Lori Carey Photography

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A few good tips and tools

I came to the realization over the weekend that the code for my website was beyond salvaging; I had customized a template that didn't like customization, and in the process I completely borked it. So yesterday I started writing all the code from scratch. I surprised myself because I had it up and running in less than 24 hours, with the same look as my old site but improved functionality and a base that will take to additional customization without protest. And my blog is now completely integrated. Lots more surprising things to come!

I love teh interweb! All that knowledge just there for the taking! I remember the days (here she goes again) when you had to learn the Dewey Decimal System, wait for the library to open, look up a subject in a card catalog, find out that you wanted info on an obscure subject and a book had to be ordered, wait for the book to be delivered to the library so you can go back when it's open...it's a wonder we ever learned anything on our own back then. Now if I want to learn how to do something I just google away (and sort through the chaff. Ok, there is a lot of garbage out there and you can't believe everything just because it says so on wikipedia, but there is an incredible wealth of knowledge being shared out there).

But for those of you who don't like to sort through the chaff to find the nuggets of gold (I know it's a mixed metaphor), I thought I'd pass on a few random tips and tools that I have found very useful for designing and maintaining a blog and/or website and managing SEO.

First, one of my favorite tools when I am working on website design is Instant Eyedropper. This free program is just the trick when you need to know a color code. I keep it in my toolbar; right click to choose between HTML, Hex, Delphi Hex, VB Hex or RGB. Then just drag the eyedropper to anything on your monitor screen and it will both show the correct code and place it on your clipboard. Really comes in handy too when you have a list of color codes that you're using on a site and you can't remember exactly which one you used for something...much faster than digging through your CSS!

I love the XML validation tool over at W3Schools, a first-class e-learning portal run by Refsnes Data. They have tutorials and tools for building a website based on W3C standards, and I can tell that I'm going to be spending a lot of time there. The info on their site is thorough, easy to understand, and most important, up to date with today's standards. The validator tool allows you to cut-and-paste your code into a box and will check your syntax line by line. You might be surprised that just because code runs on one host, it may not run on another host that enforces strict W3C compliance. I had stared at a few pages of code for several days without being able to spot the problem. The XML Validator helped me identify it in seconds.

Next cool tip is for your blog. I think most people know to set up Google Alerts for their name, their business name, and their website name. If not, do so now! It's a great way to see how often and what searches your name comes up in. I never realized before how often my personal name shows up in searches, a good clue that SEO is starting to pay off.

But Google Alerts can also be used in another way. If you allow people to link to your blog posts, you probably realize that you only get an e-mail when someone comments, not when they link to you. It can be tedious to do the work to look for links on older posts. Well, I never realized until recently that you can set up a Google Alert for links to your blog posts, and once a day you will get an e-mail showing exactly who is linking to you. This is really neat, and it's how I learned that Idee, the company that owns another of my favorite tools - TinEye, linked to my blog and publicly thanked me for my blog post about them. My voice is being heard! How cool is that to get a link from a favorite company?!

To set up the alert for links to your blog posts, go to http://blogsearch.google.com/?ui=blg and in the search box enter link:http://blogname.blogspot.com (the part following "link:" must be your blog URL). The search will show links to your blog, and you'll see options for subscribing to the feed by email or with Google Reader. Now you'll know whenever someone backlinks to you.

That's it for now, I'll leave the rest for another day when I need something to talk about.

Nothing after the jump.

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