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6 Genesis Framework Plugins To Take a Look At

by Leo

Why is the Genesis theme framework so popular today? It’s because of its enormous customer base. And with its large number of users, this means the Genesis ecosystem will start thriving as well. One consequence of this fact is that there are a large number of Genesis plugins that have been developed for the platform. This is great, as these plugins help developers create more feature rich and better sites.

Since there are a lot of Genesis plugins out there, I’ve done some research myself and sifted through the very best of them. Here are a list of my favorites.

Genesis Custom Footer

WordPress › Genesis Custom Footer « WordPress Plugins

Any default Genesis installation displays a standard credits attribution in the footer. Genesis custom footer adds a new page to your Genesis theme settings where you can insert your own HTML and customize the footer to how you like it. You can use any of the provided shortcodes, or just use HTML or plaintext. Your choice. Read this tutorial on WPVKP on how you would do this WITHOUT using this plugin.

Genesis Extender

Genesis Extender is a premium Genesis plugin developed by CobaltApps. It provides a ton of great “extensions” you can more easily customize your Genesis child theme. Probably the best part of it is the CSS editor which allows you to edit the CSS on your site in real-time. It also provides a way to leverage the Genesis theme framework hook system without having to modify external files and upload them back to your server. You can read a full Genesis Extender review over at SlickWP.

Genesis Simple Comments

This free plugin makes it simple to modify the way your comments are handled on your site. Very simple to use, yet very useful as well.

Genesis Simple Sidebars

Have you ever wanted to add multiple widget areas to your sidebars? The Genesis Simple Sidebars makes this simple to do. It will allow you to create multiple widget locations which you can assign to your site’s sidebar. You can do this per post, per page or even by tag which gives you a ton of flexibility.

Genesis Optimized Social Share

WordPress › Genesis Optimized Social Share « WordPress Plugins

Most blogs you read have some sort of social sharing widgets on them for the most popular sites, like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. They are very useful as they provide social proof for your posts, plus they make it easier for your visitors to share your content. The problem with most social sharing plugins though is that they are very slow as they have to be loaded one by one. However with the Genesis Optimized Social Share plugin, it loads these social sharing widgets for you asynchronously. Which means they load fast and your page loads faster too.

Genesis Translations

Not everyone speaks English and Genesis is deployed on websites across the world. The Genesis Translations plugin makes it very easy to translate your Genesis site.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this list of the best Genesis plugins. Try them out for yourself and you can see how they make certain customizations of your Genesis site that much easier.


Is Your Website Mobile Ready Yet?

by Leo

Did you know that there are 1.2 billion people accessing the web using mobile devices these days? Here’s an infographic that Neil Patel just shared in his latest blog post, Why All Marketers Should Be Thinking Mobile.

Why All Marketers Should Be Thinking Mobile
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

That’s why if you have a website, then you need to make sure it’s mobile responsive. This means that your site looks great, whether your visitor is visiting your site from their desktop computer, or their mobile phone or tablet. This can be accomplished by making sure your website shrinks and grows depending on the size of the user’s screen.

What’s the easiest way to do this? If you’re on the WordPress platform, then the easiest way is probably to leverage an existing wordpress theme framework like Genesis or Thesis theme which supports mobile responsive themes out of the box. Browse this list of Genesis child themes on your cell phone and you can see how each of these themes works on the small screen. Notice how readable they are. Unlike non-mobile responsive themes which require a magnifying glass to read.

Final Thoughts

There’s really no excuse not to be thinking about mobile these days. It’s a huge market, and you better make sure your website is equipped to serve your visitors on any device they happen to be using.


Why Google Authorship Is So Important

by Leo

SEO is constantly changing these days and one of the hot new things is Google Authorship. If you’ve checked out the Google search results lately, you’ll notice that many listings display a photo of the author in the results.

Here’s an example screenshot:

kikolani - Google Search

Why would you want one of these little photos to popup next to your search rankings? Because it offers a couple obvious benefits including:

1) Higher CTR – Your photo next to the search results will definitely result in high click-through rates compared with those that don’t. It just makes your listing standout, and begs to be clicked.

2) Increased trust – When a searcher sees your photo in the search result, it automatically conveys more trust than one that doesn’t. This is very important for anyone trying to build up their brand.

But really, the biggest benefit is that people are integrating Google authorship with their blogs are seeing an increase in search engine rankings.

Lets do a simple case study. I was looking to hire some contractors for a job I had, and I wanted to read some ODesk reviews to see whether I should try ODesk or not. Here’s a picture of the SERPs for the keyword Odesk review.

3 out of the 4 spots in the search results have Google authorship enabled!

odesk review - Google Search

Yet the best ODesk review I read was actually this one by Brad Kelley. Unfortunately it was stuck on the second page, likely because he did not integrate google authorship with his post. Look how simple an unappealing it looks.

Odesk review

As you can see, it is super important to start adding Google authorship to your blog as soon as possible. It’s great for your brand, and it’s becoming increasingly more important for ranking well in the search engines. For instructions on how to do this, check out this post on the Kissmetrics blog.


5 Best Free Blogging Sites

by Leo

Blogging can be a great way to kill some serious time in a more productive way, express and share your ideas and thoughts with everyone, build authority on the internet, connect and network with other people from all over the globe, and of course, earn some money while doing it!

One of the great things about blogging is that you don’t really need a large investment to get started. In fact, setting up and starting a blog doesn’t cost anything at all, if you choose one of the many free blogging platforms out there.

You could, of course, take the self-hosted route: buy a domain, web hosting, and run and manage your own blog. But to be honest, it can be a bit (or a lot) of hassle when it comes to hosting your own blog – you have to manage the hosting, manage the CMS, and develop all aspects of your blog your own self.

Which is a lot to do for the non-techy, or people who simply want a blog to speak their minds or get the word out about something.

And that is where free blogging platforms come in! Here are 5 of the best:

 

1. WordPress

Easily, the best free blogging platform on this list, all things considered (well, at least in my opinion!). WordPress is absolutely fantastic: its free, its loaded with features, it’s very popular (for good reason) – it has a large community of developers working on theme and plugin development (among other things), built-in blog stats, easy integration with social mediums, easy post, page and comment management, is very secure, and to top it all off, WordPress has a brilliant back-end/dashboard/cPanel that is not only quite powerful but also very user-friendly! It takes minutes to sign up for a free blog, get it up and running and be on your way to publishing your very first blog post! All free WordPress blogs come with the extension .wordpress.com, so your blog will look something like YourBlogName.wordpress.com.

 

2. Blogger (aka BlogSpot)

Blogger is a free blogging platform owned by a little company known as Google ;) All Blogger blogs are hosted on Google’s servers, and in a similar way to WordPress, have a .blogspot.com extension. Blogger, like WordPress, is extremely popular and quite understandably so. In order to get started with Blogger, you need to create a Google account, and setting up a blog takes just a few minutes before you’re taken to your blogger blog’s control panel. Here, you can add and set-up more blogs, and control each blog’s individual settings very easily, such as change elements of the interface (layout and templates), add posts and pages, check stats and tweak other settings. You can also purchase a dotcom domain and add it to your Blogger account if you don’t with the .blogspot.com extension. Two of Blogger’s strengths, when compared to others on this list, is that (a) Blogger blogs tend to rank better on Google (for obvious reasons), and (b) you can integrate Blogger accounts with your AdSense account in order to earn from your blog.

 

3. Tumblr

Tumblr has seen an immense rise in popularity, especially recently – it hosts almost a 100 million blogs, and over 44 billion blog posts according to the latest statistics! I wouldn’t exactly call Tumblr a blogging website, as it belongs in the Microblogging category and targets the non-techies out there. But nonetheless, Tumblr allows users to post short blog posts, which can either be text, image or multimedia-based posts (such as an audio/podcast-based blog). Tumblr provides an immense amount of flexibility as far customizability is concerned, and Tumblr blogs are highly-customizable as well – a great variety of themes, free customizable domains, and a whole lot more. You can choose to make your blogs public or private (invitation-based). One of the appeals of Tumblr is that it has a very small learning-curve; a 10 year old could have a blog up and running on Tumblr easily! Tumblr blogs are also said to have a better retention rate than Twitter accounts, which pretty much speaks for itself!

 

4. Blog.com

One of the first things that you’ll notice upon opening Blog.com is its similarity with WordPress. Blog.com is powered by WordPress, and hence shares a similar front and back-end with the service. You get access to some really cool and elegant-looking themes and plugins, and pretty much the same usability and functionality that you get with a WordPress blog. In addition, you get 2GB storage space as well (which is less than what your get with WordPress though). Blog.com does shows a lot more ads on blogs hosted on it, however you can pay a small fee in order to get rid of these ads. For me, one of the biggest advantages of using Blog.com is that you get the same amount of features as WordPress, but a better extension (YourBlog.blog.com).

 

5. Weebly

Weebly is free, and provides powerful yet easy-to-use drag-and-drop website builder, which is perhaps its forte! There’s no need to know any technical mumbo-jumbo, and what you have is the ability to build a highly-customized and tailor-made website your own self, within a matter of minutes, all for free! In addition, Weebly also offers powerful cloud-based web hosting, as well as hundreds of themes to choose from. Weebly comes with a great user-friendly control panel, and you can add posts, pages, photos, videos and do just about anything through its intuitive drag-and-drop interface. You can see the complete list of Weebly’s features here.

What would make your list of the best free blogging platforms? Leave your feedback in the comments below!


Costs Involved in Starting a Website

by Leo

I was recently working on a freelance assignment for an individual who, while being quite tech-savvy and what not, who knew his iPhones from his Androids and his Macbooks from his Ultrabooks, was absolutely clueless about how websites are set up, and most importantly (for me), what are some of the costs involved in setting up a website or a blog.

Which got me thinking, you don’t come across a lot of material on this topic on the internet do you?

This article will list down a breakdown of all the (approximate) costs involved in setting up a small-to-medium website for a corporation or a business, or even a personal blog. I intend to keep it simple, and beginner-friendly. And the focus of this article will be people who are planning to start their own personal blogs, or small businesses or business owners looking for visibility and exposure on the internet through a corporate/company website.

Before we begin though, it is important to tell the readers that they don’t even need to spend a penny if they don’t want to, since there are plenty of free blogging platforms out there.

But these free platforms are usually quite limited in terms of functionality and customizability. Which is why it is generally a good idea to go for a self-hosted website or blog.

So without further ado, here is the breakdown of some of the costs associated with getting a website or a blog up:

 

1. Domain

The domain is essentially the name and identity of your website: YourWebsiteName.com or something similar. Buying a domain is often one of the first steps that you take when setting up a website/blog. Domains can be registered simply by visiting one of the many domain registrars out there; some of the reputable ones include Name.com and GoDaddy. The part of the domain name which is followed by the dot is usually referred to as the extension, and extensions such as .com, .net, .biz, .org, .edu etc. are called top-level domains (TLDs). TLDs such as .com and .net usually tend to cost somewhere around $9.99 to $19.99 per-year depending on where you register it. GoDaddy, for instance, sells .com domains for $9.99 for an year, and you can get a discount if you register yours for more than a year (can be done up to a maximum of 5 years, if I’m not mistaken). Domains need to be renewed every year (or at the end of the term you signed up for) so it’s a recurring expense.

 

2. Web Hosting

Another one of the essentials as far as getting a website/blog is concerned. Web hosting is the ‘virtual space’ on the internet where your website resides, and where its files are hosted. You can purchase web hosting from the million-and-one places on the internet, or give a local hosting company in your area or city a call or visit. Hosting companies usually offer a wide variety of different hosting packages, aimed at people with different hosting needs. For individuals and small businesses, a shared web hosting package usually does the job. HostGator is one of the best web hosts in the business right now, and offers shared packages for as low as just under $4-a-month. This package is particularly good as it offers unlimited hosting space, bandwidth and domains. Hosting too follows pretty much the same pattern as domains when it comes to the billing; you can purchase as less as 6 months of web hosting, or as much as 5 years of it. Although hosting companies usually list their cost on a per-month basis, billing is usually yearly.

 

3. CMS

Once you have web hosting and a domain, you need to get your website up, which usually starts off by choosing a CMS – or a Content Management System. While you can choose from a host of CMS, such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal for instance, the most popular one out there is WordPress. Its free, very easy-to-use, easy to manage, and lets you change the appearance of your website, add posts, pages, images, and content to it, design its layout, and much more!

 

4. Theme

WordPress comes with a very basic-looking theme and a pretty vanilla interface. In order to be able to get your website to look exactly the way you want it to, you’ll have to turn to one of the million themes available for WordPress. There are many free themes available, a lot of them on WordPress’s own website. Or you could also browse through the many paid-for or premium themes (such as these) or theme frameworks (such as the Genesis framework or the Thesis framework) available on the internet. Themes can cost from anywhere between a couple of dollars to hundreds of dollars for a lifetime license (ditto for a theme framework), so the costs here really depend on what you choose. Go through the links above to get an idea of the costs here.

 

5. Designing

Alternatively, you could have someone design your website for you from scratch. This would allow you to get a custom-built or tailor-made website built for yourself, built to your exact specifications. The downside is that the web designer may charge you a good amount of money, depending on the amount of work involved, and you may not be able to manage a custom-built website on your own (as opposed to a WordPress-based website which requires very little technical expertise to run and/or manage). Another option is to get a custom WordPress theme designed, if you decide to stick with WP, however that too could cost you some money.

 

6. Content

So that’s pretty much it for the setting-up part. Once your website it up, you’ll need to start putting content on it. Make sure you don’t do this after your website is up, rather plan your content well in advance so you know what goes where when the website goes live. You have two options here: either write the content yourself, or if you don’t have the expertise to do it, you might want to pay someone to do it for you – such as a content writer or a ghost-writer who produces the content for your website on your behalf. Costs, once again, can vary. Websites such as Freelancer.com are usually good place to look for people offering such services.

 

7. SEO

You might want to consider hiring someone to optimize your website for search engine traffic and human visitors for you. SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, and includes a list of things that are aimed at optimizing certain on-page and off-page elements of a website in order to get maximum visibility, and attract the maximum amount of targeted traffic to the blog – both from search engines, as well as direct visitors. This allows people (such as potential customers) to be able to find you and your business, know about you, contact you, get information on the list of service you offer, know the products you sell and buy from you. Because that’s the whole purpose of having a website in the first place, right? Consider investing in SEO; for an idea of costs, once again go on Freelancer.com to look for freelancers who offer SEO as a service, or look for local businesses in the white pages or online.


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