Archive for Plugins

Video Tutorial: Installing and using the iThemes Builder Style Manager plugin

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Tutorial: Jetpack for Contact Forms, Stats, Social Sharing Buttons and more

Jetpack is a free and very robust plugin made by the makers of WordPress itself (Automattic, Inc.). It comes with many useful features, giving self-hosted WordPress owners many of the bells and whistles available on the free WordPress.com platform. The most useful features I use on many of my sites are:

1. Secure contact forms (Create a contact page if you don’t have one already; Make sure you have added this page to your navigation menu (Appearance–> Menus); On your Contact page, in the WordPress editor, click the “Add Contact Form” button and go modify your contact form as you see fit; Go to email notifications to change the email address that will receive a notification (by default the notification is sent to the author of the contact page; Insert your form into your page)

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2. Site Stats (Go to Jetpack–>Settings–>Engagement–>Site Stats; Click the dropdown arrow to open up the settings and hide the smiley face if you wish; Your stats will appear in your admin dashboard

3. Social Sharing Buttons (Go to Jetpack–>Settings–>Engagement–>Sharing; Scroll down to Sharing Buttons; Click the link to configure your sharing settings; Drag and drop the buttons you want to use at the bottoms of pages and/or posts; Adjust other settings as appropriate)

4. Social Media Blog Sync (Publicize) – Go to Jetpack–>Settings–>Engagement–>Publicize and open up the area to see the link to configure your settings. Connect your social media sites to your blog in a few easy clicks. Read more about using Publicize. I used to use Networked Blogs for this, but Jetpack makes it much easier.

5. Image Hosting (Photon) – Go to Jetpack–>Settings–>Appearance–>Photon to turn this feature on iand load your images from WordPress.com’s content delivery network (CDN). Learn more about Photon. *If you are using a CDN to host your website, such as CloudFlare, do not use Photon because it will create a conflict.

6. Enhanced Distribution – Go to Jetpack–>Settings–>Engagement–>Enhanced Distribution; This feature allows your content to be included in the big wide world of WordPress.com, which increases your exposure – more details here.

There are also some features that I consciously choose to deactivate in the Jetpack settings. One of those is Subscriptions. Because I use AWeber for email marketing, I don’t need the free subscription service Jetpack offers. However, if you want a free and easy way to allow viewers to subscribe to your blog, Jetpack Subscriptions works well.

Just keep in mind, with the jetpack subscriptions feature, the email notifications that go out to your subscribers are branded with the WordPress.com logo and colors, not yours. If you want to brand your blog subscription emails with your logo and styles to match your website, use AWeber.

Read more about why I use AWeber and how to use it for your email marketing plan.

Tutorial: Security

There are some quick and easy steps you need to take to keep your website secure. Fortunately, the free iThemes Security plugin makes it really easy and fast to lock your site down.

Follow these simple steps:

  • Install the free iThemes security plugin from your dashboard. Review my post on installing a plugin if you need a refresher.
  • Find the new Security menu item towards the bottom of the left sidebar of your dashboard.
  • Click on Security Check or Settings.
  • Run the wizard to configure the core settings.

 

Security

WordPress Security PluginYou may also want to check out the Pro Version for more features.

Here are some of the cool things the free version of iThemes Security can do to secure your WordPress site:

  • Automatically lock out bad users after too many failed login attempts
  • Provide protection from Brute Force Attacks
  • Rename the default ‘Admin’ user account
  • Enforce strong passwords for all accounts
  • Monitor files for unauthorized changes

Tutorial: Backing Up

Most hosting plans include backups, but they are usually stored on the same server as your site. What if the server goes down?

Another factor to consider is: how much does your host charge you to restore your site from their backup (if it is accessible)? The cost to restore a site can run anywhere from $75 and up to thousands depending on what is going on with your site.

Ultimately, you need to be in control of your own backups or you need to hire someone for maintenance. BackupBuddy gives you the control you need to restore your site in a “worst case scenario” such as a hack, malware, server failure, bad plugin code or other unfortunate events.

There are 2 parts to fully backing up 
your WordPress site:
1. backup your database (the brains)
2. backup your files (the body – this is where your themes, plugins and media library live)

Backup Buddy will make backing up a breeze! 
It allows you to create an automatic backup schedule that sends backups to a secure, remote destination daily, weekly or monthly. 
And it can help you restore your site if it gets hacked.
 You can also use BackupBuddy to move your site from one server to another – highly recommended!

Once you have obtained BackupBuddy, watch these video tutorials for excellent step-by-step instructions on using BackupBuddy to make a regular backup schedule that sends backups to a secure, remote destination: http://ithemes.com/codex/page/BackupBuddy:_Tutorial_Videos

Load WordPress FAST with Dreamhost, Amazon CloudFront and W3 Total Cache Plugin

First of all, why speed up your site?  The search engines now look at page load time to give your website a good page rank.  Plus, you may easily lose potential sales or email captures if your site takes more than a second to load!

My quest for faster load time information led me here: http://www.larre.com/2010/01/24/amazon-s3-and-cloudfront-with-wordpress-and-dreamhost/ – a blog post about using Amazon CloudFront with Dreamhost to create a CDN (content delivery network) to spread out the http requests from users (thus decreasing load time).

Dreamhost/Wordpress users, here are the steps involved:

1) Deactivate and delete any other caching plugins you may already have installed on your WordPress site.  Verify they are completely deleted using your ftp program to make sure the plugin folder is REALLY gone.

2) Create an Amazon AWS Account. Please note: it may take several hours for your account credentials to be functional.

3) Log into your Dreamhost web hosting panel and go to “Goodies” –> Amazon CloudFront.

4) Copy your Amazon CloudFront settings into the Dreamhost settings and click “Create CloudFront.”  Dreamhost automatically creates the new CloudFront bucket for you.  It will appear in your AWS Console after it is created.

6) Install W3Total Cache DEVELOPER version.

7) Activate the plugin and enable CDN only.

8 ) Configure the CDN settings and click “create bucket” then “test.”

9) Upload the media library, includes files, theme files and custom files to the CloudFront using W3 Total Cache , the AWS Management Console or S3Hub (for Mac) or the Firefox add-on S3Fox (for PC).

10) Make sure you set the ACP (permissions) to “Read Only” for “All Users” or “Everyone” otherwise your images and other content may not show up.  Here are the screenshots for using S3Hub:

Read up on how to use Amazon CloudFront.  Also you may want to take advantage of the new AWS default root object feature for enhanced security.  Let me know how it goes!

2 great plugins allow you to add tables and add a Favicon

In this post, I am showcasing a few plugins I’ve tested that add functionality to your WordPress website:

1) Add custom tables with MCE Table Buttons plugin

This plugin allows you to insert a table to your specifications right within the WordPress WYSIWYG editor by adding buttons to the kitchen sink.  As you can see here,

You can give your whole table a… background color
then go back and make changes if you want to remove a color… or change the color

2) Add a favicon with Favicons by Ioane.  A favicon is the little image that appears on the left side of the tab of your browser like this:

To transform your own image into a favicon, use this Favicon Generator.

Design Portfolio: Featured Content Gallery

This screenshot of Patt Lind-Kyle’s home page shows one of my favorite WordPress add-ons: the Featured Content Gallery (FCG).  This plugin allows WordPress users/designers to add a rotating image gallery to the home page that links to featured blog posts when clicked on.  Here is another WordPress site that uses FCG (DrMillerBlogs.com):

Adding a Featured Content Gallery to an exisiting WordPress site involves designing custom images and associating them with the featured posts.  The total cost for this add-on depends on how many images are requested and ranges from $76-$152.  Ongoing maintenance or changes are billed at my hourly rate of $38.

If you would like to add a Featured Content Gallery to your site, call me at (530) 362-8586 or send an email to cat @ catswebweave.com.

Happy Holidays!

Catherine

The art of SEO: basic concepts for WordPress users

You’ve probably already heard that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a very important part of your total website marketing plan.  I recently spent some time consulting with our local SEO expert, Coryon Redd from Batteries4Less.com.  My head is spinning with all there is to know about SEO.  Here are the basics concepts as an introduction to SEO:

1) SEO is all about discovering the right keywords people use to search for your products and services on Google.com – Google being the top search engine on the internet.

2) If you want to maximize traffic to your website, your first task is to find the best keywords that relate most accurately to what you do or sell (assuming you are good and people need what you have).  Think about this from the perspective of the user.  Suppose you sell vintage jewelry.  Is your customer going to type in, “vintage jewelry” or “1960’s Victorian diamond wedding ring?” and how many people are interested in that particular product?

3) Once you have discovered the best keywords using certain tools, your next task is to use those keywords on your site in the most effective ways to draw visitors to your site using an SEO plugin and tags.

4) Then your next step is to convert your website visits into sales (which is another important marketing topic).

Why spend time on SEO?  If you can get in the top 5 search results in Google, your chances of making a sale go up dramatically.  However, keep in mind that SEO takes time and effort.  According to Coryon, doing SEO right takes a minimum of 5 dedicated hours per week.

How does all of this apply to WordPress?  Well, WordPress is naturally SEO-friendly due simply to its permalink structure and the fact that blogs tend to have fresh content, and Google loves fresh content.  And once you’ve done your keyword research and chosen your target keywords, there are certain plugins and themes for WordPress that help with SEO.  Then there are additional SEO techniques for how you use your keywords when you title your pages, write your content, create internal links & external links, who you link to and who links to you.  You can also increase your “link juice” with link brokers and by using trackbacks and pingbacks.  It’s a form of art and science unto itself.  Even the number of characters you use matters.

Those are the basic concepts of SEO.  There is a lot to learn, but if you are serious about optimizing your business with the internet, it would be wise to invest in learning more about SEO.

Update to the latest version of WordPress

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This post is for those who maintain their own WordPress site/s (or are employing someone other than myself do it for them).

Recently, I wrote an article about how to backup your WordPress site properly.  If you are not in the habit of backing up regularly, reference that post for more information about backing up and then…

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Mobilize your WordPress site

iphone-3gwindows_mobile

The dotMobi “Mobile Pack” is an essential plugin for WordPress sites geared for mobile users.  Once installed and activated, this plugin will automatically detect if your site visitor is viewing your site with a mobile device or on a desktop and convert the site view accordingly.

Even if the demographic of those you serve with your business is not technology-savvy, it is still a good idea to make your site as user-friendly as possible.  More and more people are using mobile devices to surf the web every day.  Making your site “mobile-friendly” increases the range of people you can reach with your WordPress site.

Go here to get the plugin: MobilePack

If you would like assistance with installing and configuring this plugin, I can help.

Here to help you make your finest dreams come true,

-Catherine