Improve the loading time of your WordPress website with preloading

Improve the loading time of your WordPress website with preloading

Search engines attach more and more value to the speed with which visitors can go through your WordPress website. If you have a slow website, visitors will lose interest faster, and you will also be rated less highly in search engines. There are a lot of measures you can take to improve the speed of your WordPress website. Also consider faster WordPress hosting. But in this article we will discuss a very simple way to improve the loading speed of your WordPress website for visitors: page preloading.

What is preloading of WordPress pages and posts?

Preloading means that pages and posts from your WordPress website will be loaded “in the background” before your visitor clicks them. Suppose a visitor visits your homepage. In your menu and on the page itself there are various links to other pages and messages. While your visitor is orienting themselves, the links are already stored in the browser’s memory by a so-called “preloader”. For example, the next page loads faster when a visitor clicks on it.

Preloading WordPress plugin

Flying pages wordpress pluginYou can easily activate preloading of pages and posts on your WordPress website with the free WordPress plugin Flying Pages. The plugin can actually be used immediately without any configuration. The Flying Pages preloader is also intelligent; background preloading only starts when the current page is fully loaded. And if your visitor moves the mouse over a link, that link takes precedence in preloading. This way you get the most out of improving the loading time of your WordPress website.

Would you like to try out the plugin? Then install and activate it, but log out afterwards. As a logged-in administrator of your website, the preloader is disabled by default, so you will notice little difference.

3 WordPress plugins for crisis communication

3 WordPress plugins for crisis communication

In crisis situations, the right communication is of great importance to your organization. To be able to act quickly in the event of an emergency, crisis management with good preparation is half the battle. So make sure that your WordPress website is ready as a communication channel in case of a malfunction or crisis. Then you can inform your supporters quickly and efficiently in case of calamities and malfunction reports.

In this article, we cover the best three WordPress plugins for crisis communication. You can already install and configure these plugins on your WordPress website. This makes you well prepared when an unexpected event occurs.

Live blog for WordPress

Live blog for WordPressWith a live blog you have a very efficient way to keep your supporters informed about the latest state of affairs. A live blog can be useful for error messages, but also for constantly changing events. A live blog on your WordPress website is set up in no time with the LiveCom for WordPress plugin ($ 30).

Notification bar for WordPress

Notification bar for WordPressWith the Apex Notification Bar ($ 22) you can place a notification bar in your WordPress website in many ways. for example, you can quickly inform the visitors on your homepage or contact page about a telephone failure or the limited accessibility of your office. Even if your service is temporarily interrupted, you can prevent a lot of calls with the same question through such a notification bar.

Push notifications for WordPress

Push notifications for WordPressIf you have a lot of regular and returning visitors on your WordPress website, live push notifications on your website can offer a solution. By already activating the WordPress Push Notification ($ 49) on your website, website visitors are asked if they want to receive notifications from your website. This way, your visitors can register in advance, and in the event of an emergency or crisis, you can immediately send a notification to this group of visitors. They will see that notification when they have your website open in their browser.

WP Upgrader launches GDPR Consent Plugin for WordPress

WP Upgrader launches GDPR Consent Plugin for WordPress

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) about to be enforced, many website owners are also challenged: How do you make sure your website is compliant with these new rules? We have already discussed how you can make your website GDPR-proof with diverse WordPress plugins. Still, we kept missing one crucial plugin.

In order to meet the new, ‘privacy by default’ rule, WordPress plugins are only allowed to gather user data after your visitors have given you permission to do so. In other words, your website has to be accessible without personal data being gathered by default. The easiest solution for this — a cookie wall for your entire site — will no longer be allowed. So, how do you activate these WordPress plugins after your visitors have given their explicit consent?

GDPR Consent Plugin (€ 39/year)

For WordPress websites in Europe, WP Upgrader introduces the GDPR Consent Plugin: a plugin for WordPress that allows you to ask your customers’ permission before other WordPress plugins (and scripts) start gathering personal data. This way, you stop your site from gathering personal information before visitors actually allow you to do this.

How does the GDPR Consent Plugin work?

Step 1:
After having purchased the GDPR Consent Plugin, you have to determine which sections of your WordPress website gather personal data. Think in terms of plugins, but perhaps it may also apply to several scripts in your footer and/or header. You can sort this out by making use of the free GDPR-checklist for your WordPress website.
Personal data that is gathered, can be categorize in separate permission groups, such as ‘Statistics’, ‘Adverts’, and ‘Functional’. Inform yourself of the types of permission groups below this article.

Step 2:
Place the [gdpr_consent_settings] shortcode on the page where your visitors are allowed to edit their privacy settings. Then, activate the ‘Consent Bar’.

Step 3:
From this point onward, visitors will be shown a slim bar at the bottom of their screen upon their first visit informing them of their rights. On the privacy settings page they can now indicate whether or not they want to allow additional data to be gathered. For instance, to receive customized advertisements. Only when they give permission, will these plugins be activated for this particular visitor.


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Tip

View the demo here: demo.wpupgrader.com

Does this make my WordPress website GDPR-proof?

The GDPR Consent Plugin is a tool to assist you in making your WordPress website GDPR-proof. This doesn’t mean that, by simply installing the plugin, your website will be automatically compliant.

Inform yourself on the impact of the GDPR on your WordPress website to get an impression of the additional aspects you have to take into account. Consider a solid privacy-statement on your website, ‘I agree’-tick boxes for contact forms, and a handling agreement with your hosting and administrative party. Also, take note that the GDPR will impact your entire organisation (for instance due to the right to have data erased from all records in your organization). Logically, such things are not solved by merely building a plugin into your website.

What kind of permission groups are there?

Common permission groups (‘Consents’) are groups such as ‘Functional’, ‘Statistics’, ‘Social media’, ‘Adverts’ and ‘Remarketing’. Certain organizations may set up specific labels for themselves. NPO.nl, for instance, makes a separate request for allowing ‘NPO Recommendations’.

You can define your own permission groups (‘Consents’) within the GDPR Consent Plugin. Some WordPress websites will use a Facebook pixel, remarketing plugins, etc., and then list them all under the ‘Adverts’ group. Others may prefer to split these into separate groups, like ‘Adverts’ and ‘Remarketing’.

Whatever your approach, it is important that you define your permission groups in such a way that visitors are not forced to activate plugins they do not necessarily need. Should a visitor agree to becoming part of statistics, for example, then this does not give you free range to automatically place cookies for social media sharing.

Celebrate consent!

Few visitors will explicitly give their consent to flooding them with ‘Adverts’ and ‘Remarketing’. This is why you will have to thoroughly explain what the added benefits are for doing just that. Terms like ‘Functional’, ‘Statistics’, ‘Social media’, ‘Adverts’, and ‘Remarketing’ are very technical in nature.

However, instead of having visitors mark the ‘Adverts’ and/or ‘Remarketing’ tick boxes, you can approach things from an entirely different perspective. Once you explain to them that you can optimally facilitate special offers, you may find the ones that do give permission, to be a smaller, but more committed target audience for your organization.

10 WordPress plugins to increase your conversion rate

10 WordPress plugins to increase your conversion rate

In this article, we’ll talk about WordPress plugins that can substantially improve the conversion rate of your website. Please note: it’s no use installing ALL plugins. Consider which WordPress plugins actually lead to the kind of conversion you want. In case you need help with this, then read our tips on how to determine your online strategy.

We’ve divided the WordPress plugins into four common calls to action (some plugins appear in more than one category):

WordPress plugins for newsletter subscriptions

Do you want visitors of your WordPress website to sign up for your newsletter? Then we’ve listed the best WordPress plugins for newsletter subscriptions for you.

1. Ninja Popups ($ 25)

Ninja Popups is still one of our favorite plugins when it comes to collecting e-mail addresses on your website. The plugin is flexible, you can choose from many different pop-ups and you can choose the exact moment to show the pop-up (for example when the visitor is on your website for more than 30 seconds, when he’s scrolling, or rather right when opening the page). Also, you can send the new e-mail subscriptions directly to your favorite e-mail marketing software (like MailChimp or CreateSend). Make sure the pop-up is not full screen, because Google doesn’t like pushy pop-ups.

2. Elegant Bloom Email Optin ($ 89 per year)

Elegant Themes gives you one year access to a lot of plugins and themes for $ 89 per year, among which there’s Bloom Email Optin. You can choose from many beautifully designed pop-ups, opt-in bars and banners to let visitors subscribe to the newsletter. The nice thing about Bloom Email Optin is that you can also place the call to action as a widget in the sidebar or footer. This is something Ninja Popups does not offer. Bloom Email Optin is in comparison a rather pricy alternative, but worthwhile, if you also want to make use of the beautiful themes and the Divi content builder that Elegant Themes offers.

3. ConvertPlug ($ 21)

With ConvertPlug, you can choose from many different pop-ups for very little money. Subscriptions to your newsletter can be linked directly to your favorite e-mail marketing software, and there are flexible options to set up the pop-ups. The design of some of these pop-ups is in detail not always that great, but if you have some knowledge of CSS, then ConvertPlug is a good and cheap solution.

4. Thrive Leads (one time $67)

Thrive Leads is our most favorite plugin, because it is the most extensive one, and offers all the features of the above-mentioned plugins. You can make all kinds of pop-ups, but also do A/B testing, create Content locks (content is made available after you’ve given your e-mail address), Multiple Choice forms, etc. A big advantage of this plugin is that you get free updates for life after one single purchase. When you are a WpUpgraders customer, you can try out this plugin for free for a year.

WordPress plugins for forms

Sometimes catching someone’s e-mail address is not enough; for example, when the purpose of your website is to collect warm leads that want to be called back. In that case, you want at least a name and phone number, and a contact form with a flexible configuration is what you’re looking for. We’ve listed the best forms plugins for WordPress for you.

1. Gravity Forms ($ 39 per year)

Gravity Forms is still our favorite forms plugin for WordPress. The plugin has been around for years, it has a good reputation and is very well maintained. This is important, because collecting customer data requires a well-secured plugin. Granted; when it comes to design, there are other forms plugins for WordPress that look much more modern, but if your theme includes support for Gravity Forms – or if you’re pretty good with CSS – then this is still the plugin you want. Gravity Forms saves the subscriptions for you in WordPress, but you can also have them forwarded to e-mail addresses, external CRMs or marketing software.

2. Formidable Pro ($ 49 per year)

Formidable Pro is somewhat more complicated than Gravity Forms, but it also allows you to make simple applications. You can make forms entries publicly searchable, which allows you to, for example, create a review system on your website. In case you will be needing this kind of system on your website in the future, then Formidable Pro is a nice two-birds-with-one-stone plugin that’s worth buying.

3. Contact Form 7 (free)

The most well-known and widely used WordPress plugin for contact forms is still Contact Form 7. This plugin is completely free and has all the basic requirements; you can create forms, and visitors can fill them out. However, the entries are not saved on the website (so, if you don’t receive them by e-mail then they’re lost) and there’s no link to third parties included in the standard package. On the other hand, there are hundreds of add-ons for Contact Form 7 that offer such extensions. But if you think you’ll be needing those, we’d rather recommend one of the above-mentioned plugins; they have proven to be very reliable – with OR without add-ons.

WordPress plugins for direct contact

When we say direct contact, we mean the possibility to contact you with just one click. Contact forms (or newsletter subscriptions) are not included in this category, because the visitor has to do more than just clicking once. Depending on the branch you’re in, offering direct contact on your WordPress website can be very attracting (or even necessary). Think of websites for car dealers, but also web stores, real estate agents, etc. There are several plugins that create the possibility to make direct contact on your website.

1. LiveChat (free trial, then from $ 16 per month)

With LiveChat visitors can start a chat session on your website with just one click. With the LiveChat app on your phone, you can also respond while travelling. Are you not available? Then the chat will not be visible on your website. The WordPress plugin LiveChat is integrated into your WordPress website with just a few clicks. Plus, you can try out the service for free the first 30 days.

2. YITH Live Chat (free)

The YITH Live Chat plugin requires a little more configuration than the previous one, but a limited version is available for free. You do have to integrate the plugin using Firebase, a Google service for mobile applications. This service has a limited free version, but you have to pay once you start using it more frequently. If you like playing with settings options, you should definitely try YITH Live Chat.

3. Really Simple Click To Call Bar (free)

Did you know you can link buttons on your WordPress website to a phone number? When you click it, your device will directly call the phone number. For laptops and desktops this is, of course, of very little use, but for mobile visitors it can be very useful to be able to call you with just one click. The plugin Really Simple Click To Call Bar does exactly what its name implies; for mobile users, it adds a bar at the bottom of the website with a clear button: ‘Call us’. When you tap it, you immediately make the call.

WordPress plugins for social media conversion

Social media can be used in different ways to increase the conversion rate of your WordPress website. This works on two levels; first of all, you can convince the visitors of your WordPress website to follow you on social media (e.g. ‘Follow us on Facebook’. Secondly, you can use your WordPress website to feed your social media channels with new content, so you keep attracting your visitors to your website. Note: always keep step 1 in mind: does the integration of social media serve your strategy and objective?

1. Ninja Popups ($ 25)

Ninja Popups is not only good for e-mail marketing, but you can also use it to gather followers on social media. For example, you can show pop-ups on specific pages where you invite visitors to follow you on Facebook. It helps when you briefly explain to them the advantages of following you. For example, being informed on interesting offers or relevant messages.

2. ConvertPlug ($ 21)

ConvertPlug also offers social media integration beside e-mail marketing. The nice thing about ConvertPlug, is that you can also use pop-ups to tell your visitor about certain messages you’ve shared on social media. So, the plugin can be used to get more followers, but also to increase your range among your followers!

3. Jetpack Publicize (free)

Jetpack Publicize makes it easy to automatically share recently placed messages on your WordPress website with your social media channels. This is very practical when you want to efficiently increase your range of your WordPress website. There are very many WordPress plugins like Publicize, but we still find Publicize the easiest to work with. Publicize is part of Jetpack; a free plugin package that allows you to activate or deactivate different functionalities (so, you can install the package, but only use Publicize).

6 Plugins to Make Your WordPress Website GDPR-Proof

6 Plugins to Make Your WordPress Website GDPR-Proof

As the new privacy law — the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — is about to come into effect, all sorts of plugins are marketed to help you get GDPR compliant. In this article we cover six practical WordPress plugins that enable you to make your WordPress website GDPR-proof!

GDPR Consent Plugin (€ 39 per year)

For WordPress websites in Europe, Sowmedia launches the GDPR Consent Plugin: a plugin for WordPress with which you first ask permission from your visitors, before your other WordPress plugins (and scripts) start collecting personal data. This way you prevent your website from already collecting personal data before your visitor has given permission for this. The GDPR Consent Plugin lets you define exactly which consents you want to request of your visitors, allowing you to present a clear overview of unique required and optional consents for your visitors to interact with. This GDPR Consent Plugin is the most complete WordPress cookie & consent plugin of all.

Delete Me (free)

The GDPR issues the ‘right to be forgotten’. This basically means that you have to be able to erase someone’s  personal data within a reasonable timespan upon their request. You could, of course, do this manually, but the WordPress plugin Delete Me offers your visitors to it themselves — that is, when it comes to data gathered by your website. Users can remove all their own posts and links, including their reactions to articles.

This plugin particularly comes in handy when you have a subscriber website or an active user group that regularly responds to your articles. Be aware, though, that this plugin will not remove data stored separately by additional plugins you may have added to your WordPress website.

Wider Gravity Forms Stop Entries (free)

The Gravity Forms plugin is our number one favorite plugin to build advanced forms for WordPress websites. Its form entries are stored in your WordPress site, but can also be mailed or forwarded to third parties, such as email marketing software. In case your entries are directly forwarded to another system, you may not need to additionally store these entries in your WordPress site.

The GDPR requires you to refrain from needlessly storing user data. This is why the Wider Gravity Forms Stop Entries is so convenient. This plugin removes entries immediately in your WordPress database, so form entries will only be stored in your external systems (or your mailbox). The only drawback is that you don’t have a backup of these entries any more in case you discover the link to your external system to be unresponsive, for instance. Alternatives to tackle this are the plugins below.

Gravity Forms Encrypted Fields ($ 27)

Do you store Gravity Forms entries within your website? Then you can protect these by encrypting them. The WordPress plugin Gravity Forms Encrypted Fields ($ 27) does this for you. User data is encrypted by this plugin within the database. Next, you can configure which persons are allowed to view specifically allotted entries. This may be required, particularly when you are gathering high risk personal data (like Social Security Numbers or medical information) that is not meant to be seen by all WordPress editors and administrators.

WP GDPR Compliance (free)

The GDPR demands ‘explicit consent’ of your visitors to allow you to process their data. Whether you want your visitors to subscribe to a newsletter, fill in a contact form, or react to a message, permission is required. Such explicit consent can be realized by virtue of providing a tick box for example. However, should a tick box be marked by default, then you are overriding the ‘privacy by default’ principle.

Forcing explicit consent in your WordPress website is largely done manually. Again, make sure that tick boxes aimed at having users agree with your terms, are not ticked by default. Fortunately, WP GDPR Compliance imbeds such tick boxes for you and supports plugins like Contact Form 7, WooCommerce and WordPress Comments. The author of this plugin has announced future support for other plugins as well.

Policy Genius (free)

An important part of GDPR compliance is making your privacy policy transparent. It is common practice to facilitate a link to a privacy policy in the footer of a website. Drawing up such protocols can be quite an endeavor. However, once you have constructed one that is explaining your policy in a clear and complete manner, you can then refer to it from any part of your website (for instance, places where you ask your visitors’ explicit consent).

The free WordPress plugin ‘Policy Genius’ helps you draw up a privacy policy in a few easy steps. This is no guarantee, however, that your policy then meets all requirements. It would be best to consult a lawyer to be safe.

Manual: Setting up Yoast SEO for WordPress

Manual: Setting up Yoast SEO for WordPress

With the free WordPress plugin Yoast SEO ((search engine optimization) you optimize your WordPress website for search engines. But how do you set up this plugin of Dutch origin? In this article, we’ll explain step by step how you can set up your WordPress website for the ideal search engine optimization.

In this manual

1. Install Yoast SEO plugin
2. Yoast SEO Configuration Service
3. Fine-Tune WordPress for SEO
4. Fine-Tune Yoast SEO
5. Link Search Console
6. Resolve Notification Issues
7. Write Content
8. Content Strategy

1. Install Yoast SEO Plugin


You’ll find the Yoast SEO plugin in the WordPress repository. In WordPress, go to Plugins -> New plugin and search for “Yoast SEO”. Click “Install now”, then click “Activate”.

2. Yoast SEO Configuration Service


Now that the WordPress SEO plugin has been installed, you’ll see a “SEO” button in your WordPress menu on the left-hand side. Click it to open the plugin’s Dashboard. You’ll probably already see some notifications and warnings, but we’ll ignore these for now. First click the “General” tab at the top, then click “Open the configuration service“, and then “Configure YOAST SEO”.

You’ll now run a wizard that will help you set up a large part of your website for SEO (search engine optimization). Many of these steps are self-explanatory, but we’d like to comment on some of them:

2a. Company or person? (step 4)

At step 4 you’re required to fill out whether you’re a company or a person. In both cases, you can still fill out the name of your company/person. We recommend you include your most important search term in your company name. For example, if you are a carpentry business with the name “Johnson LLC“, then fill out “Johnson LLC Carpentry”. And if your name is Vanetta Smith and you write a personal website on recipes, then call yourself “Food blogger Vanetta Smith”. Copy this text right away, because you’ll have to fill it out a couple of times.

2b. Social profiles (step 5)

When entering your social profiles, do not think: the more, the better. Limit yourself to using two or three social media channels, that you use well, instead of using eight which you totally neglect. Consider the social media channels that are most suitable for your target group.

2c. Visibility of the post type (step 6)

In every WordPress website there are three default post types: Pages, Posts and Media. Some themes and plugins add extra post types. A properties plugin for real estate agents, for example, can add the post type “Houses” to the website.

At this step, you can set up exactly which post types should be indexed by Google and which should not. All post types that you don’t use for the conversion goals of your website, can here be set to “Hide”. This does not mean that they won’t be used on your website. But only that the search engines won’t be instructed to index such posts.

In case you don’t have a blog/news archive, but only a few static pages, you can hide the post type “Posts”. The same often goes for media; the media library on your website is probably not setup with the purpose of attracting traffic that increases conversion; usually these media are used to, for example, placing images in your pages and posts, in which case you can simply hide “Media”.

In fact, some plugins put their settings in a post type. In that case, you might see something like “Extended framework” as a post type. If you have no use for this, then hide this too; the more unnecessary post types you hide, the better the other types will be valued by the search engines. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidentally hide a post type that you do need. Because then you’ll be throwing away a lot of valuable information for the search engines.

2d. Title settings (step 9)

At this step, you can fill out the website name. Here, you paste the text that you copied at step 4, or fill out your activities, and maybe even your location. For example, “Rotterdam Lawyers Friesinger & son”. Or “Architect Anna van der Molen”. You’ll need this text again later in this manual, so be sure to copy it again.

3. Fine-Tune WordPress for SEO

Now that you have run the configuration service, you’ll arrive back at the Yoast SEO plugin Dashboard. You’ll probably get some more notifications at this time. You can keep ignoring these, because first we’re going to run through some WordPress settings, that will probably resolve a large portion of these notifications.

3a. Site title and subtitle

Now, in WordPress go to Settings -> General. At the top, you’ll see the site title and subtitle. Many people use the name of their website or organization as a site title. This seems logical, but if you want your website to be easy to find in the search engines, it’s better to put your activity here, just like you did in the configuration service. So, again paste the title that you’ve used at step 2a and 2d here, e.g. “Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”, or “Antique children’s toys – Web store ToyToy”.

Very often, the subtitle is still the default WordPress text: “Just another WordPress site”. Remove this line and enter a short description of your website. Try to use keywords that apply to your entire website and keywords that you want to lead visitors to your website. For example: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle.”

Now that you are on this page: be sure to scroll down and check if your website language is set correctly. Is your website in Spanish? Make sure your website language is also in Spanish. Because the language is also picked up by search engines. It says something about your target group.

Finally, click “Save changes”. Save or copy the title and subtitle, because you’ll need them again later.

3b. Update services

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Write. At the bottom of this page you’ll find a field to “Update services”. These are external webservices that need to be informed when you’ve made changes to your website, e.g. when you’ve written a new blog, or made changes to one. This makes sure that search engines are almost immediately informed of your new content, so they’ll include it faster in their search results. Make sure it says: “http://rpc.pingomatic.com/” under “Update services”. If it doesn’t, then paste this URL here. Pingomatic is an update service that informs all large search engines of your new content, so you don’t have to. Usually this is configured correctly, but it never hurts to check.

3c. Search engine visibility 

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Read. At the bottom of this page, you’ll find the “Search engine visibility” option. Make sure this box is unchecked, otherwise your website will actively inform search engines to NOT be included in the search results. Are you developing a website, or do you have a website that you, in fact, do NOT want showing up in search engines, then DO check this box. By the way, this is not a completely safe guarantee that your website will not show up in any search results; if you really don’t want to be found, it’s best to secure your website with a password. You can do this with a free plugin such as Password Protected.

3d. SEO for comments on your WordPress website

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Comments. Here, you can change the settings for comments on your website. It may seem strange to include this topic in a manual for SEO, but we’ve done this for a good reason. After all, comments on your website are content too! So, ask yourself whether comments on your website will help you be more findable to search engines, or that they would only add less relevant information to your webpage. If you’ve noticed that the comments on your articles lead to irrelevant conversations and discussions, then it might be better to turn off the option to leave comments on your website, or decrease the amount of comments under your blog. Or maybe you’ve seen that your blogs rarely get comments. In that case, you also better turn off the option to leave comments, because it makes your pages more compact. And with less irrelevant content, the rest of the content gets valued more by search engines and your visitors.

3e. Permalinks

With permalinks you configure the structure of your website’s URLs. This is very important for the SEO (search engine optimization) of your WordPress website, because the structure of a URL says a lot about the content of its page. As the term implies, permalinks are permanent; you configure them once, and then you never look at them again. Anyone who links to your website (search engines, social media, friends, etc.), will link to the URL as configured in your permalink.

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Permalinks. The default general permalink settings are year, month, day and name. This will result in URLs like www.furnituremanufacturer-newyork.com/2017/08/12/sanded-wood-with-discount/. But these data are probably not at all what you want in your URL. What you do want is to include the most important category of your blog in the URL (e.g. “Sale”). This way, you could get a URL like this: www.furnituremanufacturer-newyork.com/sale/sanded-wood-with-discount/. You can configure this, by choosing the “Customized structure” and then typing: /%category%/%postname%/.

Under the general settings, you’ll also find the “Optional” button. Below this, you’ll be able to change the category and tag archives structure. The permalink of the archive for the category “Dinner tables” by default would be: www.furnituremanufacturer-newyork.com/category/dinnertables/. But the word “category” is not relevant here (and thus a distraction for the search engines), so you could choose another word instead, for example: “furniture”. Please note that the category structure is the same for all categories; so, the “Sale” category archive will get the URL: www.furnituremanufacturer-newyork.com/category/sale/. In case you don’t know any good category structures, you can also turn it off altogether (see step 4e).

You’ll probably use several categories for most of your articles. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you the option to set one primary category, so that one will always be used in the permalink. To do this, click “Make Primary” next to the most relevant category, when creating/editing a post.

If you change the permalink structure afterwards, a lot of old links will probably become obsolete. This has great consequences for your findability; search engines don’t like it when pages in their search results are suddenly unreachable. It will cause you to drop fast in their search results. So, when you change your permalinks, check to see if existing links still work in the search engines. If not, then install a plugin like WordPress Ultimate Redirect Plugin ($ 29), that will automatically try to redirect as many “not found” pages (or 404 pages) to the right page. It’s like saying to the search engines: “The current page still exists, but has been moved to this new URL”. That way you transfer the accumulated value in search engines to the new pages on your website, and search engines will gradually adjust their index to your new permalink structure.

4. Fine-Tune Yoast SEO

Now that WordPress has been set up correctly for SEO (search engine optimization) and the basics for Yoast SEO have been configured, it’s time to do some fine-tuning in the Yoast SEO plugin.

4a. Activate advanced settings

To unlock additional functionalities in Yoast SEO, we first must change some settings. To do this, go to WordPress, SEO -> Dashboard and click the “Features” tab. Set the “Advanced settings pages” to “Enabled”. Then click the “Security” tab and also enable the “Advanced section of the Yoast SEO metabox”. Now click “Save”. In the menu on the left-hand side, under “SEO” you will now see additional options.

4b. Titles and metas

Titles and metas, are the title and description of a page/post, just as they are communicated to search engines. With this, you actually tell the search engine: “When you include this page in your search result, then show this title and description.” It’s obviously up to the search engine to do what they want, but if you use relevant texts, your request is usually honored.

Using good Titles and metas is very important, because you use them to give a first impression to your potential visitors, even before they visit your website. So, make sure you have attractive, relevant texts. The title is also shown in the tab/title at the top of your browser screen when visiting that specific screen.

Click “SEO” -> “Titles & metas” and open the “Homepage” tab. Here, you enter the title and subtitle that you’ve also filled out at step 3a. If you want, you can change the subtitle a little, by adding a call to action, to make it even more attractive to click on. For, example, if your subtitle is: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle”? Then your meta description could be: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle? Ordered today, delivered tomorrow!”.

Now click the “Post types” tab. Here you’ll see the visibility for the post types, as you’ve configured them at step 2c. Good to know, if you ever have to change this in the future. Here, you can leave the title and meta templates as they are, because we’ll configure these per article/page later in this manual.

Now, click the “Taxonomies” tab. Taxonomies is the umbrella term for both categories and tags. So, on this tab you’ll find all the categories/tags of your WordPress website. Every taxonomy has an archive page in WordPress. It is passed on to search engines by default. Just like with the visibility of the post types (step 2c) you must ask yourself here which categories/tags you actually use. So, for example, if you have added no tags at all to your posts, then set the “meta robots” for that taxonomy to “noindex”. This way, you tell the search engines, that the archive pages for that taxonomy don’t have to be included by the search engines; because they are not relevant pages.

For the taxonomies that you do use, you can check out the title templates. By default, they are set up as follows: %%term_title%% Archives %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%. The title for a post category called “Sale” would then be sent to search engines like this: “Sales Archives – Furniture manufacturer Rotterdam – Pieter de Heuvel”. Which is fine, but there’s room for improvement. If you make sure all your categories for this taxonomy are consistent, then you can change the template to for example: %%term_title%% of %%sitename%% %%sep%% %%page%%. With categories like “Sale” and “Portfolio” you’ll get nice-looking titles: “Sale of Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”, or “Portfolio of Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”. The meta description template can best be left empty here, we’ll run through that later on in this manual.

Now, click the “Archives” tab. Here you will see some additional options for archive pages generated by WordPress next to the taxonomies. Such as author pages, date archives, etc.

Author archives show all articles per author. This is usually unnecessary, because for search engines it is rarely relevant who wrote the article. In fact, author archives are only useful when you work with several well-known authors and you want to build up findable archive pages for them. For example, the Youp van ’t Hek columns on the NRC (news) website. You can probably turn off your Authors archives, though.

The same goes for date archives; these show all articles published on your website during a certain period (e.g. January 2017). Unless you publish news messages that actually describe current events, you can turn off these archives; your archive pages for taxonomies probably offer much more relevant content than this kind of archive pages.

You’ve now configured quite a lot, so don’t forget to hit “Save”!

4c. Social SEO

Go to SEO -> Social. Here, you’ll find an overview of the social media accounts you added at step 2b. Run through the various tabs and fill out all the required information for the social media that are relevant for you. The rest of the precompleted settings in these tabs are all perfectly set, so you don’t have to look at those.

4d. Sitemaps

Now go to SEO -> XML Sitemaps. Sitemaps are XML files, automatically generated by Yoast SEO, that give search engines a structured overview of all content on your WordPress website. Make sure that the settings under the “Post types” and “Taxonomies” tabs include only in the sitemap what you’ve configured as visible at steps 2c and 4b.

4e. Advanced

Now go to SEO -> Advanced. You start off at the “Breadcrumbs” tab. A breadcrumb trail shows on which page you currently are in the tree view of the entire WordPress website. Many WordPress themes already have a built-in crumb trail, but in case yours doesn’t, it is best to archive it here. You do, however, have to make some adjustments to your WordPress theme, so a little PHP knowledge is required.

When activating the breadcrumb trail, delete the text after “Prefix for Archive breadcrumbs”. And at the bottom, at “Taxonomy to show in the breadcrumb trail of the post types” select for each post type the richest taxonomy for that post type. When I say “rich”, I don’t necessarily mean the taxonomy containing the most terms, but that the terms in that taxonomy are full of posts. Categories are usually richer than tags; an average tag maybe contains two or three posts, an average category probably ten to twenty. Finally, click “Save”.

Then, click the “Permalinks” tab. In this tab Yoast SEO can make a few more changes beside the changes you’ve made to the permalinks in WordPress at step 3e. This way, you can turn off the category structure if you couldn’t think of any good category structures at step 3e.

Enable “Redirect attachment URLs to parent post URL” to prevent visitors from directly going from a search engine to one of your website’s attachment pages (usually containing only an image and a title). This feature makes sure that visitors are sent to the corresponding page where the attachment is used. This is generally more relevant.

Finally, under “Clean-Up Permalinks” choose “Remove” under “Stop words in the slug”. This way, words like “the”, “a” and “an” are automatically removed from your permalink when writing new articles. The rest of the advanced settings are good, so now click “Save changes”.

5. Link Search Console

You can link the Yoast SEO plugin to your Google Account. This way, you can load relevant SEO information and resolve warning notifications on the website. Go to SEO -> Search Console and click “Get Google Authorization Code”. Follow the steps, paste the code and click “Authenticate”. You then get an overview of the pages of your website that cannot be found by Google, but that are linked to on other pages (or used to). You can run through this list and check to see if you can restore them (by changing the permalink of a page, or by making redirects to the correct page).

6. Resolve Notification Issues

Go back to the Yoast SEO plugin Dashboard. Maybe you’re still getting a few notifications. These notifications point to your WordPress settings that need to be resolved to further optimize your website for search engines. Do not click the close icon on the right, but click the link on the notification. You’ll then be directed to the right page for the WordPress settings.

In the above-mentioned example, you’re redirected to the WordPress Customizer, where you can enter your site title and subtitle under “Site Identity”. By the way, if you’ve been following the steps of this manual, you’ll probably not get this notification, because we’ve already fixed this problem.
Resolving notifications is something you can do on a regular basis. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you a clear overview, so if you schedule this once a month, it’ll cost you very little time.

7. Write Content

Your website is pretty much set up for Yoast SEO. But you can still fine-tune Yoast SEO per page, post, category and even per tag. We’ll start with fine-tuning posts and pages.

7a. Titles and permalinks of your WordPress articles and pages

After typing the title of your post, WordPress automatically generates a permalink for you. This is not always the permalink you want, and sometimes you change the title afterwards, but the permalink stays the same. The main rule is: you can easily change your permalink as long as you haven’t published your post yet. Then, you best leave the permalink as it is.

What is a good permalink for your post or page? You only need to include the most important keywords. Say, as a furnituremaker, you’re writing an article in the category “import” called “Strong quality improvement of imported wood from Italy”, the permalink automatically ends with: “/import/strong-quality-improvement-imported-wood-from-italy/”. This can be made shorter and more relevant; the words “import/imported” are duplicates and some of these words are not relevant for the slug. How about: /import/quality-improvement-wood-italy/? Much better.

7b. Configure the Yoast SEO metabox

When you’ve finished writing your article, there’s a new block “Yoast SEO” under your text editor. Here, you’ll see an example of how Google will probably show your page in the search results, based on your title, permalink and text. An example of such a snippet below.

The content of this snippet is based on the settings we’ve configured in the previous steps. However, it is possible to make a few more adjustments for this particular article. In the above example, we see that the title is too long for the box, and the description underneath is too. Click “Edit Snippet” to change the title and description. By making the title and the meta description a bit shorter and more attractive, we’ve created a snippet that looks nice in Google:
You can edit the snippet for each and every post or page that is important for you in the search results. Also, you can edit your categories and tags to see per category what a similar archive page will look like in search engines. To do this, go to Posts -> Categories (or Tags) and select a category. At the bottom, you’ll find the Snippet. You can, for example, give the category “Import” a nicer description:

7c. Focus keyword

Under every snippet you’ll also find a “Focus keyword” field. Here, you can enter the most important keyword of the page. Under the focus keyword, the SEO plugin gives you an analysis of the page, containing suggestions to make improvements. Mind you, it is a technical tool; always ask yourself if the suggestions make sense. The analysis of an article with the focus keyword “jerseys” can turn out wrong, because the words “jersey” and “sweater” won’t be recognized. So, use the analysis as a guideline, not as hard facts. Furthermore, it is good to know that the focus keyword is only a personal analysis; the focus keyword won’t be sent to search engines as a search term, nor is it embedded in the code of your page.

7d. Cornerstone articles

When you’re editing pages or posts, there’s another option under the focus keyword: mark the article as “cornerstone content”. Cornerstone articles are the most important articles on your website. The ones you really want everyone to read. Say you write a lot of articles on the different aspects of DIY woodworking. But there is one article about the complete process of woodworking. In that case, this article is a cornerstone article; in a way, all the other articles are related to this main article. By marking the main article as a cornerstone article, Yoast SEO will make new suggestions; are there enough links to this article? And do these links contain the most relevant keywords for this article?

An average website can contain about five cornerstone articles. Choose them carefully and ask yourself; can I link to these cornerstone articles from all the other (non-cornerstone) articles? And make sure you do this; after the introduction of a non-cornerstone article, make a quick reference to the cornerstone article.

8. And from Now on: Content Strategy

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, your WordPress website has a great configuration for SEO! But you’re just getting started; make sure your website stays attractive, relevant and up to date. You do this, by regularly writing articles on topics related to your website. Make a content strategy and schedule, for example, one day a month to write and publish a good article.

Use social media for your organization

Use social media for your organization

Many organizations have all kinds of social media links on their WordPress website. But is this wise? When you use social media the wrong way, they can backfire on you. In this article, we’ll explain what you can do as an organization to prevent this from happening. And we’ll talk about a social medium that is often forgotten.

Invite in or send away?

Imagine you’ve just finished a new blog post and you share it on your Facebook page. An interested follower clicks on the link and visits your WordPress website. While he’s reading your article, he sees the sidebar with Facebook and Twitter feed. He stops reading and starts scrolling through your Twitter feed. He clicks on one of the conversations and goes to the Twitter website.

What is happening here? You first successfully get the attention of a visitor on Facebook, but as soon as he arrives on your WordPress website, you make it really easy for him to leave again. That sucks!

Social media on your website 

We see many organizations embed all kinds of social media feeds on their website. For example, you’ll see their most recent messages from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. in the sidebar next to an article. Embedding a feed like that is so simple, that you almost forget to ask yourself why you would do this. Very often, such a feed does not serve your goals.

I often hear people say they place these feeds to keep their website ‘alive’, or because they want to show their organization is an interactive and modern one. But these arguments don’t fit in a solid online marketing plan. You’re treating your visitors like ping-pong balls: on social media you invite them to visit your website, but once they’re there, you put your social media back on display.

Don’t make it too difficult for your visitors; limit their choices. Ask yourself where does most of the conversion of online activities take place for your organization. Are most of the sales and quotation requests processed on your website or on your social media channels?

Marketing funnel

Your online activities are like a funnel: by being visible on various platforms, you attract as many people as possible to one place. Often this place is your website, but in some cases, this can be a social medium (a vlogger’s purpose is to “funnel” as many followers as possible to his YouTube channel).

Say your marketing funnel points to your website. Does this mean you should not integrate any social media on your website? Maybe, but then you might be taking it a bit too far. Because even if the conversion for your website might not be happening on social media, they may still serve another purpose: engagement.

Engagement: a long-term relationship through social media 

Even if the conversion for your organization does not take place on social media, they can still be functional to build a “soft relationship” with your visitors. Because every visitor is unique; one takes immediate action on your WordPress website, another may want to get to know you better first. Social media are perfect for this.

Again, a well thought-out online strategy is very important; because you need to focus your social media on a specific target group: potential clients that want to get to know you better. This means you have to think about the image you want for your organization on social media; are you an informal bunch, or a serious group of professionals?

These choices determine the type of content you put on social media; do you build confidence by showing you’re having a good time or by sharing professional knowledge? To answer this question, you can ask some of your new clients what made them decide to become your customer. You can let these decisions determine your content on social media.

When you’ve decided on a strategy, then you can go back to thinking about the role of social media on your website. A role which is now well-defined: For example, you now only bring social media to the attention of your visitors to give them an alternative, next to the direct action to make a purchase. Or you use social media mostly to ask (and answer) direct questions. Whatever the purpose, with a clear definition you’ll know how and where to use social media on your website. For example, a social media follow button with caption, or rather a prominent place on the contact page.

Which social media and which target group?

Every social medium has a different user group. And these groups change continuously. We see Facebook being used mostly by adult consumers, Instagram and Snapchat are more popular with teenagers, and Twitter is averagely used more by men than by women.

Plus, there is a clear difference between business and personal use. Few users have a Facebook account for their business. On the other hand, there aren’t many people on LinkedIn who show pictures of their afternoon walk.

The difference in age, fields of interest and motivation of users are important for the way you use social media. When you have a business service, think about the usefulness of approaching your customers through social media. A manufacturer of packaging material would not use a marketing campaign on Instagram.

Don’t forget this one 

The landscape of social media is changing continuously. Every time, different social media are popular. That’s why you’d almost forget this one social medium that has been incredibly effective when it comes to building engagement: e-mail.

The great power of e-mail is in this small detail: messages on social media pass by very fast; if you’re not on Facebook even for a day, you miss a great number of messages. Messages that you don’t just get back on your timeline. An e-mail, however, only disappears after you’ve read it (or marked it as read). So, e-mail has a much more pressing character than messages on social media.

Because e-mail is more pressing, it demands caution; for a good reason, many e-mails end up in the trash or spam folder without being read. By law you are required to get someone’s permission before sending them a newsletter. And if you have this permission, consider carefully the e-mail’s title, length, content, the time you send it and the frequency with which you send e-mails.

Tips for keeping your WordPress website up-to-date

Tips for keeping your WordPress website up-to-date

Nearly every WordPress website that is not updated will be hacked sooner or later. Hackers make scripts that search the internet for vulnerability in WordPress plugins and themes. As soon as plugin vulnerabilities are known hackers can automatically scan WordPress websites to see if the relevant plugin is being used. For this reason, we sincerely recommend you update your website regularly. You can outsource this WordPress onderhoud (Dutch link) to WpUpgraders, but you can also do it yourself. In this article we’ll give tips both unexperienced administrators and professionals can use to keep your WordPress website up to date.

A number of links in this article are embedded with affiliate code.

Content

Tips unexperienced website administrators


Conquer your fear

Many WordPress website administrators are afraid to update their websites. They are afraid of potential consequences, like a plugin that stops working or layout changes in a theme. But all we can do is advise you to get over your fear and update anyway. The consequences of a potential hack are much greater than the consequences of the update.

Keep your website simple

An important tip is to keep your website simple. A simple website is simple to update. Complex websites are more difficult to update.

  • Limit the number of plugins; each extra plugin you install brings extra risk. We don’t limit the number of plugin that we use when developing a website, but we know where the risks lie and we are the ones responsible for the updates. If you are not experienced it’s better to use a limited number of plugins.
  • Avoid complex plugins like multilingual plugins (like WPML), e-commerce (like WooCommerce) and layout editors (like Visual Composer).
  • Avoid multi-purpose themes. We often use Enfold. This multi-purpose theme is technically solid. Even so, we have to pay close attention when updating. We are not as pleased with other multipurpose themes. Like Jupiter. Good looking theme, but it’s a hassle to update.
  • When purchasing plugins and themes check to see if they can be updated automatically, so that you avoid having to do updates at FTP level.
  • Want to make changes in the code of your theme? Use a child theme, this way you can update the main theme yourself. Read here to learn how to make a child theme.

Remove unused plugins and themes

During the development of a website various plugin and themes are often tested. Some of them don’t end up being used, but can make your website venerable to being hacked. Remove these plugins and themes so that they don’t have to be updated.

Update periodically

It’s best if you can update as soon as an update is released, but this might not be do-able. Small websites can be updated periodically. Once or twice a month, for example. Set a reminder in your agenda to update every first Monday of the month.

Backup before you update

Always make an update before you update. If the update happens to cause problems you can always go back to the situation before the update. Many hosting providers make automatic back-ups. Or you have an admin panel (cPanel, DirectAdmin) you can use to make a backup yourself. You can also make a backup with the WordPress admin using a plugin. We like to use UpdraftPlus, a premium plugin with a good basic version. Alternatives are BackWPup, BackupBuddy or VaultPress.

Update WordPress first and then plugins/theme

First update the core of WordPress and then your plugins and theme.

Updates in your e-mailbox

When you are logged in to the back end of WordPress you will see notifications in the lefthand menu when there are updates available. Many people forget to update because they don’t update their website when it gets busy. You can remind yourself. For example with the plugin WP Updates Notifier, it sends you an e-mail when new versions of WordPress, plugins or themes are available.

WordPress.com?

Is updating just not your thing? Outsource your web maintenance. Or choose a website via WordPress.com instead of a WordPress installation on your own server. WordPress.com is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Your website wil be hosted on the Automattic servers (the company behindWordPress). They will make sure your website is up-to-date. WordPress.com gives you less freedom compared to your own WordPress version of WordPress.org. However, you don’t have to worry about safety and speed. And it is relatively cheap.

Tips for professionals


Make an inventory of risky plugins

There are plugins that cause little harm when updating. Take, for example, a plugin that adds a small functionality to the media library. Which plugins generally don’t give any update problems?

  • Statistic /Google Analytics plugins;
  • SEO plugins;
  • Backup plugins;
  • Database optimization plugins (Note, we are taking about updating the plugin, not the optimization);
  • Media library plugins;
  • Security plugins;
  • Admin plugins, that add extra functions to the WordPress back end;
  • RSS-feed plugins;
  • Development plugins.

Other types of plugins bring more risks.

  • E-commerce plugins like WooCommerce and add-ons;
  • Multilingual plugins like WPML;
  • Layout editor/Page builder plugins like Visual Composer;
  • Shortcode plugins;
  • Slider plugins;
  • Image presentation plugins;
  • Contact form plugins;
  • Event calendar plugins;
  • Pop-up and lead generation plugins.

Change log

Check the plugin change log to inventory any risks that may be expected.

Update premium plugins and themes

Most WordPress plugins can be automatically updated from the WordPress plugin repository. For plugins and themes you have purchased it doesn’t work like this unfortunately. You don’t always get a notification when an update is available. And you can only update the plugin or theme by overwriting the files on FTP level. Updating premium plugins is more complicated. Unfortunately we don’t have any standard solutions to this problem.

Use admin tools

Do you manage multiple websites? Use an admin tool like ManageWP, MainWP, WP Remote or InfiniteWP. We use this last tool. An admin tool gives you overview of which websites need updating. You can also perform updates directly from the tool.

Test

Don’t forget to test after you have updated the website. The most important thing to test is the functionality of the front end. You will find any potential problems in the back-end when managing the website. What is the best way to test?

  • Check the homepage and a few other pages;
  • Fill in a form and/or other call to actions;
  • Check to see that the multilingual function is working;
  • Check extra moving elements like sliders, pop-ups, cookie bar;
  • Test the search function;
  • Test any API links. For example MailChimp or CreateSend.

Use a staging

Want to really update safely? Use a staging environment. You perform the update in the stage and, after testing, overwrite the live environment with the staging. It takes more time, but prevents users from coming across any problems the update may have caused. How do you use a staging environment?

  • Hosting providers. We usually use a staging environment provided via the hosting provider. WP Engine, one of our hosting partners, has great facilities.
  • Plugins. Work with a staging via free plugin WP Staging or the paid plugins WP Stagecoach and RAMP.
  • Software. Develop and push changes via DesktopServer, a program on your own computer.

 

Useful plugins


There are plugins available that will help you update your WordPress website.

  • WP Update Settings; use this plugin to change settings via the back-end of WordPress that pertain to the update proces.
  • Automatic Plugin Updates; plugin for automatic updates.
  • Plugin Vulernabilities: plugin lets you know when vulnerabilities have been found in the plugins that are used on the website.
  • Plugin Security Scanner: plugin e-mails the website administrator if any vulnerabilities are found in the plugins that are present.
  • WP-UserOnline: plugin shows how many users are active on your website. Wait to update until there are almost no visitors at the website.

 

What to do when it goes wrong?


  • During the update WordPress switches to maintenance mode. The website is not accessible while updates are being made. Usually for no more than a minute. Does the website get stuck in maintenance mode while updating? No problem. Wait ten minutes, the maintenance mode overrides itself. Or go to the server via FTP and remove the .maintenance file from the root.
  • Activate your backup and update themes and plug one by one so that you know which update causes the problem.
  • Google the problem and see if you the solution is known.
  • Get in touch with the theme or plugin builder and ask if there is a solution to the problem.

 

Tips and tools for professional WordPress website development

Tips and tools for professional WordPress website development

We see more and more often that internet businesses choose to use WordPress as standard CMS to build websites. We also come across many freelancers, just starting out, who place their focus entirely on WordPress. In this article we will make an summary of the best tools, techniques and plugins for developing WordPress websites that we have picked up over the years – and that we wish someone had shown us ten years ago when we first started working with WordPress.

Content

  1. WordPress development tools
  2. Standard plugins
  3. Developer plugins
  4. Cheatsheets
  5. Team work
  6. Stay up-to-date
  7. Finally

WordPress development tools

Over the years we’ve tested, used and thrown away lot of development tools. Which tools do we still use for developing WordPress websites?

  • Google Chrome
    Google Chrome has a powerful set of development tools that come standard. You can make CSS changes from the element-inspector, which means that you see the effect immediately before you make any changes in the css files. You can view existing JavaScript variables from the console or run new scripts. You can also view saved cookies, check the headers to see if your page is being cached and more. Mozilla Firefoxis a good alternative as well and offers many similar functions.
  • SublimeCoda
    Everyone has their own favorite text editor, but there are two that really stand out for us: Sublime and Coda. An important advantage of Sublime (Windows / Mac) is that it is that it is easy to expand, while Coda (Mac) is already very complete. In both editors it’s possible to change files directly on the server. This makes doing small, quick changes very easy.
  • FileZilla
    Maybe obvious, but maybe not at all. We use Filezilla daily for quick and secure FTP connections with our customer’s servers. Easy to use and ideal for quick changes. We do advise setting up a good version managed GIT workflow for bigger projects.
  • Browserstack
    You can use Browserstack to virtually test a website on any imaginable device. Like all desktop browsers on multiple Windows and OSX versions, but also all known Android devices, iOS devices and tablets. This is ideal for responsive tests, because simulations for mobile devices in desktop browsers tend to lack details. Browserstack also offers a Chrome extension, that you can use to simulate any website you visit on a different platform.
  • Ghost Inspector
    This fantastic Chrome extension makes it possible to record a numbers of steps on your website (for example: “visit homepage, click on ‘contact’, scroll down, fill in form”). The operations in these records are then regularly run by Ghost Inspector. If there are any abnormal results (for example a page is missing or the layout is different) you will receive a notification.
  • Photoshop
    Although you can do a lot in WordPress itself, Adobe Photoshop remains indispensable to our work. This is the favorite software package of everyone of our team members who works on design.

Standard plugins

Although every website is different, there are a few plugins that we use for every project. That is why we always install them for a new project. If we end up not using them we can always remove them:

  • Avia Framework
    This visual block builder is not available as separate plugin, but built into the Enfold theme (Dutch link). Very user friendly and makes it possible to build up content quickly.
  • Gravity Forms
    The most comprehensive form building plugin we know, with conditional logic, import/export function, various notifications etc. Many themes take this plugin into account in their styling.
  • io
    Make sure you have this plugin running before you upload your first image. That way you keep everything optimized.
  • Akismet
    Reduce spam on your website. Really a must-have.
  • Yoast SEO
    Helps you fine tune your SEO settings globally, and to easily make changes per page, to things like title and meta-description.

Developer plugins

There are many plugins for WordPress that simplify the development of your website. The most common plugins are listed here.

  • Password protected
    Protect your website with a password to prevent search engines and unwanted visitors from taking a look at your website before it’s ready.
  • Debug Bar
    Want to dig a little deeper into the code? The debug bar adds a button to your admin bar you can use to read various server variables, warnings,errorsqueries and requests. The Actions and Filters Addon makes it possible to see which hooks were triggered on your page.
  • Query monitor
    This plugin offers many of the same functionalities that the Debug Bar does, but also makes it possible to do targeted searches of the queries that were carried out, for example per plugin or kind of query, as well as sluggish performance.
  • Custom Post Types UI
    With this plugin you can easily make extra custom posts types. WordPress offers a number of posts and pages, but you may need an extra post type at times, for example ‘books’ for a kind of library. When you have set up the post type this plugin will have to remain active. To keep the number of plugins at a minimum and thus your website performance optimum we prefer adding post types via GenerateWP(see the ‘Cheatsheets’ below).
  • Advanced Custom Fields
    By default, you have a limited number of fields at your disposal in a message, page or custom post.Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) adds all sorts of extra fields; date planners, color pickers, taxonomy links, fields for extra images, you name it. ACF also works very visually and intuitively, so that you can prepare even complicated custom post constructions without using a single line of code. To then be able to use all the custom fields and show them on a page you can use short codes, or change the templates.
  • FacetWP
    This plugin allows you to create different filters to expand the search option for messages, pages and custom posts. This way your visitors are not only able to fill in key words in the search bar, but can also click on taxonomies (categories or tags) in a drop down or a selection box, to further specify the search results. Very interesting for large databases, with, for example, thousands of articles. You can put FacetWP to work, just like ACF, by using short codes and templates.
  • SearchWP
    Would you rather improve the standard search function in WordPress? Then SearchWP is our favourite This plugin indexes all of WordPress so that the results can be shown quicker. You can set the index to your own preferences. Choose, for example, which types of posts will be searched, which fields in a post are important or in fact irrelevant, whether or not to search for partial matches and much more.
  • P3 Profiler
    Is your website getting slower and slower? Use the P3 profiler to measure which plugins have the most impact on your load time. Sometimes it can help to get rid of a few plugins, to improve your website speed. Another solution is to choose super fastPremium WordPress hosting (Dutch link).
  • Broken link checker
    Before going live check to see if all the links on your website still work. Not missing anything, all external pages still available? You’ll get an e-mail if a link doesn’t work. You can even choose to have the check done regularly.
  • Redirection
    When you place your website online will you be replacing an old website?The older website has built up value in the search engines. To maintain as much of this value as possible you can redirect all the URL’s from the old website to the corresponding pages on the new website. This is a lot of work, but it is worth it. You can use the Redirection plugin, but in some cases a .htaccess file as well. Sometimes you can use one redirection rule to reroute multiple pages by using regular expressions (see the ‘Cheatsheets’ below) Dutch link.

Cheatsheets

There are many resources online dealing with developing websites, CSS procedures,  WordPress tweaks, typography etc. Below you will find a handy overview of cheatsheets we’ve saved in our favorites. Always good to have on hand.

  • Golden Ratio Typography Calculator
    Can’t figure out why your text is not very readable? Check your line spacing and font size with this tool. It will calculate the best line spacing, font size etc. based on things like the width of your content area.
  • Can I Use
    Just found a nice new CSS-feature? Want to use HTML5? Usecom to check and see which browser can/can’t use this code. Sometimes caniuse.com even gives fallback tips for older browsers. Look up ‘border-radius’ and then check the tab resources for an example.
  • comRegExr
    Website finished and you want to quickly add a few redirect rules to your htaccess file? Or are you programming and need to filter by pattern? If you are not familiar with regular expressions they can be headache inducing. txt2re.com helps by entering a string you want to match (for example an e-mail address, URL, telephone number or just a sentence). The tool generates suggestions of what a regular expression should look like. RegExr turns it around: input your regular expression and a piece of text and the tool shows you which parts of your example text match.
  • com
    A fantastically simple website that gives you the HTML code to embed things like YouTube URLs responsively. Also works for Vimeo, DailyMotion, Google Maps, Instagram, Vine, Getty Images and a normal iFrames.
  • w3.org
    Is the syntax of your website built according to the standards? The validator from W3 helps answer this question. Don’t let all the warnings scare you, a website that is 100% perfect is still just an illusion, especially when you work with themes and plugins. And yet, making fewer mistakes in your code makes your website more findable by search engines. A first tip: tick the box in WordPress ‘Automatically correct invalidly nested XHTML’ under General > Writing.
  • GenerateWP
    Need an extra custom post type for your website? Or want to add additional taxonomies to your page? GenerateWP walks you through a wizard and then gives you the code to place in the functiphp of your theme, super simple!
  • WordPress Code Reference
    The first place to go to look for hooks, functions and classes within It’s thephp.net for WordPress.
  • WordPress API’s
    A helpful overview of all API’s available for the WordPress core. Your code will be much more durable if you use these kinds of APIs. For example, by writing and and reading files via WordPress’s File system API your code will be better compatible with various server platforms.
  • io
    This website makes an attempt to inventory all the hooks for WordPress. You will also find all the actions and filters from a growing number of plugins and theme’s. This website has become a great resource for the better known plugins.
  • WcomWP Sniffer
    These two tools help you browse other peoples WordPress sites. You can see which theme is activated and what kind of plugins are running on the website. The picture it paints is not always complete, but it can help you find a underlying theme you like.
  • Google FontsAdobe Typekit
    A few years ago it wasn’t possible for all web browsers, but these days, in theory, it is possible to use almost every font on your WordPress website (which doesn’t mean that all fonts are ideal, load quickly or are readable on your website). Google fonts offers a growing selection of free fonts that you can use. If you are looking for a very specific font then Adobe Typekit may be a better option. You will pay an annual price, depending on the font. Lastly, you can turn your own fonts into web fonts. With the Webfont generator by Font Squirrel, for example.

Teamwerk

To keep the ball rolling for larger projects there is almost no escaping teamwork. The following tools really help us develop our WP websites in team.

  • Google Apps
    The complete suite of Google services is also provided for companies under the name ‘Google Apps’. E-mail, agenda’s, hangouts, analytics and contacts all run on user-friendly Google software, but under your own domain. Various extensions for Gmail (like Labelizer) make it possible to share e-mails within your team by using labels. We use this tool as task system at the moment.
  • LastPass (Enterprise)
    Indispensable when it comes to the safe keeping of your login details and those of your clients. Thanks to LastPass Enterprise we can also easily share logins within the team or change them safely. Very affordable and used by large companies like MailChimp and
  • GitLab
    To keep self-written code orderly and simple, we use GitLab as a version management system. GitLab is really a kind of open source GitHub alternative you can host yourself. By using GitLab multiple team members can work on the same project without getting in each other’s way.
  • Toggl
    A good timesheet isn’t just something your customers will appreciate; it helps you get better at estimating where the most time goes in a project. That’s why we use Toggl to track the hours we spend on a project. That way we can see, per project, if we are on schedule with our hours or if we need to make changes. Above all, customers gain insight in the time that was spent and how. Time tracking isn’t fun to do, but it is important.
  • Teamwork Projects
    For project management we used to use Basecamp Classic, a relatively old system (in internet terms). At a certain pointBasecamp Classic stopped meeting our needs because it wasn’t further developed. Teamwork Projects made it possible to transfer our entire archive from Basecamp Classic, so that we could keep all the history of our projects. Colleagues and customers can get access per project. There are to-do lists, where each task can be assigned to a colleague or customer.  You can confer with all involved parties per task. You can share files, messages and important milestones.

 

Stay informed

The WordPress landscape is constantly under development. To stay informed regarding new features, as well as upcoming changes, we recommend you put these websites in your bookmarks or subscribe to their mailinglists.

To close

Now that we have covered all kinds of tools, techniques, plugins and tips for WordPress, we would like to emphasize the most important tip we like to give WordPress professionals: keep it simple! Especially when you’re thinking of using a technically clever solution, always ask yourself: ‘is this not already lying around somewhere?’. Often the answer is yes, and your customers will be happy they don’t have to pay for re-inventing the wheel.  This will also enable you to spend more of your budget on making sure the content of the WordPress website is just right, and that is often more valuable to your client.

Do you use tools we haven’t named? Let us know in a response below!

WordPress plugins for main menus

WordPress plugins for main menus

It is incredibly important to have good navigation on your WordPress website. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of main menus, and some navigation plugins you can use on your WordPress website.

We’ll look at the following types of navigation menus:

Some links in this article contain affiliate code.

Default menu


A default main menu on a website simply consists of a row of buttons, for example ‘Home, Services, About us, Contact’. Essentially all WordPress themes support a default WordPress menu (except for some one-page themes). So, there’s no need to install any extra plugins for this navigation menu.


An example of a default menu

Horizontal or vertical menu?

A default menu can be placed either horizontally or vertically. Horizontal main menus are very common in WordPress themes, but if you want a really nice vertical menu, check out the free WordPress theme TwentyFifteen. Do you want the option to change from a horizontal to a vertical menu and back? Then it’s best to choose another theme. Don’t want to say goodbye to your beloved theme and still want a vertical menu? The plugins below are really worth giving a try:


A submenu is a menu that unfolds when you move your mouse over, or click on a main menu item. This gives you the possibility to include secondary menu items in your navigation menu that are not visible all the time. It keeps your main menu accessible and makes your layout more flexible. Plus, with WordPress you can create submenus for you website by just dragging and dropping.

Submenus are supported by almost all themes. Does your WordPress theme not support submenu? Below we’ll discuss a few plugins that can help you out.


Megamenu


A default submenu consists of 1 column of items. A megamenu offers the possibility to divide items among several columns, sometimes even with titles over every column. Also, megamenus frequently provide additional display options for the unfolded spaces, like a piece of text, forms, images, video’s, Google Maps, etc. By using a megamenu, you’re giving visitors an attractive navigation.

Our three favorite WordPress plugins for megamenu functionalities are:

Overlay menu / Full size menu


An overlay menu is not immediately visible, but appears when you click on a menu icon. The menu then covers the entirety of the screen. In this, an overlay menu looks very much like a mobile menu (see below), but it is also meant for larger screens. An overlay menu is useful when you don’t want the menu to distract too much when looking at the website, and vice versa, when the website shouldn’t distract while selecting something from the menu. Also, at times an overlay menu is used to make sure the user experience is the same on all devices, whether you’re on a mobile phone or on a desktop computer.

The following three plugins offer overlay functionalities:

Mobile menu / Hamburger menu


Obviously, your website should also (or especially!) work on mobile devices. Luckily, WordPress themes are almost all responsive, which means the screen width determines your website’s layout. Not only your website, but also your navigation menu should, of course, work properly on a mobile device. With the plugins below, you can make a separate design for your mobile menu and for larger screens (desktops and laptops). This may help improve the user experience, because you can give your mobile visitors just the menu items they need.

Thrive Themes: conversion-focused WordPress platform

In one week, three different people enthusiastically suggested ThriveThemes to us. It was time for a review: did we miss something? (Yes, we did!)

ThriveThemes is a company that offers themes and plugins that help you achieve a higher conversion on your website: like inviting your website visitor to become a reader of your newsletter. This way, you build a relationship with your readers, which allows you to convince them to become one of your customers. This makes ThriveThemes a good provider, especially if you want online results and you’re not afraid to do a bit of marketing. Below we will briefly discuss their themes, content builder ad leads plugin. These three elements form a complete and conversion-focused WordPress platform.

Some links in this article contain affiliate code. When you are a customer of Sowmedia you can use Thrive for free. 

ThriveThemes

The themes from ThriveThemes have simple designs, and focus on conversion. If you are looking for a theme that contains the latest innovations in design, then ThriveThemes is not what you are looking for. Are you looking for a fast website, that is easily made and focusses on online results? Continue reading.

The advantages of a Thrive theme:

  • Light code and automatic image compression that allow your website to load faster. They use Kraken.io for this, which normally costs $9,- per month, but is included, so it’s a nice cost reduction and one plugin less.
  • You can indicate “targeted focus areas”. This means, elements that stand out, such as a special offer to your visitors. Or forms that generate more clicks, which you can link to your favorite mailing list.
  • The readability of the themes has been optimized with enough white space and large, clear, legible letters.
  • The themes contain a landing page in the same design style, but without any of the website items. So, the header, navigation, links, sidebars and footer widgets don’t show, to keep the visitor from being distracted.
  • Completely mobile responsive and suitable for retina. Fonts, columns and icons scale nicely when changing screen size.
  • Fast loading social sharing buttons
  • Fast loading related messages, because they don’t generate while visiting the message, but while saving the message
  • Good integration with the Thrive Content Builder.

Thrive Content Builder

The Thrive Content Builder allows you to edit your website at the front end. This means, you can see what a text is going to look like while you’re typing. So, What You See is really What You Get. At first, it takes a bit of fidgeting to get the element in the right place. But practice makes perfect. You can use the Thrive Content Builder in any theme, so also when it’s not a theme from Thrive. For people with HTML knowledge, it is possible to see the entre code in HTML. You don’t really need this, but it can give you more insight, which is nice if you know how to work with HTML. The HTML code is very clean, by the way.

The elements included in the Thrive Content Builder are:

  • Lists with bullet points in various designs
  • Columns
  • Embedding Responsive Video
  • Easily building HTML tables
  • Feature Grids (blocks with images or icons)
  • Content Tabs & Toggles
  • Option to add Google Maps code
  • Stars for reviews
  • Countdown Timers
  • Opt-in Forms
  • Automatic table of contents in a page
  • Adding your own HTML & CSS

As you can see they have again chosen to not offer every functionality imaginable. If you are looking for a content builder with more and more enhanced functionalities, we always recommend Enfold or one of the themes from Elegant Themes. Are the abovementioned elements enough to show all your content, then the Thrive Content Builder is definitely recommendable. The great advantage of the Thrive Content Builder is that you immediately see the result. So, you don’t have to switch back and forth between the front and the back end. Also, it’s nice that the Thrive Content Builder offers several landing pages. These are pages without the regular elements, that focus entirely on getting results (for example: signing up for a course, newsletter, etc.). Sadly, it is not very extensive and the design can be a bit plain. So, I particularly recommend the Thrive Content Builder to those who are now using a rather user-unfriendly theme that doesn’t offer any nice conversion-focused elements.

Below I will show a short video on how to make a new page with the Thrive Content Builder.

Thrive Leads

With Thrive Leads you can create different opt-in forms and/or special offers with a drag and drop editor. Even if you are not using a Thrive Theme or Thrive Content Builder, this can be a very nice supplement to your current WordPress website. With Thrive Leads you can generate leads more easily by using ‘forms’. There are various forms:

Popup Lightbox
tl-form-type-1

A lightbox that opens on your page

“Sticky” Ribbon
tl-form-type-2
At the top of your page a clear deal or offer.

In-Line Forms
tl-form-type-3
A form at the bottom of your page.

2 step opt-in form
tl-form-type-4

This form will show in a light box, when you click a button.

Slide-In
tl-form-type-5
This form slides into your page.

Opt-In Widget
tl-form-type-6
This way you place a form in a widget.

Targetting with Thrive Leads

targeting-3hrough targeting, you can indicate where and when you want a form to show. For example, with all messages/pages, or just with a certain message category or only with a certain message/page. This is convenient, because you can create an offer that is relevant to the content shown. In Thrive Leads, you can see which are your most important messages (the ones that create the most traffic) and for those messages you can make a specific offer (also called “content-upgrade”).

A/B testing with Thrive Leads

With the A/B testing engine you can test different forms/offers. You can test different designs & content. You can test triggers, for example a popup after 3 seconds, or when the visitor as scrolled down 50%, or when it looks like the visitor is about to leave the page. Also, you can test the results of different form types. For example, a lightbox popup vs. a Slide-in form. The great thing is, that you can configure this all at once and then Thrive Leads automatically lets you pick a winner, as soon as enough data has been collected. In the video below, Thrive Leads is explained further.

Want to try ThriveThemes?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Do you want to try ThriveThemes, Thrive Content Builder and/or Thrive Leads? When you are a customer of Sowmedia, you can use the whole package for free. Call us (010-4654444) or send us an e-mail. Not yet a customer? Get our premium hosting and you too will get the whole package for free. This way you save $147,- per year. Place a comment on your experience with Thrive below. We’d love to hear from you!

5 WordPress tips you (possibly) did not know

5 WordPress tips you (possibly) did not know

At WpUpgraders we work with WordPress every day. And every day, we try to keep each other on our toes by sharing new tips and discoveries about WordPress with each other. We also like to share these things on our blog. So, here we have five tips for WordPress you (possibly) did not know.

1. Two-factor authentication for WordPress

Many people are still using unsafe passwords on the internet. This increases their chances of being hacked enormously, because hackers can easily find out your passwords through automated guessing. Two-step verification demands two actions before successfully signing into your account, for example, using a password and entering a code you have on your phone. So if a hacker where to ever guess your password, he would still be unable to sign in, because he would need your phone for the second step.

You can get two-factor authentication for WordPress for free with the Google Authenticator plugin. On your smartphone you install the Google Authenticator App, which generates the code you need to enter after logging in. After having completed these two steps, you get access to the WordPress admin. There’s a payed alternative for Google Authenticator called Duo.

2. Selecting several messages or pages at once

Sometimes you have to select a whole list of messages or pages in WordPress at once, to edit or remove them. Did you know you can select more

than one message at the time by pressing and holding SHIFT? Then you press and hold CTRL (or CMD on a Mac) which allows you to check and uncheck individual messages.

This way you can quickly move several messages or pages to trash at the same time.

3. Ping-o-matic

Maybe you’ve never heard of Ping-o-matic, but every WordPress user is using this free service. It informs search engines when you publish a message or page. This way, search engines can include your update in their search results almost immediately after you’ve posted it.

But you don’t always want this to happen right away. Maybe you want it to be included in the search results a bit later. In this case, it’s good to know that you can easily deactivate these notifications to Ping-o-matic. In WordPress you go to Settings > Writing and you remove the address http://rpc.pingomatic.com/ from the text field below ‘Update Services’.

Please note that you only prevent your messages from being sent to search engines immediately. Your messages will still be indexed, but at a later time (because search engines also visit your website on their own). Do you not want your website to appear in the search results at all? Then go to Settings > Reading and check the box at the bottom: ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’.

4. Preview your Widgets and Menus

When editing a blog or page, you can click on ‘Customize’ to see a preview of what your changes are going to look like, before publishing them and making them visible to visitors. But how do you do this with Widgets and Menus?

Since WordPress 4.3 it’s possible to preview the changes you’ve made to your Menus and Widgets. In WordPress, go to Appearance > Customizer to see your website with an extra sidebar on the left. You can just click through your website; the sidebar stays visible. In the Customizer, you click on Menus or Widgets and make the changes you want to make. You immediately see the effect of the changes you’re making to your website. When you are satisfied with the result, you click on ‘Save’, after which your changes will be published.

5. Pasting hyperlinks in a text

When you write many blogs, you will probably sometimes link to other websites. The usual way to do this in WordPress is by selecting the desired part of the text, clicking on the link icon, entering the URL, and clicking on ‘Add link’. But did you know there is a faster way?

Usually you’ve already copied the URL to which you want to direct your reader. Now select the text you want to use as a link and press CTRL-V (or CMD-V on a Mac).

Your selected text will now become a link to the address you had copied earlier. Easy peasy!

Do you have any good tips? Please tell us below!