WordPress Plugins

You might be asking yourself, “What exactly is a plugin?”. Chances are, your website is already using one if not several plugins. These awesome bites of software add customized functionality to your website – think contact forms, SEO builders, mobile optimization, security protection…the list goes on and on. We’re excited to give you the rundown on plugins and discuss some of our favorites as well.

Plugins 101

Plugins are open-source (meaning the code is adjustable) software made up of PHP code and may include JavaScript, CSS, and images. They are fast and easy to install on your site, and easy to navigate as well. Because they are open-source and the WordPress developer community is vast, a wide array of plugins are available. The result is custom functionality for your site without manually adjusting the site’s code. The other awesome part about plugins? Many versions are absolutely free!

Popular Versions

Hammersmith Support includes plugins on our sites because they add functionality and allow us to customize each site with our clients’ needs in mind. Some of the most popular are:

  • Gravity Forms:  Build complex powerful forms, polls, quizzes and more
  • Yoast SEO: Optimize for keywords, keyphrases, synonyms, build a sitemap, etc.
  • Smart Crawler: SEO page scanner
  • Advanced Custom Fields: Add fields to your pages
  • Defender: A premium security plugin that monitors activity on your site as well as reporting on vulnerabilities and necessary updates

A Word of Caution

We would be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the potential pitfalls of using plugins. Just like your overall website, plugins should be updated on a monthly basis. Taking too long to update could potentially cause your site to be corrupted and not work properly or worse, leave your site open to hackers who exploit outdated versions of plugins to install malware. Once your site is out of date, it is likely that running updates will cause conflicts or issues that will could render parts of your site unusable. In any case, before launching or updating a plugin, be sure to copy your site as is. After activating or updating your plugins, test the site’s functionality (think lead forms, sign-ups, adding new content, etc.) to ensure all is well on the site.

How Hammersmith Support Can Help

If we lost you at backing up your site – let Hammersmith Support help! We offer monthly maintenance packages where we can keep your site up-to-date, running smoothly, including other vital maintenance, and content updates. In addition, Hammersmith Support is offering free training sessions that include tips on how to maintain and understand your WordPress website.

Book your free WordPress training session today!

Heather Locke of Hammersmith Support

When it comes to building a custom website, one designer does not fit all. Just like any creative job, some professionals are geared towards different industries, styles, specialties, and so on. Finding the right fit may take a little work, but the results of collaborating with the right website designer means your site will not only look beautiful but will also function well for your business and convert visitors into customers.

So, what kind of questions should you ask when looking for a website designer? Here are a few to get you started:

What Types of Businesses Do They Typically Work With?

This is a two-way street. On one hand, you want to know that a designer has experience in your industry…but at the same time, having experience in other areas is important, too. Having a well-rounded portfolio means that designers can adapt and create something unique for their clients based on their individual business.

A reputable company will be able to produce a portfolio of live websites that they have built. Bonus points if they A. still maintain those sites and B. have a referral from the owner.

Can the Designer Implement the Kind of Functionality That Your Business Site Needs?

Finding a great web designer who can create stunningly gorgeous websites is good, but if the site doesn’t have the functionality that you need, then you’re really just spending money on a pretty piece of art. A website that doesn’t convert visitors into customers utilizing smart functions on the site won’t do you any good.

Are They Telling You What You Already Know?

It’s important to remember that you’re not the expert and there should be things you don’t know about what should go into your website. So if a website designer is telling you only things you already know, beware. As professionals, they should be able to explain all parts of the website and why they’re necessary, even the parts you’re not familiar with.

On the flip side, someone not explaining consistently what is important or not important, and why – is a big red flag as well. A good website designer will be able to explain all aspects of the site build in understandable terms.

Does the Design Include “Behind the Curtain” Necessities?

This is similar to the functionality of the site. A great web designer is going to recommend a lot of things that your site visitors won’t see but that are necessary for site functionality. Things like plugins to improve SEO, loading times, and spam blockers. Security certificates, accessibility functions, mobile optimization and so on. Again, the visual design of the website is as important as the functionality behind the scenes.

Have You Scheduled a Free Consultation with Hammersmith Support?

Looking for even more questions? Click to download “The Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Website Designer“. At Hammersmith Support, we offer free consultations! This is where we can talk through your ideas, needs, and wants for your business website. Click over to our contact page where you can schedule a call directly from our website.

At Hammersmith Support, we value well-designed websites. We also know the importance of maintaining those sites regularly. We’ve posted about what WordPress website maintenance is and why it’s important. But we want to take a deeper look into exactly what on your site requires maintenance and why it matters how frequently maintenance is done.

Platform

The beauty of working with the WordPress platform is that it is always evolving to give users a better product. And that’s what you want as a customer! But with those changes come regular updates. Not staying current with those updates could potentially cause a lot of headaches. An older version of your platform could expose your site to security breaches, slow loading times, and overall poor performance of your website.

Plugins

Aaah, plugins. These awesome little bites of software are great for adding functionality to our sites. An example could be a spam blocker, an SEO booster, or your contact form – there are countless different plugins. While they add so much to a website, plugins need to be updated and tested regularly. You don’t want to find out three months after it happened that your contact form plugin has stopped working and is throwing an error or appearing to work but not sending notifications to you, so potential leads are somewhere in limbo.

Frequency

Annoying as it may be, your website really does need to be updated at least once a month, possibly more if a core update is pushed out (i.e., a security patch). Waiting too long can result in the update causing a plugin conflict and rendering parts of your site (or worse, your entire site) unusable. Just as with tuning up your car, waiting too long or not servicing it regularly can add to your cost in the long run. It’s much less expensive overall to maintain your site than it is to try recovering it or updating two years’ worth of plugins and WordPress versions, fixing all of the pages and forms that are broken in the process.

One More Thought

While a lack of maintenance on your website may not affect your site’s functionality immediately, it will definitely impact it at some point. The impact could be that you have broken graphics or sections of your site that are not displaying correctly. Or it could be that you wake up one morning to an inbox full of emails telling you that your homepage now displays inappropriate material placed there by hackers who were able to gain access through plugins that had not been updated.

Just remember SSP: Security, SEO Ranking, & Performance because without website maintenance, these will deteriorate or be compromised over time.

We’re Here to Help

At Hammersmith Support, we’re here to help make your site as amazing as possible. We can build your site from scratch, redesign your existing site, and update and maintain your site once it’s in tip-top shape so that it’s sure to stay that way. Contact us to talk through what we can do for you.

For so many businesses, it may be a slow or very slow time. But slow time doesn’t have to be wasted time. Utilizing newly open hours of your day by doing some work on your business website will ensure that it is in tip-top shape as things begin to rebound. Hammersmith Support has brought you many blog posts over the last year and we’ve gathered several that have great information about why and also how to get your website updated.

Enroll in Google Search Console and Google Analytics

Are you using either of these FREE tools from Google yet? If not, now is the perfect time to get rolling. Google Search Console will help you pinpoint any issues on your site and keep you updated should something go down. Google Analytics is great way to see where traffic to your site is coming from and more.

Look at SEO

If you’ve been neglecting your site’s search engine optimization, we’ve got a few ideas about how to fix that. First, read about what SEO is. Next, check out these organic (read: free) ways to boost your SEO.

Start Your Business Blog

You really do need that business blog! Not only is this a great way to reach out to customers and potential customers, blogs also feed your micro content (i.e. social media) and boost your SEO. Learn how to get started here.

Freshen Up Your Site

A stale site is not only bad for SEO, but it’s bad from a customer perspective too. If a potential client sees that your site never gets touched, it can be a huge red flag. There are some easy ways to update your site with new images, refreshed image information, a blog, new reviews from clients, updates to your “about” page, etc.

Get Some Support

Are there areas of your site that need a professional touch? Or is your site in need of a full overhaul or rebuild? Drop us a note, let us know what you’re thinking about and we’ll help make it a reality.

We’re here to help. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

2020 kicks off a shiny new decade and with that comes a lot of speculation about where technology is headed. In addition, the world has had a chance to take stock of the current technology and decide what we’re ready to get rid of. Why do technology trends matter? Because as consumers become more educated about various technology topics, they’re going to be looking to your site to be on trend. If it’s not, you may lose business as a competitor is waiting in the wings to scoop up that customer.

Blockchain Technology

Hammersmith Support preaches about security regularly, because it really is that important! Blockchain technology is the evolution of security on several levels. While somewhat complicated to explain, the concept is revolutionary for not just financial industries but all sensitive information. To break it down, a blockchain is a group of time-stamped, fixed / immutable records managed by a cluster of computers not owned by a single entity. What makes this special is that the process creates a record that cannot be copied because you would have to copy the entire history of the record, which has been bound to other records and transferred from multiple computers.

Beyond security, blockchain technology eliminates the need for a processing fee as any company can use it; it’s not owned by one company or individual. By eliminating the middle man, budgeting for transaction costs changes significantly.

Mobile Optimization

With over half of the world’s 3.9 billion internet users accessing sites from a mobile device, it makes sense that ensuring your website is optimized for mobile viewing is a top priority. So, how do you know if your site is ready for mobile viewing? Simple, open it up on your mobile device! Check each area. Do the menus work? Are the images sized appropriately? Are all the same links visible and easy to click?

5G Networks

Have you utilized a 5G WiFi network? The fifth generation of wireless internet is a lightning fast, cellular-based network that provides faster internet speeds and a simpler set up process. In addition, 5G uses significantly less energy than do older WiFi networks.

Accessibility

Having your business website accessible to all differently-abled users is crucial to business. Not only are 15% of users working with a disability, but more businesses are seeing discrimination lawsuits over the inability for everyone to access a website. Disabilities can be anything from dyslexia to physical disabilities, but simple changes to your site can make it accessible for everyone. Tab navigation, text that is able to be converted, and alt text are all small changes that make your website better for all users.

Now that we’ve talked about some of the new things to look for this year, let’s take a look at a couple of things that are on their way out…

Payment Apps

Payment apps themselves aren’t going anywhere, but the plethora of apps available will be. Consumers are finding it harder to utilize the benefits of the apps such as check splitting, because those features are only available if everyone is using the same app.

Streaming Services

Much like payment apps, consumers are not fans of the abundance of subscription-based streaming services. If a consumer had Netflix ($11.99), Amazon Prime ($12.99), Disney+ ($6.99), and Apple TV ($4.99), the total for streaming services alone (excluding the cost for the internet needed for streaming) would be nearly $40 a month or $480 a year. Look for services to begin bundling to save consumers some coin.

One of the parts we love most about our business is getting to know our clients. Not only does having a relationship help us build a better website for our clients, but we enjoy networking with and learning from our clients too. We’re thrilled today to bring you an interview with Margo Crawford, owner and founder of Wave Productivity. As a Productivity Coach, Margo is charged with training her clients to use tools to improve productivity through organization of their work space, time, and goal setting. Read on to get to know Margo and her “why” with Wave Productivity.

Tell Us a Little About You

I am the founder of Wave Productivity and as a Productivity Coach, I work with Serial Entrepreneurs, C-level professionals, and Small Business Owners to help them get more focused, organized and productive in their workplace.

I have been in the productivity and organizing industry for over 15 years, and I continue to receive training that will enhance the experience my clients have and to continue to evolve in my process. I earned my certification as a Certified Organizer Coach (C.O.C.) and my Specialist Certificate through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). In 2017, I was a finalist for Tempe Chamber’s Business Woman of the Year and I am member of Leadership Rhode Island Class 2020, Pi II. 

I make my home on the East Coast and I am an avid surfer – I’ve traveled the world searching for perfect waves. When I’m not on the beach, I love to volunteer and hang out with my gorgeous, very fast Whippet.

Talk to Us About Your “Why” and How That Motivated You to Start Wave Productivity.

There are so many business professionals who struggle day to day to keep doing great work. They are overwhelmed and stressed out with email, time and workflow management. There is so much to do and never enough time. I work with people to shift the way they work with productivity tools and techniques that make a difference in their day to day. With Productivity Coaching people increase revenue, gain clarity and most importantly feel more in control and confident.

What Is Unique About Your Style and Product Offering?

As business owners we don’t often get someone who listens to us. My work as a coach is about deep listening. From that, we take brave next steps in changing the way you work for the better.

What Advice Do You Have for Other Entrepreneurs?

Celebrate in your success. As Entrepreneurs we tend to gloss over our wins and milestones because we are on to the next big thing. Taking time to step back and see what went right and how we can replicate it has great learning. Plus, you can always celebrate with a little bubbly! <clink!>

Ready to Get Started? Click Over to Wave Productivity’s Website to Contact Margo:

www.waveproductivity.com

margo@waveproductivity.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/waveproductivity/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/crawford-organizing-solutions/about/

Want to Read More Interviews? Click Here for More on the Hammersmith Support Blog

We’ve preached in a number of posts about the need to keep website content fresh. It’s important from an end user perspective to provide quality and value. And fresh content is also important from an SEO standpoint – keeping it fresh allows search engines to re-evaluate and re-rank your site more often. Blogs, both written and video, are usually touted as the most common ways to improve SEO, but there are some alternative ways as well. Here are 3 lesser-known ways to keep website content fresh:

Images

Adding new and relevant images to your site is great not only for your site visitors, but for web crawlers as well. This includes memes, gifs, videos – anything that is related to your business or industry in any multimedia form. Display your social media on your site through a widget or plugin. The big message is to make sure your images are optimized using good “behind-the-scenes” information, including alt text, title, and descriptions. Be sure to have smart and usable captions under images as well. Not only do new images make end users happy, but web crawlers have recent information to analyze and rank.

Testimonials

We often think of testimonials are being important for our marketing to potential customers. And that is true, but adding new and or updated testimonials to your website is – say it with us – fresh content! If you’re utilizing a third party review site like Yelp or Google Reviews, consider putting some of the reviews on your website as well. If you aren’t using a third party, reach out to your business partners / customers and ask for reviews. Ask questions like, “What do you enjoy most about doing business with our company? How has our product worked for you?”. The more personal the relationship with the people you’re contacting, the more in depth the questions can be. For a blanket email to customers, keep it high level. Be sure to ask permission to post responses – and link to their business or website. This is important for validating the testimonials with customers as well as good SEO!

Revive an Older Post

OK, we know we said these would be alternative ideas to blogging, but this one is a little outside the box. If you’re stumped for new material or in a time crunch, opt to update an older blog and then re-post. Do not simply cut and paste into a new post. Instead, create a new introduction that talks about why you are choosing to re-post the information. Also be sure to update any information that may now be out of date.

According to CNBC, nearly 51% of 3.9 billion Internet users worldwide access websites exclusively from their smart phones. That number is expected to increase to 71% by 2025. Those are some incredible stats! These numbers are based on search engine information alone and don’t account for users who may come to your site via social media. Knowing this information, is your website optimized for mobile viewing?

Google Ranking: Mobile First Infrastructure

In 2016, Google added Mobile First Infrastructure to their 200+ ranking system for SEO. This means that websites that are built with the mobile version of their site first are given a higher ranking. Sites that have any mobile infrastructure are given a higher ranking, but those for smart phone first are the highest.

Types of Business / Clients

Some businesses may be saying “our customers don’t use their smart phones to buy” and for some, that’s true. B2B business is more than likely not being handled on mobile devices. However, B2C business has a much higher probability of being accessed on a smart phone. Not sure how your customers are accessing your site? Enroll your website in Google Analytics and use the Audience report to see how your customers are accessing and engaging with your site.

Testing End User Experience

Lastly, if your site is optimized for mobile view, be sure to test it! Ensuring that every part of your site, from the layout to the overall look, is accessible through the mobile version is critical. In addition, the functionality of a mobile site needs to be quick to load and easy to use – in fact, the majority of smart phone users expect the mobile version of a site to load faster than on a desktop computer, and they will turn to a competitor’s site if unsatisfied with loading times or functionality.

At Hammersmith Support, we work with many different client needs when it comes to their websites. Some need a refresh of their current site, some need a full rebuild. We also do ground up builds for clients who don’t currently have a website. Each type of client and their needs are unique and making the right recommendation for what exactly a client’s website needs is crucial. So how do you know what your site needs?

What is a Website Refresh?

A website refresh is similar to refreshing a home; it’s mostly cosmetic. In your home you might paint the walls, buy a new rug, bring in new furniture. Refreshing your site is similar in that colors, layout, content, and logos are reworked to create an updated look. Refreshing a site is perfect for businesses that are rebranding and/or updating product offerings – or just need a fresh look for their site. The new look alerts visitors that something has changed with the company and will get attention.

Who Qualifies for a Site Rebuild?

Companies that have an established website that has outdated infrastructure and/or can no longer support the business’ demands would qualify for a full site rebuild. This may include some refreshing visually, but typically will keep the same color scheme and logos to stay on brand. The majority of changes are behind the scenes, updating the site framework to support new business channels such as e-commerce, site security, speed and optimization capabilities.

How Do You Know Which You Need?

Take a look at your business goals and what is limiting those goals when it comes to your website. Are you ready to start selling your products online? Do you need to be able to retain visitor contact information and aren’t able to do so on your current site? Is your site speed fast enough? Does your site look outdated but serve your business well? Knowing the answers to these questions can help point you in which direction to go. And Hammesmith Support is always here to help you work through the best options for you and your business.

Here at Hammersmith Support, we’ve been highlighting the various ways to boost your website’s SEO organically – meaning without paid ads / services. Fresh content, both internal and external links, using Google Search Console are all important parts of SEO. But what about the videos and images you’re using in your content? Are you getting the maximum SEO boost that you could from those images? Here are 5 items to consider for each visual post to ensure you are getting the biggest bang for your image bucks:

File Name

When uploading pictures to your website for a blog or any purpose really, be sure that your file name is complete. Web crawlers look to the name of each image to categorize it. Be sure to use plain but distinctive language and avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. For example, if using this image:

Hammersmith Support Website Maintenance

The image name could be “Hammersmith Support Website Maintenance”. This allows search engines to categorize the image and keeps your site name prominent as well.

Alt Text

Alt Text is often over looked because most don’t understand what it is and what it does. Alt Text are the descriptive words that appear should an image fail to load. The wording is also used for those who are visually impaired. Similar to the image name, using a short and plain, but distinctive description works best for web crawlers to analyze and catagorize. The difference is that the description should also include model numbers, years, anything that is specific to the image.

For this image, the Alt Text could be “Meridian Search Consultants Website Build 2019 Graphic on Laptop Screen”.

Meridian Search Consultants Website Build 2019 Graphic on Laptop Screen

Size Images

Keeping the size of your images in mind is important because an image that is too large won’t load quickly. This is an issue for both SEO and for your visitors. Most are not going to wait around for 3-5 seconds for an image to load. So keeping image size on the smaller side is important. On that same note, keep image sized uniform as well. This is less for SEO and more for the visual appeal of your site – which is important for keeping visitors there longer.

Captions

While these are analyzed for SEO, captions are utilized mostly by readers. Captions are the short descriptions under an image – they’re descriptive, yet not literal like Alt Text. Readers scan captions quicker than the body of the page content – if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re likely to bounce out of the site. So good captions keep readers.

The caption for this image could read “At Hammersmith Support, understanding our client’s needs is the paramount to our work.”

Hammersmith Support

Use Relevant Images

Slapping just any old image on your site won’t do you any good with boosting your SEO. Be sure that the images you choose are relevant not only to your business, but more importantly, be sure that they are pertinent to the content around the image. Using relevant images to your topic is important from a few angles. First, it lends validity to your site from a search engine standpoint, and a visitor one as well. Second, it gives an informative and professional appearance to your site. Avoid posting any images that don’t work with your content – the result is spammy and will turn off readers and search engines.

Don’t have any images to use? Don’t worry! There are tons of free stock photo sites out there – our favorites are Canva and Pexels. Just be sure your images are on topic.