Mar 3, 2023
Commenting System for WordPress

Nowadays, the commenting systems have been an integral part of a website. These social tools allow you to interact with your viewers- they also provide tools for your viewers to be able to communicate with each other. It is crucial to have the system adequately configured so it can match the need of your viewers. I’ll show you how to start.

In this lesson, you will learn different commenting systems for your WordPress website. When you own a WordPress site, people can comment on your page using WordPress’ native commenting system. If you look under “Settings” and then “Discussion”, you can turn on and off several settings related to your commenting such as; comment authors being required to provide their name and email address, whether they must log in to their WordPress account, or whether to close the comment section after a certain number of days and so on.

People need to provide their names and email address to prevent spam on your website. As a blog visitor myself, I’m often feel discouraged from participating in the commenting system if I see a lot of spams. So we need to anticipate this problem from the beginning.

To see the comments, you can go to the blog page, or you can go to the “Comments” page on the left panel. For now, you can see that there aren’t any comments to review.

This clean look is how the native WordPress commenting system looks. On the blog post titled “Easy and Cheap Garden Boxes”, you can see at the bottom where it says “Leave a Reply” where you got a comment, a name, an email, a website box, and a “Post Comment” button.

Another thing to add is that visitors will have the option to get email follow-ups when comments are made on their comment posts. The native WordPress commenting system is a clean looking box, and it’s always going to match the design of your website. So if you’re going to change to a different theme in the future, it will adjust accordingly.

There are other plugins that you can use to perk up your commenting system. I think you should check them out to see if their features might be of interest to you.

The first one can be found within the JetPack plugin. So we’ve talked about the JetPack plugin for some time now, and I assumed you’re already familiar with it. When you go to JetPack “Settings” and then “Engagement”, you can see that there is a commenting system and you got this little on/off toggle switch. Click to enable. You also have a small drop-down menu to change your Comments Headline. There are also three available appearance settings to choose from; light, dark, and transparent. Click “Save Settings”. 

You can also get back to these settings once you have enabled them. Just go under “Settings” and then “Discussion”, if you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find “JetPack Subscriptions Settings”. You can see the different greeting text, the color options, and also options to turn on and off the “Follow Blog” and the “Follow Comments”.

Now let’s see how these settings are going to appear on your page. On the first tab is the WordPress native, and the other is with JetPack. With the JetPack plugin, visitors can log in with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus accounts to leave a comment if they don’t want to leave their name and email address. 

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Lastly, there’s one other plugin that I recommend, and it’s a popular one. It’s a third-party commenting system called “Disqus”. As you can see, it has more than 200,000 active installations. My advice, try not to look at it solely based on the reviews. Despite the 3-star rating, I think it’s still a pretty decent choice. Please take a look at this videoschoolonline.com, where its commenting system uses Disqus.

Here’s a blog post about 2016 goals, and you can see that it has a few comments already. You can see that you can immediately start commenting if you have a Disqus account. There’s also a button to share your conversation and buttons to upvote and downvote comments. Neat, right?

When you Install Disqus, it will appear under the “Comments” menu and then “All Comments” and then there’s “Disqus” menu. Click it. Now, you can go to the Disqus Moderation Page by clicking the button. This is where I think Disqus has its main drawback; that it has to open a completely new tab to only go to the Moderation Page.

However, you can still moderate comments from the dashboard of your WordPress site. Back on the Video School Online dashboard, if we scroll down, there are new comments that we can approve, not approve, or reply from the Activity Window.

Alternatively, If you want to go through the hassle of going to the Disqus Moderation Page, take the above-mentioned step. Back here, you can manage comments in the different tabs; pending, approved, spam, and deleted ones.

So to finalize, you can look back at what these three different commenting systems look. The first one is the Disqus option, the second one is the one that comes with the JetPack Plugin, and the third one is our old, regular native commenting system WordPress already has. Ideally, for beginners, I’d recommend using the native one since it has a clean look, and it’s simpler to set up and use.

I think that sums up what you need to know about Commenting Systems for WordPress. 

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Mar 3, 2023
How To Block SPAM On Your WordPress Site

Today we’re going to address the thing that is universally hated: SPAM! They are everywhere on the internet, and as your website traffic is growing, trust me you’re going to have them whether in the comments section or through your contact form. Blocking them is so crucial to keep your content relevant and professional looking. So how do you do that?

There are lots of plugins and anti-spam solutions are available out there but today I’m going to elaborate on how to protect your site from spam using Akismet, which is created by WordPress’s very own founder. It is quite a robust tool as it is functional with many different kinds of forms and comment systems that you might have on your site.

You can follow these easy steps to get started:

  1. Search for the plugin and install it.
  2. Activate it. On the plugins page, you will see a banner at the top so just click on the “Activate Your Akismet Account” to proceed. Another way to activate aside from clicking the button on this page is to access Jetpack on the left sidebar and then click on Akismet.
  3. Get your API key which kind of verifies your use of the plugin. Click on the button “Get an Akismet API Key”
  4. Choose your plan. There is the basic plan for just basic spam protection, or the plus plan, which also offers support for commercial sites, advanced stats, and priority support. As your site grows bigger and bigger, you might want to consider the plus plan, but as we’re just starting out or trying it out, go ahead and click on the basic plan which you can get for free. 
  5. To continue, on the next page you can just slide left on the pricing, or if you want to do the nice thing and pay for the basic version as a thank you to the creators, you can do that as well. Then click on continue.
  6. You’re getting your API key, and it will also confirm to you the site you want to activate Akismet with. You can choose to activate the site or you can also take the API key and enter it through WordPress. This links through your WordPress account which was created along with the activation of Jetpack in the previous lesson.
  7. Your Akismet is activated, you can see the API keyed in, you’re already protected. Awesome!

Once it has been activated, you can configure the strictness. You can either get the spam comments discarded automatically so you don’t even know about it then poof! It’s gone. Or, you can opt for the spam to be put in the spam folder so you can review it later. There are cases when some comments may be wrongly considered as spam so you might want to review them first. But if your site is already so big you’re getting tons of spam daily, you might not have the time to review everything so you might want to pick the first option. After you choose how the spam is going to be treated, go ahead and click on Save Changes.

Your site is now spam-protected, so congratulations are in order!

Overtime if you want to check out how the spam protection has been performing, you can check out the stats on your WordPress dashboard under site stats. You will be able to see the number of spam comments blocked by Akismet. And you can always customize your dashboard. For example, you can drag the stats to the top so it becomes the first thing you see or you can also click on the screen options at the top if you want to show or hide any of the components.

To wrap up you have now learned how to protect your site from spam. Keep on exploring to learn more about managing your WordPress website!

Review

  • How do you activate your Akismet spam protection?
  • What are the available strictness options for Akismet spam protection?
  • How can you find the stats of blocked comments on WordPress?
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Mar 3, 2023
Caching Plugins for a WordPress Site

Going on a website with a slow loading time is a very bad experience for users. Furthermore, it is equally bad for search engine optimization (SEO) because search engines hate recommending slow websites with high bounce rates. So how can you improve this and avoid making the rookie mistake of not doing anything about it until it’s too late? Here’s how to speed up your WordPress website real quick.

We’re going to set up a caching plugin. To do so, we have a variety of plugins to choose from. Free versions, or the premium ones. I recommend these two: WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. But in this article, I’m just going to give you a brief guide for WP Super Cache.

Let me guide the process. After installing the plugin, you can do some extra configurations by clicking the “settings” menu on your WordPress sidebar. You will have the option to turn on the Caching. Turn it on and click “update status”. Now the plugin will begin working seamlessly in the background to check and convert big PHP files to smaller HTML ones to make the task of loading pages on your website easier.

Next, you can explore some more advanced options of the plugin on these tabs under the settings menu.

Advanced tab

For beginners, it’s always better to follow the recommendations so go ahead and make sure the recommended options are ticked. Some of their recommendations are not enabled by default so make sure to double-check. Here are some that are worth checking out:

  • Compress pages. Compressed pages speed-up loading but there can potentially be issues if you enable this so you can try and test to see if it’s working perfectly specifically for your website.
  • Don’t cache page for new users. In case there’s any update the change will be directly visible.
  • Extra homepage checks. This is important because most visitors will start on your home page so you want to make sure that the cache of the homepage has all the updated information.

When you have ticked what you need, click on the Update Status button

CDN

CDN or Content Delivery Network enables your website visitors to load some static files from the server closest to them instead of the server hosting your website. The CDN provider will keep the cache of your static files all over their network of servers. Let me give you an example: say someone who is in Indonesia is visiting your site that is hosted in the US. With CDN, they probably can load some of the content from the CDN server that is much closer, let’s say in Singapore. It’s a lot closer to them hence it will be faster. Enable this feature by checking the “Enable CDN Support”. Save changes.

Contents

This section will show your cache status, when was the last caching took place, how many of your pages are cached, and how many of them are expired if there’s any. Additionally, it also provides you with the list of your cached pages.

Preload

I recommend enabling the preload mode so that when someone visits for the first time, a cache file will be created so the second and third time only the cache is accessed and loading time will be better. Remember, faster loading times equal to higher google ranking! This can also be done for your tags, categories, etc. I would also update the refresh period for the cache to 1,440 minutes which is about a day.

So go ahead and tick the boxes and click update settings.

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So that is it! Your plugin is set up and your website should be optimized for faster loading. When your site is relatively new, caching probably will not affect you that much as there’s not much to load anyway, but once you have more pages, contents, and files, you will be able to tell the difference. 

One last thing, if you’re curious about how your website is performing speed-wise, you can run a test against your site. You can use tools.pingdom.com. It’s sort of like an audit for website performance. Just put down the site address and select the location you want to test from and boom! You can check out your loading time, how it compares to other websites, they also give suggestions on how to improve your website even further.

So congratulations! You’ve learned how to configure caching for your websites and checking your website performance.

Review:

  1. What does a caching plugin do?
  2. What does CDN enable your website to do?
  3. What information can we get by using tools.pingdom.com?
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Mar 3, 2023
Securing your Website

One of the most important things you need to know about managing your website is website security.

Most people don’t really think about it until someone hacks their website and they don’t know what to do about it. This is a common occurrence once you start growing your traffic.

For your WordPress website, you can easily choose a security plug-in from a lot of options. Here are two security plug-ins that are easy to use and set up. These have both free and premium options.

The first one is Sucuri Security which specialises in website security. You can start by trying out their free plug-in.

The second one is Wordfence security. Both have their pros and cons. You can easily do your research to find out which suits you the best.

How to use Wordfence security?

Install Wordfence. It has a lot of active installs and tons of good reviews which shows the quality of the plug-in.

Click on Install.

A pop up will appear offering you a tour of the functionalities of Wordfence. Check it out if it’s your first time trying this out.

The tour will show you how to scan your site for malware, how to find issues on your website like outdated plug-ins, set up a firewall against outside attacks, and automatic blocking of people trying to get to your website from suspicious IP addresses.

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Now, go to the dashboard.

Here you can find all the overview of the configuration and the statuses whether it’s enabled or not.

For instance, Firewall and login security is enabled, and some other options are disabled or only available for premium users.

On the dashboard, you will know how many attacks are blocked by Wordfence in all of their network and the websites under its protection.

In Other sections, you can see the status of your site.

For instance, in case someone is attacking your site, their IP address will show up here.

This Other section shows any login attempts to your site, and here you can see the locations the attacks are from.

Next important thing is to configure the plug-in to your specific needs.

At the very top, there is a banner offering you to optimise Wordfence. Click on the button to configure.

Before Wordfence is actually activated, it needs to do a total scan of your website to make sure everything is working well.

You need to choose the server side configuration for Wordfence to run on. You can just select the one they recommend, in this case it’s Apache and SuPHP and click continue.

Before making any changes, it recommends you to download a backup of your access file. So, go ahead and download the file. Then, click Continue.

Once it has run successfully, it will show you that the installation is complete and your website is protected to the fullest extent.

Next, you need to check out the options to know what settings you can change.

It’s all default settings now but you can customise these to be more suited to your needs.

For instance, you should look into the login security options.

If someone is on the login page and entered a wrong password, they will be blocked.

Periodically, Wordfence will send you a summary report as well of the blocked attempts and any of the findings. You can find the settings here.

It will also send alerts for outdated plug-ins, attempted attacks, and so on.

There are a lot of possibilities of configurations you can explore. It is obvious that this is a very powerful tool.

If you are starting out, you are safe and sound. As you progress, you can find more options that will make your website more secure.

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Mar 3, 2023
Backing up a WordPress Site

Have you ever had issues with someone hacking your website? Do you have fears that someone might want to hack your blog or completely erase the content of your website?

You shouldn’t have to worry about it if you have backed up your website. However, one way to make sure your website is always backed up is by using a backup plug-in.

There are paid and free versions of backup plug-ins.

The paid versions of backup plug-ins are plenty for you to choose from depending on your budget and your website needs. Some of the most popular backup plug-ins are:

  1. VaultPress (now part of JetPack)
    Created by developers that are also behind the famous Jetpack WordPress plug-in. It’s automatic and it doubles as a security plug-in for your website as it protects from viruses and malware.
  2. BackupBuddy
    If you have the intention to be all-out and serious with your website or if it seems like your business is growing and you want to invest in a high-quality plug-in for backup, BackupBuddy is one of the best options. Used by approximately half a million WordPress sites since 2010, there are yearly and lifetime subscriptions for this plug-in.

One of the free version plug-ins to secure your website is BackupWordPress.

To find this plug-in, search for the word “BackupWordPress” in the Plug-ins section. This plug-in has more than 200,000 active installations and has been reviewed 4.5 stars on the WordPress Plug-ins section.

Go to Tools and click Backups. On the page, you’ll see no backups are available. You need to schedule your backups.

To do this, go to Settings and you will have the option to back up your database only or files only, or to back up both database and files. What’s included in files are all of your website images and/or media files. If you want a full backup, I suggest backing up both your database and your files so you’ll never lose anything.

In case someday you lose it, you just need to download the backup file and start again.

Next, set up a schedule for your backup. You can choose the backup to be done daily, hourly, weekly, biweekly, or monthly. It is recommended that you set it according to how often you update your website.

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If you’re posting new blog posts twice a week or making updates more than once a week, I wouldn’t recommend scheduling the backup only once a month and taking the risk to lose your files. If you post more, update more frequently.

There’s also an option to do the backup manually. You can take this step after you made a drastic change to your website so you can create a separate backup.

You can set the day and the time for when the backup process will start and also set the number of backups you want to store on the server where you’re hosting your website. For instance, if you’re hosting with BlueHost, it will be backed up in your BlueHost database.

For other options, there are other plug-ins or a premium version of BackUpWordPress that will automatically backup your website to cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive. This might be a good idea if you want the backup to be easily accessible.

You can also have the plug-in to send you an email with a download link whenever you’re doing a backup. Just don’t forget to provide your email address in the Email notification field provided.

Alternatively, you can download your files from an FTP server, but I’m not going to go over the details right now because it’s more advanced. But it’s one way to access all your backup data files.

However, if you make a lot of changes and you just want to back up your website manually you can click the Run now button.

After you’ve run some backups or after it’s done multiple times, BackUpWordPress will show all of your backups down in the backup section and you can download them straight from there. It will be listed under the Actions column.

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Mar 3, 2023
Find, Install, and Activate Plugins

In this lesson, you are going to learn how to find, install, and activate plug-ins.

Plug-ins are important to customise your website. They have a lot of features you need such as security, backing up, email opt ins, and many more.

How to install a new plug-in?

Go to Plug-ins and click Add New. You will be directed to a search page where you can search for plug-ins. There are premium plug-ins that you can find on different websites from the developers who created custom plug-ins.

In the Add Plug-ins page, you can see the Featured plug-ins here, which are very popular plug-ins that are recommended by WordPress itself.

We have a Jet Pack pre-installed when we install the WordPress with BlueHost. To search for a plug-in, simply use the search box.

For example, if you want a gallery on your website, search for the word “gallery”.

Several kinds of gallery plug-ins will appear here. You need to check if it has a high rating, high installation numbers, and the recent update.

It is wise to not install an old plug-in or plug-in which version is not compatible with your WordPress version.

Next, you need to check the Last Updated. If it’s a year and more, skip it. It is outdated and hackers may hack your website via an old plug-in.

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Then, make sure the plug-ins you are downloading have more than four stars rating. For the install numbers, choose the most installed ones as they have proven to be effective.

To check for the plug-in’s further information, just click the title and it will show you the detailed info of the plug-in. You can see the descriptions, reviews, and even the screenshots of what it looks like. If you are good with the plug-in, click Install Now.

After you have installed it, you can immediately Activate it on the page, but that doesn’t mean you can use it yet.

Go to Installed Plug-ins and see the plug-ins you have installed here. Blue highlight means it is active right now, and vice versa. You can click Activate here.

Sometimes when you install a new plug-in, a small window or a banner will pop up at the top of the screen. It will guide you on how to use the plug-in.

Also, you will see two side menus added on the left side menu bar. They are Photo Gallery and Photo Gallery Add-ons.

Now let’s go back to the Installed Plug-ins page and learn how to delete a plug-in. To delete a plug-in, you need to Deactivate it first. After that, click Delete and OK.

Next, you need to know how to update a plug-in. There are several ways to do so, but one of them is from the Installed Plug-ins page. When a plug-in has an update, a small banner will appear below the plug-in. Click Update Now to update. Or, you can go to the Dashboard on the left side menu bar and click the Updates.

This is basically the home page of updates. This page will show the WordPress Updates for your plug-ins and themes. But sometimes, this page doesn’t show any updates at all, so be sure to check both of the pages.

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