At BlogWorld and New Media Expo 2012 I had the opportunity to interview one of the speakers, Syed Balkhi, President of Awesome Motive Inc., about the importance of having a blog. His company owns WPBeginner, a free WordPress resource site, providing tips and tutorials for users of the WordPress content management platform. In my last post, I discussed the offerings of several exhibitors at BlogWorld. This video of our conversation was taped at the SocialChorus Interview Lounge in the exhibit area. Below the video is a follow-up interview I conducted with Syed by email.
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Your site WPBeginner contains excellent information and video tutorials for someone who is just starting out with a WordPress blog. Why did you create this site and what do you gain from it?
Thank you for the compliment regarding WPBeginner. It feels great to know that I have created something helpful for so many.
In early 2009, I decided that my design company would migrate all our clients to WordPress. After a while, I realized that we were answering the same questions over and over for our clients. I knew that we had to figure out an efficient way to handle this. My options were to create a PDF with all the frequently asked questions. Or I could create an online wiki, or community website, for our clients. That’s what I decided to do with WPBeginner.
At the time, most WordPress related sites were for developers by developers. In our site, we tried to offer resources for beginners from a beginner’s perspective. I noticed that my developer friends were sending their clients to the site. Within a short time we were getting thousands of page views and questions from readers.
Often our answers to those questions ended up becoming blog posts where we could share information with other readers. Soon I started seeing sites like Mashable, Smashing Magazine, and others start linking to our resources. Long story short, it became a trusted, authority website in the niche.
Not to be crass, but how do you make money when giving away so much content?
WPBeginner helped grow my web development business even further. Without planning to, we had evolved into what’s called a Freemium model. By giving away content we were able to build our reputation and start charging people for more customized services.
We started working with clients that I would never have imagined — Fortune 500 companies. Aside from consulting and work-for-hire, we do make money from advertisements and affiliate commissions from the products that we recommend.
In viewing the videos, I wonder whether there is enough description for a true WP newbie? What if someone needs more personal hand holding?
One of our biggest struggles is deciding how technical to get in the videos. There are users at all levels. Our videos do a pretty good job explaining the WordPress dashboard and the basic features. If someone needs personal hand holding, we do offer WordPress consulting. More businesses are using the WordPress platform instead of static websites so if you’re someone starting out on WordPress, your own IT consultant can no doubt help you, too.
What are some of the blogs you’ve helped to design?
We have designed the blogs for Mercer, BuySellAds, Webs Inc., Milo, ContactMe, CrazyEgg, Flowtown, and many others.
What do you feel are the two or three most important issues that a new blogger should know about?
I think the single biggest mistake that beginning bloggers make is having the wrong setup. They start out with a blog that’s too complicated and with too many bells and whistles. Get yourself familiar with the platform. Then you can add special landing pages, pop-ups, etc. We can get a new blogger started with our Free WordPress Blog Setup.
Also, folks often don’t know the plugins to use. There are literally thousands of plugins. People add many that they never use which slows down a site’s loading time. And some plugins are not reliable. (Note, plugins add functionality to a blog such as blocking spam or optimizing SEO). So we’ve created a page, or blueprint that lists all the tools and plugins that we recommend.
Next, many bloggers think it is about how frequently you write. I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. I would much rather write one really kick-ass post per week than write one low quality post per day. No matter what you do, be consistent. If you write one post a week, then do that. If you write one post day, then do that. But make sure it’s a quality post.
Lastly, please do not automate your social media. I see a lot of new bloggers try to automate their social media by automatically publishing their posts on Twitter and facebook. Take your time to engage with your audience.
Would you agree that even an experienced blogger needs occasional support from an IT consultant? I know that I do.
Of course, everyone needs an IT consultant at some point. Just because you are an experienced blogger does not mean that you are a server admin, a PHP developer, a graphic designer, or can master HTML code. We can help or find an IT consultant who excels at the WordPress platform.
Why do you think it’s important for a business to have a blog?
I think of blogs as the heart that pumps the blood to social media outlets. I often see corporations relying on press releases and mentions in other well-known publications. However that is a short-term plan that leaves your company vulnerable in the long term because you are always dependent on someone else’s audience. Having a blog allows you to attract new users and create your own loyal fan base.