How to Stop a WordPress XMLRPC.php Attack and Still Use Jetpack

Lately the bastards of the Internet have laid some different attacks down on one of my sites. The newest (as far as I know) WordPress specific attack is that they try to make use your site via xmlrpc.php to then launch DDOS attacks on other sites.
The easy solution is to just block all access to the file with htaccess. If you do a simple “Deny All” however then you’ll lose access to certain services.
In my case I like a few of the functions of Jetpack which leverages xmlrpc. To avoid killing Jetpack while you thwart the bastards you need to allow access from the IPs used by Automattic.
Here’s the htaccess fix I used to thwart the attacks. Everything has been holding for a few days so I think I’m in the clear.
I’m not a server or security expert so just know you’re using this fix at your own risk.
Copy and paste this in your .htaccess file which you’ll find at your site’s root.

order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from
allow from

The Single Best Question I’ve Ever Asked My Prospects

best customer survey question

best customer survey questionThis is going to be one of the shortest posts you’ll ever read from me but I have to get this out there.

I have a long form sales page.

It’s not converting as well as I’d like. I’ve been relying on people going all the way through my free email mini course in order to educate them on the product but without enforcing it as a first step.

Dumb, I know.

But in the past it was working mostly because I was happy to work on all the other random irons I had in the fire and I knew (thought) that Distressed Pro (my site) would continue to grow slow and steady if I just kept doing the things I had been doing…. maintenance mode I suppose. And it did, revenue grew by more than 60% in 2013.

That approach was fine until I set a goal to triple my business this year.

Now it doesn’t feel like that plan is working so well. Bounce and conversion rates  haunt me. My leaky funnel is the first thing I think of when I wake up and often the last thing I think of before bed. I’m running through funnels and sales copy in my head constantly. I’ve become obsessed. What can I do to get this right?

I was trying to develop my sales funnel in a vacuum.

  • Yes, I survey my customers semi regularly.
  • Yes, I get email replies from a large portion of my mini course subscribers.
  • Yes, I worked in the industry for a long time so I have a solid understanding of the struggles and aspirations folks have in that business.

But all that doesn’t tell me why people don’t buy from my sales page.

You can have all the social media interaction you like. You can respond to a sea of email. But what’s happening at the moment that someone is deciding whether or not they want to invest in your product? What’s happening right there at that moment?

I don’t know, um… Why not ASK them?

I’m a big fan of the Conversion Rate Experts.

While I was watching one of their videos they gave this one tip, that actually they sort of blew by, and then said – “it’s sort of like cheating isn’t it?”

My first thought was… “well who is really going to fill that out… nah, that will turn into another untrackable support channel nightmare like the live chat, meh, nah

Then I thought…. WTF am I doing making excuses already about how this will or won’t work? Implement the damn thing and see what happens.

So here’s the question I’m asking:

What lingering question might keep you from starting a trial today? Please be brutally honest.


The feedback that I’ve received just over the last 3 days has been a HUGE eyeopener.

It’s like my prospects are building the sales page roadmap for me. All of the objections, worries, concerns, not just about the service or security in the cart or whatever, but they’re leaving comments and questions – about their own ability to perform, questions about my credibility about the tour and on and on…

I can honestly say that I am better armed after 2 days of comments than I’ve been after reading countless blog posts and books and ebooks about sales letters.

Do this today if you’re not satisfied with your sales page conversion rate and I think you’ll be AMAZED at what you learn.

Testing for Startups 101

work from home internet business

This is a presentation I gave at our local Startup Meetup in Portsmouth, NH. This is a “Testing 101” introduction to the different types of tests, when to use which tests, elements you should test or just plain include in your pages and a bit more. I covered AB testing, multivariate testing, and heuristics.

I’ve grown my business by more than 60% this year, in part, by employing what I’ll show you in this presentation.

I included one  experiment idea that I had come up with which I’m about to run but haven’t as of this post. The purpose of the experiment would be to validate the pain point and/or language around the value proposition of your B2B saas, service, or product while you’re still “pre-code”.

I propose that by split testing the value proposition statements around your intended features with targeted LinkedIn ads you can more rapidly identify your most likely winners –  the features, the value propositions, etc.

They say the best way to learn is to teach. I’ve been running tests, some successful, many not, for my projects and I share some of those but I also pulled to together a lot of research to back it all up.

This is by no means a definitive guide to testing but highlights some successful experiments and offers a series of considerations for startups.

There’s also a resource list at the end of the presentation.

Business of Software Website Teardown

website teardown

Mark at the Business of Software conference asked me to do a teardown on their site after hearing one we did on Boot Strapped with Kids for another site.

It can be difficult for the owner of a site to look at it objectively. We look at our own sites through a separate lens than the one through which we see the rest of the web.

If you have a real business (it makes money) with a website that you want me to have a look at for you, you can tweet me. Right now I’m feeling generous and this was fun.

Mini Course Emails: 4 Reasons You Need to Ask for a Personal Reply Up Front

this is the stern of a boat, not an email

this is the stern of a boat, not an email

I’ve had an email mini course as my frontline lead generator for the past couple of years (Actually as I type this it occurs to me that it might be time to freshen it up). If you’ve never heard of an email mini course it could be that you live under a rock or it could be that you’re not doing any online marketing but these are the only two reasons I can think of.

I recently changed the first email that goes out in my email mini course and I’m going to share the results with you because it’s been huge.

1. Deliverability

Email deliverability and open rates have been eroding. Which is actually part of the reason I send a series of emails via the email mini course right out of the gate; because it gets people used to opening and clicking on my emails and email providers like to see that.

When the recent Gmail inbox changes came out I started looking into how to get mini course emails out of the “promotions” tab and into the “primary” tab. In addition to this I’d reeeally like to remove the “via (my email service)” that’s next to my name.

Google makes 3 technical and/or strategic recommendations on how to get your mini course emails to the inbox.

  1. Configure your DKIM correctly (out of luck on that front, I use infusionsoft – for now)
  2. Create your SPF correctly – done.
  3. Get people to REPLY to you… ya know, like people would if it was a …er… regular email – which of course it is.

You might look at this and say that Gmail doesn’t have enough marketshare to pay this much attention to what they say but the fact is if it works for Google It’s going to work for other providers.

2. Oh My Goodness the Learning

There’s another problem with the way I’ve been doing things, namely, if all the communication flow is coming from me, it’s not really a conversation is it?

I shudder to think of what I’ve missed and how much further along I’d be had I done this sooner. Over just the last 2 weeks I have heard from more than 100 people who are telling me exactly what they’re looking for out of my mini-course and why they signed up which is really just an extension of my product, or a mini-snapshot of it anyway.

How much better will my sales copy be? How much more in tune with the audience will I be after collecting all of this language from all of these willing and eager participants?

You can send out surveys and do a lot of different things to get this information but what’s happening here is that in their own words my subscribers are telling me about the struggles they’re having, why they signed up in the first place, and what they hope to be able to accomplish with the information in the course.

Look at this inbox.

email mini course personal replies
Dozens of personal replies from potential customers telling me exactly what they want.

Probably the most valuable thing that I’ve learned from all these reply emails so far is that there is a much bigger segment of my audience seeking information on one particular topic, a topic that I have been treating as an after thought or sideline in my business. So that’s going to stop…. like now.

How much have your customers told you about what they want in their own words?

3. Build Trust

More than half the emails that I’m getting are people thanking me for having the information available.

Is there a better early relationship to have a with a customer than to have them thanking you for sending email marketing to them? If you’re sending junk don’t expect this kind of response but if  you’re putting out coherent, well thought out emails that are answering the questions that they have then you will.

4. Um… More Sales!

If people regularly open your emails and read them, if they trust what you have to say, if they like the information you provide and the way you provide it and therefore they like you AND you’re providing a good paid product then what else is there but an increase in sales?

My New Mini-Course – First Email – and How to Write Yours

I know you know how to write an email but I wanted to share my though process with you about this one. I think there are a few key reasons it’s working so well. I haven’t yet calculated the response rate but it is extremely high.

email mini course first email
My first email in the email mini course

Go Forth and Sell Educate One Email at a Time

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that 62% of my sales come from-or-during the email mini course so if you’re wondering if you should put something like that together for your product, stop wondering.

How to DOUBLE Your Facebook Retargeting Results

use women in your retargeting ads

use women in your retargeting ads

I’ve been using retargeting to drive conversions on my primary website since late spring (2013) and its the best most effective paid marketing I’ve done – period.

There are a lot of different things I could talk about; like how you should segment visitors, for example segment people who have already opted-in to your email list  to show them a different offer; we could talk about how a free course or other giveaway offer beats a discount or a “come look at my sales/pricing/features page” – hands down – but I’m going more base than that today.

For 3 months I tested both AdRoll and PerfectAudience and in the end I opted to dump AdRoll and use only PerfectAudience but that is for another blog post.

So I know you want to get right into how you’re going to double your retargeting results but first let’s look at what that means and how you’d measure.

Retargeting Stats You Should Care About

Retargeting services want to prove their value to you so they show you a lot of stats. Some of the stats (in my opinion) are just pure bullshit. The “View Through Conversion” for example is meaningless. If I send an email to someone on my list and then they buy but on that same day they saw an ad of mine on the web then the conversion belongs to the email and nothing else.

So here’s what you should care about in your retargeting campaigns.

  • Clicks – How many people click on your ad
  • CTR – Click Through Rate
  • CPC – Cost Per Click
  • CTC – How many clicks resulted in a conversion
  • CTC% – What is the click to conversion percentage

The other retargeting rates and ratios are for the purpose of convincing you to keep advertising as far as I’m concerned. I’m ready to be wrong but that’s where I stand.

So before I reveal this super-secret top performing formula that’s going to rocket your site to stardom (oh man is that awful I’m selling so hard you can taste it, right?) I need to apprise you of a couple of caveats.

  1. I’ve only tested this with Facebook retargeting so far and not with any other web retargeting.
  2. Your best results are going to be when you’re retargeting in the Facebook feed, not on the sidebar.
  3. If you’re going to test this yourself make sure you use the exact same copy for each of your ads and only change the image or your results won’t be valid.

I hinted at what works with the image in the post, but OK here it is, without further ado…. sex…. its SEX, there I said it. You happy?

FaceBook Retargeting Results


I like to think that this ad is pretty well though out.

  • The colors and graphic on this ad match the landing page perfectly.
  • There’s a button to encourage the right kind of action
  • The fact that the course is free is emphasized
  • There’s a graphical depiction of the actual thing you’ll get when you click
  • It’s branded like a site the visitor has already been to (it is retargeting after all)
Losing facebook retargeting ad
The colors, graphics, and offer are all designed to match the landing page perfectly. Still, bupkis.

Winning Treatment (Or Test)

This ad plays to pure human nature. It’s lizard brain or bust (pardon the pun) for this.

  • There’s a hot girl with a low-cut blouse looking towards the words
facebook retargeting ad
This image more than doubled the effectiveness of this facebook wall retargeting campaign.

Here’s how the numbers bear out.

  • Metric     Original     Treatment
  • CTR        0.678%      1.132%
  • CPC        $1.10         $0.65
  • CTC%     0%              38%

Coincidentally, or maybe not, that 38% conversion is exactly the conversion I’m seeing on the landing page from other sources.

About This Test

I ran this test on both retargeting services named above. I first ran it on AdRoll and later was allowed beta access to PerfectAudience. I had actually shut down the original ad on AdRoll after some obvious results and then re-started the same test on PerfectAudience. I’m using the PerfectAudience numbers. I’m not sharing my spend or number of clicks. I am maxing out the available spend for a website with unique visitors in the low 5 figures.

You could argue that real estate is male dominated but I’ll tell you that my Rapleaf analysis of my list says “not so much”

Business cleavage” out performs the graphic that I had made to perfectly match the landing page. So there you have it, the ladies, pictures of good looking women in low-cut but non-offensive frock…. “business cleavage” will double the effectiveness of your ad.

I know what you’re thinking… alright I don’t… but it could be a variety of things, you could be thinking:

  • Well, yeah this is obvious…
  • That’s offensive! I don’t care if it sells
  • My audience doesn’t respond to this kind of thing
  • I don’t know if I want my product/service to be associated with ads like that
  • Where can I get some cleavage pics?

Here’s what I have to say about it. If we’re in the business of selling something and we’re really interested in maximizing then we’re going to occasionally find a line that we may or may not want to cross. GoDaddy is an example of company that’s crossed some lines in this department and has its share of haters.

I have a mother, a wife, and a daughter.

I don’t plan to put up g-string pictures or just wildly objectifying content but I also don’t plan on leaving much on the table if I don’t have to and I do plan to continue to use strategies and tactics that are proven to work – and if people want to click on chicks by gosh I’ll give’em chicks to click…

By the way the links to the services in this article (AdRoll, PerfectAudience) are affiliate links and I might make some money if you use one to sign up.

Update: 9/8

In response to the a couple of hypotheses challenging the test results I’ve launched the following Facebook wall retargeting campaigns and I’ll update this post with results. Since the physical attractiveness of a person is more than a little subjective I tried to choose a man of similar age and style who is also looking towards the words with a computer in front of him.

Here are the new treatments.

Facebook wall retargeting campaign
Simple ebook cover which represents the contents of the free course that’s being offered

and the additional the male head shot

facebook wall retargeting ad with a man looking towards the words
Attractive man looking in the same direction as the woman above both with a computer between themselves and the words

I’ll look forward to posting results in the next few weeks.

Update: 9/13

I’m pulling the plug on these additional tests. As much as I’d like to continue to experiment with this the early numbers are in and they strongly support my original findings to go any further would increase the cost of clicks and diminish my CTR.

The ebook cover alone performed the worst. It got no clicks.

The picture of the smiling dude did not fair as well as the professionally designed graphic. The CTR on that was .509 or only about 40% as effective as the young lady.

So there you have it.

I’m excited about retargeting an the results that are available generally and I’ll be writing more about my Facebook wall retargeting and other retargeting campaigns as I test.

Better Saas Cancelation Feedback

Better Saas Cancellation Forms

I was inspired by this post from Ruben Gamez to improve my pretty weak cancelation form.

Previously I’d ask an open ended paragraph text “Why are you canceling?” and then require a checkbox confirming that you know I’m not keeping your data. Now I do this

UPDATE: I wasn’t tracking the form submission rate before I implemented this change but I am now and the submission rate is lower than 30%. I don’t know if this is good or bad but what it tells me is that 7 out of 10 times when someone is going to cancel they change their minds while they’re on this page. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I am sending them of to solve their specific problems via the links to the resources embedded in the questions.

Microconf 2013 Action Items

I’m somewhere west of Lincoln Nebraska at 10,000 feet.

Normally I sleep like a baby on a plane and the fact that I didn’t get to bed until after 4AM should guarantee it but instead I’m typing like a man possessed and filling up my Evernote with ideas (if that were possible) as I’m trying to sort through the fire hose of actionable information that was Microconf.

I found it hard to concentrate on the speaker who talked after Jason Cohen on Monday because Jason just happened to speak directly to my biggest most pressing challenge and I couldn’t help but want to apply what I had learned to my own product immediately.

I refocused at any rate and my bulging Microconf Notebook has 3 separate notes that I managed to take: Action Items, Links of Interest, Speaker Notes

Rob Walling suggested to the crowd that you try to take 3 action items away from the conference. I’m not sure how many I’m going to have after I’ve finished dissecting my notes but I have 3 for sure that I’ve determined are top priorities.

  1. New Pricing: “Mo tiers mo money”
  2. Overhaul my funnel: the flow between arriving at my site to making a decision right now is…. not optimum… at all…  so I plan to hire Lance from CopyHackers over on Anyfu (which was suggested to me by Jason Roberts) and ideally have a session next week.
    1. Test long-form sales pages pending the session outcome
  3. Review and likely rebuild my email sequences. My free email mini course hasn’t had a look in…. 2 years? It is time. And my ‘transactional emails’ I’m pretty sure I threw together. I’m going to have to do this after I parse through Patrick McKenzie’s presentation which was so dense with business building strategies and tactics that I just couldn’t consume it all at once.

I’m setting a date for completion for these and if you’re reading this while considering your action items then I suggest you set dates for yours also.

To go to that conference and return with action items that you fail to follow through on would be a goddamn business tragedy of epic proportions.

Do it while you’ve got inspiration, ride the momentum.

One more priority action item that’s been stewing with me for a while and which I regret I didn’t focus on more while I was at the conference, is assembling a mastermind or accountability group with folks who have launched.

At Microconf the opportunity to talk to so many people who are operating companies with successful products was hugely valuable and getting some regular feedback from the same I think would really fuel growth.

Doesn’t much matter where you’re located that’s what Skype or Google Hangouts are for. If you’re reading this and you fit the bill contact me and let’s chat.

Why I’ll Be Speaking at Microconf 2013

I”ll be speaking at Microconf 2013.

Rob Walling and Mike Taber of Startups for the Rest of Us (among other things) run Microconf, a conference for “micropreneurs”. Rob has been a mentor to me, unbeknownst to him until recently, through his and Mike’s Micropreneur Academy, his blog and mostly, frankly, through their podcast.

Here’s how this opportunity happened for me.

Several weeks ago my support person got a call from a subscriber to my app. This subscriber wanted to let me know about a “huge success” that he had.

This was, no question, the best call I’ve ever received related to that business. I’ll save you having to go read the post and just tell you that this customer used the tools and training I provide (and his own work ethic and innate abilities) to make nearly 6-figures in under 6 months… on track when last we spoke to earning a 1/4 million dollars (that’s correct) before the end of this quarter.

6-figures in under 6 months… on track when last we spoke to earning a 1/4 million dollars

I floated on a cloud for a bit and then I started to think about how important it was to me to get that call. I have been writing blog posts and recording podcasts and videos for more than 3 years on this one particular topic and now all at once with a single call I have a completely new level of satisfaction and sense of value in what I’ve been building, more than I ever have before.

I’ve got it pretty good right now.

I’m not rich but I am fully in charge of my time and how I spend it. I have no boss. I’m not subject to anyone else’s agenda or schedule. My wife gets to be with our 3 kids and doesn’t have to work (a job that is…). We live in a great place. Bills never scare me and I don’t have to think very long about most purchases. So we’re not rich but we’re definitely not worried about money. I’m not going to start posting checks on this site but suffice it to say we’re doing ok.

I didn’t get here all by myself. I didn’t have anyone holding my hand. I don’t have a partner in the business. But I didn’t get here in a vacuum.

I’m here, in part, because people like Rob Walling, Andrew Warner, Dean Jackson (ok ok, and Joe Polish…) and yes it’s true Tim Ferris, shared what they know through their podcasts, books, and training. Maybe this sounds hokey and maybe even mentioning the 4 Hour Work Week and talking “online business” is borderline cliché at this point but these are the facts on the ground.

This is the stuff that gave me what I needed when I needed it along the way.

If you’re cynical about this brand of mentorship but you’re still working a job that you’re not in love with or you’re scrapping for freelance gigs and you still haven’t launched that product that you’ve been talking about, you might want to reevaluate your stance.

So back to the point of the story.

Hearing about that success from my customer put a new wind in my sails. That call was so important to me personally I felt compelled to share the love.

If you’ve published a lot of content you know that cranking out decent stuff on a regular basis requires some serious inspiration. Positive feedback is the fuel that makes the whole thing go. Its what inspires us to write and record more and to break through the fatigue that’s inevitable over time.

I emailed Rob Walling just to tell him (very briefly) where I’m at professionally and to thank him for his contribution to my success. To make a long story short we had a little back and forth, I got mentioned on Startups For The Rest Of Us (which is cool), and maybe a week later I got an email from Rob. He told me there was going to be an announcement about attendee talks and he suggested I throw my hat in the ring for the opportunity to speak at Microconf 2013.

I don’t think I would have submitted something, despite the fact that I have a goal to raise my visibility in the online business community this year, if he hadn’t emailed me and he would have had no reason at all to give me the nudge if I hadn’t emailed to thank him in the first place.

The Takeaway

If you’re having some success and there’s someone who’s contributed to it or if you feel like the value that you’re receiving from someone is significant, if there’s someone you’ve been watching or listening to or learning from and it’s had a real impact on you – tell them.

Tell them because hearing about your success has more of an impact on your mentors than you might guess.

Tell them because you never know where it might lead.