At Mockingbird we are always searching for and adopting tools that provide our clients with the best service possible. One of the tools that we use as a standard in addition to WPEngine for all of our website hosting and maintenance clients is Cloudflare. More than just a Content Delivery Network (CDN), Cloudflare provides enhanced security, performance, and reliability for our client’s websites.
Cloudflare stops malicious traffic before it reaches your website by analyzing potential threats in visitor requests. Some of the characteristics that are analyzed are a visitor’s IP address, the resource requested, request payload and frequency, and defined firewall rules.
When specific DNS records are Proxied a Cloudflare IP address is returned when a DNS look is executed. This masks your origin IP address so attackers aren’t able to bypass Cloudflare and directly attack your origin web server using DNS records.
One security feature that we use frequently for clients is firewall rules. This allows us to block traffic to the website from a specific country, IP address, or bot. Helping prevent spammy form fills, potential attacks, and eliminate website traffic we know won’t convert into a client.
Cloudflare optimizes the delivery of website resources for visitors by using its robust network of data centers. These data centers serve your website’s static resources and ask your origin web server for dynamic content. Their global network of data centers provides a faster route from your website to a website visitor that would just be directly requesting the site. Helping to improve website load speed for clients across the united states and globally.
Cloudflare’s globally distributed anycast network routes visitor requests to the nearest Cloudflare data center. Dynamically responding to website visitor requests providing predictability and reliability when bandwidth fluctuates. Cloudflare does not have bandwidth limits for domains to be able to provide reliable billing for CDN and DDoS expenses.
These features and benefits all help provide a faster and safer experience for your potential clients. A free service that runs silently in the background keeping the website your firm up and running. Let us know if you have any questions or would like information on our website maintenance package so you have more time to focus on your firm.
The state of links is ever-changing, with new rules and guidelines to follow it can be confusing. Google’s John Muller was back recently challenging the way that we we think about links and ranks. As he fielded questions, Muller demonstrated that sometimes the way we think about SEO isn’t entirely correct. Offering advice on how to fight for top rankings.
Everyone knows the importance of links but what about dofollow versus nofollow? Over time most people have come to an understanding that dofollow links deliver greater value when fighting for top rankings. Versus nofollow links that may be easier to achieve but hardly bring any value at all. This is where Muller challenged this traditional thinking stating that dofollow links are no longer needed for rankings as well as nofollow links can be useful, too.
Google uses new rules that allow nofollow links to count as a link signal. This means that a normal nofollow link from normal websites may count as a link. This benefits sites that operate in niche markets where sites tend to link to each other with nofollow links. It could also apply to new websites that may only have nofollow links and have not had the time to gain dofollow links. Using this type of link as a signal for ranking is still beneficial for Google to be able to discover and display these sites in search.
It is important to remember that promoting your firm is about more than getting links. Building traffic to a website is about being proactive and similar to building traffic to a brick and mortar. In both instances, you have to figure out ways to make your business be different in order to be notable and better than competitors. Evaluate what top-ranking competitors are doing and focus on their innovations rather than traditional ranking signals. Continue to challenge what we know to know as the standard to look for innovation and continued to promote your firm in search.
Getting a good review is one of the best things for you as a business. It’s a great feeling to receive affirmation from a client that you provided superior service, as well the fact that it helps to persuade potential clients to hire your firm. It can be frustrating as a business owner when you realize that one of your hard-earned Google My Business reviews has been removed. But where did it go and why?
Reasons That May Cause a Review to Disappear
There are a few reasons why Google may have removed a review from your profile. The most common is that Google’s spam detection algorithm has flagged some of your reviews, and they have been removed from your company’s listing. The review could also have been flagged for review by a competitor or any other user that felt the review did not comply with Google’s Guidelines.
Here are some of the common elements that may cause a review to be flagged and removed:
- The Review Contains a URL
- The person who wrote the review is an account manager or employee.
- The review was left from the same computer/IP address that you sign into to manage your listing in Google My Business.
- The review was left from the same IP address as other users who left you a review.
- The client tried to post a review for you several times on different dates.
- You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.
- The review was left from an onsite review station at your location.
- You are offering incentives for clients who wrote the reviews.
- The review contains a word that is against Google Guidelines.
- The reviewer is not in close proximity to your business.
Outside of these common infractions, it could be due to a bug that is affecting the platform.
What you can do
Depending on the reason why the review was removed, it can be difficult to have the problem addressed or have the review reinstated. If a legitimate review was detected and accidentally removed by Google’s algorithm in an effort to remove fake reviews, it may or may not be restored. Even reaching out to support will not prove to be very helpful as they are unable to view or restore reviews that have been removed as part of spam-fighting efforts.
If you think it may be related to a recent bug, only time will tell whether the issue gets resolved. There is nothing account owners can do as the problem is all on Google’s end.
If you still maintain a great relationship with the client, they may be able to edit and repost their review to meet community guidelines. This may cause the review to be displayed on your company’s listing again.
Even though it’s frustrating when legitimate reviews are removed on accident, I choose to remain positive that Google is trying to solve the growing problem of fake reviews online and will continue to get better at identifying and removing reviews in the future.
It’s important to understand where your ads appear on the search page to determine if you should increase your bids or change strategy to be competitive. One metric that advertisers use to asses where their ads are showing up is average position.
However, average position has never been a clear representation of exactly where your ad appears on the search results page. Average position reflects the order that your ad appears versus the other ads in the auction on the search page. The first ad slot is not always at the top of the page above organic results. Sometimes no ads are displayed above the organic results so an ad with position one may appear at the bottom of the page.
Google Ads has four ad position metrics that can provide advertisers a clearer understanding of where their ads are showing up in search results.
- Impression (Absolute Top) % – The percentage of your ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
- Impression (Top) % – The percentage of your ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.
- Search (Absolute Top) IS – The impressions received in the absolute top position divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.
- Search (Topping ) IS – The impressions received in the top location compared to the estimated number of impressions you were able to receive in the top location.
To summarize, The first two metrics show when and where ad impressions display above organic results. The two impression share metrics show the share of impressions that were eligible for top-of-page impressions, above organic results.
If you have been using the average position to determine where your ad appears on the page, use these four metrics to get a better description of where your ad stands against the competition.
A lot of people mistakenly believe that Google values its own reviews more than those left on other platforms. An online business review is a written sentiment left directly by a client on any website or platform. Reviews represent an ongoing conversation your customers are having about your business online and they can contribute to building the type of positive reputation every firm strives to achieve. The top three platforms clients can leave reviews on are Google, Facebook, and Yelp. There are also legal-specific platforms clients can leave reviews on such as Avvo and Lawyers.com.
According to Moz, it is important to not put all of your reviews in one basket. Not only for algorithmic reasons, but because Google and other search engines sometimes filter, mistakenly loose reviews, or pull reviews from different platforms. While it is nice to have client reviews across different platforms, be careful because not all carry an equal amount of value. To identify which industry-specific platforms carry value, simply search a specific keyword phrase in search. When I searched, “criminal defense lawyer reviews”, I found that the top search results were dominated by yelp and top legal directories. This shows that Google values reviews from these top directories within the legal industry.
By using Google My Business I was able to identify other review platforms of value. In the example above, data is being pulled from Facebook and Lawyers.com. After looking at a few different Google My Business Pages I found this space to be dominated by legal directories, social platforms, yelp, and even client testimonials from the firm’s own website.
When prioritizing review efforts it is important to remember these key factors:
- Reviews across multiple platforms can help build client’s trust. Focus on not having clients leave reviews only on one platform because search engines may filter, lose, or pull reviews from different platforms. Additionally, these platforms feed each other, for example, Yelp pushes reviews to Bing, Yahoo, and Apple Maps.
- Acquire reviews at a natural rate for your firm. It can be viewed as spammy for a firm to acquire a large number of reviews in a short time period. Tipping off search engines and potential clients that the reviews may not be legitimate.
- Rankings may have an impact on your reputation. It is important to actively respond to the platforms that are most prominently displayed in search results; responding to feedback that clients leave and helping implement changes if needed.
Reviews are beneficial to a firm regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. These platforms provide a space where clients can have a discussion while providing owners an opportunity to respond to, and implement, changes. It is important to have reviews be a part of your local search engine optimization strategy. Focus on determining which platforms have value and perform the best in your firm’s search results.
Over the last year, Google has been perfecting their latest generation of Google Search Console with the main goal of making it easier for site owners to focus on important tasks. Google has already dropped several reports and replaced them in the new console over the past month. They have just released more details about final changes to come before they officially discontinue the current generation in March.
What Is Google Search Console Used for Anyway?
The main reason that search marketers use this tool is to improve the performance of a site on Google Search. Search Console tools and reports help measure a site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make a website shine in Google Search results.
Why Is Search Console Important?
As someone focused on marketing, Search Console will help monitor website traffic, optimize ranking, and make informed decisions about the appearance of a site’s search results. The information in Search Console can be used to help make informed strategic decisions on an account and spot critical issues that have a direct impact on search results.
A new layout with a focus on reports that will allow users more ease of access. Some features and reports have been relocated while others have been let go. The crawl errors report and sitemap data are now located in the new index coverage report.
When Is the Switch?
The Switch happened Friday, March 28th. We will no longer be able to toggle between the previous version of the Google Search Console. Making it all the more important that we learn where the new reports are located and become familiar with the new search console.
PHP is a widely used open source general-purpose scripting language that can be embedded in HTML. Conventionally used as a server-side scripting language to write dynamically generated web pages. The scripts are executed at the server and sent to the browser as plain HTML. It is important to update PHP to the latest generation to help make a site faster and protect against any errors. One of the most important benefits of updating to the latest generation of PHP is the support and added security benefits that it will bring. As PHP 5.6 and 7.0 are reaching their end of life, here is a breakdown of PHP 7.2.
PHP is compatible with almost all servers and database standards used worldwide. Offering fast performance backed by a large open source network, PHP can be used for a variety of purposes, such as generating dynamic pages and files. It allows you to store and manage information in a site database while also allowing the collection of information from a web form or emails to users. Through its many security features, PHP allows data to be encrypted and restrict unauthorized access to your website.
The latest update to version 7 included important security improvements, performance enhancements, and some exciting new features. The latest version PHP 7.2 follows with marked improvements in security and performance. PHP 7.2 brings updates Libsodium and Argon2, two security functions within the latest generation. These functions are used for encryption, decryption, and password hashing. PHP 7.2 keeps up to date with the most recent methods in cryptography, which is vital for security. The improved algorithm in these updates means that is is much harder and more computationally intensive for attackers to obtain users passwords or access.
benchmarks have proved that a site can receive substantial performance benefits from the latest generation. PHP 7.2 runs 20% faster than 7 and 250% faster than PHP 5.6 which over 40% of WordPress users are currently operating on. PHP 7 can also handle twice as many visitors as PHP 5 can, using the same amount of memory. This performance benefit alone makes PHP 7.2 a worthy upgrade for most of our clients, decreasing load time while increasing the number of visitors a site can handle at one time.
Each PHP branch goes through the same life cycle after it’s initial release and receives support for two years with bugs and security issues actively being fixed during this period. After the initial period, there is an additional year when only critical security updates are provided. These critical updates or changes are only released on an as-needed basis and are dependent upon issues being found and reported. Finally, three years after initial release, the branch will no longer be supported in any way. PHP 5.6 will no longer be supported starting January 1, 2019, reaching the end of the three-year cycle with PHP 7 moving into the critical security phase. More reason to make the switch to PHP 7.2 right away to reap the benefits of continued active developments and support.
The simplest way to upgrade to PHP 7.2 is by asking your hosting company to update it for your account. Depending on your hosting company it may even be a simple process and they may even provide a guide that will help you walk through it yourself. It is important to ensure that your website is compatible with PHP 7.2 before asking your hosting company to update it for your account. WP Engine has a PHP compatibility plugin that will scan all active themes and plugins to spot any potential issues. This will help you ensure that your site is compatible with PHP 7.2 and that your existing themes or plugins will not break your site after upgrading to PHP 7.2. After the update is complete, you may have to update your A record as your IP address may have changed.
Google has two methods of recognizing irrelevant sites to optimize a users search results. The two methods are automatic and manual actions. The automatic method is driven by an advanced algorithm that can identify potentially spammy or poorly developed sites. The manual method is just that, a real person manually reviewing content to determine if it is useful to internet users. If the site is found to be not useful or outside of Google’s webmaster quality guidelines, it may be penalized giving the site a lower PageRank.
Recently Google’s Senior Webmaster Trend Analyst, John Mueller, offered greater insight into the two different types of manual actions and understanding how to recover from the penalties. It is important to follow Google’s webmaster quality guidelines to ensure that you will receive a healthy PageRank which will maximize the visibility of your site within search.
Google’s Two Types of Manual Action Penalties
There are two types of manual actions, one more severe than the other.
- Complete removal of the site from search and indexing
- Partial removal from search
The first of the penalties is the harshest. If Google sees little value in investing resources to index content from a website, it will result in complete removal from the search results and indexing. This can happen because the site contains scraped or spun content, or is completely duplicative of another website. This kind of penalty results in a situation where the site does not exist at all for Google and nothing from that site will appear in search results.
The second is less severe and slightly easier to recover from as you are not completely kicked off of Google, however, you have no visibility through PageRank. In order to regain visibility, the site must edit or rewrite content before Google re-crawls the pages to ensure the issues have been resolved. After the page has been re-processed Google will continue to rank the page normally.
Regaining status after a manual penalty is not impossible but it can be extremely difficult. Both will have an effect on overall page rank and will require action taken by the webmaster to regain trust with Google. However, by understanding how Google filters and penalizes content we can avoid making mistakes that can lead to devastating penalties.
The European Union has refined its data storage regulations, pushing for stronger consumer-oriented regulations focused on protecting online users privacy rights. The latest set of regulations, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is set to come into effect on May 25, 2018. The regulation is based on the fundamental idea that every citizen of the EU has a set of rights when referring to data collection. By creating more robust data collection and storage laws, the EU is better safeguarding the privacy of online users.
The information that is not to be collected under the new GDPR includes all information that has the potential to be uniquely identifying. This includes a user’s IP address, email address, home address, date of birth, financial information, transaction histories, and medical records. This new legislation also protects any user-generated data such as social media posts and personal images uploaded online.
Google’s Implemented Data Retention Policy
Being a data controller, Google is responsible for handling personal information. If you are using a Google product to track the on-site action of users in order to serve personalized advertisements, you must now acquire user consent prior to taking action. Google has implemented a new tiered setting called Data Retention. This setting allows a specific retention period to be selected. User and Event Data will expire after 26 months but some may play it safe by easily adjusting the setting to retain the data for a longer period or set to never automatically expire. In addition, Google is launching a new tool that can help erase a specific users information upon request.
The GDPR protects all personal user data across every conceivable online platform. Effecting any company that is to market to people in the EU, or do business directly. Users must express permission before any company can process or store their data through a clear and easily understood opt-in process. Currently, the majority of advertisers are not using methods that would be affected by the new regulations but will need to continue to monitor the use and storage of this data.
What Does Google’s GDPR Policy Mean for U.S. Small Businesses?
So far, this policy update looks like it will have minimal impact on businesses operating outside of the European Union. For clients doing business solely in the U.S., we’re currently recommending they set their Google Analytics event data to be retained indefinitely. However, each business is unique and should take time to educate themselves on the implications of the new regulation.