Purple Ivy - Asheville Website Design and Consulting Elegant, Organic, and Original Design Tue, 12 Oct 2010 17:41:41 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.1 Organizing WordPress for Search Engines /web-design/seo-marketing/2010/10/wordpress-for-search-engine-findability/ /web-design/seo-marketing/2010/10/wordpress-for-search-engine-findability/#comments Tue, 12 Oct 2010 16:54:19 +0000 Sha /?p=132 I recently read a wonderful post on VanSEO about how to organize the structure of a website to make it easier for search engines to organize the content.  Sure it’s critical for users to find your site easy to use!  But if you want your site to work well in promoting your business, and want good search engine ranking, you need to put some careful thought into organizing it.  Wordpress makes it especially easy, but you have to be deliberate, using techniques like siloing, robots.txt management, and link design to give your site good structure for findability.

The basic idea of siloing is simple:  You want to organize the directory structure in a heirarchical way organized around sections that target specific keywords that you want to use to help people find your site.  Then you make sure that links inside each directory for the most part stay in that directory.

WordPress has this great category feature that you can use to simplify the directory hierarchy.  It even allows subcategories.   As it turns out, the WordPress category feature is a great way to implement a siloing technique.

I started with a video from the above post from Michael Gray, to restructure my own PurpleIvy website.

From there I distilled some steps that you can take to get this process underway.

Set up and name your categories

You should be very careful and deliberate about setting up your WordPress categories.  The content in your site should be organized around the categories, and each post should be in one and only one category to avoid duplicating content.  Duplicating is really bad for your findability because the link flow to your post may get split between different URLs, and your page is competing with itself also through two different URLs.

You should give each category a good “slug” or URL name that includes keywords you want to target.  Use dashes and not underscores to separate any words.

Set up the permalinks

Go to your settings / permalinks section and edit the permalink structure.  By default WordPress puts posts in a format that looks like /year/month/day/post-name, but this isn’t good.  You want each post to appear in the directory for its category.  You can also add extra SEO keywords to all the posts in your site this way.   I use this format there:

/seo-keyword/%category%/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%

This way my urls look like this:   /web-design/seo/2009/01/somepost/

The category inside the URL is really important for the siloing.

I also use a prefix for all my category summary pages by putting something sensible in the Category Base field.   That way these pages have a distinct subpage as well.

Make sure your tags also use a prefix in the Tag Base field, because you’ll need that later.

Robots.Txt WordPress Plugin

You will need to be able to edit your robots.txt file.  Install and activate the PC-Robots.Txt plugin from your plugins tab in WordPress – just search for “plugins” to add it.

After you’ve added it, go to your Settings / PC Robots.Txt settings page to edit the robots.txt there.  You will want to add a disallow tag to prevent robots from sifting through your archives or through your tags. Here’s mine:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /wp-admin/
Disallow: /wp-includes/
Disallow: /wp-content/plugins/
Disallow: /wp-content/cache/
Disallow: /wp-content/themes/
Disallow: /wp-login.php
Disallow: /wp-register.php
Disallow: /tags/
Disallow: /2008/
Disallow: /2009/
Disallow: /2010/
Disallow: /2011/
After you’ve done that, googlebot won’t find duplicate content under your tags or archives, but will find it only through your category pages.
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Microsoft and Adobe? Egad! /web-design/opinion-and-news/2010/10/microsoft-buying-adobe/ /web-design/opinion-and-news/2010/10/microsoft-buying-adobe/#comments Fri, 08 Oct 2010 14:39:18 +0000 Sha /?p=109 I read a rumor today that Microsoft might be contemplating a purchase of Adobe.  Scary!  The first thing that came to mind was, “Oh yuck, that’s all we need is messed-up Adobe software.”  But then it occurs to me that Microsoft hasn’t been all that mac-friendly over the years for obvious reasons, and if you think about it, Microsoft could really hit Apple hard by:

  • Dropping native support for OSX with Creative Suite
  • Bundling Windows 7 with Creative Suite
  • … along with their own PC emulator

The whole idea is really disgusting, but given the fact that PC emulators actually work very well (I happen to love Parallels – it works great!) with the now native Intel hardware, this is one way for Microsoft to get Windows on a bunch more Macs.

Then again, if Apple bought Adobe, they could probably do the same to Microsoft.

I prefer an independent Adobe.

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Artisteer Template Designer /web-design/resources/2010/09/artisteer-easy-website-templates/ /web-design/resources/2010/09/artisteer-easy-website-templates/#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2010 00:16:53 +0000 Sha /?p=103 Review – Artisteer Web Template Designer

Artisteer - CMS Template GeneratorI’m currently reviewing and evaluating a really neat program for designing and modifying CMS templates.  I do have some pretty steep requirements for what such a thing might be able to do, but as advertised, it should generate templates for the most popular content management systems, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and DotNetNuke.  So…..  what does it really need to do rather than just generating cookie-cutter sites, to be useful as a design tool?

Here’s what I want to know:

  • Can I use my own images and theme elements in a design to get something that’s actually original?
  • Can I move things around and adjust sizes and widths as I wish to get what my customer wants?
  • Does it support any type of active navigation with slick pulldowns?
  • Can I customize the navigation with javascript?

We will see!  Stay tuned… And if you want to try it out for yourself and let me know, please feel free!

- Mike

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Including JQuery Multiple Times /web-design/development-tips/2010/03/including-jquery-multiple-times/ /web-design/development-tips/2010/03/including-jquery-multiple-times/#comments Fri, 05 Mar 2010 14:33:41 +0000 Sha /?p=101 Do you want to prevent loading JQuery twice?  JQuery (at least through 1.4) doesn’t work when you include it more than once.

At work I ran across a strange problem that often comes up in content management systems.  The scenario works like this:

  • The content management system uses JQuery in its latest version but not in earlier versions
  • A skin designer uses JQuery in the design of a skin
  • A plugin developer uses JQuery in the implementation of a plugin
  • Someone who writes custom content for a page wants to use JQuery for a page

All these different people want to use JQuery – but the JQuery framework does not function properly if it is included more than once on a web page.  There’s also no conditional include in HTML (or any include functionality at all, which I’ve always thought to be a glaring omission).

I wrote a wrapper that you can include instead of JQuery that doesn’t include JQuery if it’s already there. It’s based up on a post by FlySwat but the problem with FlySwat’s is that you have to put some extra code in front of your JQuery code every time. To use my version of the wrapper, all you have to do is use a different function other than $(document).ready to start your scripts at page ready time.

Here’s my “jquery.js” which you can put on a page as often as you like:

if (typeof(loadJSInclude) == 'undefined') {
 function loadJSInclude(scriptPath, callback)
 {
   var scriptNode = document.createElement('SCRIPT');
   scriptNode.type = 'text/javascript';
   scriptNode.src = scriptPath;

   var headNode = document.getElementsByTagName('HEAD');
   if (headNode[0] != null)
      headNode[0].appendChild(scriptNode);

   if (callback != null)    
   {
     scriptNode.onreadystagechange = callback;            
     scriptNode.onload = callback;
   }
 }

 function loadJQuery(task) {
   if (typeof(jquery) == "undefined")
   loadJSInclude('/js/jquery-1.4.1.min.js', function() {
     $(document).ready(task)
   });
   else
     $(document).ready(task());
 }
}

And then, to start your JQuery operations, use loadJQuery()  instead of $(document).ready()

loadJQuery(function () {
  .. your jquery stuff here ..
  $('#boomboom').click( function() {
  alert("BOOM!");
  });
);
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Wish List – Customized Search /web-design/seo-marketing/2009/12/wish-list-customized-search/ /web-design/seo-marketing/2009/12/wish-list-customized-search/#comments Wed, 16 Dec 2009 15:19:30 +0000 Sha /?p=99 All the time I get search results in google or bing that include sites that show up repeatedly that I really don’t ever want to see.

One of these is some sort of expert tech site that you have to pay to access.  But the results always show up high when I’m looking for help.

Google has a cool feature where you can click on an X and then omit the site from that search, and it even remembers for future searches on those words.  But what I really want is to be able to ban a site, or particular kinds of results, from ever showing up in my search.

I’d like to be able to ban by domain name so that I never see search results from a specific domain.  I’d also like to be able to make some search results that include certain keywords ranked less.  A “deprecate” option that lets me deprecate result because it contains a certain phrase would be nice.  I might deprecate the word “baby” and “infant” for example because, unless I’m explicitly searching for “baby” stuff, I really don’t want to see baby clothes show up in my searches.

In addition, an “promote” option would be nice.  Since I frequently search for ubuntu help, for example, I’d rather see ubuntu results higher placed than results for SUSE linux.  Additionally, I might want to promote search results from a certain city I’m not in right now because I visit there a good bit.  At present Google is very aware of my location, but I would like to be able to tell it where I am or where I want to be, rather than it figuring that out from my IP address.

It would be relatively easy to do – I’m just asking to have the search results rearranged a bit and filtered based on my own personal likes and preferences, which I should be able to edit.

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SEO Basics /web-design/seo-marketing/2009/11/seo-basics/ /web-design/seo-marketing/2009/11/seo-basics/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2009 04:46:57 +0000 Sha /?p=85 Recently a prospective client asked me for some help getting his site up onto search engines.  Even when people searched for his name and his website specifically, they couldn’t find him.  Last time I checked, this site was number one in Google for Purple Ivy, though I’d not expect anyone looking for web consulting to search for that, at least if they know what they are looking for and type into the search bar instead of the URL bar they will find me!

Even so, there are some basic steps you should take to make yourself even remotely findable.

Paid and Free Search Engine Listing

First, you need to list your site in DMOZ Open Directory Project.  Many major search engines including Google start their web crawlers here.  (A crawler is a computer program that hops links from page to page and site to site to index the web.)

Second, list in the free Yahoo site listing.

Third, if you’re serious about your business, fork out the fee to list your site in the Yahoo Directory.  Non profits are free.

Fourth, if you are running a business that operates out of a location, add your site to the Bing Local Listing Center and also Google Local Search.  This is really important if you want people to find you with the street navigation on their smartphones.

Web Site Basics for SEO

Make sure you have a title for your web page, and that your web page has brief, cleanly presented text and great photos or graphics.  Avoid needless words, and stay brief.

Use key search words and phrases in your text, especially in your header tags and hyperlink text.  People can’t find your site by searching for it if the words and phrases you want them to find are not actually on your website.

Additional Work for Search Engine Optimization

Generate a search engine site map XML document if you can.

See if you can get some associated businesses or friends to link to your website.

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Pay Per Click should Die /web-design/opinion-and-news/2009/11/pay-per-click-should-die/ /web-design/opinion-and-news/2009/11/pay-per-click-should-die/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2009 20:04:57 +0000 Sha /?p=78 Search engines are all about pay per click these days.  It’s part of the revolution that happened with Google’s add-money advent of adwords.  But since Google launched its pay per click model, other search companies have followed suit.

The idea of course is simple – allow advertisers to pay only for visitors that click through their ads.  I (me as a service and goods provider) decide how much I will pay for a click, and then Google determines the placement of my ad to maximize their profit – clickthrough percentage times clickthrough revenue.

For me the advertiser it seems I’m getting a good deal, but no…. that’s not the case.  It just offloads the job of me calculating the clickthrough rate myself and saves me from having to figure out what I’m willing to pay per impression on the front end.  But I still have to figure out how much of my revenue per visitor I’m willing to set aside.

There are problems with pay-per-click, and no actual advantages, for me the advertiser.  But still there are few effective alternatives for businesses who primarily sell via the ‘net.

The two most serious problems are:

  • Click fraud. I can’t tell if a click through my ad and a visit to my site is from a visitor that’s interested in what I’m offering, or not.  Google and other engines try to put technology in to minimize click fraud, but even so, when someone clicks on my ad, it costs me money no matter what.
  • Uncertain impression cost. How much do I have to pay for an impression?  In advertising, name recognition is everything.  With the PPC system I can’t figure out how much an impression costs because impressions are not something I pay for.  But impressions very much matter.
  • Skewed ad placement. It’s possible for others, or competitors, to push my ads off the search results just by clicking on them, particularly if I limit my daily spending on ads a lot.

To illustrate the problem, just to be contrary, I always type in the name of sites directly into my URL for sites I find I’m interested in, because I don’t want the company I’m buying from to have to give money to Google and raise my costs as a consumer.

Think about this: By not clicking on the ad in Google, you are reducing the cost of goods that you, the consumer, pays.

Additionally, I always click on the Google ads of companies I don’t like.

Think about this: By clicking on ads in Google, you can cause money to be transferred from the company to Google even if you could care less about actually using their goods or services.

Google and other search engines could, very easily, provide me with click through statistics even if I purchase impressions.  And if I use the same adwords tool to track the conversion rate, I’m still guaranteed to know what a click is worth in terms of revenue for me.

But there are advantages to purchasing impressions:

  • It doesn’t matter how many times anyone clicks on it, so paying for impressions is immune to click fraud. Google and other SEOs can very easily avoid counting repeat quick impressions by the same user.  If a user refreshes their search page 100 times in an hour, search providers can trivially count this as one user impression.
  • I get to decide how much it’s worth to me to get my name out in front of a potential customer who searches for a related key word, and
  • I get to see my relative impression placement against people I might be bidding against for placement.

It’s not even difficult for search providers to calculate my clickthrough rate, and with integration of site stats, my conversion rate and return on investment.  That could easily give me a Pay-Per-Impression model that would work well.

Think about this:  There’s no way for people (like me above) to skew ad presentation or cause transfer of money for uninterested visitors.

I pick on Google most of all because it invented this insidious advertising model to start with, but every other search provider does it pretty much the same way.  So tell me then…. why do we even have Pay-per-click in our marketplace then? I’d sure like to know, and I’d sure very much love to see it go away.

Nov. 24 – Update with an example: It’s certainly possible for impression-fraud to happen the same way click-fraud does, with bots all over the internet querying for search terms to generate an impression of my ad.  But it would require more work, as in many many more hits. That’s because impressions are worth so much less than clicks.  One of my ads has a clickthrough rate of 0.2 % and costs 50 cents per click.  A click fraud operation could exhaust my $20 per day budget in just 40 clicks.  But with the click through rate established, the cost per impression is 1 cent.  So a click fraud operation would have to generate 2000 impressions.  That’s harder to do undetected because it requires 2000 computers instead of 40.  Google would still make the same amount of money if I were bidding 1 cent per impression as if I were bidding 50 cents per click because Google’s already collected stats on my click through rate and that rate is fairly constant over time for my ad.

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Operating System Essential Anti-Virus /web-design/resources/2009/11/operating-system-essential-anti-virus/ /web-design/resources/2009/11/operating-system-essential-anti-virus/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2009 03:59:14 +0000 Sha /?p=76 It’s always amazed me that the anti-virus software market’s been so big.  When you install anti-virus software, modifications are made to the very lowest level parts of the operating system to monitor internet traffic, email applications, scan devices when they are attached, and scan files when they are opened, in addition to monitoring system processes….. all of this sounds like techno-babble for stuff happening under the hood of your computer.

Under the hood of your computer you say?  Isn’t that where an operating system is supposed to exist for the most part?

An operating system should protect itself from viruses.  You shouldn’t need to have to install software on a computer system to guard against unapproved subversion of its operating system.  There are two ways to make this happen:

By Design

The operating system should be designed with application structure and process structure that makes security compromise difficult. I’ve always come down on hard on Microsoft for building too much power into things inappropriately.  Like ActiveX – do you really want some website able to run software on your computer and make changes to your hard drive?  Microsoft’s learned the hard way that exposing  application power and flexibility is unwise.

Not to say that Linux and variants are immune – they’re not.  But in general, applications that you install on these machines never make any changes to system files, and if they do, you have to give them permission.

Active Analysis

Enter: Anti-virus software.  People on Linux and Macs still don’t mess with it much – they just keep their operating systems up to date.  Even so, some degree of active protection should also be built into the operating system itself.  Maybe the OS could provide hooks for third parties to better analyze data as it’s read, too, but at a very basic level, some sort of semi-competent approach to active data scanning should happen right there at the application level as a feature of the OS itself.

I mean: Come on.  Look at all the cool stuff that your computer comes with out of the box that’s part of the operating system:  Media players and web browsers and image viewers and very basic editor capability, etc.

Kudos to Microsoft for adding Microsoft Security Essentials - the first OS-provided anti-virus solution, to their suite.

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Step By Step /web-design/design-tips/2009/11/step-by-step/ /web-design/design-tips/2009/11/step-by-step/#comments Wed, 11 Nov 2009 13:52:02 +0000 Sha /?p=71 So you would like to get a web page up and going?  Great.  There are a few steps that need to happen along that road.  Some of them are very easy, and some of them a challenge.  Here’s what needs to happen:

Choosing a domain name.

I recommend using mydomain.com as a domain registrar – it’s easy to use, provides domain name resolution (DNS) services for free, isn’t cluttered with tons of ads, and has great features.  And it’s cheap.  You can use that site to choose and register your domain name.  You’ll need to sign up for the DNS service, as well as email forwarding as well, but you need a hosting account too where you will actually put your website.

If we will be working for you, please set us up as a technical contact for your domain:  Purple Ivy Web Design,  110 Oakland Dr,  Black Mountain, NC, 28711.  828-686-8231 is our contact phone.

Choose a web host.

We recommend Hostgator.  If you want to order and set it up on your own, feel free, or we can handle all that for you.  Once you have your web host set up, you (or we) will point the domain name to the host.  They’ll give you an IP address, and you need to tell your domain registrar (mydomain) where people can find your website (the IP address at Hostgator).

Set up email.

We recommend gmail.  Just set up a new email address and then go into your mydomain account and have them forward all email to that address.  You can set up gmail to automatically reply using the right email address as well so that your messages don’t come from gmail.com but appear to be coming from your website address.

Install your CMS.

We use WordPress, and that’s the technical part.  With access to your web host, we’ll do all that for you.

Upload your web content – photos and text

Of course you have to have some content to upload!

And that’s it, you’re good to go!

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Windows 7 Task Bar is Semi-OK /web-design/opinion-and-news/2009/09/windows-7-task-bar-is-semi-ok/ /web-design/opinion-and-news/2009/09/windows-7-task-bar-is-semi-ok/#comments Fri, 11 Sep 2009 19:16:33 +0000 Sha /?p=68 So I’ve been using Windows 7 for a few weeks now actively at work.  The upgrade from Vista went okay, except that the machine locks up every hour or so for a minute, spinning its disk drive. I don’t know what it’s doing, or if this weird behavior is a vestige of the Vista upgrade. Who knows….. maybe a clean install of Windows 7 will fix it. I hope.

But my biggest beef with Windows 7 is the task bar. It’s nicer than XP, yes.  The way it groups and displays applications is wonderful.  But its behavior is inconsistent.

  • When I click on an application that has only one window open, it brings that window to the front. NICE!
  • When I click on an application that has several windows open, it pops up its menu of possibilities. NOT nice.

Why can’t it bring all the windows to the front?  There’s not even an option to do that in there if you right-click.  It’s inconsistent.  Clicking does different things depending on how many windows are open for the application.

This is especially annoying with The Gimp, which has lots of windows:  Pallete, Layer, Paths, Images, Colors, and more.  Getting them to the front is quite simply a pain in the neck, and to edit an image, you really need to bring all those windows to the front.

It also shows up in Firefox and IE, when I want to open the firebug or IE developer console along with the web page when I’m viewing web pages in different browsers.

Almost everything else about Windows 7 I dearly love, but this one thing drives me bonkers. I do hope that Microsoft fixes it soon.  There are tons of other glitches in the user experience that are neglected, but this one’s the most practically annoying for me personally.

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