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Ensuring your WordPress sites are all updated …

Updated with respect to the various plugins and the themes being used on the site. It may seem something that seems important, but it cannot be emphasized enough about how important this particular procedure is. Very recently I had a friend lose his site (in fact, lose multiple sites) because one of the sites had not had its plugins updated to the most recent version. What happened was that one of the sites which did not have its plugins updated to the latest version got hacked. The specific plugin had a security hole that had been diagnosed some months back and a fix was also available through an updated version of the plugin, but since the plugin had not been updated, it was hacked. This hack enabled the hacker to get through to the base level of the site, which allowed the hacker to access the other sites as well (since they were all hosted on the same server as part of the same hosting package). For people who have multiple sites, it makes sense to ensure that all your sites are updated to the latest version for plugins, for the WordPress version, and for themes.
There are many security plugins available for WordPress that send out emails whenever they detect a newer version of a plugin, and maintaining and upgrading these components of the site should be part of the overall time budget for running the sites (it really does not take too much time to do it, and the effort involved should the sites get hacked is tremendous). I use a plugin called Wordfence Security (there is a free version and a paid version of this plugin), which ensures that I am aware of any potential problems on the sites. I have had a hack of my sites some years back, and hence am very careful now to ensure that my sites always remains updated. As a part of this, there is also a need to ensure an automatic backup program that will backup all the posts on a periodic bases should the worst come to happen, i.e, because of a hack, the contents of the site are totally lost.
Wordpress has also made this much more easy, with an automatic way to do this. Suppose you get an option where you have a configuration option to do an automatic download and installation of these plugins, in such a way that when the system knows that a newer version of a plugin is available, it will, after some time, do an automatic update of the plugin. This system runs through the use of the Jetpack plugin; this plugin has an option called ‘Automatic Updates’ which needs to connect to WordPress.com (where you need to have an account, or create one if you don’t have one). There, the plugins that you have on your site are listed, and you can select to enable the Autoupdates option for whichever plugin you want (I have done this for all plugins). You need to do this for all the sites that you have that are hosted on WordPress. It is a one time effort, but well worth it.

Keeping up with your services and adjusting accordingly

It would seem like many of the posts that I am doing talk about normal day to day stuff, stuff that you would consider as something that you would normally do. And yet, you would be wrong. It is so easy to ignore what is going on in the various services that you use, until you start seeing an impact, and that can be a killer. It is so easy to get stuck in the regular pattern of whatever you are doing with a service that you really are not attuned with what is ongoing (especially changes, whether they are minor until they start accumulating, or when a rapid big change happens all at once), and then you find your revenue and profit taking a hit. You really don’t want to be in such a position, right ? Well, then pay attention to this example and see where not staying on top can really hurt.
A service that allows you to use your photos / patterns / slogans for various photo creations can help provide some extra revenue, and there is one such service called Zazzle. So, for example, you have a funny slogan about Donald Trump (to cover both bases, you have another slogan about Hillary Clinton), and you think that people might want to sport caps or clothes with that slogan on it. Well, you can use that slogan on various clothes and even other stuff on your own store in Zazzle and hope to sell your stuff there. It takes time to catch on, you have to do publicity, you have to create a large number of products so that you start showing up in searches (both on the site and in Google), and you can literally create hundreds of household items, sporting items, phone cases, whatever, in a few minutes of work and can even add flourishes or further tweaks to the design. So, once you get into the thousands of products range, you can start making money. Sweet, right ?
However, there was a change in the basic groundwork beneath the feet. What this meant was, you could create hundreds of products all bearing the same slogan, all of them with their own web page. Guess the problem that gets created ? Zazzle found that its SEO effort was getting problematic, and the reason was – guess – duplicate descriptions across so many web pages. And many users had products in the hundreds of thousands range, which was something that was very worrying to Zazzle. For some time, they adviced creators to use unique descriptions on each product instead of the same one across products, but this has time problems. Finally, they implemented a hard solution (and maybe a bit arbitrary) where they decided that no creator will have more than 100,000 items, and products that exceed this number will no longer be live pages (there was a set of criteria to determine which of the products will be live and which will be off).
Now, for somebody who uses Zazzle as another service, they might have ignored most of this (almost all of this discussion and details happened on the forum site), until one day they logged in and found that out of their 500,000 products, more than 4/5th have been disabled and only 100,000 remain live. Now, the discussion on what will happen was there on the forums for some time now, and yet only those who have been following the discussion or considered it seriously would have tried to make an alternate strategy to work around this change instead of being faced with a situation which was decidedly problematic, and at the minimum, would take a fair amount of effort to handle.
Moral of the story being that you cannot just keep on making money off a service, you need to be aware of possible changes and figure out how it impacts you. This is true for strategies dealing with SEO, and many other strategies as well.

Social media promotion – staying focused on the effort

Social media is a platform that is somewhat different from the traditional marketing ways; it is different and yet similar. And if the above statement sounds so common and confusing, I will hopefully provide some explanation in the next few paras where the above statement will become clearer.
Social media is another form of marketing, some of the rules are different; what works can be different from previous marketing methods and the speed at which it works can be bewildering for those unused to the dynamics of social media and the digital media on which it is based. A post (article / video / etc) can become viral and be seen by millions within a couple of days, and in another few days, totally fall of the map with very few views after that. But getting something to be viral is extremely difficult, some of it being luck, and some requiring a huge amount of effort (the luck comes in when somebody who is putting almost no effort finds that their post has gone viral – for example, something cute by a baby, or something intelligent done by a dog or another animal, or something stupid done by an adult, all of these are examples of stuff that has gone viral very quickly). And there are campaigns by regular marketing agencies that take a lot of sustained effort, putting dollars behind it on social networks, getting a lot of people to promote such post and so on.
But for most people, this concept of something being viral is not something that is easily achievable (if you have a regular post or article, the chance of it getting viral is very unlikely; if you consider the millions of posts that go on social networks, and how many of them go viral, you will have an idea of how difficult it is). What is more likely is that, over a period of time, you will be able to ensure your posts or articles or videos or whatever reaches a higher number of people, not with an explosive growth, but steady sustained growth. If you are able to get that to happen, then you should consider your strategy to have been successful.
And what is the strategy; well, in some previous posts, we have talked about how you need to track which social network works best for the users you want to reach, keep in touch with how social networks change the way they handle posts or articles and change your strategy accordingly. Another basic need of such a campaign is to ensure that you keep at it. Unless you have the kind of resources to suddenly pump money into your campaigns when there is a need, the basic premise of your strategy has to be regular at your promotions, treat it as a part of the everyday effort rather than something to be done in fits and bursts. This sounds something very simple to implement, but you would not believe the number of people who decide to have a social network promotion strategy, do all out for a few days or weeks, then sit back and think about the effort they are putting in and whether the returns are worth it or not. A strategy which uses social media as one of the key proponents for marketing outreach needs a sustained time to become successful, with some proponents arguing that it could take upto 6 months before some positive effects can be seen. And the concept of success through use of social media is about the number of people who start following your social media identities, and whether this number keeps on increasing. More people follow your campaign identity on twitter, more followers for the Facebook page for the business, and so on. If you put in a lot of effort for a few days and then go slow for a week or so and do this kind of irregular push, you are less likely to gain the increasing traction you are aiming to achieve.

Focusing on the promotion avenues rather than one-size-fits-all

Like some of the posts that I have made here, this post may also seem like something that just talks about some concepts rather than pointing out specific issues :-), but I would argue that this topic is one that cannot have a standard set of specific points that work for everybody, you have to analyse, work out and define what works for you and then evaluate those solution, and then review, refine over a period of time to see whether they are still working out, and then do this again (seems painful, but in this world of digital marketing, where there is a constant struggle between the marketing providers and those looking to game the system, the parameters and methods keep on changing. You cannot come up with a formula that seems to work, and then continue to believe that the formula will work for you for the next months and years; others would have come up with similar formulas, and then tried to game them to achieve advantages, and the social networks and marketing agencies would have made changes at their end so that the particular formula no longer has the advantages it used to have. If this seems hard and complicated for you, then I would recommend that you get others to do it rather than doing something wrong.
A bit of a speech at the beginning, but I believe that this is at the core of how you need to work out the marketing concepts in a digital world, where the success or failure can depend on how well strategies work out on the social platforms, and sometimes there can no really easy way to determine what the mechanism was which made it is a success. You could be pushing an article, a podcast, an advertisement, a song or video, or anything and trying to figure out what to do to make it a success in the digital world, using social networks and the like. Now, if you do not have the money to splash out on doing a lot of research, or in doing a lot of promotion (basically if you are an individual rather than a corporation), then what I have seen is that people do have a social media strategy; but this strategy essentially just comprises of blasting the article (or whatever) to all the social networks through automated means and hoping that it will pick up. Well, there is a chance that it will get picked up, and you have the starting step correct, but there is a lot more that needs to be done, and these steps do not suddenly come into place the first day that you do this; these are acquired over a period of time where you learn from experience (and also from reading about what others are also doing).
So what are the things you can do ? Well, this would be an incomplete list, but as you start working through, you will learn more about what you need to learn and research, and I am hoping that you will provide your stories in the comments section.
– Figure out what social networks to focus on and optimize. If you are just trying to blast out to various networks, there is a lot of optimization that needs to happen. Consider that you have a travel article on Tasmania in Australia, and your article is just going out on social networks. On its own, you will not have the hashtag of #Tasmania on your Twitter and Facebook page feed, and that is pretty important for others to pick up on your article on social networks. Further, you have images on your article and it goes to Pinterest, then it might make sense to have a board on Pinterest which is targeted to Australia (or even Tasmania, if you are going to have more content on Tasmania coming up).
– Figure out timing of these posts on these social networks. Your post goes to social networks as soon as you publish, but maybe the majority of your readers will see these much later, and some of them would miss it since they tend to see stuff that comes up in front of them rather than trying to dig into their news feed. See whether you can time your posts, or schedule their posting to better work with the timing of the majority of your readers.
– Focus on which social networks you would need to spend more effort on. You made an initial posting, but what stops you from promoting it again in a few days, or everyday, but this takes time and effort and it becomes inefficient to do this for every social network. Make a strategy for which one to spend more time and effort on.