Image Tips for Facebook Boosted Posts

cardboard rocket

Boy in a cardboard rocket

What’s a Facebook boosted post? When you share a link, image, or post on your business page in Facebook, you can opt to extend your reach by paying to "boost" your post. Essentially it’s a paid ad.

I realized the limitations of designing Facebook images during a recent conversation with a font vendor. Here are tips to save you time and keep you from pulling your hair out!

Extending Your Blog Post Reach

You may have seen my newsletter about business websites with blogs getting a lot more visitor traffic. I see this with the websites I maintain for clients; so, I highly recommend maintaining an active blog as part of your marketing strategy.

To help get your latest blog posts out there, share them on your Facebook business page to increase your audience. However, you can have a ton of likes and still not reach many folks (unless you are an entertainer). That’s why using the boosted feature is one of your best bets. With the boosted post option on your Facebook business page, your blog post can effectively reach those who have liked your page and their friends!

I think we can all agree Facebook won’t win any design awards (what’s with the perpetual baby blue background color?). But people do use it (for some obsessively), so be sure to extend your reach by boosting your blog posts on your Facebook business page.

Facebook Boosted Image Tips

One way to ensure your boosted post attracts attention is to have a terrific image. Start by searching at places like Big Stock Photo, Stocksy, or Creative Market. Need some tips on choosing? Check out my post with tips.

Once you have that awesome image for your blog, you need to make sure your wording will work within Facebook’s image ad restrictions. The tricky part is staying within Facebook’s 20% text restriction.

Facebook fortunately does have a tool so you can check:

Facebook Grid Tool

The grid tool divides the space into a 5 x 5 grid. You upload your image, click on the spaces where text appears, and voila, you know if you’re within the 20% rule.

A couple of things to keep in mind when including text:

  • The text needs to be readable on a mobile device – LARGE TEXT,
  • You only have about one line to work with so think 4-5 words,
  • Use a condensed font (this article has some winners); you can go large and still fit within the restrictive 20% text grid.
  • Make sure your text has good contrast by adding a background color to the text area for best readability.
  • When in doubt, check the ad image policies (Facebook logo, for example, not allowed).
  • The shared boosted post image size is 1200 x 900 pixels recommended (displays 470 pixels in the timeline), although it will look smaller on a mobile phone being around 4 inches wide.

I hope that’s helpful. Do you boost your posts?

Posted in Social Media Graphics

Are Social Sharing Buttons Wasted Space?

Social Sharing Buttons

Social Sharing Buttons

Around the Water Cooler – Social Sharing Buttons Report

A huge report on stats regarding social media sharing button effectiveness has been the hot topic at the web designer water cooler. I wanted to share in case you weren’t aware.

"61 million mobile sessions we studied, we found that only 0.2% of mobile users do any social sharing…" Moovweb.com

What does this mean? People aren’t using the social sharing buttons on mobile devices from websites. Since mobile device traffic is on average over 60%, that puts quite a crimp on the importance of social sharing buttons.

The article nails one of the top reasons why: "users must be logged in in order to share…" on a mobile phone. Who wants to login manually? No one.

Should You Stop Using Social Sharing Buttons?

Let’s go through the pros and cons. First the pros:

  • Marketing logic says these will remind people to share the page or post with their networks.
  • Showing how many shares is good "social proof" and reaffirms it’s popular.
  • ‘Cause all the big guys are doing it…

Okay, the cons:

  • Social media icons take up a lot of visual space on a page and detract from more important marketing messages.
  • Only 0.2% of users ever click on the sharing button – ouch!
  • Social media sharing buttons with stats turned on slow down websites (they check with each individual social network and that takes time)!
  • Even with stats turned off, most social sharing plugins slow down your website.

The last part – slowing down your website – is what has the web design community talking up a storm. Anything that slows down a website is evil. You only have three seconds before site abandonment kicks in (harsh I know, but unfortunately reports have been consistent on this issue).

Given that desktop folks are likely 40% of your website traffic (and increasingly losing ground), most of us are better off without the sharing buttons.

What am I doing? Presently, I have the fastest sharing plugin I could find, Simple Share Buttons (but I don’t use the Google Fonts with it – slows things down.) But I’ll do some heat map tests to see how often people are actually using them.

Are you using social share buttons and do they work for you?

Posted in Social Media, Website speed

Media Library Tips for WordPress

Media-Library

Three questions in one week on the same topic means it’s time to share some tips and why WordPress doesn’t let you upload everything your heart desires. As easy as WordPress can be, it does have built-in restrictions, mostly to protect you from file types with questionable security.

File Types Allowed

Keep your audience in mind; don’t assume they have the same software you use. If you offer to share downloads with your website visitors, it’s best to use the most popular formats available, but be wary of Microsoft formats. Version compatibility is shaky, leading to display issues. Moreover, a surprising number of people don’t even use Microsoft Office.

The WordPress repository lists the following allowed file formats for the Media Library.

  • Image formats: .jpg; .jpeg; .png; .gif; .ico; .svg
  • Document formats: .pdf; .doc; .docx; .ppt; .pptx; .pps; .ppsx; .odt; .xls; .xlsx; .psd
  • Audio formats: .mp3; .m4a; .ogg; .wav
  • Video formats: .mp4; .m4v; .mov; .wmv; .avi; .mpg; .ogv; .3gp; .3g2

Although WordPress software may allow these file types, your webhost may impose other restrictions.

Unless a file type is an example file intended for them to modify, stick with the safe types. Here are my recommendations.

  • Image formats: .jpg and .png are overall the safer types to share. The .ico format is fairly dated and not everyone can open it (used for favicons in browser bars). The .svg format is best for advanced users, such as designers, who are more likely to be able to access the format for editing.
  • Document formats: stick with PDFs. It’s the only format they most likely have installed. PowerPoint version compatibility is dreadful and produces overly large file sizes, and many don’t have the software. Visually you can trust a PDF will display as you intended and will even embed fonts.
  • Audio formats: .mp3 is probably the safest. Website visitors may have .m4a but this is riskier. If you aren’t offering it as a download, consider SoundCloud to embed on your website page.
  • Video Formats: .mov and .mp4 are fairly common, but don’t offer videos as a download. A lot of expertise is required to make videos small enough to even share and most formats are not universally installed. Consider Vimeo for hosting your videos (top choice) or YouTube. If using YouTube, turn off the ads and suggestions feature, no one likes them.

File Size Upload Restriction

Your Media Library has a file size upload restriction. Your webhost determines the default size; the lowest I’ve seen is 8 mb. Increasing the file size restriction is something you should ask your webhost to modify as this involves the PHP.ini file (unless you have a VPS or dedicated server).

This is a pretty good article on what is required but even then, it’s complicated. Keep in mind your webhost may restrict access to your PHP.ini file and they may need to adjust the upload file size for you. Tip: you might need your PHP.ini file in the wp-admin instead of the root folder which they don’t mention in the article.

Increasing the file size is great, but remember that you should keep files optimized (reduced size). I use compressor.io often for optimization.

Adobe Acrobat allows for saving as a reduced file – be sure to take advantage of that. Heavy images and other media library assets can significantly slow down your web pages too, so keep it lean and mean. Speedy downloadable sites equal happy website visitors who stick around!

Posted in Learning, WordPress

Don’t Cram Everything Above the Fold

Newspaper headline

Newspaper headline

I was reading a discussion among designers about clients wanting everything at the top of their websites. Usually this happens when marketing goals are not prioritized and an assumption that website visitors only pay attention to the top of a website.

Prioritize Your Marketing Elements

In our anxiousness to sell, it’s all too tempting to get a bit manic and try to squeeze all your call to actions above the fold. To overcome this – this is what I tell all my clients:

  • Make a list of your marketing goals in order of priority. For example, selling books; professional services; newsletter sign-ups, etc. Now you have your marketing goals priority list.
  • Next, make a list of website elements (I usually help with this) like a newsletter sign-up box; social media icons; a list of recent articles, any promotional items, etc.

Based on the marketing goals priorities list, you can now easily decide which elements are more important than the others. This is a huge help in deciding where elements should go on a web page layout.

Common Above the Fold Mistakes

  • Social Media Icons in the header. Your site visitors just arrived – you want them to leave immediately? At the bottom of a sidebar or your footer is usually where a site visitor will check to see where else they can find you on the web.
  • Busy menu bars. Although seven topics in a menu bar is no longer a golden type rule, overwhelming your site visitors will lead to decision paralysis. Keep it lean and prioritize your menu bar, don’t forget you have drop menus.
  • Text inside your header image. Unless it is a fancy logo, don’t put your sales text in an image (plus Google can’t index that). It will resize horribly for mobile devices – no one will try to read tiny text.
  • Sliders. Studies have shown they don’t convert people to buy; they just keep scrolling. Still not convinced, I collected some expert info for you "A Dying Trend – Sliders."
  • Trusting Your Theme Template. Sorry, developers of themes are typically not user experience designers studying every click and behavior of website visitors! They are designing to sell to you the template buyer – not your clients.

Above the Fold Is Toast

Bubble bursting thought: there is no longer an above the fold! Yup, you read that correctly. There are thousands of devices accessing websites, that magical 700/750 pixels height mark previously defined as the fold, is pure fiction for most devices. According to the experts, over 60% of most websites are accessed via mobile devices.

Data supports people are actually spending almost no time at the top. Check out this amazing article "There Is No Fold."

I have to admit this has been a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. Belief should not eclipse facts and I prefer to serve effectively my clients. Time to let go of old concepts.

Do you still believe "above the fold" matters?

Tagged with:
Posted in Formatting Posts and Pages, Web Design

Best Font Size for Smartphones

Best Font Size for Smartphones

Hands using an iPhone

One Size Does Not Fit All

I wrote a guest post for SheOwnsIt.com, "Website Design Mistakes That Cost You Money" and mentioned text sizes should start around 18 pixels. Because the majority of the readers are non-techs, I limited my response to pixels and a desktop sizing I would start with. I actually don’t limit myself to just 18 pixels (or necessarily use pixels). I’ll spare you web designer geek speak of more modern sizings like rems, percentages, or ems. (Tap, tap) Hey, did I just lose you there?

Mobile-friendly sites make use of the technique called media queries. Media queries allow you, in a style sheet, to specify instructions to certain screen sizes like a smartphone. Since most smartphones have retina (high resolution) type screens and things look tiny, I amp up the text size just for them.

And the Magic Answer Is…

The answer is: approximately 24 pixels for body copy. You can achieve that with rems, percentages, etc., but that is the fixed size reference that looks readable. Of course this depends on your font, not all display equally. (Got this idea from EmailOnAcid’s blog.)

I apply this technique to both websites and email newsletters (including this one!).

What size font are you using for smartphones on your website or email newsletters?

Posted in fonts, Mobile

Do I Need to Worry About “Mobilegeddon”?

Mobilegeddon

Mobilegeddon

What exactly does this new term "Mobilegeddon" mean? Fortunately, it doesn’t refer to the latest uber snowstorm (whew). But the media is fond of the phrase and confusing advice doesn’t help. I’ll boil this down and explain what it means for your business.

Google Flexes Its Search Engine Muscles

With the huge rise in tablets and smartphones usage, website makers have been trying to make mobile viewing both appealing for users and affordable for businesses. First the trend was to make a completely separate mobile website. With the introduction of responsive design in 2009, most businesses prefer the more affordable solution of updating their website instead of two separate websites (mobile and then desktop).

In 2014, mobile usage surpassed desktop viewing by 60% on average. This means more than half of your site visitors are using a mobile device, not their desktop computer. Google certainly noticed this trend and decided to make life easier for the majority of users (mobile).

Google Favors Mobile-Friendly Websites

This is the part that can be confusing, especially when USA Today’s article includes terms like "webmaster." That word is no longer used by the web industry, which tells you something about the quality of that advice. Dude, 1999 wants its terminology back!

What does this mean for your business? When mobile users on Google do searches, mobile-friendly websites will rank higher in results. They will also be marked as such.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, you will rank lower in search results with mobile users using Google search. For now, Google desktop and tablet searches are not affected.

Google’s Test

So how do you know if Google thinks your website is mobile-friendly?

Take the test!

It will show you (or your web designer or developer) what work needs to be done. This checks only one page, not your entire website, FYI.

Did you pass? YEAH, congrats! Your website will be listed ahead of others (i.e. your competition) that fail the test.

Yikes – Google Says You’re Not Mobile-Friendly!

How much time do you have before your website ranking is affected? It might take a month or two to show up in mobile search results. Now is a good time to update your website.

While losing your ranking can be painful (thus the term Mobilegeddon), it’s more important to consider how your site appears on mobile devices. Even if you aren’t depending on search engine results for prospective clients, you may be scaring off site visitors.

Your business will benefit from switching to a mobile-friendly (responsive) setup; not only will it be easier to read on mobile devices, but you’ll have better ranking with Google, and stay ahead of competitors who haven’t switched!

Posted in Mobile, Web Design

Does a Blog Really Help Website Traffic?

Traffic

Traffic

As a web designer, I take care of several websites for my clients. Usually, they give me access to their Google Analytics, so I can set up some tracking scripts. I occasionally check to see if there are any issue indicators requiring attention.

Who’s Winning?

It’s interesting to see firsthand the pattern between those with blogs and those without. Clients with active blogs have much higher traffic. We are talking the difference between a few hundred visits per month to thousands!

Are there exceptions? Yes. The event-only sites are heavily marketed by clients and those do well; or a popular search phrase leading to a page gets a lot of traffic. But even the latter doesn’t do as well as business sites with blogs.

I can’t give away my clients’ stats, but I’ll share mine. Two years ago I added a blog to my website and I usually write one post per week. My stats before I started were about 460 visits a month. Now my stats range about 3,000 and more monthly (unique visitors). Two of the blog posts getting the most hits are on topics relating to the services I provide.

Why Do Blogs Increase Traffic?

Prospective clients appreciate answers to questions. Help them get to know your business by providing useful information. Topics need to be relevant to your business, otherwise you’re paying for webhost bandwidth that is not converting people to customers.

So should you have a blog on your business website? I guess the real question is, are you getting as many clients as your business can handle?

Does your business have a blog?

Posted in Website tips

Is Your Webhost Growing With Your Business?

servers and hardwares in an internet data center

servers and hardwares in an internet data center

Access is very important for your business and your website is on the frontline! When a prospective client is interested in your firm, your website is often the first stop.

But if your site is momentarily offline or just slow (happens more than most realize), potential clients won’t wait. They keep moving and you miss an opportunity. And it is preventable.

Your Website Services Need to Grow With Your Business

I’m not sure why most people feel this way, but webhost loyalty is practically a religion. I’ve been guilty, but as one who deals with clients’ webhosts, I lost my "religion." Instead it is about results; data-based decisions can help you avoid some of the "blind loyalty webhost" pitfalls.

Monitor Performance

An economical webhost or too small an account might hurt you by costing you potential clients. Uptime with the lower budget webhosts are prone to "outages" that are tough to catch. Additionally, most businesses are on shared webhosting and to make money, less responsible webhosts will oversell their space. When servers are overloaded with too many shared accounts, they are slow.

Recently I moved a client from a famous brand name webhost. I was surprised to see when I installed their website, their server added one second of download time. Given we only have three seconds before people will abandon your website, that was totally uncool. Moving the client to a business grade webhost that didn’t oversell sped things up to under two seconds. Cost difference? None; however, their site traffic was up.

Tools to Keep Them Honest!

Although a webhost is only one reason for a slow site, having it be temporarily offline is a red flag if it happens repeatedly. When potential clients go to your site, you don’t want them to encounter "timeouts" or slow loading pages because of a busy server. Here are some tools to help determine if a change is needed:

  • Uptime Monitoring Tools. Use a monitoring service to alert you when your website is down. Most times (especially with shared webhosting) it will be short outages that resolve quickly. If you get three or more of these a month, it’s time to investigate. Pingdom has a no-cost uptime service (if you have Jetpack active, that has an option for monitoring.)
  • Plugin Monitoring. With WordPress websites, most folks have several plugins installed. They do go bad or are poorly designed and need to be tracked. Use P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) to confirm they are performing well (or ask your web designer to run a scan.)
  • Run a Speed Test. Make sure your website is optimized to download within three seconds. Pingdom has an accessible online tool. Website too slow? Hire a web designer or developer to optimize your website for speed.

You’re Growing – Time to Upgrade

When you started, the cost of a webhost account was your top consideration. But as your traffic stats go up, you need a reliable website. Any outages or slowdowns, or a problem with economical webhosts, are bad for business and your reputation.

It doesn’t matter how "nice" the customer tech is on the phone, your webhost account may be struggling to keep up. That is fine, your business is no longer the "casual blogger" type of those under $10 monthly which is what they are meant for. Business-grade webhosting is what most small businesses need.

  • Shared webhosting. If you have serious traffic, this is not for you. However, if you are under 3K a month, it might be fine. Some webhosts promise not to oversell their servers; look for that statement guarantee. Price range should be about $25 for business grade shared hosting.
  • Managed WordPress Hosting. If your site traffic tends to be a roller coaster, a solution like WPEngine or Pagely might be the way to go. Managed WordPress hosting providers do well with sudden spikes.
  • Virtual Web Servers. Sharing isn’t always the best idea and your web designer may nudge you to upgrade to VPS. You have your own reserved memory, storage space and most importantly, no sharing with "neighbors" for the system resources. If you have multiple websites for your business, this is ideal. Look for phrases like "managed VPS" solutions.
  • Dedicated Servers. If you have a lot of websites, this is definitely your speed. You need someone versed in managing a server to assist. Most small businesses will probably not need this option.

Those are the typical types of accounts with webhosts. Another tool you should consider if you have serious traffic and you want to guarantee your uptime is a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

My advice: don’t let brand loyalty overcome good business sense. Monitor your website with uptime monitoring tools, etc., so you have data to determine whether your account may need an upgrade or change in vendor. It’s a business decision.

Do you use uptime monitoring tools to track your website?

No? We can help! We do uptime monitoring, security monitoring, plugin updates, and backups. Sign-up today!

Posted in Website speed, WordPress Maintenance

Hero Plugins for MailChimp Users

Freddie winks

Freddie winks

Whoa – Spammers Signing Up for Newsletters?

Last weekend I finally took a moment to check out a big spike in newsletter sign-ups. Although I guest blog (sheownsit.com) and have my own marketing efforts, it seemed unusual.

At first glance I noticed a lot of yahoo.com email addresses. Because business owners typically do not use Yahoo for their email needs, I started Googling. And uh oh, the few email addresses I tried were all known spammers!

This prompted seven hours of list email address verification to determine legitimate sign-ups; then came additional research, and correspondence with MailChimp and the plugin developer for my newsletter form.

Now for those of you who are experienced MailChimp users – your first response is, "Dude, double opt-ins will stop spammers." Um no, spammers are confirming double opt-ins! Yup, that! MailChimp support is aware, and working on a solution.

Hero Plugin – MailChimp for WordPress

MailChimp for WordPress (affiliate link) comes in a Lite and a Pro version, and is a popular plugin. It has flexibility the embedded MailChimp form doesn’t offer. Also, it is highly rated, and I personally experienced part of the reason – excellent customer service.

MailChimp for WordPress has options many other plugins lack. Also, it’s specifically for MailChimp, one of the most popular newsletter providers for businesses. Integrations and multiple sign-up forms make this a great business tool and it’s easy to use.

I reached out to this developer about my spam problem. They welcomed specific information feedback and I applied their recommendation for the fix. I noticed a plugin update was applied the same day that probably addressed my issue. Now THAT is awesome.

Aging WordPress Theme Issue

Based on the update – it looks like it addresses older themes. I’ve said before that three years is long in the tooth for a WordPress theme. Mine has hit that anniversary. (Yup, I’m working on a new site, logo design is wrapping up.)

I checked with one of my other clients who isn’t experiencing the issue of spammy sign-ups. Sigh, my theme looks very guilty, so it was great of the MailChimp for WordPress developer to address older theme limitations so we can all enjoy protection against the latest threats.

So the Fix – Another Hero Plugin

MailChimp for WordPress wasn’t the only option; I also put in a support ticket with MailChimp. They suggested their embed form which has a Honeypot hidden field for spambots. But if spammers are constantly cracking our forms, there isn’t an easy way to update that embed code. I’ll assume you are not “code” inclined, so a plugin is far more practical to update with the latest preventions.

MailChimp for WordPress suggested I give Goodbye Captcha a try to see if it would stop my issue. Most spam tools are meant for comment forms, etc.; however, this one reaches the newsletter sign-up and it is quite powerful.

Goodbye Captcha – Goodbye Spam

On the first day I installed this plugin, the bot sign-ups stopped. WOOHOO! Just be sure in the “Subscriptions” settings area to click on “MailChimp for WordPress” so it will look for your subscription forms. Oh, and if you don’t have other tools covering brute force login attempts, this plugin can also address that.

There you go. Two awesome plugins I heartily recommend for MailChimp users.

What methods do you use for newsletter sign-ups?

Posted in WordPress Plugins

Speedy Tip – How to Optimize Images

speedy rocket

speedy rocket

Let’s Get Speedy! Optimizing Images

I shared a wonderful article on testing the various WordPress plugins for automatically optimizing images (reducing the download size). Many folks upload large images for blog posts and pages, increasing the download time for their websites. Slow sites are bad news; users will click away if it takes more than three seconds (on average) to download.

Although a plugin can help, I don’t mean to advocate a cure-all for heavy images. As your trusty web designer, my advice is to keep it lean and mean. The more plugins you have, the greater potential for problems.

Take steps to ensure that images are prepared prior to uploading rather than relying on a plugin that may have a hammer approach to reducing image sizes. Quality is your goal, right? Here’s what I do.

Optimizing Images for the Web

  • Resize in WordPress (non-Photoshop users). You can resize images in the Media area of WordPress (if a recent version). Once you have selected your image in the media library, click on "Edit Image" below the image. In the new window to the right – you can adjust your size under "scale image." Now that you have the size you want, download the image (grab the URL of the image and download from your browser). FYI, this is not optimal, but will do in a pinch. If you are image editing frequently, get Photoshop.
  • Resize in Photoshop. First make sure your lovely image is sized for the place it’s going. If the area is 600 pixels wide by 350 pixels high, don’t load up a 2000 pixel heavy image. In Photoshop, go to menu item "Image" and drop down to "Image Size" and adjust. Keep the aspect ratio in place (link icon to the left should be on); you don’t want a "stretched" or distorted image.
  • Reduce File Size in Photoshop. Use "Save for the Web" in Photoshop to prepare an image for usage on websites. You can reduce the quality a bit and get the file size smaller. I usually set it on "High" and start going down from there checking to make sure it still looks okay. Try png and jpg versions as well to see which yields the best results. Don’t be too strict, just make sure the image looks good.
  • Cool Tool to Compress! A colleague shared her favorite compression tool called Compressor (it’s awesome). Once you’re in, upload your image and it will compress it. In many cases you will see a significant decrease (test Lossy vs. Lossless). Now your image is ready!

Speedy Websites Are Smart Marketing!

This little step will go a long way in making your website faster and friendlier to visitors. They want to get information quickly, so don’t risk them ditching your site before the image is done downloading. Speed counts! This is an easy way to get you closer to a lightning fast website they will read!

Another cool tool:

Speed test at Pingdom Tools

Posted in Formatting Posts and Pages

Web Design Insider Tips