Tag Archives: google

SEO Blogging Best Practices

22 Nov

wordpress-logo-notext-rgb

(WARNING! This article is several years old now. The world of SEO changes often. Take this and any other SEO advice with a grain of salt and an eye for the contemporary.) This article assumes your web team has already configured your blog on a good blogging platform like WordPress with all the best SEO plugins installed and configured. It also assumes that you’ve gone through the complex decision of deciding where to put your blog: e.g. mysite.com/blog vs. myblog.com

Let me know if you need help or want further discussion on any of those prerequisites.

SEO Blogging Basics

  • Write often.
  • Know your keywords.
  • Focus all page and post elements.
  • Leverage links.
  • Embrace community.

Content is King

When done well, blogging benefits your brand, customer community and valuable search rankings.

Write well and often. Avoid blogger burnout by using multiple bloggers. Invite guest bloggers who will give you great content and buzz in exchange for a link to their site in the byline. Do whatever it takes to get content flowing regularly. There’s no upper limit to quantity but you want to make sure you’re cranking the quality too.

Your audience is twofold and you should write for both humans and robots. We’ll assume you know how to connect with those humans but the pesky search engine spiders are a little different. If you blog a lot, you don’t need to always pander to the bots. But…

All in-house bloggers should be aware of your SEO campaign’s keywords and should be updated as the list changes. If it’s ever convenient to fit a keyword phrase into your blog post, and it sounds natural, do it.

Page Elements and Agreement

But sometimes you’ll want to take it a step further. The best SEO blog entries have some sense of agreement throughout disparate page elements. These elements are opportunities for us to convey semantic information to Google. Some of these elements:

  • title (appears in the very top left of the browser and often is the top bolded part of the Google search engine result page (SERP) listing)
  • description (not visible on page, but often used by Google in SERP listings, below the title)
  • body content – copy in your paragraphs – the beef
  • Headlines – your primary headline on almost any blog entry is the Blog name. it’s the h1. You then define a headline specific to your entry (h2). And break up your text with tertiary (h3) and sometimes other sub-headlines (h4, h5) These headlines help both humans and robots to better understand what’s important.
  • alt tags – any time you use an image you have the ability to specify an alt tag to tell search engines and accessibility devices (screen readers) some info about the image.
  • page name / entry name / headline / title – in WordPress, the “Enter title here” field is often used to populate several fields including
  • the first, primary headline in your post
  • the page name
  • the page title (see above)

For example in this post:
https://dandreifort.com/2010/10/08/the-fall-of-uncool/
I entered “The Fall of Uncool” into that field.

  • Which was used verbatim as the main headline of the post
  • hyphenated in the page name /the-fall-of-uncool/
  • and prefixed to the blog title to create the title

The Fall of Uncool << Dan Dreifort

  • WordPress SEO plugins like Platinum SEO Pack, allow you to specify unique page  titles, page names, descriptions, etc.  apart from what you enter into the “Enter Title Here” field. You should use these fields to your advantage as specified below.

Titles – Should be no more than 65 characters in length including spaces. Anything more than that and you’ll be wasting energy; Google won’t display >65 characters in the headline of the listing and won’t pay attention to the additional characters for indexing. (Use Title Case for Titles) They’ll often be similar and sometimes even identical to the main headline of your blog post.

Description – Keep them under 165 characters. Use sentence case for descriptions. This is your opportunity to suggest to Google what they should put under the search engine result page (SERP) headline.

Google uses these various bits of info you provide to create an outline of your page and they toss it into the algorithm and do the ranking magic. We don’t want to miss out on these easy opportunities to tell Google what’s what. It’ll become second nature in no time.

Back to the concept of agreement, try to avoid stuffing important SEO keywords in the title, description, alt, etc. while NOT also using the phrase in the plain body content too. Or put positively, if you use a keyword phrase in the title and headline, it should appear at least once in the body too.

Your ideal Keyword Density for a campaign keyphrase should be between 1% and 3%. Don’t go too much higher or you risk retribution. Ideally, at least half of that keyword density will come from your plain sentence/paragraph body text. Err on the side of caution; if you’re copy starts to sound unnatural, don’t fret about low keyword density.

I’ll use another example:

https://dandreifort.com/2010/09/07/wordtracker-kei-fail-wordtracker-alternatives-seo-news/

Take 15 seconds to scan it.

Notice that there’s a theme? (No, it’s not ‘whining’. That’s just the modus operandi, not the theme.) How did you notice the theme? Some will mention the headlines. Some will mention the images and the captions. Others might have scanned the body content. Regardless, it’s easy for both humans AND bots to figure out the big pic of what this article is trying to say. When you google some phrases about this entry, many show up first SERP on Google.

“wordtracker alternatives”

“wordtracker kei”

etc.

What if I’d used the same “Wordtracker” headlines and images but my body text was about something totally different like cooking? While most humans wouldn’t be able to notice the incongruity (or lack of agreement) at first blush, it takes Google a fraction of a second to judge every detail of your content. If you stuff a keyword into important fields like title, headline, alt, etc. but don’t also use it in your body content, Google knows you’re stuffing keywords to try to game the system.

Post tags and categories

Whether or not you choose to make them visible on the page, you have the ability to tag and categorize your posts.

Develop a main taxonomy of your content to establish your main categories. If you start writing about new content, add a new category. A post can be in more than one category. You can leave a post uncategorized but why? Put it where it belongs!

Use several words and concepts to tag your post. A tag is usually a great place for the SEO keyword on which you’ve focused for the post. Choose several tags. There’s no hard upper limit, but use common sense. Don’t overdo it. There are also WordPress plugins that will suggest tags for you.

Linking

Linking to relevant sites can add value to your post. Your readers might benefit, and it lets you tell Google more about your content via association. You can also use linking to help your main (non-blog) site’s SEO.

There are two main elements of a link. The target URL is the page the link points to. The anchor text is the text that is the link. I.e. in the web’s early days webmasters regularly employed “Click Here!” as the anchor text for most links. Click Here tells neither human nor bot anything about the content on the other side of that link. We can do better.

Linking to third-party sites

When you link to a site you’re letting Google’s algorithm know that you’re sort of voting for that site. We can greatly diminish the vote by using a trick called “nofollow”. Nofollow instructs Google that the link is censured and should be ignored vis-à-vis their index.

Unless you’re feeling generous, always specify nofollow and never use an SEO keyphrase as the anchor when you link to a site you don’t control.  The WordPress plugin “nofollow post”  allows you to select “nofollow” when creating a link. (See my earlier post about the best WordPress SEO plugins for more.)

Linking to your own site

Just like linking to your competitors’ sites, but 100% opposite! Always try to use a relevant SEO keyword phrase to link to your own pages. Never use nofollow. Furthermore, you should use Google’s guidance to decide which of your pages gets the incoming link.

First determine which of your pages already ranks best for your keyword phrase.

If you type this into Google

site:dandreifort.com seo

You’ll get a list of the highest ranking dandreifort.com pages for the phrase “seo”

The page on top has the best foothold (highest rank) and is a great candidate for some SEO love.  I.e. the page on top would be the ideal target URL for a link with anchor text “seo”.

Unless it’s your policy to only link to your own site, don’t overdo the links to your own site. Try to link to your own site less than half the time. I.e. for every link in a post to your site you should include at least one nofollow link to different sites. There are arguments for and against excessive self-linking.

Links to your site from third-party sites

Encourage others (readers, friends, etc.) to link to your site. Getting a quality incoming link (“ backlink”) to your site is SEO gold. What is a quality link?

The BEST incoming links:

  • Link from another site to yours
  • Are on a page that has high Google PageRank (PR)
  • …on a page with content closely related to yours
  • …on a page with only a few or no other links to external sites
  • …hosted on a different server, different domain registrar info, etc.
  • Use relevant anchor text (“[good keyword]” vs “Click here!”)
  • without reciprocity (i.e. you don’t link back)

How do we get links?

  • Ask nicely (ultra low success rate)
  • Offer to trade links (also pretty low)
  • Rent them (expensive and frowned upon by Google)
  • Do some press releases (hope for links)
  • Befriend bloggers (hope for links and/or a review)
  • Other networking (hope for / trade for links)
  • Etc.

Syndication and Community

Encourage syndication of your content via RSS. Provide multiple opportunities for readers to subscribe to your RSS feed.

Use a plugin to enable easy liking/sharing of your content on popular social networks.

Enable comments. Always reply to comments. Using keywords in comments is smart too.

Spelling

Last but not least, always run a spell check before publishing!

Dan Dreifort consults on usability and search. Contact him… if you can figure out how!

The Fall of Uncool

8 Oct

 

uncoolcentral

actually uncool

 

Hello fall.

I used to rank #1 in Google for uncool. Not so much anymore. My uncool site is wallowing WAY down the ranks. If you have a blog or a page, please toss uncoolcentral a link with “uncool” as the anchor text. I’ll hook you up with a link too. Or maybe I should be happy with things as they are. I.e. isn’t it even more uncool to not rank highly for “uncool”?

Or how uncool lead me to SEO

That uncool site helped me stumble into the world of SEO. I was so excited when I first found that I ranked well for “uncool”. The excitement faded (a little) then I started to wonder, “Why do I rank well for that phrase?” That was over a decade ago. I didn’t immediately begin doing SEO. I didn’t even know what SEO was. I figured it out and used my SEO knowledge to rank well for other phrases too.

Or how to get started in SEO

Eventually friends at marketing agencies and friends with businesses started to ask me how I ranked well for competitive phrases. Then they asked me if I’d do it for them too. If you want to start a career in SEO consider the same path; demonstrate quality SEO on your own sites and talk about your successes. If you do something (useful) well enough people will ask you to do it for them too. They might even pay you!

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability. He also makes music in a number of projects and types about himself in the third person. …Which makes him uncomfortable the more he does it. Seriously, try it some time. It gets creepy after a while.

Wordtracker KEI Fail, Wordtracker Alternatives & SEO News

7 Sep
Wordtracker keywords

Wordtracker keywords (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

I recently reluctantly renewed my subscription to Wordtracker, a keyword research tool and database. Why was I so reluctant? (And why am I considering asking for a refund?)

Wordtracker provides poor documentation and regularly switches the formulas they use for data they offer without notifying its customers.

Wordtracker Changes the Meaning of “Searches”

In 2009 Wordtracker completely changed the way they calculate the data they provide under the column labeled “Searches”. How they get away with redefining “searches” is beyond me. I contributed to a Wordtracker support discussion about this problem, but somebody else summed it up better. “The fact that a so-called provider of data like Wordtracker does not clearly and expressly explain two critical factors relating to their data is appalling.”

One day “searches” means one thing. The next day it means something else. I got no apology from Wordtracker. I had to eat crow and throw out a few mea culpas to my clients when I realized that Wordtracker had pulled the rug out from under me. Boo. But it gets worse.

Wordtracker Changes KEI Formula

New Wordtracker KEI Formula Sucks

My $329/yr subscription just expired so I renewed. It had been a while since I used the service and Wordtracker neglected to tell me that since the last time I’d used their service they changed the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) formula. I thought I was buying one thing and Wordtracker delivered another.

KEI used to be a great metric to find low hanging fruit or “keyword gems in the rough” if you will. But the metric is now useless for that. Click the image above for a larger version. You can see that the most generic, high traffic, high competition phrases now have the highest “KEI” – and yes, “KEI” should always appear in quotes from now on until… well, maybe forever.

Though they offer great verbiage about what an improvement it is, Wordtracker’s new “KEI” borders on meaningless. Surely somebody at Wordtracker should know that when you combine data inconsistencies with poor communication and terrible documentation, usability will suffer. Apparently the usability and branding experts at Wordtracker haven’t been speaking up.

Comparison of KEI Formulas

Wondering how to determine KEI? Me too.

Typically KEI is the the ratio of the square of the searches upon a particular keyword in a day divided by the number of websites that are listed for that keyword. For example, a keyword that has 100 searches a day and for which Google shows 5000 websites would have a KEI of 2. (100 * 100 / 5000)
– web1marketing.com

So they’re saying: KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 486 per month and Google displays 214,234 results for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is 486 divided by 214,234. In this case, the KEI 0.002.
-searchenginepromotionhelp.com

For that one, the formula is: KEI = monthly searches / SE listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 821 per day and Google displays 224,234 results (pages) for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is: 224,234 divided by 821. In this case, the KEI is 273.
-bestpracticemarketing.com

And those jokers say that: KEI = daily searches / SE listings

Those are the first three definitions I found. I’ll bet there are more. Clearly the jury’s out on KEI. But while contradiction abounds, there’s a common thread in defining KEI. It has always related to the quantity of searches and the number of search engine listings.

So what’s the new Wordtracker definition for KEI?

Maybe we should start with the old Wordtracker definition of KEI

KEI compares the Count result with the number of Competing Web pages

Yep. That seems to be in line with what everybody else says about KEI. In case you were wondering, “count” is,  “The number of times the search phrase has been used in Wordtracker’s partner search engines.” And “competing” means, “The number of Web pages the search engine says it has in its index that match the search phrase.” So more specifically the old Wordtracker formula for KEI was

KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Here’s the new Wordtracker KEI definition

KEI = (Searches ^ 2) / In Anchor

Is that searches per day? Per month? Who knows? The only other information Wordtracker provides on its data results pages about its new KEI equation is

KEI compares the number of times a keyword has been searched for with competition (the number of pages that contain the exact keyword phrase within at least one of its incoming links, known as ‘All in Anchor’).

Does the “In Anchor” include only external pages? Or will a page with an internal “In Anchor” link make the cut too? Tough to say. Wordtracker regularly defines things their own way. While I’ll not poo poo innovation, I take umbrage with my data providers when they skirt industry norms. If Google defines a metric a certain way, clearly it is beneficial to follow the leader. Note to Wordtracker: Don’t confuse your users by regularly creating new definitions for established industry terms. Your poor usability is a disservice to your paying customers.

In Anchor And Title IAAT

Wordtracker founder and CTO Mike Mindel says

‘In Anchor and Title’ is a count of the number of pages for which the keyword appears in both the title tag and the anchor text of at least one backlink to the page (not domain).

Understandably this metric is used to help identify serious competitors. But Google measures parts of this metric differently. Back to Mike Mindel

There are two reasons why [Wordtracker] and Google show different numbers of links for seemingly similar searches. The first is that the [Wordtracker] In Anchor metric shows a count of external anchor text (from other websites), whereas Google includes internal anchor text as well (from within a website).

Google search market share

Google Market Share – Image from Wikipedia

‹rant› If internal In Anchor links are good enough for Google they should be a sufficient metric for Wordtracker.  Wordtracker tries to sell you on why its better to use their more specific metric, but aren’t all search engine optimizers essentially trying to play Google’s game?! Why wouldn’t Wordtracker emulate Google metrics as much as possible? Clearly they’re meaningful. Something more specific isn’t always better. Furthermore, why would you use the same terminology to discuss two separate things? ‹/rant›

Wordtracker’s Mr. Midel goes on to say,

The second reason is that Google’s AllInAnchor returns broad matches by default (the words mcdonalds, nutrition, and facts in any order), whereas Wordtracker uses the In Anchor phrase match count (mcdonalds nutrition facts somewhere within the anchor text).

(See previous ‹rant› .) Mike Mindel continues,

I hope you can see now that bigger numbers clearly do not mean better numbers.

Well, Mike, I hope you can see now that I’m not sold on your new (bigger) KEIs being better than the older, smaller KEI figures. And doesn’t Wordtracker try to sell us on bigger numbers being better? (See next paragraph.) Now I’m confused(er).

Back to Low Hanging Fruit

This new KEI formula doesn’t do much to help SEOs find keyword phrases with low competition and reasonably high traffic. It’s more tailored to high traffic phrases. Mark Nunney of Wordtracker says,

“KEI squares Searches because otherwise if both Searches and Competition (whatever metric is used for this) go up at the same rate then the KEI value remains the same and that will not take into account the increased opportunity that more Searches offers.”

I don’t know… I always thought that popularity proved only popularity itself. (Think: MC Hammer.) I also always thought that KEI was to represent some notion of ROI. Big returns aren’t valuable if the investment doesn’t make sense. Even my largest clients benefit from low hanging fruit and the small investments required to conquer them. Just because one has the deep pockets necessary to go after high traffic keywords doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective path. Mull it over. Easy pickings are more valuable to me than the garbage these new Wordtracker metrics provide.

Wordtracker Alternatives

I wrote an email to Wordtracker explaining that I want a refund. But I haven’t sent it yet. I looked for wordtracker replacements. There are a few that are too expensive for me to even consider. (We’re talking $1000 per client per year.) But I found a few tools that provide good data. They are:

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

http://www.keywordeye.co.uk

http://www.google.com/insights/search/#

I’ve also heard decent things about marketsamurai.com/ but I haven’t tried them yet, so no endorsement or link out.

The sad truth is that I think I might get enough value from Wordtracker to warrant sticking with it. After all, I can dump all of the data to CSV and make my own versions of KEI to get the data I want. That’s nice, but that’s not the point.

Wordtracker sucks. They keep changing the definitions without notifying customers which causes Wordtracker’s usability to suffer. I am searching for Wordtracker alternatives. Let me know when you find a good one. I’m willing to pay for a wordtracker replacement.

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability for companies large and small. He whines a lot on this blog. Sorry.

SEO Reduces PPC Cost

6 Jul
qoogle quality score

Use SEO to boost your Google quality score.

One of my clients recently opened a second Google Adwords account to advertise one of his many businesses. “Why does it cost so much more to go after the same PPC keywords on my new website with this new Adwords account?! Is it because it’s new?” I’d previously mentioned to him that good SEO reduces the cost of any PPC campaign, but I say a lot of stuff, so it must’ve gotten lost in the shuffle. I sent him the following refresher.

Adwords Quality Score

The AdWords system calculates a ‘Quality Score’ for each of your PPC keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query. A keyword’s Quality Score updates frequently and is closely related to its performance. In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=10215

Lots of good info here. If you’re interested in lowering your PPC cost you should read the whole thing.

Lower CPC for PPC through SEO?

More info on how to get “a high landing page quality score” to decrease your CPC

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guidelines.cs&answer=46675&adtype=text

and a shorter answer

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=47884

Even shorter still, here’s a summary of how to use SEO for better, cheaper PPC.

  • Optimize your landing pages to match the keywords in your PPC campaigns. Create many landing pages if you have to.
  • Do some usability testing on those landing pages. Read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug or hire somebody like me to do it for you.

That’s it. Your ads will be cheaper, appear higher, convert better and your landing pages will be more effective too. Contact me if you have any questions.

Dan Dreifort works  SEO and Usability magic for clients of EdenMarketing.com, StarrTech.com and MySEO411.com. He has lost 15 pounds in two months. Booyah!

Site Redesign 301 Redirects

26 Feb

301 redirects, very powerful, ultimately useful.

You want to change the URL of some of your web content. Why? Countless reasons. Maybe you misspelled a word in the URL. You used underscores and now you want to use hyphens or dashes for improved readability and usability. Your old page was /product=7&ver=1.php and you just think something-semantic.php would be a better file name for SEO and other reasons. Etc.

Throw a simple 301 redirect into a .htaccess file or directly within a deprecated content page and you can immediately send visitors and search bots to the new URL. Redirecting visitors is handy and polite but doing it for bots is critical. If you use any other forward, redirect or refresh method, you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to communicate with Google and other search engines. The syntax for a .htaccess 301 redirect is simple:

redirect 301 oldpage.html http://www.yourdomain.com/newpage.htm

Doing a 301 in IIS is a little more complicated, but still worth it.

not using 301 redirects, more powerful, more painful

Your company finally decides to pay for that dream web site redesign. Good idea. (Your old site was so two weeks ago!) Be sure to ask about your chosen web designer’s SEO  production credentials. Not all web designers are created equally. There are numerous web shops capable of delivering beautiful bleeding edge aesthetics and “totally two point oh” functionality, but if they’re not hip to SEO and usability, all the polish in the world wide web won’t save you.

Inevitably site file structures and page names will change during a redesign. Some pages will move to new URLs. Some old pages will be deemed unworthy of migration, and you’ll surely create fresh new content that didn’t exist on the old site. Sit back and enjoy it when you publish your new site and get over the sticker shock. If they didn’t use 301 redirects, your fleeting euphoria will melt to tears when you check on your search rankings in Google.

If you check soon enough, you’ll still see your listings. Dig deeper with a click and you’ll get the dreaded 404 not found error page. (Did you bother to create a custom 404 page to at least brand your shame?) If you wait long enough (time depends on Google’s crawl frequency of your site,) you’ll cringe when you don’t see that first page Google listing. Then you’ll click to the second and third pages and that cringe will turn into a certifiable twitch. Google crawled your page and it wasn’t there. You moved it. Remember? As far as Google is concerned, it doesn’t exist.

retroactive 301 redirect, worth it?

At this point. you can still implement 301 redirects, but their efficacy will be diminished if not totally muted. If you waited too long and Google delisted your newly 404’d legacy URLs, retroactively 301ing them might still help. I don’t know. (Does the Google index have a “memory” of sorts? I doubt it.) Hence the unbeatable power of not using a 301 redirect. It’s still a good idea to retroactively 301, if for no other reason than to collect and reroute traffic from incoming links to legacy URLs.

When your SEO consultant gives you production advice about how to best do a site rebuild (and what not to do!) you should listen. Let your SEO consultant earn those bucks you pay every month. Save money. Make money. Use 301 redirects effectively.

Dan Dreifort is a SEO/Usability spaz and blogging novice.

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