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Shared Bits 1-Year Anniversary

Shared Bits went live in September 2018. What a first year it has been. To date, I have written 26 posts (including this post), 2 of which have been deleted. I have learned so much and successfully cleared a number of hurdles over the year.

I spent quite a bit of time over the past year tinkering with the Ashe Blog Pro theme that I use for my blog. My blog landing page has seen a number of changes and I’m quite happy with the current settings.

In December 2018, a new version of WordPress was released, the major change being the Gutenberg editor. Updating didn’t cause any issues with my existing pages and posts because they were formatted as Classic blocks during the upgrade process. I eventually went through all of my existing pages and posts, converting them to the new Blocks format. I had to spend some time though learning about the Gutenberg editor. Fortunately, Grayson Bell of iMarkInteractive put together a nice video detailing the new features introduced with the Gutenberg editor.

After writing my first few posts, I quickly realized that I needed to learn Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) technology, specifically the use of a style sheet, to style portions of my posts. I was familiar with CSS, but I had never really used it. Most of what I’ve learned this past year came from W3Schools, Internet searches, and viewing other sites and blogs using browser code viewers. Grayson Bell also offered an online course covering the use of CSS in WordPress, so I signed up for the course and spent time going through it.

I then commenced to put together a style sheet for my blog and once I was happy with that, I then began the arduous task of modifying all of my existing posts by adding applicable CSS classes.

I initially included Amazon affiliate links in a number of my posts when I started Shared Bits. The Amazon affiliate links were nice to have because they provided a nice product image and pricing. Unfortunately, my affiliate account was revoked because I didn’t have any sales referrals within the first 180 days of setting up the account. I knew about the 180 day sales referral period, but I didn’t think it would be an issue. So, I had to go through all of my existing posts at the time and replace Amazon affiliate links with regular Amazon links or links to other online vendors.

After losing my Amazon affiliate account, I began to consider signing up for Google Adsense. I did a bit of research to find out the requirements for Google Adsense and learned that I needed a disclosure page about affiliate relationships as well as a privacy page. The disclosure page was very easy to create, but I had no clue about what a privacy policy should contain. I then discovered that you could purchase privacy policies online, so I purchased one, modified it a bit, and added it to my blog.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn that your site must exist for one year prior to being eligible for Google Adsense until I was just about to implement it. I already had an account and the Adsense code for my blog. Why wasn’t the one year requirement asked about when I initially signed up? I needed a disclosure page and privacy policy anyway based on the research I did, so all was not lost.

In April, I came up with an idea on how to share information that wasn’t long enough to warrant a separate blog post after an e-mail exchange with a former co-worker. I turned that idea into Short Bits.

I initially used Slimstat Analytics to provide analytics data about who was coming to my site, where they came from, what they viewed, how long they were on pages, etc. The thing that I liked about Slimstat Analytics was that the analytics information was stored on my blog, not a third party site. The one thing I didn’t like about Slimstat Analytics was that I had to manually lookup the IP addresses to see where visitors were coming from. There is an add-on module that will add the location information to your database, but the module costs about $100 annually for up to 100,000 visitors.

After growing tired of spending time looking up IP information and adding the information along with the Slimstat Analytics data into a spreadsheet, I decided to give Google Analytics a try. I had to figure out a way to add the Google Analytics code to my blog and ended up using the Code Snippets plugin so that I did not have to tinker with my theme.

I’m fairly happy with Google Analytics. I especially like the fact that there’s a Google Analytics Android app, so I can view the Google Analytics data for my blog from my smartphone or tablet. The one thing I don’t like is that Google Analytics doesn’t provide visitor IP addresses.

I signed up for a one year hosting plan with SiteGround at an introductory rate when I started Shared Bits. The renewal rate was way too costly for my limited budget, so I began looking at alternatives in July. I reached out to Grayson Bell and he suggested checking out Name Hero. After checking out Name Hero’s site and reading a very limited number of reviews, I signed up for a three year hosting plan at a phenomenal rate. That was the easy part.

I then proceeded to learn as much as I could about migrating a WordPress site. I went through a bit of trial and error, but eventually migrated my blog successfully.

Recently, I began experiencing issues with my blog. The front end of my blog was fine, but there were issues with the back end. I received an e-mail stating that WordPress had been upgraded on my sites, which was odd because I thought I had disabled automatic updates of WordPress. Then one day I was looking through the plugins on my live site and noticed that Wordfence was missing. What?!

I assumed that maybe the WordPress upgrade had removed Wordfence by accident, so I attempted to re-install Wordfence. I received an error stating that the installation files already existed. Fortunately, I had backups and was able to restore Wordfence from a prior backup. Thank you Grayson Bell for the recommendation of both Wordfence and UpdraftPlus.

Soon after resolving the Wordfence issue, I used Wordfence to peruse the list of brute force attacks on my site. One particular attack quickly grabbed my attention because the attacker was using my username. How did that happen? After a bit of Internet sleuthing, I discovered that there’s a field under wp-users in the WordPress database called user_nicename. By default, user_nicename contains your username. Supposedly, there’s a way to easily obtain the value in user_nicename from the web.

I came across some other posts about hardening a WordPress site and after implementing some of the tips, I changed the username for both of my sites. I also changed the value under user_nicename to something other than my username.

Here’s hoping the second year will not be as eventful as the first year.

Post header image courtesy of cbaquiran on Pixabay.

2019-011

Updated on 2019-09-19

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