Choosing the Right Options and Settings for Your WordPress Blog

Do you want your blog to be indexed by search engines or you simply want to keep it as a private affair? Wanna add www to your site or rather prefer to use a non-www version? Well, the requirements and preferences of all of us vary and a self-hosted WordPress blog gives you plenty of options to fine-tune your site as per your choices. But at times, especially for a beginner, these options can be quite overwhelming and you may find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out the right setting for your blog. So, if you are wondering if you are choosing the right settings for your WordPress blog and how they impact your site, this guide will help you…

Search Engine Visibility

Ok, first things first. By default, your blog is set to be found and indexed by search engines. After all, that’s what most of the bloggers want: to be found and read by others. But in case you don’t want search engines to index your site (e.g. if yours is an invite only, paid membership, or any other type of blog with restricted access) then you should change the search engine visibility settings of your site. To do this:

  • Go to Settings > Reading
  • Check the checkbox for Discourage search engines from indexing this site
  • Save Changes

search-engine-visibility

Though this will put up a request before search engines to leave alone your site, you can’t completely rely on it; it depends upon to what extent the search engines honor your request.

www. in the Blog URL

Having www. in your site URL or steering away from it is just a matter of choice. There does not seem to be any particular reason attached to it other than your personal preference. But once you choose one over the other, make sure you stick to it. Here is how you can make these changes:

www-site-url

  • Go to Settings > General
  • Add or remove (as you want) www. from WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) boxes
  • Save Changes

Permalinks or the Blog Post URL

Permalinks give you the flexibility to decide how the URLs of your blogposts look. This applies to all of the existing and future blogposts on your site. The default URL is based on the post ID (which is auto generated) and is probably the shortest among all. There are various other options that enable you to choose your URL structure based upon date, archive, and post name. Apart from these, you can also design your own custom structure. You can choose these by just selecting the appropriate radio button (and of course, saving your preference).

If your blog is based on events, news or other time sensitive posts, then you may want to go for date or archive based structure. And if you want to keep it short yet fancy, then the post name structure would make a good choice. If the categories are important and you want to include them too, you can do that using the custom structure. Just to give you an idea, here is how to make a structure based on category and post name:

  • Go to Settings > Permalinks > Common Settings > Custom Structure
  • Enter this in the box: /%category%/%postname%
  • Save Changes

permalink-settings

As per this custom structure, if you have a post named WordPress Setting Tips under the category Blogging, then your post URL would look something like this: http://www.xyz.com/blogging/wordpress-setting-tips

Again, while actually writing the post, you can further edit the post name part in the URL to anything of your choice. So, you can even make it to look like this: http://www.xyz.com/blogging/wordpress-setting

Category Slugs

If you want to have control over what name should appear in the URL of a particular category archive, then this where you ought to make the changes. For example, if a category name is social media marketing and you want to display only social media in the category URL, then you can simply edit the slug for that category.

  • Go to Posts > Categories
  • Hover over the category name you want to edit and click on Quick Edit
  • Just edit the slug and click on Update Category

category-slug

Now, wasn’t that simple?

Enable or Disable Comments?

WordPress comes with a built-in commenting system in order to promote interaction between the author and their readers. But there are situations when a blogger may not like to use it on their blog; for instance, when they use WordPress to create a non-blogging site, or when they prefer to use some external blogging system (like Facebook comments), etc. In addition to just enabling or disabling comments, there are a whole lot of options to manage them on your site. You can see them all under: Settings > Discussion

discussion-settings

After you set the universal discussion settings for your blog, you can still enable/disable comments on individual posts and pages.

Display Name of the Author

This is the name that you wish your readers to see as the author of the posts on your blog. You can choose to have it same as or different from your real name, user name or nickname:

  • Go to Users > Your Profile
  • Select the appropriate option from the drop down menu in the Display name publicly as box
  • Click on Update Profile at the bottom of the page

author-display-name

If you are not getting the desired name in the dropdown menu, check whether you have left blank any of the fields under the Name section.

Media Settings

Media settings may not be that important most of the times but they can really make your life easy if you run an image based blog, or your blog requires images of a standard size. You can set thumbnail, medium and large sizes for your images here: Settings > Media

If you need thumbnail images of exactly the same dimensions that you specify, then you should check the box for this, in the Thumbnail size section.

media-settings

Apart from the image sizes, you can also choose/change the folder to store the images. Also, your media uploads would be automatically organized into month and year based folders by default. I personally prefer to disable this feature by unchecking the relevant box, so that all my images are uploaded in a single folder. This provides for easy replacement of linked images whenever required.

Menu Structure

With the introduction of Menu in WordPress, it has become very convenient to include and exclude items from your navigation. It has also facilitated building of drop down menus. Now you can include pages, categories and individual links, and that means almost anything. You can also choose to automatically add new pages in the menu as and when you publish them; all you need to do is check the box for Auto add pages.

For creating a drop down menu:

  • place the items of the dropdown menu right under the main item you want them under
  • one by one, drag the drop down menu items towards little right, so that they are created as submenu of the main item
  • Click on Save Menu

menu-structure

But before you can start using the menu feature, you need to create a new menu, give it a name and assign it a theme location. Be it while creating a new menu or making any changes in an existing menu, don’t forget to save the Menu, else your changes will not take effect.

Theme Settings

Apart from the WordPress settings, you also need to set your theme settings right. What and how many options you get actually depends upon the theme you use. But almost all modern themes allow you to upload a header image, change the background color or upload a background image, edit your footer, choose which side you want to have the sidebar, etc.

Here is what the theme settings for the twenty fourteen default theme would look like:

twenty-fourteen-theme-settings

Right File Permissions for Security

This one is not typically a WordPress setting but given the importance it holds, it makes up to the list.  From the point of security, it is imperative that you check the file permission settings of some important files, especially wp-config.php and .htaccess files. But remember you won’t find them in your WordPress login; they would be there inside your web hosting control panel.

htaccess-file-permission

  • Login to your web hosting control panel
  • Click on the File Manager
  • Go to the public_html directory (or further down to your blog folder if it is not installed in the root domain).
  • Look out for the wp-config.php and .htaccess files.
  • To check the file permissions you’ve currently given them, right click on the file and click on Change Permissions in the pop-up menu that appears.
  • These two files should have read only permission under all the 3 modes: user, group and world. If there are more permissions assigned (Write or Execute), reduce them to read only, so that the digits in the Permission boxes read 444
  • Click on Change Permissions to save the changes.

So, these are some of the core settings of your WordPress site and choosing them right is just a one-time process. You need not, or rather should not, keep them changing every now and then; since that’ll have a negative impact on your site. Apart from these, you should also ensure that the settings of any plugin that you install are optimized for your site.

The Guest Blogging Snafu: Critical Info for Blog Owners

 The Basics:

guest blogging penalty flag

Accepting guest blog posts might soon result in Google penalties.

Google’s anti-spam chief Matt Cutts started an explosion across the SEO and Blogging worlds when he announced in mid-January that ‘Guest posting for SEO is dead.”  Since then, other Google officials and Cutts himself have revised this assessment – but it is still clear that Google is getting ready to pay a ton more attention to blogs that host guest posts – and it is clear that there will be SERP penalties for blogs that intentionally or unintentionally allow spammy backlinks in guest posts.

If you own a blog that gets requests involving offers of guest blogging – this could obviously be a huge problem, especially if you do not understand the nature of the problem from Google’s eyes.

At the core, this is a dispute about backlinks, so you will need to understand how links work and how to respond to requests post-Google’s Guest-blogging crackdown.

This post will:

  • Review what happened to get Google so fired up about a seemingly innocuous practice (guest blogging)
  • Explain all the details about how to understand and police your backlinks (especially from Guest Blog Posts)
  • Explain why you should still allow guest bloggers/blogging with conditions
  • And, explain how you should answer requests from potential guest bloggers.

What Got Matt Cutts so Grumpy?

You may be saying to yourself,

“um….self, why in the world do I need to understand anything new about guest blogging – I have a blog, I sometimes get someone new to post on it….it seems to be good for my blog and for the guest poster – right?”

Sadly, the answer to your question may often be – “wrong” – even when your heart is totally in the right place about why you want to accept guest blogging posts.

In theory, and for many people in practice, guest blogging is a mutually beneficial activity contracted between a blog owner and a guest writer.  Guest posts add additional content from a new voice – they potentially bring in new readers – and they can add to your blogs search engine rankings.

And therein is the rub…

That last point – helping SEO – is what has created this massive amount of new drama.

Black-hat SEO geniuses are in many ways like hackers – they keep probing until they figure out holes in Google’s anti-spam policies and then exploit those holes to help their clients SERP – often at the expense of people unintentionally in the crossfire.

We have seen all kinds of tools go from good SEO strategy to possible SEO penalization as a result of these tactics (for instance blog rolls, comments, Wikipedia, etc.)  In the series of posts that Cutts has posted on guest blogging he broke it down like a frustrated parent – he said basically that SEO’s are not capable of having nice things.

Cutts sometimes comes across like that guy that holds his anger in and lets it build until finally it explodes.  He is like a tea kettle that builds to a good boil then makes a TON of noise.  He started posting about spammy link practices in 2005 – introducing the nofollow and dofollow concepts for links (we will talk more about this in a few minutes).  Since then, he has slowly identified, warned, grown frustrated with, and exploded on most of the spammy SEO practices mentioned above.

His current annoyance is spammy guest blogging for SEO and he has reached his breaking point – it seems clear that there will be Google consequences for spammy guest blogging.

But, how is Guest Blogging spam?

Over the last few years black hatters have exploited popular blogs by offering to provide to those blogs with guest blogging services –even often offering to pay for the privilege of providing guest posts.  This offer is, of course, a Trojan horse – allowing black hat firms to pass page rank to their client sites through backlinks in the guest blogging posts.

One of the ways Google determines the importance of a site is by evaluating the backlinks that it generates.

If you have a popular site and you link to another site, Google assumes that means the other site is important too.  When you bless another site by linking to it you are giving it your seal of approval in the eyes of Google.  Google calls this “passing page rank.”  As in you pass the rank of your site on to the other linked site.

One of the primary no-no’s in Google’s list of webmaster guidelines is paying for, or accepting payment for, passing page rank.

Google does not like paid links.  They feel it corrupts their ability to determine which sites actually are quality sites that provide valuable information to Google searchers and which sites are unhelpful sites that provide spam filled nonsense.

web-master

Google wants webmasters, and if you run a blog or website you are technically a webmaster, to alert Google’s bots (or Googlebots or spiders the algorithms that determine site value crawling the web looking at sites) to links that are really advertisements (spam) as opposed to legitimate organic links.

So what is the scam?

Black-hat SEO experts offer their guest blogging services – and even pay you to provide this guest blogging content.  They then load these posts up with spammy links that pass page rank to their clients.  The posts that they deliver might be well written and even have decent content germane to your readers – but they are done to pass page rank from your popular site to their clients sites through the spammy backlinks contained in the body of the post.

For any of you who once received phishing scam emails offering to “gift you” a large portion of a distressed Nigerian Princes wealth (only under the condition that he could be given basic access to your bank accounts) you may have smelled something “phishy” when you got your first guest blogging offers.  But for many blog owners, these guest blogging offers have been taken as both a way to earn a bit of extra money and a way to get more content to their blog.

Google thinks that the whole purpose of what they do is to identify value through providing search results that matter to the searcher.  It is easy to see how Google gets mad because often the links will attach to a site that has nothing at all to do with the subject in the post itself (Cutts has detailed a litany of examples – once he gave the example of a post on linux with links to online casinos).

Ok, but how do links work for Google exactly?

There are two kinds of backlinks in Google’s eyes.  The first kind is called “dofollow” and it is the default – in other words, any link unless noted otherwise is considered a “dofollow” link.  This just means that the link creator wants bots to be able to follow the link when they try to determine where the link goes and the value of where the link goes.

The second kind of link is called “nofollow.”  If you do not want bots to follow your link to determine where the link goes and the value or where it goes you can add a “nofollow” attribute in the html coding (links are set off in the htmll by the href attribute – so the nofollow goes after the href attribute and the link url – you add the text rel=nofollow> at the end of the string).

A dofollow link would look like:

<a href=www.imadethisup.com>I Made This Up </a>

A nofollow link for the same thing would look like:

<a href=www.imadthisup.com rel=”nofollow”> I Made This Up </a>

Googlebots examine the text and determine what they should or should not follow by examining the html.  Google wants webmasters to treat the bots like newspaper editors treat readers when they explicitly identify areas of the text as “advertising.”  Nofollow links identify to Google bots that a link is advertising and should not be followed.

What you should do – Part One – Policing your Backlinks

guest-blogging-police

As a general rule, you should get in the practice of making all links in your guest posts “nofollow” links.  You should start to go back through your back catalog of posts and add “nofollow” to any guest blog links.

This is really important to you!

Once Google gets rolling on policing Guest Blogging spam they will punish webmasters not the writers.  In other words, the site that hosts spammy links through guest blogging will be the sites that Google penalizes.  And the Penguin update to Google’s algorithm was all about being able to identify exactly these kinds of spammy links.  In other words, it is in your interest to start protecting yourself.

What you should do – Part Two – Continue to Accept Guest Blogs but With Conditions

In Cutts’ addendum to his original outburst he explicitly mentioned the potential benefits of guest posting, “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water.  There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community etc.).  Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future…I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I think Cutts over-generalizes all SEO into black hat SEO but given that he spends all his time dealing with creative black hat trickery – he can certainly be forgiven.

Even if Guest Posting is not done for the reason of passing page rank – it can still be of SEO value.  For instance, if linkage between two popular sites creates more reader-ship for both that will eventually convey an SEO benefit.

Guest posts can also be directly beneficial to your blog. A nofollow link is still a way to connect two popular sites and create increased readership by linking two popular sites.  Readers are not Googlebots – clicking on “nofollow” links does not stop their journey.  Links still create visibility for both sites.

What you should do – Part Three – How you Should Respond to Guest Blogging Requests

I believe most of this whole snafu could be cleared up with one simple blog owner response – “Yes, I would love to consider posting your content as long as you do not mind that I insist on all links being “nofollow” links.”

If everyone who hosts a blog used this response – every single time – guest blogging for spammy SEO truly would be dead.

Google has stated that they are only concerned with spammy “dofollow” links in Guest blogs.  If someone is fine with all links being “nofollow” links they are probably ok.

Another good rule of thumb is to accept Guest blogs mostly from people you have a relationship with and/or trust.  If you are going to accept someone you do not know, do some research, read other things they have written and see if they are involved in selling links.

Summing it all Up

Google is going to penalize blogs that they identify as accepting guest posts with spammy links.  It is in your interest to:

  • Take control and look through all your guest blogging content – police your links and be alert to the scam.
  • Don’t pass page rank for money.
  • Learn to use the “nofollow” link in your html code.
  • Only accept guest posts that agree to only “nofollow” links in that content.
  • Be willing to play detective and look into the kind of content people offering their blogging services have provided to other sites.
  • Pay attention to what Google is saying about being a webmaster.  A great place to start is reading Matt Cutts blog.

If you are ever approached by someone offering to pay you to post something they have written (guest blogging offers) you should now know exactly what to do – ask them a simple question, “Sure, as long as you are ok with all links being nofollow.”

If you never hear from them again – you will know what they were after.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Josh

Beginner’s Guide to Setting up a Self-hosted WordPress Blog

Over the last decade or so, blogging has emerged as a promising career option and many bloggers have adopted it as a full time profession making a decent living out of it. Business entities big and small alike are integrating blogs into their website for better engagement and conversion. From blogging for hobby on a free platform like Blogspot to setting up a full-fledged self-hosted blogging site on CMS like WordPress, blogging for sure has come a long way.

So, what does it take to set up a professional looking blog that you can call your own in the real sense and take with you from one webhost to another, whenever you feel like? Well, the answer is – nothing much. All you need is a domain name for your website and a hosting service to keep it live 24×7. The installation process is no rocket science either. If you are comfortable running a PC, you are good enough to set up your own blog.

In the tutorial below, we walk you step by step through the process of setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

Step 1: Register a domain name

Before you begin setting up a blog, you need to decide upon an address with which people can access it from their web browser. It is called domain name and it forms a major part of your blog URL. For example, in the URL http://learntoblog.com, learntoblog.com is the domain name.

You can buy a domain name from a domain name registrar for a particular period of time (usually a year and in multiples thereof) and then continue to renew it so long you intend to keep it with you. There are a lot of domain registrars you can register a domain name with; here is how you can do it with Godaddy, one of the popular domain registrars:

domain-search

  • Visit their website: godaddy.com
  • Using the search box on the homepage, check out the availability of the domain name you want. You can check for different extensions but .com, .net and .org are among the most popular domain extensions, in that order.
  • Once the domain name you want to go with is available, add it to the shopping cart and click on Continue
  • They will try to cross-sell various other products/services along with the domain name, but you can ignore all of them and Continue to Cart
  • This will take you to the order review page. Once you are sure of the order summary, you can Proceed to Checkout
  • If you have not registered with them earlier, click on New Customer and fill in all the details. You will also have to select a payment method and enter the necessary details. Once ready click on Continue.
  • Once the payment is processed successfully, the domain will be in your account. You can login to your Godaddy account using your username and password, and manage your domain.

Step 2: Buy a web hosting account

Next you will require a web server where you can install the blogging software and upload your blog files. But you don’t have to buy yourself a physical server for this. There are a number of webhosts that offer this service. So, all you have to do is buy a web hosting service from some reliable provider like HostGator:

  • Click on View Web Hosting Plans

view-webhosting-plans

  • Select the plan you want to go with and click on Order Now. For beginners intending to set up only 1 blog, Hatchling Plan should be sufficient. If however, you want to set up multiple blogs, then you should go with the Baby Plan.
  • In the order form that comes next, select the radio button I already own this domain (since you will have already bought a domain name in Step 1). Now enter your domain name in the box just below that. Remember, it’s just the domain name (without http:// or www).

already-own-domain

  • Fill up the rest of the form with your desired Username, Security Pin (password), Billing Information, Payment Information and other details.
  • See the Hosting Addons section in the form carefully. If some items are checked and you don’t need them, just uncheck them.
  • Below the Hosting Addons section, you will see a box to enter a Coupon Code. Enter the code: LearnToBlog1 to get a discount of 25%. If there is already some default code in the box, you can replace that with this code and you’ll see your total due amount come down substantially.

hostgator-coupon-code

  • Check the terms and conditions acknowledgement check box and click on CREATE ACCOUNT.
  • Now the system will start processing your payment and on successful processing, you will receive your hosting account details at the email address that you mentioned in the order form. Don’t forget to check your junk or spam folder if you don’t see it in your inbox.

Step 3: Point the domain to your nameservers

Now that you have a domain name and a hosting account, the next step is to link these two. This too is fairly easy:

  • Check the account information mail that you received from your webhost (HostGator). Note down the nameservers. There will be 2 nameservers and you’ll need both of them. It will look something like this: ns3167.hostgator.com and ns3168.hostgator.com
  • Now login to your domain account (Godaddy)
  • Hover on: Products > Domains and click on Manage Now. You will see a list of all the domains in your account.

manage-domain

  • Click on the domain name you want to set up your blog on.
  • You will see the default nameservers under the settings tab which would be something like: NS67.DOMAINCONTROL.COM and NS68.DOMAINCONTROL.COM. Just below that, you will see a link to Manage your nameservers. Click on it and a small Nameserver Settings window will pop up.

manage-dns

  • Select the Custom radio button and click on Enter custom nameservers. Enter both the nameservers that you got from your hosting provider, one each in a box. Click on OK and Save the settings.

add-nameservers

This will link your domain name with your hosting account. But remember, the settings will not come into effect immediately since they will have to spread all over the World Wide Web. This process of domain name server (DNS) propagation usually happens in a few hours but can take as long as 72 hours to complete.

Step 4. Install WordPress

Ok, now the real action begins. We will start installing WordPress, the most popular blogging software, on our server. Here we go:

4.1 Uploading and extracting of files:

  • Go to wordpress.org
  • Download WordPress. You will get the option of downloading it as .zip or .tar.gz compressed file; the choice is yours.
  • Now login to your webhosting control panel (cPanel) using the username and password you got from your web hosting provider. Your cPanel login URL would be: http://domainname.com/cpanel where you need to replace domainname with your actual domain name. But if your DNS has not yet resolved (not propagated on the web), this URL will not work. In such case, use the temporary cPanel URL that your webhost has provided.
  • Click on File Manager under the ‘Files’ section. In the ‘File Manager Directory Selection’ popup that appears, select the radio button for Web Root (public_html/www) and click on Go. This will take you to your root directory public_html.

file-manager

  • Now upload the WordPress compressed file to your root directory. For this, click on the Upload button from the menu at the top, and choose the file to be uploaded. You can see the upload progress in the bottom right corner. Once the upload is complete, you can come back to your root directory by clicking on the link that appears in the center of the upload page. If however you want to install your blog in a subdirectory instead of the root directory, then you should create a new folder first and upload the WordPress file in that folder. The name of that folder will become a part of your blog URL. For example, if it is named ‘blog’, then your blog URL would be similar to: http://domainname.com/blog

upload-button

upload-files

  • Since we have uploaded a compressed file, the next step would be to extract it. For this, select the compressed file and click on Extract from the top menu. Select the path as the root directory (/public_html) or the subdirectory (/public_html/blog, etc.) depending upon where you want to install the blog, and then click on Extract File(s).
  • Now if you observe properly, you will see that a new folder called ‘wordpress’ is created and all the extracted files are placed inside that folder. We need to bring the content of this folder directly under the root directly or the subdirectory where we want to install the blog. So, go to this ‘wordpress’ folder and select all the content of this folder using shift key and mouse. Files being selected, click on the Move File icon in the top menu. Select the correct destination path in the pop-up and click on the Move File(s) button. This should make the ‘wordpress’ folder empty which may now be deleted.

4.2 Creating a database and user:

WordPress installation runs on a MySQL database. So, let’s get creating one:

  • Close the File Manager (to avoid any likely confusion) and come back to the cPanel homepage.
  • Under the Databases category, click on MySQL Database Wizard.

mysql-database-wizard

  • You will see that your cPanel username is prefixed to your database name by default. Complete your database name by adding up preferably 6-7 characters in the box provided, and head on to Next Step, which is to create a database user.

database-name

  • Just like the database name, fill up the box for username as well in order to create a database user. For ease of identification, you can keep it same as your database name. But remember, you can enter only upto 7 characters.

database-user

  • Use the Password Generator to generate a strong and safe password. Make note of the password; we will need it soon. Now, check the checkbox to acknowledge that you have copied the password and then click on Use Password.
  • Everything filled in, click on Create User.
  • Next is the step for adding the user to the database. But before this, note down the complete name of the database as well as the user. Now check the checkbox for ALL PRIVILEGES and hit on Next Step.

db-user-privileges

With this, we have created a database, a database user, and added the user to the database too.

4.3 Editing the wp-config.php file:

For the database to become functional, we’ll have to link it to WordPress. Here is how we do this:

  • Once again, go to the File Manager and look out for a file named wp-config-sample.php. Rename it to wp-config.php (double clicking on the file name will change it to edit-mode).
  • Now start editing the renamed wp-config.php file. You can do this by selecting the file and clicking on the Edit icon in the top menu.
  • Enter your database name, database username and database password.

editing-wp-config-file

  • Save Changes and close the file.

4.4 Running the installation script:

Almost there! Just one more step to go:

  • Open your blog URL in a web browser. It would be similar to: http://domainname.com or http://domainname.com/blog depending upon where you installed WordPress.

wp-install-script

  • Fill up the installation form with your desired details like site title, username, password, email ID, etc. Don’t forget to check the checkbox saying Allow search engines to index this site unless and until you want your blog to be a secret affair hidden from Google and other search engines. As a final step, click on Install WordPress. That’s it. Your blog is ready to rock!

4.5 Installation using auto-install script, Fantastico:

If you don’t want to go through the manual installation process of uploading files, creating database, editing wp-config.php file and all, there is an easier alternative available. The auto-install script called Fantastico can do it for you:

  • Go to your cPanel homepage and click on Fantastico De Luxe under the Software/Services category.
  • Click on WordPress from navigation menu on the left side and then on New Installation.

fantastico-auto-install

  • Fill in the details and hit the Install WordPress button.

That’s all you got to do. Everything else will be taken care of by the auto-install script.

4.6 Logging in to your WordPress site:

You can login to your WordPress site using the login URL which would be like: http://domainname.com/wp-admin

wordpress-login-screen

It will ask for your username and password. These would be the ones that you used while running the WordPress installation script or the ones you filled up in Fantastico, as the case may be. Note that your domain login credentials, cPanel login credentials and MySQL database credentials have NOTHING TO DO HERE.

4.7 Adding www. in the URL:

By default, your blog URL would be like: http://domainname.com

What if you want to add www. to it in order to make it look like: http://www.domainname.com

No worries, this part is easy too:

change-wordpress-url

  • Login to your WordPress site
  • Go to Settings > General
  • Add www. in the WordPress Address (URL) as well as in the Site Address (URL). Click on Save Changes and you are done. As you save this, you will be automatically logged out of your site. Don’t worry, it just happens because your URL is changed. You can login again using the new URL with www.

Step 5. Install a suitable theme

Design and looks of your blog depends upon the template that you use. A WordPress template is popularly known as a theme. The WordPress blog you install comes with a default theme. You can change this theme anytime you want to change the looks of your site; and you can do this without affecting the content of your site.

5.1 Installing a free theme from WordPress repository:

WordPress has a huge collection of free themes to choose from. You can see them all here: wordpress.org/themes

You can access and install any of these themes directly from your admin panel:

install-theme

  • Login to your site
  • Go to Appearance > Themes and click on Add New.
  • You will be taken to an interface where you can search for a theme either using a keyword or a specific set of features. You can also get the list of Featured, Newest and Recently Updated themes.
  • Click on the theme that you like. This will give you preview of the theme as well as an option to install it. Click on the Install button if you like the preview and want to proceed with installation. Now the theme is added to your blog’s collection but remember – it is not live yet.
  • To make your theme live, click on Activate. Or before doing that if you want to see how it looks on your site, click on Live Preview.

While browsing through WordPress themes repository, if you happen to like a theme, you can download and install it by following the below method as well.

5.2 Installing a theme from outside WordPress repository:

Sometimes, you may want to go with a premium theme. Or it may be just that you found a great theme from somewhere outside the WordPress repository and want to install it. Well, even that’s possible; just see to it that the theme is a WordPress theme and follow the below process:

upload-theme

  • Download the theme that you want to install. This should be a compressed, .zip file.
  • Login to your site
  • Go to Appearance > Themes and click on Add New.
  • Click on Upload
  • Choose the file (theme in .zip format) and click on Install Now.
  • Click on Activate and there you are!

All the themes that you upload or install will be available in Appearance > Themes. You can activate any of them any time you like.

Step 6. Start writing your blog post

Now that you have installed your blog, you are ready to begin writing your first blog post; or should I say, you’ve already done that! Yes, your default ‘Hello world’ post goes live as soon as you install a blog. You can choose to edit it, ignore it or delete it.

add-new-post

  • Login to your site and click on Posts in the left panel. This will take you to the list of existing posts.
  • Hover over the default post and you will see the options to edit or trash it.
  • If you want to add a new post, click on Add New button either at the top or in the left panel under ‘Posts’
  • Add the post title at the top and write the post in the main body.
  • Should you need to add any image, click on Add Media, upload the image file and then click on Insert into post. When you upload an image, you also get to choose its alignment, link it to a URL and optimize it by means of Alt Text, Description, etc.
  • You will also need to select a category for your post. Since the only category by default would be uncategorized, you may want to add a new category. You can easily do this by clicking on + Add New Category.
  • You can also add some tags to the post if you feel like.
  • If you want to see how it would look when the post goes live, you’ve got a preview button for that.
  • Once everything ready, hit the Publish button and your post is live. If you want to leave the post half way for now and continue with it later, you can save it as draft.
  • For scheduling a post to a future date, click on the small Edit button just beside ‘Publish immediately’. Enter the date and time you want to schedule for and click on OK. This will change the Publish button to Schedule button. Now click on that as a final step.

Once you set up your blog and continue to write more blog posts, you will keep learning more things. Writing static pages, inserting videos, adding plugins, creating users for co-blogging… there are loads of other features and options to explore. We will be covering them separately on our blog, stay tuned!

How To Use Google Hangouts On Air To Promote Your Brand

With the steady and significant uptick in algorithm updates since 2004, Google has notified the internet of the importance of quality. The king of search has always set the standard when it comes to search engine etiquette, and its search facility still serves as a major gateway for website traffic. Although the avenues available for large-scale traffic have widened to accept social media authority and activity, gaining traction with as many mass market distribution vehicles as possible is paramount to creating a well-known digital blueprint.

Many of the methods for online customer acquisition have changed, but there are still some free workflows that deliver as much value as many of the best paid solutions. The common ingredients to making them work are a little knowledge, and a bit of elbow grease. Once you get over the shallow learning curve, rinsing and repeating becomes routine.

Google Hangouts has proven to be a disruptor to the online web conferencing scene, in that it provides a free solution with many of the same features that were previously only available for a steep monthly price. While there are many advanced ways to integrate this technology, including utilizing flash media servers, Amazon EC2 hosting, and multiple premium WordPress plugins to take advantage of the technology, we will show you how to get up and running with the essentials.

A setup of this nature is not only feature-rich and cost-effective, but very powerful when it comes to organically attracting, engaging, and converting new visitors into clients, customers, fans, and sales.

Upsides and Downsides of Google Hangouts on Air (GHO)

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Streams live on your Google+ Profile and your Youtube channel (with most accounts)
  • Recorded content shows up prominently in search results (at the moment)
  • Highly engaging, trusted format that builds credibility, and allows for “selling without selling”

Cons:

  • Video resolution is not always the best
  • Need to be creative to promote your event beforehand (no pre-event permanent URL)
  • Takes a few dress rehearsals to understand the workflow
  • While viewing is unlimited, only 10 live producers can present the event at the same time

Basic Layout

On the left side of your main GHO dashboard, you’ll see a few icons that you will use to make the user experience ripe with collaboration and interactivity. Keep in mind that only users who access the Hangout through your Google+ profile will be able to take advantage of all of the features.

The top icon is for inviting friends to your Hangout. If you are inviting people who are already in your Google Circles, then it’s easy to copy the URL at the top of your Hangout window, and paste it in an email, or wherever. If invitees are not already in your circle, then there may be issues with signup, reminders, and the like.

The next icon down is used to popup a chat window, in the event that you need to have a moderated conversation with an attendee or attendees while the event is going on. Here, you can paste relevant links and resources that you deem useful for your audience in real-time. Another icon allows you to share your screen.

Near the bottom of the menu is a Google Drive icon that allows you to share documents during the live session. Attendees can collaborate on active documents without writing over the work of other attendees. The sky is the limit when the live video aspect is combined with the collaborative documents feature.

GHOA-basic-layout-1

Google Hangouts on Air Pre-Event Flight Check

Just as an airplane goes through a flight check, you’ll want to follow a routine with your GHO workflow for maximum efficiency. While snags are a part of technology, each delay dilutes the effectiveness of your live and post-event efforts. Keep in mind that as the number of presenters grows, so do the logistics, including different time zones, microphone setups, and internet speeds, to name a few.

The first step in synchronizing producers is making sure that each presenter has a Google+ account from Gmail. It’s a good idea to email presenters a screenshot of the Gmail dashboard, and direct them to the Google+ signup link that appears in the top right or left corner:

GHOA-pre-signup

If they haven’t already, it is a good idea to make sure presenters have filled out their name and avatar profile information. Other essentials include a photo, a tidbit on their personal background in the description area, and their display name.

HOA Presenter Setup

Whether you opt to do a dress rehearsal or send setup instructions to your group of presenters, the professionalism of your GHO presentation is directly related to your preparation. Coming off as unpolished does lend itself to authenticity to an extent, however, large gaffes will decrease the trust and credibility that comes with this presentation medium.

Here are a few general tips to remember when aiming for nice-looking presentations:

  • Maintain ample lighting (computer cameras have a habit of producing dark video)
  • Mute your microphone (unless you are speaking)
  • Choose a quiet area (even computer “humming” can be loud on camera)
  • If possible, angle your camera down on your face, and position yourself so that you are visible from the shoulders up

Combining Google+ Events With GHO

Creating a GHO event is a great way to leverage the search engine power of Hangouts, and increase awareness of your product or service long after your event has passed. Take these steps to integrate Google Events, and Hangouts:

  1. Create a Google+ Community
  2. Share your event from the share box
    GHOA-event
  3. Clicking on the “Text” icon will create your event
    • Name and write a description for your event (as mentioned earlier, no pre-event Hangout URL is available)
  4. Under your event advanced settings, click the “On Air” button (this alerts event attendees that your event is a virtual one rather than a physical one)
    GHOA-event2-1
  5. Just prior to starting your event, navigate to the Hangouts menu, and click the “Start a Hangout on Air” button
  6. Get the Youtube URL from the embed link located at the top right of the Hangout dashboard, navigate to the Google Community you just created, and click on the Video icon
    GHOA-video-button

    • Share your Youtube URL in the share box (now it is automatically shared in your Google Community and Google+ pages)
      GHOA-YT-URL
  7. Press “Start” to begin recording the broadcast, and “End” to finish

Your Google Community followers can now see which events are being live-broadcast, and view them even after the event. If you wish to delete the recording, you can do so from your Youtube Video Manager associated with its respective Google Plus account.

This should give you the tools you need to start running successful Google Hangouts on Air. Regularly doing so will give you consistent access to a pipeline of new potential customers and fans of your products and services. Combined with their increased shelf-life due to organic search, GHO can be a vital part of a comprehensive new media outreach campaign.

Rel=Author: Increase Click Through Rates and Social Rankings

 

Traffic. That’s the name of the game. If you have traffic, you’ll be able to turn that into a strong, loyal audience, and then finally, you’ll be able to make money off them.

Getting that traffic, though, is difficult. I’d be remiss to say that getting people to come to your blog, participate, and hopefully result in profit is an easy task. It’s anything but easy. Tiring, stressful, and often demoralizing.

Rel=Author

Now that I’ve gotten the gruesome out of the way, let me lay out a tactic that should help you to increase your rankings in Google, increase your click through rates (CTRs), and have the right people coming to your site that will increase your profitability. Is it the end all be all to getting audience? There isn’t one-way to do that. But if it can help increase your organic traffic by over 30%, perhaps it’s well worth your time.

The tactic that I am referring to is the implementation of the “Rel=author” tag on your site. For those that haven’t seen, this enables a small face of the author to appear to the left of the result. Since most of the results don’t have this, it draws the searcher’s eye to it. While it’s not the only variable that entices a click—your title tag and meta-description are definitely big parts here—it will help significantly.

what-is-rel-author

Just one last thing before I explain the details. There are actually two variables. The “rel=author” and the “rel=me” tags. The basic structure works as follows: you set up a Google+ account, add the site that you are a contributor to, and then link to your Google+ account on your site. That makes the connection. But you can also link to other pages with the “rel=me” tag that tells Google those other links are also part of your network.

In other words … you should link to your Twitter account using “rel=me.” That’ll tell Google which Twitter account is YOUR Twitter account.

So the question is: how do we set it up on our own sites? I’m glad you asked.

Step 1: Google+

Google PlusIf you thought you were going to get away from Google+, you were mistaken. Google’s social networking site is alive, kicking, and ready to try and dominate. Google will do whatever it can to make their social network work. So play along.

If you haven’t already created an account, create one. But assuming you have, head on over. When Google+ loads, it always displays your posts to constantly remind you that you should participate. Click “About” in the navigation. Scroll down until you get to “Links.” This includes links to anything of yours off site: your other social accounts, your blog, and any sites that you contribute to.

Punch in the URLs that you write for and voila, you are done with this step. This is Google’s way of having a control variable when setting up the authorship tag. It’s also how Google pulls data so that it will include your name, your picture, and the number of people in your circles.

Google Plus Profile

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.23.55 AM

Step 2: Your Site

Now you need to put the code on your site so Google knows to search for your Google+ account. That sentence is a bit tricky to understand, but it works like this. The Googlebot lands on your page and starts to read your site’s information. It stops at “rel=author” and sees either a link to your Google+ or the profile number. It holds this information and then continues reading the rest of the page. I would need 20,000 words (or more) to explain the details of everything that helps your site rank.

I digress …

You’ll need to put the following into the header:

Just copy/paste from your Google+ and subtract the /posts/ Google always adds.

But since most of you are likely building your blog on WordPress—I really hope all of you—then there is a far simpler way to do it.

Some WordPress frameworks, such as Genesis, come with the functionality for Authorship already built in. Therefore, all you need to do is go to your profile page in the backend of WP, locate the Google+ section, and paste the Google+ URL.

Then you’re done.

But if you’re not using a framework, all you’ll need is one of the two big SEO plugins available today: All in One SEO Pack or Yoast SEO. My favorite is Yoast, but either one will result in the same outcome.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.28.22 AM

Just like with the framework, both of these plugins take the data from your WordPress profile. A new field will show up in your profile, paste your URL, and then it’s connected. To ensure this is happening, go to publish a new article and it’ll include a drop down of Author metadata.

Step 3: Test

Just because you’ve added the code doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Fortunately, Google has provided us with a simple tool called the “Structured Data Testing Tool” to guarantee that your implementation has worked. Copy and paste one of your articles into the tool and if it’s working, it’ll say: “Your authorship setup is finished. Congratulations! However, please note that Google will only show your author portrait in search results when we think it will be useful to the user.”

If it doesn’t confirm that it’s working, you’ll need to go back and make sure you added the correct URL to your profile or in the SEO plugins or you’ll need to confirm that you connected the correct site to your Google+ contributor section. If both are working, your test should come up positively.

Structured Data Testing Tool

But I’m Just a Writer

So let’s say you’re the minority visitor to this site and you’re not interested in running a blog, but rather, you just want to write on other blogs as a freelance writer. It’s a great career and you can make plenty of money.

There is a theory in the SEO community that Google will start to gauge your authority based on the types of articles you write, where you publish them, and other unknown variables. In other words, if you write about finance on a diverse number of sites, Google might see you as an authority in finance.

As a freelance writer, this is very valuable for you. You are, effectively, bringing your authority to other sites. Should you get a job writing an occasional column for another site, that site benefits from your authority as well; therefore, you are in a position to negotiate. If you run a site about SEO, would you pay more from a beginner or an expert? If you have a ton of authority in Google’s eyes, other sites are going to pay you more money. Period.

None of this has really been proven yet, but ask yourself: if you could prepare for the future of SEO before it happens, would you do it? If the answer is no, you’re likely in the wrong business. There is no harm preparing and even if it never comes to that, you’re still going to have the picture in the SERPs which will, inevitably, increase the CTR.

You should know that Google is constantly in change about what pages they show the data on. About a month ago, there was a report that the image snippet had stopped showing on real estate sites. Does this mean that Google is against commercial and they view real estate as commercial? Who knows? But what we do know is Google always changes.

Increase your click through rates, get more traffic, and plan for the future is what you’re doing when you implement the authorship tag.

If you have trouble setting up your Authorship, please post in the comments. I’ll try and help you out and help figure it out. But if you’re using WordPress, you’re likely going to have it done in about two minutes. It really is that simple.

Why and How to Make Your WordPress Blog Mobile Friendly

There was a time when mobile phones were devices used for the sole purpose of making phone calls; that was all it was capable of. But that was then. Fast forward to today, every big website has a mobile version. If your website lacks a mobile friendly design, you are losing the ever growing community of mobile web users. It is estimated that the number of mobile internet users will overtake that of desktop users some time very soon. So, it’s high time you took care of your mobile visitors by providing a mobile friendly interface of your website for them. Ignoring mobile users is the worst thing you can do now as this is no more a matter of choice. The internet today is mobile friendly. Which is why it is essential to learn how to make your WordPress blog mobile friendly.

Why go mobile?

Almost everyone has a smartphone these days and more than for calling, they use it to access internet. If you don’t optimize your site for mobile devices, it will look cluttered and unreadable on a mobile phone’s screen which is much smaller than a desktop or a laptop. Having a mobile friendly design makes your site legible and clean to a mobile visitor. Another benefit is that people appreciate the fact that you cared enough to create a mobile optimized site for them and that adds to your authenticity. If your site is not mobile friendly, visitors that land on your site from mobile devices are more than likely to leave it right away seeing the cluttered interface. Having a mobile version simply makes those otherwise leaving visitors stick around just like the visitors from larger screens.

Even if some of your mobile visitors manage to read the content on your not-so-mobile-friendly site, they are more likely to miss your call to action. Every good website has a call to action, be it subscribe to the email newsletter, complete a form, buy a product or anything for that matter. By having a design that is optimized for mobile devices, you can ensure that your call to action gets seen by the mobile visitors too.

Having a mobile friendly version of your site has some SEO benefits too. The fact is Google wants every site to have a mobile friendly design in order to help Google serve it to searches made from smartphones. Google has already made mobile search a top priority as the number of searches made from smartphones is on the rise.

Different ways to make your blog design mobile friendly

There are several ways to make your website design suitable for viewing on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. However, we’ll look into the 3 most commonly followed methods here.

1. Use a responsive theme

responsive-themeUsing a responsive wordpress theme is the easiest way to optimize your site for mobile visitors. A responsive theme adjusts itself according to the device being used by the incoming visitor. So a visitor from desktop or laptop will see a wide interface whereas mobile visitor will get the interface that fits on his screen without any cluttering. Most of the times, all you need to make your site mobile friendly is just a responsive theme and it is the most popular method for making your site mobile friendly.But it has its drawbacks too, the responsive themes do not reduce the size of images being used and you would have to do this manually for your site to load faster on slow connections of mobile devices. However, having a mobile friendly layout itself is half the work done.

2. Use a plugin

We use wordpress plugins to solve most of our site related issues and there are plugins that can make your blog mobile friendly too. The perk of using a plugin is that you can install and start using it within a matter of minutes. It does not require you to have any knowledge on optimizing sites for mobile. Here are some popular plugins you can use for this:

WPtouch: WPtouch mobile plugin instantly makes your site a mobile optimized, touch friendly website that can be viewed perfectly on all mobile devices. It detects the device of your incoming visitor and provides them the suitable version of your site. You have more options to customize the design according to your taste. The premium version of WPtouch mobile offers even more exciting features like automatic video and photo scaling, support for retina and HD displays, etc.

WP Mobile Detector: WP Mobile Detector plugin can identify if the visitor is using an ordinary mobile phone or a smartphone and it displays a suitable version of your site layout differently for each of them. It can detect and support over 5000 different mobile devices. WP Mobile Detector also provides mobile statistics and comes with 7 built-in mobile friendly themes. The premium version lets you create custom themes and display ads for mobile devices.

Jetpack’s Mobile Theme: This plugin suite brings some features of wordpress.com to your self-hosted WordPress site. It comes with a mobile theme which is snappy and fast loading on mobile devices. The mobile theme will use the design elements from your desktop WordPress theme by default but you can customize it with some simple modifications on CSS.

3. Design a separate mobile version of your site

If you create separate mobile version of your website, you will have two separate websites, a desktop site and a mobile site. The mobile site is usually given an alias like m.yoursite.com and it helps people recognize that they are on the mobile version. When someone visits your site on a mobile device, they get redirected to the mobile site automatically. Having a separate site for mobile users can help you provide different content for mobile and desktop users. You can always control what the mobile visitor sees, and the content on desktop version of your site will not affect this. The only drawback is that you have to make the changes on desktop and mobile sites separately and this will consume more time. Designing a separate mobile version of your website used to require technical skills before, but now there are many services that would help you easily create and host one for free.

How to build the mobile version of your site

You can either hire a developer to get this done for you or follow this simple guide to build one with a free service called dudamobile.

1. Head over to http://my.dudamobile.com and sign up for a free account.

2. Once you create your free account you will be redirected to the dashboard. Click on “Create mobile site’ button over there.

3. In the new popup box, select ‘Use an existing website URL’ and enter your website URL, site nickname and choose the category your site belongs to.

4. Click on ‘Convert’ and you will be presented with the editor page where you can customize the looks of your mobile version. There is a preview panel to the right of the editor. Once you are done with customizations, click on ‘Next’.

5. You will be taken to the page editor where you can add different objects like social sharing buttons and other widgets. Once you have added required elements and everything looks fine, click on ‘Next’.

6. In the next page, you will be asked to select a plan for the service; premium plan has features like ad free site, custom subdomain like m.yoursite.com support and many more. We shall go with the free plan in this tutorial. Select free plan and click on “go live’.

7. As a final step, click on ‘Setup my mobile redirection’ and you will be provided with a JavaScript code which you will have to add on your site. Alternatively, you can search for ‘Mobile Website Builder for WordPress by DudaMobile’ in the WordPress Plugins repository and install the plugin. And voila! You have a separate mobile version of your site now.

To get your m.yoursite.com alias, you will have to upgrade to dudamobile premium.

Things to keep in mind

Using a responsive theme is the best option among all these as you will have less work to take care of. It has to be noted that using free plan of services like dudamobile can have a negative impact as the URL of your mobile site begins with their domain. If you have a blog, it is better to go with the responsive theme or wordpress plugin method rather than creating a separate mobile site. Creating a separate site with m.yoursite.com alias is better if you have a static website where new content is not added very frequently.

Please let us know in the comments below… Do you read a lot of websites on your mobile phone?