Category: Search Engine Optimisation

Shemas Eivers – Blogs and search engine optimisation (SEO)

Shemas Eivers is the MD of Client Solutions and he was at a meeting I also attended recently. Shemas was asking about tools for SEO and when I replied that blogs are the most powerful tool I know of for increasing SEO, Shemas didn’t seem to believe me. Fair enough.

Shemas this post is for you!

Why are blogs so good at increasing a website’s SEO?

  • Every blog post has its own url (so each post can be linked to individually – this leads to increased inward linkage)
  • Search engines love content and a blog encourage the constant addition of content to a site
  • Search engines love fresh content and blogs promote that too
  • A blog, if named (blog title, sub-head, and posts) configured properly (short permalinks) can own a particular key word/phrase for all search engines
  • Search engines love links (inward or outward) and blogs with their blogrolls, links within posts and discussions promote that lots of linkage

There are plenty more good reasons why blogs punch way above their weight when it comes to search engines – please feel free to add more in the comments.

Shemas, if you do a Google search for Shemas Eivers right now, why do you think the top ranking sites are blogs?

Don't optimize article titles for search engines alone

There’s an article in today’s New York Times which claims that journalists are now writing their article headlines with search engines, not human readers, in mind!

The search-engine “bots” that crawl the Web are increasingly influential, delivering 30 percent or more of the traffic on some newspaper, magazine or television news Web sites. And traffic means readers and advertisers, at a time when the mainstream media is desperately trying to make a living on the Web.

This is sounds like a really bad idea in my humble opinion – sure you need to bear search engines in mind when writing articles and titles but don’t let them dictate your post titles to you completely. Why? Sure you need to be listed in search engine results – but you also need a human reader of the results to click on your link. If your title is a really boring title designed solely to attract search engines, no-one will click through to read the article and your search engine optimisation is in vain.

Organic SEO Wiki

Kudos to Michele for pointing out the Organic SEO Wiki – the “organic” refers to the manual type of page optimisation, as opposed to automatic submittal and page alteration.

Everything on the site

can be implemented by one person, rather than having to hire a firm and pay big bucks for them to do the same stuff

Perfect for DIY SEO enthusiasts – and the fact that it is a wiki means that you can contribute to the site as well.

Business blogging "brings the most marketing and sales returns"

Business blogging more than pays for itself according to a study carried out by Backbone Media – a Boston based company specialising in integrated search engine marketing and website design strategies for Business to Business companies. The survey includes case studies of blogs run by IBM, Microsoft, Maytag, iUpload, and Macromedia.

The study, available online in html format and pdf format, discovered that corporate blogs are living up to all the hype. Corporate blogs are giving established corporations and obscure brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a personal level, build trust, collect valuable feedback and foster strengthened relationships while and at the same time benefiting in ways that are tangible to the sales and marketing side of the business

Backbone Media President Stephen Turcotte remarked on the survey,

Looking at this from the perspective of an Internet marketer, there are obvious SEO benefits to publishing relevant content that is search engine friendly and getting more backlinks. However, a successful blog can do so much more. It can build a better company.

John Cass, Backbone Media’s Director of Internet Marketing Strategies, commented:

Every company is at a different stage in their blogging efforts, some are dipping their toe into blogging and getting good results, in terms of higher search engine rankings and thought leadership, while others have changed their whole product development process to make their company as open and transparent to customers as possible. The benefits of blogging are many, but it seems that to build and achieve the best results using blogs, a company must cross a cultural chasm that turns customers into brand evangelists.

The interesting thing about this concept is that if you do build a business blog and engage your customers, it is entirely possible to turn your clients into “brand evangelists” as John Cass says and there are few more powerful sales reps than satisfied customers!

Boost Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) using Permalinks

Permalinks are a feature of most blogging applications – they are are the permanent URLs to your individual weblog posts, categories and other lists of weblog postings. For instance, the Permalink for the listing of all the posts I have written in the Search Engine Optimisation category is:

In WordPress, you can control how your Permalinks look and this can have a significant effect on your site’s search engine optimisation. For example, if you don’t change the default Permalink setup on your WordPress blog, the link to your posts will look something like:
where 49 is the post number.

However, if you go to Options -> Permalinks in WordPress and change your Permalink structure to something like /%year%/%postname%/ or even just /%postname%/ the title of your post will become part of the url for your post. If you use keywords and keyphrases which you want your site to be found by in the post title, then you will increase your chances of being found by people who search for that keyphrase. For example the url this post is:

Of course, if you combine that with the advice on category name selection I mentioned yesterday, you get a double whammy!

One word of caution – if you just use /%postname%/ as your Permalink structure, this may cause you problems – according to the Codex page on Permalinks:

the rewrite rules may make it impossible to access pages such as your stylesheet (which has a similar format) or the wp-admin folder

In my own case, my Permalinks are set to /%postname%/ and consequently I can’t access my Awstats folder. I have set my Permalinks to /%postname%/ because that structure gives the maximum SEO benefit – the further down the URL your keyphrases are, the lower they will appear in Search Engine results.

The way around the Awstats issue for me is to change the Permalink structure to /%year%/%postname%/ briefly, access the Awstats folder and change the Permalink structure back. This method is unsatisfactory because anyone following a link to a Permalinked article on the site will get a 404 while the structure is altered, but it is the best I have come up with so far.

WordPress Categories, Technorati Tags and Search Engine Optimisation

Technorati is a search engine which automatically receives a notification from weblogs as soon as they are updated.

Technorati Tags are a way of classifying blog posts – you can add tags to your blog posts by adding a rel=”tag” to tag links in your posts – however this method is cumbersome and prone to mistakes. Fortunately, if you are a WordPress user, Technorati automatically recognises your categories and uses them as Tags to classify your posts.

Why are Tags important? Well, if I want to see what has been written by bloggers recently on any topic, I simply browse to the Technorati Tag page for that topic and see all the latest posts. For instance the Technorati Tag page for Security at time of writing contains 4,620 posts from 850 blogs, all on security related topics.

But wait, there’s more! I can do a search in Technorati for a term of interest – and if I want to keep an eye on what people are writing about that term moving forward, I can create what is called a Watchlist for that term (the term can be anything – your company name, for instance – or your competitor’s name!). A Watchlist is a saved, constantly updating search so you can go back to the search and at any time see the latest posts on your term of interest. It gets even better, your Watchlists are also available as RSS feeds so you can keep an eye on them using your RSS reader!

Given that Tags are important and that WordPress categories translate into Technorati Tags, it follows that you should chose your WordPress category names very carefully. For instance, if you want to create a Category for posts about about your blog – you could call it, Blog, Blogging or Weblog. If you look at the equivalent Technorati Tags for these terms, you will see that the TagBlog has a Google Page Rank (PR) of 5 and has 42,678 posts from 7,422 blogs; Blogging has a PR of 4 and has 15,131 posts from 2,295 blogs; while Weblog has a PR of 2 and has 55,823 posts from 3,552 blogs.

So from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) point of view, the best category name (of the three) to chose in WordPress would be Blog because it has the highest Google Page Rank (and has the highest number of associated blogs). A page with a high Page Rank linking to your site increases your own Page Rank and therefore your SEO.

Something to consider when creating WordPress categories.

Search Engine Optimisation – Step 3. Keyword and Keyphrase research

Keyword Research is by far the most important aspect in any Search Engine Optimisation initiative. Keyword Phrase Research is a process of selecting the “optimum� keyword phrases that will bring relevant visitors to your site. Even if you achieve high search engine rankings, you may not get relevant traffic if you select the wrong keywords (i.e. if you are an Irish law firm, do you want to target people who search for “Attorney� or people who search for “Litigation and Dispute Resolution Ireland�?).

The keyword research phase will consist of i) discovering keyphrases, ii) analysing keyphrases, iii) selecting keyphrases and iv) deploying keyphrases.

The discovering keyphrases phase will consist of combining existing keyphrases with ones gleaned from the site logs, competitors websites, and the target audience review and analysing them using tools like WordTracker and Overture to expand the list to include all possibilities.

In the keyword analysis and selection phases the keyword list will be refined based on factors like competition for particular phrases and PageRank to produce a focused list of 15-20 keyphrases.

Focused key phrases not only give your site a better chance to rank, they deliver highly targeted traffic resulting in higher traffic to client conversion ratios.

The keywords should be deployed on the site carefully to maximise their effectiveness (positioning the keywords optimally on the page, making use of H1 tags, etc.) while avoiding over-repetition of keywords on a page (might be interpreted as spam by the search engines). Also, devising individual customized keyphrase strategies for each page on your site will be vital to your project’s success – to this end, ensure you include your keyphrases in your page titles and page descriptions.

Effectively marketing business blogs

You can significantly mitigate the costs of marketing your blog with some careful (ethical) SEO (search engine optimisation) tactics.

Primary among these is to have a blog which is web standards compliant. Search engines love standards compliance – to this end, WordPress is a great blogging tool as it is standards complaint out-of-the-box. Having said that, if you have access to a developer, you can get the developer to design a standards compliant template for most blog apps.

Secondly, generate inward traffic/links. The only way to do this (apart from paid ads etc.) is to generate content on your blog that is compelling enough that people will link to it. Also leaving relevant comments on other’s people’s blogs will bring curious readers of those comments to your site.

And finally, get your blog listed in a directory like dmoz or LookSmart.

All these take time and effort but they will ultimately pay off and are free!

Would you support an SEO-spam company?

I was asked this question on a mailing list I’m on by a poster there in relation to the current WordPress hosting spam story which is doing the rounds.

This was my response:

I would never support an SEO-spam company.

In this case however, there are a number of caveats. First off, WordPress is not a company – this is more than simply semantics. A lot of the hosting costs etc. involved in keeping WordPress going have been borne by Matt Mullenweg – the principle author of WordPress. Matt made a decision to host articles on the site for commercial ends (to earn some money to offset the costs the success for the software was incurring). The articles were generated by another company and were spam for various high cost Adwords. WordPress’ high PR was being leveraged. There is no doubt that this is a sharp practice and Matt should have known better.

Matt is on holidays at the moment but has promised to respond with an explanation. In the meantime, Google has banned the WordPress site and the articles in question have been removed from the WordPress site.

So, to return to your question –
I, and many WordPress users like me, have never supported WordPress – perhaps if we had donated a couple of Euro to WordPress, Matt wouldn’t have made this mistake. I think Matt has learned from his mistake but we’ll know more about that as he responds during the day.

In the meantime, will I continue to use WordPress (a different question, I realise)? Hell yes. The fact that Matt made this mistake doesn’t take from the quality of the product. If Matt continues these kinds of practices, I will remove the link to WordPress on my site – as that is the only form of support I have given WordPress since I started using it, I’m ashamed to say.

By the way, how many people on this list pay to use (i.e. commercially support) products by Microsoft – a company which has been convicted in the courts of abusing its monopoly to kill off competitors? Not just an unethical practice, but an illegal one.

Search Engine Optimisation – Step 2. Benchmarking

The second step in a Search Engine Optimisation project is to get some metrics on the state of the site before the Optimisation project proper commences. If you missed the first step in this Search Engine Optimisation project, you can see it here.

To achieve this we will first need to carry out a benchmarking of the site’s current web traffic statistics to enable tracking of your ROI. There are several web stats analysis applications available for this task. The main free ones are Webalizer, AwStats and Analog and I find that using a combination of these tools is better than relying on any one. Mostly at this point we are looking for the amount of traffic to the site – we will be comparing this against the amount of traffic coming to the site as the project progresses.

Secondly, we will want to examine search engine rankings for various likely keywords or keyphrases target clients might use to find the site. Googlerankings, a website which allows you to look up the Google Search Engine Rank Position (SERP) of any site, for any keyword or phrase, is the main tool to use for this stage of the process. In the image below we can see that, not unsurprisingly, have the no.1 Google SERP for the keyphrase Bill Gates:
Google Rankings results window

To perform this step, however, we will need a list of keywords/phrases to use as our baseline. Some of these will be gleaned from the web traffic statistics in the previous step (what words and expressions have historically been used to find the site) and some will be ones which you want the site to be found by.

And finally, a technical audit of the existing site needs to be carried out. This audit needs to flag any issues that may currently be harming search engine ranking (i.e. Frames, Dynamic uri’s, Flash, image maps for navigation, and/or javascript for navigation). Any of these which are found need to be documented and plans put in place for their replacement with search engine friendly alternatives.

I will be writing up the next step in this project in the next couple of days.