business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros

The Midas Whale


Several seasons ago, there was a duo on the Voice by the name of Midas Whale. Legend has it, one member of the duo asked the other if he wanted to form a band, and he replied “Might as well”, and thus the name was born. From then on, in the office, each decision we made because we “might as well” was referred to as a Midas Whale.

The Midas Whale

Photo: © Dreams by the Sea / Etsy

Over time, I’ve come to the realization that though he may originally appear cute and harmless, the Midas Whale is a dangerous predator. It’s so easy to follow the Midas Whale that the best alternative may be left by the wayside.

Perhaps:

  • You’re going down the path of least resistance.
  • You might not truly want to take the route, but you can’t think of a reason not to.
  • Your first choice wasn’t available, so this is the next best thing.
  • Other people are doing it, so you think you should as well.

Before following the Midas Whale, ask yourself:

  • Is there another course of action with a higher potential upside?
  • Am I doing this because it’s easy, or because it’s best?
  • What do my instincts say about the choice?
  • Am I swimming with the current (pardon the pun) or simply being carried along?

Have you followed a Midas Whale? How did you feel about your decision?

Chime In

Adding a Visual Editor Stylesheet


By default, WordPress’ visual editor looks a bit boring, and might not be very reminiscent of your actual post’s look and feel. Today, we’re going to change all that by adding in a visual editor stylesheet to your WordPress theme.

Visual Editor Stylesheet in WordPress How-To

Photo: @Minamoto Images / Stocksy

What’s a visual editor stylesheet?

A visual editor stylesheet replaces the WordPress post editor defaults with your own theme’s styles, so that as you are crafting your post, you are able to immediately see the end result. Adding in this functionality isn’t necessary if you don’t have a lot of custom styling in your posts, but if you are using special fonts, image alignment, or even items as simple as custom bullet points, you may love this feature!

You’ll want to perform all of the steps below in your test site first, to be sure you have it down before replicating in your actual production site.

Below, my visual editor with the WordPress defaults:

WordPress Visual Editor Stylesheet How-To

Step 1: Edit functions.php

First, we’ll want to tell our WordPress theme that we want to use the visual editor stylesheet functionality. Add the following code into your theme’s functions.php file:

/**
 * Add editor stylesheet
 *
 */
 add_editor_style();

Step 2: Create your editor stylesheet

Log into your favorite FTP client (refresher on FTP here) and FTP down your theme’s style.css file to your computer. Change its name to editor-style.css, and FTP it back into your blog’s theme directory.

Step 3: Edit your editor stylesheet

In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance » Editor. You should now see your editor-style.css file. Click on it, and let’s edit it. Remember, none of the changes we’ll be making to this file will affect your front-end appearance, only what you see when you are creating a post.

Remove any unnecessary code, such as your theme’s container, header, footer, sidebar, widget, form styles, etc. You’re only looking for the styles that apply to your posts. If your theme’s CSS file is well-commented or well-sectioned out, this part should be easy.

Because the visual editor isn’t encased in your WordPress theme, you will want to remove any ascendant CSS selectors. For example, your theme (like mine) may have a class that applies only to post text. My ascendant selector class is .post_text, and the .post_text class precedes all of my CSS within posts. Where my style.css file says:

.post_text a, .post_text a:visited { 
	color: #aaa;
	text-decoration: none; 
	outline: none; 
	transition: color 100ms linear 0s;
}

, my editor-style.css only says:

a, a:visited { 
	color: #aaa;
	text-decoration: none; 
	outline: none; 
	transition: color 100ms linear 0s;
}

Also, any code directly in my .post_text CSS went straight into my editor-style.css file’s body tag, like so:

body {
	line-height: 1.5em;
	padding: 20px;
}

This process may take a little trial and error, but if you’re using this functionality, you probably know what custom code you are adding into your posts, and those are the classes you’ll want to have in your editor-style.css file.

Tip: If you are a bit blind (like I am) and your theme contains relatively small fonts, you may want to up the font sizes in your visual editor stylesheet to make it easier to see as you are writing your posts.

Step 4: Import custom fonts

If you are using custom fonts in your theme, such as Google Fonts, Typekit, or Fonts.com, you will need to import these into your visual editor stylesheet using the @import command and the CSS instructed by the font provider. This code can go at the top of your visual editor stylesheet. Example for the Google Karla font:

@import url('http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Karla:400,700');

Step 5: Add a dropdown for custom styles in your visual editor

The excellent TinyMCE Advanced plugin allows you to add/edit the buttons in your WordPress visual editor. Install the plugin, then, under Settings -> TinyMCE Advanced, set up the buttons as you like them, and under Advanced Options check the box for “Load the CSS classes used in editor-style.css and replace the Formats button and sub-menu.” This adds a Formats dropdown to your visual editor, where you can easily select any styles in your editor-style.css for use in your posts.

Your visual editor should now look something like this:

Add a Visual Editor Stylesheet in WordPress

Much better, yes?

A few final tips:

  • It bears repeating, do this process in your test site first, as you are editing your theme’s functions.php file and installing a plugin.
  • If you are using caching of your site, disable it while you put the code into production, and purge your cache after making all of your updates.
  • Don’t forget that you can make custom changes to your editor-style.css that don’t affect your style.css file, such as making your fonts larger for easy editing.

Have fun with your new editor stylesheet!

Chime In

Back Up Your WordPress site with VaultPress


Now that we have installed WordPress and learned how to install plugins, we’re going to cover a few of the plugins that I consider absolute necessities for your blog, and nothing is more integral to your blog than protecting your content.

Back Up Your Blog With VaultPress

As we talked about in the What Is WordPress Anyway? post, WordPress requires both a web server and a database to run.  The web server holds your uploaded images and files, and the database holds your posts, comments, links, etc. Backing up your WordPress website or blog can be done multiple ways, but who wants to do it manually? Let’s face it, we’d all rather do it the easy way, and by far the easiest is using VaultPress, the backup and security suite from the creators of WordPress.

Installing and Configuring VaultPress

You must first sign up for a subscription with your WordPress.com login. The most inexpensive subscription is $5/month (or $55/year). After you have selected your subscription, activation is as simple as installing the VaultPress plugin (don’t know how to install plugins? Learn right here.) and inputting your registration key in your WordPress dashboard. After you register, you can return to the VaultPress dashboard and watch your backup go, while you’re doing your nails (or something equally constructive!). It may take a bit longer for your first backup to run than for your polish to dry, but once it has finished, incremental backups will be faster, and you won’t need to lift a (manicured) finger!

Other Features of VaultPress

In addition to maintaining a daily or real-time backup of your database (depending upon which plan you selected), VaultPress can also do one-click restores. This is useful to create or restore a test site, or in the awful event that your site was compromised or hacked. You can restore a backup from a 30-day archive in the Lite plan, or a full backup archive for the life of your VaultPress subscription in the Basic plans and higher. You’ll want to add your FTP or SSH credentials to your site settings in VaultPress, so it can work its restore magic. If you don’t know these details, ask your hosting company—you may not have SSH access (also known as “root” access), but you will surely be able to FTP (need a refresher on FTP?).

VaultPress is also integrated with Akismet, a spam prevention plugin, and offers subscription plans that include Akismet Business, as well as security scanning. All in, it’s some of the best money you’ll spend—because you can’t put a price on peace of mind!

Chime In

What Las Vegas Teaches Us About Business


Ah, the land of smoke and slot machines. Las Vegas is an interesting case study, economically. Hotels are luxurious and relatively inexpensive, yet restaurants and shows are exorbitant. The casinos will give you free drinks, even at the penny slots, but a cab down the road is $20. So what can we learn from Las Vegas about how to run our business?

What Las Vegas Teaches Us About Business

Lesson 1: Get them addicted and they’ll keep coming back

Whatever it is that you’d like people to consume, you want to find a hook—something that keeps them coming back for more. Is it your amazing photography? The unique and creative product that you are selling? Your sparkling wit and dazzling intelligence?

How are you drawing people in to your blog or business website? What are you doing to keep them there? Are you:

  • Putting out good products or information on a consistent basis?
  • Creating “sticky” content? As people find your site, do you lead them through to other content by using related post functionality or backlinks to other content?
  • Providing something that gives them immediate gratification? For example, if someone reaches your website through a google search for “Seattle wedding photography”, are Seattle weddings what they see when they get there?
  • Showing them who you are, what you do, and how to get in touch with you through easy to find links?
Lesson 2: Give something away for free and they will stick around

Casinos have this one down, don’t they? Not only does the free liquor make people feel as if they are receiving some sort of value for their time and money, but it impairs their judgement. We’ll skip the fuzzy memories and the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” attitude and focus on the giving piece of the equation.

  • Customers are more likely to buy your product if they have seen tangible proof that your work is fabulous.
  • People are more likely to pay for supplementary content if your free content rocks (think e-books, magazines, etc).
  • Give people something of value to them, whatever that something is (a discount, a sample pack, a great shopping bag — hello, lululemon!) and they are far more likely to purchase from you in the future.
Lesson 3: Objects may be further away than they appear

Anyone who’s ever walked between casinos in Las Vegas knows this one. Hence all the tourists in fanny packs and sneakers.

If you’re like me, you tend to underestimate the time it will take to get something done. “Just 5 more minutes” turns into a half-hour of editing a blog post, or responding to emails. I also overestimate the energy that I will have to devote to projects on an ongoing basis.

  • Budget your time as well as you budget your money.
  • Make sure that you accurately assess the effort it will take to reach your goals, or complete your daily tasks.
  • Pushing to reach the finish line is a great thing, but not if you are exhausted and tapped out in the end.

I’m not an advocate of “slow and steady wins the race”, more like “focused and controlled helps you reach your goals faster”.

Lesson 4: To succeed, you must take risks

You shouldn’t be gambling your life savings away. We’re not even talking huge leaps of faith here, although it could be.

It may be the daily risk of putting yourself out there on your blog. Or the risk of creating a new product line that stretches your business boundaries. Or even something as simple as taking a small capital risk by advertising on a new website or attending a conference.

  • How are you taking risks in your business?
  • What are you doing to invest in your success?
  • Are you committed to your business strategy, even if there are obstacles?

What else can Las Vegas teach us about business?

Chime In

Google Analytics Advanced Segments


I’m sure most if not all of you know about the awesome tool that is Google Analytics.  It’s free, there are multiple wonderful plugins to integrate it with WordPress (I use Yoast’s plugin), and when used correctly, you can track all kinds of interactions with your website.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments

One of the easy features to implement is the Advanced Segment feature.  Advanced Segments require no updates to the Analytics code on your site, only a little bit of configuration within Google Analytics.  I use Advanced Segments for a variety of things, but one important use is to track how readers from a specific referring source interact with your website.

Creating an Advanced Segment

Let’s say I want to see how readers from Pinterest interact with my website. First, log in to Google Analytics and access your website profile. Click on Add Segment.

Google Analytics Advanced Segment Tutorial

Click the red New Segment button and give your segment a name. We’ll call ours “Pinterest Visits”. Select Traffic Sources. In the Source field, leave the condition as “contains” and in the value field type pinterest.com. Click save.

Tutorial on Google Analytics Advanced Segments

Now, navigate back to your Google Analytics dashboard. Click on the Add Segment button again. Search for pinterest, find your recently added segment, and click apply.

Using Advanced Segments

Your Dashboard will now show you how “All Sessions” and “Pinterest Visits” stack up to each other!

Analyzing Data with Advanced Segments

Now to take it even further, let’s say you sell a product and have a checkout page on your site.  If people successfully check out, they are taken to a “thank you” page.  That thank you page represents your sales conversion page.  With Advanced Segments you can now see how many visitors from Pinterest are converting into sales.

Navigate to Behavior » Site Content » All Pages.  In the search field, type /thank-you/ (or the slug of your order success page) and click the magnifying glass. Voila! Data showing you how many sales conversations you received from Pinterest visitors.

Of course, this is also useful for other page views, such as how many visitors are viewing your contact page, and other referring sources, such as external advertising you might purchase. Coming soon, we will talk about Google Analytics Event Tracking and how to combine Event Tracking with Advanced Segments, which is where the real fun comes in!

So have I inspired you to try out Advanced Segments?  How will you apply them to your site analytics?

Chime In

TO TOP