Blog, News, Tips & Tricks

Blog categories:
  • CMS (2)
  • E-Commerce (1)
  • General (4)
  • Security (3)
  • SEO (4)
  • Tips & Tricks (6)
  • Web Hosting (1)
  • WordPress (9)
  • Google Terminating Free Edition Of G Suite / Google Apps

    updated: 20/05/22 (see IMPORTANT UPDATE 20/05/22 below)

    This situation affects some of my older clients who’s email was set up prior to 2012 using what was then known as Google Apps (it was renamed G Suite in 2016 and they transitioned G Suite to Google Workspace in 2020). The Google Apps service was available for free since it was launched in 2006 but in 2012 Google discontinued offering the free version. But existing Google Apps free accounts remained free – until now.

    In January 2022, Google announced that they are ending the free version which they call ‘G Suite Legacy Free’. Action is required before 1st June to maintain email services.

    In a nutshell, the options are:

    1. Transition to the Google Workspace paid service (cost is NZ$9/mth per user account [a user account is a separate inbox, one user account can have multiple email addresses, i.e. aliases]) – this requires entering your billing details in the Google Workspace Admin Console before 1st August.

    2. Sign up for Google’s no cost option before 1st June – this allows you to retain your account but your email address would become [email protected] since the no cost version does not include custom email address using your own domain name. Currently this ‘no cost option’ is not yet available so Google have a waiting list for it and if you are on waiting list, you continue on legacy free version until it becomes available – essentially it buys you more time. Mail forwarding could be used in conjunction with the no cost option so you would continue to get email sent to your existing email addresses. However when you send emails they would be sent with an [email protected] email address. (as of 27/04/22 the wait list is not live yet. According to Google, ‘You’ll see a message about the waiting list in your Google Admin console in the coming weeks.‘)

      IMPORTANT UPDATE 20/05/22: Looks like Google have changed their plans around this. They are now offering an option to stay on the no-cost Legacy version G Suite, but for Personal Use only. What exactly is meant by ‘Personal Use’ and how or if it will be enforced is still not clear. There is no mention any more of a waiting list for a ‘no cost option’, so it appears the no cost option has now changed to the continuation of Legacy G Suite plans for personal use. They have also extended the deadline to 27th June 2022. See below for screenshots of how to transition your account to the free personal version. The best source I’ve found for updates on this changing story is this blog page.

    3. Switch to a different email service provider. There are cheaper providers available, such as Zoho. However there is the cost, effort and inconvenience of switching to take into consideration.

    Some more background on this change here:

    https://9to5google.com/2022/01/19/g-suite-legacy-free-edition/

    https://techcrunch.com/2022/01/28/google-will-let-legacy-g-suite-users-migrate-to-free-google-accounts/

    https://www.tabgeeks.com/tabgeeks-blog/gsuitelegacy

    SEO resources for our clients

    Here I include some hand picked online resources intended for our clients to educate themselves on SEO. These are resources that which we feel are suited to small New Zealand businesses.

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    What is Website Hosting?

    In a nutshell, website hosting (or web hosting) is a service that stores a website (which is made up of computer files and sometimes databases) on a special purpose computer and delivers it to anyone who requests some information from your website.

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    Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Basics

    Note: this an excerpt from our Web Site Management Instruction Manual

    Search engine optimisation is all about improving how a website performs in the results returned by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing/MSN, etc.) for related keywords and phrases. There are 2 main aspects to it – 1) On-site SEO and 2) Off-site SEO.

    On-site SEO

    On-site SEO covers things you can change on your website that will improve where you appear in search results for certain keywords and phrases. Primarily this is about making sure important keywords and phrases appear in the right places on your web pages. Firstly you need to put yourself in the mind of your potential visitors/customers and think about what words or phrases they might be searching for and make a shortlist of the most important ones. For the search engine to return your web page in a search with one of these phrases, the words need to be somewhere within your web pages. There are different places on a web page that the words may appear and some carry more weight than others. Generally speaking, the main places in order of how they are weighted are: a) the title, b) main page heading, c) other headings on the page, d) the description, e) the body text.

    Stellar Web Works has installed an SEO plugin on your website which will allow you to tweak the title and description for each page. You can find the settings for each page under the title WordPress SEO by Yoast when you edit the page. The main fields of interest in this section are SEO Title and Meta description.

     
    What is the title?
    The title appears at the very top of the browser window. It also appears in the search results. By default the page heading is used as the title. Keep it short and meaningful because if you stuff in a heap of keywords it will look like spam and many people won’t click on it. Also if you make it very long you are essentially ‘watering down’ the effect of any keywords you have used – so be very selective and restrict it to the very most important keywords/phrases.

    What is the description?
    The description usually appears as the descriptive text in the search results. If none is provided, the search engines will use some text from the body of the page, usually but not always, from first paragraph. Anything more than 160 characters is ignored by most search engines. Keep in mind that this should read well as someone may read it in their search results before they click on your page, i.e. this text could influence whether or not they visit your website.

    What about keywords?
    The keywords meta tag is a hidden tag in a web page where you can put a list of keywords. These keywords used to be considered by search engines in the early days of the web but these days they totally are ignored so they do not make any difference as far as search engine optimisation is concerned. Therefore there is no point in entering keywords into this field apart from using it for your own records.

    How do I alter title and description in WordPress?
    Title and description can be altered on any page. When you edit the page, scroll down towards the bottom and you will see a section called WordPress SEO by Yoast – there you can enter a title and description. If you don’t enter any it will use the defaults (page heading for title and search engine will extract text from body for description).

    I’ve changed my title and description but it did not change in Google?
    Google indexes your site periodically. Give it at least a week, for new sites it can take longer.

    Keyword Research

    Google Adwords provides a useful tool for keyword research which can help you determine the volume of searches for specific keywords/phrases as well as uncover related search terms. This can help you tweak your content by adding in important keywords that you may not have thought of and establish which keywords should be placed in the high priority positions such as page titles and headings. You can access this tool at:

    https://ads.google.com/intl/en_nz/home/tools/keyword-planner/

    Off-site SEO

    Off-site SEO is mainly about getting other websites and directories to link to your site. The more links in to your website, the more ‘important’ the search engines will consider your site to be.

    Links from other websites

    Links from websites closely related to your subject matter have more weight as far as the search engines are concerned. For starters, we suggest that you contact any website owners that you know and ask them to add a link to your website. Ask for links from businesses with whom you have existing relationships—e.g., suppliers, stockists, etc.

    Note that reciprocal links (I link to you and you link to me) are not very powerful – a one way link (someone links to your website but your website does not link back to them) has much more weight so try to get one way links where possible.

    Web profiles and Directories

    You can also submit your website/business information to some of the free online directories. The main one that almost every business should be on is Google My Business. Google My Business is highly integrated with Google Search – the map results that you see in local searches are Google My Business listings. Once you have a business listing on Google, it is well worth enhancing it by:

    • Add logo and photos
    • Add as much relevant info about your business as possible (e.g. opening hours, holidays, services, categories, contact details etc.)
    • Make sure you have the correct link to your website!
    • Get customers to give you a rating and review (5 star hopefully!)

    A few other web directories relevant to the New Zealand market are:

    Other places to promote your website

    Also if you are active in various online web forums and social networks, it can often be beneficial to include a link to your website in your forum signature or network home page. Some people create social networking pages (on sites such as Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com, Twitter.com, etc.) specifically to promote their website. This can be a good avenue for promoting your website if you are committed to developing your profile, building up your network and being active within the communities.

    Pay Per Click (PPC) and Online Advertising
    PPC, advertising is not SEO per-se but closely related. If you want to get your website noticed above the competition and have a budget for advertising, you can advertise in search engines (Google Ads is the main one). You can set this up and manage it yourself or hire a professional to set it up for you. Stellar Web Works does not usually offer this service but we may be able to put you in touch with specialists. There are other avenues for online advertising, Facebook is a popular one.

    Further Resources We’ve only scratched the surface on SEO here. If SEO is important to the success of your website it pays to educate yourself. Even if you hire SEO professionals (actually especially if you hire SEO professionals) it is important to understand what they are doing and what they are charging you for and to be able to determine if they are worth the investment.

    Simple fix for WordPress “The response is not a valid JSON response” error

    On a new WordPress site that I was working on I got an error message “The response is not a valid JSON response.” when I attempted to upload an image to a page via Gutenberg block editor.

    After Googling it, I found a myriad of different solutions and troubleshooting steps to take but in the back of my mind I remembered encountering this before and remembered that it was a simple fix. One solution suggested using the Media Library upload button instead of the direct Upload button. This did actually did allow me to upload the image but when I went to save the page I got the error “Updating failed. Error message: The response is not a valid JSON response.”

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    Why WordPress Page Builders Suck

    In the context of WordPress, page builders are add-ons that provide an alternative interface for creating and laying out web pages. I have concluded that page builders are not a good solution for me or my clients. Here I discuss why.

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    My Top 8 WordPress Advances in the last 12 years

    I started building websites with WordPress in 2007. Since then WordPress has been my content management system of choice. Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of great advances in WordPress. But even back 12 years ago WordPress was a great platform for building websites. I found that I was always able to customise or hack it to achieve what I wanted. For example, WordPress didn’t have navigation menu management features built in. But I was able to write a simple plugin that converted the Blogroll Links Manager feature into a navigation menu manager.

    In the last 12 years I’ve witnessed the evolution of WordPress from a blogging-centric system that could be adapted to work as a basic CMS into a full-blown CMS and even a web application framework. Here are some of my favourite WordPress advances:

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    E-commerce credit card payment options for New Zealand online businesses

    (updated Aug 2019)

    If you are setting up an e-commerce web site (shopping cart, online store, online shop), one of the decisions you will have to make is what system you are going to use for collecting payment. Payment can be handled off-line (by bank deposit, cheque, etc.) or automatically at the time of purchase by real-time credit card processing. In the case of off-line payment, the customer is provided with instructions for making a bank deposit or posting a cheque and the order is processed after payment is received. It is the simplest and least expensive system to set up but may present a barrier to some customers who are looking for the instant transaction that can be had using a credit card.

    We should also mention POLi at this point. POLi allows instantaneous transfers from the buyer’s bank account to the merchant’s bank account. It can allow an instant transaction to take place with out as much cost as a credit card transaction. It requires a little more effort than a credit card purchase in that the customer has to log in to their bank account to complete the transaction but it’s much cheaper than a credit card transaction (at least 40% and more than that for larger transactions as fees are capped at $3).

    When it comes to collecting credit card payments online in real time, there are two main types of systems:

    1. Third party (all in one) payment solutions
    2. Payment gateway linked to your own business merchant account
    Read more »

    How to adjust zoom on embedded Google Maps

    Update January 2022: This solution still works in 2022!

    I was embedding some Google maps and was having trouble setting the initial zoom level. But after playing around with it for awhile, I figured out the simple trick for how to do it. I thought I would share it here in case it helps someone.

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    Is WordPress any good?

    Ok, first things, first, who am I to write a review of WordPress? Well, I’m an independent web designer/developer who lives in the small city (pop 50,000ish) of Nelson in New Zealand. I mostly build websites for small local businesses in the Nelson region, sometimes for businesses in other parts of New Zealand and occasionally for clients in Australia, USA and Europe. I’ve been working in this area (small business websites), since 2007 – about a dozen years. I’ve worked with a handful of popular content management systems over the years – Drupal, Joomla, Silverstripe, a funky Apple OS X based one called Manila, some e-commerce specific systems – Magento and Prestashop. I’ve also encountered and worked on a few websites (just a few!) built outside of content management systems – static HTML/CSS, ASP (the old pre-dot Net Active Server Pages), JSP, PHP and, God forbid, even Dreamweaver! But WordPress has been may mainstay since I researched and trialed content management systems back in 2007 and picked WordPress as the CMS that I would focus on.

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