Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Don't Update Your WordPress Blog? Don't Expect A Blessing From the Search Engines

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

When dealing with search engines it’s important to remember that their job is to serve the consumer, the person searching for content online.  In doing so they want to provide them with the most relevant, most trusted, and most reliable source related to their query.  Part of that trust and reliability comes from knowing that the consumer won’t be harmed when visiting a website.  It’s because of this that Google has implemented tools in Google Webmaster Tools to notify you if your site is infected with Malware and more recently notifying webmasters that they need to upgrade their WordPress version.  But could it hurt your search engine rankings?

Wordpress Update Notification in Webmaster Tools

While I won’t say that having an outdated WordPress blog is going to tank your rankings, it’s definitely a concern in the eyes of the search engines.  Why else would the Google Search Quality Team send out notifications like the one above?  Wordpress sites are known to be popular targets for hackers and this is known by the search engines.  If they have the option to display a site that is running current, secure software over a site that is running outdated vulnerable software, which do you think will come out on top if all other factors are equal?

By not updating your blog software you give search engines the impression that your site isn’t maintained or that you don’t care about the usability and security of your site and it’s users.  Though a perception, it could be a problem for you in the long run.  Especially as the search engines look to trust factors more and more.

How to Keep Your WordPress Blog Up To Date

WordPress notifies you in the WordPress Dashboard if a new version of WordPress is available.  From there you can download WordPress and update your blog manually.  Another option is WordPress Automatic Upgrade, which is installed on all blogs designed by Plastic Surgery Studios.  This plugin allows you to easily backup your existing blog files and download and install the latest version of WordPress simply by following the on page prompts within the WordPress Dashboard.

Sometimes updating a WordPress blog can run you into some problems, even if you are using a plugin like WordPress Automatic Upgrade.  For those of you who just don’t have time to mess with it, or are afraid of breaking your blog Plastic Surgery Studios offers blog maintenance as a means of keeping your WordPress blog up to date.  For more information contact your Internet Marketing Consultant.

Blog Post Ideas In Unlikely Places

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

If you’ve followed my blogging for any amount of time, here or at any of the 3 other websites I manage you’ll know that consistency is a problem for me. It’s not that I’m not dedicated or I don’t have time to write, it’s that I have trouble establishing topics. More times than not, because of my schedule, some other blogger beats me to the punch, or I simply can’t find inspiration, hence my 500+ Blog Topics post last year. However, what I am finding is that oftentimes blog topics appear in unexpected places when we’re not looking for them.

Newsletters

We all have interests outside of our work. One interest I am particularly passionate about is music. A few months back I was reading an e-newsletter from CMT and saw a short bit on a music video by Colt Ford that parodied the movie Twilight. In this moment I was doing nothing more than reading for pleasure, but in the end I had fodder for a blog post that wound up being fairly popular on a Twilight blog I help manage. This particular situation was also inspiration for this post.

Magazines & Newspapers

Though many believe print media is a dying breed, most of us still read magazines or newspapers; in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor, or through subscriptions to our home or office. Print media is a great place to find ideas for blog posts. First, in many cases print articles are not duplicated online, which allows you to talk about an article that an online audience may not have read. Second you can report on the article and site it as a resource. Many trade publications post statistics or data that you may be able to discuss on your blog and site the print content as your source. Dying or not, magazines and other print sources can often feed a strong blog post.

Television & Radio

Another dying breed thanks to streaming video and the DVR, television and radio can offer a lot of great opportunities or inspiration, especially news casts. If you watch local news or listen to local radio keep your ears peeled for any information that may be useful to discuss or share in a blog post or even social media update. Again, this information is only being fed to a select audience and your insight or recap can capture additional audiences.

As a blogger you are surrounded by blog post ideas, being conscious of potential blog post opportunities when going about your daily life can be fruitful when it comes time to brainstorm that next blog topic.

The Power of Community & Readers: A Lesson From Cook’s Source and Dairy Goat Journal

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

By now you’ve probably heard of the social media snafu by Cook’s Source Magazine that resulted in an internet backlash against the publication for stealing content from a LiveJournal blogger and publishing it in their magazine without her permission. However Cook’s Source wasn’t the only publication to be outed for ripping off a blogger this month.  Chickens in the Road blogger Suzanne McMinn fell victim to lazy publishers this month when an image she snapped for a 2008 blog post was used in the November/December 2010 issue of Dairy Goat Journal without her permission.

After initially being hung up on by the publisher of Dairy Goat Journal, Suzanne wrote an open letter to the magazine publisher.  The next day she received a call from the publisher offering limited compensation, but then received another call offering $2100 in compensation after reading her blog posts and comments from her readers.  Suzanne later posted that the check arrived with a hand written note and cleared.  Unlike the outcome of the Cook’s Source fiasco, Suzanne was fortunate enough to come out on top and received compensation for her work.  But at the end of the day, neither of these stories would have the same outcome if it weren’t for the support of online communities and blog readers.

In each of these situations a single woman was standing against a large publisher, the first with upwards of 2,800 readers and the latter a five million dollar company.  Alone, their complaints probably would have fallen on deaf ears, or required legal action, but with the support of their community one company was humiliated publicly on the internet, creating a PR nightmare and the other recognized and accepted responsibility for their wrong doing.

In both instances these bloggers had built a community of readers online that not only enjoyed their work, but stood behind it when someone stole it.  Would your readers come to your rescue if you were in that situation, or would they simply look the other way?

As we reach the one week mark before Thanksgiving here in the states I encourage you to thank your blog readers and social media followers.  Like any relationship its important to nourish the bond you have between you and your community and recognize that they are the ones helping drive your business.  Without them who would be sharing your content, linking to your blog posts, or Like-ing you on Facebook?

The Most Comprehensive Guide To Setting Up and Optimizing A WordPress Blog EVER

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Over the years I have read and collected a number of lists and how to guides on setting up a WordPress blog. Each guide offers a little something different, with a variation of steps and processes to help setup and optimize a new site. Using a combination of these guides I have developed a process that I have begun using on every WordPress site I build and have opted to share that process with you.

This guide will not tell you how to install WordPress, or help you install and choose a theme; I will leave that up to you and your hosting company. What it will do is guide you through a number of processes that will help to setup and optimize your blog for both usability and for search engine optimization.

General Settings

Change the Domain – By default WordPress identifies your domain without the www included. If you prefer the www URL, which most of us do, (unless you’re Twitter) then be sure to update this.

Set Your Timezone – A lot of people forget to do this, which really isn’t that big of a deal unless you plan to schedule something. Nothing is worse than having that viral post scheduled for a time when no one is looking at your blog.

Writing Settings

Disable Remote Posting Options – If you don’t plan to post to your blog remotely or post to your blog via email disable these options in the Settings >> Writing section. This is another avenue that hackers could use to access your blog if they so desired.

Update Your Ping List – One of the easiest ways to get your content indexed in the search engines quickly is to make it visible. A ping is an alert sent out to other websites letting them know that new content has been published. Steve Gerencser has put together a mega ping list with over 160 ping services, which can greatly increase the index time for your content.

Discussion Settings

Enable Threaded Comments – There are a lot of options available under Settings >> Discussion, most of which are best decided based on your personal preference. That being said there is one particular feature I highly recommend from a usability standpoint; enabling threaded comments. By enabling threaded comments you allow users to reply to one another directly and easily follow conversations.

Privacy Settings

Be Seen – Nothing is more frustrating than discovering that a site isn’t indexing or ranking because the site is being hidden from the rest of the world. Be sure to set it so that the search engines and the rest of the world can see your blog in Settings >> Privacy.

Permalink Settings

Change the Permalink Structure – WordPress permalinks are not SEO or user friendly by default. When you start out your permalinks look something like this, http://site.com/?p=123. To correct this visit Settings >> Permalinks and use the “custom” option for your link structure. If categories are going to play an important roll on your site/blog then you can include your category and your post name in the URL (http://site.com/category/post-title) by adding /%category%/%postname%/ to the custom field. Another option is to simply use the post name as the URL, (http://site.com/post-title) which can be achieved by adding /%postname% to the Custom Structure option. One important thing to note here is that using post names can make URL’s lengthy, so be mindful of your permalinks when writing posts. Keep the permalink down to 2-4 words and omit things like “a, and, the” etc. from the permalink when creating the post.

Secure Your Blog

Set Up Authors – Nothing is more common on a WordPress blog than the Admin profile, so if a hacker wants in this is just one of many avenues they may try and enter from. Removing the Admin author and adding a personalized author for your blog can not only make your blog more personable, but more secure.

WordPress Plugins

There are tons of WordPress plugins out there that will allow you to do pretty much anything you want with your WordPress blog. That being said, here are the core plugins I install on every personal blog and client blog.  To install plugins simply select Add New from the Plugin menu and you can then search for any or all of the plugins listed below! Once you find them click install, and then activate the plugin.

Akismet – This comes default with WordPress and is a lifesaver in the comment spam department. I have used other plugins in the past, but resorted back to Akismet because of its reliability. Once you activate Akismet you will need a WordPress API key in order to run the plugin. If you don’t have a key, sign up for one at WordPress API Keys. Once you have this go to Plugins >> Akismet Configuration, enter your key and click Update Options.

All In One SEO Pack – All In One SEO pack is the King of all SEO plugins in my opinion. Unless you are using the SEO friendly Thesis Theme, this plugin is probably the most effective when it comes to optimizing your blog posts and keeping all of your SEO efforts in line. Some core elements to address immediately:

  • Create a home page title, description, and keywords
  • Select Canonical URL’s. This is another step in preventing duplicate content problems caused by multiple URL’s with the same content.
  • Select Rewrite Titles. This will rewrite any existing titles that need to be updated to your new SEO format.
  • Select noindex for categories, archives, and tag archives. Again this helps with duplicate content.

Additionally I would recommend creating your meta keywords and descriptions for each individual post and not us the auto generate options available in this plugin. Automate processes, not the SEO!

Google XML Sitemaps – To ensure the search engines are seeing all of your content, its important to have an XML sitemap. This plugin will generate and update an XML sitemap for your blog.

No Self Pings – This plugin will prevent your blog from sending pings to itself if you link from one post to another and ultimately prevent the post from showing up as a ping in your post comments.

Permalink Redirect – The last thing you want to do is annoy the search engines by having duplicate content caused by varying URL’s with the same information. Permalink redirect “Redirects all crap away from the end of the URL” so that you don’t run into this problem. This is also a good plugin to use if you are using categories in your URL’s/

WordPress Automatic Upgrade – The one complaint I get most from clients and friends alike is how cumbersome the task of updating WordPress can be. Thankfully I found WordPress Automatic Upgrade a few years back and have kept the cries at bay. If you are uneasy about upgrading WordPress on your own, this plugin will do it for you.

Note: When it prompts you to make backups. MAKE THEM! Nothing is worse than having something go wrong during an upgrade and potentially losing your blog. Backups are important, so be sure to make them.

WP Super Cache – As a blog grows you want to make sure its running quickly and efficiently for the user’s sake. This plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog, which ultimately decreases load time for your visitors as they continue to access your content.

In addition to these core plugins, I would recommend exploring plugins that will notify Twitter, Facebook and other social networks when you publish a new blog post.

Setup FeedBurner

FeedBurner is just like your traditional blog feed, but with all the added bells and whistles you could want. It will give you data related to your subscribers and help you track your sites statistics.

To use FeedBurner you have to setup an account so that your feed integrates with FeedBurner and allows you to track your statistics. Once that is setup you can install the FeedBurner Feedsmith plugin to ensure that your blog is directing people to the right feed for your blog.

Setup Analytical and Search Engine Tools

Analytics – There are a handful of analytical tools on the market, but the strongest free tool by far is Google Analytics. If you have a Google account you can setup Google Analytics for your site, all you have to do is install the needed script within your site to begin tracking. The code can usually be placed directly into the header file of your theme, but if you are uncomfortable with doing this yourself there are also plugins available.

Search Engine ToolsGoogle, Yahoo, and Bing all have their own webmaster centers and tools that will provide you data about your website so long as you can prove ownership of the site by using one of their verification methods (usually a meta tag or file on the site). This data is vital for identifying errors and a wealth of other data about your site that the search engines have.

Get Ready For Visitors

There are three core elements that should be in place to make sure that you are providing the best experience possible for your visitors; an about page, a contact page, and a way to sign up for your feed.

About Page

WordPress has one of these by default, so all you have to do is go in and personalize it. Let people know who you are or tell them more about your business. While a well structured site will identify who you are and what you do as it is, oftentimes readers want other opportunities to learn more about the blogger or the company before making a final judgment about the site and its content.

Contact Page

Whether you’re blogging for business or blogging to share your ideas it’s always a good idea to be available to your readers. A contact page is a great place to provide information on how readers can reach you. There is no wrong or right way to develop a contact page so long as you provide any means of contacting you that you feel is pertinent to your site or your business. Some contact options include:

  • Contact Form
  • Physical Address
  • Telephone Number
  • E-mail address
  • Social Networking Links

RSS Feed

Why go to all of the trouble of setting up FeedBurner if no one is going to subscribe to your feed? Make sure your design makes subscribing to your feed a prominent feature on your site.

Let’s Get Blogging!

Now that you’re all setup its time to get blogging!  I hope that has helped some of you discover exactly how you can setup an optimize a blog for both the search engines and your users.  For those of you who are still uncertain about this whole process you may also be interested in our blog optimization services.

Huge thanks to Yoast, Angie Bowen, and Glen Allsopp for writing incredible WordPress setup and optimization posts that I have continually referenced and revisted over the years.

500+ Blog Topics For The Blogger That Is Stuck

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Let’s be honest, not all bloggers are strong writers.  Furthermore, some of us have a hell of a time deciding what to write about.  I am one of those bloggers.  I literally keep a running log of blog post ideas on post it notes, webclips in Evernote, and even on my cell phone.  But oftentimes those posts simply never get written and I am left racking my brain for ideas on what to write.

During this weeks struggle I turned to a handful of bookmarked blog posts I had collected over the years that offered collections of blog topic ideas.  In doing so I came up with the idea for this post.  Obviously I’m not the only blogger who struggles with this, so why not share my resources with my readers.

Some of the first posts I collected I used as fodder for real estate SEO clients who didn’t really know how to get over the blogging hump.  From there I collected a handful of marketing post ideas, small business post ideas, and general topic ideas to help kick off or jump start a blog.  This list is constantly growing and I am sure that over the years there are a ton I have missed, but hopefully some of these posts can inspire a post for your blog.  Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you don’t work in some of these industries, that doesn’t mean you might not find something in the list that could spark an idea or inspire you so keep that in mind as you go through the list below!

106 Blog Ideas For Realtors

101 Real Estate Blog Topics

40+ Topics For Corporate Bloggers

50 Blog Post Ideas For Business Blogging

Business Writing: Ideas For Blog Posts

101 Blogging Headlines

50 Blog Post Ideas To Fuel Your Ad Agency’s Blog

100+ SMB Blogging Ideas To Kick Start 2010

As I mentioned before I am sure there are a TON of posts I haven’t collected over the years.  These are just some of the main ones I have come across in my regular blog reading or through industry peers.  If you have any to add please feel free to share in the comments!