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Why plugins are removed from the WordPress Plugin repository

By | Austin, Security, WordPress

If you’re like us and you obsess about the security of your WordPress website. You have likely run into the scenario where one of your plugins has been removed from the WordPress repository.

Should you be concerned and what exactly does it mean when WordPress removes a plugin?

There are a number of reasons why a plugin might be removed from the repository, plugins can become old and outdated, plugins are longer being maintained, the author has asked for the plugin to be removed or WordPress has detected a security vulnerability in the plugin’s code. Whenever a security vulnerability is discovered, WordPress will remove the plugin until the vulnerability has been fixed. Unfortunately, WordPress does not provide notifications or explanations when a plugin has been removed. If you have a security plugin such as WordFence installed,  you should receive a security alert letting you know that the plugin is no longer available in the repository.

So now what? The first step is usually to determine why your plugin was removed.  A quick search on the WordPress support forum is usually all it takes.  If the plugin was removed at the author’s request, or if it hasn’t been updated in quite some time, it is likely been abandoned by the developer and you will need to find an alternate solution.  If the plugin was removed for a security vulnerability then, we recommend immediately deleting the plugin from your site and finding a replacement.  

Here is an example:  Yesterday, we received an email from a client who manages their own WordPress site.  They received a notification that a plugin they have been using, Postman SMTP,  was removed from the WordPress repository and they were not sure what to do.  A quick check on the WordPress support forum showed that Postman SMTP Mailer/Email Log is prone to a cross-site scripting vulnerability. The vulnerability was reported to WordPress over a month ago and the plugin has not been updated in over two years. It was removed from the WordPress repository yesterday and likely will not be put back anytime soon.  Our recommendation here was to find a replacement. We settled on the WP Mail SMTP Plugin by Mail Bank plugin which has all the features of Postman SMTP but with regular updates and good reviews.

Does my WordPress site need to be Mobile Friendly?

By | Austin, Texas, Web Design, WordPress

Should your WordPress website be mobile friendly? Absolutely! Most of the users coming to your site are on a mobile device, and if your WordPress site isn’t mobile friendly you could be losing business simply because the site doesn’t work properly. We have all experienced it, you visit a site on your phone and you have to scroll then tap and zoom just to be able to read the text. Or much worse, you sit there for a minute trying to figure out why the link you’re clicking does not work.

Every WordPress website we produce is optimized for mobile devices.  While using a separate mobile friendly version on your WordPress site is an option, we generally advise against this. Multiple versions can lead to content inconsistencies, along with duplicate WordPress content that can hurt your search engine optimization (SEO).  In our experience it’s far better to build your WordPress site mobile friendly from the start, saving you a lot of time and headaches in the long run!

If you’re not sure if your WordPress website is mobile-friendly, Google developed a great tool to check your site called the Mobile Friendly Test.

Google Analytics a must have for WordPress

By | Austin, SEO, Web Design, WordPress

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful analytics applications available for your WordPress website.  Every WordPress site should be utilizing this entirely free service from Google. A propertly set up and configured analytics account will go way beyond simply tracking pageviews and visitors to see how much traffic you’re getting. It gives you the tools to make important decisions about your WordPress site, such as which pages are seeing the most traffic, what pages are converting leads and so much more.

Here is an excellent tutorial we found by the guys over at WP Smackdown that will walk you through setting up your analytics account and getting it properly configured with WordPress.

STEPS INCLUDE:

– How to setup a Google Account
– How to register for Google Analytics
– Where to find your tracking code
– How to install a popular WordPress plugin used with Google Analytics
– How to add the GA tracking script directly to your site

WordPress Makes Life Easy

By | Austin, Design, SEO, Texas, WordPress

We are often asked by clients who come to us with older websites and are considering a move to a WordPress system what the benefits would be, so we thought we’d list a few of the “biggies” here.

In-House Content Management
The big obvious benefit to establishing a WordPress platform for your website is that it enables the website to be easily administrated internally, with minimal training. A variety of user security levels can be applied for different levels of access such as authors, editors and administrators, and when editing a page the system is much like editing a Microsoft Word document. Easy peasy!

Some clients are so busy they prefer to have us perform updates on their behalf, but still like the idea of being able to “drive their own car” if they wish. Many clients will perform simple content updates themselves, and call on us when they have more complicated changes they need done. Companies who are still paying a web developer to perform simple page copy updates should definitely take a hard look at making a change.

When we do a website redesign for a client, one-on-one training on the WordPress system is always included. We can also travel to businesses to train groups on WordPress administration.

Reliable, Adaptable and Expandable
WordPress has proven to be a reliable system and is infinitely flexible and expandable. For designers, it’s a dream to work with because we can lay out amazing templates and rely on a strong infrastructure to hold our design together over time, producing easily navigable world-class websites that are affordable for our clients. Our clients are happy to know their new WordPress site can accommodate branding changes, marketing adjustments and other visual tweaks without ripping anything apart. Time and again we have seen clients with WordPress websites save thousands when confronted with the prospect of a major look and feel overhaul that with another system would be a nightmare to implement.

Mobile Friendly Responsive Layouts
You know those websites that have separate mobile systems? That costs as much as it sounds. There is no need to go to those lengths, as responsive websites become more prevalent and pre-packaged responsible themes are available for WordPress systems. Beware, however – not all WordPress out-of-the-box themes are truly responsive. We work with our clients to make sure that their site is truly responsive and compatible with mobile devices of any size.

We’re happy to answer your WordPress questions – give us a shout!

Do Keyword Meta Tags Help Your Website’s SEO?

By | Austin, Design, SEO, WordPress

Do keyword meta tags help boost your SEO ranking?

SEO (search engine optimization) is a tricky, ever changing landscape. The algorithms and data sets used by Google, Bing and the other search engines are constantly adjusting to accommodate the vast amount of information circulating throughout the World Wide Wonderland. Our challenge as optimizers working to help our clients is to anticipate these adjustments as we maintain websites and tweak content and code to secure a solid corner where their SEO is earning them organic traffic that results in customers or sales.  I do have a theory as to how Google develops its ranking algorithms – read it at your leisure and see if you agree.

Clients assume, understandably, that keyword meta tags are the first thing to insert into the code of your website pages to start optimizing. When Google first was a thing (remember that??) keyword meta tags embedded in the code at the top of the each page were critical – they were heavily weighted by the search engines, as that was before the days of the millions of click-bait websites that now clutter up the information highway.

Ok, so keyword meta tags have a history of being highly important. The question is, do keyword meta tags help your search engine ranking nowadays?

The answer is: NO they don’t.

Back in 2009, Google officially announced something they had already implemented – “Google no longer uses keyword meta tags in web ranking.”

That same year, Yahoo announced the same thing – they would no longer use keyword meta tags as a factor when determine website rankings. Bing’s announcement didn’t completely disavow keyword meta tags but the reality is the same. Keyword metatags were so heavily abused they became obsolete in terms of content indicators.

So why do so many people still take the time to enter them in? Habit, for one. Also, theres a feeling of “but what if they’re just SAYING they don’t use them for ranking, but they actually DO!” Well, there’s that possibility I suppose. But think about how many zillions of websites are out there who over the years have stuck any old keyword in the meta tags trying to climb in rankings without containing relevant content. It makes complete sense that they are now useless. Also, I really don’t think Google is trying to pull the meta wool over our eyes, with this one at least. They’d rather developers spend more time working on SEO that actually indicates legitimate content, that’s what helps Google in the long run as they can deliver higher quality content to the end user.

Let me be clear, I am NOT saying that meta tags in general are useless – I’m just talking about KEYWORD meta tags. Title and description tags among others are absolutely critical when working on your site’s SEO. You definitely should design your SEO efforts around your target keywords and phrases and incorporate them as much as you can into the content of your site – just don’t waste any time messing around with keyword meta tags. Instead, use that time to improve other angles of your site!

Website Facelifts – Easier Than Design Firms Want you to Think!

By | Austin, Design, Texas, Web Design, WordPress

Many folks think a website redesign has to be an entirely new website – often, actually most of the time, this isn’t the case.

Especially when my web design client is on a tight budget, there are many creative ways to update a website and make it look and feel brand-spankin’ new without changing much except the “Skin.” If it’s not necessary to change the structure of the site and you just need a rebranding, it is probably a much smaller job than you think!

As for cost – I have seen company after company fall for the same line from website design firms – “your website code is out of date, it needs to be rebuilt from scratch.” WRONG. This is almost never the case. Sure some code might need to be updated or infrastructure tweaks made, but  don’t let website design firms fool you into thinking you need to build an entirely new site when some code updates and graphic changes will achieve great results and a smoothly working website that is up to modern standards at a fraction of the cost.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you approach your website redesign project:

1) DOES MY WEBSITE WORK WELL?

Are your customers and website visitors easily finding the information they came for? This is what I hear time and again from internet users: “Why did they change their site? Now I can’t find a thing!”

If your website already works great and you just want better branding, you are the perfect candidate for a website facelift. Ask your designer what they can do to leave the overall feel of the site intact and just improve the look.

If your website is confusing and not easy to navigate, this is the perfect time to look at restructuring the flow of your information and the page heirarchy. Remember – one click is always better than two!

2) DO YOU HAVE NEW BRANDING TO INCORPORATE?

What does your business card look like? Your brochure? If your customer is holding these things in their hands while looking at your website, it should all look like it came from the same company. Colors, logo, and font selections should match. Memorable branding across all your business collateral means your customers will remember your company before thinking of your competition! If you decide to update your website, make sure your cards and brochures match too. Doing them all at one time can be much more efficient and cost effective than tackling them one at a time, so plan ahead!

3) WHAT DOES MY COMPETITION’S WEBSITE LOOK LIKE?

Do some market research! Find out what your closest competitors’ website design looks like and then BEAT IT! The first thing I do with a new client other than looking at their current site is to look at their competitor’s. I want my clients to win, hands down, when customers are comparing websites. This not only means a better looking website, but a better flowing website where information is easy to find!

4) IS THE PROBLEM WITH MY CURRENT SITE STRUCTURAL OR VISUAL?

This is the big one when deciding whether to facelift or overhaul your website design. I can help you take a look and decide what needs to change – but usually you can tell by yourself. Hint: most often it’s visual!

You Pollen, Customer Bee

By | Austin, Design, Web Design

When you think of social media, it often feels like you’re stuck in one place, waiting for people to notice you. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are like pollen, drawing bees to you – and the brighter your flower (your content), the quicker they come to snoop around. Even if they don’t actively pick you up, exposure is good – it sticks to their legs as they fly around, and if your flower was nice they’ll be back.

The goal is to get picked up by each of your visitors and carried back to their hive. To be one of the favorite brands of a customer is an honor and an accomplishment. Sure you can luck into it with a solid product and a good brand, but growth over a longer period of time takes careful marketing planning and execution to continue to be shared by all the bees buzzing around the garden of your city or neighborhood.

Think like a flower trying to get the attention of a bee.

Look Good!
Branding is key – you need to be memorable even if you only have a split second to make an impression. Without a solid brand and a cohesive strategy, people won’t remember which business they were looking at once they move on to the next. If you haven’t already, invest in developing a strong brand that carries throughout every single piece of material your customers will see – from storefront to product labels to color schemes inside your store t0 business cards and, of course, your website. Social media is part of this, too. Many people will see just a tiny square with your brand – make sure it represents you, and if they see a branded van rolling down the street with your catering crew inside, they should feel that spark of recognition “hey I’ve seen that catering company in my Twitter feed – I’m going to write down that number.”

Smell Good!
In social media there is big business in snark and dark comedy, but not for a small business. Keep it light and happy, and don’t complain. Even if it’s about traffic – you might think that makes your feed more human, but negativity in any form is not something you want associated with your brand. If you’re feeling stinky when you’re crafting a post, maybe save that one for later when you have a sweet smell again!

Be Flexible!
Move with the breeze. Each day put your finger in the wind of social media and see what people are talking about – if you’re creative, there’s a way to catch some of that wind in your sail! Many times there will be a word game circulating around, like one I saw today –

#LyricsThatNeedToBeShouted

Make use of these tags to amuse your followers by not only playing the word game but pulling your brand into it too. You sell hardware? Put the lyrics to Sledgehammer. You clean houses? Quote a little Iron MAIDen. Get it? Customers love seeing you have fun with your brand, and it makes it memorable.

Remember, your customers WANT to carry you with them. Give them good reasons to do it.

Happy Marketing!

What is WordPress, Anyway?

By | WordPress

What exactly is WordPress, anyway?

I get asked by clients all the time, “What exactly is WordPress and would it be a good idea for me to use it?”

WordPress is an open source, template-based content-management system (CMS) and blogging tool that resides on a web server. In other words, WordPress is a website infrastructure and management system that can be used “out of the box” by consumers to set up simple blogs, or customized by developers to house more elaborate websites.

WordPress website content can be easily updated and managed in-house by the website owner without the need for a “Webmaster” who is familier with code or third party software. This cuts down substantially on maintenance costs. Updates are managed via a standardized administrative interface.

WordPress releases periodic updates to comply with ever-changing internet browser and mobile device standards, which automatically update within existing sites. This eliminates the need to redesign websites every few years to stay up to date with evolving browser requirements and internet trends.

WordPress is used by more than 19% of the top 10 million websites and is by far the most popular blogging system, at more than 60 million websites.

WordPress website benefits:

– Update and manage content yourself

– Cross-browser and mobile compliant

– Auto-generated streamlined code

– Integrated photo galleries, music, video

– Many expansion and function options available as “plug-ins”

– Flexible design and layout

This is an example of a WordPress page update interface, displaying the content of my team bio on the Windmill website. I can upload a new picture, change the text, add titles or additional images, hyperlinks, and much more – all with the easy tools shown. It’s like working in Microsoft Word, but easier. I can even insert a video or audio feature. Photo galleries and portfolios are managed in a similar way.

Do you notice the notification at the top of the page, letting me know that a WordPress update is available? That’s how easy it is to update to the newest version of WordPress and ensure my website remains compliant with all browsers, mobile devices and more. All I have to do is click “update now” and it does it for me.

Included in every customized WordPress website we build is personal training in the administrative system. I will show you how to navigate the “back end” of your website and perform all routine updates yourself. If you ever have a question, you can always feel free to come to us for help.

We love working in WordPress and I think you will too! Let us know when you’re ready to get started. In the meantime, visitWordPress.org to learn more – straight from the source.