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      How to Back up Your WordPress Website: A Complete Guide


      You’ve probably spent a lot of time perfecting your WordPress site and creating content for it. And (spoiler alert) after all that work, you want it to be successful.

      So what happens if your site is the target of a hack, data gets corrupted or accidentally deleted, or your site spontaneously combusts (metaphorically speaking)?

      via GIPHY

      Rather than whacking back the flames and shaking a fist at the sky (“Oh, the humanity!”), you’ll want to safeguard your site before trouble strikes with regular backups.

      A backup is simply a copy of your site, which can be used to restore it in case of emergency. If you always have a recent backup handy, you’ll be able to repair your site without melting down.

      In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about backups. This includes what they are, why they’re important, and how to actually create them. Plus, our in-house WordPress guru Mika Epstein will weigh in on why backups matter. And trust us: As a 40-time (!!!) WordCamp attendee and core contributor, she knows her stuff.

      An Introduction to Backups

      Jetpack is a comprehensive plugin that provides many security options and is included with our DreamPress plans.

      “The first thing you have to know is what makes your website a website. All sites consist of files, and many (like WordPress or any of our one-click installs) have a database as well where your content is stored. When you back up your site, you want to make sure you have a copy of all of those files and the database.” — Mika

      Your WordPress site relies on a lot of data and files in order to run properly. What’s more, the information it contains only grows as you add more content. This makes it increasingly important to protect this information from anything that could go wrong.

      Developing a comprehensive security plan for your website is a smart idea. WordPress is inherently secure, but that doesn’t mean it’s infallible. There are a lot of measures you can take to make it even less likely that your site will be compromised.

      • You can use a quality web host
      • Run your site on HTTPS instead of HTTP
      • Use a strong, unique password

      But the fact is, no matter how careful you are, there’s still risk involved in running a website. That’s why performing regular backups should be an integral part of your security plan.

      A backup is a copy of all your site’s key files and data, which you can store in a safe external location. If there’s a problem with your site you can’t fix, you can use this copy to restore your site to how it was before the issue occurred.

      Why It’s Crucial to Back up Your Website

      As mentioned above, there’s a lot you can do to protect your site. Still, it may end up compromised at some point, particularly if it’s a popular site with a lot of traffic. Here are just a few of the things that can happen:

      • Your site could get hacked, and your information could be tampered with or stolen.
      • Files might get accidentally (or intentionally) corrupted or deleted.
      • Something you install, such as a poorly coded plugin or theme, could break existing features.

      “Data loss is an inevitability. It happens to everyone and always at the worst possible time. Just like having that Word document you need for your final term paper bomb out as you hit save, the files on your web server are files, and, like anything else, they can become corrupted.” — Mika

      Without a backup to rely on, data loss can be a dire situation. You could permanently lose content or vital information, have difficulty getting your site to run the way it did before, or even see it brought down completely.

      With a backup, however, you have a quick way to solve these problems. You can copy over your backup and restore the site to its former state — before the hack, compatibility error, or other issue occurred. You can even use a backup to create a testing or staging site if you’d like, which can help you troubleshoot problems safely.

      But a backup isn’t a silver bullet. For example, it won’t help you get back stolen information (which is why it shouldn’t be the only security measure you take on your WordPress site). However, it’s a vital part of your strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked. Creating backups is one of those tasks that should be performed on every website — no matter its size, focus, or goals.

      2 Methods for Backing up Your WordPress Website

      Because backups are table stakes in the website world, there are a lot of simple ways to create them. Most of these techniques rely on tools you can download and use throughout the process. WordPress makes the process of putting together a backup fairly straightforward — and with a quality hosting plan, it’s even easier. Let’s discuss two methods for backing up your website, and talk about when to use each one.

      1. Create Backups Through Your Hosting Provider

      First, let’s talk about the easiest way to deal with the need for backups on your site. You can find and implement a solution on your own, and we’ll show you two ways to do so later on.

      However, if you’ve chosen the right web host, you may be able to get some help with the process. A quality web host can make the task of creating backups easier for you or even save them for you. This provides invaluable peace of mind and takes some of the work off your plate so you can focus on other things.

      “‘Now hold on!’ I can hear you say. ‘Y’all make server backups, of course, and you can just get my files from there!’ Yes, we do and we can. And if I were to tell you that 99.99 percent of the time, those backups work, you’d be delighted. That’s a pretty awesome number!” — Mika

      If you have a WordPress hosting plan here at DreamHost, for example, you’ll get access to some handy backup-related features. No matter what kind of plan you get, you can use a one-click backup option through your account to save your website’s database, as well as your users and mailboxes. You can then restore this backup if necessary.

      What’s more, if you decide to choose DreamPress (our managed WordPress hosting), you’ll have even more help with backups without lifting a finger!

      With DreamPress, your site will automatically get backed up daily. You don’t have to set anything up either; it’s included with the service by default. Pretty convenient, right? You won’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about remembering to manually back up your site or what to do if your site is compromised because you’ll always have a way to RickRoll back the clock with an automated backup. 

      When testing or making changes to your site, it’s pretty important to have the most recent version backed up before pushing anything live. We highly recommend adding this step into your web process, if you haven’t already.

      With DreamPress, the on-demand backup feature gives you full control to make a backup whenever you need to. Automated daily backups are great, but sometimes you need more than that. It’ll give you extra security and confidence to test new things more freely, knowing everything will be OK if something doesn’t turn out as expected. With a single click of a button, a fresh new backup will be available within minutes for you to access — just in case you need it.

      Learn more about the benefits of backups and hosting with DreamPress.



       

      2. Use a Plugin to Simplify the Backup Process

      “Having your very own backup — a backup to our DreamHost backup — means you’re not going to be in that 0.01 percent group of people, who are left out in the cold when everything goes cataclysmic. You will be able to quickly, safely, and easily restore your website to its glory days!” — Mika

      If you do want or need your own backup solution, your best bet is to use a plugin designed for the task. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that enable you to create backups. For some, that’s their only job, while others offer the feature as part of a larger security package. Either way, if you aren’t comfortable with the technical know-how required to back up your site manually (which we’ll address below), plugins are a simple and beginner-friendly option.

      DreamHost also offers a dedicated tool to help you perform this task. It’s called DreamObjects Backups and is available both for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory and pre-installed on many of our hosted websites. This plugin provides a scalable, flexible backup and storage solution.

      Using this plugin, you’ll be able to set up a backup schedule, set up how many backups should be saved, and more. When you create a backup, it will be stored in the DreamObjects cloud, our own external storage service. This way, it will be safe in the event that something happens to your site or even to your computer.

      To get started with DreamObjects Backups, you’ll first need to install the plugin (or simply activate it if it’s already installed on your site). Then, you’ll need to sign up for DreamObjects and create a user.

      You’ll be presented with a Key and a Secret Key. Copy and paste both into the corresponding fields on your WordPress dashboard.

      These keys will connect your WordPress site to your DreamObjects account so you can save your backups there. Now, return to your DreamObjects account page. There’s one more task to perform here. Click on the plus sign next to Add Bucket, and create a name for your ‘bucket’. This is simply a location where your backups will be stored.

      If you want, you can make multiple buckets to keep everything organized, but for now, you’ll just need one. Keep in mind that your bucket needs a unique name not in use by any other DreamObjects user, so you may need to try a few until you find one that works.

      Next, it’s time to go back to your WordPress dashboard. Navigate to DreamObjects > Backups, and select the bucket you just created from the drop-down menu. Then hit Update Options.

      Here, you can set up exactly how you’d like your backup system to work. You can choose whether to update your site’s files, database, or both (we recommend backing up everything for now).

      Then you can choose a backup schedule, and decide how many recent backups to keep. We suggest backing up your site daily, and keeping 15 backups at any one time. Keep in mind that your charge for using DreamObjects depends on how much you’re storing, so be cautious when choosing higher numbers.

      Finally, you can decide what type of notifications you’d like to see. Selecting All, for example, will let you know both when your backups succeed and if they fail for whatever reason. However, this option will mean you’ll need to log into your DreamObjects account to see notifications and download your backups. If you select to only see Success notifications instead, you’ll be able to do these things right from your dashboard.

      Once you’ve configured all of these settings, hit Update Options again. You’ll see a couple of new sections.

      Recent Backup Status is where you’ll find information about what backups have succeeded or failed, and be able to download them (depending on what you chose under Status Notifications). You also now have an Immediate Backup option, so you can create one right away. Selecting the Backup ASAP button will start the process, and won’t interrupt your scheduled backups.

      That’s it! Once you have a backup, either created by using the schedule or the ASAP button, it will be saved automatically in your DreamObjects bucket. You can download it and save it somewhere else if you’d like, and use it to restore your site if necessary.

      For now, you have all the tools you need to back up your website — whether through your host or with a plugin. Before we wrap up, however, let’s address a few best practices.

      How to Use Your Backups Most Effectively

      DreamObjects is a convenient cloud storage solution, where you can keep your backups safe indefinitely.

      Simply having recent backups is important, but it isn’t the whole story. We’ve alluded to this already, but how you save and store your backups matters just as much. If you do end up needing to restore your site, chances are you’ll want to be able to do so quickly and easily. This means being smart about how often you back up your site and where you store the resulting files.

      Let’s discuss the issue of frequency first.

      As with most questions about your website, there is no one backup schedule that’s perfect for everyone. How often you decide to back up your site will depend on a few factors. The most important consideration is how often the content on your site changes. If you publish frequent updates or blog posts or otherwise change the information on your site a lot, you’ll want to perform backups more often.

      If you rarely change anything on your site and you have little traffic, you may be able to get away with weekly backups. For most sites, a daily schedule is a better choice. If you publish multiple new posts per day or get a lot of comments and interaction, however, you may want to back up even more often. Ultimately, it’s smarter to err on the side of too many backups, rather than too few.

      What about location? You could store all your backups on your local computer, but if something happens to it you’ll lose everything. That’s why it’s best to store your backups in an external location — and to keep multiple copies in more than one place.

      Consider following the backup Rule of Three, which states you should have three copies of each backup, in at least two different formats, at least one of which is stored off-site. This may seem a little paranoid, but again, it’s never bad to be over-prepared.

      As for where to store your backups specifically, keeping a copy on your local machine allows for quick and easy access. Another copy could go on something portable, such as an external hard drive or a memory stick. Finally, cloud storage is an excellent idea, since you’ll be able to access your backups from anywhere. You can go with a free option such as Google Drive or opt for an option with more features, such as our own DreamObjects service.

      Once you have a backup schedule in place, be sure to stick with it!

      If disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did everything possible to keep your website’s data safe.

      Back It Up

      You can do a lot of things to ensure your site is as safe as possible from hackers, bugs, and accidents. However, you can never completely eliminate the risk of something going wrong. Given this, it’s essential to always have a recent, full backup of your site stored in a safe location, so you can restore your site quickly — just in case a Roland Emmerich-size disaster strikes.

      via GIPHY



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      Deploy a WordPress Site Using Terraform and Linode StackScripts


      Updated by Linode Contributed by Linode

      Linode’s Terraform provider supports StackScripts. StackScripts allow you to automate the deployment of custom software on top of Linode’s default Linux images, or on any of your saved custom images. You can create your own StackScripts, use a StackScript created by Linode, or use a Community StackScript.

      In this guide you will learn how to use a Community StackScript to deploy WordPress on a Linode using Terraform.

      Caution

      Following this guide will result in the creation of billable Linode resources on your account. To prevent continued billing for these resources, remove them from your account when you have completed the guide, if desired.

      Before You Begin

      1. Install Terraform on your computer by following the Install Terraform section of our Use Terraform to Provision Linode Environments guide.

      2. Terraform requires an API access token. Follow the Getting Started with the Linode API guide to obtain one.

      3. If you have not already, assign Linode’s name servers to your domain at your domain name’s registrar.

      4. Browse the existing StackScripts Library to familiarize yourself with common tasks you can complete with existing StackScripts.

      Create a Terraform Configuration

      Terraform defines the elements of your Linode infrastructure inside of configuration files. Terraform refers to these infrastructure elements as resources. Once you declare your Terraform configuration, you then apply it, which results in the creation of those resources on the Linode platform.

      Create the Terraform Configuration File

      1. Ensure that you are in the terraform directory.

        cd ~/terraform
        
      2. Using your preferred text editor, create a Terraform configuration file named main.tf to hold your resource definitions:

        ~/terraform/main.tf
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        provider "linode" {
            token = "${var.token}"
        }
        
        resource "linode_sshkey" "my_wordpress_linode_ssh_key" {
            label = "my_ssh_key"
            ssh_key = "${chomp(file("~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub"))}"
        }
        
        resource "random_string" "my_wordpress_linode_root_password" {
            length  = 32
            special = true
        }
        
        resource "linode_instance" "my_wordpress_linode" {
            image = "${var.image}"
            label = "${var.label}"
            region = "${var.region}"
            type = "${var.type}"
            authorized_keys = [ "${linode_sshkey.my_wordpress_linode_ssh_key.ssh_key}" ]
            root_pass = "${random_string.my_wordpress_linode_root_password.result}"
            stackscript_id = "${var.stackscript_id}"
            stackscript_data = "${var.stackscript_data}"
        }
        
        resource "linode_domain" "my_wordpress_domain" {
            domain = "${var.domain}"
            soa_email = "${var.soa_email}"
            type = "master"
         }
        
        resource "linode_domain_record" "my_wordpress_domain_www_record" {
            domain_id = "${linode_domain.my_wordpress_domain.id}"
            name = "www"
            record_type = "${var.a_record}"
            target = "${linode_instance.my_wordpress_linode.ipv4[0]}"
        }
        
        resource "linode_domain_record" "my_wordpress_domain_apex_record" {
            domain_id = "${linode_domain.my_wordpress_domain.id}"
            name = ""
            record_type = "${var.a_record}"
            target = "${linode_instance.my_wordpress_linode.ipv4[0]}"
        }

        The Terraform configuration file uses an interpolation syntax to reference Terraform input variables, call Terraform’s built-in functions, and reference attributes of other resources.

        Variables and their values will be created in separate files later on in this guide. Using separate files for variable declaration allows you to avoid hard-coding values into your resources. This strategy can help you reuse, share, and version control your Terraform configurations.

      Examining the Terraform Configuration

      Let’s take a closer look at each block in the configuration file:

      1. The first stanza declares Linode as the Terraform provider that will manage the life cycle of any resources declared throughout the configuration file. The Linode provider requires your Linode APIv4 token for authentication:

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        provider "linode" {
            token = "${var.token}"
        }
      2. The next resource configures an SSH Key that will be uploaded to your Linode instance later in the configuration file:

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        resource "linode_sshkey" "my_wordpress_linode_ssh_key" {
            label = "my_ssh_key"
            ssh_key = "${chomp(file("~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub"))}"
        }

        ssh_key = "${chomp(file("~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub"))}" uses Terraform’s built-in file() function to provide a local file path to the public SSH key’s location. The chomp() built-in function removes trailing new lines from the SSH key.

        Note

        If you do not already have SSH keys, follow the steps in the Create an Authentication Key-pair section of the Securing Your Server Guide.
      3. The random_string resource can be used to create a random string of 32 characters. The linode_instance resource will use it to create a root user password:

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        resource "random_string" "my_wordpress_linode_root_password" {
            length  = 32
            special = true
        }
      4. The linode_instance resource creates a Linode with the declared configurations:

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        resource "linode_instance" "my_wordpress_linode" {
            image = "${var.image}"
            label = "${var.label}"
            region = "${var.region}"
            type = "${var.type}"
            authorized_keys = [ "${linode_sshkey.my_wordpress_linode_ssh_key.ssh_key}" ]
            root_pass = "${random_string.my_wordpress_linode_root_password.result}"
            stackscript_id = "${var.stackscript_id}"
            stackscript_data = "${var.stackscript_data}"
        }
        • The authorized_keys argument uses the SSH public key provided by the linode_sshkey resource in the previous stanza. This argument expects a value of type list, so the value must be wrapped in brackets.

        • The root_pass argument is assigned to the value of the random_string resource previously declared.

        • To use an existing StackScript you must use the stackscript_id argument and provide a valid ID as a value. Every StackScript is assigned a unique ID upon creation. This guide uses the WordPress on Ubuntu 16.04 StackScript provided by Linode user hmorris. This StackScript’s ID will be assigned to a Terraform variable later in this guide.

          StackScripts support user defined data. A StackScript can use the UDF tag to create a variable whose value must be provided by the user of the script. This allows users to customize the behavior of a StackScript on a per-deployment basis. Any required UDF variable can be defined using the stackscript_data argument.

          The StackScript will be responsible for installing WordPress on your Linode, along with all other requirements, like installing and configuring the Apache Web Server, configuring the Virtual Hosts file, and installing MySQL.

        • Other arguments are given values by the Terraform variables that will be declared later in this guide.

      5. In order to complete your WordPress site’s configuration, you need to create a domain and corresponding domain records for your site. The linode_domain and linode_domain_record resources handle these configurations:

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        resource "linode_domain" "my_wordpress_domain" {
            domain = "${var.domain}"
            soa_email = "${var.soa_email}"
            type = "master"
         }
        
        resource "linode_domain_record" "my_wordpress_domain_www_record" {
            domain_id = "${linode_domain.my_wordpress_domain.id}"
            name = "www"
            record_type = "${var.a_record}"
            target = "${linode_instance.linode_id.ipv4[0]}"
        }
        
        resource "linode_domain_record" "my_wordpress_domain_apex_record" {
            domain_id = "${linode_domain.my_wordpress_domain.id}"
            name = ""
            record_type = "${var.a_record}"
            target = "${linode_instance.my_wordpress_linode.ipv4[0]}"
        }

        Note

        The linode_domain resource creates a domain zone for your domain.

        Each linode_domain_record resource retrieves the linode_domain resource’s ID and assigns it to that record’s domain_id argument. Each record’s target argument retrieves the IP address from the Linode instance. Every linode_instance resource exposes several attributes, including a Linode’s IPv4 address.

      Define the Input Variables

      In the terraform directory, create a file named variables.tf. This will define all the variables that were used in the main.tf file in the previous section. The values for these variables (aside from their default values) will be assigned in another file:

      ~/terraform/variables.tf
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      variable "token" {
        description = "Linode API Personal Access Token"
      }
      
      variable "image" {
        description = "Image to use for Linode instance"
        default = "linode/ubuntu16.04lts"
      }
      
      variable "label" {
        description = "The Linode's label is for display purposes only."
        default = "default-linode"
      }
      
      variable "region" {
        description = "The region where your Linode will be located."
        default = "us-east"
      }
      
      variable "type" {
        description = "Your Linode's plan type."
        default = "g6-standard-1"
      }
      
      variable "stackscript_id" {
        description = "Stackscript ID"
      }
      
      variable "stackscript_data" {
        description = "Map of required StackScript UDF data."
        type = "map"
      }
      
      variable "domain" {
        description = "The domain this domain represents."
      }
      
      variable "soa_email" {
        description = "Start of Authority email address. This is required for master domains."
      }
      
      variable "a_record" {
        description = "The type of DNS record. For example, `A` records associate a domain name with an IPv4 address."
        default = "A"
      }
          

      Note

      It is recommended to include a description attribute for each input variable to help document your configuration’s usage. This will make it easier for anyone else to use this Terraform configuration.

      Every variable can contain a default value. The default value is only used if no other value is provided. You can also declare a type for each variable. If no type is provided, the variable will default to type = "string".

      The stackscript_data variable is of type map. This will allow you to provide values for as many UDF variables as your StackScript requires.

      Assign Values to the Input Variables

      Terraform allows you to assign variables in many ways. For example, you can assign a variable value via the command line when running terraform apply. In order to persist variable values, you can also create files to hold all your values.

      Note

      Terraform will automatically load any file named terraform.tfvars and use its contents to populate variables. However, you should separate out any sensitive values, like passwords and tokens, into their own file. Keep this sensitive file out of version control.

      1. Create a file named terraform.tfvars in your terraform directory to hold all non-sensitive values:

        ~/terraform/terraform.tfvars
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        label = "wp-linode"
        stackscript_id = "81736"
        stackscript_data = {
          ssuser = "username"
          hostname = "wordpress"
          website = "example.com"
          dbuser = "wpuser"
        }
        domain = "example.com"
        soa_email = "user@email.com"
      2. Create a file name secrets.tfvars in your terraform directory to hold any sensitive values:

        ~/terraform/secrets.tfvars
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        token = "my-linode-api4-token"
        stackscript_data = {
          sspassword = "my-secure-password"
          db_password = "another-secure-password"
          dbuser_password = "a-third-secure-password"
        }

        Note

      3. Replace the following values in your new .tfvars files:

        • token should be replaced with your own Linode account’s APIv4 token.

        • For security purposes, the StackScript will create a limited Linux user on your Linode. ssuser should be replaced with your desired username for this user.

        • sspassword, db_password, and dbuser_password should be replaced with secure passwords of your own.

        • domain should be replaced with your WordPress site’s domain address.

        • soa_email should be the email address you would like to use for your Start of Authority email address.

      Initialize, Plan, and Apply the Terraform Configuration

      Your Terraform configuration has been recorded, but you have not told Terraform to create the resources yet. To do this, you will invoke commands from Terraform’s CLI.

      Initialize

      Whenever a new provider is used in a Terraform configuration, it must be initialized before you can create resources with it. The initialization process downloads and installs the provider’s plugin and performs any other steps needed to prepare for its use.

      Navigate to your terraform directory in your terminal and run:

      terraform init
      

      You will see a message that confirms that the Linode provider plugins have been successfully initialized.

      Plan

      It can be useful to view your configuration’s execution plan before actually committing those changes to your infrastructure. Terraform includes a plan command for this purpose. Run this command from the terraform directory:

      terraform plan 
      -var-file="secrets.tfvars" 
      -var-file="terraform.tfvars"
      

      plan won’t take any actions or make any changes on your Linode account. Instead, an analysis is done to determine which actions (i.e. Linode resource creations, deletions, or modifications) are required to achieve the state described in your configuration.

      Apply

      You are now ready to create the infrastructure defined in your main.tf configuration file:

      1. Run Terraform’s apply command from the terraform directory:

        terraform apply 
        -var-file="secrets.tfvars" 
        -var-file="terraform.tfvars"
        

        Since you are using multiple variable value files, you must include each file individually using the var-file argument. You will be prompted to confirm the apply action. Type yes and press enter.

      2. Terraform will begin to create the resources you’ve defined throughout this guide. This process will take several minutes to complete. Once the infrastructure has been successfully built you will see a similar output:

          
        Apply complete! Resources: 6 added, 0 changed, 0 destroyed.
        
        
      3. Navigate to your WordPress site’s domain and verify that the site loads. You may have to wait a few minutes more after the terraform apply command returns, as the StackScript takes time to install WordPress. Additionally, it make take some time for your domain name changes to propagate:

        Install WordPress

      4. Complete the remaining WordPress configuration steps provided by the prompts.

      (Optional) Destroy the Linode Resources

      If you do not want to keep using the resources created by Terraform in this guide, run the destroy command from the terraform directory:

      terraform destroy 
      -var-file="secrets.tfvars" 
      -var-file="terraform.tfvars"
      

      Terraform will prompt you to confirm this action. Enter yes to proceed.

      More Information

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      How to Start a Review Site With WordPress


      Reviews have become ubiquitous online, and it’s not hard to see why. Both professional and user reviews provide first-hand information that can help you make informed purchasing decisions. The best part is that anyone with some writing skills and passion can start a review site for themselves.

      A review site is one of the best ways you can use your knowledge and interests to create valuable content. By reviewing products in a particular niche, you can be creative while leveraging your expertise to help readers find the best solutions and services. Plus, you can even earn a decent income at the same time.

      In this article, we’ll talk about the basics of a review site and discuss why you should consider starting one. We’ll also show you what’s needed to make it successful and talk about how you can enhance it using the right theme and plugins. Let’s get to work!

      A Brief Introduction to Review Sites

      An example of a review on AllMusic.com.

      What do you do when you’re considering buying a particular product, but you’re not sure it’s right for you or worth the money? Like many people, you most likely seek out reviews to help answer your questions. Whether these are written by individual users or provided on dedicated sites, they can be immensely helpful when you’re trying to make informed decisions.

      Sites dedicated to offering reviews are aptly referred to as review sites. While this moniker is accurate, it’s also somewhat vague, as it refers to a variety of websites. For example, some sites aggregate many different people’s reviews. Rotten Tomatoes fits into this category, as it combines film reviews from professional critics and users to create an average score for each movie.

      Similarly, sites like TripAdvisor are entirely devoted to user reviews of hotels and other establishments.

      Two user reviews from TripAdvisor.

      However, a review site could also feature content created by one or more specific writers. These sites function similarly to print magazines, in that they usually have a roster of hired authors or freelancers who produce content. They can also vary widely in scope and subject matter, from huge international brands like Eurogamer to one-person operations such as Wake Up For Makeup.

      This broad spectrum of possibilities means it’s both possible and easy for pretty much anyone to create their own review site. We’ll be showing you how to do just that throughout this article.

      The Benefits of Running a Review Site

      In many cases, the main reason you would want to start your own review site is simply that you enjoy the work. Most sites of this nature are run by people with a passion for a particular topic. However, review sites offer a number of more practical benefits as well.

      For one, review sites can be excellent at driving traffic. We mentioned earlier that a lot of people will go looking for reviews before making purchases. So if you can write content that is clear, engaging, and authoritative, you’ll be primed to receive plenty of visitors.

      One of the reasons for this popularity is that review sites are uniquely suited to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That’s because your posts will almost by default match the keywords users are most likely to search for.

      For example, imagine that you run a review blog about WordPress plugins, and you write a post about Contact Form 7. You’ll most likely name it something to the effect of “Contact Form 7 – Review.” Someone curious about this plugin is most likely going to use a very similar search phrase, such as “contact form 7 review,” which makes it a lot more probable that they’ll stumble across your article.

      In addition to the SEO benefits, a review site also provides you with a lot of freedom over how you structure and display your reviews. You could make your site very basic and just use a standard blog interface, which is familiar to many people and easy to maintain.

      One example of this in action is IsItWP.

      The IsItWP.com home page.However, you could also go bigger and create a more structurally-complex site with an advanced scoring system, multiple reviews per product, and more. For example, HostingAdvice offers granular scores for added precision.

      An example of a review of DreamHost on HostingAdvice.com.

      Finally, a review site is particularly well-suited to being monetized. You have many options — such as including affiliate links alongside your reviews or featuring paid advertisements that are separate from your main content.

      However, it’s critical to remember that you don’t have to (and, in fact, shouldn’t) change the content of your reviews to suit your advertisers. If you’re not honest and frank with your users about the products you’re reviewing, they aren’t going to trust you and won’t stick around for long.

      What to Consider Before Starting a Review Site

      Before you start sharpening your critical wit, you’ll need to do some planning. First of all, you’ll naturally need to decide what the subject of your review site is going to be. As we discussed earlier, an excellent place to start when picking a niche is by considering your own interests.

      This will help you produce more authoritative reviews, as you’ll have some pre-existing knowledge to rely on. After all, few would be interested in reading reviews about board games, for example, if the writer clearly had little understanding of or experience playing them. Being passionate about your chosen topic will also make the overall experience much more enjoyable.

      When it comes to finding a niche you can fill, it’s a good idea to do some market research. You can start by looking at other review sites and investigating forums related to your subject matter, to see what users think of your competitors. This might give you some ideas about how you could tailor your reviews to better serve your target audience. If you can find an angle that no other site is using, you’ll have a better chance of success.

      You should also decide what methods you want to use to monetize your site. This could involve featuring paid advertisements, such as banners, or including affiliate links alongside your reviews. You could also offer exclusive content to those who sign up for a paid subscription.

      At last, you’ll need to consider the more practical aspects. What will your website look like and who will actually be writing the reviews? If you’re starting small, you might want to begin with a simple blog and yourself as the sole author. However, you can also go big right away with a more intricate structure and even hire a whole team of writers.

      Naturally, the scope of your site will depend largely on your goals and budget. It’s often best to start smaller and then expand your site over time, as this will minimize risks and enable you to grow organically as you receive more traffic. This is similar to creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), where you start with a bare-bones approach, focusing on a simple layout and high-quality content, and then scale it up gradually.

      How to Start a Review Site With WordPress (In 5 Steps)

      Once you have a plan and a niche in place, you’re ready to get busy with the fun part — actually creating your review site. To help you along, we’re going to walk you through the main steps involved.

      We’ll be using WordPress, so you’ll first need to install and set up a website, which should only take you a few minutes. After that, you’re ready to get to work!

      Step 1: Pick a Name and Host

      First and foremost, you’ll need to think up a name for your site. This part can be a lot of fun, as you get to be creative in order to find a name that suits your site’s intended tone and branding. While you can pick pretty much any name you want, there are some considerations to keep in mind. For example, your site’s name should be:

      • Memorable. It’s important that your name sticks in people’s memories. Making it short and punchy is a smart way to ensure this.
      • Unique. Naturally, you don’t want your site to get confused with anyone else’s. Once you have a list of possible names, simply use a search engine like Google to ensure that no other site is already using it (or a name that’s too similar).
      • On-brand. Make sure that your site’s name matches its identity and target audience. For example, a ‘quirky,’ modern name might not be ideal if you’re aiming for a straightlaced professional market. However, that type of name could be perfectly suited to a site with a more casual approach.

      It’s also essential that you can purchase a domain that matches your site’s name. As such, it’s a good idea to use a domain checker, to see if your top choices are available at a reasonable price.

      If you’re still struggling to think of a decent name and matching domain, there are also name generation tools that can help you brainstorm ideas. DomainWheel, for example, will create suggested names based on a specific term or category.

      A search on DomainWheel.com.Once you have your domain in place, you’ll also need to consider hosting. Since you’re likely expecting a decent amount of traffic, you’ll need a hosting plan that can ensure top-notch performance at all times. This will also ensure scalability as your site grows over time. Our recommendation would be to go with a WordPress-specific hosting plan, as this will make setting up and maintaining your site simple.

      Step 2: Install a Suitable Theme

      Next, you’ll want to consider your site’s appearance. Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress themes tailored specifically to review sites. While you don’t need to use a dedicated review theme, it can offer you several unique benefits.

      First of all, a review theme will be able to accommodate the layout and style of a review site easily. Many review themes also include specific functionality that can come in handy, like styles for applying scores or the ability to create lists of the reviews with the highest ratings.

      One example is the InReview theme.

      Example of a page using the InReview theme.

      This theme enables you to showcase your reviews alongside your final scores. You can also display ratings from your users to give readers a more rounded overview of each item.

      If you want something more stylish and with a magazine-like feel, there are also lots of suitable options. One of our favorites is the GoodLife theme.

      Example of a review using the GoodLife theme.

      With this theme, you can style your reviews using several different templates. Its goal is to help you create a modern, clean look, where the content is the central focus.

      Ultimately, the theme you decide to use depends mainly on your goals and target market. As such, it’s worth spending some time to find the perfect option.

      Step 3: Enhance Your Site With Review Plugins

      With the right theme installed, your site might already be equipped with some useful review features. However, you can improve its functionality even further by adding some select plugins. In this section, we’re going to introduce a few of the best plugins to enhance your review site.

      Let’s start with WP Product Review, which enables you to design a scoring interface.

      Alt text: The WP Product Review plugin.

      Once you’ve installed this plugin, you can specify if a post is a review. Then you can assign scores to the post and designate parameters, such as Pros and Cons. Plus, everything can be fully customized with new colors and icons.

      In addition to displaying scoring information on your site, you can also highlight it right in Google’s search results. To do that, you can use All In One Schema Rich Snippets.

      The All In One Schema Rich Snippets plugin.

      This tool will add schema markup to your pages, which will display information such as scores when your posts appear in search results. This can help your content stand out more, which is crucial for encouraging organic traffic.

      Finally, you may want to give your users the chance to submit their own reviews and scores. One plugin that lets you do this is Ultimate Reviews.

      The Ultimate Reviews plugin.

      This plugin lets you support user reviews, even enabling you to tailor precisely what information they can include. You could implement a simple score-only system, for example, or provide the tools needed to write long-form reviews.

      Naturally, this is only scratching the surface of the plugins that are available. For instance, you can also use a plugin like Reviewer WordPress to create a review comparison table, and Taqyeem to implement a summary box for your reviews. The possibilities are just about endless.

      Step 4: Start Writing Reviews

      Finally, the moment has come to actually start writing your reviews. Of course, we can’t help you much with this part, as you’ll need to rely on your own writing skills and critical thinking. However, to get started you may want to check out our blogging checklist and take a look at our expert blogging tips.

      We also recommend that you create a style guide. This will help you write consistent reviews that follow a specific set of standards, especially when it comes to the style of writing and the criteria you’ll use to rate products.

      A style guide is particularly helpful when you’re bringing in other writers, as it ensures that all posts follow a consistent ruleset. However, you’ll also want each writer’s personal style shine through, so try not to get too specific to avoid stifling their unique voices.

      It’s also a smart idea to have a handful of reviews ready before you launch the site. This will ensure that your site doesn’t feel empty when it goes live. You want to give your new visitors a good first impression, after all, and provide them with a reason to stay around longer.

      Step 5: Share Your Reviews

      Once your site has gone live, you’ll need to make the world aware of its existence. As such, you’ll want to start marketing your website right away, to ensure that you get a steady stream of traffic right out of the gate.

      Naturally, you’ll want to spend some time on SEO and make sure your site has a presence on social media. Share your reviews frequently and encourage your readers to do the same. The more your content is spread around, the more traffic you should see as a result.

      You might also consider submitting your site to a review aggregator. As we mentioned earlier, these sites collect reviews from multiple places to calculate average scores. Being featured on this type of site can help your reviews become more visible and reach new readers.

      Rave Reviews

      If you want to build an audience and make money online, while working with a subject matter that interests you, a review site is an ideal vehicle. By creating well-written and engaging reviews, you can provide valuable information to your readers, and create ample opportunity to monetize your work.

      Do you have any questions about starting your own review site with WordPress? Join the DreamHost Community today and ask away!



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