Jim Spencer loves WordPress – so much so that he built a business around helping bloggers and business owners move their websites from other platforms to the popular open-source CMS.
So what does he like about it?
“WordPress is designed for writers rather than other platforms that were designed for developers,” says the founder and president of Blog Wranglers. “It is possible to publish without a lot of technical knowledge. There is also a lot of instructional text and videos online along with a vibrant freelance and agency support community.”
Jim recently offered us some of his WordPress insight – from tips for getting started on the platform to advice for protecting your site from hackers.
Tell us about your professional background.
My career started in the hospitality industry, working for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Santa Barbara, California and Nevis, West Indies and then Westin Hotels in Boston. In the late 90s, I switched into technology when I worked at two startups and a large mutual fund company before starting my own business helping clients bring their marketing efforts to the web.
Tell us about Blog Wranglers. What services do you offer?
In 2009, Blog Wranglers was launched to meet the specific need for moving a website or blog from one content management system to another. The bulk of our clients are now coming from HubSpot and moving to WordPress. Our first client was the MPDailyFix – a Marketing Proffs website that is no longer online. They were on MovableType and moved to WordPress.
What would you love to change about WordPress?
What I would love to change about WordPress is the perception of it. It is “sold” as a do-it-yourself solution for writers, marketers, etc. Many of these writers then look at the leading custom WordPress websites that were professionally created with that in mind and then get frustrated when they can’t duplicate the advanced designs with their limited time working on WordPress. That huge gap between what is possible with years of professional WordPress experience and what is sold to folks with no experience causes some concern.
Why is WordPress such a great tool for blogging?
The default WordPress installation does well in the search engines. It can also be further enhanced through customization and implementing specific plugins. Pages and posts load quickly. The administrative panel is intuitive and easy to use. Design is relatively easy to change either through custom development or simply buying a theme that you like. Most of all, it is easy to write and publish content.
What are some basic tips for bloggers who are just getting started using WordPress? What should they make sure to check out or read up on?
Rather than technical advice, I encourage knowing your subject area well and making your writing interesting. Know your audience and speak to them directly. Publish regularly and interact by replying to comments. Relevant photos and captions are helpful to readers.
What advice do you have on protecting your WordPress site from hackers?
On inexpensive (most common) hosting – make sure that you keep your core files, plugins and themes up to date. Out-of-date code is the number one vulnerability that I encounter.
If you don’t want to manage all that, then choose managed WordPress hosting and let the host keep things updated and secure for you. There is also a range of useful plugins that provide security protection, as well as specific WordPress configuration customizations.
What are your customers’ biggest concerns about migrating their blogs to WordPress?
Typically, SEO is the biggest concern. Most clients are concerned about losing the hard work they have put into ranking in the search engines. By definition, that includes all of the content that they have created. Many of our clients are moving from HubSpot, which means they have been spending hundreds of dollars per month or more just to be on the platform. So the upcoming cost savings in moving to WordPress is a welcome relief to their concern about the cost of HubSpot relative to their ability to benefit.
What are the biggest mistakes individuals and brands make when migrating their blogs?
The biggest regrets we see are related to a lack of technical knowledge, which leads to challenges either in SEO or maintaining the site. One specific example is not building out author profile pages the right way so that blog post bios can link to an author page.
Domain and sub-domain decisions are not crucial, but we have seen decisions made for political reasons rather than for technical or marketing reasons. And seeing thousand of blog posts being abandoned hurts, since we are so familiar with how hard people work to create content.
What are the best ways to drive traffic to your WordPress site?
You have to regularly provide useful information that is hopefully not found elsewhere. If it is found elsewhere, then you just need to develop your own audience. After creating content, you need to use a range of tools and techniques to get the content out there in front of people. It is very important to diversify the ways that this is done so that you are not 100 percent dependent on the search engines.
We have learned over the years that search engines change how they operate for their own purposes. They don’t wonder if a change will obliterate your income. So as one example, develop your own mailing list or at least market your products or services on someone else’s mailing list. Or maybe develop a fan base on a social media platform or develop an in-person marketing plan using trade shows or networking so that you are not solely reliant on search engines.
What WordPress innovations are you most excited about right now?
I am interested to learn more about the new WordPress API and the interesting new creations that will emerge because of it.
Connect with Jim on LinkedIn and Twitter.