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Changing URLs on WordPress

Hiding yourself from Search Engines…

It’s not often you hear someone saying that they want to hide a website which they are working on from Google completely, but that was the scenario which faced me earlier this week. I have a client who runs a couple of websites, each for a specific service his company offers.

While he works on the website content we generally don’t want it indexed, because that could potentially lead search engines to index incomplete, or incorrect information and we have no guarantee how quickly it would be updated once the site was complete. In the past to avoid this I have set up a new website on a different domain name, for instance development.domain.com which allows him to use the site normally, but made it unlikely (but not impossible) for a search engine spider to find it.

The Move To WordPress

However, I want to move him over to using WordPress installations, because they are easier to maintain and with the new custom taxonomies and post types in v3 WordPress  really comes of age as a CMS (content management system).

Wordpress Logo

I have set him up a WordPress install for him to work on his next site – but WordPress isn’t good at changing the URL at which it is hosted… because when you upload images into either posts or pages it inserts them with a full reference to the URL which the site is currently at.

So a picture in a page uploaded during development to development.domain.com will stop working when you change the site over to www.domain.com – because it no longer exists.

WordPress touch on this in the final paragraph of their advice on changing URL’s,but not really any more than to say it needs some thought.

There are several plug ins which claim to go through the database and fix this for you – but I can’t afford to have the first Word Press install go anything less than swimmingly for this chap, I don’t want him to lose confidence in it… he’s not technical (thats what he pays me for!).

Robots.txt

My solution is therefore temporary in it’s nature. I have installed his development WordPress site in the full URL which it will run at when it goes live – but to prevent it being indexed I have created a robots.txt file which instructs search engines not to index the site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

I am hoping this is temporary as it’s not the neatest fix in the world – but it will work! Anyone else have any other suggestions?

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

More complicated than you’d think…

Well, I am a few days into my blog now and have  spent a great deal of time setting the site up; certainly more than I imagined I would.  Despite WordPress’s famed “5 minute install,” I have found myself spending my spare time over the last few days adding tweaks, plugins, themes and debugging the same to try and get the blog nearer to where I would like it to be.

I’ve read multiple websites and other blogs which contain advice for new bloggers and (see interesting links) and most of the advice seems pretty sensible.  In the hope it might help other new bloggers, here’s what I have added to the base WordPress 2.9.2 installation so far, and why.

  • Awsom News Announcement.  My theme doesn’t allow for a static message on the home page, and I wanted a little introduction.  Having used this plugin before elsewhere, it was a must.
  • Contact Form 7.  Not wanting to fill my inbox with spam by putting my email address on the internet, I wanted a contact form, and this was highly recommended.  I did have some problems with using it and permalinks on my server (I use an IIS server and a 404 error handler to handle permalinks) – but found a solution on the WordPress forums.
  • Postalicious.  This required me to sign up for a Delicious.com account too, but came highly recommended as a good way of automatically posting the links which interest me on a daily basis.
  • WP-Cumulus.  Rather than a normal tag  cloud which just lists your tags as plain text, this takes them and turns them into a small flash “movie” which is more interactive, and I think better looking.
  • WP to Twitter. Pretty much as the name suggests, this plug in tweets an announcement of new blog posts on my twitter account.

And there is still more to do!  I need to improve the prominence of my RSS feeds, put more useful information in the right hand column, improve the SEO, and do some layout tweaks at the least…  but this could just be my being a perfectionist.  All / any suggestions greatly appreciated – leave a comment!

Hello world!

Well, it seems appropriate to leave the title of the first entry on my blog as “Hello World!” partly because its nearly always the first example in any computing book and partly because this is my first foray into the world of blogging.

I’ve been inspired to start blogging as a result of a couple of blogs which I read regularly, some are Helicopter related exclusively but some have mixed content which reflects the authors life (although I probably started reading them because of the flying content).

I hope my blog proves to be interesting to people, but my motivation is a little selfish too.  I often have thoughts about subjects which I think if I wrote about them it would help me think about the topic in greater depth, rather than being naturally dismissive; a tendency of mine.

I’m now faced with the dilemma’s of coming up with good tags & categories to help with the SEO of the site, tweaking the theme, finding the right widgets and all the other stuff which makes for a good usable blog which (hopefully) generates repeat visitors.  So, be prepared for the site to evolve over time… and thanks for visiting!