Italian Resources

Here is a list of resources that I’m finding useful in helping me learn Italian:

I’m positive there’s more. Certainly if you’re a Twitter user you should follow the above people. I’ll update this when I can remember the other resources and as I find new ones.

* Yeah that’s an affiliate link. If you buy the book through that link I’ll get a few pence. All the other links are just normal. Click away!

Twitter Cards for WordPress

I recently decided to experiment with Twitter cards for WordPress. Twitter cards allow you to explicitly define a unit of information: an article, a recipe, an event and so on (or if you prefer it in their terms it allows you to ‘attach media experiences to Tweets‘).

This is great for your followers as it gives them more information about the URL you want to send them to. This tweet is with Twitter’s ‘rich snippet’ card enabled:

Twitter Cards for WordPress

Needs the description variable changing to use an article summary!

This sort of extra information in meta-tags is great for SEO too, provided you follow one of the standards, such as schema.org. Search engine crawlers try to guess what your page is about. Whilst content can be immediately obvious to a human, the different ways of writing, say a recipe, may confuse a crawler. Remove all doubt and specify each section of information. Do it correctly and be rewarded (largely on Google’s whims) with extra information when you appear in the search results. This can really drive your click through rate even in lower results positions. This article, however, is about getting Twitter cards working, I’ll tackle rich snippets in a wider sense another time, or you could just read this excellent Moz article which covers the topic in great detail. If you sell things, provide content or care about your SEO at all you really need to start implementing any relevant tags you can.

Mine could do with some improvements, but first let me outline the process by which you enable Twitter cards and how specifically to do it on WordPress sites. From the previously linked Twitter Dev section (log-in with your standard user credentials):

“ Review the documentation for the type of card you want to implement.

  1. Add the pertinent meta tags to your page.
  2. Run your URLs against the validator tool to be approved.
  3. After approval, tweet the URL and see the Card appear below your tweet.”

Sounds easy! All you have to do is look up the required tags for the card(s) you want and add the information into meta tags in your HTML <head> section. Well it’s not entirely that straightforward, I found Twitter’s explanation a little basic so I went looking for more information. This page was rather helpful.

You could play around in your header.php file in order to add these, but I’ve found it problematic between versions to finding the variable names for article titles, descriptions etc, so I used this plugin and filled in all my details in my WordPress backend, under the Article tab of the plugin.

My Twitter card tags:

<!-- Twitter Card -->
 <meta name="twitter:card" value="summary">
<meta name="twitter:creator" value="@owenradford">
<meta name="twitter:url" value="http://www.owenradford.co.uk/5-resources-for-getting-the-most-out-of-magento/">
<meta name="twitter:title" value="5 Resources for getting the most out of Magento">
<meta name="twitter:description" content="- Websites &amp; SEO for your business">
<meta name="twitter:image" value="http://www.owenradford.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/owen-radford.jpg" />

After this I still wasn’t passing validation unfortunately as the description wasn’t coming through. I think WordPress’ php function for this may have changed since the guides I was using were written, so with a little more digging I was able to find the solution for my problem:

<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”<?php bloginfo(‘description’) ?>”>

After this I passed validation and applied for my card. A couple of things to note at this point:

  1. When I first applied I was turned down despite passing validation. I applied again and it went through pretty quickly.
  2. Though being accepted it took another week or two for the cards to show up BUT the Twitter Dev forums show a lot of people who’re accepted but not having the card appear even after waiting, so keep an eye on it!
  3. Once the cards were applied they worked retrospectively – other Tweets mentioning my content now have the card working.

There’s still some work to do. As you’ll note the card could do with an article summary or snippet to make it more clickable – my blog’s tagline won’t exactly draw people in!

As I do this I’ll update the article and share new images of how the cards look.

5 Resources for getting the most out of Magento

Magento is very handy for e-commerce and you certainly do get a lot for free. However, it can also be very, very frustrating so here are 5 resources for getting the most out of Magento and hopefully making life a little easier too.

Easily Setup Table Rate Shipping

Want to ship internationally and charge different rates depending on the location? You’ll need to create a .csv file that specifies each location and the price of shipping. Not only is this tedious when you have many countries, but it also becomes easier and easier to make mistakes with so many to do by hand.

I found myself facing this exact problem and I was determined to find a lazy way round it! Enter: http://elgentos.nl/tablerates/ – this will generate the .csv for you. There’s plenty of handy shortcuts within this handy shortcut tool – set the default price, check all European countries, set the condition for the shipping price etc. This saves a lot of time!

M2EPro

If you want to sell on Amazon/Ebay (and an ever increasing list of other online stores) from the comfort of your Magento installation then try M2EPro. This extension allows you to manage inventory, listings, prices, themes and more from within Magento. Best of all? It’s currently free!

It’s not without drawbacks though! Initially the process of creating listings for Ebay was rather confusing. It uses 4 different templates that control different aspects of the listing process – so it is difficult to get your head around at first. Coupled with patchy documentation and a current lack of tutorials it can be a struggle – but persevere it’s well worth it.

Some retailers may also struggle with Amazon listings if they don’t have barcodes for products – this is more Amazon’s fault than M2E’s – there is a work around but it’s quite fiddly.

Theme stores

Unless you’ve the time, or inclination, you’re probably going to want to buy a theme to apply to your Magento store that functions as a decent base for you to work from & customise to your liking. You can’t go far wrong with something like Theme Forest which has hundreds of themes to pick from.

SEO Guides

Once you’re up and running you’ll perhaps be turning your attention to marketing and in particular SEO. The good news for an SEO novice is Magento is pretty good for SEO out of the box with many ‘best-practise’ settings already in place. It’s not all done for you though, so take a look over the following couple of handy guides: http://yoast.com/articles/magento-seo/ & http://www.gpmd.co.uk/blog/a-guide-to-doing-seo-on-magento-websites/ – they’re pretty thorough and specifically targeted at setting within Magento that aide SEO. You’ll still want to tackle general SEO however.

Magento’s Website & User Forums

There’s a wealth of resources on Magento’s own website in the knowledge base, so if, for example, you want to crack a multi-store installation (a truly headache inducing experience the first time around!) you can find that information here.

If you have other questions take a look through their forums – most googling leads there anyway – you may just find what you need. Beware though that a lot of guidance may relate to earlier Magento versions. So frustratingly, what solved one person’s problem in say 2009 may not solve yours now! The other thing to watch for is the shills – many extension vendors seem to jump into threads, promote their extension as a solution and move on without really contributing.

So there you have it, 5 top Magento resources to make life easier. I hope that helps you out – Magento is very powerful but can also be incredibly difficult. If you have any helpful resources let me know in the comments.