Hello Happy Site Owners and Webmasters!
Tips this week include:
- All new Site Services pages are on BlogAid, and who helped me create them
- A reminder of why I don’t offer on-demand fix-it services
- Why I had to overhaul my new rebranding service
- Why my Webmaster Training course members get hired more
- The Cloudflare tutorials are updated in the Webmaster Training course
- Why I had to pull the trigger and flip BlogAid to a Gutenberg hybrid setup
- How village opinions are like gold for your business
- Why you need to make a plugins list
- The new Google Analytics 4 has launched and why you need to keep your current analytics running too
- What you need to know about Yoast and SEMRush teaming up for free keyword research
- Bing launches a totally rebuilt Site Explorer
- Update on what we’re finding in Bing Webmaster Tools
- Changes to the way SiteGround handles domain-related email setup
- The confusing HTTPS settings at SiteGround
- A list of the hosts I can’t work with for audits
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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?
If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I’ve been in a state of overwhelm with site service requests since this spring. A big part of that overwhelm has been from the sheer volume of emails I get, as I’m spending way too much time on non-billable hours with folks that are requesting services I don’t even offer, or gathering more info for the services I do offer.
So, I spent this week doing something about it.
I want to send a HUGE thank you to Michelle Phillips of Codefetti for her webmaster expertise on every service we both offer. That, combined with her awesome copy writing skills uniquely qualified her for revamping and/or creating all of my Site Services pages. She knows exactly what goes into performing each service.
The Site Services page now has blurbs for each service I offer with a link to read more.
And each one of those pages now better educates and vets the potential client so they have a clearer idea of what the project entails, including their parts of it.
I also created all new service requests forms for each of the services, instead of combining forms for multiple services, and that will also help clarify and vet the potential client with the kinds of info we need to do the project.
On top of that, I put a “before you apply” notice above the Site Audit request form to ensure folks know that this is a partnership and DIY site maintenance education type service rather than a “dump it all on the tech” type service.
I want to thank all of my site audit clients who shared their comments and suggestions in our private Facebook group for the wording of that info above the request form.
They have a unique perspective on what it’s like to need that service, and the info about, and the questions they had about it.
BlogAid does not offer on-demand fix-it services
One of the reasons I have been getting a string of ill-fitting clients is that too many of them don’t read what is on the services page. They just pull the trigger and contact me for services I don’t even offer.
Most often that happens with the site audit request form being used for a troubleshooting bug hunt for something that is broken on the site.
So, during that page revamp I put in big red letters that fix-it services are not what the audit is for.
I do offer fixes for the security and speed issues we find in the audit.
Folks, I don’t offer on-demand fix-it services of any kind. Nor do I give references for someone who could. I’m not a clearing house for services I don’t offer, nor do I want to be, even if there is a referral commission. It’s not worth my time to handle the emails.
It’s better for me to be clearer about what I do offer, and get emails from clients needing those services.
I also want to thank Michelle Phillips of Codefetti and Marcy Diaz of Amethyst Website Design for their expertise and contributions in making the new Rebranding service page, intake form, as well as the checklists for the actual service.
When I first began offering this service, I had no idea how all over the place the needs would be. To be honest, it drew in too many site owners who still have no clear idea what they want to blog about or what they need as far as theme design. Some bloggers have been through multiple rebrands already.
The way we hoped this would work would be for me to vet the client’s needs and then either do the simple rebrand of changing the domain myself, or send the jobs to Michelle and Marcy if it would also include a theme revamp, as they can do the rebrand domain change during that theme revamp process.
So, we have been working together to retool the Rebranding Service page as well as the intake form to help potential clients understand the process better and to ensure that we gather all of the relevant info we need on the intake form, especially for some of the caveats we have run into, like the need for the hosting package to be able to handle more than one domain/website so we can do the new add-on domain, and then the redirects from the original domain properly.
What I’m finding is that the majority of clients wanting to rebrand are on the smallest, and cheapest hosting package, and many of them only allow for one domain. So, they have to step up in hosting package first in order to do the rebrand, or forsake the redirects.
Whenever I need help for my own site projects, the first place I turn is to my own Webmaster Training folks.
Each of us specializes in different areas and we hire each other for help with our own sites and for our clients.
So, besides getting more jobs on your own from the new skills you learn, being in our private Facebook group is a gold-mine of new gigs and support when you run into something you’re having issues with.
At least once a week someone posts something that affects all of us, or an issue with a plugin or host or setup that they have found so we can all reference it later.
And honestly, I would not have made it through the huge membership revamp last year without additional help from several of the webmasters in that group.
And you can thank one of my webmasters for the nice new optin book with the latest things every site owner should know too.
Plus, I have plans to hire out theme revamps on two of my sites starting at the turn of the year.
So, if you want to get qualified to do more than theme design, and want to get in on these gigs and support, jump into the Webmaster Training. It pays for itself over and over.
Cloudflare rolls out something new at least once a month and/or makes changes to their interface every week. So, it’s pretty tough to keep tutorials updated, and that’s just one reason I don’t offer a free tutorial on it. You actually have to know what you’re doing to set it up right and I don’t want to support the general public that have who knows what kind of setup on their site that the settings need to be integrated with.
But, I did update my Cloudflare tutorials for in the Webmaster Training over the weekend.
So, do go have a look at the tour of all of them, which is a quick run-through of current settings, and ensure you are up to date with yours.
For my site audit clients, we check your settings at your annual audit checkup.
Flipping BlogAid to Gutenberg
As y’all know, I flipped my Heartwood Art site to Gutenberg last year and have been in love with doing posts and pages there ever since.
But, since I have so many custom styles and such on BlogAid, I wanted to do a thorough test on a cloned site before switching it over to Gutenberg.
However, the pain I felt while revamping all of the Services pages lit a fire under me to get this done sooner rather than later – and later was already scheduled for the turn of the year to get this project underway.
Well, I finally hit my breaking point on it while trying to create the new landing page for my upcoming Gutenberg Webinar that we’ll be running ads on. I took one look at the mockup the marketing folks did and knew that it would take me hours upon hours to recreate that in code. In fact, I would need to hire my designer to do the whole thing as I just don’t have that kind of time.
So, I did a test on BlogAid by making a settings change in the TinyMCE Advanced plugin to have Gutenberg be the default editor and then made a few test pages plus checked existing pages.
Everything is fine and in a setup that I can work with.
I still want to work with Marcy on a clone of BlogAid as we will need to vet all of the custom styles I have in use and revamp for doing those things in Gutenberg. But at least I can finally go forward with using Gute on BlogAid for new pages and posts now and I’m thrilled about that.
Village opinions are gold
I asked my site audit clients and webmasters what they thought of the new webinar landing page. Without exception, they said they hated it, that it looked dated, and that they would not register for the webinar based on that page.
So, I Googled webinar landing page templates. OMG!! They are the plainest things on the planet with very little info with no hype or excitement at all. Sounds pretty much like the blog post I have been using for my webinar registrations up to this point.
So, I recreated the page to be more like the post content, but with slightly better styling.
I think we’ll be sending the ad clicker folks there and then sending my newsletter folks to the post when I republish it.
But this is exactly why getting opinions is so important.
If you’re in one of our private Facebook groups, feel free to make use of crowdsourcing opinions for your important posts and pages.
That’s all the happenings from around here. Let’s jump into this week’s tips.
Site Maintenance Tip
Make a plugin list
Do yourself a HUGE favor.
Make a spreadsheet or doc with all of your plugin names, what they do, and if they show to the visitor, a link where you can test them.
In site audits, on average I flag 40% of the plugins that are either resource hogs, or worse, in direct conflict with one another.
Way too often the site owner has zero idea what each of the plugins even do or where they are used. Most say they were put in by their theme designer with no explanation or training. And then the site owner throws on another plugin that somebody said was a good idea and it makes it all worse instead of better.
Also keep a list of plugins you delete. If you have an audit, the tech may find all manner of orphaned files, folders, and database tables that need to be identified and removed.
If you are a designer, make sure you clean up after yourself with regard to plugins, especially when revamping a theme. Don’t leave things on there like Regenerate Thumbnails that will never be used again.
And make a plugins list for your client and go over it them so they know what each one does.
If you are a site owner about to hire a designer, ask them how many plugins they need to do your design. Because if plugins are all they use to do everything because they have zero design skills, skip them in favor of someone who actually knows what they are doing.
A word about the rest these tips for this week
I have been under multiple deadlines all this past week and have not been able to even try the tips I’m about to give you. If my schedule allows, I hope to get to them this week.
In the meantime, please do make a comment on this post, or in our private Facebook groups, if you’re in one of those, on whether you have implemented these things yet and how that went for you.
My goal is to either have new tutorials or reports for you in the next Tips Tuesday from my experience with them, as I intend to jump on these things as soon as I can too.
Google Analytics Tips
There is a brand new Google Analytics tracking code.
However, they suggest that you run both the one you currently have now alongside this new one.
And this is just one more reason why I suggest that you come out of analytics plugins and put the code directly into the head of your site.
SEE: How to Add Google Analytics Code to Your Site for how to do this via the Insert Headers and Footers plugin.
I strongly prefer doing it this way rather than adding it through your theme’s header script area. If you change themes, poof goes that code because you’ll likely forget about it.
By doing it with a plugin, it travels with you.
I’m especially excited about the new tracking for videos in the new code.
I expect that Google will be tweaking on this new interface for a while, so expect bugs. In other words, don’t believe everything you see in it and check it against your standard code data.
Wow! Yoast has partnered with the SEMRush service to offer free keyword research from right within your site.
There are 3 big things you have to know about it:
- Requires free SEMRush account
- Has to be used in a post you already created
- You may have to give SEMRush access to your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts (this one I’m not sure about)
SEMRush is a fantastic SEO service for data mining, especially on the paid version. But, I find that is overkill for most bloggers, especially those who are not willing to devote a few hours a week into pouring over that data and then taking action on what they find to improve their SEO.
So, while this keyword research partnership may be a great way for folks to try the SEMRush service, don’t count on that tool being 100% accurate. In fact, I know folks who have all of the paid SEO tools and they say the data is wildly different between them.
So, if you use this, be careful about putting too much faith into what it is telling you, and be sure to keep checking your own Google Analytics and Search Console to glean the keyword feedback you need to create content that gets found and clicked upon.
If you have hooked this up already, leave a comment wherever you see this post and let us know what you think about it.
Yoast also released a post titled Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide that will be worth your time to check out too.
In keeping with the total revamp of their Webmaster Tools interface, Bing has relaunched their Site Explorer tool.
It has been rebuilt from the ground up.
This tool shows you how Bing is crawling your site and any issues it has found.
I’ll have a new tutorial for it soon in the DIY SEO course.
And my hope is that it will be far more reliable than Google Search Console has been for helping us locate broken links. That has been worthless in GSC all year.
Update on what we’re finding in Bing Webmaster Tools
Several of my DIY SEO course clients jumped right into the new Bing Webmaster Tools tutorials and they are easily finding all manner of site issues that are either next to impossible to find in Google Search Console, or don’t even get checked there.
Turns out that the new Bing tools check your site for all manner of coding mistakes, like having more than one H1 tag on a page. That sort of thing is a minor SEO infraction, but still something you want to address.
I used my Heartwood Art site for making the Bing tutorials and it had several errors listed. But, when I checked into a few of them, I found they were falsely flagged.
So, do dig into those errors and see what they are. If you’re in the course, be sure to report what you found and what fixed it. And if you have screenshots, that would be insanely helpful. That sort of village participation is why we have so many fix suggestions for errors in Google Search Console too. Everybody shared what they found on their site. And that helps all of us.
Changes to Domain-Related Emails at SiteGround
This past week I put one of my site audit client sites on Cloudflare. She is hosted at SiteGround and has the older cPanel interface.
Suddenly her 2 domain-related emails stopped working.
Turns out that you can no longer see any MX records at the host anywhere, including in the MX record editors.
So, Cloudflare had no way to pick up the 3 email MX records needed. They sent us a tutorial on how to do that.
However, Cloudflare did pick up some odd MX record 0 that nobody can explain what it is or how it was sent to Cloudflare.
But, with that MX 0 record removed, the client can send/receive email from within the host on their Webmail client. However, she still could not send/receive from her own email client, like Outlook.
We’re still investigating, but I think we have it fixed by deleting a CNAME record and creating an A record for the mail DNS record.
But I just wanted you to know that SiteGround has made yet another change they didn’t tell anybody about.
As mentioned, this is on the original cPanel interface. I have no idea if that change is also on the new custom control panel interface.
I’ve put 100s of SiteGround folks on Cloudflare in the past and did not have this issue. So it’s all new.
Confusing HTTPS Settings at SiteGround
Another bit of goofiness I found this week at SiteGround is that they have potentially conflicting settings with regard to the way they cheat HTTPS between their old and new control panels.
On the old one, with cPanel, they have a custom Let’s Encrypt tool that has your HTTPS settings.
There is no such tool on the new custom control panel. It’s just labeled HTTPS.
And then in their SG Optimizer plugin they have another set of HTTPS settings that I guess are supposed to override or set the tools in the control panel. But it doesn’t work.
That’s not a big surprise. The server-side cache controls in their old Super Cacher plugin, and now in the new SG Optimizer plugin never did coordinate with the control panel settings either.
On top of it, I discovered that the tool on the new custom control panel actually does more than trick the HTTPS redirect. It immediately converts the links in your database to HTTPS.
That’s insanity for a host to take on that kind of liability that could blow up your site!
But then, they apply their goofy trickery to ensure you never see the issues.
And on top of all that, the new custom control panel does not allow me to copy the database to do a full HTTPS conversion the safe way. I do it on the copy.
So, I can no longer do HTTPS conversions at SiteGround if you are on the new custom control panel. And because of all this other goofiness, I’m about to draw the line on doing them on the old cPanel packages too.
If you’re on SiteGround, just leave.
Hosts I Can’t Work With for Audits
I will still work on sites at SiteGround for audits and such. Just know that we have to deal with, and work around their goofiness. That may cost more or have limitations on what we can do and you may have to stay tangled in the way they do things until you get ready to move.
There are hosts I’ve already drawn the line on working with for audits due to their crappy server setup, including:
Even if I could see everything I need for an audit or service, their ancient server setups do not allow full security measures to be taken, and security affects performance.
So, I offer folks the opportunity to get migration services instead and move to a host with a faster, modern setup where we can actually make their sites fast and secure. That migration service can be combined with a site audit, which makes the whole project cheaper for you too.
And then there are other hosts I can’t work at simply because they are fully managed and it’s against their Terms of Service (ToS) for me, or any other dev or site tech, to make changes at that level needed.
Some of those hosts include:
- Big Scoots VPS (I can still work on their shared servers)
This is not to say they are bad hosts. Some are actually excellent hosts for hands-off site owners.
But it is to say that you are paying them $$$$ to do all of this for you using their unique setup.
I will also say that I have been able to do better with speed for my clients who came off those hosts and got on one where I am allowed to make all the changes we want for their unique site needs instead of using a generic setup.
And those clients are saving a bunch of money on hosting now too.
READ: What is Managed Hosting? to see where your host falls into the spectrum of every host that uses the term “managed”.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Tips Tuesday.
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