July 3, 2013, by Malvika Johal

Starting a New Business using WordPress

By Steve Miller (Management Studies 2010)

It is hard to imagine there are many businesses that wouldn’t benefit from having a website, even if it is just to provide basic information about yourself or your company. In my own business we have invested heavily in e-commerce websites but we also use WordPress as a blogging platform to help with our outreach and general communications. For anyone planning to set up a new business or who just wants to blog about something they are passionate about, then I would certainly recommend spending a few hours getting to grips with how WordPress works. WordPress has become the world’s most popular, free blogging software because it is ideal for non-techies as well as having a number of other useful features for bloggers and businesses.

Many students may have wrestled with trying to build websites with software packages like Dreamweaver or even attempted to learn some HTML and ended up with something that frankly looks a bit amateurish. With WordPress you can simply use one of the many existing templates and simply wrap your own text and images around someone else’s professional design. It is easy to upload images, documents and videos files and there is no need to get you head around File Transfer Protocols as it is all browser-based.

WordPress websites can be modified to turn them into selling sites although this is not something I have done personally. However, I would suggest that even if you have a separate e-commerce site, I would still recommend running a WordPress blog alongside it. WordPress was designed to be Search Engine friendly which is key if you are starting a new business. If you approach a web design company they’ll want you to spend all your budget with them in designing a fancy, state-of-the-art website which they can use on showcase websites to display their cutting edge design skills. This is a mistake. In my experience the bulk of any web budget should be spent on promoting the site rather than on the ‘look’ – you still need a good design and WordPress can provide this on the cheap.

For me the key thing about WordPress is that it performs adeptly with search engines, or to use the technical buzz phrase, it works well in terms of ‘search engine optimisation’ (SEO). If you cannot quickly get your websites to appear on the first page or two of Google using certain words or phrases that are key to your business, then you will get very few visitors to your website or blog. If it is sales you are after then you won’t get many without doing some basic ‘SEO’ on your website. There are are some good tools within WordPress that advise you on basic ‘on-page’ SEO techniques. And of course you will also have to go out and get links from other websites as well as other forms of online promotion like pay per click advertising and email marketing.

I would also strongly recommend to budding entrepreneurs that they should use a WordPress site to test the water for your business ideas. For example if you want to set up a business selling designer clothes then set up a WordPress site and get a feel for your market. Write about your products, add lots of pictures to your site, tell all your friends, use social media to create a buzz and generally promote it far and wide in whatever way you can. IF people start asking you if you sell your products then you might have a business and it is then worth gearing up with a proper e-commerce site; for this you probably will need some help from a specialist company. However, if things don’t go as you dreamed you haven’t spent a fortune in opening a shop or handing over bundles of cash to a web design company!

Some things might be slow burners. You could start a blog, get two visitors a day and despite all you efforts in promoting the site, nothing much happens for a year or two. One of my colleagues started a WordPress site about clutch bags and sold one every few months – until a leading magazine featured her products and a celebrity was photographed holding one. She then moved the site to an e-commerce platform once it was clear she was on to a winner!

Even though my own company runs several big e-commerece websites we still use WordPress to promote the business. Workplace Depot staff regularly write about products and industry news as well as general topical subjects – it’s not there to sell anything it’s just there as a kind of friendly face of the business – please take a look – www.theworkplacedepot.co.uk/news . We also invite industry experts to write articles for our blog and surprisingly this has seen better business outreach than we’ve had through any of our other social media channels.

From my experience of running online businesses I would certainly urge others to ‘start small’ with a WordPress blog/website and use this to test the market – unless that is you have an absolutely game-changing, revolutionary new product… in which case, please, please get in touch with me!

Steve Miller, Managing Director, www.theworkplacedepot.co.uk

Posted in Entrepreneurs