How Page Speed Affects SEO & Google Rankings | The 2019 Page Speed Guide

Posted by on Sep 23, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How Page Speed Affects SEO & Google Rankings | The 2019 Page Speed Guide

Speed is very important for a website. It’s so important that Google has made it an actual ranking factor. Over time, Google has taken action to improve the loading speed of websites by providing a set of tools for developers and webmasters. One of these tools is Google Lighthouse.


But how does this PageSpeed Insights Tool from Google actually work? And, more importantly, does page speed affect SEO? You’ll find everything you need to know in this article.



The PageSpeed Insights Tool didn’t use to be very good in the past. Most of the information there could be found relatively easy elsewhere and it didn’t quite indicate speed itself. However, Google has recently updated the tool and it’s a lot better. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot harder to understand.


However, this tool has became popular among SEOs through PageSpeed Insights, which is, in fact, powered by Lighthouse, but provides the information in an easy to follow format, on a web page.


  1. What Is Google PageSpeed Insights?
    1. Mobile vs. Desktop
    2. What is page speed actually?
  2. Does PageSpeed Insights Affect SEO? Is 100/100 Score Essential?
  3. PageSpeed Insights Metrics
    1. Field & Lab Data (Performance Metrics)
    2. Opportunities & Diagnostics
  4. How Is the PageSpeed Insights Score Calculated?
  5. Key Points in Improving the PageSpeed Insights Score
    1. Server response time
    2. Image compression
    3. HTML & CSS Structure
    4. Minification & Script Compression
    5. Cache Policy
    6. Lightweight Theme & Plugins
  6. How to Bulk Check the PageSpeed Insights Score
  7. Other Tools for Measuring & Improving Site Speed
    1. Pingdom
    2. GT-Metrix
    3. mod_pagespeed
    4. Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

What Is Google PageSpeed Insights?


PageSpeed Insights is an online tool provided by Google which is used to identify web performance issues on sites. Although mostly related to technical SEO issues, the tools also analyze the site from a User Experience and accessibility point of view.


You can access PageSpeed Insights by visiting


PageSpeed Insights Home


You can enter the URL there and after a few seconds the tool will return a page with some results regarding your website’s performance. At the top, there will be a general score, which is an average of multiple factors. Below you will see detailed information about what actually affects your speed.


However, it isn’t the only PageSpeed tool provided by Google. There also is mod_pagespeed, a server module used to solve these speed issues, and the full fledged Lighthouse (the site analysis tool that powers everything), available in Chrome itself. There are also a number of Chrome Extensions related to Google’s PageSpeed Insights.


We will discuss briefly about all of them throughout this article, but we will focus mainly on PageSpeed Insights as it seems to be the handiest tool most SEOs use when checking a website.


Mobile vs. Desktop


When you insert a page to test it, Google will give two scores: one for the mobile version and one for the desktop version.


Initially, the PageSpeed Tool only gave one score, for the Desktop version. But recently, mobile usage has became more and more popular. As of 2018, more than 50% of search engine users search on mobile devices. As Google moved to a mobile first index, it also made sense for them to test mobile versions for speed first.


PageSpeed Mobile vs Desktop


However, if you have a responsive design, you might think that these versions are mostly identical.


If so, why do they have different scores?


Mobile: When you use the PageSpeed Insights tool, the first result you’ll get is for mobile speed. This means that your website has been tested on a mobile connection, probably with a 4G connection, as it seems to be the most common speed around the US at least.


Mobile Network Coverage


However, keep in mind that many mobile users around the world still get only 3G signal and, although they have a slower connection speed, they still expect the website to load really fast.


And here’s the problem. It’s not always about your site, it’s more about the connection’s speed. It might seem like your site is slow when, in reality, the connection speed is slow.


Desktop: On desktop, the score is higher because the connection speed is higher. That’s just the thing with light and fiber optics. Unless you live in the UK, of course, and still have cups and string internet.


So the website goes through the same testing, but it’s mostly the connection speed that differs.


That’s why mobile comes first, as mobile devices usually have slower connections. Things might change with 5G but, until then, make sure you focus on improving your site speed for mobile devices.


What exactly is Page Speed?


OK, so we know what the tool does: it gives a score based on how fast it thinks your site is. But what exactly is page speed?


Page Speed is the speed at which an individual page loads on your website. Different pages can have different speeds due to factors such as images and scripts.


But speed is relative. It depends on so many factors such as the website’s performance, the server’s performance, the particular web page you’re on, the connection type, the user’s internet service provider, the internet package, the device’s processing power, the Browser, what the user is doing at that point, how many apps are running and so on.


However, we can only work with what we can work, which is our website and our server. We don’t really have control over the rest.


Just to get things straight, page speed isn’t a score, like PageSpeed Insights presents. It’s a web page’s loading time and it is measured in seconds. That’s what matters.


That’s why Google PageSpeed Insights wasn’t so good in the past. It didn’t quite give you information about how fast your website is actually loading. Just scores.


And that’s why this new version is just so good. It tells you everything you need to know about actual loading speed while also keeping the good stuff from the old version.


There are, of course, different points of interest in the loading time. For example, you may want to run some scripts towards the end because they don’t need to be used initially.


They might take a lot to finish loading, so the total loading time could be higher. But if the site is usable until then, it isn’t such a big problem.


Fast Website Loading Speed


For example, let’s say you want to run an exit intent pop-up script. That script takes a hypothetical 5-10 seconds to load. However, you want to show it to the user only after about 20-30 seconds.


If you start running your script immediately, you might postpone loading other important elements, such as the first thing the user should see: the above the fold content. This would be very bad, especially since you’re not going to use that script until about 20-30 seconds in the future.


So you can postpone loading the script after everything else that is vital loads in order to give the user a better experience.


However, if you have a script that makes the menu work or something vital to the usability of the website, you might not want to load it towards the end. This would ruin the experience as the user would not be able to access that function before everything else is loaded.


Does Page Speed Affect SEO? Is 100/100 Insights Score Essential?


The simple answer is that page speed does affect SEO. Page speed is a direct ranking factor, a fact known even better since Google’s Algorithm Speed Update. However, speed can also affect rankings indirectly, by increasing the bounce rate and reducing dwell time



At Google, users come first. Studies by Google show that average 3G loading speed is very slow. They also show that users leave the site after about 3 seconds. This means that their experience is bad and Google doesn’t like ranking sites which provide bad user experience.




What you must remember is that speed is measured in seconds, not in points from 0 to 100. While PageSpeed Insights is a tool that helps you improve speed, the score there doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the real world.


Even so, it is important to improve the Page Speed Score.




Because with Google we don’t know for sure whether the score there is or is not used as a ranking factor. Does Google use seconds? Does it use the score? Who knows…


However, I’ve seen sites with perfect pagespeed score ranking poorly and websites with a score lower than 50 that rank very well (#youtube).


However, you have to take into account how Google makes these tests. We don’t know where the tests are performed from. Is your server from Romania and Google tests it with a 3G connection in the US? Well then, you can obviously expect low speeds.



But just for the user’s sake, put the loading time first. And don’t use only PageSpeed Insights to test that. Stick to the end and I’ll show you a couple of tools which you can use to test the speed at which your website loads from different locations.


Sometimes, Google contradicts itself!


For example, Google PageSpeed Insights considers the Google Analytics script render blocking, which means you should load it later, in the footer. However, Google Analytics specifies it pretty clearly that the script must be placed in the <head> section of your website, otherwise it won’t work properly and won’t initially be accepted as a valid install.


So you get a small score hit in PageSpeed Insights… by doing what Google says… just to be told that you shouldn’t do it like that… by Google. You get the point.


Also, you can’t cache the script properly unless you store the analytics.js file on your server. That’s obviously something Google Analytics doesn’t recommend. It’s also a hell for maintenance, as every time Google Analytics JavaScript file gets an update, you would have to update it on your site as well.


This, of course, doesn’t happen only with Google tools and scripts but with any 3rd party script you don’t have control over.


In our defense, even YouTube, which is owned by Google and should theoretically set an example, has a pretty slow PageSpeed Insights score, at least at the time of writing this article.


Slow YouTube PageSpeed


But that doesn’t mean that the site loads slow. You can see that the field data (for which there is plenty of, as it’s YouTube) says the site loads in pretty much 4 seconds, which isn’t actually bad, considering that recently YouTube provides video previews in the thumbnails.


You can also test your site with to get a more simple explanation of how fast your site loads!


ThinkWithGoogle Test Mobile Speed


Our other business’s website, BrandMentions loads in under 2 seconds on a 4G connection, as you can see above. We would see it as pretty good. Sure, there’s always room for improvement. By Google standards… it’s average.


However, Google seems to consider cognitiveSEO’s website speed slow, even though it loads in a little over 3 seconds, which is still pretty fast considering the amount of 3rd party tools we’re using.



Note that you’ll have to go under 1 second to be considered fast! To do so, you’ll probably need a very simple site with no 3rd party plugins or fancy pop-ups. Not easy if you actually want to do some digital marketing.


So yes, loading speed is important for SEO, but a perfect PageSpeed Insights score is not. As long as your website loads in around 3 seconds, you should be fine with most users.


PageSpeed Insights Metrics


Since so many things can affect site speed, Google breaks everything up in different categories in the PageSpeed Insights Tool, for a better understanding of the issues.


This is helpful as Google also provides some sort of prioritization, showing you what exactly affects speed the most.


Field & Lab Data


These are the new metrics that are actually useful. They are split into two categories: field and lab data.


Field data is what’s important in the real world, as it’s the data extracted by Google from real users, either through Chrome or other data providers.


Sure, it’s an average and if Google doesn’t yet have enough data it will let you know.


Origin Summary shows an average of the site’s speed as a whole. This way you can have an idea on how your page compares to the site and how the site compares to other sites in the Chrome User Experience Report.


Lab data, although still useful, could be considered less important as it is collected from a controlled environment. This means that it’s tested through a single connection and it doesn’t aggregate data from multiple users.


The lab data is what actually generates the Google page speed score.


Due to the fact that Google doesn’t always have field data, it uses the lab data which is performed on the spot to analyze your site.


First Contentful Paint represents the moment when the users sees something on your web page for the first time. If you look at the series of images you can actually spot how it looks:


First Contentful Paint


As you can see, the page has not fully rendered, something has displayed there.


First Meaningful Paint is the second step, let’s say, if we take the results above as an example. It represents the point at which the user can actually understand the first piece of content. For example, some readable text or an image displays, instead of just colors and backgrounds.


Speed Index is a more complex metric. It measures how quickly elements on your website are visibly populated. The faster they start to appear, the better. You’re looking for a lower score here, as it’s also measured in seconds.


First CPU Idle represents the point at which the site has loaded enough of the information for it to be able to handle a user’s first input. For example, if the site has not loaded enough relevant information, the user might tap elements or scroll down but nothing will happen.


Time to Interactive is the next level, the one at which the website is fully interactive. This means that everything has loaded in the device’s memory and is now ready to be used.


Max Potential First Input Delay is the delay a user experiences from the point at which they interact with the browsers to the point at which the browser responds. This is the only performance metric which doesn’t affect the page speed score.



Opportunities & Diagnostics


The opportunities section provides information on what you can improve on your site. It also tells you an estimate of how much each issue affects your load time and how you should prioritize your tasks.


Going through each and everyone of them would be overkill. However, under each metric you’ll have a small arrow which you can use to expand the section.


PageSpeed Opportunities & Diagnostics


There you will find information about each and every recommendation and how to fix the issue to improve your site’s speed. You will notice that the elements which cause the biggest issues are, in general, images and 3rd party scripts.


The Passed Audits section is the list of things that you already do well on your web page. Basically, it will show elements from both the Opportunities and Diagnostics sections that fit within Google’s parameters.


The more you have in this list, the better!


How Is the PageSpeed Insights Score Calculated?


Although you might see so many things in the PageSpeed Insights Tool, the score is actually calculated using only the seconds in the Lab Data section. If you read closely, you’ll actually be able to see the message “These metrics don’t directly affect the Performance score.” under Opportunities & Diagnostics.


The metrics in the Lab Data are called performance metrics. There are 6 of them and we’ve presented them above. Each metric gets a score from 0 to 100. Each metric has a different weight in calculating the score.


3 – First contentful paint
1 – First meaningful paint
2 – First cpu idle
5 – Time to interactive
4 – Speed index
0 – Estimated input latency


By order of importance, they are listed as such: Time to Interactive, Speed Index, First Contentful Paint, First CPU Idle, First Meaningful Paint and Estimated Input Latency, which actually has no effect on the score.


The scores are based on Log-normal distribution algorithms so let’s not get too deep down the rabbit hole. If you want to learn more you can read this page.


Google has also put a Sheet file which you can use to see how the score is actually generated. If you know Excel functions, you can reverse engineer how everything works. You can download this file here, but you have to make your own copy (File -> Make your own copy) before you can edit it. There’s also a version for Lighthouse v5.


PageSpeed Score Calculator


To put it in simple terms, the First Contentful Paint impacts the score more than the First Meaningful Paint, and so on.


Why? Well, probably because if nothing displays on the screen, the user is more likely to leave your website. If you display… something, you’ll win some time to get the rest of the thing delivered.


The scores are ultimately divided into 3 categories, Slow (0-49), Average (50-89) and Good (90-100). Then an average is generated as a final score for your website.


Generally, if you’re under 50, you do have some issues that need fixing! But again, don’t sweat it if your site loads in about 3 seconds.


Key Points in Improving the PageSpeed Insights Score


Everything up there might be a little big hard to digest. We get it. Most probably, you won’t be able to solve everything! We’ve ruled out that it’s not important to get a 100% score. However, here are the key elements that will noticeably make your site load faster.


Warning: perform a backup of both your files and your database before engaging in these improvements. They can mess up your website and you have to make sure you can return to a previous version!


Server response time


The server is something you can’t really improve yourself. You either have a good one or a bad one. To improve it, you would either have to reduce load on it significantly, or improve its hardware, both of which you don’t have control over, unless you own the physical machine.


So it’s important to have a good server in the first place. But how do you choose a good server?


Well, any hosting company that ranks well on Google should provide decent services. However, it’s up to you to test. Best advice? If you’re mostly focused on local SEO, choose a local server. For example, if most of your audience lives in Italy, choose a server with the datacenter in Italy.


If the datacenter is all the way in the US, the information will have to travel a big distance before reaching your target audience.


You can always test the hosting provider’s own website with PageSpeed Insights and look for their TTFB (Time To First Byte) or Server Response Time. If it’s in the Passed Audits section, you know you have yourself a good hosting provider.


Fast Server TTFB


However, it’s better if you know someone that is an actual client of the hosting provider so you can test the speed there.


Realistically, the host’s own website will probably be on a dedicated server, while your site will be on a shared hosting package. This means that you will share the computer’s CPU and internet bandwidth with other websites.


If you can test a real site from a client, that’s great. You might be able to look through the reviews and find clients or ask the support team to provide one.


Image compression


In general, images are the biggest problem with websites. They are big and take up a lot to download. 


There are two types of issues with the images. The first one is the screen size vs. the actual image size in pixels and the second one is the disk size.


Disk Size: The more physical space an image takes on a hard disk or SSD, the more it will take to download. 100 KB will download a lot faster than 1000 KB (1MB). If you have 10 images like that on your blog post, expect your site to load very slow.


You can use WP Smush to optimize your images. It’s a plugin that will compress the images without losing any quality. This means that you can shrink a 1000×1000 pixels image from 200 KB to 150 KB without noticing the difference in quality, therefore making it load 25% faster.


WP Smush


Screen Size: Screen size is the size at which an image is displayed. For example, the image below is being displayed at 300×300 pixels.




To make images load faster, you first have to make sure you’re not using an image bigger than it’s going to be displayed. For example, if you have an HTML section that styled with CSS at 300×300 pixels, but you load an 1000×1000 pixels image in the source, you’re losing load time for that 700×700 pixels.


That’s because the Browser has to download the 1000×1000 pixels image and then shrink it to 300×300 pixels. This takes more time for both the download and the shrinking process. You can fix this by uploading your images with the same width and height that they will be displayed at.


WordPress does this automatically by creating multiple instances of the image when you upload it. That’s why you’ll see that 300×300 or 150×150 suffix at the end of an image file path. That’s why you can choose sizes (Large, Medium, Thumbnail). Although it’s not perfect, especially if you manually resize the image with click and drag, and it takes up more space on your server on the long run, it does help with load speed.


Deferring the images is another thing that you can do to improve the load time. This means that you can download them later as the user scrolls down on the web page. There will be a brief moment when the images won’t be visible but they will eventually show up, one after another.


This helps the Browsers focus on the important part, the one which the users is viewing at that point.



There are a multitude of plugins that can help you do that. However, many have bugs or only defer images in certain situations, for example if they are created by WordPress or WooCommerce, but not when created or inserted by less popular plugins.


There are certainly plugins for other CMS, such as Joomla or Magento. Just perform a Google search for them. If you’re not on a popular CMS, such as WordPress, deferring images can be done with jQuery, but you’ll most certainly need a developer for it, if you’re not one yourself.


Next gen image formats are recommended by Google. They are very useful, especially when loading a website from a mobile device. However, there’s a reason not many people use them yet.


Next gen image formats are not yet supported by all major browsers. This means that you’ll need to dynamically serve different formats for different browsers.


If you can use a plugin on your CMS that might be easy, but if you’re on a custom platform, you’ll need to develop everything from scratch, which costs a lot. Here’s a list of which browsers support the WebP format.


WebP Next Gen Image Format


If you size and optimize your images properly, the savings you’ll get by also converting them to next gen image formats such as JPEG2000 or WebP might not be worth the cost in time and money.


However, if you have the time and budget, by all means, go do it. You can use this tool to check if the browsers your users spend most time on are supported. Search for either WebP or JPEG2000.


HTML & CSS Structure


The HTML structure of your web page dictates the way it loads. Browsers read a page from the top to the bottom and they load the elements the same way. This means that if you want something to load first, you have to put it higher in your page.


Generally, the issues are not with HTML but with CSS. If you write your CSS chaotically, it will result in a slower loading time and a bad user experience.


Let’s take an example. Most websites, if not all, follow this HTML structure: head > body > footer.


If my CSS file styles the footer first, then the footer will receive the styling, although it is before the fold. Meanwhile, the header and body might remain plain.


It’s also a good idea to add your mobile styling first, as mobile devices are the slowest ones.


The same goes with renderblocking JavaScript. Postpone scripts that are not vital. Add them to the footer so that they will be loaded last.


However, if you have important scripts such as Analytics which should run as soon as possible, then by all means keep them in the header and make sure they fire and run properly, even though this might result in a lower PageSpeed score.


Minification & Script Compression


Minification is a process of making a file smaller by removing unnecessary information from it.


For example, when writing JavaScript and CSS, most, if not all coders, like to use spaces in order to keep their code clean and easy to read. However, those extra spaces add up, especially if you have a long piece of code.


CSS Minification


Another way of minifying code would be by combining similar elements.


For example, if my head and footer sections were identical, instead of writing them like this:


body {
font-size: 16px;
footer {
font-size: 16px;


I could write:


body, footer {
font-size: 16px;


Compression is the process of shrinking files by replacing recurring sequences of information with a single reference to that particular sequence.


So, for example, if I have the following code: 123 4 123 123 123 4 123 123, I could replace 123 with a 1 and get a compressed version like this one: 1 4 1 1 1 4 1 1. Of course, it’s far more complex than what I’ve presented.


This generally happens on the server side and the most common one is called Gzip compression. The server sends a compressed version. After the browser receives the compressed file, it decompresses it by reversing the process, to read its actual contents.


This works pretty much like WinRAR; we probably all know it, because we’ve been using it for free since forever!


If you’re on a popular CMS, you will definitely find a plugin for both compression and minification. For example, the W3 Total Cache plugin does a lot of things including both of these, if you set it up properly.


Remember that compression is dependent on server setup. If your server does not support Gzip, you won’t be able to compress files. If you have an Apache server, make sure you have mod_deflate installed.


You can ask your server provider if your hosting supports it. 99.9% of the time they will say yes. If it’s not already installed, they should do it free of charge, as it’s something pretty basic.


If you’re not on a popular CMS you can also enable Gzip compression via the .htaccess file (Apache servers) by adding the following code, as long as mod_deflate is installed.


<span class="token operator">&lt;</span>IfModule mod_deflate<span class="token punctuation">.</span>c<span class="token operator">&gt;</span>
  <span class="token shell-comment comment"># Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts</span>
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>rss<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>vnd<span class="token punctuation">.</span>ms<span class="token operator">-</span>fontobject
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>otf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>truetype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>xhtml<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>otf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> image<span class="token operator">/</span>svg<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> image<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>icon
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>css
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>plain
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>xml

  <span class="token shell-comment comment"># Remove browser bugs (only needed for really old browsers)</span>
  BrowserMatch <span class="token operator">^</span>Mozilla<span class="token operator">/</span><span class="token number">4</span> gzip<span class="token operator">-</span>only<span class="token operator">-</span>text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  BrowserMatch <span class="token operator">^</span>Mozilla<span class="token operator">/</span><span class="token number">4</span><span class="token punctuation">.</span><span class="token number">0</span><span class="token punctuation">[</span><span class="token number">678</span><span class="token punctuation">]</span> no<span class="token operator">-</span>gzip
  BrowserMatch <span class="token package">bMSIE</span> <span class="token operator">!</span>no<span class="token operator">-</span>gzip <span class="token operator">!</span>gzip<span class="token operator">-</span>only<span class="token operator">-</span>text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  Header append Vary User<span class="token operator">-</span>Agent
<span class="token operator">&lt;</span><span class="token operator">/</span>IfModule<span class="token operator">&gt;</span>


Sometimes, you can also combine the scripts. There are plugins that do this, such as Autoptimize, which I’ve presented before. Combining scripts is exactly what it says. Instead of having two files, you combine them into one. This way there’s only one request made to the server, instead of multiple ones.


However, combining scripts can many times causes bugs, so make sure you back up everything before.


Cache Policy


Caching is the process of storing files in a client’s browser in order to be able to quickly access them at a later time.


For example, if a user comes to your website for the first time, your logo will have to be downloaded. However, if you have an effective caching policy, that file will be stored in the user’s browser. When the user accesses your site a second time, it won’t have to download that file again as it will be instantly loaded from their computer.


Dynamic Elements (short cache policy): Dynamic elements are elements on your website that change frequently. For example, you might keep adding new posts in a slider on the Homepage.


In this case, the HTML is the dynamic element, so set a short caching policy if this fits you. 30 minutes might be enough, just in case the user returns to that page in the same session.


In some cases, you might not want to cache those elements at all, if promptitude is what matters for your users, such as on news websites.


Static Resources (long cache policy): Static resources are files that rarely change. These are usually images and CSS or JS files, but they can also be audio files, video files, etc.


You can set a longer cache time for images and CSS files since you know you will not be changing them very frequently. You can even go up to one year, but 3 months is usually enough.


Third Party Tools: You don’t really have control over 3rd party tools, so if you feel like a tool that is hosted elsewhere makes your website run very slow, better find an alternative or give up on it.


A solution would be to host the files on your own server and cache them. However, this might not be very productive and it’s not recommended, as you’ll have to constantly update those files as soon as new versions come out, otherwise the tool or app won’t work properly.


Cache Plugins: There are a lot of plugins that will properly handle the cache protocols required for a good user experience. If you’re on WordPress, one of these plugins is W3 Total Cache. However, if you want to go for a better option, WP Rocket is also pretty popular, but it will set you back a couple hundred bucks.


Just search for cache plugin / extension / module + your platform on Google to find what you need. Look at the reviews to pick the best one.


.htaccess file cache: You can also set a cache control header from your .htaccess file on an Apache server, if you don’t run your website on a popular CMS.


There are multiple ways:


<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 hour"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"


Or you can also use this code:


# One year for image files
<filesMatch ".(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|ico)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=31536000, public"

# One month for css and js
<filesMatch ".(css|js)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=2628000, public"


The numbers in the max-age attribute are in seconds, so 3600 would mean one hour, 86400 one day and so on.


Resetting the cache: When you make modifications to a web page, you want to reset the cache if an older version has been cached previously. However, you can only reset the cache on your server.


This means that users who have downloaded a previous version of a certain file will still load that old version from their computer when they access the website again. The file will be refreshed after the set amount of time in your caching policy or if the user manually resets their browser cache.


If you have a critical error in your web design or code, you can change the filename of your file. This way you can be sure that the cache for that particular file will be reset.


Sometimes, Chrome’s cache can be difficult to reset. Sometimes, routers and datacenters between the client and the server might also cache files so, if you don’t see the modifications, give it a couple of hours.


Lightweight Theme & Plugins


The more you load your website with plugins, the heavier it gets and the slower it runs.


A website’s theme is the biggest ‘plugin’ the site has. Most themes out there come with heavy 3rd party builders and huge libraries of plugins which all make the site run slower.


Lightweight Theme & Plugin


For example, slider plugins generally add the slider JS code to all pages, although it will probably be used only on the homepage or a landing page. That’s some heavy code to be loading on every page! Not to mention that nobody likes them and they lower the conversion rate.


So when you’re looking for a theme, try to find one without too much animations, sliders, functions and so on. If you look at the big websites you’ll see that, in general, they’re pretty simple.


A good theme which I recommend is GeneratePress. It’s lightweight and will load very fast. You can enable or disable elements to keep your site as clean as possible.


Combining it with an optimization plugin such as WP Rocket (paid) or a combo of free plugins such as Autoptimize + Fastest Cache will make it blazing fast! You can also use W3 Total Cache, a plugin which does almost everything listed above pretty well.


When you install new plugins, think about how important they are to your website. After you install them, test your score and loading speed. Does the plugin make your site run slower? If yes, is it critical to keep the plugin? Maybe look for a better alternative or remove it completely.


How to Bulk Check the PageSpeed Insights Score


The annoying part about PageSpeed Insights is that it checks only one web page at a time. It would take an eternity to check all the pages on your website, depending on its size.


However, there’s a way of bulk checking the PageSpeed Insights Score. Have you guessed it yet?


It’s the CognitiveSEO Tool Site Audit. Once you set up the technical SEO analysis with the Site Audit, go to your Campaign -> Site Audit -> Performance -> PageSpeed.


Bulk Check Google PageSpeed Insights Score


Of course, you can do a lot more with the tool, from improving your technical SEO and content to monitoring your rankings and link building efforts.


There’s also a somewhat free alternative which is a Chrome Extension. However, what it will actually do is ask for a list of URLs and then just open them as new tabs in the online PageSpeed Insights tool.


Bulk Check PageSpeed Extension Chrome


This means that the process is OK for about 10-20 tabs, if you have a medium to high end computer CPU. Anymore than that and the browser could crash or you’ll grow old waiting. It’s still pretty inconvenient.


Other SEO Tools for Measuring & Improving Site Speed


Of course, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool isn’t the only tool to check and improve page speed. For once, we don’t really know where the tests are being performed from. If your site is hosted on a server in Europe and Google performs its tests from the US, it’s natural that the site will be slower.


However, there are tools which specify where the test is being performed from.




Pingdom Speed Test is a great tool which measures the speed at which your web page loads. Once the test is done, you’ll get some results which are similar to the ones on Google’s tool, at least visually.


Pingdom Speed Test


What’s interesting about it is that you can select where the test is going to be performed from. Sure, the options are limited, but it’s still better than not even knowing it.


If you focus on local SEO, choose the location closest to your server. If you don’t know where it’s actually hosted, ask your hosting provider and you’ll find out.


Pingdom Data Center Location


It’s also a good idea to make multiple tests from different locations, just in case you have an international audience.




GT Metrix has been one of my favorite speed testing tools out there. Although it tests only from Vancouver, Canada, the insights it gives are very useful.


GT Metrix Speed Tool


Quick tip: If you create a free account with them, you won’t have to wait so much for the test to be performed. To reduce load on their servers, they add you in a queue when there are too many requests. However, registered users have priority.




The mod_pagespeed is a server addon from Google. Its purpose is to fix any page speed related issues at a core level, directly on the server side. This means that even if you add unoptimized images, mod_pagespeed will automatically compress, optimize and convert them to next gen image formats.


However, installing mod_pagespeed is definitely more technical than just dealing with everything in WordPress.


If your server already has it or you know what you’re doing go ahead and install it. However, it’s always a better idea to have a fast site in the first place instead of trying to cover things up.


Any way, this mod will increase load on your server as every time you upload an unoptimized image, it will have to use processing power to convert it.


Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)


If you want your site to be really fast on mobile searches, you can always implement Google AMP.


Google AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is a special type of HTML, stripped of heavy, slower loading elements.


More than that, AMP pages will preload in Chrome mobile browser as the user scrolls through the search results, resulting in an instant load of the page when the user taps the title.


Google AMP


There are also disadvantages, of course. You’re limited from every direction, although things are getting better and better every day. Also, your site’s design has to suffer and will pretty much look like any other site that uses AMP. Bummer.


The URL isn’t yours either, because Google loads a cached version of your site, on their URLs. However, Google developers have promised to bring native URLs into AMP.


On WordPress and other CMS, you can add AMP to your website through a plugin. For custom websites, you’ll need to get in touch with your developer and give them this link.




Improving your site speed is important for better search rankings. PageSpeed Insights provides a set of best practices and possible improvements, prioritized by their impact on your site’s speed.


While the score itself shouldn’t concern you too much, it’s a good idea to try and get it at least over 50. However, focus on load time, which is measured in seconds. A good website should load in about 3 seconds. A really, really fast one should load in about 1.


Having a good server, compressing images and keeping things clean and simple in your code will benefit you the most when it comes to website speed.


What’s your PageSpeed Insights Score? Have you seen better rankings after improving the loading speed of your website? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

The post How Page Speed Affects SEO & Google Rankings | The 2019 Page Speed Guide appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

7 Awesome 404 Error Pages from The World’s Most Popular Websites

Posted by on Sep 23, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 7 Awesome 404 Error Pages from The World’s Most Popular Websites

Is there any topic more exciting than 404 errors?

It’s brutally boring, BUT I’ve decided to spice things up a little.

In this article, I’m going to analyze 404 error page designs from the 100 most popular websites in the world.

I’ll also show you how to fix 404 errors at the end.

Let’s jump in.

What is a 404 Error Page?

A 404 error occurs when you land on a page that doesn’t exist on the host website.

Gotch SEO 404 Error

It can be frustrating when you’re a user and that’s why it’s important for SEO. What’s important for users is important for your SEO campaign.

This doesn’t mean you need to “fix” all the 404 pages on your website either.

More on this in a second. There is one universal truth that applies to every website:

Your 404 page design and UX needs to be effective.

Model the some of the terrific 404 pages I found from the most popular websites in the world. Take a look:

Model These 404 Pages

I’ve ranked these 404 error pages based on effectiveness. Not how clever they are. Here we go:

1. eBay

eBay’s 404 page is perfect. It’s helpful for users and it’s also built to convert.

Ebay 404 Error Page

2. Healthline

Healthline’s 404 page works well because it’s on-brand. It also directs users back to the important parts of their website.

healthline 404

3. RetailMeNot

RetailMeNot uses a nice conversion-focused 404 page. You should consider testing this model if you’re running a coupon site.

Retailmenot 404

4. (Disney) combines creativity (which is on-brand for Disney) and effectiveness by offering a search function on their 404 pages. Great job!

Disney 404 error


CNET has a clever and effective 404 error page. It’s effective because of the display ads placed in strategic locations. I also love the “All-Time Favorites” content section.

CNET 404

This is an effective way to send users back into their website’s rabbit hole. They know more dwell time equals more ad revenue.

6. Facebook

Facebook’s 404 page design is on-brand and simple. It gives users enough options to find what they need. Well done.

Facebook 404 Page

7. YouTube

YouTube’s 404 error page is simple and effective. You only have one option and that’s to search.

YouTube 404 Page

It would make sense for to model YouTube’s 404 page. Not sure why they wouldn’t when search is their bread and butter.

404 Pages NOT to Model

1. Amazon

Amazon’s 404 page caught me off guard. Marketers study Amazon because of its conversion-focused mindset. So what’s going on here? Why are they pushing the “Meet the dogs of Amazon”? agenda on a 404 page?

Amazon 404 Page

I understand if they’re trying to make their company more relatable and “human” and that’s fine. The timing is a little strange.

Let’s step into the mind of the user for a second.

They were looking for something specific and now they’re presented with a distraction. A percentage of people will click to learn more about “the dogs of Amazon”. Then a small percentage of those people will forget what they were even doing on Amazon in the first place.

So, if we’re examining this from a pure conversion perspective, it’s an odd strategy.

The good news is Amazon still shows a prominent search function. It’s not a “bad” 404 error page. It’s just a weird strategy.

2. Google

Surprisingly, Google has a bad 404 page. The page isn’t helpful for users at all. It informs them that they tried to reach a page that doesn’t exist, but what happens next?

Google 404 Error Page

The only option is to hit the back button on their browser or exit. You would think the biggest search engine in the world would have a search function on their 404 error page.

The funny part is another division of their company (YouTube) has a better 404 page. See above.

3. Reddit

I don’t know if Reddit’s team is trying to be clever or this isn’t intentional. It’s a bad 404 error page regardless. It doesn’t direct users anywhere and it gives no guidance.

Reddit 404 Not Found Page

My only assumption is the Reddit team has concluded their user base is intelligent enough to find what they need on their own.

Here’s an interesting fact about my research:

13 of the 100 most popular websites have 404 error pages like Reddit.

4. Spotify

Spotify’s 404 page looks okay on the surface, but there are some issues with the links. It’s a common UX best practice to underline links initially or on a hover. Spotify doesn’t do either.

Spotify 404 page

This makes the links to their “FAQ” and “Community” pages almost invisible. The other issue is the “Go Back” link doesn’t work because they’re using Javascript. Not sure why.


How to Fix 404 Errors

The best way to find and fix 404 errors is to use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

But before you dig in, when should you fix a 404 error?

The answer is sometimes.

Here’s a simple criteria to follow:

  1. 301 redirect a 404 page if there’s a suitable alternative on your website.
  2. 301 redirect a 404 page if it has existing backlinks, traffic, sales, or any other positive KPIs. If you don’t have a relevant page to 301, then redirect it to the homepage.

If a 404 page doesn’t have any positive KPIs, then let it be a 404. Google will crawl it and remove it from the index. I recommend going into Google Search Console and marking the 404s as “fixed”.

It’s not necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.

How to Find 404 Error Pages

Open up Screaming Frog SEO Spider, enter your target domain and start the analysis.

Screaming Frog

Click on the “Response Codes” tab. Then click on the “Filter” dropdown and select “Client Error (4xx)”.

Screaming Frog 404s

Export all the 404 errors.

list of 404 errors

The next step is to take all of your 404 pages and analyze them using Ahrefs. Go to Ahrefs, click on “More” in the navigation and click “Batch analysis”.

Ahrefs Batch Analysis

Enter your URLs and start the analysis.

Ahrefs Bulk Analysis Tool

Click on the “Domains” column and you’ll see what 404 pages have existing backlinks.

Referring Domains Ahrefs

Now 301 redirect the 404 pages (with existing backlinks) to a relevant page.

5 Qualities of Perfect 404 Pages

Here are a few 404 page qualities to emulate based on my analysis of the top websites in the world:

1. Be user-focused

Landing on a 404 page can be frustrating. Help the user as much as you can.

2. Stay on-brand

The best 404 pages stayed on-brand and were creative. Especially Disney:

Disney 404 error

Attention to detail goes a long way.

3. Keep it simple

Don’t overwhelm the user more than they already are. Give them exactly they need to find what they were looking for.

4. Make links look like links

UX 101 right here. Your links should always look like links.

Ebay Help Pages

5. Try to drive conversions (if it makes sense)

Not every website can try to make sales on a 404 page. But if it makes sense in your situation, test it.

Ebay Trending Deals

That’s All!

Optimizing 404 pages won’t have a huge impact on SEO performance, but it can’t be overlooked. Design a quality 404 page and 301 redirect pages that are worth redirecting (based on KPIs and relevance).

Enjoy this post? Please share it. Thanks!

So-Called Google Duplex: The what, the ethics, the SEO

Posted by on Sep 23, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on So-Called Google Duplex: The what, the ethics, the SEO

What is Google Duplex exactly?

Google Duplex is an experimental new technology that Google demoed at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference. This technology allows Google to mimic human conversation. Google is quick to say that at this point, it’s only trained for specific fields.

Google showed a video in which a robot makes an appointment for a hairdressers appointment by calling that hairdresser and having an actual conversation. If you haven’t seen a demo of it yet, check out this video.

Is it any good?

Last Wednesday at the Google I/O conference, John Hennessy said about Google Duplex: “In the domain of making appointments, it passes the Turing test.” The Turing test is a test that determines whether a human is indistinguishable from a robot. This means that the robot used in Google Duplex is not distinguishable from an actual human being.

John Hennessy is the chairman of the board of Google’s parent company Alphabet. He is also quite a hero in the field of computer science. When he says something like that — even about his own company — it’s worth thinking about.

John Hennessy was pretty quick to point out that it passes in only one specific field: the task of booking appointments. “It doesn’t pass it in general terms, but it passes in that specific domain. And that’s really an indication of what’s coming.” Which gets us to ethics.

The ethics of AI that’s this good

When you have an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can interact with people, as Google Duplex can, you need to think about ethics. Luckily, people have been thinking about precisely these kinds of ethics problems for a long time. The first set of rules you’ll run into when you search around ethics concerning AI are Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics, introduced in his 1942 (!) short story Runaround:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

While this laid the groundwork for almost all of the science fiction around robots, most of that doesn’t necessarily immediately come into play now. But since then, people have started adding on the three laws of robotics. The most well-known “fourth law of robotics” was added by novelist Lyuben Dilov, in his book Icarus’s Way. This law is as follows:

A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

Now, go back to the video linked above. Nowhere does that assistant state it’s a bot. In fact, it has mannerisms that make it very human. I think that’s wrong and I think people were rightly calling Google out on that. Google has already stated that they will change that. I’m curious how exactly. Let’s say I am skeptical. Google does not always communicate their intentions clearly. I mean: Google says it discloses which results are ads in its search results and which results aren’t. However, most ‘non-tech’ people don’t know what exactly is an ad and what is an organic result.  We’ll have to wait and see, or maybe, hear.

Security implications

In the wrong hands, this type of technology is incredibly scary. Did you know that it now takes less than 1 minute of recorded audio to reasonably accurately simulate somebody’s voice? Combine that with the inferior systems of security we currently have for phone conversations with, for instance, banks, and you have a potential disaster on your hands.

What will Google Duplex be used for?

The examples we’ve seen so far indicate that Google Duplex can be used to make straightforward phone calls – to plan meetings and make reservations. These examples fit the personal assistant purpose for which Google Assistant is promoted. But if an AI becomes this good at consumer interaction, of course, businesses will want to use it to receive phone calls as well. They could use it for helpdesks and other types of calls that we now task entire call centers with.

Future use of Google Duplex?

It is hard to say when Google Duplex will be used on a large scale. This might not happen next year or even the year after. But it’s definitely going faster than most people outside of the tech bubble realize. If Google Duplex can be trained to make a restaurant booking, it can also be trained to take your new credit card application. And, since it is an AI, it would be much faster and less error-prone than a human would be at performing your credit check.

Look at a Google Duplex-like system for receiving calls as a nice extension to the phone call conversion tracking system Google already has. Google could indeed take your credit card application. Or, without even all that much training, do the other side of the second example call in the video above and take the entire reservation system for a restaurant and automate it. The question then becomes: what if your digital assistant calls into the Duplex powered system on the other side? Will they use human-like conversation to get the job done? Will we end up with human speech as the ultimate computer to computer language?



How does this impact search and SEO?

Google Duplex might not seem to have a direct impact on search, but consider this: if your Google Assistant can have conversations like this with your hairdresser and your restaurant of choice, will you have these conversations with him/her too? Suddenly you can talk to your phone and sound like you’re talking to your secretary, instead of sounding like the freak who talks to his phone or watch. Search becomes even more conversational and queries get more complicated.

When queries get more complicated, context becomes more important than ever. And now we’re back to what we’ve been writing about for quite a while here at Yoast: you need to write awesome content. I really can’t add much to what Marieke wrote in that post, so read it.

The other side of how this impacts SEO is more technical. For AIs to be efficient, it’s far easier to rely on structured data. If you use a standards-based system like for things like reservations, all Google has to do is tie into that. Suddenly, it doesn’t have to retrain its system for a new booking engine; it can just detect that you use for that, and poof, it just works.

How to Onboard Clients with Immersion Workshops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by on Sep 22, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Onboard Clients with Immersion Workshops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Spending quality time getting to know your client, their goals and capabilities, and getting them familiar with their team sets you up for a better client-agency relationship. Immersion workshops are the answer. Learn more about how to build a strong foundation with your clients in this week’s Whiteboard Friday presented by Heather Physioc.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to Whiteboard Friday. My name is Heather Physioc, and I’m Group Director of Discoverability at VMLY&R. So I learned that when you onboard clients properly, the rest of the relationship goes a lot smoother.

Through some hard knocks and bumps along the way, we’ve come up with this immersion workshop model that I want to share with you. So I actually conducted a survey of the search industry and found that we tend to onboard clients inconsistently from one to the next if we bother to do a proper onboarding with them at all. So to combat that problem, let’s talk through the immersion workshop.

Why do an immersion workshop with a client?

So why bother taking the time to pause, slow down, and do an immersion workshop with a client? 

1. Get knowledgeable fast

Well, first, it allows you to get a lot more knowledgeable about your client and their business a lot faster than you would if you were picking it up piecemeal over the first year of your partnership. 

2. Opens dialogue

Next it opens a dialogue from day one.

It creates the expectation that you will have a conversation and that the client is expected to participate in that process with you. 

3. Build relationships

You want to build a relationship where you know that you can communicate effectively with one another. It also starts to build relationships, so not only with your immediate, day-to-day client contact, but people like their bosses and their peers inside their organization who can either be blockers or advocates for the search work that your client is going to try to implement.

4. Align on purpose, roadmap, and measuring success

Naturally the immersion workshop is also a crucial time for you to align with your client on the purpose of your search program, to define the roadmap for how you’re going to deliver on that search program and agree on how you’re going to measure success, because if they’re measuring success one way and you’re measuring success a different way, you could end up at completely different places.

5. Understand the DNA of the brand

Ultimately, the purpose of a joint immersion workshop is to truly understand the DNA of the brand, what makes them tick, who are their customers, why should they care what this brand has to offer, which helps you, as a search professional, understand how you can help them and their clients. 


Do it live! (Or use video chats)

So the setting for this immersion workshop ideally should be live, in-person, face-to-face, same room, same time, same place, same mission.

But worst case scenario, if for some reason that’s not possible, you can also pull this off with video chats, but at least you’re getting that face-to-face communication. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, so that’s really, really important. It’s also important to building the empathy, communication, and trust between people. Seeing each other’s faces makes a big difference. 

Over 1–3 days

Now the ideal setting for the immersion workshop is two days, in my opinion, so you can get a lot accomplished.

It’s a rigorous two days. But if you need to streamline it for smaller brands, you can totally pull it off with one. Or if you have the luxury of stretching it out and getting more time with them to continue building that relationship and digging deeper, by all means stretch it to three days. 

Customize the agenda

Finally, you should work with the client to customize the agenda. So I like to send them a base template of an immersion workshop agenda with sessions that I know are going to be important to my search work.

But I work side-by-side with that client to customize sessions that are going to be the right fit for their business and their needs. So right away we’ve got their buy-in to the workshop, because they have skin in the game. They know which departments are going to be tricky. They know what objectives they have in their heads. So this is your first point of communication to make this successful.

Types of sessions

So what types of sessions do we want to have in our immersion workshop? 


The first one is a vision session, and this is actually one that I ask the clients to bring to us. So we slot about 90 minutes for the client to give us a presentation on their brand, their overarching strategy for the year, their marketing strategy for the year.

We want to hear about their goals, revenue targets, objectives, problems they’re trying to solve, threats they see to the business. Whatever is on their mind or keeps them up at night or whatever they’re really excited about, that’s what we want to hear. This vision workshop sets the tone for the entire rest of the workshop and the partnership. 


Next we want to have stakeholder sessions.

We usually do these on day one. We’re staying pretty high level on day one. So these will be with other departments that are going to integrate with search. So that could be the head of marketing, for example, like a CMO. It could be the sales team. If they have certain sales objectives they’re trying to hit, that would be really great for a search team to know. Or it could be global regions.

Maybe Latin America and Europe have different priorities. So we may want to understand how the brand works on the global scale as opposed to just at HQ. 


On day two is when we start to get a little bit more in the weeds, and we call these our practitioner sessions. So we want to work with our day-to-day SEO contacts inside the organization. But we also set up sessions with people like paid search if they need to integrate their search efforts.

We might set up time with analytics. So this will be where we demo our standard SEO reporting dashboards and then we work with the client to customize it for their needs. This is a time where we find out who they’re reporting up to and what kinds of metrics they’re measured on to determine success. We talk about the goals and conversions they’re measuring, how they’re captured, why they’re tracking those goals, and their existing baseline of performance information.

We also set up time with developers. Technology is essential to actually implementing our SEO recommendations. So we set up time with them to learn about their workflows and their decision-making process. I want to know if they have resource constraints or what makes a good project ticket in Jira to get our work done. Great time to start bonding with them and give them a say in how we execute search.

We also want to meet with content teams. Now content tends to be one of the trickiest areas for our clients. They don’t always have the resources, or maybe the search scope didn’t include content from day one. So we want to bring in whoever the content decision-makers or creators are. We want to understand how they think, their workflows and processes. Are they currently creating search-driven content, or is this going to be a shift in mentality?

So a lot of times we get together and talk about process, editorial calendaring, brand tone and voice, whatever it takes to get content done for search.

Summary and next steps

So after all of these, we always close with a summary and next steps discussion. So we work together to think about all the things that we’ve accomplished during this workshop and what our big takeaways and learnings are, and we take this time to align with our client on next steps.

When we leave that room, everybody should know exactly what they’re responsible for. Very powerful. You want to send a recap after the fact saying, “Here’s what we learned and here’s what we understand the next steps to be. Are we all aligned?” Heads nod. Great. 

Tools to use

So a couple of tools that we’ve created and we’ll make sure to link to these below.

Download all the tools

Onboarding checklist

We’ve created a standard onboarding checklist. The thing about search is when we’re onboarding a new client, we pretty commonly need the same things from one client to the next. We want to know things about their history with SEO. We need access and logins. Or maybe we need a list of their competitors. Whatever the case is, this is a completely repeatable process. So there’s no excuse for reinventing the wheel every single time.

So this standard onboarding checklist allows us to send this list over to the client so they can get started and get all the pieces in place that we need to be successful. It’s like mise en place when you’re cooking. 

Discussion guides

We’ve also created some really helpful session discussion guides. So we give our clients a little homework before these sessions to start thinking about their business in a different way.

We’ll ask them open-ended questions like: What kinds of problems are your business unit solving this year? Or what is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? Or what’s some work that you’re really proud of? So we send that in advance of the workshop. Then in our business unit discussions, which are part of the stakeholder discussions, we’ll actually use a few of the questions from that discussion guide to start seeding the conversation.

But we don’t just go down the list of questions, checking them off one by one. We just start the conversation with a couple of them and then follow it organically wherever it takes us, open-ended, follow-up, and clarifying questions, because the conversations we are having in that room with our clients are far more powerful than any information you’re going to get from an email that you just threw over the fence.

Sticky note exercise

We also do a pretty awesome little sticky note exercise. It’s really simple. So we pass out sticky notes to all the stakeholders that have attended the sessions, and we ask two simple questions. 

  1. One, what would cause this program to succeed? What are all the factors that can make this work? 
  2. We also ask what will cause it to fail.

Before you know it, the client has revealed, in their own words, what their internal obstacles and blockers will be. What are the things that they’ve run into in the past that have made their search program struggle? By having that simple exercise, it gets everybody in the mind frame of what their role is in making this program a success. 

Search maturity assessment

The last tool, and this one is pretty awesome, is an assessment of the client’s organic search maturity.

Now this is not about how good they are at SEO. This is how well they incorporate SEO into their organization. Now we’ve actually done a separate Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment and how to implement that. So make sure to check that out. But a quick overview. So we have a survey that addresses five key areas of a client’s ability to integrate search with their organization.

  • It’s stuff like people. Do they have the right resources? 
  • Process. Do they have a process? Is it documented? Is it improving? 
  • Capacity. Do they have enough budget to actually make search possible? 
  • Knowledge. Are they knowledgeable about search, and are they committed to learning more? Stuff like that.

So we’ve actually created a five-part survey that has a number of different questions that the client can answer. We try to get as many people as possible on the client side to answer these questions as we can. Then we take the numerical answers and the open-ended answers and compile that into a maturity assessment for the brand after the workshop.

So we use that workshop time to actually execute the survey, and we have something that we can bring back to the client not long after to give them a picture of where they stand today and where we’re going to take them in the future and what the biggest obstacles are that we need to overcome to get them there. 

So this is my guide to creating an immersion workshop for your new clients. Be sure to check out the Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment as well.

We’d love to hear what you do to onboard your clients in the comments below. Thanks and we’ll see you on the next Whiteboard Friday.

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TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018

Posted by on Sep 21, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018

The majority of consumers (80%90%) routinely consult reviews before buying something, whether online or off. The powerful influence of reviews on purchase behavior has spawned a cottage industry of fake-reviews, a problem that is growing on major sites such as Amazon, Google and Yelp, among other places.

Just over 2% of reviews submitted were fake. TripAdvisor is one of those other places, where reviews form the core of the company’s content and the principle reason consumers visit. How much of the review activity on TripAdvisor is fraudulent? In its inaugural TripAdvisor Transparency Report the company says that 2.1% of all reviews submitted to the site in 2018 were fake. (A total of 4.7% of all review submissions were rejected or removed for violating TripAdvisor’s review guidelines, which extend beyond fraud.)

Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

73% blocked by machine detection. Given the volume of review submissions TripAdvisor receives – more than 66 million in 2018 – that translates into roughly 1.4 million fake reviews. TripAdvisor says that 73% of those fake reviews were blocked before being posted, while the remainder of fake reviews were later removed. The company also says that it has “stopped the activity of more than 75 websites that were caught trying to sell reviews” since 2015.

TripAdvisor defines “fake review” as one “written by someone who is trying to unfairly manipulate a business’ average rating or traveler ranking, such as a staff member or a business’ competitor. Reviews that give an account of a genuine customer’s experience, even if elements of that account are disputed by the business in question, are not categorized as fake.”

The company uses a mix of machine detection, human moderation and community flagging to catch fraudulent reviews. The bulk of inauthentic reviews (91%) are fake positive reviews TripAdvisor says.

Most of the fake reviews that are submitted to TripAdvisor (91%) are "biased positive reviews."
Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

TripAdvisor says that the review fraud problem is global, with fake reviews originating in most countries. However, it said there was a higher percentage than average of fake reviews “originating from Russia.” By contrast, China is the source of many fake reviews on Amazon.

Punishing fake reviews. TripAdvisor has a number of penalties and punishments for review fraud. In the first instance of a business being caught posting or buying fake reviews, TripAdvisor imposes a temporary ranking penalty.

Upon multiple infractions, the company will impose a content ban that prevents the individual or individuals in question from posting additional reviews and content on the site. It also prevents the involved parties from creating new accounts to circumvent the ban.

In the most extreme cases, the company will apply a badge of shame (penalty badge) that warns consumers the business has repeatedly attempted to defraud them. This is effectively a kiss of death for the business. Yelp does something similar.

Why we should care. Consumer trust is eroding online. It’s incumbent upon major consumer destinations sites to police their reviews aggressively and prevent unscrupulous merchants from deceiving consumers. Yelp has been widely criticized for its “review filter” but credit the company for its long-standing efforts to protect the integrity of its content.

Google and Amazon, in particular, need to do much more to combat review spam and fraud. Hopefully TripAdvisor’s effort and others like it will inspire them to.

The post TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Google’s New Link Building Guidelines

Posted by on Sep 20, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Google’s New Link Building Guidelines

In case you missed it, Google has just changed up the rules for link building.

It used to be that when people link to you, the link would either be a dofollow link or a nofollow link.

Well, that’s now changed.

They are now introducing 2 more link types that will affect

Now before we get into the 2 new link types, make sure you read the whole post. Because not only will I explain Google’s requirements, but I will break down what this means for SEOs.

The current landscape

The current SEO landscape is simple… especially when it comes to link building.

The more dofollow (regular links) links you can get the better your search rankings.

If you are unsure of the number of links you have or the type, just go here and enter in your domain.

You’ll see a count of total backlinks along with the total amount of nofollow links pointing to your site.

Now, when you are link building, if you are paying for links or leveraging tactics like guest posting, Google wants you to nofollow those links because they don’t think you should be leveraging tactics like guest posting to manipulate rankings.

And as for buying links, you shouldn’t do that as it is a simple way to get penalized or banned from Google.

So don’t send emails like this if you are trying to build links… it’s a big no, no.

How does Google look
at links?

Google’s algorithm is smart. Sure, they ideally want you to nofollow links if they are bought or not naturally earned (such as from guest posts), but many SEOs break the rules.

They aren’t going to say it publicly but they do these things. And because Google isn’t dumb, they also know.

Google can easily
identify when a post on these big news sites aren’t earned because many of them
have signs all over them that Google can detect.

For example, here is
an example of a guest
post from me

Forbes, of course, uses nofollows links, but it wasn’t always that way.

Google can easily detect it is a guest post through verbiage on the page like “former contributor” or “guest contributor”.

And even if they didn’t label me as a guest contributor, Google can use other signals to figure out that this link shouldn’t be given much weight when it comes to SEO just by reading the URL structure of that article on Forbes.

Let’s take a closer
look at the URL

Do you see the big
issue with the URL?

It’s clear that an author can have their own subsection on Forbes through the “site” folder structure. Now that doesn’t mean all “Forbes sites” are bad, but they clearly know which one is from staff writers because they are clearly marked.

Those signals (among others) that Google probably won’t disclose (nor should they) make it easy for Google to determine if a link is natural or earned.

If Google doesn’t want to count a link from a specific author, they can just ignore it on their end.

So, whether it is nofollowed or followed, on their end they can systematically control whether a link should help your rankings or if it shouldn’t.

As John Mueller from Google once said, in the context of bad links…

If we recognize them, we can just ignore them – no need to have you do anything in most cases.

Now keeping that in
mind, here are the changes Google wants webmasters to make.

Google’s new link

If someone pays you
for a link or you are buying a link, Google now wants you to mark it as sponsored.
Not just in the text of the site, but more so through the link attribute:


And if you build links through user-generated content, they want you to mark the links with the attribute:


The same goes for site owners. For example, if you have a forum on your site because the content is user generated, the links that people place should contain a rel=”ugc”.

You can still use the nofollow attribute or if you want you can use a combination of the above. For example, if you have a paid link you can use:

Rel=”nofollow sponsored”

So, what’s the
purpose of this change?

Well, here is how
Google puts it:

All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.

Now if you are wondering what that means, Google is pretty much saying that adding these attributes will give them a better idea on if they should crawl the link or not. Or how they should analyze the link when it comes to indexing or SEO.

This change goes into effect March 1, 2020, and don’t worry because you don’t have to make modifications to your old links. The ones that were nofollow can just be left as nofollow.

And even in the future, if you decide to just use nofollow instead of “sponsored”, you’ll be fine.

What does all of this mean for SEOs?

As I mentioned
earlier, I would provide my own insights and opinions on why Google is doing this.

We all know their algorithm is sophisticated and hard to game. But, just like any other algorithm or computer, it isn’t perfect.

By webmasters and SEOs labeling the type of links they are building and the purpose of them, it will make it easier for Google to learn how we use different link types and it will help their algorithms more quickly and easily identify link types and the context they are used in.

For example, if thousands of people use rel=”ugc” for links generated through guest posts, it may help train Google’s algorithm that these links were actually created by random people instead of the webmaster and they should be discounted.

Of course, Google already can identify wikis, forum, and other types of user-generated content, but this helps them tighten things up and make things more accurate.

They can also decide to take a more relaxed stance on certain link types. For example, maybe they will decide to count UGC links when it comes to link building, but they may decide to only give it 1/3rd the weight of a naturally earned link.

In addition to that, this also provides them with more signals on if the URL linked to should be potentially crawled or ignored.

But in the long run, as their algorithm becomes more accurate, it’s safe to say that the real solution to winning is putting the user first.

Their goal isn’t to rank a site at the top that has “perfect SEO”. They want to rank the site that people love the most.

Hence, you’ll want to focus on creating an amazing user experience, building a great product/service, creating mindblowing content, and anything else your competition isn’t doing.

As for link building though, links will always be hard to come by, so they will be part of their algorithm for the foreseeable future. And as the data shows, there is a strong correlation between links and rankings.

So one thing I would recommend is that you build as many links as possible, even if they are user-generated links. As long as they are from relevant sites, the referral traffic can generate you sales or leads. And if Google starts placing some value on these user-generated links, it can help boost your rankings.

Now that doesn’t mean you should go out to forums and spam your link everywhere. It means you should go find all of the user-generated content sites, provide a ton of value, AND ONLY IF IT MAKES SENSE, add a link back to your site when it benefits the reader.


Over the next year or so you’ll see adjustments in how SEOs build links.

First off you’ll start seeing companies like Ahrefs and the SEMrush show you nofollow, dofollow, UGC, and sponsored backlinks. This one change will help SEOs build better links and spend their effort on the links that actually help with rankings.

Secondly, my hunch is UGC links will eventually carry some weight. Probably not a ton, but more than 0 as long as they are from relevant sites, the link is within context and it provides value to the end-user.

And lastly, most webmasters probably won’t use sponsored or UGC attributes anytime soon. It will probably take another year before they really catch on, which means for now you will just have to focus your efforts on dofollow links.

So, what do you
think about the new change?

The post Google’s New Link Building Guidelines appeared first on Neil Patel.

6 Plugins for Improving WordPress Performance

Posted by on Sep 20, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on 6 Plugins for Improving WordPress Performance

You don’t need to know how to code or do anything technical to make your site run faster and keeping it safe.


This is free and will significantly speed up your site by:

. Combining CSS/Javascript
. Minifying CSS/Javascript/HTML
. Eliminating render-blocking Javascript and CSS above-the-fold in content
. Leveraging compression and browser caching
. Optimizing images
. Removing query strings from static resources
. Organizing plugins


This plugin will compress and optimize your JPEG and PNG images automatically by:

. Automatic optimization of images when uploaded
. Advanced image optimization in the background
. Optimize images already in your media library
. Set max parameters for images to resize large images
. Option for preserve copyright metadata of images
. Compatible with WPML, Multisite, and WooCommerce


This plugin helps your site perform at its best because it:
. Cleans your database – It will search for remove and unnecessary data such as trackbacks, pingbacks, trashed and spam comments, and expired options. It gives you complete control over which options it will carry out and can do these at the intervals you select (weekly, etc.).
. Compresses images – The plugin comes with an image compression tool that will compress JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, and TIF files up to 5MG in size. It will also do bulk compression, and auto-compress as images are uploaded.
. Has a built-in cache – WP Optimize also has a caching engine that will temporarily store data for faster loading website loading.


This plugin makes it very simple to optimize your site for SEO purposes. With it, you have:
. Keyword optimization
. Title and meta description templating
. Content and SEO analysis
. Content snippet previews
. Create cornerstone content
. Bulk editing of content


This is a plugin we always use because of how many features it has, a mere handful being:
. Protection against “Brute Force Login Attacks” with a site lockdown feature
. Google reCaptcha to the login system
. User registration security features
. Database security
. File system security features
. Blacklist functionality
. Firewall features
. Comment spam monitoring
. Security scanner

Both of these plugins give you the opportunity to automatically or manually backup the entirety of your WordPress site at no cost!

How To Improve Content Readability And How It Affects Your SEO

Posted by on Sep 19, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How To Improve Content Readability And How It Affects Your SEO

how to improve readability and its impact on seo

How To Improve Content Readability And How That Will Affect Your SEO

When blogging, one factor that people often overlook is the readability of their content. Bloggers or content marketers will try to optimize their keyword density, keyword decorations, meta tags, image alt tags, and hundreds of other on-page SEO but they often overlook the readability of their content.

This is probably due to the fact that content readability isn’t accounted for in Google’s search ranking algorithm, at least not that anyone knows of or could confirm. But factors like content readability is one of the many indirect ranking factors that actually matters and has a big impact on your SEO.

What is Content Readability?

Content readability is the level of ease to understand a written text.

How Do You Measure Content Readability?

The scientific way of measuring readability is based on factors such as:

  • Speed of perception
  • Perceptibility at a distance
  • Perceptibility in peripheral vision
  • Visibility
  • Reflex blink technique
  • Rate of work (e.g., reading speed)
  • Eye movements
  • Fatigue in reading
  • Basically, if a written text is easy to read and understand, then it has a good readability. We usually measure content readability by approximately estimating students of which grade could understand the written text. A study has found that the average human could read a grade 9 text, but would prefer to read texts that are 2 grades lower for leisure reading.

    There are also plenty of algorithms that are designed to measure content readability and that is how robots or search engines measure them. One of the most popular algorithms for calculating content readability is the Flesch-Kincaid readability score. Other algorithms include Gunning-Fog, Coleman-Liau, SMOG index, etc…

    Below is the algorithm of Flesch-Kincaid readability score:


    Flesch-Kincaid takes the amount of syllables in a word and amount of words in a sentence as a measurement for readability. This means that you should use short words and short sentences in your content if you want to have a good score on this.

    Of course, there are plenty of tools that could easily calculate your readability score. Here are some of them:

  • Our own SEOPressor Connect
  • The Readability Test Tool
  • The Writer Readability Checker
  • If you have SEOPressor Connect installed on your website, you’ll be able to see your content’s readability score instantly after SEOPressor Connect analyzes your content.

    seopressor connect content readability

    However, if you don’t have SEOPressor Connect installed, you could copy your text and paste them into the other websites on the list and you will get your readability score.

    Why Should I Make My Content Readable And What Is Its Impact On My SEO?

    There are plenty of reasons why you should make your content readable. Even though search engines do not take the score of your content’s readability into their search ranking algorithm.

    This is because many of the search engine’s ranking algorithm is based on human behavior on a page. And by improving your content readability, you improve their behavior on-page, for example, their page on time, exit rate, bounce rate, social signals will all improve and that tells search engines that people like your content.

    How many times have you exited a page after reading the first few sentences because the text is just too hard to read? Nobody likes to read a difficult text.

    People read stuff online to get the information they want, and they want it the fastest and simplest way possible. And it is our job to make information available to them as easily as possible.

    An article that has good content readability will make the readers stay longer on the page because they will have no problem reading through the whole text. Consequently, it will improve the bounce rate and exit rate which will be good for your SEO.

    How Do I Improve My Content Readability?

    1. Use Short and Simple Words

    This is the most direct way for improving your Flesch-Kincaid readability score. There is no reason for you to use long and complex words when there are short and simple words.

    People that go to an article are seeking information, not English lessons. The only reason for you to use difficult and complex words is to show off your vocabulary size and nobody likes a show-off.

    2. Use Short Sentences

    Don’t be afraid to break long sentences into several shorter sentences. Use contractions to shorten your sentences.

    3. Write conversationally

    This is not a rule but more like a general guideline. When writing your blog posts, just imagine that you’re talking to someone else in real life. You’ll notice that it’s a lot different from how we normally write.

    When you write in a conversational tone, you’ll naturally use shorter and simple words, along with shorter sentences.

    4. Typography

    Besides the vocabulary and syntax of your content, the visual aspect of it is also really important. Typography has a great impact on this. Everything from the font to the line height and line length can greatly impact the speed of your readers’ reading through your content.

    First of all, you’ll need to pick a font that is easy to read. Novelty fonts are okay for your header and subheader because they are short and it makes them stand out from your body text.

    The text on the right side is using a sans-serif fonts. It is obvious that sans-serif fonts are way easier to be read on screen.

    The text on the right side is using a sans-serif fonts. It is obvious that sans-serif fonts are way easier to be read on screen.

    However, your body text should be in standard sans-serif fonts because they are easier to read on the screen. Arial and Helvetica are always a good choice for body text. Serif fonts are more suitable for printed mediums such as newspaper.

    Font Size
    For the font size, make sure that the size is not too big or not too small. Fonts that are too small will be hard on the eyes, especially since reading on a screen is slightly more tiring than reading on paper.

    Fonts that are too big will take up too much space, requires the reader’s eye to move back and forth too often.

    Generally, body text should have a font size of around 16 pixels depending on the font. 16 pixels is the default font display size of most browsers and there are reasons behind it.

    Right now, the font size we are using is 14px and it is what most websites are using, but once you get used to reading the text at 16 pixels, you’ll realize how much easier it is to read the text at 16 pixels.

    Headers and subheaders should have slightly bigger font size to distinguish they are different and to distinguish hierarchy.


    Line Height


    Besides font size, the line-height and line-length should also be taken in consideration. Make sure that there is enough white space between words and between lines.

    There is no such thing as having too much white space so make sure you don’t make the mistake of having too little white space in between lines. Having not enough white space will make the words stick together and make it difficult for the readers to read.

    Line-height should be at least 150% of the font size. For example, if the font size is 16px, your line-height should be 24px.

    Line Length

    line length

    For line length, the optimum number of words in a line for the best readability would be between 9 to 12 words or between 50 to 60 characters.

    5. Use Proper Formatting and Hierarchy

    Don’t be afraid of hitting the enter button every time you finish writing a sentence. As mentioned above, there is no such thing as too much white space. So make sure you separate your sentences into paragraphs as often as you could.

    header and subheaders

    Use headers and subheaders adequately to segment your content. You could even use tables, or bullet points to organize and present your data, use text decorations to give emphasis on different keywords.

    6. Use Images

    You might think that images have nothing to do with content readability but that’s not true. Images can help break the monotony of only text, segment your content into different parts and make your content interesting.

    The golden ratio of image to text is 1 image for every 100 words. There are many studies that have found that content with this ratio has the most amount of shares.

    text to image ratio

    When choosing images to include in your content, the best practice is to include images that will add value to your readers. The image should be relevant to your content, explains what you’re trying to say or at the very least entertain your audience.

    For more tips and guides on choosing images for your content, read “How To Choose The Perfect Images For Your Content”.


    Whether content readability is a direct Google ranking factor or not remains to be seen, but one thing we can know for sure is that content readability does influence your search rankings in one way or another.

    So do make sure that your blog has the optimum readability to prevent your readers from exiting and leaving your page before they even read your content. Improving your content readability will not only improve your reader’s reading experience but prove to be beneficial to your overall SEO as well.

    Related articles:

  • Indirect Google Ranking Factors That You Shouldn’t Overlook
  • How To Choose The Perfect Images For Your Content
  • 10 Major Search Engine Ranking Factors That You Must Know
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    How To Identify & Best Optimize for User Search Intent. The Step by Step Guide

    Posted by on Sep 18, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How To Identify & Best Optimize for User Search Intent. The Step by Step Guide

    Why did the chicken cross the road? We’ll likely never find out. But if you type this into a search engine, I’m pretty sure I can predict what the top results might return. Not only because I’ve searched for this myself, but also because of something called search intent, which basically means that search engines are trying to give you what you want by first understanding (or guessing) what it is exactly that you want and – more importantly – why you want it. 


    If you understand what your users want and what their intent is when they are searching for a specific query, half of the job for ranking on that keyword is done. Of course, there is still a lot of work to do (like knowing what are the 3 types of intent and what type of content to write for each type of keyword and search intent). The good news is that this article will let you know everything you need to know about search intent, from A to Z: from how to understand user intent to how to best optimize for it and rank to the top for the keywords that interest you most. 




    1. What Is Search Intent? 
    2. What Is User Intent in SEO?
    3. What Are the Types of Search Intent?
    4. How to Optimize for Each Type of Search Intent
    5. Why & How to Optimize for Informational Search Intent
      1. What Type of Content Do You Need to Create for Informational Queries?
      2. How to Create Relevant Content for the Informational Keyword Intent
    6. How to Optimize for Navigational Search Intent 
      1. What Type of Content Do You Need for Navigational Queries?
      2. How to Create Relevant Content for the Navigational Keyword Intent
    7. How to Optimize for Transactional Search Intent 
      1. What Type of Content Do You Need for Transactional Queries?
      2. How to Create Relevant Content for the Transactional Keyword Intent
    8. The Challenge of Matching Search Intent 
    9. What Type of Search Intent Should You Start Optimizing For

    1. What Is Search Intent? 


    Search intent or keyword intent is the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? What are they trying to achieve through their search?
    Are they trying to figure out the answer to a question or do they want to reach a specific website? 


    Over the years, Google has become more and more able to determine the search intent of people. The whole Google SERP now is trying to best fit the search intent and not the exact searched keyword. There are situations when the exact searched term is not even included in the Google search results page. And this happens because Google has become better and better at determining the search intent of people.


    Google wants to rank high the pages that best fit the user’s search intent. And lately it has managed to do that pretty well. 

    Going back to the riddle from the beginning of the article, it’s true that we might not find out why did the chicken cross the road; yet, what we will find out (if you haven’t googled it already) is what this riddle is all about. And we’ll get videos about it and even a featured snippet explaining what’s all about. And this happens because the search engine understands my intent when searching for this query. 


    why did the chicken cross the road.


    2. What Is User Intent in SEO? 


    User intent to SEO is like a moth to a flame. 

    Putting it simple, if you want to rank high in Google, you have to offer content that best fits the users’ search intent. If you’re not able to do so, chances are that you’ll not be able to be on Google’s hall of fame, meaning its first page of search results. 


    There are about 3.5 billion searches per day. And according to statistics, a searcher uses around 3 words in a search query.


    Google has to figure out what exactly do they want, so it can offer them the search engine page results they need. And your job is to create content that is relevant to the Google users and matches their search intent.


    3. What Are the Types of Search Intent?


    Let’s say, for instance, that your search is related to sunglasses. Based on the keywords you use, the search engine might interpret your query as having different intents behind it:


    • informational (if you search for “sunglasses polarized meaning”);
    • navigational (if you search for the name of a particular brand of sunglasses);
    • transactional (if you search for “cheap sunglasses” or “buy sunglasses”);


    If you’re wondering which search intent is the most popular, you need to know that studies showed that more than 80% of the total search intents are informational, 20% being almost equally split between navigational and transactional. 


    search intent classification


    The concept of search intent was first coded way back in 2002 by Andrei Broder, and consisted of the first 3 categories illustrated above. These 3 categories also seem to be matching Google’s quality guidelines on understanding different types of queries. They call them:


    • Know (informational),
    • Do (transactional),
    • Go (navigational).


    By now you might be thinking: OK; that’s great. But how will I recognize a type of search intent when I see it? 

    In the following lines, I’ll highlight the characteristics of each type of search intent so you can better understand them.


    Wouldn’t be great if there was a tool that automatically classifies the search intent for you?


    Did you know?


    The Content Optimizer & Keyword Tool from cognitiveSEO automatically classifies the search intent for you. 

    You just need to type in the keyword you are interested in optimizing for, and the tool does most of the job for you. The tool performs keyword research, it will tell you what is the user search intent, how popular is that keyword, how difficult it is to rank on it, and cream of the crop: what it takes to rank on that keyword, meaning, what are the exact keywords and links that boosted that page in the top of the search results. 


    user search intent cognitiveseo


    4. How to Optimize for Each Type of Search Intent


    Even if most of the searches have an informational intent, we believe that all three categories of search intent need your attention as they can be seen as a cycle in the buyer’s decision and not individual searches. And that’s why it’s very important to understand how to tackle each type of internet search and how to best optimize for them.


    5. Why & How to Optimize for Informational Search Intent 


    Informational search queries are queries that cover a broad topic for which there may be thousands of relevant results: how tall Jennifer Aniston is, how to peel a pomegranate, steps to apply mascara, etc. Aside these questions, the main question is how to make your website stand out and respond to the user’s need.


    examples of informational search intent


    You might say that informational queries are hard to monetize so, what’s the point in optimizing for them?


    While that remains true, optimizing for them is totally worth it. Google has a “special treatment” for these types of queries: Featured Snippets (also known as answer boxes, knowledge graphs or Google direct answers). If you’re searching for something like “how many calories does an apple have”, you’ll get a direct answer, highlighted within a box, just like in the examples below. We did a really cool research on answer boxes a while ago; you should check it out. 


    Being on the Google’s answer box will do you a big favor, making you appear on Google’s first page not once, but twice.


    So it’s not just showing up in the results, it’s showing up in the answer box, which has a different status in the mind of the searcher. For more info on answer boxes, you can check out this research we performed some time ago. 


    Now that we hope we’ve convinced you of the importance of optimizing for informational search queries, here are some tips on how to do it. 


    Most of the time, informational search queries contain question words like: 


    • How can I
    • What is
    • How to
    • What are the benefits of
    • How do/does
    • Ways to
    • Guide
    • Tutorial


    This means that your content has to answer these questions, requirements the searcher has. The question remains: how should your content look like to make sure your content is optimized for these type of search queries?


    5.1 What Type of Content Do You Need to Create for Informational Queries?


    The users want to “know” something so they will use words that will help them learn more about a topic.  


    The “formula” you should target is informational query + your industry term.


    Let’s take the sunglasses niche for instance; in this case, you might want to optimize for “what are the benefits of sunglasses” or “how to clean sunglasses”. You have the informational query (what are, how to, what is, etc) + your industry term (in our case, sunglasses).


    Below you can see a screenshot on how the Google SERP looks like for the “what are the benefits of sunglasses” query. As you can see, the very first result, on position zero is a direct answer with a list of benefits wearing sunglasses have. That piece of content responds directly to the user search intent; as you can see in the screenshot below, on the right side there is the website. Its content is simple, yet it responds perfectly to the user’s need. 


    what are the benefits of sunglasses google first result


    You need to create create content that meets the user’s need and will also rank high on Google. 


    The most effective content types for informational search intent should include:


    • blog posts with tips, lists
    • how to videos
    • infographics
    • step by step guides
    • checklists

    Your main goal should be to create high-quality content that is useful and provides helpful information relevant to the query. Keep in mind that the users want hands-on info and direct answers. And through the content you create you can both meet your users’ needs plus drive traffic and leads to your site. To have added value, create content optimized for search intent.


    5.2 How to Create Relevant Content for the Informational Keyword Intent


    Step 1. Perform a quick Google SERP analysis


    Every keyword research or content optimization process should start with a SERP analysis together with competitor analysis. The Ranking Analysis from the Content Optimizer Tool gives you tons of insights related to the analyzed keyword. Quick and easy, you get to know the search volumes, what type of content ranks on that keyword, how difficult it is to rank on that query (by following keyword difficulty), as well as how popular that keyword is among searchers. Also, the tool lets you know the exact keywords and links that boosted that page in the top Google results to easily optimize your content. 


    ranking analysis content optimizer and focus keywords


    Step 2. Create relevant & optimized content 


    Remember when I told you that the Content Optimizer does most of the job for you? I know I’m biased and I don’t want to praise the tool too much, but the reality is that it does most of the job for you. Once you performed the ranking analysis, what you need to do is start writing a new piece of content or optimize the existing one and the Content Assistant will let you know the exact keywords you need to use so your content will be relevant for the informational search intent. 



    Step 3. Get new keywords & rankings opportunities


    You can also use the cognitiveSEO Content Optimizer to discover other queries that your users might be interested in. Searchers have more than one question when it comes to products from your business. Take the opportunity and offer them relevant content for most of their questions. You can use the same Content Optimizer for this task. The tool has two sections that will automatically let you know what other questions are related to your search query:


    The Keyword Explorer  – this section is great for keyword analysis and discovering new keyword opportunities. It also gives you the possibility of seeing only the question suggestions. Get inspired by the list of questions, check out the relevancy of the question, its volume, CPC (cost per click), and choose the one that is the most suitable and profitable.  


    The People Also Ask section – the Content Assistant will let you know the exact keywords you should use in your content, what are people searching, but it will also offer you a set of questions that relate to your original search query. You should consider answering these questions in your content or create new content starting from these questions. 



    By being a topical authority in your niche, you’ll boost not only your brand awareness but your ranks as well. As mentioned above, back in 2007, which we know is a lot of time in the years of the Internet, a very interesting study suggested that from a total of one million analyzed queries, 80% were informational. That’s an impressive percentage. And even if time has passed by and user’s search queries types might have changed, it is clear that the informational search is the most common type of search. 


    6. How to Optimize for Navigational Search Intent 


    With a navigational query, the user is looking to reach a particular website or product/service that they already know about. In this case, there is probably only one likely website that they’re looking to reach. 


    Most likely the user is searching for brand terms or names of products or services already known: facebook login, amazon, adidas, etc. You might be thinking why is this a search and why isn’t the user accessing the website directly? One reason could be that the user doesn’t know the exact brand or because it’s easier to type “youtube” within the search bar, instead of typing the whole URL. 


    For the cases when the user is not accessing the URL directly, you need to know that navigational search queries include: 


    • Brand name
    • Service/Product name
    • Brand Login 
    • Reviews
    • Location of
    • Directions to
    • Near me
    • Hours of
    • Cost of
    • Testimonials


    Once again, you might be thinking what’s the point in optimizing for these types of queries since the user knows exactly what they’re searching for and Google will list the brand name searched by the user to the very top of the SERP.


    While it’s true that you don’t stand much of a chance targeting a navigational query (unless you happen to own the site that the person is looking for), there might be some room for optimizing for navigational queries. 


    6.1 What Type of Content Do You Need for Navigational Queries?


    The “formula” you should target is your own brand name or navigational search query + brand name. 


    for example: Ray Ban Sunglasses, Ray Ban Sunglasses Presentation Video, etc. 


    To make sure you meet your user’s needs, these types of content should be suitable when it comes to navigational search intent: 


    • Clear landing pages
    • Product demo videos 
    • Case studies
    • E-books
    • Presentation pages
    • Product and service lists
    • Webinars
    • or any type of content that relates to your navigational keywords


    Let’s take the search “brand mentions”, for instance. As the Content Optimizer already tells us, this is a navigational query, as the user might want to access Yet, as you can see in the search results, there are many other pages that are ranking well for this query by targeting “brand mentions” as a topic users might want to find more about. 




    Just by taking a look at the SERP analysis you can easily understand how the whole picture look like for this query. And while you won’t be able to overthrow the main brand ranking for its brand name, you might find yourself a place on the first page. 


    brandmentions serp

    Another important aspect here: make sure you own your own brand’s navigational query. Although it sounds surreal, there might be situations where the brand itself is not ranking first for their navigational query. Also, make sure you optimize for all “versions” of your brand (different spelling, common typos, brand name adjustments in different countries, etc.) 


    Furthermore, we mentioned above that the search intent types must be seen more as a cycle than an individual search. And here’s what we’re talking about: remaining in the sunglasses area, if someone, by searching “how to clean sunglasses” found a specific product that helps with the cleaning (let’s say Windex), most likely they will search for Windex.


    Therefore, it may happen that an informational search will be followed by a navigational one. 


    6.2 How to Create Relevant Content for the Navigational Keyword Intent


    As mentioned before, as you might say that you don’t stand much of a chance targeting a navigational query (unless you happen to own the site that the person is looking for), there is still room for improvement. Therefore, we recommend you to follow these steps to create relevant and optimize content. (the steps are elaborated above). 


    7. How to Optimize for Transactional Search Intent 


    With a transactional search query the users are looking to buy a product; are connected to commercial intents. This is a query that indicates an intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase, finding a place to make a purchase, or completing a task. For example: iphone x, where to buy Saeco coffee machine, Metallica tickets for sale, etc. 


    To get to pages where they can make a purchase, searchers use buyer or transactional intent keywords that can include: 


    • Buy
    • Where to buy
    • Discount
    • Apply
    • Purchase
    • Coupons
    • Schedule appointment
    • Reserve
    • Deals
    • For sale
    • Order
    • Download

    7.1 What Type of Content Do You Need for Transactional Queries?


    As these are exactly the kind of queries that are mostly likely to deliver ROI in search (organic or paid), you need to know what type of content you should write for transactional search queries. 


    The formula you should target should be: transactional keywords + brand/product/service name/industry terms. 


    for example: discount ray ban sunglasses or where to buy ray ban sunglasses. 


    You can easily target transactional queries with many types of optimized content or even blog posts or pages optimized for local SEO.


    We recommend you should consider optimizing these types of content for your transactional queries: 


    • Product pages
    • Pricing pages
    • Sign up pages
    • Live demos
    • Appointments pages
    • Free consultations
    • Sales pages


    Now more than ever, Google is focused on offering a personalized experience for each user and their search intent, thus local optimization plays a crucial part in the play. When it comes to transactional search intent, you might want to keep in mind that local optimization is highly important. People are looking for places to buy things, they want to schedule appointments so being there, in the top results when they are searching for suck queries is what interest you. 


    Therefore, try optimizing as well at a local level. The same Content Optimizer can be used for precise locations so choose the exact location you want to rank on, and see what it takes to rank be in top Google results.


    where to buy ray ban


    Of course, offering relevant & optimized content at a local level is just one of the strategies when it comes to transactional search intents. Perform SERP analysis and check what your competitors are doing. See what it take to rank on the top and understand the user’s need. 


    7.2 How to Create Relevant Content for the Transactional Keyword Intent


    keep in mind that In this stage of user intent – transactional search queries – the user is ready to buy, is ready to take action. And most of the search results that show up with this query are from online stores that are selling the product the consumer wants to buy. Make sure that your existing content supports user intent. What you will need here will be product pages. Analyze your competitors, see what it took for them to rank and follow the three steps of creating relevant content for the transactional keyword intent


    8. The Challenge of Matching Search Intent 


    It’s important to keep in mind that search intent is not static. Think about searching for “amazon” – 9 times out of 10, this will probably be navigational, but during the past week or two, quite a few of the searches may have been informational, an effort to better understand news snippets or social media posts about wildfires in the Amazonian forest.


    SERP answer boxes also seem tailored to the intent – you might get a definition for an informational query and a list of shopping pages for a transactional query. If there is a “people have also asked” section on display, it will make it even clearer how Google, for instance, interprets the intent for a particular keyword.


    Some keywords tend to be associated more consistently with a given intent than others.


    It’s likely that “facebook”, for instance, will always be associated with the social network and, on its own, will always have a mainly navigational intent behind it. Other keywords, however, tend not to be consistently associated with a singular intent. This can be exactly the kind of opportunity that might appeal to someone who is working in the SEO industry.


    If the keywords you want to rank for have clear and consistent intent behind them, you can tailor your content format and structure to be the best possible match for that intent. 


    A search for “how to make tiramisu” already has the clue in the title – it’s likely going to be a “how to” type of article that’s going to draw attention and given the context, a blog is probably the best type of page to host this content. On the other hand, with a search like “iphone 10 vs samsung galaxy 10”, you would fully expect for the first page of results to be filled with comparative review type pages from specialized review websites.


    But aside from the format and structure of the page holding the content, there might also be an “angle” to it, which is similar to the USP (unique selling proposition) in marketing.


    You might be looking for how to make tiramisu, but wouldn’t you prefer to know how to make the best one? or the most original one? Sure, you’re looking for headphones, but are you interested in the best quality headphones or the cheapest headphones? And the list goes on.


    When it comes to format and structure, you want to go with the flow and do what everybody else does, because that is what has been proven to get results (search results, to be more exact). However, when it comes to the angle, that’s your time to be original. Format and structure land you on the front page. Angle can influence which position in the rankings you’ll show at.


    9. What Type of Search Intent Should You Start Optimizing For


    People are no longer only following a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. Google revamped this mental model, adding the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) which takes account of the fact that purchasing decisions are now heavily led by self-directed online research. To optimize for search intent, we need to look for what customers are trying to achieve.


    Know which rules to follow and which to break.

    Search intent should dictate the type of content you create.

    If the keyword has informational intent, write a blog post. If it has transactional intent, create a product page. Google rankings aren’t static. They fluctuate and change over time.

    Given that you’re relying on the nature of the current top-ranking pages to infer search intent, that can be a problem. Reason being, what you’re actually doing is judging search intent based on a single snapshot in time.

    If you were to analyze the top-ranking pages next month, or the month after, your understanding of search intent may be different. For that reason, it also pays to constantly check your targeted keywords and constantly update your content to make it as relevant as possible. 


    Understanding search intent and adapting to it can yield numerous benefits. To mention just a few:


    • It can reduce your bounce rates


    Only the people who are interested in what you’re offering are going to land on your pages – and stay for more.This, however, does not mean reduced visits; on the contrary, you are more likely to show up further up in the rankings when there is a consistent match between the demand (the need for the searches) and the offer;
    You are also likely to get a wider audience, as Google often finds matches between related types of queries, so ranking high for a series of keywords will likely open up new possibilities for related ones.


    • Understand what you are offering and how it matches with the intent of the users 


    Firstly, you need to figure out what your page stands for – is it mostly informational or transactional? If you want both, you might have to use different formats (website and blog) and very different structuring for your posts. You should also consider how to best link the two so that, on the one hand, it’s easy to slide from one into the other, but on the other hand, Google doesn’t think you’re trying to pull a fast one on the users and offer them transactional content when all they wanted was informational content.


    • Use this knowledge to look for opportunities & niches


    Do research on keywords and how they are associated with intent. Try to see if the keywords you’re interested in have stable or fluctuating intent associated with them. Get really familiar with the vocabulary for a particular intent, whether it’s informational, transactional or investigative. See what other keywords might be associated with not only the same query but also the same intent. Try to identify competitor gaps, and create content that fills in those gaps. Be aware that intent can be both active and passive and it is a lot more difficult to predict passive intent. A search might not include any of the traditional words related to buying or pricing, but still hide a transactional need.


    Behind every Google search, there is an intention. If you want your business to be discovered by users on the web, you need to figure out that intention. And if you find it hard to figure it out, no worries as this is why tools like the Content Optimizer exist on the market, to help you increase what matter most for your business: traffic and therefore, sales.


    The post How To Identify & Best Optimize for User Search Intent. The Step by Step Guide appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

    How to Remove WordPress Malware From Your Site

    Posted by on Sep 17, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Remove WordPress Malware From Your Site

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    If you own a WordPress website, it’s essential to make sure that it’s well-secured. A vulnerable site will become an easy target for cybercriminals. They can harm your website in many ways, such as infecting it with malware.

    Malware can’t be taken lightly as it continues to develop and increase each year. You can take preventive measures from this problem, like updating your site regularly, for instance.

    Other than that, you should also equip yourself with WordPress and web-related insights to help you know what’s right for your site. There are plenty of articles and knowledge bases to learn from on the internet, such as HostingWiki.

    However, if your website is already infected, don’t panic just yet. This article will explain what malware is, how you can remove it from your site, and prevent future attacks.

    What is Malware and Why is It Dangerous?

    Malware stands for Malicious Software. As the name implies, it’s a piece of software that is intended to cause harmful effects, such as stealing information or damaging a website.

    It takes on many forms, and each can cause a specific problem. Here are several common types of malware that you should look out for:

    • Adware – automatically shows unwanted advertising materials on your site.
    • Spyware – steals sensitive information by gathering data discreetly.
    • Trojans – disguises as real software to trick people into executing a dangerous program. In some cases, it might change your site’s appearance and content spontaneously.
    • Virus – contains malicious code to corrupt files and replicates itself across a site. It usually comes with a sudden rise in server consumption.
    • Ransomware – locks a site until someone paid a specified amount of money.

    If your site has one of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be a sign that you are experiencing a malware attack.

    Furthermore, it can harm your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking. Google will show a warning message on sites that are considered harmful – including the ones that are infected by malware.

    That’s why protecting your WordPress website from malware infection should be nothing less than a priority. It’s also important to know how to remove it, which will be covered next!

    How to Remove Malware From Your Site?

    Now that you’re familiar with malware let’s get on to the steps of removing it!

    Put Your Site in Maintenance Mode

    This is to make sure that you’re the only one who has access to the site during the fix-up process. The easiest way to do it is by using a plugin.

    One of the most popular plugins for this task is SeedProd. It allows you to create a coming soon page in minutes. You can also customize the page’s fonts, colors, and layout to fit your site’s style. To cap it all off, it provides over 500.000 background images and over 50 themes for you to choose from.

    With a visually appealing maintenance page, your site will look more professional. If you’re interested in using the plugin, it’s free to download. For more additional features, you can purchase the basic plan for $29.60/per year.

    Perform a Site Backup

    It’s essential to back up your files before making any changes so you won’t lose any data if the process doesn’t go as planned. There are several ways to do it.

    You can start with your hosting provider. Some providers offer an automatic backup feature, which can be scheduled to daily or monthly based on your hosting plan. Or, you can export the site through a backup plugin.

    However, if you lose access to your dashboard, you can try the manual backup through phpMyAdmin. You just need to log in to your hosting panel, then enter your phpMyAdmin dashboard.

    Afterward, you can proceed by choosing your database, and click on the Export tab.

    Now you can choose the quick option or the custom option. If you want to get a better view of all the data that will be exported, you can pick the custom one. Then, phpMyAdmin will send you the exported database in a .zip file.

    Do Some Scanning

    When you’re done backing up your data, you can start scanning your site. As a starter, use an anti-malware program – such as Malwarebytes to prevent the malware from spreading to your computer. Scan the exported database as well to make sure that it’s free from the infection.

    Aside from scanning your computer, you should scan your website using a site security checker like Virus Total or Quttera. These tools will show you which security issues that your website is facing. It’ll also tell you whether search engines have blacklist your site due to malware.

    The tools will also give you some suggestions to increase your site’s security. For example, installing a cloud-based WAF (Web Application Firewall) if your site is vulnerable to website hacks and DDoS attacks.

    Change The Passwords of Your Hosting Panel and FTP

    It’s essential to change the passwords of your hosting panel and FTP account to prevent malware from taking over your database.

    If you’re using cPanel, you can change the account’s password on the Preferences section. Then go to the Files section to find your FTP account and reset the password there as well.

    To make things more secure, you can also change the MySQL password by entering the Database section in your panel. Don’t forget to update the password in the wp-config.php file – by using an FTP client like FileZilla. Otherwise, you won’t be able to connect the database.

    Make sure that the updated passwords contain more than eight words, numbers and special characters – such as exclamation mark (!) or ampersand (&). Then, save it somewhere safe just in case you forget it.

    Eliminate Malware Infected Files

    This is the most crucial part since you have to remove all the infected files thoroughly. To do that, you should enter the File Manager in your control panel. Then, click on the public_html folder, which contains WordPress installation files.

    You will see plenty of files and folders. To check which files that are potentially harmful, you can sort them based on the modification date. If the files show unwanted changes, it might indicate that they have been infected.

    To clean the core files, you need to delete everything within the public_html folder. However, you must leave the wp-config.php file and wp-content folder untouched since we’ll deal with them later.

    It’s because the wp-config.php file contains essential information, such as the username and password of your WordPress database. The wp-content folder, however, consists of three essential folders: themes, plugins, and uploads.

    Now, let’s clean up the wp-config.php file. Open both the file and wp-config-sample.php at the same time. Compare them, and remove any differences by making sure that the wp-config.php file is free from unwanted codes.

    How to Remove WordPress Malware

    Next, you can fix the wp-content folder. First, check the plugins folder, list all the plugins that you’ve installed, then delete the folder. Then, do the same with the theme folder. Don’t forget to remove the index.php file as well.

    Last but not least, you should open the uploads folder and delete all the .php files in it. If there are any unusual files in the folder, you can remove them too.

    Download and Install the Latest Version of WordPress

    After cleaning your website, you can restore the infected files by installing a brand new WordPress. If your hosting provider has a one-click installer feature, you can install it right from the control panel.

    On the other hand, you can do it manually. You just need to download the latest version of WordPress and install it through an FTP client.

    When you’re required to create an admin password, it should be different from your previous one. Do make it harder to guess as well, such as adding numbers and special characters.

    Re-Install Themes and Plugins

    Remember that you’ve deleted the themes and plugins folder? Now is the time to get them back. You can install them one by one by referring to the list you’ve made.

    Never upload your old themes and plugins from the exported database – unless you’re totally sure that it’s free from malware. You can use them as a reference to build your customized theme from scratch.

    Restore Public Access

    Now that your website is finally clean, you can make it open to the public. If you’re using a plugin for showing the maintenance mode page, simply go to the admin dashboard and disable it.

    However, it might not be available to the public right away. You can check whether your hosting provider is blocking access to your site. If they are, you can request them to re-scan your website and restore its access afterward.

    Show Google that You’re Not Infected

    Last but not least, it’s important to remove the warning label from your site so Google can index your website in the search results page.

    There are some steps you need to do to recover your site in Google:

    1. Open Google Search Console
    2. Add your website
    3. Open the Security Issues Report, and select Request a Review
    4. When submitting the review, don’t forget to mention what you did to remove policy violation on your site
    5. Once the review is done, you’ll get a notification about the result in your email

    How to Protect Your Site From Future Malware Attacks?

    Once your website is running normally, you have to make sure that there won’t be any malware attacks harming your website again. Here are some methods that you can do to strengthen your site’s security:

    Use a Security Plugin

    This is one of the easiest ways to secure your site. Simply go to the WordPress plugin directory, and install a security plugin for extra protection!

    Here is a decent security plugin that can protect your site from malware attacks:

    • Wordfence Security – has a scanner that checks core files, themes, and plugins for malware, bad URLs, and code injection. You can also get a real-time firewall rule and updates for malware signature if you purchase the premium plan, which starts from $99 per year.

    Don’t Forget to Update

    It’s also crucial to keep your WordPress site up-to-date to get the latest security patches. Usually, you will be given a notification if your website needs an update

    How to Remove WordPress Malware

    Aside from the WordPress update, you should also look out for your themes and plugins. Outdated themes and plugins are potentially vulnerable. You should keep them up-to-date as well by checking the Update tab in the left sidebar of your admin dashboard.

    The update page consists of three sections: WordPress, Plugin, and Theme updates. If some of your plugins or themes need an upgrade, tick the boxes next to the plugins or themes, then click the Update buttons.

    You can even install an automatic update plugin such as Easy Updates Manager. It will automatically update your WordPress site, themes, and plugins with a single click.

    It’ll also automatically backup your site before an update – which is essential if you want to do a major upgrade. You can get the automatic backup feature if you purchase the premium plan, which starts from $29 per year.

    Keep in mind that you should check the compatibility of your plugins or themes with WordPress before an update, mainly if your site depends on third-party themes or plugins.

    Backup Your Site Regularly

    Backing up your site is essential to make sure that you won’t lose all your data if anything terrible happens. Now that you can access your dashboard let’s try to do a backup using a plugin!

    There are three kinds of backup that are usually offered, make sure your plugin has three of them:

    • Database backup – lets you only backup the database.
    • Scheduled backup – allows you to schedule a backup so that it can run automatically at a specific time.
    • Complete backup – lets you backup the whole site.

    So, which plugin has all three features? Here are some of the best backup plugins on the market:

    • UpdraftPlus – provides complete and scheduled backups on their free plan. You can upgrade it to one of the paid plans which starts from $70 per year. You’ll be given additional features such as advanced reporting and database encryption.
    • BackWPUp – offers database backup, which comes with database optimization. If you want to get additional features such as backup encryption and premium support, you can upgrade to the pro plan, which starts from $69 per year.
    • Duplicator – allows you to manually backup your whole site or parts of the website. However, if you want to do scheduled backups, you’ll need to upgrade it to one of the paid plans which starts at $59 per year.

    Ready to Secure Your Site?

    Now that you understand how to remove malware infections from your site and how to prevent its attacks in the future. Let’s quickly recap on the steps of malware removal:

    1. Put your site in maintenance mode – you can use a plugin like SeedProd to do the job.
    2. Perform a site backup – if you can’t access your admin dashboard, back up the database via phpMyAdmin.
    3. Do some scanning – use a site security checker like Sucuri Site Check to detect malware infection within your site.
    4. Change hosting panel and FTP passwords – enter your hosting panel and change the passwords for better protection.
    5. Eliminate malware-infected files – clean your public_html folder.
    6. Download and install the latest version of WordPress – restore your site by installing a brand new WordPress.
    7. Re-install themes and plugins – get your themes and plugins back.
    8. Restore public access – disable maintenance mode and ask your hosting provider to open your site for public access.
    9. Show Google that you’re not infected – request a review to Google to remove the warning label on your site.

    So, what are you waiting for? Good luck with cleaning up your site!

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