Siteground has been rolling out some behind-the-scenes improvements that will really help you attract and keep visitors.
They come in the form of a humble plugin, called SG Optimizer. It’s free, and available for download from the WordPress repository.
Note that you must be hosting on Siteground for it to work!! Don’t have a Siteground account? Here’s why I love Siteground for shared hosting.
The SG Optimizer does three things:
- Checks to see whether your site is using PHP 7 (the standard for the current version of WordPress)
- Assigns a (free) security certificate to your site, and forces your site onto HTTPS
- Lets you turn on caching for your site very easily
Why are these important?Improve your WordPress site's rank and make visitors happy with one plugin.Click To Tweet
PHP 7 has been the standard now for over a year, and yet many web hosts are still running servers with PHP 5.6, or even 5.4. The reason WordPress has announced that PHP 7 is the standard is because it needs version 7’s power and functionality. If your WordPress site is running on an older version, it’s not able to work as well as it should.
When you install the SG Optimizer plugin, it will let you know if your site isn’t using PHP 7, and you’ll be able to upgrade from within WordPress.
Google has already announced that they will give priority ranking to secure sites. In order to keep the ranking you’ve worked hard to establish, security is a must.
When you secure your site with SSL (secure socket layer), site ownership can be easily authenticated and your data is secure while it’s being transmitted to the browser.
It’s not just banking and e-commerce sites that need to be securely encrypted any more. Your site does, too, whether it’s a blog, a website for your freelance or solopreneur business, or a small, a medium, or a large business.
When you’re browsing the internet, you know when you’re on a securely encrypted site because you see the lock symbol in the browser bar, and the web address begins with https://. (An unencrypted site’s URL starts with http://. . .)
One of the barriers to SSL encryption in the past, for small businesses, has been cost. A security certificate costs money, every year.
That’s changed now, thanks to a company called Let’s Encrypt. Sponsored by a number of well known internet companies (including Siteground), they’ll give you a free certificate.
When you install and activate the SG Optimizer plugin, you’ll be assigned a certificate automatically. Then you check a couple of boxes, and — voilá! Your site is now secure.
Caching improves the speed at which your pages load in a browser window. And since page load speed is one of Google’s ranking factors — not to mention that visitors will bounce away if your page takes more than three seconds to load — it’s another way to keep visitors on your site.
Three big improvements, one little plugin.
Let’s dig into how to install and use the SG Optimizer plugin.
Download and Install SG Optimizer
Install this plugin as you would any other. Either download from WordPress, then navigate to Plugins / Add New or click Plugins / Add New from the WordPress dashboard. Search for SG Optimizer, and click Install Now.
Once installed, you’ll notice a new menu.
Click SG Optimizer.
The plugin will immediately show you a message if your site is not compatible with PHP 7.
Upgrade to PHP 7.0
Click the link for more details, and the PHP Config window opens.
Click the button to check PHP 7.0 compatibility.
If your site is compatible, go ahead and upgrade to PHP 7.).
If it’s not, check the plugins that are identified as not compatible. Can you replace them with something that is? Do you need them at all? Once you’ve removed/replaced them, run the checker again.
Once the checker indicates your site is PHP 7 compatible, the screen changes. Go ahead and click the button to upgrade.
Once the upgrade is complete, the screen changes again. It now confirms that your site is running on PHP 7, and gives you the option to manually upgrade as well to a newer version (as of this writing, PHP 7.1 is the latest version).
Add HTTPS Encryption
If you signed up to host with Siteground recently, they encrypted your site from the start. If you’ve been with them a while, though, this plugin makes it super easy to add.
Select SG Optimizer / HTTPS Config and click the X next to Force HTTPS.
Once it’s done, you’ll see confirmation on this screen.
Note that you may need to adjust some third-party services, like social media plugins, to reflect the change. You’ll find more information at https://www.siteground.com/blog/https-wordpress/.
Set up Caching
This is a little more complicated than updating PHP and encrypting your site, because you need to start at your Siteground Control Panel. Note, also, that it’s available only on the Grow Big and Go Geek plans – if you’re on the Startup plan, you can’t use it.
First, check to see whether your site is currently being cached.
Navigate to SG Optimizer / SuperCacher Config.
Then scroll down the page to the Dynamic Cache Status Checker and click Test URL.
This test site is currently not cached, so I’m going to set it up. To do this, I first have to log into cPanel, then click the SuperCacher icon.
Select Level 2: Dynamic Cache.
If you don’t see your WordPress site listed here, click Add Application at the bottom, then select it from the dropdown list and click Add URL. Once that’s done, click Go Back to return to the previous screen.
Click to turn caching from off to ON for that site.
Then go back to your WordPress Dashboard and select Super Cacher Config from the SG Optimize menu. Click to enable the Dynamic Cache and AutoFlush Cache.
It takes a few seconds after you click the Dynamic Cache button. You’ll see confirmation shortly.
Dynamic Cache sets up the caching, while AutoFlush Cache tells the plugin to automatically flush the cache when you make changes. You can also manually Purge the Cache.
The process for setting up Memcached is similar – start with the Control Panel to turn it on.
Once you’ve installed SSL encryption and enabled Dynamic cache and Memcached, your pages will load faster and more securely, pleasing site visitors and search engines alike.
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