6 Ways to Tell if WordPress is the Right CMS For Your Business

Today we are so excited to welcome WordPress business expert Nedra Rezinas, owner of Portland Web Design agency, Blue Deer Forest to the Starcatcher Creative blog. Nedra works with a great team of business partners to provide custom websites, training and consulting.
wordpress developer agency owner Nedra Reiznas

I’ve been around to see some large changes in website design! When I started my company in 2005, websites were coded from scratch or with tools like Dreamweaver. Content management systems (CMS) – a platform that supports the organization of digital content, weren’t that popular. Around 2008, web designers, including myself, started adopting WordPress as a methodology to build a Website on. WordPress was just becoming recognized as more than a blogging platform and didn’t really emerge as a website platform until a few years later.

Now in 2018, WordPress is a major player as a website builder with over 30% of the internet is built on it! (source: w3techs.com) In my teachings, I refer to WordPress as the Custom Built house of the website platforms (this applies a lot when you compare it to Wix/Weebly/Squarespace.) I wrote an article comparing these three CMS options. If you want to compare Content Management Systems, you’ll find a lot more detail in that post. Today I want to focus on WordPress and why so many other successful business owners choose it as their website platform.

WordPress Logo

Six Reasons to Choose WordPress

1. Does your business like using free tools?

Guess what – WordPress is open-source software. It’s software that is free to download and install. At the time of this writing, there are more than 18,000 themes and 35,000 plugins to choose from, most of those are free.

2. Are you more comfortable using supported software for your website?

WordPress is popular and there is an abundance of free and paid videos, tutorials, forums, and much more where you can. There’s lots of support out there including communities like WPBeginner, WPCurve, and I’m launching my own 7 course WordPress online class.

If you want to hire someone to build your WordPress site, there are many talented web designers available. As you begin your search, make sure to look at the websites the designers/developers in their portfolio, have a conversation with them on the phone or in person and see if they understand your vision. Also, be sure to ask them for references from past clients and see what kind of experience they had with them.

3. Do you like using the best blogging platform?

Many of my clients use blogging is a vital piece of their marketing for their business. WordPress is still #1 in blogging and was one of the pioneers on executing and making blogging popular. WordPress software was originally designed for only blogging in 2001, but by 2008, many business owners saw the customization and platform as a great tool to build websites on. Now it has evolved as a comprehensive website platform.

WordPress sites receive 22.17 billion monthly pageviews. (Source: torquemag.io)

4. Want to use the best SEO website platform?

WordPress offers many third party plugins as well as plugins tied to the theme to enhance your website’s search results. It is one of the most SEO friendly website platforms with features such as the ability to generate search friendly URLs. SEO plugins, like Yoast or All in One SEO, are great tools to really optimize a WordPress website.

5. Looking for new ways to be creative with your website?

There are an amazing variety of themes available, some free and some paid. WordPress allows you to swap out your entire website’s look and feel with different themes. This can be done with just the click of a button (depending on the complexity of the website).

Themes we recommend are the those at WordPress.org, StudioPress, and Elegant Themes.

6. Want a website where you can take charge and make changes yourself?

WordPress is increasingly easy to use. Similar to editing a Word Document, you can access pages and posts and make quick edits to images, text, and links. It’s simple to create a draft of a page you aren’t ready to launch and make edits to it and even share it with another colleague or business partner before launching. With a little training, I know you’ll be confident and be able to make changes on your own.

Interested in learning more from Nedra? Check out her upcoming “Build a Website in a Day online course, launching May 15th, 2018.

Digital Marketing Certification

A quality SEO expert doesn’t necessarily have a Digital Marketing Certification. The industry is unregulated so there are no requirements to pass an exam or attend a specific school. One of the challenges of life as an SEO expert is that, unlike say, a surgeon or a dog walker, most people don’t actually know what it is you do. A further challenge, as eluded to in a previous article (see SEO: the Botox of Online Marketing?) is that companies that you do SEO for may not necessarily want you to mention it. You are like a secret agent dispensing incredible marketing maneuvers behind the scenes to make your clients look good in all things digital while you remain in the shadows.

So What Does Digital Marketing Certification Accomplish?

So if you don’t need a certification to do digital marketing, what is the advantage of doing so? It really comes down to building consumer confidence. Since the work we do in SEO is often not overtly visible to the client, it has the potential to raise alarms “is this person really doing anything to my site?” When I implement structured data on a website, my clients can’t actually see the difference (unless they know how to code.) Yet this powerful tool can do wonders for increasing a website’s readability by search engines. When I research the heck out of keywords to ensure that people are actually searching for what you think they are, clients are often surprised to learn that the results are not what they expected.

There is a lot about SEO and digital marketing that happens “under the hood.” A certification is a point of data on your resume that helps clients feel confident about your work. If you’re looking for a good online program– and more importantly, an excellent learning resource, check out Tommy Griffith and the folks at ClickMinded.

Online Digital Marketing Coursework

ClickMinded offers digital marketing courses in topics ranging from Content Writing to Google Analytics to SEO. Founder Tommy Griffith has an impressive resume with over 10 years of SEO experience including leadership roles at both PayPal and Airbnb.

After applying strategies Griffith lays out in the program to the website Effesenden Music, I was able to achieve the holy grail of a top 5 Google local search result for several high traffic keywords. The conversion funnel I implemented based on the ClickMinded course has resulted in a 50% increase in customer inquiries. There are haters and naysayers out there but the money doesn’t lie. This course is worth the investment for people who want actionable digital marketing strategies presented in an entertaining and engaging manner.

Simplicity is Sometimes Best

I spend a lot of time reading blogs about code. The resources I find most valuable are those where the author doesn’t try to make himself sound really smart. After all, I’m not reading this stuff to find the most intelligent software engineer on the internet. I’m looking for solid content that will allow me to code, optimize and strategize effectively on behalf of my clients.

Beyond Digital Marketing Coursework

A course like ClickMinded is not going to turn you into a digital marketing expert overnight. To do this work well, you need experience, an understanding of the various platforms you’re working in and an abundance of tenacity. Still, for a great down payment on the fundamentals, this is an excellent resource. Check out Tommy’s new YouTube channel for more humor and straight talk on conquering the web.

Looking for a Trustworthy SEO Consultant?

At the end of the day, the best business relationships are built on great human interaction. If you’d like to pursue greater visibility for your website and more engagement with potential clients, let’s talk! And by the way, in case you’re interested, here is my SEO Specialist Qualification.

SEO Certification

SEO Writing | What Does “Good Content” Really Mean?

SEO Writing is the art and science of creating supercharged written content for your website. Its purpose is to increase website visitors and customer engagement through your stories, articles, pages and posts. I say art because effective SEO Writing is storytelling, it is authentic and it is interesting. I say science because when SEO Writing is effective, it is solidly grounded in carefully vetted data analytics.

If you don’t have good content on your website, you can spend your life savings on SEO and it probably won’t buy you any business success. But what does good content really mean?

SEO Writing

Content Writing and The Dreaded Top 10 Lists

If you’re an entrepreneur or own a small business, your inbox and social media feeds are probably saturated with all kinds of sponsored ads about improving your online marketing.

“10 Must-Dos For Building a Monetized Instagram Profile,”

“5 Sure Fire Ways to Get 1000 Email Subscribers,”

. . . and on and on.

You’re An Expert. Write About It!

The advice seems endless. Some of it is probably amazing, but to have good content on your website, you really need to authentically communicate what it is you know; or as Oprah says: “What Do You Know for Sure?” You probably know a LOT about the products and services you offer. Don’t try to mold yourself into the latest gimmick. Share your knowledge, your passion, your expertise and you’re already well on your way!

SEO Writing Answers Questions

Answering Questions is Part of Great Customer Service

If you are having a face-to-face conversation with a potential client, you can respond to their questions and followup with examples and additional resources. It is very natural and if you’re good at business, you’re probably an ace at customer service. The trick with SEO Writing is that you are not face-to-face with that customer. You actually have to anticipate what questions they will be asking and provide great answers. Your answers need to be so clear that search algorithms (Google, Bing, Yahoo etc.) identify your site as the best resource for their needs. Imagine that you are sitting at a big round table with all of your competitors and one customer. Each of you has a chance to win that customer’s attention. How will you do it?

Oops! That’s the Wrong Question. Look to the Data

One of the biggest mistakes that people make with their website content is that they are answering the wrong question. You may think that you know what your potential clients are Googling but are you sure? Fortunately, there are great resources to be able to determine just that. You want to look at the search frequency of various keywords related to your business. Some keywords are already basically locked in by other websites and it’s going to be very difficult for you to win that customer’s attention at the virtual round table. The sweet spot is picking keywords that are heavily searched, but not locked in by such a formidable opponent that it takes everything you’ve got to capture that one question or keyword.

Top Recommendations for Choosing Keywords to Energize Your SEO Writing

  1. KWFinder is a great keyword research tool. You get a few free searches before you have to subscribe. Depending on your area of work, a subscription may be well worth the investment.
  2. SEOquake is a free Chrome plugin that gives you a ton of interesting data while you’re going about your normal day Googling.
  3. SEOBook is, according to their promotional materials a “fast, free and detailed alternative to the Google adWords keyword planning tool.
  4. And speaking of, you can still get a lot of interesting information from Google Analytics and Google Search Console that can help you make informed decisions about the questions you choose to answer on your website.

Ready to Call in the SEO Experts?

Once you’ve energized your website with authentic answers to the questions your potential customers are asking online, it may just be the best use of your time to call in an SEO consultant to fully optimize your website. It’s true that you can absolutely DIY SEO but I promise you this, it will take insane amounts of time. If your business (and perhaps your life) would be better off pouring that time into what you’re actually an expert in, consider bringing in an SEO expert to fine tune your SEO Writing and do a technical optimization of your website.

Get SEO Consulting

Great Content Leads to Great SEO Writing and Scores You Great Online Visibility

When I work with clients to improve their SEO, I apply both on-page SEO and off-page Search Engine Optimization. If the content is great to begin with — and by great I mean, it thoroughly answers just the type of questions that the company’s clients are asking, I can really multiply their investment by pushing that content out for the algorithms to gorge on. If the content is sparse, no matter what savvy SEO tricks I apply, there will be a point when a sale is not made due to poor SEO Writing. That is a situation that we all want to avoid.

For more great reading about SEO Writing, check out this article on Forbes.

SEO: the Botox of Online Marketing?

Something’s different and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Suddenly she looks a little more alert . . . youthful and vibrant. Is it the green smoothies? A restful vacation? The fountain of youth? Or . . .is it Botox?

Look-Good-With-SEO

Botox is used to treat certain muscular conditions and also cosmetically to remove wrinkles (thank you Google Dictionary). What you may not know is it’s made from the bacterial toxin Botulinum, which is the most acutely lethal toxin known.

Why am I, an SEO specialist, going on and on about Botox on my blog? Like Botox, many people want the end result of SEO a.k.a. “being more attractive on Google search” but are scared to death of the procedure. I am here today to unpack Search Engine Optimization’s mysteries, answer the question of “what is SEO,” and help you decide “Is SEO right for me?”

What is SEO Made Of?

What is SEO Made Of

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means getting visible on the web. There are many different ways to approach SEO. Some of them are bad—such as getting a bunch of spammy backlinks to your website. More details on backlink quality here. Think of these options as getting cheap Botox in a dark alleyway. A quality SEO implementation however, can do wonders for your Google search results and make you look amazing online.

Here are 5 Examples of SEO That the Good Guys Use:

1. Keyword Research

Spend time learning what your potential customers are actually searching for. Are they Googling “Best Tacos Portland,” or “Taco Stands Portland?” You want your website content to be optimized for the search phrases your customers are specifically using. My favorite tool for this is KW Finder.

2. Website Technical Optimization

Get Your Website Technically Optimized for SEO—There are tons of technical things that one can do to a website to make sure it performs at it’s best. Adjustments range from solid mobile response design to properly labeled images to the correct use of header tags and much more. Some CMSs provide a level of optimization out of the box but keep in mind that if your competitors are using the same CMS, they’re getting the same service so you’re not getting much of a bump from built in SEO.

3. Blog

Blog those key words! When I owned a small business before becoming an SEO ninja, I would spend time diligently blogging but I didn’t understand that there is a majorly right and extremely wrong way to blog. To blog in a way that increases web traffic and hopefully entices customers, think of your blog as an opportunity to thoroughly answer a question that your ideal customer has about the type of services/products you offer. Remember to hit on those key words as naturally as possible!

4. Find Links

Links to your website are super powerful for increasing the visibility of your website. Scoring a link from a highly respected website such as The New York Times or Harvard would be fantastic. However, links from valid websites that are more closely tied to your particular type of product or service can be equally powerful (and perhaps easier to obtain). For example, my alter ego as a professional violinist afforded me the opportunity to perform for an amazing wedding on Maui a few years ago. The event was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings later that year and they linked to my website.

While Martha Stewart Weddings doesn’t have the prestige as Harvard, it is a lot more relevant to the wedding industry and thus provided a very nice boost to Effesenden Music’s search results. Remember, search engines are always trying to serve people the content that they “think” is most authoritative for the search query. This principle should govern much of what you pursue when it comes to building links.

5. Get Data

Plug in the juice on analytics: If you do not already have your website connected to Google Analytics and Google Search console, run (virtually) don’t walk to get on it. Knowledge (or data metrics) is power and what you think is great about your website may not even be what your site visitors find attractive. Here’s a sad fact: the most frequent action a person takes on your website is to leave. Once you get Google Analytics set up, an interesting data point is the Bounce Rate—this is the percentage of users who visit your site and do not click on any other pages. Ideally you want that number to be as low as possible.

Is it Only for Supermodels or Can Small Businesses Benefit From SEO?

Botox I mean SEO is not just for supermodels or huge businesses. In fact, a great SEO implementation can allow the little guy to beat out the multi-national conglomerates if handled effectively. Google’s current algorithm favors local results. Here’s an example: if you need to find a new dentist, unless you are the aforementioned supermodel, you are less concerned with the “top dentist” in the whole world and more interested in someone relatively close by who can polish your teeth. Those savvy Google robots understand this and aim to please by providing you with a dental professional in your neighborhood. Large businesses can benefit from this knowledge as well by avoiding keyword combos that simply will not win. For example, under the current Google algorithm, Taco Bell will likely never score a #1 ranking for “Best Tacos Portland.” It pays to choose your battles.

How Frequently Should I Get SEO?

Search Engine Optimization encompasses many different actions. These actions are intended to bring people to your website who will become clients and customers. If your website plays any role in the success of your business then ongoing SEO is a smart and worthwhile component of your marketing strategy. The real question becomes not whether SEO is worth the investment but how much do you want your business to grow?

Professional Search Engine Optimization specialists generally recommend an initial optimization and then a minimum of 6 months of ongoing SEO. This monthly work tackles things like increasing links, addressing Google’s algorithmic changes, tracking and modifying keyword implementations and more. Benefit from your investment of time and resources by continuing to climb or if you’ve already arrived at a top search result, think big—how can you grow?

SEO-Googling-Your-Business

Wow, You Have a Nice Face: Do You Do Botox?

You probably don’t assume when you see a gorgeous face that it’s the result of someone paying to have mankind’s most deadly toxin administered on a regularly basis. So it is with SEO. When done right, your website ranks high. It converts site visitors to customers. Your business grows. No one questions how you got to the top because you do such great work that you deserve to be there. You made this all happen by believing enough in your business to invest in professional Search Engine Optimization. And the best part? It’s completely toxin free.

Wendy Goodwin is a Search Engine Optimization Specialist and the owner of Portland, Oregon based SEO and Web Design agency, Starcatcher Creative. She adores music, people, coffee and does not currently follow a Botox regimen.

How to Make Them Stay: SEO, Avocado Toast and Growing Your Online Influence

They Came to My Website But Then They Left

How do you turn website visitors into customers? Search Engine Optimization is not just about getting your website to show up in a Google search result because Search Impressions are meaningless if people don’t visit your site. It’s almost as bad if people visit your site and then quickly leave. You need to lay out the welcome mat and then make it easy and inviting for visitors to take whatever next step is logical for your business. That could mean signing up for an email newsletter, booking a phone call, or following me I mean YOU on social media.

Right now your website visitor is not yet a customer. Your ultimate goal is to convert visitors to customers/clients who invest. If you try to force that step too quickly however, they will likely leave and not be back. What to do?

Don’t Be Creepy: a Conversion Case Study in Avocado Toast

If your SEO is working well, a website visitor has arrived on your site because search results suggested that your pages and posts could solve the problem or answer the question this person has. Let’s consider a cooking blog.

I Google “avocado toast recipe” and my attention is drawn to the website of a food blogger. So far I see the meta title (1), meta description (2) and perhaps a picture of the finished recipe.
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Hmmm… that looks like some delicious avocado toast. I click on the search result and am taken to the website of someone who nailed it in the first step of SEO–getting their site to show up well in search results–Minimalist Baker.

Clearly Minimalist Baker knows about more than just rockin’ avocado toast because there are 3 elegant calls to action on her site that in no way make me feel like I’m being backed into the corner at a party by someone a little too zealous to sell me insurance.

Number 1:
At the top of the page, a catchy question: “Need Dinner Ideas?”
Probably if I’m Googling recipes I do. Minimalist Baker has a solution for me: I can sign up for an eBook.

Number 2:
Next to that tantalizing image of smashed avocado is a button where I can subscribe for email updates. I like this approach because the button is easy to find but it’s not assuming too much– I haven’t made the toast yet. I don’t know if I want to subscribe or not.

Number 3:
More FREE stuff: an entirely free cookbook? 100% delicious? Cool. Even if I haven’t made the toast yet, maybe I’ll get this free thing while I’m here.

increase-web-traffic-example
increase-web-traffic-example

What’s in this for me? Well, I came for avocado toast and I’m leaving with a bunch of free recipes and more ideas delivered to my inbox. Probably I’ll be back too — it was so much fun. Thanks Minimalist Baker!

Lessons in Building a Brand from the Baker

Since this is an SEO blog and not a food blog, let’s talk about why this food blogger’s website is such a good example of converting visitors to customers/clients/followers. First, you can have more than one call to action. Second, calls to action can be small steps– notice in this example I was never asked to actually buy something. That could be too much too soon. Finally, I was invited in but never aggressively forced into a decision to commit. She invested in me, the site visitor by giving me something free. It wasn’t entirely free because I had to pony up my email address. Email addresses mean that she now has another way to engage with me where she can send me content. I’ve moved beyond anonymous site visitor. I’ve been “converted” and she’s building a brand.

Remember That Pioneer Lady?

There’s a long history of bloggers who leverage an impressive following into greater opportunities. Consider the brilliant blogging success story of Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman. Drummond started a blog back in 2006 about her life homeschooling on a ranch. She featured original content, photos and her own recipes. Today, she is a published author, photographer and TV personality. Her blog has millions of followers. More potent than any promoted flash sale, expensive Google adWord or stunning website image is a growing list of dedicated followers.

But Be Cool With Your Call To Action!

If you move in too soon on the Call to Action, you’ll lose me. Had Minimalist Baker chosen a popup that instantly blocked the recipe and asked if I wanted to join her email list, my answer would have been no. “I just got here, don’t rush me.” I’m all for Popups but when using these wonderful little nuggets of JavaScript, timing is key. You need to build some trust with your site visitor before asking them to take action. At the same time, make sure your call to action isn’t buried in several steps. It’s kind of like making a customer walk all over a store to find something they are looking for. They may become frustrated and just order it on Amazon.

It’s About Building a Relationship

With all of these websites, social media platforms and eCommerce sites, the internet is by default a pretty impersonal place. If your site is different– if it makes a visitor feel welcomed and engaged, you will set yourself apart from your competitors. You will build relationship and that can do amazing things for the success of your business. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make some avocado toast.

Quick SEO: If You Only Have Five Minutes

A Fast and Powerful Shot of SEO

Search Engine Optimization is an incredibly powerful tool to grow your business and quick SEO as an overall strategy is not advisable. But taking action–even if it’s small is so much better than doing nothing! Today, I present a fast, furious and effective hit of SEO to wet your appetite. Do it! You have nothing to lose, other than 5 minutes and it might be the 5 minutes that land you your next big client!
Quick SEO Shots of Greatness

#1. Does Your Web Page Have a Call To Action?

It’s great to see big numbers on web impressions and site visits but you really know you’ve got a website that works for you when website visitors are taking a next step to connect with you. This area is a really important one and worth more than 5 minutes of your time, but to get the ball rolling and feel a sense of accomplishment TODAY, add a link to your desired “next step” on one or more of your web pages in the main content– not the sidebar widget or footer area.

It could be a simple link taking the user to your contact page:
Contact Starcatcher Creative

Or it could be a button a visitor clicks to schedule a complimentary consulation:
Schedule a Consultation

Or it could be more interactive. Popups can be annoying but if done tastefully, they are a great option for user experience.
One of my favorite WordPress plugins is Popup Maker. You can check out the documentation here for this free and flexible plugin.

#2. Run a Reading Ease Test on Your Website Content

I love reading Hemingway but not when I’m researching products and services on the web. Interestingly your SEO can be dinged if your writing is too complicated. Copy and paste the content of your web page(s) into a Flesch readability tester. I like Readable. You can even get information like how positive or negative your writing is and whether it sounds more feminine or masculine. Know your audience and make sure your content reads well for your target demographic in addition to scoring well.

#3. Who Are Your Biggest Competitors On the Web?

You probably have a good sense of who some of your competitors are but do you know how their websites are performing compared to your own? I love the search tool www.serpchecker.com. Enter the search phrase that you want to research and see a list of top performing websites. Lots of customizations available within the site and a paid tier with tons more searches provided. Warning: this site can be addictive if you are a competitive person! Quick SEO Competitor Research

#4. Quick SEO Local Checkup

If your business is focused mostly on local clients, a simple and very powerful step is to make sure that your mailing address is on your website. You can link to a Google map if you want but just having your address there provides a point of authentication and can help your business show up higher in search results for potential clients searching in your city. Speaking of, do you have a Google My Business account setup? If not, drop those tacos you’ve been eating since number 3 and go do it now! This is huge huge HUGE for a quick, SEO conquest.

#5. And Finally, Know the Numbers

In order to see how effective these 5 minute shots of SEO Greatness are for you, check your Google Analytics account. If you haven’t been there for a while, spend a few minutes looking at the graphs showing your site’s performance over the past 7 days, 3 months and year. Google Analytics for Quick SEOIf you see positive changes at certain points think back to what you were doing at that time… did you get noticed on another blog or news site? Did you run a promotion? Does your business peak at certain times of the year such as summer vacations, new years resolutions or camping gear? Understanding the trends around your website traffic can go a long way in terms of helping you use your future five minute bursts in ways that will benefit your business.