The platform of record for USA TODAY’s Sports Media Group

The USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s portfolio was splintered across sites, brands, and platforms. So WordPress VIP helped build a common framework for all of its sites. Now, the Sports Media Group can optimize their content delivery without the headache of DevOps.

“By  moving to WordPress VIP, we were able to not worry about downtime… Things like security we no longer have to think about. So this allows our team to focus on building awesome stuff.”

— David Parsons, Software engineer, USA TODAY

To learn more about our work with USA TODAY, including detailed results, download the executive summary.

This post is part of a series providing executive summaries of WordPress VIP case studies. For a complete list of these executive summaries, click here

The post The platform of record for USA TODAY’s Sports Media Group appeared first on Enterprise WordPress hosting, support, and consulting - WordPress VIP.

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A “Movember” Focus on Men’s Health at WP Engine

If you felt like you saw an influx of mustaches throughout the month of  November, you weren’t going crazy—chances are it had something to do with Movember. Founded in 2003, Movember is an annual fundraiser that encourages men to “change the face of men’s health” by ditching their razors for 30 days to raise money

The post A “Movember” Focus on Men’s Health at WP Engine appeared first on WP Engine.

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Personalisation in a WordPress World

Personalisation has jumped out as a major buzzword in recent years. One of the biggest reasons for this rise in popularity is the sheer demand consumers now have for personalised digital experiences.  According to Epsilon Marketing, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalised experiences. Furthermore, in a

The post Personalisation in a WordPress World appeared first on WP Engine.

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Updating the Apple News plugin to be Gutenberg native

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP NYC meetup hosted at Postlight on the evening of November 13.

WordPress VIP featured partner Alley originally created their Publish to Apple News plugin to help users seamlessly submit and edit their Apple News content straight from the WordPress editor. Version one of the plugin automatically converts HTML content to JSON and sends it to Apple to publish via their API.

After the WordPress 5.0 update, which brought the new Gutenberg editing experience to core WordPress software, Alley began developing version two of the plugin, which provides full native support for Gutenberg. Chief plugin contributor and Alley’s director of software development Kevin Fodness recently shared learnings from this project at BigWP NYC.

All things considered

The biggest challenge of making the plugin fully Gutenberg compatible? “We had to embrace the future of WordPress while not losing users who weren’t fully embracing Gutenberg.” (Yet.)

In a simpler world, Gutenberg adoption would be binary. Either a site is taking advantage of the new software, or it’s not. However, in practice, business cases are nearly always more complex. In this case, many enterprise users have selectively enabled Gutenberg on some but not all of their content types within the same site. This creates a tricky scenario for plugin developers who need to ensure their product’s functionality across a dozen different platform scenarios.

Rethinking the metabox

Inspired by Yoast and Jetpack, Alley opted for the popular sidebar approach to integrating Gutenberg functionality directly into the plugin interface. Now, editors can configure Apple News settings in four sleek collapse/expand panels which replace the cumbersome metabox.

The end goal for this project was simple: provide a better experience for editors using the Apple News plugin. Achieving this goal was anything but simple, and in his talk, Kevin walks through Alley’s approach to updating the plugin–including all the things they broke along the way.

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP NYC November 2019 playlist.

The post Updating the Apple News plugin to be Gutenberg native appeared first on Enterprise WordPress hosting, support, and consulting - WordPress VIP.

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Serveria – Cloud VPS Hosting, Dedicated servers and more! Offers starting at $1.99/mo!

Serveria has contacted us with a lot of offers recently! Cloud VPS Hosting, Dedicated servers and more! And they are offering a few free things with these offers: free setup and free Windows licenses. We have listed out all of their offers below!

Their WHOIS is public and you can find their ToS/Legal Docs here. They accept Paypal, Bitcoin, Wire, Paysafecard, credit cards, Webmoney and WU as payment methods.

Here’s what they had to say: 

“We are a server rental company running our own private datacenter located in Europe (Latvia). We offer shared hosting, cloud VPS, dedicated servers, colocation, domain registration, SSL certificates etc. All our services are 100% confidential.”

Here are their offers: 

Personal

  • 1GB disk space
  • 1GBit port
  • 1 domain
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • cPanel/Softaculous
  • $1.99/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Business

  • 5GB disk space
  • 1GBit port
  • 3 domains
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • cPanel/Softaculous
  • $3.99/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Professional

  • 20GB disk space
  • 1GBit port
  • Unlimited domains
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • cPanel/Softaculous
  • $6.99/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

VPS – 1

  • Xeon 1 core
  • 1GB RAM
  • 30GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Windows/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $14/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

VPS – 2

  • Xeon 1 core
  • 2GB RAM
  • 50GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Windows/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $19/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

VPS – 3

  • Xeon 2 cores
  • 3GB RAM
  • 70GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Windows/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $24/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

VPS – 4

  • Xeon 2 cores
  • 4GB RAM
  • 100GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Windows/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $29/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

VPS – 5

  • Xeon 2 cores
  • 5GB RAM
  • 120GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Windows/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $34/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Linux VPS – 1

  • Xeon 1 core
  • 1GB RAM
  • 30GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $9/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Linux VPS – 2

  • Xeon 2 cores
  • 4GB RAM
  • 70GB SSD cloud storage
  • 1GBit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/FreeBSD)
  • 1 clean IP
  • INSTANT SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • $19/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Dedicated Intel Celeron Quad Core

  • 4 core CPU
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB HDD
  • 1gbit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/FreeBSD/Windows)
  • 1 clean IP
  • FREE 24h SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • 50% OFF Promo Code: WHT2019
  • $19.50/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Dedicated Intel Dual Core (Xeon, Core i3 or similar)

  • 2 core CPU
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB HDD RAID1 (or 128GB SSD)
  • 1gbit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/FreeBSD/Windows)
  • 1-5 clean IPs
  • FREE 24h SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • 50% OFF Promo Code: WHT2019
  • $34.50/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Dedicated Intel Quad Core (Xeon, Core i5 or similar)

  • 4 core CPU
  • 16GB RAM
  • 2TB HDD RAID1 (or 256GB SSD)
  • 1gbit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/FreeBSD/Windows)
  • 1-5 clean IPs
  • FREE 24h SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • 50% OFF Promo Code: WHT2019
  • $44.50/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Dedicated Intel Quad Core Plus (Xeon, Core i7 or similar)

  • 4 Core CPU
  • 32GB RAM
  • 2TB HDD RAID1 (or 256GB SSD)
  • 1gbit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/FreeBSD/Windows)
  • 1-10 clean IPs
  • FREE 24h SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • 50% OFF Promo Code: WHT2019
  • $54.50/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

Dedicated 2x Intel Hexa Core Xeon

  • 12 Core CPU
  • 64GB RAM
  • 2TB HDD RAID1 (or 520GB SSD)
  • 1gbit port
  • Centos 6 or 7 (or Debian/Ubuntu/FreeBSD/Windows)
  • 1-10 clean IPs
  • FREE 24h SETUP
  • FULLY MANAGED
  • 50% OFF Promo Code: WHT2019
  • $74.50/mo
  • [ORDER HERE]

NETWORK INFO:

Serveria, Riga, Latvia, EU

Test IPv4: 80.233.134.1
Test IPv4: 159.148.186.1

Test file: https://serveria.com/100mb.test


Host Node Specifications:

– 2x Intel Xeon E5 CPU

– 256GB RAM

– 4x 2TB HDDs

– Hardware RAID10

– 1Gbps uplink

Please let us know if you have any questions/comments and enjoy!

The post Serveria – Cloud VPS Hosting, Dedicated servers and more! Offers starting at $1.99/mo! appeared first on Low End Box.

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Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2020

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any website owner or digital marketer’s work. This is unlikely to change in the new year, but that doesn’t mean you can just rely on old strategies. In fact, as browsing habits change, you’ll need to keep your SEO techniques up to date.

The way people use search engines such as Google changes constantly. For example, over the past few years, “mobile-first” has become an essential mantra for improving both accessibility and page rankings. While nobody can tell for sure what the future holds, it is possible to get a good idea of what you should focus on for the next year.

In this article, we’ll talk about why SEO will continue to be a critical consideration in the upcoming year. We’ll also discuss some of the trends that may come to dominate your SEO strategy in 2020. Let’s get started!

The Current State of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In case you’re new to the concept, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a series of techniques for helping your site rank higher in search results. It’s an integral aspect of everyday work for most developers and content creators and looks poised to remain so for years to come.

There is no shortage of ways you can improve SEO on your website. General considerations include making sure its loading times are kept to a minimum, for example, and performing keyword research to tailor your posts to match people’s search queries.

However, while it might seem like SEO practices are evergreen, this is far from the case. In reality, what ranks well depends on the search engines’ algorithms, which are continually changing. This naturally means you can’t keep relying on the same optimization techniques over time and expect good results.

As such, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with the changing world of SEO. This will help you keep your site optimized well into 2020 (and beyond).

Optimize Your Site with DreamHost

Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on SEO.

SEO Trends: 12 Tips for Ranking Higher in 2020

To help you get a head-start on optimizing your content in the new year, we’re now going to take a look at some of the SEO trends that will be worth paying attention to in 2020. We’ll also give you some tips on how to adapt your content and strategy to take advantage of those trends. Let’s jump right in!

1. Prepare Your Site for Voice Search

Voice search has already nestled comfortably into many people’s lives. Perhaps you use Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, or Google’s Assistant, just to name three examples. As this technology becomes more prevalent, you’ll need to consider how voice search will affect your SEO efforts.

The main difference between typical SEO strategies and optimizing for voice search involves using more “natural phrasing.” After all, text searches usually involve stilted, compressed phrases like “best blog hosting 2019.” However, if you were to use your voice to search for the same information, you’d probably say something like: “What is the best hosting for blogs this year?”

Do you notice how the second phrase is both more natural and considerably longer? This means you’ll also want to consider optimizing your content for long-tail keywords to a greater degree. Since the ultimate goal is to use keywords people are likely to search for, this might actually make your job easier, as you won’t need to jam cumbersome key phrases into your content.

2. Use Schema to Markup Your HTML

Schema is structured data that can help web browsers and search engines gain a deeper understanding of your page’s content. Consequently, adding this markup can improve how your website displays (and ultimately ranks) in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). 

It’s recommended that Schema markup be used to benefit content such as creative works, events, recipes, organizations, people, and products. For example, a search result using Schema will display richer information than one without.

‘Schema examples in search results’.

As you can see in the example, one of the results displays ratings, images, and more. You can manually add this kind of markup to your posts, or you can use one of the many tools available to test and improve your Schema data. Fortunately, if you’re not prepared to tinker with the HTML of your posts, you can employ a dedicated plugin to help you take advantage of this SEO functionality. 

Additionally, you can review Google’s own structured data guidelines, as well as several reports offered in their webmaster tools. Ultimately, Schema is a vital addition to your website if you want search engines to read the details of your products, rather than view your content as non-descript text. 

3. Optimize Your Site for Speed

Optimizing your site for performance is something we’ve discussed in several previous posts. However, the importance of this step bears repeating. Loading times will undoubtedly remain a huge consideration in 2020 — especially when it comes to improving your site’s rankings.

This issue came to the forefront in 2018, when Google announced it would begin factoring in page speed for mobile devices. This was due to the growing popularity of mobile browsing. Since then, keeping load times short is a primary concern for all website owners.

Fortunately, we’ve also previously explored how to speed up your site in general. Key strategies include implementing a caching solution, as well as optimizing your media filesFor more information, you can take a look at our full series of tutorials on performance optimization.

4. Make Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a distinctly futuristic ring to it. So it’s no surprise that it’s going to play a major role in how SEO changes in the near future. We’re (unfortunately) not talking about hiring a robot to handle your SEO strategy, but that’s not as far from reality as you might expect.

Google already uses AI extensively, thanks to its RankBrain system. This is a bot that uses machine learning to continuously improve Google’s search results. It finds patterns and context in millions of pages, which the search engine can then use to return more relevant results for specific queries.

However, Google isn’t the only party that can also use AI to its advantage. In fact, tools that utilize machine learning to improve your SEO are becoming more popular. One such example is Automated Insights.

The Automated Insights home page.

This solution helps you turn unorganized data, such as site analytics, into a clear narrative. In turn, that can help you spot patterns more quickly and start making improvements.

Another tool that can help you when creating content is WordLift.

The WordLift plugin.

This WordPress plugin uses machine learning to help you optimize your content. It does that by both offering suggestions for the actual content and by adding structured metadata and suggesting relevant links.

We suspect that this is only scratching the surface of what AI-based tools will be able to do in the future. As such, getting familiar with this technology now can give you a vital head start.

5. Improve Your Mobile Pages

Google’s mobile-first index means that the search engine now ranks pages based on their versions designed for mobile devices. As such, even if your site performs flawlessly on a desktop, but it’s hard to use and sluggish when viewed on a smartphone, your SEO rankings will likely suffer.

For this reason, optimizing your site for mobiles is no longer optional. In reality, you’ll need to spend even more time making sure your mobile site is fast and usable. This is also called making your website responsive, since the goal is for it to work well regardless of the screen size or device type used to view it.

You’ll also need to consider how your site will actually work on different screens. For example, if you’ve designed your navigation for desktop browsing, is it still as intuitive and simple to use on mobile devices? If your site contains additional elements, such as pop-ups, you’ll also need to ensure that they don’t interfere with the mobile user experience.

Thankfully, this is not as difficult as it might seem. For instance, the vast majority of WordPress themes and plugins are built with responsive design in mind. However, to avoid any issues, you should still make sure to thoroughly test your site on multiple devices.

6. Focus on More Personalized Results

It often seems like people are getting less patient by the day. They want to find the information they need much more quickly, for instance, which is why Google has placed a greater focus on personalized results

Most notably, Google actually gathers information about each individual user to return the most relevant results. Another example can be found in Google’s “answer boxes.”

A Google result using an answer box.

Google’s service is also personalized by offering searchers contextual results based on previous searches or even the user’s location. If you try searching for “Where is the nearest coffee shop?”, you’ll be shown options that are close by.

This may seem like a tricky trend to leverage to your own advantage, but it’s far from impossible. You can actually increase your odds of appearing in answer boxes by merely providing clear and organized information on your site. Using lists and distinct headings to summarize each page’s contents will also help Google parse and index the information, making it easier to get your site featured in the coveted “position 0.”

7. Create an Optimized Knowledge Base

One area of SEO you might have overlooked is your knowledge base. As part of your customer service strategy, you want users to have access to support and common service questions on a 24/7 basis. This is where a robust knowledge base can be quite useful. However, you may not have considered the SEO benefits of a knowledge base.

‘The DreamHost Knowledge Base’.

A knowledge base can offer a plethora of rich content possibilities, all of which can help you improve your SEO ranking. This includes creating specific content full of valuable keywords. Additionally, you can fine-tune your knowledge base experience in order to keep customers loyal and happy. 

In fact, this can be a make or break point for many businesses. Research indicates that 92% of customers will switch to another company after three or fewer bad customer service experiences. This means you have a golden opportunity to knock out two birds with one stone – provide rich content and excellent customer service at the same time. 

Since you want users to be able to find the articles they need, knowledge base content also tends to follow SEO best practices. You can also ramp up your knowledge base efforts with the use of plugins

One thing to keep in mind, since visitors to a knowledge base are not really looking to be entertained, you can just get down to business and cover the topic using highly optimized keywords. 

8. Extend Your SEO Strategy to Your Social Media Channels

Having a strong social media presence is a significant aspect of online marketing. Naturally, this also applies to your SEO strategy. While social media shares aren’t currently a direct ranking factor, there does seem to be a correlation between social signals and rankings.

How this works is complicated, to say the least, and we won’t get too deep into the details here. Suffice it to say that the more your content is shared, the more traffic your site will likely get through search engines. This also helps you build backlinks and brand awareness, since more people will see and talk about your site.

As such, it’s vital that you factor in your social media presence when considering SEO. Focus on a few essential platforms and maintain a consistent strategy for sharing content and interacting with your followers. This will help you across all areas of your marketing.

9. Shift Your Focus Away from Google

So far, we’ve consistently referred almost exclusively to Google when considering SEO. This is no accident, considering that it remains the most popular search engine by far. Still, it may not be a good idea to focus solely on Google’s ranking algorithms when putting together your SEO strategy.

Amazon’s search engine, for example, is becoming one of the most significant on the web. As it turns out, over half of shoppers turn to Amazon when searching for products, rather than to Google. Another example comes in the form of YouTube, which remains the world’s second-largest search engine.

What this means for you is that relying solely on Google may not be feasible from now on. For example, if you want your products to be more visible, you’ll need to consider Amazon to a much larger degree. If you have a lot a video and other non-text content, on the other hand, YouTube and similar platforms should be high on your list of targets.

10. Understand How Blockchain Affects SEO

If you’ve never heard of “blockchain” before, you’re not alone. While the concept is too complex to do full justice here, we can break it down in simplified terms. In essence, a blockchain is a list of records that cannot be modified after the fact. Every item – or block – in the chain is recorded and preserved as-is forever.

This technology can affect SEO because using blockchain changes the relationship between advertisers and website owners. With blockchains, you can guarantee that every click is valid, meaning that the days of bot visitors are over. This will lead to improved verified data, meaning that sites won’t be able to get away with artificially improving their rankings using automated clicks.

At this point, your best move is simply to learn more about blockchain and how it can affect your site and business. This is a complex and nuanced topic, so being prepared is key. You may even wish to hire an expert to help you if you’re interested in implementing blockchain yourself.

11. Improve Your Technical SEO

SEO is often thought of as a concern exclusive to content creators and marketers. However, the reality is that it’s also something developers need to think about. The process of “technical SEO” refers to making sure your site is compatible with the standards set by search engines.

Two major aspects of technical SEO that we’ve already touched on include page speed and mobile-friendliness. However, another crucial consideration is site security. For instance, Google now requires sites to be delivered using HTTPS in order to be labeled as “secure” in the Chrome browser.

These are just a few of the elements that fall under the technical SEO umbrella. While we don’t have time to go through everything, here are a few additional aspects you’ll want to consider:

  • Site architecture. By designing your site in a logical way, you’ll make it easier for crawlers to catalog and index your pages, which improves your rankings.
  • Rich snippets. This is a type of markup that adds extra information to your pages, making them stand out more in search results.
  • Duplicate content. Search engines penalize sites that feature the same content in more than one location. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t repeat or re-use the same text.

As we mentioned, this is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it should be enough to get you started, whether or not you have an interest in development.

12. Use SEO to Optimize Your Videos

For our final tip, we should acknowledge that SEO isn’t just about text. It’s also vital to look at SEO as it pertains to video content. This is increasingly important as video is becoming more prevalent by the day.

To give you an example, in 2018, nearly half of all internet users watched at least an hour of online video every week. Site owners have started to take heed of this trend, and you can do the same. An easy way to start? Include videos on your site. Search engines consider the quality of your content and the length of time users stick around as ranking factors. By using video, you can improve both metrics.

What’s more, you can also aim to improve SEO on the videos themselves. This involves using clear and descriptive titles, choosing the right video hosting platform, and making sure to address your users’ questions and pain points. This will make sure your visitors get the information they need while improving your rankings at the same time.

Moving on Up

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a static pursuit. As the internet changes, so do the parameters that determine how well your site ranks in search engines. This means that you need to stay up-to-speed with the latest SEO trends in order to ensure continued success for years to come.

Are you ready to optimize your website for 2020? Consider DreamPress, our managed WordPress hosting solution. With automatic updates and strong security defenses, DreamPress takes server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: improving your rankings and getting more traffic. Learn more about plan options today

The post Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2020 appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

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Remaking the New York Post for the digital age

The New York Post struggled to keep pace with the changing world of digital-first content. In critical need of new infrastructure, the Post migrated its proprietary CMS to WordPress VIP. Since then, the Post has enjoyed major gains in every key metric they track.

“Whether you wanted to look at it from a performance standpoint or in terms of speed metrics, or you wanted to look at downtime, or the traffic pre- and post-launch, all the data supported the decision that we made.”

— Remy Stern, Chief Digital Officer, New York Post

 

To learn more about our work with the New York Post, including detailed results of their successful migration, download the executive summary.


This post is part of a series providing executive summaries of WordPress VIP case studies. For a complete list of these executive summaries, click here

The post Remaking the New York Post for the digital age appeared first on Enterprise WordPress hosting, support, and consulting - WordPress VIP.

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How implementing dark mode in WordPress boosted 9to5’s sites

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP San Francisco meetup at the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation on the evening of November 6.

WordPress VIP featured partner 10up recently worked with media company 9to5 to add light and dark mode support to its most popular sites, including 9to5Mac and 9to5Google. Jake Goldman, founder and president of 10up, took the stage at BigWP SF to discuss the project and provide a practical primer on supporting native, OS-level dark and light settings.

As of this year, all major operating systems and browsers have begun to support the ability to view different display modes (light and dark), based on user preference.

Far beyond aesthetics, dark mode is a major factor in improving accessibility for users who suffer from eye strain or other vision difficulties. Additionally, enabling dark and light mode options empowers users to personalize their experience with your content–which can improve engagement.

The good news? Dark mode is relatively easy to enable. It took 10up only about 30 people hours to set up five sites on the 9to5 network that shared an overarching layout.

In this talk, Jake walks through two approaches to achieve similar results. First, a CSS path to deliver content in light or dark mode based on a user’s predefined settings. Next, a JavaScript method to allow users to toggle between light and dark mode on their own, which defaults to user device settings.

Watch Jake’s full talk below:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in San Francisco, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP SF November 2019 playlist.

The post How implementing dark mode in WordPress boosted 9to5’s sites appeared first on Enterprise WordPress hosting, support, and consulting - WordPress VIP.

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How Your Online Business Can Nail Customer Service During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us once more, and that means many things for your business. On the one hand, you’re about to enter the most lucrative period of the year. However, you’ll also be considerably busier than usual, and will likely need to deal with a much higher number of customer support queries.

To make sure your support can cope with the holiday rush, you’ll want to plan ahead. Strengthening and preparing your support team is key to helping them provide assistance for a huge influx of stressed customers. If you do that, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of the season more effectively.

In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s particularly important to think about the customer experience throughout the holidays. We’ll also offer some tips for how you can prepare your business and support employees in advance. Let’s get started!

Why Customer Service Matters Most During the Holidays

If you’re anything like us, you’re getting busier by the day preparing for the holiday season. However, this isn’t just a time for buying gifts and eating good food. It’s also the most critical period for businesses, as many retailers and service providers make the bulk of their yearly sales during the last few weeks of the year.

However, to make sure your business takes full advantage of this period, you’ll need to plan ahead carefully. There are plenty of ways to ensure that you’re ready for the holiday rush, and one of the most crucial is making sure your customer service will function flawlessly.

Of course, providing high-quality customer support is always necessary. During the holiday rush, however, you will most likely be inundated with even more support queries, questions, and confused customers than at any other time of the year. And because of high stress levels, you’re also more likely to end up dealing with some frustrated and potentially antagonistic customers.

This might sound intimidating. By preparing in advance and making a solid plan, however, you can ensure that your customer service will remain top-notch even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Not only will this help your customers, but it will be a huge benefit to you and your customer service agents as well.

Optimize Your Business with DreamPress

Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on customers.

10 Ways to Prepare Your Customer Service for the Holiday Rush

If you’re wondering: “When should I start to prepare for the holidays?”, our answer is right now! It’s never too early to start planning for the year’s final month, but having a plan in place at least before the beginning of December is highly recommended.

With that in mind, we’re going to guide you through some of the most important steps you’ll want to take. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare your customer service before Santa arrives!

1. Analyze Last Year’s Data

A perfect place to start your planning is to look back at the previous year. This will involve examining the volume and type of customer interactions you received, finding out what the most common pain points were, and trying to understand where your service may have been lacking.

Having this data at hand will be a huge help when formulating a plan for the upcoming rush. You’ll be able to improve in areas where you’ve struggled previously, and you can also preemptively provide information for the most common customer questions. In turn, this will cut down on the number of queries your team has to field.

How you go about doing this analysis will naturally depend on your toolset. If you’re using software like Zendesk or Awesome Support, you can just view the statistics and queries from previous years. You should also liaise with your support and marketing teams, as they’ll be best equipped to tell you where you need to focus your attention.

Here are some vital questions you’ll want to be able to answer:

  • How much larger is the volume of support queries you receive during the holiday shopping period, compared with the rest of the year?
  • What are the most common questions customers have?
  • How are most people choosing to contact you — via email, phone, chat, or some other medium?

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these answers will help you immensely throughout the rest of your preparations.

2. Decide Which Support Channels to Focus On

It’s essential that you know where to focus your attention during the holiday season. At first glance, it might seem like the best route to use every conceivable method of contact, but this can lead to spreading yourself too thin.

Imagine that you have to simultaneously juggle phone lines, live chat, emails, and social media, in addition to updating your content and dealing with orders and shipping. In this scenario, you’ll likely see most — if not all — of those channels suffer in quality. This is especially true if you only have a small support team.

To avoid this problem, you’ll need to consider which channels of communication to focus on. The best way to start is by looking at which channels are most commonly used by your customers. As we mentioned in the previous section, looking at earlier years’ support queries will give you a good baseline to work from. However, you’ll also want to consider which channels are most popular during the rest of the year.

For example, if you find that your customers are primarily calling in or using your contact form throughout the year, it’s fair to assume that these will be the busiest channels during the holidays as well. Knowing this will let you assign more people to handle those channels, and avoid keeping customers waiting.

3. Prepare for Quick Scaling

The truth is that no matter how well you plan, the holidays are never completely predictable. This means you’ll need to have a contingency plan, in case you need to scale up or down with little notice.

For example, what if you face twice as many support requests as you anticipated? You’ll need to be able to assign more time and manpower to deal with them, while also keeping the rest of your operations afloat. In this scenario, you might consider hiring remote seasonal workers to help out.

This is something many companies do to handle the increased volume of work during the holidays. Hiring temporary workers gives you the freedom to change the size of your team at almost a moment’s notice. For example, you could use a service like PartnerHero to outsource some or all of your customer support work during this period.

Naturally, you’ll need to ensure that these seasonal workers have all the assets and information they need, which is something we’ll discuss later on. With the right preparations in place, they should be able to slot into your normal operations with little friction and help you deal with almost any unexpected situation.

4. Keep Your Customers Informed

Arguably the most significant way to avoid customer frustration is to manage their expectations. If your support is changing during the holidays, you need to make that clear as early as possible. They’ll need to be aware of when and how they will be able to contact you.

It’s also smart to let customers know how your other operations are likely to alter. For example, will returns take longer to process, and will they need to wait a bit for responses to their emails? By letting them know what to expect, you can keep them informed and minimize the risk of frustration or hostility.

One strategy you can use to your advantage is sometimes referred to as “underpromise and overdeliver.” The idea is that you prepare customers for potential issues that may arise, but then work to avoid those problems anyway. This lets you exceed their expectations.

Overall, our recommendation is to be honest about what customers can expect and to make any changes clear through as many channels as possible. That includes your website, social media, and even your email list. This will ensure that the bulk of your customers know what to expect.

5. Use Automation to Your Advantage

When the season gets going and you find yourself swamped in tasks, every second will count. To make sure you can use your available time most efficiently, you’ll want to consider automating tasks whenever it’s possible to do so.

For instance, you can create an automated workflow using software like Help Scout. This can be set up to redirect customer queries to the person or team best suited to deal with them. Not only will this save time on your end, but it will also keep waiting times down for your stressed customers.

Workflows also let you handle plenty of other tasks automatically, such as tracking products to let you know right away when stocks are low. You can then deal with the potential issue before it becomes a full-blown problem.

There are plenty of other ways you can use automation during the holidays. One of the best strategies is to set up an AI-driven chatbot that can help you deal with the most common questions. This can dramatically cut down on the amount of time the human members of your team need to spend on customer support requests.

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6. Implement a Triage System for Support Queries

In addition to automating parts of your support system, you can also optimize it by introducing a triage process. This involves sorting tasks and support queries into categories depending on their urgency. You can then prioritize more urgent matters first, while non-emergency tasks can be dealt with later.

Triaging your customer service requests will let you focus your attention on what matters most at any given time. The most pressing and time-sensitive tasks can be dealt with right away, minimizing the risk of making your customers feel frustrated and hostile.

An easy way to do this is to simply categorize each customer query according to priority. If an issue needs to be dealt with immediately, you might label it as “critical,” while if it needs to be looked at within 1-2 hours it could be labeled “urgent.” Issues that can wait a day or two, on the other hand, can be noted as “low priority.”

However, you need to remember that you’ll still have to actually deal with all requests. If you find that you’re never getting around to handling low-priority tasks, you may need to consider scaling your team up temporarily by assigning additional personnel.

7. Update Your Content and Knowledge Base

Earlier, we discussed the importance of keeping your customers informed. However, this extends beyond just letting them know about changes to your schedule. By making sure that all of your content and assets are up-to-date, you can save both customers and yourself a lot of time and hassle.

For example, if you provide a knowledge base with information about your products and services, you can use it to answer most of the most commonly asked questions during the holiday period. In many cases, your support team can simply refer customers to relevant knowledge base articles, answering their queries quickly.

For this to work, you’ll obviously need to ensure that you provide as much documentation and information as possible. It also needs to be thoroughly updated, to ensure that you don’t cause additional confusion among your customers.

If you need to set up a knowledge base, you can use a plugin such as Heroic Knowledge Base. If you already have one, on the other hand, you should perform a content audit well before the holiday rush kicks in. This can also involve reviewing similar resources, such as your FAQ page.

8. Learn How to Help Stressed Customers

The holidays are intended to offer relaxation and fun, but we all know that it can also be a thoroughly stressful period. As such, you’re likely to deal with a few customers who are particularly difficult, frustrated, or even outright antagonistic. The good news: as an online business, you won’t have it quite as bad as brick-and-mortar retailers.

Either way, you’ll need to prepare in order to help customers out and avoid angering them further. Dealing with difficult customers is a delicate task. The most valuable advice we can offer is to train your support team to stay calm and professional at all times, no matter what a customer might say.

In addition, here are some ways you can approach particularly challenging customers:

  • Listen. If the customer feels like they’re being deflected or ignored, they’re only going to get angrier and less responsive.
  • Be quick. Naturally, your goal is to be as fast as possible with all support queries. However, it can be worth prioritizing more stressed customers, to avoid further incident.
  • Treat them like people. We discussed the value of automation earlier, but in tough cases, it’s better to take a personal approach. Make it clear to the customer that you’re handling their issue and care about their frustration, so they don’t feel like they’re being treated as a nuisance.

In short, by listening to the customer and being prepared to meet them halfway, you can usually solve even the most heated of issues.

9. Prepare to Provide Compensation to Customers

In some situations, you may need to compensate customers. Especially in the most volatile or challenging cases, a simple gift can help to smooth things over immensely. Some customers might even demand this kind of treatment.

Providing compensation can help to soften even the most upset customers. It can also win back some goodwill. Your goal is customer retention with the hopes that the customer will consider using your business again in the future, despite their current grievances.

Naturally, you’ll want to be very careful about how and when you compensate customers. In some cases, such as when they’ve received a faulty product, you may be legally obligated to provide a new item or a refund.

However, you can also provide compensation if a customer has had a particularly difficult experience, either with your business or your customer service. This could be in the form of a small gift, a coupon, a discount, or anything else that’s convenient but useful to the customer.

10. Take Care of Your Support Team

Finally, while it’s obviously necessary to take care of your customers, you shouldn’t ignore the people on your own front lines. Beginning on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday rush is a stressful experience for everyone, especially those who have to field questions and requests from wound-up customers.

Depending on the size of your business, you can take care of your support team in several ways. Naturally, you should make sure they have everything they’ll need to do their jobs without incident.

However, it’s also nice to reward your support team further, to show your appreciation for all their hard work. Even something as simple as the occasional gift, like seasonally appropriate sweets and drinks, can do a lot to raise morale during this hectic season.

Customer Satisfaction Made Easy

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, but it can be hard to feel merry if your customer service is strained. By preparing well in advance, you can put a plan into place, train your team, and inform your customers — providing effective and efficient support as a result.

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The post How Your Online Business Can Nail Customer Service During the Holidays appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

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