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Yoast WordPress Plugin Update Causes Fatal Errors

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Yoast WordPress Plugin Update Causes Fatal Errors

Yoast WordPress SEO plugin released an update but it soon became apparent that something went horribly wrong for some users. It appears that the problem caused fatal errors. Negatively affected victims of the Yoast update had to roll back to a previous version of Yoast.

According to one user, their WordPress installation alerted them to a “fatal error,” according to the email sent to them.

The dictionary defines a victim as someone who was harmed as a result of an accident or some other event. Under that definition, the publishers who experienced dysfunctional websites after the failed Yoast update can certainly be described as victims.

Yoast, appropriately, apologized for what happened.

The Doomed Yoast Version 18.4  Plugin Update

Yoast 18.4 was intended to introduce a new feature that introduced content and structured data timestamps for the purpose of copyright protection using blockchain technology.

The new feature was connected to a service called, WordProof that provides verifiable timestamps that shows site visitors when the content was authored and updated.

Failed WordProof Integration with Yoast

WordProof is a company that lists on their About Us page that the husband and wife co-founders of Yoast are partners.

Screenshot from WordProof About Us Page

The WordProof service provides a blockchain certificate for certifying a timestamp and a copyright infringement tool.

The stated goal for WordProof is to foster trust with a website by providing proof and transparency.

According to WordProof:

“The internet has deep-rooted problems that grow daily: distrust, plagiarism, and fake news. WordProof wants to create a new standard for a more reliable and trustworthy internet, with the help of blockchain technology.”

Unfortunately the integration of this feature caused Yoast to malfunction in serious ways for users.

At the time of writing, some Yoast customers indicated that this error affected Yoast versions 18.4 and 18.4.1.

According to Yoast, the Yoast free plugin version 18.4.1 and Yoast SEO Premium 18.2.1 are both stable versions that no longer contained the new WordProof feature in it.

Symptoms of the Bad Yoast SEO Plugin Update

The doomed Yoast WordPress SEO plugin update caused massive disruptions for some customers.

Typical problems that were reported:

  • XML sitemap shows all content types, including private content that is not supposed to be exposed
  • The Yoast Search Appearance settings tab was completely blank.
  • Fatal error message
  • WordPress Sends Message About Yoast Plugin Error

One user reported that the WordPress core emailed an alert message about the Yoast plugin:

“Since WordPress 5.2 there is a built-in feature that detects when a plugin or theme causes a fatal error on your site, and notifies you with this automated email.

In this case, WordPress caught an error with one of your plugins, Yoast SEO.”

The user shared documentation of the bad Yoast SEO Plugin errors:

Screenshot of Yoast Update Errors

Bad Yoast Plugin UpdateAnother Yoast customer posted to the public Yoast support page to describe their issues:

“after update from yoast seo plugin 18.3 -> 18.4 in site health status page i can see some errors:

…The REST API encountered an error Performance

…The REST API request failed due to an error.”

A different Yoast plugin user wrote to inform Yoast of a similar error:

“critical error after update wordpress 5.9.2 & Yoast 18.4.1

…The REST API request failed due to an error.”

A problem involving the REST API issue seemed to be a fairly common complaint, as there were other Yoast update victims reporting it, too.

Another Yoast victim wrote that Yoast broke his website:

“My site suddenly started displaying blank pages, error pages, pages formatted narrowly on a desktop browser (i.e., not taking up the full browser screen like they used to), etc. I also suddenly could not edit my home page…”

Another plea for help:

“i am unable to edit post or page. It throws error. When i deactivated the plugin. Than problem get disappeared.

…error : The editor has encountered an unexpected error.”

Yoast Assures Latest Version of SEO Plugin is Now Stable

The plugin caused fatal errors for many users who began posting to the Yoast plugin support page on WordPress.org.

Yoast issued an apology statement about the troubled update:

“In spite of extensive testing, some users, unfortunately, experienced issues with Yoast SEO 18.4.

As they’ve swiftly reach out to our 24/7 support team, we were able to act quickly and roll back this release.

….We’re very sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced.”

Yoast assured customers that the latest versions (Yoast SEO 18.4.1 and Yoast SEO Premium 18.2.1) are stable and that they would revisit WordProof integration at a later date.

Yoast SEO Plugin Errors

Yoast is not currently compatible with PHP 8+. At least one of the people reporting an error noted that they were using PHP 8.0.

In an unrelated support question, someone asked if Yoast was compatible with the latest version of PHP, version 8.x.

The Yoast support representative wrote:

“Unfortunately, we haven’t yet fully tested the plugin with PHP version 8. The entire WordPress community is still working on it”

So it’s possible that for that particular user, PHP 8.0 may have been a compounded the problems.

Yoast recommends updating to the latest stable versions of their plugin. It may be prudent to check that your website is not running PHP 8.+ and if possible, to stage the site first to test if it functions correctly.

Citation

Read Yoast’s Statement About the Ill-fated Update

Yoast SEO 18.4.1 and Premium 18.2.1 available now




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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

Google’s John Mueller says the Search team is “explicitly evaluating” how to reward sites that produce helpful, high-quality content when the next core update rolls out.

The comments came in response to a discussion on X about the impact of March’s core update and September’s helpful content update.

In a series of tweets, Mueller acknowledged the concerns, stating:

“I imagine for most sites strongly affected, the effects will be site-wide for the time being, and it will take until the next update to see similar strong effects (assuming the new state of the site is significantly better than before).”

He added:

“I can’t make any promises, but the team working on this is explicitly evaluating how sites can / will improve in Search for the next update. It would be great to show more users the content that folks have worked hard on, and where sites have taken helpfulness to heart.”

What Does This Mean For SEO Professionals & Site Owners?

Mueller’s comments confirm Google is aware of critiques about the March core update and is refining its ability to identify high-quality sites and reward them appropriately in the next core update.

For websites, clearly demonstrating an authentic commitment to producing helpful and high-quality content remains the best strategy for improving search performance under Google’s evolving systems.

The Aftermath Of Google’s Core Updates

Google’s algorithm updates, including the September “Helpful Content Update” and the March 2024 update, have far-reaching impacts on rankings across industries.

While some sites experienced surges in traffic, others faced substantial declines, with some reporting visibility losses of up to 90%.

As website owners implement changes to align with Google’s guidelines, many question whether their efforts will be rewarded.

There’s genuine concern about the potential for long-term or permanent demotions for affected sites.

Recovery Pathway Outlined, But Challenges Remain

In a previous statement, Mueller acknowledged the complexity of the recovery process, stating that:

“some things take much longer to be reassessed (sometimes months, at the moment), and some bigger effects require another update cycle.”

Mueller clarified that not all changes would require a new update cycle but cautioned that “stronger effects will require another update.”

While affirming that permanent changes are “not very useful in a dynamic world,” Mueller adds that “recovery” implies a return to previous levels, which may be unrealistic given evolving user expectations.

“It’s never ‘just-as-before’,” Mueller stated.

Improved Rankings On The Horizon?

Despite the challenges, Mueller has offered glimmers of hope for impacted sites, stating:

“Yes, sites can grow again after being affected by the ‘HCU’ (well, core update now). This isn’t permanent. It can take a lot of work, time, and perhaps update cycles, and/but a different – updated – site will be different in search too.”

He says the process may require “deep analysis to understand how to make a website relevant in a modern world, and significant work to implement those changes — assuming that it’s something that aligns with what the website even wants.”

Looking Ahead

Google’s search team is actively working on improving site rankings and addressing concerns with the next core update.

However, recovery requires patience, thorough analysis, and persistent effort.

The best way to spend your time until the next update is to remain consistent and produce the most exceptional content in your niche.


FAQ

How long does it generally take for a website to recover from the impact of a core update?

Recovery timelines can vary and depend on the extent and type of updates made to align with Google’s guidelines.

Google’s John Mueller noted that some changes might be reassessed quickly, while more substantial effects could take months and require additional update cycles.

Google acknowledges the complexity of the recovery process, indicating that significant improvements aligned with Google’s quality signals might be necessary for a more pronounced recovery.

What impact did the March and September updates have on websites, and what steps should site owners take?

The March and September updates had widespread effects on website rankings, with some sites experiencing traffic surges while others faced up to 90% visibility losses.

Publishing genuinely useful, high-quality content is key for website owners who want to bounce back from a ranking drop or maintain strong rankings. Stick to Google’s recommendations and adapt as they keep updating their systems.

To minimize future disruptions from algorithm changes, it’s a good idea to review your whole site thoroughly and build a content plan centered on what your users want and need.

Is it possible for sites affected by core updates to regain their previous ranking positions?

Sites can recover from the impact of core updates, but it requires significant effort and time.

Mueller suggested that recovery might happen over multiple update cycles and involves a deep analysis to align the site with current user expectations and modern search criteria.

While a return to previous levels isn’t guaranteed, sites can improve and grow by continually enhancing the quality and relevance of their content.


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Google Reveals Two New Web Crawlers

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Google Reveals Two New Web Crawlers

Google revealed details of two new crawlers that are optimized for scraping image and video content for “research and development” purposes. Although the documentation doesn’t explicitly say so, it’s presumed that there is no impact in ranking should publishers decide to block the new crawlers.

It should be noted that the data scraped by these crawlers are not explicitly for AI training data, that’s what the Google-Extended crawler is for.

GoogleOther Crawlers

The two new crawlers are versions of Google’s GoogleOther crawler that was launched in April 2023. The original GoogleOther crawler was also designated for use by Google product teams for research and development in what is described as one-off crawls, the description of which offers clues about what the new GoogleOther variants will be used for.

The purpose of the original GoogleOther crawler is officially described as:

“GoogleOther is the generic crawler that may be used by various product teams for fetching publicly accessible content from sites. For example, it may be used for one-off crawls for internal research and development.”

Two GoogleOther Variants

There are two new GoogleOther crawlers:

  • GoogleOther-Image
  • GoogleOther-Video

The new variants are for crawling binary data, which is data that’s not text. HTML data is generally referred to as text files, ASCII or Unicode files. If it can be viewed in a text file then it’s a text file/ASCII/Unicode file. Binary files are files that can’t be open in a text viewer app, files like image, audio, and video.

The new GoogleOther variants are for image and video content. Google lists user agent tokens for both of the new crawlers which can be used in a robots.txt for blocking the new crawlers.

1. GoogleOther-Image

User agent tokens:

  • GoogleOther-Image
  • GoogleOther

Full user agent string:

GoogleOther-Image/1.0

2. GoogleOther-Video

User agent tokens:

  • GoogleOther-Video
  • GoogleOther

Full user agent string:

GoogleOther-Video/1.0

Newly Updated GoogleOther User Agent Strings

Google also updated the GoogleOther user agent strings for the regular GoogleOther crawler. For blocking purposes you can continue using the same user agent token as before (GoogleOther). The new Users Agent Strings are just the data sent to servers to identify the full description of the crawlers, in particular the technology used. In this case the technology used is Chrome, with the model number periodically updated to reflect which version is used (W.X.Y.Z is a Chrome version number placeholder in the example listed below)

The full list of GoogleOther user agent strings:

  • Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; GoogleOther)
  • Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; GoogleOther) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Safari/537.36

GoogleOther Family Of Bots

These new bots may from time to time show up in your server logs and this information will help in identifying them as genuine Google crawlers and will help publishers who may want to opt out of having their images and videos scraped for research and development purposes.

Read the updated Google crawler documentation

GoogleOther-Image

GoogleOther-Video

Featured Image by Shutterstock/ColorMaker

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ChatGPT To Surface Reddit Content Via Partnership With OpenAI

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ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot app on smartphone screen with large shadow giving the feeling of floating on top of the background. White background.

Reddit partners with OpenAI to integrate content into ChatGPT.

  • Reddit and OpenAI announce a partnership.
  • Reddit content will be used in ChatGPT.
  • Concerns about accuracy of Reddit user-generated content.

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