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

Website Revamp

Our revamped websiteI’m pleased to announce our much anticipated Website Revamp.

I’ve spent the last two weeks designing, tweaking and generally re-doing everything to do with the website.

It features an awesome Home Page “Layered” Slider, animated thumbnails and images, Testimonials and elegant styling.

It is of course responsive, meaning that it will display on all different devices regardless of screen size.

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 😉

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.

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.

Web Designers Caboolture

Web Designers Collaborating CabooltureOK, so I just couldn’t resist posting this image of two Web Designers at work collaborating on a new “Web” Project hahahahaha.

Note the thoughtful concentration and consideration going into it?

It tickled my funny bone so I thought I’d share it.

Seriously though, if you are looking for a Caboolture Morayfield based Web Designer, give us a call today.

We have been designing websites locally for over 10 years, and have the know-how required to build your Business Website, quickly, efficiently and professionally.

Why we use WordPress for Websites

WordPress Website Design Caboolture Morayfield

 

There are many reasons we use WordPress for the basis of our Web Designs.  First and foremost for me it’s because WordPress is by far and away the easiest to learn and understand.

But here is a detailed list of the reasons and advantages to using WordPress:

  • It’s FREE and Open Source – Being an Open Source Project, WordPress is completely free to use, forever!!!. Being Open Source means that there are people around the world continuously contributing to the project and improving it with extra features and improved security.
  • An Abundant Array of Plug-in’s – If you need to add a particular function to your WordPress website, you can almost guarantee that there is a Plug-in available to do it.  There are Plug-in’s for SEO, Contact Forms, Buttons, eCommerce, Photo Galleries, Guestbooks and Forums, Social Networking and the list is endless.  By and large, the majority of plug-in’s that you would want to use are also free, with Plug-in developers offering “paid for” versions which add some extra features, or support for a fee.
  • User Friendly CMS – In my opinion, WordPress has to be the easiest and most flexible Content Management System (CMS) around.  I have used others, but WordPress is very intuitive and there is a wealth of information and help forums online if you get stuck.
  • Themes let you “Style” the look – The way your WordPress website looks, feels and behaves is determined by the Theme used.  So if you get sick of the look, or just feel like a change, you can achieve this by simply uploading a new Theme, activating it, and hey presto, there you have it.  Of course it isn’t quite as easy as that because the reality is that some content may not suit the new styling, but there is nothing that is overly difficult to overcome.
  • Your website can grow with you – Your WordPress website can grow with you and you can easily upgrade it with new features and security. You can change your Theme at any time without the need to re-do your whole website. Plug-in’s can be added for enhanced functionality (add e-commerce if your business grows, a photo gallery, conatct forms, etc.).  WordPress is used by millions of websites, so it won’t be going away in a hurry.
  • Good for SEO – Over the years I’ve used various SEO plugins including All-In-One SEO, WordPress SEO by Yoast, and Google XML Sitemaps.  But even without these plugins, the simple structure of WordPress, the permalinks, and the easy linking in WordPress is Google friendly. I even heard a statement directly from the horse’s mouth Matt Cutts (the head of Google’s “Web Spam Team”) when he spoke at WordCamp San Fransisco 2009 where he said, “WordPress is a great choice” and went on to say how much “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues“.  Don’t believe me, see for yourself below.

 

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in’s for your Business Website

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in's

 

There are almost an infinite number of Plug-in’s available for a WordPress based website.

However, there are some that I believe are a must have regardless of what type of Website or Blog you have.

The following Plug-in’s are the top five that I believe are essential and you should have installed:

    • Change the urls (web address) for the WordPress dashboard including login, admin, and more.
    • Rename the “admin” account. For example you could rename it admin2013.
    • Change the WordPress database table prefix. The default is wp_.  The plug-in will change it to a random set of letters.
    • Change wp-content path. You could change this to anything, for example site-content.
    • Ban bots and other hosts.
    • Prevent brute force attacks by banning hosts and users with too many invalid login attempts.
    • Enforce strong passwords for all accounts from Subscriber’s to Admin’s.
    • Detect and block numerous attacks to your filesystem and database.
  • BackupBuddy – This plug-in has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.  Imagine you have spent 100’s of hours and dollars developing your website, and the unthinkable happens.  Your website is hacked and your website is compromised, or even worse, the Web Hosts’ Server is hacked and everything is lost.  Now wouldn’t it be nice to be able to restore your website from a backup almost immediately?  Well that is just one of the things you can do with BackupBuddy.  BackupBuddy is a “Paid For” plug-in, but it’s worth every cent.  With BackupBuddy, you can:
    • Back up your entire WordPress installation. Your Widgets, Themes, Plug-in’s, Files, Images, PDF’s and SQL database – the entire website!  Just like you would backup your laptop or desktop computer, you should be doing regular backups of your website. With BackupBuddy you can schedule backups and have them sent off-site to Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, an FTP server, or your email. Or you can download them straight to your computer.
    • Restore your WordPress site fast. The restore function in BackupBuddy is very simple. Upload a file called importbuddy.php and your backup file, and it restores WordPress including your Themes, Widgets, Plug in’s, and everything else. You don’t even need to re-install WordPress first!
    • Individual File Restoration – Did you make a whole lot of changes to your theme and then decide that you wanted everything back like it was?  Now you can identify files to restore individually, instead of having to go through a complete site restore!  Easily browse your backup .zip file contents right from the dashboard and decide which files to restore.
    • Move your WordPress site to another Web Host easily.  Not happy with your current Web Host?  No problem.  Simply make a backup of your website, sign up to a new Web Host, upload the backup file and importbuddy.php script and run it.
  • WordPress SEO – WordPress SEO would have to be the most complete WordPress SEO plugin around. It does everything including a Google Snippet Preview and Page Analysis that helps you optimise your page content, image titles, meta descriptions and more, as well as creating XML sitemaps, and a heap of optimisation options in between.
  • Broken Link Checker – Over time, a website will accumulate quite a number of links within pages, both internal links and external links.  These links will occasionally break when the website they point to cease to exist for any number of reasons.  You would only know if this was the case if you happened to check the links periodically, or you are notified by a vigilant visitor to your website.  Broken Link Checker will notify you via the WordPress Dashboard and via Email if it detects any broken links.
  • Imagify – One of the biggest mistakes I see when people manage their own websites (and sometimes by so called professionals), is the use of images that haven’t been optimised for web use. Imagify takes the hard work out of optimising images by doing it as you upload them. Of course you should still resize images to an appropriate pixel count first, but with this plug-in, images will be optimised on the fly. If you already have images on your website, there is also a bulk optimisation feature. The free version of the plug-in offers 25MB of data per month at no cost. After that, a fee is applicable, or you can wait until the next months anniversary and pick up a further 25MB Free.

Do you want an online catalogue for your Business Website?

It is often quite beneficial to display your Business Product Catalogue online in a format that actually behaves like a Print Catalogue.

For a start, even if you have an eCommerce website, a Flipping Book Online Catalogue looks flash and will impress your visitors.

Secondly, it provides a way for your visitors to interact with your website in a fun way, whilst at the same time allowing them to see your Products or Specials or whatever it is you want to display.

Now this can be achieved two ways.  Either using a Flipping Book Plug-in, or my preferred method, using software on your computer to create the Online Catalogue, and uploading the files to your website.

Below is an example of a Specials Catalogue that I created for my Computer Repairs Business.

The latest version of the Flipping Book Software has integrated support for the HTML5 standard which means that your publications are readable on almost all devices, including iPhones and Android based Phones, to tablets like the iPad, and E-readers.

Watch the video below to learn more about the capabilities of Flipping Book software.