bookmark_border5 Easy Steps to Take When You Receive “RunCloud Server Higsssh Usage” Email Notification

Do you know that all RunCloud server paid plans to have a server monitoring tool that checks your server’s load, memory, and hard disk usage every 15 minutes?

You will receive email and Slack/Telegram notifications (if setup) when the server is in bad health. Server bad health notifications are triggered by the following benchmarks:

  • Server load is more than 5
  • Available memory is near 0MB
  • Disk usage is more than 90%

You will keep receiving server health notifications every hour if the issue is not resolved unless you choose to stop health notification setting.

By default, you will receive a “RunCloud Server High Usage” email from RunCloud on server bad health. The email will show you the current server load average, memory usage, and disk usage.

RunCloud Server High Usage email

Do not panic.

Here are a few steps to take when you receive “RunCloud Server High Usage” email notification

Step 1: Identify which benchmark(s) triggered the notification

Is it a server load, memory, or disk? Server load and memory usage are often correlated with each other and caused by server processes. Disk usage alert could be caused by temporarily files filling up the server storage, local backup files, or large files migration.

Step 2: Check current server health

RunCloud server monitoring tool collects your server health data every 15 minutes. After receiving an email alert, you are recommended to confirm your server health status by checking them via RunCloud dashboard (Login RunCloud > Server_Name > Server Health).

RunCloud dashboard server health

  • If the server has high disk usage, please refer to Step 3a
  • If the server has a high load or high memory usage, please refer to Step 4

Step 3: Free up disk space

If the server disk usage is high (more than 90%) then your server is about to run out of free disk space. Free disk space is essential for processes to store permanent and temporary data.

At the RunCloud Server Health page, you get a “Disk Cleanup” button to free up server disk space. It is safe to run, even in the production server. Here are the tasks it runs:

  • Empty all web application log files
  • Remove all rotated log of web application
  • Remove all rotated log under /var/log/
  • Clear apt cache
  • Clear mysql bin log that is more than 3 days

You may also want to identify which directories are taking up server disk space. ncdu is a disk usage analyzer with a graphical interface. It helps to find space hogs on the server. It is fast, simple and easy to use. WP Bullet has a great ncdu tutorial for anyone.

Step 4: Reduce server load/memory usage

High server load and/or high memory usage means certain process(es) are taking up the system resources. It could be a busy process or a zombie process.

You can remote login your server by SSH and run ‘top’ command to check the system processes that taking up most CPU or memory.

linux top processes

For a web hosting server, the most common high load and high memory usage processes are the webserver (Apache/Nginx) and the database server (MySQL/MariaDB). You can restart each service via RunCloud dashboard (Login RunCloud > Server_Name > Services).

You probably do not want to do this but sometimes restarting a server will solve issues magically. You can either restart the server from your server hosting provider panel or via Linux command-line:

sudo shutdown -r now

or

sudo reboot

Step 4a: Check log file

You may want to check the web application log file for any abnormal traffic, such as bad bots, DoS, etc. Your web application web server log file is located at /home/WEB_APP/logs/nginx/WEB_APP_access.log

(Replace /nginx with /apache2 if you use Apache server; Replace WEB_APP with your web application name)

Use “tail” command to view real-time log file updates:

tail -f WEB_APP_access.log

If what you see is a non-stop flood of entries then your web application is either receiving a lot of traffic or under malicious attacks.

You can block bad IP addresses by adding them into the firewall block list (Login RunCloud > Server_Name > Security > Basic Firewall).

Step 5: Upgrade server

It is possible that your server is running fine but your web application becomes popular and exceeded the server capacities.

Congrats! It is a good problem to have and rather easy to solve. You only need to upgrade your server. If you are using cloud server service like Digital Ocean, then upgrading droplet is just a matter of few clicks.

In case your server IP address modified after upgrade (or migrate to another server), you need to update your server’s IP address via RunCloud Server Setting.

Wrapping Up

Do not need to panic when you receive the “RunCloud Server High Usage” email and notifications. RunCloud server monitoring tool alerts you (with no extra fee) about server health before it gets worse.

Follows the steps in the article and you will get to know server health overview and quick fixes. Please open a RunCloud 24/7 support ticket whenever you need help.

bookmark_borderBotnet Attack – RunCloud CTO Statement

We are very sorry that our users have to suffer these problems one by one. Right after architecture migration, which took longer than we expected (almost 18 hours), we have been attacked by a botnet. What is a botnet exactly? A botnet is a large number of computer, IoT and servers that have been hacked. Once the devices have been taken over, it will be known as bot or zombie. Thus, a botnet is a network of zombies or bots that can be controlled remotely by the attacker to do their dirty works.

The Attack Vector

What happened at RunCloud last night (7PM – 2AM GMT+8) was an attack to brute-force email and password. We were down from 7PM until 1:30AM. And 1:30AM – 2AM was a restoration process. We were attacked by 7000+ devices at the same time trying to test email and password combinations. We know this because when the incident happened, we piped all those authentication attempts to a text file in order to see all those tested emails and password. Those passwords were unique to the email. When we checked the tested email, the emails were not found inside our database. So whoever they are, they were testing from an unknown leaked database (dictionary-based attack) and not brute-forcing password one by one.

We built our panel using Laravel and Laravel has very good security to prevent cross-site requests by providing a CSRF token. When we analyze the log, we found that those bots load the page to get the CSRF token and then submit those tokens to the authentication page. Whoever using Laravel, you are not able to mitigate from this attack inside Laravel itself. But you need special equipment in front of that Laravel to prevent this. This is not Laravel’s fault, but that person who creates the attack script can attack any range of framework. It doesn’t matter if you are using NodeJS, Python, Java, Go or even C itself, you can’t run from this.

How We Were Holding

During those attack, our servers were holding just fine, however, we have maxed out the PHP process and thus creating 504 gateway timeout and 502 gateway error by the load balancer. We were thinking about upgrading the server PHP process, but that will create more of a window of opportunity for the attacker to attack.

By reading the webserver log, we were able to distinguish the difference between a true user and a zombie, but we will not be revealing this information. Using the information, we were trying to create middleware to prevent those bots from creating another attack by sending them 404 response. However, those bots do not stop until they found 302, 301 or 200 code to send those valid data back to the attacker. Besides the middleware, we already placed throttle limit when doing authentication, but those bots didn’t honor 429 HTTP code so they keep trying although our servers have sent them 429 code.

Mitigation Plan

If anyone ever runs a DNS query to our domain (runcloud.io), they will find that we were using Digital Ocean DNS. Because of the attack, we moved our DNS to Cloudflare since we are no longer able to withstand the heat coming from those attack. Inside Cloudflare, we use Page Rules to set our authentication page is under attack. Cloudflare did a good job at preventing it. But to prevent those additional attacks, we are using other tools from Cloudflare. Cloudflare successfully blocked those attacks and the last attack happened at 01:25:54AM. We were not using Cloudflare before because we were hoping that by horizontally scaling our server, so we can withstand those attacks. But we had not done it because would create a window of opportunity for the attacker to attack.

The IP Addresses Lists

We have successfully collected the IP Addresses of the bots and please check whether your server, computer, network or IoT devices have been compromised by the attacker to create a botnet. This list consists of 7379 unique IP Addresses that we have piped to sort | uniq to sort and get a unique IP Address. This is the IP Address that we have collected ourself and not including the address blocked by Cloudflare. So we don’t know the exact infected devices.  http://pasted.co/a925f9ba

bookmark_borderNew Feature: RunCache

What Is RunCache?

Everyone wants a fast website and at RunCloud, we love fast websites. When you install RunCloud on your server, NGINX is a part of the stack and caching is turned on by default. When caching is enabled, NGINX will save responses in the disk cache and use them to respond to browser requests without having to proxy requests for the same content every time. This will reduce latency, offload repetitive CPU tasks from your server, and increase speed times as well as Time to First-Byte.

From the NGINX website itself:

A content cache sits in between a client and an “origin server”, and saves copies of all the content it sees. If a client requests content that the cache has stored, it returns the content directly without contacting the origin server. This improves performance as the content cache is closer to the client, and more efficiently uses the application servers because they don’t have to do the work of generating pages from scratch each time.

Within the past year or two, we noticed an issue that our users were having: they were not able to clear their NGINX cache in any easy way and it required you to be an advanced user with an abundance of knowledge of Linux terminal commands to clear the NGINX cache. The only way to really do this without that knowledge was to restart your server, which is usually not ideal for anyone who needs their website up and running 24/7.

While we definitely salute our users with the advanced knowledge they may have, RunCloud was established with developers from all backgrounds in mind: from beginner to expert. Thus, we have been working hard to bring you a new feature that will make life and running your website a lot easier.

The update will enable one-click NGINX Cache Purging directly through your RunCloud dashboard via WordPress one-click install only. You will no longer need to mess with anything through Linux terminal command line interface for server-side caching. The RunCache service will come with its own WordPress plugin to install which will allow you to control everything right from WordPress or the RunCloud Dashboard.

Once you have created a web application through the RunCloud dashboard, you will see new options available. To access these options, simply click on RunCache or General Settings in the RunCloud dashboard.

RunCache Settings

After you have installed a web app for WordPress, you will gain access to the RunCache page, but you will need more than the free plan to use it. By default, RunCloud will set the Cache Folder Size to 50 MB. If you have an abundance of SSD storage, you may want to increase this to at least 1 GB or 1024 MB.

You may also tell RunCloud to store the cache for as long as you wish with 0 being never, 60 being one hour, or even 1440 minutes which equals 24 hours, and is highly recommended if you wish to cache everything for at least a day.

RunCache Pre-Installation

When you get everything set up, you will gain access to RunCache within the RunCloud dashboard. You can purge the cache or remove the plugin directly from the your WordPress install. Without RunCache being installed, caching will still occur, but you will be unable to set limitations for your NGINX caching.

Although you can delete the plugin directly from WordPress, if you do decide to remove it, it is recommended that you remove it via the RunCloud Dashboard.

RunCache Post-Installation

Note: RunCache will not cache anything for logged-in WordPress users. As you gain more visitors, you will begin to see the amount of data cached for them. The larger, the better, which means your visitors are being served data directly from the cache rather than from the database, speeding up the delivery of all content on your website.

What Is RunCache Purger?

By default, the NGINX server will always try to cache everything in order to speed up queries and processes of the server and the CPU. Other than by code, this involved a very lengthy process of clearing the cache, detailed in this article: NGINX Caching Tutorial For WordPress. Unfortunately, this method was not only tedious, but did not accomplish the task it was intended to do.

The RunCloud team realized this was an issue for all of our users. To resolve it, the RunCloud devs were hard at work to correct the issue and made it even more simple for our users to clear the NGINX cache. All of the pains of trying to clear your cache are now taken away with our brand new plugin via RunCache Purger.

We will be launching it with a few basic options and releasing updates based on further feedback and other findings as we move forward. The WordPress plugin will be available as well as the RunCloud Purger through the RunCloud Dashboard.

Once installed, head over to WordPress and you will now see RunCache automatically installed as a plugin on the Administration bar.

RunCache Purger plugin located on the Administration Menu

Located within the Settings is the menu item for the RunCache Purger as well.

RunCache Purger located on the Settings Menu

Once you click into the RunCloud Purger, you will see a screen with a variety of options.

RunCache Purger WordPress Settings Dashboard

Within this screen, you may clear the cache for the Homepage upon New Posts and Pages and deleted posts. You can also set options to purge all cache content when content is published or comments are added or removed. The cache extends to clearing the cache for archives.

RunCloud will automatically setup Redis Object caching for you with this plugin. You may also choose to purge the Object Cache and enable or disable the RunCache Purger plugin to handle this for you. It is unlikely you have to change any settings for the Redis Server. In fact, it is advised that you do not change any of the Redis Server settings. Doing so may cause things to stop working.

While RunCloud has been hard at work to deliver this new feature, and it is technically out of beta, we still need users to continue testing and ensure everything is working properly. For any issues that may arise, please use the Support menu at the top and open a ticket. We are very excited to release this new feature and hope it is as useful to you as it has been for us.

bookmark_borderHow to Write a Blog Post That Your Audience Will Enjoy: A Comprehensive Guide

Theoretically speaking, blog posts are easy to write. You just put your thoughts to paper with a suitable featured image and are ready to hit publish. Except, this is not how it works practically. Blog posts that your audience enjoys and consume from top to bottom require hard work. A lot of hard work. 

But hard work without direction is almost always a waste of time. This is why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide for writing a fantastic blog post that your readers will love.

Let’s dig in:

First things first – what makes a blog post interesting to your readers?

That’s a tricky question as the answer depends on who your audience is. In general, you need to keep in mind three pointers as you aim to write blog posts that satisfy your readers’ appetite:

  • Offer value by answering questions they have in their mind or solve a problem
  • Converse with them. Blog posts are not cold pitches. They aren’t classroom lectures either. They are attempts at making friends and helping them
  • Pick an evergreen topic that people search regularly

How to write a blog post? Let’s start from scratch

Ready to write posts that your readers will read thoroughly?

Here’s your guide:

Step 1: Ideation – come up with a topic for an awesome blog post

Some ideas are born from audience research. Others come from keyword research or plain inspiration that comes to you while reading an industry blog. In truth, the sources are numerous.

You just have to keep looking. 

Some prominent sources for fresh ideas for your blog post are:

1. Your audience

What better way to write audience-appreciated blog posts than by asking them? Find places where your audience hangs out and interact with them. Ask them what they want to talk about.

How? Here are two solid ways: 

  • Ask on social

For instance, replicate what Austin does here for his team’s blog:

  • Conduct a survey

Distribute a survey form among your niche audience to learn about the topics that they’d want you to cover on your blog. The team over at Mio used a survey to gather blog topics and  insights for the Workplace Messaging Report 2019 . Mio’s Director of Content Marketing and Communications, Dominic Kent, shared that the data collected provided, “a gold mine for blog post ideas.”

Tip: Know your audience like the back of your hand. This helps you craft audience-appreciated posts as you can cover topics that they are looking for. Additionally, you can write with their interests in mind. In simple words, you can share common ground with them, easily making friends. 

2. Quora

Quora is a great place for gathering content ideas as niche-specific audiences participant in Q&A sessions. Again, start with a key idea. Let’s take “content marketing” as an example here:

Source 

Instantly, Quora throws some questions your way. You can convert these into topics for your blog. Make sure you select topics that have a good number of followers. These numbers tell you how valuable a topic is for readers.

You can also dive deeper. I clicked on the first question and landed on the answers page. There’s a related questions’ section here:

Source 

It gives a mine of other questions that you can convert into topics. For instance, write on “X best content marketing tools for busy marketers” from the question, “what are the best tools to use for content marketing?”

Here’s a detailed guide on how to use Quora for content ideas and more [insert internal link].

3. Competitor analysis

As complicated as this word sounds, it really isn’t. You need to take to Google and search for blogs in your sphere. Type in [your niche] + blogs. For instance:

 

Once you have some names in your notepad, survey the blogs and note the topics that their audience has loved (hint: look at the social shares or comments). The goal is not to copy and paste the topics. Instead, dive into the content with a fork and knife to dissect it and extract gaps.

Gaps in blog content are opportunities for you to fill. Prepare a blog post in areas where content is lacking. You can also take the same topic but only if you have a unique spin to add to it.

For instance, this post by Lucia Fontaina-Powell on Quuu is gold as it covers a topic that has very little on the internet.

Lucia’s post:

Quick Google search for “content marketing groups:”

Note that there isn’t a post that collectively discusses content marketing groups to join on various social media networks. Quuu’s post is the only one – jackpot! 

Alternatively, plug in your competitor’s name into Ahrefs and find out its top performing content. Here’s an example:

 

Or, you can skip looking for industry blogs and type in keywords into BuzzSumo. For instance, let’s enter “social media management tool” into the tool’s search bar.

It spits back the following results:

The topics with high social shares and backlinks are the best ones to add to your to-cover list. To ensure that you add the most evergreen topics to your list instead of ones that gain prominence for only a short time, check out the evergreen screen.

All this gets you popular blog content. Study it to find content loopholes or add a unique twist, and your blog topic is ready.

Bonus: Plug your topic in Google Trends to see how well your audience  receives it in the long haul. By plugging in ‘how to write blog post’ into Google Trends, I know that the topic has a good demand:

Looking for more ideas? Check out more sources for blog ideas. [insert internal link]

Step 2: Dig into supporting research

A blog post without research is like food without salt – bland and uninteresting. Supporting studies and data add a breath of authority to your work.

Without research, it’s “hey, take care of animals as they are nearing extinct.”

With research, it’s “hey, take care of animals as between 10,000 to 100,000 species are nearing extinction.”

See the difference? The second line is more authoritative, and the stat backs your point, making it trustworthy. So you need to research thoroughly for your blog post. 

Divide this into three parts:

1. Topic-related research

Involves studying the topic that you are writing about. Read on any aspect of the topic that might not be clear.

2. Resource research

Involves digging up relevant statistics and studies that support your claims or you could conduct original research, which 94% of marketers applaud for enhancing their authority.

Google is your best friend here. On top of that, Google Scholar is a great resource for unearthing Google scientific studies or research papers.  

Essentially, my research for a blog post begins way before outlining and drafting. You can follow suit if you prepare a content strategy beforehand. Or, work out a topic mentally and keep track of any related content pieces that you see in your network.

I save important research and related tweets on a Trello board like the one below and save and tag useful articles in Pocket.

3. Keyword research

Keyword research is crucial as it defines the structure of your blog post. Some keywords are pretty clear, which means you can research them and prepare an outline around them. A case in point is ‘social media management tools free.’

Other keywords such as ‘how to write a blog post’ are flexible, and you can create content around them instead of the other way around. You can try different tools for keyword research such as SEMrush.

However, three free tools to get you started include:

i. Google suggest

Note the keywords that show as you type in your query such as, “how to SEO optimize your blog?” Searching for this shows you that people are looking for optimizing blog, articles, images, and so on. You can easily weave a post around them. For example, talk about optimizing images for search in a post on optimizing a blog post.

ii. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest gives you related keywords in a bit. When I typed in ‘content calendar,’ the tool showed me that the keyword has good search volume (more and more people search for it) and high CPC (people will pay to click it).

And here are my keyword suggestions just below this:

iii. Answer The Public

Answer The Public will give a web of keywords to target in your post, giving you a thorough idea of what people are searching for. The screen below gives an example of what folks are searching for when looking for ‘productivity tools.’

Step 3: Sketch an outline to give structure to your thoughts and research

By now you’ll be having a lot of fodder for your blog post. It needs organization – a loose shape, so you can envision how the final version will be. Without an outline, your blog piece is most likely to be a tangle of thoughts instead of a coherent talk.

What’s more, an outline improves the reading experience. Thanks to the skeletal framework that it provides your thoughts.

Lastly, it saves time so you can write a blog post fast. Once your outline is ready, you can quickly dive into your draft, knowing what to discuss in each section instead of pausing mid-writing and wondering what to add next.

Your steps for prepping an outline are:

1. Choose your template

First off, select the type of blog post that you are going to work on. It could be a listicle, a guide, a how-to piece, or a case study to name a few. Brian Dean prefers chapter format when writing guides:Source 

Or, you can resort to a good ol’ listicle like this post on this blog.

2. Write a makeshift headline

8 out of 10 folks read headlines, but only 2 out of 10 read the rest of the content. Put simply, headlines are powerful phrases that either encourage or discourage the viewer from reading further.

Besides, a headline gives you a jump start when it comes to writing. It’s the starting point of a map. So once you’ve decided your blog post’s format, write a couple of rough titles, pick one, and get started with drafting the outline.

It’s up to you to work on the final title here or later on once your draft is ready. These tips will help you write a magnetic headline:

  • Be specific. Don’t dilly dally

Don’t be vague. Tell the reader what he’ll learn in your blog post, answering the crucial what’s-in-it-for-me-question.

Examples:

? How To Supercharge Growth With Social Media Giveaways – Jeffbullas.com

? How to Create a Content Strategy for Ecommerce Sites – Search Engine Journal

  • Add brackets

This is a simple yet effective way to write powerful headlines that work. Hard to believe, right? A study by OutBrain clears all doubts as it confirmed that adding brackets to headlines can boost the CTR (clickthrough rate) by up to 33%.

Source 

Examples:

? How to Write Truly Great Headlines (Plus 21 Creative Headline Examples) – Orbit Media

? 20+ Page-Turning White Paper Examples [Design Guide + White Paper Templates] – Venngage

  • Add numbers, specifically, odds numbers. They’ve a knack for success

Study after study swears that numbers in headlines work wonders in getting readers’ attention. So if you are writing a post that contains steps or a listicle, make sure you add them. Stick with writing numbers in figures instead of adding them in words.

Put simply:

❌ Seven surprising elements that make your blog post perfect

✔  7 surprising elements that make your blog post perfect  

What’s more, try to lean on odd numbers as they tend to be more effective in fixating readers than even numbers. Data from 150,000 article headlines collected from Outbrain confirms that headlines with odd numbers show a 20% higher CTR than even numbers-containing headlines.

Examples:

? 3 Tricks to Solve Your Most Common Facebook Ads Issues – WordStream

? How to Answer the 31 Most Common Interview Questions – The Muse

  • Use headline trigrams

Trigrams are one good way of writing your headlines. BuzzSumo’s study of 100 million articles concluded that the following trigrams make the most compelling headlines:

Source

Examples:

? 10 Things To Do Before Spending Money On Your Business – Oberlo
? 8 Reasons Why Your Website Needs Search Engine Optimization – The Daily Egg

Here are more tips on writing truly great headlines.

3. Prepare your outline

Start with jotting down points from your research and whatever that is in your mind about the topic. Then give it all structure. For instance, decide what goes in the introduction, body, and conclusion. Add points under each. Once done, edit the outline to breathe some sense into it.

Before this post reached you, it looked like this:

Step 4: Start writing without stopping

The purpose of the outline you made above was to get you to writing without pausing. Imposter syndrome and procrastination can cause friction. Keep them at bay by writing without pause though. Edit later on.

This step can also be sub-divided into three parts:

1. Write your opening line or lede

The lede is the opening line that attempts to hook your reader to your post. Owing to the work it does, it demands lots of attention. Write at least 50 ledes before you settle on the most catchy one.

2. Write the body

Here’s the meat of the matter. Share your knowledge and experiences. Offer value. Pay attention to the readability (how easy to read) of your post as you write. This will help you save a lot of time when you edit your piece.

Some pointers to keep in mind are:

  • Write short paragraphs with each paragraph discussing only one point
  • Keep your sentences short. Use no more than 25 words in one sentence
  • Use bullet points to explain your point, keeping each pointer short and to the point
  • Divide content with subheadings

3. Write the conclusion

A conclusion is very important despite what you may think as it gives readers who skim your post a quick summary of the takeaways. Alternatively, you can leave your reader with some food for thought. In either case, don’t forget to add a call to action (CTA) that asks your reader to take a specific action after reading your work.

Quick tip: Write like you’re talking to a new friend who doesn’t know you well or the topic. Showing your personality, sharing vulnerabilities, and talking in plain English are some ways to connect with your audience.

Step 5: Edit your draft for a fluff-free, smart blog post

Now that you’re done with the draft, let it breath. Give it some space, say a couple of hours or even a day and revisit with a fresh pair of eyes. Then chop out all the filler content mercilessly.

Start with giving your post a read without making any changes. Then make some notes. Typically, I add comments for myself, so I don’t forget what I found lacking in a paragraph or what I thought needed rewording. Next, I get to work.

Here are some more things that need taking care of once you’ve edited the writing and removed fluff words:

  • Make sure your headings and subheadings are formatted with H2 and H3 tags
  • Ensure your all headings are consistent
  • Redo the introduction and work on headlines if you decided to do that last like I do
  • Add links to helpful external (other resources) and internal (previous blog posts on your site) write-ups 
  • Double-check all the links to ensure they are working and add links to any missing stats or research
  • Add appropriate images as content with images get 94% more views than without them
  • Proofread

Summing up

While this may seem like a lengthy process, it really isn’t when you get the hang of it. Each step ensures that you’re putting out words that  will appease your readers. So make sure you give each phase its due time starting from finding the right topic that covers a pain point to editing your piece mercilessly for a filler-free write-up.   

bookmark_borderHow to Make Your Content Easy To Read In WordPress with Yoast SEO?

You may have come across the word ‘readability’ while striving to produce quality content for your audience. But what is it? The short answer – it is the measure of how easy to read your content is. 

I know what you’re thinking, “but doesn’t that depend on the reader, his reading speed, available time, and all that?” Not one hundred percent. A lot depends on the way you write and present your content. It’s similar to choosing between a beautifully presented dish and one that looks bland.

No matter how finger-licking good the bland-looking dish is, your mouth will always water for the food that is garnished and presented in an eye-catchy manner. Blog posts and other content that you write are judged in the same way. No matter how well-written your content is, it won’t get any reads if it is not presented in a readable format.

So let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of writing readable stories in this post. You’ll also learn about Yoast SEO, the WordPress plugin that helps make readability easy for you. Additionally, we’ve covered using this plugin to its maximum potential for publishing successful content.

Here we go:

The basics – What is readability?

To recap, readability is a measure of how readable your content is for your audience. Take these two screens below as an example:

Screen 1: 

In this example, all the words look cramped for space. They tire the eyes, and I’m sure you won’t bother reading the screen completely. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. The real problem is – the text isn’t readable. It’s where the issue lies.

Now look at screen 2:

Isn’t this screen pleasing to the eyes? And doesn’t it get its point across quickly? The reason is simple – it is easy to read. So what is it that’s contributing to so much difference between the two screens? 

Let’s tally the differences together:

  • Screen 2 has shorter paragraphs in contrast with screen 1 that has long paragraphs
  • The sentences in screen 2 are shorter than those in screen 1
  • Screen 2 formats text (bold text + italics) unlike screen 1 which sticks to a single format

Hence, when you write, you need to make sure that you write like the way the content is in screen 2. In other words, make sure you make your writing presentable.

But readability is not limited to short paragraphs and sentences only. There’s a lot more to it. And, fortunately, the Yoast SEO plugin demystifies this concept in its meta box below your page or side bar if you use WordPress Block Editor.

Before we look at the use of this plugin for readability though, let’s count the benefits of readability first.

The benefits of readability – for your readers, rankings, and site

By now, you already know that readability makes your content easy to read. But how does that impact you or your audience?

Here’s how:

1. Readability benefits for your readers

One of the biggest challenges of writing is ensuring that you don’t bore your reader in any way. Or, God forbid, repel him altogether.

Readability can help save your day by:

  • Improving readers’ experience
  • Making what’s written easy to understand

Remember that a lot of people prefer paperbacks over eBooks (92% of the college students favor print books to eBooks – no kidding!) for the reading experience they offer.

While digital content can never smell as good as a fresh, crisp paper, you can always replicate some of the experience by writing readable content.

2. Readability merits for your rankings

When readers come across a wall of words, there’s little they can do except move on to the next tab. Do you know what that means for your site? Reduced time spent on your website. In fancy language, reduced dwell time or the time spent on your page.

Since the user left your site without reading or taking an action, he basically bounced from your page. Technically speaking, that’s an increase in bounce rate. What’s happening here is:

  • Reduced dwell time
  • Increased bounce rate

Both these factors work in sync to hurt your rankings.

Moreover, with the rise of Alexa and other virtual assistants, you need to write content they can work with. Similarly, Google is increasingly showing content in its featured snippets results (shown below). Your content needs to be readable enough to be featured here.

3. Readability advantages for your site

Now reverse the picture that we discussed above. When your content is easy to read, your reader enjoys it. Plus, the ease in reading makes the content understandable. This, in turn, means that your reader leaves with the takeaways that you shared in your content.

Such a pleasurable experience means that the reader will return to your site when he’s looking for related content. Ultimately, this leads to improved conversions.

We can turn all this into a formula too:

All this clears that readability comes in the company of several advantages, which is why you should pay attention to it. This brings us to the Yoast SEO plugin.

How does the Yoast SEO plugin help improve readability?

With its 5 million active users, Yoast SEO has a strong fanbase. Not to mention, it is among the top five most downloaded plugins.

Chances are you may have already come across the widely known red, orange, and green signals of this plugin. These signals are indicators telling how well your content is scoring on the readability front.

Yoast isn’t limited to readability only though. Its expertise extends to search engine optimization as well as its name clearly indicates. In other words, the two parts of this plugin are divided into:

  • Content analysis

Checks how friendly to read your content is for the search engine.

  • Readability analysis

Surveys how readable your content is for your audience.

Both these analysis sections are linked. Since this blog post talks about the ‘R’ word though, we’ll concentrate on using the readability analysis section, which looks like this:

To clarify, the green signal indicates a good job. The orange and red lights, however, suggest that your readability needs work. When you click the eye icon (outlined in the image), the plugin takes you to the parts in your blog post that need revision. This helps you make your work reader-friendly. 

How to use the plugin to make your content readable?

Let’s quickly recap what we’ve discussed so far: what is readability and how it can breathe life into your content? On top of that, the role that the Yoast SEO plugin plays in sharing your content’s performance regarding readability.

The real question now is – how do you achieve those green bullets?

You can do so by following instructions that each traffic light gives you. To this end, the readability analysis covers the following checks:

  • Flesch reading ease
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph length
  • Subheading distribution/usage
  • Consecutive or repetitive sentences
  • Passive voice use
  • Transition words use

All these pointers surface from the readability requirements of the text you write. When used correctly, each point helps make your content easy to read and understand, and you score a green light.

Let’s discuss each point in detail:

1. Flesch reading ease

The Flesch Reading Ease Score is a readability scale that tells how readable your work is based on the word and sentence length of the text. The higher you go up on this scale, the easier to digest your writing becomes. On the flip side, a lower score means that the text is not easy to consume.

The readability scale determines content-friendliness based on this chart:

 Source

Yoast employs the Flesch Reading Ease Score to share your text’s performance. For instance, it shows here that the readability of my content is 71.1. The plugin also elaborates that this is a fairly easy to read score, which is why it awards it with a green light.

But what if there’s an orange or red light here? Focus on improving the length of your words and sentences. So steps to take here are: 

  • Keep your sentences short

Ensure each sentence is 21 words long. If needed, take it to no longer than 25 words. If you tend to write lengthy sentences, trim them when you edit.

  • Write simple words

Refrain from using long, confusing words. For example, use “easy” instead of “challenging.”

2. Sentence length

We’ve already covered this above. But to reiterate, write short sentences. Long sentences disturb readers’ focus. Readers can get lost, which means they may not get your message clearly. Therefore, for clarity and reading experience, stick with short sentences.

Tip: Mix up your sentence length. Write a short sentence, say only a couple of words. Pair it with a full-length sentence. Then add a medium length sentence. This gives rhythm to your writing instead of making it sound mechanical.

3. Paragraph length

Long paragraphs are hard to read. They strain the eye. So focus on writing short paragraphs. Keep them to 3-4 lines. One good way to do so is by concentrating on one point in each paragraph.

4. Subheading distribution

Subheadings break the monotony of text, which helps make it digestible. Yoast SEO suggests you add a subheading after every 300 words. This is evident in the following suggestion that it makes:

Additionally, you can break text by: 

  • Using bullet points or numbered lists
  • Adding images in your content
  • Including charts or graphics explaining stats

5. Consecutive sentences

This marker checks the beginnings of each sentence that you write. If some of your sentences consecutively start with the same word, Yoast SEO wouldn’t give you the green light.

To spice up your sentences and improve their readability score, write sentences with a variety. Here’s an example:

❌ There isn’t an exact formula to improve your writing. There is only one thing that you can do though, and it is write daily. There might be difficulties in this case, but consistency is the key to progress here.

✔  There isn’t an exact formula to improve your writing. You can always work on it by writing daily though. Taking out the time to put your thoughts on paper can be difficult, but it is the key to progress here.

Note that the first paragraph uses “there” to start three sentences consecutively. On the other hand, the other paragraph leans on variety, ‘there,’ ‘you,’ and ‘taking’ instead of only one word. This enhances the reading experience.

Tip: Don’t repeat yourself. If you’ve made a point once, there’s no need to repeat it in other words in the next sentence. Repetition goes by the name of redundancy, and it bores the reader significantly.

6. Passive voice usage

For a second, the mention of passive voice may have taken you back to your high school grammar class. That’s exactly the case here. You only have to give preference to active voice over passive voice.

Remember that passive voice makes sentences long. In contrast, active voice delivers your message in a strong and clear tone. It’s easy to read and keeps sentences short too.

How? See for yourself:

7. Transition words use

Transition words are bridging words such as, ‘therefore,’ ‘hence,’ ‘but,’ plus ‘and’ to name a few. They connect one sentence with another to give direction to the reader. In fact, transition words are not limited to words only. Instead they can be phrases too such as, ‘in the same breath,’ ‘in like manner,’ and ‘as a matter of fact’ among others.

Find more of these transition words below:

Since these words and phrases provide direction to the reader, they add to your content’s readability. This is why Yoast SEO gives it importance for ranking your text on the easy-to-read-scale.

In sum, by following each of these pointers, you can tick the bulleted checklist the plugin offers.

Wrapping it up

The Yoast SEO plugin is easy to use. But more important than getting those green lights is ensuring your content is interesting, and offers actionable takeaways. So if a bullet point or two doesn’t turn green, you don’t need to tear apart the entire piece.

 Here’s to writing readable content. ?

bookmark_border20 Proven Sources for Finding The Next Topic for Your Blog

?

What I admire most about this emoticon is that it rightly conveys our faces when we wonder, ‘what to blog about today?’ That’s why I felt that it made a befitting start to this post.

If you’ve a content calendar in place, you already have a constant flow of blog ideas. However, if you’re filling in the calendar blanks and looking for content ideas, this post will serve you well as it shares 20 awesome sources for finding fresh blog topics.

We’ve put similar sources under one category for the sake of simplicity. For instance, you’ll find ideations tools under one branch, and ways to derive a blog topic idea from social media under another. So without further ado, let’s dig in:

Gather blog ideas from social media

Social media is a great place to begin your search for blog content ideas. 74% of folks use Facebook alone for professional purposes according to the State of Inbound report. So here’s a walkthrough using social media as a topic generator: 

1. Join Twitter chats

Twitter chats are great places to learn what interests your audience and their pain points. They work in two ways:

  • If you’re a Twitter chat host, you can introduce a chat topic that you think may interest your audience. Keep your eyes peeled for the response you get to learn if the topic does or doesn’t appeal your audience. Then repurpose that topic into a blog post.
  • If you’re a participant, again, note how other participants respond to the chat topic. Additionally, keep track of the discussion to unearth pain points so that you can address them in your next write up.

As a regular Twitter chat attendee, I look for topics that I can cover on my blog. For instance, this guide that covers tools and tips needed from content ideation to creation was inspired by a chat. It did pretty well on the network too.

2. Surf hashtags

Click on your industry hashtags on social networks to learn about what people are saying about a specific topic. Let’s suppose you are in the creative design field. You need to surf relevant hashtags to survey what your audience appreciates.

Let’s suppose you’re a graphic designer as an example here. Look for hashtags relevant to your field on various social platforms such as Instagram. #adobeillustrators is an example. Explore the posts that open up:

Source

Scrolling through these posts shows a post that can make a useful addition to the list of next blog posts:

Source

You don’t need to copy the exact topic. Instead, alter it. For instance, prepare content on 10 or 15 illustrator tools instead of 5 as in the case or reach out to designers and put together a list of their favorite illustrator tools.

3. Participate in discussions

Some very thought-provoking discussions take place on social. Joining them or reading through the comments will spark your creative bulbs, adding to your content ideas pool.

Via Blogging Newbs Group

4. Ask your followers

Lastly, you can resort to asking your followers directly. Tweet them like Ash Read, the editorial director at Buffer did or create a poll sharing some content ideas to pick an idea that best satisfies your audience 

Source content ideas from your competitors

Before you go ahead here though, keep in mind one word of caution: don’t copy + paste. Instead, identify holes in the published content or add your personal spin to it.

5. Blog post ideas from your competitors

Study not only your industry competitors but also those outside of your industry. The benefits of this step are two-fold. First, you can get inspiration. Reading often sparks creativity, so keep abreast of what your competitors are publishing.

Secondly, you can study your competitors and find gaps in their content to cover them on your blog. Additionally, you can read content from other industries and reproduce interesting ideas in a way that they are relevant in your field.

Let’s elaborate this with an example. This post by User Experience Designer and Consultant, Paul Boag on “10 tips for working with web designers” can easily be translated into your field.

Let’s suppose you’re a lifestyle blogger or photographer. In either case, you can recreate this topic like this: 

? 10 tips for working with a lifestyle blogger

? 10 tips for working with a photographer

The point isn’t to hijack a good idea the moment your eyes land on it. Rather, the aim is to sit on the idea and cook it into an evergreen topic.

What’s more, you can even produce content around newly published research reports. Here’s how this unfolds:

Keep an eye on industry reports ➡ find an interesting report that ties with your audience’s interest and content plan ➡ write a blog post around it ➡ mission accomplished ?

A case in point here is Abass Sahrawi’s post on “How digital marketing agencies can use content marketing to drive conversions.”

This blog post emerges from research findings which reveal only 11% of digital marketing agencies leverage content marketing. Did you see how Abass saw a connection between a stat and weaved an entire blog post around it? You can do that too.

6. Content ideas from various resources

These sources include podcasts, TED talks, newsletters, books, more. For example, if you find a topic in any of these sources that is only briefly touched, then you can take it as subject matter for your next blog post.

For instance, Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time shares 21 great tips for enhancing productivity including unique methods such as the Salami slice method of getting more done. Each chapter briefly touches a productivity hack. You can take any of these 21 tips, explore it in depth, and convert it into a blog title.

And guess what? It will appeal your audience too as this book is an international bestseller. The reviews on Amazon’s page say the same:

Alternatively, you can gather various resources on a topic and write a post around it such as this on Springboard shares 12 must-watch TED talks on digital marketing.

Gather content ideas from the folks who read and buy your services/product

In other words, talk to your customers and unearth what they want to read about. To this end, three categories of people can help you:

7. Ask your readers

Your readers are one of the best sources for enriching your content calendar. Put out a survey for your readers, asking what they’d want you to cover on your blog. Buffer did just this at the end of 2017 as Alfred Lua shared on the Buffer blog.

Their team surveyed their blog subscribers and asked them what they wanted to hear about:

Source 

The findings gave them a good idea of what to cover on their blog. Similarly, if you serve a small audience, you can approach your prospects and customers directly and ask for suggestions for topics that they’d like to read about

8. Ask non-readers

It’s also a good idea to ask people who are unfamiliar with your field what confuses them. This is, specifically, helpful when you are planning blog posts for the first stage in the buyer’s journey, which relates to spreading awareness.

People who don’t know much about your service or product can share what confuses them. For instance, someone who is new to marketing may not be sure about the buyer’s journey. So you can take it up as a topic for your blog. Just make sure you have enough people sharing the same complaints.

9. Ask the sales and customer service teams

The folks who are the closest to your prospects and customers are people from your sales and customer service teams. Ask them what complaints they commonly hear about your service/product? What friction in the use of your product/service do your customers face?

When you collect this information, pick common points and convert them into a topic and there you go – another audience-centered blog post idea.

Marketing consultant, Erika Heald does just that. In her interview over at RampUp, Heald opens up that she learned her customers were struggling with tracing their online marketing campaigns’ success from her customer service team.

So she shared the UTM worksheet that she uses herself as a resource with them. Put simply, Heald kept her ears on customer concerns and learned one of their challenges. In turn, she offered a valuable content resource, which is exactly what her audience was looking for.

Gather content ideas from blog and social comments

Comments provide a wealth of ideas for blog posts. These come mainly from the questions that readers put forward. Convert a popular question or one that can truly offer value to your readers into a blog post.

10. Watch your comments’ section if you’re active

Comments’ sections are goldmines for discovering audience pain points and new topics for blog posts. Read through the comments on other blogs, social networks, and YouTube for new ideas.

Here’s an example from the comments section of one of the posts on Enchanting Marketing.com:

Carl inquires about blogging on Facebook groups for building authority. This can easily turn into a new blog topic for those in the digital marketing sphere. Follow a similar pattern for whatever industry you are in.

Let’s take another example from YouTube.

The outlined comment can be converted into a topic along the lines of dealing with emotional attachment as you declutter your wardrobe.

Collect new topics via content ideation tools

These are tools that can help give you good blog ideas. Read on for a brief list of some of the best tools out there:

11. Google

Google offers a wealth of blog post ideas if you know how to look. Three specific sections tell you what readers are searching for. Take the most relevant idea and insert it into your content calendar:

  • Google autosuggest

When you type in a search query, Google offers suggestions in an attempt to guess your answer. Efficient and useful. These suggestions are what most of the people are searching so if you decide to convert a suggestion into a blog post, you’ll be writing content that’s in demand.

  • Google related searches

Next, scroll to the bottom of the search page. Voilá! You now have more topics. Alternatively, you can use these related searches as fodder to add to the topic you’ve selected.

  • People also ask

The search giant has also started showing a “people also ask” section on the search page. So before you journey all the way down to the related searches area, pause and look for ideas in the middle of the search page.

12. Buzzsumo

While Google brings you keywords, which you can convert to blog ideas, Buzzsumo gives you the social update.

Enter your keyword, and the tool will spit out published content revolving around it. Take these ideas and give them your twist.

The icing on the cake is that Buzzsumo gives you an idea of how well a topic is doing on social. So you can get a socially-approved content topic idea from here.

13. Ubersuggest

I’ve used this free tool for generating tons of ideas for both my blog and client work. Entering a keyword gives you the search volume and other related SEO requirements. That’s not where the treasure lies though.

Scroll down and you will get a section dedicated to content ideas. Here’s where you can come up with new topics.

Source

14. Answer The Public

Answer The Public is great for fleshing out the details to add in a blog post. However, several topics have dozens of suggestions, which can’t fit into a single blog post unless you’re gunning for over 5,000 words or chalking out an outline for an eBook.

 Break the suggestions that Answer The Public shares and give each a separate blog post title. For instance, if you type in “customer surveys,” you’ll get the following web of answers:

To drive new blog post ideas, pick some of these keywords, and generate topics around it.

For instance, “customer satisfaction survey” is a recurring option that is present under multiple branches such as, “what,” “which,” “are,” and “why.” 

Now think of the possible questions that your audience may have related to customer satisfaction survey. These could be:

  • What are customer satisfaction surveys?
  • How to develop a customer satisfaction survey?
  • Or, how can a survey help improve your business’s customer satisfaction?

Or you could Google search this term and see what surfaces, much like what we’ve covered under using Google for content ideation.

There’s another option too, look at what others are covering on Google:

?  16 Excellent Customer Satisfaction Survey Examples – HubSpot
?  Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Surveys: Examples, Definition & Template – Qualtrics
?  How to create customer satisfaction surveys to master your market [with examples] – Hotjar 

Study these and see if you can approach any of them from a different angle or add a unique spin.

Tip: All these tools give you blog ideas that people are already looking for answers to. So by using them, you’re writing for your audience.

15. Quora

This is another one of my favorite platforms. In fact, the idea for this blog post also came from Quora:

Source

 As is the drill, start with entering the keyword in the search box. Next, read through the questions that people are asking to generate fresh content ideas to answer them.

A word of caution here, don’t pick every question asked on the site. Go for those with the most upvotes as these signal a question’s popularity on the platform. Next, tally the main keyword in the selected question and run it through a keyword research tool to uncover its search demand.

16. Curation tools

Lastly, curation tools can also help you water the shallow well of blog ideas in your calendar. This step takes some work, but it’s not super challenging for anyone who already keeps track of his industry trends and news.

Choose between the two Fs – Feedly and Flipboard. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you plug in keywords in your curation tool, it will pull out the published content making rounds through your industry.

Read through the pieces and identify potential blanks in the content to come up with ideas for your blog. Not only does this method deliver trending industry content to you, but it also helps you come up with unique blog ideas, which can address an audience problem that hasn’t been previously solved.

Blog idea generators

If you’re not up for all the heavy lifting, a blog idea generator can help. Some of the best ones that I’ve tested (as I write this article – I don’t rely on these completely) are: 

17. HubSpot blog ideas generator

HubSpot has a topic generator too. And a pretty good-looking one at that. The free version gave me 5 blog ideas for ‘content ideation’ with the premium version promising 250 ideas!

18. Portent’ idea generator

Portent title maker is a decent headline generator that explains its suggestions. So when I typed in ‘customer service,’ the tool gave me a good suggestion.

19. WebFX blog ideas generator

Another one of this list is WebFX. This tool gives a couple of ideas for a keyword that you add.

20. Content Row headline generator

Although this topic generator poses as a title generator, you can pick up some ideas from the headline suggestions it makes.

Make sure you filter your results because the clickbait topic suggestions can be as crazy as they can get:

In case you’re looking for more topic generators, check out WordStream’s post on blog ideas generators.

Summing up

And that’s a wrap. We’ve shared several sources where you can get the idea for your next blog post. Which one of these is your favorite? Comment below and let us know.

bookmark_borderMind-blowing WordPress Statistics Every WP User Should Know

WordPress has come a long way since its birth in 2003. The 16-year-old content management system has now become a name that almost everyone in the digital sphere is familiar with. In fact, WordPress statistics showing its progress and well-being are truly fascinating. They paint a thorough picture of how deeply loved this CMS is.

As a WordPress user or user-to-be, it’s best to know important WordPress statistics. That’s why we dug into them, and curated a list of the super amazing ones for you.

Here we go:

WordPress at a glance

The publishing giant powers 14.7% of the top 100 websites worldwide and boasts 75 million users. These include big names such as TEDBlog, USA Today, Fortune.com, TechCrunch, BBC America, CNN, New York Post, Thought Catalog, and Spotify to name a few.

Moreover, Technorati reveals that WordPress manages:

  • 8% of the top 100 blogs
  • 2,645 sites among the top 10,000 websites
  • 22,111 sites of the leading 100,000 websites and
  • 297,629 among the top 1 million sites on the web

In the CMS market, it has a whopping share of 61.4%, which is greater than most of the other prominent names such as Joomla and Drupal. The graph below shows market shares of leading content management systems with the complete list available here.

Such a mind-blowing market share has ranked WordPress as the most popular CMS for the 7th year in a row. WordPress growth has kept the same breakneck speed as its popularity with 500+ new sites built daily on it.

Moreover, Interest in WordPress has remained steady over the years too with it being searched over 37 million times every month around the globe.

Source

Comparatively speaking, search queries for WordPress rank a lot higher than other content management systems as confirmed by Google Trends:

Source

In fact, WordPress is visited more than Twitter on a monthly note as per statistics shared by Automattic, the parent company behind WordPress. What’s surprising is that only 955 employees (or Automatticians as they call themselves) run the show across 60+ countries.

On a comparative note, however, Twitter employs 3,920 workers, which is approximately four times more than the staff members at WordPress.

As for WordPress downloads, they keep peaking, having reached over 60,000 by now:

Source

Interestingly, data scientists have also looked at the popular days when WordPress downloads max out and have learned that Mondays are pretty popular when it comes to downloading the CMS. On the flip side, Fridays and Saturdays are the least popular days for WordPress getting downloaded.

WordPress Usage Statistics

Let’s focus next on WordPress usage statistics.

The publishing platform is home to 20 billion pages that are written in more than 120 languages including the following 10:

Source

The publishing platform also has translations for more than 160 languages with 65 completed.

What’s more, every second 24 blog posts are published on WordPress, that’s the same as motion pictures showing 24 frames per second.

Additionally, on a monthly note:

  • Over 70 million new posts are published
  • 409 million people view 20 billion WordPress pages
  • 77 million new comments are made
Have a live look at the WordPress activity here

Statistics by Akismet also share that 132 million spammers hit the comments section in WordPress. In fact, the number of spam comments received tends to be 24 times higher than the scores of legitimate comments.

You needn’t fear these spammers though as the plugin Akismet protects against 99.9% of them, having blocked 487,427,977,529 and counting comments so far.

Source

This brings us next to interesting numbers behind WordPress plugins.

WordPress plugins statistics

WordPress plugins are software that offer a specific function or group of functions. When downloaded and installed, plugins enhance the functionality of your WordPress site, customizing it as per your needs.

For instance, the Yoast SEO plugin boosts your site’s SEO and assists in enhancing your content’s readability too.

The official WordPress plugin directory homes more than 54,000 plugins. However, this number isn’t static as new plugins are added daily. Their download stats are also fascinating at 1,250,000,000 total downloads as of 2016.

The top 4 plugins on WordPress are:

  • Contact Form 7: The Contact Form 7 plugin helps you manage multiple contact forms.
  • Yoast SEO: As we’ve already highlighted, Yoast SEO is an SEO plugin as its name suggests. It helps you improve readability too.
  • Akismet Anti-Spam: Akismet Anti-Spam is a plugin that vigilantly protects your site from spam. This includes spam targeted toward your site’s contact form and comments section. Every hour, Akismet Anti-Spam filters 7.5 million spammy items.
  • Classic Editor: Classic Editor helps restore the classic editor, one that was the default editor before the Gutenberg Editor was released as the default one in 2018.

Each of these showcase over 5 million active installations. In addition to these widely-loved plugins, WordPress’s e-commerce plugin, WooCommerce is also a prominent one with 75,879,231 downloads.

It powers upwards of 28% online stores throughout the world as visualized below:

Source

Furthermore, of the top 30 plugins with 100,000 + active installations, multiple come from the WooCommerce family. These include Mailchimp for WooCommerce, Woocommerce Stripe Payment Gateway, WooCommerce Blocks, and WooCommerce Square.

WordPress themes

Similar to plugins, you’ll find a lot of variety in themes on WordPress. Plus, some smashing numbers to back them too. WordPress themes are template collections that determine the display and appearance of your website. Put simply, a WordPress theme narrates your site’s design.

WordPress has a collection of both free and premium themes with the premium ones up for grabs for $77.5 on average. On the whole, you can choose from a pool of over 30,000 themes.

Source

Top three themes on WordPress include:

  • Twenty Nineteen with 1+ million active installations
  • Twenty Seventeen with 1+ million active installations
  • Hello Elementor with 80,000+ active installation

When looking at the distribution usage of WordPress themes though, we get a different outlook of the most widely used themes in the top 1 million sites. Topping this list is Divi, a theme that 15,336 websites use.

Source

Second on this list is Genesis Framework that 12,599 websites employ. And, on number three, is Avada, which 9,090 sites use to run their design.

In case you are planning to switch to one of these popular or widely used themes on WordPress, note that switching to them isn’t very troublesome. All thanks to the dynamic nature of the CMS, thousands of people keep switching themes with ease.

In Aug 2019 alone, there were 674,748 theme switches. The number has peaked more than this though with the highest theme switches made in March 2015 at 5,334,942 changes.

Source

WordPress community – WordCamps by the numbers

WordPress’s presence is not limited to the digital sphere only. It’s offline presence in the form of community conferences has grown significantly with the first ever gathering hosted in 2006 in San Francisco.

Since then, WordCamps are being organized by WordPress users every year as per the guidelines outlined at WordCamp.org. Till date, 1,032 WordCamps have been hosted in 65 countries in 6 continents.

Source

Other than WordCamps as offline WordPress community gatherings, the WordPress Polyglots teams work hard to localize the publishing platform including its themes and plugins.

WordPress versions statistics – all that you need to know

So far, WordPress has had 317 versions released. On average, these versions are released every 152 days with the majority, specifically, 34% releases made in December.

The latest in this line of versions is the WordPress 5.2 Jaco version that launched on May 7, 2019. In fact, WordPress 5.3 is also in the pipeline but it is planned for release in November, 2019.

Serious matters apart, an amusing fact is that each of these versions, released from 2004, is named after a jazz musician. The first one named this way was the WordPress 1.0.1 Miles update that came out in 2004. It was named after the musician, Miles Davis.

Along the same breath, the latest version 5.2 takes its name from the American jazz bassist, Jaco Pastorius.

You can check out the jazz inspirations of other WordPress versions in the chart below:

 

Add chart – Source

That said, it’s important to share here that numerous sites run on outdated themes. This leaves them vulnerable to malicious attacks by hackers. Good news is 40% of users have updated to the latest Jaco version. In fact, it has been downloaded over 61 million times.

Still, over 20% of the users rely on WordPress 4.9:

Source

The possible reason why the remaining users have not moved to the latest WordPress version 5.2 may be the Gutenberg block editor update that was released in December 2018.

Source

Since its launch, the block-based editor has scored 26.6 million active installations. The only catch is that the WordPress classic editor had remained the default editor for several years while Gutenberg has only recently introduced change.

Of course, it will take folks a little time to embrace change, which explains why the Classic Editor has 5+ million installations.

Wrapping it up

This leaves you with a plethora of interesting WordPress statistics. Which of these did you find the most interesting? Share your thoughts in the comments.

bookmark_borderPHP 7.4 Now Available On RunCloud

With each release of PHP, RunCloud is always looking forward to the latest and greatest versions of PHP in development and is happy to announce that PHP 7.4 is now available. On November 28, 2019, PHP 7.4 was officially released. While we do not automatically update your PHP version, we offer the option for you to upgrade or downgrade your PHP version.

There are always good things happening with PHP, as it still remains the dominant language of the Internet, is ever-evolving, and with each new release, contains new features, loses a few old features, and somehow always seems to be faster than its previous version. To put it bluntly, PHP 7.0 is the slowest, while PHP 7.4 is the fastest. PHP 7.2 is faster than PHP 7.1 which is slower than PHP 7.3.  While we will not get into every single change, we did notice some cool neat features, as well as the loss of a few as well.

PHP Changes

Deprecated in PHP 7.4 are:

  • Nested ternary operators without explicit parentheses
  • Array and string offset access using curly braces
  • Extensions moved to PECL and are no more part of the PHP distribution: Firebird/Interbase, Recode, and WDDX

Additions to PHP 7.4 are:

  • Typed Properties
  • Arrow Functions
  • Limited return type covariance and argument type contravariance
  • Null coalescing assignment operator
  • Unpacking inside arrays
  • Numeric literal separator
  • cURL feature updates including support for stream wrappers and plain filenames
  • Additional Filters
  • GD improvements
  • New FFI extension
  • More Hashes
  • Multibyte Strings
  • Opcache Preloading
  • And more!

For more details on all of these new features implemented into PHP 7.4, refer to: PHP 7 ChangeLog.

Changing the PHP version with RunCloud

An upgrade of PHP for your web application should not cause any errors or issues, as there does not seem to be anything that is backward-incompatible. If you do encounter any errors during your PHP transition, do not hesitate to reach out to support. We are excited about the release of PHP 7.4 and hope you have a great experience and an even faster website after upgrading your PHP version to the latest and greatest!

  1. Navigate to Web Application on the menu
  2. Click into your Web Application
  3. Select Settings on the menu
  4. Select your desired PHP version
  5. Click Update PHP

Your screen to change the PHP version should look like this:

Upon making a selection, you should see PHP 7.x including PHP 7.0, PHP 7.1, PHP 7.2, and PHP 7.3. In addition, you should now also see the latest version of PHP in the dropdown menu as well, PHP 7.4.

The changes should be immediate and you may not notice any difference at all on your website. As you use your website, you may notice an increase in a speed difference, which often is the case for each PHP version, but as a precaution, you may want to set up a WordPress Stage and make your changes on the Staging environment beforehand. You may debug by simply using your website, navigating all of your plugins, and ensuring that everything is working, as each PHP version adds or removes features and is not always backward-compatible.

If you do not set up a WordPress Staging environment, you can still test everything on your Production website, and should you encounter an error, you can always revert the PHP version to its previous state. You may have to wait for authors to update the plugins and release new versions, or you may make changes within those plugins yourself if you know what you are doing. RunCloud support can assist you in the update should you need any additional help, although RunCloud cannot offer any support for individual plugins that may be experiencing a conflict with the new PHP 7.4 version.

Along with PHP 7.4, we have also pushed some other important updates & fixes. Check our changelog for more details.

bookmark_borderRunCloud SSL/TLS Protocol Update

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are the security connections between networks that protect you and me and the entire world wide web from being seen and easily exposed. Instead of seeing you in plain text, your data is encrypted and my data is encrypted and thus, we have full privacy on the Internet. Several security measures, specifically TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 protocols will be removed from browsers at the beginning of 2020. As a result of this change, RunCloud has added the SSL/TLS protocol option which can be changed in your dashboard with a single click.

What is SSL/TLS Protocol?

TLS and SSL are a cryptographic protocol that uses an IETF standard and provides end-to-end communications security over networks and is widely used for internet communications and online transactions intended to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, and forgery. Most SSL and TLS use SHA-256 With RSA Encryption with some going even further to use 2048-bit RSA encryption which would take the most powerful computer on Earth about 6.4 quadrillion years to crack. The TLS handshake method is a multi-step process that bridges client and server to learn about each other, exchanging information, keys, and the encrypted message.

In other words, TLS is responsible for encrypting all of the information you request and recieve on the Internet by means of browsing the Internet, emails, instant messaging, or using VoIP services, such as Skype. Or more to the point, TLS is responsible for making sure client and server recognize each other immediately, so that a connection is made faster and more secure, requiring less round trips through open ports to communicate, so communication is more direct and responsive. TLS is more efficient and secure than SSL as it has stronger security measures and key generation along with other encryption algorithms. Eventually, support for SSL may stop in favor of the TLS connection.

Latest Update of SSL/TLS Protocol

The new update includes TLS 1.3 which is the first major rewrite of the protocol by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). TLS 1.3 was released in August 2018 is specifically focused on HTTPS-encrypted traffic and therefore better protects privacy and hardens security, preventing any unwanted traffic. The encryption process of communication between client and server has also seen a speed increase for this update which also adds a boost in performance for web applications. The new TLS 1.3 drops support for older more vulnerable cryptographic algorithms. The last update of TLS 1.2 before the release of 1.3 occurred in 2008.

The TLS 1.3 update includes:

  • Remove support for weak and lesser used named elliptical curves.
  • Remove support for MD5 and SHA-224.
  • Integrating use of session hash.
  • Allow cookies to be longer.
  • Require digital signatures even when previous configuration is used.
  • Support for 1-RTT handshake.

What does this update actually mean for you? For the average developer or blogger, there is nothing you actually need to do as this update will likely not affect anything you are currently working on. If you are an advanced web developer or have to support older products, then this update may be of concern to you.

This update is critically important to the stability and security of the Internet as it is dropping support for TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 at the beginning of 2020. While most of your web servers are already on a supported TLS version, if you have an old server, you may have to make any changes yourself. We cannot offer any support for older versions of TLS.

Consider always keeping up to date with the latest security standards for optimal performance, privacy, and security. The latest TLS version is the most secure version, while older versions may still contain flaws.

Ho to Change SSL/TLS Protocol

To change your own security protocols for your server in RunCloud, navigate to Web Application and select your web app on the screen. Scroll down to SSL/TLS on the menu. As you move down the screen, you can see the SSL Protocol(s) option where you can change this to version(s) you want your web application to support.

TLSv1.2 TLSv1.3 is recommended and it is default option for new web application.

The reason you might swap this option to a version that supports lower TLS security protocol (TLSv1.1) is because you have applications using an older API client or old code.

It is suggested that you do not go to a lower tier and if you are just starting up a new web application: you do not have to worry about anything, as we will select the default TLS security protocol for your website. While nothing should happen in the next year, the major browsers could drop support for your website, as it does not meet the latest security standards.

As long as the Internet remains free, it will remain a place to express ourselves, privately and securely, while exposing only the information we want the world to know. TLS 1.3 is the latest and greatest secure technology and as we progress forward into 2020, the world is striving for a more faster and securer Internet, one where we can browse privately and ensure the information about our location, our payments, our communications on the Internet, are secure and can’t be read by “outsiders”. As we move more into the digital world where information is more rampant and vast than ever, we want to ensure that communications between computer and website or web client remain fast, private, and secure.

RunCloud is committed to keeping up with the latest trends in technology and security standards by ensuring these best practices are passed on to your servers and web applications. Keeping you and your website secure are our top priority. RunCloud offers the security tools necessary to help you manage your server, but does not claim any responsibility for any disruptions or bugs that may arise from changing this setting and therefore can only suggest that you update your TLS to the latest security protocol standards. RunCloud serves as only a facilitator and provides the best methods and protocols to keep your server and websites more secure.

bookmark_borderHow to Use Quora for Content Marketing: The Definitive Guide

Quora offers a goldmine of opportunities for content marketers, bloggers, or, put simply, anyone looking to connect with their niche specific audience. With a monthly user base of 300 million folks as of 2018, this isn’t a platform to miss.

You can connect with your target audience, encourage high quality traffic to your content, build yourself as a person of authority, and dig out valuable topics for your content strategy. In fact, Imran Esmail over at Smartblogger shares that Quora is the number one source of traffic on his blog and his answers on the platform have received over 1,000,000 views.

Wondering how? Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of using Quora for reaping benefits for your blog.

Starting with the basics – what is Quora?

Quora is a question and answer platform. But that’s not all. It’s more of a social platform where users interact, read each others’ queries and solutions in their feed and interact accordingly.

Right off the bat, this gives you two advantages:

? One, a rich community to engage with

? Two, a valuable hub of questions that your audience has

The community aspect allows you to spread awareness of your expertise and position yourself as a thought leader.

In fact, active writers on Quora get an average of over 30,000 monthly views, totaling to more than 350,000+ views on a yearly basis. The most active writers get 90,000+ views every month with over 1 million views annually.

The CEO of KyLeads, Daniel Ndukwu confirms this as he shares the results he has driven from Quora with the Content Marketing Institute. He says, “I’ve been a Quora user for years, and to date I’ve gotten over 5 million views on the platform. In addition to that, we’ve used it to drive thousands of visitors to our website and get our first hundred users.”

What’s more, the hub allows you to understand your audience and their pain points. It also gives you the opportunity to supplement your content strategy by learning topics that interest your audience.

A case in point is my post on the Focus booster app’s blog. Fb is a pomodoro timer and the team’s audience includes productivity enthusiasts and pomodoro users. For getting an idea of the audience’s interests, I headed over to Quora and browsed questions that productivity lovers had.

It’s here that I learned that this specific audience would be interested in learning about the science behind the pomodoro technique and we covered it for the blog. Since the content aligned with the audience’s interest, it was well appreciated by them.

Moreover, the post ended up ranking second on google for the search term, ‘science behind pomodoro technique.’

Diving deeper into the benefits of Quora for your business

Numerous benefits emerge from using Quora. Let’s divide and learn:

  • Build awareness and increase your authority

As you participate in Quora Q&A conversations consistently with actionable content, your readers will note you have valuable insights to share. Ultimately, users will view you as a person of authority with expertise in his subject matter.

  • Meet niche specific people

Quora is home to a global audience with different interests and questions. It wouldn’t take you long to find specific people who fit your audience persona. We’ll be addressing the ‘how?’ in your mind shortly.

  • Drive traffic to your content

As you answer questions on the platform, you can share a link to your blogs with an in-depth answer. You may not drive a large traffic chuck to your content via Quora. However, whatever traffic flows to it, it’s of a good quality since niche specific people click through it.

  • Supplement your content research efforts

By unearthing the questions that your audience asks on the network, you can get into their minds and understand their pain points better. Craft content based on these findings for publishing targeted content that solves your readers’ problems.

  • Improve audience research

Lastly, Quora is a good stop for knowing your audience better. Besides learning the questions that they have, you can learn the language they use, what creates friction in their lives, and so on. In a way, this use of Quora poses it as useful a research tool as it assists in revealing what people search online.

Reaping these benefits – Getting starting with Quora in 4 simple steps

As with any other platform, your first step to getting the most from Quora is setting up a profile there. Choose between setting up with Google or Facebook for quick access into the account. Quora will pull out all your profile details from these platforms.

If you’re not the one to interlink your profiles, set an account with your email.

quora for content marketing

Once you’re in, follow these steps:

Step 1: Add details to your profile and choose your interests

For prepping your Quora profile, you need to pay attention to the following areas:

Mark Manson

  • Full Name

Needless to say but enter your full name, preferably the one that you use professionally.

  • Profile image

Research shows that it takes 40 milliseconds to sketch conclusions about a person based on his photo. This underscores the significance of a profile picture. Aim for inserting a friendly picture of yours here. Pick a shot that is either a head and shoulders or head to waist photo. Here is more on optimizing your profile picture.

  • Profile credentials

This is a one-line description that sums up your details. It shows up with every answer you give on Quora. You also have the option of customizing this one-liner for each answer.

  • Credentials and Highlights

Moreover, fill in the ‘Credentials and Highlights’ section. Enter your education, employment, and location information here.

quora for content marketing

Source

  • Your interests and spaces

This part will help Quora show you questions of your interest. The platform inquires your interests from the start as you make a profile. Pick ten to begin with.

quora for content marketing

Quora also asks if you’d be interested in following spaces or communities that share interests. Pick what you like or proceed without choosing.

If you change your mind later and wish to join communities, you can do so by selecting them from the ‘Set Up Your Account’ bar on the right side of your feed. You can also tweak topics of your interests from the same section.

quora for content marketing

  • Add details to the Know About section

Last but not the least, pick topics of your expertise in the ‘Know About’ section. For adding details here

  1. Click profile icon
  2. Tap on your name
  3. Edit the ‘Knows About’ section on the right side

You’ll get the following page to enter all your required details:

Followed by:

quora for content marketing

Step 2: Write a description and profile summary of who you are and what you do

Where profile credentials require you to be short and to the point, a profile summary is a flexible area where you can talk about yourself in detail, all with rich formatting. You’re also at liberty to add links to your work (perfect place to link your site and social channels), and include an image too.

Emran Ismail’s description is an excellent case in point. Not only does he talk about himself but also gives links to his best performing answers.

quora for content marketing

This section is visible only when someone clicks on your profile so that’s that. But the plus side, it’s a great section to show your personality and share social proof. Add details to this section by clicking on your name icon and heading to the ‘Write a description about yourself’ section.

quora for content marketing

One last thing here – make sure you write an interesting description. You really don’t want to bore the reader.

Step 3: Find the right questions and answer by offering valuable content

Your goal is to look for questions related to your expertise that have a significant number of followers, few competing answers, and good ongoing search traffic.

Here’s a breakdown of the questions you should be looking for:

  • Ones with high upvotes which show that the answer is viewed a lot
  • Questions with less answers so your take is not lost in the sea of answers
  • Also, check the last asked date. This ensures that the question generates interest. Answer questions asked recently

Searching for questions is not challenging. You can look for them manually by browsing through topics of your interest. Or, type in keywords of your interest in the Quora search bar as shown below:

quora for content marketing

Alternatively, you can take to Google search. Browse: “site:quora.com [keyword phrase].” This will get you a list of related questions to a particular topic such as WordPress plugins:

quora for content marketing

Bonus: Tips for answering questions on Quora

It’s crystal clear that your answer needs to provide value to the readers. But there’s more to answering on Quora than just providing value.

Follow these tips:

  • Change your tone to a friendly professional one

Quora isn’t a suited and booted, formal network such as LinkedIn. Instead, it’s pretty much like a social platform where people exchange questions and answers. Naturally, a friendly tone is preferable.

You can always repurpose your blog content when answering on Quora. Just make sure, you tweak the voice to a friendly-professional one.

  • Show your personality

Keep in mind that you are answering a real person’s question, so you answer like you are talking to a person. Let your personality shine through the content you share.

Remember that readers over at Quora skim through answers and only settle on one that they think doesn’t fall into the category of ‘been there, heard that.’ Making your answer personable, weaving in storytelling or a bit of humor, and providing a practical answer based on your experience can help you beat the competition.

Here’s an example to give you an idea of how you can instill personality in your content:

quora for content marketing

  • Give a non-promotional answer

The point of writing a personality-enriched answer is to keep it promotion-free. Excessively promotional content can be penalized as Nicolas Straut, one of the SEO specialists at Fundera shares with the Content Marketing Institute.

A case in point is the answer below – purely repulsive. No one is going to click that link and you’d never reap any sweet fruit from Quora by following suit:

quora for content marketing

On the other hand, this answer shows the writer as an expert. There are links too, which brings us to our next point.

quora for content marketing

Source

  • Include relevant links where appropriate

Writing a few bland lines and including a link with them or saying “you’ll get the answer here [Link]” is no way to answer. It’s a vain attempt at using Quora for content marketing. What you can do instead is provide a useful answer in a few lines and then add a link to your content for a full-length answer as shown below:

quora for content marketing

On the Social Media Marketing Podcast, Quora Evangelist, JD Prater shares a tip in this regard. Prater suggests writing a snippet of 100 to 200 words and directing the audience to your site

  • Lastly, structure your answer for making it readable

Nobody appreciates a wall of text. In fact, over half of readers, specifically 55%, read blog posts for 15 seconds or less. Now translate this into your Quora answer and you know that more than half of the readers may only be reading your answer for 15 seconds.

So make it easy for them to skim read your content. For instance,

? Write short paragraphs

? Break your answer with subheadings

? Add bullet point and

? Format important points (bold or italic)

Here’s an example of a readable answer:

quora for content marketing

Don’t forget to keep your answer visually rich. Not many writers on Quora use images in their answers. By adding them, you can increase your odds of standing out with your answer along with making it easy to read.

Here’s a good example of such an answer:

quora for content marketing

Step 4: Engage on the Q&A platform

Work on Quora is not limited to writing answers to questions. As in the case of success on any other social platform, you can drive excellent results from Quora by engaging with the users.

Some ways you can level up your engagement are:

  • Reference others’ answers

Referencing answers of other folks on Quora, as done in Darmesh Shah’s answer below, helps you offer more value to your readers. More importantly, however, referencing others gives you the opportunity to grow your network on the platform

quora for content marketing

  • Comment on answers

By doing so, again, you can stretch the boundaries of your network and grow it. Moreover, commenting allows you to add more value to the available content. The actionable takeaways that you offer in your comments will help people see you as an authority too.

  • Add your Quora link to other social channels

The good thing about Quora is that anyone can view your profile and answers including those who don’t use the platform. So by add a link to your Quora account on other social channels, you can offer interested people a bridge to your problem.

  • Be consistent so that you become known as a familiar person with authority

Answer questions in your field on a regular note. Your audience needs to see you often to notice you, remember you, and view you as an expert. Therefore, try to post answers on a weekly basis if not more often than that.

In conclusion

Alexa reveals that Quora falls among the top 150 sites on the globe. Plus, it ranks on number 26 among the 100 most visited sites in the US. Not to forget, its popularity is rising. On top of that, we’ve discussed a ton of benefits that come associated with Quora. All these facts and figures are convincing enough to join Quora and reap the most from it for content marketing.