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Website Organization Best Practices For Law Firms

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Reaching the top of the law firm search results can be intimidating. Focusing on site architecture is an essential step toward creating a top-ranked search presence.

Virtually every aspect of search optimization, from content to user experience, depends on a site architecture that makes it easy for site visitors to find what they’re looking for and is flexible enough to accommodate adding more topics should the need arise.

Accomplishing this requires a deep consideration of site navigation to make the important sections of the site one click to two clicks away from the homepage.

Website architecture is a part of what’s known as the internal linking structure and can also include how information is organized, which means the content.

Google’s John Mueller emphasized that internal linking is important.

Mueller said:

“…internal linking is super critical for SEO.

…it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that you think are important.”

Mueller also said that internal linking is an opportunity to tell Google which pages are important, thereby indicating what the site should rank for.

“You can decide to make things important where you earn the most money or you can make things important where you’re the strongest competitor or maybe you’re the weakest competitor.”

This article will introduce three fundamental elements of site architecture that can contribute to higher search performance.

Website Architecture: Page Organization And Links

Let’s take a few moments first to discuss website architecture and why the user experience (UX) segment is important for getting ranked.

The Importance Of Website Architecture To SEO

You already know that SEO content and your website structure should be constructed for people over search engines.

However, it just so happens that what is good for users is also good for Google.

So, all the most important aspects of an expertly crafted site architecture will contribute to a better user experience and make the site easy to understand for Google.

A well-organized website will be easy for users to get around.

From the homepage, they will be able to access a host of other resources that are located just a few clicks away.

And that point is important.

You don’t want to bury important webpages multiple clicks away from the homepage or not have anything on the homepage that links to them at all.

Google’s web crawler will have a hard time finding those pages, and the pages will likely not rank very well (and probably no one will ever actually see them).

Another benefit of well-organized website architecture is that the internal linking spreads PageRank around the website.

If your local service pages all link up one level to your main service page for bankruptcy, business, or whatever kind of law you practice, you are telling Google that that primary service page is important, optimized, and worth ranking highly.

So, now you know why you need to put the time into organizing a straightforward and tidy website architecture.

Aspects Of Effective Law Firm Website Architectures

It’s important for any business in any industry, but now, let’s look at how law firm websites should structure themselves for maximum organic results.

Main Navigation

Your website’s main navigation must be concise and clear in its layout since that is what potential clients will use to get around your site to see your services.

You must organize the navigation in a logical, top-down way. A “Services” or “Practice Areas” tab should drop down to a menu showing organized columns of your legal specialties.

Any kind of “About Us” or “Our Firm” tab can break down into a few sections that perhaps provide a history of the firm or state your organization’s mission.

Law firms are known as service-based organizations.

Instead of hundreds of product pages with little descriptions, your website should ideally feature:

  • A homepage.
  • As many main service pages as necessary to describe what your firm does.
  • An informational content section.
  • A contact page.
  • An “About Us” section where you profile your attorneys and profess your firm’s values and mission statement.

Those are the essential elements of a quality law firm website, but how do you structure them on the site itself and link among them?

URL Naming Conventions And Structure

I have reviewed the importance of getting your main navigation and internal links correct.

Next is an overview of the importance of creating a simple but informative URL structure for the pages on your website.

It is vital to get this right because you aim to tell human users and search engines alike what your pages are about through the structure of your pages’ URLs.

The general advice on creating URLs is to remove excess words and include some keywords to be as descriptive as possible in the least amount of words.

Your URLs should reveal what will be found on that page.

Keep it simple.

Look at these examples:

For a blog post, make the URL a simpler version of the actual title.

So, your post entitled “10 Great Ways To Succeed In Business On A Budget” might be:

While you’re at it, be sure to add canonical tags to your URLs on the back end.

That way, if there’s a chance a page could be picked up using multiple terms, Google knows where to direct people.

Information Architecture: Content Organization

Create A Descriptive And Helpful Homepage

The homepage needs to do many things, such as inspire trust, make it easy to contact the business, plus serve as an effective entrance to the rest of the website.

How is this accomplished?

Focusing on what will help users the most is the best approach to creating the best home page.

There are four communication goals:

  1. Communicate what the general topic of the law practice is (i.e. of the entire site)
  2. Describe what the top major topics of the business are
  3. Make it easy to reach all the major specific sections of the website
  4. Use keywords that users would use

General Topic of the Law Practice

Businesses are said to be organized by verticals. A vertical market is simply what kind of business it is serving.

So the first goal of the homepage is to communicate what vertical market the law firm serves.

In the legal profession, typical verticals can be:

  • Bankruptcy law.
  • Corporate law.
  • Criminal defense.
  • Estate planning.
  • Family law.
  • Etc.

A law firm that is focused on family law can use that as the description for the topic of the entire site. Because most law firms serve a geographic region, that information is also used as part of the general description, the overall topic of the website.

So if the website is a family law attorney based in Springfield, Massachusetts, then the home page of that site should communicate that information from the title tag of that webpage what that vertical market is.

Family Law Attorneys - Springfield MA - Example Law Firm

The job of the homepage is to rank for that general term. It’s the job of the inner pages to rank for the more specific areas like child custody, divorce, pre-marital agreements, etc.

Describe Major Topics of the Business

The second goal is to describe the different areas that the business serves, for example:

For example, suppose the website is about personal injury in City A.

But now, it must also describe very briefly (and even link to) the specialties within that personal injury vertical.

Examples of Specialties Within the Personal Injury Vertical

  • Motorcycle injury.
  • Medical malpractice.
  • Car accidents.
  • Brain injury, etc.

Link to Major Sections of Site From Homepage

Third, it’s super important to link to as many of the inner sections of the site that correspond to the specialties within the legal vertical that the law firm serves.

This can be done from the top of the page navigation menu. And it can also be accomplished from somewhere within the body of the homepage.

Keywords

Top takeaways about keywords and the homepage:

  • Always use the words that your potential clients tend to use.
  • Organize the webpage according to the most popular reasons why clients tend to call. If most calls are about slip and fall, list that as the first practice area. If the next most popular reason for calling is a brain injury, then make that the second section. This makes it easy for most site visitors to find what they’re looking for.
  • Use images that contribute to communicating your message (this breaks up the page and makes it easy to scan).
  • If possible, A/B test using user experience analytics like Microsoft Clarity to identify pain points that site visitors might encounter. An example of a pain point can be if site visitors are “rage-clicking” certain links or areas where they expect to find links.

More reading on keyword research:

Client Reviews

Next, remember that you are a service-based company that must rely on customer reviews to gain traction in your geographic area.

You should devote a block of your homepage to displaying five-star customer reviews with brief blurbs praising the legal services you provided.

Those reviews will help to generate trust among new visitors to your site.

Homepage Internal Links

Related to the main navigation is the internal linking you do in your homepage content.

You already know that homepages should not be loaded with written content, but small blocks can briefly describe your service areas and link to them using keywords.

That internal link structure is vital. Everyone knows homepages are important; Google does, too.

The pages you link to from there are going to be easily crawlable. They will also be easy for actual human users to get to.

Color Scheme

Colors matter on a website.

The use of colors can affect the choices that site visitors make.

  • Visually contrasting colors are best for call-to-action elements.
  • Blue conveys trustworthiness and authority.
  • Always check if the color choice has sufficient contrast for color-blind site visitors.

Law firm websites looking to convey auras of professionalism should avoid bold, vibrant colors in favor of lighter schemes.

Create Above-The-Fold Content

Website architecture is generally considered internal linking, but I include information organization into the site’s architecture as well.

Above the fold is a way of saying in the main block of visible content.

With a law firm website, you don’t want to get too fancy or obtuse with presenting your content.

Users come to your site for help with their legal troubles, and those people are probably worried and hoping they can trust you to help them.

Reward their effort in visiting your site by making it clear that you are there for them.

Do this by presenting your most important content in the first block of content that is visible to site visitors.

Don’t make users dig around to find the information they need, like that service page explaining how you have helped thousands of people declare bankruptcy or that blog post showcasing your knowledge of recent tax-resolution cases.

Depending on how your homepage is organized, present some links to those service pages, a contact form, or some reviews to establish trust right away.

Sticky content is a good idea, as well.

Videos, forms, and surveys get people to stick around your homepage longer than they otherwise might, so don’t rule out those elements.

Whatever you feel is most important to your firm, make it one of the first things users see upon arriving on your homepage.

Essential information presented above the fold is necessary for well-made website architecture.

Final Thoughts

A law firm that performs quality work on behalf of clients needs to be able to reach every site visitor and convert them into a client.

The best way to accomplish that is to organize the information on the website in a manner that makes it easy for site visitors to quickly scan the homepage and find the exact topic.

That makes it easy for search engines to identify what the entire site is about and, consequently, may begin ranking the inner pages for the more granular search queries.

Identifying the best user experience for site navigation will always make it easier for the site to achieve maximum search performance.

More Resources:


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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How To Create Awesome Meta Descriptions

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Meta descriptions are important for search optimization. If done correctly, they’ll encourage users to click through from search results pages.

The goal is to provide a summary of the webpage.

Google’s guideline states:

“A page’s meta description tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about.”

Meta descriptions do not directly influence search rankings.

But they play a role in helping potential site visitors understand what a page is about, which can provide a positive impact on search referrals.

Here, you’ll learn how to create awesome meta descriptions that help search engines understand your page’s content and inspire searchers to click through and visit your website.

What Is A Meta Description?

The meta description is an HTML tag (technically, it’s called an HTML element) that provides search engines and searchers a summary of what a webpage is about.

It is displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) underneath the title of the page. The URL, title, and meta description together form what is called a search snippet.

Meta Description Example

Screenshot from search, Google, August 2022Screenshot of a Search Snippet

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international organization responsible for defining HTML standards, the meta description has three qualities.

The three qualities of a valid meta description are:

  1. Users can type whatever text they want, without any restriction, as long as it describes what the webpage is about.
  2. The summary must be appropriate for use by a search engine.
  3. There can only be one meta description per webpage.

Google Rewrites Meta Descriptions

The search snippet can contain either the meta description from a webpage or it could be text that Google selects from the visible part of the webpage itself.

Google’s guidelines state that they will only use the meta description if it is accurate.

“Google will sometimes use the <meta name=”description”> tag from a page to generate a snippet in search results, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content.”

Depending on the accuracy of the meta description, Google may rewrite a meta description for your webpage that is entirely different from the meta description on the webpage.

This is nothing new. Google automated this process many years ago.

A study from 2020 found that Google rewrites meta descriptions 70% of the time.

If that’s true, could it be that publishers aren’t creating accurate meta descriptions?

One thing that is beyond dispute is that it is important to understand the correct way to write a meta description.

Meta Descriptions vs. SERP Snippets

Some people mistakenly use the terms “meta description” and “search snippet” interchangeably.

But meta descriptions and search snippets are two different things.

The meta description is an HTML tag that you control. You can create and optimize your own meta descriptions.

Search snippets are the descriptions Google shows for your webpages.

Why Are Meta Descriptions Important For SEO?

Meta descriptions are not used as ranking factors.

So, how should they be used today, why are they important?

Meta descriptions can help drive clicks, traffic, potential conversions, and revenue by convincing users that the webpage contains the information they are looking for.

Google’s guidance for meta descriptions best practices advises using the meta description tag to summarize the webpage content.

But it also suggests using it to persuade users that the content is what they’re looking for.

“They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

The goal of SEO is to rank the site at the top of the search results.

What makes the meta description important to SEO is that it turns that top ranking into a win by persuading the user to click to the webpage.

What Is The Recommended Or Ideal Meta Description Length?

It has been considered a standard SEO best practice for years to keep meta descriptions at around 160-165 characters maximum (or 156-160 characters, depending on who you talk to).

The reasoning behind this is that this optimization helps to avoid the truncation of the meta description in the search results.

But Google uses the meta description to better understand the webpage, and there is no limit to how long the meta description can be, although Google suggests no longer than a short paragraph.

This is what Google recommends:

“A page’s meta description tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. …a page’s meta description tag might be a sentence or two or even a short paragraph.”

SEOs recommend keeping the meta description within a set limit based on how much of the meta description Google can show on a search results page.

Google says to be concise and write as much as a paragraph.

The W3C HTML standards state that there is no limit other than it is a “free-form string,” which means no rules on how much text is used.

If one is to conform to what Google recommends, then the ideal length of a meta description could be said to be as long as you need to summarize the webpage accurately but no longer than a short paragraph.

Ultimately, use your own judgment.

7 Writing Tips And Best Practices For Meta Descriptions

1. Research Your Competitors

Regardless of your industry, SERP research will help you see what works for your competitors without getting them rewritten – which may inspire you to write better meta descriptions.

Researching which meta descriptions are successfully shown in the search results and which ones are rewritten by Google may help you better understand the right way to do it.

To do SERP research effectively:

Step 1: Research The SERPs For Your Targeted Keyword

It’s easier said than done, I know. It can be time-consuming to manually go through every search result and identify what, exactly, is your competition’s kryptonite.

The reason why we were looking at the competition is that usually, the competition implements techniques that are currently working.

Step 2: Research The SERPs For Your Competition And What They’re Doing

Here, you take a look at your competition and figure out exactly what they are doing for their brands.

Step 3: Put Them Together In A Spreadsheet, And Track Them

Using the SEO Quake Google Chrome extension, you can export Google SERPs to an Excel Spreadsheet quite quickly and efficiently.

This will let you keep a running tally of your competition and track them easily and efficiently every month without enormous monthly costs.

2. Map Your Customer’s Journey

Identify your target audience’s optimal buying journey and what happens at each stage of the marketing funnel.

The marketing funnel can vary widely depending on your target market, so sharing an exact funnel to follow here would be fruitless.

Target and tailor your meta descriptions according to your findings but always make accurately summarizing the topic of the webpage the final goal.

3. Use Your Brand’s Unique Tone And Style

Every brand should have a unique tone of voice that’s consistent with its brand identity; this is how the brand appears online to users.

Each meta description should be uniquely crafted and tailored to how that tone of voice amplifies itself across the brand’s ecosystem.

You wouldn’t use the same tone of voice for a corporate law website as you would for a daycare website, would you?

So, why would you use a tone of voice that’s exactly the same from page to page?

The main benefit of tone of voice is that it reaches different personas targeting certain keywords.

By targeting personas with user intent and combining keywords with this research, it is possible to reach your target audience with a level of sophistication and optimization that truly resonates.

4. Include Keywords Your Audience Actually Searches For

Google maintains that they don’t use keywords in the meta description for ranking purposes. But when you perform SERP research, what is it that you see? Highlighted keywords in the meta description.

This is something that can draw your reader to the most relevant result that will satisfy their query.

If your meta description satisfies their intent better than any other result that appears, you’ll win the click.

5. Take Advantage Of Trending Social Headlines

As a social media connoisseur, you’re most likely on the up and up in your industry when it comes to identifying exactly what’s trending and what isn’t passing muster for your audience.

Following influencer accounts and industry firms should already be a part of your strategy.

Taking it a step further, assess which topics are currently trending in your space and see what meta descriptions appear for the highest-ranking results.

Google Trends, BuzzSumo, and Trending Topics on Twitter are all good places to check and see what might be trending that’s relevant to your industry.

6. Target A Specific Search Intent

Generalized meta descriptions and hollow phrases such as “best widgets” and other sales-speak can turn off prospective customers.

It is important to inspire confidence that your result is something that will satisfy their user intent for the query.

You want to speak about what your readers are really after, not attempting to persuade them into your own sales funnel.

7. Refresh Your Meta Descriptions For Older Content

Refreshing stale content on a website can be a boon for the site and is a great way to get new traction for older pages.

Also, by refreshing your meta descriptions, it is possible to get more traction from social media as a result.

You can re-share and grab more visibility from older posts if you perform a systematic refresh of all of your meta descriptions.

Examples Of Great Meta Descriptions

So, what does a great meta description look like?

Here are a few examples:

“Pain and suffering are very real to the victim in a personal injury case. Learn more about how to reduce discomfort from our personal injury attorneys in this latest blog post.”

“By thinking clearly about your needs, it is possible to find a computer that will help you do all the things you currently love, and more. Our technicians explain.”

“What are you looking for in a widget? Our widget technicians can help you find the best one for your needs. These are the things you should look out for in widgets.”

good vs. bad meta descriptions from Google's page on meta descriptionsScreenshot from Google Search Central, September 2022good vs. bad meta descriptions from Google's page on meta descriptions

Not every meta description type will work well for each industry. This is where testing, assessing your results, and making changes based on those results come in.

Tailor your meta description to the website and down to the page that is designed for your users.

Optimizing Meta Descriptions

The fundamentals of a meta description that Google recommends are to summarize what the content is about, be concise but use as much text as is appropriate, and don’t use it just for keywords (keyword stuffing).

It’s also recommended that the meta description is attractive to a potential site visitor.

While the traditional SEO practice uses the meta description for keywords and a call to action, that’s not the best practice according to Google and the W3C.

The best practice for meta descriptions is to summarize the topic of the webpage in a way that potential site visitors are confident that their answers are just one click away.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Are 301 Redirects A Google Ranking Factor? via @sejournal, @kristileilani

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Do 301 redirects affect your rankings in organic search? Read on and discover the relationship between 301 redirects and improved Google rankings.

The post Are 301 Redirects A Google Ranking Factor? appeared first on Search Engine Journal.



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LinkedIn Professionals Share Their Best Unusual LinkedIn Marketing Hack

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LinkedIn is a great place to grow your business.

In the last 12 months, 93% of B2B marketers have used the platform the most to distribute content organically. LinkedIn also topped the same survey for producing the best results.

The same study reveals content marketers are also spending more on paid content promotion. The top platform where they’re spending? Linkedin.

Businesses can also use the network for marketing to and reaching potential customers. In fact, there are more than 1 billion interactions on LinkedIn Pages every month.

With these figures, there’s no denying the power of this social media platform to drive engagement and boost brand awareness.

Are you ready to take your LinkedIn marketing game to the next level but unsure where to begin?

Here are clever LinkedIn tips from seven LinkedIn pros to boost your marketing efforts.


Leverage LinkedIn Live

Thomas J. Armitage Thomas Armitage

Sales Executive, Site-Seeker

LinkedIn is the ultimate B2B playground. It’s like a professional conference that’s never-ending.

Live Streams, in particular, continue to be underutilized. That’s because people starve for valuable learning material.

With Live Streams, thought leaders can bypass the headaches typically involved in traditional webinar setups. No landing pages or sign-up forms are needed. You can easily promote the event through sharing and invitations, too.

Although you’ll need a third-party streaming software, most play nicely with LinkedIn.

And Live Streams are a great way to break the monotony of text posts and engage with your audience on a more personal level.

Make sure you identify a niche topic. Write a strong description that includes who the stream is for.

Invite users you know will find it worthwhile. And make sure to promote – both before the event, as well as after, since the full video will be available for playback.


Level Up Your Content Strategy

Adam Houlahan Adam HoulahanAdam Houlahan

LinkedIn Expert at Prominence Global, Author of “Influencer – The 9 Step Guide to Becoming Highly Influential in Any Industry”

The most effective strategy for LinkedIn lead generation that delivers consistent long-term results is Algorithmically Aligned Content.

Only 1% of the 850+ million members of LinkedIn share content regularly (weekly). Less than 1% of that 1% truly understand and share content that LinkedIn sees as valuable to its membership and organically promotes for you.

Share content that creates conversations on the platform and shows you are the authority in your area of expertise without solving your audiences’ problems for them.

I call it “Know How,” with “No How” content.

Consistently implement this content strategy, and your ideal clients will gravitate to you to solve their problems.

Felipe Bazon Felipe BazonFelipe Bazon

Chief SEO Officer, Hedgehog Digital

Back in 2017, I decided that the only social network that I would use professionally was going to be Linkedin.

Since then, I have been posting weekly (sometimes daily) posts related to SEO strategies, techniques, and insights.

This has helped build my network and reach decision makers who see my posts and get in contact through the platform or our website to fill in the contact form.

These leads that turned into clients have contributed to the exponential growth we have had since we opened up our office in Brazil.

Being a well-known SEO down here, I’ve exploited these to our advantage; all leads came from my personal account, not the company’s.

We do have a business page for U.K. and Brazil and do some Linkedin ads to promote some stuff, but it is through the personal profile that the magic happens.

Since then, my posts are averaging:

  • 4,000 views
  • 100 interactions (likes and comments)
  • Five to seven organic leads per month

My tips are:

  • Consistency and frequency. Aim for at least a couple of posts each week.
  • Avoid sharing links on your posts; leave them in the comments. This increases the reach of your posts by at least 30%. For instance, if you want to share a new article from the blog, do a post talking about the subject and say, “We’ve written a complete guide about X, and you can find the link to it in the comments.
  • Don’t be shy in sharing insights, thoughts, and results. The community loves these types of posts. These tend to get loads of interactions.

Optimize Your Page

Virginie Cantin Virginie CantinVirginie Cantin

LinkedIn Coach – VirginieCantin.com, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery”

My personal hack uses the experience section to highlight my services and activities. So instead of having a single job title such as “Founder,” I will have several job titles under my LinkedIn company page for each “hat” I’m wearing in my company.

I have a job title for my 1:1 coaching service, LinkedIn PEELING. Another job title is dedicated to my online course, LinkedIn BREAK-IN. Then, I use a separate job title to highlight that I’m a Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Last but not least, I have a fourth job title that aims at getting me found by people looking for speakers and podcast guests.

The beauty of having several job titles is that you can optimize every single one of them for the algorithm so that people looking for a specific service or author, or podcast guest can easily find you.

Andy Foote Andy FooteAndy Foote

Advanced LinkedIn Strategies Coach

LinkedIn makes it really difficult to know who your “Super Fans” and potential “Super Fans” are; it’s as if they don’t want you to build any kind of base.

You can see this with how they treat followers; they’re not ‘following’ at all – because an algorithm inserts itself between you and folks who have voted to see your content.

Fortunately, there’s software on the market (peakAboo by Daniel Hall) that provides juicy data on everyone who has commented on your LinkedIn posts. This helps me to know who solidly supports me and, more importantly, people who commented only a few times.

It’s the latter category I want to target and figure out a way to convert them into persistent supporters, a.k.a. “Super Fans.”


Prioritize Human-Centric Approach

Sandra Long Sandra LongSandra Long

LinkedIn Trainer & Speaker – Post Road Consulting, Author of “LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide”

Activate your employee team. Make sure your team’s LinkedIn profiles are co-branded and focused on client problem-solving instead of recruiter oriented.

Encourage the team to search and connect with coworkers, clients, and prospects. Train your team to build relationships with thoughtful, helpful comments and personalized messages.

Say no to automation. Train them to engage, inspire, and motivate their professional networks with valuable comments, original posts, and shared or reposted company page content.

Develop a company hashtag and communicate how to use it on LinkedIn. Most importantly, build your team’s confidence and make it fun!

Josh Steimle Josh SteimleJosh Steimle

Founder of the LinkedIn agency BlueMethod, Author of the WSJ & USA Today bestselling book “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery”

LinkedIn helps me solve my biggest challenges as an entrepreneur, whether it’s sales, recruiting, or finding partners.

LinkedIn has easily produced millions of dollars in value for me.

Even though I wrote a book on LinkedIn with 60 tips in it, everything I teach in my book can be summarized in two words: Be human. It’s the best LinkedIn hack.

Too many are trying to imitate robots on LinkedIn by sending out spam messages, posting content but never engaging with commenters, and avoiding the time-consuming, truly creative work of one-to-one communication. But that’s where LinkedIn performs best!

When you use LinkedIn to talk directly with others, like a normal human being, that’s the moment when LinkedIn becomes indispensable.

Takeaway

As the world’s largest online professional network, Linkedin makes a remarkable addition to your social media marketing strategy.

Remember to take advantage of LinkedIn features and be consistent – all while offering value and nurturing relationships.

Armed with these tips, you’re bound to thrive on the LinkedIn feed and reap the rewards.

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How to Manage WordPress Comment Notification Emails

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Do you want to improve your WordPress comment notification emails?

Comments drive discussion and user engagement on many blogs. However, WordPress doesn’t do such a great job when it comes to notifying users about comment activity.

In this article, we will show you how to better manage WordPress comment notification emails to boost user activity on your website.

Why Improve WordPress Comment Notification Emails

Comments are an important element of many WordPress websites, particularly on news sites and WordPress blogs. More comment activity means a more engaged audience which results in more page views and ultimately more revenue.

However, the comment system that comes with every WordPress website is fairly limited. It sends comment notifications only to site administrators and article authors. Apart from that, there isn’t a default option for other site users to be notified of new comments.

Wouldn’t it be nice if users were able to get comment notifications for the posts they like or when someone replies to a comment they left?

That said, let’s see how you can enhance the default WordPress comment system and notification emails for a more engaging user experience on your website.

The Default Comment Notification Options in WordPress

By default, WordPress does not have an option to send notifications to commenters.

However, it does have an option to send email notifications to site administrators when a new comment is published and when a comment is held for moderation.

You can view these options by going to Settings » Discussion from your WordPress dashboard and navigating to the ‘Email me whenever’ section.

Email me whenever settings

Both these notifications are only sent to the site administrators. However, WordPress also sends an email notification to the post author about new comments.

If you get a lot of comments on your website, you might not want to receive email notifications for all comments held for moderation. You can simply uncheck the box here to disable those.

How to Let Users Know When Their Comment is Approved

If a user’s comment is held for moderation, they will see a message telling them so. However, they will have no idea whether you approve it or not without returning to your site.

Unfortunately, many of these users never return to your website to check, so they won’t ever know that you approved their comments.

You can fix this by using the Comment Approved Notifier Extended plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Comment Approved Notifier Extended will notify users when their comment is approved. It works right out of the box, and there are no additional settings you need to configure.

You can also see our list of best plugins to improve WordPress comments.

How to Allow Users to Subscribe to Comments in WordPress

In addition to not knowing if their comment was approved, commenters will not be notified about replies, either.

Once they leave a comment, they will have to manually visit your website again to see if someone has replied.

To solve this, you need to install and activate Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin. For more details, see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

It allows your users to subscribe to comments on any article with or without leaving comments. Users can also easily unsubscribe at any time.

StCr settings in WordPress

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see our article on how to allow users to subscribe to comments in WordPress.

How to Allow Users to Subscribe to Just their Own Comments in WordPress

Many users may not want to receive notifications for all comments on an article. However, they may want to know if someone replied only to their own comments.

You can add this feature as well using the same Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin. First, you’ll need to install and activate the plugin. If you need help, then please see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Next, simply visit the StCR » Comment Form in your WordPress dashboard. From here, click on ‘Yes’ next to the ‘Advanced Subscription’ option.

StCr settings in WordPress

Users will now see a new option under the comment box whether they’d like to subscribe to all comments or just their own comments.

For more details, see our article on how to notify users of replies to their own comments in WordPress.

How to Allow Authors to Subscribe to Other Author’s Posts

If you run a multi-author blog, then other authors may want to keep up with discussions across your website. If you already have comment subscriptions enabled, then each author can manually go and subscribe to comments.

However, if you want certain users to receive all comment notifications, then you can do this with Better Notifications for WordPress plugin. For more details, then please see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once the plugin is active, you can head to Notifications » Add New from your WordPress dashboard and can enter a title for your notification at the top.

Next, you can select ‘New Comment’ from the ‘Notification for’ dropdown menu. After that, simply add the user roles that will receive these notifications in the ‘Send To’ field.

Comment notifications for certain user roles

The plugin also offers an option to send notifications to the post’s author and even exclude user roles from receiving email notifications for new comments.

How to Create Custom Comment Notification in WordPress

Want to create your own custom comment notifications in WordPress? Custom notifications can allow you to replace the default WordPress notification with your own.

First, you will need to install and activate the Better Notifications for WordPress plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit the Notifications » Add New page from your WordPress admin panel to create your custom comment notifications.

Create a custom notification

You can edit the notifications for new comments, comments awaiting moderation, and comment replies. Additionally, you can send notifications to any user role or to individual users.

The plugin also lets you add email addresses manually that are not even connected to a user on the site.

You have the option to completely customize the comment notification sent by WordPress and use shortcodes inside the email text to add custom tags.

For more details, see our article on how to add better custom notifications in WordPress.

How to Improve Deliverability of WordPress Email Notifications

All the above tips will fail if your WordPress site fails to send email notifications or if those emails are marked spam by email providers.

To fix WordPress email issues and improve email deliverability, you need to install and activate the WP Mail SMTP plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, visit the Settings » WP Mail SMTP page to configure plugin settings.

WP Mail SMTP settings

This plugin allows you to use SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) to send emails. SMTP is a much better and more reliable method than the default mail function used by WordPress.

It works with any email service that supports SMTP. This includes your free Gmail account as well as Google Workspace, Mailgun, and Sendgrid.

Choose Other SMTP as mailer

For details, see our article on how to use SMTP server to send WordPress emails.

We hope this article helped you learn how to manage WordPress comment notification emails. You may also want to see our ultimate step-by-step guide on improving WordPress speed and performance for beginners and how to start an online store.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How to Manage WordPress Comment Notification Emails first appeared on WPBeginner.



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WordPress Gutenberg 14.2 Offers Better User Experience

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Gutenberg 14.2 is released and available for download. The latest version features user interface improvements including an easier workflow and performance improvements plus new header and footer blocks.

All of the new features are incremental improvements that together help to make Gutenberg a more polished and intuitive site editor.

Better User Experience

Smarter suggestions for Query Loop block variations

This improvement provides a smoother editing experience by only showing relevant Query Loop block patterns.

Improvements to Writing Flow

Gutenberg now features a more intuitive writing flow.

Three improvements:

  • “The sibling and line inserters now feature a more natural animation effect.
  • Selecting multiple blocks is now more visually consistent.
  • The block inserter is now hidden when the user is typing, reducing visual clutter.”

Better Functionality

Letter Spacing in Headings

Letter spacing refers to the space that’s between each letter in a word.

Being able to adjust the space between letters is especially important for the heading elements because with some fonts the space can be too close together.

This new setting allows a publisher to adjust how much space their is using the Global Styles interface.

Screenshot of Heading Space Control for Gutenberg

Better Calendar Block

The calendar block gains more ways to adjust how it looks and functions.

The background, link and text colors are now be set for the calendar block.

It can also now inherit text colors from the parent block and colors can now be styled through the global styles.

Editor Performance Improvement

A bug was fixed in the Enhanced List Block feature.

The feature which was introduced in August 31, 2022 for Gutenberg 14.0 contained a performance issue when list items were nested within each other.

WordPress explains the problem and the fix:

“So, if a List item was inside of a List that was inside of another List block, that block would re-render 3 times! This problem has now been fixed and the initial load performance of the editor should be improved.”

New Features

New Block Pattern Categories

Gutenberg now features two new block pattern categories that correspond to banners and footers.

Banners are described by WordPress:

“Banners” here refers to visually distinctive elements that help structure or contrast the contents of a page (including headings and “hero” elements).”

Autocomplete Links in Blocks

Another new feature is the link autocomplete feature is available in any block. This used to be a feature that had to be activated through an opt-in but now it’s available by default in all blocks.

The feature is triggered with the “[[” shortcut.

Screenshot of Gutenberg Link Autocomplete in Blocks

Screenshot of Gutenberg Link Autocomplete in Blocks

Bug Fixes and Improvements

Aside from the above improvements and additions there are many more bug fixes and additional features that all cumulatively make Gutenberg a better site editor to use.

There are no big standout features, just a lot of improvements that will making creating sites with Gutenberg a better experience.


Citation

What’s new in Gutenberg 14.2?

Featured image by Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

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Drupal Warns of Critical High Severity Vulnerability

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Drupal issued two security advisories warning of a vulnerabilities affecting several versions of Drupal that could allow an attacker to access sensitive information.

There are two vulnerabilities currently affecting Drupal. One is rated as a high severity critical vulnerability.

Vulnerability in Third Party Library

Drupal uses a third party templating engine called Twig.

According to Drupal documentation:

“When your web page renders, the Twig engine takes the template and converts it into a ‘compiled’ PHP template which is stored in a protected directory…”

The Twig library is used by Drupal for templating but also for a process called sanitization, which is a way to prevent malicious files from being uploaded.

Twig describes the vulnerabilities as one that allows an attacker to use the filesystem loader to access sensitive files.

Drupal warns:

“Multiple vulnerabilities are possible if an untrusted user has access to write Twig code, including potential unauthorized read access to private files, the contents of
other files on the server, or database credentials.”

This vulnerability affects users of Drupal 9.3 and 9.4.

Recommended Course of Action for Mitigating Vulnerability

Users of Drupal 9.3 are recommended to update to version 9.3.22.

Users of Drupal 9.4 are advised to update to version 9.4.7.

Moderate Vulnerability

Drupal also warned of an Access Bypass vulnerability that is rated as moderate affecting publishers that use the S3 File System module for Drupal 7.x.

An access bypass vulnerability is one in which an attacker is able to bypass authentication barriers and access to an application and sensitive files that they should not
otherwise have access to.

The vulnerability is described as:

“The module doesn’t sufficiently prevent file access across multiple filesystem schemes stored in the same bucket.”

The advisory notes that this vulnerability is mitigated by several steps that need to be taken before an attacker can gain access.

The advisory explains:

“This vulnerability is mitigated by the fact that an attacker must obtain a method to access arbitrary file paths, the site must have public or private takeover enabled, and the file metadata cache must be ignored.”

Recommended Course of Action

Drupal users who use the S3 File System module for Drupal 7.x are advised to upgrade to S3 File System 7.x-2.14 in order to patch the vulnerability.


Citations

Drupal core – Critical – Multiple vulnerabilities – SA-CORE-2022-016

S3 File System – Moderately critical – Access bypass – SA-CONTRIB-2022-057

Twig security release: Possibility to load a template outside a configured directory when using the filesystem loader

Featured image by Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

 

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Are Title Tags A Google Ranking Factor?

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An association between page titles and Google search rankings exists as strongly today as in the early days of SEO.

People of all levels of SEO knowledge agree that optimizing page titles is vital to success in search.

And how could you argue?

Page titles are the most visible component of Google’s search results pages (SERPs); it’s easy to conclude they carry weight as a ranking factor.

But, more optimization is not necessarily better. Optimization can cross the line into manipulation. That’s when you’re writing for search engines before actual people.

Historically, Google devalues ranking factors when the level of manipulation reaches a point where it’s dragging down the quality of search results.

A prime example of this is domain names, which Google once valued so highly that it was difficult to rank without keywords in your URL.

That’s a thing of the past, and now it’s equally possible to rank with an obscure brand name in your URL as it is with a keyword-based domain.

As Google search matures, it’s logical to wonder if page titles may go in a similar direction. Will Google eventually get fed up with the spam and reduce the weight of the page title ranking factor?

Who knows what’s in store for the future, but we haven’t reached that point yet. There’s no question about Google’s algorithms considering page titles.

Instead, the questions around page titles are:

  • The extent to which title tags are valued.
  • How much they matter to the bigger picture of a website’s search optimization.

In this piece, we aim to answer those questions by investigating various claims and looking at on-the-record statements from Google.

[Deep Dive:] The Complete Guide To Google Ranking Factors

The Claim: Title Tags Are A Ranking Factor

A page title is the text that appears in the <title> tag within the <head> element of an HTML document.

Page titles are the most prominent and most visible element of a page snippet when conducting a Google search.

A page’s title also appears in the browser tab after clicking through a search result.

Page titles’ prominence in Google SERPs has led to persistent claims that they’re a strongly weighted ranking factor.

Is it possible these claims are overblown?

The Evidence For Title Tags As A Ranking Factor

Google unquestionably uses the HTML title tag to understand what pages are about so it can rank them in search results.

The company’s official SEO starter guide recommends unique, accurate, and brief but descriptive titles on all website pages.

But when it comes to the strength of page titles as a ranking factor, evidence suggests they’re only a mild signal.

Google’s John Mueller has stated that page titles are not critical for rankings, at least compared to the main content:

“We do use [the title tag] for ranking, but it’s not the most critical part of a page. So it’s not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way.”

Mueller goes on to clarify that page titles are important for SEO, and they are a ranking factor.

However, they’re not so critical that overhauling a site’s page titles will significantly affect ranking positions. He said:

“Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor, but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.”

Mueller addressed this again on another occasion, reiterating that page titles help Google understand what a page is about but are not critical to determining rankings.

“… if you’re talking about ranking changes so strong that you’re seeing them overall, then I think just tweaking titles and meta tags are not going to give you what you’re looking for. Tweaking titles and meta tags makes it easier for us to recognize what is actually on a page, but it’s not going to change the overall visibility of the website significantly.”

With all this taken into consideration, it’s clear that page titles remain essential for SEO.

But in the hierarchy of today’s ranking factors, title tags are nowhere near the top.

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights

Our Verdict: Title Tags Are A Ranking Factor

Are Title Tags A Google Ranking Factor?

Page titles are a confirmed Google ranking factor, with evidence suggesting the strength ranges from mild to moderate.

A title tag is a tool for communicating what a page is about to Google.

It helps search algorithms understand what category the page fits into and which queries it may be able to answer.

From there, Google uses more critical factors, such as the main content, to determine a page’s ranking.

To be sure, it’s worth taking the time to write out titles for every page.

Websites can struggle to gain any ground in search results without unique page titles as a bare minimum optimization.

Did The Page Title Update Impact Search Rankings?

Since we published the first version of this ebook, Google released an update on how it generates page titles in search results.

Google replaces page titles in SERPs when the provided title isn’t relevant to a user’s query.

Specifically, this happens when the main content is relevant, but the title doesn’t directly speak to what a user typed in the search bar. Google will replace the page title with a piece of text more likely to catch the searcher’s attention.

Indeed, this impacts the appearance of search results but doesn’t impact rankings.

Google confirms it uses original page titles for search rankings even when replaced in SERPs. There’s no need to worry about your optimization efforts going to waste.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]

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