This sixth post covers the session delivered by Andrew Buckman. He spoke on the 10 things we can, or should, be doing to improve our websites. While it may seem a bit technical, this is critical stuff. Think about it. We have spent the first five sessions preparing a groundwork for launching a platform. After this session we will again turn to creative and distribution matters. But here in the middle we spend time gaining insight from a web professional on the common pitfalls we so often find ourselves in once we launch. Read on. Oh, and the photo is not of Andrew.
Andrew outlined 10 areas that he as a web design / WordPress professional sees his clients have challenges in. To give some point of reference here for my readers I will note if my blog DOES or DOES NOT comply with the advice given doing. They 10 tips are:
- YOU DON’T OWN YOUR BRAND – (DavidKirkaldy.com DOES use .org WordPress). Most of us use WordPress as the technical base for our blogging platform. WordPress offers two flavours. WordPress (dot ORG) and WordPress (dot COM). Always go with the dot ORG version. Why? It gives you more control. As noted in the first session, your main platform should be as much within your control as possible. The cost of one vs. the other is negligible, but the control and flexibility of the dot ORG version is priceless as you develop. Don’t worry about the technical aspects. There are literally hundreds of step by step videos (the one I used is here) and resources to help you in setting up a self hosted WordPress blog (that’s geek speak for the dot ORG variety). Related to this Andrew advised that if your brand name is challenging to spell you may consider buying the domain names of common misspellings. These additional domains would simply redirect users to your ‘real’ website. At the end of the day if an audience cannot find you what is the point, right?
- YOU DON’T HAVE AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER – (DavidKirkaldy.com currently DOES NOT have an email newsletter). Now it would seem to be counterintuitive to need email for your content. However, keeping in mind the concept that we live in an age of ‘permission based marketing’, having a list of people who have granted you permission to directly email them with content that they have deemed to be useful or valuable in their lives is priceless. There are many methods for gaining a qualified mailing list. The most common is to give something of value with a sign-up. We see many give the first chapter (or more) of an e-book. Others share planning documents or grant access to a basic level of engagement with a sign-up. Whatever you do it should all be branded to be uniform in appearance with all else you do online, and you should use technology to push the content out remotely – set it and forget it. This is an area that I will be working on over the near term. Anything in particular you would like?
- NOT THINKING ABOUT CONVERSIONS – (DavidKirkaldy.com is NOT currently compliant in this area). Think about it. You have convinced someone to invest some time on your site and read your content. Awesome. Now what? What do you want people to do when they come to your site? I am under no illusion that my content is the most original stuff in the world. The point is people, some of them strangers (32 total to this point are subscribers directly or via RSS reader) have decided to invest time in my work. Beyond that simple interaction what am I giving them? The truth is, nothing. Andrew noted that we should always be thinking of the next step, the next level of engagement. It starts as simple as the response to a sign-up, something beyond the generic template. It incorporates targeted landing pages, suggesting related content (I did immediately start using ‘nrelate‘ WordPress plugin to assist in this area as suggested by Andrew). For me it is clear that this is an area that I must invest some time in. I will be changing my approach here, and I will plan to structure what I do in such a way that it honours those that gave me their permission early on. (You lucky 32 early subscribers just can’t wait now, can you?)
- FORGETTING ABOUT SEARCH ENGINES – (DavidKIrkaldy.com IS ok in this area.) It is not enough to win the first battle – to start – or the second – to produce content. You must ensure that you are intentional about creating the best conditions for a potential audience to find you. This means SEO, search engine optimizations. 50% of readers just moved on to the 5th bullet point with the utterance of that acronym – SEO. It is half art half magic and half science (I never was good at math). The cool thing is that the non technical user does not have to spend a ton of time working in this area with some of the tools that are available now. Many themes include an SEO module that cue you. I use Standard Theme by 8Bit. It includes a SEO plugin built-in. Currently I have it turned off and am using ‘All In One SEO‘ plugin. Either way, I am ending a post with some time intentionally thinking of keywords and a 75 character or less title that includes some keywords and a description of what the post is about. This is not an area you can ignore.
- MAKING IT HARD TO SHARE CONTENT – (DavidKirkaldy.com DOES comply in this area.) You get an audience to your site. They really like your post. Now what? You would hope that they will share the content with their circle, their personal tribe. Make it easy for them. Don’t expect them to copy and paste the URL into an email to their besties! Again, as with SEO, many themes include a tightly integrated social sharing plugin. If yours does not, or you do not like the one that the theme provides, there are tons of others out there. Related to this is including ‘featured thumbnails’ of the image in your post or, if your post is pure text, a relevant featured photo. When the post is shared on Facebook, LinkedIn or otherwise you need to ensure that the image is relevant to the story, not something randomly grabbed from your image file, and that the short (160 character) description of the post is well written and entices someone to click in.
- NOT TRACKING ANALYTICS ON THE WEBSITE – (DavidKirkaldy.com DOES comply in this area.) This is a basic first step in setting up a blog or any website. Visit Google Analytics, register your site, receive a tracking key and a short snippet of code (some plugins or themes just ask you for the key and do the rest for you non techie people out there) and you are done. If you need a plugin Google Analyicator was recommended. With analytics you will have insight into who is coming to your site, what sites refer visitors to yours, what search terms lead to visitors finding your site, and what posts really resonated with your readers. As Jeff Goins noted, sometimes the post is not something you would normally write about. The insight these numbers give you is most helpful in giving focus to your posts and better serving the audience that is coming, who may not be the audience you thought you were writing for. On my blog the most read post was my valentines post about how my wife fell back in love with our business. It has been up for not much more than a week and it has twice the number of traffic as the next closes post which is my recap on Michael Hyatt’s second platform presentation. Do I need to dial back my posts related to blogging and write odes to my wife and her radiant splendour? Not sure, but it works for traffic.
- NOT KEEPING TABS ON YOUR WEBSITE – (DavidKirkaldy.com DOES comply in this area.) You have taken the time to get your website designed and have published it for all the world to see. What happens next? Well there are services that assist you in discovering where errors or issues exist in the site that are causing problems that you may otherwise not be aware of. All site owners should be using Google Webmaster Tools to report on crawler error, duplicate page errors and other items such as broken links. If you present any issue that makes it hard for web indexing services to properly reference you it defeats the purpose of what you have been working so hard on. For users of PC based computers Andrew suggested using programme called Xenus Link Sleuth to discover broken links.
- SETUP PROBLEMS ON YOUR BLOG – (DavidKirkaldy.com is MOSTLY compliant in this area.) This discussion was perhaps more technical than the others. Andrew spoke of ensuring that we remember to turn off debug errors (Google this, my notes are weak in this section), encouraged us to ensure that permalinks are in .html format vs regular WP (again, google the pro’s and con’s of each for a better understanding of the ‘why here). Andrew noted one easy way to check the dreaded 404 error (basically the notice the browser gives you when the web cannot find the url link you entered) is to enter www.yourwebsitename.com/404 and see what comes up. Make the message as friendly as possible, perhaps suggesting alternative blog posts or at a minimum your home or landing page as a return.
- YOU ARE A HOARDER OF PLUGINS AND THEMES – (DavidKirkaldy.com is NOT compliant in this area.) Anyone who has ever built a WordPress site has collected themes and plugins. I am sure it is a particular sin of newcomers to this space. The problem is that over time these are potential sources of problems for your site including security issues. Not good. As you settle into a suite of plugins that you actually use for your site, delete the ones you do not use. You can always re-import them later if needed. Just as important is updating the theme and plugins that you do have installed. These are constantly being updated by their developers, but it is still up to you to update them into your actual blog.
- YOUR SITE IS NOT ‘MOBILE’ FRIENDLY – (DavidKirkaldy.com IS compliant in this area.) One third of all traffic into websites now comes from mobile devices of various kinds. On my site 36% comes from mobile devices. It is vitally important that your site is optimized for this rapidly growing share of your audience. Most leading themes offer a ‘reflexive’ design which automatically reformats your blog for the device it is being viewed on. If your theme does not accommodate for this there is a plugin called WPTouch. Use it! Finally, check the look of other media embedded in your blog such as audio and video. These may appear perfect on your computer screen but can be displayed incorrectly in a mobile format.
Andrew had the unenviable task of outlining a host of technical errors that he has found that many well-meaning bloggers experience. He delivered a ton of great content that left many of us reviewing our blogs and considering other aspects of his presentation that may take a bit longer to implement. We can’t escape some basic element of technical understanding of this industry. Andrew outlined in simple terms ways to make our work better.
Our next presenter was Carrie Wilkerson, better known as the Barefoot Executive. She spoke to us on Filling Our Stadium. Energy level for that one = HIGH.
Do you have your own blog? Did you recognize any of the common mistakes above in your work? What are the greatest technical challenges you face in blogging? Share your thoughts in a comment.