Why WordPress?

Recently I needed to create a document for a client that she could take to her organization’s board of directors, to sell them on the idea of using WordPress. The board members had never heard of WordPress and weren’t sold on the idea of moving the organization’s outdated, HTML-based site over to a WordPress platform.

I got done with the document and sent it, but then it occurred to me that there may be other folks in need of a “Why WordPress?” document for their supervisors or boards. So I’ve decided to give it to you!

I’ve put the text of the document here, but if you’d like a printer-friendly PDF to print out and give to your boss (or any other WordPress skeptic you’re trying to convince) you can get that here:

Why WordPress? (PDF Format)

Here’s the text of the document.

Why WordPress?

Are you considering creating a website in WordPress, or moving your current HTML site to a WordPress platform? If so, you may be wondering – what the heck is WordPress? Why is everyone talking about it? What’s the big deal? This document was created to give you some of the benefits of WordPress, and explain why the whole world seems to have gone WordPress crazy!

WordPress is an open-source content management platform that was initially developed in 2003 as a blogging tool. WordPress has grown and expanded over the last eight years, and has become the world’s most popular content management system. It is used for blogging as well as for both personal and business websites.1,

Because WordPress is open source, the software itself is completely free. Anyone who wants to use WordPress needs to buy hosting for their site, usually at less than $100 per year.

Here are the advantages of using WordPress:

1. WordPress allows site owners to have complete control over the content of their sites WITHOUT having to know HTML. It is an easy-to-use application that allows you to publish pages and blog posts, edit previous pages, upload images, embed videos and keep your site updated – all without knowing a lick of HTML. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can learn to use WordPress!

2. The fact that your site can be managed without knowing HTML or PHP eliminates the need to pay a webmaster or web developer every time you want to make a change to your site or publish new content. This can result in HUGE long-term savings over the life of your site.

3. WordPress works beautifully with search engines. WordPress software is beautifully optimized for the search engines, which means that your web pages get found more quickly and come up in searches more often. And because it’s easy to publish new content, you’ll be much more likely to update your site on a regular basis, which is the BEST thing you can do to be found regularly by Google. Some of my clients have published content on their WordPress sites that is indexed and found by Google by the same afternoon.

4. The WordPress platform comes with an entire library of plugins, which are powerful tools that work in conjunction with WordPress. Some common plugins can do things like:

  • Help you better optimize your site for the keywords you want to be found for
  • Link your site with Google Analytics, so you can easily track traffic to your site
  • Add Twitter and Facebook “Like” buttons to your pages, so your readers can easily share your content on social media sites.
  • And more! There are currently over 15,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin directory.

5. The WordPress platform will allow your site to grow with you. WordPress is a fast, powerful publishing platform that allows your site to grow and expand as your organization does. You won’t need to switch platforms in two years because you’ve outgrown your web tool – WordPress will allow you to grow as fast and as big as you want, and it will be your partner in web publishing!

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A Royally Cool Blog

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey - The Royal Wedding will take place here! Sweet!

I stumbled upon an unexpectedly cool blog this week. It’s called The Royal Wedding, and it’s the official site of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which is happening event in London on Friday, April 29, 2011.

Whether or not you’re interested in the Royal Family of England, this blog is still a good example of how to build a cool site around a big event. The blog features regular updates about the wedding (in a “Latest News” section), photos and videos of Westminster Abby and the bride and groom, a slide who of the procession route, and even links to Like the wedding on Facebook or follow news of the event on Twitter using the hashtag #rw2011.

I personally love the idea that the PR department of the Royal Family decided to include a blog in their efforts to build buzz for the wedding. Can you just picture THAT meeting??

And the royal PR department is smart to do this – polls in the UK are indicating that the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is doing wonders to increase support of and interest in the Royal Family, and by creating blogs about big (BIG!) events like the wedding, the media folks for the Royal Family are making the Queen and her family look cooler, hipper, and more likeable than they have in decades. And that translates directly into even MORE good opinion poll ratings.

The blog is well thought out and well executed, and it makes the Royal Wedding look like an event you’d like to attend (or watch, for the mere mortal Americans who need to watch from afar.)

Contrast the uber-cool Royal Wedding blog with the official website of the British Monarchy.  While the official site does feature a YouTube video, which is a step in the right direction, it feels decidedly stodgier than the wedding blog. There’s lots of great information on the site – and lots of pictures – but there are far fewer ways to connect.

I must admit, the blog convinced me – I’ve got my calendar marked for April 29, 2011, and I’m going to watch the whole affair!

So if you’ve got an event coming up that ties in to your business or your personal blog, consider starting a new blog (or creating a special section of your existing blog) to put up special occasion content. Then publicize the heck out of your event using that new content. People love parties and events, so take advantage of that with your web strategy. You’ll be royally glad you did.

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Switch: How to Make Your Blog Better with Storytelling

Switch Book CoverThis is Part One of  series about the book Switch: Making Change When Change is Hard by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. Look for other posts in the series next week.

I’m currently halfway through reading a compulsively-readable book. I can’t seem to put it down. I’ve been reading in bank lines, in the car, in restaurants, and in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.

The book is called Switch: Making Change When Change is Hard, and it’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Heck, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. And one of the things that makes it great is that most of the content of the book is stories.  I love books like this.

I’m a big fan of author Malcolm Gladwell. In Gladwell’s books – The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers – he uses real-life stories to introduce his concepts and illustrate points. His books are so much fun to read that don’t even realize you’re learning a ton of information as you’re reading his stuff. He sort of sneaks it in. 🙂

Chip and Dan Heath (who are brothers) have a similar writing style in “Switch.” And story-telling doesn’t just make a piece of writing fun to read – it actually makes the author more convincing, too! It’s hard not to buy into a concept when you’ve just read a really interesting story that illustrates that concept perfectly and shows you how it works in real life.

Storytelling-style writing is also easy and fun to pass around. It can be fun, memorable, sometimes funny, moving, emotional and inspiring – all things you’d potentially want to tell your friends and family about (or post on Facebook!)

So how can you introduce more stories into your online writing?

1. Include a story in a blog post. Instead of saying “My life is different than it was when I was 21,” show your readers HOW it’s different. Add a lot of relevant detail and make the story really come alive.

2. Use a case study. If you’re blogging for your business, tell your readers a story about one of your recent clients and how they used your product or service. Give background on the client and talk about where they were before they used your service. What difficulties were they having and how did your service fix their problem? Hint: This is a great way to include a client testimonial, too! And why do you think testimonials are so powerful?? Because they’re STORIES!

3. Create a video that uses storytelling. Use Powerpoint slides, screencasting or just point a Flip camera at yourself and start talking. Tell a story in the video the same way you would tell it if you were talking to a friend.

Stories are powerful. Incorporate them into your posts whenever you can, and you’ll be well on your way to creating highly compelling content that people will pass around and link to on their own sites!

Check out Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The Heath brothers also have a very cool blog.

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Why Blogging Isn’t Going Anywhere

About every other month or so, I have a client or a workshop attendee who asks me if blogging is a dying art. They tell me they heard from a friend of a friend or another social media expert that Facebook and Twitter are replacing blogs.

The answer is longer than I can usually give when I’m short on time and the person is standing in front of me wants a black and white YES or a NO answer.

But I have a little room here, so I’m going to pontificate.

Here’s why blogging is going to be around for a long, long time:

I want you to think about your online marketing strategy in terms of a bicycle wheel. Your website and your blog are the HUB, the center of the wheel – they hold everything together. Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are the spokes.

But the spokes always lead back to the hub. Without the hub, the wheel loses its center and the bike doesn’t move forward. But without the spokes, nothing will connect the hub to the outside rim, and the bike doesn’t move forward.

That’s why it is critical for anyone who is developing an online marketing campaign – whether you’re a business owner, a personal blogger or an author trying to market a book – to grow and nurture both your blog AND your social media tools. They work together.

Note: If you feel more comfortable doing so, you can mentally substitute the word “website” every time I used the word “blog”. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a blog or not, but what DOES matter is that you have a place on your site where you can consistently and easily publish valuable content for your audience. The key to success online, whether you call it blogging or not, is providing something valuable for your audience. And for that, you need a content management platform.

It turns out that WordPress, the world’s biggest content management platform, started out as a blogging tool. And it’s a fun, incredibly easy way to publish great content on your site. It’s also growing by leaps and bounds each year, as more and more people discover easy ways to use it to grow their sites and their audiences using blogging and content management tools.

So before anyone yells panic about blogging, and decides to ditch WordPress and their online content efforts, please consider this scenario:

Which is more likely to be found by the search engines two years from now – a meaty, informative blog post you write and publish today, or the Tweet you wrote two minutes ago? That’s right – the blog post wins.

Which one will be most likely to get you search engine traffic, develop relationships and encourage conversation? Probably the Tweet, right?

And you need both to make your online life sing. So when you sit down at your computer to build your platform and develop relationships with people who can move you toward your goals, please remember to nurture that bicycle – you’ll need the wheel hub AND the spokes to get where you want to go. Otherwise, you’ll just be stuck in one place…and with life moving this fast, you’ll want to be able to ride around with the wind whipping through your hair!


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Introducing Beth’s Blogging Byte!

This week, I started doing something I’ve been wanting to do for YEARS – I starting sending out a weekly blogging tip to my mailing list. It’s called “Beth Blogging Byte”, and if you’re on my list, you’ll see it every Wednesday in your inbox. Each issue of the Blogging Byte will give you a specific action to take that will make your blog or social media presence better. Most weeks, this content is ONLY going to be available to the people on my mailing list, so if you’d like to make sure you get these actions, please sign up for my list here. When you sign up, you’ll also get access to my super-awesome Blogging with Beth Library, which includes advice on blog post ideas, using RSS on your site, and traffic-building!

This week, though, I’ve decided to share the Blogging Byte content with you, so you can see what you’ll get when you sign up for my list. If you like this article, please retweet it or share it on Facebook!

This Week: How Being Vulnerable Can Make You a Better (and More Successful) Blogger

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the TED conferences. The TED events are a global set of conferences, formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading,” and there are over 700 presentations and talks you can view online at TED.com. One of my all-time favorite TED talks is a presentation by researcher/storyteller Brene Brown. Here’s her incredible talk about connection, vulnerability, and what it means to be human.

If you haven’t seen this video yet, please take a few moments and watch it now. It will change your life. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to watch it. I’ll be here when you get back.

Okay – assuming you went and watched it – I want to talk about why Ms. Brown’s discussion on connection is so important for bloggers. It’s important because I believe the greatness and popularity of a blog are in direct proportion to the ability of that blogger to be vulnerable in her writing.

Want an example of the kind of vulnerability I’m talking about? Read this post by one of my current favorite bloggers, Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Girl.

I’ll practically guarantee that unless you have a heart of stone (and I know you don’t, dear readers), you will moved by this post. Yes, it’s sentimental, and yes, she’s really putting her emotions and her baggage out there for everyone to see. And that is what makes it GREAT.

Ree Drummond is not afraid to write from the heart. And writing from the heart is the reason The Pioneer Girl has landed two book deals. It’s the reason she been on the Today show many, MANY times. And it’s the reason that her blog receives several million hits a month. She is coy about publishing her traffic stats, so I don’t have exact numbers. Suffice it to say that The Pioneer Girl makes a very nice living from her blog.

Writing from the heart is what connects you with your readers, and it is what will keep them coming back to your site again and again and again. They come back because they like YOU and want you to be vulnerable in your writing. So give your readers what they want. It will be good for you, too.

Here’s your action for this week – Be vulnerable on your blog. Write a post about something a little more personal than you normally do. Share something with your readers that they don’t know about you. And yes, business bloggers, this DOES include you, too! Your business is about YOU, and your customers do want you to be open and vulnerable with them.

After you’ve completed this week’s task, post on Facebook with your success!

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How to Manage Your Time and Stay Motivated

We had a fantastic meeting of the Colorado Blogettes tonight at Boulder Digital Arts. We called it the CONTENT EXTRAVAGANZA, Part ONE!! And yes, you need to say it in a very excited voice with multiple exclamation points!

Instead of just having a single presenter for tonight’s meeting, I really wanted to hear from the Blogettes members about their best strategies for content creation and management. We had a lively and interesting talk, and I learned a lot!

I think one of the most interesting parts of the discussion was about managing time in order to write and publish on our blogs. We also touched on a parallel topic – staying motivated in our writing.

I gave the Blogettes an assignment at the end of the evening. I asked them to add a comment to this post and share their best blogging time management and motivation tips.

Okay, I’ll go first! My favorite way of staying motivated is to look at my Google Analytics numbers, and notice how much my traffic spikes on the day I write a new post or send out a newsletter (for my business, emailing out my weekly newsletter with top-quality content is just as important as writing new posts).

After looking at the traffics spikes,  I then take a look at how low traffic dips in between posts. It’s clear that my readers are just waiting for me to write new stuff so they can read it – they WANT to hear from me! A few weeks ago, I even printed out a screen shot of my traffic stats and hung it over my desk, so my motivation is right there at eye level.

I say it to my classes all the time – the more you write, the more traffic you will get. If you write it, they will come! That’s the best motivation I know.

What are your best tips for staying motivated and/or finding time to write? If you’re not a Colorado Blogettes member, we’re still love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and share your ideas and tips with everyone.

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Free Blogging Teleseminar!

Opportunity Ahead

I am SUPER excited about the year 2011. I’ve got so many new exciting new projects and events in the works for this year. Most of them I’m not quite ready to share the details of just yet, but I can tell you about one BIG event that’s happening at the beginning of February!

I’m thrilled that I’m going to be the special guest of rock star business coach Tommi Wolfe of Wolfe Potential for a teleseminar called “How to Boost Business with a Wildly Successful Blog (The Easy Way!)” on Tuesday, February 1st at 8:00 PM Eastern. The teleseminar is going to cover everything you need to know about getting started with blogging the RIGHT way, right from the beginning. Registration details are right here.

Tommi Wolfe is known the “The Start-Up Expert”, and her specialty is helping new entrepreneurs launch successful businesses. You can learn more about what Tommi does by reading this great Q&A with her on her website. The best thing about working with Tommi? Every time I talk with her on the phone, I always feel like I can take on the world! She’s that great!

Whether you’ve wanted to start a blog for your business and you don’t know where to start, or you just started your business blog and you’re totally overwhelmed – this is the class for you!

Here’s what we’ll talk about on this hour-long call:

  • How to get started with blogging the CORRECT way, right from the very beginning. We’ll talk about how to pick a great domain name, choose a hosting company and pick the perfect customer-attracting blog niche.
  • The biggest mistakes most bloggers make when they’re just starting out, and how to avoid them. This can save you lots of time and money later!
  • The right tool to use for business blogging, and why – learn how to quickly and easily start your blog using the best possible blogging platform.
  • …and more!

This FREE teleseminar will be held on Tuesday, February 1st at 8:00 PM Eastern (7:00 PM Central, 6:00 PM Mountain, 5:00 PM Pacific). For more a more detailed description of what we’ll talk about, and for registration information, click here.

I really hope to have you on this exciting call!

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How to Install the New Facebook “Like” Button

If you read blogs, you’ve probably been seeing a special little button lately.  It’s called the Facebook “Like” button, and it looks like this:

Why do you need to pay attention to this little button if you’re a blogger? Because Facebook can be an incredible source of traffic to your blog, if you play your cards right and integrate Facebook tools into your site.

Let’s talk about the two ways you can use the Like button –

1.  You can make a Like button available so that your readers can like/subscribe to your entire blog. Normally this button would appear in the sidebar of your site, most likely as a widget of some sort.  When a reader Likes your blog using this type of button, they are essentially subscribing to future updates of your blog, and new posts written by you will appear in that person’s Facebook feed. That can mean more traffic from you, because your new posts will appear in front of that reader in Facebook, rather than them having to return to your site to look for new posts.

Here’s how that widget would look in the sidebar of your site (this screenshot is from author Cathie Beck’s site)

2.  You can also create a Like button that appears at the footer of each post on your blog, so that your readers can Like individual posts. This Like action will appear on their Facebook profile, so that your reader’s Facebook friends will see your post in THEIR Facebook feeds.

Confused? Need an example?

Let’s say that you run a website called Dooce.com (we should all be so lucky, no?) and one of your readers (Beth) reads this post.

When Beth is done reading, she finds the “Like” button at the end of the post, and clicks it.

Once she has “liked” the post, this is what would appear on Beth’s Facebook profile:

All of Beth’s friends are going to see that she Liked this post – it’s going to show up in all of her friend’s Facebook feeds – so any friends of Beth’s might look at the post and say “Hey, that’s sounds interesting! Let’s click on that and see what this is all about.” They click on the live link and read your fabulous blog post. Viola! More traffic!

Typepad has published a tutorial on how to install both versions of the Like button (see links, below), and in that tutorial they mention that Typepad has seen a huge rise in traffic since they installed this feature a few weeks ago. If you’re a blogger and you haven’t installed a Like button, take a few minutes and do so now – or email these instructions to your tech guru and have her do it for you. You will see an increase in your traffic.

Here’s how to install it on the three big blogging platforms:

WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) plugin (you will need to install and activate this plugin)

Typepad instructions

Blogger instructions

If you are looking to grow your number of visitors this is a simple way to do it. And the best part is that you can literally “set it and forget it”. You can install this plugin or widget and then just go on with your blogging – no fuss, no muss, and a great source of ongoing traffic to your site.

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Where’s Beth on the Web this Week

"Lenny and the Squigtones"-1979 LP cover
Image via Wikipedia

In the last two weeks, I had two cool opportunities to hang out in places outside my own blog. Fun!  Here’s where you can find me –

I was asked to do a tech segment on a brand-new radio show called Boomer Alley. This new show is the brainchild of Marc Sotkin, the award-winning Executive producer and writer of Golden Girls and Laverne and Shirley. The show is aimed at – surprise! – Baby Boomers, and it addresses issues that are important for folks of that generation. Because many of my clients are Boomers and I had never been on a radio show (sweet!!) I was more than game to be on the show. With the help of producer Sharon Glassman, we did a cool segment on a WordPress plugin that helps bloggers be gutsy with their writing and publishing

Listen to the whole show (which is fantastic, by the way) – by clicking here. and pressing the “play” icon on their little audio player. My tech segment is at the very end, around the 38 minute mark.

The WordPress plugin that I refer to on the show is called Zemanta, and it can really help you beef up the content in your posts. You write the posts, and the Zemanta makes recommendations for links, images and videos you can add to make your post more interesting. For example, in this post, Zemanta suggested the links to Golden Girls and Laverne and Shirley, above, and it also went and found that totally awesome picture and Lenny and Sqiuggy, which I added in one click. It even added the attribute!  I’m in love with Zemanta – download the WordPress plugin here, or I understand they’ve got some sort of Firefox browser tool, too, which means you can likely use it with other blogging tools! I haven’t tried that out, though, so if you try it and it works for you – let me know here in the comments!

Also – I did  a guest post for a colleague of mine, Eliana Berlfein, who is a website designer. The post is called “Top Six Reasons Every Business Should Blog“. If you’re running a business and you’re on the fence, this is an important post for you to read!

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Why Bloggers Should Use Feedburner

Feedburner is a free online service that allows you to send you email updates from your blog. Anyone who is reading your blog can enter her email address (using an opt-in form on your blog), and once they’ve confirmed their sign-up, Feedburner will automatically email her your new posts every time you publish one.  Feedburner allow you not only to track how many email subscribers you’ve got, but it also tracks how many people subscribe to your blog using an RSS feed reader.

For an explanation of RSS feeds and why they’re important for bloggers, please download my special report – “7 Ways RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Can Help You as a Blogger”, as well as some other cool freebies from my library.

Why set up Feedburner?  Here’s a few reasons:

1.  Using Feedburner will assure that more readers consistently read your posts. If a reader signs up for email update, they are much more likely to read a post if it comes into her inbox than if they have to return to your blog to check for new posts. That increases your readership and gets you new fans.

2.  It’s a free, low-hassle way to get your mailing list started. You can use the email addresses of people who have signed up for your Feedburner list in other ways, including emailing them about promotions, new product announcements and events.  And when you’re ready to move to a more robust email marketing tool (my favorite is Aweber), you can easily import your Feedburner subscribers into that tool, too.

3.  Feedburner helps you track your readership. Use your Feedburner statistics in conjunction with another traffic tracker (Google Analytics is a great one) to find out how many people read your blog. Set goals for yourself – how about 1000 subscribers by the end of this year?? You can do it!

4.  It’s an automatic way for you to advertise every time you’ve put up a new post. I’m a fan of linking your blog to other email and social media tools, using these feed-based services. That way you don’t have to run all over the Internet yelling “New post! New post!” each time your publish something new. Feedburner sends out new posts automatically to all your email subscribers, so all you have to do is write and publish. Cool!

Ready to get started? Go to Feedburner, set up a username and password (or use a Google login if you already have one – Feedburner is now owned by the all-powerful world of Google). Then “burn” your new feed by entering the URL or the feed of your blog. You’ll want to visit the “Publicize” tab in FB after your intial burn…..that way you can turn on email subscription capability and grab the code for your new opt-in for so you can add it to your blog.

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