One of the best things about WordPress is that you can easily customize it and there are loads of added bits that you can do to extend how your site works. Tweaking under the hood of a site can be daunting though especially for novices. Thankfully, WordPress has a really great community and there are really awesome choices when it comes to plugins to extend functionality.
Using shortcodes is one of my favorite ways to spice up a website. It a fabulous way to make how you display your content unique. I’m always with the thought that why use an ordinary pickup when you can use dually pickups. The same analogy applies to how I build websites. Here’s a list of some of my favorite Shortcodes Plugins available for WordPress users.
Shortcodes Ultimate – easy to use, clean interface that easily integrates on your writing toolbars and quite extensive help and documentation.
Easy Bootstrap Shortcode – comprehensive, easy and I love the ‘look’ of these shortcodes.
Easy Responsive Shortcodes – lightweight and uncomplicated. I like the integration to the toolbars so its easy to access.
Shortcoder – Custom shortcodes. a bit for intermediate user but novices can easily get the hang of it after going through documentation.
Simple Shortcodes – like the names implies, this one is easily used and works for any theme.
WP Canvas Shortcodes – extensive shortcodes collection with a very minimalist look and feel to it.
WP Shortcode by MyThemeShop – boasting over 24 shortcodes, this is easily useable and doesnt require much technical knowledge to implement.
WordPress Shortcodes – quite beautiful set of add ons to your website.
I’m a huge fan of customization. Yes, I don’t like the generic look as you can see I had been almost obsessive about tweaking the look and feel of Android phones. And I’m quite sad I don’t have enough time to do that right now. So the same obsession goes for my web and blog sites. While I may use pre-made layouts and themes to save time, I would always feel compelled to change it up a bit, and give it some of my personality.
While some others don’t want to get down and dirty playing with CSS on themes, one easy tweak I could suggest for personalizing websites is to play with fonts! Its easy enough just as long as you backup your theme’s style sheets first.
Where to find these unique styled fonts? Use free web fonts and embedding service from these two favorites:
Google Fonts – easy to use and I like the layout of the site. So easy to test the look of any text/phrase I want to change. The font inventory is also huge so there’s always one to suit every person’s style.
Adobe Edge Web Fonts – another free service, powered by Typekit, with huge selection of over 500 fonts. Embedding to website is also just as easy as Google Fonts. I really love the selection on this one. My only con for this service, ‘hard’ to discover fonts coz the layout for font selections is not that easy to navigate and if you are a very visual person and would like to test first your ‘text’ with a particular font, then this might be a bit harder.
After managing blogs for awhile now, one of the things I realized is that images make a really nice complement to content/text. It helps break the content, the post becomes more visually stimulating and interesting and it does help tell the story more eloquently. BUT images can also weigh down the blog. Can you imagine if you’re running a blog for years already and uploading images for every post.
That’s bound to slow down your site in time. I’ve discovered two solutions.
- Use third-party image hosting service like Photobucket etc. and embed the images. My favorite is Imagebam.com, visit website and check them out if you’re looking for image hosting and embedding free service. . There are pros and cons of course to this, of course. Pro is that you won’t be using your host space and a big con is that you don’t have full control over its availability. Remember when Imageshack was always down? So there are chances your images might not be available 100% of the time.
- Upload to your own server and optimize. This is what I’ve been doing for some of my not too heavy ‘imaged’ sites. Always remember to upload optimized images though so it won’t use up too much space on server.
Here’s some of my favorite image optimizer WordPress plugins you can check out. Also read on this excellent article – A Guide to Optimal Image Compression in WordPress.
This week, I had one of my hosted accounts go on server overload. It was a bit puzzling for me as the sites were well maintained, the databases I always clean up and optimize. So I figured something must have gone wrong when my webhost told me the problem was multiple cron executions.
Which made me say duh?! I haven’t set up any cron jobs on the wordpress sites except for the default cron jobs initiated by the CMS. So I then installed cron manager plugin to see what are the cron jobs scheduled and which plugin could be causing the endless line of cron jobs.
That turned out to be an inspired idea. The culprit was a gallery plugin and with the cron manager plugin I installed, I managed to delete the cron jobs lined up. I also removed the plugin to be sure.
If you are running an exceptionally high number of cron jobs and you have no idea where its coming from, Advanced Cron Manager or FFF Cron Control can really be a big help to pinpoint which ones are causing problems.
I’ve moved websites several dozen times already. And usually they are WordPress blog sites and on same domains. So its simply a server/host move. And I didn’t have to be bothered to learn about redirects for changed URL’s. For me, these has become even something like a routine.
But, its a bit of a different story when it comes to moving a site to another domain name. I’ve only done this a few times. And aside from the actual moving of the site to where you are hosting the new domain, you also have to make sure that your old domain redirects to the new domain.
Of course, you don’t want to lose traffic right? I am also of belief that this helps in search engine indexing. I’ve also realized that the usual 301 redirects found on cpanels works on the main url but on sub posts/pages it often does not. So I had to dig in for more .htaccess code to use to ensure that all my old url’s would redirect to the new url’s. This is specially crucial for blogs with hundreds if not thousands of pages. You won’t want to leave leaving your readers searching in a huge pile if you just redirect to the main URL.
I found this code works really best:
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http:/newdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]
It would redirect every single old URL to the exact new URL, so everything would be seamlessly redirected for your readers. You just need to navigate to where your .htaccess file is on your old domain (if you don’t have one, then just create one), then paste above code, then save.
A year ago, one of my sites got the dreaded Google Adsense suspension saying it cannot display ads because I’m showing copyrighted content. Which totally bummed me because that site is where I share my graphic design work for digital scrapbookers. Everything was made from scratch. I guess that pissed me enough to not bother appealing that ‘verdict’.
So I searched for alternatives to Adsense. And yes there are plenty and some very good ones at that. I ‘m listing it out here. I’m leaving out CPC networks already mentioned in most listings for alternatives to Adsense, but instead I’m sharing some not so known ones but performing very well.
- Media.net – Yahoo’s answer to Adsense. Serves contextual ads and works really great for a lot of website owners. Its somehow stricter when it comes to approving sites, but its worth the hassle.
- Burst Media – offers CPM advertising from brand advertisers.
- Pulsepoint – ad-exchange program where you set the price.
- Lijit – an ad network helping ‘publishers engage and understand their readers’
- RivitMedia – a highly specialized ad network for crafting and DIY specialists.
I personally only have limited experience to Media.net which is really good. But for the other ad networks listed, I’m all set to try it out since I’ve heard positive things about it as well. The thing with blogging and monetizing blogs, it really helps to diversify and try different ad networks that fits right to your niche.
Time for some more blogging talk? Oh yes. And today I’m blogging what’s my list of basic wordpress plugin to install for every one of my blog sites.
You see, I run dozens of blogs, most of them running on the WordPress platform. And after installing and building up sites I have it now down pat, in fact, I think I could do it with one of my eyes closed. Hahaha. It also helps to have a list of basic plugins in I need to install. The other plugins I just add depending on the site’s needs, eg, some sites need Google maps integration, some don’t. So it really varies if I’m setting up a site for cd duplication services at disc2day, a photo blog, or a simple personal blog.
But these are the very basic must haves for me.
- Akismet – for spam
- Bad Behavior – also for spam too.
- Better WP Security – my favorite wordpress security plugin. Easy to use and effective.
- Proper Contact Form – easy to set up and use, and nice looking contact form plugin. This is for single contact form only, but for other complicated forms, you can check out other form builders.
- Feedburner Feedsmith – I used Feedburner for my feeds, so I need this to redirect my feeds.
- Google Analyticator – I use Google Analytics a lot to track my website, so this is handy.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – comprehensive, easy to use and quite effective. This one also offer a xml sitemap.
- Quick Adsense – easily inserts ads on any part of the post or widgets. Easy to use too.
- WP Super Cache -cache plugin, easy to set up and makes the site faster and less strain on the servers too.
- Broken Link Checker – a must to check broken links.
- WP Touch – for a responsive mobile version of your site.
So, the past few days had been hectic. For web hosts and web admins anyway. There has been a wave of global brute force attacks on WordPress and Joomla installations. When I first learned about it, I was a bit panicked coz I have dozens of sites and I also take care of several dozens more for friends. All of them running WordPress.
When I checked my reseller hosting, I was informed that the host temporarily disabled login pages for majority of the sites. So I breathed a sigh of relief and that’s when I started thinking rationally. I can’t help it when you hear something like this, can you imagine several hacking attempts every second on a site? But I did realize, my wordpress sites are not that vulnerable to brute force attacks, at least not too vulnerable.
It’s really a must to be secure against this attacks as I think its rather common now. How to do that?
- First things, don’t use commonly used usernames like “admin” or “admininstrator”, “test”, “root”…You can check out this very informative post on Brute Force Attack Myths or Reality. You’d see there the commonly attempted user names and passwords.
- Use a strong and long password. Combination of upper, lower cases and special characters. I personally use more than 20 character passwords.
- Limit login attempts. Yes, this is effective in way that the server will block an IP address after trying several wrong logins. This can be easily achieved by a plugin like Limit Login Attempts and also Better WP Security. I prefer Better WP Security, as it can have a lot of security functions. Note that these plugins wont secure the site 100% but it will surely block them from exploiting commonly used routes for hacking.
- Hide the wp-admin page. Better WP Security has this functionality if you have enabled your permalinks. You can change the location of your login area to where nobody has the business to know.
- Lastly, always be aware and contact your host if there is something weird. Ha!
It always pays to be vigilant and actively work to secure your sites. Don’t wait until its too late.
Nor would it require too much effort.
That’s what I found out anyway, after almost 6 years of blogging. When I started out blogging, SEO was alien to me like how articulating arm wall mount are alien to me. I thought it was some techie whachamacalit that I shouldn’t really bother with. I mean, you can’t really fault me on that (as well as a lot of newbie bloggers too) because to be honest I was just too busy trying to figure out how Blogger works (and more so if you use WordPress) to think of something like SEO.
I was also too preoccupied with too many things and ideas that I wanted to blog about. But after awhile, my crazy burst of excitement died down, and I was a calmer and rational, I have decided to stick to some particular topics for each blog. Not exactly a micro niche but I think I was able to pinpoint what exactly I wanted to write about in my first blog.
From there, it was a natural progression and a learning process and along the way I have learned slowly how to integrate those things I learned to my blogs. One of which is SEO. If you are a newbie blogger, my advice would be not to beat yourself on the head trying to do too many things at the same time. Better pace yourself, learn and experiment.
So what exactly is SEO and how to do a little bit of it so it can help your blogs? A foreword: I am not an SEO expert (there are countless others there calling themselves gurus, just google and pick up from their tips and tricks). These are just simple SEO tricks I have learned as I waddled my way into the blogging world.
- SEO is search engine optimization. Unless you want to publish a private blog, then I’m assuming you want a fair bit of traffic to your site. One of the best sources for good traffic is SEARCH ENGINES. It’s free traffic, after all. You must remember that when someone searches for a term related to your blog niche, you would want to have your blog up there on the search results. It’s common sense (and studies have also proven) that 1st and 2nd page search engine results bring around a lot of traffic.
- Remember too that there are millions of websites out there competing to get into that results page, so that is now the goal of SEO. To get you a good place in the search engine results.
The last three weeks I had been pretty much preoccupied trying to optimize my websites and after a lot of tweaking here and there, I think I have finally managed to lower down the CPU usage of my websites. I’ve blogged about my CPU over usage and about CloudFlare, last time.
It has been a little nerve wracking, specially so since I’m not really well versed in server management. My technical knowledge is limited to design, a couple of CMS but I’m completely an ignoramus when it comes to server issues except for the basics like installations, FTP etc. I understand it the same way disk defragmentation boggles me. But I really think these things are learned by experience.
Everything is working fine and well now, however, I have plans on upgrading my current Hostgator business plan to a reseller account. I have to distribute my sites into several cpanels so I could get most of them dedicated IP’s, higher CPU quotas and for easier management too. I also need a reseller account now since I’m getting some site building requests and I could offer hosting side by side with the webdesign service.
Anyway, this experience have thought me some valuable tricks into keeping WordPress websites optimized so it doesn’t wear down the server and earn that dreaded temporary bans.
- CloudFlare – my webhost support technician recommended installing CloudFlare, which is easy coz their cpanel already has a pre-installed one-tick button to install it. I was at first hesitant to use this, but I tried it one a few sites and observed for more than a week. The verdict? Worth it! Faster loading websites, visitors stay for a longer time and access more pages, almost no more spam comments. The traffic went down and I think that is natural because a lot of bots, spammers are weeded out.
- Use a cache plugin – a must anyway for all wordpress sites. WP Super Cache plugin is my preferred plugin since its easier to configure and works well with Cloudflare.
- Remove unnecessary plugins – some plugins do consume too much unnecessary resources, so I trimmed down to the basics. Also removed plugins which are not up to date as they pose security risks.
- Replaced some plugins – I searched for a lightweight plugin to do my site SEO. I was previously using All-in-One SEO but tech support says it does use up and runs unnecessary processes. I replaced it with Greg’s High Perfomance SEO.
- Weed out too much banners and ads – yes. those excessive number of banners and adverts are also resource drainers.
Other recommended optimizer is to limit the number scripts running and avoiding too much use of encrypted pages.
Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net