Google Ranking Mobile Friendly Websites Higher from April 21st

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

Read Google’s full announcement here – Googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ie/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

mobile-friendly

I’ve noticed this in news posts around the web in recent times and have had clients asking me about it. I guess it’s the way things are going with more and more people accessing online content via mobile devices and Google are probably right to reward sites with higher rankings if they satisfy this trend. Nevertheless I can’t help feeling a little annoyed for 2 reasons:

1. Google I’m sure know that to make a website mobile friendly or include a separate mobile domain completely is possibly a big job and big outlay for companies. Doing a little seo tweaking is one thing but expecting companies to either completely re-build their sites to make them mobile friendly or building an entirely new website is asking a bit much in my opinion.

2. Web design clients are quite likely (some of mine have already) to expect their website to be mobile friendly already even though it might have been built before smart phones were even invented and they might expect the site to be “fixed” for free as if it were broken in some way.

So potentially massive hassle all round because of this.

What to do?

I guess if you are conscientious about seo and Google rankings etc you may need to act on this rather soonish. If you happen to have a WordPress site or possibly any modern CMS powered site there may be plugins you can install that will show basic mobile versions of your site’s content. Failing that you’re probably looking at a full rebuild with a responsive design. Again, a little easier if you have a WordPress or CMS site but not so easy if you have a static, custom built one.

You can test your site to see if Google thinks it’s mobile friendly or not here – Google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Contact me for advice if you feel the need.

Leon

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Redirect Old WordPress URLs to New When Moving or Rebuilding a Website

I’ve just moved my self hosted WordPress blog which was also my main business site with some static pages, to a WordPress hosted blog and replaced the self-hosted one with a static, hand made PHP/HTML website, with all new urls!

It’s proven to be a bit of a bigger job than I expected to redirect old urls that people and google might have indexed in such a way that any SEO merit I’ve gained over the years would not be lost.

Here’s what I done following some research online and while it’s not perfect and some urls are going to slip through the net or at least make people work harder to try find, I’m pretty happy with the outcome:

Step 1 – Transfer the content:

Transferring the content was easy enough. I simply done an export from my self-hosted WordPress admin and re-imported on WordPress.com. It usually works fine but some images might get lost. This will bring in Posts, Pages, Images, Categories, Tags, Comments…pretty much everything you need.

Step 2 – Replace old content:

I deleted all self-hosted WordPress files then built a new static site to replace the self-hosted WordPress site. The only thing to note here is that you should try match new url’s to old ones if possible, at least for the static pages that might have been on the old WordPress site. This will most likely involve using some code to create “pretty urls” though. More of that later.

Step 3 – Identify URLs to be redirected:

This is the hard bit! For me, all static page urls on my old site had to be redirected to the new url. I had to setup manual redirects for this even though the only difference in url might have been the addition of a .php or .html extension at the end. That was the easy bit but what about categories and single blog posts that might have been indexed quite well in google? My category list was fairly static so I could manually redirect each one similar to pages but unfortunately my permalink structure for single blog posts was a bit weird, ie – each url had a random number followed by the post title. If I’d have included the word “blog” in the url it might have made things easier!I basically had a good look through my post history on the new blog and identified the “most important” blog posts, ie – ones with affiliate links of just the most popular ones and even googled to see which posts came up highest. I also looked at my Google Analytics account to see which were the top bog posts viewed. Once I had a list of posts I was able to add redirect code for each post. See below:

Step 4 – Add the Redirect Code:

I added all my redirect codes to a .htaccess file in my website root. Here’s an extract below that should show and explain each redirect type:


Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

#Redirect Old WordPress Pages
Redirect 301 /web-design/ /web-design.php

#Redirect Old WordPress Categories
Redirect 301 /category/wordpress-tips/ https://reverbstudios.wordpress.com/category/wordpress-tips/

#Redirect Old WordPress Posts
Redirect 301 /67/web-design-leitrim/ https://reverbstudios.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/web-design-leitrim/

Step 5 – All Other URLs:

For anything else that might be in google but you haven’t redirected, it will end up on a 404 – not found page on your site/server. To get around this I simply created a new error 404 page with the same design as the rest of the new static site and put a line in the .htaccess file to redirect all missing pages or posts to that. Here’s the line:

ErrorDocument 404 https://www.reverbstudios.ie/404.php

Step 6 – Submit New Sitemaps:

Finally, I went into my various webmaster tools sites, ie – Google, Bing, Yahoo etc.. and deleted the old sitemap and added another new one.

As I said, this seems to work quite well for me but might not be an exhaustive list of things to do so please feel free to add anything I might have left out in the comments below.

Leon

Add a Newsletter System to Your WordPress Website

Online marketing is getting a bit harder these days as traditional and even newer methods of selling yourself online are becoming saturated and over used. It’s getting more and more unpredictable whether people will find your blog posts or see your Facebook & Twitter stuff as more and more businesses and competitors clamor to be heard online among a pile of junk and ads..

I’ve always liked Newsletters. They have been around for longer than social media marketing but may have taken a back seat in recent times but they remain an effective marketing tool. For example, top companies with massive mailing lists know they’ll make millions just by sending out a Newsletter with latest products etc..

Here are some of the advantages of using a Newsletter system that we shouldn’t forget:

  • Users can sign up to your list automatically,
  • Marketing material is sent directly to a persons inbox,
  • People can chose to read at a time that suits without having to bookmark,
  • People can unsubscribe (requirement),
  • Minimum marketing effort, maximum reach,
  • Full control over design and action links,
  • Open/Read analytics.

I’ve been using an excellent WordPress Newsletter plugin on this website for a few years now with some success. It can take subscribers automatically from the front end and I can write a nicely formatted and designed newsletter with all the required “view in browser” and “unsubscribe” links to send out to them all from within the WordPress admin. I can also generate offsite code to show the subscription form across the rest of my personal websites and places like my Facebook Page.

Get in touch if you’d like help setting up a Newsletter on your website.

Here’s an example of how a typical Newsletter looks. NB – don’t make them too long!:

Reverb Newsletter

 

How to Make Your Website Work Better

I’ve always concentrated on just building websites and when I started out first it was nearly enough to just have a website. There were fewer sites around, less competition and more room for success but the internet is so crowded these days that you really need to work at getting your new site noticed and having it bring in revenue.

I’m hoping to move more into the “Performance” side of web design so if you feel you need help with any of the following for your existing website, give me a shout:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO),
  • SEO Reports,
  • Keyword Research,
  • Competitor Research,
  • Google Analytics,
  • Sitemaps,
  • Internet Marketing/Online Advertising,
  • Social Media/Networking Integration,
  • Blogging,
  • Website Upgrades/Added Functionality,
  • Content Management Systems (CMS),
  • Email Marketing/Newsletter Systems,
  • Viral Marketing (Image & Video),
  • One to One Mentoring.

Leon

Disqus Advanced Blog Commenting

I’ve recently switched over to the Disqus Commenting system from the native WordPress one for the management of comments on this blog. I seen it on a few friends blogs and thought it rocked. Here’s why:

  • Easy installation and import of existing/old comments,
  • Full comment moderation/filtering,
  • Fits in with your existing theme/CSS,
  • Nested/Indented comment replies,
  • Comment reply notification & RSS subscription,
  • Social Media sharing,
  • Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID login,
  • Disqus dashboard at Disqus.com with a wealth of  settings,
  • Comments are SEO friendly.

The standout feature for me and the main reason I switched is the ability Disqus gives you to SHARE your comments and replies on Twitter and Facebook. Doing this automatically creates a status update in your name on both sites with a link back to the exact comment or reply. This is a great way to gain more exposure for your article and promote discussion on it!

There’s a WordPress Disqus plugin (of course there is!) available at WordPress.org/extend/plugins/disqus-comment-system/ which when installed will magically import all your existing blog’s comments and auto-sync new blog comments with your online Disqus account. On plugin activation, you’ll have a brand new, seamlessly integrated, advanced but easy to use commenting system!

Sign up now at Disqus.com

Leon.

WordPress Optimization and Speed

I’ve been having problems with my sites for a while now on various different VPS web hosting servers. Essentially, I’m getting intermittent faults, the worst kind and hardest to diagnose nevermind fix! Basically all my sites can be running fine then for no reason and without me making any changes to any site, they become incredibly slow. The server and/or apache dies more often than I’d like it too aswell, requiring a manual server restart.

I decided to do a bit of proper research and fault finding this week and while I can’t say for sure everything is fixed now, as of this moment, everything seems fine. Here’s a few of the things I done to try optimize a couple of my biggest, most trafficked sites – both WordPress blogs.

Basic Optimization

  • Update WordPress itself to the most recent version,
  • Update all plugins,
  • Remove plugins that you don’t really need or which you can easily replicate the functions of by hardcoding, ie – Facebook Like Buttons,
  • Limit plugins that communicate with external sources, ie – Facebook boxes, Twitter feeds, etc..,
  • Only use plugins included in the WordPress.org database,
  • Only use plugins that are listed as 100% compatible with your WordPress version,
  • Keep images small and image numbers low,
  • Use HTTP Compression,
  • Use a Caching plugin like W3 or WP Super Cache,

Advanced Optimization

  • Database Queries tend to slow down a WordPress site so check your number by adding "<!-- <?php echo get_num_queries(); ?> queries. <?php timer_stop(1); ?> seconds. -->" to your code and checking the page source on load,
  • Debug your Queries by adding the Debug Queries plugin to see what the actual queries are and how long each one takes,
  • Optimize your WordPress tables via phpMyadmin if you have access to it. The WP DB Manager plugin does this too if not,
  • Delete database tables that have been left over by deactivated or deleted plugins. Be careful here!
  • Turn off post revisions by adding “define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', FALSE);" to your wp-config file,
  • Delete all comments marked as spam via sql query – DELETE FROM  wp_comments WHERE  comment_approved = 'spam';,
  • Clean orphaned or unused entries in the WP-options table using the Clean Options plugin. Be careful!
  • Raise the default WordPress memory limit of 32MB by adding define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M'); to the wp-config file,

Finally, you can create a basic error log for your WordPress site by adding the following lines to the wp-config file:

@ini_set('log_errors','On');
@ini_set('display_errors','Off');
@ini_set('error_log','/path/to/wordpress/blog/php_error.log');

Here’s a great article on WordPress Database Optimization.

Good Luck.

Leon.

SEO Heading Structure for your Site/Blog

I’ve just recently re-coded my main site and blog to take Heading Tags into account. I thought they were added okish to begin with but an article from WordPress guru Yoast de Valk made me have another look. I’d like to try paraphrase his article here and simplify it so it’s a bit easier to digest both for me and for you.

Basically, you can endear yourself to Google and the other search engines a little bit more if you write your markup/code semantically which basically means being tidy, adding code hints and most importantly perhaps, adding the correct Formatting and Heading tags to the content you want highlighted the most/least. The idea is to make the most important keywords on the page your H1 heading, the next most important H2, and so on so when the Google bot visits your page it can then see at a glance so to speak, the most important areas and hopefully index same.

There should be only one H1 tag on a page and this should be your Page Title, Blog Title, Business name, etc..Your H2’s might be the titles of the individual sections on the page or perhaps your Article titles if you have a Blog. H3’s would be Sub-headings, H4′ s might be sidebar headings, etc..etc..

It’s important to style your headings accordingly so people too (not just Google bots!) can easily scan through longer pages of text and pick out the important parts but also that the heading tags actually contain valuable keywords. There’s no point having headings if you don’t follow both rules. If you do it correctly your page will be nicely ‘outlined’ for both search engines and real people.

Here’s a couple of screenshots from my main site and blog to explain things better and show how I’ve personally set things up.

Main Site:

Main Site Headings

Blog Headings:

Blog Headings

Leon.