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How to Troubleshoot WordPress

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews, a WordPress consultant at WPDude.

Over the years, I’ve developed a troubleshooting methodology while working with my WordPress technical support clients.  My methodology helps  to solve the majority of WordPress crashed sites I’ve come across, and I wanted to share it with you, the good readers of ProBlogger.

I cannot claim that I invented the process, but I have brought together a number of useful tips from the WP community and combined them to create a repeatable and verifiable way to isolate and troubleshoot WordPress problems.

The process

This methodology isolates the various layers of a WordPress site one at a time, tests a layer by removing its component parts, and then, if the problem still exists, moves down to test the next layer.

Once you have isolated the problematic component, you can remove it from your site and troubleshoot the problem itself.

I recommend doing this in a slow and ordered manner, incrementally testing each layer as you go. Look at a layer, disable all of the components, and slowly restart them to find out where the problem lies.

The layers

I like to divide WordPress into four layers:

  • plugins
  • theme
  • WordPress core
  • database.

This methodology looks at the first three layers only.

What can this process fix?

This methodology can be used to fix a variety of WordPress issues including, bit not limited to:

  • the dreaded “white screen of death” where all you can see is a white screen and nothing else
  • “Header Already Sent” errors
  • “Fatal Plugin” errors
  • “Out of Memory” errors
  • …many other WordPress problems, too.

Back up first

Even if your site has crashed, it’s important to stop, take a moment, and back up your site as it is now.  You are about to embark on a journey which will make a lot of changes to your site.  Taking a backup of the site as it stands means you can fall back to your starting position if you need to, without making the situation any worse.

Troubleshooting plugins

I always start at the plugin layer when I’m troubleshooting a WordPress problem. In my experience, about 80-90% of system crashes are caused by plugin issues. This is because there are so many plugins (sometimes of questionable coding quality) available to WordPress site owners.  Combining these plugins with other plugins, themes, and WordPress itself creates an untested mix that can very easily crash your site.

This is how I troubleshoot plugins:

  1. Disable all plugins.
  2. Has the problem gone? If it has, you have an issue at the plugin layer, if not, move down to next layer the theme.
  3. Re-activate plugins one at a time.
  4. Test your site after each reactivation. Has the problem returned? If so, you have now found the suspect plugin: go to point 5. If not, rinse and repeat from point 3.
  5. Disable that plugin.
  6. Re-activate the other plugins to ensure you don’t have multiple plugin problems.
  7. If the problem is still cleared, you have isolated and remove the problem. Go to the Getting Support section below.

Sometimes plugins cause such a problem that when you try to log into the dashboard to disable them, all you get is the same error message. If you cannot log into the dashboard, all is not lost: I have a work-around for you.

What you need to do is connect to your site via FTP and navigate to the wp-content folder.  If you rename the plugins directory, to plugins_temp for example, WordPress no longer knows where the plugin files are, and stops running them.  Now if you try to log in to the site, you’ll find that the issue has probably gone.

If you then proceed to the Plugins section in your Dashboard, you will see an error message that the plugin files cannot be found and have been disabled. Rename plugins_temp and you plugin files will be available again. Now, incrementally start from point 2 above to see which one caused the problem.

Troubleshooting themes

Once you have tested the plugins to rule them out, you need to move down a layer to the theme. This is how I troubleshoot themes:

  1. Disable the current theme.
  2. Activate a default theme such as Twenty ten.
  3. Test. If the problem has gone, you know the theme is causing issues. If not, move down to the WordPress core layer.
  4. Re-activate all of the plugins individually to make sure there is not a composite problem. If the problem doesn’t recur, you’ve isolated the theme as the problem area.

Next, I’d try to rule out any changes I’d made to the theme by removing any code I had recently added. If I have updated the theme, I’d roll back to a previous version. If I have just added a new widget, I’d try to back this out.  As you can see, the process is all about back-tracking methodically so you can repair the issue.

Again, if you cannot log into the dashboard there is a work-around. Connect to your site via FTP, and navigate to the wp-content/themes directory. If you now rename your currently live theme directory to themdir_temp for example, WordPress won’t know where the theme files are. All you’ll see at the front end is a white screen, but the dashboard will be available. Go to point 2 above and activate a default theme.  Remember to change the name of themedir_temp back to themedir to help troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting WordPress Core Files

The last layer to check are your WordPress core files.  This is the last layer because it is the least problematic, but I have seen incidents where files have become corrupt, stopping WordPress from working correctly.  The easiest way to troubleshoot WordPress core files is to re-install a clean copy.

This is my process for troubleshooting WordPress core files:

  1. Download a clean version of WordPress from http://wordpress.org/download/.
  2. Connect to your site via FTP.
  3. Rename wp-admin and wp-includes to ensure you are uploading clean copies of these directories.
  4. Back up wp-config.php just in case. This files holds your database connection details (amongst other things).
  5. Upload your clean version of WordPress.
  6. Test. Is your issue fixed? If so, you have isolated the problem at WordPress core. If not, it’s time to call in the experts.
  7. Re-activate your theme and test it.
  8. Re-activate your plugins and test them.

Fixing the component

At this point, you have hopefully isolated the component of your site that was causing issues.  So what do you do now?  Here are your options:

  • Visit the plugin or theme developers’ site and check to see if they have a support forum to search or request support from. Any developer worth his or her salt will be only too happy to provide support, and premium plugins and themes should provide top-class support as part of your fee. Remember to be nice to them if it’s a free theme or plugin and they don’t reply in five minutes.
  • Find a replacement for the plugin or theme. There is usually more than one implementation of a plugin, so if you can, swap out the problematic plugin with another one.
  • Request some support from http://wordpress.org/support/. This is excellent for core WordPress problems, and you will often find forums for individual plugins there, too.
  • Set the social media monster to work on your problem. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending out a tweet to your network to find a solution to the problem.
  • Get the pros in—hire a WordPress technical support team or consultant to solve your problem.

Wrap up

I use this methodology on a daily basis—it’s proven in the field on crashed sites.  The key is to methodically work through the layers, eliminating as you go, until you find the root cause. Then, fix that issue.  Remember to constantly test, though, because sometimes there are composite problems with multiple plugins, or the theme and a plugin.

Do you have any WordPress bug horror stories you can share? Who solves your site’s bugs and problems—is it you?

Neil provides WordPress technical support services at WPDude.com. He has also created a mini video course on this methodology over at wptroubleshooting.com.

My 5 Favorite, but Often Ignored, Analytics Features

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

The wonderful thing about working online is that our work is just so measurable.

In just about every other industry, a lot of decisions are based on sample data, or assumptions, or just on gut feel. But online, we can measure just about everything for 95%+ of our visitors—yay for us!

In our world of pretty graphs and statistics, we have are a stack of options to ensure we’ve got our eyes on the numbers. But when it comes to bang for buck (i.e. lots of value for no outlay) there really is no equal, in my opinion, to Google Analytics—and it just keeps getting better.

I’m sure a lot of you are already feeling the Google love with Analytics—and if you’re an addict like me, you’re using it on a daily basis. So I thought I’d share my five favorite, but often ignored, features of Google Analytics.

1. Custom Reports

There are so many levels, layers, and measures in the Google Analytics interface that I often used to waste time attempting to find my first stop in the system: reports.


Custom Reports changed that. Not only does this feature allow for a myriad of different perspectives and data, but you can also save each report and head back to it at a moment’s notice. This video is a good starting point to understanding how to make the most of custom reports.

2. Scheduled Reports

Actually remembering to jump into Analytics to make sure you’re across everything can be a challenge. Scheduled Reports make the job much easier.

You’ll probably have certain reports you’ll look at more often than others. If you click on the little email icon on the top-right of a report, you’ll be able to set up a schedule so that that report’s delivered to you via the inbox.

This is a great way to ensure that your busy schedule is not getting in the way of you knowing what’s happening on your site.

3. Navigational Summary

In December I wrote about the concept of sales funnels, and a lot of you asked how on Earth you can manage to measure all those steps. Well, the Navigational Summary report will get you started.

It covers the essential details for each page view, including where the user came from (another page, external site), and then where they went to (exit, another page)—plus everything in between. This is a key report to start understanding browsing behaviors on your critical pages. You can access the navigational summary through the Content section. I tend to use the Content Drilldown report to find the specific pages I’m after, then click the Navigational Summary for their specific metrics.

4. eCommerce and the $ Index

When you set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics, you open up a whole new world of insight. It’s a feature that’s only useful for those selling online, but it’s scarily accurate and amazingly insightful.

Goals Overview

With eCommerce set up, not only can you see reports on the products you’re selling, and how much money you’re earning, but you can also start to track them back to other pages in your site. You might find that particular types of blog post generate more revenue per page view—and that’s where the $ Index kicks in.

With this metric you’ll know the average income per visit to each page or collection of pages on your site. Unfortunately setting this up is not straightforward, and you might need a little help. There’s a good article on the Analytics blog that will help get you moving. Sorry I can’t show a good screen shot of this—the information was too sensitive for the other sites I have access to.

5. Goals and Funnels

Almost all websites have some sort of desired visitor action. It might be to buy something, to fill out a contact form, to download a sample, or even just look at a bunch of other pages. Setting up goals in Google allows you to track these goals like a fox. You get insight into the overall performance of your site, but you can also track back every step of the way.

Unfortunately, like eCommerce, this feature can be a little tricky to set up and is something you might wish to get help with. I won’t go into too much detail on how to do this—it’s all covered on the Analytics blog.

Warning: Analytics is Like Quicksand

I often tell people that Google Analytics is a little like quick sand. Once you make that first step, it starts to really suck you in, and a short time later you’re stuck for good. More time passes and all of a sudden your head goes under—everything goes dark and you have no idea where you are.

It’s at that point that too many people go back to assumptions and guesswork, murmuring something about leaving “all that statistics guff” to the eggheads. If you’ve fallen into the Analytics quicksand, my recommendation is to keep things simple. Identify ten key metrics you want to measure, create a report or set of reports that deliver you those metrics, and review them over time. Once you’re comfortable, move a little deeper.

The more you understand about your business, the better-informed decisions you can make—and it’s the decisions that will make or break your business, not the numbers.

As I mentioned, Google Analytics in my favorite stats package, but I’d love to hear about any other stats packages you’re using and how you’re finding them in the comments. Or perhaps you can highlight your favorite functions of Googe Analytics that I’ve not covered…

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

How to Make Your Blog Load Faster than ProBlogger

This guest post is by Devesh of WP Kube.

If you’re regular reader, you know that how much time problogger.net takes to load. Would you like to make your blog load faster than ProBlogger? Today I’m going to share eight simple tips to increase your blog speed. But first, you’ll need to know how quickly your blog is loading right now.

How to test your blog’s speed

So you can do a before-and-after comparison, take a moment to check how quickly your blog is loading now.

There are many tools online that let you test load speed, but I prefer to compare the loading speed of my blog against others—after all, that’s what your users will do.

One of my favorite tools for loading comparisons between two sites is WhichloadsFaster. To check your blog’s loading speed against a competing blog or a major website that’s used by readers in your niche, enter your site’s URL and that of the other site into the two boxes provided. Simple!

Here are the results of the loading speed comparison between my site and ProBlogger:

Comparing site load times

How to speed up your blog

Now that you know how your site’s loading in comparison to another, let’s look at the ways you can speed up your site’s load time.

Choose an efficient theme

Many bloggers make the mistake of choosing a free theme, or one that’s not properly coded. In my experience, every blogger should go for premium themes like Genesis, Thesis, or WooThemes. Premium themes tend to be much more carefully coded than free ones—Themeforest, for example, has some good themes, but many of the them aren’t well coded.

Review your hosting

Hosting plays an important role in your blog’s loading speed. Many new bloggers ignore this, but adjusting hosting can have a big impact on increasing your blog speed. Specifically, if you use shared hosting for your blog, you might want to look into switching to dedicated or grid hosting, as shared hosting can slow down load times when the demands on the shared server are high.

Remove extra widgets and plugins

This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your site’s load times. The more plugins you have on your blog, the longer it can take to load. Remove any extra widgets and plugins you’re using on your blog, which aren’t strictly necessary, and see what happens to your load time. Hand-code your functionality, and place it directly into the WordPress theme: this will reducing the number of calls each page load makes on the server.

Use the WordPress W3 Total Cache plugin

Now that you’ve reduced the number of plugins you’re using there’s one you should add! W3 Total Cache is a must-have plugin for any WordPress user. W3 Total Cache is a static caching plugin that generates HTML files that are served directly by Apache, without processing comparatively heavy PHP scripts. It’s compatible with most servers and server configurations, and gives you the choice of creating the cache on your own server, or using a content delivery network.

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A CDN is a network of optimized servers around the world that store copies of your site’s data. By making your site available from various servers, the CDN maximizes bandwidth, and reduces your site’s load time. Using a CDN works really well if you have visitors from all over the world, as the servers closest to each user will be used to deliver content quickly. A CDN provider such as MaxCDN can provide great performance without putting a strain on your pocket.

Optimize your blog images

Many blogers don’t focus on optimizing blog images, but it’s a very effective way to increase your blog’s loading speed. There are many, many plugins that can help you to optimize blog images, but one of the best is WP Smush.it. I’m using it on many of my blogs and it really helps to make blog load faster. It offers an API that performs these optimizations (except for stripping JPEG metadata) automatically, and it integrates seamlessly with WordPress. Every image you add to a page or post will be automatically run through Smush.it behind the scenes—you don’t have to do anything differently.

This plugin:

  • strips meta data from JPEGs
  • optimizes JPEG compression
  • converts certain GIFs to indexed PNGs
  • strips the unused colours from indexed images.

Use social images instead of buttons

Social network buttons were among my site’s main problems: they take so much time to load, and can really slow your blog down. Displaying three or four buttons might be okay, but if you want to show all the buttons, I’d suggest you use images instead. Using images is the best way to show all the buttons without using a plugin.

These are eight simple tips that can help you to make your blog load faster then ProBlogger. What others can you share?

Devesh is young entrepreneur and part time blogger. Visit WP Kube for WordPress Tuorials & Hacks and Technshare for Make Money Blogging
Tips.

Use Photos to Stand Out in the Facebook News Feed

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This old cliché has become especially true in blogging. It’s statistically proven that by inserting compelling photographs into your blog posts, you’re able to better retain your reader’s attention.

So what if photos are also exactly what you need to stand out on the world’s most popular social network?

On Facebook, Photos are the most used features of the site (after status updates of course). You may have already known that, but did you also know that Facebook is one of the most used photo sharing platforms on the entire Internet?

So how can we tap into the power of Facebook Photos to separate your Page from the rest of the noise on Facebook?

If you’ve been using Facebook ads to perform inception on your blog, you’ll have a good idea of the psychographic profile of your readers. We can use this information to create (or find) compelling images that will resonate with your audience.

Let’s imagine I run a blog about creating Hollywood movie props on an indie movie budget. Normally I build simple props that are pretty general, like ray guns, or jet packs. But lately I’ve been running Facebook ads and I’ve learned from the Responder Profile report that the majority of the people who clicked on my ad have listed “Iron Man” as a favorite movie in their profile.

Knowing this, I create a tutorial for my blog that gives instructions on how to make an Iron Man mask.

To really draw attention to this step-by-step tutorial and stand out in my fans’ news feeds only requires a little extra thought and attention to detail. Just a little more work, and I get a result that looks something like this:

Now let’s break down what I did here, so you can create results like this, too.

Step 1: Breaking up the image

Take the main image that you would like to show up in the News Feed and break it up into two or three parts using a photo editor. For the Iron Man album, I broke one photo up into two separate images, with each image highlighting a different element of the build.

The original image looks like this:

To break it up, I simply opened the image in Gimp (although you could use Photoshop or even Paint!) and selected the Battery and Arc Reactor. Then I copied and pasted it into its own image file, and did the same for the mask.

I then very quickly created the album cover by typing “Become” over the Iron Man logo, and saved that as its own image file> I then saved everything to its own folder on my desktop.

Here are two quick notes about album covers. Firstly, selecting the right image is important for two reasons:

  1. The album cover is the first thing people see when someone clicks on the Photos tab on your page. By default, Facebook also displays the two most recent photo albums on the left-hand sidebar underneath the list of people who like your page. When they visit a page, it’s only natural for people to check out the number of people who like that page — for social proof. Take advantage of this curiosity by creating an eye-catching album cover. Even with a small number of likes, you’ll appear to be ahead of the game, as this is valuable real estate that most pages simply aren’t taking advantage of.
  2. The album cover will always appear in the furthest left-hand corner when you publish an album to the news feed. Selecting the wrong image for the album cover can make the entire update completely pointless. take a look at the images below. By default, the photo titled “Step 5” would be the album cover here, but it’s not a great image. To have the most impact on the News Feed, you’d want to make sure that the album cover shows the image titled “Step 10.” We’ll talk about this more in the next section.

Step 2: Selecting the album cover and organizing your photos

Go to the Photos tab on your Business Page and click on Create a Photo Album.

A dialog box will appear, giving you instructions on uploading your photos.

Click Select Photos and choose the photos you would like to be included in the album.

Click Open once you’ve selected all of the photos for your album. The photos will begin to be uploaded to the album. By default, the album is named with the date and time that you’re uploading the photos. Change the name to reflect the contents of the album. Also, check the High Resolution button (just because you can!).

Once the photos have finished uploading, click Create Album.

From here, select the image you want to use for the cover of your album. Also feel free to add descriptions to your pictures. If it makes sense, insert links to relevant pages within your blog (this will depend on the content of your album).

Once you’re satisfied with your Photo descriptions, click Save Changes. A dialog box will appear prompting you to Publish or Skip.

Do not click publish!

Click Skip. You will be brought to the album and all of the images will appear in the order in which they were uploaded. This isn’t always ideal if you’re really looking to stand out in the news feed.

It is vital to note the arrangement of the photos in the album, as it will determine their order in the news feed.

As I said earlier, Facebook automatically puts the album cover as the far left image of the three in the album preview in the news feed—regardless of how the images are arranged in the album. Facebook then takes the two images after the photo that’s designated as the cover, and assigns them as the middle and far-right images in the news feed.

So if the photos are arranged like this in the album:

They will look like this in the news feed:

To achieve this landscape effect in the news feed, simply drag the two images that are meant to follow the album cover in the order in which you’d like them to appear in the news feed.

Then, your album will look like this:

And the feed will look like this:

Once you have your photos arranged the way you’d like them to appear in the news feed, all you have left to do is create an album description and publish the album.

Step 3: Entering your album’s description

Underneath your photos, you’ll see an Add a Caption link. Click it to open the popup where you can describe your album and include any external links.

Facebook will allow a total of 320 characters (including spaces) in your album description before it hides the content and adds a See More link to the end of your description.

Keep your descriptions around one to two lines, and always put a line break between your description and link so that the content appears cleanly in the news feed.

After you’ve clicked Save, click Edit Album Info to see the Album Description page. Click the Edit Photos tab on the top right of the gray box. Then, click Publish Now.

And there you have it! Your album will have a good chance of standing out in the otherwise really crowded news feed!

What’s that you say? You don’t make props? There are all sorts of other creative ways to use Facebook Photos to promote your business. What are some ways you’ve used this tool? Are there other Facebook Photo ideas you can share?

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

Everything You Need to Import and Display RSS Feeds with WordPress

WordPress makes it super-easy to publish your own content, and even easier to import and display content from other great sites around the Web. Just as other people are displaying and reading your feed in their apps and devices, you can use external RSS feeds to supplement and strengthen your site’s primary content.

Whether you’re displaying feeds from similar sites or aggregating news from around the world, importing feeds means taking advantage of the best that the Web has to offer. In this post, you’ll see how easy it is to grab external RSS feeds and display them anywhere on your WordPress-powered site

Why do it?

No website is an island, and with a virtually infinite assortment of content and services around the Web, there’s no reason not to take advantage of content that will benefit your readers and help improve the overall quality and content of your site. Feeding external RSS content to WordPress:

  • adds relevant, useful content for your readers to enjoy
  • adds relevant, targeted keywords for search-engine robots
  • keep visitors on your site by giving them the content they want.

Depending on your niche, using external content opens up many possibilities. Here are some concrete examples to help illustrate some common ways RSS feeds are used to create and supplement content:

  • news sites importing weather feeds to display current conditions
  • sports sites importing news feeds reporting the latest sports news
  • investment sites displaying current market values and stock prices.

For blogs, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I’ve seen some great independent sites that make excellent use of external feeds. Here are some examples:

  • blogs that display their social media feeds, such as Twitter and Facebook
  • bloggers with more than one website displaying posts from their other sites
  • news-portal sites that aggregate the best blogging and/or web design feeds.

And the best part? WordPress makes it so easy to integrate external RSS feeds that it’s almost funny. Depending on your goals and experience with WordPress, there are several ways to go about doing it: using widgets, plugins, or manual coding. Let’s examine these different techniques and explore everything you need to import and display RSS feeds with WordPress.

Displaying feeds with the default RSS widget

Right out of the box, WordPress includes a handy RSS widget that can be used in any widgetized area on any widgetized theme. Just drag the widget to your widget area and choose your options:

The default RSS widget

As seen in the screenshot above, the default RSS widget provides several basic options, including number of feed items and which elements to display. Yes, it’s super-easy, but your customization choices are limited. As a general rule, the more stuff (e.g. post title, post date, author name, and so on) you include with each feed item, the more cluttered it tends to look.

Seriously, a linked title and post excerpt is all you really need to display, and doing so keeps things looking clean. Unfortunately, even after limiting our display options to only “title and excerpt”, the output using the default WordPress theme looks sloppy:

The default widget output

…and the posts just continue all the way down the sidebar. If you’re handy with CSS, adding a few rules to your style.php may be all that’s needed to slap things into shape, but clearly more control is desired for better customization.

Displaying feeds with WordPress plugins

For more control when you’re working with external feeds, there a number of excellent plugins available. Let’s have a look at the best plugins for importing and displaying external RSS feeds. Note: all plugins have been tested/reviewed with current versions at the time of this posting, and working with the latest version of WordPress, 3.0.2.

FeedWordPress

A good sign of a reputable WordPress plugin is how many times it has been downloaded. So with over 300,000 downloads, FeedWordPress by Charles Johnson is definitely worth checking out. It’s an incredibly powerful, flexible plugin that makes importing and customizing feed content extremely easy. Here’s a screenshot of the Settings page:

The FeedWordPress Settings page

But FeedWordPress does way more than just display external feed content on your site—it actually creates a post for each imported feed item. So, for example, if I want to back up my latest Twitter tweets, I can either create an entire tweet archive, or I can let FeedWordPress do it for me. FeedWordPress installs easily, and imports any number of feeds using the following default settings:

  • Auto-updates are turned off by default; cron may be configured, or just use manual fetching.
  • Auto-import and create categories, tags, and even authors (as contributors) for each feed item.
  • Titles for feed items are auto-linked to the source, so there are no single-page views or comments.

Of course, all of these options may be configured to your liking using the FeedWordPress Settings page. Other useful settings enable you to mark imported posts as drafts or private, update posts to match changed feed content, and much more. To get started, check out the FeedWordPress Quick-start Guide.

WP-o-Matic

Another incredible plugin for importing feed content as posts, WP-o-Matic is very similar to FeedWordPress, but with some different features and slightly easier configuration. After installing the plugin, hit the Settings page for an easy, four-step configuration process:

  1. Run compatibility check.
  2. Configure time-zone settings.
  3. Configure cron settings (via WebCron, crontab, unix cron, or manual fetching).
  4. You’re done!

After configuration, you can begin importing feeds by creating a new Campaign and setting the following options:

  • feed title, slug, URL, and category
  • any regex pattern-matching on key terms (optional)
  • configuration of optional Custom import/post template and polling frequency
  • setting discussion preferences and whether to send pingbacks
  • setting whether title links should point to single-view page or content source.

In addition to importing and customizing any number of feeds, WP-o-Matic also enables image caching and provides some great import/export tools. Also worth mentioning is that WP-o-Matic doesn’t import any categories, tags, or users by default. Here’s a screenshot of the Settings page:

The WP-o-Matic Settings page

For importing feeds as post content, WP-o-Matic and FeedWordPress are excellent plugins that make things easy while providing much control over the configuration and customization of the entire process.

RSSImport

If you want to display external feeds without creating posts, the RSSImport plugin is really all you need. RSSImport enables you to import and display feeds using a shortcode, widget, or PHP template tags. And it does this using WordPress’s built-in feed-parsing functionality, via MagpieRSS (for WP 2.8+) or SimplePie (for older WP).

RSSImport makes it seriously easy to display any feed anywhere in your theme—and with massive flexibility. Here are three ways to do it with RSSImport:

Display feed content using the RSSImport widget

To display external feeds in the sidebar (or any other widgetized area), just install the plugin and visit the Widgets page. There you will find options for everything under the sun, giving you full control over many configuration options. Here is a screenshot showing a few of the widget’s many settings:

The RSSImport Settings page

Setting things up with the widget is really just a matter of going through the options and making sure everything is exactly how you want it. Bada-boom, bada-bing, as they say.

Display feed content using a shortcode

RSSImport also makes it easy to display feed content right in your posts and pages using a shortcode. Here is the simplest example, showing the five most-recent feed items from Digging into WordPress:

[RSSImport display="5" feedurl="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/DiggingIntoWordpress"]

That works perfectly, but there are many parameters available for customization. I’ve included a more involved example, using as many parameters as possible, in the downloadable code for this post.

So with the widget, RSSImport lets us display feed content in any widgetized area. And now with the shortcode, we can display feeds right in your posts and pages. But if we still desire even more control, we can get our hands dirty and modify our theme template files directly.

Display feed content anywhere in your theme

Direct modification of theme (or child theme) template files isn’t for everyone, but for complete control over configuration and customization, you may need to go there. I’s really no big deal, though—just pick a spot in your theme and add the following line of PHP code:

Just like with the widget and shortcode methods, you can use any of the RSSImport parameters to customize feed display any way you wish. Check out RSSImport at the Plugin Directory for complete details.

Displaying Feeds with WordPress’s built-in functionality

WordPress has a built-in way of displaying feeds using the fetch_feed function. Using the fetch_feed function means we have one less plugin to fiddle with and maintain, so if you feel comfortable working with basic PHP and WordPress template tags, then you’ll love how easy it is to import and display external feeds. To illustrate, paste this snippet anywhere in your theme (e.g. sidebar.php). Note that this code is also included in the download:

…and we’re done. Just specify your feed URL in the first line, and you’re up and running.

Way back when, importing feeds was a more complicated process, but over the over the years WordPress has evolved to make it extremely easy.

Here is a more complete example that shows how to grab different parts of the feed and display them as a nice definition list (this code is also included in the download):

The easiest way to understand this code is to just plop it into your theme file and look at the results on your site. Some of the highlights include:

  • an error-check in line 5
  • use of $rss->get_title(); to display the feed title
  • use of $item->get_permalink(); to display each item’s permalink
  • use of $item->get_date(); to display the post date for each item
  • use of $item->get_title(); to display the title for each item
  • use of $item->get_description(); to display the content of each item.

When working directly with template code, you have full control over the markup used to display your feeds. Throw in a little CSS and you’re equipped to rule the world.

SEO and other considerations

In closing, here are some things to keep in mind when working with external feeds:

  • Don’t steal, get permission—if in doubt, contact the publisher of the feed and ask.
  • If using WP-o-Matic, you may want to link target keywords and phrases using the regex feature.
  • Give proper link credit to the source of any feed(s) you use—otherwise it’s too shady.
  • Linking titles back to the source is good practice, but feel free to strip links from excerpts.
  • Don’t auto-fetch feeds more than once or twice per hour. If you need to update more frequently, get permission.

Bottom line: if in doubt, get permission. And always link back to the source. Everything else is up to you!

Jeff Starr is a web developer, graphic designer and content producer with over 10 years of experience and a passion for quality and detail. Jeff is co-author of the book Digging into WordPress and strives to help people be the best they can be on the Web. Read more from Jeff at Perishable Press or hire him at Monzilla Media.

A Note from Darren: I can only really echo the call to ‘get permission’ when importing other people’s feeds. I’d also warn against simply reposting other people’s feeds in full – particularly if that’s all you do primarily on your blog. To do means you’re not really creating unique content – this isn’t great for readers but also signals to search engines that you’re just creating duplicate content (meaning you’ll never really rank too high for that content).

Keep in mind that successful blogs are built on unique and useful content. Importing feeds might seem like a quick way to generate content – but it does little to build your authority, voice or a relationship with readers.

How to Ajaxify Your WordPress Site

This guest post is by Jeff Starr, co-author of the book Digging into WordPress.

Injecting a dose of Ajax into your WordPress-powered site is an excellent way to enhance functionality and streamline the user experience. Without touching a line of code, you can harness the power of Ajax to boost performance, improve usability, and fill your site with win.

Ajax enables your web pages to respond very quickly and smoothly to user input by loading only snippets of data instead of the entire page. The WordPress login/registration screen is a perfect example. Without Ajax, logging into the WordPress Admin requires a URL redirection and complete page load. With Ajax, users can log in from anywhere with no redirection or page load required. This translates into a more luxurious, sophisticated experience for you and your users.

Beyond the “coolness” factor, Ajax can also improve the responsiveness and performance of your site. Instead of loading new pages to leave comments, view posts, and share content, Ajax empowers users to interact with your site with greater intimacy and efficiency than ever before. By eliminating page loads, Ajax helps to save valuable server resources and bandwidth, resulting in improved performance for your site. And you can “ajaxify” just about anything: from logins and comments to navigation and updates, Ajax can speed things up, save resources, and make your site better than ever.

WordPress + Ajax = Awesome

Using WordPress, implementing Ajax functionality couldn’t be easier. By installing and configuring a few choice plugins, you can ajaxify your entire site (or any part of it) without touching a single line of code. The trick is choosing only the best plugins for your site, and only what’s needed. There are a zillion Ajax plugins available, but only a handful of them really work as advertised (or at all). Let’s check out some of the best WordPress plugins for adding Ajax to your site from within the comfort of the WordPress Admin.

Ajax plugins for WordPress comments

A majority of the Ajax plugins listed in the Plugin Directory are aimed at improving the commenting system. Here are five of the best plug-n-play Ajax plugins for your WordPress comments area:

  • WP-Comment-Master: Put simply, WP-Comment-Master ajaxifies the entire commenting system: comment display, comment paging, comment submission, and posting. It features a great Settings page for easy integration and configuration and is definitely one of the best Ajax-comment plugins available.
  • iF AJAX Comments For WordPress: Another excellent plugin for ajaxifying the comment-submission process. iF AJAX Comments enables users to preview and post their comments without refreshing the page. It includes a ton of options for fine-tuning required fields, CSS styling, status messages, and more. It also features a host whitelist for tighter security.
  • AJAX Comment Page: AJAX Comment Page is a nice little plugin that ajaxifies the display of your comments with a fancy slide-in effect. It works great for paged or unpaged comments and includes a simple Settings page to control the number of comments per page.
  • Ajax Comment Preview: So far, this is the best plugin I’ve found for true comment previews. Ajax Comment Preview enables your users to see exactly what their comments will look like when submitted. This plugin uses Ajax to send the preview through WordPress’ “inner voodoo” and then instantly display the results. The plugin features a nice Settings page to control functionality and integrate the comment preview with your design.
  • AJAX Report Comments: One of my favorite Ajax plugins, Ajax Report Comments enables your visitors to report inappropriate comments with a single click. The Admin page includes basic settings and an email template. This plugin offers truly tight functionality and amust-have for sites with tons of user comments.

Ajax plugins for user login and registration

Ajax can literally revolutionize the user login/registration/lost-password experience. Instead of requiring multiple clicks and page loads to log into the Admin, here are three plugins that ajaxify the entire process into a single click.

  • Login With Ajax: Login With Ajax is a popular, well-ranked plugin (it has over 45K downloads). It enables users to log in, register, and recover lost passwords from the sidebar (via widget) or anywhere in your theme (via the login_with_ajax() template tag). It features a great Settings page with role-specific redirects and custom registration email templates.
  • iRedlof Ajax Login: Much more than a login widget, iRedlof Ajax Login adds a complete user dashboard to the top of the screen. The dashboard is pre-styled and includes complete login functionality as well as links to random posts and admin menus personalized to each user according to their role. Downsides: there’s no Settings page, and you need to add updateHeader() to your theme template.
  • AJAX Login Widget++: Another good plugin for Ajax-powered login, registration, and password functionality, this one also features login redirect. The login form can be placed in your sidebar with a widget, or anywhere else with add_ajax_login_widget().

Ajax plugins for the WordPress Admin area

On the other side of WordPress, the Admin area is another excellent place to enjoy the smooth and sophisticated comforts of Ajax. Unfortunately there aren’t quite as many Ajax-based Admin plugins to choose from, but here two that are both fun and useful.

  • Ajax Plugin Helper: It’s simple: save time while keeping up with WordPress plugin updates. Ajax Plugin Helper lets you activate, deactivate, delete, and upgrade plugins without leaving the Plugins page. Very smooth stuff, and there’s even an “Upgrade All” feature for knocking out multiple upgrades with a single click! Nice.
  • Admin Ajax Note: Ever wish you could leave notes and stuff for other admin users? Admin Ajax Note makes it easy with an Ajax-powered notepad in the upper-right corner of the Admin area. Create, edit, and delete as many notes as you want, and share with all users, one user, or none. Good stuff.

These two plugins are great, but it would awesome to add more to the list. If you know of any sweet Ajax Admin plugins, please share them in the comments!

Ajax plugins for other cool stuff

Here are some other keen plugins for ajaxifying different parts of your WordPress site:

  • DynamicWP Contact Form: The DynamicWP Contact Form puts a floating Contact button on the upper-left side of the page. Click the button and the dynamic contact form slides into view. Messages are sent via Ajax to keep the user on the same page throughout the process. Snazzy indeed, but the styling is distinct and may need to be tweaked to fit your design.
  • AJAX Calendar: An ajaxified version of the classic WordPress calendar, AJAX Calendar enables you to browse the months without reloading the page. It features a link to display all posts for the current month, as well as a caching option to enhance performance. If you’re already using the classic WP calendar, this plugin is highly recommended.
  • Ajax Category Posts Dropdown: This plugin is perfect for sites with lots of subcategories. Ajax Category Posts Dropdown lists your categories in a dropdown box. When a user clicks on a category, all posts from that category are displayed via Ajax. Easily display the list in your sidebar via widget, or anywhere in your theme via the acpd_display($acdp_title) template tag.

Ajax plugins to ajaxify everything

One of the coolest things to ajaxify is your WordPress navigation, so that when users click to the next post, it’s loaded instantly and on the same page, without a reload. Here are two awesome plugins that use Ajax to load posts, pages, comments, and archives to basically ajaxify all default functionality on the public side of your WordPress site.

As with any plugin that greatly modifies WordPress, these plugins involve a lot of options. You’ll need to spend some time to understand and configure them properly. Most of the other plugins mentioned so far are plug-n-play, but Ajax-everything plugins like these require some time to familiarize and customize.

SEO considerations for ajaxed content

As you ajaxify your site, keep in mind that search engines aren’t yet crawling or indexing ajaxed data, so make sure you’re enabling Google et al to find your content. There are numerous solutions to this challenge, the easiest of which involves the use of a well-linked sitemap and actual HTML content delivered via noscript tags.

Also consider SEO when ajaxifying your comments. User comments add content to your web pages, but they won’t be crawled, indexed, or considered in page rank if they’re served with Ajax. For many sites, this shouldn’t be too big a deal, but it is something to think about.

For more information on Ajax and SEO, check out Scott Allen’s article, AJAX, Web 2.0 and SEO.

Wrapping up

These are the Ajax gems that I’ve managed to find, but many other great plugins are available. If you know of any good WordPress Ajax plugins (or themes!), please share them in the comments. Thanks!

Jeff Starr is a web developer, graphic designer and content producer with over 10 years of experience and a passion for quality and detail. Jeff is co-author of the book Digging into WordPress and strives to help people be the best they can be on the Web. Read more from Jeff at Perishable Press or hire him at Monzilla Media.

Awesome WordPress Plugins to Empower Your Visitors

This guest post is by Jeff Starr, co-author of the book Digging into WordPress.

Helping your visitors get the most out of your site benefits everyone. Visitors get more relevant and useful content, and you enjoy better statistics and more exposure. Unfortunately the game is set up to keep people away from your site. Think about it:

  • Search engines are used to find your content
  • Feed readers are used to read your content
  • Social media is used to share, tag, and organize your content

These are major obstacles, certainly, but they don’t have to work against you. People use search engines, feed readers, and social media because they provide functionality missing from most websites. By integrating some of that same functionality into your site, you empower your visitors to maximize its usefulness. This may sound like a tall order, but if you’re using WordPress, improving your site couldn’t be easier. Let’s look at some awesome WordPress plugins to make it happen.

Google-power your search results

People will always use external search engines like Google to find content on your site. That’s a good thing, but you also want to empower your users with the best possible search results. WordPress’ default search is limited in several ways:

  • does not do “exact-match” searching
  • only searches posts and post titles
  • only searches your current WordPress installation
  • can be painfully slow, gobbles resources

Fortunately, we can harness the power of Google and empower your users with the most accurate, comprehensive, and speedy search possible. Integrating Google Search into your site provides the following benefits:

  • exact-match searching (i.e., using quotes to match specific phrases)
  • searches your entire site plus any other desired sites or directories
  • usually works pretty quickly – much faster than WordPress default search
  • optional additional revenue through Google’s AdSense program

Sound good? Here are some of the best plugins to make it happen:

Google Search for WordPress

This beautiful plugin works silently behind the scenes to replace WordPress’ search results with Google’s search results. You simply install the plugin and enter your Google API Key in the Google Search Settings. If you don’t have an API Key, it’s free and easy to get one. The only other requirement is to include “Powered by Google” next to your search form and on the search-results page. Once it’s installed, all search results will be replaced by those from Google. No code-wrangling required.

More information and downloads are available at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Google Custom Search Plugin

The Google Custom Search Plugin is another excellent way to integrate Google Search into your WordPress blog. Instead of signing up for an API Key, visit Google Search and create your own custom search engine by walking through the steps. After setting up your own form, grab the generated code and paste it into the plugin’s Settings page.

More information and downloads are available at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

More from Google

The More from Google plugin works a little differently by adding to your default search results instead of completely replacing them. After installing and configuring the plugin, your search results will include matches from both WordPress and Google. If Google has yet to index your entire site, this may be the perfect way to ensure that visitors are getting the best search results.

More information and downloads are available at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Other Ways to Improve WordPress Default Search

If Google Search isn’t for you, don’t fret. Here are two additional plugins that will vastly improve WordPress’ default search:

  • Search Everything – literally searches everything in your database, based on your preferences
  • Better Search – highly customizable solution for improving WordPress’ default search

Regardless of how you do it, improving your site’s default search functionality is a great way to help your visitors use your site and find the content they crave.

Socialize and communitize your WordPress site

Bring the excitement of social-media to your WordPress-powered site! There are so many reasons to empower your readers to favorite, share, and rate your content directly on your website, and just as many awesome plugins to make it super-easy to do. Here are some of the best plugins for making your site fun, social, and more interactive.

WP Favorite Posts

WP Favorite Posts is a popular, five-star plugin that enables your visitors to add favorite posts to their own list of favorites. Installation is easy, and the plugin is straightforward and easy to modify and customize to fit any design. I use the plugin on my Angry-Birds fan site. You can see the “Add to Favorites” link in the upper-right corner of any post. There is also a link to “View Favorites”, where each user can view (and delete) their favorite links. And even cooler than all that, you can display a list of everyone’s most-popular favorites, very similar to how Delicious works.

More information and downloads are available at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Star ratings and reviews

Post ratings are a fun and informative way to engage visitors and promote content. And there are many post-rating plugins to choose from.

In terms of functionality and customization, the GD Star Rating plugin can do just about anything, but the endless configuration options may be overkill. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the elegant simplicity of the Vote-the-Post plugin, which is lightweight, flexible, and easy to customize code-side for tight design integration. I use this plugin to enable voting at Angry-Birds.net (see any post for example).

These plugins also enable you to display lists of top-rated posts anywhere on your site, so you can uninstall that most-popular-post plugin you no longer need.

Chat forum

Chat forums aren’t for every site, but when done right they’re great ways to build community and facilitate conversation. As with post-ratings, there are many chat plugins available in the Directory, but there are two that stand above the rest:

Both of these plugins are popular, highly rated plugins that provide flexible, customizable chat functionality. WordSpew is great because it uses Ajax to refresh everything automatically, keeping the chat window flowing in real time. Pierre’s Wordspew works without AJax, but it also uses a Flash .flv file that prevents it from working on devices like the iPad and iPhone. You can see a highly customized example of the WordSpew plugin at Dead Letter Art.

Show online users

Just like showing off counts for feed subscribers, Twitter followers, and Facebook fans, you can also show off the number of users currently online. An excellent plugin for this is WP-UserOnline, which provides several templates for easy configuration of how and where the user-online count is displayed. You can also set up a “Who’s online?” page that shows detailed statistics of where your visitors are on the site, who they are, and where they came from. This awesome plugin takes only minutes to implement using template tags and/or widgets.

Social media

Even after socializing your site, you want to make sure that visitors can easily share and bookmark your content on their favorite social-media sites. I tell you the truth, there are a gazillion plugins and widgets for adding every social-media site under the sun, but you really only need one plugin to do the job. Just install and configure WP Socializer and done. Any combination of social-media buttons, icons, links displayed virtually anywhere on your site. Tons of options yes, but they are all well-organized and easy to configure from the comfort of your WordPress Admin.

Wrapping up

No matter how awesome your website, there’s always room for improvement. With the techniques and tools described in this article, empowering your visitors to get the most from your WordPress site is as easy as installing and configuring a few choice plugins. As you go, keep an eye on site performance. Loading up with too many plugins can burden your server and slow things down for visitors. All the functionality in the world means nothing on a slow-loading website. A good strategy is to cherry-pick a few choice plugins and watch the results. Remember the goal is to help visitors get into your site and really use it for all it’s worth.

Jeff Starr is a web developer, graphic designer and content producer with over 10 years of experience and a passion for quality and detail. Jeff is co-author of the book Digging into WordPress and strives to help people be the best they can be on the Web. Read more from Jeff at Perishable Press or hire him at Monzilla Media.

5 Tools I Am Willing to Pay for [And Recommend] to Improve My Blogs

One of the great things about blogging is that it is very accessible to anyone with internet access. There are some fantastic tools around that are completely free that mean you can have a blog up and running within minutes of deciding to start a blog.

Free tools range from hosted blog platforms like WordPress.com and Blogger through to a myriad of plugins and themes around the web that can make blogging a breeze.

Of course while there are many many free options out there, sometimes to take your blog to the next level there can come a time when you need to spend a few dollars. I bit the bullet early in my blogging and did this first by paying for my own hosting and moving from Blogger to Movable Type (and later to WordPress.org). I also paid fairly early on for a custom design.

These days I continue to have a variety of expenses including hosting, design, paying a small team of writers (on dPS), paying for some admin support and some development costs.

There are also a number of paid tools that have become indispensable for me which I’d like to feature today. While there are free alternatives to some of them, I’ve found them to be of a standard that I’m more than happy to pay for.

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1. Aweber

Perhaps the single most important decision that I’ve made in the last few years of blogging was to add newsletters to my blogs (particularly my photography blog).

I’ve outlined how I use newsletters to drive significant traffic and make money and have written previously Why I use Aweber so won’t rehash it all again – but this is a tool I’m more than happy to have invested in as it easily pays for itself and has been a key part of growing my blogs over the last 4 years many times over.

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2. Ustream Producer Pro

This is the latest tool that I’ve invested in. It wasn’t particularly cheap at $199 but enables me to take my video streaming sessions up a notch and do things like have more than one camera angle, do live screen capturing, add a logo to my ustream sessions, import movies and audio into them, have extra transitions, do picture in picture etc.

Some of this is in the free version and you might find you don’t need to upgrade unless you want a few more bells and whistles.

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3. MindNode Pro

I’m a big fan of mind mapping. I used to do it without having a name for it on whiteboards and note pads but when I saw online tools that could help me with it I was in heaven. I’ve tried a lot of the Mac based tools (both free and paid) and the one that suits my workflow best is MindNode.

Their free version is brilliant and you might not even need to upgrade but I’m willing to pay for the Pro version simply because it adds the ability to fold down sections of your mind map and do things like add images to it.

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4. Market Samurai

I’ve not ever really paid money for SEO before until I came across the Market Samurai tool but it’s excellent. I may not use it quite to its fullest potential (yet) but have touched on how I find it useful for choosing a niche to blog about as well as optimizing a single post on your blog for search engines.

The cool thing is that they have a free trial of the tool which will give you access to its great features to try before you buy – you might find that that’s all you need to do some research and get your blog optimised pretty well.

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5. Screenflow

This is a mac only tool which allows users to do great screencasting. I’ve used it more for private resources that I’ve developed for a couple of companies in consulting but it is a very cool way to show what’s on your screen in video as well as insert a view from a camera. A few videos I’ve made with it include –  

Note: I am an affiliate for Market Samurai and Aweber but am both a user and a fan of both.

Wibiya Toolbar [First Impression Review]

Over the last week I’ve been trialling the Wibiya Toolbar on my photography blog.

For those of you unfamiliar with it it is a little toolbar that appears at the bottom of the browser of those who visit your blog which allows them to do a variety of tasks. You can see it in the bottom of the screen shot below (click to enlarge).

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The toolbar is customizable so there are a variety of applications that you can add to it.

On my toolbar I’ve enabled a number of applications including:

  • Search – allows readers to search your blog (or the web) via Google
  • Recent Posts – when clicked it shows the latest posts on the blog (while not as useful on the front page where these posts are already displayed it can help increase page views from single posts.
  • Real Time Users – shows readers how many others are online and what they’re reading
  • Random Posts – when clicked it takes readers to a random post on your blog
  • Link Menu – allows you to add in a variety of key links on your site (like a little navigation menu, I have mine pointing to key categories and sections)
  • Digg This – allows readers to digg your posts from the toolbar
  • Subscribe – allows readers to subscribe to your RSS feed
  • Smart Share – allows readers to share your posts via a variety of means including on social bookmarking sites, twitter, facebook and via email
  • Facebook – allows readers to see your facebook fan page without leaving your site via a popup
  • Twitter – allows readers to see your twitter stream as well as tweet a link out about your page without leaving your page

There are quite a few other applications/tabs that you can choose from and a number of options within some of them to different features.

You’re also abe to choose a color scheme to suit your page.

There are a variety of ways of installing it into your blog including via a WordPress plugin for those using WP.

The Results

I’ve been testing the Wibiya toolbar for about 10 days now so it’s time to look at the ‘result’ and stats that they provide publishers to see what impact (if any) using the toolbar has had.

Here’s a quick screenshot of the dashboard having selected stats for the last 7 days:

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The top section of stats provides stats for each of the ‘tabs/applications’. You can drill down a little more on each one like this one for the ‘latest posts’ tab:

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Worth noting – the stats in the first screen shot above do look a little more impressive than the reality as can be illustrated by the ‘latest posts’ stats which show that 586 people clicked the ‘latest posts’ toolbar tab but only 83 clicks on other posts were recorded (meaning less than 1 in 7 of the 669 people who clicked the latest posts tab actually visited another page). This is true for almost all of the other tabs. Here’s some examples:

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A few comments about these results:

  1. people were clicking on the toolbar a lot without doing anything. I suspect this was partly a ‘curiosity factor’ at play as the toolbar is new and people are still working out what to do with it and how it works.
  2. considering the traffic of the site the ‘actions’ were pretty low. Wibiya doesn’t give you any stats on how many times the toolbar loaded (that’d be handy) but as the blog area of dPS (the area it was showing) does over 146,000 page views per day (over 1 million per week) I was a little surprised by the low numbers of actions. They recorded about 3000 actions in the week but considering that most of those were simply clicks on the tool bar the real conversions were not super high.
  3. the stats could be a lot more insightful – perhaps Wibiya will be adding a premium model where you pay for more detail but I didn’t find that some of the stats that they gave were that insightful. For example:
    • it’d be handy to know that not only 83 people clicked on latest posts but to also know which posts they clicked on
    • it’d be great to known which links in the navigation links tab were clicked
    • It’d be handy to know what those 255 searches were for
    • similarly it’d be cool to know which posts were Dugg
    • it’d be great to know which posts were shared
  4. the other considerations that I need to take into account is the fact that I also had reader feedback during the last 10 days about the toolbar. In fact we’ve had a number of threads in our forum area talking about it and the feedback has been mixed. Originally I had the toolbar installed in the forum area as well as the blog – but I removed this after members complained at a ratio of about 9:1. On the blog area I’ve also had both negative and positive feedback about it (something I’ll keep monitoring. It seems that those complaining about it just don’t like anything popping up or obscuring any part of their browser (not surprising – even though the toolbar is pretty slim and is on the least unobtrusive part of the page).

There have obviously been some benefits from having the toolbar. I’m not complaining about having new followers, subscribers and more page views…. however the question I have to ask is whether the results are enough considering the page views and interruption of readers.

I’m going to run it for another week to see what happens when the curiosity factor with readers dies off a little more before I make any final decisions.

Have you experimented with the Wibiya toolbar (or similar ones) – what impact has it had on your site?