Friday-Five-Blog-02-19

One page every website needs in a contact page. That contact page must include a contact form. I have seen several websites that put their phone and address out there and nothing else. It’s not hard to include a form. You must make it easy for your site visitors to reach out to you.

When I first started building websites there weren’t a lot of options for form builders. We have come a long way. With all of the options now available, there is no excuse for not having a form on your website!

Here are 5 contact form plugins to choose from:

  1. Gravity Forms
    My favorite, hands down. I haven’t found much that I couldn’t do with Gravity Forms. From contact form to popup optin, golf tournament registration,  and even a raffle ticket purchase. Gravity has yet to disappoint me. The drag and drop interface makes customizing form fields a breeze. Being able to personalize the confirmation page and notification emails adds a nice touch. If you only have one website you can get it for as low as $39/year.
  2. Quick Contact Form
    This is great for a beginner. Just drag and drop, add your email and you are good to go. A log of all messages sent through your form can be found in your admin area. Fully customizable to match your website.
  3. Ninja Forms
    Another great drag and drop builder that also keeps a log of your messages. There are many premium extensions you can purchase to extend the capabilities of your form.
  4. Contact Form 7
    This is where I started out before moving to Gravity Forms. This is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. CF7 gets the job done, but does not include a drag and drop interface. If you just want basics or now a little bit of html, this one is great and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
  5. Jetpack
    I’m not a big fan of Jetpack, it’s just so packed full of options and if you’re only using one or two I feel it can be overkill. If you’re already using Jetpack, there is a contact form option that works really great. It’s easy to use and integrates nicely.

What do you use for your contact form?

I love fonts.

Love them. Can’t get enough of them. I love around with pairing fonts together for images and blog headers. I thought I’d start sharing some font pairs each month. I always look for free fonts, otherwise I’d be broke buying them.

Fonts-Nov-2015

You can download the fonts at the following locations. Be sure to check the usage license for each font before you put it to use.

Pariesienne @ GoogleFonts

Champagne & Limousines @ DaFont.com

Lavanderia @ LostType.com

DejaVu Sans @ FontSquirrel.com

Clarissa @ FontZone.net

Calibri @ FontPalace.com

Swenson @ FontPalace.com

Tex Gyre Adventor @ FontSquirrel.com

The lazy days of summer are here, the kids are out of school, you’ve lost your desire (or time) to be productive. I get it. You’ve got things you wanted to do, but didn’t finish before the kids interrupted you and they’re just sitting there staring at you and haunting you. It’s easy to fall into a slump this time of year, but you don’t have to, you can beat it in one week with these easy steps. Let’s declutter your business.

Day One: Blog Posts

Get in there and finish those half written blog posts. Spend one day getting them all polished and scheduled to publish. It’s great to get a post started and leave it in draft mode until you finish it up, but you have to go back and finish it! It’s doing you no good just sitting there, waiting. Scheduling posts, if you can write more than one in a day, is a great way to free up some time. Spend a day or two writing when you can and you’ll always have content to post (ahem, a lesson I need to learn myself!)

Day Two: Client Contact

I know you have some clients you want and need to follow up with, but you keep putting it off. Following up and staying in touch with past clients is the best way to bring them back to you. Spend a day getting those follow up emails and calls done. You’ll feel much better, they’ll feel special and it’s one less daunting task hanging over you.

Day Three: Update Your Website

Grab a backup and update WordPress and all of the plugins. If you have someone doing this for you, kudos to you! This is an easy to outsource task and so worth it. Once you’ve got everything on the backend updated, look over your pages and see if any information or pricing needs updated. Have you been considering a facelift for your website, contact your designer (that’s me!) and get the ball rolling. If a new site is something you’ve been considering, it’ll make you feel much better once it’s done.

Day Four: Social Media

Spend today scheduling some Facebook and Twitter posts. Scheduling these ahead of time will lessen the amount of time you spend on those time-suckers each day. Some of the easiest posts for Facebook are image posts that include quotes, spend a little time today creating some quotes and get them scheduled. I just put one together, you can click through and share it on your page! Just click the image and you’ll be taken to my Facebook page where the image is already uploaded and ready for you to hit share. Need help scheduling on Facebook? There’s a blog post for that!

right-track-will-rogers

Day Five: Straighten Your Desk

A clean workspace will leave you feeling much more productive and ready to tackle anything. Take a few minutes today to put away all of your markers and pens, throw away old sticky notes, carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. File away anything you don’t need anymore and sort through old mail. It’d be great to dust off your work surface as well. When all is clean and looking nice, take the kids to the pool. You deserve a little time in the sun after a productive week!

While this will get you back on track to productivity, it’s not a bad idea for it to become a weekly routine, at least for the summer. Doesn’t it feel great to be organized and no longer have those “things” hanging over you for you to keep putting off until tomorrow?

writingIt’s hard. Very hard. I’ve asked you to write an About page and you have no idea where to begin. Take a deep breath and let’s get this done. Follow these tips and get an About page draft written. You can always go back and tweak it to your liking. Follow these tips, get the basics written and then make it perfect later.

Must I have an About page?

Yes! This is most important if you are providing a service, but important for everyone. When I land on your website I want to know about you. I want to know this person I’m about to contact and your About page is the first place I’m going to check. Don’t make me search for it. Call it what it is- About, Meet Stephanie, The Photographer. It just needs to be obvious that when I click this page I’m going to read about YOU.

It must include your name! “Hi, my name is Stephanie Pleasants.” is a perfectly acceptable first line. I want to know who you are before I send a message to you. If I’m going to call you, I want to know how to address you. Get your name on that page and let’s use your first and last name.

I don’t want my photo there.

Yeah, me neither. But, having a visual of you as I type out that contact message helps a lot. Picturing you when I make that call makes the conversation a little easier. Many people remember images. It’s the first step in the know-like-trust factor. Let me get to know you.

Do you like creating videos? Go for it! Talk to me. But, don’t make the video auto-play and do put content there for those of us who aren’t video watchers.

What am I supposed to write?

Write about you and what you do. Keep it short, but not too short. Don’t over inflate it. I don’t need every detail of your life story, just the details that will affect me. A lot of text is going to turn me off, too much isn’t going to be read. I suggest 1 long paragraph or up to 3 shorter ones. Be natural. If you like to make jokes, put them in. Talk to me. Tell me a little about you, what you do, why I should listen to or hire you. Your About page is one more little hook to land that client.

One tip I read was to have a someone who knows you well write your about page. That could work. At the very least that might give you something to get started with that you can then tweak to your liking. Toss in some key words and phrases and you’ve got a something to start with.

Go now. Read your about page and decide if it needs a tweak.

pricingWe all do it. We talk ourselves up, build our confidence, set our fees to a rate we know we are worth, but when it comes down to giving a quote, we drop the price. Guilty! (One of my 2014 goals is to stop doing that!)

Did you know that low rates actually turn clients away? A smart client, the one you want to work with, knows that you get what you pay for. If your pricing is too low, they know the quality is not there.

This is a great article from Meredith Eisenberg over at DecisiveMinds.com about why low rates are bad for business and what you can do to boost your pricing confidence.

I love when I have an a-ha moment and solve a problem, even if it does take a few days.

I use WHMCS to manage my billing and products. It’s been great for selling services, but I’ve recently ventured into downloadable products (like my new ebook!). I knew I could use WHMCS to sell downloadable items, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. I spent days trying to figure out how to deliver the product. I know I had it set up correctly, but I wanted the buyer to receive an email with a link to download. That link was stumping me. I spent a lot of time at the WHMCS forums and nothing I was reading was working.

The original link posted in the forums looked something like this, with id=X being the download id number:
https://PATHTOWHMCS/dl.php?type=d&id=X&serviceid={$service_id}
(I now know that the PATHTOWHMCS part can be put in by using {whmcs_url}, another duh!)

Nothing could get this work. I thought maybe the user needed to be logged in to see the download as available. When I went to the downloads page, I was signed out, that left me thinking my page was broken. I updated my install, I tried a few things to the .tpl file. I tried to replicate the products list on the client area page. Anything to make sure my buyers were seeing the link to download right away from the link given in the email.

Turns out I had put a downloadable item up for sale in the past and I had created a custom email template for that item. After locating it, I found the link I put in there. A link that sends the reader straight to the products page of the client area. That page is where the download link is located. Boom! Problem solved!

For your reference, here’s the link to include in your email:
{$whmcs_url}/clientarea.php?action=products

And, if you’re wondering how to set up the product, here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Upload your Product

Navigate to Support -> Downloads, create a category for your products, upload your product and check the boxes for “Tick this box to only allow logged in clients permission to download it” and “Tick this box if this download should only be available after a product or addon purchase”.

whmcs-1

Step 2: Create your Product Email

Navigate to Setup -> Email Templates. You’ll want to create a new Product Message. I advise copying an existing template and changing the necessary items. You can create an email template for each downloadable product or one generic since you’ll be including a link to the products page for your buyer to access their item. You’ll want to include this code which will be replaced with a link to your buyer’s products page. There they can click the little down arrow next to the item to see the download link. (I’ll be putting that little tip in my email as well so buyer’s aren’t lost!)

whmcs-2

Step 3: Create your Product

Navigate to Setup-> Products/Services and create your item. Under Details-> Welcome Email, you should include the email template you just created. Under Module Settings, select Auto Release, then select one of the options below that. Mine is set for “Automatically setup the product as soon as the first payment is received”. I want to make sure payment is processed before it’s accessible. Last part! Under Other, you need to add the file. You’ll see Associated Downloads. In the first box navigate to your file, then click to add it to the box on the right.

whmcs-3

Done! Happy Selling!

Retro vintage fonts are so popular these days. Today I ran across Thirsty Rough, a font that combines the cool retro look with a curvy script.Yellow Design Studio has created a perfect retro script font.

thirsty-rough-font

The Thirsty Rough font family includes everything- letters, numbers, punctuation, symbols and accented characters. The features include old style numerals, ligatures and stylistic alternates, as well as multiple language support. Thirsty Rough includes four weights- light, regular, bold and black- each with four levels of distress so you can get just the worn down look you’re going for. This is currently the #15 best seller at MyFonts.com

This professional weathered font would look great on a t-shirt or a coffee shop banner. How about a call to action graphic with this retro script font on your website? I think it’d be perfect! What do you think?

retro script font

build-a-better-portfolioIf you are an artist, of any type, looking to get hired, you must have a portfolio available to display the best of your previous work. Not just a thrown together group of images, you need a great, functional, easy to use portfolio of images. I work with many photographers so portfolios are something I deal with quite a bit, in addition to needing to put one together myself. Here are some tips I’ve put together to get you started in creating a better portfolio.

Ditch the Flash

Why are you still using flash? We are a mobile world now and flash just is not mobile friendly. I know, it looks great to you and there are templates that make it easy for you, but a portfolio is more about function and displaying your great work. You don’t need a flashy interface to detract from your quality. Flash is also slow to load, which brings me to my next point….

Speed Matters

This is one of those all around tips. A slow website will negatively affect your search engine rankings, but it will also cause people to back right out of your site. In today’s rush rush lifestyle, we just don’t have time, or desire, to wait. We want it and we want it now. Pay more for a great hosting service that isn’t overloading servers with websites.

Navigation is Necessary

I mention navigation a lot. I’m not referring to just portfolio navigation, but also whole site navigation. Your site visitors want to see your work, make it easy for them to find! Once you’ve done that, focus on the navigation within your portfolio. Make sure you have previous/next arrows or text. Navigating from one portfolio image to the next should be a nice flow.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

It’s better to show one great image as opposed to three mediocre images. Only release the best of your best. If you have the slightest doubt, don’t post it. An okay image will degrade the quality of your best image. I can’t count how many times I ask myself why an artist included a certain image, one that clearly isn’t their best. Your portfolio is a representation of you, only put your best self out there.

Badly Cropped Thumbnails

If your portfolio uses thumbnails, make sure they are cropped nicely. Sometimes the thumbnail is auto-cropped and beyond your control. But don’t settle until you’ve tried everything you can to get a good thumbnail crop. A non-cropped thumbnail would be far better than a badly cropped thumbnail.

Well Designed Site

You must have a well designed site. Simple is best for an artist, you want your work noticed, not your website. Don’t allow your website to detract from the work you produce. Your website should be clean, display properly and not look like it was put together in 1998. Let’s review your site and see what we can do to it!

Relax the Security

Just relax. Allow your images to be shared. What gets shared, gets noticed. Watermark those images (super important!!) and turn off the disabling of right-click. If you’ve properly watermarked, you shouldn’t worry about stealing. Let your site visitors share those images, either on facebook or by saving them to their own computer to share later. Every share, in any form, is beneficial to you, let it happen!

Easy Contact

Two things fall in here- get your name out there and be easy to contact. If you are operating under a business name or a username somewhere, that is perfectly fine, but put your real name out there. Be personable. Allow your soon-to-be clients to know and use your name when contacting you. Make it easy for them to reach you, get a contact form on your site and/or an email address. And, as stated, make it easy to find in your navigation!

Your portfolio is one of the first steps in getting hired, make it work for you instead of against you. Now, I’m going to go check on my own portfolio and see what I can improve. I know it’s not the portfolio I originally had in mind so I settled because clients come first!

Everyone wants to get to the top of the list of the great Google. There are many things you could do to increase your chances of ranking on page one, but let’s look at 5 things you shouldn’t do. These thing will cause your ranking to drop so try best to avoid them.

1. Cloaking

Showing search engines one thing and site visitors another is known as cloaking. Using sneaky redirects or custom coding to trick the bots is not good practice. No one wants to click a search result expecting one thing and get redirected to something totally off topic.

2. Purchasing Links

Never buy links to your site. This does not refer to niche directories. Those would be considered quality links. Link farms, or sites just full of links to any and everything, should be avoided. You are judged by the company you keep, so make sure your links are coming from quality sites, not catch all link exchange sites.

3. Duplicate Content

Write your own, original content. If you run two websites, always change up your writing. Search engines want to know where the original, quality content came from. Don’t make it hard for them by duplicating your content.

4. Slow Server

You click a search result and the site doesn’t load. How disappointed are you?! No one wants that to happen. If your site is slow loading or experiencing outages, fix it! Ask to be moved to a new server or find a new hosting company.

5. Hidden Text

This also refers to microscopic text. Do not make your font color the same as your background color and stuff it with keywords. Do not make your font so small that human eyes can’t read it with a magnifying glass. Never put anything on your site solely for the search bots. All text should be readable and understandable to both bots and visitors. Make your content legible and visible and everyone will be happy.

Imforza.com put together a nice infographic focusing on SEO predictions, data and tips for 2013. Some of these are things I’ve been pushing the past few months. Search engine ranking is an ongoing job, ever changing, ever evolving. It’s definitely not something you do once and forget about it. So, here’s a few things to focus on in the upcoming year:

SEO Predictions for 2013 - Infographic.