A big 4SEO update and an outlook on 2024
A quick post to keep you updated on what's happening both in and outside of the Joomla World and what's the outlook for 2024 here at Weeblr!
Big 4SEO feature release
We just released 4SEO 5.2.0 (4SEO full changelog is here) and it has several important new or changed things that should make your life both easier and more efficient:
Sitemaps now handled through Google Search Console
4SEO used to ping Google and Bing when a sitemap was ready or updated. Pinging means that we would make a request to a specific URL at Google, telling them "Hey, there's a new/modified sitemap for this website".
It was simple and quick but both Google and Bing have now stopped this service. So I took the opportunity to revamp the sitemap publication process and use 4SEO Search Console connection to directly submit sitemaps to Google.
This happens automatically and transparently each time your sitemap is created or updated. You can also manually submit your sitemap from within 4SEO at any time with a single click.
Sitemaps details retrieved directly from Google
It's one thing to send sitemaps to Google but we never know what they are going to do with it, and if and when they process it. Which is why 4SEO now retrieves the live sitemap status from Google and displays the full list of sitemaps known by Google for your site.
For each of them, you'll see:
- any error or warning
- when that sitemap was submitted and if and when it was downloaded by Google
- whether it was processed yet
- how many pages, images, or videos were submitted in that sitemap
This lets you ensure at any time Google has well received the information you want them to have about your site, and fix any issue or error accordingly.
Now you do need 2 things for all this to work:
- Open an account at the Google Search Console
- register your site with the Search Console and grant access to 4SEO (super-easy with 4SEO integrated connection)
If your website is not registered with the Search Console, do it. It's the #1 tool to evaluate how your site is doing in Google search results page and a direct link to what Google knows about your site. You can't really do any SEO without that.
Support for INP Core Web Vitals metric
4SEO has provided actual Core Web Vitals (CWV) measurement for a long time. CWV are the measurements taken by Google to evaluate the speed of your website, and they are a ranking factor (albeit a small one).
Google announced a few months back that one of the 3 numbers they us, FID, will be replaced by a better one called INP. Both FID and INP try to measure how responsive your website is to user input, such as clicking a button or scrolling. INP does that in a different more realistic way.
4SEO can now measure and report INP values for your pages:
While INP will only become an official ranking factor in March 2024, it's a much better performance measurement and I think we should just all start relying on it now.
It's a common performance improvement to use lazy-loading to include images in your content. Lazy-loading means only actually loading an image from the server when it's needed. If you have a large image at the bottom of a page, there's no point in loading it immediately while maybe the user is never going to scroll all the way down to where the image becomes visible.
Browsers have added this possibility and it's super-easy to do: just add the loading="lazy" attribute to your image. Joomla actually does that for you automatically in many cases.
Detecting the "good" image is important because that main image is going to be used in OpenGraph tags and in Structured data.
From version 5.2.0, 4SEO is able to detect these images as well, as long as they use the data-src attribute to identify the full-size image URL.
2024 outlook: more SEO and more AI
Despite all that, I can see 2 clear lines of work emerging for SEO in general and 4SEO and 4AI specifically, which will come to life next year (as early as January in fact!):
While 4SEO already covers a lot of ground when it comes to Joomla websites SEO, there is still room for improvements in some areas.
One of them is Structured data. We do create structured data for many content types, automatically, without complex configuration, but a strong focus of the coming months will be to enhance support for 3rd-party extensions.
While Hikashop or J2Store are fully supported (on top of Joomla native content of course), and don't even need configuration to get 1st class structured data, the list needs to be expanded to adapt to more use cases.
I'm making this a priority because while it appears Google wants to rely less on structured data (they removed structured data-based rich snippets for FAQ or How To), I believe they are just as needed as before, and maybe more, because Google and others need them to understand your content better to ... improve their AI-based search results.
It's not a passing trend: AI is there and will be there more and more in the future.
- OpenAI announced major improvements to existing models GPT-4, and released DALL-E 3, their image generation AI
- OpenAI has started training their GPT-5 model, successor of GPT-4
- Google just announced their Gemini model. It's now powering Bard, Google's alternative to ChatGPT, and is supposed to be better than GPT-4
Other actors (Amazon with Anthropic, Cohere) are also taking part in that competition and this means 2 things to me:
- more APIs are going to be available, for cheaper
- these tools, with all their imperfections, are becoming more and more useful for day to day use
So in practice:
- we'll soon be adding image generation to 4AI
- we'll be adding tighter integration of 4AI with the Joomla editor
- For all aspiring or experienced developers out there, our good friend Carlos Camara just released a book with everything you need to know about developing Joomla 5 extensions. Full book release post on his blog here. The book is available in paper and digital form.
- Another good friend, Aleksej Khoroshevskij, released a full video on how to update your Joomla 4 site to the latest and greatest Joomla 5.
Until next time, be sure to keep all your websites and extensions up to date!