How to use Evernote for blogging

I don’t recall exactly how I found Evernote, but I do recall not being real impressed with it at first. Based on my oldest Evernote note, I began using Evernote early in 2008, mostly to keep text notes. A month or so later, I all but stopped using it. In hindsight, I know why – I wasn’t using Evernote correctly. Fortunately after reading some Evernote tips articles, I tried it again.

Evernote Blogging

The second time around, I decided to put everything in my life I possibly could in Evernote. This included:

  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
  • To be read articles
  • Recipes
  • Any and all paper I needed to retain (I scanned it)
  • Contacts
  • Ideas
  • Photos
  • Graphics

Basically any bit of information that I needed to retain for more than an hour or so, I recorded in Evernote. A week or so later, my life was changed. I could suddenly find things, my desk was cleaner and I was more organized. I was hooked.

I’ve been using Evernote since then and not only for personal life, but for my blogging business as well. I’ve been engaged in a number of recent discussions related to Evernote out on Google+ and in doing so I realized that while I’ve said I use Evernote, I’ve really never captured exactly how I use Evernote for blogging. But, before I go there, let me explain what it is about Evernote that makes it unique.

Why Evernote is unique

I’m all about simplicity and less is more, which is the main reason Evernote works so well for me. Evernote allows you to place all of your data in one place and provides access that data from anywhere at anytime. When I say data, I mean everything, text, images, binaries, and PDFs.

I don’t have to think about where my data is, I just open Evernote on my MacBook, or my iPhone/iPad or via a web browser, search and I find what I need. Before using Evernote, I had data on my local hard drive, data in email, data in Google Docs, data in post it notes on my desk, in paper notebooks on my desk, and in file cabinets full of folders and paper … well you get the picture. I basically had important data all over the place and much of it not accessible when I wasn’t home.

One of the big problems I had was remembering where each bit of information was located. A few examples:

  • If my kids needed birth certificates or social security cards those were in the file cabinet.
  • If I needed a receipt, hopefully I kept it and put it in my file cabinet. Of course if it was, it wasn’t in order so I had to manually search for it.
  • Login credentials would either be in my email or in some local file on my hard drive.
  • If I was cooking dinner one night and needed a recipe it was either in our paper recipe file, in some cookbook, on some sheet of paper in some cookbook, bookmarked in my browser or in my email. I literally didn’t cook some recipes because I couldn’t find them even though I knew I had them, somewhere.

As you can see, I was spending a great deal of time and energy just trying to find things.

Once I committed to using Evernote, I saved time. Not at first of course, because getting all of that information into Evernote took time, but as I needed something, I would find it, and spend an extra minute or two to get it into Evernote. Then, the next time I needed it, the time spent was almost nothing.

As many of you know, by day I’m a software developer for a Fortune 500 company. I had the pleasure of working for a really brilliant guy early in my career on one of my first big projects. This guy was incredibly organized. If you asked him for something, he would pull open is file drawer and within seconds find it. His organization system was incredibly efficient. I asked him one day: “Joel, how do you have time to be that organized?” I’ll never forget his reply, and it has stuck with me for the past 20 years, he said: “I don’t have time not to be“.

See, Joel recognized the importance of thinking long term, not short term. He invested a little extra time upfront, in order to save far more time down the road. I started trying to do that with my life and specifically when I started my blogging business.

Everything goes into Evernote right away

For most things, my use of Evernote for blogging is really no different than my use of Evernote for every other part of my life. Anytime I get a new piece of information, it immediately goes into Evernote.

One little tip I’ve learned to help me do this is to make adding the information quick. I’m often very busy and telling myself “I don’t have time to add it now, I’ll add it later” is really easy to do. I’ve learned though, that if I don’t add it now, it probably won’t get done.

Evernote Tip: Add everything to your inbox by default. Circle back once a day, clean up your notes and correctly file them in the right place.

I have Evernote set-up so that each new note goes into my inbox. I create the note, quickly add the data and move on. I circle back, usually once a day, and go through my Evernote inbox and finish the add process. This involves:

  1. Making sure the title is correct and thorough
  2. Tagging the note
  3. Cleaning up any formatting issues
  4. Filing the note in the correct stack and notebook

I do this for every single note in my inbox.

Another big mistake I was making with Evernote was converting images to text manually. For example, if someone gave me a business card, I would key in the data from the business card into my contacts notebook. I later stated just taking a picture of the card instead.

If it’s an image how can I search for it?

That is handled by Evernote. When you bring a image or PDF (only with premium) into Evernote, Evernote performs OCR on the image so that it’s fully searchable.

Evernote Tip: Use your smart phone or laptop camera to take pictures of data whenever you can. This will save you time, and in most cases, Evernote’s OCR functionality will make it searchable. If not, you can always add additional text to the image note later just for searching.

Evernote for blogging

Over the past few years I’ve developing a system to keep myself organized specific to my blogging and services work. I have an Evernote Stack called Side Income Blogging. In that Stack I have the following Notebooks:

  • Articles – contains ideas, drafts and ready to be published articles. I also keep guest articles here as well.
  • Services – all of my Side Income Blogging Services notes go here.
  • Code Snippets – Anytime I write code for myself or a client that I think I might use again, it goes here.
  • Design Scrapbook – I spend a great deal of time reading design blogs and surfing for clipart, textures, photoshop brushes, etc. All of those finds go here, including sites I run across that have great designs I like.
  • Receipts – Anytime I purchase something related to my blogging business, I scan the receipt and put it here. If it’s a taxable write-off, I tag it taxable to help with my taxes at the end of the year.
  • Site Information – This notebook is used to keep all of the information on my sites. I keep domain names, IDs, URLS, passwords, database names, etc. here.  I highly recommend you encrypt notes containing sensitive information such as passwords.
  • Affiliates – Contains my affiliate information, including websites, products, contacts and other related informaiton.
  • Misc – Everything else goes here. I try to minimize putting data here, but for one off items where I can’t justify a new notebook, this works well.

Evernote tip: Minimize the number of notebooks you have. Use tagging to further organize notes within the notebook

Let’s talk about Articles, because that is the Notebook I use for my article workflow. The notebook has three types of articles:

  1. Article Ideas – tagged:  articleidea – This is where I jot down any and all article ideas I come up with. I have tons of stuff in here. Some of these start out as verbal recordings if I’m on the go, and I come back later and turn them into text.  You do know that Evernote can record sound and voice right?
  2. Draft Articles – tagged: articledraft – These are articles I’ve started on, but are not be ready to be published. These can be outlines to almost complete articles.
  3. Complete Articles – tagged: article – These are complete articles ready to be published.
  4. Guest Articles – tagged: articleguest – These are articles I’m writing for other people or blogs

When I sit down to write, if I don’t have an article idea in mind, I’ll skim over my article ideas to see what appeals to me. I’ll then edit that idea and begging flushing out a draft of the article. Once the article is complete, I’ll retag it so I know it’s ready to publish. Sometimes I’ll go ahead and do that, other times it will sit to be published in the future. I also use tags to track which blog the article is for.

Evernote Web Clipper

A key tool to making Evernote work for me is Evernote Web Clipper. Web Clipper is a plugin that runs in all popular browsers and provides intelligent web clipping. If I run across an article I want to read, but don’t have time, I use Web Clipper to capture it to my Personal>>To Read notebook. If I run across a recipe I want to try, I use Web Clipper to capture it to Personal>>Recipes.

I also use Web Clipper to manage bookmarks. I do this by visiting the page, opening Web Clipper and changing the Save button to “Save URL” rather than the default “Save Article”. Bookmarks get saved in Personal>>Bookmarks and I use tags to further organize them.

Another way I use Web Clipper is for capturing images. I frequently use Creative Commons images in my articles and headers. I also use textures and photoshop brushes in my services work. I use Web Clipper to capture the images and website. This allows finding and viewing images later on much easier.

Evernote tip: Be careful using Web Clipper on Google Images. Web Clipper won’t just clip the opened image, but the entire page. This is a huge problem because google images page’s are infinite scrolling, so the clipped page is huge. Instead, visit the actual site where the image is and clip from there.

Wrapping up

Evernote has turned out to be the single most positively impacting tool I’ve ever used for blogging. I was so disorganized before and spent countless hours in wasted time trying to find stuff. Evernote has freed up my life and given me more time to devote to blogging and my services work.

If you haven’t tried Evernote, I would strongly recommend you download it and give it a go. Commit to using for a few weeks, not just a few hours or days. Evernote has huge benefits in the long term that you just can’t appreciate if you only use it for a short period of time.

If you have tried Evernote before and didn’t like it, try it again. Make sure you put everything in it and again use it for a few weeks. I can almost guarantee you’ll stay with it.

One of the biggest selling points for me is that Evernote is free for up to 60MB of data each month. I’ve come close, but so far I haven’t gone over the limit. If you need more features or additional upload capacity, Evernote premium is only $5.00 per month or $45.00 per year.

Also, let me recommend a really great resource on Evernote that I’m currently reading through: Evernote Essentials (affiliate link).  Evernote Essentials is the guide for getting started and being successful with Evernote.  I’m about half way through the 95 page guide, and am very impressed.  The author even wrote a good portion of the Evernote documentation.

Do you use Evernote?  What’s your best tip?  How do you use it?

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Analytics for your blog – Content Section

For those of you that might just be coming into this series on Google Analytics for your blog, this is the third article in a series.  Part one provided an overview of Google Analytics along with diving into the audience overview section.  Part two discussed the Traffic Sources section of Google Analytics.

In this third part of the series, we’ll explore the details of the Google Analytics Content section which allows you to view metrics data for the actual content of your blog or website.  The content section includes a large number of sub-sections and data, which makes for a big article.  You might want to consider bookmarking this article for future reference.

Google Analytics Content Section

Content Section

The Content Section in Google Analytics provides metrics about the specific content pages on your blog or website.   This includes tracking and showing the  most popular pages on your site, showing bounce rate by content page, and a number of other metrics specific to individual pages.  You can also view information about landing pages and exit pages, so you can see where visitors are coming into your site, and on which pages they are leaving from.

The Content Section additionally includes Site Speed for performance metrics, detailed metrics on Google Site Search (if you’re running it), Events, Adsense , Experiments, and finally in page Analytics.

The Content section is available just below the Traffic Sources section in the left side navigation bar, here’s a screen shot showing the Content Overview Page:

Google Analytics Content Overview

Click for a larger image

The Content Overview page shows exactly what one would expect, summary information about the top content pages (by pageviews) for your blog or website.  Prior to using the WP Most Popular plugin, I used this page as the basis for my “Most Popular Articles” widget in the sidebar.  Not an incredibly useful page, but there are times when it’s interesting to see which articles are getting the most traffic.  This information can be used to help you determine which topics or content types are most popular so you write more on these topics

Just a reminder, that the data shown here is only for the selected time period in the upper right hand corner.  You’ll need to adjust the date range based on the timeframe you want to see.  For example, if you wanted to see the rankings of your content for the entire life of your blog, you would need to adjust the start date to the start date of your blog to present day.

You can also change the number of pages shown by clicking the “Show Full Report” link in the bottom right.  This is the same as clicking the “All Pages” link under Site Content.

Clicking on an individual page will take you to a Content Overview page only for the page selected.  This view allows you to see metrics specific to a page.  I often use this to see the bounce rate at an individual page level so I can tweak particular pages to reduce bounce rate.

Site Content

Site Content, just below the Overview page offers additional options for viewing information about your site’s pages.  All pages will show you the Content Overview page, but for all pages on your site.

Content Drilldown

This page is a little misleading.  On the surface, it looks the same as the Content Overview page; however if you pay particular attention, you’ll note a few differences, namely the small icons next to each of the pages listed.  The content drilldown page shows activity at a folder or directory level, not just at the page level.  In general for most blogs, this won’t be incredibly useful, but it can be depending on what you’re trying to see.

In the screenshot below, I’ve circled one of the “folders” on my blog, \category\.  Category is the parent folder for all category pages on my blog.  Viewing this data shows me how many people have viewed category pages as a whole on my blog.  I can then click on category and see the breakdown below that, which of course would be my individual categories.  This view would also be very useful if you have nested pages (parent/child pages) set-up in WordPress.  I personally don’t use nested pages, but a number of my clients do for various reasons.

Google Analytics - Content Overview

Click here for a larger image

Landing Pages

The landing pages view shows you the top pages on your blog that people arrive on on when they visit your blog from another website.  Data on this page can be used to:

  • Determine which pages are serving as the “first” view of your website.  These pages should be optimized to include more links into your site and provide introductory information about your site.  You’ll also want to make sure these pages are error free and render correctly on mobile and in all browsers.  First impressions count!
  • Determine how well each each of these pages is performing and retaining visitors.  Is the bounce rate high?  Add more in article links and more options for exploring other parts of your site within the article and in the sidebars.  If visitors aren’t staying long, you might want to consider revising your content or refreshing it to make it line up more with what visitors are looking for.

Exit Pages

Just as you would expect, the exit pages view shows you the pages that people leave your site from.  These pages should be used to determine which pages to focus on for conversion or to drive people deeper into your site.  Conversion meaning selling something.

If you sell products (like eBooks) on your site, the exit pages report can be used to determine on which pages you should focus your eBook sales efforts.

Honestly, this is not a report I use often, as I don’t currently offer or sell any products.  But I plan to.

Site Speed

Over the past 2 years, Google has made it very clear that site performance factors into their search engine rankings and the overall score they give your blog.  Given that, making sure that your site performs well is critical.  The Site Speed section of Google Analytics provides you with performance information for your blog and its individual pages.

Site Speed Overview

The Site Speed overview section provides you with a main chart showing your site’s performance (page load times by default) for the selected time span.  Below that, you’re shown summary information for various performance metrics.  Here’s a screenshot of mine:

Google Analytics Site Speed Overview

Click for larger image

These include:

  • Avg. Page Load Time – Average amount of time for pages to load.  This is the total time spent starting with the page request to being fulled rendered in the browser.  Your target number here should be 3-5 seconds, and anything over 7 seconds is too slow.
  • Avg. Redirection Time – Average time for any site redirection to occur.  If you don’t use redirection, this value should be 0.
  • Avg. Domain Lookup Time – Average time for a DNS lookup to occur.  A DNS lookup is the amount of time spent looking up your domain name, and determining the actual end server to direct the request to.
  • Avg. Server Connect Time – The average amount of time spent establishing a connection to your web server.  If you have a good hosting company, this number should be low.  I host with A small Orange (affiliate link), and as you can see, my average time is .04 seconds – really good.  I see this number above 1 second for less expensive hosting with many of my clients.  A second is really too long considering on average your entire site should be fully responding within 3-5 seconds.
  • Avg. Server Response Time – The average amount of time for your web server to respond, including network transport time.  Again, you want this number low – definitely less than 1 second.
  • Avg. Page Download Time – The average time to actually download the page.  This does not include rendering it in the browser.

The real key number you should focus on out of all of these is Avg. Page Load Time, because that is the real time your visitor/readers see.  The other numbers can often add insight into where your slowdowns occur.

Below these summary numbers, Google Analytics also shows you the Avg. Page Load time by browser.  If you look at my numbers, you’ll see that Chrome renders pages significantly faster than both Internet Explorer and Firefox.

As you can see on the graph in the screenshot, some of my Avg. Load Times are slow.  The primary reason for this is due to backups running on my site and also due to MediaTemple scheduled maintenance work.  The slow times are minimal and are during off hours, but do skew my average up.  Overall, my site responds in about 3.5 seconds on average.  I’ve recently made some caching tweaks to bring the overall numbers down.  I’m very happy with a sub 4 second number.

Page timings

As the name implies, page timings just shows you performance numbers for individual pages on your blog.  The pages are sorted by Pageviews by default.  This section provides useful data on determining which of your pages are performing well vs. poorly and allows you to identify and tweak slow pages.  Individual pages could be slow for a number of reasons, but a I’ve common reasons are: incorrectly sized images, slow ads or slow affiliate offers specific to the page.

The sections below are not sections I use in Analytics.  I am familiar with them at a high level, but have not spend much time understanding or using them.  I’ll share what I know for overview purposes and will link out to places where you can learn more information.

User timings

User timings allow you to track user times for specific actions being taken on your blog.  I don’t currently use user timings and it requires special set-up and installation of specific Google Analytics tracking script to work.  If this is something you are interested in using, you can find more information on the Google Analytics blog.

Site Search

Site Search allows you to track analytics data for Google CSE or Site Search on your blog.  I just recently added Google CSE as the search engine for my blog and haven’t yet set-up the site search integration.  Once I do, I’ll update this article with the details.  The meantime, you can read all about how it works on the Google Analytics blog.


Events allow you to track user interactions with your site that can be tracked independent from a web page on your site or screen load.  Examples of these are: Downloads, mobile ad clicks, video plays, etc.

This is not something I currently use nor am I very familiar with, thus I won’t go into any further detail on it but you can read more in Analytics help.


If you run Adsense ads on your blog, you can set-up Google Analytics so that it integrates with your Adsense Account.  This is done through your Adsense account settings.  I am not running Adsense on this blog currently, so I don’t have any beneficial data to show.  Even if I did, disclosing Adsense income and associated data is a touchy subject with Google and often against the Adsense Terms of Service, so I wouldn’t be comfortable showing any screen shots as well.

But, as you would expect, the Adsense section provides you with metrics on your blog or site’s Adsense income both at a summary level and on a per post level so you can see what pages on your site are earning the most money for you.  If you run Adsense on your site, I would highly recommend you set-up this integration and use the data in this Analytics section.


Google Analytics experiments allow you to test various landing pages on your blog or website.  Using experiments you can test which pages have the highest bounce rate and which have the highest conversation rates.  Again, I have not used this feature yet, but understand from others that have, that it is a pretty powerful feature for those of you focusing on landing pages and conversations.

You can read more about Google Analytics experiments here.

In Page Analytics

This isn’t something I use frequently, but I do use it, specifically to see how a particular page is working and to watch design changes that I make.  In Page analytics will overlay certain Google Analytics data on top of your actual blog page, so you can see the % of vistiors and where they click.  Here’s a screen shot from my front page over the past week with In Page Analytics up and running:

In Page Analytics

Click for larger image

If you’re a visual person, you’ll love in page analytics.  I tend to be more data oriented, but I do like to see visually how the clicks on my site area spread out and where most of the clicks occur.   I don’t think In Page Analytics as effective as CrazyEgg for determining how and where people post actively use your site, but it does provide some free and quick data.

I really suggest you play around with it and see what you think.

Google Analytics Content Section – Done

That wraps up the overview of the Google Analytics Content section.  This was a big one, but I really hope the overview gave you some additional insights and made Google Analytics feel a little less overwhelming.

The next and final article in this series will tell you how to use all of this data to make your blog better.

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Build a blog you’re passionate about or don’t even bother

I love to visit other blogging blogs and read their articles.  I enjoy seeing other blogs in my niche, reviewing their designs and reading about the unique perspective and writing style each blogger brings to the table.  The knowledge I gain from these visits helps me to better help you build a blog.

Build a blog

Here’s the problem though: the blogging advice on the internet is a mixed bag and you really have to be careful.  Some of the information is great, some is just frankly terrible.  This brings me back to topics that are discussed too much, and which are not.

The more popular topics are things like: making money blogging, build a blog, make money fast blogging (which is next to impossible by the way), and other make money online topics.  Why?  Because they are popular search topics and are often filled with affiliate offers or ads to earn the blogger money.  Do these articles serve us the general reader population?  Perhaps a little, but in general often not very much.  The articles are all the same and on the same boring old content.  The content is just re-churned a million different ways, but it all says the same old thing.  Boring….yawn, comma inducing.

As Google begins to move away from the older search model of back links and keywords, to a new model based on social popularity, authorship and author rank these dime a dozen articles will begin to move down the search results pages.  What will begin to rise to the top are articles that provide real value and substance to readers – the really great and popular content will rise to the top.  Based on some tracking I’ve been doing and a number of other experts I’ve been interacting with on Google+, we are already seeing this trend.

What’s the key strategy to writing this great and popular content? 

Build a blog you’re passionate about

Writing content that people want to read about is important, but what I feel is even more critical is writing on topics that you, the blog owner and blog writer are passionate about.  If I could teach you just one tip or lesson about how to start a blog, it would be this:

Build a blog you’re passionate about or don’t even bother building it

Seriously, if you don’t love the topic and you aren’t passionate it, you’re just wasting your own time and the time of thousands of readers on the internet.  Don’t be that guy or gal, there are too many of them as it is.  Everyone will know you’re not passionate, everyone will see it, and you’ll just be miserable.  Oh sure, you might make money in the short term, but I guarantee you’ll make a whole lot more in the long term doing something that you absolutely love.

All of those top ranking re-churned articles I mentioned earlier?  They are full of great keywords, but in most cases they are not written by writers passionate about their topic.  How can you tell?  Easy, just read them.  I personally can tell pretty quick whether or not a blogger is passionate about what they’re topic and I’ll bet you can too.  I’m not really sure  what specific qualities  tell me this, I just know I can pick it up, and pretty quickly at that.  I’ll bet you can too.

Guess what?  Google can tell too.  With Google Plus, Authorship and Author Rank, they are going to get a whole lot better at it too, mark my words.

Is making money from your blog your reason for blogging?

Did you start your blog to make money?  If so, you started it for exactly the wrong reason.  If you blog only to earn money, you will most likely fail.  Why?

  • You have to write almost everyday about the topic.  If you aren’t passionate about what you are writing on, you will quickly get bored and writing will become a chore.  Once that happens, your readers will know and they will leave.
  • You repeat the same stuff over and over.  See, if you aren’t passionate, you content won’t be varied.  You won’t spend time reading and researching like you should and you won’t explore the outer fringes of your topic where the new and unique content ideas live.
  • Writing about something your passionate about is easy.  Writing about something you’re not passionate about is hard…really hard.  Writing about something you’re not passionate about is work.  Blogging shouldn’t be work, it should be fun, exciting, and enjoyable
  • Making money blogging is all about converting your readers.  Converting means telling them about something and then them buy it.  If you aren’t passionate about the topic you’re writing about or the product you’re telling your readers about, they won’t buy it.  Why buy something the author isn’t even excited about?  That’s why I only promote products I personally use and love.  Sure, I could do tons of reviews of various products, but they would be boring and you probably wouldn’t click on them.  I’d rather write up a few reviews/recommendations on things I’m excited about and provide value, and have you buy those.

Do what you love and blog your passion

One of my favoriate books is called No More Mondays by Dan Miller.  The book targets people who dread going to work on Monday because they hate what they do.  The book walks you through a plan to help you find what you love to do and how to start doing it.  Once you are doing what you love to do, there are no more Mondays.  If you haven’t read this book, I’d strongly suggest you pick up a copy.  No More Monday’s is an quick and easy read, but it will change the way you see things.

Perfect example: Me.  When most people have spare time, they read a novel, work on a hobby, watch TV, etc.  Me?  I like to work on this blog – that includes writing, making design changes, looking at my Google Analytics data, and participating on social media.  I would love to do this full-time and hopefully someday I will.  I’m passionate about blogging, running websites and writing.  I’ve been that way ever since I started my first blog and that blog literally changed by life.

My passion about how important passion is…

As I was surfing and reading some of those “no passion” blogs last night, I got really frustrated.  I thought to myself, I know I blog about earning an income blogging, but I really hope my readers know it’s not about money, it’s about doing what you love.  I hope they know that doing what you love can lead to money.  I hope they know that while I love earning money (who doesn’t?), what I love more is helping you and interacting with you.   I was so passionate about making sure you understood how important this concept of passion was, I immediately started drafting this article.

For those of you that that have been blogging for a while, you’ll understand exactly what I mean – Have you ever sat down to write and article and the content flows out of your head so fast you can barely type fast enough to keep up?  For me, this was one of those articles.  I am so incredibly passionate about making sure you write for your readers and be passionate about your blog topic that I literally couldn’t wait to publish this for you.

If you walk away with just one thing from Side Income Blogging, again, walk away with this: Build a blog you’re passionate about or don’t even bother building it.

If you are passionate about what you write on, success won’t be something you’ll have to work at it, you won’t dread sitting down to the computer to write “yet another boring article”, you won’t have block off time just to do social media.  All of that will just happen and you’ll like it….no, you’ll love it.

What topic should I build a blog on?

A topic you’re passionate about!  

Kidding…kidding….I know, sometimes that’s not always easy to figure out.  If you’re like me, I’m passionate about a number of things.

Fortunately I’ve already written an article that will walk you through a process that will help you come up with a blog you are passionate about and can earn money from.  Just read my article: What should I blog about?

Being passionate about your blog and your topic will be critical to your success.  I beg you to chose a topic you love, chose a topic that you can write on effortlessly and most importantly choose a topic that you would write on even if you didn’t make money.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Photo credit: OakleyOriginals

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Month 6 Update – Baby Boy – $1000 Per Month – 90hr Work Weeks

My wife gave birth at the start of March to a healthy baby boy and I couldn’t be more excited. As I write this update I am at the hospital with a 36hr old baby on my lap sleeping away.

Providing financial freedom and security beyond any career can provide is one of my strongest motivators for the online business I run.

The most significant impact on my business and case study website this month was the turn my “day job” took with unscheduled maintenance at the plant i am at which requires me to work 90hr weeks for 7weeks.

Since I had very little time to work on my online business I did not get the opportunity to kick of many new initiatives on (My Case Study Website URL is Now Hidden) or here at (more…)

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BackupBuddy – How to restore your backups

Two weeks ago, I was working on my Friday Most Excellent article.  I made a couple of tweaks to the article after it was published and pressed update.  WordPress was busy saving for a very long time, then up popped the dreaded 500 server error message.  No big deal I thought, I’ll just make the tweaks again and save it again.  I pulled the post up and all but the first couple of sentences were gone!

My shock and dismay must have been a little louder than I thought, as my wife asked “What’s wrong?”.  Shortly after, I remembered I had fortunately backups.  I sure hope my BackupBuddy daily backup ran this morning …

Fortunately, my backup did run and I began the process of restoring my blog from backup to recover the article.  In theory, restoring the backup should have just been a few simple clicks, but of course, it’s never that simple is it?

While the backup plugin I use, BackupBuddy (affiliate link), did make it relatively easy, I thought it would be helpful if I walked you through a complete restore of a BackupBuddy backup.   If you aren’t familiar with BackupBuddy, it’s definitely a plugin I highly recommend and personally use on all of the sites.  You can read more about how I use it for my blogs in my article: How to backup your WordPress blog automatically.

How to restore a BackupBuddy backup

The first step you’ll need to take is to download the backup that you want to restore.  I keep both database and full site backups.  This example will walk you through restoring a full site backup.  Restoring a database only backup is very similar, just less steps.  The instructions below will walk you through completing a BackupBuddy restore for my homeowners association website I’m working on.

I normally store all of my backups on Amazon S3, but for this example, I just ran a manual BackupBuddy backup and downloaded it straight from my Media Temple server.  You can do this by going to the BackupBuddy >> Migrate, Restore menu option in your WordPress admin console.  Once there, your screen should look similar to this one:

BackupBuddy Migrate Restore

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Preparing to restore the BackupBuddy backup

Since I did a manual backup and stored it locally, my latest backup was available right off the Migrate/Restore page.  Let’s get the necessary files downloaded to our local computer:

  1. Right click on the link to your latest download listed in the Backup File section.  Select Save As… and save the backup zip file.  I generally just use the default downloads directory.
  2. Next, click on the red button that says ImportBuddy.  You’ll be prompted for a password that will be associated with your importbuddy.php file.  This password security mechanism keeps just anyone from accessing your importbuddy.php file.  If you leave this field blank, the default password in your BackupBuddy settings will be used.  I generally just input a unique password, just to be on the safe side.
  3. After entering a password or leaving it blank, the importbuddy.php file will be downloaded to your default downloads directory.  Both your backup zip file and your importbuddy.php file should now both be in the same directory on your local computer.

Upload your importbuddy.php and backup ZIP file

Next, we’ll upload both files to your web server.  There are a couple of ways to do this, with FTP being the easiest option.  If you’re hosting company supports ControlPanel, you can also use ControlPanels file manager to upload both files.

Both of these files must be uploaded to the directory where your WordPress installation is located.  This will be the same directory that contains the wp-config.php file along with the wp-contents directory and a number of other files and folders.  If you are unsure of the WordPress installation location, contact your hosting company to confirm.

Also important: Do not rename the BackupBuddy backup file.  The importbuddy.php file will not be able to find it if you do.  Trust me, I learned the hardway.

Create a new WordPress database

Next we need to create a new database for the restore to be copied into.  BackupBuddy will not overlay your existing database.  Unfortunately this process varies by hosting company, and it would be to much for me to walk you through the process for even the top few.  I could certainly help you as part of my services business or I’m sure your hosting company’s support would help you.

But in a nutshell, you’ll want to create a new database and a user for that database. The user you create should have full rights to the database.  MediaTemple allows you to do this via Plesk, while companies like Bluehost and HostGator use ControlPanel.

Temporarily store the database name, database user name and database user password.  We’ll be using that information shortly.

Restoring the BackupBuddy backup

Now that both files are in the proper location on your server, it’s time to restore the backup:

Open up your browser of choice, and navigate to your website, but put \importbuddy.php on the end.  For example, if your blog is, you would navigate to

If you’re unlucky, like me, your screen now looks something like this:

Error #22434.  This directory is not write enabled.  Please verify write permissions to continue.

Don’t panic, easily fixed.  Different hosts have different default levels of permissions.  All BackupBuddy is trying to tell us here is that the directory for your WordPress installation isn’t writable.  We’ll need to make it writable before we can proceed.

You can use your FTP program to do this or the ControlPanel File Manager.  Find your WordPress directory, and change the file permissions for the directory that contains your WordPress installation to 777.  Pay attention to what they were before you make the change, because we’ll need to set them back once we’re done.  What 777 does is make your whole WordPress directory writable – not very secure.  But don’t worry, we won’t leave it like this for long.

Here’s the screen shot from the FTP/Development tool I use show the correct permissions for the httpdocs folder on my MediaTemple server.

Change Permissions

With that change made, access the importbuddy.php file from your web browser again.  If all went well, you should see the screen for Authentication:

BackupBuddy Authentication

Remember earlier when we downloaded the importbuddy.php file and we either specified a password or left it blank for the default?  Here’s where you’ll enter this password and press the Authenticate button.  If you forgot the password, you can just get the importbuddy.php file again and re-upload it.

After pressing Authenticate, you’ll proceed to Step 1 – Choosing your backup file :

BackupBuddy Choosing your backup file

A couple things of note here:

  • If you uploaded your backup zip file to the right place, you’ll see it listed above.  If not, no worries.  Click on the upload tab and you can select and upload it from here.  If you use BackupBuddy Stash, you can select your file from there.  I don’t currently use Stash as I started using Amazon S3 before they announced it.  
  • The little yellow warning is basically just telling us: “Hey, you already have a site installed here and bad things could happen if you just overlay it.”  Now, if you’re confident an overlay won’t be an issue, than proceed.  If you aren’t sure, you should delete all of the files and folders in your WordPress directory on your server so BackupBuddy can do a clean install.  The couple of times I’ve done restores, I did an overlay with no issues, but your mileage may vary.

Once you’re ready, press Next Step and you’ll see the page below:

Step 2 BackupBuddy

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Really nothing to do here.  This screen will show you the extract process for your backup ZIP file.  Just watch for the “Files successfully extracted” and press the Next Step button.  If you get an error, consult the BackupBuddy site, they have tons of FAQs to help you resolve any issues.

After pressing Next Step from the extract screen, you’ll see the following page:

BackupBuddy Database Information

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This page is where you’ll tell BackupBuddy how to connect to your new database so it can import your data.  Put your database information in and press the Test Database Settings button.  Assuming you put all of your values in correctly, you should see the same text in gray above from my screenshot.

If so, press Next Step.  If not, recheck/reenter the information and try again.  The problem could also be that you may have wrote down the information incorrectly or made a typo when you created the database.  If all else fails, just delete the database and create another one.

After pressing Next Step, you’ll see the following page:

BackupBuddy Database Import

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This page is like the ZIP file extract page and shows the verbose output of your database import.  If all goes well, you’ll see a message saying:

“Initial database import complete”.

If you get errors, use the error text to troubleshoot the issue or again consult the BackupBuddy site for assistance.

Assuming all went well, click Next Step!

BackupBuddy Database Migration

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This page wraps up the database migration by updating your WordPress config files and showing you the final import status.  Hopefully yours says “Import complete” like mine.

At this point, you’ll want to access your site and verify it is operational.  Do not close this window. – just open a new tab to verify your site.

Once you’ve confirmed that your site is up and running, press the Clean up & remove temporary files button and you’ll see this page:

BackupBuddy Cleanup

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This page displays a log of the clean-up activities.  BackupBuddy is kind enough to clean-up any temporary files and backup files and removes the importbuddy.php file.  I have seen this not work 100% of the time though, so I would definitely recommend giving your restored WordPress directory a quick skim and delete any unfamiliar BackupBuddy files.

Finally, don’t forget to reset your WordPress directory permissions back to the original value, which is generally 750.  Resetting these permissions is critically important to securing your site, so please don’t forget!

BackupBuddy backup restore is complete

That’s it, all done.  While certainly not 100% point and click, it is relatively simple, especially taking into consideration what’s going on under the covers.  BackupBuddy does a lot of the leg work for you.

The really slick thing about BackupBuddy is that you can not only restore your site using it, but you can also migrate your site to another hosting company or server using the same process!  I’ve also built “clean” template sites, with just WordPress, Thesis (affiliate link), and the base plugins I normally use.  Then I ran a BackupBuddy backup and used the restore process to do new WordPress installs.  This makes site creation and initial set-up really simple.  This single feature alone has saved me a ton of time, and paid for the plugin 2-3 times over in time saved.

If you currently don’t use BackupBuddy, I would highly recommend you give BackupBuddy (affiliate link) a try.  You won’t find me saying that about too many “pay for” products, but this is one that’s worth the money.  The whole process just works, and the fact that I don’t even have to think about my backup process really helps me sleep better at night.

What’s this “affiliate link” thing?  An affiliate link is a link that pays me a commission if you purchase the product in the link.  The product doesn’t cost any more for you.  I take affiliate offers very very seriously, and I don’t ever recommend a product or include an affiliate link to it if I haven’t personally used it and like it.  Most of the time I use these same products everyday and when I don’t, I use them with my clients.  You never have to worry about trusting an affiliate link on Side Income Blogging.

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