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Protect Wordpress Like It's A Child

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Not many people think of WordPress as a child, but maybe they should..

When you first install WordPress on your new site, it seems like there’s a world of possibilities. At first your WordPress can’t do much, but you can dress it up in pretty premade themes and start playing around with it. You probably have the themes you got from the babyshower (zip file) and you want to go out and find a few more than will reflect your personality and style. Just like a new baby, your new WordPress is a reflection of you.

A few months later when your website is built and released to the public, you find that your WordPress is getting bored with it’s current toys and you venture out to find some new plugins that will make your website run more smoothly, rank better in Google, or let everyone know how to find you on social media. Since there are multiple plugins that do the same thing you install them all, trying each one out to find the one you like.

About 6 months into your WordPress site you’re likely actively working with your WordPress regularly or maybe you’re not. No one is a perfect parent, but we try. Regardless of your activity on your WordPress, others are starting to notice it and will soon begin influencing the way it acts.

Around the 1 year mark of your WordPress, it’s effectively an angsty teenager. It’s beginning to hang out with a tough crowd of hackers and spammers because search engines made it easy to pick out. This is the point where the type of parent you are makes a difference.

The Unattentive Parent

If you have a WordPress that hasn’t been maintained in the slightest, this is probably you. At this point Google as crawled your site and found all its insecurities to share with hackers and spammers as soon as they search for it. And there are a lot. If your site as at this point and has not yet been hacked, you can still save it. But do you want to? If you don’t care for it, save what you want to keep and uninstall it. If you do want to keep it, read more about The Over Protective Parent below. If it HAS been hacked, save what you need and uninstall it. Saving a hacked WordPress is a lot less work than installing a new one.

The Loving Parent

If you have a WordPress that has been a even a semi-weekly presence in your life, it’s safe to say you love your WordPress site. It’s likely that you keep it updated each time there’s a new version of WordPress, or your plugins, or your themes. You probably know there’s more you could do to keep your WordPress safe, but you feel like what you’re doing is enough and you keep backups just incase. This site has about a 50/50 chance of getting hacked. If it is hacked, you will need to decide whether to start over, take the time to clean it up properly, or pay someone to do it. Keep in mind a hacker doesn’t usually just make himself 1 door.

The Over Protective Parent

Typically this type of person uses their WordPress for business and can’t tolerate the possibility of being hacked. It could ruin their reputation or even cause them to lose money. Despite the purpose of your WordPress, it’s important to keep it safe and make sure it isn’t going to be a bad influence on the other kids. I’m going to put these steps in a bullet list so you can follow them as if it were step-by-step. Each of these steps is necessary for all WordPress installs. I challenge you to check this list against your current WordPress sites.

  • Delete the ‘Hello World’ post!
    Google the words Hello World to find a list of poorly maintained WordPress sites… Go on, try it.
  • Delete all the themes you won’t be using.
    Wordpress ships with Twenty Eleven, Twenty Twleve, Twenty Thirteen, Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Fifteen – you don’t need them all.
  • Decide whether or not you will want your visitors to comment.
    If you don’t, go in the settings and turn off all comments (spammers instantly stopped!) If you do, set up Akismet or find another comment spam plugin.
  • Install a good security plugin like Sucuri Security and harden your WP.
    This plugin will harden all the directories that are commonly hacked, as well as offer other suggestions.
  • Create a new user account for yourself with Administrator permissions.
    Once you have this new account, set the old one to have no permissions. The first user is commonly the one to get attacked with brute force.
  • Delete any plugins you’re not using.
    When you try out plugins for your site you usually end up with some that weren’t what you needed. Don’t just DeActivate them, delete them completely.
  • Upgrade everything, always.
    Wordpress can only be as safe as the version you’re running. That also goes for its themes and plugins.Check your WordPress for updates often and subscribe to the newsletter to be notified by email when there’s an upgrade available.

Hosting your own WordPress site allows you the flexibility to run it however you like and own your own content, but it comes with responsibility.

If you have any suggestions for securing WordPress that are not listed here, please comment!

 

Ways to Retain Visitors

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So now you’re getting visitors to your site, the next step is to keep them there and keep them coming back. While the first step was building relationships with people and other bloggers, this step is about what you can offer anyone who arrives at your site.

1. Quality design. Design isn’t just about how something looks, it’s also about how well it works. Make sure you have no errors on your site and that you don’t offer too much information in a small space.

2. Quality content. No matter what kind of site you have, you need quality content. Especially if you’re trying to earn money from your website, you want to give people a reason to come to your site and a reason to come back.

3. Offer something. You can keep visitors and even create links to your site by offering something people can take away with them. Whether it’s information, graphics, free samples, anything you can offer your visitors will show them you appreciate them.

4. Link quality sites. If you link to other quality sites that captivate and retain visitors, those links will also be added to the value of your own website.

5. Establish yourself as an expert. If your visitors feel that you’re the expert on a subject they will return to your website for answers when they have questions. They will bookmark your site. Most importantly, they will take your suggestions, which at times may make you money.

6. Visit your visitors. Especially if you have a blog, visiting those who comment on your site also shows you appreciate them and will bring them back to see what you’ve posted since their last visit.

7. Respond promptly. If you receive a Facebook message, email, tweet mention, comment, or guestbook post it is important to reply promptly. You don’t want your visitors to feel as though they or your website are not important to you. Also, you may not know just how powerful that person can be and what a review of your site on theirs could mean to you.

8. Be honest. Especially in business, honesty is important. And if something negative happens (if you make a client unhappy somehow), being honest and acknowledging your client (even publicly) will most likely clear up the situation and will show others observing that you are responsible and turns a negative to a positive.

9. Create and use a Newsletter. A newsletter allows you to email and invite people in to your site at will. You will want to be responsible with this and not email too much, and also make sure each email provides value.

10. Limit advertising. Advertising is okay, and may even be necessary. But don’t use so much advertising that your visitors can’t find your content. This will annoy your visitors and you’ll have more people moving on to the X.

11. Quality advertising is also important. If your website is about being a mom and you have ads about adult diapers, you’re not likely to make a whole lot on that, so there’s really no point to even having that ad there. Google’s Adsense is good for creating ads that relate to your content. However, you may not choose Adsense if you’re company that offers a service because you may find your competitor’s ads on your site.

12. Quality writing is extremely important. If you cannot spell or don’t know proper grammar (at least as much as your visitors), you could lose them. I’ve chosen to leave a site and buy from a competitor simply because no one thought to get a copy editor or even ask a friend to read over the content.

13. Be visual. When I arrive at a website with a minimalist design, I usually leave right away. I am a very visual person and if your design (or content, some use a minimalist design around their photos) is boring I won’t have any interest in finding out what your site is about. But don’t go so overboard with images that your visitors are overwhelmed and your content gets lost.

Error_log and You

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Today I was upgrading WordPress and plugins on my personal blog, which I had put off because I was getting an error and didn’t have time to research it. The error looked something like this..

Downloading install package from http://downloads.wordpress.org/plugin/sample-plugin.zip.
Unpacking the package.
Installing the plugin.
Could not create directory. /home/user/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/sample-plugin/
Plugin Install Failed.

Upon a Google search I found many different solutions, none of which were anything that made sense to me. All over the WordPress forums people were suggesting changing permissions on files (not a good idea, unless they’re wrong) and one website even mentioned taking PHP out of safe mode (it isn’t in safe mode). I decided I wasn’t going to find help on Google and decided to take a look into my files and compare them with another site where the update was working.

I didn’t even have to open the 2nd website because when I went to the public_html folder there was an error_log file, staring straight at me. It was definitely a palm-to-forehead kind of moment. I didn’t even consider checking to see if I had reached my space quota.

An error_log file created on your account is not a bad thing, it’s there to help you troubleshoot. Your server will automatically create this file for you and it contains a text list of the errors your site creates. Not all errors need to be fixed or present a problem for your site, so if you don’t see any problems you probably don’t need to check the error_log.

However, if you do need to take a look inside, remember text files larger than 10mb can take a long time to bring up and appear to freeze. You might benefit from deleting the file, then move around your site to recreate the error_log and open it at its smaller size. Also, If there is an error on your site and you get a lot of visitors to your site, that file can get very big and take up all remaining space on your account.

The error_log can be created for any error, not just ones created by WordPress. Take a look inside your public_html folder and see if you have one, you might just be able to free up some space!

Ways to Increase Traffic

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Whether you’re an individual, an organization, or a business your website’s purpose is to get other people to come to it. This post is not about keeping your visitors or converting them, but about getting them to your website in the first place. We’ll explore those in another post.

  1. Visit other websites and leave your mark. Comment on a blog, post on a guestbook, fill out a contact form. Try to do this daily.
  2. Reply back to all comments and emails promptly. If someone visits your blog and takes the time to comment, visit them back and comment as well.
  3. Exchange links with others. After you’ve been commenting or emailing or tweeting or facebooking back and forth with someone they’re pretty much your friend. Exchange links with them.
  4. Post your button on plugboards. This may not work for every type of site, but there are many different themed plugboards out there. You may get a visit from someone who has no interest in your site, but they may know someone to pass it on to.
  5. Invest in a domain and hosting. Of course, you know you can get these both right here with E-Starr. A domain name tells your visitor you are serious about your website. Using a free service like Blogger may cause people to leave your site once arriving.
  6. Update your meta. Meta tags and keywords are what search engines like Google use to tell people about your page. If you don’t have any, you’re allowing the search engine to simply pick some words from your site, which may not interest people.
  7. Pay for blog posts. You can go to PPP sites like Blogsvertise and pay as little as $5/post for someone to blog about your site. You can choose what types of sites and what their page rank is (page rank is how high the site ranks with Google and usually based on quality).
  8. Offer an affiliate program. Your current clients, customers & visitors will promote your site to make money. This will get more people coming to your site and you pay only on conversion.
  9. Pay Per Click Campaign. Get set up with a site like Adsense where people will get paid to send visitors to your site and you only pay when a visitor actually clicks the link and arrives on your site.
  10. Create a Facebook Page. A Facebook Page can increase your visitors immensely. First, you will invite all of your current friends and visitors to join. When they ‘Like’ your page, it will display on their friend’s walls giving them a chance to ‘Like’ you as well. When you post on your FB Page it gives you more exposure and the opportunity to get your post shared on their timeline. Lastly, FB has an advertising option where you can advertise your FB Page and choose who sees your ad and you can add a ‘Like’ link to the ad!
  11. Create a Twitter account. Twitter is built on relationships and the #1 best marketing tool ever is word of mouth. Use your Twitter account to build quality relationships and watch your success grow.
  12. Create a Pinterest. Pin images you post on your blog and link to your site. Watch how quickly other people like and repin your images.
  13. Order business cards with your website address and leave them everywhere. You can get business cards super cheap nowadays and they are still a valuable marketing tool. Plus, how cool are you when you hand over a business card?
  14. Participate in memes like Thursday 13 or Take it on Tuesday and add your link to their databases. Don’t like any of your options? Make your own!

The aim of this list is to help you grow traffic for free, or little cost in ways that will pay off over time. This is not a definitive list of everything you can do to make money, but it’s a good start for little cost. Harness the power of social media.