Review: Manage WP

review of manage wp

If you’re like me, you are running multiple WordPress websites with different goals, content and readership.  In my experience, dedicated WordPress administrators keep coming back to WordPress as the foundation of most any type of website.  This leads to many different WordPress installations.

Although WordPress is so easy to use, so managing multiple sites is not a monumental task, it can be helpful to consolidate wherever possible.  I was recently looking for a way to manage several of my WordPress sites from one location.  I found Manage WP and gave it a good trial run.  I’m now sharing what I learned with the Pingable community.

It is important to note that with the deprecation of WordPress MU (woven into the standard WordPress.org), a stronger need for multi-site management became evident.  Manage WP seems to fit the bill and solve most of the multi-site management features that were appreciated in WordPress MU.

Note: This is an objective review.  Although Manage WP has an affiliate program, we do not participate so you can trust the opinions in this review are impartial.

The key benefits outlined by the company are pretty nice:

  1. One-click updates.  You can update the WordPress core as well as plugins on all of your websites with a single click.
  2. Completely secure.  I haven’t personally tested this claim, check out our WordPress security infographic for more on this.
  3. 24/7 Support with a 35 minute response time.  A nice feature, but you shouldn’t need emergency support with a premium solution, right?
  4. Automated backup and restoring capabilities.  A very nice feature.

Other benefits to note include:

  1. One-click access.  After everything has been set up, you have access to all of your WordPress dashboards without having to remember multiple passwords.
  2. Manage WP partners with Sucuri to ensure your WordPress site is as secure as possible.  Nothing is a guarantee, but Sucuri is very very good.
  3. Lots of backup/restore control.  You can choose to keep your backup files on Amazon S3, Dropbox, FTP or email.  Fancy.
  4. Uptime monitoring made easy.  Keep track of when your site goes down and be notified.
  5. Traffic monitoring.  Be notified when you receive a traffic bump.  Super helpful for those paying for cloud or scalable hosting.
  6. Integration with Google Analytics and SEO tools.  Extra helpful for admins that put the time into managing their SEO.  Monitoring all traffic from one location can be very fun and rewarding too.

The downsides:

  1. If your Manage WP service is hacked or password stolen, the jerk would have access to all of your sites.
  2. A bit pricey.  If your WordPress sites are paying for themselves, or even better, paying your bills, Manage WP is worth it.  If you are a part-time blogger that is only in it for fun, this may not be the tool for you.  The free plan offers the security feature, plus some of the optimization and monitoring features, but not all of them.  The cheapest fully-featured plan at press time is $4.00 month for up to 5 websites, that’s .80 cents per website per month.
  3. They have a self-hosted solution but it is not for the small operation.  The prices for self-hosted solutions are not listed and you’re asked to contact a sales representative which is not a sign of a small investment.

The summary

If you are a professional blogger or WordPress administrator, Manage WP has the potential to save you serious time and consequently, money.  If you are a weekend blogger, this solution is overkill.  Even if you’re just running a couple websites, I would stick to the standard dashboard.

The features are impressive, and the interface is smooth and functional.  I am impressed with the user-interface design and the thought that went into the flow.  As a professional WordPress administrator, I find Manage WP worth the money.

How to build a community with WordPress

WordPress is a blog platform.  But much more important than the blogging feature is the community that comes with WordPress.  From a vibrant developer community to an active support community, WordPress is buzzing.  From a bustling designer community to a dynamic content producing community, WordPress is alive.

In a recent post, I wrote about building a social network with WordPress as a foundation.  In this post, I describe what it takes to build a strong community of readers, stakeholders and contributors.  To build a strong community, it takes more than just an invitation to participate.  Big websites have people dedicated to cultivating and managing a community.  But your small WordPress site can have an equally impressive community if you grow it from the ground up.  Here’s how.

Set the stage

Many bloggers are timid about promoting social media or networking sites in order to promote their own.  Can you blame them?  At first glance, telling all of your readers to head over to your Facebook page is like saying “hey! ignore what you’re into on my website and go visit someone else’s”.  But the truth is establishing the right social networking and bookmarking accounts will compliment, not contrast your own efforts.

This post is not about leveraging social media so I won’t digress by describing what this entails.  But give full consideration to establishing a Facebook page, Linkedin group and Youtube Channel.  Not every option is for everyone so consider the type of media and content you are producing and how it would be best disseminated.

Get the right plugins

Comments

In order to create a vibrant community through comment discussions, you should consider building on the WordPress core commenting feature.  Disqus is the leader for premium and quasi-premium comment systems.  Disqus adds a great deal of functionality including common sign-in, better moderation control, social sharing options, subscription capability and the coolest part: the ability for users to track all of their comments on other websites from your website.  This is great because people don’t have to leave to be engaged elsewhere.

disqus comments

Login

If you’re like me, you don’t like managing multiple usernames and passwords.  When given the opportunity to log into a website with my Facebook account, I will do so.  As long as I can trust the website won’t abuse that privilege.  There is a free plugin available called Social Login that will allow your visitors to log in using Facebook, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn, OpenID or some others.  Building a community on your WordPress site is as much about eliminating barriers to participation as it is about the content.

building community with wordpress

Related Content

Social marketing people have long suggested a “related content” plugin that displays similar content below or next to each post.  This is meant to keep people traveling through your site instead of leaving.  But I recommend this feature because it is inherently community-focused.  These plugins look at keywords within each post and recommend posts with similar content.  If I ever click through someone’s site, it is often through this feature.  Keeping people engaged is part of building a community.

Be human

Interactive Posts

Posts can be informational, they can be link bait, they can be junk.  But good posts are high quality, original and informative.  But one thing is missing: interactive.  Posts should include an engagement component in order to build a community.  You can do this by:

  • Asking your readers questions in your posts
  • Including surveys or polls
  • Asking them to continue the discussion in the comments
  • Creating an opportunity to expand on the post

One of the key parts of this strategy is the follow through.  When people email or comment that I missed a resource or should have included something else in my post, I usually include it.  Then I follow up with a comment or return email to thank them for the contribution.

Engage with commentators

When people comment on your content, engage with them.  It’s as simple as that.  If I think nobody is listening, I won’t comment.  An active discussion after a post is not only free, original content but it is interesting.  Half the time I Google something, I’m fed results from a comment discussion or forum.

Also important: be polite and respectful.  Nothing says amateur like a spiraling comment fight.  Keep it civil and thank people repeatedly for their discussion.  Do not engage with haters.

Be generous

Giveaways and contests

People like free things.  By organizing a giveaway or contest, you not only gain new readers but you reinforce the relationships with the ones you already have.  A content shows that the person behind the curtain is there and is attentive.  Organize an event that give your readers something they will really be interested in, related to your content focus.  Often this can be free as I described in this post about ways to promote your WordPress site.  Pingable recently organized a giveaway that was successful not just because we gained new readers and Facebook friends, but people realized we really care about our readers.

giveaways to build community with wordpress

Be consistent

Readers will come back if they have a positive experience, but also if they can expect that same quality experience every time they visit.  In order to be consistent, establish editorial guidelines and delegate someone to keep your site alive any time you have to step away.  Keep the discussion going, don’t respond one day and ignore everything the next.

Conclusion

Conclusion may not be the right word.  How about “next steps”. I would really like to hear from you, this post is just the beginning.  How have you built a community with your WordPress site?  How do you plan on engaging with your readers?

What’s new in WordPress 3.6

With an active development community, you can always count on regular releases as WordPress evolves.  WordPress 3.6 is currently in beta 3 with the option to download and test it.  There is also a plugin called WordPress Beta Tester you can use to test out the new stuff.  Even with this plugin, I would highly recommend setting up a dummy WordPress site to play with 3.6.  Do not use your production site.  So far, 150 contributors have made over 100 changes to WordPress.

Mark Jaquith, lead developer for the 3.6 release was quoted back in December regarding his intentions for the release:

I’d personally like the focus of the release to be about content editing (revisions, autosave, workflow, editing modes, etc)

Here are some of the nice new features you can expect:

Nicer post revision comparison

The current version of WordPress is difficult to use because the contrast between colors is weak.  Users are stuck trying to discern red on red and green on green which is not ideal.  WP 3.6 includes better contrast and an overall polished look.  Users now have access to Previous and Next buttons that allow for easy browsing of revisions.  This can be really helpful with multiple authors.

Also helpful for multiple authors, WordPress 3.6 improves on the feature of post locking.  With 3.6, blogs with multiple authors will be able to work on a post together without losing their modifications.  This is accomplished by locking posts during editing.  When a second author attempts to open a post that is being edited, they will receive a warning that it is locked.  The second author will have the ability to take control of the post, or abandon their attempt to edit.

Nicer Post Format Interface

Post formats were released in version 3.1, and have relied on some hand-coding to implement.  They are useful for changing how post content is displayed without changing the content itself.  The new post format interface will look something like this:

new post formats WP 3.6

Improved post auto-save

The underlying goal of this enhancement is to prevent authors from ever losing a post.  Historically, the WordPress auto-save feature was subject to an unbroken internet connection and server availability.  With WP 3.6, the auto-save will occur every 15 seconds with the remote server, or locally if that connection is unavailable.  The local copy will then be synced with the server.  This is made possible in part by modern browsers.

Bundled Theme Improvements

Personally, I have never used the TwentyThirteen or any of it’s predecessor themes on a production site.  But it is a handy foundation on which to build a the functionality of a WordPress site before looking at a design.  In WordPress 3.6, the bundled theme comes with some significant improvements.  Demo it here.  The developers have been pretty bold with the changes this go around.

twentythirteen

Custom Menus

Also a relatively new feature to the WordPress core, custom menus are being improved upon further.  The new menu UI will include a more polished checkbox select system, an accordion menu feature (wahoo!) and enhanced help text.

The new UI has a more defined workflow, forcing the user the select the necessary options such as adding menu items.  They do this by blocking all other options that are out of sequence.  The UI is further improved with a big “create new menu” button at the beginning.

Summary

WordPress 3.6 was set to release April 23rd of this year.  Mid-way through May, it seems like the developers have made a wise choice to not compromise quality and attention to detail in order to make a deadline.  I agree and wish them the best of luck.  Thanks for working tirelessly on this release.

Although nothing groundbreaking is found in this release, it addresses some significant bugs and polishes the overall functionality.  It’s better not to roll out a drastic change too often anyway.

See the full list of changes here.