What’s happening behind the scenes…

This post was written to give our current and future clients (listing owners/managers) some insight as to what goes on behind the scenes on the South Coast Accommodation & Tourism Website. To do this, I must first point out that this Website is powered by WordPress (i.e. The software used to design and maintain this website is WordPress). I am not going to bore you with details about WordPress, other than the fact that it is the system used and that WordPress uses something called a ‘Theme‘ to control basic design & functionality. If you want more information on WordPress, you can view my personal blog at www.duanereeve.com.

Also, know that what is discussed below is ‘time-related’ and current as of today (19 June 2014).

Website upgrades are happening

Where it all began:

So to begin with; I mentioned above that WordPress uses a ‘Theme‘ to control basic design & functionality and the theme used for this website is called ‘GeoPlaces‘. The GeoPlaces theme is a specialised premium theme created specifically for directory type websites. At the time SouthCoastAccommodation.co.za was launched theĀ GeoPlaces theme was one of only a few Directory Themes available for WordPress. 4-Years later, there are now numerous Directory Themes available for WordPress, but I still think GeoPlaces is one of the better ones (although I am considering a change – more on that later).

What’s in Store:

  1. Improved Performance: The speed at which a website downloads to a browser plays a major role in the success of a website. If the site is too slow, the visitor moves on to another. Site speed also influences Search Engine Rankings as slow websites are penalised by search engines. I know that this website can do with some speed enhancements, so this is the first task being planned and will include the following:
    • Installing and configuring a ‘caching plugin’ to reduce repetitive downloads of the same content.
    • Installing Gzip Compression to reduce file sizes, thus increasing download speeds of files.
    • Installing Expired Headers Instructions – Expires headers tell the browser whether they should request a specific file from the server or whether they should grab it from the browser’s cache.
    • Finding and installing a suitable tool to handle image compression – compresses images download faster
    • Removing the Google Map from the Home Page (The Maps will remain on the category pages).
    • Implementation of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) – A CDN distributes files to numerous Servers across the globe. When someone access a webpage, the CDN will determine which of it’s Servers are closest and fastest to provide the requested files in the shortest time-frame (thus speeding up the site further).
  2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): For ease of understanding, SEO is essentially broken down into two categories, namely, ‘On-Page SEO’ and ‘Off-Page SEO’.
    • On-Page SEO is the stuff physically done on the website to improve rankings: A lot of time and effort was spent on ‘On-Page SEO” and this website already has many Pg-1 rankings in Google because of this. That being said, I think this can still be improved further.
    • Off-Page SEO is what is done elsewhere on the Internet to influence rankings: Minimal effort has gone into the ‘Off-Page SEO’ for this website and it is here where I will be concentrating future efforts. Off-Page SEO includes things like getting more links to our website from other websites/blogs/forums. It also include ‘Social Signals’, which means more links from Social Medial Pages/Profiles and more Social Interaction Online (you can help by Liking our Facebook Page, or following us on Twitter).
  3. Revising Content: This, although being a simple task it is a challenging task. Approximately 1-Year ago I spent some time adding a Business Directory Section to the website on request from a few potential clients. Of the 20+ requests for this, only 3 clients eventually signed-up. This section has now been removed due to the lack of interest. The Events Category, which had been around since I launched the website in 2009, has also been removed. Bottom line for each of these sections, is that the blank pages are impacting negatively on the ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ efforts and hence the decision to remove them.
  4. New Website Design: This is something I’ve had on the cards for a long time already. Fact is; I have been messing around with all types of code and systems to find a better platform for this website. Unfortunately, the ideal custom solution is too expensive and my last quote was just shy of R180’000.00 (That’s right, One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Rand). Other alternatives include hiring directory script services at no less that $100 per month or buying some other directory script, which may or may not work. So, with that in mind, I have decided to stay with the devil I know; being WordPress and to use a new Directory Theme simply called ‘Directory‘. ‘Directory‘ is currently the most powerful and feature rich WordPress Directory Theme currently available and it was developed by the same company that developed GeoPlaces. Doing this transition is a major job and I have no idea when I will get around to doing this. Maybe, by the time I get to it, something better will be available, but only time will tell. For now, just know that I do intend upgrading at some point in time and I will notify you when I’m ready.

 

A final word:

For those of you who don’t already know me or my circumstances, I would like to clarify a few things. I am a ‘stay-at-home dad’, who makes a living from the Internet. My primary business is providing Web-Hosting and Web-Design Services to small businesses and Internet start-ups (bloggers etc), most of whom are in Cape Town (where I live). The South Coast Accommodation Website is a side project for me and one that I run personally with no help and minimal budget. Whilst I do charge for Premium Listings on the site (@ R350 p/year), 95% of clients make use of the FREE Listing offered. I make a few $$$ a month from Advertising revenue, but for the amount of work required to run this site, it is maintained more as a passion, than for profit. As it currently stands, this website costs me money, instead of making it and whilst I will continue improving this site, I am also planning on turning this into a viable income stream for myself and for others. To do this, I will be looking into revised listing plans (with more payment options) and I am currently researching an online affiliate marketing tool, which once implemented will help others to make money by referring businesses to list on this site. More on this will be posted in an upcoming post, once the technicalities have been sorted out. Oh, and like the website upgrade, this will take time to implement as it’s very technical.

That about sums it up, for now… Until next time!

– Rgds Duane