Posts Tagged ‘WordPress’

Improve WordPress Database Performance

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I was browsing Greatnexus Internet and Web page and came across Yoast’s Optimizing WordPress Database Performance article. This article caught my interest because I have been having issue with my VPS crashing more often than it should and was trying to figure out what’s wrong.

In the article Yoast, mentioned a new WordPress plugin called Debug Queries and said that it’s design to help you find inefficient database queries — naturally, I was interested. I downloaded the plugin and installed it on my main blog. The result was very surprising. Debug Queries found that my home page was making 1,776 database queries per page load — yes, almost 2,000! Upon further inspection, I found the offending plugin to be Cross-Linker. After deactivation of Cross-Linker, the number of database queries dropped to 21.

This is unfortunate because I like the plugin. But fortunately, I found another linking plugin called KB Linker that works just as well, and impressively, the number of queries remained at 21.

So I just want to shout out to Joost de Valk, Frank Bültge, and Adam R. Brown.  Good job guys. Thank you for terrific blogs and plugins.

4 Approaches to Making Money from Blogging

Monday, January 12th, 2009

So, you’ve heard that people can make money from blogging, but you’re wondering “how exactly does that work, and what approach would suit your blog?”.

Text Links

You have a website which has outgoing links, other websites want to rank with search engines, and one of the main measures for page rank is the number and quality of incoming links. So, there is money to be made from selling links on your site, and the advertiser is generally not that bothered if nobody ever clicks on the link.

This can be a reasonable source of income both from aggregators and private sales, but it doesn’t scale that well — after a certain point, you can’t earn more money as your blog grows. The main downside is that it is not at all popular with search engines and you may find your own ranking in searches is lowered as a result.

Ad Networks

You have a website which has visitors who click on links on your website. Other websites are are willing to pay for visitors. There is money to be made from selling advertising space on your website, you either get paid when someone views an ad, or when they click on it.

Making money this way requires a reasonably sized audience, and search engine traffic is considered to click more on adverts than regular readers or subscribers. Ad network income generally scales very well, and it is possible to make this the cornerstone of a money making strategy reliant on a single blog in the right sort of niche. The downside is that unless your website is very large, you’re unlikely to make private sales and will be reliant on an ad aggregator (e.g. Adsense, ). In practice this means that you will give up a fair amount of control over which ads are shown, and there can be restrictive terms and conditions.

Affiliate Links

You have a website where you mention products and services. Other companies are willing to pay commission for leads, inquiries or sales. There is money to be made by linking to the product or service if your visitors are likely to click on the link and follow up with a purchase.

Affiliate links scale well, and there is the potential for using both aggregators and private arrangements. You generally have complete control over which affiliate links are shown on your blog, and existing readers and subscribers are more likely to click on affiliate links than straight advertising. The downside is that making money from affiliate links depends strongly on the niche you are working in. There needs to be an obvious relationship between the topics you write about, and some products or services. So, for example review blogs do very well from affiliate sales, as can blogs related to expensive hobbies, but if you rarely mention specific products or services then you will probably struggle.

Consulting and Sales

You have some skill or product that you wish to sell. Your blog is strongly related to this skill or products. Other people will pay money for your skill or products.

You need to have genuine skills or a product to sell that people are interested in. Your blog needs to be strongly positioned towards making sales, in fact becomes somewhat of a sideline. You need to research any legal issues thoroughly before offering consulting, and ensure that you have back office systems set up for dealing with clients or completing sales. This works very well with business to business internet sales (e.g. selling WordPress themes, or blog consulting services) and fairly well with anything that can be done remotely, it is much harder to do if your skill requires you to be actually present. The biggest downside is that this is not passive income — you’ll actually have to work for the money, as well as blog.

Issues to Consider

You need to have the right set up in order to make money. Some free blog networks like WordPress.com don’t allow their bloggers to run advertising so check your terms and conditions. It is generally easiest to grow your blog’s income with self-hosted web hosting and your own domain name, but other approaches have worked for some people.

It’s possible to use a mix of approaches to making money, but be careful. If you are selling a product or skill then you might not want to use Adsense for example because the ads that come up are likely to be for competitors. As mentioned, selling text links can have a negative impact on your search engine visitors which are the primary source of income for most of the other forms of advertising.

Invariably, making money means paying taxes on the net income. Check out the regulations in your area, but you can usually make deductions for legitimate business expenses like hosting, domain names and Internet access. If you have a tax advisor or accountant already, you should contact them with your plans, often tax departments have phone lines you can call for advice on issues.

Finally, the standing of your blog is always dependent of having good content, and your credibility can be harmed by having a blog design with intrusive advertising. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by letting your desire to make money overcome your common sense.

Best of luck, and here’s to your first million (or at least hundred)!

How To Start A Blog in 9 Easy Steps

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Over the past few weeks, my friends and I wrote about different aspects of blogging and how to position your blog more successful. In this post, I would like to take a step back and talk about how to start a blog. Specifically, I will discuss how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog since we already established that it’s one of the best platforms to start on.

Launch
Photo by rocatis via Flickr

Please note the discussion below assumes that you are interested in monetizing your blog and attracting readership. It’s not as applicable to if you want to blog casually.

1. Establish a business plan for your blog

This doesn’t have to be a full business plan since blogging has a very low cost of entry. But before you begin, there are several things you need to consider:

  • What’s the main focus of your blog? — I discussed this in Key to Successful Blogging. Be sure to pick a topic that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.
  • What are you trying to accomplish with your blog? — Do you want to start a blog to complement your business, products, and services? For side income? For notoriety? To open doors to other opportunities? To help others? To keep yourself accountable?
  • What are your expectations? — How much time are you willing to commit? What level of traffic, subscribers, income do you expect 3 months, 6 months, and a year from now? What would you do if you fail to meet those expectations?

2. Find and register a domain name

Once you have identified your blog’s topic, it’s time to find relevant and brandable domain name. I discussed this topic in detail in How to Create an Amazing Domain Name. I currently use GoDaddy.com and I do recommend them for domain name registration.

3. Find the right web hosting company

Finding the right web hosting company is probably one of the bothersome aspects of starting your own self-hosted web site. I have used many hosting companies in the past, including GoDaddy.com Hosting.

I am currently with Media Temple and have been very satisfied.

I think the four most important things to do when you start out initially are:

  • Pick the Linux package over Windows. With Linux you will have greater flexibility with .htaccess and working with PHP.
  • Pick a host that offers cPanel and phpMyAdmin administrative interfaces.
  • Use the lowest cost package. Don’t worry, you won’t go over the limits any time soon.
  • Sign up for 1 month only. Extend an additional month if you are happy and slowly work your way up to full year commitment. Use the money back guarantee if needed.

Here are a few more web hosting companies you could choose from:

4. Install WordPress

Installing WordPress is not too difficult, but it could be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the web. The basic steps are as follow:

  1. Download WordPress
  2. Unzip and FTP files to your web host
  3. Set up database
  4. Set up database username and password
  5. Update wp-config.php file
  6. Run WordPress built-in installation
  7. 5. Find and install a WordPress theme

    One of the nice thing about WordPress is that there are literally thousands of theme to choose from. With minimal effort you can make your blog looks fairly unique. I discussed this in detail in How to Find the Right WordPress Theme.

    6. Install and set up essentials plug-ins

    Plug-ins are add on programs that enhance the functionality of WordPress. You can find hundreds of plug-ins at the WordPress plugin directory. However, the ones that I considered essential are:

    7. Set up companion accounts and integrate their functionalities

    Companion accounts are other online services that make your blog more effective. I shared more information in 12 Essential Companion Accounts for a Successful Blog. Basically, these accounts will help in different aspects like monetization, marketing, traffic generation, search engines optimization, and so on.

    8. Configure your WordPress installation

    Once you have everything set up and installed, you’ll have to make everything works together. This involves making configuration changes in the administrative control panel, as well as some minor tweaking of your WordPress theme. This latter part will involve a little bit of HTML and PHP programming.

    9. Start blogging

    That’s it! You’re done and ready to share your ideas with the world. At this point, you’ll want to read How To Grow A New Blog Efficiently and other fine articles to help your blog grow.

Why Did You Choose Self-Hosted WordPress?

Friday, March 7th, 2008

In my “12 Essential Companion Accounts for a Successful Blog” article, Lisa from Greener Pastures asked:

“I am on the free Blogspot Software, but I notice everyone keeps mentioning WordPress. Could you talk more about this? I’m thinking I should convert, but wanted to keep my budget on this project as minimal as possible.”

Instead of answering by saying why WordPress is good, or why Blogspot (Blogger) is bad, I have asked a few of my friends who switched from other blogging platforms to self-hosted WordPress.

Wordpress

Paidtwice from I’ve Paid For This Twice Already… said,

“I started my blog on WordPress.com because I had heard great things about the WordPress platform and I wanted a free blog to write my thoughts. I never intended to go beyond that, actually. I never intended to make blogging more than a very casual hobby and I certainly never intended to have actual readers who were interested in what I had to say.

But, as I kept blogging, I started to grow. I had more and more visitors come to my site and interact and I became more and more a part of the personal finance community. And that is where I started to hit the limitations of using the free WordPress.com blog. I lacked the freedom to customize to the extent I would like, and make improvements I thought would be beneficial to both me and my readers. So after a lot of deliberation, I committed to actively growing my blog and switched to self-hosting. And I haven’t looked back since.

As well as giving me the freedom to customize and monetize and statisticize my blog, being able to install WordPress plugins has really improved the overall functionality of the blog itself and allowed me to spend more time writing and thinking and less time tweaking.”

Mike from Quest For Four Pillars said,

“I never made the switch but hopefully the logic still applies…

I used self-hosted WordPress when I started my blog because I had talked to a couple of more established bloggers who suggested that if I was serious about blogging (I was) then starting with a proper self-hosted blog is the best strategy. WordPress seemed to be the best platform available because of the plugins and support available.

A lot of bloggers who just want to “dip their toes” will go for a free blog platform and it will probably work pretty well for a while. However there are limitations in the customization you can do to a free blog so inevitably most bloggers end up going to a self-hosted platform which is a real pain because you have to move to a new domain name and hope you don’t lose half your readers. Moving old posts over (which have search engine value) can also a problem.

My suggestion for a new blogger is to think about if they want to “do it right” from the beginning and pay for a self-hosted platform. If they want to try a free blog for a while then make the switch as soon as you know you are serious about blogging. The longer you wait the harder the switch will be.”

Plonkee from Plonkee Money said,

“I asked for feedback from some more established bloggers about how I could improve my blog, and one of them said that if I was really serious, the best thing that I could do would be to switch to self-hosted WordPress. At that point I’d been blogging for 3 or so months, and I was more confident that I’d be able to handle the back-end stuff, so I decided to go for it.

I remember thinking that it was awfully expensive, compared to free, at just over $100 for the year, but since then I’ve more than made back what I put in through advertising, and even if I hadn’t made a penny from my blog, it would still have been the best blogging decision I’ve made. The ability to customise what I’m doing, is probably the biggest thing, and the fact that WordPress is ubiquitous means that there is plenty of support. It’s really not as daunting as I first thought.”

Madison from My Dollar Plan said,

“I tried writing articles for two weeks on a free WordPress.com blog that was private. I used it to get a feel for blogging and how to link to other blogs. I also made a goal to keep writing for 2 weeks, since it usually takes 14 days to create a habit.

Once I felt I was ready for my debut I purchased a domain and installed WordPress. It was very easy to move all the articles over to my new site. By spending some time upfront practicing, once I started promoting my site I already had some planning and legwork done.”

Mrs. Micah from Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life said,

“I switched to WordPress.com because I liked the look. I could have stuck with Blogger, but it seemed less professional. The comment page was particularly annoying. WordPress.com was good and I had my domain directed there for a while.

But you also couldn’t really modify a lot of things like the code without paying extra for it. I figured that if I was going to pay money to modify the code and such, I might as well pay a bit more and do whatever I wanted. I’d become very involved in my site and felt constantly thwarted by WordPress.com’s limitations.

Self-hosted WordPress lets you use/add all sorts of tools — plugins, timed posting, etc. You can actually use scripts, unlike WordPress.com (scripts including simple things like Sitemeter and Google Analytics). And WordPress.com doesn’t allow advertisers. It seemed like my views [traffic] were getting pretty good and I might be able to make a bit of money (more than enough to cover web hosting) if only I moved. Which was true, I’m able to cover hosting and have so much control over my blog.”

So there you have it, real-life reasons why bloggers moved from other blogging platform to self-hosted WordPress. If you did the same, I would love to hear your story. Please share.

5 Essential Items Every WordPress Blog Should Have

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Every blogger starts at the same place – a theme you chose and your first article. But once you start writing and getting your groove, you will want to do more for your blog to help promote it and follow it’s growth. Although there is a ton of advice available on what every blog should have, these 5 items that I have chosen are a good place to start if you are just starting a blog or just starting to look under the hood to see what you can do to improve it.

A Robots.txt file – If you do not have a robots.txt file installed inside your blog, you might be allowing the search engines to see duplicate content and other content that you do not want indexed. This is very important because you only want your content to be indexed at places like Google, and not, for instance, your categories, certain informational pages, your RSS feed, or your admin pages. You can normally see anyone’s robots file by just putting robots.txt after the domain name – “www.example.com/robots.txt”. You can create this file in any text editor, and there are samples available everywhere on the internet and on most major sites. Check out your favorite blog and see what theirs says! Once you have created the file, you should save it as “robots.txt” and place it in your root folder of your blog through your FTP program.

A Google XML Sitemap – This easy-to-use plugin generates a map of your WordPress blog for Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and Yahoo. A sitemap basically tells search engines how your blog works, where the content is, and anything else that helps the search engines index your site correctly. I use the plugin that is actually called Google XML Sitemaps. Set up is easy – download the file, FTP it into your Plugins folder, and activate it. Once you have done that, click once on “Rebuild Sitemap” to create your sitemap the first time.

Akismet Spam Killer – I was a big fan of Spam Karma for stopping spam comments and trackbacks; that is, until I started using Akismet instead. Each day, I was receiving tons spam comments and trackbacks, no matter how much work I put into blacklisting IP addresses or deleting comments. So I switched to Akismet, and BAM – it stopped. Not one spam comment or trackback in the first 5 days of use! Amazing. This is another simple plugin – download, upload to your Plugins folder, activate. In order to activate though, you do need a WordPress API key, which you might already have. If you don’t you can get by signing up for a simple account at WordPress.com (even if you host your own site somewhere else). That’s it, you don’t have to do anything else!

All-in-One-SEO – Probably the easiest to use Search Engine Optimization plugin available, the All-in-One-SEO pack is something no WordPress blog should be without. I mean, you want the search engines to find your great content, don’t you? With this installed, you can automatically optimize your titles for search engines, generate META tags automatically, and helps to avoid duplicate content. Even if you don’t do anything other than install the plugin and activate it, this plugin will help your blog get noticed by the search engines. But if you do decide to tinker with it, there is a lot you can do to optimize your site, and the explanations on how to use it is very well done. A definite must have that I have used for a long time.

A way to track visitors – You want to know where people are coming from and what they are looking at, don’t you? Sure you do! I have both Sitemeter and Google Analytics installed on all my sites, and each of them serves a purpose for me. Sitemeter I use as a basic “quick-look” stat counter, where I can see how many visitors I get in a day, where they came from, and how long they stayed. I take a look at it daily so I get a feeling as to how the site is doing. Google Analytics, on the other hand, is a monster of a tracking program – you can see traffic referrers, bounce rates, item uses, time of day vs. amount of visits – basically anything you could want to track, you can do with Analytics. And I think the coolest part is that you can run weekly or monthly reports, and export them as Excel or PDF files. These come in very handy when advertisers want to see your traffic numbers!

All of these things are free and very easy to use, and no blogger should be without them. And although there are many more things that every blog could have installed, if I had to pick 5 to install right away from the beginning, these are the 5 I would pick after blogging for quite some time. In another post in the near future, I will cover each plugin that I have installed on my sites, and how I use them all to my advantage. Happy blogging!

How to Find the Right WordPress Theme

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Whoa, is there such a thing as the wrong WordPress theme? Sadly, the answer is yes. There are literally thousands of themes out there. There are some really good ones, and inevitably, there are some bad ones too.

Moolanomy Theme

Where to find WordPress themes

Before I show you what make a theme bad, I would like to share some resources where you can find WordPress themes:

10 Signs of Bad WordPress Themes

This is not a hard and fast rule, and certain flaws are worse than others — also, some could be fixed with relative ease. Note that my theme doesn’t pass all the tests either, but I know where the problems are and I am working on it. In other word, you may have a tough time finding the perfect theme that passes all these 10 points.

  1. Ugly — I know beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So you have to decide on this one. If it’s ugly, move on and don’t even bother.
  2. Doesn’t stand out — Another design problem is using a theme that looks the same as everyone else’s. Worse, you have a theme that look very similar to the more popular blogs in your niche. Your theme is an important part of your brand, so it’s worth investing a little time to make yours stand out.
  3. Bandwidth hog — Some themes have too many images, large CSS file, add-on JavaScript files, and large HTML files. Make sure that what you are getting is worth the bandwidth usage. To check your theme bandwidth efficiency, check out Web Page Analyzer from Web Site Optimization. If you use Firefox, try Firebug and YSlow add-ons combination (awesome!). Some tips on reducing bandwidth usage:
    • Reduce the number of images, scripts, and external CSS file (each image takes at least 1 HTTP request)
    • Optimize images to make them smaller
    • Reduce the size of CSS file — i.e., using Clean CSS — or you can do it on your own by stripping out comments, extra spaces, reduce long-hand coding to their short-hand equivalents, etc.
    • Eliminate unnecessary clutters from your blog — i.e., links, text, images, widgets, clicklets, etc.
  4. Database hog — Some themes can make a lot of unnecessary calls to the database. For example, Tigopedia Reloaded uses only 2 database calls compared to its predecessor that uses 30+ calls. Other than that, judicious use of plug-ins will also help reducing database usage.
  5. Invalid HTML — This is probably one of the easiest problems to fix. Unfortunately, some theme designers don’t even take the time to validate their code. To check if your theme validates, try the W3C Markup Validation Service. You can use the “show source” option to help you track down and fix problems.
  6. Invalid CSS — This is similar problem to the HTML validation. To check your CSS validation, try the W3C CSS Validation Service.
  7. Poorly optimized for search engines — There are many articles about how to optimize WordPress for search engines, but when it comes to theme, we are dealing mainly with location of content relative to other code, use of headings, and use of links. In general, good theme has the following characteristics:
    • Present main content first and sidebar(s) afterward
    • Use only one H1 heading for the post title (some may argue using H1 for blog title, but I think it’s more advantageous to use H1 for post title)
    • Use links sparingly and link directly to the post title
  8. Poor separation of content and design — Good theme should make good use of id and class attributes. It should have very little style declaration inside the template files itself. Also, CSS and JavaScript code should be in separate files and not included with the main HTML page.
  9. Inflexible (hard to modify) — Code should be clean, well formatted, and strategically commented. I have tried several themes in the past and there are some that are so hard to work with, I simply stop using them.
  10. Portable — One of the common problems I see when visiting blogs through a portable device (e.g., a blackberry) is bad rendering. Occasionally, I will see blog showing broken CSS code before I can get to the content. If you have an opportunity, check your site through a portable device and see for yourself. To get an idea on how your blog appears on text only or portable device, try Lynx Viewer.

I hope this post help you find your next theme. Before I go, I also want to share a really cool plug-in called Admin Theme Preview. This plug-in let your blog runs uninterrupted, while you can work on a new theme in the background.