WordPress 3.9 Released

wordpress-3-9

wordpress-3-9If you read my last post on keeping your WordPress site updated then you may already know about that WordPress 3.9 has been released today. As well as some under the hood and bug fixes there are some new features that are quite useful.

Live Preview of Sidebars and Widgets

Yes now you no longer have to add your widgets and then run to view your site to see if it messed anything up. You can no add and edit your widgets and see what they do in real time BEFORE it affects your site and if all is good then you can click save to make your changes live.

Instead of going to Appearance>>Widgets (which is still there for you) now as an option goto Appearance>>Customize and you will see a preview of your site. On the left will be a menu of your theme options as well as all the widget locations for the page being shown. You can navigate your site just like you normally would to find the correct page then click on the left to edit your widget places (or sidebars) you can even add new widgets right here. Once everything looks great hit Saved up top.

Live WordPress Gallery Views

Another cool feature is when you add WordPress Galleries to your page or post, instead of seeing a big gray box you now actually see the gallery. Exactly like you will see it on your site

Improved Image Abilities

You no have the ability to just drag your images directly on to the editor now without having to click Add Media first. You can also directly drag and resize your images in the editor (I still recommend making your image the size you want before uploading. Its also easier to rotate and crop your images directly from the editor

Other Nifty Features

  • Audio and Video Playlists (add just like galleries)
  • New Theme browser
  • Header editor
  • Copy and paste from other sources (i.e Microsoft) strips formatting garbage out automatically
  • A link to return to editor from your post revisions list (thought this should have been there for a long time)

When you update its always a good idea to do a back up, and be sure to check often in the next week as many of your plugins and themes can be coming out with updates to make them compatible or at the least work better with WordPress 3.9

The Three Ups of WordPress Maintenance

wordpress maintenance

wordpress maintenanceSo you now have a wordpress website and now you can just blog away with no worries. Well if you are running your own website there are a few things you still need to keep up with to keep your site going and secure. I like to call them the Three Ups.

Backups – Updates – Clean Up

Backup Your WordPress Site!

I have posted about this before but it never gets old. Just like your computer at home your site needs to be backed up often. Don’t depend on your host servers to do this for you and before you do there other two steps you should always do a backup as well. With WordPress there are two types of backups you can do.

The first one is your database. If you blog or make lots of changes this should be done on a daily basis. The other is a full file backup where you are backing up all files in on your server as well as the database. These can be done the hard way, logging into your server and doing a SQL export of your data base and copying all your files by FTP or a more simpler way is to use a backup plugin.

My recommendation would be Backup Buddy. This is a premium plugin but it’s worth it for the peace of mind that that it gives you that you have a back up Of your site. With Backup Buddy you can schedule your daily and weekly backups to occur  automatically and even send the backups to your Dropbox or email which is what you want. What good is a backup stored on your web server if it crashes.

Keep WordPress and Plugins Updated.

Just like Facebook, WordPress and your plugins come up with changes (but typically they are for the better at least).  These updates can be for new or improved features but a lot of times they have bug or security fixes.  This is the main reason that you should be keeping up with updates. Even if you don’t log in to blog you should be logging in once a week to check for updates.

Its quite simple to do. Once logged in go over to your menu and hover over ‘Dashboard’ and then click updates. You’ll see a list of plugins with updates as well as a notice up top letting you know if WordPress itself has an update. From here you can proceed to update everything needed.

Please note that some premium plugins and themes that are not located in the WordPress repository may need to be manually updated by FTP and may not even notify you here, so be vigilant and check where you got your plugin or theme. Especially after a WordPress update.

If you wish to be emailed when there are updates needed I recommend the plugin Wordfence. It is mainly a security plugin with lots of great features to keep your wordpress site secure and one of those features is to let you know about updates by email.

Clean Up Your Website

Every time you hit Save Draft or Update after you have published a page or post WordPress saves  a revison.  This is great if you need to go back a revision or two, but sometimes you can end up with 100s of revisions and this all takes up room in your database. WordPress by itself does not have an easy way to clean up these old revisions so a plugin is the next best thing.

Also just like a hard drive, your database can get messy with additions and deletions. This can cause a slow down of your site, something your visitors will not appreciate and can even give you a penalty in the search engine department.

If you are looking to do this on your own there are many plugins that will perform both of these cleanup tasks, one I have used with success is WP-Optimize. This plugin will remove all your old revisions and perform a database optimization on request and should be done once a week at least if you are active. They do have a premium version of course that will allow you to schedule these tasks automatically.

Don’t Wish to do This on Your Own?

For those that find these tasks daunting or just don’t want to mess with it I of course have Maintenance plans that will cover these tasks. I utilize special software that allows me to perform these tasks quickly and easily on a daily basis. From optimizing your database, backing up your site daily and weekly to a separate server to even removing those annoying spam comments.

for more information you can go to my maintenance plan page or send me a message.

Jetpack: The Plugin People Love to Hate

jetpack plugin

jetpack_plugin
Jetpack can be considered the swiss army knife of WordPress plugins. It gives you many cool and useful little plugins all wrapped up inn one interface. You may have read on many other blogs how people hate it for various reasons, but if you look closely these people are skilled developers and Jetpack was not made with them in mind.

It is more for the layperson that wants an easy way to do something without hunting around for that perfect plugin. Yes there may be a better plugin out there to do one of these tasks, but again Jetpack may offer a simpler and quicker way for you to get it done. Jetpack comes pre-installed when you first load up a fresh wordpress installation. Yes you can of course remove it if you wish and if you change your mind later you can re-install it just like any other plugin.

The Good Things About Jetpack

When activated you will see Jetpack in your left menu towards the top, since jetpack is made by the people at WordPress they get top priority in the menu. When you click on you will see, as of this posting, 31 neat little baby plugins if you will. I doubt you will use many so let me run down a couple of my favorites.

Site Stats

While this is not for those data hungry users out there (thats what google analytics is for), it is great for quick on the fly stats. I will tell you how many visits you received each day along with a graph of the past 30 days. It also will provide you with pages your visitors viewed, referrers, and search engine traffic. You can also have a mini stat report on your dashboard. A great thing about Site Stats is, unlike some other stat plugins, the data is stored on WordPress’s server and will not bloat up your database.

Publicize

This one is great for those that blog. You can connect it to your social media profiles and every time you do a new blog post it will automatically post it to your profiles. Works with Facebook, Twitter, LinkendIn, Google+, Tumbler, and Path. The one downside is it will work with your Facebook profile or Facebook page but not both.

Sharing

Sharing is another great one for those that blog. We all would like people to share our blog posts with others and this mini plugin places share buttons to the most popular social media sites on each of your posts with out you having to do anything. My only problem is out of the box it doesnt center on the post, but Im kinda anal that way.

Contact Form

Every site should have a contact form, a quick and easy way for your visitors to contact you with comments or questions. There are many plug ins to help you with this but most can be a bit tricky to set up while Jetpack’s is super simple. Just go to the page you want the form on and click the new button that says “add a contact form”. A pop up appears with the basic text fields but you can others if you wish. Then set the send email address and subject line and you’re done.

There are a few others that may be worth your time to do something you wish but these are the basics that I may use when setting up someone’s site or you would most likely use on your own.

The Bad and The Ugly

With the good comes the bad of course and Jetpack does have a few detractors to be aware of. One of the biggies is you have to have a wordpress.com account. Yes I have spent time getting everyone away from the free version and going self hosted only to now tell you if you want to use Jetpack you still need to set yourself up with a WordPress account. I still stand by being self hosted for all the reasons I have previously talked about 🙂 Having a wordpress account is for things like Site Stats above, all the data is stored on your WordPress account and not your database this is a good thing. Some of the other plugins I have no clue.

Another bad is when you activate Jetpack every single little feature is activated out of the box! This can put unneeded coding into your site which you want to avoid. Above I talk about 4 plugins you may use (maybe a couple others) out of 31 so the majority you will never need. I mean how many of you need a plug in to show complex math equations? Yet it is activated right out of the box. So you will need to deactivate all the ones you are not going to use.

And now for the ugly. So you sit and stare at all those plugins on the Jetpack page and scratch your head “where is the deactivate buttons?” yea they kind of hide it on you just to be difficult. You first have to click on the ‘Learn More’ button then the ‘Configure’ button will change to the ‘Deactivate’ button. Nice huh. Be sure you also check after updates to see if any new features were installed already active.

As mentioned for the layperson or even me when Im creating a simple site for someone these little plugins contained in Jetpack can make life simpler even with the couple drawbacks. They do their job with out a lot of fuss or set up.

If you need something more elaborate I’m sure there is a plugin out there for you.

Have you used Jetpack? What are your experiences?

WordPress Basics for Blogging and Websites

wordpress_logo1-300x282Interested in having your own website or blog but just dont know where to start? WordPress has become the number one tool for creating websites and personal blogs and it makes it so easy to do. Even if you hire someone like me to set up and create your site it is a good idea to learn how to at least do posts, especially if you plan on being a blogger. This class will cover the basics to get you up and running from scratch quickly.

We will cover:

  • What is WordPress
  • What kind of websites WordPress is for
  • What is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org
  • How to install wordpress software
    • Getting your domain name
    • Site hosting
  • What is the difference between post and page
  • What are categories and tags
  • What are themes and plugins
  • How to install theme or plugin
  • Layout of a WordPress site
  • Media uploader
  • Blogging
    • Sticky posts
    • Schedule posts
    • Draft posts
    • Password protected
  • Recommended Plugins
  • Basic SEO

One thing we will not get into (much) is HTML and CSS. The idea is when we are done you can set up your own self-hosted site and start blogging with out knowledge of any coding. At the very least youll be able to blog on a site set up for you 🙂

Class will be limited to 12 people.

Date: Feb 8th
Time: 3PM

Location: Cosmic Frogs Photography

9535 Mission Gorge Rd. Ste H
Santee, CA 92071

(class based on a minimum participation, if not met class will be rescheduled)

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WordPress Security: First Line of Defense

wordpress security

wordpress securityIm sure you’ve read about the recent hack into Target where the hackers accessed lots of user information. Just because you are a little website or blog don’t think you are immune. There are people out their that hack little websites just for fun, to prove that they can, and then all your hard work could be gone in an instant.

There are many ways for you to protect your WordPress site to protect yourself but there is on simple way to start, and it should be your first! Your user log in!

When you first create your WordPress site its going to ask you for an Administrator username, by default it will use ‘admin’. Please take this time to choose something else! You would be surprised how many just let it stay that way, don’t worry if you are saying opps right now I’ve done it as well. Leaving it this way gives hackers 50% of what they need to to hack your site. The first thing they will try is ‘admin’ but don’t worry if you have done this as it is really easy to fix and takes mmm about 2 mins if you are slow.

  • First log in to your site (yes with that admin user name of admin)
  • Next go to Users in the left menu and click ‘Add New
  • Now create your new user with a new user name besides admin. Don’t make it to common.
  • Next enter an email address, it has to be different than the current admin user but you can change it later.
  • As an extra step go ahead and enter your first and last name in there as well.
  • Be sure to use a strong password. Uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and characters are recommended
  • Then in the drop down selection labeled Role select administrator (very important).
  • Next click add new user
  • Log out and log back in under your new user account.
  • Delete the old ‘Admin’ User. It will ask you you if you want to delete all posts connected to the user or reassign them to your new user account. Yes reassign or they will be gone.
  • Now go back to users and click Your Profile you can now update all your info here as well as change email address back to the one you use.
  • As another smart precaution, in the drop down selection labeled Display name publicly as select anything but your user name 🙂

Thats it! Your first line of defense is now complete. I’ll go into other ways to protect yourself but this first one is a must. Of course if you need a hand you can always hire someone like me to help you out 😉

 

It All Depends On How You Define Unlimited Hosting

Unlimited Hosting Hoax
Unlimited Hosting Hoax

I have mentioned this briefly in past posts but it has become a pet peave of mine.

Unlimited

It is a powerful word, meaning with out limits. No ands, ifs, or buts… Unlimited. Unless of course its your hosting company.

You see most hosting companies offer dirt cheap rates for hosting and entice you with unlimited hosting. Unlimited space and unlimited bandwidth, etc. What about the fine print? Good luck finding it, because although you will not find it it does exists.

The true meaning of unlimited.

Lets start of with the big one, unlimited storage space. For only $x.xx a month you’ll get unlimited amounts of storage space…. But…. If your space contains more than X number of files then we will no longer back up you site for you.

You can also have unlimited number of domains…. But… If said domains cause more then X number of server processs to occur we will shut down the account temporarily.

You can also have unlimited bandwidth… But… If you exceed a certain level we will throttle your speeds back.

You can have unlimited email accounts… But… look out for restrictions above on processes and storage space.

You see they do not place limits on these items but as a consequence of you trying to use the unlimitness they find other ways to cap you and encourage you to move up to the next level. The biggest catch all they use is “if it is determined that it causes detrimental service to other sites on the server you will be suspended”

Yes boys and girls unless you on a “dedicated” or VPS you are sharing the server with 1000s of other little sites (yes thousands) all clamoring for a piece of the same resources. So you can see that unlimited on one of these servers does have a ceiling.

So what does it all mean?

Over all these hosts are not bad and most of you will never run into these limiting factors on unlimited services. You should just be aware of these things and ask questions of them so that you are informed about what you are getting into.

Hostgator is one of the largest hosts out there and one I have recommended in the past  (still do if you dont want to host directly with me!) and they practice the same misleading terms. When I got my first shared account with them I was all excited with the unlimited sites/storage/bandwidth deal and started putting sites on it. One being my main photography site and another being my tattoo photography site. Those two alone brought it up to the first limiting factor of 100,000 files. Soon with a few more sites I was running into the 25 processes at a time limiting factor. So I quickly learned and have had to move things around.

As I mentioned above and if you have pursued the site you know I do offer hosting now as well. No unlimited anything, you pay for what you use and you know what? Most get by with the tadpole plan and have no issues whats so ever.

What about you? Any pet peeves or stories with your hosting provider?

It’s my Birthday, Its my Birthday

Well later this month it is. So that along with kind of a grand opening of the new site here I’ve decided I’d be giving you the presents!

Start a new website here at the lilly pad, signing up for annual hosting payments and I’ll give you three months for free as well as a free domain! Includes free migration from a WordPress.com site or Blogger site.

Want to move your existing WordPress site to my servers and enjoy some of the benefits? Same deal applies!

Thats it, short and sweet post this time but be sure t0 subscribe below as I will having more tips and tricks coming out soon!

Also don’t forget you can sign up for my affiliate program and earn a little money while spreading the word of the frog!

* free hosting only applies to new clients

WordPress Image SEO – 5 Easy Steps

Wordpress Image SEO

Welcome to my new blog 🙂 Some people are ok with doing their site themselves and thats great! Many of my

blog posts will be tips and tricks for those that do to hopefully enhance their WordPress and website experience. Well kick it off with this post with an often overlooked topic.

Proper Image Optimization

Images are an important part of any website experience. They should compliment the site and/or article it is posted on and can visually give your vistors an idea of what the subject is. No post should be without at least one image, besides the above reason the other is it can enhance your sites SEO. Often webmasters (hey Im guilty as well) just load up their images and move on forgetting about these key aspects that will give them some free SEO juice.

#1 Image File Name

Change the File Name
This no doubt is the most often missed or not used option to you. Rename you image file to the topic of your post including your keywords, but dont get carried away just a few words or less. Its quite easy to do, just get your image together in Finder or if you are one of THOSE people the in your Explorer and right click to change the name. I do know  in Finder you just click the image once then click the title and it will highlight just the title for you to change, leaving the extension alone (which is important dont change that)

#2 Size Does Matter



No don’t mean that. I mean your Image File Size, where smaller is better. You may want to open the image in your favorite image editor and check the size. WordPress does resize your image to different sizes for use in your blog, but you shouldn’t depend on it to do the best job. You see when you load a web page it will go out and grab the full size image and then do its resizing depending on the width/height info you placed in the tags. If the full size image is larger than this the browser still has to struggle bringing in the full image than resizing it, this can slow down your website immensely and can be the number one SEO killer (yes those spiders notice the speed). So a good habit is to resize to the exact size you will have it on the site. If you are going to take advantage of WordPress’s multiple sizes then at the very least size it to the maximum size you will be using, making sure its at 72dpi as well.

Even though you have resized it you should still define the size in the image tags. Its easy to do in WordPress and it will typically do it for you.

#3 Image Title Tag

Image Title Tag

What exactly is the Image Title Tag? Well Google itself says this:

[notification type=”success”]The “title” attribute is a bit different: it “offers advisory information about the element for which it is set.” As the Googlebot does not see the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the “alt” attribute. Feel free to supplement the “alt” attribute with “title” and other attributes if they provide value to your users![/notification]

So it is a way to tell search engines what your image is about and thus what your article is about as well. WordPress again makes it easy for you to not have to code anything. When you load up an image there is a field to enter your Title in. Again keep it brief, just a few words not a novel.

#4 Image Alt Tag

Image Alt TagThe Image Alt Tag can be considered even more important but more so towards function. Its orignal use was for browsers that are text only (yes they do exist) and can not display images. So as an ‘Alternate’ they display what you place in the Alt tag. Search engines look at this just like the title tag as a means to describe your image and the article its attached to.

Wordpress Image Tags
Yes click this to make it larger

#5 Link Your Image

Search engines like links, gives them something to do I guess. By default WordPress will but in the link to the original image. This is good if you are placing a smaller image in your post and you would like your visitors to be able to see the full version. If you do this I recommend doing so with a lightbox plugin so the image will pop up and look nice and keep them on your article. Without it your visitors will just go to another page with just the full image, ripe for either image theft or leaving your site. The alternative is to have it link to your home page, back to the same post or if you are promoting a product or service than link to its landing page.

All of these items can easily be added or changed when you upload your image to your WordPress site.

BONUS: If you’re lazy or forgetful I recommend the plugin SEO Friendly Images This plugin will automatically apply Title and Alt tags to all your images, based on the parameters in the settings, were it is currently blank. Life saver at times!

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