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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, we have Cliff Rohde, CEO and Founder of GoatCloud with us. During the conversation, Matt and Cliff discuss SEO plugins and website security at great length. Watch now for effective strategies that guarantee growth.
I think WordPress has gotten a bad rep. It’s like being insecure. Which I think is not justified, and it’s just people trying to emphasize convenience over security.
Matt, it is my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
I do think so. It’s not the only one that’s out there, of course.
I think, especially initially, WordPress did a great job of making it very easy for people to get on.
Yeah, so I have to say that I am probably a Divi fanboy. I feel like that product from Elegant Themes is just a terrific product, and it has developed so much, and so well, over the last, what, 10 years or so are eight years. And I feel like Divi is sort of where WordPress ought to be. I know that sounds very fanboyish. They’re not paying me money to talk about their themes. But it’s pretty intuitive to use. I will say that clients come to me in all different shapes and forms, and experiences and history online. So it’s not unusual that clients will be onboarded, and they have a particular theme that’s not Divi, and they want to continue using that. And that’s fine, too. But if I’m building a site from scratch, usually that is the theme I will go to.
I mean, it’s easy enough to have a child theme with Divi, that is for sure. What I like about Divi is that one of the things I like about it anyway, is that it starts with a blank slate in my mind. It’s just a blank canvas, but it’s very easy to create some, this will sound vain, so masterpieces with it. I don’t know if I’ve created that, but I’ve seen it make some very nice-looking websites, starting from zero. I love that as compared to the way WordPress started right with themes that gave the site its look and feel; I want to do this, I got to do this. And it offers you so much more flexibility. Now. There are certainly other page builders out there. But I don’t like them as much as I like Divi.
Well, yeah, sure. And maybe this is a springboard for a larger conversation, or I should put this away because one of its other really powerful parts is that it is so widely used. And it’s created a dedicated group of developers responsive to hundreds of 1000s of users. They, to my mind, are committed to the product and their customers. So, I’m sure you can find some sort of theme out there with all sorts of bells and whistles, but if it’s not supported that way, it may be a mistake to use.
Yeah, so that’s a great question. And that goes beyond WordPress to the extent clients want to get involved in their websites. Whether you’re using WordPress with or without Divi or Squarespace or Wix, Weebly, Webflow, or whatever it’s going to be, there’s a learning curve for everybody. Some of these products will sound like a complaint, but I think it reflects where we are today. These tools we use to make our presence online are amazingly sophisticated and can do tremendous things. But with that comes a bit of complexity, and you need to find people, whether you’re in-house or hiring someone to do this, but who knows how to do this stuff. And it’s not always the easiest thing. Do my clients like Divi? I don’t know. A lot of times, they don’t care, honestly. Because they want me to do stuff on their website. Do they have any more complaints about Divi than they do about any other platform? Absolutely not.
I was going to say that I’m sure that if a WordPress purist is listening to me say this about Divi, they’re going to say, Oh, my God, this guy is giving everybody such bad advice because we should be building the site from scratch with our CSS and all that stuff. And I think that can work for certain projects. For small business people, they don’t want that. They don’t need that. And they don’t want it.
There is a shortcoming. It’s because of the shortcodes. Any page builder, whether Divi or any others you mentioned, will have its shortcodes if you want to change out of that platform.
Divi accommodates custom post types and fields.
I never found it to be a beautiful thing. But there are workarounds. So I feel like some of that stuff is coming right out of the box, but I’ll give you a perfect example. A client that I have wanted to build a directory of people who perform the function for the new organization, and it didn’t make sense to add those as posts because that’s just not what they were. So really made sense to create some sort of custom post type. These particular fields and the ability to display that information on a Divi website are doable. But again, you need workarounds. So there’s probably a way to do some of that with the native or WooCommerce, but with the WordPress blocks and stuff with Gutenberg, but I have never really loved that block editor. And I think it’s still in development mode in my mind. I am not a big fan of Gutenberg. So that’s what I was saying before where. I think that Divi is where I think WordPress ought to be because there are Gutenberg-like functionalities within Divi. But they’re better, Just better. Divi is not going to supplant WordPress. No, they wouldn’t. I don’t know what they’d have to do, but they’re not there.
I don’t know. I’m sure that the Divi people worry about that a little bit. It’s something that I have thought about, like, would WordPress forever automatically buy themes and say this is the way or any of the other builders? I don’t know. I don’t. I feel the goal was, like you’re saying to make it a bit easier to build a nice-looking website. But I don’t think it makes it much easier. I don’t
You can see my beard’s color, right? Yeah, maybe you’re asking the wrong guy this question.
My go-to is Yoast, although I think it’s a great plugin in many respects. I sometimes feel like, so I should just say, as an aside for a second, part of my business, the website design, of course, but then another substantial part of my business as well as hosting and maintaining websites. GoatCloud offers a Managed WordPress environment. But it’s different from some of the ones you may get, Like a GoDaddy or wherever else SiteGround, etc. I’m just happy to be naming them. There’s no reason I wouldn’t name other hosts who have a managed service. But I feel like my managed service is much more managed. One of my colleagues and I will be looking at the website and trying to figure out, should we be updating this plugin right now or not? So there’s a long way to getting to the Yoast question. I feel like sometimes, and maybe not so bad recently, but they’ve pushed out changes to the plugin before it was ready to be pushed out, so they’d be pretty quick to release the subsequent version. And so I find that a little bit annoying. I would much rather have fewer iterations. But each one is more stable. I also use All In One SEO.
A lot of them. I was going to say that. Let’s not lose track of talking about SEO, it’s a thought I’d had about Gutenberg, too, as long as Gutenberg kind of continues, and WordPress continues to be kind of an open platform where other developers can bring pretty cool stuff to the table, I think it’ll be okay. It will weather the Gutenberg storm.
I have not, but I’d love to hear about it. It’s easy to use, and I think the interface is great. I think the guidance it provides, right within the plugin, is a little bloating, but it’s also good advice, especially for people who don’t know a lot about building websites and SEO. I will tell my clients who want to do this on their own, give them a little bit of training and say, well, here, you have your page up, look at what Yoast SEO is telling you about this page and get everything to green, and you’ll be at a better place than you were before then. That’s very helpful.
They are the same. I do use All In One SEO on occasion. There are some that I’ve used for very particular purposes. Like, if it’s an e-commerce Store, find some that do a better job at creating Schemas for products and stuff. So trying to remember what the names of those are. Yoast has a product in that regard, and others are in the repository.
Yeah, that’s helpful. SEO itself is a very broad term.
Yeah, core goals can be considered. Yeah, exactly. All that stuff.
Yeah, it depends on the website. But what I like to do, especially, is get my sites up on Cloudflare. It does a terrific job. Caching, security performance, etc. I’ve generally removed the extra caching plugins for the Divi sites I manage because they provide some caching, relatively recent development within Divi. Over the last six months or so, I don’t know that I have my dates exactly right, but they made speed a particular purpose they were striving for. And so, they refashioned what was under the hood. And so the sites are much faster than they used to be. So with CloudFlare, I don’t tend to drill down crazily. My sites are not YouTube or eBay or something like that. They’re you want to be building fast sites for your customers.
They’re also not visited as often. And most small-scale customers typically have a shared hosting thing going on. They don’t need to be blazing, blazing fast. And that’s going to sound like heresy, I suppose. But, I’m going to say that most small clients don’t have the money to pay you or to pay for the service to get the fastest website possible. And I just don’t know that you always need the fastest website.
No, of course not. It has to be mobile-friendly. It has to be secure. It has to be easy to look at. It has to be easy to maneuver through, and you get people to the contact page, or you have a clickable link to the phone, and you’re pretty good.
I have not had mine. I have not had one of my sites hacked. Security is a super important issue. I have helped people recover from a hack.
Yeah, for sure. And I think that a lot of the hacks happen on low-hanging fruit. To people who have put no security precautions or measures in place to keep their site away from the bad guys, gals, and bots. So, I use security plugins. I tend to use WorkFence more than any of the others. One of the things I like about them, too, is that they are recent. They’ve changed the way or made it possible to do a better job securing login by putting two factors on a website to log in.
It is especially for administrators. It’s one of the conversations I have with my clients who, by and large, are not always the most technologically sophisticated, and they don’t want to be and don’t have to be. If they’re a lawyer or a plumber or whatever they are, pest control person, they don’t necessarily care about a website. They are subject matter experts on what they do. But talking with them about a WordPress website, where some organizations might have multiple Administrators because different people are doing different things is like, every Admin on a WordPress site is a Super Admin. And that’s a real security issue.
I mean, it’s another potential weakness right there.
Yeah. That’s well said, Matt. It is a matter of education, and then we have a conversation about it and the risks. I had one nonprofit client, this was very recently. I’ve been hosting and maintaining their site for years, but they hadn’t asked me to do anything to check in and stuff. So they had turnover over time and just acted like all these people when I finally came back because they had some other stuff they needed to do. It was like we had 13 administrators on this website. And I asked, are you are these people even still around? Here’s why it’s not a good idea to do that. So yeah, I think people are receptive.
Again. Each one is a super Admin so that they can change other Administrator stuff, that is a huge amount of power.
It is and the mayhem that can cause. You were asking about some other security steps I took. This is another one that I enjoy doing via cloud flare. It can be done even in the free plans at Cloud flare, and I am a big fan of It. They are not paying me to say any of this, but although they did have an outage recently, it took down a few of my sites. That’s another issue that is hard for people to understand, systems will fail occasionally. Even the big ones. There is a way that you can set up firewalls in Cloudflare. Because most of my clients are in the US, most of them, to the extent that they have people working on their website, the people are in the United States as well. You can put a block on the WP login page in Cloudflare so no one in the country can get in. There are bad actors in the United States as well. When I look at statistics on websites I manage, I go into cloud flare, telling me all the security things it did for me. They are mostly blocking attempts from countries outside of the United States.
I think WordPress has gotten a bad rep. It’s like being insecure. Which I think is not justified, and it’s just people trying to emphasize convenience over security. Another tip I have, you probably do this too. Matt is for usernames. I also use a password manager. I use LastPass. I will have LastPass generate a random username unique to me. You never want to have an admin named admin. It boggles my mind that I still find websites where that is going on.
I think with security, there are steps that bad guys and the bad bots take, and you try to come off at every step. Making it harder for them at every step.
There is always that tension between convenience and security. Sometimes we think they are so inconvenient that they are not worth doing anymore. You could create a login page for just a particular IP address. That would stop everybody. Your IP address is going to change.
My IP changes every eight months, but in the last two years, it changes now and again.
What kind of websites are we talking about?
A common thread that goes through many of my clients when they first come to me and I am onboarding them is set it and forget it. It’s not unusual that when someone comes to me for help, we’ll look at the website and say, ” Oh, nobody was updating your plug-ins. We will find all sorts of issues like that correctable. I think again that goes to the notion that the small business person wants to be focused on their business, not on their website. And I think that’s not particular to WordPress. You were talking before about adding plug-ins to perform more functions. I would say an approach that I have, which is a common approach among WordPress developers, is to have a minimum number of plug-ins. At the same time, I don’t like to create all sorts of custom codes for a website because my client may decide next month that they want to move on and do something else. They want to hire somebody else. I am lucky that doesn’t happen very often, but it can happen. I feel like part of my job is to help future-proof them. I have one client that I just revamped their website, which was a WordPress website. The person had set it up bizarrely, and my client said they set it up so that we could not do anything on the website. I was like, What? It just seemed unethical to me.
While I believe in reducing the number of plug-ins, I try not to load up a website with codes. I try to make a website that is at least approachable from the client’s perspective. If they wanted to learn, they could do stuff if they wanted.
I would say that it’s doable. I guess I feel that way about WordPress. Before we talked, I even led the conversation by talking about how hard it is sometimes with WordPress. It’s doable. I find, and maybe you find this too sometimes, Matt, that clients you work with are slightly fearful of technology.
At times, they are going like, Oh my God, what am I going to do? I feel like a part of my job is talking people down. It’s. Going to be ok, or we will fix this, and you can have access if you want. If you want to do all this, we will provide some training, and you can do it. I would say that I think it’s rare these days. When I started this, some people still questioned whether they even needed a website. I think we are well beyond that point now. But people are still fearful about doing it themselves, and I think people may have heard chatter in the background about WordPress. It’s hard, insecure, and I think that’s gooey.
You don’t have to, but you can.
It’s a target as a consequence.
And not just with Divi, you can make some very great sites with WordPress. It is my main tool.
I have a website, strangely enough, that is goatcloud.com. That is a goat, like the barnyard animal. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
LinkedIn yes. We didn’t talk about social media. It wasn’t the focus of the conversation. I try to avoid social media. LinkedIn, I am there.
Emphasis on evil.
It’s been a fun conversation, Matt. I hope we can do it again.
You too. Thank you.
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