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Ta-Da! Blog Pro 1.1 Has Arrived!
Today we have released a new version of Blog Pro. This is our blogging solution for online stores that run on Magento e-commerce system. We have thought for a long time which features we should implement in this version and which ones to leave for the next version. We decided to include the most important features which some the other popular blogging platforms offer. Basically all the necessary features that a quality blog offers (e.g wordpress, typepad etc) can be found in this version of Blog Pro. We have broken all the improvements into 3 groups: improvements to the frontend, improved Search Engines optimization and backend usability improvements. There are many exciting features so let’s dig into it.
We felt it was inconvenient for the very active blog commenters each time to have to enter their name and email address in the form so we have improved it a bit. Now it is only necessary to enter name and email once and the system will remember the details for future comments.
Now let’s imagine the following situation. John leaves a comment on the article about a new model of umbrella in your umbrellas store. Bill reads this story and the comment of John and decides to disagree with his opinion. He replies to John’s comment. But John has never come back to this article to see Bill’s reply. This is a common situation and we have come up with the solution. Now, at the time when Bill replies to John, John will be able to receive a notification by mail that his comment received a reply. So he can return and continue the discussion and maybe eventually buy a new umbrella. Everybody is happy, especially the owner of the store. We thought it was a great addition to the blog to be able to subscribe either to replies of your own comment or to the comments of the whole article.
Configurable sitemap integration
Now you specify which blog pages should be included into the store sitemap.xml e.g tag, archive, blog category, blog posts pages can be either included into the sitemap or not. So now you are in control of what gets added. By default, everything is included.
Improvements to Informational Sections
There is a considerable amount of improvements to the informational sections of the blog. You can now add the date besides each entry in the latest posts and latest comments feeds, which previously could only be done with customization. We also added the ability to change the number of posts to be displayed on the blog main page. This was included due to a popular request from our customers as well as own needs in our Magpleasure blog.
An Archives Block was added. In addition to Tags and Categories blocks now you can view posts that are grouped by month.
Every blog post now displays number of page views
Now you have the ability not only to display latest posts and latest comments to various sections of your store but also blog categories and blog archive using a widget. This way you can keep your store pages updated and interlinked.
Many of us do not always have time to fill in the META tags for each blog post. Everyone understands they need to be done as a good SEO practice, but not everyone does them. Therefore, we have added automatic META tag generation in case administrator forgets to enter them manually.
You can also set META tags for the main landing page of the blog and tag pages e.g. PAGE TITLE, META DESRIPTION and META KEYWORDS. It was surprise that they were not included in the previous version so we fixed it. Special thanks to those customers who pointed it out for us.
Another important improvement that falls under this group is the implementation of GOOGLE recommendations about the content that is spread over several pages. In particular, if a page (such as a list of blog entries or blog category) has continued onto a second, third, etc. pages, it is recommended to include some special meta-tags in the page header. That’s exactly what we have done. All the same, Google is too big and important to ignore its recommendations. Now for search engines it will be easier to travel through the pages of your blog.
Changes to the Blog Backend
There are some changes to the administrative part of the store. We made sure that the date of publication that is specified in the backend is actually the date the post will be displayed. Now you can specify the publish date in the past or future. Or it can be omitted altogether, and Blog Pro will put current date and time. If you set a future date, the record will be published on that day. You may also opt to receive a notification via email once your post goes live. To do this, simply tick the checkbox next to the date.
Ability to duplicate both post and category with a click of a button was added. You can even duplicate a set of posts at once. We also added the ability to change the Store View for a set of blog entries, or for a set of categories. So now you can easily translate your blog into other languages. Just 3 easy steps: duplicate posts, change Store View then translate. We have worked hard to make your life easier
Another problem was filling Url Key fields with the correct value. How often have you entered the wrong value and the system complained? We understand the frustration some of you met in this situation as we ourselves been in this situation. That’s why we made an effort to eliminate this annoying issue for Blog Pro users. Now the content of Url Key is generated automatically after completing Title or Name for the new post or category. If you are not happy with the generated key, you can always change it manually.
But wait, there is more! We thought about those people who do not want to write two different pieces of content for a single post: short summary and the full post. Short Summary is now optional and can be left Disabled. Instead you can write a blog post, and divide it into two parts by pressing the More Tag. A brief portion will be shown on the list of blog entries, and the full version will be shown on the pages of the actual post. We are using this feature all the time, believe us, it makes life easier and saves a lot of time too.
We have also added the ability to preview posts directly from the admin area. You will notice a new button called Preview. Just click it and the pop-up window will show the future post.
Comments – are an important part of the blog, they can provide feedback from your readers. Have you been in a situation where an important comment hung in the Pending state for several days and has lost its relevance? This is definitely undesirable and we came up with the solution. You can now take advantage of administrator email notifications about new comments awaiting consideration. Once a new comment is posted, the administrator will be immediately notified. This way you will not lose your active commentators. If you want to reply to the commenter’s message, you can now do it directly from the admin area. You no longer need to visit the front end.
If you feel that any of the blog entries do not need comments, then you can simply disable comments for any particular post.
These are all very simple things which make blog management more flexible. We are extremely delighted that they now exist in our Blog Pro.
Data Import from Other Blog Solutions
And for those who want to migrate to Blog Pro from the other solutions we have implemented the ability to import all data from the most popular blogs, which are used with Magento. We added the ability to import data from aheadWorks Blog Extension which installed on the same store as the Blog Pro or Wordpress with a built-in API. You can easily import categories, articles and comments with a single click on the Import button.
We have come to the end of the summary of main feature for this version of Blog Pro. There are many other exciting features that are on the roadmap. So expect them in the next update.