Why SiteGround are the Best Web Hosting Company

One of the most important things to consider when owning a website is what web hosting company do you go with. There are quite a few of them out there with the most popular ones being GoDaddy, BlueHost and HostGator. However there is one web hosting company that stands out from the rest – SiteGround. Based in Eastern Europe, this web hosting company has been my number one choice to work with over the past 5 years and I plan on staying with them for many more years to come.

Before I begin to give my reasons for rating SiteGround as the best web hosting company, let me first address this question.

Who/What is a Web Hosting Company?

Simply put, a web hosting company is responsible for making your website visible and reachable on the internet. They store all the code and files that make up your website and ensure that people from all over the world can access your website. Depending on the level of service you pay for, some web hosting companies may provide additional services such as cloud hosting, security and automatic back ups as well.

So Why is SiteGround the Best Web Hosting Company?

I could give you close to 20 reasons why they are best but for the sole purpose of keeping this article short, I am going to give you my top 8 reasons

1 – They were #1 in 2017’s FaceBook Poll

There is a very popular FaceBook group (I am a member) that comprises of over 7,000 individuals who are knowledgeable about web hosting. A poll was recently conducted to determine who the best web hosting company was and SiteGround was voted number 1.

They were also voted number 1 last year as well.

2 – Incredible Speeds

This is without question the number 1 reason why I love them. They use an extremely powerful combination of NGINX servers, PHP7, Solid State Drives(SSDs) and 1-click CloudFlare CDN technology.  Also, SiteGround WordPress developers created two plugins – SuperCacher and SG Optimizer plugins that can further boost speeds of WordPress websites hosted on their platform.

3 – World Class Customer Support

SiteGround’s customer support is LEGENDARY. In all the 5 years I have been hosting with them, I have never had to wait more than 20 seconds to get support through their chat system and no I am not exaggerating this. You can try it out yourself – just visit their website, click on the live chat link at the top right hand corner, choose any of the three support categories that pop up and I guarantee you that in less than 20 seconds, you will be chatting with a real life SiteGround representative. Also for more advanced troubleshooting that requires opening a support ticket, I have never waited more than 15 minutes  to get a solution to the problem.

4 – 99.99% Website Uptime

Unlike many other web hosting companies that falsely claim to provide 99.99% uptime for their customers, SiteGround actually does provide this. If you have ever experienced internal server errors, bad gateways and connection failures, you will never get this with SiteGround.

Please Note that SiteGround are currently running a Black Friday sale from now till 28th of Nov 2017 where you can get a massive 70% discount on all their web hosting packages. Click here to learn more about this.

5 – Resource Rich & Easy to Use cPanel

SiteGround’s cPanel is very easy to navigate through and contains many useful apps all designed to enhance the management and functionality of your website. Some of my favorite apps include  –

  • WordPress Installer – allows you install WordPress with 2 clicks
  • SuperCacher – caches your website providing extremely fast access speeds
  • phpMyAdmin – provides an easy to manage your databases
  • Create/Backup Restore – this is the app you need to create and restore backups easily
  • Let’s Encrypt – A very new app that allows you install SSL security certificates on your websites

6 – Free Migration & Low Cancellation Rates

SiteGround will migrate you for free when you decide to switch hosts plus people who do migrate to SiteGround very rarely ever cancel. I have been an affiliate for them for almost 2 years now and out of the nearly 50 clients who have signed up through my affiliate link, only ONE has ever cancelled. Compared to this, the cancellation rate of HostGator is around 55%.

Also there have been many notable people who have switched to SiteGround and have taken to social media to express their satisfaction.

7 – FREE Excellent Services and Perks

Some of the free services that you get when you switch to SiteGround include – automatic WordPress updates, 1-Click Cloudflare activation and SSL certificates. Also when you become a SiteGround customer, you are provided with great discounts for many top quality WordPress Products.

8 – Excellent Feedback on Social Media

Its not just me who loves SiteGround. Hundreds of others have taken to social media to praise this company for the world class web hosting they provide.

Conclusion

I hope I have been able to convince you of just how awesome SiteGround are. If you have any more questions about them, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

Cheers and have a great day.

Alex …

A friendly reminder ………

Please Note that SiteGround are currently running a Black Friday sale from now till 28th of Nov 2017 where you can get a massive 70% discount on all their web hosting packages. Click here to learn more about this.

Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins for Bloggers in 2017

So you have got yourself a WordPress blog and without doubt also have some plugins already installed to aid you. However it is my belief that there are some awesome plugins out there which you may have never heard of and might be a lot better than those you are currently using.

In this article, I am going to list out the top 10 essential WordPress plugins if you own a blog and why you should be using them.

Ready? Lets go –

SEO by Squirrly

An absolute gem of an SEO plugin.  I only just found out about it a few weeks ago because marketing guru Neil Patel recommended it and I must say that he knew what he was talking about.

The SEO by Squirrly is now my favorite SEO plugin and yes I would rate it higher than the Yoast SEO plugin for the following reasons:

  • The plugin provides a live keyword research to find out how competitive your keywords are and how hard it is to rank them.
  • You can live search online for relevant blog posts, images and even tweets that you can insert into your blog post.
  • The plugin sends a weekly audit report detailing how well your site is performing and tips on how to improve your rankings

Yoast SEO remains one of the most popular SEO plugins but I would strongly recommend that you give this plugin a try.

Content Locker Pro

the content locker plugin

An increasingly popular way of gaining more traffic through social media is by offering a preview of an article and then ‘locking’ the rest of it until the reader shares the article on social media. In other words, the reader gets to read typically the first paragraph of the article while the rest is hidden until he or she likes or shares the article on Facebook, tweets about it etc.

One of the best plugins for locking articles is the Content Locker Pro plugin by the geeks from MyThemeShop. The plugin is easy to use, SEO optimized, lightweight and can be integrated with a lot of email marketing solutions such as MailChimp,  Aweber, Active Campaign and MailPoet.

The plugin also has advanced features such as being able to create different types of lockers, track the performance of each and even build a mailing list by collecting names and emails.

PopUp Domination

When it comes to plugins for capturing emails and growing your subscribers list, there is a ton of them out there. Last I checked there were close to about 40 different developers claiming their plugin was the best option available.

I am sure you must have heard of some of the more popular ones like OptinMonster and LeadPages but I was turned off by their pricing which is rather on the high side. Plugins like SumoMe seemed to have a thousand different features which just made them look bloated while many others just didn’t have enough features. Aarrrrgghhhhh!!!

In the end I was forced to continue my research and finally after many years (okay it was only after a few days), I finally discovered PopUp Domination.

Technically PopUp Domination is not a plugin but more of a service that you can integrate seamlessly with WordPress and every major marketing solution out there.

The best thing about this service is that you get a lot for its basic package which is probably the most affordable on the market starting at just $9 a month.

You get –

  • Access to unlimited domain
  • Access to unlimited Popups
  •  30,000 popup views
  • A/B Testing
  • Exit Popup intent

I should also probably add that it is what I use on this very website as well.

Anti-Spam

Essential WordPress Plugins - Anti Spam

This is without question one of the essential WordPress plugins for every blogger.

One of the occupational hazards of being a blogger is that you end up having to deal with spam. Thankfully there are several plugins out there that can fight against it but I would recommend using the Anti-Spam plugin above them all.

The plugin is incredibly lightweight and is able to keep your site safe from spam comments without using captcha, asking questions, or annoying your readers.

Content Views

This is an excellent plugin for displaying your posts in amazing layouts without needing a single line of code. The plugin provides a whopping 8640 possible layouts for showcasing your posts including unlimited colors, font sizes and hundreds of different font families to choose from.

I do have a video on YouTube describing how to use the free version of the plugin and you can watch that below

WP Review Pro

As a blogger you might want to write reviews about certain products, services or anything related to what you blog about.  The best plugin for writing reviews in my humble opinion is the WP Review Pro. This is an extremely lightweight plugin that offers different multiple rating systems (stars, percentage, points).

Your users can also rate and review your posts and content simply by adding a comment and it’s seamlessly integrated with WP Review Pro for a truly rich user experience.

The plugin also does provide some rich snippets which will show up on search engines which helps to generate more traffic and leads to higher rankings.

All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets

In case you didn’t know, snippets are basically a short summary of your page in the search results of major search engines. Snippets can be extremely useful in that they make your posts stand out from the rest and can lead to much higher clicks.

Essential WordPress Plugins
A snippet will make your articles stand out from the crowd

The AIOSoRS plugin is the best plugin for creating snippets of your articles. With the plugin, you can choose from a variety of different schemas and then personalize it by adding an image, short description etc. A definite must have for some good ol SEO boosting.

Smush

As a blogger, you are very likely going to be working with lots of images. Your posts are going to have featured images and many of your posts will likely have images embedded inside of them.

These images occupy space on your web server and as a result there is the tendency for all these images to have an impact on the performance of your website.

One of the best ways of preventing this from happening is to optimize your images by compressing them.

The Smush plugin by the awesome folks at WPMU DEV strips hidden bulky information from your images and reduce file size without losing quality.

We do have a tutorial on how to use this plugin. Check out the video below

Ultimate Social Media Share

I am sure I don’t need to tell you that social media can bring a ton of FREE traffic to your website. As a blogger you absolutely must offer your audience the ability to share your articles on social media and also allow them to follow you on your own social media platforms.

Granted there are a lot of WordPress plugins for social media but the Ultimate Social Media Share plugin is my favorite.

This plugin covers over 200+ social media platforms and offers 16 different designs including animations for your social media icons.

You can also decide to display a pop-up (on all or only on selected pages) asking people to follow/share you via your social media icons and also display sharing-buttons and social media icons at the end of every post.

WP Discuz

The final plugin on our list of the most essential WordPress plugins for bloggers.

Let’s be honest – the default WordPress comments system sucks.

Comments are going to be vital for your articles because they help to establish your credibility and the fact that your articles are engaging and useful. There are so many things that your readers should be able to do with their comments but they can’t with the default WordPress comments system.

An awesome plugin for improving the overall functionality of your comments system is the WP Discuz plugin. The plugin offers a clean and vibrant user interface with tons of features such as the ‘Load More Comments’ ajax functionality.

Users can also edit their comments and subscribe to be notified whenever anyone responds to their comments.

So there you go – my top 10 essential WordPress plugins for Bloggers.

If you have got more you would like to share or talk about, be sure to add your comments below.

5 Best WordPress SEO Plugins in 2017

Best WordPress SEO plugins

I am sure you already know that SEO is extremely crucial to getting more traffic for your WordPress website. Google and other major search engines are used on a daily basis by millions of people to find information and it is only natural that you try and position your website on the first page of these search engines.

In this article we are going to take a look at the 5 best WordPress SEO plugins to help you achieve this lofty goal.

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast

No WordPress SEO list would be complete without Yoast SEO. It is one of the most popular plugins and will improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. The plugin forces you to pick a focus keyword which would be used to determine how optimized your content is for SEO.

Apart from technical optimization, the plugin also strives to ensure that you write better content. The plugin can determine how often you use the passive or active voice and will highlight sentences that can be improved.

The plugin can also create a sitemap for your website.

  • SEO by Squirrly

A plugin we just started using here at Web Monkey and one recommended by marketing guru Neil Patel.

The SEO by Squirrly plugin is one that we love to use because it provides incredible features we are yet to see any other SEO plugin provide. Some of these features include

  • A live keyword research to find out how competitive your keywords are and how hard it is to rank them.
  • Live search online for relevant blog posts, images and even tweets that you can insert into your blog post.
  • A weekly audit report detailing how well your site is performing and tips on how to improve your rankings
best wordpress seo plugins
Squirrly provides weekly audits

 

  • All in One SEO Pack

One of the most downloaded plugins of all time. The All in One SEO Pack plugin comes with a ton of features all catered towards boosting your SEO ranking.

The plugin can also generate META tags automatically and optimizes your titles for Google and other major search engines.

  • SEO Ultimate

This is another all-in-one super SEO plugin with lots of features.

Some of these features include control over meta titles and descriptions, open graphs, auto linking and 404 monitoring.

  • Broken Links Checker

Broken links suck a lot and can make any site appear unprofessional and also hurt your SEO.

We recommend using the Broken Links Checker plugin to detect broken links on your site. It is a free plugin and you can even fix the broken links without even editing your posts.

The plugin does consume a lot of resources so take this into consideration when using it.

So there you have it, our 5 best WordPress SEO plugins for the year 2017.

If you do have other suggestions, be sure to post your comments below.

 

 

8 Things to Consider When Choosing a WordPress Theme

8 things to consider when choosing a WordPress theme

Choosing a WordPress theme is arguably one of the most important decisions you will have to make as a WordPress user. The problem here is that with thousands of themes to choose from, selecting the right theme can be a challenge. This is why in this article, we are going to list out the 8 most important things to consider when choosing a WordPress theme.

  • Theme Category

Themes are very often grouped under categories such as blog, business, e-commerce and even multi-purpose. This is done to give an indication of the type of website the theme was designed to be used for.  You can save yourself plenty of time by ensuring you are searching in the right category for the kind of theme you are looking for.

  • General Design & Functionality

You can always customize the design and functionality of any theme you choose but it makes sense that you try and select one that already offers what you are looking for right from the start. This will prevent you from having to start tweaking the theme unnecessarily. Also, many themes do come with bonus features such as child theme, SEO and even adsense optimization.

  • Theme Options

This is particularly key if you don’t have any CSS or WordPress development experience. When a theme has got options, this means that you might be able to perform some customization like adding your logo, changing the fonts and colors used and even set up different sidebars and page layouts.

  • Plugin Dependency

Some themes rely on certain plugins to fully function and a prime example is the Divi theme which was built primarily to work with Divi page builder. Other themes come bundled with some plugins as part of a package but we do not recommend buying themes like these.  The challenge with such bundled packages is that the plugins are embeded with the theme and cannot be separated. If one of the plugins stops working or is no longer updated, you can run into a lot of issues.

  • Sidebars

Sidebars are an important part of any WordPress website and the number of them available for use depends on the theme you choose. When choosing a WordPress theme, take into consideration whether or not you want to display content in specific areas of your website like the footer and then make sure the theme has such a sidebar.

If you want a tutorial on how to create your own custom sidebars so you are not limited by the theme you choose, check out  our YouTube tutorial on how to create a custom sidebar in WordPress

  • Page Templates

A page template determines what content is displayed on a page and how it is also displayed. The standard WordPress page template available with most themes is the one that has the main content area and a sidebar either to the left or the right of the content area. Many themes also offer the full width template which just has the main content area with not sidebar.

When choosing a WordPress theme, we recommend going for a theme that at the very least offers the standard and full width page templates.

  • Documentation & Support

These are usually available for just about every premium theme on the market but it is always a good idea to ensure that your premium theme does come with them.

  • Responsiveness

It is 2017 and more people now spend more time browsing on their mobile devices that standard desktops. As such it is vital that your website is responsive meaning it looks good and presentable on all mobile devices. Modern WordPress themes are built to be responsive

There you have it, our top 8 things to consider when choosing a WordPress theme.

If you do have other suggestions, be sure to post your comments below.

 

The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins for Beginners

With over 48,000 free plugins in the WordPress directory alone, its near impossible to not find at least one plugin that can add the functionality you are looking for unless of course you are looking for a plugin that can read the minds of your site’s visitors (but who knows maybe in another 5 years or so ……….).

Plugins are written by WordPress developers from all over the world. This means that anyone with some knowledge of WordPress development can come up with an idea for a plugin, write the code to develop the plugin and then either make it free to the world or charge for it. While this encourages the development of many plugins, it does result in the release of some badly written plugins by inexperienced programmers.

Where can I find Plugins?

You can find most plugins in the official WordPress directory.

The plugin directory
The plugin directory

You can download WordPress plugins from many other websites as well. WordPress developers who choose to sell their plugins have their own websites where you can buy them.

The Plugin Download Page

On every plugin download page, you can see the menu with 9 tabs that offer key information about the plugin.

plugin-download-page

Provides the key facts about the plugin and what functionality it provides.
You will find guidance on how to install and use the plugin.
A useful tab that provides answers to some of the most popular questions asked about the plugin.
Some pictures that show some of the design and functionality that the plugin provides.
A page that describes some of the key updates that the developer has made to the plugin.
This tab tells you how often the plugin is installed.
A very useful page where you could get help from the developer of the plugin if you are having any issues.
Hear from happy or angry users of the plugin.
On this page, you will find previous versions of the plugin (if any) that you can download if the current version doesn't work properly on your site.

You will see the plugin sidebar to the right of the page. The first line tells you the earliest version of WordPress that is required to work with the plugin while the second tells you the latest version of WordPress that has been tested with the plugin.

You can also view the ratings of the plugin just below the sidebar and more information about the developer(s) of the plugin.

What happens when a plugin is installed?

plugins directory
plugins directory

When you install a WordPress plugin, a folder with the name of the plugin is created in your plugins directory that will contain its installation files. You can view the plugins folder by using any FTP software to access your web directory.

The plugin is registered in your database and is loaded every time someone visits your website.

Some plugins create their own widgets that can be used in your sidebars such as the contact form 7 plugin that creates its own contact form widget that you can use to display your contact form in a sidebar.

Types of WordPress Plugins

When it comes to classifying plugins, there are 2 major ways of doing so. The first is by how much they cost and the second is by the amount of functionality they provide and how they affect the performance of your website when they are installed.

In terms of cost, there are 2 different types of plugins – Free & Premium

Freemium WordPress Plugins

These are plugins that you can use for free on your site. Some of them may require that you first sign up or create an account before being able to use the plugin but you will not be required to pay to do so.

Pros

  • They are free.
  • There are many of them that are very useful and provide some impressive functionality to any website they are installed on.

Cons

  • There is the tendency for the developers to stop maintaining the plugin by keeping it updated after a period of time
  • Support is limited.
  • Many free WordPress plugins are badly written and may even cause your website harm.

If you are going to use a free plugin, try using one that has a paid version. Such plugins are usually well maintained by the developers in an effort to attract users to the premium version.

Premium WordPress Plugins

These are plugins that you can use for free on your site. Some of them may require that you first sign up or create an account before being able to use the plugin but you will not be required to pay to do so.

Pros

  • They are well maintained.
  • Support is provided.
  • Premium plugins in most cases are superior to their free versions because they provide more functionality.

Cons

  • There is the buyer’s remorse when you buy a premium plugin only to discover a short while later that there is a better and cheaper plugin with very similar functionality. However I should point out that there are premium plugins that come with a money back guarantee (usually 1-2 weeks) after purchase.
  • Not every premium plugin is a good plugin. You must do your research properly before you buy one.

If you are going to buy a premium plugin, by from reputable places like MyTheme Shop and Envato Market.

Now lets talk about plugin functionality.

When it comes to classifying plugins based  on how much functionality they offer and how they could affect the overall performance of your website, there are 3 major types of plugins:

Lightweight Plugins

These are plugins that are exact in what they do and in many cases this could mean providing one very specific functionality. A classic example is the Display Widgets plugin which allows you to show/hide widgets on specific pages & posts.

Lightweight plugins are often very easy to setup and have very little effect on a website’s performance if any.

A major disadvantage to using lightweight plugins constantly is that you might end up installing more than 20 of them just to get all the desired functionality implemented on your site. More plugins means more security risks and more time spent on plugin management.

Use lightweight plugins when you are looking for a very specific functionality to add to your site.

‘Regular/Normal’ Plugins

There are no official terms to describe such plugins except that most of the plugins you work with are likely to fall under this category. These are plugins that are a bit more robust than lightweight plugins and do require a certain amount of set up to get them working properly. Their level of functionality will determine how they affect your website’s performance.

Most plugins you use will fall under this category.

‘Heavyweight’ Plugins

Again the term ‘heavyweight‘ is not an official term but we like to use it to describe such plugins. Heavyweight WordPress plugins provide a wide range of functionalities that serve a general purpose.

One prime example is the WooCommerce plugin which can be used to build an e-commerce store.

Another example is the Sucuri Security plugin which offers 7 key features that help to protect WordPress websites.

Some of these plugins may make use of ‘add ons‘  from third parties that help to enhance their functionalities even further.

Their complexity may affect your website performance because they demand and use more resources than other plugins. It is best to limit their number and to use other plugins that can help boost performance like cache plugins.

Plugin ‘Conflicts’

Every once in a while, you might experience something called a plugin “conflict”. A conflict occurs when one or more of your plugins malfunctions and in some severe cases, could render your website inaccessible.

Plugin conflicts occur from poorly coded plugins and whenever there is a major update to the WordPress core.

One of the best ways of identifying the conflicting plugin(s) is to first disable all plugins and then start reactivating them one at a time. You will get an error message or notice a change in your website’s appearance when you reactivate the faulty plugin.

A plugin conflict can also occur whenever two or more plugins ‘fight’ for resources. This happens when the plugins perform similar tasks and so its often a good idea to avoid installing plugins with similar functionalities on your website.

Plugin Best Practices

As much as we love plugins, too many of them installed on your website could be detrimental. Limit the number of them you have installed on your website. Fewer plugins means less time spent on plugin management.

Keep all your plugins updated. This is the best way to prevent the bad guys from exploiting your plugins.

Uninstall any deactivated plugins. There is no point in having them occupy space if they are not active.