Aside

Redefining Purpose

I do not call myself a Content Marketer. Heck, my language skills are not that great nor have I managed to keep honing them so as to write waxing lines of prose.

Most of the blogging I do on this blog, is always incidental in nature. Incidental in the sense, it’s almost always as a reaction to things. If this happens, and if I feel tempted to blog about it, I will post it.

However, this email newsletter by Avinash Kaushik is making me question the way I am writing this blog. Should there be a definitive overarching purpose to the blog … I think so!

What should the purpose be?

Let me think on this!

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The Cinderella Visitor

 

It’s surprising, every time I open Analytics, I learn something new about this product and I learn something new about my site … like the fact that I have to deal with Cinderella Visitors!

Here is a maths problem for you. In fact if you have pored through your Google Analytics account, I am sure even you would also have been stumped by the same problem.

Below is a screenshot of my site’s monthly traffic stats –

Monthly Stats

Now, yes … these are humble beginnings! That is why some of you should visit this site more often!! So if you look at the unique visitors (that’s the total number of visitors coming to the website), then it is 530. This is good, that means through the blog I am getting in touch with at least 530 people a month!! Holy cow!! That’s roughly 18 conversations in the day.

Out of those 530, a huge number are new visitors (511). So does that mean only 19 visitors are returning back to the blog for those 126 visits? Hmmm … that should not be that hard to find. One look at the Returning Visitors Advanced Segment should shed more light on this …

Returning Visitors

Well, this seems to the problem don’t it. Things don’t just add up here! 45 visitors are responsible for those 126 visits, which means that 485 visitors are responsible for those 511 New Visits. How can this be possible? These 485 people have come on the site ONCE ( … sigh!! aee jaanewaale ho sake to laut ke aajaa …), but the number of visits tell me otherwise.

Which should bring us to the real question of what does Google Analytics define as a visit? Here is an insightful article from Google about How Visits are Calculated in Analytics. There we have our answer –

A single visitor can open multiple visits. Those visits can occur on the same day, or over several days, weeks, or months. As soon as one visit ends, there is then an opportunity to start a new visit. There are two methods by which a visit ends:

  • Time-based expiry (including end of day):
    • After 30 minutes of inactivity by the visitor
    • At midnight

Ahhh! So if the visitor comes to the site, sticks around for more than 30 minutes without doing anything and then clicks on any other links, then its considered as ANOTHER visit. This should have been a sufficient reason IF the average visit duration was on the higher side, but since its not the case (and I write reasonable short posts too!), so the other method seems to be in action here!

At least 26 visitors have been around the site around midnight!! A quick check on my GA for hourly visits confirms my suspicions! I had 26 visitors coming to the website around midnight … and as the clock struck twelve, these Cinderella visitors fled (or at least Google Analytics made them fade away) and came back as New Visits!! By the way, in case if you are wondering why have you not heard about this term Cinderella Visitor before, then do not worry … I just coined it!

So where are the glass slippers? The glass slippers are the ubiquitous utmz cookies!!

Upgrading WordPress

With the WordPress 3.3 update coming out, I decided that it was about time that I upgrade the wordpress running on our company’s website from the lowly 2.7.1 to the current version. This has been a thorn in my side from quite some time (about a year now). I had earlier attempted to correct this, however direct update options available in WP always resulted in broken themes or worse, broken functionality. It’s a nightmare when you have to consider the SEO juice you would be loosing because of the change in URLs. Even if I put in 301 redirects, it was too much of an effort to consider the update.

Installation

  • Christmas and New Year is always a slow time for any business, the perfect time to update WordPress. Also, using Google Analytics, I noted the time of the day when we receive the least no. of visitors (2am to 7am IST, when the no. is around 300-400 visitors per hour, else it goes as high as 1700-2000 visitors per hour)
  • The first thing I did was ensure that my hosting environment was compatible with WP 3.3. Turns out that my PHP version was not updated. I found this excellent guide to upgrade PHP from 5.1 to 5.3.
  • Once that was done, I double checked to see if my existing packages were compatible with the updated PHP. Turns out, that a lot of the functions in the previous version were deprecated. My error_log was looking like a battlefield scarred with PHP Fatal Errors, and PHP Warnings. Some quick fixes, I was ready for the WP update.
  • Using the awesome 5-minute WP install, I installed a dummy version on a hidden subdomain. I was sure to disable search engines on this deployment.
  • I then exported all the data from our current system and imported it into this deployment. This was the easiest part!
  • I then copied our theme files, and installed it into this new WP package (you have to check the theme files for deprecated methods)
  • I then copied all the plug-ins from the old to the new WP. These were then updated. The good thing about updated plug-ins is that you get awesome set of functionalities and security updates that you so wanted. Note to New Webmasters: There are a lot of plug-ins out there whose older versions contain backdoors (more on this later), trigger false alarms on search engines, etc which need to be taken care of. Earlier I used to this clean-up using shell scripts, but not anymore :)
  • Now with a bit of tweaking here and there, the site had URLs which were function properly (no more worrying about loosing on our SEO efforts).
  • With adding a fair bit of plug-ins into the system, came a new problem – conflicting jQuery!! Earlier this month, I had asked our intern to hand script a jQuery menu, and that was conflicting with the other jQuery scripts. Fortunately, we have jQuery.noConflict().

A whole new World!

  • WordPress 3.3 is breathtakingly awesome!
  • The custom fields have been nerfed, now you have to do a fair bit of tweaking around to introduce custom fields in pages. But that allows me to have a higher controls on them. Earlier custom fields had this nagging way of getting out of control in a wordpress installation. Not any more!
  • Plug-ins like All-in-one-SEO make for better and simpler SEO efforts. All my worries of duplicate title tags are slowly vanishing away!
  • Better plug-in support! Earlier where I would myself script a small workflow on the WP installation, now I can again rely on the huge set of awesome wordpress plug-ins

The good part of this transition was that it took me a little of 3 hours to completely migrate. Of course for some other media (such as videos, pdfs, etc.) which I did not want to migrate to a new folder, I created softlinks and the task was done. All in all, if you are facing legacy wordpress systems, and are worried about upgrading them to the latest version … dont. The best method is to deploy a new version and migrate all the content (however ginormous the task sounds, its a better approach).

Aside

Nothing special

I wanted to make this a special post. It’s my 400th one on the blog.

However, 2 busy weeks and a sad case of writer’s block later, I decided to let myself go … where I get the inspiration, but cannot put pen to paper.

Nothing is special. It’s a post, there.

On the other hand, it does not have to be something unique or worldly … it does not have to be an insight. The mere number should make me happy … on to # 500 then!

Although if mere number of posts are going to satisfy my ego, then perhaps I should look at integration some sort of an RSS to my RPC. That never was the point, was it.

Criticism

I often contribute to the team blog of the company where I work. It is fulfilling, where else can you blog at work :-)

In the past two days however, the team blog … specifically my posts have come in the spotlight. By a critic … the comments are coming from a different perspective, maybe by someone who has engaged with the philosophy and found it either too abstract or too disillusioned.

The outcome being that there is criticism about the ideology and some more criticism about the author. Personally speaking none of my blogs have ever attracted much traffic, so I never had to face much applause or critique other than my immediate circle of friends. Critique from an unidentified source, adds that element of mystery and even a little bit of surprise (Ohh!! Someone does read my stuff!).

What I have not picked up over the 4-5 years of passively active blogging I have done is … how to handle criticism. A post I recently found is pretty good and maybe it will help other bloggers as well, so sharing it here.

Appended —

Pallavi commented that the critique might just be a different perspective or a different opinion. The final choice of taking that is always upto us. I looked back at the comments I was getting, and have decided to take the new perspective and try something new on the team blog. Will update once I get the results.

Blogger logo

Creating a personal blog

So, a lot of us like to blog, and of course would it not be super cool if we had our own blog url and all the jazz effects at of course a minimal of a cost.

Well, now we can. And even the most basic of a computer user can go ahead and have his personal url blog … here’s how you do it.

  1. Go to a domains seller. I bought mine from Aalphanet. Needless to say, you will have to register first.
  2. Search for an available domain eg- kidakaka.com
  3. If available, go for the kill, purchase it. A .com comes for somewhere around Rs. 450.00 per annum, a .in comes at half the price.
  4. Once that is done, buy the Manage Domain rights for your domain. This costs an additional Rs. 45.00 per year.
  5. Now start a blog on the blogger platform
  6. In the Settings->Publishing->Advanced settings, go to the your own domain name, and provide the same.
  7. The complete instructions are given here, but this is what you do simply –
    1. Enter you domain name in the Advanced tab
    2. In your Manage DNS section of domain dashboard, make a CNAME entry for your domain to point to ghs.google.com
  8. It should take an hour and two and Voila!!

The blog now is hosted on the blogger platform, but the url is yours. A customized personal blog for less than Rs. 500.00 a year.