SEO Plugins for WordPress – What to look out for in 2020 Gallery

Getting traffic to your website is an ongoing battle faced by ever small and large

Getting traffic to your website is an ongoing battle faced by ever small and large business owner. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – is a major tool in organically driving visitors to your website, but improving your SEO can be difficult when you’re not employing the expertise of dedicated SEO experts.2

The value of SEO starts with search results, as without a decent SEO strategy it is highly unlikely that your website will ever appear as a recommended search result. Our first tip, and one that has inspired much of this blog’s content, is to invest in WordPress. WordPress is a blogging website hosting provider which allows a number of Plugins to make your life easier. All you have to do is determine which Plugin is the most compatible with your vision.

So, as we strive towards 2020, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best SEO Plugins to look out for in 2020, specifically for WordPress.

Yoast

Yoast SEO is one of the most valuable Plugins on the market, with over 5 million downloads on a global scale. Simply by looking at this one figure you should already be recognising the popularity of Yoast SEO – and for good reason. Yoast handles a wide range of aspects across your WordPress site’s SEO, including meta date for both homepage content and individual articles, a detailed sitemap that is automatically shared with different search engines, social media optimisation, blog post readability and more.

And best of all, the basic Yoast SEO plugin is a free download for WordPress users, and has been built in a way that is perfectly user friendly for anyone – even complete beginners. Of course, there is a paid for upgrade version as well which includes a few additional features, but the basic plugin does more than enough to help you see results. So, what are you waiting for?

Schema

Schema is what we call a rich snippet plugin. A rich snippet is additional content that pops up as being immediately interactive, for example user reviews. Generally rich snippet content is visually presented and highly compelling, not only enticing potential customers but also enabling search engines to see exactly what your website is about.

Of course, adding rich snippets is only one part of improving your online presence, and in order for that additional content to be viewed you still have to have a solid SEO strategy, but with Schema – All In One Rich Snippets, you have the freedom to create a number of different types of content: from reviews to events and videos. Schema supports the creation and use of rich snippets, and is a goldmine of great content once you’ve got your head around how to use it.

Broken Link Checker

Managing a frequent series of blog posts can throw up unprecedented problems with links. As your site grow, the number of links your site is managing grows; including both internal and external links in line with all those SEO tips that advocate the use of external links within your blogs. Well, that’s all very well, but what happens when things start to go wrong?

The Broken Link Checker Plugin does just that – it checks your content and flags up any broken links or missing images; tracking any broken comment boxes or edited URL’s that can damage your own links. Why is this important? Search engines can identify if your site is full of broken content and links, and this can impact on your SEO negatively. WordPress’s Broken Link Checker makes sure that doesn’t happen – so you can just sit back and enjoy creating content.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics for WordPress has millions of installations, with the Monster Insights version attracting the most popularity in recent years. This is because all of your Analytics content can be viewed from inside your WordPress dashboard, making the process very user friendly and streamlined – connecting the GA plugin with your WordPress site automatically.

There is both a free and a premium option for the Google Analytics plugin, with the free version providing you with the bare minimum of data you may find useful. The paid option delves a lot deeper into your website activity and as a result becomes a lot more valuable in tracking site visits.

AMP

AMP deals mainly with mobile optimisation and the problems that arose when sites began to create content especially for mobile. Though mobile optimisation seemed like the most important thing at the time, by creating great visual content for mobile the site creators began to impact on their response time. The more content is on the mobile page, the longer it takes to load – and the bounce rate went through the roof. The answer? Accelerated Mobile Pages.

AMP was created to optimise the loading of mobile pages, using specially created HTML code to make the page load faster. By downloading the AMP plugin for WordPress, you can rest assured that your website content will become quick and user friendly for those visiting your site on a mobile device. And with its user-friendly interface designed for website owners as well, using the AMP plugin will improve the experience for you as well as your customers.

EWWW Image Optimiser

If your content relies on text, adding images and infographics is a must-do to liven it up. Not only do these reflect well on your SEO, but they also help your website to retain the attention of readers. The trick is to make sure that visually engaging content isn’t impacting on your web page load time.

The EWWW Image Optimiser was designed to optimise images whenever you upload a new one, to make sure it only takes up the amount of space it needs to across your site – with no limit on how many images it will upload. When you choose to download Image Optimiser, it will also give you the option to optimise all your existing images across your website – an added bonus that means you don’t have to go through and manually edit every image.

Jetpack by WordPress

This one was made by WordPress themselves, and is in fact a culmination of a number of other plugins you may have downloaded throughout your time as a WordPress user. Able to complete several tasks simultaneously, Jetpack covers SEO tools, analytics, site management and performance optimisation, image loading, site backup, security, and much more.

A bit like an umbrella that sits atop all the other plugin experiences, Jetpack updates itself on a regular basis to ensure you always have the up to date new features and big fixes.

All in One WP Security and Firewall

Added security is something we recommend investing in wherever possible, and All in one WP is one of the best. Guiding you and site across everything from password strength to Google reCaptcha, this plugin gives you live updates on the security strength of your website and takes ownership across a number of important areas that could otherwise be vulnerable.

W3 Total Cache

In 2020 users are growing increasingly busy, with little to no time to wait for your website to load. Google and other search engines are also evolving to recognise site speed, and it is fast becoming the element of your site that you simply cannot ignore. W3 Total Cache serves as a page store for each individual user, ensuring that each time they open a page there is no need for the page to reload completely.

For this reason, enabling page caching is probably the most important feature to note when you setup this plugin. In short, the cache is a form of memory that stores the pages visited. It ensures quick load time for all devices, delivers all the content to a high quality, and is compatible with different types of hosting.

Ultimate Nofollow

For every link you include on your website, Google will backtrack to find out exactly where it came from and why you have linked it on your own site. And when you add in a link, selecting the Nofollow button will make clear to Google that your webpage ranking should not impact that of the link’s target. In short, you are telling Google that the link destination should not benefit from your site’s SEO.

Doing this in WordPress is a little more challenging than on any other site as there is no automated option, but the Ultimate Nofollow plugin provides an extra check box to your profile when adding new links.

Of course, all of the above Plugins cover very different areas of your WordPress site, and depending on your market and target audience, it is likely only a couple of these will be relevant to you. The thing to remember is that plugins actually can make your life a lot easier – and the millions who already use them serve as great advocates for their value. Trust the masses and start delving further into understanding your WordPress site and the options available to you.

Web Design Trends 2020

As we approach 2020, we are starting to see some obvious trends appearing across various sectors

As we approach 2020, we are starting to see some obvious trends appearing across various sectors – not least the online world. Website design is one of the areas that has inevitably seen the most change in recent years, as we take technological leaps towards the future of online; both in terms of practicality and design.

In response to the threat of a new year and predictions coming in from all angles, this article deals with some of the most obvious trends we can expect to see in 2020.

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design refers to the ability to enjoy a website – from any device. Being adaptive quite literally means adapting to suit all manner of devices, meaning the content has to alter its format in line with the size of a screen. For example, a black of photos on a laptop screen may become a single file line of photos down the page of a mobile device – increasing user readability.

One of the most important things to look for in an adaptive design is an edited Menu design, with an obvious menu button and easy-to-use menu list.

Notifications

If you sign up for something, it’s likely that your phone will pop up with an automated message asking you about allowing push notifications. If you’re anything like us, you typically say no – if only to avoid the constant stream of notifications that apps and games can send to you every single day. However, in 2020 the notification trend is set to rise, with users acknowledging the value of certain apps telling you when something is about to happen or when an important news story hits the headlines.

Motion Design

Motion design refers to short videos – known as GIF’s – which allow users to interactively engage and explore something they mat be interested in. GIF’s are especially useful when compared with more standard videos as they take up less space on the webpage and result in much quicker load times, keeping the user engaged and preventing them from clicking away in frustration. However, it is also worth noting that GIF’s are typically small bits of video content and will not provide an in-depth exploration of your product – for that you may well need a video.

Video

On to the more standard videos now, and despite the rise of GIF’s, video content is still set to increase in value as 2020 approaches. After all, if a video interests us then we are likely to watch to the end – just look at the sheer number of views on the Facebook videos all over social media. The content is nothing special, yet the interest is peaked and users tend to watch to the end.

Users like relevant, simple and minimalistic videos that provide the information they need without extreme explanations or lengthy introductions.

Robo-Chat

This one comes back to AI – something we all know is coming! Artificial Intelligence sounds quite frankly terrifying, but the chances are that the invention of AI will make life easier for many of us, if for no other purpose than they can screen user questions and provide an engaging FAQ feature. Chat Bots have been created to mimic a real conversation, using built-in responses that have been pre-determined by real humans. These responses are instant for users, with 24/7 service and an ability to help with basic issues regarding the website.

They may not completely replace human interaction, and there will still be users who want to talk to a real person, but for now their value is set to skyrocket.

Interactivity

People like to interact and feel like they are getting real value from a site, so the more interactivity present the better. This could cover everything from videos to animations and much more!

Minimalism

This might seem pretty contradictory considering we just covered interactivity, but minimalism is often as effective as things that keep users actively engaged. Minimalism involves a simple user experience in a number of ways, including the design, colour scheme, volume of buttons and graphic details. It’s easier to understand, it’s more user friendly and it gets the job done – perhaps quicker than your average site.

What’s on the Out?

As well as increasing popularity for the above trends, there are a few things we are likely to say goodbye to in 2020. One of these is in line with our final trend, and that is complex design. The more complex the design, the harder the site is to navigate – and that’s simply not good enough anymore.

Another feature we can wave goodbye to is background scrolling – whereby the background of the website would change as you scrolled. This typically meant longer load times and quite an annoying pause as the background took a few seconds to catch up – unacceptable as we enter 2020.

Our top 10 SEO trends for 2020

The Winter months have well and truly set in, and with the end of 2019 fast approaching, it’s time to turn your attention to your 2020 strategy.

Keeping up with the constant developments is a never-ending job all of its own, and unfortunately the same goes for keeping up with the competition. The internet is an endless minefield of competitors all vying for attention from prospective customers and clients – and the best way to get this attention is via the global search engines.

But as technology and content information matures, so does Google. It is no longer enough to just write a great blog – now it has to work alongside and in partnership with a specific set of rules implemented by organisations like Google.

Without further ado, here’s 10 ways you can use SEO to harness Google’s attention and make sure your website features in those all-important top search results.

1. Consider featured snippets

When you Google something and wind up on a result page, generally the first thing on the screen is something called a Snippet. This literally does what it says on the tin, offering the searcher an extended preview of what they might find on that first site result – whether it’s instructions, tips or generic information.

To gain a chance at being the featured Snippet for any given search term, ensure you are answering the most common questions in clear and concise language. The Snippets receive a high percentage of clicks so it is worth spending the time tailoring your content accordingly.

2. Voice recognition and voice-driven searches

Our phones and smart devices are getting clever by the upgrade, with many now offering users a chance to search for anything they want – without having to tap a single button. While this has been attributed to accidental searches and even unintentional holiday bookings, it seems the powers of tech have honed and matured the technology to enable voice search to grow in popularity.

To work in partnership with this trend, you need to think about how people are searching using their voice – rather than their keypad. In short, the searches will be more detailed and keywords will become more conversational.

3. The growth of Artificial Intelligence

The majority of drivers may not be ready for driver-less cars yet, but artificial intelligence is on the rise and has recently become on of Googles most trusted advisors when it comes to user searches and search result algorithms. In short, the AI robots have learned what makes an article great; creating their own set of rules that we, as content creators, have to abide by if we want to continue to perform well online.

Does anybody know what these sets of rules look like? It’s all trial and error.

4. Online security

First GDPR and now this – if a user doesn’t feel that their information is safe when browsing your website, they won’t use it. It’s as simple as that. Increased user security is a trend which is only going to continue to grow, and one which will influence our strategies for many years to come.

5. The power of the blue tick

Blue ticks have never meant more than they do today. A sign of status and popularity in the online world, a blue tag tends to mean that someone is a verified influencer – usually with an extremely large following and valuable networks.

Having one of these influencers endorse your brand is a priceless tool that enables your brand to be seen by networks and potential customers you couldn’t even dream of reaching before. Allow the social media trend to improve your website traffic and widen the reach of your content.

6. User experience

Remember the days when everything took minutes to buffer? We used to sit in front of the screen and watch the buffering wheel for days on end – but not today. Today, users want everything instantly, and if it’s not instant on your website then they will simply head to a different website that is. It doesn’t matter if you have great content – if the user experience isn’t exactly what they expect, you will very quickly find yourself losing valuable visitors.

Quick load times, an easy to navigate website, and optimised content for all devices – they’re all important!

7. Videos vs. Written content

Facebook has launched a new video viewing page which takes you straight onto another related video once your first one finishes. This subtle but clever way to introducing you to new content highlights how important video is becoming in the world of online content, as users are now just as likely to watch a tutorial as they are to read one.

Youtube advertising has never been so popular, and online videos are starting to take over and attract more and more interest – pulling viewers away from their television screens. Make sure your videos are optimised in terms of SEO, to harness the power of this ever-growing trend. Great keywords and descriptions can mean the difference between a viral clip and a video that falls flat.

8. Quality Content

A pretty simple one really. You can do all the SEO and tagging in the world, but without quality content you will never be able to retain potential customers. Give them value, well-researched information and clear calls to action! After all, in a world where everything is so fast-paced and temporary, your content needs to prove itself as informative yet entertaining; useful but also high quality and approachable.

9. Dwell time will increase in prominence

The amount of time someone sits on your website is about to become even more important to your SEO success. If a user is spending lots f time on your website, the search engine will know that the quality of your content and website is likely to be high – and this is going to become even more of an influential factor as we enter 2020.

10. It’s not going to be just about Google

Google pretty much owns the search engine world, with the phrase “Google it” being used to answer probably half the questions that are voiced by millions of people every single day. However, this could be set to change, as other search engines rise in prominence and give Google a run for its money.

This may mean that SEO requirements will differ particularly as different and new search engines work to attract users and gain support. We’ll have to watch this space to see what happens…

 

Unpacking the value of SEO

Unfortunately for those new to the game, SEO isn’t just a quick fix. It is in fact a series of tricks that work together to give your website the best possible ranking it can get in the eyes of Google. You may be thinking that the customer matters to you, not Google. But if you don’t get on the right side of the powers behind the search engines, there’s a chance that your customers won’t even find your website – let alone be able to rank it!

Having said that, it’s not like the search engines offer a guide to good SEO. In fact, they tend to keep quiet about the best way to steer SEO in a favourable direction, leaving us to figure out the algorithms and how to rank highly. So, without further ado, here’s a few of our top tips on how you can improve your own SEO on your website without hiring in experts and content creators.

Get to grips with Google analytics

Before you can truly understand which avenue your SEO should be going down, first you need to get to grips with your website’s current performance. Analytics will give you some insight into how people are currently coming across your website and how they are interacting with it, so that you can understand your website traffic and determine which search terms are leading people to you.

In essence, why are people coming across your website and what are they searching for to bring them to you?

Understand your keywords

The next step is to identify what keywords link your service to the people who are visiting your website. Write down all the words that you think are key to your business proposition and what you offer, and then use keyword tools to figure out how valuable those terms are.

Engaging tools such as Google’s free keyword planner are useful here as they give you some idea of how many searches each keyword has and how competitive the word is among other websites. It will also then provide you with some suggestions around keywords relevant to your site, to help you build out your list and bid on the words best suited in both yours and Google’s opinion.

Trust us, this will all help your website to rank better among its competitors, leading to increased website traffic and subsequently more business.

Optimise your website according to your SEO strategy

Once the keywords are established, your website needs to be brought up to speed. This involves implementing the chosen words into as many aspects as you can – NATURALLY. This is key. Making sure the sentences flow smoothly and that the keywords are well integrated is critical to ensuring a good ranking. If Google thinks it’s nonsense, you could be worse off than you were before you started.

Key areas to focus on include the web page URL, heading tags, image names and alt tags, title tags and your web page meta descriptions. A lot of this will be happening in the back end of your website and won’t even be something that is obvious from a visitor point of view. But Google is always watching…

Make sure you don’t lose sight of your content

Keeping the content relevant and up to date is vital for SEO. Not only do new news stories and blog posts give you increased opportunity to integrate those keywords to your site, but they signal to Google that your website is active and relevant in its field. Create high quality content that will interest your audience, and they’ll stick around to read it. If you start letting the content drop, you’ll swiftly see a corresponding drop in your website traffic.

Out with the old

Likewise, old content is pointless. Update your old content where necessary, and if it’s no longer relevant then simply scrap it.

Internal links

Google is a big fan of internal linking and proof that every area of your website is relevant to the overall industry you’re providing a service in.

Optimisation

In a world where most browsing is done on the go, ensuring your website is optimised for mobile usage is absolutely crucial – not only for your users but for your Google ranking. Mobile matters, and Google have recently revealed that the status of your website optimisation is a factor in ranking your site among its competitors. So, don’t let it fall by the wayside!

Site Speed

Much like the above, site speed is another thing that you think is out of your control but will in fact feature heavily in how your site is ranked. People care about how long it takes for a web page to load, and improving your site speed is something that can make a big difference in overall website satisfaction.

There are of course other things you can do to improve your google search results, and not all of them are changes to your own website. Promote your content in other places, for example on social media, through guest posts on other related sites and even in directories. If people think you are an expert of a particularly influential individual or organisation in the industry, play on this and ensure that everything you do online links back to your own website.

This is a strategy known as backlinking, and is another way of showing Google how relevant you are – by having other relevant websites link to your site. It’s like a recommendation without the direct endorsement, but for Google it is enough to show that your content is valuable and that your website deserves to be up there with the other strong contenders.

Cybersecurity for small business websites

All too often the media shares stories of large organisations and companies that have been hacked through their website; stealing customer data and private information that can be extremely damaging both in the short term and the long run. The unfortunate truth however is that it’s not just these large-scale companies that are being targeted. Small businesses are just as likely to be targeted – we’re just far less likely to hear about it.

Recovering from a security breach is expensive and can be catastrophic for a small business without the necessary cybersecurity measures in place. Read on for some of the most basic ways you can protect your site and your business from harm.

Keep your domain information private

If a hacker has access to your name, your email address or even your mailing address, they can use this information to hack into your website or worse. The more personal information they can collect about you, the easier their job is, and you could find yourself facing a case of stalking or identity theft. Employ domain privacy to shield all your personal details from hackers and identity thieves.

Invest in an SSL certificate

Many internet users now will not trust any website without an SSL certificate in the browser bar, and we know Google relies heavily on SSL certification for a good ranking. However, this isn’t just a good investment for business – it also protects your site from hackers by encrypting all the data stored on it. All of our hosting packages come with free SSL certificates as standard!

Automatic backups

One of the most damaging ways a hacker can destroy your business is to crash your entire website or cause such problems that customers can no longer access your site.

With an automatic backup, you can work safe in the knowledge that should anything happen, you know you have everything you need to get the site up and running again quickly and easily. Ensuring that the automatic backup updates itself on a daily basis is key to being able to restore as recent a version as possible should it become necessary.

Malware scans and removals

It sounds like something out of Doctor Who, but cybercriminals are now a very real threat to small businesses that work online. With access to coding that can steal data and allow access to your site at the click of a few buttons, cybercriminals can attack a site before you even realise it’s happening. That’s why automatic malware scans are so vital.

These malware scans perform regular automated scans on your entire site; identifying and removing any potential threats to your security. By investing in one of these, you can be sure that any vulnerable areas will be identified and fixed before a hacker can exploit them.

Domain renewals

Another thing worth investing in simply because it can be done automatically, is domain renewal. After an allotted period of time, your domain will come up for renewal and if you don’t act quickly you can lose control of your business domain name. Not only is this bad for business, but it also leaves you expired domain open for exploitation and unregistered access, whereby any cybercriminal could find out yours and your customers personal data and email addresses.

This can be prevented with automatic domain renewal – an easy way to register your domain name so that when the time comes for renewal, your site will do so automatically. This can generally be managed through the billing information on your domain registration account.

Automatic updates

Staying up to date is one of the best ways to ensure fool proof security, not least because it ensures your cybersecurity is working to its newest and most effective version. Many updates that become available have been created to patch up the flaws left open in an old version, and so neglecting to update with them can mean that your site is still open to those flaws. And once a hacker gets in, it’s too late.

By setting up your WordPress and plugins to update automatically, you will be protected with the latest versions without even having to think about it.

Check your passwords

Creating a password is often a toss up between choosing something easy to remember, and choosing something that no one will ever guess – but that you might well forget. Trust us, the latter is much safer.

It’s important that not only you but anyone with access to your site uses a secure and unique password, as hackers can find a different way into the site even if your own password is super secure.

Login Forms

If your site includes a feature where customers can log in to their own accounts, you’re at risk of letting in a bot. These cyber bots are designed by hackers to try multitudes of potential login credentials until they strike gold with one that works; allowing them into your site where they can release malware to damage the business from the inside.

By adding protection layers to your login forms, this should be avoidable. Things like the reCAPTCHA tools we see all the time – where the login asks you to identify all the images with one thing in common – are good examples, as automated bots are unable to identify these. It’s also worth enabling a tool that gives customers a set amount of login attempts before they become locked out, as this annihilates the potential for trying multiple logins until one works.

These ideas are just some of the basis in cybersecurity, but they will ensure increased safety for both your business and your customers. And we think that’s an investment worth entertaining.

Unpicking SEO: How to boost your rankings

SEO is one of those buzz-words that floats around the online world, without much understanding behind it. Individuals claiming to be SEO experts will constantly inundate your inbox with offers to optimise your SEO and perform SEO checks – but what does it all mean?

The purpose of SEO is to make sure your website stands out for the powers of a search engine. Often what the search engine is looking for doesn’t even make complete sense to us, but we do it because it leads to good “SEO”. This guide to unpicking SEO is designed to simply help your website rank a little higher and perform a little better, without the need for outsourced experts and lengthy reviews.

Pick your Keywords and stick to them

When using WordPress, there are special plugins and accessories that have been created just to make your SEO life easier – use them. Yoast SEO is one of the best; rating your posts according to how well they have been written in light of your SEO targets. Yoast is a content creaters dream, engaging one simple tool that will change the way you write. It allows you to pick a keyword and it makes sure you stick to it.

By telling Yoast what the focus of your post is, in one word, the plugin will make sure everything you create is working to your advantage – from the post heading to the content body and image captions. Good SEO means tying everything together to one common focus, and Yoast makes absolutely sure that is what you do.

Customise the web address

How many times have you clicked through to a blog and wanted to send it to someone else, only to see that the link is a random string of numbers and characters that takes up half a text message? Not only is it annoying, but it looks unprofessional and means you are automatically rendering your article unlikely to be shared on the likes of LinkedIn and other social media.

Editing the web address is easy in WordPress, and by making sure that focus keyword we discussed is also in the web URL, your SEO will be even better – not to mention it will look better and allow readers to understand exactly what the post is about before they start to read it.

Divide your content into different categories

The best bloggers out there know how to divide their work into sub-divisions and categories; not only to make navigation easier for their readers, but also to improve SEO for your site. Search engines trawl through your content to assign an SEO rating – why not make it easy for them by dividing the content up and doing half the work for them?

Get rid of the junk

If you have posts that you know aren’t good, or duplicated content that you copied from years ago because you had no new inspiration last month, get rid of it. If you don’t want to permanently delete it, then at least set the page to ‘no index’ so that they cannot be found by the search engines, as these pages are likely harming your SEO and making search engines think your website is full of junk.

Make the images smaller

Large pictures can completely dwarf a great website, no matter how spectacular the content is, simply by damaging your load time. A slow load time means a badly ranked site in the eyes of a search engine, and they will subsequently be unlikely to position your site high up in their options for visitors. By reducing the size of your images, you will see a drastic change in the load time for your site, which will translate into better SEO ranking and more website visitors.

All the changes mentioned in this post are designed to be quick and easy fixes to help your SEO perform better. Everything you create no longer simply needs to satisfy your end reader – search engines are your biggest judge, and if you don’t cater for their requirements then it’s likely that your website won’t even be found by the desired target audience. Give yourself the best possible start by engaging these tips from the word go, and watch the visitors flock to your website.

The building blocks of a website

Building your own website has never been easier. With the tools now available, building a website today is easier than the building blocks we played with as children – with far fewer instruction manuals and trip hazards.

Whether it’s a small marketing site for your business, a blogging hub or an ecommerce online shop, we’ve compiled a list of the tips and tools you need to employ to safely build a website of your own.

Let’s start with the set up – what to do before the building begins.

The Foundation

First up you need to determine what route your website creation is going to take – on the assumption that starting from scratch is not the best way forward (unless of course you are a technology whizz in which case this post probably isn’t for you!) The most obvious route is to start with a Content Management System or website building tool – populating templates with the relevant content and images of your choice.

By Content Management System (CMS) we tend to mean WordPress, so your choice here is between WordPress and an alternative website builder. WordPress is responsible for over 30% of all the websites currently available in the world, showcasing its popularity and ease of use. After all, if 30% of the website population can use it, I’m sure you can too. WordPress is ideal for everything from small blogs to large online publications and even online stores – all in a highly customisable and professional format.

If customisable and flexible isn’t what you’re looking for however, a website builder is the best option. These tend to follow similar designs and patterns and allow the user to input their relevant information easily and quickly. It’s simple to use and quick to customise, with no added dragging and dropping of different features and content blocks. Essentially you pick a template and you stick to it.

The Build

So, you’ve reached the build. The first thing you need to do is secure your hosting and a solid domain name. The host of your site is where all your online files will be stored so must be reliable with adequate space. The domain is what you will get your visitors to type into their browser to access your website. Typically, it’s easiest to purchase these as a package deal, as this saves technical admin further down the line, although you can get these separately if needs be.

To sign up for website hosting you need to select a plan through your chosen host site. These tend to start from a basic package to a more premium option, and which you opt for depends entirely on your requirements for the website you want to build. Ensure you read all the fine print before agreeing to any package. Once this is selected, you will be asked to enter a domain of your choice – if your first choice is taken, keep trying variations until you’re happy with one that is also available.

Assessing the building site

Do research. What do your top competitor’s sites look like? What are they focussing on? What will make your site stand out? What is the purpose of your website? Only when you know the answer to these questions can you start to build an idea of the visual aspect of your site and how it should appear to your visitors. This in turn will inform your template decision.

Once that’s decided, you need to create some kind of structure plan. Generally, these are not complicated – after all, we’re creatives not techies. However, making sure you have an idea of which pages need to build will make your job easier down the line.

The Design

Everything available to you both on WordPress and a website builder has been created by a professional website designer. They’re user friendly, easy to personalise and all already available. You’d be a fool not to use them.

With WordPress you need to first install the app on your host. Once this is done you can add a theme – this will inform the design of your entire site. Spend some time going through the available themes and when you finally find the right one, click ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’ to set it on your own site. Once selected, the theme becomes customisable through the settings, allowing you to add new pages, changes the colours and fonts, alter the display of the menu and many more options. You can also add plugins to increase your cybersecurity and SEO, as discussed in other blogs.

A website builder is far simpler to use, with a multitude of potential themes available for all manner of industries. The theme you select will become the template for your site – what you see in the theme selection box is very like how your final site will look, though perhaps with different colours. So, choose wisely and make sure you play around to work out the extent of the changes you can make.

Building a website is as easy as it has ever been, and with our simple instruction manual you should be up and running in no time. The choice between WordPress and a website builder is one that should be made after considering the time scale you have for the build, as well as the ongoing time it will take to manage and update regularly.

Keeping the Hackers Out – the Basics

Hackers are the enemy of the online world, and can destroy everything you’ve worked on with the click of a button. Whether it’s an entire website of content, or accessing and destroying your client database, a breach of your website is a horrible blow to your hard work and can often feel like a very personal attack.

Protecting your website from hackers is one of the most important investments you can make into your online security, and not all of them require a tech-whizz – some of them you can employ right now. So, without further ado, read on for our top ways that you can keep the hackers out.

Security Plugins

We talk a lot about plugins – some can help improve your SEO and some may make your developers life easier. Security plugins do a different job; actively preventing hackers from breaking into your website.

Content management systems are designed with a number of built-in plugins that do just this, and each one addresses the most vulnerable areas of security on the different platforms; whether you use WordPress, Magento or Joomla.

Another thing you can do to further tighten your online security is look into SiteLock, which acts as a daily monitor across your website; identifying everything from a virus to active attempts to break in to the site. Picture the online version of a burly bouncer on the door of a nightclub – that’s SiteLock, and it’s well worth the time spent on installing it.

HTTPS

If you’re inputting personal information into a website, for example payment details during an online transaction, chances are you know to look for the green padlock at the beginning of the website address in the browser bar. Next to the green padlock you will see the letters HTTPS – these five letters show you that the website is safe from hackers, and that you can safely input your personal details without risk of theft.

Historically it has always been important for ecommerce websites to hold an SSL certificate, because it secures the transfer of important and private information and ensures the safety if your website visitor’s data. Since July 2018 however, Google has taken to informing website visitors of every site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate, no matter what your website provides or does.

If you want your visitors – and Google – to trust your brand and your website, investing in a SSL certificate is a valuable investment as it will ensure your site is ranked highly on Google and will make visitors feel safe when visiting your site.

Keep your content management system up to date

This applies to everything from content management system to your plugins, apps and any additional scripts employed to create your website. If any of these are left outdated for too long, the chances of a hacker being able to find a way in increase greatly.

Checking that your website is up to date is easy enough on WordPress, by checking directly through the dashboard. Employed as a way to keep you informed of any important changes or updates required, the dashboard will instantly tell you if the version you’re running is up to date.

Keep your passwords new and unique

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as recalling the name of a favourite pet. Passwords are there for a reason, and setting something that’s super easy to remember is very likely going to lead the hackers straight to you.

When choosing a password, make it long and use a mixture of letters, characters and numbers to create something that really is unique.

And it’s not just you. If you work within a team who all have access to your website, making sure they all have strong and secure passwords is just as important as your own. After all, the website is your business and something as simple as a bad password can allow hackers in to quite literally destroy your business and livelihood.

Don’t take the chance!

Automatic back-ups

One of the worst things that a website hacker can do is erase all of your work – particularly if it isn’t backed up or if you were relying on the idea that what goes online will stay online forever.

Making sure you have a recent back-up of everything you do, therefore, is key to limiting the damage a hacker can do if they do get in. An automatic backup service will enable you to do this without even having to think about it.

There are a handful more ways in which you can secure your website from hackers, but these require a more technical skillset and understanding of how the backend of websites work.

For now we suggest employing the above techniques in order to keep your site safe from hacker harm, and will explore the more technical tips in a future post.

Back to Basics: Backup your WordPress

As a fairly new website ourselves, we know how important creating great content is. Gone are the days where every idea began as a scribble on paper, but in a world where everything is constructed directly onto a computer or other device, unfortunately technology can still let us down.

Of course, this is something we’ve all learnt the hard way. Whether it was a dissertation draft back in your university days, or a company presentation that you were finalising for the next day, we’ve all experienced that drop in your stomach when you lose a piece of work and realise that it was never backed up. The mistake that so many of us make is believing this won’t happen when we work directly on a website build, such as WordPress. After all, it’s the internet. Nothing gets completely lost on the internet, right?

Wrong. If you strip your WordPress website down to the basics, it’s really just a jumble of characters and files and hyper-sensitive codes that link it all together. Mess with one of those codes, and you could well lose everything.

Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen – and if it does, to make sure all your content is backed up safely and securely so that in case of a disaster you can restore your site easily. Without further ado, here’s our guide to backing up your WordPress site.

Download a plugin

In the technology world, a plugin (rather confusingly) is not something you actually plug in. Rather, it is a backup system you can download onto your device which is large enough to store everything you create. Key examples include Dropbox and Backup Buddy, which both sit comfortably on your desktop and allow you to arrange all of your content into different folders and areas for your ease.

The great thing with these plugins is that setting up an automatic back up process is super easy, ensuring that even when you forget to back your work up manually, your device will do it all for you without any prompt. We suggest setting the automatic back up to update at least once a week; sending an email to your own email address with a link to the latest version of your work.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t do a manual back up regularly, especially when making significant changes to the layout or formatting of your WordPress site. You never know when something could go wrong that just deletes everything, so ensuring you have the more up-to-date version saved before making any big changes could save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

The manual back up

Backing up your WordPress site manually is no mean feat, and we would recommend investing in the plugin before playing around with the manual back up feature – just in case.

That being said, it is perfectly possible to perform a manual back up directly in your WordPress site, by logging into your server and delving into the developer tools of the site.

Logging in can be done either through cPanel or an SFTP program. cPanel is all online, and can be accessed through your web host – once logged into your web host, navigate to the cPanel page and find your WordPress site folder in the file manager. Compress the WordPress folder into a small file (usually a zip file) and then download it for manual safe keeping.

Alternatively, you can use the SFTP program which requires downloading a file manager such as FileZilla. Once in your file manager, log in using your STFP details and download every item linked to your WordPress site. Pop it all in a zip folder for ease and save the file somewhere you can access easily anytime.

Backing up your work has never been easier – and it has also never been more necessary. Building a WordPress site takes time and your time is worth so much, that making life a little easier for yourself can only be a good thing. Now, go and back up your work immediately!

Theming your WordPress site

Choosing a WordPress theme is a big decision. Not only does it determine the colour scheme of your site, but it also impacts how user-friendly the site is both for yourself and for your website visitors. Your WordPress theme is essentially the template for your site with added bonus bits, including customised formats, fonts and backgrounds.

So how do you install a WordPress theme onto your website?

The easy route – from the inside

Using one of the built-in themes that WordPress advertises in its catalogue is by far the easiest way of installing a theme. Yes, your site may reflect the look of many others like it, but with quality content and some good marketing you should be able to stand out from the crowd without too many problems.

If you’re brand new to WordPress and don’t yet have any selected themes to choose from, starting from scratch is simple enough. Click on ‘Add New’ in the menu under ‘Appearance’ and spend some time scrolling through the many hundreds of options available in the online library. A top tip we recommend is spending some time looking at all of the pages of themes – people in a hurry will often make their selection from the first few pages alone, making these themes the most frequently used. Make your site different by avoiding these most popular designs and picking something lower on the list.

Once you’ve selected your theme, switch to live view and take some time to explore how your site looks with its new theme. Once you’re happy with your selection and have installed the theme, remember you can always return and change the settings as often as you like. And if you get bored with the theme you chose, the plethora of themes available will always be waiting in the menu.

Downloading an external theme

While WordPress offers a multitude of themes in its own database, the internet is full of creators who have designed and made up WordPress themes of their own – ready to sell to willing buyers. Of course, this involves installing the theme from an external location; a slightly more complicated but entirely doable process.

First you need to download the theme file and save it somewhere that’s easy to find. It’s likely this will come as part of a zipped file (one which has been reduced in size in order to make download easy), so in order to access the contents you then need to unzip the file.

Returning to the backend of your WordPress site, the next step is to open your themes menu and click on ‘Add New’. Alongside the available options in the WordPress library, you will see an option to upload a theme from your computer – click on this and then locate the file you just saved.

Once your chose theme has been installed, it works much the same as an internal theme in terms of editing the settings and formatting select areas. Our top tip here would be to make sure the theme you choose is compatible with the version of WordPress that you are working in. In a world where technology is constantly being updated and renewed, software updates are inevitable and regular, and you need to ensure you keep on top of them to keep your website looking its very best.