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Do I Need a SEO Plugin?

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

SEO plugins are a must have for WordPress.

SEO plugins are a must have for WordPress.

Blogs and content framework software like WordPress are by nature SEO friendly. Each post has its own title which becomes the title tag. The keyword tag in the meta section of the head area of the code isn’t very important any more. If your opening paragraph is keyword rich and aimed for a human reader, your description will be pretty good as well. (If there is no description tag used, search spiders index the first bit of page text they find.) So do you need to go to the trouble of adding a SEO plugin for your WordPress site?

The short answer is yes. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, the plugin will remind you to think of SEO when you’re writing. Not every writer does that and a little reminder can go a long way.

Secondly, a SEO plugin can give a writer greater flexibility and creativity with their articles. For the best SEO results, a writer will need to repeat their optimized keyword phrase as early in the first paragraph as they can. That’s limiting. I didn’t do it in this article, but I can remedy that later by optimizing my description tag.

Let’s take a look real quick at an example:

seopluginThis was an article I wrote last week on another site. I wanted to optimize for the keywords “co-working salt lake city.” But I didn’t begin the article with those words. I wanted to put a more creative spin on it. In the screen shot you can see a field for “meta description.” That’s the language that shows up in the search engines.

The SEO plugin also provides statistics and allows alternate titles to be used for publishing on social media sites. I don’t think it matters which SEO plugin you choose so long as it has a custom description tag.

WordPress.com doesn’t use plugins, so how do you create a custom description tag there?

Wordpress.com SEO

WordPress.com SEO

A feature called “excerpts” creates the description tag. If you like your first paragraph, leaving the excerpt tag blank will force the spiders to display the first text they come to. I don’t like to leave things like that to chance, so worst case I’ll quickly cut and paste my first paragraph as the excerpt.

I believe SEO plugins are so important, they’re usually the first type I install. In the next article for WordPress week, I’ll discuss some other useful plugins that are “must haves” for any WordPress site.

How to Choose a WordPress Plugin or Theme

October 27, 2014 1 comment

How to choose the right WordPress plugin or theme.

How to choose the right WordPress plugin or theme.

For small businesses wanting a website, WordPress is a cheap and easy to set up choice. With an open development language, it inspires themes and plugins that will do just about anything and look great straight out of the box. Please be aware this article is referencing the self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Unfortunately, this can create lots of problems too. Since there is no standard to adhere to, anyone can upload a theme or plugin and sometimes they don’t work. Or they don’t work like you imagine they will.

For this reason I don’t like to play around with WordPress very much. I can do a lot of coding, but I don’t do it enough for it not to be frustrating every time I try. This past week, I did get the chance and I discovered a pretty good way to find themes and plugins that work the first time.

I’ve been working on an idea for over a year. WordPress is great for startups to put together a workable prototype without having to sink a lot of funds into development. So I chose WordPress as my platform. I still don’t have a product. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest one being I didn’t find a workable theme.

Contrast that with another startup idea I had. I began work on it last week, finished a workable prototype last Sunday and am ready for a full launch now. The difference? I found a theme right away that did everything I wanted and was easy to use. I also found a plugin that provided the critical piece of functionality I wanted. Here’s how I did it.

Finding plugins

Do a Google search for what you want the plugin to do. You’ll get names of plugins in your search results. What you want the plugin to do may have a widely accepted industry name you’re unaware of. Now do a search for that product and include “review.” What you’re hoping to get here is an article with a five to ten plugin comparison. (Be careful of affiliate review sites that don’t offer any real value in the comparison.) Read that article and you should come up with two or three that really interest you. Now, go to the WordPress plugin finder and search for those plugins.

You’ll see an option to install or to read more. Click on read more. Take a look at the description on the main page, then look at the FAQ page. If everything looks like what you want, check out the review tab. If it doesn’t get consistently good reviews, don’t install it. You’re welcome. I just saved you hours of torment.

Finding themes

There are a million themes available for WordPress. The screenshots you’ll see for them will show them in their best light. You may have to do custom coding in the CSS to get it to look like the screen shot. Again, I recommend searching for the type of theme you want (two column, three column, responsive) and reading the reviews on them. You’ll get a better idea of what the actual work will be like from previous users when you install it.

I did find a theme editor plug-in, on a review site, that looks like it will solve some of the issues with setting up themes. I haven’t used it, but I will definitely try it on my next project.

Other considerations

Some plugins conflict with some themes, so you may have your theme setup exactly the way you want it, install a plugin, and have the whole thing break. That’s why it’s important to know the names of your theme and plugins. Again, do a search for the issue and some kind soul will probably already have a solution.

Be sure to check the last time the plugin or theme was updated and how well the developer responds to questions. I found the more active the developer is, the better the product is.

Real Estate Agents Should be Using Twitter Now!

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Get your listings found with Twitter.

Get your listings found with Twitter.

A few weeks ago I conducted a test to see if I could get a home listing ranked on Google with a Facebook post. The short answer is I could, but it wasn’t the Facebook post that got ranked, it was the tweet I have automatically sent from Facebook. Right now, I’m super excited about the search ranking capabilities Twitter has.

This is especially true for real estate agents. Agents have many challenges getting their sites to show up in search results. First off, many broker sites aren’t SEO friendly. Secondly, agents tend to move brokerages. If they managed to build any search rankings at their previous employer, it all goes away…unless the agent is personally branding instead of brokerage branding. Third, they lack time. Uploading a full real estate listing is time consuming. If they don’t have an IDX feed on their website, it doesn’t typically get done.

Let’s shift gears for a minute and think from the consumer side of things. Home buyers are much more savvy about searching than ever before. Realtor.org says 42% begin their search online. Over the course of their search 92% of home buyers will use the Internet.

Consider this scenario – A couple decides to buy a house. They do their research and identify say six properties to drive by. While at a location they see another house they like that wasn’t on their list. For whatever reason, there’s no pricing information. And they don’t want to call the agent on the sign because they don’t know the price. A quick Google search should bring up the listing and the price. Right? What if it doesn’t? How about that other search engine people use on their phones…Twitter? 2.1 BILLION searches are done on Twitter every day. That’s what I would do. The average age of first time home buyers right now is 31. They are connected wirelessly and they use Twitter.

Remember that address I used for my test? Here’s what the search of it looks like on Twitter -

twitterrealestate

My Twitter account is the top result. One real estate agent tweeted that listing and they’re not even the listing agent. Do you see the opportunity?

Let me demonstrate further. Here’s what Google looks like for this listing at the time of this post -

TwitterWFRMLS

My test tweet is on page one…ahead of the MLS. The listing agent at Coldwell Banker holds the top spot, Trulia is second and a handful of other Realtors fill in the middle. Agents relying solely on their MLS listings to sell homes are going to be disappointed. The WFRMLS is out of touch with their technology and their strategy.

This is why real estate agents should be using Twitter.

 

 

How to Build a Twitter Following Organically

October 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Build followers on Twitter

Build followers on Twitter

In my last article, I wrote my biggest Twitter regret was using auto-follow tools to follow a bunch of people I didn’t know. If I had to do it again, I’d rather do it organically. Well, now I have that opportunity! I’ve started a new business and Twitter is a key part of how I’m going to build traffic for the site.

Since I’ve been racing to add all the pieces I want to the site, I haven’t been promoting it very much. However, I have been using Twitter. These are my techniques.

Use keywords – My new site is about starting a business. Its geography is Utah for now. Business startups have their own set of jargon, so I’m using those keywords. For example, my first article was about the minimum viable product. I sent out a tweet and got a follower. I retweeted a different article about growth hacking from my Swaby Media account and got a dozen new followers from it.

Interact with others – The Twitter interface and ecosystem are pretty simple to interact with others. When you publicly interact with an account, that user can see it as well as their followers. Activities like replying, retweeting and favoriting are all of benefit. If people are doing that with your content it’s a good thing. Even without creating content yourself, you can build a following by sharing others’ content.

Following others – If you follow someone, there’s a good chance they will follow you back. Don’t auto-follow otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed. It’s also a terrific idea to put people you follow in lists by subject matter. Those lists can be publicly followed and they’re another good reason people will want to follow you.

Use hashtags – Hashtags are searchable. If your subject matter is popular, it’s a good idea to use a trending hashtag. Be careful that you know what the hashtag is about. Companies have made serious errors with hashtags on Twitter.

Trending topics on Twitter can drive traffic to you if your subject matter is relevant.

Trending topics on Twitter can drive traffic to you if your subject matter is relevant.

Use tools and repeat yourself – On Twitter, it’s ok to repeat yourself. It’s also ok to send out the same content with a different description and different hashtags. Tools like Hootsuite make it easy to shrink URLs, write tweets and schedule them throughout the day.

Place a twitter feed on your website – It’s another way to share content, get indexed by Google and pick up new followers.

Twitter tells you who's interacting with you.

Twitter tells you who’s interacting with you.

Remember that Twitter is a real-time search engine. Except for the portion of users who automate their activity, an activity on Twitter can be significant. If someone follows you and you think they have value, follow back!. Follow people who retweet your content. The whole goal of your Twitter strategy should be to make contact with people who are interested in your subject matter.

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My Biggest Twitter Regret

October 22, 2014 1 comment

Non-organic growth will cost you.

Non-organic growth will cost you.

Back in the day, when Twitter was still a hatchling, and before it had wide-spread acceptance, there was only one metric anyone cared about – the number of followers. And, back in the day, before anyone had a clue what Twitter was to become, some very smart people created automatic follow programs.

One of the key tactics to growing followers on Twitter is to simply follow other people. It’s the first step Twitter has people take when they register a new account. It works off the law of reciprocation. If I follow you, you’re likely to follow me. This is especially true if users interact by following, retweeting or favoriting a tweet and Twitter sends an email notification. It’s just easy to follow, particularly if the user’s bio resonates.

Twitter began with an open API and developers quickly made programs that would autofollow users based on any number of criteria. I used some of those programs and it’s my biggest regret. Even though I used a set of keywords to find users I wanted to follow, I still got plenty of people not worth being connected to.

It also screwed up my follow/follower ratio. Twitter and Klout look at that ratio to determine how much influence you actually have. It’s better to have more followers than you’re following. As you can see in the screen grab, I don’t have a good ratio. This is even after spending hours using tools and manually unfollowing every spammer, scammer and network marketer I’d inadvertently followed using software. I’ve given up on getting rid of them and just spend my time providing content which is attracting quality followers.

Twitter caught onto the follow tools, banned users and changed their API so it could never happen again. Unlike Facebook business pages, I haven’t created a lot of Twitter accounts. My personal Twitter account is private, so I don’t care about growth there. I am using Twitter for my newest venture and am enjoying the process of growing a follower base organically. In my next article I’ll tell you how.

Twitter is the Go To Social Media Channel

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Everyone needs twitter.

Everyone needs twitter.

I started a new twitter account today and I don’t care if you follow me on it. In fact, I don’t care if I get any followers on it…ever. Why open one then? Because Google’s little spider bots will follow me. They’ll follow my tweets. They’ll put my tweets on their little search engine that everyone uses. And they’ll put those tweets on that search engine pretty quickly. Then I’ll get followers…that care about my content.

“Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the Web. You can’t use what you can’t find.” – Ambient Findability by Peter Morville

Over the past few years I’ve been thinking if I were a new business I’d start with a Facebook page. Since I ran my ranking experiment, that thought has changed. I’ve been using Twitter more for this site and business and been getting new followers, retweets and all the signals reflecting my content has traction.

I’ll still create a Facebook page for my startup. But with limited time and resources Twitter brings a marvelous bang for the buck. First of all, my blog posts get published to Twitter automatically. There is no extra time taken to post content.

By displaying my Twitter feed on my blog, I don’t have to write full posts to bring value to my site. Twitter does that for me in 140 characters or less.

When I retweet others, I get the benefit of sharing content I think my audience would find useful, I add relevant subject matter to my website through the Twitter feed and I get the opportunity to grow my followers on Twitter.

Since I’ve returned to creating content on a regular basis here, my followers on Twitter have increased both in number and in engagement. Because Google indexes those tweets which link back to here, I’m improving my search engine optimization as well!

Returning to my original statement, I don’t care if I don’t have followers on Twitter. I know if I post content there it will improve my search rankings which will lead to more qualified followers on Twitter.

Keywords are Everywhere – 5 Things You Don’t Know About Keywords

October 14, 2014 Leave a comment

keywordsSometimes I make the mistake of assuming everyone has the same understanding of basic online marketing concepts I do. I’ll mention a phrase like “key words” and get an affirmative yet questioning nod. That’s when I realize I need to take it down a notch and explain a little better.

Simply stated, keywords are the foundation of everything you do online. They’re that important. In online marketing we say “content is king.” Content is made up of keywords. Even images and videos have keyword tags.

We use keywords every day, but sometimes don’t realize it. Every online search you do is composed of keywords. Everything you write is full of keywords. Resumes are sorted by the keywords stated in the document.

Knowing that keywords are the foundation, I always ask clients if they have a list of keywords. They rarely do. Even if they do, I always do new keyword research and provide that list to them for review.

What is a keyword? 

Let’s explain this first. Keywords are words used to find or categorize content. When you search for a name on Facebook or LinkedIn, those are the keywords. When you search for a product on Amazon, that is your keyword. When you look for an address on Google, those are your keywords or key phrases. Keywords are how visitors find you online.

What gets ignored?

Short words, letters or plurals. A, as, the and all get ignored by the search spiders. I’ll sometimes do keyword research and find an odd phrase with no modifiers. It’s because they have been stripped out. Using word modifiers can spice up headlines while still maintaining keyword focus. For example, the title “How to do Keyword Research” would get indexed as “Keyword Research.”

Root words

I’ll sometimes have business owners tell me they have 500,000 (or some other ridiculous number) keywords they manage. Why? Search engines look at root words. Search spiders look at what comes first in a phrase when establishing what is the root. I focus on core root words for my clients. The long-tail results will follow.

Long tails

Speaking of long tails… What are they? A root keyword phrase could be “real estate.” A long-tail could be “find real estate in salt lake city.” See the difference? Web search has been around long enough that most users are sophisticated enough to add modifiers in their search. Modifiers reveal intent.

Search intent

The most popular search term for real estate in Utah is “Utah real estate.” No surprises there. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the searchers intent. People search for two reasons; to purchase or to research. “Utah real estate statistics” reveals a much different goal than “Utah real estate for sale.” The more specific a search is, the more likely a consumer is ready to buy. A search like “Holladay townhouses for sale 84124″ is very insightful.

Summary

All of these are considerations when I perform keyword research and they’re very helpful in weeding out non-relevant terms. It’s even more critical when running paid search campaigns. Keyword research provides market research as well. Google’s keyword research tool tells me how many searches are made each month, what the competition pays for those keywords and how competitive that keyword is in the marketplace.

Research needs to be updated as searches change depending on season, product life cycle and market trends. Keyword research helps determine your site structure and content. That research translates to offline marketing as well. Keyword research tells you what your videos, brochures, Facebook posts, white papers, tweets and blog posts need to be about. Because that’s what people are searching for. That is what interests your prospects and customers. Provide the content they seek and sales will follow.

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