Hello Happy Site Owners!
Since this is the last podcast of the year, tips this week include a round-up of the best tips I’ve shared with you through 2016 that are evergreen, plus follow ups on major news and changes that I reported on this past year.
If you’re listening to this podcast, you’ll definitely want to go to the written post with all of the links. It will be one to bookmark and revisit for all of 2017.
Listen to the podcast
SEO Workshop Wraps Up
I was delighted to meet up with my peeps yesterday to do the last session of the new SEO Workshop.
I normally only teach this info in my live 1-on-1 training classes and this was the first time I had tried it in a group setting.
It definitely went well, and I’m definitely going to be running it again in 2017.
But, this first run showed me that it would be best to split this into at least 2 workshops for the basics and then the more advanced topics.
Plus, I see a need for an SEO and Pinterest workshop too, as there are very special things that need to happen with your site and SEO setup to maximize that connection.
And, I’ll likely be keeping a limit on how many folks can join so we can get deeper into their own site SEO as well.
BlogAid News subscribers will be the first to know when the next SEO Workshop happens, and subscribers will get the early bird discount and first dibs on limited seating too.
This week I’ll be finishing the major revamp of the Webmaster Training site. The very structure of the membership is changing so that I can spend even more time with webmasters directly and keep all of us on top of the latest changes.
I’ve already added a new video player that is responsive and I’m now adding CloudFront, which is the CDN for Amazon S3, where the videos are stored. That should speed up buffering, especially for all of you who watch on tablets while working on your site.
I’ll be emailing webmasters already in the program very soon with more details on the rest of the changes too. So, look for that email later this week.
That’s all the news from around here. Let’s jump into this week’s tip roundup of 2016.
The big news for me and my peeps this year came from an announcement this month that VaultPress would now have tighter integration with JetPack. So will Akismet, more on that in a moment. But we don’t want JetPack on our sites because it opens an XML-RPC security hole. Matt Mullenweg himself left a comment on my post about it, saying he would volunteer some of his precious time to give this little blogger a talking to about WordPress security. Yeah, I’m up for that. He hasn’t scheduled yet.
The REST API was introduced into the core in version 4.4. It wasn’t until version 4.7 that the end points were included.
The REST API should revolutionize how apps and services from the outside world interface with your site. But, the transition and adoption has been way slower than anyone anticipated. Maybe in 2017 we’ll see more traction.
Automattic Buys WooCommerce
First WooThemes became WooCommerce back in June. And then the parent company of WordPress, Automattic, bought WooCommerce.
The future of WordPress was laid out in Matt Mullenweg’s State of Word address at Wordcamp. Basically, he’s taking the reins again for all development in 2017 and they are going to focus on just 3 areas. Chief among them is the Customizer. And that’s going to impact everybody, from site owners to designers.
I also strongly suggest everyone, especially designers, listen to this interview of Matt Mullenweg that happened right after his State of Word address that talks more about the new direction WordPress will be taking in 2017.
Torque has a super post that’s really a checklist, especially for new site owners, that will save you a ton of money down the road by avoiding rookie mistakes.
WordPress version 4.4 made featured images in RSS to Email campaigns stop working for some folks. In this tutorial, I show how I got mine working in MailChimp.
In Feb 2016, WPExplorer was asking if Akismet is still the best spam plugin. And the answer is no, it isn’t.
And it’s no longer a donation to use it anymore either. It has become a paid service that is about to have super tight integration with Jetpack.
In early 2016, Google issued manual actions for sites running recipe plugins with star ratings that spewed their schema markup all over the site. I believe most folks just turned off the star rating. I’m betting a lot of plugins had to be updated to get rid of that issue. But if you add any plugins that have any type of schema markup, you need to be very careful that they only output it on the page with the thing on it.
In March, the developer of my fave comment spam filter plugin announced he was calling it quits. However, another dev has taken up the maintenance and the plugin is still being updated. So, I’m sticking with it.
In March, Team Yoast announced that they had sold their Google Analytics plugin to the folks who make ImageMonster plugins, the most famous of which is OptinMonster. Yoast said they wanted to focus solely on the SEO plugin. I haven’t heard of any major changes to the analytics plugin. We’re just all glad that another reputable company is maintaining it.
The plugin I’ve switched to for analytics is Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. And it’s a great alternative for those currently using JetPack analytics module too. It brings more analytics info right to your dashboard than any other plugin I’ve seen.
Yoast SEO Constant Updates
And since Yoast sold off that analytics plugin, his team has made constant updates to the SEO plugin. Honestly, most of them have been cosmetic and just serve to confuse folks. They don’t know where things are anymore or what the settings should be since some of the labeling changed. And now that it has a new setup wizard, some folks can’t even find some of the settings. You have to turn on Advanced Settings in the Features tab to even see them.
I just love Foo plugins, especially those for image galleries. They added the ability to use images from external links in the galleries and I know a lot of Instagram peeps love that! And they have a super post with 4 Rules for Using Images on Your Website too.
In June, Filament, the parent company of the Flare social media sharing buttons plugin, decided to call it quits. I was glad because that plugin was a major resource hog.
I was so disappointed when the winner of my social sharing buttons test, Simple Share Buttons Adder, was purchased by another company that turned it into something dark. They are now cookie tracking and that’s a big no-no in my book. The link I have for you is to the Tips Tuesday post where I reported it. And then the Simple Share Buttons adder got worse by adding massive redirects that were hidden from you, but slowed down your site like crazy.
I don’t have another set of plugins to suggest just yet. I’m using one that is super basic and has no share counts. It’s the Scriptless Social Sharing plugin. You can see this Tips Tuesday for a screenshot of the settings I’m using.
Genesis finally updated the Simple Social Icons plugin with scalable graphics. About time too, since those work better on responsive themes.
Contact Form 7 Issues
My fave contact form plugin changed this year and it made a lot of folks crazy. The new validator test error messages appeared, even if the form was working perfectly. Finally the dev released good tutorials on how to adjust the plugin settings, and I updated all of my tutorials for it too and all is well now.
In October, CloudFlare released a major plugin update that has some super features right in your WP site. I made a quick video tour of it for you.
This release in early 2016 completely changed how Genesis handles the top level of schema markup output by the theme. It fixed new errors in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool in preparation for the release of AMP.
But to my utter dismay, it removed the top-level schema markup that tells Google whether it’s a post or a page. Genesis released code to add that back, but it turned into a true bag of cats because, also to my dismay, I discovered how little standardization there is on child themes that are affected by this code.
The thing is, so few folks care, including designers, that I’ve just had to drop it.
Keep in mind that when Genesis makes a core change like this, your child theme is not automatically updated with the new tags. Your child theme would also need its base code changed too. So, even though Genesis supports it, your site may not be reaping the benefit.
That’s just one reason to get your theme updated at least every 2 years, so your site doesn’t fall behind with SEO best practices.
This post from Torque is all about why you would want to use, or stay away from page builder plugins.
More and more such services are popping up because so many folks want to design their own theme. I think I’m going to stop banging my head against that wall of telling new site owners why this is one of the biggest, and most costly mistakes they can make because even WordPress itself is now totally focused on making the Customizer be a content block editor, just like these theme builders. So, I’m just going to have to give up on it.
In January, 2016 Microsoft announced they would end support for older versions of Internet Explorer. But, that doesn’t keep some folks from using it, especially some corporations who use it for their intranet.
Plus, older versions cannot display HTTPS sites securely either, making it look like the site has an issue when it doesn’t.
So, would be best for you to check your AWStats and Google Analytics and try to determine if your audience is using older browsers before you make major theme and site revamps, especially things like HTTPS. It could cost you your audience.
In September, it was leaked that the DIY theme builder Headway might not be around much longer. They did get an infusion of cash to keep going, but honestly, if you’re using it, you might want to seriously start thinking about making other arrangements.
Content Marketing Tips
Capitalizing on hot news and trends is a super duper way to create viral content. Ann Smarty has a great guest post on the Content Marketing Institute blog with tools to help you stay on top of trends.
Writing great copy that hooks readers is a real art. The Blogging Wizard site shares six great tips that I think are super for writing great sales page copy too.
Great post from Denise Wakeman, and the kicker is, it came directly from a show we did on repurposing content. Denise is a master at that.
Mike Allton, known for his super, duper pillar posts that go viral, has a guide on 3 ways to generate leads with your content. It’s a great post to learn content marketing basics too.
This Tips Tuesday from March is a super post to read as we go into the new year. It’s all about making a plan to meet your goals and how to work that plan. I cite stories from how my clients successfully did that too.
In July, around the time of selling my house and moving, I released a Tips Tuesday all about making a disaster recovery plan. I am so glad I had that plan in place because I simply could not work from home while showings were happening with the house. It wasn’t a disaster, but having that plan is what saved my bacon. If you only read one post from this list of tips, make it this one and get your own plan in place. You’ll sleep better.
In Feb. 2016, SiteGround announced major changes to their shared hosting, not the least of which was moving to faster SSD. And, they have tweaked it to perform beautifully with their own local caching plugin too.
They performed very well in my recent head-to-head shared hosting tests too. I’ve got several clients on SiteGround as well whose sites are performing great, so I finally added SiteGround to my Recommended Vendor List.
In May, WP.org finally finished revising the criteria of what hosts they would recommend from the WP.org site. I was delighted to hear that Bluehost finally fell off the list. And, then, just as quickly, they got right back on it. I guess donating so much money to the WP.org foundation and sponsoring so many events gets you a top spot still.
Hey, I got over being upset about it. I just see it as seeding my site audit business for next year.
Major DDoS Attacks in January
New Year’s Day of 2016 saw the start of huge DDoS attacks that crippled several hosting companies, and those attacks lasted well into February.
The biggest security news of 2016 was the major DDoS attack on the Dyn DNS service that took down the bulk of the internet on the east coast. Big sites like Twitter and such were dead down because of it. It let all of us know just how serious the cyber attack situation is, and that we should all be doing our part to ensure that the Internet of Things we own are secure, like or routers and smart TVs and such.
You also want to read my post on how to disable XML-RPC on your site to prevent your hosting resources from being used in a DDoS attack too.
And a new attack vector appeared in December that caused brute force attacks to soar. It seems to have died down finally in this last week of the year. Let’s hope it stays that way, but don’t count on it.
Multiple Security Updates
As I was reading through all of my Tips Tuesday posts for 2016, I was struck by how many security updates I reported on, including to WordPress itself and several major plugins.
W3 Total Cache Issues
In March I reported that the W3TC local caching plugin was causing high I/O Usage, which will get your site temporarily suspended at the host.
That was the beginning of the end with stability for W3TC.
By September, W3TC had acquired a security vulnerability and the dev was so slow to address it that the whole dev community got up in arms about it. I switched my sites over to the GitHub forked version of the plugin and taught all of my webmasters how to do the same.
By December, it had another major stability issue and was causing major issues with folks leaving comments and site emails going out. That’s why I’ve chosen to abandon it for most sites in favor of more stable plugins.
And because of all the hoohaa with W3TC, I put my caching plugin head-to-head tests on the front burner and came out with some clear winners. You’ll want to read the post because the best caching plugin for you will depend a great deal on your hosting type.
2016 saw a lot of site downtime due to DDoS attacks, and lowering of resources on accounts that caused sites to easily go over their limits. In August I did a whole show on causes of downtime and ways to check and fix it.
Video Marketing Tips
As I read through all of my Tips Tuesday posts while making this round up, I became sad that all the wonderful and informative Blabs I did in 2016 are now gone.
I’m even more saddened that all of us no longer have a single place to meet with each other frequently too.
I really loved chatting with you live, and nothing else has replaced the magic of Blab since they shut the doors on it.
In July, I moved over to FireTalk, and before I could even get well established there, they did something stupid that got them poo pooed on by just about everybody using the service. So, I dropped them too.
I’m also saddened by the fact that only my Blab course sold well in the new Video Marketing section of the Site Success Courses member site. Video marketing has become a specialized niche, much like social media, and I’ll be addressing what I’m going to do with that section of the membership in early 2017 as well.
I did a quick BlogAid Today video on all we can learn from Blab’s demise. It’s about being out of touch with our client’s needs and wants. I know I learned a lot more about that this year with my business.
Blab was not the only one closing up video shop in July. Google retired Hangouts on Air as we know them in favor of YouTube Live. It’s Google’s response to Facebook Live videos that really took off this year.
Not many folks have been able to recapture the big audiences they gained on Blab. And it makes me wonder if the novelty of video marketing has cooled off a bit. I’ll be watching for a follow up on this report from June that speculates video will account for 70% of all mobile traffic.
And then this report with 12 reasons video is changing everything for traditional media.
In Feb 2016, Google re-released AMP. While only news type sites have been able to make the most of it, Google chose to weight scores and ranking by those who use it and who don’t.
Here’s the thing, you have to really strip down your site to pass muster with AMP, and too many of us would lose all of our CTAs and other conversion points. So there’s really no incentive to make use of it.
Just prior to that re-release, I saw scores on Google PageSpeed Insights drop 15-20 points across the board.
In November, I saw them drop another 20-30 points, but I’m not sure why. Just know that it is for everybody I’ve tested in site audits, including my own sites.
In May, Google made the title text in SERPs bigger, which meant that fewer characters were displayed. That made it more important than ever to get your keywords and hook at the beginning of your post titles. And here’s a myth that floats around from time to time. Google may only display 50-55 characters now, but it indexes your whole title.
Near the end of August, Google began penalizing sites that had obstructing pop ups on mobile. The main reason was because it’s so dadgum hard to get rid of them on mobile and to see the content you came to the site for, leading to higher abandonment. So, be sure you have a pop up that has a delay and is easy to close on mobile.
The huge SEO news this year came in September when Google announced that the Chrome browser would start showing non HTTPS warnings on any unsecured site where either credit card or passwords where being entered. This, combined with slightly higher rankings for HTTPS sites, is just the beginning of Google’s march to have all sites converted to HTTPS.
Google has even started a new report of all the sites that have converted to HTTPS.
Just in the nick of time, I finished creating the new HTTPS course in the Webmaster Training member site. This will be the HOTTEST skill for designers to have in 2017.
Neil Patel has a super, duper, amazing post on how to use Google Search Console that will teach you tons about how well you’re doing SEO on your site.
Oh, this is truly the bane of being a freelancer. The client is always in a hurry for you to do your part of the work, but they drag their feet on doing their end of it. This is a super post from Agency Management on how to handle stalled clients.
In July, the UptimeRobot site monitoring service added a whole bunch of new IP addresses. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to whitelist these in your firewall, otherwise you may get false reports of the site being down just because the monitor is blocked.
A faster internet is coming. It’s going to take upgrading your hosting account to PHP7 and flipping your site to HTTPS so you can take advantage of the new HTTP/2 protocol. WPTavern has a nice post with data on sites that have switched to PHP7 and why you should consider doing that too.
If you want to get up to speed on all that PHP 7 offers to help you explain to your clients why this testing and change is needed, Torque has a nice post on it.
If you’re a designer and you don’t have a reseller account, you need to get one. I wrote a whole post on the reasons why this is a must have for your business.
That’s a wrap for this week’s and this year’s best tips from Tips Tuesday.
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