WooCommerce 3.6, AMP plugin update, WPGraphQL and WordPress news

It’s time for another roundup, packed with updates. Today’s headlines: WooCommerce finally embracing the Gutenberg editor fully, AMP for WordPress delivering great improvements with their new update and an introduction to WPGraphQL. So much WordPress news to cover!

WooCommerce 3.6 Loves Gutenberg

WooCommerce saw an update that delivers much better integration with the new Block Editor. This update introduces blocks for Products by Category, Best Selling Products, Hand-picked Products, Newest Products, On Sale Products, Top-Rated Products, Products by Attribute and Featured Product. And I’ve got to say, having these blocks available is a huge improvement in this Gutenberg-powered era.

It’s also really good to see WooCommerce working hard on improving performance. That’s something we at Yoast are big fans of, and highly recommend all developers to have a strong focus on. You can learn more about WooCommerce 3.6 in their introductory post.

Big update for the AMP plugin

The AMP project aims to make the web faster. And that’s exactly what the new 1.1 release does. The WordPress AMP plugin saw some nice new features and bug fixes. I’m especially happy that the image rendering bug has been fixed.

WPGraphQL making strides!

If you haven’t yet heard of GraphQL, or its WordPress equivalent, WPGraphQL, I encourage you to check out this data query solution. It’s a very performant way to work with WordPress data.

With GraphQL, the client makes declarative queries, asking for the exact data needed, and in exactly what was asked for is given in response, nothing more. This allows the client to have control over their application and allows the GraphQL server to perform more efficiently by only fetching the resources requested.

WPGraphQL

They released a WPGraphQL integration plugin with ACF last week. This plugin makes working with custom data provided by ACF a very smooth experience, with a lot of potential.

WordPress and mental health

There’s a project growing inside the WordPress Community that deserves a bit more exposure: WP&UP. It aims to support and promote positive mental health within the WordPress community. From their website:

WP&UP recognizes that members of the WordPress community can potentially manifest mental health issues from a variety of pressures. The WP&UP Health Hubs are designed to provide holistic support for the individual.

WP&UP website

During WordCamp London, I met the team recently and learned more about their mission and goal. If mental health is (or should be) a focus of yours, do check out their website and see how they can help you.

WordPress 5.2 postponed for one week

Looks like the Release Candidate for WordPress 5.2 is going to be delayed for a week. And this invariably means the release itself is going to be postponed as well. So, what to do with all this extra time?! Well, you can start reading up on the Block Editor changes in WordPress 5.2 or a good summary of the new Fatal Error Recovery Mode in 5.2.

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PHP requirement for WordPress, WooCommerce dashboard and Gutenberg 5.4

Today’s roundup is all about various upcoming updates across the WordPress ecosphere. From WordPress itself to Gutenberg, PHP, and WooCommerce. Let’s get started!

WordPress wants you to update your PHP

If you’ve been following my roundups, you may recall that WordPress is finally bumping its minimum PHP requirement in the upcoming WordPress 5.2 release. I usually don’t like to repeat myself, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Partly, because there now is a post on WordPress.org by Aaron Jorbin. In it he says the following:

If your site is running on an unsupported version of PHP, the WordPress updater will not offer WordPress 5.2 to your site. If you attempt to update WordPress manually, that update will fail. To continue using the latest features of WordPress you must update to a newer version of PHP.

WordPress.org

More information about what this means for you, why you should want to upgrade anyway, and how to prepare can be found in the rest of the post. I highly encourage you to read it.

A new WooCommerce Dashboard is in the making

WooCommerce, the most popular e-commerce solution for WordPress, has shared some interesting news about a new feature. They’re going to completely overhaul the WooCommerce dashboard.

It will give store owners a quick overview of how their store is performing and the ability to customize the dashboard to their needs. Store owners can view charted data directly from the Dashboard via 14 different data points, and select any chart to load an associated report for deeper analysis.

With those 14 data points, store owners can track performance with statistics, analytics, and other reports

WooCommerce is bundling this new dashboard in a feature plugin which you can download for testing. Read all about it in their announcement post.

Gutenberg 5.4

Last but not least, let’s look at the progress in Gutenberg. From the Make WordPress Core blog:

Foundational work and initial UI explorations to implement the block-based widgets screen are on-going. In the meantime, the contributors worked on a number of bug fixes and improvements. All the bug-fixes will be included in the next beta of WordPress 5.2.

Meaning, even though the features added up until Gutenberg 5.3 will be added to WordPress 5.2, bug-fixes found to those features are still being included to the betas.

If you’d like to read more about how Gutenberg 5.4 now supports vertical alignment for the columns block – and more – you can do so here.

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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?

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The Parrot Place

This site is for a thriving wife-and-husband business in Kerikeri, http://theparrotplace.co.nz, a bird park and breeding centre also selling pet products online.

Their WordPress-driven site had been using an outdated e-commerce system. Urban Legend converted it to the now-standard WooCommerce, which streamlines product management for the site owner, and vastly improves site useability for visitors.

We designed and coded the new theme, which went live in June 2016, based on the business’ colour motifs and logo.

Product Page SEO

Besides optimizing your product pages for user experience, you want to make sure these pages are as good as possible for SEO as well. Obviously, you might think. In this post, I’ll show you two not so obvious (at least for most website owners) elements of product page SEO and tell you why it’s so important to take these things into account.

product page SEO - beware of the panda and penguinBasics of product page SEO

A product page is a page as well, so all the SEO things that matter for your content page, go for product pages as well:

  • Add a great title, focusing on the product name (including a manufacturer name, if applicable). If your product is, for instance, a small part of a larger machine (screw, tube), include the SKU as well. People might search that specific. I would.
  • Add a proper description of the product. Most of the times, that isn’t the description the manufacturer shipped with the product. That description might be used on hundreds of websites, only to be duplicate content and a sign of low quality for your website (to Google). Prevent duplicate content due to manufacturer descriptions at all times. If all your content (content pages, category pages, blog) is unique, and the content used on thousands of product pages isn’t, most of your site isn’t. Think about that and don’t take that lightly. Google’s collection of black and white animals is waiting for you. Create unique content.
  • Add an inviting meta description. Usually, a product page contains a lot of general information as well, varying from dimensions to terms of service. To avoid Google using that unrelated text in a meta description, you want to add a meta description to your product pages, even more than to content pages. In most cases we have come across in our website reviews, meta descriptions are added in some kind of templated way, where just the product name is changed per product. That’s ok to start with, but ideally all meta descriptions are unique.
  • Add images with proper ALT text. Include the product name in at least the main product image.
  • Add all the things mentioned in my Product Page UX post. UX is an important part of holistic SEO.

You can go even more into detail when discussing product page SEO, but for now this will be your basic optimization. The remainder of this post will be about some more technical product page SEO. I’ll show and explain a bit about schema.org data and Open Graph data for your product page.

Schema.org/Product

I’ll jump right in by showing you this example from our valued customer Arnoldservice.com:

Product Page SEO: Schema.org in Arnoldservice.comClick to enlarge.

What are we seeing here? I highlighted two parts. These two parts show schema.org declarations for product elements. The importance of this for your product page SEO is that the major search engines came up with this markup, not the W3C consortium. Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex agreed upon this markup, so they could identify product pages and all the product elements / characteristics more easily. Why would they want that? So they could a) index these pages a lot better and b) show you rich snippets like this:

Product Page SEO: Arnoldservice.com in Google

Schema.org markup consists roughly of two main items:

  1. The itemscope (the type of schema declaration)
  2. The itemprop(s) (the elements within that specific schema)

For Arnold’s Services, there are two itemscopes in this example, being Product and Offer:

  •  The Product schema, or Product itemscope, tells the search engine more about the product. It could include characteristics like product description, manufacturer, brand, name, dimensions, and color, but also the SKU I mentioned earlier.
  • The Offer schema includes more information on price and availability, like currency and stock. It can even include your accepted payments in an itemprop called acceptedPaymentMethod.

I have to say that there are a lot of options that I haven’t seen used in a website, to be honest. There’s a lot that can be declared, but it’s usually just the basics that are included in the templates of webshops.

As you might have noticed, Google actually picked up on the Schema items:

Product Page SEO: Schema in Google

That is why you want to add Schema.org data for Product Page SEO: easier to recognize for Google, and it makes sure to include important extra’s in Google already. This is actually also expectation management. Your visitor knows your price up front, and knows that the product is in stock. How’s that for user experience!

Open Graph Product tags & Twitter’s Products Card

Open Graph tags and Twitter Cards are actually pretty similar to schema.org markup. It divides the product page into easy-to-digest chunks, but this time these chunks are not for Google, but for social websites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

You can highlight things like product images, and prices and availability. For WordPress websites, we have developed a plugin, Yoast WooCommerce SEO, that will make this a breeze.

In the next example, you’ll find og:type and twitter:card. These are similar to the itemscope in schema.org. These items tell the social media platform that the page is about a product. Click the image below to enlarge it.

Product Page SEO: OpenGraphs and Twitter Card

In the screenshot above – which is actually the same product page as the examples used at schema.org – I’ve highlighted the elements that matter for product page SEO that aren’t included in other pages. og:title / twitter:title is the product name, og:description / twitter:description is the product description. These elements have the same function in content pages. It will show the title and description as used in for instance Facebook posts.

Note that “adding Open Graph tags to your website won’t directly affect your on-page SEO, but it will influence the performance of your links on social media, so that means it’s worth looking into.” The same goes for Twitter Cards.

The extras that are added for making your social sharing a whole lot more attractive and professional, will improve the CTR to your product page. Which helps your product page SEO. Social media is like a conventional marketplace. If people are talking about your products, your products must be worth it. Adding Open Graph tags and Twitter Card data is like providing all the people that share your product with a nicely designed product brochure.

In our plugin, you can set a separate image for this. That is actually pretty important, as Facebook won’t add the image if it isn’t of high quality / large dimensions. Here’s a short overview of the preferred dimensions:

  • Facebook: 1,200 x 628 pixels – validator tool
  • Twitter: 1,024 x 512 pixels – validator tool
  • Pinterest: 735 x 1,102 pixels – validator tool
  • Instagram: 1,080 x 1,080 pixels – uses Facebook’s validator tool

Source: Bufferapp.com

TL;DR

If you’re serious about optimizing our product page SEO, you shouldn’t focus on the regular optimization alone. You’ll have to dig a little deeper into the technical aspects of your product page:

  1. Add schema.org Product tags so Google can easily index all the details about your product and show these in search result pages already.
  2. Add Open Graph tags (for Facebook and Pinterest) and Twitter Card meta data (for Twitter) so social networks will show nice, informative snippets for your products.

Be sure to add all of the above.

Headlamps NZ

The above site, headlamp.co.nzWooCommerce engine, and a theme designed and customised by Urban Legend web.

It features affordable, convenient, powerful head lamps.

It is mobile-friendly, and uses hand-coded additions to a WooCommerce template, as well as HTML5 and elements of Bootstrap.

The design is aimed at a target market for these headlamps – active outdoors people.

VolksArt – Designer T-Shirts

This site, featuring designer T-Shirts for New Zealanders, is designed by Mark Tyrell of Elan Design .

Urban Legend web was contracted to customise the functionality of the WordPress WooCommerce-driven site.

In terms of design, that included a mobile-friendly and heavily-customised theme based on the Gantry framework.

In terms of functionality, the site is again heavily-customised, including;

  • implementing security and content module customisations to WordPress & WooCommerce
  • a two-tier sign-up and pricing system which distinguishes between retailers and shoppers
  • a flexible and user-friendly front-end ordering system which allows buyers to choose mutliple products and variants from a single page

The content is managed by Elan Design.

Google Analytics eCommerce tracking

We’ve rebuilt our Google Analytics eCommerce tracking plugin and added support for WooCommerce! Read on to learn why you should buy it today. If you want to optimize your shops sales, you need to make sure you connect your visitor data to your transaction data. This plugin does just that. We’ve made transaction tracking so reliable that we can now confidently say our plugin should not miss a single sale.

eCommerce tracking allows you to do all sorts of nice reporting in Google Analytics, on which Thijs will be writing a few posts in the coming months, but let me show you the sort of reports you can get just by enabling the plugin and enabling eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics:

eCommerce overview - Google Analytics

99.9% reliable eCommerce tracking

Google introduce a new feature with Universal: a collections API that allows us to send calls on the server side instead of with JavaScript. This means that when a customer finishes a transaction, the plugin can immediately track it, instead of hoping the customer will reach the thank you page. The plugin can do this while still connecting the sale to the customers session. Because of that, your Google Analytics eCommerce tracking becomes almost 100% reliable. Almost, because there might be the odd occasion where your server errors in sending the request and we don’t want you suing us ;)

This new tracking method also means that when you refund a transaction, the transaction gets reversed in Google Analytics. This makes your Analytics data even more reliable and therefore much more useful.

This Google Analytics eCommerce tracking extension is the first premium extension specifically made for the new version 5 of our free Google Analytics plugin. From $49 for a single site, you can have the best e-commerce reports available.

Super simple installation

The plugin has no settings. You install, activate, enter your license key and activate the license so updates will flow in and you’re done:

installed analytics ecommerce tracking

 

WooCommerce bundle

woocommerce logoAs some of you might have noticed, this is our second WooCommerce offering; we also have our WooCommerce SEO plugin. We’ve bundled the two together in a new Yoast WooCommerce bundle for our most loyal users! If you use both our WordPress SEO plugin as well as our Google Analytics plugin this bundle will save you a lot of money.

Check out the Yoast WooCommerce bundle here or read more about the GA eCommerce tracking plugin!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!