Category: Web Development

Your Guide to Reducing WordPress Comment Spam

Comment sections make up a small percentage of website content, but they can have a major impact overall. Even if the original content on your WordPress site is outstanding, your reputation can be tarnished by comment spam. In this blog, we’ll cover the need for comments, the inevitability of spam, and what you can do to reduce it.

The Case for Comments

Comments are usually a good thing in the context of online marketing. In fact, some marketers see them as a main benefit of content creation.

This CIO article explains some of the benefits of users commenting on your content. According to the article, it’s good for brand engagement, customer service, and customer feedback:

“When handled properly, your content gives you the opportunity to start a conversation with your customers. They may comment on your blog posts or share your social media posts. In addition to letting you answer customer complaints or questions, you can also gain valuable insights from these comments. When consumers begin to see that you take their feedback seriously, they’ll be more likely to continue to buy from you.”

We recommend that you allow comments on your site for the same reasons. They have the potential to add value to your website and create a community within your target audience. This alone justifies the risk of letting outsiders add content to your site.

Expectations vs. Reality

The CIO article makes a major assumption in its analysis — that the comments will be productive. But in reality, how many comments actually contribute to the conversation? How many of them are just spam?

According to a recent Forbes article, spam comments can show a lack of maintenance of your site and even damage your brand reputation:

“Spam, of course, leads to further problems. Even a great article can be diminished if the content below it is full of insults, spammy links, and more. At best, these comments showcase a lack of maintenance on a blog. At worst, the negative feelings associated with the spam subconsciously transfer to the brand and its website as a whole.”

Some spam is rather innocuous, like when someone promotes his own business. But what if a random user comes along and starts sharing racist, misogynist viewpoints. According to the Forbes article, your website visitors might subconsciously connect your brand to these spam comments. This is why you need to pay attention to your site and look out for potential spam.

Reducing Comment Spam

The good news is that businesses have a variety of options when it comes to reducing comment spam on WordPress sites. Here are some of the most effective methods:

Install WordPress plugins

A strategy that doesn’t require much effort on your part is to install a WordPress plugin. The Akismet Plugin, for example, checks each comment for spam and blocks comments with suspicious links. It also provides reports so you can have an idea of how accurate it is and how much spam your site is receiving.

Other useful plugins in this respect are Wp-Ban and the Recaptcha Plugin. The former lets you block users by IP address, which is great for finding and stopping repeat offenders, and the latter checks for a human user by asking for words they see in a graphic. You can even use all three to fight off spam links, malicious users, and spam bots all at once.

Moderate discussions

When it comes to reducing comment spam, humans will always be more accurate than machines. While a plugin might save you time and remove dubious comments before anyone can ever see them, it also might remove genuine comments or miss well-disguised spam.

There’s a lot you can do when it comes to comment moderation. This AllBusiness article, for example, recommends approving each post before it gets published to your site:

“Don’t give spammers the keys to the castle. You should NEVER allow comments to post automatically. By moderating your comments, you will be able to approve what you want and delete the rest. If you allow comments to automatically post, you will have to play CAPTCHA. Also, spam comments will be live on your site, allowing visitors to read them before you get a chance to delete them.”

There are a couple of general rules to follow in regard to comment spam. One is that it’s usually a good idea to shut down comments on posts older than a few months. As these articles decrease in relevancy, they’re less likely to produce quality comments. At some point, the risk of spam is greater than the possibility of a worthwhile discussion.

Moreover, you should typically review comments with links manually. These are the purpose and quintessence of spam and you should approach them accordingly.

Find a new comment system 

A last resort is to ditch the WordPress Editor comment system and use a third-party tool. These usually make it easier to detect and control comment spam. One reason for this is they prompt users to log in with a social media account and once they lose their anonymity, they’re less likely to contribute low-effort comments.

Of course, you can also choose to remove comments from your site altogether, but then you miss out on the opportunity to connect with readers. As long as you can put up with a few hurdles, dealing with the occasional spam comment is worth the increase in brand engagement. To talk more about reducing comment spam on your WordPress site, or anything else, contact us today.

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WordPress Audit: What It Is And Why You Need It

20 percent of internet websites are powered by WordPress. This is for one very simple reason: WordPress works…really well. It’s user-friendly, yet it can create unique and beautiful places on the internet.

The unfortunate aspect of WordPress’ popularity is that it makes it a target for hackers, as well as the fact that those who aren’t experienced website builders utilize the framework. And for this very reason far too many businesses and individuals are reticent to use the open source content-management system. But their fear is misplaced. WordPress isn’t inherently dangerous. All it takes is a few simple steps to make a site powered through WordPress nearly impenetrable. And the best place to start is a WordPress audit.

Why Should You Audit Your WordPress Site?

1. Speed:

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a website to load. Pages’ speed scores slip over time and this slowing can hinder user experience, leading to a drop in ranking on search engines. Consumers visit a site because they want to see it, not because they think it might be fun to wait around for information. If it takes to long to load, there is always somewhere else they can go. A WordPress audit can identify what is making the loading speed or the time to first byte take just a little too long. And not only will it identify the problem, it will inform the administrators of exactly how it can be fixed.

2. Appearance:

While appearance improvements aren’t the main goal of an audit, audits are able to identify problems that flaws in appearance cause. This might include aspects of the site such as its taxonomy. If the main menu has far too many options, and those options aren’t organized in a sensical way, an audit can identify this. It might also include finding images that haven’t been optimized. In other words, the images that users are seeing do not have the fullest clarity and resolution possible. Finally, an audit can identify format problems. If the content could be ordered in a more effective way, especially when it comes to the mobile content format, a WordPress audit can find and resolve this.

3. Search Engine Optimization:

SEO is the lifeblood of businesses today. If a high page rank isn’t achieved on Google, it can cause severe damage to a business. Customers won’t be able to find it and they will choose to purchase from another organization–or potential customers will never know that the business exists in the first place. And the tricky part of SEO is that the algorithms for various search engines are continuously changing. Unless you are an SEO specialist, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with these alterations and make the necessary adjustments.

WordPress audits are a great way to spot potential SEO improvements. This could include aspects such as adding missing ALT tags to images, adding correct tags and heading to the content, ensuring that content is the optimal length, refreshing the metadata, checking for broken links throughout the site as it has grown and content has changed, and adding internal linking. Search engine optimization is a full-time job, it’s not just a task that can be checked off the list when the website is initially built. Because Google and others change their algorithm so often, it means that websites need to be changed often. The content needs to be changed, as well as the markup, site structure, and tags.

4. Security:

As was previously mentioned, because WordPress is so popular and because it can be used by individuals who have no background in website creation and management, it can be prone to hackers—if it’s not properly looked after. These sites need to have quality security measures in place and these measures have to stay up to date. Core files and security plugins, as well as other plugins, eventually become outdated. Sometimes they have annual subscriptions that need to be paid. Without these precautions being taken, the site is wide open to malware and hackers. A WordPress audit finds the loopholes in the system and the cracks in the security. It will let administrators know what needs to be updated, taken out, put up and changed. Without ensuring site security, you are not only putting yourself, your company and any proprietary information you have at risk, but you are also putting your customers at risk.

5. Function:

Like speed, the function of a website matters—a lot. If the tools and plugins don’t work like they should, customers won’t think too highly of the company itself. If the main menu doesn’t send users to where it says it’s sending them, this frustrates them. If the shopping cart is glitchy, consumers are more than happy to buy from another vendor. A site can work perfectly. It’s not difficult to make sure that everything functions like it should. It just takes some oversight. And this is exactly what a WordPress audit helps administrators do. It gives them a bird’s-eye view of how the site is working. It checks to see if the CSS is responsive. It analyzes the plugins for any faults. There is almost always a newer and better way to accomplish things on a website. A WordPress audit points these out so that everything functions better and faster.

To find out more about WordPress audits, as well as other ways to improve your website and your customers’ experiences, please contact us.

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Drupal Audit: Everything You Need To Know

If you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or avid hobbyist, it’s not unlikely that you’ve created a website. And one of the most popular avenues for achieving this is through the open source content-management framework, Drupal. In fact, it’s really not just the small fish that have embraced Drupal. More than a million websites run on the framework and some of the most popular sites on the worldwide web have been built in Drupal—think The Weather Channel, Whole Foods, and Serial Podcast. And while Drupal is an excellent tool for sharing your products, services, stories, values and beliefs with the world, there are still additional precautions you need to take. A Drupal audit is the ideal method for taking these precautions and identifying what you’re doing right on your website, as well as where you can improve.

Why Are Drupal Audits Necessary?

1. Performance:

This is the most straightforward reason websites are audited. The administrator wants to see how to make the website faster so that users waiting time is cut down, leading to fewer frustrated customers and more sales.

2. Site Contents And Structure:

Some organizations or individuals have certain expectations of their website. They want it to do certain things and react in specific ways. A Drupal audit can go through the site to check all of these expectations off of the list and ensure that all components are acting appropriately.

3. Optimal Configuration:

Before websites are released to the public, many companies like to ensure that the website is operating perfectly. This doesn’t just mean that everything works, but that everything works in the best way that it possibly can.

4. Improvement:

Some individuals and companies like to get Drupal audits completed on their websites so that they can identify ways to make it better. Maybe the website has been around for a few years and it just needs a few nuts and bolts changed or maybe the site isn’t receiving the amount of visitors that the administrators would prefer. Whatever the case, making the website better will always be beneficial.

What Can You Expect From An Effective Audit?

1. Consistent Responses:

A good audit will give you consistent responses every time. If a function is tested and nothing is changed about the function, it should give the exact same result the second time it is tested.

2. Quantifiable Information:

The information that it provides shouldn’t just be vague statements about performance, structure and configuration, such as the website is slow. Rather, it should state the exact amount of time functions take and the precise results the functions produce.

3. Contextual Awareness:

Depending on the purpose of the website, it should be able to complete and not complete certain tasks. The audit should not have an expectation of either but should be formed around the environment that it is auditing. For example, a development environment should have development modules enabled. On the other hand, a production environment should not.

4. Clear And Actionable Recommendations:

The results and recommendations should be easy to understand. The audit should produce simple steps that can be taken to improve performance, configuration, content, or whatever else is desired to be improved. An audit should not just include what has been done wrong, but also how it can be fixed.

What Aspects Of A Drupal Website Are Audited?

1. Content Structure:

Many Drupal audits will examine the content structure of the website. This means that it will examine how the website breaks down the content and classifies it. Some pages may not be easy enough to find, and should rather be put in the main menu. On the other hand, the main menu could also be too topic heavy, and some content should be linked to in other locations. The audit will help identify these problems to create a balance for users so that they can easily locate content without be bombarded.

2. Performance And Speed:

During this portion of the audit, the website’s responsiveness and speed will be examined. If there are any lags or functions that are unresponsive, the root cause is identified. The problem could be as simple as the website not running on the latest version of Drupal or that caching is turned off. Or, it could be a more complex issue, such as unnecessary modules needing to be disabled or Javascript files needing to be aggregated.

3. On Page SEO:

Search engine optimization is the currency under which most websites operate. If a website isn’t optimized for engines like Google, it won’t rank well. A Drupal audit can identify how to improve the SEO—think keywords, broken links, quality content, and more.

4. Overall Functionality:

This aspect of a Drupal audit is essentially an overview of everything a website does. It checks to make sure that every function works, from the links to the videos to the various tools and modules. It identifies anything that is outdated, missing or broken.

5. Best Practices:

There are best practices for Drupal that get updated on a regular basis. These can be difficult to keep up with, especially for those who don’t specialize in website creation but rather use Drupal for alternative business or hobby purposes. An audit dives into the taxonomy, configuration, modules and code of a website to make sure it’s utilizing the best and most up to date practices and standards.

6. Code And Security:

Security is arguably the most important reason to get a Drupal audit. If a website takes customer information or contains proprietary designs and knowledge, it is essential to keep this safe. The Drupal audit analyzes websites for their vulnerabilities, as well as to ensure that the necessary security features are both installed and properly functioning.

To find out more about an audit for your website, as well as other valuable website services, please contact us.

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Your Website Will Break…At Some Point

Whether you have a business that sells a product, a company that sells a service, or you provide valuable information to readers, you need a website. It is how the world operates, and any business that doesn’t keep up with this trend will stagnate and likely fail. Now, while most organizations and individuals are adjusting their advertising, marketing, and sales to this demand, it unfortunately requires more than a once-off website set-up. Without regular maintenance, every website will break.

What Will Cause A Website To Break?

1. Expired Domain:

Keep in mind that not all registrars email users when their domain is expiring. This doesn’t make a lot of business sense but it’s just the way it is. So if your domain expires before you remember to renew it, it goes back into the pool of available domains. Someone else can easily purchase it. And then, poof. All your hard work disappears and a new website pops up. Customers will make the unfortunate assumption that the original business went under. And then, poof. The customers begin to disappear. This is the worst case scenario of course, but it is a reality.

2. Plugin Problems:

Be wary of the plugins you use. Some plugins take up too many resources, which will cause shared servers to shut down your site until you deactivate them. Sometimes you just have too many plugins. Some plugins are bad or incompatible. The best course of action is to add one at a time so you can see how the site reacts and easily identify the bad apple. Keep in mind that some plugins work just fine on their own but don’t work well with others.

3. Hackers:

Hacking is generally portrayed as an attempt to steal client or proprietary information, or it might be to maliciously alter information on a website. And this is a danger. But what can also happen is hacking for the sake of something slightly more innocent: stealing bandwidth. Whatever the purpose of the hack, it’s most often due to a security hole that a nefarious bot has found on an outdated or poorly coded website.

4. Crawlers:

Most websites will only crawl an average site about once a day—just to stay up to date. Sometimes, however, random websites will send hundreds or even thousands of bots to crawl a site at once, which can cause websites to slow and even crash. This is pretty rare, but it’s not unheard of. Keep an eye out for this, identify the sender, request to be put on a do not crawl list, and ask your host to block them.

5. Server Sharing:

Be wary of sharing a server. You can do absolutely nothing wrong and you’ll wake up one morning to find your website down. This is simply because you are sharing resources with another entity that is taking far more than their fair share. Alternatively, be aware if your site requires more resources than a shared server or your hosting plan can provide. Not only will it negatively effect the other sites that share the server with you, but your site just won’t function properly. This might be caused by a lot of plugins, a large amount of data, or heavy traffic. And be aware that, generally speaking, the unlimited hosting plans almost always do have a limit—it’s in the fine print.

6. Hotlinking:

Although it may feel like a malicious attack, hotlinking rarely is. Most of the time, it’s just a mistake. Let’s say a high-traffic blog or news site grabs an image off of your website and puts it on theirs, forgetting to first save it to their own host. Your site will likely crash because their traffic is being funneled into your server. The best way to avoid this is to not save your grab buttons to your server.

7. Traffic:

Traffic surges can bring your website down, too. Usually smaller websites don’t consider this when they have a giveaway. Everyone attempts to enter the contest simultaneously and the server can’t handle that. It could also occur from a post, picture, article or video that happens to go viral. As the boy scout motto states, “Always be prepared.”

8. Updates:

Yes, they’re annoying. Unfortunately, updates are absolutely necessary. Plugin, software and browser updates fix aging code and improve security. If you put these updates off for long enough, your website will just stop working.

9. User Error:

People break things. Even if you have a CMS, there is still the potential for untrained personnel to mess something up. You can limit this by limiting the number of admins you have for a website and making sure those administrators have proper training.

How Can You Avoid Website Crashes?

  1. Test your website and its performance on a regular basis. This means testing the software that powers the website, exploring potential security loop holes, and simulating high traffic.
  2. CDNs are a great option for breaking down traffic and avoiding crashes.
  3. Partner with the right host. Shared hosting won’t work if you need a lot of resources—invest in a dedicated hosting plan.
  4. Be prepared and know that crashes happen. Have a plan in place to deal with them when they do.
  5. Stay up to date with the latest developer and software news so you can foresee potential problems before they happen and know when updates are available.

Additional Considerations

All of this supervision and maintenance is a lot of work. Most businesses don’t have the time to monitor the health of their website on a regular enough basis. Thankfully, these little tune-ups can be easily outsourced to professionals with high levels of expertise. At Mpire Solutions, we provide a 24/7 pay-as-you-go option for businesses that need regular maintenance:

  • Plugin, module and extension development
  • Website bug fixes
  • Software updates and patches
  • Build-out of new features
  • Code reviews
  • Website optimization
  • Research and product development
  • Ongoing maintenance and upkeep

There is also the developer concierge option where we are available to clients around the clock in case of an emergency. And when there’s not an emergency, the paid-for hours can go to:

  • Bug fixes, software updates and patches
  • Monthly security audits and patches
  • Routine updates
  • New pages
  • Core reviews
  • Plug-in, module and extension development
  • Website and loading speed optimization
  • Build-out of features and functionality

To find out more about what we do and how we can serve you, contact us.

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Can’t Get Hold of Your Web Developer? You May Have an Offshore Problem

In the 21st century, it is essential for business success to have a successful web development. Unfortunately, it’s both expensive and time-intensive. As a result, in order to save some resources, it may make sense to partner with an offshore development company. This could be beneficial for both your website building and maintenance needs. Unfortunately, what makes sense on paper does not always perceive to be the same in reality. Web development is not a one-time task; rather, it requires continuous maintenance and updates. Additionally, consistent communication with your development partner is vital to create a successful website for your business, even during the initial build. If you can’t get a hold of your web developer, you may need to seek a different partner.

A Collaborative Approach to Web Development
Building a website is not as simple as just hiring a developer and letting them do the work. Throughout the development process, you will need to be in constant communication with your developer. You should come to an agreement on the website’s structure, goals, timeline, and more.
Whether the company you work with employs agile or waterfall development techniques, they will likely require feedback on questions that come up as the development process moves forward. You will also need to be involved in the testing process of the website to make sure that the final product turns out exactly as desired. In other words, collaboration is key. You may not need to be an expert in web development to get a beautiful website. However, you will need to have a consistent line of communication if you want your website to help accomplish your business and marketing goals.

Web Maintenance as a Continuous Partnership
That collaboration, of course, doesn’t end when the final website goes live. Throughout its life cycle, you will need to perform regular maintenance on the website itself as well as the server. Some of that maintenance will be routine updates to the software or code. Another part, of course, will be responding to issues.
Website down times can quickly become costly. These costs are both qualitative and quantitative. This can hurt your bottom line while also doing damage to your credibility among would-be visitors as well as your search engine optimization.
Of course, no website can be online without issue 100% of the time. One study, for example, found that almost 90% the world’s most popular websites had at least some downtime during one quarter in 2016.
Nevertheless, if you cannot achieve a 100% success rate, you need to at least make sure that when an outage occurs, you have someone ready to jump in and fix the issue at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, when you can’t get hold of your web developer, a minor issue can turn into a major problem. Much of these problems are due to offshore web development.

Problems With Offshore Web Development
Let’s start with the obvious: offshore web development tends to be cheap. However, in most situations, that’s where its benefits end. In fact, working with an international web developer can result in a number of potential concerns:

  1. Time Zone Differences. Simply put, it will be difficult to get a hold of your web developer if the time at which you try to reach them (your business hours) happens to be the middle of the night for them.
  2. Language Barriers. Collaboration is difficult if your development partner doesn’t understand exactly what you need, and what your feedback to their process is.
  3. Lack of Long-Term Commitments. As mentioned previously, it is important to maintain a relationship with your developer even after the website is built. If you don’t, you risk running into problems as soon as your website goes down or needs an update. Unfortunately, it’s easy for offshore developers to go dark as soon as you’ve paid for your project, leaving you without an expert who could take care of any problems that may arise.
  4. Cultural Differences. Professionals in different countries tend to have very different expectations for business relationships. In a complex project like web development, these differences can be difficult to overcome. For example, the above-mentioned frequent communication may look very difficult for an American company that looks to get down to business quickly while working with an Indian developer, who is used to extensive small talk before talking shop.

Cheapest is not always best. If your website is down, you need to get a hold of your developer quickly. If you can’t, even the most beautiful website will be worthless. That’s why knowing your alternatives is crucial for your online presence to turn into a successful, long-term endeavor that helps grow your business and delight your visitors.

Finding a Solution for Your Web Development Needs
So how do you find the right balance? How can you make sure that your web development does not become too costly? How can you make sure that no matter where on the globe you’re located, you can find a local developer for whom the above problems do not exist?

That’s where Mpire enters the equation. We have developers stationed all over the world, and in every timezone. When your website needs help, or you are simply looking for a reliable developer, your choices will not be limited by geography. Instead, you can find a local expert willing and ready to help your business succeed.

Thanks to our unique business model, we consider ourselves a remote in-house development team rather than an external web development company. The result is closer collaboration, and a more successful business relationship. To learn more about our services, and how we can help you embark on a website project during which you always know that you can get hold of your developer, contact us.

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How to optimize images in Drupal

After the development of the website, it is mandatory to give a user an overall excellent experience such as less loading time, or receiving the top rankings in search engine optimization. This can be completed by the performance optimization of the website. Optimized images are a vital component of website optimization.

Drupal has a built in feature that optimizes and compresses JPEG images. However, Drupal does not offer a feature that allows optimization of PNG format images that develop via Image style. Instead, in order to optimize PNG format of images, Drupal uses ImageAPI Otimize contributed model. Below is the URL of ImageAPI Optimize module:

https://www.drupal.org/project/imageapi_optimize

After downloading and enabling the ImageAPI Optimize module, navigate to admin/config/media/image-toolkit. You will be able to see this in the Drupal admin of your site. You can then proceed to select the ImageAPI Optimize radio button, and then click Save.

Following this, you should be sure to configure the ImageAPI Optimize Service settings.

You can use either commands RHEL or Debian based on Linux variants below to install image compressors on a server.

advpng (lossless):

Debian: apt-get install advancecomp

RHEL: yum install advancecomp

OptiPNG (lossless):

Debian: apt-get install optipng (ensure you are using a version 0.7.5 or higher)

RHEL: yum install optipng

Pngcrush (lossless):

Debian: apt-get install pngcrush (ensure you are using a version 0.7.5 or higher)

RHEL: yum install pngcrush

Pngout (lossless):

Debian: download binary archive and extract to /usr/local/bin

RHEL: download binary archive and extract to /usr/ bin

Pngquant (lossy):

Debian: apt-get install pngcrush (ensure you are using a version 0.7.5 or higher)

RHEL: yum install pngquant

Jpegoptim (lossless & lossy):

Debian: apt-get install jpegoptim

RHEL: yum install jpegoptim

Jpegtran (lossless):

Debian: apt-get install libjpeg-progs

RHEL: yum install libjpeg

Jfifremove (lossless):

It would need to be compiled after compilation copy it into your path:

wget http://lyncd.com/files/imgopt/jfifremove.c

gcc -o jfifremove jfifremove.c

mv jfifremove /usr /bin

After the installation of an image compressor, you can then add path of all the compressors in appropriate fields and conclude by saving the configuration.

We have completed the setup of ImageAPI Optimization. Now, we need to flush the existing image styles by using below Drush command:

drush image-flush

OR

You can install Image Style Flush module.

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Increase your visibility in Google with these 3 easy steps

After successfully launching a new web design company and receiving a few repeat clients, most businesses usually gets trapped inside a comfort zone. They just stop trying to impress their clients or even look for new and better clients.

Of course, making a good profit is the number one goal of any business. However, it shouldn’t be your only goal.

Never let profit margins, finances, or budgets keep you from achieving greatness. You may be running a small web design agency with a couple of your friends, but you could also be the guys who design the next version of Google Play, or something even greater.

If you’re the owner of a web design business or at least plan on building one, here are a few tips for building a company that grows bigger in size each day.

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