Chasing a Dream is a Do Follow Blog

In checking out some of the ProBlogger Top 5 entries, I visited Susan Drigger’s Top 5 Sins post, and while there noticed a nice little icon, “No Nofollow, fight spam, not blogs” that reminded me to check the no follow status of my comments. Oops! WordPress strikes again… it was there! With the addition of the DoFollow plugin from Semiologic, comments and track backs are now nofollow-free.

Some of you are wondering, “What’s the big deal”? If it’s built-in to WordPress by default, it’s got to be right. That’s a matter of opinion. Google introduced the concept of using an attribute rel="nofollow" on links in 2005, to theoretically help reduce comment spam, and create more accurate Page Rank. However, many disagree that it has had much influence on comment spam, and we feel people should get link credit for posting comments. If you would like more information on the controversy, you can check Michael Hampton’s May 2005 post, Nofollow Revisited. It covers the story well, from the intent, how it is supposed to work, and why it doesn’t work.

If you would like to join the Do Follow crowd, as I have–note the new “U Comment, I follow” icon (courtesy Randa Clay Design) in the side bar–visit the No Nofollow | I Follow | DoFollow Community at BumpZee.

Set Your Writing Free with FreeMind

After I closed up shop last night and settled into bed after a long day’s drive, my brain was still running… and it made the connection from HitTail in my last post, to an Open Source project, FreeMind. FreeMind is a mind-mapping application. I was first introduced to these type sof application while persuing my graduate degree in education. At the time we first played with a very old Mac application called HyperCard. The concept was a deck of 3×5 cards with a short subject heading or content description on it. You could freely create independant cards, and then go back and reorganize them into related materials. The goal was to develop a structure for writing a document such as an essay or longer book sized work where you needed to just get a Stream of Consciousness type of thinking going and then be able to go back and organize your writing.

I don’t know about you, but much of my past experience writing was painful. It was oriented around having to write at someone else’s request, on a subject I was probably uninterested in! Anyone remeber their high school or college English courses? While I enjoyed English in general, sometimes the required writing was like pulling teeth–I would put it off until the last minute, and then not have time to do a good re-write. Which I believe all good writing needs, if only to polish up some phrasing here or there.

Writing a blog, the writing often does not get a full rewrite, but I always go back and re-read my work before hitting the ‘Publish’ button. I hardly ever don’t find a little something I want to fix. On a larger scale, I feel a blog needs a focus. I went back and forth with myself trying to define the subject matter I wanted to include here. You may have figured out that my focus is web site management and all the pieces that go into it. Using a tool like FreeMind helps me develop related subject areas to cover. If you are having a problem coming up with and/or organizing your writing, I highly recommend it for getting you going. Of course a blank sheet of paper & a pencil can do the same thing, but the big benefit of FreeMind is that it lets you reorganize when you find something fits better or you need more space. Virtual paper is very big!

Here’s a sample that comes with the program:

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Give it a try… it’s free and it might help organize your writing!

HitTail to Save Us from Writer’s Block

I’m writing from the road… on vacation in eastern North Carolina! Been driving most of the day… 🙂

I wanted to point out a very interesting new tool, HitTail, that I came across somewhere–somebody’s blog, but I can’t remember which! I’m going to have to start taking notes… If you haven’t head of the Long Tail by now, you might as well skip reading this article. Just kidding! Keep reading. But, if you have, go read Chris Anderson’s seminal work, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.

HitTail takes the concept of the Long Tail and applies it to the keywords used in search engines to find your site. By focusing on the less used terms, and more of them, you can build more traffic because you have less competition. Thus your site shows up closer to the top in the search results. See Vlad’s post, Example of HitTail Effectiveness. Be sure to follow the link back to the original post he has about HitTail.

The reason I’m so excited about it’s possibility, is that it helps me write! It gives me a clue as to what I should be writing about. I can write on most anything, as long as somebody points me in the right (write?) direction! Of course, preferably in my area of expertise. 😉 Vlad said he has been running it about three months and has several hundred suggestions. I’m barely getting any yet… but, I’m just getting started. As the flow chart on the HitTail site shows, I need to get more posts out to ‘seed’ the work. So, here I am writing when I should be sleeping. I’ll probably be up early tomorrow pounding out some words for my readers just to feed HitTail… and you! It’s motivating!

Be sure to checkout the HitTail blog too! Mike Levin really gets around keeping up on the comments in the blog world about HitTail. I expect he’ll even show up here. I’m looking for to the possibilities HitTail will bring.

What’s in a Ping?

While adding the sitemap code to Chasing a Dream, and my old website, I had to consider how the other sites were being notified that it was updated. This is called ‘Pinging’. Using ping-enabled blog software such as WordPress, when you complete a post and publish it, the software notifies other services that you have added a new post. Very simple and straight forward. This allows those sites to give updated sites priority in being updated by search engines for the latest material. Instead of scouring the net for pages, they simply check those sites that advise they have been updated! Very sensible!

You might also see a possibility for misusing this too, by sending pings when your site has not been updated hoping to get preferential treatment by a searching engine. This is called ‘ping spam’ or ‘sping’. Don’t do it! Your site can get dropped or blacklisted by a search engine for sping.

Now, carry this on step further. Sometimes you might link to another blog with a link to one of their posts. WordPress also does what is called ‘pingback’. This is where the other blog site is notified that you have linked to them. This is a special two-way transaction where your site notifies the other, then it verifies that you really have linked to them, then it will post a link back to you, usually including an excerpt of your posting text. I’m sure you have seen these while browsing other blogs. Pingbacks have generally replaced ‘trackbacks’ which were not secure as they did not do this two-way handshake. Pingbacks in WordPress are also automatic–you don’t have to add them to the separate area below the post. In-line entries will do the job.

OK, that’s how it works. What about the question of Who do we Ping? By default, WordPress includes a Ping to Ping-O-Matic. However, it appears that it does not ping Google Blogsearch, so I went on a hunt to see if there were other sites that should also be included when pinging. What I came up with is a Ping List for WordPress compiled by Brandon Hall of the SEO Feed. There are other sources as well, but his posting has a much more current date on it, so I felt it was more reliable. If you are going to compile your own list, be careful about the combinations you choose. You don’t want to include a site that aggregates pings, and pings other sites that you also have on your list–you might get caught for sping!

How well does it work? Well as I stated in my earlier post today, I was able to find one of my own posts from earlier in the day in Google Blogsearch indicating it hand been updated recently as ‘1 hour ago’! That’s what makes a blog aggregator such as Blogsearch powerful. Extremely up-to-date and relevant information.

Additional resources:

Using Sitemaps for Improved SEO

While working on adding more statistic tracking tools to the site yesterday, I was also asking myself the question: How can I get better search engine results? Faster! I know it takes time for new sites to be discovered and included in Google and other search engines, but my domain,, is not new as it has been in use for several years, and has that benefit. However, using Google’s Webmaster Tools, I discovered the site had not been crawled since November! That’s almost five months! I’ve been promoting my 30th class reunion over there, so I need those pages checked more often.

I had played around with sitemaps a little in the past, and knew it had to be the answer. With a blog, we have the benefit of ‘pinging’ other sites when we make a post to advise them that there has been a new entry made. Sitemaps work similarly with the search engines in general, you can add one to your standard website, as well as your blog. Google as well as other sites allow you to submit your sitemap file so you know they have the URLs that you want listed. They get the data they need in a standard format, and we get an easy way to maintain it! Every one wins! The Google Sitemap protocol was eventually adopted by Yahoo! & MSN and was created. I expect other search engines will follow.

Adding a sitemap to a WordPress blog is very easy… just use the Sitemaps plugin by Arne Brachhold! This plugin will generate an updated sitemap.xml file in the root folder of your site for the search engines to find–and then tell them it’s been updated! It pings Google, Yahoo! & MSN automatically. You do have to do a little configuration the first time around, making sure the sitemap.xml file in the root folder of your site is writable by WordPress, and acquiring a developer ID from Yahoo! to use their submission API.

If you are using Christine’s Ultimate Tag Warrior, aka UTW, (If you aren’t you should be!) then you will need an add-on to supplement the Sitemap plugin in order to get tags added to your sitemap file. Thankfully, the folks at the Dicontas blog have produced the WordPress Google Sitemap Generator – Ultimate Tag Warrior – Tags Addon Plugin to do just that! While the only trick to this add-on is they say to modify it for your configuration, but then aren’t very clear about exactly what that means. Just to make sure that the ‘add trailing slashes’ option is on for UTW. Here’s what they mean: in their UTWGoogleSitemaps.php file, on line 18 you will see:

$utw_tag = get_bloginfo('url') . '/index.php?tag=' . $utwtag->tag;

If you are using rewrites so your URLs appear like, ‘/tag/some-tag-name/’ for your posts, rather than the default, ‘/index.php?p=some-tag-name’, then you need to update the line above to:

$utw_tag = get_bloginfo('url') . '/tag/' . $utwtag->tag . '/';

Then save and upload as usual for plugins. Run a manual update of your sitemap and it will now include your tags at the end of the file. See an example of my sitemap.xml. Note, to get the ‘pretty’ version of the file you should see from this link, you are really looking at the sitemap.xml file with an XSL stylesheet applied.

If you have a standard web site that could also use the benefit of a sitemap.xml file, there are several different sitemap generators available, as listed at Google Code – Sitemaps page. I chose to use phpSitemapNG. After installing in a protected directory of my web site, and making sure it could write to the root folder, I went through it’s configuration which is mostly defaults, but be sure your host name is specified as you would like it to appear in Google–I’ve gone back & forth between using & When I went to submit the sitemap to Google the first time, I realized I had used www, but had generated the sitemap with just, so it failed. Had to update the config and run it again. You will have th opportunity to update page titles, update frequency & priorities before actually generating the files. For details on these, see the Protocol page.

With this tool, and probably most any of them, the sitemap must be manually generated whenever a new page is created. Whereas with the WordPress plugin, it is updated automatically. Want to know how well it works? I made a post earlier today, and was playing with Google Blogsearch, and found my post! It even had a timestamp indicating it’s recency as ‘1 hour ago’! That’s impressive and shows the benefit of sitemaps and pinging on change.

Stay tuned for more on ‘pinging’!