WordCamp Boston 2015: Sessions for every WordPress user

WordCamp BostonI had the most amazing opportunity to attend WordCamp Boston last month, and I gained some high quality information. As a student who operates a blog that isn't a commerce website in any capacity (shameless self-plug, sorry about it), a lot of these topics weren't necessarily directed toward me, but I found that there was a lot of pertinent information that you can really boil down and apply to any website or blog. Here's the briefest of brief tips and tricks that I gathered, and don't worry, I hyperlinked like crazy so you can follow along to anything that interests you. I'll break it up into the panels I attended.

Day 1

Visibility = Opportunity (Keynote by Bobbie Carlton)

First of all, Bobbie Carlton is pretty cool. She has her own PR/marketing firm, which brings an interesting perspective to the website/blogging universe. How do you really, truly get people to see your site? She had an awesome circus analogy that I'm sure I'll butcher, so I won't attempt to recreate it, but here are some of the points she brought up:

  • Advertise before you drop your site, or before you do something big, like a promotion. You could even apply this for something like promoting a podcast before you release it, or even a post that you're really excited about. Get people excited about your content before it even goes up. Then they're even more likely to check out the content, even if it's just from hype alone.
  • But, how and where do you advertise? In today's day in age, social media is the ultimate answer. Take control of your social media, and utilize the platforms that work for you. It is the most powerful advertising tool you have!
  • Get your name out there! While you should use social media platforms you're comfortable with in the beginning, to really promote the visibility of your website/blog, try to get your name out there on as many platforms as you can. You open yourself to a totally different audience on Twitter than you would on LinkedIn, for example, and if your articles are relevant to both, make sure they're visible to both!
  • Events and newsletters are great ways to grow an audience.

As a fun side note, also check out Mass Innovation Nights if you're in the Boston area — it sounds like such an amazing opportunity to get engaged within the local community, which is the great way to build an audience. If you're selling a product, this as a great community to be a part of! Also, Bobbie brought up Innovation Women, which is sounds super cool as well.

How Much Can I Charge? Pricing Isn't Just a Number (Adam Juda)

Adam Juda works with selling software, so many of his points weren't exactly relevant to my tiny little blog, but there were some great points to bring up about charging for services (like, if you're a freelancer, etc.).

  • People charge different amounts for different products or services because they have different goals. Sometimes they're trying to make a maximum profit, sometimes they're trying to penetrate the market, sometimes they're trying to satiate the market (if you are one of the bigger contenders in your field and don't want smaller companies to penetrate your business), and sometimes they're going for maximum liquidity. It all depends on what kind of a business you are!
  • In order to effectively price your services:
    • Think about the problem you're solving and "dollarize it." Put a value on the service or product that you're distributing and explain to people how it is saving them money by doing it your way, or why their money is worth going toward your product.
    • Find a product/service that you can create for not a lot of money and sell it for more money than it takes for you to make it. Seems simple, but it's something you should always keep in mind!
    • Offering a "free tier," or limited access to certain products/services for free that then require an upgrade, is a great way to build a customer base.
    • Essentially, price where people will take you seriously. Don't price too low or too high. Check what your competitors are pricing their goods and services at, and factor that in with what you're spending to produce those products and the quality of your products.

All in all, not incredibly applicable to my Disneyland blog, but definitely applicable if I wanted to freelance in the future.

Conversion Rate Optimization 101 — How to Kickstart Your Growth (Chris Edwards)

Essentially, this was all about A/B testing, which is incredibly important. Check out a thorough definition here, but it's being able to alter certain parts of your blog/website to increase traffic flow to certain pages, cause more people to click "subscribe," or to buy more of your product. Basically, you want more people to do something, and there are certain features of your site that you can tweak to do this. You can find out what to tweak by usability testing and surveying, and you can test the tweaks in A/B testing. (Please, read the article for a more thorough and eloquent explanation.) CRO (conversion rate optimization) is when you want to create a higher volume of traffic, just to be clear.

  • Always be in the CRO mindset; don't wait until there's a problem with traffic.
  • Don't test just to test. Test with a goal in mind — more users to a certain page, for example.
  • Think of all the tests you want to perform, but, most important, perform them one at a time. If you make multiple changes, you'll never know which change prompted people to click!
  • Collect the data. Recommended applications were Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, and MixPanel.
    • Test pages that have lots of traffic, usually around 2000-3000 visits within a week or month. That's how long your test should last!
    • You want to test things like buttons, images, and layouts.
  • Qualitative data is important too. You can create surveys that are given to your users, which give you more insight as to WHY they're making their decisions. Recommended applications were Qualaroo and Olark.
  • Usability testing, usability testing! Recommended applications for testing your average user were the following: UserTesting and Crazy Egg, which is cool because it can show you where your users move their mouse across your webpage.

Chris raised such a great point — you want to figure out how to make your site as heavily trafficked as possible. You want to draw people in and get them to purchase your product/service, sign up for your newsletter, or even just visit a certain page or post that you're particularly proud of.

Mission-based WordPress (Michael McWilliams)

If you're interested in creating a website for a nonprofit organization (which would be quite similar to something on Emerson's campus, perhaps?), then this was definitely the panel for you.

  • Non-profit websites need to be easy to manage, have a very modest learning curve for users and creators, look lovely to users coming to the site, be available on mobile, and be low cost.
  • You should be sure to get the board of directors on board with the project; otherwise you may not get the support you need.
  • A staff should be dedicated to the website. It's great as a hobby, but people are going to want to contact your organization and interact with your website, meaning it should be someone's job to understand the website and be able to address questions and concerns.
  • Build fundraising into the initial design! Don't tack it on afterward. You want it to be as seamless as possible for the average user.
  • Integrate your social media in smoothly. You want people to know be able to engage with you on social media — it'll help promote your cause, and make it easier for people to talk about and share your cause.
  • Keep your website current! Update your statistics, and, preferably, run a blog talking about your organization/happenings that your audience would be interested in. Also, make sure you are urgent; your cause needs to be addressed by the audience now.
  • Have a clear and engaging homepage with easy navigation. The landing page is crucial, hooking users from the beginning.
  • It should boldly call people to action, connecting problems that are out there to solutions that you (the organization) can provide.
  • Have a thank-you page that pops up when people donate, sign up for your mailing list, or take other action! This is crucial. Use it to link to other things people can do to help your cause; links to your social media pages are good here!
  • Infographics are your friend! But make sure they are updated and easy to use. Here are some fun generators: am, Easel.ly, and Piktochart.
  • Utilize a blog on your website! Story telling is an incredibly effective way to engage your audience and garner more support for your cause.

I know that I'll be utilizing these tips on some of the webpages I help host for organizations at Emerson! (Ugh, sorry, shameless plugging again.)

A Better Individual Experience (Jesse Friedman)

This panel was basically talking about a new theme that's in development that will focus on blog content, not fancy, flashy websites. Content is and always will be king of websites, your site should be accessible on mobile and desktop (and preferably create for mobile, since many people are just using that anyway), infinite scroll is beautiful, and use tags and categories. Another cool feature they're developing is the ability to mark posts as read or unread, which could help direct people toward certain posts. If you want to learn more, go here.

Day 2

Smaller, Faster Websites (Keynote by Mat Marquis)

This was a lovely speech, but since I'm not as immersed in CSS, a lot of this went way over my head. Here are a couple of good points I gleaned from the presentation:

  • Many people only have access to the Internet on mobile, and they pay per kilobyte, so we should be concerned with making websites smaller. Few pages, less stuff to sift through before getting to what's really important.
  • Right now, the biggest thing that's eating up data is images.
  • They are developing this cool, new coding that would allow for images to be resized based on the network that you're on and the data you want to use. You could decide whether or not you want high quality or low quality images, which could allow you to go to any website to just look for content and not be bogged down by features that are just slowing the website and bulking up your data usage.

This sounds pretty revolutionary. They said it may be incorporated into future versions of WordPress, so stay tuned.

Blogging for Business (Amy CQ)

This goes back to the same principle as the freelancing/non-profit/organization websites. This panel was meant for people who have a website for a business, but want to incorporate a blog, which is great for growing and maintaining an audience.

  • You want your blog posts to be helpful to clients, even after they've purchased your product.
  • Your posts can also be educational, telling your audience about new trends or ideas in your field, allowing you to become a trusted resource.
  • You want your posts to also be interesting, bringing readers back to look for more that you have to say.
  • Writing is hard, but you don't necessarily need to write well. You just need to write often.
  • Have an editorial calendar for your posts! Make sure that you know what content you want to put out on what days every month. Maybe you write all your posts in advance and schedule them, or maybe you write them the day you say you want to post them. Either way, it helps you make more of a commitment to yourself to actually write and helps give you structure.
  • Your blog posts aren't about you, they're about your audience. Write for them, replacing the word "I" with the word "you" whenever possible.
  • Don't use a whole bunch of technical jargon, especially if your audience isn't a bunch of your peers. If people are buying your product and don't know anything about it, you want to explain things in the simplest of terms so that everyone can be on the same page.
  • Listen to what people are asking in your industry. How can your product fill a need there? Can you relate jabber on social media to your topic, or make yourself relevant to current events? Do it!
  • Use categories and tags for your posts, always! It helps readers find more related content that they're interested in.
  • Be consistent! Using an editorial calendar helps, but post as regularly as you can. You want your website to be current, and by keeping your blog updated, it shows potential clients that you're active and engaged.

I definitely am taking the advice about the editorial calendar! It's also reassuring to hear that you don't necessarily need to write well, especially at the beginning. As writing on a schedule becomes more natural, your writing will become better as well. You'll be more targeted to your audience!

How to Create Outstanding Content

Basically, how do you write content that people want to come back for? This was another panel that was targeted more toward the business owners, but many points apply:

  • You want to persuade people that your blog/website is the crucial resource that they should rely on for some form of information.
  • You need to be social media savvy! (See a trend here?)
  • You want people to read your writing and understand how that feels. Telling stories is very powerful. Evoking emotion is very powerful.
  • Give information that is not necessarily available elsewhere, or provide a new perspective on information that is available that your readership will want to know about.
  • Write with "sensory zest" — hit all five senses so people will be able to really become absorbed in your story.
  • Use simple language. Writing with lofty and elegant language may turn readers away, especially if you're writing for a broad audience. You want to be approachable and easy to understand.

All good tips, and things that I wouldn't necessarily have thought about before when writing for a blog in particular. Writing to tell stories has been mentioned before, but this really brought the point home in a poignant way.

Final Thoughts

Overall, WordCamp was an awesome experience! Not only did I get a killer t-shirt, but I got to see so many cool panels and talk to so many cool people. It was really an opportunity that I was so excited to get, and it really made me even more passionate about my blog. What's important to understand is that websites are important to so many industries and majors — all majors at Emerson could benefit from the study of the creation of websites. Whether it's building a website to promote your personal portfolio or understanding the website of the company you work for, websites and the internet are (obviously) the way of the future. For WLPs in particular, this is a cool, new tool that can be used in so many different ways. Even though the panels may not have entirely applied to me, there were valuable bits of information at every single one, which have given me ideas for the future and inspiration for the now.

Talking with Ryan Bradley, features editor of Words Apart

Words ApartAriana Colozzo interviews Ryan Bradley, features editor and editor-in-chief emeritus at Words Apart, an online magazine that addresses issues such as social privilege, mental health, cultural feminism, and more. How do the editors choose which topic to theme each issue around? And how do they address these issues in ways that are respectful, diverse, and engaging? Find out in this week's podcast.

This interview was recorded on April 13, 2015.

Talking with Tau Zaman, freelance graphic designer

Tau ZamanPatrick Prendergast chats with Tau Zaman about what to keep in mind when starting a freelance career as a graphic designer.

This interview was recorded on April 13, 2015.

Talking with Sarah Platanitis of MassLive

Sarah PlatanitisLauren Milne talks with Sarah Platanitis, a producer, editor, writer, and blogger for MassLive, about story selection, coordination, and scheduling. On her own time, Platanitis also manages the the Women & Food Project, an interactive storytelling exhibit that combines food with photography.

This interview was recorded on April 14, 2015.

Talking with Heather Butterfield, BenBella Books editor

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/heather-butterfield/15/443/a3aMarissa Fritz talks with Heather Butterfield, editor at BenBella Books, about publishing vegan cookbooks, running a website in WordPress, email marketing with MailChimp, and more.

This interview was recorded on April 16, 2015.

Talking with Quinn Cohane, Product Manager at Her Campus Media

Quinn CohaneMegan Shuffleton chats with Quinn Cohane, Product Manager at Her Campus Media, about the career path that led her to Her Campus; online publications and the technical side of the online publishing industry; and how Her Campus uses such tools as Drupal, Pantheon, GitHub, a knowledge base (KB), and more.

This interview was recorded on April 2, 2015.

Talking with Curtis Perdue, editor of inter|rupture

Chris PerdueRachelle Martin chats with Curtis Perdue, editor and creator of the online art journal inter|rupture, which publishes poetry that "aims to startle and assault the current by providing readers with emerging and established artists who crave discovery". In this interview, they discuss the nature of publishing art online, adapting online art to print editions while remaining free online, the interaction with reading series, and more.

This interview was recorded on April 15, 2015.

Talking with Caitlin Cooke, Destructoid writer & GitHub recruiter

Caitlin CookeJared Ettinger chats with Caitlin Cooke, recruiter for GitHub and writer for Destructoid.com, about games writing, joining an online game community, using visuals accurately and effectively, how she switches between the different kinds of writing her two jobs require, and the aesthetic that defines her writing styles.

This interview was recorded on April 7, 2015.

Talking with Farah Joan, Intellectual Property Manager at Cengage Learning

Farah JoanBrittany Santos chats with Farah Joan, intellectual property manager at Cengage Learning, about e-books, content licensing, and the unique properties of e-books in a world adjusting to the potential of this technology.

This interview was recorded on April 20, 2015.

Talking with Katie Sherman, Beacon Press production assistant

Katie ShermanNatalie Hamil talks with Katie Sherman is a production assistant at non-profit book publisher Beacon Press. In this interview, Sherman discusses how an education at Emerson College prepared her for e-book production how an e-book's design and production is decided to be outsourced or produced in-house at Beacon Press and MIT Press; and the value of having a companion website dedicated to individual books.

This interview was recorded on April 1, 2015.

This American Life

I've never really gotten into podcasts. Usually because I always prefer to listen to music. My only experience with them was a couple Italian language learning podcasts before I went to Italy and one news broadcast, both of which I quickly got bored of. Because of that, I never explored all the different kinds because I didn't think I'd be interested in them. I barely even have time to watch any TV, and so I felt like I couldn't waste an hour listening to a podcast. I also don't particularly like non-musical audio. If something is going on, I want to see the visual, and I've never liked listen to books because people tend to read out loud slower than I would. Even though I wouldn't have a book in front of me if I were listening to a audio book or podcast, that similarity between the two just kind of turned me off to them.
I downloaded Stitcher and started browsing through their popular podcasts and some literary podcasts. In my search, I found This American Life. Each episode is a based around a theme or issue that all American's face. For example, the most recent episode was called, "Need to Know Basics," which is about what information is acceptable, not acceptable, and necessary to make public. Each episode follows the same basic format: the prologue includes a personal anecdote and then there are between one and four acts, generally different guests.

Sometimes, they create the theme of the episode based on current events or issue in the United States. Two recent podcasts were about how American's view cops in light of the recent race struggles. Other stories are about regret, inspiration, and just some very odd, but entertaining stories.