Category Archives: Resources

7 alternatives to Google Analytics

We all use Google Analytics to track visitors to our WordPress sites.  Right?  Not necessarily.  There were several services before Analytics was the standard, and even more have popped up in recent years that compete with the big G!  Here are some of the best options out there, with a little analysis of our own.

But first, some critique of Google Analytics which has caused some webmasters to look elsewhere.

  • Delay.  Have you ever found yourself checking your stats at 12:01 AM?
  • Reliability. Analytics isn’t supposed to count bots and spiders, but have you ever found a massive spike in traffic with no real explanation?  Or perhaps you’ve wondered how a search term of “green chili recipes” brought someone to your blog about rugby?
  • Ease of use.  There are some very powerful features built into Analytics, but for 90% of webmasters, they’re overboard.  Sometimes I just want a simple, stylish graph of traffic.

Here are several alternatives to Analytics that address some of these issues.

Woopra

  • Real Time
  • Easily compare and manage multiple sites
  • Tons of trackable information
  • Promises additional features soon

Clicky

  • Real time statistics
  • Free and paid plans
  • Most of the popular features of Analytics
  • A graphically pleasing layout
  • Offers a WordPress Plugin to integrate with your site.
  • Has an impressive client list including Mashable, SmashingMagazine and BuySellAds.com

Piwik

  • Real Time
  • Simple
  • Open Source
  • Plugin powered so you can add/remove features
  • Installed on your server so you have complete control and ownership of the data

Sitemeter

  • One of the originals
  • Free and paid plans
  • Easy and fast to set up
  • Easily share your stats (or secure them from) visitors

Chartbeat

  • Real time
  • Simple interface
  • Traffic alerts
  • $9.95/month at press time

Reinvigorate

  • Real time
  • Event tracking
  • “Heat map” technology
  • Desktop integration

Mint

mint-analytics

  • Self-hosted for full control
  • Search support
  • Feed subscription patterns
  • $30 per domain – One off

Do you know of another alternative to Google Analytics?  Share it below with your comment.

6 tips for making your blog stand out

With hundreds of thousands of blogs being created every day, yours will take a lot to stand out in the crowd. These tips have been assembled from years of experience navigating the blogosphere. Stick to these 6 principles and you’ve got a pretty decent chance of making it.

1. Use a custom design

This is less difficult or expensive as you may think. There are tons of beautiful themes and templates available for blogs. Find the one that best suits your needs (see #6) and customize it by adding a unique background, menu, icons, etc.

Using some of the online marketplaces like Graphic River, you can find new images to spice up your design that is both unique and aesthetically pleasing.

2. Give away something (quality) for free

One of my first blogs found success in giving away a premium quality CMS template for free. This helped in almost every component of my blog. It encouraged link building, increased credibility, and encouraged repeat visits.

The investment is well worth the return. Give away a quality asset like a theme, icons, or something else related to your blog topic. You will find an increase in traffic, backlinks and favorable mentions on other sites.

3. Post frequently (reference other article)

This article discusses this topic further, but you should respond to your readers and post often. Don’t flood your blog with content so that readers can’t filter through it all and quality suffers. However, posting on a regular and frequent schedule will build credibility and show readers you can be depended on for quality content.

4. Develop relationships

There’s no subsitute for pounding the internet pavement and building relationships. All relationships matter, but focus on connecting with others who share your passions and topics. I regularly reach out to other blogs that I follow.

Reaching out can be guest blogging, exchanging links or collaborating on a freebie release. (See #2)

5. Be unique

The web is full of duplicative, useless content. There is a special place in hell reserved for those who saturate the web with boring content meant only to encourage ad clicks.

Have you noticed the increase in “list” sites? Mashable.com and Tutorial9 are just some examples of websites that create helpful posts of lists like “100 of the best free WordPress themes”. Your content should be unique, informative and easy to read. If you can do this, the links and traffic will follow.

6. Leave out the excess (focus on the content)

The big content management systems (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.) offer countless addons and plugins. These can be both helpful and harmful to your blog. Don’t think that the coolest features are necessary. Focus on quality, informative content and leave the fancy sliders and effects out.

7. Be patient

The top blogs were not made in a day. Popularity, traffic, links and credibility are earned over time. If you’re passionate about a topic, you will continue to be motivated by changes and innovations. Be patient, offer consistent quality and useful content that people can expect every time they come back.

Tutorial: How to install WordPress

WordPress is one of the simplest, fastest and easiest tools for blogging. It is open source software developed originally by a god, I mean guy named Matt Mullenweg. With the advent of WordPress, Mullenweg single-handedly changed the face of the web. Ok, so he didn’t do it alone, he had lots of talented coders working with him, but the concept was his.

He developed what they call “…a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.”

So you’ve heard about WordPress. You’ve heard about weblogs (now simply called “blogs”). And you want your own blog! That is where WordPress can help. Here are the most common ways to install WordPress and get your own blog up and running in just a few minutes. This list begins with the simplest installation of WordPress all the way to the most difficult.

Option 1: WordPress.com

The easiest way to install WordPress is to let someone else do it! WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org) is built on Wordpres Mu (multi-user). By signing up, you will instantly get a blog located at yourname.wordpress.com.

For the casual user, this is probably the best option. When you want to share family news, your personal experiences, or don’t want to bother with the hassle of web hosting or domain names, head on over to WordPress.com for a free blog.

Option 2: Fantastico (via your web host)

The second easiest way to install WordPress is to sign up for web hosting with a provider that offers Fantastico! (the exclamation point is part of the name).  Most web hosting accounts offer Fantastico as a standard feature, and almost all accounts that use software called Cpanel as your backend dashboard include Fantastico.

So what is Fantastico?  It is software that automates and simplifies the installation of a long list of other programs.  These include most blog software, content management systems (CMS) and other community building software.  With just a couple clicks, you can install WordPress with this handy tool.  How?  Keep reading.

Step 1: Log in to Cpanel or your web hosting dashboard.

Step 2: Navigate to Fantastico.  If using Cpanel, simply type “fan” into the left hand filter box and the link to Fantastico will  be brought into view.  Click Fantastico.

Step 3: Under the “blogs” header on the left, click “WordPress”

Step 4: Click “New Installation”

Step 5: Fill out the required fields like domain, directory, etc.  If you want WordPress to be in the root directory of that domain, leave the directory field empty.

Step 6: Click “install” and you’re done!

The downside: you will have a little less control over how things are set up.  The database and db username and passwords are all set up for you (which is also a time saver).  Also, it is a little tricky to assign a domain name to your WordPress install using Fantastico which is also a Cpanel issue.

Option 3: Self hosted installation

The option that offers you the most control and customization options is a self-hosted install.  Even this, the most complicated, is still very very easy.  Even beginners can handle this one.

Step 1: Download and unzip the latest release of WordPress.  You can find the latest release here.

Step 2: Upload the unzipped directory using your favorite FTP client. *

Step 3: Navigate to the directory of your WordPress install.  You will automatically be taken to an installation screen.**

Step 4: Fill out the required bits of information like database, username and password.  Click Finish and voila! You’re done! ***

*Alternately, you can upload the zipped file and unzip it once on your web server.

**You will need to have a way to navigate to the WordPress directory using a domain, subdomain or temporary domain.  Most hosts will allow you to assign a domain to a directory.  Temporarily, you can create a subdomain which is free (usually) and takes less time to propogate across the web.

***You will need to have set up a MySQL database prior to installing WordPress.  Do this a bit ahead of time as it takes a little while to be set up usually by your host.

Did you find this post helpful?  Please consider sharing it with your friends!

Additional Resources:

Update: Option 4: QuickInstall

When updating a server of mine I found out I needed to pay for Fantastico for the first time.  I started poking around and found that my host fully supports software called “QuickInstall”.  QuickInstall works within cPanel, and is even easier than Fantastico.  A fresh WordPress install is literally just a few clicks.  Just choose your site name, directory and email.  A password is emailed to you.  The actualy setup takes just a few seconds on a 7Mbps connection on a VPS.  I was shocked at how easy it was to set up a new WordPress site.

QuickInstall to setup WordPress

As far as I can tell, QuickInstall offers all the same open source options except for Joomla!  Seeing as Pingable is all about WordPress, I wasn’t too upset to find this out.

 

Mini-tutorial: How to add noindex to category pages

This question was asked in the WordPress forum here.  Since nobody had answered Michael at press time, I thought it might be helpful to find the answer and publish it here.

Solution:

Option 1) Use robots.txt to prohibit search engines form indexing a page.  Simply add this to your robots.txt file.  If you don’t have a robots.txt file, simply create one in your go-to text editor.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /category/page-title

These two lines will a) let search engines know this rule applies to all robots and b) tell them they cannot index the page located at “category/page-title”.

Option 2) Use this handy plugin.  The Ultimate Noindex Nofollow Plugin by Jonathan Kemp.  With this plugin you can choose pages that the plugin will identifying as non-indexable in the robots.txt file.  There are many other options with this plugin including adding the rel=”nofollow” tag to various places in your WordPress code.

Option 3) Use a meta tag to order search engines to not index a particular page. The meta tag looks like this:

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

Top 10 list of lists

Have you noticed the dramatic increase in “list” posts?  They often have title like “10 best free magazine style WordPress themes” and “10 best social media plugins”.  We, too, enjoy a list here and there.  We thought it would be fun (and funny) to come up with our own top 10 list of  lists.

Image Credit: InstantShift.com

Moving your WordPress site in 2 easy steps

This tutorial assumes you know how to install a self-hosted WordPress site.  Let’s say you’ve got a wordpress powered blog that you’d like to transfer.  Here’s how to do it in just a couple quick steps:

  1. Log into the dashboard of the old site and under “tools” click “export”.  WordPress will export all of the posts, pages, comments and even images into an XML file.
  2. Log into the dashboard of the new site and under “tools” click “import”.  Select that xml file that you saved in your last step and begin the import.  Voila! Your WordPress site has now been duplicated on the new site.

Remember that this does not affect the theme or any customizations or plugins you were using.  Is that easy or what?

20 super helpful WordPress template tags

For anyone developing WordPress templates, these tags are the most commonly used and helpful to have handy. Many of these tags include parameter options which can be found in the WordPress Codex or this helpful tool.

<?php the_author_nickname(); ?>

Insert the author’s nickname.

<?php the_category('parents=multiple'); ?>

Insert the category of a post.

<?php comments_number('No Comments', 'one', 'more', 'number'); ?>

Insert the number of comments if there are none.

<?php comments_number('zero', '1 Comment', 'more', 'number'); ?>

Insert the number of comments if there is only one.

<?php comments_number('zero', 'one', '% Comments', 'number'); ?>

Insert the number of comments for more than one.

<?php the_date('n-j-Y', 'before', 'after', echo); ?>

Insert the comment date (uses the default format)

<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>

The name of your blog.

<?php bloginfo('description'); ?>

Your blog description.

<?php bloginfo('url'); ?>

Your blog URL, (helpful in structuring backlinks)

<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>

The link to your RSS feed.

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

The template directory (most useful for referencing images)

<?php get_posts('numberposts=10'); ?>

Display some posts, in this case, 10.

<?php get_posts('category=2'); ?>

Display posts from a specific category. Both this and the previous tag can be combined.

<?php wp_list_pages(); ?>

Lists pages with URLs.

<?php wp_list_pages('include=50'); ?>

Lists page with id 50

<?php wp_list_pages('exclude=50'); ?>

Lists all pages except those with id 50

<?php the_permalink(); ?>

The link to a post, (must be used within the loop)

<?php the_title(); ?>

The title of the post.

<?php the_content(); ?>

The content of a post.

<?php the_excerpt(); ?>

The excerpt of a post. A tag used a lot on this site. Limits content words and strips HTML tags.

5 must-follow WordPress blogs

Search “WordPress Blog” and you won’t come up with a blog about WordPress.  You’ll find one of the billions of websites powered by our favorite CMS, WordPress.  Instead of search overload, take this list as the beginning of your “must have” list of WordPress resources.

  1. WordPress.org Development Blog
  2. Smashing Magazine (about design in general, but they love WP over there)
  3. ProBlogDesign
  4. Matt Mullenweg‘s blog (the founder of WordPress)
  5. Blogging Pro