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Dude, You’ve Been Hacked!

Published November 17, 2014 - 2 Comments

No one ever wants to hear those words.  “You’ve been hacked!”  Sure enough, when I went to the blog, I was greeted by this:

HackedIt slowly scrolled up and told me how good my security was, but how they were far better.  Blah Blah Blah.  I figure that it’s just a group of script kiddies somewhere who don’t have a clue and are just getting their jollies from defacing some websites.  The real kicker here was that I went to check each of my websites, and they were all showing the same thing! 🙁  That’s one of the joys of shared web hosting.  When one is torched, it’s almost a sure thing that everything is gone.

I contacted my hosting provider Dreamhost and received instructions on how to get my websites back up and running.  Unfortunately there is no simple way to roll them back, so I had to go through each one and create new WordPress installations, copy the database and uploads from the hacked folder into the new one, and re-install my themes and plugins.  This started off as a  very slow process, but after the third or fourth time, I began to get the knack of it.  Let’s just say that I’m now pretty proficient in understanding which WordPress files are key to holding your data.

So how did these punks get in in the first place?  I don’t know.  The most likely scenario is that one of my WordPress plugins or themes had a vulnerability in it, allowing them access to all my sites.  Wordpress plugins get updated all the time, and it’s a big pain to keep them up to date – especially when you are running multiple sites.  Some of my sites are not actively used, so I rarely log into them.  That makes them especially vulnerable to hackers looking for access.

How do you manage multiple WordPress sites to keep your plugins or themes up to date?  There are some services out there that allow you to update everything from a single dashboard!  One of the free ones I found is WP-Remote.  Their website claims “Monitor and update all of your WordPress‐powered sites. 68,253 WordPress websites already do.”  I created a login and added a plugin to each of my blogs that I wanted to manage.  Voila!  This is what the WP-Remote dashboard looks like:

 

WPRemoteYou can see the list of WordPress sites on the left hand side, and easily determine whether they are up to date or require action.  Installing updates is as simple as clicking a single button on the right side to update all.  Within seconds everything is good to go!  This is a brilliant service, and saves me a ton of time!  I’ve made a habit of checking in with WP Remote in the morning and updating any files that require it.  Did I mention that it’s free?  They sell a premium version of their service that adds things like automated backups, but I’ve discovered that I don’t need to pay for those.  Why not?  Keep reading, and I’ll tell ya!

Updraft Plus is a fantastic (and free!) WordPress plugin that performs fully automated backups on whatever schedule you set, and saves them locally as well as on virtually any remote storage location.  They offer a premium plan that gives you more control over how those backups are performed, but I’m OK with the free version for now.

Free managing dashboard.  Free automated backups.  What a great deal, right?  Yup!  But there’s one area that I DID decide to splurge a little money on.  I’ve been a faithful Dropbox user for years, and I’d worked my way up to 14GB of free space, but it just wasn’t enough.  So with the money that I saved from the other two services, I upgraded my Dropbox to the Professional plan.  For $109/year I now have 1TB of space.  That’s more than enough for all my backup needs. Famous last words.

So while this hacking incident has cost me some time and money (lost Adsense revenue and increase purchasing) I’ve learned a great deal about WordPress installations, the critical files, bulk management, and now have a solid backup/restore plan in the event of a catastrophic failure in the future.  It was a difficult pill to swallow, but I think that the lessons learned far outweigh the loss.

Let’s hope that I never have to deal with this again. But if I do, I have the right tools in place to minimize any downtime.

On Vacation – 2 Weeks!

Published June 29, 2013 - 0 Comments

I’m on vacation!  For 2 whole weeks!  So you know what THAT means, right?  If it’s raining wherever you are when you’re reading this… It’s my fault.  You’re welcome!  And if you would like to book a spot on my Ark, there might be a little room left between the Rhinos and Hippos… so good luck!

Yes, the long term forecast looks suspiciously like Stephen vacation weather… wet.  Downpours.  Thunder and lightning.  Light rain.  End of Days.  Needless to say, I’m not planning on venturing far from home.  Perhaps a nice “staycation”, if you will. It’s cheaper that way, and I’ve discovered that being a home owner can be rather costly.

One of my goals over the next two weeks is to complete a course that I signed up for called Make Your First Dollar by the folks at AppSumo. I know that a lot of people equate making money online with scammers… and there certainly is a lot of that… but there are also some really good online businesses out there, and I plan on being one of them.  I needed a little boost, so I decided to buy that course… and so far I’m loving it!

You may have seen the video below already.  I posted it yesterday, but I’ve discovered a way to embed it directly into the site, rather than through YouTube… which I think gives it a much more natural feel.  So I’m posting it again!  I’m pretty proud of it, considering I have zero artistic ability.


Blog Migration

Published January 19, 2012 - 0 Comments

If you are noticing any craziness with this blog, or any of the others in my mini online empire, it’s because I’m in the midst of migrating them to a new hosting provider.  My current provider messed things up again, and I’ve had it.  The downtime has been unacceptable, and now I have several blogs that are giving database errors when you try to get to them.  I’ve had it.

So… please be patient while I work on the technical issues.  I hope to be back blogging within the next couple of days.

Stephen

Infolinks Results

Published November 7, 2011 - 2 Comments

No doubt you’ve seen the little popups that appear when you hover your mouse pointer over those underlined words.  These are Infolinks advertisements.  You’ve all seen them.  Some of you have even clicked on them.  Don’t try to deny it, I know you have.  I have metrics to prove it!  Although I have no idea who… so your dirty little secret is safe.

But in case you’re wondering whether these annoying little unsightly links are actually useful, or just a pain in your ass… I’ve decided to do a little post on some of the numbers.  Below you can see a report that I ran for the current week.  I have to state that these numbers are for my entire Infolinks account, which includes 4 blogs.  Although most of the impressions come from this blog, surprisingly most of the clicks happen on other blogs.  My feeling is that people who come to WaS want to read whatever is going on in my life.  They’re friends, family, and stalkers.  Most of the traffic is driven from direct hits, and not search engines.  Therefore you really have no interest in clicking a product or service link… unlike someone who lands on a pickle blog and sees ads for pickling, and home cooking products.  As for my Unfriendly Giant blog.. I have no idea what those people are clicking on.. but I appreciate it all the same!

Net
Impressions [?]
Clicks Page
CTR [?]
Page
eCPM [?]
Earnings
 Sunday, October 30, 2011 128 6 4.69% $1.48 $0.19
 Monday, October 31, 2011 158 6 3.8% $1.27 $0.2
 Tuesday, November 1, 2011 119 3 2.52% $0.42 $0.05
 Wednesday, November 2, 2011 94 2 2.13% $0.74 $0.07
 Thursday, November 3, 2011 76 5 6.58% $2.63 $0.2
 Friday, November 4, 2011 54 3 5.56% $3.52 $0.19
Total 629 25 $0.9
Daily Average 104 4 4.21% $1.68 $0.15

I don’t really want to get into explaining what all the numbers mean but I will point out the one of obvious interest:  Earnings.  My daily average earnings for the week is $0.15.  Obviously I’m not going to pay for my Lexus with revenue from Infolinks (yet) but this is substantially higher than the first month of July which averaged $0.02 per day.  In fact, the daily average rose every month (with the exception of October, which dipped slightly)  since I integrated Infolinks into the blogs.

  • August $0.06
  • September $0.16
  • October $0.12

I can not explain October’s dip, especially considering the huge bump in traffic that the Madonna posts attracted.  Apparently Madonna fans don’t click ads!  But that’s ok.  I realize that as more posts are added to all the blogs, more natural traffic will come in, and those numbers will continue to rise.  And they’re really only a small part of the overall strategy, but it’s the one that I can easily share with you.

Until my ebook hits the virtual shelves  🙂

Trying to Design a Logo

Published October 18, 2011 - 8 Comments

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  So when it comes to making websites, graphics, or logos… if it doesn’t come with a template, then it’s going to look like crap.

So yesterday I spent some time trying to design a logo for my dream project.  I’ve discovered something about logo design.  It’s not cheap.  Starting at $199 and up.  Wow.

Then there are do-it-yourself sites that give you an assortment of symbols and only charge you when you have finalized things the way you like it.  Those are priced around $70.

I threw this design out to Twitter and Google+ looking for feedback, and got next to nothing.  (Thank you Cathy and Bill for replying)  I figured that I would put it on the blog and ask people what they thought… before I slap down $70 on it.

Bill mentioned that the symbol didn’t match the company name, but that he still thought that it looked good.  I pointed out that the symbol is a computer mouse.  When I came up with the name of the company, I chose “Write-Click” as a bit of a tongue in cheek to “writing on the computer… and right-clicking a mouse”…  So I think it’s relevant, but I may be assuming too much from people who aren’t familiar with the backstory.  I dunno.

Write-Click Media is my outlet for my blogging / writing / internet marketing ventures.  It’s been in existence for a couple of years now, but has been moving along at a snail’s pace.  It’s time to speed things up a little, and part of that is getting the “business” side of the house in order.

A company logo is part of that.

Any thoughts, comments, questions, criticisms would be welcome.

Blog Monetization Strategies

Published August 8, 2011 - 1 Comment

I’ve recently stepped up my efforts to earn a little money from my online efforts.  You’ve probably noticed some changes on this blog, as well as a couple of the others that I’m working on.  Things are going well…  At this rate, I’ve calculated my retirement year to be 2158.  No, that’s not a typo.  So let’s take a closer look at what’s working… and what isn’t.

  • Amazon Associates Amazon is infamous for having a very low pay-out for affiliate referrals.  4% (6% if you’re a high-end affiliate) is pretty low, but what makes Amazon a profitable venture for many people is their built-in up-sell program.  If you’ve ever been on Amazon.com you’re probably familiar with their “Other buyer were also interested in this…”  and they list a few things that are somehow related to what you’re looking for on Amazon’s website.  The beauty of their affiliate program is that you get credit for any sales that someone follows your link from.  So if you review a book and place an affiliate link at the bottom, the person who clicks on that link and then decides to buy something else while they’re in there will also add to your affiliate sale.  Good news!  So I decided to try it out and make sure that it worked.  I bought a Starfrit MightiCanand had it shipped to one of my readers as a surprise.  I’ve been watching to see how long it took the referral fee to show up.  And I’m still waiting.  So I did a little digging, and discovered this statement, which explains why I haven’t received anything.  Hmm… understandable, but I still wish that I could have seen the process in action.

    What is Amazon’s policy for Associates placing orders for themselves?

    You may not purchase products during sessions initiated through your own Associates links and will not receive referral fees for such orders. This includes orders for customers, orders on behalf of customers, and orders for products to be used by you, your friends, your relatives, or your associates in any manner

  • Infolinks I implemented Infolinks in-text advertising on all my blogs, and of everything that generates money, this is the one that seems to be working the best.  Every day I log into my status page and check the reports.  Some days I show no clicks.  Some days I show a couple.  I’m currently averaging $0.02/day and that’s across all blogs.  Now you see why the retirement date is pushed out a little bit.  But that’s fine.  These things take time, and the more content that is delivered, the bigger and more well-known the blogs get, the more people who start to come to them… it will get better.  What is encouraging to see if that the clicks actually come from an even spread across the different blogs, so it appears to be natural traffic, rather than someone just clicking on one site.  You would think that a blog like this one would have more readers and more people clicking, simply because it’s been around longer, but it fares no better or worse than The Unfriendly Giant or Lady Ashburnham Pickles.  
  • Chitika Then we come to the Chitika ads.  These are the little ones with some sort of picture.  I decided to implement these more strategically… you only see one at a time, so they’re not peppering the site.  I also placed them only in posts, and sort of integrated a little more than just a side bar or banner.  As of now, I’m still showing NOTHING in my reports, even though I asked someone to perform a test click for me a couple of days ago.  Chitika says that it will take 3 days for your first click to show up if you are a new advertiser, and then it should be daily after that… but I still am not registering a single click.  I don’t want to click them myself because they’re pretty good at detecting those sorts of things, and I’m pretty sure that’s what Google thought I was doing when they banned me from AdSense.  Thanks Google….  bite me. Anyway, if someone wants to click a Chitika add and let me know how it works on your end, I’d be curious.
That’s pretty much it.  I’m not quite ready to quit my day job… yet..  🙂
PS:  I want my can opener back!

 

Small Modifications to the Blog

Published June 4, 2011 - 1 Comment

You might have noticed a couple of small modifications to the blog in the last couple of weeks.

  • Related posts: If you open a blog post, at the bottom you will now (usually) find a list of related posts that you can click on to explore the blog further.  There are several plugins that will do this automatically, but I’ve gone with one that I add the related posts manually, so I have greater control over it.  That means that the older posts do not  yet have related posts, but I hope to go back and add to those.  The idea behind the related posts is that I continue to pick up new readers, and no one realistically expects them to go back and start reading from the beginning… but if they read something interesting now, they will see a list of related posts which may also interest them as well.
  • Things to come: The SOUP (Show Off Upcoming Posts) plugin is a tool that allows you to put a little teaser of posts that are scheduled in the future.  If you see something listed under Things to Come on the right side, then you know that there are scheduled posts.  If you don’t see anything, that doesn’t mean that I’m not posting anything… it just means that I haven’t lined anything up in the queue.
  • What am I Reading?: I thought that it would be fun to put something on the blog with my current reading project.  I’ve seen plugins that allow a reader to click that graphic and have it take them to Amazon’s site, where if they purchase the book, you get a referral fee.  I can’t get those plugins to work.  🙁   So, instead if you click on it, it will take you to Google’s book site.  There’s not much to do there.  I just thought that this might motivate me to read more, because I used to read a ton… but have gotten lazy over the years.
  • Archived Posts:  I have not made this change yet, but I’m thinking about it.  I read a post on SEO design that really trashed the idea of archiving your posts by date because it isn’t intuitive for readers, nor is is how search engines work.  Relevancy has nothing to do with chronological dates.  And it’s true…  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reader go back and start at the beginning (except me), or say “Hmm… I wonder what Stephen wrote for the month of November 2009?”  It just doesn’t happen.  So I may very well remove that section, which will free up some space on that side of the blog, and probably force me to move something from the left so it appears more balanced.

Anyway… that’s what I’ve been up to.  No major changes, but I always like to tweak it here and there.  If anyone has any strong feelings for or against anything on the blog… fire me a comment or contact me through the contact form!  I’m still learning all this stuff, so I don’t mind at all if someone questions me or tells me that something looks like crap!

Thanks for reading!

A New Blog Added!

Published May 30, 2011 - 3 Comments

I was going through the Google Analytics logs of all my sites, and I noticed something interesting.  My pickle site, LadyAshburnhamPickles.com has more traffic going to it than I thought it did!  It’s not going to break any records, but people seem to be going to it.  I’ve even had a few people contact me to ask about bottles (whether I sold them, or where the best place to get them might be).

And it got me thinking… maybe it was time to add a blog section to the site.

Just to confuse things… LadyAshburnhamPickles runs on WordPress, but uses static pages, rather than sequential posts (like this site).  When I came up with the idea for the site, I envisioned it as a static page, with some information on Lady Ashburnham, and the pickle recipe.  I gradually added a couple more static pages, but the intent was to create a strictly niche target micro-site, that would be hands-off.  In other words.. it was a test.

I don’t plan on dedicating a ton of time to the new blog (after all… how much can you possibly write about a single type of pickles?) but I thought that adding a community element to the site, where I can periodically throw a post up might be another good way of testing things.  Who knows what will happen?

Let’s find out!

 

I’m a Published Article Writer!

Published April 9, 2011 - 3 Comments

When I created my niche site for overcoming relationship difficulties, one of the things that I learned was to focus on natural search engine rankings by creating quality back-links to the site.  This will help push your site further up the listing in a search engine query, and greatly increase the chances of someone clicking your link for their keyword search. You can create back-links by a few different methods: posting on forums which allow website addresses to be included in author signatures, getting other bloggers to link to your site, and through article marketing which creates articles that can then be picked up by other authors and provide links back to you.

I’ve tried the forums.  I’ve joined different ones, and commented on other people’s posts.  I even got sucked into telling my own story.  It’s definitely a place to go to generate traffic, but I grew a little tired of it.

Getting other bloggers to link to the site isn’t as easy as it sounds either.  And the way that Google ranks websites, chances are I wouldn’t benefit a whole lot from the links that I might receive.  I can whine to some friends to include a link, but we’re all running PR1 sites, so it’s really not very effective.

I have had a little success with a Twitter account that I created specifically for that niche site.  I’ve gained a couple of followers, and had some hits on the site because of that.  I think I need to work the social networking angle more.  I actually enjoy social networking very much, although it can be quite time consuming.

The most recent arrow in my SEO back-link quiver is article marketing.  Basically you write an original article on a niche topic, and submit it to an article directory.  If approved, your article becomes part of their giant database, allowing other people to use that article on their site or newsletter, with credit given to you.  You gain links directly from being in the article directory, and from every website or newsletter that publishes your article.  I’ve heard quite a bit about article marketing in podcasts.  “Article marketing isn’t sexy… but it works!” is the line that I remember most.

EzineArticles is supposed to be the best place to get started.  After that you can spin your article using software that will re-work your original article to make it look slightly different and allow you to submit it to other article directories.  I don’t know if I’m sold on that concept or not, but it’s something to keep in the back of my mind.

When I read through EzineArticle’s article submission guidelines, I almost gave up without finishing them!  They are quite lengthy, and very specific.  You can use this particular type of punctuation in your title, but not that.  You must include this in the body of your article, but definitely not that.  Some of the things are common sense… keep self promotion to a minimum…  but then there are other things that I had to be careful of.  Don’t end your title with a period.  Umm.. ok.. why not?  Doesn’t matter.  Just don’t do it.  I started to wonder whether article marketing was right for me.  What if I wasn’t good enough to get an article approved?  There was only one way to find out.

I wanted to write something brand new, but the more I kept thinking about it, the more daunting the prospect became.  So I reached into my bag of tricks, and pulled out an article that I had written last year for another project I had been working on.  The Hapless Romantic.  It was still original.  It was still mine.  I didn’t consider it to be “published” because I think only 3 people other than myself even knew that it existed.  So I polished it up a little, and changed the title to conform to EzineArticle’s submission guidelines.  After I submitted my article I was informed that it would take a week or so before it was reviewed and then I would receive notification as to its acceptance or not.

Last night I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email informing me that my article was accepted, published, and that I was now an “expert author” on their site.  I assume that expert author is given to anyone who has an article published, and not necessarily an indication of my writing skills being any more or less superior to other authors.  Still, it has a nice ring to it.  Expert author.  Expert author.  Expert author.  OK, OK… I’ll try not to let it go to my head.  🙂

One of the things that came as a shock was that EzineArticles automatically posted a link through my Twitter account to the article!  That reminds me… I really need to go see if I can find that setting in their preferences, because I am not comfortable with every article that I write being broadcast under my Twitter account.  There are projects that I would like to dabble in that may or may not work out for me, and I don’t want to publicly advertise to everyone when I am doing something off the wall.

Will this one article really make a big difference in the amount of traffic driven to my niche site?  Probably not.  It’s part of a broader strategy that includes more articles, and some of the other points that I mentioned earlier.  But it certainly has given me a much needed boost of confidence!

And yes, in case you’re wondering what the article is, you can read it here.  Just remember, I wasn’t planning on making the article public because it’s one of those touchy feely subjects that no one wants to read unless they’re experiencing it.  Had EzineArticles not broadcast it to the world (or the people following me on Twitter) you probably wouldn’t even know that it existed.  🙂

I realize that this post is a little long… so if you’ve made it to the bottom…

Thanks for reading!

Time to Get the Ball Rolling

Published April 5, 2011 - 3 Comments

Getting started is the hardest part

I made sure to be in bed by midnight last night, but that still didn’t help when my alarm started screaming at 7am.  This is my day off.  Aren’t I supposed to stay up until 3am, sleep until the afternoon, and bitch and complain that I never have time to get anything done?  That does sound familiar, doesn’t it?  But today I’m going to try something new.  I put myself on a schedule.

I may have been in bed at midnight (ok, closer to 12:20 by the time I shaved and washed up), but I didn’t fall asleep until 1am.  Still, that would be fine.  Six hours of sleep was actually a little more than I sometimes get when I’m going to my day job, so I was still comfortable with the idea of getting up at 7am.  Until 7am arrived.  Then my natural desire to throw the alarm across the room and go back to sleep took over.  It took a full 20 mins before I finally pulled my lazy ass out of bed. But that’s fine…  I had scheduled an hour for getting going in the morning,which included getting up, having a bath, getting dressed and eating breakfast.  My idea of making bacon and eggs turned into 2 slices of toast, but we have to adapt the plan as the situation on the ground changes, right?

So now I’m clearly in the middle of my Write-Click time… at least until noon, then I’m going to make lunch and clean the house.  Computer time will be over.  I need to stick with this because I tend to waste way too much time in front of my Mac, and the productivity level just isn’t there yet.

Why the change, you ask?  I’m unhappy with how little I’ve accomplished with Write-Click Media.  All my dreams, hopes and desires don’t amount to much when I don’t have anything to show for it.  Things at my day job have taken another turn for the worse, as I try to isolate my feelings and keep them from getting in the way of what needs to be done.  It’s pointless.  It is what it is, and I need to accept that and move on.  Write-Click was supposed to be the vessel for taking me to a completely new level, and I have to wonder whether that would have happened by now had I not been emotionally derailed for the last 2 years.  Yikes!  Has it been that long?  Yes… yes it has..  🙁

Anyway… I’ve tried time and time again to get the ball rolling, but momentum is one of the hardest things to achieve.  See that big rock in the picture?  That’s my life!  Not just Write-Click… not just Steve 2.0…  but pretty much my entire life at the moment.  But I know that once I get that ball moving a little bit… just a tad… that momentum will gradually take over, and things will become easier.

Well, I should be signing off now.  I have an article to write for one of my niche sites.  I’ve been putting it off for the last 2 months, but I can’t do that any longer.  I need to push on that rock a little and see what happens…

Thanks for reading!

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