Marina’s Academy Newletter – April 2018

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MarinaReznor.com: How I do it, what I pick, and how much it costs.

As a professional web developer, I am blessed with generous clients who demand (and pay) for the best services the internet has to offer. In many cases the software they need has much less expensive, and often free, versions for less sophisticated sites because website bells and whistles are often sized and priced on site traffic, page weight, and database size.

As a website gains in popularity and activity, security risks increase and server stress can become critical. If you are a prolific author with a large website please stop reading this and go hire a full stack developer. If you are a new author, or soon-to-be very famous author, read on.

My requirements:

As a new author with initially low website traffic, I’m looking for a basic site that readers will enjoy and Google will love. I want:

  1. Low cost
  2. A free SSL certificate (https) because Google loves those
  3. Free email accounts
  4. Easy maintenance and updating
  5. Lots of pretty pictures that serve quickly
  6. Great search engine optimization
  7. Looks good on a desktop as well as a mobile
  8. Very secure
  9. Follows the rules
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Can I do all this for less than $5.50 a month*?

That’s an ambitious list! Can I do it all for less than $70 a year? It takes some work but yes I can, and you can too. Here’s the one-page handout How I put together marinareznor.com, but read on for the full explanation,

* I also have free MailChimp but that’s another newsletter

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Go to Academy Resource page (Password: fowled)

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Have a question? Comment? Suggestion?

Email me at marina@marinareznor.com

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MUST HAVEs
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Hosting, aka Internet Service Provider (ISP)

    • Requirements: US-based tech support, reasonably priced basic service for one site, good up time, good email, cPanel, free SSL certificate (https), good security.
    • Choices: Bluehost, SiteGround, 1Plus1
    • I use: Bluehost shared hosting ($3.95/month with 5 email accounts and a free SSL certificate)
    • Read more: http://www.wpbeginner.com/hosting/
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Custom Domain Name

    • Requirements: It would be nice to get my domain name through my Internet Service Provider (host) since they usually give the first year free.
    • Choices: Bluehost, SiteGround, 1Plus1
    • I use: Bluehost ($1.33/month with first year free)
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Content Management System (CMS)

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Theme

    • Requirements: I enjoy working with a drag-n-drop designer called Visual Composer, so I’d like that functionality included. The theme must be mobile friendly, customizeable, well supported, and not too many bugs.
    • Choices:  thousands
    • I use: Salient by ThemeNectar ($60 initial purchase, $24/year for support)
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Security

    • Requirements:  While WordPress core software is very secure there is a lot you should to do ‘harden’ your website. The most important is making sure all security patches have been installed, setting up a firewall, encryption, and strong passwords. Security isn’t just about risk elimination, it’s about reduction. Installing a simple security plugin with excellent defaults will go a long way to prevent you from paying ransomware to hackers just to regain access to your website.
    • Choices:  WordFence, Sucuri, All In One WP Security, iThemes Security
    • I use:  WordFence (free) and Sucuri (free) but consider the $99/year version of WordFence if you have concerns
    • Read more: http://www.wpbeginner.com/wordpress-security/
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Backups

    • Requirements:   Your website is composed of two sets of files: SQL databases that contain your data, and function files that display that data. You must backup both to be able to fully restore your website in case of hacking, crashes, or other problems. Many hosting providers provide backups but don’t rely entirely on these. Do your own. I want automatic backups that I can schedule, and that can go to a choice of online storage hosts like DropBox. I want to be notified if there are any problems with the backups.
    • Choices:   BackupBuddy($80/year+), BackWPup (free), UpdraftPlus (free)
    • I use:   BackWPup (free)
    • Read more: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/7-best-wordpress-backup-plugins-compared-pros-and-cons/
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SHOULD HAVEs
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Caching

    • Requirements:   When a browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox) doesn’t have to retrieve new information every time a site is accessed it results in faster page load times. Caching plugins work the same way. The save dynamically generated HTML files in the cache and serve them next time a request is made instead of re-loading all of the PHP scripts from WordPress. This helps a site load faster, and site speed is an important factor in Google search rankings. Fast loading sites will rank higher than slower websites.  WordPress run on shared hosting can equal excessive load times. Good caching plugins will have excellent default settings so users don’t have to be tech-savvy, they will lazy-load images, and only load changed files.
    • Choices:   WP Super Cache, WP Rocket ($39/year 1 site), W3 Total Cache
    • I use:    WP Super Cache (free)
    • Read more: https://www.designbombs.com/top-wordpress-caching-plugins-compared/
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Image Compression

    • Requirements:   Website visitors like to look at pretty pictures. Unfortunately pretty pictures come in large file sizes (jpg’s) that will slow your load time. Image compression plugins allow you to easily optimize images in WordPress for better speed and performance. These plugins work when you upload images, which is convenient. I want an image compressor that will optimize images, increase page load speed, unlimited file size, lossless compression, good updates, unlimited images/month.
    • Choices:   reSmush.it, EWWW, ShortPixel
    • I use:    reSmush.it (free)
    • Read more:  https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/10-best-image-optimization-plugins-to-speed-up-your-wordpress-site/
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Automatic Updating

    • Requirements:  Security problems seem to be found almost every week, and patches are usually issued within 48 hours. It is imperative that these updates be installed immediately. WordPress, by default, now auto-updates itself. But I want all of my plugins to update without me having to check every day and send me a notification that updating has been run.
    • Choices:    Advanced Automatic Updates, Easy Updates Manager, Automatic Plugin Updates
    • I use:    Automatic Plugin Updates (free)
    • Read more: https://kinsta.com/blog/wordpress-automatic-updates/
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Search Engine Optimization

    • Requirements:   Search engines are a major source of traffic for most websites. I want a plug in that has excellent default settings, great tutorials, is well maintained because Google changes things up constantly, and will tell me when a post can be made better.
    • Choices:   Yoast SEO, All In One SEO, SEO Ultimate
    • I use:   Yoast SEO (free, but you should really invest in the $60/year upgrade when you’re ready)
    • Read more: https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/
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Contact Form

    • Requirements:   Contact forms are the gates of hell. Most website security issues come from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) which allows injections of malicious scripts through contact forms. Contact forms also have to have some form of security against spammers, like reCaptcha’s or short quizzes.
    • Choices:    Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms, WPForms Lite, Gravity Forms ($$$)
    • I use:    Contact Form 7 (free) because it’s bundled with Salient Theme. It is neither easy to use or fun to work with, but it gets the job done.
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Statistics

    • Requirements:    Everyone needs to see who is visiting their site and what they are looking at. Monster Insights is ruling this game (they were spun off by Yoast and pair well with his SEO plugin). Your choice should interface with Google Analytics, be easy to set up, track eCommerce, and not over-sample.  Suggestion: Start with something easy like MonsterInsights for Google Analytics and WPStatistics, then get hooked and go from there.
    • Choices:    Monster Insights ($39/year), Google Analytics+ ($49/mo), WP Statistics, Wassup Real Time Analytics
    • I use:    Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights (free), WP Statistics (free)
    • Read more: https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/resources/best-wordpress-analytics-plugins
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GDPR Notice

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NICE TO HAVEs
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Social Media Sharing

    • Requirements:    You see them all the time – the social media icons on a webpage or post, asking you to share. The main problem with most social media plugins for WordPress is performance. Since these plugins have to load additional stylesheets and scripts, they often slow down your website. Look for lightweight versions.  Content protection is a valuable feature to prevent content hijackers from placing their ads without your permission.
    • Choices:     Sassy Social Share, Simple Social Icons, Social Icons by WPZoom, Social Warfare (Pro-$29/yr), Instagram Feed
    • I use:     Instagram Feed (free), Simple Social Icons (free)
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eCommerce

    • Requirements:  E-commerce websites are different than regular websites because what they offer sits behind a paywall. The entire site needs to be secure to handle a customer’s crucial data (like credit cards, personal info), and handle the steps in processing an order. An eCommerce extension needs to be secure, have good payment gateways, ability to handle both digital and physical products, multiple shipping options. (See Marina’s Academy Newsletter, January 2018 for more details)
    • Choices: WooCommerce (free), Shopify (starts at $29/mo), EasyDigitalDownloads, Jigoshop
    • I use: WooCommerce (free)
    • Read more: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/best-wordpress-ecommerce-plugins-compared/
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eCommerce Payment Portals

    • Requirements:    A payment gateway is a third-party tool that evaluates and processes payments from your customers. So, rather than set up a basic contact form that requires customers to fill in their information to place an order—which you would then need to manually process on your end—the payment gateway handles it on your behalf. A good portal should be PCI compliant, easy to use, keep your customers on the same page, be able to handle multiple countries, offer merchange accounts, and collect taxes.
    • Choices:   Stripe, PayPal, Square, ApplePay, AmazonPay, Bitcoin, Braintree
    • I use:     Stripe, PayPal, ApplePay
    • Read more: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/payment-gateways-wordpress/
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Recipes

    • Requirements:   Surprisingly tricky. Recipes are often hosted on another site, not yours. The ability to host ads is an interesting feature. A plugin should be able to convert your post into a Pinterest Rich Pin, have a print button, make it easy to comment/rate/review, have the option of nutritional information.
    • Choices:     WP Recipe Maker (freemium), WP Tasty ($79/year), Cookbook ($55/year)
    • I use:     WP Recipe Maker (free, nutrition is a $39 addon)
    • Read more: https://wpbarista.com/which-recipe-plugin-is-best/
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Code Assist

    • Requirements:    Code Assist plugins let you insert code like Google Analytics, custom CSS, Facebook Pixel, and more to your WordPress site header and footer. No need to edit your theme files. They should offer a simple interface and work well with other plugins.
    • Choices:   Insert Headers and Footers, Head, Footer and Post Injections
    • I use:    Insert Headers and Footers (free)
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Broken Link Checker

    • Requirements:   Along with site speed, the number of broken links Google detects on your site is a big determinant of your page ranking. Run a lightweight plugin occasionally to make sure your website doesn’t have any.
    • Choices:   Broken Link Checker, WP Broken Link Status Checker, WordPress Broken Link Manager  (although there are many online checkers available)
    • I use:    Broken Link Checker (free)
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Total Initial Outlay: $60.00

Total Cost per month: $5.28

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I DON’T USE BUT MIGHT
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EMail Subscribe Pop-Up

  • Requirements:    These are annoying but highly effective. I’ve had a lot of experience with them and didn’t like OptinMonster, although it had many powerful features. You want simple to use, pre-made forms, many display options, ability to detect return visitors. I’ve found that the free ones have a bad user experience (UX), and paying a small fee is worth the money.
  • Choices:    OptinMonster ($9/mo), Ninja Popups ($25), Popups
  • I might use:    Ninja Popups
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NAGGING
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”padding-3-percent” column_padding_position=”right” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”1156″ alignment=”” animation=”None” border_radius=”none” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%” img_link=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Data_Protection_Regulation”][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”2/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]

GDPR goes into effect May 25th, 2018

Wondering why your inbox is suddenly filled with ‘policy updates’ from online vendors? Your website is compliant, riiiiiight? For more information, read Marina’s Academy newsletter, March 2018. Let’s get those newsletter sign-ups double-opt-in on the double![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” bg_color=”#a37a5b” scene_position=”center” text_color=”custom” custom_text_color=”#ffffff” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”padding-1-percent” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ font_color=”#ffffff” column_shadow=”small_depth” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]

REAL LIFE PLOT DEVICES
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The Stork: The agency matching people up to make babies

Are you a successful, smart woman who wants a child (but not necessarily a husband) or a titled gentleman who requires an heir to continue your line? Then you need the Stork, the introduction agency that specialises in matching people up to make babies, without all the bother and complication of romance.

By Francesca Carington, Originally published in Tatler 27 February 2018[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” bg_color=”#a37a5b” scene_position=”center” text_color=”custom” custom_text_color=”#ffffff” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”padding-1-percent” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ font_color=”#ffffff” column_shadow=”small_depth” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]

WASTE TIME LIKE A PROFESSIONAL WEB DEVELOPER
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Online SET Game

SET is one of our family’s favorite card games. It can be played with almost any age level, except the younger kids tend to decimate the older engineers once they get the hang of it. And once you start it’s hard to stop. Voted one of the best games year after year, it can be played alone or with a group. This online version is great.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” bg_color=”#a37a5b” scene_position=”center” text_color=”custom” custom_text_color=”#ffffff” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”padding-1-percent” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ font_color=”#ffffff” column_shadow=”small_depth” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]

IN NEXT MONTH’S NEWSLETTER
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Do you like my website?

Let’s talk about the basic things that make a good website, and the finishing touches that make it dazzle. Luckily most are free or very low cost. And yes, we can talk about website faux pas that make a web developer flinch. Have a particular question you’d like me to address? Drop me an email.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” bg_color=”#a37a5b” scene_position=”center” text_color=”custom” custom_text_color=”#ffffff” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”padding-1-percent” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ font_color=”#ffffff” column_shadow=”small_depth” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]

WHAT I’M WORKING ON
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My website page loading speed.

I have decided to fiddle with the page caching and reSmush.it settings in the hope of shaving even more time off the load. I want Google to love me![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”]

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My name is Marina Reznor, and I am a romance author by night and a web developer by day. I’ve been hanging around the internet for a long time, and enjoy sharing the information I come across*.

Have questions? Comments? Let’s be friends.

Email me here: Marina

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Click here: Join the Academy and receive it every month yourself. 

*I am not paid to recommend or advertise any tool or service, and if I was I would clearly disclose the fact.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”]

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