9 Top Plugins To Speed Up WordPress

It was reported by Search Engine Land that Google officially counts the loading speed of your website as a ranking factor – and of course we all want to rank better so what next?

Speed is not just important for search engines however, it is just as important for user experience.

Ensuring that the user experience of visitors to your website is as good as possible should be the motivation behind improving your websites loading time.

For example, a study by tagman.com revealed that a one second delay in your website loading could potentially cause a loss of 7% in conversions.

Further statistics from econsultancy.com reinforce the importance of optimising the loading speed of your website. For example:

  • 47% of people expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less
  • 40% of visitors will navigate away from a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • 52% of people state that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site

Those of us that use WordPress are in a unique position as there are developers out there that have taken the hard work out of optimising WordPress and bundled up their hard work into easy install plugins so even the not so tech savvy amongst us can speed up our websites.

We have pulled together our favourites in a list for you below and what makes these even better is that they are all free!

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache has a great set of features balanced with real ease of use.

The developers have managed to find the difficult to find middle ground between being too basic and being too advanced.

Simply install and activate the plugin, run through the well explained settings and then hit save. That’s it – you’re ready to go.

With over 300,000 installs with fantastic reviews we are not the only ones who like this plugin.

Features:

  • Easy setup
  • One click to clear cache and /or minified CSS etc.
  • Minify HTML and CSS
  • Exclude posts/pages (some like admin area excluded by default)
  • Set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings
  • CDN integration
  • Premium version available with extra features

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-fastest-cache/

Cache Enabler

The team at KeyCDN have developed a great light-weight caching plugin that takes minutes to setup.

It’s sparse on features but that is the point of the plugin however you do have minification options and the ability to set cache expiry time.

They also provide an excellent sister plugin called CDN Enable for those of you who require a CDN. The same principles apply to this plugin too – light-weight and easy to setup.

Features:

  • Simple setup
  • One click to clear cache
  • Set cache behaviour
  • Minification feature
  • Exclude posts from cache
  • Set expiration times

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/cache-enabler/

WP Super Cache

Straight from Automattic (the guys behind WordPress) this is probably the most widely used caching plugin.

With over 1 million active installs it must be doing something right!

It works straight out of the box with its easy setup but it also has some settings and features for more advanced users to tweak and play with to get more performance from the plugin.

Features:

  • Support for multiple caching types (Mod_Rewrite, PHP and Legacy)
  • Serve static html files
  • Cache preload
  • CDN support

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/

W3 Total Cache

This is another of the “big boys” of the caching plugin playground with over 1 million installs. It goes beyond just a simple caching plugin however, it’s a complete framework.

There are a huge array of options available and advanced support for CDN services such as CloudFlare and MaxCDN.

All these features whilst very powerful are not the easiest to setup and if you are not entirely sure of what you can break something. This is definitely one that should be left to advanced users.

Features:

  • CDN Support
  • Browser caching
  • Database caching
  • Object caching
  • Minifying
  • And lots more

https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

WP Super Minify

The idea behind minifying is that you remove all the whitespace from the text inside your JavaScript and CSS files and then join them all together so they can be served to visitors in a way they reduces webpage loading times.

Whilst on the face of it these types of plugins are very easy to use you do need to be careful as they can cause conflicts with particular themes and plugins. The Enfold and Avada themes are ones that spring to mind.

Features:

  • Minifies JavaScript, CSS and HTML
  • Option to disable compression of CSS and JavaScript
  • Very straight forward and easy to use.

https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-minify/

Better WordPress Minify

This plugin has an advantage over other minifying plugins as it uses something called the ‘enqueueing system’ within WordPress.

This allows you to specify where your CSS and JS files are loading which helps overcome the “render blocking JavaScript” errors that you will have seen when carrying out page speed tests.

Features:

  • Complete control over the minification process
  • Customise minify strings
  • Available in multiple languages

https://wordpress.org/plugins/bwp-minify/

WP Smush-It

Image optimisation is essential when considering webpage loading times. Many people upload images to WordPress at high resolutions which are not suitable for being loaded over the internet.

This plugin uses optimises your images by removing unnecessary bytes from images using something called a lossless format. The lossless format can make a significant difference in file size but you will not be able to notice any difference in the image quality.

 

Features:

  • Strips unnecessary bytes from images
  • Strips meta data from JPEG’s (this isn’t needed anyway)
  • Optimizing JPEG compression
  • Integrates with the Smush.it API

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/

BJ Lazy Load

When someone visits your website their browser will try to load the entire page i.e. parts of the page that below the fold and are not visible until the visitor scrolls down.

If you website has lots of images this can be a big issue with loading times.

In reality your browser doesn’t need to load the whole page and this plugin implements the idea of ‘lazy loading’

Lazy loading is the process of only loading specific elements as and when they are needed and it can have a significant impact on loading times.

Features:

  • Replaces post images, Gravatar images and post thumbnails
  • Replaces content iframes with a placeholder until content needs to load
  • Plugin uses jQuery to operate
  • Serves scaled down images with responsive designs

http://wordpress.org/plugins/bj-lazy-load/

P3 Plugin Profiler

The extendable nature of WordPress through plugins is not only one of its key benefits it can also be one of its key hindrances.

There is a plugin for virtually anything you can think of and even this blog is telling you to install more plugins but all these plugins can have an impact on the loading times of your website.

The P3 Plugin Profiler is probably the best thing that GoDaddy has ever come up with (this is the one and only time we will praise GoDaddy).

It shows you in graphical form the impact all your installed plugins and theme are having on your load times and allows you to pinpoint the ones that are making you website run slowly.

Features:

  • View a full profile of the impact your plugins and theme have on your site
  • Option to use your IP address
  • Debug mode in case you run into any issues
  • Various visualisations and charts
  • Detailed timeline view
  • Optional feature allows the report to be emailed

http://wordpress.org/plugins/p3-profiler/

If you have been struggling with website loading times installing just a few of these plugins should show you a dramatic improvement.

We do need to stress however that you shouldn’t just install all the plugins on the list and expect a superfast website. You are more likely to actually crash your website!

You should remember that less is more when it comes to WordPress plugins and just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We would love to hear your feedback on this list and of course if you think we have missed any let us know!

Tackling Negative SEO

Protecting your business or online presence from negative SEO should be an important part of your overall online marketing strategy. Unfortunately it is a malicious practice that is becoming more common as the web continues to expand and can have a huge negative impact on your SEO efforts. In some cases, it’s difficult to prevent negative SEO entirely, but there are still ways to pro-actively combat it.

What Exactly is Negative SEO?

In a nutshell, negative SEO involves the use of blackhat techniques with the sole purpose of sabotaging a website’s search engine rankings; most commonly against a competitor. Some of the techniques involved include:

  • Populating negative reviews to influence search engine ratings
  • Link farms
  • Content scraping
  • Hacking
  • Spam link building

There are also a number of on-site negative SEO practices linked to hacking, such as infecting your site with bad keywords in large quantities, quite commonly focused around pharmaceuticals – not too different from those spammy emails we all receive!

An example of the negative SEO services offered on certain freelance websites!

The most shocking part about negative SEO is how mainstream and available it has become. Certain freelance sites even include adverts selling negative SEO services claiming to be able to sabotage your competitors’ rankings for about the price of a Starbucks Vanilla Latte.

As you can probably see, most of these negative SEO tactics revolve around mass backlinks from unscrupulous websites, so it is important that you know how to check your backlinks and filter out those that are ‘spammy’.

Your first port of call should be Google Search Console, which provides free backlink data. This can give you a general idea of the types of inbound links to your website, but unfortunately doesn’t go too deep into their properties. You will also have to export this data if you want to make much use of it – still, it’s entirely free to use.

If you want to get serious about backlinks, though, you can invest in a premium tool that will offer much more insight. SEMrush is an excellent choice as it not only allows you to monitor backlinks effectively but is also a great tool for keyword research, competitor analysis and much, much more. In fact, it’s a tool we can’t live without here at Soar Online and you can always try it out for a 30 day free trial to see if it’s your cup of tea.

Whatever your tool of choice, the plan of action will generally be the same. When you have identified the culprits, you will be able to export this list as a .txt file and submit it to Google’s disavow tool. Google will then ‘ignore’ these links moving forward, but they also suggest you don’t simply rely on the disavow tool entirely. We recommend you enable Google Search Console Notifications in order to receive email notifications regarding broken and spammy links.

Have you been hit by a negative SEO attack?

Whether you’re sure you’ve been targeted, or if you’re interested to know what your backlink demographic looks like, we’d be happy to take a look for you.

Semantics & SEO

As we have discussed many times, search engines’ goals are to serve their customers with the most relevant answers to their search queries, so in order for your content to be the most relevant it can be, you have to optimise for a broad variety of contexts. A quick Google search of the word semantics gives us the following definition:

“the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.”

How Semantics Affects Search

Search engines have evolved over the years enough to have a significant amount of knowledge regarding the semantics of natural language, context, user behaviour and the relationships between words. This means they can quite easily determine:

  • What a website is about
  • The relevance a website has to certain search queries
  • The value of the website compared to others

This means that, while a number of keywords may seem unrelated to one another, they can be strongly connected if given a context.

Optimising Your Content Semantically

With the correct use of synonyms, concept matching and natural language processing, you can ensure your content is interpreted in the right context by search engines, resulting in SERPs that are relevant, interactive and personalised for the end user.

Ensure your content is relevant, full of variety and distributed as efficiently as possible:

  • Do plenty of research into keywords and competitors
  • Think about user intent and user experience; make sure your content is useful
  • Research online communities and topics in order to find questions to target
  • Build relevant internal and external links
  • Distribute your content to platforms relevant to your target audience
  • Include semantic markup
  • Monitor and analyse your performance and targets regularly

Gone are the days when individual keywords are the be-all and end-all of SEO. The web is evolving, as are search engines, and as technology becomes smarter our SEO strategies must keep up.

Is Your Content Optimised Semantically?

Are you unsure if your content is using semantic optimisation? Use our quick contact form below for a free analysis.

4 SEO Projects That Are Scalable

Scalable projects can ensure you are getting the most out of your search engine optimisation budget and can help boost your organic SEO performance across the board. They require monitoring and direction from management, to ensure that SEO is the main priority for all aspects of marketing, but they can yield excellent results for your online presence.

Whilst individual page optimisation may have been your bread-and-butter SEO strategy, it restricts your results to that particular page. If you were to use scalable SEO, however, your efforts can be amplified across every single page on your website for much more widespread results. This can prove particularly useful if you need to show evidence that SEO can produce results, or if you need results faster.

Scalable SEO will have a larger impact, and therefore be easier to measure, but it can prove difficult to filter down to what particular projects or actions produced or contributed the most to those results.

Here are a few examples of Scalable SEO projects:

1. Modifying Default Title Tags

Title tags are very influential to the SEO of a page and have been for a long time. Title tags are usually populated with a default formula if a custom title tag hasn’t been specified manually. If you find yourself with duplicate or stale and un-optimised title tags, take some time to modify the defaults for your templates to give your pages a fairly easy boost.

2. Update Your Page Templates

Themes and templates are often built for aesthetics as opposed to having a solid SEO foundation. A few tweaks can often prove very effective, and will improve the performance of each page using that template. Use of schema code / structured data and accurate H1 tags will have significant positive impacts on your pages.

3. Minimise Duplicate Content

We’ve covered the subject numerous times, so stop it! Duplicate content creates a bad user experience, and a bad user experience is a no-go in Google’s eyes. Use 301 redirects to point duplicate pages to their main source, for starters. Also ensure that your domain is either HTTP or HTTPS, not both!

4. Manage Page Speeds

AS we mentioned, Google likes a good user experience, and a quick website makes for a happy user. Ensure your images are optimised for filesize and keep your website free from code bloat to help this. If you need to take it a step further, try using a caching plugin for a quick boost.

Google AI’s Affect On The Financial Services Sector

Google’s advancing AI technology continues to improve search results, but it has had an impact on how financial services have to conduct their SEO strategies. According to research, financial brands must get even smarter with their SEO and can’t simply rely on widely-used content and search engine optimisation practices, but rather they must implement more industry-specific SEO strategies. This is because RankBrain means that Google can better understand user intent and serve more industry-specific and relevant content to its users.

It is suggested that financial service brands are under more pressure to adopt semantic SEO practices and avoid keyword chasing at all costs. Repeating keywords makes for unnatural content and Google will be far more likely to reward websites that offer user to understand, relevant content instead.

According to the research results, financial services websites tend to use far less imagery and navigational elements. This is to allow users to focus on the text content of the page and offers far less distractions when the user is looking to make an important decision. This also contributes to a fast page load time.

Linkedin is a great source of interaction and traffic for websites in the financial sector. According to research they have 70% more social signals from Linkedin, while only having a fifth as many Facebook interactions than the benchmark average. It’s safe to say that Linkedin is a potent channel for financial discussions.

In summary, the financial sector in particular is under pressure to adopt more organic SEO strategies based on rich, highly-relevant content. While there is no direct relation between Linkedin interaction and Google rankings, it’s also interesting to note that Linkedin is a popular platform for those involved in discussions surrounding the financial services sector and financial websites that currently rank highly are also very popular on this platform.

Content Distribution Is The Real King

Many businesses focus on developing quality, original content and whilst this is a huge step in the right direction, what use is good content if nobody sees it? All of your resource has gone into putting content together, but there is a key step missing – the distribution. Let’s get your hard work seen by the masses!

The old school “80/20 rule” comes in to play quite effectively here; spend 20% of your time creating your content and 80% of your time distributing it to your audience. The web is becoming more and more saturated with content; practically anyone can write a blog and have it online within minutes, so it’s important to put resource into promoting, sharing and distributing your content effectively. But how?

Give yourself a detailed breakdown of the content you plan on creating by using a ‘content calendar’; take a step into the realm of content marketing as opposed to just “creating content”!

-It’s important to lay out what and when you are going to publish your content; the theme, title, date, keywords, whether it will be an infographic, a survey or an interview etc

-Determine the amount of time you’ll need to put into your content – give yourself a deadline

-Who is going to create the content? Yourself, a colleague or an external copywriter?

-Will you be linking to other sources? What URLs will you be including?

-What channels will you be distributing to? Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin? What specific content will you be using on each of these channels as to not create duplicate content?

The list can go on and on, and you may find that you tailor your content calendar to your particular goals and projects; regardless, just by laying out specifics of your content strategy you are heading in the right direction. Use Google Docs, Manifesto or Hubspot (to name but a few) to create your content calendar and away you go.

When it comes to creating engagement, once your content is ready, there’s much more to do than just post it out on your company Facebook or Twitter page. There’s no sitting back and waiting in this game! Roll your sleeves up and get stuck in to the realms of content distribution.

A rather untapped resource in the grand scheme of things is Quora; a platform that is filled with questions and answers. If you find a question that relates perfectly to the topic of your content, post an answer with a link to your blog or page. Get involved in discussions, or post your own questions.

Inbound.org is another resource, particularly useful for bloggers. It can take some time to build your audience, but it is worth it. Comment, post and share your own content along with other author’s posts and gradually build up your reach via their unique ‘karma’ system. If successful enough, you may find that Inbound post your article in their weekly newsletter as well.

A golden oldie, Email Marketing is still a very effective form of content distribution. Even if you simply place a link in your email signature to your latest piece of content, you’ll be encouraging people to read and share.

The list goes on and there are many articles and resources out there for further tips regarding content distribution. Just remember – creating the content is just the first step, delivering it to your intended audience is 80% of the work!

Why Duplicate Content is Bad

If you’ve dabbled in SEO at any time, or spoken to anyone who has, you’ve probably heard about duplicate content. This is content that appears the same across multiple URLs and whilst sometimes unintentional, it can also be malicious in an attempt to manipulate search results. Either way, duplicate content can have a severe negative impact on SEO and your website in general.

Duplicate content has a negative impact on user experience, and a good user experience is exactly what Google aims to offer its customers. If users are pointed to the same content over and over again, rather than fresh content that is relevant to their search queries, it can be frustrating and thus creates a poor user experience.

Indexing your website will also become increasingly difficult. If multiple pages are populated with the same content, keywords and images, search engines won’t be able to determine which version to index and which to exclude.

Google also states:

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

So if you have duplicate content on your website for the purpose of black-hat techniques and manipulating your search rankings, you may find that your website will be removed from Google’s index. If not, it may just be the case that your original content will rank higher than the duplicate, but your overall domain ranking won’t be affected.

It is important to have quality, original content across your website. This provides a good user experience and ensures that you have the best possible chance of ranking highly on search engines, particularly if Google has no reason to think that you are attempting to manipulate search results with black-hat strategies. If you are struggling, take some time to to read Google’s Quality Guidelines to see precisely what falls into the realms of ‘quality content’ in the Big G’s eyes.

The Importance Of An In-House SEO

SEO has evolved dramatically over recent years and covers a much larger spectrum than before, with influence on user experience, content marketing, design and development. It has become a requirement to have your business online if you want to fully utilise your market yet a lot of businesses continue to outsource their SEO projects as opposed to hiring an in-house specialist on a permanent basis. But is it worth it to hire a dedicated individual to manage your SEO?

SEO specialists, as mentioned continue to expand their skillset to lend aid in many different aspects of marketing; more importantly to achieve harmony between teams and departments in a business to fully maximise marketing potential. For example; an SEO can drive masses of traffic to a website, but that traffic isn’t of much use if they aren’t converted by a well-trained sales team!

In order to be effective, a Company needs to hire an experienced SEO who understands how online activity affects current company processes and can analyse the current online landscape relevant to the industry. Innovation is important; staying ahead of the crowd rather than catching up to trends. An in-house SEO expert should be able to integrate into company processes and ethics and better understand where the company is heading, and what it should be striving for. Any good SEO worth his salt will set you back circa £40,000 a year in wages, and many of them may only focus on SEO without expanding into other areas of online marketing.

An SEO agency may be a wiser choice for your marketing budget and, in fact, an effective strategy can be to have a dedicated in-house SEO coupled with an agency for the ultimate marketing dream-team! Your in-house SEO expert will be far better placed to brief an agency on strategy, realistic KPIs and company objectives. They will also have the knowledge to discuss technical limitations and assist with the execution of strategies. This alleviates the need for the agency to spend months researching before they even begin to put their project into practice.

To summarise, an in-house SEO expert is extremely effective; but only if you have the right candidate. They should be able to stay ahead of the curve, learn new technologies quickly and be versatile in the digital landscape.

It is important, therefore, that as a manager or business owner, you are educated in what to look for in a good candidate as well as how to monitor their successes once hired. After all, your revenue generated from online activity relies on your search positions and your search positions are reliant on your SEO expert. Simply put, your SEO expert will be responsible for how profitable and successful your online activity will be, so it is extremely important to be able to audit the results and effectiveness of their labour. For example, they may be generating more traffic to your website and thus more sales, but at the cost of a hefty PPC budget that could otherwise be spent on a specialist SEO agency that is better skilled to increase your organic rankings instead. At Soar Online we offer SEO training courses that cover a wide range of topics suitable for both in-house SEO analysts that need to brush up on their knowledge and business owners looking to “be in the know”.

PPC & Fraudulent Clicks

In the world of online marketing, Click Fraud is a pretty big deal. Not only can it put a dent in your profits it will also skew your data and therefore potentially make future campaigns more difficult to construct efficiently. Consumer giant Unilever has already threatened to withdraw their PPC budget due to fraudulent clicks – but there are ways to protect your ads and your budget before this last resort!

A black-hat technique, click fraud is the act of inflating the number of clicks on a PPC ad; either for the purpose of sabotaging a competitor’s budget or for generating more revenue for an ad publisher (i.e a publisher clicking ads on their own website!).

“Unusual clicks” are already monitored by Google and are often removed from a publisher’s account when they are flagged. Alternatively users of Google Adwords can also report any suspicious click levels on their PPC ads to Google themselves and will often be issued with a refund once Google has determined whether the clicks are fraudulent or not.

Google’s anti-click fraud program is certainly the most robust on the market. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your own measures into practice to ensure you are getting accurate data and the right kind of traffic. Of course, not everyone can detect suspicious clicks, interpret the data given to them in their reports or exclude bad bots from traffic analysis. That is why a professional SEO analyst is a must when it comes to monitoring, managing and protecting your PPC campaigns. Not to mention, a strong organic presence on search engines will save you the headache of fraudulent clicks eating up your PPC budget!

If you still feel as though you want to take the DIY approach, one of the simplest tips is to utilise IP exclusions in AdWords – This requires you to have identified the IP address linked to the fraudulent clicks, but once you have, you can block your content from being served to that IP address in the future. Simple!