WordPress Plugins for Your Blog – Part 4

WordPress Security – WordFence

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As well as spam, another threat website owners can fall prey to is having their site hacked. This isn’t just a problem WordPress users can suffer from, but thanks to the selection of great security plugins available, it’s a problem we can easily avoid.

Wordfence is one free plugin that WordPress users can deploy to secure their website with ease. With close to 4 million downloads, a near perfect 4.9 stars out of 5, and regular updates, it’s a safe choice for your blog.

After installation the plugin will carry out a scan to detect any vulnerabilities. Wordfence will then protect and monitor your website against known and unknown attackers who might be trying to hack their way into your website.

The Wordfence plugin also includes a caching tool to speed up your website, killing two birds with one stone.

Back Up Your WordPress – BackWPup Free

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Even if your website is safe and secure from hackers, it’s essential that you have a backup solution in place. Unintentional user error can be just as devastating as a planned malicious attack, so don’t delay when it comes to setting up regular scheduled backups on your website.

BackWPup is my free backup plugin of choice. It’s a great option as it can automatically deliver your backups to a range of external destinations. This includes Dropbox, SugarSync, S3, or an FTP server. You can set your own backup schedule, and your site can be restored from the backup archive at any point.

If you want a more rounded service that allows you to roll back individual files, then the premium BackupBuddy service is another great backup solution for WordPress.

 

Speed Up Your Site with Caching – W3 Total Cache

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If you chose another option for securing your WordPress website instead of the recommended Wordfence (which includes caching), then you will want to install a dedicated caching plugin.

These plugins can noticeably speed up the loading times of your website and its individual pages. The two main benefits of this is that your visitors are less likely to abandon your site while waiting for it to load, plus your website will have a better chance of ranking higher in Google than a slower loading equivalent site.

In most cases a good caching plugin is better than none, and therefore W3 Total Cache is a great place to start. When setup correctly, this free plugin can help you reduce your page load times for a more enjoyable user experience.

WordPress Plugins for Your Blog – Part 3

Blog Post Comment Notifications – Send Email Only On Reply to My Comment

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Another essential way to communicate with your readers is through the comments that can be left on your blog posts. One major downside of the comments system is that keeping the discussion going via comments can be tricky when using the default functionality of WordPress. This is because your readers won’t know when someone has replied to their comment.

However, by installing the free Send Email Only On Reply to My Comment plugin, you can remove this issue from your blog. Now your readers can opt to receive email notifications only when someone replies to their comment. They also get the option of choosing to receive an email notification when any new comments are posted. Users who opt in can just as easily opt out and unsubscribe, directly from the links in the notification emails they receive.

If you want your readers to be notified whenever someone replies to their comment, without filing their inbox with all the comments left on a post, this plugin offers an easy to implement solution.

 

Comment Spam Protection – Akismet

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We touched on spam protection briefly in the contact forms section, stating how Visual Form Builder includes a verification field to stop your contact forms being abused by automated spammers.

As anyone with a WordPress blog already up and running should know, almost as soon as your site goes live it will start receiving a steady stream of unwanted spam comments, which only increases over time.

Thankfully there are a few services and plugins you can use to stem the tide of comment spam and avoid your site being turned into a link farm.  Of these options, one of the first plugins you should activate on a new website is Akismet.

This plugin integrates the free (for personal use) Akismet comment spam prevention service with your WordPress site to direct suspicious looking comments straight into your spam folder. While the Akismet plugin is now pre-installed with WordPress, you still need to sign up for an account and activate the plugin on your site.

Another anti-comment spam measure you can put in place is adding a check box to the comment form. This surprisingly enough, is able to thwart many of the automated scripts that have been created to leave spam comments on WordPress blogs. Adding this check box is as easy as installing the popular and free Growmap Anti Spambot plugin. While it won’t deter human spammers, by combing it with Akismet, they should improve your spam defenses.

By installing and activating these two plugins, you can do a good job of shoring up your defenses against blog comment spam.

WordPress Plugins for Your Blog – Part 2

Social Media Promotion – Floating Social

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Once you’ve got search engine optimization covered, ensuring it’s as easy as pie for your readers to share your blog posts on their social networks is another effective way to get more visitors to your website.

With Floating Social, you can ensure the buttons for sharing your posts will never be out of your readers’ sight while they are enjoying your content. The vertical panel of share buttons unobtrusively follows your readers as they scroll down the page. This ensures that they are on hand at the exact moment the reader feels compelled to share your post with their friends and followers.

All the best social networks are supported, including Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and more. You can also customize the appearance of the share bar to match your website, or make it stand out, depending on your preferences.

To leverage the social media networks further in order to get more traffic to your website, you can optimize your content so that is really stands out when it’s shared. One option for doing so is to use the JM Twitter Cards plugin which we recently reviewed.

If you want to help more visitors find their way to your website, these floating social sharing buttons serve as a subtle, yet constant reminder to your readers to share your content with their network.

 

Contact Forms – Visual Form Builder

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Whether you are interested in feedback from your readers or a way to let them enquire about your services, a contact form is an essential part of any website. By adding a contact form to your WordPress website you not only make it easier for your visitors to send you a message, but also make your life easier in the process.

While you can publish your email address, there are many benefits to using a contact form instead. This includes minimizing the chances of getting overrun with spam emails, as well as ensuring that the messages you receive contain any important information your need.

By using the free Visual Form Builder plugin you can create custom forms with all the fields you require. The forms also contain human-friendly anti-spam verification fields to prevent them getting hijacked by spammers, without frustrating your visitors in the process.

Other features of Visual Form Builder include the ability to send readers a copy of their form submission, deliver the form content to multiple addresses, and store submissions in your WordPress dashboard for future reference, or export for use elsewhere.

Visual Form Builder features an easy to use interface to help you quickly create multiple simple or advanced contact forms for your website.

WordPress Plugins for Your Blog

It’s easy to get started with WordPress since it’s packed with so many useful features right out of the box. However, there are still some essential plugins worth installing from the get-go to ensure that you and your visitors get the most from your website.

In this post we’ll look at 10 essential free and premium plugins covering 10 different categories, from security and SEO to social media and image optimization.

With so many great (and not so great) plugins available, choosing the right ones can be overwhelming task. However, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort with this list of the essentials to help you get your website up and running as quickly as possible.

 

Image Optimization – WP Smush.it

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While images are an essential part of any blog post, large file sizes can slow down your page loading times. This can have a negative effect on the user experience, while also hindering your attempts to get traffic from search engines.

WP Smush.it is a free image optimization plugin that aims to eliminate the negative effects unoptimized images can have on your blog.

After installation, each new image – whether it’s a photo, screenshot, or other graphic that is uploaded to your site – will now be run through the Yahoo Smush.it service. This reduces the image’s file size, without changing its appearance or visual quality.

The image optimization takes place in the background without any extra effort on your part and is a great way to increase page loading times on your website. Existing images on your site can also be optimized with WP Smush.it at the click of a button.

Search Engine Optimization – Infinite SEO

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You could be writing the best content in the world, but without optimizing your blog and its posts for search engines, there is little chance anyone will find their way to your website. However, by installing the right plugin, you can quickly and easily ensure your blog and its content is more search engine-friendly.

Infinite SEO takes care of all the essential on-site SEO tasks. This includes creating a comprehensive sitemap of your blog for Google and Bing, and also allowing you to craft custom titles and meta descriptions for each post on your blog.

Another useful feature of Infinite SEO, which you don’t get with other SEO plugins, is the ability to automatically link your content together. This feature allows you to turn pre-determined keywords or phrases into links to other posts on your blog. This not only helps your readers discover more of your great content, but also gives the search engines a better idea of what topics you are writing about to help them determine where your content should be ranked in their results.

Thanks to the premium support that is available for this plugin, you won’t be on your own when it comes to ensuring your site is optimized for the search engines and is ready to start being discovered online.

Infinite SEO is, of course, Multisite compatible, so if you are building a network of blogs, this is the perfect option.

SaaS: When Does It Make Sense to Outsource?

Meaning of SaaS

SaaS or “Software as a Service” is one facet of the new IT model that many vendors are saying is going to change the way that all small and medium-sized businesses do their work. SaaS allows SMBs to outsource applications to a non-local server, providing flexibility and a wealth of options that traditional software purchasing doesn`t allow. But while SaaS can provide a number of immediate benefits for SMBs, it isn`t for everyone, and shouldn`t be used just because of the hype. How can you know when outsourcing to a SaaS solution makes sense?

 

What You Can Get From Being SaaS-y

The first question you should ask about SaaS as a small or medium-sized business is exactly what your benefits will be for switching over to an outsourced option. Keeping IT local means you have all of your software on-hand, with techs who know your code ready to step in if there is a problem. With SaaS, that code moves to a non-local server, and you run the risk of a server outage or data loss. The risk isn`t high, but what can SaaS offer you to balance it out?

 

For starters, CRM. Customer Relationship Management is a priority for any SMB, and that means getting the word out about new products and discounts, and keeping customers and shareholders in the loop about what is happening in your company on the front lines and how they can benefit from it. Happy customers are loyal ones, after all.

 

Of course, the options for SaaS don`t stop there. Accounting software’s are now offering cloud-based book balancing options, with more vendors coming onto the scene on a regular basis. Survey applications, email, word processors – almost any software you currently use can be found in a cloud version, letting you make a simple transition.

 

What Does SaaS Really Offer?

Sure, you could move easily, but what does SaaS really get you? All of the functionality of the applications mentioned above can be found in local options, so what does porting them to an off-site server do?

 

First of all, it generally costs more and you may not get to own the piece of software you buy. Instead, most SaaS software will come with licensing fees that are paid month to month, and upfront these may come out as being more expensive than buying a piece of software outright.

 

So where`s the benefit for an SMB? In the details, of course. With SaaS services, things like updates, patches and newer versions are automatic, and don`t require a shutdown of a company`s local systems in order to be applied. New features are also added at no cost beyond the monthly fee, and for an SMB looking to cut IT costs or if you`d rather not have any IT staff at all, a SaaS option can be a great one – all of the technical magic is taken care of on the server end by the SaaS company for the application and the hosting company for the server you are using. Whether it`s VPS or cloud-based, a SaaS choice can mean less stress and less hassle for your business, which often justifies its higher initial price tag.

Why to Avoid Free Web Hosting Services: Free vs Paid Blogs

There are several reasons why you should avoid free web hosting services. First, however, let’s consider the difference between web hosting and blog hosting. There is a significant difference between free web hosting and free blog hosting since, although you would need web hosting (free or paid) to host your own blog, you do not require this for free blogs.

Avoid Free Web Hosting Services

The two major examples of free blogs are Blogger (Google) and the WordPress free blogging service accessed from WordPress.com. There is another version of WordPress that can be downloaded from wordpress.org that is not free in that it is hosted on your own web space.

Difference Between Free Web Hosting and Free Blogging Services

Both the Blogger and the WP.com version of WordPress are free to use but, like most free blogging systems, offer limited capacity for plugins and customization options. Nevertheless they offer an excellent blogging service for those running a personal or hobby blog. They cannot be criticized for the service they offer – but they are not for professional bloggers.

Web hosting is different – you can run a blog from your own website, including a WordPress blog. Although WordPress offer free blogging from its own site, you can also use it as free publishing platform. You can run a WordPress blog from your own website or web space. Sure, the content management system (CMS) is free to use, but the blog itself is not free, in that you own the web space containing it. You have full control over the look and feel of your blog, and also the content you create.

Here Are Some Reasons to Avoid Free Web Hosting Services

It can disappear tomorrow. A provider of any free service, not only CMS services, can close that service down any time they choose to. They will likely let you know in advance, but that doesn’t really help you.

Free web hosting is never free. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you often have a price to pay for free web hosting. That will often be paid in the form of advertising on your website. Free hosting will place their ads anywhere they want to, and not only does this compromise your entire site, but could restrict the placement of your own ads. Irrelevant adverts can harm your website by driving away traffic. Excessive advertising will be punished by Google.

Limited bandwidth and storage. A free web hosting service will likely also have an optional paid service on offer. Guess who gets the lion’s share of bandwidth? Once you have uploaded or downloaded a few files you may find your allocation has been reached.

Lack of customization. A free web host might not enable you to design your website as you want it. It may be run using templates. Sure, you can select your own template, but in many cases, you will not be able to make any changes to the templates provided.

Lack of support. Free web hosting services will not offer free support. Some, like Microsoft, might charge a fortune for support, while others might not offer it at all.

Security and spamming issues. You can be practically certain that free web hosting providers will not be spending a lot of their cash on security services. If you are unable to modify your web space to include SSL, anti-spam and anti-hacking software, then your website will be wide open to spammers and hackers.

Why You Should Start Using VPN and What It Really Is

A VPN, as its name suggests, is just a virtual version of a secure, physical network—a web of computers linked together to share files and other resources. VPNs connect to the outside world over the Internet, can serve to secure general Internet traffic in addition to corporate assets. In fact, the lion’s share of modern VPNs are encrypted, so computers, devices, and other networks that connect to them do so via encrypted tunnels.

Why You Want a VPN

You have at least four great reasons to start using a VPN. First, you can use it to connect securely to a remote network via the Internet. Most companies maintain VPNs so that employees can access files, applications, printers, and other resources on the office network without compromising security, but you can also set up your own VPN to safely access your secure home network while you are on the road.

Second, VPNs are particularly useful for connecting multiple networks together securely. For this reason, most businesses big and small rely on a VPN to share servers and other networked resources among multiple offices or stores across the globe. Even if you do not have a chain of offices to worry about, you can use the same trick to connect multiple home networks or other networks for personal use.

Third, if you are concerned about your online privacy, connecting to an encrypted VPN while you are on a public or untrusted network—such as a Wi-Fi hotspot in a hotel or coffee shop — is a smart, simple security practice. Because  VPN encrypts your Internet traffic, it helps to stymie other people who may be trying to snoop on your browsing via Wi-Fi to capture your passwords.

Fourth and finally, one of the best reasons to use a VPN is to circumvent regional restrictions—known as geo-blocking — on certain websites. Journalists and political dissidents use VPNs to get around state-sponsored censorship all the time, but you can also use a VPN for recreational purposes, such as connecting to a British VPN to watch the BBC outside the UK. Because your Internet traffic routes through the VPN, it looks as if you are just another British visitor.

Different Protocols for VPN

When choosing a networking protocol for your VPN, you need worry only about the four most popular ones. Here is a quick rundown, including the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the least secure VPN method, but it is a great starting point for your first VPN because almost every operating system supports it, including Windows, Mac OS, and even mobile OSs.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) are more secure than PPTP and are almost as widely supported, but they are also more complicated to set up and are susceptible to the same connection issues as PPTP is.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN systems provide the same level of security that you trust when you log on to banking sites and other sensitive domains. Most SSL VPNs are referred to as “clientless,” since you do not need to be running a dedicated VPN client to connect to one of them.

Going for Small. Here Are Some Free Hosting Options!

Web hosting services work by storing your website files in high-powered computers (web servers) connected to a very fast network. When someone types in your web address, the Internet connects to the web server holding your website files and then transfers your website information back to their computer. From there they can surf and view the pages of your website.

When you make a website and want other people to see it, you will need to publish it with a web hosting service, but what if you do not have a budget for hosting? Do not worry, here is a list of free hosting services for you that will not require any money to host your domain name. Start a blog, create a website or claim your name for a personal email address completely free!

Tumblr

Free blog hosting for your domain name. Tumblr is fun and easy to use and makes sharing content easy.

bit.ly

Use your own short domain name for custom link shortening and forwarding on Twitter or Facebook. It also gives you the opportunity to analyze and understand your engaged audience acquired through owned and earned brand assets across all platforms and devices.

Blogger

Google’s popular hosted blog service. Blogs can also be hosted in the registered custom domain of the blogger. Feel free to express yourself, because you can have up to 100 blogs per account.

GitHub Pages

Host static pages by pushing files to a GitHub repository. If you are a developer, this is for you and you will be able to use your own custom domain!

Jurnid

Self-publishing platform for journalists, journalism students and brands to collaborate. Easy to create a free profile.

Soup

Remix the web. Soup.io is perfect for sharing stuff, your life stream or tumblelog. It is a super-easy blog that can do more – post links, quotes, videos, audio, files, reviews and events. You can have your own address, and it is free!

Wikidot

It is simply a place to build wiki-based websites. Use it to publish content, share your documents, collaborate with friends or coworkers, and create a place for your community to get your business going!

Zoho Sites

Create a free website with Zoho Sites, for any business or occasion. Every free website comes with a free blog, business email and unlimited web hosting, all in one place for you!

Weebly

Bring your vision to life with the theme that is right for you. Get your business online, start a blog or open an e-commerce store. It is easy to get started.

Things to Consider

In case you would like to host your lovely website with much more reliable and customer focused web hosting provider that a free web host cannot afford, and if you do not mind to pay few dollars for the advanced service, you might be interested to consider website hosting providers that offer quite cheap (almost free) hosting.

How to Reduce Your Website Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions for example sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page.

There are a number of factors that contribute to a high bounce rate. For example, users might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in going to other pages.

How to Reduce Website Bounce Rate?

Attract the right visitors. Choose the right keywords to match your content — not just to attract the biggest number of visitors. Create multiple landing pages with unique content and keywords for your different buyer personas. Maintain top rankings for branded terms. Write attractive, useful meta descriptions for search engine users. Improve targeting of online advertising campaigns.

Enhance usability. Make your text readable through sensible organization and the use of larger fonts, bulleted lists, white space, good color contrast, and large headlines. Use well-organized, responsive layouts that allow for quick and easy navigation on all platforms and browsers.

Speed up page load time. Use little or no self-loading multimedia content. Set external links to open in new browser windows/tabs. Don’t let ads distract from your content – place static ads to sides, and avoid pop-ups and self-loading multimedia ads.

Provide quality content. Have an obvious main message. Use clear headers and subheads. Tailor content to intended visitors. Use stylish copy and images. Make your content error-free.

Stop targeting keyword/ marketing channels which are sending low value traffic. If your website is getting the traffic which has nothing to do with the products/services you sell then the website visitors are going to bounce the moment they arrive on your website. Determine the traffic sources which are sending poor quality traffic and then either stop the campaign or target the right keywords/ landing pages.

Make your ‘Call to Action’ relevant to your landing page. Your call to action (CTA) can also make your visitors to come to your site and bounce. This call to action can be in the form of a button, banner, video or link on the pages of your site or some external site. In case of organic search the call to action can be in the form of title tag and meta description tag of the landing page. In case of paid search (like Google AdWords) the call to action can be in the form of title and description of your AdWords ad copy.

These are of course just some examples. Still, when attempting to lower your bounce keep the above tips in mind. The important thing is this—in order for visitors to convert into users, they have to stick around. In its most basic form, lowering your bounce rate is simply figuring out why people are leaving and fixing it.

Best Methods to Market Your New Website

So, you’ve taken the steps to create your website… But what do you do now? Now it’s time for bringing traffic into it.

Here are some great website marketing tips:

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility in search engine’s organic results through optimizing your pages with the keyword phrases people are likely to search for. Think about it: only the first page has the best answers that are relevant to your search. Your potential customers will not look elsewhere than the first page. SEO can be a time-consuming process initially, but it’s an important step towards getting more traffic and grabbing a top spot in search engines for your main keyword phrases. If you haven’t already optimized your website for search engines, it’s time to do it!

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Use PPC Internet advertising to bring in traffic to your website from search engines like Google. Here’s how it works: you pay a fixed price for every click your ad gets in the search engine, and your ultimate goal of the click is to convert that user in order to see a return on investment. With Google AdWords, there’s no spending requirement — you can set a budget of as little as five dollars a day or a maximum cost of ten cents for each click, for example. Your main focus should be conversion so you get the best return on investment (ROI) possible.

Retargeting

Retargeting ads work by placing a tracking cookie on each of your visitor’s computers. Then, when they leave your site, they start seeing ads to come back. Using this type of advertising helps you reach visitors who leave without conversion — which is about 98 percent of all your traffic — and makes retargeting a valuable strategy in getting those visitors  back and convert. You’ve already worked hard to get people there, but most of them leave…so get them coming back to make sure you’re not throwing away that money you’ve already spent.

Facebook Ads

Millions of people use Facebook every day. And it’s not only popular with teenagers and college students — all types of demographics are now regular users of the social network. Facebook ads can help you target people from a specific location, friends of your current fans, or even folks who “like” other pages, among other options such as age and interests. Plus, it’s a cost-effective way to bring in new traffic — you can set a daily budget, pay for clicks, or pay when people see your ad.

YouTube

Creating videos and posting them to YouTube can help your content get found on YouTube itself. From there, not only does Google index your content, but others can embed your video on their blogs and share it via social media. Although going “viral” is certainly desirable, it’s important to remember that not every video needs to get a million views to successfully drive traffic to your website. You can also advertise on other people’s videos by buying targeted ads relevant to your business — which could yield a high conversion