All posts by Lucy Barret

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Should I move my WordPress website to HTTPS?

Whether you’re a website owner or a website visitor, everyone wants a fast loading website which can carry out sensitive exchanges of information securely.

In 2014, Google announced that it was beginning to use HTTPS as a ranking signal, signalling an increased emphasis on secure connections from the world’s biggest search engine.

Then, last month, the news came that Google’s Chrome browser will begin displaying a “Not Secure” warning message for unencrypted webpages. This message will be displayed in the address bar of websites not running the HTTPS protocol. Imagine a situation where your visitors withdraw from your website after seeing this warning message.

Google does check whether your site uses HTTP or HTTPS protocol. It might not be a crucial factor if you are not very serious about your website. However, if you are an online business, this is not something to overlook – website visitors demand secure connections to the websites they are interacting with.

If you aren’t too familiar with the technicalities of SEO, working with HTTPS might seem a bit intimidating. However, it isn’t as complex as it seems to be. Also, the good thing is that you do not have to understand the behind-the-scenes work when it comes to implementing HTTPS.

So, is HTTPS important?

Yes, HTTPS is undoubtedly essential, and many websites have already made the shift.

At the time that HTTPS was announced as a ranking signal, it was only a “light” one and affected less than 1% of global searches. But Google warned that this could strengthen over time, and we have already seen with Mobilegeddon how Google can shake things up once it decides to put emphasis on a particular element of the web.

For a website that have a HTTPS protocol, the search bar in the browser will display a lock symbol, and on Google Chrome, the word “secure”. However, if it isn’t on HTTPS, you won’t see the symbol and users may consequently be more wary about what data they enter – especially if soon, they start to receive a warning about the site’s security.

Exhibit A: Search Engine Watch

Benefits of shifting to HTTPS

Makes your site secure

This is the most obvious benefit of shifting to HTTPS. When you are enforcing HTTPS on your site, you are guaranteeing that the information passed between the client and the server can neither be stolen nor intercepted. It is basically a kind of proof that the client’s data wouldn’t be messed with in any form.

This is great for sites that need the customers to log in and accept payments through credit or debit cards.

Encryption

Okay, so if someone even does manage to intercept it, the data would be completely worthless to them. In case you are wondering why, it is because they obviously wouldn’t have the key to decrypt it. As website owners, you would have the key to do so.

Authentication

You must have heard of middleman attacks. However, with HTTPS, it is close to impossible for anyone to trick your customers and make them think that they are providing their personal information to you, when in reality they are providing this to a scammer. This is where an SSL certificate comes into light.

Good for your site’s SEO

You definitely want your site to rank higher in the search engine results and HTTPS would contribute todoing that. With your site ranking higher, you would have more customers, an increased traffic and an improvement in your overall revenue. It’s not just us saying that – Google said so itself!

Now that you know all of its benefits, let’s look into the steps that you need to follow.

Getting an SSL certificate

SSL is the protocol that HTTPS uses and is something that you need to install. The SSL certificate would have your company name, domain name, address, country, state and your city. Several details including the expiry date of the certificate would also be mentioned here. Now, there are three different kinds of certificates that you can choose from.

Organization Validation and Domain Validation are the kind of certificates that you can get if you have an e-commerce site or a site that collects personal information from users. The third type, Extended Validation Certificates, are for testifying the legal terms of a HTTPS website.

You can purchase these certificates from a lot of websites. The prices differ, so compare them and then make a purchase. Once you have purchased one, get it installed.

Create your site’s URL map and redirect

The ‘S’ in HTTPS makes a huge difference in the URL. HTTP or HTTPS before your domain name are entirely different URLs. This implies that you would have to create copies of each and every page on your site and then redirect them. This redirection would be from your old HTTP page to the new HTTPS page.

It might all sound pretty complicated, but it isn’t in reality. Your URL map can just be a simple spreadsheet. When shifting from WordPress, all of the 301 (permanent) redirects can simply be added to the .htaccess file.

Work on getting at least one page working on the front end

You also have to work on getting your front end on HTTPS. If you’re not confident with the technical side of things, this can seem a little complicated. Therefore it is best to begin with just one page.

If you are an ecommerce site, you can begin with the page that accepts payments. This is the page where customers are sharing their personal banking details and therefore it has to be secure. There are several plugins available that can help you with this, such as WP Force SSL. With such plugins, you can easily force pages to be SSL.

Update internal links, images and other links

There will be several internal links throughout your site and these might redirect to your old HTTP page. If you have been using relative links, you have been lucky. However, if not, you would have to find each of the links and then correct it with the new URL. You would also need to correct links to other resources like stylesheets, images and scripts.

Also, if you use a content delivery network (CDN), you would need to make sure that the CDN supports HTTPS too. These days most CDNs support HTTPS, but not all of them. So, make sure that you check that too.

Re-add your site to Google Search Console

After you have made all the necessary changes, get Google crawling on it as soon as possible. If you don’t do it, your traffic would be affected negatively. But why is re-adding required? Well, it’s because a HTTPS site is considered a completely different and new site.

After that, submit your new sitemap in your new listing and above that, re-submit the old sitemap as Google will notice the 301 redirects and make the necessary updates.

Once you have carried out all of the steps, you may or may not notice a slight positive change in the search rankings. Whatever you do, make sure that the first step of installing an SSL certificate has been done correctly. Alternatively, you can also use plugins like Really Simple SSL, Easy HTTPS Redirection etc. to accomplish the task.

At the end of the day, the decision of switching to HTTPS is solely yours. If you just have a blog with an email newsletter that people can subscribe to, you might not need to make the switch. However, if you are an online business, switching to HTTPS would be a wise decision.

If you see some issues, keep researching and fixing them. Even if you’re not a technical person, it’s easier than you think.

The 10 most common WordPress SEO challenges and how to solve them

If you’re new to the business of SEO and are just figuring out how to optimize your WordPress site for search, navigating the landscape of SEO can seem like a nightmare.

You’ll have seen a thousand different articles on SEO: on-page optimization tips, off-page optimization tips, SEO basics, email marketing tips, etc. online and implemented them – only to see them fail, or worse, backfire.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. SEO can be tricky, and there is always a huge scope for overdoing or underdoing things. While I can’t fully solve this problem for you, I’ll make an attempt to round up the most commonly faced SEO challenges with WordPress so that you can look into your site and make some amends.

The important thing to understand here is that the same factors can prove to be a boon as well as a challenge when it comes to SEO. The key is to understand your own website intricately and devise plans depending upon what works best for you. Listed below are a few things that are commonly done wrong.

1. Finding the right theme

Ask yourself, how did you choose your WordPress theme while creating your website? Odds are you picked the most visually attractive theme that you thought would appeal to your customers.

Another common mistake people make is picking the most premium or commonly-used themes, as they think these are shortcuts to success. This is where you’re going wrong. Many complicated themes are filled with poor code that slows down your website. And loading time is a small but significant factor that affects your SEO rankings.

So pick a theme that works best for the nature of your website. Minimalist themes can be just as effective as complicated themes. And remember to check how often these themes are updated; you do not want an outdated theme dragging your site down.

2. The plugin game

WordPress plugins can truly be a boon for website SEO. But people tend to overdo it by adding too many of them and as a result, the website becomes heavier and slower to load. In order to improve user experience and your website ranking, it is imperative to pick and install only the right plugins for your website.

Multiple plugins also tend to occupy excessive server resources. Therefore, many managed WordPress hosts do not allow websites that consume too many resources.

3. The sitemap issue

As a basic WordPress website doesn’t give you too many features and controls, you’re bound to install SEO plugins, most of which have the option of sitemaps. You can even create multiple sitemaps by getting additional plugins to allow you further control over your site.

But here’s the problem. Many people forget to submit their sitemaps to Google Search Console. Once you fail to do that, search engines stop recognizing your sitemaps and needless to say, you won’t show up anywhere despite all your customized plugins.

4. Link stuffing gone wrong

Adding links to your site is one of the most important SEO tactics, and can do wonders for your website ranking. Many themes come with pre-set links to help you out. But there are two ways this can go wrong:

  • Over stuffing – Nothing overdone is attractive, and adding links is no exception. Adding too many links can distract your user and also turn them off your site. A good rule of thumb to go by is using up to 20 links. This way you’re well within your bounds.
  • Stuffing nonsense – The relevance of the content you feed to your customers is more important than you think. Offer original and relevant content that is useful to your customers so that they spend more time on your site, thus improving your rankings.

5. Schema gone wrong

Schema markup is the primary code that allows Google (and other search engines) to understand what your website is about. You showcase your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) so that Google can run it through its algorithms and display your site if it has local relevance. So this is the single most important thing that helps Google understand who you are and what kind of services you provide.

This obviously improves your rankings and visibility. But if you get this wrong, it could work against you, as it confuses Google.

The best way out of this challenge is to gain a deep understanding of how Schema works. Various online resources can help you learn that. For starters, you can check-out the ‘Organization of Schema’ page to look for the list of most common types of schema markup and the ‘Full Hierarchy’ page for the schema types that you will need.

6. Underestimating alt text for images

People often focus all their attention on optimizing text content and miss out visual content, i.e. images. It’s a big blunder. Without fail, make the time to give your images proper names and descriptions. This will go a long way in improving your site’s functionality, accessibility and ranking.

So if you’ve overlooked this, rename all your images now and add proper descriptions. Another shortcut to do this is using the SEO Friendly Images WordPress Plugin.

7. Wrongly done permalinks

Despite the huge amount of information available on permalinks over the internet, it is one of the most difficult things to get right. And your website takes a really big hit by doing this wrong.

So here’s an over-simplified tip for you. The ideal permalink will allow you to include two very basic yet important things: post name and category. It should look something like this: “/%category%/%postname%/“.

What this does is allows search engines as well as your site visitors to clearly understand what your website is about.

8. Ignoring H1 tags

As your webpage grows, you might end up having a lot more duplicate content than is advisable. Even if this doesn’t affect you initially, it will in the long run.

With growing popularity and content, you might feel you have no option but to use the same H1 tags for multiple pages. But this makes search engines alert and eventually averse to your site. So as far as possible, get precise and innovative and provide only unique content for your site.

And don’t even think of employing the age-old technique of overusing keywords in your meta tags. This might have worked in the past, but Google is very smart and now identifies it.

9. The sin of using duplicate content

It’s not an exaggeration when I say it’s a sin to use duplicate content. The problem is that you might be doing this without even knowing that you are.

The most common mistake in this department is over-categorizing and over-tagging: Google identifies content with multiple common tags and flags them as duplicate content. As a rule, a post should typically be in no more than one or two categories, and tagging should be limited only to the most relevant topics covered in the post.

Furthermore, if you find no obvious way in which you can tag a specific post, don’t tag it. Not every post needs tagging.

However, it is easy to tackle this. WordPress offers plugins like All-In-One-SEO or SEO Plugin Yoast to avoid this error. These plugins add ‘No Follow’ tags to pages that help search engines categorize pages appropriately.

10. Forgetting internal links and related posts

Linking one article to other relevant content across your site increases the average time spent by a user on your website, and also acts as a search engine ranking signal. However, adding unrelated links or poor-quality content will do the opposite and put them off.

If you do not wish to use too many internal links, another smart way to go about it is by adding related posts. Get a plugin to pick the right kind of posts to display as related posts to keep your relevance and integrity intact. The best way to do this is getting the right balance between internal links and related posts.

So read this article through again and thoroughly examine your SEO practices to identify how many of these aforementioned things are you getting wrong, and how many you are doing right.

Another factor that significantly affects your user experience is your host. A slow host will increase your loading time and therefore affect users. Keep this in mind while picking your web hosting company.

Your goal should always be to give your visitors rich quality and relevant content, delivered in the right manner and at the right speed. That is the only true way to keep your customers happy and run a thriving website.

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A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site

Of the many tools available for tracking visitor behavior, Google Analytics is one of the most famous ones.

This free tool provides website owners with insightful information about the traffic driven to their website, helping them to determine exactly where each user originated and how they ended up on the site.

So, if you are an enthusiast who is setting up a website or a new blog using WordPress as your CMS, it is highly recommended to install Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

Why Google Analytics?

A lot of visitors and subscribers visit your website daily and hence, it becomes increasingly important to track information about their visit. If you are focused and determined to monitor your website’s traffic statistics, data drawn with the help of Google Analytics can be extremely useful.

This tool helps you track how your visitors are moving ahead and navigating through your website. This information is vital because it will help you identify the key areas of your website which are doing well and the others, that need a little more attention.

After installing Google Analytics on your website, you can learn about the geographical location of your visitors, their browser information, their duration of stay at your website, pages visited and much more.

With so much information available to access, we hope that we have answered your question as to why you even need this tool. In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you use Google Analytics with your WordPress site. So, let’s read on.

Getting started with your Google Analytics account

For the very first step, you are required to create a Google Analytics account by using your Gmail account. A Gmail account is imperative if you want to start using the Google Analytics tool with your WordPress site.

 

  • Visit the signup page for Google Analytics. You will be presented with the Gmail login page. Simply, enter your Gmail account login credentials to move forward with the process.
  • You will be asked to provide information regarding what would you like to track with this service. You can either track statistics for your website or your mobile apps.
  • Since this blog post is about tracking results for your WordPress website; select the ‘Website’ option.
  • Fill in the other relevant information to start tracking with the Google Analytics.

 

A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site

  • Enter your website’s name, its URL and the type of industry it is related to.
  • Select your time zone so that the service can accurately track the results as per your requirement.
  • Finally, get your Tracking ID by agreeing to Google’s terms of service usage.

A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site

 

  • Once you have your Tracking code, copy it and keep it handy.

Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site

There are several methods that will help you add Google Analytics to your WordPress website. We will mainly discuss two methods here that are suited to readers with a non-technical approach to blogging.

Using the plugin ‘MonsterInsights’

A very popular plugin with over 13 million downloads, MonsterInsights has proven its worth when it comes to seamlessly integrating Google Analytics with a WordPress site.

With a free and a premium version on the shelf, this Google Analytics plugin works well for even the most basic users. Let’s see how you can use this plugin to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

  1. Download the plugin and activate it on your WordPress site.
  2. Once the activation is confirmed, the plugin will add a new label to your admin dashboard by the name, ‘Insights’.
  3. For configuration of the plugin, visit the ‘Settings’ tab under the ‘Insights’ label.  
  4. A tab will be presented to you that will read ‘Authenticate with your Google Account’. Click on it and then you will be asked to enter a Google Code.
  5. Above it will be a tab that will ask you to click on it, in order to receive the code. Click on it and then click on the Next button.
  6. Allow ‘MonsterInsights to access your Google Analytics data’. Finally, provide the plugin with the permission to view and manage your Google Analytics data.
  7. A Success Code popup will follow. You will be required to copy it carefully and paste it on the popup (discussed above) in point number d.)
  8. In a final step, select the profile that you want to track with the Google Analytics plugin.

Whenever you want to view reports regarding your site’s visitors and subscribers, you can simply go to ‘Reports’ tab in the ‘Insights’ label of your Admin dashboard.

Using your WordPress theme

In the process discussed earlier, you received a Tracking ID from Google Analytics signup procedure. To use this method, locate the Theme settings option of your WordPress site’s theme. Then, find the label that leads you to a tab asking you to add a Footer Script.

You can simply paste the Tracking code to this section and you will be good to go. Always save the settings in order to confirm your changes.

Once your settings are done and you are ready to take off with your Google Analytics tools, always wait at least 12 hours to let the tool reflect proper results.

Other alternatives

There are other ways to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site. The ones mentioned above are easy to pursue and are highly recommendable. The following are methods that can involve some technical briefing.

  • You can manually add the tracking code by editing the header.php file
  • If you don’t want to edit your theme file, you can install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin to insert the Google Analytics code
  • You can also use the Google Analytics + plugin to access the visitor performance of your WordPress website.

Summing up

Google Analytics is of huge help when you are looking to track results about a recent marketing campaign and are expecting some conversions to take place. This tool will also help you identify the keywords that are relevant to your site’s search engine optimization.

With so much to offer, Google Analytics is a must-use tool for all website owners out there. I sincerely hope that this detailed guide will help you make the right decision without having to expend too much time and energy on the implementation.

If you still have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. We are always open to receiving feedback and awesome suggestions.

 

Lucy Barret is a Sr. WordPress Developer at HireWPGeeks, a WordPress Development Company, and a contributor to SEW.

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The SEO benefits of using WordPress to publish your content

Creating and launching a fully-fledged website is not enough to get your brand noticed by itself.

In order to improve your online visibility, you will need to carry out SEO (search engine optimization) practices.

If you want to achieve a higher ranking on Google and other search engines, you’ll need to get serious about search engine optimization. Luckily, if you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), there are a number of in-built features that make optimizing your content for search significantly easier.

So what is it that makes WordPress such a strong platform for SEO? Let’s take a look.

1. Permalink Structure

Permalinks are the permanent URLs for your web pages, posts, categories and tag archives. It is the web address used to link to your individual blog post and web page. By default, permalinks look something like this:

http://mysite.com/p?=17

This structure makes it difficult for search engine crawlers to read and index your web pages and posts. That means you will need to make it more accessible for both search engines and we visitors.

Fortunately, WordPress allows you to customize your URL permalinks for each of your posts and pages, adding a clear description of your page’s content as well as any relevant keywords – this makes your URL structure search-engine friendly.

To change your default permalink URLs, you will need to go to Settings → Permalink. You can change it either using /post-name/, or /category/post-name. You can also set it using date and name, but I would prefer you to use “Post Name” to optimize your permalink structure for search engines. The custom permalink URL structure will look something like this:

http://mysite.com/%postname%/

Tip: After creating a custom permalink structure, make sure you save all the changes.

2. Easy to create SEO-friendly titles

The “title tags”, or the title of a blog post, is one of the crucial aspects when it comes to getting a better ranking on search engine result pages. The title tags not only tell search engines what your web page is all about, but also leave the first impression on the people who see your post title in the search results.

Since search engines focus more on the initial words of the titles, make sure you add your keywords at the start of your title tag – this will help you rank better. So, WordPress allows you to optimize your title tags for SEO using the All-in-One-SEO-Pack plugin:

After installing this plugin, you will need to access your WordPress admin panel → go to Settings → All in One SEO Pack and add the following:

  • Post Title: %post_title%
  • Page Title: %page_title%

This will help you create unique, engaging, relevant, and search engine friendly title tags for your site, which in turn increase your CTR as well as page views.

3. Creating unique Meta Descriptions for SEO

A meta description is a snippet of content that you can see under the page link within a Google search result page. It gives a brief summary of your blog post or a web page to both the search engine bots as well as web audiences. This will help you get better ranking on SERPs.

It means that creating unique, engaging and search engine friendly meta descriptions for all your posts and pages can improve your visibility across search engines, and can also help you get a higher click-through rate.

The default WordPress settings makes it easy for you to optimize your meta descriptions for Google and other search engines. Better yet, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin or All in One SEO Pack to automatically create SEO-friendly meta descriptions for your WordPress site.

4. It’s easy to generate an XML Sitemap in WordPress

WordPress allows you to create and submit an XML sitemap easily to search engine webmaster tools. An XML sitemap allows you to tell Google and other search engine bots about all your web pages and posts exist on your site. It simply allows search engine crawlers to read and index your site quickly and easily.

Luckily, WordPress offers a ton of plugins that can help you generate an XML sitemap for all your pages, posts, custom post types, categories, and tags. You can use Yoast SEO, or Google XML sitemap plugins to let search engines better index your WordPress site.

For an example: We are using Yoast SEO plugin to generate an XML sitemap for your WordPress site. After installing and activating the plugin, you will need to enable the XML Sitemaps. To do that, go to the SEO → XML Sitemaps and click on the checkbox to enable this functionality.

The SEO benefits of using WordPress to publish your content

Make sure you configure it and save the settings. This will generate the sitemap for your WordPress site.

5. Use of categories and tags

The main purpose of categories and tags are to help web visitors navigate your blogs quickly and easily, which in turn, help you get a better search ranking (if used properly). In a nutshell, categories are the table of contents for your blog, while tags are the index that helps a search engine to interpret your blog’s subject matter with ease.

Both the categories and tags help you create a better structure and allow Google to notice it while indexing the blog posts of your WordPress. So, make sure you have all the subcategories, and have a well-structured post to make it as easy as possible for search engine crawlers to “read” your content.

To add categories, you will need to go to the Posts → Categories and Tickets → Labels.

Ensure that you use the best tricks to optimize the categories and tags in WordPress for SEO.

6. Simple and clean code

The code behind WordPress is simple and clean, allowing search engine bots to index your site with ease. Since it is an open source platform, you will see constant modifications in terms of security, performance, and functionalities to let Google and other search engines to position your site higher up the SERP.

Although WordPress already performs well in this particular area, making sure that you install well-coded themes and plugins to ensure the high quality of your WordPress site.

7. Optimization of Images for SEO

If you want to drive more web traffic towards your site, then you can’t overlook image optimization. It is one of the crucial aspects of good SEO.

Image optimization is all about creating engaging, relevant image titles and alt text so that you will get better visibility on Google and other image search engines. WordPress makes it easy to add titles and alt text to your images when you upload them to its CMS, so that image optimization is simply a matter of filling in the right fields.

The SEO benefits of using WordPress to publish your content

8. Linking to related posts

Allow search engines to crawl your older posts quickly and easily using the related posts plugin. It is a great WordPress plugin that can help you add a link to related posts within your new content, thereby increasing your SEO capabilities with ease.

The plugin makes it incredibly simple to add related posts to your blog posts and pages, re-ordering related posts via drag and drop functionality, without generating a single piece of code.

Other key points on WordPress SEO:

(a) Since Google loves fast-loading websites, WordPress makes it easy for you to optimize the speed of your site by:

  • Compressing the CSS and JS files
  • Minimizing HTTP requires
  • Optimizing image file sizes
  • Using Caching
  • Use of CDN services
  • Upgrading the core WordPress, installed themes and plugins on a regular basis.

(b) WordPress enables you to create a new page with fresh, updated and improved content to help you get better ranking on SERPs.

(c) In case you forget to optimize the permalink of an existing/older blog post, then you can tweak the slug to a more relevant and search engine-friendly URL.

If you want to avoid a 404 error, then make sure you add a 301 permanent redirect to the older version of your post. This will redirect your web visitors and search engines to the new URL, which in turn will boost your pageviews.

Wrapping up

If you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), these tips should hopefully help to you use it in the most effective way to boost your search ranking.

All you need to do is understand the out-of-the-box WordPress SEO functionalities and how get the most out from them, and you can drive quality traffic towards your website.

 

Lucy Barret is a Sr. WordPress Developer at HireWPGeeks, a WordPress Development Company, and a contributor to SEW.