Content and Conversion Audits for WordPress Bloggers
- Google November 2019 Update Overview
- Site #1: Identifying User Goals, Weak Backlink Profiles, and Unsecured Website Resources
- Site #2: Above the Fold Optimization, Hosting Providers, and Website Speed
- Site #3: Indexing Attachment Files & Ad Networks Slowing Down Websites
- User-First Website Optimization for Increased Conversions
- Site #4: Server Chain Redirect Issues, Deferred Ad Loading, and Alt Tags
- Fixing Structured Data Errors
- Closing Thoughts on Content and Conversions for WordPress Blogs
Casey Markee: Okay, so hi everyone. We are going to have a great time. This is on content and conversion auditing. Erik, introduce yourself.
Erik Stafford: Thanks, man. My name is Erik Stafford. We run a company called Stafford marketing. What we do basically, is storytelling...and messaging strategy for our clients.
We also do a lot of direct response design. Any time anyone's building internet marketing, we're on the creative storytelling copy and design side of that equation and we also do an enormous amount of split testing of those messages to see what's resonating.
Casey Markee: We're just going to try to do a lot of site auditing. We're going to talk about how we can find your messaging, how we can look at your conversions, maybe we can dial back some ads.
Before we get into that, what we're going to do is talk a little bit about some issues that I know a lot of you on the call signed specifically to discuss; issue number one predominantly is the November update. The unannounced update that went through by Google back on November 7th and 8th.
It affected a significant portion of the food lifestyle recipe and travel industry. As I was mentioning to a couple of colleagues, I routinely get maybe 80 to 100 emails a day. When that thing went out on Thursday and Friday, it shot up by 200 to 300 emails a day from sites wondering what was going on.
It has affected a lot of bloggers. Now, Marie Haynes, myself, and others, Arsen Rabinovich with TopHatRank, our good friend. He and I have access to a lot of data. We're actually putting a lot of that data together. I'm going to share a link in the comments here in a minute where you can sign up.
Google November 2019 Update Overview
All we can do is provide our best guess on what's going on. There seems to be two big issues here. The first one is an over-optimization component. By over-optimization, I mean that if you are trying to rank for roast beef and how to slow cook your roast beef.
You're putting slow cooker recipe in literally every each tag on the page. It's very possible that this could have been something that Google dialed up a little bit and has made it a little bit easier to find and flag sites that we're doing this little excessively.
If you haven't had a chance to download a plugin called SEOquake, I highly urge you to download this plugin. SEOquake is going to allow you to see at a glance if you've over-optimized. Download and install SEOquake, then go ahead and click on the density screen. Look and see if you hit those keywords too much. If you're over 2%, I will tell you that a lot of clients that came to me: 3%, 4%, 5%.
I had one of the bloggers who is a very fantastic high-quality blogger. Her name is Erin and she's wellplated.com. She was impacted by this update. Let me see if I could do some live auditing here and get this going here.
This is Erin's site. Erin is a fantastic food blogger. Great, great photography but she’s been over-optimizing a little bit. First of all, with regards to ads, I'm not a believer that we should ever be writing any above the fold ads.
When we talk about whether it's Ad Thrive, Mediavine or some of the other ad providers out there, I'm against above the fold ads completely because not only do these have very low RPM but people immediately scroll down through them anyway. We want to get those out of the way.
This is her target keyword, right here: sweet and sour chicken. This is SEOquake; SEOquake is a very easy plugin to use. It allows us to see at a glance all the important metrics on the page.
We can go ahead and take a look at her use of H2s on the page here. We can see that there's actually a couple of blank H2s in the code that we can easily remove. We can also very easily take a look at your title. She's using basically Yoast, which is very vague about “hey, try to get the keyword in at the very beginning of the paragraph.”
This is the density report. Remember that we're looking at sweet and sour chicken here. If I go over here and I type this in, and I look at four words here. Look at this. Very problematic. You see how she's repeated sweet and sour chicken 23 times on the page. See how you get it in every H2 on the page. It's a little unnatural.
We always want to optimize for users and not Google. In many cases, you can deliberately rave for sweet and sour chicken and not have sweet and sour chicken on the page at all. Understand that especially with these H2s here, we just don't need to overdo it in this aspect.
Component number two is the fact that in many cases, we have had examples of where blog hops have come into play. The other thing that we found with this update is there was a linking component.
Here's an example of a site that was submitted today. This is old content where she's participating in various blog hops. This is a recipe post but it's broken up by superfluous or unrelated content. Do you see this? “Finding support while blogging: One of the blogging groups I belong to is Food Blogger Central” is a blog hop right here.
We've linked to other sites that have absolutely nothing to do with our content. This is the kind of stuff that it's very possible is now being flagged by Google. This is just an example of one of the linking issues that could be affecting this site specifically.
I'm going to paste over a link to the study that Arsen Rabinovich at TopHatRank is putting together. If you again, think you were affected by one of these updates in November, go ahead fill out the form. Arsen will add you to the pile and we'll try to pull out some data on this.
In many cases, the bloggers that have contacted me, I have been able to show them visually by email, “here's a list of unrelated recipes that you're linking to that doesn't look natural”.
Or maybe you've been participating in a hashtag type of campaign: #SundaySupper, #MeatlessMondays, there's been many others that were involved. A lot of bloggers working together cooperatively. Well, that's the definition of a link scheme. That's something that Google has really started to come after with its very possible algorithmically Google has dialed that up.
If you've been affected negatively by this update in November, most likely you will not recover until Google reruns the algorithm. That's how it works. Now, you can recover between algorithms by improving the quality of your site.
What we're going to do next is we're going to get right into the individual site auditing. I'm going to let Erik take that off. Go through site number one really quick.
Site #1: Identifying User Goals, Weak Backlink Profiles, and Unsecured Website Resources
Erik Stafford: This was the first site that we wanted to look at. Mitchell Sharp and let's see here. The first thought that I had on this site when I looked at it was strategic use of color. Once you decide what it is that you want people to really do here, I would use color to draw the eye's attention to those areas... whether that's a link or whether that's a button.
It looks from looking at this site, it looks like you're an affiliate for another website, Workerscompensationshop.com. If that's the case, you want to highlight those links or you want to create little call out areas that tell people to get a free quote.
The other thing I would say on this site when you look into your sidebar on the left, I would move those archives way down the page or I would just remove them entirely. While it is impressive to see how many years and months you've posted content, I don't know that people are ever going to sort the site that way. Those links in my mind are essentially useless outside of anything except an authority piece.
My recommendation would probably be to look at your categories and pick the top 10 or 15 traffic categories that you really want people to visit and read more. That are proven to hold people's attention and just move those up this page. Casey, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this one.
Casey Markee: See how we've got a warning up here in Chrome or I'm sorry, in Firefox. Some parts of this page are not secure. Do you see that? This is a site-wide issue. You can go ahead and use a site like why no padlock to actually test what the issue is.
You can go down and see that the images on the page haven't been secure. Some of them are being served by means of a CDN with WebP, which is great. It looks like some of the recipes or some of the images, unfortunately, are not being loaded correctly. We want to fix that. We don't want to break our padlock whenever we can.
Also, very quick here, you could see that this is the homepage title, homepage title for the homepage there. Very over-optimized. You can see that she didn't add a meta description. Super simple here. You're using the Yoast plugin so you have the ability to go in and add all this. Looks like there's an extra H1, an empty H1 built into the theme.
I did a search on this site and I couldn't find any citations for it. It has an extremely exceedingly weak backlink profile. We're talking less than 50 root domains. If your goal is to pump this up, we're going to need to really do as you say. Add some more trust indicators.
If I click on here, I should be able to see an author byline up here, even some published dates would be great. Anything that would allow me to trust the author a little bit more, you have this at the bottom. I would expand on this quite a bit. You have the ability to put in what's called SEO post info here where I can put a byline and whatever.
You have some links out... these are all affiliate links. If these are affiliate links, you really need to tag these to nofollow. I'm going to stop the sharing here. Erik, you can go ahead and pop over and start pulling up site number two, which is the ... it looks like you're going to do the Italian food fast.
Site #2: Above the Fold Optimization, Hosting Providers, and Website Speed
Erik Stafford: This is Marina's site. Italian food fast. Marina, I feel like you're wasting a lot of the most essential space above the fold on your website here. Your logo's really, really big. Your nav is really big and then, this image is just huge. I really have to scroll a fair way down this page to get to any sort of real content on your site.
Consider what you really want people to do when they get to your site. Consider where you want them to go and what you might want that journey to look like. Then, optimize your site to get them there. It really isn't rocket science. Casey, do you have any additional thoughts on this one.
Casey Markee: It looks like the very first thing that I am going to talk to you about is hosting. It looks like you’re hosting with Bluehost. I want you to understand why those hosting with Bluehost is very bad.
This is one of your recent recipe posts. You see that big red F there. That's time to first byte, that server response. This is something that Bluehost notoriously fails on, which is the ability to provide a very fast server response between the very first time that the user hits this site and so on.
Bluehost is not a quality host. Bluehost is very popular because of their affiliate program. You can see here that this is over a simple cable connection. It's taking 5.7 seconds to load. That's really bad. The first byte should be between about 300 and 500 milliseconds at the most.
Google does not have a fast page speed bonus; they have a slow page speed detriment. I can literally guarantee that you're not getting any benefit from that with regards to your site.
Here is an analysis of your site on the Google page speed insights tool. Do you see how you're at 21 out of a 100? Let's talk a little bit about these metrics. This is First Contentful Paint, 4.8 seconds. This is the speed index 10.1, time to interact of 11.7.
The First Contentful Paint is really how long it takes before the first bit of information starts to display on the page. We want this to be about 2.2, 2.4 seconds—faster is better.
You can see that you're twice as slow as you should be. This is your time to interact. A review of your site shows that you are not running any ads. When you're not running any ads, your pages should take five to seven seconds to load max. That's what we should be at. You're at 11.7 seconds. This could basically only be solved by you doing better hosting.
If you're looking for hosting recommendations, I recommend say BigScoots or you can go over and spin up a Linode server on Cloudways. Those are all good options. You probably do not have a ton of traffic so one of the lower packages there would be fine.
When we talk about getting at least an initial footing, so that Google can view you as a high-quality result, we can't have pages taking this long to load.
One of the other things that you want to be aware of is when you're setting up recipe post, it's very competitive. We should have above the fold content. Do you see how you just started with the image here? The alt tag that you included with this image is just the name of the recipe. That doesn't describe descriptively or to anyone who cannot see the image what's in it.
Alt tags are very important. They're not there for SEO first. They're there for usability first for someone who cannot see the image. We always want to make sure that we fill this out. We also want to go ahead and make sure that we're providing a nice clear experience.
Your theme doesn't have sidebars. Now personally, I'm against that because I want to have a sidebar here which has a nice photo of the finished dish. Photo of the author, if you wanted to take a good look.
When we're making these recipes, we want to optimize for toddlers or drunk adults. It may seem funny but it's true. When we're setting up these recipes, we always want to do ... again, dumb it down. We want to use process shots whenever we can.
What we've got over here on this site is that the photos are not very easy to see. They're not big enough here. They're not sized to the width of the theme. See how the photo in those. See how the photos are in the recipe card?
We don't want to do that. We want to go ahead and make sure that we have all the photos, everything that we need to make this recipe is in the post up here. The only thing your recipe card should contain is information. You could list your equipment, although this is a little overboard.
I would urge you, change your hosting. Let's go ahead and get you to refine how you're putting these recipe posts together. If I was you, I would remove all your ads completely. We shouldn't run any Adsense at all until you qualify for a better ad company. That's just going to kill your page view.
Lots of opportunities here but you're going to have to really take a user-first approach because your niche is too competitive to build traffic with the mistakes I'm seeing on the site today. We're going to go back over here to Erik here.
Site #3: Indexing Attachment Files & Ad Networks Slowing Down Websites
Erik Stafford: The next one on my list is A Ranch Mom. The question here from Ms. K was should I keep this going even though I'm not really living on a ranch anymore because it's starting to show some signs of life and starting to really get some decent traffic.
I would say absolutely keep it going. There's so much great content here and there's so many great categories. Like this just isn't a recipe site. You got stories here. You got thoughts on being a mom and living on a ranch. Even though you're not living on a ranch anymore, in my mind, you're still ranch mom. I don't think there's any problem with you continuing to do that.
I would say that your path to improving this site and improving not only your traffic but your conversions starts where it always starts. I would look at the data. I would look at the numbers and see which pages and which sections of this site are getting the most traffic. Then, I would optimize around that content.
Casey Markee: Think of your site as the garden. You have 100 pages in the garden, maybe 10 of those pages are generating traffic. The other 90 pages could be what are called weeds. What happens in a garden if you don't pull weeds: they'll strangle the flowers.
When we submit an XML sitemap into Google, what we're doing is we're telling Google, “these are the areas on our site that we value. These are the areas that we want to prioritize for indexing purposes.” Contrary to what you may think, especially on Wordpress, you do not want everything indexed. WordPress creates duplicate taxonomies. They create the same post following in various different categories.
One of the most important things, especially for Wordpress sites, is to understand how to handle what are called attachment files. Attachment files are basically just files that are links to photos and videos. There's nothing on these pages. They're literally thin content pages.
When you fail to block or noindex these attachment files, in many cases...you create a plethora of weeds, which will lower the ability of Google to crawl your site officially, effectively and find, and crawl repeatedly your best content.
This is your XML sitemap. This is very important. This is where you're telling Google I want to index all the content. See how you left over these attachment files? There's 2000+ of these indexed in Google. These are not high-quality pages.
Let's just say I was to do a search in Google for your how to can a pumpkin post. Look at the duplicate content that's happening because of the images. These are all images that are also indexed by Google.
I'm going to click on one of the attachment files. Here's one of the attachment file looks like. See how there's nothing on this page but an image?
That's the epitome of low-quality content. We need to get all of these out of Google. We can't just go into your XML. We can't just go into your Yoast plugin and redirect these.
We need to purge these from the index. To do that, you're going to need to install a plugin called Yoast Search Index Purge”. You always want to purge attachment files. This is going to help you considerably because it's going to make it easier for Google to find your flowers because right now, they're stumbling into all of these weeds that are attachment files.
You're going to leave this plugin running for about six weeks. It does take four to six weeks for this work. We're going to make Google crawl these pages and remove them from the index.
Priority number two is unfortunately, I mentioned Bluehost as a very poor host previously. You're using HostGator. HostGator and Bluehost are owned by the same company. We do not want to use HostGator. You can see here that you got a C on your first byte time. First byte's about 8.21. That's not competitive.
You're loading 400 plus requests on the page. The vast majority of these are ads. Looks like you're running Adsense right now, right up here at the top.
You’re running Gourmet Ads. Gourmet Ads is notoriously slow. I understand the desire to want to monetize your site and for anyone else on the call, again, I get it. If you just wait, you're going to be surprised at how much easier it is to build traffic when you're not using second-tier networks like Gourmet Ads.
I want to be clear. Gourmet Ads is a second-tier network...you do not have the best ad technology. They are very slow. Do you see this? I attempted to run page speed reports on your site repeatedly and it kept timing out because there's so many requests.
Also, I would urge you to dial back the “shop related” links. Focus on building traffic first and monetizing second.
Finally, the last thing I want you to be aware of is you appear to be using a recipe card here but you're not fully filling it out. We're missing a photo. The image is an actual error, it's required for recipe schema. We want to make sure that we put that in.
I applaud you for using WP recipe maker but you need to upgrade to the pro version and you need to go in and you need to start filling in as much of this information as possible. You're going to have a hard time building traffic on voice assistant on Google now, on discovery, if we don't fill out things like the keywords filter.
Erik Stafford: Casey. Just to be clear; the way you block attachment files and things like that, it's just a nofollow, correct?
Casey Markee: No. Within Yoast, you actually choose redirection. We redirect the attachment files to the post that the images are tied to. There's a button there that says we choose yes to redirect attachment files. It does it automatically. For now, we can't even do that until we actually purge the attachment files out of the index.
Go ahead and pull up your next site and I'm just going to go ahead and look at some of these questions that we still have outstanding here.
User-First Website Optimization for Increased Conversions
Erik Stafford: There's a couple sites I want to pull up and I think are kind of similar in where they're at and what the problem is. One of them is Mila's website, Girlandthekitchen.com and Alicia's website, 247modernmom.com. The question here being how do I improve conversions on these sites? I've actually got both of these open at the same time.
You have to be really clear on what you want people to do when they come to your site. When I look at this website, I love the colors. I love the fonts. I love how bright it is. I love a lot about this site. I don't know what you want people to do here. I don't know if you want people to really get into you and learn more about you and learn how to work with you.
I think you have to get really, really clear on what you want people to do on this site before you can take any steps to improve conversions towards that goal. The same thing I would say here about 24/7 Modern Mom. I think the site is really, really nice looking but it looks a bit like a slot machine.
I look at it and I'm like, "Am I going to click social links on the left? Am I going to use that nav on the top? Oh, wait. There's more social links on the right. There's a Facebook messenger pop up. There's an ebook. There's an email newsletter, subscription box." It's like, "What the heck am I supposed to do here on this site?"
I would encourage both of you to really think about the content that you produce that resonates with your audience. Think about where they like to connect with you. What platform do they like to be on? Where your traffic is coming from?
Site #4: Server Chain Redirect Issues, Deferred Ad Loading, and Alt Tags
Casey Markee: Good job. Let me go ahead and take over the screen share here. Going to go ahead and go with Girl and the Kitchen. Very nice looking site.
Couple things, number one, you have some issues with your server setup. When you move to HTTPS, there should be one server hop from the HTTP, www versions to the HTTPS. Then, from the non-HTTP, non-www version to the HTTPS, one server hop for each.
You could see that when you are moved to HTTPS, or maybe someone installed Cloudflare on your server, they just didn't do it as professionally as it should be done. You see the extra server hop there. That's what we do not want to have happened.
Very simple fix but you need to reach out to your host and get it done. We want to remove chain redirects on a server whenever we can.
Every time I try to run this in page speed insights, it timed out. Now, I was curious about this. You see how you have a thousand requests. No site should ever have a thousand requests; even a site running ads.
Most likely, it's because you fail to turn on what's called deferred ad loading. If I'm looking at your site here. You have the ability with Ad Thrive to turn on what's called deferred ad load. Deferred ad loading should be the default.
The ads that you are running are taking too long to load. That's again, because you don't have the deferred ad loading on. I would do that. Then, we can run this again and see if we can dial in a little bit better.
I mentioned alt tags previously. This is, unfortunately, a weakness for you. You have the same alt tag on every one of your photos. This is very poor for UX reasons. If someone is blind, they're using a screen reader for accessibility purposes...every photo is just reading out what you put in there. Not great for users.
Some of the other things that you might understand is that whenever we do a recipe...we do want to minimize the story about content if we can. You got a lot of personal content here. It's okay to have a little bit of that but when we have what amounts to a whole page of it, 300 to 400 words, that's where it's going to be harder to rank competitively.
Here's another problem. You see how you've hyperlinked lady fingers three times? All of these are affiliate links. We always nofollow affiliate links. That's very important here. If you're not sure how to do this at scale, go over to the blog fixer and buy the nofollow fix.
Erik Stafford: If you are going to be an affiliate, it's like we were discussing earlier. You have to make sure in having an affiliate disclaimer somewhere on your website. Otherwise, you're really asking for trouble.
Fixing Structured Data Errors
Casey Markee: One of the biggest issues though is the structured data. I want you to see this if you're on the call here. This is your site on the structured data tool. You see all those errors? That's bad.
You have eight errors. This is why this recipe itself is not generating any snippets or shouldn't be generating any snippets in search. You got two issues going on.
The first issue is the recipe card. You see, “ is not valid for publisher” property. This is probably because you haven't gone into Yoast and set up your schema correctly. If you go into Yoast, and you go to general appearance, scroll down and instead of person, you should be setting this up as organization Girl and the Kitchen. Then, uploading that logo there.
The second one involves these testimonials. You appear to be using some kind of a plugin at the bottom of the page here to generate this. Well, this plugin is not doing a very good job. It's throwing up errors on every one of your pages sitewide.
I would urge you to just probably delete that testimonials plugin. You're never going to miss these. These are not providing you enough value to outweigh errors sitewide. Encourage people to leave comments. That's what we want.
No site should have schema errors.
Closing Thoughts on Content and Conversions for WordPress Blogs
Some of the most popular questions that we had come up. I've made a little list here. When we're talking about site speed, we want to do a couple things. First of all, for those of you on Wordpress, we want to make sure that you've updated to the most recent version of PHP. It's like 7.3 or something like that.
Upgrading to the most recent version of PHP and then, installing something like WP-Optimize that you can optimize the size of your database. Make sure that we're only keeping about two or three revisions of each post. We can make sure that we're deleting pingbacks and trackbacks...things of that nature. Run a database plugin once a month.
Use a CDN. Cloudflare is great. Invest in the best cache plugin on the market, which is WP Rocket. WP Rocket is very WYSIWYG. All you have to do is install it and even the default settings will immediately significantly improve the scores for every second we've visited with today.
Then, things like paginating your comments. If you're having more than 20 or 30 comments on a specific post, that's going to add to both the DOM nodes on the page. It's going to add to database requests. Go ahead and paginate your comments
All right guys. We're going to let everyone go in just a minute. Really appreciate taking the time today. Take care.
Erik Stafford: Thank you.