Author: UnBlogged

Jetpack Plugin Review – Worth The Install?

This article will cover the Jetpack plugin, its features, and ultimately, whether or not its worth installing on your site.

The features covered will be of the free tier, but paid versions of the plugin offer more functionality.

Added Security

There is a lot additional security features that come along with JetPack that are really worth looking into, with the most notable features being the brute force protection, which stops people being able to hack your site via guessing every possible password, and improved plugin management, that allows for you to be able to do really simple yet powerful things like auto update all of your WordPress plugins.

The reason these security features are so useful is because they stop 99% of the ways hackers get access to your account at a press of a button, with features that should arguable be part of the core WordPress CMS.

Improved Performance

JetPack has a powerful built-in CDN for serving static files and images, which can really improve the speed of your site and also lower your bandwidth and used resources per page load, all of which is enabled at a push of a button with no extra configuration required!

JetPack also allows for easy lazy loading of images, which means images are loaded when the user scrolls down, helping to improve the page load of a site by a large margin, especially on sites that are very image heavy.

Added Functionality

JetPack also comes with a myriad of other features that can be used to improve your site, like the built in analytics which allows for you to track users on your site without having to worry about setting up Google Analytics.

It also comes with tools that allow for your blog to be better connected to your social media accounts, with tools for social sharing built in and also the ability to automatically post to your social media every time you publish a new blog, helping with engagement and social signals.

SEO Improvements

Some SEO improvements and tools are also included in the free version of JetPack, with one tool making site verification on Google/Bing webmaster much easier, and another tool that can automate the generation and maintenance of your blogs XML Sitemap.

Similar to some of the other tools included in JetPack, the SEO tools are fundamental to your blogs success, and at this point, are also surprising that they are not included in the core installation of WordPress…

Overall, JetPack is a very powerful and feature complete plugin, that, even with the free version, can massively improve your website. If you could only install one plugin to your website, I would recommend for that plugin to be JetPack!

Improve Rankings and Site Security With SSL

This article will cover SSL, what it is, how it works, and why it is important for your blog to be using it in 2018 and beyond.

What is SSL?

SSL, Standing for Secure Sockets Layer, is a cryptographic protocol that is used to secure communication over the internet by securing the channel between the 2 devices (your PC and the server hosting the website) to ensure that no third part can snoop on the session, which is something that can be done by hackers on websites that are not secured with SSL.

You can tell a website is secure with SSL by simply looking at the URL, if it has a lock icon and the URL includes “https” then it is secured with SSL, if not, then the site is insecure and people can snoop on the session.

SSL vs Non SSL

Seeing if a site is secured with SSL is as simple as looking at the url!

Why Do I Need It?

As a website owner, there are many reasons you could need SSL on your website, with some reasons being more important than others, but all being valid in their own way.

Additional Security

Traffic over SSL is completely secure, meaning any logins, comments, or payment details input are fully secure.

As a blog owner, SSL ensures that logging into the back end of your site, such as WP admin, will be secured, if not, someone could steal the packet containing your password and use it to log into your WordPress account without your consent. It also allows for contact form submissions and blog comments to be secured also.

If your website has user logins, then SSL ensures that the users username, email and password are secured when logging in, stopping people with access to their network from stealing their login packet.

A website that handles online payments or sells products will absolutely need an SSL certificate, as if not, someone could steal the clients payment details and use it to make payments without their consent, which if due to your website and lack of due diligence, can get you some massive fines and in trouble with the law.

Improve Rankings

Search engines are a great way of getting traffic, and when basic optimisation of your website is simple enough to do with plugins such as All in One SEO to help do most of the work, and gives the possibility to rank for low competition keywords and drive traffic that way, for free, it is 100% worth looking into and trying.

Google considers SSL as a ranking factor on your site, so SSL is an easy, and quick win that could help to improve your organic visibility on search engines.

Where Can I Get It?

That depends on your host and the level of control you have on your hosting and the level of honesty with your web host. SSL can cost depending on the certificate, but Lets Encrypt by EFF offers a completely free SSL certificate for your site that will fully secure it against hackers.

If you run a VPS or any form of server where you rent the hardware and have root SSH access, then you can use Certbot to get SSL up and running within 5 minutes to an hour, depending on operating system, level of access and comfort doing this like this.

For shared hosting, you are at the mercy of the website host, if the site runs cPanel, there is a possibility that the lets encrypt plugin is installed, meaning easy setup of Lets Encrypt on your website. You can also open a ticket with your web host and ask, or have a look to see if your hosting provider is one of the hosts that lets encrypt say they support.

You can also view the Getting Started section to see other ways of getting Lets Encrypt running on your website.

Alternatively, depending on the level of hassle you can be bothered with, you could always just buy an SSL certificate from the web host, they normally cost anywhere from £10 – £100 a year.

Making WordPress Run Over SSL

Getting WordPress to run over SSL is fairly simple, the WP admin backend will automatically be ran over SSL if a certificate is found, but to make the rest of your site run over SSL, you need go go Settings > General > Site Address (URL)/WordPress Address (URL) and add an “s” to the URL to make it run over SSL. Then check through your site and see if all is well.

Sometimes, depending on how the site is built or the WP theme/plugins in use, the site will have some pages that aren’t fully running over SSL, ie an image is loading over http or something like that. This can be fixed fairly easily with really simple ssl, which allows you to press one button once the plugin is installed to fix all of these sort of issues.

To Conclude

For virtually every site, having SSL is necessary, or at least highly advisable, with it offering many benefits from enhanced security to improved rankings. For many people, there is no reason not to use SSL, as thanks to things like Lets Encrypt, there is no additional cost or risk associated, meaning all benefits and no drawbacks!

Do you have any questions or comments regarding the use of SSL? Then feel free to comment them below!

Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk Inspire Blogging

As a blogger, it can be very easy to get writers block: the inability to think of new content to write and/or how to proceed with the writing. This is the bane of many blogs and is the biggest contributing factor to why blogs fail, writers block just leaved the blogs to wither and die. There are many ways to get around writer’s block, with a change of scenery being the one this article will be discussing, with me writing this from the garden of one of the nicest Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk I could find!

Since the publication of my last blog post about keeping your site secure with Wordfence, and even before then,  with me only being able to publish around one article a month, I have been stuck for ideas on other blog posts I can share with you to help with your blogging journey. Since this, I have been looking for ways to get around writer’s block and think of some subjects for blogging, and decided a change of environment so somewhere far more scenic than my bedroom desk would be the solution, and opted for Suffolk as the holiday cottages there have loads of heritage, in an area with loads of heritage, as well as great views of the country side.

If you are based near Suffolk and are looking for Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk then I wholly suggest you look at Idyllic Suffolk, who offer some really great quality and cost-effective constable country retreats that have tons of heritage, and a great area for walking dogs and visiting the local attractions.

Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk

The Old post office, one of the Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk I decided to stay in. As its name says, its an old post office converted into a stunning holiday cottage!

Other Solutions for Writers Block

For those of you who do not have the luxury of a holiday to help you overcome writers block, there are other ways you can try to use to overcome writers block, which I will go through below…

Do some exercise to get the blood flowing, as this will help you to feel better and be in a better mood, while also clearing your head, which will allow for you to be in a better position to think up things to write about.

Try to eliminate any distractions that are getting in the way of your writing juices, as getting in the zone can take time, and if you get a Facebook message about being tagged in a post you don’t care about, this could ruin the productivity and take time to get back into the zone.

Put on some headphones and listen to music, the music will help to keep you in the zone,  and certain genres of music, according to science, can really increase your productivity.

Have a break and play some games, not just any though, ones that make you think, such as Lego for you who prefer a physical medium, and games like MineCraft or Factorio for those of you who prefer gaming on their computers.

Overall, these methods rely on the movement towards getting into the zone, and then minimising anything that could take you out of the zone while maximising the beneficial aspects of being in the zone.

Methods that WILL NOT overcome Writers Block

There are solutions out there that will not help you to overcome writers block, and could in fact make your writers block even worse!

Attempting to wait it out until you feel inspired will not work, inspiration isn’t some magical and random entity that comes and goes as it pleases, you have to make an active effort to get it.

The emotional state you are in can massively affect your writers block, it is very easy to get angry or stressed about having writers block, but don’t, as this is the wrong outlook to have and will only make you fall further into the abyss of writers block.

Sitting on your sofa and watching TV is another great way to worsen your writers block, as unless your watching something extremely informative and educational, your brain will just turn off and your chance of getting into the zone and out of the writers block becomes near impossible.

As you can see, alongside a change of scenery to some Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages in Suffolk, there are many ways of getting over writer’s block and being inspired to blog again! If any of these helped you or I am missing some you would like to add, then let me know in the comments below!

Keeping Your Site Secure With Wordfence

Having a website get hacked and destroyed is soul destroying, and is made easier when you use a convenient CMS like WordPress, Luckily Tools Like Wordfence Exist to make sure you aren’t defenceless against hackers.

Wordfence is a free (with paid options) WordPress plugin that can help to really secure your site from all types of nasty situations you would never want to get into. This article will cover why you need this plugin or at least one of the alternatives we will also list.

This article will only be covering the free options, as while the paid features are fantastic, we here at Unblogged UK try to minimise recommending paid solutions.

Powerful Firewall

Stopping malicious traffic before it even sets foot on your website, Wordfence offer a powerful firewall that is constantly updated with new rules, stopping all known bad traffic from getting onto your site.

The firewall is an extremely powerful preventative measure that will stop all known hackers in their tracks, unfortunately, due to the nature of relying on previously found malicious traffic, this on its own will not secure your site from all hackers, but that is where the other features in Wordfence come in!

Brute Force Protection

WordPress by default, has no brute force protection, which means that a hacker, or bot can keep attempting to login until they succeed. This is where the Wordfence brute force protection module comes in!

This is an extremely versatile module that can be modified further for those extra paranoid individuals, that will lock out users who fail too many logins, use the “forgotten password” form too often, preventing WordPress from leaking your username as well as (optionally) locking out a user that uses an incorrect username, which while not ideal for some scenarios, is an extra security measure.

The brute force protection will help to stop most hackers, since they often rely too often on brute force attacks, you can give yourself extra security with the free Google reCaptcha plugin that adds a captcha to all forms on the site, making it very expensive for hackers to even attempt to brute force your site.

Powerful Malware Scanner

There are time where all the preventative measures in the world can’t save you, cases such as vulnerabilities in a theme/plugin you are using on top of old plugins (that you could be using) being re-purposed for malware or back-doors are difficult to avoid outright.

This is where the malware scanner comes in, being built and optimised for WordPress, the scanner will be able to pick up just about any backdoor or malware that has found its way onto your site.

Fix Broken/Hacked Files

Backdoors can be injected through any file, and Wordfence has a really simple but effective way of minimising this, and that is simply to check all files against their WordPress repository to see if there are any differences, and if any are found inform you with the option to make it the same as the repository version.

For developers, this may end up flooding you with changed files, but I still suggest keeping it on, because if even one of those files was edited by someone who wasn’t you or someone you know, then things can go south very quickly.

Any Alternatives?

To say Wordfence is the only WordPress security solution, or even the best Security solution would simply be me trying to push opinion as fact. Out of all the security plugins I have used that are free, my favourite has been Wordfence, but the two I will mention below are also worth a look, as they may be a better fit for your needs.

All In One WP Security & Firewall – Implements a lot of the same sort of things as wordfence, as well as checking for vulnerabilities.

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) – adds a lot of extra security features, even more than WordFence, such as changing the admin url. Does have a malware scanner, but is a bit of a pain to setup since it uses the VirusTotal API, which also means that it uses conventional antivirus scans, over ones built from the ground up for the WordPress platform.

To Conclude

Each of Wordfences features work together to make sure that your site is secure, and is an essential plugin for your WordPress site! But must be used alongside best security practices, which include:

  • Not Using a Generic Username
  • Not Using a easy to guess password
  • keeping plugins/theme/code up to date
  • not using the same password multiple times

How To Improve The Load Speed Of Your WordPress Site

Most blogs run WordPress, and most blogs could run a lot faster, this article will cover how to improve the load speed of your WordPress site!

There are many reasons to improve the load speed on your website, the main one being the ease of use it allows customers and the subsequent lower bounce rate your site will get, as while it may seem quick to you, people on phones or slower internet think anything but that!

Image Optimisation with Smush

Smush Image Compression and Optimisation

One of the easiest things to do to improve the load speed of a website is to optimise the images, this allows for you to have images of the same quality (if it is lossless compression, at least) but at a smaller file size, and since this means the size of the web page is smaller (since as a rule, images are the biggest thing on the page) the load time of the website will be faster.

I personally recommend Smush, since it is the easiest to setup and use, and has no negative effect on image quality. That isn’t to say there are tons more out there, a lot of which can offer far better reductions in image quality, but for lossless compression that is easy to install and use, I always suggest Smush.

Caching and more with WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache

Caching parts of a website means there is less to download on subsequent visits, with many WordPress caching plugins offering more features, all of which can help to improve site load speed.

Out of all of these, I strongly recommend WP Fastest Cache, this is due to how easy this plugin makes the whole caching and optimisation process, with it being as simple as installing, and then checking all of the check boxes, ensuring your content is caches, and resources such as CSS and JS are minified and merged, resulting in faster page load.

Checking the rest with GTMetrix

The above 2 plugins will fill a lot of the gaps, but to truly optimise your site to be as fast as physically possible, I recommend running it through GTMetrix and fixing anything that raises to help to make the site as fast as possible. They also have a handy optimisation guide you can follow to push your site load speeds even further.

With all of these followed, you should now have a much faster WordPress site, leading to more views, better rankings and a lower bounce rate!

All in One SEO – Helping Your Blog Rank!

For a blog, its visibility is hugely important for its longevity, and if you use WordPress, All in One SEO Can help!

The long term way to improve visibility of your blog is to create SEO optimised content that search engines such as google love, and while WordPress is (mostly) Fantastic for SEO, there are a few small things it does not to which can hurt your ability to rank in google.

What WordPress Can’t Do

WordPress is fantastic, with it having out of the box support for a custom title and description to help user and search engines understand the content, the issue here is that this is only for the home page.

This means every other page & post on your blog does not have a meta title or description, with the title on most pages just being its name, and search engines having to get content from the site for the description, which can have all sorts of issues.

How Does All in One SEO Solve this?

All in One SEO, which at face value, is a fairly simple plugin, seems to be simple because (for blogging use) it is!

What this plugin offers is the ability to input an SEO title (Title shown on search engines and on the browser tab) and meta description (a description of the page, shown below title on search) for each page and post on your website. This helps as it allows for you to make sure the title and description for every page…

  • Is a call to action of some form
  • Easy to read
  • makes sense
  • looks nice

By Having this plugin, you can make sure the titles and descriptions look great, it could help to change this…

All in One SEO - Before

To This!

All in One SEO - After

If you saw both of these in search, which one are you more likely to click?

Sitemaps Too!

All in on SEO also fully handles the creation of your sitemap, as well as adding it automatically to your robots.txt, this really helps to allow search engines to fully crawl your site and index all of its content.

This is a really powerful feature that isn’t enabled by default, to enable it, you need to go to the “Feature Manager” and then activate “XML Sitemaps” to enable the feature, you will then see a new tab under the plugin called “XML Sitemap” which is where you will configure the sitemap, although the default features once activated should be fine.

Any Alternatives?

The main alternative for this is Yoast SEO which offers a lot more out of the box, but means there is more to learn and more that could go wrong, if it is the case that all you realistically need is the ability to edit the title and description to have more optimised and actionable copy, then All in One SEO is for you.

To Conclude

All in One SEO is a fantastic plugin to have, that can help to improve your visibility on search engines in a really simple and effective way, and while there are alternatives,  some with more features, we always suggest All in One SEO for newbies who want to write better titles and descriptions, due to it doing that really well!

If this is interested you and you want to see about improving your search presence, then you can download All in One SEO for free and have it on your blog today!