May 2016 Q & A: Content Audits, 301 Redirects, and Dev Tools

Here are some of the things that came up during our general discussion at the May 2016 Meetup.

What Is a Content Audit?

Sallie mentioned being in the middle of a content audit for a very long site, and someone asked what that was. A content audit is when you review every single piece of content in a site and rate it based on such criteria as

  • Is it current?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it on-message?
  • Are there any broken links?
  • What type of content is it? (For example, should this be a press release instead of a blog post?)
  • Does it have a featured image?
  • Does it have an SEO-friendly title?
  • Does it have an SEO-friendly meta description?

On a small site, this can be done in a few hours. You want to do a content audit before building a new site, in order to know what to keep, what to get rid of, how many custom post types you need to create, and what new assets the client needs to provide. You’ll also need that list of URLs so you can set up the redirects.

301 Redirects

When you build a new website for a client–especially one that already has a lot of inbound links and a good Google ranking–you need to set up 301 (moved permanently) redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs. You can also use redirects to make sure that everyone uses instead of (or the other way around), or https:// instead of http://

Redirects are normally set up in your .htaccess file, but there are also WordPress plugins like Redirection and Quick Page/Post Redirect.

If the old site has structured its content logically with pages and sub-pages, you can use regular expressions (regex) to map groups of URLS, e.g, everything with the structure should go under

In some cases that won’t be possible (because not everything that’s under /blog/ on the old site belongs under /blog/ on the new site, for instance), so you end up with a very long list of old and new URLs in that content audit spreadsheet.

In that case, you’re faced with translating your spreadsheet into the proper format to put in your .htaccess file, which could get ugly.

Fortunately, there’s a Batch Rewrite Rule Generator provided by Donat Studios. Paste your spreadsheet columns into the box and get 301s or Rewrite Rules.

Fixing Mixed Content

Once you’ve set up your Let’s Encrypt certificate, you’ll want to install the Really Simple SSL plugin to fixed mixed content issues. (Basically it puts a few lines in your wp-config.php file, which you can do yourself if you prefer.)

Browse with HTTPS

Install the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension from the Electronic Frontier Fonudation to ensure that you get the HTTPS version of every website you visit (if one is available). Works on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Local Dev Environment: AMPPS

Ted was having problems with MAMP, so he switched to using AMPPS. It’s like MAMP with Python and Softaculous included. All those Softaculous apps seem like a lot to include in a package you’re only using for WordPress development, but if you work on multiple platforms, it could be happy.

Local Dev Environment: Vagrant

Daniel was also having trouble with MAMP, so he switched to using Vagrant, a tool for deploying local dev environments. Requires some use of the command line.

Workflow Tool: Yeoman

If you’re already a happy user of the command line, you can save yourself time with Yeoman, though you will have to take some time to use it. If you aren’t working with the command line, figuring this out will probably take you longer than doing things the way you normally do.

Database: MariaDB

Daniel has started using MariaDB combined with PHP 7 for faster, better-performing sites. MariaDB works fine with WordPress without a lot of tinkering. Of course, it’s easier to set up in a local environment or on a dedicated server. If you’re on shared hosting and your host doesn’t provide it, you’re out of luck.

So What’s Wrong with GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting?

On the plus side, GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting is a lot better for WordPress than their shared hosting, and it’s competitively priced.

On the minus side, it uses an old version of PHP and there’s no way to upgrade it. There have been issues with staging -> production migration. Some of us find that the WordPress admin is amazingly slow and generally under-resourced: simple things like plugin upgrades can time out, never mind BackupBuddy backups.

The few dollars you save versus SiteGround or A2 are probably not worth it. If you need inexpensive WP hosting you can try Tap, which is $5/month for the pro plan.

Accessibility for WordPress Developers

“Today, 25% of the web runs on WordPress and our mission is to democratize publishing. That is why we will keep moving forward on the accessibility of WordPress: to give everyone, including people with a disability, an excellent and easy to use tool so they can maintain their own website or application.”

Ozzy Rodriguez will provide an overview of the what why and how of accessibility for WordPress:

• What is accessibility?

• Why should I make my/my client’s website accessible?

• What are the WordPress accessibility standards?

• Where can I check the accessibility of my website?

• What do designers need to know about accessibility?

• How do I make my theme accessible?

• How do I make my content accessible?

• How does accessibility tie into SEO?

• Are there any WordPress plugins to help make sites more accessible?

Git version control for the complete n00b

Git is a free and open sourcedistributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.

(Version control, if you’re not familiar with it, is a tool to allow you to revert to an earlier version of your code if you mess something up.)

Adam LaBarge has kindly agreed to walk us through setting up Git for development and teaching it to play nicely with your IDE or text editor.

Cross-platform Git clients you might want to install:


GitHub Desktop

You can also use Git within KomodophpStorm, Coda, Eclipse, and Sublime Text.

Improve Performance and Security with Let’s Encrypt and CloudFlare

Your website is under attack from thousands of bots–and so is everyone else’s. Here are two free services to help with that.

Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates so you can serve all your content over HTTPS. Since you’ll probably pay $70/year to your hosting company otherwise, this is a great deal. Some hosting companies even offer one-click installation of Let’s Encrypt certificates. (Otherwise you will need to do a little command-line work.) Just add the Really Simple SSL plugin for WordPress and you’re golden.

CloudFlare provides an awesome free service to protect your site from DDoS attacks and improve performance through a combination of a CDN (content delivery network) and caching. They deliver your site over HTTP/2 if you have a secure connection (hence the need to start with Let’s Encrypt).

At the May 2016 East Bay WordPress Meetup, we’ll walk through getting your SSL Certificate set up with Let’s Encrypt and then setting up your free CloudFlare account.

April 2016 Meetup Notes

Here are some links and notes from the open Q & A part of the April 2016 East Bay WordPress Meetup.

Analytics for Landing Pages

SumoMe provides an awesome suite of analytics tools. There are WordPress plugins, but you can use SumoMe on any website. There’s a free version, a $40/month version, and a $100/month version.

For A/B testing, try Unbounce, which lets you build landing pages as well as testing them. Plans start at $49/month. 30-day free trial.

Opinions on Visual Composer

Page building tools like Visual Composer can add a lot of overhead to your site and decrease performance. They’re also not wonderful for SEO. If you deactivate Visual Composer, all that’s left of your content for those pages will be a collection of shortcodes. And there may be times when it’s actually a lot faster to write code than to build something with Visual Composer.

That said, Visual Composer is very popular and it can help non-coders to create different page layouts quickly. If you are going to use it, make sure you install it as a separate plugin rather than having it bundled into a theme. Plugins that have been bundled into themes can’t be updated separately and pose a security risk.

Creating your own SEO-friendly HTML output

If something like Visual Composer is giving you trouble with managing your on-page SEO, have a look at Rendera from Heroku.
Type in your HTML code and see it rendered in realtime. Then style it with CSS. You can use any of the HTML5 or CSS3 tags your browser supports.

How to tell bots to go crawl themselves

(A nice trick courtesy of SiteGround support, explained in more detail on the WP Fangirl blog.)

# BEGIN Tell bots to go crawl themselves
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} (bot|crawl|robot)
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !(bing|Google|msn|MSR|Twitter) [NC]
RewriteRule ^/?.*$ "http\:\/\/127\.0\.0\.1" [R,L]
# END Tell bots to go crawl themselves

Mac tool for creating diagrams

Omnigraffle is for creating precise, beautiful graphics. Like website wireframes, an electrical system design, a family tree, or mapping out software classes. For artists, designers, casual data-mappers, and everyone in-between.

Mac desktop: $99
iOS: $49