The House that WordPress Built

I spent a few days last week at the Pressnomics conference in Phoenix and, as always, learned a lot more than I could possible give back.

It’s amazing the number of smart people who attend and who give their time generously to speak to others. I’m not going to name names here, but it got me thinking about the house that WordPress has built.

By “house” I mean it in a few different ways.

WordPress has changed many, many lives, including my own. Careers are different. Friendships have been formed. Lives altered.

Heck, WordPress now powers over 25% of the Internet and affects every Internet user.

Some of the things I learned:

  • WordPress has literally built houses for people from the WordPress related income they have earned
  • WordPress has allowed people to work from their homes and connect with their families
  • WordPress has built amazing friendships, families, collaborations (people from different and competing companies shared rented houses to attend the conference)
  • WordPress has built a community that should (most of the time) be envied
  • WordPress updates and changes can affect people greatly

Of course, WordPress itself has not done any of this. It’s the people who have done it. People who are attracted to WordPress. People who are attracted to the WordPress community. People who are good people.

We all live in a community of WordPress houses.

[Interview with Alex King from Pressnomics 2016. Click here to see if you can’t see it]

Why I No Longer Recommend HostGator

For the past six or so years I’ve recommended HostGator for small sites that shared hosting is designed for.

However in my opinion their customer service and hosting performance has drastically reduced in the past few months. They were purchased by Endurance International Group who own around 50 web hosting and domain related companies. These include JustHost, HostMonster and Bluehost. Continue reading Why I No Longer Recommend HostGator

How To Backup WordPress

A few months ago I launched a backup and update service in order to help you keep your themes, plugins and WordPress itself up to date as well as making backups in case of disaster.

With the recent news of massive hacking attempts against WordPress sites, having the latest versions of plugins and themes and also backups is more important than ever.

I’m currently protecting over 60 WordPress powered sites with weekly updates and backups (or monthly if you prefer). So if you want to join them and put your mind at ease then you can sign up below from only $7 per month.

The BTG Backup and Update Service, or “BTG BUS” is a service that keeps regular backups of your WordPress powered websites, keeps WordPress, plugins and themes up to date, and provides the opportunity to restore your sites to an earlier version if there are any problems. With no hassle for you, just set up and forget!

Go to the full page for details on pricing, FAQs, comparisons with other services and much more.

How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site – New Free eBook

speed-ebook_big
I’ve added a third eBook to my free eBooks that I give away to all email subscribers. This one goes through the best ways to speed up your WordPress website with step-by-step instructions.

Speed. It’s what we all crave in today’s busy world of work and home life. Whether we are waiting for a train, hurrying from one meeting to the next, or waiting for the microwave to “ping,” we’re never far from a glance at the clock and an impatient gesture.

You can subscribe below to get all three eBooks if you’re not already a subscriber. Current subscribers have already been sent an email soon with a link in.

The three eBooks you get for being a subscriber are:

– Income Blogging Guide Blueprint
– Save Your Site! A Guide To backing Up WordPress
– How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site

The Five WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

This isn’t going to be a long post, or sales pitch but is a list of the plugins I install and tell you to install again and again.
Editorial Calendar

1) WordPress SEO by Yoast

Greatly improves your Search Engine Optimization. Install and activate it and read the guide here (long but worth it).

2) Akismet

This comes with WordPress – activate it and add your API key, and protect yourself from spam.

3) WooCommerce

With version 2.0 coming very soon, WooCommerce is the best shopping cart plugin I’ve used for WordPress, and it’s free. If you don’t need a shopping cart to sell physical or digital products or services then you of course don’t need this.

4) W3 Total Cache

This speeds up your site by making static copies, but please, please refer to your web host for the best way to configure this. Usually it’s simple for shared hosting (page and browser cache on; database and object cache off; minify on if you know what you’re doing) and it can have a big effect on performance.

5) A Contact Form plugin

Having a contact form on your contact page not only looks professional but protects you from spammers. For free I like Contact Form 7, and for paid I love Gravity Forms (which I use on my own site). Gravity Forms has many benefits such as multi-page forms, email newsletter subscriptions, conditional fileds (if this is selected, show that) and so on.

BONUS 6) WordPress Editorial Calendar

This makes scheduling posts, seeing when posts are scheduled, and changing scheduled posts much easier. Simply shows a calendar with your blog posts (and times) marked on. For sites with multiple authors, or if you schedule a lot of posts, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

New Version of HeadTube Released

A few updates of my, admittedly, awesome WordPress child theme for Headway that allows you to have a full screen video background:

– It now allows users to hide the content to view the video full screen.
– Color Picker now allows you to change links color as well as background color of the navigation menu, sidebar headings and homepage post dividers (WordPress 3.5+ only).
– A few CSS updates and fixes.

Live Theme Demo

If you already own the theme you can download it again from the email you got or your My Account page if you created one. If you haven’t altered any of the core files you can copy over the new ones via FTP replacing the ones there. If you have customized any files they will be lost so make a backup/note of changes before updating, and then reapply them. In future I’ll keep a proper changelog when version 1.0 is released.

If you don’t own HeadTube you can see more details here.

Optimizing WordPress for Mobiles

Can you remember life without a mobile phone? It was different, wasn’t it? Instead of being on call all hours of the day and evening, if we were out and about, we used to have to trudge to a public telephone box to keep in touch, sometimes queuing up in a line, pulling out change, and hoping we wouldn’t run out of coins before we had finished what we needed to say. In a way, I think back to these times with fondness. If you went out fishing, or on holiday with the family, or walking the dog, you knew you were safe from work for a few hours or days, and couldn’t be contacted until you got back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I know mobiles are great devices. What would we do if we didn’t have the capability to refer to a smartphone for help in all sorts of situations? We can go abroad and tap in a translation, removing the need to carry the tourist-shaming phrase book. We can convert money, check the weather, and even order a takeout without actually speaking to anyone. When we’re bored in queues, we can now pull out our phone and play a game, write an article, or take some pictures. In fact, phones are used for all manner of tasks, the least of which is actually dialing a number and connecting with someone.

New Possibilities

We don’t have to like mobiles to appreciate the importance of linking our businesses to them and making sure we have the best possible infrastructure in place to allow customers to access us quickly and easily, no matter where they are. Making your WordPress site more accessible is a critical element in keeping your customers engaged and supportive as you evolve to meet their needs. It brings the following benefits:

  • Enables your readers to order your products swiftly, wherever they happen to be.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to staying at the front-end of technological advancements, eliminating the risk of being left behind as new software and hardware becomes available.
  • Gives you the option of updating your site from anywhere.
  • Opens up your site to a potential new customer base – smartphone users who don’t surf from PCs or laptops.
  • Keeps you close to your dashboard, giving you instant access to your site if things go wrong.
  • Allows you to quickly respond to messages and comments from customers, enhancing your online networking.

Regardless of what you think about the move to smartphones and the impact upon our privacy, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out it’s a great idea to optimize your blog for mobile users. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it . . . .

Manual Configuration

If you want to keep tight control of your site during the optimization process, you can configure your changes manually by setting up a mobile.css stylesheet for WordPress. You can then go on to customize your meta information to decide how your site should be scaled to suit various browsers and smartphone applications. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry – there are easier routes to take that are just as effective.

Automated Optimization

Don’t fancy the manual route? I don’t blame you. It’s actually much easier to optimize your WordPress site for mobile use by installing a plugin.

WPtouch

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

In my opinion this is currently the best plugin of its kind. A free version is available and it’s quick and easy to use. If you feel like going a bit further, you can purchase the “Pro” version, which adds a number of extra features including advertising, customizable menu options, and themes designed for the iPad. It also gives you access to a comprehensive support service to troubleshoot any issues.

WP Mobile Detector

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-mobile-detector/

If you want to check out a few more options before making a final decision, take a look at this one.  Again, a free and paid version are available, so consider all the functionality for both options before you make your choice.

WordPress Mobile Pack

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/

Another great plugin, this has a huge number of different themes to choose from, and a really good selection of different options to let you customize your site.

MobilePress

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/

Also worth you consideration, this one is really simple to configure, manage, and use.

Testing Your Site

You don’t need a fancy mobile phone to test whether your modifications work properly, so don’t feel the need to rush out and spend several hundred dollars if you’re still not a convert to the smartphone revolution. You can test your site easily with the Firefox browser by downloading a free add-on called “User Agent Switcher”. Once you have it installed you can switch between different options for site access, to check out how your site will look when accessed using different applications, including the iPhone.

WordPress, once again, demonstrates its incredible flexibility by making it ridiculously easy (and free) to optimize your site for mobile phone users.  No excuses . . . block out an hour in your schedule and you’ll probably only need about half of it to place your site on the cutting edge of Internet technology.

When is a Blog Not a Blog?

I come across as a huge fan of WordPress . . . because that’s what I am. Of all the blogging software I’ve encountered it’s the most comprehensive and the one which I find is easiest to use thanks to the functionality and intuitive interface. However, with online marketing strategies becoming more complex with each passing day, is it time for us to migrate to something more than a simple blogging platform? When it comes to optimizing our Web advertising and attracting customers to our sites, do we need to look beyond the common blog template?

Our faithful WordPress software is evolving at least as quickly as its competitors. This development means that there is now a lot more that can be done with the software than a simple process of blogging. Without the need to move to a new platform, we can now access a wealth of services that can transform our online marketing strategy and move us from being simple bloggers to advanced advertising specialists. Even if you’re not a blogging aficionado, you can still benefit from the enhanced functionality of the software without ever again having to pop up another post. Result!

There are two basic ways you can use WordPress for additional functionality. The first is by using a plugin that enables you to retain your existing site and theme, or you can choose to upload a new theme which takes over your entire site and brings a wealth of new functions. Please note none of the links below are affiliate links.

Job Board Services

For people looking to either source jobs, or advertise them online, WordPress has some great plugins that you can use to draw the right sort of customers to your site. The following can be easily installed, letting you open up your site to new revenue streams for the job search market, choosing whichever industry niche best fits your site.

WPJobBoard
Jobpress Simple
Job Manager
WPCareers

Review Builders

Online reviews are a huge draw, whether people want the latest news on cinema listings, movie reviews, and books, or are looking for somewhere to share their own opinions. Adding a review builder to your WordPress blog is a great way to bring in more traffic and provide your customers with a safe and reliable platform.

Easy Review Builder:
GD Star Rating
WordPress Review Theme
reviewsPRESS

Classified Ads

Every industry sector can benefit from advertising revenue, and WordPress supports a comprehensive set of online marketing tools that can tap into this lucrative market.

Classifieds Theme:
ClassiPress
Classifieds
ClassifiedTheme
wp-classified

Voucher Codes

Online vouchers are a burgeoning trend; Google and Yahoo!, among others, are currently looking for ways to tap into this money spinner. You can follow the trend on your site by featuring discount vouchers and coupons for your industry or geographical area.

Coupon Press
WP Coupon Plugin

Squeeze Pages

Squeeze pages are simple landing pages, designed to solicit opt-in email addresses from prospective subscribers. WordPress enables you to create them quickly and easily, in addition to publishing customized landing pages for customers.

SqueezeTheme
Optimize Press
FlexSqueeze
WP Squeeze

E-commerce Market

A solid strategy for e-commerce means more revenue for your site, enhanced traffic, and increased services for your customers. You can use WordPress plugins to link to various sites that will pay you for your traffic, or sell your own products directly from your site.

Amazon Reloaded
AmazonSimpleAdmin
WP e-Commerce
Ecwid
ShopperPress

Directory Services

Searching online is a key element in providing a comprehensive service to your customers. Whatever your industry sector, there will be people out there who will be drawn to a site that offers a good, regularly updated, listings service. The following are the best WordPress plugins for directory services:

DirectoryPress
Business Directory
WordPress Link Directory

Social Networking

When it comes to optimizing your site for your customers, are you tapping into the best that social networking can offer? BuddyPress is a free, open-source plugin that enables you to create your own niche community.

Need For Speed

Speed. It’s what we all crave in today’s busy world of work and home life. Whether we are waiting for a train, hurrying from one meeting to the next, or waiting for the microwave to “ping,” we’re never far from a glance at the clock and an impatient gesture.

A few decades ago, we were more accustomed to waiting for what we wanted. We’d save up for things instead of going out and buying them on credit cards. We appreciated that the best things in life took time to acquire and we were prepared to hold out for them. Bread wouldn’t rise on demand, travel took hours, and we all had an in-built patience born of experience.
The advent of the World Wide Web went a long way to changing our expectations of speed. We became accustomed to typing a request into a search engine and getting an instant result on our screens that answered all of our needs. Pages began to load faster and the search engines were enhanced until we reached the present day of browsing. These days, every possible configuration of data is presented to us even before we have finished typing in what we’re looking for (thank you, Google Instant).

This has had a huge effect upon our culture overall, particularly with regards to the way in which we access information and expect to have it delivered to us. Newspapers are becoming less popular as people realize the benefit of reading their news online, where they can flit from article to article in the space of seconds. Pressured for time, we are all seeking new ways of generating extra hours to keep up with our demanding schedules, and the internet is one of the tools that we use to achieve this goal.

As the average surfer spends just a matter of minutes on each site that they visit, it makes a lot of sense to ensure that our visitors find what they need quickly and easily. Nothing turns off potential customers more than having to work hard to find what they are looking for; this is a certain way of ensuring your visitors never return for a second visit. There are plenty of things you can do to make navigation quicker for your visitors, including providing great signposting to everything they need, a good search facility, and a sensible structure. Labeling clearly the information you provide and using a site index to facilitate easy navigation are also good strategies to support an efficient service provision for your potential customers.

Even if you have the best possible site in terms of design and navigation, it could be that your WordPress blog still takes a long time to load. If this is the case, you can use a number of techniques to make sure your visitors get what they are looking for in double-quick time. Having large images on your site can greatly reduce the loading speed of your pages. To cut down on loading time, reducing the size of your images to the smallest possible size – that still displays well – is a good idea. There’s no point slowly loading an enormous photo, when it only displays at 300px wide. A good plugin to help you do this is WP Smush.it, which automatically optimizes your images to the best size.

Part of the way in which Google determines search rankings comes down to the speed that your webpages load. As the search engines get more fluid in terms of how they retrieve answers to queries, it’s important to make sure that our sites are as efficient as possible. To support a quick download we can use caching. Caching essentially creates a static version of a dynamic WordPress page, which is only refreshed when any changes (such as comments) are made. This means that the page does not have to query your WordPress database to display, and therefore brings up results much more quickly.

Use a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache  or W3 Total Cache (i use this); this will allow visitors to your site to get what they need quickly. W3 Total Cache also uses ”minifying,” that involves combining multiple CSS and JavaScript files into one, and then reducing the size by removing white space and unnecessary line breaks. Both plugins enable the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up your site, this can be complicated and is probably best left to an expert to setup.

As long as you keep your images small, and regularly undertake housekeeping to keep your WordPress site optimized, it should be relatively easy to ensure that your visitors are provided with a seamless and efficient service. Using the caching process will also ensure that the major search engines can find your site easily, and will factor this into their rankings. With so much technology going into the speed of navigation online, it’s important to make sure that your WordPress blog has everything in place to ensure a fast, efficient, and customer-focused service.

How To Generate More Traffic To Your Site, For Free

In everyday life, the last thing we want on the roads is more traffic. It slows up the commuter journey, leaving us frustrated and tetchy before even arriving at work. It causes road rage, overcrowding of freeways, and stops us from getting to where we need to be on time. Online, however, traffic becomes something incredibly positive and essential for the health of our business.

As business bloggers, traffic is the ultimate goal through which we measure the success of our online venture. Without traffic, our blogs are relegated to the lonely ether of the uninhabited World Wide Web, hiding sulkily in an unseen corner. Traffic means visitors. Visitors mean sales. Sales mean revenue. It’s safe to say that the more traffic we get online, the happier and more successful we will be with what we do. When it comes to generating the maximum amount of traffic, it’s impossible to have too much footfall through your site.

With so many sites available online for every single industry, it’s getting increasingly difficult to attract a consistent audience. Blogging is one of the most competitive ways to make an income as everyone has interests and passions that translate well to this type of communication. From topiary to train spotting, aardvark grooming to zoology, there is a blog out there that is focused upon gaining a wide readership through the regular posting of articles. That’s not to say it isn’t possible to get traffic to your site, it simply means that it is more challenging than it has ever been before to attract customers to your online presence, and then keep them there once they’ve arrived.

A secondary factor reducing traffic to sites is our expectations of instant gratification. The longer the World Wide Web is out there, the more we have increased our expectations of it. Customers no longer want to patiently wade through reams of information in the same way as they would approach a newspaper or magazine. When they browse online they want their requests answered instantly, their queries resolved in seconds, and the ability to navigate through a site quickly and efficiently. We have less patience as the Web has become more streamlined, and cumbersome navigation is a sure-fire way of deterring customers from visiting you again, and retaining the traffic that you generate.

There are loads of organizations out there who offer all kinds of deals to direct traffic to your site. While the benefits are pretty self-evident, it doesn’t do any harm to outline the rationale behind having a strategic approach to increasing visitor numbers. The law of averages dictates that the more people visiting your site, the more likely it is that you will make sales. Getting your products and services out there in front of as many people as possible gives you the best possible opportunities for selling.

The problem with signing up a company to “buy” you traffic is . . . it doesn’t work. You may get people who are conned into coming to your site through links, or adverts that mislead visitors into stopping by, but these are not potential customers. The good news is that there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure that not only does your online traffic increase, but it is generated by real, viable customers who are coming to you because they are actively seeking the services or products that you provide.

Luckily, there are lots of different ways to encourage people to come and visit your site. One of the best ways to open up communication channels and spread the word about your products and services is to take up regular blogging. By writing keyword-rich articles, you can invite the principal search engines to enhance your ranking, thus attracting visitors who are searching for exactly what you provide. The more content you add to your site each day, the more opportunities you will have of being picked up by search engines.

A good RSS service such as FeedBurner provides a really good-looking feed for your readers if they’re into that, and has the added advantage of providing you with accurate subscriber statistics to enable you to track your progress. It also gives people the option to sign up to email updates when you post new content.

A software package such as Google Analytics lets you take a look at the keywords that people searched on before they arrived at your site. It also allows you to check out what are the most popular articles that people view on your site, helping you to fine tune your own content production strategy. When you start to get more people visiting your site, give them a reason to stay involved, such as offering a free product.

If you’re looking for ways to increase traffic through WordPress, try the Subscribe to Comments plugin; if someone leaves a comment, the plugin notifies them when another visitor comments on the same post. In addition, mobile plugins like WPtouch can make your site instantly mobile-friendly, enabling people to use their smartphone to view your site.

Finally, incorporating a range of social bookmarking icons for sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and others on your site, can help new users to find you and encourage them to share your content with other people. Sociable, ShareThis, and AddThis allow you to make the most of your traffic by establishing an ongoing relationship and generating new, targeted traffic to your site.