Archive for WordPress Tips

Our 10 Favorite WordPress Plugins

If you’re planning on choosing WordPress to develop your website, you’ve made the right decision. WordPress is one of the most highly used website platforms around. There are literally hundreds of free themes available and many of them are responsive which means they are ready for mobile use. Responsive simply means that they automatically adjust the appearance of the website pages to fit the screen size of the device being used to access it. Along with the many available themes come thousands of plugins. Plugins basically add functionality to WordPress sites so your site can deliver the types of capabilities that you want your visitors and customers to have.

Here are 10 of our favorite plugins that we use frequently when designing websites for our customers. There are many more, but these are some of the most highly used.

  1. Akismet
    Akismet automatically checks all comments against the Akismet Web service and filters out the ones that look like spam. Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were caught or cleared by Akismet and which were spammed or unspammed by a site moderator. URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links. Moderators can see the number of approved comments for each user. Akismet also has a discard feature that outright blocks the worst spam, saving you disk space and speeding up your site.
  2. All In One SEO
    This plugin allows you to optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization. With upwards of 90% of today’s consumers using search engines to locate their goods and services, websites that are not rated highly enough will just not be seen. I recently heard a line that went “Where’s the best place to hide something? … On page two of Google – nobody ever looks there”. I have read statistics showing that as little as 20% of users ever go past page one. If you don’t want your competitors to get the new business, you need your site to rank high in the search engines. The other popular SEO Plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast, which is also very good. They both provide excellent SEO configuration capabilities and it really comes down to a matter of choice as to which one to use.
  3. BackupBuddy
    There’s another saying that goes, “If you don’t want to lose it, back it up”. Sites get hacked every day. Our passwords are rarely as strong as we think. And sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we (or our clients) delete the wrong file or make a change that breaks something. Have you ever triggered a fatal error from a bad plugin? Crashes happen. But with BackupBuddy, recovering from a problem is quick and easy. This plugin also makes moving a site from one host to another quite easy.
  4. Enhanced Media Library 
    This plug-in is a powerful tool and can be very handy for those who need to manage a lot of media files. Here are a few highlights: Media Taxonomies (Categories for Media Files), you can create unlimited amount of media taxonomies (like categories and tags), be in total control of your custom taxonomy parameters via admin, edit and delete your custom media taxonomies, assign existed taxonomies to Media Library (for example, you can use post categories as a taxonomy for your media files), immediately set categories to any media file during upload, allow/disallow uploading for any file type, and much more. There is also a paid version that allows for bulk file actions.
  5. Google Analytics
    This is not really a plugin, but a very important feed mechanism. Knowing your audience and what they want is key to the success of your website. The best way to know your audience is through your traffic statistics and this is exactly what Google Analytics provides for FREE. It shows who visits your website – their geographical location, which browser they used, their screen resolution, language, etc. You can see how long users stay on the site, which pages they visited the most, where they most often leave from, the average number of pages viewed, etc. It shows where they arrived on your website from, you can see how they found you. Whether it was through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.), a link from another website, or a direct type-in. If you’re not using Google Analytics to monitor your site utilization, it’s like driving with blinders on. As the old saying goes: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Google Analytics helps you improve your site and give your audience what they like.
  6. Google Maps
    If you have a brick and mortar business and want to show your site visitors where you are and how to get to your location, this plugin is for you. It provides directions, interactive maps, and satellite/aerial imagery of many countries. You can embed a basic map, a Street View image, driving directions, or a local search into your website. When your viewers are signed in to Google, they can also see their home and work, saved places, and more in your map.
  7. Google XML Sitemaps
    This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which helps search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to better index your site. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post with new content.
  8. Gravity Forms
    The most basic use of Gravity Forms is your general contact form, which just about every WordPress site has or needs. Whatever the reason that people need to get in touch or you need to collect information, Gravity Forms makes it easy. But it’s the versatility of what you can do in terms of contact and support forms that makes even this seemingly mundane use of forms exciting. You can create any variety of form, collect any array of data, allow for file uploads, and much more.
  9. Monacrh 
    Monarch is a Social Sharing and Social Following plugin built to get you more share and more followers on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Monarch does this by using various different social sharing integration methods, such as social sharing sidebars, inline sharing buttons, popups and fly-in boxes. By encouraging your visitors to share, and making it easy for them to share, Monarch can greatly increase the social sharing activity on your website.
  10. TinyMCE Advanced
    Although the WordPress post editor includes some useful tools for formatting your content when you are crafting a new post or page, it’s possible to add even more formatting and presentation options to the editor in order to help you create even more attractive and engaging content. TinyMCE Advanced makes the WordPress post and page editor even more powerful. Once this plugin is installed on your site, you can not only customize the buttons which are displayed on the post editor, removing or adding items as needed, but you also get access to a selection of new buttons and functionality.

These are just ten of the plugins we often use when designing and developing a website. There are many, many more that we have used for particular applications but at a minimum, these will certainly get you going. Are there any other plugins you are familiar with that you think should be added to this list?

10 Critical Website Tips for 2015

Your business services and products can be top of the line, but if your website is poorly designed and does not resonate with your visitors, you will not attract attention or convert them into customers. If you’re unsure about your website, check out these critical tips to increase your website’s contribution to your overall business goals.

  1. Design – With over 40% of website traffic originating from mobile devices, it is critical to have your website look equally impressive whether your visitors are using a desktop, a tablet, or a phone. For your website to be more engaging and easier to use, make sure it is mobile friendly. Using a WordPress Responsive design is an effective way to accomplish this.
  2. Colors – Colors can be a driving force on your website. They can touch the emotions of your site visitors. There is a science to how colors can influence a person’s mind. Branding is critical. When designing your brand, take into account the psychology of colors and then integrate that same pallet into your website, as well as your other online and offline marketing collateral.
  3. Navigation – Today’s online consumers want to be able to find their way around your website quickly and effortlessly. Your navigation should be simple, intuitive, and help people find exactly what they are looking for in the shortest possible time. If it takes more than three to five seconds, you’ll lose them. When faced with indecision, they will leave rather than try to figure it out.
  4. Call-to-Action – Your home page, where most visitors enter, needs to be clear on what you want the visitor to do. What action do you want them to take? Whether it’s purchasing your product, downloading your white paper, signing up for a free consultation, opting into a newsletter, or requesting more information, make it clear and urge them to take action.
  5. Content – Your page content needs to get your main points across quickly. Use simple, highly relevant content, with an attractive and readable format. Visitors don’t want to read 2,000 words on the history of your company, so get to the point. Make sure that your page text is specific to the context of that page and focuses on the reason the visitor has chosen it. Each page of your site should have its own purpose.
  6. Visuals – Website visitors today want to see more visual content. Use photos, graphics, and videos on your site to convey your message. However, don’t overdo it. The webpage should still have white space and not be overly cluttered.
  7. Testimonials – Statistics show that the vast majority of online consumers value what other consumers say about your products and services. Display your customer testimonials on your site and encourage new customers to add their own. Glowing reviews compel the visitors to trust you and increases the chance they’ll want to do business with you.
  8. Contact Information – Quite a few business websites don’t provide adequate contact data and as a result, may lose potential business leads. Failing to provide easy access to contact details is one way to frustrate visitors and incent them to leave, potentially to a competitor.
  9. Social Media – With the prevalence of social media today, you have to assume that your potential customers are there too. Make sure to increase the visibility and reach of your website through the use of social media channels. Show your visitors and customers the various ways they can communicate with your company directly. However, just being on social media isn’t enough. You have to be active on social media for it to be effective. Remember, “Like Rome, a massive web presence is not built in a day. A massive web presence is built a little bit each day”(Jeff Herring – Article Marketing Expert).
  10. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – One of the main reasons to develop a website for your business is to attract new customers. Statistics show that as many as 90% of consumers today use search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find their goods and services. Having a site optimized for search engines is absolutely essential in being able to achieve a high enough ranking that new customers will find you. If you don’t know about SEO, or don’t know someone who does, I would suggest seeking professional help. Having a website that can’t be found on the internet is like having a gourmet restaurant in the desert. It’s great, but nobody knows it’s there. If you’ve done all the steps 1-9 but left this last one out, your supreme effort ends up being a waste of time and money

Your website is an extremely important component of your marketing strategy. Done right, its ability to attract and influence your visitors can have a significant impact on your lead generation. Done wrong, and it’s just another of the thousands of websites that can’t be found. Make sure yours is not lost in the crowd. If you’re not sure how well yours if performing, give us a call and we would be happy to provide a free, no obligation marketing assessment of your site.

Who Really Owns Your Website?

Over the last six to seven years that MVP has been building websites for their customers, we’ve seen some situations that might raise a concern for you and your website. Here are a few key points that any website owner should know:

  • Buying a Domain is the first step in building a website. These can be purchased from a number of reputable sources. Know where your domain is being purchased from and make sure to have it registered in your name and that you have the login credentials to access the Registrar account used to purchase it.

Why worry about this? Over the years, people come and go. Businesses start and fail. It is entirely possible that if you hire someone to purchase a domain for you, some years later, they may move, go out of business, or otherwise become unreachable. You need to know where your domain resides and how to access the account.

  •  Using WordPress – We recommend, and use WordPress.org specifically, because it provides a user-friendly CMS (Content Management System) that allows the end-user (customer) to make changes easily and most times without the need for a web developer.

What to watch out for: Some web developers have “cut their teeth” on building websites using programming code. Even when using WordPress, they are sometimes more comfortable using their background in coding to add a particular feature or function than they are using a relevant plugin or some other native function of WordPress to achieve the same or similar result. This can end up becoming a problem when new version updates are made to the site. Potentially, updates may fail because of custom code that was applied to core WordPress files that will cause the new version of the plugin/theme or even WordPress itself to not function. These things can actually take your site down. This requires you to hire a web developer to modify the code that was put in to be compatible with the new release or latest update. Multiply this by a number of plugins, changes and the frequency of regular updates, and you can see the possible ramifications of those actions. The bottom line is, WordPress, along with the right plugins, can do most anything without customizing the core PHP code. If your developer is adding code to your site, make sure you ask them to document it thoroughly.

  •  Theme, Plugins and Add-On licenses? There are many free themes and thousands of free plugins that help make WordPress a very flexible and functional web development platform. However, some themes and plugins are paid and require annual license fees. When paid themes or plugins are needed, some developers (including MVP) include the license fees for these items as a benefit when you contract for web maintenance through them.

What to know: Here at MVP, when we use paid themes or plugins, we fully disclose the fact that we are using them and what the cost of the licensing is, so that in the event a client wishes to maintain the site themselves or have someone else maintain it, they know what the cost of the ongoing license fees are that they become responsible for. Make sure you know your licensing exposure.

  •  Hosting – You hire someone to design a website for you and they host it on their own server, or in a shared server environment that they rent from a hosting company, which they use for all their clients.

What’s wrong with this? What if you want to move the site? Gaining login and password credentials to your site can be problematic because if it is hosted on the same server with other client sites that share the same login/password information, the developer who is doing the hosting may not want to provide these credentials. This means that you do not have enough control over your site to provide this information to a new web vendor. You are stuck having to work through your existing vendor (which sometimes can be touchy) to coordinate this activity.

Make sure that when you build or update a website that you have all the information you need to make good business decisions regarding your investment. Ask questions related to the above items and based upon the answers you get, it’s up to you to make the decision to use, or not to use, a particular vendor.

Here at MVP, we provide a completely autonomous installation and if you need login/password access to any or all components of your installation, you’ll get that information with no questions asked. Because that’s the way it should be.

9 Reasons Why You Should Have a WordPress Website

WordPress is what’s known as a CMS – a content management system. Content management systems were developed to make creating and maintaining websites easier and more accessible by allowing users to manage their website through a graphical interface rather than having to use raw code. Running a website used to mean writing code, and there was no way around it. As the internet became more and more heavily populated, however, tools began to spring up to help make it easier for people who wanted to have their own site but didn’t necessarily want to learn HTML.

WordPress was first launched in 2003. At that time it was seen as a fairly simple (yet competent) CMS that could be used for blogging purposes.

Even as recently as a few years ago, many web designers still thought of WordPress as a CMS best suited to blogs, and chose HTML, Joomla or Drupal for their website development tool. Now, however, this has changed. WordPress is capable of acting as the backbone for all kinds of different websites and is the go-to platform for 4 out of every 10 websites built today. WordPress is now used by names as big as Samsung, Forbes and CNN.

Here are some primary reasons to have a website and why you should consider WordPress. There are many more, but this should give you a start:

  • Your site can be created specifically for your business and your individual needs. There’s nothing generic – it can all be laser targeted for your business.
  • Websites help you make more while doing less. Your website is on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It provides increased efficiency and allows you to make better use of your time and focus on what you do best – which is building your business.
  • A website helps you gain instant credibility. People trust companies with websites. It validates the authenticity of the business by providing more information than a simple phone call. It’s even better than a physical address. It will create that all-important element of trust and confidence crucial for your business.
  • A website will pre-qualify your leads. It tells your story for you even before you answer the phone. Like it or not, we live in the Internet age. Every person in America has access to the internet and expects every legitimate business to have a website.
  • WordPress websites are simple to manage. Even if you are new to technology, WordPress is one of the most user-friendly CMS platforms available.
  • WordPress websites save time and money. No longer do you need to send the most basic changes to your developer or even have your developer add new pages for you. Make the edits yourself whenever you want and save the money you would’ve paid your web developer for more important things.
  • Plugins add additional features to your WordPress website. For example, if you want a fancy image gallery, a slideshow, an event calendar, a shopping cart or even a membership site, there is a huge selection of plugins available to you. If you are looking for any particular feature or function for your website, WordPress.org lists a repository of over 10,000 plugins available, and many are free to use.
  • WordPress is consistent and streamlined without excessive HTML code that Google finds very inviting for indexing. Plus, with the right SEO plugin and setup, you’re able to customize every page or post you make to give you the highest possible probability of getting your pages in high search results positions.
  • You can interface your blog right into your WordPress website. This makes the content remain fresh as you post new blog topics. Google will love you for it.

If you have been wondering how converting your traditional website to WordPress would be of benefit, this post was made for you! For more information, contact us for a free, no-obligation estimate.

Why do you need to maintain WordPress?

First off, let’s not confuse content maintenance with WordPress maintenance. You can make all the content changes you like. You can add text, add photos, you can even add pages and navigation. All of this is a part of CONTENT maintenance. WordPress maintenance is on the technical side – updating WordPress software versions, theme updates, plugin updates, backing up the website files and databases, and the list goes on.

Think of caring for your website as you would your house – it requires maintenance and occasionally, redecoration. You don’t just move your stuff in and never touch it again. You have to regularly keep things in order, otherwise “Murphy” comes in and mucks everything up. If you avoid maintaining your site long enough, your site can actually crash. This was the case with one of our clients whose former developer went out of business and the site remained unattended for quite some time. Eventually, the software was so out-of-date that the site became unstable, got hacked and crashed.

How do you prevent this from happening? What’s the website equivalent to scrubbing the floors and cleaning the bathrooms?

It’s simple. Keep your WordPress (and other CMS platform) installations up-to-date. WordPress makes this somewhat simple by allowing you to choose automated installations. While this might be OK in some instances, it’s not what we would recommend. Automating updates of WordPress without manual updates of plugins can sometimes have undesirable results.

Outdated plugins can be a significant problem. Plugin developers sometimes abandon their plugin and it becomes incompatible with the latest version of WordPress.  Often, new versions of software get released solely to fix issues that have been exploited by hackers. If your website isn’t being updated and is found by a well-known bug, it’s highly likely to be compromised.

WordPress even tries to make updating your site simple for you.

Every time you log in to the dashboard, it checks for updates and displays a banner at the top of your admin panel to let you know about them. The process is relatively easy and can many times take only minutes. But there is a process and you need to be sure that you are comfortable with that.

But I don’t log in to my site very often,” you say.
You don’t eat off the floor very often, either, but you still have to clean them.

No matter how often you log in to post new content on your site, you should still log in frequently to update its software (along with any plugins you use). If not, you’re potentially subjecting yourself to a worse experience. Not the horrible smell of rotting milk coming from the fridge, but a slow website or even worse, a crashed website, can smell just as foul.

If you’re a bit “iffy” on maintaining your own site, contact a professional and subscribe to their maintenance program. These typically cover all the essentials required to keep the site updated, stable and available. Sure, you have to pay a small fee each month for this service but the alternative is nasty. You also may pay a pest service to keep the “bugs” from your house – not to mention the need for homeowners insurance. Remember Murphy? You’ve invested a sizeable amount of money to build your site. Now is not the time to be penny-wise and site-crashed foolish.