• 40-Point Checklist for a successful HTTP to HTTPS

    Google recognized ‘HTTPS’  as an important ranking signal on August 6, 2014. Since then, many webmasters are shifting from HTTP to HTTPS version of their website; and this exodus seems to be heading in the right direction with Ecommerce websites leading from the front. As e-retailers cannot do without a secured encryption, HTTPS versions become the obvious option.

    After you have decided to make the switch; do read this checklist that enables you to proceed with the HTTPS upgrade cautiously. In this article, we have compiled a list of pointers that you can keep in mind while upgrading your website to the HTTPS version.

    Please note: Not all the points mentioned below are applicable to non-eCommerce websites but all points on HTTP to HTTPS update are relevant for Magento based eCommerce stores.

    HTTP to HTTPS Checklist - Infographic

    Want a PDF of this infographic? Download it from here

    1. Verify HTTPS version:

      Firstly, you need to verify the website’s Https version in Google and Bing Webmaster tools. Verify and confirm whether the version to be updated is www or non-www. The www version is, of course, the preferred one and the update will be made to this.

    2. 301 Redirect:

      Implement the SEO friendly “301 Redirect”. Always use permanent redirect on the non-preferred version and direct it to the verified HTTPS version. It is recommended that before the 301 redirects are applied, you have a list of all the areas where redirects are to be made and organize all the data which will have 301 redirects implemented. These may include a total number of links, index stats and sitemap stats, sitelinks and PPC landing pages.

    3. Update Links to HTTPS:

      Once the website is upgraded to the HTTPS version, you need to update all the main internal such as home page, CMS pages, PDFs, URLs in Videos and also links on all external online properties. Do not forget to update the URLs/ internal links in your newsletters. This will ensure that we are sending unique SEO page signals to search engines.

    4. Update Links on Social Media:

      The external links on social profiles, at least the main and popular ones, should have the HTTPS version of URLs.

    5. New Sitemap:

      Configure a new sitemap with the HTTPS URLs of the website and submit it in both Google and Bing webmasters.

    6. Robots.txt:

      Update the existing Robots.txt file of the website and update the new sitemap, configured for the  HTTPS version of the website.

    7. Check Robots.txt:

      Once the Robots.txt file is updated, you should double check it to ensure that it should not block any pages like CMS, Product page or any other. This needs to be done, especially, if you have introduced new pages or sections while upgrading from HTTP to the HTTPS version.

    8. Configure Canonical Tags:

      Configure canonical tags and make them point to the HTTPS version. The canonical tag should be implemented on the same pages but this time they should point to the HTTPS versions. Please note that Magento may do this on its own but webmasters will still need to ensure that the implementation was correctly executed.

    9. PPC/CSE:

      Update PPC / CSE landing pages with the HTTPS version URLs so that they should not affect the landing page score.

    10. Back-up:

      Take a backup of Google Webmaster HTTPS versions (snapshot and details).

    11. Re-Submit the Links:

      Re-submit the Links Disavow file in both the Webmaster tools. This ensures that spammy links will not affect the new verified version of the website. You need to update the Robots.txt file on both Google and Bing webmaster tools.

    12. Manage URL Parameters:

      Make sure that you manage URL parameters for the HTTPS version in both Google and Bing webmaster tools. For this, you can simply copy the URL parameters settings from the HTTP version and reflect them in the HTTPS version.

    13. Update Google Analytics:

      Update Google Analytics Admin settings. Please select “HTTPS ” version and save the settings. This ensures that all the reported data procured in  Google Analytics will now be for the HTTPS (new version).

    14. Update URL in Email Signatures:

      Update your email signatures with the new URL i.e. https://www.example.com

    15. Check CDN:

      Ensure that the existing CDN on the website does not cause any issue once the website is shifted from HTTP to HTTPS version. Coordinate with the CDN team and make the necessary changes. Make sure that your CDN can handle SSL. Also, ask your CDN company to share their concerns regarding the upgrade beforehand, so that the switch does not become counterproductive.

    16. Re-design the Newsletter:

      Re-design the newsletter templates – Auto-responder emails, Triggers, on site pop-ups and update all the links with HTTPS URLs. Also, update the internal links of Newsletter Welcome series emails that maybe be configured on Magento or any Newsletter Marketing software.

    17. Plan Your Newsletters:

      Do not send any newsletter or offers for at least 4-5 days before the planned upgrade is due.

    18. Code Check Up:

      Check images, CSS, javascript URLs and ensure that they work in the upgraded version. The code audit must be vigilantly executed.

    19. Timing:

      Consider upgrading the website at a time when the traffic on the website is at its lowest for that season. This is really crucial for eCommerce stores.

    20. Optimize Google Webmaster:

      Optimize Google Webmaster crawl time using ‘Crawl settings’. Please minimize the requests sent per second before the upgrade is due. This setting will take 48 hours to be effective, so make this change at least 2-3 days before the planned upgrade.

    21. Update Redirects:

      Update all the implemented 301 redirects to the HTTPS version. This can be done at the server level by your Server team. Basically, all the 301 redirects implemented on 404 pages should be updated to the HTTPS version.

    22. 3rd Party Tracking Codes:

      Keep a backup of the 3rd party tracking codes (Adwords, Bing, Conversion codes, Remarketing codes, and Analytics codes) and update them to the HTTPS version.

    23. Check Extensions:

      Check hosted Blog extension settings, plugins, etc. For example, WordPress Blog should work on HTTPS and so should the installed plugins like Yoast extension, social sharing and security plugins.

    24. Evaluate the Mobile Version:

      Evaluate the mobile version of the website and ensure that the HTTPS URLs are responsive or non-responsive. If not, configure the settings accordingly for a mobile-friendly HTTPS version of the website.

    25. Re-submit the Removal Request:

      Re-submit the removal request of URLs in Google and Bing webmaster tools. For example, The old HTML sitemap or any other page on the website that was submitted for removal needs to be re-submitted for the HTTPS version also.

    26. Update the Dev Version:

      The Dev version of the website should also be updated to HTTPS. This way potential changes which may be required on the live HTTPS site can be tested on the Dev site with the HTTPS encryption. So you can have something like https:www.dev.websitename.com

    27. Check 3rd Party Extensions:

      Check to ensure that the 3rd party extension like Website search is working fine in the upgraded version.

    28. Https Version Validation:

      Get the new HTTPS version validated by an online tool such as W3c. This will help you make your website cleaner after the switch. As Google grants more leverage to cleanly coded and glitch-free websites, getting your version checked and reported for errors or warnings is highly recommended.

    29. Compare Page Speed:

      Compare the website page speed for both the HTTP and HTTPS versions using the Google tool and implement the necessary changes.

    30. Check Social Sharing Extension:

      All the social sharing extensions (buttons on product page or blog) should work on the updated version.

    31. Configure Data Highlighter:

      Configure Data Highlighter in Google Webmaster tools and set it for HTTPS version. This enables the HTTPS URL to get picked up in the rich snippet results.

    32. Absolute and Relative URLs:

      If a website is using both ‘Absolute and Relative URLs’, on the website, then the Relative URLs will update to HTTPS automatically. Absolute URLs have to be updated manually. Please ensure that both URL types are duly updated.

    33. Update URLs on External Links:

      Update “301 redirects” on the external domains owned by you. For example, there can be a number of websites or blogs that might be 301 redirecting to the HTTP version. This needs to be updated so that the external links can redirect to the HTTPS version after the upgrade is pushed live.

    34. Update Blog Links:

      The internal links on the website’s images linked from the blog posts also need to be updated to their HTTPS URLs. Do update these in WordPress. This can be done under the “General Settings” section where you can mention the ‘WordPress Address (URL)’ as HTTPS.

    35. RSS Feed:

      Check if RSS subscription feed of the Blog or the website is working for the upgraded version.

    36. Get URLs Updated on 3rd Party:

      Contact the website owners/affiliates and ask them to update the website URL and use the new HTTPS.

    37. Use Updated URLs for Link Building:

      If you employ a link building strategy that involves leaving links in different forums and threads, then, continue with your link building efforts but now use the updated URLs of the website.

    38. Check Content:

      Ensure that the content on HTTP and HTTPS website is similar.

    39. Upgrade Your SSL Certificate:

      Upgrade your website SSL certificate to SHA2 to support website pages like Checkout, Category pages, and Product pages. Otherwise, it can trigger Server errors in the Webmaster tools. Moreover, Google prefers the SHA2 certification and considers it as a ranking parameter.

    40. Upgrade 3rd Party SEO Tools:

      If you are using any 3rd party SEO tool like Moz.com, please submit the HTTPS version to them to make sure it shows the  SEO score of HTTPS version.

    BONUS TIPS

    • Update css, javascript and ajax to https

      If you are using any custom CSS, Javascript or AJAX, it’s a good idea to double check and update them to reflect the HTTPS version of your domain.

    • Check Social media counters

      When you migrate to HTTPS the social counters often stop working and reflect the old numbers, or get reset to zero. Updating the plugins (on WordPress) often solves the problem.

    • Support and Enable HSTS

      The HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) helps protect websites against protocol downgrade attacks and cookie hijacking. Google says HSTS tells the browser to request HTTPS pages automatically, even if the user enters HTTP in the browser address bar. It also tells Google to serve secure URLs in the search results.

    • Enable OCSP stapling

      The process of OCSP (Online Certificate Status Protocol) checking slows down browsing as it requires real time checking of security certificate each time a URL is requested. OCSP Stapling allows rectifying this by issuing a signed time-stamped response. This reduces the need to cross-reference with a Certificate Authority (CA) thereby increasing speed.

    • Update Local Citations

      Do not forget to update your site’s address across all Local Citation sites.

    • Check Your Website For Mixed Content Warnings

      Mixed content warnings appear when you serve unnoticedly serve both HTTP and HTTPS assets/content. Serve all assets through HTTPS to avoid such warnings.

    • Check RSS Feed

      Make sure all the URLs served in RSS feed are HTTPS.

    The HTTPS upgrade, if not done properly, can result in reduced visibility in the search results; a fallout of lowered rankings. Also, there may be other severe long-term effects of not making the switch. These can include insecure connections, compromised referral data and now, a bad rap with Google.

    These 40 points must be implemented so that the transition from HTTP to HTTPS is event-less. We’d also like to hear about the cautions that you take or have heard of and can add to this list shared here.

    If you’d like to discuss migrating your site to HTTPS, get in touch with us.

    Wishing you a happy and a smooth switch!

  • 71 Google-Ordained SEO Guidelines You May Have Ove

    SEO guidelines from Google

    Google hasn’t been very open about its algorithmic changes lately. Except for major updates such as Mobile First Index (which is yet to be launched), Panda and some other unconfirmed alterations, there have been very few announcements by Google for SEO/Webmasters. However, evangelists like John Mueller (Twitter : @JohnMu) and Gary Illyes (Twitter : @methode ) have been instrumental in bridging this gap. Barry Schwartz (Twitter : @rustybrick), relentlessly publishes updates, notifications, questions by Webmasters and myriad chatters across the SEO community. Many of us owe big thanks to these mavens who have been selflessly sharing their knowledge with the whole fraternity.

    We at CueBlocks have made a similar effort! We have compiled a list of some important Google algorithm updates and official statements, straight from the horse’s mouth. Many of these points clarify the direction that Google wants SEOs to take. These will also serve as a primer for correct and ethical practices in our sphere.

    So, let’s get rollin’…

    1. Do not block CSS and JS files in your Website’s Robots.txt file

      Although Google hasn’t aced crawling Javascript, yet it is advised that the Googlebot should be able to access CSS and JS files on your site. You can validate this inside Search Console (fetch and render) feature.

    2. Google ignores special characters in the meta title tag of the website

      Many brands are confused about the inclusion of trademark symbols like ™ and © in their title tags. However, with the above statement, Google has put all the speculations to rest. Businesses can do well even without a trademark symbol in their Meta titles.

    3. W3C Code validation is not really a deciding factor for SERPs

      As per Google, the W3C validation of a page does not really influence website rankings. Still, we recommend adhering to the fundamentals.  

    4. Google has confirmed that one can use multiple H1 tags on a page

      Google has recently removed the instructions on usage of H1 tags. This gives us all an opportunity to target more keywords/phrases but in an ethical manner.

    5. Don’t use URL Fragments

      John Mueller from Google has recommended that using URL Fragments for content, in general, should be avoided.

    6. The Panda update is also about Discerning the Website Architecture

      Google informs that the Panda update also gauges a website’s quality on the basis of its structure. It emphasizes the importance of an optimum website structure. So empower your entire website with a rock solid architectural foundation.

    7. As of now AMP is not a ranking factor but it improves the overall website speed

      Google affirms that AMP is great to make your site more user-friendly on mobile but it is not a ranking factor. However, if the site’s canonical version is set to your AMP pages, then Google will consider its quality and assess your website accordingly.

    8. One should use rel-nofollow while linking to bad websites

      As per Google, if you have to link to bad sites so as to corroborate your point or to use the reference as an example, it is advised to use the rel=’nofollow’ attribute.

    9. It is not advisable to build backlinks from Google Docs/Excel sheets

      John Mueller advises not to build backlinks from google sheets or docs. It’s better to invest in quality content that helps your customers instead.

    10. Not Found URLs are not always due to a Webmaster’s mistake. Google Bots can sometimes find unwanted URLs

      Google acknowledges that 404 Errors may not always be the Webmaster’s fault. A Googlebot may sometimes traverse to unwanted sections of a site.

    11. Mobile First Index is still being tested and is not live yet.

      Google’s Mobile first index is still in its experimental stage and not fully live yet.

    12. There is no single method/formula for gaining top search engines positions

      Top Google positions are a result of several diverse factors that are dependent on the ranking capacity of a particular website which is further subject to Google’s algorithms. This means that there’s no single formula for a webmaster to depend on, in order to achieve better rankings.

    13. Nofollow tag may help manage the crawl budget of large websites

      Google has assured that you need not worry about crawl budget unless you have a site with an insanely large number of pages. Nevertheless, it is still a smart decision to use the nofollow attribute to manage your crawl budget if the site size is large.

    14. Google takes manual action against spamming the Rich Snippets

      Google has stated that if Google finds you violating the Rich Snippets Guidelines, your page could be subject to punitive action from its team, which is not a nice thing.

    15. A Website Penalty can be seen by a Webmaster only and not by any third party tools/software

      According to Google, only the webmaster or anyone who has access to a website’s Search Console can see if his/her site is penalized. Third party tools claiming so may not be trustworthy.

    16. There is no such thing as the Google Sandbox

      The existence of Google Sandbox has been debated since 2004. Google has repeatedly claimed that there’s no such thing or feature as Google Sandbox.

    17. Submit URLs you want to index in Sitemaps

      Add those URLs in the sitemap that you want indexed on Google so as to get maximum traffic on them. Google recommends avoiding submission of non-canonical and unwanted URLs in a sitemap to ensure that search engines are not presented with confusing information.

    18. A link will be considered as Paid if we are giving Charity or Donation for link exchange

      As per Google, a backlink earned by paying donation or charity will be considered as a Paid Link. Google’s latest algorithms are smart enough to discern authentic links from paid ones and may frown upon you for engaging in such activities.

    19. Changing URL Structures and Switching to HTTPs URLs are completely different

      Google informs that moving from HTTP to HTTPS is distinct from changing the URL structure (for e.g  going from numeric URLs to keyword based URLs). It is advised that one should not make both changes simultaneously.

    20. Google allows using different markup formats for structured data

      As per Google, different schema formats (microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD) can be used to markup content. You are free to choose any format type for schema markup tags or even mix it up as long as the resulting output remains the same.

    21. Google ignores HTML lang attribute completely

      There is no benefit of adding the Lang Attribute according to Google. Google has confirmed that they ignore it completely. However, there is no harm if you have already added it.

    22. Content within Tabs will be given full SEO weightage

      Several sites have content present in tabs or collapsible segments. For example – Ecommerce stores contains content in the form of reviews, descriptions, and other information that may appear in different Tabs. Google has stated that it gives full SEO weightage to content present under the tabs, regardless of their positioning or structure on the page.

    23. Fast Crawl Rate setting won’t help with SEO rankings

      Increasing the Crawl rate speed in the Search Console will not affect rankings as per Google.

    24. Webmasters can remove links from the Disavow file

      It is alright to remove domains from your disavow file if they are no longer unnatural, live, and have been processed. However, if you can still derive any value from the unnatural links to your site, it’s best to keep them in your disavow file.

    25. Domain Authority or Score is not a signal in Google’s algorithms

      Domain Authority is one of the most commonly referred metrics by SEOs to denote a site’s authority. But it is not to be considered as an actual metric or signal deployed by Google as the search engine confirms. It’s just a term coined by Moz.

    26. No big SEO advantage with HTTP/2

      As per Google, there is no big SEO advantage of using HTTP/2 as of now. The primary benefit of using HTTP/2 is that it improves a site’s page loading speed, which results in happier visitors.

    27. No need to have an XML sitemap for AMP pages

      According to Google, there is no need to submit an additional sitemap for AMP pages. Google employs the rel-amphtml attribute to understand them.

    28. International and Multilingual links are not considered as spam

      Google doesn’t consider international and multi language links as spam as long as they are of good quality and follow Webmaster Guidelines.

    29. Site Command will show rich snippets if Webmaster has implemented them correctly

      Google informs us that its site command i.e. site:https://www.cueblocks.com may show in the rich snippets result if it has been implemented correctly on the website. Otherwise, you can refer to the Google Search Console structured data report to check errors or warning messages.

    30. Google does not support rel-canonical tag for Images

      Google has confirmed that they do not support the rel=canonical attribute for images.

    31. Google considers singular and plural words as different keywords

      A keyword’s singular and plural variation can be treated as two different entities by Google. Use them wisely in your Content Marketing plans.

    32. No Penalty for linking out to external websites

      Google will not penalize content with links going out to external websites as it has confirmed. Linking out to useful information and relevant resources can, in fact, further benefit the readers and users. Also, note that linking to external websites is not a mandate and you will not incur any penalty if you choose not to.   

    33. Upload Disavow File on Canonical version of the website

      Make sure that you upload the Disavow file on the canonical/preferred version of the website. Google advises that the disavow file should be in the preferred version of your online property/website.

    34. Product Pricing is not a ranking factor as per Google

      E-commerce Stores are not ranked on the basis of offering/selling products at a low price. Product pricing is not a ranking factor in web search according to Google.

    35. Backlinks shown in Search Console are crawled in Google’s index

      Google informs that the links shown in Search Console are generally crawled by Google and are included in their index. In case a URL is missing, it may be due to the fact that it has the noindex tag, or could possibly be hacked and thus does not show up in the search results.

    36. Hreflang won’t improve search engine rankings of the website

      Hreflang tag simply serves the purpose of showing language based results in Google (geo based search). Google has confirmed that while it’s important to add a Hreflang tag in a multilingual website, it does not affect the rankings.

    37. Using Underscores or Dashes in the website URLs does not pose any SEO threats

      A webmaster can use dashes or underscores in a URL. No particular version is preferred or recommended for a good SEO score as per Google’s claim.

    38. No way you can redirect a penalized site safely. There is no escape from Google!

      There is no method to safely redirect a penalized website to another version according to Google. It can be considered as cloaking, which is against Google Webmaster’s guidelines.

    39. Different Google algorithms impact a website differently

      Google says that it may negatively impact a website on the basis of one algorithm, while positively marking it on another. For example, a quality link profile can be favored by Google Penguin or a link specific update, but shoddy content can prove harmful for the website and result in a negative assessment by Google Panda update.

    40. Mention Alt tags in the same language as that of the content

      Google advises that one should mention Alt tags on the page in the same language in which content is written. For example, if your content is in Spanish, add Alt tags in Spanish. It helps prevent any confusion for Google crawlers and is also useful for the user.

    41. Google does not provide any SEO Certifications to Webmasters

      Google has clarified that there are no SEO certifications that it issues. They do have Google Analytics and AdWords certification but not SEO certifications.

    42. There is a slight SEO advantage in having keywords in the URLs

      As per Google, back in 2008-10 Webmasters did focus on including keywords in the URL, but today it is not a considerable factor at all. Google Algorithm is smart enough to understand other elements on the page, such as the type of content, backlink signals, domain age, etc. So, keywords in the URL are not essential anymore.

    43. Outbound links are not considered as a ranking factor

      Google clarifies that adding links to Wikipedia or other official and high authority resources on the topic does not help in achieving higher ranks. It may provide information and add value for the user, but has little gain in terms of search engine rankings.

    44. Google does not index images as frequently as it does web pages

      According to Google, images don’t change very frequently as Google does not index them as often as other HTML pages. This could be the reason why the saturation of HTML pages and that of image URLs varies.

    45. Title Tags are not a critical SEO ranking factor for Google

      There has been a great emphasis on Title Tags of a page since the emergence of the SEO field. However, as per Google, Title Tags are not considered as a critical ranking factor. In fact, Google sometimes shows different Title Tags based on the query/keyword search performed. When it comes to search queries, it’s Google that leads the way and not the Webmasters.

    46. Using Special Characters and Decimal points in the URL is not a very SEO-friendly practice

      According to John Mueller, it is better to avoid special characters and decimal points in URLs. However, there are a few pages with such URLs that may still rank higher in Google on a specific set of queries.

    47. There is no SEO advantage of using capital letters in the URLs

      Google informs that there is no benefit of using capital letters in the URL. Capitalization does not affect rankings. So it’s better to avoid them and keep the URLs simple.

    48. Links Disavow file size has a limit of 2MB

      As confirmed by Google, the Links Disavow file has a size limit of 2MB and 100,000 URLs.

    49. There is no direct correlation between crawl frequency and higher rankings

      There is no direct relationship between crawl frequency and higher rankings and Google has confirmed the same. So basically, if a page gets crawled on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean that it will rank higher.

    50. No need to set preferred domain settings if redirects are correctly implemented and pointing to the preferred versions

      Google has clarified that there is no need of a preferred domain setting in the Search Console if all redirects are implemented correctly. This means that Webmaster should direct non-preferred URLs to the preferred ones correctly.

    51. A website can incur both types of penalties; Manual Action and Algorithmic

      Google has confirmed that it is possible for a website to be penalized both by Manual Action as well as algorithmic judgment. For example, a penalty may be imposed algorithmically by the Google Penguin update and also by a manual action for schema markup spam.

    52. Move Disavow file when migrating to HTTPS version. Reupload it to HTTPs preferred version

      Google recommends that the webmaster should move the disavow file from HTTP to HTTPS version once the website migration is complete. It is important to upload the disavow file on the HTTPS version.

    53. Google won’t disavow domains when you disavow IP Addresses

      Google informs that when disavowing domains, it is important to mention the domain name. Google will not process the disavowed domain if it is mentioned as an IP address. So avoid making this mistake. There are some good online tools available that you can use to validate the disavow domains.

    54. It is best to keep the 301 Redirects active for a time period of one year

      It is a good practice to keep the 301 redirects links active for a period of 1 year. John Mueller has confirmed that Google may take up to 1 year to fully understand the 301 Redirects destination.

    55. Social Signals do not influence page rankings

      Google has clarified several times that social signals do not impact Google rankings. Google may acknowledge links from social network websites and rank the content published on them but beyond that, there is no direct relation between social shares and better rankings.

    56. Google never indexes all the website pages

      Google made it clear that they never index all the website pages. Of course, it might not be true for websites with 5 or 6 pages as Google may index all of their pages. But for large scale websites, Google doesn’t index all the pages.

    57. User Engagement on a website is not a ranking factor

      Google has clarified that visitor engagement on the website is not a ranking factor. A user may view different pages, create an account and sign up on the website, but all these actions won’t affect ranking.

    58. According to Google, 404s do not attract Google Panda penalty

      You’ll not be penalized by Panda for 404 errors as per the information shared by Google. As stated on multiple counts by Google, 404s do not affect your site generally but a large number of 404 errors may deteriorate user experience.

    59. Bad HTML validation is not a threat to rankings but can impact structured data

      Invalid HTML does not impact your site’s ranking adversely as per the information shared by Google. There is a chance it may impede its crawling. One should also validate the structured markup implemented as well.

    60. Links within a PDF document will pass PageRank

      Google’s Gary Illyes has confirmed that the links within a PDF file are considered valuable. So, if you are linking to website pages from a PDF file, it is still counted as a link.

    61. Google treats Errors codes (429 and 503) in the same manner

      Google has confirmed that it treats error codes 429 (when a user has sent too many requests in a stipulated time period) and the 503 (when the server is currently unable to handle requests) identically.

    62. Put rel-nofollow link on Web Design by Links

      According to Google’s John Mueller, if any Webmaster has a doubt or fear about the un-natural backlink, it is better to put a rel-nofollow tag on the Footer Web Design/Development by links.

    63. Disavow file syntax in uppercase or lowercase doesn’t make a difference to Google

      Disavow domains with names in uppercase and lowercase are allowed by Google. As has been confirmed, you can use any format that you like. So basically, domains Example.com and example.com are equally good for Google.

    64. Add pagination on infinite scroll pages to get them indexed

      Google informs that for a giant page with an infinite scroll, it is better to add pagination to the pages. If the page keeps loading forever, Googlebot may stop crawling it further.

    65. Change of Address tool helps with Website Domain Migration

      Moving to a different domain? Google informs that webmasters can use the Change of Address tool to speed up the process a little by giving Google a loud and clear signal. However, it is not required when executing HTTP to HTTPS migration.

    66. Googlebot can follow up to 5 redirects at a time

      During website migrations, one may end up having multiple redirect chains. According to Google, they can follow up to 5 redirects at a time. Anything above this number is not good! To make it easier for Google and to be on a safer side, keep it simple which means Page A –> B.

    67. There is no guarantee of indexing from Sitemaps

      Even if the Webmaster has submitted a sitemap, there is no guarantee that Google will index those pages as per the statement shared by the search engine. The indexing of a page depends upon a number of other factors like content, backlinks, internal links etc. However, it is important to generate the XML sitemap and submit it, otherwise, it becomes difficult for Google to find the pages.

    68. Google keeps on updating and improving its algorithms

      Needless to say, Google keeps on making changes to its algorithm to provide a better experience to the searchers and it has shared these modifications time and again. We all know how Google has evolved in the last couple of years. Featured Snippets, Schema Markup, Instant Search (retired recently) etc. are some decent examples. Way to go Google!

    69. Google picks up title tags automatically and presents them in a better way

      When it comes to showing a Title Tag based on search query, Google is smart enough to customize them if it deems fit. So if you notice different Title Tags, do not be surprised!

    70. A Domain’s age is not a ranking signal

      A myth that’s been a part of the SEO industry for a long time has been busted by John Mueller who confirmed that domain age is not a parameter for Google. Neither is Domain registration length.

    71. Robots.txt file size should be smaller than 500KB

      John Mueller confirmed that the Robots.txt file size should not exceed 500 KB. The 500KB seems sufficiently large but it would be interesting to know what could happen if one’s robots.txt exceeds this limit.

    We hope that you found some useful information from our list. If there is any other update, query or statement you think deserves a place here, do share it in the comments section or contact us at info@cueblocks.com.

    Disclaimer: The information above has been compiled from trustworthy sources like SERoundtable, Google Webmaster Blog, and Official Google Spokesperson. However these are not to be taken as the final word of Google and if you have any questions or doubts, I would recommend following the Google Webmaster Guidelines. As an SEO, I suggest you tread with utmost caution and also research-based knowledge.

  • How to download 404 errors from Google Search Cons

    The Google Search Console is of great help to Webmasters with several useful features like sitemap submission, search analytics, links to your site, crawl errors report. With the GSC, the SEO specialists have a powerful tool at their fingertips to direct the course of their SEO requests.

    However, the Google Search Console also has several aspects which are somewhat frustrating. For eg; the “Links to your site” feature only show a maximum of 1000 domains. Now, Imagine how many domains link to a site like Moz or Buzzfeed! Do you think the Google Search Console serves them well?

    The sitemap tool shows how many URLs were indexed but does not distinguish between the non-indexed and indexed URLs. And well there are other similar annoyances. (Update: Google is testing a beta feature called Index Coverage report that will show indexed pages count and reasons why some pages could not be indexed. Read more on Google Webmaster Blog.)

    Another point that annoys Google Search Console (GSC) users is the Crawl Errors report. The Search Console shows us the crawl errors, the HTTP status code of the error (404, 503 etc), and also the source of the error. The bothersome part is you have to click on each URL to view where the error originates from.

    Search Console 404 Errors

     

    Another problem is the 1,000 errors limit. You’ll have to fix the existing ones to view newer ones.

    Solution: Download crawl errors with source using Google API Explorer

    The Google API explorer is a savvy tool to communicate with numerous Google APIs. But we need to concern ourselves only with the Search Console API.

    You’ll need Full Access to use the API and Search Console account, so make sure you have them beforehand.

    Once logged in, you’ll notice the Search Console API offers several Services, 13 services to be exact. But our focus here is the one labeled webmasters.urlcrawlerrorssamples.list. So, go ahead and click on it.

    The next screen will look like the image below. Beyond this point it’s a simple 3 step process:

    404 Crawl Errors List-Search Console Api Explorer

    1. Fill in the parameters and Execute the query

    The fields you notice on the next screen read as follows:

    • Site URL – Quite self-explanatory
    • Category – This field is for denoting the type of errors you’d like to filter it with. Luckily for us, it offers an easy to use drop down with possible fields. For 404 errors, choose notFound as the option.
    • Platform – This refers to the user agent or simply the type of device you wish to retrieve errors for. Again an easy drop down to help us out. We’ll be selecting web for now.
    • Fields – This specifies the data you want to retrieve along with crawl errors like source, error detected on date, last crawled date, error code etc.

    Use the fields editor to select required fields. The available ones are:

    • urlCrawlErrorSample Provides information about the sample URL and its crawl error
    • first_detected – Know the date when the error was first detected
    • last_crawled – Is the date when the URL was first crawled
    • pageUrl – The URL of crawl error
    • responseCode – duh
    • urlDetails To retrieve more details about error URL. Selecting it gives you two options:
      • containingSitemaps – Sitemap URLs pointing to the crawl error
      • linkedFromUrls – Source of the crawl error. The root of all the fuss!

    I prefer selecting all the data and filtering it down later. You are free to choose your path.

    Oh! Do turn on the Authorize requests using OAuth 2.0 button on top right (marked with an orange rectangle in the image)

    or

    Once all the fields are set, just click the Authorize and execute button.

    Authorize Button

    You’d be greeted with a popup before the report runs, like in the image below:

    OAuth 2.0 Confirmation - Search Console API

    Check both options and hit the Authorize and execute button.

    2. Convert the output JSON to a CSV

    If everything goes well, you should see a status 200 OK message with a JSON output similar to the image below

    Crawl Errors List - JSON Output

    Copy the output after the first curly bracket { till the last } curly bracket in the end.

    Now, head over to a JSON to CSV converter. I prefer https://konklone.io/json/ for the simple interface, a preview window, and the ability to download the CSV.

    Note: I tried another converter too but the report wasn’t 100% accurate. Test your converter before you finalize on a report.

    Paste the JSON output and convert it into a CSV.

    3. Download the CSV and Fix 404 errors

    This is pretty much self-explanatory! Download your CSV and start fixing those 404 errors.

    Word to the wise: Google Search Console may not list sources or linking domains for all errors. So don’t worry if some rows returned are empty.

    Conclusion:

    404 errors may not seem critical but fixing them helps saves crawl budget, improves user experience, and also helps retain link value.

    You may use the same process to find and fix other errors. The API includes 9 types of errors in the Google Search Console that you can fix. You don’t have to wreck your brain to search them out; we have listed all error types below.

    1. authPermissions
    2. flashContent
    3. manyToOneRedirect
    4. notFollowed
    5. notFound
    6. other
    7. roboted
    8. serverError
    9. Soft404

    I hope you find this useful! Now head to your laptop and start fixing those 404 errors.

  • Experiencing E-commerce Traffic Drop? Here’s

    eCommerce is a big arena. The online retail competition is intense and managing an eCommerce business is in itself a tedious task. There are so many scenarios and things that an eCommerce business owner must keep in mind just to ensure that his business is not just functioning well but is also providing a positive ROI. An eCommerce store’s health is pivoted on the traffic it receives and if traffic is affected, one will have a lot to worry about.

    There are many reasons why a store’s traffic may drop or experience a sudden plunge. A traffic drop might be a major one and/ or a gradual drop that can happen over a period of weeks or even months. Website migration related changes result in consistent traffic drop. We’ve covered these points one by one based on our hands-on experience with Ecommerce Clients.

    In this post, we’ll list some of the factors we believe lead to a drop in traffic. To classify them better we have categorized these features into : Evident and Evasive. Needless to say that the second category of the not so obvious/ evasive reasons is challenging to hunt down and enlist. However, the task is not so impossible and can be easily tackled with a little patience and some precision.

    a) Evident factors of a drop in traffic are those that are fully known to a website owner. These factors are least likely to surprise you and they are most probably the result of a technical anomaly or some budget mismanagement or constraint. These reasons are pretty much self-evident and are easily identifiable the minute there is a significant fall in traffic.

    1. Google Algorithm Update or Penalty: An update by Google may hit your website due to a recent Algorithmic update. For e.g. your website can be penalized due to some manual action or spam backlinks. Make sure to follow ethical SEO Guidelines to avoid such unexpected penalties. It is important to know that recovery from a Google penalty that has affected traffic may take weeks, sometimes months, and in some very rare cases even years.

    2. Noindex Tag on the Website: This is the most common coding mistake. Your Developer added Noindex tag on the meta header. Make sure to check your website for such avoidable errors that can impede traffic to the website. We tackled a similar problem a while back with a WooCommerce site. The client’s previous development company had turned on the Noindex, Nofollow tag for a lot of pages and forgot to turn it off. This erased all the pages from Google SERPs and traffic to its pages was nearly zero!

    3. Google Analytics setup: Sometimes the Google Analytics code is not placed or visible on all pages. If you see a drop in traffic in Google Analytics, you can double check your page code and cross check this with the stats obtained from Search Analytics. If Search Console is reporting Impressions/Clicks but Google Analytics Organic Traffic shows a different story and the discrepancy between the two is significantly high, then this means that there is something wrong with the Google Analytics setup. GA code should be present on all pages on the <head> section. You can also use GTM code to manage this more efficiently.

    4. Robots.txt file: The robots.txt file could be used to manage crawl budget effectively and control bot behavior to a major extent. But adding one wrong instruction can result in a huge loss of organic traffic. You might end up blocking a whole category, folder or even the entire website in a worst case scenario. For eg. a Robots.txt instruction User-agent: * Disallow: / can block the entire website. Make sure that you didn’t block this by mistake in first place.

    5. Website/Domain Migration: Traffic can also drop if you migrated your website to a different platform or a domain recently. According to different case studies, a website may witness upto 60% fall in traffic due to website migration. Make sure that you have followed the recommended SEO procedure during this transition and are not suffering the brunt of avoidable oversights. Make sure you check all those 301 Redirects, Code Changes, and Canonical tags. There are many variables that influence a successful website migration.

    6. Canonical Tags: Canonical tags are one of the most important SEO tags. They prevent duplicate content issues by informing the search engine about the preferred version of web pages that needs to be indexed. In case you observe a drop in traffic, make sure you thoroughly check on your canonical tags and implement them correctly. In many cases, Webmasters can point to the wrong canonical versions which can be detrimental to the traffic. Canonical tags, if implemented correctly can be of great help and can keep the onsite content duplication issues at bay while ensuring that a drop in traffic is handled well too.

    7. Search Console and Bing Webmaster Notifications: Google has been very active from the last few years and uses this tool to communicate with the Webmasters. Daily evaluate your Search Console and Bing Webmaster to observe data or any new messages so that you remain on top of data and other notifications. Make sure that you have not entered the website URL under the Remove URLs section. Google can remove the website or a specific page for 90 days (temporarily).

    8. Domain Name/Hosting renewal issues: Your Hosting/Domain Name company sends a domain name renewal request close to the renewal period. Every website has to renew its domain name attribution just like any other subscription to a service. Make sure you renew your domain name or the hosting provider to avoid a sudden shutdown of your website! Add this to your to-do list and renew your plan before the date of renewal arrives.

    b)Evasive faactors: The reasons listed above are not only easily detectable but also redeemable to a large extent. The list of reasons that fall under the evasive category are a bit trickier.

    These are the factors that are difficult to catch or control. Consider this, if you are entering a lean period for your eCommerce store, there will be a slight decline in traffic reaching your store but because seasonal trends are beyond the control of the store owners, we cannot do much. Similarly, increasing competition in an industry is another factor that we’ll have to be conscious of without the expectations of overriding its influence immediately. Like these, there are other factors that we need to closely monitor so as to minimize the damage they are likely to cause.

    So Let’s begin:

    1. HTTPS Platform: For an Ecommerce Store, HTTPS has become a critical SEO factor. It is also significant for users. Google has warned webmasters against using HTTP. These warning messages can be seen in the Search Console. So, if your Google Analytics is showing a decrease in traffic or conversions, the absence of HTTPs could be the reason behind this. Starting Oct 2017, Google Chrome will trigger warning messages for HTTP websites that may process any forms on their site. Similarly, if you have migrated to an HTTPs platform recently but couldn’t incorporate all important migration requirements such as the SSL Certificate Validation, 301 Redirects and Canonicalization etc. that could also result in a decline in traffic. Make sure to follow proper SEO steps during HTTPs migration. To ensure that your HTTPS migration is smooth and without incidence, go through our complete guide to HTTPs migration list.

    2. Products Inventory: This one is a little tricky and difficult to measure. 80% of pages on an eCommerce store are product pages. Discontinuation of a bestseller or a high traffic product can majorly affect traffic. We observed in most of the cases, Webmasters or site owners choose to disable/delete discontinued product pages which results in a 404 error. Now imagine if this product was a source of high traffic for the website, it would not only cause a drop in traffic but also severely impact the conversion rate. A good way to manage discontinued products is to 301 redirect them to the closest matching Category/Sub-Category page. This preserves the SEO value of those particular pages to a large extent and provides a better experience to visitors landing from Google or other referral links. Below are the list of steps that an Ecommerce Store can follow to manage discontinued products for a Magento Store. After receiving notification from the Vendor/Manufacturer that a particular product has been discontinued, make sure:
      1. The product is set “discontinued” to “Yes”
      2. The “Short Description” is changed to “This product has been discontinued by the manufacturer and is no longer available for sale.”
      3. The product is removed from all the categories
      4. The visibility of the product is changed to “Search”.
      5. Retain the meta tags for discontinued products.
      6. Remove the product from Amazon/eBay/PLA.
      7. Remove any product relationship associations.
      8. If the page is still sending positive signals to Google/providing a positive SEO benefit, the page should be left alone and be re-evaluated in 2 months.
      9. If the page is no longer sending positive signals to Google or is harming SEO, the page will be 301’d to another relevant page. The new page should be the closest matching Category or a Sub-Category page.
      10. Change the visibility of all 301’d products to “Not Visible Individually”.

        So the next time you notice an unexplained drop in traffic or revenue, scrutinize the traffic on the product pages and see if you observe an anomaly.


    3. Investment in more than one Marketing Channel: A wise strategy is to allocate your budget to all traffic-generating channels such as Organic, Paid, Referral, Social, Email Marketing etc. In Ecommerce, traffic may show a downward trend if any of these marketing channel is not performing as anticipated. For e.g. if you reduce the budget of your Paid Campaigns to half, you may see a monumental decrease in Direct traffic. It is important to review the marketing budget spent from time to time (recommended: monthly basis). It is also a wise step to disable/pause Paid campaigns if the website is down or under maintenance mode. Do not forget to check the performance in the Google Analytics Marketing channels to get an even better idea of the traffic. You can even set email alerts for traffic limits on different channels performance.

    4. Website Pagespeed: If it takes more than 3 seconds to load, no one is likely to stick around. No matter how good your website design is and what crazy discounts you might be offering! Big ecommerce giants like Amazon, Zappos invest insane amount of funds to make sure their sites load up fast. A decent pagespeed is important for all kinds of websites but for Ecommerce business it is indispensable! Pagespeed has a direct relation with Coding and Server Management. There are tons of articles and case studies about how an optimal pagespeed makes a huge difference to the performance of a website. Tools such as Google Pagespeed tool, Pingdom, and several others help identify areas that require improvement. Even Google Analytics reports pagespeed stats.

      If you have introduced a new section on the website, made some changes in the code etc. these can cause pagespeed issues. Make sure to test Pagespeed with every major coding change going live on a website. Along with this, one should also think of improving website load time. In Ecommerce, it is quite easy to execute. You just need to improve page load speed of the home page, a single category page, and a single product page. Since the product page template is usually same for all products, any tweak made in one will be reflected sitewide.

    5. Mobile Friendly and Usability issues: Traffic from mobile devices is increasing at an exceptionally high rate.Google too is expected to make the Mobile First index live by 2018. This means that you need to take care of all mobile-friendly aspects such as responsiveness, mobile UI, UX etc. After the HTTPS switch, being mobile ready is the next major thing in Ecommerce you should be prepared for. If your website’s mobile interface is different from the desktop version then you need to pay attention to this discrepancy and sort it immediately. A website with bad bounce rate, low Average time, and low revenue could be a result of issues with mobile usability. One can simply check this using a traffic analysis tool. Google Analytics provides mobile traffic stats which are reliable and necessary to sustain the performance of your website on a mobile device. It is recommended that you make a separate Filter for Mobile Traffic and regularly keep tabs on it. Website Signup Forms, Checkout Cart, and all other important sections must be Mobile friendly. If your website is still not mobile friendly, then time has come to implement this crucial SEO step for the sake of better usability.

    6. Seasonal Traffic up and down: Seasonal traffic can make a huge difference to the ROI and the revenue of an online business. An online fashion retailer’s website selling swimwear may witness dramatic traffic drops in winters and equally dramatic increases during summers. This is one of the factors we do not have a direct control over. We can only be prepared when entering into the peak or non-peak traffic season and make sure that the marketing budget (Paid to be more specific) is adjusted accordingly. One of our clients grew his organic traffic by about 30% by just adding seasonal/year based keywords on the website. Also, it is important to note that it is not just about changes in seasons but, weekdays (working days and weekends) can also show upward and downward spirals in traffic. Hence, it is better to compare your traffic with that of the previous year (Year over Year Comparison) for a specific duration.

    7. Website Backlinks: Google‘s Penguin update which emphasized on the quality of backlinks affected more than 2% search results.. For SEOs, backlinks are an important concern. If you have observed your organic traffic dropping lately, then this could be due to the Google Penguin real time update. Make sure that you have cleansed/disavowed bad quality links. There are several tools available to help you with this. We work with Majestic but Ahrefs is equally good. Google backlinks data from Search Console can also give you top backlinks. But it is restricted to only 1000 domains.

      Also, audit your backlinks profile periodically. Try earning high quality backlinks using competitive analysis and publishing value rich content to attract backlinks. Your content will act as a magnet for high authority websites/blogs/forums. Do not engage in any unethical link activities that can cause organic traffic loss and that too permanent. Another scenario is if you have accidently disavowed good backlinks in Search Console. The Google disavow tool is powerful and one needs to be cautious with it.

    8. Checkout Page is dysfunctional: The checkout page is a key component of an online store. If you witness a drop in revenue and a low trend in returning visitors, one reason could be that there are Checkout page issues. Make sure that your Checkout Cart has SSL Certificate and is working perfectly (100% uptime). Customers should not face any problem placing an order on the website. If you observe a drop in traffic, you can check the Checkout page views trend. Customer support message is another method where you will be notified immediately if a customer had trouble placing or completing an order.

    9. Blogging: Most eCommerce Stores own a Blog to announce updates about products, deals, and discounts. Blogging is great way to engage with your customers and increase brand loyalty. Blogging, if done right helps increase both traffic and conversion. If you observe a drop in traffic, it could also be related to sporadic blogging. Blogging should be frequent, consistent, and of high quality which is user oriented. Moz has written a great blog post about the frequency of Blogging and choosing blog topics (link here). Ecommerce Blogs are usually set up on WordPress which everyone seems to be familiar with these days. Make sure that Blog URLs are not blocked by the Robots.txt file or carry the Noindex tag. You can review your monthly Blogging performance and create a content strategy for your brand/ products. Check your Blog traffic on a weekly basis and set alerts too.

    10. Product page Reviews: Product page reviews (user generated content) populate product pages in the right way. The content influx generated by reviews results in better rankings and conversions. Make sure that your product reviews are optimized to match SEO guidelines so as to reap complete benefits.. Embed product reviews and have canonical tag pointing to Parent Product page. A lot of the Ecommerce Stores use 3rd party Review system. If you notice a sudden drop in traffic or revenue of product pages, it is quite possible that it could be due to missing reviews. A glitch in product reviews display, even if temporary, can make hundreds or thousands of reviews disappear in an instant. It is recommended to host reviews using the platform that the store is built on. This will give you full control over reviews. If possible, avoid using 3rd party reviews and make sure that products are getting user reviews. If the traffic on your product pages is declining, it could very well be the result of less/low number of users reviews. Amazon.com has been able to outperform many Ecommerce players because of the prolific number of reviews it garners.

    11. Rich Snippets not configured properly: Rich snippets stand out among the SERPs, and hence are crucial for eCommerce stores. They can result in better click-through rate (upto 30%) for an Ecommerce Store. To rank for Rich Snippets is not easy and requires a store to qualify for many parameters. Also, if you had tried but received a Search Console message about Google manual spam action for Rich snippets, you will see organic traffic drop. Make sure that your rich snippets for store have been implemented correctly. There is a Google penalty (manual action) for spam against Rich Snippets. You can test your Rich Snippets using the Google official tool here – https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/

    12. Sudden Spike in Server/Crawl Errors: Search Console and a few other paid tools give great insights on the website’s health vis-a-vis crawl errors. Website Server migration could result in a sudden spike in the server errors in a website. If you are noticing a fall in traffic or a low average time check crawl errors section in the Search Console, you want to contact your Server team to resolve these errors immediately and re-submit the sitemap for a quick re-indexing. Although, crawl errors should not harm the rankings yet they can impede an organic increase in traffic.

    13. Identify Drop in Traffic using Segmentsby Device, by Geolocation, by Country, by Landing Page, by Channel, by Visitor Type (New vs Returning). This requires you to analyze your traffic analysis tool – say Google Analytics. You want to filter you data based on a few important metrics like Device, Geolocation, Landing Pages, Traffic Channel, and Visitor type. By applying these conditions, you can check if there’s a specific area where a downfall in traffic is reported.
      1. By Device – Website might not be performing well for mobile visitors. The device filter will segregate traffic data based on different device types – Desktop, Mobile, Tablet etc. From here on you can further dig deeper into different Device types to find out the reasons behind the drop in traffic.
      2. By Region – Sometimes, a marketing campaign might not perform well in a particular country. This is a very common factor that hinders growth in SEO/Organic traffic. For e.g. a business in Google.co.in may perform well but not in European countries. By applying, geographical filters you can sort the traffic based on country, state or city. This will help you analyze the actual reasons behind slow or falling traffic in a particular geo location. You can take this one step further by also applying a City filter.
      3. By Landing Page – Landing Page is a great source for tracking traffic. This is one of our favorite hacks too! Landing pages are the primary/key factors attracting traffic. A deletion of a few pages may cause a drop in traffic drop. You can check the landing page data daily, weekly, or even monthly. An easy way to find the reason behind the change in traffic is to simply compare these landing pages and look for unexpected trends.
      4. By Channel – Channel is the most common factor that decides daily traffic trend. A recent Email Campaign may boost overall traffic but as time passes, it contributes less to positive gains in traffic and eventually becomes a negligible source of traffic generation. It is important to know the performance of all marketing channels. For more advanced tracking, you can set up Google Analytics alerts to check performance decline of specific channels.
      5. By Visitor Type – There are 2 type of visitors i.e. New and Returning and as a webmaster, you should have knowledge about all kinds of visitors coming to your store. Many online businesses focus and invest in returning visitors. This shows the brand/website’s love for the users who show their loyalty to the brand. Blogging, News, Special Offers, Remarketing, and Newsletters are known channels to invest in order to increase the number of returning visitors to your store.

    Conclusion:

    These are some of the factors that can reveal the truth behind unanticipated drops in traffic. However, there can be multiple areas subject to modifications and user interactions which may also influence traffic. These include website redesign, the addition of new sections, products inventory, negative reviews about Website/Brand, Paid Marketing budget, holidays, global events etc. There will be some things that you can control and others which would be beyond your power. So make sure that you perfect all things that are in your control and aim for a foolproof monitoring of the traffic on your website.

    Let us know if you think there is an important point we missed out on. We would be happy to add it to this list. Looking forward to your comments.

  • To Shopify or Not to Shopify? Let’s Find Out...

    Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your store. To Shopify or Not?
    Among the many online platforms available for eCommerce businesses, one can easily get overwhelmed about making the right choice.There are various platform functionalities that a store owner needs to reckon and gauge before actually zeroing in on a platform. Since these functionalities determine the store’s performance, one simply cannot afford to operate on a platform with basic or obsolete features.

    Starting an eCommerce business entails not only software investment but hardware, human, and financial resources also. Thus an uninformed choice about your primary software resource can gravely impact all other resources that are crucial to building a business. Therefore, while choosing platforms, make sure you gauge its scalability, robustness, cost-effectiveness, available functionalities, and upgradable features. Also, you must evaluate the security, performance, and the ease with which a platform can be accessed by an admin and the support (community).

    In our experience, Shopify has fulfilled many of these indispensable requirements for establishing a new store. It has helped new business owners develop and establish profitable online businesses and it can help you too!

    So, here we are going to talk about this vastly used platform in the eCommerce industry and gain some insights into how it might just be the platform you need.

    What is Shopify?

    Shopify is an eCommerce platform that helps you set up a retail business online. One of the key reasons that make Shopify perfect for startups is that the store owner need not possess any technical knowledge to build their store. All you need to do is choose a store name and build a basic store. However, for customizations and advanced development, you’ll need professional assistance.

    Since its inception in 2006, Shopify has introduced a variety of improvisations and new upgrades. As per INC.com and Forbes.com, Shopify is the #1 platform for starting one’s business. There are currently about 400,000 active stores on Shopify.

    Shopify Pricing:

    There are five Shopify pricing plans to choose from:

    Shopify Lite – $9 per month

    Basic Shopify – $29 per month

    Shopify – $79 per month

    Advanced Shopify – $299 per month

    Shopify Plus – fee is negotiable

    See more information here:

    https://www.shopify.in/pricing

    What makes Shopify a popular eCommerce platform?

    The following 22 reasons –

    1. HTTPS: Shopify offers default SSL certified websites which can instantly generate trust in a customer’s mind who is visiting the eCommerce store. eCommerce stores require SSL website security certification for many processes such as credit/debit card payments, sharing account details, etc. An HTTPS/SSL certificate provides a secure transaction network between Client (customer) and Server.

    2. Secure Checkout: As there are transactions involved, an eCommerce platform must have a secure Checkout page. To ensure a smooth transaction, Shopify hosts checkout for all the stores and doesn’t allow anyone to alter this functionality. This leads to foolproofing the most important operation of a web retail store.

    3. Easy Backend: Shopify has one of the easiest backends to operate on. A store admin can easily learn and get used to it very fast. With several features including store-wide search, keyword shortcuts (ability to search using keywords), it becomes extremely easy for the user to work on the Shopify backend.

      Shopify backend also includes a report section that helps to analyze store’s sales and traffic by providing relevant stats. This allows the store owner to analyze website statistics and performance without any third party intervention.

    4. Search Engine Optimization: To gain visibility on popular search engines, a store must be properly optimized. Shopify’s default backend offers assistance with that.

      • Meta Tags: Shopify includes a built-in feature to add the title and description on a page/ product/ blog.

      • Auto-handling of Robots.txt: Shopify manages robots.txt by default, which ensures orderly management of search engines crawlers.

      • Sitemap: Shopify generates a sitemap for Collections, Products, CMS, and Blogs separately which ensures efficient crawling & indexing of pages submitted via sitemap. So there’s no need to generate a separate sitemap using a 3rd party extension.

    5. Speed: Page load speed is one of the most crucial factors that influence a customer’s retention on a store. According to Radware, “3 seconds is all it takes for a customer to abandon a page if it does not load quickly enough.”

      Shopify ensures an optimal Page Load speed by leveraging CDN. By placing files like images, CSS, JS etc on CDN, it helps to load the page content faster.

    6. Shopify Apps: Every platform requires add-ons/plugins to enhance their functionality. Shopify calls them “Apps”. These apps add extra functionalities to a store, such as product review, social sharing, and others.

      There are thousands of apps that you can leverage to enhance the functionalities and usability of your store. Each app is built for easy integration, implementation, and configuration which makes them popular and easy to use.

    7. Theme: Themes impart a unique look and feel to a store and Shopify offers thousands of themes to choose from. Also, there are several free themes which can be implemented on your store to start with. Here is the link.

    8. Support: Shopify offers impressive support in case of queries and complaints.They offer 24X7 communication system which includes support on chat, call or email. They also have a very large and active information forum accessible to users.

    9. Shopify POS: This feature makes Shopify stand out amongst its competitors. The ‘point of sale’ (POS) options and kit let you use Shopify to sell not just online but in your physical stores too – as long as you have an iOS or Android device. Merchants in US or Canada can avail a free credit card reader for their device from Shopify.

    10. No server/hosting required: Usually, all stores require a personal server/hosting to run their website. For that, you need a server administrator to set up your store, which is an additional expense. However, on Shopify, no server or a dedicated resource is required. With a single click, your store gets ready. Yes, it is that simple 🙂

    11. Payment Gateways: With many payment Gateway options like Authorize.net, Paypal, Amazon pay etc., Shopify allows the payment to be processed with debit/credit cards and transfer it to the store owner’s bank. Shopify provides a hassle-free payment process by allowing all the popular Gateways by default. With Shopify, you won’t need any third party programs to direct a transaction to your bank.

    12. Social Marketing: Social Media presence is fundamental today, especially if you’re a new and upcoming business. There is a built-in feature in Shopify that sets up your store on various social platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon etc. You just need to create an account on social media sites and Shopify will upload your products on your business pages. When you have a built-in social media feature like this one, it saves a lot of time and effort in creating separate social accounts and then integrating your entire store on them.

    13. Enhanced eCommerce: Google analytics advanced eCommerce features which help to effectively analyze user behavior, buying cycle, and exits from the purchase funnel can be easily accessed in Shopify. This is a default feature in Shopify and can be launched by a click of a button.

    14. Facebook Pixel: Facebook Pixels are used to track conversions of your store advertisements on facebook. Shopify has a default feature which automatically allows store owners to run their remarketing advertisements on Facebook. Check this blog for more information

    15. Shopify API: APIs are required to make customizations on a store. If you need an out-of-the-box feature which is not available by default or as a Shopify App, then you can access Shopify’s API.

    16. Shopify App for Mobile: The Shopify App, for both iOS and Android, offers a number of useful features which can allow you to track your store’s performance and functionality without going to the store’s backend. For example, the app will notify you whenever an order is made on your store. It also provides important store stats such as total sales, total number of visitors on the stores etc. You just need to login to the app to access all this important data and don’t have to log into the store’s backend.

    17. 14-day free trial: Shopify allows users to first get familiarized to its interface and usage. For this, the platform offers new users a 14-day free trial. The Free Trial is also offered so that Shopify can assess your requirements and offer the most suitable plan for your business.

    18. No.1 eCommerce Platform: Among other available eCommerce platforms such as Magento and BigCommerce, Shopify has shot to the top position primarily because of the simplicity and the ease of usability that it offers to its users.

    19. Blog: Blogging is elemental in getting people to visit your online store and increasing the readership of your content, organically. Shopify comes with a built-in blogging tool which allows you to publish unique and relevant content for your store and run an active blog.

    20. Shopify supported SDK: An SDK is a built-in library which can be used to make public and private apps. Shopify provides several SDK in different programming languages to start with apps which help developers with API and make their life easier. Check this link for more information.

    21. Local Theme Setup: By setting up the theme locally, developers can operate upon the theme from their local machine’s editor and can keep track of the latest edits made in the theme. Shopify has provided some tools to set up such an environment. To read more about how you can manage theme setup/create/update/delete from your machine itself, check this blog

    22. Redirects: This is a very helpful and useful feature offered by Shopify – the default 301 redirects. Whenever you change the name or URL of a page this feature will automatically create a redirect to the new page. This helps to maintain the page rank/SEO value of that particular page on Google and improves SEO.

    Where Shopify Lags:

    Shopify provides you the option of creating product variants but up to only 3 classifications. Still, you can create 100 variants of a product but these will be limited to only 3 parameters. For example, if your product is a T-shirt, then you can add only three parameters (size, color, material) to its product unit with up to 100 sizes/colors/materials to it.

    It is relatively complicated to add a simple text box or file upload option if you want to have additional information from your customers. For example, if you want to give an option of custom text on T-Shirts, your Shopify developer will have to add that option on your store because it won’t be available by default.

    Shopify Payments (Stripe) allow you to sell from certain countries only – United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. If your store is based in a country which is not listed above, you will need to use a payment gateway and there will be additional transaction fee charged.

    Creating drop-down menus and adding items is comparatively more complicated. Right now, the interface is confusing and not at part of their UI.

    Shopify doesn’t allow any code level changes in their checkout which means you have to work with their default checkout process. For e.g a coupon code can be applied only on the checkout page.

    Conclusion

    Overall, Shopify is one of the better hosting solutions for those wishing to create an online store and possibly the best for anyone who wants to sell online and also at a physical location. It’s competitively priced, easy to use, and its templates are pretty amazing. With an enormous user base of 400k users, as a new business owner, you don’t need to worry about the platform’s future or failure.

    Nevertheless, the only way to find out whether Shopify is perfect for you or not is by trying it out once. Check out their 2-week free trial. And if you’ve given Shopify a chance already, do let us know about your experience!

    We are a Shopify Partner and have worked on, and created a number of Shopify stores.

    To know how CueBlocks can help you set up your Store on Shopify, check our listed services at: https://www.cueblocks.com/shopify.php

  • AdWords Cost per Conversion is not always Cost/Con

    If your AdWords account contains multiple campaigns which also includes mobile targeted campaigns, then you might notice that your reported cost per conversion is different from the expected cost per conversion.

    Rest assured, this is not a discrepancy or a mathematical error by Google. There is, in fact, a very simple explanation for this, as given below.

    SS
    In the above screenshot, we can see the following stats:

    Cost: $86,464.81
    Conversions (1-per-click): 432
    Cost per conversion: $188.31

    On calculating the cost per conversion as per the usual formula i.e.
    cost per conversion = cost/conversion = $86,464.81/432 = $200.15

    Now, our cost per conversion ($200.15) doesn’t match the reported cost per conversion ($188.31). On contacting our AdWords representative, we came to know about some new information which is explained below.

    Cost per conversion does not always translate into cost divided by conversion. Calculating cost per conversion is slightly more than simple division because not all clicks and their associated click cost are eligible for conversion tracking reporting. As a result, the numbers you see in the interface might be varied than the ones that you would get by dividing the cost column by the conversion column.

    A situation in which the cost/conversion is deviating from what you expected could happen in the case where the campaign(s) in question are targeting mobile devices as well. There are many low end mobile devices that do not accept cookies. Which means that the clicks and the associated click cost will not be included in the conversion rate and the cost per conversion metrics. This happens because in the devices that do not support cookies, the JavaScript that tracks your conversions (for example on the thank you page) does not load, hence these conversions can’t be tracked and are not included in the calculation of these metrics.

    So let’s look at the all time numbers with this in mind again

    Reported Total Cost: $86,464.81
    Reported 1-Per-Click Conversions: 432
    Reported Cost/Conversion: $188.31
    Expected Cost/Conversion: $200.15

    Ineligible clicks (from many mobile devices – not counted in the conversions – doesn’t mean that they are invalid or malicious) are not included in the cost for this calculation. So as per the reported statistics

    $188.31 * 432 = $81,349.92

    This means that $81,349.92 came from eligible clicks for this account that are counted in the conversions and the remaining $5114.89 came from ineligible clicks, most likely from conversions performed on mobile devices.

    Since the cost per conversion is a very important aspect of every ad campaign, it is important to ensure that one is not missing anything. Also, it is advisable to keep some room for possible (and unavoidable) errors. Since there is no immediate solution, it is best to have a margin for such situations.

    Can you think of a solution to this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

    Happy Advertising!

  • How To Write Title Tags for e-commerce Stores in 2

    2016 is already over and 2017 is here if speak in terms of Internet years. And if there’s anything certain, as far as the  SEO industry is concerned, it is the principle of uncertainty that will continue to remain whether it’s 2016 or 2017. Thus, as web masters, the key for us, lies in keeping ourselves updated with what’s new or what’s trending among SEO practices and adapt to the ever-changing algorithms of the various search engines.

    In this write-up, we take a look at the role of a persistently crucial aspect of SEO – page title tags or the HTML title element. Let’s begin by asking two important questions in relation to the title tags:

    1. Is the role of a title tag restricted to the snippets shown by Google?
    2. Does an accurate title tag play an important role in ranking ?

    Now, let’s attempt to answer these with the assumption set by Google itself. The search engine giant is frequently changing the snippets displayed on the SERPs (search engine result pages), in order to improve the quality of results it shows. While doing so, Google either truncates the length of the title tag or chooses to display the result that best answers a relevant search query.

    Remember, the search engine’s crawlers consider the whole title tag for page ranking. But, when it comes to SERPs, it awards priority to the results based on a specific user query. So, for Google, WHAT YOUR TITLE SAYS ABOUT YOUR BRAND is less relevant, & HOW YOUR TITLE MAY GIVE AN URGENT, INFORMATIVE & RELEVANT ANSWER TO A USER’S SEARCH QUERY is what really Google wants. Thus, it’s about getting a pertinent result intuitively. Yes, It’s that quick. It’s that precise. It’s that simple.

    With the above context in the background, here are few tips on how you can write title tags for an e-commerce store in 2016/ 2017:

    • The ideal Length of title tag

      Specialists agree on a 55-60 character limit for title tags. But what happens if you need to write a longer title? Today, the significance of the title tag is no longer limited to a technicality like title length. In 2017, you take a step ahead, and an ideal title tag answers one fundamental question – how precisely have you answered a user’s search query? Despite this,  Industry specialists emphasize on one the precision of the title tag  and hence you should  be able to convey maximum meaning in the first 55 characters.

    • Create separate landing pages and title tags on deals/discounts 

      As the culture of holiday deals & discount offers continue to be indispensable to the marketing campaign of e-stores, web developers must create separate landing pages and insert “today’s deals”, “discount offers” in the title tags whenever  relevant. Take a cue from Walmart’s web page which makes use of “free shipping” in its title tag.

    Title Tags

    • Location-based title tags

      Location-based title tags are yet another unexplored practice in the SEO world. It’s been observed that many online stores who have an offline store falter at location-specific optimization of their website. A separate landing page and insertion of location in the middle of the title tag can go a long way for website optimization efforts this year.

    • Jump on to the bandwagon of mobilegeddon

      2015 was a watershed moment in the age of mobile commerce and in 2016 mobile is  an equally important platform that must not be ignored. The launch of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update gives ‘responsive’ a whole new meaning. A web store owner needs to familiarize herself with the behavior trends of customer buying from their cell phones and optimized their mobile stores accordingly.

    • A call-to-action never hurts a title tag

      But, relevance is the key here. A “discover how to tie a scarf” or “read more on how to write title tags for e-commerce stores in 2016”  is both relevant and informative, and can be easily shown in SERPs whenever the relevant query is asked. Generally, it is not too tricky to come out with genuine search keywords on “how to” guides and then use them in the page URL.

    Title Tags

    • Where to place the brand name in the title tag

      There’s no stringent rule for the placement of brand name in a title tag. For instance, Amazon’s home page places the name of the brand followed by keywords. However, if you think that your brand isn’t yet popular enough to be directly searched, you can take the brand name towards the end part of the title tag and place the search-worthy or the most related keywords in the beginning.

    The SEO industry is so dynamic that what may be relevant today may become detrimental tomorrow but there are some things that will always remain foremost for all search engines and that is – serving the user with quality results. Thus, with Google’s repeated emphasis on quality,  Aligning the title tags with the searcher’s intent is probably the right path to the future. While the title tag may be a minor factor compared to a whole range of other factors of which, CRO forms a huge majority, yet its correct usage assures a higher rank.

    And who knows when it’s the humble Title Tags that may become the be-all and end-all of all search queries?

     

  • Magento XML Sitemap Generator & Splitter Exten

    Still thinking on how to generate an XML sitemap on your magento store?

    Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter extension is a brilliant stand alone magento extension that allows you to automatically generate XML sitemaps on your Magento based store. XML Sitemap Generator & Splitter is a complete XML Sitemap tool that generates and organizes your XML Sitemaps. The magento extension works in compliance with the latest XML sitemaps protocol (followed by Search Engines including Google, Bing & Yahoo). This one is a specialist extension for generation & splitting of your XML Sitemaps, which Magento currently does not offer.

    The magento extension, XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter is a functional extension for both larger (50,000 & more URLs) and smaller (less than 50,000 URLs) stores. It helps better organize sitemaps to review what is being sent to the search engines.

    Features of Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter Extension are:

    • Generate XML sitemap(s) for your Magento store.
    • Automatically split your XML sitemap to smaller/sub XML Sitemaps, if the number of pages on your store are more than 50,000 or if the size is more than 50 MB.
    • Automatically create a Sitemap ‘Index’ file which has all the multiple sitemap files listed in it.
    • Include or exclude specific ‘types’ of pages that are generated by Magento on your store (eg. product, category, CMS, Images, Review or Tags)
    • Include or exclude ‘Out of Stock’ Product Pages from your XML Sitemap.
    • Exclude specific CMS pages (for example, Privacy, Contact etc) from the XML Sitemap.
    • Generate separate Sitemaps for different Types of Magento controlled pages on your store (even if your total number of pages on the store is less than 50,000). Eg. Separate XML Sitemaps for product pages, category pages, CMS pages, Tag pages, review pages, Out of Stock pages etc.
    • Control and automate the process of XML sitemap generation and updating.
    • Get Sitemaps summary (number of specific pages & total pages on your store) in your inbox automatically each time the XML sitemap(s) is updated.
    • Exclude canonical version of product pages. This extension enables you to only include one product page in your XML Sitemap even if it is in more than one category.
    • Include the product page images on the product page, in Google’s specified Product XML Sitemap format.
    • Ping and notify all major search engines each time Sitemap is generated or updated.
    • Compress your XML Sitemaps to reduce your bandwidth consumption.

    Magento extensions developed by CueBlocks.com can be downloaded at magentoconnect.com and at store.cueblocks.com. The Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter extension is priced at $119.00 with an added $45 in case you need installation as well.

  • Considering Migration to Magento 2.X? Here’s Wha

    Magento 2 Migration Plan

    The proliferation of e-Commerce platforms has provided marketers with numerous options for their online stores. However, it is Magento that truly stands out among the rest. It is one of the best open-source platforms trusted by the merchants thus far. With its ability to provide a highly secure ecosystem by leveraging SSL certificates, Magento has helped businesses outshine their competitors in the field of e-Commerce. And now, it has released an upgraded platform version called the Magento 2.x which has proved to be even more empowering for e-Commerce store owners. Let’s see how –

    With its flexible architecture and popular shipping methods, Magento 1.x has been the lifeblood of many e-Commerce businesses over the past few years. Therefore, after the release of Magento 2.0, some retailers are confused about migrating their e-Commerce website from Magento 1 along with the different features and functions that it offers. Magento 2 empowers businesses to deliver engaging omni-channeled shopping experiences to their customers in a quick and cost-effective way. It also includes various features that help in boosting conversion rates, business scalability and performance.

    Before jumping onto some of these vital features of Magento 2, let’s take a look at the reasons why you need to consider store migration:

    No new features in Magento 1.x: Since the entire action revolves around Magento 2.0, Magento 1.x versions haven’t received any updates or new features lately. Only bug fixes and security patches are being addressed. However, the support for Magento enterprise versions 1.13 and 1.14 is likely to continue till 2019 considering the 1.5 year window that Magento talked about for its customers. Read the announcement here.

    More focus on Magento 2: Since the developers working on third-party extensions are intensely focused on Magento 2, the Magento 1 extensions are expected to become obsolete over the next couple of years. This means you should start planning your Magento 2 upgrade soon.

    Magento 2 Key Benefits

    How would a merchant derive benefits out of Magento 2? This is something one needs to consider before investing in the Magento 2 migration process. Let’s understand some essential factors:

    Performance

    Being relatively faster than its older 1.x versions, Magento Enterprise Edition 2.0 supports a feature named, Split Database Solution which helps your administrator in setting up different databases for the checkout process, product catalog, and order management. With the absence of table locks, the chances of failure caused due to a database will decrease to a large extent. Magento has worked to achieve better efficiency and innovation at managing e-Commerce operations, read more about their improvements, here.

    Responsive Themes

    Responsive themes are one of the biggest benefits that Magento 2.0 provides as it makes your e-Commerce website a perfect fit over a phone or tablet. Unless you’ve been using Magento Enterprise Edition 1.14, Community Edition 1.9, or a custom third-party theme, your e-Commerce website cannot become responsive and that’s really shocking. With approximately 50 percent of e-Commerce traffic coming from mobile devices, it has become necessary for a store to allow its customers to navigate, shop, and order from a phone/tablet. You are going to miss out on potential sales if your website is not responsive.

    Faster Page Loading Time

    Magento 2.0 leverages an extension called Varnish Cache which helps to speed up the process of page loading in both the enterprise and the community editions. In today’s competitive e-Commerce environment, customers have many options and they will leave if your site’s page loading speed is not optimum; that is under 3 seconds. So, the addition of Varnish is considered as a crucial aspect in terms of delivering as per the shopper’s expectations. In fact, a slower page loading time can lead to both, lower Google rankings and conversion rates. Thus, a slower page load speed can make you risk potential revenue opportunities. You can know more about page load speed comparisons, here.

    Better security

    Magento 2.0 includes an installer that keeps all systems up-to-date. Also, it protects the store from various faulty codes, potential outside hacks or breaches and provides utmost security to the store.
    As per Magento, integration with payment gateways like PayPal, Braintree payments, and Authorize.net makes an e-Commerce site safe, secure, unbreachable, and pretty much PCI compliant. You can refer to the Magento 2 announcement for more clarity.

    Magento 2 Upgrade
    Magento 2 Migration Plan

    Confused about migrating to Magento 2? Looking for effective ways to upgrade your store? The infographic above will provide you an idea of the procedural flow for Magento 2 upgrade that we follow at CueBlocks.

    So, it’s high time to plan for your Magento 2.0 upgrade and if you still have any questions, then reach out to us at CueBlocks for consultation on performing your Magento 2.0 upgrade, the way it should be done!

  • Admin Payments Extension for Magento 2...

    Admin Payments

     

    The Admin Payments Extension for Magento 2 is an extension that gives the admin user the option of having a separate payment method in the backend to keep a record of offline payments. Note that the payment method created will stay in the backend only.

    As of now, the Magento 2 backend does not have an option to activate a payment method for admin use only. This extension is your solution to that problem. The Admin Payments Extension comes with the following features:

    • Visible only in the backend, this extension is solely for admin use.
    • Allows eCommerce store owners to have offline payments’ information made in the backend by the admin.
    • This method is similar to other payment methods in the backend, and is easy to use.

    After this extension is installed, its payment method is solely for creating orders from the admin for those users who paid via offline methods. This payment method will not be visible on the frontend checkout page. This extension comes in handy when customers place orders via phone or email and then pay either in person or transfer the money directly, without using any of the existing payment methods. In these cases, the admin payments extension allows the admin to have a separate payment option to keep track of such orders, without disturbing anything in the frontend.

    You can get the Admin Payments Extension at the Magento 2 marketplace and also at our own online store, Cue Store. Get this extension and keep a track of your offline orders!

    Find out more about the extension here and get in touch with us at support@cueblocks.com for any query or information regarding the extension.