Just when you think you’ve learned all there is to know about WordPress, a friend turns you onto a great new plugin for the popular blogging software or your hosting service crashes for the umpteenth time and you find yourself desperate for a new one.
We addressed all those issues and more in last week’s WordCount Last Wednesday writer chat with guest Ron Doyle, a Denver freelance writer, web developer and WordPress expert.
For those of you who missed it, or tuned in but didn’t bother to take notes at the time, here’s a cleaned up version of the conversation. Tweets have been edited for length and clarity. Because of some mysterious wonkiness on Twitter during the chat, some tweets didn’t make it into #wclw saved searches on Twitter, TweetChat or TwapperKeeper, which means a few juicy tidbits may have slipped through undetected. If you’ve got additional recommendations for hosts, themes or plugins, please leave them in a comment.
1. Advantages of a free self-hosted WordPress blog
@rondoylewrites – Free is great, but control is better. With a self-hosted WordPress website or blog, you have total control. With self-hosted WP.org sites, you can control the design, monetization, and analytics. By contrast, WordPress.com doesn’t allow ads, Blogger.com has limited design options, etc. Most importantly, with a self-hosted site you never have to worry that the parent company will go out of business. But, to be clear, something free is better than nothing at all!
2. WordPress themes
@rondoylewrites – Themes are like outfits, everyone has their own style preferences. When choosing a theme, try to pick one with a child/parent theme framework. WordPress parent/child theme frameworks let you make customizations that can’t be undone by updates. Basically, you install two themes, the parent and the child. Then, you make design tweaks to the child. When the developer updates the parent theme you don’t have to worry about losing your customizations. Most themes do not have a parent/child option. Hybrid, Thesis and Genesis are very popular examples of themes that do have the parent/child framework theme. My favorite WordPress parent/child framework is Hybrid by @JustinTadlock. His code has superpowers. Thesis and Genesis are other very popular examples of the parent/child framework theme. Genesis is a solid framework, but it’s $79. Theme Hybrid is free.
@rondoylewrites - Unfortunately, Atahualpa does not have a parent/child framework, but newer versions do (sometimes) save your tweaks.
3. What to look for in a hosting service
@rondoylewrites – For a WordPress site, your host must have MySQL and PHP5 capabilities. WordPress is content management system (CMS) and all your content and settings are stored in a database (MySQL), so find a host that uses MySQL. PHP is the programming language that pulls information from MySQL. Beyond MySQL and PHP5, I highly recommend going with a host that uses a Linux server instead of a Microsoft server. My favorite web hosts:
I recommend all of those web hosts because of their price, features, and compatibility with WordPress. My new top favorite for environmental reasons is Green Geeks. They’re affordable and (use) zero CO2. One last thing about hosts — be sure to pick one with a great control panel. That’s why GoDaddy isn’t on the list.
@jenwillis – FatCow is supposedly very green and offers good customer support. Plus, it’s inexpensive.
4. Recommended WordPress plugins
Plugins are one of the big perks of self-hosted WordPress: little packs of code that add special functions. There are literally tens of thousands of plugins! Almost all of plugins are free. Typically only custom plugins cost money. Some of my favorite plugins:
- AntiCaptcha (security)
- All-in-One SEO Pack
- Blubrry PowerPress (podcasting)
- Contact Form 7
- Hetjens Feed Redirect , redirect requests to the main or comment feed of the blog to Feedburner or a similar service
- Google XML Sitemaps (SEO)
- Qoate Content Expiration, replaces anything you want with a custom message after an expiration date
- What Would Seth Godin Do (WWSGD), shows different custom messages to a blog’s first-time and returning visitors
- Image Widget — everyone should install this one — I think it should become standard feature for WordPress. It lets you add images to your sidebar without knowing HTML, which is very handy
- For stats tracking, I used to love WP.com Stats, but its replacement, Jetpack is super buggy. Now I strongly recommend Google Analyticator or Web Ninja Google Analytics.
@teachwhatisgood - I like Broken Link Checker. It helps me keep on track of any links that are not working.
@pjnoonan - What about apps to add Facebook and Twitter live feeds to your blog?
@rondoylewrites – I don’t recommend the Facebook and Twitter widgets that display live tweets, updates, etc. Not a fan because they use scripts that slow down your site. Better to maintain separate conversations, in my opinion. But connecting to Facebook and Twitter with Like and Tweet buttons is awesome.
@michellerafter - For polls, I like PollDaddy, which you can manage from WordPress or from PollDaddy.com. My new favorite is Editorial Calendar, which adds an editorial calendar to the WordPress dashboard you can use to easily schedule posts. Love, love, love it.
You can read more on WordPress here:
- Get Set Up: Advantages of Self-Hosted WordPress Blogs, from WordPress
- Best WordPress plug ins for writers and bloggers
- Link your WordPress, Six Apart blogs to your LinkedIn profile
- WordPress users can add ratings to posts, comments
Save the Date: Next #wclw Chat is July 27
Just getting started freelancing, or wondering how to take your writing business to the next level? Join me next month when the subject will be the basics of running a freelance writing business. Tune in July 27 at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Use the #wclw hashtag to join the conversation.
Got a writing or blogging-related subject that would make a great Twitter chat? Let me know. I’m scheduling WordCount Last Wednesday writer chats through 2011 and would love your ideas.