Category Archives: Blogging

New Server, New Control Panel

My hosting company just switched my hosting setup to a new server running the Plesk control panel. It’s taken me a while to reconfigure the site and get it running again, in part because I’ve been dealing with a hack that started on the old server. We think the vulnerability was in the file permissions, which allowed the hackers to insert executable files, then execute them via web requests. I’m hoping it’s all fixed now – I’ve locked down the file and folder permissions, and the site seems to be working.

WordPress 4.3 (“Billie”)

In addition to some new security fixes, WordPress 4.3 introduces a myriad of new features, designed to reduce disruption when creating posts. These include:

  • Formatting Shortcuts – type an * at the start of a line to create a bullet point list
  • Menus in the Customizer – now you can change menus in the Customizer and preview the changes live before committing them
  • Site Icons – you can add icons to your site for pages, tabs, menu entries, etc.
  • Better Passwords – whenever you create a new user, WordPress automatically generates a strong password; if the user changes the password, WordPress tells them whether their proposed password is sufficiently strong.

There’s more – check out this video link for more details

 

Google Tools for Website Management

Once your WordPress website is up and running, some of the questions you’ll start asking include:

  • Is anyone visiting my site?
  • How long are they staying?
  • How did they find me?
  • What were they looking for?
  • What did they read when they got here?

It turns out that Google is also interested in the answers to these questions so that they can decide when your site might be worthy of inclusion in search results. So they (Google) keep track of lots of information about your site and your visitors. Fortunately, they make this information available to you (the website owner and webmaster) through 2 free services: Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. You’ll need a free Google account to use these services.

To get started with Google Analytics, login to your Google account and go to http://google.com/analytics. Click the Sign Up button to get started; you’ll be prompted to set up a new Analytics account by providing a name for the account (you can have multiple Analytics accounts in 1 Google account) and a name and the url for your website. You can also choose an Industry Category (for comparisons) and the reporting Time Zone for your account. Finally, you can “opt-out” of various options for sharing your Analytics data with other Google services and staff – leave the option checked to share data “With other Google products only” to enable additional features for analysis. Click “Get Tracking ID” and accept the Terms of Service (read them if you dare!) and you’ll be taken to your new Google Analytics Admin page.

Now, you need to update your website to connect it to your Analytics account. There are 2 basic approaches to this task:

  • Copy the tracking code from your Admin page and paste it in the WordPress header.php file (not as scary as it sounds)
  • Use a WordPress plugin to add your tracking code and view your Analytics data from within your WordPress “back-end”

The second approach is pretty convenient (and easy) – all you need to do is pick a plugin (from wordpress.org – the “repository”) and install and configure it. Google Analytics by Yoast is a pretty good choice. However, you may want to limit the number of plugins on your site (plugin  conflicts can cause unexpected errors that are hard to diagnose), so here’s how to do the first option:

  1. Highlight the tracking code on your Google Analytics Admin page – it starts with <script> and ends with </script>. Press ctrl-C (Windows) or command-C(Mac) to copy the code to your clipboard.
  2. Login to your WordPress site. Hover over the Appearance menu item and select Editor from the flyout menu.WP Appearance Menu

 

 

 

 

 

  1. DO NOT BE AFRAID! The Editor screen is a bit scary; it’s also VERY powerful, so take care. Select Header (header.php) from the list of “templates” on the right side of the screen.WordPress Template List
  2. This will open up the header.php file in the editor. Locate the line that reads </head> (it should be on its own line:
    wp_menu_3
  3. Place your cursor just in front of the “<” (at the very start of the line) and press ctrl-V (Windows) or command-V (Mac). If all goes well, you should now see your tracking code (from Step 1) in your header.php file. Make sure “</head>” is on its own line (you may have to move your cursor and click Enter to create a new line for it).
  4. Click the Update File button to save your changes, and you’re done (for now)!

Back at your Google Analytics Admin page, click on the Tracking Code link for your page (referred to as a “Property”). This was the page you were on when you copied the Tracking Code in step 1 – you may need to refresh the page if you’re still there. You should now see the Status of your Tracking ID – it will start at “Tracking Not Installed”, but this will change shortly if you installed the Tracking Code correctly.

Thanks to Mickey Mellen for his concise guidance on using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to manage your WordPress site. http://www.greenmellenmedia.com/google-analytics-101/

Update to WordPress 4.0 “Benny”

One of the mixed blessings of using WordPress as a web presence/blogging platform is the frequency of updates to the core WordPress platform. WordPress adds new features on an accelerated basis, sometimes replicating functionality previously available only through one or more plug-ins. They also release “bug fixes” to fix code that doesn’t work quite as expected at least some of the time. In addition, because WordPress is currently used by millions of websites the world over (well over 20% of all websites use 1 version of WordPress or another), there is a constant “arms race” between hackers and the WordPress development community. On the plus side, this means there are always new features to make life easier or more interesting, and bugs get fixed pretty quickly. On the down side, sometimes the hackers win a battle, and a lot of WordPress sites get hacked, which can be a real challenge to recover from. Also, it means you (or someone you hire) has to constantly monitor your website(s) and decide which updates to accept and which to hold off on. In general, I accept the WordPress updates as soon as they’re available, and this sometimes necessitates updating themes and plugins as well.

Since socialselling.link is a brand new site, I just upgraded to WordPress 4.0 “Benny” (named after Benny Goodman, the famous jazz clarinetest). Here’s a link to the WordPress Codex regarding “Benny”: http://codex.wordpress.org/Version_4.0. I also updated the 3 themes included with the core package (we’reusing the 2013 Theme for this site).

Why SocialSelling.link?

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So, Emile Paradis of the Referral Institute Atlanta and Vishay Singh of AVAX Consulting have been collaborating on a series of seminars about Social Selling and Referral Marketing. Today’s presentation was about the business value of blogging; one of the points that Vishay emphasized is that hosted blogging (e.g., WordPress.com), while easy, isn’t good for branding/SEO purposes, since the primary domain is wordpress.com, not yourbusiness.com. He noted that, while setting up WordPress is relatively simple, it would be best for most small businesses to hire a WordPress consultant to get them started. From there, we got the idea to set up a WordPress blog and let anyone in the course use it for practice and discussion. VishaySinghHerewith, a brief outline of how I got here:

1) I logged into Hover.com to search for a domain name. Vishay mentioned GoDaddy, but I like Hover for the simplicity of their user interface. I entered “social selling” in the search box and got a list of available domains (of course, socialselling.com is taken, but NOT being used – go figure). I reviewed the list of available domains – as an aside, the number of top-level domains (the letters to the right of the last “.”)  has exploded over the last 6 months. Anyway, socialselling.link was available for only $5/year – since this is an experiment, I didn’t see any reason to overspend. For a company, I definitely recommend getting the “.com” address if possible; if you have extra money lying about, you can look at other domains like “.guru” or “.rocks”.

2)Next, I logged into my hosting account at FluidHosting. FH is my shared hosting provider; again, there are lots of hosting providers around, but since I have a prepaid account at FH, adding another domain is pretty much free. I do like ClickHost.com – they specialize in WordPress hosting and their pricing is very reasonable. At FH, I added the new domain name to my list of domains.

3) Back at Hover, I edited the settings for my new domain to set the “nameservers” to the addresses provided by FluidHosting. This means that all of the Internet address information (DNS) for my new domain will be stored at my web host rather than at Hover. Hover does provide full nameserver support; it’s just more convenient to have the DNS settings at the web hosting service. It can take up to 24 hours for the whole Internet to learn about these changes (a process called “propagation”) – usually, I see the changes much quicker than that.

4) Next, I went to wordpress.org (note – NOT wordpress.com) to download the latest version of WordPress – it’s about 1300 files in a .zip archive. I extracted the files to a folder on my computer, then I opened FileZilla, a free FTP (File Transfer Protocol) manager. I connected to FluidHosting in FileZilla by entering the server address and my userid and password for my hosting account – I could have set up separate FTP credentials but didn’t need to. I transferred all of the files to the folder on the server that was created when I setup the domain in step 2.

5)Back at FluidHosting, I had to setup a “MySQL” database – WordPress uses MySQL to store all of its content, so each site should have its own database. This was simply a matter of providing a name for the database and a name and password for the administrative user. I then copied this information into the wp-config.php file on my PC and uploaded it to the site folder on the server.

6)With the WordPress files uploaded and the database setup and the connection information saved in wp-config.php, I visited the site (socialselling.link). This started the famous WordPress setup process, which basically involves setting up the administrator of the site with a user name and password. Once this information was entered, WordPress setup the database tables in MySQL and took me to the login screen and we were up and running.