Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year! I hope you are having an enjoyable holiday and getting a chance to spend time with your family and friends. I know I have been having an enjoyable break visiting with friends and relatives.

This time of the year is always a good chance to recap what has gone on over the last year. While I have not posted as often over 2011 as I have in other years it has been a busy year here for the LGR Internet Solutions blog. Here are the top ten posts have been from the blog, perhaps take a minute to revisit some of them or read them if you have not already.

  1. WordPress CSVPig Plugin
  2. Cloudflare
  3. Social Media Icon Set
  4. MozyHome Alternative
  5. Google Search by Country
  6. How to Build a Website in Under 60 Minutes
  7. High Resolution QR Codes
  8. Blocking WordPress Blog Spam with .htaccess
  9. Review Dropbox
  10. SEO Site Tools

If you blog what have been your most popular posts this year? Leave a comment and let us know what has been popular for your website during 2011.

The Need For Speed

I have talked about different methods to speed up your website in the past. By enabling GZip, using external files for CSS and Javascript and signing up for Cloudflare are all great methods to help speed up your website. It is becoming more important all the time in the eyes of search engines (particularly Google) how fast your website loads. The reality is the faster your website is the better it is for your visitors and the more likely it is that your search engine position will improve. Today I wanted to talk about some other methods you can use to improve the speed of your website.

Move Servers – The reality is most shared server plans that you get from web hosts like Hostgator, Dreamhost or whatever your favourite web host is have hundreds of websites hosted on them. If you want to speed up your website one of the best things you can do is move up to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated server. This gives your website more resources so it can respond faster to requests. This does present a higher level of technical knowledge though and it might not be cost effective for some people. It will most certainly speed up your website.

Cloud Hosting – There is a new form of web hosting that can help speed up your website without the technical barrier of a virtual private server or dedicated server but still offer a significant speed increase. New cloud web hosting has become popular and there are several reliable companies that offer this type of hosting. The idea is instead of having a single server you rent space on many servers thus improving processing and availability of your website on the Internet. Media Temple is one of the better known companies but there are others now offering this type of web hosting including GoDaddy. Cloud hosting can improve your website speed at a lower cost of getting your own VPS or dedicated server and still be more user friendly to use and setup.

Content Delivery Network – If you don’t like the idea of moving servers from your shared hosting another option to speed up your website is a content delvery network, also known as a CDN. A content delivery network might sound complicated, but really it is not very difficult to understand. They help to speed up your website by caching frequenty used content like CSS, Javascript and images in geographically different servers. This helps to load those parts of your website faster by delivering the content to the visitor from a server that is closest to them. A CDN can make a significant improvement in the speed of your website and they are fairly easy to setup. If your website is powered by WordPress you can use the W3 Total Cache plugin to help setup your CDN. Price wise it is considerably less expensive than the other methods mentioned here. Personally I use MaxCDN but there are many good CDN companies available.

House Cleaning – If you want to speed up your website and not spend any money one of the best methods is to clean up your website. All of the extra widgets from Facebook and Twitter tend to slow down websites. Change the like box from Facebook to a simple icon that links to your Facebook page and you could easily speed up your website.

Making sure you use smaller version of your images instead of the full size ones can also make a large improvement in speed. You might also want to look at a service like SmushIt to help compress images to speed them up. If you are also loading images regularly from Flickr or some other website in your WordPress powered website you might want to look at a plugin like Add Linked Images To Gallery or Cache Images to save a local copy to your media gallery and serve it from your own website.

Making sure you have combined all your Javascript and CSS into external files can also help to speed up your website.

Use Cloudflare. It is free afterall and gives you many of the benefits to help speed up your website. Not only will it help to speed up your website it will help protect your website as well. It is a fatastic service and I have been very pleased with it how it has helped speed up a number of my own websites and helped to protect them.

The faster your website loads the happier your visitors will be. It can also help improve your websites position in the search results and ultimately help to improve your online presence. If you want an excellent tool to help check your websites speed you should chek out Pingdom Tools and the Google Online Speed Test. Both will give you an idea of how fast or slow your website is and give you ideas where you can improve.

What other tips can you offer to  help people speed up their website?

Biggest Website Mistake

I make mistakes all the time, as I am sure most of you do, today I want to share with you the biggest mistake I have made with my website and I bet it is a mistake that many of you are making as well. Actually, I have made two mistakes and they are related to each other.

I have been in business since April 2004 and I started blogging here in February 2007. From April 2004 to the end of September 2011 there has been over 300,000 visits and over 600,000 pageviews. Not huge numbers when you compare it to some of the more popular websites and blogs out there, but not a bad number either. Of those 300,000 visitors can you guess how many I have been able to contact since they visited my site? Just over 300 either through email or RSS subscriptions! That is less than .5% of the visitors. Talk about a HUGE mistake and a missed opportunity to connect with people.

Fortunately it is a mistake that I started to correct here when I added an email list signup form. Since I added the email list sign up form I have had a steady number of readers signing up to be contacted by me again. Unfortunately my mistakes did not end when I created an email list for my website. I made one more HUGE mistake. I never actually got around to emailing people the information that they signed up for. This is a mistake I am going to correct.

If you are not offering your readers a chance to subscribe to an email list from your website you are missing a chance to connect with your readers again. An email list offers you a unique opportunity to build a relationship that can benefit them and you!

You can use your email list to find out what your readers want and need! People visit your website to get answers. If you run a website about wine they might visit your website to find out what wine goes best with beef, but if you have an email list you can ask them what else they want to know. You might find out that some want to know what wine goes best with deer!

Having an email list will help people come back to your website again for your new content. There is nothing like writing great new content and not hanving any one read it. An email list lets people know when you have something new for them.

It is inexpensive. Having an email list used to be something that only large companies could afford to do. Thankfully that has changed. Email list services are affordable for any size business. I have also heard many good things about a service called MailChimp that is free for the first 2000 subscribers.

Email lists are easy to run and even easier to automate. Every email list service is a little different but if you can type, you can send out email to an email list. You can even automate your publishing by publish the RSS feed from your blog to your list at regular intervals.

Sending email to your email list also provides your readers an opportunity to share your information with others. Nothing like some old fashioned word of mouth advertising to help spread the word about your business and website.

If you are looking for an email list service here are several that I have worked with for clients.

  • AWeber (the service I like to use)
  • MailChimp (Offers a free account up to 2000 subscribers.)
  • GetResponse (Starts at $9.95/month)
  • Constant Contact (Free 60 Day trial)

Hopefully you can learn from my mistake. Don’t let your 300,000 visitors go by without being able to contact them. They are interested in what you have to say. An email list will give you a chance to build a unique relationship with those readers that will help you build your business and website.

If you would like to contact me you can always use my contact form on my website. I usually respond in 24 hours.

As a bonus for those of you on my email list I want to offer you a chance to win a copy of the new biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. If you want to be entered just click this link to read more about the book. Everyone that clicks through will be automatically entered in the drawing! If your email is chosen I will contact you to gather your shipping address to send the book to you. This bonus is ONLY for my email list subscribers. Another great reason to join my email newsletter!