Review: WordPress for Business Bloggers

Filed as Editorial on February 2, 2009 10:00 am

wp-business-book-cover

When I first heard about Paul Thewlis’ new book, WordPress for Business Bloggers, I was very excited. As an avid WordPress user and a business blogger, I was very keen on the idea of reading a book targeted specifically to my kind of blogging. Though I’ve owned and read many books about WordPress and about blogging in general, none have seen so targeted to me.

However, the title of the book doesn’t do a great deal to describe it. One could not possibly do a thorough job of describing business blogging and WordPress within the confines of the same 350 page book so it has to either be A) A book about business blogging that touches on WordPress or B) A book about WordPress that touches on business blogging.

The book, for better or worse, is the latter. Only one chapter, the first, really delves into the business blogging and most of it is about planning. The rest of the book is a basic, if solid, overview of blogging and WordPress in general.

This is not to say that it is a bad book, just that those who might be most excited by the title may find it a bit basic and frustrating. On the other hand, there are others that might pass it over that could find it very useful.

Audience

When I started reading this book, I tried to keep two different audiences in mind:

  1. Myself: I am a “veteran” blogger that has over three years experiencing using WordPress. I’m a business blogger, using it to promote my consulting practice, but understand the software relatively well and would likely be considered an “advanced” user (though not quite “expert”).
  2. My Friend: I am good friends with and share office space with an attorney who, despite being a very capable lawyer, is new to blogging. I just set up his first WordPress install a few weeks ago and he’s excited about getting involved with blogging and using it for both promotion and networking.

With that in mind, it is clear that the book is much more targeted to my friend than to myself. If you’ve been blogging and using WordPress for some time, you likely already understand about 95% of this book. Though there might be a few new tips and tricks to pick up, I doubt that it will be worth the price of ownership.

However, for someone like my friend, who is new at WordPress and blogging in general, it could be a valuable guide. Though, even with that audience in mind, it is still a slightly flawed work. Still, it is easy to see how some might benefit from it.

The Good

Overall, the book is a solid intro into getting started with a standalone WordPress blog. Someone who had no experience with WordPress would very likely be able to go through and do a reasonable job of installing it and setting up a site. Though there is clearly going to be a learning curve outside of the book when it comes to things such as designing your site or writing good content, that is to be expected.

What the book provides is not a thorough run through of everything one has to do to get a site working, but rather, a “basic training” or perhaps a “WordPress boot camp” for those who don’t know which end is up.

Can you learn almost all of this online for free? Sure. But for those that don’t want to trudge through online manuals or just prefer a book, something I suspect is typical of most future business bloggers, it is likely a decent choice.

Still, the book could use some tweaking, there are a few flaws in it that may limit how far people are able to get with it.

The Bad

First off, the book does suffer from a minor case of “difficulty curve lurch”. I find it odd that the same chapter that explains to the reader that HTML tags are the things between the square brackets also does a run through of how to set up a test server on your computer using XAMPP in seemingly a few pages.

Though the use of XAMPP is necessary to use the examples in the book, anyone who is intimidated by something as fundamental as tags is going to have problems when trying to understand a SQL server and why they are installing one on their computer.

However, the book, as much as anything, suffers from a case of bad timing. In the period between when it was researched/authored and when it landed in my lap WordPress 2.7 was released, making many of the screenshots obsolete, FeedBurner began to have serious problems, making it a less appealing choice for stat tracking, and blogrolls, at least without a “nofollow”, became a major cause of PageRank reduction, making it less-desireable habit.

Though these types of problems are to be expected with the publishing cycle, all of these elements play a major role in the book and seem to hamstring it a bit.

Finally, the book omits or only pays some attention to a few key elements.

  1. There is no serious conversation about how to find a host. Most of the work is done on the local test site with little indication of how to find a good Web host.
  2. Social news sites such as Digg and Reddit and services such as StumbleUpon are only paid some minor attention, a few pages in the whole of the book. Almost as much is given to Twitter by itself and installing much-derided Twitter plugins for WordPress. Even Technorati seems to get as much attention.
  3. There is no talk about offline editing tools such as Windows Live Writer. Though I agree that the WordPress write panel is more than adequate for most tasks, many do prefer such applications and many newcomers may prefer them versus the WordPress editor.

Though I don’t consider these omissions to be “deal breakers”, it does seem to date the book a bit and make me think that it is ripe for a second version.

Bottom Line

I don’t think that this book is for me nor is it likely for anyone reading this review. If you are reading the Blog Herald, you’re probably familiar enough with WordPress that you would be better served by jumping into a more advanced book. There are books of equal size that focus solely on things such a blog design, monetization and promotion that can offer much more.

That being said, if you know anyone who is just getting started with blogging they can do a lot worse than this book.

In that regard though, the worst thing about the book is the title. Though it isn’t quite as basic as a “for dummies” book, the crowd that would get the most from it will be most drawn to that kind of book.

The reality is that this book isn’t so much “WordPress for Business Bloggers” as it is “WordPress for Beginner Bloggers” or, perhaps just “Getting Started Blogging using WordPress”.

It’s basic, it’s an overview and it is below the level of most bloggers. But for those seeking a place to start it is a solid enough beginning.

In the end, I’m probably going to give my copy of this book to my lawyer friend, I think he’ll get more out of it than I. That’s not a bad thing, just a sign that maybe the title could have used an adjustment.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.

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  1. By David Barnes posted on February 2, 2009 at 11:17 am
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    I was the acquisition editor who worked with Paul on this book. I was excited to see the cover image pop up in Google Reader under such a high profile site.

    Of course, I would have preferred it if the review was a bit different. Even so, thanks a lot for your feedback.

    We designed the book to appeal to people who had got as far as setting up WordPress and started writing posts, and who wanted some extra guidance in turning blogging into a profitable activity for their business. We weren’t aiming for “professional” bloggers so much as business owners and entrepreneurs who wanted to get the most out of WordPress to promote their (often low-tech / real world) businesses.

    I hope your lawyer friend enjoys it. I’d be interested to hear his review too. :)

    Thanks again

    Dave

    Reply

  2. By Jonathan Bailey posted on February 2, 2009 at 11:59 am
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    David: I actually think that the book is overall very good, for the audience you describe, I think that this book is a good fit. I know scrolling through the article “The Bad” seems a lot longer than “The Good” but I was admittedly nitpicking some with that.

    My goal with the review is to lay out what I think the book did well, what it did less well and let readers decide if it is for them.

    I’ll definitely do a follow up to let everyone knows what he thought of it. I forgot it this morning but will be giving it to him tomorrow.

    That being said, for the audience you mentioned, it is indeed a very worthwhile book. Some bad luck on the timing, but otherwise a solid work.

    Reply

  3. By matt posted on February 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm
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    Dave

    No free copies to give away??

    Reply

  4. By ReactLab posted on February 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm
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    Jonathan: Thanks for the unbiased, well-rounded article on the pros and cons of this book. While my take away is that this book is probably not for me, I would consider recommending it to colleagues who are interested setting up a business blog — once it is revised to include changes introduced with WordPresss 2.7.

    Reply

  5. By Jonathan Bailey posted on February 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm
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    ReacLab: Very welcome, glad it was able to help. I definitely think this could be a great gift for friends and family just breaking into this field! As for wating for the 2.7 images, they didn’t make that big of a difference as the screenshots were zoomed in pretty tight, but it probably would be worth it just to be safe and avoid any confusion.

    Reply

  6. By wayans posted on February 3, 2009 at 8:33 am
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    Nice man,,,:D

    Reply

  7. By Psrby posted on June 24, 2009 at 10:45 am
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    Hi. My wordpress is hosted on bluehost but I never used it. I want to change hosts because Bluehost presents a lot of problems from what I’ve gathered from user reviews. I want a host that won’t shut down my site if they find “censored” words (like poker, s*x, etc.), wouldn’t shut down your site without warning, is reliable, etc. There were a lot of problems that I’ve read/found with Bluehost (censoring is very problematic in case someone comments a censored word and you don’t know it’s censored since there’s no list in BH’s site), what is your host and what other hosting would you recommend. Also, which domain registrar would you recommend since Bluehost f*cked me up and sold my other domain to others while it was on hold. They told me that my domain is on hold for 3 months after it expires then it would be available to the market again but what they did is they sold it to someone else in just a month and I confronted them and showed them the numerous chat logs etc. (I was having problems with my credit card then so my payment wouldn’t push through).

    Thank you for the thorough review. You saved me from buying an expensive book that is not applicable to me. Keep it up. I got to your blog looking for this book’s reviews and now I’ll be following your blog. Take care!

    Reply

  8. By adam posted on December 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm
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    Hi, I am new to blogging and am considering getting this book (I’ve put it on my Amazon wishlist). I just want to make sure that it is up-to-date, as the reviews of other books available on Amazon (eg the Dummies guide to WordPress) state that some books are now redundant. I think this book is the right one for someone like me who is just getting going, but wanted to check that it is still relevant in Dec ’09. Thanks.

    Reply

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