How To Manage Your WordPress Website

04.24.2015   .   Leave a Comment

As a small business owner I’ll be the first to say that managing the back-end of your site is one of the less exciting parts of running an online business and can easily be overlooked if you’re not on top of things. Once your site is pushed out live for thousands of viewers to read you’ll want to ensure everything is in working order though so that more people see your content and stick around longer.

Many web developers that work with WordPress have maintenance plans and will take care of updates for you. If you’re a solopreneur and are building your own website I’ve provided a checklist below to ensure your website is performing smoothly.

 

Managing Your Site Content

Sidebar: Ideally you should keep plugins down to the bare minimum to enhance the speed of your site. Plugins, as you know, are a major culprit for loading times and as tempting as it is to add that cool new widget I often find they soon or later lose their initial appeal as often as tastes change.

I recently took a look at one of my own sites’ sidebar to see why things were lagging behind alittle bit and decided that snapwidget wasn’t a high priority item anymore as keeping visitors eyes on the site content was. You should run your site through Pagespeed in Google Developer tools to see what, if any, improvements they suggest.

 

Compressing Blog Images:

how to manage your wordpress website

Those beautiful images we create for our blog help us stand out but can over time slowly eat at our load and run time. Graphic designers are taught to save at the lowest file without loss in quality which I’d recommend as a good rule of thumb! You can see in the above screenshot how I use the Save for Web feature in Photoshop to optimize the quality of images – saving as JPG rather than a PNG which oftentimes results in a much smaller file size.

As you adjust these settings you’ll want to keep an eye on your image preview. Just as important as the way the image looks is the information directly under the preview pertaining to the image size and approximate load time. Again weigh the visual trade-offs between graphic file size and crispness.

Check for Broken Links: If you’ve been in business for awhile chances are there will be broken links somewhere along the line. It’s nothing to fret over but I’d suggest you use a plugin such as Broken Link Checker so you’ll automatically be notified of any broken links as they arise. Simply login to your wordpress site and fix those links and you’re good to go!

Be Careful About What Comments You Approve: If the comments coming into your site seem suspicious you’re better off marking them as spam. The spam filter Akismet (which comes with most WordPress sites as a plugin) does a better job for you if you mark spam comments as such. You should also regularly clean out your spam folder by going to Comments in the WP Admin menu and clicking on Spam, then the Empty Spam button.

Don’t Hoard Unused Themes or Plugins: That cool new plugin a fellow designer or developer suggested? Great idea at the time but may never be used to its full potential. Those themes or plugins you thought you’d use but are in all probability lying dormant should be deleted to free up more space.


 

Keeping It Secure

Best Security Plugins for WordPress: WordPress is the most used CMS out there (yay!) but with that popularity comes the chance it could come under attack by hackers (oh no!). Taking the steps to ensure your website is secure is essential in preserving your rankings and reputation. Wordfence Security is one of the top security plugins on WordPress, with over 700,000+ active downloads and a star rating of 4.9 out of 5. It’s available for download for free but there is also a premium version for those looking to get the most out of the plugin. iThemes Security, which happens to be very user-friendly, is also a great choice with over 600,000 active downloads and a star rating of 4.7 out of 5. It comes with clear instructions making it easy to set up and offers high levels of protection. The plugin also includes malware scanning, allowing you to detect and resolve issues before they affect your site and readers.

Backup Your WordPress Website: Trust me –  if something goes amiss such as your site getting hacked or a file is deleted by accident, you’ll breathe easier knowing you have a backup! Many shared hosting providers won’t store regular backups so doing so through a third party service isn’t a bad option. A great plugin is WordPress Backup to Dropbox, currently at 999,759 downloads, which will automatically backup your files to your Dropbox account based on whichever frequency you’ve set. If you’re looking for a robust option than BackupBuddy has some amazing features at a small cost for your security.

Change Your Password Every Few Months: Around 8% of hacked WordPress websites are down to weak passwords – something stronger than ‘abc123′ will keep your goods safe longer. Include upper and lower case letters in addition to numbers and other characters like punctuation marks. You can also look into a password recipe if you’re fresh out of ideas.

Managing Multiple WordPress Websites: As a creative entrepreneur you might find yourself running more than one WordPress site at a given time. Updating each website to the latest version of WordPress as well as managing the day to day functions of your site can be time consuming. In comes a number of really handy WordPress management services that take the hassle out of logging in and out of each website by corralling all websites under one management solution online. ManageWp is one of the more popular paid options and includes key features such as one-click updates, backup & migration which streamline the entire process. Prettty handy!

 

WordPress is a great platform to share your passions – whether you’re serious about blogging for your creative interests or getting your business off the ground running you can count on the robust CMS to act as the backbone of all kinds of different websites. The support is also second-to-none. Think of the above as a simple checklist for non-techy types to refer periodically to ensure things are running smoothly on the back-end so that you can focus on what it is you do best.

By now you’re familiar with the capabilities this robust CMS offers, from Getting Started and Branding/General Settings to SEO and Studiopress Theme Selection but what happens when you have digital products you really want to launch into the world? In the next couple weeks I’ll discuss one popular option and how to streamline the creation process. Stay tuned!


 

Have you encountered any maintenance issues using WordPress that I didn’t mention?

WordPress for Beginners: StudioPress Theme Selection

04.08.2015   .   Leave a Comment

If you’re an entrepreneur or other small business owner you really can’t go wrong with the  selection of themes WordPress has to promote your project or business. Some of the more common uses include blogs, portfolios, static brochure sites, informative content sites, book and product launch sites all of which are self-hosted so they’ll usually stick with you for the duration of your business.

 

Every website platform has its unique benefits so weigh the pros and cons of each when deciding which fits the needs of your business. I’ve touched upon the benefits I’ve seen using WordPress for both business and blogging in a few past posts (along with some helpful tips on getting setup and running quickly): Getting Started With WordPress, Branding & General Settings, and WordPress SEO.

Just a quick re-cap though: I’m sure by now you’ve heard many great things about the Genesis Framework and using one of the StudioPress child themes. The company is the leader in WordPress themes simply due to their reputation, their line of professional and attractive themes, and most of all good coding practices. If you’re launching a new product or service and are hesitant to shell out alot of money upfront for a custom design you can still get a beautifully designed layout you can either install yourself or hand over to a web developer to take control of setting up and customizing basic elements to fit your brand.

Note: All WordPress child themes require a self-hosted WordPress site to run. In the event you’re only looking to start a blog, you could choose one of the themes below and then follow this tutorial post on setting up a WordPress blog that also goes over registering a domain as well.

Which Studiopress Theme is Right For You?

You should have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in a theme before purchasing – taking into account your visitors and your own preferences for how a website should look and feel. There may be a couple reasons why you’d opt for a new theme, such as your current one not fitting into your growing brand, the design is dated, or you’re making the switch to a new blogging platform.

Whichever situation you’re in, here are some criteria in which to chose the right theme:

1. If you need to showcase your portfolio…
Studiopress has a range of themes tailored to artists, photographers, designers, and other creative types who want their work to be the focal point.

Ambiance Pro Theme
Modern Portfolio Theme
Expose Theme
Crystal Theme

2. If you need to showcase your business or agency…
Easily customize your businesses website without any additional code. SEO optimization such as meta titles, descriptions and tags and nofollow options are also built into the theme eliminating the need for extra plugins.

Altitude Pro Child Theme
Agency Theme
Remobile Pro Child Theme
Epik Theme
Generate Pro Theme

3. If you need to showcase your creative blogging talents…
The magazine/blog hybrid layout is popular amongst fashion and lifestyle bloggers.

Lifestyle Theme
Magazine Theme
Runway Theme
News Theme
Metro Theme

FYI: If you happen to purchase the Genesis core first you’ll receive a 25% returning customer discount on your future purchases. There are also plenty of third party child themes available that work with Genesis if you’re interested in options outside the above.

Keeping Everything Secure

Once your new website or blog is setup you need to make sure it’s secure. You could rely on your host to make sure they have backups on hand in case anything happens, but in the event you need to be up and running fast you should install a backup plugin. Backup Buddy and Vaultpress each have their unique benefits so I’d take time to compare their features to determine which one suits the needs of your website and business.

 


 

Oftentimes many of the small businesses I work with don’t have the time to tinker around in WordPress to figure out the look/feel of their site. If you’re looking to hire a professional designer so that you can focus on what you do best and let them handle the designing and building of a website then I’d love to help. First, look at my web design packages and then get in touch!

Note: There are affiliate links in this post as I’ve used Studiopress themes for client projects and highly recommend them. I’ve used drag-and-drop editors in the past but Studiopress themes are a great out-of-the-box solution with a solid support community that is hard to pass up.

WordPress for Beginners: Branding and General Settings

03.30.2015   .   Leave a Comment

Now that you’ve chosen WordPress as your website/blogging platform it’s time to start customizing the site to your needs. Before you jump into blogging or maintaining your site, it’s important to have the foundation taken care of through a few important features that will enhance your branding. Today I’ll walk you through the General Settings in WordPress, and teach you how to install Google Analytics so you’ll begin to see how easy it is to get up and running on the right foot.

This post is the third in my series on WordPress for Beginners. In case you’ve missed the other posts, here are links: WordPress for Beginners: SEO and WordPress For Beginners: Getting Started With WordPress

 

The tasks below aren’t necessarily in order of importance, nor do they depend on each other. They do set the foundation for all website and blogging efforts to come so I’d recommend having them all setup and ready!

General Settings

editing your site title and tagline in wordpress

Editing Your Site Title + Tagline: This helps not only for SEO but it makes a good first impression as well. Since this information shows up in search results and on visitors browsers when they land on your site, it’s a good rule of thumb to include your business name + a descriptive tagline that speaks to your offerings.

The tagline by default in WordPress is ‘Just Another WordPress Blog.’ Not very compelling! You’ll want to change it to reflect your mission statement or an abbreviated, keyword-rich version thereof. Since my blog isn’t the central hub of my site I have a generalized tagline to give visitors a good idea of what I’m all about:

Brand Stylist and WordPress Web Designer for Creative Entrepreneurs

Go to Settings -> General and enter in your title and tagline.


Change Your Time, Timezone: On the Settings > General page, find the section labeled Timezone. Select a city in the same timezone as you. A city is preferred if one is available, rather than choosing UTC options.

Be sure to save all changes at the bottom of Settings > General screen


 

set permalinks

Set Permalinks: I’ve touched upon them briefly in my SEO post: Permalinks are simply the URL’s for your posts. By default, post titles tend to look like by-stephanie.com/?p=31 but if you look at the URL for this post you will see http://www.by-stephanie.com/wordpress-general-settings/. The new format not only tells someone what my page is about but the words in the URL will also be highlighted in search engine results if my post is relevant to the search query.

To set up Permalinks, go to Settings > Permalinks and select the Post Name structure. If you leave the date in your post it will affect any social media, pins, likes you’ve received if you decide to update the post down the road as the URL will then change.

Again, be sure to click ‘Save’ at the bottom of the screen.

permalinks in wordpress
As you create each page or post, you can modify the permalink under the title of the post/page.


Signup with Google Analytics: Knowing how your audience is interacting with your website is crucial for your success. You’ll want to know where they arrived on your site from (a top priority of mine) and what pages are they visiting most amongst other really important factors. Here’s a simplified version of the Google Analytics sign-up process:

1. First you would need to create a Google Analytics account. To do this, visit Google Analytics Signup Page.

If you already have a Gmail account, then use that to sign-in with. If you do not have a Gmail account, then you would have to create an account for yourself.

google analytics tutorial

2. Once you arrive on the New Account page, enter your Website’s URL, Account name (it can be anything that you like), country, and the time zone. Once finished, click on the Get Tracking ID button!
3. Copy the provided Google Analytics tracking code.
4. Back in WordPress, install the Insert Header and Footer plugin, and then paste the Google Analytics code in the plugin’s setting page.
5. You can now click on the Reporting tab to see your site’s analytics overview. It takes Google up to 12 – 24 hours to start providing you with the site stats.

google analytics tutorial


 Branding

 

gravatar in wordpress

Add Gravatar: When you reply to comment’s on your blog or comment on someone else’s blog, you’ll want your picture to show up all the time for consistency, branding, and professionalism. Setup your Gravatar in a few simple steps to make your replies much more personal and real.

1. Head over to Gravatar.com
2. Click the ‘Create Your Own Gravatar’ call to action
3. Enter your email address, username, and password. Use the same email address you use to sign into your WordPress site. If you already have a WordPress account, click “I already have a WordPress.com account!”
4. Click ‘Sign Up’ and follow the instructions on the next page.
5. Verify your email address and your account.
6. Click “add an image” to upload a “Gravatar” photo.
7. Assign the new photo to be your “Gravatar.”

You’re all set!


Setup Your Favicon: A favicon is the little square graphic that shows up in the tab of a person’s browser when they’re on your blog. Most users usually have many tabs open in their browser window. This hides your website’s title as the number of tabs increase. Here’s my favicon as an example (it’s the heart in the top left corner):

how to create a favicon wordpress

It you don’t setup a favicon a standard old image from your hosting will appear, and that’s not as appealing in a lineup of bookmarks. A favicon helps with your overall branding and it’s simple to setup even if your blog theme doesn’t have a simple place to upload it.

Go to the HTML/CSS/PHP/etc. documents of your site and find your Header document. For a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll go to “Appearance,” then “Editor,” then “Header.php.” Paste the code below into your blog’s code under the opening <head> tag and before the closing </head> tag. Make sure to replace the image url (http://www.mywebsiteurl.com/favicon.png) with the URL of your own square image (16×16 pixels and in PNG format).

<link rel="icon" href="http://www.mywebsiteurl.com/favicon.png" type="image/x-icon" />
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://www.mywebsiteurl.com/favicon.png" type="image/x-icon"

This post gives you a base to start using WordPress through a standalone website for your business and/or blog. If you’re using WordPress for blogging you have the advantage using a platform that grows with your business. Blogging for business is an excellent way to reach your ideal customers on a shoe-string budget which is made alittle easier through many of the features available in WordPress.

How to Add a Custom Pin-it Button in WordPress

03.24.2015   .   Leave a Comment

If your current default ‘pin-it’ button for your blog post images isn’t cutting it – jazz things up with a custom one that reflects the branding of your website. It’ll streamline the look and feel of your site while adding to its professionalism. Today I’ll show you How to Add a Custom Pin-it Button In WordPress. Now let’s get straight to the tutorial!

 

First, make sure you’re using the latest version of WordPress, or a version that will support jQuery Pin It Button For Images.

How to Create a Custom Pin-it Button:

1. First, design your “Pin It” graphic & save it as a PNG file (Canva, PicMonkey, or Photoshop will work).
2. Upload your graphic to the media library in WordPress (Media -> Library -> Add New)
3. Now, install the JQuery for Pin-it Button for Images plugin. Or go to Plugins -> Add New -> and enter the same.
4. Once activated, go to plugin settings.

Selection Tab

5. To ensure only the main image displays the ‘Pin-it’ button upon hovering (instead of related post thumbails, etc), choose a Minimum resolution that should trigger the “Pin it” button to show up. A resolution of 200×200 works best.
6. Save and go to the Visual Tab.

Visual Tab

7. For the Description Source this is the text culled from WordPress and shared on your Pinterest page. I always select ‘Page Title’ but alt titles is another good option.

8. Check the box ‘Always link to individual post page.’ This way whether someone pins from an archived page or otherwise, it always links directly to the original post.

9. Now it’s onto the look and feel of the pin-it button! You’ll want to set the transparency value between 0.2 and 0.3 for a subtle fade on hover. Nothing too drastic!

10. Check the box  to use a custom image and then click upload to grab the image you’ve uploaded at the beginning of this tutorial. The plugin automatically fills in the rest.

11. Finally, specify where the pin-it image will appear once the user hovers over an image and increase the margins if you’d like. I find the 20px default is usually a safe starting point.

Save, and you’re done!


If you’re looking for a more simple approach, Frizzly is a new plugin that streamlines the pinning process by adding social media share buttons to each image. Made by the same author of jQuery Pin It Button For Images it also adds Twitter and Facebook sharing to your image hovers. I’ve since adopted this plugin on the site.