How To: Creating a Robots.txt for a WordPress Blog

For those of you unfamiliar with Robots.txt, it is a file that webmasters use to help control what aspects of their websites are indexed by search engines and what parts are not to be indexed. This is a great way to give you full control of how they view your website and help avoid duplicate content penalities, but using a Robots.txt has to be done properly and responsibly in order to avoid making matters worse or accidentally preventing your website from being indexed all together!

There are a lot of posts out there that talk about a Robots.txt file, how to set one up, etc. Unfortunately, many of these posts don’t apply specifically to WordPress and can often get confusing when you are trying to implement one for your website. Others tend to leave out a lot of important information that most people should have prior to attempting to add a Robots.txt file to their blog’s root directory.

Ask Apache is offering a Robots.txt file and updated Robots.txt file that you can download and use for your blog. You’ll of course want to customize it to meet your needs, including adding any directories that you have created since installing the base WordPress install that you don’t want them to be indexed.

I recommend you bookmark these posts if you plan to tackle adding a Robots.txt to your blog at some point in the future. Both posts provide a lot of valuable information and, as mentioned above, includes actual templates you can use for your website.

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  • WordPress Theme Request: “Parked” WordPress Theme

    In doing some research around the internet, I disappointed to see that no one has yet created a “Parked” WordPress theme. With the increase in the popularity of domain names and parking domains, a few companies have been offering “domain name parking” services for awhile now. Popular examples of this would be Parked.com and Sedo. Unfortunately, when using one of these services, you have limited control over what is displayed, how it is displayed, and limited control over important SEO factors such as keywords/descriptions, etc (which are used to determine which advertisements are displayed).   I’ve always felt that using Google AdSense would be a better option as well.

    Because WordPress is free, I’ve noticed that it has become fairly popular for domainers/bloggers to setup a WordPress site on the domain and just place PPC advertisements all over it. This gives them full control over the meta tags and display of the site, as well as helping with search engines because they will sometimes penalized traditional parked pages.

    Something I would like to see is a theme designer put together a theme that is designed specifically for parking a domain, instead of for hosting a blog. You could then create some advertisement blocks for users to plug PPC code into and also include room for a picture or two. If setup like this it would be easily interchangeable and used across a lot of domains.  Whoever takes the time to do this would have this niche all to themselves and would probably even be able to charge for it as long as it comes with a multiple-use license.

    Anyone have an interest in making something like this?

    For anyone who still isn’t sure what I’m talking about, here is an example of a parked page:

    Cable TV

    As you can see from the picture above, this page includes a title and a place to contact the owner, a picture on the right, and a number of advertisements where the owner of the domain gets paid when they are clicked.

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  • Turn WordPress Into A CMS With WordPress Plugins

    With the recent popularity of themes attempting to turn WordPress into a content management system (CMS), people have begun purchasing premium WordPress themes in order to get the features and look they are wanting for their website.

    As Josh Byer’s points out, people can instead use free WordPress plugins to achieve much of the CMS functionality they are looking for.  Miriam of WordPress Garage also adds that a few additional plugins to turn WordPress into a CMS.  

    While using a theme designed specifically to function as a CMS has a few advantages, I think those of us that are on a budget can definitely get many of the CMS features we crave through the use of these WordPress plugins.

    If you were looking to purchase/download a CMS, what options are you most looking for?  Can you get this functionality via plugins?  I’d love to get everyones thoughts on this!

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  • Tips For Highlighting Author Comments in WordPress

    In the past we’ve gone over some methods for setting up your theme to separate your author comments in WordPress. By default, most WordPress themes check the e-mail address to determine who the person is that is leaving the comment. By adjusting the code to check for the user id instead, you can set up your theme to recognize if you are the author of the post. This is also beneficial for blogs with multiple authors.

    In addition to separating trackbacks from comments, this is another way you can easily help improve the readers experience when trying to follow a conversation in the comments. Most people use a different background, but some choose to instead display a logo. The important thing is that readers can recognize which comments are coming from the author of the post.

    Today I noticed Matt Cutts has written his own tutorial explaining how to highlight author comments in WordPress. His post also includes the code needed for CSS styling. If you still haven’t gotten around to doing this on your theme yet, I recommend you check it out!

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  • How To: Display WordPress Categories in a Horizontal Drop-Down Menu

    One thing more WordPress bloggers have been doing lately is moving their categories over to a horizontal menu, rather than displaying them in the sidebar. Depending on the type of blog you run and how well you keep your categories organized, I think this can be a great idea to help manage the website and improve overall navigation. Doing something like this allows for a much better use of sub-categories, and gives you the option of displaying them in a drop-down to give your blog a much more professional feeling.

    If you are interested in moving your WordPress categories into a menu and then displaying sub-categories in a drop-down menu, Anthology of Ideas has taken the time to write a detailed post explaining how to display WordPress categories in a horizontal drop-down menu. You can also view their menu to see if you like it. I recommend you check it out before attempting this on your own.

    Of course doing this will require the use of Javascript, but the author does a great job of detailing the process and provides the CSS required to style it properly. Once you have everything up and running correctly, you can then adjust the colors and margins to give your new menu the look and feel you want it to have, as well as fully integrate it into your WordPress theme.

    I like the idea of having the sub-categories be drop-down menus, but one downside I see is that displaying categories in a menu sort of eliminates using a traditional menu for your pages. It would be hard, in my opinion, to achieve a good look with more than one menu, so you then have to find a different way to display your blog pages. I think you are probably best off using this method mostly if you are trying to achieve a magazine-style look or some sort of a content management system (CMS).

    What do you think of moving your categories to a menu and displaying your sub-categories in drop-down boxes?

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  • The Prelude to WordPress

    Comments Off on The Prelude to WordPress

    Ever wonder where Matt Mullenweg came up with the idea for what we now know as WordPress? I bet most people have wondered at some point, because at the time, the idea of starting up a business where the product would be free and everyone had access to the code was a recipe for disaster.  At the time, the concept of open source software wasn’t exactly mainstream and there wasn’t a good way to monetize it.

    I was happy to discover that back in 2003, you can actually find a blog post by Matt on his blog titled The Blogging Software Dilemma, where he writes about the idea of the perfect blogging software. Here is a bit of his post:

    What to do? Well, Textpattern looks like everything I could ever want, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be licensed under something politically I could agree with. Fortunately, b2/cafelog is GPL, which means that I could use the existing codebase to create a fork, integrating all the cool stuff that Michel would be working on right now if only he was around. The work would never be lost, as if I fell of the face of the planet a year from now, whatever code I made would be free to the world, and if someone else wanted to pick it up they could. I’ve decided that this the course of action I’d like to go in, now all I need is a name. What should it do? Well, it would be nice to have the flexibility of MovableType, the parsing of TextPattern, the hackability of b2, and the ease of setup of Blogger. Someday, right?

    Click over to read the rest.   You can certainly see the wheels turning as Matt began to put together when would eventually become WordPress, and almost a year later Matt updated the post stating that this idea eventually became WordPress.  Thanks Matt for seeing this idea through and to the rest of the WordPress team that has made it happen.  Your hard work has made all of our online lives better!

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  • How To: Add Smilies To Your WordPress Blog with Smilies Themer

    Have you ever noticed those cute little smilies that some WordPress bloggers use to show emotions within their posts? Offering these has become quite the trend around the blogosphere.

    As a user of WordPress, there are a few WordPress plugins available for you to easily offer smilies to commentators on your blog. My plugin of choice to accomplish this is the Smilies Themer plugin. Once uploaded and activated, you can then pick a smilies theme to use.

    A variety of people have submitted smilies themes for this plugin, and many come in a variety of colors. My favorite was provided by Nyssa J Brown called the XPressions Emoticon Pack. You can choose from a variety of colors:

    XPressions Emoticon Pack

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  • Web Hosts That Support Installing WordPress Via Fantastico

    If you aren’t very technology-savvy, or just prefer to easily setup/upgrade your WordPress installations, there are a number of web hosting services that now support one-click installation of WordPress via Fantastico.

    I’ve yet to find a good list, so I figured that it was time someone put one together to help these people know which web hosts they can choose from. Here are a list of web hosts that I have managed to confirm support WordPress installation via Fantastico:

    Does your web host support Fantastico? If they aren’t on the above list, let me know in the comments below!

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  • WordPress Tip: Customizing Your 404 Page

    Most themes typically come with a 404.php page that shows up by default whenever an invalid URL is visited on your blog. Depending on how often you change the URL of existing posts or delete old posts, it may or may not be a high traffic page for your blog.

    Either way, when a typical web surfer finds your blog and is greeted with the lovely 404 page, they will most commonly just click the “Back” button on their browser and continue browsing through the other search results. If your 404 page is setup correctly, you can often retain that traffic by either offering something funny to grab the readers attention or by offering a variety of methods for them to find the post they are looking for. Over at Theme Playground I ran across a great post about customizing your 404 page, which includes a bunch of suggestions for retaining that traffic.

    I personally prefer to provide useful resources on my 404 pages, so I will typically use something like the following code to help search engine traffic hopefully find what they are looking for:

    <h1>Not Found, Error 404</h1>
    <p>The page you are looking for no longer exists.</p>
    <p>Perhaps you can find what you are looking for by searching the site archives!</p>
    <b>Search by Page:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_list_pages('title_li='); ?>
    </ul>
    <b>Search by Month:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly'); ?>
    </ul>
    <b>Search by Category:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name'); ?>
    </ul>

    I will also sometimes call the search box (usually searchform.php) and the popular posts plugin as well to help retain that traffic, depending on the type of blog the 404 page is being built for. How do you have your 404 page setup?

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  • Should WordPress Fan Sites Worry About The WordPress Trademark?

    Today I ran across an interesting discussion happening over at one of my favorite WordPress blogs, WPCandy, that I figured I would mention over here.

    The discussion is regarding trademarking, and the use of “WordPress” in your domain URL.   Obviously this domain uses WordPress in the URL, so I have both a fan interest and a financial interest in the discussion.

    First, here is some information from Michael’s post:

    According to WordPress.org, to protect their trademark they ask that if you are going to create a WordPress related site not to use “WordPress” in the domain you choose.

    What’s the meaning behind this? Are sites that use WordPress in their name at risk? Is WPCandy at risk?

    Although they are not lawyers, WordPress still insists that they must make it clear, “so that we protect our trademark.”

    In addition to running this website and Slick Affiliate, I also spend a lot of my spare time as an active “domainer”, meaning that I buy/sell/develop/park domains both to generate extra income and invest in my online future.   One of the things you learn very early when you buy and sell domains is trademarking and what domains are off limits.  When you purchase a domain that includes the name of a trademarked product, the company that owns the trademark can take it from you if they invest the time and resources to.

    Unfortunately, when I originally purchased the domain Hack WordPress, I knew about the risk of trademarked domains, but I didn’t realize the word “WordPress” had been trademarked.  Looking back now, I probably should have done a trademark search, but it is to late now.  When I eventually learned that it was indeed trademarked, I went out and purchased a “wp” domain that I am very happy with, should I ever have to move this website to a new domain.

    Fortunately for those of that have a “WordPress” domain, I find it very unlikely that WordPress would ever invest the time or money involved in “shutting down” domains that use WordPress in the URL unless the sites were somehow trying to harm WordPress in some way, or were making really good money off the WordPress name.   After all, this product is built upon open source and the WordPress community!  I believe that WordPress fan sites do a lot to help the software and the community that supports the software, so it probably would not be in their best interests to remove them.  We promote the WordPress product for free and help generate both interest and support for their product.

    Overall, I believe this statement is more a legal precaution to protect them in situations where they would need to enforce this.  The only thing I worry about is a major corporation such as Google/Yahoo/Microsoft acquiring WordPress, because they have been known to pursue fan sites violating trademarks.

    What is your take on this issue?

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