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Thank a plugin developer today

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Today is “Thank a Plugin Developer” Day.

Please go over the list of plugins you are using and send something via PayPal to as many as you can. If you need the donate link for a particular plugin and can’t find it, leave a comment and I’ll find it for you.

Recently I went through my list of plugins and sent $5 each to about seven different plugin authors. And it’s not the first time I’ve done it. It isn’t much, but if everyone did that, imagine how much better those free plugins would be.

The business model for most plugin developers becomes unsustainable very quickly. They develop a plugin, it gets wildly popular, and suddenly the support costs go through the roof. Since the plugin is free, this means the plugin either gets ignored, passed off (or sold) to someone else (who ends up charging for it) or the plugin author grudgingly supports it, all the while getting more and more disenchanted with the whole process.

Don’t let that happen with the plugins YOU use and rely on for your blog.

How many of you reading this use WP Super Cache, or Contact Form 7, or WordPress SEO and haven’t donated anything? Don’t be that guy.

Even minor plugins that are used by a small number of people go through the same exercise, on a smaller scale. Everyone wants help customizing or using a particular plugin, but as soon as you (as a developer) mention money, most people take off running.

And here’s a message to you plugin developers as well: when I send out donations, less than half of you respond with a “thank you”. It pisses me off to the point where I want to post your name. So please take the time to send an email to those who donate to you — don’t make it less rewarding to help out.

Categories: WordPress

Removing dates from your articles, bad idea!

Everyone talks about “timeless” content. Some people call it “pillar posts”, the content that anchors your blog and cements your authority. I say, hogwash. There is no such thing as timeless content. If I stumble onto your blog post while looking for PHP code or WordPress optimization tips, and neither your article nor your URL has any indication whatsoever of when the article was written, I am going to assume the following about you:

1) You are trying to hide the fact that your best work is behind you.
2) You are cashing in on hits at the expense of the most updated advice.

Both of these I believe are short term strategies. Sooner or later people figure out that your article hasn’t been updated, and your authority suffers. Trust me, if you leave dates off your posts, this is happening to you and you probably don’t even realize it.

The fact is, advice and code changes over time. For example, over the years WordPress has introduced and deprecated dozens of functions. Google’s advice for webmasters has changed over time. If you found a website with some code you needed, or advice on how to optimize your site and the post had no date, how could you judge the code quality? You might be following old advice without realizing it and doing some damage to your search engine position or site loading speed. At the very least, copying and pasting old code into your site would be a time-wasting nuisance. I can’t even count how many articles I’ve found with no post date which contain broken links or outdated references to old WordPress plugins. I think that is more embarrassing than having the post date on the article and possibly having someone think your article is (gasp!) old.

Now I know some of you are howling: “I don’t run a news site, so the date of the post is irrelevant!” Or, “it’s a fact that people avoid content they think is old!”

I disagree. To the first point, I say that you are doing your visitors a favor by including the article date. It lets them immediately judge the relevancy of an article. As a web surfer, I appreciate that you respect my judgment enough to let me decide for myself if you are the best resource for a particular issue. It actually enhances your authority.

To the second point, only chickens who are afraid of losing visitors — or lazy bloggers who can’t be bothered to keep an article up to date — say things like that. It’s like the defense on a football team complaining about the other team’s offense. If you don’t like someone else scoring on you, do something about it!

Here’s one possible explanation:

One of the main problems with displaying dates on posts is that search engines and readers may associate the information on your older posts to be out of date. Readers may end up assuming it has lost its relevance.

So the solution is to completely mislead them by removing the date altogether, not write updated content?

Conclusion

What should you do?

  • Keep dates on your articles. Keep the time as well if you posted more than one article that day.
  • Update your “timeless” content regularly and use code to show the last modified time of either the article or the whole site. (Hint: I use a plugin for this.)
  • If you write an article that updates content on a previous article, link to that article from the original.
Categories: Tips, WordPress Tags: , ,

WordPress Optimization tips

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

In the next few posts I’ll be offering some specific WordPress tips and tricks I’ve used to improve my site’s loading time and overall visitor experience.

Get a real host

Please do not set up a free blog on one of those services like WordPress.com or Blogger. As I’ve said previously, if you want to be taken seriously you need your own domain name.

I can hear the groans about how this very blog is on wordpress.com, but again, I don’t post often enough here to justify the expense and effort of an entire domain.

I strongly recommend FutureQuest as a web host. I have been using them for nearly 10 years and have never had a problem with downtime, bandwidth or file restrictions (that I didn’t cause on my own, anyway). This is not an affiliate link, I am simply interested in getting you the best hosting possible.

Unlike other do-it-all webhosts they do not do domain registration or other services that third parties can do better. They stick to web hosting. It is clear to me that they know what they are doing in this area.

The lowest shared hosting package offers 1 GB storage space, 35 GB bandwidth per month, secure FTP, MySQL/Apache/PHP and 15 email accounts. This is plenty for all but the largest sites and perfect for the WordPress setup we will be discussing in the next few posts; if you are just starting out it will be a while before you hit the wall. Price is $9.95 $8.95 per month, for peace of mind you cannot beat that. I’ll be offering FutureQuest-specific tips in future posts.

Get a theme framework

After years of slogging through free WordPress theme templates, I finally gave Genesis a go. Let me tell you, once you switch (and get over the learning curve) you will wonder how you got anything done before. Genesis makes theme modification so simple it is a joke. My last website took less than hour to set up from WordPress install to having a complete site online. This is also not an affiliate link. I want you to know that I am not recommending Genesis because I get a commission, I really do believe this framework is the best option for WordPress bloggers.

It is definitely worth the expense, and you can use their free themes if you don’t see a paid one that you like. I have seen my site loading time drop significantly since installing the Genesis framework. Once again, the peace of mind and increase in speed is worth the expense. I will be offering Genesis-specific tips in future posts.

Note that the folks who created Genesis have their own hosting solution, Synthesis. I have no experience with this but it looks pricey and doesn’t give you the same access to system files (ex: .htaccess) that regular shared hosting does.

I do not have experience with other theme frameworks, so I would love to hear about your experience with others like Thesis.

That’s it for now. In the next few posts we’ll go over recommended plugins and theme modifications.

Categories: Tips, WordPress Tags: , , ,

WordPress Plugin Update

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve updated my plugin that returns RSS feeds. Make sure your WordPress is updated to the latest version (3.0.3).

The updated version (1.1) should be available on WordPress.org shortly.

If you can’t wait, all you need to do is delete the closing PHP tag towards the top of the plugin file, and delete the opening PHP tag that follows it (that’s all I did).

Sorry for the lack of posts. I’ve been busy with work and other pursuits. I hope to have something shortly.

Categories: WordPress Tags: ,

Coming soon: Everything WordPress

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to my new blog. This site will feature articles on SEO, WordPress tips, tricks, and PHP hacks. Everything will be from a WordPress perspective, since that’s what I use for my sites and that is what I am most familiar with. The first “real” article will be about compressing your site to make it faster. We’ll review low-level methods for compressing PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript using PHP and .htaccess. Comments and questions are welcome, the more the merrier. Stay tuned!

Categories: WordPress Tags: , , , , ,