Which Themes Will Best Build Your WordPress Blog?

A Theme Is Expected To Make Your Content Look Good

First Steps In Blogging: Choosing Your Theme

I have been blogging ever since 2004, and for the greater portion of that time I have used WordPress for the platform (although I have also used others including Blogger). I’m one of those experimenters who is always changing things around, so I have used countless theme templates for my blogs.

I know it can get confusing sorting through the thousands of template choices, which seem to do a hundred different things, so I thought new bloggers, or people thinking of setting up their own blogs might benefit from some of my experience.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE:

  • A quick rundown on what it takes to start blogging, and then a look at some of the types and choices of themes that will help you forge your online presence.
  • Start with a simple theme that best serves your site’s purpose. Or go with a professional theme that gives lots of support through forums, etc. Once you are used to the way a designer structures the themes, especially if there is an underlying framework (like Genesis), you will find your way around it and get it to function for you through familiarizing your self with the way that particular theme works.
  • This won’t tell you that any particular designer is the best, but just to give you, the new blogger, a beginners guide to sorting through a huge playing field of theme designs.

5 Blogging Decisions

Top 5 Website Decisions

  1. Choose your platform
  2. Choose your theme
  3. Choose plugins
  4. Write content and decide frequency of posting
  5. When and how to monetize your site

These are the most important decisions to make when you begin a blog.

Beginner’s Guide For A Headstart

WordPress Websites: Beginner's Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4)
WordPress Websites: Beginner’s Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4) Once you have your site up and running, will they come? They will if you get smart about the use of social media and the art of gaining readers.

Choose The WordPress Theme For The Purpose Of Your Site

Because WordPress is one of the most popular platforms, it has been extended through themes and plugins for all sorts of special uses. Some themes have special plugins incorporated right inside to make things wonderfully flexible and useful.

It used to be that each theme had its plugins for common features like slideshows, etc.

The prevailing wisdom is to allow those features to be handled by plugins as they are commonly used: separately.

News, Food, Photos? Ecommerce?

  • Most of the professional lines of WordPress theme designers have a whole slew of specialized themes all ready for you to create the exact type of site you want.
  • Photo blogs need to highlight their great pictures. Art blogs are similar. Portfolio highlights which have images instead of text for entries or large images with minimal text serve these sites well.
  • News site and how-to sites are well served with magazine style themes.
  • For most blogs a typical 2 column style with either a left or right hand sidebar is the classic theme choice.

WordPress blogs are so versatile that they can look like almost anything and function for many purposes from ecommerce to community sites (with the addition of buddypress or bbpress). The more complex the use requirements the more likely the theme will be highly complex and probably professional, costing a fee.

Those themes are a far cry from the early ones that had just a small number of templates.

What Is A Template?

The structures inside the theme which create posts, pages, contact pages, 404 pages, archives, etc.

 

How To Install A WordPress Theme In Your Site

Your Blogging Experience

Free Or Professional Themes For WordPress?

In blogging, one of the first things you will decide is the platform. This is the general software that supports your blogging site. WordPress is one of the most popular today, and can be both self-hosted (you pay for your hosting and run your blog on the server space of your hosting plan) or free, through WordPress.com.

Other platform examples:

  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Tumblr
  • Drupal

But since you have made the choice for WordPress, the next big decision is how you want your site to look and act, and that “frontend” experience is dictated by your “theme”.

Themes can be both simple and extremely complex, they can be free or professional (themes that you buy) also known as “Premium themes”. When I first blogged, I used only free themes. I now need more features and I have purchased professional themes.

Once you decide on WordPress, the fun just begins

At first it might seem there is little difference between free themes and pro, especially if you can find a free theme with support, with a community centered around troubleshooting and guiding newbies. There are even free themes with complex features, and a great look. But generally, a pro theme will have a higher level of design expertise, good code, and be kept up to date in compliance with the many upgrades that WordPress has engineered in recent years. In the case of the “Hybrid core” themes: the themes are free, but the support forums and articles require a paid membership.

I found many years ago that keeping up with the complexity of code, features that I wanted, and time to design were just too much for me as an individual blogger. I broke down and purchased a Pro theme membership.

Membership- what’s that?

OK. In professional themes there are often two ways to go:

Buy a single theme for a set amount of money OR buy a membership to a design company you like and have access to many themes and the support of experts. The choices are yours (choices, choices!).

Always Changing

The internet, and thus the type of writing and the look of websites, is always changing. The one thing that impacts wp theme choice today is the transition of web users to mobile phones. No longer is the desktop the primary way we access the web. This has resulted in another choice that we ought to be making:

CHOOSE A RESPONSIVE THEME FOR YOUR BLOG.

A responsive theme is one that looks good in a variety of size screens, and adjusts well to mobile users.

Most web designers are creating their frameworks and themes to be responsive now, but if you have made a previous decision, check to be sure your present one has “responsive” features.

My Own Challenges

I write lots of content and the field I blog in is crowded, and getting more crowded every day, so I need something that will stand out. One of the biggest problems for me has been the pagespeed, or time necessary to load a page on your computer screen. The template is going to impact these challenges.

CHILD THEMES ARE RECOMMENDED

The updates for WordPress result in the need for the templates to update, as well. When that happens many of the customizations are lost. Some themes have an interface which helps to preserve your changes either through use of an area to add your css or to add a “child theme”. I like it when the designer adds easy customizations to the backend or admin are of the theme.

Tips To Help You Choose The Right Theme

  1. Make a List. Do you want a blog, a gallery of photos or art? Need a portfolio for clients or e-commerce possibilities? What do you want people to do on your site?
  2. Check how much support is given for the theme. Is there support from creator or forum? How satisfied are the users of the theme? Take note of these things and add it to your decision.
  3. Check structure and flexibility of the theme. Does it have the type of pages you need? Are the style and your content a good fit?

About The Major WP Theme Players

Who Are They? What Are Their Benefits?

Some of these well known designer companies started with free themes. I used them in the past. This is not a definitive list, just some comments about the ones I know enough about to have opinions about their themes. The first two are theme platforms (theme structures that support many different styles).

Divi Is ET’s Cadillac Theme

Divi is their premier theme.
Divi is their premier theme.

Elegant Themes

This is the one I ended up paying for, probably because I am kind of artsy in my predilection for theme looks, and Elegant themes has one of the most artful, and just plain pretty, looks to their themes.

Elegant Themes, by Nick Roach, are a bit complex, but made easier with the back end epanel that automates most decisions of style and action. Support is so-so, but I don’t have other experience to compare it with. The entire line of many themes- all sorts of styles and basic purpose (they have a dynamite portfolio page) themes to choose from.

I have some affiliate links, if you decide to buy their themes and want to possibly support me in some small way. Note: I became an affiliate after I liked their themes, and am not advocating because I am an affiliate.

It seems like many of the best free themes went professional, and some of theme have limited free versions available. “Platform” Pagelines is one of those, look for others.

Platforms are the software that run the blog. WordPress is a platform for blogging. “Framework” is the basic structures under the “parent themes”, underneath those are the”child themes”. The platform runs all the functions and bells and whistles in the background, the theme or the framework has the basic and not so basic features that creates the look and use of the site. A parent theme is alone or under the child theme, which “sits on top” and is called for creating the specific look of the theme- the colors, graphics, and typography, as well as special templates. It can completely change the way the parent theme is experienced by visitors.

Not all themes are built apart from special frameworks, but many of the pro theme are, and the looks are usually the result of child themes. Look for Thesis and Genesis family themes to have this type of setup.

Best Theme? Review And Advice

What Are The Big Changes In Themes?

  1. Mobile friendly has gone from a suggestion to mandatory. This is driven by the shift of users from desktops to their phones for most internet use.
  2. Design plainly favors a “flat look” that is directly related to its good looks on a phone screen.
  3. Functions increasingly move from inside the theme to a separate plugin.
  4. Style ranges, but a light modern look reigns. Alternatively, handcrafted, like watercolor elements has grown in popularity.
  5. Clean interface and fast loading becomes ever more important for a professional site.

Thesis Theme by DIYThemes

Thesis is used by some of the most successful bloggers, but so is Genesis. It has a more open look.

At first this was the premier theme platform that all the serious bloggers wanted, Genesis has since caught up.

I used the designer’s, Chris Pearson, famous ‘Cutline’ theme for quite awhile on one of my blogs. His design technique is clean and he was known for his beautiful typography. The Thesis theme has a distinctive clear grid that supports all sorts of features. I have not purchased it. Some love this theme, others found it complex to work with (word on the street of bloggers I “follow”.)

Personally, I would consider working with it just because of its nice open feel.

Genesis Theme

I used Brian Gardner’s themes before he started “Studiopress” and loved them. If I had been ready to buy a theme at that time, I would have stayed with and bought what turned into the “Genesis” theme. I am still considering it, although I hate to switch from themes I am familiar with ( learning curve when starting to use a new type of theme).

Genesis themes have a distinctive blocky look that is eye-catching and easy to navigate. They can be highly customized (in my experience). They are very well supported.

What are the assets and liabilities of these choices?

Free Pro
Costs nothing Costs a fee
unlimited styles,some great,some poor pro styling
sometimes supported, usually by fans usually supported, by experts
often has built-in links to theme creator links can be deleted

What Was I Using?

Past tense because I bought a premium set of themes that did not live up to the promises. Caveat emptor.

I bought MySiteMyWay for myself, I liked them so well. Unfortunately they didn’t keep up with updating and I had to count it a loss.

Both Elegant Themes and Studiopress have proved reliable.

I also purchased and used Elegant Themes, and Studiopress, which I had used in the past.
Each one has a learning curve to use, but they also provide forums and support.

Presently, I use Elegant Themes on almost all my sites, but still experiment with the latest free WP theme that comes shipped with the software.

Become A WordPress Ninja

I WISH I HAD A GUIDE IN THE EARLY YEARS OF STARTING A WORDPRESS BLOG

There is no reason for a steep learning curve with all the great learning resources available today. A book will condense all the important steps so you can start the important part: writing all your great content.

WordPress Is The Top Choice, So Learn To Use It

WordPress Domination - Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero
WordPress Domination – Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero

Don’t let your WordPress blog just sit there, learn how to develop it into a powerful online presence. Even if you are starting from zero knowledge, a guidebook like this can take you quickly through all the steps.

 Buy Now

WordPress to Blogger?

Usually it is the other way around, but if the easy route is desired, Blogger is easier to learn.

Switch From Blogger To WordPress

Success Isn’t A Secret

WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)
WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)

The big three for many people starting a WordPress blog: builb a good site, get readers to come and stay, make some income.

 Buy Now

Get To Know Your Theme

Go to the forums or get some initial support to know what your theme can do for your site. It will save you lots of time and otherwise you may not use all the features.

Which is best? Do you have a theme you love?

WordPress Themes, Pro or No?

Which side of the fence are you on?

Blogging Resources and Advice

Starting Your Blog

In updating my Blog Resource Page, all the information written moved here. It is still current and helpful, but things I recommend and why need revision. This post has more explanation of the why and wherefore for using certain choices than I think is best for a no-frills resource list.

If you are new to blogging, sort through the following advice for timesavers and tips.

Free Themes

I recommend the default WordPress themes to start out with, unless you are sure you know what you want. There are free child themes available for them. Between the choices that all have the name “Twentysomething” ( series starting with ten, you should be able to find a theme that suits your blogging needs.

History of the default themes

The Swift theme was one that I used on this site for awhile and warmed up to it.

Update I had to change the Swift theme to the PageLines since the hackers kept getting into the Swift theme, which shows that security is a big deal in choosing a theme.

I have always liked the typography of PageLines, though I did miss the bright colors of Swift. Plus, I don’t think there should be a free theme that only gets updated to work well, forcing you to buy the premium version. That is something to watch out for, although it is much less likely to happen now. Not a problem with the bigger theme developers who have a reputation to stake.

I did a test-drive of the default free themes on this site before deciding to use Divi.

 

Paid Themes

I use Elegant themes (Divi) in my garden sites, and one of the earlier ones on TrueGrit, a religion blog.

I switched from experimenting with their new themes to using mainly their pride production: the Divi theme.
It has pros and cons. Although as time goes on the improvements are wiping out the negative opinions.

Pros

Divi is highly customizable and can do about anything you want it to.

It is responsive (extremely important, now).

Easy to work with.

Cons

The main thing I don’t like is one of the things I also do like: the pagebuilder.

The pagebuilder uses shortcode components that helps you build a page the way you want it. Making landing pages, etc is simple. But if you change from the Divi to another theme like the WordPress default, all the pages which you built show only the shortcode blocks .

This is highly inconvenient, to be locked into one theme.

Solution?

A plugin that helps to sort out the shortcodes coding on the site, or changes made by the ET developers to make all of the shortcode reside within a plugin that remains no matter what theme is chosen.

 

Looking For A Theme

  • Find features you need.
  • Pleasing layout and typography for readability.
  • Responsiveness now tops the list of needed features.
  • Support might be important for you, and regular updating certainly will be.

Now Using Fourteen Sixteen Theme

 

Further Update: WordPress made the good looking magazine theme for 2014 and I switched to it.  I am very happy with so many of its features that I imagine staying with it for quite awhile.

Further, Further Update: I kept updating until the twentysixteen theme. It doesn’t have the customizing plugins, nor is it easy to change the look. I love it for its functionality, though.

It is a good beginning theme. However I will say that for a complex site like my Garden site, the Divi pro theme from Elegant Themes is better suited to what I ask from WordPress.

  1. It supports a large number of post formats
  2. Good looking with cool feature image looks
  3. Showcases content well
  4. Safe and well updated
  5. Plugins made to provide extended control

Plugins

  • Color plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Fourteen extended plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Editorial Calendar is truly useful for anyone. I just started using one for my garden site and wished I had discovered it years ago.
  • SEO is super important and I like Yoast’s plugin the best.
  • There are several good social sharing helps, right now I use Shareaholic, which includes related posts.  I used  YARPP for years, and that worked well,  too -especially with new improvements it has now.
  • Akismet to deal with Spam. Bruteprotect to deter hackers. These are in the Jetpack. Yes, I use it.

There is controversy about the Jetpack, but I used enough of its features to make it worthwhile. It disturbs me to know that some feel it bloats and greatly increases loadtime for the site.

I switched back to YARPP after Shareaholic made changes that I really didn’t like. I no longer recommend it and deleted the plugin from all my sites.

I wrote about some of my favorite plugins, here.

Disclosure: I use affiliate links for some of the resources. This in no way influences the opinions I post. Everything written is transparent and based on my experience.

The Blog Peripherals

What I’ve Learned from 1 Year of Blogging

A new blogger reflects on what it takes to make a go of blogging on her one year anniversary.

It’s not that the writing takes up all your time, it’s all the little things you do in the background. Time spent building your website, replying to emails, researching future posts, being active on social media. It all adds up!

Become A Garden Writer

writing for your blog

Improve or Begin to Write About Your Garden Experience

The world of garden writing is a varied one. Most of us think of it as pure nonfictional writing that covers the how-to of gardening, making a garden, and growing plants, but the best garden writing incorporates more, and there are pockets of garden writing that soar with inspirational prose and are hybridized with spiritual and motivational writing.

Write What You Know

  • …And write what you love, but that is not all.
  • Spelling is important.
  • Punctuation is important.
  • Work on improving your writing skills, consistently.
  • I want to write things for which my only explanation for writing is not, “I needed the money.”

Improve Your Writing Skills – Keep writing inspiration and tips handy

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov.

Poetic and rhetorical devices to enhance your writing. Work on improving the beauty and magic of your words.
Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love

Get to the gist of your goal to become a garden writer. Covering such topics as the “how-to” article and giving guidance on writing well, the will help you interest your reader and organize your outlines. The all important story telling gets a chapter, along with the nuts and bolts you will need for your blog or book.

Different Styles

…of writing are good to know and practice.

Garden Writing is Technical Writing

Though it may be primarily dressed in another form

In a sense all garden writing is technical writing. When the subject includes so much of science, such as horticulture and botany, a certain amount of precision and accuracy is needed. It is necessary to both identify the plants properly and to discuss the matter of designing and growing a garden well.

Even in a romantic fictional piece of garden-focused writing, it is important to get plant nomenclature and description correct for the reader to fully appreciate the thought and emotion being conveyed. To use some wordplay, it roots the imagination into the the fertile, substantive source of the writing.

How will the transport of the scent of lilacs be truly understood if the writing isn’t clear about the context of place, and the nature of the plant? Lilacs, for instance, are known to survive for a long time, surviving the ruin of a house or the disappearance of the other original signs of human habitation. The scent is a musky, heady sweet fragrance, and the shrub was once planted in almost every dooryard of old farmhouses. It is a plant that connects generations, and their memories of their own old homesteads…sometimes miles from where the family would finally settle. Understanding a plants persistence or ephemeral nature, its scent or unpleasant smell, where one might have happened upon it, or who was likely to grow it may make a world of difference in how to incorporate the response to a characteristic, the gardens, and the plantings into a story.

How-To Writing

In writing “how-to” information the technical aspects are easy to see. For success on the part of the reader, they need all the accurate information necessary to accomplish their desired task. Use expert information, and if anecdotal information is included, please label that so the reader can take that point into consideration in their own set of conditions.

Plants have many romantic common names, and there are enough duplicates which refer to very different plants to create some confusion, so the use of Latin names ( as frustrating as that can sometimes be…see the case of the aster or the autumn clematis…)

More Reading

Why Latin?

Be Accurate

  • Check your facts.
  • Check plant names.
  • Make it a rule to use Latin plant names, whenever possible.
  • Record up to date information on hardiness, etc.

How to Write About Gardening: Get a Camera, Open a Blog, Start Writing

writing rules

Most garden writing is “how-to” essay writing. It is largely non-fiction, although some of the best writers do use a story telling style as they describe their activities or what impressions nature makes on their lives. The format of “How to Grow” or “5 Tips to…” “10 Plants…” etc. also work well.

Try to visualize your audience. Is it a new gardener, or someone who is experienced and wants something new?

I personally do not like highly hyped garden writing, which is common in the genre. Not everything is easy, beautiful, or must-have in gardening. In fact, gardening is a highly individual occupation, with a range of tastes in what is considered ideal both in in style and method. Hype sells more, but restraint and valuable information educates leading to the success of the reader and the future cultivation of the hobby.

Anyone can have a beautiful garden that functions well for their family with all the planning helps and online tutorials that are available. I really believe that. It only requires taking the time to watch some videos and read some articles before you are ready to face the challenges and choices of making a garden.

Now, mind you, I;m not saying it is easy… or even simple, but it is easy and simple to start. And those first steps are supported with expert advice that is as close as your iPhone or PC to support you along the way.

The great thing about nature is that it wants to grow and thrive. So you are bound to have a number of successes. Failures are just learning opportunities, anyway. Write about both your successes and your failures; they both make interesting reading material.

Keep It Conversational

Writing in a conversationally is a style that mimics the way we communicate verbally. Almost all my online writing is done in this manner, which means I play fast and loose with numerous ellipses, sentence fragments, and such devices.

Common Writing Tips To Review – Do you have these skills under your belt?

 

“Read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

  1. Be clear, and edit, edit, edit.
  2. Avoid cliches.
  3. Use, but don’t overuse, adjectives and adverbs.
  4. Try to use as many of the five senses as possible.
  5. Research and validate your facts.

Who’s Who in Garden Writing – A sampling of those authors I like, and why

Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author
Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Helen Van Pelt Wilson

You may not be familiar with her name, as she was an American garden writer more popular in the past generation, but Helen Van Pelt Wilson was a writer whose warmth and love of garden plants sparked enthusiasm for creating gardens and growing things for many, including me. I recently purchased two of her out-of-print books through Amazon, so I could have copies on my bookshelf, since I had borrowed the library’s copies so many times.

His writing is clear, fascinating, and expert. John Brookes tackles the difficult task of covering a wide range of topic and does so with seeming ease. I love his books, filled with the best of illustrations to inspire and informative in the way only an excellent teacher can match. I own many of his books, and would gladly own them all.

Penelope Hobhouse

I love English Garden Writers in general, but Penelope Hobhouse has been the one to mark my sense of garden color and fired up my imagination more than any other. She, too, tackles very broad garden subjects, but it is her intimate garden experiences which I love to hear about and the illustrations of her matchless garden plant combinations which inform my own gardening.

Tracy Disabato-Aust

This is a garden writer from my own native Ohio. That is not why she is one of the best garden book authors, though. She creates garden books which are practical, inspiring, and ultimately the best for American gardeners. She manages to provide expert information that almost any gardener in the USA can use. That is a tall order for so vast and varied a country, but perhaps that accomplishment is due to her great design sense and the fact that she concentrates on the plants. You learn much about gardening by reading her books and they point to straight to the garden to put the head knowledge into experience. She is my favorite contemporary author, at this time.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll is an example of how a garden writer may be an arbiter of taste and change the landscape of how we make our gardens. Influenced herself by William Robinson, her writing grew from her landscape design prowess and reputation. She is still influential today and her ideas are the foundation of creating perennial borders and monochromatic gardens. Her most famous books have reappeared in reprints that are revised for plants name accuracy ( since many of the names have changed over the years) and with colored illustrations.

 

 

Penelope Hobhouse – Expert and Enjoyable Garden Writer

Penelope Hobhouse is an example of fine garden writing at its best, from her expertise on plants to her accurate and enjoyable prose.

In Search of Paradise: Great Gardens of the World

Start your own collection of her fine tomes.Her expert guidance through some of the great gardens makes for an excellent tour.

Garden Writing

 

Ilona’s Garden is a Website…. and my garden

I write about what I know – a key to better writing

Some websites are impersonal things. They are a company or about a product, or general information or lots and lots of information and writers. That is great- sometimes it is just what you need and want. But sometimes someone has decided to share a bit of their life and the wisdom garnered from their own experiences. That is what my garden website consists of, in Ilona’s Garden. Come visit with me and read about the plants I love or what I know about garden design. Or you can visit the blog on my new domain: Ilona’s Garden Journal for conversation and whatever is going on in the garden and during the season….

 

If you would like to know more about gardening my website holds the keys of my experience of many years in my central Ohio yard. It is always growing! I like to blog, play around with trying new stuff, garden (of course).

Designing for Zazzle and Cafepress are two new avenues I’m taking. Mainly on Zazzle, to help supplement income for online costs and to use my graphics and photos in an alternative way.

Little Known Secret About Garden Information Online

writing secrets
writing secrets

Maybe it is better known than I think, but the web is flooded by poor or just plain wrong garden information. It is true… and garden writers, in the confines of their hangouts sometimes will bemoan the fact. It isn’t a matter of a gateway, or a degree, or anything like that. It is a matter of experience with plants and gardens.

I noticed this when I was first writing my beginning pages on Geocities. There were garden websites that were getting quite popular, even though their creators knew little about gardening…. they were quite good at marketing and at making community. That is an expertise in itself, but it doesn’t help people garden successfully, except when they share their own hard won advice. And that is the secret sauce: real gardeners who like to talk “over the fence” about what is working for them and the basic how-to science and art of making a garden ( things like propagating plants, and building soil….etc,etc.).

Right now, there are a flood of garden writers coming online and making blogs from mainline media, like magazines and newspapers. It raises the quality of the writing, and sometimes of the information, but it also seems to bring the system of inbred networking and impersonal disconnect from that industry. That is just my opinion, you may think differently, but I still hold out for the individual voice of the everyday gardener who will tell you the truth when something won’t work for you. Or is just as glad at a small vegetable patch as at a magazine ready potager layout. Because it is all just as good, when it comes to people loving their little plot or -if they have it- spacious stretch of landscape, whatever makes it yours. Size doesn’t matter; well, it kind of does, but not in the way we think (mostly in how much work is involved).

Anyway, I want you to know why I keep laboring on creating a website for gardeners. I have LOTS of information and links going out to other great sources . It isn’t always easy to find my sites in the flood of new websites and blogs! But that is OK, once you find it I hope you will bookmark and then offer your suggestions on how it can be better for you. I invite you to do that by commenting on this lens, or joining the Ilona’s Garden Facebook page, which has discussion and comment opportunities and you can upload pictures of your own gardens,etc. That is an idea! I love other people’s gardens.

The marketing and writing lesson which I could away from the Squidoo community and others that count in creating truly helpful information is “to focus in”. That was something that was starting to get obvious as early as a couple years into writing about gardening. It is a huge topic when all the variables are factored in: climate,soil, plants,environments, animals,even fashions…. So my focus is not just Ohio, but on the groundfloor of “Central Ohio”. And from there everyone who has similar circumstances or similar needs for plants can benefit.

The little known secret for everyone is to find quality sources for your garden information. Sometimes hooking in with someone who gives you leads and links. That is why I started The Garden Librarian, too – to wade through the many garden books and find the best.

A comprehensive guide to garden writing.
The Penguin Book of Garden Writing

The Modern Writing Tool – A Mac Pro Computer

I switched to the Mac when I had to replace my laptop. There is so much going for the design and capability of this tool that you will be happy you made the decision to buy it.

A Place To Write – A Beautiful Inspiration To Write Daily

Can you imagine yourself sitting at a lovely writing desk, before a large window looking out into a blooming garden? can you picture yourself inspired to write all about the effects of the garden on your life, on your thoughts, and how you created the gardens with love? Can you convey the emotion of your heart when you peer into the face of your favorite flower? If you are not a garden writer yet, you may have all the makings of one. Give it a try.

a pleasant place to write
a pleasant place to write

Let Grammar Girl Help You – Improve your writing

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips)

Everyone can use some help on their grammar, and good grammar is a must in good writing.

Blog Well – No matter what your topic niche may be

ConcreteLoop.com Presents: Angel’s Laws of Blogging: What You Need to Know if You Want to Have a Successful and Profitable Blog

 

Better Writing Links

 

  • 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer
    A couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed. Now, without further delay…
  • 9 Expert Tips For Better Writing
    One of the things I like best about social media is the way it helps me discover talented writers. They remind me a lot of distance athletes with their…

Setting Up Your Blog

For those who have already:

  • Purchased their hosting
  • Purchased and set up their domain name
  • Installed their WordPress installation

This is a checklist of sorts for setting up a blog that will work well in the longrun.

Permalinks

First, change the permalinks from the default setup.

At first the blog will have a permalink address based on numbers. It looks like this:

http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123

The permalinks left like that will not be good for SEO, since urls are important keys in determining what the page is about.
Yoast, a well known WordPress expert who develops very useful plugins (a word about those later in the post), recommends simply using the

 /%postname%/

He also has a tool and instructions for those of us who set up their blog long ago. Change Your Permalinks Structure in WordPress. which I followed, just today, in fact.

Mine involved adding a line of code to my htaccess file (which is a little scary for non-coders like me).

So my best advice for you, if setting up your blog for the first time is to make sure your permalinks use the post name choice unless you are a news magazine of some sort.

Themes For Your Second Setup Task

Pick a theme. This could be harder than it seems, due in part to the sheer number of them, and the fact that a good theme for you is one that caters to the way you will use WordPress.

I think one way to save time is to sign up with a major theme developer. One of the best is Studiopress, with their Genesis framework. I used them in the beginning and sometime’s wish I had stayed with them, although I am also happy with my present Elegant themes choice.

Of course there are good ones that are completely free, and I tend to use the ones that ship with the new updates for the WP.

After choosing which one, follow these steps to install it.

The Old Way
  1. Download and unzip the theme.
  2. Use a ftp client (Filezilla is free) or your file manager to upload the theme files to the wp-content/themes
  3. Login to the admin section. Click on “Appearance” then click on “Themes”.
  4. Look for the name and picture of your theme. You can either preview the theme or activate it from there.
  5. Customize it if you wish by choosing the “Customize” link.

You can also search for and upload new themes directly on the Appearance/ Themes page. I prefer this way:

Now, The Recommended Way

Go to the “Appearance” tab in the admin sidebar. Choose the “Themes” tab, choose “Add New”, then,

  1. Choose a zipped theme file from your computer and upload it.
  2. Customize. That’s it!

 

If you want a template that goes the distance, use one of the fine professional ones listed here (affilate link).

Foodie Pro
Thesis Theme for WordPress

Adding Plugins

Plugins vastly expand the things your blog can do. They add function without the need to know code, and go digging around in Php pages. From free to premium, these plugins can do many things from creating an ecommerce store to sitemaps. I use many plugins, including those which serve up recipes, protect my blog, and the jetpack group.

The one caution is to not install too many or untrusted ones. They can slow down your site, unnecessarily or open vulnerabilities.

My report on the ones I use, WP Plugins.

These are the basic things you will need to setup, after which it is time to write, write, write, and join social media.

But those are topics for another time.

Build Your WordPress Blog: Plugins

Beginning or advanced bloggers who are building their WordPress site rely on plugins to make their blog do what they want it to. How do you find the best ones and what are the potential problems?

Plugins Grow Powerful

It used to be that the theme brought special functions to a WordPress platform, but increasingly the power has shifted from both the core installation of the WordPress software and from the theme to an array of plugins.

Plugins are the preferred way to expand function. This pullquote is by way of a shortcode plugin.
A plugin makes it easy to add the code necessary to do something either very simple like make a list of recent posts, to something very complex like adding a community system (i.e. “Buddypress”).

The WP team has increasingly decided to make features reside in something outside the core.

Remember

Too many plugins can cause “bloat” and slow down your site. Try to limit to your “most needed and wanted”.

Almost everything needed to find the best plugins are right within the dashboard of the latest version of WordPress. Simply find the button for “Plugins”, Go to “add new”, and search. Helpful categories such as “popular” and ratings will guide you to beginning the addition of plugins which expand the power of your blog.

Problems With Plugins

Most of the problems that arise with plugins revolve around “conflicts” with other functions or plugins, and “vulnerabilities”, or ways that hackers can get into your site through the code of the plugin.

With all problems from this source it is important that the plugins be updated. If you have updates in your wordpress installation, don’t delay implementing them. WordPress platform has made that easy.

What is more difficult is when you don’t know something is vulnerable or it needs updating when bundled into a theme.

Best practices that are now advocated by developers is that plugins handle many functions and that they “stand alone” instead of being introduced on the inside of a theme.

Recently, a well known, much used photo slider had been compromised in a very dangerous way. It was inside many themes, and alerts were put out, but there are many, many sites that probably go on without correction of the problem. Read about this here.

This isn’t to strike fear into your heart, but to educate you. Be aware of what to watch out for in a WordPress installation.

Things To Watch

Watch for conflicts between plugins or with your theme. If something isn’t working turn off all and then turn on one at a time to see if that is the problem.

How To Add A WordPress Plugin To Your Blog

 

Which Choices Out Of Thousands?

There are the basics, the features, and those for specific tasks.

Akismet is one of the basics. It prevents spam.

Although I changed around a bit, I use Yarpp (Yet Another Related Post Plugin) which brings up related posts for further discovery of your posts. This is an example of a feature: something your blog will really benefit from, but not a basic concern.

The third example of plugins that I like are those which add a function or feature that I need for a specific purpose. an example of that is one for recipes, or reviews. Adding social icons, or my favorite, an editorial organizer like “WordPress Editorial Calendar”.

Specialty Purposes

For recipes I like “Easy Recipe“, although there are others that probably would work as well. If I were a food blogger, I would want to research what worked best for my needs, and possibly buy a premium version.

Book blogging also has a choice of a number of special plugins for reviews. I like “Book Review Library” by Chris Reynolds the best.

Book Review Library
New Plugin for Adsense
Adsense Publisher Plugin has worked well for me.

I’ve tried a number of Adsense ones, but they had issues, so I’m now using Google Publisher for Adsense. It sometimes has problems with my theme, but is better than other ones I used previously.

The amount of this type is huge, and the best way to find what you want is to read reviews and find the recommendations of the users who test them. I like reading WPTavern blog for ideas about new ones.

 

Plugin
Feature
Price
YARPP
adds a group of related posts to keep readers interested in your content
free
Yoasts SEO
Powerful functions to help your SEO
free
BruteProtect
Secures against security attack
free

Dealing With HTML And CSS

I know how to use these, but many don’t. But despite the fact that I can customize my site and add tables to pages does not mean I want to have the headache of doing all the work ( espeically when it comes to building tables.

Never mind, Beginner and Expert alike! There are plugins that prove very handy for these chores.

TABLES

WordPress posts benefit form visual aids like tables. They are an easy way to organize information. The trouble is that a complex table can be hard to get set up. “Tablepress” is the plugin I use, it is an improvement on an older plugin that I have used on my garden site , and it works like a dream.

Tablepress

HTML ELEMENTS

Shortcode is the name for easy additions of blocks of code that do specific things. It used to be mainly built into themes, but now you can have numerous plugins that create boxes, insert Facebook like buttons, make image sliders- all sorts of things.

There is no single plugin that does this, but I like Elegant Themes shortcode plugin, not the least because I use their themes.

My Experience

I’ve had some trouble with plugins over the years. Some cause conflicted- even breaking my theme. If you have trouble with your theme or even your whole site breaks after updates, go through your plugins to see if that is the culprit.

METHOD:

Turn off (deactivate) all the plugins. Turn each one back on,, individually and check to see if one was causing the problem. Unfortunately, you will probably have to delete that one until the developer fixes it.

Many developers provide support and answer questions or run a forum where problems acan be addressed and fixed.

SOMETIMES IT WORKS UNTIL IT DOESN’T

If it worked and then suddenly doesn’t do what it used to, it maybe that you will have to find a similar plugin to do that feature. Authors don’t always keep them updated.

Or sometimes you find the occasional one that does something (secretly) that you don’t like, monetizers that take some of your income without your permission. Though usually it is through defaults you were not aware that you needed to change. This happens less with the newer plugins, which tend to cost something upfront.

Be aware is all I can say about that.

Online Income, The One Rule

There is only one rule and this post will outline how that rule worked for me as I’ve been working to turn my blogging hobby into an income.

The only rule about online income:

It constantly changes.

Yes, that is it. Simple, isn’t it? And yet, that is what can make it incredibly challenging.

There may have been a time when millionaires were made overnight, but if they are still looking for their online business to provide income revenues they are working hard and still hustling.

In that sense, it is the same story as with any business. Success depends on hard work, and wild success is engined by people who love the process.

…Like gazillionaire Les Wexnerexample of someone who loved the process, who built his Limited empire less for the money and more for his drive to make his business grow and succeed ( I heard him on an interview given to a PBS show).

That seems to be the factor that almost all wildly successful business people have: they are driven to compete, most of all with themselves.

You may disagree with me… if you think it is something else I would love to read your opinion in the comments.

But Back To My Story

This is about how to make money, but mostly about not worrying if you don’t (yet)
source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

Right. I was going to sum up my online pathway in generating income and how that looks:

  • At first I wrote entirely as a free service to others. I benefitted the “free” hosting, and in return I didn’t have to pay money for hosting. We weren’t allowed to have competing ads on our sites.
  • Then I discovered AmazonTheir rules have changed since my early days. You will need to make a sale or two to stay in the program. For years I made $0.00 -and was doubtful that anyone could make enough to qualify for the minimum for a payout.
  • Soon after I was able to sign up for Google Adsense. That also made me nothing, and with a higher qualifying payout. At least it kept whatever pennies were earned in an accumulating amount. Eventually, years later I did get that first payment.

Alrighty- the story here is that there is a learning curve to understanding what it means to monetize blogging.

Initially I was handicapped by the idea that it was crass to have ads on a blog. Yet, my html website was given ads that weren’t even my own while at Geocities. My idea translated into:

“I can’t make money with integrity on my own writing, but it is okay for others to reap income from all my hard work”

It was hard work I most willingly gave because I loved having readers enjoy and benefit from what I was offering. I wanted them to see beauty, to be inspired, to learn from me.

I can’t emphasize enough what hard work it was. But it was fun, stimulating, and gave me creative outlet. I also cannot emphasize enough how much I needed that as a stay at home wife with ten kids.

But I was using my life to give the blogs so much time and effort, and at the same time my husband and I were struggling financially.

I needed to improve the blog, and I needed for it to pay for itself. It wasn’t until much much later that I felt it should become a business (or even had the idea that it could)

Keys To Adsense and Amazon

The keys are placement and traffic.

key
source: tawheed manzoor on flickr

Now more than ever, there must be enough eyeballs visiting a page to create income from these two sources. That is traffic.

For you this means that you should not give up if you don’t see results. Keep writing. Keep building your blog

Along with those two keys, which are particularly important for Amazon affiliates, is that you must have enough places where products are included included within the posts and pages of the blog. One on the front page or a few in the sidebar won’t do it, for most of us.

That was always so hard for me because I am primarily a writer. Photos were a challenge, graphics were a challenge, and now including relevant items from Amazon? Yes, it seemed to be one more hurdle to writing a good post.

For years I didn’t even try. And I made so little income I privately thought it might be a scam. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t know how it worked.

So for Adsense there are two main things- having plenty of traffic to the blog and lots of content.

For Amazon, take the time to include links to the products you are advocating anyway. I always like the magazine resource pages that told me where I could get featured items, and that is what Amazon links on a blog can do.

I usually qualify for the minimum payout for Amazon now.

That isn’t something to boast about exactly… it is small potatoes, but at least it is potatoes on the plate.

Amazon Learning Center

lensThat is what I would call my time on Squidoo. Before I participated in that writing community (which is what it was for me), I had no idea how to include products within my writing. Not really incorporate them, or write income producing pages. I just wrote.

Squidoo (It is no more, it was sold and closed) had so many tutorials and tips from many writers. It had traffic. And it shared income.

Google Adsense is very up and down for me. My sites were google slappeddrops in search engine placement due to changes in how google gives results, like their Panda update so many times, that if I depended on that to pay the hosting bills, this story would be over.

Squidoo articles added up in small increments. The more I wrote the more I was making, sometimes it would surprise me which topics and pages could give me support.

Eventually, it paid the way for my other sites, including my garden site, Ilona’s Garden. I was able to buy Premium themes, which was necessary as WordPress had become more and more complex, and my sites were hacked. (Hacking meant I had to keep everything updated, and have reliably secure themes).

There is so much more to these stories that can only hinted at here … but it shows that income switched from Google ads to Squidoo ad-sharing community.

And a side effect of those pages was that my own Amazon affiliate earnings were finally increasing. They sent me traffic, due to their liberal policies on linking and adding your own affiliate products.

Squidoo became Hubpages, and for me, the adjustment is only in format. The income levels are about on par. I have no idea how long that will last.

But that could change at any time.

And that is the point of my story, online success depends on making the changes, and keeping abreast of what works and what doesn’t.

Secondly, but Importantly

Always, for me, everything is servant to the writing. I am one of those people who likes to craft, who wants to provide my readers with something worthwhile. Something that means something to me.

Making money from this is always secondary and I have had issues and difficulties because of that.

Other Things I Won’t Compromise

  • My family comes before the blog
  • I write from my inner muse, not in response to whether it makes money
  • I must be honest as possible.

Sure I make mistakes and sometimes deviate from the path, but those are my guiding principles in what I do, to create the blogs and to build income.

More Changes That Challenge

Blogging today is so different than when I started, although I saw many of these things coming.

What I didn’t foresee is how important the visuals would become. And how it would be a more proprietary environment.

We now need to have our own professional photos. Our own professional looking graphics. Participation on many social platforms ( which means lots of writing that never finds its way to the blog.

This makes a difference in income. Presently I have plough more than I make back into this blogging adventure.

Your Takeaways From My Experience

To sum up

  • Have diverse sources of income for your blogging/writing
  • SEO and traffic building are important
  • Each manner of generating income has its own rules and learning curve. They change.
  • Implicit, but previously unsaid, is the fact that you should concentrate on growing your own blogs and creating your own products.
  • Don’t give up too soon. The one thing it all takes is patience, work, and time. If it changes, change with it.

And it ought to be fun. You ought to enjoy creating and giving, or it just isn’t worthwhile.

Making Graphics The Simple Way

Since making my own graphics became really important to blogging, I used to spend large blocks of time with photoshop or paint shop pro trying to get something that looked professional.

I didn’t always succeed.

Today there are so many fabulous apps for turning your photos and graphics into something spectacular in almost no time at all.

Picmonkey Graphics

The one I have been using lately is PicMonkey and I upgraded to their premium “Royale” membership, although it is very economical and gives good results to use their site for free, too. Especially good if you want to test it out before investing your money.

I signed up for $33.00 a year, which I think is a great value. They have so many elements, fonts, and papers that it saves loads of time look or trying to make them for your pictures.
PicMonkey Photo editing made of win
I have only made a few so far, but I think the Picmonkey graphics are really an asset to my pages. View one here, my Urban Gardening page. It is grungy, and has a cool font for the text that is one of many in the editing program. The overlay makes it look like those vintage, upscale photo effects that professional photographers sometimes use.

 

All graphics editors have a learning curve, but this program makes it fun and easy, and there are plenty of tutorial on their blog and from users on youtube.

While I’ve used other programs, this one is something I will be spending time mastering so I can quickly create updated feature photos for my blog (one of the things that most needs improvement on my garden blog. Blurry enlarged pictures just won’t do!

That reminds me of another feature I like in the Picmonkey program: the three easy sizing options. I used the smallest file size, resolution option for my web use. Next I plant to try out bigger files saved for printing purposes and see how that works. That means I can make a printable or my own Christmas cards. ( Without having to open a whole new program).

 

That is the latest and greatest from my experimentations… view the video to see how easy this is to use.

 

 

 

 

How To Use Picmonkey

Try it out and come back to tell me how you have been making graphics, or if this is your first effort.

Was it easy for you? did you get the result you were hoping for? How do you use this program… to make a card? for twitter or facebook? On your own blog? Let me know.

Blogging: Tend Your Vineyard

Blogging Tips

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. That seems hard to believe, but it is true. During that time I’ve cycled through a number of trends and “pro” advice, and one thing about internet writing that is ALWAYS true is that it will constantly change.

So how do we find “evergreenContent that keeps having value over time” advice?

Quality

Like any business certain things don’t change very much and one of those is quality. Quality lasts, and that is true of writing and photos.

This is a variation on the oft-repeated “Content is King”.  Besure you putting up content, because the online reader is voracious. I used to joke that that blog always wanted to be fed more content, “Feed me!”, but it isn’t a joke, so pace yourself. And post the best, constantly improving, content. that you can.

Consistency

This was my hardest lesson; and the most important.

You must develop consistency as a blogger.

It doesn’t have to be every day, or even week, but it must be regular and something your readers can count on.

Since it was always my biggest challenge in life to be regular about anything… I have suffered most in building my blog from shortcomings in this department. So here are some motivators for you:

  • Being a consistent writer will improve your writing.
  • It will help build your loyal “tribe” of fans.
  • It will keep the search engines happy with your blog, if you continually add content that is original and of good quality.
  • It will help you to develop good business work habits.

Writing with consistency helps you develop a rhythm that also creates something of a flow and is a generator of inspiration.

 

Pick Up The Pace

Aim for two posts a week if you can. I have several different blogs, and some of them only recently have congealed into their topic focus. They started as experiments or I had some loose idea of what I wanted to write, but now they are gelling into a true fix on subject and intent.

Now that I know what I want to focus writing about, I am posting. Choosing a subject that is large enough, but that I’m interested in, has helped to give me motivation to write.

Take this blog for example, it began as a revival of one single page that I had originally developed long ago in my first website. I remembered how I needed to compile my most helpful tips and links in making my website at that time. All the things that I was learning, although I was a newbie, could be helpful for other newbies!

Now that blogging has changed so much and the learning curve is steeper before we see results, I know these articles will serve a need.

Writing more often has become one of my main goals for these newly minted blogs.

Tend Your Own Vineyard

I spent a lot of time writing on free sites, most recently writing for Squidoo, and now Hubpages.

There were several reasons for this:

  • Squidoo ( now defunct) was promoted as a way to increase links to my website.
  • It was fun with an active community of new acquaintances. It taught me a great deal about marketing.
  • It earned me money.
  • Hubpages continues in the vein of earning money online, but all sources nowadays are diminishing.

Tending ones own vineyard is advice from the Bible. It means taking care of what you own and can harvest from. Everyone wants you to jump onto their wagon and work in their field of dreams. We do that for the kinds of reasons that I listed, but we ought to, first, grow and maintain our own blog.

Write for your own domain and sites, first. Be very judicious about the time you invest in others blogs and sites.

Why?

  • They own it, run it, and make decisions about it without you. Your interests come very low on the totem pole.
  • They can change it, close it ( witness Squidoo, and Geocities before that) and there is little you can do, but be ready to change gears.
  • You may lose work.
  • You will keep increasing your time and effort investment.

And those are not even all the possible “cons” in the equation.

So while I like to keep my hand in writing for such places, and they do pay me (which is often reinvested in these self-hosted blogs), my best advice is to mainly work on your own blog. Build it, improve it, keep consistently adding articles and creating a masterpiece of work.

 

In Sum

You know the drill by now:

Write.

Produce quality and keep adding to quantity.

Be a consistent writer and post regular articles.

Add to this (very important today):

Participation and growth of your social media.

You don’t have to be in everything, but you should be growing a presence in the communities that bring value to your blogs. Google Plus 1, Twitter, Facebook Pages, Pinterest (this one is huge for me), Instagram, and many others including their byways that help to collate the many social media avenues (Rebelmouse is one).

Write for yourself, your own domain and sites, first, and in a regular way.

Go ahead and participate as a content writer elsewhere, but remember your priorities.

Tend Your Vineyard

How To Write A (Good) Blog Post

Deconstruct a good blogpost:

  • Catchy Headline
  • Clear Photo (at least one, preferably Pinterest-worthy)
  • Strong introduction
  • Easy to scan information: headings and bullet lists help
  • Good word flow in well written content

These 5 points are the basics of a good blogpost.

No matter how much you write , one of these areas of the blogpost can always improve. I believe we should always strive to better our product, no matter what form it takes. I’m an information junkie and love to read great posts, and I’m always trying to improve by learning how to put together great advice from experts and make it my own.

  1. That first one, the catchy headline, always challenges me. I’ve read Copyblogger’s advice and even participated in his mentoring program to try to learn more.

  2. Photos were always a challenge, but with my iPhone and Camera+, as well as Instagram, I am starting to improve the process. I made nice  enough photos with my Sony digital camera and photo editing, but it was a very time and effort consuming process. Now it is easier.

  3. Remember basic rules of writing a good essay? Those apply to the first paragraph, the introduction. Make it controversial, or make it something generally agreed upon, then introduce your topic and what the reader can hope to find in your post.

  4. This has to do with the format of the page.  Break it up into easy to digest pieces, divide with heading, hand out bulleted lists. I am still working on this.

My run-on sentence mindset likes to forget the formatting.

Don’t make that mistake.

  1. Read through your content before posting. Make sure you have enough of the written word to give the necessary information and that your thought process is easy to follow.

Rearrange paragraphs and sentences if necessary. Keep learning to write better. Lots of advice is available.

The Next Most Important Points For Good Blogposts

  • Check Your Spelling
  • Check the Grammar and Punctuation
  • Edit Your Writing
  • Use White Space, Reduce Clutter

After you have written a post, it is time to edit, revise, spellcheck, and improve sentence structure making sure the punctuation is properly used to best advantage.

I do play fast and loose with this at times, but I used to go over my work repeatedly correcting mistakes, and still do when I have the time. It is far better to look twice before pushing the publish button.

People have given me helpful info on times that I have overlooked proper spelling or written in an obscure manner. I wish I had more input! If you have a friend or colleague who will help you edit, treasure that person.

Perhaps you would improve with the use of an editor app or program. I have used Scrivener and Evernote, although I’m slow to learn how to coordinate everything.  A successful blogger I know uses Scrivener and other helps, and I am trying to follow his lead in becoming more effective.

These are the important points to remember when creating a blogpost that is memorable, social media worthy, and useful to your readers.

In sum, although there may be an infinite number of tweaks and improvements we may make, these are the core components of good blogposts.

Make your blogpost interesting, entertaining, and/or useful

One Last Thing

I have been seeking to improve my blogs and one thing that keeps coming up:

Include a Call to Action

This is a “marketing term”, but it has become a widespread inclusion in the summary of a post. The idea is that the reader gets involved with either being asked to comment, “like”, or sign up for the newsletter (don’t have one? More on that in the future.)

I have started to do this. So, please sign up for my garden newsletter… it is more than gardening.

Subscribe to my mailing list

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Email Format


Google Page Speed

I switched over to the pagespeed beta offered by Google, recently, It was a major hassle. I had a “bare domain”, this is, without the www. The service required that I switch to the www. form of the domain. I knew I was going to lose a major amount of SEO cred when I divided my domain like that and had all the redirects. What I didn’t know was how hard it would be just to change it. Perhaps that is yet another drawback to horrid Netfirms. The tech people finally helped to get it work at least part time, although I still come up with database error pages- just not all the time. I am hoping it gets ironed out.

Anyway. The switch from Cloudflare, which had so many problems with DOS attacks (not their problem, but still affected me) to Pagespeed beta has been less than stellar ( including the setback of changing my domain address). My google adsense dropped into the small change again.

Maybe when on a bad host like Netfirms you have to have a service like Cloudflare to handle all the bad traffic and problems from hackers? I wish I knew. I know what you are thinking, why not just change hosts? Well, I’ve been looking. Many of the recommended ones have been taken by the conglomerate that made Netfirms so unsatisfactory.  Why work to change to something like that? So, I am still looking….

In the meantime, while Pagespeed has helped the problem of my need for faster pages and the use of a CDN, It is hard for a person like me, someone only a tiny bit knowledgeable about code, domain pointing, MySql and all that stuff. Not very user friendly for those like me.

Newbies: How To Make A Properly Framed Link

And other amazing things from Lorelle

Do you know Lorelle? If you are working with a WordPress blog, you ought to. She has been around seemingly forever and I know that I gained alot of information and perspective on blogging from her posts in the past. Well, she has written an in depth article on how to make a proper link, and though for some of us that is basic html know-how, there are lots of newbies who find this sort of thing mysterious. Lorelle strips away the curtain of mystery and makes it all clear for you.

I found her directions for framing a proper link on one of her lesser known (to me) blogs, Lorelle Teaches. If you are new to blogging I believe you should bookmark Lorelle’s blog. It will come in handy.

Squidoo Explosion! (Became A Squid Implosion)

I have burst out in topics, pages (called lenses), participation in a fun a community called “Squidoo” Hubpages – read about it all here.
Here are some collections of pages I’ve made:
Hungarian
Delicious recipes
Belly Dance
Christmas
Gardening
Beauty Lenses

Update: It is sad that a community as fun and thriving, as Squidoo was, should go belly-up. That is what happened. The pages are not lost, however, simply moved to another site, Hubpages.

Because of style changes and a different emphasis of content on the two sites, the pages need much editing and updating. I have only a few more to work on, but the collection pages were a little more challenging to customize for Hubpages. Expect for these to change a great deal over time.

Hubpages is facing the same challenges from Google, and ad income as Squidoo once did. I think they are valiantly trying to create a valuable, respectable site that Google will cease to penalize, if not love.

Moving things Here, There , And Elsewhere

One issue that Google is going against are sites where there are sales, and a spammy look.  I understand and appreciate that. While at the same time, as the web is more and more business oriented,  sites survive by using affiliate links, etc.

 

Consumers, and just plain old readers (like us) enjoy product recommendations and reviews, too. So, the pages which Hubpages will no longer feature, like gift suggestions for avid yoga practitioners will become part of this site, where I already have the original pages I made for fitness and wellbeing.

I am trying out the idea of adding more Amazon features here, that look like this one, or similar:

I hope it helps me support my website, which used to be  financed through my work on Squidoo.

My sincere desire is to benefit the readers, too. Trying to be as considerate as possible about sharing socially, offering products, and using programs such as Adsense.

If there are opinions about any of this, Facebook is my favorite place to join in these conversation, although twitter is a possibility and even some comments here. Though I don’t find people engaging on the blogs very much anymore.

Save Time in Launching Your Blog

I’ve worked very hard for many years getting some of my blogs to just be on the horizon level. I’ve had periods of success and periods ( and blogs) which languished in no man’s land. I might switch emphasis, but I don’t quit. In trying to improve my blogging ( I’d say I became serious about it a year ago or so) I joined Third Tribe, read boatloads of Problogger and Copyblogger posts – along with many others. So this is a post to save you time in covering some of that ground.

Success is more than talent… it took me a huge portion of my life to get that. Tuck it into your consciousness, now, and save yourself lots of grief and frustration.

I mentioned the ultimate guide for a blog launch and reiterate it here. Get Tentbloggers Starter Kit. It is the easiest, most succinct, compendium of starter advice. While you are at it, pick up his plugin for wordpress which adds your author information on your rss feed. I wish I had that YEARS ago. Because people are shameless about taking your crafted blogposts for themselves.

Stayed tuned for more updates to how to blog better, and expand your social media presence.