demo website. This will allow you to interact with the theme and test any included features. A demo website can easily be created by the theme author using a free web host and by uploading the free theme, so don’t simply trust that an elaborate demo means it is a good theme.

Ensure the theme has all the features you need in addition to having a clean, simple layout. Follow the steps below to guarantee a quality theme: • Use only WordPress themes. Using a search engine, you will run into many websites offering ‘free WordPress themes’, which they are not. • Make sure the page is valid. In Internet Explorer, use the tools in your browser (View Source) or the W3C HTML Validator. There are also various Firefox tools/plugins to check this. An excellent plugin for Firefox is the Web Developer plugin. This will identify the quality of coding used in the theme. • View the theme in multiple browsers to test if it looks the same. This is a problem known as browser compatibility. • If necessary, ask the author about compatibility with any other plugins you might use. Plugins used in past themes in addition to ones you might consider for future use.

There are both free and premium WordPress themes. One of the best sources to use for WordPress themes would be the official WordPress theme search site. Because there are so many themes on this site, you can type in ‘business’, ‘blue’, ‘two columns’ into the search and you’ll have plenty of themes to choose from. Another way of searching for themes is to conduct a Google search: ‘WordPress theme’ is a great start, but to narrow your results try ‘blue WordPress theme’. Always pay close attention to the ratings on the themes; this is a good indication of the quality of the theme. High ratings and good comments will give you a good indication that you are downloading a quality theme.

3. Customizing Your Site’s Design

If you decide to use a theme that is different from the default, there’s a chance that it may not look as good as it did in the preview. It may be lacking images, have no color, or just be plain broken. Many themes come with a .psd file for the logo and other images within the theme. This is good because you can modify these images to include the name of your site. In WordPress, the name of your site is stored in a variable and can be echoed with ‘<?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?>’. This can usually just be hardcoded into the image with an image editor. This is good because it replaces the default image text and can give you nice graphical headings. The color can easily be changed by editing the stylesheet that came with the theme. If you have no knowledge of CSS, there are many sources around the internet to learn it.

My admin blog had a very dark and horrible theme. It made the site very hard to navigate. I have since changed the theme to one that is easier on the eye, and the navigation has improved. The theme also gives a better idea of what the content is about.

When creating a site, your site’s design is very important. Many new users will just accept the default theme that WordPress provides. However, there are many themes that already exist for free, and you may want to use one of them. Some of them are even quite good. Design is a personal preference, but it is important to look at the design from a visitor’s perspective. Would the visitors like the design? Would they be able to easily navigate the site? Does the design give them a good idea of the content? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself when considering a new theme.

4. Optimizing Your Site for Search Engines

It is quite likely that you will not be able to do both on-site and off-site optimization. This is why it is advisable to outsource an expert (someone who knows what they are doing) to do this.

There are two sides to search engine optimization. On-site optimization involves things you can do to your site to help it rank higher in the search engines. This involves optimizing your site’s code, keyword density, META tags, and other factors. Off-site optimization involves creating quality incoming links, which is referred to as “link building”. This is an important factor in ranking competitive keywords in higher search engine positions.

Good search engine optimization represents one of the highest ROIs of any online marketing campaign. Considering most search engines do not charge for inclusion, the only costs are that of optimization and the hiring of an experienced SEO expert. This is why search engine optimization has a reputation for being very cost effective. This section will describe how to maximize your site’s positioning in search engines which will deliver a targeted stream of people looking for your information and products.

Nowadays, everyone uses search engines for immediate information. It is probable that you also used a search engine to find information about WordPress. The primary advantage of search engines is that they deliver targeted traffic (people looking for what you offer). If your site is not well positioned in the search engines, you will miss this targeted traffic.

5. Creating Engaging Content

Many people think that long in-depth articles are the best way to engage their audience. While this can be true with more technical or academic audiences, in many cases people prefer content that is easy to consume quickly. Making content scannable means breaking it up into easily digestible chunks. Use a clear hierarchy with plenty of headers so that users can quickly find the information they are looking for. Bite-sized lists are another great way to make content easily digestible. Ensure that each of your list items has a clear and concise explanation. Lastly, use visuals to help explain your content. This could be anything from an infographic to a simple screenshot that helps better solidify what you are trying to explain.

One of the first things you should think about when creating content for your audience is how it can be useful to them. This usually involves educating or enlightening your audience on something they didn’t know before. For example, in this book, the content you are reading right now provides useful information you can use to improve your own site. It will hopefully engage you and make you want to learn more. Other ways you can educate your audience is solving common problems that they are having. If you have a plugin or product that can solve an issue for a customer, educating them on how it solves that problem through your content can be engaging. Lastly, content that is entertaining can be very engaging even if it’s not directly related to your product. It can help build a community of loyal users who are looking for entertainment that you can intermingle with occasional product promotion.

Creating engaging content involves developing articles and information that your customers and visitors find useful and want to read. The keys to creating content that will keep your audience engaged are making it useful and making it scannable.

6. Leveraging Social Media for Brand Promotion

This can create a social feedback loop enhancing brand exposure and adding a level of social proof to your site. Lastly, as a more advanced strategy, social media can be used as a platform for PPC (pay-per-click) and display advertising campaigns targeting specific demographics and leading traffic to custom landing pages or social media optimized pages on your WordPress site. This will be covered in more depth in the section on online advertising.

By pulling content from social media platforms and integrating it with your WordPress site, you can leverage the interactive features of social media by driving engagement with your brand through the social media platform, while also drawing users back to your site. For example, you can have a Twitter widget in a sidebar that shows recent tweets featuring your brand from Twitter, or a Facebook ‘like box’ that shows faces of the user’s friends who have liked your page.

To find new opportunities for business growth through increased online exposure to potential and existing customers, your site can be linked to various social media and social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. And WordPress makes this easy to accomplish. Each time you create a new post for your blog, it can automatically be posted to your social media accounts, thereby increasing the exposure of your site and brand. Additionally, on many social media platforms, it is possible to get plugins and apps that enable two-way interactions between your site and the social media platform, such as the ability to ‘like’ a Facebook page or stream a Twitter feed from your site.

7. Implementing Effective Call-to-Actions

At the bottom or anywhere within the content, you can place a PayPal buy now button or a link to your product’s subscription page. What could be even more effective is using a graphic instead of a text link. With the Shiftnav plugin, you can display a hidden panel with an ajax content viewer. A great example is using this as a buy now button that links to the product’s features and to your purchase. This is a very eye-catching method and will result in a much higher conversion rate.

For example, many of the most successful internet marketers create long sales pages to pre-sell a product and to get the visitor to make a purchase. WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform but is now a great CMS and you can use it to create a static site. You can easily create a blog and a sales page on the same theme. You might want to create a custom page template and make the page title and sidebar not show. Then you can make the page a static page and use your sales copy as the content.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have your potential customers do exactly what you want them to on your website? A call to action is a statement that encourages your visitors to take a particular action. It could be filling out a lead form, purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or many others. Call to actions are a very important part of any website. They are a key element of any form of marketing and an essential driver of business. If you don’t ask for the sale or request that your visitors take an action, they most likely will not. WordPress is packed full of features and great plugins that can make your call to actions really stand out.

8. Utilizing Plugins to Enhance Functionality

A positive user experience is a key factor in the success of a website. One plugin that helps to achieve this is the “WP-Pro-Quiz”. The plugin contains multiple functions to make a quiz user-friendly. It is easy to use with detailed documentation and functionality in mind.

The use of plugins is fundamental to developing a successful WordPress site. Plugins provide the administrator or designer with the ability to extend the functionality of the site beyond the limitations of WordPress, which in turn can provide a superior experience for the user. There are thousands of plugins to choose from. The ability to choose quality plugins that will establish greater functionality is a must. Consider plugins to be similar to adding new applications to a computer. The following are several popular and effective plugins that can be used to enhance a WordPress site.

9. Ensuring Mobile Responsiveness

The term “mobile” does not refer merely to cell phones. Be mindful that responsiveness is not limited to smartphone interaction. Although customization via CSS occurs often in WordPress, themes vary on their responsiveness to mobile devices. Themes can be coded specifically for narrow viewing, and so the theme presentation may change drastically when switched to mobile. In an attempt to give more value to the advertisers, some theme developers opt for visual options and can hinder mobile performance as well. One way to judge this quickly without demoing the theme is to check the demo URL at Google’s Pagespeed tools. When you analyze the results, be sure to check the mobile tab as well, as this will identify any issues Google may have with mobile viewing for responsive themes. In situations where the theme may provide poor mobile presentation, a mobile plugin that switches to a mobile theme exclusively for mobile devices would not be a bad idea, though this approach can be costly with double SEO and site maintenance. An affordable alternative could be to use a plugin like Any Mobile Theme Switcher, which does what its title suggests, enabling the WordPress theme to switch to an alternative mobile theme for mobile users. This allows preserving a theme already in use and requires no extra work from the site admin in maintaining multiple themes. The diverse elements of a site may further complicate mobile optimization and troubleshooting. Plugins are a considerable factor, as it is common that plugin style or functionality may not translate well on mobile. Again, we must also be mindful of any visual changes or decrease in site functionality due to the diverse options provided by plugins. External media is another thing to consider, as any audio or video usage may not be supported by certain mobile devices and should be replaced with mobile-supported media or removed altogether. If the dependency issues cannot be solved, it would be favorable to remove any custom fonts for better mobile display. Lastly, custom CSS and other styling should be reviewed for mobile. It is very easy to neglect changes in mobile presentation while using CSS to target specific elements for desktop viewing. Consider using CSS “@media only screen and” statements to make changes that affect mobile presentation only.

10. Monitoring and Analyzing Site Performance

If your site’s page takes too long to load, you will lose visitors. Testing your site for its loading time and making changes to improve the time is a very good way of not losing visitors. If there are specific changes you’ve made to your site that you believe have increased traffic and/or page views, or have attracted a different type of audience, a way to see if this has been successful is to track the number of visits in a set period of time both before and after implementing your changes. The WordPress plugin “Google Analytics for WordPress” is an excellent tool for this step as it allows you to track a blog easily and with lots of metadata: views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and page views. This also includes an advanced feature: tracking of custom variables. These are PHP-set variables that can be tracked in Google Analytics for segmentation of different types of page views in custom reports. For example, to track page views by registered users against page views by visitors. Tracking your advertisements is a very powerful way of making sure they are not only paying for themselves, but bringing in a profit. This can be done easily by setting up Goals in Google Analytics. Advertisement (image or text) → Landing → Conversion. Goal URL: /Goal-Landing Where the “→” represents a step, and the URL after the last step would be the goal URL. For example, a shoe store advertising a specific product will want to track views and conversion of this product compared to its normal organic traffic from people searching the site directly.

Monitoring and analyzing site performance should be a consistent and regular part of maintaining your site. It is key to identifying the project’s success and deciding which direction to take it next.

11. Building a Strong Brand Identity

At the heart of a brand image, lies the logo. It is here that ITCA (Information Technology in Corporate Identity) becomes centered on graphic design. A well-executed and high quality logo is a key factor in creating a brand image. The design of the logo needs to be very carefully planned. All aspects from typography and imagery to color and shape need to non-verbally communicate the company’s character and message. A poorly designed logo can have damaging effects on a brand image. Creating a logo is a delicate process with a lot of thought and marketing research behind the graphical elements. High quality logo design is often costly, and there are numerous IT companies looking for logo design services from professional graphic designers.

This begs the question, what gives a company a strong brand image? There is no simple answer, and brand image is the result of many interdependent factors. It involves an impressive and reliable product or service, promotion, customer satisfaction and the way in which activity communicates with the public.

When we talk about brand identity, we really mean ‘brand image’. This is the general idea, impression or perception that people have about a company. Without a clear brand image, how will anyone recognize your company name, buy your products or use your services? Your brand image is vitally important. It is what gives a company meaning and purpose and it is what makes a company memorable. Without it, your company has no clear direction. Essentially, it is a strong brand image that creates loyalty with customers. Without a clear message of what a company is about, customers will feel no connection with the company and therefore have no reason to be loyal to it. Customers who are loyal to a brand will repeatedly buy products and use services. This is every company’s aim because this provides the stability and customer-base for a company to be successful in the long run. A strong brand image also gives a company the confidence to expand and diversify. With a good established name, customers will trust in the company’s various lines of products and new services.

12. Implementing Effective SEO Strategies

Content is the main component of a website as it describes your website. Having more content is beneficial, but prioritize quality over quantity. High-quality content can attract visitors and generate natural backlinks. Additionally, use header tags to make it easier for readers to focus on the main points you want to highlight. Don’t forget to include keywords in header tags. Also, make sure to use anchor text with variations of keywords to guide visitors to your important pages.

Your website’s URLs are also perceived as keywords by Google. Therefore, creating a URL that includes relevant keywords is very beneficial. Lastly, use meta descriptions and meta keywords to include your targeted keywords. This will help Google better understand the keywords you are focusing on.

Market Prior Analysis! Includes keyword research. Find the keywords that are relevant to your product and optimize them for search engines. You can use more specific keywords, often referred to as long-tail keywords. By using long-tail keywords, you can target your audience more effectively and dominate the market segment. Use the Google Adwords Keywords tool to simplify this process.

13. Integrating E-commerce Functionality

After considering your strategy, it is important to find the best theme to integrate with your chosen e-commerce plugin, and no doubt there will be customizations you will want to make. Finally, once you have started selling and no doubt become successful, you want to make sure that you can easily view sales reports to track your progress. In such case, you may find yet another plugin is the best solution.

Before deciding upon which plugin to use, it is important to plan your e-commerce strategy as it will greatly affect which plugin is best for you. Key things to think about are the types of products you are selling, how they are being delivered to the customer, pricing, and what type of payment gateway you will be using. For example, to sell a photo as a digital download, your best choice may be the e-commerce add-on for the NextGen Gallery plugin. With it, you can upload a zip file to the WordPress media library when creating a product, then NextGen will handle the uploading of the file to your server location and insertion of a link for the download. On the other hand, for selling many physical goods, the highly popular WP E-Commerce plugin may be a better choice. This plugin has many useful features, including the setting up of various shipping and tax rates, and it supports many payment gateways such as PayPal, Authorize.net, and Google Checkout.

The ability to make an income from your website can be a powerful way to strengthen your brand by validating it in the eyes of your customers. WordPress gives you near infinite ways to approach monetization, from advertising to private membership sign up. The most direct, however, is often to sell a product. This can be done in a number of ways, from using a plugin to list a job and accepting payment on a post, to adding a full shopping cart.

14. Securing Your WordPress Site

This is related to recovering your website if it gets hacked but can also save you from update errors. It is best to do complete file and database backups before doing any major updates to your website. This can be the difference between a 5-minute fix and the complete reinstallation of your website. A website like the WordPress Codex, while an excellent resource, is meant for more advanced users and may not be able to provide the correct information for your specific error. Always check the requirements of a plugin or theme before installing. Outdated software is a common cause of website hacks. If in doubt about certain plugin or theme updates, especially for updates that require a WordPress version update, it is best to try the update on a test server before doing it on your live website.

You have quite a few options when it comes to securing your WordPress website. In my experience, the best security you can have is a combination of hardening your WordPress installation, changing your admin username, keeping regular backups, and keeping your themes and plugins updated. There are other measures you can take, such as file permission settings and using .htaccess to deny access to certain things. Do keep in mind that some of these measures may interfere with plugins and themes. File permission settings and .htaccess configuration are beyond the scope of this article. I will focus on the methods I’ve mentioned. A backup can allow you to quickly recover when things go wrong. This is your best defense against a hacked website since cleaning up a hacked WordPress website can be a very complicated task and is not a guaranteed repair if you don’t know what you’re doing. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Step 1 is hardening your WordPress installation. This is the most time-consuming step but is the most crucial.

15. Enhancing User Experience through Navigation

Drop-down menus often cause problems as they are usually created on platforms such as Java, Flash, and DHTML. These types of menus are inaccessible and unintelligible to many user agents and disabled users. This method can bring about functional issues as well, with drop-down menus not always working in the same manner on different browsers and platforms. With consistent use of text links, you will find the reliability of site navigation to improve drastically.

Thirdly, consider using text over graphical form or drop-down menus. Owing to the nature of search engine spiders, you should use text links whenever possible. This will ensure that all of your site’s content can be found and indexed by search engines. Text links are also universally and user-agent friendly, turned on, and cannot be disabled. They are smaller in file size, thus decreasing loading time, and are displayed in the same format in all browsers.

A second effective navigation tool is improving the standard of your site’s search feature. A search feature is especially important in larger, content-rich sites. Users are often overwhelmed by the prospects of sifting through tons of information to find what they are looking for. Providing a way for users to easily and quickly access data is a critical success factor for their online experience and will ultimately contribute to lasting impressions of your site.

Begin with one of the most effective methods of internet navigation, that is using a site map. Site maps are visual representations of your site and are essential in the organizing phase of your website as well as during the implementation of a navigation scheme. They are also effective as tools in measuring a site’s usability. This is beneficial as it allows the site map to monitor the success of the website in satisfying users’ needs and meeting the user’s expectations.

If you want users to stay on your site, you need to make their online experience as interesting, entertaining, intuitive, and as easy as possible. A solid site navigation is going to accomplish this. Understanding that easy navigation is comprised of both an interesting experience and an understanding of the basics. Here are some simple techniques to effectively integrate proper navigation techniques.

16. Measuring and Improving Conversion Rates

A less effective way to calculate conversion rates for WordPress is to try to get the data directly from the database using SQL statements. This would be very time-consuming and only worth doing if you have a small amount of actions taking place on the website.

A conversion rate is defined as the percentage of your website visitors who take a certain action that you would like on any given page. This could be signing up for a newsletter, downloading a whitepaper, or purchasing a product. Conversion rates are a key factor in making changes to your website because if you don’t know what your current conversion rate is, then you won’t know what effect the changes you make will have. If you are lucky enough to have a website that receives a reasonable amount of these actions already, then the best way to measure conversion rates in WordPress is to use Google Analytics with a specific goal and URL destination for each action. This could be a specific download or thank you for signing up page. Using the URL of this page, Analytics will tell you how many people have reached this page and using the goal method you can assign a monetary value to this conversion. Analytics will give you the overall conversion rate for the chosen goal

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