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WordPress vs. Custom Scripting

I run a bunch of sites, as you may have read.  But I often run into the problem of deciding whether to use WordPress or writing my own custom script to create a site on a template.

The Major Tipping Point

So what causes this difference?  Well – I think I would like to use WordPress for every site I create ( at this time ) – however…  I am having trouble locating a plugin or script that will allow me to upload a large database of information into WordPress – AND – allowing me to upload it again and overwriting/updating information.  Some plugins that I have found MAY do the trick, but I am not interested in purchasing a script that will become useless immediately… but perhaps I should.  Suggestions?

So, How do I Choose?

Up to this point I have wasted a lot of time thinking about which way to go.  Until I find a plugin that can handle entering new ‘posts’ and categories – then being able to update those ‘posts’ again just by uploading the database, I am going to do it like this:

1. Is the database big, like 50 or more records?
2. Is the data in this database going to change regularly?
3.  Is this the kind of database that I can ‘drip post’ in over time?

If the answers are yes, yes, no – then I am going to write my own scripts.  If the answers are no, no, yes – it is WordPress all the way.  If the answers are yes, no, maybe – then I am back at the crossroads.

Why Don’t I Write the Plugin Myself?

There is the big problem.  I ‘barely’ know PERL.  I can just scratch an itch of PHP.  WordPress is PHP.  In order to write a plugin, I am going to have to learn PHP.  Right now I am just too busy.  PERL is still very powerful and still widely supported.  PHP is going to overtake PERL if it hasn’t already.

I am sure that someone has already written the perfect CSV or Text file to WordPress plugin.  I have seen a few that I have tried and can’t get to work the way I want them to.  And I am also sure that someone has privately built one and is using it to make a killing.

Drop me a lead and I will follow it to find out how well it works… and promote the plugin if it does what I need.

How I Doubled Daily Visitors

About the Website

I built a website back in 2006, coded with FrontPage (yeah, I just hadn’t switched at that point) and custom coded with PERL for the database elements.  You could search, view and rate restaraunts.  That was about all you could do.  I was a nice website, served its purpose which was to provide information on local establishments.  No reviews, no categories.  Not WordPress!

What I Did

For this case study, you have to start with a not-very-user-interactive site.  This one did have voting and a top ten list, but nothing else.  Essentially, I moved the original site over to a WordPress operated CMS site.  By going to a WordPress site, I added (instantly) reviews (as comments), more searchable listings, categories and tags.  No extra effort on my part.

The Hard Part

It was time consuming to update all the listings from the original site and enter them as posts on the new site.  I know there are plugins that can take a CSV or Flatfile and update that database to posts, but I have not found a free one that worked to my specs; and I did not want to pay for a plugin at this point.  [Anyone have a suggestion?]

So, I watched TV, entered listings from notepad and over a couple of evenings had all my listings posted.

So Why do I say ‘Easily’

Granted, that grunt work was especially draining.  Doubling my visitors was easy, because now I had a new system, set up to be more keyword, title and overall site friendly than it was before.  Adding listings became easier when needed.  Updating listings is also a breeze.

I was also able to add a few plugins.  Plugins are easy.  Restaurant voting, easy… search “Post Ratings”, review the install, and click ‘activate’… done.  Add the plugin for Google Sitemap, activate… done!  Easy.

Users started interacting more.  More votes, user reviews and more REPEAT visitors!

Check out the Stats and my Analysis!

Statistics

The actual growth in visitors  for the beginning 9 months of last year compared to this year was actually 87%, so I didn’t really double, but it is close.

Pageviews/Pages per Visit is an interesting stat combination.  My visitors are viewing 35% less pages per visit – which in turn reduces my pageviews from a doubling to only 20%.  There are a couple of factors that cause the reduction in pageviews.  First was the voting script.  The original site caused 3 page views if a user voted.  The new version is AJAX, so no reload, only one pageview.  Also – I believe that my visitors are hitting the page they want right away, instead of having to dig through the site (see Bounce Rate).  So, am I providing a better resource and hitting better SERPS?

My Bounce Rate has climbed 65%!  This could be interpreted as disappointing – but I am going to spin it a little.  I believe that my visitors are landing on the right page – the first time – and possibly leaving my site for the restaurants website.  If this is the case, I can be satisfied that my visitor is getting the best results for their time spent, which may also be the reason that time spent on the site is also down.

New Visits are down as well.  What is the spin on this one?  If I have more visitors overall, but the percentage of new visits is down by 3.5%, then I am still seeing an increase in total new visitors.  But… visitors are also finding that this website is a good reference, bookmarking or emailing it to a friend, and coming back!  Checkmark that as a plus as well!

Final Reflections

Even though this site isn’t a wildfire with daily visitors (around 100/day), the site has maintained the incresased traffic for nine solid months.  Take from this what you will, but I recommend that you do one of two things;  improve sites you own by finding better backends like WordPress;   and/or find websites that have not been optimized with a system like WordPress, buy it, update it and you might just double the value of the site … or more!

Buffalo Juice Hot Wing Recipes

History

In 2007, I was brain-storming domain names… and really, I shouldn’t be doing this, because I know that I get domains and don’t find time to develop them into anything interesting.  In this case, www.buffalojuice.com was born, with a lean towards hot wings.

Well, I finally got some inspiration and a ‘semi-free’ weekend to give this site some of my time.

Kick-in-the-pants!

So, besides a free weekend, what caused me to get going?  Well, I found a free theme, Journic (see below), that just looked like fire, hot sauce, something with a kick!  So, I grabbed it, made some mods and started adding recipes to the site, along with a few articles that pertain to cooking hot wings!

About the Theme & Source Files

I can’t remember how I found Journic, but the site and creators don’t seem to have control of their domain any longer.  I left the links in the CSS, but not in the footer.  I like the artsy ‘feel’ to the site, maybe it is the watercolor look to the header, or the bold styling.  Either way, it works for me as a hot and spicy recipe site.  Here is a link to one place that still has the source files (Journic : Free WordPress Themes)

WP Plugins

There are ‘standard plugins‘ that I use on most sites, so check them out, but also here are the special plugins that I am using for this site and why.

  • Old Post Promoter – This plugin will take the oldest post and make it the newest post, on a schedule that you can set.  I am using this plugin so that the front page updates with new recipes.  I anticipate that I will not add recipes on a very regular basis, so this should make it stay a little fresher.
  • Page Links To – This plugin allows me to send some traffic directly to another site – even though the link points within the Buffalo Juice site.
  • Sociable – by Joost de Valk – This recipe site is one that ‘shares’ well.  I don’t believe that all sites should have social sharing buttons – but this site is made for sharing.
  • WP Polls – I don’t run many polls on sites, but this little bit of interactivity might keep a user more involved in the site.

Final Thoughts

Interestingly enough, a couple of days after I created the base of this site, I noticed that my brother had posted a Curry Rub recipe on his Facebook account.  Pretty cool coincidence, I thought.  So, we posted his recipe and he has another lined up, Joe’s Kickin’ Chickin’ Wings.  I’m looking forward to that!

Any Questions or Comments?