Links from the show:
- WordPress Gutenberg editor coming in 2018
- WordPress 4.9.1 released
- Waze adds “Ok Waze”
- Almost half of social purchases were made via Facebook
- Is Apple helping bring QR codes back?
- Google adds “donate” button in the search results for non-profits
- Google adds new labels for PPT and PDF files in search results
- Google Local Questions & Answers now rolling out to desktop search
- How to create a link for users to leave Google reviews for your business
- Meta descriptions in Google just got longer
- Google Home now accepts two commands at once
- Google Assistant can now help with local services
- Measure page speed to when users can first interact with your site
- Google does not use time to first byte in rankings
- Your structured data should match visible content
- Google will penalize your site for using event markup incorrectly
- Google Trends now shows data for YouTube search, Google Shopping, News search & Image search in realtime
- Tip of the week: WordPress.tv
12 years ago, WordPress unveiled their Visual Editor, allowing you to create content using an editor that showed your changes as you go, such as bold and italics, without having to use code. It’s been tweaked and upgraded many times since then, but has remained essentially the same. However, 2018 is going to bring a vastly different editing experience into WordPress and it’s going to be amazing.
Before we get to that though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web, episode number 28, 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 might 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.
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Today we’ll talk more about Gutenberg, WordPress 4.9.1, OK Waze, social purchases, Apple and QR codes, donate buttons and much more. Let’s dig in.
So when WordPress 2.0 was released on the last day of 2005, it introduced a new WYSIWYG Editor, what you see is what you get. It wasn’t completely true as what you you see in the back end of WordPress isn’t exactly what you see in the front end of the site, but it was far better than having to write all that code by hand. The editor’s been refined and updated quite a bit since then, but it’s still essentially the same as it was way back in 2005. Sometime in 2018, though, possibly as soon as April, WordPress will be releasing their new Gutenberg Editor. It’s a massive change to how content works in WordPress and uses a new system of blocks, somewhat similar to how Medium and LinkedIn handle their posts. It’s much more involved than we can get into over the podcast, but I strongly encourage you to learn more. We’ll have a link in the show notes to the official information pages for Gutenberg, which you can find at wordpress.org/gutenberg, and we’ll be sharing more information in future podcasts as the release date draws near.
Also related to WordPress is last week WordPress 4.9.1 was released. It was a pretty minor update but had some rather important security updates in it, so go ahead and get that updated as soon as you can on your sites, if they didn’t update automatically. No big features there. They’re saving that for 5.0 with Gutenberg and some of that. But it’s an important update nonetheless to keep you secure and moving forward until then.
For those that like to navigate with Waze in their car, they’d added a great new update. A pretty simple one, but it added OK Waze supports. So while you’re driving, you say, “OK Waze,” talk to your Waze to ask questions, change routes, that kind of thing. They also added motorcycle options, so if you drive a motorcycle you’ll have some different options in there, it’ll handle things a little bit differently. They also added HOV high occupancy lane support in there, so it will know if you’re able to go into the HOV lanes and how that affects your timing and duration and those sorts of things. So you update the app in your phone for Apple and Android, you should see those new features in there now.
A study’s recently come out that’s posted on ZD Net, talking about where social purchases are made. Which social networks help encourage people to actually make purchases online. Their findings show that 48% of social purchases come from Facebook, with just 8.6% from Instagram, 1.4% from Twitter, and 34.6% having never bought anything socially or at least not being able to track it back to that. Facebook remains a huge source for online conversions and certainly something you shouldn’t ignore. We have a link to the full article in our show notes, so you can learn more about that.
It happened a little while ago, we haven’t mentioned it yet, but Apple’s finally added QR code support to their native camera app. This is something Androids already had, and I’ve long said that this is something that if Apple and Android both added to their native cameras might give QR codes a chance. Now, I think at this point it could be a little bit too late. QR codes are mostly dead. But now that it’s native and anyone with an iPhone or Android can just hold their normal camera up to a QR code and have it work, it’s a pretty big deal. There’s a lot of new, alternative QR codes out there, like the ones for Snapchat, but the native QR codes still holds many more advantages. The ones for Snapchat or really other ones, or even a standard barcode, are really a reference number to a database. So anything on Snapchat or a regular barcode you’re really just getting a number out of the code that goes to some database online that then tells you what the result is.
The QR code with all the little dots in the middle, all the little bits, actually contain the data in the code itself, which removes the need for a middleman and keeps it really as the best option. Anyone can create a QR code, no one can stop them from doing it, and really it works well. Again, we’ll see if they really come back or not. They’re quite dead at this point, but having this move from Apple could help quite a bit and we’ll keep an eye on that as it moves forward.
Google’s made a small but important change for non-profits online where, if you search for the name now of a U.S.-based non-profit, you should see a donate button appear right in the search results for that non-profit. A small change, hopefully it will make a big difference for those non-profits. If you want it to show up for your non-profit, you simply need to opt-in to the Google For Non-Profits program, get that set up, and you should see that donate button appear at some time in the future.
Another small change Google has made is that they now show labels for PowerPoint and PDF files in the search results. Now, Google has long indexed and shown direct links to PDF and PowerPoint files in the search results, but now they show new labels next to those in the results so people realize they’re going directly to that file. Note these labels are only for results that take people directly to the PowerPoint or PDF file, not for pages which have those included. So it helps simplify things in the search results where you realize whether you’re going to a page that talks about a PDF or going directly to that file itself. Some screenshots of that are available in our show notes if it’s not appearing yet for you.
Google’s just shared that the local question and answer feature that they rolled out back in August on mobile is now available on desktop search. So from the Google My Business shopping cart Twitter account, they said, “We’re expanding questions and answers on Google My Business. Now users and merchants can ask and respond to questions from their desktop on mobile search or on Android Google Maps.” It’s a nice little change. The Q & A feature seems to be something they’re ramping up, and having it on the desktop will help quite a bit.
It’s important for users to leave Google reviews for your business, but it can often be difficult to send them a link directly to where they need to go to leave a review for you. Google will encourage links when they want to, but it’s tricky for you to make that link and be able to hand it to someone. The search engine round table has built a good step by step system for you to show you how to go and make that link for yourself. It’s a bit more than I want to get into in the podcast and would be a little messy to say verbally versus letting you see it yourself, so check out our show notes, see a link to that, and if it’s something that’s important to you they make it easy to set up that link so you can help get a few more reviews for your site.
Meta descriptions in Google just got a bit longer. For years, really as far back as I can remember, Google would show 160 characters in website meta descriptions, which are the descriptions of text shown under each result in the search engines. They don’t affect search rankings but a well-written meta description can help you get more clicks in your search results. That link suddenly seems to have gone up to roughly 230 characters. Not sure where that number came from, it’s bouncing around a bit. But Google’s actually confirmed this, saying, “We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer on average.” Not sure exactly how you can affect that. Some early testing to show that the longer ones only occur when Google automatically generates your meta description. So if you do it by hand yourself, which you typically should, you’re still limited to 160. But I suspect that’ll change soon.
Few nice updates to Google Home and the Google Assistant. The first one is Google Home will now accept two commands at once. So now you can say things such as, “Turn off the hall light and turn off the kitchen light,” rather than having to do those as separate queries which you’ve had to before. You can do the stacked queries for a lot of things, but note that it’s a limit of just two commands now. It’s not more than one, it’s simply one or two. If you try to do three it kind of some issues with that.
Google Assistant can also now help with local searches. So if you say things like, “Find me a plumber,” it can now know where you are and help you find that kind of search, which you’ve long been able to do on mobile and desktop, and now you can do it with your voice, too, which should be very handy as you start to use those more often.
A bit of news from Google this week regarding speed, in terms of the time to first bite and ranking. So, if you do a page speed search on your site, you’ll see that TTFB, that time to first bite, meaning when someone requests your site how long does it take to get that first little bit back, it’s not something you really need to worry about too much. A gentleman named Bill Hartsner asked, “Hey, John Mueller, should we be worried about TTFB? Time to first bite? Or just speeding up our page load, speed the code, the images, et cetera. Does TTFB matter?” And Google’s John Mueller said, “As far as I know, we don’t use TTFB for anything in search ranking. It can be a good proxy for user-facing speed, but like other metrics, don’t blindly focus on it.”
So, if your time to first bite is real bad, you want to talk to your hosting company, see what you can do about that. But really, the other page speed things, the size of your images, the way you have things compressed, and caching and that sort of thing should matter quite a bit more in Google’s eyes.
Google’s announced a few things related to structured data this week. The first is that your structured data should match visible content. We have a link to a Search Engine Roundtable article about that. You don’t have to put structured data on all your pages, but if you’re going to put it on a page, it should match the visible content. Another article has Google mentioning some things, even some examples of how they can actually penalize for incorrect mark-ups, saying, “As much as using a discount voucher can be a very special thing, that doesn’t make coupons or vouchers or sales ‘events’. Using event mark-up to describe something that is not an event creates a bad user experience by triggering a rich result for something that will happen at a particular time, despite no actual event being present.”
So Google continues and says, “Since this creates a misleading user experience, we may take manual action on such cases. In case your website is affected by such a manual action, you will find a notification in your Google Search Console account. If a manual action is taken, it can result in structured data mark-up for the whole site not being used for search results.” So, if you’re using structured data for events and ratings and products and that sort of thing, be sure to use them the way they’re intended. Events is one that, in particular, has been abused a lot, where people say, “Hey, we have an event every single day of 20% off,” and that’s not really an event, it’s an ongoing thing. So be careful how you handle that sort of thing on your site.
Our last bit of news is Google Trends is now showing more real time data including YouTube search, Google shopping, News search and Image search in real time. If you’ve not used Google Trends before, it’s a neat thing where you can see historical data of what people searched for in Google, and just get an idea of when their things are popular, when they come and go. Some good examples are holiday songs, if you search for those you see them peak starting after Thanksgiving up to Christmas, or in a less fun example, at least for me, if you search for Google Earth you can see the interest in that sort of fading over time. Not that Google Earth’s a bad product, per se, just it’s not as exciting as it once was so people search for it a lot less. So those are some neat trends, and now it’s cool that Google’s adding some real time data from YouTube search and shopping and some of those places. We have a couple articles in our show notes, you can learn more about that.
Lastly, for our tip of the week, go check out WordPress.tv. If you’re involved with WordPress at all there are a lot, a lot of great videos on there. Thousands of videos. I just got back from WordCamp US in Nashville today, and there was a lot of great sessions there. All those will be up on WordPress.tv very soon. Lots of videos from years and years from other WordCamps, from Meetup, other things around the country. If you want to learn more to educate yourself more on search engines and development and every little aspect of WordPress, you’ll find tons of great videos on there. I encourage you to check it out.
That’s all that we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter at 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 more about that at ABrighterWeb.com/meetup. Thanks for listening.