New-Search-Console

Webmaster rolls out new Search Console

This has been coming for quite some time. Google Webmaster is slowly rolling out an update to the Search Console. The new search console is a much cleaner interface with most of the reports and insights hidden under multiple layers.

The Dashboard

The new Search Console dashboard is much more simpler now, with just three reports that you can view –

  1. Performance – How your site is performing in the search results. This is similar to the Search Analytics report.
  2. Index Coverage – How your site has been indexed and what errors does the search engine detect on the site
  3. AMP – Information about the Accelerated Mobile Pages and how Google detects AMP on your site

The good things

Straight off the cuff, this tool provides just the right information to the user. It forces the user to engage with the reports available, and provides interesting insights that were not available before.

Take a look at this new report which tells me the impact on Search Impressions when I decided to mark 75 odd pages on noindex.

Index Coverage Reports Insight

The report shows how I have lost impressions because of adding noindex to pages

Overall, most reports even if being the same are now much more easier to understand and interpret.

Another example is the Performance report with the Pages section selected. This feature was available in the older interface as well, but now the data is much more clear and this tells me which pages should I work on to improve my CTRs.

Search Analytics Report

I need to tweak the description and meta details of some of the top pages

The bad things

There are more things yet to come, and this is not a complete experience yet. I cannot only rely on the new interface. Some reports simply haven’t been incorporated into the new Search Console yet.

Reports on Structured Data is completely missing. The diagnostic set of tools and the crawl request tools are not included in the tool.

The update to the search console is welcome and I for one am glad that a much more cleaner interface is made available.

Upgrading WordPress

With the WordPress 3.3 update coming out, I decided that it was about time that I upgrade the wordpress running on our company’s website from the lowly 2.7.1 to the current version. This has been a thorn in my side from quite some time (about a year now). I had earlier attempted to correct this, however direct update options available in WP always resulted in broken themes or worse, broken functionality. It’s a nightmare when you have to consider the SEO juice you would be loosing because of the change in URLs. Even if I put in 301 redirects, it was too much of an effort to consider the update.

Installation

  • Christmas and New Year is always a slow time for any business, the perfect time to update WordPress. Also, using Google Analytics, I noted the time of the day when we receive the least no. of visitors (2am to 7am IST, when the no. is around 300-400 visitors per hour, else it goes as high as 1700-2000 visitors per hour)
  • The first thing I did was ensure that my hosting environment was compatible with WP 3.3. Turns out that my PHP version was not updated. I found this excellent guide to upgrade PHP from 5.1 to 5.3.
  • Once that was done, I double checked to see if my existing packages were compatible with the updated PHP. Turns out, that a lot of the functions in the previous version were deprecated. My error_log was looking like a battlefield scarred with PHP Fatal Errors, and PHP Warnings. Some quick fixes, I was ready for the WP update.
  • Using the awesome 5-minute WP install, I installed a dummy version on a hidden subdomain. I was sure to disable search engines on this deployment.
  • I then exported all the data from our current system and imported it into this deployment. This was the easiest part!
  • I then copied our theme files, and installed it into this new WP package (you have to check the theme files for deprecated methods)
  • I then copied all the plug-ins from the old to the new WP. These were then updated. The good thing about updated plug-ins is that you get awesome set of functionalities and security updates that you so wanted. Note to New Webmasters: There are a lot of plug-ins out there whose older versions contain backdoors (more on this later), trigger false alarms on search engines, etc which need to be taken care of. Earlier I used to this clean-up using shell scripts, but not anymore :)
  • Now with a bit of tweaking here and there, the site had URLs which were function properly (no more worrying about loosing on our SEO efforts).
  • With adding a fair bit of plug-ins into the system, came a new problem – conflicting jQuery!! Earlier this month, I had asked our intern┬áto hand script a jQuery menu, and that was conflicting with the other jQuery scripts. Fortunately, we have jQuery.noConflict().

A whole new World!

  • WordPress 3.3 is breathtakingly awesome!
  • The custom fields have been nerfed, now you have to do a fair bit of tweaking around to introduce custom fields in pages. But that allows me to have a higher controls on them. Earlier custom fields had this nagging way of getting out of control in a wordpress installation. Not any more!
  • Plug-ins like All-in-one-SEO make for better and simpler SEO efforts. All my worries of duplicate title tags are slowly vanishing away!
  • Better plug-in support! Earlier where I would myself script a small workflow on the WP installation, now I can again rely on the huge set of awesome wordpress plug-ins

The good part of this transition was that it took me a little of 3 hours to completely migrate. Of course for some other media (such as videos, pdfs, etc.) which I did not want to migrate to a new folder, I created softlinks and the task was done. All in all, if you are facing legacy wordpress systems, and are worried about upgrading them to the latest version … dont. The best method is to deploy a new version and migrate all the content (however ginormous the task sounds, its a better approach).

Aside

The Blue Nothing Digest

The internet is virtually an infinite source of inspiration, great news, stupidity and entertainment. I thought that I might share some gems which are either relevant to me, or which I think you might find interesting.

Oh, in case you are wondering what the heck is Blue Nothing, it’s a term I read in one interesting novel on Social Engineering (and it’s evils). The internet is the Blue Nothing!