WordPress Toronto North – Let’s Fix Your Site #5

On Tuesday February 20, the WordPress Toronto North York meetup moved our location to the North York Civic Centre off the North York Centre subway stop. We had a record number of attendees: 24 people attended the meet-up; 8 of our core group and 16 new members.  That’s 80% of the RSVPs on the meetup!  The organizers think that the new location, a Tuesday meeting and better weather had something to do with this.

There were no reported issues finding the committee room on the lower level. Several paper signs on doors directed guests, so if you’re joining us for the 1st time on Monday, March 19th keep an eye out for WP Toronto at the entrances for signage.

As we set-up the projector for “Let’s Fix Your Site #5”, Kristine Black, one of the co-organizers, went over a few key points from the Saturday WP Week-end meet-up on SEO (the slides are on WPToronto.com at this link).  Here are 5 of the top SEO tips covered at the meetup:

  • Making sure that each page has at least 300 words on it so Google effectively crawls the content; Split this content between your 1st and 6th header.  
  • Make sure that each image including a featured image is properly labelled with a description and alt-text (for both SEO and screen readers).
  • Make sure that your entire site has an  SSL certificate (GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Pro Ultimate service includes a free SSL for life).  Google will begin informing visitors if you do not have this security protocol in place as of April.  SSL costs about $30/year.
  • Set up Google Analytics by installing a Google Analytics plug-in on your site.  Yoast SEO plugin is no longer enough.  Similarly to AdWords, Yoast wants you to pay for their plug-in and therefore restricts the information you see in the free version.
  • Video is the most powerful engagement tool you can use on your site and YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine  (Google owns #1).  Embed properly labelled, tagged and subtitled video on your site and create a box around it (a ‘div’). https://www.thesitewizard.com/css/rectangular-box-border.shtml; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml1VJs5MmoY

We started introductions with David (www.davidgilbertvoiceover.com) who wanted to know if there were any plug-ins that could automatically show visitors if his studio was open or not.  Dan suggested he look at WP Front Notification Bar plug-in: https://en-ca.wordpress.org/plugins/wpfront-notification-bar/ (Note: this plugin seems to not be compatible with the DIVI theme which is used on David’s web site. Bummer.).

Kasia had a question around the Google Help and Search Console.  This tool provides insight and information on how your site is performing. It was recommended that she use a DNS verification approach, or the file method to get the authentication .  She will also need the Google Anaytics plug-in (suggested was: https://en-ca.wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-for-wordpress/) This plug-in from MonsterInsights will provide the authentication code required.  Kasia double-checked that she is uploading the file to the right place, to the root of the site so Google can authenticate. Doing this fixed the search console verification process!

John joined us from his winter home in Toronto (he lives the rest of the year in Dryden, ON near the Manitoba border).  He has been writing blogs since 2005 and among his own sites, is also supporting local associations with their web presence.  5550opinions.wordpress.com; wethe4.wordpress.com; www.drydenrotary.org. He’s looking for some trouble-shooting help and would like to install analytics on his sites.  

Dan is our resident expert with over 9 years of WP development experience.  We always welcome his expertise and participation in our meet-up.  www.dmdesign.co.il

Rob travelled from Brampton to join us for a second session.  He runs his own site plus an association site: http://www.robbysroost.ca; http://www.ofba.ca; Rob is interested in learning from the group and potentially hosting a Peel region WordPress meet-up.  

Mervyn Ziv is a Printer and joined the group for the 1st time to get help and advice as he transitions to digital.  

Marios is a talented WordPress developer who had come to our meetings in the past but found the downtown meetings more accessible.  We are happy that our new location is right on the subway line and provides easier access to many non-drivers in the WP community.   Marios helped us out by providing advice and some one-on-one consultation with attendees after the meeting.  

Keith Rodgers is the webmaster of GLSKA.com, a site for sea kayakers in southern ontario with 120 members.  He inherited the website from the retiring newsletter chairperson and struggled to get WP to do all that he wanted so he hired a developer to help him on several occasions. The developer switched him from DreamHost to BlueHost and installed Formidable forms plugin (for online form and payment technology).  Keith was not sure if BlueHost was providing automated back-ups and so he was wondering if a plug-in such as back-up buddy would be sufficient.  The group navigated him to contact his host to see if they do backups and whether they do restores. If not, consider a managed WordPress service that does this automatically, or hire a consultant that can validate your backup strategy. If your site cannot go down or be corrupted, you MUST have backups and clear and ready restore instructions that can be completed in 1-2 hours.

Alex cautioned that although we all may think we are being backed-up, until we have to restore our site, we have no idea if our back-ups are actually useful.  He asked us all to take a back-up and then try to reinstall it. You could even try to restore to a new website, not overwriting your current website. WordPress sites are constantly being attacked by hackers. Sites can get become unstable by adding a badly written plug-in or theme.  We concluded that it’s best to leave your back-up and restore procedures in the hands of your hosting company.  

Also, to make a proper backup you can easily restore don’t export your site or use FTP  to download your site because you can’t capture the underlying SQL database where your site’s data resides.  Drew uses https://premium.wpmudev.org/ who have a back-up plugin.  Some hosts don’t charge you to back-up, only to restore.  Some hosts can offer you a clone site (a copy of your site to act as your sandbox).

Nicolas joined us for the 1st time with questions about his blog (www.thegunblog.ca).  He’s looking to expand his site with a jobboard, map, store etc.  At this meeting he was hoping to change the post name on his social media sites (the name of the post goes into to the Facebook share and he’d prefer it wasn’t formatted that way.)

Drew joined us again as one of our core members and contributors.  He has been working on computers since 1982 and enjoys learning more about WP at the Toronto Meet-ups.

Leon was a new member who works on his own and clients’ sites.  He has a client who has inherited a site with too many “macros”.

Ken joined us for the 1st time.  He has a background in web development and beyond the recipe and language pronunciation sites that he has developed, he is looking to create an eCommerce site for a fluorescent brick paver product.  In his words, “the customizer frigged up the index by adding HTML to the PHP.”

Fernne, a creative director type who is a long-standing member of the WPToronto community attended and had some questions about the addition and deletion of content and how to label all her images appropriately.  

Mina came out for the 1st time and had some questions about the wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org attributes.  Her site is https://minadesign.wordpress.com/.  We had the discussion of the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org and were pleasantly surprised to see that WordPress.com is now offering as of August 2017 features that were only available on the .org version. There are now 4 levels of wordpress.com: Free, $5/month for a personal account that gives you a personal domain (domains without ‘WordPress’ in them), $10/month for the premium version offering unlimited premium themes and $33/month for the professional version which allows for plug-ins and theme installation.    Alex has the opinion  that this may be the best option for people who don’t want to worry about maintains and technical  support of their site.  

It was Alvin McKenzie’s 1st meeting with our group.  He has been working on his church’s website for the last 3 months and came looking for some help and direction.  Luckily he was the winner of one month of 24/7, unlimited helpdesk support from WPUP.co, a local company and sponsor of our Meet-up.  

Judy is a music teacher with the site www.wanderingminstrel.ca.  This was her first visit and had some questions around visual composer.  Alex suggested that she use Yoast SEO and Google Search Console to reindex her site.

Martin Silva joined us for the 1st time. He is a beginner with a personal site. He tried using the page-builder Elementor, and it “wiped out his site.” Alex suggested that he try Beaver Builder because it’s an easier page-builder to learn.

We talked about the new Gutenburg release of WordPress (most likely 5.0) expected for April/May 2018. This version of WordPress should do away with the TinyMCE editor and replace it with the Gutenberg editor which is an editor based on blocks rather than a big text box we have today.

Alex gave us the tip to look at the WordPress Showcase for examples of what we want our site(s) to look like.  Running any WP site through whatwpthemeisthat.com will tell you what theme is used .  

Kristine asked if there are any event registration plug-ins that shows event attendees publicly like they do on the Meet-up.com site.  Modern Tribe The Events Calendar,  Event Espresso, and WooCommerce and FooEvents were suggested.  

We had a door prize of one month of free service (value of $97) generously donated to us by Jeremy Choi of WPUP.co and Alvin was this month’s lucky winner!  

The next WordPress Toronto – North meetup is March 19, 2018, same time, same place.  See you there!