Go Google+ for higher SERPs on Google

Once you launch a site, the work is not done … in fact the work of a webmaster has just begun! One clear metric for the success of your site (especially early on) is site traffic. Over a period of time as your site matures and you get a better sense of what drives your site, you will tend to discard this metric, but initially it is always traffic.

Search as a major component of Traffic

Traffic Split for kidakaka.com
Screenshot from Google Analytics on the traffic source split. 82% search, 14% direct and 4% referral (I have to drive this up!!)

One good component of traffic is search, traffic that comes searching for content relevant to your subject. Yes! There are people out there who are actively searching for things about which you want to write!! Right from narrow niches such as Pathare Prabhu Recipes to broad gulches such as Being Awesome in Excel.

For content rich websites, Search is a major component contributing to the site’s traffic. For example, 70% of my site’s traffic comes from Google Search! This is actually higher than what I wanted it to be and I try to bring it down by driving traffic via other sources, however I will always want a good fat 40-50% traffic coming to my site via search.

In fact when I started working on my site on a regular basis around 6 months back (as part of my new year resolution), I hardly realized that it would make such a big difference to the traffic split.

How to acquire Organic traffic?

There are a lot of agencies out there who promise that they will ensure that you would start ranking on your set of keywords. Here’s a starter for post for those who want to get into SEO, go read this and stop paying agencies a lot of money for barely scratching the surface.

If you want to acquire organic traffic, then write good content … write about things that move you, about things which you are passionate about. Write from the heart, and forget about those grammatical mistakes. If you have a friend who is a grammar nazi, get him/her to review your post later on.

Ranking that Content higher on Google

So now that you have a stream of content on your site, how to ensure that people who are searching for your subject matter actually end up finding your website?

This is where your friends and social circle comes in!

Sharing your content with friends and getting them like/+1 the content is a social signal that search engines read. This acts like a testimonial for your site in the eyes of the search engine.

See this for yourself, take one article on your site and like this on Google+. Then search for this article via your friend’s Google id … note the before +1 Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP) and the after SERP.

Google+, you have my attention

Here is a list of things that you need to get setup on with Google+ –

  • Setup Authorship on Google – This will link your Google+ profile to the content you create. It also ensures that your Google+ profile pic is displayed besides the content you write and this gets shown when someone is searching for the content that you have written. Stats provided by Google on this suggest that linking Authorship will get you a 30% boost in your organic click-through rates Authorship_of_Kidakaka
  • Be active on Google+ – Make this a part of your daily routine. Google+ is good for content discovery, try and meet new people on Google+, focus on increasing the number of people who are in your circles and who have you in their circles. This will increase the visibility of your content on Google for at least those people. In case if you have had some interaction with them, then chances are they would want to read what you have to say about the subject that they are currently searching!
  • Get those Google+ Shares – To initially start off, ask your friends to share your site on Google+. This works. It does wear down on your personal equity, but what are friends for if not to help you out :-D

Don’t simply take my word for this. Even Moz (erstwhile SEOMoz) says that there is correlation between Google +1s and Higher SERPs. In layman’s terms what this means is that the more +1s on Google+ your article gets, the higher will it rank on Google.

So get on this network and start using Google+! Instead of wasting time liking lolcats on Facebook, try and use your spare time

WordPress Security Plug-ins

I had earlier written about the top 5 Plug-ins that I use with WordPress, and I realized that I had not talked about any Security Plug-ins!!

So let me share this out in the open with all of you, I like all the other webmasters value security … very, very much. Why? Well, it keeps my mind at ease knowing that my site is a bit secure from all the malicious entities and bots out there looking to spam my site.

Having said that puts my mind at ease, I do use a security plug-in with my blog (you are most welcome to check – Do not take this as an open invitation and consent to do intrusion on the site though !!).

This is a beautiful visualization that I found on the interwebs, and thought that I might re-share this with all of you. In case if you do not use a WordPress Security plug-in, please do so at the earliest! In case if you do, check the below infographic to see whether your plug-in makes the top 10!

WordPress Security Plugins

5 WordPress Plug-ins you should Install

WordPress plugins

I have been working with WordPress for more than four years now, both as a personal blogging platform and also as a full fledged Content Management System for websites. It’s been a great four years, right from the day I found the awesomeness of WordPress to the multiple releases on WordPress and the day I started regularly contributing on one of the major WordPress forums.

Any WordPress user worth his salt will know that the full power of the CMS platform is behind it’s series of plug-ins and that’s what this post is about. The top 5 WordPress Plug-ins I always install whenever I deploy a WordPress based site.

The reason why I chose these plug-ins as the top 5 is because they resonate very well with the top 5 things that you need to do when you launch a site.

Jetpack

Jetpack plug-in by Automattic

This is the ultimate plug-in by the good folks who made WordPress, Automattic. It comes jam-packed with some awesome set of features such as –

  • Social Sharing options below your post
  • Stats embedded within your Admin Dashboard
  • A mailing list functionality to email your subscribers your post content which you publish to your blog
  • Auto-sharing functionality to share your post’s link to your favourite social networks
  • A beautiful carousel for browsing through a series
  • A mobile theme adapter which ensures that your site looks great on mobile clients as well
  • You can connect your app to WordPress.com and manage all of your WP stacks through one location

The awesome part is that the Jetpack team keeps adding to the amount of features available – you can download the Jetpack Plug-in here.

A word of caution here, do not activate any more features than what you actually need! If you do, that increases your script size … ultimately increasing your web page loading times!

WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO Plug-in by Yoast

There are a lot of SEO plug-ins out there in the WordPress community, but THIS is the ultimate plug-in that you have to install. A couple of years back, if you would have asked me to recommend an SEO plug-in, I would have recommended All in One SEO, but trust me folks, WordPress SEO is so much better! In fact I think it’s the cat’s paw of free SEO plug-ins.

The good part that I liked about this plug-in over all the other plug-ins, is the level of granularity to which you can go to control your on-page SEO. It is also linked to LinkDex which gives you a clear understanding of how your on-page optimization is changing with the content level changes that you are doing for each and every page. This plug-in has been authored by Joost de Valk (aka Yoast) who simply rocks when it comes to SEO and WordPress, he has contributed to some of the best plug-ins to the WordPress community.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Google Analytics for WordPress plug-in by Joost de Valk

I cannot sing enough paeans of Google Analytics. However to add and edit a WordPress theme could be quite difficult if you do not know HTML or do not want to edit your theme (since they frequently update and you end up having to enter your Google Analytics code again and again). This plug-in helps you avoid this by giving you a simple method to integrate Google Analytics code in your WordPress theme.

If you do go ahead with this plug-in and you use Google Analytics, then this is the best Custom Dashboard that you can immediately use. The Custom Dashboard has been created by Yoast for the users of his plug-in, it works very well only if you use the plug-in. Otherwise most of the data reported might be misrepresented.

Google XML Sitemap for Images

This plug-in and the next one are created by an Indian, and I find them pretty awesome. Amit Agarwal has created a simple image sitemap generator plug-in which creates an image specific sitemap for your WordPress site. The reason I rely on this plug-in is simple … search engines index content on your site. If you are running a WordPress based site, then you would be using good images for illustrations for your posts. These images are a rich source of higher SERPs on different search engines.

All of us know that Google shows images when you search, having well optimized images and submitting them in a separate sitemap ensures that your images get indexed by Google and other search engines. What that means is that your content slowly starts ranking higher.

Google XML Sitemap for Videos

The Video sitemap Plug-in is also an excellent plug-in to install if you are embedding videos on your site often. Videos rank higher than images which in turn rank higher than simple links when Search Engine Results are being displayed. Having a mix of rich media helps a site.

Ensuring that this rich media is correctly submitted to search engines and getting those indexed is the main trick in getting good search results.

Bonus – Akismet

Once, your WordPress site begins attracting site traffic, people and spammers will start coming to your site. They will leave behind comments on your pages and then it will be difficult to judge whether the comment is a good comment by someone who actually appreciates your site or is it by some spammer who wants a backlink to their site.

This is where Akismet comes into picture. I mentioned this plug-in as a bonus and have not included this in my top 5 only because this plug-in comes default installed in WordPress, but you still have to activate it and submit your Akismet key.

Remember one thing, when you launch a WordPress plug-in do not go haywire and install many plug-ins. They eventually slow your WordPress install, so chose carefully and only make do with those plug-ins that you really need.

What are the top plug-ins that you cannot go without when you deploy a WordPress based site?

WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal – Which CMS should you use?

Wordpress vs Drupal vs Joomla

I have seen this question being frequently discussed amongst start-ups and content marketers. Here’s my small attempt to help decide between which content management system one should go for.

What is a CMS?

A Content Management System (CMS) is an application using which you can create, update and delete your Content. Now this is a very loose description, and any web application where you upload stuff and manage it falls into this definition. So let me narrow this down a bit.

A CMS is a web application using which you can easily publish content on your website.

Yes, it’s the backbone software based on which you create (or have just created) a rocking website.

Why do I need a CMS?

You don’t. If your site is made of a few pages (5 or so), then perhaps you are better off with a static site. Plain Jane HTML. There actually is no need to hire an agency to create your site.

However, if you like me love writing on a regular basis on your site and keeping the site updated, with more and more pages … or have a site which is dynamic in nature (stuff keeps on happening on the site and there is never a boring time for you), then it is best to use a CMS to control what content goes live on your site.

  • A Content Management System will help you manage the content that you publish in a better fashion
  • A good CMS will also help you promote your content
  • An ideal CMS will help you monetize your content ;-)
  • The best CMS should make publishing a breeze, a process easy to perform and involving as less hassles as possible

So which CMS are out there?

There are more than a million Content Management Systems out there … no really! Talk to your average Joe, the web vendor and he would convince you to create your site in his awesome custom CMS. I know of Indian vendors out there who are doing this as their business model!!

But let me not talk about those, and focus on the ones which really matter. The ones which hold a significant share of the internet. The ones which are free :-), yes, since the free ones have a high share of the internet.

WordPress

WordPressThis is by far the most widely used Content Management System on the internet. At last count, WordPress has been powering more than 17% of the internet!

WordPress (yes the P is intentional, and has to be in caps!) is the proud creation of Automattic and is free to use. If you do not want to get into the technicalities and only focus on publishing, then simply head on over to WordPress dot com. If you can brave the tech part of setting up your own hosted WordPress (which is a breeze), then head on over to WordPress dot org and download the latest source.

Let me be honest with you, I am biased towards WordPress and it’s my defacto CMS.

One look at the search trends of Google will confirm this for you –

Pros

  • The community around WordPress is lively and helpful
  • This has the highest number of themes and plug-ins available for any CMS out there
  • Did I tell you that it powers more than 17% of the internet?
  • Very easy to setup and start using
  • Amount of efforts in terms of knowing technology v/s getting started with a kick-ass site is quite low

Cons

  • For complex requirements, you have to rely on other systems or major plug-ins. These are not as seamless as I would have wanted.

Joomla

JoomlaUnlike WordPress which started out as a blogging software and went on to become a full fledged Content Management System, Joomla started off as a CMS and was a fork of Mambo (forget about this CMS, it had its fair share of problems which Joomla fixed quite elegantly). During the initial days of Joomla, there was a lot of controversy between free software and open source (since it was formed from a CMS which was not exactly free). However the community that Joomla built was loyal and has since developed great support for it.

Although Joomla does pack a wallop when it comes down to meeting your CMS requirements, it does require a bit of getting used to and that’s why it powers 2.8% of the Internet.

Pros

  • Great support and documentation available
  • Built with CMS based sites kept in mind.
  • Easy to roll out complex site navigations.

Cons

  • Learning curve is a bit steeper and requires patience to understand the works
  • Plug-ins and Themes are not as seamless as one would expect

Drupal

DrupalThis is the oldest CMS amongst the three, and must have seen a lot of attrition in its community base as the other two CMS’ would have been released. That also explains why this community is fiercely loyal. That also would explain the well documented help for this CMS (a developer’s paradise). This is the CMS of the techie which comes bundled with a lot of power.

But with all this power comes a complexity which becomes difficult to master, and hence lesser adoption rates. At 2.13% of the internet, I will not call it less, but the other counterparts are doing well.

Pros

  • Well documented support centre
  • Strong base with excellent core features
  • Community of techies who know their CMS

Cons

  • Extremely steep learning curve
  • Lesser plug-ins and themes, it is assumed that the nuances you want can be implemented in-house

So which one should I go for?

I am not going to play safe and just stop at a CMS comparison, for that there are tonnes of other sites who have even done beautiful infographics on this topic. I am going to pick one of these CMS for you!! So help me out and ask yourself these questions (just pick the options!)

  1. Am I already familiar with any of these systems?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  2. How fast do I need to go to market?
    1. I have time, I am just toying around
    2. Yesterday
  3. Do I have a clear idea of what kind of features I want in my CMS?
    1. Yes
    2. No

If your answer is mostly 1’s then go ahead with the CMS you already know … you have the time to learn it and you know what you need to implement. Ask around in the communities and people will help you out.

If your answer is mostly 2’s then just pick WordPress and start. It is easy to learn, fast to implement and flexible at the start (since you do not know what you exactly want, you would have to do a lot of tests to determine what works for you.

What the Internet has to say about WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal

You can say that I am biased with WordPress. Yes, I am … since these days I make my living by working on the WordPress stack. However, you do not have to take my word for it, here’s a comparison of what the Internet has to say about these three different CMSs.

 

Installing WordPress on localhost

WordPress is a fantastic Content Management System, it can be a very simple application to learn for newbies, and it can still deliver the high level of customization that pros typically require. The level of help available across the interwebs for this is also high and it has a thriving developer community. I thought that I would add to the helpful howto’s on WordPress so that a complete newbie can install WordPress on his own machine to give it a whirl.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to install WordPress on your machine –

  1. First ensure you have all the right resources (XAMPP) – This is to ensure that you have a webserver with a MySQL server setup on your machine. Download the setup and install it. It will typically create a folder C:\xampp. Within this folder, make a note of the htdocs folder (this becomes your document root for your local web server). To check whether this has been properly done or not, simply open a browser and type in localhost and see whether you get a welcome page or not!
  2. After setting up your own webserver, you need the WordPress scripts. Download and extract this in your htdocs folder (it should default to a wordpress folder)
  3. Now simply type in this URL in your browser (http://localhost/wordpress). If you are setting it up for the first time, then you will be prompted to create a configuration file. Wordpress Configuration
  4. Now remember, for the next step you need to have created the database for WordPress. This is pretty straightforward. Open another link in your browser (http://localhost/phpmyadmin). This will be installed by default if you are using XAMPP. I am creating a database by the name of wp2, here’s how it looks
  5. Creating Database
  6. Now go to the previous browser window and click on the “Create a Configuration File” and proceed to the next step. Enter the following details, (Database – wp2, Username – root, leave the password blank since the default MySQL password for XAMPP is empty! Click on Submit.
  7. All right! You are all set to run the install (a confirmation for this is the Run the Install button!).
  8. The next screen is simple, what do you want to call your site (Site Title – I would always name it test since its on my local machine), username is admin and password also admin. NOTE – On a live webserver, the usernames and passwords will HAVE to be different.
  9. In the end, I always check off the Allow Search Engines to index this site. Its on my local host and I do not want to do unnecessary indexing and pinging to the search engines.
  10. That’s it, now you login with your username and password (in this case it was admin, admin). You should see the Dashboard of WordPress. Congratulations! You have setup WordPress on your localhost successfully!

I hope you found this helpful! In case if you got stuck anywhere in the steps outlined, do let me know, I shall be more than happy to help you out!

The Office-less Organization

As someone who has been working on the web for the past decade or so, I have always dreamt of my ideal organization as the one which does not have any offices (read that as a work from home). Obviously, I have heard of many IT organizations working on this model viz., Accenture, IBM to name a few.

However, my idea was not just that. I thought it could be possible to have an organization which does not have any offices! All the employees will be operating independently on their own. This utopian organization seemed a dream and I had more or less dismissed the thought … until today!

An excerpt from Wall Street Journal

The Web-services company Automattic Inc. has 123 employees working in 26 countries, 94 cities and 28 U.S. states. Its offices? Workers’ homes.

At Automattic, which hosts the servers for the blogging platform WordPress.com, work gets done wherever employees choose, and virtual meetings are conducted on Skype or over Internet chat.

The company has a San Francisco office for occasional use, but project management, brainstorming and water-cooler chatter take place on internal blogs. If necessary, team members fly around the world to meet each other face to face. And if people have sensitive questions, they pick up the phone.

How freakin’ awesome is that!

I decided to dive further, and learn more about this organization.

Guess what, they are awesome –

Being the makers of some of the web products that I have come to love and cherish – WordPress, Vaultpress, Akismet, Jetpack, CodePoet … damn, their lis goes on. Google cannot be a dream company, this should be the dream company for all of us WordPress tinkerers!

Shortcodes in WordPress

I love WordPress.

The blogging platform is a great content management system (CMS) to run on your website. Not only as a blog, but it can host your entire site. For example, most of the info pages on Pristine are on WP. In fact over the past year or so, my team has been learning how to create themes for WordPress.

At Pristine, we are providing the training schedules course-wise and city-wise on our different pages viz., for CFA Level I page, we are giving the schedule for all cities where CFA Level I is being conducted, for the Mumbai page, we are giving the schedule for all courses which are being conducted.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that there is a lot of duplicate information (which needs to be constantly updated) on different pages. With 8-10 centers and 6-7 courses that means anywhere between 50 to 70 pages which need to be updated whenever the training schedule changes. What a nightmare!

That’s where Shortcodes come in. Shortcodes are essentially functions that you can call from the WordPress CMS. Those of you who have used WP in the past would know that the WP platform is very easy to publish content ensures that you can only enter HTML in the publishing mode. We cannot write PHP scripts within the WP pages.

One way is to customize your templates, but if you want to run the script within your WordPress Publishable Content, then Shortcodes is the elegant solution. All you have to do is declare a function in the theme’s corresponding functions.php file, declare your short code and bind that to your new function. Voila! Now you have your own short code!

So, in this example, all I have to do is create a filterable query for the training schedule and pass either the city or the course as an argument in all my pages. Every time the schedule changes, all I have to do is update it once in the database, and the content will get auto-updated in all my 50-70 pages.