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resources for food bloggers
i often get queries on topics like how to start a food blog or how to increase blog traffic or good hosting company etc so i am creating this detailed guide to share my views on these frequently asked questions.
this post is divided into three parts:
1. wordpress blog theme + hosting
2. speeding up the wordpress blog
3. softwares and tools i use
many smart bloggers like myself have wasted countless hours in changing their blog theme every fortnight or some times every week. this resulted in time wastage as well as losing loyal traffic. as most of us became less smart with time, we decided to choose one premium theme and stick to it. we still change the blog layout but that is not so often !!!
two premium themes i would suggest you is genesis and thesis.
if you like more names then you can think about headway and woo themes.
i am using thesis theme version 1.8.5 and i am using it since 2009 and they have excellent support forum.
now if you ask me which is a better theme than genesis and thesis. then honestly speaking i have not used genesis or woo themes or headway theme. these are the themes which many top most bloggers recommend. as far as comparison between thesis and genesis is concerned, lately few big bloggers who were using thesis theme have moved to genesis theme. i am not moving to genesis since i know a lot about the working of thesis theme and i don’t want to lose that knowledge.
according to most big bloggers thesis and genesis are top most wordpress premium themes and rivals for past few years. its like the competition between samsung and apple smart phones.
1. if you are not a techie and plan to use thesis theme then use the version 1.8.5 and avoid thesis 2.0 version.
2. if you are a techie or your hubby or friend is a techie who are aware of programming concepts like objects and classes, containers etc then thesis 2.0 can do wonders for you. you can give unique design to each category or page.
3. genesis has many free child themes and many of them are responsive designs and that is one of the big plus point of genesis over thesis.
4. thesis and genesis both have 30 days money back guarantee so you can try them with out any worry.
hostgator is renowned for good quality customer support and they also provide free website migrations service too. you can also avail 25% discount on their hosting by using the coupon code usehostgatorcoupon2012.
managed wordpress hosting: in managed hosting you don’t need to worry about server speed, taking backup of your site, virus or hacker attacks. many of these features are managed by server end team but the flip side is that they don’t allow you to use all wordpress plugins, they usually don’t provide nameserver records and email program which comes with hosting. if you are looking for managed hosting then check the plans of wpengine and pagely.
speeding up the wordpress:
wp super cache plugin: if your site is on shared hosting then install this cache plugin to show cache pages of your site to visitors to speed up your site. along with this plugin you can consider using CDN Sync Tool plugin to show images via CDN services like maxcdn or amazon S3. its a easy plugin to install and does not create give much problem like its competitor w3 total cache plugin.
w3 total cache plugin: if your site is on VPS or dedicated server then install this plugin instead of wp super cache plugin. w3 total cache plugin is little difficult to maintain and often gives errors. but despite that try it. it will really speed up your site and will it make it much faster than the performance of wp super cache plugin.
to get the best out of w3 total cache plugin:
1. Alternatve PHP Cache (APC): ask your hosting provider to install Alternatve PHP Cache (APC). uninstall the wpsuper cache plugin and install the w3 total cache plugin and use Alternatve PHP Cache (APC) for caching instead of disc caching. your hosting company might charge 40 USD for installing Alternatve PHP Cache (APC).
2. maxcdn – use their services to speedup the download of images or ebooks etc on your site. highly recommended. there are many cdn service providers but maxcdn is the one of the most recommended.
what cdn service does is that your media content like images or ebooks will be downloaded from a server which is closest to the location of the visitor of your blog. e.g. maxcdn has more than 20 servers spread all over the world and now if a reader is accessing my site from india then my site images will be downloaded from a maxcdn server which caters to asian traffic.
it greatly speed up the site and is appreciated by google. there are many plans of maxcdn and approximately you have to pay 40-45 USD for 1000GB of data downloaded via maxcdn. the setup process for integrating maxcdn with your site is easy. on top of that their customer support team is very good. you can use w3tc or wp super cache plugin to integrate maxcdn in your site. you can click in this link to avail maxcdn coupon 25% off
3. varnish: if you are hiring a professional to do the above two step then ask him can he also install varnish on your server and make it listen at port 80 and apache at port 8080 and disable cookies. installing varnish is tricky and only go for it if you trust the techie fully and he can help you in future too. if you are not on technical side then forget about varnish.
4. cloudflare: there is another option in this plugin that is cloudflare. it can take the much load off from your server and will also protect your server from hacking attacks. but there are many articles in internet which says that google adsense does not go well with cloudflare rocket loader feature. i am not using cloudflare and will not recommend it to someone who is using google adsense. technically, one of the main feature of this service is that it is provides free cdn service to us. since i am using maxcdn to download photos for my webpages, cloudflare does not make much sense for me.
5. google pagespeed service: if you liked cloudflare then you should check google pagespeed service which is similar to cloudflare. you need to apply for this free service (in future it will be paid). do check the google terms and conditions before using this service.
6. remove unnecessary plugins and widgets which you are not using. do not clutter your sidebar unnecessary. minimize the use of plugins
7. use asynchronous codes e.g. you can use it for google analytics.
for food bloggers:
if you are a food blogger and you are showing step by step photos then hosting cost increases as step by step photos takes lot of time to load and to increase the site speed we need to upgrade the server. so to minimize this hosting expenses, i suggest:
a) use the one high quality main image (size under 250Kb) and all other step by step images should be under 40-50KB.
b) few bloggers host their images on flickr. i have not used this method till now and mentioning it for your information, in case you would like to try.
c) always reduce the photo to the dimension size which you are going to show in your post before loading it to server.
d) yahoo smush.it plugin – use this plugin to remove unneccessary data from the images and thus reducing their size further.
remember: faster the webpages load, more traffic google will send to your site. readers also like fast loading pages.
softwares and tools i use:
1. madmimi: we are using madmimi email subscription program to send free recipes update. previously we were using aweber for managing our email subscription. i don’t recommend aweber or madmimi to everyone. as they are expensive programs and will not suit everyone.
if life gives me a second chance then i would like to go back and continue with feedburner email subscription. feedburner might close down in future (2014) but i would prefer to use feedburner as long as it is working than using paid email programs. our reason for leaving aweber and moving to madmimi was just to cut costs. otherwise aweber is a great program.
few people who wants to launch their own ebooks, products or offer services can benefit from aweber or madmimi or mailchimp etc. otherwise, if i have to just send emails of recent post updates then i feel feedburner is doing a great job.
2. codeguard: i use codeguard service to take daily backup of my site. another backup service is vaultpress.com. ideally, you must have a backup plan for your site to protect your site from any disaster. you can create backup file from your control panel too. its an automatic service or you can take manual backup of your wordpress blog too. i suggest don’t rely on your server side backups. have a copy of your site with you after every major updates.
3. wp touch pro - paid plugin powers the mobile version of site.
4. easy recipe plus - paid plugin to rich snippet in google search results.
5. akismet : to block spam comments
6. filezila ftp program : upload and download files.
7. notepad++ : to edit the html code in files.
8. avast antivirus: but i might choose kaspersky or norton antivirus once my subscription plan with avast ends. avast is working fine but my techie friend has highly suggested these two anti virus programs. to know more please check these two articles: best antivirus programs and safe surfing practices.
9. photography tools and programs that i use:
a) canon dslr 600 D
i just love my canon camera. its been more than a year since i brought my camera. canon also has good after sales customer service.
b) lens : i use the canon lens 18-55 mm, 3.5-5.6 and this came with the canon kit. apart from it, i also use canon f 50mm f/1.8 lens. i suggest you to not buy the lens with the camera kit/body. buy the lens separately as per your photography requirement.
c) photoshop 5 : the program that i use for editing all my photos in RAW as well as JPG format is photoshop. its been 2 years since my foray into photoshop and i just love it.
Disclaimer: The links in this post are my affiliate links.