Mar 19 2014

Fix Broken Thumbnails on Facebook

Some time ago, I tried to post a link on Facebook and noticed that the thumbnail did not display in the post. After a little digging, I discovered a neat little debugger tool that worked. Simply visit http://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug and enter your URL of your link and hit the ‘Debug” button.
debug

This forces Facebook to spider the page and scrape the associated thumbnail. Once it has been indexed, you can test it on Facebook and you’re good to go. This applies to all links, including YouTube videos or external links. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/fix-broken-thumbnails-on-facebook/

Nov 14 2013

Ready for your 5-second Masterpiece? YouTube’s Fan Finder can get you fans for free

Looking to give your YouTube channel a boost for free? YouTube has answered the call with their latest advertising platform, aptly titled Fan Finder. Basically, owners upload their videos to their channel and can transform their video into a TrueVideo ad, the 5-second overlay ad on the video. From there, the viewer has the option to either skip the ad or jump directly to your channel.

“Fan Finder takes into account the interactions that viewers have with millions of YouTube channels in order to reach the people who are most likely to engage with your channel.”

Based on YouTube’s algorithm, the system weighs user behavior and interests with the hopes of connecting users with your channel. It’s also apparent that Google is treating Fan Finder as one big experiment that might lead to a more robust advertising model, which means it may cost you to get this free service. According to YouTube, “Fan Finder takes into account the interactions that viewers have with millions of YouTube channels in order to reach the people who are most likely to engage with your channel.”

To help you get started, YouTube offers some great tips for creating your Fan Finder ad:

Timing / Keep it short: Since you only have 5 seconds to work with, you need to keep your channel ad short and engaging: Introduce the viewer to your content; don’t assume they have heard of you or your channel before. Remember, your channel ad will run as a TrueView ad which the viewer can skip after 5 seconds, so get to the point.

Keep it entertaining: Show what your channel is about, don’t tell. If you have a comedy channel, make sure your ad is funny. If you have a music channel, make sure your ad has music. Avoid any time sensitive information that could feel dated quickly as you want a longer shelf life for your ad.

Aim for a strong message: Keep the ad focused on your channel and why users should subscribe or check it out. Include your call to action in the script and annotation and be sure to explain what it means to subscribe in case the viewer doesn’t know (example: want to see more content? subscribe here).

Showcase your brand: Make sure your branding is clear and repeat it throughout the ad so viewers remember your channel.

Are you ready to create your 5-second masterpiece? Give Fan Finder a try and share your thoughts.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/ready-for-your-5-second-masterpiece-youtubes-fan-finder-can-get-you-fans-for-free/

Oct 28 2013

Hshtags.com Gets an A for Effort

We all know about hashtags, as they have become an integral part of every touch point with users. From TV commercials and print ads to social campaigns and sporting events, they are everywhere and continue to evolve.

For most users, the process of finding the right hashtag for the right initiative can sometimes be a challenge. While Hashtags.org is a good resource for identifying hashtag trends, it falls a little short when it comes to seeing how hashtags are used across all social channels.

Although it’s missing an “a” in the URL, I recently discovered a site that gets an A for answering this call and it’s definitely worth exploring. hshtags.com, a new site is a powerful search engine for hashtags, across the popular search engines. Using a very minimalist design, you can enter the tag and it will tell you how it’s used.

hashtag

Some key highlights:

1) Search hashtags across all of the hashtag-driven social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest.

2) Filter results by media type and social channel, so if you’re looking for all images with a particular hashtag on Twitter, it’s just a click away.

3) Jump directly to the post with the queried hashtag with the ability to share that post on your social channel of choice.

Above all, the true beauty of this platform is the simplicity and intuitive design – you enter the hashtag and it gives you everything you need to know about that tag.

Hailed by Digital Trends as the “Google” of social media, Hshtags.com is a great resource and I highly recommend checking it out.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/hshtags-com-gets-an-a-for-effort/

Aug 15 2013

Should I update WordPress? 5 Things You Should Do Before Hitting that Update Button

wp updateDepending on the context, the word “update” has many meanings in different spaces. For some, it represents a newer and improved version, while for others it means progress and things are moving forward in the right direction. When it comes to WordPress, they will issue updates about 8-10 times a year, leaving many wondering if it’s worth it to hit that ‘Please update now’ button for the latest release.

Shortly after updating a client’s site to WordPress 3.6, I had an issue with the latest version of NextGen Art Gallery, a popular plugin for image galleries and slideshows. It basically reduced the site to a single page with numerous errors – a total mess. While I was able to restore the site from a backup, it was clear I was not alone. As noted on this WordPress forum, many other WordPress users were struggling with this latest release of NextGen and Wordpdress 3.6 – all looking for answers and just venting their frustration.

So, I have outlined some key steps and areas to keep in mind, before hitting the update button:

1) Backup: I have stressed this enough, but it’s key that you have a redundant backup system in place. I would recommend a copy of all files on your system (you can drag and drop using your FTP program) as well as a database backup. Here are some options for backup applications. Bottom line: do not update unless you have a working backup in place. Also, most hosting providers have backup applications with a hosting package, so it’s worth exploring. You can restore by date and designated folders.

2) Review compatibility issues: Documentation on WordPress has always been top notch, and I would recommend reviewing the release notes on all plugin pages as well as review the forums for any compatibility issues. Pay special attention to frequency of plugin updates and developer notes. Users have the best and strongest voice on forums, so if many people are complaining about the same bugs, it’s probably true. In the case of NextGen, you did not have to look much further than this thread to know there were compatibility issues at hand.

3) Wait it out: Jumping into the latest version of WordPress without doing your homework is like plunging into a lake of cloudy water blindfolded. You don’t know what’s lies underneath until you break into the water. It could be fine or filled with a pool of snapping turtles. 🙂

So, don’t rush to update and pay close attention to activity around the updates, especially on forums and developer sites. I like to wait until a release has been out for a while before exploring that option to update.

4) Know your Plugins / Play in the Sandbox: Let’s face it – plugins are great as they give the user a little more control over their space and how their site functions. In essence, plugins are like virtual toys for an adult sandbox. However, plugins are usually the source of many compatibility issues, so it’s key that you know what plugins are used and you should only use the ones that are well supported. Community-based plugins are often well documented and supported by a group of developers. Along the lines of item # 2 above, make sure that you have a good understanding of how the plugin works and pay special attention to compatibility issues, especially with other plugins and versions of WordPress. Also, the 5 star user rating is a helpful way to identify the problematic plugins at first glance. However, you should also look at the user feedback behind the negative reviews. In addition, always have a staging or sandbox build to test compatibility of the latest version of WordPress and any plugins. Once you know everything is working properly, you can then push it live.

5) Automatic or Manual Update: A common question as users have the option to manually update their version of WordPress or it can be done automatically. I think this WordPress guide sums it up quite well. Basically, if you have made changes to a standard WordPress theme (Twenty Twelve, etc.), you should not use the automatic upgrade, as it will overwrite your changes – you should use a manual update instead. However, if you have a custom theme, check with your developer or software group BEFORE updating it. In some instances, they might have compatibility issues with the theme and the latest version of WordPress. Above all, you should know your theme inside and out.

That’s it – hope you’re more prepared for the next update! Feel free to share your thoughts on updating WordPress or contact me with any questions.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/should-i-update-wordpress-5-things-you-should-do-before-hitting-that-update-button/

Jul 28 2013

iPhone Not Starting Up: CPR for a Dead iPhone

In a panic, my son informed me that his iPhone 4S was dead after many failed attempts to start it. This was followed by a reference to replacing it w/ the latest model. Before making that journey to the Apple store for a new phone, we decided to run some additional diagnostics. From this experience, I quickly discovered that there is always hope as we were able to restore it.

So, I decided to turn this incident into a blog post for future reference and for those who are struggling to find that infamous silver Apple logo on their iPhone, here are some steps to bring your iPhone back to life.

1) Pray: Why not? it’s a great way to clear your mind of bad energy.

2) Time for a Recharge: I would strongly recommend charging it for at least an hour before doing anything else. Bear in mind, that the iPhone is designed to conserve power for preservation of data and settings, so if the splash screen does not come up, it could still be charging. Also, make sure your cable and charger are working properly. I would also make sure the dock connector is free of any dirt or lint, as that could affect charging your phone. While it’s charging, grab a coffee and take a deep breathe – you’ll appreciate it and feel recharged. 🙂

dead iphone3) Turn it on, but hold it: This might seem like a logical step, but many overlook it. Simply press and hold the Hold button, located in the upper right hand corner of the phone for a few seconds. If it does not respond within the first 10 seconds, proceed to next step.

4) Press the Hold button and the Home button (button located in the center) at the same time for at least 15 seconds. In most instances, this is like CPR for your phone and it usually brings your phone back to life. You should see the silver Apple logo at startup. If not, you may want to go to the final step.

5) Restore it: With a fully charged phone, you might have an issue with your operating system or a conflict with an application. If you have a backup in place, I would move towards the final step of restoring the phone to factory condition. While this will erase everything on your phone, it might work.

To erase your phone, follow these steps:

– Simply plug the provided USB cable for your phone into the dock connector, but do NOT plug into your system.
– Press and hold the phone’s Home button
– Plug the USB cable into your computer and at this point, it should launch iTunes and put the iPhone into recovery mode. From here, you will be prompted to restore your iPhone by to factory default.

For additional steps and diagnostics, follow this link to Apple’s support thread on restoring your phone: http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/assistant/restore/

If none of these above steps bring your iPhone back to life, you might want to bring it in for additional diagnostics.

Finally, make sure that you backup your iPhone to the cloud and system, as that is your safety net, should your iPhone fail to start.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/iphone-not-starting-up-cpr-for-a-dead-phone/

Jul 11 2013

Behind Google’s Knowledge Graph & How it Impacts Your SEO

Have you noticed that neat little sidebar on your search engine results page? This can be attributed to Google’s recent launch of their Knowledge Graph. This has stirred both concern and interest from end users and organizations. It also redefines SEO, and forces organizations to evaluate external sources, such as Wikipedia and Google+, as they are fueling search.

serp6

With over 18 billion facts and more than 570 million objects, this is the foundation for every search in Google. However, it’s more about serving data that is tailored to the user. The three main sources behind this content are Wikipedia, Freebase and the CIA World Factbook.

This video has some highlights of Google’s Knowledge Graph, and how it provides a richer and tailored experience for the user.

Ultimately, that is what is behind the content in the sidebar on the results page. For a high level summary of this, follow this link: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/

What can you do about it?

Update your Wikipedia page:

While you can’t control the content on Freebase or the CIA factbook, you can control the content of our Wikipedia page. As long as you are compliant with Wikipedia’s policy and guidelines for submitting content, it will serve as a key source for the Knowledge Graph, and ultimately, how you appear in organic search.

Get structured:

I would also recommend looking at the data structure of your site – this page has some great insight on this process and you should check out the Data Highlighter tool for proper indexing.

This blog post from Google has some great tips for our Web team to define our data structure, including the use of Data Highlighter. Here are some details on it: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2692911

Heard of G+?

For a platform that was once dismissed as the stepchild of Facebook, it now plays a significant role in SEO and can not be ignored. Again, Google will display activity of indexed G+ pages in the sidebar, so it’s key that you have a page in place. However, this only applies to logged in Google users. If the user is not logged into Google, it will feed content from Wikipedia and Google Local. Above all, I would strongly recommend exploring a Google+ page and if you have one, make sure your content is updated on a regular basis. This is especially true since the most recent posts will be displayed.

What’s next?

As Google continues to be in a constant state of change, it’s key that you do the research and closely monitor progress and new developments. To illustrate the rapid growth, the recent launch of their “Knowledge Graph Carousel” adds more complexity to the search process by displaying a cascade of associated images at the top of the results page. http://searchengineland.com/google-officially-launches-knowledge-graph-carousel-for-local-search-163809

Let me know your thoughts.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/behind-googles-knowledge-graph-how-it-impacts-your-seo/

Jun 03 2013

Visualize the Latest Google Trends

I love Google Trends as it’s a real-time snapshot of the outside world. From sports and entertainment to science and politics, it’s all there. Recently, Google rolled out a new way to illustrate trending searches in real time. It’s a great way to see the top searches on Google. Here it is in action:



What can we do with it?

The only thing missing is embed or sharing functionality, as I could see site owners and organizations using it to showcase patterns and latest trends on their site. This is especially true for news agencies and syndicates as well as select industries, such as entertainment and sports. Think about it – your favorite football team could be streaming trends from other fans. Of course, it would have to have additional filtering. At the time of this post, you can only filter by region (US or international). Click here to learn more about Google Trends.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/see-the-latest-google-trends/

May 15 2013

Facebook Ratings System

ratingsThis is one of those Facebook updates that slipped under the radar as there was very little chatter about it. Facebook recently rolled out their ratings system for pages enabling fans to rate a page on a 1-5 scale:

1 star: Really don’t like it.
2 stars: Don’t like it.
3 stars: Like some things about it.
4 stars: Really like it.
5 stars: Love it.

Users can rate a page via the recommendations section on the page and it offers options for public viewing. I would gather that users will discover it over time and depending on the rating, it can help or hurt an organization.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/facebook-ratings-system/

Apr 05 2013

Camera Slideshow: Best jQuery slideshow

For many years, I have used Camera slideshow, an open source jQuery slideshow application, made by Pixedelic.com. Easy to use with much room for customization and integration, it is one of the best slideshow applications out there. I have used it primarily for WordPress builds, but it can also be dropped into a site with a little HTML.

Some key features include:
– Adaptive/responsive layout with full the ability to embed images and videos.
– Extended and easy to use admin panel for slide management
– Full integration and support for mobile
– Transition effects of images.
– Easy to implement: add the code or shortcode to page
– Skins with room for customization
– WordPress plugin or download the files

camera-slideshow

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/camera-slideshow-best-jquery-slideshow/

Mar 16 2013

Is my site up and running? Top 3 Tools to Monitor Your Site

monitor“Server is not responding” is the one system-error message that can drive most site owners to hit the panic button and put them in a frenzy tailspin to find answers behind a downed server. Luckily, there are many tools to help monitor your hosted server and identify the health of your site. For many years, I have used a select mix of tools to monitor site performance and most of these tools are either free or relatively inexpensive.

Here’s my list of the ones worth exploring:

1) Google Webmaster Tools: The all-in-one application continues to only get better with age. Above all, it’s essential for anyone looking to optimize their site and get that critical insight into a site’s health and performance.

Free to use, key features include:

See how Google sees your site: Google Webmaster Tools reveals how your site is indexed, addressing any related issues with indexes and any server-related issues. It’s also a great way to identify dead links or pages with errors.

SEO insight: Complete insight into your SEO performance, especially as it relates to internal/external links, keyword conversions and how users find your site organically via search. It also reveals top pages by specific keywords.

Sitemap: Site owners can submit their site map, which has specific pages that you want to be indexed and how you want the pages to appear in search results.

To learn more about Google Webmaster Tools, follow this link: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

2) Uptime Robot: Free Web-based application that can alert you if your site is down via email, mobile, RSS and social. Easy to use and configure, some of the key features of this platform include:

– Redundant checking of your site every five (5) minutes, and it will alert you if it’s down.

– Monitor up to 50 websites and configure alerts via e-mail, SMS, Twitter, RSS or push notifications for iPhone/iPad.

– Free to use and ad-free (for now – that might change).

Note: if you use this application, please make sure to exclude the IP addresses of Uptime Robot from any tracking application, such as Google Analytics. This will keep your reports free of any hits from the application.

To learn more about Uptime Robot, follow this link: http://www.uptimerobot.com/

3) Pingoscope: another great monitoring platform and for a small fee, this one offers a more robust round of reporting and monitoring.

Some of the key features include:

– Instant notifications via email, SMS, Skype of phone
– Detailed daily/weekly/monthly performance reports
– One minute check intervals.

Check it out at http://pingoscope.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/is-my-site-up-and-running-top-3-tools-to-monitor-your-site/

Feb 02 2013

YouTube Embed Player Parameters

youtube embedEmbedding a YouTube video on your site or blog is an easy task. By simply clicking on the share/embed option, users can embed YouTube videos anywhere. While there are many basic embed options available, there are some additional embed parameters that allow you to control how the video is played. From hiding the controls to setting a start point of the video, you have many options at your fingertips.

To make it easier, I compiled a short list of the popular embed parameters with settings and syntax. For a complete list of all parameters, follow this link.

ParameterFunctionParameterSettings
&relDisplays related videos after the video0, 10 = NO 1 = YES
&fsControls the display of the full screen button0, 10 = NO 1 = YES
&borderPlaces a border around video0,10 = NO 1 = YES (gray line)
&autoplayVideo starts automatically 0, 10 = NO 1 = YES (will autoplay)
&loopLoops the video after it's finished0, 10 = NO 1 = YES
&startYou can designate the start point of the video.any numberappend the number at start point
&showinfoDisplay info of video0,10 = NO 1 = YES

As you will see in the table, there are two values for the parameters: 0 and 1. 0 is no and 1 is yes.

To add any of the parameters, simply append &parameter name=value (i.e.: &fs=0) to the video URL. So, the URL within the embed would look like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwT7BHztBIU&autoplay=1

To see one of the parameters in action, I highlighted it with an example along with the embed code below. It’s also a good reason to showcase cute kittens as Jedis. 🙂

Start Parameter (&start): this one will start at a designated point on the timeline of the video. This parameter is great for jumping to a section of the video. In this instance, we are starting the video at 0:16.

Here’s the embed code with the autostart parameter. Simply highlight the code below and copy it. The only thing you need to change is the URL of the video and the start point. For this “start” parameter, you need to be aware that the value is in seconds, not minutes. So, if you want to start the video at 1:20, it would be at 80 seconds.

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/IwT7BHztBIU?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&start=16"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/IwT7BHztBIU?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&start=16" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

Create a link with a parameter:

You can also create a link with the same parameter. However, the syntax is a little different. Simply append the following to the URL: #t=xxmxxxs. Replace “xxx” with the minutes and seconds. To illustrate, this would be the URL with a start point of 1:08
http://www.youtube.com/embed/IwT7BHztBIU#t=1m08s

Feel free to share any thoughts and have fun embedding!!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.carlferrara.com/youtube-embed-player-parameters/

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