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[Plugin] UpdraftPlus

Plugin for Backups

Positioned as the world’s most trusted backup plugin, UpdraftPlus is the world’s highest rated and most-installed plugin. UpdraftPlus can back up WordPress sites of any size. It runs wherever WordPress does, has more storage options than any rival and makes cloning simple.

Your WordPress backups are worth the same as your entire investment in your website. The day may come when you get hacked (or your hosting company does or they go bust) — without good backups, you lose everything.

Do you really want to entrust all your work to a backup plugin with only a few thousand downloads or to one that has no professional backup or support? With a 4.9/5.0 rating and over 3 million downloads (500,000+ installs), UpdraftPlus is the backup plugin we use and recommend.

Key Features:

Easy Storage: UpdraftPlus offers many remote cloud storage options: Dropbox, Amazon, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, FTP, etc.  With ‘Updraft Vault’, you get the zero hassle option. Manage and download backups for all your sites at one central location. No complicated setup or fiddly keys, no accounting hassles. Just press a button to make the connection, and you’re done! UpdraftPlus Premium gives you 1 GB of Vault storage for free, with the option of purchasing more.

Scheduled Backups: With the paid option, you can ‘set it and forget it’ with automated backups vs. performing manual backups (free version). Choose exactly when and how often to backup – every 4, 8 or 12 hours, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly – your choice! UpdraftPlus can also automatically run a backup before you update a plugin, theme or WordPress itself – even when WordPress updates itself in the background; so, whatever problems a new update brings, you’re covered!

Restoring Backups: Download backups directly from your WordPress control panel.You can restore individual entities (e.g. just your plugins after a problematic update) or restore everything at once. You can also import backups from other sites, or import them from your remote storage (e.g. your Dropbox).

Migrate (Clone/Duplicate): With their ‘Migrator’ feature, you can easily clone or migrate your website to a different URL all from the dashboard in only a matter of minutes.This feature is useful if you want to clone a site for testing, or if you’re a developer wanting to build a custom site on a local or temporary domain and then shift it all over to a live domain later on. You can even send data directly from one site to another.

Stats:

The UpdraftPlus plugin has been installed more than 500,000 times, so you can rest assured that it’s been vetted by the crowd.

Price:

You can enjoy the free option with minimal storage. Or, upgrade to a premium account with 1 GB of data storage for as low as $70 per year for more small, individual sites (2 licenses) or $95/year for business/multiple sites (10 licenses).

Psst…be sure to check out the Q&A section where you can get a coupon for the upgrade!

You can download and learn more about Updraft Plus here.

 

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[Plugin] Yet Another Related Post

Plugin for Engaging Readers

YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) lets you display a list of related entries on your site and/or feeds based on a unique algorithm, drive incremental page-views and provide more value to your reader.

Problem:

You need to encourage your readers to stay on your site and truly engage with your content so they become raving fans, loyal followers and ultimately, paying customers.

YARPP helps you introduce your reader to other relevant content on your site, making it easy for them to discover interesting articles that meet their needs.  Also, you’ll notice increased page-views as well as longer average site visits in your analytics.

Bottom line?  If you’re priority is to build a solid community of followers-turned-customers, you need to proactively ‘draw them in’ by demonstrating your expertise and showcasing your solutions any way you can.

One way to achieve that goal is to install YARPP.

Key Features:

Some key features include customization via the YARPP template system, which puts you in charge of how your posts are displayed.  You can also showcase related posts, pages and even custom post types.  YARPP organically caches the related posts data as your site is visited, greatly improving performance and accuracy.  Finally you can disallow certain tags or categories, giving you even more customization when it comes to the related posts that you’d like to appear.

Stats:

The YARPP plugin has been downloaded more than 1.6 million times, so you can rest assured that it’s been vetted by the crowd.

Price:

It’s free.  Enjoy!

You can download and learn more about YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) here.

 

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[Plugin] Welcome Gate

Plugin for Capturing Email

A Welcome Gate™ is a cross between a popup and a squeeze page.  But it’s far less annoying and aggressive than both (while still delivering serious results).

Problem:

Markets are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, and that’s why you need to shake things up and try new things to capture emails.  The jury’s still out, but I’m thinking that pop-ups may be getting a bit stale (although I do the Qoate Scroll Triggered plugin (keep scrolling and you’ll see it fade in, lower right).

Bottom line is that if you’re going to generate a solid community of followers so you can generate income both online and offline, you need to be smart about building your email list…and building it sooner rather than later.

Solution:

The new Welcome Gate plugin helps you capture those much-needed email addresses. According to the Clay Collins, of The Marketing Show and plugin creator, Welcome Gate outperformed pop-ups by 20 times. It was 10 times more effective than their side bar opt-in box and it was 3 times more effective than a feature box.

Here’s how a Welcome Gate works . . .

  1. When someone goes to your home page, they’re redirected to a squeeze page (the page is at a url like http://www.YourSite.com/Welcome/).  You can see this sites live example here: http://www.resortentrepreneurs.com/welcome.
  2. Your Welcome Gate has a “skip this step” link, so folks aren’t required to opt-in.
  3. Folks are only redirected to a welcome gate when they go to your home page (i.e. if someone links to a specific blog post on your site — from twitter, or their blog — your Welcome Gate won’t display)
  4. If someone goes to http://www.yoursite.com, they’ll be redirected to your Welcome Gate at http://www.yoursite.com/welcome. But if they got confused and type in your home page URL, they’ll simply be taken to your home page
  5. A visitor will only see your Welcome Gate once in their lifetime (unless they go to your site again with another computer or browser or clear their cookies).

Setting up this plugin is somewhat simple, although it does take a bit of time to get everything right (it took me about 20 minutes). As you know, I only recommend things I know, love and use.  You can see a version of Welcome Gate in action on my site here, or view a different version used on Barack Obama’s website (no joke!).

Price:

It’s free (for now).  Enjoy!

You can download and learn more about the Welcome Gate Plugin here.

 

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[Plugin] Fast Secure Contact Form

Plugin for Building Forms

We all know how important having a contact form on your website is.  Adding a contact form is actually one of the first things you should do when starting a new WordPress site.

After all, it’s one of the biggest ways to capture much needed customer information.

But what if you need a form builder to capture more than just someone’s contact information?

The Fast Secure Contact Form plugin makes it easy for you to create customized forms on your website in order to capture much needed data.

Problem:

You need your users to do more than just submit an email address on a simple contact us form.  For example, you would like your user to upload a logo, picture or file…you’d like your user to answer questions in detail with more than a yes/no answer …you’d like your user to not be spam.

Solution:

The super customizable Fast Secure Contact Form plugin by Mike Challis allows a webmaster to easily create and add contact forms to WordPress.  It lets the user send emails to a site’s admin and also send a meeting request to talk over phone or video. An administration panel is present, where the webmaster can create and preview unlimited forms.

Features a super easy admin panel, multi-form feature, autoresponder, no templates to mess with, and an option to redirect visitors to any URL after the message is sent. It includes CAPTCHA and Akismet support to block all common spammer tactics, so spam is no longer a problem.

You can add extra fields of any type: text, textarea, checkbox, checkbox-multiple, radio, select, select-multiple, attachment, date, time, hidden, password, and fieldset.

Setting up this plugin is so simple.  Each field on the admin panel has user-friendly descriptors attached in case you have questions, making set up quick and easy.

As you know, I only recommend things I know, love and use.  You can see a simple version of the Fast Secure Contact Form in action on this site here, or you can see a more complicated set-up on my sister site ResortLocals.com here.

Plus, with over 1 million downloads, you can rest assured that this award-winning plugin is safe and secure.

You can download the Fast Secure Contact Form WordPress Plugin here.

 

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CAUTION: Don’t Be Domain Happy


Don’t do it.

When I decided to branch out on my own, I spent an entire weekend brainstorming like a mad woman.

They say when you lose track of time, you’re most certainly following your passions.  Clearly, I was on a roll and loving every minute of it, so I guess you can say it was a passion-filled weekend.

One of the biggest brainstorms that came out of that weekend was the creation of Sharing Profiles, LLC and how my network of websites would work together to form my “conglomerate.”

(Seriously. I’m not joking here…I’ve always been one to dream big.)

I was hell bent on staying local since local was all the rage, while being flexible enough to scale.  Thus, my website planning began in spite of the fact I hadn’t performed one google search on “website strategy” or “domain strategy”.

Consider no initial research to be mistake #1. 

Take my advice and do yourself a favor.  Do some research on buying domain names before you jump in feet first.  Or check out this thread on Quora regarding negotiating the purchase of a domain name.

Start Small. Think Big.

I started putting together the pieces of the Sharing Profiles website puzzle that would fit nicely into my “sky is the limit” strategy.  I went vertical.  I went horizontal.  I even went global (and then I back-tracked just a bit).

First up was figuring out the resort branch of Sharing Profiles and those resort-based domain names that I needed to secure.

I focused on the geographic location for each resort town I wanted to target initially (ie. Aspen, Vail, etc.).  Then, I focused on the verticals where “sharing profiles” would make the most sense to that local market.  For example: Hire Me (employment), House Me (housing), Buy Me (products), Meet Me (friends), Love Me (romance), and Help Me (charity).

Obviously, Hire Me was the first vertical I focused upon due to the economy.  Aspen was the first resort town I targeted because I called Aspen home.

And with that, HireMeAspen.com was born.

The second stage of my website strategy was determining other industries where people might share their profiles (ie. mentors, renters, artists, etc.).  The good news is that you can go high and wide with the Sharing Profiles concept.

Unfortunately, that’s the bad news too.

I settled upon:

  1. Colorado resort towns
  2. The six verticals (ie. HireMe, HouseMe, etc.) for each Colorado town
  3. Geographical family (ie. AspenProfiles) for each Colorado town
  4. Education (MentorMeAlumni and HireMeAlumni)

Consider overkill to be mistake #2.

Easy enough?

Ummm…no.

In an effort to start small while thinking big, I didn’t realize what a headache and needless expense it would be trying to maintain so many different websites and domains (duh!).  Remember, I was still in the naive planning stage.

And my domain challenges didn’t stop there.

Besides being overly aggressive when it came to building my “empire,” I also got bitten by the “what if someone else buys it before I do?” bug.  It’s a fear-based syndrome that is best to avoid at all costs.

Consider paranoia to be mistake #3. 

You’ll want to consider domain names which have strong keyword potential for search rank which can also cause you to lose focus and gobble up more than your fair share.  You also may want a plural version (where applicable) or different versions of your domain name (.com, .net, .biz, etc.), but I didn’t go that route since the .com’s were available.

“What-if sick” and “domain happy,” I purchased over 40 domain names (to start) ranging from $9.99 (1 year) to $29.99 (3 years).

When all was said and done, this illness cost me over $850.00.

It wasn’t so much the outlay of cash that was the problem as much as it was the outlay of time when it came to managing and executing this well-intentioned yet a bit naive domain strategy.

If only I knew then what I know now, I would have purchased two domain names to start.  Why?  Because Sharing Profiles.com and HireMeAspen.com are as far as I got before I pivoted.

You will pivot too.

You can trust me.  You can also trust retired serial entrepreneur (8 Silicon Valley startups, no less), author and Stamford professor, Steve Blank who wrote about pivoting in his article: Why Startups are Agile and Opportunistic — Pivoting the Business Model.  I also suggest reading his book: [amazon_link id=”0976470705″ target=”_blank” ]The Four Steps to the Epiphany[/amazon_link].

Anyway, upon launch of that first Hire Me website, I realized immediately that:

  1. My market was too small.
  2. Building and maintaining the necessary social media sites (twitter, facebook, slideshare, etc.) for each domain was absurd and next to impossible for one person to handle.
  3. I’d bitten off more than I could chew with my overkill strategy

Back to the drawing board.

So, like I said, I pivoted.

Now, instead of the old 40+ domains, I have seven new ones which are part of the new Resort Lifestyle Network.  They are Resort Workers (employment), Resort Locals (news and information), Resort Pix (best of), Resort Entrepreneurs (business owners), Resort Renters (housing – to come), Resort Lifestyle TV (videos – to come) and the Resort Lifestyle Program.

This revised approach is much easier to manage — but it still could be simpler.

I realize that sometimes you just need to take the leap and get your feet wet and I’m all for bolting out of the gate, but it’s also good to take a deep breath or two before blissfully charging up a storm on Go Daddy.

Bottom Line?  There’s so much more to a domain strategy than I have even begun to touch upon here.  But when it comes to actually buying the domains, know that it’s so easy to be over zealous and over spent when attempting to lock a name down or create the universe.  Be realistic, practical and smart.

Live and Learn.

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~ by Connie Hammond ~

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CAUTION: Don’t Hire A Developer…Too Soon

Don’t do it.

When I started planning my first website, the first thing I did was call the smartest developer I knew and trusted.  Unfortunately, that should have been the last step in the startup process, not the first step.

The truth is, I had no business going into an online business without doing my homework first.

Keep the control.

When you hire a developer without basic knowledge in place, you’ll soon realize that your hands are tied because you can’t make updates or even the most minor edits without engaging your developer.  Don’t put yourself in this precarious position.

If you are going to have an online business, you have to learn, at a minimum, the basics of website development: Basic HTMLSEO, Use Cases, Wireframes, Membership Sites (we recommend Wishlist Member), Squeeze Pages, Email Marketing (I use MailChimp), Payment Processing, etc.  Not to mention, you should learn the design basics (check out this exceptional article on visual design basics).

Don’t shortcut this step.

Before hiring a developer, please do yourself a favor and go to Lynda.com, pay the $29.00 monthly subscription fee (which you can cancel at any time), and access Lynda.com’s online training library.  Then dig in and actually take the classes (you can even learn at your own pace, so no excuses).

One of the first classes I recommend is WordPress Essential Training. It takes 5.5 hours, and it can be a bit tedious for the novice.  But endure it.  It’s worth it if you’re launching an online business via a self-hosted WordPress site (which I recommended doing). Trust me, it will be time well spent.  That way you’ll have an idea of what you’re developer is doing. Go to Lynda.com for more information and to sign up.

Spend wisely.

Had I just taken the time to take some online courses in the beginning, I could have saved over $20,000 which was the development fees that I paid on the front-end of my startup and instead spent that money now that I know what I’m doing.  Granted, my interactive website, HireMeAspen.com, had lots of customization and complicated functionality like posting profiles, connecting users and ratings / recommendations.  It was also built to scale and will serve as a great foundation for profile sharing on the Resort Workers website.

My trustworthy developer did a fabulous job and delivered what I asked.  However, I should have gained the necessary knowledge about which features are worth pursuing and which aren’t before blindly spending the money and forging full steam ahead.

Mostly, I would have known how to engage my developer in a more productive way vs. naively trusting his opinions.  Knowing what I know now, I would have asked more questions, acted more deliberately and learned more about technology and market needs.

I wish I would have spent that money more wisely out of the starting gate.

Take Your Time

Had I just waited a bit longer and started with the most basic product features, I would have known what’s really involved in launching a site. I would have known that no matter how gung-ho you are, there is a natural learning curve that is difficult, if not impossible, to bypass quickly.  I would have known that it’s not necessary to have all those bells and whistles on your website that you think you need. I would have known about the Minimal Viable Product.

I would have been able to discern which features were nice-to-haves vs. ones that could really impact sales.  For most (not all) online entrepreneurs, a do-it-yourself hosted WordPress site will more than suffice for the Round One learning curve.

Minimum Viable Product.

As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur, will tell you: your goal in the beginning should be simple: to launch the most basic, minimum viable product you can get away with so you can test your idea in the marketplace as soon as possible, and then change course or pivot as needed.

Your vision will evolve based on what you learn during the first year of planning and launching your online business…guaranteed.

To be clear, I’m not saying spending money on a developer is wrong; it’s just the timing that matters most.  In my case, it was premature when launching my first online business to hire a developer without knowing more about technology (since I was launching an online biz), fine-tuning my vision (including my target market) and testing the waters.

My developer did a fantastic job by delivering a custom site built from scratch that functions properly.  He did what I asked.  I just asked the wrong questions and wanted the wrong things.  (And if you shirk this advice and hire a developer anyway, at least be sure to have measurable deliverables, firm deadlines and a no-frills, get ‘er done and roll ‘er out policy).

Bottom line? I wish I had hired my awesome developer during Phase Two vs. Phase One.