The festival of WordPress
January 22, 2021

This is an archive of the January 2021 event

Automating WordPress Workflows from Scratch

This presentation is about how to automate things with WordPress and to use WordPress at its true potential. WordPress is popular for ease of use, and a quick learning curve, but there are lots of tasks that you can automate on WordPress.

Be it digital marketers, store owners, or developers; there is scope for everyone to automate repetitive manual tasks. And you do not need to be a programmer or coder; these tools are as simple to use as WordPress itself.

I will share the reasons for automation, and how to do it properly for various tasks of WordPress. The audience will learn to take complete advantage of the integrations that WordPress offers.

Speaker: Arun Bansal

Time: 8:00am UTC
Region: Asia
Stage: Fused Stage

Hello everyone. And welcome to our session on automating WordPress workflows from scratch. I’m Arun Bansall founder and CEO of serverguy and You and we’ve been providing, managed WordPress and Magento hosting for over the last eight years. And I’m really obsessed with automation. This is something I try to do in all aspects of my life, whether it be personal, whether it be all organizations I’m associated with and.

Today, we’ll try to sort of share some of our experience and hopefully help you build your own automation framework. Uh, so let’s get started. So the question is that who needs automation? Well, basically everyone, anyone, everyone can gain out of automation. So whether you are a sales representative, a developer agency owner, a merchant, a blogger, or content writer, a digital marketeer.

Each one of you has something to gain from automation , uh, and , uh, you can do your job better. So next question comes, why automate? Well, to begin with, as soon as you start automating your team would , uh, you and your team would get more and more time to focus on core tasks, things which really matter things, which move your organization ahead.

Uh, another thing which automation helps is , uh, it. Ensures that any issues which are coming, they are more traceable and your systems overall become less prone to human error. Uh, another thing I really like about automation is like, it is scalable. So as you organization grows , uh, your team’s trend goes, your revenue grows automation skills with it.

You do not have to continuously keep on investing in that. Uh, Another thing, which automation helps houses with foster development. So think of a freelancer, think of an agency owner, you’ll be able to churn out applications, website e-commerce tools much, much faster. You’ll be a lot more efficient. Hence you’ll be a lot more competitive.

Uh, and the automation on. So  really unlocks a lot of a tremendous amount of value. So, for us personally, like , uh, think of data, which is living in various different parts of your organization, once you sort of integrate everything , uh, the value of that data becomes tremendous. Uh, I’ll give you an example.

So , uh, getting , uh, getting people to use CRMs is really hard because. If you’re expecting everyone to enter everything manually, people just don’t do. But once you start automating, so all the leads are constantly getting into the CRM. The reports are being generated. They’re mature. They’re able to do their follow-ups and automation automatically.

So the usage of those systems goes up tremendously. Okay. Unlocking a lot of value. Now, a question comes as in what to automate. Well, I’ll say automate everything. Uh, anything you can think of where you’re spending a part of your day working, I believe can be automated, but , uh, practically I’ll say, just start with anything, start with something small , uh, where you can sort of get into that cadence.

You get into that thought process where you’re just trying to automate and take it from there. Uh, now I’ll be suggesting some very simple automations, which you can get started with and , uh, gain from those first thing. Uh, I’ll say uptime monitoring. So. Anyone who’s running a couple of websites out there.

Uh, You know, that sometime it might have happened that your website is not working properly. Uh, you notice it a few days later, or you notice from your customers or somebody posts on social media. Having a uptime monitoring is very, very simple. Uh, uptime robot is one of those. Uh, tools, which does that for free, you can just go sign up , uh, put your website.

You’ll be able to do a bunch of monitoring there. So first I believe is uptime monitoring, which just checks whether the website is up or down. Uh, they’ll be able to do keyword monitoring, where you’ll be able to pick up a keyword from your website and the tool will automatically go and check. If that keyword exists, if it doesn’t, it will alert you or really helps if the website gets hacked defaced or just is showing an error page , uh, another thing which it can help out with , uh, ensuring that SSL doesn’t expire.

So today every website SSL is mandatory. Uh, but the problem is , uh, they do need renewals and sometimes. Due to some technical issue or the hosting provider not managing it properly assistance would do expire. So having a very simple uptime monitoring tool will ensure that if things go wrong, you get alerted and you’re able to take care of those things very, very quickly.

And you’ll be able to add all your team members and probably various channels say SMS, call email, or probably a Slack notification. So having a simple uptime monitoring is absolutely essential.

So would be to start doing some sort of image compression. So there are a bunch of plugins for the short pixel image Wi-Fi or dog optimize , uh, WP smash. So what they essentially do is they take all your image assets on your website and they compress it. Uh, they give you a bunch of options. So for example, you can choose between lossy and lossless compression.

Uh, where , uh, you can basically compress the images. Uh, lossy would mean basically , uh, that there would be some loss in image. Quality lossless would be a picture. Perfect. Very, very little difference. Uh, but they can , uh, help you a lot. So I I’ll give you an example. So recently one of our customers , uh, launched a ticket on our, uh , uh, seeing that the website loading time was really high.

And after checking, we noticed that somebody had uploaded. Three images directly from the digital camera onto the website slider. And each image was around 2030 MB. Now imagine 60 MB of additional load on their website. How would the website building , uh, what these plugins do is any image assets, which come, they compress them and you gain tremendously in image in website, loading time and the workflow also simplify.

So, people do not have to optimize the images before uploading another thing, which they are now starting to add is what you would call adaptive delivery. Uh, what it happens in this scenario is there are quite a lot of new image formats, which are coming in. So take, for example, the P format, not only certain browsers currently support it, what these plugins would be able to do is they’ll be able to identify which browser the visitor is having.

And depending on that, it will deliver the correct size, the correct resolution of the image and the correct format for the most optimal user experience. So database cleanup probably doesn’t matter really much to you if your website is fairly new. However, if you’re running a website, which is a bit old , Uh, it has a lot of posts and content.

Uh, definitely something you should implement , uh, what these plugins do like WP optimizer, advanced database cleaner. What they do is essentially , uh, they’ll be able to delete old a revision of posts and content , uh, spam comments, trash expire, transients , uh, and they clean up and optimize your database. So they help in keeping your website fast.

Next would be backup automation. So now it takes a lot of time, effort and investment to build a website. And you might see that , uh, pretty much all hosting providers today have inbuilt backups. Uh, however, if you were to read the fine print, the terms of conditions , uh, we also tend to skip , uh, they do not pick any liabilities for backups.

Uh, so having automated backup framework is absolutely essential. Now taking manual backups is really not an option. You will do it for a few times, but typically you would tend to forget and ignore these backup plugins. Uh, they really take care of it. Uh, the, a bunch of plugins like plus backup WP , uh, and , uh, quite a few others as well.

Uh, what they will do is you can, should you, your backups and they would automatically take the website and the database backup and put it on the third independent third-party independent storage. It can be one dry back place, Google storage, Azure, any FTP server of probably another hosting, which you have, and it will ensure that , uh, If anytime anything goes wrong while doing any update, or if the website gets hacked, the hosting provider is facing downtime.

You are never left hanging out there. You always have a backup and it’s automatically should do so. Always have a backup automation configure, sorry, your website would invariably have some sort of internal and external links. Uh, and I believe internet is a sort of a perishable space. The websites and the web pages, they do tend to stop working and start disappear.

The URLs change in number of things can happen. What broken link checking plugins do is they would constantly crawl the website and all the external links. And it will automatically notify you if any of those links have gone bad or not working. Uh, and hence you, you and your marketing team, or the webmaster can take a corrective action.

I find it very, very. Almost absolutely essential to have some sort of a broken link checking system implemented on the website. Okay. So you often tend to hear various complaints about WordPress not being very secure. Uh, people complain that it gets hacked very often. Well, the thing is today almost 40% of the websites are powered by WordPress and it’s a very juicy target for hackers.

And yes, one abilities do keep coming from time to time, whether it be the core WordPress, your team, your plugins, but the good part is the ecosystem is very, very fast. So any security vulnerabilities would come get patched very, very fast and. The first thing you can do to ensure your website security would be to keep it update the WordPress code, all the teams, all the plugins.

So having the automated update system is absolutely essential. Now, earlier, this was easier said than done. Uh, the core updates were difficult. Uh, there was nothing for automatic WordPress plugins and team updates. We’ve come a long way from there. Now WordPress offers inbuilt ability to upgrade the core, the themes and the plugins.

Uh, so you should definitely take advantage of that. One note of caution would be that when new updates come , uh, your website can break the functionality, the design, the interface, things can break. So you’ll have to sort of figure out what is the right sort of audition strategy for you. Uh, you have to make sure that the updates , uh, the backups are in place and , uh, you, if anything goes bad, you can quickly revert and , uh, sort of should do these updates typically too, when the traffic is low, but , uh, do have , uh, an automated, uh , uh, do make sure that the website is up to date.

Any website where you’re constantly adding new content today can gain tremendously from these content optimization plugins. So sometimes you, so there are a bunch of WordPress plugins. Uh, there are some Chrome exchanges which can help. What they would do is they would essentially do live grammar checking or in spelling correction, or they can also do plagiarism check.

So , uh, they can also automatically add all tax to any images and automatic, automatic link building. Uh, it takes a lot of effort away from your content writers and ensure the consistent SEO.

So now, so far we have discussed some general automations, which almost anyone can pick an implement. Uh, let’s start , uh, come to move a bit more specific. Uh, let’s talk about developer automations. So first and foremost would be, get having good. Part of the development workflow is absolutely absolutely essential.

I still see people who are using F uh, FTP file managers to try and make changes to their code base. That’s just not acceptable today. Make sure you implement , uh, get in your development workflows and , uh, they get repositories like , uh, get lab Bitbucket, get up. They’re very, very generous three plans, which you can use.

And almost all good hosting providers are supporting good deployment. So make sure you incorporate that next would be , uh, WP CLI WP CLI is essentially a command line tool , uh, which allows you to perform almost all activities in your WordPress two command line. Uh, you can install WordPress, you can do customizations, do user management , uh, and do a ton of automation.

And when you’re using. CLI on any sort of automated deployment. This is an absolutely amazing tool. Make sure you sort of understand and explore the power of this. Another thing would be picking and implementing a task runner. So whether it can be granted. Gulp Webpack pick whatever you like, what these task runners do is they , uh, they would essentially take your code, which you have written and perform certain tasks on it.

So whether it be compiling your lesson, SAS code to CSS, where they’d be doing GS linting , uh, any images you’re using, they can compress that those , uh, they can minify and merge your CSN and GS files. Uh, and the development, any changes you make, they can watch those directories, those files and implement , uh, and sort of refresh the browser.

So those changes are visible to your time, make the development just that bit more easier. And the best part is all. These are reusable. So once you adopt these workflows , uh, you’ll be able to spread them across your team, across your projects, and they really sort of make you a rockstar. Or coming to development, CIS, having a CIC D pipeline would also sort of be the next thing, which I would highly suggest.

So what these do is while you’re developing your code, merging your code base into the main line that’s called continuous integration and continuous deployment is basically deploying your code into staging environment into a live environment. And there are quite a few tools to support these and almost all have very generous, open source versions or free plans.

So for build testing, you could do use Jenkins, Travis CIA, Bitbucket pipelines, get hub actions. And another thing which we use is browser stack for browser testing. Uh, you could be used browsing lantern tests to what these browser testing tools to do with. Your website, your output. They will be able to test those across various versions of browsers , uh, various screen resolutions , uh, and give you results.

And it’s really, really helpful. And especially if you’re a team developer, having some sort of browser testing , uh, and shows that what you are giving your product is of the highest quality. One reason why WordPress is so popular is because it has become now the central platform for all your marketing activities and the possibilities of automating your marketing workflows is just endless.

Whether it be, if you want to move your analytics data, or if you want to create very, very sharp, crisp, and fast landing pages, or have very, very clear and smart call to actions. You can do it all. Uh, one thing I will definitely suggest is try to sort of figure out the right usage of popups and exit intent , uh, and , uh, see what sort of email automation can be done.

So for example, what we do is we have certain case studies and eBooks on our website, and we are very simple marketing workflow where any lead, which comes in, gets a certain email, the content is pushed. Uh, The lead is the data is collected in the CRM. It is pushed in Google doc and it really [] helps our team.

Uh, one thing I would also suggest is you check out charts and chatbots. So a lot of a lot work, a lot of work is being done on that front as well. Uh, having a very engaging and impactive , uh, set up on your website really helps and , uh, having some smart chatbots. Work 24 by seven to serve your customers.

It also helps another thing which you can try to automate is the social media posting. So whenever your , uh, the new blog post or a new piece of content goes out, it should automatically trigger and post the post on all the relevant social medias. Uh, one thing we are currently experimenting these days is with auto-generated post for social media.

Using AI tools. So that is also something you should definitely check out to unlock real value. Your WordPress will have to integrate and talk to various other , uh, systems within your organizations. And earlier these sort of integrations and automations, they were hard to do. They had to be done manually.

But what we are seeing these days is the rise of these so-called automation, power tools. Uh, These are, for example, zippier if public connect uncanny or two meter integral Matt and quite a few others as well. So what these tools do is they would integrate with various applications and there’s a concept of , uh, action.

Sorry. There’s a concept of triggered and action. Where any events happening in a particular application? What trigger and will cause , uh, action in another application. So for example, if a new comment comes into your website , uh, you, that trigger could do an action on say posting that comment on the, your Slack Chani your Trello card or anything else.

So Zapier is one of those. We use pabbly connect , uh, where any sort of orders which are happening on the website. Any successful payment triggers a certain workflow, any unsuccessful payment also triggers various workflows where we are, the sales team can go out and recapture that customer and see where it went wrong.

So these power tools are something you should definitely check out. Uh, they are giving immensely, they are becoming immensely popular and the number of integrations they’re offering is just growing exponentially. Some automation ideas would be, for example, getting the daily report of Google analytics directly into your snack Slack channel.

So any of these tools would integrate with Google analytics and at the end of the day, push the reports and all the required fields into your Slack. Or you could save all your WooCommerce orders into a Google sheet or say, so what we use is send all contact forms. Two automatic emails, as well as put them on Google sheets.

And we also save all these new subscribers, which we get into our CRM. So the sales team has a clear visibility.

So friends to goodly sum up first would be to start with basics. The possibilities are endless. You just have to start identifying, just start somewhere, start identifying your routine tasks , uh, and , uh, try to automate them. Unlock data silos, try to integrate various applications and you start seeing so much value and.

Just start now. So thank you so much. Thanks

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