Guest Post | Best Plugins for WordPress

blogger lauren jane on talentedtalkers.com

One of the main motivators for moving my blog to Word Press was the extensive range of plugins available.  The plugins I use either optimise my site or make my life easier.  I work full time and blog as a hobby, therefore anything to help me improve things quickly, is a winner in my book.  In this post I want to share four of my favourite plugins with you.

  1. Yoast SEO

I am by no means an expert in SEO, and can use all the help I can get.  Yoast SEO is a brilliant plugin that analyses your blog posts.  Yoast analyses the focus keyword you set for your post and provides you with a traffic light report of your post.  Tips on your meta description, word count, SEO title, links and more are given.  The plugin also analyses the readability of your content, as well as suggesting improvements.  Now before I post any blog post, I try to ensure my analysis is flagged green.  You can upgrade to a premium version of the plugin, but for now I’m happy using the free version.

  1. Askimet Anti-Spam

If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, I’m sure spam comments will have been the bane of your life at one point or another.  Askimet is a great plugin that saves me a lot of time.  Askimet moves all comments flagged as spam into a separate folder.  You can either simply delete all comments marked as spam, or review them yourself.  I find 99% of the time, the comments flagged as spam are indeed spam.  I personally prefer using Askimet to asking my readers to complete a captcha, as I find they sometimes put people off from commenting.

  1. Compress JPEG & PNG images

We’re told site speed impacts how Google ranks our blogs.  You’re likely to include a lot of imagery in your blog posts, which are going to slow down your site if you don’t compress.  Many people compress their images prior to uploading, or host on third party sites.  Personally, I don’t as I’m always short on time, and therefore I use Compress JPEG & PNG images.  I use the free version of this plugin which allows me to compress around 100 images per month.  I don’t upload anywhere near 100 new images per month, therefore running the free version allows me to compress older images as well.  In time I’ll have compressed all my images for free. You can of course pay to optimize all of your images.

  1. Title and Nofollow For Links

It is against Google’s terms to include paid of follow links in your blog posts.  There is a lot of conversation out there in the blogosphere about this topic, as many people do not follow the guidelines set out by Google.  I’m sure you, like I, have been turned down for opportunities simply for refusing to do so.  In order to make marking links as ‘no follow’ as simple as possible, I use the plugin Title and Nofollow For Links.  This plugin adds a checkbox to the ‘Insert/edit link’ pop up, and you simply check the box to mark it as Nofollow.

Are there any plugins that you find make your life easier?  I’d love to try them if I’m not already.  Get in touch either via my blog, Instagram or Twitter.

This week’s Guest Post comes from Lauren, from www.bylaurenjane.co.uk. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for us, drop us a line at chat@talentedtalkers.com or tweet us @talentedtalkers. 

We Explain | Traveling Hard on a 9-5

We Explain | Traveling Hard on a 9-5

One of the things I get asked a lot – like, every time I have to decline someone’s flat warming or baby shower or birthday drinks because of it, is: how do you get to travel so much? That’s usually always followed by: how do you *afford* to travel so much? Which, honestly is an entirely different blog post so for the sake of keeping things simple, let’s tackle the first question first.

I *get* to travel so much, because it’s my passion. It’s what makes me happy, it’s where I find my creativity, my hunger for culture, my – well, *actual* hunger too (I have definitely travelled for food), so for me, travel is my hobby. Some people like dancing in ridiculously high shoes until athe early hours of the morning, overpriced drink in hand; I don’t. Some people have houses they fill with plants and prints and soft furnishings; I don’t. Some people have expensive gym memberships, or kids (human or otherwise), or a real passion for spending their weekends in bed; I don’t. Well, except for that last thing, which I kind of do, too, but you know what I mean.

Travel is my hobby. And I doubt I spend any more time on my hobby than others do theirs, the only difference is that I record my hobby online, too. Yes, my blog is also my job (not in the way I will ever earn enough to run it without having to work in a *real job* too, but in the way that I work hard, dedicate hours, and am afforded opportunities through it) and I take care of it and it brings me joy, and so the two things combined are really when I am at my happiest.

I think it was Richard Branson who said that “clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”, and the best way to take care of your employees is to allow for and maintain a work/life balance. I have that in spades, luckily, and that definitely helps with being able to travel so much. It’s not unusual for me to have one or two Mondays or Fridays off a month because I’m off exploring another city for a long weekend, because I try to make the most of my annual leave like that. I rarely take chunks of time off, and when I do, it’s for long-haul trips that deserve the dedicated time.

https://unsplash.com/photos/VVgVlH1D10U

Which brings me to some points:

Be creative with your time off

Taking a Monday or Friday off is great if you want a long weekend, but you’ll often find that Tuesdays and Thursdays are when the flights are the cheapest, and Wednesdays is when you will find all the sales start. Why? Hump Day mentality, I think, but whatever the case, don’t do your travel bookings on a Monday. And, always clear your cache before you do as that way you’ll get the very best deal.

Be open minded with your destination

The “search everywhere” function on Skyscanner is one of the best things to have been invented, as it will literally search every single airport and airline in the UK for the lowest fare to everywhere that planes fly to. It’s great, and it’s how 50% of my destinations are decided.

Be prepared to not stop all weekend

If you don’t have a lot of time off, then you do really need to make the most of your trip. Trip Advisor and the local Time Out page will offer you the best 10 things to do in any given city, so have a look through, see what appeals, and plan your days accordingly. For me that means hitting everything in one area first, then move back towards wherever I’m staying. I will always be a little flexible with that, as you never know what you’ll discover along the way, and often there will be hidden gems for you to uncover yourself, too.

Be ready to be shattered

I make no secret of how tiring travelling can be. Last year I did 18 trips in total, including one two-week stint in Japan. That’s a lot of not-being-home, and so from the minute I finished work I’d be heading home back to bed. Honestly, catching up with sleep was like my second favourite thing to do last year (after eating), and over Christmas I literally stayed inside my house for almost a week; as much as travelling makes me happy, it really can be a little exhausting.

This year I promised myself more slow travel, and – as of this week have only had/booked seven trips for this year. Two of those are big ones (to NYC for a week over my birthday, and NZ for Christmas), and the others all being in and around Europe/Mediterranean, and…I feel better for it. I’m spending more time at home, with friends, in London – and that makes me just as happy as travel does. I’m certainly not *done* with travelling so much, but I’m certainly going to be more sensible about it from now on.

Up next: a long weekend in Luxembourg at the end of May. Where are you heading next?

Erica is head of digital promotions at Talented Talkers, and also runs a travel and lifestyle blog at imbeingerica.com

Blogging Tips | Blogging Alongside a Full Time Job

Blogging Tips | Blogging Alongside a Full Time Job

Balancing blogging and a fulltime job can be tough. Throw in the keeping fit, events, life admin (cleaning, and all that other boring stuff), and socialising, and 24 hours does not feel long enough. I couldn’t tell you how many tweets I’ve seen highlighting the constant (losing) battle. So, we wanted to gather a few tips and ideas from different bloggers themselves, to help you feel a little more on top of it, more motivated, and mostly so you can keep enjoying it – or at the very least so you don’t feel alone.

“Take some time out if you need it – working AND blogging is hard on the brain, and it’s better to post less but higher quality content than to churn out a post when you’re not feeling it because you feel like you *have* to. The blogging part should be FUN!” – Milly @ mini-adventures.com

“Take your full lunch break! It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour :)” – Natalie @ hellocuppies.com

“In lifestyle posts, don’t be afraid to use stock images – credited properly or use from a website like pixabay” – Bonnie @ bonnieinwonderland.wordpress.com

“Always keep a note pad handy to note down ideas when you’re out and about or at work as you never know when inspiration will call” – Kathy @ glitzandglamourmakeup.co.uk

“Write about your passions and what you want to…Don’t be hard on yourself” – Afshan @ afshanesque.co.uk

“I find it good to have some ‘spare’ photos ready to post to social media on days where you may not be able to get pictures” – Daniella @ myspiritualvibes.com

“I’ve found dictation very useful. It’s great to just talk into my phone when an idea comes into my head. It saves time typing it all out and I have something to edit later” – Victoria @ Thegrowingmum.com

“It’s important not to use all of your free time to do your blog, it will only get too much for you and you’ll find that you may just produce something you aren’t happy with” – Emma @ carpediememmie.co.uk

“As a new blogger, it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed with everything you need to do. The physical act of writing a list with pen and paper is a lifesaver, as well as being oddly therapeutic!” – Terri @ musingsonmidlife.com

“Have a plan, that’s flexible and find what works for you in terms of posting schedule and content creation, but most importantly still find time to have fun blogging” – Stephanie @ lifeat139a.com

“Get a tweet scheduler to take some of the work out for you, there’s nothing worse than coming home and having to worry about promotion on top of writing” – Kariss @ shystrangemanic.com

“I use apps that sync from my phone to my laptop. That way I can write on the go and all my notes are up to date and in one place” – Rosie @ damzelinthisdress.com

“Be nice to yourself and do not compare your blog to someone who blogs full time – at some points you might find yourself trying to reach their levels of productivity and time dedication and it will do more bad than good. Instead, congratulate yourself for doing the things you do and allow yourself all the breaks and time you need” – Kamila @ kamzonline.com

“Wherever I am, if any content inspiration hits me, I’ll always note it down in my phone’s notes. I could be on the tube heading to work and an idea will hit me but rather than let it pass and forget it, I’ll always write it down and come back to it when I have time to pursue it” – Leigh @ foxandfeatherblog.com

“I personally use my lunchtime to listen to podcasts and audiobooks which is where I get a lot of my inspiration from. I’ll often be out on a walk while I do as I tend to get my best ideas then. I’ll make notes on my phone for blog post and promotion ideas, drafting in bullet-points that I then turn into posts in my evenings and weekends” – Lee @  quitefranklee.com

“Most importantly, you should remember that not blogging if you are busy is okay! Make sure you are having fun and don’t see your blog as a chore”. Viki @ vikibell.com

“My best tip – don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t have time, don’t force yourself to produce blog posts filled with substandard content – only publish posts you are proud of – if you don’t have time, cut back on how often you post” – Lucy @ absolutelylucy.com

“Write from your heart. Don’t write for writings sake. These are the posts that make the most difference!” – Becci @ swordsandsnoodles.co.uk

“Write when it feels right and don’t push it when you’re not feeling it – it might not be that it’s a bad topic your brain might just be needing a break since you’ve been at work all day/week” – Kirsty @ kirstythroughthelookingglass.com

We hope you found these tips helpful. But as always, feel free to tweet us/comment below with any questions, or any more you think will help others.

Have a fab week!

Chloe is a digital promotions exec at Talented Talkers, and runs a lifestyle blog at lashesoflifestyle.
Find out more about the #TalentedTalkers team here, and don’t forget to use the hashtag if you found this post helpful!

We Explain | SEO Basics

We Explain | SEO Basics

‘SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation) is something that gets mentioned a tonne in the Blogosphere, but it can be a little intimidating whether you’re just starting out as a blogger, or you’re an old pro – but, not to fear, I’ve been working in SEO for a good few years now (what? But Fran, you almost never mention it?!), so I’ve got you covered with some SEO basics to get you started!

Work out your keywords

SEO is basically all about your search rankings – which basically means where you end up on Google when people search for certain words – otherwise known as ‘keywords’. So, before you get started with optimising your blog, you really have to work out what keywords you want your blog to rank well for – the more specific, the better. Terms like ‘lifestyle blog’ or ‘travel blog’ are pretty generic, so it’ll be pretty hard to get on the first page of search results for, but more specific keywords, like ‘London-based student lifestyle blog’ or ‘budget travel blog based in the UK’ will be easier to get a good search engine placement with, although they won’t be as commonly searched. It’s all about balancing out keywords that people are searching for, but don’t have tonnes of competition. That’s where keyword tools, like Google’s Keyword Planner, come in – they’ll help you really find the right balance…and once you’ve settled on a couple of key phrases, it’s time to optimise your blog!

Sort out your meta tags

You’ve probably heard this phrase floating around a lot in the Blogosphere, but what does it even mean? Meta tags are basically words that describe your blog content to search engines, so they get a better idea of your content – and they’re also the text that shows up on a Google page underneath the link, so potential readers will see it, too. This is a really important place to include your chosen keyword(s), as well as a little basic info about your blog – factors like where you’re based, your name, and how long you’ve been blogging for can all be really valuable in your meta tags.
Whilst you can add your meta tags with HTML, if you’re not 100% confident with that, most blogging platforms also let you do it on the interface, so no worries if you’re not a coding whiz!

Add some image info

You’ve probably seen, when uploading an image on your blog, the options to add ‘alt text’ to them…but what does that mean? Alt image text is basically a short sentence that describes the content of your image to a search engine, so people can find it easier if they’re looking for a specific picture. For instance, if you’ve got a great blog post with swatches of an entire new range of products, adding alt image text to those swatches – ‘swatches from the new X range by Y brand’ – will mean that it’ll rank better in an image search if someone’s looking.
The other use of alt image text is that it’s great for accessibility – people who are partially sighted or blind are able to enjoy photographs a lot more when they have descriptive text attached.

Get rid of broken links

Broken links are awful for SEO, as they stop the search engine’s crawlers from being able to index your page properly, and lower your domain authority, too. It can be a mammoth job, finding all the broken links in your archives, but thankfully, there are tonnes of online broken link checkers online to help you out, so you can find them directly. Depending on how many there are, it can be a couple of hours’ work, but it can make a huge difference to your SEO and DA.

Use your No Follow links

If you’ve done sponsored content before, you probably know your way around a ‘no-follow’ link: it’s basically an attribute you can add to a link that tells a search engine that you don’t endorse that link; that you’re not vouching for it in any way. Any time you’re linking to something you genuinely like or find valuable and think your followers should check out, you’re free to leave it as a ‘do-follow’ link, though.

I hope you found that helpful, but as always, drop us an email at chat@talentedtalkers.com, or tweet us @talentedtalkers if you have any questions!

We Explain | How to Beat the Latest Instagram Algorithm

We Explain | How to Beat the Latest Instagram Algorithm

Instagram: it’s the platform we all love to hate, right? Especially now that the Instagram algorithm changes are no longer published on their blog, meaning that you have to dig through their help section for details on all the changes.

What was once the fastest-growing and most engaging social media for most of us has, after one-too-many algorithm changes, quickly become a source of stress and far too many rules for almost every type of blogger or influencer.
And, January marks yet another update, with more and more rumours circling of what is and isn’t likely to get your engagement up, how to avoid shadow-bans, and whether your followers are even able to see your posts…so, it’s Fran here, and I’m rounding up the best tips and tricks for the latest updates, as well as some general ways to improve your engagement.macbook and iphone sit on a white fluffy blanket, with Instagram open on the iphone's screen

1. Use those stories

One of the biggest changes Instagram have made lately is the changes to how stories are displayed in your feed, with story suggestions not only being much larger than they were previously, but are also now showing up mid-feed. What does this mean for you? There’s now even more reason to add to your stories and keep them updated! Instagram counts story views as engagement in their algorithm, meaning that if someone watches your story often, your posts also show up higher in their feed – win/win!

2. Hashtag wherever you want – but do it fast

There’s a lot of debate all over the web as to where you should hashtag – in your caption or in the comments – but the truth is, the actual location of the tags doesn’t matter as much as how quickly you do it. The reason some people prefer to hashtag in their caption is because it means that your post appears in the hashtag feed, at the top, as soon as you post it, whereas if you post in the comments, you’ll appear in the feed, but your order in the results will depend on when you posted the picture, not when you added the hashtag (source: adweek). That means, if you post a picture at 6pm, then don’t hashtag it until 7pm, you’ll show up in the hashtag behind all the other people who have posted their photo in the hashtag in the last hour – not great if you’re posting in a packed hashtag, as it means you’ll spend no time at the top of the tag page.
If you’re posting your picture and then commenting straight away with the hashtags, however, it probably won’t make a massive difference.

3. Respond to your comments

If you’re anything like me, you probably forget to reply to Instagram comments all the time occasionally, but that could be why your engagement is suffering. The more likes and comments you get on a post, the more your followers are likely to see it in their feed – so if you’re getting one comment, that’s great – but if you’re getting that comment, responding, then getting a conversation going, your post is doing even better by the Instagram algorithm standards…! Get chatting!

4. Get yourself a business account

We’ve already covered the benefits of your Instagram business account on the blog before, so we won’t bore you with too many details if you’ve already read it – but if you haven’t, or if you’ve got a business account and aren’t sure if you’re using it as well as you could, have a read – you’d be seriously surprised how much having all those extra stats and analytics can help your engagement sore, weird Instagram algorithm or not.

5. Stop spamming

Okay, so that’s a little harsh – we’re sure you’re not actually spamming anyone…at least not deliberately. It’s a not-very-well-kept ‘secret’ that Instagram’s algorithm tends to view any comments under 3 words as spam – meaning not only does it flag your account if you’re leaving comments like ‘so pretty!’ or ‘that’s cute’, but it also doesn’t count them towards your engagement if you’re receiving comments like that. Your best bet is to leave slightly longer, more specific comments on others’ posts, and hopefully get some in return.

Bonus: have fun!

Whilst there are definitely a few tips to take on board to help defend your feed against the Instagram algorithm changes, everyone knows that engagement is hard to get – brands aren’t necessarily all caught up in the numbers when they’re looking for influencers and bloggers to work with, and as long as you’re producing great content and having authentic conversations, you shouldn’t be, either. Don’t let the algorithm get you down!

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