If you don’t know what the Genesis Themes are, you should really check them out. They rock.
For a limited time, Genesis Themes are included at no extra cost in our Blogger and above packages. See plans and pricing.
Software updates can be a bit of a pain in the neck if you ask me. I really do get tired of constantly getting popups on my computer screen telling me this software or that has a new update that needs to be installed. Usually the implied price of non-compliance is a serious life-altering security breach that would leave me homeless, destititute, and essentially without a glimmer of hope.
So I usually go ahead and update.
WordPress is no different. WordPress has released probably a dozen new versions or patches since I started using it a few years ago. Back in the day, it was kind of a chore to update. Nowadays it’s as easy as clicking a button or two. (usually)
WordPress One Click Update
When an update is available, you’ll see this at the top of your admin dashboard:
The starting point is obvious… click the link and you’re taken to a page that explains the potential dangers of updating and suggests you should have a full backup of your site before proceeding.
Unless I’ve just made major changes to a site that involved tons of work that I don’t have a copy of, I usually run wild with this and just go for it.
All of my sites back-up automatically at least once a week at a minimum so I know I won’t have to go back too far if there is some sort of catastrophy.
The page also shows the plugins that I have installed which are ready for an update. If I’m in a big hurry I update them all at once, but I usually update the plugins one at a time and check the site after each one. Plugins are more likely to cause problems than the core WordPress code.
Hit the “update now” button and sit back for a few seconds…
Update done. New features are sometimes displayed as shown above.
Usually it’s as simple as that and life can go on.
Keeping Up To Date is a Best Practice
There are dangers with websites. Sites get hacked all the time and the damage can range from annoying to the aforementioned total annihaliation.
Updating your site won’t ensure your total safety, but it is one of the things you can do to at least improve your position.
And it’s easy. So do it now.
Crazy Tree customers on plan Blogger and above have this service included at no extra charge. But it’s not automatic, you have to let us know you need the update.
I come from a non-tech background so I still get a kick out of the things “tech natives” take for granted as obvious. For me when I first started, nothing much was obvious…other than my total ineptidude that is.
The first thing I tried to do was to establish a hosting account and get a domain. Then I manually downloaded, uploaded, unzipped, and installed WordPress. That was all pretty intense for a guy who a few days before had litterally uttered the words “what’s a blog?”.
So when I finally got WordPress installed (it’s much easier now), I figured I was home free. Then I found the WordPress dashboard. No instructions were provided because, duh, it’s obvious. Well, it wasn’t for me. (in fairness to WordPress, there were instructions via the WordPress Codex, I just didn’t know where or what that was at the time)
If it’s not so obvious for you, here’s a quick little rundown. The first picture below shows the overall screen of a typical WordPress admin area. Below, I’ll go through each of the major options and help you know what’s behind doors #1 through 412.
The Typical WordPress Dashboard
Rather than go through this visually based on what you see, I think I’ll go in a more experiental order, based on what you’ll end up using the most.
It all starts with posts.
The Posts and Pages Menu Items
Posts are the most common form of content generation on most WordPress site. Pages are very similar, but posts are the ones that get sent out to RSS and email subscribers and they are the articles you’ll see in your blog “loop” which generally appears in reverse chronological order.
The Settings Menu
As someone who sets up blogs all the time, I probably would go to settings first. I listed posts and pages first because I remember the thrill of writing that first content and including those first pictures, then hitting publish and seeing it online right away. That was cool. Settings, not so much. At least not to the untrained eye.
In reality the options under the settings menu are pretty awesome. I’ll give you a little insight as to what’s behind each click, but I probably should write another post just about settings.
More Dashboard Options Explained in Part 2 (coming soon)
Be sure to check out the next part of this post series for more explanation of the WordPress Dashboard. You can also get in-depth details about anything WordPress at the WordPress Codex. The Dashboard section is here.
Email marketing is a great tool and one that businesses and organizations of all types should take advantage of on one level or another. However, just like every other form of customer communication, it’s not without a few danger zones.
One of the areas to watch out for is personalization of your emails. This is the process whereby the computer automatically inserts the first name or other personal info into an email where you say to. The problem is, the computer doesn’t apply common sense, that’s up to you.
Danger Zone: Clearly Impersonal Emails Personalized
If you look closely enough, you’ll see that this email (which looks nothing like an email) says “Dear Tim” right before some words that sound nothing like an email.
Some people just like the sound of their own name and I’m right there with them, but other than some tiny potential endearment just because I see my name, using it in this email makes no sense at all.
There is no “personal” to this email. It looks like a web-page, it reads like a web-page, it essentially is a web-page that was delivered to my email inbox. Do they really think that I’m going to believe that they wrote this and arranged all these pictures and links, just for me?
Danger Zone: Email list “name field” problems
How does the system know what name to put in that spot anyway? It uses the information input into a form when the recipient signed-up to get the emails. The problem is that people don’t always follow instructions.
I, for example, might decide to use the name of my company, Crazy Tree Media, instead of my name in a form. I might not feel like giving out my name at the time. So, from then on, I will get emails from that company that say “Dear Crazy” at the beginning. Thus confusing me and making me think the email is from my wife.
If you have time to go through your entire list looking for things like this and fixing them, or at least being aware of them, then you can make the call. But sending out a personalized mass email to a list you haven’t looked through name by name is, IMHO, more trouble than it’s worth.
Weigh The Benefit
When writing an email to be sent to the masses, I often ask myself… what is the real benefit of personalization on this email. Sometimes it’s really a big deal. If you’re trying to make your email sound like it really is to just one person, it could be the way to go.
But at the same time, I think it’s possible to alienate people by using any form of automated “trickery”. If it’s clearly a mass email, give folks some credit for knowing the difference. If it really is personal, then you probably won’t be using a mass email system anyway, right?
This means that the home page should not be static (not changing) it should be dynamic. Clients, prospects, vendors, whatever, should get used to seeing different information on the home page of the site when they visit.
By “content” I mean pictures, words, headings, titles, links, announcements, and social media updates (that, ideally would be live on the home page).
An example would be site that has various items on the home page that would change when new content of the proper type was added.
Employee Spotlight, for example. Write a new post in the Employee Spotlight blog category and it automatically goes to the home page of the site.
While this isn’t super-difficult to do manually, it’s much better for it to be automatic because inevitably, any manual work such as “I have to remember to put that new employee spotlight blog post on the home page” just doesn’t get done. The home page becomes static.
(click photo to visit site)
A good blog is heavy with pictures. The bigger the better. The more the better.
The site should be about design, inspiration, and ideas. It should create energy where there was none.
If the site is simply about passing on information, then it isn’t really getting the most value for you. Lots of interactive (clickable) pictures engage users.
Current sites use a good bit of pictures on all pages and these pictures, often coupled with bold headlines, draw the visitor to click. If you can get them to click around a few times they’ll start to build a feeling of “this website is cool” or “I love this website”… the SITE itself is what you want them to love, not your company. That will come as an automatic result.
This is much like new cars. You can tell the difference between a brand new car built in 1990 style as compared to a brand new car built in 2010. Both might have the same great key features, but you can tell which is the newer model, even if both are at zero miles.
How much that matters to your target market is something you know better than I do. It matters a great deal to a young person who spends much time online. They will think your site is old. A person who doesn’t spend much time online won’t notice as much, but the site will be older faster if the look starts-off looking dated.
I recently consulted on a site with a photographic background that worked (albeit stretched on my monitor) in IE and Firefox, but was a mess in Chrome and Safari (webkit browsers).
It’s pretty much impossible to make a photographic background work across the complete range of monitors and websites are constantly working in one browser and not another much to the endless frustration of web developers.
But for this reason, the photographic image background on the site should be either abandoned or set to a fixed size and location with a repeating texture or background color behind it.
In any case, a site has to look professional in all major browsers including mobile.
It’s not good to think of your blog, website, facebook, twitter, and other online interactions as separate entities. It’s much better to think of them as various spokes on one wheel.
The website is the hub but the whole thing is “your online presence” and each leg is important. This isn’t my original concept, this is very widely adopted thinking as the image above demonstrates. Check a Google Images search for “website hub“.
As such, they all need to heavily integrate. This means that as soon as your active on twitter, that we add a “twitter widget” to the home page of the website that shows latest tweets.
This means that the facebook widget that is on the blog, should also be on the home page. It means that the facebook page should link to the blog and the home page and twitter, but not just with a simple link.
Doing this right involves active engagement such as doing a tweet about a facebook event and putting blog posts on facebook and all of it being on the home page of the website.
You really want a form on the home page of your website and as many of the other pages as possible. The idea is to make it seem obvious to the visitor that they are choosing not to contact you. Call to action. Call to action. Call to action. Just do it over and over again and you’ll get markedly increased feedback and that will result in conversions to sales.
[gravityform id=4 name=BlogPost Contact Form ajax=true]
I recently changed a client’s site who offers flight training. We went from a somewhat hard to find (but logically placed) form to having the same form on four or five of the flight school pages. Responses increased ten-fold immediately. Lots of ways to interact are critical. Social media sharing buttons are great for this as well.
It requires a multi-faceted plan of attack to gain an advantage in today’s web. The good news is that many industries are just getting going down these roads so leaders who get it right now will be in what my grandpa used to call “the catbird’s seat” a few years down the road when these things are no longer “optional” to success.
When we’re not busy with our growing portfolio of online publications, we help others accomplish these things with their online presence. Use the form above (it’s real, not just for show!) to contact us today if we can help you.