A to Z Challenge: Day Nineteen – “S”

‘S’ is for ‘Support for the Self-Hosted (and other WordPress Users).’

I am stoked to attend a WordPress Meetup in my area (Cowichan Valley) later this morning. The agenda for our session is to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in a concrete, hands-on manner.

Today will be my second time joining this Meetup group. When I attended last month, I was impressed by the highly individualized attention of the help desk format. I was also relieved to find that this group is intended for, and attended by, WordPress users of all kinds (and of all abilities).

Wordpress
Photo Credit: wpcowichan.org/blog

Last month, my key question was how to address the 504 errors that I was receiving on my WordPress site. My question was thoroughly and patiently addressed by one of the attendees (in my case it was a clash between two separate plugins that did not wish to play together nicely). I removed one of the plug-ins and haven’t had the error message since.

WordPress Meetups and Workshops take place worldwide and are always low-cost to attend (ours are currently free). To find a WordPress session near you, look under “WordPress Events and News” on your dashboard. You can also check out WordCamp Central or Word Camp Meetups. If you are a WP user, I highly recommend it.

My WordPress related questions for today include:
1. How to put sidebar links in alphabetical order (I used to be able to do this, but with the new version of WP I can’t seem to figure it out).
2. How to check for, and repair, broken links.
3. How best to improve page load speed.
4. Monster Insight. Is this something that I should be using?

If you are a WP user and have solutions for any of the questions above, I would love to know your thoughts. Otherwise, stay tuned. I promise to share what I discover later today.

Special thanks to Michael Nelson and Sheryl Gilding, the organizers of the Cowichan WP Meetup. Thank you also to Chris Hoffman, today’s Guest Presenter. Finally, thank you to WordPress for consistently offering such accessible and useful support. I am extremely grateful to have such reliable assistance nearby.

wordpress
Photo Credit: WPCowichan.

64 Replies to “A to Z Challenge: Day Nineteen – “S””

  1. My WordPress theme is a purchased one that my web guy further modified to make it exactly what I wanted, and then he put in several plug-ins that had to be tested for compatibility with the personalized theme. So I have to rely on him when I want most things done, for fear that any change I make will have a domino effect and bring the whole site crashing at my feet. I know that it probably wouldn’t be quite that bad, but that’s my fear and there’s enough truth in it to keep me nervous.

    Still, I love to learn about WordPress and will be delighted to hear what you learn. Take good notes, Donna 🙂

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    1. Hi, Karen – This past December, at the height of my ‘technology hell’ phase, I deeply regretted my decision to self-host (especially to self-host solo). Since then, my site has proved to be a bit more smooth sailing (despite the occasional error message). The silver-lining is that my learning curve has been straight-up. The other great perk has been meeting wonderfully supportive people, like the folks at my local WP Meet Up. My excitement in attending today reminds me of how appreciative I am to be around generous people with like-minded interests. I promise to keep you posted.

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  2. Hi Donna – Sounds like a great source of information and support. I’m a Blogger user who has been thinking about switching to WP. On certain days when my brain feels scattered, I think of staying with my current Blogger site and starting a second site with WP. So silly considering I rarely have a post scheduled in advance. Have a wonderful Saturday and Sunday! Hope I made you smile 🙂

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    1. Hi, Natalie – My recommendation would be to go with just one site, and to use WP (if you have not been completely happy with Blogger). I would recommend the free WP site, or the deluxe version which is the next step up. I use free WP for a website the I host for one of our local organizations, and it works perfectly. The WP Happiness Engineers are always more than happy to help move you from a previous site to a WP site.
      In answer to your final question, yes – you definitely made me smile. You always do!

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    2. I recommend WordPress too! As a commenter, I find the other services very user unfriendly. I hate to have to jump through hoops just to leave a comment… and often my comment that I worked so hard on just disappears. WP isn’t perfect but it seems to be the best blogging service out there.

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      1. Thanks, Janis – I also find WordPress much easier to use for leaving comments. I wasn’t sure if it was just because I was used to it, or if it was actually easier. I hate Captchas. I agree that is is painful when a well-thought out comment disappears without publishing!

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  3. Usually I’m not a fan of self-hosted sites. Commenting is cumbersome as I have to enter my info each time I comment. Your site is so easy to comment. It recognizes me. While I get notifications of your posts in my reader (in addition to an email), I don’t get notifications of comments there but I’ve learned to click that box at the bottom. I haven’t heard of a WP group near me but then again, I haven’t looked. Thanks for the info. I never thought I would be such a techy. (Ok, maybe I’m stretching that a little!)

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    1. Thanks, Kate – That’s a great question to add to my list, i.e. how to let readers know when I have responded to their comments. Previously, I had all comments go through moderation and then readers received an email notice when their response had been moderated and commented upon. As soon as I took away that extra moderation step, that solution was rendered useless. Stay tuned for the WP Support Group expert solution! And thank you for the feedback that it is easy to comment on my site. That was wonderful to hear!

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    1. Hi, Linda – I believe there is a planned Wordcamp coming up this year in Sydney, NSW, Australia. There is also a confirmed Word Camp in Wellington, NZ. I highly recommend attending if there is one convenient to your location.

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  4. Wish I could attend this with you or find something similar here. How did you find this group?

    I do have a plug in that identifies broken links, of which I have many, but I don’t know what to do about each of them. Fixing them or deleting them would be very time consuming! And not fun.

    Hope you will share what you learn!

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    1. Hi, Leslie – I wish that you were attending too. We could cause trouble together! 🙂 I first discovered this event when it appeared on my WP dashboard under “WordPress Events and News.” If you check your dashboard, it should list the closest upcoming WP events near you. Good luck!

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  5. I’m also a WP user but hosted by my son (who pays an annual fee I think to WP) who always sorts me out if I make mistakes which I often do. I can’t answer any of your questions – I thought speed had to do with cable and internet speed. If someone adds a link to their comment on my blog post, it goes into moderation until I approve it. A tiny bit of a drag but a small one. I work mainly on my laptop but my cell phone has a WP app on it, which I can access and see that so and so liked my response to their comment on a blog. That is useful to me, it shows that they read my comment irt theirs.
    A meet-up sounds like a great idea – I’ll check out that source thank you!

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    1. Hi, Susan – You are lucky to have your son host for you!
      According to WP, “WP pages are dynamic. This means they’re built on the fly every time someone visits a post or page on your website. To build your pages, WP has to run a process to find the required information, put it all together, and then display it to your user. This process involves a lot of steps, and it can really slow down your website when you have multiple people visiting your site at once.”
      If you have a large site, or one with lots of images, installing a ‘Catching Plug In’ can make your WP site anywhere from 2x to 5x faster. Hope this helps.

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  6. Your WordPress meetup sounds awesome.
    I’ve been using WordPress and blogging seriously for just about six months and have a free account. That limits a lot of what I can do with my blog.
    Don’t have any answers. Will be back to see if I can find some tips to improve my blog.

    Do stop by my #AtoZChallenge post for S and share your thoughts:
    https://lonelycanopyblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/salam-singh-ki-haveli-a-house-of-luxury-and-decadance/

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  7. I’ve never attended one of these but am interested to hear how it all goes, Donna. I’ll have to check out if there are any workshops near me. I’ve never been tempted to go self-hosted, mainly because I’m too scared to do so, but I also rather like the backup of having the WordPress Happiness engineers on hand. I’ve always found them to be very supportive and friendly.
    Have a great day.

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    1. Hi, Hugh – I’ve attended a WordPress Camp (in California) and one other previous WordPress Meetup. I found them both to be incredibly useful…and a wonderful way to meet link-minded people. If you ever get the chance to attend, I would love to read about your experience!

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      1. Hi, Hugh – I’m so happy to hear that. My WordPress MeetUp group is a 75-minute drive from my home (once a month on Saturday mornings). I usually mix it up with exploring other things in Cowichan Bay after the workshop. So far, it’s been a win-win!

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  8. Hi, Ann. According to WordPress, here are the key differences between ‘hosted’ (WP.com) and ‘self-hosted (WP.org).

    “The one major difference is who’s actually hosting your website.
    With WordPress.org, you host your own blog or website. WordPress.org is where you’ll find the free WordPress software that you can download and install on your own web server.
    WordPress.com, on the other hand, takes care of all of the hosting for you. You don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server.”

    You can find out more info at: https://ithemes.com/tutorials/wordpress-com-vs-wordpress-org. Hope this helps!

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      1. Thank you for stopping by. When look at hosted or self-hosted sites, it all depends what works best for the individual. Most bloggers that I know in my niche use free WordPress (wordpress.com). If starting my blog all over again I would definitely go with that…no questions asked!

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  9. Donna – great reminder. I joined the Local Meet-up for WordPress but have not been able to attend a meeting because of schedule conflict. But I hope to at some point…if only to connect with folks I might need in the future if I get glitches! I’ve been on the hosted WP site (free level still) since I started. I find it’s fine for a hobby blogger!

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    1. Hi, Pat – Schedule conflicts are a great sign that you are remaining engaged and active! If beginning my blog all over again, I would definitely go with WordPress.com (the free hosted site). Since I now have heaps of images and collages on my site, I would definitely require the deluxe version of WordPress.com which costs the same as self-hosting. I plan to stay self-hosted for now….at least until my next trip to ‘Technology Hell’!

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  10. Great post! I am so delighted to have found you, via Leanne at Cresting the Hill and the the A to Z challenge. I need to “get out” more. :-). I’ve been using Rainmaker, derived from WP, for my main site but I am shifting back to to hosting with WP Engine for it too. Our local WP meetup is geared to developers, and that is why I’ve been hosting Tucson Women Bloggers meetup for 5 years. I’ll be back.

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  11. I looked up what might be around here, but found that the meetings around here seem to be techie, not wordy. Pity that, I’d like to meet some bloggers in person… to talk about writing, of course. More Word, less Press.

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    1. Hi, Ally – I am sorry to hear that no appropriate WP groups are currently located near you. Janis (RetirementallyChallenged) found the same thing when looking in her area of California. There are many MeetUp groups for writers that may also be of interest. I agree that meeting other bloggers in person to talk about writing can be an awesome experience. You are also most welcome to meet Janis and Kathy (Smartliving365) and me in California this October! 🙂

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  12. I am a Blogger user but I have a WP site as well because I know that a lot (most) people use WP. Last year before the A to Z John Holton introduced me to IFTTT and I’ve been able to post on Blogger but it automatically posts the same thing to WP. I found Blogger easier to use but it definitely gets less traffic. I’ll have to check into WP more closely and look to see if there are help meetings near me. Thanks for the tips!

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  13. Hi, Janet – That’s interesting about the difference in traffic. I wouldn’t have guessed that. I also didn’t know that you could blog on one site and automatically post to a different blog site. I told you that my learning curve was straight up!

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  14. As a WordPress user, I bet these meet-ups are very helpful and informative. You’re well-prepared as always, with your list. Don’t let anything or anyone distract you this time, Donna! 🙂

    As far as the faster loading of pages, when I was living on a sailboat, it was a struggle to load pages, full of photos. Mainly, because people didn’t resize them. I learned then and there, to resize photos on my blogs. That being said, the quality becomes less good, so a balance is probably the way to go. These days, most people have fast internet, but for travelers, it is still a pain to load “heavy” blogs.

    Also, WordPress (just like Blue Host, which has been causing us more issues lately) changes things all the time, which might mess up anything you/we have figured out.

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – It is true that the use of many, full-size images can greatly slow down website load speed. To insert a nerdy fact that I learned today, “Recent research by Google indicates that the chance of users bouncing off your site increases to 32% when the page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds. If your site takes up to 10 seconds to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%.” Resizing your photos (as you do), or using an Image Optimizer Plug-In are very helpful in improving load times.

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  15. There’s a WP “Meet Up” group that meets in nearby Jacksonville every Wednesday, and I’ve been trying to find time to attend one of their lunches. This post of yours might just might be the inspiration (kick in the ass?) I’ve been needing to get me to go. Thanks for mentioning it, Donna.

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    1. Thanks, Jill – I found that the session today was a bit more “Developer Heavy” than it was last month. Still, the Help Desk format was very helpful, and the people very supportive. No one was able to answer my question on how to get WP to send an automatic email to readers when I respond to their comment. But they were able to help answer my other questions, which was fantastic. 🙂

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      1. Hi Donna! Sorry, I didn’t realize that question didn’t get answered!
        It seems you’ll need a plugin to allow people to subscribe to replies to their comments.
        Here’s an article that should help: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-notify-users-only-on-replies-to-their-wordpress-comments/.
        I’m suspicious though that that plugin will conflict with commentluv plugin I think you have running. If so, you could also try https://en-ca.wordpress.org/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/, but it’s not as well maintained.
        And certainly remember to test the plugins somewhere else besides your live site first! (Eg you could make a site on poopy.life, upload your plugins and theme to it, and see if they play nicely)

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  16. I have seen these meetings advertised on my sidebar in wordpress Donna and there appears to be one in Brisbane. I still feel that I’m an imposter blogger and that I wouldn’t warrant attending but you have given me some thoughtful advice here. I like that they discuss WP problems etc. plus you get to connect with others. xx

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  17. WordPress just recently put on a WordCamp where I live. Unfortunately, the schedule only had things for developers on it, nothing for bloggers at all. I have contacted them multiple times about this but, so far, my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. I’ve looked on the Meet-Up website for bloggers meets but having seen anything there either. I’ll check out the avenues you indicated… hopefully I’ll find something. I love the idea of getting together with a group of bloggers and helping each other out.

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  18. The group sounds really helpful Donna. I’m on Blogger – cost free and drama free. I sometimes wonder if I should be on WordPress, but the fact that Blogger gives me all I need without fail (so far) has stopped me from making the leap. I can’t imagine paying for something that isn’t all that different to what I already have.
    BTW I use this site to check for broken links: http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/broken-links.php#status
    (it’s free like everything I use!)

    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
    S for Stop Procrastinating

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  19. I had no idea these groups existed. How wonderful to have that support. I am self hosted and have fits at times and wish I had more support. I also want a new theme and have tried out several without finding the one I want. I’ll keep looking but that sort of thing stresses me out. Also when things go wrong I freak! I’m going to look to see if there is anything nearby.

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    1. Hi, Molly – If there is a WordPress support group near you, I highly recommend checking it out. Our group has been invaluable to me so far. I’m glad to hear that you are also self-hosted. That gives me another ‘expert’ to turn to when I am trying something new. For themes, I use WP 2017. No flashy, but no fuss, no muss!

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  20. I am on Blogger, but would rather be on WordPress. The themes are nicer, there are more tools, and WP users can blog from their phones. Blogger is clunky, and I can only load photos from a computer, not from my phone or tablet, which is very limiting. However, I have ten years worth of material on my blog, so I worry about making the transition. Also, I have limited patience with learning new tech stuff.

    Jude

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  21. Hi, Jude – If you are not happy with your current platform, it would be worth having a chat with the ‘Happiness Engineers’ at WP. They are free, helpful, friendly and efficient. Terri Webster-Schrandt had them help her move her blog from another platform and she was very pleased with the results.

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Our WordPress Meetup is awesome! It is filled with very supportive people who have continued to answer my questions outside of the Meetup (see comment from Mike Nelson above). Due to my questions getting answered, you should now receive an email saying that I replied to this comment. Fingers crossed that you do!

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  22. Interesting, I never knew there were meetups and workshops for WordPress. I see there are both in my area 🙂 Shared x 4 ♥

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    1. Hi, Dee – Thanks for checking out some of my ‘A to Z’ posts. I greatly appreciate it. If you ever have the chance to attend a WordPress Meet Up or Workshop in your area, I highly recommend it. Our WordPress Meet Ups have been very helpful to me.

      Like

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