Podcast Episode

418 – Managing Your Site Through WordPress.com


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.

Jetpack is the plugin of the week. Not only do you need Jetpack for using the WordPress.com app to manage your site, it comes with a whole slew of great features that keeps your site speedy / secure / full of features. If you aren’t using the free plan, I highly recommend checking it out today.

Managing Your Site Through WordPress.com

  • View Stats
  • Keep plugins updated for multiple sites
  • See notifications for all sites
  • And much more!

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, I’m gonna share how you can manage all of your WordPress sites through WordPress.com and the WordPress.com, right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, Episode No. 418. Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and I’m excited to be with you today, as we are getting ready to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Your Website Engineer Podcast. I’m recording this a few days earlier than normal just because I’m heading out on a trip with my family to Disneyland, and so, the eighth anniversary is gonna come up while I am gone, but just thank you so much for tuning in for the last one episode or the last 418 episodes if you’ve been with me and following my journey since 2010.

It’s been really exciting to see things that are happening in the WordPress space, especially with Gutenberg and all that stuff that we’ll talk about in the news, but then, all the stuff that’s happening on WordPress.com, and how you can manage every WordPress site that you have through either the WordPress app on your phone, or your computer, or through WordPress.com on the computer as well. And so, there’s just a ton of stuff that I wanna talk about and share with – just things that I’ve been testing and doing some internal testing on. I’ll get to that in part of the show, but let’s go ahead and talk about the announcements.

The first article that I wanna share with you today is about WordPress 5.0 Release Candidate 2. This was an article released on November 30th, so that was just a couple days ago, and it says that we’re getting closer to WordPress 5.0, but there’s been no release date, so they have pushed it back from the 27th of November, and they just don’t have a date yet. And so, we’re still speculating on when that could be, and I’ll talk about the date in just a few minutes.

So, WordPress 5.0 Release Candidate 2 – there’s been a handful of changes. They’ve done some fixes. Basically, they’re just trying to iron out the bugs to make it the best possible release that they can do. Obviously, they’re not gonna catch every bug, but they’re gonna do their best to try to catch as many bugs as possible. So, if you are one of the beta testers, be sure to update to 5.0 Release Candidate 2.

The other announcement that I wanna share with you today comes from WordPress.com. Now, they’re offering at WordPress.com free .blog subdomains, and so, this is a site address – so, blog.WordPress.com – “blog” is the subdomain. And so, there are tons out there that you can get. You can get “art.blog,” “business.blog,” or “fitness.blog,” and what that means is you can go to – I could create “dustin.fitness.blog,” or I could create “hartzler.photo.blog,” so there’s a whole handful of them that you could get absolutely for free, and you can just go, and you can sign up, and then you get all hosted on WordPress.com. There’s a link in the show notes for all the ones that you can get and the step-by-step process for getting it set up.

I’ve grabbed a couple of these for myself, and I just haven’t had a chance to set them up or use them yet, but it’s pretty cool. It’s something that’s a neat offering, so if you don’t wanna have a free site with the domain “something.WordPress.com,” then you can grab one of these 28 different .blogs – or, subdomain .blogs. You could grab one like “dustinlikesto.code.blog,” or something funny like that. You can do all of those. So, there’s a link in the show notes for Episode No. 418 where you can find out all the details.

And then, the last news piece that I wanna share with you today is an article on the WP Tavern that just talks about how Matt Mullenweg has been communicating more about the release of 5.0. It has some quotes in there from Matt. The interesting part of this article that I found was that Matt cited that there have been nine major WordPress releases in December, so that’s 34% of all releases in the last decade have happened in December. So, it may mean that WordPress 5.0 could be released in December; we’re not sure yet, but again, it’s just all speculation, and so, if you wanna read the article and hear what Matt has to say, I’d recommend reading that. Again, there’s a link in the show notes for Episode No. 418.

And today, on the “Is There a Plugin for That?” section, I wanna talk about Jetpack, and I’ve probably talked about Jetpack before, right? I sprinkled it through the episodes because I am a Jetpack believer. I really enjoy Jetpack. I like using it and some of the features. But, what I wanna talk about today is you have to have Jetpack to do some of the things that we talk about in this podcast, so I wanna highlight some of the features. And, Jetpack is a completely free plugin, but there are paid versions as well.

And so, as part of Automatic – since I am an employee at Automatic, we all get the professional plan, but there is so much you can do with the free plan. You can have access to over 100 free themes, you can have – there’s no backups in the free plan, which kind of makes sense. Normally, to host a backup solution, you need to pay, at least, for the personal plan, which is $3.50 per month, but it also includes a brute force attack protection, downtime monitoring, you can view your site activity – so, we talked about that a couple weeks ago – you can view the most 20 recent events happening on your website, and then you get some marketing tools like stats, related content, and automated social media posting, which is pretty nice.

Now, as you move up the scale with Jetpack, there’s a lot more features that you can have. You can have unlimited static file hosting, you can get lazy-loaded images, you can get a 30-day archive of your backups, you can get automated spam filtering, you can get automatic security fixes, you can get malware scanning – it goes on and on. So, you can go anywhere from the $0.00 a month plan, to the personal, which is $3.50 per month, to the premium, which is $9.00 per month, or the professional, which is $29.00 per month. And, we’ll talk a little bit more about Jetpack as the show rolls out.

So, that is a plugin – if you haven’t been using it, I recommend checking it out. Everybody says, “Oh, I don’t like Jetpack, it’s too bloated of a plugin, it uses too many resources” – well, the whole thing has been rearchitectured and reengineered, and it works really well. I’m really impressed with what happened with Jetpack and all the extra functionality that I get for using Jetpack.

All right. So, let’s talk about the main part of the show today, and let’s talk about managing our sites with WordPress.com. And, I wanted to talk about this today because I just got – I feel like I got excited again about the WordPress.com dashboard, and this is mainly because I’ve been doing a lot of testing with some new products and some new internal things that we’ve been testing lately, and if you don’t know, I work for Automatic, and I work on the WooCommerce team, and I’m typically helping customers with their own self-hosted WordPress site.

I’m on a WordPress.com support team as a WooCommerce liaison, I guess, and I’m helping our team learn more about e-commerce, and what WooCommerce, and now that WordPress.com can have plugins, one of the plugins that most people install is WooCommerce, and so, all of our support channels are kind of getting real blended together with everybody needs to know stuff about WooCommerce.

And, with this new thing that we’re testing, it all has to do in the WordPress.com dashboard, and I was in there, and it was like, “Oh, this is really great.” There’s been a lot of things that have changed over the last couple years in WordPress.com, and it’s just gotten really nice, and it feels so fast to manage your site with WordPress.com. So, I wanted to talk about what it looks like to manage a site, and you can manage your WordPress.com-hosted sites, maybe you created one with that new .blog subdomain that we talked about earlier, or you can manage all of your self-hosted sites connected with Jetpack.

Now, the way that the whole ecosphere works within WordPress, you have to have a WordPress.com username to use WordPress.com – that makes sense – but then, that WordPress.com username also connects your Jetpack sites. So, if you’ve logged in, and – say I have a dozen websites, and some of them are self-hosted, some of them are on WordPress.com, but they all use my same WordPress.com username for either the WordPress.com site or using my same WordPress.com username for my Jetpack site. They’re all gonna show up in the same WordPress.com dashboard, and when I click on the My Sites tab at the very top, it’s going to give me a list of all of my sites. I’m currently looking at my dashboard, and I’ve got a lot of test sites in here, but I currently have access to 25 different sites, all from the same dashboard.

And, of course, let’s talk about YourWebsiteEngineer.com, where I do a lot of testing, and I can manage my entire site right here from the dashboard. And, the dashboard looks different than the normal WP admin. This is something that’s called Calypso. It’s a kind of codename, but we talk about it a lot. Calypso is that interface that’s mostly blue. It’s got the blue toolbar across the top; it’s got the lighter blue sidebar on the left-hand side. And, this is all written in JavaScript, and it just makes everything real snappy and fast, and I just felt like, “Wow, WordPress has got a speed boost by running it through WordPress.com.”

And so, that left-hand menu looks a little different. The first item there is View Site – or, I guess the top item shows me what icon is – so, it’s says “Your Website Engineer,” and so I know that’s the site that I’m managing, and then it’s got this little icon next to it. It’s yellow and it’s got some arrows, kind of circular arrows, and it basically means that I’ve got some plugins outdated that I need to take care of. So, that’s the visual cue, like, “Oh, I need something to do on this site.”

And then, moving down the left-hand side, we’ve got “View Site,” so that will open up a new tab, and I’ll be able to view my site and what it looks like to the customer or to the viewer of my website. Then, the next thing is stats, and I can see all my traffic, I can see how many people are coming to my website each day, I can see how many unique visitors, how many people are liking posts, what are my most popular pages on my website, which ones are getting the most traffic, how they’re getting there, where are the countries being viewed, and so, all of this is coming in with the power of WordPress.com. I’m able to see all of these stats.

The next menu item there on the left-hand side is “Activity,” and that “Activity” has a couple things. At the top, it shows me that I have two updates available, so it says that Gutenberg is outdated and Ninja Forms is outdated, so I need to get on that and get those two plugins updated. And then, it gives me an activity log of what’s been happening. So, today, December 1st, 2018, it shows that the username “bezbik” has failed a login attempt, and so, that is a protect feature from Jetpack, so it lets me know that somebody tried to hack into my site at 7:33 a.m. I see that I changed some settings in my ads on WordPress.com at 6:55 a.m., and at 5:57 a.m., Jetpack did a full backup of my website, and since I have the professional plan, I have that ability save those, and I can rewind to that point if I wanted to, so if I didn’t like those changes I made, I could rewind specifically back to 5:57 a.m., or I can download that as a backup and as a snapshot.

And then, as I scroll through here, I can see all the activity that has happened on my website over the last week or so. I’ve got – let’s see. There’s 49 pages’ worth of activity here, and I can filter them, so I can filter them by when posts or pages were changed or restored, I can see backups, I can see plugins, I can see when people have been added or removed, I can see comments or media, so I can see all of these. I can filter them down. I can see all these. So, it’s a really great visual indication of what’s been going on on my website.

I can see on November 29th, there were two different failed attempts to log in to my website. On November 28th, which was probably Wednesday, it looks like a couple posts were published, and so, that’s really nice. I can see when all those changes have been made. I can see when login attempts have happened, I can see backups, like I said, and so, there are a lot of things that have happened, and I can see all of that activity.

So, that’s one of the features as part of one of the paid plans within – I guess, with the free plan, you get to see the 20 most recent activities within Jetpack, and then, as you pay more per month, you can see more and more. So, you can see with the two middle plans – the $3.50 per month and the $9.00 per month – you can see 30 days’ worth of events, and then, with the professional plan, you can see a year’s worth of events, and that’s why I have 49 pages’ worth of stuff there.

Okay, moving along to that left-hand sidebar, continuing down there, it shows your plan, so it shows that I’m on the professional plan, and it shows all of the features that I get as part of the professional plan, and it has the ability to contact support right within the dashboard and whatnot, which is really nice.

And then, you get to the “Manage” part, and the “Manage” part is unusual. This is rearranged a little bit. So, think about this as your posts, your pages, your media – all of that kind of stuff is there, but it is in a different order. So, it goes pages, blog posts, media, comments, and then, any custom post types that you’ve added are there, and then plugins and import. Those are all under “Manage.” If you go to “Site Pages,” it’s gonna show all of the pages that are published, scheduled, and drafted, and again, this is all written in JavaScript, so as you click on the different menus and the different things, it just loads in the same window. You don’t have to wait for an entire page to refresh, which is really nice.

So, it’s got blog posts in there, so it shows all of my blog posts, my media – I can see what my media library looks like, I can see all of my comments and manage all of my comments, I can see that I’ve got 1.6K – there’s 1,600 comments across my site that have been approved, so I can see all that, I can approve them, I can spam them, I can do that all right there.

It’s also important to note that the icon in the upper right-hand corner of the WordPress.com dashboard is a little bell notification icon, and what that is is that will show any comments, and it will show a little orange indicator when I have any comments on my site or things like that, so I can manage them all within the WordPress.com site.

Then, it’s got my custom post types for podcasts, for my webinars, my speaking engagements, and stuff like that, and then I’ve got the plugin section, where I can manage – it shows all the plugins that I can install, or I can click the button to manage, and I can see all the plugins. And, they’re listed alphabetically except for the ones that need updates, and the ones that need updates are listed first. And, within this, you can toggle whether the plugins are activated or deactivated, and you can also turn on auto updates, so if you don’t wanna ever have to mess with or manage updating plugins ever again, you can go ahead and turn on the auto updates. You can also – from this area, you can upload a plugin from your computer or you can add one from the WordPress repository.

The next menu item on the left is “Import,” and there are no settings there, and so, that opens up the WP admin dashboard of your site, and that’s basically where you can import and export your posts, pages, and all that good stuff. The next is the personalized section, and that will open up the customizer. The customizer is that thing where we can pick themes, where we can change the site’s identity with the site title and tagline, you can change colors and header information, and you can add additional CSS. We’ve talked about that before in the past. That’s basically the same as the customizer in your WP admin dashboard, so we won’t go into that too awful much.

Under “Configure,” which is the next subsection, there are a few more options that we can do here, and one is “Ad,” so if you wanna run WordPress.com ads right on your site, you can do that right from the WordPress.com dashboard. You can also turn on sharing, so if you wanna publicize your posts – and so, you can connect a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, Google+, LinkedIn, and Tumblr – you can connect all of those, and you can also do connections for photos from Google and Google my business. So, if you wanna – if you add those, and you can manage your sharing button, so if you wanted sharing buttons to appear underneath a post, you can manage all of those rights there inside the WordPress.com dashboard.

There’s also a “People” section. So, this will show you everybody that is added to your sites. You can invite new people, you can show how many followers and how many email followers – so, how many people have subscribed to get your updates via email or how many get them via just following, and there are settings inside of WordPress.com. So, that is there, and then “Settings” is just the general settings, so you can see the general settings – the writing, the discussion, the traffic, the security – all of those things that happen underneath in that very last section of your WordPress admin dashboard.

And then, of course, if there’s something you can’t find, maybe a plugin that has its own custom menu or things like that, then those are when you’re gonna have to go to the WP admin dashboard, and there’s a link right at the very bottom where you can click “WP admin,” and it will take you right to your specific website and log you in to the WP admin. So, that’s really nice, and it gives you that ability to manage things, but then, if there’s a setting that’s missing, you can go ahead and just navigate automatically there.

Now, I talked a little bit at the top of the show about managing with an app, and so, the WordPress.com app that you can download for your Windows or Mac computer – you can use it there. It’s very much similar to the one that’s on Android and iOS, and you can do a lot of the same things there. You can go and you can manage your site. It has a list there of all of your sites. You can see your traffic to your sites. You can see all that kind of stuff. You can see your sites that are outdated and whatnot and need updates. You can do all of that right from your phone. You can do it right there from your computer or whatnot.

So, I recommend just trying it if you have Jetpack installed. It might be a great way to manage on your phone. Say you’re on the go and you see a typo or somebody emails you, “Hey, you have a typo,” well, then you can go – in the app, you can go specifically to the blog post section, and you can go to edit that blog post itself, and you can do that right there on your phone as you’re on the go.

So, I think it’s a great tool, I think it’s a feature that’s overlooked a lot, and I think you can do some really cool things with it. I think the WordPress.com interface is kind of a hidden gem. It’s not talked about a lot, and I don’t see a lot of reviews on just managing your sites from the WordPress.com dashboard or through the apps, but it’s really powerful, and the teams that are working on it are doing a really good job just making it excellent and awesome, and trying to make that experience that much better. I feel that everything with the JavaScript – the loading so the page doesn’t reload – it just makes it feel faster, and it just gives you an extra little speed bump, if you will.

So, if you wanna experience a new way to manage your site, I’d recommend checking out WordPress.com and just making sure your sites are connected with Jetpack. You can use the new, spiffy, faster editor. Everything will feel much faster, and the WordPress editor Gutenberg is already built right in, and so, you can do that, and if you have any questions, just let me know. I love trying to figure out easier, more efficient ways to work things, and this is a great way to keep all of your websites updated and to get everyone logged in.

This way, if you’re doing it on your phone and you have to do something, if all of your sites are connected to the same Jetpack account, you can just do whatever you need quickly on your phone without having to log in or do all of the jumping through the hoops, and then, the WP admin is a little bit hard to navigate on a phone, so I feel like this interface on the phone and on the computer – or even on a tablet – just makes it much better to make edits on the go and to manage WordPress wherever you are.

So, that’s what I wanna share with you this week, and I will be at WordCamp National – I guess it’s WordCamp U.S. – happening at the end of this week, and I’m excited if you’re there. I’ll be in the WooCommerce booth most of the time, so if you’re there, swing by and say hello, and maybe I can give you some cool swag or something extra special for coming over and saying hi. So, until next time, take care, and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.