WordPress 4.5 Released

WordPress 4.5 is now live! For a full recap of the changes in 4.5 visit this link.

The biggest changes you will notice when working in your site is the linking functionality in the editor. It is now an inline interface instead of the tradition popup:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 5.20.19 PM

Besides this change, most of the updates are behind the scenes and will not be noticeable to most users. Please be aware that this update has caused a lot of incompatibility issues. jQuery is breaking on many sites that were coded poorly. You will see this by noticing that your sliders are no longer working, dropdowns don’t show and parallax sections are not functioning correctly.

Remember to make a good backup before updating!!

Yoast SEO Setup and User Guide

Yoast SEO is one of the most downloaded plugins on WordPress, but do you know how to properly use it? Most people just install and activate the plugin without ever changing settings or using the most powerful feature: “Page Analysis”. This post will be broken down into two sections.

  1. Initial plugin installation and setup
  2. Optimizing Pages and Posts

Let’s get started with our Yoast SEO Setup guide!

Initial Installation and Setup
  1. Go to “Plugins” then “Add New”
  2. Search “Yoast SEO”
  3. Click on “Install Now”
    yoast seo setup install
  4. Then click “Activate” once the installation completes.
    yoast seo setup activate
  5. Now that the plugin is installed and activated, go to left menu and hover over “SEO”, then click “Titles & Metas”.
    yoast seo setup click titles
  6. I have had the most luck when I click “Enable force rewrite titles”, which will allow the plugin to make your titles SEO friendly. I also select the bar separator, although you could use the dash instead.
    yoast seo setup force rewrite
  7. The last step is to enter your social media accounts into Yoast so they can be used for Open Graph tags in your page. Hover over SEO, then click “Social”.
    yoast seo setup social
    Enter your social media details here:
    yoast seo setup social profiles

That is all the initial setup need with Yoast SEO. Pretty easy, right? Your site’s code is now optimized to look good to Google, but this only gets you part way there. To have any chance of getting ranked in Google, you need to be creating optimized content on a regular basis. That is where Yoast really shines with its Page Analysis tool. Let’s take a look at how that works.

Optimizing Pages and Posts

When you are creating a new page or post, you should be optimizing it for one keyword. Using Yoast’s Page Analysis tool, you can do just that. The goal is to give your page or post a “green light” for your SEO grade. Let’s go through the steps of optimizing your post.

  1. Everything starts with keyword research. If you don’t know what keywords you should try to rank for, there is no point in optimizing your post. For keyword research, I recommend purchasing a keyword research report from a vendor on Fiverr or use Google Adwords’ keyword tool, called Keyword Planner. You can also do a Google search on a term you think might be a good keyword and look at the amount of ads for that keyword. This will tell you how competitive the keyword is. In this example, we will optimize this post you are reading for the keyword: yoast seo setup.
  2. Before you do anything, you will notice that your SEO score is N/A in the publish box at the top of the page.
    yoast seo setup na
  3. Now let’s go down to the “Yoast SEO” settings box on your edit screen. Your score is N/A because you have not entered a “Focus Keyword”. Go ahead and add your focus keyword phrase (ours is yoast seo setup) to that field and click “Save Draft” at the top. You should now see a color next to the SEO label in your publish box.
    yoast seo setup focus keywordThis made our SEO score yellow based on how our focus keyword is used throughout the post:
    yoast seo setup yellow
  4. We can go back down to the Yoast SEO meta box on the edit screen and see that we have passed some tests, but not all:
    yoast seo setup focus keyword tips
    A further explanation of these items:
    – Article Heading: this is also your page title.
    – Page Title: our page title has the exact phrase we are trying to rank for:
    yoast seo setup title – Page URL: your URL has the exact phrase:
    yoast seo setup permalink– Content: we will use the page analysis tool to see why or content is getting a “No”
    – Meta description: this is the content that shows in search results pages (SERPS) on Google. It should also contain your keyword phrase.
  5. Now click on “Page Analysis” to see why our score is not green:
    yoast seo setup page analysis
    I will go ahead and try to satisfy the red and orange items in my page analysis and then check my score again.
  6. After making edits to my content and adding alt text to my images, my page analysis now shows:
    yoast seo all green

That is it! We now have a perfectly optimized page (according to Yoast). Remember that this is only your “on-page” SEO score. There are many other factors in ranking your page including how many links are pointed to your content as well as the amount of social shares. Having done this optimization, you know you are setting yourself up for the best chance of being ranked for your keyword.

Let us know if you have any questions!

WordPress Maintenance vs Managed WordPress

There has been huge growth in the number of hosts offering “managed WordPress” hosting in the past year. Just about every major host now offers managed WordPress hosting. So why would you need WordPress maintenance (from a company like us) when your host can take care of the same WordPress upkeep? Because these are vastly different services. Today we will look at what each service offers and the pros and cons of each.

Managed WordPress Hosting

What do you get?

For the purpose of this post, we will use WPEngine as our managed WordPress provider. Of course, there are many other managed WordPress providers, but WPEngine seems to be the most well known in the space.

At its most basic form, managed hosting is the same as other website hosting. The main difference is a managed host will make updates to your WordPress core for you. They also claim to be setup better for WordPress performance and security. Managed hosting includes:

  • Hosting space for your website.
  • Automatic updates to WordPress core.
  • Daily backups of your site.
  • A staging environment to test new site features.
  • Phone or email support for issues related to your hosting account.

Why would you need it?

Well, you need some type of host, right!? Might as well be a WordPress specific host that knows the ins-and outs of WordPress and is configured for the best security and performance. WPEngine is a great host, but there are other much cheaper options that perform even better (ie. SiteGround).

Managed hosting’s biggest selling point is updating WordPress for you. Unfortunately, this is a bit overrated. They will force you to update WordPress, whether or not your site is ready and they will not ensure that your site is functioning properly after the update. Their update is the equivalent of you or I logging into WordPress, hitting update, and leaving without checking anything. This is not worth the premium they are putting on their hosting package.


For all the bashing of WPEngine I have done, they are still a decent host, although overpriced. The pros of going with WPEngine are:

  • Fast and secure hosting.
  • Good backup system with restore points.
  • Easy use of a staging site.
  • Good support for hosting related issues.


There are a few quirky things you have to deal with when using WPEngine:

  • Core WordPress updates made without permission or function checking.
  • WPEngine deletes and disables all revision history for what they say is “performance issues”. Some people like having past revisions they can revert to on a page-by-page basis.
  • Some plugins are banned from being used because they effect WPEngine’s “environment”.
  • Lack of control of your database and file structure. You cannot simply go to phpMyAdmin to make database changes.
  • They use a proprietary WordPress install that is difficult to migrate to another hosting provider (see our guide on migrating away from WPEngine here).
WordPress Support Services

What do you get?

I am going to be biased here and talk about our own company, wpONcall. We will discuss our primary product, which includes unlimited support.  This package is $149 per month. You get:

  • Unlimited support tasks
  • Hourly website backups
  • Daily updates to website plugins
  • Updates to WordPress core with functionality check
  • Security Scanning

Why would you need it?

Unlike managed hosts like WPEngine, you can use wpONcall for any website task. This includes making content updates, adding plugins, fixing issues and making improvements to the site. The unlimited support is like having a web designer on your team to make your site better. This is in contrast to a manage host who will not help with any request except those directly related to hosting (ie. the site is down and I need to see if it is a server issue). You need a WordPress maintenance company to improve your site over time.

WordPress maintenance is also important to keep the health of the site in top shape. Keeping plugins up to date is extremely important for security and backups that can easily be restored are imperative, even if your host also makes a backup.


  • Support on demand for any website issue or improvement.
  • A person keeping an eye on things in case anything goes wrong.
  • The peace of mind knowing someone is there is something goes wrong with the site.
  • A more secure, better functioning site.


  • More expensive because of the actual service time involved
  • A lot of provider choices without a lot of differentiation.

Although they may seem similar, WordPress maintenance companies have a completely different product than managed hosting providers. Hosting providers are just that – hosting companies with an emphasis or marketing spin to sound better to WordPress site owners. WordPress maintenance providers fill the need of site owners who need ongoing help with their site and want to know things are safe and functioning properly.  One cannot replace the other, it all depends on the level of your needs and how much help you need on a consistent basis with your site.

What Does a Hacked WordPress Site Look Like?

Even with every measure in place, it is hard to completely eliminate the possibility of a site getting hacked. WordPress, in particular, is targeted more than other websites because of its wide use.

To properly maintain a WordPress site you should be:

  • Updating Plugins as soon as updates come out
  • Updating the WordPress Core as soon as feasible, especially incremental security patches
  • Making backups so when the worst happens, it can be fixed

What Happened:

A wpONcall client (we will keep them anonymous) was up to date on all updates and everything was running normally the previous day. The next morning we awoke to a site that was completely hacked, left with this landing page:

The hackers gained entry to the file system and completely removed the entire WordPress install, including theme files and all uploads. We were left with a one-file web page, which contained the hackers message.

I will give the hacker some credit that their page was creatively constructed. All styling and media elements were part of his/her index page so that it was not reliant on any external files. The hacked page contained everything from a Facebook like button to an embedded audio file playing the song, “We Own It” by 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa. It was a pretty scary page, to say the least.

Could This Have Been Prevented?

Every measure has been taken to keep the site from being hacked, including proactively updating plugins and WordPress as soon as updates became available. Even with this proactive maintenance, the hacker found a way into the file system of the hosting account. It is hard to say for sure, but the site could have been compromised through the hosting company or through a theme vulnerability (the site was built from a custom theme).

What Did We Do to Fix It?

backupssaveBecause we make weekly backups of all websites, we were quick to respond. The first step was to remove the malicious page and put up a temporary blank page. We retrieved our backup taken a few days previous from our cloud service. After uploading the un-affected site, we needed to clear the site cache and reset permalinks to get everything working again. The last step was resetting all administrator passwords to ensure it was not a password breach to the site.

Is it Likely the Site Will be Re-Hacked?

We typically do not see sites re-infected right after restoration, but we cannot be too careful. wpONcall will keep a close eye on the site and make sure there is no new malware or compromises to the website.

The Lesson:

Always, always make a backup of your site. The hacker deleted everything from the server. There was no fix for this except restoring the site from a recent backup.


Has your site ever been hacked? Did you know what to do to get things back to where they should be?

Gravity Forms Not Sending Email Confirmations: How to Fix It

The Problem:

We have a lot of clients that run into problems with form notifications not coming to their inbox when a visitor fills out a Gravity Forms form on their site.  This is a huge issue when your contact form is the first point of contact with a new customer and you don’t even know someone is reaching out.

The issue is caused by the way WordPress handles email delivery. When your notification email is set to an email at your domain (ie. info@yourdomain.com), the notifications often don’t make it through.

The Easy Fix:

Simply change your notification email address to a non-domain email. Have the notifications send to a separate Gmail or Yahoo account instead of your “name@yourdomain.com” email.

  1. Click “Forms” on the left side of the page, then click the title of the form that is having an issue.
  2. Hover over “Form Settings”, then click “Notifications”notifications
  3. Click “Admin Notification”, then change the “Send to Email” to a non-domain email.

The “little bit harder” fix:

Instead of just changing your notification email address, we are going to walk through how to change the way WordPress handles email delivery. Let’s jump into it!

1. Create a new Gmail account. You will be using this email to send notification emails through. I won’t go through signing up for Gmail here, but is is straightforward once you get here.

Now that you have a new Gmail account, you will need to download and install this plugin: Configure SMTP.

  • Click “Plugins” > “Add New”
  • Search “Configure SMTP” and select “Install Now”installsmtp
  • Then click, “Activate Plugin”activate
  • Next, go to “Settings” on the left side of your dashboard and click “SMTP”
  • Click the option, “Send e-mail via GMail” which automatically puts the right settings in. The last thing you need to do is enter your SMTP Username (Your gmail address – the full thing) and your SMTP password (your new Gmail login).

That’s It!

Go ahead and test your form and see if the notification make sit to your inbox. If you are still having trouble with it, let us know, we are here to help!