Archive of ‘Wordpress 101’ category

How To Speed Up Your Website

Your website is often a customer’s first connection to your business. If your site loads and moves at a glacial pace, you may be losing droves of business and not even know it. On top of that, search engines are beginning to rank results based on how fast sites load. A slow site can sink in search results, which means less visibility for your business.

If you used an off-the-shelf website building service such as WordPress or Drupal, your site may not be operating up to the standards of busy web and mobile web surfers. But here are five simple ways to boost its speed:

1. Determine how slow your site is.
Google offers a number of site-performance analysis tools to help determine your site’s comparative speed, including the free Google Webmaster Tools.

As long as a site loads faster than 75 percent of all the sites Google checks, it should be fine, says Emily Winck , director of web and application development for Nebo Agency, a web design firm in Atlanta.

Another speed monitor tool is Yahoo’s Y Slow, a free plug-in for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera that grades your site’s speed on a scale from A to F.

2. Reduce or eliminate large images.
If you’ve ever fretted over how long it took to email a photo, imagine a website trying to load a large image or several images on a single page. To reduce large photo clutter, you can try three approaches.

First, keep images small: between 500 and 800 pixels across, and 72 dots per inch (dpi). That goes not only for photos and other images, but also for background graphics. WordPress can be set up to automatically reduce image resolution under Settings-Media.

Second, consider stripping your photos of their meta data — the date and location the photo was taken, the type of camera used and the resolution. This information is part of a photo’s background code and adds to its girth.

WordPress users can try a plug-in called WP Smush.it, says Pete Bernardo, digital strategist at Gainesville, Fla.-based web design firm 352 Media Group. It can help shave as much as 30 percent off the photo file size by simply removing meta data, he says.

Third, instead of posting several full-size photos, either create a slide show or use thumbnails that can be clicked on to produce larger images in a separate window, says David Masters, president and founder of Austin, Texas-based web design company iMedia Studios.

There are dozens of free thumbnail generating software programs for both online and offline use, including Quick Thumbnail. Most do-it-yourself web services include templates for creating slide shows.

3. Reduce plug-ins and Java scripts.
Besides presenting text and images, your site does many other things that involve Java scripts and plug-ins. There are forms to fill out, Like buttons, Twitter feeds, comments, navigation page tabs and even the essential Google Analytics that tell you who’s visiting your site, how often and from where.

Sooner or later, these extras can pile up and clog your site. Your browser loads from top to bottom, so if a Java script is slow to load at the top, the whole page stalls. While Java scripts are local, plug-ins such as a weather app originate from another site. So if that site is slow to deliver data then your site also might be sluggish.

Consider removing the coded elements you don’t need and spreading the others over a series of pages to increase site speed.

4. Eliminate Flash.
Web animation software Flash usually isn’t efficient since flashy animation takes time to load and arguably offers limited value to users. “Users don’t have time to wait … and leave the page before waiting for the Flash to load,” Masters says.

Even Adobe recognizes that websites want to reduce their reliance on Flash. It has introduced free tool called Adobe Wallaby to help convert most Flash elements into HTML5. For those of you who are still unclear on HTML, it is integrated into a page’s native HTML coding and generally requires less processing and less battery power than the Flash plug-in.

5. Cache your site.
Your website includes dozens of elements, which are often located on several servers. Web browsers have to collect all these disparate ingredients to create your site. This made-to-order approach slows down page loading.

Web designers advise that site owners cache their sites regularly. Caching is like ready-made fast food: Your site is essentially pre-assembled on the server, so it can be more quickly served to visitors.

WordPress offers caching plug-ins such as WP Super Cache or WP Total Cache to make your site fast-food fast.

5 Ways To Improve Your Web Site This Week

Small business owners are notoriously busy. You have a business to run, a Web presence to manage, customers to serve, vendors to hunt down, invoices to pay, social media to keep up with, and, oh, sometimes you like to pretend to have a social life. With so many different things on your plate, wouldn’t it be nice if this week left time to get just ONE under control? If perhaps there were just a handful of things you could tackle to wake up in a better place next Monday?

Below are five simple things to tackle so you can start next week off ahead of the game and with a stronger Web site.

 

1. Focus On Your Navigation

Often overlooked, your site navigation is crucial to creating a successful Web site. Your nav is what a customer will use to get around and find the information on your site. To aid them in this journey, you want to make your navigation as intuitive and easy to use as you can. Don’t hide your navigation, don’t try and be “clever” when naming certain items – focus on giving your customers something they can use, and use quickly.

As general rule, your main navigation bar should be easy to find, look and feel consistent, have properly named tabs (“trash cans” not “garbage receptacles”) and should always let customers know where they are on your site. If you’re not sure how well your site navigation does at helping customers on their way, a service like usertesting.com can help you see, from a user perspective, what it feels like navigating around your site. It may also be time to do some keyword research to make sure the keywords and phrases you’re using in your site navigation are still relevant.

2. Create a Better About Page

If you’re like many small business owners, you do a pretty good job ignoring your About page. I mean, you created one. Mostly. You threw in some bio information, your address and you even included a nice stock image of a woman dutifully at work. It’s not like anyone really uses that page, right?
Wrong.

As an SMB, one of the worst things you can do for your Web site is to ignore your About page. This is where customers go to learn more about your business, to gain trust, to see what you’re about, and, ultimately, decide if you’re a company they want to do business with. Stock your About Page with the Must Haves like:

  • Your story
  • Your credentials
  • Pictures
  • What they can expect from you/your value
  • Where they can get more info about you
  • Humanizing details

It’s easy to look at your About page as a chore or something that makes you uncomfortable. Instead, think of it as your formal introduction to your audience. What do you want them to know about feel about your brand? Show it here.

3. Update Your Blog

Sometimes bringing life (and customers) back to your Web site really is that easy. Spend some time this week to update your blog. Create a new post that takes a look inside your business (and maybe highlights your new About page), answer a long-standing consumer problem, share your thoughts on where the industry is going in 2012. Just get writing and talking to your audience again.

Updating your blog not only gives your audience something to find and engage with, it gives the search engines something to find, as well. It gives them a reason to revisit your site

4. Get That Contact Form User-Ready

The goal for many service-based Web sites is to guide a customer to that all-important contact form. We need our visitor to fill it out and give us their information in order to continue a dialogue with them. If they leave our site WITHOUT making it to this point, we’ve lost them. Forever. Probably to a competitor.
What does your own contact form look like? If you’re not confident in its ability, you may want to go grab a family member, sit them in front of a computer staring at your Web site, and then ask them to navigate through your site with a specific purpose in mind. Are they able to get there and make it to the contact form or convert? Or do they get scared off along the way?

Your site’s contact form should follow a few rules:

  • It should be intuitive.
  • It should be simple.
  • It should only ask for the information you absolutely need to take a relationship with your customers to the next level.

Where contact forms go wrong is when they either try to get too much information in one sitting or they intimidate your visitor – either due to length, scope or language. Keep it simple, only ask for the information you absolutely need, and you can be confident you have a form that will due it’s purpose.

5. Show Off Your Social Media

Another quick way to add some life to your Web site is to do a better job showcasing all of your different social media profiles. Are you on Twitter? On Facebook? Google+? Have a LinkedIn profile? Sweet. Make sure you’re including a prominent call to action for visitors to follow you on these networks. Include the icons directly on your home page and on other prominent pages of your site (like your blog, About page, or Contact Us page, for example). Not only does cross-linking these profiles increase their strength, it also gives customers another place to go engage with you. They can go to your Twitter account and ask you a question, or see what questions you’re already answering. They can head to Google+ and see the media you’re sharing. Or head to LinkedIn and hop into a discussion you’re leading. These are all great trust signals.

The more connected you can look to your customers, the more they’re going to trust that you’re a reputable SMB that will be around in the morning should something go wrong.

Those are just five small things you can do to your Web site this week to increase its strength and make it more valuable and engaging to a user. What plans do you have for your Web presence this week?

Blogging to Build Your Business

Blogging for business is not a new concept, but for many small businesses, especially service businesses, it can be an extremely effective tool to build your social media footprint, establish your brand, or position yourself in your area of expertise.

The ultimate benefit of blogging is the opportunity to communicate your expertise and establish your business as a resource.

Social media can be great tools to drive traffic, but it is the blog that will do the most to build a platform. While there is much debate about the return on investment for time spent in social media, the results of blogging are easier to evaluate: unique visitors, comments, interactions, time on site and other social media metrics can help businesses learn about customer interests and pain points.

Read the full article by Melinda Emerson: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/blogging-to-build-your-business/

Top Ten Blogging Tips For 2012

The blogging game can be quite elusive, especially if you are a beginner and still learning the ropes. Excitedly, many people start blogs, run a few posts – both exciting and boring – before fizzling out.

So, how do you keep the fire ablaze and burning? How do you make sure that your blogging adventure doesn’t burn out prematurely? How do you ensure that when you close down your blog, it is because you want to, and not because you’re unable to keep up with it?

Below are ten tips to keep your blogging game ahead of the pack:

1. Your Opinion Counts
People love blogs. It is the new internet addiction, pegged high and next to social networking. For some crazy reason, people derive a lot of pleasure from knowing how other people think. So, tell people exactly what is on your mind in a short, bullet-to-target style and they will love you.
2. Link and Link Some more
If you have a great post done and ready, link it to other contextual resources all over the place. Support your post with relevant links to other web pages.
3. DO NOT Write TOO MUCH
Nobody enjoys reading through a barrage of words. Hit the nail on the head and do it fast. People are very busy and time is one precious commodity. Do not stall with long and boring opening pages; blast your wits into the reader as soon as they land.
4. 250-Words, period!
The best blog posts are the shortest ones, often delivered in a quick-fire style. Avoid long ones, unless if it infinitely necessary. Long post are easier to forget and harder to put together.
5. Use snappy Headlines
See how editors manage to get people to buy national newspapers on a daily basis. The trick lies in snappy and catchy headlines. Sum up your entire blog post in a catchy headline.
6. Bullets
Everybody loves information presented in a list. It is easy to the eye, palatable and always fresh.
7. Easy to Scan posts
Throw in a sub heading every few paragraphs. Use short sentences that are to the point.
8. Define your style and stick to it
People hate unpleasant surprises. Work on a unique style of delivery and stick to it. Your readers will love you more when they know what to expect.
9. Keywords and more keywords
Since every post bears a theme, litter every post with relevant keywords. Think about what keywords your readers might use to search for your post and use them generously. Make sure the post reads naturally.
10. Finally, edit your posts
Before you hit Publish, proofread and edit your post for errors. Good writing lies in the editing.

Take your blog from boring to “unique”

One of the most difficult things for a blogger is finding a topic to discuss. You know the value of blogging and you want to be good at it, but there are so many blogs to compete with. You want to be original and unique, but just when you think you’ve got an idea you see it pop up on a similar blog..

Fortunately, there are a few easy blog topics that you can make your own. Whether you’re starting a small business blog or just working to improve your personal blog, it’s always good to have a few back-up options when creativity is ignoring you.

Amanda DiSilvestro, business blogger for the leading B2B Directory, Business.com, shares some advice on how make your blog unique:

5 Generic Blog Ideas That You Can Make Unique

1. Reviews – Lots of people do reviews, but what is being reviewed is almost always different. This makes reviews a great way to express your individuality and give readers something unique to read. You can review anything you wish—books, movies, websites—and I think you’ll find that creating a review is actually a lot of fun.

2. Interviews – If you are having a difficult time thinking of things to say, find someone else to do the talking. You likely know someone with a story to tell, so interview them and then help readers put the pieces together. What can someone learn from this interview? If you have a few experts reading your blog, you may also consider asking them if they would like to be interviewed. Just be sure you do a brief background check to ensure you don’t waste your time.

3. Contests – This works best if you have a lot of readers and/or subscribers. Write a blog post that poses a question or asks for opinions, and then create a contest around it. Many blogs hold contests for the most original article, the most thought-provoking piece, etc. However, the tricky thing with contests is coming up with a prize. Consider giving out a cash prize or a free book. In the end this will be fun, draw in more readers, and will certainly be unique to your blog.

4. Personal Experiences – Begin writing about a personal experience or a dream you may have. Although this may not be the direction you want your blog to take, you might be surprised to find that there is a lesson related to your blog that can come out of your personal experiences and/or dreams. Just begin writing and see what happens. This is about as unique as you can get.

5. Surveys and Polls – Surveys and polls require very little writing for those days when you just don’t have a good topic. Nonetheless, surveys are not second best to articles. Surveys can help you gauge what your readers are thinking and will likely give you some ideas for future topics. In addition, readers generally like surveys because they get to see what others are thinking.

 If you have an opinion about something, don’t hesitate to turn it into an article. It will be unique—whether you realize it or not.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to business phone services. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including voip small business phone services to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading B2B Directory, Business.com.

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