Site Speed Improvements with OPcache and PageSpeed

If you’re running a fair-to-mid sized site with PHP code running the back-end, you’ve probably noticed the intense amount of activity that’s going on to serve a page to a visitor. PHP files get loaded from the hard drive by the process manager, compiled, run and then immediately thrown away for the next process in line. All of that takes time, which slows down our applications, which frustrates our visitors and they leave the site before finding the resource they needed.

If you’ve got RAM to spare you should think about mounting some of it as TMPFS and park the cache files there.

PageSpeed compresses and combines various resources like Javascript, CSS, images and the like and stores the optimized versions in a cache. Store that cache on a RAM-based storage and now you’ve gained the double benefit of faster I/O and smaller payload of data. We wrote about PageSpeed and getting the most out of it in a previous post.

Zend OPcache takes PHP file requests and runs them through the compiler and then stores the bytecode in a cache. The next request for that code is served straight from the very fast and efficient cache and processed almost instantly. If you’re running PHP 5.5 or higher, you’ve most likely already got the OPcode extension installed, but it’s turned off by default.

Locate your php.ini file and update (or add) the following commands:


Restart the web server (or the fast CGI/FPM process) and you should now start seeing the cache being loaded with files as they are requested by your visitors.

These turn on the opcache, allocates 128MB for it, sets the max files to cache at 4000 and finally sets the frequency to check for updates at 60 seconds. Those are just the most basic settings to specify for now, but the full list can be found here.

RAM storage of cache files improves the i/o time to load the cached items and and cache maintenance is made faster as well. Here is a small before/after sample of the CPU usage stats for our primary server:
CPU Stats

Starting right after the update to using OPcache and moving the PageSpeed cache to ram, CPU loads dropped from the 35-99% usage to 15-50% max usage.

Posted in Technical Talk | Leave a comment

SEO Success Factors

What’s more important to your SEO endeavors, is it the content, the layout of the page, the location and number of ads or something else? Maybe you’re only looking at the profile of your inbound links or focusing your energy on social media?

If you’re not looking at the big picture then you’re most likely doing your site a disservice and it’s time to expand your definition of SEO. One of the easiest to digest overviews of SEO success factors that I’ve come across is this one-page infographic from Search Engine Land:

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Continue reading

Posted in Search Engine Optimization, Technical Talk | 1 Comment

Language Optimization

As a company that markets directly to international students, one of the biggest challenges we face is communicating to our visitors in their native language. We’ve spent a lot of time refining the process we use to optimize for multiple languages and here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

Our choice of back-end framework lets us quickly and efficiently add new languages and update existing ones. There are few different methods for presenting translated content. The first, and most rudimentary, is to simply create a sub-directory for the language that you are translating for (example /espanol/) and then have someone translate the content on the pages. Simple, effective and works for a content that never changes. What happens when you have a site that has constant updates to the content? We opted for a more sophisticated approach and use the power of the framework to automatically replaced strings on the page with values stored on the back-end.

Continue reading

Posted in Technical Talk | Leave a comment

International Student Traffic Up 220%

international-student-google-analytics’s traffic is continuing its upward climb (knock on wood). 2015 year-to-date organic traffic is 220% higher than the same period last year. What have we done to earn this sort of tremendous growth? Are we smart or just lucky, or maybe a little of both? In this post, we will take a look at some of the challenges we’ve faced, and the strategies we’ve employed that have brought us to where we are today.


Every website out there has ups and downs in traffic, and is no exception. In 2014, we experienced one of the bigger dips in organic traffic that we’ve seen in the 15+ year history of our site. This led to much soul searching and a deep analysis of our site and our visitors.

Google, being the dominant search engine of the day, sends more traffic to more sites than all other search engines combined. So how do you rank well in Google? That’s the billion dollar question. An entire industry has evolved around this question, and if you asked 10 people, you would probably get 10 different answers.
Continue reading

Posted in Search Engine Optimization, Technical Talk | Leave a comment

How to Market your School on



Envisage International is hosting a free Webinar on how to market you school on  The live Webinar is Thursday, January 22nd at 2:00 EST.  The recorded Webinar will also be available on our corporate site.

During this Webinar on how to market your school on we will talk about the different opportunities to gain exposure for your college or univeristy on the site and through the International Student Network, including social media, email marketing, inquiry generation, Google Hangouts and more. We will cover pricing, packaging and success stories of other schools.

At the core of our marketing efforts, your school’s profile would be upgraded to an enhanced profile.  The enhanced profiles include your school logo, pictures, videos, social media feeds, student profiles, program descriptions and other relevant information.  We would also integrate your school into the USA School Search on the site, so that your school would be found when students are searching for programs that you offer.  Depending upon your the amount of exposure and student inquiries that you would like to have, we can then add in email, banners, social media, email and newsletter marketing.

To learn more about how to market your school on, join our free webinar.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Top 10 International Education Predictions for 2015

The new year is here, and we are excited for what it has in stored. Here are the top 10 international education predictions for 2015 – read on and let us know what you think:2015

1. International Student Numbers in the US Continue to Soar
The number of international students in the US will exceed 950,000 in the 2014-2015 academic year. That’s a big number, but we think its possible as China (though slowing – see below) will continue to send more students, while major growth will come from countries with a strong home country government scholarship program like Brazil, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabia KASP program will expand further (Saudi Arabia now is the #4 sender of students to the United States), while Brazil’s Science Without Borders program announced 100,000 more scholarships this year for STEM students (Brazil is currently the #10 sender of students to the US).

Continue reading

Posted in Chinese students, International Education, International Education Marketing, International Financial Aid, International Scholarships, International Student Insurance, International Student Lead Generation, International Student Recruitment, Lead Generation, Newsletter, Search Engine Optimization, Technical Talk | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Look At The Open Doors Report – What the Numbers Reveal

Globe of Africa and International Currencies in BackgroundAA049180Though some may have doubted it, the data proves otherwise: the United States is still the number 1 place for students studying abroad. Late last month, the Institute of International Education released findings which show no signs of a slowdown thanks in part to government scholarships that have fueled much of the growth. In the 2013-2014 academic year, 886,052 international students helped break the record for how many students are studying in the US. Growth in study abroad also increased bringing the new total to 289,408 students.

What do these numbers show and indicate? Continue reading

Posted in Chinese students, International Education, International Financial Aid, International Scholarships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Taking Hangouts On Air On the Road

Over the past few months, we have been developing an interesting new way of communicating with international students. As content creators, we’ve found Google Hangouts to be a new, and valuable content platform that allows international student to meet us virtually face-to-face, engage with us directly, and discover valuable resources about studying in the US. After months of practice and continuous tweaking and editing, we’ve developed numerous resource video hangouts for international students and have provided a new product to our partner schools looking to interact with students one-on-one for international student recruitment.

To introduce Google Hangouts to international educators as a viable, free tool for communicating with their international students and as a high-quality product provided by Envisage International, we traveled around the US and attended eight separate NAFSA regional conferences. At each conference, we presented the topic ‘Google+ and Google Hangouts – the newest technology in communicating and recruiting international students’. But there was a twist. We also decided to broadcast the presentation via an actual Google Hangout, which would live on our Google+ page, YouTube, and could be embedded on our website for future viewers.
Continue reading

Posted in Technical Talk | Leave a comment

J-1 Visa Insurance Requirement Changes

j1 visa insurance changesAfter waiting nearly 5 years, we finally have clarification on the new health insurance regulations set forth by the US State Department released into the Federal Register the changes to Sub-Part A of the Exchange Visitor Program.

Covering a wide range of areas, the key focus for us was the new insurance requirements for the J1 visa. Having been put in place in 1993, the current levels of $50,000 for medical coverage, $10,000 for evacuation and $7,500 for repatriation was generally perceived as too low – and many in the industry had been calling for higher limits to safeguard participants.

In 2009, when the original comment period was release for sub-part A, the levels were placed at $200,000 for medical, $50,000 for evacuation and $25,000 for repatriation – so it had been widely accepted that these levels would hold true through to the final rule.

However, when the rule was released yesterday, we learned that as of May 15th 2015 the new J1 visa insurance requirements will be:

  1. Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
  2. Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
  3. Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000; and
  4. Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

The other major change to the insurance requirements is the addition of two new rating categories, the ‘‘A-’’ rating by Fitch Ratings, Inc. and the ‘‘A3’’ rating by Moody’s Investor Services will now be accepted with the other rating agencies of AM Best, ISI, Standard and Poor’s and Weiss. Although the rule goes into effect on the 5th January 2015, sponsors have been given a grace period until May 15th 2015 to raise their levels of insurance coverage.

Overall, the insurance changes are a welcomed increase, and the only surprise was that the medical benefit coverage was only $100,000 and not $200,000 as had been widely accepted. For more information about group insurance coverage for J1 participants and sponsors, please visit our site Work and Travel Insurance Services for more information.

Posted in International Student Insurance | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Using the Advanced Responsive Classes of Bootstrap 3.2

Some of the tricker items to handle within a mobile first website are large images or tables, and embedded objects like videos/iframes. The 3.0 version of Bootstrap introduced us to the responsive image and table classes, but did not offer a truly elegant solution for mobile first treatment of embedded content. Thankfully, the 3.2+ version of Bootstrap has a solution for the embedded iframe, and they’ve also tackled some of the sticker issues relating to the .visible-* classes, which we’ll address at the end of this article.

In our previous post on Bootstrap, we took a look at the “img-responsive” class added with 3.0, but didn’t address the responsive table classes, so let’s start there.

Continue reading

Posted in Technical Talk | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment