Umbraco development tips and tricks

Umbraco 4.0+ introduced the ability to inherit document types. This is a great feature for keeping document types consistent between pages and even between sites.

I find that 95% of my document types share the same properties. Once you have discovered what these properties are create a new document type that contains these properties. For my sites this generally contains:

* Page header
* Body text
* Page title
* meta description
* and the Umbraco hidden page switch (umbracoNaviHide)

Now when you go to create a new document type set its master document type to be Page.

Tip

Most of you are probably already using this feature. My simple tip is once you have created a Page document type, right click on it and export it to file.

Now whenever you start a new Umbraco project, right click on document types and import the file into your new project. This will keep your document properties consistent between projects.

Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking

In this article (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html) dated 21st September 2009, Google confirms once and for all  that the Keyword meta tag has no influence on search rankings.

The reason is that the keyword meta tag was so widely abused by webmasters that Google no longer use it in their ranking algorithm.

The comments left by readers show a polarity between those that believe this already, and many who want to keep hold of their keywords 'just in case'.  I wonder if its a comfort to some people to believe that keywords help search rankings - and thus it is a shortcut to actual proper SEO.

Of course, there are other search engines and other algorithms, but from what I have read, they too don't give the keyword meta tag much weight in their rankings.

For us, we leave it out - if there's no value, then we won't waste our time on it.

Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Meta data is information embedded in the code of the website that is not visible on the screen. However it plays a huge role in Google's algorithm for website rankings.

There are two very important components in the metadata that should always be completed - Title and Description. The third component of meta data - Keywords is not as important as this does not make much difference in the rankings.

Titles are incredibly important. This is the first indicator to Google's 'crawlers' about what your website is all about. A short (50 - 66 characters) title should be entered against every page in your website. Google truncates after 66 characters. The title displays in the top corner of your browser AND in the Google search results - so is also useful to customers who are looking for the most appropriate site to select.

Image 1: Title at the top of the browser

Title

Image 2: Google search results for keyword "Skiing"

Google Search Results

A meta description is the information about your site that Google displays in the search results (In Image 2 this is the smaller black font). It should be around 150 characters long, and be informative about what you are offering and compelling to attract customers to your site.

To update your metadata in umbraco go to each page in turn and select the 'Meta' Data' tab (see below). Make your changes and save and publish in the normal way. It's that easy. It will take longer to read this blog than to actually do it!

umbraco editor

The next step is to be very patient. It will take some time for the updates to show up on Google.

Setting up a new Umbraco project

When setting up a new project I have the following requirements:

  • I want the project to sit in a project folder on my D drive. I don't want to work on projects in the inetpub folders.
  • I want to use flat/directory URL's.
  • be able to run multiple sites on one instillation.
  • Running on Vista with IIS7 locally. Deployed to server running IIS7.
  • If the site is to include a blog then I want it set up as a subdomain (e.g. blog.fairlieagile.co.nz)
  • Using .NET 3.5

This is a little bit more manual the default installtion procedure. These are the steps I go though (Takes about 10 minutes):

1. Get the latest version of Umbraco and copy to a folder <projectname>/web

2. Create a new database and setup in <projectname>/DB. Add my development umbraco user to the DB

3. Setup IIS:

 -  Add entries to the hosts file for URL's i am using during development e.g:

127.0.0.1 fairlieagile
127.0.0.1 blog.fairlieagile

 - In IIS I have an application pool setup that uses .NET 2.0 and integrated pipelines

 - Right click on Sites and add a new website. In the hostname give it the hostname you have entered into the hosts file

 - Save and start the website

 - if you are using additional host names e.g. for a blog subdomain then click on your site, go to bindings and add the details

4. Go to http://umbraco.codeplex.com/ and get the web.config file to use with .NET 3.5 (It's also woth havign a read of "Install guide for Umbraco on asp.net 3.5 and integrated pipeline".)

5. Edit web.config

enter in the connection string details for your DB

<add key="umbracoUseDirectoryUrls" value="true" />

under <system.webserver> all umbaco's httpmodules are listed. Due to the way IIS process extensionless urls, you need to add: runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests="True" to the modules element, so it looks like this: <modules runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests="True">

6. Edit Config/UmbracoSettings.config

<useDomainPrefixes>true</useDomainPrefixes>

7. Browse to your site and run throught he isntallation process

8. Install the excellent multiple file upload package from Noerd.dk

  • Download package from http://noerd.dk. Latest version is 1.1
  • Do to developer -> packages -> Install local package
  • Follow the steps in the installer
  • Add the following to your web.config:
    <system.webServer>
    <handlers>
    <add verb="*" name="MultipleFileUploadHandler" path="MultipleFileUploadHandler.axd" type="noerd.Umb.DataTypes.multipleFileUpload.MultipleFileUploadHandler, noerd.Umb.DataTypes.multipleFileUpload" />
  • Apply the quick fix discussed  here and  here

 

Other things you might like to do:

Increase the uplaod size:

<httpRuntime maxRequestLength="10240" />

For umbraco 4.1.1 there was an encoding problem. This might help:

Edit Config/UmbracoSettings

<TidyCharEncoding>UTF8</TidyCharEncoding>

Edit Config/tinyMceConfig.config

Change enity encoding to "named". This resolves a problem with a strange hex value (FFFD) being inserted into empty paragraphs since moving to 4.1.1.

<customConfig>
<config key="entity_encoding">named</config>
</customConfig>

 

CTS Website Rebuild

CTS

 

The website was originally built using a content management system that required the users to have html programming knowledge to maintain web page content. In order to deliver a website that was useful and usable, the project manager turned to us to provide a content management system that would be easy to use and would not require specialist training.

We rebuilt the website using the original design, replacing the content management system with the umbraco CMS. We delivered the new website within budget and to schedule. CTS now maintain their product catalogue online with minimal training and no fuss.

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