We always have a lot going on, often involving things our clients might like to know about, but much of it fails to inspire me to write a masterpiece.  These updates are now going to be included in a periodic post called “Miscellany”.  Yeah, I know the technical definition of miscellany is a collection of multiple author’s content on multiple subjects, but this one will sometimes be a collection of my work.

This week’s Miscellany includes four topics:

1. We’re On WordPress 4.0 (Benny)

Since it’s a core component of our technology offering we’re always excited when WordPress releases an update.  Applying that update is usually a lot of work, but we love new things… so there you have it.

WordPress version 4.0, named “Benny” in honor of jazz great Benny Goodman, was released on September 4th.  Since this version didn’t contain any priority security updates, we tested carefully and waited for our technology partners to do the same prior to update.  As of this weekend, all our our sites are running the new version.

This upgrade involves more polish than revolution.  It delivers subtle improvements such as allowing the post editor to automatically expand as you type, showing previews of embedded content like YouTube videos, and adding a grid view to the media library.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out https://wordpress.org/news/2014/09/benny/.

2. WooCommerce 2.2 (Prowling Pangolin) Is Here

Our e-commerce solution, WooCommerce, was recently upgraded to version 2.2.  Named after a type of anteater, this update introduces new features for managing inventory through your e-commerce site.  If you’d like to know more, check out http://www.woothemes.com/2014/09/woocommerce-2-2/.

3. Goodbye To “Fast Secure Contact Form”

It’s one of the most popular free plugins on the WordPress repository and works well for many purposes, but Fast Secure Contact Form isn’t as robust as our premium solution through Gravity Forms.  Gravity Forms is easier to use, offers forms with much greater flexibility, and simply looks a lot better.  Perhaps most importantly, Gravity Forms are better protected by our premium spam protection through Akismet.

That last bit is pretty important as some of our sites were getting so popular that spammers were beginning to target their contact pages!

For all of these reasons, we’ve moved all remaining contact pages to Gravity Forms and removed Fast Secure Contact Form from our network.  If you have a custom contact, you can now find the settings and entries in the “Forms” menu on your admin.

4. Google Ends Authorship Rich Excerpts

We were pretty excited when Google chose to promote use of the “Author” and “Publisher” tags from Schema.org by associating them with Google+ profiles and using the data to generate rich excerpts on blog posts and other articles.  Schema.org’s formatting guidelines are a great way to promote your business, because the detailed information microdata can add to search engines creates a better experience for users.

Prior to Authorship, many of our clients didn’t have the sort of products or services that lent themselves to microdata or rich excerpts.  However, most everybody had the ability post updates that could lead to Authorship excerpts and our superior understanding of adding this information to our clients’ sites gave us a leg up on competitors.  We used Google’s Structured Data Testing Tools to verify proper listing for the blog posts of every client and we had a good rate of seeing larger, more attractive entries on search engine results pages.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be too good to last.

Google recently announced that they were sunsetting rich excerpts for Authorship.  As is often the case with their various search experiments, they were not clear on what criteria they used to measure the results of Authorship results or where it fell short.  You’ll no longer see your picture and author link next to Google results for your various posts.  Since they are still valid data elements according to Schema.org, we’ve chosen to leave existing tags in place and our tools still allow the assignment of new ones.  One never knows when some search engine will make use of them again, however, we’re no longer emphasizing their importance.

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