Return Receipt Email Utility for Gmail

Recently I have been testing a return receipt email utility called YesWare, which integrates with Gmail.   When installed, YesWare adds a small toolbar to the top of your Gmail inbox and a small toolbar to the bottom of any outgoing mail you may compose.  The outgoing email compose bar gives you the option of checking a box to track your email open status.

When you send an email with tracking enabled, you  get a popup notification that your email was opened.  This information can also be found in a dropdown (“events”) in the inbox toolbar.

I find this utility useful when I email clients or prospects – at a minimum you can tell how quickly a recipient will respond to you and you can identify prospects who may not use email much or cases where your email got sent to a spam folder.

Currently YesWare offers a free plan where you get 100 tracking events per month. $10 per month gets you unlimited tracking and some additional features, and $20 per month adds mail merge features and delayed sending.

YesWare email tracking utility

 

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Create Attractive Buttons for Your Site

Recently I was working on a site for which I needed buttons.  These buttons were to be used in a sidebar widget – in this case red buttons that looked like this:

meetfaq

You would think this would be an easy task to accomplish, and my first thought was to go to Fiverr.com and get these buttons created for $5 each.   It occurred to me, however, that this task ought to be simple enough that I could do it myself.   I work with a wonderful Fiverr designer in Indonesia but because of the time difference, the turnaround time is 8 to 10 hours.

I started looking around and I discovered that it was difficult to find online button makers.   I did find sites like BestCSSButtonGenerator.com and ButtonMaker which create attractive buttons but they create CSS files that you have to upload.  The CSS component allows you to choose different looks when a user hovers over the button and after a visitor has already visited.   These are neat features but not essential to my needs.   In any case, I prefer not to mess with the CSS files in my WordPress installs so I kept looking.

Another interesting concept is DaButtonFactory.  Here, you create a button that is hosted on DaButtonFactory’s servers and you simply link to the URL.    The problem with this approach, of course, is that if DaButtonFactory.com goes dark or if they suddenly decide to start charging for hosting all those buttons, I would have a problem.

Enter the online button generator at http://jirox.net/AsButtonGen.  This appears to be a site hosted in Japan, although you can choose an English display.  The interface is a little clunky but it is fairly easy to pick up and it generates nice and small .png buttons.

Until something better comes along, this is my “go to” button maker.

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Hardening Your WordPress Install

Recently I installed a very useful plugin on most of my WordPress sites called Wordfence.  Wordfence offers both a free and a paid version.  The free version is quite robust, although the paid version does unlock a number of useful features.  Both the free and the paid version do a nice job at blocking the most common types of hacking attempts and, if you wish, the plugin will email you when someone tries to penetrate your site.

The Wordfence emails are interesting in that they reveal what hackers are trying to do.  In my case, I previously maintained dozens of WordPress installs on the same IP address (not a good idea, and I have fixed this).  There are numerous tools out there that anyone can use to identify all web sites – WordPress or otherwise – on any IP address, so if you own or manage multiple sites and use the same login name and password, once one site is penetrated, they could all be at risk. [click to continue…]

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How to Solve a “Fatal Error: Allowed Memory Size Exhausted” Problem

You can add some incredible functionality to WordPress by installing plug-ins.  If you run a quick Google search you will find where WordPress power users have posted lists of “essential” plug-ins.

The law of conservation of energy being what it is, however, you give up speed as you add more plug-ins.  As a rule, a site running 10 plug-ins will be faster and more stable than a site running 25 plug-ins.

In addition, some plug-ins do not play well together, and, worse, some plug-ins are poorly coded and will hog resources.  For example, there is a really useful plugin called Broken Link checker, but activated using certain configurations can really slow your site down. [click to continue…]

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Adding Driving Directions to Your Website or Blog

Are you trying to figure out how to add driving directions to your website or blog?  If you Google “embed code for driving directions” you will see several results for a Google Gadget that is supposed to do this, but currently, the gadget does not work and no code is generated.

I needed to add driving directions to one of my sites so I dug around and found code that works.  [click to continue…]

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How to Preserve Your Site Rankings if You Convert to WordPress

Several years ago, before WordPress was a mainstream content management option, I used an HTML authoring program called NetObjects Fusion to create my websites.  NetObjects was and is a great tool for creating websites – I find it much easier to use than Dreamweaver and it is much more robust and full featured than many of the free web page editors on the market.

NetObjects also has the advantage of not being widely used in the United States, although it has a large user base in Germany.  This means that there are a large number of themes out there for designers.

As good as NetObjects has been, however, it is not a web based solution.  Over the past few years, most web designers have moved to web based content management software like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.  WordPress, in particular, has evolved into a very robust solution that is accessible to non-techies and techies alike. [click to continue…]

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Solution to Disappearing Visual Editor

WordPress has become ubiquitous in the online world because it is readily available and because both paid staff and unpaid volunteers constantly work  to update the software.  Many of the updates are released to address security concerns and it is wise to keep your WordPress install current.

Similarly, WordPress theme designers regularly update their software as well.  There are literally hundreds of free and paid themes out there – because I publish multiple sites, I made the decision several years ago to standardize on two robust theme frameworks – Thesis and Genesis.   A framework adds functionality to the basic WordPress install, while child themes or skins designed for the framework give a site its unique look and feel.   This site is built on Thesis 2.x and the Pearsonified skin.   You can view a Genesis framework site with a child theme at ssdAnswers.com.

As these updates have been released, however, I began to see a recurring problem – my visual site editor stopped working. [click to continue…]

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Marketing Tip: Don’t Insult Your Prospect

the birdThis morning I received a direct mail promotion addressed to me at my law firm from an ad rep at one of Atlanta’s largest media companies (they own Atlanta’s main daily newspaper, a several radio stations and a network TV station).  Proving once again that size and financial strength do not convey intelligence, the direct mail piece began as follows:

Mr. Jonathan Ginsberg:

A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  Let me suggest that this well-known adage pertains to legal marketing as well….

I don’t know what the rest of the letter said because I stopped reading.   If I was in the market for TV, radio or newspaper space, I don’t know that I would want to do business with an ad rep who managed to both insult me and to condescend to me in one sentence.

What does this bozo know about me or my business and who is he to tell me that I am a fool, or that I am such a simpleton that I cannot possibly succeed without his help?  I wonder (but I think I know) how much of his own money this fool has risked in an advertising campaign. [click to continue…]

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Google Gamed by J.C. Penney?

dishonest dealingsThis Sunday’s (February 13, 2011) New York Times ran a front page story in the business section entitled The Dirty Little Secrets of Search.  The story discussed how J.C. Penney appeared as the number one result for hundreds of search phrases for its products.  In some cases, the J.C. Penney result for a brand name appeared before the brand name company web site – the example given was the phrase “Samsonite carry on luggage.”   J.C. Penney’s sales page for Samsonite appeared ahead of Samsonite.com.

J.C. Penney’s organic search results topped Google’s rankings for months, including the critical holiday season.   The Times researches determined that J.C. Penney’s rankings were due in part to incoming links from thousands of pages, many of which had nothing to do with consumer retail goods.   In other words,  somebody created a huge network of bogus sites that existed primarily to generate “link juice” that benefited J.C. Penney. [click to continue…]

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Search Engine Optimization Instructions…Directly from Google

SEO checklistBecause I spend a lot of my time tweaking and optimizing for the search engines my own sites as well as client sites, I have a good sense of the various strategies and tactics being discussed by SEO professionals as well as business owners interested in finding an edge.   Generally the strategies for achieving good results on the search engines are well known – produce quality content for a human audience, produce it regularly and figure out ways (tactics) to get other web sites to link back to you using descriptive link text.  I currently own or manage over 100 web sites and blogs, many of which appear on the first page of search results for several relevant keywords (search phrases)

The marketplace of tactics is a lot more fluid – methods to achieve your strategic goals change frequently.  Ten years ago, most web sites contained pages titled “recommended links” and there was even software available to automate this process.  Today, we know that Google and other search engines ignore pages that exist solely to exchange links and a much better tactic involves guest posting articles with links embedded therein. [click to continue…]

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