Community Driven List Posts: A Tool for Bloggers | Social Media Examiner

I had seen a few posts about the service, but this post from social media examiner offers a really cool use for it that invites community participation. list posts are the evergreens of the blog world - what are some other ways you could see a crowdsourced list like this being a good thing?

Create a Community-Driven List Post is a collaborative list-building tool. You create the initial list on the website and you can embed it as part of your blog post. Embedding means that it appears as if it’s in your blog post, but it still resides on

What’s cool is that your community can then add and/or vote for items on the list. This can be a useful tool to engage with your community and discover more about their interests.

naked marketing example
via click through to read the whole post - worth it!


The 7 SEO Principles Bloggers Must Remember | Convince and Convert

more wisdom from the sage of bloomington, jay baer at convince and convert. actually, this is from a guest post on his blog from tony ahn
Writing solid content is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing a successful blog. It’s important to advantage of search engines by building link equity, flattening your blog, and using other SEO tactics to make sure your content is getting the attention it deserves. These seven SEO tips can play a major role in pushing your blog up the search engine totem pole, allowing you to rank higher and therefore garner more visitors to your site.
via (click through to read the whole post)


Manage multiple WordPress sites with ManageWP, WPRemote and InfiniteWP | WordPress Garage

Nice review of three tools for managing multiple sites in wordpress. spoiler alert: I excerpted the winner, but YMMV



I saved the best for last! InfiniteWP is a little trickier to set up because you need to upload files to your server, but it is so worth it! First of all, InfiniteWP is FREE! And, second of all, since you’re hosting it on your server, you’re not dependent on a third-party service and you have more control over the security.

And, guess what! InfiniteWP is FREE!

via (click through to see all the reviews)


WordPress: The Free Software With a Big Economy & How You Can Get Involved - TNW Design & Dev

Just about everyone reading this will be familiar with WordPress: it’s the behemoth on the content management scene, employed by millions of blogs and web publications large and small alike. The Next Web runs on WordPress, as do most of our competitors, and these days you have to look a little harder to find sites that run on the giants of the past such as Joomla! (formerly Mambo) and the perpetual underdog, Drupal.

WordPress has evolved in huge ways over the years, and generally for the better. What started out as a system known exclusively as a blogging platform can be used to run a wide variety of site types. The team is constantly updating the software with features that cater to a variety of users from bloggers to theme developers: as an editor, for example, some of my favorite features that have come out in recent years are simply things that make managing the publication pipeline easier.

And with the framework offered by the platform for theme developers so ridiculously easy to understand, WordPress has probably made more PHP dabblers out of designers than any other project.

The History of WordPress

WordPress was born out of a predecessor known as b2, one of the first open source blogging platforms. In 2003, b2 was already responsible for running more than 2,000 blogs — considering that the concept was still fairly new and had only been embraced by a swath of early adopters, these numbers were significant, though a pale shadow of WordPress’ reach today.

In 2003, Matt Mullenweg — CEO of Automattic and the face of WordPress — and Mike Little forked b2 to create WordPress. To fork is an open source development term that refers to the process of taking an existing open source project and creating a new branch of it, often with its own new leadership and development team. It was then that Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little’s project superseded b2, and even b2′s founder Michel Valdrighi is a contributing developer for WordPress.

Mullenweg founded Automattic, Inc. in August 2005, which held the WordPress trademark until September last year, when the company relinquished its most valuable asset to the WordPress Foundation.

“It’s important for me to know that WordPress will be protected and that the brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom regardless of whether any company is as benevolent as Automattic has been thus far,” Mullenweg said in a blog post at the time.

Automattic puts much of its resources into developing WordPress, which as an open source project they do not own. You’ve probably heard of some of their other projects, too: the free hosted blogging service, the forum software bbPress, spam filter Akismet, BuddyPress (a social networking plugin for WordPress), Gravatar and the hugely popular WordCamps. That’s just naming a few.

The Rise of the WordPress Economy

For years, the commercial viability of open source development has been a subject of much debate, with the traditional answer from open source advocates suggesting businesses offer support services around their open source projects. Unfortunately, such approaches make scaling a business incredibly hard, as these services are one-to-one.

But as WordPress began to grow in popularity and adoption, it became apparent that there were ample opportunities for businesses to take a scaleable one-to-many approach. In fact, Automattic was one of the first to do so.

“I have always believed that the Open Source foundation of WordPress would provide incredible opportunities for businesses to be built. When I founded Automattic about 5 years ago it was the first attempt in our community to do that in a large, targeted way, starting with anti-spam service Akismet,” said Mullenweg in an interview. “The recent success of the WP premium theme market is just the latest example.”

Anti-spam services are a necessity for online publications. Every time another botnet is taken out, it doesn’t take long for a new one to take its place, and site owners come under a constant barrage of ugly, embarrassing spam that needs to be cleaned off their sites.

Just about every WordPress user runs Akismet, because it’s highly effective and can be used for free, but the company offers plans from $5 up to $100 for businesses, even though they could get away with charging businesses much more for the same service. It’s yet more evidence that Automattic, even as a for-profit company, takes its belief in accessibility and fairness seriously.

Automattic hasn’t once lost sight of the platform that drives its success. “That said, these commercial successes are predicated on the growth and stability of the underlying WordPress platform, and I devote about half my creative energy to improving and accelerating the core platform of WP, and I’d suggest anyone else making their living from WordPress do the same,” said Mullenweg.

Since then, commercial themes started springing up all over the web. Consumers who weren’t interested in the basic — though often quite attractive — free themes could look into the premium options available to them, and the demand for such themes proved to be huge, and only ever growing.

The naysayers in those early days are still remembered for claiming that with so many free themes available, it’s unlikely that any theme business would reach beyond a very specific market segment.

It wasn’t long before Envato, the company who had bootstrapped its way to profitability on the back of marketplaces such as ActiveDen (then FlashDen, before Adobe got antsy about the name) and AudioJungle, saw that there might be something to the whole theme market and set up ThemeForest. ThemeForest is now the biggest WordPress theme retailer on the web.

“The first inkling came when in our closed private beta, which was just for getting people to upload content, we actually started seeing sales. That’s the only private beta where this has happened, so that was a pretty good sign! After a few months of sales, it was clear that WordPress was a very fast grower and of course after a year or so of continuous growth it really became clear just what a great niche it was to be,” said Collis Ta’eed, CEO of Envato and co-founder of the company.

Envato doesn’t make the products sold on ThemeForest themselves — though they have been known to put themes up for sale on the site that were developed for internal projects, such as the old theme for The Netsetter. Its large base of authors drive product development while the company focuses on the platform.

On the other hand, Elegant Themes is a small theme shop where each theme is designed in-house. Like ThemeForest, they saw fast growth, though it took around a year to really take off.

“The business was profitable on day one (that’s not saying much, considering there were no startup costs) and has been growing steadily since inception. It probably took a year or so for it to develop into something that I would call a “real business.” We have experienced some considerable growth in recent months as well, which can probably be attributed to me finally finishing school and dedicating 100% of my time to the site (I have been a full time college student up until a few months ago). Activity on the site has more than doubled in the past year,” said Nick Roach, the shop’s founder.

“What started as a one-man operation 3 years ago has slowly developed into a real team effort. There are currently 10 people that work for Elegant Themes, although this consists of a mix between full and part-time staff. This team manages a quickly-growing member base of 65,000. The area that we allocate the most resources to at the company is tech support.”

As the business has grown, Roach has been able to bring on two full-time developers to get themes coded faster, but he still does all the design work himself. “I think it would be great to bring a new designer on board as well, but this isn’t as high on our priority list. I love to design, and a lack of new theme concepts hasn’t been our bottleneck.”

The GPL Licensing Controversy

The fast growth of the market brought issues with it, and the one that’ll be remembered is the controversy around GPL licensing. The open source camp, spoken for largely by WordPress’ core developers, went head-to-head with theme developers who insisted that GPL licensing would kill their sales.

The contention was that themes were derivatives of WordPress, and thus had to comply with the terms of the GPL license and in turn, license themselves under the GPL. Legal professionals offered varying takes on how that would hold up in a courtroom, with the claims made cloudier by the unhidden agendas of both sides, but we’ll leave it at that: we’re talking about the WordPress economy, not intellectual property law.

Some theme developers even started claiming they would pull out of the market and move on to other platforms, and things came to a head when Chris Pearson and Matt Mullenweg took the argument to Twitter, which led to a live debate on Mixergy that day.

But Mullenweg, calm, cool and reasoned during the debate, won out when only weeks later, Pearson’s DIY Themes announced that they would adopt the split-GPL license for their flagship product, Thesis.

When I asked Mullenweg for his thoughts on the controversy since it came to a climax during that debate in mid-2010, he said it was done and dusted.

“I think the issue of licensing in the WordPress community is settled — we now have dozens of theme companies making many millions of dollars a year on 100% GPL products, which are just as Free as WordPress itself. I’m excited about this because it shows that business can thrive while still putting users first and protecting their rights and freedoms, which is what Open Source is all about,” said Mullenweg.

Some of the last holdouts to GPL licensing did so on “principle” — or so they claimed — believing that the interpretation of the GPL in this case was wrong. But those who were worried about sales had their fears allayed when they made the switch.

“After we introduced GPL licensing on all code components for WordPress (that is plugins, and the code part of themes), we didn’t see any change in sales at all. This is great as it enabled us to bring our offerings more in line with the WordPress foundation’s aims and to ensure compliance with the WordPress licensing system,” said Ta’eed, whose marketplace requires all users to adopt the split-GPL license. But 100% GPL licensing is on the cards, he says.

“Licensing the code for WordPress themes under the GPL is a requirement for legal compliance, however licensing the entire theme including the design and assets under the GPL is the preference of founder Matt Mullenweg and many in the WordPress community. I’m not sure what the impact would be for Envato’s authors if we moved our marketplaces in that direction, and this is something we are currently reviewing,” said Ta’eed. “The wider implications for the protection of our author’s designs, their ability to include non-GPL items such as icons in their themes, the impact on our other marketplaces and the general author vibe towards such a move are all important considerations for us. And of course we always take into account that as much as is feasible we’d like to stay in the spirit of WordPress as it’s such a fantastic product and community that has enriched so many lives across the web.”

The initial move from proprietary licensing to split-GPL is an easy one, but it’s the move to 100% GPL that gets tricky. Many authors, for instance, use icon sets provided under other licenses in their themes, and thus it’s unlikely that 100% GPL will ever be a completely mandatory license on the marketplace.

Free Software that Generates Jobs

Perhaps one of the things Mullenweg can be most proud of is that his platform and the economy that has developed around it sustains the livelihood of probably hundreds of families and thousands of people, drawing on a wide range of talent in a loyal, dedicated community. Between theme developers who sell their products on marketplaces like ThemeForest, companies that make WordPress products and employ support staff, product managers, developers, designers, lawyers, accountants and more, and Automattic itself, the reach is huge.

When open source loyalists say that their philosophy can change the world, you only need to look as far as WordPress to see that mantra in action.

“It’s very difficult to say how many authors support themselves on marketplace sales because incomes in different countries vary wildly. So while earning a few hundred dollars a month might be enough to get you by in one country, in another it might be less than a week’s wages. Of course some of our authors are earning figures in the tens of thousands of dollars a month, and in any country that is a very comfortable living!” said Ta’eed.

“I’d say over a hundred people making their living would be a fair guess. We have eighty authors and counting in our Elite Author program which is for authors who have sold over $75,000, and that sounds like more than enough to get by! It’s easy to see that many of the top authors on the Envato Marketplaces are WordPress theme and plugin authors. It’s a fantastic market with huge potential and certainly an area that still has more room to see even more authors earning great paychecks.”

Of course, Ta’eed is talking about marketplace authors only: that’s not counting the dozens of staff and hundreds of contractors that Envato employees.

How to Get Started Earning with WordPress

With such a rapidly-growing economy and room for more players, I’d be surprised if you’d made it this far in the piece without thinking about how you can get in on the action yourself.

There are some basics you’ll need: enough PHP knowledge and understanding of WordPress and its theme hooks to code a theme and some design chops for theme development, or stronger knowledge of PHP and WordPress if you want to get into plugin development. But beyond the obvious prerequisites, Mullenweg, Ta’eed and Roach have some thoughts that may help newbies bust into a competitive market.

“I think the next big trends will be around customization and social. Many people are finally stretching out and finding their voice online with the power and flexibility of WordPress but still have sites that look like many others out there. Every WordPress user deserves a site as unique and beautiful as they are,” said Mullenweg, indicating that those looking to get in at the start of the next wave of big sellers should focus on such features.

“Social still doesn’t match search engines as a means of distribution for blogs, but it’s growing. There are very interesting things in the pipeline from, Facebook, Twitter, and Gravatar that build bridges between the islands of blogs.” Mullenweg won’t say what exactly is coming down the pipes at Automattic, but he says that there are interesting plans this year that will impact the way theme developers do business.

Ta’eed indicates that there’s a growing market that hasn’t been saturated so much as theme development, and that’s plugins. Given that themes are usually design vehicles for features that are already in the WordPress codebase, it’s no surprise that there’s less competition in the premium plugin world — the level of programming proficiency required for plugin development is greater.

“While themes have been a huge driver for the WordPress economy, plugins are certainly not to be ignored. There are some very impressive companies who have built up around WordPress plugins, one such example is GravityForms who sell a wonderful plugin for making forms of all varieties on WordPress,” says Ta’eed. “For us at Envato, the CodeCanyon marketplace which originally just offered PHP scripts and Javascript code for sale, was really jumpstarted by the introduction of WordPress plugins. The top plugin on our sites rivals some of the top WordPress themes.”

Despite running his own theme store, Nick Roach says that marketplaces are a great way to start out and test your abilities.

“I think that ThemeForest is a great place to start. The barrier to entry is non-existent and benefits are almost immediate (assuming you are a good designer!). It can also be used as a starting point before later transitioning into your own separate company. Starting your own business from scratch, on the other hand, is a slow and potentially heart-breaking process, but with that risk comes the reward of creating something much more exciting and fulfilling,” he says. ”I think there is still plenty of room in the market for new theme shops, and I would encourage people that have an entrepreneurial spirit to act on it. Just be sure that you love what you do, because bootstrapping a new company isn’t going to be quick or easy.”

Roach may surprise some when he suggests that the number one area of focus isn’t, in fact, design or code — though that’s not to say you can get away with ugly designs or poor code, which is evident when you look at the shop’s gorgeous offerings.

“If I were to give one piece of advice to theme developers who are thinking about starting their own business, it would be to really focus on providing quality tech support to their customers. There is a reason that our “theme development” company has 7 people doing tech support and only 2 people actually “developing” themes. Building your own community is your chance to turn customers into fans — something that is much more difficult to do on sites like ThemeForest, which has lead to rather disparate support systems on and off the site.”

7 out of 10 of Roach’s staff are dedicated to customer support, and the man himself spends half of his workday digging into support queries and questions from potential customers, which keeps him in touch with the needs and concerns of his users.

And a final piece of advice from Roach suggests that those looking to develop their own theme shops should strongly consider a subscription model over individual theme sales.

“The longevity of a theme is highly dependent on constant updates and improvements. These aren’t static HTML templates, and they need to be updated as WordPress evolves. If a theme company that relies on one-time purchase starts to see a declined in business, then their ability to update and improve old themes becomes hindered as their resources decline,” he says.

“This could potentially leave a lot of their users with buggy, unusable themes – especially if they end up going out of business completely. With the subscription model, on the other hand, there is always happy relationship between the customer and the developer. The only reason to update the themes is if people are using them, and if people are using them then they are active, paying members. This means that as long as people are willing to pay, they can rest easy knowing that our themes will continue to work flawlessly, forever.”

With WordPress theme, plugin and service sales up across the board in 2011, it’s sure to be an interesting year. More and more people are getting into the game, and competition might mean developers have to fight harder for each sale, but it also drives innovation. And innovation in online publishing is what WordPress is all about.

Facebook Introduces a Credibility Score With New Social Commenting Plugin (via insidefacebook)

Facebook may be preparing to launch a new version of its Social Commenting plugin. Judging by the version currently implemented on Facebook’s own blog, it may surface high quality comments or help users identify trolls and spammers by assigning users an aggregated credibility score. Since this score travels with users wherever the plugin is integrated, it should encourage more civil, thoughtful commenting.

The aggregated credibility score is shown as a percentage and a total number of comments in the hovercard that appears when a user is moused over in the Social Commenting plugin. Through extensive testing, we’ve determined that the percentage is calculated using the formula (total Likes – total instances marked as unhelpful or spam) / total Likes. For instance, a commenter who has had their comments Liked seven times and been marked as unhelpful once would have the equation (7 – 1) /7, which equates to 85%. Scores are rounded down and are higher than the equation specifies when there are less than five Likes.

Users and admins will be able to look at this credibility score and deduce whether a certain comment is from a reputable source. Trolls and spammers will accrue a low score or have a low number of total comments, indicating their comments aren’t worth replying to, and their links shouldn’t be clicked. High quality users will build a high score and large number of comments over time.

Authenticated Identity is Too Valuable to Risk

Websites often run into issues using their own commenting system or a third-party solution such as Disqus and Intense Debate because there are few deterrents to abusive behavior other than of a site-wide or widget-wide ban. Spammers, trolls, and those looking to dispense hate can easily create another account or move to another site without losing much.

But Facebook wields a much more powerful weapon: the ability to terminate a user’s account, severing all their friend connections. Most users will be too scared of such social ruin to abuse the Facebook Social Commenting plugin with their real account, whether professionally, as a joke, drunk, or in a fit of anger. Since the aggregated credibility score reduces the reach of using a fake account, users have to respectfully comment with their real profile to be part of the conversation.

Examples of the power of authenticated identity to promote serious discussion are already emerging. At the recent Online News Association meetup at Facebook headquarters, Andy Carvin, NPR’s Senior Strategist with their social media desk, said that the conversation on its Facebook Page is more civil than that occurring through the proprietary commenting system on its website.

With its simple cross-publishing feature; quick login for Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Yahoo! users via OpenID; aggregated credibility scoring; and the repercussions Facebook can levy against abusive commenters; any website that accepts comments should strongly consider implementing the new Facebook Social Commenting plugin when it’s released.



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Tracking scroll depth to reveal content engagement in Google Analytics (via run tings proper)

This article investigates a way to track content engagement on your site. By monitoring how far down the page a visitor to your site travels and then recording the data in Google Analytics you can discover how many of your visitors are reading your content all the way to the end.


When browsing through your Google Analytics reports you will find a massive selection of data at your fingertips. You can find how many people visited a page, how long they were there, what country they were from, if it was their first visit, if they bought something from your site and so much more. If you're reading an article like this then I doubt that I need to sell you on what a great piece of kit it is.

Part of what makes Google Analytics a great package is that it provides a JavaScript API which lets you mould the functionality to your requirements.

It occurred to me that I would be interested to know if visitors to my site were reading all of my articles or if they were just bouncing in & out registering page views for content that didn't fit their needs.

I decided that a good metric to decide if the visitor has read my content is that they scroll past 90% of the total height of the page. When this scroll depth is detected I will use _trackEvent() to record the information in Google Analytics.

What is Event Tracking?

End of Dumb Tables in Web Analytics! Hello: Weighted Sort (via Occam's Razor)

avinash kaushik knows analytics. he's got a big crush on a new google analytics feature called weighted sort. if you like people to come see what you're writing, you ought to read it - I know I am!


The Problem.

We have a very long tail of data in web analytics. Tens of thousands of rows of keywords in the Search Report (even for this small blog!). Hundreds and hundreds of referring urls and campaigns and page names and so on and so forth.

Yet because we are humans we tend to look at just the top ten or twenty rows to try and find insights. The problem? The top ten of anything rarely changes (except in rare circumstances like a sale or on a pure content – think news – site).

Hence I have persistently evangelized the need for true Analysis Ninjas to move beyond the top ten rows of data to find insights.

How? Advanced table filters, tag clouds and keyword trees are a good start.

But we need more.

One more problem though.

As if massive data we have is not enough of a problem, we also rely on Averages, Percentages, Ratios and Compound/Calculated Metrics in a profoundly sub optimal way, as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.

Take a percentage, for example Bounce Rates. The top ten won't change.

bounce rate normal table view

Hmmm. what to do. what to do?

You know what I'll try to  find the keywords with the highest bounce rates and fix them! After all I don't want to have all those visitors say: "I came. I puked. I left!"

Ok analytics tool: Sort descending!

bounce rates descending

Arrrrrh! Useless!

See all those single visits? Would improving these bounce rates have a huge impact?

Ok maybe I should learn from keywords with low bounce rates so I can perhaps take the lessons from my awesomness and apply it to others. Tool: Sort ascending!

bounce rates ascending

Arrrrrh! Again! Useless.

What could I possibly improve by focusing on these keywords with so few visits? Nothing.

So to recap:

  1. We tend to only understand the top ten rows of data, because that's what is easily visible.
  2. Gold exists beyond the top tend rows.
  3. Using percentages, averages sub optimally makes it impossible to find the Gold!

Yet gold I must find if I want to improve the outcomes for my web business (for profit or, as in the above example, non-profit).

The Solution!

The Google Analytics team has built a innovative and mathematically intelligent new feature called Weighted Sort to precisely solve this problem.

Now when you sort the data off a percentage or a ratio, like in the above case, you'll see this on top of the table.

weighted sort option google analytics

When you press this unassuming checkbox something magical happens. Google Analytics brings back for me the rows of data I should analyze further to have the highest possible impact on my business.

It looks like this. . .

search keywords weighted sort google analytics


Notice that the Visits for these keywords are sorted in an "odd" manner, as are the bounce rates.

That is the magic.


14 Sensible Tips for Making PDFs SEO-friendly (via Michael Grover)

Ever wonder how PDF files get into search results?  An aged but still relevant article from the folks at Proteus Marketing provides tips for making your PDF files more SEO friendly. Overall, the article makes a really good point: that people will often spend a lot of time and money creating the content and then will spend all of two minutes creating the PDF.  Here are 15 tips for improving the chances your PDF will get indexed and indexed the way you want it to.

  1. Make sure you create text-based PDFs: PDFs can be either text-based or image based. If they are image-based, go straight to jail and do not pass go 
  2. Specify document properties: This is sound advice for any non-html doc being posted online.  Go into the Properties dialog and fill out all possible fields. These fields are generally there to help you categorize and find your own docs. It makes sense that theis data would leak out of a PDF and help it get indexed.
  3. Optimize PDF copy: Since you've got a text-based PDF, you might as well write copy that follows your own optimization rules.
  4. Keep the content of the PDF focused: Just like html and also a best practice for anything, maintain focus. The PDF is just a container and keeping the subject focused will help Google figure out what it's about.
  5. Specify the reading order: Buried amongst the myriad menus (ok, it's Advanced>Accessibility>Add Tags to Document in Acrobat then select Advanced>Accessibility>Touch Up Reading Order) is an item which lets you send specific "aboutness" content up front. Also follow that menu path to Tag your PDFs
  6. Influence meta descriptions: More html-inspired advice, be about the content and put what your content is about right up front.
  7. Build links into PDFs: Hey, just as high-quality outbound links improve the indexability, same holds true for PDF (as long as they are text-based.)
  8. Save the PDF as an accessible version: It's probable that Adobe's latest and greatest has features which haven't been figured our by Googlebot. Hey, it's equally probably that your users don't have that latest version, either. Do us all a favor and lag the cutting edge.
  9. Optimize the file size for search: eep it as small as possible.
  10. Enable your PDFs for fast web view: Remember that long menu path above? Well, it also leads to a setting to enable "Fast View" which is kind of like streaming video.  It makes it so the PDF starts to display before the whole thing has been downloaded.  Smart.
  11. Watch where you place PDFs on your site: Did I tell you the one about the old lady who buried her husband in the flower bed in front of her house? Yeah, they found the body.  Link to your PDF from where the traffic is.
  12. Use keyword-rich anchor text to link to PDFs: Speaking of links, don't use "this pdf" as the link text. Make the link text part of the party and have it say what's being linked to.
  13. Don’t do anything in a PDF that you wouldn’t do in a web page: You know, that stupid bad stuff that feels like trickery because it is.
  14. Recheck things before you post the PDF: Lastly, check your PDF, specifically the links it contains, before linking to it on your site.


You should read the whole excellent article about Making PDF's SEO-friendly.  It has pictures!