A reason for slow WordPress page loading and a sneaky visitor tracking problem if using the JetPack plugin.

As a professional web site designer I use WordPress for a lot of client’s websites. I know a lot of people have their own, club or business websites and I thought I should highlight a couple of potential problems with using the WordPress CMS (Content Management System).

  1. If your site loads slowly then try this to.speed it up.

    Remove any plugin or menu that links to Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter etc. 

    My website was loading very slowly, as was one I am preparing for a client. I did some research and found that the social media connections were responsible, preventing the page loading until they had made connection to each of their servers. This was causing the site to take 10-15 seconds to show the first page on a new connection to the site. Subsequent moves within the site were quicker but were still taking a significant time. I removed al the social media plugins or menus that may be part of the theme and the speed of loading improved immediately.
  2. If site security and visitor confidentiality are of importance to you, remove the  JetPack plugin. I discovered JetPack was redirecting all photos on my site via its own proxy servers, changing the URLs to the images to point to their servers. You may think that is good because your image is via their proxy server but it slows your site loading and allowed JetPack to track the IP address of all visitors to your site and the pages they visit without setting a cookie, thus negating any attempts a visitor may make to use the ‘private viewing’ settings on modern browsers. It also meant that if you used the URL of an image on a JetPack ‘infected’ site to post that image on a site such as a forum you have then ‘infected’ that site as well!  Very sneaky in my opinion and not, as far as I am aware, explained in their terms and conditions of use. JetPack can then track the IP address across sites and lets them build up a profile of your visitors that they can sell. As one of my clients GDPR statement says that they don’t sell or transfer any user data to third parties then, in my opinion, the use of JetPack was negating that statement.
  3. If you find that you cannot suddenly enter your admin panel – use FTP to remane and disable the ip-geo-block plugin in the /wp-contents/plugins/ directory. it may be incorrectly identifying your country and banning you!

Unless you or your client’s website absolutely need JetPack, social media links or IP Geo blocking protection then remove them. This is also good advice for every unused plugin or theme on your WordPress site, get rid of them.  The fewer there are, the fewer to be possibly compromised by hacks and the faster your site can load.

So there you are, a few of my tips to speed up, secure and access your WordPress website.

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Rags for Gypsies, a new SEO optimised business website

Rags for Gypsies

Rags for Gypsies

Rags for Gypsies is a new site developed by Retiarius Internet Design to take advantage of the growth in the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook to drive traffic to a business.

Rags for Gypsies utilises the power of the WordPress platform to provide an easy to use and update web site that the site site owners can maintain and expand themselves.

Their website is linked to both Twitter (@ragsforgypsies) and Facebook ( and also to their marketing account on ( to provide a comprehensive net exposure for the unique designs produced by Poppy Fields.

Retiarius set up the clients Etsy account to automatically announce new designs simultaneously on both their Facebook and Twitter accounts and any new posts on the main site are also automatically ‘Tweeted’

This site shows what can be done to integrate the social media sites into a Search engine Optimised WordPress site.

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Sending Blog posts with images captured wirelessly from a camera using an Eye-Fi card and Shuttersnitch on an iPad

This image was captured via wireless using the iPad App Shuttersnitch on the iPad from my Fuji HS10 using an Eye-Fi Pro card.

Shuttersnitch allows you to send various size images of the original by email. This will be very useful if you use the remote publishing by email facility that the WordPress blogging system provides.

Unlike the very poor Photos app on the iPad Shuttersnitch allows you to create folders on the iPad and delete them with contents and move images between folders etc. This is essential for professional photographers wanting to use the iPad as a backup store and image preview system.

So far so good with the Eye-Fi card, I just now have to see if I can get it to work in my Olympus E1 using a CF/SD card adapter that should come in about a week.

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Written by admin in: Web site design techniques |

Browser usage trends and the implications for web designers

Internet browser usage trends

Browser usage trends – click to enlarge

It has long been the accepted guidance that any web site must comply with the ‘standards’ that Microsoft use in their Internet Explorer range of browsers because they are the market leader due to it being issued with every copy of Windows.

It may surprise some of our readers that this has not been true for several years!  Data collected by the w3schools site clearly shows a continuing downward trend for Microsoft from 86% of market share in 2002 to 19% in 2012!

Mozilla’s Firefox was the main cause of this loss of market share for Microsoft but the introduction of Chrome by Google, and its adoption as the browser on many Android phones and devices has now stemmed the rise of Firefox.

There have been rumours that Google, who are currently financially supporting Mozilla through advertising revenue on the Mozilla site, may pull the plug on funding Mozilla (see this BBC report)  and this would leave Chrome being the largest browser being used.

I hope that Google continue to support Mozilla but, with Google’s predatory and monopolistic underskirts already showing with regard to its continued infringement, and support for infringement of copyrighted material to sell advertising space on their search engines, I think that may be a forlorn hope.

I hope that Mozilla can find alternative funding because I think that if we thought Microsoft were wrong to have a monopoly, Google may well prove to be the bigger evil.

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Flash! and their site was gone!

Further to my earlier post on not using frames, a company of my acquaintance had a nicely search engine  optimised site.

It then seems that someone offered to update their site with a new, experimental, ‘jazzy and upbeat’ look. As this was for free they accepted and the new ‘designer’ immediately dumped the existing site and replaced it with their new front-end which basically was a ‘new site coming soon’ and a contact page. They then did not complete the new site but left it unfinished for 4 months.

To compound this mistake the new ‘designer’ used Flash/Shockwave to build the entire new site and provided no words that a search engine could find.

Result, it is now almost impossible to find this company on Google even if you know the company’s name! Total wipe-out!

I don’t know how many times companies are taken in by graphics artists proclaiming to be web designers and the said artist has not a clue as to how the web search engines work.

Established well-known companies can use Flash and Shockwave because they are household names and can afford the best programmers and designers who know how to optimise even a Flash site for SEO. These companies can be found by their trading name, Rolls Royce, Amazon, Ford etc. and not by searching for some product such as ‘luxury car’.

Unfortunately smaller companies need effective search engine optimised sites so they can be found ahead of their competitors for their keywords.

Using Flash and Shockwave for site design provides a desert for search engine bots and I really recommend you do not use them for site design unless you are a household name.

And as  postscript, Apple iPhones and iPads do not support Flash driven sitres – so why alienate a significant section of the  market!

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Written by Retiarius in: Web site design techniques | Tags: , , , ,

Leading London Cosmetic Botox Clinic uses WordPress for their new site

Capital Aesthetics, a leading London cosmetic treatment clinic have commissioned Retiarius to build their new web site.

The brief was that the site’s owners would like to be able to modify and maintain the site themselves with minimum effort.  This required the use of a form of content management system.

We decided to use the excellent WordPress blogging software as a content management system. There wer several reasons for his:

  • The base software is free
  • There are many excellent themes for this software that can be adapted to get the look and feel required by the client.
  • WordPress can be extended to incorporate powerful SEO plugins that increase the SEO of the site with minimum extra effort.
  • The use of an industry  standard software base provides proven upgrade and extension features.
  • WordPress is easily read by Google and other search engines
  • WordPress can easily incorporate the Google Analytics trafiic measurement system

The client has expressed his satisfaction with the design we have produced which, in his opinion, closely approximates the look and feel of his original site whilst providing the flexibility he needs.

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Top 10 must have add-ons and plugins for WordPress

WordPress is one the most popular blogging platforms in use today. It has many advantages for site owners wanting a search engine optimised web site.

  • It is free, open source and therefore secure. Just download WordPress free from here
  • It is easy to use and maintain
  • It runs on Apache web servers
  • It has many fantastic free themes that can be used and modified to produce a look and feel for your site that suits your business.
  • It is almost infinitely customisable by web site designers by using the extensive free plug-ins and widgets to ad functionality and ‘eye-candy’.

This post is about the plug-ins and widgets that I think are the most useful. So here they are in alphabetical order.

  1. AddThis Social Bookmark
    Help your visitor promote your site! The AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget allows any visitor to bookmark your site easily with many popular services. Sign up for an account to see how your visitors are sharing your content–which services they’re using for sharing, which content is shared the most, and more. It’s all free–even the pretty charts and graphs. By The AddThis Team.
  2. All in One SEO Pack
    This plugin will optimise your WordPress blog so that your posts and pages are indexed more efficiently by the search engines. It is fully featured and lets you single out individual pages for optimisation.
  3. Akismet: the best comment spam protection available. It fortunately comes pre-installed, though you’ll still need an API key from This system will prevent your site being deluged with comment spam. If some should get through it makes it easy to kill the offending comments and also notify the Akismet system so that others are protected, just ast they are protecting you.
  4. Events Calendar
    This plugin and wdget makes it easy to embed appointments and events into your blog.  So if you are organising exhibitions, conferences or training days this plugin is for you. It can automatically produce a blog post from the data you input for the event and so save you time when working on your blog.
  5. FeedBurner FeedSmith: Steve Smith originally wrote this plugin to make it easy to use Google FeedBurner for syndicating your blog. Google FeedBurner has taken over its maintenance. Very easy to use.
  6. Google Analystics for WordPress
    This plugin makes it simple to add Google Analytics tracking to your WordPress blog. Google Analytics is a very powerful incoming click tracker, allowing to deep  analyse the performance of your site and see where your traffic is coming from.
  7. Google XML Sitemaps
    If you don’t know how beneficial Google Sitemaps can be to your blog then read my articles on SEO. Once set up this plugin will inform Google of any changes or additions made to your site automatically. You can download Google XML Sitemaps from here
  8. Share This: Alex King creates incredibly useful plugins and this is one of them. If you want to make it easy for your visitors to share your posts on bookmarking or social network sites, this is the one plugin you need.
  9. NextGen Image Gallery
    This plugin by Alex Rabe makes the production of in-line image galleries in your blog posts easy and effective. The in-built slideshow widget (helper application) aloows you to embed an auto-rotating  image slideshow into the side panels of your blog.
  10. WP-Cumulus
    Flash based Tag Cloud for WordPress. A bit of eye-candy which displays a graphical representation of post tags.

So there you have my current top 10 plugins and additions to WordPress.

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Choosing an appropriate SEO web site design company

Whenever a client approaches us about optimising their site and they say “we have had optimise it but we still don’t have placement” I always have a look at’s website to see if they have optimised their own site.

Despite what their site may say for human readers, the fancy graphics, Flash animations and eye-catching design etc. it never ceases to amaze me that many of the so-called specialist SEO companies have failed to comply with even the basic tenets of search engine optimisation when designing their own web site.

The basic SEO web site design company testing rules Retiarius suggest you use are:

  • Always make sure the candidate company’s web site is itself fully W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) code compliant. Put the URL of their site, and any of their recent clients’ sites, into the W3C Validator, select ‘Show Outline’ and see what it shows.
  • Check that the CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) commands on their sites are compliant. The W3C CSS validator will do this for you.
  • Always spell-check the candidate’s site’s content. Search engines need to understand the context of the content and poor spelling negates that, so they will penalise badly spelled sites. Spell checking by a web site producer should be an integral part of the design function.
  • Ensure that the candidate’s sites use the <h1>-<h6> HTML tag structure in a manner that optimises their visibility to search engines and enhances the structure of the site so that the text is read in context. The ‘Show Outline’ option on the W3C Validator shows this, as does using the W3C Semantic Checker.

It is therefore important for potential SEO clients to check that the candidate SEO companies themselves have compliant and correctly optimised sites because if they can’t be bothered, or have the skills, to correctly optimise their own site, how can you expect them to know how to do for you!

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The holistic approach to designing search engine optimised sites

We at Retiarius are firm believers that you cannot ‘bolt on’ good SEO performance once a site has been made. You have to design the site from the ground up to maximise its search engine optimisation potential.

We call this our ‘holistic’ site design philosphy.  All the elements of the site have to work in a harmonious manner to maximise the SEO potential.

These elements include:

  • Excluding Shockwave and Flash animations and Flash-based navigation from the site – you won’t stand a chance of having a search engine spider your site if you use Flash navigation.
  • Choosing keywords for each individual page, rather than a generic set of keywords for the site used on each page, so that you maximise the keyword density on that page. This takes longer but really improves the SEO performance for that page.
  • Ensuring that the main keywords are reflected in the
    • page title
    • file name
    • meta description
    • first 128 words on the page
    • image titles and alt statements
    • link tags
  • The page is spelled correctly (see article)
  • The page fully meets W3C standards
  • The site is searchable using the W3C semantic checker, as this simulates how the search engines extract data.
  • Using SEO add-ons if designing a blog-based site. WordPress has some very good free SEO plugins for its blogging system.
  • Effective use of subdomains (see article)

We used this holistic approach for our latest site for Buxton Press which will utilise a blog on a subdomain to provide linkbait for its business and provide a news and job vacancies system for the company.

Effective search engine optimisation is a painstaking process but we at Retiarius believe it is worth it.

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The benefits of using subdomains to enhance SEO

There are many advantages in using sub domains (e.g. is a subdomain of the primary domain) to enhance the ranking of the primary domain.

Google and MSN both class a subdomain as being a seperate site to that of the subdomain (see this article ).

Barry Schwartz points to a thread at Search Engine Watch Forums discussing the subject:

“Subdomains work very well at the moment. No doubt about that. I can take a prominent, old, domain, set up a brand new subdomain, add one link from the original domains front page, throw up whatever content I want and within days have plenty of traffic. These days it seems that almost all linkpop value from the original domain is transfered – and I see this happening in both MSN and Google.”

Another advantage is that sub domains are usually free to implement on commercial servers – you own the domain and therefore can apply unlimited subdomains to it.

I think that this separation of a subdomain and its primary domains by search engines will have to continue because of the free blogging sites such as blogger all issue their clients a subdomain such as, and as such cannot exclude subdomains from their search results because ALL the blogs on blogger are owned by seperate individuals.

By using a subdomain for a blog, and cross-linking a new primary site to it you automatically have set up some linking value to the new primary site. If the blog is sued as ‘link bait’ with articles likely to interest a lot of readers then you can increase the cross-traffic to the, probably less frequently updated, primary site.

But you must not go mad at producing endless referring subdomains because because Google has set a bar on the number of subdomains they will reference.

I would like to quote Vanessa Fox, an ex-Googler and contributor to Search Engine Land :

“Google is no longer treating subdomains ( versus independently, instead attaching some association between them. The ranking algorithms have been tweaked so that pages from multiple subdomains have a much higher relevance bar to clear in order to be shown.”

So, with care the use of subdomains will enhance your site a low cost but don’t over-egg the pudding … it could backfire on your search engine ranking.

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