Pssst! Wanna know a few WordPress secrets?

Secrets that are guaranteed to make your life easier and your website more secure?

Welcome to the first in an occasional series about WordPress, blogging, email marketing and other things geeky.

Many of my clients, readers, and colleagues — the Magnolias West tribe — are doing their online businesses and blogs on a WordPress site. And since I’m passionate about all things geeky, I’m going to share some of the awesome WordPress secrets I have learned and continue to learn — there’s a lot to know! I teach this information one-on-one and in Facebook groups all the time; and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you. None of the links in today’s post are affiliate links; I’m simply sharing the tools I know about, use and love.

All the solutions I suggest can, beloved, be implemented by you, or by your awesome web-savvy virtual assistant (VA), or [ahem] you could call me; I can help. If you have questions about any of this stuff, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you understand.

Rock your WordPress

Today we’ll look at secrets in these three areas: backups, updates and how to find out what you need to know


Servers are unstable (they’re just computers), and just because you’re paying for hosting doesn’t mean your site is protected enough by your host to recover everything if your site crashes. Your site is self-hosted, right? Which means its url is, not (If you haven’t made this change yet to a self-hosted site, please do — you get a lot more functionality, and you have a more professional domain name), and if you need help doing this, please get in touch with me.) Many of us, me included, buy cheap shared web hosting when we’re starting out, and servers can go down. Just like that. Often. So you need to have a backup scheme in place.

Consider this scenario: Your site is on and boom! — they go down. For days. How empowered would you feel if you could find a better host (more uptime, managed hosting), and in a matter of a couple of hours have your last backup (less than a week old) to the new host, change the settings so that the interwebs see your new site, and move on! The way you do this is to have a backup plugin that automagically backs up your entire site every week (because you told it to do so), keeps a copy on your web host, and to cover your butt in a most elegant way, makes a copy to another cloud independent of your host (also because you told it to do so) — I send my copy each week to my Dropbox. The two most popular backup plugins these days are Backup Buddy (annual fee, which I use) and Back WP Up (free and fee versions available). Please, get one and set it up.

Updates and compatibility

Have you noticed that little circle with arrows with a number next to it on your WordPress dashboard right next to your site name — the number that seems to grow bigger every time you log in? That’s the number of updates that are waiting for you to run them. WordPress is open source, which means that different developers, and different coders, are providing not only WordPress, but the plugins you run on your site. As WordPress itself gets updated (which seems to happen every other day these days, doesn’t it?) your fabulous plugins may no longer play nicely with WordPress or other plugins. It’s an ever-changing playground.

One of the ways you can stay on top of this is to schedule time for you or your VA to regularly run all the updates that are waiting for you, and then to check your live site and make sure that nothing has gotten broken. Sometimes you might find yourself with a broken website. The best way to diagnose and fix this is to turn off all plugins and turn them back on one at a time until you find the culprit. Tedious, yes, but it works.

Sometimes you just gotta say goodbye to your favorite plugin because it no longer plays nicely with everything else. And then you get to replace it with something just as cool or even better! One way to save yourself headaches as you go is to look around and see what seems to be working well, plugin-wise, on longstanding websites in your niche. Use what they use. Believe me, those who have gone before have done a lot of the investigation for you; copy their results — you’ll sleep better at night.

How in the world am I supposed to figure this stuff out?

Two answers: Google and an amazing free WordPress manual. Google is your friend. If you get stuck, and none of your WordPress buddies are available, Google your question. Like: “How do I get multiple paragraphs in a bullet list WordPress?” or “best social sharing plugins WordPress” or “improve SEO WordPress.” You will probably find what you need.

There’s one more really cool resource to share. A man named Anthony Horton has written and is giving away a really really really good WordPress manual called Easy WP Guide WordPress Manual. It’s as good or better than the manual I dreamed of writing for a couple of years now. But now I don’t need to because Anthony has done such a good job. Get yours here. Getting the manual from his site is the best way to go, because then you get notified whenever he updates it. Perfection!

Was this helpful? I hope so!

Did I leave anything out?

Let me know in the comments what you think, what you want to add, and especially what you’d like me to cover in the world of WordPress and blogging in the next installment of this series.

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I’m a barely tamed hippie, sage, seasoned, sarcastic (not all the time any more, but still). I’m a mom, a daughter, sister, a neighbor, and a friend. I’ve been on this meandering journey — like you, probably — seeking a better connection to and experience of peace, harmony, and fun in every bit of life. I’m single, quite good at it, and mostly love it. I’m here for the conversations I get to have with you, which these days center on exploring the mystery and beauty of life, work, health, aging, and creative expression. Want to know a little more about me and my journey? Explore the site. Read the blog. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Join the conversation!

  1. Hi Sue,
    Thanks , I have learned about backup the hard way and now backup and also started to make a clone
    Thanks for the wp resource, might eb useful as I am building a new site

    • Suzie, making a clone? A copy of your website in a sub-folder? Or something else? I made a copy of my site on my host so I could try things out. The problem is it’s not updated. I know there’s a way to push new content to the “sandbox” but I haven’t learned that yet.

      Ahhh, this learning never ends, does it? Keeps us young!


  2. Super great tips Sue! Especially the tip about making a backup before you do anything major…or minor 🙂

    One plugin in I LOVE is commentluv. It pulls the most recent blog post from the commenter so that I can easily go to their blog and leave a comment, too! And I adore wordpress blogs that have commentluv, too 🙂

    • Hi Peggy, welcome! I love CommenLuv when I find it on others’ sites, but after my experience with a comment plugin (Livefyre) causing headaches here I decided to simplify (back to WordPress default commenting with a little styling) and that’s been working just fine for the last year or so.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Love and light,

  3. Hi Sue,
    Great help. One question – are you talking about or
    Will look at the backup info you suggest.
    Thanks for doing this.

    • Hi Diana, lovely to see you here!

      I tried to make it clear in the article, it’s confusing! What I’m talking about is the self-hosted solution, or in other words,

      Looks like you’re on, and I do know there are limitations and differences, but I can’t speak to them since my site is self-hosted.

      This article talks about the differences…. (Google is my friend!)


  4. I set three plugins at the beginning of any site. Some sort of backup, anti-spam and firewall. I had a major crash on one host last spring and learned how to read the databases to recover some information. This was something ‘smelly’ — they kept saying viruses and they wouldn’t let me see the real sites or use backups. I did one clone on a site that survived because it was HUGE and I needed to keep it.

    I had ‘sorta plans’ for some major makeovers and this forced my hand all at once. We’ve had fun with using some newer responsive themes that work well on cell phones and other little screens.

    • JudyAnn, hi, welcome, thanks for commenting!

      Sounds like you’re rocking some great practices.

      I myself chose to use a third-party security service when my site got hacked. They were more helpful than my host, for sure.

      Next up for me will be better hosting than I have now. The never-ending saga of protecting our data!

      Love and blessings,

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