RIOT - Radical Image Optimisation Tool

Image Optimisation

Image OptimisationWhen it comes to managing your own website, many people upload images at the largest size and highest resolution, which results is slower page loads and that creates a large website that becomes problematic to backup, and restore if necessary.

Backups become very large and can time-out, and restoring the website from a backup is a drama too.

So what should you be doing?

Image Resizing

First of all, you should resize all images, and I usually recommend making the longest side around 1024px.

Why 1024px and not 1000px or 1100px? Well that’s just me and a hangover from the early days.

1024 bytes = 1kb, 1024kb = 1MB and so on.

So you can use whatever size you like, but around that pixel number is fine.

That will make the image large enough to show details without being overly big.

Of course, you may well have a requirement for larger images, say those for a full width Slider, so you would resize them accordingly.

Image Optimisation

In addition to resizing your images, you also need to optimise them for web use.

I use Photoshop for this task, but many if not most people do not have access to Photoshop.

Optimising your images reduces their physical size.

So for example, you might have an image that is a couple of Megabytes in size, and optimising it will reduce it to several hundred kilobytes instead, without a visible reduction in quality.

There are many tools available, but I’ve just stumbled across a free tool called RIOT (Radical Image Optimisation Tool).

What is RIOT?

RIOT is short for Radical Image Optimisation Tool, and it is a free Image Optimiser that allows you to adjust compression parameters “visually” and allowing you to monitor the file size whilst doing it.

RIOT - Radical Image Optimisation ToolIt uses a side by side (dual view – shown to the left), or a single view interface that lets you compare the original with the optimised image in real time, and instantly see the resulting file size.

You can control the compression level, the number of colours, metadata and more, and you can select the image output file formats to .JPG, .GIF or .PNG.

RIOT can also be integrated as plug-in in programs like The GIMP, IrfanView and XnView.

 

 

Download RIOT

Get yourself a WordPress Test Website in 2 seconds!!

To put it simply, this is absolutely brilliant!!!

I regularly have a need to create a WordPress Test Website for either customer development reasons, or to test theories and/or plug-in’s, and I usually do it in a sub-folder on one of my existing websites.

This works fine, but there are implications.

For one, there is a drain on my Server’s resources, and I need to exclude the development website from backups. I also use up a spare SQL Database, and then there is the time involved in doing all these things.

And if you experiment on a Live Website and something goes wrong, there is the hassle of troubleshooting and fixing that up too. So it makes sense to use a WordPress Test Website.

But I just found a new FREE service by qSandbox (yes you read that right, a Free Service), where you can not only setup a Test Website for free, but it literally takes only two seconds to setup.

You just visit their website at http://qsandbox.com/app/, and create an account by filling in 3 fields on a Form that include your Website Name, your Email Address and your chosen Password, then click “Create Account and Setup Site”

Free WordPress Test Website

You can watch their informative video below:

The Free Account only includes one website with the following Features:

Basic Free Test Website Features

But for as little as $2/month, you can get a whole lot more including the ability to Import an existing Website and Upload and Edit Themes.

It is certainly worth checking out if you need a WordPress Test Website to test plug-in’s.

How can I compete against big companies and big websites?

Google AnalyticsWell the short answer to this is, you really can’t.

The reality is that most Home Based and Small Businesses just don’t have the time and resources to do everything that is required. Things like continually adding relevant content, continually adding content to Social Media, continually building back-links and so on. This all takes time and money, and we just don’t have the dedicated staff and finances to do compete with this.

So what can you do? Well all you can really do is adopt best practices and do what you can, and if your competition isn’t doing that, then you will more than likely out rank them.

So try and set yourself small achievable targets. Like a new Blog Post every two weeks, or even once a month. Once a month is better than never or very rarely. But whatever you do, make sure it is a quality Post, and not just some drivel to fill a page. Make sure that what you are talking about in your Post adds some value to your website, and that is relevant to what you sell or do, and it is something that people are likely to want to read. If it is interesting, if it answers burning questions, if it is worth knowing about, then it is more likely that people will read it, and share it, and link to it. But even then, make sure that when you do create a Post, that you do some SEO on it. Spend some time creating a properly constructed Page Title and Meta Description, and keep in mind what keyword or phrase you want to target for the Post.

When you publish the Post, make sure you paste a link to it in your Facebook page (if you have one, which you should). When you post in your Facebook page, make sure that in addition to your Link, you have sufficient text so Facebook creates the “See More” link. When someone clicks on this, it counts as an “Engagement”, and they are also more likely to click on your Link.

If at all possible, include at least one image and make sure you do the SEO on it as well including a proper Image Title and Alt Description.

But there are other things you can do too. For example, if you are competing against other businesses in the same retail space, do some research on them. See what they are doing and what is working for them, and adapt it to your business and improve upon it. You will find, for example, that if a website is ranking well for certain search terms, the business may well be complacent and are not bothering to continually add content. This gives you the opportunity to exploit that and do it better than them. If you consistently do it better than your competitors, then over time, your website will rank better than them.

But you too cannot fall into the same trap once you get that number one or high ranking position. Let’s face it, that is why I am writing this Post right now. Apart from the fact that I wish to impart this knowledge to my customers (or potential customers), it also gives me a means of adding relevant content to my website.

It’s also a good idea to be able to quantify where your traffic is coming from and what keywords people are using to find you. This will help you “tweak” your content to better reach your Target Market.

Happy Blogging and FaceBooking 😉

Do you understand what it is you’re seeing when you do a Google search?

Quite often I find that when I am discussing Google search results with clients and the general public, they don’t realise that in most instances, the first 3 results in a Google search are “paid for advertising”.

And just as surprising is that they don’t realise that the results shown down the right hand side are also “paid for advertising”, even though they are clearly labeled as “Ads”.

The first three in particular because they have a shaded background colour making them stand out more.

Nonetheless, quite a number of you out there just don’t notice.

Take a look at the image below for the search term “website design morayfield”:

Google Search Results for website design morayfield

 

Arrow “1” is the actual number one ranked search result. Or in other words, it is the number 1 organic search result.

Yet it is the area indicated by Arrow “2” that most people believe are the first three organic results.

Now this can be a problem, not because advertisers get the number 1 spot, but because the bad guys can advertise here just as easily as legitimate businesses, and you can potentially be directed to something that may not be what you are searching for, or something that you may be manipulated into downloading and installing on your computer.

For example, you may be searching for “Adobe Reader”. If you don’t take note of the web address, you’ll just look at the first Advert result and assume it’s the Adobe website, and you’ll visit that website and download something that may or may not be malicious, or at least not what you were looking for.

The last Arrow, number 3, shows the other advertising that Google serves up to searchers. Again, these Ads may or may not be relevant to your search, and may or may not be relevant to you.

So just be aware of what is advertising and take note of the web address or URL and be diligent.

Backlinks – How important are they?

The importance of backlinks in Page RankingsWhat is a Backlink?

Let’s start off by explaining what a backlink is. A backlink is a hyperlink on someone else’s website that links to your website.

An example of a backlink is Spotty Dog Computer Services. This links to my other website which mainly focuses on Computer Repairs.

A backlink from another website to mine that looked like the one shown above is great, but it could be even better if the Anchor Text was related to a Key Word I was targeting.

Google places a high value on backlinks. Backlinks tell Google that other people value the content on your website enough that they want to tell others about it.  Google considers each backlink as a vote that someone thinks your content is worth reading, and consequently places a high value on it.

But what gives a backlink an even higher value is having the Anchor Text reflect a keyword or phrase that you are targeting. The Anchor Text in the example shown above is “Spotty Dog Computer Services”.  Anchor Text that would be of a greater value would be something like “Computer Repairs Morayfield”, which highlights the keywords that I would target. So an example of a higher value backlink would be Computer Repairs Morayfield.

So how important are Backlinks?

To give you a real life example of how a properly constructed backlink can assist in elevating your website ranking, I have a story about this very website.

After creating this website with the intention of trying to rank Number One for the keywords “Website Design Morayfield”, and after spending a lot of time creating relevant content and pages, the best this website could rank was around Number four, and it stayed that way for weeks. It wasn’t until I gained a few backlinks, Website Design Morayfield, that I suddenly shot to the Number One position. So immediately you can see the value of having backlinks with the appropriate Anchor Text.

The trouble is of course, getting the backlinks and getting appropriate Anchor Text. If you have friends or associates with a website, you have a much better chance of being able to achieve this.

Google’s Latest Update and your Business

Google's new algorithm HummingbirdGoogle has just launched it’s new algorithm named “Hummingbird”.

If you didn’t already know, Google uses a secret algorithm to determine what should be displayed in a search query. The latest incarnation of this algorithm is called Hummingbird.

So what, I hear you say. Well if you are a business owner with a website, you should care because there is the potential that it will affect your search rankings and because of the way Google now deals with what it shows the searcher, it could also reduce traffic to your website.

This algorithm overhaul aims to limit the “fluff” that is sometimes present on a website purely for SEO, and filter that stuff out, so that the the searcher gets more relevant and useful search results.

The Hummingbird algorithm has moved away from traditional keyword analysis of the content, and now uses “conversational” techniques that are more in tune with what the searcher is looking for.

Google have found that user searches are becoming longer and very specific, so the new Hummingbird algorithm focuses on the searchers’ “intent” by trying to answer the searchers’ question.

How does the Hummingbird Update affect your Business Website?

This latest update will undoubtedly affect your current rankings.

It may be negative or positive, or in other words, your rankings may improve or get worse or a combination of both.

For those businesses that had poor rankings for generic non specific terms, you may well find that your rankings improve.

If you don’t want your rankings to suffer with this latest update, Businesses will need to rethink the content of their websites to come more into line on how people use the internet to search for goods and services.

Hummingbird places a higher emphasis on conversational techniques and natural language, and has been driving towards better support for longer search queries. Hummingbird takes this a step further by trying to provide answers to questions rather than finding matches for keywords.

This is because serving up results based on keywords does not always reflect what it is someone is searching for.

When formulating the content of your pages, you will need to consider what sort of questions will be asked by a searcher and incorporating the answers within your content.

What this means is that simply having content on a page for the sake of having content, does not have the same impact it once did.

Why Hummingbird may affect traffic to your website

One of the big changes that has come with the new update is the way Google displays information.

Search data may now be displayed to the right of the search results.

For example, if you type “Gravity” and then search, to the right of the search results you will see information from the IMDb website showing data from their website about the movie Gravity.

Now this may be great for the searcher, but what this means is that the searcher is now less likely to visit the IMDb website.

Other things that may be displayed in the Brave New World of Google Search are things like links to YouTube videos or a link to “Watch It Now” on Google Play, ie. Google’s own content.

Wherever possible, you will now find Google trying to direct people to their own content rather than your website.

So what can your Business do?

Well not a great deal.

About all you can do is try and concentrate on the content, framing it in a way that answers questions people may be searching for, ensuring at the same time that it uses natural language without looking spammy and without keyword stuffing.

Stick to the other principles of SEO by including relevant images, videos, headings, page titles and page url’s.

Top 8 SEO Tips

Search Engine Optimisation Tips, SEO TipsThe first step to getting found online is obviously to have an online presence via a website.

But simply having a website isn’t enough. Unless you are appearing in Search Results, and preferably somewhere near the top of the first page, then the only way people will find your website is through advertising.

Advertising can take many forms including print and signage, but there are online alternatives ranging from free and paid for Internet Business Directories like Start Local, True Local, Hotfrog and the like.

In addition to that, Google have their own “Paid For” advertising called AdWords.

But wouldn’t it be great if your website appeared right at the top of the first page of search results without paying for it?

These results are called “Organic Search Results”. Those are the results that naturally appear at the top of the Search Results page and that’s what SEO is all about.  Getting to the top of the results page.

Getting to the top is easier said than done.  Google’s algorithm for determining the ranking is secret, so any individual or company that tells you that they can guarantee a number 1 result, or even a page 1 result, is probably in need of a reality check.

Having said that, there are plenty of things you can do to help your cause.  So with that in mind, here are my Top 8 SEO Tips:

  • Read the Google SEO Guidelines – Google actually give you a clue about what you need to do. It takes some of the guesswork out and spells out exactly what you should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s amazing how many people attempt SEO without reading this first.  Do yourself a huge favour and read the Google SEO Guidelines.
  • Use a good SEO Plug-in – Something like All-in-one SEO Pack or better still WordPress SEO by Yoast. It has a “Content Analysis Function” which will help you write better content and help you optimise your website’s Page Titles and Descriptions, and displays a Google snippet preview. It will also automatically generate XML Sitemaps which Google uses to help Index your website.
  • Write Good Content – DO NOT fall into the trap of keyword stuffing. Write original content from the heart. Google is all about the End User Experience and trying to serve up the best result for it’s customer’s. If you write unoriginal garbage, or you plagiarise content from another website and change a few words here and there, have no doubt, you will be penalised. You will hear this term everywhere, but it’s true, when it comes to Google Search Results, Content Is King.
  • Do Regular Updates – Add content to your website regularly.  But not just any content, content that is relevant to whatever it is your website is about (See previous point). It can be in the form of Reviews, Tips and Tricks, News Articles or a Blog Article like this one you are reading right now.
  • Avoid Using Flash – Whilst Flash animation can add some pizazz to your website, unfortunately Google’s Search Crawlers have no idea what information they are displaying.  So from an SEO point of view Flash is bad.  But another downside is that Apple devices don’t support Flash and anyone viewing your website with an Apple Computer or Tablet etc will not see it.  So there is a double wammy.
  • Structure your website clearly – Every page on your website should be accessible from at least one link on the site, and preferably from the menu structure. Hiding the visibility of pages is a big No No. Your Navigation Structure should be logical and easy to navigate. If you have to jump all over the page to find things, then that presents a poor user experience and you will suffer the consequences.
  • Generate Backlinks – Backlinks are links on other websites that link back to you. Ideally they should come from websites that are related to your industry, and the Anchor Text used should be a keyword that is beneficial to you. An example would be Website Design Caboolture. The Anchor text in this example is “Website Design Caboolture” which links to this website at the url www.websitedesignmorayfield.com.au. Generating backlinks is not an easy task. It is even harder generating backlinks from websites related to your own industry. After all, who is going to link to a competitor?  Some backlinks will occur as a matter of course through people just doing it, but you can also register your business on internet directories as previously mentioned. Whatever you do, DO NOT fall for paying for backlinks as this will most certainly see you penalised by Google.
  • Do Key Word Research – Decide on the keywords you want to target and use them in the content on your page, and in the Page Title and Description.  But don’t forget to use other words related to those keywords.  For example, I might want to target the keyword or phrase “Computer Repair”. Examples of related keywords would be, “PC Repair”, “Fix Computer”, “Computer Technician”, “Computer Servicing” and so on. To do keyword research you can try using tools like the Google Keyword Planner, or SEMRUSH.

Summary

So this is the reality, SEO is a slow process. You can get some moderate results quickly, but SEO is a long and laborious process that is ongoing. Stick to the SEO Guidelines and adhere to the rules, and at least you won’t be penalised. Remember, if you try and pull the wool over Google’s eyes, you will lose. Stick to trying to create quality, relevant content and make the user experience a priority, and you should see positive results.

How to stop Comment Spam

Over the years I have used many different Plug-in’s and methods to reduce Comment Spam on my websites.

Those Plug-in’s included the default WordPress Plug-in AkismetinfoInfoAkismet is a hosted web service that saves time by automatically detecting comment and trackback spam. It's hosted on their Servers, but they give you access to it through a plugin and an API. (at last count on my main website it has blocked 3,306 Spam Comments), WP-SpamFreeinfoInfoAn extremely powerful anti-spam Plug-in for WordPress that reduces comment spam, including trackback and pingback spam. It works invisibly without CAPTCHA’s, or other inconveniences to site visitors. The plugin includes spam-free contact form feature as well. (it’s blocked 4,725 Spam Comments), and along the way various other Security Plug-in’s and methods.

But none of them have been 100% effective.

Sure, they “reduced” the amount of Spam, but some Spam has always managed to get through.

Now obviously you need to set your WordPress Discussion Settings so that they must be approved by an Administrator first (see image below), but having to plough through the Spam Comments and manually delete them too, well that is an additional Admin overhead we can all do without.

WordPress Discussion settings

Discussion Settings

Comment Spam has been a real bug bear for me, and to be honest, a pretty big problem. But at last I’ve finally found a Plug-in that reduces Comment Spam to zero, zilch, nada!!! That’s right, it’s 100% effective in preventing Comment Spam.

Well, let me qualify that by saying that it’s 100% effective against automated Comment Spam.

Obviously, if a real human is determined and prepared to take the time to post a bogus comment and physically undertake the CAPTCHA test, then you won’t stop that.

The Plug-in in that I have discovered is Fun CAPTCHA.infoInfoFun Captcha presents a mini-game that blocks the bots while giving your users a few moments of fun. It’s a real security solution hardened by experts and automatically updated to provide the best protection. Users complete these little games faster than other CAPTCHAs, with no frustrating failures and no typing. Fun Captcha works on all browsers and mobile devices.

The trouble with most CAPTCHA systems is that they are quite difficult to read (see the image below), and visitors to your website hate using them, and the Spammers are getting smarter all the time and can circumvent them.

CAPTCHA Examples

CAPTCHA Examples

So what Fun CAPTCHA does is stop the BOT’s, and turns the CAPTCHA system into a mini-game.  The visitor wishing to post a comment is required to complete the game with a series of mouse clicks, rather than trying to decipher hard to read CAPTCHA Images, and it works on all Browsers and Mobile Devices.

The best thing is that Fun CAPTCHA is totally free, however you must create an account on their website to obtain some security codes first.

Below is a video that shows how the Fun CAPTCHA Plug-in works.

You can download the Plug-in from the WordPress Plug-in Directory.