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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.

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.

WordPress Training Meetup SLC

December 10, 2009 3 comments

I’ve been trying to get to the WordPress Wednesday meetup group for some time, but have always had conflicts.  Tonight was the night and boy was it worth it!

Recently, many of my potential clients and clients have been asking about web design.  For a simple site, the first thing that comes to mind for me is a WordPress site.  When most people think of WordPress, they think of a blog.  While that’s what WordPress started out as, it has evolved into a content management framework.

Tonight, that’s what group leader Channa Connolly taught about and gave specific examples of using themes and plug-ins.  Those themes and plug-ins are only available on the self-hosted version of WordPress.  I’m not using that version, because I like the ease of use of the WordPress hosted version you see here.

With the right theme and design, consider WordPress a site you can make changes to yourself.  Blog or not.  My clients at Fiscal Networking chose to use a WordPress site because they wanted to blog and Corey keeps on adding cool plug-ins to expand the capability of the site.

One of my newer clients had his site done in WordPress and while a blog is available, it’s not being used yet.  Tonight, Channa taught how to activate it using the Atahualpa theme which my client happens to be using.

Both of these sites use WordPress, but they are completely customizable and don’t have to look the same.  Here’s another example of a WordPress based site.  My takeaway from this meetup is WordPress is a viable solution for a quick website for clients who need something quickly and want to be able to make minor changes themselves.  It’s also a great blog authoring tool.

If you want to learn more about WordPress, this is an amazing meetup group or you can contact me to set up and maintain one for you.

Robots.txt and Other Ways to Fight Bad SEO

December 6, 2009 1 comment

I’ve written before about how web designers don’t know how to do search engine optimization and why bringing an SEO company into your project as early as possible is a good idea.

This last week I saw one of the worst uses of meta tags on a new client’s site.  The company that set up the WordPress blog for my client coded in a meta tag that tells the search engine spiders to ignore every page and link on the site.

The worst thing is every method I tried to change that code failed.  However, I know a work around for everything.  Since I couldn’t change the meta tag, I added a robots.txt file.  Spiders look at two things when they visit a site, the meta tags and the robots.txt file.  On my client’s site the meta tags said “go away” but the robots file says index my entire site.

It’s entirely likely that a robot might find the same links on some other page without a NOFOLLOW (perhaps on some other site), and so still arrives at your undesired page.

The other thing I did to fix the situation was submit the URL to Google for indexing and created a directory listing for the site at Merchant Circle.  Tomorrow a press release hits that also contains links, so I know we’ll be getting a lot of quality inbound links for my client in a very short time.

In the mean time, I’ll still be figuring out how to move that irresponsible meta tag.  The reason the tag exists is to avoid the so called “duplicate content penalty.”  However the penalty no longer exists.

There is one reason and one reason alone to ever use the noindex, nofollow meta tag.  It’s when you’re running a paid search campaign to a specific landing page and you don’t want organic traffic to skew your numbers.  That’s it!

Where do you place the robots.txt file?

It goes in the root directory like this – http://www.seobyswaby.com/robots.txt.  It’s just like a page except it’s in basic text instead of .html.

What’s in a robots.txt file?

Very simple commands for the spider.  Here’s what my client’s file looks like.

If you’re doing a site redesign or having a site made for the first time, be sure to get someone who understands SEO involved early because you will save money and possibly avoid having your site tagged to be ignored by Google.

Business Growth Through Partnerships – How SEO by Swaby Went From an “I” to a “we”

November 7, 2009 1 comment

business growth One of the challenges a sole proprietor faces in marketing is whether to admit they are completely solo.  As our information based economy has evolved more and more people are successfully creating businesses on their own.

Technology has created opportunities that didn’t exist even 20 years ago.  Back then, a secretary or telephone receptionist was a necessity for a small business.  Typing was considered a “woman’s” skill and no self-respecting businessman knew how to do it.  (Many writers of course did.)  Technology has made us more productive.  The Internet gives us a 24/7 salesperson, cell phones eliminate the ties of an office or the necessity of a receptionist.  Word processing and personal computers eliminate the requirement of a typist or secretary.

The point is technology has enabled us to be more productive than ever before and the personnel needed to run a business successfully is much different than it ever was.  A one person shop can be effective.

Old concepts die hard and some people still think they need to puff themselves up to their prospects.  I probably went back and forth on that a little bit in my writing voice at the beginning of this blog, but I quickly settled into an “I.”  Two reasons drove that decision.

The first came from reading an article by Steve Pavlina.  He wrote -

Many one-person businesses refer to themselves as “we.”  That’s something a lot of new entrepreneurs do, but it isn’t necessary.  There’s nothing wrong with a one-person business, especially today.  My games business has mostly been a we over the years, but my personal development business is still an I.

This makes a lot of sense.  After all, I am the one with nearly 12 years of SEO experience.  I am the one writing this blog.  I am the one that came up with the concept for the business.  I am SEO by Swaby.

I also knew this business would grow quickly and I needed help in some areas that are weaknesses for me.  Here I am in month three of the business and I am about to become a “we.”

Through one-on-one networking (analog marketing) over the last 30 days, I’ve been able to form some solid relationships with companies that can provide services I haven’t been able to in the past.  Chief among those services is web design.

I was a web designer ten years ago before the graphic artists beautified the Internet.  I understand the programming and technology, but I don’t do enough of it any more to be efficient.  Besides, I love the writing and marketing aspect much more than the programming.

As I’ve reviewed prospective client sites, I realize many of them need design elements or redesigns before we start marketing.  I could lie and skip that important step and then have the SEO campaign not yield significant results, but I’m not like that.  I want to create successful campaigns that Utah small business owners will tell everyone they know about.

During analog marketing sessions, I’ll tell people what I do – web marketing – and then they’ll ask me if I can do web design too.  This is happening far too often for me to say “no” any more.  If there is a demand for a service, I want to have a reasonable solution.

On the web design front, I have grown to a we.  I am not a web designer, we are.  There are three companies that are now part of the SEO by Swaby web design solution offering pricing and services from the very low-end to the very high-end.  We can also offer many graphic design solutions as well.

Turnkey solutions for such things as WordPress installs and web hosting are also available through us.

I never thought we would grow this fast, but I’ve been as pro-active as possible to make sure the proper partnerships would be in place to handle such growth.

Now please excuse me as I have leaves to rake…

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