Everything Old is New Again

| April 28, 2010 | 13 Comments

NJFMMy regular readers will notice something vaguely familiar about this WordPress theme. Yep, you guessed it, it’s the old WordPress theme with a few color changes (I’m still working on the color thing). It’s a long story, but here’s why the change…

It’s All About the Sitemap

This whole thing started because I was working on improving one of my other websites (the one Google hates). I’m determined to force Google to like it again.

One of my website improvements involved sitemaps, both HTML and XML. The XML sitemap is the one that I submit it to Google to help them index my site better and the HTML sitemap is for my readers so they can navigate the site better.

While creating sitemaps for that site I realized that NJFM’s sitemap disappeared when I changed themes to Thesis. So, the natural solution would be to create another one. That was much easier said than done.

The Wonders of WordPress Plugins

Since Thesis doesn’t seem to have a built in sitemap function I looked to plugins to accomplish the task. I downloaded, installed and configured several plugins only to deactivate and uninstall them. I didn’t like the way they displayed the HTML page. With over 350 posts here, the sitemap was more confusing than helpful.

Each plugin had varying degrees of usefulness, but not enough for me to keep the plugins activated. Who wants to look at a page of a few hundred links without being able to sort them by categories? I know I didn’t.

A Light Bulb MomentIdea

I remembered my old WordPress theme had a built-in site map function. I liked it because it not only linked to the posts, but it displayed the post date and number of comments. It also showed the categories, tags and pages in a fashion that was easy to navigate.

My first thought was to duplicate the old sitemap and apply it to Thesis, but that proved to be impossible (it might be possible for someone with programming knowledge, but it was impossible for me). So, since I really, really wanted the sitemap feature, I decided to resurrect the old theme.

Why I Originally Switched from WP-Magazine Theme to Thesis

I originally switched from this theme in favor of Thesis because I thought Thesis would help my blog to load a lot faster. I was getting quite a few of backend errors with this theme and I thought Thesis would alleviate that.

Switching themes didn’t alleviate the problem. I’m working with HostGator and a few other tools to see if I can speed up the page load. In the meanwhile, why should I suffer with a slow page load and no site map to boot?Slow

Getting Back on Point

My goal was to work on my other site, but ended up spending a day behind the scenes on NJFM. Needless to say I got very little writing done and will have to catch up on that over the next couple of days. In the meanwhile, I’ve got to finish what I started.

By the way, my site that’s hated by Google…after adding the ability to ping and creating the sitemap, the number of indexed pages shot up from 128 pages on April 22nd to 239 pages on April 28th. I still have 202 pages to go, but things are heading in the right direction.

Tags: , ,

Category: Blog, RSS Feeds, WordPress

About the Author ()

Felicia A. Williams is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends the majority of her time with her family and writing. If she’s not writing or commenting on NJFM, she’s either outside smelling the roses or writing articles for one of her other sites.

Comments (13)

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  1. Crystal says:

    Thanks for the detailed response, Beelissa. I already own the domain names so that’s taken care of. As for the hosting cost, it looks like HostGator gives a good discount when signing on for three years but I didn’t see specific payment terms.

    I like your explanation of blogs vs websites. I actually turned off the dates on two of my blogs because I didn’t like the pressure to post created by a prominently displayed long-past date. Now that blogger offers static pages (the main thing I missed when I came over from WordPress), it’s easier to get more of a website look but . . .

    I’ll check out the free hosts – I didn’t even know such a thing was available. I’ll most likely go with HostGator but it doesn’t hurt to check out all the options. Thanks again!

  2. Beelissa says:

    I’ve shopped around for web hosting and blogs and such. I’ve only used a few of them, but I’m familiar with what a lot of them offer.

    Two things to consider — I believe that HostGator will let you host unlimited domains, but you have to pay for the domain name. You get one (or maybe 2 or 3) free with hosting, but for the rest you have to pay a yearly fee for the domain name itself, which is why Felicia recommends registering them at GoDaddy, since it’s cheaper to register them there, usually. Correct me if I’m wrong, Felicia.

    The other thing is — how long is the billing cycle. Often web hosts will advertise a really low monthly price. Then you find out you can’t pay for one month and get that price. Often you have to pay for a year or more in advance in order to get the good price. Some hosts won’t take monthly payments at all, but require you to pay for at least 3 months at a time or even up to a year at a time. Which can be kind of a lot of money. HostGator gives you a price break when you pay in advance for several months, but they will let you pay monthly if you want.

    Also — blogs vs. websites: It’s really all about how often you plan to update. A blog wants to be updated frequently. A visitor will automatically see the most recent post when they visit. If there are no recent posts, some blogging platforms will show the most recent, even if it’s old, and others will show some strange sort of blank page with a list of archives. But a website can have static pages that don’t give a hint as to how long they’ve been there. You can probably tweak a blog’s settings so the dates don’t show, or aren’t obvious, but when it comes down to it, there is a fundamental difference between a blog and a website, more than just being easier to format. For some reason, it’s harder to find hosts that offer inexpensive hosting with easy to format websites compared to finding easy to format blogs. I guess because the content management systems for blogs make it easier for the hosts to offer that without charging a lot of money.

    I think it’s true that you’re better of paying for hosting if you want to make money, but if you are interested in free hosting that offers easy to build pages, three I can recommend are wix.com, weebly.com and webs.com. I found these while writing articles for DS.

  3. Crystal says:

    Thanks for the confirmation, Felicia. Looks like HostGator might be a way better alternative for our rock climbing jewelry site, so I let my BIL know. As for my personal endeavors, I think I’ll sign on with them, as well. I already have one site that costs about $60/year in hosting – seems prudent to switch over to HostGator and get unlimited domains for not much more beings I own a few custom domain names I’ve yet to develop. And thanks for pointing out a possible Google shut-down – I’m sure it’s rare but would certainly be a devastating turn of events!

  4. Crystal says:

    I’d forgotten about The Griz – thanks for the reminder! Here’s another potentially dumb question for you – I checked out HostGator. Though I looked for it, I couldn’t find their definition of “unlimited domains” on the site. I’m assuming that means as many different individual websites as you want. Correct?

  5. Crystal says:

    Thanks for your informative answer, Felicia. I appreciate you taking the time to be so thorough. I’ve used FrontPage a little in the past and gravitated toward blog platforms for the very reason you state – ease of posting content.

    As for a blogspot blog with a custom domain – do you think there’s any concern about that little bar across the top of the page? Does that significantly diminish the professionalism of the site? Or does anyone even notice or care? At this point, I’m more learning than earning and want to keep costs down but don’t want to sacrifice credibility for free hosting.

    • Felicia says:

      Crystal, here’s a guy, The Griz, that has earned significant money online with a blogger blog. I think the blogging platform depends on what you make of it. The Griz has been around for quite some time and he wanted to prove that you can earn a lot of money using a free blogging platform.

      I like self hosting my blogs because of the freedom. However, blogger blogs are fine too (I have a few). It’s just that I’ve heard a horror story or two about how Google shut down one or two of them. As I’m sure you know, blogger is owned by Google.

      The only way to use a blogger blog with a custom domain is to host it on your own site. At that point, I don’t think the bar will be there across the top, but I’m not sure. I’ve never used the blogger blog template on my own domain.

      The good thing about the blogger platform is that the minute you earn a penny, its 100% profit. With a self hosted site, you have to earn the cost of the domain name and the hosting cost before you turn a profit.

      As far as credibility goes, I think your content will determine that.

  6. Crystal says:

    Ok, Felicia – I’m going to flaunt my ignorance once again. I want to build a website and MS Expression Web 4 was recommended to me. I know you use WP and wondered why you chose that route when you started rather than a site-building software such as FrontPage? Is it because blog platforms are better for, well, blogging? And if I’m building a more commercial-type site, wouldn’t WP work just as well? Or am I missing something important here?

    Also, do you pay for your WP theme(s)? It seems I remember something about not being able to use free WP for monetized sites, but does that just apply to the free blogging offered on WP?

    And what about hosting? I’ve also had Homestead recommended as an easy site builder/host combo. Any knowledge and/or opinion on them or similar services?

    Thanks for any insight!

    • Felicia says:

      Hi Crystal,

      Let’s see if I can answer this question without making it sound confusing..

      A million years ago when I first created websites, I didn’t use FrontPage or any other software because I hand coded it myself. I used basic HTML to create my tables, text and images. I found the software programs back then were full of bloated code. (I can’t speak for MS Expression Web 4 because I’m not familiar with it).

      That was fine as a newbie learning the ropes. In today’s age, I wouldn’t do it that way because everything is so much more sophisticated.

      I evolved and started using the blogging platform because it was easier (I have a few old posts explaining how and why I transferred my website to a blog). I use both WordPress and blogspot blogs. The beauty of the blogging platform is that you can get up and running in minutes.

      I have a few WordPress blogs that are set up as websites. In other words, they don’t accept comments and I have several pages on the blog. Some of my WordPress themes are free and some aren’t. The one I use here at NJFM isn’t free and neither is the Thesis theme that I use on some of my other blogs.

      There’s a difference between a self-hosted WordPress blog and one on WordPress.com. If you use WordPress.com, they host the blog for you for free (like Blogger), but you cannot monetize your blog. If you decide to buy a domain name and self-host your blog, you can set up WordPress for free on your own domain.

      The costs involved with having your own domain include purchasing the domain name which is about $10 (I use GoDaddy) and purchasing a home on the internet which costs me about $100 a year (I use Hostgator). Those are affiliate links just in case you do use them.

      I’m not sure, but I believe HostGator has free software for creating websites. I do know for sure that they have a simple interface for setting up a WordPress blog. It’s a matter of telling the software where you want the blog to go, creating a username/password and clicking install.

      Depending on what you want to do with your site, a blog may work just fine. The beauty of a blog is that you can quickly add new content. The problem I had with the website platform is that I had to manually upload each new article to the website. It was cumbersome and time consuming compared with adding a new blog post.

      Crystal, I hope I didn’t confuse you. If anyone has advise to help Crystal, please chime in. If you have more questions, feel free to ask. It sounds confusing at first, but once you start playing around with the stuff, it’s not so bad.

  7. Beelissa says:

    As someone who was considering getting Thesis, based mostly on your recommendation, can I ask you some questions? Are you still using Thesis on any of your other sites? Do you think the SEO functions of Thesis are worth the money? Did you pay for this theme you’re using now, and (whether you paid for it or it was free) what is the name of it? Do you have any other theme recommendations, specifically for someone considering starting a couple of new sites and who’s only ever used the free WordPress blog host site?
    .-= Beelissa´s last blog ..New Year’s Resolution =-.

    • Felicia says:

      Beelissa, I’m still using Thesis on a couple other blogs and I still find it to be a fine piece of software. It wasn’t until I started using Thesis that I noticed that my blog entries were indexed very quickly. That being said, I don’t know if they were indexed quickly before or not, but I didn’t notice it until I started using Thesis. I’m going to have to check when I make my next post to see if they are still being indexed quickly.

      The current theme on NJFM is called WP-Magazine 1.0. I purchased it from Solostream (that’s an affiliate link). It cost $79. I’ve used this theme for quite some time and I’ve mentioned why I switched from it and back to it.

      Each theme has its pros and cons. I’m in the process of checking out a free theme called Swift. Its claim to fame is that it’s very fast loading. Before I attempt to switch another one of my blogs to the theme I thought I’d test it out for myself.

      I have a test domain where I do my theme testing. My current test project is the Swift WordPress theme. I’ve decided that in the future I’m going to thoroughly test out a theme before I implement it. When a blog has over 300 posts it gets a bit cumbersome going back to clean up the little bird droppings left by theme switching.

      So far Swift is worth the price and then some, but I only started testing it a week ago.

      As far as which theme to use, I don’t believe in spending money for things I can get for free. Secondly, if I do spend money, I want to take the money from an online endeavor and not from the family budget. In other words, once my blogs can pay for a theme, I buy one, but it’s not necessary to spend money on WordPress themes.

      I use Thesis on 4 blogs, WP-Magazine here and the other blogs I have are using free themes. Although Thesis didn’t live long here at NJFM, it’s working out nicely on a few of my other blogs. I guess it all depends on what you intend to do with your blogs.

      Update: 5/3/10 I checked Google 4 minutes after my most recent blog post and it was already indexed and appearing in the search engines. So, it seems the indexing happens just as fast whether its Thesis or WP-Magazine theme.

  8. Crystal says:

    I so appreciate that you explain the why behind these changes. Not that I will probably ever be techie enough to do any of them but it is interesting and educational to be in on the reasoning.

    This post is not showing at the top of the list of recent posts, however. Fortunately I’m subscribed and also keep track of new posts through my blog list – otherwise I might not have seen it as it’s just showing as the first featured article. I don’t recall this being the case when you were using this layout previously.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..New Writing Gig with Demand Studios =-.

    • Felicia says:

      Unfortunately, that’s the way this theme works. When I write a “Feature” post, it doesn’t show up in the list of recent posts for some reason. That’s why I don’t do too many of them, usually every 50 posts or so. There might be a switch that I need to flip, but I haven’t found it.

      As far as being techie, these are things I learned along the way from trial and error. If you made as many mistakes as I have, you would probably be just as techie. 🙂

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