Last Chance for Affiliate Blog Online

If you’ve been keeping track of our latest blog posts, you will know that we are having major issues with keeping this site running smoothly. We were with Bluehost originally and the site would be constantly down with no warning from them. We decided to move it to Hostgator  but Hostgater constantly shut the site down (at least they gave us a warning unlike Bluehost). Then we moved the site to WPEngine which is awesome but not really cost effective for a site not making any money.

So we brought the site back to Hostgator and all was going well until the past few days when Hostgator decided to take the site down yet again. For the past few days it has been down and despite making changes, Hostgator still won’t reinstate it. We don’t really know what the problem is and Hostgator aren’t in the business to help their customers work out these issues.

So we had to have a think about whether we even wanted to keep this site running. This has never been a big money making site for us and really has just been a way for us to babble on about what we do online as well as provide tips and hints for others trying to make money online. As you can probably tell, neither of us have added much to the site lately so is it really worth keeping at all?

So we had a chat about it and decided to give it one last chance. We decided we needed to move from Hostgator so we have made the move to StableHost. Will it be the right move? Who knows, but Stablehost have received quite good reviews so we thought we would give them a shot.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed….

Why We Chose WP Engine for Our Hosting

UPDATE: Please read the update at the end of this post.

In my last post, I mentioned how we had changed from the Flexsqueeze theme to Genesis in an attempt to solve the issues we have been having with this site. Well, it didn’t work. Within days of changing themes Hostgator shut down the site yet again saying our that our site “was found to be consuming an inordinate amount of mysql connections, to the point of degrading overall system performance”.

I kind of understand where Hostgator are coming from but it certainly doesn’t help when they give no warning. Usually it happens in the middle of the night so the site can be down for some hours before you even realise. And then once it is down, you have no way of getting back into it to try to fix it without first contacting them and getting access.

Included in the email from Hostgator was the suggestion that we move to a dedicated server. That isn’t cheap by any means at a minimum of $174 a month. We’re not even paying that for a year of hosting.

However, we needed to do something different. Hostgator weren’t really forthcoming with what the exact problem was, offering own vague suggestions, and despite removing every single plugin on the site, the memory resources being used didn’t really reduce that much. (Just as a side note to all of this, the plugin that used the most memory on our site was the NextGen plugin which we won’t be putting back on.)

So what did we do? We took the advice of a reader by the name of Tilen Mandelj who left a comment on our last blog post suggesting that we should try either WP Engine or Synthesis for our hosting. I had actually read about Synthesis but had never heard of WP Engine. Both of these hosting companies focus solely on WordPress.

So as I do, I started to research, but thinking that things were now okay with the site I didn’t dwell too long on it all.

However, not long after, the dreaded email from Hostgator arrived saying they had shut down the site. Of course, it came in at night and too late to really do anything. So all I did was email both WP Engine and Synthesis with the exact same email, asking if their hosting could help to solve the problems we were having with this site and then promptly went to bed.

By morning, both companies had responded. This was a good sign. I had already read about how good the service was from each of them. Each had a slightly different response, however Synthesis went a little further to offer suggestions and they also wanted a little more info on what plugins we were using and so forth. Just in those few pre-sale emails, they provided more help than Hostgator ever did.

It took a while for us to decide on which company to go with actually because both looked really good. I was moving more towards Synthesis because they are run by the same guys who created the Genesis theme plus, like I said, their pre-sales emails were quite helpful.

However, in the end we went with WP Engine. We had read a number of glowing reviews for WP Engine and some from those who had actually used both Synthesis and WP Engine and the consensus was that WP Engine was the better at least in their opinion. Plus, if we wanted to start adding more sites to it, the next level up at $99 a month allowed for up to 10 websites whereas with Synthesis, the $99 monthly price only included 2 websites.

So yesterday, we migrated the site over to WP Engine. We followed the migration instructions on their site which are quite good by the way, however it didn’t all go to plan as these things do. So I emailed them and within half an hour I had a response which got me  through the next step and then another hitch, so another email was sent and so on. In all about four or five emails later, we had the site up and running.

With the site now functioning again I decided to test the memory usage. I was using a plugin called Debug Bar as recommended by the guy from Synthesis. With Hostgator, the memory usage was at 53mb which is apparently quite high. An average WordPress site should really be no more than 20mb. Despite deactivating every single plugin, the site remained at around 43mb. After migrating the site to WP Engine the memory usage was now at 4mb which is a major drop. However, that’s not to say that WP Engine solved those problems because when we migrated and transferred the database, we didn’t transfer every table in that database. There were tables in there that belonged to plugins that we no longer used. It could well have been those tables that were causing the high memory issue.

So at the moment, we are still testing the waters with WP Engine. If it turns out okay, we will move up to the $99 a month plan and add a few more sites.

UPDATE: As of December 2013, we decided to move this site over to our Hostgator reseller account. We like WP Engine, we really do, but this site was getting too much traffic and the plan we were on wasn’t working for us. We were being charged for excess visits. The next option would have been to upgrade to the $99 plan but really in terms of  traffic  (which includes bots by the way) we would probably only been able to get another couple of websites into the plan. It just didn’t seem cost effective based on our traffic numbers.

Why We Moved to the Genesis Framework

Genesis Lifestyle ThemeAnyone who has read our blog over the years knows that we love the Flexsqueeze theme…and that hasn’t changed. We’ve been using it for years and think it is awesome and we will continue to recommend it, particularly to newbies because it makes changing and editing a theme super simple. It’s extremely powerful and has some amazing features.

However, just lately we have been using the Genesis Framework by Studiopress on one of our other sites and have started to get a real liking for it. It’s not as user friendly as the Flexsqueeze theme in terms of making changes to a site but it looks really clean and we like it.

We’ve  been having problems with this site for some time now. For some reason it seems to crash frequently and Hostgator keeps shutting the site down because they tell us it is using too many resources. So thats when we decided to upload the Genesis Framework because it is very lightweight (or so they say), so hopefully it will speed things up a bit.

Speaking of Hostgator shutting down the site, the last time they did it, they forgot to put it back up again. So for a few weeks this site was gone completely. We thought it was up, because they had given us access to the site in order to make changes but no one else could see it. We didn’t realize until one of our readers  emailed us about it.

We moved from Bluehost to Hostgator in June because we thought that the problems of our site crashing was a Bluehost problem. But that wasn’t the case…the site still crashed with Hostgator. The only difference between the two is that Bluehost didn’t shut down our site – but Hostgator did.

Either way, there is something wrong with this site to make it repeatedly crash, so we uploaded the Genesis framework, not that there is anything to suggest that the theme was the problem, and we have also removed a multitude of plugins. We’ve had this site since 2008 and over that time have uploaded a lot of different plugins, some we didn’t even know if we needed anymore but were too afraid to remove in case they actually did something on the site. So hopefully this will do the trick.

What is the Genesis Framework?

The Genesis framework is essentially a WordPress theme – or the framework of a WordPress theme. Actually it’s both. It can work as a theme on it’s own, although it is pretty basic. So what you need is a Child Theme to go with it. The framework, in the words of the Studiopress team “…acts as a design, security and SEO foundation for your website.” and the child theme is the “pure design element that rests on top of the framework”. It’s what makes it look pretty.

The child theme we use for this website is the Lifestyle Theme. I like it. It’s clean and it can work for any niche. It’s also quite easy to change the color of the theme. They give you a number of different options in the theme settings including teal, blue, charcoal, grey, green, pink, purple, tan and yellow.

How Does it Work?

In order to get the Genesis themes working,  both the Genesis framework and a Child Theme need to be uploaded to the Themes section of a WordPress blog. Once both are uploaded it’s the child theme that needs to be activated.

Layouts

You can change the layout of the site pretty easily with Genesis. It comes with a number of default layouts that you can apply to the entire site under the Theme Settings section.  Plus you can also change the  layout for each individual post or page if you like.

Default Layout Settings in Genesis

Using Hooks

What’s my opinion on hooks?…they’re great if you know what you are doing but not that easy if you don’t. Hooks are what some themes use to allow you to add content to certain parts of the theme that you may not have had the ability to do with a regular theme. For example, if I wanted to add a text box at the end of every post I could do that with a hook. Or I could add a content area just under my header that appears on every page of my site, or just on one page only.

What makes using Hooks a lot easier is a free plugin called Genesis Simple Hooks. It’s a must if you have a Genesis theme.

Everything Just Seems to Work

My favourite thing about Genesis is that everything just seems to work with it. For example, you see the Amazonian Profit Plan image in the sidebar?…that is a text widget and it has some code in there with a link to the image so that it all shows up. Now all I did when we upgraded to the Genesis theme was put that old code back in. I was expecting the image to be too big for the sidebar and I’d have to tweak it to fit…but I didn’t have to do a thing. It just went in and adjusted it all to fit.

It all just seems to look good without much effort.

What I didn’t like was the default font. It’s way too small and a strain on the eyes to read so we upped the font size for both the paragraph text and the post titles. We had to do that in the stylesheet which brings me to another point that if we are comparing this theme to the Flexsqueeze theme in terms of ease of use, I would go with Flexsqueeze every time. If I want to change the font in a Flexsqueeze theme I don’t have to look at any code. I just click a tab and type in the size of the font and it’s done.

Other Features

  • Mobile Responsive – This is pretty much a necessity these days. You want your site to look good on any device.
  • HTML5 Ready – HTML is the code used to create websites and it keeps evolving and changing. HTML5 is the next revision and the Genesis theme is ready for it.
  • Schema Microdata – You would have seen schema when you have done a search in Google. Those search results that show a video or author thumbnail are examples of schema. Now I’m still researching this bit but from my basic understanding it seems that you have to do a bit of work first to get this going.
  • Child Themes – The beauty of the Genesis framework is there are a lot of different themes to choose from. As we mentioned previously, we went with the Lifestyle Theme but there are plenty of others. If you have multiple websites, then you might even want to invest in their unlimited pack which includes every theme they make plus any new ones added in the future. We are considering this ourselves.
  • Unlimited websites and developer license – What I really love about Genesis themes are that you can use them on as many websites as you like. There is no extra cost for this. Plus, if you are a developer and want to create websites for others, you don’t need to buy a developers license.
  • Good code – I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this theme and many mention how well written the code is. They try to keep the theme as lightweight as possible to make it very quick and responsive.
  • SEO Settings – Genesis includes it’s own SEO settings but if you have another SEO plugin of some sort, it will automatically turn them off to allow your other plugin to work.

Our Final Word

This is an excellent theme and one we would highly recommend. I’m loving it more and more. However, if you aren’t comfortable with code and are looking for something super simple to use then go with the Flexsqueeze theme. Don’t get me wrong, the Genesis Framework is simple to use straight out of the box but if you want to start making changes and you have never played with your stylesheet or functions.php or any of those things then you might struggle until you become familiar with the workings of the theme.

 

We Need Help!!! Tell Us What You Would Like to See on this Site

This isn’t going to be a very long post because we are more interested in your input than what we have to say. We have decided to start adding tutorials to this website and it is important to us that we provide the information that you will find useful. After all there is no sense in us spending time providing lots of lovely content on something that you have no interest in.

These tutorials will be free to access and on subjects that you might need help in. We envisage that each of these tutorials will be self contained and very specific to a particular subject. In other words, you aren’t going to see tutorials on ‘how to make money online’ or ‘how to get traffic to my site’. Although those sorts of topics are relevant they are very broad and require a lot more than a simple tutorial to answer.

Instead, what we are after are tasks that you might have to perform in your day-to-day business online.

These are a few of the topics we had in mind but we would prefer your input:

  • How to add a plugin to WordPress
  • How to create a professional looking header for your WordPress blog
  • How to create a custom menu in WordPress
  • How to create a table in WordPress
  • How to find the number of backlinks to your site
  • How to use Google Analytics to find your top performing pages
  • Blog Commenting 101
  • How to install and use the TinyMCE Advanced plugin
  • How to align an image in WordPress
  • How to set up AWStats in Bluehost

Each of the tutorials that we add will in most cases include both a video and a written transcript. We realize that some people are visual and prefer a video but others prefer to read, so both options will be provided.

Since we have a diverse range of readers each with a differing skill base we expect that over time we will add a diverse range of topics from the very basic to the more advanced.

We also intend to add a beginners section for those who have never created a website and want to know how.

We will also be adding tutorials to our Affiliate Reviews HQ website and would like your input here as well. These will be specific product related tutorials on how to use some of the amazing affiliate tools available today. Here are a few examples of what we thought we might add:

  • How to set up the Flexsqueeze theme
  • How to create cool looking review pages with Flexsqueeze
  • How to use SEMRush for keyword research
  • How to create a custom home page using the Catalyst theme
  • How to create affiliate links using the Ninja Affiliate plugin
  • How to use ReviewAZON for creating manual Amazon product reviews

As you can imagine this will all take a bit of time but for starters we want to add the most requested tutorials so if you would like to see any of the above tutorials added or if you have any specific requests please let us know in the comments below.

UPDATE: We forgot to mention that these tutorials won’t be posted on to the main blog here. They will appear in a separate training section on this blog.