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7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation

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7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation


Ready for some detailed advice to help protect your reputation online?

The advice you’ll read in this article works for both proactive reputation management, and for those that already have online negative content/reviews about them.

Be advised, however, that some sites may be impossible or very hard to beat.

Major news sites (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Times) require significant work to manage.

If a major news site has posted negative content about you, then you really need to be (or hire) an expert in SEO.

The do-it-yourself option is just not feasible at that scale. That said, these tips will help some DIYers before moving on to an expensive reputation management firm.

Up until recently, popular complaint website RipoffReport was also hard to beat.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm (which we think occurred in September 2018) have pushed some complaint sites lower in search ranking. Read my prior article for more details about this.

Tip 1: Provide Excellent Service

You want to make sure that you really are providing an excellent service to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place. Consider going above and beyond your current efforts.

For example, if you run a restaurant, maybe provide a free appetizer to surprise new or returning customers.

If you notice even the slightest sign that a customer is unhappy, try your best to resolve the issue ASAP. The next best thing is to offer a free service or refunds to make up for the issue.

You can’t make everyone happy. I have been doing SEO services for over 20 years and there have been many times when I’ve had unhappy clients.

I have always either offered free services or provided refunds to my unhappy clients, and this is how I have kept a near flawless record online.

They say the client is always right. I know that sometimes they are not, but consider whether arguing with your customer is worth your reputation.

The decision may come down to the dollar value of your services.

Maybe a negative review on Yelp or Google Maps would not affect your overall rating because you have many positive reviews.

But what would happen if you got a negative review on a complaint site like RipoffReport?

Often, these kinds of reviews rank high for the brand name and can do more damage in a few months than the amount in dispute with your client.

I have offered full refunds to several clients over the years because the threat of a negative review on the right site can hurt.

My firsthand knowledge of the damage done to businesses has made me overly cautious.

One negative review can cost thousands of dollars in online reputation management (ORM) services to try and repair.

Tip 2: Ask for Reviews

Certain professions are more likely to have more negative reviews than positive.

For example, dentists for some reason usually get a high number of negative reviews.

My guess is that no one goes to a dentist with a happy feeling. One usually goes to a dentist to fix a cavity or do a cleaning, which could result in the discovery of cavities and require more work.

Having to spend money you had not planned on spending is a pretty good reason for most people to get upset. Even the best dental insurance requires some kind of a copay, so dental procedures can be expensive.

Even if you aren’t a dentist, you’re more likely to get positive reviews if you ask for them.

If you avoid asking your best customers for reviews, you may end up with more negative reviews than you would have wanted.

Just make sure that you know your customers are happy before you ask for the review.

If you are seeing your customer in person, you may start by asking how they felt about your service right after you finish the job.

Alternatively, you may want to follow up after a few days.

Another tip is to use a different person to follow up then whoever served the customer. If it is one of your staff that did the work/sale, then either a manager or you should do the follow-up.

This way the customer is more likely to tell you about a negative experience, and you won’t feel as defensive about it since you were not the one involved.

Tip 3: Incentives for Reviews

Consider offering some kind of incentive for reviews, but be warned that this practice is against Yelp. If you do this, make sure to never ask for it in writing, but always verbally.

If someone reports you to Yelp for doing this, you may get a warning or a demotion in Yelp’s search results.

I have seen businesses post messages behind their business cards asking for Yelp reviews, with a discount for positive reviews.

A customer just needs to take a picture of this and send it to Yelp. Yelp will quickly follow up with a Consumer Alert on your account.

Tip 4: Offer Refunds to Unhappy Clients

If you have clients that are unhappy with your services, at first try to resolve or fix the issues, but if this is not possible, then offer a full or partial refund or some other incentive such as discount coupons or even retail gift cards.

Accept that you were wrong. Trying to resolve issues will always sit better with clients than trying to argue.

Refunds can either help avoid the negative review or lessen the damage and turn the negative review into a somewhat positive one.

I’ve had clients where even a partial refund has meant the difference between a 1-star and a 4-star review. Even a 5-star rating may be possible.

Tip 5: Review Generating Platforms

Many companies offer platforms for review generation. The basic concept is to collect your customer’s emails and/or phone numbers.

After their visit, or every so often, you can send a survey email or text message to ask for feedback.

The message will ask how they felt about your services and if the answer comes back positive you can then ask them to give you a review on the review site of your choosing, such as Yelp and Google Maps.

If the answer comes back negative, you will see the message and can reach out to them to try and resolve the issue before they think about posting a negative review in the first place.

These services typically cost as little as $30 per month to run yourself, or up to hundreds of dollars for a full-service provider (ORM company). Some companies that offer this service include:

Tip 6: Consider Revising Your Business Model

I have a client with an ecommerce fashion store that dropships items from China, even though the business is based in the U.S.

The delivery time is usually 2 to 5 weeks, which is slow for most people. In addition, sometimes the Chinese sizes run smaller than US sizes.

So this business often gets many negative reviews and requests for returns/refunds. They also further upset clients by asking the customer to send back the item at their own expense.

As you can see, this kind of business cannot avoid negative reviews unless they change their business model.

The main benefit of their service is that it’s affordable. In fact, they are extremely cost-effective compared to similar fashion items found at major department stores.

So, what can a business like this do?

My advice begins with an adjustment to their sales copy informing customers that items are delivered from China and that shipping may take 2-5 weeks.

This tactic reduces some of their sales, but it avoids so many unhappy customers and unnecessary refunds.

Most people would probably not mind waiting a little if that would save them some money.

The customers that don’t want to wait that long are usually the ones that would complain most because they probably needed the item to be there for an occasion.

Also, they can offer free or reduced shipping costs for returns.

If the item is pretty cheap, another option is to provide a full refund and have the customer simply keep the item. Amazon used this tactic effectively in its growth phase to encourage Prime users.

The good news with this business is that they decided to change business models and keep inventory on hand to ship from the U.S. after I consulted with them.

They have been getting fewer negative reviews since they did this couple of months ago.

So my point here is to take a look at your business model to see what adjustments you can make to avoid situations that lead to negative reviews.

Even if it is going to cost you some business or money, you would be better off in the long run.

Not only will you increase business from new customers (thanks to positive reviews), happy clients will return and refer others to your business.

Tip 7: Be Proactive, Not Reactive

There are a number of things you can do to create a positive online image.

Your goal should be to populate the top 20 of Google with positive content about your business, which in turn may help to keep negative content out.

I plan on writing another article soon to cover more specifics, but in general, here are a few recommendations:

  • Register your social media profiles on the top social media sites, and stay active on those platforms.
  • Active Twitter profiles often get in the top 10 for their brand names, and Google may even show the latest feeds from them taking additional real estate space.
  • YouTube videos will often rank well for brand names. You can create a professional video for less than $1,000, or an even lower budget video using your smartphone. Also, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr to do a slide show type video about your business.
  • Distribute press releases every few months. Try to use different networks for distribution to get maximum coverage.
  • If you don’t already have a blog, create one and post on a regular basis (once a week is what we recommend to our clients as a minimum).
  • Create mini sites or blogs with subdomain blog platforms, such as wordpress.com or tumblr.com. Make sure your brand name appears as part of the subdomain (i.e., yourbrand.wordpress.com).

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Why & How to Tackle Technical SEO Before Link Building

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Why & How to Tackle Technical SEO Before Link Building


When you consider a link building campaign, you may not be completely reaping the benefits of your SEO efforts if you ignore technical SEO.

The best results happen when you consider all the points of your website’s SEO:

In fact, there are situations when you must tackle technical SEO before ever thinking about getting links.

If your website is weak in technical SEO areas, or extremely confusing for search engines, it won’t perform as well regardless of the quality and quantity of backlinks you have.

Your top goals with technical SEO is to make sure that your site is:

  • Easily crawled by search engines.
  • Has top cross-platform compatibility.
  • Loads quickly on both desktop and mobile.
  • Employs efficient implementation of WordPress plugins.
  • Does not have any issues with misconfigured Google Analytics code.

These five points illustrate why it’s important to tackle technical SEO before link building.

If your site is unable to be crawled or is otherwise deficient in technical SEO best practices, you may suffer from poor site performance.

The following chapter discusses why and how you should be tackling technical SEO before starting a link building campaign.

Make Sure Your Site is Easily Crawled by Search Engines

Your HTTPS Secure Implementation

If you have recently made the jump to an HTTPS secure implementation, you may not have had the chance to audit or otherwise identify issues with your secure certificate installation.

A surface-level audit at the outset can help you identify any major issues affecting your transition to HTTPS.

Major issues can arise later on when the purchase of the SSL certificate did not initially take into account what the site would be doing later.

One thing to keep in mind is that you must take great care in purchasing your certificate and making sure it covers all the subdomains you want it to.

If you don’t, you may end up with some issues as a result, such as not being able to redirect URLs.

If you don’t get a full wildcard certificate, and you have URL parameters on a subdomain – using absolute URLs – that your certificate doesn’t cover, you won’t be able to redirect those URLs to https://.

This is why it pays to be mindful of the options you choose during the purchase of your SSL certificate because it can negatively affect your site later.

No Errant Redirects or Too Many Redirects Bogging Down Site Performance

It’s easy to create an HTTPS secure implementation with errant redirects.

For this reason, an eagle eye’s view of the site’s current redirect states will be helpful in correcting this issue.

It can also be easy to create conflicting redirects if you don’t keep watch on the redirects you are creating.

In addition, it’s easy to let redirects run out of control and lead to tens or many more redirects per site URL, in turn, leads to bogging down site performance.

The easiest way to fix this issue moving forward: make sure that your redirects are all created in a 1:1 ratio.

You should not have 10-15 or more redirect URLs per URL on your site.

If you do, something is seriously wrong.

Example of correct redirects

Content on HTTPS & HTTP URLs Should Not Load at the Same Time

The correct implementation is that one should redirect to the other, not both.

If you have both of them loading at the same time, something is wrong with the secure version of your site.

If you type in your site’s URLs into your browser, try and test https:// and http:// separately.

If both URLs load, you are displaying two versions of your content, and duplicate URLs can lead to duplicate content issues.

To make sure that you do not run into this issue again, you will want to do one of the following, depending on your site’s platform:

  • Create a full redirect pattern in HTACCESS (on Apache / CPanel servers)
  • Use a redirect plugin in WordPress to force the redirects from http://

Instead, this is an example of exactly what we want to display to users and search engines:

How to Create Redirects in htaccess on Apache / Cpanel Servers

You can perform global redirects at the server level in .htaccess on Apache / CPanel servers.

Inmotionhosting has a great tutorial on how to force this redirect on your own web host. But, for our purposes, we’ll focus on the following ones.

To force all web traffic to use HTTPS, this is the following code you will want to use.

You want to make sure to add this code above any code that has a similar prefix (RewriteEngine On, RewriteCond, etc.)

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/[0-9]+..+.cpaneldcv$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/.well-known/pki-validation/[A-F0-9]{32}.txt(?: Comodo DCV)?$
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

If you want to redirect only a specified domain, you will want to use the following lines of code in your htaccess file:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/[0-9]+..+.cpaneldcv$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/.well-known/pki-validation/[A-F0-9]{32}.txt(?: Comodo DCV)?$
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Don’t forget to change any URLs in the above examples to what is the correct implementation on your domain name.

There are other solutions in that tutorial which may work for your site.

WARNING: if you do not have confidence in your abilities to make the correct changes at the server level on your server, please make sure to have your server company/IT person perform these fixes for you.

You can screw up something major with these types of redirects if you do not know exactly what you are doing.

Secure Site redirect plugin

Use a Plugin If You Are Operating a WordPress Site

The easiest way to fix these redirect issues, especially if you operate a WordPress site, is to just use a plugin.

There are many plugins that can force http:// to https:// redirects but here are a few that will help make this process as painless as possible:

Caution about plugins – don’t just add another plugin if you’re already using too many plugins.

You may want to investigate if your server can use similar redirect rules mentioned above (such as if you are using an NGINX-based server).

It must be stated here: plugin weight can affect site speed negatively, so don’t always assume that the latest plugin will help you.

All Links On-site Should Be Changed From HTTP:// To HTTPS://

Even if you perform the redirects above, you should perform this step.

This is especially true if you are using absolute URLs, as opposed to relative URLs, where the former always displays the hypertext transfer protocol that you’re using.

If you are using the latter, this is less important and you probably don’t need to pay much attention to this.

Why do you need to change links on-site when you are using absolute URLs?

Because Google can and will crawl all of those links and this can result in duplicate content issues.

It seems like a waste of time, but it’s really not. You are making sure the end result is that Google sees exactly the site you want them to see.

One version.

One set of URLs.

One set of content.

No confusion.

Examples of links that should be changed from http:// to https://

No 404s From HTTP:// To HTTPS:// Transitions

A sudden spike in 404s can make your site almost impossible to crawl, especially if the links between http:// and https:// pages exist.

Difficulty crawling a site is one of the most common issues that can result from a spike in 404s.

Also, crawl budget wasted due to too many 404s showing up, and Google not finding pages that it should.

Why this impacts site performance, and why it matters:

While John Mueller of Google mentions that crawl budget doesn’t matter except for extremely large sites:

“Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that he believes that crawl budget optimization is overrated in his mind. He said for most sites, it doesn’t make a difference and that it only can help really massive sites.

John wrote “IMO crawl-budget is over-rated.” “Most sites never need to worry about this. It’s an interesting topic, and if you’re crawling the web or running a multi-billion-URL site, it’s important, but for the average site owner less so,” he added.”

A great article by Yauhen Khutarniuk, Head of SEO at SEO PowerSuite, puts this perfectly:

“Quite logically, you should be concerned with crawl budget because you want Google to discover as many of your site’s important pages as possible. You also want it to find new content on your site quickly. The bigger your crawl budget (and the smarter your management of it), the faster this will happen.”

It’s important to optimize for crawl budget because finding new content on your site quickly should be the priority, while discovering as many of your site’s high priority pages as possible.

How to Fix Any 404s You May Have

Primarily, you want to redirect any 404s from the old URL to the new, existing URL.

Check out Benj Arriola’s Search Engine Journal article for more information on 404s vs. soft 404s, and how to fix them.

One of the easier ways, especially if you have a WordPress site, would be to crawl the site with Screaming Frog and perform a bulk upload of your 301 redirect rules using the Redirection WordPress plugin.

Otherwise, you may have to create redirect rules in .htaccess.

Your URL Structure Should Not Be Overly Complex

The structure of your URLs is an important consideration when getting your site ready for technical SEO.

You must pay attention to things like randomly generating dynamic parameters that are being indexed, URLs that are not easy to understand, and other factors that will cause issues with your technical SEO implementation.

These are all important factors because they can lead to indexation issues that will hurt your site’s performance.

More Human-Readable URLs

When you create URLs, you likely think about where the content is going, and then you create URLs automatically.

This can hurt you, however.

The reason why is because automatically generated URLs can follow a few different formats, none of which are very human-readable.

For example:

  • /content/date/time/keyword
  • /content/date/time/string-of-numbers
  • /content/category/date/time/
  • /content/category/date/time/parameters/

None of these formats that you encounter are very human readable, are they?

The reason why it’s important is that communicating the content behind the URL properly is a large part of user intent.

It’s even more important today also because of accessibility reasons.

The more readable your URLs are, the better:

  • Search engines can use these to determine exactly how people are engaging with those URLs vs. those who are not engaging with those URLs.
  • If someone sees your URL in the search results, they may be more apt to click on it because of the fact that they will see exactly how much that URL matches what they are searching for. In short – match that user search intent, and you’ve got another customer.
  • This is why considering this part of URL structure is so important when you are auditing a site.

Many existing sites may be using outdated or confusing URL structures, leading to poor user engagement.

Identifying which URLs can be more human readable can create better user engagement across your site.

Duplicate URLs

One important technical SEO consideration that should be ironed out before any link building is duplicate content.

When it comes to duplicate content issues, these are the main causes:

  • Content that is significantly duplicated across sections of the website.
  • Scraped content from other websites.
  • Duplicate URLs where only one piece of content exists.

This can hurt because it does confuse search engines when more than one URL represents one piece of content.

Search engines will rarely show the same piece of content twice, and not paying attention to duplicate URLs dilutes their ability to find and serve up each duplicate.

Avoid Using Dynamic Parameters

While dynamic parameters are, in and of themselves, not a problem from an SEO perspective, if you cannot manage your creation of them, and get consistent in their use, this can become a significant problem later.

Jes Scholz has an amazing article on Search Engine Journal covering the basics of dynamic parameters and URL handling and how it can affect SEO. If you are not familiar with dynamic parameters, I suggest reading her article ASAP before proceeding with the rest of this section.

Scholz explains that parameters are used for the following purposes:

  • Tracking
  • Reordering
  • Filtering
  • Identifying
  • Pagination
  • Searching
  • Translating

When you get to the point that your URL’s dynamic parameters are causing a problem, it usually comes down to basic mismanagement of the creation of these URLs.

In the case of tracking, using many different dynamic parameters when creating links that search engines crawl.

In the case of reordering, using these different dynamic parameters to reorder lists and groups of items that then create indexable duplicate pages that search engines then crawl.

You can inadvertently trigger excessive duplicate content issues if you don’t keep your dynamic parameters to a manageable level.

You should never need 50 URLs with UTM parameters to track the results of certain types of campaigns.

The creation of these dynamic URLs for one piece of content can really add up over time if you aren’t carefully managing their creation and will dilute the quality of your content along with its capability to perform in search engine results.

It leads to keyword cannibalization and on a large enough scale can severely impact your ability to compete.

Shorter URLs Are Better Than Longer URLs

A long-held SEO best practice has been shorter URLs are better than longer URLs.

Google’s John Mueller has discussed this:

“What definitely plays a role here is when we have two URLs that have the same content, and we try to pick one to show in the search results, we will pick the short one. So that is specifically around canonicalization.

It doesn’t mean it is a ranking factor, but it means if we have two URLs and one is really short and sweet and this other one has this long parameter attached to it and we know they show exactly the same content we will try to pick the shorter one.

There are lots of exceptions there, different factors that come into play, but everything else being equal – you have a shorter one and a longer one, we will try to pick the shorter one.”

There is also empirical evidence that shows that Google ranks shorter URLs for more terms, rather than long and specific.

If your site contains super long URLs everywhere, you may want to optimize them into better, shorter URLs that better reflect the article’s topic and user intent.

Examples of overly complex URLs

Make Sure Your Site Has Top Cross-Platform Compatibility & Fast Page Speed

Site glitches and other problems can arise when your site is not coded correctly.

These glitches can result from badly-nested DIV tags resulting in a glitched layout, code with bad syntax resulting in call-to-action elements disappearing, and bad site management resulting in the careless implementation of on-page elements.

Cross-platform compatibility can be affected along with page speed, resulting in greatly reduced performance and user engagement, long before link building ever becomes a consideration.

Nip some of these issues in the bud before they become major problems later.

Many of these technical SEO issues come down to poor site management and poor coding.

The more that you tackle these technical SEO issues at the beginning with more consistent development and website management best practices, the better off you’ll be later when your link building campaign takes off.

Poorly Coded Site Design

When you have a poorly coded site design, your user experience and engagement can suffer and will be adversely affected.

This is yet another element of technical SEO that can be easily overlooked.

A poorly coded site design can manifest in several ways with:

  • Poor page speed.
  • Glitches in the design appearing on different platforms.
  • Forms not working where they should (impacting conversions).
  • Any other call to actions not working on mobile devices (and desktop).
  • Any tracking code that’s not being accurately monitored (leading to poor choices in your SEO decision-making).

Any of these issues can spell disaster for your site when it can’t properly report on, capture leads, or engage with users to its fullest potential.

This is why these things should always be considered and tackled on-site before moving to link building.

If you don’t, you may wind up with weaknesses in your marketing campaigns that will be even harder to pin down, or worse – you may never find them.

All of these elements of a site design must be addressed and otherwise examined to make sure that they are not causing any major issues with your SEO.

Pages Are Slow to Load

Since July 2018, Google rolled out page speed as a ranking factor in its mobile algorithm to all users.

Slow loading pages can affect everything, so it’s something that you should pay attention to on an ongoing basis, and not just for rankings.

But for all of your users also.

What should you be on the lookout for when it comes to issues that impact page speed?

Slow Loading Images

If your site has many images approaching 1 MB (1 megabyte) in file size, you have a problem.

As the average internet connection speed approaches over 27.22 Mbps download on mobile, and fixed broadband approaches over 59.60 Mbps download, realistically, this becomes less of an issue, but can still be an issue.

You will still face slower loading pages when you have such large images on your site. If you use a tool like GTMetrix, you can see how fast your site loads these images.

Typical page speed analysis best practices say that you should take three snapshots of your site’s page speed.

Average out the three snapshots, and that’s your site’s average page speed.

It is recommended, on average, for most sites, that images should be at most 35 – 50K per image, not more. This is depending on resolution, and pixel density (including whether you are accommodating the higher pixel densities of iPhones and other devices).

Also, use lossless compression in graphics applications like Adobe Photoshop in order to achieve the best quality possible while resizing images.

Efficient Coding Best Practices

Some people believe that standard coding best practices say that you should be using W3C valid coding.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines recommend using valid W3C coding to code your site.

Use valid HTML

But, John Mueller (and even Matt Cutts) have mentioned in the past that it’s not critical to focus on W3C-valid coding for ranking reasons.

Search Engine Journal staff Roger Montti discusses this conundrum in even further detail here: 6 Reasons Why Google Says Valid HTML Matters.

But, that’s the key word there. Focusing on it for ranking purposes.

You will find at the top of Google, for different queries, all sorts of websites that ascribe to different coding best practices, and not every site validates via the W3C.

Despite a lack of focus on that type of development best practice for ranking purposes, there are plenty of reasons why using W3C valid coding is a great idea, and why it can put you ahead of your competitors who are not doing it.

Before any further discussion takes place, it needs to be noted from a developer perspective:

  • W3C-standard validated code is not always good code.
  • Bad code is not always invalid code.
  • W3C validation should not be the be-all, end-all evaluation of a piece of coding work.
  • But, validation services like the W3C validator should be used for debugging reasons,
  • Using the W3C validator will help you evaluate your work more easily and avoid major issues as your site becomes larger and more complex after completion of the project.

But in the end, which is better, and why?

Picking a coding standard, being consistent with your coding best practices, and sticking with them is generally better than not.

When you pick a coding standard and stick with it, you introduce less complexity and less of a chance that things can go wrong after the final site launch.

While some see W3C’s code validator as an unnecessary evil, it does provide rhyme and reason to making sure that your code is valid.

For example, if your syntax is invalid in your header, or you don’t self-close tags properly, W3C’s code validator will reveal these mistakes.

If, during development, you transferred over an existing WordPress theme, from say XHML 1.0 to HTML 5 for server compatibility reasons, you may notice thousands of errors.

It means that you have incompatibility problems with the DOCTYPE in the theme and the language that is actually being used.

This happens frequently when someone copies and pastes old code into a new site implementation without regard to any coding rules whatsoever.

This can be disastrous to cross-platform compatibility.

Also, this simple check can help you reveal exactly what’s working (or not working) under the hood right now code-wise.

Where efficient coding best practices come into play, is doing things like inadvertently putting multiple closing DIV tags where they shouldn’t go, being careless about how you code the layout, etc.

All of these coding errors can be a huge detriment to the performance of your site, both from a user and search engine perspective.

Common Ways Too Many WordPress Plugins Can Harm Your Site

Using Too Many Plugins

Plugins can become major problems when their use is not kept in check.

Why is this? How can this be – aren’t plugins supposed to help?

In reality, if you don’t manage your plugins properly, you can run into major site performance issues down the line.

Here are some reasons why.

Extra HTTP Requests

All files that load on your site generate requests from the server or HTTP requests.

Every time someone requests your page, all of your page elements load (images, video, graphics, plugins, everything), and all of these elements require an HTTP request to be transferred.

The more HTTP requests you have, the more these extra plugins will slow down your site.

This can be mostly a matter of milliseconds, and for most websites does not cause a huge issue.

It can, however, be a major bottleneck if your site is a large one, and you have hundreds of plugins.

Keeping your plugin use in check is a great idea, to make sure that your plugins are not causing a major bottleneck and causing slow page speeds.

Increased Database Queries Due to Extra Plugins

WordPress uses SQL databases in order to process queries and maintain its infrastructure.

If your site is on WordPress, it’s important to know that every plugin you add will send out extra database queries.

These extra queries can add up, and cause bottleneck issues that will negatively affect your site’s page speed.

The more you load plugins up, the slower your site will get.

If you don’t manage the database queries well, you can run into serious issues with your website’s performance, and it will have nothing to do with how your images load.

It also depends on your host.

If you suffer from a large website with too many plugins and too little in the way of resources, now may be the time for an audit to see exactly what’s happening.

The Other Problem With Plugins: They Increase the Probability of Your Website Crashing

When the right plugins are used, you don’t have to worry (much) about keeping an eye on them.

You should, however, be mindful of when plugins are usually updated, and how they work with your WordPress implementation to make sure your website stays functional.

If you auto-update your plugins, you may have an issue one day where a plugin does not play nice with other plugins. This could cause your site to crash.

This is why it is so important to manage your WordPress plugins.

And make sure that you don’t exceed what your server is capable of.

This Is Why It’s Important to Tackle Technical SEO Before Link Building

Many technical SEO issues can rear their ugly head and affect your site’s SERP performance long before link building enters the equation.

That’s why it’s important to tackle technical SEO before you start link building.

Any technical SEO issues can cause significant drops in website performance long before link building ever becomes a factor.

Start with a thorough technical SEO audit to reveal and fix any on-site issues.

It will help identify any weaknesses in your site, and these changes will all work together with link building to create an even better online presence for you, and your users.

Any link building will be for naught if search engines (or your users) can’t accurately crawl, navigate, or otherwise use your site.

Summary

Timeframe: Month 1, 2, 3 and every quarter

Results Detected: 1-4 months after implementation

Tools needed:

  • Screaming Frog
  • DeepCrawl
  • Ahrefs (or Moz)
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics

Link building benefits of technical SEO:

  • Technical SEO will help you get the maximum performance out of your links.
  • Technical SEO like a clean site structure and understanding of PR flow is very key for internal link placement.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
In-post images/screenshots taken by author, July 2019



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Critical Vulnerability Strikes WordPress Ad Inserter

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Critical Vulnerability Strikes WordPress Ad Inserter


Ad Inserter, a popular Ad management WordPress Plugin was discovered to contain a critical vulnerability. The vulnerability allows an authenticated user as low as a subscriber to execute code on the affected website. It is advised that users of the plugin update immediately.

Screenshot of WordPress Dashboard Update LinkThis is a screenshot of the WordPress dashboard. In the top left hand corner is a link that allows you to update your plugins.

Description of Ad Inserter Vulnerability

There are actually two vulnerabilities.

Authenticated Path Traversal Exploit

The first vulnerability is called an Authenticated Path Traversal Exploit. This exploit exists in Ad Inserter version 2.4.19 and under.

This is a type of exploit that allows an attacker to access to areas of a site by adding variables to the URL, variables like ../. This allows an attacker to “traverse” to an area that may allow them to execute code or see private information.

According to Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) web page about traversal exploits,  on a website that is maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this is how a path traversal exploit works:

“The software uses external input to construct a pathname that is intended to identify a file or directory that is located underneath a restricted parent directory, but the software does not properly neutralize special elements within the pathname that can cause the pathname to resolve to a location that is outside of the restricted directory.”

The second vulnerability is labeled as critical. The vulnerability was discovered on Friday July 12th by the WordFence team and swiftly fixed by Ad Inserter the following day, on Saturday July 13, 2019.

Authenticated Remote Code Execution

The second vulnerability is called an Authenticated Remote Code Execution (RCE). This allows any user who is registered with the site, with permissions as low as a subscriber to be able to execute arbitrary code on a WordPress installation.

The RCE exploit affects Ad Inserter version 2.4.21 and under.

According to the WordFence website:

“On Friday, July 12th, our Threat Intelligence team discovered a vulnerability present in Ad Inserter, a WordPress plugin installed on over 200,000 websites. The weakness allowed authenticated users (Subscribers and above) to execute arbitrary PHP code on websites using the plugin.

We privately disclosed the issue to the plugin’s developer, who released a patch the very next day.

This is considered a critical security issue…”

Ad Inserter Plugin Reacted Swiftly and Ethically

Almost all plugins and software may contain a vulnerability. What’s important is how quickly a developer responds to issues and how transparent the developers are about it.

Ad Inserter WordPress Plugin ChangelogScreenshot of the Ad Inserter changelog showing that they responded ethically and transparently.

The Ad Inserter team deserve praise for how quickly they responded and for their transparency about the updates. Ad Inserter alerted their users to the vulnerability through the changelog that is visible on every user’s update page. This is important because it alerts users to the urgency of the update.

The Ad Inserter team acted swiftly and ethically. That’s the best that can be expected from any WordPress developer.

Update Ad Inserter

All users of the Ad Inserter WordPress plugin are urged to log in to their WordPress installation and update their Ad Inserter plugin.

Read the WordFence announcement here.



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15 Must-Have Features for Ecommerce Sites

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15 Must-Have Features for Ecommerce Sites


All websites are unique in their own way.

We’ve seen trends in ecommerce website design like animation, 360-degree product previews, advanced filtering, and dynamic product search.

However, trends don’t guarantee conversion rates or robust user experiences. There are certain elements that every ecommerce site should have to stay relevant and competitive.

Here is a list of 15 must-have features that attract online shoppers.

1. User-Friendly

This comes from the old K.I.S.S. adage about keeping it simple.

Simplicity should be a goal in good design and you don’t have to sacrifice elegance to achieve it.

As a matter of fact, studies show that 76% of consumers say the most important characteristic of a website is ease of use.

The objective is to help shoppers get to what they want faster and without running into unnecessary complexity that can clog up the path to purchase.

Online sellers have minutes, if not seconds, to make a sale. Focus on the user experience by providing shopping categories, filters, and comparison capabilities.

To make your ecommerce site more user-friendly, consider the following:

  • Improve search functionality with an autocomplete option like Under Armour:

1.usability-autocomplete

  • Create effective, visual navigation like Stanley:

2. navigation-stanley

  • Pre-populate forms like Target:

3.usability-forms

Ecommerce sites should be a competitive advantage instead of a troublesome experience.

2. Mobile-Friendly Website

Mobile shopping accounts for 50% of online transactions.

With a responsive website, content intuitively adapts to whatever device is accessing it to provide the most user-friendly experience.

Walmart increased mobile sales by 98% after optimizing its mobile site.

4. walmart-mobile

And Intelligentsia created a better purchase experience on mobile that led to a 16% increase in mobile transactions.

It doesn’t matter if you have millions of product pages or five.

Creating a mobile-friendly experience for your shoppers will improve sales and potentially your rankings.

3. High-Resolution Photos & Video

Gone are the days of posting one photo with a few bullet points and a price tag.

Shoppers want to see multiple angles and people using the product in different environments. They want to be able to zoom in and get a feel for the product.

Technical considerations for images are crucial. Images that don’t load or take too long to load will see a consumer drop-off rate of 39%, according to Adobe.

And, we’re not talking about just professional photos. Vanity Planet found that adding Instagram photos to their product pages increased checkouts by 24%.

5.vanity planet-instagram photos

Images sell, not text.

Ecommerce websites should display multiple photos per product. The photos need to be high-resolution and optimized for page load.

4. User-Generated Reviews

Shoppers read reviews. About 95% of them, in fact.

And 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.

You might think that having negative reviews is a sale killer. The opposite is actually true.

Having negative reviews can often be positive. It’s shown that products without negative reviews are seen as censored and, in turn, shoppers will assume the positive reviews are fake.

Depending on website functionality, ecommerce sites can use plugins from the most popular review platforms including Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook.

Forward-thinking ecommerce sites, like Paiwen paddleboards, are using reviews as user-generated content to drive social proof and build raving fans.

Paiwen-UGC

5. Special Offers

Most ecommerce sites are using special offers in their standard marketing practices via email, social, text, etc.

Next-level ecommerce sites take advantage of the prime real estate in the header section to promote special offers.

kendra-scott-offers-header

When shoppers realize they’re getting a special deal, it motivates them to buy more and spend more time searching the site.

If ecommerce sites are using ongoing promotions, providing a unique webpage that lists the offers will not only drive more sales but also improve SEO.

Consider the shopper searching [ZIP code + toyota special offers] and the value of that organic search result.

gst-special-offers

6. Wish Lists

Oh, how I love wish lists. One for fashion, one for books to read, one for holiday gift ideas.

Shop, save, and share!

Ecommerce sites that aren’t using wish lists are leaving revenue on the virtual desktop table.

What’s better than having customers bookmark items they want and will most likely buy in the future? That’s just gold in the pocket. And a remarketing campaign dream.

Just take a note from Amazon.

6. Amazon - wish lists

Retailers are creating these individualized options to drive engagement.

In this webinar by Brendan Witcher of Forrester, he shares how these can drive open rates as high as 80%, and 5x-10x higher return to purchase.

It’s also an opportunity to share a brand with new buyers. When shoppers share their wish lists with family and friends, it sends free traffic with built-in social proof to a website.

7. Find-in-Store

Not all ecommerce sites have brick-and-mortar stores. However, those that do must have a find-in-store feature.

Sometimes you don’t want to wait for an item to ship. You want instant gratification.

Shoppers are going online just to research and then complete the purchase in person. This is especially true for millennials, as they tend to research online before purchasing in a store.

This makes it incredibly helpful to see which local stores have products in stock.

8. Related Items

Simply seeing the phrase, “you might like this” causes a serotonin release signaling curiosity and excitement.

A ‘Related Items’ feature on an ecommerce site creates the desirable stickiness effect that so many marketers strive to achieve.

It happens like this:

You saved the AeroPress coffee maker to your shopping cart.

A section emerges that says, “you might like this.”

Would you like some freshly roasted, fair trade whole coffee beans?

Maybe a digital scale to measure the exact amount of coffee grounds to achieve the perfect cup of coffee?

You get the picture.

When an online seller uses the related items feature to sell more, it’s actually signaling to the buyer that “they get me.”

Related items can also include similar product categories to comparison shop, “people who bought this item also searched for”, and so on.

9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Complex purchases require confidence with a seller and detailed information when buying products online versus face-to-face.

Fine Watch Bank (disclosure: they were a client) sells expertly crafted high-end watches.

The company’s buyers need confirmation of watch authenticity and detailed product information to feel comfortable when making a purchase.

An additional information section details frequently asked information, which establishes credibility and builds confidence with the buyer.

finewatchbank-additional-ino

FAQ sections also provide a self-help area to address common customer problems. Buyers often ask about product support, returns, lost account passwords, etc.

10. Social Proof

Brands and online sellers that connect with their buyers on an emotional level create brand trust and advocacy.

Social connection is undeniable and the opportunity to bond with an audience is easier now than ever.

Linking social profiles and user-generated content with an ecommerce site are must-have features that will give online sellers brand character.

Shoppers are inundated with a constant flow of “buy now” and “get this”. It’s those brands that engage with customers socially that create customers for life. They are offering products that help others and that people care about.

Social media allows ecommerce brands to show authenticity and associate an emotional connection with their products.

  • Look at Nike’s Pinterest account to see how incorporating products with motivational images makes a huge impact.
  • See how Ikea uses user-generated content to share design ideas and inspiration for how to use its products.
  • Check out how Lowe’s produces how-to videos that teach people how to use its products.

11. Security Features

Online transactions are an integral part of our lives.

As such, ecommerce websites can be a lucrative target for cybercriminals. It’s crucial that online sellers protect customer information and take steps to ensure privacy.

It all starts with a secure ecommerce platform.

With their sophisticated security features, it’s no wonder that Magento and WordPress paired with WooCommerce are the top two platforms for online sellers.

Other must-have ecommerce security features to consider are:

  • SSL certificate: Establishes secure connectivity between a user and the website. Look for HTTPS and a green lock in the address bar before trusting an online store with your information. Select an SSL certificate vendor with name recognition. The enterprise ecommerce giants almost always use Symantec.
  • Two-factor authentication: Adds an extra layer of security by requiring username/password and a system-generated code sent via email or text.
  • Use a firewall: Provides a gateway or wall between two networks and permits authorized traffic and blocking malicious traffic.
  • Privacy policy link in footer: Addresses the website’s privacy policies and promises customer data is not shared with third parties.

12. Advanced Payment Options

In the world of Apple Pay and PayPal, advanced payment options are a must-have feature for an ecommerce site.

Just consider the ease of use associated with Amazon one-click shopping. Shoppers with registered accounts can literally buy with the click of a button.

There are many popular online payment options. The key is understanding who the buyer is and implementing the most effective solutions.

If your website is limiting payment options, make sure to explain why.

For example, an ecommerce site may not offer Bitcoin as a payment option after determining its value isn’t reliable.

If buyers are technology-savvy individuals who tend toward this payment method, it’s important to be transparent as to why it isn’t an option. This transparency establishes that the brand understands its buyers and builds trust.

13. Detailed Shipping Information

Alarmingly, unexpected shipping costs are the number one reason for shopping cart abandonment.

It’s critical that ecommerce websites include shipping information early in the checkout process, including a ZIP code calculator showing cost.

It’s also helpful to include delivery time and options for faster delivery. Sites should list countries that are outside normal shipping zones.

Interestingly, shoppers spend 30% more per order when free shipping is included. Be sure to present codes for free shipping on all pages of the site through the header navigation, if applicable.

victorias-secret-offers-header

14. Multi-Touchpoint Contact Page

When it comes to running an ecommerce site where most business takes place online, nothing builds trust more than an overly obvious and well-presented “contact us” feature. This is especially true when selling high-end merchandise or technical products.

Never make it hard for a buyer to get in touch or request support.

Consider the contact page a feature of the website. Include multiple ways to reach out, including phone, email, and an online form.

Some companies with brick-and-mortar stores offer online appointment setting via their contact page. Be sure to add customer service social links and Google maps for locations.

15. Return Policy

Return policies are an essential feature of any ecommerce website.

Your return policy should be clearly visible and well-written or illustrated.

This is another trust-building feature of online selling. It reassures buyers that if they are unhappy or just need a different size, the brand is there for them.

Start Creating Fantastic Shopping Experiences

These must-have ecommerce site features could be grouped into categories like Duh, DOH! and Ahhh. Marketers and web designers might say “duh” when it comes to incorporating ease of use, high-resolution photos, security features, and contact information. As they are best practices and trademarks of good design.

There are others who would say “DOH!” when considering elements like special offers, user-generated reviews, and social sharing. They know they should be using these features but just haven’t gotten around to implementing them. It’s never too late!

Finally, the “ahhh” moment when you get excited about planning for robust related items, shareable wish lists, and find-in-store features.

No matter what category you’re in, ecommerce sites have an incredible opportunity to use tried-and-true features blended with innovative new elements to create fantastic shopping experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author



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