Updating WordPress and Backing Up Data

People are smart – really!  I know sometimes it doesn’t APPEAR that way but they really are – IF you understand the WHY behind what they’re doing.  In my experience, you must identify the “why” behind a problem before you can begin to provide a real solution.

When it comes to updating WordPress and backing up data – I’ve seen that there’s a REASON for why many people don’t perform these essential WordPress tasks and my daughter provided a GREAT illustration the other day.

Danielle gets REALLY annoyed with one of the exercise DVDs she uses because during the workout – the featured Barbie-esque creature chirps, “You just have to MAKE time for exercise.”  My daughter is annoyed because – when she looked up this woman online – she discovered that she works full time  as a personal trainer.  She snarled, “Of COURSE she has no trouble making “time” to exercise – she works in a gym!”

So I get it.  I get that many WordPress bloggers aren’t “working in a gym”.    Just as you have to find a way to fit exercise into your schedule – you have to find a way to fit blog maintenance into your life.

Nagging Never Works

The reason people don’t back up their data and update their WordPress installation is  not for lack of “nagging”.  WordPress gurus who speak geek fluently (for some – “plain English” is a second language). are constantly admonishing WordPress users to keep their installation of WordPress current.   They go on and on about “security” issues and can even share tales of horror about lost content and blogs destroyed because someone failed to update their WordPress blog installation.

Yet – there are still many – MANY blogs operating on outdated versions of WordPress…. like prior to 2.8 in some cases.  Why?  It’s not because the WordPress development team hasn’t TRIED to make it easy – they’ve included beg notices and made it so you don’t even have to log out of your blog to update.  Yet – I’ve found that even technically savvy clients will contact me – quaking in fear – because of the warning which appears before you update WordPress –

Important: before upgrading, please backup your database and files.

This links to a Codex page which is approximately 10 miles long.  I know from experience that when my people (who aren’t signed up for automatic updates) get to this point – their reaction is something like this…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9df0Kz6A_58[/youtube]

The reason the page is 10 miles long is because they have to try to cover EVERY possibility available from various web hosting companies.   This is what happens when you try to write a message targeting EVERYONE – but that’s a rant better suited for my book’s blog Beyond Niche Marketing.  🙂

Quick Easy Database Backup

So here’s a quick EASY way to back up your blog – it’s a WordPress plug in called WP-DB Manager.  Install it on your blog and you can not only backup – but optimize and repair your database without logging out of WordPress.  I then FTP a copy of this backup to my hard drive and then burn it to a CD.  (This level of OCD  is  only defined as paranoia if you’re NOT working with Windows based computers.)  By the way – I feel this plug in is WELL worth a $20 donation to the creator.

Remember, your database is WHERE your blog content REALLY lives.  Pulling a backup of your WordPress blog without pulling a copy of the database is NOT backing up your blog. (If you’re thinking “duh”  as you read this – let me just say – there’s a REASON I’m clarifying this here.)

If you think your blog may have been hacked – Donncha et al have created a plug in to scan for exploits.

I know it’s one more thing in an already busy day – but it’s truly a zen moment when you experience the inner peace of having your database backed up and your blog purring along.

Introducing WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 was recently released and it has caused quite a stir in the WordPress community.  I had to chuckle when I saw the RSS feed widget below appear in my iGoogle.

The first post is the post at the bottom which is  “Dowload WordPress 3.0 now.”   It was promptly followed by two later posts of how to FIX the problems caused by updating.

Most of my clients don’t know what they don’t know – and in many cases that leads to WILDLY unrealistic expectations – such as blog updates being effortless.  When it comes to updating WordPress blogs – expect the unexpected.  While the WordPress development team does an exceptional job of vetting the software – there’s no way for ANYONE to know how the software will work on the wide array of hosting providers who host WordPress blogs.

For those of you who don’t know, I provide hosting for over 100 WordPress blogs and as part of that hosting service, I provide automatic updates for my clients.   I also provide support services for about a half a dozen more clients who maintain multiple WordPress blogs as part of their internet marketing strategy.

Which is why – I maintain several blogs which act as “update guinea pigs” – so I can see if it’s time to unleash an update on my clients.   For example, the last time WordPress changed it’s internal architecture this significantly – many of my clients discovered their beloved theme wasn’t going to make the transition.  Fortunately, I was able to contact the clients and warn them of the impending update meant for their blog.

When I began providing my hosting with automatic update service over 4 years ago, WordPress updates were few and far between.

At that time, the battle was raging between Typepad and WordPress – with WordPress being labeled “hard to use” and “only for geeks”. Other blogging software contenders like DruPal were actually in the running in those days so deciding to “back” the WordPress “dark horse” was a risky decision for the direction of my business.

Fast forward 4 years and it seems everyone is on the WordPress bandwagon – with good reason.  One of the reasons WordPress blogs are SO popular is that they are so search engine friendly.   Another reason is – despite the initial “press” – the only “hard” part about using WordPress was installation.  My business began offering WordPress installation for clients and discovered there were a LOT of people who were ready to take control over their web destiny.    As a result, I have several clients whose technological expertise is limited to opening and responding to emails who have successfully taken their blogs to the top of the SERPS for their chosen keyword.

This has not gone unnoticed and the same quality of people who fill your mailbox with offers of “get rich while watching porn” – are also launching attacks on WordPress self hosted blogs.  The early “hacks” were an attempt to hijack your blog – or to hijack your email program to send spam.  However, lately the attacks are becoming more frequent – and more fiercely devastating.

It is more important now than ever before to make sure your installation of WordPress and all of your plugins are up to date.

Over the past few months, I’m getting more calls than ever to try to “rescue” blogs on older versions of WordPress.  Unfortunately, these are people who “passed” on my Cyber Angel hosting service and they are now facing the consequences of their decision.   In yet another example of ” WILDLY unrealistic expectations” – if your blog is hacked – there is no magic ritual which will enable anyone to retrieve your database without a backup.

The “foundation” of your WordPress blog is your database.  To perform a periodic backup of your WordPress blog – you need only to download a backup of your database and then simply FTP the contents of your wp-content folder to your hard drive.  You only need to FTP the contents of your wp-content folder once – to preserve your theme.  As for backing up the database – do this once a week – or even once a month -and it will mean never having to say “goodbye” to all of your blog’s content overnight.

When social media isn’t enough…

social media marketingLong long ago, Liz Strauss wrote the immortal words – “Your blog is not your business”.  Recently – I had a conversation with a client who learned that lesson – the HARD way.

“Amy” [not her real name] was referred to my business a couple of years ago.  The story behind how she came to me is very common – at least in my practice.  Years earlier, she had paid BIG money to a web developer to create a web site for her brand new business.  Because she didn’t know a lot about this strange world known as “the internet” she assumed that her web site would cause people to line up to hire her to do work for their business.  When that didn’t happen – she began doing some homework.

When she began doing her homework she learned that the search engines drive most of the traffic on the internet.  So, she typed in some words she thought people would use to find her business.   Her web site – the one she paid BIG buck (five figures) to have developed – didn’t show up.  So she tried some other words and her site STILL didn’t show up – ANYWHERE.  She contacted her web developer and asked what was up – and he told her to be patient.  Things like that take time, he said.  She she was patient – she waited a couple of YEARS and still nothing.

She began talking to other people and eventually had a conversation with one of my clients.  She contacted me and asked me to take a look at her site.  Long story short- even though her page LOOKED great through a browser – it had been cobbled together in such a manner that it was anything but search engine friendly.  Even though the site “looked” fine through a browser – that’s not how the search engines see a web site.  They look at the code – and in this case, it was a real mess.

She told me she loved the site and didn’t want to change the way it looked.  (I later learned the web developer is a friend of her husband’s and I suspect she didn’t want to have a show down with him.)  I assured her we could accomplish her objective in a much more cost effective manner by launching a self hosted WordPress blog to work in concert with her web site.

Her problem: she wanted her web site to be found in Google.  The solution: we launched a self hosted WordPress blog to act as “bait”.  She could link liberally to her “traditional” web site using the blog  and when potential clients found her blog – she could send them to her site to “close” the sale.

When you go fishing – it’s not realistic to expect fish to jump into your boat.  So, you take fishing poles, hooks and various bait to catch the fish.  We were going to set up her blog to act as bait.  Of course, because there is no such thing as “marketing magic”, Amy had to learn how to USE her WordPress blog correctly.  Amy is one of the inspirations for my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.  Her questions – combined with the questions asked by other clients – are the basis for the “curriculum” in the course.

Page One in Google

Recently, Amy contacted me.  Her blog articles had achieved her objective.  Her content is now appearing on the first page of Google’s results for her desired keyword – a fairly competitive keyword by the way.  However, if you think that the phone call was filled with rejoicing – it wasn’t.

Amy was disheartened and discouraged.  Even though she had achieved her objective of her blog content being found on Google’s first page – her business still wasn’t thriving.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t have a single client – and she had recently had to get a job to make ends meet.  She was ready to throw in the towel.

So, the first question I asked Amy was to describe her business model to me.  She launched into an exhaustive commentary on her marketing efforts.

“Amy, you’ve just listed the various marketing tactics you’re using to promote your business.  What is your business model?  How do you expect to make money from your business?”

“Well, people read my blog posts, go to my web site and then hire me.   I’m getting lots of traffic – but no one is contacting me to hire me.”

What followed was a distillation of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results In a nutshell – Amy’s business is engaged in making what is known as a Major Sale.  However, most of the “marketing tactics” Amy had been engaging in are only effective in marking Minor Sales.  Most of the sales/marketing advice you find (online and offline)  is geared towards  Minor Sale products, which is why Neil Rackham spent a small fortune and 12 years of his life defining and documenting the difference between Major Sales and Minor Sales.

When I first read Spin Selling – where Rackham documents his findings – I immediately recognized that many popular “marketing tactics” are geared towards making Minor Sales.  I’d been working with businesses on their advertising as an advertising account executive for over a decade when I first read the book – and it was truly an “aha” moment for me.  The Major/Minor Sale definition explained why marketing tactics – from radio remote broadcasts to midnight madness sales-  would work so well for one client, yet fail miserably for another.

Amy had been blogging with the goal of being found in the search engines.  She focused on creating creative blog post titles instead of creating relationships.  She didn’t recognize that once people found her via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with her so they could TRUST her.  See,  TRUST is an integral part of making the Major Sale – and social media is a GREAT way to build your business with social media– by establishing a relationship with potential clients and customers.

This  is why I cringe when I see an article which touts “the importance of search engine optimizing your Facebook profile” – or when I read someone touting Twitter or Facebook as the “quick easy way” to build your business.  Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are all tactics and nothing more.  Tactics are great when you’re on a mission to accomplish a pre-defined goal as part of a marketing strategy.  Tactics are exhausting when deployed using the “spray and pray” method of marketing.

When you read that “blogging” is dead – you’re probably reading the rant of someone who didn’t understand the difference between tactics and strategy.  A blog is a GREAT communication tool which – when used correctly.

Fast Track to Blog Success – 100% Discount Ends Friday

Want to get bloggers “buzzing”?  Sell your blog for big bucks. That’s what happened when John Wu sold his Bankaholic blog to Bankrate for a cool $15 Million.

Cath Lawson did the math and the 26 month old blog netted that blogger a cool $3348 per hour.

If you’ve been blogging for more than a few months, you may be wondering what makes the Bankaholic blog worth so much money.  After all, the blog doesn’t get NEARLY the number of comments that Cath’s blog gets.  There’s very little “community” on the blog – unlike on Cath’s blog, yet it’s raking in a record setting payday for the blog’s developer.

The key to the Bankaholic’s success is simple:  KEYWORDS. The Bankaholic’s blog expertly targets the right keywords – the keywords a mega-site like Bankrate wants.  If you’ve run a PPC campaign lately, you’ll see where the $15 Million dollar price tag for a blog that ranks well on highly sought after keywords might actually be considered a BARGAIN!

I love it when people “do the math”.   SEO Diva did the math and showed how a $20,000 domain name can be a BARGAIN in the end.

The Bankaholic blog sale happened just as I was in the middle of doing a review for one of my 8 Week Power Blog Launch customers.    Turns out, people want to fix their blogs in 30 minutes or less, not 8 weeks.  (Mock Horror and Surprise!).  So, as I was in the middle of creating this “Fast Blog Fix” report, the Bankaholic sale was announced.  I put my 30 Minute system to the test and applied the principles to the Bankaholic blog.  The results are revealed in “Fast Track to Blog Success”.

I’ll be offering this product for sale next week, and  I’ll definitely be adding it as an “added bonus” for people who buy the 8 Week Power Blog Launch.

However, this week – until October 10th (Friday), you can get this report for free.  Just use the code CathRocks and click the button below.  This discount code will give you a 100% discount on this report.

Add to Cart

I was going to email it to people who commented, but the file has lots of screen shots which makes it too big to send via email. So, I’ll be using e-junkie to give this away!

Click the button, enter the discount code and it will be yours for the taking.  I’m sure you’ll find the analysis of the keywords used on the Bankaholic blog fascinating AND educational.

Of course,  when it does go for sale – there will be an Affiliate Program so if you recommend the book to family, friends and blog readers you grab your piece of the action.

The Moral to the Story – Keep Your WordPress Installation Up to Date.

For those of you who don’t know how I pay the bills around here, I have this “savior” complex where in I try to save people from themselves.  While others hold their sides as they roll on the floor laughing at the idiots on YouTube who subject themselves to groin shots, I grimace in empathy.

As part of this complex, I launched a service known as Acumen Web Services where I sell self hosted  WordPress blogs to business people who are not geeks yet want to harness the power of the internet in their marketing.  At Acumen Web Services, I have a service known as “Cyber Angel” hosting.  This means that I’ll be responsible for keeping your WordPress blog up to date as part of your hosting with me.

I offer “Cyber Angel” hosting because I’ve watched clients take groin shot after groin shot  over the years and I don’t enjoy it one bit.

Here’s a word of advice:  If your web site is getting nice search engine action, BELIEVE ME the bad guys are hard at work finding a way to grab a piece of your hard earned success.

That’s what is happening with WordPress blogs.  Average, every day people are getting incredible results using WordPress self hosted blogs as their web presence.  Because of that success, there are bad guys (and gals) out there who are always looking for a way to siphon success from these hard working WordPress blogs.

As a result, the WordPress development team is always trying to keep one step ahead of the bad guys.  It’s a labor of love and it upsets me when people complain about the frequent updates.  They’re doing it for YOUR own good folks!

So, updating WordPress is essential.  If it’s too much for you, then get a free blog or hire someone to take care of YOUR self hosted WordPress blog for you.

As you might imagine, I’ve had more than one person throw a fuss over the monthly hosting fee which comes with “Cyber Angel” hosting.   Most are surprised at how QUICKLY I agree to doing it “their” way.  However, for some reason, the ones who ask “Why?” usually end up signing up quickly for the service.  The rest  have gotten exactly what they requested.   I am MORE than willing to set up self hosted WordPress blogs on regular web hosting account, however it comes with the explicit warning that it is the CLIENT’S responsibility to keep the blog installation up to date.

So this morning, I get an email from one of those clients.  At the time of installation, he was all “Scouts honor!  I promise to stay on top of this!”  His last blog post was August 2007.   Unfortunately, while he may have forgotten about his blog, the search engines haven’t.  He wrote a couple of posts which have obviously done VERY well for themselves with the search engines.  Remember, there are always people willing and able to siphon your success!!!  He’s not only not been posting to the blog, he hasn’t stayed on top of the installation issues.

Now he has a problem – a SERIOUS problem.  Seems he’s been getting email messages from unhappy campers as a result of his blog.  They go like this:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am tired of receiving messages containing malicious computer programs (viruses) from your e-mail address!!!

If within 1-2 days you do not stop sending messages to my e-mail address, I will have to address this issue to the Police!…

Today I received a hard copy of your data logs from my Internet service provider. The copy contains your IP address, logs of sending malicious programs and your e-mail address details…
I am sending you the copy of the document containing your data and logs of sending malicious programs as the proof of your fault!!!!!!

You must print the document containing the list of your data and logs of sending malicious programs and pass it on to your Internet service provider with, so that they could find out why the viruses are sent from your computer to my e-mail address!!!!

Ask your Internet service provider to resolve this problem!!!!

Do this now!!!

Once again!!! If you don’t stop sending the letters, I will address to the Police and file a lawsuit against you!!!

I went in and checked and by gum he is running an old version of WordPress.  Go figure.  I quoted him on what it’s going to take to “fix” the problem.

By the way, I can’t imagine that this is helping his company’s “brand” or image in any way, shape or form.  While I’m sure the frustrated sender of the email above will NEVER forget my client’s company (which has been featured in the email address of each and every spam message being sent)  it won’t be a good thing.

If you’re not running WordPress 2.6. X UPGRADE NOW!