What resources have helped you with blog traffic
7 Commercial WordPress Plugins / Services That Helped Me Grow My Blogs
WordPress is a phenomenal platform. There are tons of free plugins, themes, and resources out there that will help you grow your blog. There are also tons of commercial (paid) plugins / services out there that will help you grow your blog too. How do you know what you really need? The only way is through experience. I have been using WordPress since 2006 and have learned a lot from my experience. If you are very conservative about how to spend like me, this list will help. I have compiled a list of 7 commercial plugins or services that have helped me grow my blog.
Note: This list applies to users with a self-hosted WordPress blog.
There are so many web hosting providers out there. Which one should you choose? I was hosting at numerous web hosting companies until 2007 when I stumbled upon a provider called HostGator. Now I'm very conservative (cheap) no matter how much money I make. I have a baby plan and have put all of my pages on it. It turned out that it wasn't enough. Now I wasn't ready to upgrade. I bought 2 additional baby plans and expanded my websites. Remember, there is UNLIMITED bandwidth and storage. Well it is unlimited if you are small, but if your sites require a large server load you will need to upgrade. I kept my hosting bill low for as long as possible. Then when they told me I had too many websites with my baby plans, I eventually switched to their reseller hosting (a middle-tier shared hosting). Instead of 3 baby plans, I had a reseller account with all the websites hosted there. As soon as I see more traffic, I switched to a VPS. Now we run a dedicated server that supports my blogs. It's been about five years since I've been using this company and I haven't been disappointed. The best part of my experience was that I didn't see any major downtime with any of the upgrades. There was almost no work for me. Your support is very helpful and quick. I used both live chat and the phone. Though, now I usually stick to the phone for expedited inquiries. I find everyone thinks live chat is convenient, so everyone uses it. This makes telephone support much faster.
Now people are trying to accuse me of selling HostGator for offering great affiliate commission. But the truth is, I've recommended HostGator since day one. The reason it is my first recommendation is that I USE it. WPBeginner and List25 both run on HostGator.
I even managed to convince my friend and famous blogger, John Chow, to switch when he was struggling with his host. He really loves the support and quality of the hosting.
I have some HostGator coupons if you want to sign up.
Summary: Choose a provider who can help you scale. If I had chosen another hosting company that only offers shared hosting and nothing more. Then I would have to change the company. I enjoy working with the same group of people when I can (trust issues). There are higher managed solutions, but you are limited to 1 domain or xx, xxx pageviews / month. It's definitely not something a new blogger can afford.
Backups are one thing that every blogger / webmaster should have. If you update your site daily, you should have daily backups. If your website is large and has a lot of comments, consider doing backups several times a day. Now I am NOT saying that something bad is going to happen. I say it can happen. I've always been careful to protect our data and keep backups in case something happens. For all of them, I can accidentally wipe things out (yup, I've done this before - that's how I learned). I've always relied on everything on my computer to be as organized as possible. The only thing I used was WP-DB backup. It's a free solution that backs up my database and sends it to a Gmail account. I have all the files on my computer (nothing can go wrong). You are dead, wrong. How about a hard drive failure? Yes, once again when my hard drive failed, my site was fully functional. I quickly jumped on the boat with BackupBuddy, which backs up my entire site in the cloud (here's a tutorial for BackupBuddy). That worked fine, but the downside was that we only did one backup per day (note: you can make multiple backups every day as stated in a comment from one of our users). Backing up a day can be problematic when multiple authors are working on different posts at the same time every day. If we lose all of their hard work, it costs us a lot of time. I finally decided to go with the VaultPress revolution. Started by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) and his team (Automattic), I knew I could trust these guys. Running VaultPress gives me peace of mind knowing that my blog is secured in real time and that it is safe. Not to mention, it's completely hassle free. All you have to do is put in your API key and allow the magic. To give an example, take a look at the activity screenshot when I wrote this post:
Yup 8 seconds ago. So every single word I write here is saved on a cloud server. If I ever need to repair something, that's where I have my full backups (plugins, images, database, etc.).
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
As my blogs started getting a lot of traffic, the server load increased which slowed the websites down a bit. Slow websites affect your search engine ranking and are bad for the user experience. I was approached very quickly by the MaxCDN sales team. It was like another sales pitch, but for some reason it had a personal touch. I did my research on the CDN. There were a few tech-savvy geek conversations that I didn't understand. So I decided to call her team. They explained things to me and we got off to a great start. I haven't looked back since implementing MaxCDN. My websites are faster and keep server usage low. For those wondering what a CDN is and why you need it, check out the infographic I created.
I have been using this service for a while now and I can tell you these people are amazing. I met the company's president (Chris Ueland), vice president of marketing (David Henzel), and other team members. They have become good friends (outside of work). I know that I am in good hands.
Use the wpbeginner coupon and save $ 10. My advice would be to spend $ 30 on 1TB of bandwidth after a coupon discount. You will automatically see a difference in the loading time. If you're a smaller website, that can take 1TB as much as a year. Except that your site will be a lot FASTER.
Every blog needs a contact form. Some require more advanced forms (e.g. lead generation form, client forms, etc.). I've been using plugins like cFormsII or Contact Form 7 (both free) the longest. They were very difficult to maintain and set up. Fortunately, while browsing Twitter, I saw recommendations of this plugin called Gravity Forms. I asked around and bought the developer license. I can tell you that this plugin saved me so much time and money that it is amazing. Not only have I used it to create simple contact forms, but I also used it to create lead generation forms. Heck, I recently used it to create a donation form for a nonprofit organization.
Gravity Forms is a must have for form creation. The drag-and-drop interface really helps. Here is a Gravity Forms Coupon.
If you've blogged for more than a few months, you've already heard the money is on the list. Everyone tries to build large email lists and send out newsletters (what, why, and how of an email newsletter). I've used both Aweber and MailChimp (two leading providers). Lately, I've been recommending MailChimp more and more to new users. Reason is simple. They offer a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers. Even if you are cost-saving or have a low budget, you want to get the maximum benefit. So you can get a free MailChimp account and start paying as soon as you reach 2,000 subscribers (hopefully you'll make the money to afford it by then). MailChimp is a bit stricter than Aweber when it comes to unsubscribing rates. So if you have 100 subscribers and 2 people unsubscribed, you will get a warning as you have over 1% unsubscribe rate.
Most bloggers make money from banner ads. In 2008, I finally bought an ad management plugin called OIO Publisher. I've been using it to manage ads on my blogs ever since. It allows users to buy ads directly from your website, pay through PayPal, or other options. Then a check is made to see if the payment went through. If so, you will have the option to approve or reject it. If you approve it, ads will appear on your website. Depending on the expiry date, the advertisement expires automatically. If the advertiser has a recurring subscription with them, they will ensure that payment has been received. If it doesn't, you will be informed and the ads removed. To be honest, it's a very smart platform. Now he can even sell ads via eCPM. If you want to eliminate middle-man and simply sell ads, I highly recommend getting OIO Publisher. I paid for it once and I've already got more than 500 times the return on it.
People keep asking me what I use for the lightbox popups or the footer bar plugins etc. The answer to that is OptinMonster. I created this plugin because everyone else on the market was slow, buggy, and had terrible support. OptinMonster is a gem for marketers. If you want to build or expand your email list, you need to install this plugin. Check out my case study of how I used OptinMonster to increase my email subscribers by 600%. Here is a link for an OptinMonster coupon in case you decide to buy it.
Any of the above plugins or services helped me grow my blog. I currently use all of the above products and I love them. The article contains affiliate links. So when you buy something I get a commission. However, my recommendations wouldn't change even without a commission. You can ask anyone who has met me in person, and I recommended the same products (if there isn't a link to click). What do you think of the above products? Would like to see a discussion going on.
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