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Basic Computer Information

How to Create a Screenshot

Sometimes when trying to explain a problem or idea to your web designer or computer technician a picture is really worth a thousand words. You don’t have to be a graphics person to be able to convey what you are trying to explain through pictures.

What is a Screenshot?

A screenshot is a picture of your computer’s monitor screen. It can be the whole screen, just the active window or depending on what you use, it can be just a piece of the viewable area of the computer monitor screen.

What are Screenshots Used For?

There are different things you can use screenshots for:

  • Give Your Web Designer Ideas of Features You Would Like

    A good web designer will ask you for some examples of what you like when visiting other websites. You don’t have to pick one site and say “Like this!” (that would infringe on the website owner’s copyright) but you can take a screenshot of specific areas and add notes to the image pointing out what feature you like and why plus make any suggestions on how you see the idea implemented on your own site.

  • Show Your Web Designer a Problem on Your Own Website

    It is not possible for a web designer to have every single type of computer, monitor and portable device (well, guess they could but you would be paying top dollar for their work to cover their expense of having all that equipment) in their office. When there is a problem on your own website the easiest way to convey the problem to them if they can’t see it is with a screenshot.

  • Explaining Problems to Your Computer Technician

    If you are not a tech savvy person and have troubles explaining your problem to your tech support person a screenshot would be an easy way to show them what you are seeing. When the problem is a blue screen (sometimes referred to the blue screen of death) or a black screen with writing on it you won’t be able to get a screenshot for the technician. You could take a photo though…

There are just a few ways you can use screenshots.

Screenshot Tips

Large images are hard to handle when inserting into a web page, a document or in an email. The smaller you can make the file the better. Here are some tips for when you are taking screenshots:

  1. Change the screen resolution of your monitor.

    Your monitor’s screen resolution can be adjusted temporarily using our change resolution on the fly tutorial. Once you are finished use the same method to change it back to your original setting.

    Increasing the resolution of your monitor will make things appear smaller. This will help you get as much information as possible in your screenshot and possibly save on file size, depending on how much you crop the image and the image file format you choose.

  2. Resize images carefully.

    When you have to manually resize the screenshot to suit its purpose the width and height dimensions need to be changed at the same ratio. i.e. If you change the width to half of what the original is then the height has to be changed to half of its dimension also. When this is not done your image will look stretched in one of the dimensions, making the image look strange.

  3. Use the right image file format for the job.

    .jpeg (or .jpg) image file type is best used for photos. When you use this file format for actual graphics or text the image is not as clear as it would be if you used the .gif or .png file format. You also have to consider what you are going to do with the screenshot. If quality of the image is not important then go for the file format that will give the smallest size.

  4. Use your graphics program’s crop feature to narrow down the subject of your screenshot.

    Cropping is a technique where you draw a box around the area you wish to keep in the screenshot with the graphic program’s crop tool. Depending on your chosen graphics program, pressing the Enter key will “crop” the image, deleting the area outside the box you drew.

On to how to take a screenshot is next.

How Do I Create a Screenshot?

First have the document or browser window open and showing what it is you wish to take a screenshot of.

Next, get your keyboard in a position where you can see all the keys. We use the PrtScn button to create a screenshot.

Note: These instructions are for a traditional keyboard. If you are using a laptop or other device the PrtScn key might be somewhere else on the keyboard.

  1. Look at your keyboard on the right side. The farthest column of keys has the number keys at the bottom. Moving left, the next column of keys has the arrow keys at the bottom.

    Look at the top of the column with the arrow keys. In the top row of this column is the PrtScn key.

  2. Press the PrtScn key.

    Your screenshot is now stored in the computer’s memory.

The next step depends on what you plan to do with the screenshot.

What do I do with the Screenshot Now?

You have a few choices of what to do with your screenshot now it is in the memory of your computer.

Paste Screenshot into Word Processing Document

This method skips the editing step of taking a screenshot. Your word processing program might have the capabilities to edit the image within the document after inserting it.

  1. Open the word processing document you want to insert the screenshot into.
  2. Find the spot where you want to insert the image within the document.
  3. Use either the Paste button in the top menu bar of the word processing program or right click and select Paste from the menu that appears.
  4. Save the document before doing anything else and loosing the screenshot from the computer memory.

Edit Image in a Graphics Program

This is the best method for editing, making notes in the screenshot and cropping it.

You do not have to go out a buy or find a graphics program to edit your screenshots. Windows comes with a program called MS Paint available under Programs/Accessories/Paint. Those using Windows Vista or Windows 7 have a new tool called the Snipping Tool also available via the Programs/Accessories/ menu using the Start menu. The Snipping Tool needs to be opened and set to the type of snip (capture) you wish to use.

  1. Open your graphics program.
  2. Create a new image if required.
  3. Use the program’s Paste function to paste your screenshot into the new image.
  4. Edit the image are required, adding notes for clarity, cropping the screenshot to suit its purpose.
  5. Save the image using the appropriate file format for the intended purpose of the image.

After you have edited and saved the image it can be inserted into a document, into a web page or attached to an email.

Paste into an Email

Some email programs will let you insert images from your computer memory without saving first.

  1. Start a new email.
  2. Locate the spot where you wish to insert the image.
  3. Use the email program’s Paste function or right click and select Paste from the menu that appears.

Attach Image to an Email

If the email program you are using will not let you paste the screenshot directly into your email you will have to use the edit in graphics program method above, save the file and then attach to the email.

Learn How to Take a Screenshot

Screenshots are a great and fast way to explain something to another person visually. Creating a screenshot is as simple as pressing a keyboard key and pasting into another program. Have a look around. You might find a browser extension, free screenshot program or a paid one that also has other useful features.

What is your favourite screenshot tool?

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How to Create and Use a Robots.txt File

robots.txt file

Do you have files listed in the search results that you do not really want in there? Got a statics site crawling your site and listing information about your site you do not want there? This can be fixed using a file in the root of your website or blog called the robots.txt file. This plain text file follows the Standard for Robot Exclusion which has specific instructions for not allowing bots accessing your site.

A Web crawler is a computer program that browses the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner or in an orderly fashion.

Other terms for Web crawlers are ants, automatic indexers, bots, Web spiders, Web robots, or—especially in the FOAF community—Web scutters.

Web crawler – Wikipedia

What is a robots.txt File?

A robots.txt file is a text file placed in the root of your website or blog that contains instructions for the bots (spiders, search engine bots).

When a bot first arrives at the site it looks for the robots.txt file. If it does not find one it will look for and gather information about all the files on your site. e.g. If Google’s bot (GoogleBot) visits your site and there is not a robots.txt file or instruction in your robots.txt file limiting what it is allowed to look at it will have a look at everything it can find and eventually all it found will be in it’s search results. Not a good thing if there is some stuff you want kept out of the search results.

Even if you have a robots.txt file there are some not so polite bots that will ignore your instructions. For things you want kept away from these bots it is best to put in a password protected area.

You should be aware that anyone can access your robots.txt file. Try it yourself. Type www.domainname.com/robots.txt in the browser address bar and you will see the contents of the site’s robots.txt file. This is why, even if polite bots obey your instructions, it is best to keep private stuff behind password protected folders. Any snoopy person or bot could have a look at what you are trying to hide if they see a folder marked as keep out please.

Purpose of the robots.txt File

The purpose of the robots.txt file is to tell the nice bots which areas of the site you do not want included in their search index.

What Can You Do with a robots.txt File?

Each instruction (and part of) needs to be on a separate line.

No blank lines between the parts of the instruction. The blank line indicates the end of the instruction.

If you wish to pick and choose which files are indexed, it is easier to put those files you do not want indexed in a separate folder with the instruction in the robots.txt file for the bots to stay out of the folder.

Here are a few samples of what instructions you can place in your robots.txt file:

Disallow Indexing of Specific Folders

To disallow the indexing of the contents in a specific folder the instruction is:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /images/

* indicates all bots

/images/ is the name of the folder. Don’t forget the / at the beginning of the folder name and at the end.

Disallow Specific Bots

Maybe there is a specific bot you do not want to index your information.

User-agent: Bot name
Disallow: /

There are lists of User-agents and bad bots if you what to look up a specific User-agent/bot name.

Stop Images Indexed in Image Search

Some people want their images indexed in Google, Bing and Yahoo! image searches for the possible traffic but if you don’t you can let the image bots know this. e.g. For Google image bot

User-agent: Googlebot-Image
Disallow: /

How to Create a robots.txt File

You will need a plain text editor. Something like Notepad (which somes with Windows) or Notepad++ is a plain text editor. Word and other word processing software are not plain text editors.

You will also need a folder on your computer to store this file until you are finished editing it. You have a backup of your site – right? If not, create one! Use FTP software to backup your site. For WordPress we also have specific instructions: Backup WordPress.

  1. Open your plain text editor.
  2. Use File/Save As from it’s top menu bar to navigate to the folder which contains a local copy of your website or blog.

    Make sure you are in the root of the folder, not inside a folder within the website folder.

  3. Name the file robots.txt in the File Name box.
  4. Left click Save to save the file.

    The empty file’s screen becomes active again.

  5. Type in the instructions you wish to have in your robots.txt file (see above for samples).
  6. Save the file when you are done.

    The file can be closed also.

  7. Using FTP software (or your web hosting File Manager function) upload the robots.txt file to the root of your website/blog.

    The root of your website is the folder where your website files are. Sorry can’t be more specific as each web hosting setup is different. If you are not sure which folder, look at your web hosting’s documentation.

    Test you uploaded the robots.txt file to the right spot by opening your browser and typing http://www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt. If you can see the contents of the file you just created you uploaded it to the right spot.

Testing the robots.txt File

Once you have created a robots.txt file it should be tested that there are no errors in it. Here are a few ways to test the file:

  • Google Webmaster Tools

    Within Google Webmaster Tools under Health/Blocked URLS there is a tool to test your robots.txt file. However you will need a Google account and a Google Webmaster Account to use this tool.

  • Robots.txt Checker

    The Robots.txt Checker testing tool is available to the public. Enter the web address of your robots.txt file in the box provided then click the Check robots.txt button below. On the resulting page it will explain each set of instructions you have entered. At the top of the page it will tell you if you have errors or not. The results also point out what line is incorrect.

Search Engine robots.txt Information

Below are links to two of the search engines’ robots.txt information:

Use the robots.txt File Carefully

Be sure to understand the instructions you are placing in the robots.txt file of your site. A simple mistake could be disasterous for your site.

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RSS Feed Reader – Keep Up to Date & Monitor Brand

RSS Feed Readers

Do you wish you could find an easier way to keep up to date with your favourite websites and blogs? Do you worry about your social media accounts or website/blog being hacked? There is an easy way to do this and it involves using a RSS feed reader.

Today we will cover:

What is a RSS Feed?

A RSS feed is a file on a website or blog which contains the list of updates made to the site. The file is in XML plain text format. The feed can contian either an introduction to the article/post/update or the full news item. With either version there is a link that you, the reader, can click to read the full article/update on their website or blog.

What is a RSS Feed Reader?

A RSS feed reader is a piece of software you use to read RSS feeds. It can be on the web, installed on your desktop or available via your mobile device.

Once you have a RSS feed reader you “subscribe” to the websites or blogs you wish to keep an eye on for updates without having to actually visit all the sites everyday. This is a big time saver if you wish to follow a whole bunch of sites.

The RSS feed reader software checks all the RSS feeds you have subscribed to each time you use it.

You can read the update in your RSS feed reader or click the link provided to read on the actual site.

RSS Feed Readers

There are lots of RSS feed readers available. Here are a few you might already have heard of:

  • FeedDemon – desktop software which we use at the moment.

    Update: The developer of FeedDemon will not be continuing development of this product once the Google Reader closes July/13 but he did say:

    If you’re using FeedDemon without Google Reader synchronization, it will continue to work beyond July 1. You can keep using it to read your feeds for years to come.

    The End of FeedDemon

  • Google Reader – You need a Google Account to use this online RSS feed reader. – Update March 2013 Google Reader will be closed down July 1/13.
  • Internet Explorer – built-in RSS feed reader in the Internet Explorer browser. IE7 and 8 IE9 IE10
  • Firefox – You need to get an add-on to read RSS feeds in Firefox.
  • Opera – if you are an Opera user you can read RSS feeds in Opera Mail.

Check this list at Wikipedia for other RSS feed readers complete with information on each one’s features and operating systems they run on.

Subscribing to a RSS Feed

Subscribing to a RSS feed is generally pretty easy. The site will have a RSS feed icon like ours over on the left in our navigation column or they may have just a link to the RSS feed.

Make sure you sign up for the right one. Some sites have more than one RSS feed like ours has a feed for all posts and another just for comments.

With your chosen RSS feed reader open and while on the site you wish to subscribe to use the software’s subscribe function.

Monitor Your Own Site and/or Blog for Hacks

Now that you know how to subscribe to a RSS feed, add your own website or blog to your subscriptions. This is an easy way to monitor if you site gets hacked.

  1. If they post something you will see the new post in your RSS feed reader.
  2. If your feed cannot be reached by the RSS feed reader then you know to go and check why.

Monitor Your Own Social Networking Accounts

Monitoring you own social networking accounts is helpful 2 ways:

  1. You keep track of what you posted to your various social accounts. If you forget where you posted something you want to reread or share somewhere else you just look at the RSS feeds to see which account you posted it to.
  2. You will see if someone broke into your social networking account and posted something as you. If you catch it quick enough you can delete the post and change the password for the account. As least you know it was hacked and notify the service provider if the hacker was quicker than you and changed the password.

Monitor Your Mentions

We monitor our mentions on Twitter in our RSS feed reader. Twitter doesn’t always show you all your mentions in your chosen social networking software or send you an email we found so we monitor the RSS feed associated with our Twitter account to catch the ones not shown so we can say thanks for the mention.

See if you can monitor your mentions on other social networking sites. It is a great way to build your brand if you acknowledge the mention with a thanks.

A RSS Feed Reader Has Many Uses

Above we have shown you a few of the many uses a RSS feed reader can be used for.

What do you use your RSS feed reader for if you are using one? Share with our readers in the comments section below.

More Ideas and Information on Using a RSS Feedreader

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Getting Started with Pinterest


Getting started with Pinterest is easy. All you need is an email address, a Twitter or Facebook account (if you want to connect your Pinterest account with one of these other social networking sites and a password.

First, if Pinterest is new to you we will explain what Pinterest is.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social networking site where you can collect and share interesting images you find on the net. You can also pin your own images.

With Pinterest you can also browse what other people are pinning (adding to their Pinterest page). Find something you like? While logged in, there will be some options at the top of each image. You can Like it, make a comment or repin (add to your own Pinterest boards).

Pins (images added) can be sorted into what Pinterest calls boards. These are panels within your Pinterest home page where you can add images sorted by topic.

Pinterest is a great way to ideas for any project on your To Do List, your wish list or to just collect pictures you like.

Now you know what Pinterest is you need a few things on hand before signing up.

What You will Need to Sign Up at Pinterest

Before going to Pinterest to sign up you will need:

  1. A Twitter or Facebook account if you wish to connect to either of these other social networking sites to fetch your initial information.

    There are only these two choices of other social networks at the moment for direct connection. You will connect your Twitter or Facebook account to your Pinterest account to fill in some intial information for your Pinterest profile. Have your Twitter or Facebook login information handy if you have not memorized it. You won’t be able to proceed without it if you choose this option for signing up.

  2. An email to connect to Pinterest.

    If you do not have a Twitter or Facebook account or do not wish to connect your Pinterest account with either of these services below the Twitter and Facebook buttons there is an option to signup using just an email address. You will need an email address anyways, even if you use the Twitter or Facebook options.

    Pinterest will initially send you a confirmation email which you have to click the link in to confirm your registration.

    You will also get emails when someone repins your pins or follows your Pinterest account.

    If you have an email just for Pinterest (pinterest@yourdomain.com) then all the emails Pinterest sends you will be together plus if you are using an email client on your computer you could sort these emails into folders. e.g. Followers, Repins, General Messages, etc. It’s also a great way to keep track of how people found you, should they send you a message.

  3. About a half hour to get things initially set up.

    Below are the basic steps to get started with Pinterest. These should take no more than a half hour to complete. However if you could block out a bit more time that would be better so you can familiarize yourself with everything at Pinterest.

There are 2 stages to signing up at Pinterest. First you need to create an account then you will be asked to select five initial pins (images) to add to your Pinterest page.

Create an Account at Pinterest

Go to Pinterest’s signup page to get started creating your account.

  1. Select which method you wish to use to sign up with Pinterest via.

    As mentioned above you do have the option to signup using just an email address. Scroll down below the Twitter and Facebook buttons to see that option.

    Left click one of the options available.

    You will be taken to the next screen where you enter more signup information.

  2. Create your account.

    This is the screen where you will enter:

    • Your Pinterest user name.

      No spaces allowed. Your user name needs to be a squished version of the name you go by.

    • The email address you will be using for Pinterest.

      As noted above, using a separate email address for Pinterest has many advantages.

    • A password.

      For best security it is advised that you use a different password for each online account you have. This makes it more difficult for people to gain access to your online account. If you need help creating a secure password, use PC Tools Password Generator. Be sure to write down the password you created. Once you leave the page it will be gone.

    • Select your gender.

      There is an option of Unspecified if you do not want to devulge your gender.

    • Your Image

      On the left is a spot for your image. This will be your icon/avatar beside any pins, comments or repins you make.

      If you used the Twitter or Facebook option to signup your image from that service will be in the box. You can change it now or later.

      For those who signed up using the email option, there is a button in the box for you to upload an image now.

      Your image can be changed at any time via your settings screen.

    The next screen wants you to populate your new Pinterest account with some pins.

  3. Make Some Initial Pins

    On this page there are some images for you to pin. There is also a set of 5 small boxes across the bottom of the screen where you can keep track of which and how many images you have pinned. You have to pin 5 images to continue.

    • Scroll down the page to see the suggestions Pinterest has for you. Keep scrolling, the bottom of the samples keeps growing.
    • Left click an image to add to one of the five spots at the bottom of your screen.
    • Once you have your five selections done the Continue button appears, left click it.

    After clicking the Continue button you are taken to the Pinterest home page. There will be a yellow banner across the top of the page with a notice to check your email for your confirmation email.

  4. Confirmation Email

    Check the email account you entered in the registration screen.

    • The confirmation email has a button you need to click to confirm your registration.

      Clicking this button will open a tab in your browser and take you to your home page on Pinterest.

That is it. You now have a Pinterest account.

Review Your Pinterest Settings

You can view your Pinterest settings at any time using the dropdown menu in the top right of the screen.

  1. In the top right of the screen is the user name you selected.

    Left click it to expose a dropdown list of tasks you can do.

    Select the Settings option from the dropdown menu.

    Takes you to the settings screen.

  2. In the settings screen you can review and edit:

    Your General Account Information

    • the email address Pinterest uses to contact you.
    • your password.
    • your language.
    • your gender.

    Your Profile information

    (this information is public)

    • First and Last name.
    • Your Pinterest user name URL (web address).

      Make note of this web address. You will need it to find yourself on Pinterest plus so you can invite people to connect with you on Pinterest. e.g. Put a Follow Us on Pinterest icon on your website.

    • Your profile image (icon, avatar)

      Pinterest fetched your avatar from Twitter or Facebook (which ever one you connected to when signing up above) as a default image. You can change this if you wish in this screen.

    • About information.

      This box is filled in with the About information from the service you used above to signup. You can edit it if you wish.

    • Location

      If you want people to know where you are based out of fill in your location.

    • Website

      Fill in your website or blog address. People who find you on Pinterest (as with other social networking sites) may want to check out your website or blog after seeing your pin boards.

    • Search Privacy

      This option is defaulted to the Off position.

      If you do not want the search engines to find your Pinterest url and your Pinterest boards, slide the button to the right to turn it On.

    There is one more section to look at in your settings section, the Social Networks section.

    Social Networks

    In this section you set whether you want to be able to login with your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

    1. Facebook

      Slide the button to the right to turn on this option.

      A new tab opens taking you to Facebook’s login screen ready for you to login if you are not already.

    2. Twitter

      Slide the button to the right to turn on this option.

      A new tab opens taking you to Twitter’s application authorization screen. You will need to log into Twitter if you are not already.

  3. Save Profile

    At the bottom of the screen is the Save Profile button. Left click the button to save changes you have made.

    You will be taken to your home page on Pinterest.

Logging In and Out of Pinterest

You will remain logged into Pinterest unless you use the menu at the top right to logout. This can be a good and bad thing. The good part is when surfing the web it will be easier and quicker to pin items you find that you would like to add to your Pinterest boards. The bad part of staying logged in is that anyone that sits at the computer can post to your Pinterest account and/or change your settings. As with any account you access via the web, security cautions need to be considered. We error on the
side of caution and log out when leaving Pinterest.

Explore the Potential of Pinterest

Give Pinterest a try. It could lead to you making new friends and new followers on your website or blog.

If you have any questions, ask away in the comment section below.

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Site Ownership Verification Bing Webmaster Tools

The last few posts we have covered getting a Windows Live Id, done a review of what is included in the Bing Webmaster Tools and how to register a site with Bing Webmaster Tools. In this article we will complete the registration of a site with Bing Webmaster Tools process by verifying your website ownership.

What is the Purpose of Site Ownership Verification?

The purpose of site ownership verification is to confirm you have rightful access to the web space being monitored by Bing Webmaster Tools (just like Google’s Webmaster Tools site verification).

The process of either adding a specific meta tag or file to your web hosting account confirms you have access to the web hosting account and ultimately are the website owner.

Options for Site Ownership Verification

Bing has three options for verifying ownership of a website/blog:

  1. A meta tag placed in the head section of your default (home page).
  2. Using an XML file placed on your web hosting account.
  3. Add CNAME record to DNS – for advanced users.

You will note that the meta tag option is for you home page, not every page on your site. Those who use plugins or edit the template for your database/program run site (like blogs and ecommerce sites) will find that when you use either a plugin or edit the head section of your templates the meta tag is added to each page, not just the home page.

Those if you who are DIY website owners (say those using Dreamweaver or Expression Web) can run into the same problem when you can’t/don’t edit the home page head section to include this meta tag. An example would be someone that does not know how to use DWTs (Dynamic Web Templates – Dreamweaver and Microsoft products only), creates a template for their site and recycles the template each time they make a new page without knowing how to edit the head section specifically on the home page. This person, if later they decide to drop Bing Webmaster Tools, has to edit every single page where the meta tag was to remove it. That can be a lot of work if you have a whole bunch of pages.

Hence, why we are going to use the XML file verification method in this tutorial. One file, placed in the root of your web space, that can be removed by deleting the file if you want to quit Bing Webmaster Tools or have to reverify for some reason. Oh, and another reason this method could be better is if you hired someone to monitor your website/blog stats for you and then decided to do it yourself (what we recommend) then you can remove the XML file verified in their Bing Webmaster Tools account and get your own with your own Bing Webmaster Tools account.

Verify Site Ownership Using XML File

Note: Your website/blog has to be available on the Internet to proceed with the verification process. i.e. Bing needs to be able to access the file we are adding to your web space account.

  1. Log into Bing Webmaster Tools

    Go to the Webmaster Tools home page, left click the Webmaster Tools Sign In link and login with your Windows Live ID.

    You will be taken to your Bing Webmaster Tools dashboard.

  2. Verify Ownership

    To the right of the site you added to your Webmaster Tools account there is a message: “Site ownership has not been verified. Verify now”. Left click the Verify now link.

    You are taken to the Verify ownership for: (your site name) page.

  3. Get the XML File

    We are going to be working with Option 1 in this process.

    First item under Option 1 is to download your BingSiteAuth.xml file. Left click the link provided.

    Select Save File from the options presented.

    Save the file in the folder you have on your computer for your website files. You have one, right? If you don’t, make one and then after you have completed this tutorial backup your website (or blog as the case maybe) to your computer.

  4. Upload the XML File to Your Web Space

    Using your FTP software, upload the XML file you just downloaded from Bing Webmaster Tools to the root of your website.

    The root of your website/blog is the folder on your web hosting account with all the files (pages) of your website. The specific name of this folder varies depending on which hosting company you are using.

  5. Verify You Uploaded to the Right Spot

    Bing provides a link for you to click to verify you uploaded your XML file to the right spot. Left click the link provided.

    A new tab opens. You should see something like this:

    <user>(a bunch of numbers here)</user>

    If it worked correctly proceed to the next step. If not, try moving the XML file.

  6. Complete the Verification Process

    Scroll down to the bottom of the Verify ownership page.

    Left click the VERIFY button on the left.

    You are taken to the dashboard for the specific site you just verified.

Under Site Activity on your dashboard you will see a bunch of No data available messages. That makes sense, you only just did this and Bing hasn’t had a chance to collect data about your site.

Give Bing Webmaster Tools a few days to start collecting data about your site.

You can log out of Bing now.

Bing Webmaster Tools Site Ownership Verifcation

As you can see, it really isn’t that hard for a website/blog owner to do this themselves. Just a bit of patience is required.

Now, once Bing has a chance to visit your site and collect data about it, you will have a wealth of information on how Bing sees your site.

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Register Site with Bing Webmaster Tools

As explained in our Bing Webmstaster Tools Overview post there is lots of information you can get from Bing about how it sees your site or blog on the web. In this article we will register with Bing Webmaster Tools.

You may want to read this tutorial once before actually performing the task of registering a site with Bing Webmaster Tools so you know what to expect when you actually do it.

Log In with Your Windows Live ID

To register with Bing Webmaster Tools you will need a Windows Live ID. If you do not have a Windows Live ID yet please read our How to Create a Windows Live Id post to register an id with Bing.

  1. Go to Bing Webmaster Tools

    Once you have your Windows Live ID, go to Webmaster Tools at Bing.

  2. Sign into Webmaster Tools.

    On the left side of the screen, second row, there is an orange button with the words “Webmaster Tools Sign In”. It is actually a link with an orange background. Left click the link.

    You are taken to the Bing sign in page.

  3. Bing sign in page.

    On the right of the screen is the login form. Sign in with your Windows Live ID. Fill in your Windows Live ID and the password you have associated with this ID.

    You are taken to a logging in page. If it does not refresh, click the link provided to proceed.

    The Bing Webmaster screen will appear.

  4. Add a Site.

    Under the My Sites title there is a box for you to enter your website URL (address). Fill this in now.

    Left click the Add button to the right of the URL box you just filled in.

    Screen changes to About My Website page.

  5. About My Website

    The URL (web address) for your site is already filled in.

    Next box is for the URL of your Sitemap (if you have one). A Sitemap is different from an HTML site map that you create for your visitors (and the search engine bots that do not support the Sitemap protcol). If you don’t have a Sitemap, skip this box. It is not required.

    The next question is about when do you get the most traffic to your site. Obviously, you will not know this if it is a new site. Leave the dropdown list at it’s default of All Day for now.

  6. About Me

    This next section collects information about you, the site owner.

    • First and Last name – required
    • Email address – already filled in – required
    • Job Role – not required
    • Company or organization Name – required
    • Company or organization size – required
    • Industry – required

      Select an industry from the dropdown list provided.

    • Contact phone number – not required
    • City – not required
    • State/Province – not required
    • Zip/Postal code – not required
    • Country or region – required

      Select your country/region from the dropdown list.

    • Agency, not site owner

      Some people have a third party look after the stats for their sites. This line is for them. They have to check the box to the left if they have filled in their own information above.

  7. Contact Preference

    First part of this section explains what you will be emailed. If checked (which you should do) Bing will email you when they see something that you need to take care of plus some of their news. Clicking in the box to the left of “Yes, I would like to receive Bing Webmaster communication” makes the next row available for changes.

    The second part of the contact preferences section has radio buttons for you to click to select the frequency of your notices. Left click Daily. You want to know right away when Bing has found an issue with your site so you can get right on it and correct the problem.

  8. Alert Preferences

    You can receive alerts when crawl errors are found, there are index issues, issues with your Sitemap and if Bing finds Malware on your site.

    These are all checked by default. Leave them checked.

  9. Finishing up

    On the bottom left is a link to Microsoft’s privacy policy. Click the link to read the policy.

    Double check you have at least filled in all the required information noted above.

    Left click the Save button at the bottom of the page.

    You are taken back to your home page/dashboard for Bing Webmaster Tools.

You will see the site you just added to your Bing Webmaster Tools in your dashboard.

There will be a box to the left of the site URL where a snapshot of the site will appear once you verify the site ownership.

To the right of your website url there is a note “Site ownership has not been verified. Verify now”. Site verification means there is a little more work to be done to confirm you are the owner of the site. We will cover that in our next tutorial.

Setting up a Bing Webmaster Tools account is not that hard as you can see from above. We recommend a website owner takes care of setting this up themselves instead of hiring someone to do it for you.

Remember to log out of Bing Webmaster Tools when you are done.

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Bing Webmaster Tools Overview

Any information you can get from the search engines about how they see your site or blog is helpful. After the amalgamation of certain services provided by Bing and Yahoo! the Yahoo! the Yahoo! Site Explorer was closed down. On June 6, 2012 Bing announced that it was now including Site Explorer within Bing Webmaster Tools along with some other new features.

Information Provided within Bing Webmaster Tools

Once you have signed up for a Bing Webmaster Tools account and verified your website with Bing you will have access to the following information about your website or blog:

  • The last date your website/blog was crawled by Bing.
  • The number of pages you have indexed at Bing.
  • The authority page score your website/blog has.
  • If your website/blog has been deindexed at Bing.
  • A list of incoming links Bing sees for your site.

    You can download this list (up to 1000 links) to a CSV file for your own records or if you have changed your url structure/web address you have the list of people who are linking to you that you can ask/notify that the address has changes and could they please update on their site. Doing this will help the search engines update their index for the new location (all the search engines, not just Bing).

  • Any crawl issues Bing’s bot had when visiting your site.
  • Broken links you have.
  • Whether Bing has found malware on your site.
  • Which pages/areas you have blocked Bing from accessing via your robot.txt file.
  • File types you are using which Bing does not support.
  • Really long urls (web page addresses) that you should fix.
  • Keywords your site showed up for in searches and how it faired with other pages in the search results.
  • Submit your XML Sitemap.

Bing Webmaster Tools Update June 2012

The June 2012 update to Bing’s Webmaster Tools included:

  • A new look.

    • Easier access to your data.
    • Better navigation.
    • New interface for My Sites area.

      If you only have one site verified with Bing you will be taken directly to that site’s dashboard when you log in.

    • Ability to change the range of data presented and/or access that particular set of data via a link.
    • Site activity data presented a graph.
  • Link explorer

    Ability to examine internal and external links Bing knows about.

  • SEO Reports

    SEO reports run for each of the domains in your account covering 15 SEO points complete with notes if you are incompliance with the best practices of SEO. Deeper detailed reports are available via a link provided for each page.

  • SEO Analyzer

    You can scan any page within your verified site and show a SEO report for that specific page. This will be a good tool for new pages as a check that you have covered all your search engine optimization bases before carrying onto your next new page.

  • Fetch as Bingbot

    Have Bing’s bot fetch a page on your site and show you how the bot sees it.

  • Canonical Alerts

    Check that you are using the rel=”canonical” tag correctly.

  • URL Removal Tool

    Block a page from appearing in Bing’s index.

  • Keyword Research Tool

    Do keyword research for multiple keyword phrases at the same time. You can even check across multiple countries.

  • URL Normalization

Lots of valuable data available via the Bing Webmaster Tools. Wouldn’t hurt to add this to your search engine optimization toolkit for comparision with the data you get from Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics plus possibly supplement that information.

You will need a Windows Live ID first then you need to sign up for a Bing Webmaster Tools account and verify your domain ownership.

Bing’s Duane Forrester at SEOmoz

The whiteboard session for June 7, 2012 at SEOmoz included a video of Bing’s Duane Forrester explaining the new features in Bing Webmaster Tools.

There is a video and transcript of the video available at Phoenix Rising: Bing’s New Webmaster Tools – Whiteboard Friday

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How to Create a Windows Live Id

Just like Google, Microsoft and their search engine Bing provide services to webmasters and general users of their services. To use these services you need to sign up for a Windows Live Id.

If you use Hotmail, Messenger or Xbox LIVE, you already have a Windows Live ID.

Sign up – Windows Live

Sign Up for a Windows Live Id

The process for signing up for a Windows Live Id is quite simple.

  1. Go to the Create your Windows Live ID page.

    The page you are taken to has a form to fill out.

  2. Fill in the form fields:

    All information requested is required.

    • Email address.

      You can use any email address you have or choose to left click the link provided to create a Windows Live email address.

      The email address you use here will be your Windows Live Id (user name). It will also be used when you forget your password to send reset password instructions.

    • Create a password with a minimum of 6 characters.

      It is best to use a longer password with 7-16 characters, mixing letters, numbers and mixing upper and lower case letters.

      You can open a new tab/window in your browser and use PCTools Secure Password Generator to create one. Writ it down! Once you close the tab/window it will be lost.

    • Retype your password.

      Enter the exact same password you just did in the previous step.

    • Phone number.

      Select your country first. The box below will change to show you how to fill in your phone number.

      This phone number is used when you need to reset your password. A text or automated message will be sent to this number providing a code you need to reset your password.

      The form will enter the brackets and hyphens applicable to how your phone number is to be entered.

    • Your name.

      Fill in your first and last name in the next 2 fields.

      This is how your friends and others will find you within the Windows Live system.

    • Select your country.

      Select your country from the dropdown list of countries provided.

    • Fill in your postal/zip code.

      Type in your postal/zip code in the next box.

    • Select your gender.

      Left click in the appropriate radio button (circle) to select your gender.

    • Birth date

      Select the date you were born, month and year.

    • Fill in the captcha shown.

      If you can not read the captcha, left click the New link for it to show you an new one or you can try the audio link to hear what the image is showing.

    • Decide if you want to be put on their mailing list or not.

      Box is checked by default. Uncheck it by left clicking in the box to undo the check if you do not want to be put on the mailing list.

    • Read the Microsoft service agreement and privacy statement by left clicking the links provided.

      A new tab/window opens when you click each of these.

    • Left click the I agree button at the bottom of the page to proceed.

      Screen changes to verify your email screen.

  3. Verify your email.

    As explained on the verify your email screen, the email you used to sign up for Windows Live Id will be sent an email to verify you have indeed signed up.

    This email will arrive within moments. You need to click the link in the confirmation email to verify you have signed up with Windows Live Id.

    Clicking the link in this email opens your default browser to the Welcome to Windows Live screen confirming verfification.

    Note: You are also now logged into the Windows Live system. Look in the top right and you will see your name with a link to your profile and a log out link under your name.

At this point you should click the profile link in the top right of the Welcome to Windows Live screen to review your profile and adjust any privacy settings you need to.

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WordPress Theme Basics Explained

After you have installed WordPress you are going to need a WordPress theme to give your new blog or website it’s look and functionality. There are various places to get a WordPress theme from. You can select one from the WordPress Theme Directory, a WordPress theme site or have one custom created for your blog/site.

WordPress was originally created as a blogging software package but over time it has also been used as a content management system for a regular website. Even though we use the word blog below, the information is still applicable if you have decided to use WordPress as the content management system for your site.

What are WordPress Themes?

A WordPress theme is a collection of files that determine the look and features of your blog or website.

When you install WordPress there is a default theme included with your WordPress installation under the themes directory in the wp-content folder on your web server.

The WordPress programming decides which file(s) to use based on what is it going to present to the visitor. Some basic WordPress jargin:

A post is an article you wrote within your blog or site.

A page is a static page within your blog or site.

A category is the filing system you use to sort the posts within the site so like articles are grouped together. When the user clicks one of the category names in your navigation the page they see is a list of all the articles filed under that category.

A sidebar is the navigation column and the third column of your WordPress theme (if you use a 3 column design).

WordPress Theme Files

Your Worpress theme is broken up into pieces in the theme folder which are assembled by the programming included in WordPress.

Below is a list of the basic theme files used by WordPress themes. Your chosen theme may have more files than the following, it depends on how the WordPress theme developer/designer built your theme. Some of these files are parts of the visual look of the posts and pages on your blog. Others are templates for specific types of pages on the blog.

  • 404.php

    A 404 page is an error page presented when someone follows a broken link to your blog or types the url (web address) to a post or page on your blog incorrectly. The 404.php template is used when a page or post is not found on your blog.

    It is advisable that you take some time to customize your 404 page to make it useful to the visitor so they can find their way around the site instead of just leaving.

  • archive.php

    The archive.php template is used for your blog archives. It lists all the posts (articles) you have in chronological order based on month, day or year. You may have noticed some blogs have yearly archive pages listed in their sidebar.

  • author.php

    On a blog where you have multiple authors writing articles you may decide to show an about page for each author. The author.php template is used for this purpose.

  • category.php

    Categories are for organizing your articles into logical groups to make it easier for visitors to get to a specific topic they wish to read about. The category.php template is used to present the list of articles in a specific category.

  • comments.php

    The comments.php is part of your post page. It inserts the boxes for people to fill in when they wish to leave a comment on your article.

  • footer.php

    At the bottom of each page and post of your blog is a footer. The footer.php file is what inserts this information.

    The footer.php file usually contains the closing tags for the container that is around your theme design (called wrapper usually) and the closing tags for the body and html tags required for the coding of any web page.

  • functions.php

    There is some default programming that comes with your WordPress theme in the functions.php file. These are special programming instructions that make your theme work.

  • header.php

    In the header.php you will find the top coding for each page and post of your blog. It is inserted into each page and post on your blog through programming.

    Some basic things included in your header.php file are:

    • The DOCTYPE declaration for the pages/posts. This tells the browser what coding standard the theme is following.
    • The character set used by the blog is fetched from the administration side of your blog and inserted via programming into the head section of your pages.
    • The title set of tags for each page/post on the site are inserted based on the title you give your post/page when you create it via programming as the page is compiled before presenting to the visitor.
    • You will find the path to your CSS (Cascading Stylesheet) file is also created dynamically in the header.php.

    The above items plus some other lines of coding are inserted between the opening and closing head tags. ( <head> </head> ) Information between these tags are not visable to the visitor but is used by the browser and search engines to get information about your pages.

    Also in the header.php you will find the beginning of the coding that actually creates the visual part of your pages and posts.

    • The opening tag for the body of the pages/posts. (<body>)
    • The opening tag for the container which holds the contents of the pages/posts. Usually called wrapper. e.g. <div id="wrapper">
    • The head section of the pages/posts. This container could include the coding for your top horizontal menu if you have one.
      <div id="header">

      <coding to insert your logo and other things you have across the top of your pages>
      <coding to create your top horizontal navigation (if you have one)>

    • Opening tag for the container that wraps around the actual content of the individual pages/posts. e.g. <div id="main">

    All these id names will become important to you later if you want to customize the CSS file for the theme to suit your own personal taste.

  • index.php

    The index.php file is the default template used when there is not a specific template available for a certain page or post type in the theme. It is also used for the home page of your blog unless a specific home page template has been created.

  • page.php

    The page.php template is used for pages you create. Pages are different from posts (articles). They are not sorted into categories like posts. Pages are usually used for your About Me, Contact Us and other static pages on the blog.

  • search.php

    On a page where there is a search function, the search.php is inserted into the page/post coding.

    A search form is usually located in the top of the pages/posts or in the sidebar (side navigation column). It can be inserted into your search results page and your 404 page.

  • sidebar.php

    A sidebar is the side navigation/column of your theme in WordPress. You can have one located either left or right of the main content of the page/post or down each side of it.

    When there is a sidebar down each side of the main content look for two different sidebar files. One would be for the left side and the other would be the right side.

    For a WordPress theme with one side column the sidebar.php contents are manipulated to be on the left or right of the main content using the CSS file.

  • single.php

    Your posts/articles are presented using the single.php file. A basic single.php template fetches the header.php, sidebar.php, comments.php and footer.php along with the main contents of the article to create the page.

  • style.css

    All the presentation styling of your blog’s theme should be in this file for easy maintenance.

    The id names you found in other files for your theme should be referenced in the style.css file. This is how the browser is told how to format (present) the contents on the pages/posts.

WordPress Theme Hierarchy

WordPress uses a hierarchy system to decide which of the theme files to use when presenting a page or post to your visitors. If a specific template is not found for the page/post it defaults to the index.php template.

  • Home Page

    Looks for a template named home.php first.

  • Post

    As already explained, a post (article) uses the single.php file.

  • Page

    First WordPress looks for a template with the specific page name. If not found it uses the page.php template.

  • Category

    A specific category can have it’s own template. WordPress looks for a template with it’s id (category number) attached to the name.

    In instances where a specific category template is not available, WordPress will use the categpry.php template. If there is no category.php it will use the archive.php file.

  • Serch Results

    When someone uses your search form the results are displayed using the search.php template.

  • 404

    We already explained this one. WordPress uses the 404.php template when a page is not found.

There are other templates that can be used within your WordPress theme also. The above are the basic ones and how WordPress decides which one to use. As already mentioned, if WordPress cannot find a specific template for the page/post it wants to display it will use the index.php template.

WordPress Theme Basics

Within your theme there may be more files than what we have covered here. This was just a rundown on the basics a WordPress theme would have and how the basic theme files and templates are used.

When you decide on a theme for your WordPress site have a look at what files are contained in the theme folder. The easiest way to get a better picture of what is included in your theme is to download it to your computer from the source or from your WordPress installation on the web server via a FTP client/software.

Familiarize yourself with the WordPress theme your blog/site will be using. Particularly the style.css file for any typical styles used over and over again. e.g. a style to center some content. Using the provided styles instead of using the WordPress HTML editor as a word processor will save yourself some work and maintenance time. Using or creating custom styles in the stylesheet provided provides one spot to make site wide changes instead of changing each post/page you have created.

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How to Set Up a Google Analytics Account

Whether you just want some basic information about the visitors to your site or are a data fiend Google Analytics can give you a variety of data about your visitors. You might also consider Google Analytics if you do not have a website logs stats program on your web hosting account.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a website statistics service provided by Google. With a basic Google Analytics report sent to you can:

  • Get information about your website visitors
    • Number of visitors in the last week
    • Number of page views
    • Number of pages per visit
    • Your bounce rate
    • Visitor average time on your site
    • Percentage of new visitors
  • See an overview of your traffic sources
    • Direct traffic to your site
    • Percentage of referring sites
    • Search engine traffic (including search engines other than Google)
    • Top keyword phrases
  • A technical profile of your visitors
    • Percentage of Internet Explorer (IE) visitors
    • Percentage of Firefox (FF) users
    • Percentage of Chrome users
    • Percentage of Safari users
    • Percentage of Mobile users
  • Top content viewed
    • Top pages viewed
    • Number of page views for each page
    • Percentage of total page views
    • Increase (or decrease) from last week
  • Countries your visitors come from
    • The country they came from
    • Number of visits from that country
    • Number of pages per visit
    • Average time on your site from that country
    • The percentage of new visitors this country brought this week
    • The bounce rate for that country
    • The changes of each since last week

As you get more familiar with Google Analytics you can adjust the amount of information you wish to track. For more detaied information of each of the above sections you can log into your Google Analytics account.

What Do I Need to Signup for Google Analytics?

There are just a few things you need to be able to signup for Google Analytics:

  1. A Google account

    Note: You should set up your Google Analytics account yourself then give the coding Google gives you for insertion into your pages to your web designer/SEO specialist/web developer for inclusion into your web pages. If you let someone else do it for you they will have access to all the Google services you use including your Gmail, Google Places, Google Plus profile, etc.

  2. A website or blog
  3. Access to the web hosting account where your site is (if you are going to do this yourself)

Set Up a Google Analytics Account

  1. Go to the Google Analytics home page.
  2. On the right there is a button that says Access Analytics, click it.

    You are taken to a page where you need to sign into your Google Account.

  3. Sign into your Google account.

    You are taken to the home page of your Google Analytics account.

  4. Click the +Add new site link.

    If you can’t see it, it is under the Day|Week|Month|Year buttons at the top of the center section of your Google Analytics home page.

    The Sign up page for Google Analytics appears.

  5. Click the Sign Up button in the bottom left of the screen.

    The box has the title: Sign Up for Google Analytics.

    You should be at the Analytics: New Account Signup screen.

  6. Enter your website/blog information:
    • Website URL

      At the beginning of the enter website url line there is a dropdown where you can select http:// or https://. Http:// is for your regular public website or blog. Https:// is for the secure part of your site.

      If you want to keep the stats for your public portion of the site separate from the secure section of the site (for example an ecommerce site) create 2 sets of codes. One for the public side, one for the secure site. Do one set now. Once you have completed the one set, you can add the other set from your Google Analytics home page.

      Note:When promoting your site online you should use the same version of your website url. e.g. www.basiccomputerinformation.ca is different from basiccomputerinformation.ca in the search engine’s eyes. It’s called the non www vs with www versions of your url. Pick one version to promote for best results in other calculations Google (and other search engines) make as to the quality of your site like the number of incoming links from out side sources. Incorrect versions can be corrected with your .htaccess file but that is another post. For now, pick one version, make a note of it and fill in the box with the version you decided to use.

    • Account Name

      Account name is a name for you to recognize which stats you are looking at in your Google Analytics home page and reporsts sent to you. For example, if you are doing this for your ecommerce site you could put Website Name – Front End for the public side and Website Name – Secure for the secure section of your site.

    • Time zone country or territory

      From the dropdown list to the right of this label select the country or territory of the site you are adding.

    • Time zone

      Select your time zone from the dropdown list to the right of this label. Selecting your time zone will help you understand the stats you see that are time related in your reports.

    When you have completed all of the above click the Continue>> button at the bottom left.

    The Contact Information screen appears.

  7. The Contact Information screen is pretty self explanatory, enter your Last name, First name and your country.

    Click the Continue>> button in the bottom left once you are done.

    Accept User Agreement screen appears.

  8. Read through the Google Analytics User Agreement.

    Left click in the box in front of the “Yes, I agree to the above terms and conditions.” line at the bottom of the frame containing the user agreement.

    Once you have read the agreement and clicked the agree box click the Create New Account>> button in the bottom left of the page.

    The Tracking Code screen appears.

  9. Tracking Code

    The tracking code screen has 3 tabs: Standard, Advanced and Custom. We are going to walk through the Standard tab.

    Down the left of the screen there are some options you can select:

    • A single domain is selected by default and your url is displayed below.
    • One domain with multiple subdomains.

      A subdomain is another part of your site. The url of a subdomain appears as subdomainname.yourdomain.com. You may have noticed that sites like Yahoo! use subdomains to organize their site for news (http://news.yahoo.com/), real estate (http://realestate.yahoo.com/), etc.

    • Multiple top level domains

      A top level domain is a domain name like basiccomputerinformation.com, basiccomputerinformation.ca.

    We will continue with the default single domain option.

    On the right is a block of code you are to put into each page you wish to track.

    Copy the code given and paste into a plain text file then save it on your computer for safe keeping. A plain text file is created with Notepad and has the extension .txt at the end. Pasting into Word or similar word processing file could add some unwanted invisible characters that will cause your script to fail.

    The instructions on this page says to paste the coding into the head section of your web pages. The head section is between the <head> and </head> tags of your page coding.

    Note: If there is a problem with the connection to the Google web servers your page will hang up (stall) while it waits for the connection to be made. For this reason I put my coding at the end of the web page coding, just before the closing </body> tag. I might miss some stats if the visitor bounces off the page but my pages rendering quickly is more important to me. How fast your pages load is one of the many things Google looks at when evalutating your site. It is up to you if you choose Google’s instructions or follow my example. Kind of weird they tell you to put this in the head section because elsewhere they tell you to put 3rd party scripts at the end of your coding for better load speed, should the 3rd party script fails.

    Once you have copied and saved your code, click the Save and Finish button in the bottom left of the screen.

    You are taken to the home page for this Google Analytics account.

  10. On the home page for this Google Analytics account there is going to be a caution symbol under the Status column.

    This makes sense because you just made this account, haven’t added the code to your pages and Google hasn’t had a change to collect data yet.

Add Google Analytics Code to Your Site

This is where the text file you made above is used. Open the text file you saved to your computer, copy and paste the coding you were given into the appropriate place.

How you actually add the Google Analytics code to your site will depend on how your site is constructed.

A static (regular) website you can add the code to the web pages you wish to track. Open each page and insert the coding Google Analytics gave you either between the head tags or just before the closing body tag.

If you are using a blogging software like WordPress there are a couple of options:

  • Add the Google Analytics code the head.php file of your theme.
  • Add the Google Analytics code to the footer.php file of your theme.
  • Use a plugin that does this for you. Not crazy about using plugins to do simple stuff like this. Each plugin you add to your WordPress blog adds to the load time of your blog.

For ecommerce sites run using ecommerce software you are going to have to refer to the documentation of the software as to where in your backend you add the code or you can add the coding to the template that runs your site.

Set Up Google Analytics

Setting up a Google Analytics account is not too difficult. You can expand on the basic instructions provided in this tutorial by setting up reports, goals and linking it to your Adwords account.

Google Analytics is a great supplement to your web log reports available on your web hosting account or if you don’t have web log stats available with your hosting account.

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