Hacking: The term itself is enough to give website owners nightmares. Let’s say you have a website with thousands of posts along with hundreds of followers. Now imagine a situation where you wake up one day and login to your site only to find that it’s gone.
All your posts, images, your web pages all gone. Your years of hard work, your visitors all wiped away. And all that you can see is some random page on your site with the text “You Have Been Hacked”. This heart-dropping moment when you realize you’ve been hacked changes everything.
While WordPress continues to dominate the world of blogging, it is not safe from the attention of the hackers. Through one way or another, hackers find a way to bypass the security of a site and wreak havoc on it. If you have a website, there is always a possibility of getting hacked. There are various attacks that can completely or partially paralyze your web site. Some of such attacks are:
Denial of Service
Local File Inclusion
Remote File Inclusion
Cross Site Scripting(XSS)
Along with the ones mentioned above, there are new threats and attacks being developed almost daily. So if you want to protect your site against hacking attacks, you need to make sure that the security of your site is always up to date.
Signs That Indicate Your WordPress Site Is Hacked
Sometimes it is a bit difficult to determine whether your site is hacked or not. Hackers try their very best to hide all the traces of their hacking activities and to remain anonymous. A hacker may silently install some malware on your web server and you might not be even aware of it. So it is always advised to keep a suspicious eye on anything unusual that occurs on your site.
In this article, we will take a look at the 12 signs that indicate that your website has been hacked.
This is one of the primary symptoms that you should look out for. If your site takes more than usual time to load or it becomes unresponsive, possibilities are its hacked. This may be caused by a special type of an attack known as Denial of Service. Every website has a good chance of becoming the target of such an attack. This attack involves multiple servers and infected bots, which sends millions of requests to the server, using fake IP addresses. And when the server gets more requests than it can respond, it overloads. Due to this, the server fails to respond to the huge traffic and ultimately crashes.
Another reason could be that the hacker has added some code to your site that it has slowed down, this could be a script which subjects your visitors to malware with the intention of infecting their computer, rogue advertising, nefarious links to the hackers websites and so on.
Defaced HomePage or Change in the layout or design
A sudden change in the layout or design of your site out of nowhere is an indication that your site is hacked. Such changes may be a minor one or a major one.
A minor change such as the disappearance of one or two images may not indicate a hacked site, as some misplaced code or technical error may also be the reason behind it. However, if there are tons of images suddenly disappearing, or if you see weird images on your site then you could have been hacked.
Another thing that indicates a hacked site is a defaced homepage. If your homepage is replaced by some other random page, posted by the hacker then it is a sure-fire indication that your site is hacked.
Unable to access the Admin page
If you are unable to access the admin page of your site, then there is a chance that hackers have found a way to your admin page and changed your login credentials. Once this happens, immediately analyze the situation and start taking security measures. Contact your hosting company to regain control of your site to prevent further damage.
Hackers often change the admin id and password once they are able to get access, locking the admin out of its own account. To make matters worse, they may even delete the entire user account. This poses a greater threat as now there is no way recover the account from its deleted.
Hackers use brute force attacks to guess passwords. And if you have a weak password set for your admin account, it will be easily hacked.
Unknown Files or Scripts on the Server
Luckily there are tools that automate the task for you. If a hacker has planted some malicious files in your folder, then using tools such as Wordfence or Sucuri you can inspect all your files and activities. This application will alert you if they find anything suspicious on your server.
If you prefer manual searching be sure to look out for malicious files and scripts in the /wp-content/ folder.
Google also gives us a warning message if their crawling bots find something malicious in your code. So the next time, Google raises a warning sign, don’t take it lightly. Your site may be infected by some malware.
Sudden Traffic Drop
If your site is getting unusual dip or spike in its traffic, it may mean that your site is hacked. One reason why this might happen is because some hacker hacked into your site and redirected traffic away from your site, causing a dip in traffic.
There are many Trojans and other malware out there, which can hijack your traffic and redirect it to some malicious, spammy site. So when some user visits your site, they are taken away to some other spammy site, thus causing a dip in the traffic. This could also lead to potential loss of valuable visitors and customers on your site.
Another reason for getting fewer visitors is because Google blacklisted your site. In this case, Google displays a warning message to anyone trying to visit your site, stating that your site is infected with some kind of malware. Now of course, who would visit a site that is infected with a virus?
Bouncing of Emails
One of the worst indications of getting hacked is when your email starts bouncing or users are unable to send or receive emails from your site. This happens when a hacker breaks into your site and installs some malicious scripts that in-turn sends out thousands of spams emails from your site. As a result, people report your site as a spammy site with their email provider and soon you will find your site in the list of spam sites.
So the next time, you are unable to send or receive WordPress emails, there is a chance that your mail server is hacked and is used for sending spam emails.
Unwanted Pop-Up or Ads on your site
If you are seeing unwanted pop-ups on your site, that redirects to some other site being clicked, your site is hacked. These type of attacks are used to divert your traffic to some other illegal or spammy website by showing them attractive pop-ups. This is possible when some hacker has a backdoor installed on your server.
If your site has open registration and along with it if you don’t have any spam protection mechanism installed on your site, then having tons of spam accounts is not something to dread of. This is not a sign of getting hacked and you can simply delete those accounts from your site.
However, if you don’t have open registration yet you find multiple spam or suspicious accounts on your site then it is an indication that your site is hacked.
Take a deeper look at such accounts and try to find its allowed privileges. If such spam accounts have administrative privileges than you can confirm that your site is hacked. To make things even worse, sometimes such accounts are also very difficult to remove as they have got administrative privileges.
High BandWidth Usage
The amount of bandwidth used is determined by the traffic in your site and the number of emails being sent or received, among others. This does not cause a huge spike in your bandwidth. But if you find noticeable changes in your bandwidth, possibilities are that you have been hacked. The main reasons behind such bandwidth spike can be
Large files added to your site, which increases the amount of data downloaded every time you have a visitor.
The inclusion of malicious scripts on your server that sends out thousands of spam emails, adding up to your bandwidth usage.
Also if your site has been added to some network, it can lead to huge spikes in bandwidth.
This can happen very quickly and can even go unnoticed if you don’t keep an eye open for it.
Unusual Activity in your server logs
Server logs are mainly simple text files that keep the log of the various activities that are taking place on your web server. These files keep a record of all the errors that occur in your web server as well as all your internet traffic. These logs are available in your WordPress admin dashboard under Statistics.
If you find some unusual activity on your logs, such as huge traffic from a particular website or your site is making constant connections to some random IP address, it is a sign that your site is hacked or is in the verge of getting hacked.
Suspicious Scheduled Events
In certain cases, a hacker after hacking into your site won’t do any damages instantly. After gaining access to your site, he/she won’t do anything suspicious, rather they will schedule their malicious activities to take place sometime in the future.
In this technique, hackers exploit the CRON to run scheduled tasks on your server. Cron jobs are provided by a web server to allow users to run scheduled tasks like publishing scheduled tasks, deleting old comments from the server and so on.
This is very dangerous from the fact that it will leave an inexperienced web personnel clueless about what happened since the attack was scheduled for the future, long after the hacking took place.
Security is vital, particularly if you store any user information or sensitive data on your website. Most hacking attempts are moments of opportunity, automated, and impersonal. 51% of WordPress websites are hacked because of a theme or plugin, and 8% due to a weak password. The rest are often due to poor hosting security.
You can prevent your average attack by avoiding default credentials, enabling two-factor authentication, using Secure Socket Layers (SSL), and opting for a secure hosting server.
We hope this article was able to provide you with a brief insight on how to detect possible hacking activities. And even if your site is clean, we ask you not to take this for granted. Follow all security protocols to make sure that your site is best protected against any sort of hacking attacks. Remember “Prevention is better than Cure”.
Backing up your data is vital. It’s one of the crucial maintenance activities that has to performed on a regular basis. Keeping a backup ensures that if anything goes wrong with your site, you can still restore it using the available backup. This article focuses on how to create a backup of your WordPress database manually without the use of any third party plugins or services.
The Importance of Maintaining a Backup
WordPress has become an essential part of the web world. It’s ease of operation and simplicity has attracted the attention of people from different professions. However, it’s simplicity and ease of use sometimes creates an illusion that nothing can go wrong with a WordPress site. But the fact is, WordPress is vulnerable and if not handled properly it can lead to unexpected results.
And one of the biggest mistakes that website owners make is not maintaining a regular backup of the site. Most people tend to believe that since nothing has gone wrong so far, nothing will go wrong in the future. But unfortunately this is not true.
It only takes one unlucky circumstance for you to completely lose your WordPress site and start all over again from scratch. Fortunately, this can be prevented. And the most obvious solution is to maintain a regular backup of your site. Just like the way we maintain a backup of the important files on our PC or laptop, we should have a foolproof backup strategy lined up for our site too.
Backing up your site is mandatory. People who have been using WordPress for a long time is well aware of the importance of maintaining a backup. However, for the less experienced web owners, they fail to understand the necessity of maintaining a regular backup of the contents on their site.
It is not uncommon for website owners to not take backups seriously until something goes wrong. It is a hard lesson that they never forget. But if you are smart, you will get into the habit of backing up your website from the beginning.
Let’s put some light on the importance of creating a backup…
A server is a machine just like our computers and it can crash just like our computers do. Failure of our computer’s hard disk may not affect thousands of people. But if a web server crashes, it may create drastic situations. Server failures may occur due to various reasons like power loss, hardware malfunction, hacking attacks like DOS and so on. But if we have a backup, a server crash may not pose that much of a serious threat to a site. Whatever data has been lost, can be recovered back from the stored backup.
Protection against hacking
If you are running a website, you are always a target for the hackers. And WordPress, being the most popular CMS platform in the world, has made itself prone to being a target for the hackers and spammers. Now you may argue that your site is safe because you have installed tons of security plugins. But trust me, your site is never 100% safe from hackers. Even a single security loophole on your site can make it vulnerable to hacking attacks.
So the best precaution that you can adopt is to create a regular backup. That way even if some hacker ruins your site along with your database contents, you can always restore it back from the available backup.
This is another issue that is being overlooked. Software issues can became a major threat to a website. Sometimes even a simple faulty code snippet can have devastating effects on your site. For instance, there is a possibility that something might go wrong with the new plugin installation, which may create hindrance in the website’s data. If you already have the latest backup of the content, then you can tackle such issues.
Data Center Issues
No hosting company in the world can offer 100% uptime and reliably. Even the best WordPress hosting companies have had severe problems with their datacenters. The data center might lose network connectivity due to major fiber cuts. Such issues can cause your website to be unavailable for elongated periods of time. This will surely effect your website’s traffic and make your visitors move away to some other site.
Human errors are inevitable and even the most experienced web personnel’s can make mistakes from time to time. This could result in implementing wrong changes to your site or even deleting your key files.
A small slip up from your side, say an accidental file deletion, can set you back by weeks or months, and sometimes, can even throw away all that you’ve worked so hard for.
Mistakes are not something that happens every day, but when they do happen, you will be glad of any recent backups you have
Natural disasters are unavoidable. A fire break, flood may completely damage your servers and other hardware peripherals. But if you have a recent backup of your files stored on some other location then you can gladly say that your site escaped even a natural disaster.
Your hosting may or may not provide regular backups for your site. Even if they do, here’s why you shouldn’t rely on them –
Hosting company backups aren’t specifically designed for WordPress. This means they may not actually help when you need them.
The backups may not be regularly scheduled, and they may not be often enough to be useful in case of a disaster.
You may not be able to restore a single site from hosting company backups without restoring all sites in your account.
You won’t be notified if the backups fail, so you’ll never know if they’ll actually be there if/when you need them.
You’ll be at the mercy of your hosting company if you ever need to restore from backup. They probably won’t be as responsive as you think they should be.
So by now, you must be well aware of the importance of why you should always keep a backup. Butbefore we get started with the manual backup process, it is important to understand the basics of a WordPress database.
WordPress is a simple database driven PHP web application. Therefore, for a complete WordPress backup you need to –
Backup the WordPress blog and website files which contain the WordPress web application files, WordPress theme files, plugins files and your uploaded content. Typically, all these files arefound in the root of your website.
Backup the WordPress MySQL database where the content, user information, passwords and privileges, website settings, theme settings, WordPress plugins settings and other similar data is stored. If you are not sure what is your WordPress database name, you can find it in the wp-config.php file, in the root of your WordPress
Root Configuration Files
Several root folder files must be backed up
Wp-config.php, which contains the settings including database connection strings(more details below).
.htaccess –the server configuration file
Webmaster tool identification file such as googleCODE.html, BingSiteAuth.html
Other files you have added
What is the WordPress wp-config.php File?
The WordPress wp-config.php file includes the database connection details and other configurable parameters, such as the WordPress security keys, debug options and more. As such you can live without backing up this file because you can always retrieve the database connection details from other sources, but it is easier and safer to back it up
A standard WordPress database contains 11 tables, all of which are listed below:
Why Create Database Backup Manually?
In case of a hacking attempt or after getting hacked, you are thrown out of your own admin area. In these situations, since you cannot access the admin area, it would be very difficult to use a plugin for backup. This is where knowing how to create a backup manually comes handy. It is same as creating a backup using plugin with the only difference that the process is not automated and requires a human intervention.
Here, we will discuss different ways of how we can create a database backup manually.
Backing Up WordPress database manually using phpMyAdmin
phpMyAdmin is an open source software that provides a web based graphical user interface to manage your MySQL database. Most WordPress hosting providers have phpMyAdmin installed in their control panel. This allows users to easily access the database and perform common database management tasks.
First of all, you need to login to your web hosting control panel(also known as cPanel). Upon login, scroll down a bit and click on the phpMyAdmin, which would be under the Database section.
This will launch the phpMyAdmin window. From the left sidebar, make sure that your WordPress database is selected inside the phpMyAdmin. If it is not, then click on your WordPress database name in order to select it.
Also when you click on the database name, you will be able to see the list of tables, the database contains.Tap on the “Export link” from the top menu bar to export/backup the database to a file.
Next, you will be presented with two options for exporting the database – Quick and Custom
Select the Custom option as it gives you more control about what to export and what not. Clicking on Custom will reveal some more options. First of all, it will show a list of all the tables in your WordPress database.
Sometimes WordPress plugins add their own tables to your database. If there are any tables that you would like to exclude from export, then you can deselect them. If you are unsure, then it is better to keep them all selected
Scroll down to the output section and select the “Save output to file” Select utf-8 for “Character set of file”. For compression, you can select the zipped or gzipped option.
Now scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Go. You will now be presented an option to download the file and based on your selection, you will have a zip or gzip
That’s all you need to do to make a database backup for your WordPress site using phpMyAdmin.
Creating a Manual database backup using cPanel
This is another method for creating a database backup using cPanel. The steps are
Login to your web hosting control panel (cPanel). And under the Filessection, click on the “Backup Wizard”.
On the backup wizard page, click on the backup button
The backup button provides two backups, the full backup and partial backup.
Full backup is used when you are shifting to a different webhost and cannot be used to restore within the same host.
The partial backup is used to restore when your site gets down or is infected by malware and you still are continuing within your webhost.
There are three types of items that need to be backed up under each of the above two.
The home directory: it contains your themes, plugins and site’s content.
The MySQL database: it contains your sites set up that helps your site to store the posts and comments etc.
The email forwarders and filters.
Download all the three and save them on your PC or external hard drive.
Note: you cannot download all the three at a time, you need to download one, go back and download the other one. Rinse and repeat
That’s all there is to creating a backup using cPanel. Store the WordPress database file in a secure place, ideally on a different media.
Note: From this page, you can also generate a full website backup and then download it once the process is completed
Creating WordPress database backup using MySQL command line
If you host your own web server and have access to it via SSH or other protocol, you can make a database backup using a standard MySQL tool called mysqldump. As the name implies, themysqldumptool dumps a MySQL database into a text file which can later be used to restore the WordPress database.
Use the MySQL root user to connect to the MySQL server, select the WordPress database that you want to create a backup for(here wpdatabase) and export it to a text file called wpdb_backup.sql.
Here –u is used to specify the username that will be used to connect with the database. In the code above, we are using the user “root”.
-p is used to specify the password of the account you are using to connect to the MySQL database server.In our case, the password is “toor”.
Wpdatabase is the name of the database that we want to create a backup for.
Wpdb_backup.sql is the name of the file where the database dump will be stored. If the file does not exist it will be automatically generated by the tool. Once the database is dumped into this file, download it to your computer and store it in a secure location, ideally on a separate media.
Scheduling Automatic Backups using cPanel
Maintaining ascheduled backup of your WordPress MySQL database is the most important thing to do when running your own WordPress website, it is required to restore your blog, it needs to urgently migrate to another host or restore your database from a crashed server.
Login to your cPanel and look for the Cron Job icon
Select the time and frequency to run backup command
Under the command field, copy and paste the following command
Replace dbpassword with the database user password. In some server, you might need to put a pair of single quote ‘dbpassword’ around the dbpassword for it to work.
Replace dbname with the database that you are backing up
Replace the path-to-store-the-backup-file to the file path in your server where you want to save the backup
Test the cron job to check if it works or not
Restoring your MySQL database from a backup
If you want to restore your WordPress database from a backup, it can be easily done using phpMyAdmin. The steps are listed below –
Log in to your cPanel and click the phpMyAdminicon in the Databases section.
Select the database where you would like to import your backup. This can be done from the menu in the left sidebar.
A new page will be loaded showing the structure of the selected database. To import data inside the database, click the Import tab
On the new page that opens, click the Browse button and select the backup that you want to import from your local computer. You have the option to pick the character set of the file from the drop down-menu just below the upload box. If you are not certain about the character set your database is using just leave the default one. Once ready, click the Go button to perform the import
The import will start and once finished you will be redirected to a page with a confirmation notification that the import was successful.
How many backups should you maintain
Well, when it comes to storing your WordPress backups, you generally want to always have these two things readily available:
The most recent backup
The most recent backup from before the problem that caused you to need a backup
Although these are often the same, sometimes things happen (sites get hacked, plugins conspire to cross wires, your web host changes some settings on you) and you don’t know about it for a week or two, and by then your most recent backup also contains The Problem.
So if you back up your WordPress site weekly, and you save a month or two of backups, you’re fine
Also, schedule your backups with a frequency that makes sense for your site. If you’re posting every day, you probably want daily or weekly database backups.
Something to Remember
ALWAYS run a backup! You should backup your site database whenever you change its design & content to avoid losing all files and data when the nasty happens.
Don’t store all your backups in one single location. Don’t just back up on the server level. In fact, WordPress recommends keeping three different backup copies — all in different mediums (so CD, hard drive, desktop, cloud, etc)
Besides manual backups there are also various plugins that can do the task for you. They are easy to use and requires minimal user interaction.
People usually think of their website as fairly maintenance free after the initial design and build, but that perception is far from the reality. Just like cars engines that need timely oil changes and tune-ups, software and web services also need regular maintenance for optimal performance. Although site owners can perform most of the maintenance tasks themselves if they have the knowledge or they can outsource the maintenance, which allows them to focus more on providing better content and user experience.
But with so many WordPress maintenance and support services available and each claiming to be the best, it often becomes difficult to choose the right one. Similarly, some tasks are more important than others and it makes sense to choose the service that focuses on tasks most important to you. This post aims to make the selection process easier and discusses top 5 maintenance services that help ensure that your WordPress site is always running optimally.
What is a WordPress Maintenance Service?
Successful WordPress websites are much more than just developing and updating a site. They also need regular maintenance that includes performance optimization, backups, updates and security audits. It takes quite some time and work hours to keep a website running in good shape. But not everyone has that much time to keep sitting behind a computer screen maintaining a site and fixing issues. That’s when WordPress maintenance services prove their usefulness as they take the WordPress workload off the users and allow them to focus more on the important stuff.
Who Should Buy a WordPress Maintenance Service?
Site owners already have a lot of hard work to do, including idea generation, content creation, marketing, SEO and more. Doing site maintenance can eat into that time that otherwise could have been dedicated to more important stuff. If you know the ins and outs of web development and maintenance, have 2-3 hours to spare on a monthly basis and just have to maintain one or two websites, you can probably manage the maintenance part yourself.
Most WP maintenance services offer under $100 plans that include WordPress and plugin updates, quick fixes, backups and some other tasks. Choosing to pay for a maintenance service depends on how you value your time. For example, if you charge $100/hr and have to spend around 3 hours per month per site for maintenance, it makes more financial sense to outsource the maintenance services.
There is no denying that WordPress maintenance services take a lot of tasks off the to-do list, but such services actually don’t directly improve the ROI. Although these services don’t offer anything groundbreaking, they do save a lot of time and provide peace of mind. This is particularly true for businesses as WP maintenance services ease the workload of the IT staff and help them focus more on tasks that directly drive better ROI.
Let’s have a look at some of the most popular and reputed WordPress maintenance service providers and how they stack up against each other. Most providers offer similar kind of services, but choosing the one that works best for you depends on your own requirements and budget.
WP Site Care
Launched in 2012, WP Site Care managed to earn customer trust in a relatively short time span through its reliable maintenance services. It takes care of most of the tedious maintenance stuff, including security monitoring, automated backups and performance optimization. The provider also offers excellent-rated customer support that claims to go out of the way to help customers. The usual turnaround time for a support ticket is rated at one hour, which means issues get solved fairly quickly.
WP Site Care offers 24/7 security monitoring, protects WP websites from hackers and shore up security holes using the most reputable online malware monitoring tools. The provider promises to clean up the mess caused by a hacking attempt free of charge if that ever happens.
Automated backups of data (database, images and other files) happen at least on a daily basis, while the backup frequency can be increased to an hourly-basis (e.g. eCommerce stores, high-volume publishers). All changes are backed up to the Amazon Cloud, which is considered to be one of the most reliable data storage platforms. The on-demand restore services allow restoring 30-day backups in no time.
Performance optimization services help ensure that sites are running efficiently and quickly, which ultimately results in a better visitor experience and search engine ranking. The provider accesses poorly written themes, faulty plugins, images and more and implements the best industry practices to fine tune site performance. The services also include SEO and make it easier for search engines to read and index the content.
Pricing starts from $79/month (Protect Plan) that includes core services i.e. daily cloud backups, WP updates, security monitoring and support. The Professional Plan costs $299/month and includes hourly cloud backups, eCommerce support, two dev hours/month, CloudProxy Firewall, version control (Github), uptime monitoring and propriety support. Partner Plan starts from $999, offers custom solutions and includes everything the Professional plan offers plus an account manager, strategy planning and help, performance optimization, service level agreement and dedicated development hours.
Amazon Cloud Data Storage
Performance and SEO optimization
Free clean-up in case a site is compromised
Automated, incremental data backups
Instant on-demand restore process (up to 30 days data)
With over 44,000 jobs completed since 2013 and more than 1,000 active customers, WP Curve is another well-known WP maintenance service provider with a unique approach to fixing WP issues. Known for its quality services and the competent support staff, WP Curve has an international support team present in almost all contents. The provider aims to deliver unlimited small WP fixes within 24 hours (small fixes are defined as jobs that can be completed in around 30 minutes). Fixes include backups, CSS tweaks, plugin configuration and more.
Here is how it works: the customer sends a job via email and a WP Curve team member solves the issue (normally within 8 hours). The team members are spread across different geographical regions, ensuring that someone is there to help customers 24/7. Although the Standard Plan ($79/month) allows submitting small jobs via email, users can also buy proactive maintenance service by upgrading to the Professional plan ($99/month), which includes unlimited jobs and a security guarantee.
Proactive maintenance includes WP, themes and plugin updating, regular backups and monthly security scan. Site owners and business that want even more functionality can opt for the VIP subscription ($199/month) that offers priority support, allows submitting up to 3 jobs at once (standard plans only allow submitting one job at a time) and ensures that the QA team double checks every completed job.
If you are looking for a one-size-fits-all kind of a maintenance service, WP Maintainer is certainly worth considering. A flat per month fee of $99 gives you access to free site migration and includes extensive security audit, updates management, regular backups and 1-hr compatibility support every month. The malware monitoring and cleaning solution Sucuri is also part of the package. A flat fee means all users get everything the provider has to offer and there is no confusion about which package to use. The solution suits users who are not into custom packages and want a complete, affordable solution.
WP Maintainer takes full responsibility for updating WordPress, themes and plugins while ensuring compatibility. Both on-site and off-site backups provide peace of mind and can save site owners from potential disasters. Site migration during the setup process is free and the provider helps users move to a more reliable WP hosting provider.
Up to one hour of compatibility support helps ensure that nothing is broken when updates arrive. If the provider is unable to fix a compatibility issue, it rollbacks the problem-causing update to an earlier and stable version. The flat-rate monthly subscription gives users access to dev team’s support for issues such as CSS related problems or plugin styling.
The flat-rate $99/month pricing gives users access to all the features, but multi-site WP installs are not supported. WP Maintainer prefers a Linux installation, but also facilitates clients using Windows server on a case-to-case basis. Although the service provider offers nothing fancy or extraordinary, it keeps things simple and provides a full range of services at a fixed monthly cost. However, clients can also request custom services when required according to the scale of their operations. Emphasis on using quality hosting providers is another area where WP Maintainer ensures that the clients are getting the best bang for the buck.
The WP Butler is a better option for people who only want to spend money on the features they really need instead of paying a fixed price for things they don’t need. This provides users with more flexibility as customers only pay for the custom packages they need. The only common thing in all packages is site restoration and a security audit for first-time clients.
Users can decide rest of the package contents themselves and pay for the options that they actually need. Different options include WordPress core and other updates, malware scans and regular backups. Almost all kinds of users, whether advanced or beginners, can find a package that serves them well at a competitive cost. Custom pricing plans help keep maintenance costs down and are particularly effective for bloggers and new site owners.
Customers can also request Dave Clements (the person behind The WP Butler) to periodically check their sites for peace of mind or add development time to the plan. If you are not sure how to customize a plan and choose the things that you really need, the provider also offers pre-configured recommended plans.
For $41/month, bloggers and individuals get weekly whole-site backups, daily database backups, weekly malware scans and weekly updates (core, themes and plugins). The Small Business plan costs $92/month and adds twice-weekly updates, weekly site reviews and uptime monitoring to the menu. Enterprise plan ($205/month) caters requirements of bigger businesses and includes daily whole-site and database backups, twice-a-week malware scans, thrice-a-week updates, twice-a-week site reviews, uptime monitoring and other small fixes.
Maintainn is a reliable service provider trusted by customers both big and small, including Microsoft. In addition to being a solid maintenance services provider, Maintainn is also affordable and offers services at a competitive price. The services include WordPress Updates, offsite backups and expert support, while security is monitored in partnership with Sucuri. The hourly development service called Bulk Hours allows customers to get something fixed without signing up for monthly/yearly subscriptions. The provider also helps customers migrate their site to a more reliable hosting company.
The easy-to-use dashboard plugin provides users with more control and a central location from where they can manage important tasks. The dashboard allows users to scan core WP files, view details about the site, turn on different tools and find other helpful WP resources. Although Maintainn supports WP Multisite, it requires customers to provide more information than standard sites.
The Premium Support plans start at $49/month or $499/year (per site), which includes round the clock security monitoring, WP core, theme and plugin updates, offsite backups and compatibility with Bulk hours. The Premium+ support plan costs $99/month/site and includes a 30-minute response time, 1 hour of support/month and outage and code help in addition to the premium features. Enterprise support is available for $149/month or $1499/year and includes all Premium+ features, staging-based updates, email notifications for updates and client review prior to deployment.
Creating a membership site is one of the most effective sources of monetizing websites and earning a reliable amount of money each month without having to work for those extra hours, by putting a membership system in place you can create a product once and then earn recurring income from it.
A membership site is one in which your visitors have to subscribe to your site by paying a small amount of money to unlock your content. When you have a membership site, you (as the admin) can have full control over what part of your content can be accessed by your visitors. For example, you have set up a site with various online courses. Each of these courses will have distinctly different materials for your visitors, depending upon their needs or interests. But these materials will not be accessible for all. Anyone who wants to read them will have to pay you a specific amount.
You obviously can always keep it exciting for your members, by providing incentives and other added benefits as well. There are different kinds of membership sites. Some sites charge a one-time payment, while others may charge a monthly, quarterly or yearly payment to unlock their content, products or services.
WordPress Membership Plugins
You will find various plugins available in the market, which can help you monetize your site or blog by paid membership programs. These plugins make it absolutely easy for you to build an effective member based website, with no shortage of options, for your users.
However, membership sites are known to be resource hungry. This makes it extremely important for you to choose the right provider that enhances performance and reliability. There are tons of affordable WordPress hosting providers that will definitely make your life much easier.
The WordPress market is flooded with tons of Membership Plugins. But only a few are good enough to be considered for your website. Keeping that in mind, we have brought to you a list of 10 Best WordPress Membership Plugins that you might like to know about before making a purchase. Each of these plugins comes loaded with amazing features and are extremely user-friendly. The best thing is that besides being highly advanced and super flexible all the products listed here comes with a very affordable pricing. So, let’s get started.
S2 Member is one of the oldest and most well respected member plugins around, the plugin now has over a million downloads since it was created. If you are looking for a plugin which has lots of features this is the one – It integrates with many different payment processors and has a huge feature list. It’s available in a few different version – a Free framework which contains the basics you need to create a very simple site with PayPal buttons, a Pro version which costs $89 one-time for lots more features and Pro unlimited version which costs $189 and allows you to use it on as many websites as you like.
Amember Pro is another member system which has been around and continuously developed for many years now. It’s available as a standalone system which you can install on your hosting or you can integrate it with a number of platforms including WordPress via the use of their own plugin. It has all the main features would expect from a membership plugin and has a very nice and easy to use dashboard. Amember is very popular among WordPress vendors and a lot of the top WordPress plugin and theme shops use it to run their own sites.
WP eMember is a very well regarded plugin which has been in development for many years again, it costs just $59 for the full plugin and is one of the easiest ways to create a membership site with WordPress – either with a brand new site or by adding a new section to your existing website. It’s packed full of features that you will need to easily build your members area with no bloated features you will never need. You can use it to protect posts or pages on your site and mark them as members only, display partial content as a teaser, you can create unlimited membership levels and so on.
MemberPress is a highly advanced and professionally designed membership plugin, that comes with the latest web trending features. With this plugin, you have the ability to control access to the content on your site, opening it up only to your team members.
The plugin automatically grants and revokes access when a member joins or unsubscribes to your website. It also adds to the powerful features of online marketing by selling and accepting payments with PayPal express checkout and Stripe. You can easily install this plugin on your website and start charging instantly for access.
Using this robust plugin also ensures that your digital products are sold off securely. So now you have a plugin that is not only versatile but immensely powerful too. The users of this plugin have highly acclaimed it for its functions and simple user interface. Another good thing about it is the support team. You can reach out to them at all times and they will help you sort out all your problems within minutes.
This plugin is an amazing one if you want to create, manage and track membership subscriptions with confidence and ease. This fantastic plugin beautifully integrates with your already existing WordPress site. The plugin works wonderfully and its features are truly the cherries on the top.
It comes under different pricing plans, so you can choose the one that best fits your requirements. If yours is a new membership site, then its best that you select the Business Edition. It is available at just $119 per year. If you are an advanced membership site builder than the Developer Edition which is available at $239 per year can be your best choice.
This plugin is exceptionally useful for educational membership websites. The Magic Member plugin is known for its exceptional content dripping abilities. It also includes multiple payment gateways and amazing integration with e-mail newsletters such as Aweber and Mail Chimp.
The plugin has got a download manager included to manage all the digital downloads. A great feature is also the pay per view access to specific video contents. If you are selling a course, the feature of sequential course delivery will be right up your alley. The single licenses version of this product is available at just $97. This includes a quick support guide, free updates for a year and of course instant access.
If you want to have your membership site withing minutes, without any programing then WishList is the plugin you need to have. This is a premium membership plugin that is renowned for giving you immense control over your content and methods of delivery of the same to your members. A number of Standard functions are included in the plugin that works flawlessly, with unlimited membership levels and control.
There is also a great feature of sequential content delivery which allows you to release your content according to order or time. Membership levels are also auto upgraded according to your specifications. Being the admin you are powered to view your members, their registration status, membership level and more.
The plugin can be directly integrated with your WordPress site that you have been using. This makes it easyy for you to manage it as you are not forced to enter into a new realm that needs a new understanding. You can create a free, trial or paid membership level or combine all the three together for your users.
The plugin also has the option to create a multi-level access for your members. Another brilliant feature is Subscription Length Control option.With this feature, you can control the length of the duration through which your members can access the content. You can also make the subscription auto-expire within the time that you may want to specify.
The Custom Error option will automatically direct your visitors to the error page if they try to access content or products that they are denied access. With the Partial Content Display option you can display a part of your content to non-members. If they want to gain full access to the entire content they will obviously have to be a member of your site. Displaying some gripping content is a great way to tempt visitors to be a paid member.
The plugin also integrates very easily with PayPal and ClickBank. You can also allow secure RSS feeds to be displayed. Another feature is the free preview with protection to entice more subscribers to become members.
On top of all this, you will get great technical support as well as detailed documentation on how to use the plugin and get the best out of it.
This plugin is available at $197 for a single site and at $297 for multiple sites.
Restrict Content Pro is a fully featured powerful membership solution for WordPress users. The plugin is very intricately designed and it seamlessly integrates itself with the backend of your site. There are limitless possibilities with this plugin. It gives you complete control over how your content can be accessed.
You can create unlimited subscription package levels and provide level specific access to your content. It also gives you the option to sell digital products and accept payments through some of the major payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal Standard, and Express etc.
With Restrict Content Pro you can generate a CSV to all your active members. The settings can be changed to members of a particular subscription as well. You can even create an unlimited number of discount codes and offer percentages for your visitors. The Reports feature will show you how well your site is performing. And this does not need any extra work. The developers have taken care of it.
The Email Members help you send an automated email to your new member welcoming them to your site. It will also remind them about the date of expiry and the send them a payment receipt. This feature will make you appear more professional.
The plugin even offers a Premium support and regular updates to all its users. Moreover, they have lucrative deals for almost any budget with some great pricing options available vis-a-vis: Personal, Plus, Professional and Ultimate. The plugin also comes extensively documented so even if you have a problem setting it up, you surely can go through the walk-through that is available on the web.
The plugin is available under different pricing plans ranging from $99 to $499. So depending on the requirement of your site you can pick the one that you think will suit you best.
Membermouse is another powerful and scalable membership plugin in the market. It is known for being very user-friendly in spite of having some of the most advanced features. The basic working is the same as it allows you to restrict access to any content like posts, pages etc controlled via a grant access button.
You will even be able to specify which membership level can access what content, in a very simplified manner that can be mastered within minutes. The drip-feed feature allows you to release your content automatically upon a specified time. The reporting suites of Member Mouse are some of the most accurate and detailed information.
The key metrics can help you target important areas through which you can increase profits etc. The key feature is the split test pricing which lets you optimize your pricing strategy to maximize subscribers and revenue. It is one plugin that will help you maximize your revenue without any programming.
With its Customer Management feature, you can not only grow your email list but also easily register new members and accept orders with your flexible checkout pages. You can also have an overview of the engagement statistic from your dashboard.
The plugin offers excellent support automation allowing your customers to serve themselves in easy steps. So they can update their profile, cancel subscriptions, and do a lot more. You can set it up like installing any other WordPress plugin, directly on your site. It is easy, fast and reliable.
You can try out this plugin for 14 days free of cost before you finally hit the purchase button. See if you like the way it works and if you are satisfied with its features and services this beautiful product is definitely worth buying.
This platform has gone a step further and turned itself into a membership site-in-a-box. All your hosting, e-mail, site builders etc are included in one neat package providing an all-in-one solution. The Platform is immensely powerful with some of the most practical and useful features bundled in together.
It can also integrate affiliate programs to your site and add or restrict access to forums for your members to interact. It lets you create an unlimited number and level of memberships too.
There are also options through which you can sell any number of digital items and accept payments from a large number of vendors. Rainmaker is incredibly powerful with amazing functions for your business.
Select from the number of subscription packages available for this plugin. The prices for this range from $145 to $165.
This is an amazing free plugin for memberships on WordPress sites. Again, the basic working is the same. It has an auto-generated excerpt feature which is very useful for generating excerpts for restricted content with SEO optimized excerpts.
Though there are limitations of this plugin, it is free and the features included are more than enough for basic functionality. It has already bagged a 4.9-star rating and has more than 70,ooo active installs. The plugin is fully customizable and you can use over all the 100 action and filter hooks to do that. In case you want more features in your plugin, you can easily extend them by using the premium add-on modules from its support site rocketgeek.com
The biggest limitation, however, is that you can’t charge for memberships, for which, however, you can upgrade to the premium version which comes at a decent cost.
You can block your posts and contents individually or both as well if you want. You ( as the admin) also need to approve a member before he/she joins the others in the group. The admin is automatically notified about each new registration.
WooCommerce is an excellent e-commerce solution which is very popular in the digital world. WooCommerce Membership is an add-on which allows you to create awesome, scalable membership websites. Restricting your content with this plugin is going to get easier than ever.
You can not only restrict your content to your members but can also drip specific content and schedule a time for members to have access.
The functionalities are immense. They have lots of payment gateways integrated as such increasing your versatility as well. It is dedicated to membership requirements with standard functionalities and tons of add-on features.
You can create member only discount codes and also offer physical products exclusively to members by combining your website to that of any e-commerce store. The plugin will also hide your content or products from non-members. If you want, you can make the product view public. But make it purchase-able only by the site members.
Not only this. You can even include a membership with product purchase or manually assign memberships too. You can also export members to a CSV file to make member data out of WooCommerce available for them.
The plugin has also simplified the process of communicating with your members by adding the Membership Note option that you can share with your members via email. The Basic Reporting feature of the plugin will help you find out your stats. With this system, you can find out how your site is doing and what revenue it is earning.
The plugin also has the option to let you add a membership discount per plan or per subscription. You can also send an auto-generated single or multiple reminders to your members before a specific event. Add another coat of security to your already secured site, by adding a re-captcha verification for your paid member subscription.
This amazing plugin is available from $149 through $249 per year. So try out this plugin now and enjoy its brilliant features and services.
We have very carefully selected the Best Membership plugins out there, specifically to help you out in your search. It should, however, be noted that your requirements could be different from others. And as such you are advised to look into the products and use their trial versions to see whether or not they work for you.
The products listed here are popular and immensely successful in the digital world. They are very effective and are also used by some of the giants of the industry. You too definitely deserve to know about them before you make your purchase.
I hope you have liked our collection. Do let us know through your comments, which plugin did you like the best. Do you also know about any better plugin that we missed? We are eager to hear from you.
If you work as a freelancer online, one of the most important aspects for managing your finances is keeping your invoices and customer payments in order. There are a number of commercial apps and systems you can use to do this, however they will charge you a monthly fee or take a cut of your payments. Chances are you already work with WordPress or know how it works, there are a number of free plugins you can use to turn WordPress into a customer invoicing system.
A good invoicing system should include features like client management, PDF invoices, reporting, recurring billing, discounts, estimates and so on. It should be easy to use for you so you can setup it once and then integrate it easily into your working life. It also needs to be easy for the client with clear information on what they are being billed for and above all, it should display their payment options nice and clearly so you can get paid as soon as possible.
In this post we have gathered together the best Free WordPress invoice plugins, these will help you keep your clients in order and make sure you get paid on time.
A flexible, well-supported, and easy-to-use WordPress invoicing plugin to create professional quotes and invoices that clients can pay for online. Sliced Invoices is an invoicing system that is easy to use but at the same time comes packed with features to help make your quoting and invoicing a breeze.
The basic plugin is free to download and they also sell a number of paid extensions for adding more functionality. Extensions include things like Tax, Client Area, Discounts and Partial Payments, PDF Invoices, Different payment processors and so on. Free plugins with add-on modules like this tend to work well as you are only paying for the exact extra functionality that you need. They also offer bundle deals which include a number of the extensions and will save you money from purchasing them separately.
Premium WordPress Invoicing Plugin. Take control of your invoicing! Fully customizable, no limits, and features you can’t get anywhere else. Reduce the time spent getting paid. Improve your business workflow with automated tasks for fielding project requests, estimating projects & getting paid.
Sprout Invoices has a free version, a pro version and also offers a number of paid extensions.
WP-Invoice lets WordPress blog owners send itemized invoices to their clients. Ideal for web developers, SEO consultants, general contractors, or anyone with a WordPress blog and clients to bill. The plugin ties into WP’s user management database to keep track of your clients and their information.
Invoice King Pro makes creating and sending your invoices simple. The invoice creation interface gives you full control over every word on your invoice. Choose a different theme to give your invoices the look, style and layout that you want.
The Most effective way to Get Paid by your clients. Rather that using a spreadsheet or word processor sent through to get your invoices to your customers Invoiced WP makes the creation of invoices faster and easier. Send it directly from your webiste and get paid.
Quip Invoices is a complete invoicing solution built directly into your WordPress website. Create and send invoices, accept credit card payments using Stripe or Paypal, store client information and track your sales with Quip Invoices.
The “WP PRO Invoicing System” WordPress Plugin is a standalone plugin that allows you to create invoices on your WordPress site. It has many powerful features to handle invoices on your website. You can easily Create/ Edit/ Manage/ Export/ Send/ Track/ Report/ … your invoices in just a few clicks.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you may want to consider performing a content audit on your site. A lot of things can slip through the cracks while you’re hustling trying to put as much quality content out there as possible. It’s important to analyze your content every few years to pinpoint missed marketing opportunities, SEO issues and underperforming content.
We’re going to go over what a content audit is in this post as well as what the purpose of performing one is as well as the data you’re able to collect from one. We’ll then go over how to perform a basic content on your site. Let’s get into it.
What is a Content Audit?
A content audit is a full analysis of the content on your site. It allows you to rank and classify all indexable content so you can make strategic decisions that optimize the way your site performs in search engines and revenue.
You probably have a few specific reasons for producing content, but every business creates content for these specific reasons:
Traffic – Your products can’t sell and your affiliate links can’t be used if no one’s visiting your site. You blog to encourage more people to stop by.
SEO – Blogging aimlessly and posting on social media doesn’t do much to bring organic traffic, the most valuable form of traffic, to your site. This is why you optimize your content for search engines.
Revenue – The more people who visit your site, the more revenue you’re likely to generate. This is why you produce content to increase the amount traffic your site receives. It ultimately leads to more revenue.
A content audit essentially allows you to see how each and every indexable piece of content (page or post) on your site is performing in terms of traffic, SEO and revenue. You’ll be able to take a specific action on each post and optimize it to help it perform better.
Let’s talk more about the actions you can take when you perform a content audit on your site.
What is the Purpose of a Content Audit?
The purpose of a content audit is to analyze each and every piece of indexable content on your site to see how it can be improved to increase its traffic, search engine ranking or potential to earn revenue. “Indexable content” refers to any piece of content, whether it’s a post or page, that can be indexed by search engines.
Content audits allow you to do the following:
Determine which posts need to be updated.
Determine which posts need to be improved.
Determine if any posts should be combined.
Determine if any posts can be repurposed.
Determine which posts need to removed.
This allows you to take the following actions on posts:
Update – Update the post with more recent and relevant content.
Improve – Adjust the length, language, structure and information of the content.
Combine – Combine shorter, underperforming posts into one large post.
Repurpose – Repurpose high-performing posts elsewhere, such as a slideshow on SlideShare or a free ebook to promote on social media.
Remove – Remove content that’s underperforming and not relevant enough to be improved.
The overall purpose of a content audit is to increase the amount of traffic your site receives, its search engine rankings and the amount of revenue it generates. However, one particular thing that triggers the need to perform a content audit for many bloggers is a penalty from Google. Fixing issues in your blog can help you recover from this.
Information You Can Collect During a Content Audit
There’s a lot of information you can collect during a content audit. We won’t mention all of them in this section, so we’ll just stick to the most important pieces of data you can collect. Again, the purpose of a content audit is to improve traffic, SEO and revenue. This means the most important data you can collect relates to these things.
One of the most important pieces of data you can discover are your top pages. What defines a top page? That depends on the overall goal you have for your site (earn more traffic, earn more revenue, etc.). A page may receive a lot of traffic but generate very little revenue. This would keep it off of the Top Pages list if your goal is to generate more revenue on your site.
You can also determine what keywords each page ranks for, which pages aren’t ranking for the keywords you want them to rank for and how pages are generating revenue. Collecting these details as well as the ones we’re about to mention will help you figure out which action to take for each individual post.
How to Perform a Content Audit
Start by creating a spreadsheet with the following headings in Row 1. You can delete any headings you don’t want and add extra headings for other data you want to collect.
Organic Search Traffic
SER (search engine ranking)*
Ranking Keywords (keywords page ranks for)
Targeted Keywords (keywords you want the page to rank for)
* = Most important headings.
Here’s what it looks like in a spreadsheet using the most important headings:
Once you decide what headings you want to use, you can go ahead and start filling in your spreadsheet with data. We recommend using tools like Screaming Frog and Google Analytics.
Screaming Frog offers a tool called SEO Spider. You can use it to crawl your website and analyze key SEO elements of individual URLs.
It gives you a list of every URL on your site and includes pages’ meta titles, meta descriptions, titles, H1 and H2 headings, meta keywords, and more. The free version only allows you to crawl a maximum of 500 URLs. You’ll need to spend £149/year to crawl your entire website. We recommend using a tool like Google Analytics to look for things like traffic and revenue. Other great tools to use include SEMrush and SERPs.
You can start filling out your spreadsheet once you have the right tools:
You need to be careful about the actions and solutions you implement. If you remove or change too many URLs that were performing well enough to rank, you may see your entire site’s overall search engine ranking plummet.
If you’re not experienced in SEO, you may want to consider only implementing your solutions on posts that aren’t performing well at all. Consult an SEO expert to see what you should do with your highest-ranking pages. If you aren’t able to afford an SEO, consider leaving your highest-ranking pages alone and repurposing them elsewhere.
That’s it for performing a basic content audit on your site. Let’s wrap this post up.
Performing a content audit can be one of the smartest things you can do for your site’s search engine rankings, traffic and revenue. Content is king, and things can get pretty messy if you’ve been producing content and adding more and more pages to your site for years without checking up on things.
However, implementing solutions after you’ve conducted a content audit can be a little risky. Google’s algorithm is sensitive and everchanging. If you make too many changes to your site’s top URLs, you could wind up making fatal errors in their search engine rankings, which could have a negative impact on your site’s overall traffic.
Take your time, and only implement solutions you know will help. In the meantime, check out these other posts we’ve published on content and SEO:
WordPress search, in past and present, is notorious for being unreliable. It’s meant to make it easy for users to find what they need on your site, but it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it lists posts and pages it thinks are related to your search term but lists them in chronological order, so you aren’t sure which post is most relevant. Other times it doesn’t seem to understand what you’re searching for at all.
The WordPress team has improved the search function in WordPress core over the years, but there’s always room for further advancement. We’re going to go over how WordPress search has changed over the years as well as a few different methods you can use to improve it on your site.
A History of WordPress Search
The tendency for WordPress search to display unreliable search results mainly occurred before 2013. An update released in WordPress core in late 2013 improved WordPress search for the better. That update changed the way search results are prioritized in the following ways:
Results that have a match for the full sentence of your search term in the title of a post are shown first.
Results that have a match for your full search term are shown second.
Results that have a match for some of your search terms are shown third.
Results that have a match for the full sentence of your search terms in the content of a post are shown fourth.
All remaining search results are shown in chronological order.
Most WordPress sites that blog a few times a week and don’t use WooCommerce will get by on this search function just fine. If you use WooCommerce, post a lot and have a complicated taxonomy system, you may find yourself needing a more advanced search function on your WordPress site. Let’s go over your options.
8 Best WordPress Search Plugins
There are a number of different WordPress search plugins out there, but we’re going to focus on what we feel are the best available.
SearchWP is a premium WordPress search plugin that adds content WordPress tends to ignore in search results. This includes product details, content from PDF files and similar file formats, custom field content, shortcode output, and taxonomy terms. It’s not a cosmetic plugin, meaning it only changes which content is displayed in search results rather than changing the way they appear altogether.
Relevanssi is essentially WordPress search on steroids. It takes the basic features available in WordPress core and cranks them up a few notches. It starts by implementing basic features, such as doing a better job sorting results by relevancy rather than date and matching partial words if complete words don’t match. Advanced features include adding more pieces of content to search results, including content from PDF files, content in a multisite network, custom fields and more.
Relevanssi is free. Pricing for the premium version starts at $49.95/year.
Search Everything is a basic WordPress search plugin that enhances the search functionality on your WordPress site by supporting results for excerpts, attachments, drafts, comments, tags and custom fields. It also includes search highlighting as well as the ability to exclude certain posts and categories from search results.
Ajax Search Pro is a live search plugin for WordPress. Do you like the way Google autofills the search box for you as you type? Have you ever wished you could implement this feature on your website for own your users to enjoy? This plugin allows you to do just that. It also gives you different layout and style options.
Ajax Search Pro is a premium plugin whose pricing starts at $29.
WPSOLR is an advanced WordPress search plugin, and a great option for WooCommerce. It comes with the same features as the previous plugins, including adding content for documents, taxonomies and custom fields in search results. However, it’s main purpose is to provide a filtered search for your users to enjoy. It does this by displaying WooCommerce product attributes in search results.
Better Search is another simple WordPress search plugin that adds content from pages and custom post types to search results. However, one feature it adds is the ability for you to “assign greater weight to either the title or the content.” It also collects data and outputs it in a “heatmap” for your site’s most popular searches.
Search & Filter is a powerful WordPress search plugin that allows you to add a filtered search function to your WordPress site. It allows users to filter results in a variety of different ways, including categories, tags, post types, post date, authors and more. It’s also compatible with such ecommerce plugins as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and WP eCommerce.
The base version of this plugin is free. Pricing for the premium version starts at $20/year.
Improving WordPress Search with Taxonomies & Menus
Improving WordPress search is a major step you can take to provide a better way for users to find content on your site. If you really want them to find the content they need, use better menus and taxonomies.
For starters, if you have a sports blog and post a lot of content about football, your users will have a much less difficult time finding all of the content you’ve published about football if you have a specific category for it.
Here are a few simple rules to follow before you make changes to your site’s taxonomy system:
Parent Category – Use for the main topics of your blog. Example: football
Child Category – Use for a main topic that acts as a subtopic for one of the main topics of your blog. Example: national team, premier league
Tag – Use for specific topics. Example: wayne rooney
Let’s go over menus before we wrap this post up.
WordPress users will most likely view your Blog page if they want to find your site’s latest content. However, you can make it easier to find posts on a specific topic if you place a drop-down menu for your site’s parent and child categories in your main navigation menu.
If you have a few main pages on your site, such as cornerstone content, you should consider rounding them up underneath a main heading in your menu as well. If you want to make it easier for users to use your navigation menu when you add too many categories and pages to it, consider using a mega menu instead.
Improving WordPress search doesn’t need to be difficult. Start by going through the plugins we mentioned and determining which one’s features suit your site’s content best. Consider installing it if you find a match.
Other than that, you can optimize your site’s taxonomy system and include every parent and child category you have in your main navigation menu to make it easier for users to find content on specific topics. You can even add a tag cloud widget to your sidebar or footer.
In the meantime, check out these two pieces of content if you want to create valuable content for users to find:
Lead magnets are growing more and more popular every year, but they’re still an underused tool in email marketing. Your email list is one of the most important aspects of your business. It aids in the growth and success of your online efforts by connecting you with the people who casually, and not so casually, visit your website.
Lead magnets provide an easier way for you to grow your email list, and they can even affect the quality of the people who subscribe to your list (more on that later). We’re going to go over what lead magnets are and how they can help you grow your email list. We’ll also go over a few lead magnet ideas before going over how to implement them in your email marketing (and overall marketing) strategy. Let’s get started.
What is a Lead Magnet?
A lead magnet, also known as an “opt-in incentive” or a “content upgrade,” is a tool that gives you a better chance at attracting subscribers to your email list. The most common opt-in incentive seen on email forms is a simple “subscribe for more updates” message, which gets ignored more often than not. Lead magnets are free “gifts” you offer a new subscriber in exchange for their email address.
You’ll use your email marketing service provider to distribute the lead magnet to a new subscriber. This automates the process, ensuring you don’t need to send lead magnets to new subscribers manually. Let’s talk more about how lead magnets help you grow your email list. We’ll get into lead magnet examples after that.
How Do Lead Magnets Help You Grow Your Email List?
Take a moment to look at your analytics. How many new visitors did you receive today? How about in the last month or even the last year? How many of those visitors returned to your site? You may not realize it, but that last number is much more important than the previous three, especially if content marketing is your main form of marketing.
We as consumers are drawn to deals and free offers, and that’s exactly what a lead magnet is. Offering one on your site as opt-in incentive in place of the generic “subscribe for updates” message is a surefire way to turn more of those casual visitors into returning readers and eventually customers. They’ll be more likely to subscribe to your email list as they’ll actually get something out of it.
The way you set this up on the backend of things, meaning your email marketing service provider’s dashboard, can also affect the quality of the “leads” you collect. If you’re planning on launching a product soon, you’re more likely to have a successful launch if you build a list full of subscribers who are interested in what that product is about. You can do this with lead magnets.
Let’s get to our list of examples.
Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List
Here’s a quick list of the lead magnets we’ll be going over in this section:
Expert Round-Up Content
Let’s start at the top.
Expand on one of your posts by giving your subscriber an entire lesson on the subject in the form of a free ebook.
Same thing as an ebook, except you’ll use your email marketing service provider’s autoresponder feature to distribute lessons in three to 10 emails.
A step-up from an email course. You’ll use a learning management system plugin or a platform like Teachable to create a free course and offer it as an opt-in incentive.
Do you publish a lot of tutorials? Consider adding a few checklists to a few of your posts and offer them as opt-in incentives for subscribing to your email list.
Similar to a checklist, except a cheat sheet simply acts as a quick reference for your subscriber.
This is a great way to grow your email list and increase user engagement. Create a challenge for your subscribers to take, and distribute information on the challenge through your email list.
Do you already offer products on your site? Offer a discount available only to email subscribers as an opt-in incentive.
Do you have a subscription-based product of some kind? Offer a free trial available exclusively to email subscribers.
Do you have a service-based business that offers custom pricing and services to each individual case you work with? Offer a free consultation as an opt-in incentive.
People want to know what works, no matter what you teach. They also want motivation so they can achieve their goals. A case study from a real-life success story in your niche provides both of these.
Expert Round-Up Content
Do you have a few popular “experts” in your niche? Why not build a little buzz for your blog and grow your email list at the same time by creating a lead magnet out of their opinions on a specific topic?
How to Use Lead Magnets
You’ll see an immediate increase in the number of conversions your site receives when you replace those “subscribe for updates” messages with opt-in incentives, but you should be more strategic with it. Only offer lead magnets on email forms that span your entire site if it’s really good, such as expert round-up content or something that could easily be a product.
Start by creating a lead magnet for every main topic on your site. If you have a fishing blog and write about ice fishing often, create a lead magnet that would interest ice fishermen of all skill levels. Offer the lead magnet as an opt-in incentive in email forms on every post that relates to ice fishing.
Once you have a few lead magnets that cover broad topics, you can “niche down” and start offering a few on more specific topics.
How Does It All Work?
You’ll rely on your email marketing service for most of this. They’ll automate the process and send the lead magnet to your subscriber automatically. A download/access button will appear on the Thank You page or Thank You email your subscriber receives after they subscribe. Use your service provider’s autoresponder if you’re offering a course as a lead magnet.
What you do with a subscriber after you acquire them from a lead magnet is important. Strongly consider segmenting them in one way or another. Assign or tag them to various lists/segments on your list based on:
How they subscribed.
What lead magnet/email form they subscribed from.
The type of content they subscribed to.
Did they subscribe to a form that promoted a lead magnet on ice fishing instead of river fishing?
Segmenting them in this way will help you keep these subscribers around as it allows you to keep content they’re not interested in out of their inboxes. It’ll also give you a better chance at achieving successful product launches as you’ll be able to send special promotional emails to subscribers you know are interested in the topic your product is about.
Lead magnets provide unique, interesting and highly-effective ways for you to grow your email list, but there’s no cut and dry way of using them. You’re going to need to do a lot of planning to determine which type of lead magnet your audience would respond best with and what topic to create a lead magnet for.
Since you’re working on building your email list, check out a few additional posts we’ve written on this subject:
You need great blog ideas before creating content that keeps the fire burning on your blog. New bloggers often find themselves overwhelmed with content ideas, making it difficult to set priorities. That’s not something unique to new bloggers as experienced bloggers also sometimes get overwhelmed by the number of decisions they can make. On the other extreme, they find it difficult to generate new ideas that are able to attract traffic and generate revenue.
It becomes a lot easier to generate and prioritize content ideas if you have an organized system in place. But things don’t work the same way for everyone as some get new ideas as they write, while other get inspiration by posts written by others. This guide aims to put together methods that work well for most bloggers and help them keep creativity flowing. However, there isn’t any single magical formula that guarantees success and it’s more of a mix-and-match thing.
Finding a Niche and Why it’s Important?
If you are passionate about technology or gadgets, dedicating your time and energy to other areas could be a waste of resources. That’s why finding a niche is considered the most important element of generating new blog ideas. A niche can be as narrow or broad as you like, but if you really want the right kind of internet traffic, it’s better to be as specific as possible. It’s very likely that there are thousands of blogs already offering similar information about a particular topic/niche, making it important to offer readers something fresh and valuable.
For example, you may be passionate about the technology in general, but narrowing down your niche to let’s say gaming laptops or mobile workstations would help you stay more focused. It’s particularly hard for new bloggers to compete in established niches so it makes sense to focus on a smaller, narrower niche. Some may suggest running multi-niche blogs, but that’s something only experienced bloggers should consider (still not recommended). Focusing on a very specific niche helps attract relevant traffic that actually cares about what you have to offer. Here are three simple and obvious questions one should ask before selecting a niche to serve:
What are you passionate about?
If you are not focusing your efforts on something you really like, chances are great that you’ll soon get tired and lose interest. Note down the key areas you feel passionate about and rank them according to the degree of likeness. Choose the area you can and want to talk about the most as you’ll be doing that for years to come. Your passion speaks through your words and readers can easily pick that up in your posts. Nobody likes to read lengthy sales pitches and want content coming from someone who actually loves his/her field and knows about the stuff.
While selecting your niche, it’s also important to consider your goals, which should be realistic and not based on assumptions. If you plan to monetize your blog, make sure that the niche you are about to select is profitable (unless you have some revolutionary idea). It’s not too difficult to determine if a niche has the earning potential or not using the following tools.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is the perfect place to start searching for keyword earning potential, volume and trends. You first need to make a comprehensive list of relevant keywords for your niche to know about their average monthly search volume and other stats. Google Trends is another great platform to discover the most trending and popular keywords.
Affiliate Marketing Potential
Affiliate linking is a great way of monetizing blogs by adding links to recommended products/services. There is no shortage of programs to sign for such as Amazon Associate Program, ShareASale etc., but make sure to check in advance if the niche you are about to serve is supported by such programs. Affiliate marketing has the potential of turning your blog in to a money making machine in no time, provided you are offering something valuable to the readers.
Active blogs and websites provide a good idea of how popular particular niches/topics are. Make a list of blogs that you love to visit and note down the most popular topics. Generate ideas on how to improve on those topics and offer more information. Fan pages and social media hashtags also help understand topics people are interested in. In addition to blogs/websites and the social media, forums such as Reddit, Quora and relevant message boards cover almost any topic you could imagine. They can prove to be a great source of generating new ideas and can help generate more ideas than you could write about.
Once you have defined the niche and established clear goals, it’s becomes easier to generate new content ideas. Use your existing knowledge about a niche to narrow down topics and take advantage of online resources. Reading other blogs to generate new ideas works great for most new bloggers, but you can also do a comprehensive keyword research to determine what exactly people are searching for. Here are some helpful tips that make it easier to generate new ideas:
Ask readers about their feedback, use surveys to generate a ton of new ideas, great blog ideas are often just a few questions away
Brainstorm with others, let them help you
Learn about posts that readers love and comment on the most
Comments (your own and others’) help highlight pain-points and common questions
Define and understand your target audience well, aim for highly targeted content
Use primary keywords to generate long-tail keywords using Google AdWords and other tools
Google auto suggestions helps source ideas that people are actively searching
Take help from other bloggers or hire someone to do the work (if you can afford it)
Interview experts, you can also publish such interviews at times when your creativity stops flowing
Keep an eye on trends as they also help predict what’s coming up next, act quickly and keep up with what’s hot
Find out what’s working for the competition, their most popular posts
A competitive analysis also tells about the content they are not talking about
Try to find what failed posts by competitors were missing, can you improve them and add value?
Organize and maintain bookmarks to keep the wheel spinning
Always keep a notepad, Evernote etc. ready, you never know when the next great idea might strike
Create fresh ideas out of existing work, but don’t steal, just borrow
Giveaways and contests can do wonders, are easy to setup
Put yourself in readers’ shoes; relate your own experiences to theirs
Be transparent and honest, reflect on what went wrong
Don’t forget to take a break from time to time and relax, blogging isn’t just about getting burnt out
WordPress Blog Keyword Optimization Tools
Content that offers value to the reader must also be keyword optimized. Take advantage of the available keyword tools to optimize your content for search engines. Google Keyword Planner is a great place to start and allows bloggers to select a niche/topic and search for relevant keywords. Once you have the right keywords ready, you can generate post ideas with the help of Hubspot Blog Ideas Generator and other sites. Most these tools are free-to-use and make it easier to generate relevant keywords and optimized titles.
WordPress being one of the most popular and extensible platforms allows installing different plugins that make life a lot easier. Editorial calendar plugins such as Editorial Calendar, Edit Flow and CoSchedule help organize ideas and authors in a better way and make scheduling easier. WP content organization and sharing plugins work great for bloggers who are starting from scratch, while also making things easier for more experienced bloggers.
Do What People Love to Read but too Scared to Try
Ever watched a YouTube video showing geeks shooting their iPhones (just to know how many iPhones it takes to stop a bullet)? That’s the kind of stuff people love to read/watch, but would never try themselves. It’s human nature to know if something risky worked for others or not before giving it a try.
In context of generating ideas and content for your blog post, it means that you can afford to take some risks and try things that others are afraid to try and write about them. Depending upon your niche, only your imagination can limit the options. Being bold not only gives you a chance to try new things, it also helps you establish as a leader.
Share Small Experiences
Blogging isn’t just about big things. You can blog about almost anything as long as the information is valuable, interesting and makes people read and share it. Such small things are often the gateway for bigger ideas. If you are able to help people with their ‘little issues’, you are adding value and that’s what matters the most.
It’s a common perception that once you are done creating a post, you publish and forget about it. However, people consume content differently and what might work for someone, may not work for others. Repurposing content means recycling existing content and finding new/creative ways to reuse it. Writing and forgetting about a topic is also wasteful and kind of a disservice to the readers. Your comprehensive guide to buying the best gaming laptop can be very valuable to techies, but others might be looking for a side-by-side price/feature comparison. Here are some tips on repurposing content and making the most of it:
Try reaching a new audience such as people who prefer infographics, tables, side-by-side comparisons etc. Reformat the content for different mediums to extend reach
Put your old favorites up front & center from time to time, don’t let the audience forget your great content
Give your old content a second chance, may be the timing wasn’t right the last time
Get help from Google Analytics to identify blogs that have been performing well over time
Update content that’s still relevant
Expand on subheadings/points from old posts
Argue from both sides, if you made a post about why to buy XXX, write a new post about why NOT buy XXX
Give your posts a makeover and repurpose them for new audiences
Don’t let the webinars go to waste, repurpose then as YouTube videos and share them on the social media
Turn your old blog posts into complete guides by combining them, add more content to update them
Turn surveys and experiments into case studies and share them with fans
Edit and turn your PowerPoint presentations into slide decks using platforms like SlideShare and embed with webpages
Turn expert interviews into expert advice e-books
Turn image-heavy posts into Pinterest boards, adds a new traffic segment
Get content inspiration from Quora, find high-demand Q&As and answer them as full-fledged blog posts, also answer the same questions briefly on Quora while providing a link to your own post
Turn PowerPoint graphs and charts into easy-to-read infographics
Share behind-the-scene stories
Share interesting or important facts about your interests on Twitter
Promote your blog posts in newsletters, preferably on a weekly/monthly basis
Start a podcast (detailed guide) to enhance reach, hire someone on Fiverr/ other freelance platform to do a voice over if podcasts isn’t your thing
Make podcast tone more conversational and relaxing by editing the original posts
Although content re-purposing can help you reach new audiences and allow making the most out of existing posts, it isn’t meant for all your old content no matter how much you love it. You need to be very careful while selecting ideas you think are great. Only the best would do and there is no point in reformatting a blog post about your first PC. That information is probably no longer useful so try to repurpose blogs that still offer value and are relevant.
Generating new content ideas can be a challenging task for both new and experienced bloggers, but the important thing remains building a solid foundation. If you understand your target audience well and are willing to listen to their feedback and questions, you’ll get most of the news ideas right from there. Just make sure to select a niche you really feel passionate about and the rest would become easier. You can even ignore the earning potential stuff in the beginning if you have something truly valuable to offer. After all, generating ideas is not just about serving existing niches; it can also help create new niches.
Growing a membership website is hard work. Fortunately, growing a membership website in WordPress makes things a heck of a lot easier. From deciding which membership levels to use to determining pricing structures and additional features to add, every move you make has a direct impact on how well your business grows.
We’re going to focus on a few specific tips you can use to grow your membership website using WordPress. Because we’re focusing on WordPress in this article, we’ll be mentioning a handful of membership plugins you can use. Check out a similar article we published on this topic if you’d like a more complete list of some of the best membership plugins you can use for WordPress.
Choose a Membership Type That Suits Your Audience
There are a number of different types of membership sites you can design your business around. Here are a few popular ones:
When you build a membership site, you’re not building something that will make you money. Not entirely, at least. You’re building something that solves a problem for a particular niche. When you solve a problem and provide great service while doing so, you won’t have to worry about growing your membership website as much. That’s why we’re starting this article off by talking about types of memberships, models you can use, pricing structures and similar topics.
What you need to do is define a specific problem you want to solve in your niche, even if you’re membership site is already up and running. Once you determine what problem you want to tackle, you can start brainstorming various ways to solve it and decide which membership type is best suited for your solution(s).
Integrate Additional Membership Types
That being said, you don’t need to stick to one membership type forever. In fact, you shouldn’t. You’ll come across many different types of individuals who learn and use products in different ways as your business grows. If you begin seeing a trend in students wanting features that resemble other membership types, add them as needed.
An example of this would be a membership site that starts off as an online school but adds a forum students can use to discuss coursework later on. Both of these features are powerful enough to run their own separate membership sites, but they’ll enhance your business if you combine them.
Choose a Delivery Model That Helps Members Achieve Their Goals
There are three main delivery models you can use to distribute content to your members. They are:
Pay Per Product
Different types of membership types require or work best with different types of delivery models. Furthermore, different types of customers prefer different types of delivery models. The one you choose will determine whether or not people subscribe as well as whether or not they stay subscribed. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut method that simply works. It all depends on your audience.
Here’s a simple explanation of all of these models using an online school as an example:
Drip – Lessons are delivered to the student in set intervals. For example, if you want the student to read/watch a lesson and implement whatever that lesson taught before they move on, you can wait 7 days before you send the next one. This gives them 7 days to complete everything before moving on. It can also motivate student to get through the course as some may become overwhelmed when they’re faced with a big course load.
All Access – This is the exact opposite of a drip model. You give the student access to the entire course (or every course in the school) when you use this model. While it may seem overwhelming for some, it can make your subscription seem more valuable to others when they see how much you have to offer for a certain price.
Pay Per Product – Most subscription sites offer a wide range of features for a fixed price, but what if your audience doesn’t want all of those features? This is where the pay-per-product model is useful. Instead of requiring them to pay multiple features, you can offer them a sense of freedom by allowing them to pay only for what they need.
Some membership sites use two or even all three of these delivery models. Netflix, for example, gives you access to everything in its library when you subscribe, but it also “drips out” content in the form of original programming every now and then. You’ll need to figure out which delivery type(s) would work best for your audience so you can encourage them to join and keep their subscriptions active.
Be Meticulous with Pricing
Pricing for membership sites is interesting as different pricing tiers and membership levels allow you to offer your product or service to a wide range of individuals and businesses. It’s best to start off with a single, flat-rate pricing structure that’s easy to manage. As your business grows, you’ll notice some customers requesting more or less features, allowing you to add more tiers to your pricing structure.
When you approach pricing, your figures and the features you add to each tier should suit whoever you want to target. If your business targets other businesses, place your prices higher and be prepared to offer premium features designed for professionals.
If your business targets individuals, you’ll likely need to lower your figures to a number that’s closer to what they’re willing to pay. Just make sure you don’t lower them too much as you won’t be able to sustain yourself, which can have a negative impact on the quality of your service.
Giving Your Customers Control Over Their Subscriptions
Some membership sites do better when they give their customers more control over how much they pay for their subscriptions. This doesn’t mean you should use a “pay what you want” structure as it likely won’t create a sustainable business model. It also prevents you from offering high commissions to affiliates.
This means you should allow customers to choose from monthly, periodical (every 3 months) or annual subscriptions. You should also offer discounts to customers who are willing to pay more upfront.
Bring in More Revenue with Tiers
Some businesses try to get away with raising prices by offering more features to their single-tier membership services. The result is a large number of customers cancelling their subscriptions out of anger and finding service elsewhere.
A wonderful compromise to this dilemma would be to add a new, higher-priced tier that includes the new features you want to add to your business. You can even encourage current subscribers to upgrade by offering exclusive locked-in rates at discounted prices.
Offer Premium Content & Restrict Access
Online publications, schools and similar businesses can encourage their audiences to subscribe to their sites by offering premium content and restricting access to members.
Maybe you already have a blog you publish to frequently as well as a podcast and a YouTube channel. You can create more premium content, such as interviews, longer podcasts and higher-quality videos, and use plugins like MemberPress, Paid Memberships Pro, Memberium and MemberMouse to restrict access to them.
Offer an Ad-Free Experience to Members
This is another way online publications can increase their subscription rates. If your site is powered by ads and sponsorships, offer an ad-free experience to paying members to encourage them to subscribe. Paid Memberships Pro has a feature that allows you to do this.
Add a Members-Only Forum
Rallying your audience and turning them into a community is a great way to grow any website let alone a membership site. An online community may be a specific type of membership site, but you can just as easily use a forum as an incentive to subscribe. Plugins like MemberPress, Paid Memberships Pro and Memberium integrate with bbPress, and MemberPress also integrates with Simple:Press.
Reward Achievements to Engage Members
Membership sites like online schools and communities can reward achievements to members when they engage and interact with the site. You can use a plugin like BadgeOS to add achievements to your site. Memberium offers an integration for this plugin.
Offer Quality Support
This should be a given, but we’ll mention it, anyway. Poor support and communication with customers can have a negative effect on your business’ reputation. Combat this by prioritizing your current customers’ happiness over new ones.
Collect Feedback from Members
This is a great use of your forum, and a wonderful way to grow your membership site. You can’t always guess what your members need, and you can’t always tell them what they want, either. Collecting feedback on features they like, features they hate, features they want and problems they’re having can help guide you to your next move. You can also use surveys or your email list to collect feedback.
Offer an Affiliate Program
Once you have a fully-fledged suite of features to offer members and offer them killer support and service along the way, you can start encouraging them to recommend your site to their friends and followers with affiliate links. There are a few membership plugins that offer integrations with affiliate plugins, including:
MemberPress: Affiliate Royale
Paid Memberships Pro: AffiliateWP
MemberMouse: iDevAffiliate, AffiliateWP, Post Affiliate Pro and WP Affiliate Plugin
Up Your Marketing Game
You can use marketing techniques you’d use for a regular site to market your membership website to acquire new leads or even members. These techniques include content marketing, such as blogging, search engine marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and advertising.
Speaking of search engine marketing, Paid Memberships Pro has a feature you can use to show excerpts from restricted content to non-members. This allows search engines to crawl parts of the content you’ve restricted access to.
All in all, growing a membership site isn’t necessarily about which image you use in your Facebook Ads or what you publish in your blog. It’s mainly about optimizing every little piece in the products, services, features and support you offer. When you do this, you’ll find more people who are willing to subscribe to your website and keep their subscriptions active.
Once you’ve optimized all of that, you can move onto affiliate programs and digital marketing.
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