business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros
All Posts in Category: Blogging + Websites

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?

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First Impressions


With our lives moving at an incredibly fast pace and our attention spans becoming ever more diminished, your website’s first impression is becoming increasingly important. Did you know that the average user forms an opinion about your site in 50 milliseconds? Or that the majority of readers spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage? So, as website owners, our challenge is to make a good first impression, and keep our content sticky.

Website First Impressions

Lettering: KELLY CUMMINGS

How do you make a good first impression with your website?

A website’s first impression for me is all about the layout. The menu bar tells the whole story – it is where I like to see a blog’s main topics. From there, I like to be able to use tags to quickly find my way around to what I’m looking for.
Julianne Smith

I’m a self-professed design and lifestyle blog junkie. The first thing I notice about a site is the layout, design and photography. A blog that makes a great first impression has a simple, pretty layout that is easy to read and pleasing to the eye and showcases great photography. If one or the other is off I’m not likely to return.
Cyd Converse

What do these answers have in common? They both form their feelings about a site at the first moment they see it. If it’s cluttered, difficult to navigate, or not appealing to their eye, they aren’t likely to stick around. They may not have read a word and yet they are ready to leave.

Here are a few things that, as a reader, give me a great first impression:

  • A clean, easy to follow, cohesive design
  • Fast loading of information
  • Quick access to relevant information
  • An immediate clue about the blog’s main focus

And some things that make me click away:

  • Difficult to follow navigation, or a large amount of clicks to get the information I’m looking for
  • Music
  • High-resolution photos that take several seconds to load
  • Distracting elements, such as pop-up windows or flashing ads
What do you think makes people come back?

These are the things that keep me reading when I visit a new blog: clean layout, unique design that says who they are, good grammar, content that is obviously written with a wider audience than one’s family in mind, and posts that aren’t consistently about the banal things in life. The one exception to the banality rule? Those who can write about the mundane and make me laugh. If you’re one of those few genuinely funny people out there you can write about putting the groceries away or retrieving the mail from the mailbox and I’ll still keep reading.
Jenna Cole

Jenna is a reader that truly wants to engage with a blog author. If you are a follower of her blog, this won’t surprise you, as her own blog is personal and she has built a wonderful community with her readers.

Being personal isn’t just for “personal blogs”. If you are in the wedding industry, you no doubt know the name Lara Casey. Lara’s site and social profiles promote her business, but also gives potential clients and industry readers a window into who she is as an individual. She is branding herself as much as she is branding her talent, and people want to connect with her, as well as connect with her work.

A few things that keep me as a reader coming back to a blog:

  • Consistent, informational posts
  • Unique content, especially written with a distinctive point of view
  • Posts that start me thinking—this could be a post about business philosophy or beautiful inspiration photos

What resonates with you when you read a blog for the first time? What makes you return for more?

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You Need a Test Site


Big red flashing word of warning!

Be super-careful when you are following these instructions and be very sure not to edit the web server or database for your actual website!  Always be sure that you have backed up your database and web server before doing this, just in case.

You need a test site.

Creating a WordPress Test Site

Photo: © Studio Firma / Stocksy

So how do you set up a test site for your WordPress blog?  First, purchase a separate domain name (anything works) and set it up for hosting.  Then, take the following steps to copy your production site (the techie term for your user-visited website) to your test site.

If you are using VaultPress, you can use their automated restore to a new site feature. However, if you have a large number of uploads, the restore will take a bit of time.

Let’s say your production site is www.mycookingsite.com/blog and your test site is www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Step 1: Copy your web server
  1. FTP the following files and folders from www.mycookingsite.com/blog/ to your computer or hard drive Note that I’m ignoring your wp-content/uploads folder, as there is really no need to upload your image library):
    • wp-admin
    • wp-content/themes
    • wp-content/plugins
    • wp-content/upgrade
    • wp-content/index.php
    • wp-includes
  2. On your computer or hard drive, delete the plugin folder for Jetpack if you have it enabled.  This is to insure that you do not confuse the WordPress stat engine when you create your test site.
  3. FTP all of the individual files that are at the same level as the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes folder to your computer or hard drive.
  4. FTP all of the files from your computer or hard drive into www.mytestsite.com/blog/.

You’ve now made a copy of everything on your web server except your images (no need to have these on your test site).

Step 2: Copy your database

If you are using VaultPress:

  1. Navigate to your Backups.
  2. View your most recent backup.
  3. Click the Download button and select only the Database.
  4. Prepare backup and wait for VaultPress to email you with the link to your backup.
  5. You will receive a gzip file containing your database tables.

Non-VaultPress Option:

  1. Download the nifty WordPress Database Backup plugin.
  2. Go to Tools » Backup and run a backup of your entire database.

Step 3: Import your database

  1. Create a new SQL database through your web hosting company.
  2. Through your web hosting company, there should be a service called phpMyAdmin.  Log into phpMyAdmin using the username and password for your database.
  3. Select your newly-created database in phpMyAdmin and click on the “Import” tab.
  4. Browse for your backup file, be sure that the format selected is “SQL”, and click Go.
Step 4: Update your test database’s WordPress options
  1. In phpMyAdmin, click on your test database, and the table wp_options (or wp_xxxxxx_options).  BE SURE YOU ARE IN YOUR TEST DATABASE.
  2. Find the option name “siteurl”.
  3. Click the pencil on the siteurl line to edit the information.
  4. Change the siteurl to your test site.
Step 5: Update your wp-config file
  1. In FTP, navigate to the root of your TEST WordPress installation.  In our example this would be www.mytestsite.com/blog.
  2. Open the file called wp-config.php
  3. Change the values for DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD to your test database information.
Step 6: Validate
  1. Visit www.mytestsite.com/blog/wp-admin and log into your test site.  You will log in with the same username and password as your production site.
  2. Verify that your test site is visible at www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Voila!  A perfect copy of your blog.  Use your test site to edit your theme, install new plugins to play with, develop new functionality, test upgrades of WordPress or plugins, etc before applying the changes in production.

A few notes:

  • If you aren’t on WordPress, but instead have an HTML website, you should still have a test site.  Simply FTP the files from your web server to your computer, and then FTP back up to your new domain.
  • Your web hosting provider should also allow you to easily password-protect your test site’s domain.
  • You should also read the WordPress Codex articles about Restoring Your Database From Backup and phpMyAdmin.

Edited To Add: See comments below for some reasons why you need a test site – this can include changes to your WP theme, or testing out plugins and new functionality, and creating new page templates – and also a shortcut method that doesn’t involve a whole backup of your production site.

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Setting Up Your Server


After your domain name has been registered and you’ve chosen a hosting provider, the first thing that you will want to do is create email addresses.  A few addresses you may want to add:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

You can choose to manage these email accounts through your hosting company’s email interface or manage the account through your personal internet email address or with Outlook.  I manage my blog email addresses through my personal Gmail account.  If you would like to do the same, visit Settings ? Accounts and Import in Gmail.  Choose ‘Send mail from another address’ and follow the prompts.

Your hosting provider should also give you instructions for setting up your first FTP user (if one was not already set up for you).

What is FTP?

FTP, or file transfer protocol, is the way that you upload and download files from your server.  Your hosting provider will give you access to a web FTP program that is good in a pinch, but to get the full power of FTP I recommend downloading one of the several free FTP programs available.  I personally use Core FTP, which you can download for free here.  In essence, what this program allows you to do is to transfer files back and forth from your computer to your server with one click.

To log in to your FTP program you will need the following information:

  • Host Name – a host name can be either your server name, your website address, or your IP address.  For ease, let’s use your website address.  So, my host name would be editandpost.com
  • Username – this is specified either by your hosting company or by you within your hosting company’s interface.
  • Password – also specified by you or your hosting company during setup.

The port for log in is typically 21 (verify with your hosting provider).  Your connection type is FTP.

Once you’ve logged in to your FTP program you should see a screen that looks a bit like this:

Core FTP Screenshot

Now you’re ready to rock and roll with FTP, you have email, and your server is a blank slate. Next in this series, we’re ready to install WordPress!

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Servers and The Basics of Hosting


Now that you’ve taken the preliminary steps of designing your blog and purchased your domain name(s), it’s time to select a hosting solution.  If you have a website for your business already, you likely already have a web hosting provider and either space on a server or your own server. If you are setting things up for the first time, you will contract with your chosen web hosting provider who will allot you website space on a server and set you up with a FTP (file transfer protocol – this is the way you upload and download files from your server) account.

Servers and Hosting

Photo: © F.Schmidt / Shutterstock
What are the basics of hosting and which type is right for me?

Basics: A server is essentially a large computer that is held in a hosting provider’s data center. Your hosting plan determines how much of the server your account “owns”. There are three main types of hosting services: shared server, virtual private server, and private server.

Shared Server: The most economical option.  Your website is hosted on a server along with multiple other websites.  The hosting provider that you choose will set limits for your account so that you do not overload the server and cause the rest of your server’s websites to go down.  This option is great for those of you just getting started, as the memory and bandwidth that you will be provided is likely sufficient for your needs.  However, if you expect several thousand visitors per day (at peak times), you may experience slowness with shared server hosting and your web host even has the ability to take your site down to steady the server.

Best for: Just getting started; Non-complex sites; Static websites (non-blogs); Sites without a rush of traffic at peak times

Virtual Private Server: Picture a server as a packing box for glassware.  You get the space for one glass and share the box with multiple other glasses.

The server is partitioned off so that you have full control over only your piece.  No other website can touch your area of the server, and vice versa.  Advantage: your own place to play, guaranteed server resources up to your partition’s cap.  Disadvantage: you can’t take advantage of the resources that the other partitions aren’t using like you can with the shared server.

Best for: I personally don’t recommend VPS hosting.  I tried it for a while and was completely unimpressed.  In for a penny in for a pound, I say, and if I’m spending money and getting dedicated resources, I’d rather have…

Private (Dedicated) Server: Your very own home for your website.  With dedicated hosting, you will have full control over your entire server.  There are differences between private server plans, so you should do your homework and speak with potential hosting companies to see where your website fits in with their offerings.  Be sure to know:

  1. Exactly what type of server you will receive and how much horsepower it has
  2. The level of support you receive from the hosting provider
  3. What you will be charged for (bandwidth, number of databases, disc usage, FTP accounts, etc)

Best for: High-traffic websites, those who want lots of control over their site and the resources it consumes.

Which hosting company is right for me?

As I’ve previously mentioned, each of my domains are registered with DreamHost, but my hosting is with LiquidWeb. I have a dedicated server. LiquidWeb is the third hosting provider that I’ve used, and I could not be more pleased with their service. Real, live people pick up the phone, ya’ll! They are incredibly responsive, my move over from my previous hosting provider was painless, and I experience very few issues. No hosting company is perfect, but LiquidWeb was recommended to me by a trusted friend, and I have personally recommended LiquidWeb to other bloggers who have also experienced the same stellar service.

I also know bloggers who use and enjoy Bluehost, though I have no experience with them.

Managed hosting providers

There are several commonly-used managed hosting providers, such as WP Engine and Synthesis. Managed hosting providers typically offer standard pricing plans, with certain levels falling under either shared, VPS, or dedicated server hosting. The benefit of a managed hosting provider is that their servers and architecture are optimized for WordPress. The downside is that some plugins and other functionality are disabled by default. Many plans also place limits on bandwidth transfer, storage space, and the number of WordPress installations you can run on your account. WP Beginner has a great article on managed WordPress hosting, which I highly recommend that you read if you’re thinking of going this route.

For experienced website owners: what type of hosting do you use and what hosting companies do you recommend? Have you had good experiences with Virtual Private Servers? If you have a high traffic site, when did you switch to a dedicated server, or, have you been able to stick with shared hosting and save money?

Coming up in this series: Setting Up Your Server, Installing WordPress

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