September 2017 Updates – Hurricane, Website and plugin news

xThe past months brought a lot of changes, and I have had very little time to share what has been going on. Some updates sneaked out, but this is the first time I have sat down and written down what has been happening.

Currently, my internet connection (Comcast) is out, it stopped working Saturday, today is Sunday, and they do not expect it back till Tuesday.

Aftermath of Irma apparently, our local power company is still suffering outages around the county, so we are in a waiting position. I try to enjoy the time offline, but it is hard when I am already behind schedule on so many projects 🙂

Irma Hurricane

I live in Hallandale Beach, Miami – near the beach and when Irma was drawing closer my wife and I decided to secure our apartment as best, we could and spend a couple of days with our good friends a bit further north and inland in Pompano Beach.

Being in a hurricane is not an experience that I recommend anyone to try.

My family and closest friends were all safe and suffered minor damage and several days of work. We were hit with a more moderate experience, many islands along Irma’s path laid complete waste to everything in its path. When it hit mainland U.S., it went over Key West and devastated an estimated 25% of homes on the islands there. This is not to mention the devastation it laid further up the west coast of Florida.

So, my family and friends were lucky and were mostly just inconvenienced. We lost several days work, not much more. We still have sporadic internet outages, so sometimes I have to find a cafe or restaurant where I can work. I am still catching up with emails, support requests, and many active projects.

My family and I send our best wishes and hopes for the many people affected by Hurricane Irma.

SEO Booster plugin updates

I have put out several updates to both the free and Pro version. The past month has seen several upgrades, most dealing with bugs and code logic, but some new stuff also made its way in.

Check out SEO Booster Free Version Released! for more details about the free version.

Yoast SEO Focus Keyword linking

A recent update introduced a beta version of the automatic internal linking feature that works with one of the core features in Yoast SEO – the Focus Keyword.

The Focus Keyword is the keyword or term that you want that page to rank well for. Let’s say “blue widget.” Turning on this feature in SEO Booster changes “blue widget” in your text on other pages into a link to that page. Beautiful and easy.

The auto link feature is still in beta and might become a Pro feature only when I have optimized the code and implemented more details. I will introduce using SEO Booster keyword data also as a source.

This feature works with both Yoast SEO free and premium version where you can enter one or several focus keywords per page.

Cool, right? 🙂

Don’t know the power of the Focus Keyword? Read this article Yoast SEO: How to Choose Your Focus Keyword

Website updates

Cleverplugins launched about ten years ago, and to begin with, the plugins sold were all premium, no free version was available. I forgot the name of the software handling it, my friend and partner at the time; Tony knew Drupal a lot better than WordPress, at least to begin with.

When it was time to put up a shop in a hurry, we set up a Drupal-based shop.

Yes, we had some laughs about that at the time, we exclusively sold WordPress products, but the website and shop were in Drupal.

Nevertheless, over the years several changes to the website and shop platforms changed several times. Tony, unfortunately, passed away some years ago and a series of unfortunate events left me with a lot of customer data gone.

I switched to Easy Digital Downloads with the limited customer data I did have, and I have used it for years. I have grown tired of the additional overhead of having all websites ping the same server as the visitors.

Migrating from EDD – Easy Digital Downloads

I used EDD for many years, and was overall happy with the solution, apart from the extra maintenance and extra load on the server. It would be too time-consuming to convert the previously premium-only plugin to a freemium model, so I procrastinated for years.

The turning point was Freemius.

I heard about Freemius a while ago, but it took me a while to take the plunge. It was a concern over the time I would need to invest, and it has taken a lot longer than anticipated to change the plugin to work with their business model and SDK.

It was worth it though. Now I have a base code that I can easily generate and deploy both the free version and the Pro update in 5 minutes when I have an update I want to release.

Freemius is much easier than maintaining two different codebases – one for free and one for Pro. There are other ways to do this with code and automate a licensing system – but none are as easy as Freemius.

The Freemius solutions offer several cool features for WordPress developers that want to build a freemium plugin with a Pro version and paid add-ons.

After switching to Freemius, I can also see less usage on the server, which means faster response times for regular visitors.

There are other benefits for using an external update and shop platform; perhaps I will make a blog post about that someday 🙂

Another update to the website was leaving the Divi theme and moving on to Beaver Builder.

Beaver Builder is the new page builder

I have a faster and better experience working with Beaver Builder. The frontend visual builder is easy to use, fast and with just the right amount of features.

It does not slow down the editing experience, in fact, it speeds it up, and the implantation is done well, so it behaves well with other plugins.

I shut down a lot of other plugins related to the previous theme and the difference in load time is dramatic. I found out that one of my favorite cache plugins for WordPress – WP Rocket – is allowed on WP Engine who disallows most cache plugins.

This has helped the load time on the website quite a bit as well. I’m not picking on the Divi theme, but most releases seem to break something, and the experience is not as fast or fluid as it was when first released.

I choose to implement the basic Beaver theme that comes with the pro subscription, and it is really easy to customize. I have not had the time to fully implement all features that I want, but I have more plans to beautify the interface as it is very boring at the time of writing this.

Leaving the Divi Theme

I have been looking to change the theme of the website for a long time, but I did not look forward to the amount of work involved.

If you have worked with WordPress page builders, you will know you are more or less locked in for life. Getting your content back and into another theme/page builder can be difficult and sometimes easiest to manually copy content from the old site to the new. Page by page, bit by bit.

Or you suffer the ordeal of just turning off the old theme and look at a mess of shortcodes that will take hours or days to clean up manually. I did not have that time nor did I feel it was a good use of my time, so I did what any WordPress developer would do – I started coding.

In the end, I had a piece of code that could read a post, identify shortcodes and convert them to regular text. I cleaned up about 90% of the shortcode spaghetti with that piece of code, and the leftovers I can deal with manually when I see them.

Moving to a different theme and page builder is a lot easier when I just have the text to deal with – much easier than cherry picking pieces of text here and there.

Making a theme/page builder conversion plugin

A friend of mine, Thomas Rosenstand asked me why I didn’t make it into a plugin, and I have since then been working on improving the code and made it possible to expand more quickly.

This new version can identify and replace from different page builders and different shortcodes.

In my case, the plugin read the jumbled shortcodes from the Divi page builder and removed the row and columns code, converted image elements into regular HTML code. Headline elements converted to h1 tags and so on.

The leftover about of shortcodes was manageable, and this plugin saved me hours of work moving from the Divi theme and cleaning my content.

It is not easy to make code that accurately extracts data. If you are good – and I mean very good with regular expressions you can make some search replace conversions – but it is not easy to get right, and each element in each builder or theme is slightly different.

There is still a bit of way to go for having a fully working and tested plugin, but I want to hear your feedback.

Would you like a plugin that can take your current such as the Divi theme or Visual Composer and convert the content of the post or page to pure HTML text and images?

I have some ideas on how it could be made so you can preview the results before confirming the changes and I would need to think of some way of monetizing the project to warrant the amount of work it will take to finish and maintain.

If you think such a plugin could be interesting, let me know – until then I will leave it as a basic tool for my friends and me.

I look forward to writing a new update post in a while with a lot more updates 🙂

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