• My 5 Favourite Plugins for WordPress

    Most WordPress users, when asked about their favourite plugins, will name the usual favourites like Yoast SEO and Akismet. Although I use and like them too, I’d rather name plugins that I think most people don’t know about. This is partly to introduce people to new plugins and to give the plugins some attention, but it’s mostly because I don’t like giving the same answer as everyone else.

    Below are 5 of my favourite plugins for WordPress that are not one of the top 20 most used plugins.

    Search and Replace

    This plugin adds a page to your Tools menu, where you can either search your entire database for a particular search term or perform a find and replace across your entire database. I use both functions – the search only is useful at various times when I want to check for something in places beyond those covered by the standard site search, and the find and replace is useful when I change a permalink and want to update all the links to it across the site.

    I have tried other plugins that do the same thing but I prefer this one.

    Code  Snippets

    I really don’t know why this one is not more widely used or why it has no similar alternatives. It’s an easy way to add custom code to your site, just as you might do within a theme or a plugin, but fully within the admin area. You get a Snippets menu where you can add a new Snippet just like you add a Post or Page. When you save the Snippet, it gets stored in the database but also executed on the site like theme or plugin code.

    Everyone tells you not to edit your theme because you’ll lose the changes upon updating. With Genesis it’s OK because all updates are applied to the parent theme, but that means you have the hassle of moving all your code over to your new theme should you switch. Creating a plugin and adding your custom code to it is a possible solution, but I prefer it to be stored in the database because you can back it up along with your content. Plus, the plugin enables you to deactivate and reactivate each snippet and manage them like content.

    Publish to Schedule

    I think this one is really cool. You set it up by telling it when you want posts published (e.g. every Monday or every weekday). Then, when you add a new post, the Publish button is replaced with a Publish to Schedule button and the plugin takes care of scheduling the post to the next available slot. It saves a lot of time.

    Archived Post Status

    This plugin registers a new post status, Archived, where the post remains in the database but is fully removed from the website until you revert the post status back to Published. Despite the name, posts with the Archived status do not show in post archives. Although the built-in post statuses Draft, Pending and Trash have the same effect, they are not intended for this particular purpose like Archived is.

    I use this plugin a lot when I remove pages from my site because I prefer to keep them for reference purposes instead of deleting them from the database altogether.

    Black Studio TinyMCE Widget

    This is a simple but genius idea, which is a widget that includes a title field and a TinyMCE editor just like in a Post or Page. The plugin only just misses out on the top 20, so it’s fairly well-known. Still, it’s a whole lot better than writing raw HTML into a text widget. You wouldn’t do it for Posts so why widgets?

    My Own Plugins

    A week ago, I was the author of three plugins. Last week, I increased that to NINE:

    1. Archive Diversity
    2. Better Scheduled Posts
    3. Block Internet Archive
    4. Foreign Language Font
    5. Genesis Advanced Edits
    6. Genesis Auto Widgets
    7. Noindex Means Noindex
    8. RSS Feed Shortcode
    9. WP Smart Link

    All my own plugins were created out of needs I saw that either weren’t being addressed at all or weren’t being addressed well enough by other plugins.

    I encourage you to click the links and see what they’re all about. I’ve already written a tutorial on how to use Foreign Language Font and I plan to write similar tutorials for the other 8 plugins in the coming weeks. Or, if you have any immediate questions, ask away.


  • Clicks Not Bricks (The Trend Is Your Friend)

    More and more people are realising that the traditional economy doesn’t work anymore (or never did work). That blue chip corporations equal security and stability is a myth. Job losses are happening all the time in banks, media organisations and the like.

    More and more people are looking to take responsibility for their own income and the Internet allows them to do that. But what product does an Internet entrepreneur sell, exactly?

    The short answer is, it’s information.

    The industrial age is over and we are now in the information age. People are willing to hand over their money in exchange for information on a specific subject, and there are many advantages to selling online information products as opposed to hard goods:

    • They cost little to produce, so there’s little risk if they don’t sell
    • They cost nothing to reproduce, so they’re highly profitable
    • They can be set up and selling in a matter of hours
    • The transactions can be fully automated, so they can be selling while you’re asleep

    If you’re interested in the merits of selling online information products, get in touch and I can discuss with you further.


  • Genesis 2.2 and Entry Meta

    Genesis 2.2 is expected to be released soon, and it will bring some major changes to the way the entry meta (also known as the post info and post meta) is handled.

    Most of these changes are ‘under the hood’, but there is one big difference you will notice on your sites:

    The entry meta for attachments and custom post types will disappear, and you’ll have to install code to manually re-enable them after updating Genesis.

    … unless you’re already using Genesis Advanced Edits.

    If you’re relying on entry meta for attachments and custom post types, the best way to ensure a smooth transition over to Genesis 2.2 is to install Genesis Advanced Edits first.

    You’ll just need to select the post types for which you want to enable entry meta (both in the entry header and entry footer) and the content you want, like so:

    Editing the entry header with Genesis Advanced Edits

    Genesis Advanced Edits 1.3 will be released alongside Genesis 2.2. Install both updates and your entry meta for attachments and custom post types will remain intact.

    Another bonus of using Genesis Advanced Edits that you can enable entry meta for Pages, which is currently not otherwise possible.

    Beta Testers

    For those of you who have already updated to Genesis 2.2.0-beta1, you can grab the new version of Genesis Advanced Edits from GitHub.


  • Should You Use Posts or Pages?

    In WordPress, each piece of content can be either a Post or a Page. Have you ever been unsure about which to go with?

    The intended use for Posts is news – in other words, content that becomes less relevant over time.

    • You should continue publishing more and more Posts on a regular basis.
    • You don’t need to update your old Posts.
    • As you add new Posts, your old Posts become less relevant.

    The intended use for Pages is permanent information whose relevance does not diminish over time.

    • You don’t need to publish more and more new Pages on a regular basis.
    • You should keep your existing Pages up to date.
    • Your Pages’ relevance does not diminish over time.

    Differences between Posts and Pages

    Based on the intended uses for both Posts and Pages, there are many subtle differences between Posts and Pages, both in your admin area where you create and edit them and on your public site where they are displayed.

    Posts: Categories and Tags

    Posts allow you to add categories and tags. These are both groupings that you can use to organise your posts.

    The differences between categories and tags are minimal:

    • Categories can be nested inside other categories; tags can’t
    • Tags are a bit quicker to create than categories

    For an example, look at the bottom of this post to see the categories and tags assigned to it.

    Pages: Order and Hierarchy

    Pages don’t have support for categories and tags – instead, they are organised by order and hierarchy. This means that you can control the order they are listed, and you can make Pages ‘children’ of other Pages.

    If you choose to take advantage of Page hierarchy, it will usually be most noticeable in your permalinks. For example, I have a Page on this site called About Me:

    https://askcarlo.com/about/

    Then, I have a Page called My Books that is a child page of About Me. Notice how permalink of the child Page includes the permalink of the parent Page:

    https://askcarlo.com/about/books/

    Posts: Loops and Feeds

    In WordPress, Posts are famous for a feature called loops. This is where a series of Posts is displayed one after the other in reverse chronological order.

    One part of your site (often the front page) is usually reserved for displaying a loop your latest Posts. Also, your Posts are looped over in your category, tag, author and date archives.

    On the other hand, unless your site is highly customised, your Pages only display on their own and never together in a loop.

    Similarly, all your Posts are added to your content feed, but your Pages are not.

    Other Differences

    Many of the differences between Posts and Pages on your site are actually controlled by your theme, or are configured in your site settings. Since every theme and configuration is different, I can’t mention them all, but here are some of the most common ones:

    • Posts allow comments but Pages don’t
    • Posts display the date along with the content but Pages don’t
    • Post permalinks include the date but Pages don’t
    • The sidebar may be different on Posts and Pages

    Many of these things are customisable. Contact me if there’s a certain thing you’d like to change.

    Should you create a Post or a Page?

    Let’s suppose you have an idea for a piece of content you want to add to your site, but you don’t know whether to make it a Post or a Page.

    The first step you should take, of course, is to look at the information above about the intended uses of Posts and Pages, and the tangible differences between them, and decide which of the two best suits the needs of this piece of content.

    For example, if you want it to be included in your content feed, you should probably make it a Post. Or, if you want its permalink to indicate that it’s a spin-off of another piece of content, you should probably make it a Page and set it to be a child of another Page.

    What if the way that Posts and Pages are set up doesn’t fit your needs? For example, maybe you want to publish a piece of content that you can assign categories to, but you don’t want its publication date to show.

    As I said above, many of the differences between Posts and Pages are customisable, but it can take a lot of work. In cases like these, it’s best to consult an expert.

    Still unsure?

    Contact me and we can work together in deciding how your content should be structured.


  • Should You Include Dates in Your Permalinks?

    As an example, a permalink including the date would look like this:

    https://askcarlo.com/2015/03/26/dates-in-permalinks/

    A permalink not including the date would look like this:

    https://askcarlo.com/dates-in-permalinks/

    Importantly, changing your permalinks after you’ve started publishing is not recommended because all links using your old structure will break. For this reason, it’s worth carefully considering whether or not to include dates in your permalinks before you start publishing content to your new site.

    Old and Stale, or Evergreen?

    If your content is evergreen, including its publication date in the permalink might cause problems once it’s been around for a while. People might think it’s old and stale when it’s actually not. When they see an old date in the permalink, they’ll decide against clicking the link onto your site – and you’ll lose visitors.

    If you think people don’t pay attention to permalinks, remember that including a date in your permalink can also cause search engines like Google to add a timestamp to your content in search results, like the one below. You might be right that people won’t pay much attention the permalink, but they are likely to pay attention to a date that’s displayed prominently in the listing.

    Screenshot of a search engine listing with timestamp 'Dec 6, 2006'

    People are less likely to click on content that appears old and stale.

    Based on that, if you’re publishing evergreen content, it might be a good idea to not include dates in your permalinks.

    It’s Not Just the Permalink

    Even if you do decide not to dates from your permalinks, remember that Google is very smart. The permalink isn’t the only way it can work out the publication date. If the date is displayed within the content itself, or even on comments that your audience members have left on your content, it will use those dates to create the timestamp.

    You can avoid these timestamps by removing the dates from your content and from your comments.

    Posts vs Pages

    It’s worth noting that permalinks for Pages in WordPress never include the date – only those for Posts do. In most WordPress themes, Pages also do not display the date within the content.

    There’s a good reason for this. Pages are the intended place for evergreen content, while Posts are really meant to be used for content that becomes less relevant over time, like news.

    The simple solution, then, is to just use Pages for your evergreen content and leave Posts for your news content, and you won’t need to worry about removing dates from your permalinks. But then again, it’s up to you how to run your site, and you might have a good reason to be using Posts for evergreen content.

    Not Evergreen?

    We already established that for evergreen content, including dates in the permalinks can unnecessarily make your content look less appealing. What about content that’s not evergreen and does get less relevant over time?

    First of all, there’s definitely still a place for news content, so don’t give up on publishing it altogether. But should you try to omit the dates anyway, or do you just live with the reality that it’ll get fewer clicks over time?

    No, and not necessarily.

    If the publication date is significant to your content, then hiding it from your audience is dishonest and not recommended. However, you could consider omitting the date from the permalink but displaying it within the content itself. That way, you’ll still get the initial click onto your site, and if your visitor does decide the content is too old, at least they’re already on your site and they might move on to look at some of your newer content.

    Conclusion

    For evergreen content, including the date in the permalink is mostly detrimental. For news content, it’s important to display the date, but the permalink isn’t the only place to do that.

    Finally, don’t overlook the obvious. A permalink without a date is shorter, cleaner and easier to remember than a permalink with a date.

    For all these reasons, my preference is to not include dates in permalinks. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you and about what works best for your site. Share your thoughts in the comments, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


  • Plugin or Theme Functions?

    Although WordPress is an impressively robust piece of software to start with, its real value comes from the ability to customise it to suit the varying needs of different sites and clients.

    It provides two interfaces for doing this – plugins and themes. Although there are differences between the two, it’s often possible to accomplish the same thing using either.

    If you wonder which method to use, this article is for you.

    Changing Your Theme

    You can run only one theme at a time. This means that if you’ve been adding code to your theme functions and you want to change your theme, any code that you want to keep needs to be transferred over to your new theme. It won’t be run from your old theme.

    If the prospect of sorting through unfamiliar code is unappealing to you, contact me and I can move over your code.

    Unlike themes, you can run as many plugins as you want at a time, and they are independent of your theme. This means that if you do change your theme, all your plugins will continue to work seamlessly and you can avoid the hassle of transferring code.

    Plugin Downsides

    There are downsides to using plugins too.

    Firstly, if you’re using a lot of plugins, it could slow down your site. The theme functions method may be faster because all the code is consolidated into one file, as opposed to plugins where each solution is in a separate file. However, the difference is usually not significant enough to be noticeable.

    Secondly, there are some cases where code that makes reference to ‘genesis’ will work if pasted into your theme functions, but not from within a plugin – even if you’re running a Genesis theme. I always test the code I share and ensure it can be run from within a plugin, but if you’re an advanced user and you create your own plugins to store blocks of code that were meant for your theme functions, you might come across this.

    Genesis Check

    Some pieces of code may require your site to be running Genesis. If you aren’t running a Genesis theme and the code makes reference to ‘genesis’, the code won’t work whether it’s in a theme or a plugin.

    If you use the theme functions method, you can always check to see a notice reading ‘this theme inherits from Genesis’, which is circled in the screenshot below, and only add the Genesis code if the notice is present.

    Screenshot of the notice that a theme inherits from Genesis

    If you’ve been implementing solutions that require Genesis, what would happen if you were to ever switch to a non-Genesis theme?

    If you implemented the solutions using the plugin method and you leave those plugins active, you’re in trouble. The solutions will either stop taking effect, or worse, bring down your whole site.

    If you implemented the solutions using the theme functions method, then the solutions you added will stop taking effect, but your site will stay afloat. That’s provided you don’t move them over into your new theme – then they could potentially bring down your site.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, it’s not an easy question to answer. There are pros and cons for both methods. If you’re in doubt, get in touch and I’ll advise you.