Free WordPress: The Benefits

Guest Post

What’s so great about FREE WordPress?

Not until very recently did I discover WordPress. I am a new writer and I wanted to get my work out there to the world and fast. With this in mind I was ecstatic to learn that not only is WordPress a wonderful piece of software, but also you can obtain it for absolutely nothing!

However, there is so much more that meets the eye with this product and with this in mind I wanted to share the advantages of obtaining free WordPress for you and your business or blog.

You can use your own Domain Name

Unlike other publishing platforms where you can only use a sub-domain on their server, with WordPress you can use your own domain name as the software is hosted on your own server.

Widgets

By making use of these freely available widgets WordPress let users customise features of their site according to whatever need they have. This is a great feature of WordPress and one of the features I use frequently.

Themes

There are so many themes within WordPress, and most cost less than $50, however there are many that are free.  Themes make your presence known online and can create a look and feel for your site. You can even customise your theme in your own way. For me it’s choosing which one – now that’s the hard bit!

Ease of use

This for me is most important, it’s easy to use! For those who are a little technically challenged the WordPress integrated ‘dashboard’ allows you as the owner to add/edit/delete pages, add blog categories, add widgets and of course add posts! You can upload images, video’s the list goes on and it’s simple to use. I for one love it for that reason and that reason alone.

Social Networking

Using widgets you can connect your site to other social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter without having to do a thing! You can add ‘like’ buttons on your posts too and easily feed your content into a variety of networking sites via RSS.

SEO Friendly

This is very important as it gets more people to your site. Search engines absolutely love WordPress as it comes with an automated ‘pinging’ feature. This will send a signal to various search engines every time your blog is updated. How cool is that?

Constant Development

WordPress is always under constant development too so you never have to worry about it getting stagnant or staying the same. It powers over 20% of the active websites on the web, new widgets are being released all the time, together with new themes and it will always continue to evolve. 

Just what you need I’d say!

I am still learning about how to use WordPress more effectively but with this information I feel I am armed with better knowledge and understanding on how it all works and all for FREE! 

For more information about the features of WordPress, the free option, check out this article The Features You’ll Love.

Author Bio:

I’m Paula and this is my dog Tommy. I run my own small business designing and making accessories from recycled materials, check out my blog PaulasWork here http://paulaswork.com/

You can also follow Paula on twitter @TDailyGrow.

Five Fantastic WordPress Plugins

It’s been a few months since I wrote an article on WordPress plugins. I know you are all as nosey as me and like to know what others are using and how they can improve your WordPress website. So here are five of my newest discoveries and the ones I am using on a regular basis across all my own websites and on some client sites.

Limit Login Attempts

I installed this plugin very recently due to the attacks on WordPress websites which are going on at the moment. As well as changing all my passwords, deleting the admin user on my website I installed this plugin. What it does is limit the number of times someone can try to login to your website. 

Limit the number of login attempts possible both through normal login as well as using auth cookies.

By default WordPress allows unlimited login attempts either through the login page or by sending special cookies. This allows passwords (or hashes) to be brute-force cracked with relative ease.

Limit Login Attempts blocks an Internet address from making further attempts after a specified limit on retries is reached, making a brute-force attack difficult or impossible.

Since I installed this a couple of weeks ago I have had an awful lot of activity showing within this plugin, bots are trying to login, usually using the username ‘admin’ or ‘username’. After they get the password wrong 3 times the plugin locks them out, you can customise the amount of time they are locked out for.

Here is a screenshot of the stats for this website:

I would highly recommend installing this plugin or something similar, especially because of the brute force attack on WordPress websites going on right now.

WangGuard

WangGuard I came across by mistake really, I’d never heard of it before. On one of my other websites I have a forum, and I was getting lots of spam registrations. I thought there must be a way to stop these, so I started the search. This plugin is great, and all spam registrations have now stopped completely! If you allow people to register on your WordPress website then this plugin is great. I have recently installed it on a client site and her spam registrations have vanished.

What is WangGuard?

WangGuard is a service born out of the need to control Sploggers or spam users.

What are Sploggers or spam users?

Sploggers or spam users are those individuals that through manual or automated means, register in all sorts of communities, blog networks, forums, etc… in an attempt to create links to their own sites and advertise their own products.

Here is a screenshot of the dashboard stats for one of my websites:

Jetpack for WordPress.com

It’s taken me a long time to install this plugin, the reason is I didn’t feel that it could improve what I already have on my website, supposedly giving you lots of features which blogs hosted on WordPress.com already have. Well how wrong was I? I think Jetpack is fab and still haven’t explored all the extra things I can now do on my websites/blogs. The main one I have been using is the stats, it’s very clear and I can easily see what pages/posts are being viewed most, and also what keywords people are using to get to my websites.

Jetpack isn’t just about stats though, look at all these features:

Acurax Social Media Widget

I found this recently when a client asked if I could create some fancy social media icons for her. There are many plugins around which let you add your social media networks as buttons on your website, usually in the sidebar.

With the free version you get 20 themes to choose from, plenty of choice if you ask me.

I am using this plugin on this website, I’ve not yet installed it on my other websites but plan to in the future because there is a good choice. There are plenty of extra features if you purchase the premium plugin for a one-off price of $24.49. 

Digg Digg

Digg Digg is now owned by the guys at Buffer, but this isn’t why I’ve installed it. I like the look of the sharing buttons down the side of the websites I have seen it on. It moves as you move down the page, which means it’s always there ready for someone to click on to share your article. It’s fully customisable, which means you can have a couple of buttons or as many as you like. I have chosen the social networks I use the most, but also did some research on what social networks were referring a lot of traffic to my website.

Digg Digg is free and offers much more sharing possibilities than some of the other sharing widgets I have used in the past.

So that’s my five fantastic WordPress plugins I am loving at the moment… Do you use any of these plugins, what do you think?

I offer a very reasonable WordPress website or blog design and set-up using the fab Genesis framework which has a huge choice of themes. For a free no obligation chat about what I can offer, please get in touch now!

Some of my recent work:
Karon Grieve
Lorraine Charcuterie Distribution
Lamsdorf Remembered

5 Simple WordPress Plugins

© vectomart – Fotolia.com

All these plugins I have used on either my own websites or on client websites and they are all very simple to implement.  In fact simple is the key word in this blog post.

Spam

I used to use Akismet for my spam, but as a business website I was paying $5 per month for it.  It isn’t a great deal of money, but it wasn’t stopping the spam, it was just redirecting it. I then came across a plugin by the creator of CommentLuv (Andy Bailey) and have been using it ever since, on both mine and client websites.  It’s called Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin and it just creates a little tick box after your comments asking you to confirm you’re not a spammer.

I very rarely have any spam now, there is the odd occasion some gets through but it’s usually in the form of pingbacks rather than comments.

Back-up

I didn’t really think about backing my website up to begin with, I assumed my hosting company would have a back-up. I don’t know why I changed my mind, but I thought it a good idea to have something, just in case the terrible happens and my site vanishes into thin air. As a massive Dropbox fan I was pleased to see they have a plugin which saves your back-up to your Dropbox account. It’s very easy to set-up and now I have daily back-ups of all my websites just in case!  It’s called WordPress Backup to Dropbox and you will need to connect it to your Dropbox account, so make sure you open an account if you don’t already have one.

Images

I have two plugins under images because I found a great one today, which I’ll start with.  I was working on a redesign of a client website today and the new theme I was using had a great front page which used various widgets and images. My client has been posting to her website for around 3 years so there were a lot of images, I think around 1800. The problem was the thumbnails just didn’t line up properly.  After searching for a solution I came across Regenerate Thumbnails, it basically regenerates the thumbnails of all your image attachments.  I clicked regenerate all 1800 or so, and it whizzed through them really quickly.  The front page of the website now looks how it should do, and I’m really pleased I found this plugin, it’s saved me lots of work!

The other plugin I use a lot is the simplest of them all. it’s called Image Widget and you just place it in your sidebar, or other widget area and upload an image to it, or choose something from the media library. It just makes it so simple, you can include a caption, description and link and also change the dimensions if necessary.  I use this a lot, and it’s very simple to use!

Social Media

I have tried out a few plugins to present all my social media networks in a simple way, and finally found one that is simple but effective.  It’s called Simple Social Icons and you can customise it in many different ways, it has all the main social networks to choose from and in my opinion the most important ones, it also has RSS and email options too.

I hope you find my list helpful, I am always looking for new plugins to test on my websites – anything that makes creating websites easier is always a good thing.  If you have any you’d like to recommend, please comment below, and remember to tick that box confirming you’re not a spammer! 

Five Useful WordPress Plugins

I haven’t done a WordPress plugin post for some time, so I thought I would introduce you to some of my newer plugins which I have found to work really well on my website.  If you want to check out some of my previous plugin posts then take a look at Plugins Your Blog Readers Will Love, and Spread the Luv on your Blog!.

I’ve been using these five plugins for a while now and they have saved me time and made my website function in the way I’d like it to.  Below I have taken an extract from each of the plugin websites which gives you an overview of what the plugin does.  I have then written a little bit about why I use the plugin and how I think it improves my website.

 

Broken Link Checker for WordPress

Sometimes, links get broken. A page is deleted, a subdirectory forgotten, a site moved to a different domain. Most likely many of your blog posts contain links. It is almost inevitable that over time some of them will lead to a “404 Not Found” error page. Obviously you don’t want your readers to be annoyed by clicking a link that leads nowhere. You can check the links yourself but that might be quite a task if you have a lot of posts. You could use your webserver’s stats but that only works for local links.

The reason I installed this plugin was because I run and maintain another website and I knew it had a lot of broken links.  I tested various software online before I realised there was probably a plugin which did the same.  I receive an email whenever a broken link appears within my website, you can easily go and double check the link, amend it or ignore it.  I like the way it prompts you instead of you having to manually do a search of your website. 

 

Facebook for WordPress

This WordPress plugin makes your site deeply social by integrating functionality from Facebook.

This is a new addition to my website and one which I wasn’t completely sure about at first.  There are lots of features within this plugin, and some of which I am not using.  I have opted to use the ‘Like’ button at the top of each post and the ‘Subscribe’ button at the end of each post.  The plugin will also publish any new blog posts to my Facebook page wall, and this will be my first post to do this so I will be interested to see how it turns out.  One of the options I haven’t opted for is the comments box, and the reason I haven’t (because I think it’s a great way of interacting on Facebook) is because it completely removes the standard comment box on my posts.  When I post a comment on a blog, I always opt for the integrated box rather than the Facebook one, unless this is the only option.  I did just remove the recommendations option, because I have found a better alternative (see below), but I think it was a great addition.

 

WordPress Backup to Dropbox

WordPress Backup to Dropbox is a plugin for WordPress that automatically uploads a backup of your entire website, including all files and its database, to Dropbox. It has been created to give you piece of mind that your website is backed up on a regular basis.

Just choose a day, time and how often you wish yor backup to be performed and kick back and wait for your backup to be dropped in your Dropbox!

I’ve had a Dropbox account for some time, so to have this plugin integrated into my account is great.  My whole website gets backed-up each morning and goes directly into my Dropbox account.  I now set this up as standard on client WordPress sites, because even if I am unable to fix a crashed website at least I’ll have all the files close at hand which means someone can!

 

WP Greet Box

This plugin lets you show a different greeting message to your new visitors depending on their referrer url. For example, when a Digg user clicks through from Digg, they will see a message reminding them to digg your post if they like it. Another example, when a visitor clicks through from Twitter, they will see a message suggesting them to twit the post and follow you on Twitter. You can also set a default greeting message for new visitors (not matching any referrer URLs) suggesting them to subscribe to your RSS feed.

I came across this plugin while reading another post about plugins, it looked interesting and I thought it was quite good at getting people to share my posts.  I’m not sure how well it works in getting people to share, but I quite like the fact it knows where you have come from and reminds you to reshare.

 

Subscribe / Connect / Follow Widget

Subscribe / Connect / Follow widget for WordPress displays image links (icon buttons) to various subscription services and social networking sites in the blog’s sidebar (or in any widget holder).

To find a plugin which has the full complement of social networking sites all in one place took me quite some time.  I tried various plugins, but usually I had to have separate ones for different networks.  This one, although you can only have five, is great because you can choose the important ones you want displayed on your website.

 

As a bonus plugin, check out nrelate Related Content which I only installed today!  

Launched in late July of 2010, the nrelate Related Content plugin has become one of the most popular content plugins used by bloggers today. Whether showing internal related links, links to partner content, or sponsored posts, the plugin is a great way to increase page views, reduce bounce rate, and even make some extra cash.

I haven’t had a lot of time to test this one, but taking a look at what it does for each of my blog posts makes me want to include this in my list.  I only came across this plugin this morning and installed it immediately.  I loved the idea that nice images and recommended reading would be at the bottom of each of my posts.  It took a couple of hours to populate, but it seems to be working like a dream now.  Do let me know what you think?

I love to try out new plugins, what are your favourite WordPress plugins and why?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

Plugins Your Blog Readers Will Love

I used Blogger for my personal blog and had not really considered WordPress until I needed a business website.  It took me some time to get my head around the layout and the various tools I could use to create a great website incorporating a blog, and all for a great price for my domain and hosting from Development Island.

One of the benefits of using WordPress for your blog or website is the various plugins available to you, and most of them are free.  I can easily spend a few hours searching for plugins which will either make my website/blog look better or save me some precious time.  I thought in this blog post I could mention a few of the plugins I use and love, but also some links to other blog posts that share great plugins.

So to start with some of the plugins I use on my blog which I wouldn’t be without…

CommentLuv

I did a blog post about CommentLuv some time ago, Spread the Luv on your Blog!, which was really popular.  When you comment on a blog which has the CommentLuv plugin it will take the URL you put in the comment and find your most recent post and advertise it under your comment.  It’s great for giving something back to your blog readers.  I often find some interesting blogs by looking at the CommentLuv links on the comments made on my blog.

Broken Link Checker

I only downloaded this plugin today but it’s just what I was looking for.  I changed a few pages around on my website a few weeks ago and I realised that some of the links no longer worked.  I tried a piece of software I found online but instead of achieving what I was after it took my website down by the constant crawling of my pages.  Then I tried something else but just couldn’t get my head round how to use it easily.  A plugin like this is so easy to install and start using straight away, I now have a list of broken links I can access directly from my dashboard and fix them!

Subscribe / Connect / Follow Widget

I had been looking for something to show my social media profiles but many didn’t use all the sites that I use, this one incorporates all the various networks I use, there are 35 to choose from.  The only downside of this is that you can only show up to 5 accounts, so make sure you choose the most important ones.

Tweet Old Post

This one I have been using for some time, it saves me so much time and can be customised to suit your own blog needs.  It will tweet your old blog posts at random intervals, you pop in the settings when it should tweet, the number of hours between tweets and just let it get on with the work.  You can even exclude certain posts if you don’t want them tweeted, for example I had some Christmas related blog posts which are irrelevant at this time of the year so I just excluded them.  It’s a great plugin and would recommend it to everyone if they use Twitter to promote their blog posts.

Bumpin Facebook Fan Page

This plugin results in the little pop up at the bottom right of my website, which shows my Facebook fan page and my Twitter account.  You can add more buttons, but I wanted to keep it clean and I felt these were the two social networks my visitors were more likely to want to look.  From the bar at the bottom you can view all updates on Facebook and Twitter without leaving the page you’re reading, I think it’s great.  I’d be interested to hear from you if you’ve used this on my site, and whether you feel it’s a good idea?

Now I’ve mentioned some of my favourite plugins, I thought I’d give you a few other blog posts which showcase some of the other great plugins out there.

Firstly I received this post in my ProBlogger RSS feed this morning – 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog – this is where I found out about Broken Link Checker, I plan on testing some of the other plugins later this week.

Here are a few more:

10 Must Have WordPress Plugins Of 2012 Every Blogger Should Know About

21 WordPress Plugins I Can’t Live Without

Blog Smarter: 5 WordPress Plugins to Help You Make Money From Your Blog

I’d love to hear what plugins you use, especially ones which will save time and will improve my website/blog… let me know in the comments below!