WordPress 3.7 Now with auto updates

Wordpress LogoHurrah! After years of preaching the importance of updating WordPress, the latest release 3.7 has built-in background updates.

But I have a bitter sweet concern about these automatic updates after seeing my fair share of ‘manual updates’ go horribly wrong in the past, and on more than one occasion requiring a complete re-install from backups.

Other times a minor glitch can be sorted out at the time of the update, but background updates happen unattended; ‘overnight’

Ignoring the discussion about what overnight might mean here at Zulu +10.5o,  the fact is that there isn’t likely to be someone hovering over the site at the time of update who can leap into the fray to immediately to address any glitches.  

To the WP 3.7  teams’ credit, emails are dispatched when the site is updated…  Imagine the global and feverish checking  of WordPress 3.7.1 (ie after the very first background update) to make sure the site is still functional and looks OK.

My only other concern (its not a gripe… Really!) is that optional configuration of updates requires coding either in WP-CONFIG or a Functions file and isnt (yet) exposed into the Administrative interface. I’m sure just minutes from now, a brilliant WP developer will produce the Background Updates Configuration plugin. I love that!.

Either way I commend the 3.7 team on continuing to press WordPress functionality forward, while our friends with sites using Joomla (either release) agonise over a much more tragic update dilemma.

Update 31 October 2013

3.7.1 has been automatically updated on this and other WordPress sites I manage without any fuss
I do like the email notice letting me know its happened…

Are Web Dev’s being innocently penalised by Penguin 5?

Google Penguin

Fabulous image stolen from www.techgaggle.com

One of the bitter sweet things about working in SEO is responding to Google’s Updates.

  • Bitter because clients and associates’ businesses occasionally get hurt by them.
  • Sweet because I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of distilling vagaries, rumors and research into workable strategies. 

Google’s latest anti-spam release Penguin 5 which landed here Saturday 6 Oct is an interesting example of this. Reputable SEO blog discussions about it focus on its attack on web spam ( ie SEO ‘naughtiness’ specifically poor quality backlinks and ‘thin content’).

BTW this should really signal to businesses to not be tempted by the barrage of overseas businesses spam offering cheap SEO solutions!

So Penguin 5 (P5 ) is positioned by Google to filter out naughty websites from search results, however I’ve encountered a growing number of P5 victims who haven’t deliberately undertaken to cheat; they just innocently didn’t comply with Google’s rules, and are being treated very heavily handed for it. It like the scenario where you say: “I’m sorry Officer I didn’t realise ” but you get booked anyway.

Sadly many people wont even know if they’ve been pinged by P5 because they aren’t monitoring their website’s performance… (exasperated sigh)

Anyway back to our innocent P5 victims – Website Developers (I prefer ‘web devs’) have an accepted practice of acknowledgement links in their client’s websites back to their site. Web Dev friends tell me this is an important source of new business for them. Prospective clients impressed with a site can easily find out more about the authors. A nice outcome all round.

But this does leave the web dev’s website with multitudes of backlinks (from their clients) all with hugely duplicated backlink text eg “Website by…”
I speculate (but haven’t yet proven – standby Ill update this post when I have further proof)  that this it triggering P5’s spammy backlink alert and consequently causing rank penalties for the web dev’s site.

When I’ve got a moment more Ill share some more experiences with ‘innocent’ P5  victims.. You’ll be horrified!

As an SEO professional my role for some time now has been evolving to include policing duties; checking websites for contraventions of Google’s rules and putting solutions in place… Contrary to reports that ‘SEO is dead’, the role is evolving and apparently become much more critical for business…

 

 

 

 

McAfee may be scaring off prospects

McAfee Siteadvisor flags an innocent siteFurther to my recent post on McAfee black listing a site because it happened to be on the same IP address as a ‘naughty site’, I’ve bumped into yet another McAfee SiteAdvisor case.

This time SiteAdvisor is flagging a website as malicious in search result at right – not an enticing look for prospective clients and clearly a sales lead killer.

The site in question is not currently hacked although it has had a checkered past and was hacked about 6 months ago but promptly resolved.

My concern on behalf of the business owner is that after submitting a request to McAfee to have this status updated is their reputation to to be sluggish on responses 

 

Is ‘Dark Google’ getting darker?

Not provided search terms

63% of search terms are being withheld

Google is withholding important data but only if you don’t use their advertising system AdWords. 

To the right is an Analytics Organic Search Traffic report for a site for September 2013. At nearly 75,000 organic search visitors in a 4 week period the site is doing well,  but note that 63% of the search terms or over 47,000 searches have their data masked as  (not provided)

So this client cannot see what the majority of their visitors where searching for in Google before they entered their site. Given the critical nature of online exposure, this type of data is as fundamental as a Profit & Loss financial statement to a business.

For the entire existence of the internet up until Nov 2012 it has been possible to see this ‘referer’ data. But with Google’s absolute domination of internet search, they are in a unique position to control what data they share. Worse it seems they will only show this critical data if you are a paying customer with Google.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, Google has also been on a vendetta for the last few years to ‘cleanup search’ with their much publicised releases including Panda and Penguin.

As someone inside the SEO industry, the most apparent outcome of Google’s actions is that businesses have invested more significantly in Google’s paid search because SEO results have become ‘less predictable’. Is it just a happy coincidence that Google’s actions has resulted in increasing their own AdWords revenue ?

It is a great concern to all online businesses that Google seems to be using its overwhelming domination of the internet to its own commercial advantage. This behavior is not tolerated in traditional media channels like Print, Television etc where it is regulated and meticulously monitored by Governments.
Maybe its time that Google was similarly monitored and managed.

How will Google Hummingbird impact your site’s SEO?

Google has just released a major algorithm update codenamed Hummingbird

The SEO community is typically awash in speculation on if and how this newest change will impact website ranking.
SearchLand have released this overview of Hummingbird’s potential impact

It seems to me that there will be little rank impact from this release, and that one of the outcomes was Google being smarter about processing enquiries with this recent conversational search example giving some insight

Speedier site generates more leads especially from mobiles

WordPress and other CMS make it easy to churn out a good looking site easily – but at what price ?

The website load chart below is a case in point. Last Saturday I invested time to tune this puppy to pull it back from up to 20 secs (14 secs average) page load back to under six secs (2.9 average).
Sure there was some images that needed to be optimised but also I also added gzip compression addressed a couple of 404 errors etc.
Quite a bit of work but the end result is plain to see in this page load chart:

Speeding up your Website

BTW this chart and the corresponding page load waterfall (not shown here) is from Zoho’s fabulous website performance and availability reporting service Site 24×7

The site’s home page loads 14 secs faster.
That’s got to be good for visiting sales prospects and I’d expect a drop in bounce rate as a result.

Mobile visitors like slimmer sites?
What these stats comparing before and after the tune up show is that mobile users got more engaged in the site:
Double the Pages per visit and a massive 500% increase in visit duration up from a miserable 27 secs to 2:43 secs average

mobile vs desktop

Google Trends – Much more than a toy

Several years ago the Succinct Ideas site featured a ‘Rising Searches in Adelaide’ display produced from data  extracted from Google Trends. It was quirky, heavily influenced by ‘social’ searches and popular press but never-the-less still interesting. It was like a real-time poll on what the Adelaide community was interested in that week

Then Trends ‘transformed’ into ‘Google Insight for Search’ (in Aug 2008), and I abandoned the display. But now its called Trends again… (Every thing old is new again) so its only right that I display this fascinating information again.

Trends is an interesting reporting/research tool can be used for much more meaningful purposes that this trite display.
In the past I’ve used Google Trends to help businesses research emerging demand for products and services and regional areas of interest etc.

Here’s an example based on searches in South Australia since 2004 for Home Finance
The decreasing search volumes over time is telling, especially if you consider that there are more people searching than ever.
A bit more research would reveal if this trend is attributable to folks using different search terms, or simply a drop in demand.

Home Finance Searches in South Australia since 2004

Home Finance Searches in South Australia since 2004

If it is a drop in demand it might explain why the banks have to try harder to sell us home finance 😉
It’s likely that searchers are using more diverse search terms now which seems to be an over-all trend in searching.

Regional Interest shows Perth at the top of the home finance list – no surprises really.
Buoyed by its strong mining-based economy which pays people handsomely, and so cashed up they are looking to invest in bricks and mortar.

Trends - Regional Interest for home finance

Regional Interest for home finance searches

Related Searches provides insight into other terms that folks are searching along with ‘Rising Terms’ or searches that are trending popularly .
Clearly Aussie Home Loans’ TV advertising is having an impact, and it seems car financiers and Finance brokers could be rubbing their hands together with glee at increasing interest in their respective markets.

Google Trends Related Searches

Google Trends Related Searches

 

So enjoy the little widget in our site displaying top searches by South Aussies for the last 7 days, but if you are looking to assess a marketplace through searches maybe we can help you with some Trends Reporting to help make informed business decisions.

 

 

 

Are your Web Server ‘neighbours’ costing you sales leads?

McAfee Blocked access to this IP address

Warning Warning Will Robinson…

Twice in recent months I’ve run into issues with my McAfee Internet Security firewall software blocking sites it says are dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong – I really appreciate it because I spend a lot of time online and don’t have time or patience to be wrangling with a website Trojan or other nasty goings in the site.
McAfee throws up this message (IP blurred to protect the innocent)

Goodbye prospective clients

Now I ask you, would you buy anything from a site with this type of warning or contact them to provide services for you? I dont think so!  All the fabulous SEO work or online advertising in the world is not going to convince me to go into that site – along with hundreds of other formerly prospective clients as well…

Its not actually infected

Guess what ? The worst news is that this site isn’t infected… The web host techos dutifully scanned the site and announced they ‘could not find an infection’ and bounced it back saying not our problem!

We dig deeper…

After snuffling around we discovered and pieced these facts together:

  1. McAfee records naughty IP addresses not the web address or URL  as the ‘risky connection’.
  2. This website shared the IP address with 666 websites
    That number is correct folks (The Devils Number) Six hundred and sixty six websites on the same IP
    With bargain basement web hosting services I guess its necessary to scale up like this to recoup investment.
    Its like everything;  You get what you pay for.
  3. I jumped onto a Reverse IP Tools website which listed the plethora of websites (some with URLs that I wouldnt speak out loud in mixed company…)
    Any one of these sites could be the offender that McAfee had detected

The Bottom Line

Here’s the thing.
You can’t normally* control who your web hosting neighbours are, but be assured that if the neighbourhood goes down hill there’s a good chance your website will go with.
On a side note

  •  McAfee have chosen to not remove the blocking for this IP
    The site continues to not see any prospects using McAfee (and possibly others too)
  • The web host wont budge – they don’t see a problem with website. All care. No responsibility

Here’s a Solution

* Sorry – I cant help myself
Succinct Ideas’ Premium Web Hosting Service is designed to specifically prevent this type of website neighbourhood style site contamination.

  • We have a deliberately limited number of sites per server and IP addresses for both performance and security rationale
  • We closely scrutinise and monitor all sites
  • We proactively apply updates to minimum the risk of exploit hacking
  • We employ an Active Firewall to kick out port scanning and brute force login attacks

 

 

Are most hackers from China?

Our Premium Web Hosting service includes an active firewall. Not only does a great job of preventing hackers from compromising your website, it also captures data about them which provides a rare insight to website hackers in the wild, so I thought I’d share some details with you:

Most hackers come from China

Sorry to my good friends over there, but the numbers of smart firewall blocks by country is hugely stacked against visitors from Chinese IP addresses.
Here’s a table of country codes to help you decipher it further.

Im surprised the numbers are disproportionately high and my apologies go out to Russians who I have previous condemned…
Maybe Chinese IP addresses are easier to spoof…  or the IP Geo mapping is wrong… If you have a theory on why so many Chinese blocks I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Blocked visitors by country code

Blocked visitors by country code

 

SSH is the most popular form of attack

This pie chart shows the distribution of attack ‘triggers’ i.e. the type of attack that trigger our smart firewall to say Whoa! to the visitor and block them

My apologies that this is not clear, but it does provide good information

LF_SSH refers to Login Failures via SSH
Secure Shell abbreviated to SSH is used to run ‘old world’ computer screens typically on Unix systems
SSH provides primitive albeit direct and powerful access to the web server. Gaining access to your hosting package via SSH would almost certainly result in your website being compromised, and probably all other sites on the same web server. Most mere mortals would never even consider using SSH, but clearly its popular with website hackers 😉

PS_Limit is the number of times a site was port scanned
Port scanning is the process of scanning to find an exploitable entry point. A tedious process, so port scanning is likely to be performed using specially designed software.

Blocked visitors by attack type

Blocked Visitors by attack type

 

 

 

Does ‘Buy Now’ put off some clients?

Does your shop actively ask or encourage prospective customers to buy quickly maybe even before they are truly ready? Is an in-store prospect (or you may prefer, visitor or browser) the same as an online one?
 Behavioural economist Bri Williams has written a short piece that may cause you to re-think about urging people to buy too soon, just as relevant online as it is offline.  The example she uses of a prominent online bicycle store and “buy now” is relevant to other categories too. Read article in full
 From my experience sales do not flow from over-use of the “buy now” button, indeed, it may not assist the retailer’s cause.  It reminds us all of the importance of understanding the consumer, their needs, preferences and preferred processes, sadly something not all retailers do or do well.
Hope the article is useful. Please pass to anyone you think may benefit.

Regards,John Goslino
Principal Consultant
Audience Dialogue & The E-Business Activators