Monetise Your Jetpack-Enabled, Self-Hosted WordPress Site

write-this-way

I bought a small job lot of old inkwells a few years ago. I stuck feathers in them and photographed them. I may get some more feathers and try again.

Do You Jetpack?

Did you get an email from Jetpack? You probably will have done if you have any self-hosted WordPress sites with Jetpack installed.

Jetpack is a plugin made by Automattic (the commercial arm of WordPress). It’s for self-hosted WordPress sites and it gives you:

  • Site stats & analytics
  • Automatic social network sharing
  • Related posts to keep visitors on your site longer
  • Enhanced distribution on WordPress.com
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • 24/7 Uptime monitoring
  • Single sign-on
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Centralized, cross-platform dashboard
  • Bulk installation & management of plugins
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Streamlined content editor
  • High-speed content delivery network for images
  • Easy CSS editing
  • Contact forms
  • Custom image galleries

I have self-hosted sites with Jetpack installed and the main reason is for the nice Contact form and the social media sharing buttons built into the plugin.

The section in the email that interested me, was this:

Jetpack Ads is instantly available to all users who have purchased the Jetpack Premium plan — no approval process required. Once you’ve purchased the plan, activate the feature in the Engagement tab within Jetpack. You’ll start seeing ads on your site right away, and can tweak ad placement settings and view your earnings on WordPress.com.

It is interesting that as a website owner, Jetpack and WordAds doesn’t require that you have a certain minimum number of monthly visitors.

Nor does it require that your Alexa, or Klout, or Kred ranking are high, or that your content is high quality and not just ‘thin and spammy’.

Just pay for premium Jetpack and you are good to go.

And I am somewhat surprised at that because hitherto I have had the impression that WordPress is to some extent a gatekeeper of quality.

So what does Jetpack Premium ($9/month or just $99/year) give you? It gives you:

  • Automated, daily backups with one-click restores
  • Bulletproof spam filtering by Akismet
  • Daily, automated malware scanning
  • Dedicated priority security support

If you are running a self-hosted WordPress site, many web hosts offer backups and one-click restore. There are also a number of plugins that will backup your site off-site, such as to Dropbox.

Spam filtering by Akismet is free provided you are not monetising your site. So blogs get Akismet for free anyway. I guess that running WordAds implies the site is being monetised even if there is no other commercial aspect to the site – and so the spam filtering is justifiably described as a benefit.

Malware scanning is great, but preventing malware is better. Wordfence has a free version that gets good plaudits.

I can’t comment on dedicated security support as I don’t know what it entails or offers.

What is the competition – Google’s Adsense, of course. So this is a direct competitor to Google. Is it better?

What does ‘better’ mean?

For me it means this: Does it pay better and are the advertisements of higher quality? If the advertisements that appear on this WordPress.com site are anything to go by, I wouldn’t say so. I wrote about that a while ago under the title ‘Why, Dear WordPress, Oh Why?

I opened another browser to look at this site without me being logged in and currently I see advertisements for Expedia (a travel site), Very (a fashion outlet) and for something that I don’t want on my site because I strongly oppose the internet gambling laws in the UK. Here is a screen grab of the advertisement.

gamblead

Unlike some countries that keep a tight rein on online gambling the UK is full of advertisements for it on TV and it is a huge industry.

Meanwhile, household debt (credit card and loans) in the UK has gone through the roof. The average household debt excluding mortgage obligations is over £7,000.

I used to pay to not have Ads on this site. I stopped paying because I thought ‘Why am I doing this?’ – but now I figure that on next renewal I will pay just to keep gambling ads off the site.

In This Most Uncertain Of Times

This is a bit of a mishmash of a post, so forgive me if I wander into a different territory here.

Tamara and I have just been talking about the current state of the world – and this that follows touches on some of the things that we have been talking about.

The quote is from Isaiah Berlin’s 1957 Herbert Samuel lecture on Chaim Weizman, in which Berlin said:

Weizman had all his life believed that when great public issues are joined one must above all take sides; whatever one did, one must not remain neutral or uncommitted, one must always – as an absolute duty – identify oneself with some living force in the world, and take part in the world’s affairs with all the risk of blame and misrepresentation and misunderstanding of one’s motives and character which this almost invariably entails.

Consequently .. he (Weizman) called for no compromise, and denounced those who did. He regarded with contempt the withdrawal from life on the part of those to whom their personal integrity, or peace of mind, or purity of ideal, mattered more than the work upon which they are engaged and to which they were engaged and to which they were committed, the artistic, or scientific, or social, or political, or purely personal enterprises in which all men are willy-nilly involved.

He did not condone the abandonment of ultimate principles before the claims of expediency or of anything else; but political monasticism – a search for some private cave of Adullam to avoid being disappointed or tarnished, the taking up of consciously utopian or politically impossible positions, in order to remain true to some inner voice, or some unbreakable principle too pure for the wicked public world – that seemed to him a mixture of weakness and self-conceit, foolish and despicable.

Have You Seen Ghost

have-you-seen-ghost-guvner

Have you seen Ghost, guvnor? Sweet little publishing platform it is, and to you – cheap at twice the price.

The photo is of a man who was advertising a performance during the Fringe Festival here in Edinburgh last summer. And it seemed kind of appropriate as an intro to this post, given that I am recommending a non-WordPress publishing platform named Ghost.

I started a Ghost blog as an experiment because I wanted to see what I thought of being able to see the front-end finished page as I wrote. I didn’t expect much, but I find to my surprise that I like it a lot.

I could have started the blog on Ghost’s own servers, but the cost is quite high ($19/month) for the cheapest option – and that’s for a blog that is half serious and half an experiment.

Running a site on Ghost’s servers gets you one site, 25,000 page-views per month, unlimited transfer and storage, Automatic updates and backups, Upload any theme or app, Worldwide CDN & security protection, and SSL Support.

So if you have a high-traffic site that is built around text, then it might be a solution for someone.

There are other ways to get a site up and running. You can download the source code and run it on a VPN. It is unlikely you could run it on most shared servers because of the way Ghost is built.

If I had the skills and energy to do it, I could start one on Digital Ocean for a very small monthly cost. But in the end I took the easy and cheap option – £29.00/year for a blog on TSOHost.

Here’s the link to my blog on Ghost: Marginal Seat and here is a link to the About page where I talk about the experience of writing with Ghost.

Speeding Up A Self-Hosted WordPress Site

Speed – Who Wants Speed?

Yes, I know – you can’t use plugins on WP.com sites. But I also know lots of people who have WP.com sites and also have self-hosted WordPress sites.

And because WP.com is a great community able to reach lots of people, I am putting the information here as well.

Here’s the link to How To Improve Your Site’s Speed

To give you an idea of what you can expect, here is a screen grab of my results according to the website grading tool at GTMetrix.

nomorepencils-after-installing-wp-super-cache

Modifying Theme Files

The second piece of information I came across will be useful for anyone with a self-hosted site who doesn’t want to make a child theme.

It is how to make changes without losing the changes when the theme is updated.

I just listened to a talk by Lucy Beer at WordCamp San Diego. As with many WordCamp talks, it is recorded on WordPress.tv and you can sign up in the reader to follow those talks here on WordPress.com

In a nutshell, she says that if you have a self-hosted site but don’t want to use child themes or are uncertain about how to create one, then there are a couple of plugins you can use.

If you are using child themes, then there’s no need to use the plugins.

But if not, then these two plugins are in the WordPress repository:

With Modular Custom CSS you can make changes to CSS without touching the core files.

And with My Custom Functions you can add to the functions file safely. In fact, the plugin won’t apply the code if it is invalid.

I recommend you to listen to her talk on Customising Without Hacking and you will see how straightforward it is to use these.

HTTPs Everywhere And Custom Domains

Did you see the post from Barry, one of the staff at WP.com that free HTTPS is now active for all custom domains hosted on WordPress.com?

I looked at the URL of my site, which has a custom domain, and I saw the padlock.

Good. Google likes secure sites and sites under HTTPS are just generally better for avoiding hacking. OK, it’s not a big deal because WP.com looks after all the security issues – but still, it’s good.

Then what happened was that I wanted to check on a post I had written a little while ago about HTTPS/SSL coming to WP.com.

I wanted to find the post I had written but I noticed I didn’t have a search form on my site.

So I went into the Admin panel and pulled a Search widget onto the sidebar.

And suddenly the padlock disappeared. When I refreshed the page it appeared for a second and then disappeared. There was no padlock any longer. It was an ex-padlock.

What was going on?

I checked on WhyNoPadlock and the analysis said:

Insecure  call. Found on line # 237 in file: photographworks.me/index.html

I entered a search term for HTTPS in the Search box and a warning message came up. It said something like ‘This is an insecure form. Are you sure you want to proceed?’

Huh? It’s just a search term in a Search box!

I pulled the Search form off the sidebar and the padlock returned. Very strange. It seemed I might have found a bug. It couldn’t be something I had introduced, could it?

I don’t think so because I have not implemented custom CSS or any other alterations to the WP code.

I raised the issue with staff and meanwhile today the padlock is back even though the Search box is still there.

So maybe somehow it was just a glitch while things were propagating through the Internet.

However, I checked again with WhyNoPadlock and got the same warning.

So now that’s doubly confusing because the padlock is there.

Warning Messages

But there’s another thing going on here and that is that I have been getting warning messages when I comment on some sites. Again it says something like ‘This is an insecure form. Are you sure you want to proceed?”

Rebekah from Tassitus.com and I have discussed this when it has come up on some self-hosted WordPress sites.

So, and here’s a general question: Have you had an alert come up when you have commented or searched on a WordPress site recently?