How To Improve The Search Feature Of Your WordPress Blog

This post was inspired by a tweet from Lorelle, my favorite WordPress expert. Lorelle’s tweet was saying “Make WordPress’ search function suck Less” with a link to this post. I had WordPress search issues in the past and found a few solutions and I thought I would learn a little bit more from this post, but I didn’t.

Basically this post was about manually tweaking your search.php file, which improves the WordPress search feature but it still doesn’t make it a good search feature. The main problem with the WordPress search feature, besides the irrelevancy, is that if you have a large blog of a few hundreds posts, then there is not much you can do to speed up the search.

I don’t pretend to be an expert about WordPress (I’m actually far from that!) but I do think both solutions I will talk about in this post are much better at delivering very good search results for your WordPress blog. By “good search results”, I mean results that are delivered quickly, that are relevant to your search query, and sorted by relevance.

wpSearch Plugin

The wpSearch plugin is like having your own custom search engine on your blog. wpSearch is based on “Lucene“, a full-featured open source text search engine. wpSearch is fast, and relevant, which is pretty much everything I need from a search engine on my blog.

To set up wpSearch on your blog, simply download the plugin from here, then upload it, set permission to 777 (very important), and activate the plugin from your admin panel. After activating it, you will have to build the search index database, which may take a while (about 5 posts/second) if you have many posts on your blog. That’s all there is to it. Now check your search feature and you will see a huge difference in the results you will get. The relevancy will be so much better that like me, you’ll want to blog about it ;-)

Adsense For Search

Adsense for Search (AFS) is now my favorite search feature for my blogs for 2 reasons: for one it is the best search engine you can get; and two, you can actually make money from it. Even though I hate Google as a company, I can’t deny that their search algorithm delivers the best you can get from a seach engine thus far.

Now the main concern about Adsense For Search is that you have to rely on Google to crawl your website to index your new posts. Some people won’t use Adsense For Search for this one reason. Yes, you have to wait for Google to crawl your site and index your pages but how much does that really matter in your case? I mean, is it that important to you that your post must be foundable immediately after being published?

Besides, one benefit of Adsense For Search that I have been able to verify on all my blogs is that when AFS is implemented on your site, Google will come visit you quickly and more often. I haven’t done scientific tests on this, but I was able to notice it on many occasions. Most of the time, when I publish something on my blogs, the post is picked up by Google within hours, sometimes within minutes.

To set up, AFS, you will need a Google Adsense account.

No More DoFollow For Me!

saynotonofollow

A while back, when I started this blog, I installed the DoFollow plugin which removes the nofollow attribute of the URL of your commenters and any URL included in the comment itself. The reason I installed this plugin was to quickly get many backlinks to this blog.

Indeed, when your blog is “dofollow”, you get featured on many sites or blogs that give list of dofollow blogs. Doing this got me listed on a few hundred blogs in no time creating a large amount of backlinks, which is probably the reason why my blog has a PR4.

The downside of this as you can imagine is that you get quite a bit of spam comment. Akismet handles most of it but from time to time I had to manually delete comments. But most people commenting on my blog just to get a link back are actually very well behaved. Most didn’t abuse it and left genuinely interesting comments. In this case, I didn’t delete the comment.

Today I decided it is time to go back to the nofollow rule. My blog is clearly not intended to make money or anything like that so I really don’t care about traffic and Google PR, which in my opinion doesn’t even mean anything anyways. Besides, I will probably remain listed as a dofollow blog on many sites so I don’t think I’m gonna suffer any link juice dicrease.

How To Upgrade WordPress Without Losing Your Plugins

wordpress

WordPress just released version 2.7 of their software and I have to say that it is one big update! Although there is not much change in the overall functionalities, something that changes is the overall layout of the admin panel. The WP team has spent a lot of time and put quite a bit in the way of resources towards making things both look and work nicer. This release doesn’t contain any security fixes that I am aware of, but it definitely feels quite a bit faster. Well, at least in my rather unscientific tests, it does. Your mileage may vary, of course…

As usual when you update, there is a risk of screwing something up. What I always do before updating is exporting all my post. This way, I know that if there is a problem during the process, all my posts will be safe somewhere on my PC.

If you’ve updated to a previous version before, you may have encountered issues such as not being able to login for example. As I was able to verify before, the most common problem comes from the plugins.

The best way to avoid any problem with you plugins is to access your server and rename your plugin folder, right before updating WordPress. For example, I rename my plugins folder to “plugins-old”. Then I update WordPress, update my database and when this is done, I go back to my plugins folder that I previously renamed “plugins-old” and rename it “plugins” again.

My hosting company, DreamHost, automatically creates a new “plugins” folder when I update to a newer version so I always have to delete this one first before renaming my folder to “plugins”.

Doing so avoid losing all your plugins or having to reactivate all of them individually. Hope that will help some of you.

Can’t login to WordPress after upgrading

Today I upgraded my personal franchise blog from WordPress 2.1 to WordPress 2.6.2. I know, what a big upgrade… To do so, I simply went to my webhost admin panel and used their one-click upgrade service. Within 2 minutes I received an email from my host telling me that everything went fine.

So I tried to go back to my blog admin panel but it would not let me in. Every time I entered my login and password, it would just go back to the login page. I tried typing wrong password and it would give me an errror message. Going back to the homepage of the blog, I realized it was showing me as logged in. Strange.

That’s when I decided to use my secret troubleshooting weapon…. Google (I know, it’s no secret weapon). I googled “can’t login to wordpress after upgrade” and I the first result thta popped up was a page on WordPress forum.

This is the solution I used:

I had this problem after I updated my WP. Tried everything… cleaning out the cash, the cookies, changing the admin password, making changes in the wp-login.php, making changes to wp-config.php.

The last thing I tried was to clean out all of my plugins, deleting them from my ftp (after downloading everything to my computer!) and then when I tried to login I got a message that my database neded uppdating because it didn’t “fit” to my wordpress installation. An now… I can login!

But this also seems like a good fix:

I’m having this problem when upgrading to 2.6.2 with Fantastico. Here’s the process that’s been consistently working for me to correct it:

  1. Using FTP, rename the plugins folder (at /wp-content/plugins/) to plugins-old
  2. Log in as usual
  3. I am prompted to upgrade the database, so I click that button and it does
  4. Rename plugins-old back to plugins
  5. Log in again

Once I do that, everything seems to work.

If you’re having any login issue after updating WordPress, you may want to try any of the fixes.

Helping the iPhone community, one step at a time

For those of you who don’t know yet, I operate an iPhone blog that’s getting quite some attention lately. We average between 8,000 and 10,000 visits per day and I had to hire 2 co-bloggers (Alicia and Cody) to help me satisfy our readers’ hunger for iPhone news, tips, hacks and cracks.

I got in touch with the AllTop.com team to help them put together the iPhone page. I sent them a list of the best iPhone websites and resources out there. Obviously, they also included the iPhone Download Blog on their page.

It’s nice to be able to participate in the iPhone community and to make it better, little by little. If you go to the AllTop iPhone page, you will see that my blog is right at the top, in second position, which gives me PR5 links to 5 of my most recent posts as well as a link to the homepage. That’s some solid SEO juice!

Next step is to get my company’s franchising blog on AllTop but I’m going to wait a few weeks since we just launched the blog a few days ago and it doesn’t have much content.

Working on our new franchise blog

It’s official, my company is finally stepping into the 21st century by having its own franchise blog.

I had been waiting for this since I joined the company earlier this year. After agreeing on the development of a brand new website (to be coming soon), my boss understood the importance of setting up a blog, which of course will be powered by WordPress.

Many of our competitors already have blogs but they mostly use these blogs for SEO purposes. By “SEO purposes”, I mean their main goal is not to get people to read their blogs, but to stuff their posts with links for SEO juice.

I obviously want to use this new blog for SEO purposes as well, but most importantly, I want to provide real franchise news and information to potential franchise buyers. I’ve always been a big believer in the power of blogs but I think I just recently understood how to efficiently use them, after reading “The New Rules of PR & Marketing” by David Meerman Scott.

I know there is a place for us in the franchise blogosphere as there are very few genuine franchise information blogs out there, most of them putting their own interests first vs. putting the interests of their (potential) readers.

When commenting on blogs goes wrong

As a marketing guy working in the franchise industry, I keep myself informed by reading the news, and subscribing to blogs. The problem is there is not many good franchise-related blogs. Most of them are created by franchise directories with the sole purpose of writing articles stuffed with links to various pages on their site. That is pure blogging for SEO.

However, there are a few good blogs out there: Blue MauMau, the Franchise Pundit, and Franchise Pick to name a few… I subscribe to their RSS feeds and read their latest posts almost on a daily basis.

Last week, one of the blogs I follow (note that I am not linking to it) posted about how one of Guy Kawaski‘s people approached him to help create the new franchise page on AllTop.com. I thought it was pretty cool so I commented the following, adding my name and my company’s URL as it is common practice to do when filling out a comment form:

Congrats on being noticed by Guy’s team! Do you know how I can submit franchise-related content to the alltop?

That was a totally genuine comment. I was truly happy for this blogger that AllTop got in touch with him to put up the franchise section together.

The next few days following this comment I had made, I also posted two additional comments on his blog. These comments were related to choosing the right franchise and buying an existing business.

Today, I went back to the site to read a new post and realized that my 2 previous comments were not there. Hmm. I scrolled down and saw that my comment about AllTop was there with an additional comment so I opened the post to read this follow up comment. This comment was posted by the blogger, telling me I was spamming to get links back to my “weak ass franchise site”.

I picked up the phone and called him as he gives his phone number on his blog (which I think is a great idea). I told him my name and he didn’t seem to connect the dots as he was welcoming me with a warm “Hi Sebastien, how are you?”. Then I told him I was the guy who commented on his blog and that he accused me of spamming. The tone of his voice changed right away and he went on telling me he gets many spam comments every day and that I was just commenting to get a link back.

I was really hurt that this guy labeled me as a spammer. I tried to explain to him that I don’t care about his link back for several reasons.

  1. It’s a TyPad blog (I hate those). When you post a comment, your link doesn’t even show up as it does on WordPress with the nofollow tag. Instead, the URL showing is a redirect from TypePad to my site. So if you put your mouse over my name, you will not see http://www.worldfranchising.com as the URL, but you will see something like http://www.typepad.com/t/comments?__mode=red&user_id=2125124&id=132339572. While Google supposedly pays no attention to nofollow URLs, it has been demonstrated in the past that Google actually use these for “discovery”, aka, finding new pages. However, I have nothing to gain by having a redirect such as the one mentionned above to my site. The only benefit would be that someone may click on my name and go to my site, which brings me to point #2.
  2. This blog is never commented on which could mean several things: a) it gets no traffic. I really doubt it though as it ranks pretty well for some key keywords. b) there is traffic but traffic leaves the site right away, which is likely to happen as people come here looking for franchise info and most likely don’t find what they want. c) comments are deleted by the blogger himself as they come, in which case, why don’t you turn off the commenting feature?
  3. Understanding the 2 points above, why would I waste my time commenting on his blog, other for the genuine purpose of commenting and creating a conversation on some of his interesting posts? That’s the question.

I tried to convince him that I wasn’t spamming him, told him about the other comments that were meant to show a different point of view (ie. he was saying you have to love a franchise to buy it. I was saying that it’s true, however some businessmen buy franchises without giving a shit about the product. These are the true business people who are not involved in the day to day operation but they are highly involved in creating a business vs. operating it). On the other comment, I was trying to get the blogger’s opinion as he pointed out to an interesting article that basically said that it is safer to buy an exisiting business. I asked the blogger what he thought about it. After all, I come to his blog to get his opinion, not the one of a newspaper article…

My attempt to convince him of my good faith was vain. He still thinks I am a spammer and that I do this to get links back to my “weak ass franchise site”. This was very insulting too. I asked him if he knew my boss. He said he didn’t. Very strange, as everyone in this industry knows Rob.

During our phone conversation he mentioned he had relationships with other franchise directories (our competition), which I think was the real reason for not adding my comments. He just doesn’t want people to potentially leave his site to go to mine.

I asked him to at least kindly remove my comment and his comment about me being a spammer, which he agreed to. He didn’t have to but I think it’s fair. I just checked the post again and he just removed his comment about me spamming his blog. He left my comment on and I can appreciate that.

The moral of this story is that if you have a blog, you will always expose yourself to spamming. I get a lot of spam every day (especially on the iPhone Download Blog – which by the way reached over 8,000 people yesterday!) and if it is too flagrant that it is spam (like “I love your blog, thank you so much”), I simply delete the comment and mark it as spam. If the comment is somewhat genuine and the URL is the one of a personal blog, I approve it. If the comment is somewhat genuine and shows the URL of a foreign currency exchange type-of-website, I just edit the comment and remove the link. Doing this, I don’t give the SEO juice to the spammer but I keep the community feel of my blog alive. Because that’s what blogging is all about: telling what you think and also being able to hear what others are thinking.

Cool Twitter Graphics

A few months ago, I was searching cool Twitter badges on the Interweb and came across this website. Randa Clay has some very nice Twitter graphics over there. I downloaded all of those that have a transparent background and added them to my Twitter set on Flickr. If you’re looking for some original Twitter badges, that’s the place to go.

You can see one of Randa’s Twitter graphics in the sidebar of this blog.

Early Interview With Google’s Page & Brin

This week was Google’s 10 year anniversary. Can you believe Google is only 10 and yet one of the largest companies in the world? Anyways, there was a lot of noise about this anniversary and the media covered really well where Google is at right now and where it’s going to but we’ve seen very little about where Google is coming from.

Below is a snipet of an interview that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin gave in January 1999 to Karsten Lemm, a correspondent for the German newsmagazine Stern. The full interview can be found here.

Do you generate any revenue at the moment?

Sergey: You caught us at an interesting time. Right now, we’re thinking about generating some revenue. We have a number of ways to doing that. One thing is we can put up some advertising. The key there is to put up advertising that will be really useful to our users and not slow down our site. That way we won’t push people away from our site, but we’ll still take in some revenue. Another way would be co-branding. Provide the back-end search engine to other sites.

How do you see Google develop? At some point, do you see yourselves on par with AltaVista, Excite, all these other established search engines?

Sergey: I would say no. We want to be on par with Yahoo, or Amazon, AOL. AltaVista, Excite and [the others] are by no means viewed as the winners. There’s no question, we want to be number one in market share in terms of search. And I think we can do that in not so long. Past that, it’s really hard to predict. There’s really no reason to set our sights low. If you do things right you can make a big jump over everybody else.

Boy, these guys were right on! As much as I hate Google, I have to admit the business model is impeccable!

How to create embeddable Flickr slideshows

I just read on RWW that Flickr finally released an easy way to embed slideshows to your website or blog.

Well, I didn’t wait for Flickr to create such a feature as I have been adding my own Flickr slideshows to my blogs for quite a bit.

I can’t remember where I found out about this method but here is how it works. Basically, there are 2 ways to do it:

<iframe align=center src=http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/index.gne?user_id=YOURUSERIDHERE
&tags=YOURTAGHEREframeBorder=0 width=500 scrolling=no height=500>
</iframe>
There is also another method but I found it to be a little weak and not working all the time…
<object type=”text/html” data=”http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/index.gne?user_id=YOURUSERIDHERE
&tags=YOURTAGHERE&” width=”500″ height=”500″> </object>

Other parameters include:

  • contacts=
  • text=
  • tag_mode=
  • favorites=
  • group_id=
  • frifam=
  • nsid=
  • single=
  • firstIndex=
  • set_id=
  • firstId=
You can see my method in action at the bottom of this post.
I haven’t tried Flickr slideshow feature yet but it seems the process would be easier with their method.