How Long Should a Blog Post be?

In catching up on my reading this morning, I followed a link to a guest post on OkDork.com written by Henry Wing (@HenryWing) one of the co-founders of BuzzSumo, a company that

“… provides insights into the most popular content online and the influencers sharing it.”

The post is about Why Content Goes Viral. Mr. Wing shares the top 10 reasons that content goes viral. In summary,

  • Lists are good, and “10” as in “Top 10” (reasons why, things to do, questions to ask) is the magic number
  • A post can go viral even when there is a lull in sharing for a week or more.
  • Images help a post get shared
  • Posts that evoke positive emotion are more likely to be shared. (Awe, laughter, amusement, joy were most popular)
  • Longer blog posts get shared many more times than shorter blog posts.

Average Shares by Content Length

 

This makes sense to me. With all the information that blips in front of our eyes each day via social media, email, surfing the web, the pop ups pushing requests at us when we click through to websites, etc, it feels like a novelty to discover longer pieces, and I suspect that readers have a greater appreciation for the author who took the time to write something more involved than a 140-character announcement about his/her status. Perhaps, they might even have a heightened interest in finding out what is so important that the author was compelled to write so much.

In my experience, well-thought out pieces tend to consist of more words because the author lays the ground work, introduces the topic, tells how he/she feels about the topic, explains how he/she came to the understanding that he/she did, presents other points of view about the topic, cites empirical data, and so on. That takes a lot more words.

For a lengthy post to be worthy of reading for me, it is not important whether I agree with the author or not. It is important that the author did the research, states his/her position and discusses how he/she came to feel the way they do in a thoughtful, respectful manner. I have always had greater appreciation for teachers, presenters, speakers, authors who know their material, have planned what they want to share, have a roadmap to getting there, and are practiced and confident in their delivery.

So how many words should your blog post be?

According to BuzzSumo, somewhere between 2000 – 10,000 words will get you increased sharing. Check the graphic above for numbers related to the social media platforms in which you participate.

With less than 500 words in this post, guess I won’t be going viral real soon :-).

Learn more about why content goes viral by visiting the websites in the credits below.

THE Must-Have WordPress Plugin: Limit Login Attempts

Limit Login Attempts is THE must-have plugin that every WordPress blogger needs to install TODAY.

Limit Login Attempts does just what its name says; it counts consecutive login attempts and disallows further attempts from a location when the max number of attempts allowed at one time has been reached.

Limit Login Attempts Admin Screenshot

Limit Login Attempts Admin Screenshot on a live WordPress website

By default WordPress allows unlimited login attempts either through the login page or by sending special cookies. This allows passwords (or hashes) to be brute-force cracked with relative ease.

Limit Login Attempts blocks an Internet address from making further attempts after a specified limit on retries is reached, making a brute-force attack difficult or impossible.
(from the Limit Login Attempts plugin page)

 

The location is locked out for a period of time (default 20 minutes), and over time, the location is locked out for a longer period of time when other lock-out criteria is met. All of the plugin’s parameters (number of retries, lock-out period of time, notification to admin, etc) are customizable. Above is the Limit Login Attempts admin screen customized for a WordPress power blogger who is the only person who maintains the blog.

How to interpret the Limit Login Attempts admin screen

If this blogger fails to enter a correct username-password combination within 3 tries, the blogger has to wait 20 minutes before attempting to log in again. If the blogger gets locked out 4 times (has made 12 unsuccessful attempts to log in), he/she is locked out for 24 hours. These are more than reasonable parameters because power bloggers tend to know and remember their log-in credentials.

Limit Login Attempts Statistics

Total number of lockouts…Limit Login Attempts has been installed on this WordPress website for a little over a month. You can see that it has already enforced 426 lockouts.

Why do you need this plugin?

Because WordPress is a hackers dream, and you need to protect yourself.

WordPress is open...
WordPress is an open-source software product. Open-source means that the program code is available to everyone in the world, including you – to view, use, tweak, exploit!

WordPress is prolific…
There are about 1 billion websites (watch total number of websites grow). A little over 20% of those are WordPress-based. That’s about 2 hundred million websites. If you are a hacker, you want to make a name for yourself by impacting as many websites as possible. Imagine writing a  hack that could affect 200M websites.

Taking security one step further…

When Limit Login Attempts sends a message to the admin (in this case, the power blogger), the blogger sends me the IP address so that I can permanently deny access to the website.

Notes:
– Limit Login Attempts displays a notice with the remaining number of login attempts a user has
– If you get locked out AND you are a client of Adventures Online, call us and we’ll clear the lockout.

From Facebook to Flazio…A good choice?

Recently, I have been talking about the Value of a Website in a Social Media World. For me, the topic rose to importance as I found myself responding more and more frequently to comments from clients like:

I’ve built up quite a following in the social media circles. Do I really need to maintain a website too?”

“xyz (social media website) has allowed me to add multiple pages and I have built up a website there. Why should I maintain a separate website?”

All my business is coming from contacts that I have in my social media circles. What do I gain by having a separate website?

Website with Value

Website by Adventures Online

There are a number of reasons for continuing to maintain your own website and 15 reasons are mentioned in The Value of a Website in a Social Media World post.

Primary among the reasons to maintain a website is that you have almost total control over your website that is hosted externally from the social media websites. You do not have control over the policies and procedures, limitations and allowances on any social media website. Your participation and pages at the social media websites are at the whim of the social media websites and they can change the game at any time.

And, when you want something beyond their limitations, you cannot pick up your website and go, because you don’t own the template. There are no “pages”. Your information is in a database and the social media website owns the template that then gets filled with your information.

Good News for (some) Facebook Users

Now there is a tool that helps you migrate away from Facebook and establish your website without starting from scratch. If you are one of the people who have invested a ton of time building your Facebook profile and Facebook business pages, and now you are ready to move on to something more sophisticated, or you are just concerned about the direction of Facebook and its policies, there is now a tool that can help you backup your Facebook presence and even use your Facebook profile and pages to create a wholly separate website.

John Biggs (@johnbiggs) has reported on TechCrunch that a company in Italy called Flazio has developed a website “builder” that will extract data and photos from your Facebook timeline, profile and pages and use those to build a starter website in one step:

…the cooler part is the Facebook app which allows you to export your feed or your private Facebook pages right onto the web. I tried it and it grabbed all of my photos and made a sort of portfolio of me by mashing up all my Facebook jazz.

The app is here and you essentially connect your Facebook account to the system and it drags your data and posts right off of your page.
Flazio, An Italian Web-Design Engine, Lets You Build A Site Through Your Facebook Page

Really? I wanted to see how this works, so, I clicked on the app. I can’t read Italian, but, I believe the first line on the Facebook app’s page says “Tired of the limitations of Facebook?” The app interface is in Italian. It creates your website on flazio.com. For example, it created karencallahan.flazio.com for me.

When you click the button (which I assumed said “Edit your website”), the new interface is in English with some Italian sprinkled around. When you edit the website,  the default template can be changed to another (there are about 3 dozen templates to choose from), the background, font and color scheme customized, Google+ account linked and Google map widgets installed instantaneously. All the things you would expect to include in a website are available to you through widget-like functionality.  Menu editing, upload images, upload PDFs, embed videos (both Vimeo and YouTube), connect to social media websites, include posts on social media websites, and more.

I played around with the interface for a little bit. The Flazio interface is easy to understand and has enough customizations for a beginner.  I did not test anything that I would consider advanced like embedding a PHP program that displays a portion of my blog on a sidebar.

Flazio Pro

After you have created a starter website, you can upgrade to the Pro version for a reasonable price. The primary reason I see for upgrading to the Flazio Pro version right away is the ability to have your own domain name (instead of yourFacebookname.flazio.com). With the Pro version, you have access to the HTML code (gives you more flexibility and control), eCommerce, password-protected pages,  and the web pages are free from advertising.

Flazio.com is a great first step towards independence from Facebook.

PROS

  • Re-purpose content: When you need more than Facebook offers, Flazio has a tool that let’s you benefit from all the hard work you have sweat into Facebook. The tool sucks out the content and photos and automatically creates an independent website for you.
  • End-User Control and First Step to Independence: The starter website is a good first step to becoming independent of Facebook. Although the information is extracted into another template environment, you have a little more control over sizes and areas on the screen and can move the content and graphics around and resize areas. And, since you’ll want to opt for the Pro version immediately (because you want your own personalized domain name), you will have even more control with access to the HTML. (I’m presuming here that Flazio does not limit the HTML that its tool can interpret.)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Having your content outside of Facebook gives you the opportunity to get found in the search engines 24 x 7, not just when someone is logged on to a social media website. (I’m presuming here, that Flazio will not block the search engines. Remember Google and Facebook don’t play together.)

CONS

  • Lack of Portability: You’ve moved from one template-driven environment to another template-driven environment, so, you still don’t have real pages that you can pick up and move intact to another server when (and if) you outgrow Flazio. Flazio retains the copyright.
  • Location of your new website: The website that is generated, gets created on a server in England (I traced my Flazio-created website to a server in England, and indeed flazio.com’s hosting location is England). From an SEO standpoint, the location of the server on which you house your website matters. So, having a website on a server in England is not beneficial from an SEO standpoint to my U.S.-based business.

I’m very excited about this tool and look forward to watching its growth.
I am intrigued by the concept that this brother and sister (Elisa and Flavio Fazio) have brought to life, and I see the possibilities. It is a clever business model. People want more choices than what are available via Facebook.  Flazio fills the gap by auto-creating the website, and in return makes a living on upgrades to the Pro version and advertising.

As a professional website developer, getting found on the Internet is paramount. Getting found is made easier with SEO and, part of that is having a website in-country. I look forward to a version of Flazio that has a radio button list of geographic locations that lets you choose the server for (and location of ) your Flazio-created website. I will connect with Flazio via social media so that I can continue to monitor its progress.

How to Change the WordPress Admin Interface Colors

Since January, I’ve been upgrading WordPress websites and blogs to WordPress 3.8.1. After each upgrade, I test, and then I ask my clients to take a look and provide their feedback. One comment I have been hearing a lot is how dark the new WordPress Admin Interface default color scheme is.

Here’s a look at the WordPress admin interface in earlier 3.x versions. Although it is simple, the change in the width and color of the border lines made it look like there was depth to the design.

WordPress dashboard in earlier 3.x versions

 

Here’s the WordPress admin interface default color scheme installed with WordPress 3.8.1. Flat, straight color changes; no depth.

WordPress dashboard in version 3.8.1

Kind of dark for my taste, too.

The VERY good news for WordPress bloggers is that the new admin interface colors can be changed. Well, actually, the color scheme could always be changed. Before, we only had two schemes to choose from – so it felt like we had no choices. With this new version of WordPress, there are 8 color schemes to choose from. Here’s a look at the differences in the admin interface color scheme choices.

WordPress dashboard color schemes

To change the color scheme for the WordPress admin interface *:

  1. Log into the dashboard
  2. Hover over “Users” on the (left) menu and choose “Your Profile”
  3. When your profile customization page displays, you will see the choices as shown above in the “New Choices” section. Tick the circle to the left of the color scheme you prefer.
  4. Scroll to the bottom of your profile and click Update Profile.
  5. You will see the results immediately.

Rinse and repeat if you want…This is easy enough that you can do it as many times as you want until you find a color scheme that fits you! And when you get bored, come back and do it again!

* The admin interface color scheme display is a personal choice, so, this process will need to be repeated for each User.

Upgrading WordPress

I’ve been using WordPress at my website and the websites of clients since 2004, when WordPress was known as b2.

All this time, I have been adding WordPress to more websites, and indeed, for the past several years, have been building entire websites on the WordPress platform. At the same time, I have been upgrading WordPress installations as the newer versions of WordPress have become WordPress Update Messagestable. Notice I said “stable” and not “available”. Not all upgrades work right out of the box. I like to wait until feedback about the upgrades is available. If comments are positive, I start upgrading. If not, I wait it out. If circumstances warrant an immediate upgrade, I write up a manual upgrade process and upgrade WordPress that way.

Preparation for “auto” upgrading WordPress

Here is the preparation I do before “auto” upgrading a WordPress installation. The WordPress upgrade process that I use is excessive, however, being a technologist and having years of PHP programming experience, the excessive backups allow me to recover from a bad upgrade from a number of angles – and bad WordPress upgrades happen.

  1. Record the version number of the current WordPress install (in case I have to call the hosting company)
  2. Log in using FTP and copy all the files onto my local system.
  3. Log into the WordPress installation (wp-admin) and use the Export (Tools, Export, ALL content)
  4. Log into the hosting account’s admin (cPanel, siteadmin, Plesk, etc) and use phpMyAdmin to export the entire database to a file that is saved to my local system.

At this point, I have two copies of all the data and all files.

Auto Upgrading WordPress

auto-upgrade WordPress button
Pressing this button generates the auto-upgrade of WordPress

It is time to “do” the WordPress auto upgrade.

  1. In the Dashboard,  Deactivate all the plugins
  2. In the Dashboard, click on Please Update Now.
  3. When the WordPress Updates page displays, I click on the Update Now button on the left.
  4. I read the log that the upgrade process displays on the screen. If there are errors noted, I print the screen so I know what the errors are and where to look.
  5. When there are no errors, I go back and Activate the plugins one by one. After each activation, I look at the website to make sure that all is intact.
  6. When all the plugins are activated, I Update the Plugins that have new versions; again, one at a time. After each update, I review the website to validate that WordPress is still working as expected.

Notes:

  • FTP: Filezilla, CuteFTP, and Dreamweaver are three popular programs for FTP
  • WordPress Updates page: My experience has been that every time I have checked Upgrade all the Plugins at the same time, the WordPress upgrade fails. Now, I do not check anything in the plugin section. When the WordPress upgrade completes successfully, I upgrade the plugins one by one. [I will try upgrading all the plugins with the WordPress core upgrade again after a period of time when the auto installs have been working without a failure.]
  • WordPress Updates page-> Update Theme: The Theme is a bundle of code that sits on top of WordPress and works with the WordPress code. When the WordPress code is changed (you’ve changed the foundation), there is no guarantee that the Theme code will continue to work with the new version of WordPress. So, I upgrade the WordPress core first. Then, I check to make sure everything is working as it should, and come back on another day (after the client has worked with the upgraded version of WordPress) to upgrade the Theme.
  • Activating plugins one-by-one: Plugins are pieces of code that were written to work cooperatively with pieces of the WordPress code. When the WordPress code is changed, there is no guarantee that the plugin code will continue to work. This is why it is a good idea to deactivate all the plugins before upgrading and then activate the plugins one-by-one after the upgrade to ensure that each plugin still works with the new code.
  • Updating plugins one-by-one: For the same reasons above – a different version of WordPress code working with a different version of the Plugin code, I update plugins one by one, validate that WordPress continues to work as expected, then continue updating Plugins.