Easy way to create a Privacy Policy page for your website

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Privacy Policy pages have become more and more important in recent years, and if you run a website then it is safe to assume that you probably need one.

In fact, anyone who is creating websites for fun or for profit (especially for profit) should have a clear and visible Privacy Policy page linked from your website.

This post will explain why a Privacy Policy Page is important, it will touch on the SEO implications of having a Privacy Policy page, and will also show you how you can generate one for free.

What is a Privacy Policy?

A Privacy Policy is basically a transparent statement to your users detailing what information might be captured when they visit your website – it should basically explain your intent. A good Privacy Policy should offer full disclosure on what data you collect, and should impart confidence and trust to people browsing your site.

Why do I need a Privacy Policy?

Well, technically speaking you don’t – there is no law that states that you must have a Privacy Policy in order to build a website, but to be honest, you won’t get far without one these days. That said, if you have an incorrect or misleading Privacy Policy some legislators can actually bring legal cases against you – so it is important not to simply take a Privacy Policy from any old website, and assume that it will suffice for your own.

In 2008 Google Adsense made it mandatory for anyone wanting to put Adsense on their website to have a clear and visible Privacy Policy – not having one on your site is a sure-fire way to get yourself banned from Adsense. Google may even check if you have one on your site before approving your request for an Adsense account.

Here is the clause from the Adsense Terms & Conditions

You will ensure that at all times you use the Services, the Properties have a clearly labeled and easily accessible privacy policy that provides end users with clear and comprehensive information about cookies, device-specific information, location information and other information stored on, accessed on, or collected from end users’ devices in connection with the Services, including, as applicable, information about end users’ options for cookie management. You will use commercially reasonable efforts to ensure that an end user gives consent to the storing and accessing of cookies, device-specific information, location information or other information on the end user’s device in connection with the Services where such consent is required by law..

And as often happens, as soon as Google made that change, then many other pay-per-click ad networks followed.

So in short, if you have any aspiration of making any money (no matter how little) from your website(s) by running adverts, then you are going to need a Privacy Policy page

This is why you need a Privacy Policy – even if you, as the website owner, do not capture any information about your users, then many of the ad networks that you use, or the affiliate partners that you put on your website will likely be capturing information.

Does a Privacy Policy affect my SEO?

It is unclear if having a Privacy Policy can improve your SEO – Google obviously does not revel how it ranks sites, but it is a safe assumption that having a Privacy Policy is not going to hurt your SEO (and to be honest it is likely that Google will be looking for it – especially if you a running Adsense ads).

A Privacy Policy is a measure of trust for your users, so for that fact alone, you should ensure that you have one.

How to create a Privacy Policy

Ideally you would go to a lawyer, explain your business and get one drafted. However, not everyone has access to a lawyer or has the funds to do so, and that shouldn’t be a barrier to the entrepreneurial spirit. If you are making websites for fun or profit, then there are a few great tools out there that are free to use that will help you create a legally sound Privacy Policy with very little effort.

For a number of my websites I am running adsense ads, as well as Amazon affiliate links, and the best tool that I have found to generate the Privacy Policy pages that I use is the Serprank Privacy Policy Generator

This is a simple tool that requires you to fill in a few details – your contact email address and some check-boxes for the types of offers that you are running on your site, and it then generates a full Privacy Policy page that you can copy and paste into new page on your website (note: don’t forget to name this page ‘Privacy Policy!).

Screenshot below of the Privacy Policy generator:
Privacy Policy generator

We have highlighted where you input your site info (see above), and you can see that we have checked the Amazon and Adsense boxes.

This free tool is easy to use, and is also updated to include reference to the DoubleClick DART cookie, which has been required by Google to be included in your privacy policy since 2009.

For our money, this is the best and most effective way of quickly creating free and reliable Privacy Policy pages.

404 Error pages in WordPress – a few simple ways to customise your 404 Page

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A quick guide to the 404 Error Page and WordPress. This post takes a quick look at the 404 Page and will show you how you can do some basic customizations to your 404 Page in WordPress.

The 404 Page – what is it?:
We have all seen them, the 404 page is the page that you see on a website when you request a page that no longer exists or cannot be found.

The 404 is an HTTP status code, and is probably one of the most recognizable errors on the internet and is understood by pretty much everyone regardless of your technical background or understanding.

They often look like this:
404 pages

If you aren’t sure how to view your 404 page then just type in a random url for a page that you know doesn’t exist on your site, maybe something like: www.yoursite.com/random111. That should trigger your 404 page.

Can you make 404 Pages better?:

In recent years, websites have gotten smarter about how they handle 404 errors – instead of showing users the bland, dull, and impersonal error page of the Web Server, why not use this opportunity to reduce bounce rates, or to make your user smile, or to drive them to more useful information, or to offer a solution etc…….basically anything is better than just a “Error 404: file not found” message.

This is a great (and short – only 4.08 minutes) TED talk from Renny Gleeson about the 404 Page, where he gives his own views on the opportunities of a good 404 page, and looks at some real world examples. Hopefully something here will inspire you to play around with your own 404 pages.

How can I customize my own 404 Error Page in WordPress?:

The good news is that most modern WordPress themes come with a 404 page (you will see a 404.php file in your website directory) that you can find easily in your ‘Editor’ in WordPress and edit.

  1. Go to ‘Dashboard
  2. Click on ‘Appearance’
  3. Click on ‘Editor’

From there you should be able to see your 404 Error template in the ‘Templates’ section on the right-hand side. Simply click on it to open it and edit it. You should be able to quickly spot the text that your current 404 page displays, and it is a simple task to change this – just type the new text that you want to appear and press ‘save’.

Here is what mine looks like below, with the text that I changed highlighted in the box.

404 page in wordpress

If your WordPress 404 page already has a search box and you are mostly happy with the layout and you just want to tweak the text a bit, then you can do that via this method.

Adding ‘Recent Posts’ or other content your 404 Page:

We have shown you how to change the text on your 404 Error Page above, but what if you want to add some extra features or provide links to other content on your site?

For our 404 Page we tweaked the text, and then added a few automated links to other posts and articles on our site – it won’t win any design awards, but at least it provides extra choices for any users landing on our 404 error page.

You can see it below:

New 404 Page

So how did we do it?:
We have added 2 pieces of content to our 404 page that updates itself automatically – ‘Popular Posts’ and ‘Recent Posts':

1: How to show Popular Posts:
Showing your popular posts (ordered by by page-view in our case) is a popular content module to show on a 404 page – after all, you may as well show your most popular content.

In order to do this you will need to install the WordPress Popular Posts plugin. This is a decent plugin that keeps track of your most popular content, and you can configure it to show popular content in the last 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or all time.

Once you have the plugin installed and activated, then just go to your 404.php page in the Editor add the following code in to the page, where you want it to appear:

<?php wpp_get_mostpopular("stats_views=0"); ?>

Note: We set the ‘stats-view’ to equal 0 as we didn’t want to show the number of page-views next to each entry (our numbers are still pretty low, so we didnt want to highlight that too much ;)). You have complete control over this, so if you want to show page view numbers then you can set ‘0’ to ‘1’.

2: How to show Recent Posts:
We also chose to show ‘recent posts’, and you can do this easily by simply adding the following code to your 404.php page:

<?php wp_get_archives( array( 'type' => 'postbypost', 'limit' => 5, 'format' => 'custom', 'before' => '', 'after' => '<br />' ) ); ?>

Note: You can change the number of posts to show here by changing the ‘limit’ number. We have ours set to 5 (‘limit’ => 5,), but this could be any number that you want.

In addition to the Recent Posts and Popular Posts, we added a few header tags, line-breaks, and our final code looked like this – you can see the bits we added in bold text:


<?php
/**
* The template for displaying 404 pages (Not Found).
*
* @package Generate
*/

get_header(); ?>

<div id="primary" <?php generate_content_class(); ?>>
<main id="main" <?php generate_main_class(); ?> itemprop="mainContentOfPage" role="main">
<?php do_action('generate_before_main_content'); ?>
<div class="inside-article">
<?php do_action( 'generate_before_content'); ?>
<header class="entry-header">
<h1 class="entry-title" itemprop="headline"><?php echo apply_filters( 'generate_404_title', __( 'Oops! That page can&rsquo;t be found.', 'generate' ) ); ?></h1>
</header><!-- .entry-header -->
<?php do_action( 'generate_after_entry_header'); ?>
<div class="entry-content" itemprop="text">
<p>
<?php echo apply_filters( 'generate_404_text', __( 'Sorry! It looks like nothing was found at this location, we probably moved something or screwed up.... Maybe try one of the links below, or maybe a search?', 'generate' ) ); ?>
</p>
<?php get_search_form(); ?>

<br>
<br>
<h3>Popular Posts</h3>
<?php wpp_get_mostpopular("stats_views=0"); ?>

<h3>Recent Posts</h3>
<?php wp_get_archives( array( 'type' => 'postbypost', 'limit' => 5, 'format' => 'custom', 'before' => '', 'after' => '<br />' ) ); ?>

<!-- .entry-content -->

<?php do_action( 'generate_after_content'); ?>
</div><!-- .inside-article -->
<?php do_action('generate_after_main_content'); ?>
</main><!-- #main -->
</div><!-- #primary -->

<?php
do_action('generate_sidebars');
get_footer();

There is lots more stuff that you can do with your 404 page. We intend to add some images to ours soon and generally make it look a bit nicer, and we will share that on the blog as soon as we do it.

Reading & Watching – Volume 1

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Reading & Watching is a collection of links, articles, books, and videos that have caught my attention each week.

Articles

  • Have we hit peak passwords? Great article mulling over the question of how can we replace the password and implement better solutions. Heartbleed and other bugs have shown us we probably are never as safe as we think, so what alternatives might exist for the future? http://taylordavidson.com/2014/passwords
  • Related to the above, this is an interesting read on Cotap’s passwordless login –
    https://www.cotap.com/blog/forget-passwords-passwordless-authentication/
  • The Digital Media Layer Cake: This is an interesting article on the changing landscape of the Digital Media industry. Yep, I am aware that this has been written about a million times, but this is a good take that is worth a read:

    On the other hand, imagine that Google or Amazon can become the world’s first integrated film studio, record label, publishing house, advertising platform, advertising agency, digital retailer, physical retailer, telco, cable company, electronics hardware manufacturer, and digital services provider! It is hard to imagine a bigger hypothetical coup for shareholders, a rare, once-in-a-lifetime merging of industries.

    That outcome may sound preposterous, but it is exactly the endgame that the chess pieces currently arrayed foretell.

    Full article Here

  • Video:

    I stumbled on this interesting video about 404 pages – it’s a TED Talk by Renny Gleeson called ‘404, the story of a page not found’ – its a quick journey through the 404 Error page and looks at how you can rethink about how you use it – it doesn’t need to be a dull dead-end, it can be an opportunity to add value, build a better relationship with your users, or simply a chance to add some humour to your website. Watch it out below:

    Books

    the martian by andy weir I have just started reading ‘The Martin’ by Andy Weir.

    It’s a story of an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars who needs to maximise his environment, and some of the junk left behind from his crew’s Martian mission, in order to survive long enough until the next anticipated manned crew arrives at the Red Planet.

    Worth checking out (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk)

How to turn comments off on a WordPress Home Page (or any static page)

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This is a post for WordPress newbies who still need a bit of help in configuring some of the basic settings on WordPress when setting up their first websites or blogs.

Specifically, this post will show you how to turn ‘comments’ off on your Homepage, or indeed, any static page created in WordPress.

WordPress is sociable by default – the ability for a visitor to comment on your blog or your pages created in WordPress is the standard setting. And this is great, it promotes discussion, and useful comments all add to the richness and value of your subject material. Blogs are meant to be sociable, right?

However, sometimes you just want to create a great looking website with WordPress and you don’t want your homepage to stretch on into infinity with comments making it look like a blog post. Sometimes you just want a simple homepage that simply states your offer or gives the user some key pieces of content that they can use to start exploring your website with.

A common use case I have is using WordPress to create a micro-site, and I create a custom page in WordPress for the homepage and then have the blog functionality linked as a part of the sub-nav or header. The main homepage then becomes a permanent static page.

So how do I turn the Comments off in WordPress?

So here is the good news – its is easy to turn comments off on a specific WordPress page.

  1. Once you have created your page, then simply go to your WordPress dashboard and click on the ‘Pages’ section in the left-hand nav bar.
  2. Hover over the name of the page that you want to turn the comments off on, you should see the ‘Quick Edit’ option appear – click on it
  3. On the right hand side, above the ‘status menu’ you should see a check-box called ‘Allow Comments’. Uncheck it, and it will prevent comments from being added to the page.

A picture tells a thousand words, so check out the image below to see how you turn off comments on a specific WordPress page:

how to block comments on wordpress pages

Where to find ‘word count’ in Microsoft Word 2007

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Okay, so this is a real ‘back to basics’ type post. Almost embarrassing, but I’ll probably forget this again in the future at some point so why not leave it here as a reminder.

Background:

I was recently working on launching a new content site and had commissioned some articles from elance. I used to try and write all the articles for my mini-sites myself – this is great practice and really forces you to think about the content that you are producing on your sites. It forces you to think about your audience and what value you are providing via the content that you are creating. Also, if it gets zero traffic, then you only have yourself to blame.

The down-side of this is that it takes ages, it restricts your ability to scale, and if you want to work on more than one site at the same time then it can takes days or weeks just to get some core content up. So I turned to elance to commission some high quality articles. I figured that spending a $100 or so on some articles would give me the time to revise and tweak my site whilst I was waiting for the content to arrive.

Word counts and content:

So when the day came and my content arrived I wanted to know how many words were in each article, to ensure that I had received articles at my desired length.

When I opened the articles in Microsoft Word 2007 I was instantly confused, as I used to simply go into the ‘Tools’ menu and select ‘wordcount’ to get an accurate wordcount of each article…..but in Microsoft Office 2007 the Tools tab no longer exists.

To my shame, it literally took me 20 minutes clicking through each menu and dropdown looking for the wordcount function, until I noticed that it has been brought to the forefront in Microsoft Word 2007 and is visible at the bottom left of the window.

See the screenshot below, hopefully this will help anyone else who gets stuck on the same issue.

Where to find word count in Microsoft Word 2007:
How to find the word count of an article in Microsoft Word