Category Archives: Webmaster Services

Your New Website: Vet Your WordPress Theme with These Tips

Nancy McCord a Google Partner and Bing Partner
Nancy McCord a Google Partner and Bing Partner

Many business owners of websites older than five years are thinking of updating their websites this year. A frequent question we get at McCord Web Services is “Is WordPress right for me?” For some businesses WordPress may be a good fit, but it is important to understand that you do have options to a WordPress website.

In this series on WordPress or PHP, we will be looking at the pros and cons as well as benefits and challenges.

If you are considering a WordPress website please review my checklist below before you make a final selection and get your site into production. I encourage you to have a frank talk with your potential website designer and nail down some of these issues before you go to contract or fund the project with a deposit.

WordPress Theme Vetting Checklist

  1. If you are using a custom created theme, ask to see links of similar projects. Input the URL in the Google Page Speed tool to understand clearly the page speed you may end up with in your custom project. https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
  2. If you are going to use a pre-designed theme, all theme designers will have a “live preview”. Ask for that link and input the URL in Google’s page speed tester. https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Better yet, let your web designer know that you will not want to use any WordPress themes that do not score in the “green” zone on the Google Page Speed Tester.
  3. Assure that your site designer knows that you will want to use AMP plugins to render your WordPress website to be AMP friendly. If the designer has used that theme before, ask to see the AMP page of a site. The page you see in your browser and smartphone should not have navigation links and elements with the content pushed to the bottom. It should have a narrow banner and content. If you see a lot of navigation links, it means that the theme’s navigation is not compatible with the AMP plugins. If your site designer cannot provide a page for you to use, consider buying the theme in question, having them do the installation, install the AMP plugin for your evaluation before you go further. Do not do site build-out until you verify that this is not an issue with your theme. It is by far better to write off the cost of the theme (typically under $100) and choose a new theme to get the AMP compatibility you really need.
  4. Review with your web designer the type of theme they will be using. It is easy for another webmaster to come in and put in blog content. Will blog post pages have builder fields and have to be customized at installation or will the blog content entry fields be typical as in WordPress Twenty Seventeen or Twenty Eighteen. Does the blog require a featured image and what are the size dimensions of the featured image? For many sites using featured images an image of 1920 by 1080 is required. This requires the blog post installer to buy a special larger image and then resize it to fit. This is an added expense that you should know about before you purchase your theme or go into production as you will incur additional costs.
  5. Let the website designer know you are serious about security. All testing logins and user names and passwords at set up should be complicated and never use admin or default settings. After launch WordFence Premium can be added for additional security and firewall protection, but don’t allow your site to be hacked while in the design phase through lax security.

In our next blog post on Wednesday, we will discuss why there has to be such a focus on page speed for your new website.

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Google States Mobile Page Speed Will be a Ranking Indicator

We Are a Google Partner Specializing in Search Marketing, Mobile, and Display.
We Are a Google Partner Specializing in Search Marketing,, Mobile, and Display.

Well that cat is finally out of the bag! Google has stated that in July they will now be using the mobile page speed of your website as a mobile index ranking indicator.

This is very important news. Google had already moved to using just the mobile index for determining the organic ranking for all platforms and no longer had a separately ranked desktop index. The announcement released on Wednesday January 17th goes even further.

Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

The key takeaway on this announcement is that page speed is important to Google and should be an important factor in the selection of any new WordPress theme or website design or web design platform.

Page speed will not be going away and site owners need to really start a review and efforts to address their slow loading websites.

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Are You AMP’ed Up Yet?

Is Your Website Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?
Is Your Website Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

Is your website AMP’ed? If it is you most certainly know that I am talking about Accelerated Mobile Pages, and Google loves them.

If you are not, it is relatively easy to create an AMP page template for your HTML website. Just follow some of these links to learn more and to see examples.

https://moz.com/blog/accelerated-mobile-pages-whiteboard-friday

https://www.ampproject.org/

If you have a WordPress website there are a number of great plugins you can use. I like the following:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/accelerated-mobile-pages/

https://wordpress.org/plugins/amp/

As AMP’ed websites are important from Google viewpoint and Google is actively showing AMP pages in the mobile index, it is important to know and understand why your website needs to embrace AMP now.

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Chat Apps for Your Website

Find out about website chat aps
Find out about website chat aps

Seems simple, just install code and you’ve got a chat app. But not so fast. I am finding out from personal experience that not all chat apps are alike.

I started out with Drift and still have that chat app on my blog (for now). What I found as I used the app was it slowed my website to a crawl for load time. I think much of this is the code is installed in the head tag as instructions state, but may be better installed before the </body>.

What is happening on my site is the page is taking so long to load and the navigation does not operate until the chat app function appears – I consider this very bad. Drift must have made a code change to the asynchronous code recently as the page load time was not an issue before but started about two weeks ago.  As a result I have been actively looking for a website chat app replacement.

I have tried three Tawk.to, MyLiveChat, and now Pure Chat. I am using Pure Chat on my website right now and so far I do like the free version. What I consider important for a website chat app are the following:

  1. Easy to install
  2. Able to configure colors
  3. Has a rock solid mobile app
  4. Does not impact page load speed

So far Tawk.To and My Live Chat  were too complicated for my needs and cumbersome to use.  Pure Chat has easy set up and I do like the mobile app which is simple to use.

I will be doing additional testing in the weeks ahead and when I settle on one, I’ll post it on my blog.

 

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Tips for Moving to a New Web Host

Expect the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected.

Moving to a new web host? Here are my top tips on quickly moving with a minimum of downtime for HTML and PHP (non-database driven) websites.

Know Before You Go
Make sure you know what is going on with your site before you go. What are you using at your old webhost? Email? Script? When you repoint your domain to your new host, anything that you had at your old host is wiped. That means you will have to set up email accounts, any scripts, and any other things you have been using. Make sure before you move, that your webmaster does their due diligence and make sure you are knowledgeable to inform them of what you have and are doing. Typically they can see scripts that run your website, but may not know of your mail server set up.

Use a Web Host that Provides a Temporary Domain
I like Hostway, when I set up a new domain that is owned or pointed elsewhere, Hostway gives me a temporary domain to use. I can load files and even test scripts and make any changes I need to before I move a domain and go live. If you don’t see this option ask, as sometimes it can be turned on for you.

Test, Test, Test
Before launch of any site, I do extensive testing both in my clients area and then in the temporary domain. Try to get all problems resolved before you turn your new site on. It will save having headaches and frustration.

Be Prepared for Propagation
Once you repoint your domain name servers to a new web host, be prepared for propagation. Know that it takes typically 4 to 6 hours for servers to refresh and longer for small internet service providers for your domain at the new web host to be seen consistently and properly. Don’t freak out when you cannot see your site. This takes time and there is nothing you can do to speed the process.

Looking for a webmaster to help you move to a new web host? Contact us and review our webmaster services today.

 

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Weighing Your Options for Website Redesign Work

Solutions for your business that make sense.
Solutions for your business that make sense.

Many legacy website owners are now looking at upgrading their websites to leverage new technologies but what type of site should you consider as you weigh your options?

WordPress Websites Pros and Cons

I have a love/hate relationship with WordPress. I love the power and adaptability. I love the free plugins, but I hate the security problems and I hate the lack of really fine control both for SEO use and for image placements.

If a client decides that they want to do their own content updates, WordPress is perfect for them, but at a cost.

If a client does not buy a security monitoring service like WordFence or SiteLock, they may leave their expensive new website open to becoming hacked and banned on Google (until remediated from a hack).

Being secure costs money and WordPress is not a set it and forget it application. Be prepared if you decide to do your own updates that you need security software and need to do your own weekly site updates to keep WordPress secure.

HTML Websites Pros and Cons

For clients that are never going to do their own updates and do not need special plugin features from WordPress, I love a regular HTML version website. I love the control of page and image naming, the ability to have total control over site architecture, and the security of knowing that hackers do not typically use HTML websites as a platform to spew spam or malware.

HTML websites do not need regular security review, analysis and monitoring as WordPress sites do. But as technology changes they typically should be replaced about every five years.

If you need help with a SEO focused information-rich website for your service business and are not using ecommerce, pick up the phone and chat with me about your needs at 540-693-0385. I’d be glad to let you candidly know if our services would be a good match for your needs.

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