Friday, November 4, 2011

Expert opinions on website making, Wordpress and SEO

Anyone who has been browsing the blogosphere in the last few years will have noticed the huge increase in the number of slick, sleek Wordpress blogs -- particularly in the online marketing niche. There also seem to be many more business websites that have been made with this platform. It seems to be the CMS of choice if you want to have a fast loading, search engine optimized website with blog included.

Being a long time Blogger user, who has never had a Wordpress blog, I am not the person to ask about it. Dean Wormald definitely is, however. That's why I have asked him some questions about Wordpress, as well as others on the subject of website making, social media and SEO. 

1) When getting ready to build your own business website, what are the most important factors to consider and why?

The old phrase, "if you plan to fail, you fail to plan" is a good one to keep in mind when getting ready to build a business website. There is a set process I follow when I create any website, and all businesses should do the same.

First there is the requirements gathering phase. This involves evaluating the business and communication requirements. A good start is to reflect on your business plan and consider what the website must achieve for the business. It could be generating enquiries through telephone calls, get more customers through your door, or simply build up your profile as an expert in your field.

Second, following the requirements gathering phase is the content requirements phase. Knowing what the business and communication goals for the website are, I collect, create and organise the content that will be on the website. This also involves describing any functionality requirements, for example, contact forms. Doing this before buying website hosting or a domain name is key to ensure a good work flow through the process of making a great website.

After the requirements have been clearly defined and all the content collected, it's time to buy website hosting and a domain name. I always buy these together. Australian businesses, I always buy the and .com variations of the chosen domain name. For larger companies we'll buy all domain name variations possible. Then we direct the un-used domain names to a primary domain name.

For Australian businesses, it is critical to buy website hosting with a reputable Australian website hosting company who has servers based in Australia. This influences search engine rankings.

2) You are obviously a fan of Wordpress for building business websites, as well as for blogging. Why do you think it is so good?

I've been using WordPress both professionally and personally since 2005 (before it even had a WYSIWYG editor!). I'm more interested in spending time on making great interfaces and content, than coding a website. Over time I have used other CMS platforms like Drupal and DotNetDuke, as well as other blogging services like (free hosted WordPress blogs) and Blogger. I believe the WordPress software (installed on your own hosting) is just as simple to setup as a free hosted blog, however it allows for much more customisation.

The WordPress community is huge and thriving. There are hundreds of thousands of active users contributing and helping out with customising or troubleshooting WordPress. A portion of this community also creates plugins and themes, which enhance websites in a huge variety of ways. Over the last few years I've been quite immersed in the community and have even written an eBook. It's a guide on how to make Australian websites.

Perhaps the number one reason I use WordPress is the focus on web standards and usability. The software is constantly kept up to date with evolving technology and on the front-end (what the site visitor sees) you get a great interface.

3) Website building technology has been developing extremely quickly over the last few years. What do you think will be the next big trends in this field?

HTML 5. The previous version, HTML 4, was released in 1997, a grandfather in Internet ages! HTML 5 will help to standardise a lot of different web technologies. For a long time developers have been trying to make mobile content with this (and other) web technologies that just aren't suited for these devices. HTML 5 also displays multimedia content, without the need for plugins like Flash Player or Shockwave.

Over the next few years, the groups working on the HTML 5 specification will finish it off completely, and it will become the new standard. When it dones, I wouldn't be surprised if a few Flash developers found themselves with less work.

4) With the rise of social media, some pundits are predicting that search engines will gradually lose their influence, and that SEO will become a minor consideration for website builders. What are your thoughts on this prediction?

Just like HTML 4, the current methods used by search engines are based on old technology. When I worked with Microsoft on the Bing Search team in Sydney, one of the heads of search in the USA said "however brilliant the current search algorithms are, and they are brilliant, in many cases it fails to give the best results. As one of the most influential factors to ranking highly is to have many inbound links to your site, search engines today serving up the most popular, not the most relevant results."

While you can't argue that social networks are growing at a phenomenal pace, when seeking specific information, people still need to search for it. SEO will still be important, with the foreseeable/possible changes currently on the table. The biggest change will likely come from a radically different search algorithm. This would have an impact on the scope of SEO activities, but website owners will still need to engage in SEO.

I've heard of one interesting idea that uses the information from your social network profiles to gain a better understanding of the context of your search. So perhaps one day social networks and search engines will work together, using a new search algorithm to return more relevant results.

About Dean Wormald

Dean Wormald has been working in the digital industry since 1998. After studying Multimedia and Marketing at university, he has worked with the biggest and most award winning agencies and companies in Australia, including: Amnesia Razorfish (with clients like Xbox 360, Microsoft, Land Rover, Holden, Lynx and IKEA); Bing Search Team (Microsoft Australia); Clemenger BBDO and Proximity (with clients like Yellow Pages, White Pages, M&M'S, Dulux). Recently he released a guide on how to start a website, make it look professional and market it successfully.

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