Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP), Part 1

Computer-Keyboard-With-Social-800w Integrant ServicesDuplicating tasks is a waste of time (and effort), wouldn’t you agree?

So why would you craft a post and publish it on your blog, only to copy and paste it to your social media accounts?  You have to log in, copy the text from your blog post, paste it into a new entry, then upload and insert a photo.  Sound an awful lot like what you had to do for your blog post already?  Now, rinse & repeat for every social media account you actively use.

Or, you could just publish your post and let your crafted content publish automatically, thanks to SNAP.  Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP) is a WordPress plugin developed by Nextscripts.com.  With a little configuration, it will take your post and publish it to most popular social media outlets.

The free version (and who doesn’t love free?) will publish to Delicious, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn (personal account only), Stumbleupon, Tumbler, Twitter, and Xing, just to name the most popular platforms.  A full list can be found at Nextscripts.com.

While Facebook and Twitter are enough for most, the good folks at Nextscripts know that ‘enough’ isn’t always enough.  Their paid API adds in 10 more social networks, of which you’ll recognize Google+, LinkedIn (company pages), and yes, Pinterest.

Pricing can be a little confusing for their paid services.  I covered this on a post a couple of months back.  Not to worry; it’s still on sale for $49.95.  Support our cause by using our affiliate link if you want the power of publishing to Pinterest and Google+.

Just to recap, SNAP is free if you just use Facebook and Twitter.  If you want to publish to Pinterest and Google+, you’ll need Nextscripts’ APIs, which are on sale for $49.95.

Our Maintenance Plan subscribers get the free version of SNAP installed and configured automatically  If they purchase the paid version, we’ll configure that as well.

The remaining parts of this series will discuss how to maximize the usefulness of SNAP on your WordPress blog!  Part 2 covers Facebook…stay tuned to learn more!

Is your blog mobile friendly?

mobile phone w/google on screenIf you hadn’t heard, as of April 21st Google is taking into consideration how your blog looks on a mobile device.  Those that are considered ‘Mobile Friendly’ will rank higher on their search engine results page (SERP) than those that are not mobile friendly.  Not certain if you’re site is mobile friendly?  Do some research, and even run a free test on the Google Webmaster’s Mobile Guide page.

Not mobile friendly?  Look for themes that are labeled as “Responsive”.  Responsive themes are smart enough to rearrange themselves no matter what size the screen.  If you’re not sure what I mean, try viewing our site in a smaller window on your computer.  Grab the left or right edge and make the window narrower.  See how it rearranges where everything sits?  That’s responsive.

Something to keep in mind after choosing a responsive theme:  Your layout will change depending on the screen size your site is being viewed on.  While you may have a full menu bar visible on a PC or Mac, it will be minimized to a drop down on a mobile phone.  A common indicator for menus on a mobile device is three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other.  If you have sidebar widgets, chances are they will be at the very bottom of the page, below your posts.

So why can’t your site be left as-is?  Simple:  Mobile devices are everywhere, and there’s only so many inches available on a mobile screen.  A 4.7″ smartphone (iPhone 6) may have just as many pixels as your 15″ laptop, but you’d need a magnifying glass in order to see anything.  That 15 inches of information would be crammed into a screen 1/3 the size.  You’d then need to pinch and zoom, then scroll all over trying to click on links or read the posts.

That’s why you need a responsive theme.

Have questions about your theme?  Think it might be time for a Theme or Template Refresh?  Drop us a line…we’ll be glad to help!

WordPress 4.2 “Powell” Released

WordPress LogoIf you hadn’t heard (or noticed), WordPress 4.2 was released on April 23.  As with any WordPress update, “Powell” comes with security enhancements, but most users won’t notice many other differences.  You can read more about WordPress 4.2 at https://wordpress.org/news/2015/04/powell/

As always, if you’re a maintenance plan subscriber we’ll be upgrading you to 4.2 (if you haven’t been already).  We even tested your site to ensure it’s working properly!

Happy Blogging!

How to get the most out of your SEO plugin

Web traffic button pointing high position with two fingers blue and grey tones Conceptual image for internet seo.Visibility in search results is vital for any small business owner.  After all, how are you going to get new customers if you’re not listed in search results?

Enter Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Understanding how SEO works is kinda like rocket science.  Complicated algorithms make up the bulk of it.  You don’t have to worry about those, unless you have your Doctorates in Mathematics and are genuinely interested.  What you should worry about is writing good content, and in return, drawing your customer’s interests.

I recently read a very good article on SEO.  What the research boils down to is this:  Write Good Content.  For example, if your intended audience buys Widgets, and you want to sell Widgets, write about Widgets.  Don’t write about Gadgets if all you want to sell are Widgets.

What We Do For You

So, what does Integrant Services do for you when it comes to SEO?

Every one of our maintenance plan subscribers has WordPress SEO by Yoast installed.  While this plugin doesn’t solve all your SEO problems, it does assist you in Writing Good Content.  You can find the WordPress SEO by Yoast area on any Page or Post you’re creating, right under the text editor window you type in.   Follow the slideshow below, taken as I wrote this very article, and I’ll show you how.

 

For our Gold and Platinum members, we also monitor your site with Google Webmaster Tools.  This ensures your site map is up-to-date, and that Google’s Bots haven’t encountered any errors while crawling your site.

Hand writing Content SEO crossword with marker on transparent wipe board.The SEO Bottom Line

There’s more to SEO than just writing good content.  However, good content is a great place to start, and by using the tools we’ve provided you, will take care of a large piece of the SEO puzzle.

Other SEO Resources

Goodbye MDS…Hello, My Memories Suite!

MDS LogoOn March 17, Stampin’ Up! announced the demise of My Digital Studio, which is scheduled for May 31, 2015.  That same day, we provided instructions on how to make sure you have all purchased MDS files downloaded.

For the next few days, comments and questions flew like paper scraps.  Thanks to the great Stampin’ Pretty Pals community, most of these questions were answered.  Here is what’s known so far.

The company that makes MDS (StoryRock, Inc) also has their own mymemories-digital-scrapbooking-logoversion of software called My Memories Suite (MMS).  MMS basically does everything MDS does, including the ability to open projects created in MDS.  Your MDS digital downloads will also work in MMS.  StoryRock is making MMS 5 available for free, available for download here.  They are also offering an upgrade to their most recent version, MMS 6, for $19.99.

StoryRock even went as far as to put together good documentation on how to migrate your MDS digital downloads to MMS.  You can read their migration instructions for Windows here, and Mac OS X here.

While they were at it, they put together instructions on how to change the file extension of your saved projects.  This will allow you to open your MDS projects in MMS without skipping a beat.  Again, file extension change instructions are located here for Windows, and here for Mac OS X.

StoryRock also has an extensive ‘how-to’ video library on their YouTube channel.

Finally, for those of you that love watching our videos, I’ve created a short one for you demonstrating how to migrate your digital purchases from MDS to MMS using StoryRock’s instructions above.  I then demonstrate how to rename your existing project extensions, again using StoryRock’s instructions.

Hopefully you find this useful!  Be sure to let us know if you have any questions!

WordPress Post Signatures

pen for signatureAre you a WordPress user?

Do you have a self-hosted blog, not hosted by WordPress.com?  Do you have information you want to appear every time you publish a new post (like a signature)?

Are you tired of cloning posts?

Great news…I have a solution for you!

I recently stumbled across a plugin called Add to All.  It allows you to do exactly what it sounds like:  Add information to all posts (and pages).  You can add text, graphics, or links to the top or bottom of every post you publish from here on out.  Or all the posts you published in the past.

The reality check?  It’s not point and click; text, images, and links have to be added by code.  While simple HTML, some won’t be comfortable with this.

The bonus?  If you’re one of our maintenance plan subscribers, we’ll install and configure this for you for free.  We just need to know what you want it to display.

If you’re not a paying subscriber (yet), install the plugin.  Go to ‘Settings / Add to All’, then scroll down to ‘Content Options’.

The first two blocks will apply the options to the beginning (or end) of every post or page you’ve ever created.

The second two blocks will apply your options to the beginning (or end) of every post or page you create from today on.

A word of caution:  If you choose to put information in either of the first two blocks (every post) AND in either of the second two blocks (from today forward), you’ll get BOTH sets of information in every new post.

Happy Blogging, and let us know if you want this configured for your blog!

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My Digital Studio (MDS) Backup

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know that My Digital Studio is going to be discontinued as of May 31, 2015.  As it stands, you will not be able to access anything related to MDS after this date.  This includes purchased MDS downloads and the software itself.  While support will cease for MDS after May 31, your files and software will continue to function.  However, you never know if a new version of Windows or Mac OS X is going to break MDS.

We know you’ve put a lot of time and money into your collections, and want to make sure you don’t lose what you have!    For that reason, we are taking the time to make sure you know how retrieve your downloads before they disappear.

Below are some steps to follow in order to make sure you have everything you want out of your Digital Download Manager.  For you visual learners, a video is linked at the end of this article that covers just about everything that follows.

  1. Find out what you’ve already purchased
    1. Demonstrator downloads are located on the demonstrator website.  Log in as a demonstrator, click on ‘Ordering’ in the upper left hand corner, then on ‘Digital Download’ on the right hand side, under Ordering Options.  This will open a popup window, so if you don’t see the window, turn off your popup blocker and try it again.
    2. Customer downloads are located on your Stampin’ Up! online store account profile, under the downloads tab.
    3. The Digital Download Manager is now visible.  This will list every MDS purchase you’ve ever made.  You want to use this list of purchases to compare what you already have downloaded.
      1. If you have many purchases, you can’t simply print from here.  The window is set up to be endless scroll, and won’t load all your purchases at one time.  You have to keep scrolling down until it doesn’t load any more product.
    4. Print this list for future reference.  Whether you print a paper copy or a PDF copy of this list is up to you.
      1. Mac users can press ‘Command’ + ‘P’ together to print the list, and have the option to save it as a PDF by clicking on the ‘PDF’ button in the lower left corner of the print dialog.
      2. Windows users can print by pressing ‘CTRL’ + ‘P’ together.  If you’re a windows user and don’t have an option to save as PDF, you can download CutePDF Writer for free.
    5. Compare the list to what you already have downloaded to your computer.  The easiest way is to search for the title of the Digital Download, i.e. ‘Always Elegant’.  Download any sets you might be missing, as you won’t be able to get them after May 31, 2015.
      1. Mac Users can search using Spotlight, the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your screen, or by pressing ‘Command’ + ‘F’ in the Finder window.
      2. Windows users can search by clicking the Start button, and typing the title in the ‘Search’ window
  2. Types of downloads
    1. When downloading your MDS files from the download manager, you have three options.  The first two are self-explanatory:  If you’re using Windows, download the Windows installer.  If you’re using Mac, download the Mac installer.
      1. These installers place the files exactly where they need to go in order for MDS to find them.  On Windows, these files are typically located at C:\Program Files (x86)\My Digital Studio\Components.  For Mac users, these are typically located in Applications\My Digital Studio\Components
      2. The installers contain a mix of file types:  .jpg, .png, and most importantly, .svg (Scalable Vector Graphics).  The installers are the ONLY download files that contain .svg files.
    2. The third download option is ‘Other Applications’.  You will want to download this for each of your digital purchases if you plan on using another graphics program in the future.  For example, Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Illustrator.
      1. The ‘Other Applications’ download also contains .jpg and .png files, as well as a .abr (Adobe Brush) file.  This brush file equates into a “Stamp” for Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Illustrator.
    3. We’ll talk more about what to do with these files at a later time.  For now, its enough for you to have them downloaded from Stampin’ Up!

To recap, you want to log in to Stampin’ Up! and download not only the Installer, but also the Other Applications file, for all your MDS purchases.  You’ll be able to use the Other Applications files in, well, other applications.  Take the time to download the MDS software itself:  That way, if you need to reinstall it at a later time, you have a copy of it. You won’t have another chance after May 31 to get these.

Stay tuned for more information.

Tech Tip: Thank Me Later

Tech Tips LogoEarlier this week I told you about Comment Redirect by Yoast, a wonderful customer engagement plugin for first time comments.

How would you like to repeatedly thank your followers for leaving a comment?

There’s another plugin for WordPress called Thank Me Later.  Simply put, it sends an email to anyone that leaves an approved (versus spam) comment.  You craft the message and set the time delay before delivery, and Thank Me Later does the rest.

Delivery delay can be set anywhere from minutes to weeks, and customized to the post title and commentator’s name.  The number of times an email is sent to each commentator can also be defined.

Finally, you can create separate Thank Me Later messages, and apply them to separate categories, tags, and posts.

Just like Comment Redirect, if you subscribe to one of our maintenance plans, we’ll install this for you if you’re not comfortable with doing it yourself.  Just drop us a line and let us know you want it!

Have a great weekend!

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Comment Redirect by Yoast

Tech Tips LogoIt can be a challenge to keep your audience engaged.  They may stop by your site and leave a quick comment, then forget to ever come back.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could redirect a visitor after leaving their first comment?  Maybe to a landing page where they can sign up on your mailing list?  Follow you on Facebook?

Comment Redirect by Yoast does exactly that.  Create a landing page you want your followers to see the first time they leave a comment on one of your posts.  Install and activate the Comment Redirect plugin from WordPress.org.  Open the Comment Redirect plugin (Tools / Comment Redirect) and choose the page you want your first timers to see.  That’s it; nothing more to configure.

Now, after leaving their first comment, you can engage your followers even further!

Want it even easier?  If you’re a maintenance plan subscriber with us, we’ll install this for you for free.  Drop us a line, and we’ll get you set up!

 

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New Training Released!

School HouseI posted a new training video today:  ‘WordPress Posts for Beginners’.  It is part one of a multipart series titled ‘Welcome to WordPress’; the remaining parts will follow over the next few weeks.

WP Posts for Beginners is geared towards those that are new to WordPress, and want to be able to reference how to create a post.  The best part?  It’s free!

You can find this video, along with the rest of our training, at Integrant Services.

Don’t be afraid to leave a review!  We welcome all feedback!

School House Questionnaire

School HouseWe want to make sure we’re building the best training possible…training that YOU want!

Please spend a few moments and take our School House survey.  Your inputs will make sure that the time we spend developing training is focused on you!

Google Webmaster Tools

Magnifying Glass on the word FOCUS in the dictionaryWe’re proud to announce that Google Webmaster Tools integration will now be included in our Gold and Platinum maintenance packages!

One of the main benefits of Google Webmaster Tools is allowing the submission of your Sitemap.  Google’s bots crawl your site, indexing its contents and making it more visible in search results.  Submitting your sitemap makes it easier for these bots to navigate your site.  Webmaster Tools also identifies any problems that might exist with indexing your site, preventing you from being listed in search results.  Read more about what Google Webmaster Tools does for you here.

Current Gold and Platinum subscribers will have Webmaster Tools implemented by 15 February.

Coming Soon:  Google Analytics integration!

Why Blog Security Is Important

Security ButtonIf you’ve been a subscriber for a while, or have taken the time to browse our blog archive, you know that I talk frequently about security.  Even the most vigilant of us get affected from time to time, as Internet villains find new ways to practice their nefarious deeds.

Our new hosting provider (InMotion Hosting) sent an email last night to notify us that our account was experiencing a “Account Resource Overage”.  I immediately panicked, thinking that something was wrong with our WordPress install, or our disks were full, but nothing seemed amiss.  I sent a response back to InMotion asking for more details.

Turns out we were the target of a brute force attack.

A hacker tried to log into our site over 1,500 times in the matter of a few minutes.  InMotion blocked the offending IP address.

The hacker never got in.  No accounts were compromised.  “How is that possible”, you may ask?

Strong passwords, and an excellent security plugin.  A HUGE lifesaver.

So why the account resource overage warning?

By virtue of attempting to log in, the hacker used processor power from our server.  Many, many times more processor power than was normal.  All in the hope that they could guess a password.  The more attempts guessing, the more power used.  Eventually, it would have made our site unusable.

It can happen to you!  So, how to stop that from happening…

One way is to require yet another username and password before even getting to the WordPress log in screen. See “Password Protect wp-login.php” in the brute force attack article.  Not a realistic option.  I already have enough passwords, thank you very much.

Instead, I choose to Deny Access to No Referrer Requests.  I won’t bore you with the details; you can Google or read it in the linked article it if you’d like to learn more.

What can you do?

Read the security articles I wrote (if you haven’t already).  Create strong passwords, especially for your WordPress log in (if you haven’t already).  Change your passwords occasionally.  If you’ve purchased a site setup, transfer, or maintenance plan from us, you already have a solid security plugin installed.  Check that off your list.

What we’ll be doing:  Over the next week, I’ll be applying the same No Referrer Request patch to all current Integrant Services customers, even if you aren’t on a maintenance plan.  Free of charge.

It’s what we do.

You shouldn’t notice anything different; if you do, contact [email protected] ASAP so we can fix it.

Happy (and safe) blogging!

Easier Access to Schoolhouse

School HouseNow there’s easier way to access your Schoolhouse Profile.

Once you log into your account at https://integrantservices.com, you’ll see a new link in the upper right hand corner.  Clicking on “School House” will take you directly to the courses you’ve registered for.

We’re dedicated to making life easier for you!

Two New Services Released

We’re excited to announce two new services!

  • Domain Name Registration
    • Get your own .com domain name for only $12 / year.  No gimmicks, no introductory price.
    • You choose the name, we register it and set it up.  It’s that easy.
    • Have a domain somewhere else?  We can transfer it for you!
    • Choose how many years you want the domain name for and Sign Up Now!
  •  WordPress Hosting.  You get:
    • 7 GB of storage space
    • 5 eMail addresses
    • Our first-class support!

See details about these products and more at integrantservices.com

WordPress 4.1 “Dinah” Released

If you hadn’t heard (or noticed), WordPress 4.1 was released on December 18th.  As with any WordPress update, “Dinah” comes with security enhancements, but also includes a new 2015 theme, the ability to embed Vine videos, and distraction-free writing.  By simply clicking a button, all sidebars disappear leaving only the post editor, making writing much more enjoyable.  Read more about WordPress 4.1 at https://wordpress.org/news/2014/12/dinah/

As always, if you’re a maintenance plan subscriber you’ve already been upgraded to 4.1.  We even tested your site to ensure it’s working properly.

Happy Blogging!

Gift Certificates: Available Now!

Orange Flower GiftcardBlack Friday.  Green Monday.  Will the color-coded shopping days never end?  Why not a Fuchsia Friday?  Hey, if it ever catches on, you heard it here first!

Whatever the occasion, now you can give the gift of Integrant Services.

Take the guesswork out of your holiday shopping!  Send friends a gift certificate so they can get that new blog header they’ve been looking for.  While you’re at it, reward yourself with store credit now to use in the future.

The situation doesn’t matter, just know we’re here for you.  Credits & gift certificates can be purchased directly from our online store.  They never expire, can be sent in any denomination, and can be used on any service we offer.  All you need is a list of email addresses!

As an added bonus, take 10% off your purchase of gift certificates!  Get $100 of certificates for only $90!  Use coupon code “tenpercent” or simply click on the coupon in your cart during checkout.  This offer is only available for a limited time, so don’t delay!  Tell your friends!

Happy Thanksgiving From Integrant Services

Happy ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving everyone!  Nicole and I are thankful your business over the last few months, and hope that you are able to spend the day with those you love, be it friends, family, or both.  We plan on eating too much and enjoying a relaxing day.  Hopefully you can do the same!

Enjoy your day!

Free Training: Creating Links To Your Stampin’ Up! Online Store

Creating Stampin' Up! LinksOur first of many free training modules is now available!  If you’re a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator  with a blog and a DBWS account, you’ll want to watch this video.  In a few short minutes I explain (and show) how to create the links that get customers to your DBWS storefront.  Don’t just get customers to shop at Stampin’ Up!, get them to shop at Stampin’ Up! with you as the demonstrator!

WordPress 4.0.1

WordPress 4.0.1 has been released.  This is a security update.  If you subscribe to one of our maintenance plans, you’ll be up-to-date by 5:00 P.M. CST (if you’re not already).

Happy (and safe) blogging!

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Tech Tips: Blog Security

Internet security padlockWatching the news yesterday, I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone to practice good internet security.  I know, I know; you can’t go 30 minutes without someone clamoring about hackers.  There’s a reason for that:  They exist.  They’re busy.  And they’re after your site.

If you don’t think you are a juicy target for hackers, and there’s no good reason to get into your blog, think again.  They’re not always after bank accounts, credit cards, or other personal information.  Simply using your server resources can be enough of a reward.

Stay with me here; it’s important to understand this:  Among other things, hackers will try to use your site for what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

In computing, a denial-of-service (DoS) or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users.

Although the means to carry out, the motives for, and targets of a DoS attack vary, it generally consists of efforts to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.

As clarification, distributed denial-of-service attacks are sent by two or more persons, or bots, and denial-of-service attacks are sent by one person or system. As of 2014, the frequency of recognized DDoS attacks had reached an average rate of 28 per hour.[1]

Perpetrators of DoS attacks typically target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers such as banks, credit card payment gateways, and even root nameservers.

(Denial-of-service attack. (2014, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:23, November 18, 2014)

Security ButtonWithout you even knowing about it, hackers can be using your site to orchestrate attacks on other, more lucrative sites.  Not only will they have used your site to accomplish this, you may become labeled as “infected” or a spammer.

Most of our current customers have the free version of WordFence installed, which is one of the highest rated free security applications for WordPress.  I customize the security options for you, keeping hackers from using common login names like “admin”, and even blocking forgotten password attempts for usernames that don’t exist.  If you are a customer, and are ever curious how many people have tried to gain illegal access to your site, just ask.  I’ll show you how to find out, or just give you the answer.  For example, one of our customers had over 40 login attempts from Moldova, China, Ukraine, and Russia in the last three days.

WordFence offers a premium upgrade as well.  Among other options available with the upgrade is the ability to block individual countries from even viewing your site, let alone log into it.  Read more about the premium features at www.wordfence.com.  If you decide that the premium version is worth having, just ask.  We get volume pricing on the licenses, currently $20 / year.

One final bit of advice:  Create complex passwords, and change them occasionally.  Ideally, every 90 days, but even I dislike the thought of that.  Read my article on password strength & security for more tips.

Safe Blogging!

Exciting New Products

We know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from us, but we have a great excuse:  We’ve been busy adding new products and services to our catalog!

If you’ve been waiting patiently to have a new blog header designed, wait no longer.  Our graphics department has recently released their first product offering:  Basic Blog Header.  This steal of a deal includes a 30-minute one-on-one consultation to understand your wants and needs, and up to 3 revisions during the design process.  Read more and add it to your cart on our Graphics Services page.

Our eMail services has also seen a new addition:  MailPoet Setup.  Manage your subscriptions, post notifications, and newsletters all from your own WordPress site, and stop fighting with 3d party subscription providers.  Learn more about MailPoet on our eMail Services page.

Lastly, we’ve added a whole new category of services:  Consultations.

Order a Blog Usability Assessment for your site, and we’ll accomplish a 25-point comprehensive review of everything your visitors see (and some things they don’t).  The kicker?  You get a $30 in-store credit to use for ANY product or service we offer, making the assessment FREE!

And while you’re on the consultations page, maybe you want to Get Time With Us.  We can work out technical issues, help add (or remove) site functionality, or show you how to shift a few things around for a quick site refresh.  Choose your interaction style:  Phone, chat, or even online screen sharing & remote assist by way of Google Hangouts.  Book one-on-one time with us in 30 minute blocks, up to 90 minutes.

Keep an eye out for another announcement from us in the next day or two. Here’s a hint: What’s got three words and sounds like “Veteran’s Day Sale”?

Have a recommendation for a product or service we don’t currently advertise?  Connect with us and share your thoughts.  We hope to hear from you soon!