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10 Essential WordPress Security Plugins For 2013

This guest post is by of The WordPress Security Checklist.

Now that we have left 2012 behind, we can start planning 2013. And there is no better time to review the security plugins you use on your WordPress site.

Last year important new security plugins were released, and some of the existing plugins were updated.

The great challenge when it comes to WordPress Security Plugins is to find the magic combination which gives you optimal cover without conflicts or overlapping functionality.

Here we bring you the winning combination for a prosperous (and safe) 2013.

Let the party begin!

Make sure only invited guests pop in

When you throw a big party, you’d best think about who you let in. Otherwise the party might get out of hand.

These clever little plugins are your broad-shouldered bouncers. And they mean business!

WP Login Security 2

This is a personal favorite of mine. It’s very clever.

If an unknown guest arrives at your party your bouncer will ask for ID, but you can walk straight in.

Similarly, the plugin will send a verification email to the registered email address of the user if he tries to log in from an unknown IP address. Only if he validates the IP address by clicking on a link in the email will he be allowed in.

This is a very effective way of stopping brute force attacks. Even if someone does guess your userid and password, they still can’t get in.

If, on the other hand, you log in from a known IP address, you are let in straight away.

Resources:

Semisecure Login Reimagined

At your party, the bouncer will make sure no one eavesdrops when you whisper the secret password in his ear.

Ideally you would want to send your login information over SSL when you access your WordPress administration panel. However, there is a cost involved in obtaining a SSL certificate and if you are on a shared server you would also need a dedicated IP address.

This plugin is the next best thing for those of us who’d rather spend our money on party hats.

It will automatically encrypt your login information so it is much more difficult for an outsider to steal your credentials.

Resources:

Login Security Solution

This is the mother of all bouncers. He will only accept photo ID, he can check the expiry date and you can tell him that library cards are no longer accepted. He can even throw out people who fall asleep on the premises.

Or, in technical terms: with this plugin, password strength is enforced, password aging is an option, and password resets for all users can be forced. And you can even log out idle sessions automatically.

Another clever feature of this plugin: instead of locking out IP addresses of brute force attackers it will slow down the response times gradually. This means that you can get your own password wrong without being locked out, and it will still make brute force attacks almost impossible.

Resources:

WordPress Firewall 2

This is the wall around your house that makes sure no one sneaks in through your backdoor or a window, bypassing your bouncers. It’s very important.

Windows Firewall 2 inspects all incoming traffic to identify if anyone sends you malicious requests or tries to inject data into your database.

Resources:

Block Bad Queries

This plugin is like the barbed wire or the broken glass on top of the wall. Yes, the internet is really a bad neighborhood!

BBQ extends your firewall and helps filter incoming traffic to stop known bad guys.

Resources:

Keeping tabs on what goes on in your house

Once your party is going you want to keep an eye on what is happening. If someone breaks your TV you’d like to know who’s responsible and how much damage was caused.

These plugins are your eyes and your ears. And they are awake!

WordPress File Monitor Plus

This is like having surveillance cameras in every room of your house and taping all the action. If anything goes down you can see exactly what happened.

WordPress File Monitor Plus tracks changes to your file system. If any files are added, removed, or changed you will be notified by email. Neat. Could be an invaluable help in cleaning up after you have had visitors!

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WP Security Scan

Although you love opening up your house for the big party, there are still some rooms you do want to keep away from your guests. Locking a few doors will make sure the cats can only play where you want them to.

WP Security Scan checks your file and folder permissions and a few other things to make sure everything that should be locked down is locked down.

Resources:

Curing the hangover

Depending on the success of your party you might end up with a bit of a hangover the day after. But we’ve got the cure for you.

Update Notifications

This good old trick could save you from getting a hangover in the first place: take a couple of headache tablets before you go to bed.

By using Update Notifications you’re stopping the headaches before they begin. Keep your WordPress site updated at all times and you won’t see the bulk part of the threats circulating the net. This plugin automatically sends you an email when there is an update for your plugins, themes, or core WordPress files.

Resources:

Wordfence

If you are not feeling well, knowing why can make the difference between recovering quickly or suffering for a long time. If you know you are dehydrated you can drink some water. If you know you have got an infection, penicillin might be the remedy you need.

Wordfence is one of the newer security plugins. However it has matured very quickly. One of the great features of Wordfence is that it will compare the plugin, theme, and WordPress core files on your installation with the official version in the WordPress repository. If there are any discrepancies, the plugin will send you an email.

It will also scan your site for known malware, phishing, backdoors, and virus infections.

Resources:

Sucuri WordPress Security Plugin

If you are really out of luck, you might pick up some kind of disease at your party. This is the risk of mingling with many people. In this case, you might have to go to the doctor.

Sucuri is more than just a security plugin. In fact, their WordPress plugin is probably one of their least-known products.

Sucuri is a company that specializes in cleaning up infected websites. If your luck is out and your site is infected, they will clean it for less than it would cost you in coffee if you wanted to figure it out on your own—provided you know what you are doing. And they will keep your site clean for a year after that.

The WordPress plugin adds a web application firewall and malware file scanning. The web application firewall will communicate with Sucuri servers, so if one site is under attack from certain IP addresses they can be blocked across the network immediately.

Resources:

Enjoy 2013!

With a little bit of preparation, you will be able to throw fantastic parties in 2013, and you and your guests can amuse themselves without worrying about accidents or bad guys ruining everything.

Make sure your WordPress site is in good shape and ready to bring you a very prosperous 2013!

Check out ’s free WordPress Security Checklist, which is all about protecting your WordPress assets properly and sleeping well at night.

WordPress Backups: Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes on Your Blog

This guest post is by of The WordPress Security Checklist.

Do you have insurance on your car? And on your house? Of course you do.

Do you have insurance on your WordPress site?

What? Insurance?!

A good backup plan is your insurance policy on your WordPress site!

You might be a serious blogger who is already aware of the value represented by your WordPress site. The time and money you have invested in building it. The income stream it provides. The audience you have attracted. The traffic you get.

Or maybe you are a hobby blogger, and over time you have, little by little, built significant value on your site, be that emotional or monetary value.

Your web presence is like your real life presence. You buy your first house, move in, and get your first home and contents insurance based on the value of your possessions at the time. And ten years later you are still only insured for that initial value.

As with your real house, your WordPress site could disappear in an instant.

It does not matter if the reason is criminal intent, a natural catastrophe, or an accident. If you do not have good insurance, you have to start again from scratch.

So just how good is your WordPress insurance?

Here I’ve compiled a list of the most common WordPress backup mistakes, and added a few tips on how to avoid them.

In no particular order, these are the mistakes:

  • not making a backup at all
  • not making a complete backup
  • relying on manual backups
  • not getting the backup frequency right
  • relying on your hosting company’s backup
  • only storing your backup on your hosting account
  • not storing your backups securely
  • not testing your backup
  • not storing your backups long enough.

Not making a backup at all

Yes, it’s sad, but it happens more often than you would think! Some people don’t take out insurance either. Don’t be one of them.

Tip: Do make backups!

Not making a complete backup

Some WordPress plugins only back up your WordPress database. WordPress consists of a database and a number of files. Unless you have a good backup of everything you probably don’t have anything!

A backup of your database will take you some of the way to a working site, but without images, plugins and themes (some of which might have been customized), you are a long way away from a fully functional site. And if you only have a backup of your files you have lost all your settings, posts and comments.

Tip: Make sure you back everything up!

Relying on manual backups

When the topic of WordPress backups comes up on discussion forums, there is almost always someone who swears by manual backups.

Why is that a problem?

Computers are excellent at performing routine tasks at scheduled intervals. Human beings, not so much. We tend to forget. And go on holidays. Before we know it it’s been six months since we last made a backup. All of a sudden we desperately need that backup. That’s when grown men start crying.

Tip: Let the computers do what they do best: automate your backups!

Not getting the backup frequency right

If your WordPress site changes daily, a monthly backup schedule could cost you up to a months work.

If your site changes monthly and you make daily backups storing only 30 backup archives you could be left without a usable backup archive. This could happen if you discover that you were infected with malware three months ago, for instance.

Different parts of your WordPress site change at different frequencies.

If you have a large site, you might want to split up your backup based on the update frequency:

  • Themes and plugins rarely change.
  • Backups of the uploads directory can be split by year, or even by month if necessary. Under normal circumstances, only the directory for the current month changes.
  • The database might change daily if you get many comments or release new posts.
    • Tip: Understand your site and adopt a backup schedule that fits!

      Relying on your hosting company’s backup

      Many hosting companies back up their customer’s accounts on their behalf.

      While this is a very good service, you need to ask yourself some questions about it:

      • What will you do if your hosting company cannot give you your backup archives?
      • If they go bankrupt and everything is shut down from one day to another.
      • If they are hacked and all their data disappears (see 4800 Aussie Sites Evaporate After Hack).
      • If they can only go back one month and you need to go further back.
      • If the backup you need did not complete successfully for whatever reason.
      • What do they back up?
      • How often do they back up?
      • For how long to do they keep the backup files?
      • Can they restore single files or tables in the database selectively?
      • Have you tested that they can restore your data?

      While relying on your hosting provider to back up your data can be a very convenient solution to an unwanted technical challenge, it is most likely not the right solution for you.

      You need control.

      Consider that it is quite simple to implement a good backup strategy of your own. If you use the right WordPress plugin, you can customize your backup jobs to match the needs of your WordPress site. And your backup archives can be stored in an offsite location that’s completely under your control.

      Best of all the solution does not have to cost you a thing if you know how to do it right.

      Fortunately the strategy is laid out in my article WordPress Backup – The Plugin and The Plan, which has easy-to-follow instructions.

      Tip: While your hosting company’s backups can be a good complement to your own, don’t let them be the only backups you have!

      Only storing your backup on your hosting account

      Your hosting provider might offer you daily backups of your account. And most WordPress backup plugins allow you to store backups on your hosting account.

      But your hosting account might be compromised and all data erased, or the server might crash, losing all your data. You get the picture.

      That is why we recommend that you have at least two separate backup locations: your hosting account could be one, but make sure at least one of them is off site. Even if you lose one backup location, you’ll still have your backup archives.

      If you’re paranoid, you can also store a backup on a USB drive in your bank vault. You need to ask yourself: how much is your business (web site) worth?

      Tip: Make sure you have complete control over at least one copy of your backup archive and store it outside of your hosting account.

      Not storing your backups securely

      Your backups contain sensitive data. For example, your database userid and password, and the names of your administrative users are stored in your backup archives. If your backup falls into the wrong hands, this makes it too easy for malicious parties to break into your site.

      Some backup plugins allow you to email a backup to yourself. Email is inherently insecure. You have no control over the path an email follows on the way to your inbox, for example. And it gets even worse if you create a webmail account with an easy to remember (and to guess) password.

      Imagine what happens if a hacker takes over control of your webmail account: you have not only left the doors to your WordPress site wide open, but also lost your offsite backup! Ouch!

      It is much safer to upload your backup archives via Secure FTP to an offsite location, or store them on a Dropbox, Amazon S3, or Google Drive account which only you have access to.

      Tip: Make sure you store your backups in a safe location.

      For more information on this topic see the post Are WordPress Backups On Dropbox Safe?

      Not testing your backup

      An essential part of backing up your WordPress site is to test that the backup can be restored. This is a step that many people miss. But it is a crucial step.

      Testing that you can restore your backup serves two purposes:

      1. It ensures that your backup software has created a useful backup archive.
      2. It forces you to learn and practice the procedure for restoring your WordPress site.

      Would you rather discover that the restore process is broken or the backup archive is unusable while you are testing, or while you are trying to restore your live site after a breakdown?

      Ideally you need to test your backup every time the backup software is updated. But at a minimum you should do this once per year. At the same time, you can review your backup plan to determine if you need to change the frequency of your backups.

      Tip: Make sure you can successfully restore your WordPress site from your backup!

      For more information, see How To Test Your WordPress Backup and Have You Tested Your Backup Solution Lately?

      Not storing your backups long enough

      One of the great reasons why you need a good backup is to make your blog easier to recover if someone breaks into your site.

      Cyber criminals who compromise WordPress sites for financial gain (stealing traffic, boosting their own SEO rankings, posting ads etc.) do not want you to find out that your site has been compromised.

      This means it could be months before you realize that you have been hacked.

      If you do daily backups and only store them for 30 days, you could easily be out of luck when it comes to restoring your site.

      I recommend that you use a mix of different backup types:

      • a daily backup that you store for two weeks
      • a weekly backup that you store for three months
      • a monthly backup that you store for two years.

      This allows you to go up to two years back in time if needed.

      Of course, you can adjust the retention period of each type of backup to suit your needs.

      With the right choice of backup software this can all be run on auto-pilot with automatic purging of old backup archives to manage your space requirements.

      Tip: Make sure your backup strategy allows you go to far enough back in time!

      Don’t get caught out!

      As the old saying goes, “Real men don’t make backups, but they cry a lot”.

      With these tips, you can avoid the common pitfalls and sleep well at night knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll be able to recover your blog.

      It doesn’t have to cost you anything to have a good backup plan, but it could cost you the world if you don’t!

      Check out ’s free WordPress Security Checklist, which is all about protecting your WordPress assets properly and sleeping well at night.

Blogging On the Go: Are Mobile Apps Up To It?

This guest post is by Barry Cooke of QDOS.

With the rise of mobile technology and citizen journalism, being able to blog while on the move is increasingly important.

Unfortunately, many blogging apps are limited, clunky, and make updating from your mobile smartphone or tablet inefficient.

Here we take a look at the main direct blogging apps, as well as a few additional ones that can improve the process, to see if they’re up to the challenge.

Blogging software

Blogger

The interface and functionality of this app is very stripped down. Your main and most important features are still intact—you can upload photos and videos into your post, but they have to be saved on to your device prior to posting, which means you can’t upload from YouTube, Vimeo, or any other video hosting site.

blogger1blogger

Typing into this app is cramped but bearable, similar to sending a text or an email from your phone. If you’re using a tablet, then there’s obviously a lot more room for manoeuvre.

So, if your aim is just a simple, predominantly text-based post possibly involving a picture or linked video, then Blogger’s mobile app is perfectly adequate, however it’s not capable of posts that are much more complicated than that.

WordPress

One of the most proficient mobile blogging apps is available from one of the most proficient blogging platforms available.

The WordPress app is detailed, with a multitude of features including the accessible dashboard user interface, which gives you one-tap access to every blogging feature you need, from posting and creating new pages, to comments and checking statistics.

The quick action bar makes it easy to switch between which of your blogs you want to update, refresh the content, or return to the dashboard. Posting is a joy, with the formatting toolbar allowing you to perfect your text, post links, and embed photos and video. With the latter two, you can also change alignments and alter their sizes quickly and easily.

Tumblr

This micro-blogging site lends itself well to remote blogging on smaller handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets by its very nature. It’s fast and simple to post to, with a clean, minimal mobile interface, making it potentially the most attractive out of the major three blog platofrms.

The recently updated user interface makes it easy to check the other blogs you follow, update your own, and manage multiple posts on a range of blogs. The new and improved navigation bar is more intuitive than the 1.0 version, so bloggers can do more than just post from the dashboard—we can now reply to messages, switch between posts and imbed photos, videos and links with just a few taps.

Other helpful apps

There are also some fantastic third-party apps available that integrate with all the above platforms, as well as photo and video editing software. So if you’re often including rich media in your posts, these are essential additions.

Blogsy

This is, by far, one of the most capable blogging applications on the market. It integrates excellently with other third-party apps like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, and Picasa, meaning embedding photos and videos into your post is as easy as drag and drop.

It also supports Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr, so if you’ve got several blogs on different platforms, you can use Blogsy to update all of them, and switch between each with just a few taps of your touchscreen.

The integrated browser means linking out is also a seamless affair. The unfortunate thing is it’s only available on the iPad, so those with smartphones won’t be able to take advantage of its myriad features for blogging on the go.

However, if you’re frequently uploading videos, photos and other sticky media to your blog, then investing in an iPad should be considered as it makes the whole process and far enjoyable and rewarding experience. And at just £2.99, Blogsy is well worth the pennies.

Snapseed

Of the numerous photo editing apps available, Snapseed is the most capable and most user-friendly, with an accessible interface that’s easily navigable even for first timers.

It offers good colour control, allowing you to alter the hue and saturation of your photographs, as well as the standard cropping, image enhancement, and scaling options you would expect.

There are a variety of filters you can apply, with very similar aesthetic choices to Instagram, including vintage and black-and-white effects. It’s also possible to integrate it with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr so sharing your perfected photos is easy. Priced at £2.99, it won’t break the bank.

Pinnacle Studio

For video editing, this app is your best bet. Its clean navigation and easy drag-and-drop interaction makes splicing your video clips uncomplicated and a lot of fun. There are options to add text and titles to your finished videos if you want to give a little contextual explanation. And uploading it to YouTube can be done with a couple of taps.

Unfortunately the controls are quite small, so this application isn’t compatible with smartphones and even if it was, it would be impossible to use. If you’ve got an iPad then the interface isn’t so bad, but many bloggers recommend getting a touch pen or stylus if you do a lot of video editing on the move as it makes the process considerably easier.

Your picks

Which mobile blogging application you choose will largely depend on the nature of your blogging, how advanced your posts are, and which media you will be uploading.

What is undeniable is the fact that if you’re embedding a lot of photographic and video content, and you’re doing it frequently while on the move, then it’s well worth investing in a tablet. The simple fact that it’s bigger makes the blogging process more efficient and far more enjoyable.

What mobile blogging apps do you use? Share them with us in the comments.

This article was written by Barry Cooke. Barry is a respected mobile usability consultant who has been working in the mobile market for over 15 years in a number of different sectors from online dating apps to finance and travel.

How to Publish Your Blog on Amazon Kindle

This guest post is by Ali Abbas of thenextgenwriter.com.

Have you published your blog on Kindle?

If not, you should do it, pronto! It’s easy, it’s productive and it’s free.

We’re not talking about publishing ebooks or PDFs, but your dynamic and regularly updated blog.

Rather surprisingly, not a lot of bloggers have considered this option hitherto, but some big guns, including The New York Times, PC Magazine, Amazon Daily, Huffington Post, and others—that realize the potential—are already there.

On a positive note, that means less competition for you.

Is it really worth the effort?

Kindle publishing for blogs has already opened the doors to myriad opportunities for many businesses that have a blog.

Amazingly, all you need to do is invest just five minutes of your precious time. Here’s what you get in return:

New readers

Millions of people use Amazon Kindle as their ereader.

So, by publishing on Kindle you’ll pull in people who might never hear about your business otherwise.

As per the International Data Corporation report, Worldwide and U.S. eReader 2012–2016 Forecast, new models of Kindle Fire are more than likely to disrupt the market once again.

So, will people really pay to read your content?

Yes!

There are several reasons, but the main ones are that it costs only 99 cents to subscribe to a blog on Kindle, and it offers added handiness. Obviously, not all the Kindle owners want to be reading ebooks all the time when they can access more vibrant and au fait weblogs.

SEO

How on earth can kindle publishing help your SEO? It does not. Apparently, it doesn’t improve your blog’s ranking in SERPs.

But it can raise your profile.

Amazon is an authority even in the eyes of Google, and having your blog there gives you more exposure.

So even if nobody subscribes to your blog via Kindle, you’re getting free publicity and people searching for relevant keywords will surely be tempted to take a look at your blog after seeing it listed on the largest online retailer.

Added income

It’s free money. You get 30% of the total price, which is set by Amazon and can be anything between $0.99 and $1.99. So if you get, say, 1000 people to subscribe to your blog via Kindle, and the price is $0.99, you’ll make $297.

It may not be that lucrative for large publications, but it’s still a decent choice for solopreneurs and bloggers who don’t want to clutter their blogs with ads.

Higher conversion rate

Kindle readers are paying to read your content and conversion rates are always higher for paid subscribers.

Unfortunately, the JavaScript and ads are stripped off Kindle-displayed blogs, and only text content, links and images are displayed. So if your Call to Action involves more than just clicking a plain link, make sure you encourage your Kindle subscribers to view the page on another device.

Feedback

If your blog’s available for Kindle, people will be able to rate it, just like they rate any other product on Amazon.

If your blog features high-quality content (which I am sure it does), this is the easiest, and arguably the most efficient way to get endorsement and feedback.

3 steps to publishing your blog on Kindle

Ready to get your blog onto the Kindle platform? Great!

Note that this functionality is currently available to the residents of the USA and the UK only.

1. Create your Kindle Publishing Account

The standard Amazon account won’t work, so you’ll need to sign up for the Kindle Publishing Account if you don’t already have one.

2. Add and publish

When you log into your Kindle publishing account, click Add Blog, and fill in the signup form.

Once you’re done adding all the info, hit Generate Blog Preview.

  1. If you get the blog preview, cool. Go to step three!
  2. If you get an error as shown in the image below, don’t get teary. Just click the Save button and then hit Return to Dashboard. Here, you’ll see your blog has been saved as a draft. Open it and try again, and this time there will be no error.

Error

Now go ahead and click the Publish button.

Don’t forget to add a screenshot (choose the most appealing page on your blog), as it will be displayed on the Amazon sales page.

At the end of the day, it should look something like this:

Published

3. Choose payment options

You’ll be redirected to a page where you can enter your address, business type etc. and choose the desired payment option. After that, your blog may take 48 to 72 hours to appear on Amazon.

How it works

To make a long story short, this is a quick self-publishing tool to help you sell your blog on the Kindle store.

Its working is similar to RSS: your updates are auto-delivered wirelessly to the Kindle and updated throughout the day.

How it looks

The only difference is that instead of just the headline, your readers can access the full text content plus most images on your blog. Moreover, the updates are downloaded to the Kindle and can be read even when the device is not connected to the internet.

A couple of moans

On a 70-30 revenue share, the bossy retailer walks away with the lion’s share and the publisher gets the smaller piece for all his hard work. That sounds cruel, but your blog is available freely on the internet … remember?

The more annoying aspect is that you can neither regulate the price, nor give away your blog subscription for free.

And in addition to the advertising, the useful social networking links for Twitter, Digg, Reddit, and Facebook are also removed> I don’t have much respect for that!

Is it really the Next Big Thing?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Yes, you can reach out to a sizeable readership through the Amazon Kindle, but don’t expect to make big bucks out of it. However it goes along, it’s a fascinating idea and part of the constant move to mobility.

Do you have any questions or suggestions about Kindle publishing for blogs? Let’s discuss them in the comments.

This guest post is by Ali Abbas. Check out his Blog if you want to: improve your writing skills, land better-paying writing gigs or learn some ‘kinky’ ways to drive traffic to your website. Ali is a young, enthusiastic freelance writer and blogger. Click here to learn more about him.

5 Goals Every Blogger Should Set Up in Google Analytics

This guest post is by Eugen Oprea of EugenOprea.com.

Do you want to build a successful business online?

I bet you do. Now that I have your attention, what is the first and most important step that will help you achieve that?

It’s important to know your audience and to build an awesome website that is fast and secure. It’s also important to have a social media presence and to write engaging articles.

But all of these come after you set up your business objectives and goals.

Setting up your business objectives and goals is the first and most important step towards your success online. Without them, you might as well not start it at all.

Set up goals for your blog

Like business goals, you also need to have goals for your website.

Whether they are simple goals like attracting readers and engaging visitors, or bigger goals, like increasing conversion rate, you need to have them on paper.

Then, once you are aware of what you want to achieve with your website, it’s time to start measuring those goals.

The simplest way to do this is by using Google Analytics. Google Analytics helps you not only see stats about your visitors, but also lets you create and measure your website goals and objectives.

Getting started

If you are just getting started with Google Analytics, you may want to read more about reviewing your offer, revisiting your conversion funnel, and revamping your communications, or get a handle on the basics of Google Analytics.

But, you likely already have a Google Analytics account, so let’s just dive in to creating the first goals for your website.

For starters, I would recommend you measure:

  • Engaged visitors: visitors who stay on your website longer than the average
  • Readers: visitors who read more pages on your website that the average
  • Email subscribers: visitors who sign up for your newsletters or freebies
  • Customers: visitors who purchase a product
  • Ad performance: clicks on ads to see which one is performing best, and who sent the traffic that clicks on your ads.

Before diving into each of these stats, let’s see how you can create a Google Analytics goal.

Log into Google Analytics and from your Account Home select the website for which you want to set up goals.

On the next screen you should see the Visitors Overview—this is a good opportunity to check your Pages/Visit and Avg. Visit Duration stats. You will use them later.

google-analytics-overview

Then, select[Admin from the top-right menu, select your website profile, and click the Goals tab.

google-analytics-goals

Now, here’s how you can create the goals outlined above:

1. Measure your engaged visitors

Start with the Goals set 1, and click on the +1 Goal. You will be directed to a window that will help you set up your first goal.

First, type in a name for your goal and make it active.

The you will see a list of Goal Type options. You will learn about all of them in this article, but select Visit Duration for this goal. This will help you measure how engaged your visitors are, and who is sending you those engaged visitors, among other things.

Next, on Goal Details, select visits with Visit Duration greater than your Avg. Visit Duration. For my websites, I use one minute as the duration.

Additionally, you can add a value for your goal, but if you are not sure about this, add 1.

google-analytics-engaged-visitors

2. Measure your readers

Now, it’s time to set up the next goal and see who are the readers of our website, and which visitors read more articles.

Just like for the first goal, you need to give this one a name and make it active.

Then, select Pages/Visit as a Goal Type, and enter as the Goal Details visits with Pages/Visit greater than your average Pages/Visit.

I use 2 for my websites. Add a value for your goal and you are done with this.

google-analytics-readers

3. Measure your email subscribers

Next, we get to the exciting part: measuring your email subscribers.

Even though it’s fairly easy to set this goal up, it will give you so many insights that can help you increase your conversion rates.

First, though, you will need to have a Thank you page set up to send visitors to after they confirm their email address for you. You are going to use this page when setting up your goal so set it up on your website first. Once that’s done, set up your email marketing provider to direct visitors there after they confirm their email address.

Now, you can create the goal. This time you need to select URL Destination as the goal type and on the Goal Details, you need to set these options:

  • The Goal URL: If your thank you page is http://www.yourwebsite.com/thank-you/ then type in /thank-you/.
  • Match Type: select Exact Match.
  • If your URL is case-sensitive then select the Case Sensitive option.
  • Add a goal value.

Additionally, you can set up a Goal Funnel, which is essentially a series of pages that lead to your conversion or thank you page. You can use this option if, for example, you have a landing page for your newsletter.

In this case you can select / as the URL, name it Index and /your-landing-page/, and add a name for it.

This will let you see where your visitors dropped out on their way to subscribe for your newsletter.

google-analytics-email-subscribers

4. Measure your customers

Setting up a goal to measure your customers is essentially the same as for your subscribers. All you have to do is create a conversion page where you can send people after they purchase your product.

Then, you need to set up a goal for it in Google Analytics in exactly the same way you did for subscribers.

5. Measure your ads’ performance

Before setting up a goal for measuring your ads’ performance, you need to have a good idea about what event tracking means and how you can implement it.

So, first learn about how you can use event tracking and what it means for measuring your ads’ effectiveness.

Now, once you setup event tracking on your website, you can go and create a goal for each event you’ve set up. To do that select Event as the Goal Type and fill in the Category, Action, Label, and Value for your goal. These values are the same ones you used when you set up event tracking for your calls to action.

You can set up goals for all your events, your most important events or none of them. It’s your choice if you want to see them only in the Events section, or get more insights about how different traffic sources are sending you visitors that complete actions differently.

google-analytics-ads-performance

How to measure your Google Analytics goals

Here comes the most interesting part of this article: measuring the outcomes for the goals you set up.

After you se tup these goals, you will be able to see your engaged visitors, your most loyal readers, your subscribers, your customers or how your ads are performing.

But what do you do if you want to discover who is sending you traffic that converts? And by “converts,” I mean simple visitors becoming engaged visitors, loyal readers, subscribers, customers, or people who click on you ads.

To do that, you need to navigate to Standard Reporting > Traffic Sources > Sources > All Traffic. Then click on Goal Set 1, just above the graphic, and you will see conversion data about your traffic sources.

This will tell you which websites are sending you visitors that convert, and you will know where you need to leverage your presence. For example, you can learn:

  • what kind of traffic you receive from a guest post
  • which social media outlet sends you quality traffic
  • if your press release did a good job
  • if the ad you’re paying for is worth it
  • and much more…

Finally, you can apply this technique to check most of the reports in Google Analytics. Go ahead and discover more about how your visitors convert.

Back to you

Now that you finished reading, it’s time to take action. Go and set up the goals you learned about and then come back and share with us:

  1. how much time it took you to complete this
  2. other goals that you want to measure, or already measuring, in Google Analytics
  3. what else you want to learn about this tool.

Eugen Oprea helps people convert more traffic into loyal customers using proven techniques that grow your business. Get his Google Analytics course for free to learn more and check his new WordPress plugin Elevatr.

8 Non-writing Apps for Writers

This guest post is by Ben Ellis of www.b3n3llis.com.

A lot of “app talk” in the world of writing revolves around the main applications used to compose your piece of writing, such as Scrivener, iA Writer, and my weapon of choice, MOApps’ Write, plus a whole load of others too.

I use a few additional apps to help me research and record things when I’m out and my notebook or laptop are at home. These assistant apps are ones you can fire up on your phone or tablet when a moment of inspiration hits you or you need to double-check something. Now you don’t need to worry about always remembering a pen and paper … just keep your battery charged.

Dictionary & Thesaurus

My poor spelling of words longer than five letters demands I use this app on a very regular basis. It’s easy to use, very well designed and the Thesaurus is great too. Although I only use it to find words that have slipped my memory—it’s no good filling your MS with a myriad of grandiloquent words you, your peers, or characters would never use in normal everyday life. This app’s free with ads and paid without.

Rhyme Source

The basic design means it’s not the most attractive app on your device, but it is one of the easiest to use. For someone who doesn’t write poetry I use this surprsingly often. It comes at a small cost.

Dropbox

Everyone should have a backup in the Cloud. This is the Big Daddy of the services available out there, but there are others. The main, fundamental point is: back up your stuff. Also, handy if you’re out and about and you want to review or add to a document of yours—you can access it and make an amendment to the live document from anywhere at anytime. Free for a basic account.

Nebulous

Now, you could use Mac’s native Notes app to record your story ideas, but that would be boring, right? So check out Nebulous. It’s especially built for writers, coders, and others to record ideas.

I only use it to note down ideas but it’s better than Notes, allowing a better filing system, plus it’s integrated with Dropbox so once you enter an idea, it automatically creates a backup in the cloud via your Dropbox account. Free and paid versions are available.

Discover

I’m glad I started writing during the Age of Wikipedia because I can’t imagine it any other way! This app gives you an intuitive way to navigate Wikipedia along with some added features such as a search history and related articles. It’s an effective and enjoyable research tool. Free but you’ll have to switch to the US store to get it (if you’re not already there).

MacFreedom and TV Guide

TV, along with the internet, is probably the worst enemy of a writer’s productivity. Vegging in front of a reality show or scrolling aimlessly through Twitter or an exe’s Facebook profile doesn’t get the next great novel of a generation written!

MacFreedom (for Mac and PC) blocks all internet activity on a laptop or desktop for a set amount of time, whilst the TV Guide app lets you see what’s on TV before you actually switch it on. MacFreedom is only $10 and the TV Guide is free. Your writing time is precious, protect it!

The National Geographic HD Atlas

Yes, you could use Google Maps or Google Earth, but for a small cost you could immerse yourself into a beautifully rendered HD atlas and let your imagination travel the seven seas!

Baby Names

Gives you ideas and inspiration for names and the meanings and origins behind them. Anyone seeing you use it may have some questions for you, especially your other half. Free.

You can probably achieve the same results with most of these apps by just using a web browser on your phone, but where’s the fun in that?! Also, if you really like an app then go ahead and pay for the full version to encourage the developer to spend time on updating and improving it for you.

Do you use any of these apps? Or others we should know about? Share them in the comments.

Ben Ellis has completed his second novel, ‘Broken Branches’ a dystopian tale of controlled procreation, and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  You can find him online at http://www.b3n3llis.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/b3n3llis.

5 Big Hosting Mistakes Bloggers Don’t Know They’re Making

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

If you take your blogging seriously you’ll know that you have to wear a lot of different hats. We are content marketers, SEO students, social media savants, and sometimes web designers.

But what a lot of bloggers seem to forget is that our blog hosting setup is an extremely crucial piece in the puzzle. Yet it often gets overlooked because it is scary, boring or just too darn hard.

It is really complicated stuff. I certainly couldn’t cover everything in one post—some people spend their whole careers figuring it out!

What I am going to show you, however, is a few big mistakes that you need to make sure you avoid. If you know any others please leave a comment and let me know. It might really help someone.

1. Setting up on a free host instead of your own

I’ve talked about this a lot on my blog and so have writers here on ProBlogger but it is a mistake that many new bloggers continue to make.

Now don’t get me wrong, services like Tumblr are a really cool way to get your word out there and blog socially but if you want to take it to the next level and go pro, you need to get your own domain name, and install WordPress on your own host.

Here’s why I don’t like freely hosted blogs:

  • Lack of control: On a free blog, you don’t have total control over the theme, settings, back end, or hosting environment. You are essentially leasing a space from the owners.
  • You don’t own it: The big concern for me is that on a lot of free platforms you don’t own the blog! This is a really big problem if you are trying to go professional or if you ever want to sell the blog down the track.
  • Google doesn’t rank them as well: The last big clincher for me is that many SEOs will tell you that Google doesn’t rank these free domains as well in the search results. If you want to step up and compete in a very competitive niche, you’ll need your own domain name and a solid permalink structure.

And it’s important that you switch sooner rather than later if you are planning on doing it. You see, when you change from free to paid hosting, there’s a whole host of other issues to sort out, like a loss of current rankings if your link structure changes.

It’s very important that you weigh up the pros and cons of a migration like this as soon as possible.

2. Not choosing a host with live support

As I mentioned at the start, this stuff is really confusing. And things often go wrong. When they do, it is really important that you have live support staff that can help you out and get the problem fixed fast, without hassle.

Part of the reason I recommended Blue Host in my post on the best host for new WordPress bloggers was because they have live, 24/7 support staff that are incredibly helpful. I am no longer with Blue Host as I outgrew the service, but for the years that I was there, I had countless life-saving, middle-of-the-night, brilliant support sessions from staff who really know their stuff.

Live chat

A screenshot of the live support wait time at Blue Host recently

I have noticed that it is really common to get stressed and panicked when you don’t understand something fully. And because hosting is so complicated, it is really easy to lose your cool when something goes wrong. It is a massive advantage to know there are people there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case something goes wrong.

3. Thinking that “unlimited domains” actually means unlimited domains

Something that I learned only recently is that when most hosts say that you get unlimited domains, unlimited hosting, and unlimited databases, they don’t actually mean it.

If you dig deeper into the terms of service you will find that most hosts (not all) have an excessive storage policy which basically says that if you abuse your “unlimited” space, your service will be affected.

Some of the things they might do include:

  • Throttling: This is where your site gets slowed down in order to help cope with the strain on the servers. This might happen if you have a bunch of sites that are taking up too much bandwidth for your hosting environment.
  • Stopped backups: Most good hosts perform a daily backup of your entire server to re-install if something goes wrong. But if you exceed the allowed file count by too much, you’ll find that those automatic daily backups stop pretty quickly.
  • Account suspension: If things get really bad and the host suspects that you are hosting files not related to any website activity, they will suspend your account. This is something that you really don’t want to happen.

My best tip here would be to know exactly what your host’s policies are on file storage, and to then make sure you know exactly what your server needs are.

If your blog is getting a lot of traffic and constantly growing it might be time to move to a more advanced environment like a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a dedicated host.

4. Mixing your experimental stuff with your money sites

If you have a website or blog that is starting to make money that you rely on, it is really important to make sure it is on its own hosting account.

You see, what often happens is that we purchase one hosting package and then start experimenting with new blogs and websites. Eventually the whole situation gets cluttered, crowded, and very unprofessional.

Blogs that are starting to get some good traffic and have good rankings and loyal subscribers need to be protected and looked after. Make sure you keep them on their own host for security and up-time reasons, and leave your experimental sites to a different hosting package and location.

5. Failing to delete old blogs, websites, and files

The last thing I want to talk about is the fact that many bloggers leave abandoned or dead files, blogs, and websites in their host not knowing that they represent a security threat.

Without going in to all the details (I don’t really know all the details!), hackers can use insecure and old files to access your account in some situations. This is especially risky if you have been using WordPress and not keeping your plugins and installations up to date. It’s a threat.

If you’re not going to use a blog any more, just delete it. It’s not the easiest process, but it’s something that is worthwhile learning. So how do you do it?

Well, in some hosting environments you can just go to Addon Domains and then remove the domain that you want to stop using. That often removes the installation and the remaning database.

Other times, you will need to use PHPMyAdmin to locate the old site and delete the corresponding database. This can be a complicated process, so it’s best to ask your own host for advice on how to proceed. As mentioned, some environments and setups are different to others.

Are you making any mistakes?

I’d love to know if you are making any of these mistakes or whether you can think of any others that we can add to the list. Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

Escaping from Desktop: Online Document Editing Tools for Bloggers

This guest post is by Nina Gorbunova of TeamLab.

I first faced the problem of document immobility a couple of years ago, when I was far away from my PC. I lost my flash stick and realized that I didn’t have my documents stored anywhere in the cloud. That’s what we call epic fail. Of course, “it’s not the end of the world,” you may say. But being a freelancer, sooner or later you realize the importance of round-the-clock access to your files.

Another problem I faced was appropriate document management—in terms of document creating, storing, editing and sharing. Being an active blogger, I deal with document editing almost 24/7 and have strict requirements for the software I’m using. I need it to have an intuitive interface, rich toolset, and flexible sharing features.

Microsoft Word and Pages were pretty much enough for me formerly, but since I decided to step into the world of SaaS, I needed something different.

It took me half an hour to find more than a dozen services that promised to help me with remote working in the cloud. However it took me several days to figure out that most of them were not what I was searching for.

Google Docs

The most popular online document editor deserves to be covered first. Google Docs‘ interface tends to be minimal. As for the toolset, although in comparison with desktop editors it is not that rich, I believe it can suffice for an average user.

Google docs

Your Google Docs document can be downloaded as ODT, PDF, RTF, text, Word and HTML formats. Despite its popularity I had quite a few troubles when it came to inserting an image and huge problems with editing tables.

The Sharing feature is simple enough: as well as the options shown below, you can share the document with anybody and set up access rights to let them edit, comment, or just view the document. The only hindrance that might bother your collaborator is that they’ll need to be logged into your Google account to access the document (unless you use private sharing, which is preferable).

Google sharing

As a positive, the Comments feature is amazing and appears to be a huge advantage. However, I had troubles uploading and editing large docs and docs that contained several images.

Zoho Documents

Zoho is another well-known giant in the world of collaboration software. From the first glance I was impressed by its colorful and bright interface. On the other hand, it appeared to be a little bit tangled and confusing.

Zoho docs

It has a custom dictionary, word count and Thesaurus—though I’m not sure how many people would use these features. Zoho developers did their best to put some fun into tables and even included Table Themes. Unfortunately, though, even those didn’t let me make the table look the way I wanted.

Zoho tables

Working with images went smoothly. One thing that was difficult me was pagination, because when I downloaded the document (you can see available formats in the screenshot), the number of pages was different from what I expected it to be.

Sharing was another feature that left me confused. The terms of sharing are standard, but the document didn’t look the same on my screen and that of my colleague; moreover, he couldn’t edit it even though I gave him “read and write” access. That’s a serious problem that might be a stumbling block for many users.

Zoho sharing

On the plus side, the toolset is extremely impressive. However, an average user would find many of the tools superfluous, besides, some of them, like tables and headers, seemed to have serious bugs.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 hasn’t gained as much popularity as Google Docs yet, but the service definitely looks promising. Its interface is close to what most of us are accustomed to, and the basic toolset reminds us of a desktop application.

Office 365

The number of fonts and styles significantly exceeds that available in other online editors. Furthermore, users have the ability to switch to the desktop version of the software using the Open in Word button.

What confused me most of all—and it can be seen on the screenshot—was working with images and tables—there was no drag’n’drop functionality at all. For me, this is on the “must have” list, but its implementation is probably only a question of time since Office 365 is still quite a young solution.

The application does not provide sharing capabilities, though SkyDrive by MS enables users not only to share the document with a others, but even post it directly to social networks. I’m sure this software has a bright future, being a part of such a strong suit, but for me currently it’s not functional enough—I would prefer to use SkyDrive or some alternative app.

Office 365 share

Central Desktop

The tendency of software engineers to include document management capabilities in collaboration and project management platforms has become widespread these days, and Central Desktop is an example of such a tool. A user-friendly interface and basic features, however, don’t make the service unique.

Central desktop

Document editing is inseparably linked to the other parts of the platform—Project Management, Calendar, and People, which is a benefit if you are planning to collaborate with your colleagues using this tool. If not, it may be a serious obstacle, since the sharing feature is available for system members only.

That said, the Central Desktop Document Editor can’t help but produce a good impression. The drag’n’drop deature works great, and editing tables is convenient. There does seem to be a poor number of fonts and font sizes, though.

Although I haven’t tried to collaborate with this platform, it seems to me that the opportunity of inserting Calendar and blocks of Group Activity might comes in handy especially when it comes to reporting—as you might do within a blogging team.

Central desktop 2

There’s no opportunity to use Central Desktop for free, so it’ll be a closed book for many bloggers. Prices start at $99 per month for 20 users—again reflecting its team focus. Initially you get a 15-day trial for free.

Teamlab Document Editor

This is another tool that includes an editor as a part of an online collaboration service. But I intentionally put this one to the very end of the list because—cards on the table—I work for TeamLab. Now you might say that every cook praises his own broth, so I’ll do my best to stay as impartial as possible!

Among various online document editors this one looks the most like your favorite desktop application—Office 365 is probably the only alternative that would compete with TeamLab in this realm. The toolset is also impressive—Teamlab Documents provide you with a large number of styles and fonts, using those already uploaded to your computer.

Teamlab view

Image editing is good. Images stay exactly where you put them and can be shifted easily. Tables offer the same flexibility and nice designs. The editor has its drawbacks, of course. The lack of a spell checker and drag’n'drop text pasting are the biggest issues I’ve found so far.

One of the most noticeable advantages of the application is the “document identity,” which became possible with the usage of HTML5 canvas technology. Technically, this means there are no more formatting losses when you convert your doc into another format (which is the most irritating thing about most online editing tools). You can download your document as PDF, text, DOCX, DOC, ODT, RTF, HTML, or EPUB, and it won’t change a bit.

Sharing is available for those who are registered to use the platform as well as for third parties, which means groups of collaborators aren’t dependent on the platform.

Teamlab sharing

This option also offers Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box.com integration. However, right now, Teamlab can process text documents only, as it is still in beta. Spreadsheets, PDF files and presentations are on the way, according to the developers.

Jacks of all trades, masters of none?

Though we can find a dozen services for online document editing, many users still have to admit that most solutions lack functionality and remain far behind the best offline editors, such as MS Word and Pages.

If you’re working with all document types—spreadsheets, texts and PDF files—neither Google Docs nor Central Desktop can be called a full-featured editor, though they reach the furthest of the options we’ve looked at here.

Do they offer additional tools for file processing? Yes. Are they desktop editor replacments? No. Nevertheless the younger generation of editing apps already gets closer to perfection.

Do you use online document editing tools in your blogging? Why, or why not? And if you do, which ones? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Nina is an active blogger, a marketing manager at TeamLab and CeBIT 2012 participant. She is interested in technology advance and believes HTML5 is the future technology.

Why I Switched Blog Hosting Companies (and Who I’m With Now)

One of the most common questions I’m asked about how I run my blogs is, “What web host do you use and recommend?”

Synthesis hosting

Over the past ten years I’ve used around eight different hosting services, ranging from the very early days of relying upon free host Blogger, through to my more recent use of Amazon’s Web Services. The challenge has always been that my blogs have constantly changed in terms of what they require, given new designs, added features, and growing traffic.

As a result, we’ve had our fair share of nightmares: numerous periods of blogs crashing due to load problems, and a couple of security issues that required a lot of time, energy, and money to resolve.

Synthesis Managed WordPress HostingIn the last six months, I’ve made a switch in the hosting of all of my blogs, which has resulted in the most stable period for my blogs in the last decade.

The switch was to move over to Synthesis—a managed hosting service created for WordPress users by the team at Copyblogger Media.

A number of things attracted me to Synthesis:

  • It’s designed for WordPress: All of the hosts I’ve used over the years were certainly WordPress-compatible, but when problems arose and I sought support it sometimes became apparent that WordPress was just one of many many platforms that they could work with. As a result, functionality and processes were sometimes were clunky, and to get set up well, I often had to bring in experts. The Synthesis team knows WordPress inside-out. Not only have they designed a service that works with it from the ground up, they’ve been very supportive in helping iron out some bugs I’d not been able to resolve previously.
  • Genesis support: I had recently moved ProBlogger over to the Genesis framework, which is also created by CopyBlogger’s StudioPress team. While they’ll host non-Genesis sites, their familiarity with it gave me confidence. I’m moving dPS to Genesis in the short term too, so I’m excited about having everything running on compatible and well-synced systems.
  • Security: I’ve had my fair share of security attacks over the years, so finding a secure host was key for me.
  • Support: I’ve got people on my team who are able to offer support on some levels, but the Sythesis team have added to this incredibly—particularly when it came to migrating from my old host to their services. Being in Australia isn’t an issue, either—their support desk is open 24/7 and their response time is super-quick.
  • Expense: This is the first server switch that I’ve done where I ended up paying less than I was with the previous service. While I’m sure you can get cheaper services, for the features you get, I find this service very reasonable in comparison to what I was paying. View their pricing plans here—plans start at $27 per month.

All in all, my blogs are now faster, more secure, and more reliable, and they’re experiencing just a fraction of the problems that they were on other system. I sleep a lot easier these days with Genesis and Synthesis!

Disclaimer: I am a proud affiliate for Synthesis and Genesis. They are two of the few services I use and have no hesitation in recommending.