Website Tips — all blog posts

Our website tips are designed to give you the knowledge to improve your own website, be it for search engines, user experience, or technically.

Peacock Carter are a website design agency established in 2006, and have been building websites in WordPress for over a decade.

Search engine basics for WordPress websites

Jan 2020
SEO basics for WordPress websites at WordPress North East event, Gateshead

We’re presenting a talk at WordPress North East in Gateshead tonight on search engine basics for WordPress websites. Here is a summary of our notes for new WordPress users on making their website search engine worthy.

The talk is entitled “Search engine basics for WordPress websites”, and is designed to cover content for new WordPress website users and small businesses attending the meetup.

What is search engine optimisation?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving and monitoring your website to improve its rankings in search engines. This is typically split in to two categories:

  • Onsite SEO is how your website is built, the content on your website, and the relevance of your content
  • Offsite SEO is external links & references, Google Business listings, (and a few other bits we won’t cover here)

Healthy websites use a mix of both offsite and onsite optimisation.

1. Make sure search engines can find you

One common issue we see with new WordPress websites set up by small businesses is that a fundamental setting preventing search engines such as Google and Bing from indexing (or “reading”) their website’s content. To check this isn’t the case on your WordPress website:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Reading in your WordPress control panel (if you can’t see this setting, you may not have the right permissions – contact your web designer or hosting company if in doubt).
  2. Look for the Search Engine Visibility heading in this setting page.
  3. Ensure that the Discourage search engines from indexing this site box is unchecked – this will mean that search engines aren’t blocked from reading your website.
  4. That’s it!
WordPress - discourage search engines from indexing this site

 

2. Use search engine friendly URLs

A URL is a page address – a place on the web where your content can be read. It’s unique to that page on the web, so website1.com/about is different from website2.com/about.

Good URLs (page addresses):

  1.  Contain relevant words related to the content of the page. Luckily, WordPress does this for you!
  2. Don’t change frequently: to be most effective, the content on the page needs a stable home address (or URL) to be visited at, so pick carefully the first time round and avoid changing your page’s address once it’s published.

For example, cheeseshop.com/about-us is better than cheeseshop.com/?p=123 or cheeseshop.com/page123. To change your WordPress website to friendly URLs:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Permalinks in your control panel.
  2. Under common settings, chose an option other than “Plain“. We recommend either Post name, or Month and name.
  3. Save changes. This may require you to create a .htaccess file; if you’re unsure of how to do that, check WordPress’ guide here, or consult your web designer or hosting company.
Change WordPress website URLs for better SEO

Beware that making this change on an already-launched WordPress website can create issues with search engines so please consult a web designer or digital marketing professional before making any changes.

3. Use relevant, unique page titles

A page (or post) title is one of the major items on your website that a search engine considers when ranking your website.

WordPress page titles for SEO

As the page title is one of the main factors in your onsite optimisation, and gives a strong indication of what your page is about, chose carefully. A good page title:

  • is unique on your website, and, ideally, the whole web!
  • is relevant to the content of the page it describes
  • tends to contain your brand or company name after the descriptor of the page’s content. E.g. “About us | The Cheese Shop” is a better page title than “About us”. Most WordPress themes will add your website’s name to the end of the page title anyway.

4. Keep your WordPress content relevant and well-written

Similarly to page titles, the content you provide for each page on your WordPress website has an effect on where search engines rank you. Here is some general guidance for page content:

  • A minimum of around 300 words is a good target to aim for.
  • Ensure page content is written in full prose (ie, full sentences) for the most part, though use of bullet points can be effective. The important thing is that the content makes sense to human visitors to your website.
  • Make use of headings (Heading 2, Heading 3 etc) within WordPress to help break longer page content in to sections.
  • Link to other relevant content in your website (see Internal links, below), and other websites too (so long as they’re not competing with you).

5. Use internal links in your WordPress content

An internal link is a link to a page or post in your own website. Adding these are natural points within your website pages’ content can help boost the relevance of phrases on other pages. Good page links:

  • Use relevant anchor text (the text that is used to link to another page). E.g., “click here” isn’t a good anchor text as it’s very vague, whilst using “
  • Don’t go overboard! A few links in relevant places in your content can be much more effective than tens – or hundreds – of links!

6. Use image alt text in WordPress

Alt text – or alternative text – provides a text description of images within content. When images are relevant to the content, this can help SEO. Luckily, WordPress makes it easy to add alt text for your images; when inserting an image with the Insert Media tool in WordPress, look for the Alt Text field; add a brief description of the image you’re inserting there, and click the Insert image button. You’re done!

Adding alt text for images for WordPress SEO

7. Pick your WordPress theme carefully

If you’re using free or cheap WordPress themes, you will need to chose carefully to avoid having an impact on your website’s SEO. A good WordPress theme:

  • is mobile-friendly (responsive)
  • uses good, search-engine friendly HTML. This is a lot harder to spot if you’re not familar with the world of web design and development. If you need advice about a WordPress theme, approach your web designer, or ask in a WordPress user group’s discussion area for opinions from those with more experience. Alternatively, if you have the budget available, consult a local web designer with WordPress experience.

8. Install a good WordPress SEO plugin

WordPress SEO - Yoast plugin

Yoast is a popular SEO plugin for WordPress websites, and provides a range of tools for free to help improve your website’s search engine worthiness. In particular, the Yoast SEO plugin:

  • can create XML sitemaps, which search engines can use to better understand and index your website with.
  • allow you to use breadcrumbs to help search engines better understand the hierarchy of content within your WordPress website. This can be particularly beneficial if you have a lot of content on your website.
  • can add structured data for Knowledge Graph, which can add and confirm your business’ contact details and addresses, so as in the box on the right-hand side in the screenshot below:Structured data in search results of WordPress website

9. Monitor and refine your website over time

There’s not much use in optimising your website if you’re not monitoring and refining your website over time. There are two free tools you can use to help you with this:

Both of these options are free to use (at a basic level, at least), and provide visitor data and other insights about your website. WordPress plugins exist for both; if you’re new to the world of websites, I would suggest that Jetpack is probably the first one to try as it is WordPress specific, and easier on the eye!

10. Pick a good website hosting company

Finally, a good website hosting company can help in a few ways:

  • ensuring your website is performing at a good speed. There are also many WordPress performance plugins available – a source of enough content for several more talks, I suspect!
  • Adding a security certificate to your website. This is a recommendation from Google and has been for some time now, and free SSL certificates are available through organisations like Lets Encrypt.
    SSL certificate for WordPress websites

Need more help with WordPress and your website’s SEO?

If you’d like to improve your knowledge of WordPress and SEO, we run some 1 to 1 and small group training courses for WordPress and Introductory SEO.

A copy of the slides from the event is available online here.

Our predictions for web design trends in 2020

Oct 2019
WordPress page titles - for SEO website basics

As a web design agency founded in 2006, we know that website design trends change all of the time, and not always for the best. Here are Peacock Carter’s predictions for web design trends for 2020.

Asymmetric web designs

Asymmetrical website designs are one trend we may see more of in 2020 – typically, modern website designs are built from a grid which translates to both mobile and desktop versions of a website; moving away from this grid it’s possible to create more visually interesting content.

The trade off with the use of asymmetric website design is whether this can render content harder to read for your visitors, and whether it impinges the easy navigation of your website.

Bold, simple colours

The use of simpler blocks of colour has been around for some time, but we think it may be due to make a come back for websites in 2020. The benefits of bold simple colours for website design are more impact visually, though there’s potential for issues with contrast making content inaccessible for a small or larger portion of your website’s visitors.

More animation on websites

Historically, websites have been fairly static in nature, serving content to visitors interested in certain topics, products or services. Animation techniques came along, and in the “MySpace” era of the web, animation was done to death, with big, in-your-face sequences distracting from websites’ true purposes – to see your product or service.

We think web animation is likely to make more of a come back again in 2020, with subtler animations introduced – we’re seeing this already on some websites built in the last year or so. With mobile traffic accounting for around 50% – or more! – of web traffic in many industries, modern animation techniques such as CSS animation can be coupled with older techniques like GIFs to create a mobile-friendly experience for visitors.

As with any animation use on your website, beware of overuse – less is more! – as they can become distracting to your visitors.

Of course, one of the things that makes web design so enjoyable is that things change rapidly, so no doubt 2020’s web design trends will end up looking very different to our predictions above!

If you’re looking to update your website design in 2029, get in touch with Peacock Carter – your Newcastle web design agency!

Three ways to speed up your WordPress website

May 2019
WordPress logo

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!

Questions to ask your next web designer

Apr 2019
WordPress web development agency

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?

WordPress logo

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).

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

Mar 2019
Tips to make your WordPress website more search engine friendly with Yoast SEO

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.