If it seems like everyone is using WordPress for their websites these days that’s because WordPress is now powering more than 20% of the internet. There is no better time to get started with WordPress to share your story and opinions as well to grow your business or start a new one. I can say from personal experience that learning these skills and getting involved in the WordPress community has been one of the more rewarding and transformational experiences of my life.

Knowing how to get started can be difficult so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from my own experience. Sharing, after all, is at the heart of what WordPress is about.

While there are a few very basic technical points at the end of this articles, most of this is not advice about technology. Rather it is about strategy, learning and getting involved in the community. When possible, I have linked to an article I wrote here or elsewhere that elaborates on the what I’m talking about. Over time I will create new posts for those that don’t have a link yet. In fact that’s recommendation number one, create content that requires follow-up posts. It saves you from having to come up with something to write about next week.

Start By Blogging and Add Value

stained-glass-110788_1280WordPress is a lot more than just a blogging platform. That said, that’s still what, at its heart, it still is. There is no better way to learn how to use WordPress then to use it and writing a blog gives you something to do besides poking buttons randomly.

Even if you’re looking to use WordPress to make a site for your business you’re still going to need a way to drive traffic to your site, and the best way to do that is with a blog. Using your blog to sell your product, whether your product is you or not, is something I write about a lot.

I recommend that the first thing you do, even if you intend to host your own site, is to sign up for a free WordPress.com account. Use it to create a blog or two, do some blogging, play with the options and see what happens. While your there connect with some other bloggers.

When you start blogging, you will need something to blog about. Your blog isn’t your Facebook profile and shouldn’t be treated as such by filling it with, ‘check out what I just did and/ or thought’ type posts. It’s a publishing platform and if you want people to read it, you need to give them something of value. Not sure what that it is that you can offer of value? Start by thinking about what is the unique thing that you can offer the world, and write for people who need that. I call it marketing your authentic self.

Learn and Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

WordPress prides itself on being intuitive, but like anything else there is a fair amount of lingo. Don’t worry, the good people at WPBeginner have a created a wonderful glossary covering all of the basic WordPress terms you need to know.

If the glossary doesn’t have the term you need or you are ever confused about anything else, don’t be afraid to ask questions. WordPress has an incredibly supportive user and developer community that loves to help others. I wrote an article about how and where to ask for help with WordPress that covers the best places to ask questions about WordPress for most situations. When you start asking questions in these places, it may be your first step into the community.

Honestly, the supportive nature of the WordPress community blows me away. Three years I knew basically nothing about web development besides basic HTML tags and today I’m using PHP, jQuery and CSS to write WordPress themes and plugins and teaching others how to do the same. None of this would be possible if it were not for the amazing tutorials, Q&A sites, and the WordPress codex that exist to help you with WordPress.

Go To WordCamp or A WordPress MeetUp

WordCamp Orlando 2013 LogoWordCamps are independently organized WordPress conferences that offer 1-3 days of WordPress workshops, talks, parties and networking that are held all over the world. There is no better way to learn about WordPress, be it business, design or development while meeting a ton of cool people then going to a WordCamp. Getting involved in the WordPress community online is a great way to learn, but nothing beats WordCamp. Going to your local WordPress MeetUp is a good substitute though.

WordCamps are also surprisingly affordable, usually costing less than $50 to attend, including lunch and a t-shirt. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how important it is to go to a WordCamp, so go to WordCamp.org and find the closest one to where you live.

Save Money and Time By Being Smart About Hosting, SEO and Buying “Premium” Themes

Be Mobile Friendly

Make sure your site is mobile friendly. These days that usually means a “responsive” WordPress theme. That’s a whole different topic, but basically what I’m saying is if your site doesn’t look right and work right on a phone, than you have a problem.

Don’t Buy A Theme Right Away

A common mistake that a lot of people make is running out and spending $50 on a WordPress theme that looks like perfect and then spending a lot of time and possibly money trying to get the theme to do what they want it to do and fixing the problems that so many “premium” themes have. Because they’ve already sunk the time and money into the theme, they are unwilling to get another one and start over.

Do your self a favor, stick to the free theme directory on WordPress.org. It is filled with some amazing themes and requires all themes to follow best practices and code standards.

Get A Good Host

Most people start with the cheapest host they can find, like Bluehost or GoDaddy. Do yourself a favor and skip having to move your site to a quality host later on by starting with a quality host. I use SiteGround and couldn’t be happier with the speed, ease of use and support. I also recommend WPEngine or Page.ly.

Don’t Worry About SEO (Too Much)

Search engine optimization (SEO) can in my mind be classified into three categories 1) Things to make your site machine-readable so search engines can properly index it. 2) Providing quality content. 3) All sorts of snake-oil that Google will punish you for. So here is my SEO strategy:

  • Install WordPress SEO by Yoast and:
    • Fill out meta title and meta description fields for each page.
    • Set my Google+ profile in Yoast.
  • Concentrate on content and make sure that content is easily sharable via social media.

Just The Beginning

This article is based on many conversations I’ve had with friends and clients seeking advice on how to get started with WordPress, which is a conversation I love having. I hope that you found this useful reading it and if you want to discuss any of this you will contact me or leave a comment.

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