Tools I Use to Manage My Travel Blog

I am often asked what software I use to keep my site up and running. Here is a someone complete list of everything, and the reason behind why I chose it.

I actually put very little effort into website maintenance anymore. It really isn’t necessary. I have a set up that is relatively secure and stable with reasonable performance. I only monkey around with it about once every six months, and today was one of those days. I figured it would be a good time to list everything I use.


Blogging Software

I use WordPress and I’m not sure there is really a close second. You can use sites like Blogger and Tumblr, but you are really limited with what you can do. If you take your blog even semi-serious, you should be on a self-hosted WordPress installation.

Web Host

Last year I moved to Websynthesis and I couldn’t be happier. Websynthesis only does WordPress hosting. That’s it. That means everything they do is optimized around WordPress. They’ve locked down everything that is a potential opening for hackers. The databases and webservers are all optimized for serving up WordPress. Since I moved, I can’t recall a moment of downtime. The site is also significantly faster. They work on a system wide level with Sucuri to check for malicious software.

There are other WordPress only hosting sites that I have also heard good things about. I highly recommend getting away from the Hostgators of the world and move to a dedicated WordPress hosting company. You pay more, but it is worth it.

DNS Hosting

Many people ignore the hosting of their DNS and just let their registrar handle it. I’ve moved all my DNS hosting to Cloudflare and I haven’t regretted it. Cloudflare has both a security component to filter out attacks and a content delivery network component as well. That means your site will be more secure and perform better. The best part is, it’s free. There is no excuse to not use Cloudflare.

Image Hosting

I’ve been hosting my photos for years on Smugmug. With them I get unlimited storage and bandwidth for my images. I host ALL my images on Smugmug, including all the small little images that are part of my WordPress theme. I have moved literally everything I can to SmugMug. With Smugmug I can use my own domain for my photo hosting, so everything is kept under the same umbrella as my site.

I always recommend to bloggers to move your images off your webserver. The biggest bottleneck for most servers isn’t bandwidth or storage, it is the processor. By removing everything you can off the webserver, you are off loading most of your http requests, which means your webserver has nothing else to do except to serve up web pages.

Plugins

Akismet This should be installed on 100% of all WordPress installations. It doesn’t stop 100% of comment spam, but it is pretty good.

Align RSS Images I’m fussy about layout. The layout you’d see in an RSS reader always looked different from what you’d see on the blog. This helps solve that problem.

Digg Digg This manages the floating bar of social media buttons you see on every page (except the home page). After I installed this, I saw a significant uptick in sharing.

FeedBurner FeedSmith This has been around forever. Google may have killed Reader, but they seem content to let Feedburner just limp along. This should also be installed on every blog that uses Feedburner.

FourSquare Localizer This was a custom plug-in written for me by my friend Jason. It takes my last check-in on Forusquare and puts it at the top of my blog under the “Gary is currently in ______” section.

Limit Login Attempts A simple little plugin that can help prevent against brute force login attacks.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions A tool that will remove old versions of posts and optimize your WordPress database. I only have to run it a few times a year.

Outbrain All those related post thumbnails at the bottom of my page. I’m not thrilled with Outbrain, so I might move to something else this year.

Page Link Manager This is a simple plug-in that just lets me select which pages get displayed in my navigation bar.

Page Links To This is another small plug-in that lets me redirect to a different site as if it were a page in WordPress. I basically just use this to put my photo hosting site in my navigation menu.

Sucuri Security I was hacked several years ago and have since signed up for the Sucuri service. The plug-in will do an audit telling you what you can fix on your site to improve security. I’m signed up for the service through 2014, but after that I’m going to cancel it as it is bundled into my web hosting service.

Use Google Libraries This is a little known service which Google offers that more people should take advantage of. Google keeps many common javascript files on their servers all over the world. This plug-in just tells users to grab the files from Google, rather than off your own webserver. Again, like photo hosting, it is a form of poor man’s load balancing.

W3 Total Cache Another must for every blog, this plug-in works well with Websynthesis and can dramatically improve performance.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox How do I handle my backups? I just have this plug-in back everything up to Dropbox every day. I never have to worry about it. Websynthesis also offers a backup service as well, but this is much easier to deal with.

WordPress SEO Created by Yoast, this will let you set several site wide preferences. It will also manage your sitemap files and can provide special inserts into your RSS feed.

wp-dropcaps This is just a simple app that lets me add drop caps to posts. I don’t use it all the time, but it is a nice feature I wish they integrated directly into WordPress.

3 Comments

  1. I’m just in the process of updating/redesigning my website and found this super helpful – even the parts I don’t understand! Thanks, Gary.

  2. I highly recommend the nRelate Related Posts plugin instead of Outbrain.

    nRelate has done the best job returning relevant results of any of the related posts plugins that I’ve tried over the years.

    http://nrelate.com/

  3. D'Anne

    Super thanks! I’m just getting started, and this is very helpful 🙂

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