Optimizing WordPress for Mobiles

Can you remember life without a mobile phone? It was different, wasn’t it? Instead of being on call all hours of the day and evening, if we were out and about, we used to have to trudge to a public telephone box to keep in touch, sometimes queuing up in a line, pulling out change, and hoping we wouldn’t run out of coins before we had finished what we needed to say. In a way, I think back to these times with fondness. If you went out fishing, or on holiday with the family, or walking the dog, you knew you were safe from work for a few hours or days, and couldn’t be contacted until you got back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I know mobiles are great devices. What would we do if we didn’t have the capability to refer to a smartphone for help in all sorts of situations? We can go abroad and tap in a translation, removing the need to carry the tourist-shaming phrase book. We can convert money, check the weather, and even order a takeout without actually speaking to anyone. When we’re bored in queues, we can now pull out our phone and play a game, write an article, or take some pictures. In fact, phones are used for all manner of tasks, the least of which is actually dialing a number and connecting with someone.

New Possibilities

We don’t have to like mobiles to appreciate the importance of linking our businesses to them and making sure we have the best possible infrastructure in place to allow customers to access us quickly and easily, no matter where they are. Making your WordPress site more accessible is a critical element in keeping your customers engaged and supportive as you evolve to meet their needs. It brings the following benefits:

  • Enables your readers to order your products swiftly, wherever they happen to be.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to staying at the front-end of technological advancements, eliminating the risk of being left behind as new software and hardware becomes available.
  • Gives you the option of updating your site from anywhere.
  • Opens up your site to a potential new customer base – smartphone users who don’t surf from PCs or laptops.
  • Keeps you close to your dashboard, giving you instant access to your site if things go wrong.
  • Allows you to quickly respond to messages and comments from customers, enhancing your online networking.

Regardless of what you think about the move to smartphones and the impact upon our privacy, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out it’s a great idea to optimize your blog for mobile users. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it . . . .

Manual Configuration

If you want to keep tight control of your site during the optimization process, you can configure your changes manually by setting up a mobile.css stylesheet for WordPress. You can then go on to customize your meta information to decide how your site should be scaled to suit various browsers and smartphone applications. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry – there are easier routes to take that are just as effective.

Automated Optimization

Don’t fancy the manual route? I don’t blame you. It’s actually much easier to optimize your WordPress site for mobile use by installing a plugin.

WPtouch

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

In my opinion this is currently the best plugin of its kind. A free version is available and it’s quick and easy to use. If you feel like going a bit further, you can purchase the “Pro” version, which adds a number of extra features including advertising, customizable menu options, and themes designed for the iPad. It also gives you access to a comprehensive support service to troubleshoot any issues.

WP Mobile Detector

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-mobile-detector/

If you want to check out a few more options before making a final decision, take a look at this one.  Again, a free and paid version are available, so consider all the functionality for both options before you make your choice.

WordPress Mobile Pack

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/

Another great plugin, this has a huge number of different themes to choose from, and a really good selection of different options to let you customize your site.

MobilePress

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/

Also worth you consideration, this one is really simple to configure, manage, and use.

Testing Your Site

You don’t need a fancy mobile phone to test whether your modifications work properly, so don’t feel the need to rush out and spend several hundred dollars if you’re still not a convert to the smartphone revolution. You can test your site easily with the Firefox browser by downloading a free add-on called “User Agent Switcher”. Once you have it installed you can switch between different options for site access, to check out how your site will look when accessed using different applications, including the iPhone.

WordPress, once again, demonstrates its incredible flexibility by making it ridiculously easy (and free) to optimize your site for mobile phone users.  No excuses . . . block out an hour in your schedule and you’ll probably only need about half of it to place your site on the cutting edge of Internet technology.

BTG Turns Four Years Old

Around today Blog Tech Guy has been running full time for four years. It actually started in November 2007 and while it was my only job it was only part time until I finished off some other personal things. In late March/early April 2008 I went properly full time and have been going strong since.

This past year has been more exciting than the last and this year I’m sure will be even more so. Big things are coming, they take time, but they’ll get here.

April is even more special this year, as not only is it BTG’s birthday, and my own birthday, it’s also my son’s first birthday (on the day after mine, I’m glad he waited!).

As always I want to thank my hundreds of clients, some of which who you can see on my testimonials page. Without you, of course, I wouldn’t be here. So thank you for your patience, understanding, and trust.

If you need help with your blog or business website, let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

How To Add Related Posts To WordPress

There are many related posts plugins for WordPress. These are plugins that automatically add a list of other posts that you’ve written to the end of a single post page, before the comment box.

My old favorite used to be Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) which outputted a list of highly related posts under each post. I then moved onto LinkWithin that added thumbnail images of the posts but it had very few options.

I was recently emailed about nRelate who have a new related posts WordPress plugin. Initially I wasn’t that interested, as how different could it be? But I was wrong, it’s a cracker of a free plugin.

You can see how it looks at the bottom of this post where it says

You may also like –

It’s easy to set up:

  1. Go to Plugins > Add new and search for nrelate. Install and active the nRelate Related Content plugin.
  2. Once active you will have a new menu on the left of your dashboard called nRelate with two sub-menus, Dashboard and Related Content.
  3. Under Dashboard you can see how the indexing is going (it takes about two hours to get your posts and thumbnails) and also any categories you wish to exclude from being indexed.
  4. Under Related Content there are two tabs, General and Thumbnails Gallery.
  5. General allows you to choose all your options, pages they get displayed on, the image size, number of related posts etc.
  6. Thumbnails Gallery allows you to choose the style of the related posts, or make your own if you know how (see image below).

That’s it. All the hard work is done on their servers so it won’t slow your site down, though means it takes a brief moment to appear on your site.

It has a completely optional advertising network if you want to make any money. I don’t use it so I don’t know how good it is, but it’s there if you want it.

Some other benefits of the plugin are

Analytics reporting is included, so you’ll see which pages your readers are interested in most on your site, as well as the pageviews generated from the internal linking via the plugin.

– Using the WordPress Links/Blogroll feature you can actually choose to not only share related posts from within your website, but you can also include to share related posts from other websites. This is great for cross promoting with other sites you might own or any blogger friends where you could do a reciprocal exchange if you both use the plugin.

No re-directs. Unlike some other plugins (like LinkWithin) when a link is clicked nRelate does not redirect your traffic through anyone’s site but your own. You get all the internal traffic ‘link juice’ with no middleman getting in your way.

So far I really like it. It provides relevant results, allows me to choose a default image for posts without an image, a variety of designs, and works in the background without slowing my site down.

Plus it’s free – get it here.

The Art of Storytelling as a Marketing Tool

This is a guest post by Mitch O’Conner is an online marketer and writer. If you’d like to write a guest post please contact me.

The other day while at the bookstore, I came across a large crowd gathered around a man at table. Some were seated, others standing. The man was reading out loud a book about business. Through vocal animation and the way he poised such questions like “How do I get more fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter?” or “Am I selling the only widget or service that nobody seems to care about?” in a non-timid way, the crowd and even myself, were drawn in by this man reading about business.

But why? Simple. It was the way he told the story. Granted, reading about business facts sometimes isn’t very interesting, but it’s a type of literature that isn’t read in the right context. And a piece of literature can be read with passion and be interesting; it’s up to the storyteller on how to read it and a well-told story sticks in the mind of the listener. So how does storytelling benefit today’s small business owner? Would you believe that the art of storytelling as a marketing tool is actually well worth a second look?

The connection between storytelling and social media

Pen and paperThe magical connection that occurs during marketing and storytelling is the emotional bond that the consumer forges with the brand. Peter Guber, as quoted on Simon Mainwaring’s “We First” blog calls this the realization of the goal to transport your mission. Of course, getting to uncork the emotions of the audience in the first place is a hit or miss proposition. It takes practice, diligence and the commitment to keep at it consistently, learn from mistakes and improve upon success.

Learn to use storytelling in every piece of content you write, with some exceptions. For example, if you need to write an article on wireless Internet, you could create it very straightforward with the “nitty-gritty” information like the web developer did on this wireless Internet site. This works for the tech crowd that’s really just interested in the numbers. However, you might also decide to couple the “specs” content with some stories about how customers made the switch to your promoted company.

When the consumer makes a buying decision from the heart, rather than from the head, the effective marketer has succeeded in getting the emotional buy-in. It results in a stronger sense of brand loyalty, the rationalizing of a purchase that might involve more money than initially budgeted and also the willingness to work with a company on resolving a problem — rather than taking it to task with the Better Business Bureau.

Unfortunately, getting the emotional buy-in and active involvement in the woven tale is not always easy. As highlighted by Cloud Ave, passive observation has become an ingrained trait of character. Thus, the skilled entrepreneurial storyteller must make a concerted effort to engage the social networker in such a manner as to elicit a response. It is not necessary for the response to trigger an immediate click of the “buy now” button. Instead, getting the would-be consumer to “like” a product’s page or interact on the Facebook brand profile with a bit of helpful advice or a recollection is just as useful.

Citing Pew research, it still holds true that the 18 to 29 demographic is most heavily represented, but the 65 and over group is starting to make itself known. As of May 2010, about 26 percent were involved in social networking and the trend is growing steadily.

How to write a compelling story

Now that you recognize the importance of using storytelling as a marketing tool, you’re probably wondering what it will take to write a compelling narrative from the ground up. Fish Networks explains that a gripping story is a clever mix of a curious visual and an accompanying text that explains it. The initial written hook takes the form of a question: pose a question that makes the consumer wonder what the answer might be.

Much like a song the social media user cannot get out of his head, there will be an overwhelming need to discover the answer to the question. On the way to delivering the response, the clever marketer ensures that a lot of the brand information and product facts come through in even short text. College Grad suggests the interjection of personality, flair and interest. It sounds easier said than done, but really there is just one small trick to successful storytelling for marketing: put yourself into the shoes of the consumer.

What would you like to know about the product you sell or one like it? What would be the main reason for not buying it? What stands out the most about the item? From this intellectual exercise, take it up a notch and surmise the emotional component. Why would you worry about making a sound buying decision? Is it because you might feel taken advantage of? Do you worry about wasting money in a tough economy? Do you think that the widget is too big or odd and might make you seem un-cool in the eyes of others?

Storytelling as a marketing tool refutes feelings-based objections with intellectual data. This mix is an unbeatable combination that the small business owner can use to a marketing advantage. The goal is to elicit an emotional reaction in the social networker; the tools are the product facts, figures and stats. Who knew that entrepreneurs could now also be storytellers?

About the Author: Mitch O’Conner is an online marketer and writer. When he’s not busy testing sites, generating traffic or writing content, he enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, playing games and camping.

Client Spotlight: The Writer’s Clinic

Jean Gogolin runs the The Writer’s Clinic, a WordPress powered site that runs on the Headway theme framework.

The Writer's Clinic

The website and blog are called “The Writer’s Clinic” and it’s designed for advanced writers – particularly those who write about science. I’m in the process of changing the subtitle, as soon as I figure out what a better one would be, and several of the site’s pages. I want to emphasize advanced writing skills in general, not just science writing.

I’ve been a professional writer for – wow – about 40 years, as a newspaper and magazine writer, corporate communications staffer, executive-level speech writer and freelancer. I spent most of my corporate career with high tech companies, including DEC, Lotus, Northrop, IBM and EMC Corp.

I’ve had bylined articles in The Boston Globe and USA Today and ghostwritten op/ed pieces for The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

But now I specialize in science and discovery. Why? Because science is too important for science writing to be the province of scientists alone.

I write about science like a combination of journalist and short story writer using all the techniques that bring the best fiction to life.

I also work with clients who want a coach or collaborator for their own writing. I listen hard, ask lots of questions, help them think through their objectives, and then work with them to write the piece.

I love what I do — and I’d be happy to do it for you.

So if you need someone to help you with your writings, take a look at The Writer’s Clinic.

Spring Cleaning Your Blog

Have you unnoticed when the season changes, your thoughts immediately turn to having a clear out of everything? We are drawn to sorting through cupboards, cleaning everything thoroughly, and having garage sales to reduce the amount of things we seem to have collected over the winter months. Carpets cry out to be cleaned, wardrobes beg for a sort-out to move from one season to the next, and we’re seized with the drive to get everything cleared as the weather improves.

Just as we spring clean our house, we also need to make sure we apply the same kind of rigor to our blogs. Blogs are friendly beasts – they rumble on without us happily, bringing new custom and working for us while we focus on other things. Because they are so amiable, we can often overlook the fact that they need a bit of a helping hand from time to time, to make sure they are working at optimum.
Cleaning supplies
Blogs are a bit like a well-behaved dog. We only really take notice of their inner workings when something goes wrong. We give our dogs flea treatment if they scratch, walk them every day and give them affection, but it’s only when something changes – for example if they go off their food, or seem upset, that we take them to the vet for a check-up. Blogs are the same – we do certain tasks with them each day (answering comments and posting up articles), but we don’t consider the platform unless a glitch makes us sit up and take notice that all is not as it should be.

Your blog benefits from a bit of a spring clean every now and then. Basics such as emptying your spam folder can free up your site to run more effectively, and using an image re-sizer can make sure that your pictures don’t take up valuable loading time. When new software comes out on your blog platform, it’s worth spring cleaning and uploading the latest technology to benefit from the changes and enhancements that your service provider has developed. Another great spring cleaning exercise you can do is to consider a re-brand, waking your site up and giving you a good reason to contact your clients, get feedback and re-launch with a new look and feel.

So, the next time you’re taken over by the urge to clean the house and get the garden set up ready for summer, why not make the most of the feeling and apply the same kind of energies to your blog? It will thank you for it, making life easier, running more effectively and staying clean, neat and organized.

Why You Should Buy Headway Today

Headway is the WordPress theme that this site runs on. I’ve talked before about why I think it’s great, but the current version is not for everyone.

At this moment it means designing the site yourself, learning the interface, graphics added and so on. But this is all about to change. 40 seconds into the video below introduces the new Child Themes that will be available for use with the next version of Headway.

The next version is out on November 25th, so why am I saying to buy it now? When the new version is released they are moving to a subscription model with a recurring fee, and not only that, but the price will be higher. So if you buy BEFORE the 25th and get the current version of Headway:

You will get the Headway 3.0 upgrade for no extra cost, and no ongoing/recurring fees.

If you’ve been on the fence about getting Headway, then now is the time to do it as current members get the best deal. Of course there are many other changes in the new version, it’s been built from scratch, has a new blocks system and many other changes. But the child themes is something I know a lot of my clients are excited about, and while these will be an additional cost they save you the time and effort of designing complicated layouts yourself. I may even be releasing some child themes for sale myself….

Watch the video below to learn more about the new theme.

I will be upgrading this site to run on the new theme once I get time to play around with and see what new features I can use and what it can do. If you already own the theme then don’t worry, you’ll be seeing version 3.0 very soon!

The Productivity Gamble – How To make Home-Working Work For You

Working from home. It seems like such a great idea at the time. Think of the time you’ll save not having to commute into the office every day, think of the extra work you’ll get done, the concentration you’ll have from the lack of annoying colleagues constantly interrupting you. Working from home sounds like it’s the perfect solution to the common problem of being more productive at work. What is often meant to reduce stress and increase productivity can very easily end up achieving exactly the opposite effect.

If you’ve ever worked from home yourself you may already know it isn’t always a glamorous and stress free as it sounds. Those dreams of extra productivity can be replaced with distraction, frustration, sometimes anger and resentment plus an increase in those supposedly reducing stress levels too. The pitfalls of home working are real but with some preparation and planning it can also be a great success, here’s how to make the productivity gamble worth the risk…
Home Office

Make the daily routine just like the office

Creating as similar an environment to the office is an awesome start to making the working day as productive as possible. It is essentially a way to trick the brain into thinking it is in a regular work place. Working at home can increase productivity when you use the following tips…

  • Get dressed as if you are actually going into the office – if your dressed in your sweat pants and favourite t-shirt you’ll go into relax mode not work mode
  • Take your lunch into the office with you – take a homemade lunch with you into your home office. Go in at the start of the day, close the door, stop for lunch and have it in your office rather than being tempted to go and catch up on some TV or that bit of gardening you didn’t quite get finished therefore falling into distraction. Leave the office only for comfort breaks and your daily routine is still in place
  • Share your routine with the family – if you are working at home and the family is in the house with you share your schedule with them and make sure they help you achieve your aims. Disturbing and distracting you can be easy if you’re behind the office door but they must realise that you are at work and they can see you and interact with you when the working day is finished.

The ‘working too many hours’ trap

A sometimes unforeseen danger of working at home can be the temptation to work extra hard, putting in more hours than you ever have before. When the office is a drive away, the switching off process normally takes place when you exit the building. Working at home leaves temptation much closer. The pull of just getting ahead for tomorrow or just finishing that final report can lead to stress of a different kind.

An example of how to deal with the temptation to work that little bit more came from a guy in Australia, who had a problem working too many hours. Once he realised the problem, he chose to find a solution to rectify it in a radical way. He decided he never wanted to be available to work more than 11 hours a day in his home office.

He worked in his garage, and so he always needed light to see the office and work in it – often his days stretched to 15 or 16 hours. He decided, therefore, to fit a timer on the lights and electricity in the garage, and screwed his desk to the wall. This meant that when the timer went off, his lights went out and he could do no more for the day – he couldn’t access the lights without unscrewing the desk from the wall. He also couldn’t start his working day until the lights went on at his chosen time in the morning!

Extreme, but effective

The key to ensuring success working at home is showing the right discipline. If you practice the correct attitude, set the right plans in place and stick to a firm structure then working at home can be everything you want it to be, when it comes to being more productive and reducing stress.

It is simple but not always that easy to achieve!

The Top Tips For Finding Blogging Happiness

It’s tough, being a blogger. It’s hard because we have to commit to publishing a certain amount of material each week, keep ahead of key trends, and have faith that what we are doing is really helping us to enhance our business success and generate more revenue by supporting our customers. If you’re currently in a blogging rut, follow these tips to help you get back to blogging happiness and keep your online marketing strategy on track.
monkey smile

  • Choose subjects to blog about that you feel passionate about and you’ll find easy to write about with knowledge and enthusiasm
  • Build blogging in to your daily routine, in the same way as you brush your teeth each day or load the dishwasher – this makes it easier to stick to regular posts
  • Invite people to comment on your posts regularly, so you know you’re on the right track with what you are writing about
  • Keep up to date with all your feedback, answering comments and thanking people for responding to your posts
  • If you ever feel disheartened about your blogging prowess, look back to the metrics from when you first started out and compare them with your current results
  • Ask people you like and respect to guest blog to ease the burden of ongoing blog publishing, and introduce new perspectives and topics to your site
  • Tweet your posts so more people can access what you have written and your message gets circulated for more comments, and new readers
  • Try out new styles of communicating through your blog, like podcasting and video blogging (vlogging)
  • Revamp your site for a quick fix of freshness, having fun with choosing new themes and layouts
  • Consider outsourcing some of your writing from time to time if other pressures are getting in the way of your blog writing responsibilities
  • Check out new technologies – plugins and widgets – designed to make your blogging life easier and enhance your metrics and benchmarking
  • Gain access to a great image resource site so you can experiment with different types of graphics – I use http://sxc.hu or http://www.morguefile.com for royalty-free images
  • Consider blogging a series – twelve posts all geared towards a single help topic, which you could then go on to produce as a product such as an e-book or download giveaway
  • Learn new angles to blog about by researching your industry online, reading up on the latest developments, and sparking off a wealth of new ideas to write about
  • Take time out. Everyone needs a break sometimes, so manage your postings, publish them in draft and stick them on a timer so you can go on vacation, have a long weekend or settle down to catch up on all that television you’ve been missing because of work!

Client Spotlight: For God’s Glory

John Ferranti is another long time client of mine, he runs For God’s Glory Ministries which is “is a dynamic and fruitful ministry, with a prophetic edge.”

For God's Glory Ministries

I am called by Jesus Christ to bring reformation to the church world wide. The word reform means “to improve by the REMOVAL of faults.” The Lord is revealing truths to me in this hour that have been suppressed by religion, tradition, doctrines of men, and men’s opinions. I am removing the faulty mind sets, by teaching the Word of God, through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This ministry is looking to impact every believer no matter how long they have been walking with the Lord. The web site offers FREE resources to mature every believer, so they can be more effective for building God’s kingdom.

The web site was established to not only help those that we meet personally, but also those that are looking for more from around the world. Because this ministry is building an army for the Lord Jesus Christ.

His site is a partial conversion from a static website to WordPress, so now it is mostly editable by themselves and they don’t have to rely on (and pay!) a tech person to update their website for them.

You can see the services I offer here and I do many website to WordPress Content Management site conversions.