Yoast SEO: An Easy to Follow Setup Guide

The Yoast SEO plugin is by far the most attractive solution for WordPress Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It has fantastic documentation, it’s simple to use, and it delivers reliable results.

Plenty of you are already familiar with the Yoast SEO basics – such as using keywords correctly, getting as many green lights as possible, and structuring your content adequately. However, there are plenty of other features that you may have missed in your rush to start optimizing your content.

In this piece, we’ll review the Yoast SEO setup process together, and make sure our installations are properly optimized.

Install and Activate Yoast SEO

The Yoast SEO header

We’re sure that most of you know how to install and activate a WordPress plugin, but we’ll go over the basics for any newcomers among you.

The fastest way to add any plugin within the WordPress.org repository is to navigate to the Plugins tab on your dashboard, select Add New at the top, then use the search function to locate it:

The Yoast SEO option under Add new plugins.

Once found, click on Install Now, then Activate to complete the process. Now we’re ready to configure the plugin itself.

Meet the Yoast SEO Dashboard

After installing the plugin, you’ll find a new admin panel on your dashboard called SEO, and is comprised of eight subsections:

  1. Dashboard
  2. Titles & Metas
  3. Social
  4. XML Sitemaps
  5. Advanced
  6. Tools
  7. Search Console
  8. Go Premium

The Dashboard section includes five tabs, plus two notification hubs that show any outstanding SEO problems or improvements you should look into:

The Yoast SEO dashboard.

The General tab enables you to take a guided tour through all of the main Yoast SEO sections, peek at the plugin’s credits, or restore the plugin’s default settings. If you do choose to go through with the guided tour – which is a good idea to get acquainted with the plugin – you’ll be presented with some handy tooltips throughout the process:

An example of a Yoast SEO tooltip.

Moving on, the Your Info tab enables you to modify how your website’s name appears in search results, and lets you set an alternative name for Google’s consideration. Further down, you can specify whether you’re a company or a person if you want this information to appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph:

A screenshot of the Your Info tab.

We recommend leaving these settings blank except for the last one, which won’t affect your SEO rankings in any way.

Webmaster Tools and Security Settings

Next, the Webmaster Tools tab includes three fields that need to be filled out if you want to use the respective tools for Bing, Google Search Console, and Yandex:

A screenshot of the webmaster tools section.

Later on, we’ll look at the settings dedicated to fetching your Google Search Console information, but if you want to read up on Google Search Console before we get there, take a look at this piece from our archives:

Here, there’s also an option to enable or disable OnPage.org’s indexability check. OnPage.org is a website optimization organization that cooperates with Yoast SEO to check your homepage’s search engine indexability. It makes sure everything is set up correctly for inclusion in search results. Rest easy, though – it doesn’t gather any information regarding your personal settings or WordPress data while performing its checks.

Finally, the Security tab includes a setting that toggles the display of the advanced Yoast SEO meta box for edit pages. By default, the Advanced section will only appear for administrators – and we recommend you keep it that way, since it includes settings for non-indexing posts, and changing their canonical URLs:

A screenshot of the Yoast SEO security tab.

That’s the end of the Yoast SEO Dashboard section, and we hardly got to tinker with any settings at all. Don’t worry – the following tabs offer plenty of options for us to play with.

Optimize Your Titles and Meta Descriptions

The Yoast SEO Titles & Metas section is an important one – it includes six different tabs grouping settings such as title separators and post taxonomies. Let’s take it from the top.

First up is the General tab, and here you can choose the option of setting a different title separator:

A screenshot of the title separator section.

These symbols are used to separate your post titles and site names on search engine results – for example, at Elegant Themes we use the ǀ symbol, so our search engine titles read: Yoast SEO, An Easy to Follow Setup Guide ǀ Elegant Themes.

The choice of which symbol to use is purely cosmetic and won’t affect your SEO ranking, so go ahead and pick the one that suits your style the best. Below the Title Separator section, you’ll find two toggles under Enabled analysis – these govern the readability and keyword analyses respectively:

A screenshot of the options to disable keyword and readability analyses.

The readability analysis could be turned off if you don’t intend to use it, but in our experience it’s a useful tool to gauge the overall structure of your posts. We recommend keeping it on and ignoring its score if you feel like it, but do consider heeding its structural advice if you want to craft better content.

Keyword analysis, on the other hand, is arguably the heart of the Yoast SEO plugin. If you remove this tab from your meta box, you might as well uninstall the plugin – it’s that crucial. We’ll discuss these meta boxes later on.

Homepage and Post Types

Moving on, the Homepage tab enables you to change the template of your homepage title and meta description templates:

A screenshot of the Homepage tab.

The first field includes multiple variables that make up the structure of your template – these can be altered to suit your preferences, but we recommend keeping your site name in there as well as your site description (including keywords). For example, %%sitename%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitedesc%%.

Breaking it down, there are four percentage symbols surrounding each variable – your site name, page name, description, and a separator. As for meta descriptions, you should be writing a unique one for each page, so keep this blank. Here’s a list of the variables you can employ in both fields. Keep it handy, because you’ll need it during the next few sections.

Moving on, the Post Types tab looks intimidating, but it should be simple to grasp if you’ve stuck with us so far. It includes title and meta description template fields for your posts, pages, media, and other custom post types – as well as the option to non-index each of these, show dates in your previews, and toggle display of the Yoast SEO meta box:

A screenshot of the Post Types section.

We’re already familiar with the template fields and the procedures we should follow here – modify your title templates according to your personal criteria, and keep the meta description template fields blank since each page or post should have a custom one.

Finally, you shouldn’t mess with the non-index setting unless there are any custom post types you don’t want showing up in search results – just make sure that your posts and pages remain indexed.

Taxonomies and Archives

Now it’s time to repeat the same process for Taxonomies and Archives, both of which have their own tabs. Adhere to the guidelines we explained above, but feel free to non-index those taxonomies you don’t want to include in your archives.

A screenshot of the Categories tab.

When it comes to Archives, a lot of WordPress sites are choosing to ditch date-based archives in favor of just indexing authors. It keeps your archives neater, and most users appear to prefer either keyword based searches, or use categories to find the content they’re looking for. If you feel the same way, disable the Date archives indexing option on this tab and leave authors enabled:

A screenshot of the Date Archives tab.

Other Settings

The last tab in this section, Others, includes three settings that don’t fit in elsewhere. These are:

  1. Subpages of archives: This governs whether pages two and onwards of your archives appear in search engine results, and is enabled by default – we recommend leaving it there.
  2. Use the meta keywords tag: A legacy option that’s not worth enabling, in the words of the Yoast SEO developers themselves.
  3. Force noodp meta robots tag sitewide: This setting is enabled by default when you set a custom description for any page or post – it prevents search engines from showing the wrong descriptions, but you don’t need to turn it on.

Configure Your Social Media Settings

The Yoast SEO Social section isn’t as intensive as the last one, since most of its settings are quite simple to configure. We’ll briefly cover four of the tabs, then take a closer look at the Facebook tab separately:

  1. Accounts: This is a straightforward list of fields where you’re prompted to enter all of your site’s social media URLs. Yoast SEO uses this information to tell search engines “Hey, these sites are all related!”.
  2. Twitter: Here you can toggle the Twitter settings that appear under the Social tab of your Yoast SEO meta box – keep it enabled unless you don’t use the platform. We also recommend setting the default card type to Summary with a large image, since social media content tends to do better when accompanied by relevant media.
  3. Pinterest: On this tab, you can link your site with Pinterest so it can access your Open Graph metadata.
  4. Google+: You can add a URL to your Google+ business page here if you have one.

These are all pretty straightforward. On the other hand, the Facebook tab requires you to configure the front page settings used in the Open Graph meta tags, set a default image for posts that don’t have any featured media (which we don’t recommend, as no image is better than an unrelated one), and add Facebook Insights access for your site:

A screenshots of the Facebook tab under the Social section.

Here, keep the Open Graph meta data settings enabled, set a featured image and title, and disregard the Facebook Insights and Admins section since the platform is currently not accepting new additions to its Domain Insights program. This won’t have any impact on your SEO either way, so let’s move on to the next section.

Construct Your XML Sitemap

The XML Sitemaps section governs the page types and taxonomies that are included in your sitemaps. To be more accurate, Yoast SEO creates individual sitemaps for each of your page types (i.e. posts, pages, and each taxonomy) to speed the process up and make it easier to track query errors:

A screenshot of the XML Sitemaps section.

You should, of course, keep the XML sitemap functionality option enabled so that search engines can crawl your data more efficiently, but let’s discuss some of the individual settings within this section:

  1. Entries per sitemap page: This governs the maximum number of entries on your sitemaps – the default should be more than enough.
  2. User sitemap settings: Enabling this setting includes the archives for every user of your site in your sitemaps, and it’s completely unnecessary!
  3. Post types sitemap settings: These settings determine which post types get their own sitemaps. The default configuration is set to posts, pages, and custom projects (excluding media), which is perfect for SEO purposes.
  4. Excluded posts: You can exclude individual posts from your sitemaps using their unique ID if necessary – this can be useful for certain scenarios, such as for members-only content.
  5. Taxonomies sitemap settings: Here you can determine which taxonomies get their own sitemaps. All of them are enabled by default, but Yoast SEO won’t create sitemaps for taxonomies with no entries, so you can safely keep the default settings.

Choose to Enable Breadcrumbs

Onto the Advanced section, the first tab here enables you to toggle the display of breadcrumbs on your site:

A screenshot of the Breadcrumbs section.

Breadcrumbs have fallen out of favor in website design during the past years. Their benefits – such as enabling users to quickly determine their location on a website and enabling crawlers to better index your site – are easily taken care of with better methods.

While enabling users to quickly determine their location is clearly a benefit, the truth is that this could signify a navigational or layout issue. Furthermore, your sitemaps should be good enough for any crawlers to get the information they require to index your site.

Either way, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to manually insert breadcrumbs into your theme if you want to display them. To be frank, this is a personal decision that won’t have any significant impact on your SEO, so feel free to go with your gut.

Modify Your Permalink Structure and RSS Feed Settings

Next up is the Permalinks tab in Yoast SEO’s Advanced section:

A screenshot of the Permalinks section.

The optimal configuration for some of these settings is debatable, but on the whole, we recommend removing the category base from our URLs, redirecting attachments towards their parent URLs, and removing stop words from the slugs. With that being said, the optimal solution is always to create unique, optimized URLs for each of your posts.

Finally, keep the last two settings in this section untouched, and proceed to the RSS settings. This tab enables you to include specific content before or after your posts on user feeds, which is perfect for author descriptions or adding links back to your blog.

Miscellaneous Tools and Google Search Console Authorization

The last two tabs on the Yoast SEO dashboard section are Tools and Search Console, which aren’t crucial for day-to-day operations, but do warrant a mention:

  1. Tools: This tab includes links to a bulk editor (for editing the titles and descriptions of your posts and pages en masse), a file editor (for modifying your robots.txt and .htaccess files), and options to import settings from other SEO plugins or export them your own for re-use.
  2. Search Console: We mentioned earlier that there was a separate Google Search Console tab, and this is it. Here you can obtain and enter your Google Authorization Code, and enable the plugin to retrieve your Search Console data.

Congratulations – you’ve now set up Yoast SEO optimally! Let’s now look at the settings found within the meta boxes on your posts and pages.

Maximize Your Readability and Keyword Performance

If you didn’t disable the setting during the previous setup process, each of your posts and pages will include a Yoast SEO meta box. This contains three sections, and the most important one is Content optimization – that’s where we can find the Readability and Keyword tabs.

The Readability tab offers a quick assessment of how easy it is for readers to digest your post according to several criteria such as:

  1. Sentence and paragraph length.
  2. Use of subheadings.
  3. Instances of passive voice.
  4. Use of transition words.
  5. An overall Flesch reading score.

While these criteria are all valid, it’s important to keep in mind that not every good post needs to obtain a perfect readability score. Sometimes, you’ll have to explore subjects that require different structures or approaches, so don’t sweat it. However, do keep an eye on the suggestions Yoast SEO makes, in case you feel they can improve your articles.

A screenshot of the Readability tab within the meta box.

Next, we have the main dish – the Keyword tab. This section is where the majority of your time is spent when using the plugin to test keywords and fine tune their implementation:

A screenshot of the Keywords tab within the meta box.

One of the reasons Yoast SEO is so popular is that its suggestion system is very simple to grasp – if you’re using your keywords wrongly, it’ll inform you and explain how to correct it. Instead, we’ll leave you with this guide by Yoast on How to choose the perfect focus keyword.

Tweak Your Meta Boxes Social and Advanced Settings

Earlier, we mentioned your Yoast SEO meta box also includes two additional sections – Social and Advanced. The first consists of two tabs for Facebook and Twitter, and enables you to configure how your posts will show up if they are shared on either social media platform. They’re pretty straightforward – modify your titles, descriptions, and images if you want to, or stick with those of your post:

A screenshot of the Social tab within the meta box.

Finally, the Advanced tab includes options to non-index the post in question or point canonical URLs:

A screenshot of the Advanced tab within the meta box.

Yoast SEO Premium

Before we wrap things up, we want to mention the additional features the Yoast SEO premium version includes. There aren’t many since the plugin’s free offering is quite strong out of the box:

  1. Enables you to use multiple focus keywords.
  2. Includes a social preview feature on your meta box.
  3. Enables you to manage your redirects.
  4. Comes with premium support.

If this additional functionality is something you need, the plugin is priced starting from $69.


Yoast SEO includes a staggering amount of features that are quite easy to overlook if you keep your focus just on keyword optimization. If you’d rather squeeze every ounce of performance out of your setup, we recommend that you:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the Yoast SEO dashboard, not just the meta box.
  2. Optimize your titles and meta descriptions.
  3. Configure your social media settings.
  4. Consider enabling breadcrumbs.
  5. Optimize your permalink structure and RSS feed settings.
  6. Maximize your readability and keyword performance using the Yoast SEO tips within your meta box.

Do you have any other SEO tips that you’d like to share with us? Subscribe and do so in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by ideyweb /shutterstock.com

The post Yoast SEO: An Easy to Follow Setup Guide appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

Choosing a WordPress Drag and Drop Page Builder

Page Builders are everywhere

The other day I explained why we were going to keep seeing Page Builders everywhere. If you don’t know what a page builder is, think of it as an easy solution for people to drag and drop various items onto a web page so that they can make their own sites and pages look how they want without developer intervention.

Then we saw a great review of a bunch of page builder plugins by Pippin, who looked at many of the solutions from his own perspective – and a very valuable one at that, since he sees a lot of conflicts with some of his popular plugins.

So you’ve not only seen why they’re here, there, and everywhere, but you’ve also seen lists of solutions and their reviews by a credible source.

It still leaves one big question: how do you choose which is right for you?

Choosing a WordPress Drag and Drop Page Builder

I want to suggest four steps you should take when evaluating the various options you have. You may end up choosing something I would choose. Or something Pippin might choose. But the right solution for you is the one that makes the most sense in your own context. So here are my suggested steps.

First, sketch out a page design – on paper

When I first started testing out some of these solutions, I knew that the core way I would evaluate their ease of use was to compare all of them with the exact same design. So I sketched on a pad of paper a single page that I wanted.

You can imagine it had a hero image, a row of call outs, another row with a testimonial, followed by a two-column text area, and then a span across the page for a call to action, followed by a footer.

But yours could be anything you want. You don’t have to be an artist to know the rough layout of a page you like. So sketch it out. Get a handle on what you want. That’s where you need to start.

Second, use some free products to test your own skills

Once you have that, check out some of the free alternatives. Pippin recommended three products at the end of his post. I think it’s a fine list.

Each of these products is freely available on the WordPress plugin repository. Each gives you a chance to play with their own take on how this should work. Each of these page builders is a plugin that you can install, activate and try out.

And once you have them installed (activate only one at a time), you can try your hand at creating a page – specifically, the page you had sketched on paper.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this as easy as I had hoped?
  2. Am I able to make the page look the way I want it to?
  3. Am I comfortable with the expectations this product has of my pre-existing knowledge?
  4. Am I enjoying the use of this plugin?
  5. Could I keep using this to create 5 or 10 more pages?

This step helps you evaluate the product in a way that only you can. Does it work for you? It doesn’t matter if it works for me, or Pippin, or the marketing departments of other plugins. What matters is your ability and enjoyment in using one of these (or any other) product.

When you’re done with this, rank each of them in order. Which was best? Which was worst? Take some of your list if you know you’ll never use it. But we’re not done.

Third, evaluate the performance of each

Once you have a ranked list, delete the pages that were created by the other plugins. Just have your main plugin activated. And go create 5 or 10 pages. Whatever you think is likely for your site. They don’t need to be perfect. Just do a quick pass.

What you’re trying to do is increase the weight of your site to match a more realistic dynamic than a single page. When that’s done, you’re ready for the main activity of this step – testing the performance.

What we want to do here is test the performance of your site given that you’re now using a WordPress page builder.

One simple way to test a single page is to go to Pingdom Tools. This will look at the overall weight and performance of a page. You can test multiple pages on your site and see how good (or bad) things are.

If you’re seeing really poor performance (it is taking 3, 4, 5 or even more seconds to load), you’ll want to pick the next best page builder on the list and try again.

If you really want to get into performance testing, you can also use a tool like Load Impact to create a script of how a user might navigate your sample pages. From there, run it with 25 virtual users and see if it falls apart.

My main point here is that you shouldn’t just evaluate a WordPress drag and drop Page Builder based on how well it lets you express your vision for a page’s design. You should evaluate it on performance as well. If it doesn’t perform, you should look at alternatives.

Fourth, send in a question

Of course nothing tells you more about how well a company can support you, today and in the future, if you don’t test their support. So do it. Submit a ticket. Post a question. See if you can get an answer to a question you have.

If you do, great. If you don’t – maybe it’s time to look at the next one on your list.

Choosing Well

There are tons of products out there. Most of them, as you read in Pippin’s post, do not play well with others. That is often something you find out after you’ve made a purchase. Don’t make that mistake.

Instead, by following the four steps above, you have a way to figure out which page builder will work for you, in both good and hard times.

There are a lot of bad page builders out there. Thankfully, there are at least three that I think are fine (though I have my favorite). But your interests and needs aren’t necessarily mine.

So take these four steps to help you decide when choosing a WordPress drag and drop page builder.

Choose Well.

The post Choosing a WordPress Drag and Drop Page Builder appeared first on ChrisLema.com.

26 Best Photography Themes for WordPress

Photography themes are among the most stylish WordPress themes in existence. This is mostly due to the fact that they rely on beautiful imagery to complete their looks. Style is a major thing to consider when deciding on a photography theme.
You should also make sure the theme supports portfolios and galleries as these are

The post 26 Best Photography Themes for WordPress appeared first on WPLift.

WordPress REST API – 2.0 Beta 14

Hey folks! I’m excited to announce the release of Beta 14 of the REST API. It’s been a while since our last release, beta 14 is jam packed with general improvements, bug fixes and general refinement to polish the feature plugin before core merge.

Get it at WordPress.org or GitHub. View all changes on GitHub; here are the highlights:

  • Add support for password protected posts. There is now a protected attribute in the content and excerpt fields in post response. To view password protected posts via the API, use the password query parameter to provide the post’s password.
  • Allow returning an error from field update callbacks.
    Simply have your update_callback return a WP_Error.
  • Add relevance orderby to posts endpoint
  • Ability to order by slug, email and url on the users endpoints.
  • Add sticky parameter to the posts endpoint.
  • Update the wp-api.js client from the client-js repo.
  • Many many more

Thanks to all the contributors and special thanks to @chopinbach, @kadamwhite and @websupporter for their effort this release.

We’ll be kicking Beta 15 which will be focused on meta support for posts, terms, comments and users as well as a brand new settings endpoint. These are currently in review awaiting feedback, check out the meta pull request and the settings pull request and let us know what you think.

In addition we will be publishing a merge proposal for WordPress 4.7 this week, stay tuned!

Setting Up Simple A/B Testing With Google Analytics Experiments and WordPress

If you’re anything like me, you obsess over driving more traffic to our websites, which makes complete sense. I mean, what’s the point of spending time and money on your site if nobody sees it?

But what about once people have actually reached your site? Are you giving enough thought to what visitors actually do on-site other than having a contact button or other call-to-action (CTA).

What you should be doing is CRO. And testing with Google Experiments, which is what we’ll be walking through in this article.

CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is exactly that, optimizing for increased conversions. What is a conversion? A conversion can be any action that you desire a visitor take on-site. For example, a conversion could be a visitor registering for an account, purchasing a product or signing up for an email newsletter. It could also simply be sharing an article on Facebook or watching an embedded YouTube video.

Carrying out CRO generally involves a number of stages:

  • Discovery: Gathering relevant data and creating hypotheses
  • Testing: Design and implementation of tests, such as A/B or multivariate testing
  • Review: Analysis of the data gathered during testing

CRO is often a cyclical process. Once the review stage has been completed the process begins again, now taking advantage of the data gathered during the previous round of testing and analysis.

An example of a Google Experiments report.
An example of a Google Experiments report.

Choosing What to Test

Once you have decided you want to optimize your website’s conversion rate, the challenge is then deciding what it is you actually want to test. This is obviously specific to each site, but it will be determined by the purpose of the WordPress website and any data gathered during the research stage of the CRO process.

For example, imagine you have an eCommerce site selling shoes and you’re running a promotion where visitors get a free hat. You expected this to boost conversions but instead your analytics show no increase in sales at all.

Upon reviewing your product pages, you can see that the banner for the free hat promotion is actually below the fold. Based off of this, you decide you want to test moving the free promotion banner above the fold, which requires a slight redesign of your product pages.

As you can see, what you want to test can be very specific to your website, your target market, and your product/service.

When choosing what to test, it’s often a good idea to test one element of the page. When only changing a single element, it is easier to conclude that it is that one variation that is having an impact. For example, if you decide to change the layout of the page, the main image, the copy, the button colour and button text, then how can you know which element variations specifically had a positive effect on conversions?

It’s also worth noting, that you should ideally test pages that have a reasonable amount of traffic. This is so that you can get results that are statistically significant within a reasonable time frame.

Tools You Can Use for Testing

There are a number of paid solutions on the market. These range from platforms like Unbounce, which seem to be aimed at smaller businesses, to enterprise level solutions such as Optimizely.

These tools offer some great features, particularly in terms of landing page creation. However, what if you don’t have the budget for these tools? Perhaps your setup is simple and your don’t want to use complicated tools. Well, we can easily use Google Analytics Experiments to A/B test your WordPress website.

Google Analytics Experiments

Content Experiments is a framework provided by Google Analytics for testing variations of a webpage or app. You can run experiment in two distinct ways:

The original Content Experiments JavaScript snippet ran experiments by redirecting some visitors to the alternate version of the page being tested. Whilst this was very simple to implement, in some cases, this redirect had a negative impact on user experience. This prompted Google Analytics to create a version that doesn’t require any redirects. This is the type of experiment that we will be setting up on our WordPress site today.

How to Setup Google Analytics Experiments

Once you’ve decided what you want to test, it’s time to set up the experiment. In this example, we’re going to test changing the main heading of a webpage. We’ll assume it is a site selling shoes and our page is about a new shoe being released.

Defining the Experiment

So, we know we want to test the heading, but what variations do we want to use. If our original heading is “Buy Our New Super Shoe,” we need to come up with a few variants to test. Let’s use these for our example:

  • Our New Super Shoe Now Available To Order
  • The New Super Shoe – Only £49.99
  • The Super Comfy Super Shoe

How are we measuring the success of our experiment? Let’s test how many people click on an “add to cart” button.


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Setting Up the Experiment in Google Analytics

Now we have decided what we want to test, let’s configure our experiment in Google Analytics. For this, obviously you will need a Google Analytics account setup for the website you want to run the experiment on. If you don’t have this already, you can read how to setup Google Analytics here.

Choose an Experiment Objective

  1. Go into the account and view for the website you want to run the experiment on
  2. Click on the Reporting tab
  3. Expand the Behaviour menu item on the left and then click on Experiments
  4. On the All Experiments screen, click the button labelled Create experiment
  5. Type in a name for this experiment, e.g. “Heading Test”
  6. Choose the objective for this experiment. For this, we will assume there is a click event set up on the “add to cart” button. If you are unsure of how to do this, you can read about setting up event tracking here and how to set up goals here.
  7. Select what percentage of visitors you would like to be included in this experiment. For this, we will choose 100%.
  8. Click on Next Step
Choose what you would like your experiment to test.
Choose what you would like your experiment to test.

Configure Your Experiment

  1. Add the URL you will be testing as the original page and give it a name, e.g. Original Page
  2. Add each of the variants below this, giving each a URL and a name. As the variants will be shown using JavaScript rather than being redirected to a new page, the URLs for the variants can be anything. You might want to name each variant something meaningful so that when viewing reports of the experiment you can easily see which is which.
  3. Click on Next Step
Choose the variants you would like to test with your experiment.
Choose the variants you would like to test with your experiment.

Setting Up Your Experiment Code

  1. Select the option Manually insert the code
  2. As our experiment is being implemented without redirects, we won’t be using the code snippet presented to us. All you need to do is make a note of the experiment ID located below the code snippet box. Don’t worry about the validation errors as we are using JavaScript to implement the page variants.
  3. Click Next Step
  4. Click on Start Experiment
You can choose to manually insert your experiment code.
You can choose to manually insert your experiment code.

Implementing Variations in Theme Templates

Now we have our experiment set up in Google Analytics, we need make sure our site’s landing page is prepared to run the experiment and display the variations. If you’re running an experiment that is making changes to the layout or visual design of the page, then make sure to update any HTML, CSS or JavaScript that need amendments for the styling.

Note: If you are using a theme created by someone else, then you should create a child theme. This will avoid the changes you are making being over-written if the theme is updated.

You can make use of the Custom Experiments JavaScript API client to do the hard task of checking if visitors had previously been exposed to the experiment, whether they should be included and also whether to show the original or a variant of the page.

Once we have JavaScript API client loaded, you can make use of the chooseVariation() method. This returns the index of the variation we want to show to the visitor. We’ll assign this to a variable that we can then use later.

The following code snippet loads the Content Experiments JavaScript API client as well as assigning an index of the page variant to a variable named chosenVariation. To make sure that our Content Experiment’s values are sent to Google Analytics, we need to make sure that the code snippet is placed before the Google Analytics tracking code snippet (ga.js or analytics.js).

Let’s make sure we don’t include the Content Experiments’ code snippets on every page of the site, and only on the page we are actually testing. We’ll add an action with a conditional that loads the following snippets using wp_head() only if we are on a specific page.

Open up your functions.php file and add the following code:

What we have done is create a function that will add something to the head element. We have also included a conditional using the is_page() function taking the page ID of the page we want to test as an argument. Change this page ID to the ID of the page you want to test.

We then want to load our JavaScript API client and call to the chooseVariation() method within the conditional we just created. Update the function we just added to be as follows:

Once this code is installed, then we want to add the code that will create the variants we are testing. For our example, we are testing four headings including our original. We will create an array named pageVariations where the index of each value in the array corresponds with the index of the variant we set up in our Google Analytics experiment, i.e. the original has an index of 0, variant one has an index of 1 etc..

Place the following code below the JavaScript API client and chooseVariation code snippet we just added to our content_experiments_head_script() function in our functions.php:

Save your functions.php file and everything should be ready to go.

Publishing the Changes and Running the Experiment

If you have uploaded your new functions.php file to your hosting, your changes should now be live. If you reload the page you are testing, you should see in the source code that you are loading the JavaScript API client, the call to the chooseVariation() method and also including the code to change your heading to the correct variant.

You may also see one of the variants of the page you are testing. If not and you would like to test it, either clear your cookies or simply keep opening new windows in Google Chrome’s incognito mode until you see a page variant rather than the original.

Analyzing Your Results

One of the great features of Content Experiments is that you can set the level of statistical significance. Google Analytics will keep running your experiment until either the duration of the experiment comes to an end or a statistically significant result is achieved. Google Analytics will inform you of which variant was the winner, if there was one. It is then for you to decide whether you want to implement that variant as the main version of your site.

Our shiny new Google Experiment in action! Just need some visitors to land on our site.
Our shiny new Google Experiment in action! Just need some visitors to land on our site.

Your next steps are to decide if you want to run another experiment to further optimize your site. If so, create some new hypotheses and get to testing!

Wrapping Up

Setting up and running Google Analytics Content Experiments is not that difficult. In fact, the most challenging part is probably deciding what to test!

Experiments are a great way to increase your conversions and get deeper insights into your visitors’ behaviour and what makes them tick.

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WordPress Publishing: A Panel Discussion ft. Elegant Themes, Torque, Post Status, & WordImpress

In today’s blog post I’d like to share the video recording of a panel discussion I had the pleasure of participating in this past week on the state of WordPress Publishing. Or, more specifically, that state of publishing about WordPress.

The primary goal of this panel was to identify and discuss the challenges facing WordPress publishers large and small. The central theme of the talk seemed to be “blogging about WordPress as a community service” and each of the participants spent a decent amount of time talking about how the publication they represent attempts to do that.

I’ve embedded the video below and included some of my post discussion thoughts. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we did. If you’d like to share your own thoughts, please join the discussion in the comments section below.

The State of Publishers in WordPress

This panel was organized and moderated by Matt Cromwell of WordImpress and included Brian Krogsgard of Post Status, Marie Dodson of Torque Magazine, and myself as a representative of Elegant Themes.

In addition to watching this chat, I would encourage everyone to check out these publications and say hi in their comments ?

On Serving the WordPress Community


Describe briefly how your publication serves and enhances the WordPress project and community.

  • Marie: Torque focuses on being a broad, objective news and WordPress educational source for the WordPress Community. They write for WordPress users of all skill levels.
  • Brian: Post Status is a publication geared toward WordPress professionals; people who make their living through WordPress.
  • Nathan: At Elegant Themes we focus on providing WordPress beginners, DIY business owners, and Web Designers incredibly useful (and almost always free) tools, tips, and resources.
  • Every publication about WordPress exists for a reason. Each one has an ROI (return on investment) model that reflects that. Understanding the underlying objectives of each publication can help you decide which one will be most helpful to you.
  • Editors who are creating content that is not targeted at an audience which provides them a clear ROI path will likely struggle as a publication. It seemed to me that each publication represented here had figured that out.

On Editorial Challenges


What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a publisher?

  • Nathan: Bandwidth. It’s always a huge concern on my part that our community knows we are listening to them and responding to their problems and concerns with excellent content as quicky as we are able.
  • Brian: Marketing. Balancing free content that grows the community with premium content that enriches his current community.
  • Marie: Distributed team. Dealing with the logistics of a remote workforce can be quite the challenge for publishers. Especially editors who end up being the main point of contact for everyone. Tools like Slack have been invaluable for the WordPress Publishing community.

On Fostering Loyalty


What do you do to generate loyalty with your readers?

  • Brian: started a slack channel that unexpected became a fan favorite and key feature of Post Status’ membership.
  • Nathan: social outreach. We have a really passionate community and instead of trying to control or even manage it all, we focus on participating and listening.
  • Marie: social engagement and humor. Examples include “Doc’s News Drops” and “Torque Toons”.

On Editorial Decisions


What has challenged you as an editor recently?

  • Nathan: Striking the right balance between general WordPress/Web Design content and Divi specific content. Along with all of the new changes involved in the transition from one post per day to two posts per day (with videos).
  • Marie: Objectivity when comparing WordPress to other platforms.
  • Brian: Balancing what you publish with the full extent of knowledge that you know. Specifically, knowing when not to share certain elements of a story to protect individuals and long term relationships.

On The Biggest Problem Facing WordPress-Focused Publishing Today


What would you describe as the biggest problem with WordPress-focused publishing today?

  • Nathan: Insufficient or mismatched economic incentives.
  • Brian: Really qualified people within the WordPress community not giving back by sharing what they’ve learned about WordPress (often for free).
  • Marie: Agreed with Brian on this point. Noting that perhaps the lack of inclusivity in the community may contribute to some people not feeling comfortable with sharing.

Final Thoughts

I couldn’t be happier that this type of conversation is going on between major publications about WordPress. To sit down and talk shop with other like-minded individuals about how we approach serving our respective “slices” of the broader WordPress Community was a real pleasure. In case you couldn’t tell, I was ready to talk for hours!

But now it’s time to turn the mic over to you.

What are your thoughts on the state of publishing about WordPress?

Featured image via ProStockStudio / Shutterstock.com

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