Archive | Web Design

Our 10 ‘Go-To’ WordPress Plugins

One of the great advantages of using WordPress are the thousands of free and premium plugins available to customize the look and functionality of your website.

WordPress Plugins

Image by Sean MacEntee – Flickr CC

For those of you new to WordPress, a plugin is essentially software that can be uploaded to your website to add to the functionality of it. Most are free with premium upgrades available, and they can be easily added, moved, or removed within minutes.

We don’t claim the following list to be “the best” plugins, or the results of exhaustive research. But instead, over the years of building WordPress websites and experimenting with countless plugins, these are the ones that we return to over and over again. We do not have relationships with the makers of these plugins, and do benefit financially or otherwise by including them in our list. They are ordered alphabetically.

Our 10 Favorite WordPress Plugins

1. AA’s Digg Digg Alternative: This plugin creates a floating sidebar allowing visitors to easily share your content to their favorite social media sites. It can be seen hovering to the left of this blog post – feel free to try it out. :-)

2. Facebook Members: This one of course is dependent on the business and their target audience. It is good for those businesses interested in Facebook Marketing. It displays images of some of the people that have “Liked” your page, and allows visitors to your website or blog to easily “Like” your Facebook Page. Again – visible on in the right-hand side of this blog post and ready for a test drive (you may have to scroll up to see it)!

3. Fancier Author Box: Displays a customizable author picture and bio on your posts (or pages). See the author box below this post.

4. MaxButtons: Allows you to create custom buttons (call-to-actions) for your website. Easily change color, text, link, size and shape of your buttons.

MaxButtons WordPress PluginMaxButtons WordPress Plugin

5. Ninja Forms: I tried several plugins for creating forms before finally finding Ninja Forms. It allows for detailed customization, multiple forms, and looks good. A short code is created and you can paste it on your page.

6. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler): This plugin is a little different in that it tests your other plugins. Site loading speed has become a factor in SEO, and plugins can slow your loading speed down. This plugin allows you to test your plugins to see how long they are taking to load and what impact they are having on your overall load time. We recently found that the popular JetPack plugin was slowing down a client’s site too much and ended up removing it.

P3 WordPress Plugin

P3 WordPress Plugin

As you can see, on this test site, there are too many plugins, and it took far too long to load.

7. Simple Social Icons: This plugin allows your visitors to connect with you on your Social Media platforms. There are countless plugins that allow for this, but we like SSI because the color, size, and even the shape (square, oval, round) can be customized or branded for your site. The social share icons on in the header of this page are through the SSI plugin, as are the ones demonstrated below.

Simple Social Icons WordPress Plugin8. Triberr: Obviously only beneficial to members of Triberr, but if you’re not a member, you should seriously consider joining (free). If your not familiar with Triberr, it is a blog sharing platform. This plugin allows you to integrate your blog with triberr for easy sending and sharing of posts, comments and guest posts.

9. W3 Cache: Improves site speed and therefore user experience and possibly search rankings. Although it is not necessary (or approved) with our host WP Engine, we still occasionally work with WordPress sites hosted elsewhere. In those cases, adding W3 is automatic.

10. WordPress SEO by Yoast: This plugin is very popular with WordPress users and is the best SEO plugin available. It provides feedback and guidance on how to improve your on-page SEO for your web pages and blog posts.

SEO WordPress PluginThe plugin will also provide feedback on what you can change to improve your optimization.

SEO by Yoast Plugin

Plugins can be a lot of fun, and looking for them may have you feeling a little like a kid in a candy store, however use caution as too many (or the wrong ones) can negatively affect your website’s performance (and SEO), and in some cases, open your website up to the possibility of attacks by hackers or viruses.

What Plugins are your favorites? Thanks for reading. As always, your comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

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Keyword Research BEFORE Website Design

Keyword ResearchAn effective business website design combines form and function – an appealing design, a good user experience, coherent branding, and best practice marketing tactics.

One of the advantages of working with an integrated web design firm is that all elements of form and function can be considered and implemented in the design process from the beginning.

What Pages Should be Included on your Website?

In addition to a Homepage, most websites have some version of an About Us and Contact Us pages. Where you really see differentiation in an effective design layout is in the Services/Products pages.

In small business web design, it’s common to see one page listing all of the services or products that your business offers. While this may work from the perspective of your visitor, it’s likely that you’re missing out on significant opportunities to be found on the Search Engine Results pages.

Keyword research will reveal not only the actual words that searchers are using to find your business – these may be different than the ones industry insiders use – but also the variety of keywords that are used to find the products/services that your business offers.

Example: Financial Planning Firm

Based on the planner’s needs and recommendations, a typical Financial Planning Firm website will be set up with a main navigation similar to that shown below:

Main Naviagation

However, if Keyword Research is performed prior to building the website, the Planner and web designer would know that Financial Advisor is searched almost twice as often as Financial Planning, and nearly three times as much as Financial Planner.

Financial Advisor vs Financial Planner keyword research

In addition, even if the primary services page was optimized for Financial Advisor instead of Financial Planning, the firm would still be missing out on the being found for Advisor Services related terms like:

Financial Advisor Services Keyword Research

Without getting into specific, detailed keyword considerations, it is fairly obvious from a marketing/SEO perspective that a financial firm would benefit from a design that included more service pages in their navigation.

Summary

No matter your business or industry, beginning the web design process with keyword research will help insure that your website includes the pages and keywords that your prospective customers/clients are searching for.

As always, questions and comments are both welcomed and appreciated!

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10 Tips for Choosing a Domain Name for Your Business

searchingReady to move your business online? Be prepared – finding an effective, affordable and available domain name for your business can quickly turn into an exercise in compromise, disappointment and frustration. Be patient, flexible, and follow these 10 guidelines to find the best online address for your business.

1. Align your domain with your brand and vice a versa: If you’re starting a new business, research available domains before committing to a business name.

2. Find a unique domain name: complete a Google search of possible domain names before purchasing to make sure that you’re not competing with a prominent brand or unknowingly affiliated with unsavory websites.

3. Try to find a .com. They are still the standard for business use. However, if a .com is not possible, from an SEO perspective, other gTLD (Generic Top Level Domains) work just as well. New gTLDs  are becoming available all of the time.

4. Your domain doesn’t have to contain your keywords: although it can help with branding, it is no longer tied to improved search rankings*.

*Note: Officially, Google says that it is not a ranking factor, however, some SEOs claim that it still offers a small boost.

5. Your domain should be short and easy to type.

Example: If you repair windshields in Boise, you probably shouldn’t select boisewindowwelderandrepair (Boise Window Welder and Repair). Although perfectly descriptive of your service, it’s not easy to type or read.

6. Hyphens: Most “Domain” guidelines recommend avoiding hyphens in a domain name (i.e. my business.com is better than my-business.com), however, there are times when they can work.

I would not use a hyphenated domain if the non-hyphenated version is a direct competitor, or business in your geographical market.

Example: A recent client has an existing pet grooming business (Doggy Clips) and decided it was time for a website. Doggyclips.com was already being used, but as the business serves a local clientele, and Doggyclips.com was in another part of the country, we decided that Doggy-Clips.com would work.

Additionally, if you’ve decided to use a long business name, a hyphen can make it much more readable, and may be a good alternative even when the non-hyphenated version is available.

In that case, if both are available, consider getting both, use the hyphenated version on your site for readability, but point both at your site so that no matter which domain a user types, they will find your website.

Example: If your existing business is Boise Real Estate Company and both boiserealestatecompany.com and boise-real-estate-company.com are available, you could purchase both domains, use the easier to read hyphenated version on your site, but pointed the non-hyphenated address to your site as well. That way, no matter which version the searcher typed in, he/she would end up at your website.

7. Numbers (i.e. 5th vs Fifth): Again, most guides recommend against using actual numbers, instead suggesting that the number be spelled out, however, like the hyphen rule, I think that there are circumstances where it can work.

Example: Another client owns a photography studio called 5th Pictures. He wasn’t sure whether to use 5thpictures.com, or fifthpictures. com. He ended up buying both. His site will display 5thPictures.com, but searchers typing in “fifthpictures” will be redirected to his website.

8. Avoid being too cute or clever with your domain name. It’s become more common to see online businesses intentionally using misspellings or slang terms which can be confusing to new searchers – unless of course you set up a re-direct from the traditional spelling as well.

9. Avoid Copyright infringement.

Example: A web designer, specializing in WordPress web design, may want to include “WordPress” in her business name. However, “WordPress” is copyrighted. She could use WP, and then use the word WordPress in her content, but not in her business name.

10. If your business is specific to one geographical area, use Geo-location terms to differentiate your domain name (i.e. add your City, State, or neighborhood to your URL – “Boiseplumbing.com” )

Finding the right domain name is a big decision, but one that I always find exciting. Keep searching until you find the one that feels right for your brand – then OWN it!

Best of luck in your search, and with your new online presence!

What other tips would you suggest for choosing a domain name?

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