Simple Banner Ad Management For Your WordPress Site

Ad Management Plugins for WordPress

Running advertising on your WordPress site can get pretty complicated and so can the plugins available. This particular post is aimed at those whose needs are on the lower end so I’m only looking at free plugins here. If you’re really serious about advertising and need robust features, chances are you’ll need a fully featured paid plugin such as OIO Publisher or Adsanity.

For my situation, the criteria is:

  • The chosen plugin must be easy enough for my client to manage themselves
  • It must have a widget for easily displaying ads, or at least have an easy short code that will work in a widget
  • It must be able to handle either uploading a banner image, or pasting in ad code from a 3rd party such as Google AdSense, BlogHer, etc.

I tried out a bunch of plugins and below are the only ones worth mentioning.  

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The Most Flexible Featured Posts Widget You’ll Need

Flexible Posts Widget WordPress Plugin

Recently I had a client that needed to display a grid of images in a sidebar widget, each one of which would link to a different page. Previously they had hard coded all the images and links as HTML in a text widget but this was understandably a pain for the client to maintain and update.

I previously used Special Recent Posts as my go-to plugin for this type of thing (although I’m not sure it could handle Pages) but the free version is no longer being updated so I needed a new solution. Fortunately I found the Flexible Posts Widget plugin – the best featured posts widget I think you’ll ever need.

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Do You Need A Child Theme?

Do You Need A Child Theme

Creating a child theme is generally the best practice  for modifying or customizing an existing theme. However in a couple of cases there may be another, easier way, especially for beginners and non-coders.

Why Use A Child Theme?

If you need to modify your WordPress theme by editing any of the code, a child theme provides a way for you to do this safely. By “safely” I mean that it enables you to keep all your modifications separate so that you can continue to update the main, or parent theme in the future.

Let’s break that down a little further.

A theme is a set of files that lives on your server. In the screenshot below, I’m using an FTP program to look at my server but you would see the same thing if you used the File Manager from inside your web hosting cpanel. Once you navigate to the
wp-content folder you will then see the themes folder. Within that you’ll see a folder for each theme you have installed. In the screenshot below you can see some of the files and folders that comprise the Twenty Thirteen theme:

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WordPress.com or WordPress.org – Which Is Right For You?

WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

One of the most confusing things about WordPress is that there’s basically two ways you can use it and your decision will have a significant impact on what you can do with your website. You can use the WordPress.com service, or you can use the self-hosted version, also referred to as WordPress.org. If you want the quick n’ dirty feature comparison, you can check out this handy chart. Or read on for my take on the implications, and my recommendations.

What’s The Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

WordPress.com is a hosted platform meaning that you go to the website WordPress.com, sign up for a free account and they host your blog for you. You have to do very little set-up work. Initially they will give you a url for your new blog such as lucy.wordpress.com – there are ways to change that, but that’s your first indicator that your blog actually lives on the WordPress.com servers.

The other option is usually referred to as WordPress.org, or self-hosted WordPress. This is where you buy your own hosting plan and install the WordPress software on it. The software itself is ALWAYS free – you are paying a hosting company, not WordPress or Automattic (the parent company) themselves. You will need to buy a domain name to use WordPress this way, so your site will live at yourdomain.com – whatever you have chosen. 

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How To Make Sure Your WordPress Site Looks Good on Facebook

how to make your WordPress site look good on Facebook

Here’s an interesting factoid for you. Approximately once every 13 seconds* another blogger posts on an internet forum or group a variation on the following question: “Why does Facebook always show the wrong image when I post a link to my blog ?!!”

This post is a guide to what’s going on and how to make it right.

I preface it with this caveat:

Facebook is a mean ole bully and often changes the way that it operates suddenly and without warning. What works today could become obsolete tomorrow. Today, this is what works.

Get To Know The Open Graph Protocol

The Open Graph Protocol is a particular set of meta data – that is, information about your site, that goes into the code of your site. Both Facebook and Google Plus look for this meta data in order to learn about your website.

When it’s all present and correct your site looks lovely in Facebook.
When it’s not there, they make stuff up based on whatever they can grab.

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Effective WordPress Sidebars – Part 2 in the Conversion Series

Conversion Friendly WordPress Sidebars

How To Make Your WordPress Site Conversion Friendly: Part 2 – Effective WordPress Sidebars

Sidebars are one of the best places to put your calls to action. Widgets make your life easy and almost every theme has ’em! But we need to exercise some self-restraint when working with sidebars to make them effective.

Control Your Sidebars!

The reason you need to control your sidebars is so that you can tailor the content based on the area of the site the user is in. Some themes may have already baked in a way for you to choose different sidebars on different pages so that you can have different widgets accordingly. But many have one sidebar that will display the same set of widgets on every area of the site. If you want to get really refined about the conversion process you’ll need more control.

My favorite plugin for this is Display Widgets which I discuss over here

If your theme does not give you a way to choose a different sidebar per page, you need to go grab yourself one of the plugins listed.

What Should Go In Sidebars?

Sidebars often become the dumping ground for all the stuff you want people to see but can’t fit anywhere else. But less is more in this case, and more is just…..diluting and confusing.  So try to keep sidebars lean and mean. The very top of your sidebar should house the most important elements. What those elements are will vary according to your business, what you are selling (if anything) and what your conversions are (see part 1). Here are some ideas.

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