Core Web Vitals are coming – are you ready?

Core Web Vitals are coming – are you ready?

Core Web Vitals are coming – are you ready?

Got a website and want it to be found by searchers in Google? Then pay attention: Rankings are about to change in a BIG way.

Google is expected to release new metrics for ranking sites sometime this year. Is your website ready to be ranked in a totally new way?

I’m going to break down what that means and what you can do to make sure your site soars to the top of search results when the change takes place.

What are Core Web Vitals and how do they change the SEO game?

To understand Core Web Vitals you need to first understand what search bots look at when they decide whether to display your site to searchers. Previously, Google has been looking at our sites and making sure they hit 3 main SEO points:

1. Mobile-Friendly Code

The first metric Google has classically ranked sites for is  mobile responsiveness, meaning that users can view a site just as well on phones as on computers. Responsiveness means the design, sizing and layout “responds” to the screen size of the user to display it best.

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2. Safe Browsing Experience

Google wants to see that SSL is in place. SSL encrypts user data as it goes from the site to the server & back again, thwarting thievery and hacks of the info we share as users, like email addresses, credit card numbers and other personal data.

3. Easy to read and view

Pop-ups get in the way of browsing. Google calls these “interstitial intrusions”, meaning any extra content that appears over the webpage – like a pop-up window. Yes, pop-ups are bad for SEO. Still confused? Check out this guide on “interstitial intrusion” from SEO Journal.

Here’s how everything you know about SEO is going to change:

So we’re already aware of these 3 things, and most of the websites that are still doing well in search today are doing just fine with the above. But now Google is bringing in 4 new metrics – called Core Web Vitals – that are going to shake things up. Meet the new metrics:

4. Site Loading Time

Google calls it “first contentful paint”, which means, how quickly can we load ALL the content on your landing page? It should take less than 2.5 seconds to load your above-the-fold content. If it takes more than 3 seconds to load, a lot of web visitors will get bored & navigate away.

5. Easy Site Interactions

Interactivity is about to matter when Core Web Vitals come into play. What does that mean? It means buttons need to be big and colorful, easy to click, and not just text links. A website is not like a book – users want to interact with it and make choices & selections. If Google sees that you don’t offer that, or it’s too difficult for people to interact with your page, your SEO scores will tank.

6. Layout loading & shifting

You know when you’re loading a site and some parts come faster than others, causing things to move around as everything comes into view? The amount those elements need to move during load time matters, too. You can kill two birds with one stone by having a super fast loading site in the first place, chiefly by keeping your plugins list short and lean.

TL/DR: You can no longer have an old-fashioned, text-based website that has all the right content but archaic design and slow load time and have it found in search. When these new metrics come into play, sites that don’t measure up will loose visibility fast. Google is cutting the cord – everyone needs to catch up with modernity in how their website looks, loads and functions to be seen as valid and valuable by Google. 

How do you know how your site measures up now?

There are various tools you can use to evaluate the strength of your current site for Core Web Vitals compliance. Click on the following links and insert your full URL to start a scan:

Not liking what you’re seeing?

If your scores are lacking and you need help fixing issues on your site, take action NOW before Core Web Vitals ranking goes live and becomes a real impediment to people finding your site. Follow the instructions on the report you’ve generated, or sign up for my SEO Report Card service, which includes a full site scan for all vulnerabilities, an easy-to-read report on where your site shines and where it needs help, and a live hour-long call with me to review the results and make a plan to fix them. Learn more here > 

How to add your site to the Google Search Console

How to add your site to the Google Search Console

Is Your Site on the Google Search Console?

How to add your site to the Google Search Console

Sure, Google scans every site on the internet, but is it really seeing your site? And are the search bots seeing the latest version of your site? There’s a way to control all of this, and it’s called the Google Search Console. And your site needs to be added to it to be effectively found by your target audience in search.

Not sure if your site is submitted to the Google Search Console?

If you’re unsure whether your site has been submitted, click here and input your URL to check. If your site doesn’t have a search console account, you’ll be prompted to start the process to sign up.

 

Need to submit your site to the Google Search Console? Here’s how:

It all starts with the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, which is one of the 4 plugins that every WP site needs. You should already have it installed, activated and configured on your WordPress website. If you don’t, pause now and go do that. Then come back here. 

Connect your site to the Google Search Console using Yoast

It’s very easy to add your website to the Google Search Console — it just takes a couple of steps. The Yoast website has a guide to walk you through the process. Access it here. 

1. Go to Google Search Console.
Login or click ‘Start Now’, if you are new.


2. Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
You can add up to 1000 properties to your Google Search Console account.

3. Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
Please make sure you enter your complete URL. For example, if your site is https://yourdomain.com/ it needs to be that exact URL. Don’t forget the / at the end of the URL. If your site uses WWW or is using HTTP you need to add properties for those as well. Google provides multiple ways of getting your site verified and they even suggest adding multiple ways because of security. If you are not sure what your site has, please speak with your host provider.

4. Click the arrow next to ‘HTML tag’ to expand the option.
There are several ways to verify your site, but we’ve made it easy for you. We only need to get the authorization code so we can paste it in Yoast SEO.

5. Copy the meta tag.
Highlight the entire meta tag code. Right click on the highlighted tag and click on ‘Copy’ or use the copy shortcuts ctrl-c on Windows or cmd-c on Mac.

6. Log in to your WordPress website.
When you’re logged in, you will be in your ‘Dashboard’.

7. Click on ‘SEO’.
On the left-hand side, you will see a menu. In that menu, click on ‘SEO’.

8. Click on ‘General’.
The ‘SEO’ settings will expand providing you with additional options. Click on ‘General’.

9. Click on the ‘Webmaster Tools’ tab.
This page has all the fields to past the verification codes for the various webmaster tools.

10. Paste the code in the Google field and click “Save Changes”.

11. Go back to Google Search Console and click ‘Verify’.
Congratulations! You’ve connected your website to Google Search Console! Now that you’ve verified and linked your site, you can submit your sitemap. Not to mention all the other cool stuff that’s Search Console capable of!

Got Questions? Start with a Web Strategy Consult Call with Kate

Not sure what you should do with your website? I can guide you in the right direction with a little information. Click the button below to learn more about meeting 1-on-1 with Kate, including topics we cover and all costs and scheduling options.

How to pick the right WordPress plugins for speed & security

How to pick the right WordPress plugins for speed & security

Pick the right plugins
for your WP website.

How many WordPress plugins do you have on your site? Too many WordPress plugins can slow down your site and open it up to hacks.

Pop quiz: How many WordPress plugins do you have on your WordPress website? Go look.

Got more than 4 plugins? More than 10? Did you know that every plugin lowers your site speed on Google SpeedTest by 3 points?

wordpress pluginsThe best WP plugins can provide a magical experience – add features and functions to your WordPress site with just the click of a button.

And the WordPress plugin repository offers a seemingly endless treasure trove of options to extend your WordPress website and create a better experience for your users. Need help setting up your SEO? There’s a plugin for that. Want to feed your latest Instagram posts into your footer? Just search for a plugins, install and activate, right? Well, not so fast.

Not all WP plugins are healthy for your WordPress site, and too many “junky” plugins can really slow things down (beware the yucky WP plugin bloat). It’s important to pick your WP plugins wisely, because some can really hurt your site. They’re snippets of code authored by strangers, after all. The open source community that created and grew WordPress is largely wonderful, but it does require a roadmap.

Here’s a handy checklist to help you pick the best plugin for your WordPress site:

  1. Has it been tested with the current version of WordPress? Or at least, the version your site is running? How to tell what WordPress version your site is running >
  2. When was the plugin last updated? If it’s been more than 4 months or so, that might be a sign no one is manning the controls or keeping it up-to-date.
  3. How many support tickets are there? Has the plugin developer been replying? It’s always wisest to choose plugins that clearly have a team behind them, paying attention to the ever-changing security and code landscape.
  4. Does it have a good star rating? Plugins in the WordPress plugin repository are rated, just like restaurants on Yelp. Click through to read the issues reported by the best and worst reviewers just like you might before buying an Amazon mattress.
  5. Can it be accomplished without a plugin? The fastest sites are the leanest, and the web loves speed. Your site visitors are giving you 15 seconds, max. They don’t want to wait for a splashy graphics show with music – they just want you and what you have to offer.
  6. Will I remember to keep it up-to-date? Because nothing is more dangerous to the health of your WordPress website than an out-of-date plugin. Skipping updates leaves the back door open to hacks and other threats. Adopt a system or reach out for help, we’re here for you

Plugins also invite hackers and can wreck site security 

According to Google’s Safe Browsing tool, hacking is on the up-trend, taking an unprecedented spike when the world shut down for the COVID pandemic in March 2020.

The thing is, hackers love plugins, and the nature of the open source WordPress community means that there are hundreds of poorly managed plugins out there that could literally invite hackers to your doorstop.

Google, in the data analysis, blames WordPress, citing stats that point a very clear finger at out-of-date and infected WP plugins:

“75% of [infected websites] were on the WordPress platform and over 50% of those websites were out of date. Many infected websites are attacked through old security vulnerabilities in just three WordPress plugins that have not been updated.”

By keeping your plugin list lean and light, and using only the most impactful and secure plugins to enhance your site, you can stay safe from hacks that will inject unwelcome content onto your site – or worse, crash it altogether.

So go review your plugin list again, and delete or uninstall and that you’re not actively using right now.

And if you have any of these known insecure plugins, delete those too, as they’ve recently been identified as unsafe for site security:

  • Duplicator – WordPress Migration Plugin
  • Profile Builder Plugin by Cosmoslabs
  • Flexible Checkout Fields For WooCommerce
  • Async JavaScript
  • Modern Events Calendar Lite
  • and any plugin flagged as not tested with your version of WordPress!

You only get one launch

Make it count.

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Do you have the right services set up for your site?

Learn to filter through the noise and focus on what counts.

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Are you optimized for search engines with SEO?

Check off the easiest, no-nonsense fixes that have the biggest impact on your site’s search visibility.

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Will your site look good on social and mobile?

I call out those can’t-miss things like social share previews, mobile responsiveness settings, and other best practices.

How to launch a WordPress site

How to launch a WordPress site

How to launch a WordPress site

So you’re ready to launch your WordPress site? If you’re happy with how it looks and ready for the rest of the world to see, then it’s time to go live with that new website! It sounds intimidating and complicated but it’s really not. I’ll break it down piece by piece for you. Here’s how to launch a WordPress site, step-by-step:

Step One: Add your domain to your host’s domain list

The first step in launching your new WordPress website is to assign it a domain name. You need to tell your host server what address this site will use when people view it from the web. That address is called your domain name.

If you’re hosting with WPEngine, add your domain name to your account by clicking on Domains when logged in to my.wpengine.com

A helpful hint: With WPEngine, add your domain to your domains list twice, once with www and once without. Trust me, this one is wonky but it’s important.

Step Two: Set domain’s DNS to look at your hosting server

Your domain name is like your street address. It’s how you tell people where your website lives. And its DNS settings are what allows your host to serve up your site at that address.

DNS stands for Domain Name Server, and the settings are found within your Domain Registrar control panel. Your Domain Registrar is whoever you pay to register your domain and reserve it for you. Common domain registrar’s include GoDaddy, Google Domains, Register.com, and sometimes site builders like Wix and Squarespace.

A helpful hint: If you’re not sure who your domain registrar is, you can run a free lookup at whois.net by entering your domain name into the search field and scanning the results for a registrar like those listed above.

Once you’re logged in to your domain registrar, follow the awesome instructions provided by the blog at WPLauncher.com for step-by-step DNS directions.

Step Three: Set your domain as the site URL in the WordPress dashboard

Once you’ve pointed your DNS to your host – whether it has completed propagation or not – go into your WordPress dashboard and open the Site Settings > General panel. In the Site URL field, enter your custom domain with its full path (e.g. https://mysite.com)

A helpful hint: If you don’t yet have a SSL certificate assigned to your domain, which is common at site launch, enter your domain with an insecure “http://” at this time and return to add the “s” later. This will help avoid that “insecure, are you sure?” error message, at least for some users. It is common for SSL to follow a site’s initial launch by a few hours.

Step Four: Request an SSL certificate

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, and it basically means, any data that is passed on your site is passed through security first. Not only is it important for security reasons, but it’s important for search, too, now that Google penalizes sites that don’t have SSL and shows a warning to visitors instead (read ServerGuy’s handy explanation here).

A helpful hint: SSL certificates are FREE with all sites hosted by WPEngine and WordKeeper, our two favorite hosts. You can also get SSL for free via Cloudflare, if you host elsewhere. In most cases, you should NOT need to pay for SSL on a single site that is not eCommerce-centric.

If you’re hosting at WPEngine, adding SSL is easy. Just click the SSL item in your my.wpengine.com account and add SSL via Let’s Encrypt. It’s free, it’s easy, and it takes 2 minutes. Just don’t forget to update your site URL after it’s working!

Step Five: Add the site to the Google Search Console

The Google Search Console is a site owner’s way to tell Google that your site exists. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s imperative to take care of on launch day so that your website is properly indexed by Google.

A helpful hint: Try the URL Prefix method of adding your site, and then follow these instructions to add the header code to your Divi Integration Options to verify the connection.

If your WordPress site uses the Divi theme, good news! Elegant Themes, the makers of Divi, recently published an exhaustive guide to the Google Search Console which covers all the details and more to getting your site indexed. Don’t skip this step!

Step Six: Track with Google Analytics

The last and final step of launching your WordPress site is to embed the code that will enable tracking with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is the most widely used traffic and analytics provider and will give you all sorts of gold in the form of data about your site visitors, what they do, and what parts of your site they like the most.

Do your customers know how to do business with you?

Do your customers know how to do business with you?

Online Business Marketing Tips from WPMaster.me

How to do business with you

Do your customers know how to do business with you?

Sometimes they need a little reminder!

The best way to get more sales through your website is to take a minute and teach your customers how to do business with you. It’s clear to you where to order and how to register for your programs, but that’s because YOU set it up, right? If you’re confident a lot of people are seeing your offers and know you exist, but you’re not seeing a lot of sales, try teaching your customers clearly how to do business with you.

As Brene says, “Clear is Kind”

Brene Brown, one of my favorite motivational speakers and author of self-help books for female business owners like the fabulous Dare to Lead, has a quote that says it all: “Clear is kind.” In other words, our audience appreciates when we make it easy for them to take the next step.

I received the email above today from my local ice cream shop, Milk Sugar Love, and I had to share it with you all as an example of exactly what Brene is talking about, and what I’m urging you to do with your online sales and sign up forms. Be crystal-clear and lead your horse directly to the water.

Teach your audience how to do business with you

If you read the text of the ice cream cake email in the screenshot above, you will not have any uncertainty about how to order such deliciousness. You will be crystal-clear on how to get that cake in front of you at your next Zoom cocktail hour, making all your friends swoon. This is what I want you to do when you communicate the next step for your own audience.

Hot online business marketing tips!

In all your sales copy, and on your landing pages and offer pages, make sure you include step-by-step instructions on how to sign up for your program or purchase your service help. Try adding a separate “How to Order” page to your site and lay it out as clearly as you can. Explainer videos like this one help but aren’t necessary – a simple text list that is easy to read and understand helps too. Bonus points for screenshots of the process!

Once you have the process hammered out on your site, send it out to your current clients and prospects, like Milk Sugar Love did, above. Give them a gentle nudge (and maybe a coupon) and make sure they know exactly how to take you up on whatever you are offering at this time.

Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.