How to Quickly Set Up Google Search Console on WordPress

By | Search Engine Optimization, Web Development, Wordpress | No Comments

How to Set Up Google Search Console on Your WordPress Website | Liza Wilde Co. - Monitor and grow your website and blog traffic using Google Search ConsoleWhenever I launch a new website, I have a very specific launch checklist I work through to make sure the website is optimized for search engines and social media. The biggest item on that list: making sure Google has the site indexed.

What is “indexing”?

The term “indexing” refers to when Google’s search bots scan every single page and blog post on your site (everything that’s public anyway) and grab the meta data to make sure it shows up properly in search results.

This process eventually happens on its own, but you can put your site on Google’s radar a bit faster by connecting your sitemap to Google Search Console.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free service provided through Google’s Webmaster Tools that allows you to monitor how people are finding your site, track performance, see clicks and terms people are using to find your site.

On its own, Google Search Console is an extremely powerful tool. If you connect Google Analytics to your website and pair it with Search Console, you’re setting yourself up for some serious insight into how visitors are finding you and how to better optimize your site to keep them there.

Connecting Your Site to Google Search Console

Head over to Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools to sign in. You’ll need a @gmail.com email address or Google Business Apps to get started.

Once signed in, find the red “Add a Property” button.

Adding a property to Google Search ConsoleEnter your website address in the field provided.

You’ll have to verify that you own the website. You can do this using a few different methods. Google recommends uploading an HTML file to your web hosting account, but I recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin.

Click on the “Alternative Methods” tab and copy the HTML tag in the first option.

Verifying your website in Google Search ConsoleJump over to your WordPress website and go down to SEO > Dashboard on your sidebar, and then head to the Webmaster Tools section.

Paste the meta tag you copied into the Google Search Console box and click “Save Changes”.

Verify your website for Google Search Console in the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.

Now hop back to Google Search Engine and click the red “Verify” button.

If you pasted the meta tag properly, you should see a success message. You can click “continue” and jump down to submitting your sitemap below.

If you don’t see the successful message, double check the meta tag, or try one of the other methods of verification. If you’re still having trouble, hop over to my Virtual Office Hours and let’s sort it out together!

Submit Your Sitemap for Indexing

Now we’re going to tell Google to start indexing your site. We want to make sure it catches all of the pages and not just the ones it happens to find.

In Search Console, click on “Crawl” and then “Sitemaps”.

Click the red “Add/Test Sitemap” button in the upper right-handcorner.

Add a new sitemap to your website in Google Search Console

Jump back to your website and down to the Yoast SEO plugin settings again. Go to SEO > XML Sitemaps. If you don’t see this, you may need to turn on the Advanced Features setting within SEO > Dashboard > Features tab.

Copy your XML Sitemap link in Yoast SEO plugin.

Copy the link to your XML sitemap and paste it into the field that popped up on Google Search Console. You’ll probably need to take out the beginning of your domain name, since Search Console already has that. It only needs whatever comes after the .com/ in your domain.

Submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console

Save and click “Refresh the page”.

You should now see your sitemap pending for Google’s crawlers. This can take a few days, so come back later and you’ll see it has started to collect data about your website!

Now bring the pieces together by connecting your Google Search Console with your Google Analytics Account.

If you haven’t set up Google Analytics, you can see how to do that in this video tutorial: How to Install Google Analytics on Your WordPress Website.

Connecting Google Search Console to Google Analytics

Sign into Google Analytics.

Go to the “Acquisition” tab then click on Search Console > Landing Pages.

You’ll be prompted to connect to Search Console. Click the grey button near the top.

Connect Google Search Console with your Google Analytics Account

It will redirect you to your property setting. Scroll down to Search Console and click “Adjust Search Console”.

Add Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account

Within this new view, click “Add”.

Add your site's Google Search Console to Google Analytics

This will redirect you back to Search Console where you can select your website’s connection. Select your site and click “Save”.

It’ll prompt you that you’re saving a new association, so click “Ok”.

You’re all set! Now you’ll be able to see detailed reports of your search information within Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

I recommend coming back weekly or monthly to check on the information. You can see three of the Google Analytics reports I run most frequently for myself and my clients. These reports and insights can help you better plan content and improve your search engine optimization in the future.

Having trouble connecting to Search Console or Google Analytics? Let’s chat about it during my Virtual Office Hours.

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3 Google Analytics Reports to Improve Your SEO Strategy | Liza Wilde Co.

3 Google Analytics Reports to Improve Your SEO Strategy

By | Search Engine Optimization | No Comments

I’ve been running a lot of SEO and Google Analytics reports lately, both for myself and for my clients.

At the end of 2017, I ran a promotion for my current clients to do an SEO review of their site, and I was surprised by how many of them hadn’t given SEO a thought since their website launched.

In order to start on the right foot in 2018, most of them took me up on this promotion, so we ran through their technical search engine optimization and made sure their sites were all compliant with the latest algorithm change.

Only minor changes had to be made, and most of them were good changes. But it got me thinking about how to communicate the importance of Google Analytics reports and its role in SEO for creative entrepreneurs. That’s why this week’s post is the most common reports I run in Google Analytics and how they apply to online entrepreneurs, such as yourself.

Where are my website visitors coming from?

One of my favorite reports to run is the Visitor Acquisition report in Google Analytics.

Go to the Acquisition tab > Channels

You’ll be able to tell how many visitors are coming from social networks, referrals, organic searches, or by going to your URL directly.

When it comes to SEO, it’s the organic search that we’re worried about. If you start to see a decline in this, it could mean adjustments need to be made to your site. This isn’t always the case, but I like to keep an eye on these stats to tell whether or not the adjustments I made are working well or if more work needs to be done.

What are my visitors searching when they find me?

If you’ve connected your Google Analytics and site to Google Search Console (which you should) you’ll be able to see the various terms that people are searching when they find your site.

Go to Acquisition tab > Search Console > Queries

This tab is probably the most helpful because you’ll see what you’re starting to be known for. However, there is one downside – most searches are private, which is where you’ll see the term “other” coming in.

Either way, you can start to use this report to guide future content and headlines.

What pages are attracting the most search traffic?

Sticking within the Acquisition and Search Console categories, I like to take a look at my top landing pages in Search Console next.

This report gives you an idea of what pages or blog posts people are actually clicking on and entering your site through. You’ll also be able to analyze how long they spent on your site, if they dove deeper or immediately left your site (bounce rate).

You can use this report to guide your content creation, by finding the patterns within your most successful pages.

So how do I make this information work for me?

While Google Analytics is a trove of helpful data, you’ll notice that most of the reports I run are content based. This is because as an online entrepreneur, your biggest asset is the valuable content you produce for your visitors. The more helpful, optimized content you create, the better your site will appear in search engines.

These reports can help guide the technical best practices for search engine optimization – page titles (headlines), descriptions, keywords, etc. But where’s it’s truly beneficial is when it comes to content strategy.

Learn what your visitors like and write more of that. Learn what they’re searching for and tap into those keywords in your blog posts and offerings.

I’m not a content expert nor a Google Analytics expert by any means, but there is a lot to be said for exploring the GA dashboard and knowing your numbers.

If you are looking for more help diving into this information and setting up a better content strategy, I highly recommend my girl Claire Paniccia, where she helps people conquer their content strategy.

The Ultimate Website Planning Guide from Liza Wilde Co.

Stop cringing at your website

Download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide and get started revamping your website so you can build a consistent and memorable brand.

Conquer Your Blog Design with These 3 Foundational Rules by Liza Wilde Co.

Conquer Your Blog Design with These 3 Foundational Rules

By | Branding, Design, Wordpress | No Comments

Conquer Your Blog Design with These 3 Foundational Rules by Liza Wilde Co.In last week’s post, I talked to you about the importance of having a blog style guide  and how to make one. Style guides are important for consistency and making your blog memorable.

This week, I’d like to go over my three ground rules for any website or blog design. These are the big three because they will help prevent your visitors from feeling overwhelmed by clutter and content. If you keep these in mind when building your website and later, when you’re maintaining it, you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed as well.

1. Simple, Intuitive Navigation

Having a simple and intuitive navigation system might seem like a no-brainer, but this is where most people get tripped up when they’re building or expanding their website.

If you’re just starting out, writing content can be daunting. We always seem to think we need more than we do. Realistically, most visitors only read 1-2 pages per visit anyway.

Research shows that the most frequently visited pages are your homepage, about page, blog, and contact page.

These pages, right there, are the most simple, intuitive navigation a visitor could ask for. Nothing fancy or crazy, just 3-4 destinations with the promise of value on the other end.

If you’ve had your blog or website for a while and you’re looking at your navigation from an expanded view, there’s probably more to it. You might have a services page or a portfolio of your past work like I do. The longer you’re online, the easier it is to want to start adding things to your navigation. Try to resist that temptation.

When it comes to design, less is always more, and this includes your navigation.

Let’s take a quick look at some websites that have different levels of navigation and see how they manage.

A Beautiful Mess

Simple and intuitive navigation on A Beautiful mess

 

This is a lifestyle and DIY blog that I’ve been following for years, and they’d been around for several years before I started following them. They have a lot of content.

Since they’re primarily a blog, their visitors are mainly coming to read articles, and since they’ve expanded their categories over the years, a simple chronological list of articles isn’t enough. Instead, what they’ve done, is provided two menus.

Their main navigation, to the right of their logo, are links to various archive pages around their site. It’s their top-level post categories, and then each has a dropdown of subcategories. This is a lot, but they’ve broken it up into the most manageable chunks they can to help their users navigate their content as quickly as possible.

For the subset of visitors who are there to talk about sponsorships or check out their products, they’ve included a secondary navigation that’s tied to the top of their site. It’s more subtle so as not to distract, but provides several landing pages that visitors might need to learn more about their products and services.

Two menus might sound like the opposite of simple, but it actually helps break up their large site to help their two demographics find what they’re looking for.

Bonus: it’s styled in a way that is clutter free, with a drop-down menu and short top-level links.

Rock N Roll Bride

Simple website navigation on Rock N Roll Bride

Rock N Roll Bride is the website home of an alternative bridal magazine run by Kat Williams. (It’s awesome!) They approach their navigation a little differently.

Since the website itself is just a blog, when you land on the homepage, you only get their blogroll. This means they don’t have a “blog” option in their menu. Instead, they focus on their shop and ways to interact with the magazine.

Where A Beautiful Mess broke up their menu into two forms with separate focuses, Rock N Roll Bride keeps their visitors reading chronologically. They only break off their sponsorship interests but keep everyone else reading their blog.

Between the A Beautiful Mess and Rock N Roll Bride menus, neither is a bad method and will come down to personal preference and reader feedback.

My opinion is, while technically including more links, A Beautiful Mess has to the more intuitive navigation. I can quickly find the exact dessert recipe I was looking for. On Rock N Roll Bride, I had to remember the title or name of a wedding venue in the article to search by. Even then I have to hope the post I’m looking for pops up in the search results.

This type of navigation comes down to how these websites are categorizing their posts, which is a beast for another day. So let’s look at one more website that has a simple and intuitive navigation.

The Real Female Entrepreneur

Simple website navigation from The Real Female Entrepreneur website

The Real Female Entrepreneur is a podcast run by Lauren Frontiera, and I love how Lauren does a great job of using action words in her menu.

When I arrive at her site, and I’m prompted to “Learn More,” “Join” or “Watch.” Her navigation is short, never being longer than a few characters. She provides depth to her menu through dropdowns, as ABM did with their subcategories.

The Home Link Debate

One other thing I want to touch on is the debate between including “Home” as a navigation item and using your logo as your “Home” link.

There is a valid argument that some users need the word “Home” spelled out to navigate back to your homepage. However, the convention is that using your logo is perfectly acceptable. This choice will ultimately come down to your target audience.

In my experience, websites which are targeting an older demographic find more users asking for a “home” link. Sites aimed at millennials and younger generations have been totally fine with excluding it, and therefore simplifying their menu further.

2. Whitespace

If asked, any print and web designer will tell you that whitespace (or negative space) is critical to a good design.

In the same way having a simple navigation helps your users find their content, having ample amounts of whitespace in your design helps them consume your content with ease.

Now, that’s not saying you can’t include color in your designs. In fact, whitespace can help your color and graphics stand out more, by giving them room to “breathe” and making things less cluttered.

Fortunately, most websites these days are trending heavily towards more whitespace. But let’s look back at the three examples I used when talking about navigation.

A Beautiful Mess

ABM uses a lot of white space on the outside of their design (page margins) and in between the various articles. This helps bring the focus on their bright brand colors and beautiful photography.

However, when I first opened their site, I have to admit I feel a bit of overwhelm. They have several colors that they’re using throughout their site (see the social icons for their palette), and the slider at the top feels like a lot.

The further you scroll down the page, the more they try and break content up, but there are several different styles of blog views, and my eye doesn’t know where to go. They also pull in their Instagram feed and store inventory, for more visual stimulation.

Whitespace on A Beautiful Mess

While it’s obvious that they’re all about bright colors, they could be using more whitespace to make their homepage feel less cluttered. By increasing margins and padding between blog post previews, and their grid items, they allow their visitors to focus on one thing at a time.

Blog styles on A Beautiful MessMore blog styles on A Beautiful mess

Rock N Roll Bride

Rock N Roll Bride makes a valiant attempt at including a lot of whitespace in their design. Kat is also all about colors (check out her Insta feed for all kinds of rainbow goodness!) so the site is built on a white background for a clean slate.

Like A Beautiful Mess, I think they could’ve taken advantage of some more padding between their blog post and sidebar. And the number of advertisements throughout the site, specifically under the logo, make things seem just a bit more cluttered then it should be.

The Real Female Entrepreneur

Out of all of my examples, I think Lauren at TRFE pulls off whitespace the best.

While she includes the grid boxes on their homepage, she has a ton of whitespace everywhere else to make up for it. She’s given her text and images room to breathe, and it makes you want to keep reading!

Whitespace use on The Real Female Entrepreneur website

3. Content is king

For my third guideline, I have to tip my hat to the old adage that content is king because it is. Regardless of what the rest of your website looks like, if your content isn’t written and presented in a way that visitors will find easy to read, then no amount of whitespace will keep them on your website.

When it comes to designing a blog’s content, there are a few items you need to keep in mind.

Headings and subheadings

The proper use of headings and subheadings is the best way to break up your content for your reader. Within HTML (the language behind text and blogs) there are six levels of headings, h1-h6.

Your browser renders these with h1 being the largest, like your page title, and h6 being the smallest.

When it comes to using headings within your content, there is a right and wrong way to do so. And while your website won’t break if you use them out of order, you are setting yourself up to damage your SEO and breaking some accessibility standards while you’re at it. I wrote more about this in my post 5 Crazy Easy Things You Can Tweak Now For Better SEO.

My advice on how to use headings properly is to think of them as a book.

  • H1 – The Book Title / Blog post or page title
    • H2 – The Table of Contents / Top 2-3 takeaways you’re talking about in said post
      • H3 – Chapter Titles / 2-3 key points from each takeaway
        • H4-H6 – appendices, glossaries, etc. / Specific examples or case studies in your blog post.

The heading hierarchy for this post, for example, is as follows:

  • H1: POST TITLE
    • H2: 1. Simple, Intuitive Navigation
      • H3: A Beautiful Mess
      • H3: Rock N Roll Bridge
      • H3: The Real Female Entrepreneur
    • H2: Whitespace
      • H3: A Beautiful Mess
      • H3: Rock N Roll Bridge
      • H3: The Real Female Entrepreneur
    • H2: Content is King
      • H3: Headings and subheadings
      • H3: Blockquotes
      • H3: Clear links and buttons

You’ll see I never get so far down as needing h4-h6, but my content follows a distinct outline. This is super important to search engine bots, but also to your readers. It guides them through your post and helps break up what they’re reading into more memorable pieces.

The most significant mistake I see people making with headings is using them for how they look versus how they’re supposed to function.

If you have a blog post and your structure looks more like this, then you’re doing it wrong:

  • H1
  • H1
  • H3
  • H2

Headings should always follow a clear hierarchy. As for the aesthetics, it’s better to use CSS to create class selectors so you can style anything to look that way, regardless of its heading level.

For example, on my site, I have h1’s that look two different ways depending on the page.

Big, bold, and script

Heading 1 styles on Liza Wilde Co.

Clear, light, and sans-serif

Heading styles on Liza Wilde Co.

If you’re struggling with how to style your headers or you’re not sure how to set up a CSS class, let’s chat about it during one of my Virtual Office Hours.

Blockquotes

Another method of breaking up your content for readers is using blockquotes to bring focus to important parts of your material.

Blockquotes can look however you want them to, but usually, they’re a way of pulling out an actual quote from someone or a key point you’re trying to make. When I’m styling these, I like to make sure they still fit well into the flow of content. Try to avoid designing them in a way that takes them out of the natural reading flow, or else repeat them in a blockquote.

Smashing Magazine has a great article on all the different kinds of quotes that can be used and some good and bad ways of displaying them.

Clear links/buttons

Finally, when it comes to your content and helping your readers make the most out of it, it’s very important that you have a clear style of how links and buttons look.

Nothing is more frustrating than when I’m reading a post and go to click on something, but it’s not a link. This usually happens when something is styled to look button-like (background color or borders), but it’s not actually a button.

My suggestion when styling your links is to make sure that if a link is in-line and in a paragraph, that it be underlined and a different color than your regular body copy.

If you’re using call-to-actions and other callouts (and you should be) make sure that wherever you want the user to click is clearly defined.

I’m using two styles of buttons throughout my site, depending on where. Buttons drawing visitors to my case studies and previous work are underlined pink and turn solid on hover. All other buttons are a solid color that transitions to a complementary color on hover.

Button styles on Liza Wilde Co.

And with these, I try to use my pink buttons the most because all of my other links are pink (consistency!) I only rely on another color button if the pink button is hard to read against a background color.

More button styles on Liza Wilde Co.

Good Design Keeps You Focused

These guidelines aren’t meant to limit your creativity, but to help you focus on the task at hand – delivering amazing content to your readers. By having a set style guide that focuses on simplicity and helping your reader consume content quickly, you’re making your life easier in the publishing process.

No more second guessing what color to make something, or how to format it. You’ll ask yourself the one question that every small business owner needs to ask themselves constantly: “Does this help my visitor do what they need to do?”

If you answered anything except yes, then trash it or change it or do whatever you need to do to turn it into a “yes.”

What Next?

If you’re struggling with the best way to put your style guide together, you can grab this Canva template I put together to get you started. (Make sure to go to File > Make a Copy, so you’re not overwriting my or anyone else’s template!)

I also have an awesome FREE guide to help you plan your website from start to finish. Download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide if you’re struggling with where to start.

And if you already have a website going, and you’re not sure how to make it better, or you’re fighting with yourself about where to start, grab my Website Intensive Review + Personalized Action Plan. I’ll go through your site from front to back and tell you how to make it better and give you the tools so that you can do it yourself.

The Ultimate Website Planning Guide from Liza Wilde Co.

Learn how to plan your website from the ground up.

Download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide and get started revamping your website so you can build a consistent and memorable brand.

Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One on Liza Wilde Co.

Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One

By | Branding, Business, Design | No Comments

Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One (Plus a free template!) from Liza Wilde Co.When you were first starting out with your online business, what was the first thing you thought you needed?

A name? A logo? A website?

There are a lot of things that we rush to create in the beginning. It’s exciting, it’s new, and we have ALL THE IDEAS.

Unfortunately – and I say this from experience – in all that excitement, we tend to move too fast and put out something that doesn’t represent us or just looks shitty.

Sorry, I said it, but you know what I mean. You’ve had those moments where you look at your website and cringe at the random colors or weird fonts that pop up when you install a new plugin.

I’m all for the “make it work, then make it better” motto. But when it comes to launching your blog or website, there are just some things you need to do, otherwise, your site will look inconsistent and piecemeal.

In my experience, nothing drives away people faster than lousy content and when lousy content looks even worse than it reads.

I love how Karla Cook over on Hubspot put it, “The best brands stick in our brains because their presence is defined by the repetition of the same logo, fonts, colors, and images. Once we see them enough, they become instantly recognizable, bringing us a clear sense of reliability and security.”

So today, we’re going to talk about how to take your website to the next level and make your content and site look good. I promise it’s not going to be as much work as you think it is!

What is a style guide?

Usually, a style guide is a PDF document put together by a designer, that details how every element on your site should look as far as fonts, colors, spacing, graphic elements, etc. You can search “style guide” on Pinterest and finds all kinds of inspiration!

an example of style guides on Pinterest

Style guides can also contain information about written elements such as language or specific phrases and terms used with your brand, or voice and tone.

When it comes to working with my clients, I have a handful of items I always include in their style guide.

Usually, I build my guides out in Adobe Illustrator, but I recreated my template in Canva so I could share it with you.

Things to include in your style guide:

  • a logo (if you have one, light and dark version) or your business name
  • heading levels 1-5
  • body text
  • block quotes
  • primary and secondary colors
  • graphic elements (textures, patterns, blog graphic styles)
  • buttons and links

Grab your style guide template here!

Make sure to go to File > Make a Copy, so you’re not overwriting my or anyone else’s template.

So before you get started, here are the main three reasons you need a style guide for your blog or website:

Consistency

It’ll save you time when your creating content if you know what things are supposed to look like every time, and it will make it easier for your readers to consume that content.

Memorability

By having a style guide, you’re setting yourself up to be memorable. Visitors will know when they come across something you’ve written or created because it looks like it belongs.

Scalability

By setting up how your site should look now, you are paving the way for guest contributors and team members to be able to quickly and efficiently help you on your website. It’ll be as simple as handing them the rulebook – your style guide!

If you’re looking for more information on how to create a style guide or resources for doing so, download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide. In it, I talk about style guides and each element.

The Ultimate Website Planning Guide from Liza Wilde Co.

Stop cringing at your website

Download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide and get started revamping your website so you can build a consistent and memorable brand.

5 Crazy Easy Things You Can Tweak Now for Better SEO

By | Search Engine Optimization, Web Development, Wordpress | No Comments

There’s a lot of components to search engine optimization, frequently referred to as SEO. It’s understandable why SEO consultants get paid the big bucks because they have to be aware of so many variables. And it’s easy for us, as creative entrepreneurs, to get overwhelmed by all of the tedious tasks that go along with correct SEO.

However, there are a few things you can do as a blogger or business owner, that will set yourself up for success with search engines that require little to no maintenance in the future if you make sure they’re done correctly from the beginning.

So here it is, my list of five things you can tweak right now for better SEO.

1. Proper usage of heading levels

When writing content for a page or a blog post, most people use the Heading 1 and Heading 2 options to break their content up into chunks. This is good practice! It improves readability and guides search engines and visitors on what information is on the page. However, there is a right way to do this and a wrong way.

There should only ever be one Heading 1 per page or post. Using multiple h1 tags confuses the robots (aka search engines) about what your site is actually about.

The best way to use heading tags is to think of them as a book with a table of contents.

An h1 is your book title, h2’s are the chapter titles, and then h3’s, h4’s, and h5’s are further subheadings you can use to break content up further.

Yoast SEO has a great post on the importance of headings for your blog SEO; they also give some excellent examples of to how your blog posts and pages could look.

Don’t use headings for aesthetic reasons

If you’re using an h1 for aesthetic reasons, such as size or color, then you need to take a look at your design and adjust the way your headings look. For example, create a CSS class selector and apply that to the heading so that regardless of the level, it can look however the class rules are applied. (More on CSS classes in another post.)

For the most part, your WordPress page/post template includes h1’s, which means you should only really be using h2’s and smaller throughout your content. There are exceptions, but this is a good rule of thumb.

2. Meta tags

What the hell are meta tags? Glad you asked. They are the behind-the-scenes magic that feeds search engines and social media networks information about your website.

Out-of-the-box WordPress and Squarespace sites try to do a good job of this, by using the title of the page/post and the excerpt of the page for the search result. However, these are not optimized, and it’s a damn shame because it’s so easy to do!

My favorite is the free Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. Just install this bad boy, and you’ll have a new meta box at the bottom of each post/page where you can adjust the meta information. You should always modify the page title and meta description in my opinion, because you don’t just want your search result to say “Home” you want it to say something like “Unique websites for creative entrepreneurs” or something that draws visitors into your site.

3. ALT text

Again, what?!

ALT text or alternative text is another piece of hidden magic that is important for SEO. It’s the hidden caption behind your photo that search engines index as more content. Kind of amazing right?

ALT text is primarily used by visitors with screen-readers or who have image loading turned off. It’s descriptive text that displays in place of the photo if it doesn’t load, or in the case of a screen-reader, it will read it to the listener.

You can edit the ALT text of each photo in WordPress from within the media library, and while this might seem tedious, I promise this will help tremendously by basically doubling the amount of content on your site that search engines see.

Since this is something that might be read aloud to a visitor, it’s super important that you write these as if they were a typical sentence. ALT text should be brief but informative. And bonus, the more you write for humans with your ALT text, the more search engines approve of it. Robots just want to be human after all.

4. Page Load Time

Have you ever been on a website that took more than a few seconds to load and you were already bored and clicked the back button? Well, search engines do the same thing. The longer your site takes to load, the more they will penalize you in search results.

For this reason, it’s super important to keep an eye on how quickly your page loads. You can use tools like Pingdom’s Website Speed Test to see how fast various pages load. The goal is to keep things at 2-3 seconds and definitely below 7 seconds. Anything higher than that and marketers can tell you about the exponential drop off in people visiting your site.

How do you fix a site that loads slowly?

The easiest way is to start with images. You can use an image editing program like Photoshop to export and compress them down, or an online tool like Compressor.io, to make sure that your images are already in a good place when you upload them.

I also recommend installing WP Smush or another image compression plugin on WordPress to help further save on space and load times.

Another aspect of page speed is going to be the number of plugins you have running on your site.

I’ve already mentioned two or three that I think you should have, but if you have a plugin for share tools and a slider and an Instagram feed and Leadpages and MailChimp, and all of this other stuff, you’re slowing your site down really badly.

The better way to handle this is to use only the plugins you need and then find other means of achieving the other stuff, like embedding an HTML Mailchimp form instead of using a plugin.

Finally, use a caching tool like W3 Cache and a CDN like Cloudflare to speed things up further. These resources keep a copy of the site loaded at all times so that visitors don’t have to reload items every time they come to your site.

5. All the links!

Inbound, outbound, internal… these are all different kinds of links that you need to utilize throughout your site.

Outbound links are when you link to external sites, like Amazon or someone else’s blog post. These links help Google legitimize your content, like citing sources in a term paper. If you’re linking to correct, credible sources, Google and visitors on your site are going to think you know what you’re talking about, so you move up in search results.

The same goes for internal links, which is linking to your content, like an old blog post that talks about something similar. Internal links draw the search robots deeper into your site and make searches more relevant.

Inbound links are the hardest to cultivate, but also the most important. These are when other people link to you. Inbound links are a huge indicator to Google that you’re a good result to show people and not a spam site that they want to push down.

You can force inbound links by commenting on other people’s blog posts and including your website URL (called back-linking) or doing this in a service directory. But this treads a dangerous line of lousy SEO habits that search engines frown upon.

My suggestion for cultivating inbound links is two-fold:

1. Use Pinterest to share your blog posts and content. Pinterest might advertise as a social media network, but it’s really a search engine, a visual one. Although their links are technically “no follow,” meaning it shouldn’t influence search rankings, Google and other search engines do index pins which can show up in search results. Ergo, Pinterest pins to your site can show up and lead traffic to your site.

2. Pitch yourself as a guest author on other blogs. Ask your business besties to collaborate on a blog post series with you and take turns writing for each other’s sites. Or pitch yourself to people who resonate with you. You don’t have to have anything special to do this; a few well-written articles are usually enough to do the trick. Or cross-post your content to sites like Medium, and link back to the original article on your website.

If video/audio is your thing, pitch yourself as a guest on a podcast. Usually, they’ll include a link to your site and social networks in the description or show notes, and that counts as an inbound link!

SEO can be overwhelming, and it’s a constantly evolving beast, so we’ve just scraped the surface here. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur, it’s that you have to start somewhere. And with these tips, you don’t even have to hire a marketing team or copywriter to do it!

And if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. You can download my free website planning guide, which can walk you through each of these steps to optimize your new or existing website for improved search engine optimization.

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How to Optimize Your WordPress Website for Social Media

By | Wordpress | No Comments

How to Optimize Your WordPress Website for Social Media | Liza Wilde Co.Have you ever been scrolling through social media and get super annoyed when a friend or colleague posts a link and it looks terrible?

The photo is awkwardly cropped, the page description is gibberish, and the title seems generic and lacking any sort of intention.

What about the links you see that are doing well, or even going viral?

They offer a genuine preview of the article. The image is relevant and fits within your news feed like it’s supposed to. It’s magic.

Many of my clients don’t realize that you have control over what this preview looks like. You can manipulate the content in order to make it perform better. When I set up a new website, I work with my clients to optimize their existing content and guide them on how to optimize their future content.

Since this is something they’ve found helpful, I thought I’d show you how to optimize your WordPress site for social media sharing.

Installing Yoast SEO

To begin, you’ll want to install the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s free and offers some great tools for search engine optimization as well as social media sharing.

Yoast SEO for optimizing links on social media

Once installed, Yoast SEO adds a meta box at the bottom of each of your posts and pages, allowing you to edit the page title, description, and keyword for that piece of content. This is also where we’ll be working to optimize the content’s appearance on social media.

Yoast SEO meta box

Optimizing for Facebook

Click on the Facebook icon to see the setting we’ll be adjusting.

Social sharing setting with Yoast SEOWhere it says “Facebook Title” enter a captivating and engaging headline.

Writing good headlines is an art form and requires practice. Fortunately, there are tools and resources like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer which can help guide you to writing headlines that engage and convert well.

In the “Facebook description” field, write an interesting preview of what visitors can expect to read on this post or page. It doesn’t have to go into extreme detail, but you want it to be captivating enough to persuade the reader to click.

Once you have a solid headline and description written, you can work on optimizing an image for Facebook.

WordPress already includes a featured image for each piece of content. I recommend using this on both posts and pages, so you at least have a fallback image for social media to use. But in order to receive the most engagement on your posts, this image should be custom to your content.

Sprout Social has a great article on the ideal image sizes for various platforms. For this particular image field, we’ll want an image that is at least 470 x 246 pixels, but preferably 1,200 x 627 pixels in size. I recommend creating a template in Canva or Photoshop that you can come back for each new post. (This will also keep your graphics consistent and on-brand.)

Once you have all of these fields filled out, it’s time to test our tweaks. (Don’t forget to save your changes by clicking the blue “Update” or “Publish” button in the upper right-hand corner of the WordPress page.

Copy the URL for this blog post by either highlight and copying the permalink setting from the dashboard or by viewing your post, and highlighting the URL in your browser window.

Next, go to the Facebook Debugger Tool, and paste your URL into the field under Sharing Debugger.

Facebook will do a quick little check and scrape your site, looking to see if the fields we filled out are supplied. If not, it will try to be intelligent and grab your SEO title and description, or the original blog post title and default WordPress excerpt. It wants things to look nice, but we’re just giving ourselves more control here.

If the information the debugger provides isn’t what you entered. Try clicking the “Scrape Again” button. This will tell Facebook to get rid of what it’s seen in the past and pull any new information that has been added.

Facebook debugger tool

Take a look at the updated preview. Does it look appealing to you? Has the photo been cut off in a strange way? Does the headline read correctly and invites the reader to click through? If so, time to move on to Twitter optimizations. If not, go back to your WordPress site, and continue tweaking until you’re happy with the preview.

Optimizing for Twitter

We’re going to follow the same process for optimizing our post for Twitter now, with a few small changes.

Click the Twitter icon within the Yoast SEO meta box. You’ll be presented with the same fields for the Facebook settings. These can hold the same info, or you can try experimenting with a different headline or tweaked post description.

The biggest change is going to be the image size. Optimizing for Twitter, you have two options – a Summary card or a Summary card with a large image. I prefer the large image because research shows images have more engagement. You can choose which option to use within your sitewide Yoast settings.

For summary cards with a large image, Agora Pulse recommends images of at least 280 x 150 pixels or an aspect ratio of 1.867:1. They have a maximum photo size of 1MB, so don’t go too big.

Normal summary cards have a recommendation of 120 x 120 pixels or a 1:1 ratio.

Once you have these settings how you’d like, it’s time to test it in Twitter’s Card Validator.

In the same way that you tweaked your Facebook info, continue tweaking until you’re happy with your Twitter settings.

Twitter card validator

Optimizing for Pinterest

Yoast SEO is great for handling Facebook and Twitter, but what about Pinterest?

To optimize your site for sharing on Pinterest, I recommend installing the jQuery Pin It Button for Images plugin.

jQuery Pin It Button for Pinterest plugin

This plugin adds a graphic to your website images that allow visitors to easily pin an image without needing the browser extension installed.

Once installed, you’ll find the settings for this plugin under “Settings” in your dashboard sidebar. This is where you can set a custom graphic to display on your images, encouraging people to pin your content. I personally like images that look like buttons, but come up with something that fits your brand!

jQuery pin it button settings

Next, we want to tweak the text that will appear with your photo when someone pins it. This is important because it’s how you’ll help drive traffic back to your website. What the image pulls will be based on your individual settings, pictured above. I usually set it to the image title and description, as these are fields I can edit as I’m uploading the images.

Now that the plugin knows where to look for the information, we need to edit it. Head to your Media Library, and start going through your images, optimizing the images used throughout your site for Pinterest.

Entering alt text is WordPress

Once you have a few entered, test it out by looking at one of your blog posts and clicking the “pin it” button on an image. Does it pull in the information you’ve added? If so, you’re all done! If not, keep tweaking until you have it how you’d like it to look.

Pin it preview for WordPress

Next Steps

The next part might be the hardest – remembering to do this for each piece of content you create in the future. It’s a lot of work when you’re doing all your content at once. I find that by including these steps within my blog post workflow, that I can optimize things quickly and it’s not overwhelming. And like I mentioned before, use templates where you can. They’ll make life a hell of a lot easier.

If you get stuck at any point in this process or need help installing one of the plugins, don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know.

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How to Set Awesome Business Goals with Heart Using Tarot

By | Business, Intuition | No Comments

How to Set Awesome Business Goals with Heart Using Tarot on Liza Wilde Co.Happy New Year!

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know all about the many ways I’ve been planning for 2018. In this post, I want to share with you one of my favorite ways to prepare for the new year, new quarter, or even just a new month: tarot spreads.

It’s not a secret that I use tarot a lot in my everyday life. I use it as a daily journal prompt. I use the Golden Thread Tarot app to pull a daily card or gain clarity when I’m on the go and don’t have one of my decks around. But I haven’t before talked about how I use tarot in my business. So here it goes.

How to set awesome business goals with heart and intention using tarot.

My Tarot Practice

I haven’t been using tarot long, only about two years, but it has had such a significant impact on how I respond to and process my life. For me, tarot is a form of self-administered therapy. It’s being able to ask questions of myself and let my subconscious project what’s going on in my head into the card illustrations.

Everyone uses tarot a little bit differently, and there is no right or wrong way. Tarot is a tool for tapping into your intuition, something that every person has.

When I started using the cards to sort out my head, I was following Biddy Tarot’s interpretations, and I still do occasionally. But the best advice I can give to anyone who is looking at the cards for the first time is to focus on the illustrations. Describe, out loud or by writing it down, the story that is in the picture. And gradually start pointing out how this relates to your life.

At first, I pick out the obvious stuff. For example, the three women in the Three of Cups almost always speaks to me of my group of business besties. Eventually, as you begin to weave the story together, you’ll notice smaller, seemingly less significant symbology that is relatable.

If you’re not ready to dive into your own interpretations, there is no shame in following along with a guidebook or other resource. Biddy Tarot and Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot are my favorites.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to read the cards let’s get into the spreads I use for planning.

Yearly and Monthly Themes

The Year Ahead Spread by The Wild Unknown on Liza Wilde Co.

First, I owe credit to finding this spread to Maggie Gentry. (The picture above is from The Wild Unknown.) I first saw her doing this over the holidays on Instagram, and I thought it was just a lovely way to start the New Year. Since this was still relatively recently, I haven’t incorporated this spread 100% into my goal planning, but I want to, so I’m sharing it with you now so you can see how thing progress in future blog posts.

This 13 card spread picks a card for each month and then one at the center for the year as a whole. While 13 cards is a lot and can be intimidating at first, it is very insightful.

Below is a picture of my yearly spread for reference.

My Year Ahead Spread for 2018 on Liza Wilde Co.

Step 1: Shuffle your deck. I always do some deep breathing while I do this.

Step 2: Choose your 13 cards, laying them out one at a time, until they’re all select.

Step 3: Flip them over, and take a few minutes to just sit with the pictures. Jot down notes about your initial reaction to each one.

I’m not going to lie; there are cards that I see (ahem, The Tower) that immediately make me anxious. But remember, there’s always more than what sits on the surface, it’s just a good gut check to see how you initially feel towards a card.

Step 4: In a journal, Google doc, or whatever method of recording you prefer, make a note of that card, which month it represents, and any keywords associated with it. I use Biddy Tarot to remember these keywords.

Step 5: Now go deeper – start looking at each month’s card and figure out what it means to you in the coming year.

Like I mentioned previously, I always pick out the obvious stuff first, then I start to narrow in on the little things that I didn’t notice at first. Go through them all, making a note if you’re still confused by a specific month/card.

Step 6: Once you’ve looked at all the months individually, we can look at them in quarters of the year. How does January’s, February’s, and March’s card go together? Are there any common themes (i.e., money, new ventures, family, burnout, etc.)? Do you have more of one particular suit than the others? What does that suit symbolize?

If there was a card you still had questions about, does seeing it within the quarter break-out spread help clarify it? If not, there might be some additional questions you need to ask yourself about in a separate reading. (See the 3-card reading towards the end of this post.)

Step 7: Once you have looked at each month and quarter, take a look at your year as a whole. How do you time in your yearly theme to each quarter? Each month?

I always find when I’m recording this, my notes get messy. Which is why I start off with a notebook, where I can draw in arrows and scribbles and whatever else I might need to. Then I iron out my themes and add them to my Big Picture Strategy board in Trello. This is a board I found through Think Creative Collective’s Trello for Business course, which brings us to step eight.

Step 8: What does it all mean? Take some time to reflect on your notes, pick out any patterns that resonate with you, suggested times of energy and times when self-care will be necessary. Make a note of these on your calendar, or whatever method you use to keep track of time-sensitive items.

With these monthly themes in mind, consider what could be done to channel that suggestion. For example, the Queen of Rods (also called wands or staves) is ruling over February for me. She’s all about exuberance, warmth, and determination, but is also symbolic of stubbornness, with the potential to suffer from burnout. With those keywords in mind, I know February will be a time for me to focus my creativity on something that fuels me up, rather than something that drains me.

Now that we’re aware of some general themes for our year look at what you’ve already begun dreaming about for your business? Did you want to start a YouTube channel? Maybe plan on doing that in a month where you’re full of creativity and energy. Did you want to take a tropical vacation? Look for the months that you’re going to be coming down from a lot of work, and will need some rejuvenation.

How to Choose Goals

Choosing goals can be tricky. I like to take a look at what big dreams I’ve recently been thinking about. I also really like Maggie Gentry’s The 2018 Year Ahead Planning Bundle. She has you hone in on your previous year’s numbers and where you’ve been, which is super helpful when planning for the new year.

Each goal has to be something you believe in, a good balance of dreamy yet realistic. I know it sounds like a mythical creature, but those are the best kind of goals.

Here’s a look at my first quarter goals based on my themes:

My quarterly goals set in Trello on Liza Wilde Co.

Q1 Cards

  • January – The Star reversed – a lack of faith, weariness
  • February – Queen of Rods – passion, energy, determination
  • March – Ten of Coins – wealth, family, establishment

Q1 Goals

  • $4000 for the quarter
  • 100 newsletter subscribers
  • Weekly newsletter (currently biweekly)
  • Weekly blog post (currently inconsistent)

Q1 Launches

  • Virtual Office Hours
  • YouTube channel

As someone who works a full-time job as well as running my own business, an extra $4000 for the quarter, would be a great start towards replacing the income I make at my full-time job.

Increasing my content creation to a weekly newsletter and weekly blog post is a lot of work, but it will help further establish my expertise.

My two launches are both things I’ve been thinking about doing, and both happen to be giving back to my online community for free, which is something I’m passionate about.

What’s Next?

Now that you have the monthly and yearly theme established, how can you be sure to follow through with everything?

I recommend setting a date on your calendar, either the last day of the previous month or the first day of the month to reflect on that month’s theme and pull the following 3-card spread to guide you through the month.

3-Card Spread: Obstacles, Opportunities, Outcome

Use this spread for some internal reflection.

  1. What obstacles are going to try and stop you? How are you holding yourself back?
  2. What opportunities have presented themselves to you? What opportunities might you have looked over?
  3. With your obstacles and opportunities in mind, what will the outcome be? How can you reach this point, or change it if it’s unfavorable?

This spread doesn’t always immediately seem positive. But remember, there’s still more to the cards. The cards don’t dictate our future; they just provide a different perspective. If your outcome was that you’d end up destitute and unhappy, perhaps this is only the unspoken fear you’ve had in the back of your mind. What mindset blocks and habits are preventing you from moving forward? What sort of opportunities can you jump at to prevent that fear from happening?

Tarot has always been and will always be a tool to help us gain clarity. Whether you believe they’re predicting your fate or you use them to see things from a different angle, tarot is powerfully insightful.

If you’re struggling with a creative project, I recommend picking up Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot. If you’re just looking for some general guidance, I recommend checking out Biddy Tarot’s online guides. And if all else fails, you can grab one of my Virtual Office Hours spots, and we can chat about all things tarot if you’d like.

So, what are your 2018 goals? What was your favorite card for the new year? Which theme has you worried? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a question about business goals or tarot?

Grab one of my weekly Virtual Office Hours spots and we can talk about!

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5 Useful Plugins I Use on Every Wordpress Website | Liza Wilde Co.

5 Useful Plugins I Use On Absolutely Every WordPress Site

By | Web Development, Wordpress | 2 Comments

5 Useful Plugins I Use on Every WordPress Website | Liza Wilde Co.

When I’m setting up a new website for a client, there are a handful of plugins I use every time. They do a variety of things, but all of them make it easier for the client to maintain their site.

Here’s the short list of the plugins I use on every single site I make.

1. Duplicate Post

This plugin is one of the first I install after setting up WordPress. It allows you to easily clone a page, post, or another content type with the click of a button.

But why would you want to clone an existing piece of content? I’m glad you asked.

When I build out websites, I use a page builder plugin (see #4 for the ones I use). Rather than recreating the layout every time, it’s easier to clone an existing page/post and edit the content.

Duplicate Post is also super useful if you like doing A/B testing of content. Using this plugin, you can quickly copy a page, make a small change, and publish it to a new permalink and test it out!

2. Yoast SEO

I’m not an SEO expert, but I do know some of the basics about getting your WordPress website optimized for search engines. And there isn’t a better plugin than Yoast SEO.

This plugin creates a meta box that will allow you to edit the page title and blurb that shows up on Google. It also lets you set a convention so that it automatically pulls from certain fields, which is great to help automate your content.

Yoast SEO also has settings for creating a sitemap, which is important to submit to Google Search Console, and features that make sure your site is optimized for sharing on social media networks.

3. Gravity Forms

This is a premium plugin that I adore for setting up contact forms, content submissions, etc. It’s a bit steep in price, but 100% worth the investment if you create forms that need price fields, file uploads, etc. It also has great integrations with other tools like reCAPTCHA, Salesforce, Google Sheets, and more.

I’m using Gravity Forms for all of the contact forms on my site!

4. Visual Composer or Divi Builder

No matter which theme you’re using on your website, I recommend you invest in a page builder. As a DIY entrepreneur, you’re looking for ways to optimize your budget, and I think this is one of the best investments that can be made.

If you’re using the Divi theme, it already comes prepackaged with Divi Builder, which is great! But if you’re using a different theme, I recommend looking into the premium plugin Visual Composer.

Using a page-building plugin will let you start building landing pages in a matter of minutes. If you’ve ever watched someone else’s webinar and noticed their fancy landing page, but you can’t afford the monthly fee that Leadpages charges, then a page building plugin is what you want. You can find examples of good converting landing pages, and then build something on your website that easily looks on brand with your business. And bonus, it’s much more affordable!

If you’re still questioning whether Visual Composer is worth the investment, there are other free page builders you can give a go first (Elementor and Page Builder). I’m not as familiar with either of them, but I’m sure they’re great alternatives.

5. Sucuri Security Plugin

This is one that is often overlooked by people when they set up their WordPress website. But, in my experience, it’s one of the most important.

Setting up a security plugin will let you tighten up your login pages, your editable theme and plugin files (where your site is most vulnerable), and can even alert you to attempts of hackers and bots trying to get into your website.

Since WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world (59.4% of CMS market share, and 26.4% of the whole web, according to ManageWP’s post from April 2016) it’s also the target of a large number of hackers around the world. Usually, they’re harmless, but still not the kind of thing you want to worry about. Best to just start off with a good defense.

Bonus Plugin (Because it’s too good not to share!)

6. Google Analytics

This isn’t a plugin per se, but a script that needs to be installed in order to connect your website to your Google Analytics account.

Now, I’m not going to go into all the reasons why you should set up Google Analytics here, but it’s is immeasurably useful down the line, and gives you all sorts of data on how users are using your website.

To add the script to your website, you can use a plugin like Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights. Just add in your Google UA ID and the plugin will take care of the rest.

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Pinterest graphic for How to Vet Plugins for Your Wordpress Website on Liza Wilde Co.

How to Vet Plugins for Your WordPress Website

By | Web Development, Wordpress | No Comments

Pinterest graphic for How to Vet Plugins for Your WordPress Website on Liza Wilde Co.The beauty of WordPress websites is that they’re easy to extend but, the double-edge to that sword is they require more maintenance. Since WordPress is an open-sourced software, meaning the WordPress community is responsible for updating and maintaining the code base, there are a lot of plugins or extensions. But many go unmonitored or even forgotten by their original creators.

This can be stressful and annoying to developers like myself and people who maintain websites, like you.

How do we know if a plugin will be updated and maintained? How do we know if it’s actually going to do what we want it to do?

Well, there’s no way to ever be 100% certain, but there’s certainly steps we can take to try and be as sure as possible before adding it to our websites.

First, let’s dive into what a plugin is and where to find them.

A plugin is a small package of code that extends the original functionality of WordPress. Plugins are usually written in PHP, Javascript, with some HTML/CSS for styling. Often times, they’re created in order to integrate some other service with your WordPress website. For example, there are plugins for displaying your social feeds in a sidebar, for connecting your Mailchimp subscription form, for creating contact forms, and so much more.

Plugins are great, and there’s a huge repository of free plugins, on the official WordPress site. There are also third-party websites that offer premium plugins which can provided added functionality or a little more pizazz than the free plugins. I suggest starting in the WordPress plugin directory first, and following the steps below to find what you’re looking for, before you worry about paying for anything. Like I said, often times you’ll find something for free that does exactly what a paid option might.

Now, let’s try and find a new plugin.

For this blog post, I’m going to be finding a plugin to display an Instagram feed on my website.

When you pull up the WordPress Plugin Directory, the first thing you’ll see is a search bar. The key to this repository, like any search engine, is to be as specific as possible. If you just search “social media feed”, you’re going to get anything that could possibly have to do with social media. So try something specific and then get more general if you need to.

A screenshot of the WordPress Plugin Directory

Type in “Instagram Feed”.

Once you hit enter, it’s going to give you a grid view of the results, generally 2×2 unless you’re on a bigger/smaller screen than I’m using (that’s called a responsive layouts, by the way! More on that in another post.)

Screenshot of the WordPress Plugin Directory search results

Take a look at the first example. For me it’s a plugin called “Instagram Feed”. You’ll see its got a series of stars, 1-5, as well as the number of ratings/reviews it’s collected; a short description; the user/group that developed it; the number of active installations of the plugin, or how many people are using it on their site right now; and then the version of WordPress that it’s been tested with.

Screenshot of a WordPress plugin details

This is where we’re going to be starting our vetting process.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How many stars does the plugin have?
  • What version has it been tested with?
  • What are its advanced details?

How many stars does the plugin have?

First, take a look at how many stars the plugin has. Like movie ratings or Yelp reviews, this is going to be a key indicator as to how successful this plugin is at preforming as advertised. I generally aim to us plugins that only have 4+ stars. There’s so many out there that if you do come across one with 3 or less, you can probably find a better alternative (or look for a premium one.)

Along with the number of stars, take a look at how many ratings/reviews have been left. The more the better. This means that a large number of people are using it and have had success. Compare this number with the number next to “active installations”. This is a good indicator of how popular the plugin is. The more popular the plugin, the more likely it is to be updated and maintained for future use.

What version has it been tested with?

It’s important to make sure that plugins are compatible with the version of WordPress that you’re using. Which is hopefully the most recent one, but more on the security reasons behind that in another post. If you don’t know which version you’re using, jump into your WordPress Dashboard and take a look at the “At A Glance” meta box that greets you. It should say the version you’re using. If they’re the same, or very close, you should be ok to move forward with this plugin.

Screenshot of a WordPress Dashboard At A Glance Widget

But wait, we’re not done! Click on “Instagram Feed” and you’ll be directed to the plugin’s individual information page. This is where we can really make sure it’s going to do what you want it to do.

Advanced Plugin Details

This individual page view will give you an even deeper overview of the plugin. You’ll be able to read the full description (often in an easy to read list) about the plugin and what it does, you’ll see screenshots of the interface and options you’ll have once installed. Read through that and make sure you understand what the plugin does, or at the very least make sure that it’s going to do what you need it to do.

Screenshot of an individual WordPress plugin page

Next, glance at the sidebar and take a look at the advanced details. For most plugins, you’ll be able to see the following information:

  • Plugin version – not to be confused with the WordPress version
  • Last update – this is when the plugin was last updated
  • Active installations – this is the same number that we saw on the results page
  • Require WordPress version – this is the absolute minimum version of WordPress you need in order to make this work. 99% of the time, you should already be at this point, so don’t worry.(If you’re not, best to look into upgrading your site for security reasons at the very least.)
  • Tested up to – this is the version of WordPress that the plugin as been tested with. If you have a newer version of WordPress, you can still use the plugin. Just be aware there might be some bugs they’re still working out
  • Languages – some plugins offer translations
  • Tags – these are just keywords that the developer has tagged it with to make it easy to find and compare later
  • Ratings – you can deep dive into the specific reviews and breakdown of the stars here
  • Support status – you can see how many support questions have been asked, and the rate at which they’ve been resolved. The more green this bar is, the better!

Screenshot of advanced details of a WordPress plugin

So what now?

For the most part, the portion of the directory I’ve covered will give you all the insights you need to decide if a plugin will be successful and as bug-free as possible.

If you’re still not satisfied, there are some more tabs for you to dive into, including installation instructions, FAQs, the development changelog (where developers keep a list of all the bugs/features of each version), and a support forum where you can ask the developer a specific question.

It’s important to remember that code, like a living thing, is always evolving. With every new version of WordPress, developers need to reevaluate their plugins and get them up to snuff. There are also new jQuery and javascript libraries and standards being adjusted every day. It’s a lot for them to keep up with, but most of them do a damn good job at it.

At this point, you’re as equipped as I am to know if a plugin is worth downloading or not. If I’m still not 100% certain, I’ll give it a chance, and install it onto my site, spend a few minutes playing with it, and see if I’m happy with it. 9 times out of 10, I am, and on the off chance that I’m not, it’s usually the next plugin in the results that does what I need it to.

Still having trouble?

If you have any questions about plugins or your WordPress site, don’t hesitate to email me.

Did you find this helpful?

Let me know! I’d love to hear what sort of plugins you’re installing on your site, and if you have any you swear by.

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Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on | post on Liza Wilde Co.

WordPress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on.

By | Business, Web Development | No Comments

Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on | Liza Wilde Co. - web design and development for creative entrepreneursIf I had to pick one question that I get asked more than any other, it would be: Which is better, Squarespace or WordPress?

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a WordPress babe through and through. But even I can admit that Squarespace has its merits.

So when a client comes to me and asks this question, I give them my best answer: It all depends on what you’re going to do with your website. But I understand that not everyone is ready to sign up for a website consultation (if you are, click here!) so I thought I’d put together my thoughts on both platforms so you can assess for yourself which platform might be best for you individual needs.

Before we start, here’s a few terms I’ll be using frequently that I wanted to define ahead of time:

  • Out-of-the-box – this means initial setup, no extra money spent other than the hosting price
  • Responsive – this means that your website looks good on any size screen or monitor, and scales down appropriately for tablet and mobile devices
  • CMS or content management system – this is just a fancy term for the software, or platform, behind your website

Let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Ease of use

Squarespace: Perhaps their biggest selling point, is the ease of use with a new Squarespace site. The platform comes programmed with dozens of helpful modules such as newsletter blocks, embedded images and videos, buttons, and so much more. It requires very little user programming or code, which is what makes it so appealing to people who aren’t tech savvy. It’s what we like to call “plug and play”. You can literally sign-up, pick one of their templates, and start building.

There’s some finesse to getting the modules and spacing setup, but if you’re willing to take the time to learn about spacers, and get your cursor positioned in just the right hover spot, pages come together pretty quickly.

WordPress: As someone who has been using WordPress for 13 years, I’m 100% biased in saying that WordPress is also easy to use. In fact, I think out-of-the-box, WordPress is easier! However, what WordPress lacks, is a beautiful designed template out-of-the-box that is also easy to use. Instead, it requires some navigation of theme catalogs to find what you’re looking for, and often times, you’re limited on what that theme provides you without some coding knowledge to go in and tweak.

Regardless of which platform you choose, there’s always going to be a bit of a learning curve when getting something setup. And if you’ve been on one platform, and are switching, you’re probably going to hate it for the first few weeks. That’s our human reaction to change.

2. Design

Squarespace: This is one area, where I think Squarespace totally wins over WordPress out-of-the-box. Squarespace has designers that build beautiful, minimalist templates, that are responsive and work on all devices. They look great without much help, and you’d allowed to change fonts and colors and images if you’d like.

I also think this is where Squarespace starts to fall short. While they do allow for some code injection and custom CSS, the customization capabilities of Squarespace are far smaller than that of WordPress. You have to use one of their templates, you can’t hire a developer to design something 100% unique to you.

WordPress: As much as I love WordPress, I think it lacks in beauty when it comes to the free themes that it offers. Granted, there are literally thousands of options as opposed to Squarespace’s 30 or so, but they’re still not nearly as elegant as one would hope. And they’re definitely not all responsive.

However, unlike Squarespace, if you’re unhappy with what you get in their basic templates, you’re free to use resources like Elegant Themes, Themeforest, Creative Market, or any of the other theme resources out there that you’d like to purchase a premium theme (usually around $25-$50) and use that instead. Often times these themes are packed full of great things like page builders, custom post types, and other great items you’ll use down the road.

And if you can’t find a premium theme you like, you can hire a developer like myself to build you something from scratch to fit your exact needs and vision.

3. Maintenance/Security

Squarespace: Another perk to being a proprietary piece of software, the Squarespace team is in charge of all of the security updates and code maintenance that happens on their platform. You’ll never have to worry about running monthly updates or anything like that, because they do it for you.

They also offer a free SSL certificate to all Squarespace domains, which is an important level of added security that Google loves (yay free “Google points”!) and e-commerce shops are required to have.

The downside to Squarespace being a private company with their own software – if that company ever goes out of business, your site goes with them. You can technically export your content, but it won’t always transfer over one-to-one to another provider.

WordPress: The best thing about WordPress is that it’s an open source software, which means it’s free. The downside to that, is that it means you’ll have to self-host it somewhere and you’re responsible for running any updates to the CMS, themes or plugins, as they pop up. Fortunately, this process isn’t super difficult, and as long as you stay on top of theme, there shouldn’t ever be serious complications.

Occasionally, you’ll get plugins or themes that have issues with an update, but if you’re using properly supported and vetted items (more on that in another post) it shouldn’t be long before there’s a fix pushed out.

And the best thing about your site being on WordPress is that it 100% yours. You own the content, the theme, and whatever else you’ve added to it. So as long as you pay your hosting bill, you’ll never have to worry about it going under.

4. E-commerce

Squarespace: They make it easy to set up a store and start selling your product pretty painlessly. Because they offer free SSL certificates with domains, you’re pretty much ready to go as soon as you go live. The downside, is that you’re limited to the templates they provide you.

WordPress: Since WordPress is self-hosted, getting an SSL is on you. Some hosting providers include this in their hosting package, but most have it as an add-on. Usually, this will run you anywhere from $20-$80 a year. However, sites like Let’s Encrypt and Cloudflare provide free options which work just as well. And the up side, is that using Woocommerce on WordPress allows you (or your developer) to edit the templates to your heart’s desire. You’re not limited to any one appearance. It does require some coding skills.

5. SEO

This is a topic that gets super tricky no matter how you slice it. I don’t think either site can really claim to be SEO friendly out of the box. The one item that Squarespace has on WordPress, is that you have more immediate control over your page titles and descriptions without installing a plugin like Yoast SEO. However, this aspect of SEO only gets you so far. The biggest portion of it is going to rely on your content and inbound links, which is all on you no matter what platform you choose.

I suggest checking out a site like Moz if you’re looking for more resources on SEO. Or check out my friend, Claire Paniccia, who help with content strategy and SEO research.

6. Evolving Your Website

When starting out, a lot of us don’t need a big complicated site. We want a nice looking homepage, an about page, maybe a contact form, and sometimes a blog. And for a while, that’s enough. But what about a few years down the road, when your business is thriving and maybe you’ve grown your services or hired a team. Is one platform going to make growing your site easier?

Squarespace: In my experience, the best thing about Squarespace is how quick and easy it is to setup a site. You can basically go from zero to hero in only a few hours, especially if you’re not customizing much. But as you start to grow, the limited dashboard can be just that – limiting. What if you want to start a podcast, or create a membership site? There are definitely some people who have managed to make this work on their Squarespace site, but it gets clunky and disorganized fast.

WordPress: Since it’s an open-source CMS, WordPress has a solution to just about everything under the sun. Membership site? No problem. Podcast and syndication? No sweat. Do you want to have a network of sites (2+) that are all controlled from the same dashboard with the same login? Done.

Seriously, when it comes to customizability and the unforeseeable expansion of your kickass business, WordPress is going to be your friend. There’s almost nothing it can’t do. (Sorry, I still can’t get it to order and deliver a latte to my door… but that’s an app idea!) And if you can get it in the hands of a developer, it really can be the best platform for your business to grow upon.

9. Cost

The biggest hang up with starting any site is going to be the cost. I get it. We’re not made of money. I started off learning how to code on strung together Neopet’s pages! But as business owners, we need to invest in ourselves and our business, so be ready to shell out some money regardless of the platform you’re on.

Squarespace: At only $16 per month ($14 if you pay by the year) and $20 domain names, Squarespace is a bargain. It’s hard to beat it when it comes with an SSL and ready to go ecommerce system if you need it.

WordPress: Again, it’s free but it’s self-hosted, so that means you’ll need to find a hosting company you trust to work with. I personally love A2 Hosting. They’re local to me, so I love that I can support ‘em. I also love Pantheon, because it gives me a great staging platform if I have large changes that I don’t want to make on a live site.  But Host Monster and Blue Hosting are both companies I’ve had good experiences with. No hosting provider is perfect, it’s unrealistic for us to think they are.

Anyway, costs for a domain outside of Squarespace can be anywhere from $3-$50. Hosting also varies, but can usually range from $5 per month to $100 per month – with those ranges having various benefits and services with them.

WordPress is going to be the more expensive option in the long run, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s also going to give you the most room to grow, to evolve, to change and to own it 100%.

Summary

As I was writing this, I realize I sound more like a Squarespace advocate, but I swear I’m a WordPress girl.

What it comes down to, is that Squarespace is great from bloggers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It let’s you get something legit and beautiful up quickly, and it comes with a lot of perks.

But when you’re growing your business, there comes a time when you need to bring in the big guns and hire a professional. If that’s the case, and I sure hope it is, it makes total sense to set yourself up for long term success, by starting off on a platform that will allow you to grow no matter what that means. And that means WordPress, because it’s customizability and adaptability cannot be rivaled.

If you’re still unsure of what platform might be right for your business, I’d love to jump on a quick Skype call with you and talk it out. Seriously, zero cost, 100% pitch-free. I just want to make sure you’re making the best decision for your business and yourself.

Want more WordPress tricks or web development tutorials?

Sign-up for my bi-weekly newsletter, and I’ll send them straight to your inbox.