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:
This 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?
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.
Sometimes 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
For new websites, or sites that have never undertaken an SEO campaign, a common question is, “How do I know this SEO campaign is working?”
The answer is when you see an exponential increase in traffic or inbound links without expending very much current effort.
Of course your initial SEO campaign should involve a flurry of activity in research, creating content, link campaigns and so forth. To truly measure the effect of that activity, one must wait.
That’s actually the part I like the most about SEO…when you get to the point you can create terrific content without worrying about how to promote it. I’m still not “there” yet with this site, but I know I’m on the right track. Why? The SEO snowball effect.
A month ago I made the comment the site had reached the milestone of attracting 1000 unique visitors. 30 days later, meaning today, the visitor total is slightly over 4,000. That’s not just doubling, that’s exponential! For the most part all I’ve done is create content. It’s also organic. There were no paid links, except for the fee to distribute the Utah’s Top Blogger press release.
That monthly graph looks great right? All uphill. The daily and even weekly graphs aren’t as fluid. Sometimes there are drops in traffic. That’s OK because traffic is just one aspect of a successful SEO campaign.
What else is an SEO campaign supposed to do besides increase traffic? If you think SEO is only about traffic, you’re approaching the concept the wrong way. SEO is about business, increasing business. That takes a lot of forms. Increasing traffic is useless if your site doesn’t have a way to let those visitors engage you in a discussion about their needs for your business. Those ways may include an email contact form, a Twitter follow, a Facebook fan, a phone call or even a face to face meeting.
The way to measure your online influence is by the amount of inbound links you’re receiving. In that regard, I’m very pleased with how this site is growing. Two and a half months ago, I had no inbound links. Now I’ve got 550. That’s also exponential.
Where are these inbound links coming from?
A lot of them are generated automatically through Twitter and splogs, so they don’t carry much weight. They’re also very easy to get. Some of them are coming from the blog carnivals and others come from comments I make on other sites. Most of them come through pingbacks and trackbacks. I registered with Blog Buzzer to automate that process. Otherwise, WordPress only automatically pings other WordPress blogs.
The best inbound links are the ones you create just from having good, searchable content. They’re the links you earn from doing a great job writing your blog or website. I found this link to my blog on Google. I have no idea how they found me. That’s good. That’s SEO.
From an SEO perspective it’s a good link because it comes from a site with similar content to mine – social media and Internet marketing – plus they’ve got a higher page rank than mine. It’s a bad link because it’s buried along with a bunch of others in a blog roll style. Even though it won’t get me any traffic, it will help with my page rank.
A better inbound link is this one. It’s a blog post about my Facebook friends policy. The link to this site is in the body of the post, which Google loves. Plus it’s sending traffic as well as sweet Google link juice! How did I get this link? By linking over to them first. I didn’t ask for a return link, I simply linked to their story as an example from mine. A pingback shows up in their comments and they saw my site and,
I love it, and would highly encourage anyone wanting to use Facebook for professional purposes to follow this practice.
That is good SEO. It’s the kind that snowballs into traffic, inbound links and authority. Once you obtain authority (trust) you will only get more. The final step of a good SEO campaign is one I haven’t reached here yet, but I have in the past. That step is media recognition.
Some people are willing to do anything to get media attention. I know the best way to get media attention is the same way you get your customer’s attention: good content/products and the ability to be found.
When I was writing real estate blog, I got a call from a reporter at USA Today. He had found my number from my blog and was actually writing a story I didn’t know very much about regarding stocks. I even told him I wasn’t a good source, but he asked a few questions anyway. I referred him to other people to speak to about his story. At the end of the day, I was the one that got written about.
The USA Today story wasn’t a good piece for me. There was no link to my site and the reporter actually misrepresented me a little in the story. However, a story in a local trade magazine was a lot better. It put my opinion in the cover story and the magazine was distributed to people who could send me referrals. Neither story would have happened if I didn’t have excellent SEO for my site.
Determining whether your SEO campaign is working is actually pretty simple.
1. Are you getting more traffic?
2. Are you getting more inbound links?
3. Are people (not necessarily mainstream media) talking/writing about you?
If your SEO campaign has been going for 90 days and you haven’t seen any results, you need a new SEO company.
I wanted to provide an update of the strategy I tried last Friday to try and get some search engine rankings for this blog for the term “salt lake city seo.”
I based my strategy from tip number three in this article. Please understand I wasn’t “testing” this strategy, I was implementing it. I have carried this out before with great success in gaining new readers and obtaining links from more authoritative sources. Yes, some of the companies mentioned in my article took notice. Yes, they are considering using my services.
However, that wasn’t my main goal. My main goal was to get ranked on page one of Google for my key phrase, “salt lake city seo.” First of all I knew to be realistic. There is no way this blog will get ranked on the first page of Google for my key term because it doesn’t have enough inbound links and it hasn’t been around as long as the others. Looking at the search results this morning confirms my thinking.
Eventually it will get up there, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never claim the top spot, unless MWI does a site redesign and makes a mistake in the migration. I don’t think they will.
I know I can’t compete on that playing field, but I can compete on another…the blog search results. Yeah, yeah, people don’t search there very often. But if they do, I think they’re probably a pretty qualified customer. Perhaps they’re a competitor doing research? Anyway, I know this blog can dominate the Google blog results for my key term…and it does.
Between the several posts I made about this topic and my RSS copiers, these articles take up many of the search results. Even better? I’ve earned a top position on the page that won’t disappear. You see someone else could write an article about Salt Lake City SEO and push my position down because the blog posts typically rank based on freshness. By owning that top position, it doesn’t matter if my articles move, because this site has gained enough authority to keep that top spot as a relevant site.
From my perspective, these have been great results. I hope I’ve been able to turn a boring topic into something interesting and hopefully you’ve learned something.
A few weeks ago, I suggested/informed/declared that Flickr was a great place to get a little extra traffic to your site. A photo site?
Yesterday Bing announced a visual search where photos would show up instead of text. I believe this is something every SEO company should be aware of…and exploit.
Google already has an image search. It’s something I use for almost every image used here and elsewhere. Sometimes the search term I use to find a photo reflects the topic at hand. For this post I knew I would be talking about photos. In my mind it was a lot of photos, not a specific one. So I searched for collage, found the one displayed here and saved it to my hard drive as a file called “photo seo.jpg.” Then I added the “alt” tag “photos can help SEO.” This is a little SEO trick to help this page and to help the photo show up on Google images. I could have kept the original file name or left off the alt tag, but why let such opportunities go to waste? Plus I want my photo to be more relevant so someone doing a search for seo photo might actually read this article.
Sometimes I pick a photo that’s ironic or funny. Yesterday, I did a search for apples and oranges to represent visually how different Facebook and SEO are. I didn’t change the file name which was applesoranges.jpg or some such thing. I also didn’t use an alt tag. The file name was perfect. I assume that’s a pretty common search term and I’m hoping that article will show up.
For the Facebook article, I didn’t use the best photo I found. I really liked the one where someone had hand stiched half an apple and half an orange together and then taken a beautiful photo of it. When you use images, there are copyright issues to consider. Here’s how I handle it. If I see a copyright, like I did with that image, I steer clear of it. If I see the same image over and over on different websites, I assume it’s fair game.
The image I used yesterday was also an original image, but had no copyright info on it. I supplied a link back to the original and feel pretty confident I won’t have any problems. If for some reason the site owner asked me to remove the image, I would comply in a heartbeat and find another suitable image.
Why don’t I link right to the image instead of saving it first? This practice, known as hotlinking, has become quite dangerous for several reasons.
1. By linking to the image, you’re using the other site’s bandwidth. I know I don’t have enough traffic yet to impact anyone, but it’s bad form.
2. The site hosting the image may go down, and your site will have an ugly gap. Sites come and go. It’s a fact of the Internet. Never rely on someone else’s site.
3. The image may be changed. Any one can name any file, anything. It’s happened in the past where a completely benign file name that was hotlinked, suddenly became a pornographic image because the disgruntled host realized someone was effectively stealing their bandwidth.
If you’re not using images in your blog posts or website, now is the time to start. Here are some quick tips.
Use Flickr to host your original images. Do fill in the description tags and use an SEO friendly file name. Do provide your website in the description area as well.
Always save and reupload images you find on the web. Do rename the image if necessary. Do use alt tags to enhance the image’s description. Remember that humans can read the alt tags, so don’t simply keyword stuff.
Don’t steal images!
Remember that photos provide additional SEO exposure especially on Bing and Google. Plan accordingly.