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General SEO Tips (A Sample from WordPress SEO Secrets Ebook)
Pay Attention to Headlines and Titles
Titles and headlines are unbelievably important for SEO. They tell people (and thus also search engines) what a web page is all about in just a few important words. For that reason, the words we use in titles and headlines are very important. A web page’s title appears in the title bar of the web browser and in tabs for Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and up, and Safari. Headlines can be anywhere on a web page, but the ones at the top are often the ones that matter most. Write strong headlines that include keywords, because your post headline becomes the content of the title for the single page view of that post. Titles are extremely important to search engines. For any Google search, the main link you click on in the results is the text of the page’s title.
Title is often referred to as “title tags” because of the HTML code that creates the title for a web page, which looks like this: <title>Your Keyword-rich text goes here</title> Hands down, the most important thing you can change to improve your SEO is the content of your page title tags. Think carefully about what you want in your post titles. We’ll get into the mechanics of how to do this later. It’s best to use a WordPress plugin that gives you the ability to separately edit your title from your post headline. Speaking of… 2
Use at Least One SEO Plugin
Get a plugin that enables meta tagging of single post pages and static pages, if you use WordPress. Here’s where the Blogger platform disappoints: a lack of extensibility. I use the All in One SEO Pack, but there are many SEO plugins for WordPress. Use these plugins to create better title tags for single post pages than just your heading-as-page-title allows. Use them to create good description meta tags for each post page. Description meta tags are often used as the text snippet that appears in search results, so you want to write short, sweet, compelling descriptions that get people to click through.
Have a sitemap. You want an XML sitemap that’s friendly to Google and other search engines. The best way to get one that I’ve seen is the Google Sitemaps Generator plugin for WordPress. With the click of a link, your sitemap can be regenerated when needed! You don’t have to know what XML is or know anything about it. You don’t have to write any code. What does an XML sitemap do? It helps Google know when you have new content on your blog so that it can be added to Google’s index… fast! I find Google has indexed my posts not even ten minutes after I click that Publish button in WordPress. It’s amazing. If you redesign your blog, change your blog’s theme, or make changes to header, sidebar, or footer content, you should rebuild your XML sitemap.
Remember Who You’re Really Writing For
Create content for people, not search engines. You hear this all the time paraded as wisdom. It’s true to a point: it is people who will make your blog a success by linking to it and visiting it. If you offer compelling reasons for them to do both of those things, then you can rank well in search results even if you do less work on the other aspects of SEO. But how are people supposed to find you in the first place? That is the entire purpose of SEO. So let me amend that little phrase: Create content for people, but tweak it for search engines. Another way to say tweak is (get ready for it) optimize! But you gotta admit, it would be fun if it was called SET, Search Engine Tweakification.
Know Why People Search
People search for solutions to problems. That last sentence is so important, you should go back and read it again. If you want to be found via search, you have to achieve one important goal: your blog posts must be the answers to problems searchers have. When someone has a problem, they go to Google and they search for a solution. Your blog posts need to be those solutions. If you’re writing about topics that are not the answers people are looking for, you will have weak search traffic. Your blog will be passed by in favor of other blogs where answers will be found. This is a profoundly unnecessary mistake, and yet I see it all the time: blog posts which are answers to a problem nobody has!
Meta Description Tags
Diligently use description meta tags. In the article I link to here, the author, Wil (yes, one L) states that keywords meta tags and image alt tags don’t much matter, but that there has been a resurgence in description meta tags influencing not just search results but that all-important click on the listing in the SERP.
Make sure that your important content and your home page are well interlinked. One of the best ways to do this on a blog is to have a “most important” or “most popular” posts listing on the home page of your blog. Using drop-down menus are great for circular linking, but only if they are html/css drop downs.
Do not use query strings (equal signs, question marks, and ampersands) in URLs. In other words, when using WordPress, use “pretty permalinks.” The default permalink structure looks like this: http://www.sample.com/?p=123. What you want instead is more like this: http://www.sample.com/2008/03/31/sample-post/ Or better yet: http://www.sample.com/sample-post/ Why? “p=123” isn’t a keyword. It doesn’t mean anything to search engines. The date structure doesn’t mean anything in terms of keywords, either. The date isn’t necessary for Google to know when a post entered the search index. Google already knows that. Ideally, “sample” in the example above should be the most important major keyword for which you want to rank.
Link Out to Other Sites
But be judicious in your linking. A link out of ten links is more effective on a page with a PageRank of 3 than a link out of three hundred links in a page with a PageRank of 8. This was a 4
bit of an eye-opener for me, when I first encountered this information. Later, I’ll share some tools with you to help you know what the PageRank is of another blog post.
Overcome your own bias. We all stink at keyword development, because we’re biased by our own search behavior! The terms that you’re already ranking well for are a red herring. You don’t know what people are typing in and searching for and missing you… that’s the problem. Here are some other examples of bias: If you’re a regular guy thinking about buying a home, you’ll probably search for home loan. If you’re in the mortgage industry, you might make the mistake of thinking everyone searches for home mortgage. If you’re a regular gal, you would search for the word rash, but if you were in medicine, you might use the word inflammation, and then wonder why your search traffic was so poor. Other medical professionals might search using the term inflammation, which would be great if that was your intended audience… but what if it wasn’t? In the Midwest, a soft drink is called pop. In New England, it’s called a soda. If you use one term but not the other, you’re unwittingly excluding whole sections of the nation. In some parts of the USA, a certain kind of sandwich is called a grinder. In other parts, it’s called a hoagie, and in other parts, it’s called a sub. Do you know what the difference between grits and polenta is? A few thousand miles on the map between the U.S. South and Italy. The lesson here is to not let your “language defaults” trip you up.
Encourage linking. Basically, you want links back to your blog posts. Every time another website links to a blog post you wrote, that’s another entry point so people can visit your blog. This kind of link is called a backlink (unsurprisingly). The more people link to a blog post you wrote, the more authoritative it is considered by Google. Backlinks are great for SEO. More to the point, you want backlinks from other related and authoritative web pages. If you run a blog about breeding Beagles, and a blog about solar power links to you, that’s honestly not worth all that much. You want another dog blog or pet blog to link to you. Anchor Text. Anchor text is the words you click on in a hyperlink. Anchor text matters in how Google values the relationship between your blog and the site that’s linking to your blog. If you had a Beaglebreeding blog, you want another site to link to you with words “Beagle breeders” or “Beagle breeding tips” in the anchor text. Getting linked to with “this blog” or “click here” doesn’t do much for you. Getting linked to with the words “worst Beagle breeders ever” would be terrible for you. While you can’t exactly control how others link to you, you can certainly be focused on your blog’s niche. Often, a blog post of yours will be linked to using your post’s headline as the anchor text. This is yet another reason why you need to pay attention to and think carefully about your blog post headlines. 5
How to know if you’re doing it right Search using your keywords and check your rank. Are you higher? By how much? Are you at the same place? Lower? Also, check your visitor tracking/analytics reports for what keywords your visitors are using to land at your blog. If the keywords you’re shooting for don’t appear within a month of you using them, you’re either up against some strong competition for those keywords, or you’re not optimizing well enough.
Sorry, can’t let you see those keywords! This is often a closely guarded secret. You shouldn’t tell others what keywords you’re ranking well for, because they could use that information against you. Not that they would, but you just don’t want to take that chance.
The percentage of a keyword in a blog post is called the keyword density. People have differing views on this. Matt Cutts, who is a Google engineer on Google’s spam team, has stated that the presence of a word matters (obviously) but that repetition of the word doesn’t matter. I would like to believe that, because it would certainly make optimizing a post easier, but I don’t. There are tools you can use to check the keyword density of a post, which I’ll mention later in the Tools section. You don’t have to drive yourself nuts with this if you remember one simple rule of thumb: early and often. In other words, use your keywords several times early in the post.
In some ways, Google seems so smart, it’s scary. But in other ways, Google can be really dumb. If you have heard or learned anything about SEO before buying this course, no doubt you have heard of duplicate content, or, more ominously, the “duplicate content penalty.” Duplicate content as far as blogs go (remember, this is about WordPress SEO) is when the same blog posts have more than one URL pointing to them. Before the advent of over 70 million blogs being created, the same content appearing in two different pages with two different URLs would have represented an obvious problem of either plagiarism or laziness. Either somebody stole your content and put it on their web page, or you’re too lazy to write something unique, so you copy and paste from one page in your site to another.
But then blogs appeared with their date-based archives, their category archives, and their tag archives. Suddenly, you have the exact same content showing up on what Google sees as three different URLs: http://blogname.com/2008/11/28/postname/ http://blogname.com/category/categoryname/postname/ http://blogname.com/tag/tagname/postname Google doesn’t think of these as the same blog post. It thinks these are three different web pages with the same exact content. It doesn’t know which one to rank or which others to ignore. Because of this, ranking for the post is very weak. That is the duplicate content penalty. You don’t go to Google jail or get your blogging license revoked. By using the All-In-One SEO Pack plugin to block Google from crawling all the URLs for a blog post but one, you prevent duplicate content problems.
I hope you enjoyed and learned from this sample of WordPress SEO Secrets. WordPress SEO Secrets will be available TOMORROW (Jan 7th, 2009) at 4pm Eastern time (-5h GMT). Make sure you are subscribed to Remarkablogger so that you don’t miss the launch announcement!
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