Today’s WordPress Watch has a strong focus on the Gutenberg block editor. Two different tweets prompted me to focus on what you can do with the editor a bit more. We’ll discuss improvements to the editor, as well as useful plugins that integrate with the block editor, so I hope you enjoy this edition. Don’t forget to check out the bonus links!
Block editor keeps on getting better
This December is the one year anniversary of the merge of the Gutenberg project in WordPress core. If you’re still postponing moving to the block editor, it’s good to know that it keeps getting better. Not just better at certain things it does – like speed and settings – but also when it comes to options and possibilities.
So, if you want to try the latest and greatest version of the block editor, you can install the Gutenberg plugin in your WordPress site. If you’ve tried it before and it didn’t take, I can guarantee you, you’ll now see a much-improved version of the block editor with the latest version of Gutenberg.
Plugins integrating with the block editor
Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a lot of powerful improvements committed to the Gutenberg plugin, but, we’ve also seen a lot of plugins integrating with the block editor in extremely interesting ways. I’ve already mentioned several of these plugins in some of my previous WordPress Watch posts. Today, I’d like to highlight two specific plugins that have become part of my favorite block editor enhancements. Namely: Editorskit and Atomic Blocks.
Atomic Blocks is one of those plugins that gradually keeps getting better at what it does. This tweet, for example, demonstrates quite nicely what kind of improvements you can find:
Editorskit, just like Atomic Blocks, adds an array of interesting blocks to the editor, but it has a slightly different focus. Find out what they are and what they do here. Technically, you could use both plugins side by side. Editorskit also shared an interesting tweet last week demonstrating their progress:
If you’re still putting off switching to the block editor and you haven’t played around with it lately, now’s a good time to try again.
Andrew Lipattsev from Google shared an interesting tweet highlighting two different kinds of AMP integration success stories.
Have you seen that icon in the search results in front of your website’s URL? It’s visible for most people in mobile results now. So, no excuses, your site needs a good favicon. Luckily, setting a favicon in WordPress is very easy. Here we’ll explain how to change the favicon of your WordPress site!
We’ve been writing about favicons for years. This article about favicons and branding will tell you what you need to think about in that regard. Read it, and make sure your favicon is good and stands out.
It’s Monday, time for a fresh WordPress Watch. We’ve got more news on Twenty Twenty in WordPress 5.3 and there’s an update on what’s going to be the next big focus of the Gutenberg project. There’s also exciting news about the integration of two different solutions. Let’s get to it!
The Block Editor will soon celebrate its first birthday in Core and with every update it grows more capable. The promise of the block editor is to give users the freedom to design and structure their sites as they see fit. The responsibility of a theme is to empower users to create their inspired vision by making the end result look as good, and work as well, as the user intended.
Twenty Twenty is designed with flexibility at its core. If you want to use it for an organization or a business, you can combine columns, groups, and media with wide and full alignments to create dynamic layouts to show off your services or products. If you want to use it for a traditional blog, the centered content column makes it perfect for that as well.
An example of what a blog post in Twenty Twenty will look like was also shared:
Content Areas are the next big thing in Gutenberg
The Gutenberg project and the accompanying plugin has had its biggest focus on the content editor itself. Up until now. Matias Ventura posted a thorough update on what is going to be the next big focus: content areas. In Matias’ own words:
Content areas represent parts of a site where blocks can be added and manipulated. Since content has a very specific meaning in WordPress already, we can also refer to these as block areas more generally to avoid opaqueness. Block areas would include headers, footers, sidebars, and any other meaningful template part outside of the post content that contains blocks.
The rest of the post, and it includes a video and code examples, is an interesting read into the future of where the Gutenberg project is going and how much of a page builder Gutenberg will actually turn into. Spoiler alert: a lot.
LifterLMS meets Elementor
It’s always nice to see deep integrations between two different solutions that instantly make both products better. LifterLMS, one of the most versatile online course and membership software solutions out there, can finally be integrated with Elementor properly.
The folks over at Tangible Plugins built a plugin that bridges both solutions perfectly into one deep integrated solution. Definitely worth checking out if you’re using Elementor!
Smooth integrations with Gutenberg
Came across a tweet from Rich Tabor, creator of the wonderful CoBlocks plugin that highlights a new feature available in the latest Gutenberg plugin. I could write out what it does, but I Rich has included a GIF in his tweet that explains it way better than I could ever put it into words:
WordPress is wonderful! It is a wonderful CMS and with it comes a wonderful community. At Yoast, we’re definitely WordPress fanboys and fangirls. We’re fans of the CMS, fans of the community and fans of all those kickass volunteers. That’s why we’ve decided to introduce a new fund: the Yoast Care fund. Care stands for The Community Appreciation REwards. As of today, we want to celebrate those awesome volunteers with Yoast Care!
What is Yoast Care?
The Yoast Care fund contains money. You can nominate a person who is active in the WordPress community as a volunteer, and if we reward a person with a Yoast Care, they will receive $500. Besides that, we’ll do an interview, which we’ll publish on Yoast.com. In this interview, we want to tell the world about the awesome work someone has been doing as a WordPress volunteer.
Why Yoast Care?
A lot of people at Yoast do work for WordPress and we’re able to pay for most of their time. They do awesome work but also get compensated for it. However, a lot of the people in the WordPress Community are freelancers. And, they don’t have a company that pays the hours they put into our ecosystem. They don’t get compensated for their time or energy at all.
We get it: it’s a lot easier to contribute to WordPress if you get paid for it. But, it’s impossible for Yoast to hire all those volunteers. That wouldn’t be healthy for our business. And, more importantly, those independent volunteers are of tremendous value. Those freelancers, their independent voices: that’s important for the WordPress ecosystem, that’s something we cherish (even though we might disagree with them sometimes ;-)).
We’ve noticed that quite some people in the WordPress community don’t feel appreciated. And, let’s face it: it’s hard to show appreciation to one another in a community that’s scattered around the world. But we should make an effort to do so. We should celebrate each other and each other’s accomplishments a bit more often. We’ve been talking about these things a lot at Yoast and decided to set some money aside to get the Yoast Care started.
What to do?
Do you know somebody who does amazing work in WordPress? Someone, a volunteer, who deserves a bit of recognition? Don’t hesitate to nominate that person!
We’re going to give away Yoast Cares to people that are nominated for it by someone else. You’ll have to fill out our form and explain why this person deserves a Care. Read more about it on our application page.
We’ve set aside $25.000 a year to spend on Yoast Cares. So, we’re really looking forward to receiving those first applications! To whom should we give our very first Yoast Care? Please let us know!
Do you want to know more about how to nominate someone or what our specific conditions are? Read all about it on our application page! And, while you’re at it: don’t forget to read about our diversity fund!
Lots of noteworthy news from WordPress land over the last week. Gutenberg is back on our radar with a new version. I’ll also highlight a new project that’s underway that aims to find a better solution for all those notifications in your WordPress Dashboard. And, there are bonus links. Of course! Let’s dive straight in!
The Cover Block saw two new significant functionalities in Gutenberg 6.4. You can now resize the Cover Block and it’s also possible to use a solid color as a background instead of a video or an image.
Go ahead and try out the new Gutenberg Local Environment, and if you come across any issues, please report them over on the Gutenberg repository.
WP Notify progress
One of the most exciting projects currently underway is the WP Notify project. Its aim is to provide much better handling of any and all notifications you can typically find in your WordPress Dashboard.
Jonathan Bossenger has taken the lead on this project and gives us frequent updates over on Make WordPress Core as well. If you haven’t checked out what the idea behind WP Notify is exactly, you should definitely check out his first recap post. You’ll get a good feel of where the project is headed.
New Prevent Search Engines setting
WordPress 5.3 will introduce a new and much better setting to prevent search engines from indexing sites. Our very own Jono Alderson was involved in making this happen. Read more in this introduction post on Make WordPress Core.
StudioPress released Genesis 3.1 and it has bumped the minimum requirements across the board. It will need WordPress 5.0, PHP 5.6 as a minimum, higher and up-to-date if obviously even better.
A new week, a new WordPress Watch. We saw work for WordPress 5.3 getting properly underway. There was also news about some exciting integrations built to for the Block Editor. And, of course, we have a few bonus links for you as well again today. Let’s see what happened this week in the world of WordPress!
The focus of WordPress 5.3 is on polishing current interactions and making the UIs more user-friendly. And, as I’ve mentioned previously here, there will be a new default theme again; Twenty Twenty. The general idea is that Twenty Twenty will be based on an existing theme that already does cool stuff with the Block Editor and modifying it to fit with the 5.3 release.
If you’d like to see a list of tickets that are slated to be fixed for WordPress 5.3, have a look at this list on Trac.
When it comes to creating blocks for the Gutenberg block editor, I’ve mentioned ACF Blocks a couple of times before. It’s a wonderful solution that allows you to create blocks relatively easy. However, as of last week, I learned there to be another contender for best block creating facilitator. Namely, Block Lab.
A tweet by Steven Cronin alerted me of a talk Luke Carbis, the creator of Block Lab, was giving at WordCamp Brisbane:
To demonstrate the power of his Block Lab solution, Luke asked the audience what custom block he should build. Which he then created during the rest of his presentation. That’s a powerful solution if you ask me. Go check out Block Lab or go straight to the plugin repository and start playing around with it.
Block Permissions add-on for Members plugin
One of the earliest plugins I can remember – and I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 – that extends WordPress’ user management perfectly is Members by Justin Tadlock. Justin mentioned on Twitter that he’s working on an add-on for the plugin that will add block permissions based on the capabilities of the logged-in user.
Meaning, if you’d like to publish content but have certain paragraphs, images, or any block you like, really, only be visible for logged in users, you could do that with that add-on. You can read more about this add-on here.
You might think it would be quiet in the world of WordPress because of the summer holidays, but there are some interesting things beeping on my radar. What about the next major version of WordPress: the 5.3 release? Also, the developers of Atomic Blocks and EditorKits haven’t been loitering around; they’ve added some useful features to these Block editor plugins. Read on!
WordPress 5.3: Planning and scope
The WordPress Core team had a good discussion last week about the next major version of WordPress: 5.3. The general idea is that the 5.3 release will be planned for November 13, a week after WordCamp US. As for the scope of what will be in WordPress 5.3, this is the proposed list of items:
Grouping: Support for dividing your page into sections;
Motion: Support for visual motion when moving/arranging blocks;
Column patterns and widths: Support for fixed column widths, and predefined layouts;
PHP 7.4: Support for the new version coming end of November;
And also: Build/Test updates, better administration of emails, and a lot of under-the-hood improvements!
As you can see, most of these updates are focused on polishing current interactions in WordPress and are aiming to make the UIs more user-friendly.
In the Dev chat for WordPress 5.3 that followed, the new default theme (by the name of, you’ll never guess it, Twenty-Twenty) was mentioned.
Block Editor plugins: New powerful features
It’s been 9 months since we were all introduced to the new Block Editor in project Gutenberg, and it’s been amazing to see what clever integrations people have come up with to extend it. The new features of two existing plugins caught my eye last week: check out these great additions to Atomic Blocks and EditorKit.
Atomic Blocks introduced a new Section and Layout block. It provides pre-designed section and layouts for your site. A very clever way to inject predefined designs to your content. You can check out this video to get an idea of how powerful this feature is.
The other features that caught my eye are part of EditorKit. It’s a plugin that provides a set of block options to extend the way you are building content for WordPress Gutenberg Block Editor. And it, too, has a video showing its options:
As you can see, these two plugins allow for wonderful extensions of the Block Editor. Take them for a spin if you haven’t tried them yet.
We’ve talked about WPGraphQL before here, and for those interested, I discovered a WordPress source theme for Gatsby that uses WPGraphQL on the WordPress end on Github. Check it out if you want to play around with new technologies.
Decided to throw in an SEO link as well as I stumbled upon a pretty awesome resource if you use Google Sheets. It’s called Sheets for Marketers and it features over 100 templates for everything: from on-page SEO to reporting and from scraping to project management.
Imagine you have a website but know nothing about SEO. But you’ve heard about Yoast SEO and people have told you it’s a great tool for effortlessly optimizing your site and its pages for Google, Bing, and Yandex. So you install the Yoast SEO plugin or the Yoast SEO extension and follow the instructions. What’s next? While it’s unlikely that your website will be right at the top of Google within a week, our plugin helps you to optimize your website for search engines. It does that well, but it still needs your input.
This beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO explains the basics of SEO as covered by our plugin. Let’s go through the steps every user should take when trying the Yoast plugin, and take the first steps in optimizing your site.
It’s a beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO
Before we start, take note that this isn’t a guide to every single detail of our plugin. In this post, we’ll show you some important things we think you should use or configure. Our plugin has quite a few settings, so it’s good to know which you should configure first. If you have a site-specific question about a particular setting in the plugin, you could also check out the Yoast Knowledge Base.
The configuration wizard guides you through several steps that help you configure our plugin to suit the needs of your site. Even if your website has already been around for a while, you can still run the wizard every now and then. Just to make sure your settings are up to date. Each step of the wizard includes questions, the answers to which will determine particular settings.
Of course, there are many aspects to SEO, and many more settings you could tweak in the plugin. But we set the configuration wizard in such a way that it already configures the plugin’s general settings correctly for your website. So you can focus on what’s most important – your content!
Using the Yoast SEO metabox
Of course, any Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO should extensively cover the metabox. The Yoast SEO metabox will help you optimize your content as you’re writing it in the backend. If you’re using the Block Editor, you’ll find the it on the right side of the editor, as well as underneath the editor. Here, you’ll find a few tabs, two of which we’ll discuss here.
A tab where you can insert the word or phrase you want to optimize the page for – the focus keyphrase. This tab also includes the SEO analysis.
A tab for the readability analysis. The checks in this tab help you write the best copy you can, so you can serve your audience great content.
Let’s go through the checks in each tab, and explore which other things you can set in the metabox.
The readability analysis
The first step in optimizing your post or page is making sure it’s nice to read for your audience. Since SEO is one of those areas where content is indeed king, we provide a convenient readability analysis for you. That’s because we understand not everyone has the skills to easily create readable content. Use the readability analysis when you’re writing a new post, or directly after, depending on what works best for you.
Now let’s see what’s in our readability analysis:
As you can see, we analyse many different aspects of your text:
Why is readability important?
If you’re going to write website content, you need to understand that online and offline writing are two different things. While we take the time to sit down and read the great stories in books, or the articles in magazines, we tend to quickly scan, process and use the things we read online. This post isn’t a page in a book. It’s information for you to process, like most online pages are, and we wrote our readability analysis with that purpose in mind. Check out our post on ease of reading and SEO to find out more!
Government rulings and readability
As you may know, Yoast is based in the Netherlands, where the law requires that the text on all government websites should be at B2: Upper intermediate level. It’s a rule that makes sure that every citizen, regardless of the level of education, can read and understand the information on these websites. We aim to help them with that.
Readability score: the Flesch Reading Ease test makes sure every reader can understand your writing. If you are writing for a more educated audience, a lower score is acceptable – it’s a guideline, you decide how strictly to follow it.
Use of passive voice: passive voice distances you from the reader, while active voice is much more engaging. It’s almost impossible to write a ‘natural’ article without any passive voice at all, which is why we ‘allow’ 10% passive voice in our analysis.
Consecutive sentences: if your text contains three or more sentences in a row all starting with the same word, it may become a bit repetitive. We encourage you to mix things up!
Use of headings and subheadings: Headings help you group topics, which makes a text easier to process, which means that people can scan your pages faster.
Paragraph length: long paragraphs in an online article are more difficult to understand as readers find themselves lost in all the words. Bite-sized chunks of text are easier to process.
Sentence length: while in a book you can stretch a sentence over half a page, shorter sentences are much easier to read online. We use 20 words as a target length.
Use of transition words to help improve the ‘flow’ of your page. They send a signal to your visitors that something is coming up and prepares them for the next sentence. You’ll find that the recommendation of using transition words in 30% of your sentences isn’t that hard to do.
In addition to the checks in the metabox, we provide an editable snippet preview. In the Block Editor, you can find it near the top of the sidebar, or underneath the editor, under the ‘SEO’ tab. The snippet preview shows you how the Yoast plugin displays your page to Google and other search engines. In other words, it gives an idea of how your site would appear in the search results.
In the snippet preview, you can set a meta description. Make an effort and write a meta description that clearly reflect what your post or page is about. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site and entice them to visit your site. There’s no guarantee that Google will display your meta description in the results pages. But if the meta description you add here is very good, you’ll increase the odds.
The next step is optimizing your content for your focus keyphrase to rank in the search engines. You can enter your keyphrase at the top of the sidebar in the block editor, or at the top of the ‘SEO’ tab. Just so we’re clear: entering a keyphrase here doesn’t guarantee that you’ll rank for that keyphrase. Unfortunately, we can’t make that happen for you. What we can do, is evaluate how well your content is optimized to rank for that specific keyphrase.
Our SEO analysis currently includes the following checks:
In the image, you can see how we analyze different aspects of your text:
Keyphrase in subheading: subheadings are a prominent part of your article. Add your focus keyphrase to a few of your subheadings, so its importance is clear.
Keyphrase distribution: you need to mention your keyphrase often enough in your text, but good balance is key. That’s why we check if your keyphrase is evenly distributed throughout your text.
Image alt attributes: add images to create a better experience for your users. Use the focus keyword in the ALT text so that Google can relate that image to the keyword.
SEO title width: a short page title allows you to add a trigger for a visitor from Google to click to your website.
Outbound links: we encourage sites to link to other websites as well, as this opens up the web. Link to other websites that back up the points in your blog posts, or provide further information. This will help Google work out which websites relate to each other on what subjects.
Keyphrase in introduction: you want to make clear right from the start what the page is about, so try to add the focus keyphrase from the start.
Keyphrase length: If a keyword is too short, you’re probably targeting a super competitive keyword, whereas longer keyphrases make it harder to optimize your post. So, we recommend a maximum of four relevant keywords for your focus keyphrase.
Keyphrase density: In the free version of Yoast SEO, you’ll get a green bullet if your keyphrase density lies between 0.5 and 3%. That’s to make sure you use your keyphrase enough, without over-optimizing.
Keyphrase in meta description: add a meta description that includes the focus keyword. People searching for that term on Google may see this in search results, so make it enticing to click on.
Meta description length: We advise to keep your meta description between 120 characters and 156 characters.
Previously used keyphrase: you should optimize a page for a certain keyword – not an entire website. So don’t create pages that compete with each other! Yoast SEO will warn you if you write more than one post about the same keyword. A simple solution is to use a variation or a long tail keyword
Text lenght: if you want your page to rank for a specific keyword, you need to write at least 300 words on the subject. Otherwise, search engines will have a hard time grasping your topic, and might even consider your page ‘thin content‘ – and you want to avoid that.
Keyphrase in title: if you add your focus keyword at the beginning of your page title, it will have the most value. Also, it will immediately stand out when your post is shared
Keyphrase in slug: repeat your focus keyword in your URL. This makes it clear – even out of context – what your page is about. And Google also likes seeing it in there.
Of course, there is so much more you can do with Yoast SEO. You can access and change many settings of the plugin in the Yoast Dashboard. There’s usually no need to change anything. Especially if you’re an inexperienced user, it’s wise to stick to the settings you set running the configuration wizard. But let’s have a quick look around to give you an idea of what the options are.
If you go to Yoast > Search Appearance, you can adjust how your site appears in search engines. Take the ‘Title Separator’, for instance. In the configuration wizard, you can choose whether you want a dash, asterisk, or something else. But, if you change your mind later, you can always change it here.
In ‘Search Appearance’, you can change, among other things, how our plugin sets up your titles and metas. Go to the tab ‘Content Types’, where you will find the default template we use for your post titles. It’s good to know it’s there and realize what you can configure.
This simply means we will use the title of your page or post as the page title, and add the page number if your post is divided over multiple pages. Then we add a title separator (which we discussed in the first paragraph on this section) and then the site name you have set when creating your site. So, following this setup, the title for this Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO post looks like this:
Note that this example doesn’t include a page number after the page title, as this post is just one page.
This is the setup we recommend. It’s focused on the page title (“Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO”) and has proper branding at the end (“Yoast”).
The reason why I’ve drawn your attention to this setting, is that you should know it’s there, so you don’t have to look for it in the future. This is why your titles are shown like this in Google searches.
That’s it for our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. With Yoast SEO properly installed, your website is ready for Google. You now can get on track adding and optimizing your content with the Yoast readability analysis and SEO analysis!
Here’s a few more reading recommendations, in case you really want to become a pro user of the Yoast SEO plugin:
It was another full week with lots of WordPress news. Today, we’re highlighting a cool WordPress newsletter plugin that had a big update. We’ll also see that Gutenberg got yet another polish and we’ll have a bunch of bonus links for you. Let’s check it out!
More Gutenberg refinement
The latest release of Gutenberg, version 6.1, added a lot of refinement to the editor. The two most noticeable changes are animations for when you move blocks, create a new block, delete them or remove them entirely. The second one is a speed optimization for when you’re typing long posts. Making typing 30% faster on long posts!
Block Directory Concept
In a previous roundup, I’ve mentioned work being underway to add an interface to the WordPress Dashboard to add and manage Blocks. Blocks being plugins that add specific functionality to the Block Editor. It was mentioned by Matt Mullenweg during his WordCamp Europe presentation as well. Mel Choyce has now published a lot more details into what this Block Directory could look like over at Make WordPress Core blog. Detailing with lots of screenshots, she demonstrates what the flow of managing blocks on your site could look like. Mind you, they’re still concepts, but you get a good of idea of where this is going!
MailPoet, a second start
Mailpoet is a plugin that allows you to send a newsletter from your WordPress sites. It was quite popular back in the days and disappeared a little bit off our radar. After a long rewrite, their new version seems to be getting traction again. They recently announced a new free plan that includes their in-house sending service. According to Kim Gjerstad, the co-founder, they want to grow their active websites faster. Also noteworthy, 25% of their users are using WooCommerce. Check it out if you’re in the market for a WordPress native newsletter option.
Since WordPress updated their minimum PHP version to 5.6 (for the time being), it has allowed for some updates in PHP Coding Standards as well. Check out what’s been discussed about that last week.
Last week was a busy week, with lots of things happening in the WordPress Community. Which means several different news items to cover today! We’ve got an awesome webinar and two cool plugins to discuss and that’s not all… Let’s get started!
WP-CLI is the command line interface for common WordPress tasks and more. I discussed WP-CLI in a previous post, which you can read if you haven’t heard of it. Alain Schlesser, who is the main developer on the project, will do a live webinar tomorrow, together with SiteGround. You still have time to sign up and it’ll be the best way to learn about this wonderful tool and how to use it.
Ever since WordPress’ new block editor launched, at the end of last year, we’re seeing more and more projects interact with it. Last week, I discovered a plugin that allows you to create a full-screen page in Gutenberg. This looks like an interesting approach to create landing pages with the block editor. If you haven’t seen it, I’d suggest you take a look at the video here.
Microblogging (which is, basically, a way for you to own your short-form content) is very easy to do on platforms like Twitter or Instagram. However, in the world of WordPress, it has become a little cumbersome to log in, go to posts, start a draft, write a few sentences and then go through the publish flow. msgWP is working on a solution for this, by using Telegram messages to be published straight to your WordPress blog. They’ve not yet released their plugin yet, but you can try their demo to see what it’s like.