Why Your Online Business
Should Be Using WordPress
When it comes to building a successful online business, you need to find a strong online platform that will best serve you in the development, maintenance, and growth of your web presence.
When it comes to building your main online platform—specifically, your website—you have many options to choose from. From new platforms such as Weebly to old standbys such as Dreamweaver, there’s been no shortage of tools to help you get started.
The first WYSIWYG tool I ever used to build a site was Adobe PageMill back in the ’90s. After that, I moved onto Adobe GoLive and started getting more into HTML and CSS, before diving into Flash for web work like many designers and developers did in the early 2000s. Around 2004, I started to dabble with WordPress, which back then was mainly a blogging tool.
Today, many of these tools have come and gone, and some are not as popular as they once were, but WordPress continues to grow and expand on its functionality and offerings for the online businessperson.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the many reasons why WordPress is your best tool for your online business. And throughout this site, Inside eBiz will focus in-depth on the best ways to use WordPress and the best WordPress resources available to help you find online business success.
But to begin with, I thought it would be appropriate to give you my reasoning behind why I consider WordPress to be the best tool for the creation of your main online platform.
In the Beginning
WordPress got its start in 2003, after Matt Mullenweg found a programmer named Mike Little through his blog, and they decided to create a new blogging tool around a discontinued piece of software called b2/cafelog.
Their purpose was to create a friendly, personal publishing platform that was freely available as open source software, where anyone could use and modify the underlying code. Later, they formed a company called Automattic to help bring their purpose to fruition.
Little did they know that this new tool, whose initial purpose was for blogging, would turn into a professional and elegant content management system (CMS) that would effectively change the online publishing landscape for millions of people.
Today, WordPress has become the most popular CMS in the world. It has over 40 translations and accounts for about 23% of websites online (about 75 million sites). It has also created a new industry that helps provide for the livelihood of millions of people; including developers, designers, product and service providers, support and training staff, content providers, and more.
“Automattic’s mission has always been very aligned with WordPress itself,
which is to democratize publishing.”
WordPress is used in every type of industry, including corporate and nonprofit, government, news, education, entertainment, and e-commerce.
From mom-and-pop shops to large corporations, here’s just a few of the brands that have used WordPress:
Library of Congress
New York Times
The Rolling Stones
Wall Street Journal
The Top Reasons for Using WordPress
WordPress has so much to offer the online entrepreneur and businessperson. Whether you’re starting a small company that’s just taking root, or looking to grow an organization that’s been around the block, WordPress offers a wealth of features and benefits that other online platforms just can’t match.
WordPress Is Free
As we all know, just because something is free does not make it good. But in the case of WordPress, the fact that the software is supported by an open source community and depended upon by millions of people, means that it’s being constantly taken care of. Major updates are made to the program on a regular basis—usually every few months, and the source code is updated daily by its developers.
WordPress Is Relatively Easy to Use
While WordPress is fairly easy to use out-of-the-box, to get the most out of it for business use, over time, you’ll probably want to dig a little deeper to see what it really offers. As with anything, knowledge comes with time and use of the software. That being said, there are plenty of training and resources online that can shorten your learning curve and increase your familiarity with the program.
The goal here at Inside eBiz is to be a valuable resource you can count on to help you get the most out of WordPress. If you can learn a basic wordprocessing program such as Microsoft Word, you can learn a publishing platform such as WordPress. But Inside eBiz is here to help you move beyond a basic understanding of WordPress so that you can get the most out of the software for your business.
For example, by learning the proper ways to publish and handle different types of content and media, a business owner, if they so choose, can accomplish many publishing projects themselves. On the other hand, if they decide that their time is more valuable handling other aspects of their business, nearly any job is easy to outsource because of the wide community of WordPress experts who offer such services online. In other words, the ease of using WordPress can make it possible to maintain your site yourself and possibly save some money.
WordPress Gives You Ownership of Your Site
Many newcomers to online business might be tempted to use a basic do-it-yourself system such as Weebly, Squarespace, Wix or another basic online service. Generally speaking, there are several problems going this route.
First and foremost, by using such services, you’re giving up full ownership and control of your company. You’ll have to play by the rules of the service, meaning, for example that you may have limitations as far as what you can have and do on these platforms.
And if they decide to change their fee structure, you’ll need to pay up or lose your site. Also, by having your content tied up on their platform, the future viability of your site is at risk. If something happens to them, or they go out of business, then you will lose your site. And be very careful—with some services, the content you provide belongs to them.
In other words, with such third-party services, your control is limited. When it comes to your online business, you definitely want to be in control of important assets such as your website.
With WordPress—and I’m speaking specifically of the self-hosted version of WordPress—you’re the owner of your business. The content you decide to put on your site belongs to you, and what you choose to do with that content is generally limited only by your imagination. When you self-host your own site, you don’t face the restrictions you face when you put your site on a third party’s platform.
WordPress Is an Excellent Blogging Platform
As stated earlier, WordPress was initially developed in order to create a free blogging platform that anyone could use. While it’s developed into a content management system that today goes far beyond just blogging, it still shines in that capacity.
Today, blogging has become more about demonstrating your expertise instead of being a sort of online diary or journal. When you publish your own content on your business website, you’re demonstrating your expertise and knowledge around your subject area.
Blogging in this sense becomes more about showing how you can help others and provide value to the visitors of your site—it becomes a form of content marketing. In other words, your goal is not to overtly sell your offerings, but rather, your goal is to demonstrate through your content that you’re able to help your prospects and customers by providing solutions to their problems.
WordPress Has Almost Unlimited Functionality
One of the strongest features of WordPress is its amazing ability to do and become almost anything. It is far more than a blogging platform. With the ability to create dynamic content that helps your users express themselves and interact with you, WordPress has moved far beyond the static “brochure” sites of years past and gives you a platform to create strong relationships and a sense of community around your brand.
With WordPress you can easily create:
… and much more. With plugins, themes, and widgets, you can easily add all kinds of features to a WordPress site that would normally require custom coding from a programmer.
WordPress’ core feature set can be expanded and transformed through thousands of available plugins. At the time of this writing (June, 2015), WordPress.org offers over 38,000 different plugins that extend and expand the functionality of WordPress. (This number doesn’t even account for the thousands of other plugins that are available through third-party developers.)
These plugins—snippets of code—allow you to add to your site features such as contact forms and event scheduling, to customizable photo galleries and marketing capabilities. The number of features that plugins offer is nearly limitless. If you have an idea of something you’d like to do for your business website, you can pretty much know that there’s a plugin available to help you do it.
Plugins also allow WordPress to integrate with many different service, such as email marketing, social media, and e-commerce.
Some premium WordPress plugin providers include:
WordPress Themes and Frameworks
Similar to plugins, users of WordPress have access to thousands of free and premium themes that cannot only change the look of your website, but in many cases add new functionality, as well.
Currently, there are over 2600 free WordPress themes offered at WordPress.org. Today, many of the themes available for WordPress are mobile responsive and allow your site to adapt to devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Some premium WordPress theme providers include:
Some developers have taken the idea of themes to a new level by creating “frameworks” that act as a site structure that can be built upon to create child themes around that framework. It’s like having the ability to create your own custom themes.
Some WordPress frameworks include:
Widgets are very similar to plugins in that they’re basically smaller pieces of code. But widgets generally affect specific areas of a website, such as a site’s sidebar, header, or footer area. Widgets can contain things like buttons, images, search boxes, menus, lists, advertising, and other content. Wherever a plugin or developer creates a widget area for your site, you can add a widget.
With the combination of plugins, themes, frameworks, and widgets, you can do almost anything with WordPress—and in a much easier manner as compared to most other platform-building software. With WordPress, what would normally take a great deal of expert coding and time to create, can often be created with no coding on your part, and just the click of a button.
WordPress Is Well Supported
WordPress is open source software and is freely available for modification and development. Because of this, it’s sported by a very large community of users, many of whom make their living through it and have a strong incentive to make sure it remains a successful and well accepted product.
WordPress.org has excellent documentation and support for users of all levels, and there are all kinds of ways to get involved in the WordPress community and learn more, including WordCamp events that are given worldwide.
WordPress is Search Engine Friendly
The code used for WordPress is W3 compliant and clean, making it easy for search engines to discover and crawl your site.
WordPress also makes it easy to add relevant titles, keywords, descriptions, search-friendly URLs, categories, and tags to your content to further enhance the ability of your site to be found in search engines for relevant searches for your industry.
As further testimony of WordPress’s search engine friendliness, Google’s own Matt Cutts uses WordPress for his own website.
WordPress Is Easy to Keep Up-To-Date
Technology and software can change in the blink of an eye in the online world. WordPress itself, along with its themes and plugins, are updated fairly frequently. WordPress will automatically notify you when it, or a theme or plugin, needs updating. Updating can be done easily through its user interface with just a couple of clicks. You also have the ability to allow WordPress to automatically update itself every time there’s a new version of the software.
WordPress Is Secure
Automattic, the providers of WordPress, have created a publishing tool that is safe and secure for its users. They keep on top of the latest security concerns and vulnerabilities through constant monitoring and timely updates to the software.
They’re also the makers of Akismet, an anti-spam service that’s freely available with WordPress sites.
Beyond what Automattic does, there are also many third-party plugins and services that offer high-end security and data backup that will help you sleep soundly at night.
Some top security services and plugins for WordPress include:
WordPress Is Media Friendly
WordPress has built-in support for handling all types of media; text, images, video, audio, documents, podcasts, photo galleries, downloadable files, and more.
For example, it allows easy embedding of YouTube videos, images from Flickr and Instagram, and social media features such as tweets.
Also, it has a built-in Media Library with editing capabilities, and can handle things like automatic image compression with plugins.
WordPress Has Multisite and Multi-User Capability
WordPress has a multisite feature that allows you to create your own network with multiple sites, all around a single installation of WordPress. In this setup, individual users can create their own sites within the network, or an administrator can take charge and add sites themselves. The multisite feature of WordPress is a popular solution for education environments, where each child can have their own site within the network.
Multi-user capability is a feature that allows you to assign user roles, or different levels of administration to different users of the same site.
For example, an online magazine might have several different authors writing content. In this scenario, a writer might have the user role of “Author”, which only allows them to publish and manage their own articles. Then, another user might be assigned the role of “Editor”, and be able to publish and manage the content of all of the authors. WordPress allows for six different user levels for an individual website.
WordPress Can Run on Most Operating Systems and Is Easily Accessible from Any Browser
Whether you’re using a Mac, a PC, or something else, WordPress has you covered. As long as the operating system you choose to use can run PHP and MySQL (most can), you’ll be able to use WordPress.
Because WordPress is accessed through your web browser, you have the ability to access and administrate your site through almost any computer, whether you’re using a desktop computer of your own, or are in a pinch and need to borrow a friend’s iPad or smartphone.
“Before the widespread rise of the Internet and easy publishing tools, influence was largely in the hands of those who could reach the widest audience—the people with printing presses or access to a wide audience on television or radio—all the one-way mediums that concentrated power in the hands of the few.”
The Two Flavors of WordPress:
WordPress.org (Self-Hosted) vs. WordPress.com (Hosted)
The makers of WordPress offer their product in two different flavors, depending on your needs.
Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com are products of Automattic, the company behind WordPress. While both flavors of WordPress offer the same free core WordPress software, there are significant differences between them.
In a nutshell, WordPress.com provides a service that allows people to have a website without the need to find their own hosting space or go out and register their own domain name. That’s because at the basic, no-frills level, hosting and a domain are free. WordPress.com also takes care of maintenance, security, and backup issues for your site.
Having a site on WordPress.com is an easier initial setup, but the major downside is that WordPress.com takes away critical freedoms and functionality that most online businesses need to have. For example, by having your business website at WordPress.com, you don’t technically own your site.
For instance, if you were to somehow violate their terms of service, WordPress.com could kick you off of their platform and shut down your site.
WordPress.org provides you only the software, without the built-in hosting and domain. With WordPress.org, you download the software to your own domain and a hosting setup of your choosing.
With WordPress.org, you’re responsible for your own hosting, domain registration, maintenance, security, and backup for your site. While these responsibilities might sound intimidating to a newcomer, the reality is that it’s relatively easy to handle these issues yourself, the main consideration being a modest time investment. And although your hosting company won’t do all of the nitty-gritty management of your site for you, they will offer technical support related to these issues.
In the end, the major advantage of choosing WordPress.org over WordPress.com is that you’re not limited in what you can do with your site—you have complete control over what you choose to do with it. And with about 50 million downloads of the software from WordPress.org, you’re in good company with many satisfied users and a well-supported platform.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that for people who choose to go with WordPress.org, but don’t want to handle the initial setup themselves, many hosting companies are more than happy to take care of it for you, usually for a very small fee.
Also, for site owners who also wish to hand off maintenance, security, and backup to someone else, there are plenty of services available for that as well, including managed WordPress hosting options such as WPEngine.
Other Important Differences between WordPress.Org and WordPress.Com:
With WordPress.com, basic hosting and a domain come free. But the problem with WordPress.com is that to be able to run an online business on it, you’ll need more features than their basic setup offers (i.e. more storage, more premium features, etc.). In order to get these features, you need to pay for them, and the cost is much more expensive than a comparable setup with WordPress.org.
The only necessary costs with a WordPress.org set up are for a hosting provider (around $5-$10 per month for less expensive, shared hosting), and your own domain name (around $10 a year).
With a basic setup on WordPress.com, you have far more limitations on functions and features than you do with WordPress.org.
The plugins and themes you can use for your site are predetermined by Automattic. The reasons for this are the easier maintenance and tighter security it gives them. Unfortunately, this takes away any options for premium third-party plugins and themes. While with WordPress.org, you can use any plugin and theme your heart desires.
WordPress.com also limits your ability to use custom scripts and code on your site. You’re not able to do such code and file editing without a premium upgrade.
Also, because websites that use WordPress.com are sitting on Automattic’s servers, it’s tougher to create a professional brand around you and your business. Your domain and email addresses will reflect the fact that you’re using the WordPress.com service. For example, instead of having a domain like MyBusinessName.com, sites that use the WordPress.com service are appended like this:
Finally, there’s also strict limitations around income opportunities for your website. While WordPress.com allows affiliate marketing, you won’t be able to sell your own products without an e-commerce upgrade.
You also cannot do any direct advertising or sell advertising spots to others. Banner advertising and Google Adsense is also prohibited without an upgrade. As a matter of fact, sites on WordPress.com’s basic plan must display advertising that Automattic chooses. And the only way to remove such advertising is to pay a fee.
On the other hand, creating a website through WordPress.org allows you to set up your site for a variety of income opportunities right out of the gate. Because a WordPress.org site sits on a host server of your own choosing with your own domain, you have the freedom to add any functionality and advertise any way you choose.
WordPress.com Plans and Upgrades
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slamming what WordPress.com is offering. Free hosting and a free domain is an amazing offer for a site, but you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for in this case). You just need to realize who the free, basic plan is intended for—mainly for hobbyists and people using the service for non-commercial activities. It’s generally not intended for people who are looking to run an online business.
WordPress.com offers several different plans, with the most basic plan being free. Then, as you add features and take away limitations (extra space, your own domain, e-commerce capabilities, premium themes, unlimited image and video storage, WordPress Multisite, advanced customization, removal of advertising, etc.), you need to pay extra.
This is only fair and should be expected. But with a little bit of upfront inconvenience—and it’s very minor—you can get a much better deal by just downloading the software from WordPress.org.
So, as you can see, for starting and growing your own online business and personal brand, the clear choice is to go with WordPress.org. It gives you full ownership and control over what you can do with your site. In the end, going with WordPress.com is like renting an apartment, while going with WordPress.org is like owning a home.
The first step to using WordPress.org is to decide on a domain name you can use and to register the domain with a domain registrar. Then, you need to settle on a hosting provider that you’ll eventually put your site on. After you do those two things, you’ll want to go to WordPress.org to download the software and begin installation of WordPress on your new host.
I’m not going to get into the details of how to do that in this article, but there are plenty of excellent tutorials online to help you do that.
I hope this article has helped you see why WordPress is a great platform to use for your online business.
There’s a whole industry built around WordPress, and Inside eBiz will continue to explore the many aspects of this great piece of software, from the best ways to use it, to the best WordPress tools and services to help you start, grow, and succeed with your online business.
Until next time—I wish you the very best!