Hello Happy Site Owners and Webmasters!
Tips this week include:
- Client interview series kicks off this Wednesday with Chas’ Greener
- Google Web Stories plugin has officially released
- A post with my first look at Web Stories
- A tutorial on how to make a Web Story
- Why I’m seeking speaking gigs for 2021 and why I need your help with it
- A few more recommendations I’d like to get from you
- The total site rebuild I’m doing on Astra and who’s going to help me with it
- How we deal with overwhelm as our business grows
- Why Facebook breaking the oEmbed connection may actually be ahead of the curve on what’s coming
- An update on the Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg plugin troubleshooting
- Why REST API passwords may be coming to the WordPress core and one thing I hope they finally drop
- An update on the raging DDoS attacks that are still actively affecting the whole internet
- Why you need to ensure you have a solid backup solution
- A tip about storing your backup files on Amazon S3
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Who I Help
All tips, advice, and suggestions in this, and all BlogAid posts and tutorials, are intended to empower DIY site owners who are not on hosting that is restrictive in what you can and can’t do with your site and hosting setup. If you have any doubts about what type of host you are on and if the tips I give will work there, see this post on What is Managed Hosting?
It has been a packed week and a bit of a roller coaster ride here at BlogAid.
I’m thrilled to share that the new client interviews are kicking off this week!!!
Plus, I have new posts and tutorials for you on the shiny new Google Web Stories plugin.
I also did some deep digging into an issue we are seeing with the online speed testers with regard to lazy load.
And I had AH! moment during a recent webinar I watched that I need your help and suggestion with to make happen.
And that was followed by a hard reality I had to face with the future of what it will take to get BlogAid where I want to take it that I know many of you face too.
Plus, I had a wee bit of encouragement that helped to keep me going through a tough time.
So, let’s get into the details of all this.
I am delighted to kick off the new client interview series this week with Chas Greener of Chas’ Crazy Creations.
She is a long-time site audit client and she’ll be sharing
- Why she invested in a site audit shortly after launching her site
- What the process of the audit and fixes were like
- The value of becoming an educated DIY site owner
- Why she jumped into more BlogAid courses for SEO and Gutenberg
- How her site investments have paid for themselves many times over
- What led to her quadrupling her site revenue
- Why in-person videos are so important to her success with the site and building community
Join us live tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept 30, 2020 at 1pm ET / 10am PT on the BlogAid Facebook page.
See the post for a link to the Events page to get notification reminders from Facebook.
And the replay will remain on the FB page, plus be in the post, as well as YouTube.
But if you join us live you can ask questions too.
Google Web Stories Plugin Released
Over this past weekend I did a deep dive into what’s what with the new Google Web Stories plugin.
I have 2 posts for you.
Is a post with what this thing is all about and the pros and cons of using it. And there are definitely some caveats to it. Plus, we are in the early stages of it and I expect a whirlwind of additions for it coming from multiple corners.
Then I made a video tutorial for you on how to create a Story with this plugin.
It includes all of the things you’ll need to prepare prior to making the actual Story that will make it easier for you.
And all of the details with plenty of tips and tricks to make your Story too.
I’ll also be adding a new module for Web Stories in the DIY SEO course where I will go even deeper into how to get the most SEO benefit from Stories.
Bing Webmaster Tutorials still in the works
As y’all know, I was right in the middle of creating the new Bing Webmaster Tools tutorials for the DIY SEO course when this Google Web Stories plugin released.
I’m back to making those tutorials this week and will have them in the course for you as soon as I can.
It’s all about priorities.
And if Google has a shiny new thing that they are promoting, then that’s the hoop we all need to jump through, right?
Riding a roller coaster to the future
This past week has been like riding a roller coaster. Not so much highs and lows as twists and turns.
And just when I catch my breath, here we go again.
And I need your help with some of it.
Help with speaking gigs
Last week I watched a private webinar from the folks at SEMRush. And all I could think during it was why I wasn’t on that panel. I know as much or more about the SEO topics they discussed as anyone on the panel.
And then it occurred to me that all through BlogAid’s existence, I haven’t really reached out to collaborate with folks much. I never did guest posting and I never sought out speaking engagements because I just hated more travel after being a road warrior as an electronics engineer for decades.
But, I’ve had nearly a decade off the road and I don’t hate travel quite as much. Plus, all of the conferences are virtual now in our CoVid world.
So, I need to seriously consider getting on the speaker’s circuit for 2021.
And this is where you come in.
What conferences do I need to apply to speak at?
They can include any of the topics I cover here at BlogAid, plus help with sites for DIY, home decor, food, and such that are related to what I do on Heartwood Art.
Feel free to leave a comment here or in our private Facebook groups if you’re in one.
And thank you in advance for your suggestions.
Facing a long road with a little encouragement along the way
As y’all know, BlogAid is growing fast and I’m doing my best to hire the help I need.
Marketing folks chosen
Yesterday I finished my interviews with marketing folks and have chosen one. And we’ll be starting down that road with running Facebook ads for my courses soon.
And the recommendations for the folks I interviewed came from my clients.
So I’m asking for more.
Site services tech needed
I’ve also been trying to recruit more site service help from my own Webmaster Training course. But those folks are either already booked up with their own work or are not wanting to go that deep into security and performance as their primary business, because most are designers and they stick to the sections of the course on setting up a site securely from the get go, and the plugin, image, and theme things that make it fast.
So, I’m looking into recruiting from the open dev community for help so we can get my wait list shorter than 6 weeks.
If you know developers or site techs that would be interested in this kind of work, then please do let me know. I can keep them in a steady stream of it once I get them trained up on my methods.
Technical VA needed
I also need some back office type help, but I need a technical VA to do them.
I don’t know that I have enough work for them to do a minimum hour retainer, though.
So, I’m looking for someone who can do about 2 hours a week, if that.
If you know of anyone who can help, please put them in touch with me.
Total site rebuild on Astra
One of my tasks for this year is to totally rebuild The Sage Age site.
That’s a book I wrote years ago that was featured in Publishers Weekly, and got me out on a couple of lecture tours.
But, it has long been out of print.
Folks still find and read it in their local libraries, though, and they do reach out to me once in a while.
I’ve put that site on ignore for years and it’s way past time to rebuild it.
It’s a hybrid site. I first built it on HTML, back in the day when building sites that way was the business I was in. Then I added a WordPress blog.
I’ve decided that this site is a good candidate for an Astra theme, so I’ll be hiring Michelle Phillips of Codefetti to design it for me.
But first, I have to clone it and start going through all of the pages and such to move them from HTML to WordPress pages.
Because I have a reseller account, I wanted to clone the entire cPanel to a new one, rebuild, and then clone that entire new cPanel back to the original.
To my utter delight, NameHero took care of that for me in about 10 minutes!!!!
That saved me a ton of time, and kept Michelle from having to do the tedious task of manually migrating all of the bits and pieces of this thing to a sandbox site too.
Plus, the host will be able to move the whole thing right back for us when complete too.
So, that was a bit of encouragement to the overwhelming set of tasks I have before me this year.
They could have just as easily made it a staging site too, but I wanted to clean up the entire backside of the account as well while I was at it.
How do you deal with overwhelm?
It’s clear to me that BlogAid is headed toward becoming an agency and that I have to start outsourcing more tasks because there is just no way for me to get it all done anymore.
My woodworking site, Heartwood Art, is a big part of BlogAid’s success too due to all that I’m learning with running a site based on evergreen content. It puts me closer in touch with the bulk of what my clients face with their DIY and foodie sites.
So, it’s imperative that I have time to work on it too.
And that is only part-time work, after hours of running BlogAid all day, and sometimes on the weekends.
How do you deal with the overwhelm of running your site part-time?
How do you deal with the frustration of not being able to get it where you want to be as fast as you would like?
I know one thing about it. I’m highly motivated to make money with that site in a way that does not require me to be on the hamster wheel from hell with content creation and Pinterest marketing. I chose another road with that early on that relies on SEO and videos and promoting primarily in Facebook groups.
And that is working!!!
But, creating those videos is a major time investment. I know it’s worth it. I just have to devote the time to make it happen.
Do you set aside time each week for your blog to ensure it all gets done?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
That’s all the happenings around here. Let’s jump into this week’s tips.
As I reported in last week’s Tips Tuesday, Facebook and Instagram will soon require an authenticated API connection for embedding their posts into your site.
That change happens Oct 24.
I hope that you are not using these embeds anyway, as they are resource hogs and they slow down your site due to delivering things from 3rd party sources that can’t be cached.
The same is true of Pinterest embeds including widgets.
But, if you are using these embeds or widgets, you need to either make arrangements to get them gone, or look for updates to the ways you are embedding them.
Update on Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg plugin troubleshooting
As you may recall, a little over a week ago I published a post stating an issue with a global setting in the Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg plugin creating massive files.
Well, that public post finally got their attention about it, despite my site audit client who first reported it already having been in touch with their support over it and getting nowhere.
They contacted me over my post and told me the same BS they told my client – that there is no issue with that setting and there is no way it could be causing the issue.
Odd, since turning off that setting fixed the problem, after the client also removed 8GB of files that had been generated.
And other followers reported the same.
Well, not satisfied with that reply, they chose to escalate it up to the next tier of support.
Her email to me started this way:
“This is to let you know that there is no such issue from Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg.
We have handled all possible cases here. Perhaps there might be some issue that is server-dependent.”
You know what I said to that, “Oh hell no!”
I let her know that’s not the best way to start our conversion and that perhaps they need an attitude adjustment toward what the nature of support is all about.
I also said I was sorry that they chose not to dive deep into the case that had already been sent to them by my client, and that it took a public post to get their attention.
And, I let them know how much money I lose every hour I’m involved in helping with it, plus my credentials of working for 15+ years with all manner of vendors to help them make better wares for all of us.
I got a letter of apology from that support person the next day, as well as one from the co-founder of Brainstorm Force, who are the makers of Astra and the UAG plugin.
I was dismayed to see that they still consider this an edge case due to just one report of it.
I asked them to remember that these are hidden files and the only reason my client knew about it was a notice from her host that she was running out of disk space.
I asked them to treat it as the tip of an iceberg to a larger problem that they should be glad to know about instead of one isolated edge case.
And here’s what I need you to do.
Report this issue to Astra if you saw it.
Drop my name any time you need to contact Astra support.
Let’s voice these things as a group.
And let’s empower me to get a foot in the backdoor to work with these folks.
We are all tired of having our concerns brushed aside.
Let’s show up as a village.
A lot of WP dev folks screamed about Facebook not cooperating with the greater site owner community with their move to require a 2nd authentication to use their API for embeds instead of the way the open-source oEmbed works now.
Well, turns out that Facebook may just be ahead of the curve for what may be coming to the WP core to help with security.
All of my site audit clients can tell you that they saw a radical decrease in bad bot activity and better host performance once we turned off XML-RPC.
That is the old dirt road way for WordPress to talk to the outside world to do things like check for plugin updates and then deliver them to you from the WP plugin repository.
WP has since moved that communication over to the new REST API connection, which is an encrypted and far faster connection. Think of it as a safe, super highway for WP to talk to the outside world.
Ever since the REST API was introduced in WP 4.4, security folks have been pleading with WP to remove XML-RPC altogether as it is a hacker’s favorite way to attempt what’s called a brute force attack on your login page.
In site audit fixes, we turn XML-RPC off in 3 places for that reason. We kick those bad bots to the curb every way they try to make use of this old dirt road way into your site.
Well, WP has not removed XML-RPC because it might break an old plugin.
THEN BREAK IT!!!!
Set standards and force plugin devs and site owners to come into 21st century security.
To that end, the WP core devs are looking to beef up the REST API connection with passwords – just like Facebook is doing now with its own API.
Doing such a thing in WP core is rather complex, though. There are 2 leading ways of doing it already, but both are either overly complex or don’t go far enough.
So, the devs have a new proposal on the table for a middle way.
I’ll be keeping my eye on this for us, as it will most definitely impact every plugin we have, mostly for the ones that have to talk to 3rd parties, including things like Google Analytics and such too. But it will also impact us getting plugin updates, including paid plugins that send their updates from their site, not the WP plugins repository.
I don’t know how long this will take for WP to come up with the new authentication methods, but I don’t expect it to come to the core any sooner than a year.
But, now that this proposal is on the table, between now and then we should look for more plugins to find their own authentication methods and/or drop support altogether if they feel it’s not worth a total rebuild to come off XML-RPC.
For those of you who read your release notes before upgrading your plugins, and I hope all of you do, please let me know when you see one that makes this sort of change.
In fact, the best place to report that is in our private Facebook groups, if you’re in one.
That way we can put the power of the village to work for all of us.
DDoS attacks still raging
I didn’t report on this in the last Tips Tuesday post, but I did speak about it in the LIVE recap later that evening – which is just one more reason I hope you’ll join us for those live sessions. I give you the deeper story plus the breaking news. And the replay is available on the Tips Tuesday post afterward too.
For over a week now there have been raging DDoS attacks all across the globe. But the ones I’m hearing the most about are attacking the internet hubs that are mainly affecting traffic in the Eastern half of the U.S.
Big Scoots and HostGator are just 2 of the bigger hosts I’ve heard about being affected by them. Servers are simply unreachable due to the trunk lines to them being overwhelmed with the attacks.
I’ve also seen a lot more scrutiny with recaptchas and other 2 factor authentication methods when I log into vendor’s sites on behalf of my clients to do their site audit fixes.
And I’ve seen many sites just be super slow due to the increased check points for authentication that I am a person using a browser and not a bad bot cloaked as such, and/or other mitigation tactics of the attacks.
Folks, the internet is a lot more fragile than most people realize.
So, we should not be blaming the host for what they can’t control, nor making our mind up about which host is best based on this.
Ensure you have a solid backup solution
And these attacks are also why you need to ensure you have a total backup solution in place that does not rely on the host backups.
Those are not guaranteed, even if you pay for them.
I can’t tell you how many site audit clients I’ve seen this year that were relying on the host for their backups.
Keep in mind that if the server where your site sits gets hit with one of these DDoS attacks, it could fry the server. You could lose your site and the backups.
You need your own backups that are stored off the site.
And you need to ensure that you are getting everything you need to restore it too.
READ: my Backup Checklist to be sure you’re getting everything
READ: my UpdraftPlus series on the difference in the free and paid versions of that plugin plus where to store your files.
AS3 Storage Tip
If you are using Amazon S3 for your backup file storage, you will be running out of your free space soon if you are keeping enough backups, which should be a minimum of 2-3 month’s worth. I keep 6 month’s worth.
You’ll get an email saying you’ve reached 85% of your free storage.
That’s fine. Do nothing.
It only means that you will now start paying for the storage at a whopping $0.10/mo.
I’ve seen some site audit clients not remember that little tid bit in the amazing DIY site owner education they get and they start manually deleting backups to keep their storage free.
It’s not worth your time.
Don’t do anything and let Updraftplus take care of it for you. It will automatically delete old backups once it hits the limit you put in the settings of the plugin.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Tips Tuesday.
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