Well, the fine folks that develop WordPress have finally offered, what might be considered, one of the most controversial features they have ever introduced. While some might think this is a blessing others will think it to be the end of their site running smoothly. The updates will be enabled by default for Minor Releases only. These tend to be the security releases. You need to manually add other parameters for more (or less) functionality.
The biggest issue this will introduce is the need to make sure that what you are developing is based on good practices and follows the WordPress Codex. For example…
- Make sure to put functionality into plugins. This can have two impacts on dealing with issues from an automatic update: 1) The plugin could get automatically disabled should a fatal error arise or 2) An issue could get temporarily dealt with by disabling the plugin in the Administration Panel.
- Prefer child themes to custom themes and minimize functionality changes to the theme. This will allow you to keep the upgrades going and not suffer from changes in the theme. Make functional overrides into plugins.
- Choose plugins and themes wisely. Pick plugins and themes to utilize or base you work off of that have a solid track record of keeping up to date. You don’t want to constantly have to go seek out new plugins for functionality because of issues
If all else fails, you can disable the update mechanisms or filter out ones that you can’t work around.
To disable all automatic updates add this to the wp-config.php file:
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );
And for good measure put this into the theme’s functions.php file:
add_filter( 'automatic_updater_disabled', '__return_true' );
For a full list of filters consult Configuring Automatic Background Updates in the WordPress Codex.
Keep in mind that the WordPress developers plan to increase the rate at which the release new versions and this will mean that using automatic updates will be come more and more necessary. So make sure to plan and develop carefully.
I’ll admit, I’m getting a little hungry thinking about the impending Thanksgiving holiday, but that’s not the [entire] reason I’m writing this blog post.
Think about this: a turkey takes all day to cook. I mean, you wake up at 8 AM to put that bad boy in the oven, and then you have to torture yourself for hours smelling the unfinished product. When it’s finally done, the last thing you’re about to do is throw away the leftovers. Who wants their hard work to go down the garbage disposal? So, for the next two weeks, it’s gobblers and turkey soup aplenty.
And no one really complains about gobblers or turkey soup because, come on, they’re delicious.
I promise I’m going somewhere with this.
When you write a really good piece of content, it’s kind of like a Thanksgiving turkey. You put a good amount of effort into it, and you’re going to make the most out of it – right? Because if you aren’t, you should. There’s no guarantee that when you write a really well-researched, informative, and/or interesting blog post, you’re going to get as many pageviews as you’d want on it. There’s no reason you should call it a loss, especially if it’s something you think your target audience would want to know.
I was writing a blog post about the essential ways to winterize your home for a client who does HVAC installations and repairs. It’s getting cold out there, and their prospective clients probably want to know how to winterize their homes to save energy and keep the house at a comfortable temperature. If they missed the blog post, they shouldn’t miss out on the info! So, here are a few ways to make leftovers out of perfectly good content (without, of course, plagiarizing yourself).
- Revisit old posts on social media. A few days, weeks, or even months (if it’s still relevant) after you write a good blog post, don’t be afraid to tweet about it again for anyone who might have missed it! A simple tweet or Facebook post reading, “It’s cold today! Don’t forget to check out our blog post on winterizing your home” works perfectly. I’ve seen a lot of companies do this, and I think it’s a great idea.
- Link to old blog posts in new ones. If you mention something in a blog post that’s relevant to something you wrote before, then link to it!
- Make an infographic. Perhaps your followers skimmed over your post because it was too lengthy. Infographics are fairly easy to make (see what I did there?), they’re eye-catching, and they help to organize content in a fashion that’s easy for readers to absorb.
- Make a slideshow. Similar to making an infographic, slideshows are great because they organize the content and make it easy for a reader to find what they’re looking for. Slideshare is a great tool for this because people can search for your slideshow and you can even put tags on it.
- Make a video. I could have easily made that blog post on winterizing your home into an informative video to spread it across more social channels and appeal to an audience who prefers a different type of media.
- Make an e-book, PDF, or whitepaper. Even if your readers don’t want the information now, they can save it to their computers or tablets for reference at a time when it might be more useful.
Do you repurpose your content? What methods do you use?
As someone who contributes to numerous blogs and has a few of her own, I’m always browsing around the Web looking for inspiration and trying to find ways to improve my own content. There’s definitely an interesting contrast between personal blogs and those that belong to certain brands. While checking out the blogs for individual brands, I found that some corporate companies are absolutely killing it by honing in on a specific target audience/demographic and providing interesting, useful, and entertaining content for them. Those of us who write for smaller brands can definitely learn a thing from these four in particular.
The Brand: Whole Foods
The bloggers at Whole Foods really know what they’re doing when it comes to catering to their audience. Just look at their page – you’re greeted immediately with pictures of mouth-watering (probably organic) meals and treats which encourage you to read the surrounding text. With a closer read, you find that Whole Foods wants to supply its customers with recipes, tips, and information about different types of foods: namely, the ones they sell in their stores.
What we can learn: master the art of the how-to! Clearly, if you’re a big enough fan of Whole Foods that you’re checking out their blog, you’re probably a foodie to some degree. Whole Foods is doin’ it right because they show you cool things you can do with their products.
The Brand: Flickr
You know Flickr – the photo-sharing site renowned for offering its users an insane amount of storage and presentation space. It’s got one of the coolest blogs around, especially for photography lovers (which, one can assume, is nearly everyone in their target audience). Their posts are rife with super-cool, eye-catching pieces of art and often contain very little text aside from descriptions. They also have monthly themes and encourage their readers to get involved and submit their own themed photographs.
What we can learn: a picture is worth a thousand words. Blog posts don’t always have to be text-centered. And, maybe more importantly, get your readers to engage by contributing their own content.
The Brand: Zappos
Zappos faces a bit of a challenge: they don’t have a very niche target demographic, and they sell everything under the sun, so generating fresh content could be considered a bit difficult. They jump this hurdle pretty gracefully, though, by distributing their posts amongst multiple bloggers who all specialize in something different. They do weekly themes, such as Designer Picks and Wanderlust Wednesdays, which serve as a prompt and get their readers into a groove so they know what to expect from the blog.
What we can learn: weekly themes are useful when you feel like your blog is drifting from its intended focus and when your idea well is running dry!
The Brand: Modcloth
Modcloth’s target demographic is extremely niche, especially in comparison with the aforementioned brands. They reach out to twenty-something females who love somewhat retro, alternative clothing. For someone who fits the bill, their blog absolutely never gets boring to read. From their conversational, informal language to their cute, girly graphics, reading the Modcloth blog is kind of like having a chat with a friend.
What we can learn: be the target demographic! These blog posts don’t just talk about what cute clothes are for sale on the site – they offer recipes, recommend books, post art, discuss style icons and celebrities, and much more. You can tell their brainstorming sessions involve them getting into the mindset of their target audience and figuring out what things they’d want to talk about, which, to the potential customer, makes the blog worth sticking around for.
Between the countless writing classes I took a bit too seriously in college, the time I’ve invested in my hobbies, and the past couple years I’ve spent freelancing and working for SEO companies, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. As a result, I’ve written on a lot of blog platforms.
There are a lot of great platforms out there – some that are easy to use and secure, some that work well for niche purposes, some that make interacting with other bloggers really easy. Though I’ve had my dances with Tumblr, spent many a late night conversing with Quora, even had my morning coffee with Blogger, I’ll always return to my love affair with WordPress.
Perhaps it’s true that my affinity for a free, sophisticated, minimalist theme and a reason to spend hours perusing possible personalization options are what initially attracted me to WordPress, but its superior SEO capabilities are what keep me coming back. Maybe you’re blogging for the sole purpose of SEO or maybe you’re a hobby blogger who optimizes out of necessity; either way, blogging and SEO are happily married, so all authors should prioritize posting on a platform that’s easy to optimize.
If you’re not taking advantage of these four WordPress SEO customizations, simply stated, you’re doing it wrong.
The WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast
It doesn’t get any more straightforward than this. The SEO Plugin allows you to choose your focus keyword for the blog post, edit the post’s meta description, create custom descriptions for social media platforms, edit the post’s meta title, and more. It’ll even provide you with suggestions to make the post more SEO-friendly. Get the plugin here.
The Ability to Customize and/or Modify Permalinks
Your permalink – that is, how your blog post’s URL appears in your browser bar – should be as reflective of the content as your title. If you modify your permalink, then instead of your permalink reading “www.webimax.com/blog/2013/10/01/modifying-permalinks,” it’ll simply read “www.webimax.com/blog/modifying-permalinks.” That way, Google only has to do a shallow crawl to see that this page is relevant. All you have to do to modify your permalinks is access your WordPress Dashboard, go to Settings, then go to Permalinks. Choose ‘Custom Structure’ and in the field, simply put /%postname%/.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this: I can write a decent blog post on nearly any topic, optimize it, and promote it. What I cannot do on my own, though, is make my blog look pretty. That’s why WordPress themes are the design-inept blogger’s godsend. There are few things more important than a user-friendly, attractive website if you’re trying to attract (and keep) traffic, but accomplishing a clean, easy-to-navigate look is hard when you know virtually nothing about Web development. Premium themes on WordPress are a good investment because they don’t glitch, they appear sophisticated, and they’re almost always pre-optimized by their developers, so your blog has a predisposed fair chance at competitive ranking.
The ‘Related Posts’ Widget
LinkWithin is a widget that shows related stories from your blog’s archive under each post. It’s genius! If someone’s reading a blog post about a recipe you created or a home repair how-to you detailed, chances are, they’re going to be interested in another recipe or another home repair how-to. Show them where to find more! Having them click to another one of your blog posts will keep them browsing your site, helping you to maintain their attention and giving you the opportunity to demonstrate your credibility. It’s basically free interlinking, and it helps your old content to resurface, making your blog posts into gifts that keep on giving.
Recent SEO news has been heavily focused on off-site content, such as the seemingly unending war that’s currently going on between people who think we still need to focus a lot of energy into linkbuilding efforts, their opponents who think it’s time to lay it to rest, and those who are steadfast proponents of the notion that it’s a profoundly mediocre SEO tactic. The recent (but, arguably, pretty mild) Penguin 2.0 update can probably do all the explaining as to why SEO enthusiasts are discussing social media, guest blogging, and, well, everything BUT on-site content in their recent contributions to the community, but we can’t let the importance of having well-optimized on-site content slip through the cracks.
Since Penguin 2.0 did introduce some important changes, that should probably be rule number one: Don’t neglect your on-site content! You should be refreshing this stuff relatively frequently, especially, of course, if any of the information changes. There’s speculation that frequently-updated sites are better kept on Google’s radar, so that never hurts.
More specifically, stay on top of your keyword usage. Something I’ve seen all too often is webmasters who think they need to use their keywords in their exact forms as the anchor text for their links, and this is actually pretty punishable behavior. If your keyword is “lawn care New Jersey,” do yourself a favor and include a few stop-words to make that keyword sound more natural. Doesn’t “lawn care here in New Jersey” just sound easier to fit in a sentence?
In addition to that, make sure you’re varying your anchor text. Don’t target the same exact keywords over and over again on the same page – Google now sees this as spammy. A good way to switch up similar keywords is by branding them (Sprinkler King’s New Jersey lawn care).
During your content refresh, always do some thorough proofreading. You can never have enough proofreading. It might sound like common sense, but in my few years’ experience in SEO writing, I’ve seen a shameful number of pages that have spelling, grammar, and syntax errors…right on the company page. Not only will that make a visitor question your company’s authenticity, it’ll be a red flag to Google, too, since spam content is usually similarly low-quality. This is why the person writing your on-site content should never be just a writer or just an SEO expert – it should be someone who is well-trained in both, or two experts working side-by-side.
A lot of webmasters also have a hard time resisting the urge to ignore their e-commerce pages. It makes little sense – product descriptions are easy to optimize, but if they go neglected, they can easily account for duplicate content. Take advantage of your ability to optimize your e-commerce; it’s like free SEO real-estate on your website!
And, finally, don’t get too link or strong-tag happy. When a site visitor is just trying to get some basic info, it’s distracting when every other word is bolded or linked. Let the keywords come naturally and don’t put a crazy emphasis on them for a better experience.
So, your homework for today is to go home and refresh your content to make it Penguin 2.0-friendly!
It’s kind of ironic – recently I’ve been reading a lot of different blogs on a lot of different topics to try and freshen up my style and get new ideas. In my Web travels I’ve come across not just one, but a few different blog posts that mock and criticize what has sort of become the characteristic format of a post written by an exhausted blogger. It starts with a cheap – though descriptive – title: “Three Tips for Traveling by Plane This Summer” or “The Benefits of Using All-Natural Sunscreen.” It’s followed by an introductory paragraph that explains how the topic relates to what’s currently happening in the world, and then breaks up into a few paragraphs with headings that delineate each “tip” or “benefit.”
While this format doesn’t necessarily mean that the content isn’t useful, there’s an issue when every post you’re churning out looks exactly the same. It reads more as apathy than authenticity – a symptom of what I like to call Exhausted Blogger Syndrome, which is a cold you don’t want to catch.
If you’re guilty of churning out such a piece in the past, don’t feel bad – we all are. Blogging, like any task, can easily become muscle memory. But today’s SEO environment depends on keeping things fresh and authentic, so when you’re suffering from Exhausted Blogger Syndrome, here are a few commandments to keep in mind.
• Thou shalt not assume the reader has no common sense. If you’re not an expert on the topic and you wrote the blog post without doing very much research, it’s probably boring. Find some statistics that may shock and awe me about the price increase of checked bags – don’t just tell me to pack light!
• Thou shalt not fear the themed post. One of the reasons I keep checking my favorite blogs for updates is because they do a weekly themed post, like Friday’s Outfit of the Day or Monday’s Industry Update. It builds a sense of community within the blog, it sparks discussion, and it gives you the opportunity to link to an old post which sends visitors clicking around the site.
• Thou shalt provoke discussion. It’s not uncommon for me to write a blog post and end it with a question to encourage posters to leave a comment. This is great for SEO and it’s great for building a blog following.
• Thou shalt invite guest bloggers. Whenever I feel like my blog is getting stale, I bring in a guest blogger! The new perspective is refreshing, it attracts readers from their blog, and it helps me gain ideas for a new direction in which to take my blog. And that being said…
• Thou shalt interact with other bloggers. Don’t become content with the process of posting a blog and having it float around in the ominously silent open space of the Web. Find other bloggers who blog on your topic and talk to them! It’s another great way to generate ideas, and they’ll be likely to comment on your discussions as well.
• Thou shalt vary post lengths. Don’t be afraid of a post that seems too short or too long, as long as every word counts. When you start stuffing in content just for the sake of word count or cutting yourself off before you’re done speaking, that’s when things get super dry. Leave the 1-3-1 format to middle schoolers and switch it up!