This post is a part of the WordPress Plugins discussion thread and focuses on Plugins that focus on Search Engine Optimization.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (known as SEO) is complicated. Any help to you, the Web Master, is greatly appreciated help, and will go a long way in making your site SEO friendly.
At this time one of the tools that I am using is the free version of “Yoast SEO By Team Yoast“, and I recommend it. I’m happy with the tool, but I will admit I’m not sure of other tools that are out there. I’ll be investigating other tools in the future.
I used Google Analytics with my code slung sites, and I wanted to continue to use Google Analytics with WordPress. If you remember back in the “olden days” of building basic Content Management System web sites with Dreamweaver, you had to include a unique and special piece of Google code on every page. Is there a way to do that through a Plugin instead of managing the code itself? I mean, the reason we moved to CMS is to cut our set of managed code, right?
Searching for “Google Analytics” on our WordPress Plugins website [reference: Plugins] offers up nearly 1500 plugins as of this writing. Searching the web for “Best Google Analytics WordPress Plugin” is a help in the right direction with 2.5 million hits (no, don’t read them all!). Adding “free” to the search reduces our hits to 1.5 million.
Here are a few I tested
“Google Analytics Dashboard for WP”. Free. What’s not to love?
“Google Analytics+”, not free, don’t even bother with it (there is a free trial, I’m not interested)
“Analytify”. As of this writing, the landing page had security issues, offering up a warning that “Your connection is not private, Attackers might be trying to steal your information from wp-analytify.com”. Didn’t sound so hot, wasn’t really interested in figuring out what is wrong with their site, moving on.
“Google Analytics by MonsterInsights”, not free ($39/year for one site), not interested
“Google Analytics By ShareThis”, free (yay!), but as of this writing is only tested to 4.7.7 and hasn’t been updated for 8 months.
When I opened my first WordPress several years ago, I was using “Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights”. I no longer recommend that plugin. Why? Because the complete package is not free (there is a “Pro” paid version available), and more specifically, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP is free. Why not just use the free version?
I chose “Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP) By Alin Marcu“. Being released under GPLv2 identifies that it is free for all to use for both commercial and personal web sites. So far, I haven’t found any significant limitations with GADWP. I’ll post back if I wind up changing the plugin for something else.
This post is a part of the WordPress Plugins discussion thread and focuses on Plugins that help you interact with your visitors.
Interacting with your visitors
Why did you create your site? Sure, some folks might have created their site for their own personal use, but most of us have created sites so that we can either share something with people, or sell something to people. Either way, other people are the focus, and we need to do what we can to make sure other people can interact with us the way they want to. This section helps to explore some of those opportunities.
The easier you make it for folks to send you feedback, the better. In my case, I set up a special Contact Form for folks to respond to me (see the menu, Contact).
For the Contact Form, I wound up selecting a highly deployed solution that is free called “Contact Form 7 By Takayuki Miyoshi“. Again, I support the open source community, and however the developers are supporting themselves, I’m going to do my best to use their tools.
Of note, be sure to update your SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records so that Contact Form can send mail properly!
[See Reference: Contact Form 7]
How about folks who want to sign up for your newsletter? This becomes a little more complicated, since you’ll need to find a solution that allows people to sign up, and allows you to send messages, all for free.
As a mail relay, for mail I send to my users (and my friends!), I’ve chosen MailJet that offers up to 2000 signups and 6000 total outbound emails per month for free (200 per day). I’ve tested MailJet extensively.
One very positive note, MailJet does not add a disclaimer to the bottom of emails that I’ve sent while in Mail Relay mode. This is a very nice free feature, and one of the criteria for acceptance.
There have been some issues with mail delivery, and (as of this writing) I’m still working with MailJet customer service to resolve the problems. That said, MailJet has been responsive to trouble tickets.
For mail campaigns, MailChimp is a possible contender, with the following promise: “If you have 2,000 or fewer subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month absolutely free. No expiring trial, contract, or credit card required.” But, I’ve not thoroughly tested MailChimp.
<<<To add to this review, how about Like button, Share button>>>
WordPress is an incredible Content Management System — and it is free! But WordPress off the shelf is just that — a content management system. The best part of WordPress is that it is extensible! Continue reading “WordPress Plugins”
Let me ask you a question. Would you rather be doing business with “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” ? Which one looks more professional? Which one looks more trustworthy?
Now that you have your web site configured, it is time to configure your mail agents to send “as” someone from your domain. This increases the value of the emails you send.
Every decent evaluation starts with some type of criteria. This evaluation is no different! Here are a few artifacts that we’ll be reviewing.
In this article, we are only going to be considering mail relays that offer free long term plans. Companies that provide “test” accounts that are limited to some fixed number of days or some fixed number of total emails may be listed, but immediately discounted. Only companies that offer “free” plans will be considered. For example, companies that offer “the first 10,000 messages per month” will be included.
No odd headers or footers in the free plan
Some companies will provide a relay if and only if you allow them to brand their own company on every one of your outgoing emails. While this may be okay for your specific circumstance, it is generally a bad idea.
No unreasonable limitations on sending emails
After reviewing one of the companies, I found it necessary to updated the “acceptable relay” criteria. This is one of those additional criteria. What happened is that one of the mail relay companies said that “personal” emails were not part of their core business. In their opinion, using their mail relay to send emails to your friends and family is outside the scope of a mail relay’s accepted use. Instead, only “Transactional” and “Bulk Marketing” emails are allowed.
To explain a few terms that you may run into while looking through the different mail relays, here’s a few definitions.
Transactional emails are based on transactions initiated by a visitor. According to Wikipedia, “Transactional emails are usually triggered based on a customer’s action with a company. To be qualified as transactional or relationship messages, these communications’ primary purpose must be “to facilitate, complete, or confirm a commercial transaction that the recipient has previously agreed to enter into with the sender” along with a few other narrow definitions of transactional messaging”
Direct emails (which may also be known as Bulk, Marketing, Commercial emails) are “sent in bulk … to family, friends, subscribers and customers such as party invitations, group messages, forwarded messages, announcements, newsletters, promotions, marketing tools and tips, classified ads, and direct email marketing campaigns. “
Software as a Service “cloud” offering
An additional criteria for the mail relay is to be completely cloud based, with no installed portion of the application. Why? Because the cloud is the future. Trust me in this, you want to focus on your business, you do not want to be distracted by managing the servers and infrastructure required to do this on premise. For what it is worth, I recommend cloud based services for everyone. For more information on “The Cloud”, check out this article.
Relay Candidates and initial findings
Finding candidates was easy! Finding acceptable candidates that had reasonable “free monthly” plans was equally easy, just a little more time consuming. Testing each of the candidates proves somewhat time consuming. It takes awhile to configure the relay, to configure your mail client, to get used to the specific user interface, and to send a sufficient number of emails to make the test worthwhile.
That all said, I started my search in the typical manner, with a google of “free smtp relay”, and went from there. As time goes on and more specifically I find limitations with a company, I’ll add to the list.
SendGrid — Not recommended
SendGrid was at the top of the SEO list because they pay for placement. Certainly, paying for advertisement may make a compelling reason to test the product. Let’s see what you get for free.
The free plan is 100 emails a day forever. Before I actually took SendGrid for a spin, I decided to look at what some of the other companies were offering for the Free plan. As it turned out, the next few listed in the general Google search were all 200 emails per day for the free plan. Since that is double the number of emails available through the free SendGrid account, I decided to spend my time on one of the other free companies instead.
MailJet — Best so far but now (probably) Not recommended
A promise of 6000 free emails per month (up to 200 per day)
A fast registration for the free account, with no credit card necessary
A clean, easy to use interface
A free SPF & DKIM test and configure utility
Free “email tracking” that monitors Sent, Delivered, Opened, Clicked, Bounced, Blocked, Spam reported, and Unsubscribe requests
About a week into testing, I noticed almost all emails were delivered in a timely manner. But, there were two emails that wound up not being delivered. The emails showed up as “sent” and “delivered” from the GUI, but the emails never made it to the destination — not to the primary inbox, nor any SPAM folders.
I consulted the MailJet professional staff, and was told that there was a recent outage that caused problems with some emails, but the issue had been resolved. Okay, hey, all companies have issues from time to time, it just so happened this one particular company had an issue while I was testing. Two emails out of around 100 were affected.
But then the unexpected. The MailJet personnel described that they do not support what they are calling “personal email”. Here’s the response:
A transactional email is an expected message and its content is information that the client wishes to check or confirm, and not “discover”. This means that these email can not manually send by you, it can only trigger from the recipient side.
Common examples of transactional emails:
Shipment tracking and order status
Order shipment confirmation
The email you have sent is considered as personal communication which is not Transactional email. ISPs like (gmail, hotmail, yahoo…) often mark these email as spam as it is not pure Transactional email or Marketing email.
At the moment, Mailjet support two types of emails which are pure Transactional email and Marketing email. We do not support for the personal communication email yet, if you sending this type of email, some of they will have deliver issue.
Although MailJet showed great promise as being a permanent and comprehensive email solution, I cannot recommend them at this time due to two facts.
First, there were emails that were eventually marked “bounced” although from all indications it had something to do with problems on their mail server that was not fully described. I did ask for more information, but was not provided an answer. I’m unclear what they are doing to prevent the issue from happening again, especially the fact that the emails were marked “delivered” when in fact they later showed up as “bounced”.
Second, MailJet does not allow sending “personal” email. I will admit, “personal email” was not a category of mail that I understood at the beginning of this writing. I’m not sure if this is going to be an issue with other mail relays. I will certainly explore that with other companies before recommending them.
To wit, prior emails to the same addresses were delivered through MailJet with no problems, and later emails to the same recipients were delivered through MailJet with no problems.
That all said, there is enough concern about the validity of using MailJet as to at least consider other solutions. I’ll be searching for a new solution shortly.
I must say, it wasn’t as nearly as easy as I expected to find a reasonable free SMTP Relay.
As of this writing, I am not recommending MailJet, only because the MailJet team has identified their servers are not to be used for “regular” mail. I have an open ticket with them trying to figure out (1) what happened with the email failures early on in the testing, and (2) what is going on with their recommendation against using their service for “personal” email.
I’ll be searching for other mail relays in the coming weeks, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
“This test will list MX records for a domain in priority order”, http://www.mxtoolbox.com
“Build Your DMARC Record in 15 Minutes”, https://blog.returnpath.com/build-your-dmarc-record-in-15-minutes-v2/
Cloud service providers are in the news every day. Whether it be that Disney or the NFL is “moving to the cloud”, or that a vendor is forcing Cloud adoption with their offerings, Cloud is newsworthy. And be it Microsoft’s Office365, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Google Cloud Platform, (three of the main players), Cloud Computing is here to stay.
But how did we get here? In the beginning, there was the data center. Next came time-sharing. Then distributed computing supported by the desktop.
This article will begin by exploring some of the many cloud computing advantages and disadvantages (for there are some!). Next, we’ll define the three primary “as a service” technologies. Finally, we’ll apply Cloud Computing architecture and describe how real, live businesses use “the cloud”.
Advantages of Cloud Compute models
On-demand. In Cloud Compute models, the services are “on demand”. This means that instead of having to rent a physical location, apply for permits, purchase physical servers, standing up those servers in a physical data center, and hiring engineers and staff to run the data center, the Customer can focus on speed to market and stand up the cloud on demand. This reduces the large capital outlays and even reduces the risks with associated with long-term leases.
Rapid elasticity. Rapidly expanding and rapidly retiring services is straightforward in Cloud Compute models. This reduces the concerns for oversizing or undersizing equipment purchases.
Business Continuity Planning and disaster recovery. Cloud compute offers location abstraction, where the Customer does not have need to control the geographic deployment area. In fact, if properly deployed, Cloud Computing models supply most of the computing infrastructure required to solve business continuity (BCP) and disaster recovery — all built into the deployment. That is, disaster recovery and business continuity are “built-in” by deploying multiple geographically distributed compute solutions — all without standing up independent physical locations. Although this does not solve the entire Business Continuity plan (click here for a more comprehensive discussion of BCP), it goes a long way in the right direction.
Security. The Host company provides the physical security to the servers and data center. Depending on the solution, the Customer is responsible for various levels of data security.
Improved mobility. All forms of cloud computing offer improved mobility for the workforce by centralizing the compute stack into a remote addressable solution. There is no longer a need to create and protect a DMZ – if your employees have an internet connection, they’ll have access to the CSP.
Disadvantages of “Cloud Service” models
The cloud compute model is highly effective, and there are many reasonable advantages of moving to a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). That said, there are disadvantages to any solution, and CSP is no different. As with any solution, it is important to consider the CSP risks before fully embracing the architecture. Here we’ll explore some of the disadvantages.
CSP Outages. Unfortunately, like all cloud stacks, cloud providers also suffer outages. If an outage does occur, the Customer may feel helpless in relying on the CSP in bringing the system back online. That said, overcoming Outage risks is easily structured by building multiple cloud stacks with multiple CSP’s providing distributed geographic deployment.
Network outages. Network outages do and will occur. In a purely on site solution, Internet Service Provider (ISP) failures do not impact the business. However, in a cloud solution, the ISP is a primary point of failure. Managing these risks is straightforward by employing multiple ISPs.
Security. While CSP’s offer tremendous Security value, there is a risk that policies are not followed. Depending on the type of business you are running, contractual language can transfer some of those risks. For example, in a healthcare environment Business Associates Agreements transfer some risks associated with breaches.
Vendor lock in. Vendor concerns exist with shrink wrapped software, and even more concerns exist for cloud services. As you engage with a vendor, remain cognizant of vendor lock in risks. For example, the customer should have mitigation plans in place if a vendor goes out of business, or if a contract ends unfavorably, or if the contract becomes unaffordable. Test Vendor lock in plans regularly to confirm that all data is recoverable and the business is able to continue unabated.
Types of “As a Service” solutions
As you start searching, you’ll noticed there are many marketing descriptions for Cloud Services. While the marketing can become quite confusing, remember that all cloud services are really one of three primary “As-A-Service” models. Here are the three models.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Infrastructure as a Service is the most basic “as a service” model. IaaS is a solution where the customer is responsible for provisioning storage, networking, processing, and other basic computing components. The consumer does not control the underlying cloud infrastructure, but does control the operating system and applications. The Hosting company controls the data center including physical access to the infrastructure, heating and cooling, insurance, and other infrastructure costs.
Platform as a Service (PaaS). Platform as a Service is a solution where the Customer is controlling the platform from the point of view of the Operating System. In PaaS solutions, the Hosting company provides Platform Deployment Templates. For example, a PaaS hosting company supplies templates for Windows 10 or Linux with a specific number of CPUs, specific amount of RAM, and specific hard drive capacity. The Customer has full control over, and full responsibility, for configuring the Operating System and any associated applications.
Software as a Service (SaaS). Software as a Service is the most controlled “As a Service” solution. In this environment, the Customer purchases access to a hosted software package. The hosting company controls the platform and infrastructure. Typically, Web browsers provide access to SaaS solutions. Application configurations are tightly controlled, and not associated with the Platform (the operating system) nor the Infrastructure (such as the number of CPUs). Capacity planning in SaaS is normally focused on Transactions per Second, or other volumetric measures, and are not related to “the number of CPUs” or “the amount of RAM”.
Real life examples
We’ve covered Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Service Providers versus owning your own data centers and platforms. This section explores business cases where CSP excel.
Say you own a retail store. The company regularly serves 100 customers per day, but on Black Friday you have absolutely no idea what kind of traffic to expect. Through a CSP model, you can rapidly expand the services to handle a potential customer surge, then tear down the services after the rush. No hardware purchase and deployment is necessary, just lease the potential CPU cycles to accommodate the potential surge.
Employing cloud services reduces the costs, risks, and unknowns of building out a full data center. In this way, the business owners can focus on the business instead of managing a data center and the staff to maintain it.
In a SaaS environment, a business does not have to be concerned with regular software updates. Instead, the CSP host will maintain the SaaS environment, and the business can focus on the business needs. Security risks are also reduced since the most recent software package is regularly deployed.
If a business experiences a recession or other cut backs, the cloud expenses can quickly be reduced. Due to rapid elasticity, the business is not at risk of purchasing and maintaining large unused data centers.
Where to go from here
As with any solution, it is a good idea to outline the specific benefits and concerns that you will have as you explore cloud computing. As a recommendation, I’d say jump to Cloud early and often. Cloud is an excellent risk reducer. That said, business and technology risk plans should still be fully vetted and regularly tested.
Reach out to me with any specific questions. As always, let’s be careful out there!
“Benefits of cloud computing”, https://www.ibm.com/cloud-computing/learn-more/benefits-of-cloud-computing/
“11 Advantages of Cloud Computing and How Your Business Can Benefit From Them”, https://www.skyhighnetworks.com/cloud-security-blog/11-advantages-of-cloud-computing-and-how-your-business-can-benefit-from-them/
“Cloud Computing and Is it Really All That Beneficial?”, https://www.lifewire.com/cloud-computing-explained-2373125
“Why Move To The Cloud? 10 Benefits Of Cloud Computing”, https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2015/11/why-move-to-the-cloud-10-benefits-of-cloud-computing.html
Have you notice that WordPress saves post revisions for you? It is a great utility!
Try it out yourself. Edit a post, click “Update”, and voila, you have Post Revisions!
But sometimes, post revisions can seem to get out of hand. Do you really need or want hundreds of revision histories?
Well, WordPress is here to help you.
First, let me mention that revisions take up space — usually a lot of space. Each revision is held as a separate entity within the database. Therefore, unlimited revisions is usually not a great idea. But having revisions is usually a very good idea, as you may already know.
There are a few settings available to modify how WordPress will be handling revisions for you. They are all contained in the wp-config.php hosted in the main directory of your WordPress instance.
Defining the number of revisions
Revision count is set in the line
define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, REVISIONS );
Where REVISIONS is
true or -1: This is the default option in WordPress. WordPress will store every revision of every post
false or 0: This eliminates all revisions. The only version retained is the most recent saved version.
Any number greater than 0: This limits the number of revisions to a specific number and automatically deletes all other revisions.
Defining the Autosave interval
WordPress will automatically save posts for you after a defined number of seconds.
define( ‘AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL’, SECONDS ); // Seconds
Where SECONDS is interval at which an autosave will occur.
A word of warning.
Optimally, you may think that setting AutoSave to a very low number of seconds is the best! This would mean that even if the power goes out or the Internet becomes unavailable, you haven’t lost any work. And this is true!
But consider this also, each version that is AutoSaved potentially takes a lot of space. This might not be optimal.
So then you might consider, okay, just make the REVISIONS a reasonably low count, and your site will be fine again! Well, maybe. Consider it this way. If REVISIONS is set to say 15 (which sounds like a reasonably high number), and AutoSave is set to 60 (seconds), then regardless of whether you have explicitly saved a copy of the page, the revision history disappears after fifteen minutes.
That might not be optimal for you.
I don’t have a magic answer for you here, other than to say, be aware. For me, I’ve set my AUTOSAVE to 120 seconds (I normally save more often than this). and I’ve set my REVISIONS to 50. In my case, I’m running my own server farm, and I have potentially unlimited database space, so retaining many revisions is not a big deal. Your situation may be different.
Branding, Searching, Buying, Building… You are likely here because you want your very own domain name. That is great news, and I’m here to help!
A domain name (also known as a URL, Uniform Resource Locator, or web address), is the unique way for the world wide web to know you. Each URL is a branding, a brand name where others can find you. Inasmuch, the brand should be unique, and memorable.
Consider, what are you tying to convey? Is it that you want people to find you as a person, or is it that you are selling something? Ideas for branding might include:
Your name. Like this domain, marksatterfield.com, it is my name. It might be unique enough, and descriptive enough for everyone to find you. But it might not be exactly what you are looking for, and it might not be unique enough for other people to find you. If your name is a common name, it is likely already taken. If your name is Mark Satterfield? Yes, the domain is already taken. Sorry about that!
Your nickname. This might be an acceptable domain name, depending on how common your nickname is, and whether it is available.
Have you started a company? Then use the web address associated with your company.
Are you selling a book or product? Then use the name of the book or product in your web address.
The next few steps are going to be iterative. You are going to dream up the ideal name, only to find out that your ideal name is already someone else’s ideal name and registered. Then you’ll have to dream up a different ideal name.
Searching for your domain name
A registrar is a company that is authorized by ICANN to register domains. Once you have a few ideas for a domain name, you’ll next have to check if the domain is available. This is a bit tricky. if you search for a domain on the wrong registrar, the registrar might hijack and camp on your domain! Although no one can prove this happens, I’ve searched for names on GoDaddy, only to go back in the next day or two to find out the domain is then taken.
My recommendation is to use internic.net for domain searches. Go to the whois page on internic.net, and enter your choice of domain. For example, enter “godaddy.com”. Be sure to use the Top Level Domain nomenclature (the .com, or whatever else TLD extension you’ve decided to use).
If you receive a No Match message, that means your domain is available! If you receive anything else, that means your domain is not available and you’ll have to go back and search again.
Buying: Registering your domain
Next comes the registration process. Be careful with unscrupulous registrars who might register the domain in their own name. I’ve used several domain registrars and have not had a problem. Google is actually a domain registrar, but other than Google I don’t want to recommend any particular ones here just in case you have an issue.
Building: Setting up your web site
This part gets a little more complicated and beyond the scope of this article.
If you have special requests, or you’d like to have a domain registered and site set up and configured, please reach out to me and I’ll help you out.
Is your phone stuck in reboot mode for no apparent reason? Maybe there is a reason, and there may be a simple fix to it too.
Power button stuck? Let’s check for that!
If your phone looks to be in a “bootloop” where the phone starts to boot, then shuts itself down, then starts the boot process again, it might be caused by a faulty power button.
Here’s a test. Push and hold the power button. Just hold it. Does it appear to have the same behavior of boot looping? If so, then it is likely a power button failure.
If it is exhibiting a different behavior when you push and hold the power button, it could still be a power button failure. Especially if it boots up fully while pressing the button, it is likely a power button failure. Why is that? Because, it should be rebooting constantly with the power button pressed in. If it is not, then there is a contact issue.
Whether our family member gets their credit card number stolen, or our friend gets their Facebook account hijacked, or we have our web site blacklisted for SPAM, we are all affected by phishing attacks — some worse than others.