SEO site audit for UFES Case Study – part 1

I began working with my friend to assist with some SEO on a website for his business that had recently been redesigned. We emailed on October 8, 2017, and set up a phone call for the following afternoon. This gave me some time to review the site quickly in a few tools and run some preliminary reports to start an SEO site audit.

Start with an SEO site Audit

Since I have an account with Agency Analytics, my first step was to just set up a quick campaign for https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/ and use their Site Audit tool.

UFES SEO SIte Audit

While the site audit tool was running, we decided to look into some of the basics and make sure that the website was optimized and ready for a competitive marketing campaign.

Basics that we checked:

  1. Properly installed WordPress theme and configuration – Yes
  2. SEO friendly URLs (Permalinks in WordPress) – Yes
  3. Google Analytics Installed – Yes
  4. URL verified with Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) – No
  5. Sitemap XML file created and submitted to Search Console – No
  6. Sitemap HTML file created and linked in the navigation – No

Items 1-3 are fairly self-explanatory and were configured correctly so I won’t go into much detail. We just made sure that our account was listed in Google Analytics as a user so we had access to his data. Setting up users is quite easy but can be confusing with all of the overwhelming options. Never give your Google account information to an agency, make sure that you always have the keys to your account. You can read how to setup users in Google Analytics here.

Proper URL structure submission

For item #4, although Google Search Console was set up, it was not configured for their new web address which uses www and https. We added the new domain and verified it through Search Console and then added us as a user (similar to what was done in Google Analytics). Again, never give your account information out to anyone.

Too many SEO plugins

For item #5, we noticed that there was an XML sitemap submitted to the old site in Google Search Console, but since we just added a new one (with the correct https and www) we needed to add it again. We also noticed that the old one only added the pages sitemap (page-sitemap.xml) and not the full index. This would mean that everything posted on the blog, would not be submitted to Search Console. This is definitely not optimal. We submitted the full index to get all content into google (https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/sitemap_index.xml). While going through this process, we noticed that there were several redundant plugins installed. All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO and Google XML sitemaps were 3 plugins that perform some similar functions. We prefer to use Yoast SEO, primarily because we are familiar with it and we like the tools it has for grading the SEO of your posts and pages, plus it has an XML sitemap creator built into the plugin. We uninstalled All in One SEO Pack and Google XML sitemaps and cleaned up the dashboard just a little bit.

Help Google and users find your content

Lastly, for #6, we noticed that there was no sitemap HTML file. Many years ago, a sitemap was very useful for finding content on your website. While site search has gotten much better (and WordPress does a fine job with this) we still like to have an HTML sitemap. 2 reasons we like HTML sitemaps are that they are good for old-timers who look for them and secondly since it dynamically links to all of the content on your site, once a spider, like the google bot, finds the page it can then find every other page on your website with one click, regardless of how deep the pages may go in your link structure. We used the simple sitemap plugin and just added a small shortcode to the newly created page and then linked to it from the footer navigation.

SEO site audit complete and ready to review

By this time, the site audit was complete and we are ready to review and work on some of the technical items which may not be so obvious. We will discuss the initial SEO site audit and our process over forward in the next few weeks.

These 6 items were some of the initial basics that we ran through while the website audit was running. After this, we went into researching H1 tags, Title tags, internal and external links which we will discuss in part 2. Later we will discuss keyword research, backlinks, content creation strategy and more.

Why I Quit My Web Design Career

Phone call comes in at 9:47 am and is picked up by my secretary. I cannot take the call because I am on the phone with an existing customer working on a project.
As protocol, we ask for a phone number, website and email address. This helps us to not only get contact information, but also assess the feasibility and quality of the lead (for example a potential client with an AOL email address is a very low priority…. Seriously people its 2017, if you are still using AOL for business communication, you have much bigger issues that no web company can solve for you).
The potential client, “Mike”, needs a website re-design. He has an emergency and will not leave a website address or email address.
Within 20 minutes, I finish my conversation with my existing customer and call back Mike (my new lead).
Ring Ring Ring.
Mike: “Hello?”
Me: “Good morning, may I speak with Mike please?”
Mike: “Who is calling?”
Me: “This is Steven from South Florida Web Studio returning his phone call.”
Mike: “Thank you, we have already found someone to do the work.”
Me: “Ok, thank you.”
Mike: “Good bye”

At least there was no time wasted, but seriously… You found someone to fix your emergency website re-design project in 20 minutes?

I am curious to call back just to find out what the project was.

Web design used to be a glamorous, well paid and respected profession that has gone the way of so many other outsourced jobs. Whether it is global competition, automation or just a slow in overall demand, the career is definitely not what it was 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago for that matter.

Seriously, I have not quit yet, but I am on my way to learning new skills that will benefit larger organizations, businesses and society as a whole. Something that will have purpose and meaning. Something that I am passionate about and makes me jump out of bed in the morning to get started.

Stay tuned….

Image credit @parkerabyrd

A WordPress plugin update broke my site

I ran some WordPress updates this afternoon and wouldn’t you know it, my site got an error and went offline.

Fatal error: Class ‘W3_Config’ not found in /wp-content/plugins/wptouch/core/class-cache-smash.php on line 96

“No big deal” I thought, “I use WPEngine, this is not an active site, I will just restore from last night’s backup and then troubleshoot from there.”

Uh oh, this is an old site running on Media Temple Grid Service. I do not have automatic nightly backups. Well, I do use ManageWP so I know I have a backup there. So I log into ManageWP and notice that with the new Orion interface, I only have monthly backups. It is still not the end of the world because there has not been an update on the site since the last backup. So still no problem.

I click the restore button. ….   Error  ….

At this point, I decide to find the culprit with a little research and learn that W3 Total Cache plugin is causing the error with WPTouch Mobile plugin. So I decide to delete W3 Total Cache plugin directory and alas my site is back online.

At this point I have spent about 40 minutes messing with this problem. But I would like to know why the backup does not work. So I submit a support request with ManageWP and they say that I need to provide them with FTP credentials and MySQL credentials. Since it is a shared account, I have a global FTP and need to create a new one just for this one particular site. Easy enough, I login to MT access center and create a new user. Set proper permission and passwords and I am good to go….

Nope… FTP user times out trying to retrieve directory listing. So now I have to get to tech support with Media Temple. I have an option to request a phone call. So I do that and wait. Doing some research for the next 20 minutes. Finally the call comes in. Now I have a tech support agent on the phone and he tells me to login to my user account through Filezilla, which I do but I see an empty directory. I then go into my FTP user creation and set the path of the website, like I did originally, and try again. Still no files in the directory. I go back into my user and see that it did not save. So the Tech agent notices the problem and says he will have to look into it. In the meantime, I had another issue with the database not connecting either.

For the database, he said I will have to whitelist the IP addresses. He showed me where to do this in the MediaTemple control panel. And I found the 45 IP addresses that ManageWP uses. I am told I have to enter them all in one by one. So as he trouble shoots my FTP user account. I go and begin to manually enter in one by one the IP addresses. Of course when I get to number 10 I get an error because Media Temple only allows 10 IP addresses to be whitelisted on their Grid Service.

At this point, I just give up and wait for the the Tech Assistant to come back on the phone. He has resolved the FTP issue and my account is now working properly. But there is no solution to the Database issue and I cannot connect. So I am not sure if the techs at ManageWP will even be able to try and resolve the error with the backup.

Now over two and a half hours into this problem, at least my site is up and running (although it is running without any caching) but I have no backups in place and do not know if it will be fixed.

I am throwing in the towel at this point. Eventually, I will have to migrate to WPengine and that will solve my problems with caching and backups, but too late tonight to get started on that project.

Until my next rant… Happy Pressing.

A final note, a fix was posted quite quickly for this issue, I did not try it myself but you can either google the error or try this: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/fix-for-fatal-error-class-w3_config/

Hoxsey Diet Support BBPress Forums

We launched our first bbPress website yesterday. www.HoxseyDietSupport.org is a forum for individuals who are seeking treatment at the Hoxsey Biomedical Center in Tijuana, Mexico and are looking for more information to assist with dietary restrictions.

bbPress has long been on my list of plugins to test for WordPress. I was have always been drawn to the idea of implementing a forum on my favorite CMS and integration using bbPress is practically seamless, compared with other solutions like PHPBB or Vbulletin or possibly one of the other forum plugins available in the WordPress repository.

Although the support for bbPress over the years has ebbed and flowed (like most plugins) at least it is still being supported and testing it on a non-critical site makes the most sense for me at this point.

As of today the site is live and running but we still have many features to add. For starters, we need to customize the dashboard for users. I am not sure why, but our favorite SEO plugin has to put a widget on the dashboard and it shows up for the subscribers and participant roles. It looks like we will have to add some functions to remove this from the page since the users of the forum do not care about SEO. Also on our list is finding a good plugin to allow for forum participants to upload images. We are looking at GD bbPress Attachments right now as it seems that it will allow for other file types and give us the control and security we need.

So far I am really liking working with bbPress. Only time will tell if it will be the effective tool we need to provide the support we are looking for to help disseminate information about the holistic treatment of the Hoxsey Tonic. I will have to see as the forum gains usage.

Visit the Hoxsey Diet Support Forums for more information.

New Project For Legal Industry

Building websites and WordPress projects for clients has its privileges. I learn many new lessons on a daily basis. I am able to experiment with many different types of plugins, themes and code. Every project has a different mix of code and technology that we use and as we design, I am always thinking of other ways to utilize the knowledge gained.

While I do enjoy working on client projects, it is always fun to be able to create my own designs without restraints of client business specifications or requirements. I am excited to start on a new project this month and will be focusing a new effort to provide a web application specifically for law firms, attorneys and legal professionals. The first (beta) version of FreshLawyer.com will target startup law firms and even graduating law school students. Shortly thereafter, we will expand our market to include re-designs of existing lawyer websites and small firms. Finally, FreshLawyer.com will also cater to the larger and growing law firms, to offer a platform that can be easy to use for a sole practitioner as well as a global firm with hundreds of attorneys and thousands of employees. It will be a custom website builder, powered by WordPress specifically for the legal industry.

Our mission is clear and our documentation is in process. Proper documentation is key to any successful web project. We started on the logo a few weeks ago and finalized it last week. The primary marketing website is in process and we should have more than just a landing page setup within the next two weeks.

Our new project for lawyer websites will begin development in the next few weeks and the first phase will be completed by the end of July. I am looking forward to helping promote the small law firms and start-up attorneys that need a simple, quick and affordable solution without having to compromise on quality.

I have several other internal projects that are in the works as well. Some that I am very excited to write about, but that will be for another day. In the meantime, it’s back to client work.