When I started out in web development as a website developer and coder way back in the dark ages (1998), I was doing web design for an in-house agency. Primarily, we did sites for the publications that the parent publishing company produced, but we also took on local Palm Springs area clients and built web sites for them.
It went something like this. For a certain amount of money, like $500, we’d build a ten page static web site. We’d do the design work, but the client provided images and text. We’d do the SEO as it existed in those days (title, meta tags, submit to the search engines/directories) and then there would be a monthly hosting/maintenance fee (about $50). Quarterly changes (pictures and text) were part of the fee, anything else cost extra.
Of course, the client was sort of at our mercy as they had no way to make changes themselves. They had to go through us. This could get frustrating for clients who needed frequent changes to their sites, like real estate agents or those with products that needed changing constantly.
Fast forward to today. Yes, if you really need a complicated site with a web designer, programmer and so forth, that option is definitely available more than ever. But, if what you want is a smaller site that you have complete control over and won’t cost a fortune, it can be had quickly and inexpensively.
Where you ask? Simple. Find yourself a hosting company that is WordPress friendly (most are) and that can easily install this free blog platform in the root on your hosting account (Hostgator.com and Godaddy.com are two that come to mind). Check on this before opening the account as some hosts want to place the blog in a subdirectory by default. Moving it to the root so that your domain points right at it can sometimes take some server side acrobatics that are beyond the scope of an SEO 101 reader.
What, you say, I don’t want to blog! I don’t have time to blog! Why in the world would I want to use WordPress?
The answer is that WordPress is more than just a blogging platform. It is also a content management system that gives you control over your content, pages and site features in an easy to use control panel. For instance, instead of sending text and photos off to a designer to place on your site, you just login to your WordPress admin and enter the text and upload the image in a WYSIWYG format, not unlike using a word processor (though HTML view is available, too).
And, WordPress offers the power and potential of thousands of plugins and widgets that add functionality you control that no web designer can hope to offer. For instance, I am also the editor of The Eye Zone, a blog about vision and eyewear. If you take a look at that blog, you’ll notice the large featured images section at the top of the front page. That’s a free plugin called Featured Content Gallery that installs easily. You provide the images and upload them to your hosting account. You have complete control.
But, how does this help you if you only want a web site, not a blog?
WordPress can be used as if it were a web site. You can create pages, just like on a web site and turn off comments until or unless you decide to start using the blog functionality. Since the front page of a WordPress site lists posts by default, you’ll either want to write a single post for the front page or make the front page show a designated page instead.
You do this in the WordPress admin under Settings > Reading. See image below.
Take a look at AddictionInterventionServices.com. This is a small web site that was recently changed to WordPress from my original (nice, but dated) design done several years ago. The site has eight pages, all of which the site owner can now edit himself. The video in the right nav was simply YouTube code pasted into the text widget that WordPress provides for placing code in nav bars. Simple cut and paste, no programming needed.
The same is true with the “Addiction Facts” section. That’s simply a plugin (Stray Random Quotes) code pasted into a text widget, just like the video mentioned previously.
If you look at the bottom of the pages, you’ll see social sharing links. These are provided by another free plugin, Sociable. The Link to this Page link is also a free plugin, LinkToThisPage.
This site points to the Intervention page as the home page (see image above). And, the site owner has indicated that he might want to do some blogging at some point, so he’s all set.
WordPress itself is fairly SEO friendly, but you can extend your search optimization through some great (and free) plugins like HeadSpace2, Canonical URL’s for WordPress and Google XML Sitemaps.
Need to do a redirection? With a WordPress site it’s easy with the Redirection plugin. No need to contact your webmaster/system admin.
And, there are literally thousands of themes for WordPress, free and paid, that you can use to get just the right look for whatever your site is about. There are e-commerce, real estate, SEO-ready and even Twitter-inspired group themes. Or, you have the option of hiring a theme developer.
Need something more than a few static pages? Let’s say you are an affiliate or want to pull a product feed. As they say, there’s and “app” for that, too.
For this article, I used one of my parked domains to create a shopping comparison site for Internet, wireless and wi-fi products. Using the same techniques above, the site features various pages of products all created by setting up a free DataFeedFile.com account, installing the Include It plugin, selecting merchants in my DataFeedFile.com account and saving the keyword search php code (generated through simple tools at DataFeedFile.com) in individual plain text files (example: voip.php) for the plugin to pull. I created each keyword based page (like VOIP) and pasted the Include It code (a simple text string) on each, which calls the php code from the designated keyword focused file (example: voip.php) and, voila, instant shopping comparison site!
By the way, that’s a free WordPress theme that is being used for the site. Check the footer on the site to find out which one.
If what you want to do is pull a feed into a WordPress site, take a look at the DataFeed Poster plugin. It’s not free, but very good at what it does.
I hope you can see just how powerful a WordPress driven site can be, even for those who only want a web site and have no interest in blogging. The tools, functionality and SEO capabilities that you can have yourself (no web developer needed) are incredible compared to just a few years ago, and we didn’t even touch on what you can do with Twitter and social media with plugins.
And, if you ever do want to begin blogging, something this SEO recommends, it’s just a matter of getting started because the functionality is already built into your site.