WordPress 4.1.2 is now available. This is a critical security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.
WordPress versions 4.1.1 and earlier are affected by a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability, which could enable anonymous users to compromise a site. This was reported by Cedric Van Bockhaven and fixed by Gary Pendergast, Mike Adams, andAndrew Nacin of the WordPress security team.
A number of plugins also released security fixes yesterday. Keep everything updated to stay secure. If you’re a plugin author, please read this post to confirm that your plugin is not affected by the same issue. Thank you to all of the plugin authors who worked closely with our security team to ensure a coordinated response.
Already testing WordPress 4.2? The third release candidate is now available (zip) and it contains these fixes. For more on 4.2, see the RC 1 announcement post.
You’ve got a problem. You’ve been tasked with hiring an search engine optimization (SEO) firm to provide various online marketing services to your company. You went out and did a search on Google for “[your geographic location] + seo” and got a list of 300+ SEO firms. You start contacting the firms starting with the one at the top, since it seems reasonable that the guy at the top must know what he’s doing. But as you contact the firms they all tell you the same things, or as one reader put it in a comment on one of my previous articles, “SEO is surely the greatest con ever. Can anyone here tell me how every would-be Internet Marketer on the planet can promise every client to get them onto the first page of Google natural search?” The easy answer is that some can deliver while others can’t. But if that’s the case, how do you figure out which SEO firm to hire?
First, let’s clear up some misconceptions about SEO firms.
A nice-looking website does not a good SEO firm make. If you’re looking to hire an SEO firm that can also take care of designing your new website, then yes, you should probably consider how good their own website looks. But if you’re only looking for top-notch SEO, some of the best firms have websites that are second-rate at best.
The SEO firm that ranks first in your geographic area is not necessarily the one you should work with. I’m going to let you in on a secret. My own firm almost always shows up first in Google for “utah seo,” and has for most of the past 10 years, but it’s not because we’re the best SEO firm in Utah. I’m not saying we’re not the best SEO firm in Utah, but if we are that’s not why our website ranks high, because a lot of our competitors are doing a better job of SEO on their own websites than we are doing on ours. Why does our website continue to rank #1 for “utah seo?” Sure, we have some decent content on the site, we’ve got the code right for the most part, and we have some good inbound links, but mostly it’s because we were one of the first SEO firms in Utah and it’s an old domain that’s been in use since 1996. Google puts a lot of weight on those two factors, and fortunately for us, it’s hard for anyone else to compete without a time machine.
The best “SEO firm” for you might not be much of a firm. Bigger is not better. Less sometimes, but not always, is more. The right SEO firm for you might have one or two employees working from a basement. Or it might be the SEO firm with 500 employees. Don’t write either one off automatically.
All SEO firms are scam operations. This statement is 100% false, in that it’s only 95% true. Or as the late Rex E. Lee put it in a statement about lawyers but which applies equally well to SEO firms, “It’s a shame that an entire profession should be maligned because of two or three hundred thousand bad apples.” Yes, you’re right to be careful about the firm you hire. Too many people hire a firm, only to leave a year or two later and wonder “Did I just throw all that money away on nothing?”
Now, on to the meat–how do you hire the right SEO firm?
Decide what you need. Do you need link removal, reputation management, a one time SEO audit, ongoing SEO, link building, PPC management, retargeting, content marketing, or one of the other 20 services SEO firms frequently offer? If you’re not sure what you need, start by figuring out the job to be done. Do you want to grow sales by 20% over the next 12 months, or leads by 50% over the next six months? Is your goal increased rankings, or do you just need the boss to know that someone is working on SEO and then you can check this bothersome item off your to-do list? Have a goal in mind by which you will measure the success of your engagement with your SEO firm, and make that goal the center of your communication with them. If you can’t measure how successful your SEO efforts are, you’re less likely to be successful with them.
Get multiple consultations, but keep it secret. Once you know what you want, sit down with an SEO firm, in person or by phone or email, that seems reasonably qualified and ask them to help you figure out what you need to do. Most SEO firms will gladly offer a free consultation because they know by doing so they have a chance to impress you and win your business. This time will also help you to know if you like the firm and the people you’ll be working with. By the end of the consultation, which may take a few days if the SEO firm needs to go and do research on your website and industry, you should received a proposal with the services you need and pricing for them. Then, unless you’re in a time crunch and love the first firm you’ve met with, go do the same thing with one or two other firms to have a basis for comparison. But don’t advertise this. When you tell an SEO firm “I’m shopping around,” or “I’m talking to other firms,” this doesn’t always make them compete harder for your business, it may make them compete less. This is especially true of some of the best SEO firms, where clients are fighting to work with them rather than the SEO firm fighting to work with that client.
Get case studies and references. The #1 question you want answered from an SEO firm is “Are you going to help me get my job done?” When you go climbing in the Himalayas you want an experienced Sherpa. Without being able to see the future, the best way an SEO firm can answer this question is to show you that they’ve gotten the job done for other clients just like you. If you run a self storage company, and you talk to an SEO firm that has done work with 10 other self storage companies, and they’ve all had good results, then that’s a reasonably good predictor they’ll be successful working with your company. If your company is unique and you need a generalist SEO firm rather than one that focuses exclusively on your industry, get case studies and references from SEO firms that have at least done work for clients with similar business models and similar “jobs to be done” as yours.
Make the firm tell you stories. A good SEO firm executes tactically. A great SEO firm does that, but is highly creative as well, and creative people tell good stories. Stories also allow you to get a truer vision of what the SEO firm is all about. Case studies and references are like looking up someone’s LinkedIn profile. You should do that before hiring an employee, but you wouldn’t hire someone based exclusively on their LinkedIn profile. You’d also want to hear them tell you stories about their background, experience, and successes and failures. This is part of why video interviews from companies like HireVue are taking off. Ask the SEO firm how they were founded, what their best client experience was, what their worst client experience was and how they handled it, and how they’ve improved over the years. Even if you have made up your mind after following the first three tips, as you listen to stories you may completely change your opinion.
Setting clear goals, getting multiple bids, examining predictors of the future, and listening to stories–that’s how you ensure you’ll hire the right SEO firm. Are there exceptions? Sure. At my own firm we’re terrible at producing formal case studies. We’re busy doing the work that produces results for our clients, and although we know we should have the case studies, somehow they don’t make it to the highest priority. And I know of some firms that I wouldn’t hire myself nor recommend to anyone else, and yet they have great looking case studies. In both cases listening to stories is a way to better see the reality behind the company.
Have you hired an SEO firm? How did you make sure you found the right one?
https://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Search-Engine-Optimization.jpg6001400Bruce Quirozhttps://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/logo_es_nav-1.pngBruce Quiroz2015-04-20 18:41:022015-04-20 18:41:024 Tips For Hiring The Right SEO Firm
Anna Richardson Taylor explores the importance of an understanding of psychology when it comes to design
What does the World Wide Fund for Nature’s logo have in common with a jar of Waitrose Honey? They both use a stylised image of an animal, and are examples of simple yet effective design. They are also both neat practical applications of the psychological theories of Gestalt.
Developed by German psychologists in the 1920s, Gestalt theories explain how people tend to organise visual elements into groups, and how the whole is often greater than its parts. Their application takes advantage of how the brain self-organises information in a manner that’s orderly, regular, symmetrical and simple. Used in a logo, the Gestalt principles make it more interesting, more visually arresting – and therefore themessage more memorable.
Whether this only vaguely rings a distant bell of your design education, Gestalt and other psychological hypotheses – such as colour theory or semiotics – are still very much in evidence in today’s creative industries.
Branding agency Turner Duckworth often plays with the core tenets of Gestalt, having created the design that appears on jars of Waitrose’s own-brand honey, for example. It uses implied shape in three ways: to indicate Waitrose’s ‘E’, as well as the shape of a bee and a honey dipper.
Its recent design for a limited edition Coca-Cola’s Summer drinks can also uses this tool, creating the shape of a Coke bottle out of the negative space between two flip-flops – forging the association between summer and the soft drink.
The WWF logo (designed by Landor) uses the law of closure, its visual elements suggesting a connection between each other, even though they don’t completely touch.
Semiotics, the understanding of signs and how they convey meaning, is evident in most smartphone app logos, for example. Whether through icons (clear representations of the object itself, such as the camera), indexes (signs that have a connection with the object but are not real representations) or symbols that have no visual connection, the logos help users know their function through connecting their meaning to existing associations.
So does the application of psychological theories make design more effective? And does being a good shrink make you a better designer? Many creatives will remember the core principles of Gestalt, balance, and the golden ratio and the rule of thirds from design school, but should they be applied to make a better design?
Ed Woodcock, director of strategy at branding agency Aesop, believes that designers might not always be aware of using psychological principles. “It does happen that someone takes psychological theory and applies it to creativity in some way, but it’s more likely that someone creative intuits what’s a truthful way of perceiving and sensing things. And that’s then reflected in their work and gets picked up by psychologists,” he explains.
For a recent campaign for beer brand Birra Moretti, Aesop designed a series of press adverts that featured an archive image of a women looking directly at the viewer. The image and composition were chosen instinctively by the designers, says Ed, but they still use the psychological effect of the direct gaze that makes the viewer more responsive.
However, today’s use of psychology in design needs to go beyond those basic theories learnt at college, believes Andy Budd, founding partner and managing director at digital design consultancy Clearleft. Understanding of cognitive behaviour, for instance, can hugely affect a design, and tools such as Stephen P Anderson’s Get Mental Notes card deck can help designers apply psychology to the creative process.
“To be a good designer in today’s society, you need to have an understanding of psychology, human behaviour, and the little shortcuts, the little quirks, in the way people operate,” he says. “Then you can use them to make it easier for people to engage with your products.”
Great design requires great psychology, agrees Simon Norris, managing director at Nomensa, a design consultancy that combines psychological insight with design. “Psychology is the science of behaviour and the mind. When design and behaviour match, the design will be superior,” he explains.
Books such as Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein’s Nudge have brought the strand of behavioural economics to the mainstream in recent years, and its principles are particularly relevant in creating digital user experiences for example.
“It’s about trying to remove barriers of friction and trying to nudge people in a direction that’s ultimately going to be best for them,” explains Andy. There are a number of cognitive biases that are “psychological shortcuts that humans make to basically avoid thinking”, he adds.
Social proof is one such bias. It purports that people are more likely to do something if others are doing it too, and is used by Amazon to great effect. The company’s product pages are crammed full of items of social proof, such as reviews, recommendations and top 10 lists.
Meanwhile, the latest Audi poster campaign, ‘Everything You Need, Nothing You Don’t’, arguably uses cognitive dissonance to draw your attention. Making the script marginally more difficult to read engages the brain more effectively, and therefore allows you to process the message more easily.
Paul Davies, who was a psychologist before becoming a designer, runs psychology-led design consultancy Behaviour, also believes that an understanding of behaviour can make design more effective. “Psychology has a huge impact,” he argues. “Unlike artists, designers have to make something for effect; an artist can start a project without a brief, but a designer has to have a purpose and they have to do that for a particular audience.”
Paul believes this is becoming particularly important as design gets increasingly used to effect positive behavioural changes. For a recent project for breast cancer charity CoppaFeel, Behaviour was asked to design a tool for young women to get into the habit of regularly checking for early signs of breast cancer.
It worked with psychologists at University College London to build behavioural insight into the design of an app to help its users stay engaged, and ultimately build long-term habits. For example, when people first start the app they are encouraged to read out a pledge – “research shows that consciously acknowledging a commitment leads to a stronger chance of long-term engagement,” Paul explains.
Users also see how many other people have ‘copped a feel’. This feature exploits the fact that people are more likely to participate in an action when they see others doing the same. These and many other insights are built into the app to encourage young women to form a habit.
“It’s this insight into the way we humans work that design needs to connect with more,” Paul adds. “A great-looking design isn’t always a great working design and often design without psychology is a source of dangerously misapplied effort.”
Another area of psychology that’s of growing relevance is neuroaesthetics. This deals with the effect of art and imagery on a neurological level, and how subtle differences in colour, contrast or grading, for example, can affect the emotional reaction to – or the quality of – a piece of design.
James Digby-Jones, partner at Saddington Baynes, is a keen student of image theory and the emotional effects of varying aesthetics. He has been manipulating, tweaking and improving images for quite some years. “Essentially, we’re about the use of colour and the retouch styling to affect a viewer’s response to an image,” explains James.
“It’s very much about mood and how you feel about an image. We create additional engagement with imagery – through the choice of colours and the tonality in addition to the colours themselves, the relationship of how you separate or identify different elements within the image – how you help lead the way the viewer is going to perceive the piece, and so on.”
Emotional engagement is the name of the game, he adds, and eliciting or heightening emotional reactions through various adjustments to an image is the company’s bread and butter.
The aim of recent Guinness ad in Ireland, It’s Alive Inside, which featured an Irish hurling ball as a man’s eye, was to shock and unsettle the viewer. The impact of the original image of an eye staring out was further enhanced to highlight the “unflinching biological reality of the eyeball”. Subtle touches, such as giving the hurling ball a wet translucency and adding a tinge of pink to the inner eyelid, helped to make the viewer feel challenged and unnerved. In addition, the balance of tone and palette of the colour grading needed to reflect the brand’s previous campaigns.
Saddington Baynes’ expertise goes beyond the stipulations of colour theory, and James is not advocating the adherence to a set formula of psychological theories – by definition that would be anti-creativity. But an awareness of psychology can inform good design in very tangible ways.
Time to start swotting up on those psychological theories. In fact, Paul wants psychology research to become more widely available to the creative industries. Citing a student who trotted out the hackneyed description of a designer as “an artist who can’t draw”, Paul counters: “Designers are actually psychologists who can draw.”
https://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Guinness_Balleye.jpg384512Bruce Quirozhttps://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/logo_es_nav-1.pngBruce Quiroz2015-04-14 17:25:162015-04-14 17:25:32The psychology of design explained
Mobile-geddon. Mobile-pocalypse. The biggest update in years. Call it what you want: On April 21 Google will be releasing an update to its algorithm that could have a big impact on your search engine rankings if you and your website aren’t prepared.
The focus of this update is to provide a better search experience for mobile users. To accomplish this, Google will be “expanding [its] use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” So what does that mean in plain English? If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your search engine rankings and ultimately your Web traffic could take a hit.
If you’ve been hanging on to your old-school website design for the past decade, Google has officially given you a reason to upgrade in the next two weeks. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, don’t panic, and definitely don’t pay someone from a spammy-looking “Your website is in danger” email to fix your site.
Here are some steps to take to ensure you’re prepared for this algorithm change:
If you get a green “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly,” then you’re all clear. Skip to step 6. If you get a red “Not mobile-friendly,” then we have some work to do. If you manage your own website and were surprised to find out it wasn’t mobile-friendly, read on to the next step to see how to look for specific issues to fix. If you’re not the webmaster for your page or use a website provider, skip to step 3.
2. Check your mobile usability stats using Google webmasters tools.
If you thought your site was mobile-friendly, and it wasn’t, you can use these tools to identify any problems. This dashboard is designed to show you specific issues that are hurting your mobile-friendliness. If you haven’t set up your site with Google’s tools, here’s how. Below is an example of what a site with a few issues will look like in your dashboard:
You can click these usability errors and go directly to the page with the issue, and see what needs to be done to fix the page, whether it’s as simple as a change in font size or as complex as viewport issues that are preventing the page from adapting to smaller screens. Run through these errors and correct the necessary issues. Skip to step 5.
3. Check with your webmaster or website provider to see the status of your site.
If your site is managed by another person or company and you’re getting a red notification from Google, it’s time to give them a call and see what you can do to get your site upgraded to a mobile-responsive theme. If your provider isn’t able to build mobile-responsive websites, move on to step 4. If you’re able to get upgraded, do it. In this case, change is good. After your site has been updated, skip to step 5.
4. Find a new website provider.
Breaking up can be hard to do. If you have a long-standing relationship with your website provider, it can be difficult to leave and find a new one, but your business deserves better. When searching for a new provider, here are some things to look for:
Live sample sites demonstrating previous work. It’s a good idea to plug these sites into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test as well, to check and make sure their designs are as functional as they are visually appealing. No examples to check out? Steer clear. A quality website designer or provider should be proud of their work.
Responsive design, not separate sites for mobile devices. Google has stated in the past that it prefers responsive design over other solutions.
Experience transitioning desktop websites to mobile-responsive design. Transitioning to an entirely new website design is a lot more complicated than simply changing layouts and images. Redesigning a website can hurt existing search engine rankings if not done carefully. Any links with long-standing high rankings can disappear if a URL structure is incorrectly changed. Inbound links, an important ranking factor, can also be impacted in a redesign. Previous experience transitioning sites is important to retain any existing search authority.
Once you’ve found a new website provider or designer who can build your perfect mobile-responsive site, move on to the next step.
5. Test, test, then test again.
Once you’ve gone through a site redesign, or any time you make tweaks to your site, it’s important to run through every page of your site and make sure links are working and pages are loading properly. Run through it on a smartphone or tablet if you can, too.
Since you’re a real estate professional and not a website designer, it can be tempting to trust that your site is always up and running smoothly, and go days, weeks or even months without actually checking on your site. However, your website is your online representation to potential clients, and it’s important to know it’s up and running and collecting leads. If you check Facebook every day to see what’s going on with your high school sweetheart, why wouldn’t you want to see what’s going on with your business? When you’ve checked through your website and everything is good to go, you can move on to the final and most exciting step.
Your site is now mobile-friendly and you can avoid all punishment from Google on April 21. Now, you can focus on adding relevant, local content to your website to climb the search engine rankings even further.
What do you think about Google’s algorithm update coming this month? Is your website prepared? Please continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Erica Tafavoti is an inbound marketing expert at PipelineROI, real estate’s first complete inbound marketing platform. You can follow her on Twitter at@PipelineROI and on pipelineroi.com/blog.
https://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Ditty_about_summer.jpg6591488Bruce Quirozhttps://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/logo_es_nav-1.pngBruce Quiroz2015-04-08 10:47:012015-04-08 10:47:01Is your website ready for Google’s algorithm update?
As the ongoing Meerkatification of humanity proves, the internet (in one form or another) is becoming more and more about video. At peak times, Netflix and YouTube alone account for half of all web traffic. That’s an understandably huge burden for ISPs to carry. But as well as making the pipes bigger, we can also shrink down what goes through them.
Video codecs are the clever algorithms that take raw video data and shrink it down to a manageable amount of data. Every codec is a tradeoff between preserving quality and decreasing file size, but not all codecs are created equal; far from it, in fact.
Over on the YouTube developer blog, Google has a fantastic (and very easy-to-understand) post on the benefits of its VP9 video codec, the technology that’s already being used to stream YouTube videos to some users. According to Google, VP9 cuts the file size of a video in half — meaning where you previously could stream 480p video over your crummy connection, you’ll now be able to get 720p.
You don’t need a stats degree to see why that’s important. Over half of internet traffic is video; if you can cut the file-size of those videos in half, you decrease total internet traffic by a quarter. You’d have to string a helluva lot of fiber-optic to get the same kind of improvement overnight.
That importance is another thing that makes VP9 such a killer technology. Unlike many codecs that came before it (and continue to challenge it), VP9 is an open-source standard. Open-source (and royalty-free) means free-to-use; free-to-use means the tech is far more likely to be built into web browsers and smartphones, and used by video giants like Netflix.
Ultimately, that means prettier, faster-loading videos for you and your grandma, and cheaper internet bills for YouTube (so fewer ads now, pretty please?). Not bad for, fundamentally, a clever bit of math. [YouTube Developer Blog]
https://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/lcoplgz1bigxab68kh3o.jpg358636Bruce Quirozhttps://elementalstudios.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/logo_es_nav-1.pngBruce Quiroz2015-04-07 11:22:062015-04-07 11:22:06Why You Should Care About VP9, Google’s Clever Video Codec