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Yet – there are still many – MANY blogs operating on outdated versions of WordPress….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.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

What a week this has been and it’s only half over!

On Monday I get an email from a client who has been neglecting to protect her online reputation by neglecting her blog.  She’s now busily meeting with lawyers to try to trademark her branding elements – something I suspect would be easier to do had she been maintaining her blog under the domain name she registered.  At least she would be ranking #1 on her term – which is what started the fuss.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from Truly Nolen telling me that they’re sorry for the “misunderstanding” and that my account will be removed from collections.  Ah, the power of social media.  Don’t let ANYONE tell you that your blog is worthless.

I give Truly Nolen props on two issues.  First, they were obviously “on top” of managing their online reputation.  They came, they saw, they replied and they followed up with me.   I’ll also give them props for handling this over the phone.  They really didn’t have ANY defense and it was truly wise to handle this situation “offline” – because if they had sent me an email with the absolutely LAME excuses I was given on the phone for why it happened,  I would NOT have been able to resist posting it here.  But, they picked up the phone and it ended amicably.

So it’s been an eventful week thus far.   I’ve got not one but TWO great “blogging and social media are da bomb” stories to share.

However, this morning I got to see the ugly side of the web. I got an email this morning from another client – this one is asking me to look into a website I did for her about 4 years ago.   When I go to visit the site, I see this:

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – there is NO SUCH THING AS A SET IT AND FORGET IT WEBSITE!!!

This is especially true if you’re running a website with a popular and “easy to use” CMS system such as WordPress.

If you’ve been ignoring the beg screen in WordPress – you know, the one that asks you to upgrade your installation to the latest version – allow THIS to be your wake up call!!!

If you think no one is visiting your blog – if you think it’s not “worth” hacking – check out how busy Askimet has been on your behalf.  I tell my clients that a busy Askimet is a sign of a blog that is hitting the mark when it comes to targeting attractive keywords. Even if visitors aren’t commenting – if the spammers are trying to get comments from your site – then someone who knows how to set up a spambot thinks your site is worth a try at an incoming link.

If Askimet isn’t working hard protecting you from spam comments – then MAYBE you don’t have anything to worry about – and instead you should get to work creating a blog that spammers WANT to hack!  Seriously, if you’re not the bell of the blogging ball – you should be!!!  Pick up a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch. On a positive note, I got another email last week was from a client who’s been using the system and who had to upgrade her hosting package to get more bandwidth to handle all the traffic she’s been getting!!

NOTE TO SELF:  I should start posting POSITIVE emails instead of just the negative ones!!  Though I must admit, I don’t think my client thought it was a positive email when she sent it.

Waking up to a message that you’re over your bandwidth is a GOOD thing – assuming you’re not using Bluehost as your hosting provider.    Waking up to the message above isn’t!!!   Make sure you don’t EVER see the message above being displayed on your URL –  go ahead – bite the bullet.  Upgrade your WordPress installation NOW!!!

An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

Sneak Peak at WordPress 2.7 Dashboard

If you’re using an updated version of WordPress, you’ve been seeing what is known in the trade as a “beg” screen asking you to update to WordPress 2.6.3 for the past few weeks.  (If you’ve been ignoring the previous beg screens, you should have noticed the message changed recently.)

It’s really important to keep your WordPress installation current.  These beg screens help to remind self hosted WordPress blog users that part of using the world’s best CMS software is keeping your installation current.

A self hosted WordPress blog installation is the closest thing to web site marketing magic you get – and when you’ve got something that is that powerful AND easy – well, the “bad guys” on the internet will want a piece of that action.

Imagine if there was a possibility that you could gain back door access to some of the most highly trafficked sites on the internet.  Imagine that if you could find this golden ticket, you could gain access and inject high PR sites with code to link that site to websites of your choosing.   Wouldn’t you be constantly searching to find that hidden way in too?

The WordPress development team is faced with the challenge of matching wits with those “bad guys” every day.  They’re working tirelessly to make WordPress even better AND easier to use.

THANK YOU WordPress Development Team for all your hard work!

(I’m going to bitch and whine a bit later, so I wanted to preface that whine and bitch session with an expression of gratitude!)

If you’re one of my clients, don’t panic when the beg screen appears asking you to update WordPress to the 2.7 version.  I’ll be “testing” it thoroughly on my test blog before I update yours.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  WordPress 2.7 is not ready for production blogs yet!!! Wait until your “beg screen” tells you it’s time before you update.

I just installed the beta version on one of those test blogs.  Here’s the screenshot of the new and improved dashboard:

If you aren’t my client and aren’t familiar with my business model, I work with people who need tutorials to be able to use WordPress.  Because I’m a SUCKER for customer service, I prepare these tutorials in the format my CLIENTS desire (PDF) , not the format which is easiest for me to create (video).

I won’t leave my clients on 2.6 for any longer than necessary – and that means I need to get started creating a whole new suite of tutorials – created with “regular” people in mind

WARNING:  BITCHING AND WHINING LIKE A PRE-PUBESCENT GIRL STARTS NOW:

This change in the dashboard is effectively rendering the last Blog Post Tutorial I created EXTINCT!  WORTHLESS!!!

Just like the ones I created for all the versions that have come before!

I HATE IT!!!  I’ve got other things I need to do!

I know why they made the changes. The new dashboard IS more intuitive and is easier to use.  However, I enjoy the comfort of the familiar.

In the movie, V for Vendetta, V begins his address of the nation with:

Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption.

I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke.

Fortunately, the new WordPress isn’t promising you order and peace, nor is it demanding your silent, obedient consent.   However, ignoring this update will no doubt create chaos and confusion in your future.

With the update will come the usual minor and temporary chaos.  I’m sure that popular plugins will cease to function and some themes will stop working as a result of the update.   However, it’s SO WORTH IT when you consider how much you gain by using WordPress.

My sister owns a Mercedes.  NOTHING is cheap when it comes to the care of that car.  A simple lube oil and filter runs almost $200.  However, she has deemed the car essential to her business AND her professional image so she accepts the costs associated with owning  a Mercedes.   IMHO, the same applies to WordPress.

Best Kept Internet Marketing Strategies Secrets

One of the best kept internet marketing strategies is cross promotion and one of the best ways to illustrate this best kept internet marketing strategy secret is to illustrate it  in a case study.

The basics of cross promotion are really quite simple. First, you determine your target audience. In this case study, the company in the spotlight is iThemes, founded by Cory Miller.

Cory’s company sells WordPress Themes to bloggers. A WordPress Theme allows a blog owner to quickly and easily change the appearance of a blog with the click of a mouse. To make something that EASY for the user takes a LOT of work behind the scenes.

Now, you might be wondering why ANYONE would PAY for a WordPress theme when there are hundreds of thousands of FREE WordPress Themes floating around.

Remember when I said that to make something easy takes a lot of behind the scenes work – well, a lot of times those “free” themes are full of “bugs”. Some of those “bugs” will make it so the theme doesn’t display properly. I had a case with one free theme where the pages wouldn’t display properly. The client loved the look, but the code was such a mess it wasn’t usable. There are other cases where the “bugs” on those free themes means an outbound link from your blog to a blog in a less than desirable neighborhood on the internet.

After a typical blogger tires of fighting the good fight of trying to find a well coded, non-spam free theme, the next logical step is to is to move into the realm of PAID themes a.k.a PREMIUM themes.

This is the arena within which iThemes competes.

So, iThemes target customer is someone who is already a blogger. In many cases, they’re bloggers who have done the free theme route and are ready to make an small financial investment in their blog. (All of iThemes single use themes cost less than $100 which makes them very affordable.)  Most of these customers are familiar with the concept of FTP AND the basics of blogging.

The best kept internet marketing strategies secret for iThemes is to cross promote their business with a popular blog that writes about issues related to blogging.

This is the point where most people will stop reading and run off to find a blog to use for a cross promotion strategy.  This is the virtual equivalent of a small child running into heavy traffic.

STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!!!

This best kept internet marketing strategy is not quite that simple. If it were, then THIS wouldn’t be a BEST KEPT internet marketing strategies secret.  Here’s the SECRET part of the equation – and Daniel over at Daily Blog Tips delivers the secret in his post Drop A Comment if You Want to Win an iThemes Premium Theme

Pretty much every week someone emails me to offer some kind of free product or service. Most of the times, however, you can see that it is a blatant promotional effort, where the other side is just interested in getting some exposure for his stuff. On those cases I just ignore it. (emphasis is mine)

Sometimes, however, the freebies do have a good value for my readers, and on those occasions I am glad to cover them.

Did you catch that?   He told you the best kept internet marketing strategy secret of all time.  Did you see it?  It’s right there in the last line in the quote above,

Sometimes, however, the freebies do have a good value for my readers, and on those occasions I am glad to cover them.

Daniel knows his readers.   He knows who they are and what the need from him.  That’s why his blog is so successful.   (If you don’t know who yours are or who you want them to be, then pick up a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch)  Daniel’s readers are ESTABLISHED bloggers seeking information on promoting and improving their blogs.

The secret is, when someone contacts him with a win/win/win proposition, Daniel – like every other successful blogger- is happy to oblige. In this case, offering a free WordPress iThemes theme is truly a win/win/win situation.

  • Daniel wins – he’s decided to use the freebie to increase comments on his blog post.
  • Daniel’s readers win – they get a chance to win a free premium  theme which is something many of them want.
  • Cory wins – Daniel’s readers have to say WHICH iThemes theme they want to win.  In order to do so, they must VISIT THE iThemes SITE!!!  They visit the site, see the tasty selection of beautiful themes and are asked to “fall in love” with one and post that preference within their comment.

Oh, Daniel and Cory both score additional “wins” on this promotion.  Cory wins AGAIn in the fact that not everyone who comments will be a lucky winner. Those who aren’t lucky winners are now classified as “hot prospects”.

Daniel wins again as well -because when new readers find this post after the promotion is over, they are likely to subscribe to the RSS so they’re sure to be ready for the next big give away!  So promotions like these help to build Daniel’s blog and help him attract new readers.   Oh, and Daniel wins a THIRD time on this -because other bloggers – like me – will write about his brilliant internet marketing strategy, which means more incoming links.

So the best kept internet marketing strategy secret begins with knowing your target customer.  Once you know who your target customer is, then you can find win/win/win cross promotional opportunities for your product or service.