Adding an RSS feed to your site

A few months ago, I thought I was “back” to blogging, but it turns out I still had some unresolved issues. I’ve had a lot of trouble lately getting online to post to this blog and continue my explorations of all things Web-related. Fortunately, however, I think I’m finally ready to get back online on a regular basis to keep all of the tips and tricks coming here on The Web for You. I’m not making any promises at this point, but I’ll do my best.

In my last post, I told you I’d be describing how to add an RSS feed to your Web site. When I first conceived of this project several months ago, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. For one thing, Microsoft Office Small Business Live (MOSBL – formerly Microsoft Office Live) had several restrictions in place that made it difficult to add an RSS feed to your site. While several of these restrictions may still be in place if you’re using the default Web page editor, the good news is that even the free (Basic) version of MOSBL now allows you to use “third-party” design tools to build your site. That means that you’re no longer restricted to using only the existing design tool, and you can write your own HTML codes, including the META tags needed to add an RSS feed to your site (more on this later in this post).

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Search Engine Optimization Malpractice

In my last article, Search Engine Optimization: What it is, and why you shouldn’t care, I suggested that Search Engine Optimization (The practice of designing your Web page in such a way that it appears as high as possible in a list of search results) was not only misleading to both users and Web designers, but that it opened the door to malicious practices. To make matters worse, current SEO “rules” are suppressing many great innovations even while they allow deceitful Web sites to gain high rankings.

In a comment on my last article, Frank summarized what I expect are pretty general feelings about Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, Frank suggests that Search Engine Optimization helps provide “good no-nonsense copy that helps a searcher get their question answered.” Frank suggests that “search engines are not something to be fought but rather embraced.” In general terms, I agree completely. As I said, who could imagine life without search engines? And isn’t it obvious that Web designers should consider how their Web site will be placed in search engine results pages (SERPs) when they build their site? Of course it is. The basic ideas behind SEO are very valid, and are not to be fought.
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I’m back!

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated The Web for You: It’s good to be back!

Thanks to all of my readers for your patience during my absense. I look forward to a new year filled with lots of ideas for harnessing the power of the Web for personal business, recreation, and communication.

In the upcoming year, I will finish my thoughts on SEO, give you some ideas for creating and managing RSS feeds for your Web site, explain how to create and manage an e-newsletter, talk about some great Open Source applications to help manage your growing Web presence, and much more.

One of the things I’m most excited about is the upcoming service improvements to Microsoft Office Live Basics. The most interesting improvement planned will be the ability to use third-party design tools to design your site. This means that you will not be restricted by the limitations of the current Web site design tools in Microsoft Office Live, which don’t allow you to change many aspects of the page (such as meta tags, RSS links, etc.) Once these changes are completed, I’m looking forward to redesigning my site and reporting back on these changes.

I’m looking forward to a great new year, and I’d like to thank all of my readers for their interest in The Web for You.

LockworldHerald.com service problems

Hi all – just a quick note to let you know about some service problems with Lockworld Herald that may impact The Web for You. Microsoft is updating their free Office Live Basics service, which means that there will be some times that my Office Live Web site, LockworldHerald.com, will be down. In and of itself, this is not a big deal. But unfortunately, many of the design elements I’ve included in The Web for You come from codes, images, and other information saved on my Web site. Therefore, the appearance and functionality of The Web for You may be impacted by these service outages. There should be no impact to the RSS feed, only the actual Web site.

To be continued

I had hoped to write at least one more post before I had to do this, but I’m afraid I just haven’t had time. December is a pretty busy month for me, so I won’t have a chance to write any more for The Web for You until January, 2008.

I have at least one more post in my series on Search Engine Optimization, which would include a response to Frank’s excellent comment in defense of the practices used by search engines.

I certainly believe search engines are a good thing, and, in principle, search engine optimization is a wonderful tool to help Web site owners establish their content as valid and authoritative. However, there are certain aspects of today’s practices in indexing Web sites that make it harder for small businesses and personal Web sites to gain high rankings in the search engines, while allowing “gamed” Web sites to boost their rankings without displaying quality content.

I’ll continue this conversation in early January, and I hope you’ll all be patient with me in the mean time.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all…see you in January.

Search Engine Optimization: What it is, and why you shouldn’t care

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): It’s a term any Web developer is intimately familiar with, and even the most novice Web site owner/developer/writer has heard of. But if you’re just getting started with building your own Web presence, you may not really understand what this term is all about, or how important it is to you.

In simple terms, search engine optimization refers to the practice of designing Web pages to show up as high as possible in the list of results shown when a person searches the Web. Most Web developers spend considerable amounts of time studying exactly what the major search engines use to determine placement in the list of results. Although search engines design the results page to make it seem that they have scoured the entire Internet and returned the page with the results most relevant to your search terms, this is not entirely true (Actually, it’s just short of a bald-faced lie). In truth, search engines look at a wide variety of factors to determine placement, not just how closely the text on the destination Web page matches the text you are searching for. There are many other factors being considered, including hidden HTML codes inside your page called META tags. These tags were initially designed to allow Web designers to give search engines a brief description of your Web site/page’s contents and some suggested keywords that apply to your page without displaying this to the visitor, but that are often misused and abused today. Search engines also display sites that are updated frequently higher in their results than sites with more static information. Although this sounds like a good idea, keep in mind that not all content needs to be regularly updated. A good source of information on the life and death of Socrates probably doesn’t need to be updated on a weekly basis. But by far the most common measure of your site’s quality, according to most search engines, is the number of other Web pages which link to your site. And links to your site from sites that are ranked higher in the search results page count more than sites that the search engines have ranked lower. The number of visitors to your site also plays a vital role in the placement the search engines give to your Web site.

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New Article: “Consider the consequences: One Laptop Per Child”

I have recently published a new article on LockworldHerald.com. While not written specifically for this blog, I think it might appeal to readers of this blog as well as to other visitors to my site, so I wanted to share it with you.

In Consider the consequences: One laptop Per Child, I give my opinion about the “One Laptop Per Child,” and similar initiatives to provide low-cost computers to developing countries. I think these programs are wonderful, but that few people have stopped to consider the implications of making technology universal in third-world countries while maintaining the digital divide in first-world countries.

Redistribution:
This article is available to republish on your Web site, thanks to Texty’s simplified content management system. I’ve made the javascript code available on the Web site so anyone can republish this article, provided I am credited as the author and no changes are made to the content. The license for this work, as well as the copyright notice and author information, is included in the Texty, so this article can safely be published on any Web site as is. I would appreciate anyone who republishes this content to let me know where it will be used by filling out the form under the “republish” link on the article.

Content Management: Building a sitemap for your dynamic Texty content

If you followed along with my last series of posts, I’ve showed you how to build a customized content management system into your Web site using AjaxIncludes, Zoho Creator’s JSON feeds, and the powerful Texty SCMS (Simple Content Management System). In this last post of this series, I want to show you how you can expand the same principal to not only deliver the content to your site, but to build a simple sitemap to help your users find content within your site.

As with the other content management systems I’ve discussed, the actual text delivered to your Web site will not be indexed by search engines such as Google. Most major search engines ignore any text delivered to your page via javascript or other scripting methods that take place in the browser, rather than on the server. If you happen to have a Web site that allows you to run javascript codes on the server side, you can avoid problems with indexing your site content by adding a code within your <script> tag to tell the server to run the code before delivering the page to your user. Simply change <script> to <script runat=server>. However, if you are using Microsoft Office Live Basics, you can not run any scripts at the server level, so you have to find some other way to deliver your content. I will spend a little time discussing the problems this presents to individuals and small businesses trying to establish a Web presence in the next series of posts.

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Update to code from previous post

My apologies, but I left out a critical element from the code in my last post. If you use the code I originally posted, it will write ALL of your Texty’s into a single page.

I should have included a line that will compare the actual URL with the values from your JSON feed to determine whether or not to write a particular Texty:

if (val==winval){
document.writeln(Texty);
}

Here’s the corrected code (I’ve also corrected the code in the original post):
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Advanced Content Management: Using AjaxIncludes, JSON feeds, and Texty together

Digging a little deeper, we find that Texty can even be used with more advanced features. Let me show you how to combine AjaxIncludes , JSON feeds from Zoho Creator , and Texty content management into a single powerful site-building tool.

First, you will want to use the AjaxIncludes scripts to build your site framework. Remember that these elements will not be indexed as part of your site, but that’s OK because they are just the design elements of your page. This can include items like your page banner, navigation structure, and a blank “block” for your page’s content. I’ll use the following assumptions in this example:

  • You are using Microsoft Office Live Basics (MOLB), so all of your files are stored in the same directory: http://yoursite.com/Documents/.
  • You have already saved a copy of the AjaxIncludes script from Dynamic Drive as a separate file in your site at http://yoursite.com/Documents/AjaxIncludes.txt (You don’t want to save files with the “.js” extension if you are using MOLB).
  • You have created the following files to provide the framework for your site:
    • banner.htm (The main banner for your page)
    • navigation.htm (The top navigation structure for your page)
    • footer.htm (The footer for your page)

With this structure in place, you are ready to build a blank page like this:

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