Links from the show:
- Google measures server response time in milliseconds
- AdWords to add “parallel tracking” to speed up mobile landing pages
- Firefox gets rid of Firebug
- Gmail has released their first set of “add-ons”
- WordPress 4.9 will support shortcodes and embedded media in the text widget
- Businesses can add booking buttons to their Google Local results
- Don’t replace hacked content with soft 404s
- New online to offline features before the holiday season kicks off
- Google’s mobile-first index is slowly beginning to roll out
- Google testing image thumbnails in search results snippets again
200 milliseconds is fast, really fast. To show you, this beep will last exactly 200 milliseconds. According to some studies, that’s how quickly Google expects your web server to respond. Does yours?
Before we get into that, though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web episode number 23, brought to you by all of us at GreenMellen. Our goal with this podcast is to give you quick weekly insights for news, products, and ideas so we can all make the web a brighter place to be. These may be actual web tips, talking about strategy, search engines, WordPress plugins, and UX. Or it might be productivity ideas to help you get more done and free up your time to do great things. We also want to thank our sponsor, ClickHOST.com. ClickHOST provides top rate web hosting at prices as low as $5 a month. Visit clickhost.com/abw for an exclusive 20% off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web.
Today, we’ll talk more about server response times, faster AdWords landing pages, Firefox is saying goodbye to Firebug, Gmail releases add-ons, more WordPress 4.9 goodness, and lots of news from Google. Let’s dig in.
As we talked about at the top of the show, Google measures server response time in milliseconds and some studies have shown that they’re looking for responses in under 200 milliseconds. However, Google’s John Mueller said, “We don’t define a fixed time requirement. Milliseconds is usually the unit used for this though.” At the end of the day, it’s just another example that your site needs to be fast and Google is looking at that and they’re measuring very precisely to see how fast your site loads and that will impact how well you rank in the search engines, so keep a close eye on that.
Speaking of speed, AdWords is going to start adding “parallel tracking” to speed up mobile landing pages. Ads often have tracking codes attached to them and processing those tracking codes can bog down load page time by hundreds of milliseconds and hurt campaign performance. Instead of processing the tracking with the landing page, Google’s going to be introducing parallel tracking to process all the tracking information in the background, while the user goes directly to the landing page, thus speeding up the process for everyone. No news on when this will be released, but look for it to come out pretty soon.
For those of you that have been developing websites for a long time, you probably used Firefox’s Firebug back in the day. It was really the first great development inspection tool you could find in a browser and Firefox is finally getting rid of it. Now, it’s not really going away. It’s been built into Firefox for a while now and they still kept it as a standalone plugin, which was largely unnecessary because it was built into Firefox and they’re finally getting rid of that plugin. It’s been a good run for Firebug. It’s been a great app for a lot of us, but similar tools are in Chrome and they’re in Firefox. You can continue to use them, but if you use Firebug, it’s time is about up.
Gmail has released their first set of add-ons and I’m very excited about this. They’re similar to, but much better than, Chrome extensions that you use for some add-ons for Gmail. These actually install inside of Gmail, so the add-on part of your Gmail experience is in any browser, or even on your phone, only Android for now, but IOS coming soon. When you install this add-on, it doesn’t matter if you use Chrome, or Firefox, or jump to a different computer, if you’re in your Gmail account that add-on’s in there with you. Kind of like the labs feature they’ve had in Gmail for a while. Some that they released last week, include QuickBooks invoicing, ProsperWorks CRM, Trello, and our favorite Asana. See our show notes for a link with more info about how to find those add-ons and get them started for yourself.
We mentioned last week how WordPress 4.9 will help prevent users from creating errors in the file editor and this week we’ve learned that a feature’s coming that many people have been waiting for, for a long time. Shortcodes and embedded media will now work inside of text widgets without a separate plugin. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago and it’ll save having to load an extra plugin just to make that happen. Look for that to come out in WordPress 4.9, which right now is due to be released November 14th.
Google’s continuing to work hard to add new features to the Google My Business features and now Google local results can have an accept bookings button on their site. If you’re a business that has a booking service, such as Booksy, Genbook, Pike13, and various others, you can integrate that direct with your Google local listing and people can book directly from there.
Google’s put out a warning today that if your site gets hacked you shouldn’t replace it with “soft 404s”. Now, a soft 404 is a page that looks like a normal 404 page, not found error page, but technically is a status 200, which says it’s a normal page. Google says, hey, this is a normal page that has the words on it that says, ‘Page not found,’ so it’s a little confusing and people often do this accidentally when removing hacked content. Don’t do that.
John Mueller said, “One thing that’s a bit tricky here is that our automated systems can’t easily recognize that hacked content has been removed. In particular, the site returns a 200 okay for URLs that no longer exist, so when we test certain URLs they look to our algorithms, like the hacked content is potentially still live because the server tells us that the URL is valid. Even though it returns a visible page, the result go to the 200. Once our algorithms are able to determine the content has been removed properly, they’ll drop this warning automatically.” In short, what he’s saying is they’ll get there eventually, but if you can take a hacked page and make it be a proper 404 error, Google will pick that up much more quickly and get things cleaned up on your behalf.
Google’s also rolling out more new online to offline features before the holiday season kicks off. They’ll be tying in local inventory to Google Assistant, so you’ll be able to say, “Where can I buy such and such nearby?” They’ll be showing local inventory in display ads. They’ll have new store visits measuring updates and they’ll have apparel shopping updates, such as filtering options for sizing, pricing, and other criteria. If you use Google AdWords, you can do a lot of neat things with your inventory as the holiday season starts to ramp up.
We’ve talked a good bit about Google’s mobile first index and it’s slowly beginning to roll out now. Google’s begun officially rolling it out very slowly. For those that aren’t familiar with it, this means that Google will see the mobile version of your website as the main one to reference, rather than the desktop version being the main one. The rollout is going slowly. It’s probably going to take quite a while to get there and Google said it probably will never be done, because there’s always going to be outliers that don’t have a mobile site at all and Google will keep them and the desktop index until they eventually get mobile, things like that. It’s finally officially rolling out, so again, make sure your mobile site is rock solid. For those of you that have a mobile responsive website, which is probably most of you, you should be in great shape because that typically shows the same kind of content on mobile and desktop and should work perfect for this kind of thing.
Google is once again testing image thumbnails and search results snippets. This has been something they’ve tested on and off for many years, but when you have a search result come up, they’ll show a little thumbnail image next to the search. There are Chrome extensions that can do similar things, but it’s nice to see Google trying this again, because it could be kind of useful. We’ll see if they stick with it or not. Again, they’ve done it on and off for quite a long time now, but they are testing it a little deeper this time, so we’ll see what happens. You can see an example of that at the link in our show notes.
Lastly, for our tip of the week is to block out some time for business development. Getting to business dev and building your own business “when you have time” will never happen and I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve heard suggestions to block off one hour every morning, or one morning a week, so I’m going to try the one morning a week thing, blocking off my Wednesday mornings until lunchtime to focus on building our business.
For me, that involves primarily digging into Contactually and Asana to reach out to clients and leads, but could mean anything for you depending on what your business is. Just make sure to set aside some time to work on your business, not just in it.
That’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter @MickMel, M-I-C-K-M-E-L, or learn lots more at GreenMellenMedia.com. You can find out more about the podcast, including show notes and links, as well as video tutorials and many other resources over at ABrighterWeb.com. If you’re in the Atlanta area, come check out our Meetup held three times each month. If you’re not in the Atlanta area, we post recaps on the site soon after each Meetup. Either way, you can learn a lot more about that at abrighterweb.com/meetup. Thanks for listening.