Archive for October, 2007

This post isn't strictly for WordPress users but I see it increasingly on WordPress sites so I'm targeting that as the main example. What am I talking about? Simple on page SEO AND Usability/Accessibility (it's not all about the Search Engines!).

Page Titles

Your page title is the most important aspect. You've got 50+ characters (around 65 I think, but search engines vary) so use them! Keep the main basis of the title unique to each page if you can, however I am a fan of keeping the main site title, be it a site name or company name, at the end of the title so that you still have consistency. Plus at a glance, in the search engine listings, people can still see which company/site you are from the title. I hate being on a site that just has the page title and no identification.

In WordPress it's not so straight forward but still perfectly possible. For standard blogging then your posts will take the same page title as the post title, so bear that it mind. For static pages it does the same, which isn't so good as you don't want 'Home' for your front page, or 'About'. However this can easily be changed with the SEO Title Tag Plugin. This allows you to set the page title for any page (or post). It's a must for anyone running WordPress as a CMS, and also those of you who use static pages on your site. However, if you're using WordPress as a blog then you need to alter your index.php template to allow you to control the front page title. To do this you can replace the standard title of

<title><?php bloginfo('name'); ?><?php wp_title(); ?></title>

and change this to

<title><?php if (is_home()) : echo 'Front Page Text Here'; else : wp_title(''); endif; echo ' - '; bloginfo('name'); ?></title>

On this line change the 'Front Page Text Here' to whatever you want displayed, and also change the hyphen to the separator of your choice in the second echo statement. This will then give you the page title followed by the blog name. On internal pages you'll simply get the page or post title followed by the blog name. It's a good idea to at least switch the wp_title() and bloginfo('name') around anyway in my opinion.

Headers

Ahh Headers. These seem to either be misunderstood or just abused, if they're used at all! Using the Web Developer Firefox Extension you can easily go to any page and choose Outline – Headings, and see what header tags are being used and where. It's often interesting to see how the same header tags are styled so differently on different parts of the page. Surely this should say to some people that perhaps they're using them wrongly?! Headers are also important for semantics and usability/accessibility. It creates a structured hierarchy within the page and as a result emphasises relationships between one section and another, and can be used by users of certain screen readers and browsers to navigate through the page based on the structure (yes I just got that from Dave!!).

From my point of view, headers need to be used right to define the right amount of importance to the text within the tags along with the content about to follow. I often see people either using multiple H1s on a page, or one H1 and then a load of H2s and nothing else. There's no structure there, not for the visitor and not for the search engines. Surely, to me, if you use to many H2s then it starts to dilute the importance of a H2 and perhaps a H3 can be seen as more important if there is only one of them. I'm sure it doesn't work like that but if you have everything in a H2 then everything is considered of equal importance, and that's probably not right.

WordPress is a major culprit of this and it's something I wish they'd change. By default, the template tags of wp_list_categories() and wp_list_bookmarks() both output H2 headers. This is quite annoying as you already have H2s around your post titles, are the headings of 'Categories', 'Blogroll' and anything else in your sidebar worthy of the same importance? Personally I don't think so. Changing these is fairly easy however.

For the bookmarks list you can easily add in a couple of extra parameters to control what the heading uses by specifying the before and after tag

wp_list_bookmarks('title_before=<h3>&title_after=</h3>');

For the categories list however you need to simply prevent the header from being output and manually do this one yourself using similar code to

<h3>Categories</h3>
<ul>
<?php wp_list_categories('title_li='); ?>
</ul>

The title_li= parameter tells the function what title to output, so by leaving it blank it's being told to output nothing.

Another misuse of headings that I often see on a blog post is the date below the title also in a header. Why?! The date is of no importance whatsoever. Sure, it should be there for definite, but not in a header tag. You're just diluting the importance of headers by throwing a date into one.

From my point of view there should be one H1 on a page. At the top and contains the site or company name. This is also consistent across the site. My H1 uses image replacement to show the header image of the rose with the PHP code, however 'underneath' it has my blog name. I then use H2s for my post titles and H3s for my sidebar headings IF I can't put them into definition lists which is what I'd actually prefer to use (and will be on the next theme). I also use H3s in my posts, hence why I'd rather not have them in my sidebar at all!

Summary

This isn't a guarantee on anything. I'm not an SEO, just applying some common sense and using what I've read on SEO sites. However SEO aside, semantics and usability dictate that you should keep your pages structured, follow a hierarchy and follow consistency. With CSS in use a lot more these days, it's not too hard to switch tags around, just assign the H3 the same style as the H2 had for your sidebar and you're usually fine.

At present the front page of Stuff By Sarah pulls posts from 3 blogs. My Tech and Personal blog, my AIS blog and my Food and Drink site. Whilst I realise that Food and Drink, plus the gardening, is part of me and my personality, I've been wondering whether it should be pulled into the front page with the other two sites. The other two are mainly technology, business, photography and money making based. I do a personal post once a week for anyone who's interested, but I tend to stick to more tech posts across them both. Food and Drink is in a whole other world!

Why are they separate anyway? Simply because some people just want to read about the AIS stuff and not the other rubbish I write! I made the decision to split the AIS posts off about 18 months ago and whilst I don't write as often there as I should, it's still better to keep that stuff separate I reckon. Of course some people just want to read everything, which is great! Hence why I created the front page and front page RSS feed so that those who were interested in everything could see it all, plus because I try to update one blog once a day, and not all 3, the front page makes it appear like I do write once a day (well I do try unless I'm away!). Have I confused you all yet?! ;)

I know plenty of people read both blogs on this domain, and are probably not interested in my recipes or foodie posts (god knows why, I'm a good cook ;) ), and I'm thinking that there are less people who read actually read them that don't.

You can see I'm going round in circles here. For those of you who subscribe to the combined feed (Blogging By Sarah), do you actually read the food posts too. I realise they are few and far between anyway, but would it just be worth my while to remove that from the Stuff By Sarah blogging empire?

I just want to apologise to anyone who wonders why their trackback doesn't display on this blog or my AIS Blog. Back when I was fighting comment spam I installed a plugin called WP Hardened Trackback which allowed people to grab a temporary URL to do a trackback when referring to a post. Because this rarely happened I didn't actually put anything out on the site for people to get a link (besides the fact I didn't really understand how it worked!), so instead I just used the plugin to kill all trackbacks.

Since rethinking this decision I disabled the plugin as I found I missed out on people writing about my posts (it's rare but it's nice!) and figured I could deal with the trackback spam considering I'd reduced comment spam to about 5 a day (from 100 or so). However, Trackbacks no longer work on either site. Maybe I've blocked something else, but I don't think I have. I've upgraded WordPress a couple of times since but nothing's changed. Even my own pings/trackbacks don't work which of course is not great as that's the best way to allow people to follow a series of posts through your blog.

If anyone's got any ideas on what I could look at to fix this I'd appreciate hearing them. It's clearly something in the database somewhere!

Here's a scenario for you…nnVisitor comes to your site, buys one or more products, gets whisked off to PayPal to pay. PayPal (via IPN) tells your server the buyer has paid in full. What does your server do now, what do you think it should do?nn

    n
  1. Email the Buyer their purchase(s) (of course I'm talking digital products here!).
  2. n

  3. Email the Buyer a download link where they can obtain their purchase(s), perhaps giving them a chance to download X times.
  4. n

  5. Make the Buyer create an account before they pay, and then on return they can log in and download their purchase(s).
  6. n

nnSee, option 1 is the quickest option. However the downside to this is the potential that the buyer doesn't receive the email, perhaps it's too large or it's blocked for some reason. Option 2 is a little extra work, but again, the email may not be received. Option 3 is by far the most professional but most time consuming option, however, is it overkill?nnI've been intending to set up option 3 on our main income site. At present we just sell about 80 products of the same subject. I'm also intending to throw a few eBooks into the mix, offering them for sale or as freebies for bigger sales. So I figured that setting up a download area for buyers to log into afterwards would be the best idea, they can grab all of the products they've purchased with ease, and no email actually required (although sales receipts would still be sent of course).nnHowever, then I got to thinking, once the buyer has downloaded their purchase, are they likely to return? Sure, we can perhaps offer a discount on new products as they are added to the site, maybe a free eBook when we get hold of others. Keep your original buyers happy and more will come? But is it worthwhile doing this if it's unlikely that the buyers will return to the download/login area?nnMy only other thought is that we could email the past buyers with information of the offers on, perhaps remind them to go to the site and see what's new etc. I don't know if the products we're selling would be bought that many times over (well they would be some people!).nnI just don't want to create an overkill system for a $10 product.nnIs it overkill or worth it? Or as a buyer, would you rather just get the product emailed straight to you, or a simple download link?

Another week of work and mice. Yep the little annoying vermin are still in the kitchen. They've gone through a third of the bottle of poison, surely more than enough to kill them off?! I'd at least hoped that they were on their last legs but whilst out in the kitchen this evening, getting dinner on we saw one come out from behind the fridge, run back and forth to the shelves and then I'd left the kitchen before it disappeared under the cupboards (having to jump over a 4" wood plinth, so clearly still capable of movement). I'll be on the phone to the council in the morning. I can't deal with this any more.

So, besides the vermin problem, this week has been pretty pleasant. We started the week off in Cardiff. I met my new IT manager at the company I contract for. I feel sorry for him as the IT support assistant, who started just 6 months ago, handed his notice in with the required 1 weeks notice. So now the new bloke is on his own until they find someone else! If I'd lived closer then I'd have probably offered to go in but a 7-8 hour return commute is just a little too far. They can put me up in the Hilton or Marriot if they want though ;) Still, other than that he seemed pretty pleasant and didn't have any concern over me working from home, something that concerned me as some people don't appreciate that way of working. After finishing in the office we headed back home which turned out to be a bit of a long journey due to major traffic on the M6. We didn't get stuck in this but instead diverted on the way home, still the scenery is nicer along the other roads.

I started Tuesday off with a bang. I got up, grabbed my stuff and went downstairs, however half way down I missed my footing and fell down the rest. My laptop flew out of my hands and into the wall (there's a 5mm dent in it now!) and landed on the floor. Dave heard and jumped out of bed to find me in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. I grazed/burnt my left elbow (which is annoying as I lean on it often!), grazed the back of my left calf muscle, and twisted/knocked my left ankle and lower part of my leg. To be honest I was more concerned over my laptop at first! Thankfully that's been okay since so I guess the whole road testing info on the Dell site was true! My leg and ankle hurt for most of the day and my leg continued to hurt for the rest of the week. Mainly for going up and down stairs, the pressure can be felt where I guess I've bruised it.

Luckily we didn't go anywhere for a couple of days, especially as on Tuesday night my neck really started to hurt. I can only assume I jarred it from the fall and it took a while to stiffen up. By Wednesday I wasn't feeling to great from the ache and pain so after clearing my work I spent the rest of the day laying down to support my neck. Thank god I have a laptop! Luckily it finally started to ease and I was fine by late evening.

On Thursday and Friday the weather was glorious. The sun had finally returned (for a few days) and so on Friday we took the afternoon off and went out to Chester for the day. We had a really nice, easy day out, the sun and blue sky held for the whole day, and it was just nice to have a break from things. (More plus photos at A Glorious Friday). The good weather continued through to Saturday and so we went to Chester Zoo. Besides too many noisy kids, we had a good day out, catching sight of a variety of animals plus grabbing a few photos along the way (I'll get these up when I have time!).

Now if only I'd not seen that mouse…!

Page 5 of 7« First...«34567»