I recently attended the WordPress national conference, WordCamp US 2016. There was a great line-up of speakers from all areas of the WordPress community. I thought I’d share a few takeaways that apply to local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
The talks by Joost De Valk, founder of Yoast and Maile Ohye of Google, shed some light on the local search area.
- Mobile. Mobile web usage and mobile queries surpass desktop. Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, and location-related mobile searches are growing 50% faster than all mobile searches. If you are not mobile-friendly, do that now!
- Voice Search. As important as mobile is now, we are moving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world. 20% of queries are now done by voice search, and the Google app, for example, now understands speech in 55 languages. The expectation is that you can do more by voice, your context will be understood, and that you can take actions like booking a hotel room using your voice. It’s not only the phone, it’s smart cars and smart home devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not dead. Organic search is still the majority of traffic to most web sites.
- Crawlability. If your website cannot be understood by the search engines then you will not be found. Make sure you get a Google Search Console account for your website to check this.
- Findability. Figure out what people search for – it’s often not the words you use for your product. You will never be found for the words you don’t use on your website! When you create your site, each topic needs its own page or post.
- Optimization. It’s often better to update a well-ranking page or post, than create a new one. Internal links are important, but often overlooked. Craft good titles to get higher results.
- Better Experiences. Less friction in the user experience and more utility is what is important. In January 2017, Google will begin downgrading sites with intrusive pop-up ads because users don’t like the experience.
Users are an impatient bunch. A common theme of talks was that speed matters a lot to user experience.
- DoubleClick found that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes more than three seconds to load.
- Conversion rate decreases when load times increase.
- You need to respect people’s time and be useful.
- Over 100 million Americans do not have access to, or do not subscribe to, high speed internet. This figure includes over one quarter of the population in rural areas. You can’t assume all your visitors have high speed internet.
- Over 60% of mobile traffic is 2G. Mobile LTE speeds are actually decreasing because of increased volume (much like the traffic jam on your commute).
- The AMP Project – Accelerated Mobile Pages are becoming more important. A stripped down version of your web page that loads FAST. Less than 1 second for most pages versus 22 seconds for many typical pages. Stay tuned for more information on this open source project with over 200 contributors.
The Encrypted Web
You’ve seen the little lock on the address bar of websites? That means that the traffic between your browser and the website server is encrypted. The address bar will show HTTPS versus HTTP as the start of the address. The”S” stands for secure. A number of speakers touched on the direction of the web moving to 100% HTTPS traffic.
- 2 years ago Google announced that HTTPS was a ranking signal, and this year more than 30% of the sites on first-page Google results use HTTPS compared to 7% two years ago. Relevant content is still more important in rankings than HTTPS, but having both is better.
- HTTP sites are vulnerable to data being seen and changed by hackers in transit between the user and the browser.
- In January 2017, the Chrome browser will start to label as “Not Secure” any HTTP sites that ask for password or credit card information. HTTPS sites will be labeled “Secure.”
- Today almost 12% of WordPress sites use HTTPS. Starting next year, there will be progressive enhancements to WordPress that will only be available to HTTPS sites.
The Censored Internet
John Gamboa gave an interesting talk on what it’s like to build a website in China. He lived in Shanghai for three years, first working as an English teacher, and then for Microsoft. Some interesting parts:
- China is the largest internet audience in the world but they see a completely different internet than we do.
- The Great Firewall of China censors much of the internet as we know it. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Dropbox, as well as many news and blog sites are blocked in China. Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook/Twitter is one of the most popular websites.
- To set up a website requires permission from the local government authorities.
This got me thinking how important the open internet is! Here in the US, net neutrality is currently the standard (ISPs, or any other entities, do not get to discriminate against or favor specific traffic on the internet.) Large ISPs that also own content and entertainment entities are trying to change that. They want to give preferential treatment to their own content and to those who pay them a commercial fee. Large companies like Netflix and Facebook can afford to pay, but I worry that for small businesses the internet playing field will no longer be level in terms of consumer access, and that costs will increase.
State of the Word
Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, gave his annual State of the Word to close out the conference. Among the highlights for business owners running WordPress:
- WordPress now powers 27% of all websites on the internet. This is up from 25% last year.
- In lieu of set releases for 2017, there will be 3 big initiatives:
- Improved Editing Experience. It should be easier to add, update and format your page and post content.
- The Customizer. Making changes to the look and feel of your site should be faster and give you more flexibility without having to go into code.
- REST API. This initiative makes it easier to integrate WordPress data with external applications. Getting data into and out of WordPress.
- The WordPress Foundation will now focus on supporting computer education initiatives and promote hackathons for nonprofits and NGOs.
These are some of the items we are taking into consideration as we develop our 2017 plans, what do you think?