WordPress.com – Pt. 1

Get Started – Register – Profile – Name Creation

Register

Go to WordPress.com and create a username and password

Create a web address

WordPress comes with a free web address for every blog. All free blogs follow the same naming scheme ‘yourcoolsite.wordpress.com.’ Pro tip, yourcoolsite is a subdomain of WordPress.com, the entire WordPress.com ecosystem is really just one big multi-site installation of the WordPress software, cool right?

Obviously, this isn’t the preferred naming scheme for your actually cool website! The next step is to purchase a domain name, or use one your already own, and map it to your site.

Choose a Plan

WordPress has three paid plans that offer subsequently more amazing features than the last. Every blog begins as a Free plan, but you can easily upgrade to Personal, Premium, or Business. Let’s look at the differences. Each plan has the features of the plan that comes before it.

Free
WordPress.com subdomain
Jetpack Essential Features
Community Support
Hundreds of free themes
Basic Design Customization
3GB Storage
Personal
Custom Domain Name
Email & Live Chat Support
6GB Storage
Remove WordPress.com Ads
Premium
Unlimited Premium Themes
Advanced Design Customization
13GB Storage
Monetize your site
VideoPress support
Business
Unlimited Storage
Attend live courses
SEO Tools
Install Plugins
Upload themes
Google Analytics Integration
Remove WordPress.com Branding

As you move up in tiers you progressively unlock more powerful features such as more storage, video hosting and integration, and most notably, 3rd-party plugin and theme support. Adding third party support is an exciting, new feature which final solves a constantly asked question, “I just bought this theme or plugin, how do I use it on WordPress.com.

Please note, when you downgrade from one plan to another you will effectively lose access to the upper tier benefits, but you will not lose data. For example, if I have 13GB of storage with the Premium plan, then downgrade to the Free plan, I will not lose any of my media library, though, I will no longer be able to add new media until I clear up enough space.

Get a Profile

Every WordPress site is apart of the WordPress community, a sort of social network of user sites and blogs. The common thread that binds them all is Gravatar, an icon based service that presents you throughout the WordPress community. You can customize your Gravatar by clicking on the round icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and then Profile. Enter your details and upload an image, now you’re good to go!

Set A Title For Your Site

By default, your username will be used as your site’s title. You can change your title to something more unique by going to My Sites -> Customize -> Site Identity to name your site and give it a descriptive tagline.

Reader and My Sites Menus

Check out the Reader

The Reader is the WordPress community hub, a simplistic blog roll of all your favorite authors throughout the WordPress ecosystem. The Reader is tailored to things you love so that every time you log in you can find something that interests you.

The three main elements of the Reader are the Discover, Followed Sites, and Post features. On the Discover tab, you will see a blog roll of what’s hot on WordPress.com, feel free to read, share, comment and follow any posts that interest you.

Fittingly titled, the Followed Sites tab lists all of the most recent posts from your favorite blogs. You can also manage what blogs appear by clicking the Manage button next to the Followed Sites tab.

And since WordPress is all about self-expression, the Pencil and Paper Write icon in the top admin bar will show you a dropdown of all of your blogs, by selecting a blog you will be brought immediately to a new post editor so when brilliance strikes you will be ready to rock.

A great way to attract readers is to interact with other blog posts, leave comments, share and promote! If you are interested in finding new material, then look to the tags tab in the Reader menu. By adding a keyword you will instantly be recommended popular posts on that topic.

My Sites Menu

The My Sites menu allows you to switch between your sites on WordPress.com and all Jetpack enabled WordPress installations. Additionally, the My Sites menu serves as the main navigation around your admin interface.

If you click Switch Site you can easily navigate between all of your WordPress.com and Jetpack enabled WordPress.org site options.

Dashboard

The dashboard is all of the content within the My Site’s tab for any given site, consider this Mission Control. From here you can Publish posts, pages, and access your media library. You can also Personalize your site from the Theme Showcase, or Customize your site from the theme customizer. Under the Configure section, you can manage your Sharing options, add, edit, or remove users from the People tab, manage Plugins if you have a Business Upgrade, purchase and manage Domains, adjust site wide settings, and access the old WP-Admin interface.

Themes

Pick a theme

A theme is how your website looks and is structured and handles a great deal of the coding for you. WordPress.com offers hundreds of free and paid themes that look great across all devices, developed by professionals. Go to My Sites -> Themes to browse through the theme repo.

Use the search area to look up a specific feature or theme name, or filter your results by free, premium or all.

If you have upgraded to a Business Plan you can upload most third party themes formerly only found on WordPress.org self-hosted sites. This new feature has really expanded the reach of WordPress.com power-users! If you do upload a theme you would start by clicking the Upload Theme button in the upper right-hand corner of this screen and following the prompts, once activated your theme would be found at the top of the Themes page under Uploaded themes.

Beneath your Uploaded themes are the WordPress.com free and paid themes.

Click the three dots on the right-hand side of the theme thumbnail then click Live Demo to see a demo of the theme. Click Try & Customize to see how your content looks in the theme. This will load all of your post and page content into the theme and let you play around in the customizer before you decide to activate the theme.

Choosing a theme can be a bit daunting at first, but remember, your theme is meant to reflect you. Some themes may require a good amount of set up, this may not be what you need. Experiment with a couple different themes and try to find one that fits, you can always change your theme at another time. The vast majority of themes found on WordPress.com are responsive, meaning they will scale with the size of the device viewport. WordPress.com makes it easy to focus on your content instead of dealing with the overhead of creating a beautiful and accessible website.

Customizer – Set Up Your Theme

The Customizer allows you to change the layout, settings and display options of your site’s theme.

Site Identity

This section contains options to change your Site Title, Tagline, upload a Logo, add a Site Icon, and change the Footer Credit (depending on your upgrade).

Upload a custom header:

Headers, Jumbotrons, intro sliders, the introductory information of your blog goes by many names, but they all serve one purpose, to engage your reader. Most WordPress themes come with a custom header area that can be customized.

Head over to your customizer by clicking on My Sites -> Themes/Customize, then click on Header Image. Most themes will specify a specific size for the header image, so feel free to use Photoshop or a free online editor such as Pixlr to make the necessary cropping. Once you’re happy with the look, click Save & Publish.

Custom fonts and colors

If you upgrade your account to Personal, Premium, or a Business plan you will gain access to the custom font, colors, and CSS modules. Once you upgrade, go to your Customizer to begin experimenting with the new font, colors, and CSS tabs.

This upgrade will give you access to typefaces like Merriweather, Ubuntu and over 30 free Google Fonts. You can also adjust the text size for the Headings and Base fonts. Be sure to choose a more readable font for your base font and save the more whimsical fonts for headers.

You can also adjust the color palette of your theme. If you need a starting point, try using the suggested color palettes. You could also use a color palette generator like http://paletton.com/ and then submit your own colors.

Add unique content with widgets

Widgets are packaged features that can be added to predefined ‘widget areas’ which are decided by your theme. Most themes will include a sidebar, header and footer widget area. If you head over to the Widgets section in the  Customizer you can see what widget areas are available. I will cover widgets a bit more in depth in Pt. 2.

Adjust the custom fonts and colors of your site

Every theme handles these options differently, but they will all host these features in the Customizer. As you look through different sections such as headerfooter, and background you will see color pickers or custom font options, customize these options and then click Save & Publish.

Set up a Homepage (Static Front Page)

Setting up a standard web page with a static homepage is easy. If you combine your homepage with a few static pages and a custom menu, you will have a fully formed website.

Create the homepage

To start, go to My Sites -> Pages -> Add and call it Home. Add some placeholder text then save. Now add another page and title it something like ‘News’ or ‘Blog,’ something that will indicate a blog.

Lastly, go to My Sites -> Customize -> Static Front Page, then under Front page displays, choose Static page and select your Home page as the Front Page.

Next, add the blog page you created as the Posts page. Save everything by clicking Save & Publish. When you visit your web address you will see your Home page instead of your Posts page.

Now that you have a homepage, try adding some striking images, perhaps an image gallery, or even an image slider. You will also want to create a custom menu and add that from the customizer as your primary menu so visitors can reach your other pages. We will discuss Menus in the next section.

Wrap Up

Now that we have a static website with a dedicated blog page and a beautiful theme to structure our content, we now need to start writing and adding engaging content to build traffic.


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WooCommerce Review – Pt. 5

Settings

If you ran the quick setup wizard, a lot of these settings should already be set. Let’s take a look at the other features included in WooCommerce.

General

The General section control settings such as your location, the locations you sell and ship to, and how WooCommerce collects your customer’s location. You can also choose to enable taxes and tax calculations. Additionally, there is a setting to enable a banner notice site-wide. The section called Currency Options allows you to set your default currency, the format your currency is shown in, such as ‘$9.99’ or ‘9.99$’ and how your currency denominations are separated.

Products

The Products tab has four sections.

General

In the General section, we can set the weight and dimension units, these units are used to calculate shipping. You can also enable reviews for your products, allow only ‘verified owners’ to post reviews and have these comments labeled as such.

Display

From the Display section, we can choose how products are arranged on which specific page. We can also manage which page the default category-pages is displayed.

You can also manage the cart functionality from here. The ‘add to cart’ behavior has two options. You can choose whether your page redirects to the cart page after successfully adding an item and you can also enable AJAX add to cart buttons on archive pages.

The Product Images section lets you set the size of the product images on different pages, you can also choose to ‘hard crop’ the uploaded images to the preset size.

Inventory

As noted before, WooCommerce can manage your stock for you. In the Inventory section, we can set how long a customer can ‘reserve’ an item in stock while they browse your site. This is helpful because by setting a lower amount of time we can allow other –more eager– customers a chance to purchase the item.

You can also set low stock and out of stock parameters. Based on your set number, you can receive notifications before you run out of stock, you can also display on the front end ‘out of stock’ before you physically run out, this can be helpful to avoid back orders. Lastly, you can choose to hide out-of-stock items once they reach that point. You can choose to show how much stock you have, only how much once you reach a lower supply, or never show the amount of stock at all.

Downloadable Products

There are three ways to serve the downloadable product to your customer:

Forced Download: The safest way to send the file, this uses PHP to protect the file from being shared to anyone but the end user.

X-Accel-Redirect/X-Sendfile: Must be enabled server side, this module allows you to securely send larger files.

Redirect Only: The least secure option, a redirection link to the file will be sent to the user, this link can be used by anyone (you can password protect the page, but anyone with the password can download the product)

You can also choose to require a login to access the download and also allow access to the download before the payment has been completed, or is in the processing stage.

Tax

The tax section lets you decide whether to include the tax in your pricing, show the tax in the shop, or just in the cart, set additional tax classes, round the tax, set price display suffix, decide how to calculate the tax or even apply taxes to shipping based on shipping class.

The additional tax classes field allows you to set your own tax rates such as reduced rate or zero-rate. You will notice at the top of the page links to the different rates.

And if you click on these rates you can adjust a number of tax related fields or import/export a csv.

Shipping

WooCommerce divides shipping into zones. As they put it: “A shipping zone is a geographic region where a certain set of shipping methods are offered. WooCommerce will match a customer to a single zone using their shipping address and present the shipping methods within that zone to them.”

Once you set your zones, WooCommerce will estimate the costs based on the customer’s location. In the shipping options section you can enable/disable the shipping calculator on the cart page, choose to hide shipping costs until an address is entered, decided whether to ship to the customer’s business or shipping address and also enable debug mode, this will bypass the shipping rate cache.

You can also setup your payment options for printing shipping labels from this section.

Checkout

Checkout process

WooCommerce allows you to set coupons for your shop. From this section you can enable/disable coupons and decide whether to calculate your coupon discounts sequentially, i.e., each subsequent coupon would discount from the previous discounted price.

You can also allow for guest checkout and ensure that all checkouts are secured with SSL (HTTP), the latter requires an SSL Certificate.

Checkout pages

If you went through the setup wizard then this section will be mostly completed, otherwise, you can choose which pages handle your cart, checkout and terms & conditions functions. If you define a terms page the customer will be asked if they accept them.

Checkout endpoints

Endpoints are appended to your page URLs to handle specific actions during the checkout process. Keep these unique! These will ultimately be used by WooCommerce to handle moving the user through the checkout process, the setup wizard should predefine these for you.

Payment gateways

The next few sections will describe each payment gateway, these are the primary methods of payment your customers can use. This section just gives you an overview of which gateways are currently enabled.

BACS

Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services, or BACS, is a direct bank transfer/wire service in the  UK, you can enable the service and enter your account information directly in order to receive payments.

Check payments

A strange gateway, why would you want to accept checks via the internet? WooCommerce agrees, but they suggest using this gateway to test purchases in order to test order emails and success pages.

Cash on delivery

This is an interesting option, Cash on Delivery allows your customer to pay for goods at the time of delivery. This could be useful for customers who do not have access to credit or debit options.

Paypal

One of the leading credit payment processors, Paypal allows you to collect credit payments by just adding your Paypal API credentials. You can also create a Paypal sandbox in order to test payments.

Accounts

The Accounts section allows you to choose the ‘endpoints’ used by WooCommerce to handle your account creation process. It also allows you to choose when and on what pages your customers are asked to register and/or login.

Email

The Email section lets you set your notification emails that are sent to your customers are certain points in the checkout and shipping process.

WooCommerce Review – Pt. 4

Manually enter items

Now that we have completed the Setup Wizard, we should have the foundation of a basic e-commerce system. The next step is to populate the Store page with products. You can either upload a CSV of products or manually enter them in via the Product tab. Let’s look at the latter.

On the Products tab, go to Add New.

Here you can set up your product with some pretty self-explanatory fields. Item name, description, categories & tags, images and image galleries and SEO data.

First we will title the item ‘baked apple,’ add a description, add a category and then provide a few tags.

More importantly, let’s scroll down to the Product Data section.

Product Data

This section is a bit extensive but essentially outlines what your product is. The first step is to select a product type, there are four main types:

Simple Product – this is a single physical or digital product, can also be Virtual or Downloadable, or both!

  • a website subscription would be virtual but not downloadable
  • a service would be virtual but not downloadable
  • an e-book would be both virtual and downloadable

Grouped Product – A collection of products with separate SKUs that are grouped into one ‘parent’ product to be purchased together.

  • Consider a clothing store, sometimes there may be suggested outfits, the ‘outfit’ would be the ‘parent’ product, while the pieces of the outfit would be the individual items with their own SKUs.

External/Affiliate Products – products that you promote on your website but are actually fulfilled through an external service.

  • Consider stores where they sell items found on Amazon when the user clicks on the item your site will redirect them to Amazon to complete the purchase, then Amazon will compensate you through their affiliate program.

Variable Product – A product that comes in a variety of variations

  • A t-shirt can come in a variety of colors, this would be a great option to sell the type of shirt but also offer a variety of colors.

Let’s begin selling some Zelda Breath of the Wild foods. This is all imaginary since I do not actually plan to sell any food, especially shipping food.

 

General

The first step for our Baked Apple is to select the type, in this instance we wiill choose a Simple Product, since this is just a simple, solitary ‘Baked Apple.’ I am setting the regular price to $3, the sale price to $2, scheduling a sale (optional) and using the standard tax methods for my given location.

Inventory

On the Inventory tab we want to set the SKU or ‘stock keeping unit,’ I chose 001, you can choose any number. I want WooCommerce to keep track of my stock. WooCommerce has inventory management built in, so I can say ‘I have 500 Baked Apples.’ When I sell 500 Bakes Apples I can also tell WooCommerce to back order any additional orders and notify the customer that their purchases will be back ordered. Once I receive more stock I can ship out to the back ordered requests. I can also sell items individually.

Shipping

On the shipping tab I can set the weight of the item, the dimensions of the item (once boxed) any the shipping class. The shipping class will be defined at a later point. All of this information is used by WooCommerce to estimate the shipping cost for the customer when they are in the checkout process. Note: When Virtual is checked the Shipping tab disappears because you cannot ship a virtual product.

Linked Products

Linked products are products you associate with the item the customer is interested in, such as accessories for a laptop that they wish to purchase.

Upsells: Upsells are items that are more profitable or better quality than the item chosen.

Cross-sells: Cross-sells are items commonly bought with the desired item.

Attributes

A product’s attributes are the different variables the product is offered as. You can set custom attributes such as Size or Color, anything variable you want.

Advanced

Lastly, the Advanced tab. Here you can set a custom note that will be sent to the customer after the purchase. You can also set the order of your item within the context of the other items. You can even enable reviews for your product!

Product Short Description

You will also notice an area to create a short description for your product, this will appear as an excerpt and should be as descriptive as possible so your customer knows what they are looking at before clicking.

Up Next

Creating a product is a pretty straight forward process with a lot of powerful options such as Upsells and Product Attributes. Next, we will take a closer look at the Settings for WooCommerce in order to fine tune our e-commerce experience a bit further.


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WooCommerce Review – Pt. 3

The Wizard

The Wizard will walk you through creating your essential pages such as Shop, Cart, Checkout, and My Account:

Store Location

The second step requires you to choose your location, currency and how you choose to collect sales tax, you can include the tax in the price, exclude it, or not collect any at all. WooCommerce will then bring up your state’s sales tax, though it is up to you to verify what taxes you need to collect which can be updated from the tax settings page later.

Shipping

Next, you can opt in or out of the WooCommerce Shipping option which enables you to print labels and get discounted USPS shipping rates. You will also choose your shipping weight unit and dimension unit.

Payments

You can also set up your payment gateways with just a few simple clicks and a couple steps depending on the gateway.

Theme

Lastly, you can choose to activate the WooCommerce theme Storefront, otherwise, you can choose to skip this step and keep your current theme. WooCommerce integrates correctly with the majority of themes, but Storefront and its extensions are guaranteed to work flawlessly.

Your store is now setup and ready to be populated, you have two options, manually enter in items or upload a CSV file.

Up Next

In Part 4 we will create a product and run through the main settings.


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WooCommerce Review – Pt. 2

Installing and Using on WordPress.com

WordPress.com has added some cool features, such as the ability to use practically any plugin or theme from the WordPress.org ecosystem. If you upgrade to the Business plan, you will be able to add plugins from the plugins tab and also upload themes in the Themes tab.

Let’s go ahead and add WooCommerce to our WordPress.com site. Click on ‘Add’ next to Plugins

Next, search for WooCommerce or look for it in the featured section.

Click on the icon then click install, it should say installing, then after a few moments the plugin will be active:

Considering that as of this writing the WordPress.com Calypso dashboard does not support WooCommerce integration, or for that matter a wide variety of third party plugin UIs, you will need to go to the older WP-Admin. There are three ways to get there.

  • From the WooCommerce Plugin page where we installed the plugin, click on Settings

  • Go to your address bar and add /Wp-Admin to your domain, i.e ‘http://www.onecoolsite.com/wp-admin’
    • From here search for WooCommerce in the left-hand sidebar
  • Scroll to the bottom of your WordPress.com dashboard’s sidebar and click on WP  Admin

Once you arrive at the WooCommerce plugin page you will be presented with a few options. Along the top are the different settings tabs for your WooCommerce account such as General, Products, Shipping etc. There should also be a Setup Wizard option, this is useful for setting up your most important information and I advise going ahead and doing so.

Up Next

In Part 3 we will look through the many settings in WooCommerce to fully set up your e-commerce experience.


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WooCommerce Review – Pt. 1

In the beginning….there was commerce.

Building out an ecommerce store used to be a very involved process requiring a skilled programmer, and it still is! But luckily we now have access to plugins that essentially create an entire ecommerce experience for you with little to no coding experience required. WooCommerce is arguably one of the most extensive and well supported plugins, and is now maintained by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.

WooCommerce is built for WordPress and integrates seamlessly with the WordPress ecosystem reducing many conflicts right out of the box. The plugin is built to be mobile friendly and designed so your products look good on any device, you can even turn your existing mobile store into a mobile app with no custom coding by utilizing a few third-party tools.

Since WooCommerce is managed by Automattic, you know the code is reliable, scalable and secure. Because WooCommerce is an open source product, you own your data. Unlike private services like Shopify or PayPal Stores, WooCommerce is owned by you. When you create a store on a private software you technically never receive the rights to the store, so if the server suddenly shuts down, changes policies, or changes hands, your data may become compromised. With WooCommerce, you own the data.

The WordPress community is known for creating incredible amounts of documentation on virtually everything. WooCommerce is no exception. With more than 350 contributors and 7 million downloads, WooCommerce is one of the fastest growing open source communities out there. There is also a large extension marketplace with over 300 free and paid extensions, making adding functionality to your ecommerce store very simple.

WooCommerce Core + Extensions

WooCommerce is separated into two categories, Core and Extensions. The core software is the basic features baked into every free copy of WooCommerce. Set up a store in just a few hours and begin selling your wares online. Extensions are custom plugins, both free and paid, that extend the functionality of your basic WooCommerce store and provide a lot of cool features. Let’s look at both.

The Core Features:

WooCommerce comes with many great features included in the free version. A lot of free counterparts to expensive ‘pro’ plugins are usually just a taste of the pro content, leaving a lot to be desired. But the free version of WooCommerce is a complete product, and the paid content only adds extensibility to the Core software.

A benefit of the Core components is that they are made to look beautiful. WooCommerce is made to seamlessly integrate with the trends of default WordPress themes, providing synergy between your theme and store. The backend is just as well thought out, with a thoughtful UI design that works well on hand-held devices allowing you to update your store on the go.

WooCommerce comes with five preinstalled payment gateways including Direct Bank Transfer, Cheque Payment, Cash on Delivery, Credit card payment with PayPal or Simplify Commerce (available for US only) which supports Hosted Payments (a PCI Compliant hosted payment platform).

You can also enable and disable guest checkout and force secure all checkout processes. Only operating in the US? No problem, you can specify which countries you want to sell to from the admin panel, not to mention set specific page urls to handle specific actions during checkout.

Set the default currency from a range of options.

Geo-location support allows your store to auto-detect the customer’s address making shipping and tax calculations a breeze, also, product pricing store wide will adjust to reflect the customer’s local tax markups.

You can also choose for the page to redirect to the shopping cart after an item is added by the customer. Alternatively, WooCommerce uses AJAX on ‘add to cart’ buttons which means your store won’t reload each time a customer adds a product or edits the cart. Magic.

Some Exciting Extensions:

WooCommerce has an enormous extensions library that makes adding unique features seamless and pain free. Products like Sensei can be linked with WooCommerce to create online courses. WooCommerce also has prominent membership, subscription and booking extensions that are easy to use and create beautiful functionality.

Developer Friendly

WooCommerce is built for the WordPress platform, so WordPress and PHP developers should have no problem customizing WooCommerce, building extensions, and utilizing countless actions and filters unique to the WordPress environment.

It is easy to migrate existing e-commerce data to WooCommerce using a variety of migration tools which facilitate a painfree experience.

WooCommerce also utilizes a REST API that ‘works on a key system to control access linked to WordPress users on your website.’ Pretty cool!

WooCommerce also allows you to setup custom AJAX endpoints which can do powerful things like speed up adding items to your cart. AJAX also allows your users to continue shopping without being redirected every time they add and item.

Additionally, the API has a UI for the Webhook system which makes it easier for 3rd party apps to integrate their services with your WooCommerce shopping experience.

Up Next

Let’s dive into the plugin on WordPress.com and take a look at the different features and settings.


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Jetpack Review – Pt. 4

Engage Your Visitors

Subscriptions

It may take a lot of work to garner traffic, with the ubiquity of blogging these days. Having an opt-in subscription form can often times help you target more interested visitors. Keeping in touch is as easy as embedding a subscription form into your posts, pages and sidebars with no coding involved. Jetpack will send an email to your subscribers with post content, media and links to the post on your site.

Comment Form for WordPress Sites

Comments are a great way to let your users get involved, but the standard WordPress comment section can leave a bit to be desired. Jetpack allows you to replace the standard section with an enhanced comment section that offers social media logins, comment ‘like’ buttons, and email notifications so users can keep up with the discussion.

Contact Forms

Effortlessly add a contact form to your site without any coding. You can add, edit, and reorder contact form fields using a drag and drop editor. You can specify an email address for all responses to be forwarded to, view the responses from your WordPress Dashboard, submit all responses through a spam filtering service, and add as many unique contact forms as you desire.

Wrap Up

Great content should be talked about, Jetpack does a lot to allow you to receive feedback from your readers. If you enjoyed this review of Jetpack, perhaps checkout another great Automattic product, WooCommerce.


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Jetpack Review – Pt. 3

Security and Backup

Brute Force Attack Protection

Brute force attacks are the most common way a hacker gains access to your site. Hackers employ networks of remotely controlled computers to spam your login field in an effort to guess your username and password. If a hacker uses this technique it can slow down your site, gain access to your content, and jeopardize your legitimacy.

Jetpack provides Brute Force protection by blocking flagged malicious IPs before they reach your site and by limiting login attempts. You can view attack statistics from your dashboard, whitelist known IP addresses to avoid false positives or turn the feature on or off whenever you like.

Secure Authentication

Every user of your site is a potential security fail point. Secure Authentication prevents users, authors, and contributors from using weak passwords, accidental sharing of user account credentials, and malicious disclosure of leaks of admin passwords. It does this by using the same login methods and credentials found on your WordPress.com account. This option is compatible with your existing login systems and you can bypass or disable the default WordPress login form. Most importantly, you gain access to two-factor authentication for your network. This is a very handy tool to prevent common exploits to your site.

Site Backups

You may be thinking that your web hosting service provides a backup of your website for you. Most providers will include backups in their packages, but a smart webmaster will always keep a second backup just in case.

Jetpack provides automatic daily or real-time backups of your entire site with unlimited storage space. You have access to either a 30 day or unlimited backup history depending on your needs. These secure, offsite backups are completely separate from your hosting provider, so if your hosting provider is hacked or disabled for any reason, you still have a copy of your site. You also have the ability to migrate and restore your site to any new hosting provider in case that your current provider fails to honor your contract. And best of all, these backups are managed by Automattic, the company behind WordPress who hosts world-class websites such as the NY Times and CNN.com, not to mention WordPress.com. Site backups are provided for paid plans starting at $3.50/month.

Security Scanning

When a hacker gains access to your site they can wreak havoc on your users. They are usually stealthy and make subtle changes that can range from redirecting your users to different sites to stealing user information. All of this can ruin your brand’s reputation and cost you traffic.

Jetpack provides Security Scanning as part of its paid services. These scans act just like your home antivirus by scanning your site code for malicious changes and activity. You can request scans on-demand if you feel something is off. You will receive instant email notifications when a threat is detected with detailed information about the threat and the affected files. Jetpack provides automated resolution for a large percentage of known threats and you also have expert priority support from Automattic’s Happiness Engineering team to help you address any issues.

Spam Filtering

An unsung hero of the internet, Spam Filtering is a subtle feature with widespread effects. Web spammers usually place unsavory content in your comments section to redirect your users to the spammer’s affiliates, costing you traffic and angering your users. Search engines also frown on this sort of behavior because it affects the user experience, this can cause your site to lose ranking. Depending on the site that the user is redirected to, they could become compromised and infiltrated with malicious code.

Jetpack provides Spam Filtering as part of its paid services and will automatically filter comments, pingbacks, and contact form submissions for known spam.

You can review flagged content, view stats about spam activity and the service is easily activated from your dashboard.

Downtime Monitoring

This is a simple and fantastic feature. Jetpack will check your site every five minutes from multiple locations around the world to ensure your site is accessible. If Jetpack cannot reach your site you will receive an email notification for how long your site was offline and another when your site comes back online. Once your site is back up you will see the total time your site was offline. This is great if your site is heavily trafficked in order for your team to troubleshoot any potential issues.

Automatic Plugin Updates

Out of date plugins become problematic security holes if they are not updated or replaced in a timely manner. Hackers use commonly known plugin vulnerabilities as access vectors for infiltrating your site, which is no bueno.

Plugins receive updates not just for security purposes, but also for new features. Keeping your site’s plugins up to date is a great idea but requires commitment and time, so why not automate it?

Jetpack has an option to update your site, or all of your sites’, plugins at once. Jetpack will also notify you if a plugin fails to update or updates successfully.

Site Restores and Migrations

Backups and Migrations are very important, and let me repeat that, very important. Nothing is worse than losing your site for a multitude of easily thwarted reasons. Jetpack offers unlimited backups with their paid plans.

Jetpack will handle backing up your whole site and at the click of a button you can restore your site to an earlier version should the need arise. You can choose to restore the entire site, or perhaps just a few parts such as the themes, plugins, content, or database. You can also manually restore your site if you so choose.

But let’s say the reason your site failed was due to a faulty hosting solution, well enter the Jetpack migration feature. Jetpack makes it easy to migrate a backup of your site to another host just by installing the Jetpack plugin on the new host. You also have access to expert support who can help you handle your restore and migration needs.

Expert, Priority WordPress Support

A paid membership entitles you to Automattic’s expert support. This is useful for a number of reasons such as your site having custom configurations that automated services are unaccustomed to, perhaps you are a victim of a new form of attack or threat, or maybe there is a limitation to the automated services that haven’t been discovered yet.

When you sign up with Jetpack your tickets are prioritized, regardless of your timezone, and the support staff is supported by the team and developers who build the security services.

Wrap Up

Site security ensures the safety of your content and the legitimacy of your brand, it is a foundation of any web presence. Next up, tools for engaging your visitors.


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Jetpack Review – Pt. 2

Traffic and SEO Tools

There are a number of cool modules that help you grow your network, monitor site traffic, and enhance your site’s commenting system.

Site Stats

Jetpack comes with a free module called Stats that allows you to monitor general site traffic including key insights about search terms, referrers, top posts, geographic locations, and popular times. This module is like a slimmed down version of Google Analytics without the additional HTTP request required to load Google Analytics. The module also does not conflict with GA so you can run both at the same time if you desire. If you upgrade to the PRO version of Jetpack, you can also integrate your Google Analytics data directly into your data.

Related Posts

This is a great feature. You can enable more intra-linked content on your blog by suggesting related posts at the bottom of your posts page. Encouraging your users to view more content will certainly increase your SEO and the Related Posts module does this by employing a sleek layout utilizing your post thumbnail and headers.

Sharing and Liking

Sharing buttons are essential to any website, and are a major component in increasing your brand’s presence. Jetpack seamlessly incorporates all of today’s major social networks in modern ‘share buttons’ that can be displayed on your posts, sidebars, and pages. You can even use your own custom buttons!

SEO Tools

This awesome tool is part of the Jetpack PRO plan, costing $29/month. The SEO Tools allow you to customize how your content titles appear in search engines. You can decide what order items like ‘Site Name’ and ‘Tagline’ appear in searches as well as the separators between them. You can also modify your front page’s meta description, your individual post and pages meta descriptions, and also see a live preview of how these elements all look on Google, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.com. Lastly, you have access to a free website XML Sitemap which makes search engines happy.

Monetize Your Site

WordPress employs WordAds for your site. You can signup and begin displaying ads on your site instantly. You can also view stats and earning on WordPress.com in real time. The ads are optimized for WordPress sites and display ads based on geographic location and locale. This feature is part of a Jetpack Premium plan which is $99 annually, so factor this cost into your potential earnings when deciding to monetize your site. Granted, the Premium plan offers a lot of benefits such as the modules we are discussing here.

Google Analytics

As part of the Jetpack PRO plan, you can add your Google Analytics tracking ID right into Jetpack. Just copy and paste and instantly begin tracking in-depth reports about your site’s traffic. While Jetpack’s Site Stats serves as a great ‘at-a-glance’ review of your site traffic, Jetpack makes it easier for you to harness the power of Google Analytics without uploading any files or extra overhead.

Site Verification

Site verification is not necessary to have your site indexed on popular search engines like Google or Bing, but it does give you access to these search engines’ webmaster consoles. What this means for you is that you can manually identify what these search engines are recording about your site. This feature is free for all Jetpack installations and makes verifying your site for Google, Bing, and Pinterest as easy as adding a line of code from the Jetpack Dashboard.

Automatic Publishing

One of my favorite Jetpack features, you can automatically post to multiple social networks by using the Publicize module that comes with every free Jetpack installation. Publicize allows you to link a variety of popular social accounts to your site’s blog and then at a click of a button you can update them all at once. If you upgrade to a paid plan you gain access to the Re-Publicize feature which lets you share existing content to all connected accounts.

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are important because they are written for search engines and aid the engine in understanding your content. With Jetpack’s XML Sitemap feature your site will automatically provide an up-to-date sitemap of your public posts and pages to Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask.com, and others. You can also add new Custom Post Types to your default Sitemap, and the Jetpack XML Sitemap feature will automatically turn off if you use a different XML Sitemap plugin. Lastly, the feature will generate a News Sitemap specifically for Google News. This feature comes free with all Jetpack installations.

Wrap Up

The Traffic and SEO Tools included in Jetpack are excellent additions to any site and make publishing your content that much easier. Next up I will discuss the Backup & Security options included in Jetpack.


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Jetpack Review – Pt. 1

Themes & Design Tools

Jetpack is a fantastic plugin by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. Granted, there are skeptics out there who feel the plugin is a lot of bloat and not worth the effort, their criticisms may be shortsighted or just wrong. The modules that come with Jetpack implement professional grade tools that every website could benefit from. Let’s take a look.

Themes

Deciding on a theme for your site is simultaneously liberating and crushingly exhausting. Themes are a beautiful thing, all the magic of a professional site with very little set up. But a lot of themes are poorly coded and become problematic as your site expands. Enter Jetpack themes. These themes are designed and vetted by the team behind WordPress. Each theme is fully optimized for WordPress and all mobile devices, not to mention fully compatible with all Jetpack features. Check out the 165 free Jetpack themes: https://jetpack.com/features/design/themes/showcase/

VideoPress

Hosting videos on your website typically comes with two caveats. You can either host the video yourself and pay for the extra bandwidth or you can use a service that usually displays ads before, during, or after your video.

With Jetpack, video hosting comes with any of the paid plans. This excellent feature uses the same content delivery network used to host images and videos found on many popular websites like CNN and the New York Times.

VideoPress integrates directly with your post editor and medial library creating a seemless experience. Additionally, your videos are hosted ad free, can be high quality, and are displayed at high-speed. Additionally, you can also view stats for individual and overall video plays.

Infinite Scroll

This simple feature is very impressive. Infinite Scroll allows your blog to pull in subsequent posts as your user reaches the bottom of each individual post, creating a seamless transition between your content. Less clicks, less chance of visitors leaving your page. You can also add in optional footers and ‘read more’ buttons if you prefer the feature to be opt-in. This feature is free with all Jetpack installations.

Embed Shortcodes

Embedding rich media content into a website can be a bit technical and rather redundant if you have a lot of media to work with. Jetpack allows you to easily embed anything from vidoes to audio to Google Docs with the usage of their brilliant shortcodes. Here is a list of features that are supported:

  • Video support for: DailyMotion, Flickr, TED, TwitchTV, Vimeo, Vine, and YouTube.
  • Audio support for: MP3, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and MixCloud.
  • Document support for: Presentations, Sribd, Instagram, SlideShare, Galleries, and Google Docs.
  • Additional support for: Archives, Maps, CodePen, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Pinterest, Recipes, and more.

Mobile Theme and Editing

Mobile responsive sites are a necessity now. Jetpack has a great feature that generates a mobile version of your site. Additionally, you can also add and edit content from your mobile device with ease.***

Proofreading

A Jetpack powered site has access to the Proofreading module. This is a great feature for any writer or site owner who wants to be taken seriously. Open your content editor and click the ‘ABC’ button. The Proofreader will check your spelling, grammar, misused words, and even style! Complete with colorful error-coding, ‘ignore once or always’ options, and available in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Photon

Arguably one of Jetpack’s most important features, Photon is a powerful Content Delivery Network (CDN) that is worthwhile for every website. Photon serves a cached version of your website’s images enabling faster bandwidth and delivery of your content. Best part, entirely free with no upsells. Just one click and your site is instantly faster. Jetpack is also futureproofed by their implementation of WEBP, an exciting new image format that enables better compression and faster image delivery.

Galleries, Carousels, and Slideshows

Creating a beautiful website is much easier with prebuilt galleries, carousels and slideshows. By implementing these features, you can stylishly include lots of photos in unique patterns. With the Jetpack image gallery, you have access to three new styles, a rectangular tile mosaic, a square mosaic, or a circular grid.

You can easily change standard image galleries into carousels or slideshows with a few clicks, the setup is very simple and handled through the media library.

Wrap Up

Jetpack offers a lot of great tools to enhance the look and functionality of your website, next up I will discuss the SEO and Traffic Tools that make Jetpack an essential plugin for your site.


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