Choosing the Best Host for WordPress

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Wordpress | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

After working with web sites on many different shared hosting providers, I have been able to see what works and what doesn’t work well for a self-hosted WordPress blog. It’s true that the requirements for WordPress aren’t that extensive, but there are still many reasons to be careful about whom you choose for hosting. Many have drawbacks that won’t become apparent until you are up and running.

Here are some of the hosting criteria that make for a smooth WordPress experience

  • Easy backups via Cpanel: When you back up your WordPress files via FTP, you are not backing up the database, which is where all the pages and posts live. It’s crucial to back up the database, and doing so through phpMyAdmin can be quite confusing. It is recommended that you back up both database and files every time you need to update to a new version of WordPress (which, trust me, is often). Cpanel offers an easier way to back up your files and your database.
  • One-click WordPress Installation: It’s easy enough to install WordPress yourself, but 1-click installation is even better. You get database creation and connection all with one click! And hosts that offer this are more committed to supporting WordPress and staying up to date with the WordPress requirements (as far as version of PHP, etc).
  • Hack-free: Since my clients’ blogs have been hacked on Dreamhost and Lunarpages, I’m not inclined to recommend those. (Yes, this blog is still on Dreamhost… but that might change soon). With shared hosting, the hacking seems to spread from account to account, so, once bitten, twice shy.
  • Support for WordPress: Some popular hosts offer WordPress but don’t want to support it. I found that Network Solutions would not help with an issue I was having moving a client’s blog from a subdirectory to the root folder, because they “don’t support WordPress in the root folder.” That’s pathetic for someone like Network Solutions.
  • Support: Most of the inexpensive shared hosts charge extra for phone support. Almost all of them have email support. Some answer emails within 24-48 hours (Dreamhost….) and some, usually within the hour (Hostgator).
  • Minimal (if ever) Downtime: I don’t want to name any names, but I’ve had terrible experiences with hosting providers’ servers being down for long periods. OK, I’ll name names. Dreamhost and Network Solutions are really guilty of this, in my experience.

My favorite host for WordPress so far? Hands down, Hostgator. I’ve always gotten the support I’ve needed, none of my clients’ sites have been hacked, the prices are great, WordPress installation is a snap, as are backups. And I can’t remember any of my Hostgator sites going down for more than a couple of minutes.


Google’s Duplicate Content Penalty: Moving WordPress

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Google Page Rank, SEO, Wordpress | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Just a cautionary tale if you’re planning to move your WordPress blog from wordpress.com to your own domain. When you move your content from one domain to another, conventional wisdom tells you to use a 301 redirect to inform search engines that the site is permanently moved. However, when a blog is hosted at wordpress.com, this option is not available to you.

One client hired me to set up WordPress and a premium theme at her domain. She already had a site at that domain, which she was replacing with a WordPress site. She also already had a blog hosted on wordpress.com, and was moving all those posts (about 50 of them) to the new site at her existing domain. I set up the theme for her, and she exported all of her posts from the wordpress.com site and imported them to her domain. I informed her about the legendary “duplicate content” penalty and told her that she would need to take down the content on wordpress.com, but not to do anything drastic before Google crawled her new site at her domain.

Fast forward 6 weeks; Google had found the new content, alright, but the old content still remained. Google must have decided the wordpress.com site was the original source of the content, and dropped her domain from its index completely. The domain, prior to the installation of the WordPress site, had an old static site that had previously had a moderate Google page rank.

The first step I told her to take was to remove the text of each of her posts from her wordpress.com site and replace it with a “this article has moved….” link to the same content on the new site. Once this was done, I could be sure there was no more duplicate content. I then submitted a “site reconsideration request” through Google Webmaster Tools. I explained that both domains were run by the same business (there had been no plagiarization) and that the duplicate content had been removed. There was a rather cryptic response about a week later that said the request had been processed, but it didn’t mention whether the domain would be re-indexed. It’s been about 3 weeks since then, and the domain is still not listed in Google’s index.

This is a pretty drastic implementation of the duplicate content penalty, as the client has gone from about 300 visits a day to only a handful. Be sure to avoid this situation altogether by removing duplicate content as quickly as possible when moving your site from wordpress.com to your own domain.


Why doesn’t anyone read my blog? 5 blogging fixes for newbies

Posted: September 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Starting a blog is easy. But building a readership for that blog is not. If you are a small business owner, you may have decided to start a blog to bring more attention to your business. But if you thought, “If I write it they will come”, you may be wondering now where all those readers are. Here are the top 5 mistakes I’ve seen, in no particular order.

  1. You are using your blog as a platform for advertising yourself instead of offering useful content. Try offering some of your expertise. Your services are the solution to a problem that people have. What is that problem? State the problem, and then offer free advice. Most of what you write should be useful. You should only occasionally try to plug your services.

    Of course, make sure that people know where to go if they do want to find out more about your offerings. If you have a separate web site, be sure your blog links to it. If your blog is your web site, make sure your contact info is easily accessible.

  2. You are not participating in the “blogosphere”, yet you expect others to participate on your blog. You need to find other blogs that are relevant to yours, and participate meaningfully in discussions. Even better, add those blogs to your Blogroll. Stop thinking of them as the competition, and start thinking of them as colleagues. And be a good citizen of the web– contribute to the discussion, don’t just leave a comment that says “Visit my blog” — it’s very doubtful that your comment will get approved.
  3. You don’t post often enough. People are not going to check back or bother subscribing if you post too rarely. Write several posts before you launch your blog, and then post them one at a time, about two posts a week. (And yes, I realize that I’ve already violated my own rule! But, it’s still a good rule).
  4. Google hasn’t found your blog. Google finds sites by following links on existing sites. Make sure you link to your blog from your static web site, if you have one. Or go one step further and have the home page of your static web site programmed so that an excerpt from your most recent blog post automatically appears on your home page, with a link to the rest of the post. (Here’s an example: www.jdainternational.com)
  5. You are not taking advantage of categories and tags. Here’s some good advice on how to use categories and tags. Scroll down to the “Categories vs. Tags” section. This will help your site get indexed with the proper keywords that will bring the right traffic to your door.

There’s a lot of information out there on this topic. Here are a few other blog posts to get you started.