WordPress In The Enterprise – Article 5, Post Mortem

This article is article 5 in a series of articles about implementing WordPress in the Enterprise. This article is about some of the aftermath of our big conversion of enterprise sites to WordPress. In some ways it never ends, the tweaking and upgrading and improving of WordPress sites. This is both good and bad. Good in that we don’t have to keep such large web development staffs around and we are keeping up to date with current SEO, security and other WordPress driven stuff. Bad, in that it never ends…

Here are the original articles if you want to start at the beginning

WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 1 – Setting The Mood
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 2 – Issues And Plugins
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 3 – Implementation Problems
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 4 – Upgrading

Some of what I am going to discuss in this article has to do with small details which occurred after the implementation and continue to happen. These small details are important because they are some of those gotchas after a big migration. They are just listed here in random order:

301 Redirects On Additional Domains

Let’s say you own about 10 other domains that you have pointed to the same web site as your base site. This would be like having http://www.strategicpoints.com and then having http://www.internetanalysistools.com and then pointing internetanalysistools.com to strategicpoints.com. It just happens that on additional domains, WordPress should take care of this for you. Just set the DNS to point to the same server and make sure the apache conf (in Linux is set) and you are good to go. The second domain should hit the site and switch over to the real site. This also works the same way for www.strategicpoints.com and strategicpoints.com. Set it to one in wordpress admin and it will always redirect to the other. This is important for the search engines to have one domain for the site to avoid duplication and getting crawled incorrectly on the secondary domains.

Nofollow Meta Tags Left On (kind of like your headlights left on)

Just happened that prior to our migration, we set the dev and QA sites to not be indexed by the search engines. This setting is under Settings/Privacy. It is called Blog Visibility, and the exact wording is “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors”. We had these Dev and QA sites set this way, so that we would not get these sites indexed. However, somehow this template theme was transferred to the components of our enterprise production system which are not WordPress sites. This means that we copied the template as is, and it had the follow Meta tag because of this setting:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow" />

In particular we ended up leaving this in production on these non WordPress sites. It was an oversight, and one we immediately fixed. But this just says that even after you do your QA and job and the best you can, there is still a potential problem that you are not aware of in these environments. So you have to be vigilant and look things over periodically.

I am going to keep adding to this article as issues slowly bubble to the surface on the enterprise wordpress implementations we have been through.

From Regular Website To WordPress Website – Article 2

If you are getting ready to move from a regular old fashion html site to a wordpress site and you are doing the work either yourself or working with a developer, here are critical issues below:

1. Planning out the pages and posts.
2. Keeping a division between web pages and articles. (Do you still know the difference).
3. Choosing/buying a wordpress theme or having one developed for you custom.
4. The process of moving over content.
5. The importance of wordpress plugins and how they will improve your life greatly.
6. Other details such as where your site points now and how to migrate.

Let’s start with the planning of the migration process. What I did at first to not lose any continuity is create a /blog directory beneath my main site and began creating the wordpress version there. I figured when I am finished I will either point the site to this directory or move the wordpress version up to the root directory (which is what I decided in the end).

While getting ready to make the move, I decided to take advantage of the wordpress posting method, which is one of the critical reasons why you want to be using wordpress. Unlike web pages which need to be crawled, wordpress posts ping out to search engines like blogspot and google and tell the search engine you have just created new content. So, I have been creating a series of articles, like this one, in advanced of the final site migration.

Choosing a Theme…

What you will find as you look around for a free theme, is most free themes out there are really for pure bloggers. The best themes I am convinced you have to pay for. However, I found a theme I could live with and have implemented this on this site currently. Once I find a theme that I like in the future, I will just swap em out.

Getting The Main Links Right

One of the things that took me a couple of these wordpress iterations to get right is getting the home page in the right spot on the headers. Typically you will find that the theme you are using has hard coded the word and like “home” pointing to “/” your root. This means that you have to actually go into the theme and comment out or removing the hard coded home link. No worries, there is an editor under Themes. Just edit the header.php file (typically what it is called) and find the tags and comment them out with a . If you find you can’t write the files, (that would be why the save button would be missing), you need to change file permissions. This is relatively easy as well, even from ftp. If you have ftp, login and right click on the permissions for all the files in your theme directory. Then set them to at least 775 or rwx fully. If that does not work, then set the theme to 777 and make the changes.

That’s it for now.

Dan

From Regular Website To WordPress Website – Article 1

This article is in a series of articles about migrating from a regular website to a WordPress website…

Like many things on the web, whether you a 100% techie or 100% marketing or somewhere in between the day comes when you have to improve, change or modify your website. I am about 50% techie and 50% marketing, at least that is my perspective. When you are a techie, you build your website (your personal site) once and never touch it again. When you are a marketing guy, you are adding so much to it that it looks like a target ad special. But overall when it is your personal site, like StrategicPoints.com is my personal site, how it works, what it says and what it does, is really important if you want to impress upon your clients, your com-padres or your parents, that you know something about the web.

For techies the concept of using wordpress is sacrilegious, and that is why I am using kid gloves in this first article, explaining why I am switching to StrategicPoints.com to a WordPress site. It has been a long time coming, and I am switching it over in stages. These stages will be discussed in this series of wordpress blog articles that cover the why, the how and the little details in between. Now that we are down the road a bit on this WordPress critical mass that has been occurring, I bet a lot of techie and marketing types out there would like to switch to WordPress, and best of all to be able to do it yourself, and not lose a step along the way.

That is why I am documenting this process. One for those out there who care, and two for myself, to learn. Whenever I teach something I learn, and trust me the migration of a old fashion html website to WordPress is a learning process.

So, before the next article, let’s cover the difference between a regular website and a WordPress site. First off, there are so many answers to what is a regular website, so let’s limit this to two categories, the old fashioned HTML website and the programmed language website. The basic HTML website is a series of tags in a page that you run through a web server and the more advanced programmed website does a bit more with a database, forms, reports, interactive actions and anything imaginable. Now my original strategicpoints.com site was and still is an HTML site (until I finish up this process). By HTML, you can sometimes check this out by seeing index.html or index.htm or directories like /services/ at the end of the URL. This is still somewhat misleading, because in the web world any URL can look like any URL if you use redirection and other techniques… The more advanced “programmatic” site can become a wordpress site, but this gets into the more difficult integration and creation of plugins. We will get into that last, and then it becomes a question or whether or not the wordpress migration is worth it. (It is if you are starting from scratch, but if you have already made an investment in .net, Cold Fusion, python or any of the other languages out there not a freely distributable or not available on all flavors of websites, you may want to hold onto your pocketbook and stay put).

So the final part of this article will try to explain why I think most people would benefit from WordPress instead of their regular sites (unless you don’t want to be found on the web and manage a website, but then you wouldn’t be building a website unless you did not want to be found). Here are the reasons:

1. WordPress is opensource and free.
2. WordPress has many of the nice SEO features you can’t get so easily on your own. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and you needed to know that, this is perfect for you.
3. WordPRess is gaining critical mass and like Microsoft DOS, you don’t want to manage CPM.
4. WordPress has an easy to use CMS, while if you had a regular html site you would not have a CMS. By CMS I mean Content Management System.
5. WordPress has easy to upgrade path and new version every month or 2 if you want new features.
6. Literally thousands of plugins out there on the market and if you need something it will be free or cheap.
7. Tens of Thousands of support articles like this one.
8. WordPress not only can run on any hosting plan on the market from Linux to Windows, but many hosters have it already ready for you.
9. Tons of free and cheap themes out there to choose from and easy to switch theme.
10. Probably a hundred other reasons out there and too many to think of.

So, there you have it… Check back on this article as I go through the process of converting StrategicPoints.com from a regular HTML site to a WordPress site.

Dan

Anatomy of a Redesign – Pre Article

This series of articles are going to be about a site redesign. While I am not a designer, and some say I am a hack programmer, I have been around the web enough and been a member of quite a few top notch teams on redesigning small sites to very big ones. And trust me redesign always means “a fluid changing process”. This means that there is never one redesign and it is over with. Redesigning is an iterative, a constantly improving process. Like a shark, when the shark stops moving it dies…

The site I am going to cover in this redesign is LockAndKeyEvents.com (LNK), because this site was originally programmed by me back in 2002, and the storied site, which is doing well these days, was thrown together in a 3 week period, albeit, it was literally made with chunks of PHP from here and there, and the design was a actually acceptable back then. But that was then and this is now. We are in a new era of Post Web 2.0, almost Web 3.0.

Fast forward 7 years, 3 owners later, tons of changes in the world from programming to design to SEO to business practices and LNK was basically left alone, did its job and grew and grew, but little of the technology and design went along with it. This means it is time for a redesign. By redesign this includes everything from design improvements to technology addons, open source implementations and the bells and whistles by the time the team working on it is finished.

So, this redesign concept will cover what is happening and the impact from a functional perspective through to a design perspective and what all of this means. And along the way I am going to mention how we are using the conversion formula of MarketingExperiments and the theories of “Don’t Make Me Think”, a classic. Plus you need to know the conversion rate improvements and why and how we are doing them. We are going to let you into the mind of what is going on being these improvements and why. If you have a comment for me or want to throw your hat in the ring and let us know how we can even improve it more, that is great…

Either sign up on this blog to find out about the next installment of this article or follow me at twitter @dgudema.

WordPress In The Enterprise – Article 4, Upgrading WordPress!

This article is the 4th of a series of articles about WordPress In The Enterprise. This article is a work in progress, I am going to add to it as I go about this process, since I am tackling an issue that right now has no easy answer in the enterprise, and that is how to upgrade enterprise driven WordPress implementations. Why upgrade? Well, every chicken little on the WordPress blog/web has said if you don’t you may have a security issue. This is the kind of corporate implementation that includes a development server, a QA server and a load balanced production server.

If you want to start at the beginning and read them in a sequence use the following links below:

WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 1 – Setting The Mood
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 2 – Issues And Plugins
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 3 – Implementation Problems

Ok, now that you have read up on the first series of articles, let’s get to the heart of the problem with upgrading from an enterprise perspective. First off, the real issue is that WordPress is not an enterprise product, just yet. This does not mean it won’t be in the future, so like a WordPress plugin that does not yet exist, we have an issue that just needs to be solved. The big issue is testing a new WordPress Version on a development server and then somehow easily upgrading the QA and production servers.

Upgrade Method
If you use the WordPress upgrade method right out of the box, you are somehow violating a holy grail of upgrading from development to QA to production. Or are you? The current WordPress recommended method of upgrading is to load the new set of version files like from 2.8 to 2.84 (not overwriting wp-content’s themes & plugins directories, or anything else unique) and just letting the new version, like 2.8.4 do its magic. By magic, I mean it sometimes, but not always makes modifications to MySQL table structures. If that were not an issue, this would kind of be a mute point, because then we would just copy the development site over and be done with it. If you need the most recent version of WordPress, you can get it by clicking here.

Testing Plugins
Let’s take a little diversion here. Obviously one of the most important issue in the enterprise solution that I am trying to figure out, is testing plugins. Apparently you have to update certain plugins with the most recent version of the plugin to make sure it is compatible with an upgrade. This is a bit taxing on plugin makers who have to keep up with major revisions. The task at hand is to test plugins like seo-all-in-one-pack, google analytics, redirection, and others for compatibilities. If a very important plugin can not be upgraded and remains incompatible with the new Version, well, let’s just say you will be going to the backup.

The Backup
An important step in the upgrade process is the backup. I am not talking about the system backup you get from your server folks when the server crashes dead as a doornail, I am talking about backing up MySQL fully before you do the upgrade. Not explicitly required for the non-enterprise version, but for enterprise it is a must. Simply back it up to a .sql file and keep it handy, even in the development site before an upgrade. Good practice and that is what enterprise WordPress is all about.

The Upgrade Process
Once you have gone through the standard copy of the files over the development, you need to surf wp-admin area of WordPress. Immediately it will come up and there is a button that says UPGRADE to version x.x.x. You click it and hopefully it all goes well. Simple enough and that dev version is upgraded.

The QA Process
Tedious as it is, you need to go through and not just test out the content, permalinks and categories, but you need to take a look carefully at the plugins from both a site perspective on the outside and in the admin and tools areas as well to make sure they are functional on the inside. Once this is complete and tested, it is time to push it.

Pushing It
By pushing it, I mean pushing files up to the QA server, along with a mysql copy. This may be more of an SA task, but up till now it has been in the hands of the person managing the WordPress version. If you had left it purely up to SAs, it probably would not have happened right. All that has to happen at this point in the process is complete duplication of 2 things: files and Mysql DB. The duplication on the QA and production server will complete the process…hopefully.

Until somebody writes the ultimate publishing plugin for WordPress Enterprise, this will be a bit of black hole. Trust me somebody out there is going to fill this void. We have been hard at work on our own internal WordPress publishing plugin, but I am sure there will be open source versions sometime soon on the web.

Dan

Next Article WordPress In The Enterprise – Article 5 – Post Mortem

Websites.com $10,000 Site Design Contest

The reason I am pushing people to checkout the Websites.com website redesign contest, is I was one of the judges for the very first Websites.com best new site contests… Basically I felt that we did not get the showing that we deserved for the first contest. This means if you enter, and entering is free, you have a chance of winning.

Did I mention that second place is $3000! This is like easy money for some of you designers I know out there, and there is not entry fee. If I were a designer I would be all over this. Not just plugging this because I am currently an employee of NTT, the company that owns and manages Websites.com, but I am saying this is a serious opportunity that someone out there is leaving on the table.

I would say enter it and find out! You have nothing to lose. Actually if you sign up and win, and your firm is a design firm, you will get the clout and notoriety of winning this contest. Also, even if you are not a design firm, you need to enter this redesign contest, because this is the best type of SEO you can get. I did not mention this in my SEO in Overdrive blog entry, but basically any type of PR you can get that is from news articles is great for y our pagerank and links out there. So let me know if you have any questions. I am not available to discuss the contest with anybody directly, because of my involvement, and I am not sure if I will a judge again, but I am definitely letting you know to go for it on Websites.com!

SEO in Overdrive :)

Like may things in the web everybody is looking for the edge. You can go and read the JimBoykin.com site and get some interactive agency to do an audit, but often it is the same SEO stuff over and over.

A couple of years ago, at the beginning of SEO, Search Engine Optimization, around 2001, I was tasked with getting this startup speed dating site as high up in the search engines as possible, because as you can imagine, it is always less expensive to be found naturally, than to be found through PPC, Pay Per Click. Lots of stuff out there and lots of the same stuff where ever you look, so much so, for interactive firms these have become a standard.

Surprisingly, like 90% of sites have yet to meet these standards. These are pretty much the same as when we started SEO around the early 2000’s, plus all the new media stuff like blogging, plus now webmaster tools from Google, Yahoo and Bing like sitemaps.xml files.

There there are some additional small details that you would not think of to round this off. This is what I call SEO in Overdrive. Recently I gave a short talk on what are critical technical issues in getting a site nicely found on Google. So here is my SEO in Overdrive list below. I will probably miss a few things here and there.

1. Choose either www or no www URL.
Choose either www.strategicpoints.com or strategicpoints.com. Having both URLs working on your site will cause Google to count your rankings for pagerank separately. Together, as one domain, this will increase your site pagerank, because these two URL’s pagerank power is diluted. How to do this? If you have a linux server, the .htaccess file can be used. I am pointing to a good refernce to figure this out. If you are using WordPress, then do it for you automagically, and will switch you over to either one or the other based on the choice. If you are using windows…well I am sure there is an answer out there.

2. Localize or specialize each page of a site.
The old days of one title for all 100 pages of a site are like 1999. The top areas are title and Meta Description. As I have found out recently, if you mess up your title, the listing on Google will reflect this. So make sure the title is accurate and contains the key words you want to be found by, first… The Meta Description (if you don’t have top content) will be used by Google to show the descriptive text underneath the title on a Google result page. Take for instance a situation recently where we migrated a site, and the Meta Description was removed from a page. Without the little description beneath the title on the Google Results page, the link looked like an ad, especially since it was showing up first in the rankings. We learn from our dumb mistakes. We put the Meta Description back, and wholla, the link reappeared and so did our traffic.

3. Healthly, always changing content…
The search engines love content, no matter where it exists on your site. This is why having a forum, blog or other interactive parts of your site are so critical. This content is always changing, and this is always freshly indexed on the search engines. The introduction of the blog, and WordPress, which I favor, has really given us an ability to SEO in Overdrive, because it pings out to the rpc servers that update the search engines within 24 hours. This means not waiting for crawlers to come out to your site, but telling the search engines when and where to look for new content.

4. Text Links…
Who knew they would be so important. For sites that do not provide text links on the home page, they are missing out on the ability for both crawlers to go deeper, and the ability to make these links important part of search criteria for your site. Ever notice a group of links below your search results on Google… They determine these for you initially. These are considered the top internal links from your homepage on your site. The calculate it for you if you don’t do it yourself as sitelinks, through Google Webmaster Tools. You can remove these, but you can’t add these I believe… Only having images links is a downer…, and can be a negative impact on your sites. Top sites that want to continue with image links often put <div> based text that is not visible behind the image, that state the link in real text as a way to solve this issue. Either way, always take your links seriously.

5. Images, Site Elements and alt tags.
One of the tricks we used years ago to get to the top of the search engines without violating any code of ethics with Google was a technique I call snow balling. We decided on our top search content words, which were “speed dating”. Then we renamed the /images/ directory to /speed-dating-images/. Then we proceeded to add alt tags to each image, that said the image name with “speed dating” after the name, like “party photo – speed dating”. Then we went on to include alt tags in the links with the name of the link “event xyz – speed dating”.

6. Directories and Virtual Directories.
A newer technique is to create directories or virtual directories with tons of additional terms. No need to create these real directories anymore, unless you are on a windows server. I only know the Linux apache version of .htaccess and this can be used to create virtual directories for SEO. In our case it would have been /speed-dating/, /speed-dating-parties/, /speed-daters/, etc., etc. These so called directory and sub directory structures are really the cutting edge of the web today in terms of getting found on the search engines. No need to work hard and create these directories and subdirectores anymore or even a super .htaccess file. This is why I am lovin WordPress. If you have WordPress, all this is done for you and no need to work about it. WordPress not only can create these for you with real directories, but the redirection program I mention in my enterprise wordpress discussions on earlier blog entries gets into how it works, and why to use it.

That’s it for now. I am going to add some more to this list soon, and as you know there are a hundred other blogs out there with a lot of the same information. Good luck putting your SEO in overdrive. Contact me if you have any questions about the stuff I mention today at dgudema AT StrategicPoints DOT com.

Fixing Broken Links After Migrating To WordPress

This article is related to the first three posts about Implementing WordPress in the Enterprise Environment. One of the lonely tasks following the migration of our website from HTML and Cold Fusion based files to PHP and WordPress was to fix several thousand incoming links from Google and other search engines. Without these Redirection fixes, the migration would have basically crushed our traffic.

To solve this problem, there are several places to look, including Google and doing a site:YOURWEBSITENAME.com search and clicking on every link to using Google Analytics. The Google Analytics method is the best, since it automatically tells you what needs to be fixed. This does not mean you should ignore the google search engine and looking at what are big incoming links in advance. Remember once you find a broken link, and you are using the WordPress Redirection Plugin, I highly recommended in a previous blog entry (click here to learn more info), you need to enter the entry into Redirection and fix it. If you are just learning that this did not require an .htaccess entry in Linux or htapi entry in windows, you are learning about a whole new world of improvement…

So back to Google Analytics. First of all you need to have a 404 page, which is where all the pages end up when they find no entry in WordPress, including the redirection plugin. This typically will be a 404.php page in the theme directory you are using. If you are sending people to your site map page, that is fine as well.

There are several ways to get this info in google analytics. I recommend using page title. For instance, on our site, the page title of our 404 page is called “Page Not Found”. Go into Google Analytics and click on “Content” and then on “Content by Title”. If you have just migrated, and the first day has passed, just set the date to the current day, to remove anything that is older than today, and find the “Page Not Found” (or other) title. If you click on this title name itself, another screen will open and reveal all the URLs that arrive at that page. This is your list of incoming broken links, sorted by the most important links at the top of the list.

Now is the detailed nitty gritty work. You need to re-enter each of these links into a url to test them and make sure they are broken. Once you are have found one that is being clicked on from a website out yonger, take it, copy it into the redirection plugin. You do this by Adding a new Redirection, then copying the link into the Source URL. Remember to not use your full path, just the /filedirectoryetc/ path, and then go over to another browser and find the end URL you want to send the visitor to and then copy and paste this path into Target URL and click Add Redirection. The default is a Permanent 301 redirect.

There are a lot of other options in the redirection program like using Regular Expressions. These work fine as well, but make sure you read the instructions carefully, since some redirections are impacted by other redirections…sequentially.

Let me know if you have any comments are questions about this process, because almost all sites come to point of migration, and this blog entry is really about the aftermath of a big migration. Our last WordPress migration did go through, but it had lots of small items that we had to fix along the way. I am going to add another blog entry covering these additional problems we ran into, creating a load balanced WordPress Enterprise solution!