WP Mastery https://wpmastery.xyz Master WordPress, monetize your site, grow your business.. Tue, 09 Oct 2018 03:54:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wpmastery.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/wpmc-logo@2x-150x150.jpg WP Mastery https://wpmastery.xyz 32 32 How to analyze the loading time of your site https://wpmastery.xyz/how-to-analyze-the-loading-time-of-your-site/ https://wpmastery.xyz/how-to-analyze-the-loading-time-of-your-site/#respond Sat, 28 Jul 2018 15:29:37 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5534 You might have noticed that I shifted my business entirely to loading speed optimization services. I'm not building any more websites. In this email, I want to explain which tools we use for analyzing our clients' loading speed and what metrics we pay attention to. Hint: it's not necessarily Google Pagespeed Insights. Caspar Hübinger, an […]

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You might have noticed that I shifted my business entirely to loading speed optimization services. I'm not building any more websites.

In this email, I want to explain which tools we use for analyzing our clients' loading speed and what metrics we pay attention to.

Hint: it's not necessarily Google Pagespeed Insights.

Caspar Hübinger, an employee at WP Rocket, broke down very well why the average WP user (read, any company smaller than Fortune 5000) should pay attention to Pagespeed Insights. Read his post here (warning, he's swearing).

There you go. Free performance optimization advice: Unless you’re a developer who actually knows how to “eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”—fuck PageSpeed, test load times. - Caspar Hübinger

In our day-to-day analysis, we rely on GTMetrix. With our Pro account, we can analyze up to 200 sites per day.

Their free account gives plenty of information already, along with the exact steps you need to take to optimize your site's performance.

For example: if your report shows that you need to optimize your images, GTMetrix will provide you with optimized versions of your images directly. You can simply download them from inside the free analysis.

How great is that?!

To fully implement their recommendations and to get the best results, it's often necessary to add custom coding to your site. That is, not even using a caching plugin to tweaking the server configuration and theme/plugin configurations directly.

That's what our service specializes in.

However, if you're not at a stage where you can invest in someone optimizing your site, there's a solution too.

We keep recommending the WP Rocket caching plugin over and over again.

It is a fantastic solution because it comes preconfigured for most sites.

While in the past we used free plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, we found that WP Rocket comes with multiple advantages over them:

  1. WP Rocket is super easy to configure. Their user experience is top level, while W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache can be finicky to use.
  2. WP Rocket comes with default settings that fit most websites.
  3. The WP Rocket support is there to assist you when things break (ever tried JavaScript or CSS minification before?)
  4. The speed increase WP Rocket brings will increase your conversions and rankings, and thus the plugin pays for itself easily (as does our service).

With plugins like WP Rocket, you can implement the recommendations from GTMetrix to a high degree.

There are other platforms for analyzing your website such as Pingdom or WebPageTest, but we found that GTMetrix provides the most user-friendly reports.

If you simply follow the GTMetrix reports for your website as good as you can, you'll see reasonable improvement in loading speed. If you need a hand, we're here for you.

Let's make the Internet a place of fast-loading websites!

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Slow WooCommerce shop? Here are 7 ways to speed up WooCommerce. https://wpmastery.xyz/slow-woocommerce-shop/ https://wpmastery.xyz/slow-woocommerce-shop/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 06:26:33 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5474 Having a slow WooCommerce shop kills your conversions and causes you to make less money. Since we started focusing on optimizing the loading speed of WordPress sites, WooCommerce in particular, we want to outline seven ways you might be slowing down your WooCommerce shop. While there is a good reason for using most of the […]

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Having a slow WooCommerce shop kills your conversions and causes you to make less money.

Since we started focusing on optimizing the loading speed of WordPress sites, WooCommerce in particular, we want to outline seven ways you might be slowing down your WooCommerce shop.

While there is a good reason for using most of the things we mention below, you always have to be aware of the trade-off in loading time.

For example, we'll talk about using Live Chat on your site - which is known to increase conversions and lead to more sales.

However, that exact Live Chat is also slowing down your site and causing the conversion rate to go down. Usually, they take off 1-3s off your loading speed, which is quite a bit.


40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. - Kissmetrics. Via https://wpmastery.xyz/slow-woocommerce-shop
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And since the bounce rate (number of people leaving your site directly) is an important ranking factor for SEO and paid ads, you can achieve multiple benefits by having a fast WooCoomerce store.

Let's dive into seven of the most common factors that are slowing down WooCommerce.

Using Facebook chatbots

Facebook chatbots are all the hype these days. And for a good reason.

According to Jay Baer, 64% of Americans say 24h service is the best feature of chatbots. They're a great way to give your customers a pleasant user experience while providing more information at the same time.

However, using a Facebook chatbot also has a massive drawback. If you run a chatbot, it's likely one reason for your slow WooCommerce shop.

Let's look at the WP Mastery homepage with a ManyChat (great tool btw!) chatbot on it:

Facebook Chatbot code

As you can see, the site is loading 567kb of Javascript code from Facebook servers. That's one-third of the entire page size!

Now, here's the same landing page without a chatbot (I replaced it with email opt-in forms through Thrive Leads):

Homepage without Facebook chatbot
The WP Mastery homepage test results without the ManyChat Facebook bot.

That's incredible, isn't it?!

By just removing the ManyChat tag and shortcode for the chatbot, the loading speed went from 6.3s to 2.6s and the page size got reduced by 35%.

For me, this is reason enough to not use the ManyChat bot on the homepage of WP Mastery anymore. WP Mastery is all about making sites loading fast, therefore I cannot allow the homepage to take 6s to load.

What I'll do instead is to only load the ManyChat code on lead generation pages, e.g. for getting your free loading speed analysis.

Live-chat tools

Similarly to the Facebook Chatbot, Live-chat tools also load scripts from external servers. Hence, they are slowing down your site - maybe even to a similar degree as ManyChat did in the previous example.

Creators of live-chat tools are aware of this issue and are providing advice on how to embed their software in the most efficient way.

Avoid live chat plugins if you have a slow WooCommerce shop
WP Live Chat Support is one of the most popular chat plugins for WordPress.

WP Live Chat, for example, has written a short post with recommendations on configuring W3 Total Cache and setting up a CDN (surprise, a CDN most always helps!).

If you see a post like this, always be VERY cautious.

The instructions provided with regards to minifying JavaScript (JS) and CSS files might well break your site.

If you don't have experience with how loading JS and CSS impacts the rendering of your website, you can easily mess up the layout of your page.

I think WP Live Chat could have done a better job outlining the dangers of minification - besides just highlighting its undoubtedly solid potential for making your site load faster.

Their CDN recommendations go hand-in-hand with what my team uses for our speed optimization. If you book a CDN during one of our sales conversations, we'll set you up with a free CloudFlare account and integrate it for you.

Embedding videos

We all love using videos to build our brand or to sell.

They work, as they help us build a better connection with our audience. Videos let us communicate the benefits of our products.

However, videos always load scripts from other websites. And thus attribute heavily to your slow WooCommerce shop.

It's not uncommon, that embedding a Youtube video on your website makes your site load more than 1MB in additional files from Youtube's servers.

Most often when we work on WordPress sites that use videos heavily, we make them load asynchronously.

For example, we worked on bossfitness.net recently. Angus Fairbairn, the owner, has some great videos on his website and wanted to keep them of course.

BossFitness testimonial videos
Angus has four testimonial videos on his home page. It makes sense to keep them and make them load faster!

So we installed a solution that stores local screenshots of the thumbnail images automatically, and only loads the "fat" Youtube player when a visitor clicks on one of his videos.

With that method (amongst others), we brought down his loading time from > 13s to 2-3s on average.

Bossfitness loading speed before & after
BossFitness before & after loading speed test

Using sliders

Similarly to using videos for presenting products, sliders are also very popular for showcasing your products - at least for bestselling products or the newest ones.

However, many case studies have shown how much sliders can slow down websites. On lists about plugins that slow down WordPress, most often you'll find names like Slider Revolution or LayerSlider.

We often recommend removing Slider Revolution, LayerSlider and alike from slow WooCommerce shops.

Ideally, you wouldn't even replace them with a different slider plugin.

Don't scream at me yet. I know how this sounds.

But, do you really need a slider on your site? Is there not a single different way to present the information about your products?

Once you start thinking about the value a slider delivers to your audience (not to you as the website-owner), you might come up with a different way to show your products.

Who knows, maybe that new way works even better for your audience and drives more conversions than your slider?!

If you're desperate for a slider, we recommend Soliloquy Slider. This article breaks down how it compares to other sliders in terms of loading speed.

Social sharing buttons

Social sharing buttons often drag down the loading speed of websites, because most of them load scripts off the servers from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

They add more requests for a visitors browser to execute, more data to be transferred and more files you cannot cache on your end to make them load faster.

At the time of writing this post, I am not sure if I what plugin will use on WP Mastery.

Likely, I'll use this question as a reason to do a speed test comparison on a couple of plugins.

What I can say though is, that you should only install ONE social sharing plugin. You don't need any more 🙂

Using bloated themes

Most WordPress themes these days are bloated with functionalities you'll likely never need.

They have portfolios to showcase your work, pricing tables, page builders and other custom post types for all sorts of data.

When I take a look at the most popular theme on Themeforest, called Avada, I see that it adds post types for a new slider, portfolios, FAQs, and a page builder with roughly 40+ elements to chose from.

You can imagine how much data that adds to your database. Think of your database as a huge storage space.

Every time somebody comes to your website, your WordPress is searching through that storage space to find the right information (e.g. the right blog post) to show to your visitor.

Now, do you become more efficient in finding what you're looking for if you add more stuff to your storage space? Not exactly, correct. The same is true for your website's database.

If your theme does clutter up your WP backend similarly, ask yourself if you really need all these functions. How likely is it, that you'll extend your site with a portfolio of your work if you're a car dealer?

Sometimes, it makes sense to switch to a more streamlined and less bloated theme.

For WP Mastery, I decided to use the Genesis Framework and Thrive Architect as a page builder. That combination makes the site load quite fast, you can read more about it here.

While the ideal WordPress site wouldn't use a page builder (they also slow down the site), sometimes they're worth the trade-off. Page builders allow you to be flexible in designing landing pages, sales pages, etc. - without having to touch the code any time you want to change the layout.

The only thing you really need to ensure is, that your theme is compatible with WooCommerce.

Not optimizing product images

As the last tip, I have a big one - product images.

While you want your images to look good on retina devices, I regularly see websites that upload images that are way too big in terms of dimensions and file size.

Inside WooCommerce, you specify how big your images are shown on your website.  Auttomatic has written a great documentation article about their image sizes, I recommend you read through it.

Do you know the exact dimensions of your product images? If not, you might want to take a look at them again.

WordPress does generate thumbnails for every single image you upload. If you're uploading images in the wrong dimensions (that is, width and height in pixels), your site might be cropping your product thumbnails weirdly.

You can fix that by following three steps:

  1. Check the current settings for your image sizes in WooCommerce and make sure you're happy with them. If you want to adjust the size settings, I recommend you take a backup of your site before!
  2. Reformat the product images on your computer to fix the specified dimensions and re-upload them.
  3. Install the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin and have it run through your media library.

You can further optimize your images by installing a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer.

EWWW Image Optimizer screenshot
This plugin automatically reduces the file size of your images.

With this plugin, you might be able to shave off another second of your loading speed. Give it a try!

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A cold email outreach workflow in less than 500 words https://wpmastery.xyz/cold-email-outreach-workflow/ https://wpmastery.xyz/cold-email-outreach-workflow/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 12:59:19 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5444 Yesterday, I read a Facebook status update by John Corcoran that inspired this post. He wrote: "If you're not hearing enough NO's, it means you aren't trying hard enough." That falls exactly in line with how I feel many entrepreneurs do cold outreach, including myself. I hate the idea of being turned down just as […]

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Yesterday, I read a Facebook status update by John Corcoran that inspired this post.

He wrote:

Status update by John Corcoran
John is a former writer for the White House and now runs rise25.com & smartbusinessrevolution.com

"If you're not hearing enough NO's, it means you aren't trying hard enough."

That falls exactly in line with how I feel many entrepreneurs do cold outreach, including myself.

I hate the idea of being turned down just as much as anybody, but if I don't tell people what services my agency provides, I can only rely on word-of-mouth and PPC traffic.

That's not a sustainable business model if you ask me. At least, I'd not be sleeping comfortably if my agency wouldn't have Frank, a fantastic salesman (and one of the co-founders).

Over the past days, I took a deep dive into ways outreach can be systemized.

And I want to share a tool I came across... it's called MixMax.

With MixMax, you can:

  • import lead email addresses from spreadsheets
  • send automated sequences and follow-ups to cold leads
  • leverage email templates with personalization
  • schedule emails and undo sending
  • use surveys, code snippets and attach files from Dropbox, Box or G Drive

I haven't seen a tool with similar functionality that you can basically use for free. MixMax is only $9/month, which is nothing.

And even though this tool isn't related to WordPress, a systemized outreach process is the foundation for any business.

So, here's the workflow I'd implement if we didn't have Frank:

  1. I'd build a list of email addresses from prospects. I'd use LinkedIn, niche-specific forums, business directories or good ol' Google.
  2. I'd put names, business name and email into MixMax
  3. I'd set up a sequence for cold email outreach, with at least two follow-ups over the next days after sending the initial email. Don't overdo it here though!
  4. I'd have MixMax send out the sequences.

See how this workflow is building a pipeline of prospects?

At that point, you have three tasks:

1. Keep adding email addresses to your list in MixMax, to keep the pipeline running.

2. Follow up manually with those people that respond positively to your sequences.

3. Monitor the performance of your email templates and headlines and keep improving.

From your sequence, you can obviously link to your website, a portfolio of your services, or your calendar to directly schedule meetings. The options you have are endless.

 

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Three time-management tips that changed my business routines https://wpmastery.xyz/three-time-management-tips-that-changed-my-business-routines/ https://wpmastery.xyz/three-time-management-tips-that-changed-my-business-routines/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:38:42 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5423 These three scheduling tips have been life-savers for me recently. It took me five years to learn that blocking time is one of the fundamentals of success in life and business. Without blocking time regularly, my business was doing ok. It paid all the bills. It got me into a job as the lead developer […]

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These three scheduling tips have been life-savers for me recently. It took me five years to learn that blocking time is one of the fundamentals of success in life and business.

Without blocking time regularly, my business was doing ok.

It paid all the bills.
It got me into a job as the lead developer for a great agency.
It got me to work with businesses all around the world.

Though, I wasn't truly effective.

I was working on weekends.
I was working more than 40hrs per week to avoid having a 40hrs/week job.
My days had no routine.

Something had to change. My take on running my WP development business had to change.

1. Tip: Make scheduling a habit.

I love using the Coach.me app for tracking habits. Two habits are most important to me: "Daily Review" and "Weekly Review"

Following the Getting Things Done method, I use those habits to plan days and weeks ahead.

2. Tip: Block time in your calendar.

Once you're clear about the goals for a particular day and week, head over to your calendar and block time. This ensures you have enough time to actually DO what you planned.

Example: Last week, I switched the focus of WP Mastery towards optimizing WordPress sites for loading speed. I relaunched the website with that focus and a lead-generation chatbot. (Click here to see it in action)

In my calendar, this change reflects as 2h every workday for cold email outreach to prospects.

In the past weeks, I set up a productized service around loading speed optimizations - now it's time to get the clients to work with. This is mandatory (obviously), so I blocked time in my calendar to ensure I'm doing the prospecting and outreach.

3. Tip: Add a content calendar to your WordPress.

Planning ahead what content goes onto your blog is mandatory for a strong online brand.

Becoming strategic about my content creation has massively improved the workflow I use. It's basically just two steps:

First, I brainstorm topic ideas for the content I have to create. For this purpose, I'm blocking out 1 hour every week in my calendar.

The second step already is to create the content. For that, I'm also setting aside time daily and tracking the content creation with Coach.me in a "Write 100 words per day" habit.

No need to over-complicate recurring tasks 🙂

Obviously, there is much more to running your online business effectively than just planning ahead and carving out time for the most important tasks.

But without a structured day, you'll find yourself reacting to customer requests and random thoughts that appear to be important.

Only when you introduce habits and rituals into your daily routine, you'll see how much freedom you can experience.

The moment you stop thinking about what to do next because you already know it, you'll understand how disciplined planning will make your life simpler and more joyful.

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The fastest combo yet: Genesis Theme + Thrive Architect https://wpmastery.xyz/the-fastest-combo-yet-genesis-theme-thrive-architect/ https://wpmastery.xyz/the-fastest-combo-yet-genesis-theme-thrive-architect/#respond Wed, 27 Jun 2018 09:12:37 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5379 A few weeks ago, I felt lost in the variety of WordPress themes and page builders. There just are so many to choose from... It's tough to find out which functions you actually need, without getting overwhelmed by the advertising for Elementor, Divi, Thrive and so many others. Since WP Mastery was long overdue for […]

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A few weeks ago, I felt lost in the variety of WordPress themes and page builders. There just are so many to choose from...

It's tough to find out which functions you actually need, without getting overwhelmed by the advertising for Elementor, Divi, Thrive and so many others.

Since WP Mastery was long overdue for a redesign, I took a couple of days off to analyze how I'd rebuild the website.

It currently is built with The Ken by Artbees, which I still think is a great theme. However, I was ready for something new.

For the new website, I had the following criteria (in order):

  1. The fastest loading speed possible.
  2. A flexible page builder to build landing pages and sales pages that drive conversions (email opt-ins, chatbot opt-ins, sales).
  3. The site needs to be easy to maintain.
  4. I don't want to do a lot of custom coding (time always is an issue)

With those features in mind, I set out to find a combination of theme and page builder that met my needs.

I ended up with the Genesis Framework for the theme, and Thrive Architect for the page builder. You can find both on my Resources page.

Below is a screenshot of a speed test for my new landing page. 1.9s loading speed isn't bad for a page with full-width background images, opt-in forms, and testimonials.

Performance metrics for the new WP Mastery site

I tested multiple times and loading speed varied from 1.7s to 2.1s. My goal is to decrease it to below 1.5s on average once the site is finished.

If your site is loading slowly or you're not sure what themes to use when building client websites, I can highly recommend this combination.

Of course, other factors as hosting also influence the loading speed. Simply hit reply if you want to chat about making your site faster, maybe I can help!

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Affiliate Marketing Basics For Bloggers https://wpmastery.xyz/affiliate-marketing-basics/ Fri, 01 Jun 2018 06:30:31 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5097 I got the following affiliate marketing basics from one of the world's leading affiliate marketers, Matt McWilliams. We did an interview together, but unfortunately, my MacBook decided to not record it. Since I didn't want to take up his time again, as he's busy in a launch currently, I decided to do a full write-up […]

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I got the following affiliate marketing basics from one of the world's leading affiliate marketers, Matt McWilliams. We did an interview together, but unfortunately, my MacBook decided to not record it.

Since I didn't want to take up his time again, as he's busy in a launch currently, I decided to do a full write-up of the interview. It looses his fantastic energy (he's buzzing on video!) but it includes all affiliate marketing tips he shared with me.

Let's dive right into it!

Monetize your site from Day 1

From all affiliate marketing basics he shared with me, this one had the biggest impact.

I certainly did not monetize my first website from day one, neither did Matt. In fact, he invested months and months in just creating content and "building his platform" without making a single dollar in revenue.

The same is true for me - and it probably sounds familiar to you as well.

By not focusing on monetization though, your blog basically is an expensive hobby and not a business.

You have to make a mindset shift, in that you need to monetize your blog. Without money coming in, you cannot continue to serve your audience.

And more importantly, you cannot provide support for your family. Getting blog comments is nice and encouraging but doesn't pay the bills for shelter and food.

Hence, you need to get your mindset right and focus on monetizing your blog, WHILE providing free content to your audience.

To build a business, you need to:

  1. Build a platform by creating exceptional free content for your readers
  2. Monetize that platform by following the affiliate marketing basics you're about to learn in this post.

If you cannot do one of those two things, your blog merely is an expensive hobby.

Affiliate marketing basics: Selecting products

You can't promote an affiliate product without first choosing a product, right? So let's talk about principles you can follow to select a product.

Maybe you can't think of a product to promote in your current situation or you aren't sure what your audience really wants?

Matt shared a powerful lesson with me during our conversation:

Think about how you started and which products you used.

What you've got to remember is, that you're further away into the journey as your readers.

You are more experienced in your field and you can leverage that.

In my situation, those products are:

  • web hosting companies I used in the past
  • training programs about building businesses online that I took
  • WordPress plugins and themes I have experience with
  • complimentary software like SEO tools, backup services, etc.

Take a step back from your day-to-day work and think about how you built your expertise.

I'd be willing to bet that there are products, training programs or services that helped you along the way.

To find out if they have an affiliate program, simply go to Google and enter

product name "affiliate program".

For WP Engine, this looks like:

affiliate marketing basics: Google search for the WP Engine affiliate program
Google search for the WP Engine affiliate program. Nice doodle, isn't it?

As Matt explained in our conversation, you can promote products that you don't actually use. But those have to meet two requirements:

  • You must be 100% confident in the quality
  • They need to help your audience solve a problem

Ideally, you promote something you either used in the past, know the creator, or are currently using.

Applying to affiliate programs

When applying to affiliate programs, you need to convince the affiliate manager why you're a good fit.

Don't just explain how you're going to promote the product/service.

It's part of the affiliate marketing basics to blow affiliate managers away with your application.

  • Explain why you want to promote the product/service
  • Share your story that relates to the product (e.g. how you used it in the past or how it'll help your audience)
  • Describe how you're planning to promote the product
  • Give background information about yourself
  • Lastly, emphasize that you're playing the LONG GAME and want to become an active part in their community

To quote Matt:

Because if there’s one thing that affiliate marketing satisfies in a way that marketing your own stuff alone never can, it’s belonging to a community and contributing to a higher purpose.

That's what affiliate managers are always looking for!

In the next days and weeks, I'll share swipe files with my email list.

Focus on your first promotion

Focus easily was the one lesson of all the affiliate marketing basics that stuck with me the most.

I have done affiliate launches in the past, e.g. promoting Virtual Summit Mastery for virtual summits or Internet Business Mastery for building online businesses.

But I never really focused on them.

In fact, the past weeks after working with Matt are the first time in six years that I'm producing high-quality content consistently. 

Of course, I'm going to be an affiliate for the upcoming launch of his course "No Product, No Problem". And I am super focused!

As you can tell from my newsletters over the past weeks, I already started sharing tips on affiliate marketing.

Not just any fluff, but actionable advice.

By focusing on just that promotion, I set myself up for success.

I can exactly see what topics get the best engagement on my email list and I can understand what my subscribers are interested in the most.

Matt recommended in our conversation that every beginner should only focus on their first launch.

In fact, his own goal for his first affiliate promotion was to make 1 sale for Michael Hyatt's "Best Year Ever".

He ended up making $588 in commissions and got hooked.

Just as anything in the world of blogging and building online business platforms with WordPress, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the opportunities you have.

Make one step after another.

Affiliate marketing basics: Four ways to promote

Way 1: Your regular blog posts

You're already creating content on your blog, which is great.

In those contents, you can easily include affiliate links on places where they deliver value to your readers.

E.g. in my round-up post on tips for monetizing your website, I could simply replace the links to the services and programs of the contributors with affiliate links.

Or in my explanation of the WP Mastery redesign, I could include links to books on Amazon that talk about web design, marketing psychology, or any other topic that's related to online marketing.

Those are just two examples of how I could add affiliate links to my posts, I hope they give you a starting point for going through your own content.

Way 2: Write review posts

Review posts are one of those affiliate marketing basics that you should definitely leverage.

They are intended to help your audience decide on whether a product is a good fit for them or not.

A common mistake that affiliate marketers make in these review posts is trying to sell too hard.

Don't make the product look better than it is. Be honest about it.

Focus on the benefit of your audience: what problem does the product solve for them?

For example, I know that you need to generate email subscribers when building an online business. So I wrote a review post about my favorite lead generation plugin for WordPress.

I also know that having a fast-loading website is crucial. Hence, I added an affiliate link to Cloudways, the hosting company I use, in the sidebar and wrote a review about WordPress cloud hosting.

Writing review posts can follow certain templates, which I learned in Matt's program.

There are free templates that are (though not as detailed as Matt's) also helpful, e.g. from Niche Hacks.

Review posts are especially popular when you're in a niche that has multiple well-known products or services.

For WordPress, this can be review posts about hosting companies, lead gen plugins, SEO tools, etc.

In the competitive nutrition space, it could be a review post about blenders.

And as a third example, you could review fitness programs like P90X and compare them to e.g. program plans for TRX.

As you can see, the possibilities for writing review posts are endless.

Way 3: Email marketing

My favorite part in our conversation was, when Matt touched upon the affiliate marketing basics for email marketing.

I'm not going to talk about list building 101 here, but I want to break down a strategy that Matt shared.

As with the first two types of promotions, you need to focus on delivering helpful information to your email subscribers.

That cannot be done by constantly promoting affiliate products. Imagine how you'd feel if I were just selling you in every single email you'd receive from me.

Instead, Matt suggested to just focus on 3-5 affiliate promotions PER YEAR to promote to your list.

By doing that, you can promote in cycles. Between each promo, you'd be sending out emails with free resources, blog posts, and other actionable content - without selling anything.

After all, the most thriving businesses are those that help their audiences solve problems.

That is what you should focus on (if that isn't clear by now).

You're building trust with your free content and regular emails. You're establishing relationships.

Go in soft, provide value, provide value, and build relationships. - Gary Vaynerchuk

Especially with a small list (at the time of this writing, I have less than 3k people on my combined lists!), you can get into conversations with your subscribers.

Good luck with replying to all messages you receive when you have 10k or 100k subscribers.

Once a launch starts, you can then leverage that trust and go all-in on selling.

Most product launches come with a clear content calendar and suggested dates on emailing your list.

That makes integrating the promo emails with your regular content strategy a breeze.

Focus on that next promotion only and keep in mind that, for the weeks after the promo, you'll continue to put out free content via email.

Don't burn your list by over-selling. But be bold when a launch is going on - as what you're promoting is solving problems for your subscribers!

Again, those are just affiliate marketing basics.

I cannot dive deep into how you can segment your list after the affiliate launch is over or advanced strategies like sending emails to the un-opens to increase your overall open-rates.

But I can tell you that email marketing will be one of the pillar income streams in my business this year.

Way 4: The resources page

Lastly, we talked about the famous Resources page.

That's the page where you can list all the tools and services you use, used in the past, or recommend for your readers.

On my Resources page, you'll see what hosting companies I recommend, what themes and plugins I think are worth using, and third-party services for SEO or website security.

Keep in mind that this page will be changing over time.

You might build it once and not touch it for months.

But then you come across this new fantastic service that you think your audience should take advantage of.

By simply adding an affiliate link and an explanation to your Resources page, you're making it super easy for your readers to find out more.

Matt has written a comprehensive piece on building profitable Resources pages.

How to get started

I want to end this post with this last recommendation, as I think we touched upon enough affiliate marketing basics for you to get started.

The best decision I made to start with affiliate marketing was to sign up for Shareasale.com.

That is a platform used by companies like WP Engine, StudioPress, and many others to run their affiliate programs.

So by signing up for Shareasale here, you can apply to hundreds of affiliate programs in all niches you can think off.

The post Affiliate Marketing Basics For Bloggers appeared first on WP Mastery.

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Affiliate marketing for web designers [a great second income!] https://wpmastery.xyz/affiliate-marketing-for-web-designers/ Sun, 20 May 2018 17:08:21 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5076 You might ask why I'm writing about affiliate marketing for web designers. How on earth is that related to WordPress?! As you'll see in this post, it is VERY CLOSELY related to building WordPress sites for a living. In fact, affiliate marketing can be a very strong second income source for web designers and developers […]

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You might ask why I'm writing about affiliate marketing for web designers. How on earth is that related to WordPress?!

As you'll see in this post, it is VERY CLOSELY related to building WordPress sites for a living.

In fact, affiliate marketing can be a very strong second income source for web designers and developers alike.

Let me explain.

Affiliate marketing for web designers - why even bother?!

With affiliate marketing, you're distributing the risks that come with doing business.

When was the last time a client didn't pay on time even though you delivered great work?

When was the last time a website project didn't go as planned, resulting in deadlines (and payments) being pushed back?

Most web designers and developers have been there, including me.

Of course, you can implement strategies to avoid these problems. Charging 50% upfront helps to hold clients accountable to deliver the information you need.

But in the end, you'll never have 100% control over your projects.

If you want to minimize the impact of delayed payments on your bottom line, think about how affiliate marketing for web designers works.

By promoting products that complement your offers, you can add a nice side-income to your business.

Who wouldn't like that?

Now, affiliate marketing doesn't need to cannibalize your web design or development services. In fact, you can set up a strategy that even enhances your services.

Common objections to affiliate marketing for web designers

It's likely that by now some objections began creeping up in the back of your mind, and that's normal.

When I first considered this strategy, I had a couple of questions and objections:

  • What affiliate products should I even choose?
  • I'm already selling my web design and development services to my clients, how would I promote other products/services that aren't my own?
  • Does affiliate marketing work for all web designers and developers or did those guys set up their business in a different way than mine?
  • Will affiliate marketing undermine my authority?
  • Is this even ethical?

Let's address them one by one, starting with the most important objection: is this discussion even ethical?

In my eyes, affiliate marketing for web designers can be 100% ethical - if done the right way.

Just as with any business strategy, you should focus on providing the most value possible to your customers.

If you know about a good service or product that would benefit your customer, why would you not recommend it?

You'd actually do them a disservice by not recommending a product that's beneficial.

Don't focus just on the profits but enhance your service

Of course, affiliate marketing can be highly unethical if you're just focusing on your own profits.

There are a few things to be considered when choosing a service or product to promote:

  • Be 1000% convinced of the quality of the product or service. Ideally, you have used it yourself or at least know people who are happy customers.
  • Only promote products if you genuinely believe they'll help your customers.
  • Be able to answer questions about the promoted offer.
  • Don't be overly salesy with your promotions.
  • The benefit for your customers is most important. Your profit is secondary (at best).

With these things in mind, I believe that web designers and web developers can add affiliate promotions in very ethical ways.

Instead of just thinking about the money you could potentially add to your bottom line, think about how the affiliate product will help your clients achieve their goals.

Let's say you just built a website design and your client is using a poor hosting company.

By selling them on a professional host like Cloudways or WP Engine and helping them to move their site over, you'd not just earn affiliate income.

You'd help your client increase their website rankings (loading speed matters!) and deliver a better user experience. Most importantly, a faster loading time potentially generates more leads and business from their website.

That's what I'd call a Win-Win scenario.

How affiliate marketing can work for web designers/developers

I think there are at least two ways, in which affiliate marketing for web designers and developers can be really profitable.

Let me walk you through my thought process:

Usually, the customer acquisition process for web design businesses consist of the usual stages:

  • First, you build your brand and showcase your portfolio online
  • Then you either pitch potential clients or get referred to leads from custom clients
  • Or you leverage your email list to generate clients
  • Your projects are focused on providing an outstanding service and delivering a great, customized website for your clients
  • When the project is over, you try and get them on a monthly retainer to create consistent income

You might ask yourself how affiliate marketing fits into these steps. And that's a valid question.

I have two ways how I integrated affiliate marketing into my daily business.

From my experience in talking to other web designers and developers, those ways could be leveraged in their businesses too.

Recommending affiliate products in existing client relationships

You might have heard the saying that it's easier to sell to existing clients a second or third time rather than to acquire a new client.

That statement definitely is true in my experience. If you're doing a great job for your clients, people will come back to you and will want to hire you again and again.

Don't just finish the first project with a client in a way that not just satisfies your customer. Instead, blow them out of the water and you're building a huge amount of trust.

Affiliate marketing for web designers leverages that trust.

Just yesterday I wrote an email to a client who I worked with in the past, including an affiliate link which I'm pretty sure they'll use (there never is a guarantee of course).

They took over managing their own site and asked me to tweak a setting.

In that process, I noticed that they didn't seem to run any backups of their website. They only relied on the backups their web host is making.

By not backing up their site, they're violating one of the most fundamental rules in using WordPress.

To fix this situation, I recommended they use Blogvault as backup service. Additionally, I offered to set up Blogvault on their site (if they use my link of course).

Blogvault affiliate marketing for web designers example

That's just one example how you can integrate affiliate products into the conversations you're already having.

You're an expert in what you're doing, right?

Remember that you can spot situations where your clients are not leveraging opportunities to their fullest potential. Or when they are taking risks they shouldn't take.

In those moments, it's the best decision to recommend an affiliate product or service that fixes that specific problem. After all, there's nothing shady or unethical in doing so - as long as you trust in your recommendation.

To stay with my Blogvault example, I know that my client will be more than happy.

Blogvault easily is one of the most reliable and user-friendly backup services. I used them myself in the past and keep recommending them again and again.

Using affiliate marketing on your blog

Probably the more obvious choice for doing affiliate marketing is by promoting products or services through your blog.

You're likely already running a blog to build your brand and to sell your services. So why not extend your offering and add affiliate products that complement what you do?

The most common place for affiliate links is the famous "Resources" page (which I currently don't have on WP Mastery, shame on me). You can check out the fantastic Resources page of Pat Flynn.

Best practices for building a solid resource page are:

  • Divide the affiliate products based on their use and context (e.g. group affiliate links for design programs together and don't mix them with affiliate links for SEO tools).
  • Include affiliate software, books, and courses. Everybody is different, so various products deliver various results for each of your readers.
  • Include affiliate offers for readers at all stages, whether they're just beginning their journey, already have an established business, or want to scale to a serious income level.
  • Make the links easy to identify and also put links on the logos of the products/brands
  • Don't overdo it. The more choices people have, the less likely they are to act (paralysis by analysis)

Wrapping up

As you can probably tell by now, I'm pretty excited. Affiliate marketing for web designers can be a fantastic additional income stream and I'm certainly going to leverage it in 2018.

My intention is to bring WP Mastery back to where it originally came from. I started this blog as a platform for me to share my journey in using WordPress and building my online business.

That is why you'll see more content about affiliate marketing throughout this year. I believe from my core that articles like this one can lead you to make more revenue.

Of course, I'm trying my best to mix the business-related posts with tutorials and more technical articles.

In the end, I'll give you the full scope of what it's like to make a living using WordPress.

 

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My Favorite WordPress Lead Generation Plugin https://wpmastery.xyz/wordpress-lead-generation-plugin/ Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:59:33 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5021 So, you're blogging but not getting email subscribers? Welcome to the club! It's easy to think that, with the right WordPress lead generation plugin, all your problems are fixed. Let me explain why this couldn't be further from the truth. Once we got that misconception out of the way, I'll share what I think is […]

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So, you're blogging but not getting email subscribers? Welcome to the club! It's easy to think that, with the right WordPress lead generation plugin, all your problems are fixed.

Let me explain why this couldn't be further from the truth. Once we got that misconception out of the way, I'll share what I think is the best WordPress lead generation plugin.

Ready?

Let's first do a brief analysis of your situation.

There are a few key metrics you need to understand where you're at and what next steps are most important.

Even the best WordPress lead generation plugin is no cure-all

Let me emphasize this again. No lead generation plugin in the world will grow your list if the foundation is broken.

What I mean by that is, getting strangers to enter their email address on your website is a huge ask.

Your website needs to check multiple boxes to convince your visitors to sign up to your list.

Remember, that everybody's email inbox is already cluttered. We're getting more and more careful with adding more emails to the daily havoc of incoming emails.

There's a psychological process of convincing a complete stranger that your newsletter is worthy of signing up.

As Josh Spector wrote in his post on Medium:

Nobody’s going to subscribe to your newsletter as a favor to you — they need to know what’s in it for them.

The description of your newsletter has to express a clear value proposition to give people a reason to subscribe.

With this in mind, and before you do anything else, there are a few key things you can do to assess your newsletter strategy. And no, installing a different WordPress lead generation plugin is none of them (yet).

Think through your lead generation strategy:

  • What benefits does your email newsletter deliver to your audience?
  • How clearly are you conveying those benefits to your readers?
  • Are you sure your lead-magnet resonates with your audience?
  • How easy is it to find your opt-in forms?
  • What website elements are distracting from the opt-in forms?

This is by no means a complete list but should give you a good starting point.

Hint, if you're not sure if list building or monetizing your blog in other ways is more important, check out this fantastic podcast episode by my friend Matt McWilliams. He is the affiliate manager for guys like Michael Hyatt, Hal Elrod, Chandler Bolt, works with the Ziglar Family, and many other rockstar entrepreneurs.

How do you choose the right WordPress lead generation plugin?

Now that we've got the elephant in the room out of the way, let's break down the criteria for choosing the perfect WordPress lead generation plugin for your website.

Remember, your website has a unique branding - whether built consciously or unconsciously. Thus, not all lead capture methods you see on other WordPress sites will work on yours.

Also, depending on the theme that you're using, you might have to do customization work (or hire somebody to do it for you) if you want functions that your theme doesn't support out of the box.

Functions like that could be a floating sidebar that shows an opt-in form while the user scrolls through your website.

You likely already noticed, that it's not easy to pick the best WordPress lead generation plugin.

I'd go so far to say that there is no single "best" plugin for capturing leads in WordPress. The choice always depends on your specific needs.

However, there is a WordPress lead generation plugin that I find to be very versatile.

I use a plugin called Thrive Leads on almost all of the websites I build.

Here's what I love most about capturing leads with Thrive Leads:

  1. It is working with all major email marketing services.
  2. As of April 2018, you can add eleven (!) different types of opt-in forms to your site
    1. Popups that are triggered by time
    2. A ribbon that goes across the entire header
    3. A widget to be placed in sidebars or other widget areas
    4. A welcome mat
    5. In-content opt-in forms
    6. Post-footer forms
    7. Slide-in forms
    8. Screen-filler lightboxes
    9. Forms inserted via PHP
    10. Two-step popups inserted via shortcodes
    11. One-click sign-up links
  3. Thrive Leads has great looking pre-designed form templates which you can customize with a visual builder (no coding)
  4. It works on mobiles and desktops alike
  5. Their pricing is very fair

These were just five reasons why Thrive Leads is my favorite WordPress lead generation plugin - but I could go on 😉

Let me briefly walk you through how I set up the opt-in forms on WP Mastery.

My personal WordPress lead generation setup

As of the time I'm writing this article, I'm using Thrive Leads in multiple places on WP Mastery. Namely in the sidebar, in a popup and below the content.

I chose these three place, because I think that is where most of my readers will see the opt-in forms. With Thrive Leads, I can evaluate the performance of each of these forms, but more on that later in this post.

All forms are connected to my email marketing service of choice, Mailchimp.

Thrive Leads - WordPress lead generation plugin setup with Mailchimp

Inside Mailchimp, I have a list set up for WP Mastery, where all subscribers are collected.

Whenever a visitor subscribes to that list, the email gets added and an automated sequence of emails gets triggered. The purpose of that email sequence is to introduce myself to the new subscriber and to set the frame for what they can expect from being subscribed.

Even though the automation is not directly related to any WordPress lead generation plugin, I wanted to bring it up. It's important to not just set up a plugin that collects email addresses but to build relationships with those people who subscribe to your list.

Remember, those people are humans like you and me... and they expect you to deliver content that's worth their time.

Back to my Thrive Themes setup.

The opt-in form configurations on WP Mastery

At the time writing this post, I'm showing multiple opt-in forms on this page.

So far, the conversion rate on the popup form is best. In contrast, the sidebar form barely converts any leads.

I can see that statistic easily in Thrive Leads:

Statistics showing in my WordPress lead capture plugin
As you can see, those numbers aren't ideal. But at least I know that my current lead generation strategy is not converting as well as I'd like it to.

This screenshot lets me draw multiple important conclusions:

  1. My lead magnet is not ideal and does not fit the expectations of my readers. Otherwise, the conversion statistics would be higher.
  2. The "post footer" opt-in needs to be ignored, I just added that a couple of days ago (a frustrating evidence of how far my traffic has dropped).
  3. The lightbox performs better than the sidebar widget
  4. The sidebar goes unnoticed in 99.93% of all cases. A clear evidence that it is not needed when I'm redesigning the WP Mastery layout.

It's one thing if you can set up your WordPress lead generation plugin to show forms, but getting visitors to subscribe is a totally different story.

Getting visitors to subscribe isn't necessarily a matter of which WordPress lead generation plugin you're using, but how you're writing the copy on your forms and what lead magnets you're offering.

Therefore, you'll want to use a plugin that makes building nice-looking opt-in forms as easy as possible.

And that's exactly what Thrive Leads is doing:

Thrive Visual Editor for opt-in forms
This is the visual editor you can use in Thrive Leads. It makes customizing your forms incredibly easy.

Thrive Leads, my favorite lead generation plugin for WP, not only offers pre-built templates for the various types of lead generation forms - it also comes with an easy-to-use visual content builder.

If you're interested in seeing how I'm building my forms, let me know in my Facebook group!

Testing and comparing lead generation forms

The last reason I want to give for Thrive Leads being my favorite lead generation plugin for WordPress is the ability to test and compare forms against each other.

By running split tests, you can compare:

  • lead magnets
  • headlines
  • call to actions
  • colors (e.g. on buttons)

Just these four examples highlight areas in your lead generation strategy you should pay close attention to. It's important to always be optimizing for the best performance.

Here's a screenshot of a prepared split test I'm currently working on. It's not yet ready to launch as of writing this post - but I'll be comparing two variations of my popup form.

Split Test with Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is able to show the first popup to 50% of my visitors and the new popup to the other half. By then comparing the statistics on sign ups, the plugin can calculate which version of the popup will likely perform better in the future.

As you can probably see by now, Thrive Leads is a cornerstone plugin in my online strategy. That's why I wanted to share how I'm using it and give you guidance to decide whether it could benefit your business as well.

The post My Favorite WordPress Lead Generation Plugin appeared first on WP Mastery.

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Cheap WordPress Hosting – The Real Benefits & Drawbacks Explained https://wpmastery.xyz/cheap-wordpress-hosting/ Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:16:47 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=5019 You got a business idea, but how do you tell the world? Can you use a cheap WordPress hosting company to take it online? Or do you need to invest into an expensive host? There are many myths about cheap WordPress hosting companies. Let me try and debunk them for you. When I started blogging […]

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You got a business idea, but how do you tell the world? Can you use a cheap WordPress hosting company to take it online? Or do you need to invest into an expensive host?

There are many myths about cheap WordPress hosting companies. Let me try and debunk them for you.

When I started blogging in 2012, I relied on a cheap WordPress hosting provider. It just felt like it was the best fit for my situation.

Now, some six years later, I have changed my hosting providers several times. I hosted my sites on cheap WordPress hosting and on really expensive hosting providers.

In this article, I want to break down the major differences for you. My goal is to help you decide what hosting company to go with - or to recommend to your clients.

Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a good hosting provider, I want to share my experiences with cheap WordPress hosting and with expensive WordPress hosting.

At the end of this article, I'll also share my favorite hosting companies with you. I have used all of those myself.

What to expect if you use a cheap WordPress hosting company

First, let's talk about what you can expect when you host your site on a cheap provider.

There are a couple of caveats to be aware of. Some of them might impact you / your clients more than others - I'll try to break them down for you.

1. Your site will be on shared hosting

The job of your hosting provider is, to turn the files and the database that WordPress consists of, into your website. It handles the technical side of "making your website available online".

Hosting providers can do that by using "servers". You can think of those as computers that run certain software. That software is what reads the files of WordPress and translates them into what you can see on your website.

The crucial difference between cheap WordPress hosting and expensive WordPress hosting is in the setup of the servers.

On cheap hosts, a server can contain hundreds of WordPress websites. Those sites "share the server" - hence the term "shared hosting".

As Techopedia explains:

Shared hosting is one of the most common and popular forms of Web hosting service. It is generally provided by Web hosting service providers, which usually have multiple Web servers on-site. Upon signup with the provider, each website’s logical partition/space is created on the Web server, which houses data for that website only. Other websites are also present on the same Web server, simultaneously sharing the storage, computing power, network and other resources. Because it is a shared service, shared hosting is a cheaper alternate to dedicated hosting.

Shared hosting is recommended for websites that are smaller in size, don’t have a large amount of Web traffic, have considerably lower security concerns and require cost-effective solutions for website hosting.

Why is that bad?

Think about an analogy from real life: sharing a car.

If your family has a car and multiple persons drive it, you'll likely have to do a few adjustments every time to get into the car. You'll adjust the driver's seat and the mirrors, check how much fuel is left in the tank, and maybe you even have to clean the car because someone else left it dirty.

It's the same with shared hosting. What other websites do can have a negative impact on your website.

Let's say one of the other hundred websites on your shared server has a faulty plugin installed and gets hacked.

Hackers can then use the hacked website to e.g. send spam emails - and take up as much of the server resources as they can.

The effect on your site would be, that your website would load reasonably slower than before. Like, really slow. And it wouldn't even be your fault.

2. Cheap WordPress hosting often lacks quality support

One thing you definitely should not compromise on is the quality of support you can get from a web hosting company.

My personal preference is a live-chat functionality that's available 24/7. Chat allows me to explain clearly what the issue is, and most importantly, to have a copy of the chat sent to my email address for future reference.

You might prefer phone support, which is totally fine. Just make sure, that the hosting provider you're choosing offers your preferred type of support.

Now, why did I write that cheap hosting companies often lack quality support?

To me, it's a numbers game.

Support bots aren't good enough to replace human support staff yet. So hosting providers, cheap and expensive alike, have to invest in personnel to handle their support.

And with that realization, expensive WordPress hosts have a bigger margin to afford more staff than cheap WordPress hosting companies do.

From my experience, the support on more expensive hosting companies like WP Engine (or at my preferred host Cloudways) has always been outstanding, while cheaper hosting companies I worked with sometimes only offered email support from 8am - 5pm.

In one particular situation in 2013, I was on a vacation with my girlfriend. We booked a vacation home in Belgium and being self-employed, I obviously had to take my MacBook with me. 

On the third day of our 6-day trip, all hell broke loose and the hosting provider I worked with shut down all my websites. They found a hack in one of my websites and had to take it down to protect other websites on the same shared server.

I could only get them on the phone between 9am and 6pm, which lead to devastating waiting time in the morning. Needless to say that those limits to their availability wrecked our entire vacation day...

Since then, I decided to invest in quality web hosting.

3. Expect a solid uptime

"Uptime" describes the time your website is available online. It's usually given in percent and should be around 99.99%.

What that number means, that your site could be offline for 0.876h per year and your web hosting company would still fulfill there contract reasonably well.

That's roughly 52 minutes, which, over the course of a year, is an acceptable amount of downtime.

All bigger hosting providers these days have their server configurations dialed in well.

Other than the risk of shared hosting and having a slow website through that, I didn't have any experiences of reasonable downtime with any host. Not with expensive hosting and not with cheap WordPress hosting.

4. Cheap hosting providers allow you to get started on a tight budget

Let's talk money for a second.

There's a huge difference between the cheapest and the most expensive WordPress hosting.

The cheapest WordPress hosting I ever used set me back less than $5 per month, including the costs for a domain.

In contrast, the most expensive hosting I ever had was $99 per month.

Currently, I pay around $72 per month to host all my websites. My agency manages around 50 websites and pays $120 per month for that, just to have the tech side covered.

Obviously, it isn't always a good decision to invest $99 per month into hosting.

Going with a cheap WordPress hosting company makes sense if:

  • You want to test a business idea and don't want to or cannot invest in quality WordPress hosting
  • You don't need a website that loads within 2 seconds
  • You don't expect to see more than 5,000-7,000 monthly visitors on your website
  • You have no clear strategy for bringing visitors to your website (which usually results in not having many)
  • You don't need your host to take daily backups (e.g. because you don't have automated updates enabled or use a backup plugin)

If one or more of these points resonate with you, it's totally ok to go with cheap WordPress hosting in the beginning.

Even with the cheapest hosting, you can build a website that loads reasonably fast and has a reliable uptime.

While you should be aware of the limitations cheap WordPress hosting comes with, it's ok for the start.

You can always upgrade to a better hosting experience in the future.

Reasons to avoid cheap WordPress hosting

Now that we talked about four things you should expect when using a cheaper hosting company, I think you have a good baseline for making a decision.

If neither of those things strikes you as a No-Go, using a cheap WordPress hosting provider might be a viable option for you or your clients.

However, in my experience I came across a couple of reasons to invest in quality web hosting, which I want to break down for you now:

1. If you value loading speed, you need WordPress-optimized web hosting

Before I ran the WP Summit in 2015, I hosted that website on the cheapest hosting plan on Bluehost.

During the planning and preparation phase, that cheap hosting plan was good enough. I got the website up on a small budget and had enough time to validate the idea of running a WP-related summit.

But I knew that I would need a blazingly fast website when the pre-launch and promotion started.

Why? The reason is simple:

Would you have taken me seriously if you came to the WP Summit website, seeing people talk about optimizing WordPress for generating business online, and experiencing a slow WP Summit website?

Of course, you would not have taken me seriously and would have likely left the website.

For that reason, I was happy that Cloudways has reached out to me and offered to sponsor the event.

Their fantastic support team moved the website over from Cloudways to their servers and even helped me improve the configuration of the website.

With that, the loading speed immediately went down from 5s to 2s. That's an improvement beyond leaps and bounds in the online world.

Since then, I'm hosting all my websites with Cloudways and never looked back.

2. Cheap WordPress hosting providers often cannot handle traffic spikes

Imagine the following situation:

You've been writing blog posts for a couple of months now, and just this morning one of your posts got featured in an article on a popular website like entrepreneur.com, in a popular Reddit thread, or wherever.

Suddenly, your website starts seeing 1,000 visitors per day rather than per week or month.

It's the starting bloggers dream to grow to that much traffic, isn't it?

Just think about how many leads you could generate for your business with that much targeted traffic. How many new WP projects you could get. You'd likely have to grow your team 😉

Now, the problem with being on a cheap WordPress hosting service is, that those servers cannot handle traffic spikes.

If you suddenly get more visitors on your site at the same time, usually your site becomes slow to load. Keep in mind that there aren't many things to website visitors that are as frustrating as slow websites.

What expensive hosts like WP Engine do, is to scale their server resources automatically.

WP Engine notices that your website gets more traffic, and immediately gives it the server resources it needs to stay loading fast.

I know, I haven't mentioned WP Engine in this article before. But that's only because they're so good that they've got everything I mentioned to this point covered.

They've got a great article written on how they're different to other WordPress hosting providers. I highly recommend you check it out!

3. You need a server for development that isn't slow and allows for your own configurations

If you're a WP developer or an agency, you likely had the same question I had:

Where do I host my sites that I'm working on?

To me, a development server needs to fulfill the following criteria:

  1. It cannot break the bank.
  2. I need to be able to configure things like CPU cores, RAM or PHP settings
  3. Ideally, I have SFTP and SSH access
  4. I can set up code versioning tools
  5. The server offers automated backups for additional data-loss prevention
  6. I can host multiple WordPress sites on the server while maintaining fast loading speeds

With those criteria, I only found one hosting company that matched them all.

That is Cloudways.

My agency and I run seven servers on Cloudways, using their Digital Ocean servers.

We have dedicated servers for client websites (yes, we offer managed hosting),  for our own websites, for development, and for staging.

With these separated servers, we are super flexible and can provide outstanding service to our maintenance and hosting clients. Get in touch if you want to learn more!

A decision help to pick WordPress hosting providers

To give you a baseline for deciding on any WordPress hosting company, let me briefly summarize the most important aspects that separate a good WordPress hosting company from the not-so-good ones:

  • Chat with their pre-sales team and have them explain how they protect your WordPress site against hackers. If they can't do that in plain English, I'd be careful about trusting them to host my websites.
  • A cheap WordPress hosting company will likely offer shared hosting only. Have the support explain how they prevent that a website can slow down an entire server.
  • Make sure their support team is available 24/7 in your preferred format.
  • Check if they offer website-migration services to move your website to their server.
  • Make sure you can install as many WordPress sites as you need. Hosting packages limited to one install only can become bottlenecks if your plans change.
  • Cloudways offers a chatbot that integrates with Slack and sends messages when things go wrong on the server. Not a must-have, but it's certainly beneficial!
  • Make sure the server is physically close to your target market. If you have your audience in the US, choose a server in the US.

My recommended hosts

I hope this post helped shed some light on the decision process and showed that cheap WordPress hosting providers don't need to be bad.

For the cheapest hosts, I recommend you get started with Bluehost. They are cheap and reliable, and good enough for a start.

If you can afford better hosting, I highly suggest you try Cloudways.

They manage over 40 websites for my agency and are the best host I've worked with so far.

The post Cheap WordPress Hosting – The Real Benefits & Drawbacks Explained appeared first on WP Mastery.

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WordPress Compliance With GDPR [UPDATED – May 5th, 2018] https://wpmastery.xyz/wordpress-compliance-gdpr/ Sat, 31 Mar 2018 20:34:44 +0000 https://wpmastery.xyz/?p=4998 You may have heard about the upcoming GDPR changes, which will bring much more attention to WordPress compliance in May 2018. As a developer or online marketing agency, you can actually benefit from this new regulation. By bundling your services with a consultation on WordPress compliance and data privacy laws, you can enhance your offerings. […]

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You may have heard about the upcoming GDPR changes, which will bring much more attention to WordPress compliance in May 2018.

As a developer or online marketing agency, you can actually benefit from this new regulation. By bundling your services with a consultation on WordPress compliance and data privacy laws, you can enhance your offerings.

In this article, I've combined the best resources on GDPR I could find - to give you all information you need to evaluate your own situation.

Let me give you an overview of the structure of this article:

How is WordPress compliance impacted by GDPR?

First of all, let me explain GDPR. The name is short for EU General Data Protection Regulation.

GDPR is a new data privacy regulation controlled by the EU. Its goal is to give consumers more control over their data and to limit what companies can do with your data. Yes, it's impacting you and me.

What most business owners don't realize is, that their websites might need to comply even if they're not located in the EU.

As soon as you're doing business with EU citizens on your website, compliance with GDPR is mandatory. Not following those regulations can have hefty fines - even for businesses that are not in the EU.

To quote itgovernance.co.uk:

The administrative fines are discretionary rather than mandatory; they must be imposed on a case-by-case basis and must be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.

There are two tiers of administrative fines that can be levied:

1) Up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.
2) Up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.

The fines are based on the specific articles of the Regulation that the organisation has breached. Infringements of the organisation’s obligations, including data security breaches, will be subject to the lower level, whereas infringements of an individual’s privacy rights will be subject to the higher level.

To me, those amounts are quite scary. There seems to be a debate on whether GDPR will be applied to businesses of all sizes or not - but you definitely want to be prepared.

Shockingly, according to a survey of Dell and Dimension Research, 80% of businesses know few details or nothing about GDPR!

That's exactly the reason why I decided to write this post.

If you think about how you operate your business and how you collect personal data on your website site, you will most certainly have to debate WordPress compliance.

Just doing one of the following activities on your site forces you to follow the rules of this new regulation:

  • Collecting personal information (name, email, address, ...) in a contact form on your website
  • Running an online shop on your site
  • Selling digital goods like eBooks or courses on your website
  • Sending email newsletters to your list

You see, just these four simple examples prove that many - if not all - business owners will have to take measures to ensure WordPress compliance with GDPR.

8 rights enforced by GDPR

Let's briefly talk about the rights that GDPR gives to consumers:

  1. The right to access. Individuals can request access to the personal data companies store about them and have companies explain how that data is used. Companies must provide a copy of the data, free of charge and in electronic format.
  2. The right to be forgotten. Companies must delete stored data about individuals if requested.
  3. The right to data portability. Individuals can ask companies to have their data ported to a different service provider. This transfer needs to happen in a commonly used and machine-readable format.
  4. The right to be informed. Consumers have to opt-in for their data to be gathered and used. Consent has to be given explicitly. Companies need to be able to prove that an individual has given his/her consent for the data to be collected and used.
  5. The right to have information corrected. Individuals can ask companies to correct the data that's stored about them, in case the data is outdated or wrong.
  6. The right to restrict processing. Individuals can request that companies stop processing their data while the data record itself can stay in place.
  7. The right to object. Individuals can prohibit the use of their personal data for direct marketing. There are no exemptions to this rule, and companies have to obey the request as soon as it's received. Additionally, companies have to clearly communicate this right to individuals, from the beginning of any communication.
  8. The right to be notified. If there has been a security breach or data breach to an individual's personal data, companies need to inform the impacted persons within 72 hours after first becoming aware of the breach.

As you can tell, the new data privacy regulation enhances the rights of individuals quite a bit. And forces many companies to re-think their WordPress compliance strategy.

Note: if you or your clients don't have a compliance strategy, you're making a big mistake.

And here's where you as a WP developer come into play. You can help your clients make their websites compliant with GDPR.

How do you ensure your or your client's WordPress site complies with GDPR?

I'd like to touch upon four topics that, I think, are the most important to have in mind when talking about making WordPress fit for GDPR.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I don't claim that this list is complete and guarantees compliance. But it gives you a starting point. If in doubt, consult with a lawyer.

Topic 1: Adjusting your tracking codes

Most sites today have a cookie notice in a popup or header bar, that tells visitors cookies are set once they open the page.

However, I don't think this will suffice for GPDR.

Based on the right 4, the right to give consent, your visitors have to actively agree to be cookied on your website. Hence, my suggestion is that you only load your tracking codes after that consent has been given.

Of course, this will heavily impact how statistics like Google Analytics, remarketing pixels, heatmap scripts, and other tracking tools collect their data.

We'll likely see a downtrend in user numbers based on how many of your visitors deny agreement to being cookied and prevent your site from loading the scripts.

However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Just think about the quality of the data that you'll be collecting if visitors give their explicit consent to load the tracking scripts.

The Facebook Pixel, for example, would build an audience of visitors who actively engaged with your website. And be it by just clicking a simple button in a popup.

Even that subtle action likely is more than the average visitor is doing on your website - which is leaving without any interaction.

In the end, optimizing your site for WordPress compliance might help build better custom audiences on Facebook. Again, just my two cents here.

A plugin that helps with WordPress compliance

When it comes to implementing tracking codes in a GDPR compliant way, I recommend you check out this plugin: WP GDPR Compliance

WP GDPR Compliance plugin

That plugin not just helps you write texts to make your contact forms and opt-in forms GDPR compliant.

It also prevents tracking scripts from loading until your visitor explicitly agreed to have them load. It shows a simple popup form with some explanatory text you can customize and a button that your visitors can click on.

Here's what I like most:

Your website visitors are already used to seeing and clicking on those buttons. They see "cookie notification" popups on all major websites. So seeing it on your website won't confuse them if you write a proper message in the popup.

Stepping up your WordPress compliance with the Legal Pages plugin might even make your website look more authoritative and serious.

People will notice that you take their personal data seriously. Thus, they might be more likely to buy from you.

Topic 2: Opt-In Forms

Collecting email addresses will become a bit more tricky with GDPR. Practices that were allowed before, aren't anymore from May.

Example: Your online shop collects email addresses for the yearly Black Friday sale. You want to build a list of subscribers you can automatically send a coupon for Black Friday to - and offers during Black Friday. So far, so good.

However, if you are list most business owners (including myself), you'd like to keep sending offers and information to those subscribers even after Black Friday is over. After all, your business always has good stuff to sell, right?

With GDPR, you're per-se not allowed to use those addresses for other purposes than marketing for Black Friday. You cannot send direct marketing emails unrelated to Black Friday to those subscribers - unless they gave their explicit consent.

Reply.io has given a great example of how opt-in forms will be affected on Medium:

Before, your opt-in form will likely look like this:

Reply.io opt-in form without WordPress compliance to GDPR

If you take WordPress compliance seriously, you'll have to rewrite your opt-in forms similar to this format:

Opt-in form following WordPress compliance to GDPR

These new checkboxes are what make the form compliant to GDPR. With those boxes checked, your new subscribers give their explicit consent to receive your newsletter and marketing information.

Update on May 4th, 2018: The European Union revised the GDPR and reformulated the clause on collecting personal data in relation to necessity. 

You are not allowed anymore to collect personal information that isn't absolutely necessary for providing your service.

What does this mean for opt-in forms? You are not allowed to have fields for first name or last name in your opt-in forms anymore. Knowing the name of your subscribers is not mandatory for sending your email newsletter.

Hence, even having name fields as optional fields in your opt-in forms is a potential violation against GDPR!

Even if it's not related to WordPress compliance directly, you might also want to have your current subscribers re-consent with being on your list - if they subscribed over two years ago.

As Tony Kent from Sign-Up Technologies Ltd. says:

Do I need to contact my existing subscribers to re-establish consent?
Again, the short answer is no.

Assuming that the conditions of consent were originally gathered in a way which is consistent with post-GDPR requirements and that the future intentions for use are also similar, then consent is considered to be continuous. There is no need to go back and re-establish this just because of GDPR.

But is it a good idea? Quite possibly, yes.

Consent is not the only condition for data processing under GDPR but it is one of the pillars upon which justification is built. GDPR requires that unless there is another justification (there are 5 other justification scenarios i.e. legal obligation, public interest, vital interest, contractual, legitimate use), data processing can only be done with the consent of the data subject.

My personal take is, that I'll definitely reach out to all subscribers on my email list before May.

I see it as a great opportunity to build more trust with my subscribers and to show them that I care about them. Also, if people don't give their consent to being on my list, they might not have read my newsletters anyways.

And likely, all my newsletters do was adding clutter to their inbox.

Topic 3: Storing personal data securely

Server security should always come to your mind when you're thinking about WordPress compliance. However, I also want to emphasize that it is important to comply with GDPR.

If you store personal data of EU citizens in the database of your WordPress website, server security plays a role in making your site compliant with GDPR.

So, server security is especially important for you when you're running a WooCommerce shop, a social platform with Buddypress, or manage your digital courses through a plugin like S2 Member,

Even if it's just for the reason that you have to inform your clients about security breaches. Or that you have to be able to transport their data in a machine-readable format to another vendor. Your server configuration needs to be up-to-date.

Let me give you an example:

A client of mine in Singapore manages a database of thousands of startups in the healthcare space. Exporting their data easily takes an hour - which means that the server configuration has to support longer script running times than usual.

Of course, you should keep your WordPress updated and run automated security checks to ensure the integrity of your site. If you need help with that, get in touch with me - my agency has an affordable maintenance plan that might be a good fit for you.

Topic 4: Legal pages, e.g. for data privacy

By now you and your clients should already be aware that those pages are mandatory for most websites that are driven by businesses and meant to generate income.

Usually, I tell my clients to have a lawyer set those pages up for them. However, that comes at a price that business owners and developers sometimes cannot afford or simply don't want to pay.

To those who don't want to pay: Invest in this text! I once paid a 750€ fine just for using an image which license didn't allow the usage on a business blog. I don't want to imagine how much I'd have had to pay if that website had been lacking the required legal pages.

Earlier, in the section about adjusting your tracking codes, I mentioned a plugin called Legal Pages.

That plugin comes with multiple lawyer-approved templates for legal pages that you can use and adjust:

  • Terms of Use
  • Linking Policy
  • External Links Policy
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Refund Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • Affiliate Disclosure
  • Affiliate Agreement
  • Earnings Disclaimer
  • Amazon Affiliate
  • Anti-Spam Template
  • Disclaimer
  • Double-dart Cookie
  • Facebook Privacy Policy
  • Medical Disclaimer
  • Testimonials Disclosure

To be honest, I don't know what all of those templates should include - I'm no lawyer. But just having them ready and then having a lawyer look through them can be a tremendous help for businesses on a budget.

You can check out Legal Pages here.

Are you or your clients impacted by GPDR?

Despite the fact that anyone should take WordPress compliance seriously, you or your clients are forced to have your sites comply with GDPR if:

  • You collect personal data from EU citizens on your website (yes, contact forms do count!)
  • Your site handles transactions with EU citizens (shops, subscriptions, etc)

Please use your own head when thinking about WordPress compliance and GDPR. I've done my best to collect the resources you need in this post, but I'm not a lawyer and not accountable for the actions you take.

If this post is missing any important information, please do let me know!

DISCLAIMER: I'm no lawyer and this post is not legal advice. I'm just trying to break down GDPR as how I understand it. If in doubt, consult with a lawyer, I'm not to be held accountable.

The post WordPress Compliance With GDPR [UPDATED – May 5th, 2018] appeared first on WP Mastery.

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