The Latest WordPress 4.6 Update and How to Get it

WordPress 4.6 Update

There is a reason that WordPress powers so much of the Internet. They are never content with the status quo. The WordPress 4.6 update has arrived and with it there are many improvements, and a couple of things to look out for. Read up on what to expect and watch a tutorial from our technical support on how to get the latest updates for both WordPress and Equity.

There are many under the hood updates for the latest iteration of WordPress, but here are a couple of important updates to look at.

System Fonts

Instead of loading up extra font files and slowing down your experience, WordPress will now work with your native system fonts. This may make your dashboard look a little different depending on the operating system that you are working on, but the over all speed increase will be beneficial.

Link Validation

Say goodbye to broken links due to simple typos. In visual mode, WordPress will now automatically check to see if your added links are valid. If it cannot validate a link, the text on hover will turn red, instead of the traditional blue.

These and the other improvements made by WordPress are great, but you will need to update Equity to enjoy these updates. Here is a quick tutorial from Allen that walks you through the upgrade process.

 

What is a Theme Framework

framework

When you start any website, one of the first steps is to pick a theme. This sounds easy enough, but once you get a little deeper, you may find all the options overwhelming. You can’t just pick a theme off the shelf. Sometimes you need a framework or a parent theme. But what is a theme framework and how should you choose to start your search for the perfect website theme?

What is a Theme Framework?

A theme framework is a set of conventions or code library to help developers more easily build out a theme. This is great for developers, because they don’t need to start from scratch. There is a set of tools to start with and predefined criteria to work from. Instead of delving into the inner workings of the theme, they can focus on design and the uniqueness of their creation. But as much as this makes a web developer’s job easier, what does it mean for a theme purchaser or end user?

What is a Parent Theme?

A parent theme is the whole kitchen sink. Most themes that you find for WordPress are parent themes. A parent theme is not of itself a framework. A parent contains the theme design, functionality and templates required for it to work on WordPress. Rarely will a parent claim itself to be so, but if a theme isn’t labeled as a child, it will be a parent.

What is a Child Theme?

A child theme isn’t a complete product. It’s really only the customized look and functionality. The child theme inherits functionality from the framework or, in some cases, a parent theme. The hard working back-end stuff that you never want to touch is included in the framework so that a designer creating the site can focus on just making it pretty with the child theme.

Why Use a Framework?

eat cake
Eat your cake, too.

A framework cannot be used out the box. Think of the framework as a boxed cake. When you bring home the box, you have the instructions and the basic ingredients to bake a cake. Even so, it’s not yet a cake. You still must add in the wet ingredients and bake it to fully have your cake and eat it too. A framework is also much more flexible than a parent theme. Because functionality is separated from customization, the framework focuses more on making things work, allowing creativity to abound within the child theme itself. A parent theme is meant to be used as-is, so it reins in control over all aspects of the website, instead of allowing a looser hand like the framework.

If we stick with the cake mix analogy, a framework is a white cake mix. To it you can add all sorts of ingredients, like fruit, or sprinkles, or different icings. Change the shape if you bake it into cupcakes or a bundt. A parent theme is more like a full German chocolate cake mix, including the coconut frosting. You could play around with it a little bit, but really you are going to end up with a German chocolate cake, instead of the pineapple upside down cake that might be possible with the white cake mix.

Another great thing about the framework is that, inevitably the theme designer will need to upgrade. If a parent theme is upgraded after you’ve put all your work into customization and tweaking the features to get them to work just right, your changes will be lost. A framework separates the base functionality from your customization, so the developer can update the theme without you losing your changes and having to start over, while cursing the theme developer.

Agent Evolution has built out a specific framework for real estate websites. Check out Equity and some of our child themes to see if they work for your site.

Creating Sold and Pending Listings with IMPress Listings Video

Sold and Pending Listing with IMPress Listings

Creating Sold and Pending Listings with IMPress Listings

Watch this video of Larry as he walks you through the IMPress Listings WordPress plugin. Sold and pending listings can provide great historical content for your real estate website. You can get this content with the IMPress Listings plugin. Learn tips and best practices for using the plugin. Discover how you can create sold and pending listings and display them on your real estate website.

In case you missed out on our live webinar with Larry, you can catch up right here. Watch our latest webinar video and learn how to use the IMPress Listings plugin. Don’t miss out on another one, sign up now to experience our next live webinar.

How to Switch Child Themes on Equity Video

switch child themes

Switch Child Themes on Equity

The Equity framework gives you more. Agent Evolution’s Chad Johnson will show you why. Learn tips for choosing the best theme. See how easy switching child themes can be. Make your site truly your own.

In case you missed out on our live webinar with Chad, you can catch up right here. Watch our latest webinar video and learn how to switch child themes on Equity. Don’t miss out on another one, sign up now to experience our next live webinar.

Why Should I Have a Website and 10 Steps to Get One

Why should I have a website?

The Internet is a very large place with billions of businesses scattered all over. Much like a pioneer settling a town, you want to be a web settler. Carve out your own little piece of land and set up shop. Let this short guide show you how a website can be one of the greatest decisions you can make in today’s world.

At first, settlers were just looking for an affordable place allowing ample room to grow while getting to know the land better. Eventually, like-minded neighbors would combine to slowly form a community. As a community grows, it becomes more interconnected. Together, all members share in each others’ growth.

This is just like how a website takes shape.

1. Carve out your own little piece of land

You wouldn’t try to build a house on the ocean or the side of a cliff that is eroding, so why buy a host without knowing the kind of site you want to build? Once you’ve identified the website solution you want, you can begin shopping for a hosting provider. Do your homework and read the reviews of the hosting companies you are interested well before making a purchase decision.

Find the hosting that best suits your needs. There are several hosting providers out there. Costs range from a few dollars a month to thousands. The old adage, “You get what you pay for”, doesn’t always translate well when it comes to the Internet. You can have a very good website with very little overhead and still beat out your competitors in the market.

2. Stick to a budget

Buy a site you can afford. Find solutions you can learn and use easily. Once you have your hosting and website solution figured out, you can begin working on the site.

Keep your goals short. Conquer the little things as you go. Take care of all the little steps as you work toward having a well rounded site, your long term goal. You can focus on search engine rankings and driving traffic to your site after the site is built. Operate within your budget and don’t worry about spending money on expensive advertising campaigns.

3. Time for the housewarming party.

Now that your site is built and you like the way things look, invite some friends to take a look. Ask for feedback about how it looks and the experience of using it to solve various problems. Taking this step will help you identify things visitors find confusing or difficult. Fresh eyes may see something you’ve missed.

Once the general response is good, and no major problems are found, begin laying the groundwork for advertising. Only then should you consider buying those billboards on the freeway. On the other hand, if the responses raise questions or difficulties, you should evaluate these and take them into consideration.

4. Grow your community

In real estate, we all have our markets. A single agent can’t meet the expectation of covering their entire state. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify your niche market and use it to your advantage. Showcase your community expertise. Focus on your serving local market by sharing information about the communities and neighborhoods you work in. Start writing articles about events happening within your market.

Make your site the hub that people go to for information and you’ll be known as the expert in your market. Neighborhood landing pages should encourage new people to move into your market area. Use IDX Broker to can make saved links that showcase homes available in your area. Ultimately its up to you to convince people to move there.

5. Raise the banner

With a community behind you and traffic flowing to your site, make sure that you have a brand and that you are ready to stick with. Big changes at this point can have catastrophic results among your visitors and search engines. Yes, search engines.

The three big highways on the Internet are Google, Bing and Yahoo. Getting your name and market to show up along these highways will help bring traffic to your site but how exactly do you do that? More importantly, are you ready for that traffic?

If you’re good with your branding, show that pride on your site. Social networks are great but without other people sharing your site (or writing reviews about the services you provide) you’re just another site with real estate listings. A growing trend is to set up a Yelp account and place links to your business’s profile on your site. Also link to your various social networks in any emails that you send out. Raise the banner, your branding should speak volumes for you. Limit your social networks to those that you have the time to maintain and set a schedule you can stick to.

6. All systems go

With your new location, fresh office, and a strong community, the reviews should keep coming in. Audit your site once again before we push the big buttons and set up a larger marketing campaign. You want to have someone you know and trust edit your site content. Spelling and grammar is a good start, but focus on making sure each page has unique content. Make sure none of your pages share similar titles. These are some of the little things you can handle from the outset to avoid spending to much time auditing and reshaping your site.

Once your review is complete and everything checks out, start submitting your site to the search engines. Each search engine provider has its own methods for submitting your website. Take this time to setup a few accounts with Google. Not Gmail, but Google Analytics, Gopogle Search Console (webmaster tools) and a Google Adwords accounts. Integrate these services with your site, and submit a sitemap to start getting indexed by the Google search engine.

7. Listed and ready to market

With your pages being indexing by the mnajor search engines, you can start thinking about your marketing. Lots of marketing services are out there, but it all boils down to your budget and specific needs. Do your research and identify the best fit. Next, start start leveraging this service to do two things. First, increase traffic to your site. Second, target and you reach niche market. Before you go all-in on a marketing campaign you, should make sure that it speaks to your target market. Inform your visitors of what problems your site can solve for them with a good marketing campaign so when they get there, they’ll find just what they need.

8. All these visitors but no sales

You have the traffic – and the content – but the inquiries aren’t coming in like you thought they would. See where people are going so you can figure out where you can grab the most attention. After the first couple weeks of heavy site traffic, go back and check your analytics. See which pages were viewed the longest and which had the most page views. Once those are identified, look into ways of capturing those visitors without driving them off.

With IDX Broker, you can make it so your lead capture form requests them to sign up for an account. This offers your visitors a tool to save listings and searches and deliver them property update emails as listings that match their searches become available. It also offers you a way to reach out to them and show them some of the inventory in your area.

Use the request method, as forcing someone to register to continue using your site can do more harm than good. If you went to a store and were allowed to shop 3 or 4 times without being hassled, but the next time you went in you were required to have a membership card, would you continue shopping there? Most people will just find another way to find what they’re looking for elsewhere when they encounter a roadblock like that. Make sure you aren’t driving traffic away and you’ll end up with higher quality leads and future clients.

9. Fully established and busier than ever

By this point, you should have a very successful real estate website and plenty of great new business opportunities. You may find yourself looking to share some of your clients with other real estate professionals. Success will always be what you make of it, and the outcome will not always be the same. If you find that you’ve done all this and still aren’t meeting your goals, there are a few more things you can do. Reevaluate and make sure you’ve clearly identified a market. Next, research that market in-depth to make sure you’re speaking to that market in their language. If all that checks out and you still feel that things should be going better, you may have overestimated your market. Find your strongest competitor and identify areas they may have over looked or areas where you can improve.

10. Have fun and don’t be discouraged

A website can be a great tool and a great way to share your thoughts and feelings about your market. It shouldn’t bring you frustration or feel like a burden. You set the pace and control the content; never forget that. After a while you may be asking yourself, “How did I ever manage to generate business without my website?”

Getting To Know The WP Engine Dashboard

We are proud to say that WP Engine is our hosting partner for TurnKey Complete websites. In a sea of lackluster hosting providers, WP Engine offers a superior solution with a great user experience.

To familiarize our TurnKey Complete clients with the WP Engine admin panel and all of it’s capabilities, we have created a new Learning Center lesson: WP Engine Portal Features – TurnKey Complete Sites Only

One feature to pay special attention to is the Backup Points option. This allows you to set a restore point at any time. This is a crucial step before installing or updating any plugins.

I speak from experience that backup points can be a lifesaver. We have had plugin updates that wreaked havoc on AgentEvolution.com. Thankfully, no update is done to our site without making a backup point right before. Makes restoring your site just a click away. Seconds rather than hours to fix a problem.

Spice Up Your WordPress Website Photos

It is no secret how important we feel photos are to the success of your website. Photos add personality and help to tell your story. They also make your content more inviting as a website with only text would be a bear to read.

In a recent blog post, we shared 4 WordPress plugins to add stock images to your website. We now have a 5th plugin to share with you, Canva.

Canva is much more than a plugin for adding photos. It is a graphic design tool.

With Canva you can add your own text and graphics to create unique images. Upload your own photos or use photos from their vast library. Many of the one million stock images are free while others are only $1.00.

The featured image for this blog post was created for free using Canva. We used one of their existing layouts and changed the text. Within a few minutes, we had the graphic ready and in our blog. Best of all, we never left the WordPress admin.

Once you install the plugin, it adds a button to your post editor next to your standard Add Media button. (See picture below)

canva1

 

Clicking that button opens the Canva editor. It walks you through a 23 second tour and away you go. Drag and drop layout out, text and other graphic elements to your workspace. It is that easy. When done, click the Publish button and your finished image appears in your blog post.

The Canva Editor
The Canva Editor

If you fall in love with Canva (and we think you will), go to the Canva website to see what else you can create. They have layouts for real estate flyers, Facebook cover images, Twitter headers, business cards and much more.

Canva could change more than your website. It could change the look of all of your marketing materials.

Change WP Listings Property Details

“I love the plugin, but can I change the details for my listings?”

This is a common question heard in the wordpress.org support forums – and yes it is possible!

* Note: This may get a little technical, but is totally doable by even the most novice user.

Using add_filter() to change the WP Listings default property details

Changing the listing details is actually quite easy, but will require a little bit of code added to your theme. WordPress has filter functions available to theme and plugin developers that allows them to change the output of another function.

In the WP Listings plugin we are using such a function, in the file class-listings.php with a line that starts like so:
property_details = apply_filters( 'wp_listings_property_details', array(

… and it then goes on to define those details.

The important part in that line is the apply_filters. Basically, we can add our own filter function that will be returned to the property details function instead of the default details.

For a little more in-depth, but still easy to understand, article on how filters work and how to use them check out Ian Stewart’s article on Using Filter Hooks in WordPress Child Themes.

So how easy is it? Here’s the code…

Before you get started, we always recommend you make a backup of your theme’s functions.php file before making any edits.

Say, for example, you want to remove the default of “Pool” and add “Garage” instead. By copying and pasting the code below into your theme’s functions.php file, you can do this.

That should get you started. If you look at the code, you’ll see it’s pretty self-explanatory of what the field labels are (i.e. “Bedrooms:”, “Bathrooms:”, and the new “Garage:”). If you change one of the field labels, you should also change the field name, which is at the end of each line and begins with “_listing_” – just keep it lower case and use underscores for spaces.

This will allow you to customize your listing details so they apply to your specific market, and not worry about any changes getting overwritten when the plugin is updated!

How to switch to WP Listings from AgentPress Listings

WordPress property listings management made easy

We’ve used AgentPress to display listings on agent websites for years, but it’s not without it’s shortcomings, so we created the WP Listings plugin to add the features we were looking for. In doing so, it was imperative that we make it easy to switch from using AgentPress Listings to the WP Listings plugin without losing data or breaking your site.

Download WP Listings from wordpress.org →

Making the switch is a fairly easy process for nearly all users. First, install and activate the WP Listings plugin, then deactivate the AgentPress Listings plugin.

If you have a custom designed theme built around AgentPress, the switch may require some tweaks, but overall the switch is pretty seamless.

Using the built-in templates

The AgentPress theme, and all themes by Agent Evolution, include 3 templates within the theme that control how listings display.

  • single-listing.php – to control how single listings are displayed
  • archive-listing.php – to control how listing archive and listing search pages are displayed
  • taxonomy.php – to control how listings in a custom taxonomy are displayed

To display listings using the new templates within the plugin (recommended) you’ll need to remove these templates from your theme folder. We recommend making a backup of these files in case you would like to restore them.

If you’d like to continue using the templates included in your theme so they look the same, do nothing. Templates within the theme take precedence and will be used instead of those within the plugin. However, you may want to disable the CSS file that’s loaded so those styles don’t interfere with your theme’s styles which can be done in the plugin settings.

Using the widgets

If you’re using the Featured Listings widget in your theme, you’ll need to replace it with the WP Listings – Featured Listings widget. Just drag and drop into the same widget area you previously had the AgentPress widget. There are some new settings that you can tweak to control which listings display and if they should display in columns or not. Again, your theme may include CSS to control how the featured listings widget displays. The WP Listings widget attempts to be compatible with most themes, but if you prefer how your theme displays the listings, you can also disable the widget’s CSS in the theme settings (because this widget displays more data, it will require CSS to hide the new fields).

Resize featured images

One last note is related to the thumbnail images used on archive pages and the Featured Listing widget. The thumbnail sizes used in WP Listings are a larger size (for high dpi/retina displays and responsive scaling), so you’ll want to regenerate the thumbnail images used for your listings. Install the plugin Regenerate Thumbnails, and once installed visit the Tools > Regen. Thumbnails page and click the button to resize your featured images.

Video tutorial

Here’s a quick video that shows the switch process if using the AgentPress theme:

Let us know if you have any questions on making the switch in the comments below. If you have any technical issues, please post your question to the wordpress.org support forum.