Delegation is Cool but Automation is Better

script.jpgThere are a fair few monotonous tasks being a webmaster, they need to be done but nobody particularly enjoys doing them. You can either bite the bullet and get on with them, procrastinate a bit and then get on, out source (my second favourite option) but when possible the best solution is to automate.

Automation offers many benefits, including:

  • One off investment (time/money) for residual gains
  • Prevents mistakes that us humans make
  • Automation works when you’re on holiday
  • Lets you dedicate more time to making money


There are all sorts of tasks you can automate, either by doing a bit of coding, installing third party scripts or if all else fails a bit of out sourcing.

The following are examples I’ve used in the past/present:

System Maintenance – Backups
Creating backups manually is dull, but if you ever need one you’ll be pleased you did. Automating this tedious but essential activity is the best solution. There are various scripts available that can email you database backups on a regular basis (that’s why Gmail accounts have a 3GB limit πŸ™‚ ).

System Maintenance – Server Uptime
You can’t monitor your server manually 24 hours of the day. Using a service or script (on a different server) you can be informed by email or SMS if you have a problem, if your server being down is going to cost you money being woken at 4AM could be a better alternative (or waking somebody else better yet).

System Maintenance – Cleaning Time
I don’t know anybody that likes cleaning, in fact I think my duaghter takes after me and is allergic to it. Databases and servers can get clogged down with redundant data over time. Creating a script for image resizing, temporary file clearing, index tuning, etc. can help keep your server singing.

Making Money – Affiliate Links
Automatically converting appropriate links to affiliate links is great way of making a bit of extra cash without any ongoing effort. It can work well on blogs where you have multiple writers and forums.

I’ve been doing this on my gadget blog for a while, but I only modified the script to work with Amazon.com last month. In June 2007 I pushed $2,134.30 worth of sales Amazon’s way, earning me $119.73. Not a vast amount but I’ve probably lost over $1,000 worth of commission by not doing it sooner and considering it took about 10 minutes to implement I was dumb not to.

Automated Content – Summary Posts
If you have a blog or site that can be summarised on a regular basis, obtain a script to create some sort of summary post. It’s useful for your visitors, SEO and a bit a free content.

Automated Content – Form Latest Threads
Got a forum? Display the latest threads on your main site, you can see an example of this on our Budgerigars site (at the bottom).

Automated Content – Newsletters
This is another one where if you have a regularly updated site automatically send out an email every so often, it’s a great way of getting previous visitors to come back to your site.

It would be great to hear what other people have automated and if you have the idea but there’s no script out there to do it let me know and I’ll see if we can get it coded.

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.

Comments

  1. Al, can you tell me more about the script that auto creates affiliate links? Does it work for WordPress? I use a plugin that does this for Joomla sites but could’nt find anything for WordPress. Thanks

    • It’s another custom one I knocked up, it’s pretty simple to do with a search and replace with regular expressions. I’m not great with regex so it’s another dirty one, hence I didn’t share the code in this post

      • Once again Al, i’d love a copy of the code, if you’d be so kind. I’ve yet to install the other one you sent but will do shortly. I’ll repay you with links when i get into content mode….

    • I use this WordPress plugin for Amazon.
      http://manalang.wordpress.com/wp-amazon/

      Another option is Amazon’s contextual advertising.

      I also use http://kontera.com to generate revenue from my content. It automatically converts certain keywords into PPC.

      And http://site24x7.com to monitor sites. It’s free for two sites.

      I hope this helps.

      • Thanks Brice, this is what I was looking for!

        • Glad I could be of some help. πŸ™‚

          As for newsletters, it’s a must for your sites. Build a list of emails of your visitors, even if you don’t publish a newsletter. There is money and value in the email list.

          Most marketers use http://aweber.com. I use it myself and I strongly recommend it. I can see the click ratios, who opens my emails, for how long, what headline works, ROI conversion, and much more. You can even easily split-test web forms from their admin even if you don’t know HTML.

      • I’ve used the amazon contextual advertising on my mini site http://www.lego-star-war.com and it seems to work quite well. Don’t think it’s earnt me anything yet though, but I don’t get much traffic to the site yet.

  2. I havent automated affiliate links yet although that is something I have on my to do list since you mentioned it a few months back.

    I think backups are the only automated thing I do currently.

    Thats the only regular automated task I have set.

    Other instances were when trying to remove certain tags from each post on my blog. There were about 3000 tags to remove and I spent about 20 minutes creating some find and replace rules which wiped them all out in a second or so rather then having to edit each of the 1300+ posts. So in some ways it was automated in that I didnt have to manually edit the posts… but it did take about 20 minutes to sort out the rules to do that πŸ™‚ Far better then several days.

  3. I automate everything I possibly can, when I do something I always think first if I could automate it, and 99% of the time when there is a way of doing so, it doesn’t actually take much more time than doing the actual thing manually anyway.

    • You are right there. Often automation is just a matter of 1 or 2 additional few minute steps such as setting a scheduled task to run.

  4. You know, for being a former controls engineer specializing in complex automation equipment, I really don’t automate enough in my life. I need to take a hard look at everything and think automate from now on. Hell, I use a Mac at home and i dont use the automator for anything.

  5. Since you didn’t drop many links here is the free uptime monitor I use:
    http://basicstate.com/
    Works very well.

  6. Great Points. This is stuff that seems to fall off the radar if it’s not automated and that can be very dangerous.

  7. Vaibhav Kakkar says:

    Can you explain on how you converted words to Affiliate Links… which script did you use ?

    • It’s just a little script I knocked together, it does a search for the normal link and replaces it with the affiliate one. It’s pretty simple. I’ll knock up a sample and post it.

  8. Oh ya, DUGG!
    Couldn’t resist. I liked the post that much πŸ™‚

  9. Very tempting to ask for some scripts to automate my tasks, yet that is not the point of what you are writing about. We are supposed to use what you are writing about to improve our own fortunes and getting a free script will not make any difference on the larger scale since there are so many aspects of building a successful business (wither online or not) that a free script will only extend the dependancies. On the other hand you are providing some great opportunity for those individuals who are technically adapt and wanting to earn some extra cash. So, anyone who wants to start selling the automation for this posting it looks like you will have some customers.

    • On the contrary Wayne, what you are referring to is called the delegation (or outsourcing) of automation. It’s a double whammy!

      • Or as I like to put it, the reason I was employed at a previous job. We were an automation company, specializing in automation. It only makes sense to use someone who can do it for cheaper than yourself (mind you, thinking short and long term here). And you can’t get better than free+1hr of looking and begging compared to 10 hrs of learning how to code.

  10. What scripts do you use for database backups? I sell hosting and have several sites that I could do with backing up the database for regularly.
    I assume it’s a cron job or something similar?

  11. My webhost dreamhost.com automatically backups my databases and files weekly. And I use a few cron jobs for ad banner management. (maxmediamanager.com). It’s like phpAdsnew, but better for what I need.

    For WordPress, there’s a neat automatic backup plugin. You can choose to backup hourly, daily, weekly to your email. Here’s more info on that:
    http://izachy.com/2007/03/25/wordpress-database-backup/

  12. I am making a cron script that will email me a backup of all my sites on a special gmail account I setup for site backups.

    the tasks you mentioned there get very boring after a month or two. Unless you notice something strange going on which gives it a slight twist making it so interesting.

  13. Been not the best coder on the planet I had to circumnavigate doing cron jobs I have managed this by coding some basic vb in an excel app which opens whil;e i sleep & does the work that i used to be doin each mornin rather than readin here πŸ™‚

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