In this episode, we look at the toolkit I used for building Casabona.org. A few episodes ago, we talked all about the self-hosted blog. Here’s an actual example of that. Let’s do it!
- Liquid Web
- Beaver Builder
- Theme: Astra Pro
- Important Plugins
Hey everybody and welcome to Creator Toolkit, the podcast about building stuff on the web. I’m Joe Casabona and today we’re going to talk about my very own blog.
Casabona.Org has been my personal blog since 2004, when I switched it over from a blog from high school. It’s always been a playground for me to try new things, post thoughts, and experiment. Since becoming self-employed, it’s also been a place for me to send folks to learn about what I do. But at it’s core, it’s still a blog. And today, I want to tell you about the toolkit I use for it.
Hosting & Domain
First, I want to tell you about the hosting and domain. Both of these have changed considerably over the nearly 15 years my blog has been online, but currently my website is hosted with Liquid Web because they offer fantastic, completely hands-off hosting.
My domain is registered with Hover.com, my favorite place to register domains. There are lots of reasons why, but the main one for me is free WHOIS privacy, which registrars usually change annually for.
One of the things I really like about Astra Pro is the “custom headers,” so you can apply different headers to different pages (or no header at all). This makes it incredibly easy to make “microsite” on your domain – sites that look totally different from the main site, but can still be managed from one WordPress Dashboard.
The last thing I’ll mention about Astra Pro is the code snippets. You can easily insert code basically anywhere on the site from the admin. One way I’m using that is by creating different OptinMonster buttons and displaying them based on a post’s category.
So I have over 20 active plugins on my blog, and all of them will be listed in the show notes. Here I want to touch on the most important ones.
I’ve already mentioned Beaver Builder, which I use for most pages, but not blog posts. Astra Pro also has a companion plugin.
The only custom plugin I wrote in the lot is my Speaking Events plugin, which creates a custom post type for me to easily manage speaking engagements and other events I’ll be at.
Gravity Forms is my forms plugin of choice, and I use it on most of my sites. It’s powerful and if needed, I can create some in-depth forms. I use it for my contact forms, and my coaching form.
I use OptinMonster and ConvertKit in a 1-2 punch. ConvertKit is my mailing list app of choice, and I integrate that into the site – an optin shows up at the bottom of every post.
I use OptinMonster on special posts and landing pages. Generally I use the click to open a modal functionality. I am, however, currently implementing a process where instead of a form after each post, the user sees a button based on the category.
OptinMonster feeds all of its data into ConvertKit. It gives me a nice way to create better looking forms.
Oh yeah, and I use Give in case anyone wants to buy me coffee 🙂
Discovery & Navigation
The other big plugin area for Casabona.org revolves around getting people to the site. I have several social plugins in use.
First up is Yoast SEO Premium. It’s the best SEO plugin for WordPress and it helps me craft good, targeted, readable blog posts. With its premium features, it also allows me to add multiple keywords, suggests links to include in posts, and creates redirects.
Once my SEO is sured up, I use a few plugins for sharing. I’ll use Jetpack for its share buttons and related posts (thought as they’re the only 2 modules I use, I’ll likely swap it out for something else).
I use Social Web Suite to automatically share each post to multiple social networks. A fantastic feature of this plugin is you can also manage your queue of posts, and share each post multiple times. It’s a really excellent service for automating sharing.
The last sharing plugin I’ll use is Better Click to Tweet, to embed clickable tweets in the posts, making it very easy for people to share quotes from each article.
Under the Hood
Finally, I have a few under the hood plugins I like to use to make things run smoothly. Autoptimzer and BJ Lazy Load are performance-based plugins, on top of what Liquid Web already gives me. I use Antispam Bee to limit spam comments, and iThemes Sync to make sure everything is up to date and backed up.
To make sure all of my URLs are using https, I’m using Really Simple SSL. I also have plugins for CodePen Embeds, Lightbox for images, and GDPR.
So that’s pretty much everything. You can view a full list of the plugins I’m using over at CreatorToolkit.com
For that and all the show notes, go to creatortoolkit.com/004/. If you liked this episode be sure to leave a rating and review in apple podcasts. And if you have any questions or want me to put together a specific toolkit, email me, email@example.com or follow me on Twitter, jcasabona.
My question for you is: Are there any plugins I’ve mentioned that are newly discovered? Will they help you? Let me know – again the email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter I’m jcasabona.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.
All Plugins – Click to enlarge
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