Blogs

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ChicagoWebSupport.com launches with levels of WordPress support and maintenance

WordPress support and maintenance is quite a bit of my ongoing business, whether it’s “de-hacking” a compromised site or simply optimizing and protecting it. To be honest, WordPress maintenance is not the highest priority on some organizations’ long list of to dos, and yet it’s a popular target for hackers. So what’s a website owner to do?

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Lisa GhisolfChicagoWebSupport.com launches with levels of WordPress support and maintenance

Combatting the WordPress spam monster

WordPress spam has been worsening lately for everyone: It’s an easy in for hackers, especially on dormant sites or unmonitored sites. I’ve cleaned tens of thousands of spam comments out of clients’ sites before, and those comments not only show an a doorway for more spammers, but also bloat your site’s database and ultimately slow you down. Which Google doesn’t like. It’s a chain reaction.

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Lisa GhisolfCombatting the WordPress spam monster

Friday picks: Free images to use on your blog

Finding images for your blog posts is probably tougher than writing the actual post. And for free? Even worse.

Two of my favorite solutions fix this—while still sharing an image’s creator and source information so you’re legitimately using another’s content.

Zemanta is actually a blog content and link suggestion platform that shares your posts over its network. It boasts a WordPress plugin to add in related posts to your site.

But by far, my favorite function happens in WordPress (and Wordpress.com, Blogger, TypePad, Posterous, Movable Type, Drupal and Joomla): Using the keyword phrases in your post, Zemanta allows one-click linking to relevant outside sites. Even better, you can search for images with Creative Commons licenses, allowing linking and publishing. It’s an absolute lifesaver for finding images in a pinch and adding visual flair on just about any topic to your blog.

My other find is PhotoDropper — as a WordPress plugin it similarly pulls Creative Commons images, but also premium images, right in your dashboard.

Both of these services run the caveat that you should check if the image is free for commercial use if your blog or website are used in a business context.

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Lisa GhisolfFriday picks: Free images to use on your blog

BuddyPress for building your social network

A few months back I talked about a client’s success in moving a Ning community to WordPress and, inevitably, BuddyPress.

But what’s the big deal about BuddyPress? It is a plugin, but it creates so many new features for your website, it’s actually quite a bit more. I like to think of BuddyPress almost as a social networking application, in a plugin. Its features almost make it a Facebook clone. But it’s not Facebook.

Buddypress features

A quick rundown of its features:

  • User groups
  • Friending, profiles
  • Discussion profiles
  • Private messaging
  • Blog tracking [for multisite networks]
  • Status updates
  • Activity streams [which are an aggregate of the above]
  • The wire [feedback wall, separate from the activity streams]

The “famous” add-on to BP is bbPress, which is essentially forum enhancement.

Keep in mind, BuddyPress is not multisite. Multisite WP [and certainly a topic for a future blog!] is for multiple blog sites in a single WordPress installation, and BuddyPress can be multisite or just one blog.

Forums v. groups

The confusion I found when starting a BP site is the difference between forums and groups. Groups can have forums and blogs, but forums can stand alone. And, groups can be made private — i.e, for membership or board members who need a private area.

Customizing BuddyPress also poses some new issues:

  • For developers: When editing your themes, don’t edit bp-sn-parent, the parent theme. Copy it to bp-default, and create a child theme.
  • Right now, you can’t use any WP theme out of the box. There are some rather limited options, which are notably different because they include the “special” BP pieces: login, registration, forums, groups, etc.
  • Only some regular WP plugins will work with BP, but usually, multisite ones will work. It takes some testing to see which are compatible [but isn’t that always the way?]

There are specific BuddyPress plugins, adding functionality for users and admins alike:

  • bbpress: forum enhancement
  • BP my home: allow users to move their own widgets & set up their “dashboard”
  • Pending activations: not on multisite
  • Ad manager
  • Activity refresh: you set timing
  • Registration options: attach to particular groups or blogs [multisite]
  • Ultimate Facebook
  • Private community
  • Welcome pack
  • Groupblog: associate blog w/group
  • Bookmarklet
  • Group Documents: doc storage
  • S2member: membership by restricting URLs by user

BuddyPress spam beware

BP is a huge target for spammers, but there are some ways to combat, or at least cut it down:

  • Bad Behavior, Wangguard plugins (July 2017 note: WangGuard is now no longer supported by its author, and I’ve found WPMU’s Anti-Splog is quite effective but pricey.)
  • Remove Buddypress & WP credit lines
  • Rename your registration slug to block “insite:register” searches

What’s next for BuddyPress?

Coming down the line for BP 1.7  is compatibility with all WordPress theme. This is simply huge! We’ve been waiting on this for a while, so not sure when it’ll hit.

BuddyPress Resources

Some of my go-to resources on BP:

 

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Lisa GhisolfBuddyPress for building your social network

My favorite WordPress blogging plugins

WordPress has a lot of really cool plugins—but that wasn’t always the case. These days I can add in event tickets, membership systems, even community builders that mimic Facebook, all for free or a nominal cost.

But blogging still claims a god amount of WordPress sites, so the average user can improve their site fairly easily.

Here are a few WordPress blogging plugins I’ve found incredibly useful not only for myself but clients too:

Tweet old post: This one actually has tripled traffic to Thriftista at times, revitalizing old posts that might have languished in the archives. The newest version also has the ability to omit posts, which comes in handy when you want to leave out outdated ones.

PhotoDropper: Finding decent, relevant photography can be a pain for the average blog—this plugin takes care of that, and the copyright. Search Flickr for Creative Commons images [ie, you can use them with proper credit] and it even fills in the byline for you. Timesaver!

Yoast SEO: I’ve tried a number of SEO plugins and this one is simple, yet offers more tools for the advanced.

Akismet: This is a WordPress standard, and so many folks just don’t enable it. If you want to avoid the majority of spam comments, it’s an easy way to clear it out. It’s also free, though you need to go to the Akismet site to get an API key.

WordPress Editorial Calendar: We all say we’re gonna get out a post a week. Or two. And then six months go by, work gets crazy, you name it. This has an easy drag-and-drop interface to move schedule dates and set up reminders for future posts.

Anthologize: Is your blog ebook-worthy? Even if it’s not *grin*, you can easily export your posts to a readable format.

What are your favorites?

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Lisa GhisolfMy favorite WordPress blogging plugins

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting and more…

There are many technologies out there today that have been getting a lot of play in the media lately. Amongst the blogs, RSS, wikis and podcasting: What are they? How they affect your search engine rankings? And what can they do for you? Let’s find out.

First up, blogs. Web logs have been around for several years, mostly serving as personal commentary in a diary format. A local Chicago blog is Gapers Block, highlighting Chicago area happenings. However, many companies are finding blogs useful in their businesses. Blogs can work as an extension of your email newsletter, communicating on a daily basis, or with press releases that search engines pick up based on relevant content. It can also encourage a public forum of comments, leading to interaction between you and your clients, and eventually, sales. You control your blog, so you can read, delete and block unwanted comments and users. A blog marketing tip: They are favored by search engines too, since they offer more content, which the search engines like, and often have many links from them.

Your next question is likely, “How can we create content every day?” I struggle with this now as I’ve started my own Chicago blog — a resource for blog marketing tips, design trends and more. But, consider the great resources you come across every day: Work issues you’ve overcome, funny anecdotes, networking events and great web sites. They all can lead to conversations, which can lead to relationships and raised earnings. Or consider getting your employees to write quick blurbs. Get 10-12 postings ready behind the scenes, or utilize old articles and tips, and you’ll be going in no time. Overall, it just makes sense to put a human face [or faces, if you include your employees] on your business.

Aside from your own blog, it can be useful to monitor other blogs via search engines [some blog search engines include Bloglines, Feedster and PubSub for information on your company or products, if you have a strong brand in the marketplace. Protect your name with comments, or s imply offer advice that will point back to you.

Wikis [pronounced wee-kees] are similar to blogs, but are editable by many people, whereas blogs allow you to keep whatever control you’d like. Wikipedia is perhaps the best-known wiki, serving as an editable online encyclopedia. If you want an open forum for people to write, add comments and modify according to their knowledge, it can be a great tool. This can work within organizations as a communications tool or to encourage creative thinking, in a fun way [think “create your own story”], or as just a free-form blog.

Next, RSS, or Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication [depending on who you’re talking to]. It breaks down content — anything from a blog to news stories an d even web sites — and is read by news aggregators like Userland and my.netscape.com who push it out to the web. A site can then grab your feed and publish your content — increasing your link popularity and pushing up your search engine rankings, but also keeping your copyright intact. It’s already an incredibly useful service used by CNN, Disney, Forbes, Red Herring and others. RSS also lets users link more easily to your content — meaning more links into your site, which many search engines like. Yahoo! in particular is making it easy to add RSS feed s into their search engine, and RSS now can feed into your cell phone! The potential for connecting to an even broader audience is great.

Lastly for today, podcasting. Using RSS, podcasting can push out your news to the web – but it can also push o ut to iPods®. Instead of text blogs, these are audio files [most often MP3] that the user can listen to at their leisure. Much of the technology out there is still open source and unexploited, so there is still room for business development and new technology. Creators of teleclasses, or just those who prefer to discuss vocally, will certainly fin d this to be a great way to offer clients your knowledge — and put a teaser out for those not yet familiar with your business. If you offer interviews with industry gurus, advertise based on their name power. The Cubs are already on the bandwagon locally.

But how can this work for your search engine ranking? In a few ways: You can transcribe your recording and submit it in an RSS feed. Or perhaps you build keywords around the page it is located, and why not add MP3 tags while you’re at it? They aren’t searched, yet. Let others know that you’re doing it—podcasting is still rather new and unique, so you’ll be a thought leader.

Of course, if you have further questions or want to add any of these new technologies to your site, give us a call.

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Lisa GhisolfBlogs, Wikis, Podcasting and more…