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January 29, 2008

A Few Cool Ways To Use RSS Feeds

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Dennis @ 5:29 pm

So what is all this RSS hype? I’ve known about RSS feeds, what they are for, and how to use them for quite a while. It’s not like they are new or anything! It wasn’t until recently that I started to actually use them though. I didn’t know what I was missing. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. You can read a whole definition for RSS here. Basically, an RSS feed allows you to easily keep yourself up to date with the publisher of the feed.

There are all kinds of interesting feeds available. Instead of checking a favorite blog for instance, you can subscribe to their RSS feed and go back when new content is available. There are feeds for Podcasts, products, and there is even a feed available for letting you know which stores have the Nintendo Wii in stock.

I decided to list here a few ways that I’m using and enjoying RSS feeds. (more…)

December 18, 2007

Key Website Statistics: New Visitors and Conversion Rate

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , , — Dennis @ 4:12 pm

There are a few key statistics that every website operator selling a product or service should track. Of course, these are useful for other types of sites too, but when you’re attempting to sell something, you need to know where to spend your time and/or money to be most effective.

Unique vs New Vistors

A lot of website statistics software, e.g. Awstats, Webalizer, will tell you how many unique visitors you have each day. These are important numbers, but you don’t get a good picture from day to day of how many of those users are new, i.e. how many of those users have visited your site on a previous occasion.

New Visitors are certainly a part of the unique visits, but you have to track them separately. Why? This number gives you insight into how many people your marketing effort is driving to your site. If you have 100 unique visitors each day but only 100 unique visitors for the month, you have a pretty good retention rate on your visitors but certainly not a very good acquisition rate.

One way to track new visitors programmatically is to test for and set a cookie upon a visit. If you have the capability of doing this, and then storing a record each time you set a new cookie, you’ll be able to watch your acquisition rate from day to day. Another alternative would be to find a 3rd party service, e.g. Google Analytics, that provide you with code to place on your page.

Acquisition vs Conversion

Once you have the number of new visitors, you can start to form statistics based on that number that provide insight into the effectiveness of your site. The number of new visitors that purchase a product for the 1st time give you a conversion rate. These two numbers together can provide insight into where promotion money will be most effective.

  1. Increasing Traffic

    There are a number of different ways one could spend marketing dollars to attract new visitors. Assuming that your conversion rate holds fairly consistent, more users ought to translate into more conversions. If you have a pretty good conversion rate, spending money on driving more traffic to your site could be the way to go.

  2. Increasing the conversion rate

    If you are getting a pretty good number of new visitors, but your conversion rate isn’t very good, driving more users to the site might not translate into more profit. In this case, it may be best to evaluate how effective your website is at selling your product.

December 17, 2007

9 Essential Principles for Good Web Design

Filed under: Web — Tags: — Dennis @ 7:32 am

I came across this article on It contains pretty concise tips that I can follow and make sure I’m doing. Since I’m not a designer and don’t necessarily have the best ability to choose matching colors and appropriate fonts etc, I find articles like these helpful to bookmark for reference when tuning my sites.

From the article:

Web design can be deceptively difficult. Getting a design that is both usable and pleasing, delivers information and builds brand, is technically sound and visually coherent… So here are my 9 principles for good web design with examples and further reading!

read more | digg story

December 4, 2007

Can Google’s Adsense bot understand gzipped html pages?

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , , , — Dennis @ 8:08 am

During my experiments with WP-Super-cache, I noticed a strange thing happen to my Adsense ads. A short while after getting gzip compression to work properly, all my ad content had foreign characters and strange seemingly unrelated content.

Having changed nothing on my blog except for installing WP-super-cache, I decided to add an additional check to my .htaccess. Here is a modified snippet that disallows Google’s Adsense bot from receiving the gzipped page:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*comment_author_.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*wordpressuser.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*wp-postpass_.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Google*
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} gzip
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/wp-content/cache/supercache/%{HTTP_HOST}/$ ml.gz -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) /wp-content/cache/supercache/%{HTTP_HOST}/$1index.html.gz [L]

Notice the new line that says the User Agent can’t have Google in it’s description.

Sure enough, ads are back to normal. I’m not sure how exactly Google’s crawlers handle gzip compressed pages. They are sending an “Accept-Encoding” header that includes gzip or the page wouldn’t be served to them in the first place. Judging from the change in my Ads however, I’d suspect that the bot isn’t uncompressing the received file.

November 8, 2007

Making WP-Super-Cache gzip compression work

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , , , , , — Dennis @ 11:41 am

I was pretty excited to see an update to WP-Cache. The first thing I noticed is that when I enabled the new super cache compression option, I started getting a file save as dialog instead of my pages. As of the current version of WP-Super-Cache, the readme.txt file states that if you get this, you need to disable the super cache compression option.

Not being satisfied with this answer, I’ve done a little digging and come up with the following solution. (more…)

November 6, 2007

WP Super Cache – The Ultimate WordPress Caching Plugin

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , , , , , — Dennis @ 3:45 pm

I’ve upgraded my old WP-Cache plugin to this one that I found on today.

From the Post:

Tired of clicking a link off the Digg front page only to find a crashed or mortally lagged site on the other side? Finally, Donncha (one of the main WordPress developers) has solved the problem once and for all with a plugin that blows WP-Cache away.

I had a minor issue but was able to find the answer on the WordPress plugins wp-super-cache faq page. If you are upgrading from the old plugin, you need to correctly set up you cache files in the wp-content directory. I had old files based on the original WP-Cache and needed to remove those and add the new ones.

# from within the wp-content directory
>rm wp-cache-config.php
>cp plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-config-sample.php wp-cache-config.php
>ln -s plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php advanced-cache.php

After that, I was able to enable and use the plugin successfully.

In addition to enabling the plugin, I thought I’d try out the super cache functionality. To do this, you have to add a few more rewrite rules to your .htaccess file. I didn’t notice this in the documentation, but you have to add these before your other rewrite rules.

# new .htaccess file after enabling super cache
RewriteEngine On
# if these rules come after, you'll not get the super cache functionality
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*comment_author_.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*wordpressuser.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !^.*wp-postpass_.*$
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} gzip
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/wp-content/cache/supercache/%{HTTP_HOST}/$1index.html.gz -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) /wp-content/cache/supercache/%{HTTP_HOST}/$1index.html.gz [L]

# my original rules
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

Edit: I posted an update that deals with getting the super cache compression to work.

read more | digg story

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