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.
We have used Thesis theme version 1.8.5 till april 2014 and they have excellent support forum and now we have moved to Genesis theme.
Now if you ask me which is a better theme than Genesis and Thesis. then honestly speaking I have not used 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. We took a lot of time before moving to genesis as we knew a lot about the working of thesis theme.
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.
For shared web hosting solutions there are many good hosting companies. go with a reputed hosting company. Don’t save money on hosting. I won’t recommend any particular name as the hosting companies experience depends upon many factors.
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:
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. Cloudflare: it can take the much load off from your server and will also protect your server from hacking attacks. Its kind of free CDN service.
4. Remove unnecessary plugins and widgets which you are not using. Do not clutter your sidebar unnecessary. Minimize the use of plugins
5. 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 unnecessary 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 recipe maker plugin To show rich snippet in google search results.
4. Akismet : to block spam comments.
5. Filezila ftp program : to upload and download files in server.
6. Notepad++ : to edit the html code in files. Don’t edit files in notepad. Use this easy software instead. Using notepad to edit your files can break your wordpress site.
7. 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.
8. 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.