Marketing Lessons From WordCamp Phoenix

I recently volunteered at WordCamp Phoenix, an event I’ve attended in the past. For those who aren’t familiar with WordCamp, it’s a WordPress conference. Most WordCamps are strictly local.

I use WordPress for this website and with a few of my clients. I’ve even developed a couple of sites with it.

WordPress was created to be free (open source) blogging software like Blogger but quickly became the world’s most popular website software. I’ve had my ups and downs with it. However, I still prefer it especially when I compare it to the handful of other website software I’ve used. If you can use word processing software, you can write on a WordPress platform.

WordCamp is a Place Where Everyone is Interested in What You Do

One thing I immediately liked about the first WordCamp I attended a few years ago is that its enthusiasts (they call themselves “evangelists”) aren’t snobby about their WordPress knowledge. They’re eager to share what they know. I was introduced to it in 2009 by a friend who offered to show me how to set up a website for my new writing business. Prior to this exposure, I assumed website software was the tangle known as Dreamweaver that seemed far above my fledgling skills.

WordCamp is a welcoming place where everybody is interested in what everyone else does for a living. If you’re just setting up a website for the first time, there are sponsors and vendors who can explain how they can help you create your site and host it. There are specialists in website security whose tools integrate with WordPress, and website developers who specialize in creating e-commerce sites. And then there are freelance professionals who provide a variety of WordPress technical services and writers (ahem) who can create content for your website.

This WordCamp was a little more friendly to non-technical professionals than past ones. There was a session to show WordPress beginners the main functions. Othere sessions discussed marketing topics that could fit into most business conferences and included topics like best practices for social media, how to create your own website design, and how to develop content that’s likely to answer a Google search.

Even if You Think You’re Pretty Seasoned, a WordCamp Will Tell You Something You Didn’t Know or Forgot About

Frankly, there are so many changes going on in marketing that any good marketing presentation is going to either tell you something new or remind you of a basic concept you’d forgotten about while chasing SEO butterflies.

Here are a few of the marketing items I learned, or re-learned, at WordCamp Phoenix:

Figure out your goals and work backward to plan a way to reach them. It’s OK to do this in steps.

Treat your goals like a target.

State your target, at least to yourself

Mindie Kniss somehow made the concept of planning less threatening, at least to this writer. In fact, I realized that I’ve been doing some of this all along which was very reassuring. Kniss also stressed the importance of building a client list and following up with clients; for example, just checking in, asking how things are going, and so on. I’ve actually landed new assignments this way, by “reminding” clients that they needed a white paper, a new email approach, or someone to ghost-write for one of their own clients.

Poetry serves as a mind hack.

I’m actually tired of the word “hack” but Shawn Pfunder’s use of it makes sense here. Pfunder is a senior communications director for GoDaddy and loves to write, particularly stories for businesses to share with readers. This is an approach I heartily endorse. Pfunder read a few lines from poems and demonstrated how anticipation of the conclusion actually activates neurons. It didn’t hurt that he recited lines from my favorite poet, Bruce Springsteen.

Think about data as you prepare to write.

Data are your friends! (Really, and I’m one of those who sees this as a plural word.) Nikki VanRy, a content marketer who manages Nivan Content, says to do a little

A Google search can highlight keywords and synonyms.

Talk to Google before you write.

research before you sit down to write on a topic to see how people search for it. For example, I conducted these searches in incognito mode to prepare for this article:

  1. is wordcamp useful for marketing
  2. what happens at wordcamp
  3. i hate wordcamp

I’m wondering about the incognito function since a discussion at WordCamp Phoenix was the first item to come up for the first search and it auto-populated my search even though I switched that function off. I guess incognito search still looks at search history even if it’s not recording current searches.

The second search was more of what I’d expect to see–articles that answer the question and used my exact search term. I got a listing for WordCamp Las Vegas (“What happens at WordCamp stays at WordCamp.”)

That last one brought up posts that sought to deny anyone hates WordPress or explain that haters have been given incorrect information. This is helpful because I’m careful to explain terms that probably sound like jargon to non-WordPress users, or at least those who use it as a tool and aren’t particularly interested in understanding its functionalities. I understand where they’re coming from.

Two interesting facts I got from Nikki’s talk:

  1. Only 15% of Google searches are actually unique and have never been done before.
  2. 1 in 20 Google searches are about healthcare.

Technical Topics Impact Marketing, Too

I didn’t go to the higher-end technical sessions, which were easy to identify because I had to look up the acronyms in their titles. But there are topics that lean toward the technical side of things that I think are important for marketers to think about.

The first is security. This happens to be an interest of mine; I volunteer with the Cloud Security Alliance and have a layman’s understanding of why cloud security is actually much safer than you might think.

What does marketing have to do with security? Well for starters, if your site is hacked at the very least it can stop running your brilliant content and replace it with something completely inappropriate, such as advertisements you aren’t being paid for, the President’s taxes, or the absolute worst: your site shuts down altogether.

So it was enlightening to go through Aaron Campbell’s list of website security myths and facts, including:

  • The vast majority of attacks are scripted and not targeted, so even if you feel you’re too insignificant to be a target, you are anyway.
  • If you think changing a WordPress file prefix will protect the file, you’re also losing the opportunity for WordPress to update a vulnerable file since it won’t recognize it.
  • A username like Admin isn’t a security risk. It’s the password that’s the security. The longer and more random a password is, the more security it will provide.
  • Every sight should now have an SSL.

    Don't fear weird-looking Google Analytics.

    Analytics are also your friends.

Aaron, who is the Team Lead for WordPress security, is funded by GoDaddy.

The other sort-of technical topic had to do with analytics. WordCamp usually includes a how-to presentation on analytics. Instead of going through Analytics 101, Google Analytics Explainer Brandy Lawson of FieryFX introduced us to Google Data Studio, which helps build custom reports on analytics that update as they change. I wouldn’t have had a clue this existed at all. If your clients don’t understand Google Analytics’ default reporting, this could be a great solution.

There’s a WordCamp going on somewhere in the world nearly every day. Phoenix will host another one in February; follow it’s Twitter feed at #phxwordcamp. Or visit the WordCamp page on to find one near you.

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Ruth Ann Monti is a writer for all things webby. She lives in sunny Scottsdale, AZ, with her son and a mixed-up Chihuahua.

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