All posts by Kathy Alice

5 Annoying Things Internet Marketers Say and Do

It’s always sad to find someone who appears to have something good to say, and then end up having to opt out of their email list. Often it’s due to the barrage of emails. But it’s also because of the annoying “tricks” they pull. Here’s my 5 annoying things Internet Marketers say and do

  • Emails that begin with “Real Quick” … and then point you to a 20 minute video to watch.
  • This is coming down real soon … overdoing the “scarcity emotional trigger” so much that is it pathetic, in email after email
  • This is very important, click on this link right now … giving you no context on what the topic is and why you should even care
  • This is why I do it .. It’s never for the money, but for the adorable picture perfect family
  • I’ve found the secret! … You found the ultimate secret to success last week too, what makes this one this week any better?

What’s annoying to you?

Use Excerpts to Avoid Duplicate Content Problems

WordPress is an extremely flexible platform. One aspect of it’s flexibility is that it provides many different sorts of aggregate pages, you can choose to show your posts chronologically, grouped by your tags and/or grouped by category. And of course the home page shows a list of your posts unless you have chosen to show a static page instead. However having all these different ways to show the same content can be seen as duplicate content by the search engines.

Unfortunately duplicate content in wordpress is a rather complex topic, but in this post I want to focus on just one aspect that has a relatively straightforward solution to it. But first let’s understand the problem better. When I talk about duplicate content, I am talking about content that is the same across multiple pages of your site. This is beyond having duplicate pages. Google and the other search engines essentially don’t want to see the same block of content on multiple page. Which is precisely what you have when you have category, tag, home and archive pages showing your posts in their entirety.

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Facebook Fan Pages Changes, a Massive Update

facebookLast week Facebook rolled out another major change, but this time it was to Facebook Fan Pages. It’s a massive change. What page admins noticed first, was that posts to the wall are no longer organized chronologically but by “popularity”. This change was intended to serve the interests of the page visitors by putting the most “interesting” posts first, but to me at least it gives the page a squirmy kind of feel as the posts keep jumping around and scrolling down to find a post you saw before is not always fruitful.

But this is just the Tip of the Iceberg:

There is a lot in this Facebook Fan Page update. Here are some of the highlights:

  • New look and feel that is aligned with personal pages – photos on top, and tabs converted to links on the left
  • Split personality – You can now interact with Facebook either as a human OR YOUR PAGE. This is pretty interesting. So when you comment on sometime else’s wall you can do it as your page, which means they get to your fan page not your personal profile when they click on the link.
  • Fan page “opt in” – You can set up your pages (what used to be tabs) to “reveal” themselves when a visitor likes your Fan page.
  • No more FBML, instead for custom pages you have to use iFrames. What happens with existing FBML, I don’t know, I guess we will find out on March 11, 2011 when all fan pages are upgraded.
  • Your profile picture can be bigger: 180 pixels by 540 pixels. Many Facebooks Fashionistas are using the larger space to have a more of a “branded” graphic on their fan page

With the reveal functionality (and the continued support of changing the default landing tab) I expect to see Facebook Fan Pages start looking more like landing pages. The call to action will be to “opt in” either with the like button or an via email opt-in.

Want more info? Here’s the official Facebook announcement.

Yes, You Have to Manage TWO Passwords

No matter how much I emphasize how important it is to keep them safe, inevitably I get an email from a present or past client asking me to resend their passwords to them. Often it’s the hosting password that is forgotten as it is not used as often as the WordPress admin password (or some other CMS admin password). Since I’ve observed confusion on what each password is for, I decided to write this post.

Why Two Passwords?

Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla or WordPress make it easier for non web designers to edit their websites, not only do users get easier to use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces, but you are often skipping the step of having to upload your work from your local computer to server (using the dreaded FTP that seems to stymie a lot of people). So where does the two passwords come in?

  1. Password #1 is the password to your hosting account. Here is where you manage the billing for your account, setting up email accounts and other hosting features usually through a cPanel. Often you manage your domain from this account as well. Once your website is set up (eg. WordPress is installed and configured) this password is not needed very often, however it’s important to keep track of.
  2. Password #2 gives you access to your CMS (such as WordPress admin). If you want to add a page to your site or shuffle the order of your sidebar widgets, this is where you want to log in. Some people refer to a system like this as a “backend” as “I’m having trouble logging into my WordPress backend.”

Systems such as WordPress, can be thought of their own little eco-systems. The web server and hosting account doesn’t really know about your website, it just serves up files to browsers as they are requested.

Yes, You have to Keep Track of Your Passwords

And writing them down on scraps of paper is not a proper password management system. We all have passwords, we have to remember. I have hundreds. I don’t recommend using the browser to remember your password (when it asks whether to remember the password for a given site I say never). I use different browsers and computers and it’s not particularly secure. If you are looking for a password manager, I use Password Safe but RoboForm is really good too.

Use Secure Passwords

Many systems today have indicators telling you whether your password is weak or strong as you create one. Some enforce “strong” passwords, you have seen these I’m sure: eg: has to be at least eight characters, contain 1 digit, 1 uppercase character and 1 special characters. These restrictions are not there just to make your life miserable, there is a reason for them – the more you can adopt these guidelines for all your passwords the more secure you will be.

Search Engine Meta Tags – no index

When we first build a website, the thought of actually telling Google and the other search engines to not spider a given web page seems counter-intuitive, why would anyone want Google to not spider their website? (Well except when you are Rue La La).

Here’s one reason. A more sophisticated website might have a login page or registration page. Often these pages shouldn’t be indexed as they don’t add value for ranking for keywords. Compounding the issue, in one case I looked at, the registration page was manifesting as many registration pages, because the site was tacking on a return url in the parameter (so that after the registration the user would be returned to the calling page), creating duplicate content.

If you have many URLs that all point to the same page, that is known as duplicate content (this is different than duplicate content across many websites … and worse) and definitely to be avoided. Each site gets limited link juice and a limited spider crawl budget, you don’t want to waste either on yet another version of a page the spider has seen before.

So to tell the spiders you don’t want a page to be indexed, you put the no index meta tag into the HTML source code (between the open and closing <HEAD> tags) for that page.

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>

Why the follow? So that the link juice from external incoming links and internal links can pass through to the links on the page you are noindexing. Otherwise you are creating a dead end that stops the link juice from passing through. The registration page might not be important, but it might have links to articles that are.

I wanted to explicitly point this out, because if you search on “meta tag no index” you will find lots of examples of “no index, no follow”. Lindsay Wassell makes a compelling case for the right use of this tag in her seomoz.org article and explains why using robots.txt instead is not a viable alternative.

More on the noindex meta tag.

Preventing Image Theft & Copyright Violation

Stop Image TheftCopyright law exists to protect the creators of a original work, whether than be an article, a photo or a drawing. As soon as you create it you have copyright to it, which stays in place 70 years after the author’s death; at that point it belongs to the public domain. Unless you grant license for someone else to use your image, it is considered a copyright violation if they use without your permission.

Image theft is an important issue on the web, especially to people who make their living creating visual art.  Just this week there was a furor over the site http://lxixixl.com/ which was copying and hosting entire collections of images from people’s websites. Complaints shut it down but there are others that are doing the same thing.

Theft of content and image happens every day on the web, so what can you do?

  • Inform:   Show that it is your original work by placing a copyright notice on your website.   For example “Copyright 2011 Pablo Picasso”
  • Make it less desirable: Many artists will only put low resolution copies of their images online.   So if they are stolen they are not of full quality.
  • Make it difficult: Implement functionality that makes it harder to steal the images.   For example, disable the right click functionality with javascript.  Note this will annoy some visitors who expect the right click to work for legitimate uses.  Another approach is to place a transparent image over the real image, so when it is saved the thief gets a blank image.   WordPress users might want to check out the iProtect plugin.   Keep in mind that that neither one of these are complete solutions.   Disabling right click doesn’t help when the thief finds the image in Google Image Search and gets the image there.  Which brings me to ….
  • Hide them from Google and Bing: Keep all your images in one directory and tell Google and Bing not to index that directory by placing a directive in the robots.txt file.   Note that this action is useless if Google has already indexed your images.
  • Watermark them: Perhaps the most effective solution, this alters the image so that it is “marked” in an identifying way.   It’s the same idea as branding cattle back in the cattle rustling days.  There are also WordPress plugins that watermark the image “on the fly”.

Ultimately it is up to you how much effort you want to put into preventing image theft and violation of your copyright, but don’t just ignore the issue, decide on an approach and take action.

Using Images in Blogs

Thinking Boy One thing I don’t do enough of, is make a practice of using images in my blog. I admit, I’m lazy and don’t want to do the extra work, and there is all that confusing copyright stuff, and where do you find them?

Up to this point the images I had included were screenshots that I had taken to help illustrate a how to post. Since I created the image, I didn’t have to think about finding it or the attribution. But today that is changing, it’s the new year after all and I want to improve my blog.

What you need to know – Copyright issues
Yes, you can find images on the web to use in your blog. You don’t have to source them all yourself. But before you run off to Google Image search and grab the first cool image you come across, educate yourself about the copyright issues.

Public Domain and Creative Commons
For most of you, who just need an image to make your blog post more visually interesting and to get the topic across more quickly, public domain and images published under the creative commons license are the two sources of images you will be dealing with. However keep in mind that there are different licensing rules if you modify the image or use it for commercial reasons. I’m not covering those topics in detail here but read the rules and you should be fine.

Images from the Public Domain are free to use, with no strings attached. They have been contributed to the public for its use. The “thinking boy” image above, is an example of such an image. He is from The Open Clip Art Library and was contributed by Ryan Lerch. This is a great resource for illustrations.

If you use an image published under the Creative Commons License, in most cases you are expected to include an attribution to the creator as well as state that the image is licensed under Creative Commons. Creative Commons licenses give artists control on how others may use their work, for example they may or may not grant permission for image modification. A really popular source of images licensed under Creative Commons is Flickr. Flickr Creative Commons Search is a great place to look at photographs to use in your blog.

Free versus Paid Images
For Free images there are a number of resources. Generally you will need to create an account to download them and the images are free to use but often you will need to create an attribution/link back to their site. Sometimes you have to pay for the higher resolution versions. Here are a few sites to check out:

For images that you pay for, you have more freedom to “use them as your own”. While it can get expensive for the higher resolution images, low res images are fine for your blog and are cheap. For example $1-$2 is common at iStockPhoto. These royalty free images are a great solution for websites where an attribution would look out of place.

Want more? This post by PresentationZen has a more extensive list..

Useful Searches Here are a few ways to search for photos other than going to the sites above.

With all these great resources, it opens a new world of possibilities to make my blog posts more visually appealing. Although I’m still working on the “lazy” excuse.

Other fellow bloggers to check out:

  • For some “nuts and bolts” info on working with images in your blog check out this problogger introduction post .
  • Protecting copyrighted images from illegal use is a huge issue on web, especially for artists. A topic for a future post.

Block Facebook ads?

Today on a facebook event invite page, I saw complaints about “creepy flat tummy ads” on the invite page. Another peep complained about a “holistic wellness” ad. On the same page, I saw four (yes 4) ads: 1) A business opportunity called “Own Your Own ATM”, 2) an ad offering college students as “IT interns”, 3) “Soothing music selected by Eckhart Tolle” and ummm, this is embarrassing: 4) “60% off a Brazilian Wax”. Well you now know what gender I am.

And that’s the point, Facebook ads are targeted to your profile, your interests, the links you post, the stuff you like. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Facebook ad interface, you can customize it quite a bit, age ranges, geography etc. Facebook is betting that access to these sorts of demographics will make it the advertiser of choice. However the jury is still out. Some people report great success with Facebook ads, some don’t. It’s very niche dependent.

And yes, you can remove / block Facebook ads. There are a number of solutions available as the blocking code has to be installed into your browser. So it depends on what browser you use.

Here are a few to check out:

Note with the current major Facebook update rolling out, these might not work with the “new facebook”. You might need to wait until the authors catch up.

Let me know how it works out. I haven’t installed any of them yet.

Problem Solved w/ WordPress Redirect Plugin

I love WordPress. Whenever you run into an issue, most likely someone else has run into it first and solved it for you. The power of crowdsourcing at its best.

Case in point. I was working on a client’s wordpress site. It was an old half configured blog that needed some TLC. Since there wasn’t going to be a lot of pages, I changed the permalink structure to a custom one so I could put keywords into the URLs. I checked whether the site had any backlinks (it didn’t) so I figured I could change the URL structure to it .. no problem. After all, I had set up a sitemap generation plugin so the search engines would be informed of the new URLs, what could go wrong?

Weeks later, I’m noticing that both Bing and Google STILL had the old URLs indexed. Google had indexed all the new ones, but had several of the old ones. And Bing, it hadn’t even found most of the new ones.

Site: Command in Bing

The above excerpt is from typing in site:yourholidayfeast.com into Bing. You can do this with Google as well. This command is a way to see what pages of your site the Search Engines have indexed. It’s a very handy little command.

So obviously these old pages were around to stay for a while. And since these old URLs would get a 404 error, this was not good, a bad experience for the user that might get a bogus result from Google or Bing, and bad for making my client’s site nice and tidy and crawlable for the Search Engines. I needed a way to 301 Redirect these old URLs to the new keyword rich custom permalink URLs.

A 301 Redirect is a way to return a HTTP status code to the requester (whether it be Google or your browser) saying that the URL has permanently changed to a new one. Everyone gets to the new page, any link juice gets passed along and everyone is happy. So I went to “Add New” in the Plugin menu in WordPress and typed in “301 Redirect” in the search … and to my happy surprise I had tons of plugins to choose from.

I picked one called “SS Old URLs” that looked straightforward and close to what I wanted. When I installed it, it wasn’t too clear about how to configure the redirects, but it turns out that (good thing there was a readme) it had added a new menu item in the Settings menu called “Old URLs”. Then it got easy. Using the site: results listing in Bing (and Google) I just typed in the old URL (minus the domain name) and then found the new equivalent and typed that in. Here is what it looks like after I typed in a few:

Adding Redirects with SS Old URLs plugin

Note the nice to have of adding the redirects to your. htaccess file. This involves downloading this file and editing it and uploading (unless you have shell access to your hosting server). Still not too much work so that’s my next step.

Oh, and the client site? It’s a site that helps you plan your holiday events and holiday party meals. If you are one of those hostess types, check it out.

Customizing Your WordPress URLs

With any new blog I work on, one of the first things I do is change the permalink structure. WordPress permalinks will determine the URL that your post will appear under. Just go to any blog, click on a post title and then look at the URL shown for it. If the blog is using the default permalink structure, you will see a question mark and some numbers. Since keyword rich URLs is one way to optimize your blog for the search engines, why not change your permalink structure to a more search engine friendly one?

In most cases I use the custom structure of /%postname%/ (see below caveats on when you might want to use a different one). You can set this up for yourself under Permalinks in the Settings Menu.

Type in "/%postname%/" for your custom permalink structure

This means (as a default) my post title will also comprise my URL (with dashes in between the words). You do also have the ability to customize your permalink to be different than your title. I often do this because I want my blog posts to have catchy titles, which doesn’t always mean that they are optimized for keywords.

Now here are the two caveats you need to keep in mind:

  1. If your blog has been around for a while, proceed with caution with changing your permalink structure. Your existing blog posts may have already been indexed by Google with the old URLs, and other sites may have linked to them. In this case both Google and those sites would get broken links. There is a way around this, but the one avenue I’ve looked at (mod rewrite code in the web server) is non trivial and not available to many. More research needed. Update: there are plugins that will set up the 301 redirects for you
  2. If you think you are going to have a lot of pages & posts (more than 50), read through this forum discussion, you may want to consider /%year%/%postname%/ instead. My blog has a lot of posts, so I may need to consider a change, however point 1 will apply so I will need to proceed with caution.
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