Are You Ready For Google’s Mobilegeddon Tomorrow?

Google Mobilegeddon

A few months ago, Google started sending warnings to webmasters who didn’t have mobile friendly sites, alerting them to the fact that a new mobile-friendly algorithm change was taking effect on April 21st.

As you can imagine, this caused quite the commotion, as people started scrambling to get in compliance so they didn’t risk facing the wrath of Google. Officially, Google said that mobile-friendly pages would get a ranking boost for mobile searchers, and that this shouldn’t have any impact on desktop or tablet searchers.

Given that we live in a mobile world where a large percentage of web browsing is done on a mobile device, it only makes sense to make your site mobile friendly. Of course, for many of us, this is a pretty massive undertaking. I manage a large e-commerce site that simply wasn’t built with responsive design in mind (it was built before that was even such a thing), and the cost to retrofit it just doesn’t make business sense.

But if you’re a blogger, this might be the time to either move to a responsive theme, or use a mobile theme like WP Touch to get into compliance quickly.

Good luck!

Sitemeter Redirecting Visitors To Ad Site?

Sitemeter

Last night, I got a frantic call from my business partner. He said, “I think we’ve been hacked!” FML, it was 11pm at night, and this was honestly the last thing I wanted to hear. :(

We manage over 50 sites, so I asked him which one. “All of them!

Yikes! Now right off the bat, I was dubious, as all of these sites are locked down tight, and there are many levels of redundancy in place. Essentially, when you tried pulling up one of our sites, the page would display for a brief second, before being redirected to a page on x.vindicosuite.com with the page title of ‘Advert’.

But when I loaded the same site in Firefox (which has Adblock Plus installed), it came up just fine. So I went to Google and searched for “x.vindicosuite.com redirect”, and it took me to this post from June 2014, where this person claimed that Sitemeter (a popular analytics script that we’ve been using for close to a decade now) was doing all kinds of dubious things.

So I pulled the Sitemeter code from one site, and it started loading up just fine. Now came the fun part, removing the Sitemeter code from 50+ sites. :(

Apparently this was a widespread problem, as this morning I saw plenty of people posting about it. It’s hard to say if it was an insolated hack or if this is something more nefarious that Sitemeter’s been doing (it would explain some of the random ads and such that have popped up on our sites that we couldn’t always explain), but in any event they lost our trust last night.

So with that, it’s Adios Sitemeter. It’s been real.

Hey Zuckerberg, Nobody Wants The Messenger App!

Facebook Sucks

If Foursquare’s attempt to force users to download Swarm taught us anything, it’s that people really don’t like being forced into using apps. But Zuckerberg apparently doesn’t care, because Facebook is now FORCING it’s iOS and Android app users to download Facebook Messenger in order to access their private messages.

While the company has been warning users for months about this impending change, they’ve finally pulled the trigger, and already users are sounding off about this arbitrary change. Last week, I was forced to download the Facebook Pages app in order to view a private message sent to one of our pages while I was on the road, wasting 50MB+ of my precious space on my iPhone. Now they want me to download Messenger in order to communicate with my friends?

Screw that!

What Zuck doesn’t realize is that by doing this, he’s just offering users yet another reason to leave his social media platform for any of the other ones happily waiting in the wings. I was an avid Foursquare user until they completely screwed the pooch with this whole Swarm debacle, and if FB keeps making changes like this, I’ll happily deactivate my account and spend more time on Twitter and G+.

It should be interesting to see how things play out over the next few weeks as this change rolls out across their network.

Be Careful If You Sell Through Amazon Marketplace

amazon

About a year ago, I got fed up with eBay. I was selling items on there pretty regularly, but it seemed like 20% of my winning bidders wouldn’t pay for the item once the auction ended, or if they did it took DAYS for them to send payment. I discovered Amazon Marketplace, and while it wasn’t exactly perfect, it was much better than dealing with deadbeats. Or so I thought.

Last week, I sold a $200 item that was brand new, sealed in the factory packaging. The buyer was clear across the country, so even though Amazon reimburses you $4.99 for the shipping charges, that didn’t really help since it cost me $12 to ship it there. No biggie, that’s just the cost of doing business.

The package was delivered, and about an hour later, I received an e-mail from the buyer tell me he wanted to return it because it was “defective”. Only his description sounded more like user error, and yet he wasn’t willing to listen to reason. He wanted to immediately send the item back and get refunded. Only now, we’re dealing with a package that’s been opened, and there’s the cost of returning the package to me.

When I tried talking to him about resolving the “problem”, he became indignant and basically told me to either refund his money or he’d file an A-Z claim with Amazon. And that’s exactly what he did. I figured that Amazon would read the e-mails between the two of us and mediate the situation. But instead, they said that sellers are bound by the same return policies that Amazon uses, which basically means that anyone can return anything for any reason, and you’re basically screwed. There is absolutely NO seller protection, which is BS.

Now I’m waiting for him to send me back the item I sold him, which I’ll only be able to resell for 50% of my original selling price since it’s now been opened and used. Fun!

So back to eBay I go.. [sigh]

Talk About A Day Of Highs And Lows With Comcast

Comcast

So a few weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail from Comcast telling me that they needed to upgrade my modem in order to take advantage of the new high speeds being offered in my area. The process involved filling out a form on their website, and then waiting for the new modem to arrive by mail.

I received the modem a couple of days later, and to my surprise, it was a modem and WiFi router in one! Apparently if you pay the $8/month charge for a modem rental, you can ask for one of these modem/router combo deals, and they’ll give it to you free of charge. That would have been good to know a few months ago when I dropped $80 on a new Netgear router!?

In any event, I read through the setup instructions, and got to work. Basically, you plug everything in, wait for the Online light to stop blinking, and then “activate” the modem through their webpage. The whole process is unnecessarily complicated, and it took well over 30 minutes. When I was done, I went out to return my old modem to a local Comcast center.

When I got home, I did a Speed Test and couldn’t believe the results – 120Mbps download / 11.69Mbps upload. Nice!

Of course, a few hours later, I ran into a rather strange problem.. My Outlook couldn’t connect to the Comcast mail server. At first I assumed it was just a hiccup on their end, but when I checked my iPhone a little later, I saw that e-mails were coming through just fine. So I did a quick Google search for the error message:

Task ‘mail.comcast.net – Receiving’ reported error (0x800408FC) : ‘The server name you entered can not be found on the network (it might be down temporarily). Please verify that you are online and that the server name is correct.’

And it brought me to a Comcast support forum (surprise, surprise), where I learned that Outlook 2003 and earlier are known to have problems with IPv6, which was apparently added when the new modem/router got setup.

The easiest solution is to disable IPv6. In my case, I had to go:
Start>Control Panel>Network and Sharing center>Manage Network Connections>Right click on adapter and select Properties>Uncheck IPv6>OK

Depending on what version of Windows you use, you may have a slightly different path to disable it, but Google it if you’re lost. It was an easy fix, but it would have been nice if Comcast had given people a heads-up when issuing the new modem.

I imagine I can’t be the only person running an old version of Outlook. After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it?

Improve Engagement On Twitter With Twitter Cards

Twitter Cards

If you’re an active Twitter user (and if you’re not, you need to get on there ASAP), you’ve probably noticed that certain companies updates include a “summary view” which includes a thumbnail and an excerpt from the post. Considering how restrictive 140 characters can be, this is a huge advantage.

In the beginning, Twitter Cards were restricted to large corporations and the likes, but these days anyone can get approved to display a Twitter card, as long as their site is passing along the correct Meta Data. If you want, you can add code to your theme to grab the required information and add it to your page, but wouldn’t it be great if a WordPress plugin could do all the heavy lifting?

After evaluating a number of different Twitter Card plugins, I finally settled on JM Twitter Cards. Why? Because it works great, it’s actively being updated (the last update was 2 days ago, and it’s fully compatible with WP 3.9), and it’s simple to use. Simply download the plugin, activate it, enter some details, and you’re done.

After that, you simply clear your cache, pull up a recent post from your blog, and plug it into Twitter’s card validator. With luck, it should validate correctly, at which point you click the button to apply for Twitter Card access. In my case, I received an approval within an hour!

The anatomy of Twitter Cards

Until now, I’ve been uploading photos and including them in my Tweets. While it got attention, it cut down on the number of characters I had to work with. Now that I’m using a summary card that includes a large image, I get the best of both worlds!

Hope this helps!

Clean Up WordPress Spam With WPCommentCleaner

WPCommentCleaner

So today I got an e-mail from a company I host some sites with, telling me that “Your account has been abusing CPU resources for an extended period of time. As a result all of your sites have been cached in order to ensure continued performance stability of the server.”

The company in question hosts some of my REALLY low traffic sites (sites that maybe get 100 visitors a month if I’m lucky), as I just needed a place to host these sites without cluttering up my high-dollar servers. So I wasn’t sure what could be going on. Thankfully, they sent over some logs to show the unusual CPU usage, and I saw that a WordPress portfolio site I host for a family friend was the culprit, and most of the traffic was to a particular page.

So naturally, I went to the page to see what was going on. And when I got there, I saw that the page had 8000+ comments. WTF?!

Luckily, I was able to dig up the admin credentials, and logged into the dashboard to take a look. What I saw really blew my mind: 850+ comments in moderation and 25,000+ approved comments! Turns out, when they had setup this site, they never installed any sort of spam comment plugin, let alone Akismet!!

I went ahead and installed my spam plugin of choice, along with Akismet. After that, I had to get rid of all this spam. While I could have gone in through phpMyAdmin and emptied out the comments table (since 100% of the comments were spam), I instead tried out a plugin that was recommended in the WordPress support forums, WPCommentCleaner.

The plugin lets you wipe out with a single click of a button, and you’re able to choose between unapproved comments, spam comments, and approved comments. This is helpful if you have 5000 spam comments that you want to get rid of, but you have 500 legitimate approved comments that you don’t want to mess with. Again, if you know how to manipulate SQL, you can do this through phpMyAdmin, but it’s so much easier using a plugin for it.

That’s what I decided to do, and it couldn’t be easier. Since I hadn’t used it before, I used WP-DB-Backup to backup the database first (which took FOREVER given the amount of comments in the system), but better safe than sorry. And after that, with three simple clicks, I had gotten rid of all the spam.

So if you’re stuck in spam hell, download this plugin and make your life a little easier.