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Affiliate links are an important part of creating a profitable blog online for many people. But it can also be a bit of a minefield when it comes to disclosure to your users and to search engines. Neither want to feel as if they've been tricked into following an altruistic link when you're actually getting paid to promote it!

Today I'm introducing a new shortcode to help you use affiliate links appropriately on your TitaniumSite! It handles telling Google that it's a paid link, so that you don't risk getting penalized for paid links. It also shows the user(when they hover on the link) that it's an affiliate link.

Here's the code:

Code

[affiliate link="http://titaniumsites.com" disclosure="Affiliate Links"]Click Here for the world's best website service![/affiliate]

This generates the following link: Click Here for the world's best website service!

There you have it! An easy way to keep your readers and the search engines happy while making your blog profitable!


Happy New Years! Here's hoping that you're recovering nicely from a great holiday season!

Don't think for a second that TitaniumSites took a long winter's nap over the holidays! I'm here today to announce a few great changes, and tell you how they might affect your website.

 

1. WordPress is now updated to version 3.8!

One of the things that our users love is that they get to use world-class website software(WordPress) without the headaches of updating it, or the themes, or plugins. Instead of spending hours trying to figure out whether(or after the fact: why not) all their plugins and themes will work with the latest version of WordPress, they let us handle that work for them!

So in the wee holiday hours, after extensive testing, we determined that all of our features were compatible with 3.8, and made it happen! Version 3.8 brings a much cleaner, more polished admin design, and of course plenty of security updates to keep us sleeping peacefully at night! It also boasts a fully mobile friendly admin panel, finally!

Along with the 3.8 update, we tweaked our custom Site Options and Shortcode panels to work seamlessly with the new mobile interface. Now you can manage your site nearly as effortlessly from your smartphone as you could from a desktop in the past.

What's the takeaway? This small little update is a huge win for our increasingly busy mobile-addicted users.

 

2. Designing your site is getting simpler!

One of the things we're happy to announce is that managing the look of your site is not only getting more powerful, but easier to use as well. You no longer need to select a theme  variation separately from the rest of the choices in the Site Options. (If this doesn't make sense to you, consider yourself lucky!). All of the capabilities of the 3 theme variations that previously existed are now options integrated into the Site Options panel.

Look for more great new features in this area to be coming soon!

What's the takeaway? Everything related to the design of your site can now be accessed on one single page!

 

3. SEO just got put on auto-pilot!

This is a big one that we're very excited about! As of today, everything related to SEO is now fully integrated into our custom-developed feature set. Previously we were using the very capable, and popular, Yoast's SEO plugin to handle things for us.

We're dedicated, to an almost obsessive degree, to making life simpler for you, and keeping your sites running as fast as possible. Because of that, the previous plugin was quickly falling out of favor because of it's increasing feature-bloat, popups, and advertisements. It is a great option for self-hosted sites, where it makes up for many things that are missing from horribly built themes, and needs to be all things to all people.

That's not needed here at TitaniumSites! Our themes are already optimized, and the few things that were missing feature-wise were easy to replace, and in many cases improve for our users.

With an entirely integrated system we can optimize sites on a level that the average WordPress site could only dream of..."Click to Tweet

With an entirely integrated system we can optimize sites on a level that the average WordPress site could only dream of, and that's exactly what we've done here!

You shouldn't have to choose the format of your page titles, setup sitemaps, configure your indexing rules, or anything like that! How these things should be configured are well-established policies that SEO experts and the search engines themselves all agree on. Because of that we've integrated these entirely into our behind-the-scenes system so that you don't have to fiddle with them at all. We'll take care of the core, so that you can focus on the content and the things that make your site unique and successful!

So what about the customizations that you've made already to your content? All those custom keywords, custom meta titles and descriptions you've painstakingly added? Never fear, we didn't throw all that away! The customizations that you've made  remain intact, and you'll still be able to customize those going forward(although the need to do so is virtually non-existent, trust us!)

Instead of the Yoast box in the admin panel under your post and page editors, you can now edit your seo titles, keywords, and descriptions via custom fields. These can be enabled by clicking on Screen Options at the top right of the editor page, and checking the Custom Fields option.

Once you do that(and you'll only need to do it once) you can scroll down and see the Custom Fields box below the editor. From there simply select one of the custom_seo names and fill out the value that you would like to use. In the Name drop-down you'll see custom_seo_title, custom_seo_desc, and custom_seo_keywords.

I want to stress that you do not need to use these custom options! They are there for historical purposes only(and for your average control freak who needs to feel as if their fiddling will produce a magic SEO boost that will propel them to unheard of rankings!). If these values are left blank, our system does a fantastic job of creating these for you based on your content, post/page name, and your tags.

 

4. Speed & Miscellaneous

As always, we're continually working on a ton of things in the background. This round of updates comes with a number of speed improvements, and some adjustments to our core to allow for many more features which will be coming out early this year!

 

Conclusion:

Most or all of these updates will have no impact on how you currently manage your site, and we're good with that! Our goal is to maintain a system that gets out of the way while you're busy creating a successful website! Today's updates bring us yet another step in that direction. If you have any questions at all about these changes, or see something slightly amiss on your site, don't hesitate to contact us right away!


This is just a quick note to our customers to let you know that you're now using the latest version of WordPress! TitaniumSites at it's core is running on WordPress. It's the world's best content management system that millions of people use and love. We've added ton of custom features and great customizations on top of it to give TS sites their unique simple power!

If you've managed your own WordPress installations before, then you know what a pain an update can be if you're using a particularly obtuse hosting provider! File permissions, script timeouts, and theme and plugin issues can all be major headaches. TS customers got it while they slept. Because we manage the entire platform, we are able to check for compatibility issues across all the plugins, features, and themes, so that you don't have to.

Here's to waking up to an up-to-date, secure, modern website.

You're welcome 🙂


There are so many small features built into TitaniumSites(TS) that I thought it might be helpful to start highlighting a few of them!

Today we're going to look at the

Code

[recent_posts]

shortcode.

How would you like to show previews of posts in other places on your site? Let's say you wanted to show your 4 most recent posts on your home page. It's easy enough! Here's what you'd put on your home page:

Code

[recent_posts quantity="4"]

That's all you need!

What if you want a little more control? Let's say you wanted to put each of those posts in a separate column. You can use the column shortcodes to create your columns, and then put something like the following in each one:

Code

[recent_posts quantity="1" offset="1"]

This would go in the second column. The offset attribute specifies how many recent posts to skip. So in this case we're selecting the second newest post on our site. For the first column, no offset is needed of course, and the third column would be offset="2", etc.

Other attributes that you can use are:

Code

style="list" (displays a bulleted list of the posts you request)

excerpt="full" (displays all of the content of the requested posts, instead of a partial excerpt as it does by default.)

category="name" (displays posts in a particular category. The name is the category slug, not the actual name.)

As always, use creatively! Put post previews in your sidebar, on your pages, in the footer, subheader, etc. It's up to you!


Sometimes it's important to be able to personalize a page for a subset of users. This is especially true in marketing. Let's say you're running advertising to a page. You may want to customize the title of that page depending on which ad is running to it. It is now possible to put placeholder shortcodes in your content that will change based on your url!

Here's an example:

Code

[replace default="Google" var="s1"]

This can be used in your content, title's, and text widgets. By default it will be replaced with(in this case) Google. But if you append ?s1=Ebay to your url, you'll see the text change to Ebay.

Let's look at another example to clarify:

Code

[replace default="Websites" var="fiddles"] are very important!

Here the default text will be "Websites are very important!", but if I add ?fiddles=cars to the end of my url, the sentence will now read: "Cars are very important!".

You can specify multiple replacements per page, but don't get to carried away with things! Personalization can be good, but don't end up confusing your users by abusing it.

Note that this does not significantly impact SEO optimization because each page on TitaniumSites has a canonical url defined that does not include the substitution variables. Search engines should always index the page with the default keywords, not the dynamic replacements. This prevents any duplicate content penalties for your pages! Everything on TS is designed to give you the best features possible using the very best practices online!


It's finally here! TitaniumSites now has the ability to show related posts! There's a blue-million plugins out there that provide related posts, but they either slow the site down, or don't have the customization needed to be used across many types of sites. That's why TS now has a custom solution. So why go with shortcodes? Shortcodes are great because we can use them in so many different places, either in a single post, or any any widget used in the template.

If you go to Appearance -> Widgets in your Admin Panel, you'll see a ton of different locations that you can insert widgets into to show in your website. Add shortcodes by first adding a Text widget to the desired location, and putting your shortcode inside that Text widget. Probably the best place that you can put the related posts shortcode is in the After-Post Widget Area. This will ensure that they show up after every post, including in the blog list, category pages, archives, etc.

Related posts are determined by first looking for other posts with similar tags, and then if it can't find any tags it looks for posts in the same category. Be sure to add plenty of categories and tags to your posts! So what's the shortcode?

Code

[related_posts quantity="3"]

Plain and simple! Set how many related posts that you want to show with the quantity attribute, and you're done! See an example of it in use here.

Related posts are a great way to increase the amount of time on your site. You get to show people who are interested in one article - other articles right in line with their interests!

Now get creative! You could put it in your sidebar for single posts if you use it inside the conditional shortcode, or only put it on certain posts in the content, instead of globally in the widgets. It's up to you!


Twitter cards are a relatively new feature from Twitter that has been rolling out over the last several months. These cards give previews on Twitter(web or mobile) for links from approved sites. Anyone who shares a link gets a summary card when someone clicks on their tweet. See the image on the right for an example. TitaniumSites templates now have the code built-in for you to start taking advantage of these! Anytime you can put a little more professional foot forward on the web is a good day for your business!

Here's how to enable this on your site:

  1. Add your twitter username to the Site Options page under General Info.
  2. Get approved by Twitter
    This is pretty easy. Go here: https://dev.twitter.com/docs/cards/validation/validator
    C
    lick Cancel on the popup, and then click the tab on the left hand side that says Validate & Apply.
    Paste a link to one of your blog posts into the URL field, and click Validate. If everything is setup correctly, you'll see the card preview generated.
    At that point all you need to do is click the Request Approval button directly below the URL field, and fill out some information about your Twitter account, and you're done!

For best results, be sure to set a featured image for each of your posts. This is a general good practice when blogging anyway, and ensures that each preview card has a unique image on it. (Featured images are also used for previews already on Facebook and Google+)

Happy Twittering!



Here comes another new shortcode!

This one allows you to create url's on your domain that redirect anywhere you want. Here's an example: http://titaniumsites.com/facebook will take you to the TitaniumSites Facebook page(who would've guessed!).

Here's how it works. Create a new page with the desired url. In my case, I created a page named facebook, which created a page at http://titaniumsites.com/facebook. Then on that page I put the following shortcode:

Code

[redirect url="https://www.facebook.com/titaniumsites"]

Then set the page template to Unbranded Sales Page. This allows the redirect to happen without the template loading, creating a faster redirect. This is a required step!

That's it! Don't put anything else on the page, since it won't be seen. The page is essentially just a placeholder for the redirect!

So what can we use this for? Glad you asked!

  • Easy to remember url's. trivette.me/gplus is much easier to remember(and tell others) than https://plus.google.com/115073558164136008184/posts
  • Moved pages. Have a popular page that needs to move somewhere else? No problem!
  • Affiliate links. If you use affiliate programs then you know that sometimes it's useful to put those links behind your own url's for easier tracking and general use.

Advanced Feature:

By default the shortcode creates a temporary redirect. For you SEO guys and developers, that means it's a 302 redirect. This is useful if you don't want search engines to permanently assume that this page is a redirect. (Maybe you're creating a placeholder page for future use, but want it to redirect somewhere else right now).  But you can change it to a permanent(301) redirect if you like. Just add an attribute called status, and set it to permanent. Here's an example:

Code

[redirect url="https://www.facebook.com/titaniumsites" status="permanent"]

Setting it to permanent tells search engines and browsers that this url is just an alias of the redirected url, and will pass page rank from the original url to the secondary one.

Enjoy!


Bad url's are a fact of life. We may type them wrong, and sometimes other people type them wrong when they're linking to us. The usual focus is to have good "404" error pages on your site. Now that's all well and good, to a point.

But what if we could deal with small typos automatically, and figure out where they meant to go in the first place?

As you've no doubt guessed by now, TitaniumSites does! If a page can't be found, before it goes to an error page, TS looks to see if there's any pages that's less than three characters different from the bad url. If it finds one, the visitor is automatically redirected to that page! Now of course the domain has to be correct, or it won't get to the TS servers in the first place. But anything after the domain is as fault tolerant as possible!

For you SEO experts, you'll be happy to know that the redirect is a 301(permanent) one, so the bad links pointing to you can still pass rank to the correct page!

Try it out on these links:

http://titaniumsites.com/2013/04/08/predictive-urls/ This is the good url to this post

http://titaniumsites.com/2013/04/08/predictve-ur/This is a "bad" link to this post, but it still works!