Category: Wordpress

Google To Assist in Development of WordPress Ecosystem

Google To Assist in Development of WordPress Ecosystem

Google has partnered with Worpdress in what will be an exciting time of development for the platform. The partnership aims to boost WordPress’ support of latest web technologies, most importantly those relating to performance and mobile device experience. We’ve written before about why you should be using WordPress, and with the open-source content management system powering a whopping 27% of the entire web, it comes as no surprise that Google has taken a large interest in the platform.

Mobile First Index, Speed and WordPress

Google recently announced the speed update, and has been focused on speed for quite a few years now. It has also announced the rollout of the mobile-first index — meaning that Google has started indexing and using for ranking in SERPs, the mobile version of a website.

With the goal of assisting site owners in improving page load time for mobile visitors, Google launched the AMP project in 2015. But the adoption of this mobile-friendly framework across the web has been slow: It’s estimated that fewer than .1 percent of all websites are using the markup language.

Google took part in WordCamp US in December, stating “Our goal was to engage with the WordPress community and start a discussion around the performance of the WordPress ecosystem.” Whilst at WordCamp, Google highlighted a fundamental problem in the CMS platform – its relative poor speed and page load performance in comparison to non-WordPress websites.

It comes as no surprise, as anyone who has developed or used WordPress in depth is most likely aware of the platform’s previous issues with code bloat. The partnership with Google however, in addition to improving performance, will focus on bringing WordPress’ ecosystem up to current web experience standards more rapidly — via technologies such as Progressive Web Apps (PWA).

In an article posted by Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate in the Content Ecosystems Team at Google, he states “Our WordPress vision covers a lot of exciting work across the full breadth of the WordPress ecosystem: collaborating on WP core, developing themes, plugins, and WP-tailored tools and infrastructure, and engaging with the broader WordPress community of publishers.”

This is an exciting time for WordPress and the web, and as strong advocates of the platform here at Soar Online, we look forward to seeing the developments and improvements in the near future.

9 Top Plugins To Speed Up WordPress

9 Top Plugins To Speed Up WordPress

It was reported by Search Engine Land that Google officially counts the loading speed of your website as a ranking factor – and of course we all want to rank better so what next?

Speed is not just important for search engines however, it is just as important for user experience.

Ensuring that the user experience of visitors to your website is as good as possible should be the motivation behind improving your websites loading time.

For example, a study by tagman.com revealed that a one second delay in your website loading could potentially cause a loss of 7% in conversions.

Further statistics from econsultancy.com reinforce the importance of optimising the loading speed of your website. For example:

  • 47% of people expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less
  • 40% of visitors will navigate away from a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • 52% of people state that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site

Those of us that use WordPress are in a unique position as there are developers out there that have taken the hard work out of optimising WordPress and bundled up their hard work into easy install plugins so even the not so tech savvy amongst us can speed up our websites.

We have pulled together our favourites in a list for you below and what makes these even better is that they are all free!

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache has a great set of features balanced with real ease of use.

The developers have managed to find the difficult to find middle ground between being too basic and being too advanced.

Simply install and activate the plugin, run through the well explained settings and then hit save. That’s it – you’re ready to go.

With over 300,000 installs with fantastic reviews we are not the only ones who like this plugin.

Features:

  • Easy setup
  • One click to clear cache and /or minified CSS etc.
  • Minify HTML and CSS
  • Exclude posts/pages (some like admin area excluded by default)
  • Set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings
  • CDN integration
  • Premium version available with extra features

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-fastest-cache/

Cache Enabler

The team at KeyCDN have developed a great light-weight caching plugin that takes minutes to setup.

It’s sparse on features but that is the point of the plugin however you do have minification options and the ability to set cache expiry time.

They also provide an excellent sister plugin called CDN Enable for those of you who require a CDN. The same principles apply to this plugin too – light-weight and easy to setup.

Features:

  • Simple setup
  • One click to clear cache
  • Set cache behaviour
  • Minification feature
  • Exclude posts from cache
  • Set expiration times

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/cache-enabler/

WP Super Cache

Straight from Automattic (the guys behind WordPress) this is probably the most widely used caching plugin.

With over 1 million active installs it must be doing something right!

It works straight out of the box with its easy setup but it also has some settings and features for more advanced users to tweak and play with to get more performance from the plugin.

Features:

  • Support for multiple caching types (Mod_Rewrite, PHP and Legacy)
  • Serve static html files
  • Cache preload
  • CDN support

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/

W3 Total Cache

This is another of the “big boys” of the caching plugin playground with over 1 million installs. It goes beyond just a simple caching plugin however, it’s a complete framework.

There are a huge array of options available and advanced support for CDN services such as CloudFlare and MaxCDN.

All these features whilst very powerful are not the easiest to setup and if you are not entirely sure of what you can break something. This is definitely one that should be left to advanced users.

Features:

  • CDN Support
  • Browser caching
  • Database caching
  • Object caching
  • Minifying
  • And lots more

https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

WP Super Minify

The idea behind minifying is that you remove all the whitespace from the text inside your JavaScript and CSS files and then join them all together so they can be served to visitors in a way they reduces webpage loading times.

Whilst on the face of it these types of plugins are very easy to use you do need to be careful as they can cause conflicts with particular themes and plugins. The Enfold and Avada themes are ones that spring to mind.

Features:

  • Minifies JavaScript, CSS and HTML
  • Option to disable compression of CSS and JavaScript
  • Very straight forward and easy to use.

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-minify/

Better WordPress Minify

This plugin has an advantage over other minifying plugins as it uses something called the ‘enqueueing system’ within WordPress.

This allows you to specify where your CSS and JS files are loading which helps overcome the “render blocking JavaScript” errors that you will have seen when carrying out page speed tests.

Features:

  • Complete control over the minification process
  • Customise minify strings
  • Available in multiple languages

https://wordpress.org/plugins/bwp-minify/

WP Smush-It

Image optimisation is essential when considering webpage loading times. Many people upload images to WordPress at high resolutions which are not suitable for being loaded over the internet.

This plugin uses optimises your images by removing unnecessary bytes from images using something called a lossless format. The lossless format can make a significant difference in file size but you will not be able to notice any difference in the image quality.

 

Features:

  • Strips unnecessary bytes from images
  • Strips meta data from JPEG’s (this isn’t needed anyway)
  • Optimizing JPEG compression
  • Integrates with the Smush.it API

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/

BJ Lazy Load

When someone visits your website their browser will try to load the entire page i.e. parts of the page that below the fold and are not visible until the visitor scrolls down.

If you website has lots of images this can be a big issue with loading times.

In reality your browser doesn’t need to load the whole page and this plugin implements the idea of ‘lazy loading’

Lazy loading is the process of only loading specific elements as and when they are needed and it can have a significant impact on loading times.

Features:

  • Replaces post images, Gravatar images and post thumbnails
  • Replaces content iframes with a placeholder until content needs to load
  • Plugin uses jQuery to operate
  • Serves scaled down images with responsive designs

http://wordpress.org/plugins/bj-lazy-load/

P3 Plugin Profiler

The extendable nature of WordPress through plugins is not only one of its key benefits it can also be one of its key hindrances.

There is a plugin for virtually anything you can think of and even this blog is telling you to install more plugins but all these plugins can have an impact on the loading times of your website.

The P3 Plugin Profiler is probably the best thing that GoDaddy has ever come up with (this is the one and only time we will praise GoDaddy).

It shows you in graphical form the impact all your installed plugins and theme are having on your load times and allows you to pinpoint the ones that are making you website run slowly.

Features:

  • View a full profile of the impact your plugins and theme have on your site
  • Option to use your IP address
  • Debug mode in case you run into any issues
  • Various visualisations and charts
  • Detailed timeline view
  • Optional feature allows the report to be emailed

http://wordpress.org/plugins/p3-profiler/

If you have been struggling with website loading times installing just a few of these plugins should show you a dramatic improvement.

We do need to stress however that you shouldn’t just install all the plugins on the list and expect a superfast website. You are more likely to actually crash your website!

You should remember that less is more when it comes to WordPress plugins and just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We would love to hear your feedback on this list and of course if you think we have missed any let us know!

Why You Should Be Using WordPress

Why You Should Be Using WordPress

In the past, WordPress was exclusively used as a platform for blogging or for small, personal websites. In an age where Fortune 500 companies require masses of pages, localized content, subdomains and demand high traffic, WordPress is often looked at as an unsuitable platform. This is not the case.

WordPress has become a fully-fledged CMS that is fully capable of powering websites of all sizes including that of large enterprises. With constant updates, plugins and developments, it is an excellent choice when it comes to building your website. Let’s take a look at the reasons why you should be using WordPress…

  1. It’s a Diverse and Adaptable Platform

As mentioned, WordPress is no longer solely for blogging. Whilst it is still true to its roots and offers a fantastic platform for creating blogs, it has the power and tools to create a fully functional website, including some of the most famous sites on the web – such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Vogue UK and a long list of top celebrity’s websites. You can build ecommerce, portfolio, news and even mobile apps with WordPress; just take a look at the WordPress showcase if you need more convincing!

  1. It’s Cost Effective

WordPress is a free, open source project that is maintained by both volunteers and developers from around the world. Anyone is free to download, modify and use it however they wish. Also included within it is the access to thousands of free themes and plugins so that you can tailor your experience to your own needs.

  1. It’s Reliable

WordPress isn’t owned by a single entity, but rather it is maintained by a vast array of developers and volunteers who are expert coders, testers and researchers. They are also backed up by some of the most successful WordPress companies in the world, and as such you have access to a regular update cycle with bug fixes, patches and new features. You can expect WordPress, and the community with it, to be around for a very, very long time.

  1. It’s Safe

Whilst WordPress has received negative press when it comes to its security, the majority of these claims were based on faulty plugins and themes from 3rd parties as opposed to core WordPress itself. There is a very dedicated team of experts who work to ensure WordPress is as secure as it can be.

  1. It’s Search Engine Friendly

Out of the box, WordPress is very search engine friendly. Custom permalinks, breadcrumbs, sitemaps, RSS feeds and SEO-friendly markup make it great for search engines and even the big G is a fan. There are a number of powerful SEO plugins available, such as Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO Pack.

Simply put, WordPress is so flexible and diverse, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be suitable for your business. It has a proven track record, reliability and is secure to name a few benefits. Not only that, but it’s development will continue long into the future, making it an excellent choice for a future-proofed website!

What’s New In WordPress 4.8?

What’s New In WordPress 4.8?

WordPress 4.8, named “Evans” in a nod to jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, is now available for download or for those of you already using the popular CMS update in your WordPress dashboard.

While at first glance the updates may seem minor they have been brought with users in mind to give some of our old friends a much-needed refresh.

Widgets

  • Adding Images: Gone are the days of having to use <img> tags to insert an image within a widget. You can now add images without the use of code within the widget’s settings
  • Adding Videos: You can now use any Video from your Media Library within a widget. This now allows you to easily enrich your sidebar with a showreel or an introductory video to promote your website.
  • Adding Audio: This is a long overdue update for the podcasters and musicians among us. You can now use any audio file within your Media Library in a widget.
  • Rich Text Widget: This is an update that many would say is well overdue. A simplified version of the default WordPress editor is now included for text widgets. The ability to add formatting quickly and easily will be a godsend to many users.

Link Boundaries

Editing links previously has been somewhat of a headache. Many of you will have felt the frustration in trying to update the text around a link and even find that the new text after the link is also linked. The new link boundaries feature saves you the headache and frustration and will make you happier!

Nearby WordPress Events

With WordPress behind almost 27% of all websites on the internet you can imagine it has quite a following and community behind it.

There are regular meetings in more than 400 cities in the world where like minded people come together and discuss everything that is WordPress.

There are also more than 89 WordCamps organised in 34 countries that cover all six continents.

WordCamps take place over the course of a weekend and attract some of the biggest names within the WordPress community. Over the weekend a number of seminars will take place which are suited to WordPress users.

Previously finding information about these WordPress events could prove difficult but now all the details are collated and displayed for you on your WordPress Dashboard.

The Geeky Stuff!

Whilst the updates above will please all users including developers the following “under the hood” updates apply to the true WordPress geeks.

Removal of Core Support for WMV and WMA Files

With Silverlight being supported by fewer and fewer browsers file formats that require the presence of Silverlight are being removed from core support. Files will still be available but as a download link rather than an embedded player.

Text-Editor JavaScript API

With the advent of TinyMCE being brought to the text widget comes a new JavaScript API for instantiating the editor after page load. This allows developers to add the editor to any text area and customise it – great news!

Media Widgets API

With the introduction of a new base media widget REST API brings the possibility for even more media widgets such as galleries and playlists in the future.

Top 10 WordPress Plugins Your Website Needs In 2017

Top 10 WordPress Plugins Your Website Needs In 2017

WordPress is one of the world’s most used open source platforms, accounting for around 27.5% of the top 10 million websites in the world. One of the most popular aspects of WordPress is the ability to download additional plugins to your website – with more 49,000 plugins available we have compiled a list of 10 plugins that your business website needs in 2017.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the finest plugins available on WordPress. As we know SEO is a way of moving your website up the search engines such as Google, to help drive more traffic to your website. Yoast helps you with all the various factors of optimisation on your website including content, keywords, title tags, H1s etc.

A fantastic plugin that makes SEO easy for users.

Akismet

One of most time consuming jobs when looking after a website is managing all the comments – including filtering through and removing all of the spam. Akismet takes away all of this hassle by checking all comments and contact form submission for spam comments and even though it will filter out the spam comments, it will keep track of those comments in the history.

Wordfence

There is no doubt that Wordfence is the most popular security plugin available on WordPress. This plugin offers users with premium API which will carry out scheduled scans, Two Factor Authentication, password audits, threat defence feed, IP address checks and premium support to your website.

This is a must have for your website.

WooCommerce

One of the best eCommerce platforms available, WooCommerce is a fully customisable plugin which allows you to build a cutting edge online store.  The plugin provides total ownership to the users, its easy to use interface allows you to create an infinite number of products (including digital, physical or downloadable items) which can be purchased through a number of payment gateways.

The ultimate plugin for anybody looking to sell products online.

Contact Form 7

If you are looking to add multiple contact forms to your businesses website, then Contact Form 7 is the best plugin available. Contact Form 7 allows you to fully customise any contact form on your website, along will all mail contents with just one markup.

One of the major advantages of this plugin is that it supports Akismet (for spam comments), CAPTCHA and Ajax powered submitting.

W3 Total Cache

The W3 Total Cache plugin provides a better user experience for page load times and will also help boost SEO for your website by decreasing page download time and improving website performance. It also supports page, database, browser & object cache – alongside CDN integration. But other than that, it is also the sole web agnostic WordPress Performance Optimization plugin that web developers and hosts recommend.

OptinMonster

Pop-ups are one of the fastest ways of generating qualified leads for your website. But they can also have a negative influence of they are used incorrectly, aren’t attractive or use the wrong wording. #

OptinMonster allows you to create eye-catching pop-ups along with opt-in forms. The plugin will also turn the visitors that leave your website into qualified leads by creating pop-up forms that will only attract targeted customers and not just anyone and everyone who visits the site.

Backup Buddy

Backup Buddy is one of the premium plugins available on WordPress, providing easy database back-ups for your website. The plugin’s main features include the ability to schedule website back-ups, create profiles for back-ups and restore the entire back-up or part of it from your WordPress dashboard.

Jetpack

For website security, reader engagement and increased traffic look no further than the Jetpack plugin. Jetpack also provides users with website statistics, website analysis and will automatically share content posts with Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit and other social sites. Additional features include a SEO tools for Google, Bing & Twitter.

AMP for WordPress

Mobile compatibility is one of the most important factors for any website, but it can sometimes be overlooked. But there is no use having a mobile compatible website if the load time is slow. AMP for WordPress will load your pages up to four-times faster and will bring you better visibility rates, high engagement rates with higher CTR, increase in monthly new users and return of users and decrease in number of page requests.