How To Remove The Sidebar From A WordPress Page

Many people don’t realize that you can heavily customize how WordPress displays your pages. As an example of this, let’s pretend that you need a page on your site to not display the sidebar (like if you needed to display a large picture or calendar).

There are 3 steps to remove the WordPress Sidebar:

Below I will break down the steps and show you exactly how to make a custom page template that does not display the sidebar.

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This process actually isn’t that difficult. Log into your FTP server and navigate your way to your Theme’s template files. Locate the file called “page.php” and duplicate it. Then rename the copied file something easy to remember such as “custom template one” or something. The name is not important, you just have to remember which one does what.

The custom file is now created. So the next thing we have to do is make a couple changes for it to be different from a regular WordPress page.

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Now open the file in your editor of choice (I prefer TextEdit on my Mac). First, you need to name the template for WordPress to read. Add the following code to the top of your new template file:

<!—display code><?php /* Template Name: New Name of template here */ ?><–!>

If copy and pasting it does not work here, it may be easier for you to find this code in a existing template on your own blog. Just change the name of the template and it should work just fine.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to remove the line of code that calls and displays the sidebar when the page is generated. Look towards the end of the template file for the following line of code (it may be slightly different in your theme, just look for anything with ’sidebar’ in it):

<!—display code><? php get_sidebar(); ?><—!>

Delete that line of code and save the file. Then you must upload it back to your theme directory on your server. The template will no longer pull up the sidebar when a page is displayed using this template.

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Now that your new page template is on the server, you have to edit the page you want to apply the template to in the WP-Admin. In the page edit window, look for the “Attributes” section. You’ll see an option to select a different template. If you followed all the steps, the name you wrote in step two should appear on the list. Select it, save the page. The page is now setup to utilize the custom page template you created.

Go to the page on the live site and make sure the sidebar isn’t there. Now that you know how to customize a page template, you can learn the PHP codes that WordPress uses and develop your own template pages.

Other Uses For Custom Page Templates

Displaying a page without the sidebar is only the beginning of custom page templates in WordPress. You can create templates for category pages, single posts, and archives to name a few. I have utilized page templates for posts to display different sidebars depending on the category of the post. This makes it very simple to display different advertisements based on the category of your post.

Page templates have unlimited flexibility and can take your WordPress blog or website to the next level. Just make sure to back everything up because mistakes can sometimes happen when editing the theme files.

Do you have any clever uses for a custom WordPress page template?

Five Contact Form Plugins For WordPress

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Every blog needs a way for people to contact the author quickly and easily. This is easier said than done in the days of rampant spam-bots, where a simple contact form can fill your inbox with SPAM. Here’s a roundup of five great contact form plugins for WordPress as well as a way for you to roll your own.

Contact Form 7

This is one of the most popular contact forms for WordPress. There’s not much to say about than that it’s just another contact form plugin. It’s very simple but also very flexible. Contact Form 7 will allow you to manage multiple contact forms, customize the form and manage simply with markup language. This plugin form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA and Akismet spam filtering. It’s everything that you’ll need for a good contact form. I personally use it on almost all of my blogs because I know how to use it and take advantage of all the featured. However, it may have too many features for most users.

Download Contact Form 7

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It doesn’t get simpler than WP Contact Form. WP Contact Form is a simple drop in form that users can use to contact you. The pest thing about this form is that you can use it on a WordPress page or blog post. It’s not very feature rich, but that’s what appealing about it. There isn’t any SPAM protection for this one, so you may run into issues with SPAM.

Download WP Contact Form

WP Contact Form III

WP Contact Form III is a simple contact form based on Ryan Duff’s WP Contact Form and Doug Karr’s (antispam) modification for Ryan’s original form. Basically it’s WP Contact Form with SPAM protection. This is great because now you can use the simplicity of WP Contact Form and not get deluged with SPAM. This one also allows your visitors the option to specify the subject of their email. You can also customize the look and feel of the form my editing a small CSS file.

Download WP Contact Form III

SimpleModal Contact Form

SimpleModal is a contact form with balls. SimpleModal Contact Form is Ajax powered modal contact form, meaning that it acts like a full fledged mini web application as opposed to a simple PHP script. It utilizes the jQuery JavaScript library and the SimpleModal jQuery plugin. Because it’s AJAX based, you can customize a lot of elements on the contact form such as the Subject field and the “Send me a copy” option for the sender. Pretty powerful little web app.

Download SimpleModal Contact Form

Enhanced WP Contact Form

Another great simple Contact Form plugin, what makes this one pretty good is the fact that’s the plugin was written by Joost de Valk, who makes some of the best WordPress plugins out there. Easy Contact Form is easily embedded into a blog post or page by writing the shortcode [wpcf]. It features SPAM protection, shows referrer information and has the option to let the user send themselves a copy of the message.

Download Enhance WP Contact Form

Roll Your Own

No I don’t mean write your own form from scratch. There are many awesome free web based tools that will help you create a contact form. My favorite is Wufoo, they let you create any type of form that you’ll need using a simple wep application on their website. The service is free for low volume websites (100 submissions/month) or you can pay for more. They also have an advanced web-based dashboard so you can see all your form submissions and manage them in one place. All you have to do it place the embed code on any page on your blog and the form is ready to go.

Check out Wufoo here.

Do you have a contact form on your blog? If so, what’s your favorite way to include one on your WordPress blog? Feel free to share any plugines that I did not mention above.

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Top 5 Must Have Comment Plugins

By far the most useful and powerful feature of a blog is the ability to leave comments. Comments have changed the way people communicate on blogs and websites. It gives users a direct stake in the success and direction of a blog. Good commenters can sink or swim a blog, so it’s a good idea to give them as many useful features as possible so they have a great experience and keep coming back.

Here is our selection of the best WordPress Plugins for commenters to help them make the most of their comments.

Ajax Comment Preview

This is a great little AJAX driven plugin that will allow your readers to preview their comments before they hit publish. It’s great to give them the option to do this as they will find mistakes in their posts and may want to change things around. This powerful little plugin uses the AJAX framework to create a very user friendly way to give commenters a preview.

Download AJAX Comment Preview

Subscribe to Comments

I’m surprised that this isn’t built into WordPress itself. This plugin allows users to subscribe by e-mail to that latest comments on a blog post. This is great because it keeps them coming back and updated on the latest comments on a post. This powerful little plugin also features a subscription management feature so users can control how many notifications they get.

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WP-Gravatar

You’ve seen them everywhere, little pictures next to blog comments. Have you wondered how the heck do you get one of those? It’s pretty simple, actually. Sign up for a Gravatar account and any user can have a picture displayed next to their comment if you have this plugin installed. You can also control many other Gravatar controls with this plugin and it’s especially useful if you have several contributors on your blog and want to have author bios at the bottom of each post.

Download WP-Gravatar

Do-follow

This gives commenters extra incentive to comment. This plugin removes the no-follow attribute on comments so that when someone leaves a comment with their web address it will count as a backlink for their own site. This is a fantastic incentive to comment, especially if you have a popular blog with a high pagerank. Be careful though, this feature can be abused by spammers, but you can always filter them out with Akismet.

Download Do-Follow

Edit-Comments


Many people say things they don’t mean or end up with a typo they didn’t mean to be there. This handy little plugin allows a user to edit their own comments, within a certain window of time. There are protections in place to prevent abuse of this feature. This handy feature will help keep your comments clean of grammar and spelling errors. We all know how it is, we always spot errors after we’ve hit publish. I would definitely install this little beauty.

Download Edit-Comments

CommentLuv


Last but not lease, is the CommentLuv plugin. This handy little plugin will pull the latest post from the commenters RSS feed and display it as a link below their comment. That way, other readers can see posts they have written. It’s a great way to build a community within your blog and encourages others to leave feedback on your posts.

For more information about the CommentLuv plugin, you can check out our post Encourage Comments With The CommentLuv Plugin . There you will find a full review of the plugin and what it does.

Download CommentLuv

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Do you use a comment plugin that isn’t listed here? If so, please feel free to share it by leaving a comment below. We really appreciate your feedback!

4 Social Media Sites that Should be Integrated into Your WordPress Blog

Social Media is hit or miss, it can bring you massive amounts of traffic or a trickle. It all depends on many factors, most of which are out of your control. Despite this, it’s important to participate in social media websites, mostly because of the valuable backlinks that they provide. Some, like Stumbleupon, will bring you reliably steady with the occasional spike.

Unfortunately, many bloggers make the mistake of not integrating social networks into their WordPress blog. Here are a few of the basic social media sites that you should have integrated into your blog:

Twitter

Beyond blog comments, Twitter is a fantastic way to connect with your readers. You should get as many followers as you can because they become a massive audience for your content. You can integrate your blog into Twitter by using tools like Twitterfeed that will publish your blog RSS feed on your Twitter feed whenever you publish a new post.

You can also install WordPress plugins that put your Twitter feed into your blog sidebar, create a TwitThis button in all your posts and put a Twitter badge in your sidebar. Twitter can be a great source of steady traffic once you gain a large enough following, it just takes time to develop it.

Facebook

Believe it or not, Facebook can be a great source of traffic for your blog. The first thing you should do is integrate your blog RSS feed into your own profile so that your close friends and family can see what you’re up to. Next, you should create a fan page for your blog that will get searched by the search engines. It’s also not a bad idea to seek out Facebook groups in your niche and post comments and links to your blog. Don’t spam the groups as you’re likely to just piss them off, but participate in the conversation and encourage people to give your blog a visit. Facebook also lets you put a badge on your website so that people can connect with you on Facebook.

Digg

Digg is the Holy Grail of social media. Getting to the front page can bring upon riches beyond what you can imagine. Well, actually no it won’t. But if you make it the front page of Digg, you’ll get a huge spike in traffic, create awareness of your blog and you may even pick up a few new readers. Diggers are notorious for not clicking ads, so expect your ad click through rate to be low.

Sadly, it is a very difficult task to make it to the front page of Digg. Such a thing requires many different factors to align, with a little magic thrown in for good measure. But just submitting your blog content to Digg is worth the effort as Digg backlinks are incredibly valuable. Usually when you submit your post to Digg, the Digg page will rank at the top of Page 1 for the topic your post is about (of course this is not always the case).

It takes five minutes to submit to Digg, then stick around and participate in the community, you’re more likely get further if you do. It’s also a good idea to submit your posts to sites similar to Digg such as: Reddit.com, Propeller.com, Sugarloving.com, etc.

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Stumbleupon is by far the most addicting social media service on the net. It’s a simple concept. People tell Stumbleupon what they’re interests are then the algorithm will take them to websites they might like. What does this mean for the lowly blogger? It means highly targeted traffic. This is great if you’re in a specific niche. If the right people Stumble your content, you could get a huge burst in traffic.

Mostly though, Stumbleupon will send you reliable hits every day for people interested in your website. To get on the Stumbleupon train all you need to do it download the Firefox tool bar, register for an account and start Stumbling. A good word of advice, though, is to Stumble other people’s content, not just yours. Only Stumbling your content is a great way to get no traffic at all from the service.

Be forewarned, once you start Stumbling, it’s very hard to stop!

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If you are worried that you won’t see any benefits from these sites, I highly recommend trying them anyway. It may take some time before you see results but once you do, you will become addicted to them.

What’s your favorite social media site you use with WordPress?

How to Search Engine Optimize Your WordPress Blog

The question I get asked the most about blogging is: how do I get traffic? There are many strategies out there that will eventually bring you traffic, but there is one strategy that is more important than them all and that is Search Engine Optimization.

You will get a large majority of your traffic from search engine results. So, it’s important that you get everything in order so that the search engine bots will like your site. Think of it as preparing for a hot date, you need to look your best, comb your hair, take a bath and be on your best behavior to impress your date. The search engine bots are often like that and are usually a fickle date.

So, here are some basic SEO tips for your WordPress blog.

Basic WordPress Settings for SEO

There are several critical settings you need to change before you announce your site to the world. The first thing you need to do is enable clean URL permalinks. That turns your URL’s from PHP gobbledygook into readable URL’s that are helpful to your readers when they are searching for you.

For example would you rather see:

http://yourblog.com/?p=123

or

http://yourblog.com/about-us/

Enable permalinks FIRST before you build your sitemap and submit it to the search engines. This will save you headaches later. Also, keep in mind it may take 30 minutes to an hour for your permalinks to start working, so don’t stress that you broke your website when your pages aren’t loading.

After you’ve done that, it’s time to think about all the categories you’re going to post content. Create them up front, that way they get built into first sitemap.

Building the Sitemap

Your XML sitemap is critical for WordPress SEO Success. A sitemap is what gets submitted to the search engines and they use that as guide to your website. It tells them what pages and what content lives on your blog. You’re going to need the WordPress XML Sitemap plugin to manage your sitemap. It’s works in the background and updates your sitemap whenever you write a new post. Then it also notifies the search engines that there are new pages and the bots will come crawl your site again.

Once you have your permalinks and categories setup, go to the Setting Control Panel for the XML Sitemap Plugin and click “build sitemap for the first time.” Within the plugin you can also manage if and when search engines are notified of updates. You can also select parts of the site you don’t want crawled or parts of the site you DO want crawled. Once the search bots become familiar with your site, oftentimes your new posts will appear in search results in minutes.

SEO Content Guidelines

When you write blog posts it’s important to think of SEO. Write your posts naturally then when you go back to edit, you can start inserting SEO goodness. What sort so SEO guidelines do you need to keep in mind when writing content?

  • Internal links – it’s important to interlink with other relevant blog posts on your site
  • Don’t Keyword Stuff – write naturally and don’t try to cram in too many keywords
  • Give posts a structure using HTML headings: <H1> <H2><H3> etc
  • Categories – Select relevant categories but don’t select too many
  • Tags – be sure to tag your posts
  • Images – Search bots can’t see images so be sure to insert <alt> tags
  • Titles – Optimize Your Post Titles – This is what people see when they search for you, so be sure to keep titles less than 10 words and that they describe exactly what the post is about.
  • Enable Comments – comments are great for SEO as they basically create more free content for the post, content that gets crawled and index by the search engines.

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On site SEO is only half of the equation. There are many things that you can do to build your blog’s profile and help it rank well in the search engines.

  • Submit to Top 4 Search Engines – This is a bit of a no-brainer but you need to submit your blog to the four top Search Engines – Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask.com manually. They may find you eventually, but it’s best to submit yourself so they find you sooner.
  • Submit your blog to blog directories. The big ones are:

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  • Submit your Blog to Link Directories. Find a list of link directories and put your blog in as many directories as possible. This is very time consuming, but those early backlinks are valuable.
  • Comment on Other Blogs – To help build a reputation, make insightful comments on competing blogs, especially ones that have Do-Follow links turned on.
  • Join Social Media sites – The SEO value of many social media sites is huge, so join them and get your content onto them.
  • Contact Related Blogs to link to you on their blogrolls and do the same in return for them.

Analytics Tracking

Once your blog gets going, you need to know where your traffic is coming from. Google Analytics provides free and detailed analytics that will tell you everything you could possibly want to know about your website. Install it right away. Once you get a month’s worth of data, you’ll see how people are finding your site and where you can improve. You’ll discover some surprising things and you may discover new niches and content ideas to pursue.

Do You Have any WordPress SEO Tips? If so, please feel free to leave a comment and share them with us.

5 Plugins to Sell Things on Your WordPress Site

One of the best ways to make money with a WordPress blog is to start selling things. Whether that’s actual products, e-books or services, there are many WordPress plugins that will help you monetize your blog. You don’t need to rely on just advertising to monetize your blog.

Here’s our roundup of the best e-commerce plugins for WordPress. Some can turn your blog into a full fledged content managed store or allow you to easily sell Amazon.com products on your site.

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WordPress e-Commerce

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This plugin is a powerful, full fledged plugin that will turn a WordPress site into a complete storefront. It features everything you need to take payments, create a cart system, list products and integrate with popular social networking websites. It supports many cool features such as templating, coupon codes and much more. The basic version is completely free while there are affordable add-ons that increase functionality. You can create a paid membership website easily with this WordPress module in addition to be able to sell anything.

Download WordPress e-Commerce here

eShop

eShop is another full featured plugin that will turn a WordPress site into a store. It has many awesome features, such as:

  • Utilizes WordPress pages, or posts, to create products
  • Various methods available for listing products
  • Products can have multiple options
  • Upload downloadable products
  • Basic Statistics
  • Download sales data
  • Various shipping options
  • Admin has access to an Order handling section
  • Automatic emails on successful purchase
  • User configurable email templates.
  • Configurable Out of Stock message.
  • Basic Stock Control
  • Google Base Data creation
  • Various discount options
  • Several payment options

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Download WordPress eShop here

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WP Easy PayPal Payment Accept

If you just wanted to sell something simple like an e-book, there’s no need to develop a full fledged store to sell it. The quickest and easiest way is to accept PayPal as payment and integrate a simple Paypal Cart system. This great plugin will help you do just that. It’s pretty easy to use and accepts PayPal payments for a service, product or donations in multiple currencies. It can be used in the sidebar, posts and pages.

Download WP Easy PayPal Payment Accept here

WordPress PayPal Donation Plugin

If you don’t want to sell anything or charge your readers for access to your content, then you can ask for donations. This plugin makes it really simple to integrate the PayPal donation system into your blog. It will create a page that you can use to encourage donations to your blog. It also includes a nifty graph bar that can track how much you’ve earned towards a goal. It supports multiple currencies so you can accept donations from all over the world.

Download WordPress PayPal Donation Plugin here

Amazon Showcase WordPress Plugin

This plugin provides a quick and easy way to introduce your Amazon.com Associates affiliate account into your blog. Amazon’s program is a great program to join. It’s free to join and you’ll earn commissions for every purchase made by someone who comes through your website. This is a pretty awesome plugin that will allow you control all aspects of products being displayed on your site.

Download the Amazon Showcase Plugin here

We highly recommend trying these plugins out if you are trying to monetize your blog or website. What’s your favorite plugin to sell things on WordPress?Dark Reprieve ipod

5 Plugins for Managing Your WordPress Database

The backbone of your WordPress website is it’s database. It’s where all your valuable content lives. Because of this, it’s important to become familiar and comfortable with managing your database. As your blog grows, it will become larger and unwieldy. When this happens, things can go wrong. So it’s important to have backups and to know how to troubleshoot WordPress database issues.

Below are five plugins that will help you manage your WordPress mySQL database.

Search and Replace

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This plugin does one thing and it does it well. It will run a search through your entire database and do a find and replace. Why would you ever need to do this? Well, if you moved domain names for example, you would need to manually replace all your internal links to make them point to the new URL. With this simple tool, you can find all the old instances of your URL and replace it with the new one.

Download Search and Replace

WP-DB-Backup

Backing up is very important. Many people don’t realize that they need to keep a copy of their database handy in case something happens. It is very hard to recover from losing your database. Databases like to go wonky and get corrupted. Sometimes your site will continue to work even when this happens. Then one day, it will stop working. So, you need to make regular backups of your database and keep all of them. That way you can restore your database back to a time when the database wasn’t corrupted. The great thing about this plugin is that it will automate the backups and then e-mail them to you.

Download WP-DB-Backup

Figment Thinking WordPress Database Table Optimizer

You need to occasionally optimize your WordPress database. That means cleaning out empty tables, old data, etc. This plugin will make database optimization simple.

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WP-Cache

Your database is hosted on it’s own server and every time a page is loaded, information is pulled from the database. If you got a sudden burst of traffic from a social networking site, it could bring your database server down. This plugin will help prevent that by creating static HTML pages automatically if a post becomes popular enough. The only downside it that internal Statistic plugins won’t register the static page and you’ll have to always refresh your theme when you make changes.

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WP-DBManager

This is a fantastic tool. It will give you complete control over your entire WordPress database. It allows you to optimize your database, repair your database, backup your database, restore your database from a backup, delete backup databases, drop/empty tables and run mySQL queries. It will also allow you to setup automatic schedules for backing up and optimizing of your database. This is an excellent tool to have and it’s very worth learning how to use it. It could save your blog one day.

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Using the plugins above, you will have much more control over your WordPress database. It is very important to keep an updated backup because bad things can sometimes happen and the worst thing of all is losing your posts and pages.

Do you have any other WordPress database plugins you recommend?

Tips For Upgrading SimplePress Forum For WordPress Correctly

In a recent article here at WP-Blogger, I wrote about the importance of building community and finding a simple solution for integrating a (free) forum on your WordPress site.

Simple:Press Forum was the easiest and also best realized solution to this problem. But now with WordPress version 2.8 looming, some necessary updates had to be made to the plugin, if you can call it that – I think I would rather call it a suite for all that it accomplishes so seamlessly within a WordPress installation. Here are the installation and upgrade instructions depending on your situation.

There is also an important notice at the end of these instructions for those upgrading that handles a small bug in the installation process in some cases.  Please be sure to read this before performing your upgrade.

Also, please be sure to back up your database before performing any of the following actions.  One way to do this is right at your cpanel level, another more efficient way to do this right from within WordPress is to install and use the WP-DBManager.  If you don’t and things go wrong, it’s not my fault, and I can’t help you.

Having said that, the procedure is fairly straightforward and relatively bulletproof; I performed this install and/or upgrade on at least six sites and had no problems.

First Time Installation of SimplePress Forum On Your WordPress Site

UPLOAD: Upload the plugin to your WordPress ‘plugins’ folder. Simple:Press Forum must reside in a folder named ‘simple-forum’ directly inside the ‘plugins’ folder. WordPress 2.7 and 2.8 users may be able to use the automated zip file upload from within the ‘Plugins – Add New’ page. If not, use a standard FTP client for the upload.

ACTIVATE: Once fully uploaded, Simple:Press Forum should appear on your WordPress Plugins page listing. Click on the ‘Activate’ link on the Simple:Press Forum entry.

INSTALL: Unlike most plugins, Simple:Press Forum is not installed when activated. A new ‘Install’ link will appear against the plugin entry – or you can select ‘Install’ from the new Forum menu. Select ‘Install’ to load the Simple:Press Forum installer and click on the start button.

Upgrading From Versions 4.0.0/4.0.1/4.0.2

DEACTIVATE: If you are upgrading from version 4.0.x there is no need to remove the old Simple:Press Forum files or folder unless you plan to use the WordPress 2.7 or 2.8 automated plugin zip file uploader – this tool requires the old files to be removed first. If not using this tool then start by deactivating Version 4.0.x which will prevent users from seeing errors while the new plugin files are being installed.

UPLOAD – ACTIVATE – UPGRADE: Follow the instruction for a ‘First Install’ above. Note however, that the menu item will now be labelled ‘Upgrade’ and not ‘Install’.  Click this button and on the following page, confirm you want to perform the upgrade.  If everything goes as planned you see a pop-up window confirming this that also inludes some notes on the latest revisions.  You can click X to close this window and go back to choosing options for your forum.

If you see an error message appear across the top of your page, read the Important Note below to fix it.  It takes just a second.

Upgrading From Versions 3.X.X

Begin by removing all of the old plugin files. If you are upgrading from ANY version older than 4.0.0 then it is necessary to first remove ALL of the old plugin files. After doing this, follow the instructions above for an Upgrade.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you perform the upgrade and see a scary line of code appear at the top of your pages talking about an error finding this or the other, it isn’t your mistake.  It is a known bug discovered after the release of this upgrade that appears in some instanced.  To fix it, simply go to your Admin panel, go to the Forum section that now exists as a result of your SimplePress installation, and be sure you are under the  Manage Options section.  This should bring you, by default to the Global settings (if not, the click the Global Tab.)

In the section on the left labelled  WP Admin Pages Access make sure there is an ‘X’ beside the option titled “Block User Access to WP Admin Pages.”  Make sure to click the Update All Options button at the bottom right of this page.

You may see the error one more time, but after that it will be corrected.

Visit the downloads page for Simple:Press Forum for WP to get the files.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com.

How To Ban Spammers in WordPress

As blogs become more popular, spammers are become more and more of a problem. Spambots are becoming more and more bold in the ways they crawl websites and the content that they generate in comments.

It will happen to every blogger. One day, you’ll look at your stats and see that one page is getting literally thousands of pageviews a day. However, when you compare those thousands of pageviews with your actual unique visitor numbers, things don’t match up. This is a pretty good sign your site is being assaulted by a Spambot repeatedly. Who knows why they do it, or what they intend to do with it, you need it to STOP. It will clog up your bandwidth and make the rest of the site move slow.

So, how do you fight them off?

Well, there are a couple easy ways to deal with spammers in WordPress. The first is to manage your comments to block unwanted users. The second is to ban certain bots from crawling your site at all.

WordPress Comment Spam

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Most WordPress users keep their comments moderated to deal with spam. If you do get spam comments, all you have to do is mark them as spam and WordPress deals with them. I also highly recommend installed Akismet spam protection – it’s free and will save you a lot of headaches.

However, before you mark something as spam, it’s not a bad idea to block their IP completely. To do this, pull up their comment and copy the IP address from the spammer. Take that IP address and go to the Settings –> Discussion Menu and add them to the comment blocklist. If you do that, they won’t be able to comment on your WordPress blog anymore.

Helpful Tip:

Ban a range of IP’s. Many spammers have different IP’s but you can block them as well. For example if a spammer is commenting with:

192.168.1.175

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You can block them by using a wildcard:

192.168.1.* – This will block the whole range of IP’s addresses from 192.168.1.001-192.168.1.255.

You can take it even further and block:

192.168.*

But be careful doing this, you can inadvertently block legitimate visitors from your site. IP’s can change frequently.

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This is different from comment spam. This is when one bot continually hits a page over and over. First you need to peer into the IP records in StatPress, the WordPress Web Statistic Plugin I frequently use and look for the IP address that keeps hitting the site. The easiest way to ban someone from even having access to your site it to get the WP-Ban plugin The Last Sin Eater rip . This is an invaluable tool. Once you enter the individual IP’s addresses, the bots will not be able to access your site at all.

Once you block the little bot spammers, your pageviews should go back to normal levels. You can use the same wildcards to block IP’s in WP-Ban that you can in the standard WP comment banning.

Click here to download the WP-Ban WordPress Plugin

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Good luck battling WordPress Spammers!

What’s your favorite way to block Spammers?

Useful WordPress Plugins You May Have Overlooked

There are thousands upon thousands of WordPress plugins with more cropping up every day.  Every once in a while something from the “Why Didn’t I Think of That” category pops up and I would like to share some of those with you.

Ever feel like you have a great idea for a blog but you either don’t have the time to develop it into a full post, or just haven’t formulated the full concept?  Rather than create a bunch of drafts, you can now sketch out a quick list of to-do posts and Aha! moments with Post Ideas by developer Aaron Robbins.

Where Post Ideas goes beyond the old method of saving drafts is that it allows you to track keywords and research URLS, and perhaps more importantly, sort your sketches by name, date or priority.  Love it.

How about batch processing for your blog?  Any photographer or music producer knows how important batch processing can be to both save time and keep consistency between a large number of files.  Well, here are again in the “Why Didn’t I Think of That” department because a blog, with its ever-growing number of posts develops in voice and direction over the course of its life and eventually you may want to go back and adjust a lof older articles to better reflect the direction in which your site is headed.

Enter Mass Post Manager for WordPress which enables you to delete all posts and comments in a category and / or reassign all posts from one category to another.  This is especially useful if you find that in the early days of your blog, when you were still working things out, you created too many categories or eventually found more concise categories with which to organize your content.

If you have ever been a fan of the Yet Another Related Post Plugin (YARPP), a tool that searches your database by categories, keywords, titles and other criteria and then outputs a list of suggestions to older posts at the end of your article, then you may have found that it can stress your shared server out if not handled with care.  Another solution is to create an effective and powerfully visual callback to a related post by placing  graphic sticky or Post-it note on top of your article.

Vishal Monpara’s awesome WordPress Sticky Post Plugin shows the designated post on top every post on your blog.  It isn’t really a substitute or replacement for YARRP, but, it is a very cool way of drawing attention to another article by working over top of your existing theme.  It currently supports both WordPress 2.1 and greater and WordPress MU 1.1.   Check it out and see if you like it.

Speaking of WordPress MU (Multi-user) – an announcement came from San Francisco this week that WordPress MU will soon be merged into WordPress itself.  This is very exciting indeed as MU allows a standard WP blog to be transformed into a full-fledged social networking portal.  Tighter integration between the two will mean a lot of optimization and ideally, improved ease of use, adding to the eisting power of WordPress significantly.

Have you ever suffered from long URL-itis in your comments section?  Now that everyone seems to have wised up to good SEO practices, we are seeing URLs that can run the length of a long-winded sentence.  You know the kind I mean: http://whatever.org/this-post-is-about-the-time-I-went-to-Mount-Rushmore-and-took-a-picture-with-my wifes-family.html

WP-Chunk to the rescue! This plugin gracefully shortens URLs within submitted comments.

A final plugin to strongly consider for any blog is Secure Files

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by Trevor Turk.  This definitely falls into the category we discussed earlier about things that should have come pre-installed with WordPress, in that it allows you to upload and download files from outside of your web document root for security purposes.

This is especially important for blogs that have multiple authors – since the nature of image and CSS that can be uploaded from a post-creation backend are not protected in the same way that your database is protected by being restricted only to registered users with sufficient access.

Placing the uploads directory outside of your install’s root directory can save you from malicious or to be euphemistic “accidentally uploaded” files that can damage or harm your site or server.

Have you ever tried any of the plugins on this list?  What has been your experience with them?
About the Author:
Keram (follow him on twitter @ConstantChange

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) is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com


5 Plugins to Share Your Posts

A huge part of success as a blogger is making it easy for people to share your content. Person to person recommendations are very powerful to a blogger, especially if a person has thousands of Twitter or blog followers. It’s important to make it easy for anybody to share your posts with people they know. Thankfully, there are many excellent WordPress Plugins for sharing posts.

Sociable

This is the mother of all sharing plugins. It creates a bar at the bottom of posts that can be customized to allow readers to submit a post to your preferred social networking site. You can completely customize the list and show as many as you want. It really makes submitting to sites like Digg and Reddit really easy. It’s a powerful plugin with a wide user base, so people know to look for it.

Download Sociable here

WP-Email

This plugin does one thing and one thing well, it allows readers to e-mail a post to a friend. It’s a great way for readers to share your best posts. I also find this to be a useful feature on many websites just to send posts to myself. It’s easy to install and doesn’t require and coding or template changes to get working. It also tracks every post that’s shared so you can see what posts are creating the most buzz with readers.

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Add to Any: Share/Bookmark/Email Button

This is a great all in one plugin. It allows you to easily let readers submit posts to over 100 social networking sites, bookmark with their browsers and popular bookmarking sites. It also has an e-mail post button built in. This plugin has a lot of functionality and is a great addition to any blog. Perfect if you don’t want to mess with several plugins to do different things.

Download Add to Any here

ReTweet Badge – Tweetmeme

Tweetmeme

is becoming the de facto tracking method for links on the huge Twitter network. The Tweetmeme website aggregates links on Twitter and keeps track of how many people have tweeted a post. This little plugin puts the ReTweet badge on all your posts so that you can see the current Tweet count. When the badge is clicked, it takes them to their Twitter account where they can then Tweet it themselves. With the popularity of Twitter growing bigger every day, this is an important plugin to have.

Download ReTweet Tweetmeme here A Room with a View

ShareThis

This is another all in one solution that you can customize. ShareThis is very similar to the ubiquitous AddThis button. It creates a widget on the site that allows users to share posts on a variety of social networking sites, e-mail them or send them across their instant messenger account. This is the only sharing plugin that integrates chat as well. Pretty powerful little tool, if you’re okay relying on a third party for your post sharing.

Download ShareThis here

So there are a few ways you can allow your readers to share your posts. What’s your favorite plugin for sharing your blog content?

WordPress Backup Strategy

It will happen to every blogger one day, you’re blog will crash and you’ll need to recover it. Every WordPress blogger needs to prepare for this, preferably sooner rather than later. Just like keeping your computer backed up, you need to back up your blog regularly and methodically so that you can recover in case of a disaster.

There are two important elements to any WordPress backup strategy and that’s: Your Database and Your Files. These two elements are what make your blog tick. Luckily, I will also present a solution if you’ve failed to backup and need to recover your WordPress blog without a backup. It’s not the easiest solution but it might be your only option.

Your Database

This is by far the most important thing to keep backed up. Your blog content, from posts to comments lives in the database. Without the database, WordPress cannot function and your content will not exist. Databases have a tendency to get corrupted and not be recoverable. There have been many examples lately of social media websites that ceased to exist simply because their database failed and there was not an uncorrupted backup.

So, you need to backup your database often and keep EVERY backup. That way if your database gets corrupted you can go back in time and restore it to before the database got corrupted. So how do you backup the database?

For the technically inclined, you can log in to the the database and back it up manually. But most bloggers won’t know how to mess around in the database admin panel and will need a simple solution. That simple solution is the WordPress Database Backup Plugin . This creates an area within your WordPress dashboard that will allow you to control and schedule backups.

Personally, I recommend setting a weekly backup schedule and having the backups e-mailed to you. I use Gmail for my e-mail, so that backup is kept in multiple safe locations. This will also protect you if for some reason your computer happens to crash.

You can recover your blog from just a database backup, if necessary. However, to make sure your theme, plugins and other files are safe, you need to backup your server as well.

Your Files

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When you self host a WordPress blog, your files are kept on your personal web server. I recommend regularly backing up these files as well. While it’s possible to restore your blog from just a database backup, you would otherwise lose all your customized settings such as a custom theme or plugin. And this can be a real pain, especially if you do a lot of tweaking with your theme files.

I save this backup once a month since there are a lot of files that need to be backed up. It’s a slow process, but simply make a folder on your computer and download your entire web server to that folder. If you have some spare time, I would even recommend doing it once a week if you have the space.

This will also come in handy if you eventually need to move web servers or if some files get corrupted, you can just roll back to the previous backup. Keep in mind that your content such as blog posts and comments are not stored anywhere on this part of the web server. You can’t recover your blog from just backing up the files unless you have the database as well.

It’s also a good idea to keep your backup on an external hard drive as well, in case something happens to your computer (I’ve had this happen before).

If You Do Neither


Lets face it, blogging involves a lot of work. Marketing, writing, and designing to name a few things. That is why backing up can slip the minds of even the most successful bloggers. So, what do you do if you didn’t back up anything and your blog goes down?

Well, you are not totally out of luck. Chances are your wonderful content still lives somewhere on the the web. If you can gain access to the database, you might be able to at least get some of the content from it.

If you can not get any content from the database, you might want to see what you can find on the web. For example, when Google indexes your site, they create a cached copy of it. If you move quickly you can find all of your blog posts on the web by doing a ‘site:www.yourdomain.com’ search in Google. Then simply view the cached version of the posts and pages.

From there, you would have to manually cut and paste your content back into a new blog. It may not be the best solution, but you could at least recover some of the content.

Just remember, the more you back up your data, the easier it will be to recover when something does happen.

Using SimplePress As A One-Stop Community Builder For WordPress

Even as I write this the good people at Automattic are announcing a much-touted integration with Buddypress – a social networking plugin/addon for WordPress.  For a long while I have studied and experimented with transforming WordPress into a full-blown CMS like my much-beloved PHPNuke (now abandoned by its orginal creators) portal at freedom.constantchange.com The Name of the Rose movie full

but the solutions have been daunting or piecemeal.

There are countless articles written about how to integrate a forum into your WordPress blog, some which require WordPress MultiUser (WPMU) some that sort of work but don’t hook in well enough to the existing user base or require extensive modding and hacking to make it feel that way.

Some sites, including the famous power blogger Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School blog use vBulletin, beautifully integrated by power-designers like Matt Brett Transsiberian video .  But vBulletin costs a grip of cash.

So after testing out a wide variety of forum solutions for WordPress, I finally stumbled upon an easy to install, free and perfectly useful plugin that sets up a phpbb style forum that hooks right in to your site’s existing registered user base and seems, by all appearances and my experiences thus far, to work beautifully.

That solution is Simple:Press.

To get it going, simply do a search for Simplepress from your Admin->Plugins->Add new search line, click install and you are good to go.

Almost.

Once the plugin has installed, you will see a new section in your Admin panel called “Forum”.  At the bottom it will offer you the option to install (again).  Click this and it will perform an extensive database update wherein it populated your databases with all the necessary tables for your new forums.

One of the beautiful things about Simple:Press is that it creates a new page for your Forums automatically.  It also creates a new field in your Posts pages so that any post can be turned into a forum topic.  Nice.

Once installed, you will want to go to your new Forum Admin section and start tweaking things to your liking.  This is actually quite important as the display, function and dynamic of your forums can be changed dramatically (and success or fail) based on your configuration.

Also take note of the Style tab where you can choose from a variety of pre-packaged color and design schemes, one of which will likely blend in with your site quite nicely.  Of course all of this can be further customized with some more advanced under-the-hood tweaking.

After working with the configuration, you will have to create the forums themselves.  This starts with creating a Group which is the top-level category, and then subsequently, the Forum itself.  A little planning is in order here, especially if you have never managed a forum.  The tendency is to make too many groups covering topics that should in fact be forums or even simply topics.

So if you think of Russian Dolls where a small version fits into a larger version, the Group is the top level, for example “General” then the Forums can be broken down into sub-categories like “Food,” “Entertainment,” “Tech,” and then you or your readers will create topics below those:

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Forums are an excellent way to build a community in and around you blog and keep people coming back for more.

One of the most important things to realize, however, when you build a successful community around you blog is that you are also building a brand, and that once that brand is being used by the public, it belongs to them as much as much as it does to you and with that comes greater responsibility.

For now, rest assured that Simple:Press is an easy and effective way to keep the conversation going at your blog into the wee hours, to nurture new relationships and to transform WordPress into a truly useful content management system, and more importantly, a community.

Download Simple:Press Forum for WordPress now.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com.  Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com

Integrating Twitter and WordPress

Twitter is quickly changing the way people market and interact with their readers. It’s important to make your blog as Twitter friendly as possible so you can take advantage of this.

Should you waste your time with Twitter? Yes. Twitter is a great way to build traffic for your blogs as well as create interesting relationships with people all over the world. It can lead to many exciting opportunities and help sustain your blog.

Set-up Twitter Account

The first step is to actually get a Twitter account. It’s free and takes minutes to set up. Once you’ve done that you can do many cool things to get it integrated into your blogging flow.

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Twitterfeed

The first step should be to link your blog RSS feed with your Twitter account. This will mean that when you publish a new post on your blog, a notice will go out across your Twitter feed. Your followers will be able to keep up when you write a new post. Doing this is a great way to increase traffic to your blog.

My favorite tool for putting an RSS feed onto Twitter is called Twitterfeed.

TwitThis


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TwitThis is a small plugin that puts a little icon at the bottom of each post. It allows people to quickly and easily post a link to your blog post on Twitter. This is a great way to generate traffic. When someone posts a Tweet, all their followers see it. And if one of those followers likes it, they’ll re-tweet it and it will get seen by their followers and on and on. It doesn’t take a lot to hit critical mass in Twitter, just a great blog post and a big enough audience to Tweet it.

Download TwitThis here

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Let your regular readers know what you’re up to on Twitter. Put your Twitter feed into your blog sidebar. It’s easy and great way to increase traffic to your Twitter profile. There are several ways to do this. You can get a WordPress Plugin that will parse the feed for you. There is also a much easier way. Your Twitter Feed has a built in RSS Feed so that you can just use the WordPress RSS Widget to put it in your sidebar.

Twitter Badge

Make is easy for your readers to find you on Twitter. Find a graphic that you like and link it to your Twitter account. For some great twitter badges, check out this post on Twitter Badges from Twitip.com. Put it in a prominent place so as many eyeballs see it as possible. Pretty soon you’ll find that you’re regular readers are following you on Twitter.

Twitter and Comments

A great way to create engagement with your readers is have them enter their Twitter username when they leave comments. The WP-Twitip Plugin will add a Twitter ID field to your comments form. The script it runs will turn that ID into a link to a user’s Twitter Profile. This will allow to find your users on Twitter and give them an extra bit of engagement with your blog.

Download WP-Twitip-ID Plugin here

Regardless of the method you choose, it can be very beneficial to integrate Twitter within your blog. Not only will you build more readers, but you will also build your following on Twitter and interact with more people that share the same interests as you.

5 Advanced WordPress Plugins For Your Blog

WordPress is an extremely powerful blog platform. The biggest reason why it is so powerful is because of all the plugins out there that take WordPress to the next level and completely change how it operates. It could be said that many of these plugins work to make WordPress more like a full fledged Content Management System, rather than just a blogging platform.

Each of these plugins adds advanced functionality to WordPess and each has a learning curve of it’s own. They don’t necessarily work right out of the box and will require some tweaking to get them to behave the way they are meant to.

But let’s face it, bloggers like to get our hands dirty and learn new things as often as we can. So I thought I would share 5 advanced WordPress plugins with you that you can utilize on your blog. Check them out:

TDO Mini Forms

Have you ever thought: I wish there was a way I could let people submit blogs posts or content, with custom fields that would automatically post? That’s what this plugin does. On a basic level, it’s a form builder. On an advanced level, it can help you create custom content that users can create on their own. It allows you to maintain complete control while opening a site up to user contributions. For example, this would be useful if you were creating some kind of informational directory that required user input. You can create a form with TDO Mini Forms that will have all the relevant fields and then publish it to the site.

However, it’s not that simple. This plugin is extremely difficult to learn how to use, especially when it comes to creating custom fields. Often times you’ll have to resort to hacking the form code itself in order to get it to do what you want. They make it easy to hack, but you’ll need to know your way around HTML to get things to work right. But once you get it to work, it can be an extremely powerful way to create content for your website.

Download TDO Mini Forms

WP Forum


Once your blog hits critical mass and has the readership to support it, a forum is great way to engage your readers. People love belonging to communities and adding a forum to your blog will do that. The problem is that WordPress can’t do this out of the box. In comes WP Forum, which aims to be a complete WordPress Forum solution. It integrates well with WordPress and gets the job done. Best of all, it’s under active development, unlike other WordPress Forum solutions.

Once you install this plugin, you’ll need to set it up and create some custom pages. Once you do this, the forum will live within your blog and you’ll be able to manage it within WordPress Admin. If you went with a standalone forum software, you would not be able to do this. Installed, you can do everything you expect do with a forum, create categories, create posts and more. It’s a great little package.

Download WP Forum

Flutter

This plugin is a little difficult to quantify. So, I’ll compare it to a cousin. In the Drupal CMS, there is something called the Content Construction Kit. Basically it lets you create custom content that is different from blog posts. Flutter is CCK for WordPress. It allows you to create custom content that is separate than blog posts. That means that if you want to have content on your WordPress site that’s different from a blog post, such as an event listing or definition. You create the custom content with this plugin and then you’ll have the option to write a ‘custom post’ as opposed to a regular blog post.

In a way, it’s slightly related to TDO Mini Forms in that it will allow you to create custom content pages. The only difference is that anonymous users won’t necessarily be able to create the content on their own. Like I said, it can be a little difficult to wrap your head around this plugin, which is why Flutter has an informative little video on their website that explains it by example.

Flutter Download Site

Open Directory Links

A great way to drive traffic to your site and build its backlinks is to create a link directory. Until now, there hasn’t been a very good link directory solution for WordPress that didn’t require a lot of hacking to get it to function. Open Directory Links is a slick implementation of a link directory that will work just like directories such as DMOZ. When you install the plugin, it creates another part of your site that is a link directory.

It integrates well with WordPress and will display with your theme. It has the ability for permalinks. Users can submit their own links. You can create whatever categories you wish and all links will go into a moderation queue. The only thing that is missing is a way to accept payment for link inclusion; a feature I suspect is not far off. This plugin is perfect for including a link directory in your site quickly and easily.

Open Directory Links

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WPG2

There is a standalone photo gallery management system called Gallery 2 that is a free and open source way to create a photo gallery on your website. It’s very powerful and is actually used by some huge websites. Since it’s free, you can use it on your own website. WPG2 is a plugin that integrates Gallery 2 into your WordPress Blog.

It’s not an easy process, but it’s worth it. First, you’ll have to install Gallery 2 on your webserver and get it up and running on it’s own. Then you’ll have to set it up, setup some required modules and get the house in order for WPG2. Once everything is good, you’ll need to install WPG2 as a plugin, which has it’s own laundry list of requirements. When is all said and done, you’ll have an advanced photo gallery on your website that will be integrated perfectly with your WordPress website (and with your theme).

Download WPG2

As you can see, these plugins can add a lot of functiality your existing blog. Hopefully you will give some of them a shot and see how they work for you.

Do You Have a Favorite Advanced Plugin?

To DoFollow or Not To DoFollow

Comments can be a great way to build a community around your blog. But they can also be a great way to build traffic and increase user participation. How do you do this? By turning your comments into do-follow comments.

What exactly does that mean?

No Follow and DoFollow

When people leave comments on a regular WordPress installation, the link they leave to their website is no-follow. That means that when the search engines crawl your website it will NOT follow those links and pass along pagerank. Basically the links are worthless from and SEO and link building perspective.

There is now a growing trend in WordPress blogs of people deactivating this feature. The reasoning behind it is that it will encourage people to leave more comments, especially from people looking to build backlinks for their own blogs. It doesn’t take many backlinks to help some sites, so a few comments left on blogs here and there can be a huge boost to a blog’s traffic.

How to Turn on DoFollow

Turning on DoFollow is simple. Simply download the DoFollow Plugin for WordPress, install and activate it. That’s it. Every time someone leaves a comment on your blog, it will now be a ‘dofollow’ link, meaning you’ll pass SEO and pagerank goodness.

If you prefer to do something more advanced, you can also install plugins that allow you to set a number of comments before someone’s comment becomes dofollow. In other words, people have to comment a few times before they get all the benefits of a dofollow link.

This works well to help combat those who leave a comment to strictly benefit their own blogs. The name of the plugin is the Lucia’s Link Love Plugin. Grab a copy of it here.

Potential Issues With DoFollow

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The first issue that you can have with turning this feature on is that you’ll have people spam your blog with comments just for the backlinks. Most will just leave comments and try to engage with your writing. But you can never really count on people not to abuse something, so expect people to abuse it. Keep in mind, though, that you can always delete comments if people start to abuse their posting rights. You will also attract blatant bot spammers, but the trick to fighting them is to make sure you have Akismet protected and you should be fine.

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How Do Follow Can Help you

You’ll need to list your blog in directories like DoFollow Diver. This will make it easy for people to find your blog and then post if they think your blog will be relevant for their linking purposes.

It’s also a great way to search for dofollow blogs yourself. Leaving dofollow on is a courtesy and should not be abused. So feel free to post on other blogs, but don’t just push your products or website, actually contribute to the conversation taking place. Hopefully readers of your blog will do the same and you won’t spend all of your time deleting comments.

Posting on other blogs and allowing them to post on your isn’t about blatant advertising. It’s about anchor text and backlinks. Keep this in mind when dealing with spam comments and when you leave comments on other blogs.

With luck, you’ll see an increase in traffic and participation in your blog do to activating this little known feature.

To Tell or Not to Tell

Should you announce on your blog that it’s a dofollow blog? It’s entirely up to you. As long as the dofollow directories know, you don’t really need to publicize it. But your readers and link builders may appreciate the full disclosure and it will make it easier for them to find your blog. Again, letting people know out of the gate will open your blog up to abuse. It’s up to you to control that abuse.

Do You Have DoFollow Tuned On?

How To Speed Up A Sluggish WordPress Site

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Too Much Stuff

For the average blogger, speeding up a typically sluggish WordPress site can seem one of the black arts. Tinkering around with your php code, optimizing CSS, re-organizing the hierarchy of your Javascript and Ajax files will likely feel like far more than you bargained for when you decided you wanted to get into publishing your ideas online.

There is a reason for thinking about speed however; the inconvenient truth about the web is that you have roughly between three to eight seconds to grab a new reader and keep them reading before they bounce off your page to somewhere else. If in that time your site is too busy loading up all sorts of flare, making too many calls back to the server and even just trying to figure out what its own messy code wants it to do – you are going to lose not just one reader but possibly hundreds.

I have discussed the basic arsenal for optimizing a site – using caching tools to transform your dynamic pages into static HTML files is one of the best ways to get started. The WP-Super Cache is one of the best at this, and the even more aggressive Hyper Cache can do the job as well. Additionally WP Widget Cache should go alongside your site caching plugins so that you can optimize those busy sidebars.

Spring Cleaning For Your WP Site

Remember when you first walked into your new WordPress home? You were so excited to furnish it with all the coolest new toys and sexy furniture so you went to the WordPress Plugin directory and found all sorts of great ideas for decorating the place? How many of those are you actually still using? Did any lead you to change your mind and deactivate them? Do you still really need that fancy AJAX sliding door thingy that displays every one of your Social Web accounts? How many different Twitter Widgets do you have to display to really feel you got the point across that you would like more followers?

Deactivate them. And then delete them. There is a theory that even deactivated plugins cause wordpress to scan over them to do a check for their activation state while loading up your page so you could be wasting precious milliseconds on an unnecessary process. Deleting the plugins won’t make your page speed up per se, but it will save you some space. You can always install them again later. If you don’t remember to, then you probably didn’t need them anyway.

Is your blog’s header an image? Is it an image with you blog’s title and byline laid over top by your theme? Consider making your blog header a static image or an image map if you need to define clickable hotspots on it, rather than having your blog have to pull the title and byline and display it. The static header with the text already built into it is straight ahead optimization.

Is All That Flare Really Making You Money?

If you run a site about high-priced ticket items like HDTV’s, DSLR cameras or yachts, then chances are those animated, rotating  flash ads that pull from a daily or weekly list of top sellers are a good idea. But if you are running a music or knitting site and selling yarn or mp3’s then those ads are likely making you pennies a month at best and at worst just a drain on your site’s load time. Consider removing them or using a static banner ad that can be cached. I found these to be one of the biggest culprits for my own sites’ load times.

Obsessive Time Sculpting

If you feel like getting under the hood and getting your hands a little dirty, going into your theme editor can reward you with some nice speed optimizations. Programmer extraordinaire Joost de Valk offers the following tips at his site for getting into the code itself.

As Joost explains:

“Because themes have to be easy to spread, they have to get almost all the blog specific info from the database. That results in a lot of queries for stuff that you could just hard-code into the theme.”

Go to your WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->header.php and look for the following code at the top:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" <?php language_attributes(); ?>>
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="
<?php bloginfo('html_type'); ?>;
charset=<?php bloginfo('charset'); ?>" />

You could replace it with the simpler:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr">
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />”

Similarly in WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->footer.php look for

<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>

and replace it with your Site Name

Look for:

<a href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>">

And replace it with your RSS2 feed. For example if you use Feedburner and your RSS2 feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude, you would put:

<a href=" http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude">

The same can be done for your Comments feed.

Note: you may want to actually copy and paste the RSS and Comments RSS feeds from your site before you do this since that is the easiest way to know what your feeds actually are.

Cleaning That Code, Compressing CSS: indocin

I have also seen people suggest the CSS Compress plugin that “automatically removes comments, new lines, tabs, and gzip compresses (GZIP) any CSS file called with “<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” – but use it with great caution. While it may help shave off some milliseconds from a rather simple theme like Kubrick, I have seen it wreak havoc on more complex themes.  It isn’t the fault of the click-and-go plugin, but the fact that sometimes one-stop solutions aren’t the same as one-size-fits-all solutions.

Which leads me to a very important point: make sure you have a database backup plugin installed – I recommend Lester Chan’s DBManager:

Not only can you backup your database in the event of a misstep, but after you have cleaned out your WP closets, as it were, you’ll want to bust out the vacuum. Click that DB Optimize button to get things sparkling again.

Speed Tests

If you want to check up on how your site is doing, consider installing Firebug for Firefox and then the YSlow plugin (Yslow needs Firebug to run).  Then when you visit your site, click the YSlow button at the bottom of your browser and check the site’s performance. You will get a report showing you where things can be improved.  If you aren’t using Firefox, you can also visit Pingdom

‘s site to check your blog’s loading time and get a detailed report about how it loads.

Thanks to WordPressGarage.com for sourcing the above.

Sitting Back

Optimizing your WordPress site is a very important but also delicate job.  Make sure to research the effects of any plugin beforehand and to backup regularly.  The list of optimizations in this article is by no means comprehensive or even right fo everyone, but I hope it serves as a fair introduction to making your site really shine.

Please share your own thoughts, tips and experiences with get your WordPress site clean and zippy.  I would love to learn about other techniques people have found useful.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com and find him on Twitter @ConstantChange.

How to Manage the "array_keys() [function.array-keys]:" Message

Photo by <a href=You don’t have to be a programmer to enjoy the myriad benefits and virtues of WordPress, but every once in a while you may try something seemingly innocuous only to discover that you are suddenly faced with some very programmer-like message.

Look at the bright side – there is usually an easy fix and you will be able to feel like an extreme coder for solving it!

The following message may appear after a WordPress update or, more often than not, from copy and pasting a code snippet from some blog directory into that ever powerful open space that is the Text widget.

Warning: array_keys() [function.array-keys]: The first argument should be an array in /home/maindomain/public_html/mydomain/wp-includes/widgets.php on line 676

Although there is no easy explanation about what the cause of this problem might be (it can be a variety of issues), it likely has something to do with a funky piece of code that your database didn’t like.  The problem is your blog is very unhappy now and you just want to go back to the way things were before the problem started.

This is one of those cases where the objective is not to understand why, but rather how to get back to the way things were before the problem started.

First the bad news – you may lose any custom code you entered in your various widgets in the form of php, html and text.

The good news is that not all is lost: with a few simple steps you should be back up and running in no time.

Using your FTP client as discussed in my previous troubleshooting article

, navigate to your root folder of your WordPress installation and find the file called wp-config.php

Click to view/edit, or save it to your desktop and open it in Notepad or a proper code editor like Dreamweaver.

If you take a look, a few lines down you should see the following lines:

 
define('DB_CHARSET', 'utf8'); define('DB_COLLATE', '');

What you want to do is to remove (“REM”) these statements out by adding a pair of slashes in front of each line so it looks like this:

// define('DB_CHARSET', 'utf8');
// define('DB_COLLATE', '');

Save the file and upload it (overwrite) to your root folder where you found it.

Now log back into your WordPress site and open up any text or php widgets and copy the code therein to your Notepad so that you can add them back in later.  If you know what code caused the problem, avoid putting this back in after this fix.  That is bad code.  Bad.  It will sleep in the dog house tonight.

Now remove those plugins and save your widget sidebar.

Things should go more or less back to normal.

Now go back to the file you edited on your desktop and remove the slashes you added in front of the two lines you found in the wp-config.php file.

Save and reupload (overwrite) the file back to your root directory on the server.

Now you can go back and recreate the custom text widgets, copying and inserting the code you have waiting for you in your Notepad.

For further notes on this issue see the following support forum at WordPress.

Photo by Evil Erin

Top Five Essential Plugins For Any WordPress Site

Moving forward from my introduction on becoming your own self-publisher via a custom WordPress installation, I want to share what I feel are the top five essential plugins to install before doing anything else with your new blog.  It’s OK if you have already been at it for a while too, just make sure you take a look at the items in this list before going any further.

Always Outnumbered dvdrip 1. All in One SEO Pack Plugin

The All in One SEO Pack Plugin is like having a robot butler to handle all the important nitty-gritty for getting your site’s settings just right for search engines.  The plugin acts like a Swiss-Army search optimization tool, handling everything from automatic META tag generation, to optimizing your titles, and defining excerpts from your article.  It is backward compatible with other similar plugins like Auto Meta and Ultimate Tag Warrior.  Don’t leave home without it.

2. Google XML Sitemaps

A sitemap informs search engines about pages on your site (and how they relate to one another) available for crawling, thus optimizing how your content is seen by the search engines.  Google XML Sitemaps automatically generates an XML sitemap for your WordPress site and is supported by Ask.com, Google, YAHOO and MSN Search.

3. WordPress Database Backup

WordPress Database Backup integrates a database optimization, repair and backup system accessible right from your WP control panel.  This is insurance against disaster.

4. WordPress Auto-Tagger

Auto-Tagger

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is one of those plugins that makes you wonder how you ever lived without it.  It will scan your post and reference it against Yahoo’s most popular search terms to make recommendations for the list of tags to associate with your article.  Not only a real time-saver, but a wise move for your SEO.

5. WP Super Cache

A replacement for WP Cache, and an evolution of WP Cache 2, Donncha O Caoimh’s WP Super Cache greatly reduces the strain on your server by creating static HTML files from your site, thereby bypassing the need for the server to process php scripts.  A new blog may not notice much of a boost, but once it is trafficked by hundreds of hits a day, this essential plugin will not only make your site load faster, but will save you from receiving a warning from your Host Provider for excessive CPU load or slow MySQL queries.

What plugins do you use that you feel are essential for running a WordPress site?

Does Your Blog Look Like A Textbook?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Adam (adamjinj)
It’s no secret that many readers get bored when reading nothing but text. I’m the same way when I read blogs and websites. If I wanted to read text, I’d pick up one of my old textbooks and start reading. That’s why it is important to spice up your blog posts with pictures.

The problem is that it can be pretty difficult to take your own pictures for every post you write. Stock photos are a great alternative but many bloggers do not have the means of spending a bunch of money for pictures. Especially if you blog for hobby and not for profit.

The Photo Dropper Plugin creepshow 2 dvd download

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Luckily there is another option. And guess what, it’s really simple to use and costs nothing! What I’m talking about is the Photo Dropper plugin, which is available for download here . This plugin allows you to use photos from Flickr that have a Creative Commons license. In other words, the photos are free to use as long as you provide the necessary information.

The plugin will automatically add the photo credits and hyperlinks necessary to use the photos. There is even an option to only search pictures that can be used for commercial use. So I highly recommend checking that option if you make any money from your blog.

How To Install It

Installing the Photo Dropper plugin is a piece of cake. Just download the file from the website and then upload it to your plugins folder. Once it’s uploaded, head over to your plugins page and activate it. Once it is activated, simply go to the plugin settings under the settings tab. It’s that easy!

How To Use It

Now that the plugin is installed, you are probably wondering how to use it. The good news is using the plugin is as simple as installing it. The plugin automatically adds a “PJ” logo in the write post screen which should be visible to the right of the add media button. You can then click the button to add an image just like the normal add image function in WordPress.

Once the Photo Dropper window opens, simply time something in the search box. It will return any images from Flickr that have the keywords in them. Then you simply select the alignment and size of the picture to insert. Simple!

It will automatically add the links below the image along with the Creative Commons logo and license. That way you are free to use the pictures at your own will. Just be sure to double check the license settings for the images directly on Flickr as well. Sometimes people change their license settings and it hasn’t updated in Photo Dropper yet.

So grab a copy of the plugin now and start adding photos to your posts. Your readers will love you for it!