Hi Again

If you’re reading this, then you’re looking at the newly upgraded Coder’s Block blog. Hooray!

History

I started this blog 3 years ago with a “don’t sweat the details” attitude. Part of that was using Blogger to launch my blog quickly, knowing I’d want something better in the future. Well, it took longer than expected, but I finally upgraded my blog to run on WordPress, on my domain, integrated with my portofio.

Learning WordPress

I thought this would be a weekend project. Ended up taking 3 weeks, and that’s with me rushing after Google somehow found and indexed the blog before it was ready. Still not sure how they found it.

I started by cloning the baked-in Twenty Twelve theme. Then I combed through every file and function, learning what everything did, and removing, editing, or adding to fit my needs. This is the result. I now also have a new-found respect for WordPress developers. Using WordPress is simple. Working under the hood isn’t.

Migration

And then there was the migration. WordPress has a Blogger Importer plugin, but it strips out embedded scripts. Kind of a bummer if you run a web dev blog with lots of gists, codepens, and fiddles. I also needed to do a lot of markup massaging on my posts to fit them into their new home. I ended up throwing together a quick and dirty post massager that applied 11 regexes, then I applied a few more using the Search Regex plugin, just to get things reasonably presentable. It was certainly tedious, but it also gave me a chance to review old posts and add updates as needed.

After the migration, I still had to worry about redirecting visitors from my old blog to my new one and preserving any SEO juice I had. Thankfully, the Blogger To WordPress plugin made this easy.

Loose Ends

I waffled back and forth between using the baked-in WordPress commenting system or Disqus. Finally settled on Disqus, mostly so I could offload the complexity of a commenting system out of my templates and functions.

There are some other speedbumps I encountered, and I few tricks I picked up, but those are probably better saved for other posts.

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Keeping Up With SEO

What’s the secret to SEO? I’ve seen this question pop up a lot recently, so I figured I’d reiterate my thoughts here.

First off, sure, let’s mention the little things. Always put alt text on your images, use clean and concise URLs, put header tags around important text in a sensible manner, avoid using JavaScript and form posts for navigation, etc. These are all good things to do, but there’s a bigger, more important rule: never forget that you’re building a website for humans.

Years ago, the SEO landscape was very different. It was all a game to see who could exploit search engine bots the most. The web was littered with mass gateway pages, excessive meta keywords, irrelevant search terms, invisible text, and all sorts of other annoying things that appealed to bots, but were useless to humans.

This was a problem for search engines. Why would a human use a search engine that only found bot bait? To be successful, search engines needed to close the gap between what a human likes and what a bot likes. The industry has made huge leaps in this regard (Google, particularly) and is continuing to evolve to this end. Because of this, if you build a good site for humans, then the SEO will follow.

All those bot exploitation tricks I mentioned? None of them work anymore. Search engines have made these short-sighted tactics obsolete since they didn’t provide any value to humans. For good, dependable search engine rankings, a site needs to provide good content, have natural popularity, and employ sensible SEO practices that don’t resort to excess spam and brittle tricks.

The New York Times recently ran a great article about the dirty little secrets of search. It discusses both sides of the coin, from people that consider black-hat SEO necessary, to people that have been bitten for gaming the system. Of particular interest is JC Penney’s story. They held the top spot for a number of search terms, but had their rankings plummet dramatically after “manual action” from Google.

Oh, and by the way, meta keywords are a placebo.

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