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How to set up a free domain name, free hosting and a WordPress blog in just 15 minutes!

In this video based tutorial, I show you how to create an entirely zero cost independent website, including a free domain name, free hosting package and a WordPress installation in just 15 minutes. This is a good solution for anyone who needs a web presence on a tight budget.

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How to make WordPress look like Medium.com or Facebook Notes

I really love the blogging experience with Medium.com. The GUI is so intuitive that I often forget about the mundane “technical” aspects of blogging and I’m able to focus on creating great content.

At the same time, I still love WordPress. I like having control over my content and I like the added flexibility of WordPress, particularly in areas such as E-commerce.

So this got me thinking. How difficult would it be to transform my WordPress blog into a Medium-like site? It turns out that it’s very easy, particularly if you’re starting a new blog.

You need two things: the Integer Theme and the Gutenberg plugin. Both are free and easy to use. You can watch the video above for a step-by-step tutorial on how to set both of these up.

Gutenberg has received quite a bit of criticism from the WordPress community since its release, particularly from developers having a hard time adapting the plugin to existing client websites.

It seems the best option at the moment for anyone seriously considering using Gutenberg full-time, is to run a minimal installation of WordPress using just a few essential plugins such as Akismet, WP Cache and Yoast as well as a simple theme like Integer. This combination worked very well in my tests.

Gutenberg is obviously an attempt by WordPress to enter the Medium.com arena. Over major sites are making similar moves to paired-down, content first approach.Facebook’s recent addition of “Notes” is an obvious example.

 

Gutenberg takes the standard WordPress composition screen and makes it look and function like Medium’s “block” system with intuitive text editing and media import capabilities.

So if you’re looking for a simple and low cost solution to transform WordPress into a minimal blogging platform, why not give the Integer and Gutenberg combo a try? Let me know what you think.

 

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How to choose a WordPress theme for your website or blog

Which WordPress theme should I choose, X or Y? I get asked this questions quite a lot. Answering them is harder than it may seem. Why? Because theme selection is never just a matter of personal taste. It goes right to the heart of your website’s purpose.

Here’s an example of an email I received recently:

“Hello, I hope I am not disturbing you but I have just seen your review of the Bimber theme which I found very useful. I am a journalist and I am now on blogspot. But I want to make a change and create a digital magazine. I was looking at various options (including the Bimber theme). But I am also contemplating The Fox Magazine. Can I ask you your feedback on it? Thank you very much.”

In order to know which theme to choose, you first need to know what you want your site to achieve. What’s your plan? Answering that question should lead to a list of criteria that can be applied to theme selection. After that it’s a question of testing the theme, checking for known issues and then taking the plunge. Continue Reading

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How to make a free logo in under 3 minutes

Here’s the scenario: you want to launch a killer website and your budget consists of exactly $0. You’ve already found an awesome free WordPress theme, you’ve put together some incredible content, but to tie it all together you need a logo.

So you google “free logo” and you get this long list of websites promising you the flashiest logo ever. But, you soon realise that before you can even get to making your logo, you have to sign up for an account, and when you finally download it you realise it has a watermark that can only be removed with a premium account.

Then this happens…

So I did all that and was about to give up when finally I came across a very simple solution: www.textcraft.net.

You won’t need any special tools, apps or software; no signups, logins, or extra hoops to jump through; just your browser and your mouse.

You might be thinking that TextCraft sounds like a geek site for MineCraft fans who want to create avatars and logos for their social media accounts, and you’d be right. But its application is broader than that.

What sets it apart from the competition is the speed and ease of use. Enter your text. Choose the size, color, font type and effect; test it and download it. That’s it.

So why not give it a try? This is the result of my logo design:

wpliving logo

wpliving (2)

wpliving (1)

wpliving

If you end up using textcraft to design your own free logo, drop me a line in the comment section with a link to your site or tweet it to me. I’d love to see how it turned out.

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How to Make Viral Lists with WordPress

Viral lists or listicles are a mainstay of the social web for one simple reason: time.

A good list saves you the time it would take to research and curate a wide range of content related to a specific topic or keyword.

Sites such as BuzzFeed, Upworthy and ViralNova have built million dollar businesses on top of viral lists. But what is the key to making a great list and what is the best way to make one with WordPress?

In this post, I begin by thinking through the steps to making viral lists, and then explore 4 different WordPress plugins that you can use to make the list creation process (potentially) easier.

How to make viral lists

On the surface, list making is a simple process:

choose a topic > research and bookmark content > arrange those bookmarks in a blog post > add a title, photo and descriptive text for each item > hit publish!

In reality though, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at each step of the list making process and think through some of the strategies involved.

1. Choose a topic: this is the market research phase of your list. For me, it’s the most important part. It starts with choosing a general topic then narrowing it down to a select combination of keywords. For example, let’s say you’re interested in making a list about lions, the narrowing down process might look something like this:

lions > lions as predators > lions’ eating behaviour > other predators that lions are capable of killing  > lions against leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs

The next step is to check your keyword combination on the Google Adwords Keyword Planner app. Try different combinations of your keywords to gauge for search frequencies against your keywords.

At the same time, you should also run a google general search and a google blog search for your target words to see what sort of competition you’re up against. Is your topic completely saturated with posts already or is there room for more? In the case of the former, think about ways or refocusing your keyword choice.

2. Bookmark the best stuff you find: once you’ve found your topic, you can start searching the web for content. This step is relatively straight forward. Of course, you need to have a good grasp of the topic to discern which content will bring value to your users. You can use popular bookmarking apps such as Pocket or Diigo to save your items. You could also use Pinterest boards and add links back to your blog post to generate extra traffic.

3. Choose which bookmarks to share: once you’ve collected material, you begin the curation/editorial process, which is really about creating the right order for the list. You might start with a strong impact, or build up the intrigue factor as your list progresses; you might make it a logical progression, ordered by time or place; you could also opt for strong contrasts between list items to draw attention to a particular item. It really depends on the content matter and your overall intention.

4. Write some accompanying text: not all viral lists have text for each entry, but many do for the simple reason that it helps contextualize the content and also allows you to fulfil some basic SEO requirements (reusing targeted keywords; reaching the minimum 300 word post quota etc.) In any case, the copy should be informative and relevant and should improve rather than detract from the impact of the list.

5. Double check everything before publishing: is your post SEO optimized? Do your keywords appear frequently enough? Is each list item clearly dinstinguishable? Is the list order effective? Would you be interested in reading this list?

Ok, so that’s an overview of the list creation process. Let’s move on to making lists with WordPress. Below are two free and two premium plugins that can help you create your list.

Free WordPress plugins for Viral Lists

Why use a plugin? Why not just make your list straight in the post composition screen? One of the reasons why I began searching for plugins was that I found myself spending more time on the composition stage of the list than on the research. This is because the default WordPress post list is limited to single functions. It works well for numbered lines of text, but it gets trickier when you started adding images, videos, animated gifs, text and titles. With that in mind, I started looking for some plugins to help me compose viral lists and this is what I found.

1. Listic Listicle Creator

Let’s start with free plugins. A quick search in the wordpress.org plugin database returns these 2 plugins:

Listic Listicle Creator

The first of these plugins, called the “Listic Listicle Creator” is not really what I was looking for. It “allows users to quickly and easily create multi-page listicles of any size within a single post. This is accomplished by using the [listic] shortcode along with item names or numbers of your choice.”

The result looks like this:

listicle-view

It breaks a manually drafted WordPress post list into a string of paginated posts. The type of lists I am interested in are full page lists. So this solution is no good for me.

2. Listly: Listicles for WordPress

The second plugin is called “Listly: Listicles for WordPress.”

Listly WordPress Plugin

This is exactly what I was looking for. However, here again there’s a caveat. In order to use this plugin, you have subscribe to and create you lists using the list.ly service.

It’s a free service for basic users, but if you want more options and plan on making a lot of lists, you’ll have to buy into their premium plans.

Their plugin basically allows you to embed a list created on list.ly into a WordPress post.

Here’s an example of a list in masonry style:

listly

It looks cool and it has all the dynamic elements I want, but having to always go through the list.ly service and essentially publish your list twice (once on their site, once on your WordPress blog) was too much of a drag for me.

I want something standalone, that I can control. So I started looking at paid plugins. Here’s what I found:

Premium listicle WordPress plugins

1. ViralPress

The first premium plugin I looked at is called “ViralPress

The ViralPress WordPress Plugin

ViralPress is a widget that transforms your WordPress blog into a BuzzFeed clone, allowing you to post viral lists, quizzes, videos, images, news and polls.

Here’s an example of the plugin in action:

ViralPress WordPress Plugin

Reading through the plugin’s comment thread, it seems to have good reviews and good user feedback. But for me, I didn’t want to transform my entire site into a buzzfeed clone.

2. Xlist

The second premium viral list plugin I looked at is the one I ended up buying. It’s called “Xlist – Multi-Purpose WordPress listicle Maker“.

Xlist Viral WordPress List Plugin

The plugin is simple to use and allows you to insert dynamic viral lists into your posts from your WordPress post composition screen.

It also allows you to extract content from popular lists sites or any lists with an RSS feed.

Once you install the plugin you get an additional section in your post composition screen which looks like this:

Xlist Viral Lists

You can insert a url to extract content automatically and render it in list form, or you can add list items manually.

The manual input screen looks like this:

Xlist Viral Lists

The plugin allows you to organize your lists in different layouts, and comes with 8 templates preinstalled, including basic, grid, article, numbered article and others.

Xlist Viral Lists

This is what the Xlist screen looks like once you’ve created a list:

Xlist Viral Lists

Xlist was a cheap option and while not perfect, it does what I want. It allows me to cut down on list composition time, it has social connectivity and it is easy to use. I recommend it.

If you know of any other plugins to make viral WordPress lists, I would love to hear about them.

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How to add WordPress filler content to a new blog

Whenever I use a new theme for a website, I always test it out on my “sandbox” test site first. That’s when I need WordPress filler content.

So how do you add sample content for all the main post types, layouts and media types at the click of a button? This tutorial shows you how by using the free WP Example Content plugin by Josh Ferrara.

Many premium themes come with an xml file that you can upload using the WordPress importer (got to: tools>import) to set up your test site with dummy content. However, the problem with that is that it often leaves you with a long list of posts, pages and plugins to delete and disable once you’ve finished experimenting with the theme.

What I like most about the WP Example content plugin is that you can add and delete the WordPress filler content by clicking a single button in the plugin’s option panel. It’s that simple.

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How to make a free video intro in 5 minutes

This is a simple and practical tutorial showing you how to make a free video intro in 5 minutes. There is no cost involved and no catch. It’s all 100% free.

So what might you use these video intros for? The main users would be people creating videos for a YouTube channel. A smart and memorable intro (keep those intros short) is a great way to create brand identity for your channel. It also gives your videos a more professional and serious feel.

The software I use in the tutorial is iMovie, version 10.6.0. But you can use the same principle and method for Movie Maker if you’re a Windows user.

The free video clips used in the tutorial are courtesy of Beach Front B-Roll. This is a fantastic and little-known site offering high definition clips for free download and use.

I have trawled through a large number of so-called “free” video clip sites looking for potential intro material, but most come with some sort of catch.

The audio file I use is called “Otis McMusic (Sting)” by Otis McDonald. This is part of the YouTube free music audio library. I recommend using these files, because they have been approved for use by YouTube. Video uploads to YouTube often get blocked or restricted due to copyrighted material, but these files are entirely free to use.

Finally, a couple of years ago, I wrote a similar blog post on how to create a free video intro and it proved very popular. While that tutorial is still useful, I made this follow-up post to give an updated and more efficient way of making intros.

So, give it a try and if you use my tutorial and make a video, be sure to share your work with other readers here by posting a link to the video in the comments. Happy vlogging!

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How to capture screenshots and automatically insert them into WordPress posts

 

Making WordPress image uploads faster and easier

I’ve often thought that the process of uploading images to WordPress posts was time consuming – particularly when it comes to making list-type posts that contain 10 to 20 images. So I decided to look for a solution that would enable me to capture images as I surf the web, automatically upload them to my hosting account, leaving me with the simple task of pasting a url in my WordPress post.

In the above video, I show you how to reduce the number of steps in the image upload process from this:

1. Download image to hard drive
2. Click “Add Media” button in your WordPress post
3. Find the image on your hard drive
4. Upload the image then click “Insert” into post

To this:

1. Highlight an image online
2. Paste image url into my WordPress post

Introducing Monosnap

I found an app that allows me to achieve this process and it’s called Monosnap. Before discovering Monosnap, I researched a range of free screen capture apps, and although there are some brilliant options out there, most still took 3 or 4 steps to generate the image url.

Monosnap is a free sreen capture app available for Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad that allows you to capture screenshots (photos) and screencasts (videos). It also has image editing features too and some nifty little options such as,

  • create pngs or jpegs: many screen capture apps restrict images to png format which leads to heavy file sizes and slows your site down.
  • adjust the output quality of images: again, this allows you to bring the image file size down to a minimum.
  • assign your own keyboard hotkeys: this makes initiating the app so much easier.
  • upload images to server via FTP: this was one of the crucial criteria for my project.
  • generate shortened urls: this makes Monosnap a great option for posting images to social media accounts, particularly Twitter, where word space is minimal.

Installing Monosnap

The app is very lightweight, easy to download and install. Once installed, it appears as a lightning icon in the mac tool bar at the top of the screen and its larger cousin sits nicely in the dock down below.

Monosnap icon
From there, the next step is to configure options in the “preferences” panel. At this point, most people will probably be happy using the allocated free server space that Monosnap provides when you sign up for their account. But for me, I wanted complete control over all the images captured and used on my blog, so I set up the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) option to get Monosnap to send my captured images straight to a chosen folder on my 3rd party web hosting server.

If you want to know how to set the FTP option up, read on, otherwise you can skip this section and head straight to the Monosnap website and start using the app.

Setting up the FTP option

This is a fairly simple process. You need a few pieces of information to make this work.

  • 1. Your server’s IP address: most mainstream hosting companies use Cpanel. To find your server IP address, just login to Cpanel and typically you will see it on the left hand sidebar. If not, then have a look around for a “server information” option. Here’s what it looks like on my hosting account Cpanel:
  • 2. Your hosting account username and password: that should be straightforward.
  • 3. Path to folder: Setup a folder on your server to house the screen grabs. To do this you need to go into Cpanel. Select “File Manager” and open up your server files. Navigate to your WordPress installation folder and then create a new folder and call it something like “screencaptures” or “grabs” or “images” or whatever you want. In my case, the path to the folder looks like this: public_html/wpliving/grabs. You’re should begin with “public_html” too.
  • 4. Base url: This is the full url path to the folder. So in my case it’s: http://www.wpliving.net/grabs.

So now you have this information, you can easily configure the FTP options in Monosnap. Here’s what it looks like:

options

That’s it! Once the FTP is working, you’ll be able to capture and link to images in matter of seconds. Thanks to Monosnap, my WordPress post writing time has decreased dramatically and it has turned what was once a fairly tedious process into something that’s actually quite fun. So give Monosnap a try and let me know what you think in the comments below. If you have any problems or questions about this app, don’t hesitate to ask.

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How to improve your SEO by removing broken links on your WordPress blog

After the recent theme change here at wpliving.net, I went back through my archive of posts to make a few style and formatting changes, and in the process I came across some dead links.

There are 2 main reasons why you should fix dead links. The first is to improve your visitors’ experience. There’s nothing worse than clicking on a link only to be taken to a 404 Page or one of those generic filler pages that hosting companies litter the Web with.

Secondly, cleaning up broken links can help improve your SEO ranking. You can find evidence of this on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines page related to SEO. You’ll also find a whole range of measures to take to help your site rank higher in search engine results.

Ok so this a very simple tutorial on how to improve your SEO ranking by removing broken links from your WordPress blog or website.

Rather than check each link manually, I looked for a WordPress plugin to automate the process. After trying a couple of solutions, I found the Broken Link Checker plugin by Janis Elsts to be the most simple and effective option.

What I like most about the WordPress plugin is that it scans my blog at regular intervals for broken links and returns a status update on my WordPress dashboard. The report generates the following information:

  • Broken url
  • url status
  • how long the link has been broken
  • url of my WordPress post/page that contains the link
  • the option to automate unlinks and redirects

So if you’ve never bothered to check for broken links in the past, give this little plugin a whirl and you’ll be surprised at what you find.

DupliChecker is another broken link checker service that you might want to take a look at.

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