I read A LOT of blog posts and like most people, I use a variety of devices to do it. At this time I have, a laptop (2), an iPad, and my iPhone, and what I find most often really surprises me.
80% of the blog posts I read are not totally mobile responsive AND you are being penalized by
- a lower ranking,
- a lower domain authority, and whether not your website is showing up in Google searches.
- no matter how good of an SEO strategy you have if your site isn’t mobile responsive it’s all for naught.
To see this many websites who just aren’t getting it really concerns me. This can mean lower readership, lower sales, and a user experience that leaves a lot to be desired.
Answer this honestly: When was the last time you looked at your website on your mobile device? That doesn’t mean getting on and taking care of something like approving a comment, but really looking at what your readers and clients see when they visit your website on mobile view.
- Read a blog post & attempted to comment?
- Tried to opt-in on your phone?
- Tried to fill out your contact form?
- Clicked on your social media buttons?
- Tried to share a blog post on social media?
These are all tests that you should use to check your website for mobile responsiveness. I say at least every 6 months or anytime you make changes to your website.
As I was reading just this morning alone I saw:
- images that wouldn’t load or were not the right size
- no sharing buttons anywhere. I saw several food and/or tech blogs who didn’t have Pinterest buttons or Pinterest sized images on your site. Did you know that most community boards won’t allow you to pin unless your image size is 735 x 1102 or even better 1000 x 1600?
- no commenting section
& that was only after an hour of testing out different sites!
I know this isn’t something new, I mean Google started putting the word out in 2015 so why aren’t people listening? I’m not sure but I’m going to hope that you just don’t know what you don’t know. When I was researching this issue I found lots of articles on “mobile-friendliness”. Here’s a great one I found on Search Engine Journal or this one on Business News Daily.
Here are a few facts:
- More than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices.
- Google prioritizes mobile pages load speed as a key metric.
- They offer all sorts of free tools to help you achieve complete mobile responsiveness.
Are you tired of trying to find these answers by yourself or you just need a little help knowing what to do and how to do it?
Today I want to offer you this:
A free mobile responsiveness audit of your own website. That’s right I’m offering you a completely free of charge audit. What do you have to do? Sign up below and give me 72 hours and I’ll email you the results! That’s it!
SEO seems to be one thing that confuses most people and it really doesn’t have to be a great mystery. SEO stands for SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION which is simply making your website or blog post as appetizing to search engines as you possibly can. The easier it is to read, the higher your rankings. SEO is your website’s currency.
Keywords Are The Secret Sauce
There are several tools that can help you achieve this elusive mix of great content & relevant keywords. Keywords are the secret sauce in this recipe. From the very beginning, before you even build your website you probably had a niche. Maybe it’s food blogging, or building sales funnels or even dog grooming.
After deciding on your niche (even before naming your site) you should be thinking about 8 -10 important keywords that you know are the very basis of your website. Using the three examples above let’s see what we come up with.
Once you choose the top keywords in your niche you should start building the site with these words in mind. In your name, in your blog posts, in your social media posts every time you put something out there it should be with this strategy in mind.
Simple Strategies Already Provided
That’s not to say that these are the only words that you can use. On the contrary, it should be used as a guide to build on. WordPress is built on this system and by incorporating the use of correct headlines tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6), proper categories, and relevant tags consistently you will build a foundation that is search engine friendly.
A Well-Established Website Can Still Tighten It Up From Time To Time
Even if you have a well-established website you can still tighten it up from time to time and to use all of the options open to you to get the most bang for your buck. Go into your analytics and start with the top 10 posts and then just clean it up and I also suggest taking the bottom 10 and find ways to make them better. Do one a week, do them all at once whatever it’s just normal content maintenance. (it’s a thing!)
I use the SEO by Yoast plugin on any website that I build. It works, it’s easy to set up and it’s compatible with just anything. (plugin conflicts are the #1 reason for website troubles). BUT I don’t see people using it to its full potential and it confuses me. Why bother creating content if you’re not going to make it easy for search engines like Google, Pinterest, etc to find you?
It’s not just setting up the plugin, there are certain steps you need to take for every single blog post, page, etc. When I’m in the backend of a website I see these important bonuses left empty time after time so I thought I’d make a quick video showing you how to use your SEO by Yoast to its full potential.
The first thing you have to decide is whether you want images or photography? These are two totally different things. Do you need a stock photo of a landscape or a girl on a beach? Or are you working on branding as a whole or maybe you want a uniformed, polished look. There’s a big spectrum between free and paid and so many choices. I can get lost for days at some of the sites below. I use both free and paid.
I’ve fallen in love with the photography of Wonderfelle media. That’s where all of these gorgeous new images came from. It’s a subscription and I paid $45 for six months. That’s like $7 and some change a month. I don’t mind paying that for this much pretty! It makes me smile every time I look at it.
The new theme is by Restored 316 and it’s called the Market Theme. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Restored 316 WordPress themes. I’ve used several of their themes and they are so customizable! This one, though, is by far my favorite. It’ll be around for a long time.
I’m addicted to photography. I only want to look at other people’s work, though, my photography skills are nada, zilch, nonexistent. I’m the one who ends up with 16 pictures of the ceiling and only one blurry picture of half a grandkid. (true story!)
So let’s get right to it!
There are four basic types of photography licensing and you should be aware of which one the image you are using requires. I cannot stress enough Read The License Terms Before You Use The Image!
Creative Commons – There are 7 Creative Common licenses.
Attribution – means that the owner allows you to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon their work, even commercially as long as you credit them for the original work.
Attribution (Noncommercial) – Same as attribution, but you can’t use them commercially. You can use them in a blog post, but nothing that you could sell.
Attribution No Derivatives – same as Attribution, except you can’t make any changes to the original work. You can use the image in a blog post or product, but you won’t be able to crop, rotate or change colors on a photograph with this license.
Attribution-ShareAlike licenses – This licenses let you remix, tweak and build upon the original work for commercial or non-commercial purposes as long as you credit it AND license your new creation under the same terms. This means that if you wish to share your new work, like say a free ebook, it must carry the same license.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs – The most restrictive CC license, meaning you can use the creative work with attribution, but you can’t use it commercially and you can’t alter it in any way.
Zero – The least restrictive CC license. It means that the owner of the work has waived all rights and you are free to use the image as often and however you wish, however you like, with no attribution.
What this means for you as a blogger: Creative Commons images are great for bloggers because they are monetarily free and you can use most of them in blog posts, ebooks, and products. Just be sure to give attribution each time you use one and be careful about where you use a noncommercial image. You won’t need to attribute images with a CC Zero license.
Public domain – Images or works in the Public Domain mean that their intellectual property rights have actually expired, been forfeited or are inapplicable. Images are free to use whenever and wherever you’d like.
Rights Managed – You pay for an image based on how many times and how many places it’s being used and/or viewed. Because of these restrictions and the high cost, it is not feasible for a blog or website.
Royalty Free – Means that you don’t pay a royalty for each instance that you use the image like you might do with Rights Managed images. Once you’ve purchased a royalty-free license, you can use the image multiple times with no time limit. There are some restrictions, however: you can’t use it in a template and resell it, for example.
What this means for you as a blogger: Royalty Free images can be inexpensive and are great for blog posts, web ads, videos, ebooks and digital products without attribution.
How Do You Know If Images You’ve Already Used Are In Violation?
Tineye to search for it. Tineye allows you to upload an image or enter the image URL (right-click the image and select “Copy Image URL”). A list of websites, including stock image sites using the image, is returned.
Sites for images
Pixabay – All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.
Unsplash – Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos. Subscribe to their newsletter and get a photo pack delivered right to your inbox.
Picjumbo – Free stock photo site created by designer & photographer Viktor Hanacek in 2013. It all started when any regular stock photo site didn‘t want his photos due to lack of quality. Two years later people downloaded more than two and half millions images from this site.
Gratisography – Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects.
Flickr – Not every photo on Flickr is available for you to use, even with attribution, so it’s best to find images using Flickr’s Advanced Search.
Stockphotos.io – A high quality site for public domain and Creative Commons photos.
Tineye – A simple shortcut to finding photos in a specific color palette. When you choose the color(s) you’d like to have in your image, TinEye will gather images straight from the Creative Commons images on Flickr. Choose up to 5 colors and even adjust the percentage of each color.
Stockpholio – It doesn’t take you to Flickr to download the images, you can download them directly from the site AND get the HTML code with the credits. It makes downloading images much faster.
30 Stunning HDR Photos w/ Creative common license. There are only 30 images, but there are some stunning cityscapes and other landscape types of images.
Photopin – Free photos for bloggers & creatives. You can download the images in several sizes without having to go to Flickr and there is HTML code available to cut and paste for attribution.
Wikimedia – Media file repository that makes media content (images, sound and video clips) in both the public domain and Creative Commons freely available. Because it’s a Wiki site, anyone can copy, use and modify any files as long as the terms of each is followed.
Libreshot – A project that contains free stock photos for private and commercial use. All photos and the whole website are created by Martin Vorel.
Europeana – An online collection of digitized items from European museums, libraries, archives and multi-media collections. There are many items here that are also in the Public Domain.
Photogen – Photos for commercial and non-commercial use. Categories range from business, agriculture, technology and arts to nature, travel and food and drink (plus more).
Freephotobank – FreePhotoBank is a free stock photo site. Feel free to download pictures (up to 2048 pixels, Creative Commons licence) but don’t forget to link back to FreePhotoBank !
Freefoto – Images in many different categories can be used for non-commercial purposes under the Creative Commons license for non-commercial, no derivatives, attribution license. For a fee, images can be made available for commercial use and in high resolution.
Freestockphotos – Owned and copyrighted by Daniel Speck. Mostly nature and travel images.
Photoseverywhere – A free stock photo site specializing in travel-related stock photos.
Burst.Shopify – A new free stock photo site that covers just about anything.
Pixwizard – There are nearly 100,000 images on the site that are completely free to use (without attribution), about 20,000 of which are exclusive to us and can’t be found anywhere else.
Free Templates – Looking for free templates for your next project? Find everything from brochures to tickets are available on this site.
Crowdsourced Stock –
Fotopedia – Many photos here are available under the Creative Commons license, but you have to read the caption on each photo very carefully. If the caption says “Photo: ” and then shows the little CC in a circle icon, then click on that to read the license for that one photo.
Photober – Photos are all available for both commercial and personal use.
Patternpictures – A free photo site that provides mostly photographic backgrounds and textures, but also a lot of travel-style photographs.
The Open Photo Project – The Open Photo Project is a photo sharing platform created in 1998 by Michael Jastremski. Contributors have offered their images free of charge under terms of Creative Commons licensing.
Dotspin – A social sharing website for where you can upload and either sell or share your Instagram and Twitter photos under a Creative Commons license.
Morguefile – Photographs that have been freely contributed by many photographers for use in creative projects. You may use them for personal or commercial use.
Photographer Owned Stock
Lime Lane Photography – Kellie is the photographer/blogger behind Lime Lane and although she sells many photographs, she also shares a few for free. All photos are meant for blog posts.
Picjumbo – Viktor Hanácek adds free photos to PicJumbo every day.
Splitshire – Free stock photos for personal & commercial use.” Daniel Nanescu is an Italian Web & Graphic Designer and Photographer that shares his own photographs to use free for both personal and commercial use.
Superfamous – Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter shares his incredible biological, aerial and geological photography on this site.
Imagebase – Imagebase.net is a collection of vectors and photos of people, objects, urban, nature and travel, mostly taken by David Niblack. Images can be freely used for personal, commercial, non-profit, artistic, or creative purposes.
Function Design Blog – Liam McKay has offered to share 4 volumes of his hi-res photos. You have full permission to use them however you see fit.
Stockunlimited – I paid $49 for lifetime access through SumoApp. I use it constantly and it has a wide range of photos available to use.
Wonderfelle Media – This subscription runs about $10 a month or you can save more by paying for several months upfront. Amazing feminine styled photography that you can use anywhere. Receive free images for signing up for her newsletter.
Haute Chocolate – Another subscription-based photography site that has stunning feminine styled photography. Runs about $75 for three months. Receive free images by signing up for her newsletter.
Shay Cochrane – Beautiful photography bought in bundles or individually. Great for branding. Sign up for her newsletter and get your first image free.
Canva – Canva provides tons of free images. Some require purchase, but they are always $1.
Adobe Stock Photos – Tons of images. Subscription costs $29.99 a month with your first month free.
Stocksy – A pay as you go subscription site.
Stock Free Images – The largest web collection of free images. 1,607,385 images royalty free stock photos and illustrations.
Death By Stock Photos – Subscriptions start at $15 and go all the way up to $180 per year. Get free images by signing up for their newsletter.
Graphicstock – Enjoy unlimited downloads of royalty-free photos, vectors, and illustrations. $49 a month or $99 for a whole year.
There is no way that I could include every single photo website, but these are the main ones. If you have more please feel free to add them in the comments below.
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Each year I am approached by companies wanting me to try their products & services and ultimately share them with all of you. Some have been great additions to my business others have left me disappointed and flummoxed. I thought I would share with you the best & the worst from the past year!
To begin with, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories.
- Blogging tools
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Running your business
As you know (if you have a blog) there is always so much that needs to be done in a short amount of time so anything that I can find that will:
- Save Time
- Save Money
- Improve My Skills
is a Godsend to me. Now, I want to share them with you!
I have my own hosting that I provide through Flywheel (owned by WPEngine) which runs $20 a month. We provide fast, secure hosting, free SSL’s, and amazing support. I only have three spots available.
For someone just starting out or on a tight budget I use **Bluehost. I have to say that I have set up hundreds of sites on Bluehost and not once have I ever had a problem. Once upon a time, Bluehost was considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of hosting, but a few years ago they turned it around and I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with how hard they have worked to improve every aspect of their service.
I have always been a Genesis girl and **Studio Press is the place to get the best themes. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with **Divi by Elegant themes and I have to say that I absolutely love it! It’s so versatile and easy to use and saves me tons of time. There are so many things included that you hardly need any plugins at all!
Listen I know that those sneaky plugins get you where it hurts. I’m sure you have seen the notices in your dashboard ‘get this pro version’, ‘buy this’, ‘do that’. Nine times out of 10 you don’t need it. There are free plugins for just about anything. My go-to plugins are:
- Updraft Plus for backing up.
- Wordfence for security.
- Jetpack lots of things.
- Akismet for spam.
If you’re using Genesis then I add:
- Genesis Enews (optins)
- Simple Social Icons
- Simple Social Share
If you’re using Divi
All of those are free & if there’s something you want just search the plugin repository.
Hubspot created a blog post with 60 free online courses that you can take to improve your skills. If you don’t follow Hubspot’s blog you really should. There is always so much valuable information.
Would you like to learn more about Facebook ads? Here’s a great post by Insane Growth that explains it all.
Social media is the bane of my existence, but it’s also a necessary evil. I build websites and create content with business tips for bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses. I get asked to try a lot of different social media scheduling tool and here is my honest opinion.
**#1 For me is Sendible.com. I run three different websites and manage several clients’ social media accounts. Scheduling blog posts and monitoring keywords that I set up, even monitoring my competitor’s social media accounts. If you run multiple blogs or social media accounts
Sendible is the best.
Most places make you pay per account so for three sites I would have to have three different accounts. I would only be able to pick up one RSS feed unless I had three different accounts.
I could not run my business without Sendible!
Sendible is different. I have a set number of services I can set up and it doesn’t matter how many RSS feeds you pick up and auto-posts new pieces. You can schedule them to repeat however many times it’s all completely up to you. I post to five different FB pages for various people and with Sendible I can do it automatically saving myself lots of time.
Then there is **Tailwind
I love using it for Pinterest.
I know I’m not taking full advantage of the features but what I am using I love. BUT I don’t like them for Instagram. I tried it I really did, but it was just too confusing and I wasting to much time trying to figure it out.
A few years ago I bought a lifetime membership for Grum.co for only $39 and I love it for scheduling Instagram posts. That’s all it does Instagram, but it’s so easy to use. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking on new customers. If I didn’t have this I would make the time for Tailwind, but this one is just to easy and it’s a lifetime purchase.
I love Co-schedule I really do, but because of the limitations of only having one site on one account, I just can’t justify that expense when I have other options. It offers a boatload of features and it’s easy to use.
There is really no “free” service for scheduling your content. You can use “Publicize” inside your WordPress site and it will automatically post to FB, Twitter, & LinkedIn.
I know that Buffer offers a free version but I’m not sure of its limitations. I’ve always found it too confusing to use.
If you’re going to spend money this is one of the places where I say if you can pay for it then get it. A good social media scheduler can save you loads of time while helping you build your tribe.
In today’s 24/7, 100mph world if you’re not marketing through email then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. You should absolutely be sending a welcome email sequence & sending out an RSS to your subscribers.
A few months ago, I was singing the praises of **Engagebay and I learned a very valuable lesson. Sometimes quick decisions can be the wrong decisions. It can send beautiful emails, there are tools for marketing, sales or service. I feel as if it is an excellent platform, but it just didn’t fit my needs. The main problem was the RSS emails. There just wasn’t enough flexibility and I actually sent out a few crazy emails before I gave up.
If you’re running a small business then I cannot recommend Engagebay enough. It’s beautiful, easy to use and handles so many tasks. It’s also affordable. Here is a link to their Youtube channel which has a lot of info about its features. It’s a great platform I just tend to have a problem with change I guess.
So, I’m back at MailChimp and that’s where I’m staying! I know my way around, it’s easy to use (most of the time) and it’s cheap. They have changed things and unless you have a paid account you are limited in what you can do. Such as only having one audience(list), limitations on automation, etc. I pay for The Blogging 911 account and use the free version for Wanding Web Designer & The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver my other two sites. The paid version runs me $9.63 a month.
Have you seen my the MAILCHIMP EXPLAINED ebook in the 911 Resource Library? It’s just one of the many free resources inside.
I’ve worked with ConvertKit before and it is easy to use. I didn’t like the design limitations and figure if I’m going to spend $30 a month it needs to have a lot more.
Running your Business
There are several tools that I use every single day to run my business. Some are free (well most are free) but they are still necessary. Tools such as:
- 17Hats – is an all-around scheduling tool, lead capture forms, templates such as contracts or estimates. It runs $39 a month for all of its features and there are many. I personally only use the free version because I use the templates & lead capture forms (those project inquiry forms you see around here).
- Acuity Scheduling – If you need an easy way for people to schedule appointments I highly recommend Acuity. Their free version has always been more than enough for me.
- Asana – This is my project management tool and it keeps me on track when I’m building out a new site, managing other projects or even just things I need to do. There is both a free and paid version and I’ve always found the free version more than enough for my needs.
- Canva – There is a free version of Canva that works very well. I use Canva almost every single day and I love it for it’s easy to use dashboard, to the free and paid elements like stock photos, icons, frames, colors, and fonts. For this, I splurge and get the paid version so that I can store my own logos, my fonts (up to 25) and my brand colors for $12.95.
- Google Drive – Also free. I use it to store all of my clients’ assets. I like how easy it is and it works great with Gmail which is another great free tool. I do use the paid version of this and it runs $6 a month and I have tons of storage and it’s easy to use.
- One Drive – This is part of my Microsoft subscription which is about $7 a month. This is where I keep all of my assets. (Such as stock images, templates, or other graphics).
- Dropbox – This is where I store all of the backups for my clients & my own personal websites. This costs around $10 but they’ve added a bunch of new features.
- Screencast-o-matic – This another thing I purchased from Sumo. It was a lifetime subscription for only $39 and I use it whenever I need to make tutorials or other videos where I share my screen. It’s something I purchased on APPSUMO.
- APPSUMO – is a great place to find great deals on products or services to run your business! They always have freebies or lifetime deals that will save you tons of time and money.
Know some great tools that I might not know about? Let me know in the comments below.
** Means that it is an affiliate link if you purchase a service, with the (**) beside it, means that I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your cost.
I talk about website maintenance ALL OF THE TIME! Why? Because I spend A LOT of time fixing things that could have easily been avoided with proper website maintenance.
This got me thinking…I know you love your website.
I mean come on it’s the child that doesn’t talk back, doesn’t forget to put gas back in the car, and NEVER asks for anything! So you want to take care of it!
The reasons you’re not maintaining your site:
- You love paying people like me to fix things.
- You have way too much money and have to find ways to give it away.
- Your website is “special” and never requires maintenance.
- You don’t have time.
- You don’t know how.
The first two reasons…I can’t help you, but my PayPal account is Rena@theblogging911.com!
The third reason…every website requires maintenance. It doesn’t matter what theme you use, what plugins you use, or even who designs it. It has to be maintained to stay safe, secure, and running optimally.
You don’t have time… Well, I have this maintenance plan….
You don’t know how to maintain your site properly! This must be it! So today we’re talking website maintenance.
First, foremost, & MOST IMPORTANT is having a good backup plugin. I prefer either Updraft Plus or Dropbox, but there are other options as long as you choose ONE of them…and actually, use it!
Backup your site before making any changes. How often should you back up your site?
Well, it all depends on how often you post, but definitely, every time you make a change, add something such as a plugin or theme. I backup my site and those that I maintain twice a month. I use the 1st & 15th. Using the same days every month helps me to remember easier. I always know that on those two days I am maintaining websites.
Second, you are going to want to update anything that needs it. You can always find those updates at the top of your dashboard. Just click on the circle and it will take you to your update page. Here you will be able to update WordPress, themes, or plugins.
After doing all of your updates, and by the way I start from biggest to smallest (meaning I update WordPress first, then any themes even though you should only have the theme that is activated saved, and all plugins that require the updates). I also never update more than three plugins at a time.
Next, I go to SETTINGS>>OPTIMIZE DATABASE & DELETE REVISIONS and optimize all databases which will also get rid of any revisions (which add up quickly) and all spam comments.
After all of that is finished I check to make sure my site doesn’t have malware. I use Sucuri or Wordfence and I have to be honest here after some recent changes to Sucuri (you have to go to their website now to check your site) I prefer using Wordfence because I can check for malware right inside my dashboard.
I also do a front end visual check to make sure that my site looks as it should after the updates and if anything needs my attention.
If it’s the first of the month I also check site speeds by going to GT METRIX which is a free service. All you have to do is enter your URL and hit ANALYZE. I also head to “BROKEN LINK CHECKER” and check for broken links. They also have their own plugin, but I find it kind of bulky and can sometimes conflict with other plugins.