mblair's Website Optimization Cafe https://www.mblair.net Website optimization + strong coffee = success Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:46:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 Reset your bookmarks for Bizquarium.com https://www.mblair.net/bizquarium-launches/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bizquarium-launches https://www.mblair.net/bizquarium-launches/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:36:46 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/bizquarium-launches/ As previously mentioned, I’m going to be covering website optimization over at a new domain. That domain is www.bizquarium.com. I know its been slow going here, and a lot of that has been due to the fact that I’ve been planning where I want to take things over there where I’ll have free range to cover anything under the sun that is important to helping bloggers, niche marketers and other webpreneurs make the most of their websites.

I’d love to see all of you over there or subscribing to Bizquarium’s RSS feed. You can expect an average from 3 to 5 posts per week or so as I’ve been carving out more time from my production schedule to spend blogging.

Also, please note that I’m building Bizquarium from the ground up over there, step by step. This is the embodiment of the long delayed Website Workshop. I think you’ll find this a great way to get the ball rolling on that.

Please don’t get turned off by the “default” look — that’s intentional. I’ve got everything planned out to make Bizquarium a pretty intricate website/blog and really push WordPress to its limits over the next few months. But I wanted to take a look at all the little decisions that are made when growing a site from scratch. So, right now — Bizquarium is just another WordPress weblog. I hope that you’ll join me in transforming it into something a little more unique.

Also, feel free to stay subscribed here if you are interested. I won’t burden your RSS reader any more here than I already have 😉 I’m still going to post here occasionally on topics that don’t quite fit either Bizquarium or SMOblog. Don’t expect it to be too often though.

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I see a new domain in our future https://www.mblair.net/i-see-a-new-domain-in-our-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=i-see-a-new-domain-in-our-future https://www.mblair.net/i-see-a-new-domain-in-our-future/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2007 21:51:25 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/i-see-a-new-domain-in-our-future/ Just wanted to give a shout-out to my long-suffering subscribers and let you know that I’m going to be moving the Website Optimization Cafe over to a new domain within the next couple weeks. Hang tight! In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of posts up on the SMOblog about BlogRush, the traffic building tool that is making a big splash in the blogosphere:

BlogRush promotes your blog while you sleep

Customize your RSS feed for BlogRush

I’ll still be posting to mblair.net from time to time after the transition, but its going to be quite a bit more eclectic, less focused on on web development issues an much more personal in flavor.

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Take out an insurance policy on your blog https://www.mblair.net/blogsurance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blogsurance https://www.mblair.net/blogsurance/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2007 23:49:07 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/blogsurance/ There are times that life throws you a bunch of rotten tomatoes. Chaos starts pulling your strings like a mad puppeteer. All of a sudden your blog hasn’t been updated for so long you can’t remember the password to login.

Sorry for the neglect and thanks for sticking with me.

When life throws you rotten tomatoes, why not make rotten tomatoeade?

While I was lying in bed enjoying fever dreams in Technicolor and Dolby surround, I got to thinking – why, oh why didn’t I plan and prepare for this. Shouldn’t a blog have an insurance policy?


Here’s what I think would be a great insurance policy to keep your blog humming along nicely when you aren’t:

  1. Get a second feed reader or open a second feed reader account and subscribe to a few of your most critical feeds. When you follow a lot of conversations, its all too easy to follow nothing when you are overwhelmed. You need to turn your river of news into a trickle. Keeping just a few feeds in a reader will help you to follow the general ebb and flow of your corner of the blogosphere with minimal time and effort. I suggest including blogs that don’t post too frequently but that typically cover anything of significance. Another alternative to this for some would be to use an aggregator such as Megite to follow your topic at a glance.
  2. Write a few articles in advance and save them for those rainy days. When you’ve got a 101 degree fever its no time to be writing. Preparing a set of articles – perhaps even a series – that you can pull out of the closet is going to be great medicine and keep your readers engaged. Make sure that the articles that you write have a long shelf life. Nobody likes the smell of stale mothballs.
  3. Scheduled publication is your friend. Instead of stumbling into your desk all groggy each day to publish one of your pre-written blog posts, do it all in one setting and schedule them to be released in advance. This is particular easy to do by fiddling with the publication date in WordPress and in similar types of blog software.

Oh, and don’t forget the Vitamin C…

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Grab your hammer and join me in the Website Workshop https://www.mblair.net/building-website-from-scratch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-website-from-scratch https://www.mblair.net/building-website-from-scratch/#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2007 11:19:24 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/building-website-from-scratch/ I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what would be the best way for us to explore together the many different techniques of website optimization. I think I’ve found an approach that should be a bit of fun for everyone.

Let’s optimize a website together!

In this series, I am going to build a website step-by-step that we can use as a central point of discussion for website optimization. This will be an entirely public project and I will keep coming back to this series over time. I’m hoping that by using concrete illustrations, it will make the process of building and optimizing a website easier to understand.

While it really stretches beyond actual optimization, I think it is useful for me to start at the very beginning and build a website from scratch. There are still some people with static websites that might be interested in taking the plunge and moving to a new platform. Starting from square one will give me the opportunity to talk about that and the many other decisions that go into making a quality website.

Now, here is how I can really use your help on this one…

This is a café, not a classroom

I named this blog the Website Optimization Café because I want to encourage coffeehouse-style discussion and debate. Website optimization is not an exact science, and I don’t know it all. While I hope you can learn something from me along the way, I know that I’ll learn a lot from your comments and I’ll be reading them very closely.

This is not going to be near as much fun without hearing what you have to say. Please feel free to comment, and I will do my best to answer any questions that you may have. As way of honoring your contributions, I’m going to make a credits page in the new website so that I can thank and link to the Top 20 readers that I feel have made a significant contribution to the discussion over the course of this project.

The lazy way to build a website

Don’t expect any kind of rush here – I’m not sure how long this is going to take, but I want to make sure that I cover every significant aspect that I can think of along the way. Given the length of time involved this is going to give me an excellent opportunity to highlight changes in technology that impact website optimization along the way.

Interested in joining me in the café? Subscribe to the RSS feed and keep up to date with the latest.

UPDATE: The Website Workshop is taking shape over at Bizquarium. Sign up for the RSS feed at Bizquarium to stay up to date.

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Happy 1st Birthday eMom! https://www.mblair.net/happy-birthday-emom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=happy-birthday-emom https://www.mblair.net/happy-birthday-emom/#comments Sat, 21 Apr 2007 08:33:28 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/happy-birthday-emom/ I’d like to give a shout out and wish a Happy 1st Blog Birthday to eMoms at Home. If you’ve never visited, you should. Wendy Piersall’s is eMom and her blog is full of wonderful tips that will help you to become a better blogger. For anybody (including an eDad like me) that cares about improving their website, it is well worth it to browse her archives for an hour or two. She’s been doing some great stuff over the past year. She also has a wonderful personal story, that I think is quite inspiring.

Now is a great time to head on over as she is running a 1st Birthday contest with some giveaways that will really do a lot to help you optimize your website if you are lucky enough to take one of them home. The contest runs through the month of April and the potential prizes you may win include, among other things:

  • a copy of Aaron Wall’s SEOBook — in my opinion the best book on SEO in the world.
  • a premium subscription to Lee Dodd’s EarnersForum
  • .. and the grand prize, a phone consultation with both Wendy Piersall and Shoemoney.

Make sure you drop by, enter the contest and wish her a “Happy Birthday!” Also, take a look at how she is running the contest — it’s one of the better examples I’ve seen of an online contest. It’s worth the click through just to check that out.

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Social Media Optimization & Marketing (new blog) https://www.mblair.net/smo-blog/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=smo-blog https://www.mblair.net/smo-blog/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2007 23:07:14 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/smo-blog/ I’ve just launched a new companion blog to this one devoted to social media optimization and marketing entitled SMOblog.

Social media optimization and marketing consists of optimizing the technical infrastructure of a website so that it is well-integrated with social media and marketing directly to online communities, blogs and other social media websites through a variety of methods.

SMOblog is going to take a look at what it takes for a website to successfully market to the social media in a positive, participatory way that is supportive of social media in general, and of individual communities in specific. I’m going to be striving to discern the good from the bad and the ugly techniques of social media optimization and marketing.

I’ll also be covering significant developments in social media from the perspective of the interested webmaster.

If you are interested in social media, I hope you’ll join me over there as well, either in person or via RSS.

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Keep your website secure without breaking a sweat https://www.mblair.net/no-sweat-website-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-sweat-website-security https://www.mblair.net/no-sweat-website-security/#comments Sat, 03 Mar 2007 16:48:20 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/no-sweat-website-security/
If your website architecture is built using 3rd party software, such as WordPress, ExpressionEngine, or phpBB, it’s important to keep an eye on security issues pertaining to the software you use, or you could find your website replaced with p0rn or casino ads. (WordPress 2.11 users — leave now and read this. Hurry!)

Now even if gambling and p0rn is your thing, you probably don’t want to see it in big all over your home page with a sign in the center that says “h4CkEd 8Y 8R17nEY sPe4r2”.

I got to thinking more about website security today as WordPress just discovered that the download for WordPress 2.11 was compromised and included malicious code that hackers could use to deface and destroy a website. Not good. They are recommended everyone running 2.11 upgrade to 2.12 immediately. To help get the word out they are asking everybody to help and “check out your friends blogs and if any of them are running 2.1.1 drop them a note.”

But what happens if you have no friends? There has to be a better way to stay self-sufficient and secure.

Let’s look at how we get into these messes in the first place

The root of the problem is that once you get your website setup just the way you like it, it is pretty hard to keep up on changes to the software that occur after the point that you’ve installed it. It’s a busy world and who has time to check for security updates regularly at the several different websites. Frankly, it’s sometimes difficult to even remember what software you’ve installed – let alone what version number they are.

The key to good security practices in the real world is to make it all as simple as possible. Here are my 3 steps to sweat-free website security:

Step One: Audit your website

The first step is to make a list of all software and plugins that you use on your website. What I like to do is make a little file called changelog.txt that I keep in my project folder my website. (not the website root folder, as this is not something you usually want to be public). In this file list all the current software and plugins that you have installed, including their version numbers. Each time you make an update to your website software, add a new line note the date, the software component and the new version number.

Step Two: Gather RSS feeds for all the software you use.

Most websites that provide web application related software have an RSS feed where they broadcast updates to the software. Note these feeds, for the next step. The feeds for the software I mentioned above are:

Step Three: Build a custom RSS feed

The Yahoo Pipes service has drag-and-drop tools that you can use to combine feeds and “filter” them by keywords. In this case, you’ll want to add all the feeds that you gathered in the previous step and then filter them for the word “security”. If you also want to be notified of upgrades, you might want to add the word “upgrade” as well.

The software I use doesn’t offer an RSS feed for updates… (sniffle, sniffle)… What should I do?

Write them and politely ask them to get out of the stone age?

Just kidding. I’ve got a solution. An email-to-RSS gateway service can translate emails to an RSS feed that you can remix into your Yahoo Pipes feed. A good way to do this is to setup a forwarding address – something like site-security@mywebsite.com and configure it to point at an email address you can retrieve. Signup to all of the mailing lists that are relevant to your software and then reconfigure it to point at the gateway service.

Final Thoughts

Make sure that you subscribe to your shiny new security feed in something that you read frequently. Also, be aware that keeping up with software security updates are only one aspect of keeping your website safe secure. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a good backup strategy and strong passwords at a minimum.

UPDATE: I’ve prepared a sample website security feed that you can clone and modify in Yahoo Pipes. This sample security feed rolls in the three feeds noted above. Yahoo Pipes is pretty easy to work with — poke around for a bit and I think you’ll find it isn’t too hard to convert this pipe into a custom feed for your own uses. To see the RSS feed itself, go here.

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Does your domain name have a weak handshake or a crooked smile? https://www.mblair.net/bad-domain-names/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bad-domain-names https://www.mblair.net/bad-domain-names/#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2007 10:51:10 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/does-your-domain-name-have-a-weak-handshake-or-a-crooked-smile/
I was reading a great post earlier today by Aaron Wall that really laid out why it is a bad idea to cut corners on your domain name. He told an interesting story about how one of his domain names conveyed such a lack of credibility that when he tried to sponsor and event, they refused to take his money. This had nothing to do with the content, the look, or the feel of the site once you get there. They were afraid of the credibility hit that they would take by promoting his domain name.

If your website has an obscure, easy to forget name like my-really-funky-name.com, is it worth the time and money to change it?

If you desire to be a major website within your niche, the answer is usually yes. Your domain name is your first (and sometimes last!) impression

A name that is finely tailored to fit your website is not just a fashion statement – it is an identity. The first look at your URL should convey an appearance that your site belongs at the top of the Google results. You want it to look like it deserves lots and lots of backlinks.

That doesn’t mean that high rankings and backlinks will automatically follow, but it is an awful lot easier to get somebody to link to your website when they aren’t rolling their eyes or snickering at your domain name.

Of course changing names isn’t without risks. Any domain name transition can give you a punch in the gut in the short term as the search engines get the transition sorted out. This is a tactic for people that think about the lifespan of their website in terms of years, not months. The best option is to use a 301 redirect and try to keep as much the same about the structure of your website as possible in the transition.

Still not convinced?

Think about how many musicians have changed their name in order to appeal to a mass audience:

  • Reginald Dwight became Elton John
  • Ernest Evans became Chubby Checker
  • Barry Pincus became Barry Manilow
  • Vincent Furnier became Alice Cooper

All of these people have sold over 50 million records. I’m not so sure if Vincent Furnier could have done the same.

You could have a great website but if the domain doesn’t quite fit, you may be capping its potential. A solid domain name can help to stabilize your market position.

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Google less stealthy? More link info for webmasters https://www.mblair.net/google-webmaster-link-info/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=google-webmaster-link-info Tue, 06 Feb 2007 06:19:02 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/google-webmaster-link-info/ You link, therefore I am.

Considering all the data that we share with Google, its nice that every now and then Google decides to share a little of it back. Today, Google opened up quite a bit more than they had done by sharing more complete information about external links that point at your website.

In order to access it, you need to partake in their Google Webmaster Central program. Of course, this is something you probably won’t want to do if you are playing games of hide-and-seek with Google, but if your site is on the level with the big “G” then it’s probably mostly harmless.

What you’ll find is a list of (some? all?) of your pages that have external links pointing to them. From there you can dig in and get a list of a significant portion of the pages that are linking to you. Alongside each link is the date of the last time a link was crawled.

Aaron Wall has a nice bulleted list with the potential fringe benefits of all this. One thing I’m thinking of doing to make this data a little easier for me to manage is to build a mini-application that can track these spreadsheets over time so that I can spot new links that are popping up and links that have disappeared.

Also, it’s going to be interesting to compare some of the link crawl dates to dates in the Google cache as well. From spot checking so far, this seems hit and miss. Sometimes it matches up and sometimes it doesn’t – as it looks so far, either the link data is either somewhat dated or the links are sometimes not crawled for white a long time after the page crawl.

Unfortunately, Google is still playing coy and not reporting all the links for fear that that provides too much knowledge into their algorithms.

Getting past the PhDs up on the watchtower at the Googleplex https://www.mblair.net/joe-whytes-google-filters-list/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joe-whytes-google-filters-list Mon, 05 Feb 2007 23:21:37 +0000 http://www.mblair.net/joe-whytes-google-filters-list/ Google does everything they can to keep crap out of their system. In a nutshell, the best way to avoid being caught up in their traps is to make sure that your website doesn’t even have a faintest resemblance to crap. If you want the long version, be sure to check out Joe Whyte’s list of Google filters and how to get around them.