Posted 05.24.2011

Turning your Mac into a server

SO…MAMP.

Most of you are probably thinking, “What in the world?”

MAMP stands for Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP. (Windows can do something similar with WAMP)

NOTE: This post assumes that you at least know what MySQL and PHP are. If not, I wrote a post called Technology Alphabet Soup where I tried to explain a lot of the jargon.

So, what does MAMP do? Well, it let’s you set up MySQL and PHP on your Mac so you can develop sites locally, on your Mac, instead of having to work off the server. This is a more efficient workflow because (1) you don’t have to have an Internet connection to work and (2) you don’t have to wait for files to upload in order to test your work.

Go to mamp.info to download MAMP.

You can download MAMP Pro ($59), which has some great features, but the free version will also get the job done.

Install the program just like you’d install any other Mac software.

Launch the MAMP.app

You can go ahead and launch the demo version of MAMP Pro regardless.

OK, the security warning.

The demo should last for 30 days.

Once you click through and get this screen, everything should be up and running.

Now, if you click on the MySQL tab, you can click on “Launch phpMyAdmin.” — MAMP installs phpMyAdmin by default! Nice!

Notice, it will automatically launch a web browser where you can now create, edit, and delete databases.

Notice the web address: http://localhost:8888/phpMyAdmin/?lang=en-iso-8859-1&language=English Any sites that you create are going to use http://localhost:8888/

So, if you go to your Applications folder > MAMP > htdocs > all your site files will go there.

If you’re following along with the CodeIgniter tutorials, you can create a folder called awesome for your site files.

Now, you can add all your site files that I gave you and you can view them at http://localhost:8888/awesome/

Congrats! You’ve got MAMP up and running. Your Mac works like a server.

…one more thing… when you start working with databases, you’ll need a MySQL password. You can set this up by clicking on the Change MySQL root password button.

From there, it should be pretty straightforward.

 



Posted 05.19.2011

SEO Tips Nobody Ever Told me

I’m trying to be better about SEO (search engine optimization). But, it’s hard work! It takes effort. It’s a little more than copying and pasting the first couple sentences of a post and using it as the page description.

Did you know that 20-25% of your ranking on the major search engines come from what users actually see? Good gravy!

So far, these have been my favorite resources:

Most of the stuff that I read online, all say the same thing:

  • Pay attention to your page titles. You want the most important keywords in the page title and each page needs a unique title.
  • Have a unique META description and META keywords on each page META descriptions are used by Google when they display your page results on their site. META keywords are terms that you think people will use when searching for your site.
  • Build links When someone links to your site that’s the equivalent of a vote: someone saying “I believe this site is important.” You want to build up as many links to your site as possible. That’s why people talk about the importance of commenting on other people’s site and including a lik back to your own site. Not only will people read your comment (and hopefully see value), but you’ll also have another “vote” for your site.
  • Check your H1s (or other H tags for that matter) Heading tags prioritize your information for Google. An H1 should contain the most important thing on any given page. (Typically, that’s going to be the name of your company). The second most important thing (H2) might be the page name or blog post title.
  • Be sure to include sitemap.xml A sitemap.xml is exactly what the file name suggests. It’s a sitemap, written in XML. One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was on SEO an writing a sitemap.xml. In fact, by simply adding a sitemap.xml I was able to jump to #1 on Google (when you searched “Amy Haywood”. Up until that point, Amy Haywood the chemistry teacher had been beating me!) There’s some well written documentation on Google’s site for creating your own.

But, is that all there really is to it?

PageRank

PageRank is the system (0-10) Google uses to determine the quality of your site. How do you figure out where you rank? Well, download the (GoogleToolbar)[http://toolbar.google.com] for your browser. When you visit a site, you’ll see a meter displaying that site’s rank.

If you go to my favorite site, AMYHAYWOOD.com, then you’ll see I rank (unfortunately) a 1/10.

PageRank for AMYHAYWOOD.com

CNN, on the other hand, ranks a 10/10. But, then again, if I’m paying someone millions of dollars to handle my SEO, then I sure hope I’m getting a 10/10.

PageRank for CNN




SO…what are other factors that nobody ever talks about?

Have trophy words

SEO for 2010 talks about having a certain keywords that are do or die. For me, “Amy Haywood” is one of those. When someone Googles my name, I need them to find me instead of Amy Haywood the chemistry teacher, lawyer, or music teacher.

KEYWORD IN YOUR DOMAIN NAME

Bonus points if you have one of your trophy words in your domain name. Even though my blog is about programming and design, I don’t have either of those words in my domain. That’s fine. It just means I won’t rank as high on those terms. As I mentioned earlier, “Amy Haywood” is my trophy word. It’s in my domain and therefore, it should rank higher than even my own LinkedIn page.

KEYWORD IN THE PAGE NAME URL

Search engines like it when you have a keyword in the URL. —That’s an incentive, if you have a WordPress Blog to change your permalink structure from the default (/?p=182) to something related to your post name.

SEO School even talks about rearranging your URL so that keywords appear earlier. For example, if I wrote a post about The Litle Mermaid and my URL was /the-little-mermaid. I might consider /mermaid-little-the. Obviously, “the” is going to be the least important word and “mermaid” the most important.

DOMAIN AGE

How long you’ve owned your domain name. I’ve had AMYHAYWOOD.com since I was 16. After 10 years (that’s F-O-R-E-V-E-R in Internet years), Google assumes that my site has (some) crediblity. It’s been around the block a few times.

HOW LONG YOUR DOMAIN IS REGISTERED FOR

Most of the domain names I own, I’ve only registered for a year with automatic renewal turned on. Personally, I would rather hang on to my money as long as possible. However, Google (and GoDaddy for that matter) would like it better if I was registered for 3 years. There’s some stability there.

ALT AND TITLE ATTRIBUTES

Make sure that you links are utilizing the title attribute and images the alt attribute. Google can read text just fine, images are another story. But, if you have a alt attribute filled out explaining what the image is? brownie points! Same with links and alt attribute.

KEYWORD IN THE FIRST 100 WORDS IN HTML ON THE PAGE

Search engines figure if you have a keyword within the first 100 words in the HTML page, it must be important. The earlier, the better.

BUILD UP LONG TAIL KEYWORDS

A keyword is more like a key phrase than a word. These are words that people may search long term to find exactly what they are looking for. I recently discovered that my most valuable posts have been Code Igniter and jQuery posts where explain how to do very specific tasks. I’m sure that’s direclty related to the long tail keywords I’ve entered.

SUBMITTING YOUR SITE TO SEARCH ENGINES

Google is definitely the most popular search engine. Afterall, it’s turned into a verb! Bing has been trying to gain ground (after being late to the party, they’ve done a decent job). But, there are


Practical Application

Using Google AdWords

There are several services that you can subscribe to that will help you find keywords and whatnot. BUT, the thing I love about Google is they will handle all that for free. Enter Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool. Simply type in the word or phrase you want to use. It will give you similar words and phrases, as well as how much competiton is out there, how many global monthly searches, and how many local montly searches. If competition is high or nobody is searching for that term, you may want to let it rest.

I started looking at keywords I could use for this post. I simply typed in SEO.

The first few don’t apply to me: seo tools, seo software… but, seo tips and seo basics definitely work! SEO tips has medium competition, with 74,000 monthly searches. Sounds like a good target, if you ask me! Now, if I’m smart (which I am), I’ll change my original blog post title from “Things people never told me about SEO” to “SEO tips nobody ever told me.” Now, not only does my keyword appear in my URL, but it will also be in my page title. Sweet!

Plugins

If you’re running on WordPress, download and install All in One SEO Pack. It will help you generate a sitemap, META descriptions, META keywords, and all that jazz.

If you’re running on Expression Engine, like I am, you can download/buy Better Meta Data. It will do the exact same thing. (I’ll be honest, I’d rather hang on to my $40 and do it myself. Check out here and here.)



Posted 04.19.2011

How to Find the Right Designer / Developer (Part 3)

How does price relate to quality? You often hear “you get what you pay for.” But is that always true?

If I requested several proposals from various companies for a website, I’d get a range of quotes back. Let’s say ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. If “you get what you pay for” is true, then that makes the decision obvious, right? Go with the highest bid. But, is it really that easy?

Lawyers and doctors can charge an outrageous sum of money because of scarcity. Not many people have gone through the amount of schooling they have to be able to do that job with that level of excellence. Is the $30,000 bid about scarcity or the illusion of excellence? How do you tell the difference?

I’d argue that the price is not always right.

(Updated: I was re-reading this post and not sure I made the point I was trying to make). I believe there is a sweet spot with design. There’s a point where you do get what you pay for. On the low end, the design looks cheap because it is. On the other end: you’re paying for the false illusion of quality. It’s why you have “name brands.” A lot of times the generic brand is the exact same thing, but you’re willing to pay more for the label. So, where’s that sweet spot? The place where you’re paying for quality work and paying for what it’s worth?

My advice from the other day still stands: Look at their portfolio. Their work will speak louder than anything else that they say. You should be able to tell from the quality of their portfolio whether their services are worth the price they’re asking for. Remember someone will judge you’re doing within 5 seconds of visiting your site. You need your site to look great. Design is not something to skimp on. Pay attention to what they’re doing on other projects to see if you want them to take same approach taken with your work.