Google Authorship and rel=author is no more

One of the main benefits of signing up for a Google+ profile as a writer, blogger and author has been the Google Authorship program, which began back in 2011 with the launch of Google’s own social network. And in a Google+ post, Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that not only will the search results no longer show any Authorship results, but data will no longer be tracked from the rel=author markup.

Since the start of 2014, Authorship has carried slightly less benefits for those who implemented it correctly with first a reduction in the amount of author photos shown per query, and then a complete removal of author photos, leaving only bylines. Now that’s gone as well.

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Should you remove Authorship markup?

Although the markup is no longer being utilised for authorship, Mueller has confirmed that it will be treated just like any other markup (e.g. Schema), and won’t cause any problems.

Part of the reason given for Google Authorship ending has been the low take-up and correct implementation of the process. Given that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has stated the importance of real identity and information tied to online profiles, it’s unlikely that Google won’t continue to try and complete the link between people and their work in a less public way in the future.

 

What about Publisher markup?

Although the links between an individual and their articles won’t be correlated and highlighted any more, there’s been no explicit mention of Publisher markup between a brand and their Google+ page. It’s always been slightly easier to implement, and obviously only has to be done once for potentially hundreds of authors working for a brand, so the future is potentially brighter for Publishers than Authors.

 

Why was it ended?

The reasons given for Authorship ending at Google are:

  • Low numbers implementing it, and even fewer implementing it correctly.
  • Low value to searchers. Mueller stated ‘Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results’ – partly this may be down to the need to display properly on mobile devices, and there have been conspiracy theories about the impact on paid search advertising, as well as the possibility Authorship didn’t offer an increase in click through rates after the initial novelty had worn off.

 

What now?

So for the time being, we’d recommend that if you have Authorship in place, you don’t rush to remove it. And you continue to link your Google+ page with your website.

Mueller also mentioned an expansion of support for structured markup such as Scheme.org, which we recommend all clients look at to see how it can be implemented.

And Google+ posts and pages will still appear in searches where relevant, so there is still some reason to post on the network, even if it’s lost one compelling reason for a lot of journalists, authors and bloggers.

 

Blogging for Business and Profit Notes: DPiP August 2014

There’s nothing here yet until after I give my presentation this evening – Thursday, August 7th.

The full notes will magically appear on Saturday, August 9th. In the meantime, you can always follow me on Twitter (@badgergravling), or follow TheWayofTheWeb (@twotwmarketing) to be alerted when I’ve compiled and sorted everything…

How to merge an existing Google+ page and Youtube Channel

The continued integration of various Google services with Google+ has generally been a positive move for both Google and businesses who can now access pages, page insights, analytics etc all in one place. But it does create an issue if you have existing Google+ pages and Youtube channels assigned to different registration emails, or if you accidentally create duplicates.

Fortunately, the process to merge an existing Google+ page and Youtube channel isn’t as difficult as it once was.

 

Google+_Youtube_Merge

We’ve merged G+ and Youtube profiles for our own sites and clients

Disconnecting a Google+ page and merging an existing page with Youtube:

The first step is to make a note of the email address and Google account which your Youtube channel is setup up with.

1. Make sure that the existing Youtube account is added as a Manager to your Google+ page (Which is done under the Managers section of your Page Settings)

2. If a duplicate or alternate page has been created by mistake via Youtube, you’ll need to disconnect that Google+ presence by clicking on Disconnect in Youtube Settings, in the Name section.

3. Google will take around 20 minutes to proceed through the disconnection process. It’s a good time to get a drink and relax!

4. Now go back into Youtube Settings, and click on Advanced. You should then have the option to link the Youtube account to a Google+ Page. Click on that link and you should be able to select the correct page.

5. Once that’s done, you should be able to click on Edit to be sent to the Page where you can click on Posts etc to check it’s the correct one.

6. Once that’s all done, you can then go into Google+ with your original Youtube account and remove the Page created in error.

You’ll now have the benefits of a linked account, including access to a Youtube tab on your page, Hangouts etc. If you get stuck, there is a Google+ community dedicated to Youtube integration.

Proud Sponsors of DPiP May 2014 event

I’m pleased to say that in addition to personally being one of the organisers of local digital gathering ‘Digital People in Peterborough’, TheWayoftheWeb Ltd is also sponsoring the May 2014 event.

DPiP-Event-Banner-May2014

It’s a great way to informally meet up with a diverse range of people who share an interest in digital technology, whether it’s a personal interest, a career or their business.

There’s more details on the DPiP website. And although we’re still a small company, it’s great to be able to start supporting initiatives and getting more involved in our local community.

If you’re in Cambridgeshire, we’d definitely recommend checking it out

Security Update for Jetpack WordPress Plugin

Joining the news of the Heartbleed vulnerability that affects much of the internet, and a security update for WordPress itself, now comes the news that there is a critical security update for the Jetpack WordPress plugin.

Jetpack 2.9.3 contains a fix for a bug which allows an attacker to bypass access controls and publish posts, which could be combined with other attacks to escalate access. It’s existed since the release of Jetpack 1.9 in October 2012, and as yet there is no evidence of it being used in the wild.

JetpackLogo

However, now it has been made public, you need to make sure your site is updated asap – the team behind Jetpack have been working with hosting and network providers to reduce the problem, and have made updated releases for all 11 vulnerable versions of Jetpack from 1.94 through to 2.9.3.

So if you’re running Jetpack on one or more of your sites, make sure you’re either updating it now through your WordPress dashboard, or visit the Jetpack site to manually grab the updated releases and install the appropriate one for your website.

WordPress 3.8.2 now available to download and install

The latest version of WordPress is now available to download and install. It’s an important security release which solves some important security issues, along with fixing a number of bugs.

WordPressLogo

The security list is:

  • Potential authentication cookie forgery. CVE-2014-0166.
  • Privilege escalation: prevent contributors from publishing posts. CVE-2014-0165.
  • (Hardening) Pass along additional information when processing pingbacks to help hosts identify potentially abusive requests.
  • (Hardening) Fix a low-impact SQL injection by trusted users.
  • (Hardening) Prevent possible cross-domain scripting through Plupload, the third-party library WordPress uses for uploading files.

There’s more information available in the WordPress Codex. If you’re already allowing automatic updates, the release will apparently install throughout the next 12 hours, or you can update manually now. As always, before any significant WordPress or plugin update, it’s always best to back up your site.

 

 

Digital People in Peterborough Event: April 10, 2014

After a bit of a break, Digital People in Peterborough is back with a very cool event on Thursday April 10, 2014.

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Digital People in Peterborough – April 10, 2014

We’ve been invited to the Eco Innovation Centre in Peterborough to offer our thoughts on proposed plans for a new Digital Hub in the city!

If that wasn’t enough, we’re also being generously bribed with some food and drink for attendees, in case you need an extra reason to come along.

So it should be a good event, and an important one for the future of digital industries and creatives in Peterborough. And we’re generally a nice and friendly bunch, so you’ll feel welcome whether you’re a blogger, website owner, eCommerce expert, creative, marketer, developer, database admin, designer or inventing your own job title.

Best Business Social Media and Blogging Guidelines

Social Media policies and guidelines are vital for every business and employee. Not only are they helpful in ensuring that everyone in a company understands what is expected of them, they can also be a way to empower your employees to feel comfortable and confident in engaging with customers or clients via social media.

Rather than relying on the efforts of a small group of individuals to monitor, engage, interact and report on all activity across the plethora of social networks, blogs, wikis, forums and other locations, a good social media policy or set of guidelines means that the workload can be shared, and the responses can be crafted by those in the best position to respond with the right knowledge on a subject. That also cuts down on response times, as it avoids having to spend time internally contacting the right people within your business and obtain an answer.

Even with a small business, it’s good practice to instill the right guidelines and policies early on. That way you are already building a strong brand image and reputation, and new employees as you grow will pick up the right methodology by example as well as by instruction.

 

List of Social Media Guidelines and Policies:

Company NameDocument NameLink 
AFPGuidelines for using social mediahttp://www.afp.com/newsletter/new-social-media-guidelines.pdf(PDF)
American Medical AssociationProfessionalism in the Use of Social Mediahttp://www.ama-assn.org//ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion9124.page
BBCSocial Networking, Microblogs and other Third Party Websiteshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidance-blogs-bbc-full
Boy Scouts of AmericaSocial Media Guidelineshttp://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Marketing/Resources/SocialMedia.aspx
Cabinet OfficeSocial Media Guidance for Civil Servantshttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/62361/Social_Media_Guidance.pdf(PDF)
Civil ServiceLets Get Socialhttp://www.civilservice.gov.uk/news/lets-get-social
Coca ColaSocial Media Principleshttp://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/online-social-media-principles
Exeter UniversitySocial Media Guidelineshttp://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/web/socialmedia/
FordFord Social Media Guidelineshttp://www.slideshare.net/opinionwatch/ford-social-media-guidelines-scoot-monty
HPBlogging Code of Conducthttp://www.hp.com/hpinfo/blogs/codeofconduct.html
IBMSocial Computing Guidelineshttp://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html
Imperial College LondonSocial Media Guidelineshttp://www3.imperial.ac.uk/webguide/socialmedia
IntelSocial Media Guidelineshttp://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/legal/intel-social-media-guidelines.html
International Olympic CommitteeSocial Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelineshttp://www.olympic.org/social-media-and-internet-guidelines
Inter-Paliamentary UnionSocial Media Guidelines for Parliamentshttp://www.ipu.org/PDF/publications/SMG2013EN.pdf(PDF)
Nursing & Midwifery CouncilSocial Networking Siteshttp://www.nmc-uk.org/nurses-and-midwives/advice-by-topic/a/advice/social-networking-sites/
OracleThe Oracle Social Media Participation Policyhttps://blogs.oracle.com/otn/entry/the_oracle_social_media_partic
RocheRoche Social Media Principleshttp://www.roche.com/social_media_guidelines.pdf(PDF)
TescoSocial Media Colleague Guidelineshttps://www.ourtesco.com/media/2013/09/social_media_colleague_guide_160913.pdf(PDF)
University of Texas at AustinSocial Media Guidelineshttp://www.utexas.edu/know/directory/guidelines/
Thomson ReutersSocial Media Guidelineshttp://thomsonreuters.com/site/social-media-guidelines/
University College LondonSocial Mediahttp://www.ucl.ac.uk/social-media
University of MichiganGuidelines for the use of social mediahttp://www.voices.umich.edu/docs/Social-Media-Guidelines.pdf(PDF)
University of YorkSocial Media Guidelineshttp://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/resources/policy/social-media-guidelines.htm
WalmartWalmart's Social Media Guidelineshttp://corporate.walmart.com/social-media-guidelines

 

 

WordPress Automatic Updates – Good or Bad?

Automatic updates were introduced to WordPress with the 3.7 Basie release, but the debate about them has been re-ignited as they recently came into effect for a large number of users who found their websites moved from 3.8 to 3.8.1 without any prior notification.

As much as I like and respect his WP knowledge, I’m forced to disagree somewhat with Rhys Whynne’s article, which says they’re an unqualified good thing, and side with the view he references from Marj Wyatt. The way that automatic upgrades have been implemented without any easy controls for website owners means that many people will need to either install an extra plugin or add code manually to stop their sites from being changed without their knowledge.

WordPress-Automatic-Updates

 

WordPress Auto Updates: The Benefits

There are several positives to having automatic upgrades for security reasons and minor releases. The first is that many, many people around the world are using outdated versions of WordPress and associated plugins which is a major security risk for them. Outdated software is a great way to invite hackers to easily get into your site, particularly if it allows them to use widely accessible and known vulnerabilities which can be hit in bulk.

And having worked with the large number of sites we develop, host and manage for clients, I can say that most are updated infrequently at best.

It also means that users aren’t paralysed by fear when given the option to upgrade. It also saves the cost of paying for anyone to simply have the confidence to perform a site back up and click yes to upgrade (Which is why we’ve always installed auto-backup tools for clients).

In terms of connectivity, even if the WordPress server has issues during the upgrade process, it won’t affect your site. If it fails, the site falls back to the normal state anyway.

And although I personally like to have as much control over any software updates and upgrades, in terms of trusting the intentions of WordPress, I’m more comfortable with an open source and fairly open organisation having the right aims than many of the other software platforms and products we all use on a daily basis.

 

WordPress Auto Updates: The Problems

So why wouldn’t I just recommend everyone lets Automatic Updates do their job?

Firstly, there is an ownership issue. Although I accept Rhys’s point that auto updates will reduce security issues for which WordPress could incorrectly be blamed, the fact is that the websites being updated are not the property of WordPress, are not on WordPress owned servers, and aren’t the responsibility of WordPress. Unless they’re also intending to come and help if I make a mistake while I’m tweaking some CSS as well?

But more importantly from a day-to-day practice is that minor updates can have major consequences. Although plugins and extensions should be designed and built in a way which means minor updates don’t affect them, that’s asking third party developers to predict the future. And the further you extend WordPress, the more risky it is.

Plus the time, resource and financial cost of ensuring everything is working can be problematic. It requires every third party supplier to be ready for every beta test and notification of an impending update, and to be able to test every single product they list prior to the update occurring.

Having worked with plugins like Jigoshop, that means not only the Jigoshop core plugin, but potentially checking tens of themes and hundreds of extensions, which have been created by a large number of suppliers.

The majority of people involved in that project, and many others, are making that effort, but it takes time and co-ordination – with an almost infinite combination of hosting, server setup, conflicting plugins and extensions etc.

And when we update a site, we always schedule it for the time which causes least disruption to site owners and their customers. That’s difference for every business, so there’s no way for WordPress to achieve this without looking at the website analytics for 1 million+ websites at a time.

That’s why I believe it’s wrong to have introduced Automatic Updates without any manual controls for a user or administrator which don’t require either coding or installing yet another plugin.

 

WordPress Auto Updates: Our Advice

One thing we can all agree on – make back ups of your site often. Rhys recommends once per day, which we’d recommend for sites which are critical to you and your business, although it’s really a question of how much you’re prepared to loss in a disaster versus the cost of storage space.

If your site is fairly simple, using core WordPress functionality and a handful of plugins, then Auto Updates are pretty much fine. For instance, I have no issue with having them enabled on www.danthornton.net as it’s a personal blog with very few tweaks or plugins.

If your site is complex, and uses substantial plugins or extensions, then we’d recommend turning off Auto Updates, which is what we’ve done for various clients. We’re not willing to let anything be changed on those sites without the opportunity to test and double check it.

If your site access is essential for your business, then we’d recommend turning off Auto Updates. Although maintenance mode passes very quickly, you want to be able to experience any issues at a time when you least disrupt customers and you’re on hand to fix any issues, rather than while you’re in a meeting, on holiday or sleeping.

 

 

WordPress Auto Updates: Turning them off

There are two ways to re-assert your control if you want to disable or restrict the automatic updates. The first is to edit the code on your site, and the instructions are available on the WordPress Codex. The second is to use one of the various plugins which have sprung up to offer similar functionality, such as ‘Update Control‘.

So far we’ve yet to test the plugin options, and have installed the manual option across a range of client sites to avoid adding plugins which shouldn’t be necessary.  Essentially you’re then updating an additional plugin to cope with the update functionality WordPress introduced to avoid having to update so often.

Lessons from a Google Hangout – State of Digital’s Future of Search

The Future of Search was discussed in a live Google Hangout organised by State of Digital today, and I was honored to be one of the people involved in the debate.

It was great to be chatting with Dixon Jones, Gianluca Fiorelli, Krystian Szastok, Russel McAthy and Tim Stewart.  And Bas van den Beld did a great job of organising, hosting and moderating it all, including feeding in some good questions from people watching the hangout live. The ‘behind the scenes’ chat also helped everyone to cover all the topics raised, as well as distracting the less confident among us from worrying about our appearance or occasional fluffed sentence over the course of 90 minutes.

So overall it was great, I learned a lot just from chatting with everyone else involved, and I’d love to do more.

But having written a quick guide to Creating and Sharing Videos Online, there were some obvious mistakes I made in preparing…

 

 

Google Hangout Guide:

The organisation was handled by State of Digital and Bas, who did a good job in herding us all into the right place at the right time, and managing the muting of mics for everyone who wasn’t speaking. It’s important to make sure everyone involved turns up a little bit early to make sure they get access, have functioning video and audio (e.g. Tim’s blurrycam), and they also know how to access any backchannel, such as Google Hangout’s chat functionality.

What could I have done better?

Appearance:

Overall, I didn’t do too badly. I’m no Tom Cruise, sadly, but I’ve found it’s vital when speaking live or on video to feel confident in how you look and what you’re wearing. In this case, an Open Rights Group T-shirt which remained out of shot…

The other thing to remember is to check for all potential embarrassments such as unwanted nose or ear hair, errant bogeys, bits of lunch etc, etc.  Five minutes before shooting can save a lifetime of internet mockery.

Lighting:

Fail here. Despite the fact I know how important lighting is for video, and I actually rent my house from a professional video editor, the lighting in my home office is crap for filming. It’s easily solved with a couple of decent and cost effective lights. And now I have the impetus to invest, as I did look slightly pale and blue. Fine for an extra in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but not ideal…

You can spot the people who put a little more thought into their lighting arrangments (Bas, Gianluca, Krystian).

Posture and Seating:

Not too bad. I was basically using my laptop on my desk and sat in my office chair. So it was serviceable, but not necessarily comfortable or relaxing – I think it was Gianluca who moved to a sofa part way through the hangout.

In the future I’d aim to have a more comfortable and relaxed place to sit, and somewhere where I’m not looking down at the camera (I wasn’t the only person to pick up on the inherent risk of a double chin looking down). It also meant I was only seen from the neck up, which was fine for this particular chat, but might be rather boring if I was hosting something on my own for a few minutes – all you’d see is my head, without any body language or movement.

Audio/Visual:

Not too bad. My Creative ChatMax HS-720 Headset worked well considering it’s under £30. And if I’d picked a better angle and lighting, the actual quality of the video feed is reasonable.

For shooting more videos, I think it will be worth investing in a good quality external webcam, so I can be more flexible with where I place it, and potentially a good quality external mic as well – the ChatMax works well for chats like this where I need to hear the other people, but if I’m recording a screencast etc, I’d like to have a little more audio quality.

Plus I keep meaning to record myself playing guitar etc to see if I’m improving, so that’s another reason for an investment…

 

Google Hangouts: Worth doing?

I’ve talked to a couple of clients about organising Google Hangouts with experts in their respective fields and I definitely think it’s worthwhile. One of my earliest jobs online was to organise celebrity web chats in a text only chatroom – the ability to have a panel of speakers, and easily sharable recorded video, makes this much easier and more effective.

As long as the content is interesting, the production quality is secondary, and by having multiple people involved it seems to average out the best and worst.

In the tech world, Hangouts have become a staple part of internet content. And the blogging community has also picked up on them as a great way to connect, discuss and share conversations and content.