• Top WordPress Optimization Plugins To Kill It In 2019

    There are over 55,000 plugins in the WordPress directory. That’s enough to make anyone a little nauseous. A quick search for optimization plugins in WordPress’s official plugin marketplace results in over 130 pages of plugins. Thankfully, we’ve used all the best plugins on our Managed Sites, and as a result, we can recommend what we consider to be the top seven optimization plugins every WordPress site needs to kill it in 2019.

    First thing’s first: Always make sure you’re tinkering with your plugins on a STAGING environment. If you’re not familiar with STAGING environments or don’t have a STAGING website set up, I recommend setting up one before installing, activating, or configuring any plugins. If you are unable to set up a STAGING site, at the very least make sure to do a backup.

    Smush

    Smush Image Compression and Optimization is one of the most popular image compression plugins on the market. With over one million active installs, Smush provides a one-stop shop for all your image optimization needs. You can “smush” previously uploaded photos and enable auto-compression for new uploads. The developers behind Smush now offer a supplemental plugin called Hummingbird that’s worth a peek.

    WP Fastest Cache

    WP Fastest Cache may be the most comprehensive caching plugin in the WordPress directory. Using this robust and easy-to-use plugin, you can enable page compression, minify site files, and defer JavaScript out-of-the-box. With the premium version, you can clear your database cache, clear your CSS file cache, and even access CDN servers for content-heavy sites.

    Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

    Although this plugin isn’t specifically an optimization plugin, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP displays important site metrics like Page Views and Bounce Rates in the WordPress Admin Dashboard. This data can be used to make changes to the website including security and optimization enhancements. You will need to have an active Google Analytics account to use this plugin.

    WP Hide & Security Enhancer

    WordPress is used by more than 20% of all sites on the web. Yes, you read that right. Because of this, WordPress sites are commonly targeted in malicious attacks. Thankfully, plugins like this one offer a security level not provided by most web hosts or developers. WP Hide & Security Enhancer “hides” WordPress-identifiable code in your frontend source files and redirects your login pages so WordPress hackers and bots are thrown off.

    Yoast SEO

    Yoast SEO isn’t your average optimization plugin. With Yoast SEO you can track your web page’s readability and search engine scores. The plugin offers tips and tricks to optimize your web pages, provides downloadable reports, and includes an integrated user experience that any WordPress user will feel comfortable using.

    Jetpack

    Jetpack comes recommended by WordPress itself. That’s because the organization behind WordPress, Automattic, is the developer behind this robust WordPress optimization plugin. Using Jetpack you can find important starts including page views, track related posts, view search engine scores, set up social sharing, back up your site files, and secure your site. Whew… that was a lot!

    Sucuri Security

    One of the best things you can do to optimize your WordPress site is making sure it’s always safe and secure. There is perhaps no better WordPress plugin that exists, which addresses site security as efficiently as Sucuri Security by Sucuri Inc. Key features include Security Activity Auditing, File Integrity Monitoring, Remote Malware Scanning, Blacklist Monitoring, and more. With the Premium version, you can even set up a website firewall.

  • WordPress 5.0 Is Here. And So Is Gutenberg. Deal With It.

    In less than 24 hours, one of the most anticipated software releases of the past two decades will take place. On December 6, 2018, WordPress 5.0 will be released in all of its glory (and blunder). Assuming everything goes well, Matt Mullenweg, Founder of Automattic, the parent company that owns WordPress.org and WordPress.com, says that the new release will be available for update.

    As with any new software releases, there will always be pushback from members of the community. It seems to be split right down the middle. Half of the WordPress developers I’ve spoke to seem to be in favor of the new release; the other half is all but protesting it. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, the new release symbolizes an evolutionary age where new opportunities will arise and chaos will ensue.

    But before we panic, let’s break things down a little.

    What Is WordPress?

    While it originally began as a simple blogging platform, WordPress is now the largest content management system (CMS) in the world. Powered by more than 20% of all websites currently on the web, the popular CMS provides developers with a framework to build full-scale websites including e-commerce stores and news sites. Today, some of the most visited websites on the web use WordPress to power their sites. BBC America, TechCrunch, and Mercedez-Benz all use the CMS on their sites. You know it’s legit when Sweden uses WordPress to power its official website!

    Today, you can use WordPress to do pretty much anything. It’s a force to be reckoned with and programmers who haven’t already caught on will do well to learn about it.

    What Is Gutenberg

    While WordPress is the underlying framework (software platform) that powers sites, Gutenberg is the new Page Editor that website designers use to publish blogs, post content, and make changes to their websites. And it’s now the default Administrator user interface for WordPress.

    Gutenberg is a fresh take on the old way of doing things. It’s a block-based grid editor that makes publishing rich content to your WordPress website simpler than ever. For some, it will feel familiar. For others, it will feel unfamiliar and may take some time to get used to.

    In any case, it’s always a good idea to set up a STAGING or DEVELOPMENT site to try out the new Page Editor. When you feel comfortable and perform necessary regression testing, you can push the site LIVE.

    Why Does All Thi Matter?

    At Site Assembly, it’s in our mantra to “Always Evolve”. To us, that means always learning new ways to tackle new problems in this ever-changing world. WordPress 5.0 is one of those “new solutions” to a problem some people didn’t even know they had.

    It matters because it’s going to impact any business that has a WordPress website, any developer who makes a living from WordPress, and any agency that operates WordPress endpoints. It matters because regardless of whether we like it or not, it’s coming in less than 24 hours, and it’s going to change the way we build and manage WordPress websites for years to come.

     

     

  • Tips for Optimizing Your Facebook Business Page In 10 Minutes Or Less

    Intro

    In this first-of-two-part series, we’re going to learn about the fundamentals of optimizing your Facebook Business Page. From choosing the perfect cover photo to writing a killer About section, we’ll cover all the major bases and make sure you have the knowledge needed to start killing it on Facebook!

    Cover Photo

    When optimizing your Facebook Business Page, your cover photo is especially important. Think of your cover photo as a digital billboard that gives you the opportunity to show your Page visitors what your business is all about. Imagine drivers traveling 65 miles per hour down the interstate. The advertiser, you, has only a few moments to capture the attention of the passersby. If your billboard is wordy, washed out, or irrelevant to your message, drivers will pass it by without hesitating.

    Your cover photo is the same. It’s seen the first thing visitors will see when they land on your Page. If your cover photo is wordy, irrelevant, difficult to understand, then your Page visitors will pass onto the next business within 5 seconds or less.

    So, how do you grab the attention of your Page Visitors and ensure you’re delivering the best content possible within the limited space you have?

    Some ways to optimize your cover photo include:

    1. Using bright-colored backgrounds and bold text to liven up your branding
    2. Using custom graphics and high-quality images to showcase your top products
    3. Using Videos and GIFs to bring your message to life

    It’s important to note that your cover photo should follow Facebook’s Cover Photo Dimension guidelines, which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/CoverPhotoSize/

    If you include text in your cover photo, make sure it’s crucial to the action you want your Page visitors to take. For instance, if your call-to-action is Call Now, including text in your cover photo that says, “We’re open 24/7” adds value to your graphic and builds upon your C2A.

    Blake Shelton

    World-famous country music star and long-standing judge of NBC’s hit show The Voice, Blake Shelton promotes his new album in his Cover Photo. https://bit.ly/2zUfwoF

    Oerlemans’ Foods

    Oerlemans’ Foods is a natural food products distributor operating worldwide and has a beautiful image of their farms as their Cover Photo. Here’s the direct link: https://bit.ly/2L0MI6H

    The Honest Company

    This skincare product line started by actress Jessica Alba created a custom collage as their Cover Photo. The brand does exceptionally well at showcasing their products with the limited space Facebook provides. https://bit.ly/2tJJrMm

    Notice how these cover photos are easy to understand, catch your eyes quickly, and include very limited text if any. The reason these cover photos are so engaging is that they follow the rules outlined in this article and they’ve mastered the use of cover photos as a tool to build their brands and boost engagement

    Now, let’s talk about your Profile Picture.

    Profile Picture

    You know that small, square photo you see next to the name of a person or business you search for on Facebook? Or, what about that circular image you see next to a person or business’s name when viewing posts in your timeline? That is your Profile Picture.

    When optimizing your Facebook Business Page, your Profile Picture is what users see when they search for your business or see ads or posts from your business. It’s perhaps the single-most important photo for your Business Page since it’s seen so often throughout various user experiences on Facebook.

    Naturally, many businesses choose to add their logos here. Others, like influencers, bloggers, and coaches, may choose to add their headshots. Either way, the space is extremely limited and requires you to upload a square image.

    Check out Facebook’s Cover Photo and Profile Picture Dimension guidelines for information on how to size your Profile Picture.

    Let’s take a look at some examples of what top brands are using as their Profile Pictures.

    Coca-Cola

    The ubiquitous Coca-Cola brand has their signature white logo atop the famous red background set as their Page’s Profile Picture. https://bit.ly/2avAmCA

    Gary Vaynerchuck

    Renowned Social Media Influencer and Pro Marketer, Gary Vaynerchuck is known for his vibrant and oftentimes curse-laden talking style—telling people like it is with no filter. His Profile Picture is a great representation of his loud and in-your-face brand. https://bit.ly/2rpam2e

    Patagonia

    Patagonia, a multinational outdoors clothing and accessories brand, has their well-known serif logo pasted against a custom background graphic that helps it stand out against the natural cover photo they chose. https://bit.ly/2NVo5pY

    Reviews

    Reviews are extremely important when optimizing your Facebook Business Page.

    Since Facebook is used as a network to find not only people, but businesses as well, Reviews are a surefire way to solidify your expertise and uphold your reputation as a brand.

    Without Reviews, potential customers or followers may not take you seriously or may even refuse to do business with you if you lack Facebook Reviews.

    Think about it. If you’ve used Review Engines like Yelp to find a restaurant or Home Advisor to find quality service providers, you understand the impact a review has on your decision to choose who you do business with.

    Facebook Reviews are no different. In fact, a Forbes article once stated that nearly “70% of consumers are more likely to use a local business with positive reviews.” A 2015 DigitasLBi Connected Commerce study found that” Facebook influences 52% of our online and offline purchases.” That’s a HUGE number, and it’s only growing!

    So, if you have no Facebook Reviews or would like to boost your positive reviews, start by connecting with your most loyal customers. Tell them you’d appreciate if they left an honest review on your Facebook Page. You can even send them a direct link so they have little responsibility. Or, send them a personal message through Messenger inviting them to leave a review and like your Page.

    Whatever you do, don’t let your Facebook Reviews become a forgotten land. Use them to promote your brand. Showcase them in your posts. And most importantly, have them!

    All the top brands have plenty of Facebook Reviews to back their claims and brands. Surely, you should, too.

    Facebook Shop

    If you sell shippable products to consumers, Facebook Shop is something you’ll want to learn quickly.

    Through Facebook’s Shop functionality, Business Pages can upload their products for sale directly on their Facebook Page. So now, you don’t have to send users to your website if you don’t want to.

    The benefit of uploading your products to Facebook is that you can track product sales directly through your Page Dashboard, as well as cut out extra steps of sending users to your web page.

    You can choose to upload your entire catalog, showcase new products, or promote limited-time products through your Facebook Shop.

    To set up your Shop, select your Business Page, and then click Shop.

    If you haven’t configured your business page properly, you’ll have to complete a few steps first. No worries, these are pretty easy steps and you can get started by clicking Set Up Shop.

    After your Shop is set up, you can add products to your Shop via Manage Shop.

    Next week, we’ll dive further into optimizing your Facebook Shop and how selling products directly through your FB Shop can benefit your business. We’ll also talk about other elements of optimizing your Facebook Business Page, including adding great photos, creating engaging posts, utilizing LIVE videos for marketing, and how to write a killer About description.

    Until then, onward and upward, my friends!

    If you like what you read, let’s start a conversation! Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

  • 3 Things Every Health & Wellness Website Needs To Convert More Clients

    Health and wellness coaches spend countless hours helping others look and feel better as part of their jobs. Part of our job is to find ways to turn your health and wellness coaching website visitors into paying clients, but how do we do that? The truth is, health and wellness coaches are members of a unique industry, one that requires special features in order to build a website that converts. If you’re a wellness coach looking to optimize your website for conversions, you’ve come to the right place. Now, let’s dig in.

    Before & After Photos To Boost Your Credibility

    Health and wellness coaching is a results-driven industry. Your clients want to see those results. So, how can you do this? One way would be to include before and after photos of your clients who’ve had success with your program. You can feature them on your home page, or create a separate page called Before & After. Just make sure you feature high-quality images here so they look pixel-perfect on every device.

    Built-In Appointment Setting for Simplified Online Scheduling

    Give your clients the ability to book time with you directly through your website by implementing an online booking feature. You can implement appointment setting capabilities into your website to ensure you’re able to fill your schedule exactly how you want. Doing so will also provide your clients with an optimized online experience. There a number of WordPress plugins and custom calendar integrations your web manager can utilize to set up online appointment setting for your website.

    Online Contact Forms for Your Coaching Website

    Implementing an online contact form into your website gives you complete control over incoming inquiries and potential sales opportunities. Make sure to include fields for name, phone number and email address, and a brief message. Contact forms can oftentimes be forwarded to your preferred email address each time someone sends a new form inquiry. The benefits are endless as to how an on-site contact form can save your business time and effort.

    The Wrap-Up

    So, there you have it: the three most important features your health and wellness coaching website must include to convert more of your site visitors into paying clients. Next week, we’ll explore the different ways you can boost sales leads, such as by solidifying your website’s main call-to-action. Over time, the changes outlined in this article can help boost online conversions and increase customer engagement.

    To learn more about how we can build your ideal website and increase conversions, call our Site Experts seven-days-a-week.

  • Why SEO Isn’t What You Think It Is

    Oftentimes, one of the first things our clients ask when they first sign up for one of our Site Plans, is whether or not SEO is included. And while we completely understand our clients’ desire to know whether or not their website will be optimized for search engines—which, by the way, it certainly will—it’s not as simple as simply saying yes. We like to give our clients a bit more clarification so they know exactly what yes means. This may mean giving a long-winded answer to a question one might’ve thought was pretty straightforward, but, our hope is that each of our clients come out more informed on the other side. So, buckle up and hold on tight, because today, you’ll probably learn more about SEO than you ever really wanted to know.

    There Are About A Thousand Variables That Make Up SEO

    Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. From choosing the right image naming conventions & utilizing the most valuable keywords on each web page, to avoiding inline CSS & building your website responsively, “SEO” is actually a collection of best practices and ongoing efforts that require special attention and dedication from the very beginning. If your website isn’t optimized for search engines already, that probably means either, 1) You designed your website yourself and didn’t consider all these variables, or 2) the person/machine who designed your website didn’t consider all these variables.

    Mobile Responsiveness Is Now Mandatory (For Google)

    Starting on April 21, 2015, Google Search has increased their “mobile-friendliness” favorability ranking from “nice to have” to “required”. Which means now, you don’t have an option as to whether or not your website is optimized for mobile or not—since it’s now a requirement if you want to be recognized by the search giant. So, instead of avoiding this new guideline, it’s best to face it head-on. If your website isn’t already mobile-friendly, now’s the time to make sure it is.

    Blogging Is One of the Best Ways To Boost Your Search Rankings

    At Site Assembly, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again… and again… and again: If you’re not blogging, you’re missing out. You’re missing out on more website visitors, potential sales, and even increasing awareness about your brand. Blogging about topics that are relevant to your business is one of the best ways you can connect with your website visitors and boost your credibility as a small business. There are things to keep in mind when blogging to boost your search rankings, which is a topic for another day.

    Social Media Optimization Goes Hand-In-Hand With SEO

    Although interacting on social media may seem like a separate issue entirely, it’s really not. How active your small business is on social media usually directly corresponds with your search rankings. This may be because socially active businesses tend to have the largest followings, however, data certainly shows that search engines like it when your website is supplemented by active social media accounts, Google’s favorite being Google+. Not only is this a reason to make sure you’re on social media, but it’s also a great way to run promotions for your business, or post links to your blogs and websites—which, in turn, boosts your click-throughs.

    So, as you can see, there is quite a lot that actually goes in to “SEO”. The term itself has become a buzzword of sorts that many people think they understand, but really have the slightest idea about. So, when you ask whether or not SEO is included in one of our Site Plans, be ready for the lengthy answer. Just remember: We’re doing it because we love our customers and want them to thrive online.

  • 3 Ways To Build Your Customer Base On A Shoe-String Budget

    Have you ever wondered how some small businesses can be so incredibly successful at engaging with their customers online, and building their customer base? You may tell yourself, “Well, some people just have that special something, and some don’t”. But that’s a lie straight from the gates of Hell; and one that should never be repeated after today! The truth is, you have what it takes to develop meaningful customer relationships. And when you really get down to it, that’s exactly what it takes to get to the next level.

    Taking that notion a bit further: If you’re looking to grow your customer base—or maybe even get your first customer—you’re going to have to think like your customers think. That doesn’t mean lowering your prices, posting some promotions on your Facebook Page, and crossing your fingers. It means getting to know things about your customers that will help you develop a strategy that appeals directly to your most likely devotee.

    “But how do I do this on a shoe-string budget?”, you may be asking yourself.

    I thought you’d never ask.

    Run Unique Social Network Specials

    When you hear things like, “You should use social media to reach your customers”, you probably think, “that’s pretty simple!” However, in order to garner new customers in a crowded room of competitors (and I mean really, really crowded), you’re going to have to do better than just posting some inspirational quotes and sharing your services pricing. An example of creating unique, engaging posts would be to run a promotion that offers a free carpet cleaning on National Cleaning Day for the first 5 customers to “like” your Facebook page (if you’re a carpet cleaning service). Or, (if you’re a Burger restaurant called Burger Republic) you might want to run a contest on Instagram where the fan who posts the most scrumptious-looking photo of your food with the tag #burgerrepublicphoto gets a $25 gift card to your restaurant.

    These specials shouldn’t be cross-promoted. If you’re running the promotion on Facebook, advertise it other places, but always lead back to Facebook. Don’t run the same promotion on Twitter and Instagram. If you do, that can look desperate and turn customers off.

    Offer Something To Get Something

    If you want a new customer, one of the best ways to get one is to give something in return. When Site Assembly first began, we got our first few clients by offering our services at a substantial discount to a closed number of early adopters. This got us out into the world, and built our reputation organically. However, we didn’t do so without asking for something in return.

    In exchange for the discount we were offering, we asked these first few clients to write a truthful review about their experience with us, that we could use on our website. We also asked them to “like” our Facebook page and “follow us” on Twitter. And you know what, every single one of them were more than willing to do so. You can do this, too. The good news is, you might not even have to offer a huge discount. There are other great ways to amass new customers besides discounting your products or services. Either way, the takeaway here is that, offering something in return for their business is always a promising way to attract new patrons.

    Hire Site Assembly

    Okay, so, there’s a little bit of self-promotion going on here, I know. But, it’s true: If you’re really looking to build your online presence, and in turn grow your customer base, but find that you don’t have the time (or patience) to stick with it, it may be time to consult with one of our Site Experts. The benefit is that our developers, designers and social media experts do the hard work for you, so you can focus on the retention and satisfaction of the customers you’re bringing in. We’re skilled in creating custom-written content, building beautiful websites, and creating high-level posts on your behalf that help your business stand out online.

    If you’re interested in talking with one of our Site Experts, click on the Live Chat widget, or click here.

  • Data In Design: How Information Analytics Is Clouding Our Minds

    There’s no denying that data is a great thing. The accumulation and analyzation of it has become the next great frontier in technology, leading to a new world of startups, as well as more efficient ways to do things. It gives us insight into our applications and user engagements that we can in turn use to make more informed decisions as web designers, project managers and app developers. Data undoubtedly helps us to improve business processes and boost user engagement. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all to building killer user experiences. In fact, too much data—or the over-consumption of analytics-based information—can actually end up getting in the way of us doing our jobs most effectively. At times, data collection can even contribute to the stagnation of new design trends and may actually end up stifling innovation in more ways than one.

    “You’re not suggesting that all this information we’ve been collecting in vast troves can’t be used, though, right?”

    Of course not!

    In order to be the best at what we do, though, we must be able to admit our own faults. And right now, our fault as web designers and developers is that we tend to rely too heavily on data collection to make design decisions. Of course, data is one of the most important things to consider when creating and designing user experiences. But if we’re not careful, data collection can have a tendency to get in the way of our professional expertise and lead to our making of somewhat less exceptional design decisions.

    Think about it like this: The web is a vast, wondrous universe, ever-expanding in nature just like the very universe we occupy as humans. Evolution, therefore, is key to innovation and is what drives us forward as a collective—that being the Greater Design Collective. However, without adaptation and iteration, innovation cannot—and will never—exist.

    In December of 2014, Gil Press, an author and contributor at Forbes Magazine, predicted that Big Data would reach $125 Billion by the end of 2015. I’d be ignorant to suggest that the data we’re collecting on such massive scales isn’t beyond useful to say the least. Nor would it be beneficial to anyone for me to suggest that data isn’t extremely helpful in the curation and execution of better user experiences, and in making better design decisions. The point I am trying to make, however, is that it’s okay to mix a bit of that data collection with your own intuition in order to build unique user experiences and help push design forward.

    So, as we approach this holiday season, why not give yourself the gift of using more of your own expertise and less of that stuff called data. Help yourself to a healthy serving of experimentation and don’t feel bad about it. Discover new things and build new experiences without boundaries. You may be surprised to discover that when you do, more forward-thinking processes are created.

  • Death To DIY Site Builders & High-Cost Websites

    Here’s a statistic you may not know: More than six million small businesses are started each year in the United States alone.

    That’s a huge number! Yet, many of these businesses face a single, common dilemma: Not knowing where to turn when it comes to building and managing their websites. It’s an issue that continues to plague many business owners today, even though most understand the importance of having a great website, and what it could mean if they don’t have one.

    But understanding is no longer enough. As a business owner in this modern age, it’s expected that you have a beautiful website that looks great on every device. You’re also expected to be engaged on social media, aware of your search engine rankings (and what SEO is), and in touch with your digital persona. It’s no wonder, then, why overwhelmed is the first emotion most business owners experience when dealing with their websites and online presence.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Most small business owners can’t afford to waste time and money on these things. And that’s okay because they shouldn’t have to. After all, I wouldn’t ask an irrigation specialist to fix my car’s radiator; nor would I expect an event planner to know how to build a bridge. Why, then, should we expect business owners to know how to design and manage their own websites?

    The answer is, we shouldn’t. It’s not only an unreasonable expectation, it’s also just plain counterproductive. A baker shouldn’t have to spend countless hours learning the newest website builder when their time would be much better spent baking cakes and serving fresh, out-of-the-oven strudels (mmmm…).

    But all that is poised to change. With our straight-forward, three-step process, small business owners are able to free themselves from the chains of DIY site builders and costly web design services–some demanding $5,000 or more to build a WordPress website.

    Not with us. After a quick, 15-minute phone call aimed at getting to know more about you and your business, the rest is left to our Site Experts to handle. We operate 365-days-a-year, handling everything from the design of your website, to web hosting, domain registration, file backups and content updates. We even setup a Facebook business Page on your behalf so you can easily engage with your fans and customers.

    Site Plans start at just $75 a month after a small, initial design fee, which means now you can get the website you deserve and get back to doing what you do best.

    The truth is, it’s much more complex than clicking a ‘publish’ button after writing some text and dragging some images around. Building your online presence is an ongoing process that takes time and constant iteration. But now, business owners can breathe easier knowing they have a way to get their business online without wasting their valuable time and money.