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Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

I’m trying to set up a second site with Thesis 2.1  It’s generally smooth after figuring out the bits and pieces of Thesis 2.1, but I still want to create this post as a bit of a step-by-step, if for not other reason than to help me as I spread to my other sites.  I’ll be adding to this page as I go, but figured I’d go ahead and post what I have so far.

  • Back up current theme. Always a must.
  • Grab favicon and header graphics, have them handy.
  • INSTALL Thesis 2.1 from the zip file. No idea why, but my admin page doesn’t load correctly when I copy the files using an FTP. If anybody knows why this gives me problems, I’d be curious to find out.
  • Export your working theme from the current site it’s on. Export is located in Thesis > Skin Editor > Manager.  Then import that file in to your new Thesis site.
  • Nav Menu.  I was working with Thesis navigation, not WordPress, so I need to create new menu structures for each of my sites.  This is done in Appearance > Menus.  Once this is done, go to Skin > Content > Nav Menu, and select your menu.  You can create this menu before you apply the new theme.

NOTE:  When theme editing with CSS.  DO NOT go back to the Admin controls for ANYTHING.  Saving there will reset a ton of values you may have changed in the CSS.  Learned the hard way…

Importing Thesis 2.1 on Additional Websites

I’m running similar Thesis themes on many of my older sites, so they’re all kind of similar in form.  Because of this, I’m able to spread this new Thesis theme to each of my sites without starting from the beginning.  I’ve had decent luck exporting themes from existing sites like this one and importing in to my new Thesis 2 installations.  There are a few things that have to be set up for each site, including navigation, favicon, header, and the sidebar.

Random Additional Things to Think About

  • Append site name to Title – Located in Site > HTML Head > Title Tag
  • Head Scripts- Located in Site > HTML Head
  • Tracking Scripts – Site > Tracking Scripts
  • Add comments to post pages. Not there by default!
  • Open some tabs.  Before I install the new theme, I’ll open a bunch of browser tabs for pages in my old theme.  Thesis Site, Thesis Design, Widgets, & any others that erase.  As long as you don’t refresh these pages, you can copy information out of them that you may need with the fresh theme.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

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Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

I’m going through the process of learning to customize my site using Thesis 2.1.  As I go along, things are starting to get quite a bit easier.  A big part of the puzzle is just figuring out which elements effect each other, and where to change different things.  Honestly, it’s a lot easier than the old Thesis, it’s just confusing at first.

My first big roadblock was a really dumb one, so I wanted to post about it.  I wanted to start adding in elements from my site that weren’t native to a WordPress installation.  This is things like ads, my top navigation bar with links to all of my different sites, and even some additional footer info.  This seems like it’d be super easy… but for me it wasn’t.  Once you know what to do, it’s a piece of cake, but I’m not sure where the heck you’re supposed to find the info to tell you this stuff.  I’ve been going through the steps posted by an awesome blog I mentioned in my first Thesis 2.1 post, called Thrifty Zizel.  He’d done the steps with 2.0, and a few things changed in 2.1, especially packages and the way you manipulate a text box.

Adding a text box is done through the Thesis Skin Editor.  First you may need to create an HTML Container (if it’s a new area on the page).  Use the box on the right, and select it from the “Select a Box to Add” drop down menu.  Add the box, then shift drag it on to your page.

Next up is to add the text box, which is Text Box in the drop down menu.  Shift drag it in to your new container, or wherever else on the page you’d like it to live.  Once it’s placed, rename it from Text Box, to something that makes more sense for what it’s going to be (you’ll see why in a moment).

Now here’s the trick.  In 2.0, you’d open it here and add your HTML, but that’s changed now.  In 2.1, you need to go to another Admin area to make this change.

Navigate to the Thesis > Skin Content page.  You’ll see a list of Classic Responsive Skin Content items.  Your new Text Area should appear here.  Click it and add your code.

To style it, you have a couple of options.  If your code has classes and IDs already, just add new CSS to the CSS page and you’ll be good to go.  However, the new thesis wants you to give this Text Area a class or ID when you add it in, which will help automate certain things as you expand your site.  To assign these classes or ID’s, you use the Thesis Skin Editor, click on the gear icon of the Text Area, and name it there.

Hopefully this makes some sense.  I had a hell of a time finding the answer to this seemingly simple issue.
Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

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wordpress-reverse

I haven’t been doing as much website work the last year or so, but I’ve just started on a big project that will be cause to update this site a little more often. I’m updating to Thesis 2.1 from Thesis 1! I was a little irritated when they changed everything up, and I haven’t had time to learn how to reskin everything across all of my sites, but this Winter I’m going to dig in and get it done.

I’m having some major speed, SEO, and Google issues with many of my sites, so I’m hoping that cleaning them up and moving the the slicker Thesis 2.1 will help me out. It’s not going to be easy, but I’d really like to make it happen.

To start off my updates, I wanted to share some of the sites that are helping me slowly wrap my brain around this mess of a new theme. I couldn’t have tackled this project without the help of these sites. The Thesis site is terrible at helping you figure this stuff out.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

  • My favorite site has been Thrifty Zizel. He goes step by step through some of the really weird new things they’ve done, and it’s been crazy helpful. Some of the older packages stuff is still used, but I was able to figure most of that out to apply it to the new version.
  • BYOB Website has mostly paid content, but some of the free stuff has been a big help.
  • One site I haven’t used yet, but plan to come back when I’m playing with boxes is WPThesisSkins

That’s it for now, but I’ll add new links as I come across them!

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WP Robot Plugin for WordPress

A while back I wrote about using WP Robot for automatic content creation.  I was playing around with simple sites that create their own content, mostly using WP Robot and eBay affiliate feeds.  WP Robot is a WordPress plugin that is able to grab content from a variety of sources and post it to your blog.

I recently found a new use for WP Robot, so I wanted to mention that, in addition to giving an update on two years of WP Robot posts on a couple of sites.

Automated Content Creation

As I’d written about in the original post, I was trying WP Robot out on Outdoor Game Reviews & Outdoor Game Bargains.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve more or less left these two sites alone.  I’ll occasionally add games to the Review site, but the Bargains site is an eBay affiliate site, which indexes a few different Outdoor Games.

It didn’t take long to realize that Google was pretty adept at ignoring the posts created by WP Robot.  Whether for issues with duplicate content or some other reason, very few of these blog pages are indexed.  Both sites have continued to create posts, but neither one has seen increases in traffic due to the auto-created content.  In fact, I’d almost guess they’ve been indexed less because of it.  The Bargains site is virtually dead, and the OGR site only sees traffic to the pages I’ve created with reviews, but almost nothing goes to the blog portion.

Beyond the lack of additional traffic generated by the WP Robot posts, a lot of the posts that have been created have veered pretty far off topic.  You can set keywords, but it’s a unique challenge to try to pick keywords that don’t overlap in to other areas.  OGR has created posts at a pretty steady rate, but I think you eventually run out of good content for WP Robot to pull, so it pulls whatever else it can find… which isn’t much.

The end result of almost 2 years of WP Robot content?  Pretty little benefit.  In fact, I think I’ll be removing the posts from OGR to see if I can improve it’s standing in Google by removing the content that they aren’t indexing anyway.  I’ll dig in to OGB, but I may remove things there, too.

New Uses for WP Robot

Given my lack of benefit from WP Robot in the past, you might think I’d be sour on it.  Not at all, actually.  I’ve recently found a use for WP Robot that I’m very happy with.  It’s not the hands-off content creator I’d originally hoped for, but it is serving a purpose.

I’ve got a few sites where video content is a great benefit to the site.  I’ve recently started posting video content to 3 sites with the help of WP Robot.  Cornhole Game Builders, Outdoor Game Players, and Play Drinking Games now have video content.

I’ve found that WP Robot doesn’t do a great job of formatting content, or always picking the correct content, but it does do a heck of a job finding content.  WP Robot is able to create posts in Draft mode, which lets you review or revise them before they are posted.

In the case of the video feeds like I’m doing, I let WP Robot create a new YouTube Draft post about once a week.  Whenever I have time, I go to the site and browse through the Drafts.  I toss the videos that suck right away.  The videos I like, I’ll watch and write a few paragraphs of my own text.  This allows me to format the post I I’d like, and create some unique content to supplement the video.  It’s really easy to quickly describe a video, and the text gives Google something to reference with crawling the page.  I can quickly turn 4 or 5 drafts in to posts, then schedule them to publish over the next few weeks.  An hour of video watching provides me over a month of blog posts!

Another thing to mention is that I’m now using WP Robot on sites that were already working.  All 3 of these sites already had well indexed content, but I was using WordPress Pages, not Posts.  I had the blog portion of my website sitting unused.  WP Robot gives me an easy, semi-automated option for utilizing something that’s already built in to my site, but not being used.  While this content may not create a ton of additional traffic, there’s something it’s doing that can’t be directly measured.  It’s actually providing a better user experience!

For all three sites, I’m able to supplement the existing content with video examples.  People can see visual examples for the Drinking Games I’ve already written rules for, they can watch people play games I’ve featured on Outdoor Game Players, or people can see people actually building the boards they’re learning how to build on Cornhole Game Builders.  All 3 sites are better for the visitor because of the videos.  In the end, that may cause them to share the site with somebody else or create that coveted backlink on their blog or website.

So is WP Robot worth it?  All depends on how you plan to use it.  Customizing the content for your own needs is key.  Just setting it up and assuming it’ll create quality content for your website probably won’t work.  Use it to supplement your content, or gather content for you, and you might just be as happy as I am with it right now.

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Change Shopp Receipt Email Titles

By default, the Shopp Plugin for WordPress uses “New Order” as the subject line for emails.  This works well enough, I guess, but I have reasons to want a little more specificity.  I really wanted the Order ID in the subject, that way I’d be able to scan my order emails and easily find what I’m looking for.  It’d also be very helpful when forwarding orders to some of my vendors.  I generally add it myself, but that’s a pain from my phone — much easier if it’s already there.

After serveral months of running the Shopp Ecommerce Plugin for WordPress, I am really happy with it.  I honestly have few complains, but one of them is their awful private forum.  Support exists, but it’s not very good.  The documentation also exists, but it’s hard to find what you’re looking for.

After many test orders, I finally figured out how to get what I wanted.  I tried using PHP in the subject line, but that messed up the HTML for the entire email.  I ended up using a shortcode, which is how the subject was originally displayed.

Here’s what I did.

First, you’ll need to be using theme templates.  If you don’t know how to do that, comment on this post, and I can explain in a new post.

Second, you’re going to edit the order.php template.  When you open it, right at the top, you’ll see the “From”, “To”, and “Subject” lines for the email.  The original shortcode [subject] is what creates the “New Order” default.  I changed that line to be “OGS Order [orderid]”

I used OGS to signify the order was coming from my Outdoor Game Shop site.  The [orderid] shortcode gets me the desired order number.

Once you’ve made the edits, you just replace the theme template order.php file.  It’s actually pretty easy if you know where to look for everything.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

If you’d like to see it in action, all you have to do is order a game from me!  I’m using Shopp on my Outdoor Game Shop site.

List of shortcodes you can use is here.

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Memberlist Mod for phpBB3

No matter what I do, I still get spam on my phpbb3 forums.  It seems like there should be better spam prevention by now, but apparently the spammers are presistant.  Generally, I go through and delete & ban the users one by one.  I’m fairly sure banning is a waste of my time, but I still do it about half of the time.

When the spam accounts actually post in the forum, it’s easy to identify and delete them.  However, there are a lot of spam accounts that create an account, add links to their signature, but then never post.  I don’t want these accounts, either, even if they’re not currently hurting anything.

I recently came across a quick way to delete multiple spam accounts quickly, and at the same time from the Memberlist page.  It’s a fairly easy mod that only requires modifying three files.  (mod found here)

Many spam accounts will add a URL to the website field, and you can easily see this from the memberlist.  It’s also often handy to remove members who registered but never logged on to the site.  When I have time, I’ll even go through and look at the profiles for any members with zero posts.  About half of these accounts have spam links in their signatures, and I remove them as well.

Spam is a pain, but at least with this mod you can delete multiple forum accounts fairly quickly!

Original Mod Post.

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Shopp e-Commerce for WordPress

I recently started using the Shopp e-commerce plugin for WordPress. I run all of my sites using WordPress as a CMS, and I wanted a cart that would integrate in to my WordPress admin panel.

The two big options seemed to be WP e-Commerce & Shopp. WPeC comes off as the cheaper of the two, but I feel like Shopp gives you more for $55 than WPeC does. By the time you buy what you’ll actually need for WPeC, it’s not really free anymore. I felt like the support for Shopp was a little better, too.

For the most part, I’m really happy with Shopp. I don’t like how it handles a large number of product options, and I don’t like not being able to remove Alaska and Hawaii as shipping options. Other than that, it’s pretty rad for the price. You can see it in use on my Outdoor Game Store.

Tweaking the Shopp Title Tag

After setting up my shop, I realized that the page titles were goofy. Products were showing up in Google as “Shop – Catalog Products – Product Name – Site Name”. While this had okay information, it looked terrible as a Google listing, and the least important words were included up front.

Shopp has a page on their website that explains how to change your page titles, but the information it gives is pretty vague, and more suited for people who know PHP better than I do. Dropping in the code provided by Shopp worked for removing the parts I didn’t want, but it added in some other things I didn’t want, as well as removing any form of a title from the static Shopp pages. I played around for a while, but I didn’t make much progress on my own.

I finally found a topic on the Shopp Forum that answered my question. Pasting the following code in to the custom_functions.php file worked like a charm!

add_filter(‘wp_title’, ‘shopp_catalog_titles’,11,2); // SEO friendly titles

function shopp_catalog_titles($title,$sep=’ ‘)
{

global $Shopp;
// Access the Shopp data structure
$titles = array();
// A list to keep track of our title elements

if (shopp(‘catalog’,'is-category’)) {
// Build category page titles
if (!empty($Shopp->Category->name)) {
$titles = array($Shopp->Category->name);
}
} else if (shopp(‘catalog’,'is-product’)) {
// Build product page titles
if (shopp(‘product’,'has-categories’)) { // Use category name, if available

$titles = array($Shopp->Product->name, $category);
} else { // Category not available, just the product name

if (!empty($Shopp->Product->name)) {
$titles = array($Shopp->Product->name);
}
}
}
if (empty($titles)) {
$titles = array($title, ”);
}

return join($sep,$titles);
}

This code removes the parts I wanted to get rid of, but keeps the base Shopp pages from showing nothing.

All this information can be found elsewhere, but I wanted to post this so I could refer to it later. Also, the Shopp Forum is private and isn’t always easy to find things on…

Resources:
Customizing Catalog Page Titles
title-page-seo-bad-seo
customizing-catalog-page-titles-please-help
Outdoor Game Shop

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