Category Archive: Technical

Poor Image Quality Fix for Magento

Magento

Magento

It’s been a long time since my last post.  In fact, I haven’t updated this site in a year or so.  I had planned on adding many more pages and updating the blog regularly, but soon after I made this site I decided to pursue two new pretty big projects.  One of them is an e-commerce site that I’m just finishing up.  As these two projects get rolling, I’ll have more time for this site, and I’d like to keep it current and add more pages and posts regularly.  For now though, a relatively short post on a Magento fix, which I’ve recently implemented in my new e-commerce project.

First, Magento is an awesome shopping cart.  I’ve used several, and Magento just blows them all out of the water.  And, the community edition is free.  It took me a while to give it a go, because I read and heard so many people talk about how difficult it was to wrap your head around, how it was a beast, how the learning curve was steep, etc.  Having used it now for several months, I disagree.  I’ve found Magento to be fairly intuitive, and very easy/quick to learn.  There are some issues, as with everything, but a quick search almost always turns up a quick and relatively easy fix.  However…

Magento Product Images Suck!

For some strange reason, Magento has decided to compress uploaded product images in a way that results in very poor quality images.  Even if you upload an image that is the appropriate size, Magento will compress it.  Product image quality is one of the most important components of an e-commerce site, for obvious reasons, and this is a serious flaw.

This Magento thread goes on for 11 pages (so far), from 2008 to 2013, with numerous possible ways to fix the product image quality problem.  I believe I tried all of the solutions in that thread, but none of them resulted in perfect quality images.  In addition, many of the listed fixes would break when a new update would be released.  So I came up with my own method, which allows you to use any image you create with no compression at all.

How to Get Uncompressed, Perfect Product Images

When you upload a product image, Magento creates a compressed copy.  When you load a page on your site in your browser (front end) with a different size of that image, Magento then creates a compressed version of that sized image too.  It may end up creating as many as 4 different variations: the full sized image, a thumbnail for the “cart”, a medium sized image for the product listing/category page, and a larger version for the product page itself.

The solution is simple.  You simply replace the compressed images with perfect images, via FTP.  It’s not ideal.  And it would be a serious pain if you’ve already got hundreds or thousands of products on your site.  (Although, any solution will require you to upload all new images, anyway.)  But it does work, and it will stick even when Magneto is updated.

  1. First, upload your image(s).
  2. Second, go to your front end and load each page that is going to display a variation of the uploaded image(s).  If your products are already live, you can skip those two steps.
  3. Right click on your product image on the front end of your site, and view the file info to find the location of the image in your file system.
  4. FTP into your file system and replace the Magento generated images with your own perfect images.

You’ll see that Magneto places different sized variations in parent folders that are named based on the pixel size, and uses standard naming conventions.  So an image named “image-name_1.jpg” might be located in a parent folder named “450″ for example.  That’s going to be the 450 pixel version of your image, compressed by Magento.  You can create your own 450px sized images, name them the way Magento names them, and simply drag them into the folder to replace the Magento generated/poorly compressed images.  Presto.  You’ve got perfect images now.

Again, it’s not an ideal solution, as it would be best if Magento would automatically create perfect images, or give you the option of using uncompressed images!  But I have yet to find a way to get it to do so.  At least this fix works, isn’t difficult, and won’t break with the next update.

 

Interactive Content: Four Easy Ways to Increase User Engagement

Over the last couple of years, Google has made it substantially more difficult to game their search results and rank artificially high.  Buying loads of cheap links is more likely to get your site penalized than to increase your rankings and traffic.

These days, visitor engagement is the key to success.  Engagement ensures that visitors who arrive on your site will stay there, a positive quality signal for Google, and that they’ll be more likely to share your content with their friends, creating natural links, and indirectly increasing your rankings and traffic.

One of the best ways to increase the amount of time visitors spend on your website, and the chance they’ll share your site with their friends, is to create valuable interactive content.  And it’s not as hard as you may think.  Here are four easy ways to do so:

Online Calculators

Calculators aren’t just useful for boring mathematical tasks.  If you think outside the box, there are few websites that couldn’t benefit from a fun, valuable, interactive calculator.  With financial sites, weight loss sites, and fitness sites, there are tons of obvious applications.  But what about other sites?  On this site, for example, I’ve created a custom calculator that estimates website revenue.  For a site about dogs?  Create a calculator that estimates the amount of food a dog should eat with various levels of weight, exercise, and age.  How about a travel site?  Create a calculator that provides the amount of vacation days a visitor needs to stay sane.

The calculator(s) can be useful, fun, or both, and in any case, visitors will appreciate them, they’ll stay on your site longer, and if you make a really cool one, they may link to it or share it with their friends.  If you don’t know how to make a calculator, I’ve created a very simple tutorial here, with copy-and-paste code you can use.  So you’ve got no excuse!  Come up with a cool calculator idea or two, and add one to your site today.

Online Quizzes

Quizzes are another great option for interactive content.  Again, there are few sites that wouldn’t benefit from a quiz or two.  You can choose to make your quizzes a serious test of knowledge, a fun break, or any combination in between.  It’s unlikely your competitors are using quizzes on their sites, so adding one to yours is not only a great way to increase user engagement, but will also create a point of differentiation.  If you don’t know how to make a quiz, here’s another easy tutorial, with free files you can download and use today.

Make sure you promote your quizzes (or any new content for that matter) on pages that get a lot of traffic, and to influential people in your industry that may be willing to spread them.

Free Downloads

In many industries, free electronic downloads can be valuable.  On this site for example, I’ve created a free website template and WordPress theme.  Excel files are another great option.  On a weight loss site you might offer a free excel file that helps users track their caloric intake and calories burned.  On a finance site you could offer a free financial planning worksheet.  And on many sites, a free, small downloadable e-book can work.  Again, thinking outside of the box is often most useful.

Most sites don’t offer free downloads.  By offering them on your site, assuming you do create something of value, you also increase the value of your site and the chances that others will promote it for you.

Free Videos

Lots of sites nowadays do have video, so much so that many visitors will be looking for it.  Adding videos to your site is an excellent way to keep people on it for an extended period, and if the videos are good and you add them regularly, they’ll keep returning for more.

The easiest way to add videos to your site is via YouTube.  If you use YouTube, you won’t have to bother with hosting your videos or figuring out how to integrate it on your page…which can be way more trouble than you might imagine.  Ideally, you should use a high quality camera, but depending on the type of video you’re making, even an iPhone video uploaded to YouTube and shared on your site can work.

The downside to using YouTube videos is that visitors may click off to YouTube.  So I’d recommend disabling additional videos from showing up at the end of yours.  And make sure you’ve got complimentary, interesting and engaging content near the video, so that after someone watches it they’ll be even more likely to get further engaged in your site.

Do It Now!

Making a video will likely be the most difficult of the above 4 methods, but once you get going, you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy.  Using my free tutorials you should be able to create a cool calculator and/or quiz, and add them to your site in as little as a couple of hours.  So do it now, add links to your new interactive content to your highest traffic pages, and email a few people in your industry!

Smart Social Networking Stragtegies

Social Networking

Want to increase your traffic?

How would you like to increase your traffic and conversions?

Are you really taking advantage of social networking?

Many people think they’re covering their bases by setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

But there’s much more (and maybe less!) you can and should be doing to maximize your traffic through social networking.

New In-Depth Articles

Today I’ve added three new pages to our site with in-depth information and tutorials. The first page, Promoting Your Site Through Social Networking, covers the best ways to get more visitors through smart social networking. The second page is a detailed tutorial on Enabling and Increasing Blog Subscriptions, with code examples you can copy and paste for use on your blog today. And the third page is another detailed tutorial, How to Build an Email List, again including code you can copy and paste to use on your site now.

New social media is the rage today, and it does have its place. But giving up on old school social networking is a mistake, as it not only creates long term value for your business and your visitors, but is also a great way to increase traffic with more engaged users. Check out the articles above to make sure you’re not missing out.

Are You Losing Subscribers?

Email List Management

Want More Email Subscribers?

If you’re forcing potential email list subscribers to double opt-in on web form submissions, you’re losing subscribers.

Email list management companies like Aweber and MailChimp allow you to add sign up forms to your website so visitors can receive newsletters or subscription material. (See my sign up form at the top of the right sidebar as an example.)

But the default settings are not user friendly. I’ll show you what settings you need to change to make the sign up process easier and get more confirmed subscribers.

Aweber vs. Mailchimp

The default settings for both Aweber and Mailchimp are such that when a visitor enters their name and email address in your submission form, they then get a message to check their email and click a confirmation link in order to confirm or double opt-in. There are a few problems with this.

  • A significant percentage of visitors will not bother to take the next step.
  • The confirmation email is often a bit delayed, so the visitor abandons the process.
  • The confirmation email is so badly formatted and worded, that the user thinks it’s spam.

Take a look at the Aweber confirmation email for example:

Aweber Confirmation Email

This Is Terrible

Not only does the format of the confirmation email look terrible, but many recipients are going to think it’s spam. Your visitors think they’re getting an email from you, but it’s asking them to click a strange looking URL at aweber.com.

Those of us who work on the web for a living may not have a problem with it, but we’re not the typical user. Most internet users have no idea what a URL or web browser even is! And the double opt-in email is asking them to copy and paste into a web browser if they cannot click the full URL. It miserably fails the Don’t Make Me Think test. Yet, every internet marketer and SEO I’ve submitted my email address to is using these default settings.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Unfortunately for those of you using MailChimp, they don’t offer it. With MailChimp, you cannot disable the confirm email.

Why You Don’t Need Double Opt-In

The email list management companies give several reasons why you should use double opt-in:

  • People may sign up other people that don’t want to be on your list.
  • People may mis-type their email address.
  • People will enter fake email addresses.

So what? If someone signs up a friend who doesn’t want your emails, they can simply click the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email. If someone mistypes their email address…well, you wouldn’t have gotten it anyway. And if someone enters a fake email address, again, no harm to you.

And, none of the above may even happen frequently. But there is one thing that will happen frequently if you force your visitors to get and follow the poorly formated confirmation emails:

You’ll get less subscribers.

Sure, there is some chance that people will enter email addresses that are not their own, and they may occasionally get marked as spam. But if you’re sending out quality messages, I don’t see this as reason to make your visitors jump through useless hoops.

How to Disable the Double Opt-In

As I mentioned earlier, with MailChimp there is no way to disable the double opt-in emails. With Aweber there is, and it’s very easy to do.

First, click on the “List Settings” link in under the “My Lists” tab:

List Settings

List Settings

Then, click on the “Confirmed Opt-In” tab:

Confirmed Opt-In

Confirmed Opt-In

And set the “Require Opt-In On Web Forms” to “Off”:

Required Opt-In Off

Required Opt-In Off

That’s it. You’re done.

And here’s the cool thing. Aweber will log IP addresses of those who fill out your web forms, and they’ll send the confirmation message anyway to anyone who enters more than one email address in the form. So if someone does enter their own address and then attempts to enter another, that second person will have to opt-in. This will prevent most problems you could potentially encounter due to people entering email addresses that are not their own into your form.

Are you currently using double opt-in on your web forms? If so, let me know in the comments if you’re seeing significant numbers of visitors who are not clicking the confirmation links. I bet you are. And I bet you’ll get more subscribers by following the steps above.

WordPress Installation & Security Tutorials

Today I’ve added two in-depth WordPress tutorials to our site.  The first is on installing WordPress and the second is on making your WP installation secure.  The installation tutorial covers both one-click and manual installs, depending on what your host has available.  And the security tutorial has 7 easy-to-follow steps to stop your site from getting hacked.

While there are other tutorials on both of these subjects, most of them don’t include step by step images.  These do.  And the security section has all the best tips on one page.  Before implementing the recommended security tips, one of my WordPress sites was getting hacked about every two weeks.  It was a hack that was redirecting normal visitors (including myself) to the original versions of the site, but sending Googlebot to the hacked versions, where the hacker was inserting links to their sites.  I wouldn’t have even noticed the hack, but Google de-indexed my site due to the ton of spammy links they were seeing.  My visitors dropped down to nothing until I figured out where the hack was and filed a reconsideration request with Google.  I started using a file monitor to catch the hacks and fix the files, but until I implemented all of the steps, I kept getting hacked.  So if you haven’t made your WP site secure, I hope you’ll follow the advice and save yourself the frustration of losing all your visitors and having to figure out what happened to your site.