At Acumen Consulting we help companies build their websites and overall web presence. This includes help with Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing. The goal behind SEO is to get searches relevant to your business to the front page of Google and Bing along with the various other players in the Search Engine business. There are known and effective methods to make this happen. It’s not an exact science because the Search Providers keep their algorithms secret so people will not trick the system into pulling forward non-relevant results. This doesn’t stop people from trying to shortcut their way to SEO success.

One of the primary methods of “cheating” the system is something called back linking. One of the important factors in getting your business to the front page of a search result is if there are other websites out there linking to your websites, backlinks. The more backlinks you have the more the Search Providers consider you a reliable and relevant webpage. Thus your presence on search results goes up. This is a known.

Because people know there arose something called a “backlink farm”. This Farm was merely a website that published thousands of links reciprocating links to various sites. You paid say $125 a month and everyone who subscribed to this service created a backlink from their page to your page and you did the same for them. The problem with this from the Search Providers perspective is that backlinks are being created that are not relevant.

A rap music site has a link to a plumbing site and vice-versa. This means that the search results that are generated for the users of the Search Provider do not get them to the pages they want to see. This is all-important to the Search Providers. Google and Bing want you to be successful in your search. They don’t like backlink schemes. These schemes are still prevalent today, along with other techniques that are, in the long run, dangerous to your business.

http://www.thewire.com/technology/2013/12/google-uses-its-nuclear-option-rap-geniuss-search-rankings/356490/

A major example of this just occurred when Google blacklisted the Rap Genius site. Rap Genius was engaged in reciprocal back linking. Google blacklisted them and the website traffic dropped by 60% overnight. Rap Genius is a fairly major website and Google is working with them to resolve the situation. Google will not be so kind with you. They will blacklist you and, if you beg for twelve months or so, eventually remove the blacklist.

There is a way achieve SEO. It’s not easy. It requires work. It’s not something that you can pay someone else $500 a month to do for you. The SEO Company doesn’t know your business. They don’t have your expertise and that knowledge is key to SEO. You have to do in conjunction with your SEO company.

Call today to learn more – 314.333.3330

Acumen SEO

A Magento theme is essentially a group of files that define the look, feel and overall layout of your store. Magento allows the use of multiple concurrent themes, and is not restricted to a single, active theme like WordPress. In this way, you can customize every aspect of your store while not having every page adhere to the same theme. This guideline will help you better understand the aspects and elements of a theme, as well as the basics of building your own.

NOTE: This tutorial does not cover theme installation. For instructions on how to install a theme please refer to this post.

Basic Model (In Hierarchal Order)

  1. Website Level – One or more store of the same customer/order information, shopping cart, etc.
  2. Store Level – A collection of store views. A container to group all related products.
  3. Store View Level – Essentially Store Level, but slightly different. Typically used to display Stores in different languages. (French, German, etc.)

*Multiple sites and stores can be run off of one single Magento installation.

Blocks

Magento uses “blocks” in order to represent different components and functionality. These blocks make it easier for developers and theme designers to customize the functionality/look and feel of their store. There are two types of blocks in Magento:

Structural Blocks – These are the containers for the Header, Footer, Right/Left Columns and Primary Area (or Main Content Area). Some examples of structural blocks have been highlighted below in red.

Pix 1

Content Blocks – These are blocks within structural blocks. Site navigation, callout, category listing, etc. These can be static images, widgets, etc. Some examples of content blocks have been highlighted below in green.

Pix 2

File Types

Skins – This file type contains your CSS/images/JavaScript files.

/skin/frontend/package-name/theme-name

Pix 3

Layouts – This file type defines structural blocks and can be edited via the .xml files it contains.

/app/design/frontend/package-name/theme-name/layout/

Pix 4

Templates – This file type defines content blocks and can be edited via the .phtml files it contains.

/app/design/frontend/package-name/theme-name/template/

Pix 5

Locales – This file type defines the language of your Magento store. For example a locale might translate store elements to Spanish. Locale files are stored as .csv.

/app/design/frontend/package-name/theme-name/locale/

Pix 6

Design Package/Themes

Base Theme – The bottom level theme and final place that Magento looks to.

/app/design/frontend/base/

Custom Theme – Your own custom theme. Magento looks here first.

/app/design/frontend/package-name/theme-name/

Package – A group of related themes. You can create your own or use the already available ‘default’ package.

/app/design/frontend/default/

Disabling the Cache

To prevent your store from being slow to load, Magento has a built-in caching system which reduces the number of files needed to be reloaded every time a page is requested. While this is useful while your store is live, it can prove to be an inconvenience when developing.

To disable this feature temporarily log in to the admin panel and go to System | Cache Management. Here you can select/deselect any cache types that you wish to disable. For our purposes you can disable them all by selecting each one and selecting ‘Disable’ from the Actions drop-down menu.

Setting a Theme

You can set the package and individual themes that you wish to display in the backend of Magento by going to System | Configuration and clicking Design in the left-hand sidebar. Under Package you have your current package. Under Themes you will see each file type and which theme it’s being generated from.

* Themes can be changed for each individual page as well. CMS > Pages and then click the page you want and select Design from the left-hand sidebar.

Customizing Your Theme

When you want to edit a particular file, simply copy it from the base theme, paste it in your current theme and edit it from there. Any files copied in this manner will override the base files. Be sure to copy any folders that contain the files as well. For example, if we wanted to edit the login.phtml page used for our check out (located in app/design/frontend/base/default/template/persistent/checkout/onepage/login.phtml) we would need to create or copy the folder persistent and paste it in our custom theme template file.

This is the preferred method for changing files in Magento. Editing the base files directly is not a good practice because it can cause conflict when trying to upgrade Magento. Plus, if you make a mistake that is beyond repair you won’t be able to revert back to any older files.

Template Path & Block Name Hints

Two useful tools that Magento provides for locating file paths are Template Path Hints and Block Name Hints.

Template Path Hints – Displays the relative path to each block within the theme directory structure.

Block Name Hints – Shows you how the block is classed within the framework.

To enable these hints simply navigate to System | Configuration | Advanced | Developer. Make sure ‘Main Website’ or ‘Default Config’ is selected from the Current Configuration Scope drop-down in the top-left corner as the option is unavailable in the Default Config scope. Open up the Debug section in the right-hand column. From here you can switch Template Path Hints and/or Block Name Hints to Yes or No. Click Save Config at the top-right of your screen, and refresh the frontend of your store to view the changes. The hints should appear in little red boxes surrounding the elements they lead to.

Theme

Conclusion

Editing a Magento theme can be done easily and effectively once you know where to go for files, how to disable the cache and how to enable the template and block hints. I recommend setting up a development installation and trying your hand at making changes to the store views in your theme. For more information on Magento Theming, please see the following resources:

Resources

LevelUpTuts

  • Good tutorials on Magento from the ground up. Specifically, #25 – #44.
  • Magento 1.4 Themes Design by Richard Carter.
  • This book covers a lot of material on theming in Magento. Specifically chapters two through six if you aren’t interested in reading the whole book.

See our CMS Web Development Page for more ways we can help you!

Nav Menu

There’s an interesting little quirk to Magento.

In Magento, the Navigation menu does not display even when you’ve told the particularly categories to show. There’s a quick fix to the problem but it’s good to know before you create an extensive category system.

The problem is that the Navigation menu relies on a particular Root category and if you change the default category or create a new Root category the Navigation menu doesn’t recognize it without a little tweak. Here’s how you can fix it.

  1. From the Catalog Menu select Manage Categories
  2. Click Add Root Category
  3. Name your Root Category (root-SITENAME)
  4. On the General Information Tab ensure Is Active equals Yes
  5. On the General Information Tab ensure Include in Navigation Menu equals Yes
  6. Click Save Category
  7. With the new Root Category Selected click Add Subcategory
  8. Create the subcategory of the main category making sure it is Active and Included on the Nav Menu
  9. From the Main Menu Systems – Manage Stores
  10. Click the Main Website Store link
  11. From the Root Category drop-down choose the Root Category you created earlier (root-SITENAME)
  12. Click Save Store

Any new categories you create should appear on the Navigation Menu.

As a side note, remember when you create Products on the Inventory tab add a number to the Qty field and change Stock Availability to In Stock otherwise products will not display in their Categories.

I hope that was helpful to people struggling with this issue. If you need help with your eCommerce Magento site we can. See our Magento Page and give us a call.

Dynamics 2012

This past weekend I upgraded a client’s installation of Microsoft Management Report v.2 to 2012. After transferring everything and testing it, I reported it ready for production. Soon after, I got an email from a user with the attached screenshot of the error message he received when generating a report in the updated Report Designer:

Dynamics 2012

Dynamics 2012 Solution

When I went into Report Viewer, I found that the reports had been generated.

But I was able to open them in the viewer. I just could not open the reports from within Report Designer.

The issue that I found was that at one time, the Terminal Server that the application runs on at one time had Google Chrome.

But Chrome had since been removed. In the time that Chrome was there, the user had had Chrome set as the default browser. Since Chrome had been removed, Internet Explorer had never been reset as the default browser.

(This being a Terminal Server and the users were trained not to use a browser from the remote desktop).

Once I set IE as the default browser, Management Reporter was able to send the reports to browser, as was the expected behavior.

The issue does not seem to be the use of a browser other than IE, just the lack of a default browser set for the user. Even though I didn’t test it on the system, Management Reporter Web Viewer should run on Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or 10, Chrome 22.0.1229.79 or newer, Firefox 14.01 or newer or Safari 5.1 or newer.

See our IT Support Page for more information.