How to choose a host for your blog (Is Bluehost really the best?)

Hello blogging friends!

There are a ton of questions out there about website hosting. What is it? Who should you choose? What is important in a host? Choosing a host is scary, and there are are far too few resources that answer the real questions about hosting. I am going to attempt to answer all the questions – starting at the very beginning: What is hosting?.

If you have an additional questions, please leave a comment! I want this post to be super practical.:)

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What is Hosting?

Let’s think about your website like a house. Your website is the house. The website files are your bricks. The domain is your address. WordPress (or Squarespace, Blogger, etc.) is your door. The design is the paint and pretty siding. Your host is your location. Your host holds and stores all your website files, making the actual site possible in the first place! Every host has a server, server space, and security to make sure your files are safe and secure.

If you have a hosted framework like Squarespace, Wix, WordPress.com or Blogger, you are essentially renting space. And that framework is also your host. They possess and own your files.

If you use WordPress.org, you own your files. And, just like someone who owns a house, you have to shop around and check out the real estate of who will be good enough to house your files. Make sense?

Managed Hosting vs. Shared Hosting

This is the big difference when it comes to hosting. Hosting plans are either managed or shared. In essence, shared hosting is cheaper and slower and managed hosting is more expensive and faster.

Shared Hosting means that a host is letting you share a server with another site. You aren’t paying for the whole server, just part of it. Consequently, you don’t know the other site that you are bunking with. Are they bigger and will take up space? Are they more demanding and requiring more of the service? The result is that you aren’t in control of how much you get. You will get less space, less service, less speed, & less help then the bigger site.

Shared hosting also usually comes with less attention. The company won’t devote their time to making your site secure and you happy. Your plan will have minimal benefits and every little (normal) service will be paid only. The upside is that these hosting plans come really cheap – starting at about $5/month. But, your site will definitely suffer for it.

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Managed Hosting is the complete opposite. You get the full server. The full space and the feel speed. You also get full attention – most managed hosting includes full support, 24/7 security, backups, and even free transfers. To me, though, the BEST PART is the speed. Have you ever been to website that drags? Chances are that site is using cheap hosting. I think a good rule is that if a site has over 50,000 pageviews a month, they need managed hosting.

Managed Hosting costs more – about $25/month. More pricey? Yes. Necessary to grow your site. YES.

How to choose a host for your blog

 

1. ALWAYS look for Excellent Customer Service.

NEVER do without this. I have worked on dozens of sites when the site goes down at 2 am on Saturday. The first thing I do is call the host. If the host doesn’t have 24/7 support, that site will be down until Monday morning. This is not acceptable. Even shared hosting should have this. In my opinion, Bluehost shared hosting has superior customer service. They have chat, email and phone support available 24/7. Make this #1.

2. ALWAYS look to grow with a host.

I assume you want your site to grow. Look at the options. Does the host top at 50,000 pageviews/month? Does the host only have limited space? Transferring between hosts is very complicated and time consuming, so start off well! Don’t start small and prevent yourself from growing.

3. NEVER choose a host just because they are cheap.

You are committing your site to this host. ALL YOUR SITE. You would never just leave your child with a random babysitter. Know their stats. Know what they offer. Know what you are getting into.

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Why I chose Flywheel Hosting over Bluehost Hosting

I have personally used Blogger, WordPress.com, Hostgator, Bluehost and Flywheel. I have worked with about a dozen other hosts. Trust me when I say I know my hosts.:)

About a month ago I knew I needed to switch to a managed hosting. My website was SUPER slow, and it was the only way to speed it up. I researched a ton of hosts, and decided on Flywheel. I’ve been in love ever since. This is what I love about Flywheel:

Superb customer service

I have been uber impressed. They have transferred my site, kept backups, restored backups, answered technical questions and gone above and beyond. And they sent me a free t-shirt. Of course, that’s not the real reason. But I really love these guys.

They have free website transfers

Did I mention that switching between hosts is a NIGHTMARE? Like, I am a pro and I still shiver when sites need to be migrated. Flywheel transferred my site in about a day WITH NO DOWN TIME. Can I please shout this from the roof tops?

They have free Demo Sites for Web Designers

I LOVE this! I make websites for people all the time, and don’t want to pay for beta sites. Flywheel has free demo sites that I can use for staging.

They cache for me, CDN for me, backup for me…

they do it all. I don’t need extra plugins and services. My site is super fast. Oh, and they also update my WordPress. It’s amazing.

Plans start at $15.

As far as managed hosting goes, I’ve been super impressed with their rates. I compared so many companies, and Flywheel has the best plan options out there!

My sites are FAST!

I’ve been stunned by how fast my websites are. I run a ton of ads and plugins, and my sites are still super fast.

I hope I answered all your questions! Definitely leave any questions you have – and YAY for sharing this with your friends. We need more people to love their hosts!
 
 

Read all my Blogging Posts:


 
How to Choose a Host for your WordPress Website - what to look for and what all the terms mean! - A Modern Commonplace Book

Trader Joes EASY Chicken Soup (6 servings, 5 ingredients)

I came down with a cold yesterday – yay for sicky days inside! Just kidding. I hate getting colds – especially when I don’t have a lot of groceries in the house :). But, I was itching for a warm bowl of chicken soup, so I just made do with what I had – and the result was amazing! I love to cook with the fewest ingredients and with the simplest technique. Chop it up and throw it in a pot? Yes please!

This pot of soup was simple, minimalistic, and can be made in the slow cooker or over the stove. I threw it on the stove and let it simmer for a few hours. (My house smelled amazing!) The best part about this easy chicken soup is that is has five ingredients. FIVE. That doesn’t include spices and bouillon. But, the rest? FIVE.

That’s my kind of recipe.

It probably can be called a cheat meal, because it uses some pre-made ingredients from Trader Joe’s. But, that made me love this recipe even more. Enjoy!

Trader Joe's EASY Chicken Soup | 6 Servings, 5 ingredients

 

Trader Joes EASY Chicken Soup
 
(6 servings, 5 ingredients)
Ingredients
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (I just use a huge tablespoon of this minced garlic)
  • One Package of Trader Joe's Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
  • One Package of Trader Joe's Just Chicken Pre-Cooked Chicken, chopped (You can use this shredded chicken if you have it!)
  • 3 Cans of White Northern Beans
  • 6 Cups of Water
  • 6 Chicken Bouillon cubes
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Dried Parsley, Bay Leaves, Red Pepper Flakes, or any of your favorite savory spices!
Instructions
  1. In large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.  Add Healthy 8 Veggie Mix and saute until aromatic.
  2. Add in chopped chicken, beans, water, and bouillon and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.   Add in all spices to taste.
  3. Lower to medium-low heat and simmer for for 1-2 hours.  Serve hot with crusty bread!
  4. Slow Cooker Variation: Put all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Let me know if you try this – or if you have any favorite shortcuts for “homemade” soup!

I use these…

The BEST Slow Cooker
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On my stove at all times…
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This should be playing in the background…
dinner party music

These will change your life.


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Trader Joes EASY Chicken Soup | 6 Servings, 5 ingredientsEasy Chicken Soup - Trader Joes - 5 ingredients - 6 servings - moderncommonplacebook.com

From My Family to Yours – Favorite Thanksgiving Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving month! November has completely snuck up on me – and I don’t think I am really ready for the holidays to set in. In my family, the holidays are jam packed with events, dinners, travel, family game nights, birthdays, anniversaries – basically every family even you could plan happens between Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s the best!

My family has pretty simple Thanksgiving traditions. But even if they include the typical turkey and gravy, they are far from boring! I come from a family of 6, and around the block lives my aunt’s and uncle’s family – a family of 7. We have definitely grown now with marriages and births, so now we are up to 11 I think. We grew up together, and every holiday is an automatic party of 11! Our mothers throw a gorgeous Thanksgiving spread – and just being together under one roof is so special. This is our typical Thanksgiving feast:

thanksgiving traditions and food

But, we do have a few favorite Thanksgiving traditions that we are pretty faithful to. Here are some of my favorite:

Family Thanksgiving Traditions

Annual Kickball Tournament

With a family of 11, we always have enough players for our kickball game. This is no regular kickball game. This is the one time a year we drop the niceties and battle it out. Even though it does just get played in the front yard on that Thursday afternoon, it is a serious game, y’all. We plan it all year. Our visiting girlfriends and boyfriends fear joining for the first time. And, honestly I have no idea why it’s so competitive. But, it is all tooth and nail. Does anyone else have an annual match like this?

Oh, I’m not even mentioning the Scategories game we play later that night. Just as intense. Just as serious.

Our Church Worship Service

I don’t know if many churches hold a Thanksgiving service, but it is special to us that we go. I love the worship, the simple Thanksgiving hymns, the decadent cornucopia – but more than that I love the chance to be grateful to God for his innumerable blessings. We have so much to be thankful for – and I love having a day set aside for that. We ought to be grateful every day of the week. But, to have a day where that is the focus? Priceless.

Reading the President’s Proclamation

I don’t know why I love this so much, but I love reading the President’s proclamation on Thanksgiving. Yes, it happens every year and is always pretty much the same. But, I love knowing – regardless of what happens in this nation – we are united by this holiday of Thanksgiving.

With God’s grace, this holiday season we carry forward the legacy of our forebears. In the company of our loved ones, we give thanks for the people we care about and the joy we share, and we remember those who are less fortunate. At shelters and soup kitchens, Americans give meaning to the simple truth that binds us together: we are our brother’s and our sister’s keepers. We remember how a determined people set out for a better world — how through faith and the charity of others, they forged a new life built on freedom and opportunity.

The spirit of Thanksgiving is universal. It is found in small moments between strangers, reunions shared with friends and loved ones, and in quiet prayers for others. Within the heart of America’s promise burns the inextinguishable belief that together we can advance our common prosperity — that we can build a more hopeful, more just, and more unified Nation. This Thanksgiving, let us recall the values that unite our diverse country, and let us resolve to strengthen these lasting ties. – Barak Obama, 2014

Grandparent Journal

Holding my grandparents close with the Grandparent Journal

This idea/craft isn’t exclusive to me for Thanksgiving, but it is definitely a thankful project that I love all year round. I have a Grandparent journal for my grandmother that lives far away, and we write in it and trade it multiple times a year. I ask her questions about growing up, her family, her marriage, and she writes stories that will be passed down through the generations. It is very precious to me. Read all about it here.

Spicy Turkey

We don’t have this turkey every year, but it is my favorite turkey recipe hands down! It is so moist and flavorful – and pretty darn easy. I have known people that don’t love turkey to love this recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Turkey Breast (any size)
  • 1/4 c. pepper
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 2 T. Parsley
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 c. Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Oven Bag

Directions:

Rinse Turkey and pat dry. Prepare oven bag according to directions. Place turkey in bag in shallow pan. Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Pour vinegar over turkey in bag. Pour over the oil. Spoon spices over the top. Tie bag and cut a few holes in the top of the bag. Bake at 325 for 4-5 hours. (Turkeys over 6 pounds can go 5 hours). Slice the coating off the top of the turkey and take the meat off the bone. Pour the liquid over the meat. Enjoy!

oven bags thanksgiving spicy turkey
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Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Have a happy Thanksgiving and much love to your families!

Linking up here, here, here.

Favorite Thanksgiving Traditions - and the best Spicy Turkey ever! - modern commonplace book

My Favorite Posts About Being Thankful

For when you struggle to be thankful

5 Ways to Battle Discontent

Driven to Hope by Our Circumstances

I am thankful for you!

Favorite Beauty Products for the Au Naturale Look (Natural Beauty Products)

Natural Beauty Products for the Au Naturale Look

Some days I am doing well if I just put my contacts in. To be honest, the hardest thing about working from home for me is not wanting to do my hair and makeup everyday. I’m not that girl that loves sitting in front of the mirror for hours – I wish I just work up with plucked eyebrows and a shiny lip. Don’t we all?

Because I’ve been simplifying my daily beauty routine, I wanted to share some of my favorite new products with you. These make my life SO easy – and keep me feeling beautiful. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these – and what I should me adding to my beauty counter!

Natural Beauty Products for A Natural Look with A Modern Commonplace Book Blog

Mario Badescu Facial Spray

Mario Badescu Facial Spray

I bought the Mario Badescu Facial Spray awhile back when I wanted to experiment with no makeup on my days at home. It is awesome! I love the fresh rose scent and the freshness it brings to my face. I love it without makeup, over makeup, or when I just need a pick-me-up! If you work at a desk, I totally recommend keeping a bottle in your drawer :).

Pink Armor Nails

Pink Armor Nails

I LOVE me some beautiful nails. And, if I had all the time in the world, I’d be painting them every other day. But, who has all the time in the world? I found this Pink Armor Nail Strengthener and had to try it! Not only does it make my nails incredibly healthy, but now my natural nails are actually pretty! They add a pink shine to my nails. The actual “polish” takes a few seconds to dry, and I don’t have to walk around waving my hands to keep from messing anything up! Definitely try this one.

Dry Shampoo

Batiste Dry Shampoo

I’ve tried tons of Dry Shampoo brands, and Batiste Dry Shampoo is hands down the best. I have bought it three times in a row now – so that’s how I know it’s my favorite. It’s fresh. It smells good. And it works. What more does a girl want? (Read all my about my Dry Shampoo research here!)

Smiths Minted Rose Lip Balm

Smith’s Minted Rose Lip Balm

Smith’s Rose Lip Balm is like luxury lip balm for under $6. It’s smooth, not sticky and feels like butter on your lips. I am not a lip gloss person (See my “I’m Not a Lip Person” post here) and this stuff looks like lip gloss and feels like lip balm. Put this in someone’s stocking this year.

Loreal Carbon Black Voluminous

L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara

It is no secret that L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara is my favorite mascara ever. Even all the celebrities love it. What I love about it, is that it feels like eye liner, mascara and a hot date all rolled into one. Who doesn’t want to feel like a hot date on an average Wednesday morning? Only want one new product to try? This is it.

Mary Kay Concealer

Mary Kay Concealer

I use a lot of Mary Cay cosmetics, the my one time all-favorite product from them is their concealer. I don’t have perfect skin, so if I want to look good without makeup and powder, this concealer does it. It is so thick, that one tiny pea-size amount goes a long way. I keep one of these tiny tubes almost a year – that’s how powerful it is. It is perfect for under eye circles, blemishes and just a face pick-me-up. My Mary Kay consultant is Amanda Yorton and you can see her site here and her Facebook here. She’s the best :).

Palladio Bronzer

Palladio Baked Bronzer

I go through a lot of bronzer and blush. I remember one time growing my mom said, “And we ran out of the house before I even had time to put on my blush!” Haha. This Atlantic Tan bronzer by Palladio is my favorite bronzer right now. It is natural for me, doesn’t smudge and gives my cheeks a shimmer glow! Add this on a plain face and you look like a movie star.
 

Love any of these? Let me know your favorites!

Beauty Products for a Natural Look with A Modern Commonplace Book

My City Needs your Help – 5 Easy ways to Help during the South Carolina Flood

This week has been surreal.

I can’t comprehend exactly what my city is going through. I feel like in a few weeks I will look back and think, “really, did that happen?” And then I will see my neighbors with no houses and my city with no roads – and I’ll remember that it did.

This weekend my city was hit with a flood not seen in over 1000 years. There isn’t a section of the city that wasn’t affected. Whole neighborhoods were flooded. Streets and bridges destroyed. Our entire map has changed. In these last couple of days, the water has subsided, but the lakes are still flooding – and even this morning houses were being evacuated. It isn’t over.

This flood has been declared a national disaster, and thousands of military, National Guard, citizens, neighbors and strangers are banding together and helping each other. I have never seen anything like it.  The entire city has become one.

My friend (one among thousands) lost her house and everything she owns.  This is what her street looked like:

6241749_1444078628.5879

I helped her clean up a little two days ago, and this is what her street looks like now:

five easy ways to help Columbia, SC #SCFlood

We are seeing Columbia, South Carolina Flood news 24/7, but in case you haven’t heard the numbers lately, here they are:

  • 25+ inches of rain
  • 19+ deaths
  • 40,000+ with no water
  • 100+ bridges collapsed
  • 11+ dams have been bridged

Our city needs your help!  Please consider helping in these very simple ways:
 
 

Donating to the Red Cross

The easiest and simplest way to make the biggest difference is to donate to the Red Cross. They can be found here. But, the easiest way is to text $10 to Red Cross right now!

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10

*$10.00 donation to American Red Cross. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to 90999 to STOP. Text HELP to 90999 for HELP.
 
 

Donating to individual Families

So many families have lost everything – and are having to rebuild from nothing. I know several families that have Gofundme.com accounts. Please consider giving even $10! Here is my friend’s account. To see all families needing money, click here.

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Donating to churches

So many churches are surrounding the community in sending out workers to the different neighborhoods. If you would like to help a church and their hands-on work, consider giving to my church, First Presbyterian, and their Storm Relief Fund. You can give here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 1.40.05 PM
 
 

Donating to Harvest Hope Food Bank

People need food and water. I just heard about a 93 year old man today that was stranded and had no food and water! He was found and sent in food – but there are so many more that are suffering. Consider giving to the Harvest Hope Food Bank. They are our hands and feet.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 1.43.34 PM
 
 

Ask your friends to help

If you are reading this and are not planning on donating, PLEASE tweet this message below so all your friends and followers will have the chance to donate. This is free, and will reach thousands of people across the U.S. We thank you!

 
Five Easy Ways to help Columbia, SC #SCFlood

How to Increase blog pageviews – How I grew my blog to over 10,000 pageviews a day

Something I love about blogging is the ability to continue to improve upon your game. I have said over and over again, the process of blogging is sometimes way more fun than the actual blog post that gets output at the end of everything. The design, the community, the social interaction – are all part of the blog just as much as the content is.

I love to write about blogging every now and then to encourage the new blogger that is daunted by this whole world. To be honest, friend, the world is pretty scary. It’s full of big intimidating bloggers, confusing HTML, and loudly voiced marketers vying for your attention. I don’t know why it’s gotten so complicated or big and scary. I guess in a world where everyone can have a voice (yay!), there are a lot of voices.

Recently, I became what in the world of blogging is “a big blogger”. I don’t think I have the following, fanbase, and girl crushes that other bloggers get. But, I do have the pageviews. This is something that has really surprised me. Because I don’t “share all the feelings” and have over 10K Instagram followers, I have always thought that I wouldn’t be seen by people. But, I think I have made a little mark on the blogging world, so I want to share how I did it.
 

How to Increase blog pageviews in a few short steps!

 

1. I Redesigned My Site

This is the truth. I have always had content, but if the content is drowned out by a really bad web design – no one will find it and no one will stick around. Since redesigning my site, I haven’t added that much content, but my pageviews have skyrocketed. For the first time, my design matches what I want people to experience around A Modern Commonplace Book. They have options in the menu, a clear homepage, a simple landing page – all of these things weren’t there before. Now, people want to stick around.

If you want to read how I did this, read this post. It explains how I traded services with a friend to use her copywriting, and web analysis services. It’s a great way to improve your site for free!

I also redesigned my 404 Error page so every pageview counts. You can see a 404 Error page here, and see the plugin I used here.
 

2. I put my one viral post front and center

Sometime last year, I had my Trader Joe’s Menu Plan post go viral. At least, it was viral for me – over 30K shares on Pinterest. Because this was the post drawing in the traffic, I maximized on this post. I used it to guide readers to my “No Plan” Menu Plan service – which got them in the door. These readers now officially were clicking through more than one post.

Tip: Find the post that is drawing the most traffic and use it to your advantage. Pretend you are a new reader on that page and make things inviting for them to stick around.
 

3. I invested in a good sharing plugin

Sharing is the key to marketing nowadays. There are a hundred sharing plugins out there – but none that did what I wanted. I wanted a static Pinterest button over images – and clear sharing buttons (like you can see on my site now).

I paid for the Pinterest Pin-It Pro Plugin ($29 here) and it has been worth every penny! This plugin includes full sharing icons, Pinterest customization icons, and everything else I could possibly need. It has brought in a TON of sharing traffic – so I am happy!
 

4. I used my sidebar as a Table of Contents

I am fascinated by how people waste their sidebars on their blogs. This is a high traffic area, and I wanted to use mine as a Table of Contents. I have included a “Start Here” section, a “latest posts” section, a “popular posts” section, and categories. This gives new readers an immediate new way of exploring the site. To see more of my ways to customize your blog, see this post “50 Ways to Improve Your Blog Design Now”.
 

5. I joined Facebook Communities

This has been a new part of my blog-social life, and I love them! There are hundreds out there, but I have found a few that are composed of bloggers like me looking for a community. We share tips, questions, wisdom, blog posts – anything that might spur us on in blogging. Right now my favorite group is this one for Creative Entrepreneurs. If you are a blogger or own a business, I recommend finding a group – it will benefit you!
 

6. I offered something that people want

My “No Plan” Menu Plan is becoming a thing. For me, it is just how I put food on the dinner table. But for the internet, menu plans are a commodity. They sell and bring in traffic. I have decided to offer mine for free, but this commodity has become a draw for this site. This is more than a regular post that I am writing – it is a resource that people are returning time and time again for.

 

7. I made my posts Pinterest-worthy

This is an easy fix. I have re-visited hundreds of my already-existing posts and upgraded them. I have removed stupid things I’ve said. I’ve added Pinnable graphics. I’ve added custom Alt tags to images. You can read more here. This has been huge in the sharing factor for each post. Key is removing stupid stuff that you’ve said!
 

Lastly, I upgraded my newsletter

Because of my “No Plan” Menu Plan, my newsletter has become huge! I outgrew my need for Mailchimp, and have upgraded to Campayn.com. I love this company so far and already am reaping it’s benefits. My new Welcome Letter is gorgeous and our newsletters now will be polished and customized. This is a huge way of nurturing your followers. If you are subscribed for my newsletter, I can’t wait for our new one coming out next week! Stay tuned!
 
Make sure you leave comments with tips of how you have upgraded your blog! I can’t wait hear your ideas.
 
How to Increase blog pageviews, How I grew my blog from 700 pageviews to over 10,000 pageviews a day - A Modern Commonplace Book

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