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This past Valentine’s Day, millions of friendly and romantic email messages were exchanged around the world. Unfortunately, some of them were exploited by cybercrime groups aiming to infect personal computing devices and networks with GandCrab ransomware.
Information security researchers at Mimecast Threat Labs noticed a considerable uptick of activity in the world of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), a cybercrime business model that has been on the rise for nearly a year. More interesting, perhaps, are emerging details surrounding this threat.
The rise of RaaS is one of various turning points in the cybercrime world, which is starting to show parallels with the way other criminal organizations have historically developed. In the recent trial of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, former leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, analysts remarked that the organization itself was hardly affected by the sentencing of the crime lord in a New York courtroom because it has been operating as a resilient global business for decades.
In fact, the Sinaloa cartel has been shifting its profit-making activities from drug smuggling to illegal mining and fuel theft in Mexico. Major cybercrime groups have adopted this business-like resilience with RaaS, a subscription-based modus operandi that features access to ransomware packages that criminals can use even if they are not familiar with coding malware apps.
Affiliate programs and marketing campaigns are now part of RaaS, which explains why sales of the ransomware increased in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. Cybercrime outfits offering RaaS launched a creative marketing campaign that included ideas on how prospective criminals could make the most out of the Feast of Saint Valentine, particularly in the United States. Some of the topics and attack vectors promoted were:
* Fake internet surveys designed to capture personal data from victims.
* Spyware that would exchange web advertising banners with malicious versions.
The aforementioned marketing campaigns were launched across dark web marketplaces, encrypted messaging apps, and underground internet forums. To get an idea of how sophisticated these cybercrime groups have become, an efficient ransomware package such as Hostman, which features Bitcoin payment processing and even automatic decryption of files for victims who comply with the terms of the ransom note, costs $49.95 for unlimited use. Just like many information security systems are now cloud-based, so are the attackers.
Politics and Patriotism in the RaaS World
One of the most interesting findings reported by Mimecast Threat Labs researchers is that the GandCrab RaaS campaign launched ahead of Valentine’s Day was mindful of not targeting Russian users. Should the malware app detect a Cyrillic keyboard or a Russian language pack configuration in the operating system, the attack would not be carried out.
That major ransomware crews operate out of Russia is a known fact, but why should cybercrime operators care about not targeting their own people?
It so happens that the geopolitical state of affairs has a lot to do with the way cybercrime groups operate. We already know that Russian hacking outfits have worked with the Kremlin and intelligence agents to interfere in international elections.
It is likely that this partnership requires cybercrime groups to refrain from attacking friendly targets. To historians, this is hardly surprising; after all, the Sicilian mafia was known to form political and religious partnerships during the 1970s and the 1980s.
Political and patriotic sentiment can influence the actions of malicious hackers and organized crime groups alike. In some cases, criminal organizations recruit hackers for the purpose of diversifying their operations and pursuing political activities.
Earlier this year, Roberto Escobar launched a cryptocurrency based on the Ethereum blockchain, and he made it clear that profits would be used to fund lobbying and investigative efforts to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump. Roberto is the surviving brother of Pablo Escobar, the notorious leader of the Medellin Cartel, who was gunned down in Colombia with the help of American law enforcement in 1993.
Ransomware Decryptors to the Rescue?
No one is safe from ransomware attacks, not even victims of the protracted Syrian conflict. In October 2018, a heartbreaking Twitter update from a Syrian man explained that his computer had been infected with GandCrab version 5.0.3, and he was at risk of losing images and videos of his children, whom he lost in the conflict.
Amazingly, a group behind the GandCrab RaaS operation learned about the plight of Syrian victims and reached out to key members of underground hacking forums for the purpose of releasing a decryption tool specifically for this affected group. This “decryptor” was evaluated and modified by the ESET information security firm for the benefit of all GandCrab victims.
Law enforcement agencies in various countries have been releasing decryptor variants for individuals and companies that have been hit with GandCrab ransomware. As can be imagined, this has been a major setback for some RaaS operators, who are currently working on future versions of their software that would be impervious to these decryption tools. In the meantime, however, email scammers have been taking advantage of this positive development.
No Malware Needed
Researchers at Cyber security firm Sophos Labs have intercepted emails that feature a “reverse engineering” approach to ransomware attacks. In essence, the scam is a type of protection racket insofar as victims being made to believe that they have been infected with ransomware.
The body of the email is a lengthy and intimidating ransom note directing recipients to make a cryptocurrency payment of about $600 to avoid activation of the non-existing malware.
In some cases, the messages include links to news stories about the previously mentioned decryptor efforts in Europe. Other emails simply offer decryption tools, which are available, for a price.
Many of the recipients have been small companies, which leads investigators to believe that marketing email lists may have been hacked in this attack; to this effect, small business owners are urged to carefully evaluate their providers. In the end, the best strategy to protect against ransomware attacks continues to be comprehensive data backups.
The Bottom Line
“Life finds a way.”
This line so eloquently rendered by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park could be applied to the hacking world as well, maybe something like, “Cybercriminals find a way.” One thing is certain. For every bit of good in this world, expect that there will be a certain human element completely dedicated to tormenting, perverting, and making a profit. So…be careful out there.
The question of Twitter vs Facebook can be complex. Which is better for your site or business to be on? And do you even have to make a decision?
The two social networks each offer lots of opportunities to connect with your audience and drive traffic to your site. However, they are also very different in the way they operate.
For that reason, it can make sense to settle on one or the other. Same if you have limited resources and can only take care of one account, even with a social scheduling tool. Or maybe you’re just here because you are confused as to what is the difference.
If you are not sure where you should stand on the Twitter vs Facebook debate, this post is for you. Below, we will examine the two social networks in terms of general purpose, user demographics, engagement, roles in marketing, content that performs well and ads.
In the end, we want you to feel capable of confidently making a decision about which one to use for your business.
Twitter vs Facebook – The Big Comparison
Alright, time to dive deeply into what these two social giants have to offer for businesses and website owners.
1. General Purpose
Facebook and Twitter are already very different in the main functionality they provide users.
Facebook’s mission is to connect people with their loved ones and give them the possibility to share photos, videos, and updates on their lives.
At least on paper. As we have seen in recent years, they seem a bit more focused on collecting data and using it to make money. But I digress.
Twitter, on the other hand, is all about what is happening in real time.
It allows you to discover content, learn about trending news, real-life updates on what is going on in the world and the lives of the people you follow. For example, the platform was the first to break news on the Bin Laden raid.
While it is also about connecting with others, Twitter’s focus is less on reciprocation and more about getting your ideas out into the world. It’s not so much the place to build personal relationships but you can still get in touch with others.
2. User Demographics
Knowing what types of users are on each platform is an important factor in the decision of Twitter vs Facebook. After doing market research, you probably have a good idea who you are trying to attract. Picking the platform that most fits this profile is a good step in that direction.
In the US alone, nearly 70 percent of adults use the platform.
On the other hand, Facebook’s demographic is getting relatively old. In fact, seniors are one of the fastest growing user groups online and 90 percent of those over 65 go for their own Facebook account. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 65 percent of the age cohort 50-64 can be found on the platform.
At the same time, Facebook is not as interesting to the younger generation anymore. The network is actually losing ground among certain age groups.
In contrast to Facebook’s behemoth status, Twitter is relatively small. Only about a quarter of American adults are active here. However, the network attracts a much younger crowd.
As you can see from the table above, only 19 percent of the older age cohort frequent the microblogging platform. The largest share is people who are 18-29 years old.
In addition to that, you also have to look at who is on Twitter. The platform is a favorite among journalists, politicians, and celebrities. In 2015, 83 percent of world leaders had their own Twitter account and many of them have millions of followers. At least one is also well known for his voracious use of the platform.
Twitter also gives a way to interact directly with famous people and many do, even if it’s not always in the nicest way.
However, that is part of the appeal of Twitter. There is less of a barrier to get in touch with someone you don’t know and everyone is equal. As a consequence, users are also likely to talk to brands or websites.
3. Engagement Rates
However, just because more people use a platform, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is more activity there. A smaller engaged audience is often more valuable than a passive larger one. Just ask people who buy followers. So, how do our contenders fare in this area?
In addition, the median engagement rate across many industries is 0.16 percent for Facebook an 0.046 for Twitter. As a consequence, for every one million Facebook followers, brands can expect to receive about 700 likes, comments, and shares. In contrast to that, every one million Twitter followers nets them only about 300 interactions.
However, that is not to say that Twitter has low engagement. 46 percent of its users check the platform daily. Among millennials, the number is even higher with 81 percent.
One possible reason for the lower engagement rates is that the network is especially popular for news and updates. Therefore, the focus might be more on consumption and not as much on sharing, liking and commenting.
4. Roles in Marketing
There are other differences in usage patterns that have consequences for how businesses use Twitter and Facebook for marketing.
Twitter offers a way to publish quick tips, short blurbs and do real-time interaction. On the other hand, any message you shoot out is buried quickly under a barrage of other, similar messages. Therefore, you need to be more active to stay visible. The fast-paced nature might make it difficult to gain traction on a single post for long.
One way to combat that is to post the same content several times, which is a legitimate strategy.
On the other hand, on Twitter, you don’t have to deal with a complicated algorithm that determines who sees your posts. They simply appear in chronological order in your followers’ feeds. It’s a very democratic way of spreading information.
Facebook, on the other hand, allows more long-term engagement with a single post. Users are able to start a discussion directly under the content you publish. This makes it easier to build relationships with members of your audience and communicate more deeply. You also have to publish less.
In addition, you are able to create a business page and provide more information and options, including a ‘shop-now’ button.
At the same time, it has gotten increasingly difficult for business pages to get organic exposure. The reach has declined for years.
As a consequence, many have had to resort to buying ads (more on that below).
5. High-Performing Content
Each platform also has different content that performs best.
When thinking of Twitter vs Facebook in terms of content, it’s important to first note that all social platforms have gotten increasingly visual. While in the past, it might have been enough to just post your status, these go largely ignored these days.
For Twitter, on the other hand, we have already pointed out that many use it as a news outlet. As a consequence, sharing current information relevant to your site, product, industry or similar is a good idea to entertain your audience.
Aside from that, curated content works well here, too. However, avoid posting it in text-only form but use the link preview, images, videos, or GIFs. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure that what you post is optimized for mobile since many people use Twitter via their phones and tablets.
6. Ads and Adspent
When discussing Twitter vs Facebook, we also have to talk about ads. They are one of the main advertising channels for many businesses and both social networks offer them.
Here, Facebook offers impressive targeting tools.
The platform allows you to show your ads to people based on age, hobbies, income, interests, Facebook groups they frequent, and much more. That way, you are able to narrow your targeting down to the most likely people to care about what you have to offer. This makes it more likely they will click and convert.
Plus, Facebook ads are pretty cheap. You can run a campaign on as much as it costs to get a drink at your local coffee store chain. However, prices have also been increasing.
Pricing is also where Facebook has Twitter beat. While the platform offers similar ways of targeting users, advertising on there is usually more expensive. The cost per impression is about $3.50 (vs $0.59 on Facebook).
On the other hand, this might be offset, at least in part, by the fact that ad engagement rates on Twitter are usually higher. On the microblogging platform, the number is about 1-3 percent vs Facebook’s average of 0.119 percent.
Especially in the mobile ad arena, Twitter outperforms Facebook. Their ad format, showing paid updates as part of the normal newsfeed, is just more mobile friendly than Facebook’s alternative.
Twitter vs Facebook – The Verdict
Comparing Twitter and Facebook’s potential value for your site or business is a good idea before becoming active on either one. They are very different platforms that offer different advantages, disadvantages and approaches for marketing yourself.
Which one you go for really depends on your site, goals, and capacities. In the end, you need to ask yourself which one aligns best with your site or business.
Can you thrive in Twitter’s fast-paced environment? Do you have quick, digestible tips or curated news articles to share and the resources to post more often? Then this network might be a good platform for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking for long-term engagement, Facebook might be the superior alternative. It also gives you access to a much larger audience with higher engagement rates.
When asking yourself which is better, it also makes sense to research where to find most of your competitors. If most professionals in your niche are on Twitter, it’s critical you also appear on the tool. Vice versa with Facebook.
If you still feel unable to decide, give both of them a try for a while. While I am a big proponent of mastering one social network before moving on to another, they are both free, so you can get your feet wet before doubling down. See where your content performs better and what is working for you. Sometimes taking action is better than overthinking.
Where do you stand on the Twitter vs Facebook debate? Any additional insights to share? Please do in the comments section below!
2018 is over – in fact, we’re nearly to May already. After the big WordPress 5.0 launch around Christmas, coupled with a quick break to recharge, the focus is now on how the platform will develop during the next year.
As with previous years, there are some exciting developments in the pipeline. Some you could have seen coming from miles away, while others are a little more unexpected. In either case, it’s important to know what’s coming, so you can start making preparations now.
In this post, we’ll take a broad look at what the entire community of developers, clients, designers, and site owners will see from WordPress over the next 12 months. Let’s jump right in!
1. A Greater Reliance on the Block Editor
First, let’s discuss the Block Editor, as it’s now central to WordPress’ ongoing development. The switch over from the Classic Editor didn’t exactly go smoothly. Now that developers have begun to work on improving the feature, however, it’s easier to see the value of WordPress’ newest implementation.
By default, the Block Editor reshapes the currently-existing editor functionality. This means it’s ready to go straight out of the box. However, just as plugins enhance the core platform, block collections are doing the same for the Block Editor.
In fact, we’ve already seen these collections begin to seep into the WordPress Plugin Directory, under their own “Block-Enabled” category on the main page:
Practically all major plugin developers – such as Yoast and Automattic – have been creating their own blocks, which comes as no surprise. There are also third-party collections, akin to the plugins that added extra elements to the Classic Editor. Atomic Blocks is a good example:
With this plugin, you’ll get new elements such as Testimonial and Customizable Button blocks. The expectation is that these tools will eventually become a new breed of page builder, potentially even surpassing the currently-established names.
In addition, many theme authors have been getting onboard as well. For example, Genesis is fully compatible with the Block Editor, and there are also block collections available to extend the defaults found within the theme. Overall, the future is bright for the Block Editor, and the base functionality should only get better over time.
2. Developments Related to Community Feedback and Marketing
As we mentioned earlier, the WordPress 5.0 launch was not exactly uncontroversial. As such, Matt Mullenweg noted that there were things the entire team could have done better, and the decision was made to expand the leadership team to improve on some of those issues.
To this end, Josepha Haden and Joost de Valk became WordPress’ Executive Director and the Marketing and Communications Lead respectively. In a nutshell, their roles are:
Executive Director. The Executive Director is concerned with the health of WordPress, namely as it relates to community and contributor feedback. A core responsibility is to track and act upon any majority feedback received.
Marketing and Communications Lead. This role is a little more self-explanatory, and will primary focus on how WordPress is presented to the outside world. As such, some of its first projects are related to the WordPress.org website – among other areas.
One of the first tasks Josepha Haden undertook was to survey the community on what they need in order to more easily contribute to WordPress. As you can imagine, plenty of suggestions were made. The hope is that these new roles and projects will enable the WordPress leadership team and the broader community to work together more effectively.
3. Expanded Service Offerings from Popular Web Hosts
This next topic is something that’s just recently entered into the WordPress community’s public conscience. It’s a new concept in web hosting, and one that hasn’t been entirely defined yet. Even so, you’ll find some hosts already leading the way to provide what’s become known as a Digital Experience Platform (DXP).
We’ve previously covered this idea, and the concept as a whole was also explained well by Noel Tock at WordCamp Europe in 2018. Ultimately, DXPs are based around marketing to individual target customers, wherever they may be online. This development came about because of the pervasive feeling across the industry that many clients are not interested in the traditional ways of using WordPress.
There are three main reasons for that shift:
Plugins are losing value, due to increasingly complex themes.
Clients have more specialized requirements for their websites.
There are a number of alternative website-building platforms vying for attention.
WordPress itself is working on mitigating these issues, but marketing and branding also play a key role. Businesses essentially need to be everywhere online, and many have switched focus from targeting new customers to cultivating relationships with their existing clients.
DXPs are designed to help businesses better compete in this new landscape.
4. A More Accessible WordPress
Finally, let’s talk about accessibility. We’ve covered the topic numerous times over the past few years, and it’s an important consideration due to the inclusive nature of WordPress as a whole.
Unfortunately, the platform’s own accessibility has always been ‘hit and miss’. There was no real accessibility team until recently, for example. Although that oversight was righted, the introduction of the Block Editor arguably set the clock back in this area.
However, there has been funding allocated from Automattic for an accessibility audit, despite the fact that the previous one was canceled indefinitely. What this means for the platform remains to be seen. However, there are plenty of positives to look forward to once the results of the audit are released. In other words, we expect plenty of action to be taken on improving the platform’s accessibility in 2019 and beyond.
2019 is zipping by, and WordPress is coming along for the ride. The new momentum arguably started with the WordPress 5.0 launch and is set to continue until next Christmas. If you’re not up to date with what to expect from WordPress in 2019, now’s the time to get started.
In this post, we’ve looked at four key areas the WordPress team will be focused on this year. As you can imagine, the Block Editor is a priority, and we’re likely to see its integration improve. Accessibility has also been a primary concern for the community, so you can expect it to receive an increased focus. Speaking of the community, the appointments of Josepha Haden and Joost de Valk are going to be pivotal over the next year, as will the burgeoning concept of Digital Experience Platforms.
Are you looking forward to what WordPress has to offer in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below!
Doc Pop’s WordPress News Drop is a weekly report on the most pressing WordPress news. When the news drops, I will pick it up and deliver it right to you.
It is the final week of Torque’s Plugin Madness 2019 and we are down to our two finalists. Be sure to vote today for your favorite on PluginMadness.com.
We also have a great new update from WordCamp Europe and news about WP Campus 2019.
Love WordPress news but hate reading? My name is Doc and this is Doc Pop’s News Drop.
This is it, the final week of our Plugin Madness competition. We started with 64 great WordPress plugins and thanks to your help we’ve narrowed it down to just two finalists: Advanced Custom Fields and Elementor Page Builder.
Elementor is a page builder plugin with drag and drop capabilities and an emphasis on responsive design. It replaces the basic WordPress editor with a live frontend editor, so you don’t have to switch back and forth between the editor and preview mode. You can create the layouts visually and see how it looks right away. It also has over 2 million active installs and a near perfect rating with nearly 3,000 five star reviews in the plugin repository.
Advanced Custom Fields is a plugin which allows you to add extra content fields to your WordPress site. These custom fields help you build websites faster and are easy for your clients to use. You’ve probably heard us rave about Advanced Custom Fields in the show before and you may recall that they were the winners of our first ever Plugin Madness competition in 2016.
Now we know that these are two great plugins and were sorry to make you have to choose, but that’s how these things work. To make sure your favorite plugin wins this covetted trophy, be sure to go to PluginMadness.com to cast your vote today.
WordCamp Europe is coming up in June, so let’s check in with the organizers to see what’s in store for this year’s event:
Thanks for that update. Can’t wait to see y’all in Berlin this year.
Speaking of WordCamps, WPCampus a 3day conference that focuses on accessibility and WordPress in higher education. The organizers of this year’s event have announced that it will be happening July 25-27, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. I’m hoping that either Emily or I will be able to make it this year because it sounds like a rad event.
That’s it for this week, thanks to our friends at WCEU for sharing another great update and thanks for all of the folks who have voted in this year’s Plugin Madness. We’ll see you next week to announce our final winner of Plugin Madness 2019.
With more than 50,000 plugins to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which will be most beneficial to your WordPress site and which you don’t truly need.
When you’re just starting your WordPress blog or website, you need to have a game plan of which plugins you’ll need to create a website that’ll attract visitors. There are several areas of building a website you’ll need covered by plugins: security, appearance, analytics, forms and surveys, SEO optimization, and much more. It simply depends on what kind of website you’re trying to create.
Here are 25 of the best WordPress plugins your website needs in 2019.
It goes without saying you need to analyze your website to see how it’s performing and how users engage with it. That’s what MonsterInsights is for, working with Google Analytics to show your results so you can optimize it accordingly for better conversions. It’s free to use but does offer premium options if you want more features.
You need a sturdy, reliable contact form plugin so that viewers can easily communicate with you. WPForms is a drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to create forms, surveys, polls, email subscription forms, and more. The Lite version is free and good for a new business while their pro subscription works well for growing businesses.
You need a solid SEO plugin that guides you through all the steps you need to complete in order to rank high on search engines and improve lead generation. Yoast SEO lets you add meta tags, description tags, alt tags, image tags, and more. It’s the best on-page SEO solution on the market to date and a must-have for any website.
Page speed matters, and if your images aren’t optimized, it’ll lag horrendously. TinyPNG lets you compress images right from your WordPress dashboard, decreasing image size and improving the user experience for your website. You can also optimize previously uploaded images for added convenience.
When it comes to conversion rate optimization, OptinMonster is one of the most helpful tools available. It helps you increase your email subscribers with its optins to convert abandoning visitors into customers. It uses a drag-and-drop builder for ease of use and allows you to personalize campaigns for different users.
Pretty Links lets you manage links for your site and works for bloggers, affiliate marketers, writers, and more. You can easily access the entirety of your links from your WordPress dashboard. It gives you complete control over how your links redirect and look on your website. Using this plugin for your redirection techniques is made super simple.
MemberPress functions as an all-in-one membership plugin for WordPress that makes it easy to run a membership site. You can instantly charge users for access to your site and manage your subscriptions. Easily revoke and grant access to content like pages, posts, videos, communities, digital files, and more based on how they’re segmented.
Autoptimize is a plugin used to simplify the process of optimizing your website. It concentrates all scripts and styles, compresses them, injects CSS in the page head, minifies HTML, and much more. It works to improve your site performance because giving visitors a positive user experience is important if they’re going to convert.
Sometimes, your site goes under a period of maintenance where it can’t be readily accessible or available to visitors. That doesn’t mean your conversion rate has to plummet; you just need to plan accordingly. SeedProd is a maintenance plugin with beautiful coming soon pages that allows you to work on your site privately.
SEMRush is an all-in-one marketing platform that gives you unlimited access to analytical data, custom reports, and team-based projects. Conduct deep link analysis, find the right keywords for your SEO campaign, visualize data, and much more with this helpful plugin. This is a great tool to use to brainstorm content ideas and refine your content marketing strategy.
Humans face so many distractions while working, it’s always helpful to use an interface that eliminates these distractions and enhances your ability to focus. Just Writing does just that. It leaves nothing but the text box on the page so that you aren’t looking elsewhere or putting energy into anything that isn’t your blog post. It includes spell check and customizations so you can properly edit your text.
AddToAny Share Buttons is a great plugin to allow users to share your content on their social media and get your content promoted. Choose from more than 100 social media platforms to post to including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. Customize your buttons any way you’d like to adjust to your brand.
Sucuri is a security plugin that fixes hacks and protects from future attacks. It identifies indicators of compromise and comes with unlimited malware removal so you’re guaranteed safety for all your websites. You can also use it to optimize your website performance as well as use it for website backups so you can recover from hacks and other security breaches.
If you run a business, you’re going to need to build an email list of loyal subscribers who want to stay up-to-date on your brand. Constant Contact is an plugin that has more than 100 customizable email templates, track your success with real-time analytics and reporting, and collect email addresses through your website, Facebook, and more.
If you’re running an ecommerce shop, WooCommerce is the most popular option for WordPress. It’s an open-source, fully customizable platform anyone can use around the globe. It comes with the ability to sell both physical and digital goods, more than 400 official extensions, countless themes, and more. Personalize your shop to fit your brand image and easily sell products and collect payment.
Beaver Builder is a page builder plugin that uses a drag-and-drop interface that’s easy to use and straight to the point. Build the website you want without fuss by playing around with the existing creative templates and create layouts in minutes. It’s mobile friendly, has shortcode and widget support, is optimized for SEO, and works with nearly any theme out there.
With so many customization options, it’s easy to set it up to suit your business needs. Often, something that can be difficult for small businesses is shipping. It can be difficult to organize and execute all on your own. Luckily, there’s WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a fantastic WordPress ecommerce solution. Given there are so many options available, let’s take a look at what’s possible when setting up shipping for your ecommerce store.
Before you set up your shipping
Before we jump into WooCommerce, you need to consider your shipping requirements. You will need to think about things like:
Who will you use to ship your products? Your local government-owned shipping corporation (such as Australia Post in Australia) or a courier? Or will you use a combination of these?
What requirements do they have around packaging or size that you need to consider?
How will they charge you – based on weight and/or size? What will that cost you, given your product range?
Will you absorb the shipping costs for your customers?
What do your competitors charge for shipping? What’s “common” in your niche?
Will you charge based on weight or product size – or simply make it a flat rate? Will you have a combination of these?
Will there be some products that are free shipping and others not? Maybe a class of products that costs more or less to ship?
Will any types of products that are grouped together change the shipping cost?
Will there be a spend that qualifies for free shipping?
Will you have a local pickup option?
Now you have a plan for how your shipping will work, we can look at how to make it happen.
How does WooCommerce Shipping work?
In summary, when setting up your store, shipping for WooCommerce works like this:
Set up zones (i.e. locations, such as Australia
Assign methods to those zones (such as Flat Rate)
Apply costs to the methods
Sounds easy, right? In a lot of cases it is, so let’s work through what’s possible with WooCommerce on its own and where need to add some more functionality.
What are your options with WooCommerce?
Out of the box, WooCommerce has some easy to set up shipping options. If you want options such as Free Shipping, Flat Rate, Free Local Pickup, or a combination of these, you can do this within WooCommerce itself.
Within the Flat Rate Method, you also have the option to calculate the cost per product class. For example, you may sell cards and candles, with the candles having a higher flat rate than the cards. For stores with a smaller range, this can work well.
By working with the zones and applying your shipping methods, you have many options available. These will only work however if you have set rates for shipping, not prices that fluctuate with the weight or size changes. In that circumstance, you need a more advanced method.
Advanced Shipping Options
If you decide your shipping costs are too high to make the shipping free, or a flat rate won’t work for you, then you may need to look into a paid plugin. I use and recommend Table Rate Shipping, a plugin by WooCommerce. It allows you to build rules to calculate your shipping, using items such as location, weight, item count and per class. The levels of customization are very powerful, so you can build quite complex shipping rules if needed.
If you want to use a local operator, such as Australia Post, there are options for having the plugin calculate shipping costs per order. A great example of this is the Australia Post WooCommerce Pro plugin. This will allow you to calculate shipping based on weight and size and using regular and express postage options.
Before we finish up, here are a few other things you may like to consider. If you decide to use many couriers, then you may need to look at a solution such as Shipstation. This allows you to access all your shipping providers in one platform, saving you time in administration.
If you use couriers such as DHL or Sendle, you can integrate your website with their platforms. This will improve the ease of scheduling pickups. It doesn’t help with calculating the shipping costs, but again, it will save you admin time.
As you can see there are plenty of options for shipping with WooCommerce. The “best” shipping method to use will depend on your individual business. Before coming up with a solution, take the time to consider all your shipping options and costs.
Whatever you choose, make sure the costs are visible to your customers, especially if you have a specific value to spend to receive “free shipping”. No one likes to hunt for the shipping cost, or receive a surprise at checkout!
Kristy Morton is a mother, multiple business owner and numbers gal. She runs a web development consultancy, specialising in WordPress websites. Kristy combines her excellent technical knowledge with her ability to translate this into ways that are understandable to the average person, so her clients feel informed and in control of how their websites are developed and managed. She is also the Co-Founder of B Directory, where they’re empowering small business owners to take charge of their growth. Despite seeming like an overachiever, Kristy admits to always be chasing the sun, a simple life and one more homemade chocolate.
When you first started a blog you may not have realized how hard it would be to get traffic. Google’s search results page is a busy location with ads, carousels, knowledge panels, and featured snippets all working to push results down the page.
Unlike the rest, featured snippets are available to any site with great content and structure, and you can use them to get above the fold and claim the top spot in search results.
We’re going to dive into featured snippets and why you need them. We’ll share some tactics you can use to find featured snippet opportunities. Finally, we’ll share the formatting rules that help Google find your answer and, potentially, make it the best.
What are featured snippets?
A featured snippet is a partial answer to a question submitted through a Google search. It is contained in a box at the top of the search results page which is why it is referred to as Search Result #0.
A featured snippet is always a direct, easy to understand, answer to a question. It has the URL, the page title, and a link to the page with the answer. These answers are pulled directly from pages by Google and you can’t mark your page as a featured snippet.
Why do you need featured snippets?
It might seem strange, but featured snippets don’t get all of the clicks in a search. They will, however, steal some clicks from the #1 result.
When they’re in the search result the #1 ranked site will see clicks decrease to 20.6% from 26% clicks. If you take that 6% from the #1 result then you start to enjoy other benefits that improve your rankings in Google.
If you’re already #1 in search results, then you really need to claim the snippet and defend your clicks. You can see that a combination of #1 with snippets means total domination of the top half of the page to garner 28% (vs 26%) of all clicks.
When a page is well-optimized it leads to a 516% increase in sessions after you acquire a snippet. You’ll also see CTR increase from 6% to 8%.
Finally, featured snippets and voice search are closely connected. Google uses the featured snippet answer to provide results for voice search.
What types of featured snippets are there?
There are four types of snippet:
Paragraph: Appears in a text block at the top of the search results. Everyone can benefit from earning these featured snippets.
Video: A video from YouTube with the suggested clip is highlighted. This is a very good opportunity for anyone working with DIY, cooking, fashion, or beauty.
List: A bullet or numbered list with the answers. As above, the list is great for DIY, and cooking, but also for financial, sports, music, film, tv.
Table: The answer is provided in a table of at least 2 columns. Great for financial services, health, entertainment, sport teams, and more.
How can you find featured snippet opportunities?
The easiest way is to go with a paid tool, like SEMRush or ahrefs because they each offer a featured snippet tool. If you would prefer to avoid the pricey way, then you can still find great opportunities with free tools.
All your content efforts start with effective keyword research and claiming featured snippets is no different. Then put them into question form to find the easiest opportunities.
Featured snippets will also regularly appear in long-tail queries, so your long-tail keyword research is going to be important also. Keep search intent in mind and target the informational intent for a query like “broken wooden table leg”.
Put your new keywords into Google and look at the questions in the people also ask section. This is going to show you exactly which topics Google considers to be related to your keyword.
Low Hanging Fruit
Starting with your strongest content check how many posts are ranked in the top 10 but don’t have a featured snippet. Simply put the keyword into a range of questions and see how well you do.
If you have a well-ranked page or post without a featured snippet then find out who stole your featured snippet and where they rank. If they rank below you, then this is a great opportunity for you to claim Result #0.
How can you optimize for featured snippets?
Google will determine which content best matches the informational intent for the search query. If you do the on-page stuff well, like user-centered navigation and organization, then you can win the featured snippets.
You might find that you need to write longer articles to improve your chances of claiming snippets. Each article should aim to answer multiple, related, questions to increase the potential of claiming the snippets.
Each article should also use semantically related keywords to ensure you match the informational intent for each query.
How to get text or paragraph featured snippets?
You will need great content; brainstorm and edit the answer a few times before posting.
Use h2 or h3 headings for questions. The answer should be directly beneath wrapped in <p> tags. This will help the crawler find the information easily.
The paragraph should address the question and answer it within 45-97 words or 293-752 characters.
You can elaborate on the answer in separate paragraphs if needed.
If you would like to get your image featured also, then use the keywords in your alt text.
Provide landscape images in 4:3 at 600×425.
Outbound links from authoritative sources are helpful with some pages having as many as 33.
Google might also use the text from YouTube video descriptions in featured snippets.
How can you earn a list featured snippet?
Include a brief overview of the steps in a list.
For better CTRs include lists with more than eight items to truncate the list in the results.
Longer descriptions can also help you get the “More items…” link in the featured snippet.
Google will pull your h2 subheading into a bulleted list for some queries.
How can you win a table featured snippet?
Provide useful facts and numbers.
Structure your content well with numbers and facts close to the title.
You don’t need to use a table on the page; Google can read the structure and create a table from your organized content.
Your tables should fit between 4 rows and 2 columns with a maximum of 9 rows and 3 columns.
How can you get a video featured snippet?
Provide your own transcription when uploading your videos.
In the description, provide a reference text which uses lists and headings while following the video structure.
Identify each of the steps in the video with the time-stamp with the same language in video and text.
Provide clean, high-quality audio with simple steps explained with common verbs.
Optimizing your content for featured snippets takes a bit of time, and you may not see results immediately. On the other hand, the improved formatting of your posts will help your visitors navigate your content which should lead to longer time on site.
In the long run, optimizing for featured snippets is a great way to present your content in the most readable way for crawler and humans alike, and this will lead to improved rankings.
WordPress has risen to success and fame on a platform of ease of use and beginner friendliness (among other things). However, to truly customize your site you often still need coding skills or professional help. This fact has paved the way for page builder plugins, which have made it easier to make sweeping site changes right from the back end.
When you discuss WordPress page builder pros and cons, this is usually the strongest argument for using them but there are more reasons to do so. However, page builders also come with disadvantages and don’t make sense in every scenario.
If you are a WordPress user and asking yourself “should I use a page builder?”, this post will help you answer that question. In the following, we will talk about what WordPress page builder plugins are, which candidates exist and the benefits and drawbacks of using them. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a clear understanding of whether or not they are a good option for you.
WordPress Page Builder Plugins – An Introduction
Before getting into the pros and cons of using these types of plugins, let’s first make sure you have a clear understanding of what they are.
The Problem With WordPress Customization
As mentioned in the introduction, WordPress is very easy to use, even for beginners and non-technical people. The user interface is intuitive and allows you to perform most tasks with just a few clicks. This is especially true since the introduction of the Customizer, which provides a central place for making site changes.
However, if we are completely honest, there are some areas that remain beyond the reach of everyday users. This includes creating new page layouts via templates, adding widget areas, implementing new navigation menus and similar tasks.
Enter Page Builders
WordPress page builder plugins solve this problem. They give users the ability to perform the above jobs and more from the WordPress back end — completely without coding. Instead, they provide a graphic user interface to achieve the same via drag-and-drop and mouse clicks.
As a consequence, you no longer need to know code to adapt your theme to your needs. Instead, you can realize your vision in the same fashion as you control the rest of your site. This can significantly extend possibilities for everyday users and also cut down the time and effort it takes professionals to build a site.
Page builder plugins also let WordPress directly compete with website builders like Wix and Squarespace. Their draw is that they make it simple for non-developers to create websites. With page builders, you can have their convenience but still own your site and its content (which you often don’t with website builders).
This is potentially a game changer and another step toward democratizing web publishing.
Many Options Are Already Available
By now, there are a bunch of high-quality page builder plugins that users can choose from, including:
All of them have different approaches to page creation and often large communities behind them. Some of them have even grown into successful (as in multi-million dollar) businesses. So, should everyone be using a page builder plugin? That’s what we will talk about now.
WordPress Page Builder Plugins – Pros and Cons
So, back to the question “should I be using a WordPress page builder?” Let’s discuss, starting with the arguments for doing so.
Pro #1: Power to the People
We have already mentioned this as the main reason for why people use page builder plugins in the first place. It’s because it gives you the ability to create and customize designs that otherwise would be outside of your abilities or that you would usually have to pay others for. You can create landing pages, add headers, adjust layouts, include widgets almost anywhere, and a lot more without writing a line of code.
That way, you no longer have to compromise on your vision and limit yourself to what the theme offers. Just add elements of your choice to your layouts and customize their look and behavior on the page. In addition to that, many page builder plugins also offer front-end editing or an equivalent so you can see what your work will look like in the context of your site.
This can save a lot of time (to research or communicate with a developer), money (to pay for the help) and frustration (where is all my time and money!?) It also allows creatives who usually only provide the design of a site to also implement it and thus offer more services to their clients.
In addition, many page builder plugins offer ready-made templates you can use as jump-off points. That way, you don’t even have to start from scratch.
Pro #2: So. Many. Features.
With a page builder plugin, you not only get the ability to create a WordPress site without coding. Most of the time they come with a wide range of features for which you usually need to install multiple plugins to get them on your site. This includes everything from image carousels over testimonials to social sharing buttons and pricing tables.
As a consequence, page builders can really save space in the plugin section and, if you go the premium route, money. Instead of paying for several specialized plugins, you only shell out funds for one and get the functionality anyway.
Plus, with updates, you can expect new and improved features over time. As a consequence, you get additional functionality without researching, testing, and learning a new and dedicated program. Plus, you can use it within a familiar interface.
Con #1: Changing Systems Can Be Hard
While the above sounds peachy, not everything is great about page builder plugins. Sometimes the biggest problem with them actually appears once you decide to stop using them. Depending on which solution you picked, when you switch the plugin off, you might be left with broken page design and a mess of code on your site.
Especially those that use shortcodes to create the design leave a lot to be desired after deactivation. Shortcodes are specific to plugins, therefore, they will stop working once you switch them off and simply appear on the page as text.
It can be really annoying to see your whole site design collapse once you stop using your page builder or want to switch to another solution. In that case, you have to create it all over again and also clean up your entire site. If you are that dependent on one piece of software, is that really a good thing?
This problem is especially prevalent with the older generation of page builders. Newer entries often try to leave your site as is even when you stop using them. For that reason, before committing to a solution, research what happens when you decide to quit. It’s a long-term investment, so make sure it’s the right one.
Con #2: Possible Performance Issues
Page builder plugins offer lots of features in order to appeal to the greatest number of people. However, this often comes with a price. All that extra code can do a number on your site in terms of performance.
For example, in order to achieve their layout, many page builders create a lot of nested HTML and non-semantic code. It’s only natural that pages built this way are not going to be as lean and optimized as something created by an experienced front-end designer for an exact purpose. As a consequence, it takes time and processing power to load and execute, which can also affect SEO (for a look at page builders from an SEO perspective read this post).
In addition to that, since you have so many options to choose from in terms of page elements, you are more likely to use them. Therefore, using a page builder plugin can really do a number on your site speed and different builders have different effects on this.
Con #3: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Speaking of which, one of the main advantages of WordPress page builder plugins is that they enable everyone to make sweeping changes to their websites. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
One of the most frustrating things for developers and site implementers is often when clients take matters into their own hand. They install plugins, make design changes and more — often with disastrous results. If you can do this with a standard WordPress setup, imagine what’s possible with a page builder plugin.
Few people are experts in web design. So, even if they use the power given by page builders to the best of their abilities, the results will often simply not be sufficient or satisfactory. In short, sometimes it’s better to leave this stuff to actual experts.
Final Thoughts: WordPress Page Builder Pros and Cons
Page builders can be a great thing for everyday users and professionals alike. They make it easy to implement complex designs without the need to code. This is great, since, even though WordPress is very easy to use, true customization most still often needs at least basic development chops.
Just like everything else, using a page builder plugin on your site comes with benefits and disadvantages. On the pro side is the ability to create designs via drag and drop and a wide range of features. On the con side, page builders can be difficult to transition from, have possible performance issues and come with a greater risk of messing up your site.
In the end, they can be a great tool for different scenarios. If you educate yourself and plan your site ahead, page builders can be absolutely sufficient for implementing your plans without hiring a developer. This is especially true for simpler, mostly static sites.
If you are not too literate on how to create a whole site, they are still good for making quick changes without professional help. Alternatively, at the very least, it can make sense to hire someone for the design part and then, if you are handy with a page builder plugin, build it yourself.
However, on the other hand, if you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, page builder plugins potentially just allow you to mess up on a grander scale. Web professionals exist for a reason. If that sounds like you, it’s maybe best to give your site into the hands of one of them.
What are your main pros and cons of using WordPress page builder plugins? Anything to add to the above? Please let us know in the comments section below!
Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.
Doc Pop’s WordPress News Drop is a weekly report on the most pressing WordPress news. When the news drops, I will pick it up and deliver it right to you.
Is Jetpack modifying WordPress search results? - YouTube
In this week’s News Drop we talk about a recent Jetpack update which adds feature suggestions to activate a Jetpack feature to the top of search results on the plugin repository. Doc talks about why they did it and what it means for the future of ads in the WordPress dashboard. Since this video was recorded, a newer version of Jetpack has been released to make these suggestions easier to identify as modified results, but they still appear in search results.
Love WordPress News, but hate reading my name is Doc and this is Doc Pop’s News Drop.
It is week 4 of our Plugin Madness competition! It’s the semi-final round and we are down to just two matchups between 4 WordPress plugins.
In one matchup we have The Events Calendar, a popular plugin for showing upcoming events, paired up against Advanced Custom Fields, who were the winner of the first ever Plugin Madness competition a few years back.
The other matchup is between Elementor Page Builder and Smush Image Compression, which is a two time Plugin Madness winner and a great plugin for reducing image file sizes.
This semi final round is just getting started, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see two previous winners pitted up against each other in the final round. Be sure to vote for your favorite developers over on pluginmadness.com
Jetpack 7.1 was released in March and is full of new features… unfortunately the one most people are talking about is a feature that changes results when searching for new plugins in the in the plugin respository.
When you search for something like “optimization” or “preformance” in the repository, you might expect to see an unbaised set of plugins in the results, but if you have the current version of Jetpack installed, you’ll see a new result up at the top of your search results that suggests using Jetpack for your solution since you already have it installed. The suggestion looks like an organic search result and is followed by the usual search results for your keyword.
From Jetpack’s point of view, if a user is searching for something they already provide, that user should probably just activate the feature in Jetpack rather than install a new plugin. Given Jetpack’s reputation for being a bloated plugin already, it’s probably even a good idea for users not to add redundant features.
The problem for many folks is that this search results are not clearly labelled as something changed by Jetpack. It does show up slightly different than a usual search result, but most new users might not realize that they are seeing something that has been altered.
Some users are even more worried that this could lead a dangerous new precedent for plugin developers to promote their tools in the WP-dashboard, which should be a sacred space, right? Already we are seeing tons of pop-up notifications at the top of our dashboards, that are starting to feel more and more spammy as the trend becomes more normalized. If you have a plugin installed now, you might see nags to leave a 5 star review or upgrade to premium show up on the top of your dashboard notifications, but as these developers get bolder its scary to imagine them altering search results.
Some users are saying this new feature breaks WordPress’s plugin guideline rules. The plugin’s developer says that since the results aren’t an ad, they are not breaking any rules, but that answer didn’t sit well with some users. Shortly after the conversation got started, the plugin repository rules were modified to “Simplify the explanations regarding advertising”, but it appears these changes were added specifically to permit these new Jetpack changes.
Where the old rules said “Advertising within the WordPress dashboard should be avoided.” the updated rules now state “Advertising within the WordPress dashboard is permitted within reason.”
So wether or not you have Jetpack installed, you can probably expect to see your favorite plugins add more ads to your dashboard because why wouldn’t they?
Okay, thats enough talk about plugins, let’s check in with Milan to hear the newest happenings over at WordCamp Europe.
Thanks so much that Milan. We cant wait to hear more in next week’s episode. Thanks for watching and let us know your thoughts on the WordPress’s new rules regarding in-dashboard advertising in the comments below.