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Turbocharging Your WordPress Website

Turbocharging Your WordPress Website

Waiting for a website to load is fun for no one. Most website visitors will not wait long if your page takes forever to load. Slow loading pages not only have an adverse effect on user experience but also on search engine ranking. If a page takes too long to load your visitors will most likely end up leaving your page for another. Google has picked up on this and will punish your page with a lower search position than a page that loads quickly. Your best bet is to shoot for a 3 second or less load time and your visitors and Google will be happy. So how do you fix this on your WordPress website? We spent some time speeding up our site and this article will explain how we did it.

Our Problem – Massive Page Size

Alpine Design’s homepage had a major loading issue. Due to an HTML5 embedded video, our page was over 70 MB in size when an average web page is just 1-3 MB. This left us with a 15 second load time. We had to get the load time down significantly but first we had to get the page size down. Our first step was uploading our video into video editing software. The length of the video was 30 seconds long to start. We know that most visitors don’t spend more than 10-12 seconds above the fold so we clipped the video to 12 seconds. Next we edited the resolution slightly and ended up with a video that was 1/8th its original size. We tested the page speed with GT Metrix and improved our load time to about 10 seconds.

Our next step was to optimize the images. Many images were much bigger than they needed to be so we installed the WordPress image compression plugin EWWW Image Optimizer. This reduced the size of all of the images on the website. Between reducing the video size and compressing the images, this left our homepage with a total size of 8 MB. That is 90% of it’s original size! Our load time dropped to 7 seconds.

Website Caching And The Road To Glory

We have successfully cut the load time in half by reducing our page size but we are not yet to the magic number of 3 seconds. Our next step was to install a caching program. A good caching program like W3 Total Cache will come with quite a few great features that improve your website performance. On PHP website software like WordPress, web pages are created dynamically on the fly. There is typically some lag time while the code queries the MySQL database and “builds” the pages. A caching program will essentially pre-build these pages and take snapshots of the code to server to web visitors. This greatly reduces the database lookups and decreases page load time.

A good caching program will also come with other great features like GZ compression, CSS minify and JavaScript minify. The CSS and JavaScript minify will compress some of the code together to decrease load time. We added W3 Total Cache, configured it and all of it’s features and re-tested the website. 5 Seconds.

Delivering Content At the Speed of Light

Well not really the speed of light but fast is how a CDN or Content Delivery Network can serve your website. A CDN is a network of servers around the globe that cache and store a copy of your website to be served to regional users. We like Cloudflare for it’s ease of use and free package to get started. Setting up is relatively easy if you understand how DNS works. You will need to point your websites nameservers to Cloudflare and then instruct Cloudflare where to point the IP. This is done quite easily in their dashboard and the rewards are almost immediate. Once you configure your parameters, Cloudflare will cache your site and images then deliver them around the globe at lightning speeds. And you can see the results for yourself:


3 Seconds! We have successfully taken our page load time from 15 seconds down to 3 and you can too. If you follow the steps.


Page speed is one of the most important factors of any website since it will directly affect your visitors’ experience and your search engine position. Follow these steps and you too can have a dramatic reduction in your WordPress page load time.

  • Reduce size of media by clipping videos or compressing images
  • Use a caching plugin
  • Minify CSS and HTML
  • Run your website through a content delivery network

We will continue to optimize to get that load time even lower but always shoot for the 3 seconds benchmark.

Which E-commerce Shopping Cart is Right For Your Business? The Top 3

Which E-commerce Shopping Cart is Right For Your Business? The Top 3

When it comes to selling products online, selecting the right shopping cart is the backbone to your success. There are dozens of Ecommerce solutions available and comparing them side by side is an increasingly complicated task. Most shopping carts can be broken up into 2 main categories, leased and owned. Leased shopping carts like Big Commerce and Shopify are cookie cutter shopping cart websites for one size fits all that charge a monthly fee. The first drawback of these leased shopping carts is that each business is different and there really is no such thing as one size fits all. The second drawback is that you will never own your website. All of the hard work you put in building the website, money you have spent with a developer, add-ons or marketing is gone the day you stop paying their monthly fees.

This is why our analysis will focus only on shopping cart platforms that are owned or open source. This means that once you download the website software, it is yours to keep. You are free to edit and modify as you wish. The 3 platforms we are exploring are WooCommerce, Opencart and Magento. Each one is vastly different and offers it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages. Each one has features that may work extraordinarily well for one business but perform poorly for another. We will give examples of the types of business ideal for each platform.





WooCommerce isn’t a shopping cart platform per se but more of a shopping cart add-on for the popular content management system (CMS), WordPress. WooCommerce is the lightest of the 3 shopping cart platforms and is ideal for smaller stores. Since it attaches to WordPress, it is ideal for users that have or need a blog or CMS website.  Say you are a museum that has lots of pages for exhibits, admissions and coming attractions but also has a gift shop. This is the perfect platform for you.WooCommerce can handle the online sales for your gift shop. WooCommerce is ideal for businesses that sell 1 to a few hundred products and these products are not the primary source of income.


The main drawback to WooCommerce is that you must be running WordPress to use it. WordPress is an excellent platform and if you are looking for a new site anyway, you should consider it. The other drawback to WooCommerce is doesn’t have the advanced inventory management tools that larger platforms have so a few dozen to a few hundred product is ideal. The software has many great add-ons that can help you with some of the drawbacks but they can be pricey and compromise the stability of the site so it is best to use this with smaller inventories on a website whose main focus is not e-commerce.




Opencart is a completely stand alone shopping cart platform that is a great fit for the largest segment of e-commerce stores. It is driven off of PHP script using a MySQL database that can run on just about any server setup. It is quite powerful and is ideal for businesses whose primary source of income is product sales. It can comfortably handle anywhere from 1-10,000 products depending on configuration and is ideal for 500-5000 products. It has the easiest to use administration area of any e-commerce platform we have tested and has nearly every tool needed to run most web stores right out of the box.



Opencart also has an extensive online community for support and over 12,000 add-ons that give it just about any capability including blog, SEO and caching. Out of the box, Opencart has limitations for SEO, product and customer management and a few other minor areas but can be easily configured with one of many extensions to strengthen these areas. The latest 2.0 Opencart version has an integrated extension installer much like the WordPress plugin installer. Opencart’s ability to set up product variables, shipping services, payments and integrating with your eBay and Amazon store are some of the best we have seen.

See the Opencart Demo!

Although most users have every feature they need with a stock install, many users will find the need for several extensions to optimally run their store. This is typically an added cost but usually a very minimal one. Opencart has yet to integrate with popular point of sale systems so larger companies with advanced inventory controls might find Opencart a bit lacking which brings us to our next shopping cart.




Magento is by far the king of all shopping cart platforms and is offered in 2 versions, Enterprise and Community Edition. We are concerned with the downloadable, fully licenced and open source Community Edition (CE). Magento CE has every tool you will ever need to run a large scale e-commerce website. Right out of the box it has advanced customer and catalog tools as well as SEO and caching programs for very large websites. We have seen Magento stores handle over 100,000 products with the greatest of ease. Why not just start with Magento if it’s that great? Because it is overkill for most store owners. It can be like shoveling snow off your sidewalk with a bulldozer.

This platform really isn’t for everyone. It is extremely complicated and there’s a steep learning curve just to run your store. You must have some web development skills just to run patches and updates. Most users without these skills will shell out Several 100 to several 1000’s of dollars annually just to have a developer keep their store up to date. Build and extension costs are quite high as well. Opencart extensions run $10-50 while Magento extensions can run $100-1000s and a basic Magento build is often 2x the price of an Opencart build.

With that being said, Magento is right for some users. Users with very large inventories will benefit from Magento’s rich features as well as those who need their inventory integrated with their current management system or Point of Sale. Magento can cache pages more effectively than any other platform to allow visitors to access any page of even the largest catalogs very quickly. If you are running a company that needs the features of the most powerful website and has the resources to do so including deep pockets and\or an in house developer, then this is the store for you.


3 Steps To Branding Your Website

3 Steps To Branding Your Website

“Marketing Is About Values” is probably one of the most prolific things Steve Jobs ever said and not only carved the path for Apple over the following 20 years but also is the perfect starting point for every entrepreneur to develop their Brand Management Strategy.

Steve realized that customers responded best when they were presented with benefits of a product as opposed to its features. The Apple buyer was far more interested in how the Mac made work easier, learning more fun and provided entertainment for the entire family than boring specifications like processor clock speed or how much memory it has.

Focusing on benefits vs. features is the key component of creating emotion in the consumer that leads to greater sales. By taking this principle and applying it to some of your most basic web elements, you can enrich your online Brand Management Strategy in a very Jobs-esque way.


“So we have to be really clear what we want the customer to know about us” is heard in Steve’s message. By this he means that once a company’s values are determined, the message must be consistent across all media, branding and advertising. Before we can do this we must determine what values are important to not only the company but also the customer. You should define and continually re-define answers to these 3 key questions:

  1. What are my company’s values?
  2. Who are my customers?
  3. What values are important to them?


Once these questions are answered, it is possible to create a value driven message. The message must be present from the first time a potential customer sees your ad and is with them through every stage including purchase and use of your product. If your ad is clear about your company’s values and the benefits of your product, the potential customer may visit your website to learn more. If benefits and values are clearly defined on your website, this should lead to an eventual purchase of your product or service.

Once the customer receives the same benefits and values as advertised, they might just pass along their positive experience by word of mouth or social media creating an increase in brand recognition and inevitable sales and growth.


Getting your customer to see the benefits of your product and relate to your values is done on a much more personal level. Triggering an emotion can create a memorable experience thus associating your brand with that emotion.

Let’s say you are selling a convertible sports car. Your ad and website could boast about how powerful the engine is or how many speakers the stereo has but most people won’t remember boring specifications. What they will remember is how the feel when the top is down, the wind is blowing through their hair and the sense of freedom and youth this beautiful machine will give them.

Showing benefits of a product will evoke a memorable response while features are just forgotten.

Using images and graphics in your ads and on your website showing the benefits of ownership create an emotional response that will make people desire your product. Adding well thought out headlines, taglines and copy can help in painting this picture of an emotion that leads to ownership. When selecting images and copy for your website and ads, use a consistent message of benefit backed by emotion and it will more often lead to a purchase.


Giving your business personality brings to life the values and benefits you offer and allows customers to identify with you. This is done through the careful selection of fonts, colors and a well developed logo. Fonts and colors should directly reflect the personality of the company. Is your product or service fun and exciting? If so, the colors should be bold and dramatic to create excitement. Is your product or service professional or formal? If so, fonts might be classic and traditional to represent professionalism.

The logo is your biggest chance to make a memorable impression on a customer. It needs to be identifiable and speak on many different levels. Look at Amazon’s logo. They are known to have everything from A to Z so there is an arrow that points from the A to the Z. It also doubles as a smile, indicating a pleasant shopping experience.



By defining your company’s core values, presenting benefits to your customers in an emotional way and bringing your business to life by giving it personality you can build a lasting foundation. Perhaps the most important part of Steve’s quote was nestled in the middle of the that opening keynote paragraph:

“It’s a complicated and noisy world, we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us”

Perhaps the hidden meaning of what Steve was trying to say was that make sure the stuff people remember is the stuff worth remembering.

Why Should You Hire a Professional Web Designer?

Why Should You Hire a Professional Web Designer?

“My cousin told me she can build my website” or “My IT guy says he can build a website since he took a web design course 8 years ago in college” are phrases we hear far too often as professional web designers. The truth is, anyone can build a website using one of the many drag and drop generic web design templates from places like Wix and The problem is, the website ends up looking like a novice did it and your customers can tell. While your cousin may do a pretty good job for a non-professional or your IT guy built a website in college, since they are not professionals that do this everyday, they may actually do more harm than good. This article will explore some of the reasons why trying to save money may end up costing you more money in the long run.

Your Online Image

Your website is the face of your company to the world and what does that face look like? Drag and drop website builders have little variance in the websites they produce and there is little uniqueness between templates. This software generally only allows you to add text to a predefined template and add pictures and change colors. They typically don’t have all of the extra elements a professional will use. In the end, you will have the same generic website your competitor has except with different colors and pictures.

On the contrary, a professionally designed website will have a unique structure and look to it. All of the colors and fonts should be branded to your business and the layout should be easy to navigate and be very appealing to your customers. A professional will make sure everything is aligned and flows properly instead of the jumbled, mismatched mess we often see with amateur sites.

Conversion Ability

Converting a visitor into a buyer is no easy task. A novice will have no specific training on how to do this. Many non-professional websites have a conversion rate of less than 1%. This means that if your website has 100 visitors, you would be lucky to have 1 person reach out to your company to do business.


Let’s say your IT guy (remember, they fix servers all day long not build websites), builds you a website that converts at a 1% rate (1 out of 100 visitors buy). You market this website and spend $10,000 over the course of the year in advertising netting you 10,000 new web visitors and 100 new customers. No bad right? Suppose you had a professional build your website in the first place and you converted at a 3% rate or perhaps a 5% or 7% rate? You could have had 200-600 additional new customers from the same $10k advertising spend. Trying to save a few $1000 on your website could have potentially cost you 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars.

Organic Search Engine Position

If your cousin or IT guy don’t build websites everyday like the pros do, it would probably be safe to say they have no idea how to optimize your website for the best Google possible. Did you know that the first 5 search results make up for nearly 75% of the clicks for a keyword? This can have a dramatic effect on the number of the visitors that visit your website. There are over 200 factors that influence your search positioning in Google and many of them can be influenced by elements incorporated into your website by your web designer. It is important that whoever is building your site knows what to include to give you every advantage possible.


A little knowledge is dangerous too. A novice trying to search engine optimize your website can also damage your rank that is difficult, expensive or possibly impossible to recover from like a de-indexing. Things like keyword stuffing can cause Google to penalize your website causing it to be somewhere on say, page 4 or 11 of the search results. No one will ever find you there. In extreme cases, Google may even de-index your website and domain if you break their rules. This is impossible to recover from and will require a new domain and website.


Your business is what feeds your family and pays your bills. 80% of all internet users will research a company online before they do business with them. They will formulate their impression of your business based on your website and will compare that to the impression your competitors website makes on them. Subtle differences may determine if they buy from you or the other guy. With so much at stake, why trust anyone less than a professional?

Do This and Your Website Will Dominate the Local Search Results

Do This and Your Website Will Dominate the Local Search Results

With the ever increasing use of mobile devices for internet browsing, local search results are becoming more important than ever. Google in recent years has changed it’s algorithm to rank results based on the searcher’s geographic location. They have even went as far as adding a map and an independent ranking of local results in the most prominent area of the page, just below the ads. With mobile devices, the business phone number is clickable making click through rates and conversions extraordinarily high for those websites that rank in these positions.

The 3 or so results shown at the top are not by chance or proximity to the user but a calculated ranking of businesses that Google “refers” based off a number of factors. These factors can be fine tuned to give your website an advantage over other businesses that are unaware of this. Google tends to give these positions to websites and businesses they feel are trustworthy and consistent. Here are a few ways you can increase your position in these results.

Directories and NAP

Let’s start with NAP. NAP isn’t about dreaming your search ranking will improve but making sure your Name, Address and Phone number are correct and consistent in online directories. You will need to submit (if you haven’t already) to the top local directories such as:

Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of the directories and you choose the correct category for your listing. It is best to use your real phone number and not a tracking number. If you are listed in other directories as well, you will need to make sure they remain consistent too. As a general rule of thumb, the more directories the better as long as the information matches.

On Page Signals

After you have completed your directory listings, now you need to shift your attention to your website. In the old days (like 2009), you could just put a bunch of local cities and towns in the footer and the search engines would rank you well in those areas. If you are still doing that, you need to remove them. They can actually do more harm than good since Google penalizes websites that stuff added keywords like that.

Keep all of your copy readable and write naturally. It is ok to add location names in the text as long as it flows naturally. You should make sure there are relevant keywords within the body copy that relate to your location as well as your industry. Just make sure you are not stuffing keywords, Google can tell and will penalize you for that.

The last thing to do on your website is to make sure your NAP is as consistent as your directory listings. A Google embedded map is a great idea and never hurt anyone. Also, we recommend to our clients that maps and phone numbers are clickable to make it easier for web visitors to get in touch.


In their effort to provide internet users with the best possible search results, Google has based a significant portion of their algorithm for local search results on reputation. The Googlebot is constantly looking at sites that have business reviews and take note of the businesses that are reviewed. While no one knows the exact workings of the Googlebot, there is much evidence supporting that there are several factors it looks at concerning reviews and these factors are weighted heavily when determining local positioning. These factors are:

  • Number of Reviews – How many total reviews are posted
  • Frequency of Reviews – How often reviews are added and are they consistently added
  • Variety of Reviews – Are reviews posted on just one site or many different review sites?

It is also important to note that once you reach 5 Google reviews, you get the orange stars to appear next to your business name. This is great if you have good reviews since it draws the searcher’s eye to your listing. It is also believed that once you receive 5 Google reviews, you automatically will increase 1 position in the rankings.

So what can you do? Contact your customers and encourage them to review you all over the internet. Any website that offers reviews is good. You can even offer promotions to get people to leave you a review. One word of caution though, ask customers that you believe will leave a good review. It is very difficult and time consuming to get rid of too many bad reviews.


In conclusion, a well ranked business in the local search results can have a lasting effect on your business. If you follow these steps you can start seeing some improvement. If you are in a very competitive market or have a tarnished reputation, you may want to enlist the help of a marketing professional that will have additional strategies to bring you more business from the web.



Chart showing known factors for local ranking