Do your eyes glaze over when you try to work on Core Web Vitals or other technical aspects of your site?

If so, you aren’t alone.

Many of us aren’t cut out to be developers, so its best to rely on technical wizards who can complement our strengths.

One such wizard is Dustin Hyle.

He’s the founder of Iridium Hosting, and he joins the Niche Pursuits podcast today to share with Spencer some of the ways site owners can better protect their sites from all sorts of problems without getting stuck in the weeds.

Dustin has a long history working in the niche site space. This experience led him to create hosting and site management services that can help improve the performance of sites of all sizes. He knows how to uncover the root cause of issues and, more importantly, how to fix them.

And while they discuss the various ways Iridium helps site owners be hands-off on the technical side, Dustin also provides tons of actionable advice site owners can use today.

Things like the most common issues plaguing site owners, ways to avoid them, and even which plugins to use.

He even shares tips on email deliverability. Offering advice on the most important things business owners need to be aware of to avoid the spam folder.

So, whether it be hosting, site speed, image optimization, or WordPress in general, this interview will cover many common questions and help give you the answers you need!

Topics Dustin Hyle Covers

  • How he got into the hosting business
  • The process he used to decide which services to offer
  • Profits from affiliate marketing vs. hosting services
  • How he grew the managed services side of the business
  • The services that Iridium offers
  • Common security threats from using discounted hosts
  • Issues that may arise when having multiple ‘add-on’ domains
  • Site speed fixes
  • The importance of off-site backups
  • Why WordPress-focused hosting is important for optimal performance
  • Common security issues faced by bloggers and site-owners
  • What can happen when your site has out-of-date plugins
  • The importance of thoroughly vetting plugins you add to your site
  • How Dustin helped Niche Pursuits’ site speed
  • How bloggers can improve their Core Web Vitals
  • Optimizing images and the issues some image optimization plugins can cause
  • Problematic settings to be aware of with plugins on your site
  • How Google products like Google Site Kit can harm your site’s performance
  • The importance of doing a plugin audit
  • Email deliverability and the 3 things that affect it most
  • How your hosting company can impact your email deliverability
  • Mail testing tools
  • And more…

Links & Resources

Sponsored by: Link Whisper

Watch the Interview

Read the Transcription

Spencer: Hey Dustin, welcome to the Niche Pursuits podcast.

Dustin: Hey, Spencer. Thanks for having me.

Spencer: Yeah, it’s good to have you on the show. And we have a little bit of history that we’ll jump into here in, in just a second. But by way of introduction, maybe you can just tell people a little bit about yourself and in particular, what were you doing professionally before you started Iridium hosting?

Dustin: Yeah, so I have a background in it. I’ve kind of done all aspects of it from desktop support. I’ve been a network engineer and then most recently a server engineer. So kind of doing things from the IT side of things. And then now going into the hosting, that came about a little bit because of the background that I had doing WordPress on the side, you know, to make money online type of blogs and things like that.

So, . 

Spencer: Mm-hmm. . So on the side, you were starting your own blogs or you were helping other people with theirs? 

Dustin: So I was starting my own little sites and then also building websites for people like locally and things like that. 

Spencer: Okay. So using your technical knowledge to Yeah. Help people build a website. And you of course, were figuring out the, the ins and outs of, of hosting and with your technical expertise, I’m sure you saw maybe some gaps in the market or some needs in the market, you know, may maybe give us an idea why did you start a hosting company?

Dustin: Yeah, so actually it’s, it was kind of a long, long process, you know, overnight success kind deal. But yeah, so I originally had seen like this pursuits, but also smart passive income, pat Flyn. He was, you know, po back in the day he was posting his monthly income reports and I was seeing just huge numbers on the hosting side.

Yep. And I was like, Ooh, that sounds great. And I was like, okay. You know, like I know servers and things like that. But when I started looking at the numbers, it like deterred me from hosting because almost as an affiliate in, in many of the cases, you would make more money upfront. So like if you were promoting someone else’s hosting, you were actually in many cases better off unless you had the long, you know, looking at it from the lifetime value of the customer.

And so back then I started doing the some like teach you how to start a blog type stuff and, you know, did some affiliate there instead of promoting my own hosting back then. And then did that for a little bit and then heard about WP Curve back in the day. Yep. And you know, they’re managed services.

And I was like, you know, I really like that. Like, I like that more than doing full buildouts because, you know, you’re waiting on clients for, you know, their images or they want to get their logo redone at the same time as their website, so you’re waiting on this or that. And it’s just a long, drawn out process that I decided I didn’t really enjoy.

Mm-hmm. . So I was like, okay, well you can just take the bite size pieces of that from the technical side and that gives you a maintenance plan, just kind of like by WP Curve was doing. So I, I watched that for a while and I, I kind of started that, doing that up on the side of that. And it was a couple years ago now that I came across man at Blockade.

And she, on one of her, like live streams, had mentioned that the person that was doing like their email setups was no longer doing that for them. And so I just reached out and said, Hey, I could do that. You know, kind of felt in line with you know, the managed service that I was doing there. And then talking with her she was like, you know, all these hosts are doing this wrong, that wrong, you know, all different types of things.

And I’m like, okay. And so I was just like taking notes all the things she said that, you know, hosts were doing wrong. And then I was like, okay, well I can start a hosting company. I kind of already thought about it, you know, previously, but I was deterred due to, you know, the money, right? And so I basically started a hosting service.

Initially the initial server set up was taking all the check boxes. She said that other hosting companies were doing wrong, and I, you know, Did it right, I guess. And I’ve kind of built on it from there. And then starting the hosting has actually really grown the managed services side of it.

Right? And so the, the growth on the managed services side, that has more margin and that allows me to offset the lower margin on the host. . 

Spencer: Yeah, that makes sense. So just to encapsulate what you said there, right. You were looking at, oh, there’s a lot of money to be made in hosting, but then you realized as an affiliate you might make more than the, the hosting company does, at least in the short term.

Right? If you’re willing to hold on for a few years and the customers stick around Yeah. Then it starts to get profitable. Right? Right. On, on the hosting side, but the managed service doing simple WordPress fixes and, and maintenance of you know, a WordPress site that had a little bit higher margin.

That’s how you started. How, how did you get kind of your first customers for, for that? Like the maintenance packages or, you know, the 

Dustin: maintenance? It was, it was mostly word of mouth. Okay. And I’m in a lot of different, like, blogging groups. You know, I bought probably every course there is about WordPress or make money online.

And You know, just reached out to people who in the different groups said they needed help with this or that, and 

Spencer: okay. They’d have technical issues. You know, my site’s broken. You say, Hey, I can help you out. Yeah. And you 

Dustin: know, thing goo Google is great for creating work for people to do, you know, like SSL certificates, core web vitals, like, you know, every couple years there’s some big thing that people need to do technically to their sites and.

You know, when those things come, it creates a good opportunity for managed services. 

Spencer: Yeah, exactly. And so you, you started doing some managed services and then you said Manna, you know, is somebody that you, you connected with and, and kind of opened the door for the opportunity of hosting in a way, right?

Like you’re already doing this, let’s, she’s gonna start referring some customers that, you know, she trusts you and, and you now you have a hosting service so you can do the whole package. Right? Right. I, if you will, and so maybe just briefly explain, y you kind of already had, but maybe explain the, the services that Iridium does offer in terms of, you know, hosting and the WordPress maintenance.

Just so people have an idea of what that is. We’re not gonna spend a ton of time here. We’re gonna spend a lot of time on other things that, that listeners, I think we’ll find interesting how they can fix their blogs, speed up their blogs, you know, common errors to look for that sort of thing.

But, Just initially yeah. You, you’ve built this company. What does Iridium kind of offer and why is it a little bit 

Dustin: different? Yeah, for sure. So Iridium obviously is a hosting company. I focus only on WordPress. You can obviously run other apps on top of my hosting, but everything is tweaked and made for WordPress performance WordPress security.

And then outside of the hosting we have managed services two plans. We have one that’s just doing regular updates and backups. And then we have a full manage plan, which is the updates, backups, but also it includes like making a full IT department for your blog, basically so that you can just focus on the content and not have to worry about anything technical.

So like, When you need to go add Google Analytics four to your site, you know, you just send an email and say, Hey, I need Google Analytics four added, or core Web vitals came up. You know, I’m not scoring as good as I should. You know, send an email and it’s taken care of. So, yep. You don’t have to think about it.

Spencer: Yep. Or if you get those notifications in Google Search Console that y you know, your review snippet is no longer. Working properly. Yeah. Or something, right? Yeah. That’s probably something you can look at and go, oh yeah, this plugin is not working properly, let’s update it or get a new one, or whatever.

Dustin: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s just send an email to your tech 

Spencer: department basically. Yeah. Things probably more complicated than than that, right? Like , all I know how to do is change a plugin or update a plugin, but I’m sure there’s more complicated requests than that that come in. For sure. . So you know, as a, as a blogger, and you already mentioned, you know, looking at smart passive income, pat Flynn and, and the amount of money that he made on hosting commissions, like there, there is a lot of money to be made, like offering Blue Host, right?

We’ve all heard of affiliates making tens of thousands of dollars a month, right? Just sort of offering Blue Host or other kind of discount hosting offers. However, some of the, the companies like Blue Host are cheap. Usually for a reason and can come with risks. So what security risks do you see that, that are commonly happening on discount hosting, like Blue Host?

Dustin: So one of the biggest things that I see is having add-on domains on your account. So like if you go into your C panel, when you generally sign up for a hosting account with most hosts it gets, that hosting account gets bound to your whatever domain you’ve initially set up. But then you can go, and a lot of these hosts, they allow you to have multiple sites on one account.

Well, they do that with a add-on domain function. Well, there’s no like division in where the files are stored between those add-on domains and your primary domain. And so like if one of your sites gets compromised in any way, There’s no division there and it will spread. It could easily spread to all of ’em.

And so what I’ve done to make it separate and different at Iridium on the shared side is technically all of the plans that we have, that are multiple, there are reseller plan instead of a single plan without on domains. It’s a reseller plan, so every single account is separated. So you won’t have a situation where one site can get infected and then it can spread to other sites on the account.

So that’s one of the things that sets it apart. Also we’re doing light speed. Some other hosts are doing that too. But on the far bud budget side, you aren’t getting light speed and things like. . 

Spencer: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And you know, I’ve had a number of my own sort of horror stories, if you will, with Yeah.

Security issues or a lot of times it’s because things are maybe outdated. Right? But a lot of times issues can arise, like you said, because of, of the host itself. Is there any other sort of horror stories that you’ve heard about from sites that were hosted on either Blue Host, not to pick on them, but or other discount hosting?

Dustin: Yeah, I mean the no, they don’t generally educate on the processes and how their stuff works. So, like, for example many hosts when they offer backups, like those backups are stored on the exact same server as your site, so, If the server itself goes down, like there’s a problem there. Mm. And so like, one thing that I do, and I even do this with all my managed customers the managed customers, like I do offsite backups regardless if they’re on my hosting or if they’re on other hosting, because I, I do management for people no matter what hosting that they’re on.

And I do offsite backups and people are like, oh, well my host provides backups. Well, yeah, but if their entire infrastructure goes down, like that’s not really a separate copy. It is a separate copy. But uh, as soon as their hosting goes down, you’re gonna lose your hosting. Yeah. Yeah. Your site’s gone. So even, even with my own like people that are hosted on me, I still do backups offsite.

So that’s another thing that some of the other ones might not tell you about, that you know your backup’s not actually a safety net. Right. For the whole host. So, 

Spencer: yeah. No, I mean, that’s obviously smart for you to do. And maybe, I guess scary. I mean, there’s so many things that I don’t know about technically, right?

Like I just, at least when I first started a website, oh yeah, they’re a hosting company. Go with it. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s great. But then there’s a lot of these sort of unwritten things or things that you don’t know about that maybe could cause issues down the road. And part of that, like you mentioned, is you have tweaked your servers on Iridium to be specifically for WordPress.

You know, why, why is that important? Maybe explain to, you know, somebody without a lot of technical knowledge, like why, why does hosting specifically for WordPress exist? Like, why, why does that need to happen? 

Dustin: So, WordPress is a little bit unique in that it is, P h p for like the front end and the files, but it has, it’s backed by a database.

And so generally it’s a SQL database. And those two things interact and when a new page is, unless it’s fully cashed, when a new page is requested at the browser, it’s going in and loading the file and then it’s going and asking for the contents to put in that file from the database. And so it’s different from like a static site where the whole like HTML file is just in one file.

And generally speaking having to go to do a database query for everything is slower. And so there’s things that you can do to increase the performance there and caching, while it is a good solution there’s a lot of situations with WordPress where you can’t have caching, so like, You should have it on the front, front end of every site.

But let’s say you are doing Woo commerce too. Well, if you cashed everything in Woo Commerce, you’d go in and try to add something to cart and it would show you a empty cart because mm-hmm. , the ca the cart would’ve been cashed instead of updating real time what’s in that. And so doing things like adding PHP workers so that it makes it where multiple users can come to the site and it’s not going to totally just destroy the server.

So just thinking about the different things that you need to deal with, with a, having a database and then unable situations. Yeah. 

Spencer: Yeah. And so you’re able to actually do some of those things that other hosts wouldn’t do, I guess. Right? Because you’re, you’re thinking about WordPress first, right?

And, and making those tweaks that will, will make a site faster and perform better. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. So I know over the years you’ve, you’ve seen a lot of security risks. You’ve seen a lot of problems. And what, what are some of the worst maybe security problems that you’ve seen dealing either with client sites or just, you know, a friend that had, wants you to look at their site.

What are some of those things that, that people should really be looking out for and what, you know, what are some of those worst problems that can happen? 

Dustin: So, a real big thing to have is you need to have a web application firewall. And so, The, probably the most popular and well-known one for that is CloudFlare.

Mm-hmm. . So CloudFlare is a cdn, which can increase performance by loading locals closer locally to wherever you are, but they also have a firewall built into that. And so that can take any security hits and kind of stop it before it even gets to the host. Okay. And then on the hosting layer you want to have application firewall as well.

So, and, and actually back to what sets Meridium apart a lot of hosts when people have issues with the firewall, they just tell them to turn it off. And that, that is a solution to get your tickets to go down on the support side . But it’s not a solution to keep you secure. And so. One thing that I spend a lot of my time doing is actually working with the clients to figure out what’s causing maybe a false positive or blocking and we get that resolved so that we can maybe temporarily turn off the security just to get things working again.

But then after we find the root cause and we can turn all the security back on with maybe making a small exception for what was the issue. Right. So but back to your question on things that I see, biggest thing I see is outdated plug-ins. Hmm. People will go on like theme forest or code Canyon is their plug-in version of it.

Yeah. And you know, they’ll buy a plugin or they’ll buy a theme and it comes with, you know, free updates for a year or something like that. And then they just let it expire. And so they don’t keep up on their WordPress updates. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing I see is just an out of date plugin causing.

Some type of vulnerability. 

Spencer: Yeah. And so those vulnerabilities, is it like hackers are able to access the site? Like what do you see happening? I mean, spam added to the site 

Dustin: or? Yeah, so a lot of, a lot of times you’ll see like ads kind of getting placed, but it won’t be, you know, the, the client’s, you know, ad network, it will be like ads that were placed by whoever got into the site.

Yeah. If emails turned on at the host they’ll send out email ads that particular thing, and that could be just as sending out spam, but it also could be sending out Phish campaigns because you know, they get into a domain that has some authority and so people are more likely to trust it. So, you know, if you get an email from, let’s just say bank of America, And it’s actually showing it’s from Bank of America versus, you know, one of those 50 character long Gmail addresses.

Yeah. You know, you’re more likely to respond to that Bank of America email with something. Yeah. So it, it, it can be all kinds of things that people are trying to do with the sites. One, one recently from someone that I migrated, their site was infected before migrating them to Iridium. And it was anytime you would go to their website, it was after five seconds, it was transferring you over to like a crypto website.

Oh wow. So they were just redirecting all that traffic 

Spencer: and, and a lot of that comes from outdated plug-ins. Right. So I guess the answer is keep your up, your plug-ins updated. 

Dustin: Yeah, plug-ins updated. And then also like, Be careful about where you get your plugins or your themes from. Like, cuz you don’t necessarily know the quality of you know, the code that’s behind that.

Generally speaking, you know, people think that if a plugin has like a lot of sales or is popular that it’s good. But that’s not always the case. And especially if you’re not technical, like just be really careful about what you’re installing on your site. Yeah. 

Spencer: So, Yeah. No, I think that’s good advice.

And that kind of transitions into an experience that I had with, with my site and you helped me out with. I won’t go into all the details, but sort of the, the long story short is, is that I was working with you to, I had some site speed issues, right. And it did kind of come down to a conflict between some, some plugins and, and so I turned to, to figure out, okay, what, you know, plugin can I use, can I make ’em both work?

And that sort of thing. Right? And I was just, yeah, really concerned that my site was going to, gonna kind of slow, slow down the site. But you were able to make some tweaks get me set up, you know, so that I went in, because again, I don’t have all the technical knowledge. You were able to help me out and I was able to get my site as fast as possible with the right plugins, the right setup.

So thank you for that. Of course. Yeah, you’re welcome for, for doing all of that. So, in that vein, I know a lot of people are very concerned about site speed and core web vitals. Maybe you can give us like a mini playbook, if you will, and, and maybe even share. Some of what you maybe looked at on my site for, for how they can, how people can have maximum core web vitals, you know, fastest website possible.

What are some of the kind of technical steps they can look at? 

Dustin: Yeah, for sure. So the biggest thing that I see on almost every site that has a issue with core web vitals is images. People just upload, you know, images that are way too big for their, where they’re being displayed and then also not necessarily getting ones that are compressed or optimized.

And a lot of people will look to a plugin like image I or Short Pixel and those can be good. They have, you have to kind of pay attention to the settings that you’re setting on those to get the most out of ’em. But actually, ideally It would be ideal to use a tool before putting ’em on your site.

So like I recommend to all my clients to use Squish. It’s like squish.app. Okay. It’s the website. But instead of.com, it’s dot app and you can upload your file there and optimize it before putting it on your site. You know, you can set the size of it you can set a compression and how much quality.

There’s like a little slider for quality there that you can pick, okay, this will load faster, but it might not look as good. And you know, that’s a thing to balance, of course. Right. But doing it there instead of doing it on the website because some of the plugins will actually use the hosting resources to.

Do the compressions and optimizations. And so that could slow your site down potentially as you’re doing that work. Another setting that is really problematic that I find is the plugins will have an option to keep the original image that was uploaded. So what that will do is, yes, you got a nice fast loading smaller file, but then you also still have that big bloated image sitting in the background.

Hmm. And while that’s not a problem for your site speed initially it will make your hosting bill go up because you’re having double the images, so you need more space. Interesting, interesting. Yes. Yeah. And then that makes it harder for like, when you go to do a migration Some hosts have like caps on how much data can transfer at a time.

And so you might be, you know, copying like 20 gigs of images over off of a host and they might cut the stream somewhere in the middle and then you end up with like corrupted image files that you have to go back and figure out, okay, which one was it trying to copy when it stopped, and things like that.

So then other than kind of back on the plugin side a lot of plugins will load things that you don’t need. So a example that a lot of people use is contact form seven. I, I don’t know if they’ve cleaned this up cuz I haven’t used them in a long time, but they used to load code on every single page of your website.

Well, You don’t need a contact form to load files on every single page of your website. You only need to load on the contact page. And so just like you know, many of these plug-ins will not trigger to only the pages that you’re using, those plug-ins and that can cause extra resource drag. There’s a couple of plug-ins that you can use to temporarily use that will monitor what things are loading.

I think one of ’em is called like P three Performance Profiler. You can also use Queer Monitor to see what things are asking for, from the database. Which that is huge because that can kick you out of a cash situation. Cuz if the page was cashed, but then you have a plugin that was asking for something unnecessarily from the database, it could make it so that.

You’re slowing down your whole process because you’re asking for the database when you didn’t need to. So I would, I would say the big two biggest things are images and then making sure that things aren’t loading when they don’t need to be loading. Yeah. That solves most people’s problems. Yeah. 

Spencer: And that’s good advice.

I have a follow up question on image sizes. How should somebody determine what is the optimal image size for their particular site? You know, what should they be compressing it to? What type of file should they be using? Is it WebP images, P n G images? Sure. 

Dustin: So to find the size, if you are in Firefox or Google Chrome or even Microsoft Edge, you can right click on the spot of your site.

Like if you already have an image there. You can right click on it, and then there’s a option for inspect. And then if you hover over that, it will show you the size that’s currently being rendered. So it might be, you know, your picture might be 2000 pixels by 2000 pixels, but it will show the rendered size is only 350 pixels by 300 pixels.

Right. So that will tell you what size you want. And generally, as a rule of thumb, I just go with whatever the largest, if you’re gonna use it in multiple spots, like if it’s you gonna be like your featured image, like that might be, you know, on the blog post itself, it might be a larger image, but then obviously in your list of blog posts, it will be a smaller image.

Mm-hmm. . So I j I just go with whatever the largest image size you’re gonna use is, is gonna be. Yeah. Okay. And if you can’t figure that out, It’s kind of a general rule of thumb, 1200 pixels wide is good because Google Discover uses 1200 pixels wide. So if you’re in any of the categories that make sense for getting on Google Discover just setting your image to 1200 pixels wide is kind of a safety net there.

Yep. As far as file type, I’m a big fan of using the Moz JPEG on Squish. That seems to work really well. And you can get those to compress just as far down as Web P and it doesn’t require any extra coding cuz it loads just the same way as the JPEG does, but it’s a smaller file type than normal.

But P’S also good too. But you have to make sure that Whatever system you’re using is compatible with it. And some browsers have issues with it too. Hmm. So what you’ll find is a lot of the plug-ins that do WebP will actually also keep a JPEG copy or a P N G copy so that it will display on browsers that don’t work with WebP.

So, Hmm. If you want to keep, keep the amount of storage on your hosting as low as possible. The common denominator is jpeg that works on everything. Yeah. And the squish option for mods jpeg gets it down there just as small as WebP in most cases. 

Spencer: Okay. I, I had never heard of the Moz jpeg. Is that Yeah.

Something is, is, is that tool created by Moz or is 

Dustin: Honestly, I, I don’t know. It’s, it is one of the, it’s just one of the options. It’s one of the options inside of the squish app and it gets it down there. Okay. So 

Spencer: squish.app is, is, is the tool, and then you also mentioned another tool query monitor, or mm-hmm.

Dustin: Yeah. So is that what it’s called? Yeah. So that’s, that’s a WordPress plugin. Okay. That you can install. And what it will do is you turn it, when you turn it on, it will put a little bar at the top of your site, and then you go and load a page on your site, and it will just sit there and it will record all the things that are happening as your page loads.

And you can kind of just like look through there and it will be like, oh, you know Yost is loading this file, you know, and you’re like, okay, well, Does that make sense? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m using Yost and I want that you know, you might see WooCommerce, if you’re using WooCommerce, you know, there’s things that load on every page for the cart by default.

Well, if it’s on a blog page, you might not care about having the cart there. So you can go in and you can tweak the settings so that it only loads on the commerce pages, for example. Yeah. And those are the kinds of things you can see on the query monitor to see what things are calling. But you gotta make sure that you only run that plugin when you’re actually using it, cuz it, it in itself will slow down your site.

Spencer: Got it. Yeah. Just use it to monitor. Yep. Don’t, don’t leave it on all the time. Right. Yeah, those are some good tips. One other follow up question on images. How can you ensure that multiple copies of the image are not added to your site? Is it is, is that a setting and WordPress, or if you just reduce it, say to the 1200 by, you know, 700 size image mm-hmm.

that’s your biggest size. You’re, you’re good with that. So, 

Dustin: so there’s a couple things. If you’re not using an image optimization plugin you don’t have to worry about it, maybe keeping copies or whatever. And so if you’re just optimizing ahead of time using Squish or even, you know, if you are using Photoshop and manually doing it that way too.

Yep. Then the other thing is in WordPress themes, they can define the different sizes for. The types of images. So like when you’re going in and adding via the front end or the backend editor and you add an image in there, you’ll sometimes see like thumbnail or medium, small, large as the options for what sizes you can pick in the WordPress itself.

So all of those can be set in the themes file itself. So if you just make sure that it’s not asking for sizes that you’re never gonna use and removing any extras that might be added from either a theme or a different plugin. So because every time you upload, even if you upload the 1200, let’s say as your biggest size, WordPress is going to make all the smaller sizes that are asked for in WordPress.

So Just reducing to say, if you know that, hey, I’m a blog and I’m only going to have, you know, a featured image size a main like content image size, and then on the archive pages or blog pages, you know like a thumbnail for that. So that might be your three sizes, right? Some, some of these themes will come in with, you know, like eight sizes, for example.

Right. But you might not need that. So you can do some tweaks to reduce your file sizes that way. 

Spencer: Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. So I’m, I’m just thinking about my site. Maybe listeners are thinking the, the same thing, right? I’ve, I’ve got lots of blog posts. How, how can I quickly without going one blog post at a time, figure out where are all my large images that maybe I need to go through and reduce?

Dustin: There’s, there’s a, there’s a really cool plugin. It’s called, I think it’s called like Media Cleaner. And it, it’s by Meow Apps, I think is the company. It’s got, it’s got a cat for the icon if you do a search for media cleaner. And what it will do is it will search your entire site and it will find, it will look at all the files in your media library, and it will also search all your posts and pages and it will compare the two and it will tell you which ones are not being used at all.

So then you can quickly delete ’em to clean up your library that way. Oh, cool. So yeah, yeah’s a handy little tool. Yeah. That plugin’s really good for that use. And 

Spencer: is that something that Iridium could offer to help? Like if somebody just says, you know what, I don’t really know where all my large images are, right.

Is this something Dustin, you can look at for me and, and maybe even help reduce some of the file sizes to optimize? 

Dustin: Yeah, so I, I’ve done that for many of my managed service clients. The, the tool is not free for the. It’s got pro versions that you’ll generally want to have. I think it’s only like $30 or something.

So I have the client buy that, but then I do the labor as part of the managed service plan. Yeah. Okay. 

Spencer: Cool. So those are some of the tweaks that you can do. And then of course, just core web vitals in in general outside of anything. Yeah. We talked about like you can help ’em get that green check mark and Yep.

Google Search console, right? Absolutely. To do that. So any other common sort of bloat or sort of plugin issues that you commonly see on sites that people should 

Dustin: be aware of? Installing anything from Google. Oh, really? . So like for example, a Google site kit is yes. Most, most recently a pain in my side and really client sides.

Yeah. With, with site kit, Google’s trying to integrate like all of the services into your blog and that might sound great, but all these core web vitals and, you know, rules that Google comes up with, they never like apply their own rules to themselves. So 

Spencer: it’s a different team. 

Dustin: Probably , right? . So anyways, it, it can add a bunch of extra drag on, you know, calling things that you might not care about.

Most recently I had a client who installed it and didn’t go through the settings properly on it. They just installed it and, you know, connected it up to their Google account. Well, it put in like a, one of the GDPR type of opt-ins. And that made it so that Google Analytics wasn’t tracking because unless you hit the accept on it.

Well, all of a sudden she contacted me and she’s like, oh my gosh, you know, my traffic is going like way down. I don’t know what’s wrong. And she’s like, Google Analytics must have been removed or something. And so I went and looked and looked at the code and it had, you know, like a JavaScript trigger that said, you know, don’t load Google Analytics here until click or whatever.

Yeah. So you know, just blindly adding plugins, you know, cuz you heard it on a podcast for example, you know that that’s the right plugin to have, you know, you need this. Just things like that that come up. And, and, and that, that brings up another good point, like if you are going to add plugins, like.

Know why you’re adding them and what they’re doing, because a plugin might not be bad for adding a functionality that you need. And sometimes there’s settings that go along with those plugins, and some of the settings are what’s bad, not the plugin itself necessarily. Right. And so if you are, you know, setting it to do what it, what you need it to do, or what you’re trying to accomplish, like the plugin might be fine, but as a general statement, like the plugin might be a bad, you know, and, and someone might even hear like, oh, this plugin, you know, going around the blogger groups, oh, don’t get this plugin.

Don’t, you know, don’t use this. But it might not be the plugin. It might be that, you know, just the default settings for that plugin are not good. So again, it comes back to you really gotta pay attention to what you’re adding to your. 

Spencer: Right. Yeah. That brings up a thought for me. You know, my blog’s been around for more than 10 years, and I’ve installed lots of plugins.

I’ve uninstalled lots of plugins and some I still use, and some actually, I don’t know if I still need that maybe are still on my site. I was just thinking, is that something that you would do as part of your maintenance plans? I could say, Hey, Dustin, can you like tell me, here’s my list of 20 plug-ins.

Like, do I actually need all 

Dustin: these? Right. Yeah. So I, I do a lot of plug-in audits, Okay. For clients and not, not only that is you’ve installed and possibly removed a lot of plug-ins. Mm-hmm. , well, not all plug-ins will remove their entries from the database. Oh. So they’ll keep, they’ll keep the settings so that if you reinstalled, then all the settings would still be there.

Some, some are better about it than others. And some, some will, even, some better plug-ins will have An option to completely remove all of the settings on uninstall, but then others will also have a, just keep the minimal that need are needed if I was to reinstall it later. Yeah. So there’s, there’s varying levels of that.

And so I also have done for a lot of clients going into their database and cleaning up unneeded tables and stuff that are in there from, you know, plugins of the past. And, and we’ve actually even found where plugin was reusing, like the same prefix to the table. And so even though that plugin was no longer in use, like a new plugin that they got, had a similar naming and it was interacting funny with the new plugin.

Oh, wow. So 

Spencer: yeah. Lots of issues that can come up. Right, right. And I should probably do that is, is a plugin audit because I. It, it happens right like just over 10 years you kind of plug-ins come and go or you change how you’re doing things. And right now, I can’t remember what I did five years ago and do I still use that plug-in?

I don’t even know. So I’m maybe not the best example here, . so I did actually reach out to you and you helped me with something else. Email deliverability. So not too long ago, and again, I won’t go into all the details but there was anyways, through a service I was using, it caused some issues.

With my email deliverability that I was sending out to my email list and which was worrisome and, and my email setup is kind of unique. So I had you look at two things. One was, you know, my deliverability to my actual, you know, subscribers, my email list and then my day-to-day email that I use for more transactional emails, right?

Just almost like my personal inbox. And I had you take a look at that and you did an email audit and you improved my email deliverability in particular to my personal inbox. Once, once I figured out what the big issue was with my other email, I got that taken care of, and then you improve my email deliverability.

And, and help me out with that. So with that sort of short story, how do you improve email deliverability? What are some of the things that you look at and, and help clients out with? 

Dustin: Yeah, so the biggest thing is making sure that all the DNS records are there. There are many records that are considered optional to set up, but if you don’t set them all up, you’re, they count kind of against you as a we’ll call it a trust score.

Yeah. And so every, everything you do to benefit your trust score, like, will increase your deliverability. So, for example setting up DKM records mm-hmm. , so almost every domain that I see set up with Google Workspace, for example, doesn’t have the DKM record configured. And email authentication turned.

So that, that’s something that’s really important. So the, the three big things are having a proper Dmar record, a proper DKM record, and a proper SPF F record. So usually when people go through the setup wizards for like Google Workspace or Zoho Mail or you know, whatever, they’ll get the SPF record set, right?

But it probably won’t install the d a and it probably won’t install a Dkm record. So tho those are two things that are really important and like, one of the things with your site was you had a d a c record, but it had a false character in there that wasn’t supposed to be in there and it was causing your d a c not to actually register as it being there, even though it was there.

Yeah. So that those are the most important things. And then also making sure that it’s not coming from your web host. So a lot of hosting comes with, you know, free email services. But there’s problems with everyone sharing that same ip. Because not, not only do you have to have your DNS records set right, but having a IP that’s trusted is also important with email deliverability.

And so, you know, especially if you go and get budget hosting and they have maybe 200 different accounts on one server sharing one ip, like the chances that someone is sending something bad from that same server as you’re on, like it’s. Probably going to make you look bad. In fact green Geeks, which is another hosting provider just recently, like in the last couple of days, sent out an email to all of their clients saying that they were gonna be turning off a email forwarding services.

So like if you had it set up where, you know, your domain.com email was going to Green Geeks, but you forward it to like your Gmail account or your MSN account or whatever, right? They’re, they’re turning off that functionality because they were seeing impacts on spam against their ips. And so that, that’s another thing.

So, you know, actually having a email hosting provider, so like for your email list, you know, having a flow desk, a convert kit, you know, people that are actually Professionals and sending emails. Right. And then on the transactional personal email type of side, you know, having either Google Workspace, Zoho Mail, Microsoft 365 you know, getting that and not trying to send your email from your hosting ip.

In fact, at Iridium we don’t even allow any email to be sent. It’s required to have a third party. And that that also goes back to, you know, security and even s se back to SEO in things. You know, if your ips are showing up on blacklists, You know, Google doesn’t officially say it, but you gotta think that they’re looking at those ips and wondering, okay, well, you know, if this website is also on this blacklisted ip, like, is that a good trust factor?

You know, e a t as Right. It’s 

Spencer: not a good neighborhood to be 

Dustin: involved with. Exactly. So we don’t, we don’t allow any email to be sent from any of our servers, for example. 


Spencer: But that’s something that you help people set up, you know, if they wanna set up a Zoho mail or a Google workspace, you can help them get that all set up and, and Yep.

You know, working and, and then they can have their hosting, you know, separate. 

Dustin: Yeah. And I, I also do email audits, like separately. Yeah. So even if you already have like a, a Google workspace or something like that set up I do a email audit to make sure that it’s got all the extra records that it needs.

And then also a lot of times people will have. You know, they’ve moved hosts and they’ve moved email services multiple times, and they’ll have like DNS records on their CloudFlare or on their host just like our extra built up. So like your spf, you know, oh, you got a new email provider, you add their SPF record.

Your SPF record like could have a ton of your old services you’re no longer using in there. And that as two things, one, SPF records by default you can only have 10 different things. So if you have unneeded mail services allowed in there like you might exceed that limit of 10. But then also the SPF record says these are the services that are allowed to sell, send as my domain and, you know, get past, say a Google Gmail saying, okay, we trust that the email coming from this domain, Is okay to be coming from, say, MailChimp.

And so that, that’s what the SPF record does. So what one thing that can happen is if you had email through like a hosting, for example, previously, and it has the IP address of your old server in there if someone is on that same server and knows that you used to be on there and they can see your SPF record, they could potentially go set up a account on that host and spoof as you, and it could look like it is actually coming in from you because you have that old SPF record in there that says, you know, ten, ten five five is you.

Yeah. So there, there’s, you know, things people can do with, you know, social engineering there to. cause problems. Yeah. 

Spencer: And so you know, one, one way to kind of know if you’re having problems, if, if a bunch of people say, Hey, your emails are in my spam folder, right? They’re not ending up in my primary inbox, but I know there’s also mail testing tools, right?

Mm-hmm. , the so why don’t just tell people like, what’s, what’s a good place they can go to see if they’re having email problems? 

Dustin: Yeah. So my favorite one is mail dash tester. That you, they basically, they give you a bogus email address and you send an email to that email address and it will tell you you know, if you’re, if it sees anything on a blacklist for your domain it will tell you if your DKM is set right, your D mark spf.

It will also analyze the content of your email. So really good for people that do have mailing lists like yourself. Mm-hmm. sending out to a lot of people. You can send your email to there first and see if something you put in the content, like let’s say that you were promoting something and it had a free offer and you put free in all caps with an exclamation point that that might trigger.

And so see using mail tester you can actually see, oh, hey, this thinks that, you know, it looks like it could be spam, so. Yep. Yeah, that’s 

Spencer: good. From, from both a marketing perspective and a technical perspective. Right. Can, can make sure you’re sending out good emails that donate 

Dustin: up. Yeah. And they helpful and they let you send a few free ones per.

Without having to even sign up for their service. So it’s a real comfort tool. Cool. 

Spencer: Yeah. Yeah. No, very helpful. And so we didn’t really jump into a whole lot wh why you and I are talking about Iridium. You know, you started Iridium, you’ve been running it now, I guess, when, when did you start Iridium?

What sort of year on month roughly? 

Dustin: So, so Iridium, the, the hosting itself is about a year and a half old now. The maintenance services is much older than that. That was originally under a brand called ProSite Help. Yeah. And I’ve kind of merged them into one after starting the posting product.

So any of my managed services clients the plugin that I use to manage updates remotely actually will say Iridium ProSite help. Okay. So that you’ll you know, it covers both brands for people. 

Spencer: Yep. So, yeah, so you started it, you know, a year and a half ago, maintenance a little bit longer. And it just so happens that you’re both a niche pursuits reader and we actually live in the same local town here in the Tri-Cities.

Yep. Washington, which is really cool. And so we had a chance to meet up in person. We chatted. I really liked what you were doing at Iridium. And so I invested a little bit in Iridium hosting and so I, you know, have a small equity portion there, but mostly just to encourage you to keep going and, and doing what you’re doing because I love, you know, the, the services that you provide there.

You’ve got a quality product. You’ve helped me out now a couple of times. And just throughout this podcast, I’ve thought a couple other things like plugin audit and others that. I need to have you looking at to help me out. And so like I said, I’m a, I’m a small partner in the company, but you’re really running the show and so wanted to have you on the podcast, really just talk about the business.

You know, what are some of the pitfalls that, that people can have when they’re running a WordPress site or looking at hosting. And I think we’ve covered a lot of that today already. Is there anything else in the last couple of minutes here that we haven’t talked about that Iridium does or problems that you see arise as you’ve, you know, done WordPress maintenance that you want to talk about or mention?

Dustin: I think that we pretty much covered it. I mean, you know, the, the hosting maintenance services, email audits, those can be all done as monthly services, but also do one-off jobs for that. And then, Yeah, I mean as far as issues go a anything related to WordPress, people are more than welcome to reach out and ask a question.

One of your readers most recently actually reached out for core web vitals and after you announcing your investor status and I actually told him that I wasn’t gonna help him. I wasn’t gonna take his money cuz you, he was, you know, 99% of the way there already. So you know, if anyone has any questions, they can feel free to reach out and you know, we’ll figure out if we can help him.

And like I said, if, if not, then you know, I might be able to point, point ’em in the direction that they need to go. 

Spencer: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what I love is that people are able to actually work, work with you. You have this massive background in, you know technical background and so you have a lot of ex expertise.

And so the ability for sort of just the side hustle blogger, right, to, to be able to reach out to somebody and actually talk to somebody. Totally gets it. I think that’s huge. And so hopefully people take advantage of that. And if they like what they see, right. There’s a lot of great packages. The, the WordPress maintenance plan can do all your small WordPress fixes, keep your plug-ins updated everything else that we talked about, right?

Email, Cora Vitals, everything like that. Where’s the best place for people to go to kind of check out what you and Iridium offer? 

Dustin: Iridium hosting.com. That’s where you’ll find all of it. Yep. 

Spencer: Yeah. Easy enough. They can go to iridium hosting.com to, to learn more. Any other final tips or thoughts from you, Dustin, before we wrap up the interview here?

Dustin: No, I don’t think so. It’s been great talking you, Spencer. 

Spencer: Yeah, it’s great to have you on the podcast, share your background, your story. I actually have a ton of things that I want to go and like, look at my images and my plugins now that I know I could probably be tweaking a little bit better. And actually maybe a new process for paying attention to the size of images that I’m, I’m uploading on an ongoing basis.

So but if anybody has questions, they can reach out to you. There’s a contact form right there on iridium hosting.com. If they just wanna shoot you a question or if they’re ready to, you know, get started with anything there, they, they can do that. So thank you Dustin, for your time. Thanks for coming on.

Great to chat about everything including Iridium 

Dustin: hosting. Great. Thanks Spencer. 

Spencer: Hey everyone, it’s Spencer Haws here, founder of the Niche Pursuits Podcast. So I recently read a Twitter thread asking about the most underrated strategy in s u. One of the most common answers given was internal link building.

The reason, well, sometimes people put so much emphasis on external links, they forget that not only do internal links provide relevancy in SEO benefits, but that Google actually encourages you to build internal links. Now I get it. Building internal links can often feel time consuming and boring, and that’s why I created Link Whisper.

Link Whisper is a powerful WordPress plugin that makes building internal links so much faster and easier. You can quickly get relevant internal link suggestions as you write. And with the simple check of a box, add one or multiple internal links to your articles. And perhaps my favorite time Saver is the ability to see how many internal links all my articles have and to quickly get new internal link suggestions to articles.

I want to boost in Google with comprehensive internal link reporting and the ability to add links with the simple check of a box. I can’t even imagine going back to building internal links manually. Link Whisper is by far the most powerful, effective, and easiest to use internal link building tool out there.

Give it a try and if you don’t agree, I’ll give you your money back, no questions asked. In fact, for podcast listeners only, I’m offering a $15 off discount. Just go to link whisper.com and use discount code podcast at checkout to save $15, so as the creator of Link Whisper, I might be a little biased, but I highly recommend that you head over to link whisper.com today to check it out.

Again, that’s link whisper.com and be sure to use Discount code podcast at. Thanks again.


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