With all the traffic most of us hope to get coming to our blogs, it makes the act of making sure you’re doing blog maintenance all that more important. Truth be told, most of us get things moving along the way we want it to and almost always seem to miss something. As time goes along, we add and remove things that also ends up affecting how our blogs work.
With that said, I’m going to talk about 6 areas that we need to check our blogs for to make sure they’re maintained well. Some of these are going to be things you probably know but need to decide if it’s what you really want to do, whereas others you might not have thought about. Let’s see if I can do this without turning it into another tome. 🙂
1. Broken Links
I wasn’t going to start with this one initially but it seems it’s the only time on this blog that I wrote on this specific topic. Broken links will mess up your blog in more ways than one. First, it’ll irritate your visitors if they click on a link that you’ve put in only to find it doesn’t work. Second, if there are too many of them it’ll irritate search engines and they’ll start picking on you. Neither of those things are pleasant.
The only plugin I know that works here in Broken Link Checker. It’ll find all broken links if you let it run for a while, which is a good thing. However, you don’t want to run it all the time because it’ll slow down your blog and mess up your blog speed and mobile speed. I try to remember to run mine at least every 3 months or so because you never know when people or news sources have removed content from their sites. You need to be cautious though because sometimes the content is still there but the site is having issues.
Still, it’s something you should be checking on a regular basis. By the way, if your blog is old and it’s the first time you’re running the plugin, it’s best for you to set it to go to work and you go off and do something else; trust me. 🙂
2. CommentLuv Link Checker
Since I’m talking about links, I’ll mention this one now. If you’re using CommentLuv it’s possible that the domain link is the same but the link to the blog post has gone bad. That often happens when people change their permalink structure but it also happens when someone has decided to make a post private (such as if they were running a contest that’s now over). This plugin only looks at those CommentLuv links, so it runs faster and easier than the above checker (which doesn’t look at these links). However, you still don’t want this plugin running all the time.
Now, since I mentioned CommentLuv above I might as well talk about this plugin itself. Most people don’t know this but Andy Bailey, the creator of this plugin and the GASP Anti-Spambot plugin, is very sick and is unlikely to ever update it again. This becomes problematic in two ways. One, as WordPress keeps evolving there might come a time when it won’t work with most themes anymore, and there’s nothing else like it on the market (well, anything that works well with the traditional WordPress commenting system). Two, if you have any questions and need some support, all you’re going to get is a form letter offering some things to look at since he can’t do it (although it seems to capture everything you need if you’re tech savvy enough).
Therefore, it’s important for you to keep an eye on how it’s working on your blog. For instance, there are multiple blogs I visit where, no matter what you do, you don’t get that CommentLuv thing to show you any of your previous post options to share; you might not even get your latest post. I’ve already shown people how to fix Parsing JSON error their own blogs (since sometimes it’s the visitor’s fault it doesn’t work) so that one’s been taken care of. If that’s not the issue then it’s definitely the blog owner’s fault.
Sometimes it stops working because you’re experimenting with other plugins, as I was doing when trying to get my mobile speed up to snuff. It turns out that Autoptimize and Async JS & CSS don’t always work with each theme, independently or together, and you’re not always sure which one is affecting your plugins. For CommentLuv, it seems it didn’t like Autoptimize on this blog, but I needed it to reach a good mobile speed level. It hadn’t been working for weeks, but no one who commented had mentioned it so I didn’t know until I started noticing that none of the comments seemed to be showing it anymore (I was slow in maintaining that; I slapped myself lol).
My fix was to change themes, since this blog’s theme was really old, and thus went to one that I already use on 3 of my other blogs. Now I’m running both plugins and CommentLuv is doing it’s thing and all is right with the world again; whew!
Well, except for this one thing. I can never update to the last version of CommentLuv on this blog because to get it to work, Andy forced part of it to process through the blog footer… and I’d removed mine years ago because it was getting on my nerve, and even though now my updated software has a footer, it still won’t work with it. Oh well, I’m good for now. 🙂
4. Plugins in general
Since I’ve talked about two plugins already (are you sensing a pattern?) I guess it’s time to call out plugins in general. Many of us don’t pay attention to our plugins to realize that some of them don’t work properly with our themes or our software or have basically sunset without any notice to us about them.
For instance, I used to run a plugin on this site called WordPress Thread Comments. It worked great for years, even though it’s never been updated. When I went on my quest for higher mobile speed I found that it was slowing down my sites so I removed it. Once I updated this blog I thought I could bring it back… alas, I started getting error messages. So that bad boy is gone forever here; sniff! Before anyone says it, I know it’s built into the WordPress software but it’s never worked on any of my blogs; no idea why.
It’s good to always check your plugins to see what’s been updated or not and see what’s still working and what’s not. If it still works well and is important enough (like Limit Login Attempts), then it’s all good. If it’s not working or doing anything at all, it’s best to deactivate it and then remove it. That’s an important piece; if you deactivate a plugin you’re never going to use again, totally remove it, just as I advised years ago when talking about free themes you’re not ever going to use.
5. Protecting the core of your blog
Since I mentioned Limit Login Attempts, let’s talk about protecting your blog overall. I use that plugin because those lousy creeps who try to break into blogs use software that will try to figure out your username and password thousands of times and you’ll never know it… and eventually they’re going to get through unless you’re protecting yourself. By using this plugin, I can limit how many times someone gets to try to break in to 4 times, then they have to wait so many days to try again, and if they try it for more times I can limit them to trying it again in months. This is probably the most valuable plugin there is in protecting your blog up front.
The second is some kind of firewall protection, just like what you use for your computer. I use WordPress Firewall 2, but I know there are others out there. Firewalls electronically block access into your system just in case something’s slipped through and these weasels try to activate it remotely.
The third is a plugin that does a regular backup of your blog, just in case your information gets lost (which happens all the time unfortunately). I use WP-DBManager, which backs up the entire database once a week and emails it to me. I also have WordPress Database Backup, which allows me to do an immediate backup; it might be overkill but after 11 years of blogging I don’t want to take any chances.
The fourth is a plugin that will help to optimize your database files and tables, which you should be doing on a regular basis anyway. I use WP-Optimize, which is also the plugin I recommended people use for that JSON parsing issue above.
The fifth is trying to protect your blog from a lot of spam or malware. I mentioned GASP Anti-Spambot above and that’s a good one, but there are a number of plugins one can use to help out in this regard.
This section is probably the most important maintenance you should be doing for your blog. Although I feel content is the most important aspect of blogging in general, making sure your blogging space is secure and safe is the most critical thing to think about.
This second one is a two-part lament I always have. The first part is getting an immediate response from blogs that want me to subscribe to comments, which is about 30%. If I’ve already commented I don’t, and won’t, subscribe to it; that’s just redundancy I’m not in the mood for. The second part, which is never getting notified of a response at all, is about 60%; that’s the most irksome thing of all. That last 10% are the people who never respond to comments at all; it used to be higher on my list when there was less technology involved in commenting.
If you’re using these things, using commenting systems like Disqus, or using Captcha-like junk, and you’re not getting the amount of comments you’d like, you know where your problems lie; change them! As much as I hate spam, unless I was getting 500 comments a day and most of them were spam I wouldn’t think of using any of these things. If you are, please at least check them every once in a while to see if they’re working and if you’re getting what you want from them.
We’ll stop there because that’s a lot of content for you to absorb. If you think you can handle more, check out my post about 30 mistakes you’re making with your blog; just make sure you have your favorite calming drink with you before you start reading. 🙂 Also, if you want to share your thoughts on other plugins than what I’ve mentioned above, please feel free. Happy blogging!
Once again this weekend, I was visiting a lot of blogs and commenting on them. On three particular blogs they had the CommentLuv plugin, and on all 3 I got that stupid “Parsing JSON Error” message that I’m sure many of you who have visited blogs have received. This time I was irked, because my sometimes workaround, which is to hit the F5 key (after copying your comment in case you have to paste it back) to reset the other person’s blog, in case it’s their error, didn’t work.
This means it was time to do some research. You know what; no one had my answer, and that irked me to no end.
One blog post I found said to go into my CommentLuv settings, open the technical settings, and uncheck the box that says “use security nonce for ajax calls”. That wouldn’t work because it was already unchecked.
Another said to clear your cache, but it assumed we all use a caching plugin on our blogs. I’d tried that some years ago and it crashed my blog, so that wasn’t going to solve my issue.
However, clearing the cache seemed to be a big thing on a lot of forums I looked at, even to the point of clearing your browser cache (don’t do it for this purpose; it doesn’t work). So I was frustrated to no end.
Until I remembered that I do have an interesting plugin that I’m not sure everyone else has. It’s called WP-DBManager, and it’s basically a plugin that accesses your database and lets you, well, do a lot of different things if you look at the image above, which comes up when you click on Database on your main WordPress menu (which appears after you load the plugin).
For the purpose I was searching for however, the choice was Optimize DB. You’re actually supposed to run it at least once a month to make sure things are working well but, like brushing your teeth, who really follows that rule? I ran that option, it only took a few seconds, then I went back to two of the blogs where CommentLuv failed to find my blog posts, ran a quick test (I just put in one word in the comment section, filled out the normal name, email & link area)… and all was right with the world!
That got me to thinking about other plugins I use, though not on a continual basis, that might help some of you. Let’s look at some of these, though it’s possible I’ve written about them in the past (who goes & looks at my old posts anyway, unless I highlight them?).
Another plugin I use to help clear things up is called WP-Optimize, which is similar to the database plugin except it clears out all those revisions we all make to our blogs from time to time and allows you to optimize WordPress core tables… but you have to be cautious with this one because it will warn you that some of the options are only when things aren’t working well.
I know I’ve talked about this one before, but it seems like a lot of folks are having their blogs hacked into lately. It’s called Limit Login Attempts, and it basically allows you to set how many times someone can try a username and password before it locks them out.
Mine is set at 4 times, at which time it won’t accept anymore tries from that particular IP address for 4500 minutes the first time (about 3 days), 300 hours the second time (12 1/2 days) and 900 hours the third time (37 1/2 days). This will pretty much stop any bots trying to get into your blog that way, but you’ll probably want to add the WordPress Firewall 2 plugin to help shield your blog from those suckers also.
The final plugin I’m going to mention is called WordPress Database Backup; that’s pretty self explanatory I assume, but I have mine set up to send me a file once a month in case something happens that causes the blog to crash. Luckily I’ve never had to use it, but I know some folk have lost it all (though there are other ways to find their information; this is just the fastest way to handle things).
I think that should get some things fixed and protected on your blog. Let me know how it works for you.
Isn’t that nice? Looks like a great comment doesn’t it? Unfortunately, not only isn’t it a good comment, it’s actually spam. How do I know this?
Look at the comment again. Do you have any idea what article it was made on? For that matter, isn’t this the type of comment that could go on any article you read, only changing the name?
Oh yeah; it already has shown up on many articles. Not on my blog, but here and here and here and here. Actually, it comes up over a thousand times if you do the search; now that’s a shame!
On two of these blogs the writer of the article responded to it as if it was a real comment; I thought I should tell them but decided to keep it to myself, so only you wonderful readers will know the truth.
Something I’ve written about in the past is learning how to recognize spam that can make it through your spam filters. It looks like a real comment, but if it doesn’t address the article in any way then you know it’s fake. For instance, here’s another fake comment I received:
Well done Mitch. You have nicely explained the rules of marketing with details. great work
That was pretty lame wasn’t it? It actually went to my Pending area only because I use CommentLuv Premium, where I was able to then download Anti Backlinker and tell it to put any comment without a gravatar into moderation. Since many of you don’t have the first, you can’t get the second, so it’s possible you’ll have comments like this on your blog. Actually, it shows up on Google over 2,300 times with a slight variation after the first few words of the sentence.
Speaking of not really trying…
I read your full article and its really interesting a lot. Thank You For providing us great articles…
Come on now; I’m almost insulted that someone wasted their time with that. lol Actually, depending on what you might want to check this one comes up the fewest number of times, but it’s still repeated… must be relatively new.
How about one more:
Very interesting. I finished up my post for today yesterday and it posted in the wee hours when I was still asleep and yet you and I make some very similar points right down to the Morgan Freeman quote.
As I said in my post, though I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and knew no black people whatsoever, I was pretty aware of a lot of black history. I don’t remember it being taught in school so maybe I got it from television.
I like to hear the entire scope of history and not isolated bits extracted for some specific agenda.
This is only a sample. It’s pretty good isn’t it? It was actually a very long comment and it might have fooled most people. How did I know it was spam? Because it was an actual comment that someone else wrote on this article from February that, because I remembered us having a conversation about it at the time, and the comment not fitting on the article it showed up on, I knew was spam. This one was at least creative, if misplaced.
This is the kind of thing that many people miss because it’s a legitimate comment… just not on the right article, which made it easy. Sometimes it’s on the same article which makes it difficult; I’ve missed that a few times here and there.
Overall I’m pretty lucky when it comes to spam. The truly bad and fake stuff almost always finds its way into the spam filter, with some occasionally making it into preview mode. However, sometimes they end up on this blog or one of my other blogs, and for the most part I know it’s spam and I get rid of it pretty quickly.
Here’s a truth; not all spam is intentionally spam. Some are just bad comments left by people who think saying “nice post” has any meaning to the writer. You need to get rid of those comments as quick as possible also because if your blog looks like one that will accept them, you’ll have all sorts of bad comments and spam showing up on your site and the search engines will think your site isn’t worth bothering with.
There’s always a question whether or not search engines look at blog comments. I doubt that’s the case. However, I tend to believe that their bots will see lousy comments, notice that the links are a bit dodgy, and penalize the site in some way. Do you want that happening to your blog when you’re spending so much time trying to write great content?
Just a bit of a tutorial for you on this Monday morning. Happy blogging and moderating to you all! 😉
Addendum: – You won’t believe this but if you look at the comments below you’ll see that someone came by & left the exact same comment that I highlighted at the beginning of this post; ridiculous! I removed the information from that comment so the guy wouldn’t get any benefit but shared it so we could call it out. However, it came from someone calling himself Abdul Samadessani, email address firstname.lastname@example.org, website bloggingearning.com and Twitter handle @samad_100. I’ve sent contact via Twitter calling him out or whomever he hired; let’s see if he responds. Until he does, go ahead and abuse this guy because, trust me, you’ll probably be seeing this same comment on your blog one of these days, if it’s not already there.
Most of you know I love the plugin called CommentLuv. I’ve been a fan of that plugin since 2008, so much so that I went ahead and paid for the premium version, which comes with a few more bells and whistles.
Lat year, I noticed that it wasn’t working on this blog. That occurred after an update, which the premium version has at least once a month so it was easy to spot. That it only stopped working on here was odd, so I contacted customer service for help.
After going back and forth in a few emails, turns out the problem is that I removed the footer here years ago because it had this bit of code in it that was falsely indicating what the blog was about. Most websites don’t have this as a problem but most blog themes come with a footer where, if you want or its an option, you can add even more links to your site. I couldn’t add anything to it, and I had problems with any alterations, so I just removed it. The blog works perfectly without it, and I never looked back.
However, the upgraded premium plugin needs the footer to do its job. For me, it kind of stinks, as my theme is pretty old, but which I’ve modified over the years, and I’m not in the mood to get a new one. During testing I swapped to one of the current WordPress themes to see if it would work, and it didn’t. So, whether it’s the footer or not is still out there, but the reality is that I had to load a previous version to get it working again and I’ll just have to be happy with that for now.
What this points out is that the latest and greatest isn’t always so for everyone, and holding onto something old isn’t always the best way to go either. I’m sure there are still many XP users out there who think it’s the bees knees (does anyone say that anymore?) and swear they’re never going to switch up, but last year when Microsoft finally stopped supporting it. If anything goes wrong you’d best be ready to pony up some big bucks for someone to come fix it, as most have moved on to newer operating systems, or be ready to totally wipe your system and load the disk that came with it, without knowing if any of the updated files will still be available.
Back in the early 2000’s the big thing most people wanted was some kind of flash on their websites. It was pretty, bold, and, well flashy. It also didn’t look good for everyone because sometimes it didn’t match up with what their business said they did. I’ve seen a lot of those websites over the years, and most of them have no rankings whatsoever; so sad… As a matter of fact, I’ve removed Flash from my computers, which is problematic because I’m a major fan of Firefox and none of the Flash content on other sites will play on it. However, Chrome seems to be converting all Flash stuff to HTML5, so if I really want to see something I just paste it there.
This is why you need to take a look at your website and your blog every once in a while to make sure everything’s working the way you want it to, as well as to do an evaluation as to whether it’s really getting the message across that you’re hoping to get out to the world. Remember my post about another plugin that started giving me trouble?
It doesn’t mean everything has to change, but it does mean you need to know what’s going on so you can make the determination as to whether to keep on the straight and narrow or make some kind of modifications here and there.