The 7 Habits of Highly Effective WordPress Publishers

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This summer, the world lost one of its most highly effective teachers. Stephen Covey died on July 16, 2012, age 79.

Covey will be remembered as a transformative thinker on leadership and personal effectiveness. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, and will continue to be, one of the greatest instruction manuals for personal productivity and growth ever written.

Today’s post is a respectful homage to his most lasting legacy — those 7 habits.

And since we focus on WordPress around here, that’s what we’ll apply them to.

So, in honor of the late, great Stephen Covey, here are the seven habits of highly effective WordPress users.

1. Be proactive

Own your WordPress experience.

My favorite aspect of WordPress is how even a total HTML and design idiot like myself was able to become comfortable managing — and even customizing! — sites relatively quickly.

When I first launched Midwest Sports Fans, I did so simply to have a sandbox to play in and learn WordPress.

I quickly realized that themes and plugins were available to help me add to the site in ways I could otherwise never do. I also quickly learned that there were tutorials online for damn near anything I wanted to learn how to do myself.

This enabled me to go from a clueless and tentative new site owner to a confident one who felt empowered to create the WordPress experience I wanted for myself and my readers.

The beauty of WordPress is that anyone can do this. It just takes a proactive mindset.

2. Begin with the end in mind

Use WordPress as a tool for achieving your objectives.

What do you want to accomplish by launching a website?

The possibilities are endless. You just need to know which one of myriad possibilities you’re targeting.

Notice that Mr. Covey’s original habit does not read “Begin with the end in mind … and it can never be amended!”

Not even close.

Goals change. Objectives shift. Plans alter. Nimbleness is required.

But you have to at least have a potential end in mind to know which direction to start out in.

Launching a website can be daunting. Beginning with the end in mind will help you make the critical initial decisions — domain name, host choice, initial design — so you can get out the door confidently with your WordPress site.

3. Put first things first

Prioritize, plan, and evaluate your strategy.

Once you’ve committed to taking control of your web publishing experience and determined your objectives, the next step is to plot a course of action. This is where determining and adhering to priorities is so important.

Remember that the greatest strengths of WordPress can also be its greatest weaknesses. I wrote last week about how this applies to plugins, but there’s much more area to cover.

For example, if your website will be focused on displaying high-resolution photographs then having a robust, photo-centric child theme from the get-go will be important. If, however, your site is copy-focused, then there’s no need to spend much time fretting about how photos are displayed.

Instead, time should be spent on setting up an editorial calendar that works or making sure Jetpack is installed to assist with proofreading and sharing.

The amount will differ, but we all have a finite amount of time that we can put towards our publishing endeavors. Prioritizing and planning will help make the time you do have more efficient.

4. Think win-win

Contribute actively to the online community.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my time online is that if you want to receive, you better learn to give, give, give — and then give a little more.

For example, when I wanted to gain exposure and credibility for MSF, I knew I needed to get links from bigger, more established sites. Simply emailing out links to articles didn’t get me very far.

But once I started linking to other sites first, and then sending an email to the site owner to commend him or her for writing a great post (without mentioning anything of my own), I found folks much more receptive to the links I’d send out in the future.

Pay it forward, as the cliched but relevant saying goes. It became a win-win situation as I promoted other sites, they promoted mine, and all boats rose.

The concept can be applied to your site’s own community.

If someone comments on your blog, that’s a win for you. If you respond to your commenter, especially if you answer a question or provide additional insight, it’s a win for the commenter. This will encourage other people to comment, which is a snowball you most certainly want to get rolling.

And the concept works specifically in regard to WordPress too.

So many great plugins are available for free or for small fees that provide real value for the people who use them. Donate to the plugin developer, link to them, thank them publicly … do something to show appreciation for their contributions to the open source community that makes WordPress special.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Have a customer-focused mentality.

Anyone who reads Copyblogger regularly, and who’s been following Brian Clark’s latest online venture Entreproducer, knows about the importance of listening.

Brian teaches that you should build an audience before (and while) you build your business, because that audience will help you determine what direction the business should ultimately go in.

Even if you’re never going to sell a tangible product or service through your website, you are still selling a product to your readers. That product is your content and your ideas — and by extension, you.

By understanding what your audience wants, you can create content that provides real value and a design that complements it.

WordPress makes the content publishing and design part of the equation easy, but you have to bring the focus on the customer to the table.

6. Synergize

Combine competencies and conquer.

I’ve already mentioned how wonderful WordPress is from the perspective of encouraging proactivity and enabling simple, productive learning. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you need to do everything on your own.

For example, if you want to have a high-performance site with great security, generic hosting just won’t do. But do you have the skills or knowledge to manage your own VPS? Would you even have time to if you did?

This is why people opt for premium managed hosting.

You do what you do best — run your business, while we do what we do best — run and protect your site.

That’s synergy.

Sure, there are enough WordPress-related tutorials online to teach you how to do almost anything. But at the point where learning and implementing the lesson creates negative value because of the time it takes away from your core activities, it makes sense to synergize.

The true cost of things is not always obvious.

Be smart about how you implement synergy into your web publishing strategy, but certainly don’t be afraid.

7. Sharpen the saw

Balance and renew resources and knowledge.

WordPress is constantly growing and developing, which means any site owner should do the same.

For example, with each new WordPress update come new built-in features that you should know how to use.

There are always new lessons to learn, skills to acquire, or partners to team up with … and if you’re proactive, objective-focused, and prioritized, and if you think win-win and listen, then you can be in a constant process of moving your website forward as an ever-improving tool for achieving your business goals online.

Got anything to add to this list? Drop it in the comments …

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Reader Comments (39)

  1. says

    No doubt wordpress is the best platform for bloggers to enhance their writing skills and to become a Successful blogger
    It has unique features that no one else have.

  2. says

    Your organization here is perfect for WordPress or any platform, a solid guide to build the kind of site you really want. You discuss being proactive and starting with the end goal, which is the fastest method to move in the right direction.

    You cannot be stationary, but you should not wander either. WordPress is powerful incrementally, so that you can begin immediately, with a strong goal, building and growing as time goes on. WordPress allows for this: movement toward a large goal with small steps.

    Sharpening your saw protects you from growing stagnant at whatever level you are right now, so you provide good advice for the veteran. WordPress is not perfect, but it certainly allows you to continually progress to a new level. Thank you for the advice that allows us to get to work.

    • says

      Thank you for the comment Darin. And you make a good point about WordPress being imperfect. It is. It’s a tool, with strengths and weaknesses, as opposed to some type of panacea. It’s still the person behind the WordPress site that is the most important element of all.

  3. says

    I think the two biggest things that have made a difference for me when it comes to WordPress publishing are:

    *A blog isn’t a business, and
    *The “Schedule” button is better than sliced bread

    Simply publishing posts to a WordPress blog isn’t going to make you money (unless you’re playing the long-odds end game of building a large enough audience to support either paid advertising or an eventual buy-out by a media company). Instead, a blog is a tool that can be used to build relationships with your audience members – though if you want to make money from those connections, there needs to be some other product or service in your sales funnel.

    And the “Schedule” ahead button has saved my ass more times than I can count. Having a few months’ worth of content pre-loaded means that I don’t get behind on my publishing calendar when I get busy (or when I’m just feeling lazy). It’s a far better approach for me than scrambling to finish last minute posts when deadlines have already passed :)

    Thanks so much for the great tips!

    • says

      Great points Sarah! In fact, that is one area I need to get better at myself: planning ahead and creating a content schedule. I love the process of sitting down and creating content, but I’m not always the best planner/organizer. It’s the next step in my development as a blogger. Have to sharpen that saw a bit. 😉

  4. says

    “But you have to at least have a potential end in mind to know which direction to start out in.”
    Completely agree with you on that one. If you don’t know where you want to go than any campaign you create will ultimately end up spinning it’s wheels. Your goals can change, but you at least need to make some!

    • says

      Absolutely! It’s like getting in a car without knowing your destination. You’ll go somewhere…but it’ll take you longer than it should and probably won’t be the best destination or the one you really want to arrive at.

  5. says

    As a website designer/developer, I always set folks up on WordPress for a lot of the reasons you’ve stated. Plus, it’s incredibily easy to use for everyone involved and the expansion capabilities for even the novice user are practically endless. While Drupal and Joomla may be the preffered platforms for many developers, it seems the average user has a much easier time managing the WordPress dashboard and the WordPress community continues to do an incredible job of maintaining the usability of the software.

    • says

      I have found this myself Jose. Any CMS is daunting at first for people who are unfamiliar with managing and maintaining a website. But WordPress seems to be the one, especially out of those you mentioned, with the shortest learning curve.

    • says

      As a developer myself, I suspect recent improvements in the WordPress core with respect to coding practices are going to attract a lot more developer attention. The code up until recently has been a bit difficult in places, but that’s changing fast, which is really cool. This is necessary for enabling WordPress as a general application platform: a good platform is turning into a great platform!

  6. says

    Great points, Jerod. I liked the point “Begin with the end in mind”. Before launching a blog or site you must have clear focus or vision in mind. Most of us just launch a blog just because every one in you circle have one and you don’t want to get isolated. Since it’s a daunting task, one must have clear objectives before launching a blog.

  7. says

    I also like the idea of begin with the end in mind. Do you want people to call, register for your newsletter, buy – what is the goal. Keep in mind you have 3 seconds to get someone to stay or go, and if they go they rarely come back. So it doesn’t have to be STUNNING, but the site does need to look professional!

  8. says

    Thanks for this. I am new to this game and sometimes my own inherent ability to understand Internet etiquette fails. There are some things I see others do that bug the heck out of me, so I don’t do it (like post a blog link on someone else’s blog or FB wall). Then there’s other things, like posting a link to my own blog in a comment, that I wasn’t totally sure about. Thanks for the help out!

    • says

      Haha, did I do that? 😉 The general rule with links is that if the link will provide important additional information/context for the reader, then it’s relevant, whether it’s to your own site or anywhere else. So long as you do that, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with you linking to your site for reference.

  9. says

    Thanks a lot for this useful Article,I have started with Joomla then landed on Drupal and finally WordPress.I recommend WordPress to bloggers who just want to focus on their content and everything else WordPress manges it for you.

  10. says

    Dope post “Keep The End in Mind” I think that is super important. Having a compelling intention about where you want to be makes doing the work everyday so much easier. I have been battling with this issue for sometime now, but I am finally know what direction I want to take and who I want to help. What about you?

  11. says

    Great article. I’m always amazed by what I can do with WordPress. It also reminded that Stephen Covey’s book is on my list of books to read over the holidays.

  12. says

    Great Post! Having the end in mind will help answer the questions that always seem to come up when looking at themes, plugins, etc. Just because you can load it on your site, doesn’t mean you should.

    I recently migrated to WordPress from Blogger, and I am hooked for life. I also have some experience with Joomla/Mambo, and WordPress tops them by far for ease of use and functionality. I would whole-heartedly recommend WordPress to any blogger. Along with a link to this post. Great job!

  13. says

    I totally agree with you on this “The greatest strengths of WordPress can also be its greatest weaknesses”. Plug-in does fantastic job, but if you are not careful enough you might end up flooding your blog with plug-ins. I am currently using 11 plug-ins and it has being a great fight for me to slash them down. They all seems to be very useful bet it is also affecting the performance of my blog.
    My blog is still very new, and i am trying to build links, with reference to point four,( if you want to receive, you need to give to others) should i link to other blogs.

  14. says

    I like these 7 habits and decided to link one of my articles to this post. So far the best experience I have is connecting with others in the WordPress community – it gives me good sense of direction. Great article. Everything is well written.

  15. says

    Hi again Jarod,
    I re-read this post and one of the things I see over and over as a theme is asking myself the questions, what can I give, or do, for others through my blog. Frankly, I have not thought of that other than in great content or inspiration. But this post, as well as others, has helped me start to look beyond what I am doing now and find more ways to give…like syndicating other bloggers I really believe in and chatting them up on FB or other social networking sites. And I hope to do more in the future. Thanks for your inspiration to me!

  16. says

    Hey Jerod,

    nice article & way to go using Covey’s well known 7 Habits to write something compelling about copywriting. I like that you took the exact habits and related them to copywriting & did so very well. I did something similar, using the concept of 7 habits (though not the exact titles) for saving, i.e. The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Savers though I never realized that Covey had died.

    In most contexts, particularly business, I’d say #2 is the most important, however reading your article above and thinking about this in terms of copywriting, I’d have to say that 4&5 win hands down – i.e. it’s all about the person you’re writing for (which is hopefully the reader and not yourself).

    Interesting stuff…

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