As a Virtual Assistant, a considerable portion of my work is in managing my clients’ websites. When it comes to website administration, some types of website are easier than others. Inspired by a recent client’s clunky old custom Content Management System (the bit that allows me to make changes, upload new content, and add new features etc.), I thought I would delve into some of the most popular, modern CMSs and give a quick-guide on their pros and cons.
Choosing the system best for your purposes can be difficult, but it is an important choice to make. Most people will not want to change systems after they’ve started with one, so let’s take a look at these top five content management systems to see which one is right for you.
Best for beginners and small to medium sized websites, WordPress is the platform serving up most blogs and brochure style websites you see these days. An automated install on most hosting platforms makes setup a breeze and you can easily be up and running the same day you do the installation. Released in 2003 and now with over 68 million websites, WordPress boasts a huge and helpful community to turn to for support when help is needed and really is the world’s most loved blogging platform.
Easy to customise, user-friendly & SEO capable, WordPress loses some appeal due to its vulnerability to hackers, limited design options and plugins often becoming incompatible with platform updates, meaning if you’re going to update your WordPress installation you’d better be sure your installed plug-ins are compatible first.
A stable, no frills CMS for consumers and small to mid-sized e-commerce sites and education websites; Joomla, like WordPress has been around for a while (released in 2005) and boasts a robust developers community around it’s free and open-source platform meaning if you have questions or are stuck implementing it, you’ll be likely to find an answer before long.
Joomla falls behind in the areas of SEO capability, granular access control and it’s less intuitive than WordPress but nevertheless has over 30 million downloads and is in use on sites such as Linux.com and Cloud.com
Launched in 2001, the most difficult but the most powerful CMS, Drupal can fulfill the needs of high security, enterprise level websites such as whitehouse.gov and data.gov.uk where it’s currently in use. It’s very flexible but has a steep learning curve, few theme choices and lacks good free plugins. Like WordPress and Joomla, Drupal is open-source, free and developer friendly – if you’re already a capable php developer – while also boasting superior stability, scalability and capacity for proper SEO.
You’ll have to budget a lot more time setting up your site with Drupal than with WordPress or Joomla. Stay away unless you or your team are already capable with PHP… but if you are, this one is the best for when you’re asking a lot out of your website solution.
While ExpressionEngine differs from the open-source free CMS described so far, it can be compared to, and has a leg up on WordPress by including ecommerce and membership without needing 3rd party plug-ins. A paid-application which includes support in the purchase price, you can structure your EE the way you want, as well as allowing for unlimited content types. WordPress design is essentially limited to themes available, and installs with 3 content types (posts, pages, media) while with EE you can define as many as you need without knowing anything about coding PHP.
With excellent scalability and a noteworthy security record (cough cough @wordpress), ExpressionEngine touts a number of partners on their website like Adobe, Apple, Disney, Ford, Nike, and more showing it is a CMS that can not only give you more power and flexibility with your blog, but is trusted among huge corporations.
Built by a company that got started making high quality plug-ins for ExpressionEngine, Craft similarly starts as a blank slate allowing you to structure your site as you want it to be while offering a few advancements like more advanced functionality when it comes to entry creation and editing in the control panel.
Craft offers several pricing options to fit your needs and support comes with your purchase price. Like each of these CMS there is a supportive community but Craft, being the “new kid on the block”, doesn’t have quite the robust add-on library, yet.
In my experience, all of these are good systems. The most important thing is to choose the platform that best suits your business, your customers and your own internal structure. Not all businesses are blessed with the scope for an in-house webmaster, if it falls to you, be sure you have researched, and chosen, a CMS that you feel comfortable working with. If you end up hating the process of updating your website, you will likely find yourself leaving it to languish. Fresh, relevant content and a good user experience is king. If you have that covered, managing your website will be a piece of cake.
You’ve built (or had built) a shiny new website and you’re excited about getting it out there in front of people who may want to buy your products, avail your services or simply read what you’ve got to say. But after a few weeks or months of it being live, you’ve still had nobody visit it other than the people you’ve promoted it to directly.
Concerned that your website could be missing out on vital organic traffic from Google and other search engines, you decide to look for it yourself using some of the search terms you think it may appear under.
And that’s when it hits you, you can’t find your website for love nor money and apparently, it doesn’t appear in Google anywhere.
There are many reasons why this could happen and you shouldn’t despair because I’m about to give you a few pointers, which will help get your website featuring in Google search results going forward.
Google Webmaster Tools
Search engine spiders crawl the Internet and look for new websites all the time. However, they can sometimes take their time discovering them, so it’s always best to tell Google directly that your new site exists.
The best way to do this is via Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) – a suite of tools designed for webmasters, like you and I. As well as allowing you to inform Google of your website’s existence, it also boasts a plethora of features to help boost your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO).
Here’s what you need to do as a minimum:
1. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and login using your Google account. If you don’t already have one then you’ll need to register one.
2. Once logged in you’ll need to add your website. Click ‘Add Site’ and enter the full URL as shown below. Be sure to do this twice: with and without the ‘www’ prefix
3. Now you’ll need to verify your site and prove that you actually own it. You can do this in one of several ways and GWT will give you a recommended method and several alternative methods. They all achieve the same purpose, so choose whichever you feel most comfortable with.
4. Open your newly added and verified site from the main dashboard and down the left hand side look for ‘Crawl’. Under this submenu you’ll see ‘Sitemaps’ and this is where you can submit your own website’s sitemap to Google, so that its spiders know exactly how your site is laid out. My own sitemap was created using a WordPress plugin, but there are many other online resources to help you make one.
Search Engine Optimisation
When the search engine spiders crawl your site they are looking for meta content, keywords and other relevant information, so they can report back to the main Google database what they’ve found. If your site is lacking in any of these then its database entry may not reflect its content or purpose.
While littering your site with keywords is definitely not best practice, it absolutely has to have some. Otherwise, how can you expect Google to rank it in searches? As a rough guideline, try and have your keywords in the title of your page, subheadings and naturally and evenly distributed throughout.
Whatever you do don’t try and shoehorn keywords in where they don’t look right. It’ll not just annoy your readers, but Google won’t appreciate it either. We keep hearing that ‘content is king’ and that’s never been more true than today.
Google doesn’t always discover the latest and greatest content and sometimes has to rely on signals from social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. If a particular article or piece of content is getting a lot of attention in terms of shares, likes comments, etc. Google may choose to rank it more favourably.
In a similar vein, content that attracts a high bounce rate i.e. a visitor clicks through to it and then leaves almost immediately may be frowned upon by Google. This is because the visitor obviously didn’t find what they were expecting when they reached the content and so Google may decide that it shouldn’t be ranked so highly for that particular keyword or phrase.
Providing your readers with high-quality content and information, which makes them want to come back again and again, is fundamental for improving your site’s chances of appearing in the Google results pages.
If you hire me to set-up and design your WordPress website, then this step is included, free of charge – get in touch for more information.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Last week, I gave you an insight into my top 5 productivity tools. Whittling that list down to the final 5 was actually quite difficult and I’ll tell you why… When I started planning the post, I soon realised just how many tools and applications I use on a day-to-day basis!
In fact, it could have quite easily been “My Top 10” or “My Top 15” but I felt that that would detract somewhat from the overall impact and meaning of the list. That said, there was one other application that nearly made the list but didn’t – and there’s a reason for that.
You see, when I was composing the other post, I was in two minds about whether to include Spokal or not. In the end I chose not to, but promised myself that I would write a separate post on it.
Spokal – for those of you who haven’t tried it – is quite simply, brilliant! Basically, if you want a fast and easy way to create highly effective inbound marketing campaigns then Spokal is for you.
It works in unison with your existing WordPress website/blog and a host of other applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ Facebook and Mailchimp. From my point of view as a virtual assistant, the best thing about Spokal is that incorporates so much functionality into a single tool, which saves a huge amount of time and immensely boosts productivity.
Spokal has many features and I can’t begin to go into them all. Therefore, I’ll outline the three that I find the most useful – which was difficult to determine as every aspect provides real value.
You’ll no doubt understand the importance of great content as part of an inbound marketing strategy and Spokal makes creating it not just easier but also more fun. That’s because Spokal features a content editor that is predominantly drag & drop.
Therefore, you can create exceptional pieces of content in just a few clicks using your imagination. Spokal even serves up a variety of Creative Commons images, from sources like Flickr, which you can use royalty-free and the relevant photo attributions are automatically created.
Also, the real-time SEO advice is great for anyone who is looking to really optimise their content for the search engines – aren’t we all!? It provides an SEO overview for your post as you create it and offers tips on how to improve your post’s SEO score.
The Twitter integration is really powerful and allows you to literally drag relevant tweets right into your content to add extra depth. Spokal will display a list of relevant tweets and you can choose the ones you want to include.
Social Media Sharing
With your high-quality and engaging content created, Spokal then enables you to schedule it in a highly efficient way. Basically, Spokal will automatically share your content based on a custom schedule that you define.
Again, the social media calendar is drag & drop, which makes the whole process much quicker. You can start building a comprehensive schedule in a short period of time. Once configured, Spokal will take care of the rest and you can concentrate on doing what you do best: running your business.
Furthermore, the Feedly integration allows you to curate content from other people in the same calendar, thus saving you a lot of time.
We all know that social media is no longer an optional extra to boost marketing. In fact, it now represents a significant part of our marketing arsenals and, when used correctly, can drive traffic, create more business and allow us to really engage our customers and potential customers.
Spokal’s Twitter builder is perfect for those of you who want to tackle the social network but aren’t sure where to start. It’s designed to get you leads and traffic more quickly than you would alone.
It’s designed to help grow your Twitter following on autopilot with genuine followers who have an interest in what you have to say. This allows you to forge new relationships and steadily engage more people to boost your brand’s reputation, ultimately driving more sales.
I’d love to hear if any of you have tried Spokal – or any similar tools for that matter – and if so what your experience has been.
Photo credits: Spokal
Once upon a time, websites were built exclusively by people in the know. A strong knowledge of HTML was an absolute must and websites were created using code alone.
Today, however, innovations like WordPress have made it possible for anyone who has a basic understanding of computers can build their very own website from scratch. This is why more and more people are documenting their day-to-day lives and even promoting their businesses via WordPress blogs.
And you can too with this beginner’s guide to setting up WordPress!
WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
Okay, let’s start by outlining the characteristics of WordPress.org and WordPress.com because actually they are very different in nature.
Here are a few reasons why:
|Allows you to use your own domain name e.g. www.mydomain.com
|Restricts you to a WordPress.com suffixed domain name e.g.
(unless you pay extra)
|Requires your own web hosting
||Provides a free hosting service
|Allows for endless customisations
||Restricts customisation (unless you pay extra)
|Has no ads
||Is supported by ads
|Supports thousands of fantastic plugins
||Allows just a few pre-defined plugins
Those are just a few differences between the two platforms and it really boils down to a case of flexibility and customisation. Cost is also a factor but, in theory, both offerings are free.
For the purpose of this guide though we will concentrate on the more customisable of the two – WordPress.org – and look at the necessary steps to get it setup.
Registering a Domain Name
The first thing you’ll want to do is come up with a great domain name for your new website. This is actually more difficult than you might think and it pays to spend a bit of time on this stage. After all, your WordPress website is going to have this name for many years to come. Try to think of several as there is a good chance someone may already be using one of your ideas.
There are tonnes of sites that allow you to check domain name availability and inevitably purchase one that you want. Godaddy.com, for example is one of the most popular and you can search for your desired domain name in just a few seconds.
Securing Your Own Web Hosting
There are literally thousands of companies who offer web hosting services and their packages and prices vary greatly. Just make sure that whichever one you choose meets the WordPress minimum requirements.
Whichever you decide to go with, be sure that the price is right for you. Any good web-host will happily help you choose a relevant package for your needs, so send them an enquiry.
Download and Install WordPress
The WordPress framework can be downloaded directly from their website and subsequently installed. WordPress is actually famous for its ‘5-minute installation’ which is one of the reasons why it has become so popular and a comprehensive installation guide can be found here. If, however, you are not confident installing it yourself, many web-hosts provide extremely convenient one-click WordPress installations. Check beforehand if the one you are considering using provides such a service as it will make your installation seamless.
Now The Fun Begins…
Open your internet browser and navigate to your domain name so you can see for yourself exactly what a fresh WordPress installations looks like. As you’ll find out, the standard offering uses a very basic theme by default, but the beauty of a self-hosted WordPress site is that it is hugely customisable.
You’ll probably be feeling relieved to have gotten this far and the thought of now designing your site may be a little daunting. Don’t worry though…
My inexpensive WordPress design service will remove any of the stresses associated with laying out your website. I’ll work with you throughout the entire process to ensure that the end result is exactly what you dreamed of.
Furthermore, my bespoke WordPress maintenance plans will ensure that your site remains fully functional and up-to-date. Many people setup a WordPress site and then neglect to maintain it because they don’t know how.
Don’t be one of those people!
Contact me right away to take advantage of my design services and maintenance plans today and realise your website’s full potential.
Photo by Christopher Ross / CC BY-SA 2.0
Having used many different tools over the last couple of years, I have finally found a few that I really rely on to help me with daily task management, and I thought I would let you know what these are.
I think I have written about all of these individually in the past, so I apologise if I’m repeating myself, but I really can’t say anything bad about these tools.
Social Media Scheduling
I use two scheduling tools for my social media, Hootsuite and Buffer. But I want to talk about Buffer, as they have recently added some new connections which I have been waiting for, for a long time.
One of those is Buffer to Google+, it’s been a long time coming but finally I can now fill up Buffer to post to my business Google+ page. You can read about it on the Buffer blog Introducing Buffer for Google+: The easiest way to post to your Google+ Business Page. The other connection recently introduced was Buffer to LinkedIn company pages, Introducing Buffer for LinkedIn Company pages: The easiest way to keep your LinkedIn page up to date.
With both of these new connections, I can now use Buffer as I have done with Twitter and Facebook for the past couple of years and top it up with great content from all the various blogs I try to keep up with.
I pay for my Buffer package, but it does mean I can have up to 12 accounts connected, which means for my most special clients I can add their social media accounts so they get the benefits of Buffer too!
If you haven’t tried Buffer, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
When you only have one website, it’s pretty easy to maintain it, cope with the regular plugin updates, and the not so regular WordPress and Theme updates. When you have more than one website, I now have nearly 10 WordPress websites to maintain I needed a quick and easy way of updating them all at the same time.
That’s where ManageWP comes in, I pay for it, but you can get a free version. I just need to login to the ManageWP Dashboard and I can do all the updates with one click. Not only does it do updates, it will also let you delete spam comments with one click across all of your websites, as well as some other cool features.
Many people think that updating themes and plugins can cause your website to crash, and in fact this has actually happened to me in the past, but by not updating these your website could be wide open to security vulnerabilities. When I use ManageWP I can exclude a website to update automatically, I sometimes do this with important client websites, I prefer to do these individually, especially big WordPress updates.
ManageWP saves me an enormous amount of time, and also ensures all my websites are up to date and plugs those security issues.
I only wrote a blog post about using Asana last week, so I am not going to repeat myself here. You can read both Asana’s posts here:
Get Organised with this Free Resource
Organise your Clients (or Team) with this Free Resource
I use Asana on a daily basis, with my own tasks and clients. It keeps me on track with my workload and ensures all my deadlines are met.
So those are my three top tools for keeping me organised, what are yours?
Do you use these tools, what do you think?