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Design Language: 4 Things to Consider when Choosing a WordPress Theme

Design Language tips

As of 2018, WordPress remains far and away the most popular content management system in web development, with the platform capturing a sizable market share of 31%, far eclipsing the second-placed Joomla, coming in at a measly 3.1% market share. WordPress owes its popularity mainly because of two reasons, its sheer versatility and the simple fact that at its most basic version, it is available for free. There’s just no denying free stuff.

Technically though, WordPress works under the ‘freemium’ model, in which plugins and themes, the very reasons for WordPress’ versatility, are separated into free and premium ones, just like with mobile apps and games. These themes and plugins come for the most part from third-party developers, owing to WordPress’ open-sourced nature and as such, WordPress is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the number of options available. Some might say there are way too many options.

Finding the right WordPress theme

Choosing a theme is usually one of the first and primary decisions you’ll have to make when starting out with WordPress. Themes aren’t just about looks. Basic functionality, layout, aesthetic impressions, the overall design language of your entire website is going to be heavily informed by the theme you’re going with. Apple didn’t merely stumble into their cohesive design language, shaping every piece of product in their lineup, both software and hardware, by accident. They did it through careful research.

Now, due to its open source nature, it is actually possible for you to design and develop a customized WordPress theme of your own, either from scratch or working from what’s already available but for most small businesses, this is usually unnecessary. The decision then, boils down to a choice between the plethoras of themes available for WordPress. In one marketplace alone, Themeforest from Melbourne-based Envato, there are over 10,000 themes available, packed like sardines in a crushed tin box.

To help you navigate and differentiate between this overly crowded market; here are some factors to consider when choosing a WordPress theme:

  • Choose between simple themes or a comprehensive framework

To put another wrinkle in your decision process, WordPress framework is the current trend in web development. Remember at the beginning when I said that WordPress themes also account for functionality? WordPress framework works by pushing all of those functionalities within the framework itself while themes consist solely of stylistical options. In a WordPress framework, you basically have two themes; parent themes dictate the functionality while child themes dictate the actual aesthetics.

The benefit of going with a framework is that it makes WordPress more in line with full-on web builders like Wix or Squarespace by allowing easy, drag-and-drop codeless customization and seamless theme switching but with the caveat that you can’t perform under-the-hood modifications as freely as you’d like. Usually though, framework already has a lot of functionalities and widgets built-in that you normally won’t have to add one yourself.

  • Just the right amount of functionality

First, consider what functionalities you’d like to have with your website right now and those you’re considering in the foreseeable future. Now, choose a theme that fulfills those needs with the minimum amount of baggage. A feature-rich theme might sound attractive but if it consist of features that are irrelevant, don’t bother. Those extra functionalities are just going to slow down your website and since load speed is now a Google ranking factor, a slow website isn’t something you want to be burdened with.

Technically, you can still add functionalities with plugins but again, adding more baggage is going to slow down your website, so try to go with a theme that already has the functionalities you need built-in to the theme.

  • Responsive web design and mobile-friendliness

Mobile web browsing has overtaken the conventional desktop experience in 2016 and you need to adapt your website for optimal viewing on diminutive displays and gesture-based navigation. The one method of solving this is by using responsive web design, in which the webpage detects the medium it is being displayed and adapts itself. Choosing a non-responsive theme in 2018 is akin to connecting to the internet with a 56k dial-up connection. It’s just too anachronistic of a choice.

  • Finding the right aesthetics

Take a glance at the selection available in Themeforest. On the left-hand side, there are a lots of different tags you could use to filter out just what exactly what kind of website you’re looking for. Food & beverage? Technology? A design portfolio or a resume? There are tons of themes available for various specific needs and choosing the one that fits the aesthetic you’re looking for should not be a problem. There are various considerations to factor in before you jump the gun, however.

First is the available color palette. Assuming you’ve already settled on a logo for your business, you need to find a theme with a color palette that could complement your logo. Some themes are available with unlimited color options while some, usually the free ones don’t. The second factor is legibility. If you’re working in the creative and/or visual industry, this might not be a primary consideration but for businesses working in professional services, you should always balance style with substance. Fussy, visual heavy design tends to not work with law and accounting firms.

Additional considerations

The example marketplace I gave here, Themeforest, deals exclusively with premium themes. If you’re looking for the free ones, the directory on WordPress website is a good place to get you started. Here’s my advice though, try to avoid themes that are made by an individual. Those tend to be extracurricular excursions and since there are no professional obligations, questions of supports and updates are always going to be on your mind.

There are a lot of organizations dedicated to making WordPress themes and most usually offer free themes to go with the premium ones. The free ones are usually restricted in some ways, with less functionality and a limited color palette but if you can live with those restrictions, those free themes are a definite bargain because getting support will be much easier than from an individual designer.

Improper Optimisation: A Guide on Negative SEO

SEO tips

I know what you’re thinking, how can an optimization be negative? Questionable terms aside, the practice of negative SEO itself indeed do exist although it’s not as prevalent enough to be considered an epidemic and that recovery is usually relatively quick and easy. Google has never considered this to be an issue major enough for them to take seriously and usually, their algorithms are smart enough to pick up on this but that doesn’t mean the risk is not there.

How negative SEO works

If negative SEO rubs you the wrong way, a more familiar and not dissimilar term would be Google bomb. An example is this campaign launched against U.S. politician Rick Santorum by writer Dan Savage. While this Google bomb works by raising a site’s popularity to usurp traffic from a certain keyword, in this case Santorum’s name itself, a negative SEO works by negatively manipulating the rank of a certain page by using underhanded tactics. It is the digital equivalent of ‘Mediscare’ campaigns.

Because of the associated resource required to run a negative SEO campaign like that, it has never been a widespread practice and that negative SEO attacks aren’t a focus with SEO services. Recent times however have shown that the internet’s collective mind is akin to a sleeping giant. A slight poke could cause a disturbance disproportionate to what caused it in the first place. These examples of 4chan’s past ‘accomplishments’ should give you an idea just what are they capable of.

Tactics associated with negative SEO

Ironically, a lot of the methods associated with negative SEO is actually the same ones employed in SEO, just with a negative twist. If you’re familiar with the terms whitehat and blackhat SEO, negative SEO uses the same tricks considered blackhat but directed on competitors’ websites in the hope that search engine providers will penalize them for the infractions. Some of the methods associated with negative SEO are:

  • Content scraping

Scraping is the practice of copying contents regarding a particular subject across the internet and present them inside a new skin as new contents. This is a lazy, creatively deprived practice and is a stone throw’s away from outright plagiarism. The sad thing is, with the rise of tools like Contentbomb and Spinnerchief, this technique is also very easy to employ. When it comes to negative SEO, this technique is used to publish your contents across different sites in the hopes of Google mistaking a copy for the original.

Thankfully, you can fight fire with fire as tools like Copyscape can be used as an online plagiarism detection device. Google has also made it easier for webmasters to fight plagiarism using their copyright infringement form. Generally though, unless you’re sure that your contents were copied with nefarious intent, it might be a good idea to contact the offending webmasters first as it might be the work of a rogue agent.

  • Spam links

Normally, link bulilding, defined as the ongoing process of amassing backlinks to your site, is one of the most basic rules in SEO, given that backlinks are one of the factors search engine uses to determine page ranks. Negative SEO twists this concept by using spam links. Instead of having backlinks from reputable sites and/or sources, negative SEO uses less trusted sites and misleading anchor texts to give the impression that some funny business is going on, opening you to a penalty from Google.

You can however monitor the number of backlinks to your site using a number of tools available online, such as the free SEO SpyGlass. Anyway, using any monitoring tools of your choice, see if there’s a visible uptick during a short amount of time in your link profile. Most monitoring tools allow webmasters to check out the particular details of a backlink and an analysis of the quality of such links. If it seems like a spam to you, disavow them using the tools provided by Google.

  • Site hacking

When this happens to you, your ranking considerations shouldn’t be a priority and if someone actually went to the extremes of hacking your site, negative SEO is usually not the goal they have in mind. Still, any sign of that could potentially alert Google that your site was hacked could lead to a message of “this site may be hacked” on the results page being displayed next to your website. Worse comes to worse, there is a chance that Google will derank your website to protect users.

Cybersecurity is still a somewhat niche topic as the world is so focused on building walls in the real world that they haven’t been paying attention to the security of their virtual space. It is a fact for example that anyone’s life can easily be traced on what information they have in their e-mails and calendars. Anyone with access to mine would be able to tell exactly where I’m going to be spend Saturday evening for example. If you haven’t properly beefed up your security, negative SEO issues aside, you should make it a priority.

Closing thoughts

Think of negative SEO attacks as flesh-eating bacteria. They’re so rare that at times, they’re more like bedtime stories you tell to scare children but everyone who has been a witness to one would never doubt their severity. What I’m trying to say here is this, there’s little chance that what I’ve described above can happen to you but if, God forbid, that it does, you’ll be very happy to know that you are prepared for the occasion.

How Google Considers Webpages as ‘Low Quality’

How Google Classifies Webpages as 'Low Quality'-ywf

When talking about producing best websites with best value, one cannot deny that they have to pass Google quality assessment. To classify sites, Google usually issues their quality update monthly and as a web developer, you surely wish your site will be qualified as a high quality, right? Therefore, you have to know how Google classifies Webpages as ‘Low Quality’. Knowing what makes webpage  considered as low quality is as important as knowing what makes it considered as high quality, so to prevent your sites from getting low rank, you can read the following information.

Excessive & Unnatural Internal Structural Links

Since early of 2012, Google has been talking about its low-quality criteria list when they filed a patent that directly targets websites repeating internal links across sidebars and footers. This was actually a part of SEO technique, but now it has become an unnatural form of SERP manipulation.

You can see some obvious signs when a website is untrustworthy, like it’s been hacked or it’s full of spam comments and spam pages. There are some less obvious factors that Google considers it as low quality signals.

Phantom 2

As Google keeps updating its algorithm, we began to see a change in Google’s algorithm in the end of April 2015 where in May 2015 was dubbed the Phantom 2 update. Many webmasters speculate that Phantom 2 is made to examine the newly patented low-quality criteria list, a lot of websites with poor quality content saw upwards of a 10 percent decrease in organic search traffic.

Over-Monetization of Content

Google considers most websites to be designed to trick users, search engines, or both. If Google determine your web as a part of this kind of websites, then they will record your web as the lowest quality. In fact, Google has taken greater steps to cater for high volume search queries that don’t have a single dominant interpretation.

Ads & Affiliate Links

Regarding to ads and affiliate links, you should make sure that the main focus of the page is its main content, so users shouldn’t have to scroll past affiliate links and ads or interact with intrusive overlays. For example, Taboola and Outbrand which blend in with the page, this design makes them look like they belong to the page and increase’s users trust. However, the bad side is, it will affect your quality ranking.

E-commerce Trust Factors

Another issue that you have put to underline is the lack of attention to detail e-commerce hygiene pages and hygiene content. Below are some pages that you should consider the most.

Financial Transaction Pages

Good transaction pages do not only have to contain cart/checkout and subsequent stages on the website, but these pages should also contain prominent links to standard e-commerce hygiene pages or any page that allows a user to “purchase’ or add a product to their cart/basket. Furthermore, as this page can be considered as the most important user pages, you should develop it with the best effort possible.

Financial Information Pages

Don’t forget to create a high quality content for your finance content, financing product purchases on your own site, or content and information that can insure products or services. High quality content should contain keywords and understand the relationship between keywords and content.

The bottom line of this article is, in order to get your SEO basics right, make sure that your pages and internal linking structures serve users very well, so that it doesn’t pass link equity to the money pages, especially for e-commerce and brochure service websites.