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Best Blogging Practices: 10 Blog Tips that I’ve Learned the Hard Way

Things have been a little slow here at Blog Bloke central because of technical problems, so I thought I would shake things up with an article that I think you will all enjoy.

This is not intended to be a holier than thou post expounding my lofty advice. But rather, after my recent blog problems I was humbly reminded of 10 blog tips that we all need to practice, because you just never know when it all might go wrong.

1. Let Twitter cover your back as an announcement tool if things should go wrong.

You need a web app to keep in touch with your readers if your blog goes down. I’ve been using Twitter ever since it first opened up for business, mostly because I was intrigued and wanted to check it out.

Honestly, I think a lot of people waste way too much time on it. But twice now it has saved my butt as an emergency tool when the blog was down to make announcements and keep in touch with my Blokesters.

Much thanks Twitter.

Twitter can also be handy for getting information and advice from others when it is needed most. So my advice is to get Twitter, and if you haven’t already please consider following my Twitter account (for just in case).

2. Don’t be so quick to upgrade. Especially if it is a major upgrade. You can tell if it’s major upgrade by the version number. Usually a two-decimal point version change means that it’s only a minor bug fix – e.g. from 2.1 to 2.1.1. Those are usually safe.

But if it jumps up a number like Wordpress did from 2.3 to 2.5, check the upgrade log and you will probably see that they’ve also added some new features as well.

That tells you there is a good chance there will be bugs that need fixing and to stay away until at least the next minor upgrade (i.e. 2.5.1 for example).

Of course in the Wordpress example there were also security fixes included, so that’s a judgment call only you can decide for yourself. But keep your ear to the ground and listen to what other bloggers are saying who were brave enough to make the upgrade and see if they are happy with it.

Let them be the victims er, I mean beta testers. Even then, it’s still no certainty everything will be fine because your theme and plugins are not the same, so your blog could still react quite differently.

Which brings me to another point. Not all plugins will work with a newer version of Wordpress.

So if you have a plugin that you can’t live without, check with the plugin creator first and see if there are any issues reported, or if there is another version that you will need to upgrade for it to work. If there isn’t, then if the plugin is important enough to you, maybe you should consider waiting awhile until the plugin creator offers an upgrade.

3. Do your upgrades late at night or when most of your readers are offline. Even better, wait until the weekend when you will have more time to work on it and there is less traffic, just in case something goes wrong.

4. That also means not doing anything during peak traffic time that might potentially cause problems such as changes to your theme\template. Remember, Murphy’s Law rules and if anything can go wrong, it probably will.

5.  If you are a Wordpress user, upgrade or add new plugins only one at a time per day. Don’t make the mistake of adding a lot of plugins all at once. Why? Because some plugins might conflict, and if you add too many at once it will be harder to figure out which one is the culprit.

So take your time and test your blog until you are certain that everything is ok before adding another plugin.

6. Keep a log of what changes you’ve made, so if you have a leaky brain like me you can see at glance your recent changes and revert it back again if you have to.

7. Keep a backup blog online, or in my case I have two backup blogs. When I left Blogger I said I would never go back, and recent events have reminded me (again) to never say “never”.

Was I ever glad to find Blogger was still waiting for me during my downtime so I could continue blogging. I also keep another backup at Wordpress.com just in case (because you “never” know) for times like the other day when Blogger was also down.

But remember to set your backup blogs as private and to not be seen by the search engines when you’re not using them. Otherwise you will be penalized by Google for duplicate content.

8. You’ve probably heard this before, that you should always make regular backups. But I recommend taking that one step further and keep regular backups of your data on your computer, CDs or an external hard drive, as well as online.

Your Wordpress dashboard allows you to export your posts and your CPanel should also have a backup feature for the entire database. But don’t forget to download a copy of it onto your hard drive as well. Blogger also has a feature for backing up your posts and your template.

9. Make a Contingency Plan. This was a wake-up call for me, and if there’s one thing I learned from this episode it’s that we are held hostage to our blog hosts no matter who it may be. Whether we pay for it to be hosted or it is provided for free by Google, unless we host our own server we will always be vulnerable to the whims of our hosts.

So as for me I’m going to have a backup plan just in case another situation like this should ever happen again.

10. Be patient and keep your cool. This is probably the best advice I can give and the hardest to follow. Being a reactive type personality myself (I’m half Irish) I have to constantly guard against my anger. Especially when I’m feeling threatened or frustrated.

On the other hand I can also a very patient person, but I still have my limits. So it’s good to know what your limits are and to not allow your frustrations get the better of you. Otherwise you just might end up in an electronic fistfight with the same people from whom you need assistance.

So keep your cool, walk away for awhile or take a nap. Chances are when you return you will see things in a different light and find the answer you’re looking for.

The bottom line is you should have your contingency plans prepared, take all necessary precautions, and if the worst should happen don’t let it get the better of you. Always remember that no matter how bad things may look, it can still be fixed. A little elbow grease and patience goes a long way.

Well that’s it for me. That’s all I can think of for now. Do you have anything you’ve learned that you can share with the rest of us?

Written August 4th, 2008 by | 10 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips, Featured Tips, Twitter Tips , , , , ,

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There are 10 Comments so far to “Best Blogging Practices: 10 Blog Tips that I’ve Learned the Hard Way”

  1. Excellent post Bloke. But really, would you have written it with such enthusiam and vigor had this not happened to you?
    See, there’s a reason for things. You just helped tons of people avoid some blogging pitfalls BEFORE they happen.
    We get our material for blogging from the oddest sources, don’t we.
    What seemed like a bad thing at the time, can actually end up to be a good thing, and above all - a learning experience. Life is funny that way. Thanks for sharing. Teri

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    Reply by: Blog Bloke at 1:48 pm said...

    Thanks Teri. You are absolutely right. When things go wrong we are stretched and forced to learn new things. I’m always learning and sometimes I will intentionally break things just to understand what makes it tick. I think the shrinks call that masochism. ;-) Or like the good book says we are purified by the fire. It’s just the part of going through the fire that can be tough. Cheers!

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  2. Hey Bloke,

    I’ve had a backup copy of my blog on WordPress.com for quite sometime now.
    I still have posts from my previous blog at Blogger but unfortunately I’ve had problems uploading the Wordpress export file from drafts.blogger.com
    I also store a copy of the export file on Windows Sky Drive.

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    Reply by: Blog Bloke at 1:45 pm said...

    Try switching back to the New Blogger interface and see if that helps. When I switched my dashboard over to “in draft” strange things happened too. You can always go back.

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  3. I like the idea of keeping a back-up of all your posts… Truth is, it’s not something I’ve ever given much thought too until this weekend when a fellow blogger (friend of mine) lost all of her work while upgrading her wordpress blog. I don’t think ‘ouch!’ quite covers it!

    All I can say is you never know and it’s better to play it safe…

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  4. Very good things to do. Glad to see you settling back into your blog home.

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