Writing Services

Great writing is core to everything we do. It’s our passion, and how we’ve built our business. And it’s how we’ve helped a huge number of companies grow their brand, attract new customers, and achieve marketing success.

The best advertising, social media, SEO and direct marketing is all based around the words that attract attention. And spurring people into action. So it’s the foundation of the writing services we use to help businesses grow.

Writing Services - TheWayoftheWeb

 

Article Writing:

If you want a business that is respected, easily found via search, gets shared on social media, and converts traffic to customers, then you need high quality content on a regular basis.

Published on your website, or on relevant external publications, it demonstrates your knowledge and expertise.  But if you’re not a trained writer and journalist, how can you reliably publish that type of article?

That’s what we do. We’ll work with you to understand your company, values and tone of voice. And we’ll combine your knowledge and our own research to create articles targeted at your ideal customers.  Our training and experience means we know how to think like your potential audience, and to know what questions are being asked online.

Every article is supplied with full search engine optimisation, including page titles, meta descriptions, and image attritubes as required.

We’ve written for every type of entrepreneur and business, from baby food to technology. And we’d love to write for you.

 

Copywriting:

There’s a distinct skill to copywriting. Whether it’s for an advert or landing page, you need to inspire action in a limited amount of space and words.

We know how to deliver results with content.

Our experience includes copywriting for social media advertising, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more.

We’ve created hundreds of search adverts, including a multitude of variations to allow for testing and optimisation.

And there are plenty of landing pages working at this moment with our copy on them.

 

Social Media Content:

We all spend more time on social media than we intended. That 5 minute break just to quickly check Facebook turns into an hour of reading updates and links. Or perhaps you get inspired by a photo on Instagram? Maybe Twitter is the network guaranteed to have you checking your phone too often?

Social Media success means setting a realistic objective for your business. And then producing the right content to meet that target. It might be driving more sales? Or increasing brand loyalty?

We’ll help to make sure your objectives are achievable. And then create everything you need to get there. From improving and optimising the set-up of your profiles, to managing daily updates across all the social networks you require. And reporting on what’s working. We can work independently, or alongside your existing teams, and can supply all proposed updates before publication. But whichever method you choose, we have training and experience in ensuring no social media updates will reflect badly on your brand.

Want to pay a teenager with no experience as little as possible? That’s your choice. But if you want to know every update for your business has been triple-checked for any possible negative connotation, then you’ll want a company that knows what they are doing beyond which hashtag or emoticon to use!

 

How To Redirect a Blogspot Blog To Another Site

If you’ve been using blogger as your website, you might have decided it’s time to change your CMS. And that might also mean switching from the standard .blogspot.com address to a custom domain. But how do you ensure that the search authority and visitors from your current site are transferred to your new one as effectively as possible? Well, here’s how to redirect a Blogspot blog to another site.

How To Redirect a Blogspot Blog To Another Site

Before we get into the exact instructions, it’s worth explaining a little about Blogger and how redirects work between different urls. Or if you want to remove pages from your current website, including after a redesign. One of our main services is assisting with this process for business clients ranging from small websites to massive enterprise solutions. We’ve migrated a large number of websites over the years, and ensured traffic and search rankings are kept as high as possible during the transition.

If you’re in a hurry, already know about website redirects, or find it boring, you can skip the next bit!

 

Blogger and Redirects:

Blogger was originally launched in 1999 as a blog-publishing service by Pyra Labs. The company was founded by Meg Hourihan and Evan Williams, who also went on to co-found Twitter and Medium. Blogger itself was acquired by Google back in 2003. And although new features have regularly been added, the service itself hasn’t radically changed for a long time now. So although it’s still a very popular way to start blogging and publishing content online, many people find they want to switch to an alternative like WordPress after a while.

By default, your Blogger site will have an address ending in blogspot.com. If you’ve bought a custom domain for your site, e.g. www.thewayoftheweb.net, then everything will work on your new site as long as the urls of your posts stay the same. But your old site will revert back to blogspot.com and display your old duplicate content unless you either delete or redirect it.

However, when urls are being changed or posts are being removed, that’s when redirects are useful. For any permanent changes or deletions, you would want to use what is called a ‘301 Redirect’. This indicates to search engines that the content has been permently moved to a new address. And redirects your users to the new page automatically. So unless you want to completely ditch your old content and let users see a 404 error page, you’d typically put a 301 Redirect into your .htaccess file for PHP websites and web.config for IIS sites.

But editing .htaccess and web.config require server access. And Blogger doesn’t allow that.

Meanwhile adding redirection plugins and services to your new website and domain won’t have any effect on your old blogspot.com address.

But there is a solution. It uses what’s called a Meta Refresh to perform a client-side redirect (rather than the server-side options described above).

How To Redirect a Blogspot Blog To Another Site – Detailed Steps:

Rather than putting an instruction directly onto your server, we’re going to add a Meta Refresh tag to the header of your old blogspot site. This will refresh the page content, and in the process, send visitors to your new website. It does have some downsides, which we’ll outline later. But the advantages will generally outweight the negatives.

And don’t be scared of the code in the steps below. It really is very simple.

Step 1:

Go to Blogger and log into your website. When you’re viewing the main dashboard, click on ‘Theme’ in the left hand menu. You’ll see a preview of your theme with the option to ‘Edit HTML’ under the ‘Live on Blog’ window.

Click Edit HTML and you’ll see the code for your site:

How To Redirect a Blogspot Blog Theme Editing

This can look intimidating, but adding the Meta Refresh code is very simple. You need to locate the <head> tag in the code, and then add the following code straight after it:

<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’http://www.yournewwebsite.com/'” />

Obviously you’ll replace yournewwebsite.com with your new url!

I’ve highlighted the relevant code in the example below with a couple of red stars.

How To Redirect a Blogspot Blog Theme With Redirect Code

Now click on Save Theme, and you’re done!

Visit your blogspot.com address and check the redirect works.

 

Meta Fresh: Options and Downsides?

There’s not a huge amount of options available when you have a client-side redirect with a Meta Refresh Tag. The main one is how long it takes for your redirect to work. If you’ve put a message on your site explaining what’s happening, you may want to give your visitors time to see it before they’re sent to your new website.

Luckily, that’s simple. If you take another look at the code:

<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’http://www.yournewwebsite.com/'” />

You can see there’s a 0 value after content. Simple adjust that for the number of seconds you want to allow visitors to stay on your old site and see whatever is left there to explain the redirect.

See, easy!

Now for the Meta Refresh downsides.

Unfortunately, being an easy way to redirect visitors without accessing a server means Meta Refresh Tags have often been used by spammers and other people who might be less than honest.

So many SEO specialists will recommend that your refresh time is set to at least 5 seconds to avoid being seen as dubious and incurring a potential problem.

Also due to the spam problem, search engines will generally not pass all of the SEO value of the original site. You’ll still get some benefit, and obviously it’s better than nothing. But using a server-side redirect should generally be seamless for traffic and SEO authority.

 

The Best Solution for Redirecting Blogspot Sites?

Although using a Meta Refresh Tag won’t pass all of the SEO equity of your original blogspot site, it’s still going to pass more than if you didn’t put in any redirect at all. And as long as you keep an eye on your site to ensure you’re not accidentally seen as trying to trick users, then it has the major benefit of ensuring your existing traffic is carried across to your new website.

 

Inspirational Business Lessons From Historic Japan

Normally business stories are shared for one of two reasons. Either it’s a new company showing fast growth, or an establish company dominating the market place. But when expansion is unsustainable it can lead to problems or even bankruptcy. And there can only be a small number of massively dominant companies in a single niche. Which is why I think there are some inspirational business lessons from historic Japan. Because they’re about different ambitions entirely.

Of the oldest companies in the world still operating, the majority are all from Japan. And the oldest trio that have not been absorbed into another country re the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Koman and Hoshi Ryokan hotels. The first was founded in 705AD, with the others in 717AD and 718AD respectively.

Which means the Nishiyama Onsen Kieukan has been open for 1,313 years. And has been operated by 52 generations of the founder Fujiawara Mahito. It’s not particularly expensive compared to a spa hotel in most countries around the world, costing around £300 per night. And with 37 rooms, it’s not particularly big.

Inspirational Business Lessons From Historic Japan

There are two elements of Japanese business and tradition that stand out. Other countries have businesses running from similar dates, Sean’s Bar, the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to 900 AD, and The Bingley Arms in England (905-953AD).

The first is that the Japanese hotels are still managed by the families of the founders. Which means they’ve been sustainably owned and cared for throughout the 1,300 years. Rather than the current trend to build quickly, sell and move on.

It’s why we’re seeing more people come to respect businesses like Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals), who aimed for sustainable growth. Or why the recent decision of the founders of Wistia to take on $17 million in debt to regain control and continue building their company is so interesting.

There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, or wanting to build something and sell it. But it’s not the only way. As anyone who has run any type of business will probably share, a worthwhile aim will help you enjoy the journey, especially as it’s inevitably harder than you might have expected.

Business Climbing

The second point is the idea of evolution and rebuilding. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Ise Jingu grand shrine in Mie Prefecture. Even if you don’t know it by name. Every 20 years local people will tear it down and rebuild it anew. And have done so for at least 1,300 years. The actual rebuilding takes eight years to prepare, including four years for the timber. So why do people willing go through it?

The act of taking apart the temple and rebuilding helps to preserve the original design, but also keeps the traditional skills alive. And at the same time it reinvigorates the spiritual and communal bonds.

 

Using This Inspiration For Yourself:

Hopefully you can take a couple of things from the oldest businesses in the world. The first thing it’s reminded me is that I can work hard to create and achieve something other than the next Google or Facebook. And that it’s not important whether I’ve achieved the fastest ever growth for 12 months or 24. Part of my inspiration for continuing to run my own business is the idea that perhaps my son, or one day, maybe his children might take it on.

Doing that necessitates strong foundations, philosophies and things other people can carry with them. Which also means I’m better prepared if exponential growth did occur.

It can also mean something that goes outside your immediate family. For example the philanthropy of people like Andrew Carnegie or Rockefeller in the past. And the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet today.

The second is a little less literal. I’m not proposing every business tears down their shop or factory every 20 years. I suspect most business leases actively discourage it! But what you can do is regularly tear down your strategy, plans and business philosophy, and then rebuild it to ensure you’re working in the right way, and still pursuing the right goals.

It’s easy to stick to an aging plan, or drift from your original strategy, and not even realise in the daily grind. Then it stretches to weeks, months and years. And you don’t take a step back and see that you’re potentially doing the wrong things to achieve your ambition.

The value of doing that can be seen in a number of companies. For instance, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard explains eloquently in his book ‘Let My People Go Surfing‘ how at times the company slipped and had to refocus. It’s a great book, by the way, and is one of a number that are helping me refocus what I’m working on.

We’ve seen a lot of upheaval in the UK, and in the U.S in recent months and years. And I definitely wonder how differently in might have been if politics, business and personal ambitions were more about how decisions would matter for the next 500 or 1,000 years.

Search Traffic Refers More Visitors Than Social Media in 2017

Reports of the demise of search engine optimisation, and the dominance of social media, will need to be updated as search traffic sent more visitors to websites than social in 2017.

The figures come from a variety of sources. Shareaholic put Search at 34.8% of site visits compared to social at 25.6% in 2017, which puts Search as the biggest source of traffic for the first time since 2014. Meanwhile Chartbeat has consistently had Search ahead, but referrals grew since August 2017. Parse.ly also confirmed the rise for search and drop for social media.

Search Traffic Refers More Visitors Than Social Media in 2017

 

What is changing to search and social traffic?

Social Media platforms have come under criticism for their handling of fake news, spam content and clickbait. And as the largest of the networks, Facebook has come under particular scrutiny. So as a result, the most recent changes to the Facebook newsfeed have attempted to boost trusted sources and demote the rest.

At the same time, the efforts by Google to improve mobile search access, particularly around Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), have been driving a growth in search volume and traffic, while desktop activity remains largely the same.

 

What to do for your business?

The ‘battle’ between Search and Social for biggest source of website traffic is largely a pointless one. Regardless of which is marginally bigger, you really want to be using both to the best of your ability.

Search remains not only a large source of traffic, but one which converts to action well. Because if you’re optimising for the right searches and content, you’ll attract people actively in the market for your products and services. And it will deliver you a good source of new customers who don’t already know about your company.

Meanwhile Social remains a great way to increase engagement and repeat purchases. You can use it to reach targetted new customers, and to promote sales to existing fans. And to also improve your customer service and engagement. But it’s not really at its best as a pure sales channel generally. There are exceptions, and some small companies do a lot of social media-based sales through Facebook, Instagram etc. But although all companies can change how they rank, promote and share content via their platform, having a business based on social media sales through 1-2 channels will always seem a little riskier than also having search, email and other sales mechanisms in place.

 

If you’d like to know how we’ve increased sales through search, social media, content marketing and other methods, get in touch…

 

 

 

Clever Marketing From Marlboro

Smoking is bad. Even most smokers will agree that it’s expensive and has a range of negatives even aside from the massive increases in health risks. That includes everything from nicotine stained skin to the potentially risk of setting your own hair alight during a student event at a nightclub in Hull. While the last example may have just applied to me in the 1990s, generally most people have been in favour of increased restrictions on cigarette sales, advertising and marketing.

But the flip side is that it has forced cigarette promotions to become more interesting and innovative. The strong, iconic branding allowed variations on brand names to get around new rules on sports sponsorship. For instance, the Jordan F1 team was sponsored by Benson & Hedges for around 10 years, but switched to variations including Bitten & Hisses, Buzzin Hornets and Be On Edge where cigarette sponsorship was banned.

There are also plenty of examples of product placement, including paying stars like Silvester Stallone directly to use particular products in films. And books like Buyology by Martin Lindstrom suggested how brand associations like cowboys, camels and less obvious examples including colours etc can trigger us into craving a cigarette as much, if not more, than a direct advert would have done.

Which is why I admire the skill of those promoting smoking, and look to learn from them to better promote less harmful products (We work with a wide range of brands, but have turned down offers from companies we believe offer products or services which aren’t beneficial to customers).

 

Clever Marketing From Marlboro

A new law was passed in the UK in 2016. From May 2016, all cigarette packets will be a standard green colour, logos will be prohibited, menthols are being banned, and 10-packs of cigarettes have also been withdrawn. But there has been a year’s grace period for companies to adjust and sell old stock.

So in reality it means we’re going to see branding and packets of 10 cigarettes disappear from shelves by May 2017. And that’s why I have to admit some admiration for what Marlboro has done when I visited the shops…

Clever Marketing From Marlboro. 10 pack tin packaging

It looks like a normal packet of 10 Marlboro Lights and costs the same as it did last week. But rather than being the standard cardboard packaging, it’s a durable tin packet.

And I suspect many of the marketers reading this will have already guessed why.

From May, the company will lose all their iconic branding. And anyone who previously bought a pack of 10 might well give up, rather than double their daily expenditure on a packet of 20. For instance, when I’ve cut down by smoking before eventually quitting, I found buying a pack of 10 meant I definitely tried to make them last longer.

Without that option though, I might have just gone cold turkey.

So now they’ve taken a probably marginal hit in their profits in the short-term to provide smokers with a way to continue to share their branding, and to potentially still provide that 10-pack limit.

And while for many it’s an addiction with well-known health risks, most smokers will still feel slightly cooler taking out a branded Marlboro tin and refilling it from the non-branded packs than having to take out a dull green pack with a large diseased lung on it.

 

Marketing Under Restrictions Promotes Creativity:

Would Marlboro have done something like this to promote their brand without the upcoming regulations and bans? I highly doubt it.

I’d imagine most people reading this don’t have an unlimited budget or freedom. But if you did, the danger is that you’d simply pile much more money into doing the same things. And you’d have no incentive to optimise your Adwords spend or paid Facebook content if you could just double the budget instead.

Whereas the most creative marketing often comes from constraints. Whether that’s from laws, budgets or other restrictions, it’s something that can result in far more interest and impact. I’ve just been reading ‘Things A Little Bird Told Me‘ by Biz Stone, and in it, he talks about his time designing book covers. When a brief insisted a particular photo had to be used, other designers would avoid taking that work. Instead, Biz Stone would rush to grab that job, take the photo, and then do something like blow it up 2000 times to use the massively pixellated version.

Employees are often advised ‘Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions’.

Perhaps our marketing motto should be ‘Don’t complain about constraints, bring me creative innovations’?

How To Solve WP-Cron Job Errors Caused By WordPress Hosting

Want to know how to solve WP Cron Job errors caused by WordPress hosting? It’s actually easier to spot and fix than you might think. And just five minutes resolving the issue can make a big difference to the performance of your WordPress website, usability and search engine optimisation.

Whether you need to change your wp-cron.php settings will depend on your internet host. Some hosts will disable it from running due to resource usage and legitimate security concerns. For example, Heart Internet. Others I know that encourage manual cron jobs include InMotion, Hostgator and many more.

 

What Are WP-Cron Job Errors:

You can spot if you have any WP Cron Job errors fairly quickly. If you look at your website, or the list of pages visited in your analytics software, do you ever see urls with ?doing_wp_cron= followed by a string of numbers?

So for example http://www.thewayoftheweb.net/how-to-solve-wp-cron-job-errors-caused-by-wordpress-hosting?doing_wp_cron=128337.128371298731298371923

If so, that indicates that you currently have an issue. Especially as those urls will be duplicates of existing articles.

 

What is a WP-Cron Job And Why Does It Fail:

WordPress uses a file named wp-cron.php as the way to scheduled automated tasks. For instance checking for updates, sending emails and automated tasks like backing up. It’s a virtual cron job which is triggered whenever a scheduled task is due to run, which can be either due to someone visiting and generating an automatic email, or having your back-up set to run on a regular basis.

So when someone lands on any page on your WordPress site, the wp-cron.php file could fire up and check whether it needs to send anything

On many WordPress hosts, this will run as intended. But some disable this functionality from running because it means that large visitor numbers can fire the virtual cron jobs a lot of times, using up the resources on your server. It’s also a potential security vulnerability.

For example, this site is hosted by Heart Internet, and their default setting is to have wp-cron.php disabled.

 

What Problems Do WP-Cron Errors Cause?:

There are two issues which can be created by wp-cron.php not working as intended. The first is that plugins and functionality which relies on cron jobs may not work properly, or might generate errors. So that includes things like scheduled posts, but also a lot of plug-in functionality for tasks like automated back-ups, auto-generated emails etc.

The other issue is potentially worse, as you may not spot it until you go looking. By creating a duplicate of your article with the same url gaining ?doing_wp_cron on the end, essentially you end up with at least two versions of every WordPress post you create.

That obviously has big implications for SEO, as search engines definitely do not like large-scale duplicate content. Even more annoying is the fact that the redirects and canonicalisation it causes will point to the duplicate version, rather than the original. So you’ll generally find your pages will be dismissed from search engine listings, and you’ll have a large number of 404 and soft 404 errors listed in Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

Essentially it makes your legitimate site look like an effort to spam search engines. As well as potentially causing people to link to your duplicate version, minimising the benefit of getting an external website link.

So basically, it’s not good. Fortunately the fix is relatively quick and painless.

 

How to Solve WP-Cron Job Errors Caused By WordPress Hosting

To fix the problem, you just need to follow 3 simple steps.

  1. Disable the wp-cron.php from firing when someone visits your website.
  2. Set up a manual cron job to run on a set schedule. If you run multiple sites on one server, then stagger the times to avoid firing everything at once.
  3. Redirect the incorrect urls so that they point to the article addresses you actually want to rank, and stop confusing search engines.

 

1. How To Disable wp-cron.php

So first we need to stop that pesky wp-cron.php from causing any more problems. This is relatively simple once you’ve accessed the wp-cron.php file which is part of your WordPress software.

You can get to the files in your WordPress install via your hosts CPanel controls, although I prefer to use an FTP client to log into the server. With most hosts, you’ll need to log into the CPanel to unlock ftp access before using the details they supply in whatever FTP software you prefer. Personally, I’ve used Filezilla for years with no issues as it’s free, open source and frequently updated.

When you connect with Filezilla, you’ll generally see a default WordPress install puts all your files into a folder named Public.html. Open that and within the list you should find your wp.config.php file. This controls specific functions of your website, including cron jobs.

Click to view and edit. And before you do anything else, save a copy in notepad or similar just in case anything goes wrong. If you forget, you’ll either need to find the example listed on WordPress.org or reinstall WordPress.

You should see some text relating to your specific installation, and then:

/** Database Charset to use in creating database tables. */ define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘utf8’);
/** The Database Collate type. Don’t change this if in doubt. */ define(‘DB_COLLATE’, ”);

Underneath that text, simple add the following line:

define( ‘DISABLE_WP_CRON’, true );

You may seem some advice suggesting using define( ‘ALTERNATE_WP_CRON’, true ); as a solution, but every WordPress.org describes it as ‘a bit iffy’, and I’ve never found it to work yet. And the extra time for replacing the disabled version is only a couple of minutes more…

2. Set Up Your Manual Cron Job

For this step, you need to set up a manual cron job to run via your hosting company cPanel rather than relying on WordPress. This may be located in different places depending on your host – for example, Heart Internet list Scheduled Tasks under Web Tools. Wheras for InMotion you can find it listed as Cron Jobs under Advanced.

You then need to enter the script to run. For Heart Internet use:
/usr/bin/php5 /home/sites/yourdomainnamehere/public_html/wp-cron.php

And the space between php5 and /home is intentional! You’ll need to use the version of PHP your site is running on for it to run. For example, if you’re using php7, then you’ll need:

/usr/bin/php7 /home/sites/yourdomainnamehere/public_html/wp-cron.php

You should then be able to test it and if it’s correct, you’ll see the following pop up:

Solve WP-Cron Job Errors Caused By WordPress Hosting

‘The page at https://hosting.heartinternet.uk says
Your script returned the following:
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.17
Content-type: text/html’

InMotion, for example, recommend using the following, and replacing userna5 with your cPanel user name.

cd /home/userna5/public_html; php -q wp-cron.php

If there’s a problem, the first thing to check is the PHP version you’re using.

The only other thing to set is how often you want the manual cron job to run. Generally, you could run it every 6 hours for a low traffic site, or every hour if you have a more popular site. Either way, it’s going to actually work, and you can adjust the frequency if your hosting company alerts you to increased server usage (or you can check the server logs to preempt any warnings…)

So now we have the cron job issue fixed, as per existing advice and guides online.

But actually there’s still a big problem. We still have potentially thousands of duplicate pages floating around, and the confusion for search engines trying to find the right ones to list in search results.

For one site I left to test, the number of incorrect pages being visited had jumped over the last couple of months to be almost 50% of the total pages viewed on the site! Definitely not good.

Fixing WordPress Cron Usability and SEO Issues:

So to reconcile the right urls for users and search engines, we need to direct them to the right pages.

We could do that manually by individually redirecting each error. For instance, you could use a plugin like Redirection and go through everything listed in Google Analytics (or at least anything getting a reasonable amount of traffic).

That’s not the best use of your time though, and there’s a far better way.

Fire up your FTP client again, and this time you’re looking for your .htaccess file in your public.html folder.

When you select view and edit, you should see something like:

# Switch rewrite engine off in case this was installed under HostPay.
RewriteEngine Off

SetEnv DEFAULT_PHP_VERSION 5

DirectoryIndex index.php

 BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
</IfModule>

# END WordPress

All we need to do to redirect every example of ?wp_doing _cron is add a rewrite for it. I’m no expert in creating rewrite conditions, so cheers to Rob Hughes from https://whitemousedigital.com for his assistance with this…

You just need to add:

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (^|&)doing_wp_cron=[0-9]+.[0-9]+(&|$) [NC]
RewriteRule ^ %{REQUEST_URI}? [R=301,L]

For example:

# Switch rewrite engine off in case this was installed under HostPay.
RewriteEngine Off

SetEnv DEFAULT_PHP_VERSION 5

DirectoryIndex index.php

#Rewrite Wp Cron Errors:
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (^|&)doing_wp_cron=[0-9]+.[0-9]+(&|$) [NC]
RewriteRule ^ %{REQUEST_URI}? [R=301,L]

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
</IfModule>

# END WordPress

The # indicates something which is there for your notes, rather than something which is part of any condition. So #Rewrite Wp Cron Errors: is a useful reminder of what that bit was added to do, particularly if I want to go back and remove it after switching WordPress hosting, or need to find it to copy across for another site if this post and my notes all mysteriously vanish.

Now you should see that when you visit one of the old urls with ?wp_doing_cron, it should automatically 301 Redirect you to the correct url. You may find that analytics/search console add your website name again after the first / in a url, so just remove that before testing as it’s a slight glitch in logging the data, rather than yet another alternate.

Not only does this mean that your users will now end up at the right place should they visit the old duplicate url. It also makes it clear to every search engine which one is the correct url, and which one is a load of old rubbish they should ignore. And by using a 301 redirect, if someone has linked to the duplicate url from their website, you pass approximately 70% or so of the value of that link to the right place, rather than losing it all.

OK, so that quick and simple solution has now resulted in 1,700 words. So here’s the quick version:

Troubleshooting WP Cron Errors:

When this hasn’t worked, there are generally a few reasons I’ve discovered:

  • Using the wrong PHP version in the code for the manual cron job
  • Reinstalling or using a .htaccess file which has ( ‘ALTERNATE_WP_CRON’, true ); in it. This has to be removed from your .htaccess file. Otherwise it can mean the final redirect doesn’t work, and you geta  500 server error every time you try and visit your website.

 

The TL:DR WP Cron Fix Summary:

  1. Turn off any existing wp-cron.php tasks by adding define(‘DISABLE_WP_CRON’, ‘true’); to your wp.config.php.
  2. Set up a manual cron job via the cPanel control for your host. E.G /usr/bin/php5 /home/sites/yourdomainname/public_html/wp-cron.php in Heart Internet’s Scheduled Tasks section.
  3. Redirect all the duplicate rubbish urls to the right ones by adding
    #Rewrite Wp Cron Errors:
    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (^|&)doing_wp_cron=[0-9]+.[0-9]+(&|$) [NC]
    RewriteRule ^ %{REQUEST_URI}? [R=301,L]
    into your .htaccess file.
  4. Use one of the old duplicate ?wp_doing_cron urls to check it is now redirecting correctly.
  5. Repeat for all WordPress installs that might be affected on that host.
  6. Feel smug you can now solve WP-Cron Job Errors Caused By WordPress Hosting

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Peterborough STEM Festival – October 1, 2016

The WayoftheWeb is lucky to not only worth with clients across the UK, Europe and around the globe, but also have a team of colleagues similarly distributed. It gives us the benefit of lower costs and the ability to tap into a wider range of skills and experience. Plus it also gives us the chance to travel a fair bit!

When I started the company seven years ago as a solo consultant, I was based in Peterborough. Realising early on that I missed the real world interaction I’d had with colleagues, I suggested to a few friends that we arranged a social gathering in a local pub. And that turned into the successful monthly DPiP meetup.

Having left the area to establish a new headquarters for the company in Kent (more news on that in the near feature), we’re still involved with DPiP, so it was exciting to originally hear plans for the first ever Peterborough STEM Festival. And it’s even more exciting to know that the free, family-friendly event will take place on October 1st, 2016. As a coincidence, it’s also the anniversary of our start as a company!

Peterborough STEM Festival

It’s a packed day of fascinating speakers, interesting workshops and cool demos and exhibitors. All supporting the drive for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in education, and also Ada Lovelace day (which celebrates the achievements of women in those fields).

It’s great to know something we’ve played a part in will be delivering something so inspiring. And switching pronouns again, I’ll be volunteering at the festival to help out. There’s no doubt some of the children attending will be the type of employees we’ll all be hoping to hire in the future.

Although the event in free, you do need to book tickets in advance to help the organisers manage numbers. And pre-booking for the workshops will open shortly, as there will be limitations to how much space is available.

WordPress Update Error: Download failed.: Failed to write request to temporary file

We currently manage around 35 WordPress installations and websites for a variety of clients and my own projects. I originally started using WordPress for my own websites around 10 years ago, and over time I’ve arranged a range of hosting, themes and plugins that I know I can trust.

When I recently updated to the latest version of WordPress, I received the following error message: WordPress Update Error: Download failed.: Failed to write request to temporary file.

Strangely it only occurred on one of my sites from the 35 I updated, and it’s a site which has run without issue for several years. It’s an error message I couldn’t remember seeing before, so it was time to do some investigating. And it’s why I’ve written this post as a reminder if it occurs again.

Fixing_Wordpress_Error_Failed_Temporary_File

 

WordPress Update Error: Download failed.: Failed to write request to temporary file

The error message appears when you attempt to automatically the core WordPress files, plugins or themes on the affected website. There’s no other information to accompany the message, and it appears there are various ideas as to what may cause it. The most common reason given is that the WordPress update will place temporary files in a directory on your server which isn’t specific to WordPress. That’s normally limited in terms of space by your website host, and it appears that a full temporary file may trigger the error.

Generally old files should be cleared out of the folder automatically, but that doesn’t always happen. So over the course of time, it can become full.

However there are some questions about this – contacting my website host for that particular site via support indicated that the temporary folder was only 5% full. That may have been because I’d completed the required updates via a workaround (details below), but it may indicate there’s another issue.

The other suggestion is a server configuration issue which means it’s not set up to properly use a temporary folder, which also makes sense. It could occur on an existing site if something has been changed by your website hosting provider for that particular server.

 

Fixing Failed to write request to temporary file:

So there are several things you can try:

  • Check whether there is any issue with space on your server or via your cPanel account.
  • Clear out the temporary directory of any files you know are no longer required.
  • Check and alter the user permissions for the WP-Content folder via your cPanel to have chmod 755
  • Edit the wp-config file to add a new line of code.

It was editing the wp-config file that immediately solved my own issue.
Two important things to note:

  • Before you make any changes or delete anything, it’s best to back things up. Some of the files in your temporary directory may relate to website stats software or have other uses which means you’ll need to keep them.
  • If you’re adjusting user permissions or editing your wp-config file, it can be a security risk, so make sure you switch them back afterwards.

 

Server Space and Set-Up:

Even if you can access your temporary folder (e.g. /tmp) via ftp, you may not be able to actually edit or delete anything. Particularly if you’re on shared servers (the most common set-up for lower priced hosting, including for most blogs etc). So you’ll need to contact your website hosting provider or raise a support ticket.

I pick my hosting based on the speed and quality of their product and their customer support, so I had a reply within an hour on a Sunday morning. But as the WordPress update was security based (and I tend to be a curious fellow), I didn’t want to wait while they responded, so I moved onto the next step.

 

WP-Content chmod 755:

The chmod setting controls who can Read, Write (delete and add folders) and Execute (run scripts) to folders on your website. Generally by default you want to have access to change things without letting anyone else make edits. Which is why generally your WP-Content folder should be set to chmod 755

To check, log into your website hosting provider, and navigate to your File Manager. Generally you’ll be able to see your chmod settings there and change them if necessary. One suggested solution is to temporarily change the WP-Content folder to chmod 777 which allows anyone to upload to it – obviously this is a massive security risk, so if you try this, change it back afterwards immediately!

 

Edit WP-Config:

So, first you need to open up your File Manager in your web host cPanel, or get into your site via ftp.

Locate your wp-config.php file.

 

It should look something like the following, with the name of your Database in it:

* @package WordPress
*/

// ** MySQL settings – You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */ define( ‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’ );

/** MySQL database username */ define( ‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’ );
/** MySQL database password */ define( ‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’ );

/** MySQL hostname *
/ define( ‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’ );

 

All you then need to do is add the following, before the MySQL details:

define(‘WP_TEMP_DIR’, ABSPATH . ‘wp-content/’);

 

So it will look something like:

* @package WordPress
*/
define(‘WP_TEMP_DIR’, ABSPATH . ‘wp-content/’);

// ** MySQL settings – You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */ define( ‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’ );

/** MySQL database username */ define( ‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’ );
/** MySQL database password */ define( ‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’ );

/** MySQL hostname *
/ define( ‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’ );

Then just save, close, and try to run your updates again.

 

When it’s all fixed:

When all the required updates have run, make sure you reset any changes to your chmod permissions, and also remove the line of code from WP-Config.

Even if you’ve managed to solve the problem via those workarounds, it’s worth contacting your website hosting provider to see whether the /tmp file needs clearing, or if there’s a server configuration problem. Otherwise you’ll need to go through making the changes for every update in the future, and it’s very easy to accidentally leave your modified wp-config file live after the umpteenth update.

 

Flickr adds Downloadable Video Sharing

It’s not often that there’s a new feature worth talking about at Flickr. And it seems to have been so long that Flickr’s marketing team dropping it into a particularly bare email, giving it just two lines.

Flickr Photostream

But it’s actually quite interesting. Flickr has now made it possible to allow you to share videos in the same way as you can allow people to download your photos. You set your defaults and can tweak them for individual items.

It’s useful in two ways. Firstly it’s a way to allow videos to be used, modified and uploaded by others under a Creative Commons License, which is a great way to allow others to build on your work. And it also allows friends and family to potentially download and save videos which are important to them – meaning that your backup archive doesn’t just have to be on your own computer.

The first way is the most interesting though – obviously Youtube, Facebook and the likes of Instagram and Twitter are either the giants in online video or trying to get there. But although they all have ways to embed video and therefore display the original upload information and advertising, they don’t have any ways to allow people to share and download videos.

That relies on filesharing services like Dropbox, Hightail etc.

But that then relies on a personal relationship with the sender. I need to know the videos exist and be given the link to their location to be able to access them.

Flickr allowing video sharing changes that. It could really benefit a core group of video creators – although I wonder how many of them will actually be aware, given the lack of promotion about it. Strange considering how immensely important video is for big tech brands and publishers right now.

Youtube introduces Interactive Cards

Youtube has introduced interactive cards as a replacement for annotations on videos. There’s a new Cards tab available in the Youtube Video Editor to allow you to choose from 6 types; Merchandise, Fundraising, Video, Playlist, Associated Website and Fan Funding.

Youtube_Interactive_Cards

Youtube Interactive Cards

They’ll work across mobile and desktop and eventually annotations will be phased out to make way for the new interactive cards. Each type of card has specific settings – for instance Merchandise cards allow you to add an image, merchandise url and a call to action, while fan funding cards allow for donations to creators within the video itself.

They display as a small pop-up, and the teaser can then be clicked for more information. In addition there is an information button that shows throughout the video to see all cards at once. And the new interactive cards will also work in livestreams as well as pre-recorded video.

At the moment you can’t choose size, or position them anywhere other than on the right edge. You can have a maximum of 5 cards per video, and the colours are fixed. Plus their location will change depending on the device being used to view them – so it’s not a good idea to point to them when you’re on camera.