What can you do with Advanced Custom Fields Pro? An awful lot, but not quite everything.
It’s definitely worth the $100 for the developer license for the Flexible Content Field, Repeater Field, and Gallery […]
Here are the links I found while preparing for the April 2015 Meetup on Advanced Custom Fields and ACF Pro.
I used some of these tutorials to create the demo site, but have not had a chance to follow up on all […]
The March 2015 East Bay WordPress Meetup focused on premium plugins, with several demos. We could have spent at least another hour doing and watching demos of premium plugins.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time […]
This month, when we did our introductions, we asked everyone to mention a few favorite premium plugins. Here is the list we compiled, complete with links.
Premium Plugin Recommendations
Gravity Forms […]
Our first foray into drag-and-drop themes, in August 2013, looked at CyberChimps, PageLines, SiteOrigin, iThemes Builder, and Themify. This time around, we examined four new themes and two plugins.
This session’s themes were Elegant Themes‘ Divi, Make from Theme Foundry, Ultimatum, and Headway. The plugins are Pixgridder Pro (bundled with Shortcodelic on CodeCanyon for $20) and Visual Composer ($25 for a single site license on CodeCanyon). The plugins can be used with (almost) any theme to give you the option of adding blocks to individual pages, but they don’t create an overall theme design (header, footer, sidebar).
I tested three themes and found Make the quickest to get started with and the most intuitive, as many of the style options are integrated with the WordPress customizer. The free version allows you three sections per page and four types of sections, but that actually gives you quite a bit of versatility. The pro version lets you add widget areas to a page, use Typekit fonts, and include e-commerce layouts for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.
Ultimatum is a theme builder, not a site builder. When you start, you have nothing. You chose a base template–in this case, Bootstrap responsive–and create a default layout, building up the elements of your header, footer, and sidebars.
Although nearly anything is possible, and you can create an infinite number of layouts and apply them to whichever pages, posts, categories, custom post types, etc., you want, Ultimatum is not at all intuitive–you won’t get anywhere without the documentation. (The docs are fairly extensive, at least.) If you’re willing to stick it out through the learning curve, you could do a lot; for that much work, I’ll stick with Genesis. A visual theme builder should make my life easier.
I’d heard about Headway for years but not tried it. This is the most drag-and-drop of the site builder/theme builder tools I’ve tried so far, because you actually draw elements on a grid. (You can specify whether the grid should be automatically responsive or you want to create wrappers at different sizes.)
It’s like wireframing and building your site at the same time. The “blocks” that Headway uses are built up of the normal elements of WordPress content, so it helps to have some content to work with. I imported content from a site that needs redesigning; you could import sample content and do as well.
Though you will want to read the “before you start” file and take the tour of the Headway Visual Editor, it’s pretty easy to navigate and get a basic first layout created and styled. Refinements will probably take longer. I can see why some people prefer this for client work, especially if they come from design backgrounds.
None of the three had quite the glitz factor of Divi, which Pieter Hartsook demonstrated. The modules for building pages in Divi are similar to those in Ultimatum, but there are more of them built in, and the fancy slider effects are also built in, without needing added plugins. (All of that stuff gets stored in the post table as shortcodes.)
The really nice thing for the total beginner, though, is the number of pre-made layouts: if you want to start with a template for a portfolio site, or a company site, or a store, just select that layout. Seems like a great way to get a site set up in a hurry if you have a low-budget job or a friend in need and they don’t need a super-custom design.
Here are the slides from Lou Anne McKeefery‘s presentation about SEO for WordPress on June 22nd, 2014.
This is Lou Anne’s Keyword Silo Worksheet (you can download it in Excel format)
Google is limiting the things you can do for free. For instance, you need to pay to appear in Google’s shopping results. More than that, 80% of SEO is “off page”–determined by things that happen elsewhere than your own website. (The part of off-page SEO that you do control is your social media profiles and activity and how those relate to your website.)
This talk focuses on the 20% of SEO which is “on page,” the part you do control with what you do on your own website.
To see how you’re indexed, type in site:domain.com. To see what’s cached, type in cached:domain.com. This isn’t 100% foolproof, because sometimes Google will do what it damn well pleases.
The way people search is changing. Younger people search images and videos rather than text/web. That means it’s important to optimize your images (file names, ALT tags) for search. Video search is technically off-page, but you can optimize your videos at YouTube when you upload them. (Vimeo too, I presume.)
One important factor in WordPress SEO is your permalink structure. For SEO purposes, the best permalink structures are /%category%/%postname%/ or just /%postname%/.
Use breadcrumbs to help guide both humans and search engines through your site. If your theme doesn’t have them built in, you can use the breadcrumb feature in the Yoast SEO plugin.
Keep your H1, H2, and H3 tags in the proper order of importance. H1 is supposed to be the most important item on the page. WordPress normally shows your blog post title as H1 in the single post view and H2 in the blog index view.
Edit your page meta description. This doesn’t help the search engine itself, but rather entices people to click on the link once they see the search results. (Yoast SEO lets you edit this, and also the page title if you need one title for the search engine and another for the readers.)
Don’t use multiple keywords/phrases in your URLs or page titles–Google doesn’t read these, nor URLs with multiple dynamic parameters.
XML Sitemaps are important to help search bots find their way around your site. Yoast SEO generates them, or there are separate plugins to create them. (WP Engine requires a different sitemap plugin.)
Use the robots.txt file to tell Google which files and folders not to index.
If you have rebuilt an old HTML website into WordPress, make sure you set up 301 redirects from the old pages to the new pages. There is a plugin called Redirection that will do this, but it’s actually more efficient to use the .htaccess file.
Google dislikes orphaned pages–which is what many landing pages and squeeze pages are, because they are not part of the navigation and don’t link to other pages in the site. You might want to set those pages to “noindex.” (You’re probably directing people to them via a marketing campaign, rather than expecting people to stumble across them in search.) You can use the Advanced tab in Yoast SEO to set any page to “noindex.”
Redirecting before showing content is a red flag to Google. So are some former black hat techniques like hiding keywords in fonts that match the background color, or “cloaking”–showing one result to visitors and another to search bots.
All SEO projects rely on keyword research. Lou Anne likes to use Wordtracker (there’s a free trial, but apparently they are no longer accepting free user signups). You can collect some information just by seeing what Google suggests when you start typing. Yoast’s SEO plugin will also make suggestions for you when you start typing a focus keyword. Be aware that Google’s keyword suggestion tool bases its suggestions on paid search rather than organic search.
Start with the less-competitive keywords. Go for the low-hanging fruit. Keep track of the page names you use the words on. Put the keywords that you’ve optimized for into your meta tag field because then you can track them more easily. (If you’re using Yoast, you have it there.)
Use hierarchical design of pages. Also of categories.
Make sure to include your keyword/phrase in your post title, permalink, meta description, and throughout your content. Also name your images with keywords and use keywords in your alt tags, title tags, and captions for the images.
Use your keyword research to determine the site’s post categories. Silo the site content using Lou Anne’s worksheet. Don’t use more than 2 keyword phrases per post.
Page speed is increasingly important for SEO these days. Good hosting is the best thing for this, but in addition to that, you should optimize your images, css, and scripts, and use a CDN. You may want to use a caching plugin if your host is not providing sufficient server-side caching. (But be careful setting up W3 Total Cache: if you do it wrong, it will make things worse.)
Measure your results. Lou Anne likes My SEO Tool ($39/month, worth it if you are a professional or your business depends on SEO.) Also, set Google Analytics up to track your internal search queries.
Schema.org markup is currently important for recipes, reviews, and local search, and will be important for e-commerce soon. There are plugins like Organization Schema Widget and Local Business SEO that include schema markup for specific purposes, but nothing comprehensive yet. In certain situations, it can be a real SEO secret sauce.
Q & A
How do I display a gallery of posts?
Eve Lurie wanted to know whether it was possible to link the thumbnails in a WordPress gallery to posts instead of just to images. The gallery shortcode in WordPress […]
Here are the slides from Sallie Goetsch’s May 2014 presentation introducing Google Webmaster Tools for WordPress: how to set up an account, verify ownership of your WordPress site, connect your Webmaster Tools […]
It’s easier to verify site ownership in Google Webmaster Tools if you use a plugin. If you’re already using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can use that. I like All in One Webmaster because it lets you do […]
Here are Katherine Mancuso’s slides from the April 2014 presentation on Google Analytics. Katherine discussed what analytics can tell us and why we need to know, including hits vs. page views vs. sessions and setting up goals and campaigns.
Google Analytics is a huge topic. There are many resources on the subject, though it’s hard for any publication to keep up with the new developments–including Google’s own documentation! Here are some resources that Meetup members can use to help them get to grips with Google Analytics.
Google Analytics Home
Google Analytics Help Center
Google Analytics Academy
Google Analytics Blog
An Introduction to Google Analytics for e-Commerce
Free PDF download. Produced by Shopify. Helpful for setting up events, goals and funnels.
Your Guide to Google Analytics by Ryan Dube
PDF, ePUB, Kindle or HTML published on makeuseof.com. Not WordPress-specific.
Google Analytics: Getting It Right
Free PDF eBook from the makers of the Google Analyticator plugin and Video User Manuals. Sign up to download.
Getting Started with Google Analytics
Free PDF eBook from iThemes.
How to Install Google Analytics in WordPress for Beginners (WPBeginner)
Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Google Analytics for Your WordPress Site (WPBeginner)
An Introduction to Google Analytics for WordPress (Elegant Themes)
WordPress Google Analytics (UA) Events Tracking Guide (Penguin Initiatives)
Creating a Google Analytics Filter for Image Search (Yoast.com)
Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics (Yoast.com)
Google Analytics for WordPress (Custom events, but no universal analytics)
Simple Google Analytics (What it says)
WooCommerce Google Analytics Integration (Tracks the rest of your site as well as your WooCommerce products)
Google Analyticator (Supports universal analytics. Shows all kinds of analytics in your dashboard. Performance drag.)
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (Very similar to Analyticator, including the performance drag.)
The main topic at the March 2014 East Bay WordPress Meetup was iThemes Exchange, the most recent e-commerce plugin. Meetup description:
iThemes created Exchange to be easy to use: an end-user’s shopping cart. Chris Lema has heralded it as the simplest shopping cart (or membership system) to set up.
This is not what you want for your complex custom jobs, but it might be what you want when clients need an easy way to sell a few products. (One of mine found it a lot easier to work with than Shopp, which she replaced with it.)
Let’s take a look at the features and extensions so far available and put them into the context of existing solutions like WooCommerce.
An examination of Exchange and its add-ins revealed one major flaw: no product variations. For anyone selling physical products (mugs, T-shirts, etc), this seems like a deal-breaker. (Product variations are in the development pipeline.)
Other aspects of Exchange are more appealing for instance: separate product entry pages for physical products, digital downloads, memberships, etc. This saves having too many options on one page. The product video field is also a nice touch.
Overall, iThemes exchange seems like a product to watch. It has ease of use in its favor.
Price-wise, it seems much of a piece with WooCommerce: the base plugin is free, but most of the interesting stuff costs money.
Q & A
This time is open for people to ask questions about any aspect of WordPress that they’re having difficulties with, or share recent discoveries.
iThemes Builder/Drag-and-Drop Page Layout/Theme Frameworks
These links point to the source material for the statistics quoted in the slides, and also provide some further insight into issues like setting rates and prices.
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