WordPress 3 for Business Bloggers Book Review & Giveaway

Book cover

I’ve been playing catch-up on the stack of books I’ve been meaning to read, and I’ve just completed reading WordPress 3 for Business Bloggers by Paul Thewlis. It might not seem like a title that would jump off the shelf for you or I, but I was intrigued by the title for the sake of my clients.

It’s discouraging for me to see a client not take advantage of a new and exciting website, especially when it’s built using a fresh install of an awesome content management system. It makes sense to build in the latest and greatest ways to publish content, but if nothing gets used it could very well achieve the same results if it were a static website.

I’ve been trying to expose myself to more assets that will give me a better angle in explaining WordPress to clients without intimidating them by offering technical details that aren’t truly necessary and exposing what they’re really after. I think WordPress 3 for Business Bloggers has a number of great topics to make sure filter down to your clients as you expose them to a shiny new WordPress install.

Content Outline

Chapter 1: A Blog Less Ordinary – What Makes a Great Blog?
I like that the book starts out on a realistic foot. It doesn’t ramble on and on about how “content is king” and leave it at that. It explains that producing an actively expanding site takes a lot of work in a crowded space, and it deserves the effort. The author gracefully moves into a brief overview of the main reasons a business would have a blog on its site. Naturally sections include items like ‘increasing sales’ but further the author outlines even better reasons for blogging. For example: raising awareness, showing expertise, and providing customer service. These are challenging areas as it’s quite easy to end up looking over agressive or appear to be obviously puffing up your content base. The chapter wraps up by outlining some of the many reasons WordPress is a great blogging platform for businesses.
Chapter 2: Introducing our Case Study – WPBizGuru
I’m a big fan of a running case study throughout a book, and I’m glad this author is too. Demonstrating the concepts outlined in a text are often the points at which things really click for me, and when dealing with a more technical subject like WordPress, a case study is a great decision. A careful analysis from a marketing point of view is offered on the company at hand, and some steps to take as we move forward are outlined as well.
Chapter 3: Designing your Blog
Some very introductory design patterns are discussed in chapter 3, outlining some common approaches to blog-like information architecture and why these implementations have proven to be successful. The author goes into detail about color, type, and accessibility before discussing various ways to implement your desired changes. While I have a definite bias, I’ve accepted that one of the most attractive features of WordPress for easy in-house customization. It’s nice that the author provides some detail on basic do’s and don’t’s when making changes yourself. This chapter actually gets more technical than I would have expected from a book with this title. After discussing design basics, the author spends a decent amount of time explaining CSS and how to write it, and moves into setting up a local development environment. He then outlines the process behind creating a new child theme based on Thematic for the ongoing case study. I think it’s great that this book touches on both CSS, local development environments, and child themes, but I might consider potential readers being overwhelmed at this point. There are at some points a series of full-page CSS rules used as examples, something I would surely be intimidated by as a first exposure to the technology.
Chapter 4: Images and Videos
A lot of technical information is reviewed in this chapter as well. It starts out by discussing image theory basics, and explains how images are not created equal and need to be optimized for the Web. This is surely important but a part of me stands behind WordPress doing a lot of the heavy lifting here when it creates the image sizes to be used on the front end. The author moves into customizing images in your theme via CSS and bridges that with the implementation of galleries using NextGEN. A ton of information is covered on image handling in WordPress, something likely very common for newcomers to want to do. This section also feels a bit overwhelming, the complexity of NextGEN contributes to that in a way. Contrast that with the section on video, which outlines WordPress’ auto-handling of YouTube embeds by simply pasting the URL to the YouTube page in an editor.
Chapter 5: Content is King
I realize I mentioned that this book didn’t parade around the phrase ‘content is king’ at the beginning and I really like that. I do, however, believe that content is king and I’m glad to see the book ease into the concept. The book discusses the concept of engaging potential readers with attractive headlines (i.e. link bait), content length, frequency of posts, and writing style. He continues by outlining the ways blogging can encourage exploration through the utilization of categories and tags. We again apply these techniques to the case study. I like that this chapter continues with a discussion of the static content pages on the site, something often ignored by advice of this type. The final section of this chapter outlines backing up your content. This is super important, but this is again a very technical concept that might deserve a different approach. Instead of suggesting one of the many plugin-based backup solutions, the author instead outlines how to perform a database backup/import via phpMyAdmin, a tool not commonly accessible by the average self-hosted WordPress site owner.
Chapter 6: Search Engine Optimization
Findability is still a hot topic, and it’s not going anywhere soon. There are still lots of things you can do to become more visible on a machine level and therefore increase your exposure. The author takes a step back and lightly explains the concept behind search engines as a method for you to optimize your content. Keywords, permalinks, and titles are big topics in this chapter, and rightfully so. Sitemaps, inbound link tracking, robots.txt, and SEO tools you can use to validate the actions you’re taking wrap up this chapter.
Chapter 7: Supercharged Promotion
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this chapter based on the title, but the goal is to explain syndication and how it can work to expose your site. Tools like Feedburner are covered in lots of detail, and the author then moves to social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as targets for your feeds. The last topic is social bookmarking and methods you can take to make that easier for your readers.
Chapter 8: Connecting with the Blogosphere
I love that the author touches on the importance of community in developing a successful blog of your own. Getting involved with your peers in a valuable way is one of the quickest ways to expose your content to more targeted people. Comments are a big section in this chapter, and the author discusses the benefits to comment systems and how to work with inevitable negative comments.
Chapter 9: Analyzing your Blog Stats
When it comes to business, one of the biggest acronyms to get tossed around is ROI, Return on Investment, and rightfully so. ROI is a cost benefit analysis surrounding your actions, in this case blogging. Thanks to WordPress being free and open source, the currency to discuss here is time. Researching the metrics of your site is going to give insight as to which actions resulted in the biggest ROI with the least time invested. Maximizing in these areas will be best for your business. Key performance indicators are outlined in this chapter, and explanation of metrics-oriented jargon is explained in full. Metrics system such as WordPress.com stats, Analytics, and Feedburner stats are outlined toward the end of the chapter.
Chapter 10: Monetizing your Blog
With this book being geared to business bloggers, this chapter can be taken with a grain of salt. If you’re a business, I don’t see monetezation of your blog content as an appropriate avenue for income generation. If you’re looking to start a blog as a business however, monetezation is at a certain point inevitable. There are of course edge cases, and the case study used throughtout the book is one of those. Having a blog as a method to obtain more sales for a book you’ve written shouldn’t prevent you from using an affiliate link to Amazon to increase revenue on book sales. AdSense integration and affiliate programs are discussed in this chapter. Integration with your WordPress site is outlined really well without getting too technical. Direct ad sales are also discussed, providing some insight into things like industry ad sizes, media packs, rate cards, and other concepts essential to direct ad sales.
Chapter 11: Managing Growth
Growth is by far the best problem to have, but it also requires that much more attention. Expansion is the focus of chapter 11, in which the author talks about keeing up with the workload, moving to other platforms (e.g. mobile) that now make more sense, and continues into detail about handling increased server load through WordPress caching plugins.

Overall reaction

I was surprised by WordPress 3 for Business Bloggers in a number of ways. I really liked the coverage and the pace of the book. I also (of course) liked that there was a case study used. There were points where I was taken aback by the technical detail reached, though. Those sections made up a big enough percentage of the book to bring it out of the ‘client recommendation’ level for me, but instead land in more of a ‘new WordPress consultant recommendation’ group. I would surely recommend the book to someone new(er) to WordPress, looking to become more familiar with how the application works on a more applicable level. There is also great information in the book that should be trickled down to clients, but in my opinion not directly. Instead I think this book is great for people who can act as a resource for their client by offering the information in their own words and be available to answer any additional questions that crop up.

Giveaway details

I’m really happy to be able to give away two ebook copies of WordPress 3 for Business Bloggers. Since they’re ebooks, entry will be simple: just leave a comment here indicating you’re interested in winning a copy, and I’ll choose two random winners. Entries will be closed at 11:59PM ET on February 23, giving you a few days to enter. Good luck!