Episode 367

Website Speed Expert and Course Creator Jon Phillips Reveals How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

We have connected with Jon Phillips of Holygrailwp.com for this LMScast episode with LifterLMS founder Chris Badgett. This is going to be an exciting episode because Jon is going to teach us how to make your website faster and how he has discovered a great formula to do it. Interestingly, Jon uses LifterLMS to enroll students into his courses, what a coincidence! To celebrate this, Jon has added a coupon code at the end of this podcast for anyone who wants to enroll in his course from this blog or video.

Like every one of us on WordPress, Jon learned this by taking the challenge into his hands and through trial and error. Because Jon is not a WordPress developer, he is rather an advanced user. He is a fitness coach by profession and that is where his path crossed with WordPress and LifterLMS.

During the pandemic in 2020, everything was moving rapidly online because people could not leave their homes like before. So there was a demand for creating websites quickly, getting everything you have on that site. People did that and ended up with a site that loads slow. Jon says that any side that takes more than 3 seconds will not be converting as people would start to leave. So, he also started his own health and fitness website with the help of a developer friend. But when he started to make changes he soon realized that he won’t be able to keep paying at this rate and he needs to learn this to do it himself. That’s how he learned everything about WordPress and LMS from the scratch.

Relating to that, Jon started optimizing his own website and discovered that his site loads in less than 1 second from anywhere in the world. It was an incredible feat and he didn’t stop at that. He packed his experience into a learnable course and shared it with everyone. This is one of the core philosophies that LifterLMS and Chris Badgett can totally relate to. If you have a skill that you are great at, teach it to others so that others are also benefited.

Jon states that many people walk away from not teaching their expertise thinking that there are other more professional people who can do it and they probably don’t have enough credibility to teach something. But in reality, you really don’t need to be highly qualified and popular to teach. The goal is to lift people up. You just need to be yourself and be honest, no one will put you up for judgment for that.

Why did he use LifterLMS for his website? When he started he found different sorts of LMS, some were SaaS-based LMS, hosted LMS, and then WordPress LMS plugins. He didn’t want to go with SaaS-based solutions because of the lack of control and cost of it. When he explored plugins, he was really moved by Chris as to how much he is involved with the users and passionate about the industry. Plus, the plugin was free and everything worked right off the bat. So, he started building around it.

About having a fast WordPress-powered learning website or running any fast WordPress site, Jon shares 3 key insights. Firstly, use only one layer of caching for your website and turn off caching when making changes to your website. Turn it back on when you are done. Secondly, compress your media (images and videos) to optimize your site. Finally, managing all your DNS records from CloudFlare would give an instant boost to your website.

He has also made several recommendations for plugins and services in the podcast to achieve all these. Jon can be reached at [email protected], and the coupon code to get discounts on his course is “lifter” to get 20% off. There is also a 30-day refund period, so try it out! Visit Holygrailwp.com.

At LifterLMS.com, you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. We’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Thank you for joining us!

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett:
You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create launch and scale a high-value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris. Badgett I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end. I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMS Cast. My name is Chris Badgett. I’m joined by a special guest. His name is Jon Phillips. He’s from HolyGrail WP. That’s holygrailwp.com. We’re going to get it into Jon’s story as a course creator, as a WordPress professional, but particularly around some expertise in WordPress speed, which is somewhat mysterious. I myself am always been a little confused with what the options are, what to do, what to prioritize, how to really tackle that animal. But before we get into that, Jon, welcome to the show.

Jon Phillips:
Hey, thanks for having me, Chris. This is cool. I’ve followed you for quite a while now, and so it’s neat to get to be on the other side of a camera from you to get to hang out.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. Well, WordPress is a community, and this whole course creator entrepreneur thing is a community. When you popped up on the radar, I was like, “I love seeing someone who’s both an expert and a WordPress professional helping with WordPress problems.” Your site looks amazing, so go check out holygrailwp.com. I’ll remind you at the end of the episode that John does have a coupon code for his course about how to speed up your WordPress website, so go check that out. You can do it. You can do it, but if you could just, before we get into some speed tips, tell us about the course, what is it, and what’s the discount you have for the LifterLMS community?

Jon Phillips:
The course is called the HolyGrail WordPress Site Speed Course. It is all about making your site load faster, and deliver a better user experience for your visitors. In the process of just knocking out some best practices when it comes to performance, you end up satisfying core web vitals as well. If your website’s getting enough traffic, that you can have enough field data to get your 28 days worth of data to say, “Hey, we’ve either passed or failed core web vitals for this period,” then following the tips and tricks are going to help you get there.

Jon Phillips:
The course is available for a discount for anyone listening. The code is lifter. It’s a 20% off code. So if you enter that at checkout, then you can get a discount, try it out, 30-day refund period, so try it out. If your site is not faster after implementing this stuff, let me know. If you’re not happy, of course, get your refund, but nobody’s asked for their money back yet. People seem pretty satisfied with the results they’re getting, but there’s also a mini course. I’ll just mention too.

Jon Phillips:
Right on the course’s home page, you can opt in for a free mini course. As soon as you plug in your name and email, you’ll actually be automatically registered as a student. Log in and you can dive right into the content. It’s a pretty slick onboarding process if I do say so myself. I’m happy about how that works out.

Chris Badgett:
What’s the focus of the mini course?

Jon Phillips:
The mini course covers some of the things that you can do on your site for free, so no investment on your end at all, to help get your site going a bit faster for you. That involves things like switching your domains, DNS, name servers, over to CloudFlare so that you can not only benefit from some of the performance and speed benefits that you get there, but just managing all your DNS records from CloudFlare. It just makes things a lot faster. Even when you’re maybe adding records to search console, or you’ve got to add a new text record to something, and you need a quick verification, CloudFlare’s propagation is virtually instant.

Jon Phillips:
It happens so quickly, and you get your lower time to first byte, that TTFB, so the very first bit of information that can be downloaded from your site. That time to first byte being really low just means that as soon as that’s done, everything else on your site can start loading even quicker. So if you’ve got a quick time to first byte, a great place to start optimizing your performance. You can snag that with a free CloudFlare account. That’s in the free mini course along with some other intros on things like pre-loading critical assets, whether those are images, fonts.

Jon Phillips:
Let’s see. What else is in there? JavaScript delays, which have become a more popular technique in the last year or so. There are several things. It’s called mini course, but really, there’s a lot in there. Don’t let it overwhelm you. There’s a lot of stuff in there you can try out for free, so take it for a spin.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. That’s it, holygrailwp.com. Let’s frame in the speed issue. WordPress has a reputation that it’s slow. Dynamic sites that are more than just a static brochure site like an LMS or an e-commerce site, they tend to need more resources. The market often… Like me as a WordPress user, I just want to install a caching plugin, and activate it, and just instantly, my site is fast, but it’s way more complicated than that. How do you get somebody started thinking about speed, why it’s important, and what do we focus on first?

Jon Phillips:
To start thinking about speed, I think about just my own experience with other people’s, other company’s websites. What do I expect my experience to be like when I visit what I believe to be a reputable brand’s website? I want it to load quickly. There are stats out there. This number is potentially even lower now, but I believe some numbers Google put out a few years ago said that if your site took longer than three seconds to load, there was 100 something percent… It was more than 100% chance, basically a guarantee that if your site takes longer than three seconds to load, pop in on the page, and not necessarily everything load on the page, but everything become interactive. You’re able to scroll and do things.

Jon Phillips:
If it takes longer than three seconds, then people might just be leaving. You may do the same. I know I do. I’m usually not going to wait around forever. Maybe if I know I’m on a mobile connection that’s not so strong, I’ll wait longer. But generally, if the site’s not snappy, then I’m going to leave. I just think about if you want to deliver a good user experience, because you want people to actually stick around to see what’s on your site and have any chance of actually consuming your content, opting in for your lead magnet, you need the site to, in a sense, be out of the way so that users can actually engage with it.

Jon Phillips:
For that to happen, it needs to be performant, and so good places to start thinking about it are you want to make sure you’ve invested in some quality hosting. If-

Chris Badgett:
What do you like there? What do you like there? If you were listing off or advising a client, or doing it for yourself, what are some names or styles of accounts that you like?

Jon Phillips:
This has changed within the last year or so, because I’ve gotten heavily involved in the GridPane community. I’m now self hosting everything myself, rather than going through a managed host, which I also still do recommend. It can be one of your more expensive options. But as Patrick Gallagher says at GridPane, you do end up… This is not a knock on anybody, but you end up paying effectively what’s called an ignorance tax. When you don’t know how to do some of the technical things, your prices that you pay for hosting are going to be a bit higher because you’re effectively paying…

Jon Phillips:
If you have a managed host per se, you’re going to be paying a bit more, and that’s largely for the support that you’re going to be getting to help you do all the things that you might not either want to touch or know how to configure. I got tired of paying the ignorance tax myself for a while, and thought that I’d get my costs under control for myself and my clients by learning a little bit more server technical stuff. I’m still learning a ton. A lot of this is still really new for me, but GridPane, self-managed hosting is the route that I go.

Jon Phillips:
But for those using a managed host, Kinsta, one of the most expensive, but is also one of the most performant in terms of hardware, and… Gosh, I mean, if you want to use a shared host, SiteGround, I’ve had plenty of sites on SiteGround, also a great place to start. I’ve just come to learn that there are going to be restrictions or limitations within just about any platform that you use when it comes to hosting. But if I had to leave it there, I would say check out any of those options in that order.

Jon Phillips:
If you want the most control and potentially the lowest cost, start on something like GridPane, otherwise pick some top tier manage host like Kinsta. Then if you have to go to share, then maybe something like SiteGround.

Chris Badgett:
All right, that’s awesome. Well, I interrupted your flow, but people often ask about hosting, and I always like to see what people are using. We did interview Patrick Gallagher, the founder of GridPane, on this episode. So if you’d like to learn more about that, just Google LMS Cast, GridPane, Patrick, and you’ll find it. What else besides getting on some solid hosting? How do we start attacking speed?

Jon Phillips:
So a lot of times, if you’re unaware of the needed image sizes, dimensions, and the baseline level of image quality that you need, you can end up loading or uploading unnecessarily large images to your website, and so reigning in your images can be a really big help. You can do that either, well, both by uploading images at the size that they’re at the maximum size they’re going to be required on your site. Say when viewed on desktop or when viewed on mobile, what’s the biggest size I’m going to need here?

Jon Phillips:
Because some themes allow you to upload the, “Hey, I want this version of the image for desktop, but on mobile, load this version.” So if you know the max dimensions of the image you’re going to serve for either, then you can upload those. But then if you’re not familiar, WordPress is also going to generate something like nine other versions of your image that you upload so that there are other dimensions available for use on things like WooCommerce, product thumbnail, or the medium version, the large version, the small version of an image.

Jon Phillips:
So a lot of sizes get generated, but if your theme doesn’t properly use responsive images, Srcset responsive images, then you could end up with images too large for the containers that they’re in. So if an image can only actually be rendered at 500 pixels, but the image that is in there is 1,000 pixels wide, then you could have an image a little bit too big on your hands, so just uploading a good size is a great place to start, but then of course, any plugin that’s going to offer you some compression on those images.

Jon Phillips:
Then even better, if you can have a plugin that’s got a CDN option, a content delivery network option, that’s going to be really helpful because a lot of them these days that are offering CDN allow them to resize your images on the fly. So even if you have uploaded an image that is too big for its container, then the CDN can detect the size of the DIIV that is holding that image and actually trying to serve up the image that is available that is the closest match to that size, so you get a little bit better sizing. The image could also be served in the smaller image format. WebP is a small image format that is…

Jon Phillips:
Let’s see. What’s the word I’m looking for? It is supported. It’s supported in most modern browsers these days. There are other smaller formats, but they’re not quite as widely supported yet, so serving images in WebP when the browser can support it is great. But if you have the CDN option, that also gives you the super power of having a image fallback. So if you have someone that is on an older browser that does not support WebP images, if you only had a WebP image available, and they don’t have WebP compatibility, they just see a broken image, or they see what looks like a missing image. So the CDN options will often come with a fallback, and just serve the JPEG or the PNG image if the WebP format is not supported.

Chris Badgett:
Do you have a plugin recommendation or one or a couple that you like for just better image management?

Jon Phillips:
Absolutely. I’m a really big fan of EWWW Image Optimizer, E-W-W-W Image Optimizer. The name is funky. I told the creator of the plugin, “I would’ve checked out this plugin sooner had the name not been EWWW, because I’ve [crosstalk 00:13:25].”

Chris Badgett:
It’s kind of a bad name.

Jon Phillips:
Why would I check that out? But it stands for Everything WWW, which is the name of the company, so Shane Bishop, shout out. He wanted to name it a funny thing, so that’s where the name came from. EWWW Image Optimizer, the free version is amazing, ton of features, but the premium pay version is incredibly valuable too. That’s where you get your CDN option. That’s my go-to, and it does offer you different levels of compression. So if you want to totally obliterate your images, like I might do on the HolyGrail site, I’m not so much like, “Oh, I need pixel perfect images,” so just, “Ah, compress them. Make them really, really small.”

Jon Phillips:
You can smash them if you want to, or if you need like, “Hey, I’ve got a photographer’s website, and I need everything literally pixel perfect, so let’s use lossless compression.” You can select levels of compression that’ll fit your needs. I would start with EWWW free or pay-

Chris Badgett:
Can that one fix past mistakes? Let’s say you’re not starting a new site, but you have a site, and it has tons of old images that were too big or whatever, can it work retroactively?

Jon Phillips:
The paid version does offer a compression API key. So if you were to hook up your site to the API, you can compress the images that are already on your server, but that is a paid feature. I know there are some free plugins that will let you do that automatically for free potentially, but you can compress images already on your server, but then those that are uploaded after the fact can be set to follow those same compression settings, your max image, dimensions, that kind of thing for everything uploaded after that. The great thing too about the CDN, last thing I guess I’ll say on the images, is whenever you’re serving your images from a CDN, you could have all of these different settings applied at the CDN level, and leave your original images untouched.

Jon Phillips:
So if you’re playing with different levels of compression, if you were only dealing with your own server, let’s say you didn’t take a backup, you compress all of your images, and it was just way too much compression. If you don’t have a backup to fall back to, then you may just be stuck with images that are too compressed. You have to delete them and re-upload higher quality. But if you’re using the CDN options, CDN could say, “All right, we’re going to serve the really compressed version. Oh, that’s too much. Okay, tone it down.” All right, now, we’ll serve the pixel perfect version.

Jon Phillips:
The CDN is just copying images on your site, and then serving their own copy of it based on your parameters that you set up. EWWW is great. ShortPixel is another big favorite. I know a lot of photographers in particular use them. They do operate on a credit-based system though that I’m not as much a fan of that. Buy X number of credits, and then every time you either are using… If you’re compressing images, then that costs some of your credits. If you convert your JPEG, PNG, when able to…

Jon Phillips:
If you have a PNG that doesn’t require a transparent background, maybe like a logo file, if that can be converted into a JPEG or into a WebP, you get charged credits for that conversion. Then I think for the CDN utilization, you might be charged credits there as well. But when on EWWW, you get a set amount of bandwidth utilization per month, and then you just… You’re not necessarily being pinged credit by credit, but also to be fair, I have to mention, I got the AppSumo LTD maxed out plan, so I’ve got unlimited bandwidth for life on infinite number of sites. I am spoiled in that regard, but it’s still incredible value for the money if you do get the paid version of EWWW.

Chris Badgett:
What else besides hosting and images, where else can we focus our speed work?

Jon Phillips:
Hosting images, fonts are a really big culprit. We’re going to talk themes next. I should have said themes first. But fonts, it’s really common that… Especially with the page builder, so this may tie into themes as well, but let’s say you have a page builder using something like Divi, Elementor, or any of the others. You may also have several third party plugins that integrate with your page builder. Oftentimes, if you look in the waterfall for your website, so if you were to run a GTmetrix test, or if you were to go in the network tab on your Chrome DevTools, and run a waterfall test, that’s where you see the order in which everything is loaded on your site.

Jon Phillips:
You may see a ton of font files, and you might think, “Well, gosh, I’m only using one or two fonts on the site,” which is that’s great practice. One, two, maybe three fonts is a great place to cap things for performance, but you may have the theme calling on one set of fonts. Then you may have a separate request for the same font file by one-third party plugin that is integrating with your theme. You may have another third party plugin also asking for that same font, same font weight, same italics or bold, whatever version.

Jon Phillips:
So you could end up with a ton of unnecessary font files or duplicate requests, and so making sure that we’re not using more fonts than needed is a really big help. If you want to see how your theme is actually handling fonts, if you go to GTmetrix, and run test, and just filter the results in the waterfall by fonts, you might see, “Hey, I’ve got this font, whatever name, the Montserrat, or how you pronounce it.” Let’s say you’ve got font weights 100, 200, 300, 400 all the way to 900, but you know for a fact you’re only using font weights 300 and 500 on that page, so your theme might be in queuing the entire font file set rather than the ones that you’re using.

Jon Phillips:
So when possible, it’s a great idea to self host your font files, if you can. I’d be… I can give you a resource, a link to send to everybody that might want to look for a great way to do that without necessarily requiring a premium plugin. If you use a theme like Kadence, which I’m using on the course site, that’ll let you locally host your fonts for free. Well, I say for free. It might be a premium feature actually of the pro version of the theme, but some other themes do that as well, just let you host those locally, but it eliminates additional third party requests.

Jon Phillips:
So rather than just asking your website to say, “Hey, Google, can we have this font file?” You can just ask your website instead, “Hey, let’s load up the font files we already have,” so that you know, for a fact, you’re not requiring an entire… You’re not requesting an entire bundle of font files. It’s just the ones you’re using. [inaudible 00:20:04] themes.

Chris Badgett:
Was there more… Let’s do themes.

Jon Phillips:
Themes. There’s a video in the paid version of the course where I actually run a waterfall test on a blank WordPress install, comparing Divi page builder. Mind you, prior to their 4.10 update, which was one of their big performance updates where they enabled things like their dynamic CSS, dynamic JavaScript on this, but I compared the most current version of Divi at the time against GeneratePress, which is an extraordinarily lightweight theme as well as Kadence, which is, again, a really lightweight theme. Just looking at the base number of requests that, out of the box, come with a blank WordPress install, and just the theme installed, there were quite a bit more requests that were made for Divi when compared to Kadence and GeneratePress.

Jon Phillips:
GeneratePress had the fewest. Kadence was maybe one, two, three requests more. When I’m saying requests, that does mean for those not familiar. When looking in the waterfall, your individual files for every part of your website, you load up a page. Everything associated with that page represents a request, so that’s CSS file for your theme and your HTML document just for the page itself. Each individual image that is loaded above the fold, and that kind of thing, each little line item is a request. The more requests a page is making, then that’s just more stuff that has to be dealt with before the page can render.

Jon Phillips:
So if you’ve got a ton of requests, and when I say a ton, I mean, for some that might be north of 40, north of 50, I mean, you might test your website and find, “Oh gosh, I’ve got north of 100 requests.” Probably could be trimmed down. But if you have no idea how many requests are being made per page of your site, and this is not just test it once on your homepage, and that’s what it is on every page of your site, by page, you can see where do things need to be maybe cleaned up, because there’s a really good chance that we’re making a lot of requests unknowingly for things that either aren’t needed at all, or maybe they’re duplicate requests, or, “Hey, there’s a plugin installed here that’s making requests that…”

Jon Phillips:
“I’m not even using that plugin on this page, and yet it’s making seven requests. I need to get that out of there.” The theme that you use, if you use a page builder, it’s going to… Just because of all the functionality that comes with a page builder, more often than not, they’re going to have more requests out of the box versus a theme that is more modern like black-based themes, like your Kadence or GeneratePress kind of thing. But the more stuff your site is doing, the more requests you’re going to have. The more animations and special effects that you turn on, that’s going to result in more requests, because that’s going to represent either additional CSS files, JavaScript files, just other things have to be turned on, and that more requests going to make you a little bit slower.

Jon Phillips:
If you can afford that in your performance budget, then that may be totally acceptable. But if it’s not worth it to you, then you might say, “Hey, that trade-off is not worth the performance hit, so I’m going to not enable some of those things. Again, to be fair to Divi and any of the other page builders that have these performance optimizations now, they have largely tried to combine what used to be a 800 kilobyte CSS file into a far smaller file if you enable some of their performance settings so that they’re trying to only load the CSS that is detected for the modules that are on the page and that kind of thing.

Jon Phillips:
If you’re just using the theme or the theme and a child theme say for Divi, you may be fine, but a lot of the third party integrations, third party plugins that integrate with your theme are not yet fully compatible with those, because the theme might detect, “Hey, this thing is not being… This is not required for the page to render, so we’re not going to load that asset when the third party plugin might actually be expecting that thing to be there.” So you can end up with some difficulty when trying to use the performance settings for some of your page builders when you’ve got those other third party integrations you’re trying to work with.

Jon Phillips:
While teasing out that compatibility stuff, you can definitely say a page builder’s generally going to be a bit slower than a more lightweight theme.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. Before we go to your course creator journey, I know a lot of people focus on caching plugins for speed. There’s also caching that happens at the server level and stuff, and a lot of people don’t really understand caching, myself including. What is your recommendation around caching plugins or hosting choice, or what frame in that challenge when people fall into that world of, “I need a good caching plugin?”

Jon Phillips:
Sure. Well, so first thing is that you don’t have to have a layer of caching at the plugin level. Ideally, you have it at the server level. You could then add an additional layer at the plugin level at the site level. But whenever you start adding multiple layers of caching, let’s say… It’s just best practice. If while developing, while making changes on a site, you would ideally have caching disabled so that as soon as you make a change while you’re editing, you go to look on the front end of the site to see those changes reflected.

Jon Phillips:
If you’re not seeing anything happening, it could be that you’ve got a caching layer that is blocking things. And if you’ve got four layers of cache, but you forgot to turn off one of the four while testing, then you just might think, “Oh gosh, what’s happening?” You’re writing into support for different plugins, and your host and everything, “What’s wrong with your service,” not realizing that you left a layer of caching on. So ideally, I like to just keep the one layer of caching server level. In some cases, also might be using CloudFlare’s edge caching.

Jon Phillips:
One of the free lessons in the mini course is on how to enable a page rule at CloudFlare to enable caching on their edge network, the 200 plus different server locations they have around the world that your pages could be cached on those servers so that your site loads really quickly for anybody just about any place in the world, because it’s going to be served up from the data center closes to where that visitor is making the request from, so have caching somewhere. Caching is wonderful for your static pages, but where caching no longer will help you is if you start dealing with something like an e-commerce.

Jon Phillips:
If you’re using WooCommerce, or if you’re using a membership site, an LMS, once you start getting into some of these dynamic pages where you’ve either got a logged in user, if you got a logged in user, you are bypassing cache. You’re now directly having to rebuild pages with every visit, a quick side note for those that don’t know. WordPress is based on PHP, and with this coding language, the first visit of any page, if it’s not cache, you effectively have this process happening at the server level where the header is pulled in. Boom, we make a header. Okay, the first section is pulled in, so the page is assembled, right, as you go.

Jon Phillips:
It’s not as if this page already exists in my website. No, it is actually being built. You don’t, I guess, see it that way, but the page has to be put together with every visit to a page that is not cached. Now, if you have a cache page, so here’s, I guess, the explanation on caching, that’s where you take the HTML structure of the page, and basically take a snapshot of that, and say, “Okay, boom. We know what the structure of the page is so that when a request comes in for this identical page later, we already have the scaffolding.” So throw up the scaffolding, and then your styling, your CSS, your JavaScript, all that stuff can come in and just go on top of it.

Jon Phillips:
You’re not having to start from scratch, and making that initial render of each section of the page building out the entire thing. That’s why it’s important to have caching. And if you’ve got nothing but static pages on your website, content is not changing from one visit to the next, then you could have every page on your website cached. Your performance is wonderful. You’re never really tapping intensive server resources and everything, and your pages are going to load more quickly. But when you’ve got more dynamic content that is changing, or again, you’ve got login users, you’ve got eCommerce shoppers that are adding things to the cart or trying to go through the checkout process, those things are going to be to each visitor, and so those things just cannot be cached.

Jon Phillips:
There’s microcaching. There’s some ways you might cache some things like, “Hey, let’s cache the header and the footer on this e-commerce page. Even though it’s a logged-in person, or even though they’re shopping right now, maybe this stuff hasn’t changed, but I mean, “Hey, if you’ve got a little cart icon that needs to update the number of products that someone’s added to their cart, then you can’t cache that, because that’s going to vary between visits and different actions that people take.” So all that to say, long way around, if you want to go caching, and you don’t want to spend any money on anything just yet, if you’ve got to host SiteGround, their just native and built SiteGround SG Optimizer plugin is a fine one to go with, because this is effectively going to communicate back to the server level saying like, “Hey, enable this caching at the server level. You’re in it. You’re playing with it at the site level on the plugin.”

Jon Phillips:
But it’s really just saying, “Hey, turn on the server caching. Hey, turn on the…” I think they’ve got… Oh, is it OPcache, or is… It’s been a minute since I’ve looked at the SiteGround site. There’s some other level of maybe object caching. Memcached, I think, might actually be the level, but you can turn on some of those things from the plugin. Premium plugins, by far the most popular is WP Rocket. It’s great. FlyingPress, I think, is one that a lot of people are sleeping on. FlyingPress is both caching and asset optimization as is WP Rocket. So you get your caching options, but you also get options for optimizing CSS, optimizing JavaScript.

Jon Phillips:
So whether that is CSS minification, or trying to remove unused CSS, or generate critical CSS above the fold, both plugins can do some of those kinds of things, and delaying JavaScripts. Any functionality that is not required to render the page could actually be delayed until after the page is… all the stylistic things have loaded in. You can then have functionality kick in that isn’t needed until later. So if you’ve got a chat widget on your site, that’s not required for your header and your Big Hero Section above the fold to render.

Jon Phillips:
So you can say, “Hey, delay the JavaScript for that chat widget so that the page loads.” Then as soon as the user starts to interact with the page, whether it’s they click something, they start to scroll desktop or mobile, then the chat widget JavaScript can be executed. So the widget might appear a little bit later, but it doesn’t break anything about your design or functionality. It just doesn’t come in until it’s needed. That’s just a easy example of a place that you can make some really big gains.

Jon Phillips:
If you’ve got the Facebook chat widget on your site, that’s classic example of something that could have the JavaScript delayed, and make some big performance improvements. If you need a free plugin to do that, FlyingScript is the best free option in my opinion to make that happen.

Chris Badgett:
Wow. That is awesome. As you can tell, John knows his speed stuff, but you’re also a great teacher, which makes you what I call an education entrepreneur. You’ve had this subject matter expertise, but a great communicator about it as well. Tell us about your course creator journey. Particularly, before we actually get into that, your WordPress story, I find interesting because you do a lot in what I call the analog world. So how did somebody who works in health and fitness developed this WordPress expertise and clearly passion as well? Before we get into the courses, what’s that WordPress story?

Jon Phillips:
Sure. I went to school for exercise science. That’s what I got my master’s in. I was a graduate assistant while doing that, so I had some student teaching under my belt, which I loved. I do love to teach. My day gig… Well, before we get there, while in school, I was doing some coaching on the side for people that were either doing strength training, or they wanted to do some weight loss transformation, that kind of thing. I was helping people with training and nutrition, and I wanted to have a website where I could actually sell my services, maybe blog a bit to try to demonstrate some expertise and credibility to gain clients.

Chris Badgett:
What year was that here? What year in the story?

Jon Phillips:
Oh, maybe this was 2012, ’13 or so. I actually had a friend to build a site for me. He was actually the webmaster for the school at the time. I was just like, “Hey, can you just build a site for me?” We’ve played guitar together at a band in church, so I already knew him. I was like, “Hey…” He cut me a deal on setting up a site. He built it in Concrete5, which was a platform totally alien to me, and came to find out later that while the site served me well, when I was ready to make some more updates to it, it was going to require me to pay him more, which I was already a broke college student who was late on the first few installment payments that I made to him.

Jon Phillips:
So I was just like, “Oh, I can’t pay him anymore. I need to learn to do this myself,” so just broke a lot of things in the process of trying to free up my domain so that I could use it elsewhere, and decide I was going to learn WordPress from scratch, and learn to build my own site. So while in school, I did get a WordPress site up. I did get my coaching and fitness site going. I played with all kind of different services to integrate with data. I used lead pages for some of my LeadGen, opt-in stuff. Just through crashing and burning through several different things, I eventually got tired of it, and shut it down, and for a few months was just like, “All right, I’m not going to do the fitness blog. I’m not going to do any of that stuff. I’m just done.”

Jon Phillips:
But then it ate at me. It was just like, “Oh man, that thing beat me. I let it get the best of me. I gave up on it. Let me get back to it,” so I decided with renewed vigor to go back into like, “Okay, for real this time, I’m really going to learn how to do WordPress stuff.”I think that was about the time I picked up with Divi, got really familiar with that, and started doing a little bit of client work, and after about two years of that, started playing with some other themes as well. So more recently, GeneratePress and Kadence become a little more of my bread and butter.

Jon Phillips:
I still do some Divi work, but for performance reasons already discussed, I’m trying to work with more lightweight themes lately. That has just been a little bit more geared towards the Kadence and GeneratePress stuff. I do client work. I do agency work and some of the side hustle stuff right now. Again, this is side hustle right now, but I have a story brand guide friend in town who will usually land some clients for their copywriting and marketing messaging. She’ll build out a wireframe, and just pass it to me, and I get to build it, make it come alive, and host it, get them on a care plan, and manage it from there, and then just maybe wait for the next one to come on.

Jon Phillips:
It’s a great working relationship, honestly, but… The day gig, this is… Again, I went to school for all this health and wellness stuff, so I work in a corporate health and wellness environment at an insurance company. I do a lot of health wellness coaching. There’s education for our employee population. We do webinars, and we do in-person classes outside of COVID times. We’ve got some podcasting that we do internally. It’s all private podcast stuff, so there’s a lot of education to what we do along with some of the personal training and group exercise.

Jon Phillips:
Again, I’m passionate about helping other people learn how to do something that I’ve done myself or something that I’ve learned. I’m usually not one just to sit on it, and just like, “All right, this is mine. I’m not telling anybody about it.” I’m usually like, “Oh wow. Now that I know how to do this, I feel like my life has improved in some kind of way, and I want you to have that too. So how can I show you how to make it happen for you?” That’s where WordPress fits in now is I see it as a platform I can use to whatever somebody else is passionate about or, “Hey, they’ve got this idea, this dream of business, hobby, what have you. How can I get it out to the world?”

Jon Phillips:
It’s like, “Well, I can tell you exactly how to do it.” I crash, and burn, and lit the dumpster fire, and jumped in. I’ve done all… I’ve broken many more things than I care to go into in detail here, but through all that, maybe wasted time, effort, money. Maybe I can spare somebody else a little bit of the trouble I’ve gone through along the way to make some of this stuff happen. That’s where I’m at with WordPress.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. Like in WordPress and just this online thing and side hustles and whatnot, I find the more you give, the more you get. So as generous as you can be, it tends to work out well. What’s the course creator story? Where did this idea to create courses around speed? I know you have some other ones planned as well. Where did this start?

Jon Phillips:
It was June 2020, so pandemic is still… We’re in that phase where everybody’s still binge watching Tiger King, and things are good. The world shut down, and we’ve got Tiger King. I had been working on some site speed issues, myself trying to just get things loading a bit quicker. I eventually stumbled across what I felt was like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it. Let me rerun these tests again, and check my site’s performance worldwide.” I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I can believe what I’m seeing. This site is loading under one second everywhere in the world. What’s the deal? Is this real?”

Jon Phillips:
I took to a blog post, and just tried to say like, “Hey guys, I think I found the whole URL.” It literally feels like I’ve stumbled through the woods, and come upon this glowing chalice, and now I’m like, “You guys, you got to see this. You got to check it out.” I originally thought of just making it a really small only free course, but I’m very long-winded. As you could probably already tell, I like to go into detail where I can, and so I took it upon myself to actually make it a course, but didn’t get around to actually doing that until I took another course, so I am a course sewer.

Jon Phillips:
I took one of Elizabeth Goddard’s courses, shout out Lizzie, called The Fast Guide to Launching. She’s got this really simple framework for helping you come up with an idea for anything, whether it’s a service, a product, a course, but come up with your idea, and get it to market quickly. I just decided after going through that course, “Okay, I’m going to give myself one month. That’s probably longer than she would even recommend sitting on the idea, working on it to be a true fast launch. But after just tweaking things for about a month or so, and just say like, “All right, I’m just going to push and go. I’m going to put this out there. It may not be… It may not contain everything I want it to ever have, but it’s got enough to be that MVP, minimum viable product, course that if somebody takes, it will serve the purposes that I’m after here.”

Jon Phillips:
Taking Lizzie’s course is what put the fire into my tail to say like, “You know what, I think I could do this. Let me just get out of my own way, get out of my own… get out of my head, and maybe stop worrying about some of the things I was concerned about like the, “Oh, why me? Why should I do this? Who would take my advice on this or that thing?” Just came to the realization through doing the course and also some on a personal reflection, that it’s not… The people that are doing well with the courses out there are not the ones who are sitting back and saying like, “Well, I’ve got this idea. I just don’t know if it’s good enough yet.”

Jon Phillips:
It’s those that have said, “I’m going to put something out there.” Then once you put something out there, you can get feedback from students, and iterate, and make things better. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the start, so I just committed to getting out of my own way, and just putting something out there.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome.

Jon Phillips:
There was a lot of just that self doubt and imposter syndrome to try to work on overcoming in the process.

Chris Badgett:
So common, so common. Good for you for just moving on. It sounds like… Can you give her a shout out again, the course you’re taking?

Jon Phillips:
Elizabeth Goddard, AKA Lizzie, the course is called The Fast Guide to Launching. She’s got a lot of other wonderful courses that all overlap and intersect. They’re all about online business stuff. All her stuff’s worth checking out, but I think that course really pushed me over the edge to help me go ahead and make the move.

Chris Badgett:
Very cool. Quick question, can you go a little longer, or do you have a hard stop at the hour?

Jon Phillips:
Man, I got time. Let’s go.

Chris Badgett:
Okay, cool, because I have a bunch of questions. I can do the fast version or the… We’ll get it. Well, tell us about the selection of LifterLMS. Why did you choose that? Once you decide you’re going to make a course, why’d you choose LifterLMS for your learning management system?

Jon Phillips:
When I was first looking at course stuff, of course, there are SaaS platforms out there you could use. There are multiple different WordPress plugin base solutions. I think… I’m trying to remember. I’m not actively a member right now in Melissa Love’s Marketing Fix membership, but I was for two plus years or so. I just got to a point where I just needed to be out for a little bit, but I learned a lot through her course. I know that she used Lifter, and I was just like, “Hey, this course looks really great, and it seems like she’s been able to customize it to do what she wants to do.”

Jon Phillips:
So I was like, “Okay,” tuck that in my back pocket. When it came to talking to automations and any kind of involvement with CRMs, learned through, again, Melissa’s Marketing Fix, KPC, the queen of active campaign. It was all about how active campaign can so beautifully integrate through things like WP fusion to work with LifterLMS and tagging and this and that. I thought like, “Okay, that’s another arrow pointing towards Lifter.” Like I mentioned at the top of the talk, I mean, I’ve followed you for a while, Chris. Just knowing or feeling like I had the impression of your heart behind the product and how much just the realm of online education means to you, I just thought, “This is a product I can get behind if one of the co-founders is this passionate about it.”

Jon Phillips:
Because when you invest in a product, I mean, you are also investing in the people behind it. If I felt like you were a total jerk, and you didn’t actually care about what you’re doing, I would probably not really be so interested in Lifter, but it just was something that helped me pay a little bit more attention to what Lifter did. I took it for a trial spin, and just thought, “Hey, I think this will work. This is going to be the thing.” I didn’t even try any other WordPress-based options just because I found everything out of the box integrating pretty well with what I needed it to do.

Jon Phillips:
WP Fusion is helping me to integrate with everything with the CRM side of things. I was initially using ActiveCampaign. I still use ActiveCampaign on client sites for a lot of things, but I’m running WP Fusion. Sorry, I’m using FluentCRM right now. WP Fusion has some functionality that might overlap with some elements of FluentCRM, but the tagging and making certain lessons visible or not visible to students based on tags that are present or not, and using it. Kadence is the theme the site’s built on, and so being able to use the Block Visibility plugin, and use those WP Fusion tags that are ultimately tied to the LifterLMS lessons and the students, and, “Hey, if they’ve got the paid course, they can see this.”

Jon Phillips:
But if they have just the free, they only see the free content. Just all the pieces work. All the pieces worked, and just really no gripes about it. It was just a no brainer like, “All right, I’m in this deep with Lifter, and I’m not missing anything as far as I can tell, so I’m sticking with this.”

Chris Badgett:
Nice. What else is in your tech stack for your course platform, because people often ask, and it’s really educational for people to learn? You’ve mentioned LifterLMS. I think you’re using WooCommerce to sell. Lifter has… Is that right?

Jon Phillips:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Badgett:
Then LifterLMS has a WooCommerce integration.

Jon Phillips:
That’s right.

Chris Badgett:
You got… This site is built on Kadence. You’re using WP Fusion. You have a community aspect that’s on Circle.so, or is that what it is?

Jon Phillips:
That’s right. Yeah, .so.

Chris Badgett:
What else is in the… You’re hosting on GridPane. What else makes your magic happen?

Jon Phillips:
Let’s see what else? Again, there could be some overlap here with FluentCRM, because some of the functionality that’s available now in the plugin was not there initially when I built the site, but I am using Uncanny Automator for the functionality. For instance, if someone were to look at the course page on my site, if you were to go to… I’m just looking at it myself really quickly, so I’d go in the right order. But if you were to go to Site Speed course in the main header navigation, that pulls you to the course page where the syllabus is below and everything, but there’s a form you can fill out.

Jon Phillips:
I mentioned toward the top of the talk that as soon as you plug in your name and email, and you click enter, you are automatically registered as a user for the course. You’re tagged accordingly through FluentCRM, and WP Fusion, helping make some of that happen so that you are a student of the course also, so you’re also enrolled as a student. You’re automatically logged in, and you’re looking at your dashboard to where you can click on the course, brings you back to this course main page, and now the free lessons in the syllabus are unlocked.

Jon Phillips:
That Uncanny Automator function is just really slick. I think you might can do it with just FluentCRM now, but that ability to, “Hey, as soon as this…” I’m using Fluent forms for any forms on my site, but there’s effectively a recipe in Uncanny Automator that says, “Hey, when this form is submitted with that user create… or sorry, with that submission, create a user, make them a LifterLMS student. Enroll them in this course, and go ahead and send them an email with their credentials and everything.” That’s all really neat, because someone is auto logged in when they complete the form, right?

Jon Phillips:
They don’t have to create their username password at that time, and so they can automatically log in, start taking lessons, but they’ve got that email when they do go and check their email inbox. That email has come right away with that. Like, “Hey, you were…” A message that says, “Hey, you were created… You had an account created as soon as registered for the course, but you don’t have a password yet. Set your password following this link.” It’s just the default WordPress password reset email.

Jon Phillips:
That’s just such a seamless experience for onboarding into what is effectively this lead magnet, the free mini course so seamless to just get somebody right into it, rather than say, “Hey, you signed up for the course. Go check your email inbox. All right, go to your inbox. Okay, click that link. All right, now create a password and a username for the course. Now, log in. Now, go to your course.” It eliminates a lot of that friction. I think it’s just a really, really slick way to go about getting somebody into the course quickly. Shout out Uncanny Automator. It’s really good.

Chris Badgett:
I’m a huge fan of the free course Lead Magnet Strategy, whether… You’re doing it more like a pure opt-in experience, which is awesome. That’s really good. It just naturally makes sense if you sell paid courses. Give them a free experience, and it’s a great way to build trust, and build an email list, and everything. Just back to Lifter, what are some highlights of favorite feature or benefit of the software itself?

Jon Phillips:
I do like how it’s really open ended. You can customize any of your lesson pages to be whatever you want them to be. You can either choose to use some of those native Lifter modules or blocks, or not. In my case, I think outside of the market lesson complete and then previous and next lesson buttons, I think everything else is just either using… I use a mixture of Kadence blocks and Generate blocks on the course, but I just had a template that I use for every page that was just like, “Hey, I can make my lessons look however I want to.”

Jon Phillips:
Just the fact that you’re not boxed into having to use any particular elements, that’s really attractive to me. For instance, I use… Lifter, you can just type in either… If you had private YouTube videos that you’re using as your video source for your courses, or if you’ve got Vimeo videos for your course, you can either plug those URLs right into the lesson builder, or you can just embed your own video player, which is what I did. This is another, I guess, tech sack layer, but I’m using Prezi Player, video player for all my lessons.

Jon Phillips:
I’ve just got a Prezi Player video at the top of each of the lessons. I liked the ability that I could select the video player that I wanted, because then that gives the ability with Prezi Player to have not done this yet. If I want to go in and put timestamps for, “Here’s where the different topics are covered in the lesson or that kind of thing.” I just think it looks good. You can customize the color of your play button and everything. That might be really a small detail, but it mattered enough to me to put it in.

Jon Phillips:
I like how open ended Lifter is, because you can basically make it do what you want it to do. I like that open-endedness.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. We recently interviewed Adam about Presto Player, so you’ll see that… You can find that on the podcast as well. Let’s do that opportunity for people that are listening. Everybody, not only can people learn for free about site speed, and they can go deep with your paid course with the coupon code Lifter. That’s it at holygrailwp.com. You also just have a great example of a clean, visually appealing, easy to understand, great sales pages, your opt-in experience. It’s just a great model of having an LMS site without over complicating it.

Chris Badgett:
When I saw your site, it has elegance, a simplicity. I know you said you were using a Kadence starter site to start with. It’s just [crosstalk 00:51:50].

Jon Phillips:
Yes, the Kadence e-commerce starter theme. So if any of that looks familiar, if you go look at the starter site, it’s that layout.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. Just to land the plane, I interview a lot of course creators. I see a lot of course creators. I’ve been in the market for a decade. I cease patterns. One of the patterns that I see of projects that make it are that the course creator has to get over themselves and the imposter syndrome, and to get it out there, interact, live contact with the market. Any other just advice around that? It sounds like Lizzie, I believe, gave you some good inspiration and motivation to do it that way, but how do you get people that have… Maybe if they hadn’t been exposed to that fast launch method thing you were talking about, how get inspire them to move forward, or what worked for you in terms of mindset or ideas that really unlocked that progress for you?

Jon Phillips:
This is huge. I’m very upfront about this fact, but so mental, emotional health is something that is super important to me. I do have a history of major depression in my life sometimes for reasons I don’t even understand. Just for whatever reason, I’m down, and I feel like I’m totally worthless, and nobody should pay attention to me at all. But then other times, I’m like, “Hey, I have this course, and you should check it out. It’s awesome. It’ll make your website and your business better.” I know what it’s like between both maybe feeling like, “Yeah, people should pay attention to what I have, and they should check this out because it’s great, and it’ll help them.”

Jon Phillips:
But then also having that, “Why should anybody listen to me? I’m a nobody. I’m just so and so, blah, blah, blah,” and just [inaudible 00:53:46] on the entire idea of putting anything out there. I know what that’s like, and I know that it’s extremely difficult. So by no means, do I think it’s as simple as just like, “Oh, just do it. You’ll be fine. You’ll be so glad you did,” in a perfect world. But especially if you’re someone that may, like me, struggle with some of that imposter syndrome, or just even that just insecurity of like, “Gosh, who am I to be teaching on this topic? I’m just me. There’s nothing…”

Jon Phillips:
The thing is you are probably farther along than someone else in the world at the thing that you’re doing. That means you can help them. You do not have to be the best at whatever it is that you’re doing. You don’t have to have the greatest, most awesome course, or product, ebook, whatever. It doesn’t have to be better than anybody else’s, because just the information that you’ve come to hold in your mind and your individual just style, your personality, you’re going to connect with some people that other people never could, no matter how amazingly awesome their course might be, and how great their marketing tactics are.

Jon Phillips:
You’ll connect on a personal level, and just resonate with some people just because of who you are. The fact that you’re just a little bit ahead of them, and maybe seem approachable, and you’re just a real person is going to make people want to interact with you, and ultimately do business with you. So you can trust that if you can take that brave step of just saying like, “All right, I’m going to go out a limb and be willing to help some people that I may be a little farther along than in the journey,” the people will show up. You just don’t have to pretend to be anybody that you’re not.

Jon Phillips:
I’m a big… You’ll see throughout any of my stuff, my whole course stuff is there’s silly bits thrown in with whether self-deprecating humor references to Monty Python’s search for the Holy Grail movie, gifts, that kind of thing, emojis, whatever. I mean, I’m goofy. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I try to just make that very evident even in the writing and just stuff that I might share in emails. Just try to be approachable, and not have to put on any kind of show, because if you can do whatever you’re doing from a place that just feels like, “I’m not really having to fit myself into some mold to do this. I’m just being myself, and trying to help people with the thing that I’ve come to be decent at.”

Jon Phillips:
Again, not better than someone else. I’m not making this course because I am better than some somebody else. But just like, “Hey, I know how to do some of this stuff, so why not me? Somebody else could come along, and grab some of this market share. Why not let it be me?” Don’t know what that does for anybody, but, I think, that’s what I would have to offer.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. That’s some wise words there. Recently, we interviewed Kay Peacey about her accelerated ActiveCampaign or ActiveCampaign Academy that she built on top of LifterLMS. Towards the end of that interview, she said something similar where she said she’s building a business and stuff, but it allowed her to be authentically herself. When that really landed for her, it just really was a big part of the whole thing, and just being herself. She said, “Completely, authentically me,” or something like that.

Jon Phillips:
This is, I guess, maybe the last thing I’ll say is sure, you might be offering a course as a practitioner, as an expert, whatever you would want to call yourself, but that does not mean that you are claiming yourself to be the end all be all final say on this topic.

Chris Badgett:
Guru.

Jon Phillips:
Right. People ask me questions all the time about website performance, and I’ll just be like, “Dude, I have no idea. I’ve either never thought of that, or I’ve been stuck on that for a while myself. I have no clue what the answer to this would be. I’m not even going to try to guess at something. But I am resourceful, and I know smarter people than me, and so I’m going to go ask them. When I’ve got something from them, I’m going to come back to you,” because there’s going to be stuff you do not know, and that is fine.

Jon Phillips:
I don’t think anybody wants to learn from someone who believes themself to be like, “I am the source, and only what I say goes.” You’re going to be putting on a show at some point there, because you can’t claim to be like, “I’ve seen it all. I know it all.” It’s just not the deal, so just be real. You don’t have to pretend like you know it all. I think people appreciate it when you can just honestly say, “Hey, I don’t know.”

Chris Badgett:
I love that. That’s very liberating to give yourself permission to not have all the answers, but still be an incredibly valuable resource for people. Final question, and then we’ll end it. If somebody’s watching this video at the bottom of the page about your core story, and they’re an expert kind of like you in the sense that you come from the brick world, not the bits, in terms of working in IRL, in real life or with people, and in buildings and stuff, but they have this side thing that they’re passionate about, that they’ve been developing this knowledge around, and they want to launch the course.

Chris Badgett:
They’ve taken some words of wisdom from this conversation around just getting it out there fast, and start iterating, but they’re hung up on the technology question, because I… At Lifter, we see a lot of people that are just overwhelmed from all the options of hosted platforms and WordPress. There’s just this overwhelm when people are trying to choose. Could you speak to the two layers of, for you, why WordPress and why LifterLMS works for you for a technology stack so that you could move on, start making videos, and make course content, but why that tech stack?

Jon Phillips:
For both, why WordPress, why Lifter, the element of control and just flexibility to be able to get in, and tweak things that I want to be able to tweak. I know there are plenty of SaaS platforms you can hop on board with that might take a lot less work to get started, honestly, but you may be boxed into some user flow steps that you would rather not deal with, but it’s just like, “Eh, that’s how it works,” so that’s what you’re dealing with. Again, I like to think about the user experience of flow through a website, just like the flow through a course.

Jon Phillips:
I just try to think of, “Do I want to… What’s more important to me right now? Do I want to just get something to market really quickly, and not be so concerned with what’s required to get there in terms of tech stack, or do I want to think about this, be judicious about the pieces of tech that I choose, and make sure they work together, and understand how it’s all working so that when I do put it out, it is not only I’ve gotten it to market quick enough. I also have the ability to control everything that I want to control,” because I wouldn’t want to build a course on some platform then be unhappy with it, and then feel like, “Ah, I think my gut was right. I should have gone with something that was going to be a little more flexible, open ended.”

Jon Phillips:
Now, I’ve spent X money here that I’m not going to recoup, and now I’ve got to rebuild, start over. I just… I like the idea of maybe starting off, where I think I’m going to be long term rather than thinking, “Okay, I’m going to go and rent this house. I’m going to live in this house for a little while, because I know it’s not my permanent home.” I don’t know if I’m making an asset for my business. I want to say like, “No, let me go ahead and set up a shop. Let put down roots, and make sure it’s a system that I have control over.

Jon Phillips:
WordPress just gives you that option to have all the flexibility that you want if you’ve got the time and energy to put into figuring out how to make all those pieces come together. I think I should do… You tell me, Chris, does this sound like a good idea? I think I should make a little course, because I’ve got other courses in my mind that are coming up next. But I think even just having a course builder’s course like, “How does the tech stack come together?” Even just for the speed course like, “What are the different moving parts,” and just show behind the scenes.

Jon Phillips:
How does this and that work, and what does the flow look like? I mean, I’m using premium software for a lot of this, so I could just show, “Here’s how I’ve made it work for me. There may be other ways to do it for free or with other premium products, but here’s how mine works, the total back end of everything.”

Chris Badgett:
I think that’s a brilliant idea. There is a ton of demand for that kind of stuff. Particularly, you can see that demand if you go to YouTube, and see tutorials, and a creator will use the stack that they use. Let me know if you make that. I’d be glad to help get the word out, and just like you mentioned in the show, you use a lot of different tools. So what we found, and we actually have a podcast episode about this too, but the best courses about software are almost never made by the software company themselves. But especially in WordPress, because it’s often this creative assembly to solve a particular problem that just creators who are doing it like yourself, and have navigated through this ecosystem of tools, that’s really the brilliant part of it is you’ve been going since 2012 or whatever, so you’ve learned a lot.

Chris Badgett:
Maybe somebody might do it slightly than the way you teach it. But even the thinking you have into like, “Oh okay, we’re going to remove friction on the free course opt-in flow,” there’s so much brilliance and wisdom in there that I think it’s a great idea. Let me know if you make it. I want to thank you, Jon, for coming on the show. That’s Jon Phillips. He’s at HolyGrail WP. Go check out his free course, the Site Speed Course. Then he’s got his big course, which is called HolyGrail WordPress Speed Course.

Chris Badgett:
Now, LifterLMS or course building is on the map for future courses. What else? Depending upon when you’re watching this, you may have some of these things out. What other course… Course entrepreneurs are some of the most creative, also busy people I know, so I have to ask, what else is on your future for courses that you’ve tentatively planned out?

Jon Phillips:
Some of them are actually teased on the homepage of the site there, but there’s a little coming soon for just an on-page SEO course, just basic on-page stuff, not necessarily all the outbound outside of your website, SEO-related things, but just general site structure. How can I structure my site in such a way using a base? With the help of maybe a basic SEO plugin, how can I be sure that my site is set up for success here? Honestly, I think it’s just really common that we might make stylistic choices with text on pages accidentally not realizing that like, “Oh, when I use the H1, just because I want the text to be big.”

Jon Phillips:
I like that big, bold text that we might not actually need to be doing that from an SEO standpoint on that bit of text, or using heading tags to style things, to style texts just really isn’t always a great idea. So just helping point out some easy wins, it’ll be a much lower ticket price, just basic WordPress on-page SEO. Content marketing is a concept that I’m really into, and have taken some separate courses for myself. It’s stuff that I more so help clients with more so than myself, but at least trying to outline the recommendations and maybe the workflow for both creating content and then promoting that to your audience through the various channels that you use, and repurposing content in as many formats as possible so that it can be reused, reshared, reposted, and make an evergreen content that create it once, and it’s useful forever kind of thing.

Jon Phillips:
Again, that would be a lower ticket course, not as extensive as the Site Speed course. That’s on deck, but I do think I need to make an addition to that page, and throw in the course builders like tech stack course or something like that.

Chris Badgett:
Maybe tie it into that idea of launching quickly, because you’re like, “How to-“

Jon Phillips:
I like that.

Chris Badgett:
… like the MVP tech stack, because you did all that quickly. I think attacking that is cool. I think you’re going to… I’m going to invite you back on this podcast, because I think we could do a whole episode on content SEO as well down the road. You got a lot of great stuff going on. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the WordPress professional and the aspiring course creator community. That’s Jon Phillips at holygrailwp.com. Go check out this free course now. Any other ways for the people of the internet to connect with you?

Jon Phillips:
Oh, I’m going to leave it at that. Mostly, you can email me, [email protected] J-O-N, I don’t have an H. No, just to make things difficult for you. Email me if you like. I’m on Facebook, but I don’t really post things. I got two kids. I’m married. I stay busy, so I’m not just posting things all the time on the socials, but happy to email with you, get on a Zoom, or talk shop, that kind of thing. Actually, if you email me, the footer link in my email contains a little link to my Calendly.

Jon Phillips:
So if you’d like to just get on a quick Zoom to talk through any site speed stuff, happy to do that, and maybe troubleshoot a thing or two with you. That’s totally free. That’s just always in the footer of my emails, so hola.

Chris Badgett:
All right. Well, Jon, thanks for coming on the show, and thank you for being a shining example of the education entrepreneur. Keep up the amazing work and momentum. We’ll have to do this again sometime.

Jon Phillips:
Glad to do it anytime. Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris Badgett:
That’s a wrap for this episode of LMS Cast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action, and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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