Today I’m speaking with Syed Balkhi, founder of the awesome WordPress resource site WPBeginner. All their stuff is completely free and you’ll definitely want to sign up to their newsletter for lots of cool tips and tricks.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how someone so young has done so much already?
My name is Syed Balkhi, and I’m 22 years old. I run the largest free WordPress resource site WPBeginner and a very popular entertainment blog List25. I run a consulting company and we work with medium to enterprise level clients. I speak at about 10-12 conferences every year. The secret to my success is my passion and discipline. Most folks my age either have one or the other. You need to have both to get ahead.
What are the 3 biggest mistakes WordPress beginners make and what should they do instead?
The #1 mistake that I see WordPress beginners making is locking themselves out of their website. How? Well, they are trying to follow a tutorial from the web without knowing the basic syntax. While the built-in code editor in WordPress admin can be handy, it can also be dangerous for beginners. If you paste a code with wrong syntax in your functions.php, then you get locked out. My advice would be to use FTP and read our guide on how to paste snippets from the web.
Another fairly common mistake that we see WordPress beginners make is the choice in their platform. They don’t quite understand the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, and they end up going with WordPress.com because it was free. Only after signing up and wasting a few hours, they realize that they can’t add any plugins or do the things they want. “I don’t see the plugins menu in my admin panel” is one of the most common questions that we get.
Another very common mistake that I see beginners make is not backing up their WordPress site. When things break, they do not have a backup to restore their sites. In those cases, we cannot help much. We advise all of our users to get a backup solution in place. VaultPress and BackupBuddy are my favorite WordPress backup solutions.
Any advice for someone who wants to build career or business around WordPress?
The best advice I can give you is understand the value of “community”. You need to show respect to your users, your competitors, and everyone else in the community. The more value you add to the community, the more you will get back from the community.
What have been the direct and indirect benefits of giving away so much great content for free?
The main reason why I give away so much content is because I love helping people. There is nothing better than hearing the impact I can make on someone’s life or business. Here is an example email that I got from one user.
There are indirect benefits for giving away tons of great content. I get to try most latest WordPress plugins and themes for free. Plugin authors usually send us their plugins to test and give feedback. Somestimes, I know about those plugins months in advance before they go live. I also get to beta test some of the awesome plugins that gives our other sites an inherent advantage over competitors.
Another indirect benefit is the consulting clients that we get. WPBeginner is recognized as an authority site which helps us land bigger clients. It has also helped me land speaking gigs at various conferences.
There is also some monetary benefits from the advertising on the site
If you had to start again from scratch what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Create good content. That’s it. There is no secret sauce or trick. All authority sites create great content. The more value you add, the more you will get back. It’s that simple.
What do you do differently with your personal niche affiliate sites that you don’t do with WP Beginner?
On other niche sites, we do a lot of product reviews. On WPBeginner, we don’t do product reviews. We also focus on building a community on large sites like WPBeginner and List25. On other affiliate sites, those are created mainly for search traffic.
Which WP people should we all be following?
There are a lot of cool WordPress folks. I have a list of 57 people that I follow regularly. You can see that twitter list here.
What annoys you most about WordPress and/or the WP community right now?
I do not like the trend that Jetpack has started with invading the WordPress admin panel. They put the Jetpack menu above everything. Other plugins like All in One SEO Pack are following the trend. I think this can get out of control if every plugin author started doing that. Yes, I’m aware of the plugin called Menu Humility, but we shouldn’t require users to add another plugin just to get rid of that.
I simply don’t like plugin or theme authors invading my WordPress admin. There are a lot others that are doing this as well, but I don’t want to make this a bashing thread 🙂
WPBeginner also has lots of cool stuff for more advanced WP users – which content should users check out first?
WPBeginner has content for all level of users. If you are a beginner, then I recommend that you check out our WordPress videos and the Beginner’s guide section. For others, I recommend checking out our WordPress tutorials section.
Thanks Syed! For more information you can follow Syed on Twitter.