A huge chunk of the internet is powered by WordPress, in fact according to them it’s 39% of the web. One of the really nice things about this content management system is that you can install and run it offline on your computer and get everything ready to go before paying for hosting or a domain name.
Going this route has worked for me and saved me money in a few projects. If you do decide to build offline, you will need a solid plan when it’s time to launch.
In this article I’ll look at 3 strategies that can help you get online and off to a fast start in growing your WordPress site - and also some of the pitfalls to avoid.
1. Optimise for SEO from Day 1
Having your site search engine friendly from the beginning is crucial. There are a few simple but crucial things to take care of that don’t require a ton of technical knowledge. These involve adding certain plugins, securing your site, and checking the right boxes in the WordPress settings.
Install the right plugins for SEO
If you aren’t familiar with plugins, they essentially enhance the basic WordPress installation by adding new functionalities. You do need to watch out, though, because there are a lot of free ones that could create security vulnerabilities on your site.
Plugins frequently get abandoned by their developers and do not always get removed from the WordPress plugin repository right away. Using one that is outdated could open your site up to being hacked if you aren’t careful. Be cautious with anything that says it hasn’t been tested with your current version of WordPress.
One that you definitely want to get (that’s also safe!) is Yoast. This plugin does most of the heavy lifting of making your site search engine optimised.
Image source: Bob Buckley
It does things like create XML sitemaps, tell you if pages and posts are search engine friendly, and creates redirects if you ever change the structure of one of your links. That’s not everything, but those are some of the higher-level functions.
Secure your site with SSL/TLS
Would you feel safer on a site that says “not secure” or one that says “secure” in the address bar? In order to build trust with search engines and potential customers, it’s important that you set up what’s called a “secure sockets layer.” That will add an “s” to the http in your URL, making it https. It provides security and encrypts data transmitted across the internet.
If you plan to sell something and accept payment card information on the site, you should definitely have https. It is also something that Google looks at as a ranking factor and to decide if your site is safe or presents a risk. As a side note, the current version of SSL is technically called “TLS” now, Cloudflare offers a good explanation on that here.
Your hosting provider will be able to help you with this if you have any questions about how to set it up. It's worth doing this properly and getting proper guidance if you need. After trying to set it up on my own a few years ago, I messed things up pretty badly.
In addition to getting the site back online, my hosting company’s customer service rep also introduced me to the WordPress plugin Really Simple SSL. As the name implies, it is a really simple way to move your site to SSL/TLS encryption in case you start without it.
Image source: WordPress
In order to set up a secure connection, you will also need to obtain a certificate from a “Certificate Authority.” You can usually get this from your hosting provider - who can also help with installation - or a reputable SSL vendor.
Be careful of services which offer free SSL/TLS if they don’t specialize in it. I did that once by signing up for a CDN service that also offered free secure connections.
They had a major issue with their security certificates being invalid, which resulted in my site (and many others) being both listed as “not secure” and all of my pages disappearing from Google’s search rankings!
This one is pretty straightforward. On your WordPress menu in the administrator dashboard, hover over “settings.” In the smaller menu that pops up, click on “Reading.”
On the Reading settings page, make sure the box that says “Discourage Search Engines from Indexing this Site” is unchecked. It may be up to them to honor whatever you say there, but it can’t hurt to say you’re open for indexing.
Image source: Bob Buckley
2. Run PPC ad campaigns
Once your site is set up to be SEO-friendly, the next step is to take the right actions for driving web traffic. The fastest way to do this is by running different types of ad campaigns. In order to have successful campaigns, you will need to make sure you focus on the right keywords for your business.
I know first-hand how much money and time can go down the drain when a Google Adwords campaign is focused on the wrong words. Use a comprehensive keyword research tool like Wordtracker to make sure you stay focused and reach the right customers. Plus, you can also use their Inspect tool to help analyse competitor sites and learn from them.
Image Source: Wordtracker
Be careful with multiple campaigns
It can be tempting to set up multiple campaigns. Google will let you run many at a time (into the thousands) so be careful to keep an eye on which ones are active and which are paused. You don’t want to be surprised with any larger-than-expected expenses.
When you’re just starting out, it may be a good idea to stick to one type of campaign versus multiple (search, display, smart, etc.), as that can also be a fast way to spend a lot.
Image source: Bob Buckley
3. Leverage YouTube and video marketing
In 2021, if your website doesn’t have some kind of video presence online, you’re missing out on a lot of exposure. Many people have built entire businesses from the ground up by tapping into the massive audience on YouTube.
According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, YouTube has 2bn monthly unique users globally, watching 250 million hours daily, which is plenty to make it worth looking into.
You can include a basic call-to-action in each video you make for people to go visit your site or sign up for an email list that will get people on there. The nice thing is that over time, your videos will steadily keep accumulating views and potentially sending website visitors.
Some basics for making YouTube videos
There are many misconceptions about what it takes to make YouTube videos that get results. A big one is thinking that you need fancy equipment or a studio costing cost thousands of dollars. All you really need is an appropriate place to film and a smartphone with a decent camera.
The good news is that most of us at least have the phone. If you don’t, finding one that can film in high-definition won’t break the bank since many older models can do that. I recently learned that a seven-year-old Samsung I have can actually film in 4K!
If you happen to use an Android, there’s a really helpful app called Open Camera for filming with external microphones. It allows me to connect my USB Yeti Blue microphone so the audio tracks are in line with the videos and there’s no need to worry about syncing those together later.
Video email marketing
YouTube isn’t the only place where video can be big for growing a website. If you plan to build up your email mailing list ahead of starting your site, then sending out email newsletters with videos included can increase engagement.
I've used the free version of a video platform called Wistia to send videos in this way. In my specific case, I have used video as part of individual sales emails to try and engage more with customers. Most of them are short, to the point, and include a bit of humor at the beginning to get the person’s attention.
Here’s an example of one intended to get someone to return a contract to me:
Unfortunately, I think the video ended up caught in his spam filter and my customer never watched it. He had been ghosting me a while already so that was sort of my final swing.
It can be daunting to start a WordPress site and think about how to drive traffic quickly. However, following some basic steps in the beginning, can still make it possible to grow from nothing. Invest some time to set up the right plugins and security. Put some money into advertisements to get a few people in the door.
Finally, don’t be afraid of the spotlight! Videos will only grow in popularity and they can help your site do the same.