Migrating TO WordPress from Squarespace

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A while back I had posted some of the results and experience I had gotten moving my blog from WordPress to Squarespace. And it’s a painful process moving each individual post because it rarely comes over cleanly. While Squarespace definitely had a huge advantage from a design perspective, over time I realized what it could and couldn’t do, well. Flash-forward to October 2015 and I’ve decided now to move my blog BACK to WordPress. Given how much work any of these migrations are, why in the world did I feel compelled to take on this project?

I had done my research on web hosting platforms and Squarespace had gotten good reviews online across the board as being very mobile responsive and SEO-friendly. Even Internet luminary Rand Fishkin had pimped out Squarespace as a great web platform so in I go. At $20 a month it was significantly more expensive than a good hosting account and your elbow grease but it seemed worth it. I did my migration in February of 2015 and it was pretty painful. While I was able to pull over the text content, images and pictures were tricky and I had to re-insert them after the fact. And there were some additions I needed to make around social media sharing and rich snippets to get micro-data into my posts. That being said, I was able to get 95% of my WordPress functionality and features into Squarespace which had the additional benefit of lower maintenance and expertise needed.

But over time, I noticed the organic traffic for my blog went flat or dropped. I had expected a drop when I migrated the domain name and platform over to Squarespace but historically, my blog had increased traffic year over year for the previous three. I hoped that after a 3 month transition period, the organic traffic would pick its momentum back up and move forward as expected. Unfortunately, it never materialized even though I rebuilt all the features and tuned the blog for SEO as best I could. Can I point to any specifics that prevented my blog growth on Squarespace. Not in particular but that’s what makes SEO black magic and an art. I don’t think there are MANY people who really know EXACTLY what to do because the rules are constantly changing as is your audience (market). But in general, I do believe there are best practices and it primarily works around putting out great and relevant content.

So in October 2015 I decided to move my blog back to WordPress after 10 months on Squarespace. And my goal is to keep it on WordPress! However for my WordPress 2.0 efforts, I did have some learning points to grow from. I purchased a professional template from Studiopress and Design Palette Pro which would give me many ease of use tools for the blog. There were definitely some learning points from Squarespace that revolve around responsive design and my goal was to have the best of both worlds: a fully customizable blog platform with a great-looking, well-designed blog framework that was relatively easy to use and maintain, phew!

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But I am so glad to be back on WordPress! The migration process is still going on a year later and while it’s been painful, the future looks so much brighter on WordPress. I’ll be covering Squarespace to WordPress migration challenges and hurdles in a future post. But now that I’m back on WordPress, Google seems to better understand my website (see above SERP results) and I’ve added in some great features through the extensive WordPress plug-in library. Here’s to more and better moving forward!

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Add Balance to Your New Blog Through SEO, Design and Content!

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Like most marketing disciplines, launching and maintaining a blog is an act of balancing different needs with limited personal resources: your time and your brain-power! Do you spend your energy on writing content, improving design and usability of your blog platform or work on SEO and search engine needs? The answer as it usually is in marketing is: all of the above! But it really depends on where you are in the blogging life-cycle.

Over the past 8 years, I’ve probably written over 1,200 posts for my blog, my work blog and online communities. So as you can guess, I’m all about content. Without engaging, well-written and informative content, it will be hard to earn an audience. But the reality is that your focus as a blogger and marketer, will depend on where you are in the blog life-cycle!

 

For example, when you’re launching a blog, you have to initially focus on design and usability. The goals range from choosing the proper platform (WordPress, Squarespace, WIX, Tumblr, etc) to choosing a template. And the best way to choose a template and look and feel for your blog is to go check out other blogs! Visualize and imagine the type and variety of content you would like to produce and how you would like it presented. Because in my experience, once you’ve chosen a template, it’s never quite that easy to move to different templates, something always breaks. And changing platforms? Ouch, that’s a huge undertaking even with decent migration tools.

Now that you’ve got your platform and template, you’ll need to pick through the options for color palettes, fonts, text sizes, menus and more. You’re tuning your blog and brand presence to make it engaging and intuitively user-friendly. Think about a new reader hitting your blog, what’s the first impression they get on visit #1? And how do you encourage them to poke around and learn more about your content? It’s all about creating an engaging online brand presence that will clearly define your expertise in your chosen topic area. The goal is to give your reader an immediate understanding of your expertise and reassurance that you truly can help them learn more about that topic

Ok, you’ve got your platform, template and you’ve established a brand presence, now you need to start organizing and/or creating content. Whether you’re talking graphic images, logos, blog posts, quotes and more, you’ve got to start producing! Keep your content topics and themes pretty narrow to begin with as you start to establish your blog voice. Create a list of potential topics to write about and to get the wheels going, start drafting some pieces. You’ll find that your writing and blogging only gets better with time and practice. Hopefully you’ll eventually get into a writing rhythm and have lots of good content drafts with supporting quality graphics and images to show your expertise to your audience. And keep them coming back!

The next step after you’ve created a great online brand presence and started to create your content stream is to bring in organic search traffic. Most likely, a substantial portion (over 50% of your blog traffic) will come in from Google, Bing and Yahoo for users looking to learn more about your topic. The obvious goal is to rank on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to maximize visibility and click-through traffic.

You can create clickability by writing a pithy and catchy SEO title and description for your posts with use of engaging key words. This SEO specific meta-data is often written separately from what your reader will see ON the blog. You can also add micro-data/rich-snippets that will make your post stand out further with author information, a rating and much more. Search engines are focused on delivering the highest quality content and articles to their users. So your goal is to attract new followers and offer that helpful content once they click through. Ideally they are also sharing your content out to their friends and colleagues. Search engines are increasingly looking for social signals that your content is valuable! Social sharing, time on page, lower bounce rates and overall website traffic will help your posts rise up on SERP.

As you can see, there is a lot of work beyond just creating content and posting. While your core responsibility is to put out great content for your readers, better design and usability will engage readers more effectively and help them get value from your content. Tweaking your content for SEO means it will become more visible on search engines and once you deliver a great content experience, you will increase the visibility of your posts.

And that’s how you create a virtuous marketing cycle! Use SEO to maximize the visibility of your blog and content online, design a blog and website that’s easy and engaging to use, and then create great content that educates and assists readers. Ideally you’ll create a loyal readership that will help spread word about your website through social media and sharing which will improve your search engine rankings to bring in new readers.

And that’s not the end of it. Once your website is launched, you need to continually refine all of the three elements above when time and need dictate. Question and challenge yourself. Are you keeping things interesting for your reader? Are my graphic images engaging enough? Is my writing fresh or is it getting stale? Can I improve the menus and organization of my posts and information for readers? Can I maintain or increase the visibility of my posts on search engines when they change rules and algorithms on their side? The best way to improve your online presence is to see what other bloggers and content creators are doing online, there’s always room to improve!

I can tell you first-hand that creating great blog content and keeping your readers engaged is a never-ending commitment. And it’s a fun ride to deliver great and useful information to your audience on a regular basis. But in these days of online and digital marketing, the skills to engage your audience and influence them is a huge challenge but extremely rewarding. Respect your audience, write high quality content for them, make sure it ranks high on search and I’m sure you’ll do great with a loyal readership!

Ron Wen

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronwen

The Marketer’s Dilemma- A Tidal Wave of Technology

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In the world of professional marketing, time is typically one of the most limited resources. From customer meetings, sales enablement to competitive analysis, creating messaging and positioning, there’s no end to what a marketer can spend their time and energy on. But in the last 10 years, as marketing has moved to increasingly digital channels, our world has exploded into a tidal wave of technology. Platforms for marketing automation and a variety of other online marketing tools are becoming key revenue drivers for companies. Which recently prompted Gartner to make a very controversial prediction: By 2017, the CMO would out-spend the CIO on technology!

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Regardless of which side you fall on in that discussion, there’s no doubt that digital technology and channels are disrupting the way marketers engage and qualify prospects whether you’re talking about the B2B or B2C world. And as professional marketers rely on increasingly digital campaigns, it requires a whole new skill-set that not all marketers are prepared to master. Nor do they necessarily have the time to master! Given all the day-to-day activities and full calendars marketers typically have, how in the world are we supposed to keep up with the quickly evolving technology landscape?

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chiefmartec.com, a marketing technology blog has a fantastic graphic illustrating the diversity and breadth of vendors out there in this discipline. By Scott Brinker’s estimation (marketing technology blogger), there are over 1,800+ vendors in 43 categories, which is absolutely breath-taking. With the rapid growth of the marketing technology business (IDC estimates 12% CAGR growth and a $30 billion plus marketing technology industry by 2018), the ecosystem of companies in this technology segment range from big-hitters like Oracle, Salesforce.com, Adobe and Teradata to small start-ups.

And how does that busy professional marketer know where to even start when evaluating or learning about today’s B2B digital marketing? Especially when they’re already up to their neck in work and meetings?! That’s a fantastic question but I do think this widening gap between marketing tools and the expertise to understand and utilize them presents vendors a fantastic opportunity to educate their future customers. Hubspot and Marketo have already jumped in heavily on content marketing initiatives to educate and train their marketing audiences on the best digital marketing practices today. It’s the right thing to do for their customers and also the right thing to do for their organizations. Without the necessary digital expertise you may wind up in a marketing dead-end, see Adobe’s take on the marketing dilemma below!

And while this tidal wave of technology can be intimidating, professional marketers willing to get on top and ride this technology wave are positioning themselves, their careers and their organizations for the future. Even if you’re not a master of marketing automation or online marketing tools, you really need to understand the basics of how they can streamline and provide better decision-making in your marketing campaigns and strategies. And that is a requirement for everyone from the individual contributor to the CMO. Because while there are still questions as to whether the CMO will outspend the CIO in 2017, there is absolutely NO doubt that online and digital marketing will only increase its impact on the marketing profession for years to come…

Ron Wen

www.linkedin.com/in/ronwen

Squarespace versus WordPress

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For those of you heavily invested in blogging, the natural platform of choice is WordPress.  Free and easily customizable, WordPress gives you so many options in terms of creating the look, feel and functionality of your blog and website.  But after four years of managing my SMB blog which gets about 8,500 unique visitors a month, I moved over to Squarespace in April 2015.  And for the most part it has gone well with some caveats.  My goal was to have a simpler administrative experience so I could focus on content which is what I got.  But that wasn’t without some drawbacks on Squarespace.  Here’s how I see the two platforms…

Squarespace

Pro’s 

  • Easy to learn and use with an elegant interface
  • Visually well-designed templates, good for high-quality images
  • Built-in content delivery network with fast page-load speeds
  • Responsive design for our mobile visitors
  • e-Commerce engine and shopping cart built-in
  • Contact forms built-in
  • Automatic software updates that have gone through QA, easy to manage

Con’s 

  • Migration tool decent but imperfect, will require lots of hand edits to move over
  • No SEO description or title easily available for blog posts.  Impacts clickability of posts showing up on search engines
  • Social sharing limited and flat, recommend use of add-on
  • No media library, must upload image multiple times for re-use
  • Presentation of blog posts and drafts is columnar, not tabular.  Not easy to navigate with a large number of posts

WordPress

Pro’s 

  • Thousand’s of hosting options available at different companies, prices
  • Ton’s of template options but of varying quality
  • Huge library of plug-in’s for additional feature/functionality
  • Ability to get “under the hood” to edit your pages and posts
  • Easier to manage a large number of posts
  • Great statistics and metrics available as part of platform

Con’s 

  • Steeper ramp-up to learn interface and capabilities of platform
  • Need to update platform regularly and potentially break parts of website
  • Great choice of plug-in’s but of varying quality
  • Getting responsive mobile version to work properly can be tricky
  • If CDN needed, must manually add for heavy traffic websites

In the end, Squarespace is an excellent blogging platform for the price but just be aware of its limitations. If your website is image-heavy and you need an online store, Squarespace is an easy choice. However if you’re more about text content and SEO results are crucial for you to drive traffic, WordPress may still be a better choice. The ability to leverage WordPress’ vast library of plug-in’s to get exactly what you need and edit the blog post under the hood is a powerful advantage.  There’s no right answer when it comes to your website and blogging platform, just be aware of what you get and what you give up!

Ron

www.linkedin.com/in/ronwen