Blogging Monthly 006 – WordPress 5.5, Astra Theme Ban and Amazon Podcasts

WordPress 5.5 Update for Webmasters

With this monthly episode, we will discuss the latest WordPress 5.5 release, five weeks ban on Astra WordPress theme and other security issues relates to WordPress.

WordPress 5.5 Update For Webmasters

Hey Everyone, Welcome to the latest episode of Blogging Monthly. This is Sanjeev Mohindra from MetaBlogue and in this episode, we will talk about the latest updates around Blogging and WordPress.

WordPress 5.5 Release

So, let’s start with one of the biggest news of the month – WordPress 5.5. release. WordPress 5.5 is a major update that will bring a lot of performance improvement and editing enhancement to the core of WordPress.

WordPress 5.5 combines the Gutenberg update for version 8.5 and 8.6 to deliver major editing enhancements to the block editor. It also combines some of the basic requirements like XML sitemaps, Lazy Loading in the WordPress core. Earlier, webmasters were using external plugins to get these functionalities but now they can get these by default with WordPress.

Automatic Themes and Plugin Updates

The first change coming to WordPress Plugins and Themes is automatic updates. You can enable the automatic update for installed themes and plugin individually. Till now, webmasters have to use Jetpack or some other plugins to provide this functionality but now it has been integrated into the core.

This means now every webmaster can choose and select which plugins and themes can be automatically updated. You can also pick and choose to only select the items which you trust will not break your site. So automatic updates can be enabled for individual items.

Auto Update For WordPress Plugins and Themes

Though I would have loved to add a pre-defined delay while enabling the automatic updates. Something like, update the plugin with 3-4 days delay after detecting a pending update. This way if there are any bugs or issues, you will have fixes rolled out before it breaks your site. I always update WordPress plugin and themes for my sites manually after waiting for almost a week from the updates rolled out date.

One hidden feature is the ability to block auto-update for specific plugins remotely. So, in case they find any issues with plugin or theme, they can set a flag at the repo level which can block the auto-updates. This is a good security feature to stop impacting multiple sites due to faulty codebase.


XML Sitemap

XML Sitemaps are one of the important requirements for good SEO. Till now webmasters have to rely on external plugins to generate XML Sitemap but now WordPress will generate the XML Sitemap by default. You can access the sitemap at /wp-sitemap.xml URL of the site.

There are filters and hooks available to customize the Sitemap output which can be utilized to make changes in the final Sitemap. Though many webmasters might still depend on SEO plugins to create sitemaps which have already spend a lot of effort on customizing the output.

WordPress Default Sitemap For SEO

SEO Plugins like Yoast SEO or RankMath has already pushed the update to disable the WordPress Sitemap functionality since their Sitemaps are more customizable.

But this will be a useful feature for the sites which are not using any SEO plugin and relying on the WordPress default functionalities. You can check more details about XML Sitemap’s at WordPress Official Announcement.


Image LazyLoad

WordPress is also including image lazyload functionality by default to the CMS. This way all the images which have proper height and width attributes, will be lazyloaded on most of the browsers. Having a height and width attribute is important so that browsers can block the space for the image otherwise site will have a cumulative layout shift problem which will not be good for core web vitals.

So if your themes and plugins are not outputting the proper image attributes, you may not be able to take advantage of this feature. WordPress uses the attribute loading=”lazy” to achieve the lazy loading of the images which is supported on most of the browsers except Safari. Though, it’s already in progress for Safari also.

Most of the plugins like Jetpack, WP-Rocket is already updated to work with the new features. They either disable the functionality or fall back on WordPress feature in certain conditions. In any case, this is a good initiative towards faster page loads for WordPress.


Block Directory

Design Blocks are the way to go for WordPress editing with Gutenberg and WordPress 5.5 is taking it a step further by introducing Block Directory. The Block Directory will provide ways for Gutenberg Block Plugins to get additional visibility.

Users can now add the block plugin and block in the editor window without leaving the screen. When you search for a block, it will show the results from Block Directory along with local blocks. You will have an option to add the block directly from that window.

Block Directory For Gutenberg Block Plugins

This will provide additional ways to reach new users for block plugin creators but also will make it easy for webmasters to include new blocks in their page design. Currently, there are few block plugins are added to Block Directory and additional block plugins should be available once the creators will start submitting their plugins.

WordPress 5.5 also comes with standard guidelines for Block creators that need to be followed. Once they follow the standard and submit the plugin, it will be approved and made available in Block Directory. They also have a Block Plugin Checker tool that can run on the plugin code and report possible problems.


Block Patterns

WordPress 5.5 also introduces Block Patterns which are pre-defined block layouts ready to be inserted in the post or pages. Now Block plugin creators can also ship layouts build using the plugin blocks to make it easy for webmasters to design the pages.

Block Patterns In WordPress Gutenberg Editor

There are already some core block patterns available in WordPress 5.5 and many more will come when Block Plugin Creators will start adding the Block Patterns in WordPress.

Though many of the plugins are already using the additional Layout buttons to supply pre-defined layouts, we still need to see how they will adapt to Block Patterns.


Gutenberg Updates

Gutenberg editor is also coming with a lot of updates in terms of UI and editing process. The Gutenberg plugin is shipping the last two versions of the update with this WordPress release.

Things like Editor Preview options which allows you to preview the page in different screen sizes including mobile and tablet mode, Inline image editing option, One-click import of external images, Custom line heights for Headings and Paragraphs are some of those changes.

There are many more changes in terms of Block Search enhancement, UI enhancement which is shipped with the update. Overall, it will make it easy for editing the post and pages in Gutenberg Editor.


Astra WordPress Theme Ban

Astra is one of the lightweight and customizable WordPress Theme which is available free on the WordPress theme repository. You can get the Pro version to enable the WooCommerce addon to make it one of the best WooCommerce Theme.

Astra WordPress Theme In WordPress Repository

This week WordPress has banned Astra Theme for 5 weeks because of using affiliate links. WordPress themes and plugins in the repository are not allowed to use Affiliate Links for the last two years or so. Though it gives creators ways to earn extra money but also gives ways to phony practices. So, WordPress has banned affiliate links.

Astra creators have accepted that they are inserting affiliate links using filters provided by third-party plugins. So, there are no direct affiliate links but it gets inserted using filter and hooks of other plugins which are also not valid with WordPress repository rules.

Though the theme was banned for 5 weeks, Astra creators have submitted an update to remove the affiliate links from the themes. So after a downtime of 2-3 days, Astra theme is back in the WordPress repository.


P2 – A New Collaboration Tool

Automattic has launched a new tool called P2 which they are using for their internal communication and now they are giving it to companies to use for their internal collaborations.

This tool is more of a replacement of collaboration tools like Slack which allows you to mention your team members, upload documents, or image. Currently, you can’t host it on your server and it comes with 3GB document storage but Automattic is planning to release the self-hosted version also.

Automattic is using this tool for their internal communication for long and they think it’s time they can help other organizations also.


Genesis Blocks and Genesis Custom Blocks

StudioPress is working on the Genesis Pro solution which provides pre-defined layouts and pages. They are planning to rebrand Atomic Blocks to Genesis Blocks and will release an extended version later this month.

They will also release Genesis Custom Blocks which will allow you to create your blocks without writing code. This will be helpful for people with a good eye to design but no coding experience.

Both the plugins will be released in the WordPress repository and will be free for webmasters. You don’t have to use these plugins with the Genesis Framework, they will work with any themes on WordPress.


Amazon Launching Podcast

In the latest news from Amazon is launching the podcast platform which will be integrated with Amazon Music and Audible. They have started sending emails to podcast creators to submit the podcast details so that they can be available when they launch the platform.

Though they are mentioning it as a piece of confidential information for podcasters, the information is already out. This will provide the creators with another platform to create a reach and showcase their work. You can create your podcast and share it with the audience of Audible and Amazon Music.

They have not specified any launch date but since they have already asking the podcasters to submit the podcast, it should not be far.

This brings us to the close of this episode. Hope this episode has given some good information to you which will help in your blogging journey. Stay inside and stay safe.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Blogging Monthly 005 – Google SERP, Core Web Vitals And WordPress Updates

Google SERP Update and Core Web Vital Addition

With this monthly episode, we will discuss some of the important updates and changes for the WordPress community. Google SERP update and new core web vitals which will be important for online businesses in the coming time.

Google SERP Update and Core Web Vitals Addition

Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Blogging Monthly. Last month has been very busy, not only because of Pandemic but also due to certain updates from Google.

Google has not only released a new SERP update but also updated Webmaster tools to include various new reports. They have also suggested using the new Core web vitals report to check the health of your sites as later this year they will start using those signs for SERP.

Google SERP Updates And Web Vitals

So let’s start taking a deep dive into each of those topics. To start with let’s discuss Google SERP update for May 2020.

Google May-2020 SERP Update

Google has released a major SERP update last month. The update started rolling out on 4th May and got completed around May 18th. This is one of the major core updates after what we have seen in last September.

This update has given a lot of fluctuations to the first page rankings. Even worst, many webmasters have reported that their first-page rankings were moved down to 9th or 10th pages.

Google’s official response is similar to any other core update that the webmasters can’t do much about it other than creating user-friendly content. Though the rating volatility impact across the industry is huge for this update. You can check the chart from SEMrush to see the SERP variations for last month.

Who Is Winning?

So who is winning and loosing in this SERP update?

Let’s talk about my sites first. Last time when I talked about COVID-19 impact on Blogging in the last episode, I told that I am seeing an increase in the traffic on a few pages. Those pages are related to how you can work from home or things you need to set up a home office.

There was a surge of almost 100% increase in traffic on those pages but with this update, I have lost that surge. I checked and most of the traffic loss is due to the lost rankings. Some of my keywords where I was ranking in the top 3 have moved out of the first page.

On MetaBlogue, the impact is minimal and I have not lost much of the traffic with this update. Small ranking changes but some of the pages have also improved which has kept the overall traffic about the same.

So what’s happening overall industry?

The update was not targeted to any specific geographic or niche, the impact is worldwide and across niches. The major gainers look like news articles that have started getting more prominent locations on the front page.

Along with news, another major change is for online forums. Many webmasters have reported that they are seeing the online forum pages gaining in the SERP. Articles are being replaced with more user-generated content on the 1st page of search results.

What happened with your sites? If you are seeing any impact please drop a note and let me know.

How to recover from it?

As per Google, there is not much a webmaster can do to recover its rankings. In my view, the guidelines which we talked about few episode back, still holds true.

The first step is to access where you have lost the rankings. Once you know that, it’s about updating the content, improving the user information value in those articles, cleaning up your backlink profile. These are some of the steps which you can take to gain your rankings back.

Now, since the rollout is already complete and we have started seeing signs of small SERP changes for June, its a good time to start on the recovery process.


Core Web Vitals

Google has also updated its webmaster tools to rename the Page Speed report to Core Web Vitals report. The report will show some of the core parameters for web pages.

Web Vitals is an initiative by Google to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience on the web.

Web Vital Team

So, the idea behind the report is to show the health of a site from a user interaction perspective. Though the definitions and parameters are still developing, Google is focusing on three key elements in 2020 – loadinginteractivity, and visual stability.

Core Web Vitals Content Metrics for 3 Key Parameters

They have come up with three different metrics to measure the performance for these three elements – Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, Cumulative Layout Shift.

These will start becoming a ranking parameter in sometime 2021, so webmasters have some time to understand and implement the recommendations.

How are they measuring it?

The metrics are not completely new, they had some of those already in their PageSpeed Insights. They have combined a few of those parameters to start calculating the feedback differently.

LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) is the time taken to render the largest content in the viewport. This shows how good your loading time is and how fast your users can start interacting with your site.

FID (First Input Delay) is the time taken to react to user interaction. If a user clicks on a link then how long it takes for the browser to take action on that link.

CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) is the metric that calculates the content shift once you think content is loaded on the screen. There can be multiple reasons like your Lazy Loading scripts are not blocking the space for images or Ads are getting inserted dynamically. Check the WordPress Plugins and Services you use for your site.

The basic data for these metrics will be collected from the Chrome User Experience Report. These are actual users who have opted to share user statics for Chrome.

How to measure these for your sites?

Though you can see these reports in the Webmasters Tool, it’s better to enable your own ways to measure the performance.

There are a few different ways you can measure it. The easiest and non-technical way is through a Chrome extension. You can install the Core Web Vitals Extension and it will report the metrics as you browse through the internet.

You can even use this extension to see the web vitals performance across your niche. It can show the performance across any page and will be a good way to check how your competitors are doing for these metrics.

There are few other ways to measure core web vitals like JavaScript APIs which can be used if you are familiar with the coding methods.

Most of my sites are doing fine on these metrics except CLS. Many of my pages have CLS higher than 0.25 (around 0.32) which is a recommended value. I checked those pages and there is only Google Auto Ads which is causing the content to shift. So it looks like Google’s tools are still needed to incorporate some of their own recommendations.

For now, I would not worry about minor variations in the results but will keep an eye on the metrics.

You want to know more about core web vitals, you can check the web.dev.


WordPress Updates

WordPress has just released their latest update as WordPress 5.4.2. This is a minor update which provide some security fixes and maintenance fixes.

The update should be installed automatically on most of the site. If not, you can go ahead and update your site to get the latest fixes.

Genesis Pro Release

Studiopress has released a new optional plugin for its customers called Genesis Pro. This plugin will extend the functionality of the Genesis Framework and provide a pre-designed page and section layouts for Gutenberg Editor.

Customers will be able to use those layouts or sections to easily design their site. Since the plugin is optional, it’s not available to their Pro Plus customer at this time. You can check the video below to see the Genesis Pro in action.

Currently, Genesis Pro is offered as a $360 per year offering which also include 35 StudioPress Themes, 1-Year Site Hosting On WP Engine, along with Genesis Pro Plugin.

The package makes sense if you are planning to buy a new Genesis Pro Plus Packages but people like me who already are a member, this does not make much sense at this time.


Thrive Themes June Updates

Thrive Themes are releasing the latest updates to their Themes and Plugins. One of the major updates is towards Table Of Contents element in Thrive Architect or Thrive Theme Builder.

The element now comes with new designs and user interaction settings which can make it look more integrated to your sites. People using Thrive Theme Builder can easily add it to theme templates to display it across categories.

If you add it to theme Templates, the content will be loaded dynamically for each post. You can also mark the element sticky which means it will always float with the user and can give an indication where your user is at any point in time.

Another update is towards the Header and Mega Menu. Now you can easily set the split menu with the logo in the middle of the header while building the layout. Also, the Mega Menu drop-down item width can be set independently.

This brings us to the end of this episode. Stay inside and be safe until we see each other next time.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Blogging Monthly 004 – Blogging In The Uncertainty Of Coronavirus

Blogging Impact Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

With this monthly episode, we will discuss how blogging is getting affected with Coronavirus spread worldwide. Let’s check the impact and what can we do to reduce the impact.

Blogging Impact Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

Hey Everyone, welcome to yet another episode of Blogging Monthly. This month we will discuss one of the hottest topics running around the world – Coronavirus and its impact on the blogging world.

Until and unless you are living outside of this world, you would have already heard about the Coronvirus which is causing the major disturbance across the world. Blogging world is no exception and we are seeing the impact of the virus on the online sites also.

Coronavirus Impact On Blogging World

Before we start digging in on the impact around Blogging, I would like to mention that across the world governments are trying hard to control the impact and loss of life due to Coronavirus. So, irrespective of where you are, please listen to your local authorities and make sure you are helping them in defeating the virus.

So whats happening at my place?

We are at complete lockdown and can’t go outside of our home for anything other than shopping for essentials (only one person per house is allowed to go out for shopping.). It’s already been 14 days and we have to go another 15 days more in the same mode before we can make a final assessment. I am following the directive given by the government and local authorities and trying to remain safe.

So I would request each and everyone to do their bit in this fight as we have to come out as a winner while saving our loved ones.

Coronavirus Impact On Blogging

Now how does this is impacting the blogging community? Lets talk about that.

Lets first understand the search trends of Coronavirus. As per the trends shown in Google trends, Coronavirus was most searched last month. Which is true giving its expansion in countries like the United States, UK, and India. The search interest is substantially high giving almost no searches before the last few months.

Coronavirus Search Term Google Trends

So people are searching for the Coronavirus and search interest is peaking. How it will behave in the next few months will depend on how better we will be able to handle the outbreak.

Though if you think you have good information or any idea which can help in stopping the virus, you can handle this search term as a seasonal keyword. Don’t expect it to last longer than the virus, there may be small ongoing interest afterwords.

What About Other Niches?

From the looks of it, Coronavirus is impacting the blogging community like seasonal trends for now. Depending on which niche and geography you are targeting, results are mixed.

For example, niches like Travel, Tourism, and Hotels are badly hit. Travel across the world is reduced so that the earning from that niche. Most of the sites around that niche have also reported reduced traffic.

The e-commerce based sites or affiliate marketing blogs for e-commerce sites are impacted based on the geography you are targeting. Though sales are down at most of the places, there are few countries where only sales of the essential items are allowed.

For Example, in India, Amazon or any other e-commerce sites can’t ship any item other than essential things. So most of them have stopped taking orders and also stopped their affiliate programs. This will reduce the affiliate earnings for the webmasters.

It’s a different situation in US-based e-commerce sites. People are ordering more and more things online and we are seeing an increase in sales (for certain niches).

So is anyone doing better in this time?

We have a guide on the setup of the home office desk on one of the other blogs which list some of the essential products you need. The guide has suddenly started getting a lot of traffic, looks like many people are looking to set up home offices at this time.

Work From Home Search Term Google Trends

Let’s check at some of the Google trends for Work from home keywords. The trends are falling into similar lines as Coronavirus. We see a good amount of increase in the search around this keyword which means more and more people are looking to work from home.

We are also seeing an increase in posts like Best Monitors for iPad or MacBook, which also falls in similar lines as the earlier mentioned post. You can see similar trends for search terms like Home Office etc which explain the increase in traffic for this post.

Home Office Search Term Google Trends

The other example I have is from the gaming niche. Our list of best Apple TV games is getting increased traffic. The post was ranking before also but we see a growth in terms of traffic. This means people are also looking for entertainment stuff inside the home.

We also see a decline in the post related to outdoor activities, which collaborates with the earlier assumption. People are preferring to stay at home and not looking for outdoor activities.

So overall we are seeing a mixed result which can impact traffic or revenue. The impact depends on the niche and geography.

What can we do now?

So if your site is impacted with the Coronavirus effect what should you do?

We do not suggest taking any impact (positive or negative) granted. As I have mentioned earlier, this should be seasonal trends and will keep changing according to how Coronavirus spread will happen.

You should keep working on your sites, even if traffic or earning is dropped. This is a good time to take a breath and figure out what things you are holding off for some time. Get them done, spend some time doing technical SEO for the site, see if you can spend some time on the outreach efforts. Another good way to revisit the old posts and see if you can update the existing content.

What am I doing? I am trying to spend this time to create a community around AWS LightSail. This is something that I have been holding on for some time.

I have many people who have joined this blog for the specific tutorials of AWS LightSail. They would love a platform to discuss and help each other. I am already seeing the increased traffic on this blog which might be due to many people sitting at home and browsing. Or maybe many people are looking for alternate ways to create an income stream.

The second thing which I want to do at this time is creating videos for MetaBlogue YouTube Channel. The channel was created some time back but I never got the time to create videos or promote the channel.

So keep doing hard work and make sure you utilise this time properly. Many of us are staying at home with no travel time, no social gatherings so let’s use that time to improve our blogs.

Stay Home, Stay Safe!

WordPress 5.4 Release

In the last episode, we have talked about the imminent release of WordPress 5.4 (Adderley). It is available to the public on March 31st and you can update your site from the dashboards.

Many of the WordPress plugins are also updated to take advantage of the latest changes. So go ahead and update the WordPress, Plugins, and Themes to the latest versions.

WordPress 5.4 brings a lot of improvements including new blocks in Gutenberg Editor. If you want to know about it in detail, you can listen to our last episode on WordPress 5.4 Update.

Though the process was simple I have lost all of my reusable blocks in this update. I have to recreate those blocks and update the existing posts. I would suggest exporting the reusable blocks in case you are using them. So that if you face a similar situation, you can easily import them back.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Blogging Monthly 003 – WordPress Vulnerabilities and Google Mobile-First Indexing

The last month was quite active from WordPress security front as well as Google SERP’s changes. Let’s talk all about it in this Blogging Monthly episode.

Blogging Monthly 003 WordPress Vulnerabilities and Google SERP Update

Blogging Monthly Episode 03

Hey Everyone, Welcome to another episode of Blogging Monthly Series. We have seen a lot of challenges towards WordPress Security in the last one month. There have been some vulnerabilities that have been identified and hackers are using it to gain unauthorized access to WordPress sites. We will talk about those in this episode.

We have also seen a lot of changes for Google SERP crawl and indexing. Mobile-first indexing is coming to every site across the internet. So if you are not aware of it, this is a good time to look at those changes and make sure your sites are ready for this.

WordPress Vulnerabilities

So let’s start with the WordPress security issues. In the recent past, we have seen a flurry of WordPress plugins to get affected by security issues. The plugin includes Duplicator, ThemeGrill Demo Importer, Flexible Checkout Fields For WooCommerce, ThemeREX Addons, etc.

The good thing is that security patches are available for all the exploited WordPress plugins. So, you should update your WordPress installation and make sure you are running the latest version of the exploited WordPress Plugins.

Here is a list of WordPress plugins which you should look and update if you are using them on your site.

Duplicator

A WordPress plugin to migrate or restore your WordPress site. The security issue allows the attackers to upload the unauthorized file to a folder or export the database access credentials. This can give them access to complete sites including the database and they can insert malicious code easily to your site. ThreatPost has published a detailed article about this vulnerability on their site -> Check Here.

ThemeREX Addons

A plugin to provide many support functionality to ThemeREX WordPress themes. There has been an issue with the Addon plugin which can provide unprotected access to the REST API endpoint.

ThemeREX team has been fast to patch the vulnerability in less than a day and able to issue the update. Wordfence has a good detail article about the vulnerabilities of this plugin -> Check Here.

ThemeGrill Demo Importer

A plugin to import the demo content for the ThemeGrill WordPress themes. At the time of exploit going public, the plugin was installed at almost 200,000 sites. Since then many of the webmasters have uninstalled the plugin.

The exploit allows the remote user to wipe the database or restore it as a base install. After that hackers can access the site with the default ‘admin’ user and password. The exploit is also patched and you can update the plugin to get the fix. WebARX Security has a detailed article explaining the vulnerability -> Check Here.

My advice for the plugins like these which have limited functionality, you should uninstall them after the use. They are usually a one-time affair and should not be left installed on active sites. If you ever need them again, you can always install it at that point in time.

Flexible Checkout Fields For WooCommerce

This is another plugin that has security issues for the WooCommerce WordPress sites. Their setting screen was accessible without authentication which has allowed hackers to inject extra fields and scripts to WooCommerce checkout pages.

The vulnerability has been patched up and you should update the plugin to the latest version. You can read more about the security issue here.

There are some other plugins like Profile Builder, Async JavaScript, 10Web Map Builder For Google Maps and Modern Events Calendar which has reported the security exploits. All those vulnerabilities have been fixed in the latest versions. So if you are using any of these plugins, make sure you have updated your WordPress plugins.

SEO Plugin Issues

Not only for the security issues, the month was not good for the SEO plugins also. First, there was an issue with Google Analytics Dashboard For WP plugin. If you are using that plugin, please verify if your Google Analytics is showing the correct data.

Looks like ExactMetrics has redesigned the plugin but it has some issue which is causing the Google Analytics to show wrong data. The best way to look at the frontend and make sure your Google Analytics code is loading properly. If not, you can wait for an update or add the correct code manually to your theme.

Yoast SEO and Rank Math are also hit with an issue with Canonical URLs. For the non-English sites, if the URL contains Unicode characters, the canonical URLs added are wrong. This can create an SEO issue for your site. Again you can easily verify by inspecting the frontend in Chrome or Safari. Search Engine Land has a detailed article about it.

Elementor & Strattic Fund Raising

Now, let’s talk about some of the development of WordPress Themes. Elementor has been one of the big names in terms of Visual Page or Theme Builder. They are able to source the additional funding of $15M from Lightspeed Venture Partners. Check the announcement here. They are planning to invest that amount in additional development of Elementor. Here is what the CEO has said about this additional funding.

With Lightspeed’s backing, we plan to grow our operational capabilities and support our expanding community on the local and global levels. We intend to bolster our online training and learning programs, strengthen our infrastructures, and recruit more talent. At the same time, we will continue to develop new innovative product lines, thereby enhancing the Elementor platform.


Yoni luksenberg

On similar lines, Strattic has also secured additional funding of $6.5M. Strattic is a company that is trying to server WordPress sites as static pages rather than dynamic sites. The idea is to improve the delivery speed, reduce the database workload and save WordPress sites from many of the hacking efforts. If you are not aware of Strattic, go ahead and check the video below.

WordPress 5.4 Availability

The next update is around WordPress 5.4 availability. We are very close to seeing the official update rolling out to all the WordPress sites. This will be the first major release of 2020 for the WordPress CMS.

WordPress 5.4 combines major changes as part of this release. The major enhancement will be bundled for Gutenberg Editor including new blocks, keyboard shortcuts, etc.

WordPress 5.4 will introduce the new social icon block and button block. Social icon block will allow users to add the social media links with the logo of that social network. This is not compatible with the earlier version of social links block, so you may have to rework on the posts which are using social links block.

They have also introduced a new button block which will help in adding multiple buttons easily to a line. Many times I wanted to add multiple buttons to a post like an app download buttons from AppStore and Play Store. Earlier we need to add HTML to add an extra button but with this change, you should be able to do that easily.

There are other enhancements like default full-screen editing mode, Keyboard shortcuts, new shortcode addition like apply_shortcode which will be an alias for do_shortcode. You can check the complete list of changes at the official field guide for WordPress 5.4.

Google Mobile-First Indexing & Nofollow Hint Update

Google is ramping up its effort on the Mobile-first indexing and now they have finally announced that from Sep 2020 they will be moving to Mobile-first indexing for all websites.

According to Google, most of the websites in the search results are already good with mobile-first indexing and already been moved over. The remaining sites will be moved by Sep 2020.

So if your site is not ready for mobile-first indexing, it’s high time to act and enable the support for mobiles. This is an indication of the rise of smartphones and devices, the app economy. There are apps and games available for iOS or Android smartphone which makes it easy for users to look for any information. The best approach is to use responsive layouts which can automatically support any screen layout.

Google has also updated its policy for nofollow links. Till now they were not using them for crawling or indexing, from March 1st they will consider them as a hint to crawl or index. So you might see some changes in terms of how your links are processed.

So spend some time and review your links. If there are links that you don’t want to be indexed, make sure they have noindex meta tags. Otherwise, Google might decide to follow them. For affiliate links, they are asking users to mark them as sponsored along with nofollow / noindex.

Google Search Console Changes

Google is also making changes in the search console to make it easy for the Webmasters to see the site performance. They have introduced a new report in the Search Console to show the performance of review snippets of your site. In the new report, you can check the valid review snippets which are available on your site and performance of the page.

Performance report in the Google Search Console adds a new filter for review snippets so you can see the performance of the snippets in the search results. If you have implemented the review snippets and not seeing the report in the Search Console, you can check the page with the Rich Result Test tool to check the valid schema markups.

These new enhancements and reports will help you improve your search rankings. You can better understand your listings and take action. Here is a Google official announcement of the feature.

Understand the site visibility to Google and take action accordingly. Don’t fall for SEO myths and make sure that your site has all the valid schema markups to display it correctly in the search results.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Blogging Monthly 002 – Google’s Latest SERP Update And Recovery Process

Blogging Monthly - Google Search Update Nov 2019

As part of this month’s Blogging updates, let’s talk about Google’s latest SERP update in Nov-2019. The update has negatively impacted many sites across the web and one of the most talked points for last month.

Blogging Monthly - Google Search Update 2019

Blogging Monthly Episode 02

Hi Everyone, This month, there have been some major ups and down around Google SERP. So we are going to talk a lot about this update and the things which you can do to recover.

Google SERP Update Nov 2019

Last month, Google has released the SERP update called BERT which we have covered in the last episode. Many people have reported another unconfirmed update which was rolled out around 7th Nov. Webmasters have felt the impact across niches where the rakings have gone down for top-ranking pages.

Twitter and Webmaster forums are filled with people complaining about lost traffic and rankings. The impact is not limited to any specific niche or category. Most of the niches have felt the rank shufflings.

Impact of the Nov-2019 SERP Update

While there is no shuffling in the rankings for MetaBlogue, I have faced this issue on my other blogs. Mostly Tech category blogs, which have lost around 30% traffic.

I was expecting the traffic to increase due to the holiday shopping but rather than that, now I have reduced traffic and sales. The timing of the update has been one of the big issues as most of the webmasters were preparing for the festive season.

The impact is more visible on the small and medium-size affiliate marketing sites. The traffic drop for those sites is significant.

Search Engine General has published an article around all the different reports cited for this update.

Google has not confirmed any big update other than mentioning that they do regular core updates to the SERP algorithm and they have done the same in that week.

According to them, there is nothing that is out of the ordinary in this update. These are just regular update which was targeted towards identifying better content and improved the ranking algorithm.

Their suggestion, nothing a webmaster can do to improve it’s ranking other than following Google’s guidelines to quality content. They have provided the content quality recommendations on their Webmaster blog, which is very generic and broad.


How To Recover From The SERP Update

There is no specific guideline or impacted areas which can give an idea on how to recover from the Nov-2019 SERP update. But, if you go through the link mentioned above by Google, you will see that many of their suggestions are towards improving the content quality and relevancy.

Google’s idea is that the content should be better organized and give relevant information to the readers. The problem, with this update there are many complains of ranking spam or low-quality content on the web. If you look at the buzz around black hat SEO forums, people have gained rankings.

This is a big concern since Google is asking everyone to follow the quality content guidelines and then end up ranking spam or low-quality content. But, anyone who has done SEO for some time, they know how these things are. So, what can we do?

This is a good time to take a step back and do an SEO audit for your blog. Make sure the site is good on the technical SEO front.


Pinpoint The Problems

Let’s start with finding the exact problem points. If you have lost traffic during the Nov-2019 SERP update, the first action should be analyzing the articles which have lost most traffic.

You can easily get this report by comparing last month’s traffic with this month’s traffic report. You would be using one or the other analytics tool on your blogs like Google Analytics or JetPack. Use that to generate the traffic report based on a per article basis and compare it with a similar report for this month.

Once you have that, you know the articles which have lost most of the traffic and needs some work. The only thing to do at this time is to revisit those articles and see if there is anything to improve.

The content should represent the search query intent which was bringing the traffic. If you think anything could be done to improve the content, go ahead and make the changes.


Schema Markups

One of the other things which are gaining traction is Google Rich Results like Sitelink, Featured Snippet, People Also Ask. Schema Markup helps in the ability of the article to stand out in this new search result page.

You should think of adding some of the schema markups like “How To” or “FAQ” if it makes sense for your content. If you have not started to look for adding schema markups to your pages, this is the high time when you should start exploring.


On-Page SEO Updates

One of the last things which can be done now is improving the on-page SEO. You can take the help of any On-Page SEO tools like Ahref or UberSuggest.

Run a scan and make sure your internal linking is good enough. You are not missing any pages in your internal links. Try to look for broken links and either update or remove those broken links from your site.

Another item to look at is – thin content.

If you have pages that are receiving little or no traffic, check if they are adding any value to your readers. Either try to improve the quality of content so that they will start serving some value or think about removing them from your blog.

Though most of the tips above sound like generic SEO routine work, that’s what a webmaster can do at this point in time. Sometimes we get busy with so many things that we don’t spare time for essential activities. This is a good time to do that work.

Let us know if you are impacted with Google’s latest Nov-2019 SERP update and able to recover any traffic. You can reach us at bm.feedback@metablogue.com or comment below to provide the feedback.


Gutenberg For Full Site Editing

WordPress 5.3 was released last month and it brought a lot of improvement to Gutenberg Editor. Currently, the Gutenberg editor capabilities are limited to the post or page content. Now, WordPress developers are exploring the idea to bring the Editor capabilities towards the complete site.

So you will have a place to define the generic site block like headers, footers, etc. You can use them to define the site layout easily through customizer. Every area of the site is made up of the blocks and can be easily customized from the front end. This will help people in easily design and set up the new WordPress site.

Though it might take some time before it can be merged into WordPress Core and will be available to the public.

Overall it looks a nice and clean implementation. We still need to see how easy it will be to integrate with so many free and premium WordPress themes out there in the WordPress Repository.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Blogging Monthly 001 – WordPress 5.3, Genesis 3.2 And AI-Powered​ BERT Update For Google Search

Blogging Monthly Podcast Episode 001

Hey Everyone, With this post, I am starting a new chapter for MetaBlogue. For a long time, I was thinking to start a regular series on MetaBlogue and what’s better than Blogging updates. So, I am going to do a monthly mashup about the latest news and updates around blogging and this is first of those.

Blogging Monthly Podcast Episode 001

This monthly mashup will not only contain things about Blogging but also things or services close to blogging and WordPress. Some of the things which will be covered are like updates to Elegant Themes, Genesis Framework, Hosting Services updates, WordPress Plugin Releases, etc.

Blogging Monthly 001

So let’s kick off this month’s update with one of the most important topics for every blogger – Google Search Updates.

Google BERT Update

Google has released its latest updated to Search Algorithms – BERT.

BERT update is specifically targeted towards a better understanding of the user queries context. It is going to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand the query and map it with proper results.

This is good news for the people who do not like keyword stuffing and would like to write the content in more conversational language. With this update, Google will be able to better categorize the queries and map it with proper content by understanding the context of the queries.

The update is released around the 25th of October, so keep an eye on your SERP results and traffic. Let us know if you are seeing major changes around it. As per Google, this update affects around 10% of the search queries which is very high considering some of the recent updates.

BERT update improves the understanding of the on-page content and user search query with the help of natural language processors. So you may see some increase with the queries which might be related but the keyword is not directly mentioned on your pages.

Another point to notice about BERT is that it’s targeted towards long-tail keywords. Short tail keywords will not have much data to process through the natural language processors. Though there can be some shuffling of results for short-tail keywords due to better understanding of on-page content.

You can get more details about it from Search Engine Journal or Search Engine Land.


WordPress 5.3

The next update is around WordPress CMS. WordPress is already testing the next version (5.3) which will be released in the upcoming weeks. Currently, its under BETA testing and showing good progress. You can expect it to be available in the week of 11th November.

There are many changes that will help you better manage your WordPress installs including performance improvements for Gutenberg Editor. With this update, the Gutenberg Editor will reduce its response time and your content will load faster.

There are also many enhancements including Group block functionality which will allow you to select multiple blocks and create a group. Currently, I use Atomic Blocks to create a container to manage multiple blocks easily. The grouping functionality will help in easily manage it.

There are some updates to Site Health functionality, Gallery embeds on post/pages or cosmetic upgrades to Admin UI.

There are many other updates for other blocks that you can check in detail at this post on Kinsta. So, keep an eye on the public release of WordPress 5.3 in the week of 11th November.


Divi 4.0 Release

Divi from Elegant Themes is one of the best WordPress Page builder available in the market. Till now, you are able to design the pages and save generic elements in the Divi Library for reuse.

Elegant Themes has released a major update to Divi which makes it a complete solution to design WordPress Themes. Now, you can use the Divi and design almost all the pages or posts with the help of Divi Theme Builder.

There are new site-wide templates where you can design an element and assign it across your site. This will remove the need to edit each post individually.

You can also add the dynamic content in those templates which will be displayed based on the post or page user is visiting.

You can feel the power of the Divi Theme builder while designing the Woo-commerce store. Now, just define a site-wide template while picking the dynamic content for the product and your complete product pages are ready.

Divi was already one of the preferred page builders to develop sites for many and now it has become a complete solution. If you want to check more about it, you can check here.

Not only the update, but they have also released a new set of them builder templates. These templates can help you kick start the theme designing for your site.


Genesis 3.2

Genesis Framework for WordPress is also working on the BETA for their next release version 3.2. This update makes it easier for users to manage certain parts of the themes without editing the code.

With Genesis 3.2, you will be able to edit the post meta directly from the Customizer. Now, no need to edit the filter or action hook to make those changes.

There are some other changes coming with Genesis 3.2. For Example, the ability to hide footer widget on posts on pages, Open Graph support, etc.

One of the major changes coming to Genesis is the support of Google Native Lazy-loading. Till now websites need to use a JavaScript to lazy-load the images but the JavaScript adds to the load time of the page.

Native lazy-load works with a simple HTML attribute of the image and automatically loads the image when its close to the user view.

There are some WordPress Plugins available in the WordPress repository which can enable this support. But, with this update, you should be able to enable it with the addition of just a simple line.

You can check more details about Genesis 3.2 Beta here. You can expect it to be available as a public release in the upcoming weeks.


Kinsta Server Upgrades

Kinsta has just announced major server upgrades for all of its clients. They are moving all of their clients to the latest Compute-Optimized (C2) servers.

The update is not limited to any plan, all of their customers will move the latest servers. Their internal testing shows an almost 100% speed increase for the big websites.

Those who are not aware of Kinsta, they offer a WordPress Managed Hosting Solutions. They are not a conventional hosting company and use Google Cloud network for all of their hosting needs. They also have a tie-up with KeyCDN services to provide CDN services.

This automatic upgrade to a more capable server should give a speed boost to the sites hosted on Kinsta servers. Speed is one of the measures for SEO rankings, so it’s a piece of good news for the Kinsta Customers. You can check more detail about it here.

So, that’s all for the first episode of Blogging Monthly. Please let us know how you like the episode and if you need any more information, just drop a comment below.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

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