WPMU DEV's Blog - Everything WordPressWordPress Tutorials - WPMU.org http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:30:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Stop Guessing, Start Testing Your Content For A Successful WordPress Site http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stop-guessing-start-testing-your-content-for-a-successful-wordpress-site/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stop-guessing-start-testing-your-content-for-a-successful-wordpress-site/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131518 There are 2 approaches to making sure that your content is helping your WordPress site achieve its goals.

The first is to guess what works and keep your fingers crossed. The second is to test versions of titles, content, calls-to-action and see what what gets your audience to behave the way you want them to.

If you are serious about your WordPress site’s success then you need to stop guessing and start testing your way to better engagement on your WordPress site.

An A and B button
Content developers need to develop a culture of testing to keep sites productive

Online testing is usually referred to as A/B, split or multivariate testing. The definitions of each term are so blurred that they are often interchangeable but what it all boils down to is randomly (usually) displaying different versions of the same content to a visitor, tracking behavior to assess if one version is more effective than another and then, and most importantly, working out why.

How Should You Test?

The reason for testing is to find out what significantly influences visitor behavior so that you can repeat this across your site. It’s worth stopping and thinking about that because it needs to be at the core of all your testing. This is not simply an exercise in discovering whether one piece of content is more effective than another, it’s about working out why so that you can incorporate this into all your content.

For that reason, you should stick to the either-or approach of A/B testing. This will make your testing far more effective as it helps resist the urge to try endless combinations, makes it much easier to interpret results, allows results to be incorporated into subsequent tests (when running multiple A/B tests) and makes it easier to pinpoint the causes for any success.

To be able to do this you’ll need to:

  1. Ensure that you run your tests for as long as it takes to be satisfied that you can call a winner
  2. Have a clearly definable goal to be able to track success
  3. Not have too many differences in the content so that contributing factors to success can be easily identified

The 3rd is critical. If you run an A/B test with 2 completely different versions of content (different images, different copy, different call-to-action) then you won’t be able to say with any certainty why one version was more successful than other, you’ll just know that one package performed better.

The more you can target the test the better. So, running an A/B test on just the text on a button is always going to be more useful than running a test using 2 completely different versions of a landing page.

That said, if you do want to test a landing page then you can start with radically different versions if you approach it as a series of A/B tests:

  1. Start with the 2 very different versions and keep them both running until you have enough data that you can confidently call a winner.
  2. Replace the loser with a tweaked version of the winner
  3. Keep replacing the loser with a tweaked winner until you don’t see any significant difference in the results

Useful Plugins For Your Testing Toolkit

If you work your way through the myriad of A/B testing plugins on the WordPress repository, you’ll find that many integrate your WordPress site with a 3rd-party service. That level of integration, and therefore how much of the testing can be controlled from the WordPress Admin interface, varies considerably and is very much a personal preference.

For that reason, I’ve stuck with standalone plugins that work entirely within your WordPress installation:

Generally the standalones offer a simpler set of functionality and analysis, you can always go for a service, very few of which are free, once you are comfortable with how to test.

Title Experiments Free

Promo image for the Title Experiments Free plugin
Post title testing made easy with Title Experiments Free

Titles are important. If your titles are not engaging, if they don’t pique your visitor’s attention, if they don’t get clicked or tapped then it doesn’t matter how good your copy is or how great that final call-to-action is because your visitors are not going to see it.

Title Experiments Free is, not surprisingly, focussed on allowing you to test multiple versions of your post titles to see which generates those valuable clickthrus, all via the post edit screen.

The included analytics are basic but entirely adequate for working out what’s working with your audience and, in fact, the plugin will start skewing the display of the post title towards the most successful variant, including in your RSS feeds.

To find out more about how to use Title Experiments Free, read this recent post about testing titles with the Title Experiments Free plugin.

WordPress Calls To Action

Promo image for WordPress Calls To Action
A comprehensive plugin that brings solid multivariate testing to almost any WordPress content

The WordPress Calls To Action plugin is a solid plugin that not only provides templates to kickstart your call-to-action design but also includes a form builder.

The plugin has some idiosyncrasies that can trip you up – for example, variants are always created with a blank template rather than the template of the original and so you’ll need to use the Choose Another Template option to align them – but once you get around these, building multivariate calls-to-action is very easy.

The call-to-action components are inserted using shortcodes which means that anywhere you can use a shortcode you can use WordPress Calls To Action making this plugin a great choice for widgets, popups, in-page promotions and, in conjunction with the built-in form builder, data collection.

The provided analytics cover all the basics allowing you to quickly and easily make decisions about the individual and combined performance of your variants.

A great tool for any WordPress user who wants to get into the world of A/B testing.

Simple Page Tester

Promo image for Simple Page Tester plugin
The ideal plugin for conducting A/B testing at the page level

This plugin takes an entirely different approach to Call To Action by providing split testing (actually A/B testing) at the page level.

Using existing content to build a test, the plugin places a metabox on the post edit screen to create a test using the content as the master page. Then it’s simply a matter of specifying an alternative post or page as the variant (the plugin allows you to select an existing post, duplicate the master – which is a nice touch, or create a new post).

When the a visitor navigates to the master URL, the plugin will either display the master or redirect the user to the variant. As the variant is delivered in its own right visitor behavior can be tracked via a standard site analytics service such as Google Analytics (where the page could form part of the goal funnel).

Simple Page Tester is best suited when you want to test an entire page with landing pages immediately springing to mind, especially in conjunction with WordPress’ page templates feature, expanding the testing possibility beyond just content to the entire look and feel of a page. But there’s plenty of other opportunities as well including, for example, making use of the static home page feature to test different homepage layouts.

The plugin keeps tabs on how many times each page is displayed and allows you to control the view ratio between the master and the variant, although why you’d want to test with anything other than a 50/50 ratio, I’m not sure. However, to get a real insight into the success of the pages you’ll need to use the plugin in conjunction with an analytics service unless you upgrade to the premium version.

Content Developers Need A Testing Culture Too

Screengrab of the analytics for an A/B widget test
If you don’t continuously test your content, how do you know it’s working?

No WordPress developer or implementor would ever launch or perform a major upgrade on a site without first testing that its going to function as expected. Testing code is an absolute given.

Testing content, though, is not on the radar of most site owners. Not until, that is, the site is deemed to be underperforming and someone is charged with improving performance. Usually such a task is approached as a traffic problem rather than a content problem.

Yet, considering that in the majority of cases, a WordPress site’s content is created using little more than intuition to determine the audience’s needs, it’s hardly surprising that the content will often be ineffective in influencing visitors.

Just as code developers (should) have a culture of code and test, so should content developers. It’s ludicrous to think that we can correctly define our audience needs and wants or even that those needs and wants don’t change over time.

The best way to ensure that content is helping the site achieve its goals is to experiment and test content just as developers test and experiment with code.

The key is to have clearly defined and trackable goals. Then develop a plan. Perhaps it just covers landing pages, or traditional call-to-action components like popups and widget based adverts. Perhaps you just want to more of your home page visitors to click on a post title.

Whatever it is, you need to take action and you need to test your content. In fact, there’s an excellent argument for continually testing content, if only to make sure that your current approach is maximizing its influence.

Do you test your content? If so, what do you test and how?

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How To Improve The Effectiveness Of Your WordPress Post Titles http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-improve-the-effectiveness-of-your-wordpress-post-titles/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-improve-the-effectiveness-of-your-wordpress-post-titles/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131515 Just as there isn’t one simple trick to look 20 years younger or one surprising food that will give you a flat tummy in just 3 weeks, there isn’t a sure-fire method to writing headlines that guarantee click-thrus.

The inconvenient truth, just like dieting, is that writing effective headlines takes time and effort, in this case to find out what catches your audience’s attention. And key to that process is testing. Trying out different approaches and analyzing what works.

In this Weekend WordPress Project, I’ll show you how to set up title experiments that will help you work out what grabs your visitors.

Weekdn WordPRess Project featured image
The only way to really know what titles trigger click-thrus is to experiment

So are all those articles a waste of time? Absolutely not. They are great for giving you ideas and new approaches to try but despite what some may claim, they can’t give you the answer but the author doesn’t know your audience: only you do.

The best you can do is experiment, track and analyze. And for that, we need the Title Experiments Free plugin from Jason Funk. (Jason also has a premium version, Title Experiments Pro, which comes with priority support and more detailed analytics.)

This plugin allows you write multiple titles for a post on the post edit screen and track the effectiveness of each. Every time a post list is displayed (such as the home page or a category page) it will circle through the titles to ensure an initial even distribution.

What makes this plugin worth using is that it tries to be a little smarter. For instance, it will attempt to always show the same title to a visitor. And once enough views have been recorded it will start to show the most effective title.

The effectiveness of a title is calculated using a pretty complex method but you should always view the figures as a relative measure – for this post, this title was the most effective. Of course, it’s entirely feasible that all your titles may perform the same, in which case then you’ll need to look at the absolute figures to determine whether your titles are all brilliant or all stink.

Even then you need something to compare to, a baseline, so before you even start writing multiple titles you need to calculate what your click-thru rate and to do that you’ll need to mine your analytics. If you don’t have Google Analytics running on your site then add it; it only takes 60 seconds.

Once you have enough data, you can jump in Google Analytics and get an idea for your current click-thru rate. I find the best method for this is to use the Page Analytics Chrome extension which makes it easy to see where those clicks were happening:

Screengrab showing a post excerpt on the WPMU DEV blog homepage overlayed with the click data
The Page Analytics Chrome extension embeds Google Analytics data right on the page

REMEMBER! Make sure the date range covers the first and last post on the page. If you are using the default last month range but your oldest page on the page is only a week old then you are going to under-report on those clicks.

Now that you have your baseline, you start experimenting!

Step 1 – Install And Configure The Title Experiments Free Plugin

To install the Title Experiments Free plugin you can either download the plugin from the WordPress repository and upload it into your WordPress site, or simply search for ‘title experiments’ in the search box on the Plugins > Add New screen.

Once installed, go to Settings > Title Exp Settings. There’s only 3 possible items to configure:

Screengrab of the WordPress settings page for this plugin
Just 3 options to configure for the Title Experiments Free plugin

I would suggest definitely checking Best title in feed – this will more than likely appear as a link somewhere so why wouldn’t we want the best performing title?

Step 2 – Create Multiple Titles For A Post

You can add multiple titles to any post, new or existing. Just go to the post edit screen and click on +Add New Title.

Screengrab of the title entry on the post edit screen with multiple titles
Add as many titles as you want and then track their performance

Clicking on the beaker deactivates (green to gray) or activates (gray to green) the title making it easy to remove poorly performing titles from the selection process. You can remove a title completely by clicking on the X on the far right.

Step 3 – Track The Performance

You’ll notice that to the right of each title there’s a small bar chart, a fraction and a percentage:

  • The bar chart is a small visual representation of the number of views the post has had with that title over the last 7 days. Hover over a bar to get the exact number.
  • The ratio is the number of views over the number of impressions. A view is essentially a click-thru, whilst an impression is the display of that title (on the home page, on a category listing, in a widget, etc); going directly to the page is not counted as a view. So this figures gives a rough click-thru rate that we can compare with our baseline figure.
  • The percentage is the likelihood of that title being displayed. Whilst based on impressions and views, it will initially simply be the number of titles you’ve got (e.g. 3 titles = 33%) until enough data has been collected. The plugin apparently uses Bayesian experimental design in its calculations but I’ll just take the plugin author’s (Jason Funk) word for that.

If you get any sort of reasonable traffic to your site, it won’t take long before you’ll be able to spot patterns and trigger words that appeal to your audience’s and have them clicking or tapping on a headline.

It All Starts With Titles

If you want to get even more sophisticated then you can start running multivariate tests on everything from the content itself, feature images, pop-up text and complete landing pages.

Titles, though, are the place to start as apart from being easy to manage they can appear in a myriad of places other than your site such feed readers, social media sites and email.

And, of course, you cannot test variants of your content, if your titles aren’t getting those click-thrus.

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How To Backup Your WordPress Site To Google Drive http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-backup-your-wordpress-site-to-google-drive/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-backup-your-wordpress-site-to-google-drive/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131514 We all know that backing up a live WordPress site is a mandatory task for any site owner.

Storing backups in a remote location available from anywhere, is a sound strategy and anyone with a Gmail account has a cheap and easy solution.

In this Weekend WordPress Project, we’ll walkthrough how to use Google Drive as the remote store for those critically important site backups.

Weekend WordPress Project featured image
Storing your WordPress site backups on Google Drive is a sound strategy

There are many, many backup solutions available for WordPress that cover the full range of complexity.

Regardless of a solution’s features, the best backup solution is the one that is undertaken regularly and is easily understood. Bells and whistles count for nothing if they are never rung or blown.

What’s also important is to think about the reverse process. Backups are created with one thing in mind: to recreate the backed-up site as at a particular time and day. The worst-case scenario is recovering from disaster but backups can also potentially be used to create a test site, deploy a new site or “reset” a site (common for demo sites).

Easy access to the backup file is obviously essential, especially in a disaster scenario, and locating these files in the cloud makes a lot sense. Especially so when you factor in that disk failure is the most likely cause of a disaster scenario and will render any locally (to the website) stored backups unavailable.

There are, of course, a myriad of cloud options and amongst the more popular backup solutions DropBox and Amazon S3 are well catered for. The same can’t be said for Google Drive, however, which is a little surprising given that you get 15GB for free. More than enough to store a reasonable number of backups for an average WordPress site.

The upside of this lack of widespread support is that it makes choosing a backup solution much easier. For this Weekend WordPress Project, we are going to use the basic version of UpdraftPlus.

Configuring UpdraftPlus and Google Drive is a little fiddly but well worth it. At the end of this process you’ll have piece of mind knowing that regular site backups are readily available in a safe offsite location.

Step 1 – Install UpdraftPlus Plugin

UpdraftPlus' image from the WordPRess repository
One of the few free backup plugins that supports remote storage on Google Drive

You’ll find the UpdraftPlus plugin in the WordPress plugin repository or you can simply search for UpdraftPlus in the Plugins > Add New screen.

You can also read more about the plugin and the various premium features at the UpdraftPlus website.

Step 2 – Configure Backup Contents And Schedule

Jump to Settings > UpdraftPlus Backups and set up your preferred options for what is backed up on your site and the backup schedule.

Screengrab of the Configure Backup Contents And Schedule options for UpddraftPlus
The free version of UpdraftPlus offers good control of what gets backed up and when

Unless you post multiple times a day, then daily is likely to be sufficient (you can always run a manual backup if you make substantial updates to the site). As for the number of backups, this will depend on whether you think you’ll always be restoring to the latest backup or whether you want the ability to roll-back to a particular day.

Of course, you have the option to run different schedules for files and database and this is worth considering. Chances are that most files will be copies of files that you have stored locally or can easily re-download, so you may not need to backup as regularly as the database which is going to be an unique store.

Perhaps start with backing up files weekly and database daily.

Step 3 – Configuring Google Drive As The Remote Storage

This is where it gets a little fiddly. What we need to do is create a Google Project that uses the Drive API, set up remote access to the Project and then authorize the UpdraftPlus plugin to use the Project. Sounds more complicated than it really is.

First step, of course, is to tell UpdraftPlus that we want to use Google Drive so, select Google Drive from the Choose your remote storage dropdown.

The content will automatically update to give you guidance on how to complete the configuration, along with the all-important redirect URI. Don’t worry if this doesn’t make any sense, just copy the URI and head over to your Google API Console (if you have a Google account then you’ve got a console).

Create A Project

When the Console appears, click on Create Project.

Screengrab of the create project dialog
First step is to create a new Google Project

Enter a Project Name and Project ID that makes sense to you and click Create.

An Activity window in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser window will open displaying the progress of your project creation task. Once the task has completed, you’ll be taken to new project’s Project Dashboard.

Enabling The Google Drive API

We need to enable access to the Google Drive API for this project, so click on Enable an API.

You’ll presented with a list of the huge range of available Google APIs. Scroll down to Drive API and click on OFF.

A message will appear when the API has been enabled and Drive API will be listed at the top of the API list along with a number of other APIs that are automatically enabled when you created the project.

Screengrab of the list of enabled APIs for a Google Project
Add the Drive API to your Google Project

Allowing UpdraftPlus To Use The Drive API

You’ve now set up a Project that provides access to your Google Drive via an API. Now you need to enable UpdraftPlus to use that Project.

Under your Projects APIs & auth menu, click on Credentials and under OAuth, click on Create new Client ID.

Screengrab of the Google Project Create Client ID dialog
Create the access credentials for users of the project

In the pop-up dialog, keep the selection as Web application, enter your site’s domain name in AUTHORIZED JAVASCRIPT ORIGINS and that URI you copied earlier into AUTHORIZED REDIRECT URI.

Click on Create Client ID.

The dialog will close and you’ll see a new table titled Client ID for web application.

Copy the CLIENT ID and the CLIENT SECRET from the Console to the Google Drive Client ID and Google Drive Client Secret, respectively, in the UpdraftPlus Settings.

Click on Save Changes at the bottom of the UpdraftPlus Settings screen.

Annoyingly, this will take you back to the Current Status tab, so click on the Settings tab and either click on the link in the notification at the top of the page or scroll down to Authenticate with Google and click on the linked text there.

You should get the following page – click on Accept to allow access to your Google Drive.

Screengrab showing the dialog to authorize access to the GDrive project
The final step is authorize access to your GDrive project

You should automatically return to the UpdraftPlus settings (this is also part of the test) and you will see a notification with details about your Google Drive account.

A screengrab of the success notification from UpdraftPlus on successfully configuring Google Drive as a remote store
A modest message for getting through a fiddly process

Success, indeed. You have successfully configured Google Drive as a remote store for your backups.

Step 4 – Test With A Manual Backup

Before popping any champagne corks, though, you need to test the backup process.

On the Current Status tab of the Updraft Settings, click Backup Now.

A popup dialog will appear allowing you to do some basic configuration of what is backed up but let’s leave the options unchecked and give UpdraftPlus a thorough workout.

Click on Backup Now and watch as UpdraftPlus updates you on the backup’s progress.

Screengrab of the progress messages during a backup operation
UpdraftPlus does a great job of keeping you updated on its progress

When it’s finished, UpdraftPlus will tell you that ‘the backup apparently succeeded’, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. So, check that the backups have indeed been created.

Click on the Existing Backups tab.

Don’t be put off by the (0) in the title, it will change almost immediately. If the backup was successful you should see an entry in the Existing Backups list.

Of course, the real measure of success is the existence of your backup files on your Google Drive account.

Jump into Google Drive and look for a folder called UpdraftPlus (this name is fixed unless you go for the premium version of the plugin). Double-click on the folder and check it contains files. The number of files will depend on what you’ve selected to be backed up but generally UpdraftPlus will create separate files for the database, the plugins folder and the themes folder.

Screengrab of the UpdraftPlus folder in Google Drive
The only measure for success – are those backup files in your Google Drive?

You can now be confident that you are backing up to a remote location and the cornerstone of your Disaster Recovery Plan is now in place.

Restoring A Backup With UpdraftPlus

As I mentioned, a backup solution is really only as good as its restore and it’s probably a good idea to practice restoring rather than trying to break your duck under the pressure of a real disaster scenario.

Part of practicing is developing a run sheet – a list of the steps that you need to undertake to restore. It’s important to note, then, that UpdraftPlus does not back up your core WordPress files taking the approach that you can simply download these from the WordPress.org archives. This seems a pretty sensible approach to focus only what is likely to be unique on a WordPress installation.

In a complete disaster recovery situation, you are likely to be looking at:

  1. Downloading and running the installation process for the appropriate version of WordPress
  2. Install and reconfigure the UpdraftPlus plugin
  3. Restoring the database, plugins, themes and uploads (if backed-up) folders

If you want to just roll-back to a particular backup then you can do this in situ by hitting the Restore button next to any backup. Again, just as with the backup process itself, UpdraftPlus does a good job monitoring progress.

Worth The Time And Effort

There is practically no scenario where backing up is not worthwhile. Disk failures, host failures, security failures can all leave you up that proverbial creek and if you don’t have a backup of your site to fall back on then you are definitely paddle-less.

Setting up UpdraftPlus to backup to Google Drive can be a little fiddly, especially if you haven’t created a Google Project before, but it’s well worth the perseverance to have those backups stored remotely.

And well worth 15 minutes of your time this weekend.

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Nothing is Sacred or Immortal – The WhiP #74 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/nothing-is-sacred-or-immortal-the-whip-74/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/nothing-is-sacred-or-immortal-the-whip-74/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131553 The WhiP will have a guest editor next week. We’ll return to regular programming on September 8.

Hello dear reader,

Nothing is Sacred or Immortal

Google has killed off authorship and WordPress-related plugins are now obsolete.

The ProWordPress Subreddit now has more than 1000 subscribers.

Quartz web applications technologist Josh Kadis explains how the news site was built in a fascinating talk published at WordPress VIP.

The folks at Elegant Themes have put together a round-up of WordPress podcasts.

Rushmore

We look at how to blog effectively to increase traffic to your site on the WPMU DEV Blog.

Writer Kevin Muldoon also reviews SEMrush, a service for competitors research.

WP Explorer offers tips on how to clean up your site to make it faster.

Totally Awesome

Tips for saving and retrieving post meta data.

Tuts+ shows you how to fix the WordPress white screen of death.

Developer Konstantin Kovshenin looks at color options versus decisions in themes in a post about fixing poor user choices and bad design.

How to create custom user roles in WordPress.

WebDev Studios look at how to integrate Font Awesome icons in bbPress.

And an introduction to unit tests for plugins over on developer Pippin Williamson’s blog.

Meow Meow Meow

Cats!

Have a great weekend, you crazy cats!

Subscribe to The WhiP

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The Quick and Easy Guide to Migrating a Local WordPress Installation to a Live Site http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/guide-to-migrating-localhost-wordpress-to-live-site/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/guide-to-migrating-localhost-wordpress-to-live-site/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131554 Using a local server environment will save you a bunch of time if you regularly develop new WordPress websites. Local development has many advantages – it’s faster and more secure than constantly uploading files to a server.

The only problem is migrating to a web host can be a headache. No one likes to mess around with database tables.

Fortunately, migration is simpler than it sounds and will take you not time at all if you follow the steps below.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use the Duplicator plugin to quickly and easy copy a localhost WordPress installation to an online hosting account.

Duplicator feature image
Quickly and easily migrate your local installation to a live site with the Duplicator plugin.

There are many different ways to migrate a WordPress site, but one of the easiest, by far, is with the free Duplicator plugin.

It’s an overwhelmingly popular plugin in the WordPress Plugin Repository, with a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating and more than 700,000 downloads.

In the steps below, I’ll explain and illustrate the steps for migrating a localhost site with Duplicator. The exact steps will differ depending on your online server/host setup.

Before we get started, you’ll need:

  • An FTP client and login details for your live site.

It’s also important to note that you don’t need to install WordPress on the destination server before following these steps. Duplicator will copy across all necessary WordPress files for you.

Step 1. Package Your Site With Duplicator

Download and install Duplicator on your localhost site. The plugin is available for free in the WordPress Plugin Repository, so you can search for it in the plugin interface.

Download Duplicator
I’m using a beta version of WordPress 4.0, hence why the plugin interface says Duplicator is untested with my version of WordPress.

Once installed and activated, click on “Duplicator” in the admin sidebar and the Duplicator Packages interface will be displayed. Since I’ve just installed Duplicator, I don’t have any packages.

Create package
Create a new package in Duplicator.

So what is a package? A package consists of an archive of your site (the default is a .ZIP file) and an installer file that automates the process of setting up your archived site on another server.

Click on “Create New” to create a package.

The next screen will prompt you to name your package and make a few notes. It’s not really important what you name your package, though you might want to give it a memorable title if you plan to make multiple packages. Add a few notes if you want to.

Duplicator package setup
Duplicator package setup.

There are optional Archive and Installer settings, but we’ll ignore these for now. The Archive settings allow you to filter your database, while the Installer options can be used to pre-fill the Installer screen so that it is setup at install time for future use. This can help speed up your overall install process.

Click “Next” to move on.

Duplicator will run a system scan to ensure the package build process will run smoothly. The scan step can help determine any potential issues. Passing all scan checks aren’t required in order to attempt a build, though the more “Warn” checks you get, the more likely it is you will run into issues during the build and install phases.

The scan didn’t uncover any major issues on my site other than large image files, which I’ll ignore because it’s unlikely the images will cause any problems in upcoming steps.

Duplicator system scan
Duplicator system scan.

Click “Build” to create your package.

The plugin will begin backing up your site.

Building a Duplicator package
Building a Duplicator package.

As mentioned above, Duplicator will produce two files: an archive of your site (as a .ZIP file) and an installer file (as a .PHP file).

Download both files to your desktop.

Step 2. Copy Installer and Archive Files to Live Site

In order to install and unpack my packaged site, I need to copy the archive and installer files Duplicator created to my live site’s directory. I’m going to use Filezilla to do this with FTP.

Login to your site via FTP. Navigate to your public_html folder and copy the archive and installer files from your desktop to the folder. It may take a little while for the files to copy, especially if your archive file is quite large.

FTP into live site
Copy your Duplicator package files (installer and archive) to your live site.

Step 3. Installing Your Site On Your Live Server

The next step is to install the archived site on the live server. To do this, we’ll need to access the installer file we just copied to the live site, by adding /installer.php to the domain.

In my case, the address is http://littleraewrites.com/installer.php

The installer interface will appear, prompting you to add your MySQL details. If you’re replacing an existing WordPress site (i.e. copying across an updated version of a site), you’ll need to enter your existing database details.

Test connection
Test your database connection to ensure they are correct.

If you’re creating a new site, click “Create New” and enter fresh database details. Some hosting providers don’t allow the database creation option to work, which means you’ll need to manually create the database yourself.

Since my web host won’t let me automatically create a new database, here are the steps for creating a new database in cPanel:

  • In cPanel, open MySQL Database.
  • Create a new database and name it anything you like, though it will have a prefix.
  • Create a new user.
  • Add your newly created user to your newly created database.
  • Give your user access to all privileges and click “Make Changes.”
  • When you’ve filled out your database details, click “Test Connection” to check whether the installer can access your database.

Ensure you get a “Success” manage for both the “Server Connected” and “Database Found” tests before moving on to the next step. This will ensure you won’t encounter any problems during installation.

Test database connection
Make sure you get success for both fields before moving on through the steps.

Click “Close” and at the bottom of the installer screen check “I have read all warnings and notices”. Then click “Run Deployment.”

The installer will then begin installing your site on your live server. It may take a while for the installation process to complete if your site is quite large.

During installation, Duplicator will ask you to confirm old and new details for your site. Make sure they’re correct and click “Run Update.”

Final Duplicator Steps

Duplicator will ask you to complete four more short, yet important, steps:
1. Install Report – This is simply a report detailing any errors encountered (hopefully none!) and the numbers of database tables, rows and cells created, scanned and updated so you can check the plugin has copied across your database information.
2. Save Permalinks – Click on the link “Save Permalinks” link and you’ll be taken to your new, live site where you can save your permalinks preference.
3. Test Site – When you click on “Test Site” it will open the front-end of your live site so you can check that everything is working.
4. File Cleanup – It’s important to remove the installer file and any associated files that were created during the installation process for security purposes. Click on “File Cleanup” to automatically delete these files.

Check Your Live Site

And that’s it. Your live site should now be an exact replica of your localhost installation, only now it’s available online for all the world to see.

Do you use Duplicator to migrate sites? If not, what method works best for you? Tell us in the comments below.

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Increase Traffic to Your Site With These Tried and Tested Blogging Tips http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/increase-traffic-to-site-with-these-blogging-tips/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/increase-traffic-to-site-with-these-blogging-tips/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131555 A blog is one of the best ways to drive traffic to a website; whether it be a corporate website, directory, or online shop. By adding great content to your blog regularly, you will provide useful resources to visitors and publish more pages for search engines to index.

High quality articles will also generate more incoming links to your website, strengthen your brand, and increase loyalty from readers, existing customers, and potential customers.

I have been writing online and working online since 2000, however it was not until 2006 that I started actively blogging. It became quickly apparent that blogging was something that I enjoyed as I wrote every day and was passionate about the topics I was covering.

Like every aspiring blogger, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. It took me years to realize what generated traffic to my websites and what did not. However, I believe I have become a more competent blogger because of this experience.

In this article, I would like to share with you some tips on how you can use a blog to increase the volume of traffic to your website. I hope you find it useful.

Use a Professional Blog Design

Your blog should present the professional image that you want to project to readers. This will reinforce your brand, increase credibility, and help increase leads and sales.

One mistake many bloggers make is to place too many advertisements and non-essential images on their blog design. Many visitors will find this intrusive and click the back button before even reading your articles. If the aim of your blog is to increase traffic and increase conversions, you should ensure your website design is both beautiful and practical.

The Genesis Framework
Choose a professional blog design from a company such as StudioPress to ensure that your blog looks great on all devices.

Your blog design should be responsive so that it looks great on desktop and laptop computers, as well as smaller devices such as tablets and smartphones. You should also use a font that is easy to read.

The sidebar is the perfect place to help visitors navigate your blog easier. Take advantage of this area and display a search bar, category links, and archive links. To encourage people to stay on your website longer, you can display recent blog posts, featured articles, and related articles. A good place to display related articles is underneath the blog post.

Ensure Your Website is SEO Friendly

Your website does not only need to look good for humans, it needs to be easily interpreted by search engines so that they can crawl and index your content efficiently. Thankfully, the WordPress platform is an SEO friendly solution that has built in SEO features such as custom page slugs.

It is important that your website is structured correctly to help your content rank well. Your website theme should use header tags correctly in templates, validate with no HTML or CSS errors, and take advantage of additional navigation features such as breadcrumb navigation links.

Infinite SEO
Infinite SEO is a premium SEO plugin that has great post integration and an option for creating sitemaps.

Search engine plugins such as Infinite SEO and All in One SEO Pack can be used to optimize your pages further by optimizing page titles and meta descriptions.

Many SEO plugins can also be used to create a sitemap for your website. If your chosen SEO plugin does not offer this functionality, you may want to consider activating the free WordPress plugin Google XML Sitemaps. It gives you full control over what search engines should index and the frequency in which pages are crawled. Without doubt, it is by far the most flexible sitemap solution available to WordPress users.

Choose Your Topics Wisely

The topics you cover on your blog will influence the kind of people who read your articles. If you publish many basic tutorials on a subject, you will attract a lot of beginners. Likewise, if you publish advanced tutorials, you are more likely to attract people with more experience on the subject.

It is therefore vital that you research what topics to cover on your blog and devise a long-term content strategy. This will generate targeted traffic from people that are more likely to subscribe to your blog and purchase your products and services.

One way to increase traffic to your blog is to cover topics that are currently popular. Services such as Google Trends make it easy to follow trending topics and let you see what is hot and what is not.

Google Trends
Google Trends helps you see what the interest in subjects over time.

Be sure to review what keywords and key phrases are relevant to your business. You can do this by analyzing the traffic to your main website and looking at what keywords and key phrases are generating traffic.

Keyword research tools such as Keyword Tool, WordTracker, and the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, can also be used for your research.

One of the most effective ways of doing keyword research is by looking at how your competitors are generating traffic. There are a number of great tools that will show you exactly how your rivals are acquiring traffic. This includes the keywords and keyphrases they are ranking for, the websites that are linking to them, and the articles that are receiving the most traffic.

Ahrefs
Looking at how your competitors are generating traffic will help you decide how to develop your blog in the future.

Most website analysis solutions that show you information about competitors charge a monthly fee to use their service. However, they allow you to use a limited version of their service free of charge.

Useful website analysis services include Moz Open Site Explorer, Search Metrics, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO.

Write High Quality Articles

In January 1996, Bill Gates famously said that “Content is King“. This remains true 18 years later.

High quality articles are more likely to be read and more likely to be shared by others. This in turn increases incoming links and search engine traffic.

Do not look at a blog simply as a way of increasing the number of indexable pages on your website. You need to focus on quality content. Remember, the more targeted your visitors are, the more likely they are to purchase your products and services. So focus on quality and forget about cheap traffic that merely inflates traffic statistics.

Use Images In Your Articles
Be sure to include images in your post. Images break up long pieces of text and increase the number of shares on social media networks.

The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to increase traffic to their blog is: Solve problems. If you can help your visitors in some way, they will be thankful. They will be more likely to subscribe to your blog, share your content, and become a loyal customer.

Here are some tips on publishing high quality articles:

  • Use images in your articles – They increase social media shares and break up long pieces of text
  • Use a good article title – The title of your article will be displayed in search engine results and in social media shares
  • Improve your grammar – It pays to go back to basics and review important grammatical rules and guidelines
  • Perform interviews – Interviewing important people within your industry can improve your brand through association
  • Share important news – Rather than simply publish links to important news stories, you should give your opinion on the news story and how it will affect others
  • Publish honest reviews – Provide honest reviews about related products and services
  • Help readers – Guides and tutorials will help resolve readers problems and issues
  • Use lists – List posts grab attention and allow readers to digest information quickly
  • Publish linkbait articles (from time to time) – Linkbait articles, resource lists, and infographics, are more likely to be shared by others

You do not have to handle all blog content yourself. There are many professional bloggers available who will help you publish great content on your website.

You can place advertisements for a blogger on job boards such as ProBlogger and BloggingPro. Freelancing marketplaces such as Freelancer and PeoplePerHour are great places to find bloggers too.

Blog Consistently

There are varying thoughts as to how frequently you should publish articles on a blog. Most high traffic news blogs publish multiple times per day as more news means more traffic, however most businesses publish a few times per week or a few times per month.

If we make the assumption that every article on your blog will be of the same quality, publishing more frequently will generate more traffic; however, this does not necessarily mean that more is always better. As Joel Friedlander rightly says, what is important is that you pick a schedule that you can actually keep, long term.

Readers need consistency, and publishing five articles one week and then not posting for another month, could do your blog more harm than good. I suggest starting off at a slow publishing rate such as once per week and then increasing publishing frequency once you have the resources to do so.

Editorial Calendar
Editorial Calendar makes it easy to organise your blog posts for the coming weeks.

To help you organise your blog better, it is worthwhile scheduling one or two weeks of articles in advance. I recommend activating the WordPress plugin Editorial Calendar to help you do this.

Not preparing articles in advance will make your blog more susceptible to your blog publishing frequency being disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances; such as one or more of your authors being ill or not meeting their deadlines.

Interact with Your Readers

Blogging is not a one street. A blog gives you the opportunity to get to know your readers better; and vice-versa. One of the best places to connect with readers is through the comment area. By answering questions and responding to commenters ideas, you can demonstrate your knowledge of a subject and build a relationship with potential customers.

I believe there are many positives to responding to readers comments, however if you do not have time to respond to comments, you may want to consider disabling comments. As not responding to questions from people may give a bad impression of your business.

Respond to Comments
It is important to interact with readers in the comment area.

You can also interact with readers through social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Surveys and reader interviews are also a great way of getting to know your readers better and sharing the ideas of readers through your articles.

Do not take your readers for granted. The more you put into connecting with your readers, the more likely customers will convert into paying customers.

Make It Easy For Visitors to Share Your Content

Social media networks are a tremendous source of traffic. Unfortunately, delivering high quality articles is rarely a guarantee that they will be shared on services such as Twitter.

If you want to increase the number of times your articles are shared, you need to make it easier for visitors to share your content. The best way to do this is to integrate social media sharing buttons into your content area.

Sharing Buttons
Make it easy for visitors to share your content by displaying social media sharing buttons.

There are a number of great social media WordPress plugins available that help you do this, such as Shareaholic and Simple Social Share.

Here on WPMU DEV, we display social media sharing buttons at the left hand side of articles using the WordPress plugin Floating Social. The plugin ensures that the sharing bar scrolls down with the page so that it is visible at all times. This helps increase shares.

Grow Your Online Presence

Every time someone visits your blog, you are presented with an opportunity to convert a one time visitor into a long term subscriber. Encourage visitors to subscribe your blog RSS feed and follow you on social media services. This will help them be notified of new updates on your blog.

The most effective way of growing your online presence is a targeted email marketing list. It is more effective than RSS, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

You should therefore take every opportunity you can to convince visitors to get updates by email. This allows you to send visitors messages directly to their inbox. You can use this to promote products and services and advise subscribers of your latest blog posts.

Grow Your Online Presence
Encourage your readers to subscribe to future updates of your articles by email.

By getting people to subscribe to your blog, you can keep them returning to your blog on a regular basis. This in turn helps increase traffic and generate more sales. If you can convert visitors into subscribers, you will grow your online presence and help your blog grow exponentially.

Analyse Your Traffic

Analytical solutions such as Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your blog. They can show you what articles are receiving the most views, what keywords and keyphrases are bringing in visitors, and how many visitors your blog is receiving every day.

They can also tell you more about the people who visit your blog; such as the language they speak, the country they live, and the device they are using to read your website. This information helps you understand who your readers are and whether your existing content marketing strategies are working.

Analyse Your Traffic
Look at your existing traffic to get an understanding of who is visiting your website and how traffic to your website is being generated.

It can be tempting to check your traffic statistics every day if traffic is growing, however this can be counter productive. I recommend reviewing your traffic stats every week, every fortnight, or every month. Set yourself targets and then review whether those targets have been met.

Do not be too disheartened if you fall short of expectations. Some months you will not meet your targets, some months you will exceed them. The important thing is to use targets to drive your blog forward with the correct content and promotion strategy.

Promote Your Blog

Promoting a blog effectively can be the difference between a dead blog and a successful blog. If you have money to invest in your blog, you could develop your blog quicker by growing your social media presence and advertising on other websites.

Thankfully, for those of you without a budget, there are a number of promotional methods available that will not cost you a penny. One of the most popular free blog promotion methods is guest blogging. By writing articles for high traffic and well respected websites, you can raise awareness of your brand and your blog. The incoming links that are displayed in your author bio will also increase incoming links to your blog; which in turn increases your ranking in search engines.

Rafflecopter
Rafflecopter is one of the best ways to host a competition on your blog.

One of the best ways to promote your blog is to let others do it for you. This can be achieved by publishing great content and developing useful resources such as free online tools. For example, WPMU Dev publishes lots of great tutorials free of charge in our manuals section.

Competitions are also a great way of letting readers promote your blog for you. Competition services such as Rafflecopter, for example, allow people to enter a competition by sharing your article on Twitter or Facebook. Entries can also be made by commenting on your blog or signing up to your email newsletter.

Commenting on popular blogs is a technique that many bloggers use to promote their new blog. I am sure you have heard of it. While this can raise awareness of your blog, it is rarely the most effective use of a blogger’s time, therefore I advise you to promote your blog using alternative methods as you will get a better return.

Be Patient

Unless you have a large budget for an advertising campaign to promote your blog, it is going to be many months before your blog establishes a readership. It may even be years until your blog makes its mark on the web.

Do not be alarmed by this. Be patient and focus your energy on delivering quality content and your blog will be successful.

Be Patient
It can takes months to establish a readership for your blog and start generating good traffic.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at ways to increase traffic to your blog. If so, I encourage you to subscribe to the WPMU Dev newsletter below to get free updates of our latest articles.

What’s your favorite technique for increasing traffic to your blog? Please share it with us in the comment area below.

Image credits: Traffic Late Night, Zi Nguyen)

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How to Update ThemeForest Themes with the Envato WordPress Toolkit http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-update-themeforest-themes-with-the-envato-wordpress-toolkit/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-update-themeforest-themes-with-the-envato-wordpress-toolkit/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131357 ThemeForest is no doubt the most popular place to find premium WordPress themes.

Paying a one-off fee for a theme is straightforward and users who buy themes also benefit from lifetime updates (until the theme is removed from the marketplace).

The Envato WordPress Toolkit plugin lets you view your ThemeForest purchases within the WordPress dashboard and select whether or not to receive updates.

In today’s Weekend WordPress Project I’ll show you how to use the Envato WordPress Toolkit plugin.

Envato WordPress Toolkit
Use the Envato WordPress Toolkit to keep your theme’s up-to-date.

Envato WordPress Toolkit

Unlike most other free WordPress plugins, the toolkit isn’t available in the WordPress Plugin Repository. You’ll need to go to GitHub to download the plugin.

Envato WordPress Toolkit GitHub
Download the Envato WordPress Toolkit at GitHub.

After you’ve downloaded the plugin (by clicking the “Download ZIP” click on the right-hand side of the page), there are a few steps to go through to get the plugin up and running.

1. API Key

You will need to generate an API key to link your WordPress site to your Themeforest account.

Login to Themeforest, go to your dashboard and click on “My Settings.” The API Keys screen allows you to generate a free API key.

Generate API Key
Generate a free API key on the Themeforest website.

2. Install Envato WordPress Toolkit Plugin

Install and activate the toolkit plugin. A new menu item, “Envato Toolkit,” will appear in the admin sidebar. Click on the sidebar link and enter your marketplace username and secret API key. Click “Save Settings.”

All of your theme purchases will now appear on this page after it refreshes.

3. Theme Updates

The plugin will now alert you to theme updates – so long as you check the toolkit settings regularly.

Click on “install automatically” beside each of your themes to automatically update them.

themezilla

The toolkit settings page also allows you to install themes that you haven’t already uploaded to your site, delete ones you don’t use and view version details. You can also set up theme backups.

It’s a fairly simple plugin, but also a helpful one.

Envato WordPress Toolkit was released in 2012 and hasn’t changed all that much since. It’s yet to have its own auto-updater, so hopefully this is a feature the folks at Envato will add soon.

Always Use a Child Theme

Updating your themes shouldn’t affect any customizations to your website, so long as you’re using a child theme.

If you haven’t set up a child theme before, check out our guide on how to create a child theme.

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How To Easily Set Up Monitoring For Your WordPress Site And Minimize Downtime http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-easily-set-up-monitoring-for-your-wordpress-site-and-minimize-downtime/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-easily-set-up-monitoring-for-your-wordpress-site-and-minimize-downtime/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 14:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131285 Every WordPress site owner should care about their site’s availability, regardless of whether its daily traffic can be counted on one hand or runs into millions.

Services that monitor your site’s uptime are fairly common and setting them up is quick and easy. In this Weekend WordPress Project we’ll step through how to add the Monitor service from Automattic’s Jetpack suite of plugins.

Promo image for monitoring
Monitoring is quick and easy to set up and of real benefit

Jetpack, from Automattic, is a super-plugin that brings over 30 features to any WordPress installation, including Monitor, a free service that:

…will keep tabs on your site, and alert you the moment that downtime is detected.

Monitor will regularly check your site to make sure that it is responding as expected; if not, then it will send you a notification that your site is down (you’ll also get notified if it’s still down after an hour):

A screengrab of the Monitor email about a site being down
A friendly reminder that disaster has occured

When Monitor detects that your site is back up, then you’ll get a notification detailing the time your site went down, the time it came back up and the total downtime. Useful information if you are tracking your uptime against an SLA:

Screengrab of the Monitor email sent when a site is back up
The Site Back Up email complete with downtime.

The alerts will come via an email, although because they have a consistent sender and subject then you can always use a service such as IFTTT to generate the notification in an alternative format such as an SMS or Tweet.

To use Monitor, you must first install Jetpack (if you haven’t already) and then activate and configure Monitor.

Step 1 – Installing Jetpack

Whilst we are only concerned in this post with Monitor, Jetpack comes with a whole host of goodies and is well worth installing.

Just search for Jetpack in Plugins > Add New and click on Install.

To use Jetpack, you’ll need to link your site to a WordPress.com account. Whilst this is slightly annoying when you want to use functionality that happens completely “on site”, in the case of a service like Monitor it actually makes sense, so if you site is not linked to a WordPress.com account, or you don’t have a WordPress.com account, then follow the prompts to set this up.

Once your site is linked to WordPress.com, you’ll be able to activate Jetpacks modules. In fact, some 20 modules will have been automatically activated and so take a look through the list at Jetpack > Settings and deactivate any that you do not need.

Step 2 – Activate And Configure Monitor

Monitor is not one of the modules that is automatically activated, so in Jetpack > Settings find Monitor and click on Activate. Nothing much will happen other than you’ll see a message at the top of the page that Monitor has been activated.

Scroll down to Monitor and click on Configure.

Screengrab of the Monitor settings page
Not much configuring required to get Monitor up and running

There’s not much to configure, indeed the only option is to Receive Monitor Email Notifications, which is really a given. You’ll see that the email address is the address from your WordPress.com account, so if you want to change it then you can click on the Edit button which will take you to your WordPress profile.

Using IFTTT To Get Notified On Your Mobile

A graphical representation of an IFTTT recipe
Get Jetpack emails as SMS with a simple IFTTT recipe

Monitor’s notifications are email only, so what if you’d prefer to get an SMS sent to your mobile phone every time that Monitor sent you notification?

The easiest way to achieve this is by using IFTTT, the “If This Then That” service that Joe covered recently. To make a IFTTT “recipe” to send an SMS when you receive an email from Jetpack is quick and easy and runs along the lines of:

IF email arrives in Gmail from sender no-reply@jetpack.me THEN send an SMS to [number] with sender and subject

If you haven’t used IFTTT before then it’s well worth a play for this or any of the recipes that Joe describes in his post.

Setting up notifications for your WordPress site is very easy indeed with Jetpack Notifications and a little help from IFTTT. Whilst big WordPress installs might require more sophisticated monitoring, Monitor is more than adequate for most WordPress owners.

And with it being so easy to set up, there’s no excuse now for not being the first to know there’s a problem with your site.

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The Best Places to Find Free Stock Images for Your WordPress Site http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-free-stock-images-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-free-stock-images-wordpress/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131326 A picture paints a thousands words, or so the old adage goes.

Images can tell a story in a quick glimpse more than endless paragraphs on a page. This is even up by data that shows 90 per cent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.

Online, visuals are even more important. Research has found 46 per cent of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company.

But how do you find the right images for your website? Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available. If you’re tired of the usual boring stock photography and cliche pictures that cost too much, check out the round-up below. This is a fairly comprehensive collection of my go-to sites for whenever I’m searching for a stock or feature image. These quality images are by real photographers who take photos of real people and beautiful scenery.

If you do download from any of these sites, make sure you check the license associated with any of the images you use and always credit the author.

Unsplash

bear

Unsplash is usually the first site I visit when I’m looking for an image. It features hundreds of beautiful photos in a variety of styles, from landscapes to product images.

Ten new images are uploaded to Unsplash every 10 days. All images on Unsplash are covered under Creative Commons and have no copyright, which means the photographers have dedicated their work to the public domain and waived all rights to the work worldwide under copyright law.

My only gripe with Unsplash is that it’s not possible to search the image archive to quickly find what you want.

Creative Commons

creative-commons-search

The Creative Commons website features a handy search tool that allows you to look for free images on several third-party sites, including Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr and Pixabay.

The search tool includes options to look for images available for commercial purposes, and images that are available to modify, adapt or build upon.

This site offers a quick way to search multiple sites containing professional and amateur photography, video and illustration.

picjumbo

picjumbo

picjumbo offers free images for commercial and personal works. The site includes a category listing, which makes it easy to filter the types of images you’re looking for and quickly find what you need.

There is a wide variety of different high resolution images covering food, nature, people, technology and fashion, among other categories.

All photos are free to use, but the author asks for attribution.

Free Refe

Feature image

Free Refe is a collection of natural looking and modern photos from the premium Refe website.

The photos are mostly of high resolution street scenes and landscapes that are all free to download and use.

This site is a free version of the Refe site.

IM FREE

im-free

IM FREE is a curated collection of free images, all for commercial use.

The photography covers a wide range of subjects, including people, technology, sport and fitness, and education.

The images have been sourced from different third-party sites, such as Flickr, so make sure you check the licenses on individual images before downloading and using them.

Gratisography

gratisography

If you’re looking for quirky images to spice up the content on our site, Gratisography is the place to go.

The site offers a free high-resolution collection for use on personal and commercial projects. All images are free of copyright restrictions.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t feature a search function so you will need to scroll through the images and pick out what you want.

Picography

picography

Picography offers beautiful, natural-looking photos that are free of copyright restrictions.

The site is similar to Unsplash in its design and the inability to search images for specific keywords.

Jay Mantri

jay-mantri

Jay Mantri is a relatively new stock photography site, which has been around since March. It features natural-looking photos, mostly of outdoor city and coastal scenes.

The photos have been made available for free under Creative Commons and come with no copyright restrictions.

Public Domain Archive

public-domain-archive

Public Domain Archive offers a one-stop-shop for finding free public domain images. The site has been created as a repository where the site’s author archives free, high quality images he finds across the internet.

The site is easy to navigate and includes categories that allow you to filter the kinds of images you are searching for to you can quickly find product images, landscapes and other kinds of photography.

Magdeleine

magdeleine

Magdeleine is a free high-resolution photography site that features work submitted by photographers. The photos generally features a vintage style.

Some great features of this site are the ability to search for images, filter images by category and even look for images by dominant color. All photos are also tagged.

The images are mostly photos shot outdoor, but there are also some product images.

Photo Pin

photo-pin

Photo Pin has been designed to help bloggers find photos for their posts.

The site uses the Flickr API and search Creative Commons photos that are available for free. It’s quick and easy to search for any kind of image. Keep in mind that most of the images are by amateur photographers for the quality is often lacking, though it’s not hard to find a quality image that fits your needs.

Pixabay

pixabay

Pixabay lets you find and share images that are free of copyright restrictions. All pictures are available to download under Creative Commons public domain dee CC0.

The license lets you copy, modify, distribute and use the images, even for commercial purposes and without attribution.

The site includes sponsored images from Shutterstock.

So Where is the Best Place to Go for Free Images?

Finding the perfect image for a post or a site header depends on the kind of image you want. Each of the site I’ve mentioned above offers different kinds of images and caters to different styles of photography.

It’s best to search several of these sites and once you’re familiar with the styles and image subjects they offer you will know which ones best suits your needs.

Many of the sites in this collection have been created or are curated by photographers and designers who were frustrated with the lack of stock images available for their work.

As I mentioned above, my go-to site for images is Unsplash. The high-resolution images offered there are top-notch and there are new images uploaded every week covering a variety of different subjects. Plus, the images are always stunning.

IM FREE is also a great site and covers a wide range of subject matter.

There are a few other quick ways to find images, which I haven’t covered above. Wikimedia, Google Images and Flickr all offer search functions that allow you to search for free images that are available for personal and commercial use.

Compfight and Little Visuals offer some great images, and Compfight in particular lets you easily search for any kind of image topic. Foodies Feed is a fantastic site for designers looking for images for restaurant and hospitality sites.

If you’re not in a rush to find an image, Death to the Stock Photo is a service you can join for free and you’ll receive weekly emails with access to collections of high-resolution stock images.

Summing Up

Whatever kind of image you’re look for, there is a plethora of free resources available to help you build your site.

The sites above provide high-resolution, professional and stunning photography and other images perfect for commercial and non-commercial uses.

Feel free to bookmark this post – chances are you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for on one of these sites.

Do you have a go-to site for stock photography? If there’s a site you use that hasn’t been mentioned in the list above, please share it in the comments below.

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The Best WordPress Caching Plugins and Why Testing Them is So Important http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-caching-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-caching-plugins/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:00:23 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131388 Reducing the page loading time of your website pages improves your visitor’s user experience and reduces the chance of them hitting the back button on their browser. Search engines such as Google have also confirmed the speed of a website is a contributing factor in how they rank it in their search results, therefore it pays to have a fast loading website.

There are a number of ways in which you can improve the speed of a WordPress website, however a caching plugin will make the biggest difference. Caching is the process of creating a static HTML page of every page on your website. This means that visitors don’t need to retrieve data from your database, or execute PHP code, in order to display your page.

As a result of this, the number of your requests from your server greatly decreases. This also lowers CPU load and reduces the risk of bottlenecking.

Caching plugins boast many other features that can improve your page speed. These include CSS, HTML, and Javascript file minification, deferring the loading of Javascript to the end of pages, and GZIP compression. Some caching plugins also offer support for content delivery networks (CDNs) so that you can reduce server response times.

There are a lot of caching solutions available to WordPress users. In this article, I would like to show you what I consider to be six of the best.

WP Super Cache

wp-super-cache

With more than 6 million downloads, WP Super Cache is by far the most popular caching solution available to WordPress users.

This plugin offers three different options for speeding up your website: you can choose to use mod_rewrite to deliver static pages, serve static pages using PHP, or use a legacy caching mode that caches pages for logged in users.

Don’t worry if this sounds complicated – WP Super Cache is one of the simplest WordPress caching plugins to use.

The settings area is divided into seven sections: easy, advanced, CDN, contents, preload, plugins, and debug.

I have used WP Super Cache on one of my websites in the past with the default settings, however the plugin does offer advanced settings such as page compression, dynamic caching, and a scheduler that allows cached pages to be deleted and re-cached at certain intervals.

The plugin offers support for content delivery networks and has an option to load certain plugins before others so they load quicker. Pages are normally cached once a visitor lands on a page, however WP Super Cache allows you to preload all content on your website beforehand so that visitors are always served static pages.

W3 Total Cache

w3-total-cache

W3 Total Cache is a highly configurable WordPress caching plugin that is recommended by many respected hosting companies. It supports content delivery networks, GZIP compression, and minification.

This plugin’s settings area is split into a whopping 16 pages, which are then further divided into several sections (though a few of these pages are information pages). The number of configuration options available can be a little daunting, however the plugin should work out of the box. All you have to do is go to the General page and switch the option “Toggle all caching types” to “on”.

W3 Total Cache has a dedicated settings page for each type of caching. This includes minification, page caching, database caching, object caching, and browser caching. The default life of cached objects can be changed in the settings area. You can also adopt different rules for user agents. For example, you could apply one set of rules to Android devices. Four premium extensions are also available for the plugin that further extend its functionality.

While W3 Total Cache should work correctly out of the box, you may need to ask your hosting company for help in order to configure the plugin correctly. All good hosting companies should be familiar with the plugin, therefore they should have a lot of experience in using the plugin. Once you have configured the plugin to your liking, you can export the settings to another website you own using the plugin’s built-in import and export tool.

WP Rocket

wp-rocket

WP Rocket is a new caching plugin released earlier this year. It is also the only caching solution in this article that can’t be downloaded free of charge.

The plugin offers page caching, cache preloading, GZIP compression, and lazy image loading that ensures images are only downloaded by a visitor once the image is visible. HTML, JavaScript, and CSS minification are also supported.

Like WP Super Cache, WP Rocket divides its settings area into seven sections. The plugin will function correctly after activation, therefore you don’t need to spend a lot of time configuring it. You can, however, choose what features are enabled and disabled.

WP Rocket is one of the most user-friendly caching solutions available as there are no advanced settings to be concerned about. There is an Advanced Options tab, however this is only used for excluding pages and files from caching and minification.

The plugin also has support for CDNs and your plugin settings can be exported to another website you own using the plugin’s import and export tool.

A license for WP Rocket is available for $39 for one website and comes with one year of support and updates. A license for three websites costs $99 and is $199 for an unlimited number of websites. All licenses come with a 30 day money back guarantee.

Hyper Cache

hyper-cache

Hyper Cache is a basic caching plugin that was specifically developed for websites that do not have a lot of available resources (e.g. those on shared hosting). It only has one settings area; which is divided into three separate pages.

The General tab allows you to define the period that pages are cached and whether you want to enable page compression. The Bypasses tab allows you to specify pages to be excluded from caching. Cookies, user agents, and comment authors, can also be bypassed.

The last tab relates to mobile settings. The plugin allows you to bypass caching for mobile devices or use a separate cache. You can also change the theme that is displayed to mobile visitors.

Hyper Cache also supports 404 error page caching and works with plugins that add custom post types, such as bbPress.

If you have tried another caching plugin and have been concerned about the load that it put on your server’s CPU, you may want to take a closer look at Hyper Cache.

WP Fastest Cache

wp-fastest-cache

WP Fastest Cache promotes itself as being “the simplest and fastest WP Cache system”. The plugin uses mod rewrite in order to create static files on your website. It also offers minification, GZIP compression, browser caching, and an option for combining Javascript and CSS files together to reduce requests from your server.

The plugin lives up to its reputation of being simple. It only has one small settings page with three tabs. The first tab displays settings, the second tab allows you to delete cache and delete minified files, and the third tab allows you to define the rate at which cached files are deleted.

The settings tab lists all of the plugin’s features. All you have to do is click the checkbox for each feature so that it is enabled.

Due to this simplicity, WP Fastest Cache has become popular with many WordPress users.

Quick Cache

quick-cache

Quick Cache is a feature-rich caching plugin that supports caching of RSS feeds, 404 error pages, and get requests. It also supports browser caching and GZIP compression.

This plugin helps beginners by displaying a long and detailed explanation about what each feature can and can’t do. This is a great addition to the plugin as most caching solutions assume that you know what each feature will do.

A pro version of Quick Cache is available for only $15. It adds another 9 settings options to the existing 9. This includes additional options for logged in users, exclusion patterns, and a “Clear Cache” button in the admin bar. Import and export functionality is also added.

What is the Fastest Caching WordPress Plugin?

With all WordPress plugin lists, readers want to know which is the best plugin. Or in the case of caching plugins, which plugins will improve their website speed the most. It is a difficult question to answer as there are so many factors to consider.

The page loading time produced by a caching plugin can be influenced by:

  • The type of hosting used (sharing, VPS, dedicated etc)
  • Whether the server has been configured correctly
  • Whether the cache plugin has been configured correctly
  • The number of images displayed on the page
  • The type of content displayed on the page (e.g. tables, videos, text etc.)
  • The number of CSS and Javascript files used by the theme and by plugins

These factors are why there are so many conflicting reports online about which WordPress caching plugin is the best. I could test all caching plugins and rank them one through six. Someone else could do the same on their website and rank the plugins in a completely different order.

This is perhaps why Kyle Robinson Young from Tutorial 9 found that Hyper Cache was the best caching plugin, while Kim Tetzlaff from Dashboard Junkie found that W3 Total Cache was the quickest.

Bhagwad Park from WebHostingHero found that W3 Total Cache was quicker than WP Super Cache if minification was enabled, but WP Super Cache was marginally quicker if it was not. More recently, WPSeer found that WP Rocket was quicker than WP Super Cache.

As you can see, different WordPress users are producing different results. In general, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache seem to be the quickest in these tests, though the results are far from conclusive.

Therefore, the most accurate way of seeing which caching plugin will speed up your website the most is to test them yourself and compare the results.

GTmetrix Report
Testing the speed of your website using a benchmarking service such as GTmetrix is essential for knowing how a caching plugin has improved your page loading times.

The best way to test the performance of a WordPress caching plugin is to test your website performance using a speed benchmarking service such as GTmetrix (my favorite), Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Website Speed Test, WebPageTest, or YSlow.

First, test your website with no caching plugin activated and then test your website with your chosen caching plugin configured. In order to get an accurate result, test your website two or three times and then take an average score. This is necessary as benchmarking services tend to produce a slightly different result every time you test the speed of a URL.

You should also remember to clear the cache after activating or deactivating any other plugins during this period. This ensures that all active plugins are displayed in your cached files.

To give you a better understanding of how much a caching plugin has improved the speed of your website, you should test the following pages:

  • Your home page or blog index
  • A long blog post with many images
  • A short blog post with few images
  • A page (e.g. about page or contact page)

It may seem overkill to test four different URLs before and after activating a caching plugin, but it is the most accurate way of testing performance as caching plugins handle different types of pages in different ways.

You should also be aware that different speed benchmarking services will give different results. For example, GTmetrix might say that a page loads in 0.9 seconds whereas Google PageSpeed Insights might say it takes 1.1 seconds. To remove this issue from the equation, be sure to use the same service to test your pages before and after activating your caching plugin. Otherwise, your figures may be skewed.

Overview

If you are not already using a caching plugin on your website, I recommend installing one of the above plugins listed in this article. Doing this will cache your content and deliver faster loading pages to your visitors.

Those of you who already have a caching plugin activated on your website will be familiar with a few of the plugins shared in this article, however you may want to consider testing another to see if it performs better.

I have tested all plugins listed in this article, however I have only used W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket, on live websites. The quickest solution that I found for my own blog was W3 Total Cache, however I used the plugin in conjunction with four or five other optimization plugins in order to achieve that speed. On its own, I did not find W3 Total Cache to be any quicker than other solutions.

I currently use WP Rocket without any other optimization plugins installed and have been very happy with its performance. I also love how easy the plugin is to use.

If you are looking to further improve the speed of your website, you may want to consider using a CDN such as MaxCDN or Amazon CloudFront. For reference, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket, all support content delivery networks. Hyper Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and Quick Cache, do not.

Do you use a caching plugin? If so, which caching plugin have you had the most success with? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Dan DeChiaro

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