Meetup Recap: 8/6/2015

Common Plugins

We got a new question submitted via the website courtesy of Ann-Marie. Her question was:

I know that Jetpack is one of the first plugins a site should have. It was mentioned at the last meeting that Jet Pack may conflict with other plug ins

Could someone speak as to what are the NECESSARY plug ins we should be using? Thanks.

A great question, and one that many people have. With the options we have with WordPress and plugins, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how many choices are out there. The group had a discussion about this question. First, I recommended we not use the word “necessary”, as every WordPress site is different, and even the most common plugins won’t be needed or used on some folks sites.

So with that out of the way, we discussed some of the more common and useful plugins for the vast majority of WP sites.

  • Security Plugins – If comfortable enough, find one and stick with it. (iThemes Security, Sucuri, etc…)
  • SEO Plugins – Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO are the most common. Most prefer Yoast SEO.
  • Backup Plugins – A good safeguard to help you sleep at night, don’t lose all your site’s data. We will be going into more detail about ways to backup and demonstrating them at September’s Meetup (9/3/2015).

Jetpack is a mixed bag in my opinion, as well as others. Some great functionality is included, and some that is very niche and likely not to suit your sites. It can be daunting to disable multiple functions of the plugin at once, but that would be my suggestion if using Jetpack. One positive is that with the amount of installations using it, and the group building it, it is updated often and very well written. So in conclusion for this question, don’t overwhelm yourself worrying about installing all the right plugins. Only install what you find useful, and are comfortable with.

If you’d like to submit a question or topic to discuss at our meetings, simply fill out our Meetup Suggestions form.

WordPress and Robots.txt

We discussed what a robots.txt file is, which is a very simple text file uploaded to your site that Google and other Search Engines will use to know what sections of your site to visit and not visit.

The reason for this discussion is that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of WordPress site owners received messages from Google from Webmaster Tools that stated “Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files“. This is because many WordPress sites have disallowed search engines from indexing the /wp-admin/ and /wp-includes/ folders. There is a really simple fix, that should take care of all of that for you, and quite a few ways to do it. The easiest is to simply edit your robots.txt in your root directory of your public folder (same folder level as your wp-config.php file). Below is the code you’ll want to add.

User-agent: *
Allow: /wp-admin/
Allow: /wp-includes/

This may be a bit overkill for what we need, but it will almost always guarantee that the problem is fixed. You can always look and see if you have additional rules in your robots.txt file. What if you don’t have a robots.txt, or aren’t sure how to use something like FTP to add one? You can use a plugin that allows editing of the file. Yoast SEO is a great one to do that, and many have it installed already.

Once you think you’re all set there, you can use Google Webmaster Tools to go in and check to make sure your changes fixed the issue. Simply use the Fetch as Google feature. You want to leave the url blank to test the homepage, then click on the “Fetch and Render” button. In under a minute it should be done, and clicking will allow you to see the results. If you are blocking elements on your own site, it’s best to fix them, and Fetch & Render again. Most sites will show a small list of resources that don’t load. If the urls shown aren’t on your site specifically, you’re good to go. If you see any with your sites URL in that list of resources that Googlebot cannot access, you’ll want to try to figure out why, and fix them.

Displaying Custom Ads and Banners

Connie had a question on how to add and rotate new advertisements that she sells directly for her website. We installed the Kento Ads Rotator plugin. This was simply the first result in the plugins search on that was recently updated. There are many options out there, including paid plugins that help by adding support for questions and concerns. Most of the plugins dealing with Ads, will have either shortcodes or widgets (often a combination of both) that let you decide where to put your ads, and group them into locations as well.

The Read More Tag

First-timer Eric had a question on how to use the Read More tag. The Read More tag is a great tool to use to show users a certain amount of a post or page when it is in page with other posts or pages (for example; your category pages, or archive, or the most recent blog entries). What makes it great is you can choose exactly where you want this tag to stop the text, and insert a “Continue Reading” (or similar) link to take users to the entire post or page. Using it is quite simple once you know where to look. Simply put your cursor on the spot you want to insert the Read More tag, and then click on the Icon (pictured below).