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How we do our blog thing

Blogging tools

How we do our blog thing

By Ryan Portsmouth

From time-to-time I get asked exactly what I use to publish this blog among other questions so today I thought it would be a good time to answer this question, what do we use to publish pla.net.nz?

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few general bits and pieces about the 3-types of blogs.

  1. Hosted blog, this is where you use a service such as WordPress.com, Blogger or Tumblr to provide all of your blogging services. They give you everything you need including your website address, website hosting and the blogging platform
  2. Self-hosted blog, this is where you buy your own website hosting, domain name and choose the blogging software of your choice installed on your website hosting account
  3. Hybrid, this is where you have a hosted blog but use your own website address and maybe even a custom design

For pla.net.nz we run a self-hosted blog

Website hosting & domain name: for website hosting and our domain name (pla.net.nz) we have chosen to use Central Pulse. They have been around for several years, have a good service and their Linux hosting includes a 1-click installation of most popular blogging platforms to make it easier than ever to set up your blogging software.

Blogging software: we have gone with the pack here using WordPress, it is the worlds most popular blogging software powering around 16% of the worlds websites, that’s right – not just blogs. This means they have a strong community to support their free software offering.

Website statistics/analytics: for monitoring our website statistics and run analytics we use 3 tools, the website hosting plans statistics, Google Analytics and Jetpack site statistics.

The normal website statistics provide information at a server level via 1 of 2 interfaces depending on what you prefer.

Google Analytics is a free service that provides more in-depth tracking of the traffic to your site

Jetpack site statistics is part of a larger free WordPress plugin that manages statistics at a software level

WordPress themes

In the world of WordPress, your design or template is called a theme. There are generally 2 ways to go, build your own custom theme or get one from a WordPress theme website. We went with the later as rather than spending our days and nights designing we wanted to get right to blogging.

Something we have noticed with every theme we have tried and used is none are perfect, we have customized every theme to do or show some things differently to how they were initially designed. In saying that if you don’t want to get into the code you don’t need to, most just work out of the box.

Also think about mobile, how does your theme work on a mobile device? With smartphones being more and more important this can no longer be ignored. Luckily a very large number of themes exist that support smaller screen sizes.

WordPress plugins

A WordPress plugin is a small software package that you can install on your WordPress installation to preform a function that WordPress itself does not do. The plugins we use are:

Jetpack for WordPress is a comprehensive suite of tools, you can choose what you want to use and what you don’t use. I have “bolded” the names of the tools we use

  1. Notifications: monitor and manage your site’s activity with Notifications in your Toolbar and on WordPress.com
  2. Publicize: connect your site to popular social networks and automatically share new posts with your friends
  3. WordPress.com stats: simple, concise site stats with no additional load on your server
  4. Jetpack comments: a new comment system that has integrated social media login options
  5. Subscriptions: allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments to receive a notification via email
  6. Carousel: transform your standard image galleries into an immersive full-screen experience
  7. Likes: a way for people to show their appreciation for content you have written. It’s also a way for you to show the world how popular your content has become
  8. Posts by email: publish posts directly to your blog from your personal email address
  9. Sharing: the most super duper sharing tool on the interwebs. Share content with Facebook, Twitter, and many more
  10. Spelling and grammar: improve your spelling, style, and grammar with the “After the Deadline Proofreading” service
  11. Vault press: realtime backup and security scanning for your WordPress site
  12. Omnisearch: a single search box, that lets you search many different things
  13. Gravatar hovercards: show a pop-up business card of your users’ gravatar profiles in comments
  14. Contact form: easily insert a contact form anywhere on your site
  15. WP.me shortlinks: enable WP.me-powered shortlinks for all of your Posts and Pages for easier sharing
  16. Tiled galleries: create elegant magazine-style mosaic layouts for your photos without using an external graphic editor
  17. Custom CSS: customize the appearance of your site using CSS but without modifying your theme
  18. Shortcode embeds: easily embed videos and more from sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and SlideShare
  19. Mobile theme: automatically optimize your site for mobile devices
  20. Beautiful math: mark up your posts with the LaTeX logomarkup language, perfect for complex mathematical equations and other über-geekery
  21. Extra sidebar widgets: easily add images, Twitter updates, and your site’s RSS links to your theme’s sidebar
  22. Infinite scroll: automatically pull the next set of posts into view when the reader approaches the bottom of the page
  23. Photon: give your site a boost by loading images from the WordPress.com content delivery network
  24. Mobile push notifications: receive notifications on your Apple device
  25. JSON API: allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud
  26. Enhanced distribution: share your public posts and comments to search engines and other services in real-time
  27. Jetpack debugger: a debugging platform for the Jetpack plugin. Find out why Jetpack isn’t working for you and submit a help request direct from your Dashboard

Akismet is a spam system that is operated from a web service. Highly effective, we recommend this to everyone

Fancier Author Box is a small plugin that places author information on your posts, it supports Google+ Authorship so kills 2-birds with 1-plugin so to speak

Google XML Sitemaps make creating and submitting sitemaps a snap

Limit login attempts stops people trying to crack your passwords from gaining unauthorized entry to your website

Multitags allows you to display all posts that have the same tags. Nothing revolutionary until you realize you can specify as many tags as you want, you are no longer limited to just 1 tag

Short URL provides a shorter URL to your pages making it ideal for sharing on social networks like Twitter where there is a limited amount of space to post

WordPress Editorial Calendar allows you to keep on top of when you posted your articles and what you have coming up in a handy calendar format

WordPress SEO (also known as Yaost SEO) is probably the most comprehensive SEO extension available to WordPress not only giving you to the tools to optimize your website but analyzing certain aspects of each page or post also. Don’t forget that quality content is key however!

WP Google Analytics integrates Google Analytics tracking on your website. Google Analytics is supported by Yoast SEO however 1 feature drew us to WP Google Analytics – don’t send admin user data when logged in, this allows us to get a better idea of what website visitors are doing without admin users muddying the data

Take your time

When creating your blog take the time to set it up right. Don’t just put something up and pretend it is going to work because it wont.

Think about your categories, what are your general topics?

Think about what information you want to be displayed on the side of each page.

Think about when you’re posting, the scheduling feature of WordPress is great for writing late at night and publishing the next day while your in the middle of something else.

Above all, have fun with it and create great content regularly.

The following two tabs change content below.
Known to some as "that kiwi who is allergic to kiwi fruit" amongst other things, I now live in the south of Brazil where I work as a photographer as well as make corporate films and documentaries.

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    • Ryan Portsmouth

      Hi Esther, Jetpack for WordPress has a feature that adapts your design for mobile, I haven’t used it myself however I have heard some good things about it.

      In addition a Google search along the lines of “WordPress theme responsive” should give you a ton of options.


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      We always love new followers, all of our social links are located at the top right of the page. I look forward to seeing you on the social networks.

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      Hi Ezra, we use Central Pulse (www.centralpulse.com) for our website hosting. Their website isn’t great at the moment but their service has always been great.

  95. brigid

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    • Ryan Portsmouth

      At this point being a small blog with only 30 or so articles published we aren’t aware of any of our articles being used elsewhere without permission.

      Unfortunately there isn’t a lot that you can do to protect your content. Right click disablers will help to some extent but they are only band aids, they aren’t a real solution as you can still highlight content and use Ctrl + C to copy the content.

      There are 2 roads you can take

      1. accept your content will be used elsewhere and request anyone using your content to link back to your article as the source of the content
      2. find the offending sites, request they take the content down and if they don’t hire a lawyer where the person is located to pursue legal action

      The fact is the second item is expensive and even the big blogs out there no longer go after people/companies using content without permission so option 1 is your best option. Not everyone will obey the rules but some will and you will get the credit and backlink.

      It is a hard situation but this is part of how the internet is. I hope this helps you out.

    • Ryan Portsmouth

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Alissa. At this point I don’t have a part 2 planned however I have been thinking about it. Stay tuned and something is sure to come out in the near future. The easiest way to know when another article on the subject is published is to subscribe to the blog and we will notify you of each article by email.

  96. Gertrude

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    • Ryan Portsmouth

      Thanks for that Gertrude. I have been blogging for a number of years, being a web programmer helps when setting up a blog and giving these types of tips. As I mentioned however these tools greatly work out-of-the-box so if you can follow on-screen instructions it is pretty simple to set up.

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    • Ryan Portsmouth

      I definitely agree Michelle, it is important to have a basic knowledge of SEO however tools like Yoast SEO on WordPress simplify much of this. I like to recommend Yoast SEO because it explains a little more than the other SEO tools out there for WordPress so the user can be better informed when they set it up and write their pages/posts.

      It is also important to remember that the SEO landscape is changing with the latest Google search algorithm changes that focus more on quality content than on traditional SEO standards. Linking your website to a Google+ page as well as setting up Google+ Authorship is also something that is becoming more and more important with SEO.

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So, what do you think?