Podcast Episode

401 – Keep Your WordPress Site Busy While on Vacation


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Appointments is a flexible feature-rich plugin that allows you to accept, set and manage bookings on your site.

Keep Your WordPress Site Busy While on Vacation

Here are some things that you can set up before your trip:

  • Schedule posts
  • Schedule social shares with Jetpack or Revive Old Posts
  • Email your subscribers
  • Harden your site with iThemes Security
  • Backup your site

Thank You!

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk about how to keep your WordPress site busy while you’re on vacation right here on Your Website Engineer podcast, Episode No. 401.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. I’m excited to be with you back again, Episode No. 401 – just recorded a couple days after number 400 – as I am getting ready to go on a vacation. My wife and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary. We couldn’t go somewhere fun and fancy on our 10th anniversary because we had just had our son and so we’re celebrating year number ten in year number 11.

So, by the time that this episode is released, I will be on vacation and these are some of the things that I would think about doing if I was running a business and I wanted to keep … make it look essentially like I was there working and I was running my agency or whatever, making sure my store, and people didn’t forget about my store. But we’ll talk about that in just a couple of minutes. I have two announcements – which is surprising because I just recorded a podcast episode – and I have a plugin to share. So, the first announcement is all about trying Gutenberg. And so if you head on over to WordPress.org/Gutenberg – that’s the new landing page for Gutenberg – and it’s really cool. I don't know how they did it, but some very, very smart developers figured out how to do this.

But basically, this gives you a way and an ability to go and you can customize and you can play with Gutenberg without ever installing it. It is way cool. So, it shows you the ability to have different blocks. You can add additional blocks. You can drag and drop and you can move things around. And it is just really cool. It’s really cool what they’ve done and how they’ve done it and so if you have never tried Gutenberg and you want to give it a shot, then this is the absolute time to do it because you don’t have to install anything, you don’t have to have a development server.

All you have to do is go to WordPress.org/Gutenberg and you can start playing with it today, which is really cool. So, I recommend everybody stop what you’re doing – no, not right now – but sometime in the next week just spend a little bit of time on this page, WordPress.org/Gutenberg, and you can try out Gutenberg and you can give it a shot and see what it’s all about. So, that is the first announcement.

The second announcement is – by the time this podcast episode goes out – you will have seen WordPress 4.9.8. It’s scheduled to release on the day that I’m recording this. So, I’m sure that it is already out and I’m sure it’s way awesome. But WordPress 4.9.8 has some new features, obviously, and some new bug fixes and it also has a callout to try Gutenberg. And so that’s if you want to start trying Gutenberg inside your site, it’ll give you the prompt to do that and you can get ready for this new experience that’s coming very, very soon hopefully. At one point, they were targeting August. It’s probably gonna be in a September, I’m guessing, but we’re gonna see WordPress 5.0 come up really, really soon.

Alright. Moving onto the “Is there a plugin for that?” section, there’s one called Appointments and there’s a premium version called Appointments Plus. This is by the team over at WPMUDev and it is a full functional, flexible, feature-rich plugin that allows you to accept, set, and manage bookings on your site. So, if you don’t need a full-fledged booking plugin – as in WooCommerce bookings – this plugin would be great if you are looking to set up appointments on your website and you don’t necessarily need people to pay. Maybe they want to sign up for a one hour, free consultation, and you’re tired of using those other free services that are out there to sync your calendar and whatnot. This one is something that you might want to check out. So, it’s called Appointments. You can find it in the WordPress repository by searching for Appointments or you can find it in the show notes for Episode No. 401.

Alright. Today let’s go ahead and talk about how we can keep our WordPress site going, active, and make it look like we’re still working, making sure that we’re still in business. And this is one of the cool parts about and one of the things that I love about just technology and where we are in 2018 of how we can automate a lot of things within our business. A lot of the mundane things that we used to have to do all the time – or we used to like we couldn’t schedule out in the future – that all now has the power of the internet and it’s just so cool that we can schedule all this kind of stuff and then be ready for … we can do things and release items on a schedule when we’re not around at our computer.

The first thing that I’m gonna talk about – and you’re obviously hearing this podcast – because I have prescheduled it. And that’s one of the things in WordPress is scheduling posts in advance. So, I recorded this about four or five days early. So, I’ve recorded it. I’ve edited it. I’ve added into WordPress and then I’ve given it a schedule date of Wednesday at 4:00 a.m., which is when my podcast shows normally go out. And so this is one of my favorite features. It’s really cool that we can go in and do this and I’ve been using this feature for years. I almost always will have everything done with the show either on Monday or Tuesday and then I set it to schedule to go out first thing on Wednesday morning.

Occasionally, I’m a little bit behind and so I actually have to hit publish on Wednesday morning, but that’s probably one of my favorite features and one of the features I use the most when it comes to WordPress. Another thing that you can do is schedule social media shares. And so if you schedule your posts in advance, it’d also be nice to really automatically share them on your social platforms, right? You know you want to make sure that that engagement still happens, even if you’re not available to check in all the time. And so there’s a couple different ways that you can do this. There is one called Jetpack. You may have heard of this before, but Jetpack allows you to link to all your social media accounts and automatically share posts on them.

So, once you’ve set them up, you’ve linked your accounts, you never really have to lift a finger. You schedule your post and – as soon as it’s published – it’s shared, which means you can rest easy knowing that you’re still engaging with your audience even while you’re away. Another thing that you can do is kind of revive those old posts and there’s a tool out there called Revive Old Posts plugin and you can automatically re-share content that’s more than a month old and remind your followers of the great content they’ll still find useful or entertaining. You can set the frequency of your share to exclude posts which are time limited.

So, this is something that you can do to set up on vacation and you can schedule these things out. You can also schedule with Hootsuite or Buffer or a few different online services that you can use and those will allow you to do the exact, same thing. You can queue up a bunch of content that will go out regularly, which is nice if you want to continue that engagement while you’re not there and while you’re not online. Another thing that you can do is email subscribers while you’re away. If you’ve got a mailing list, you don’t want to go super stagnant there or you don’t want to be like Dustin and not send out an email for months at a time.

But you can spend a lot of time on your vacation prepping and you can put a series together or make sure that your autoresponders are working or you can just have a regular post that goes out one day as part of your vacation. Now, you don’t want to have a post go out or an email go out that you are asking people for information or you know, “Answer this following question” because if you have 10,000 people on your list, you may come back from vacation with 1,000 emails in your inbox and then you’re just gonna have to dig out of that. So, that is something that you probably don’t want to do, but you have the ability to go in and you can schedule when those emails come out.

Whether you’re using any of the big name plugins or any of the big name email providers, you can schedule those to go out at a future date. There’s also a plugin that is called Subscribe By Email and you could automatically email your subscribers when a post is published or you can send them a weekly roundup of new content. So, that link will be in the show notes if you want to try that. The posts that you are scheduled to go out while you’re on vacation won’t just be shared on your site and social media, but they’ll also go to email subscribers as well. So, that’s really nice if you want to make sure that piece is working as well. So, don’t worry while you’re gone for a week or two. Don’t worry about any updates for your software or whatnot. Those can all wait until you come back and you can do a proper test.

You can make sure that the software update’s okay on a test site and then you can roll those changes out to your live site. So, don’t worry about making sure the updates are taken care of while you’re on vacation. Another thing that you need to do – and you want to make sure that you’re doing while you’re on vacation – is keeping your site secure and backed up while you’re away. It seems like a lot of times people are on vacation when their website goes down and so we don’t want that to happen. So, we want to make sure the backups – you’ve got an active backup working – and it’s backing up regularly. It may be even good to bump up that frequency while you’re gone on vacation and bump that up to every day or every 12 hours or something.

Just in case something happens, you know you’re not gonna have to change a lot of content, but you might have a lot of sales on your WooCommerce site or you may have a lot of comments and you just want to just roll back to the previous version. And so if you have something that’s being saved every 12 hours, every six hours, you know depending on the traffic and what’s happening on your website, then that makes it very, very easy when you’re on vacation. Then, if you somehow determine that your website is down while you’re on vacation, then you can just roll back to the previous version – the last snapshot that was taken of your website – and you can continue on with your fun and your family vacation. I’d also – before you leave turn on Wordfence or iThemes Security or there’s one called Defender –one of those plugins.

It just makes it harder for people to login. It makes it harder for hackers to try to get into your site. Most of them will do some sort of scan regularly on your sites. It will send you an email if things are happening and that means that you don’t really have to check your site unless you get an email that concerns you. And so you want to backup, like I said. Another thing that would be really helpful – and something that would be interesting to me – is to turn on the feature inside of Jetpack. It’s called Monitor. And that will email you every time that your website goes down. So, you know I know that we try to be unconnected and we’re trying to unplug when we go on vacation and whatnot and spend time with our family and just get away from everything. That’s just what I think.

I mean I’ll probably check mine once a day while I’m gone or so, but I want to make sure that you have Monitor turned on and then you’ll get an email every time that your website goes down. And so if it’s down for a long period of time, you can contact your host or you’ll just be knowledgeable of, “Hey, I need to work on … I need to do something because my website is down.” That’s definitely a bad thing when you’re on vacation if you’re not getting sales and if you’re not getting any of the things that your website’s supposed to be doing. People can’t come to it if it’s down and whatnot. So, that’s some of the things that you want to think about before unplugging and getting away from your computer. You want to just do a little preparation for your vacation so you’ll be able to relax.

So, for me, I’m gonna go ahead and schedule out this podcast so that it goes out on time so I don’t have to worry about trying to log into Lipson on my iPad and trying to do everything because I’m only taking my iPad and so I’m gonna be out of luck if something major happens. But that’s the way that I’m preparing for this vacation. I’m probably gonna schedule an email newsletter to go out just talking about Gutenberg and this new editor or this new page that I talked about on the show because it is way cool and I want everybody to know all about that and to go and play and try with Gutenberg from that area. So, those are some things that I know that I’ll be doing. I know that I have backups that are regularly scheduled. They happen once an hour, which is good.

I’m using the Jetpack Pro plan for that or that used to be called Vault Press. That’s what I’m using to back up my site these days and I’ll go through and do one more sweep through IThemes Security just to make sure that everything looks okay. And I probably could turn on – if I wanted to – it’s really within iThemes Security you have the ability to lockout certain IP addresses or you can say like, “I only want to be able to edit from these IP addresses” but that’s really hard if you go on vacation and you happen to have to login from some other place and now – all of a sudden – your IP address is locked out and now it’s a big pain to get into your website.

So, I probably wouldn’t recommend doing that, but within iThemes Security, there’s kind of a checklist and it shows you what you’re doing well and what you need to improve on. So, those would be some things that I would think about and go through those settings before I leave on vacation. So, do you have anything that you do before you leave for vacation? What kinds of things do you schedule to make sure that you are current and you’re not gonna be overwhelmingly behind when you come back from vacation? That’s one of the things that really scares me to do so much automation – whether that be scheduling things out on Facebook or Twitter. You know normally I just have one or two posts that go out per day or per week, I guess.

I don’t do a lot on social networks and that’s mainly because I’m so busy and wrapped up with the interactions and the communications that I have with the supports inside of Automatic, like my full time job. And so I don’t spend a lot of time scheduling out tweets and whatnot because I’m not really using this to build a business. You know I’m helping people learn WordPress and that’s kind of my business model. I just haven’t had a lot of time to put together some sort of checklist or workflow to schedule things out regularly. So, I don’t want to come back overwhelmed. I want to come back refreshed and I don’t want to have to worry about doing anything while I’m on vacation.

That’s the worst thing in the world to wake up on Thursday morning and remember that you forgot to release Episode No. 401 on a Wednesday morning. I don’t want that to happen. So, I’m gonna get everything scheduled out and next week I will be back inside the studio and I’ll be back from my vacation all relaxed, all ready to go, and we’re gonna continue to deep dive into WordPress things and to make sure that we are getting the best quality website that we can create and making sure that we are utilizing it and making sure we’re using all of the features that we need inside of WordPress. And so, until next week, take care and we’ll talk again soon. Bye, bye.

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