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RealBasics Recommends: Niamh Arthur’s 4-week Ignite Video Challenge online course

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | September 6, 2019

This is a plug for a paid-for online video blogging course.  This post includes a direct link and an affiliate link to the course (you can choose either.) I recommend it highly to clients who are interested in a safe, supportive environment for learning how to do video blogging.  If you’re not into that you can scroll down.

Earlier this summer I told quite a few clients about a great video-blogging course called the Ignite Video Challenge. It runs a few times a year on Facebook and she’s offering it again.

If I did mention it I probably also said that based on almost 10 years working with instructional designers at Microsoft it’s the best run and most useful online course I’ve ever seen.

The course is only $20 for four weeks. It’s all done on Facebook, in small, private groups where you get to see each other’s work, and where only positive and encouraging comments are welcome. Because everyone is nervous! I may also have mentioned how sorry I was it’s only offered a few times a year.

The good news is the course is back. Signup is this week.

Niamh (pronounced “Neve”) is unbelievably reassuring, supportive, and informative in her video instructions — her videos are usually about three minutes long with another minute or two where she practices what she’s just preached to give you an idea what she has in mind.

The main thing, though, is it’s actually really fun! And only takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day at the most! And you really do learn all the essentials for how to record a video, how to be yourself in front of a camera, and how to upload it to Facebook, YouTube or other video platforms.

If you’re interested you can sign up one of two ways:

You can sign up directly here

Or if you’re ok with me getting a very small commission (the price to you is the same regardless) you can use this link to signup instead

Here are the other details

  • Sign Up Week: Thursday, September 5th to Wednesday, September 11th
  • Closes at midnight Pacific on September 11th OR when they sell out all spots, whichever happens first.
  • Challenge begins: Monday, September 16th to Tuesday, October 8th.
  • Cost for the Challenge is only $20.

Let me know what you think!

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Website consultation

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | July 17, 2019

Of course we do office consultation for maintenance clients.  When we say you get one hour a month for standard site maintenance we mean it.  Sometimes that involves fixing something that wasn’t working quite right on the back end.  But sometimes it involves a one-hour strategy consultation on how to blog effectively.  No, we won’t wash your car or water your plants for an hour a month, but if it’s related to your website we’re more than happy to help.

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Arithmetic: would you spend $500 to save $10?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | July 15, 2019

If you have really terrible hosting it can cost you

  • Lost leads
  • Lower search engine ranking
  • Abandoned site visits
  • Lost sales
  • Lost customer

If you have “Inexpensive,” but really terrible hosting it can also cost you…

  • Additional hours of development time

Because somebody’s got to spend time on the phone with your host’s tech support, doing extra profiling, cutting back out cool features that were added but then must be removed, lowering the quality of images so they’ll load faster, and…

Long emails explaining why your nice new site still takes forever to load on your $4.95/month hosting.

That’s going to cost you money. Up to an additional $500!

There are some very good hosting companies that cost $5 – $10 a month more… and are 5 and sometimes 10 times better than bad “cheap” hosting.

We don’t do hosting ourselves. But we recommend very good plans. We even use them ourselves.

We have to care what you choose though, because we’re likely to keep working with you and supporting you. Imagine how we’d feel having to apologize month after month… like the techs at really bad hosting companies must.

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Don’t tell anyone but we’re beta testing daily backups and WordPress software updates for all maintenance clients…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | June 20, 2019

new feature photo

Photo by Flickr user Vs Heidelberg Photos

We’ve been making weekly backups and software updates for our maintenance clients for a very long time.  Since sometime back in 2012.  We started officially in late 2013 or early 2014.  We always watch for malware and software vulnerabilities and run updates as soon as developers release fixes.

When we upgrading our hardware and software earlier this year we started experimenting with doing daily off-site WordPress backups and daily WordPress plugin updates… well… daily!

We’re still doing our weekly backups, and we store those securely for at least three years.  We make our daily backups separately from the weekly ones.  We keep the daily backups for 14 days because, combined with our standard long-term backups, that gives us enough coverage.

We’re not yet ready to announce daily backups and updates as a guaranteed feature for our maintenance clients.  Promising it would mean having someone always on standby on weekends and holidays to run software updates and to troubleshoot or roll things back in the unlikely event problems come up.  If you’re one of our maintenance clients, though, or if you become one, you might like knowing that we’re taking even more care of your WordPress site… even if we’re not telling everybody about it.

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Since spiders are the original web crawlers…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 27, 2019

I have an embarrassing fondness for Dad jokes and general nerd humor.

Also, web developers hate bugs and spiders and spiders eat bugs so… professional courtesy!

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“Blogging for one” – tips for writing for your ideal client

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 22, 2019

lookout photo

Photo by Flickr user Jonathan Silverberg

“An egotist is someone who wants to talk about themselves instead of about me.” — Ambrose Bierce

Since we tend to write alone it’s sometimes hard to remember our readers have their own ideas, intentions, wants and needs.  When we forget this we’ll tend to write in terms of our wants, needs, insecurities, and interests.  But as business bloggers (or any blogger for that matter) we’ll always be more successful if think instead about what our readers are thinking.

While of course we welcome readers or clients from everywhere,  it turns out the most effective way to reach everybody is to write with one audience member in mind.  Not because you only want to reach that one person but because it helps you focus your own writing.

Here’s an awesome checklist to help build a mental picture of who you’re writing for.  It’s from Nick Schäferhoff of Torque Magazine from a larger post called Why and How to create a Content Style Guide for Your WordPress Blog

Define Your Target Audience

As mentioned, like pretty much everything on your site, the content is aimed at connecting with your audience. Of course, this is much easier, if you know who they are. So, in order to write a blog style guide, this is a good place to start.

Marketing Persona Template

Here is a short template for creating a customer persona:

Name – In order to distinguish your different personas

Work

  • Size and type of company as well as the industry they work in
  • Job description and details about their role
  • Responsibilities and people they answer to

Demographics

  • Age – Are your ideal visitors teenagers, twenty-somethings, or silver surfers?
  • Gender – Does your topic or product appeal more to a male, female, straight,
    LGBTQ, etc. demographic
  • Income – Think of this also in terms of buying power
  • Education – Also think about this in terms of computer literacy
  • Family – What other roles do they fulfill, such as parents, grandparents, etc?
  • Hobbies – How do they like to spend their free time?
  • Interests – Blogs they read, where they get their news and so on

Goals and Challenges

  • What are their life goals
  • What challenges are they facing on the way?
  • How can you help?

Values and Fears

  • What is important to them?
  • What keeps them up at night?

Source: Nick Schäferhoff of Torque Magazine blog

Even if you’re not a full-time professional blogger Nick’s entire post is worth a read since the real intention behind a blogging “style guide” is to hone your… well… blogging style.  But an extra bonus for business website owners is that this and other exercises in the post can help with your marketing decisions, your customer care decisions, your product design decisions, and of course your personal interactions with your clients.

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We’ve added Cloudways managed VPS hosting to our list of recommended products and services

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 17, 2019

We’ve added Cloudways to our list of recommended products and services.

We’re a little late to the VPS market as most of our small-business clients don’t need the kind of horsepower you can get with a good VPS.  And to be honest, until fairly recently managing your own VPS involved considerable system-administration skills — something we rarely see in non-technical professions.  That’s where Cloudways comes in!  They take care of the nuts and bolts server security and management tasks!

Another cool thing about them?  Since they’re only managing servers you can sign up with a healthy array of very powerful world-wide cloud-service providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services,  Linode and Vultr, and Google CloudPlatform!  Unlike smaller and shared-hosting services that can “run out of room” as your business grows, with Cloudways you can scale your website to handle truly gigantic traffic.

Check out Cloudways managed hosting: our affiliate link (small commission, no price difference) or direct link (no commission, we still recommend them.)

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ReviewSignal’s WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks for 2019 are out!

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 9, 2019

Every year Review Signal does a performance survey of major hosting companies.

Every year SignalReview runs a series of long-term benchmark tests on a wide array of hosting companies, ranging from bottom-of-the-barrel shared hosting to very high-end enterprise hosting.  I particularly appreciate this in-depth review because so many others focus entirely on the bottom-of-the-barrel, cheapest offerings from every provider.  That might be fine for hobby, personal, or maybe HTML-only site owners who don’t really care about losing visitors to slow performance or losing ratings from search engines.  But cheap commodity shared hosting is almost always a bad idea for businesses.

Most of our clients will be interested in the results for the $25/month and less tier.  Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean “cheap.”  And some of these inexpensive offerings perform very well.

Incendia Web Works led the pack on the WPPerformanceTester PHP bench and TVC.net led on the WordPress database benchmark. The only real outlier is DreamHost in the PHP bench did it nearly 7 seconds slower than any other company.

It was good to see a lot of our favorites do well, and good to get confirmation about some of the stinkers out there.  (Sometimes “cheap” doesn’t mean inexpensive either!)

It was also good to see some new entries.  Over the next few months we’ll be reviewing some of these and adjusting our own recommendations accordingly.

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Expert cleaners can fix that. Like when I leave a pen in the laundry. Or when someone breaks your website…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 6, 2019

David's ink-stained shirts after a washer/dryer accident would be easy for an expert to clean...

Photo by David Innes, RealBasics.com

I can’t say how cleaners feel about cleaning ink-stained shirts to be honest, but we love fixing websites.  Broken or misbehaving or just plain old websites are like the world’s best puzzle.

I’ve been washing and drying my own clothes for a very long time.  But I can still make rookie mistakes.  Like this weekend when I decided alllll my shirts needed washing, even my clean ones, needed washing to freshen them up.  Which would have been a brilliant idea if… I hadn’t left a pen in one of the pockets!  Yikes!  (If you see me wearing old farmer flannels or loud Hawaiian shirts this week and wonder why…)

Sometimes us do-it-yourselfers make mistakes that are really hard for non-professionals to correct.  Like leaving pens in the laundry or breaking their website.  Mistakes like that are often easy cleanups for professionals though, not because they’re better or smarter than you but because they’ve got the experience and tools to do it with.

The cleaners down the street aren’t going to call me an idiot when I bring (all) my shirts in after my inky disaster.  Things like that happen. They understand.  And they’ll easily fix it for me for way less than it would cost to replace all my shirts.

For the same reason I never call someone an idiot if their website breaks while they’re working on it.   And they’re almost always easy for us to fix, also for far less than it would cost to replace the website!

We’ve got the tools and knowledge to fix websites, from really simple fixes like clearing up an alarmingly permanent “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute” notice when you tried an update all the way up to (and sometimes even including!) accidentally deleting your entire website or database!

If you or someone you care about wakes up to a broken website that’s an idea client for us.  Give us a call or send them an email introduction to us.  We’d love to help.

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Should you stream audio or video from your shared hosting account?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 5, 2019

victrola photo

Photo by Flickr user LRD615

It’s not a good idea to stream audio or video directly from your WordPress website.  Especially on shared hosting.  Uploading may be easy for you but can be glitchy for your users, and costly for mobile users on limited data plans.

On a Facebook group for new WordPress users someone asked

“Generic Website questions pertaining to downloads – so i have a series of video and audio and transcripts for sermons on my site – do people download much to their phones – instead of watching it online – why would they download it to their phone? I’m an old man i guess and I’ve never downloaded to my phone unless it was an app – other than that ??? thoughts…”

Relatively few people download raw video or audio to a folder on their phones. Some do but usually they’ll use an app for that — a music player like iTunes, a podcast app, etc.

Those who do download files have two main reasons.

  • So they can listen or watch when they’re offline or when they have really expensive data plans.
  • When their bandwidth or streaming quality is really low.

The second can happen when your phone signal is really low, but it can also happen when a website author uploads the audio or (especially) video files directly into their shared-hosting website (their WordPress media library, for instance) instead of uploading it to a streaming service (e.g. YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo) or just high-volume cloud storage (e.g. Amazon Web Services.)

The problem is that shared hosting often can’t stream fast enough to avoid glitching when more than one visitor is streaming at once. And unlike video streaming services that will radically compress and buffer video for phones and other low-resolution or low-bandwidth devices, if you upload a 4K video your site it will struggle to stream the entire 4K video even though the user’s phone may only be 400 pixels wide!  (In other words, streaming audio or video from your shared-hosting server can waste huge chunks of a user’s data plan.)

In those circumstances users wait till they’re on WiFi and download to watch or listen may be the only reasonable choice.

Incidentally, while they may not actively block you most shared hosting plans say right up front that their servers don’t support streaming audio or video.

Bottom line: use a 3rd-party streaming service if you want to share streaming content on your average WordPress website.


Extra bonus points: While this isn’t strictly related to performance, most SEO experts will remind you that YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world after Google!  For better or worse that makes uploading your videos to YouTube and embedding them on your own site can double your exposure.  That plus any references or links you add to your video or captions create inbound links to the rest of your site.

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