WP Admin dashboard example

Be Careful What You CMS For

The growth of Content Management Systems has been phenomenal over the past
several years for a number of reasons; one easily recognized is a need to
update the business website regularly and/or quickly.

User-friendliness can be objective (standard definition/best practices), yet can
also be a matter of personal taste in many areas. Appealing colors, read-able
fonts that contrast to background, navigation that is easy to access and
understand, strategic content placement, all seem obvious elements of a user-
friendly site.

Choices on types of color (can I get a witness to avoid yellow/green on
light blue?); whether backgrounds should have patterns that are intricate, simple,
or remain solid; the amount of content, all figure into how much traffic the
site gets and how long people stay.

To my knowledge the general rule has been to design sites to be compatible with
most commonly used media/devices, but with the proliferation of mobile and
tablets, not to mention wider monitors, "most commonly used" is relative. A site
that adapts to the device display is ideal.

What do you need to know to administer a CMS?

With a properly set up site you should still expect a degree of a learning curve.
After learning the basics you won't need to do more than enter content -- most
of the time. With WordPress for example, image uploads are simple and intuitive;
applying updates is a frequent but relatively easy task. However there is always
the possibility that you have to restore the database. This is one area where
you will need to work with other tools in your hosting admin panel suite.

The one thing you should not do is make changes or add things without
understanding as much as possible about the nature and consequences of
them (if any). If a performance hit or worse results, it is reassuring to know in advance what steps can be taken to recover.

One area where it pays to be cautious is in adding plugins. A  plugin is a software module designed for specific or multiple functions  depending on the implementation.

Too many plugins can slow your system down; duplication of underlying
technologies can cause a conflict and hang the system or crash the site. A host
provider may take your site offline (without notice) if they perceive "abuse."

How much is 'too many'? In my experience I haven't found it yet (knock wood).
I searched the WP forums on this topic and the consensus is it's only limited
by server resources and how well built the plugin is, and if they play well with
others.

To date I've only installed on shared hosting and have used a variety of solutions for
resource issues.

In cases where things are going wrong or breaking, one of the first
ways to diagnose the problem is to deactivate all plugins (easily done with a
couple of clicks from the dashboard) then reactivate them one at a time and
test to see if the problem recurs, so the plugin at fault can be isolated.

The challenge, as with most everything, is having the patience and persistence
to discover what is possible and where/how to obtain it.

Consider the following:

  • Get training or train yourself in the admin functions of your CMS.
  • Understand whether your site is concentrated on information or interaction.
  • What screen resolution are you expecting to optimally display your site?
  • How many of your anticipated audience will view the site at that resolution?
  • Should you have a blog in addition to a "company profile" site?
  • How much are you willing to delegate?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but will serve to guide your direction.

The CMS approach is a welcome, expedient and robust platform for developing
your web presence, and there are many to choose from. Some are preferred
for different purposes (i.e. WordPress for blogging, others for eCommerce), but
with so many plugins and themes available, functionality doesn't have to be
compromised and tradeoffs are not that hard.

Whatever you decide it's always a good idea to plan for scaling. Make sure your CMS can grow with you and in what it delivers.

Penguins, Pandas, and Bears, Oh My!

When I tell people about what Diverse Elements does, many anticipate that I'll say "SEO"  quicker than a politican's flip flop.

For those who may still be uninitiated, Search Engine Optimization
ultimately means getting and staying at or near the top of search results,
and/or at least staying on page 1 for search engines when anyone looks for
something in particular using natural language terms (organic search).

In addition to those coveted positions, I'll wager SEO expert seekers
at least imagine some high-tech wizardry must be involved.

By now, even those who aren't "technology-immersed" have likely heard of
Google's "Panda update", designed to counter methods of gaming the system
such as using sites solely as a means of increasing rankings of other sites,
keyword stuffing, and poor quality content/links. All evaluated by the accumulated knowledge of the search algorithm in this update, which can carry legitimate sites in its wake.

More recently (2012) the rankings of many sites were further impacted by
Google's "Penguin update" which focused on the quality of backlinks (links on
other sites referring back to the target site), and the age of a site as well as
its "evergreen content." There is even a reported "over-optimization penalty"
being levied.

As Jim Cockrum , a noted internet marketer recently observed:

"You can hire the best of the best SEO experts on the planet, pay them to do their chants and work their magic, and wake up one day on page 39 of [Google] just like the guy that deserves to be there...because his content sucks and you tried  to "fool" [Google]...both offenses get you slapped."

On the flip side, these changes have given rise to a phenomena known as
"negative SEO" where rankings for sites may be intentionally reduced by their
competitors employing the deceptive strategies.

Fundamental legitimate practices can be applied to raise the odds of remaining
among the early SERP results: reasonable use of keywords (in order to clearly
express ideas, not to exploit favor by search engines); creative domain names and
titles; links from/to authority sites that have not been added abnormally fast,
to name a few. Visiting other blogs, forums and answer boards, contributing
and demonstrating knowledge and the like is a part of the recipe as well.

The boom in social media can also have such an effect but not the way you might
have thought. In fact there's ample evidence that social networking is
influencing search engine results greater than traditional SEO.

Quote from Neil Patel/Quicksprout.com on the influence of Twitter on Bing:

"[...] while the ability to search for tweets via Bing may not send much traffic to your social networking profile, there’s evidence that tweets or retweets of links by legitimate users on Twitter can lead to a bump in traditional SEO rankings as well.

Jennifer Lopez (author of article in Daily SEOMoz) did a case study showing that after a tweet introducing her Beginners’ Guide to SEO was retweeted by Smashing Magazine, she noticed an immediate impact in terms of both traffic and rankings for a previously un-tracked keyword."

However, social networking can involve an investment of time that business owners may not have. More about that in another post.

One thing is certain: authors of tricky (or worse) methods have just as many and more dedicated and bright individuals constantly inventing countermeasures. Another is that web search is evolving and no single strategy is a panacea.

So, does Diverse Elements "do SEO?" Most definitely. Organic search will continue
in some form and should be taken into account. But the primary objective should
not be to remain indefinitely on page 1; it should be to build a loyal following
that will refer others, just as in the brick and mortar world. The search engines
will reward accordingly.

Yes, being discovered is great. Being able to relate is greater.