In this interview I did with WordPress Evangelist Chris Lema, find out:
His #1 Tip for Blogging Success
Why WordPress is at Such a Critical Stage in Its Existence
How You Can Speed Up Your WooCommerce Site 50% or Even More
When it comes to WordPress and blogging, Chris Lema is the authority within the WordPress community. If you ever get the chance to attend one of his presentations, don’t miss out because his talks are always the most popular and most attended at conferences. In addition to working on his blog chrislema.com, Chris is also VP of Products at Liquid Web. They specialize in managed WordPress hosting. And now, Chris and his team have developed a new managed hosting product for WooCommerce.
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Chris, and I was very eager to get his take on blogging, the future of WordPress, and Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce solutions.
Web Hosting Cat: What’s your number one tip for bloggers that want to become as successful as yourself?
Chris Lema: It’s always hard to advise someone and say, “Hey if you do what I did it’ll work” because different people, different times, different dynamics. But I think the tip I give most people the most often and has the most power is: It’s all about consistency. So, if you’re going to say I write two times a week, then write two times a week. If you’re going to say I write four times a week, then write four times a week. But consistently deliver that because when you do, and when you create that consistent schedule that people can get to, you’re delivering trust. And that trust is what allows people then to say I’m going to read again, I’m going to read again. It means you get more content, but it also means they develop a trust for your voice and respect for you. So, I wrote seven days a week for three years straight. And, it’s what really kind of built my brand.
WHC: What changes have you seen in the blogging world since you started? Has your approached to blogging changed over the years?
CL: I think the biggest change is Google. Google’s model for understanding where authority comes from and who respects what and what they’re looking for has really shifted—for the better—to focus on user intent: What’s the user trying to do? But because of that shift to user intent, it’s shifted to topic clusters. So, I’m getting ready to launch chrislema.com all over again, and start writing more consistently there again after two or three years of taking it a little slower. And now, the writing is totally different because I have to write in clusters. You write one larger, not super long, but one larger topic point. But then, all these clusters around it that answer other slight variations of that question. So, if someone says, “Why should I be thinking about image compression?” And you go, “Oh, I’m going to answer that.” But I’m also going to do image compression on eCommerce, and image compression this other way, and should I be doing image compression when I’m a photographer. And you’re answering all these different questions that are loosely related but are also connected to different audiences all in that cluster and then linked to each other. And Google looks at the links coming in to even the edge nodes and looks at that for the whole value of the cluster and goes “Okay. Now I see that you have authority.” So it has changed, and that affects how we think about how we write content.
WHC: Where do you see WordPress in the next 5 years?
CL: We’re right at the cusp of WordPress shifting over to this Gutenberg model. And, if it’s done wrong, it could kill it all. If it’s done right, it could open the doors dramatically. It’s like a rewrite of the platform. The idea here is that every single thing in WordPress is going to be a block. Which means the way in which you interact with one block is the way you would interact with another block. When you think about it that way, you go, wait that means that how I treat ads is the same way I treat content—which is not how it works today. We shove ads to the side. But if I can do conditional dynamic display of ads like I do conditional dynamic display of content, and if I can insert ads anywhere I can insert content, I have a completely different model. And so, that’s a fundamental change to how WordPress works. If that’s done right and it takes off, we could see all sorts of future publishing models, all sorts of future kinds of products that sit on top of that. So it opens the door for a lot, it just has to be done right.
WHC: Can you tell us about the team at Liquid Web? Talk about the mission and goals of the team particularly in regards to WordPress site owners.
CL: I came on about 18 months ago. And 18 months ago, there was almost no effort or work around WordPress or WooCommerce. And so part of what I came on to do was build a product team and to have that team dedicated to focus on not only WordPress, but the thing that we just recently launched, managed WooCommerce hosting. So that team’s focus is to build out this new platform. And because there was no managed WooCommerce platform before then, you’re making it up. The question is: What is a Managed WooCommerce Platform? Don’t managed WordPress hosts already let you install WooCommerce? Yeah, but that’s not what a managed platform should be in the WooCommerce world. So, it should mean more. It should do more, and so that’s what we spent time doing. Everybody’s focus is the same in that room. It’s a focus on how do we build the best and the new definition of what managed WooCommerce hosting looks like.
WHC: What are some of the sticking points that WooCommerce users might run into that you’ve addressed with Liquid Web’s Managed WooCommerce Hosting?
CL: One of the biggest is reporting. I mean, reporting is one of those pieces where you’re like if I use the WooCommerce native reporting, first of all I don’t get a lot of data. But if I do get data, it means I’m making my store slower by asking it to run all those queries. So, that’s not good for my customers. But then if I want to know certain questions, [for example] show me all the customers who’ve bought with coupons, it’s like; well I don’t know how to do that. That’s not what I do. So one of the things we went out to do was build a partnership with glew.io. And with Glew, we worked to bring all that auto-segmentation and all of that reporting into the platform. So, reporting was one of them.
Maybe the other biggest one that we spent a lot of time on was speed. The average WooCommerce store loads in 4 to 6 seconds, and you go, “that’s just too slow”. But it’s not necessarily WooCommerce’s fault. It’s often the developers that built the site or the store owners that worked on the site and all the things they did without paying attention to speed. So, we have a sample site for example that we test out every day. We did a lot of performance testing. And that sample site has 9,000 products. It has a good looking theme. It has images and multiple images. It has the ability to zoom in on those images. It has full descriptions on the bodies. It has related products. And that whole site, every page that you’re loading in, loads in about .7 seconds each.
So, speed and reporting were the first two big ones we tackled. And then we layered on abandoned cart, so we did a partnership with Jilt so that you could get those customers back. By getting them back, that gives you the opportunity to generate more revenue. So, those are three of the big ones that we said let’s make sure these are solved by the time we launch.
WHC: For those that are interested in getting a first-hand look at Liquid Web’s WooCommerce Hosting, are they able to schedule a demo online with an advisor?
CL: Yup. And we also have another feature. We have something called the 15 Day Performance Challenge. The 15 Day Performance Challenge is a program where the customer lets us make a copy of their website onto our platform. It’s not a functioning store—we’re not going to deter any traffic or anything else. We just make a copy of the store to our server. And then our team goes and does a series of optimizations. And at each optimization, it tracks the performance difference. And within 15 days, we’ll have a meeting with you and we’ll show you. We’ve done hundreds of these now, and in every single case, the time has dropped by a minimum of 50%. If you take a 12 second store and bring it to 6, or take a 6 second store and bring it down to 2, it is dramatic for that store’s benefit in terms of people clicking and browsing and hanging out.