Yes, You Do Need a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

A self-hosted WordPress blog is always the best choiceI talked recently about adding a responsive WordPress theme to my blog, and even about hacking one of my favorite WordPress plugins in order to add the “via @handle” to the JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress, but it occurred to me that some of you may not actually be running a self-hosted blog.

If you’re not; if you are one of those bloggers under the mistaken impression that a free hosted account at WordPress.com is just as good as owning your own domain; or even worse, if you are on Blogspot.com… Lets talk.

First and foremost trust me when I tell you that no one, and I do mean NO ONE is going to take you, or your blog seriously if you are sporting a URL like

www.yoursitesname.WordPress.com

or

www.yoursitesname.blogspot.com

It’s 2014, registering a domain and paying for hosting is part and parcel to owning a business. So, suck it up, put on your big blogger pants, and get yourself a self-hosted WordPress blog already.

A self-hosted WordPress blog offers you the ability to:

  • Upload, modify and edit WordPress plugins and themes
  • Add affiliate links
  • Offer advertising opportunities
  • Establish an ecommerce platform
  • Utilize file transfer protocol or FTP access

Besides, it isn’t actually all that hard, or that expensive to make the jump. Simply register your domain and find a decent web host offering automated WordPress installation. Boom! You’re on your way.

Stop agonizing over it and start implementing it… There is no perfect platform, but WordPress is pretty close. There is no perfect web host, even if you are prepared to pay a huge price for your hosting needs, it really doesn’t guarantee that your host is any good. So choose the host with the best trade-off between price, reliability and features. The bottom line is. Do it.

If you’re asking for a recommendation I can tell you that since it’s launch I have hosted Social Vernacular with iPage–a US based company hosting business, personal, social and non-profit websites for more than 10 years–and I’ve been quite happy so far. Before I tell you what iPage offers I’d like to disclose that iPage is not only my web host, I am also an iPage affiliate. I will receive compensation should you create an iPage account. With that being said I would recommend iPage regardless of compensation because I believe they offer solid balance between price, reliability and features.

iPage offers:

  • Unlimited hosting space
  • Unlimited data transfer
  • Free domain registration
  • One click WordPress installation
  • Good Support Service
  • A decent hosting uptime record

And all of that is covered in the iPage Essential Plan for $1.99 a month. Like I said earlier a self-hosted WordPress blog isn’t actually all that expensive, and if you’re still hung up on thinking a self-hosted WordPress blog is too hard to set up watch this:


Easy WordPress Installation with iPage

Whether you end up going with iPage or not I hope I have convinced you to make the jump into a self-hosted WordPress blog. So… Are you running a self-hosted WordPress blog? Which host are you using Let’s compare notes! Leave a comment below and discuss via Twitter and Facebook.

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Adding “via @handle” to JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress

We talked about how adding a responsive WordPress theme makes your blog better, so today I’d like to talk about making one of my favorite WordPress plugins even better. There are quite a few social share buttons available for WordPress blogs. Personally, I prefer the look and functionality of the JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress.

JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress

JetPack offers some nifty features for your WordPress blog for free. Features like:

  • Simple, concise stats with no additional load on your server
  • Email subscriptions for your blog’s posts and your post’s comments
  • Social networking enabled comment system
  • Simple, Akismet-backed contact forms
  • And your readers can easily share your posts via email or their favorite social networks

Ironically, the problem lies with that last feature… At least out of the box. Unfortunately the JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress won’t allow you to add the “via @handle” to the Tweet button. Which is actually pretty annoying, because I NEED the “via @handle” added to the Tweet button! Afterall, I want to make it as easy as possible for you the reader to credit me for my work. This way when you share my blog posts (You do share my blog posts right?) the “via @BillHengst” is already added to the end of your tweet. No extra work for you!

However it did require a little extra work for me… Let me show you how I did it here at SocialVernacular. It’s actually pretty simple. You’ll need to edit one line of code in this file:

jetpack/modules/sharedaddy/sharing-sources.php

Find the line which contains twitter.com/intent/tweet and simply add ?via=USERNAME to the end of it (replacing USERNAME for your twitter username obviously, and remember not to include the @ symbol)

In my case the edited portion of the line looks like this:

twitter.com/intent/tweet?via=BillHengst

the entire line looks like this:

$twitter_url = add_query_arg(
urlencode_deep( array_filter( compact( 'via', 'related', 'text', 'url' ) ) ),
sprintf( '%s://twitter.com/intent/tweet?via=BillHengst', ( is_ssl() ? 'https' : 'http' ) )
);

Thanks so much to the helpful folks at the WordPress support forums, especially ruador who provided me with this fix. To see all of the responses please visit the Add “via @username” to Tweet button? Using JetPack for WordPress thread.

Are you using the JetPack Sharing Buttons for WordPress? Are you using a better social share WordPress plugin? Let’s compare notes! Leave a comment below and discuss via Twitter and Facebook.

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Adding a Responsive WordPress Theme

I’ve decided to install a responsive WordPress theme here at SocialVernacular. Something to make it easier for both you and I to access the site via mobile devices. After deliberating for weeks, and looking at more responsive themes than I can count I’ve decided to go with the Responsive Theme from CyberChimps, and I’ll tell you why.

The Responsive WordPess Theme:

Responsive WordPress Theme

  • Is attractive
  • Easy to install
  • Features 9 Page Templates
  • Has 11 Widget Areas
  • Offers 6 Template Layouts
  • Includes 4 Menu Positions
  • Is WooCommerce Compatible
  • Is Multilingual Ready (WPML)
  • Offers RTL-Language Support
  • Is Retina-Ready
  • Is Search Engine Friendly
  • Is W3C Markup Validated
  • Is Cross-Browser compatible

I know, I know… It’s quite a laundry list of features. Now you know why I chose the Responsive Theme. I’ll keep you posted as to the performance of this theme, along with any WordPress Plugins I add. For now the only real modification I’ve done is to upload the SocialVernacular logo.

If you’d like to follow along you can download the Responsive Theme directly to your blog by using the “Add New Themes” option in the “Appearance” sub-menu on the side bar. Simply:

  1. Log in to your WordPress Administration Panel
  2. Select the Appearance panel, then Themes
  3. Select Add New
  4. Use the Search bar to locate the Responsive Theme from CyberChimps
  5. Click on the Install Now link to upload the Responsive Theme to your blog

For more detailed instructions on installing a responsive WordPress theme please visit WordPress Codex, Using Themes.

For a deeper dive into the specifics of responsive design via WordPress I recommend reading Responsive Design with WordPress: How to make great responsive themes and plugins (Voices That Matter) It details how to leverage WordPress in order to get the most out of responsive design, implement best practices, automate important processes, and make your life easier overall, starting with a refresher on the core functionality of WordPress, then diving into developing responsive themes and plugins.

Are you using the Responsive Theme? Are you using another responsive WordPress theme? Let’s compare notes! Leave a comment below and discuss via Twitter and Facebook.

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Want to Become an Online Thought Leader? Follow These 5 Steps

What is an online thought leader? Simply put, it is someone who’s words tend to carry more influence within social channels like Twitter and Facebook than most. Online thought leaders share information that resonates with a particular industry or demographic. Easy enough right?

So Your Goal is to be an Online Thought Leader

But how exactly do you become an online thought leader?

Are thought leaders born with natural leadership abilities? Is there some fool-proof Twitter strategy they are implementing? Are they utilizing some secret Facebook marketing tactic? or is there something else going on here altogether?

The fact is that YOU can actually become an online thought leader simply by sharing information that is timely and useful. In fact I became an online thought leader by following these simple steps.

 

5 steps you can use to become an online thought leader:

 

1.) Find your voice

The very first step is to define your topic and your voice. Determine what topics interest those in your chosen field and whether you share in those interests or not! How can you contribute to the conversation in a positive manner? What can you add?

2.) Do your research

Once you’ve identified discussions that are of interest to you the next step would be to dig up any information relevant to the subject. Remember sharing information is how you get people to notice and accept you, but it MUST be relevant to their interests.

3.) Curation is just as important as creation

Trying to continuously create content is a full time job… For two people! So don’t be shy about sharing content created by others. Curating content is the most effective strategy to use in order to become a thought leader within your field.

4.) Offer content, don’t force it

To gain more influence in any community you must FIRST be accepted by its members. You can accomplish this by sharing information that they find useful or interesting! If it captures their interest you can bet they’ll notice… Not just the content, but also the source from which it came.

5.) Finally, remember that timing is everything

Social media afficianados are notorious for changing the topic of any conversation at the drop of a hat! Remember to monitor what people are talking about so you can offer value to the conversation with relevant content in a timely manner.

 

Following these simple guidelines I have become an online thought leader. And you can too! Or maybe you already have… What advice do you have on becoming an online thought leader?

Leave a comment below and discuss via Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

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3 tips to make your landing pages mobile friendly

 

LT - Reading On Screen - Mobile device ownersh...

Mobile device ownership goes up and desktop ownership goes down (Photo credit: mattcornock)

As a social media marketer I spend a lot of time obsessing over content… Content for Facebook, content for Twitter, content for my blog. Yet, as much time as I spend on finding and creating content for the various social channels I manage I have to admit that content alone isn’t worth all that much. Something else is needed. Something that will convert my audience into customers…

Effective landing pages.

And since nearly one-fourth (24%) of total website traffic came from mobile devices in the first quarter of 2013, up 78% from the same time in 2012 and 109% since 2011, it only makes sense that I make it as easy as possible for my audience to become my customer when I have something amazing to sell them… Even if that’s only me!

Mobile optimized landing pages give me the best chance to convert my readers into customers no matter which device they are using. This is how I accomplish that:

 

3 tips to optimize your landing pages for mobile:

 

1. Be Fast

I always make sure my landing pages are lightweight. Ideally all landing pages should be less than 20kb and load in under 5 seconds. Notice I said ideally. That won’t always be possible, but it’s a great goal to shoot for.

 

2. Be Brief

I have a tendency to ramble. Those who know me will probably say that I like to hear myself talk… I prefer to think that I have a lot of things to say. Either way it means one thing.

I have to edit my copy.

I’ve found it’s best to begin by creating my landing page headlines, ad copy and call to action first, without worrying about brevity. Once my offer is clear, I then begin eliminating anything that isn’t absolutely essential.

 

3. Be Thumb-Friendly

The whole point of a landing page is to convince your audience to take some sort of action. So the call to action is the single most important element of that page. Including that CTA in a tiny button makes it difficult to spot and click… Especially for mobile users.

I always design the links, buttons, icons and form fields on my landing pages to be mobile and touch friendly by making sure the target area is at least 44 X 44 pixels.

 

Don’t forget to track

What works for me, what works for your competitors may not work for you. Always test what works best when it comes to conversions. Testing helps me fine tune my landing pages to create optimal conversion rates for my offer and my audience.

Always test against your own audience and do what works best for you!

Following these simple guidelines for optimizing landing pages and making them mobile friendly, I have been able to turn mobile readers into mobile customers both on the job and off. How about you? What tactics do you employ to make your landing pages convert? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Leave a comment below and discuss via Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

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