Elevate 1.1: Improved Performance & SEO Dashboard + WooCommerce Integration

October 8th, 2018

We’re pleased to finally present Elevate 1.1 for WordPress.  Elevate is a relatively new SEO (search engine optimization) and performance enhancement plugin for WordPress.  You can easily substitute it for your existing your SEO plugin in WordPress and immediately reap the benefits of its many new features.

Improved Performance + SEO Dashboard

One of the biggest changes with this version is the highly revamped dashboard. In the new dashboard, you can see your daily organic traffic results (from search console), current crawl errors, page speed history, as well as how many visitors and page views you’ve received over the past week.  This amalgamates data from multiple locations in one convenient location, simplifying the process of tracking these on a daily or weekly basis.

The dashboard will also show you in which direction each of the key metrics has moved, so you can easily see if your site is doing better or worse compared to the previous week.

Elevate Performance and SEO Dashboard
Elevate Performance and SEO Dashboard

A lot of work went into this new dashboard, and we have short-term plans to add even more useful data here shortly. One of the benefits of processing the search console data locally is it allows you to start doing interesting things, like cross-referencing it with post information to come up with a ‘plan of attack’ for improvements and changes.

We’ve always had performance monitoring and enhancement as part of the Elevate plan, since website speed is now an important metric in SEO ranking. This will be even more true as Google migrates to its mobile-first index.  The speed of your website is beginning to become a key signal in Google’s search algorithms, so part of a good SEO strategy is also making sure your website is responsive (as in fast). So if you’ve been ignoring the speed of your website, now is the time to start monitoring and addressing it.  During the configuration wizard for Elevate, several speed issues are automatically corrected, so many people  should notice a speed increase immediately after completing the initial configuration.

WooCommerce

We made a few changes in the previous release related to WooCommerce, and so far the feedback has been great.  Based on that, we made a few small changes to this release, namely around setting SEO information for the primary store page in WooCommerce.

Updating

Elevate makes use of several Google APIs to access your site data.  If you installed it previously, you would have been asked to authenticate with Google to give Elevate access to your site data.  We purposefully kept the level of access small, essentially only what we required at the time.  

Since version 1.1 of Elevate now accesses additional Google APIs to gather more data, you will have to re-authenticate with Google.  You can do this by by visiting the ‘Search’ sidebar menu and then de-authenticating and re-authenticating.

The setting to remove authentication – once removed, this will be replaced by a button to re-authenticate

Once that’s done, all your data should work as before. If you ever want to refresh the dashboard statistics completely, you can use the top-level menu item in the admin bar to ‘Refresh Statistics’.

Roadmap

If you haven’t tried Elevate yet, we encourage you to downloading a copy of signing up below to receive instructions in your inbox to install it – it’s completely free, and also hosted in the free WordPress.org repository under the name “Elevate SEO”.  Right now, it can easily replace any of the popular search engine optimization plugins for WordPress, and we have an aggressive multi-month roadmap planning out of new features that take Elevate in directions that other plugins haven’t gone yet.

So enjoy the new updates in Elevate 1.1, and stay tuned for even more great features, coming shortly.  If you’re new to Elevate, you can receive instructions to install it via the main Elevate SEO for WordPress page, or add “Elevate SEO” from the WordPress admin.

Version 1.0.6: New Website Performance Improvements

September 23rd, 2018

We just pushed out version 1.0.6 of Elevate, and we wanted to let you know what’s included.

In general, while Elevate for WordPress is marketed as a search engine optimization and performance enhancement suite, version 1.0 bit light on the performance enhancements when it came to launch. We could have spent another month working on those features, but made the decision to release the first version and slowly iterate from there.

Why is the speed of your website important? Well in terms of search ranking, Google (and likely other search engines) use the speed of your website as a metric for ranking. So in theory, all things considered, faster websites will rank higher than slower ones. So if you have 100 posts, you could spend your time going through each one and making incremental improvements to try and elevate the ranking on all of them, or you could simply make your website faster and achieve a better ranking on all of them.

Thankfully Elevate now lets you do both.

Elevate can now automatically configure Apache

Elevate can now automatically configure Apache

In terms of this version, a new feature was added to the configuration wizard to configure your web server. As one of the steps, Elevate will automatically configure Apache (the web server most of us use) so that it will perform optimally. Whenever possible, after Elevate configures it, Apache will compress assets such as Javascript and CSS to reduce size, and also will instruct browsers to store resources (such as images, PDFs, videos, etc.) locally, so they aren’t requested on each and every page load. Google likes adjustments like that, and will usually show a fairly significant Google Page Speed increase with just those two adjustments. Which technical people often know how to add features like this themselves, most typical blog users have no idea how they would modify a .htaccess file, so we’re pleased to announce that Elevate does it automatically now.

Configuring your CDN URL in Elevate

Configuring your CDN URL in Elevate

In addition, we’ve added some settings in the administration panel to configure a content delivery network (CDN) such as CloudFront. All you need to do is setup CloudFront, or whatever CDN you decide to use, and paste the URL into Elevate. Going forward it will automatically switch out the URLs for all your images in your posts, causing them to be served from your CDN and not your own website. If you don’t know what a CDN is, it’s a content deliver network which will store your content in various locations around the world to speed up the end-user experience. If someone from Japan contacts your website, the images will come from Japan, and not wherever your server may be – this results is a much faster experience, and also makes Google happy.

On one of our test websites (in fact this website, elevatewp.io), the Google Page Speed went from around 60 to over 80 just by making these changes, so hopefully other people see similar increases. To learn, visit our knowledge-base article on how to configure CloudFront with Elevate for WordPress.

In addition we added a large amount of data logging internally which we’ll be using shortly in the dashboard – we expect the 1.1 version, hopefully coming in the next few weeks, to be a pretty important and exciting upgrade.

If anyone encounters any issues with version 1.0.6, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The next few releases should start being exciting, so stay tuned. If you have any friends or co-workers who you think would be able to use Elevate, please point them to the main Elevate SEO for WordPress page.

Built In Social Media Previewing

September 18th, 2018
You can access the Web Preview from the feedback pane

You can access the Web Preview from the feedback pane

One of the great features included for free in the Elevate SEO plugin for WordPress is the ability to preview your content on various social media and search platforms around the internet. Using this feature, you’ll be able to instantly determine what your site will look like on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. That way, when a user searches for your website on a popular search engine, or shares your content on their favourite social network, you’ll be able to know what exactly the content will look like, and make adjustments in Elevate.

To access this in Elevate, simple click the “Web Preview” button, which will open up an overlay showing all the various social media platforms. You can then cycle between them.

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

Once the overlay is open, you can view the various different forms of your website by clicking the associated social media icons on the top. For example, to view how your content will look when shared on Facebook, simply click the Facebook button.

If for some reason you aren’t entirely happy with how the content looks around the web, simple close the overlay and continue to edit your content in WordPress. You can easily change the title for social media and search purposes, as well as the description that’s shared. By adjusting the WordPress featured image you can also set the image you would like used when your content is shared.

Even though other search plugins for WordPress have this as a paid feature, we’ve purposefully included it for free for everyone. That way you’ll always be able to understand how your content will look around the web, and can easily adjust it in real-time before hitting publish.

For more information about Elevate, or to download a free copy today, please visit the main Elevate SEO page or the hosted free version on wordpress.org.

Announcing Elevate 1.0 for WordPress

September 14th, 2018

Approximately six months ago I was sitting in Morocco, working on a WordPress site for a client. One of the first issues I immediately encountered was that even though the website own had a popular SEO plugin installed, it wasn’t configured properly.

Sure, it was generating an XML Sitemap – but it wasn’t really being used anywhere. Google Search Console hadn’t been properly configured for the site, which meant the XML Sitemap hadn’t been submitted there. In addition, there was no visitor tracking script installed, so the website owner really had no sense about what their traffic was. The primary site title, the one that shows up in Google, wasn’t set to anything meaningful, which meant it was pretty unlikely that website would ever rank well.

It was then I started thinking – isn’t there a better way to do all of this? Why does performing SEO, or even setting up a website, have to be so complicated and error prone? I started making notes – what would it take for someone who didn’t know too much about how a search engine worked to be successful at optimizing their site for search?

At that time I started playing around with some ideas, and those ideas would eventually all coalesce into a plugin for WordPress. And that plugin, as of right now, is available to everyone for free.

So without further ago, I’d like to introduce you to Elevate for WordPress.

Elevate is at its core a plugin designed to help increase the search rankings for self-hosted WordPress websites. But it goes beyond that, and deeply integrates with several services (such as Google) to help automate the process and also understand, on an ongoing basis, just how your website is performing.

For example, since the speed of your website (how responsible it is for your visitors) is used by Google and other search engines to adjust your ranking, it’s important to understand at any point in time just how fast your website is. Elevate aggregates all of this information, along with important search metrics (such as how many clicks your website received from Google last week, etc.) right on the primary Elevate dashboard in the WordPress administration panel.

The Elevate Dashboard

The Elevate Dashboard

Once configured, you’ll always have the information you require as a site owner to understand how your site is performing, both from a speed perspective, as well as a search engine perspective.

One area where a lot of work was done with Elevate was in the area of auto configuration. It turns out a great deal can be done on a website to automatically configure it without much input from an end-user. For example, using Google’s OAuth mechanism, it’s possible to verify a site on Google Search Console and automatically submit the sitemap. So Elevate does that automatically for everyone during the installing process.

In addition, if it finds an analytics script is available via your Google account, it will grab the code for that and use it. If it doesn’t find one, it can create a brand new analytics property and utilize that on its own as well. So no more heading over to Google and then cutting and pasting your code into WordPress.

Automatically setting up Google services

Automatically setting up Google services

I went out my way during the installation wizard to try and address every single concrete stumbling block that would limit the ability for a site to be successful. For example, one of the last items I added was one I felt was important, so much so that I circled around to add it even though I was at the point where I wanted to launch – the ability to set a site wide featured image for the entire site. Most people nowadays set an image on a per-post basis, and that image often shows up on Facebook and Twitter when one of your visitors shares your post.

But what happens when they share content without an explicit photo? This is actually a pretty plausible situation, for example when someone shares a category page on WordPress, or even the main page of your website. Having the user explicitly declare a fallback image for their entire site during the install process solves this issue, and makes sure the site’s branding will always have a default state, even if a featured post isn’t added.

Adding a site-wide featured image

Adding a site-wide featured image

Another area I worked quite hard at was in the actual options available while editing post content. On the majority of sites that I have worked with for clients, it was pretty rare for them to actually explicitly adjust their search information for each posting. Knowing that, I set out to create intelligent defaults for the search information. For example, Elevate will intelligently scan the post content and dynamically populate the title and description fields. These are visible and easily editable if a site owner wants to make adjustments.

Adjusting the search information on a per-post basis; intelligent defaults are represented by the placeholder text.

Adjusting the search information on a per-post basis; intelligent defaults are represented by the placeholder text.

This content effectively shows what will happen if the site owner publishes without doing nothing for SEO, which like it or not, is often the case. So hopefully with the intelligent defaults and policies that can be set in the administration panel, these search parameters become more useful for site owners.

For many of the posts I experimented with during development and the beta cycle, often the default content was completely sufficient. But going forward it’s great to know you can easily adjust any of the search information on a per-post basis.

Web Preview

Another area I fleshed out was the ability to preview how your content will look all around the internet. One of the primary goals of all content writers is to have their content read and shared, so it’s important for website owners to understand how this content will look when it is shared.

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

Previewing how this looks is done using the ‘Web Preview’ widget, and will show you, in real-time, how your content will look when it’s shared on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.

To make this work instantaneously, in various states (draft vs published posts), with support for both the Classic and Gutenberg editors, it was actually quite tricky. But the end result speaks for itself – with a simple click you can quickly preview how your content will look anywhere on the internet and make adjustments on the fly.

Speaking of Gutenberg, Elevate will work out of the box with it. We have some great ideas on how to integrate better with Gutenberg going forward, but rest assured that it work just fine today and can be used for previewing and generating search related content.

Special Thanks

Creating Elevate took about six months of part-time effort, mostly dabbling here and there on my weekends on evenings. I’m really proud of the end result, and have a few more months of features planned to make it even more useful and appealing.

For now though I’d like to thank the following people.

First, the beta testers: a special thanks go out to Paul Jarvis, Curtis Mchale, Rebecca Coleman, Tony Dehnke, Tris Hussey, and Sylvain Marcotte for their feedback during the beta phase.

Second, to the various people who helped with some of the translations: Monica Sprung and Sascia Mayer.

And lastly, to the various people I met during my month long stays in both Morocco and Spain, many of which gave me inspiration and guidance as to new tools to use, or things to ponder late at night while sipping wine by a fire: Sam Thomson, Carrie Chilton, Jon Hormaetxe Castells, Sienna Brown, Anita Oliete, Mili Caviezel,
Clément Roméas, and many more.

I hope you enjoy using Elevate as much as I enjoyed creating it. If you have any issues, please reach out to me and let me know what they are. As it’s new software, and the beta was only limited to about 10 people, I suspect there are still a few bugs that will crop up in the next week or two. But rest assured I’ll address them in a timely matter, and also start pumping out some great new features in the next few weeks.

For more information on Elevate, please visit the main Elevate for WordPress page.

Cheers,
Duane Storey

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