For a couple of years I’ve had a blog about London history on Google’s ‘Blogger’ platform, but because Blogger is a bit basic (and, to be honest, a bit crap), I bought a domain, transferred all the content from the old site to the new one, put in 301 redirects so I don’t lose any search visibility, upgraded the meta text for better SEO, installed analytics tracking code, dropped in a line of code to verify the site with an affiliate network, added social sharing buttons, and linked my twitter account to automatically promote posts. Oh, and I tried out three or four different site designs until I found one I liked.
The fact that I could do all of this with coding knowledge that stopped with MS-DOS (ask your parents) is all down to WordPress. At its most basic you can have a website up and running in a couple of minutes using the tools at http://wordpress.com. Decide on a name, decide on how you want the site to look, a couple of clicks and you can start a blog.
That’s how this site originally started, but when I went freelance again I thought I ought to at least appear more professional, so I bought a domain through WordPress, added some static pages around the blog, paid some money to suppress ads on the blog post pages, and here you are. The whole thing took maybe a couple of hours.I’ve used one of the hundreds of design themes that are freely available, but if I had the knowledge and the skill I could edit the CSS to have bespoke pages.
Actually, scrub that “knowledge and skill” line. Another significant element of WordPress are the user forums. Want to know how to do/change something? Post a question and someone will answer it – usually within hours if not minutes.
You can’t run affiliate links or sell stuff on sites running on WordPress.com and, as I wanted my London blog to have these features (I’ll make millions I tell you, millions) I had to step up to WordPress.org. Now, I thought this was going to be tricky; the instructions are to download various bits of software, get FTP transfers sorted out – you know, like building a proper website – but because of the ubiquity of the platform, various hosting companies offer “one touch” installation (I’m using Tsohost.) Essentially, you get everything that you would through wordpress.com, except that you have to opt in to the various features (through things called ‘plug ins’) rather than having them all included from the outset. Putting the whole of www.stuffaboutlondon.co.uk together from scratch took perhaps six hours, spread over two or three sessions. And remember, I am supremely non-technical – someone who knew what they were doing would have sorted it in half the time.
The fact is, it’s easy. Anyone can do it. Which is why there is now so much content out there, so much noise to compete against, so many more reasons why your site needs to rank with Google and why there are so many more relationships and links that you need to build. If anyone can put a website together, how do you get people to know that yours is the one to come to?