More Gutenberg integrations, eCommerce solutions and an updated Roadmap

Today’s edition of my roundup consists of lots of little interesting bits and updates. It’s been a relatively quiet week, as far as news from the WordPress Community is concerned. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to share! Let’s talk some more about Gutenberg integrations and eCommerce solutions!

More Gutenberg integrations

In my previous Roundup, I listed a couple of interesting Gutenberg related solutions, and quite a few people reached out to me privately that they’d like to see this more often.

MathML Block

So, with that in mind, I’d like to share Adam Silverstein’s MathML block for Gutenberg. This Gutenberg block uses MathJax to render MathML formulas in the editor and on the front end of a website. It’s a niche plugin, for sure, but a very cool one for those of us that need to display fancy math formulas on our sites.

CoBlocks

You may think that Gutenberg isn’t quite ready yet for building full web pages, but Rich Tabor suggests otherwise. With more than a dozen custom blocks already available in his CoBlocks plugin, the addition of Row and Columns blocks takes things to the next level. You can now add one, two, three, or four column block areas and, with that, start crafting beautiful web pages within the block editor.

WordPress Roadmap

As you may have read in my previous Roundup, Joost took on a new role for the WordPress Project as Marketing & Communications Lead of WordPress. One of the first things he managed to get done in his new role is a much-needed update to the WordPress Roadmap. If you have never read it, now would be a good time, as it now clearly lists the 9 priorities for 2019.

WordPress and eCommerce

Extending your WordPress site with an eCommerce plugin nowadays is quite easy to do. Especially with one of the two largest eCommerce solutions out there for WordPress: EDD and WooCommerce. And even though there’s very little you cannot do with either of those two plugins, there’s always room for more options. One of the companies seeing room for improvement is BigCommerce. They’ve been around for a while, but recent updates to their plugin make their solution more interesting. Check out their recent announcement post to see what makes them stand out.

Bonus read

There’s one more thing I’d like to share. I came across an interview with Ernst Pfauth that I’d like to share with you. Even though this only slightly touches WordPress, I do think you’ll find it interesting. Ernst is co-founder and CEO of The Correspondent. And no, that’s not built on WordPress, but Ernst did start using WordPress back in 2006. The interview, over at our friends from Post Status, has lots of great insights that I think are also relevant for our WordPress world.

The post More Gutenberg integrations, eCommerce solutions and an updated Roadmap appeared first on Yoast.

Meet Yoast’s new CEO: Marieke van de Rakt!

As of today, Marieke van de Rakt will be the new CEO of Yoast. Marieke, founder of Yoast Academy and former Chief Strategy Officer at Yoast, is thrilled to take on her new role and officially lead the company. Joost de Valk, former CEO and founder of Yoast, will start focusing mostly on software development, as the new Chief Product Officer of Yoast. Alongside that, he’ll be leading marketing and communications for WordPress, as his second job.

Yoast’s new CEO: Marieke

Marieke is the founder of Yoast Academy, the SEO training portal of Yoast. She joined the company in 2013 after obtaining her Ph.D. in Social Sciences and working at various universities. In 2015, she started developing Yoast’s first SEO training: Basic SEO. Soon other courses followed. Today, Yoast offers an impressive portfolio of SEO courses, tailored to the specific needs of people wanting to learn about SEO.

In 2014, Marieke joined the board. She took on the role of CSO and was heavily involved in the company’s strategy for growth, being responsible for content, marketing, research and project management. In fact, as Marieke wrote on her blog, she has already been acting as the CEO for a while now:

“In many ways, I was already the CEO. Among the four of us, I am the one most thinking ahead. I am the one most concerned with company culture. I am the one who’s often leading the way. That does not mean I decided upon the route though. That’s something we do among the four of us. Still, I was the one proposing to my partners that we needed to make decisions.”

So will big changes take place? This is what Marieke says about it:

“I don’t think there will be big changes inside our organization. Things will pretty much keep running the way they were always running…. [However,] I am very curious to what extent people will treat me any different now that I am the CEO of Yoast. For a lot of people outside of Yoast, it was not very clear what my role at Yoast was. The job title of CEO will perhaps be a door opener for me.”

The mission of Yoast is SEO for everyone. That mission will not change as Marieke takes the lead.

‘We want to help people to create websites that rank in the search engines, with software and by learning people about SEO. We have big plans for 2019, making SEO more actionable and understandable for everyone.’

One thing’s for sure: She’ll do “this CEO-thing” her way, as she says in her blog post.

Yoast’s new CPO: Joost

Joost is the founder of the company Yoast and brain behind the very successful Yoast SEO plugin. Since he founded Yoast in 2010, he has been the CEO. Today, he’s stepping down and handing over this position to Marieke. He’s very confident she’ll do an outstanding job as CEO, as he says in his post:

“In many ways, Marieke is way more suited to be CEO than I am. She has so much more structure and isn’t as likely as I am to go “oh squirrel!” and forget about the important stuff. I’m sure she’ll continue to be excellent in her new role.”

Starting today, Joost will focus again on what he loves most: software development. As Chief Product Officer of Yoast, he’ll dedicate his time to further development of great tools which allow people to rank higher in the search engines.

“Having to worry less about stuff that needs my signature and other painful sides of being CEO will free me up to work on the core product more. I’m still super proud of Yoast SEO and look forward to working on it for years to come.”

In addition to that, Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, appointed Joost as the Marketing and Communications lead at WordPress. An opportunity Joost took with both hands:

“I think WordPress is one of the most essential platforms on the web and I’m really proud to be able to do my part for it. I have been in the WordPress community for well over a decade now. In that time I’ve done a lot of different things but I think this will be my biggest challenge yet.”

Want to know all about Joost’s plans for WordPress? Read his post Leading marketing and communications for WordPress on his blog.

The Yoast board

The Yoast Board: Michiel, Marieke, Joost and Omar

The Yoast board: Michiel, Marieke, Joost and Omar. Photo by Eveline van Elk.

The Yoast board exists of 4 people: as of today Marieke van de Rakt will take on the role of CEO and Joost de Valk will be CPO. Michiel Heijmans continues to be COO and Omar Reiss remains CTO.

Read more: Yoast’s mission: SEO for everyone »

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7 reasons to come to YoastCon

Tickets to YoastCon are selling very quickly! And people from all over the world will be joining us. We’ve sold tickets to a lot of people from the Netherlands and from the US. But we will also be welcoming people from Belgium, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Israel, South-Africa and even people from Brazil and Senegal. And for at least 7 good reasons.

1. Google and Bing will be there!

Google’s WordPress team will be at YoasCon. They’ll fly in both from Silicon Valley and from Switzerland. Bing is also sending search experts. Both companies will present on stage. At Yoast, we communicate and often work together with the largest search engines, making sure our plugin does exactly what it should do to get your site ranking. Want to hear what Google and Bing have to say about SEO?  YoastCon is the place to be!

2. Intimate event

Lots of SEO conference are really large (with over 1000 attendees). We’re planning for an intimate event (with about 400 attendees). Most of our speakers will be at the conference for both days. You’ll have every chance to ask questions or to even talk to them in person.

3. Hang out with the Yoasters

We would really like to meet our audience. We love to meet people who read our blog and use our plugin. Do you have any questions about our plugin? We have a support booth open the entire conference. You can ask us anything! Please come by and tell us what you like and dislike about our plugin. Or just hang out with us, play some foosball or have a few drinks.

4. Food and drinks will be great

Lunch and drinks are included. As well as coffee and some treats. On both days, we’ll end our conference with drinks. Great food, great drinks, and great opportunities to meet new and inspiring people.

5. That awesome line up of speakers

I’ve written about it before; you do not want to miss our amazing speakers. The line up of YoastCon 2019 is so very awesome. Alberto Medina from Google, Rand Fishkin, Aleyda Solis and Jono Alderson at one conference. And that’s only four of them. Unbelievable.

6. Practical workshops

Inspiring keynote talks are great, but if you want some practical help with your SEO, YoastCon is also the place to go. We have some amazing workshops prepared. I just finished preparing 3 workshops on SEO copywriting, site structure and keyword research. In these workshops, we’ll really help you get started with a practical aspect of SEO. We’ll make sure it is completely applied to your very own unique situation, so you’ll go home with actual results!

7. The venue and Nijmegen

Not convinced yet? YoastCon will be in Nijmegen in de Vereeniging, which is one of the most beautiful concert halls of the Netherlands. And Nijmegen, that’s where I was born. Very laid back, very welcoming, very awesome. The venue is located in the city center, and there are countless bars and restaurants to get some dinner or to hang out after our conference.

Get your YoastCon ticket nowOnly €499 (ex VAT) - limited availability!

Still not convinced? Check out the after movie of the previous edition of YoastCon! Hope to see you on February 7th!

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What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (or ‘GSC’ for short) lets webmasters monitor and manage their websites through an official portal, and is crammed full with useful statistics. Having access to tools and data provided directly by the search engines can make optimizing your website much easier!

It’s a communication channel

Search Console accounts are the main, and official way in which Google communicates with individual site owners. By having a registered account, Google can send webmasters information about site issues, errors, or even penalties. It also provides some limited tools to allow you to contact them about site issues and feature requests.

It’s a control center

If you’re actively optimizing your website, you’ll understand that SEO is never ‘finished’. You need to be continually improving your content, refining your site settings, and minimizing your errors.

Search Console provides tools which help with this day-to-day management. It lets you do things like submit and monitor your XML sitemaps, ask Google to (re)evaluate your errors, or see how Google sees particular pages and URLs on your site.

XML Sitemap management in Google Search Console

It’s a performance dashboard

Your GSC account is full of useful information about how your website is shown and performing in search results. From mobile usability reports to visibility and clickthrough tracking, and much more.

If you’re serious about managing and optimizing your website, your GSC account is your nerve center for understanding when, where and how your site is appearing in Google.

Performance overview in Google Search Console

It’s a data source

Most of the data in Google Search Console can be extracted and integrated into other systems, like Google Analytics, and Yoast SEO!

That means that, if you’re running a Yoast SEO plugin, you can integrate some of your GSC data directly into your website. This can make it much easier to manage your errors, analysis, and redirects!

Check out our great guide on how to get that hooked up, and how to take advantage of the integration.

Ready to get started?

Anybody who runs or manages a website should be able to access a Google Search Console account, for free.

There are a few different ways to create and authorize your account, but the easiest is to integrate through Yoast SEO – just follow this quick guide to get things running!

Once you’re all set up, why not take a tour around Google Search Console with our great beginner’s guide?

The post What is Google Search Console? appeared first on Yoast.

Yoast SEO 9.5: Hej Sverige!

It’s great to help people write better content in their own language. Of course, Yoast SEO works with any language, but languages that have full readability support get access to an even better content analysis. In Yoast SEO 9.5, we’re adding a new language to our roster: Swedish! In addition, we also improved the transition word support for German. Find out what else is new in Yoast SEO 9.5.

An improved understanding of Swedish

There’s an ever-increasing quest for quality. We know customers value a flawless piece of content aimed at wherever they are in their journey to find out what they need. But, we’re also increasingly aware of how much search engines value a great piece of content — and they can judge quality more easily every day. Luckily, our content tools can help you improve your content. What’s more, the Yoast SEO content analysis even has checks that are tailored to specific languages. Today, we’re adding a new one: Swedish.

Swedish joins a growing list of language that fully supports the specific Yoast SEO readability checks. The list as of today consists of English, Russian, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish and French, with more on the way. For these languages, we understand and recognize, among other things transition words and passive voice, so we can calculate an accurate Flesch Reading Ease score, give relevant suggestions for related links and generally give better feedback on how to improve your writing. English language users can also enjoy the awesome word form support, which we’re developing for other languages as well.

Besides providing readability support, we’re also improving the keyword functionality. This means that we can make a distinction between content words and function words, so we can provide better feedback based on words that have true meaning.

Reminder: Help us test a new SEO analysis!

Almost 80.000 people are helping us beta test the new SEO analysis that will arrive in Yoast SEO 10.0. Can we add you to the list? The more the merrier!

Our new analysis is the result of months of hard work by a dedicated team of experts looking to align the plugin with research. This gave us a lot of insights into what works and what doesn’t, what’s old and outdated and what’s missing. We used these insights to improve the analysis in Yoast SEO. At the moment, we’re testing this before we roll it out.

You can start testing by switching on the toggle in SEO > General > Features. You’ll be added to a special mailing list which we only use to send you a couple of questionnaires. Read all about the upcoming changes in Yoast SEO and more about why you should help us test.

Update to Yoast SEO 9.5

While Yoast SEO 9.5 mostly consists of bug fixes and enhancements — which you can find in the changelog —, we’ve added a new language to our roster and updated support for German. Flawless content is incredibly important in this day and age and we hope our tools can help you to improve yours!

If you haven’t signed up for testing the new analysis of Yoast SEO, please do. Together we’ll make Yoast SEO 10 an incredible release. Thanks!

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WordPress 5.1 Beta 2

WordPress 5.1 Beta 2 is now available!

This software is still in development, so we don’t recommend you run it on a production site. Consider setting up a test site to play with the new version.

There are two ways to test the WordPress 5.1 beta: try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want to select the “bleeding edge nightlies” option), or you can download the beta here (zip).

WordPress 5.1 is slated for release on February 21, and we need your help to get there!

Over 110 tickets have been closed since beta 1, many of which are documentation and testing suite improvements. Here are the major changes and bug fixes:

  • Several refinements and bug fixes related to the Site Health project have been made.
  • The pre_render_block and render_block_data filters have been introduced allowing plugins to override block attribute values (#45451, dev note coming soon).
  • get_template_part() will now return a value indicating whether a template file was found and loaded (#40969).
  • A notice will now be triggered when developers incorrectly register REST API endpoints (related dev note).
  • Bulk editing posts will no longer unintentionally change a post’s post format (#44914)
  • Twemoji has been updated to the latest version, 11.2.0 (#45133).
  • A bug preventing the Custom Fields meta box from being enabled has been fixed (#46028).
  • The treatment of orderby values for post__in, post_parent__in, and post_name__in has been standardized (#38034).
  • When updating language packs, old language packs are now correctly deleted to avoid filling up disk space (#45468).

Developer Notes

WordPress 5.1 has many changes aimed at polishing the developer experience. To keep you informed, we publish developers notes on the Make WordPress Core blog throughout the release cycle. Subscribe to the Make WordPress Core blog for updates over the coming weeks, detailing other changes in 5.1 that you should be aware of.

How to Help

Do you speak a language other than English? Help us translate WordPress into more than 100 languages! The beta 2 release als marks the soft string freeze point of the 5.1 release schedule.

If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We’d love to hear from you! If you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on WordPress Trac, where you can also find a list of known bugs.


Do you enjoy bugs?
I don’t. So, we fixed them all.
Well, not all. But close.

New roles in the WordPress project, blocks and WordPress 5.1

Today’s roundup is a nice collection of interesting things that happened in the WordPress Community in the last couple of weeks. There’s some very exciting news about expanding the WordPress leadership team and I’ll discuss a couple of new features of the next version of WordPress.

Expanding WordPress Leadership

Matt Mullenweg published a post this week on the Make WordPress site where he announced two new roles to be added to the WordPress Leadership team. The first new role is that of Executive Director and will be taken on by Josepha Haden. The second role is that of Marketing & Communications Lead and our very own Joost de Valk will be taking on that role. This is what Joost had to say about it:

WordPress is paving the cowpaths for the web with projects like Gutenberg, I’m looking forward to leading marketing & comms for WordPress and working with everybody to tell the story of this awesome project and community.

Both new roles combined mark a great step forward for the growth of the WordPress Project as a whole.

Genesis 2.8 introduces Gutenberg based onboarding feature

Genesis, the leading theme framework, has introduced an onboarding feature that is based on Gutenberg. Basically, a set of preformatted and configured blocks (called Block Templates) are made available when you activate a Genesis Child Theme. This is what they had to say about it in the Genesis 2.8 announcement post:

Genesis 2.8 includes a new onboarding feature theme that authors can use to define which demo content is loaded when a user installs a new theme. One-Click Demo Install makes it easy for theme authors to load in plugins and perfectly-designed Gutenberg blocks onto the home page of a new site using that theme.

 

The Gutenberg project may have had some people doubting over the need for a new editor, but integrations like this – alongside an improved editing experience – that make it awesome. And this is only the beginning: it’s one of the first types of integrations like this.

Block plugins

In fact, there are already a couple of really interesting plugins out there that provide for extra custom blocks. We, of course, have our own Yoast SEO How-To and FAQ block (and there are many more on their way), but here are six interesting block providing plugins you should definitely check out:

As I’ve mentioned in a previous roundup, WordPress.org has a dedicated view for plugins that provide blocks as a library or as an enhancement to their already existing core functionality. You should definitely check that out if you haven’t already.

What next for WordPress 5.1

The next WordPress release is called 5.1 and is scheduled for the 21st of February 2019. The work for 5.1 began long before the launch of WordPress 5.0 and therefore it’ll have two very interesting features:

Fatal Error Protection

WordPress 5.1 will introduce a so-called WSOD protection (white-screen-of-death protection). This feature will recognize when a fatal error occurs, and which plugin or theme is causing it. With this new feature, you’ll still be able to access the WordPress Dashboard and the respective plugin or theme will be paused. This allows users to still log in to their site so that they can at least temporarily fix the problem.

PHP upgrade notice

If your site is still running on an old and insecure version of PHP, WordPress 5.1 will let you know after the upgrade. The lowest PHP version still receiving security updates is currently 7.1. This means all the PHP 5.x versions are outdated and insecure and the PHP upgrade notice is intended to get people to have their hosting companies change the PHP version. With the latest PHP versions seriously boosting your performance as well, trust me, you want to be on the latest and greatest, as it will make your site faster.

You can read more about these features in Felix Arntz’s introduction post on the Make WordPress Core blog. And that’s it for this roundup. What are you most excited about?

The post New roles in the WordPress project, blocks and WordPress 5.1 appeared first on Yoast.

On Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0

A while ago, we gave the advice not to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 as it was nearing release. I’m happy to say that as of about a week ago, we feel we’re happy for everyone to move to WordPress 5.0 and start using Gutenberg. Of course, we still advise you to make sure you test how it works for your site, first!

We were honestly scared of the WordPress 5.0 release. As it turned out, there were some serious performance issues within Gutenberg that needed addressing. But, all of those have since been addressed. The overall load on our support team has honestly been negligible. WordPress 5.0.3, the current release as of me writing this, is good. In fact, you can get the best version of Yoast SEO we have right now by upgrading to 5.0 and starting to use Gutenberg.

Working with Gutenberg is very nice. In fact, our content team here at Yoast, who were also skeptical in the beginning, have been asking for the team to enable Gutenberg on yoast.com. I think that’s a testament to how awesome it is and I look forward to improving Yoast SEO in it even more!

Read more: WordPress 5.0:What is Gutenberg? »

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Networking for bloggers: why, how and where

As a blogger, you are probably doing your best to grow your audience on a daily basis. You’re optimizing for Google, Pinterest, social media and you do your best to set up and maintain a social media strategy. But, if you want to take your blog to the next level, there’ll come a point you will need the help of your fellow bloggers. In this post, I will explain why you need a network, as well as how and where to build it.

Want to expand your network? YoastCon 2019 is the perfect occasion to grow your network. Meet like-minded people and work on your blog’s SEO at the same time! Don’t worry about going alone, we even have single tables where you can get in touch with fellow bloggers, site owners and Yoast folks easily. See you on February 7 & 8 in Nijmegen! 

Why you need to network as a blogger

We all know that writing is one of the most lonely professions in the world. Although blogging may not seem as lonely at first glance – you engage with your readers on a daily basis – there’s a high chance you work alone.

As a writer, you often live inside your head. Your audience will only ever see your end result: a blog post or social media post. They won’t see the process of you thinking up your idea, killing your darlings or debating whether to write a certain article. You often take those decisions by yourself, or run them by your spouse or best friend.

While this is a valid approach, someone who is not ‘in the business’, can only help to a certain extent. While it’s often worth it to discuss certain ideas with your personal network, you’ll probably only ever touch the surface.

You might, for example, contemplate archiving your entire Instagram profile to start with a clean slate. Your best friend thinks you’re stupid, while you see bloggers around you do this and grow their following rapidly over the course of several months. And you might be left wondering if you’re cut out for this thing called ‘becoming an influencer’. If you’re at this point, you need a network of people who are like-minded.

At Yoast, I have a lot of colleagues to talk to whenever I need help. I know which person I should ask about SEO, which person knows a lot about Google Analytics and who can help me out when I broke my laptop – again. You need that kind of network for your blog as well. It’s very helpful to create a network so you can discuss certain topics: from SEO to developing websites, and from press releases to personal invitations. If you want to grow, you need a network.

How to network as a blogger

Truth be told, we’re in it for us. This means that everyone you’ll meet, is in it to gain something for themselves. This could be knowledge, reputation, information, cash, products or something else.

Knowing this, you’ll understand you can’t just go to someone you don’t know and ask them for that piece of information you want. You might not get an answer or, in the unlikely chance you do get one, it probably is an evasive one. You need to adopt an open source kind of mentality while networking. This means that you’ll share your knowledge with the world and eventually will receive information in return.

I’ll take myself as an example. Although I knew quite a few bloggers online, my network didn’t really grow until I went to a Dutch blog conference last June, to speak about SEO. I told the crowd that I was going to share my secrets with them, and told them, honestly, how weird it felt to do that, because I might very well kill my own blog this way.

Strangely, or perhaps not so strange at all, the opposite happened. My blog took off and with it, my network expanded tremendously. People knew where to find me, how to find me, and, also, that I was willing to help look into issues or questions.

I answered each question I got, because I love helping out. Did I request favors for each question I answered? No. Was I offered help in return for answering questions or solving issues? You bet! Often, I told people not to worry about it, that I loved to help and that I’d be sure to let them know if they could help me out. And I took people up on their offer, twice now. One of them even got me an invite for a press event of the Walt Disney Company – I mean, it’s Disney!

Where to network as a blogger

You might feel very willing to network with your fellow blog colleagues out there, but where to find them? If you’ve been on your own for a very long time, it can be tricky to get started. Don’t worry; there are various places where you can network as a blogger, both offline and online.

Online networking as a blogger

As your blog lives online, the easiest way to create a network is online as well. There are a lot of Facebook groups for bloggers in all sorts of niches and all kinds of languages. They’re created by bloggers like you and me. Try to find the groups where you can help other bloggers. I, myself, am in various groups, where I answer questions about the Yoast SEO plugins, SEO in general, WordPress or technical questions, as these are things I can help others with. In return, people help me when I have questions about Pinterest, Instagram or about certain press events that I’d like to attend.

Offline networking as a blogger

Offline networking is even more important than building a network online. While online it’s perhaps easier to mingle in discussions on forums, Facebook, or in Twitter conversations, the deeper and longer lasting connections will often start offline. Have you considered going to a local WordPress meetup, a WordCamp or a blog event in your city or country? These can be quite valuable – trust me, this is where the good stuff happens! If you’re unsure where to start, let me suggest YoastCon.

YoastCon for offline networking

YoastCon is a conference organized by Yoast. It focuses on SEO for all types of websites. I can guarantee you it will certainly focus on blogs as well! The conference will take place 7 and 8 February 2019 in the Netherlands. You’ll not only learn all there is to know about SEO from the very best in the field, there’s also plenty of networking opportunities.

Value your network!

Networking is not about transactions. It’s about building relationships, about finding the people you wish to work with and affiliate yourself with. It’s extremely valuable to invest in networking and maintaining relationships with your fellow bloggers. You never know when they’ll cross your path again or what you could mean for each other in the future. I would love to hear how you go about this, especially if it’s your fulltime job. And of course, let me know if I’ll see you at YoastCon! I would love to meet and talk in real life.

Read more: Caroline’s Corner: Work on your blog’s foundation »

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How to check site speed

Learning how to check your site speed doesn’t need to be daunting. This short guide will give you the basics, and point you in the right direction.

There’s no single metric

The first thing to understand is that there is no single metric or measurement for ‘speed’. There’s no simple number which you can use to measure how quickly your pages load.

Think about what happens when you load a website. There are lots of different stages and many different parts which can be measured. If the network connection is slow, but the images load quickly, how ‘fast’ is the site? What about the other way around?

Even if you try to simplify all of this to something like “the time it takes until it’s completely loaded“, it’s still tricky to give that a useful number.

For example, a page which takes longer to ‘finish loading’ may provide a functional ‘lightweight’ version while the full page is still downloading in the background. Is that ‘faster’ or ‘slower’ than a website which loads faster, but which I can’t use until it’s finished loading?

The answer is, “it depends”, and there are many different ways in which we can think about or measure ‘site speed’.

Understanding the loading process

From the moment when you click on a link (or hit ‘enter’ in your URL bar), a process begins to load the page you requested.

That process contains many steps, but they can be grouped into broad stages which looks something like this:

The “one second timeline” from Google’s site speed documentation

While Google’s documentation might be a bit ambitious about the timings of these stages, the model is helpful. Essentially, the process can be described as three stages of loading.

1. Network stuff

First up, the physical hardware of your device needs to connect to the Internet. Usually, that involves moving data through transatlantic fibre cables. That means that you’re limited by the speed of light, and how quickly your device can process information.

It’s hard to measure or impact this part of the process!

2. Server stuff

Here, your device asks your server for a page, and the server prepares and returns the response.

This section can get a bit technical, as it’s focused on the performance of server hardware, databases and scripts. You may need to ask for help from your hosting provider or tech team.

We can measure the performance of the server with tools like NewRelic or DataDog, which monitors how your site behaves and responds from the ‘inside’.

They’ll provide charts and metrics around things like slow database queries and slow scripts. Armed with this information, you can get a better understanding if your hosting is up to scratch and if you need to make code changes to your theme/plugins/scripts.

The Query Monitor plugin for WordPress

WordPress has some great plugins for doing this kind of analysis, too – I’m a big fan of Query Monitor. This provides some great insight into which bits of WordPress might be slowing you down – whether it’s your themes, plugins, or environments.

3. Browser stuff

This stage is where the page needs to be constructed, laid out, colored in, and displayed. The way in which images load, in which JavaScript and CSS are processed, and every individual HTML tag on your page affects how quickly things load.

We can monitor some of this from the ‘outside-in’ with tools which scan the website and measure how it loads. We recommend using multiple tools, as they measure things differently, and are useful for different assessments. For example:

  • WebPageTest is great for providing a ‘waterfall’ view of the website, and how all of the assets load.
  • Google PageSpeed Insights is a bit simplistic, but it provides ‘real user metrics’ of your website, straight from Google.
  • Lighthouse for Chrome provides an incredibly sophisticated analysis of the performance and behaviour of the site, but it can be hard to digest!
  • Chrome Developer Console shows you exactly what’s happening as your site loads, on your computer, in your browser.

WebPageTest results for yoast.com

These kinds of tools are great for spotting things like images which need to be optimized, where your CSS or JavaScript is slow, or where you’re waiting for assets to load from other domains.

Universal metrics

Despite all of these moving parts, there are a few universal metrics which make sense for all sites to measure, and optimize for. These are:

  • Time until first byte, which is how long it takes until the server responds with some information. Even if your front-end is blazing fast, this will hold you up. Measure with Query Monitor or NewRelic.
  • Time until first contentful (and meaningful) paint, which is how long it takes for key visual content (e.g., a hero image or a page heading) to appear on the screen. Measure with Lighthouse for Chrome.
  • Time until interactive, which is how long it takes for the experience to be visible, and react to my input. Measure with Lighthouse for Chrome.

These are much more sophisticated metrics than “how long did it take to load”, and, perhaps more importantly, have a user-centric focus. Improving these metrics should correlate directly with user satisfaction, which is super-important for SEO.

A Lighthouse report for yoast.com showing key metrics

You can read more about these metrics in Google’s documentation.

Wrapping this into a process

  1. Use an ‘outside-in’ tool, like WebPageTest to generate a waterfall diagram of how the website loads.
  2. Identify bottlenecks with servers and the back end. Look for slow connection times, slow SSL handshakes, and slow DNS lookups. Use a plugin like Query Monitor, or a service like NewRelic to diagnose what’s holding things up. Make server, hardware, software and script changes.
  3. Identify bottlenecks with the front end. Look for slow loading and processing times on images, scripts and stylesheets. Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse for Chrome for suggestions on how to streamline how the page loads.
  4. Use Lighthouse for Chrome to measure your key metrics, like time until first meaningful paint and time until interactive.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: Improving site speed: Tools and suggestions »

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