A team meeting.

Google Core Update Complete, Instagram Add New Reel Features & Potentially Limit Account Reach, and WordPress Announces Safer Third-Party Plugin Proposal

June 10, 2022 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Google Core Update Complete, Instagram Add New Reel Features & Potentially Limit Account Reach, and WordPress Announces Safer Third-Party Plugin Proposal”

After a refreshing (and well-needed) bank holiday where the country celebrated the Queen, it hasn’t stopped digital companies from improving their platforms! In this week’s article, we’ve got advice on how to cope with a Google core update, new ways to be creative on Instagram, how your reach may be limited, and a WordPress proposal that would inform the website publishing tool.

May 2022 Google Core Update roll out complete

Google has confirmed via Twitter on the 9th of June that the Core Update they began rolling out on the 25th of May has now been completed. Now you will be able to take an accurate assessment of how the update has impacted your website.

The announcement was at 8:44 AM, but you may have noticed ranking changes good or bad prior to the 9th; if you did notice a change then it was likely you were hit by the update.

What you should do next

If you’ve been positively affected by the Core Update, that’s great! Keep up the good work.

If you’ve noticed negative changes such as low rankings or traffic, then you’re probably thinking “What can I do next?”

Google’s advice for this update is the same as their advice for the last one: Improve your content.

Google Search Advocate John Muller stated the following regarding core updates:

“With the core updates we don’t focus so much on just individual issues, but rather the relevance of the website overall.

And that can include things like the usability, and the ads on a page, but it’s essentially the website overall.”

– John Mueller, October 2021

If you’ve been hit by the update, instead of getting bogged down by slight technical changes such as title tags, instead start with the essence of any website: the content.

The questions you need to ask

A question mark on a chalkboard.

Google have a blog post regarding what to do in the case that your rankings or traffic drops from a core update, and the advice is still relevant today. They say you should be asking yourself the following questions:

For content quality:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Regarding expertise:

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Does the content have any easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Content presentation:

  • Does the content have any spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Lastly, comparative questions:

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

If you work through these questions, have a solid content plan, and begin making improvements based on a plan as well as improving elements that factor into SEO; then you should begin to see your rankings improve.

Instagram introduce new reel features

Instagram has added new features to its widely-popular Reels tool, which will allow users and businesses more ways to apply creativity. The intent behind the new features is to help content creators engage with their user base, attract new viewers, and express their own creativity in a unique fashion.

As of now, Reels is Instagram’s fastest-growing feature worldwide, with 675.3 million out of their 2 billion users using the feature.

A film reel meant to represent Instagram reels.

The new tools

The new update has not only refreshed the collection of sound effects that you can use in a reel but you can now upload your own sound effects too.

This is suitable for commentary, a jingle, or even just background noise; a creator can import sounds from any video as long as it is five seconds long. Other creators will then be able to use this in their Reel.

Increasing the length restriction is another big feature. In the past, you could only make a Reel last 15 seconds, but now you can post a Reel that is 90 seconds long. On top of this, a Reel ad can last for 60 seconds.

You can also use interactive stickers such as polls, quizzes, or emoji sliders in a reel too that a user can interact and engage your content with.

The last new feature is templates, a creator can now use another Reel as a template when they’re making their own. You can pre-load audio and clips from source videos, and then you can add and trim your own unique clips on top of this.

Reels Provides Value To Marketers, Advertisers, & Branders

The amount of views online videos generate has almost doubled since 2018, online videos have become an important tool that many marketers will use. This is particularly true for Reels which have been proven to help attract viewers.

According to Instagram, a public account that has more than 10,000 followers that post at least five different Reels over a 60-day period will gain 250% more followers compared to those in the same category who have not posted reels.

The same update could also harm an Instagram account’s reach, however

An image showing a phone with the new sensitive content control options.
Source: Instagram

The Instagram update has also expanded on a feature that filters out ‘sensitive’ content for users, which has the possibility of impacting the reach of some accounts.

If a user selects Sensitive Content Control in the Settings menu, they can choose how much or how little “sensitive content” they see across all aspects of Instagram which includes: Search, Reels, Hashtag Pages, and In-Feed Recommendations.

The option for Sensitive Content Control was originally introduced in 2021, however, it only applied to the Explore feed.

If you post content that Instagram deems ‘sensitive,’ the content may see a reduced reach if enough users begin to use Sensitive Content Control.

Here’s more about how the feature works and what kind of content is impacted.

Sensitive Content

Sensitive content is described by Instagram as “posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially be upsetting to some people.”

Specifically, this includes:

  • Content that depicts violence, including people fighting.
  • Content that is sexually explicit or suggestive, like pictures of people in see-through clothing.
  • Content that promotes the use of certain regulated products, including tobacco or vaping products, adult products and services or pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Content that may promote or depict cosmetic procedures.
  • Content that may be attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims, for example, a supplement to help lose weight.

The options for content control

There are three options available that users can select for controlling sensitive content on Instagram.

The options are as follows:

  • Standard: The default state, which limits some but not all content.
  • More: Allows users to opt-in to seeing more sensitive content.
  • Less: Restricts sensitive content to a greater extent than the default state.

The “more” option is not available for users under the age of 18.

Users can customise their experience

This update to Sensitive Content Control is the latest addition to a series of tools Instagram is offering to allow users to shape their own unique Instagram experience.

In order to change Sensitive Content Control, simply follow these steps:

  1. Click on “Settings”
  2. Tap “Account and then “Sensitive Content Control”
  3. Select which content level you wish to apply.
  4. Tap “Confirm.”

WordPress announces a proposal to improve plugins

An image with the word "security" displayed.

WordPress has announced a new proposal to take a more foresighted strategy towards third-party plugins in order to improve their security as well as their site performance.

The current discussion is surrounding a plugin checker that will make sure that plugins are following best practices.

Third-party plugins are unfortunately a major origin of both security vulnerabilities and performance bottlenecks. The proposal outlines three different ways to tackle a plugin checker.

The proposal defined the problem:

“While there are fewer infrastructure requirements for plugins than there are for themes, there are certainly some requirements that are worth verifying, and in any case, checking against security and performance best practices in plugins would be just as essential as it is in themes.

However as of today, there is no corresponding plugin checker.”

Vulnerabilities And Poor Performance

WordPress, whilst a good tool to publish a website on, is controversial for not only being vulnerable to hackers but also for being slow.

So it may surprise readers to discover that WordPress itself is a highly secure platform. The majority of the problems stem from third-party plugins.

Although WordPress itself is safe to a degree, third-party plugins have caused WordPress to basically become synonymous with hacked sites.

There is a comparable issue in regards to WordPress site performance, too. Whilst there is a WordPress Performance Team that actively works on enhancing the performance of the WordPress core itself; the effort is undermined by third-party plugins that unnecessarily load JavaScript or CSS on pages where they’re not needed or don’t lazy load images, which ends up slowing down the website.

The Plugin Checker

WordPress already has a theme checker that allows a theme developer to check their work to ensure they’re following best practices and security. This same theme checker is even used on the official WordPress theme repository.

WordPress is now wanting to introduce a similar checker for Plugins.

This is how the goal of the proposed plugin checker was defined:

“There should be a WordPress plugin checker tool that analyzes a given WordPress plugin and flags any violations of plugin development best practices with errors or warnings, with a special focus on security and performance.”

The proposal lists three potential methods for the checker:

  • A. Static analysis
    This method is how themes get checked but this method has its limitations, for instance not being able to run the code.
  • B. Server-side analysis
    This method would allow the plugin’s code to run whilst also being able to do a static analysis at the same time.
  • C. Client-side analysis
    This methodology runs a headless browser (a bot emulating the site) which tests the plugin for issues that can’t be detected with method B. The document notes some difficulties with this approach but also lists ways around these challenges.

The proposal features a chart with columns for methods A, B, and C and rows that correspond to ratings assigned to each approach for security and performance issues.

The evaluation from the chart finds that the Server-side analysis may be the optimal approach if a Plugin checker is to be introduced.

It’s important to remember WordPress’ performance team is not committed at this moment in time to creating a plugin checker, this is just a proposal for one. Nonetheless, if they were to check any third-party plugins for security and performance flaws and vulnerabilities, it would be a good idea because it would benefit both WordPress users and site visitors alike.

WordPress has a team meeting roundup with a link to the proposed.