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Give Your Website Some Love

Valentine’s Day is here and with many people showing their loved ones how much they mean to them, why not give your website a little love too. Check out the following tips to help your website remain in tip top shape.

Add High Quality Content

Unique content is part of Google’s core algorithm and is an important factor of every SEO strategy.Show your website some love by adding fresh content that you know search engines love so much. Firstly new content will keep your website interesting but the main benefit is that the more you update the site the more search engines will visit your site and fingers crossed improve your rankings.

For even bigger brownie points within your fresh content use your own images, stock images are great quality however they don’t showcase you or your work. Create authentic images of your business with your own branding to make your site feel more personal and remember to focus on quality not quantity.

Add Fresh Reviews

Does your website include case studies or reviews? If not why? Statistics show that 88% of consumers actually trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and that positive reviews make them trust a business even more.

Reviews are a great way to build trust to your brand however if you already have reviews on your site make sure they are fresh. Consumers won’t read old reviews and showing only old feedback on your site could make visitors believe that you are no longer in business and losing out on potential customers.

A simple way to contact your customers would be to send them an email with a link to make it quick and easy for them to leave a review. This is a great way of keeping in touch with your client base and improving your services while building your credibility at the same time.

Updates

Keep your site running smoothly and efficiently by updating your plugins, core and theme. Keeping your site up to date helps to provide security and bug fixes but also help towards a more user friendly experience for your visitors.

Neglecting to update WordPress means not only are taking a risk on being hacked, you may also be missing out on new features / improvements.

Keeping your website updated ensures that;

★ Your website is secure from the threat of hackers and malware
  • ★ Your data remains intact
  • ★ Your website remains functional
  • ★ Your website is faster
  • ★ Your website is bug free
  • ★ You get access to added features

  • Broken Link Checker

    Broken links refer the links on your website that directs or points your visitors to a URL that no longer exists. These dead links are annoying and reflect poorly on your online presence and brand.

    How do you feel when you click on a link and end up with “404 page not found” error? In general, you become annoyed with this kind of actions.

    Truly, Broken links are annoying and create the bad user experience. And the most important issue is, it’s bad for your website’s SEO.

    A wide variety of different tools are available which can scan your site for broken links however i personally use https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/.

    Declutter

    Have you ever scale or crop uploaded images in WordPress? Have you ever changed or added various media image sizes? If yes, the chances are that your libary is full of unused and unreferenced images. These image leftovers will remain cluttering your media library which can slow down your website and make media management difficult.

    Over time there are various ways that you may end up with unused and unreferenced images. Whether it’s outdated photos, text that is no longer relevant, or extra pages help to give your site some love and press delete.

    My personal favourite media library cleaner is https://wordpress.org/plugins/media-cleaner/. This plugin will add all files not being used on your website (such as in posts, pages, or galleries) to a temporary trash bin. You can then look over the files to be sure you want to delete them, and make their removal permanent.

    Giving your website a little love and attention in this way will pay big dividends in attracting website visitors and converting them into clients.

  • What do the “mobile-first indexing enabled” messages mean?

    On September 18, 2018, people started noticing a new notification in their Google Search Console accounts. Google was sending a message that announced “Mobile-first indexing enabled for [insert site name here].”

    What is Mobile-First Indexing?

    Mobile-first indexing essentially means that Googlebot will use the mobile version of a website to assess it for ranking on mobile devices. The change has occurred as previously, Google only used the desktop version of websites to determine their index on search engine result pages (SERP). This meant that mobile users may have had difficulties viewing certain websites that weren’t mobile-friendly, such as having to zoom-in on content or incurring lengthy load time.

    The problem was that so many site experiences drastically differ from desktop to mobile. Since more and more people are searching on mobile, Google wants to reward the sites that deliver a stellar mobile experience. Hence, the mobile-first index. Now, Google will crawl and index the mobile version of a site.

    With the rolling out of those messages, mobile-first is actually in effect for most sites as of September 2018. Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of the time since Google first announced mobile-first to optimize your site’s mobile experience. If so, you shouldn’t see a huge wobble in performance.

    However, if you notice changes in rankings or traffic in the past few weeks, it’s recommended that you investigate your site. Use Google’s very own Mobile-Friendly Test to see how it evaluates your site.

    Christmas Plugins vs DIY

    It’s that time of the year again, where we start putting Santa hats on our company logos, prepare for Christmas work parties and count down the days till the relatives stop by to watch Home Alone for only the 50th time.

    In all reality changing your website to reflect the festive period is easy, quick, inexpensive and an engaging way to keep your website fresh with a little bit of personality.

    However, it is essential that your seasonal branding is engaging, meaningful, and most importantly, in keeping with your branding. Make sure you don’t completely redesign your site to the point that it affects the user experience and makes customers question if they are on the right site.

    WordPress Plugins

    WordPress has an array of different plugins to help prepare your site for the festive period, from countdowns, Christmas animations, holiday messages the list goes on and all can help to welcome the Christmas spirit to your site.

    Adding WordPress plugins to your website can however have implications, getting the balance of plugins and site speed is always a difficult task. WordPress plugins may add their own style sheets and assets which may do more harm than good by slowing down your site.

    Plugins vs DIY

    Every year I see blogs such as “10 Best Christmas WordPress Plugins” or something similar and i didn’t want to be another blog to grow that list even more.

    With site performance my main priority I wanted to test WordPress plugins vs creating my own solution based on a number of factors such as time, size, speed, amount of coding etc. to see which is better.


    Snow Animation WordPress Plugin

    A number of different snow falling plugins are available however my favourite to test is WFS Let It Snow. Within the settings for the plugin you can alter the snowflake speed, size and type of snowfall until you have a light snowfall you are happy with rather than distracting your website customers with a blizzard.

    The plugin also lets you select where the snow will fall with two options “Homepage Only” or “Entire Site”, snow on every page might annoy your audience so homepage only might be the preferred option, however it would be nice if the plugin had additional functionality such as “Posts Only” or “Shop Only”.

    The main reason i wanted to test WordPress plugins vs DIY is the amount of additional requests plugins use and this plugin is no different. For such a small plugin with the only purpose to animate snow falling i was surprised to see two JavaScript requests being used. This of course doesn’t seem like a large number however small plugins such as this can add up very quickly affecting the performance of your site.

    Pros Cons
    Install and setup in 60 seconds. 2 JavaScript requests
    Option to show on homepage/all pages Can’t show on specific pages
    Change speed/size of snow Safari issues
    Shadow for lighter sites Responsive issues

    Snowfall Animation DIY

    As you might notice while reading this blog my website has a snowfall effect, however this is not a plugin but a snowfall animation using pure CSS which i have shown below.

    body {
    position: relative;
    }
    
    body:before {
    content: '';
       display: block;
       position: absolute;
       z-index: 999999999999999 !important;
    background-image: url('https://samtswift.com/wp-content/uploads/snowflake1.png'),
    url('https://samtswift.com/wp-content/uploads/snowflake2.png');	
    	-webkit-animation: snow 15s linear infinite;
    	-moz-animation: snow 15s linear infinite;
    	-ms-animation: snow 15s linear infinite;
    	animation: snow 15s linear infinite;
    }
    @keyframes snow {
      0% {background-position: 0px 0px, 0px 0px, 0px 0px;}
      50% {background-position: 500px 500px, 100px 200px, -100px 150px;}
      100% {background-position: 500px 1000px, 200px 400px, -100px 300px;}
    }
    @-moz-keyframes snow {
      0% {background-position: 0px 0px, 0px 0px, 0px 0px;}
      50% {background-position: 500px 500px, 100px 200px, -100px 150px;}
      100% {background-position: 400px 1000px, 200px 400px, 100px 300px;}
    }
    @-webkit-keyframes snow {
      0% {background-position: 0px 0px, 0px 0px, 0px 0px;}
      50% {background-position: 500px 500px, 100px 200px, -100px 150px;}
      100% {background-position: 500px 1000px, 200px 400px, -100px 300px;}
    }
    @-ms-keyframes snow {
      0% {background-position: 0px 0px, 0px 0px, 0px 0px;}
      50% {background-position: 500px 500px, 100px 200px, -100px 150px;}
      100% {background-position: 500px 1000px, 200px 400px, -100px 300px;}
    }
    
    Pros Cons
    Under 40 lines of CSS Longer to implement
    Only size 10kb images As the code repeats a noticeable jump occurs
    More control of functionality Additional CSS required to add functionality
    Different variety of snowflakes
    No JavaScript requests

    This DIY version of this plugin is not perfect don’t get me wrong but it does show how simple it is to make your own snow animation, no Jquery, no JavaScript and no additional HTTP requests just a few lines of CSS.


    Christmas Lights WordPress Plugin


    The second Christmas plugin to test is Xmas Lights by GraphicEdit, this was the only Christmas lights plugin i could find however more may be available. This plugin adds Christmas lights to the top of your website and couldn’t be easier to set up simply activate the plugin and the lights will appear on your site.

    It really is that simple, just activate the plugin and view your site to see the festive feeling. Don’t get to comfortable though as this plugin does have its issues, on mobile devices the plugin doesn’t show at all which when 80% of your target audience use mobile devices this is a big issue. The plugin also has issues with WordPress Themes and my site needed to stripped down to Twenty Twelve WordPress Theme just so i could see how the lights appear.

    Although the plugin doesn’t work on most mobile devices it doesn’t show an error to alert the user to this issue and for all desktop users that use your site they can engage with your site as they get into the Christmas spirit. This plugin also doesn’t add any additional requests to your website but instead adds the JavaScript required into your site so site performance remains unaffected.

    Pros Cons
    Quick win to make your site festive Mobile issues
    No additional requests Custom designs may not work with this plugin
    No additional functionality

    Christmas Lights DIY

    This same Christmas Lights effect can be created without the need for a plugin and not only that it can be done with pure CSS.

    View Demo

    As you can see from my demo a small amount of CSS is required and you have Christmas Lights that are not restricted to the top of your site but anywhere and most importantly yes it works on mobile. Using pure CSS means no additional requests, no effect on site speed and no plugin added to your library just a small image file and a few lines of CSS.

    Pros Cons
    Pure CSS Image needed in media library
    Works on all devices
    Use anywhere on your site

    Christmas Countdown WordPress Plugin

    We all love counting down the days until Christmas, getting excited the closer it gets, getting your site visitors excited can help to increase sales.

    There are plenty of WordPress plugins currently available, Christmas Countdown Widget by Monica Mays is the most highly rated. This Christmas Countdown displays a Santa Claus countdown which can be added to your site via shortcode or sidebar and once the countdown has finished the “Merry Christmas” greeting appears before the countdown starts again.

    This particular plugin uses one CSS and one JavaScript external request, time based plugins however will require either php or JavaScript to calculate the current time so every solution will require more than simply CSS.

    Pros Cons
    Shortcode to show anywhere you wish Only shows days left
    Quick to set up 1 CSS & 1 JavaScript File
    Only santa as a graphic

    Christmas Countdown DIY

    Santa is coming to town in….

    Days
    Hours
    Minutes
    Seconds

    View Code

    This DIY Christmas countdown is an actually timer showing days,hours,minutes and seconds. Watching the countdown slowly tick away adds the power of urgency to induce sales you must’ve seen it so often on Amazon. Amazon quite cleverly places a timer alongside a particular deal (like sale, or “Free Shipping”), the urgency of realisation that Christmas is quickly closing in can make your landing pages more effective.

    Creating this solution rather than with a plugin means you aren't restricted to an image of a santa but you can change however you require, perhaps changing the boxes to look like presents or brand in your company colours to make the timer more personal to your business. The benefits of creating the countdown is that it can be used for future use by simply changing the timer in JavaScript for events such as Black Friday, sale events etc.

    Pros Cons
    Shows more than just days Uses CSS & JavaScript
    Brand to your business Larger amount of space on page
    Power of urgency to induce sales
    Use for future events (Sales)


    Find Your Balance

    This test is not to prove that we don't need WordPress Plugins nor that we shouldn't use them but instead to be more cautious of how much we use them. Firstly question what your aim is for the plugin and if infact your goal can be achieved much easier than anticipated. Nobody wants to login to a WordPress site and see a full library of installed plugins requiring updates nor testing a site on Pingdom with a grade F "Make fewer HTTP requests".

    Things to consider:
  • Cost of buying different tools (theme and plugins)
  • The development time you need to spend
  • External dependencies (things that can go wrong and are outside of your control)
  • Stability (the chance of something that works now to break by itself in the future)
  • Future cost of maintenance work

    I believe a balance needs to be struck to use a mixture of a good theme, reliable plugins from vetted sources and a bit of your own development to build great websites rather than relying only on plugins to run your site.

  • Happy Birthday Google! Search giant turns 20

    Google isn’t just celebrating with Easter eggs, it’s also launching a redesigned Google Images desktop website, which includes a new ranking algorithm designed to help you find what you’re looking for more easily. “Over the last year, we’ve overhauled the Google Images algorithm to rank results that have both great images and great content on the page. For starters, the authority of a web page is now a more important signal in the ranking. If you’re doing a search for DIY shelving, the site behind the image is now more likely to be a site related to DIY projects. We also prioritize fresher content, so you’re more likely to visit a site that has been updated recently,” Google said in a blog post.

    What’s New in WordPress 5.0?

    Every new WordPress core update is exciting, we get to see new features and see what additions we can make improve our websites.

    The 4.9 WordPress update enabled users to schedule design changes in Customizer to go live at a later date,
    4.8 changed the usability of widgets adding three dedicated media widgets,
    4.7 gave us the eye catching video headers within a new Twenty Seventeen theme.

    All of these updates are valuable making development time more efficient however this update is a particularly exciting as we are introduced to the new Gutenberg editor.

    A tribute to the German inventor famous for starting the Printing Revolution the Gutenberg is a complete overhaul of the WordPress editor changing how WordPress users create content.

    Gutenburg

    By using this blocks concept, you can now determine what every part of your content is. Not only that, you can define their specifications per block. So, for instance, you can turn a single line of text into a quote by simply changing its block type.

    Block-based writing blocks

    What is really special on Gutenberg, it brings a completely new way how the editor works. It makes the content manipulation much easier as was the case previously. New content is added to Pages and Posts via blocks. You just need to click the “+” symbol in the editor. This way, you can add any type of content, such as gallery, videos or embed codes. Even custom blocks can be created.

    Image source: https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/

    Nested Blocks

    Nested blocks mean a block that can be added or exist within another block. Thus, we are implying blocks that are usable as sub-blocks of existing ones.

    By nesting blocks, you can work with additional forms of content and get better formatting for presenting your content on the frontend. It can help in layout and structuring of your content on the frontend as well.

    Reusable blocks

    One of the coolest things about the new WordPress editor is reusable blocks. Think of these as a completed block that you can save along with its settings. For instance, if you’ve made a cool looking layout for the intro of your blog articles, you can save this as a reusable block. After that, you only have to go to Add Block -> Saved to pick your reusable intro block. How cool is that!

    What else is included in WordPress 5.0?

  • • All of the previous default themes, from Twenty Ten through to Twenty Seventeen, have been updated to support the block editor.
  • • You can improve the accessibility of the content you write, now that simple ARIA labels can be saved in posts and pages.
  • • WordPress 5.0 officially supports the upcoming PHP 7.3 release: if you’re using an older version, we encourage you to upgrade PHP on your site.
  • • Developers can now add translatable strings directly to your JavaScript code, using the new JavaScript language packs.

    Feedback from WordPress Authors

    Not everyone has a positive view on Gutenberg however as they see the editor as a threat to there own custom-made page builders.

    This is because there is a huge amount of work behind these Page Builders. Custom Page Builders become redundant once Gutenberg editor arrives. But it is not necessary to look at it as an imminent threat. So far, Gutenberg lags far behind most of the most used Page Builders.

    Get One Step Ahead

    If you’re the kind of person that believes “if it aint broke don’t fix it”, you’ll be able to stick with the classic WordPress editor for the foreseeable future. However, if you plan on adapting, you’ll want to start reading up on how Gutenberg works right away. This will give you a step ahead of your competition once WordPress 5.0 is live, and will help you determine which of your themes and plugins may be most affected.