Backing up your WordPress website

Backing up your website is an essential, regular task but one that often gets overlooked or taken for granted. Should you assume that your hosting company does it for you? Or your website designer? Or do it yourself? I automate the task using a WordPress plugin called BackupBuddy.

Many WordPress plugins are free but BackupBuddy is a premium plugin

For an annual fee of US $150 I can use it to back up an unlimited number of clients’ website, which makes it great value. I simply wouldn’t have time to backup a couple of dozen sites manually every week.

Once installed on your website, BackupBuddy checks that the hosting server’s settings are conducive to doing a backup, and if there are problems, gives you advice on how to resolve them. In practice, I’ve found that only about one in four hosting packages needs tweaking in some way.

The plugin also runs a check for malware – handy, because if your site has been hacked you can revert to a previous backup.

Unlike some plugins, Backup Buddy backs up everything

That includes your MySQL database, WordPress core files, theme, uploaded images and documents. And it saves it as a single compressed file. If you want to exclude one or more folders, you can.

You can set up a schedule – I tend to do weekly backups but the can be daily, fortnightly or monthly – and BackupBuddy will automatically do the backup and send you an email to tell you it’s ready. Then you can login to WordPress and download the backup. Even better, you can have the backup sent to your Dropbox account, or sent by FTP to another location for safe keeping.

I’ve seen some problems arise but they’ve all been fixable

I’ve got the plugin to work on every single website, on hosting from several different hosting companies. In my experience, on two out of three websites Backup Buddy works correctly first time. Here are some of the more common problems that can arise.

WordPress directories may need permissions changing to 755. Backup Buddy will tell you whether they’re right or not, you’ll need to have FTP access to the website, or know how to login to your hosting control panel to change these folders’ permissions.

Sometimes the amount of memory your site is allowed to run PHP code, has been limited. This can be fixed by adding a line of code to a WordPress file – but it isn’t always so straightforward. Occasionally a website’s PHP.ini file will need to be found and edited, depending on how your hosting company has configured it.

One website wouldn’t back up at all, despite all the server settings looking correct. Switching to Backup Buddy’s alternative method of zipping files, fixed that issue.

All in all, it’s a great plugin. It may need some configuration but usually works with minimal tweaking. It’s a reliable solution to keeping your website safe and secure.

Alternatives to Backup Buddy

VaultPress is a competitor product to Backup Buddy. I’ve not used it but heard good things about it. It’s more expensive, and simply not an option for someone like me with 20+ websites to backup. But if you run only one or two websites, it’s probably the better WordPress plugin to purchase.

A manual backup is preferable to an automated one. Some website professionals would only ever do it manually and don’t trust plugins. Even if you use a plugin to backup your website, schedule the occasional manual backup too.

 

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Manage your e-newsletter with MailChimp

Chimp in a postman's hat

Setting up an HTML e-newsletter campaign used to be a frustrating experience, but worthwhile because email is a great marketing tool. There are few methods as effective for reaching supporters and donors. A great online application called MailChimp makes it much simpler. Continue reading…

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Google Grants get non-profit websites noticed

A Google Grant gives eligible charities and nonprofit organisations a free advertising budget to publicise their website’s pages on Google. For those charities that are eligible, it’s one of the most useful tools you can use to increase your visitor numbers.

I applied for a Google Grant for the Australian care organisation Baptcare and used it to create an advertising campagaign. Within a month we  doubled their website’s visitors and page views. Here are some tips on how you can do the same.

Baptcare’s web stats for the first 15 days of July were:

Visits: 1,229
Page views: 4,503

Compare those figures to the first 15 days of August (after the ad campaign went live):

Visits: 2,435
Page views: 9,184

To put these stats in context, the website might have expected a 5% and 10% rise in stats from one month to the next, but until now, never 50%.

Apply for a Google Grant

Do this as soon as possible, because you can wait anywhere between a fortnight and six months for a decision. For eligibility details and an application form, visit www.google.com/grants in the US, www.google.co.uk/grants if your charity is in the UK or www.google.com.au/grants in Australia.

Start off by creating lots of ads

I quickly set up dozens of ads for Baptcare: some performed well, some didn’t, but at least I could then weed out the poor ads and concentrate on tweaking the click-through-rates of the better ones. It’s important to check for spelling and stick to the charity’s style and marketing guidelines, although that’s a challenge when so few words can be used in an ad.

It’s the same story with keywords. Choose at least a dozen for each ad, then weed out the poor-performing keywords later. For an ad for Baptcare’s fostering programme, I initially chose about 20 keywords but when I checked the stats, only a few of those keywords (foster care, fostering, fostering children) were actually pulling in visitors, so we ditched the others.

Keep weeding and tweaking

AdWords give you detailed stats that show which ads and keywords do and don’t work. Weed out the ones that aren’t getting clicked on. Now start fine-tuning your remaining ads.

Trying setting up several ad variations for an advert. Each version might have very different or just slightly different wording. Google will randomly show one of your ad variations and you can use the stats to find out which one was clicked on the most. This is a great way to test which kind of language works best. For example:

Foster a Child in Need
Temporary carers sought for kids
unable to live at home.

Become A Foster Carer
For Children Unable To Live At Home
Find Out More Through Baptcare.

Advertise all your services

Don’t just advertise your organisation as a whole, or one or two services. Create ads for everything you do. The more your organisation does, the more you can advertise. Apparently most organisations use nowhere near the amount of free advertising that they’re allowed to use.

Baptcare is a huge nonprofit with services that include residential and community aged care, disability, children and families, asylum seeker accommodation, research and many other areas of work. It was easy to go through Baptcare’s website and pick a dozen separate services to advertise, each with a very different potential clientele and very different keyword choices. With websites of smaller organisations there seem to be less to work with but if you’re creative with your message, I’m sure you can find plenty to advertise.

Link ads to landing pages on your website

Don’t set up dozens of ads that all link back to your home page. If your ad is related to your latest donations appeal, link directly to the landing page for that appeal. Ideally, create landing pages specifically for each ad campaign. Your landing pages don’t need navigation, footers or sidebars: just text and images related to the appeal, and big links to pages on the website for more information.

A Google Grant can have measurable, practical benefit. According to the HR department, because of Ads we ran for specific vacancies on the website, there was a big increase in the number of people applying for jobs, and the quality of the applications didn’t drop.

f your ad campaign doesn’t initially do all you’d hoped it would, stick with it. Try different keywords, try ad variations, create a lot of new ads. Keep experimenting. Google have started to check occasionally whether you’re actually using your Grant and benefiting from it, so make it a regular routine to check and tweak your adverts.

Hire me to run your charity’s Google Grants campaign

A Google Grant gives you free advertising but you still need to find staff time to manage it. Do you need help running an Adwords campaign to bring in more visitors and boost your website’s presence? I could manage your campaign for you, create your adverts, track the results and give you regular stats reports. Contact me for a quote – I would be happy to be paid entirely on results, so you know you’ll get your money’s worth!

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Volunteer help for your website

A volunteer could give their time and skills to help you build your website. However, you need to think carefully about your expectations and their motivations, be realistic about what can be achieved and how quickly, and plan for the inevitable time when your volunteer decides to quit. Here are some thoughts on how to find and manage website volunteers. Continue reading…

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What to put in a website project brief

If you’re planning to have a new website, or improve your existing site, you should put your requirements down on paper in the form of a project brief.

I see a lot of briefs for new websites and redesigns. Some are well thought out, detailed and show a good understanding of how the web can be used to practical advantage by nonprofit organisations. Unfortunately many are not written like this. It’s not uncommon for me to read a brief and afterwards have no idea what the charity actually wants done; or in extreme cases to be given just one or two sentences explaining what they want.

There are good reasons for this: charities don’t always understand the Internet; they underestimate how much staff time they’ll need to devote in the planning stage; they don’t realise how much information a web designer will need; they don’t know the jargon; and sometimes they want someone else to do all the thinking for them.

Just published – on the Boagworld website – is a great guide to putting together a successful website project brief: 10 things never to leave out of a web design brief. I hope it’s helpful.

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