WordPress: Users or Losers

WordPress Blogging Background

Administering a WordPress site isn’t easy, and for anyone new to the application that is expecting a straightforward website building experience, they’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise. Whenever dealing with WordPress, it’s always important to remember its original purpose, publishing. That means whether you planned for it or not, user management is a fundamental skill that’s required if you want to have any success with WordPress. So what’s the best way to handle it?

Authentication

The best place to start is understanding the method by which people can access your site. Because WordPress’s core functionality is blogging, the application offers individuals outside of an organization the ability to create profiles, enabling users to follow posts and make comments. Any additional capabilities that are available to these users are managed by the site’s Administrator, which might be a new responsibility for anyone transitioning from Wix or Squarespace.

It all starts with deciding if visitors can create a profile. Yes, that’s correct, admins can toggle the ability for outsiders to create profiles by entering the Settings – General, menu, and checking, or unchecking, the “Anyone can register” option.

WordPress Setting Screen
The Membership Option in General Settings

If administrators decide to enable users to create profiles, it’s a best practice to install additional features that provide assistance with user management. Anti-span tools, as well as adding a second level of authentication, are the first steps in hardening access to WordPress. One of our favorite plugins on this topic is Simple Google reCAPTCHA by Michal Novak.

Setting up a Google Recaptcha Account will take some work, but the effectiveness of the plugin is great, and it’s free to use. ReCAPTCHA technology adds a puzzle to areas of WordPress that contain forms, asking users to complete basic interactions before being able to submit the data. Its addition to the profile creation and contact forms do a great job of preventing an explosion in fake users.

Authorization

After making sure the only people who can access WordPress are authentic, the next step is making sure they aren’t authorized to carry out any nefarious deeds. Every authenticated user is assigned a set of privileges called Capabilities. Capabilities determine if users are able to carry out certain tasks, like creating posts or adding users. Most user’s capabilities are predetermined based on which Role the user has been assigned.

Roles are categories of users that almost all applications use to quickly assign permissions to users. In the case of WordPress, most roles relate to publishing duties, like Author, Editor, and Contributor, but the default Role for new profiles is set to Subscriber. With that in mind, it’s not enough to simply have awareness of Roles, administrators have to know how to manage them.

As more plugins are added to a site, they create a variety of new Roles during the installation process. The plugins create these roles because the preinstalled ones are related to publishing, making them insufficient for their needs. At RTR Digital, we rely on Members, by MemberPress, to manage the Roles within our site.

Accounting

Lastly, there is accounting. Most people always associate the term, “accounting,” with money, but in IT, we use it in a different manner. When it comes to user management, accounting is about creating a log of interactions so administrators can associate them to individual users. For example, if a user changes their password, the application records that action in its log. Later, if that user has an issue with their credentials, the application has a method to show the last time changes were made.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t offer a native feature for accounting, so a plugin is your only option for adding it to the application. Our recommendation is Simple History by Par Thernstrom. Simple History is a lightweight plugin that creates a log of any significant actions in WordPress and displays them on the Dashboard. Adding the Simple History plugin to WordPress will quickly open your eyes to the volume of bad actors in the IT space. Simply tracking the number of times a hacker tries to log in as “admin” will blow your mind, and give you a new perspective on the importance of security.

User Security

In fact, everything in this article is about providing a basic level of security to WordPress. It’s the responsibility of every administrator to provide their users with a level of security that keeps them safe. Even if you aren’t a security expert, the plugins mentioned in this article will get you heading in the right direction.

Information on important topics, like user management, is just a portion of the critical topics we cover in our WordPress Essentials eLearning. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.

WordPress Essentials Preview

WordPress: Your Time is Now

WordPress Blogging Background

Let me start by saying that I was never a fan of WordPress until Gutenberg. Considering the massive installed base of the application, that probably comes as a shock to most WordPress fans. So the fact I’m now putting so much effort into furthering its installation base is as big of a surprise to me, as it is to you. So what changed my mind?

Developing Dominance

Making a website building application that everyone can use is no easy feat, and WordPress has shown signs of early success by tackling the more difficult problems novice developers face. When it comes to developing website builders, handling developers of different skill levels, entering the application at different development points, creates a specific set of problems.

From a development perspective, website building applications develop in only one of two ways. One, they start where developers are writing pure HTML, and work their way towards a consumer-friendly, drag-n-drop method. Two, they begin as a drag-n-drop application, supposedly requiring no coding knowledge, and have to introduce developer-level tools to assist users down the road.

The problems these processes introduce are unique to both users and developers during the application’s transitional periods, and WordPress had always suffered from the former. As a developer, it was easy to build elaborate sites using built-in hooks, shortcode, and splash in a bit of custom HTML, completing the build process, but novice website developers struggled mightily.

Introducing Gutenberg

Once a website building applications choose a development path, for better or worse, they’re locked into that path until the end. WordPress’s ability to deliver a simplified blogging experience has always been its strong point, but design needs outside of that have been a bit of a pain point.

Introduction to The Block Editor

Beginners’ frustrations have always seemed to revolve around a single issue, the lack of a native page layout builder. Hearing the forum cries of, “I need a WordPress Expert,” in combination with the success of page builders, like Elementor, the WordPress Team officially integrated the Block Editor in WordPress version 5.0.

As I mentioned earlier, it was after the deployment of Gutenberg, now referred to as the Block Editor, that I began thinking WordPress would finally reach its potential. Until the Block Editor, I couldn’t imagine how users would ever escape the endless battle with broken themes and one-time support requests.

A Case for WordPress

If you were holding out on deciding which application to use to build your online presence, I’m here to throw my endorsement behind WordPress in 2020. Because of COVID-19, there has never been a better time to either, start an online business, or increase an existing business’s online exposure.

Whether you’re looking to make some money running ads on a food blog, sell your jewelry through an e-commerce platform, or enable online ordering for your food truck, WordPress is the place to start. Me, seeing WordPress only a couple more features away from total world domination, already decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon.

If you need an exact starting point, we’re happy to help. RTR Learning, a division of RTR Digital, has developed an eLearning course focusing on helping you get WordPress off the ground. You can find more information about the course by clicking here.

Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #9

SEO Tip 9

Everyone knows the popular idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but to search engines, a picture is worth absolutely no words. Whenever a site uses an abundance of images to describe their products and services, search engines have no way to enable these images to assist with increasing a site’s ranking when people are searching for the products and services they portray.

Unlike with humans, search engines can’t interpret images and decipher their meaning; instead, they only index the fact that an image is present. For modern day designers, the overuse of pictures has become a staple of creating beautiful websites, but it comes at the cost of their SEO rankings, and that’s not something everyone is aware of when building a site.

The dramatic increase in the amount of imagery used on web pages is a result of one of two design tactics. One, you’re using a template provided by a web builder application, something that we discussed may already be hurting your ranking (Tip #10). Or, two, the developer building the site hasn’t mastered CSS, so they’re inserting images in sections where they should be writing code. We’ll discuss how both of these approaches affect your SEO ranking.

Image Heavy Templates

Wordpress Theme
Longform WordPress Theme

Part of the allure of web building applications is not needing to know how to write code to build a website. Gorgeous templates offer clients a variety of design options from professionals, and with some customization of wording and imagery, even my grandma can produce an “Applesque” site that makes mere mortals marvel at its beauty. The downside is, the same person using a template to build a website doesn’t always understand how preconfigured sites affect search rankings. Images give websites a stunning visual appeal, but they don’t integrate with the core results of a search query.

When visitors enter a term into a search engine, the majority of the results display because of the text information contained within the page’s heading and title elements. Images are elements of a web page as well, but when a search engine encounters them, they log them into a different area of the results page than where most of us find the answers to our inquiries about products and services.

Every time a user selects the images tab on the results page, they’ve moved in the dedicated area where search engines store images that they find on websites. When considering how search engines divide text-based and image search results into separate areas, it should come as no surprise that clicks in the images tab do nothing to assist a site in appearing higher in text-based rankings, and this concept is at the core of how a surplus of images is lowering your SEO rankings.

CSS Mastery

On the other hand, developers aren’t perfect either, and they can stumble into different kinds of errors when using images on pages. Modern websites often display beautiful images with subtext sprinkled over them to add context to what’s on-screen, but if developers haven’t quite mastered advanced styling techniques, these subtexts are sometimes rendered as part of the image and not an individual web element.

Integrated Image

Adding text over images requires developers to understand relative and absolute positioning values, and early-stage developers may not have developed this skill set, so they often include wording in the images themselves. Since these articles are meant to focus on SEO, and not web development tips, we won’t go into great detail about how these settings work. What we can do is let you know how to identify if you’re a victim of a novice web developer by letting you know how to detect if the technique is executed correctly.

Non-integrated Image

Not
Integrated

Text that has been directly integrated within an image cannot be selected, and trying to highlight it with a mouse cursor, or pressing and holding your finger over the text on a mobile device, will identify if the wording is selectable. If the words are not selectable, it means these words are only interpreted by sight, and not by search engines. Those images are also not doing anything to improve your search ranking.

Figuring Out Where You Stand

Understanding how much text is on a page, versus how many images the page contains, provides insight into the content/code ratio. The content/code ratio is used to determine if a page is overly reliant on images, and there are a variety of tools that measure this ratio.

For those not familiar with how this measurement works, it relies on reading the source code of a web page and measuring how many page elements are present versus the amount of content they contain. The measurement produces a percentage that developers know as the code ratio. Search engines can also see this ratio and prefer it to be between 10%-20%.

Tools that display the exact percentage are usually made available with professional SEO software, so you’re working with an agency they should have access to it, but it’s unlikely you’ll naturally stumble across it by yourself.  Make sure you’re discussing this aspect of your site as a part of any SEO audit. If you haven’t had an SEO audit, you can get a complimentary one from RTR Digital by clicking here. You can also preview what fully integrated SEO looks like by clicking here.

If you have any question or comments about this article, please them in the comments section.