Tips Tuesday – Gutenberg, WP 5.6 Beta, Astra 2.6, Cloudflare Speed
Hello Happy Site Owners and Webmasters!
Tips this week include:
- An update on switching BlogAid to Gutenberg
- Why I’m having to regroup on my end of year plans for BlogAid
- Great Gutenberg alternatives to republishing seasonal posts
- How Gutenberg makes it so easy to revamp your home page for the seasons
- How a consult can help you make a plan that makes you money faster
- What’s in the Astra 2.6.0 release and where to get more info
- What’s in the WP 5.6 beta release that I’m keeping an eye on
- How reading Tips Tuesday keeps you calm
- Why I’m delighted that block-based widgets will not be in WP 5.6
- Why the Gutenberg editor is powerful enough for now and we can wait for Phase 2
- Major changes to the Coming Soon plugin by Seedprod and what I’m using instead for maintenance mode
- How me and my webmasters help each other make money by saving time
- Why to hold off on installing the new Google Analytics code
- The exciting news of HTTP/3 with QUIC being in the Last Call phase
- What QUIC is and how it will speed up the whole internet
- The cutting edge speed tweaks you get on Cloudflare
- Why speed is about way more than adding a caching plugin
Listen to the Podcast
Join me Live to Discuss Tips Tuesday
I hope you’ll join for tonight’s livestream at 8pm ET / 5pm PT on the BlogAid Facebook Page. It’s a great way to get the deeper story on what’s reported in Tips Tuesday. And, I almost always have breaking news for the day too. So come join us live for the party.
Tips Tuesday LIVE Replay
Who I Help
All tips, advice, and suggestions in this, and all BlogAid posts and tutorials, are intended to empower DIY site owners who are serious about making money with their sites and are not on hosting that is restrictive in what you can and can’t do with your site and hosting setup. If you have any doubts about what type of host you are on and if the tips I give will work there, see this post on What is Managed Hosting?
Sorry for scheduler being down
I apologize to those of you who have been trying to book a live session with me.
Zoom has made big changes lately and it keeps disconnecting the integration to my online scheduling service.
It usually sends me a notification that it is disconnected, but it didn’t for the 3rd and 4th times it broke.
I keep reconnecting and I hope it stays that way for you.
And FYI, there is no link on my site to book a live session. I only invite folks after they fill out the Consulting request form, or for site audit clients to go over the audit report or such.
Slowly switching BlogAid over to Gutenberg
Last week you may recall me reporting that the new marketing plans I have for BlogAid required me to make a new landing page for an upcoming webinar. And the thought of spending hours trying to do it the regular WordPress way was painful enough for me to try flipping the switch with turning on Gutenberg.
I was able to make that new landing page in minutes instead of hours.
And this past week I wanted to try some of the special styling I have on the site to see how it would work with Gutenberg blocks.
To my utter delight, the first thing I tried worked perfectly.
It’s the blue box styling you’ll see above the sections of the new Videos page.
I’ve been wanting to revamp that page for months as a great way to point folks to the recent interviews I’ve done with industry experts and clients.
So, I took the plunge and got it done – in minutes.
Working in Gutenberg is so easy and lets me create any kind of layout I need so fast.
I wish I had done this last year!!!
I’ve still got plenty more custom styling to check out, but I’m delighted with things so far!!
Be careful what you wish for!!!
I have an unusual circumstance this year, as I’m about to go into another tax bracket. So I consulted with my financial folks and the best decision to help pull me back into the lower bracket was to spend money on BlogAid.
That’s why I decided to hire a marketing agency to run Facebook ads for my upcoming Gutenberg Webinar. It’s pretty easy to blow the whole wad on marketing!!!!
But, the analytics from running those ads is a gold mind of info. And we can use that for marketing ventures next year.
Plus, the extra money the webinar sale brought in had to be spent again and I already had plans for revamping 2 of my site themes to take care of that.
So, one of my goals with this was to literally go in the hole financially by spending money.
Well, I got my wish!!!!
I ended up having to fire the marketing agency for lack of timely deliverables and the final straw was that they toasted one of my MailChimp email lists that is connected to the membership site on the BlogAid Learning Center!!!
Fortunately, a couple of my webmasters are qualified to help with MemberPress and Mailchimp integration to put that back to right, and Larry Snow of Strategic Marketing Solutions jumped right on it for me.
So, I wanted to spend money, but this is not what I had envisioned getting for it!!
Not a total loss, but costly lesson
As you may recall in last week’s Tips Tuesday, I reported that the agency made a mockup landing page and that I recreated it in Gutenberg. I put it out to my site audit clients and without exception, they all hated it, big time.
So, I tanked that design and the language on it and used one of the landing pages that I show you how to create in the Gutenberg course as the bones for my new page.
I put a snapshot of it out to my peeps and they said it was great.
So, at least all the work I put into that is done now and I have a template to use for future webinars and such.
The agency also made some nice emails for the funnels, so I’ll have that to use in the future too.
And, they set up the Facebook pixel tracking in my FB account, and those are still there.
I only got a partial refund, since we were in the middle of things. And frankly I’m too busy to spend much energy on being upset about it. But, let that be a lesson to me to be careful about paying it all up front next time and pay on delivery of goods, on deadline, that are usable.
Regrouping and adjusting my year end plans
I had the whole rest of the year mapped out for the big plans I had. And that included some critical deadlines so I didn’t have things overlapping too much.
Well, those plans had a monkey wrench thrown into them.
Sometimes it’s just better to walk away from things for a bit and then circle back with fresh eyes and energy. So, that’s what I did and I’m now making my new year end plans.
Do you have a plan for your site and biz?
A lot of my clients are in the foodie and DIY craft niches and they have to make editorial calendars to ensure they keep ahead of the seasonal searches for what they post about.
There aren’t many opportunities for that kind of seasonal planning on BlogAid, as far as posts.
So far, I haven’t been doing that much on Heartwood Art yet either, as I’ve been building evergreen things, like workbenches and such.
But I did get in on one Halloween trend this year. And I hope to get in on more holiday decor trends that are fast and simple to make before the year is out.
Even if I don’t get to release those posts as far ahead as I would like, they will still be good for next year.
Does your site run on seasonal posts? How do you ensure you get something fresh out every year? How to you promote your older content so that it gets seen too?
Republishing to bring to the home page
One of the ways I see some folks handle this seasonal shift is by republishing old posts to bring them back to the top of their featured categories section on their home page and category archive page, and maybe even to the top of their RSS feed again if they allow folks to subscribe via email to get new post notifications that way.
I’ve always thought that was a bad idea, as doing it too much may make Google think you are trying to game the freshness algorithm, not to mention the sheer hassle of it.
Manually revamp your home page
Building your own pages with Gutenberg opens up way more possibilities than using a widget-driven home page, especially for things like these featured seasonal posts.
Let me give you an example of that.
When I flipped the focus of Heartwood Art from carvings to woodworking, and flipped the site over to Gutenberg, it was pretty easy for me to create a home page that featured my latest woodworking posts.
As I added more posts, I simply increased the number of posts shown in the grid on the home page too.
And now that I have a lot of builds, I’m about to change the home page over to show those instead of individual posts. Those build snippets will take folks to a page that is the top of a content silo for that build where they can see all posts in that series.
And if I have a bunch of seasonal posts, it would be super easy for me to manually create a grid for them on the home page too – and place it anywhere I wanted to on the page.
So, I could have the seasonal stuff at the top of the page, and then still have latest post or other featured content below that.
Taking a moment to manually build that page is pretty fast.
In fact, you could even make Reusable templates for it, convert to regular blocks, and simply fill in the current seasonal posts that you want to feature.
I’ll be documenting how I’m switching out my own home page on Heartwood Art for this, and on my Gutenberg training site.
Site Services update
The wait list for my site services such as an audit, migration/audit combos, HTTPS conversion, rebranding, and more is now into the first of December.
So, if you want a service, or even if you’re due for an audit checkup by the end of the year, now is the time to get in that request.
It’s a little too early to put in requests for January yet. So, wait about month for those, please.
This past week I had a great conversation with a client who has been following me for a few years and is now ready to combine 3 sites into the one that is getting the most traction so she can really kick up her traffic and focus more on virtual versions of her in-person classes and consulting business.
During that chat she told me she’s interested in focusing on video.
So, I helped her make a plan for content calendar and all of the different ways she can use video.
Then we discussed the content revamp for merging these sites.
She’s diving into the Gutenberg Ninja course right now on a sandbox site I set up for her. And then she’ll be diving into the DIY SEO course. She’ll be finished with all of the SEO foundation tutorials just in time to catch the workshops live again in January.
We went over which tutorials to watch and which to skip for right now, then circle back to later, so she can get where she’s going fast. And in a way that will make her new theme design project cheap, fast, and easy with this 3 site combo thing in the mix.
Plus, we discussed the best way for her to make money right now and all the while she’s doing this combo project so that it pays for itself, literally.
In fact, that consult is going to pay for itself in all of the time she doesn’t waste, plus all of the expensive pitfalls that she will be able to avoid.
She has a plan and a timeline for everything that will keep her focused and get her where she is going quickly without feeling overwhelmed.
It won’t be long before she’ll be ready for the next consult to get her online classes setup in a way that is also stress free and makes her money back quickly too.
I just love helping folks hit the ground running!!!!! And I’m very excited to see what she does with it, especially due to her interest in using video as the centerpiece of the whole thing. That’s going to work so well for her target audience.
That’s all the happenings around here. Let’s jump into this week’s tips.
The folks at Astra are making a big todo about the latest Astra 2.6.0 theme release.
They say it has way faster customization. I have no idea how that speed is measured, as it’s on the admin side, not the front side.
It also has a new filter for better Gutenberg block styling support.
It requires adding code to the child theme’s functions.php file.
I spoke with Michelle Phillips of Codefetti about this. Y’all know she has been so good to us with doing live chats about DIY theme design, especially with Astra, and she also has several nice Astra tutorials.
Astra is pretty bleeding edge and even gets ahead of what is supported in the WP core as far as Gutenberg. And this latest release says there is a big improvement with global block styling and such.
We’ve seen a few too many quality control issues with new, big releases.
So, our advice is that you can do the update, as there haven’t been too many wild issues reported with it.
But hold off on adding that extra Gutenberg styling filter thing to the functions.php file of your child theme for now.
For one, non-techie site owners should not be making those kinds of file changes as there is the potential to blow up your theme or your site. Perhaps they will come up with a better way for DIY site owners to add that filter.
Second, let’s wait a bit on that to let them work out any kinks.
Because I don’t cover theme design, you might want to follow Michelle directly and/or jump into the Astra Facebook group to keep tabs on all of this.
I don’t have plans to add any of it to my Gutenberg Ninja course’s Astra section, as design things at that level are beyond the scope of the course. So, do follow these other resources closely.
The first beta of WP 5.6 was released last week and if they do it like they did for 5.5, they will have out another beta every week with the bug fixes they made right up until the public release in December.
Even with a month of beta testing, there was one really big hoohaa in 5.5 that broke a lot of sites due to them running plugins that are not keeping pace with WP core changes. Some of y’all had to add a jQuery plugin as a temporary fix.
Well, that jQuery core code is going to change again in 5.6 and then yet again in 5.7 next March, and this is a good thing.
WP is slowly marching toward a future with industry standard code compliance and they are having to drag a lot of plugin developers into the 21st century for both speed and security as they do it.
So, while living through this revolution is messy for us, these changes are necessary and way overdue. And we’ll all have faster, more secure sites on the other side of it. Plus, we’ll have plugins from devs who are required to keep them current instead of the insane backwards compatibility BS that we have now.
As I mentioned in recent Tips Tuesdays, I’m very excited about the new security measures WP is starting to roll into the core.
A big one is coming in WP 5.6 with the very first phase of a new requirement for all plugins to connect with your site via a secured API connection that has both encryption and a password check.
Keep calm and read Tips Tuesday
This move is right behind Facebook’s announcement to require the same type of security and that you have to use that instead of the oEmbed feature to bring content from Facebook and Instagram into your site. Support for the oEmbed way dropped on Oct 24. And my site audit clients were well prepared for that change months ahead of it hitting. So, we’re all calm while the rest of the WP world panics.
And this is why reading Tips Tuesday every week is so critically important.
You stay calm by staying well ahead of the curves coming.
As the release of WP 5.6 draws near, I’ll have a video tour with what’s new. And I’ll have instructions for when and how to update later too. So stay tuned for that.
I’m actually relieved to hear this news!!!
Three years ago, Matt Mullenwig, the co-founder of WP, took the reins on Gutenberg development and cracked the whip to get it pushed through, and even released, well before it was ready. The backlash on how that whole thing was done is still reverberating through the WP dev communities.
And this time they pushed back on the dev cycle of Gutenberg Phase 2.
At the beginning of this year I told you that it looked like Matt was going to drive hard again to get Gutenberg to the point of becoming a full theme designer pushed out by year’s end, even if it wasn’t ready.
Well, I’m delighted to say that history is not going to repeat itself.
The WP devs have been struggling to get block-based navigation menus and block-based widgets to work right in a way that supports the insane variations of WP themes out there.
They had hoped to release the block-based widgets in the upcoming 5.6 release, but it’s just not ready for prime time yet. So, they pulled the plug on it and will work to get it ready for the 5.7 release in March 2021.
And I’m relieved that they are devoting the time it takes to get this right and not releasing things too soon. We don’t need that debacle again.
The Gutenberg editor’s power is enough for now
I’m ecstatic about the progress Gutenberg has made as an editor. It’s super, duper powerful and allows site owners all manner of design freedom now like we’ve never had before with just base WordPress. We don’t need page builders anymore.
READ: 8 Pages You Can Create with Gutenberg in 15 Minutes for examples of how I easily replicated paid page builder templates.
And Gutenberg is FAST – way faster than those bloated page builders.
READ: Gutenberg vs Elementor: Which is Faster? for a head-to-head case study that shows the RADICAL speed difference in using just Gutenberg.
Coming Soon by SeedProd makes major change
When I do full HTTPS conversions for a client to get rid of their plugin or host trickery way of doing it so we can get rid of all the crazy redirect chains and so we can put all 5 HTTPS security headers that Google wants on the site, I put the site into maintenance mode while I’m changing the database over to all HTTPS links.
Since that only takes about 15 minutes, I’ve been using the Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by SeedProd plugin to put the site into maintenance mode.
You may recall a few Tips Tuesday’s ago that I explained the difference in how Google sees the Coming Soon and Maintenance modes.
That SeedProd plugin had a simple WYSIWIG interface for creating a custom message for those modes, and even building a nice looking page with an optin and such, if you needed the Coming Soon mode for a site that would be launched soon.
Well, during a recent HTTPS conversion, I was confronted with their total revamp of that plugin and it is not so simple anymore.
It has a new drag/drop builder for creating super fancy pages.
So, if you need that, this is still the plugin to use.
But, for quickie Maintenance Mode tasks, my webmaster buddy Michelle Phillips suggests using the WP Maintenance or WP Maintenance Mode plugins, as they still have a super simple interface. I’m using the latter.
This is how the power of the village in our private Facebook group for the Webmaster Training course members saves you all manner of time. And time is money.
I posted this issue in that group and within a few minutes I had a tested alternative to move to because other webmasters had run into the same thing.
If you’re in the Webmaster Training course, but haven’t been active with our FB group, jump in and say hey, as you’re missing a lot, and your activity in the group will help nudge FB to show you our group posts in your feed.
Or, just jump into the group regularly. That’s how I use FB. I don’t look at my feed much. I just visit all of my industry related groups daily to ensure I see those posts.
Google Analytics Tips
Hold off on the new Google Analytics code
You may recall in last week’s Tips Tuesday that I mentioned the release of the new Google Analytics 4 code.
I also mentioned that Google recommends that you run the new code alongside your original code.
And I mentioned that I would be testing it out soon.
What I’m seeing for myself, and reported by others, is that the two analytics data sets are far apart from each other. My hope is that the new one is inaccurate, as it shows way lower traffic than the original.
I’ve also heard other folks say that both are about the same numbers.
And a few other folks have had trouble on their site after adding the new code, but they gave zero details on how they added it, so there could either be some plugin issues or user error with it mixed in too.
For now, I’m going to treat this thing as a beta and suggest holding off installing it for a while until Google stops tweaking on it so much and it settles down.
At some point, I expect this new version 4 to become the default that we’ll be switching to, but let’s maybe wait until then before installing it.
I am very excited to see this news from the folks at Cloudflare!!
The QUIC protocol that has been in development for the last 4 years has now entered the Last Call phase.
Basically, that is sort of like the final release candidate in a new WordPress version where they stop all new development and just focus on any remaining bug fixes before the final public release.
A few Tips Tuesdays ago I reported that Google has now endorsed HTTP/3 with QUIC to be supported by Chrome soon, so full adoption is just around the corner for us.
The new HTTP/3 version is built on top of the QUIC protocol. And this combo is going to make the internet so much faster when it becomes widely adopted.
What is QUIC?
Here’s a good way to think about it.
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. It’s the highway all data uses to travel across the internet.
Think of the HTTP/1 version as a 2 lane highway. Everything traveling to and from the site visitor to the host where the site files are stored had to travel in single file each way.
The HTTP/2 protocol, which is what most of the internet traffic uses now, and requires HTTPS encryption to be on, is like an 8 lane highway in each direction. That means that more site elements can reach the visitor faster.
The HTTP/3 protocol with QUIC is like a 20 lane highway in each direction.
Cloudflare is cutting edge and always ahead of the game
Cloudflare has been delivering sites on the HTTP/3 with QUIC super highway for a couple of years now.
All of my site audit clients have been benefiting from this extra speed everywhere it has been supported already, as all of them are on Cloudflare and all of them have it fully and properly configured to take advantage of speed improvements like this.
If you’re on Cloudflare through your host, you are not getting these enhancements.
I have yet to meet a host who knows how to fully configure Cloudflare.
Heck, my Webmaster Training folks are some of the few designers and SEO pros who know how to fully configure too.
And I take my site audit clients through the initial setup live so they can see all of the amazing security and speed settings they get on Cloudflare, including on the free version.
That also includes more cutting edge speed improvements like Brotli, which is the new compression type that is finally starting to get wide adoption by hosts and replace the old GZip compression. It is SO much faster!!
If you want to get your site on Cloudflare, sign up for a live session. We’ll do a quick review of what’s on your site now that needs to coordinate with Cloudflare, and then we’ll walk you through getting on it and setup.
And FYI, live sessions have no wait list time. They are on-demand.
Speed is not just about the best caching plugin
If you want real speed on your site, come get an audit. We find all of the speed drags and fix them. Only then do we add a caching and optimization plugin to take it the rest of the way.
Most site owners lump all speed plugins under the general term “caching plugins”. But caching and speed optimization are actually 2 different functions. And most caching plugins do not include optimization. You need a combo plugin for that.
READ: Caching vs Optimization – when to use and in what order to help you understand the differences in these two things.
And FYI, WP Fastest Cache paid also nudges out WP Rocket and the SG Optimizer plugins. Plus, it’s a one-time payment, not an annual renewal.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Tips Tuesday.
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Be sure to visit BlogAid.net for more tips and resources and I’ll see you online.