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Three ways to speed up your WordPress website

Do you have a self-hosted WordPress website which is taking a while to load?

This can be a common issue, particularly with self-built WordPress websites using off-the-shelf themes and websites with lots of plugins installed. Here are three things you can do to improve the speed of your WordPress website, courtesy of the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter:

1. Check your WordPress hosting service

Free hosting services tend to have a higher number of websites sharing their resources, meaning your website may be affected by other websites. It’s worth paying a reasonable amount for hosting (even £5 a month) to ensure optimal up-time (the amount of time your website is online for) and for improved website speeds.

For WordPress websites, we recommend hosting companies such as Siteground.

2. Compress your website’s images and photographs

Modern websites often make use of large, hi resolution photography and images to showcase their products and services. They can provide a huge boost to a website’s design, and yet large image file sizes can also have a large impact on your website’s loading speed. Of course, there also isn’t a huge amount of point in having a first class hosting company for your website if your website doesn’t make an effort to minimise the size of images files for your visitors!

Large images are perhaps not such a big deal as they used to be if you’re connected to a modern Internet connection, but many web users use their mobile and tablet devices to browse the web these days, and they may be connected to 3G or 4G connections rather than high speed broadband. We recommend minimising your image file sizes with a WordPress plugin such as Smush It to compress your website’s images and reduce your page load times.

3. Cache your website for extra speed!

By default, each page loaded by a visitor makes a lot of requests to the server to fetch files and content need to create your WordPress website. Caching minimises these requests by creating a single version of your page with all of the information and content it needs to be served as a single file. There are many WordPress plugins which can provide caching for your website, but we recommend the Speed Booster Pack plugin for ease of set up and the results we’ve seen on client websites.

In addition, hosting companies such as Siteground also provide an additional layer of caching which can be beneficial for your website’s site speed; just be sure to test heavily before enabling as this can potentially break some plugin functionality!

Still need help to improve your WordPress website’s speed?

If you’re still in need of help to improve your WordPress website’s loading times, get in touch with the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter; we’re happy to help!

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Questions to ask your next web designer

For businesses of all sizes, commissioning a new website can be a daunting process. A badly built or designed website can damage your business irreparably, but often it can be the smaller details which are missed and create tension between you and your new web design agency.

Here are key questions you can ask prospective web design companies before you commission a new website. They should help you to clarify the services you’re getting, and ensure a smoother transition to your new website for all.

1. What does the website support package offer?

Having a new website designed and built is just one step for most organisations – you may need ongoing support to keep your website secure and up to date. Asking about the website support packages will help you to get a clear idea of what is and isn’t included from your new website design company before you sign on the dotted line!

Ask your prospective web designers:

  • How much website hosting is, and what is included?
    You’ll need website hosting to ensure your website is online (typically annually). You don’t have to use the website hosting your web designer suggests, but every website will have requirements that need to be met.
  • Whether a security certificate (SSL) is included.
    SSL certificates help to secure your website by encrypting information sent between a visitor’s computer and your website. You can now get free certificates via organisations such as Lets Encrypt, though these aren’t necessarily suitable for every type of website and organisation.
  • What do you charge for changes once the website is live?
    Ensure you know what future potential costs are for the next phase of your website plans, such as new features, or amendments to anything you can’t change on your new websites.

2. Can we manage our own website content?

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Content managed websites give you or someone within your company the ability to add and edit content on your website. Without this functionality, you could potentially spend a lot of your marketing budget having small changes to your website’s content over the years, rather than on specific campaigns.

Proprietary versus open source websites

There are hundreds – if not thousands – of content management systems in existence, each designed for a specific purpose. Our general advice, particularly for smaller businesses, is to avoid proprietary content management systems, as these can tie you in to a particular web design agency.

Open source content management systems (such as WordPress and Drupal) offer your web designers a basis to build your website on a platform which doesn’t tie you in to a specific agency. This is because the system running your website is “open source” – ie, free to anyone to use and amend. The benefit of these is:

  • The more popular open source content management systems have a world-wide community of web designers and developers who have experience with the platform, meaning you’re less likely to get tied down to a specific provider.
  • One open source CMS, WordPress, is currently the world’s most popular content management system, and with good reason – it provides a relatively easy administration panel to manage your website’s content, as well as a variety of features in the form of “plugins” which can be added to your website and customised to your needs.
  • Your website’s code is yours once you’ve (subject to the contract with your web design agency, of course! Worth checking).

As a web design established in 2006, Peacock Carter have seen our fair share of content management systems; we now work with the WordPress content management system on a daily basis, which we believe gives us as web designers great control over website functionality and how we build websites, and also gives our clients access to manage their own content.

3. How future proof is my new website?

Website design is quite a fast-paced sector, and technologies can come and go within a few years – or event months! – which could leave you with a website which no longer functions as you expect. Questions worth asking are:

  • How long do you expect this website to last before it requires a full overhaul? The answer can vary quite widely to this. It may be quite possible to have the same website “core” for years – even decades – and simply redesign (sometimes known as “reskin”) the website and refresh the content to keep the website competing with your competitors.
  • Will the website cope with new smartphones and tablet devices as they’re released? (It’s hard to guarantee all of these will work given the huge variety of mobile devices these days, but the core of the website – being able to view content clearly – should be able to function on all devices at a basic level).

If you’d like help commissioning a new website, talk to our web consultants who can put together a comprehensive specification and brief for you to release for RfQ (Request for Quotations).

Tips to make your WordPress website more search engine friendly with Yoast SEO

Three ways to use Yoast SEO plugin to boost your WordPress website’s search engine friendliness

As you may have discovered by now, having a WordPress website probably isn’t enough to start crawling up search engine rankings for relevant phrases for your business; there is a lot of competition out there, and your website will need time and effort to start bringing in new customers.

This handy guide from the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter gives you three ideas on ways to use the popular Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to improve your website’s search engine friendliness.

1. Create an XML sitemap with Yoast SEO

A sitemap provides a list of content on your website, to ensure that search engines were able to find it all to be considered for inclusion in their rankings. These days, search engines are much more adept at finding content, but XML sitemaps can help to ensure – especially for websites with a lot of content – that they are aware of the content.

A XML sitemap does exactly this, in the “XML” format – designed for search engines to read. To enable this feature in Yoast, you will need to specifically enable it under the General Settings > Features screen (documented in the guide linked below).

Yoast SEO has a guide on how to add an XML sitemap for your WordPress website here.

2. Make use of structured data in Yoast

Structured data provides additional information to search engines about your website and your business.

Yoast’s structured data tool takes the form of a wizard, which walks you through the information it requires to add the relevant structured data to your website; see Yoast’s free guide here. Specifically, adding your company name, address, telephone number and logo is recommended to help confirm this information for search engines, and it can sometimes be used to populate Google’s Business Listings, as seen below:

Structured data in search results of WordPress website

Structured data can be used for a huge list of other improvements to search engine friendliness for your website, too, including:

  • Navigational breadcrumbs – great for helping search engines to create a hierarchy of your website’s content
  • Integrating your website’s own search feature in to Google’s search listings

3. Change your page titles with Yoast to be more relevant

By default, most WordPress websites will use the title of the page you have provided as the title of the page for search engines (also known as the meta title). This is usually fine, but Yoast SEO plugin allows you to fine-tune your website’s page titles to be more effective in search engines.

For example, a page with a title of “WordPress training courses” in your website might create a page title of “WordPress Training Courses – Peacock Carter” for search engines, but with Yoast you could amend it to say “WordPress training courses and workshops in the UK – Peacock Carter”, which provides a little more context both for the search engines, and potentially for users who are searching for your products or services.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, try our Yoast SEO workshops.

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5 basic SEO tips for your WordPress website

Many small businesses owners make use of WordPress to power their website – and with good reason – but often forget the basics of making their website search engine friendly.

Here are 5 SEO (search engine optimisation) basics you can review on your WordPress website today to make it easier to search engines to find, interpret, and list (known as “indexing”) your website’s content.

1. Does your WordPress website’s homepage explain what you do, and where?

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised about how many business owners take the basics of explaining their website for granted. Be sure to explain:

  • What your business offers – its services or products (you can go in to more detail about individual services and products on additional pages)
  • Where you serve customers – if you offer a UK-wide service, that’s fine – but it doesn’t hurt to be extra clear!

This not only helps to reassure customers who’ve found you in search engines that they’ve found a company who can do what they want in their area, but also helps search engines understand what your business offers, and where your website might fit in search results for relevant phrases.

A solicitor in Newcastle upon Tyne’s website might use the content:

“We’re a family-run law firm based in Newcastle upon Tyne offering conveyancing, commercial and private legal advice. We work with clients throughout Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham”

An accountancy firm based in Sunderland may use the following:

“123 Accounting provides book-keeping, accountancy and tax advice to businesses and individuals in Sunderland and County Durham.”

If you’re not confident with writing your own content, ask us for recommendations for copywriters who have experience of small business website content!

2. Do your contact details match your (Google) map listings?

Show a physical address on your website, if you can.

If you’ve ever noticed map listings appear for businesses when you search for services near you? You can improve the chances of your WordPress website appearing in Google’s map listings for relevant searches (e.g., “web designers in Newcastle“) by making sure that your Google My Business account (which is free to create) displays the correct phone number, address, and postcode. You can even add your opening hours!

This helps Google to verify your business is legitimate, and also increases your of appearing in front of more potential customers.

3. Do your website’s pages have unique titles?

This is a real SEO fundamental which can often be overlooked on small business websites, even with WordPress’ sensible set up for creating page titles. Your WordPress website’s page title is a key factor for search engines such as Google and Bing.

The page title is separate to the page’s heading, which is also important, but typically visible in the page itself,

WordPress page titles - for SEO website basics


4. Have you used structured data?

Structured data provides additional information to search engines about your website, and your business. Search engines such as Google can then use this to enhance their listings of your website, such as with your business address and contact details:

Structured data in search results of WordPress website

WordPress plugins such as Yoast allow you to do this relatively easily, as well as providing additional features such as navigational breadcrumbs and sitemaps.

5. Register with Webmaster Tools

Finally, it’s worth registering with search engines’ webmaster tools. These can provide some valuable insight in to your website, and highlight issues you may not be aware of:

Both tools are free to register for, and can be a useful tool to maintain your website, from highlighting broken links in your content, to potential malicious/spam links that may occur if your website is breached (see our post on “how to tell if your WordPress website has been hacked“).

You can find slides from my talk at the WordPress North East meetup group in February 2019 here.

If you’d like to learn more about your WordPress website and how it is interpreted by search engines such as Google and Bing, you may find our WordPress website audits and WordPress training courses of use.

Richard Carter, North East web design agency owner. Photo: North East LEP

Proud to be a web design agency in the North East of England

As an web design agency based in the North East of England for the past 11 years, I’m pleased Peacock Carter still retains its North East roots.

I’ve found the North East a great place to be based for business. In particular, I’ve found the digital and creative community in Newcastle to flourish beyond what was already a great community of talented people in Newcastle and the North East, with regular meetups and talks throughout the year. Indeed, I organise two monthly meetups myself, for the WordPress and Magento platforms.

So, when the North East Local Enterprise Partnership enquired about getting me involved in a campaign to retain more graduates of North East universities in the region, I was more than happy to help.

The beginnings of a North East web design agency

The company had humble origins, starting in a bedroom in Durham in 2006. Founded by 2 Durham University students with a passion for website design and development, we quickly moved in to offices in Felling, Gateshead, before making the jump to Newcastle city centre a few years later. The company has changed its focus a little – like any good business! – since we started, and we’re now a very capable web design agency and ecommerce agency.

Today, Peacock Carter works with clients around the region – and throughout the world – and we are proud to remain in the region with our base at Northern Design Centre on Gateshead quayside.

Work, Live and Stay in North East England

My small feature is part of a much wider campaign by the North East LEP to showcase graduates from North East universities (from Newcastle and Northumbria, to Durham, Sunderland and Teesside) who have remained in the region and been able to contribute to its continuing successes.

You can read more from me and my thoughts on staying to live and work in the North East of England in the NELEP’s PDF here.

Signs your WordPress website has been hacked

3 signs your WordPress website has been hacked

Ever had a funny feeling something about your website isn’t quite right? Maybe your WordPress website has been hacked. This guide by the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter gives you an insight in to how you might know.

We’ve been building websites for over 11 years now, and have become adept at noticing signs of hacking in website’s we’re inheriting from clients.

WordPress is a great content management and blogging system for you website, but as with any software, it’s important to keep on top of your website’s security updates. Without these your website can be hacked – accessed without your permission – and content can be harmed.

Hacking can not only leave your website unfunctional, it can harm your hard-earned search engine rankings and effect your business, so it’s important to address issues as quickly as you can.

1. Spam links in your WordPress post & page content

Finding spam links in your WordPress website’s page and post content is a common sign your website has been hacked. Look through your page and post content for links that look out of place.

Sometimes, these spam links are hidden from view in the Visual editor tool in WordPress, and you will need to use the Text editor view at the top-right of the editor panel:

Visual and Text editor views in WordPress

One telling sign your website has been hacked is to search your content for words related to common spam topics: fashion, “rolex watches”, etc. More elaborate content is hidden using inline CSS in your website; using the Text editor view above, you may be able to see this by searching for the word “absolute”.

2. Unusual WordPress user accounts

Check the user accounts who have access to your WordPress website. Navigate to the Users > All Users screen in the WordPress administration panel:


Check your WordPress users if your website has been hacked

If you spot user accounts that should be there, or you don’t remember creating, you may need to delete them (or as your web development agency for help). This is particularly important for accounts which have full WordPress administrator rights.

Reset your own account password, and get any other users with access to the website to reset theirs too.

3. A sudden dip in traffic

As we mentioned above, hacked websites have the potential to lose their search engine rankings as they’re deemed “unsafe” or “unreliable” in search engines. If you have experienced a sudden drop in search engine traffic, it could be due to your WordPress website being hacked (though there are many other causes for this too!). Talk to your WordPress website agency, or your digital marketing company for more advice.

How to clean your WordPress website up

To get your WordPress website back to a clean state after it’s been hacked, approach a reliable WordPress developer (as pure coincidence, that would be us!). You can also take some precautions yourself:

  1. Reset your WordPress administrator account passwords to something secure using a secure password generation tool such as passwordsgenerator.net
  2. Remove any suspicious links or user accounts as soon as you can
  3. Talk to your web developer or web design agency

These are just a guide to some common signs of hacking for your WordPress website. Sometimes, hacking doesn’t leave a trace; please consult an experienced web developer and discuss having a security audit of your website undertaken if you’re unsure.