Category Archives: Software

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Is It Okay to Blog on a Subdomain?

One of the first steps in launching a new blog is to decide whether you want it on a dedicated, new domain, or as a subdomain of an existing website that you own. Subdomains are essentially websites that are prefixed to the URL of another domain name, such as blog.yourwebsite.com. The hosted version of WordPress allows users to create blogs for free, assuming they use their subdomain (e.g. yourblog.wordpress.com). This begs the question, however: is it okay to blog on a subdomain?

Benefits of Blogging on a Subdomain

Let’s first talk about the benefits of blogging on a subdomain. For starters, using a subdomain eliminates the need to buy/register a new domain na me. Domain names aren’t necessarily expensive, but they will still set you back about $12-$20 bucks per year. Rather than footing the bill for a new domain, you can launch a blog on an existing domain that you own, saving you a little bit of cash in the process. Subdomains may also prove beneficial in cases where it is attached to a popular, established website. While Google has said that it treats subdomains as independent websites, many SEO experts argue that there’s some correlation between the subdomain and domain on which it is attached. In other words, setting up a blog on a popular website may yield higher search rankings for the blog.

Disadvantages of Blogging on a Subdomain

But there are also some potential disadvantages of blogging on a subdomain. Subdomains are incredibly difficult for visitors to remember, which means fewer returning visits. If a user wanted to visit a blog on a subdomain, he or she would have to type in the full URL in their web browser — this includes both the prefix blog name, as well as the main domain. If the user only types one or other, they won’t be able to access the blog. Subdomains also rely on the web hosting of the original domain. If the hosting for your primary domain goes down (it’s bound to happen sooner or later), so will your blog. With a dedicated domain, you can set up a separate web hosting service for your blog.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with blogging on a subdomain. Setting up your blog on a subdomain is cheaper, and some people would argue that it’s easier, but doing so may have a negative impact on the number of return visits it receives. If you are serious about blogging and willing to invest the necessary time and resources into it, you should probably stick with a dedicated domain. More returning visits means greater engagement, and that often yields higher search rankings. Don’t take my word for it, though. Perform a side-by-side test of two separate blogs, one on a dedicated domain and another on a subdomain, to see which one outperforms the other. Click to learn more information about the differences between domains and subdomains. What are your thoughts on subdomains for blogs? Let us know in the comments section below! Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/india_7/

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Safeguarding Your Blog from Hack Attacks

What preventive measures are you taking to protect your blog from hack attacks? Blogs are often targeted by hackers because of their use of content management systems (CMS). CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are inherently prone to hacking because they contain backdoor logins. The good news is that you can safeguard your blog from hack attacks by following some simple steps.

Use Dedicated Web Hosting

Many bloggers used shared web hosting, simply because it’s the least expensive option available. You have to remember, though, that shared web hosting means your blog is hosted on the same server as hundreds or even thousands of other websites. As a result, it’s easier for hackers to target websites on shared hosting, simply because the servers are more easily accessible. If you want to safeguard your blog from hack attacks, choose dedicated web hosting. Unlike shared hosting, dedicated hosting provides you with your own dedicated server (hence the name). Want to know more about the difference — click here.

Use a Strong Password

Your blog’s first line of defense against hack attacks is a strong, unique password. You shouldn’t use the same password for your blog’s login that’s used on other online accounts or services, nor should you use an easy-to-remember password such as your mother’s maiden name plus birth date. Instead, choose a password that consists of a combination of upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers (non-sequential order), and special characters.

Here’s a simple tip — use the first letter of each word of a favorite song title or lyric, mix up the upper and lower case letters and add some numbers / special characters. You’ll be able to more easily remember it than a random set of letters and numbers. Following this simple formula will ensure that your blog has an iron-clad password that’s difficult for hackers to crack.

Disable Visitor File Uploading

Are visitors allowed to upload files to your blog? Enabling this feature is just asking for trouble, as anyone can upload a virus or malicious software to your blog. Furthermore, don’t assume that restricting file uploads to JPEGs, GIFs or other commonly used media formats is safe. File extensions can be spoofed with relative ease, meaning a hacker may still be able to upload a virus without your knowledge. To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you disable all visitor file uploading on your blog.

Update, Update, Update!

Arguably, one of the most important steps in safeguarding a blog from hack attacks is to keep it updated. Each time a new version of your blog’s CMS is released, be sure to update it in a timely manner. New versions are often released for the sole purpose of plugging up security vulnerabilities and exploits.

Back Up Your Blog

Hopefully it will never occur, but if your blog is ever critically compromised you need a backup copy ready so you can restore it to working order. Assuming you are using a CMS, you’ll likely need to back up both your core HTML files as well as your blog’s database. Downloading one without the other may prevent you from being able to restore your blog, so make sure you download both the HTML files AND database.

Have you ever been the victim of a hack attack? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/110751683@N02/

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WordPress Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

How Do I Set a Static Page as My Site’s Homepage?

The default WordPress settings display a feed of your most recent posts on the homepage, which is preferred by most bloggers. But if you are trying to build a non-blog website, a static page would probably work best. You can assign a static page to your site’s homepage by logging into your dashboard and clicking Settings > Reading > and clicking the “Static page” button next to the option titled “Front page displays.”

Is WordPress Secure?

WordPress gets a bad rap regarding security, with many webmasters viewing it as a target for hackers. The truth, however, is that most attacks on WordPress websites are the result of outdated software, poor username/password combinations, or the use of dubious third-party plugins or other software. Developers have made great strides to create a secure environment for WordPress, and as long as you take basic preventive measures to protect your site, it shouldn’t become a victim of hackers.

If you are worried your site will become the target of hackers, check out our previous blog post here for more tips on how to secure a WordPress website.

How to I Find The Page ID?

Unless you have your site set up to use the page ID in URLs, you may have trouble locating this information. However, certain plugins require users to input page IDs. You can find the page ID by clicking the Posts or Pages button and hovering over the post/page from which you would like to obtain the ID. In the status bar you will see something along the lines of “post=123,” with the number being the page ID.

Should I Use Hosted or Self-Hosted WordPress?

There’s really no easy answer to this question, as both hosted and self-hosted versions of WordPress have their own strengths and weaknesses. Hosted is great if you’re looking for a fast and easy way to get started. With that said, self-hosted offers far more features and customization options than its counterpart. For these reasons, we recommend using self-hosted WordPress if you are serious about creating a successful blog or website.

How Do I Use a Plugin?

One of that many reasons why WordPress is the leading content management system (CMS) is because it supports the use of plugins. But how exactly do you use a plugin? There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, one of which is by using the platform’s built-in plugin search tool. From within the WordPress dashboard, access Plugins > Add New > and search for the plugin that you wish to use. Next, click “Install Now,” at which point the plugin will download to your site’s plugin directory. Last but not least, go to your plugins and click the “Activate button,” at which point it should be ready to go!

Have any other questions about WordPress that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/transkamp/

Tips To Speed Up a WordPress Blog

file0001193647297Does your blog suffer from long load times? Forcing visitors to wait just a couple extra seconds may seem harmless enough, but it can have a significant impact on your blog’s functionality. Amazon recently conducted a study in which it found that every 100ms of latency resulted in a 1% decrease of sales. Considering the fact that Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, that translates into millions of dollars.

But you don’t have to be Amazon to feel the effects of long load times. When visitors are forced to wait five, six, seven seconds or longer, many will click the back button in their browser, never to return. No only does this affect your traffic, but it can also affect your blog’s search ranking, as Google will take note of the high bounce rate and other metrics attributed to long load times.

Caching Plugin

One of the easiest ways to speed up a WordPress blog is to download and install a caching plug. As the name suggests, these plugins are designed to enable caching in visitors’ web browsers. So instead of downloading the necessary files each and every time a visitor accesses a page, they will have it stored in their browser. WP Super Cache is an excellent caching plugin to use on WordPress blogs and sites.  It essentially creates static HTML files from dynamic WordPress sites — HTML files that are later cached into visitors’ web browser.

Resize Images Before Uploading

Why should you resize your images before uploading them to your blog? WordPress has a nifty resizing tool, but the problem with this tool is that it forces visitors to load the original image before the newly resized one. So if you resize a massage image to use in a blog post via this tool, visitors must still load the original, massive image first, which of course takes longer and adds latency to your server.

Choose a Reliable Host

This tip is universal and not limited strictly to WordPress. You want to choose a fast and reliable web host to service your website. Granted, you may save a couple bucks by choosing a shared hosting plan from some reseller, but it will end up costing you more in the long run. Stick with a proven and reliable web host that you can trust.

Have any other speed tips that you would like to share with our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!

Pros and Cons of User-Generated Content

trustrank2Do you struggle to come up with new topic ideas for your blog? If so, you may want to consider allowing user-generated content. Doing so is a great way to regularly  fill your blog with fresh, unique contents. When your blog has unique content, it will usually reap the benefits of a higher search ranking. However, there are both pros and cons to allowing user-generated content, which we’re going to discuss further.

Free Content

Let’s face it, buying content from professional authors and service providers is downright expensive. While many companies sell articles for as a little as 1 cent per word, high-quality, error-free content often costs ten times as much. User-generated content is  free. Each time a user publishes a new article, comment, forum post, etc., it adds value to your blog in the form of free content.

Higher Search Rankings

While Google has yet to reveal its exact formula for ranking websites, we know that content is a prime ranking signal. This means websites that allow user-generated content will usually — but not always — achieve a higher search ranking. New content encourages search engine bots to crawl your blog, at which point they’ll view it as being an authority figure.

Credibility

Allowing user-generated content to be published on your blog helps to build credibility. Visitors will view your blog as being a leader in its niche/industry if it contains helpful information published by other users. Of course, it can have the opposite effect by hurting your blog’s credibility if you allow the wrong type of content to be published.

Security

One of the biggest issues associated with user-generated content is the potential for malware, viruses, spyware or adware being uploaded to your blog. Even if you restrict users to uploading specific file types, hackers and other individuals with malicious intent may bypass these measures by spoofing the file name. Long story short, user-generated content can leave your blog susceptible to viruses and malicious software.

Moderation

Another hurdle faced by blogs with user-generated content is the task of moderation. Unless you want to take a chance your blog will be riddled with low value content, you’ll need to ensure all new user-generated content is reviewed before it’s published. Going through and approving or denying users’ content will ensure only quality, relevant content is published to your blog.

Do you allow user-generated content to be published on your blog? Let us know in the comments section below!

Hosted vs Self-Hosted WordPress: Which Should I Choose?

wplogoPowering over 75 million blogs and websites, WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the planet. It features interchangeable templates (known as themes), as well as plugins, an active community of developers, and a boat load of features. If this is your first time launching a WordPress blog, however, you’ll need to choose between the hosted and self-hosted version.

The hosted version of WordPress can be found at WordPress.com, whereas the self-hosted version is available for download at WordPress.org. The main difference between the two is the way in which they are hosted. Self-hosted versions of WordPress require the user to download the core files, upload them to their web host, and perform the manual installation. Hosted versions of WordPress eliminate the need for manual installations, as the files are set up and hosted on WordPress’ servers.

If you’re going to use the self-hosted version of WordPress, you’ll need to register a domain name and sign up for a web hosting service. Domain registration typically costs about $12/year for a dot com, while web hosting services run about $10/month for low-end shared accounts. The hosted version of WordPress offers free hosting for up to 3GB of data, at which point you’ll have to pay for additional storage. You can also choose to set up your hosted WordPress site as a free sub-domain (e.g. yoursite.wordpress.com) instead of buying a domain name.

The thought of receiving free web hosting services at no cost may sound enticing, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that hosted WordPress is the right choice. For starters, websites and blogs hosted on WordPress.com are riddled with advertisements — advertisements that you don’t get paid for displaying on your site. You can remove ads on your site by coughing up $29.97/year, but it seems a bit ridiculous to pay to remove ads.

Of course, the real deal-breaker with hosted WordPress is its lack of plugin support. One of the great things about WordPress is its massive library of plugins, ranging from basic sitemap creators to all-in-one SEO plugins. Unfortunately, webmasters and bloggers using the hosted version won’t have the option to use plugins, nor can they use custom themes.

To recap, hosted WordPress is a great way for new bloggers to get their feet wet without investing a ton of money. If you’re serious about blogging, however, you’ll want to stick with the self-hosted version. It requires a bit more time, money and work to set up, but the end result is well worth it.

Do you prefer hosted or self-hosted WordPress? Let us know in the comments section below!

How To Find Photos For Your Blog

photos1As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, holds true in the realm of blogging. You can spend countless hours crafting the perfect blog post, but without images it won’t have any lasting impact on readers. In fact, a recent study found that 93% of the most engaging posts published on Facebook were images. Whether you use Facebook or not, this study attests to the power of web images.

But you can’t simply copy an image from another website and upload it to your blog (usually), due to copyright rights. This is both unethical and illegal, as the owner must give his or her permission for you to use it. So, how are you supposed to find photos to use on your blog?

One excellent source of photos is Flickr’s Creative Commons, which contains well over 300 million photos licensed under Creative Commons. Basically, you are allowed to use the photos if you follow the respective category’s requirements. For instance, the Attribution category states: “You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give you credit,” whereas the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs category states: “You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work – and derivative works based upon it – but for noncommercial purposes only.” Crediting is typically done by placing a link to the owner’s Flickr account. Note: the second category of images can only be used on personal blogs and websites, not commercial ones.

Wikimedia Commons is another valuable tool for locating free-to-use images. Much like Flickr Creative Commons, however, you must adhere to the license attached to the image.

Of course, you can always purchase rights to use a photo from various stock photo websites like iStockPhoto.com. Depending on the size and type of photo, prices can range anywhere from $1 to $50 per photo. On the plus side, stock photos are often higher quality than photos found on Creative Commons sources, making them an attractive option for serious bloggers.

If you have a camera on your smartphone, you can always take the photos yourself. Most smartphones today pack some pretty decent cameras, such as the Galaxy S5’s 16-megapixel camera. And with a little touch-up work in Photoshop, you can make them look just as good as stock photos.

Where do you obtain photos for your blog? Let us know in the comments section below!