Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips, Websites

SEO Tools: From Yoast to SEO Press

Since I first started working with WordPress I’ve been using the Yoast plugin for my SEO. It’s a great tool. I’ve been happy with it and have been happily recommending it to clients. But lately there’s been chatter in some groups where WordPress pros and others discuss their SEO tools of choice, and I’ve been hearing very good things about SEO Press. After reading many reviews to find out more, I’ve decided to give it a go.

As I type, I’m backing up my personal blog and will shortly be installing SEO Press. Once it’s installed I will then go through the configuration and setup procedure (if there is one) and then work on and publish my first post using it. According to the instructions I’ve read it’s simple to use and has some great features, such as tools to help with titles and metatags, the creation of XML and HTML sitemaps (the latter being somewhat overlooked these days but still very helpful), content analysis with unlimited keywords, and also making it easy to implement Schema – a form of metadata that is increasingly favoured by search engines, giving your content much greater visibility in searches.

There’s a comparison of the tool’s features on the SEO Press website. It sounds impressive, at least for a free plugin. As with anything the proof will be in the pudding. After using it for a while I’ll come back with a review – on usability and also whether it makes any discernible difference to my site’s SEO! Of course, there’s no plugin in the world that can actually boost your site’s SEO. Only good writing and constant review and improvement can do that! But what a good SEO plugin can do is guide you a little and make some of the technical side of SEO, such as adding Schema tags and maintaining your XML sitemaps, easier to manage. Wish me luck!


Do you need help with your website SEO or WordPress tools and plugins? If so, contact me to arrange a free consultation – no obligation.


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A diagram of the QWERTY keyboard lowercase characters
Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips

Typing French Accented Characters on a QWERTY Keyboard

QWERTY or AZERTY?

If you’re using a computer designed for the English-speaking market, be that US, International or English-English, it  can be a challenge to type French accented characters. In systems set up for French speakers, its far simpler because they have a AZERTY keyboard, which gives quick access to the characters and symbols that are needed. For English-speakers, our systems are shipped by default with a QWERTY keyboard – so called because the first six characters on the keyboard are Q-W-E-R-T and Y. Since that keyboard is designed around the frequency of letters and characters used in English (and there are some US and UK differences, in the main they are the same) obviously there’s unlikely to be any reason to access the many accented letters used in the French alphabet. But what if you do find you need them? Maybe you’re studying French or resident there, or a native French speaker stuck with a QWERTY system. In this post I’ll describe three different workarounds that will make it much easier to find the accents you need.

Three Ways to Type French Accented Characters

One way is to become familiar with the ASCII or ANSI codes for each accented letter or symbol. These are basically a combinations of machine-readable codes that anyone who’s worked with HTML will probably have come across already, and usually involve a combination of keys, such as Alt or Alt+Shift and a three- or four-digit number. For example, press Alt and type 0181 and the micro character, “µ”, is displayed. These codes can seem laborious to learn at first but, as a tech writer (by trade), I’m a big fan of these; they’re the only way to program special characters into FrameMaker template headings and in non-WYSIWYG coding tools with the benefit that if you programme the ANSI code you know it’s going to come out right at the other end. I guess I just got used to them. If you want to give them a try you can use the list shown in the table below.

LetterAccented Character & ASCII (Lowercase) CodeAccented Character & ANSI (Uppercase) Code
Aà = Alt + 133
á = Alt + 160
â = Alt + 131
À = Alt + 0192
Á = Alt + 0193
 = Alt + 0194
Eé = Alt + 130
è = Alt + 138
ê = Alt + 136
ë = Alt + 137
É = Alt + 144
È = Alt + 0200
Ê = Alt + 0201
Ë = Alt + 0203
Iî = Alt + 140
ï = Alt + 139
Î = Alt + 0206
Ï = Alt + 0207
Oó = Alt + 162
ô = Alt + 147
Ó = Alt + 0211
Ô = Alt + 0212
Uù = Alt + 151
û = Alt + 150
Ù = Alt + 0217
Û = Alt + 0219
Æ æ = Alt + 145Æ = Alt + 146
Cç = Alt + 135
Quotation Marks« = Alt + 174
» = Alt + 175

Another useful code is for the Euro currency symbol (Alt+0128).
And advantage of knowing the ANSI codes is they will work on ANY system: Windows, Mac, etc.

The second way involves installing the US or UK International Keyboard and using this in place of your US or UK default. This method is relatively simple once you’ve got the keyboard set up. There’s a small learning curve but no long term memory demands. I have a printed list of the ANSI codes – and sometimes they are useful – but since I installed the International keyboard I am using them less and less.

Finally, you can install the French (of French Canadian) keyboard, which uses the AZERTY layout. This isn’t so easy to use on a QWERTY keyboard unless you have excellent visual memory because the layout is very different. I don’t recommend this option on a PC. It’s less cumbersome on a MAC because that also gives you a visual keyboard option (this may exist for Windows, but if so I haven’t found it – yet). Since I’m talking about Windows here, we’ll skip right over this and go back to the International keyboard layout as I think that’s the most accessible of the three options for Windows users.

Here’s an overview of the differences and a quick reference for accessing the accented letters on the International keyboard and also a few other suggestions that make writing in French on a QWERTY keyboard more manageable.

Differences between the UK Default and International Keyboards

The two images below show the main differences between the regular UK and International keyboards. They’re really very similar – and anyone who also uses a Mac or iPad will be familiar with the placement of the @ and ” symbols; it’s just the behaviour, with regards to combining keystrokes to add accents, that makes the difference.

QWERTY_CAPS
UK International vs Default Keyboard Layout (Uppercase/Shift)
QWERTY_LowerCase
UK International vs Default Keyboard Layout (Lowercase/No Shift)

UK International Keyboard Quick Reference

You can always find visual representations of the International keyboard to help you navigate it but they are pretty confusing in themselves. This list of key strokes is, I find, easier to use.

Accented Letter(s)AccentDescriptionExample
á éAccute  (single quote), the letter (a, e, i, o, u)‘ a = á
‘ e = é
à èGrave`(key to the left of the 1 on the keyboard), the letter (a, e, etc.)`a = à
`e = è
êCirconflexShift+6, e^ e = ê
çCedille (single quote), c`c = ç
öTrémaShift+’ (single quote), o‘ o = ö
« »Quote marksCtrl+Alt+[
Ctrl+Alt+]
[ = «
] = »

The only snag with the above is that the key you use to apply the acute, grave and tréma accents is also the one you need to work alone, should you need a plain ol’ apostrophe. To do this, just hit the apostrophe (single quote) key, then hit the spacebar twice: the first time to make the apostrophe mark, the second time to add a space after it. The same goes for UK and US English-style quotation marks (curly quotes):

To get an apostrophe, type: ' (single quote), space, space

To get UK/US quotation marks, type: Shift + ' (single quote), space, space

Once you have the International keyboard setup you’ll wonder how you every managed without it. Setting it up can be tricky though – so in my next post I’ll give you instructions on how to do it.

If you are trying to setup your QWERTY or AZERTY computer and need help or have issues with any other aspect of your home or business IT, read about the range of services we offer and get in touch for a quote.

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Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips, Websites

From Yoast to SEO Press OLD

Since I first started working with WordPress I’ve been using the Yoast plugin for my SEO. It’s a great tool. I’ve been happy with it and have been happily recommending it to clients. But lately there’s been chatter in some groups where WordPress pros and others discuss their SEO tools of choice, and I’ve been hearing very good things about SEO Press. After reading many reviews to find out more, I’ve decided to give it a go.

As I type, I’m backing up my personal blog and will shortly be installing SEO Press. Once it’s installed I will then go through the configuration and setup procedure (if there is one) and then work on and publish my first post using it. According to the instructions I’ve read it’s simple to use and has some great features, such as tools to help with titles and metatags, the creation of XML and HTML sitemaps (the latter being somewhat overlooked these days but still very helpful), content analysis with unlimited keywords, and also making it easy to implement Schema – a form of metadata that is increasingly favoured by search engines, giving your content much greater visibility in searches.

There’s a comparison of the tool’s features on the SEO Press website. It sounds impressive, at least for a free plugin. As with anything the proof will be in the pudding. After using it for a while I’ll come back with a review – on usability and also whether it makes any discernible difference to my site’s SEO! Of course, there’s no plugin in the world that can actually boost your site’s SEO. Only good writing and constant review and improvement can do that! But what a good SEO plugin can do is guide you a little and make some of the technical side of SEO, such as adding Schema tags and maintaining your XML sitemaps, easier to manage. Wish me luck!

Do you need help with your website SEO or WordPress tools and plugins? If so, contact me to arrange a free consultation – no obligation.

Productivity Tools, Tutorials, Videos

Really Easy Invoicing Template Instructions

If you’re still committed to using Excel or a similar spreadsheet app for your invoicing, you can make thing simpler by using a template.

A good template will give you a standard look and feel while also limiting the actions you can take.y

The Really Easy Invoicing Template does exactly this.

You can download the free version from here. The free version works in exactly the same way as the paid for (PRO) version – coming soon – except it has fewer invoice pages (30) and no advanced reports.

Whichever version you’re using, this video explains how to first set it up with your company details and then to create your first invoice.

Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips

Three Free Software Tools for Small Businesses

If you’re running a small business, when it comes to admin it’s easy to stick with what you know. I see many clients trying to manage invoicing and time tracking with Excel or an equivalent spreadsheet, or posting to each social media channel separately. And managing projects can always be tricky, especially when you have multiple clients. But software has moved on. Now there are many Cloud-based applications that can really transform your efficiency. In this post I’ll introduce what I think are the best three free software tools. I hope by using one or all of them you’ll find will help you be more organised and efficient with your business admin.

1. Harvest – for time tracking and invoicing

If you’re charging for time or services, this is a great app that, with some canny configuration, you can use for free but still track time for multiple clients.

The interface is clean and intuitive. You track your time, you invoice for that time, you track the progress of your invoices (sent, unpaid, paid) etc. and you can also generate some great reports based on date ranges.

The Harvest Time Tracking Software Invoice Page

If you want to go further, you can also start using it to track expenses.

A nice feature of this app is that it’s very easy to customise the standard field labels in your invoices, making it perfect for those of us running businesses outside of the US or UK. Just go into Invoices then Settings and select Translations, make your changes, and then click Save Translations when you’re done.

Translate your Invoice Field Names with Harvest

Since the French fiscal year starts on January 1st, it’s not too late to set up something new like this. You can easily migrate your invoices, in order to keep the report up-to-date.

As I mentioned earlier, it is perfectly possible to use the free version of this app to manage multiple client projects and will be showing you how via my Facebook page with a Live in coming weeks. Contact me if you need any help!

2. Trello – for tracking projects and making lists

Trello is one of those super-simple apps that has so many great features, you’ll wonder how you managed your projects without it.

It works around a system of “boards” – think, if you had a physical white board in your office on which to collect and prioritise related tasks. For example, you could create a board for each of your clients, or a board for admin tasks.

A Blank Trello Board
A Simple To Do List Board in Trello

Within each board you then create cards within the board. A card is a category into which you add tasks. You give each task a title then you can add as much or as little detail as you like. There are fields for a description, comments, a due date, and more.

When you create a new board you get a new pallet for creating colour-coded labels unique to that board. Here’s how my Admin board looks with a few label categories defined.

Once you have a simple board like this, this is where it gets interesting.

  • Add a Power-Up (one per board, with the free version of Trello) to add functionality, like linking to your Harvest account, meaning you can track time for specific tasks and assign them to clients. This is a really slick way of integrating your project tasks with time tracking and invoicing.
  • Copy and link tasks across boards. So, for example, you could have a client-specific board with a task, “Update Website”, that you duplicate and link under your Tasks board.
  • Enable collaboration, by sharing boards with others or creating teams.

You can also use Trello to keep track of lists. For inspiration there are hundreds of sample boards in the Trello Gallery. Here you’ll find layouts to help you to manage a job search, build a software application, manage your social media content, even plan a wedding or move house — you name it!

It’s a powerful tool with too many features to cover in this summary post. If you have questions about using it or the best setup for your business or project, get in touch and I can help.

To help you get started I’ve made my Admin Tasks Template board public. You can access it here. and you’ll find instructions for copying it to your own account on Trello’s help page.

3. Buffer – for social media scheduling

We’re all on social media theses days and, whether you love it or hate it, it’s an essential part of the marketing strategy for any business. But it can be a real time suck. Make your life easier by scheduling your social media posts. Then you can set aside time to create your social media in advance, then let the posts roll out over the week or month (or however long you plan ahead). I like this over and above other schedulers like HootSuite because it’s simple and is all about scheduling, so it stops me from getting distracted, reading and replying to other people’s posts, responses, and messages.

A Free Version for Publishing to Three Channels

With the free version of Buffer you can link to up to three channels, including Facebook Pages and Groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. If you have multiple businesses to promote the workaround is to setup a Buffer account for each business. Or you can upgrade to a paid account.

Handy Browser Plugins

There are also a handy browser plugins, enabling you to quickly create posts with a single click right from the web page you’re reading.

Working your social media this way will really save you a tonne of time!

4. Google Keep – for storing info from the web

Last but not least, Google Keep is worth a mention. You can use it to collect information about anything and everything you find online, from potential suppliers, customers, competitors, tools, holidays – whatever! It’s easy to use, then, now and again, go into you account to transfer the mot useful stuff to a Trello list.

Google Keep comes with browser extensions and mobile phone apps, so it’s easy to add links to it from any device.