Automattic is changing everything WordPress, or not.

If you use WordPress to manage your content online, you’re smart and far from alone. Stats say that somewhere around 28% of the web we use is running on WordPress right now. The thing is, many of you have no idea you are looking at it when a master developer builds a site.

The secret sauce of WordPress is that the content, the stuff that brings visitors to your site, is in a database and separate from the presentation- the theme, the way it all displays. This is what makes things super easy to manage and maintain, and to format the output for any size screen and device. The part that makes Google search such a big fan is that the content is organized nicely using the four main tools: Posts, Pages, Categories and Tags. If you’ve taken our Websitetology seminar, you fully understand why most of your site should be using posts- in really well organized and thought out categories. If you haven’t taken our seminar- you should sign up.

However, there are a few big changes coming on the horizon to the World of WordPress- both from the top, the people who built and maintain this open source tour de force- Automattic (named for Matt Mullenweg, the guy who proved you can get rich giving something away that you don’t own).

First up is the subscription service JetPack, which builds upon a suite of plugin tools that were and still are free- but always required a wordpress.com account to tie you back to the “mothership.” In that form- JetPack did some cool stuff-

Keep any WordPress site secure, increase traffic, and engage your readers.

Traffic and SEO Tools

Traffic is the lifeblood of any website. Jetpack includes:

  • [free] Site stats and analytics
  • [free] Automatic sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, and WhatsApp
  • [free] Related posts
  • [paid] Search engine optimization tools for Google, Bing, Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress.com
  • [paid] Advertising program that includes the best of AdSense, Facebook Ads, AOL, Amazon, Google AdX, and Yahoo

Security and Backup Services

Stop worrying about data loss, downtime, and hacking. Jetpack provides:

  • [free] Brute force attack protection
  • [free] Downtime and uptime monitoring
  • [free] Secured logins and two-factor authentication
  • [paid] Malware scanning, code scanning, and threat resolution
  • [paid] Site backups, restores, and migrations

Content Creation

Add rich, beautifully-presented media — no graphic design expertise necessary:

  • [free] A high-speed CDN for your images
  • [free] Carousels, slideshows, and tiled galleries
  • [free] Simple embeds from YouTube, Google Documents, Spotify and more
  • [free] Sidebar customization including Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds
  • [free] Extra sidebar widgets including blog stats, calendar, and author widgets
  • [paid] High-speed, ad-free, and high-definition video hosting

Discussion and Community

Create a connection with your readers and keep them coming back to your site with:

  • [free] Email subscriptions
  • [free] Comment login with Facebook, Twitter, and Google
  • [free] Fully-customizable contact forms
  • [free] Infinite scroll for your posts

So, you say- there are only a few pieces that are paid- I’ll jump in. However, that’s the beginning down the slippery slope to letting someone else control how your site works and see everything you do. We’ve avoided it for years- instead using tools from third parties.

The newest release of Jetpack gets its own site- Jetpack.com and looking at the business side (since we do WordPress for business as our bread and butter) you start seeing that it’s almost as if you are buying hosting from Automattic too- which isn’t a bad thing, until things go wrong in a big way, and the support just can’t deal with their scale. Automattic has been doing their VIP hosting for a long time, so they probably are pretty solid at this now, but, we’re still a little wary, and frankly, the price is pretty steep. You don’t need access to hundreds of premium themes- you just need one good one.

No matter what, the push into hosting smaller business sites and offering their own sets of tools, could be seen as direct competition with the entire ecosystem that has been built around WordPress. One of the key reasons WordPress has been so successful is the thousands of businesses that have been built on the platform- from theme and plugin developers to hosting firms and web developers.

And, as if that isn’t enough… here comes “Guttenberg

What? Moveable type presses? Nope, a new way of editing text outside the standard text block editor that is the default. In other words, a builder- much like many of the builders that come with premium themes. There are plenty out there- we’ve gravitated to using Divi from Elegant Themes– which is both plugin and visual site builder/theme- but there are plenty of others.

What does the coming of Guttenberg mean for some of us? We’re not entirely sure. The Customizer was the first Automattic attempt to provide an interim WYSWIG interface to WordPress- and it didn’t change anything. What we are seeing is Automattic reacting to competition like SquareSpace/WIX/Weebly – all  of which are WordPress with training wheels for those who can’t be bothered with doing a website right.

Guttenberg is still in beta and not ready for prime time. We’re waiting to see if it is in WP 4.9 or part of the major 5.0 release. In the meantime, you should be aware of the impending changes.

 

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WordPress 4.8- the Widget edition

Major WordPress version updates come a few times a year, and we now have version 4.8, named after Jazz Pianist Bill Evans. We call it the Widget edition.

For those of you who don’t know what widgets are, they started as the way to put stuff on the sidebar- the thing on the side of your blog, that’s there all the time…

wait? Does that sound a little foreign to you? It should. Because with the Theme Universe exploding, and responsive design (that resizes to any device size) widgets have become the way to put things anywhere on your site- from the front page to the sidebar, to the footer etc.

Other than stock widgets, many widgets are installed by Plugins, and some by themes and theme builders.

What used to require a bit of a hack, is now easy with these new widgets:

Image Widget

Adding an image to a widget is now a simple task that is achievable for any WordPress user without needing to know code. Simply insert your image right within the widget settings. Try adding something like a headshot or a photo of your latest weekend adventure — and see it appear automatically.

Video Widget

A welcome video is a great way to humanize the branding of your website. You can now add any video from the Media Library to a sidebar on your site with the new Video widget. Use this to showcase a welcome video to introduce visitors to your site or promote your latest and greatest content.

Audio Widget

Are you a podcaster, musician, or avid blogger? Adding a widget with your audio file has never been easier. Upload your audio file to the Media Library, go to the widget settings, select your file, and you’re ready for listeners. This would be a easy way to add a more personal welcome message, too!

Rich Text Widget

This feature deserves a parade down the center of town! Rich-text editing capabilities are now native for Text widgets. Add a widget anywhere and format away. Create lists, add emphasis, and quickly and easily insert links. Have fun with your newfound formatting powers, and watch what you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

Source: WordPress 4.8 “Evans”

And of course, with the customizer as the WordPress answer to SquareSpace, Wix and whatever other WYSIWG proprietary website solution- you can now do a drag and drop element in your site.

Just remember to always use a child theme to make your customizations. There are plugins that can help you set that up (right now, Child Theme Configurator  seems to be the most popular)

Some of our favorite Widgets are:

Ad inserter:

Ad management plugin with many advertising features to automatically insert adverts. Perfect for all kinds of ads including AdSense and Amazon. Great also for contextual Native Shopping Ads and rotating banners. Ad Inserter provides many options to insert any Javascript, HTML, PHP or advert code anywhere on the page.

Source: Ad Inserter — WordPress Plugins

Popular posts:

WordPress Popular Posts is a highly customizable widget that displays the most popular posts on your blog.

Source: WordPress Popular Posts — WordPress Plugins

And the SiteOrigin widget installer – which bundles a bunch of useful tools:

SiteOrigin Widgets bundle:

  • Google Maps Widget that’s going places.
  • Button Widget that you’ll love to click.
  • Image Widget that’ll let you add images everywhere.
  • Call To Action Widget that’ll get your users performing the actions you want.
  • Slider Widget that slides images and HTML5 videos.
  • Price Table Widget that’ll help you sell more.
  • Post Carousel Widget that displays your posts as a carousel.
  • Features Widget that lets you display a set of site or service features.
  • Video Widget to get your videos out there.
  • Headline Widget to get you noticed.
  • Social Links Widget to show you’re active.

Source: SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle — WordPress Plugins

The beauty of WordPress is that there is a complete selection of vetted tools on WordPress.org to extend and expand the capabilities of your site. Come to our next Websitetogy Seminar and learn about widgets, plugins, best posting practices and a whole bunch more.

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Programmatic advertising online could be called problemmatic advertising

Thinking of jumping in on buying online ads? Or letting advertisers put their ads on your site? Think online advertising is cheaper than “traditional media” like TV, newspapers, billboards and direct mail?

How to make your online ad buys not a problemBuyer beware, and not just for the reasons cited in this NY Times article:

As of a few weeks ago, advertisements for JPMorgan Chase were appearing on about 400,000 websites a month. It is the sort of eye-popping number that has become the norm these days for big companies that use automated tools to reach consumers online.

Now, as more and more brands find their ads popping up next to toxic content like fake news sites or offensive YouTubevideos, JPMorgan has limited its display ads to about 5,000 websites it has preapproved, said Kristin Lemkau, the bank’s chief marketing officer. Surprisingly, the company is seeing little change in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads on the internet, she said. An impression is generally counted each time an ad is shown.

The change illustrates the new skepticism with which major marketers are approaching online ad platforms and the automated technology placing their brands on millions of websites. In recent years, advertisers have increasingly shunned buying ads on individual sites in favor of cheaply targeting groups of people across the web based on their browsing habits, a process known as programmatic advertising — enabling, say, a Gerber ad to show up on a local mother’s blog, or a purse in an online shopping cart to follow a person around the internet for weeks.

Source: Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. – The New York Times

Sure, keeping your ads off objectionable sites is a noble reason for refining the sites where your ad appears, but the reality is, having your ad appear on a clickbait site is unlikely to get you a conversion (sale).

If it wasn’t profitable to build clickbait sites to just serve up ads, they wouldn’t exist. If that’s what you want to do, we can show you how to be the scum of the earth, better in our seminar.

Think about the ads you see online- and how many you interact with (assuming you aren’t part of the  30% of internet users who have enabled adblocking in your browser). If you are like a lot of people, it takes a whole lot to make you click. How many people do you know who say I’m going online to look at ads?

The ads that are potentially most likely to be seen? Video pre-roll, the ad that runs before your video, comes in two flavors- must watch and skippable after x seconds. Video pre-roll has to have amazingly compelling intro to get you to watch it through- unless, of course it’s targeted so well that your questions may be answered in the commercial. Here’s an award winning pre-roll campaign for an agency trying to get your attention-

And here is a Cannes Award winning campaign for Geico that you can’t stop watching, but, it may or may not get you to buy car insurance from them.

The thing both these spots get right- is realizing you don’t really want to watch a pre-roll commercial, so they’ve made it interesting. It’s not a TV spot- it’s a youtube spot- built for the platform and working hard to not be intrusive.

As to all the other ads websites, most you can ignore. Easily. Even in your Facebook feed, how often do you click on an ad?

Here are some tips to make sure you have a better chance on conversion.

  • Remarketing to people who’ve been on your site already is usually a better bet. You know these ads well- you’ve gone to look at something at Amazon- and may have even purchased it, but it keeps showing up on your feed forever. Hint: better bet is to show ads of how to use “it” or accessories for “it” than to keep hammering the ad of “it”- unless you are offering a discount (which may tick your customers off if they bought it for more on your site already- so have a price guarantee). The basic rule of sales applies- people do business with people they know- so these ads tend to preform well.
  • Advertise to people who know someone who is your happy customer. While it’s hard to get people to post “Hey, I just bought “it” at your store, without a potential reward, it can happen. More likely, is advertising to people who are similar to people you’ve already sold to. Facebook allows you to upload a customer list and they will find people who are friends of the people who have bought from you in the past.
  • Advertise to people who are like the people you’ve sold to. This is also a Facebook option, using their software you can match demographics and geography and other factors to your customer list and advertise to people who are more likely to buy from you.
  • And maybe the least intuitive ad- isn’t an ad at all. Create informational videos, instructional videos, or reviews and target people by their interests. Think about your research before buying- do you look for reviews? Watch comparison video’s, unboxing, assembly? This kind of content can solve a buyers questions- and possibly drive them to buy more than an ad. Target the ads carefully, because ideally, these types of posts should work organically, without a ton of ad dollars.

For most advertisers dipping into “programmatic” the numbers sound amazing that are offered by programmatic networks, what’s amazing is the verification of actual display of ads is self reported, not audited like conventional media for distribution, insertion, reach and frequency. It’s the wild west of advertising accountability out there, which means it’s really up to you to figure out how to track your ad spend for effectiveness. There are all kinds of ways to do this, that add a level of complexity, but can also help you refine and improve your ad buys.

We explain some of these tools in our Websitetology seminar, but if you have further questions, you can always call and talk to us about how to most effectively guarantee that your programmatic isn’t problemmatic.

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