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What is Malware and How to Prevent It

If you’ve been a victim of malware, you know how frustrating it is to remove. Unless you’re an expert, you may lose valuable time and money trying to figure out how to fix the damage done. This blog will explain what malware is, and how to prevent it from happening.

What is Malware?

Malware stands for malicious hardware. As you can probably figure out, is not something you want on your WordPress website. “The most common types of malware are viruses, trojans, worms, spyware and zombies,” states Website Defender.

This website explains different types of malware, stating that the most common type of malware comes in the shape of a virus. Viruses are very tricky to detect because they can live on your site for different periods of time without you knowing about them. Your WordPress site may act strange all of a sudden but it doesn’t always mean it has just been infected. The virus could have been implemented days, weeks, months, or even years ago before manifesting itself. The trick is, it acts like your own site for some time, which helps the site’s owner not realize that an infection has occurred.

A worm is a more extreme case of a virus. Viruses spread on one computer, while worms have the capability to travel between computers, thus making them much more aggressive when spreading.

A trojan is an attack that is masked as something else, like a photo or a video. For example, if you get an e-mail from an unknown address asking you to open a photo, the photo can actually contain malware in the form of a trojan. The trojan will then leave a virus on your computer.

Spyware is malware that people use to get information from people’s computers. First, the spyware gathers info. Then the info is sent back to the person who infected the computer.

Zombies are probably the most unpleasant form of malware for those that witness its effects. Once a zombie has been implemented on a computer, the controller can send commands that your computer will follow. Therefore, it can greatly affect your WordPress site, making it do whatever the controller wants. If you’ve ever operated your computer, only to be shocked to see it having a mind of its own, it most likely has been infected with a zombie.

Good Hosting Companies to Prevent Malware

From our experience, we have found that most types of malware affect WordPress sites through hosting companies. Hosting companies sell you space on the Internet where your WordPress site will exist. The best malware removal tip is to prevent malware from getting on your site. Two good hosting companies we can recommend are WP Engine and Siteground.

WordPress hostingWP Engine

Although this hosting is very tech-heavy, it is also great for novices as they have very helpful customer service. Every single member of their staff is a hosting expert, and they will take the time to answer all your questions about what is malware and also steps to prevent malware. They offer time machine based backups for easy rollback or restores, and if your site does ever get hacked, they will take full responsibility and restore it at no cost. One great feature is that they offer a clone button of your live site that copies your WordPress site to staging environment. This is great for development as it create a “sandbox” site for development and testing without effecting your current, live site. The first level of hosting is $29/mo per site risk-free for 60 days.

NOTE: WP Engine doesn’t offer an email solution so this would have to be setup independently. Rackspace has dedicated email ($2/mo per user) or Google Apps for Business ($50/year per user).hosting for wordpress

SiteGround

For more affordable hosting, we like SiteGround, which offers competitive rates for hosting and is WordPress friendly. SiteGround claims that they create custom hosting for each WordPress site, making it faster and better. They often run promotions so you can check the site for their latest offers. Their first package starts at $3.95/mo for 1-3 years and then switches to $9.95/mo. For added security, we recommend adding CloudFlare and security plugins such as Login Lockdown, Sucuri’s one click hardening, BulletProof Security, Sitelock, or Wordfence. The best thing about CloudFlare is its capability of expediting and safeguarding practically anything online. This includes the great mass of websites, APIs, and other properties connected to the Internet. SiteGround has a built-in one-click integration with cPanel and a lower rate on the Plus plan. It can also help speed up the site.

Plugins to Keep Your Site Secure

Login Lockdown is a security plugin that has the capability of limiting the number of login attempts from a given IP range within a certain time period. Every failed attempt is recorded then the login function is disabled. It currently defaults to an hour lock out of an IP block after 3 failed attempts within 5 minutes.

Sucuri is a globally recognized authority in all matters related to website security, with specialization in WordPress Security. The Sucuri Security WordPress Security plugin is free to all WordPress users.

Bulletproof Security protects against known and unknown attacks like brute force login attack. It also features database backup and protection, and firewall security and protection.

Sitelock protects more than six million websites all over the world.  It has all the technology to do regular scanning, auto-removal of malware, and web app firewall to ensure the safety of sites.

Wordfence is a security plugin that provides the best protection suited to a particular website. This is also powered by the constantly updated Threat Defense Feed, which allows WordFence Firewall to stop websites from getting hacked. Wordfence Scan leverages the same proprietary feed, alerting website users quickly in the event the site is compromised.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Why Creating a WordPress Child Theme is Important For Your Site

Cute little girl and mother on bed using laptop at home in the bedroom

A developer recently asked us about the benefits of creating a WordPress child theme for websites. This was such a great question, after all, many people do not know or would not think of how to create two different versions of their site. However, creating a parent and a child theme is actually very important for a particular website.

While many people who have a WordPress blog or site will choose to use the default themes that WordPress offers, this may not be always the best option. Even some of the best WordPress themes are already set up, so it can be minimal in terms of functionality and features, and customization is limited. Therefore, we usually say that the best WordPress themes are custom, with the help of frameworks such as WooThemes. However, you should decide what works best for you depending on your skill level and needs.

Woo Themes

Woo Themes

What is a WordPress Theme Framework?

A parent theme, also known as a WordPress theme framework is “the term WordPress theme framework often refer to a code library that is used to facilitate development of a theme,” according to WP Beginner. Various theme frameworks exist, some are paid, others are free. Some allow you to just implement design if you’re a beginner and don’t really know how to set up a WordPress blog or site, and others offer the bare minimum and allow you to code the site to your specifications.

Among the recent best choice when it comes to building WordPress websites is BeaverBuilder.  It became popular for a number of reasons. Images and texts can be positioned with precision, and column-based layouts can be built in a matter of minutes. It also comes with a number of gorgeous page templates to choose from.

There are many advantages to using a theme, for example, it speeds up development time because you don’t need to build your website or WordPress blog from scratch. Also, some of the best WordPress themes are popular, so if you have any questions, there are forums where you can get help from others.

What is a WordPress Child Theme?

A WordPress child theme is a theme that you create for your WordPress blog or site. The most important thing to know is that a child theme is a secondary theme. The first and main theme that you create is called a parent theme. This is the framework where you control all the functions.

“A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme,” states WordPress. “Child theme allows you to modify, or add to the functionality of that parent theme. A child theme is the safest and easiest way to modify an existing theme, whether you want to make a few tiny changes or extensive changes. Instead of modifying the theme files directly, you can create a child theme and override within.”

wordpress theme framework

WordPress theme

What are the Benefits of Creating a WordPress Child Theme?

1. Development – Creating a child theme will speed up the time it takes to develop your WordPress blog or site. It’s also pretty easy to learn as many of the best WordPress themes allow even beginners to easily set up a theme.

2. Not Losing Changes – Many times, when you update a WordPress theme, any changes or customization you have made to your website will be lost. Creating a WordPress child theme prevents that from happening. You can customize the child theme, and then update the parent theme. All the updates and new features will automatically be applied to the child theme, but none of the customization will be affected.

3. Allows for Mistakes – “When you are creating a complete theme, you need to think about all the possible scenarios and code for them,” says WP Beginner. “However, when you are working on a child theme and you forgot to code for something, then there is always the parent theme’s functionality available as the fallback option.”

How to Create a WordPress Child Theme

WordPress.org gives a great summary of how to create a child theme:

  • Create a directory in your themes directory to hold the child theme. The theme directory is wp-content/themes. You should name the directory without any space as part of the name, and it is common practice to use the name of the parent theme folder with “-child” appended to it. For example, if you are making a child of the twentythirteen theme, your folder name would be twentythirteen-child.
  • In the child theme directory, create a file called style.css. This is the only file required to make a child theme. The style sheet must start with the following lines:
/*
 Theme Name:     Twenty Thirteen Child
 Theme URI:      http://example.com/twenty-thirteen-child/
 Description:    Twenty Thirteen Child Theme
 Author:         John Doe
 Author URI:     http://example.com
 Template:       twentythirteen
 Version:        1.0.0
*/

@import url("../twentythirteen/style.css");

/* =Theme customization starts here
-------------------------------------------------------------- */

You can change each of these lines to suit your theme. The only required lines are the Theme Name, and the Template. The Template is the directory name of the parent theme. In this case, the parent theme is the TwentyThirteen theme, so the Template is twentythirteen, which is the name of the directory where the TwentyThirteen theme resides. If you want to make a child of a theme with the directory name example-theme-name, then you would use Template: example-theme-name.

  • The child theme’s stylesheet is included after the parent theme’s and styles will therefore override those in the parent theme’s stylesheet.
  • Activate the child theme. Log in to your site’s dashboard, and go to Administration Panels > Appearance > Themes. You will see your child theme listed there. Click Activate.

In conclusion, remember that creating a WordPress child theme can have many great benefits to your WordPress blog or site. However, if you don’t make too many changes to your original site, you may not need one. So do your research and figure out the best way to go for your website.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Why WordPress is the Best Solution for Your E-commerce Store

More and more people and companies are turning to the Internet to sell merchandise or services. E-commerce stores have become so popular that in just three months in 2005, sales from e-commerce stores totaled $22.3 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With an e-commerce site, you can sell practically anything from clothes to food, vitamins to art, even services, such as translating or writing. All you need to do is to make a great, easy-to-use and functional website.

For our clients, we always turn to WordPress – a great option for both novice and seasoned web designers. WordPress is very customizable to all your needs and has thousands of forums with discussions on how to navigate the site.

Read this blog for our advice or reasons why WordPress is the best solution for your e-commerce store and find out why Mashable said that “today, e-commerce on WordPress is ready for prime time.”

Three Reasons Why WordPress is the Best Solution for Your E-commerce Store

WooCommerce

WooCommerce

One of the best reasons why WordPress should be your first choice when it comes to e-commerce is “WooCommerce.” It’s a free, popular toolkit for your WordPress site.

WooCommerce is a platform that’s perfect for e-commerce startups because it can expand in many ways. With its huge flexibility, WooCommerce can be capable of selling downloads, physical products, virtual products, subscriptions, and more. Additionally, your products can be categorized and given sale prices. All these can help you grow your business sans the trouble of having a number of plugins and solutions to maintain.

This plugin also works seamlessly with PayPal, the number one way to accept payments online, as well as UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc. Even though you may be just one person packing and sending out your merchandise, you can be as efficient and trustworthy as a big retail giant, such as Amazon, with all the tools that WooCommerce provides.

WooCommerce also lets you run great promotions on your WordPress e-commerce site with specials, coupons, sales, promotional codes, and even gift certificates. Furthermore, the plugin keeps track of all your visitors, sales, turn around, etc. to provide you with an accurate picture of how your business is doing. You can see what your most popular products are, how many people come to your site and leave without buying anything, and how promotions affect your sales.

Digital Downloads

If you are selling photographs, music, books, or other digital downloads, WordPress is a great solution. WordPress has various plugins to sell your downloads without your customers ever having to leave your store. For example, Easy Digital Downloads lets you sell e-books and other downloads free of charge. The best part is that as long as you have an active WordPress e-commerce site, you can set up this plugin and start selling in minutes. They have over 190 extensions to truly set up your website to your needs and preferences.paypal

PayPal for Digital Goods is another reason why WordPress is the best solution for your e-commerce store. PayPal makes it just as easy to sell music as it is to sell shoes. The best part about using PayPal is its top of the line security. Clients feel safe entering their bank and credit card information, and you, the seller, feel safe knowing that PayPal will protect you from fraudulent attempts.

Affiliates

If you want to start an e-commerce site, you can start to make money without having any merchandize to sell. The way you can do that is through affiliate networking. Read our blog about the best WordPress affiliate plugins for more information. This is how an affiliate program works. Say you want to sell products from Amazon. You sign up to Amazon’s affiliate program, which gives you the right to sell their merchandise on your e-commerce website. When you make a sale, Amazon ships the item for you, and pays you a commission of the proceeds. This is a great way to make money online, as you don’t need to invest in any items to sell; you simply make money every time someone buys something from Amazon from your site.

The team at Behla Design, Graphic Design & Web Development, is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of top web design, web development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals that had worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years. Contact us today to find out how we can help your next project.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, woocommerce

Fixing WordPress Image Issues and Blurry Photos

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Do you know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” A good image is the number one reason your product will sell online, or the best way you can share your experience of a beautiful sunset on your blog. Uploading photos to WordPress is typically simple. All you need to do is upload from a website or your computer via the Media Uploader. You can choose files already in your media library, or add new ones.

Although this process is usually problem-free, one of the most common questions we get from clients is why images on their sites don’t load. Why do they come out looking fuzzy or blurry? There are various reasons why you may be getting an error message or a photo that is not clear. Large image, for instance, when not sized properly may appear indistinguishable and can slow down your website as visitors start to view the pictures.

Read below for some helpful tips about uploading the best quality images to WordPress.

#1 – Error

The best words of advice that we can offer when it comes to uploading photos on WordPress are “try” and then “try again.” Sometimes an error message has nothing to do with your image, but a simple online glitch. Before doing anything else, save your work and close WordPress. Open it again, login, and then try to load your image again. Chances are, it will load with no issues.

#2 – File Uploading

Remember to prepare and edit image files ahead of time before uploading to WordPress. This can be done using Apple Image Preview to make sure the size is right. Preview makes it easy to view and edit Portable Document Files (PDFs) and popular image files like JPEG and PNG. Another option for online image editing is Pixlr which enables you to fix, adjust, and filter images in a browser. Of course, the industry standard is Adobe Photoshop. Keep in mind that all images for the web use a resolution of 72 pixels per inch.

#3 – File Size

Not uploading a file image in the right size is one problem that our clients encounter while using WordPress. There are instances when you are attempting to upload a giant photo of a product you’re selling, but you actually want it to show up as a small thumbnail. You have a potential problem in this case. Or, if you have a small screenshot of a photo that you are trying to show off, your image may end up being blurry. The first thing you want to do to troubleshoot is to check your WordPress settings. Usually WordPress themes allow you to specify the size for the single product image.

Blogmistress recommends checking the settings. In your Dashboard go to Settings, Media and look in the Uploading Files section, the Store uploads in this folder. WordPress tells you that the default is wp-content/uploads and if you have something different to this, change it.” If you follow the recommended file sizes, your images should look correct.

Large image size can be trimmed down in order to optimize it. A webpage usually has a content area of at least 960px and thus sizing large images to around 960px wide should be sufficient for a normal website, says OM4.

#4 – File Type

WordPress has a list of image file types that you are allowed to upload. WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress, lists the accepted files as follows:

  • .jpg
  • .jpeg
  • .png
  • .gif

Make sure that you are using one of these file names as part of the name of your image. Also, please remember that if you are finding images online, you need to have the owner’s permission before you can use it on your WordPress site. If you can’t buy the rights and don’t have permission, do not use that image.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

If you’d like to discuss the best image options for your website, contact Behla Design.

how to

How to Start an Online Business

business, education, technology and people concept - close up of woman with internet news application on tablet pc computer screen, notebook and coffee on wooden table

Do you have unique items to sell, found a great wholesale deal on terrific products, or simply wish to make an extra income? Have you considered opening up an e-commerce store? Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to make money online. We help clients every day by explaining how to start an online business. By reading this blog, you can partake in some of our knowledge and how we’ve helped our clients achieve the success they desire.

Benefits of an Online Business

There are so many great benefits to starting an online business. The first advantage is saving money. A physical store entails many processes like signing a multi-year lease, paying rent and utilities, and hiring salespeople, etc. On top of that, you need to invest money into furniture and decor for the store or business and other expenses. With an online business, you don’t need any of that. You can work from anywhere while you start out, even in your own garage.

The second benefit to starting an online business is that you get to work from home. This means you get to spend more time with your family members and have time to pick up your kids from school, if you prefer. You can even make money online while in your pajamas! Furthermore, you don’t have to spend money on gas driving to and from work, lunch at work, and so on.

But perhaps the biggest benefit to starting an online business is that your items will be available to people all over the world. With a physical location, only people in that neighborhood or city will come to shop or use your services. With an online store, there are no boundaries to where your clients can live.

How to Start an Online Business with WordPress

So you want to work from home and make money online? Follow these five steps that will teach you how to start an online business.

start an online business

WordPress theme

1. Create a Website – We are huge fans of WordPress. This free web software allows anyone, whether novice or expert, to create a site for their needs. All you need to do is first find a host that is compatible with WordPress. That is not hard to do, as there are thousands of options to choose from. Then, you can download and sign up for a WordPress account. This will take no more than five minutes.

WordPress has numerous support forums online and countless YouTube videos that explain different features to help you customize your online business website. Thousands of plugins are also compatible with WordPress, some free and some paid, and these are very easy to upload and edit. Read some of our other posts to find out what other steps you can take to customize and improve your site with content writing, search options, shipping options, etc.

2. Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This is probably the most important thing you can do apart from building a great, easy-to-use website, and offering great products or services, according to Entrepreneur. SEO means doing research to optimize your website to register and come up in Google searches. Say you sell clothes online. How are you going to compete with thousands of other e-commerce stores that sell clothes? You will do so by researching which keywords or terms potential clients are searching for.

Keyword planner from Google Adwords is a great, free tool at your disposal. You need to enter a term that you think your buyers would search for, such as True Religion jeans, and you will see how many monthly searches that term has, and what the competition for that term is. Competition just means how many other sites are optimizing for that same keyword; Google will tell you if the competition is low, medium, or high. You want to pick keywords with the most searches and the least amount of competition.

3. Register your business – Many people don’t know about this crucial step, but if you want to make money online, you need to get a license. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) is a great resource on the laws and regulations in each state. Remember that there are federal, state and local regulations for businesses, even if you work from home to make money online.  “If you are operating your online business in a state that charges a sales tax; or levies a gross receipts or excise tax on businesses you may have to apply for a tax permit or otherwise register with your state revenue agency,” according to the SBA. “Online businesses are responsible for collecting state and local sales taxes from their customers when applicable, and paying these taxes to state and local revenue agencies.”

4. Make a Business Plan – You may just start out selling, say, your collection of baseball memorabilia, but what if your online business truly takes off? What if you run of out merchandise, but have a high demand? What if you need to expand quickly, hire staff, or rent warehouse space? Even though you make money online, you need to have a solid business plan for your website. Small Business BC will guide you how to setup a successful plan.

5. Become an Expert – You may sell products that are available on other websites, or services that others may find elsewhere, but what can set you apart is your expertise. Setting yourself up as an expert is not difficult on your website. Write blogs or articles that have relevance to what you’re offering. If you’re selling green products for example, share important news about alternatives to common products that can promote a green lifestyle. Share your own stories about your experiences and post pictures. Chances are, someone on your website will like what they read, and they will start to follow you. Then, they will be a client for life.

Need Help in Your Online Business?

The Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years. For more information about how to start an online business, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

WordPress – The Best Solution for a School Website

WordPress - The Best Solution for a School WebsiteI recently worked with a school administrator to set up a school website. Upon outlining all the needs of the site, I recommended that they choose WordPress because I believe that it would be the best choice for setting up and managing the site. WordPress is easy to understand and learn, and it has thousands of free and paid plugins to customize the site to each school’s needs. Below is an outline of what a complete school website would require, and explanations of how WordPress meets those needs.

 

Outline of a School Website’s Needs

1. User Groups

One thing that is unique about a school’s website is that it will have different user groups. While an online store, for example, targets one user group (clients), a school has numerous ones. There are parents, students, teachers, and administrators. You want all of them to be able to access the site. However, not all of them can have equal access to all of the information. WordPress can take care of all of this for you. WordPress has a great plugin named Groups, which provides management for an unlimited number of groups. The plugin claims to provide “group-based user membership management, group-based capabilities and access control for content, built on solid principles.” 

2. Calendar

A good school website will have a functioning calendar which will encompass school holidays, vacations, field trips, short days, fundraisers, school activities, etc. I wrote another blog about the best WordPress calendar plugins, which can be viewed here. There are four options which you can read about, and pick one that is best for you. We have had good success using the All in One Calendar plugin as it has many integrations and premium features as well.

3. Media

School website administrators will surely want to share photos and videos of students during school field trips, athletic events, etc. on the site. Furthermore, uploading files with report cards, letters to parents and school requirements will be necessary. WordPress is great at allowing users to upload and share media. There is a media uploader, which makes it easy to show off files in a post or page. Once uploaded, the Media Library “allows you to edit, view, and delete Media previously uploaded to your blog. Multiple Media objects can be selected for deletion. Search and filtering ability is also provided to allow you to find the desired Media,” according to WordPress’ Codex.

4. Directory

It’s necessary to create a directory of students, parents, volunteers, etc. to run a school. WordPress has several plugins for you to do so. The Connections Business Directory plugin lets you create an address book, a staff directory, or any other directory that you need. It has an integrated dashboard, which keeps you up-to-date with school holidays, student birthdays, and any other pertinent contact news. The plugin gives control to what individual or group sees what entries.

5. Newsletters

Newsletters to students’ families are a must to keep them caught up with school news. WordPress has tons of newsletter plugins, such as MailPoet Newsletters, Newsletter, and E-mail Newsletter. These plugins lets you create a customized newsletter with your school’s colors, photos, and unlimited subscribers.

6. Social Media

Nowadays, everything is about social media. WordPress integrates automatically with Facebook and Twitter, updating these sites with the latest blogs and posts from your school’s website. You can also configure other social media platforms to connect to your school sites.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing the customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

If you’d like to discuss setting up a website for your school, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, how to

WP Engine: Best WordPress Hosting Solution

wordpress-hostingThere are many reasons why you may want to set up a website, but before you do, you need to decide on a hosting solution for that site. Hosting gives your website a place to exist on the web. Here’s a great explanation for what website hosting is, according to HostGator.com: “The web-hosting or server is much like the space that you rent out to have your business in. It’s merely the space itself. It does not include furnishings like shelves for your products, just as the web-hosting account doesn’t include a site for you to sell your products…Without the hosting services, you won’t have a place for your files to reside, so your domain would then become like a disconnected phone number in the phone directory, and your site files would have nowhere to stay.”

Picking a hosting company might seem like a minor choice, but to me, it is one of the most important decisions you can make with your company. To some extent it is your entire presence as your site is the gateway to the business. I always recommend WP Engine to my clients who work with WordPress sites, and there are many reasons why.

What is WP Engine?

WP Engine is a hosting platform for WordPress sites. They only work with WordPress, so that means that all their software and hardware is designed specifically for these sites. They offer managed hosting, which means that they are involved in the back end of your hosting, protecting you from hacks, offering high speed for your site, as well as backing up your site daily, just in case.

WP EngineReasons Why WP Engine is the Best WordPress Hosting Solution

1. Security – One of the most important things a hosting company needs to offer is security from hacks. I have spent days restoring and fixing the websites of clients who chose to go with a cheaper hosting company. The best part is they will handle all security issues for you if a security issue occurs, so you don’t have to do anything. At no cost to you, they will work on restoring your site.

2. SpeedWP Engine claims that their new WordPress architecture, EverCache, will allow thousands of users to visit your site at the same time without your website experiencing slow speed or being taken offline. If you know that your site will experience heavy traffic, you can contact them to provide temporary measures to accommodate the traffic. Furthermore, Google tracks site speed with WP Engine. Google will penalize sites that can’t handle many visitors, and will not always recommend that website high in its search results. If your speed is fast, that’s much better for your search engine optimization (SEO), and will allow more visitors to find your site.

3. Backups – You don’t have to pay extra to backup your site in case a hack or a malfunction occurs. WP Engine offers time machine based backups so you can easily restore a previous version in case hacking occurs, and they have one click restore points. And the best part is that they backup your site every single day with a backup formula that they create nightly.

4. Development – Whether you will do this yourself, or turn to a professional, WP Engine is great for development. WP Engine has all of their sites on SSD drives (no moving parts) and is very tech heavy.  One great feature is that they offer a clone button of your live site that copies your site to staging environment. This is great for development as it create a “sandbox” site for development and testing without effecting your current, live site. They also have a staging environment (temp URL) to test the site before going live. These are some of the options they offer to developers, according to the WP Engine site:

“Having trouble running down a performance problem? We’ll do code-level PHP profiling to identify the issue and suggest code changes to address it, especially if there’s something inside our own architecture that you can take advantage of.

A PHP bug causing the white screen of death? We provide error logs to help you out.

Use direct SFTP access to your blog’s wp-content directory, so you can use your favorite HTML, CSS, and PHP editor on your laptop to customize your blog. No more editing code in little web fields!”

5. Support – The best part of a managed hosting company is the support they offer! Every single person who works at WP Engine is a WordPress expert, so if you’re having problems with a plugin, or have a question about updating a theme, you just need to contact them to hear their free, expert opinions!

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

If you’d like to discuss the best hosting options for your WordPress site, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Improve Website Speed With These 5 Simple Steps

5 simple ways to speed up your websiteWe recently helped a client who complained that her WordPress site speed was very slow. She said that she had a big dip in online sales since clients did not want to wait around for her site to load. There are many reasons why your website speed may be slow. Below are five tips to improve website speed that are quick, easy and free.

Five Tips to Improve Website Speed

1. Use Website Speed Test – If you feel that your WordPress site is acting very slow, do an Internet Speed Test. Webpagetest.org is run by Google, and offers a free test of your site. It will give you a detailed summary with a website speed test score out of 100. It will also give details about the errors, load times, how long your site takes to fully load, etc. The site claims to “ run simple tests or perform advanced testing including multi-step transactions, video capture, content blocking and much more.” It will provide “rich diagnostic information including resource loading waterfall charts, Page Speed optimization checks and suggestions for improvements.” Doing the Internet speed test is important so you can see what the exact issue is that is preventing your website from operating at normal speed. Also, if you are planning to contact your website host, it will help to pinpoint the exact data about your website in the ticket request.

2. Compress ImagesDream Host recommends that you don’t just upload images to your site, but take the time to optimize each image. Big files slow down site speed, so resizing the photo to smaller dimensions will be optimal. Google developers recommend compressing images. They state that “image files are often created with extra information embedded in the file. For example, JPEG files written by many image programs include the name of the program that wrote them. PNG images can often be made smaller by changing the way the image is encoded. These transformations are lossless. That is, the compressed image looks identical to the uncompressed image, but uses fewer bytes.”

3. Reduce Files Sizes – Just like JPEGs and PDFS, other files also slow down website speed. The speed of your page loads often come down to reducing the size of the images on the page. Make sure to set your images to 72 pixels per inch and ideally size the image BEFORE you add it to WordPress. If you don’t have a native image editing application you can use an onilne one such as Pixlr. You might want to install WP Smush.it plugin which will reduce the size of the images of your site without having to edit them one by one. Check your CSS and JS files. CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) refers to text file formats that define things like the color and size of the text, as well as spaces and borders of information on the website. JS files are JavaScript, which control things like automatically changing the date, causing a linked-to page to pop up and allowing images or text to change when a mouse is rolled over them, according to Whatis.com. Obviously you need these files, so you cannot delete them from your WordPress site, but you can minify them. The plugin Better WordPress Minify will combine and compress your CSS and JS files, which will speed up your website. Another plugin called Lazy Load will only allow images to load when a visitor can see them.

4. Install W3 Total Cache – We’ve found that this plugin gives the most flexibility and levels of control to help improve your page loads. web cache is a mechanism for the temporary storage (caching) of web documents, such as HTML pages and images, to reduce bandwidth usage, server load, and perceived lag. W3 Total Cache can address various way to reduce the page load with settings for browser cache, minify and even CDN integration.

5. Get better hosting or a CDN – Page speed is often reliant on your hosting. If your site is on a shared servers for instance, your resources are pooled together and a site with a lot of traffic will demand more resources. We like to use WP Engine for dedicated WordPress hosting as they have advanced caching built into their servers and a high level of security. SiteGround is a great hosting company that is WordPress friendly and has their own caching plugin that is included with their shared hosting plans. You might also consider using a CDN or Content Delivery Network such as MaxCDN which serves your site’s data from a location closer to where the user’s browser request is being made. W3 Total Cache is also compatible with MaxCDN and has an option to easily configure it in the settings for the plugin. These five simple tips will help you significantly alter the speed of your website and allow your visitors to visit and shop on your site in the manner they were supposed to.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

If you still have questions about the slow speed of your website, , contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Three Ways Content Writing Can Help Your Website with WordPress

How Content Writing can Help Your Website with WordPressIf you have a website, you may have created it for many reasons, some of which are to write a blog with your opinions, post interesting photos, educate others, promote a business, have a social cause, or trying to make money through an online store. Either way, you want to attract as many people as possible to your site so they can read your blogs, shop at your e-commerce store or contact your company to engage in new business. While you may have created a great, easy-to-use site, and offered great insight or top-of-the-line products, one piece of advice I offer to my clients is to have relevant content. Content is very important for your online site, and I will give three reasons why in this blog.

Three Ways Content Writing Can Help Your Site

1. Keywords, keywords, keywords – Many website owners spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars every month on advertising. There are various ways to do so, with ads running on other sites, or with pay-per-click advertising. However, there is a great way to see more traffic come to your site without spending any money, just some time on writing. Content writing is an underused, but very good way to help your website. All it means is that you create regular, quality, relevant content in the form of blogs or articles, and update them on your website.  If you use WordPress, it is very easy to maintain your blogs as WordPress is a content management solution with a system to publish blogs in an organized way.

The most effective way to incorporate content writing in your website is to do keyword research first. There are various ways to do keyword research, with paid and free programs. The most popular is Google Adwords, which will give you statistics for how often each keyword, or term, is searched for every month, and whether the competition for each term is low, medium, or high. You want to try and pick terms that have the lowest competition and the most possible people searching for them. This way, whether you advertise as well, you will have many keywords right on your site that will help new visitors find you.

Another great aspect about using content writing is that you can tailor the blog and the keywords to your city or neighborhood, if you have a local business. Say you sell bicycles in Chicago. To attract local clients to come into your store, you can write articles about different types of bicycles, and include keywords, such as purchasing bicycles in Chicago, or Chicago bike store. You can also write blogs about local events for bike riders, which will definitely get you some new visitors that may be searching for those same events. Those visitors can turn into potential new customers.

content writing2. Relevance – So you have a website, but how do you compete with other sites and help people find you online? Before, all you needed were keywords and links throughout your site, which was pretty easy to do. But times have changed, and Google has gotten smarter. Now, for your website to have a chance to come out and beat the competition, and come up in the first few pages of the Google search, you need to have current and relevant content. That means that you need to spend the time to update your blogs and articles regularly, so that Google can sense that you have the latest news about your particular product. So spend time writing, and see your website gain more and more popularity with each month.

3. Expertise – “Demonstrate your expertise through content,” says LunaMetrics. ” A pizzeria near my house in Pittsburgh has an alternative menu on their site for people seeking gluten free pizza and Italian food and they’ve received press/links because of this. What’s your specialty? Blog about it, include it on your site and tell others.”

What sets you apart from all the other pizza places in your city? Through content writing, you can let potential customers know what your niche, or specialty is. You can write that you make your own sauce, or offer gluten-free pizza varieties, or even import cheese from Italy. Just having a regular site with your menu and address will not let individuals searching for a new pizza joint truly get to know you, but with some articles, you can make them feel like they’ve been to your spot already.

Are you selling vitamins online? It’s crucial for you to write credible blogs and link them to other expert sites. Write about the latest health news and breakthroughs, and include keywords and links to the products you sell. Chances are someone that is searching for an answer to their health question can come upon your article, and then may purchase one of your products. Wouldn’t that be great, without you spending a single dollar on advertising? Remember, the more in-depth and relevant your articles are, the more probability that someone will trust that you’re an expert in your field, and will come back to your online website again and again.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

If you’d like to discuss creating content writing for your website, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Increasing Your Site’s Visibility Online

Increase your online visibilityIf you have a local business, such as a hair salon or restaurant, chances are you have created a website for it. Nowadays, most customers find businesses online, even if they don’t sell any merchandise on the Web. Google states that 97% of people search for businesses online. People will use the Internet to find a local business or service that they need, and a functional website will play a major role in helping to promote your business. However, just creating a site is not enough to play a crucial role in increasing business, there are several other steps you need to do, and keep doing, to increase your local business’s visibility online so it gets picked up by search engines. In previous articles, I wrote about the importance of good, quality content and social media. In this blog, I will discuss how to go the extra mile for your local business to to increase traffic to your site.

Here are a couple of steps that will help promote your website’s visibility.

1. ShareThis – This is what the creators of ShareThis say: “Whether you want the simplest, most robust tools to turn your media social, or to find the right audience for your advertising message, ShareThis puts sharing to work for you. Use the most innovative social media and sharing platform for the Web, ShareThis.” Simply put, this is a widget that you can customize for your blog.

ShareThis button

ShareThis

When visitors read your content, they can click on the button, and choose which social media forum they’d like to share your blog on. The options are Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, Myspace, etc.

Additionally, ShareThis provides you with analytics of your site. The analytics allow you to:

  • Unlock the social value of your website with SQI (social quality of a website)
  • Discover your most shared content
  • Evaluate the top outbound and inbound social channels

By checking your analytics, ShareThis allows you to see activity that is happening on your site, find what content is the most popular, view which social media sites and other referrals direct traffic to your site the most, etc. This will allow you to see what sites help your business’s visibility the most.

2. Yelp – Yelp is quickly becoming one of the main ways people find businesses, events, and lists. It was founded in 2004, and since then, has seen about 108 million unique visits per month (stats from the second quarter of 2013, according to Yelp.)

Yelp site

Yelp

The way it works is that that visitors can search for a local business by name or category, and then read information about the business, write a review, or check in. Yelp claims that the site boasts over 42 million reviews. Yelp’s premise is simple, the more good reviews your business gets, the more clients it should attract, increasing your site’s visibility online.

Yelp is crucially important in attracting people to your website, and ultimately, your business. You can create a free account, or you can pay for advertising to promote your business in searches and attract greater visibility. You can also offer deals, coupons, and sell gift certificates.

If your business has various locations, you can create a Yelp page for each location. This way, search engines can point to a specific location if someone is looking for a dentist in Santa Monica, or one in Sherman Oaks, CA.

3. Facebook for Business – While having visitors share your site with their friends on social media sites is great, having your own presence on Facebook is also very important. You probably already have a personal Facebook account, but did you know that you can create one for your business? Facebook states that “over one billion people like and comment an average of 3.2 billion times every day. Over one billion people like and comment an average of 3.2 billion times every day. When you have a strong presence on Facebook, your business is part of these conversations and has access to the most powerful kind of word-of-mouth marketing — recommendations between friends.”

Facebook

Facebook for business

Facebook allows you to create a page for your business, add photos, relevant information, and any coupons or specials you would like to offer to promote it. Then, you can have individuals check into your business, or post on your wall. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to connect with your clients. As long as people have clicked Like on your page, they will get your updates. So, you can use Facebook as a channel to promote upcoming sales and specials, new products, or just mention a topic important to you. And you don’t even have to use the page to just discuss your business, specifically. Engage visitors with unique content, interesting stories and photos, or just events in your local neighborhood.

 

4. Twitter – Twitter is another great social media site to help you connect with people and increase visibility of your site. The website has over 200 million active users. This is what Twitter states that it can do for your business.

Connect in context

On Twitter, people talk about what they care about and what’s happening around them right now, including your business. This gives you powerful context to connect your message to what’s most meaningful to your customers in real time.

Engaging with real-time Tweets can influence conversations in a way that can help build your business.

Twitter for business

Twitter

Listen and learn

See what your competitors are tweeting about or search for industry keywords to listen and gather market intelligence. It’s an easy way to get insights that you can use to inform your strategy.

Grow and succeed

Want to grow your business, run exciting promotions, strengthen your brand and engage with your customers? Twitter Ads can amplify your efforts in these areas and more.

Learn from others.

See how these businesses used Twitter to drive transactions, connect with customers and grow.

5. Google Places for Business – Registering here allows your business to be found in search engines through Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. You need to sign in with your Google account, and then set up Google Places for free. By setting up a free account, you can allow clients to not only search for your business, but make sure they have the correct information about it, such as contact information hours, etc. You can connect with customers by responding to Google+ reviews.

Google Places

Google Places For Business

If you set up a premium account, you can promote your products or services through AdWords Express and Google offers. AdWords Express allows clients to click on your ad, call you and get directions to your business. “Google Offers connects you with customers who are nearby. Create an offer (i.e., 20% off a pepperoni pizza) to highlight your business across Google properties, including Google+, the Google Offers website, and mobile apps for Offers and Wallet.”

6. Google Analytics – One of the most important things you can do for your site is to check its analytics. Google Analytics analyzes your site’s engagement and reports back to you. First, Google Analytics helps familiarize you with their plugin by offering a setup checklist and a getting started guide. This way, even if you’re never analyzed your website’s traffic, with Google Analytics, you will

Google Analytics for WordPress

Google Analytics

easily be able to learn how to start. Second, if you still have questions, you can visit the help center to read articles that can help you along the way. Furthermore, you can visit the Google Analytics YouTube Channel to watch helpful videos.

“Google Analytics not only lets you measure sales and conversions, but also gives you fresh insights into how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site, and how you can keep them coming back,” according to their site. What that means is that Google Analytics will show you how many people visited your site, how they found your site – through keywords, or through another source, and if they clicked on any links on your WordPress blog. This way, you can see what content on your site is the most popular, and which social media sites are bringing the most traffic to you. Having this knowledge will help you get even more visitors, because you can see which topics are most interesting to your readers, and focus on writing about them. Or, when you see which social media sites, for example Facebook, direct the most people to your site, you can focus on promoting your content on that site through paid advertisements or giveaways and promotions.

7. Directory websites – Below are directories that are free and also help with search engines and getting more traffic. These are beneficial for all local businesses.

http://merchantcircle.com
http://manta.com
http://listings.local.yahoo.com/csubmit/index.php
http://citysquares.com/

In summary, there are many ways to promote your business’s visibility online. Some are paid, and others are free, but overall, the more time you spend helping visitors find your site, the more business you are likely to get. Behla Design can help you set up any of the plugins or options discussed in this blog.

The team at Behla Design, Graphic Design & Web Development, is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of top web design, web development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals and has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years. Contact us today to find out how we can help your next project.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to

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Different WordPress Search Options

searchIf you have a WordPress website, you will want to have a well-functioning search field. Whether you have an online store and want your visitors to be able to find a product easily, or have a blog, and want your readers to quickly access articles about topics that interest them, a good search field is vital to a site.

Many WordPress themes have their own search options. It’s important to remember that the themes offer different WordPress templates, and not actual search pages. WordPress templates are “the files which control how your WordPress site will be displayed on the Web. These files draw information from your WordPressMySQL database and generate the HTML code which is sent to the web browser. Through its powerful Theme system, WordPress allows you to define as few or as many Templates as you like all under one Theme,” according to WordPress.

Many people have criticized the WordPress search option as having too many downfalls. For example, it doesn’t give as much value to articles that are older versus newer. WordPress gives results based on date and not relevance. Also, the keyword search isn’t ideal as it mostly looks for direct matches, so if you typed in “blue jeans,” chances are you are not going to find any products with just the term “jeans.”

If your theme does not offer a search template at all, or if you would like to create your own WordPress search page, you can search for various WordPress search templates. We will provide a few of our favorites below.

WordPress Search Templates

1. Google Custom Search – If you are a fan of searching on Google, chances are you will like it as a WordPress search template for your site. You can install it, and it will rewrite the general WordPress search template to a Google search. Google offers free and paid WordPress templates for search fields.

According to Google, if you pick Google as your WordPress search template, you can:

WordPress search

Google Custom Search

  • Create a CSE at any time and Google will give you a landing page with a unique URL. You also have the option of applying your own site’s look and feel.
  • Invite friends and colleagues to collaborate and contribute to your search engine, enhancing its usefulness to your community.
  • Provide your own search refinements within results pages so it’s easier for your users to find the information they’re looking for.
  • Easily add more sites to your search engine’s index as you surf the web.
  • New! You can create a CSE on the fly simply by cutting and pasting a few lines of code into your website’s HTML. Your new automatically generated CSE will let people search the websites you’ve linked to, as well as the sites they link to. For instance, if you’ve created a directory, a blog roll, or a list of online resources, your CSE will enable your users to search across these sites and the sites they reference.<

The paid version starts at $100 per year, and allows customization. You can specify which sites you want Google to search; if you have multiple websites, you can set up Google to search through all your websites, instead of just the one.

Check out this video to learn more.

2. Relevanssi – Relevanssi is another option for a WordPress search engine. It replaces the standard WordPress search with a custom option that allows the user to customize its look and feel. Since many WordPress search users complain that the standard search doesn’t show the best results first, Relevanssi claim that they have the best search template, which not only brings up the most relevant results, but also shows which part of the site the results are from. Here is a link for a full list of features.

WordPress Search template

Relevanssi

When we contacted the developer to ask why he believes his WordPress template is better than others, this is what he said:

– The ability to give taxonomies and custom fields keyword weights not only per custom post type, but per taxonomy/meta_name per custom post type
– Keyword weight attribution
– Supplemental Search Engines
– PDF indexing built in
– Index is managed in real time, no need to manually reindex
– Lots of Extensions (more coming all the time!) https://searchwp.com/extensions/­­

There is a free version, which has over 250,000 downloads, and a premium version, which starts at $40 per year (see prices here). According to the site, the benefits of the premium version include:

  • Guaranteed support. Free version users get support if I have enough time available.
  • Additional features. Relevanssi is developed actively and new features are added. Free version users won’t get the new features, or get them long after Premium users have enjoyed them.
  • Future development. More users for Relevanssi Premium means I can spend more time developing the plugin.
WordPress search

Better Search

3. Better Search – Aptly named, Better Search is a third option for a custom WordPress search template. It claims to give relevant weight to the title and content of a post to match a search query, making it a better option than the standard WordPress search, which searches by date. It even gives site owners the option to assign more weight to the title or the content in searches.

Here are the features that the site lists:

  • Automatic: Once activated, Better Search will automatic replace your default WordPress search with more relevant search results
  • Relevance: Search results sorted by relevance automatically sorted by relevance. You can also turn off relevancy based searching, in which results are sorted by date
  • Control the results: Fine tune results by changing the weighting of post title and post content. Turn on BOOLEAN search to override the default NATURAL LANGUAGE search of mySQL
  • Popular searches: Find out what visitors are searching for on your blog. Display a list of popular search terms (daily and overall) on your blog in the form of a heatmap. Widget support for easy integration in your theme
  • Customisation: Support for a template file for perfect integration into your blog template. Alternatively, just input your own CSS styles in the Custom Styles tab in the Settings Page. Check the FAQ for more information
  • Supports cache plugins: Works with caching plugins like WP-Super-Cache and W3 Total Cache

Basically, you have the option to use the default WordPress search template in your site, or pick one of the above templates to customize your search to your preference. Some of the options are paid, and others are free; I recommend reading the features and figuring out what would work best for your site.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Three Services To Help Sell Digital Goods Online

I was recently asked by a friend how she can sell a copy of her e-book online as a PDF. If you have a similar question, and would like to sell digital goods, such as videos, photos, games, software, etc. online, read this blog to find solutions on how to do so.

Solutions for Selling Digital Goods Online

paypal1. PayPal for Digital Goods – If you’ve ever purchased anything from an e-commerce site, such as ebay, you’ve likely had to use PayPal to pay for the item you bought. PayPal for Digital Goods works in the same way, but instead of getting an item via mail, your buyers would be able to download your digital file right from your website. All you need to do would be to add the PayPal button right on your website, and individuals would be able to pay you for your item.

PayPal has a few advantages:
* Visitors pay right on your site and do not have to go to another site to pay
* Visitors have the option to make a one-time payment or purchase a subscription, if you offer one
* Excellent fraud protection
* Opportunity to sell to clients all over the world

To get started, you need to create a PayPal business account and choose either Express Checkout or Adaptive Payments products for your website. “Express Checkout allows you to sell your digital downloads to consumers with flexible payment plans, while Adaptive Payments gives you all of the benefits… {and lets you} set up various payment scenarios within your application, such as chained or parallel payments. For example, if a music producer wants to sell a playlist of songs by various musicians online, its developer can enable payment distribution to the entire set of musicians upon point of purchase,” according to PayPal.Easy Digital Downloads

2. Easy Digital Downloads – Easy Digital Downloads works with PayPal to allow you to sell e-books and other digital downloads on WordPress. The plugin developer claims that this is “the world’s easiest way to sell digital downloads through WordPress for free.” Within minutes, you can set up a default configuration to sell your items on your WordPress site. For example, if you are selling music, you have the option to sell it per song, or the entire album. If you’d like, you can customize this plugin for your specific needs; they are developer friendly, and make it easy to make changes to the code. They have 190 extensions that allow you to set up your site in any way you want, from different payment gateways to uploading to different gallery options to display your digital downloads. Furthermore, Easy Digital Downloads provides ways for you to analyze your selling and earnings data, and even to export that information to Excel or Google Docs.

3. Shopify – Shopify has teamed up with Fetch Softworks to allow you to create an online store to sell your digital goods. On your site, you can also sell tangible things, like actual books and CDs, along with the items that are available for download. The two services let you to host files on their servers, and they also work with PayPal to accept payments. Shopify provides many ways to easily set up a site, with different looks to choose from. And for beginners who have questions, they have a 24-7 Support Guru who help.sell digital goods online

Shopify offers a free 14-day trial to anyone who is interested. They charge $14.95 a month. (Insider tip: I actually had a friend call Shopify and ask for a reduction in the monthly fee, and Shopify waived it completely.)

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

 

 

ecommerce, how to

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WooCommerce Gift Certificate Plugins

There are various ways  to attract clients to an e-commerce site. One of the best ways is to sell gift certificates for visitors to purchase and give to their family, friends and co-wokers. Gift certificates are great because not only do you make money off the sale whether the gift certificate is then used or not, the certificate itself is a good promotion for your site. Have you ever received a certificate as a gift to a store or restaurant you’ve never heard of? Having the certificate makes it almost certain that you will use it, and familiarize yourself with the new business. The same applies to selling gift certificates for your e-commerce site. The certificates can expose your business to new customers who may have not heard about you before. Most of the biggest retail websites, such as Amazon and Nordstrom, offer customers to buy gift cards online, so why don’t you?

If you have a WordPress e-commerce site, there are a varity of plugins you can choose from if you have WooCommerceWooCommerce is a free plugin that allows users to customize their selling and shipping options. As I explained in my previous blog, “WooCommerce – The Best WordPress E commerce  Plugin,” WooCommerce is a payment gateway that allows your visitors to purchase and pay for items from your site. It also works with mail carriers to allow buyers to pick what shipping options they want, and pay for shipping right on your site.

Below is a list of various gift certificate plugins for your WordPress site:

WooCommerce Developer

1. WooCommerce Gift Certificates Pro: This is a great plugin for creating a gift certificate template online for your site. The latest version offers many convenient features. Here are some of the best features the site lists:

  • Use a template to customize your gift certificate.
  • Allow users to buy gift cards online to use as an e-voucher, or print them.
  • Let customers chose the amount for the certificate, or provide predetermined amounts that they can choose from.
  • The voucher codes are unique, so individuals cannot use them more than once.
  • You can offer a free gift certificate with the purchase of a product.
  • Give people the option to buy gift cards online and e-mail them to themselves, or send them directly to someone else’s e-mail.
  • Allow the amount for the gift card to be used only in a single purchase, or spread out over numerous purchases.
  • Set expiration dates.
  • Set prefixes on the gift certificate template that allows you to figure out the product sales related to the codes.
  • Access report data that “includes code, buyer, order number, date of purchase, type of voucher, amount of voucher, and recipient information. And, you can easily search within a report to find exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, you can export your reports to CSV, Excel, PDF, clipboard, or print – all with one click of a button!”

This plugin starts at $89 and can be easily purchased and uploaded to your WordPress site.

WooCommerce Gift Certificates Pro - Online GIft Certificates

2. WooCommerce Smart Coupons – Smart Coupons is another great source that allows individuals to buy gift cards online from your site. According to the WooCommerce site, this plugin lets customers send the gift card to multiple people in various ways, such as manually sending e-mails with store credits. Some of the features of this plugin are:

  • “Let customers enter coupon receiver details / custom messages during checkout
  • Automatic credit balance maintenance
  • Set expiry date in days, weeks, months & years after coupon generation”
  • tight security”

However, what’s really great about Smart Coupons is that it helps you not only with creating a gift certificate template, but also helps you set sale strategies. For example, “find out your average order size – let’s say $175. Create a Store Credit / Gift Certificate coupon for higher amount – $250. Create a new product and price it at a value slightly above average order size. In this case, the new product can be priced at $200. Ensure the discount is lucrative enough. What you’ve just done is attracted your customers with a good discount, made them pay in advance, and continue spending in future to deplete their credit balance,” the site explains. Or, “Create a discount / credit coupon that is valid between a particular time range. Smartly price the coupon. Promote the offer in advance, you can even keep raising the offer price as coupon start time comes closer. This will create scarcity and prompt people to buy more and buy earlier.”

WooCommerce Smart Coupons

This plugin retails for $99 for a single license.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

 

 

ecommerce, how to

How to Customize Shipping Options On WooCommerce

Selling items online has significantly increased in the last decade. “E-commerce B2C product sales totaled $142.5 billion, representing about 8% of retail product sales in the United States,” according to Wikipedia. Fielding the expense of having a retail store, employees, and other costs associated with a physical location makes having an online store very inexpensive. If you have a WordPress online store, consider using WooCommerce as your e-commerce toolkit. In a previous blog, WooCommerce Payment Gateways and Shipping Options, you can read more about how to use this plugin as a payment gateway, and, now, I will go into detail about working with WooCommerce to set up your shipping options.

Here are the steps to set up WooCommerce shipping options:

1. Pick a shipping provider – WooCommerce works with USPS, UPS or FedEx to ship your items. You can sign up with your preferred shipping provider online and create a login and password.

shipping options

UPS –  You can use WooCommerce to set up a UPS shipping calculator based on shipping location and weight.

IgniteWoo offers a UPS Shipping Pro extension for purchase. Once you figure out which shipping methods you want to offer clients, the prices will be shown to customers, and they can choose the option that works best for them. The price starts at $40.

WooThemes also offers a UPS Shipping Method extension that you can purchase. The price starts at $49.

*Tip: You can offer free shipping through the UPS shipping plugin for customers who purchase a certain amount on your e-commerce site. This can be a huge incentive for buyers and drives up sales (look at Amazon.com, for instance).

shipping options

USPS – The United States Postal Service is the largest delivery network in the United States. They offer both domestic and international shipping options. This method will only work if your site accepts US dollars, and the package sizes are quoted in inches and pounds, although sometimes other measurements will work. By using USPS delivery as your preferred shipping method, you have the option to ship packages first class, priority, or even parcel post. Here’s a link to USPS prices. You can purchase the USPS Shipping Method extension on WooThemes for $49.

Shipping options

* FedEx – FedEx is another great choice among shipping options for small businesses. The company claims to save you money and satisfy more customers if you use their services, along with providing you discounts with their alliances.

WooCommerce offers a plugin called Fedex Shipping Pro for a starting price of $40. The site claims that “you control which shipping options to offer shoppers will easy-to-use configuration settings.”

2. Figure out weight and dimensions of each item – Once you have picked your preferred shipping provider, and registered online for an account, you need to decide how you want to set up your shipping options. “The fact is the cost of shipping has for a long time been one of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment as buyers realize that the cost of the shipping has made the item too expensive…72% of website visitors abandon their shopping cart because shipping charges were higher than expected,” reports Proimpact7. Do you want to offer a flat rate shipping rate, like the website, Overstock.com? Although their promotions sometimes change, this giant e-commerce site often offers a flat rate shipping fee of $2.95 with any purchase. Other sites, such as Amazon.com, offer free shipping with a minimum purchase. Their “Prime-eligible” items are shipped free of charge with a purchase of at least $25. This incites customers to purchase more items so that they don’t have to pay for shipping. While sites like Nordstrom.com offer free shipping with any purchase, this is usually impossible for small WooCommerce shopping sites to offer as paying for shipping items to customers takes a big chunk out of the profit.

This is why most small e-commerce sites charge for shipping depending on the size or price of items using a shipping calculator. To do so, you need to figure out the weight and dimension for each item that you offer for sale.

3. Figure out box sizes  – Do you want to purchase boxes to ship your items, order customized boxes with your store name or logo, or use flat rate shipping boxes from UPS, USPS or FedEx? You need to make these decisions and write down the sizes of the boxes you will use. This is so that you can combine products into one box so that WooCommerce will use the shipping calculator to add up the dimensions of each item and add it to the box. You will need the inner and outer dimension plus the box or package weight.

4. Fine tune the shipping options – Once you know the dimensions of the items you are offering, and know the sizes of the boxes you have to ship your items in, you need to fine tune the shipping options. For example, do you want to use the shipping calculator and offer your customers to pay the exact fee that your shipping provider will charge? Keep in mind, that on top of the shipping fees, you will also need to pay for boxes and packing materials, such as bubble wrap, tissue paper, etc. to keep your items from getting wrinkled or damaged during the shipment. Additionally, consider the time it will take to prepare the items for shipping, wrapping them, putting them into boxes, and either getting them ready for pick-up by the shipping provider (which often requires an additional fee) or using gas and time for dropping the packages off at a shipping location. Will you do this yourself, or will you pay an employee to do this for you? This will either cost additional time or money to get done.

Once you figure all those options out, you can set up a shipping calculator to add any possible shipping and handling fees that can be applied as either a flat rate or percentage of the total. For example, you can add $10 to the shipping price of each order, or add 15% to each order to account for all work of shipping out orders. Also, you can add special promotions and shipping discounts, if you so prefer. As discussed above, you can offer discounted or free shipping with a minimum order, which can incite your customers to purchase more items. If your site offers items that clients frequently use, such as food, vitamins, or diapers, for example, you can offer a special subscribe and save program, such as Amazon.com does, where you offer free shipping as long as clients sign up to receive the items on a regular basis, such as every month, or every few months. Although you will have to pay for shipping each time, you will sell more inventory than through a single sale.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information about making your site mobile friendly, contact Behla Design.

ecommerce, how to, woocommerce, wordpress

WooCommerce is the Best Alternative to the Google Checkout Shutdown

In the last few weeks, I have had some clients call me in a panic over news of the Google Checkout shutdown. Google recently announced that Google Checkout will be retired on November 20, 2013. While this is certainly inconvenient for some online e-commerce sites, there are solutions to implement to keep an online store running. One easy alternative is using WooCommerce as a payment gateway for your WordPress site to continue to sell merchandise.

What is Google Checkout?

Google Checkout is an online process that Google created for paying for goods or services purchased online. Individuals enter their credit card information, as well as as shipping address, into their Google account, which enables them to easily purchase items on e-commerce sites. Google Checkout also provides fraud protection, and allows buyers to track their online purchases.

Google Checkout closure

Google Checkout

On November 16, 2011, Google Checkout was renamed to Google Wallet. This service allows users to store their credit, debit, and even gift card, information on their mobile phone to pay for purchases made on the web or in stores where contactless payments are accepted. Google Wallet also allows users to use special store promotions; all one has to do is have the barcode on the phone be scanned at checkout for the discount or promotion to be applied.

How Does the Google Checkout Closure Affect You?

The Google Checkout closure will affect many online e-commerce sites as of November 20, 2013. Here is what Google has to say:

  • Merchants selling digital goods may transition to Google Wallet for digital goods
  • Merchants selling through Google-hosted marketplaces (e.g. Google Play) will be unaffected
  • Merchants selling physical goods will need to switch to third-party alternatives

WooCommerce – a Google Checkout Alternative

WooCommerce

WooCommerce

If you have a WordPress site where you sell physical goods and you have used Google Checkout as your online processing center, you will need to replace that method this November. A great alternative is WooCommerce, which is a free plugin that allows users to customize their selling and shipping options for an additional fee.

As I explained in my previous blog, “WooCommerce – The Best WordPress E commerce  Plugin,” WooCommerce works by allowing customers to pick the items they want, add them to a cart, and then click purchase. Once they do that, they will be transferred to PayPal, which will take their credit or bank account information, process it, and then notify you once payment has been made. Once you know that payment has been secured, you can set up account updates for clients, so they can be alerted when their product ships, etc. WooCommerce has offsite checkout built-in, so you don’t need an an extension to connect to PayPal. It also allows for built-in shipping options, with national, international, and even local delivery options.

WooCommerce lets visitors easily scroll through your site and view photos and detailed information about products and their different attributes, such as sizes and colors. It also integrates with social media, therefore allowing customers to leave reviews and share the products you offer on sites like Facebook. WooCommerce allows owners to set up promotional discounts and coupon codes, even rewarding buyers with discounts for sharing your products on social media forums.

WooCommerce makes it easy for business owners to keep track of sales. You can view and edit order details, get update statuses, and add notes to orders. You get access to built-in reports, and can even manage your inventory with this plugin.”

To replace Google Checkout, you will need to uninstall it from your WordPress site, and then install the WooCommerce plugin. I always recommend WooCommerce to my clients, and believe it is one of the easiest plugins in to integrate into a WordPress site.

The team at Behla Design is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of the top web design and development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copy writing professionals. Our founder, Andrew Behla, has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

For more information, visit Behla Design.

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Going the Extra Mile for Your WordPress Blog

Man running. Gray concrete wall and floor

So you decided to start a blog. You signed up for WordPress, built a pretty decent site, and started blogging regularly. A week passed, then a month, and you don’t see much change in terms of comments or followers? That is a common problem that most “newbies” face when deciding to set up a WordPress blog. This is why I want to share how going the extra mile will truly make a difference in attracting more visibility for your WordPress blog. And the best part is that the recommendations below are completely free, that’s right gratis! So, by spending a couple of hours integrating these plugins into your site, you should see a big improvement in your WordPress site’s popularity.

Top Two Social Media Plugins for Your WordPress Blog

1. ShareThis – This is what the creators of ShareThis say: “Whether you want the simplest, most robust tools to turn your media social, or to find the right audience for your advertising message, ShareThis puts sharing to work for you. Use the most innovative social media and sharing platform for the Web, ShareThis.” Simply put, this is a widget that you can customize for your blog. When visitors read your content, they can click on the button, and choose which social media forum they’d like to share your blog on. The options are Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, Myspace, etc.

ShareThis buttonq

Additionally, ShareThis provides you with analytics of your site. The analytics allow you to:

  • Unlock the social value of your website with SQI (social quality of a website)
  • Discover your most shared content
  • Evaluate the top outbound and inbound social channels

By checking your analytics, ShareThis allows you to see activity that is happening on your site, find what content is the most popular, view which social media sites and other referrals direct traffic to your site the most, etc.

sharethis - social media

ShareThis was ranked #35 in Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies List for the second year in a row.
2. Livefyre –  This is what the site says about Livefyre: “Livefyre helps companies engage consumers through a combination of real-time conversation, social curation and social advertising.” Basically, Livefyre is a plugin that allows visitors to not only comment on your site, but to share their comments and the actual post on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, all comments that are created from that share to Facebook or Twitter will publish back to the WordPress blog post. In other words, even though the commenter might not comment on the blog itself, they can comment on Facebook, Twitter, and then Livefyre publishes it back to the the original blog post. The idea is that your site becomes the hub for all social commenting/discussion.

Livefyre commenting

If this sounds pretty cool, you’re not the only one who thinks so. Their network powers real-time experiences across one billion page views each month. They reach 15 million registered users and 130 million unique visitors per month across 50,000 installations. Also, users see an increase of up to 10 times in user engagement after installing Livefyre.

 

Top Two Analytics Plugins for Your WordPress Blog

1. Google Analytics – One of the most important things you can do for your WordPress blog is to check its analytics. Google Analytics analyzes your site’s engagement and reports back to you. First, Google Analytics helps familiarize you with their plugin by offering a setup checklist and a getting started guide. This way, even if you’re never analyzed your WordPress blog with Google Analytics, you will easily be able to learn how to start. Second, if you still have questions, you can visit the help center to read articles that can help you along the way. Furthermore, you can visit the Google Analytics YouTube Channel to watch helpful videos.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Google Analytics not only lets you measure sales and conversions, but also gives you fresh insights into how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site, and how you can keep them coming back,” according to their site. What that means is that Google Analytics will show you how many people visited your site, how they found your site – through keywords, or through another source, and if they clicked on any links on your WordPress blog. This way, you can see what content on your site is the most popular, and which social media sites are bringing the most traffic to you. Having this knowledge will help you get even more visitors, because you can see which topics are most interesting to your readers, and focus on writing about them. Or, when you see which social media sites, for example Facebook, direct the most people to your site, you can focus on promoting your content on that site through paid advertisements or giveaways and promotions.

Google Feedburner for RSS Feeds

2. Google FeedBurner – This is a top website for feeds. What are feeds? The site explains that “feeds are a way for websites large and small to distribute their content well beyond just visitors using browsers. Feeds permit subscription to regular updates, delivered automatically via a web portal, news reader, or in some cases good old email. Feeds also make it possible for site content to be packaged into “widgets,” “gadgets,” mobile devices, and other bite-sized technologies that make it possible to display blogs, podcasts, and major news/sports/weather/whatever headlines just about anywhere.”

Have you seen this button on a website recently? Surely, you have. This button lets you subscribe and then read, watch or listen to content in any format, text, audio or video. This lets users keep up with their favorite websites without having to visit each one. And this is good news for you, because your WordPress blog updates will be automatically sent to those that sign up for them. So you don’t have to worry about visitors remembering to come back and read your content. The great news, is that your WordPress blog likely generates its own feed, so you don’t have to do anything to get it started!

FeedBurner offers Feedburner Stats, which allows you to get a good overview of your audience. This is what FeedBurner states that it provides:

  • “Subscription data (e.g. number of subscribers by day, previous week, last 30 days and all time) and Reach data (the estimated number of individuals clicking or viewing your feed content in a given day)
  • Breakdown of feed readers and aggregators, email services, web browsers and bots by which subscribers are accessing your content
  • Clickthrough tracking
  • Uncommon uses — sites where your content has been resyndicated including other blogs, directories and even spam sites
  • Item enclosure downloads (podcasts)
  • Live hits, conveniently translated to your local time zone”

While it takes some effort to connect the dots, if you want to have a successful blog with a large following, doing a few, easy steps that don’t cost any money can help you go the extra mile!

The team at Behla Design, Graphic Design & Web Development, is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of top web design, web development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals and has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years. Contact us today to find out how we can help your next project.

business solutions, ecommerce, how to, wordpress

Online Chat Solutions for WordPress

With so many people using the internet for entertainment, research, and communication it is not a surprise that chat has become a popular method of keeping in touch with current and prospective fans as well as friends, co-workers, employees, and so on. Online chat is a convenient communication tool and there are many companies on the market now offering apps and plugins. Which one is right for you? That depends on your needs.  At Behla Design we took the time to research and compare a few different platforms that we believe will satisfy your needs whether you are an individual, a startup company, or a large corporation.

1)    Zopim has a lot of options and packages range from free to $99 a month. The free package is for one user and 2 chats at a time. Zopim is ideal for small businesses or for anyone on a budget that has a need for chat. Setup is easy for just about anyone and for WordPress developers Zopin has a WP plugin. The packages come with a chat bar, IM integration, and an intuitive dashboard. Low cost, high quality.

2)    Olark offers a 14 day free trial on all packages. Prices start at $15.00 a month. This one is actually used by zippykid, a WordPress hosting site. The premium feature provides the ability to chat via a smartphone.  Other features are chat statistics and visitor details.

3)     Snapengage lets industrial level companies integrate chat into their CRM and help desk and is used by many support companies. Snapengage also offers ‘proactive invitations’. This is ideal for after business hours or when support staff cannot be available for chat when a visitor arrives. This chat system is automated and will interact with visitors in place of staff. Snapengage is used by wpengine, another popular and reputable Wordpess hosting site.

4)    Meebo provides a chat bar to share check-in and other web content on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. There is a bookmarklet that can easily be installed to get started. This is not the same as the others. The Meebo application is super efficient for multi-protocol IM and it is compatible with the iphone, ipad, and ipod touch. Recently, Google acquired Meebo, so we’re not sure what will be the future of this handy solution.

The above are just a few of the many applications Behla Design found available for online chat. When comparing we looked at price, efficiency, and simplicity. We wanted to give you a comparison so that you can see that there are different types of applications and platforms for different needs. We lean towards Zopim because it has an easy-to-install WordPress plugin and the premium packages are affordable. We highly recommend that you visit each of these websites then let us know if you have any questions or if you would like Behla Design to help you choose and install online chat that is suitable for your needs.

The team at Behla Design, Graphic Design & Web Development, is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of top web design, web development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals and our founder, Andrew Behla, who has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years. Contact us today to find out how we can help your next project.

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Creating a YouTube Channel

youtube setup for behladesign

creating a youtube channel

YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, is the world’s second largest search engine and has become a major social media channel. In January 2012, YouTube took its claim to 4 billion video views per day according to the Huffington Post. Yes, 4 billion per day! That is neither a typo nor a surprise. People search YouTube for a variety of videos and many of these videos are then shared with others via e-mail or Facebook. Some people search YouTube for information videos or how-to’s, some search for highlights of sporting events, some for comedy, and some search for nostalgic videos like old funny commercials that aren’t seen on TV anymore.  And a large percentage of people, like me, use YouTube for searching for, and then sharing, music videos.

YouTube provides a free space in which the user can set up a channel, optimize it with keywords, descriptions, and of course videos. This is not just great for the general public, but is a phenomenal way to advertise. It is very easy to generate viral marketing via YouTube if the channel is setup and optimized correctly.

So, if you do not already have a YouTube channel setup optimized for search, here are the step-by-step instructions.

1)    You will need to set up the account if you do not already have one. The best way is by setting up a Gmail account. If you have a Gmail account already, you can login to it and then click YouTube from the tool bar. If you are a business you will want to use a Gmail account with your business name in it.

2)    Once logged into YouTube set up your profile. This is pretty easy. There is a menu list on the top left corner of the landing page right next to where the photo goes. Click on ‘My Channel’.

3)    Once on your channel page, you will see the ‘About’ with your name. There is an edit button next to it. Click on that.

4)    Once in that screen you will see where you can add content about your business. This is where you can add a description and add keywords. You can also link your YouTube channel to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, which we recommend. Once finished click ‘Apply’.

5)    You will see that there is an option to add other channels. This is a great way to organize and promote a variety of topics/products. For instance, if you sell clothes for both people and pets you could set up a channel for the pet shop with doggie and kitty fashion shows and another channel for runway videos promoting your latest women’s apparel.

Now that you have your channels set up it is time to upload your really awesome viral videos!

a)    You will see on your ‘My Channel’ page a ‘Video Manager’ tab in the upper right corner. Click it.

b)    Once in that screen you can upload a video by simply clicking on the ‘Upload’ button in the top left corner. It is pretty self-explanatory from there.

c)     Once you have your video uploaded you can optimize it for search capabilities. This is great fun and you should take full advantage of video optimization.

d)    You can add a title, description, and keyword tags.  Make sure the video is set to public and that the category is correct. Then click to advanced settings and make sure the video is viewable via mobile phones and TV.

e)    Once finished, click ‘Save’ and your videos are searchable and ready for viewing.

The next blog in this series will give you tips on how to take advantage of Channel Monetization and Google Creative Commons for YouTube.

The team at Behla Design, Graphic Design & Web Development, is dedicated to creating visual experiences that effectively tell our clients’ stories while engaging, exciting, and enticing their customers. Our firm consists of top web design, web development, WordPress, search engine optimization (SEO), and copywriting professionals and our founder, Andrew Behla, who has worked in the graphic, print and web design industry for over twenty years.

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