Finding and sizing images for your blog or website

Images make webpages and blog posts more interesting, and they’re absolutely essential if you want your content shared to image-focused social media sites like Pinterest. They’ll get your shares more noticed on other sites like Facebook and Twitter, too.

But where to find good images, and how should you size them? I’ve put together three short videos to help you get started!

Image sources

There are lots of great resources for free and cheap images; here are three of my favorites: Pixabay, Unsplash, and Creative Market, and the pros and cons of each.

Links:

Pixabay

Unsplash

Creative Market

(Note: I get a small credit at Creative Market when you purchase through this link. Thanks for your support!)

 

Determining what size your image should be

Sizing your images is important! Too small, and they’ll look jagged and fuzzy. Too big, and they’ll slow down your page load time. Here’s how to determine the pixel width your image should be, based on your website’s theme template.

Link:

piliapp – measure webpage elements

 

Cropping and sizing your image

I like PicMonkey better than Canva for this, because not only is it super-simple to use, but you can control the image quality, allowing you to create smaller, faster-loading files.

Links:

PicMonkey

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Have other image-related questions? Ask me!

When you’re discouraged by obstacles

For the:

  • new blogger struggling to understand all this techy stuff;
  • self-employed writer facing a blank page and finding your mind is blank, too;
  • entrepreneur wrestling with self doubt and a too-full schedule;

…remember this:
the path with no obstacles leads nowhere remarkable. do the hard thing.

I also love this quote:

Expect difficulty when you do what’s right. Great opportunity is often accompanied by great opposition. The apostle Paul said of the work in Ephesus, ‘A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me’ (1 Cor. 16:9). He chose to think primarily about the great open door, not the daunting opponents!

Unquestionable Character: A 21-day Study in Stewardship

“What does ____ mean?” Definitions for new bloggers.

I'll never get all this blog stuff figured out

Are you a new blogger, or just trying to figure out how to set up a new blog, and feeling overwhelmed by the terms and acronyms being tossed your way? What’s a widget? What’s a theme? I wrote this post for you!

Some of these definitions are original, and some are copied in whole or in part from wikipedia.


back-end-front-end-1100x440

back end / front end — The “back end” is the software that provides structure and function to the site. It’s not visible to the person reading your blog.  On a WordPress site, the back end is where you create pages and posts. The front end is all the pages that the blog reader sees.

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captcha

captcha or CAPTCHA — This is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It’s a test to ensure that the responder is a human and not a computer. The most familiar type of CAPTCHA is one which displays distorted letters or digits on the screen, and requires the user to type those same characters into an input box.

category — Categories in WordPress are used to identify and sort blog posts according to topics. They’re useful for people searching your site, and they can also be used as a way to generate pages in WordPress. For this reason, it’s a good idea to give your categories some careful thought as you’re setting up your blog, rather than creating them randomly as you go.

For example, I used the “desserts and treats” category on my food blog to create an index of all the recipes in that category:

'desserts and treats' category

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content — This refers to the stuff that fills up your website. While technically it may refer collectively to words, pictures, documents, video, and so forth, it’s also sometimes used to refer just to the blog posts. “Compelling content” means having information people want or essays they appreciate, written in a way that’s attractive and useful to them.

phone-book-200x150DNS — “Domain Name System.” Think of it as the behind-the-scenes phone book for the internet: it connects human-friendly domains into computer-friendly addresses that networking equipment needs to find your website. (For more detail, see this post.)

 

domain — As commonly used, the human-readable “address” for a given website or webpage, the part that follows “www.”: for example, “pagenamehere.com”. (For more detail, see this post. For a simpler explanation, see this one.)

your website is like a camper
For a simple explanation of domains, themes, and hosting, see “How your website is like a camper“)

domain registration — The internet equivalent of copyrighting a company name. When you register a domain, you purchase the legal right to use that particular domain name, and prevent anyone else from using it. The company you pay for this service is your “Domain registrar.” (For more detail, see this post.)

framework  — A master or “parent” theme which allows you to create “child” themes: where all the functionality lives in the parent theme, and all the design code lives in the child theme — theoretically making it easier to change designs in the future. These can be timesavers for web developers who create lots of themes for their clients, but for the average blogger who’ll only ever create or update their own site, the additional time needed to learn the lingo and workings of the framework is likely to take up more time than it saves. (In my opinion.)

front end  — See “back end / front end.”

hosting  — The computer where your website lives and is accessed by users on the web. (For more detail, see this post. For a simpler explanation, see this one.)

IP address — Short for “internet protocol.” This is your website’s location on the internet, which is a string of numbers. eg: 123.456.89.010. When you change hosts, your IP address changes, even though your URL/domain does not. (For more detail, see this post.)

lead magnet — Not technically part of a website, but frequently recommended as a way to build your list of email subscribers. It’s something free you offer readers in exchange for their email address and possibly other information. It could be a one page list of your five best tips or your five things never to do, related to your blog topic. It could be a small e-book, a printable worksheet or set of labels,  a video or music file you’ve created. (It must be your own work — no stealing!)

plug-ins — Plug-ins are bits of code that can be added to self-hosted (WordPress.org) sites, which add capabilities that aren’t already built into WP. You don’t have to actually use code, though; adding a plug-in is as simple as clicking a few links.

(Plug-ins cannot be used in WordPress.com sites.)

WordPress.org has a searchable index containing all the available plug-ins.  Looking for a way to add a call-to-action to all of your posts? Go to the index and search “call to action.”

When you’re shopping for a plug-in, be sure to pay attention to how highly the plug-in is rated, how many times it’s been downloaded, and how recently it was last updated. (All this information is readily available there in the plug-in’s details page.) A plug-in that hasn’t been updated for a couple of years, for example, may not work with up-to-date versions of WordPress.

Plug-ins can sometimes cause other code in the site to break, though, so it’s a good idea to use them only as necessary, and be sure to vet them first, as described above.

SEO / search engine optimization — This refers to a variety of practices that are designed to help your website rank high in search engine results. In other words, show up on the first page of Google results. It’s a complex science, made so by the fact that Google is constantly changing the factors they consider for ranking results. This may seem unfair, but they do it to keep people from gaming the system.

Once new bloggers learn what SEO is and start reading about it, panic sets in. Never have three little letters caused so much anxiety! Let me offer you this reassurance, and a gentle warning. For the first year of your blog’s life, don’t worry about SEO. Just focus on writing for your reader, and a lot of other things will fall into place. Also, be very wary of people calling themselves SEO experts, consultants, etc. There are some legitimate ones, but they tend to be very expensive. The cheap ones usually do things that are not all that helpful, or that you could do yourself — once you’ve gotten more experienced at the other aspects of maintaining a blog.

(For a more detailed discussion, see this post: How to I get my site to show up on the first page of Google?)

tags  — In WordPress, tags are used for human search and to a lesser extent, search engine purposes. One aspect that makes them useful is if you want to include words that people might use as search terms that aren’t explicitly stated in your post. For example, I post a lot of sugar-free recipes on my food blog without talking about diabetes, but I put “diabetic” and “diabetes” in the tags, in case someone is searching for “desserts for diabetics.”

theme — A theme is a pre-made set of software that changes the look and design of your blog. There are thousands of themes available for self-hosted WordPress.org sites; fewer for WordPress.com sites, but still plenty of variety. (To understand the difference between the .org and .com WordPress, see this post.) Changing from one theme to another changes how your site looks without changing any of the content. You may, however, need to adjust image sizes and other details when changing themes.

You can also make a lot of design changes without changing themes. Most themes allow you to choose multiple fonts, color schemes, background images, and more. For example, these two earlier iterations of this website both used the same theme, but swapped out the header image, the background, and the headline font and color:

same theme, two looks

As a general rule, you usually get better support with paid themes than with free ones. (Though there are exceptions, in both directions.) Always pay attention to user reviews when shopping for a theme.

Two of my favorite sources for paid themes are ThemeForest and CreativeMarket. (I get credits if you purchase via my links, without adding one cent to your cost! Thanks for helping to support this website.)

URL — “Uniform Resource Locator” or “Universal Resource Locator.” The human-readable “address” for a given website or webpage: “www.pagenamehere.com”.

widget — This is the term WordPress uses to describe little self-contained areas on your website that can appear in the sidebar, footer, and sometimes in other locations.

For example, everything in my sidebar to the right is a widget: Recent Posts, Services I Recommend, and the Hope*Writer badge are all individual widgets. The Search box below in the footer is also a widget.

WordPress has an easy drag-and-drop way to add widgets to your website. Sometimes, you may need a little code, but you can always find someone to help you with that, either in a support forum, or on YouTube.

For example, here’s a short video I found on YouTube that shows you how to add an image to a widget:

WordPress — A software system that many websites are based on, providing an excellent structure for creating everything from simple blogs to large e-commerce websites. Learn about WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org here.

You might also want to follow my Pinterest boards:

 

Have a question that’s not answered here? Or need help with something that’s over your head? Ask me!

button-orange-contact-me-220x50

Or just request a no-obligation price list.

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How to create a campaign in MailChimp

If you’ve never used MailChimp before, it may seem a little daunting, but really, once you see it done, it will seem so much less intimidating! So I’ve created a couple short videos that walk you through creating an email newsletter, start to finish, in less than 20 minutes.

These videos assume that you’ve created your MailChimp account, and set up or imported your mailing list. And also that you’ve written the text for your newsletter and prepared your images.

The first video is about 10 minutes long and walks you through how to set up the campaign and create a basic newsletter. (The time limit I refer to at the end of the video has nothing to do with MailChimp; it was just the time limit for the video app I was using.)

The second video is about 6 minutes long, and shows how to add images, how to add your links to the social media icons, and how to send the campaign immediately, OR schedule it to send at a future date or time.

starting a blog - the basics

Starting a blog: the basics

I hope to eventually create my own tutorial, but today I discovered a fantastic resource that has tons of useful information for beginning bloggers – Amy Lynn Andrews. But she has SO much info it can be overwhelming, so rather than make you wait for my future course or wade through all of hers, I’ve curated her most basic, most pertinent information right here.

18 Tips for New Bloggers – Lots of reassurance and encouragement as you wade into this new world

How to Find (or Re-find) Your Passion – Great questions to help you explore what you care about enough to blog about long-term

How to Choose a Domain Name – And one place you can do so. (You might also refer to my post, Where should I register my domain?)

How to Start a Blog – VERY thorough; includes how to set up a self-hosted WordPress site.

The Trouble With Blogging – On comparing yourself against others

Hope you find this helpful! As always, please contact me with any questions you’d like to see answered here. Or if you’re ready for someone else to do the heavy lifting, request a free, no-obligation price list! 🙂

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How your website is like a camper: a simple explanation of some confusing terms

I’ve given a detailed explanation of web hosting, domain registration and such elsewhere. Here, I’d like to provide a simple word picture that might help make it simpler to understand.

Imagine that your website is a camper. It’s like a camper because it’s got contents, it has a style, it can be moved from one place to another, and it needs somewhere to park. Let’s also suppose that you’ve given your camper a name: Roadrunner.

The name is like your web address, also called a domain or URL. (See the aforementioned article for more a more detailed explanation. We’re keeping things simple here.) So when someone walks up to your camper, or arrives at your website, they know it’s yours because they recognize the name.

your website is like a camper

(I haven’t created  a graphic for it, but you could also change the name of your website/camper, everything else remains – it’s still your property.)

Maybe you start out with your camper in Monument Valley. But after a while, you get tired of the heat, so you decide to head to the Redwood Forest.

website is like a camper

Same camper, new location.

In the same way, a website can be moved from one host to another. If you get frustrated with some aspect of one host — say, their customer service leaves something to be desired — you can move your website elsewhere.

Now, let’s say you get tired of the yellow color scheme and the font on your sign, so you decide to change things up a bit.

same camper, new color; same website, new theme

This is like changing the theme, fonts, color scheme, or other design elements on your website. It still has the same contents, the same name, and the same location, just different styling.

WordPress sites make it pretty easy to make small design tweaks. Depending on the theme you’re using, you may only be able to change a few things, or you may be able to make significant changes. Look under “Appearances” in the navigation on the lefthand side of your WordPress back end to see what options are available.

If you want some changes that are more complicated than you can do — or you’d just like some friendly coaching while you learn — I know someone who can help!  😉

Contact me.

Request a price list.

…………..

See more help for beginning bloggers.

 

 

Where should I register my domain?

Domains are sometimes also called URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). You’re familiar with domains; they look like this:

  • amazon.com
  • yahoo.net
  • ku.edu

To make sure that you have the legal right to use a particular domain name, and prevent anyone else from using it, you need “domain registration.”

“Domain registration” is the internet equivalent of copyrighting a company name. The company you pay for this service is your “domain registrar” or “designated registrar.”

There are many places to purchase a domain name and register it. You can purchase it through your host, or a place that specializes in domain registration, such as name.com. Both have the same effect: the name is yours for as long as you’ve reserved it and you keep paying your registration renewal before it expires. (Don’t worry; they’ll remind you!) The company you purchase it from will make sure your info is entered into the official registration database.

domain registration at name.com

Registering your domain is as simple as going to a website that sells domain registration, and typing the name you’re hoping to get in the field provided. They’ll immediately tell you whether it’s available or not. If it is, just click on the prompts that walk you through purchasing it. If not, take your time thinking through your alternate domain, and come back then.

You can purchase domain registration for a time period anywhere from one year on up. The maximum period of registration for a domain name is 10 years. Wikipedia says, “Some registrars offer longer periods of up to 100 years, but such offers involve the registrar renewing the registration for their customer; the 100-year registration would not be in the official registration database.”

In the past, there was some speculation that reserving your name for longer (a few to several years, vs. one year at a time) might benefit your Google ranking, but that seems to no longer be the case. (I’m relying on the advice of others here.)

Here’s what Nuts and Bolts Media has to say about whether you should register your domain at the same place you buy your hosting:

The Domain Registration Dilemma

When you set up hosting for a website, you can also register your domain through your host (most of the time). For a lot of people, keeping all your website stuff in the same place sounds like a good idea. You only have to keep up with one set of login information, and you know that your host’s technical support staff will make sure everything is configured correctly.

However, you also have the option to register your domain elsewhere and simply point it to your host. This is what I strongly recommend for a number of reasons.

Keep your domain in one place. If you ever get mad at your web host and decide to move your site, you’ll also probably want to transfer your domain if it’s registered with the old host. Domain transfers can be annoying, time-consuming, and confusing. But if you’ve registered the domain elsewhere, you don’t have to do anything except update your DNS settings to point to the new host.

Register all your domains together. You might be thinking, But I only have one website! That may be true, but for many of us, websites are addicting. For example, I own 45 domains right now. If I need to manage them, like when I transferred all my files to my new servers, I can just go to my registrar and mass update the DNS settings.

Added security. A few years ago, my dad’s website got hacked. Not only did the hackers destroy his site, but they also transferred his domain away from his web host and took it over. It took ages for him to prove ownership and get everything back. When your domains are separate, even if someone gets access to your files, your domains are safe (assuming you aren’t using the same login and password).

(This post is part of a longer post which also covers web hosting and DNS registration.)

Hosting and domains and websites — oh my! (what’s the difference?)

When you’re building a website or starting a blog for the first time, there’s so much new terminology to learn! Web hosting, servers, domain, domain registration — what does it all mean?

Here are your answers…

Web hosting

All the files and code that makes up your  website are contained in and accessed through a server, or “web host.” Servers are stacks of computers that look like this:

big-computer-servers-600x620

Ideally, they’re located in a secure building with protections in place to provide backup service in case of severe weather, power outages, etc.

If you have a free blog through wordpress.com, then your host is WordPress. (But NOT if you’re using wordpress.org. Learn the difference in my post about wordpress.org vs. wordpress.com.) If you have a free blog through Blogger, then your host is Google. Otherwise, you will need to find and purchase your hosting.

How to choose a host would be a whole ‘nother blog post, but here are some quick basics. Uptime and security are of primary importance. Customer service is a close second. And in that area, you usually get what you pay for. I.e., cheaper is great, until your site goes down and you can’t get any answers. Also, when you’re reading online reviews of hosting providers, make sure you know whether the reviewer gets a referral fee.

We’ve used LiquidWeb for years: in several years and multiple websites, we’ve only experienced one outage. And their customer service really is heroic. Other popular hosts that I consider reputable include RackSpace and BlueHost. (I do not get any fee or reimbursement for saying this. Proven by my not providing you any direct links to those hosts. 🙂 )

Effect of changing from one host to another:  Your DNS record needs to change. (This will be explained later in this post.)

IP address

For the internet to find your website, it has to know where the files are located. From the computer’s point of view, your website’s location is a numeric address that looks something like this: “321.45.789.00,” and it’s determined by your web host. It’s called the “IP address.” (IP stands for Internet Protocol.)

computer-user-hands-only-450x300

Domain/URL (and domain registration)

But those kinds of addresses are hard for humans to remember, so to make things easier on us, “domains” were invented. Domains are sometimes also called URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). You’re familiar with domains; they look like this:

  • amazon.com
  • yahoo.net
  • ku.edu

To make sure that you have the legal right to use a particular domain name, and prevent anyone else from using it, you need “domain registration.”

“Domain registration” is the internet equivalent of copyrighting a company name. The company you pay for this service is your “domain registrar” or “designated registrar.”

There are many places to purchase a domain name and register it. You can purchase it through your host, or a place that specializes in domain registration, such as name.com. Both have the same effect: the name is yours for as long as you’ve reserved it and you keep paying your registration renewal before it expires. (Don’t worry; they’ll remind you!) The company you purchase it from will make sure your info is entered into the official registration database.

Registering your domain is as simple as going to a website that sells domain registration, typing the name you’re hoping to get in the field provided. They’ll immediately tell you whether it’s available or not. If it is, just click on the prompt that will walk you through purchasing it. If not, take your time thinking through your alternate domain.

You can purchase domain registration for a time period anywhere from one year on up. The maximum period of registration for a domain name is 10 years. Wikipedia says, “Some registrars offer longer periods of up to 100 years, but such offers involve the registrar renewing the registration for their customer; the 100-year registration would not be in the official registration database.”

In the past, there was some speculation that reserving your name for longer (a few to several years, vs. one year at a time) might benefit your Google ranking, but that seems to no longer be the case. (I’m relying on the advice of others here.)

Here’s what Nuts and Bolts Media has to say about whether you should register your domain at the same place you buy your hosting:

The Domain Registration Dilemma

When you set up hosting for a website, you can also register your domain through your host (most of the time). For a lot of people, keeping all your website stuff in the same place sounds like a good idea. You only have to keep up with one set of login information, and you know that your host’s technical support staff will make sure everything is configured correctly.

However, you also have the option to register your domain elsewhere and simply point it to your host. This is what I strongly recommend for a number of reasons.

Keep your domain in one place. If you ever get mad at your web host and decide to move your site, you’ll also probably want to transfer your domain if it’s registered with the old host. Domain transfers can be annoying, time-consuming, and confusing. But if you’ve registered the domain elsewhere, you don’t have to do anything except update your DNS settings to point to the new host.

Register all your domains together. You might be thinking, But I only have one website! That may be true, but for many of us, websites are addicting. For example, I own 45 domains right now. If I need to manage them, like when I transferred all my files to my new servers, I can just go to my registrar and mass update the DNS settings.

Added security. A few years ago, my dad’s website got hacked. Not only did the hackers destroy his site, but they also transferred his domain away from his web host and took it over. It took ages for him to prove ownership and get everything back. When your domains are separate, even if someone gets access to your files, your domains are safe (assuming you aren’t using the same login and password).

Effect of changing from one domain registrar to another: None, other than where your billing comes from.

phone-book-550x275

DNS

So, how does the internet know which IP address to go to for your domain? It refers to the “DNS” or Domain Name System. Think of it as the behind-the-scenes phone book for the internet: it translates the human-friendly domain name into the computer-friendly address that networking equipment needs to find your website’s location. The company you pay for this service is your “DNS registrar.”

Effect of changing from one DNS registrar to another: None, other than where your billing comes from. But… When your host changes, your IP address changes. Part of the crucial information in your DNS record is your website’s IP address, so if you change hosts, your DNS record needs to be be updated, too, to contain the new IP address.

Got it?

I hope that helps! Let me know if I didn’t answer something clearly enough.

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