Older Entrepreneurs – It’s Time to Upgrade Your Website
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching potential interviewees for my new upcoming Profit After 50 podcast. On the one hand, the process has gone better than I expected. You guys are doing so many amazing things after 50 that I already have a list of almost 100 entrepreneurs that I want to interview. On the other hand, I was struck by how badly many older entrepreneurs are presenting themselves online. At times, I felt like I had been transported back to 1995, when email was a novelty and Amazon.com was the new kid on the block. As a community, we can do better.
Whether you are a marketing consultant, restaurant owner or entrepreneur, having an effective online presence is essential. If anything this is especially true for older entrepreneurs, who have to battle with stereotypes about aging on a daily basis. Whether or not you already have a website, it’s time to create an online presence that you can be proud of.
The irony is that building a modern, cost-effective, sales-ready website has never been easier. WordPress provides a powerful platform for business owners to manage and update their own sites. With 1000’s of WordPress themes available, you don’t even need to hire a web designer. I use WordPress for all of my websites, including Sixty and Me and Boomerly, and I can’t imagine running a website any other way. Here are a few of the reasons that I love WordPress:
- It’s easy to use – you can add new pages and blog posts by yourself
- It puts you in control – very few tasks require a web developer or designer
- It’s best friends with Google – WordPress makes it easy to manage SEO
- It’s customizable – there are 1000’s of themes, each one customizable
- It’s extendible – there are many free plug-ins to add functionality to your site
- It’s learnable – there are numerous free and paid courses to help you start
I understand that many of you invested a lot of time into your existing sites, but, if your web presence hasn’t been updated for a decade, it’s time for a change. So, here is a step-by-step guide to building the website that your business deserves. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you already have a domain (website name). If not, don’t worry. I’ll cover choosing and registering a domain in a future article.
Step 1: Installing WordPress (It’s WAY Easier than in the Past!)
Before you can install WordPress, you need to perform a few foundational activities, including creating and configure a database to store your site’s data. This used to be a complicated process. In fact, as little as one-year ago, I was still paying a developer to set up my WordPress sites for me. No longer!
Most popular hosting companies, including my favorite, Bluehost, offer “one-click” WordPress installation. This means that you can set up WordPress for your website without needing to get into all of the technical minutia. The best way to find out if your hosting company has a similar option is to contact them directly via their online chat or tech support number. Most hosting companies will be more than happy to walk you through the process of installing WordPress, including how to make a backup of your website before making the move.
If your hosting company doesn’t offer this option, and you don’t want to hassle with moving to a new one, you can always hire a developer to set up WordPress for you. Once again, this is much easier than it used to be. For less than $100, you can find a developer on Elance to create a back-up of your existing site and install WordPress for you. The good news is that, once WordPress is installed, you can manage pretty much everything yourself. So, you shouldn’t need to pay a developer for much, beyond the initial installation.
Step 2: Choosing a Theme
You might be surprised by how many of the websites you visit on a regular basis are built on WordPress. From The New Yorker to Time.com, serious companies and small businesses use WordPress to manage their online presence and you can too. And, with 1000’s of themes available, each one with numerous customization options, it’s easy to create a website that represents your unique brand.
There are quite a few websites out there that specialize in selling WordPress themes. The one that I have used to find themes for my websites is Themeforest. You can download themes for as little as $3, but, in my experience, the best themes are in the range of $35 – $55. There are quite a few options available, so, take your time choosing the one which is perfect for your business.
Before you decide on a theme, it makes sense to write a list of the functionality that you need for your site. Do you sell items directly to consumers? Look for eCommerce themes. Are you an artist of photographer? Search for “portfolio” themes. Regardless of the specifics, make sure that your theme is “responsive” (most modern themes will be). Responsive themes automatically adjust to the size of the screen that your visitors are using, so, your site will look amazing on a computer, iPhone or tablet.
Once you purchase your theme, you will be able to download the files that you will need to install on your WordPress site. These will come in a downloadable “zip” file. One quick tip – sometimes you will be given the option of downloading “all files” or just the “installable WordPress file.” The “zip” file that you will need to upload to WordPress is the “installable” file. It’s easy to miss this the first time.
Once you have downloaded your theme files, it’s time to install them on your WordPress site. WordPress has an excellent tutorial of how this process works, so, I’m not going to repeat it here. If everything goes to plan, you should be able to add your new theme files in just a couple of minutes.
Step 3: Adding Your Content to Your New Site
One of the main advantages to using WordPress is that it gives you the ability to manage content yourself, without needing to involve a developer. In my experience, adding new blog posts is the easiest part of the process. Once again, WordPress provides plenty of free information to help you understand how to add posts to your site.
The only part of the process that can be a bit tricky is customizing your homepage (the main page of your site.) This is because some themes have their own way for determining which posts should be “featured.” If you feel comfortable, you can always use the documentation that comes with your theme to figure this part of the process out on your own. Or, you can hire a developer to teach you how to do it. Notice I said “teach you how to do it” and not “do it for you.” In my experience, it doesn’t cost any more on an hourly basis to have a developer from Elance walk you through the process. For a one time investment of $25 – $50, you’ll be customizing your homepage like a pro in no time.
Another key aspect of adding content to your site is making sure that everything that you post is visually appealing. Most modern themes only look their best when you add images to your posts and pages. The good news is that this doesn’t have to cost you a penny. There are plenty of sites that you can use to download free images for use in your posts. For example, Dreamstime offers a collection of free, searchable images as does Freeimages.com. A quick Google search for “free images for website” should give you dozens to choose from.
Or, if you want a more professional solution, with plenty of images and fewer hassles, you can choose to go with an option like Shutterstock. They’re expensive, but, their images are high-quality and really make an impact.
Step 4: Making Sure People Can Find Your Site with SEO
As I wrote in a previous post, SEO (search engine optimization) doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you almost certainly don’t need to hire an outside specialist to make sure that people can find your site on Google, especially if you are using WordPress.
SEO is basically the process of making sure that Google knows that you content is credible and meets your customer’s needs. It’s that simple. The way that Google determines if your content is credible is by looking at how many links you are getting from high-quality websites. Then, it decides if your content is relevant by looking at the content itself to see if it matches what people are searching for.
The first thing that you want to do is make sure that you are writing about what people are searching for. This can be as simple as using Google’s own keyword planner tool. Once you know what people are searching for, you can customize your website title, description and other content elements. WordPress makes this easy. In most cases, it’s just a matter of finding the right field within the dashboard (main editing “hub” for your site.)
One of the main benefits to using WordPress is that it makes content marketing (using content to build relationships and sell) easy. But, writing content won’t help your business if no-one reads it. This is another reason that SEO is so important. Keyword research can help you to identify your potential customers’ problems so that you can provide solutions. For more information on how to apply SEO to your site, check out my article “Demystifying Blog SEO: The Only 4 Principles You Need to Know.”
Setting up a modern, well-designed, SEO-optimized website isn’t optional if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur or small business owner today. Unfortunately, far too many older entrepreneurs are still relying on out-of-date websites to represent their brands. This is a shame, because, in many ways, we are lucky. We can leapfrog out competitors and get on the latest technology without too much pain or expense. All it takes is a willingness to take the first step.
Are you still using a website that was set up over 5 years ago? What are your main concerns with regards to moving to a more modern solution? Have you recently moved your website to WordPress? What was your experience? Please join the discussion and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.