These are a few of my favourite plugins

At a recent WordPress Meetup, someone asked if there was a list of plugins that one should use. Such a list, of course, is not available and also impossible to put together. Every site has different needs, themes rely on various functionality and everyone is bound to have their favourites. This question was followed by everyone offering their favourite and I thought I would continue this discussion and post my list. First, let me stress that this list is made up of MY favourites. They are NOT the best (they might be, but I can’t say for sure), nor are they the ones I think YOU should use. They are simply the ones I find useful and use all the time.
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Why isn’t Google picking up your site?

It’s inevitable. You build a site or pay someone to do this for you, insert all your content, do some testing, launch and finally breathe. Everything is great, wonderful and you’re so pleased until you start getting emails saying something like:

“I searched for your site but couldn’t find it.”

Now why is that? Why isn’t Google picking up your site?

One of the first thing I do when launching a WordPress site is use the Google XML sitemaps plugin. With just one click, this plugin allows you to submit your XML sitemap to search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com allowing them to better index your blog.

Now this alone won’t guarantee you a number one spot on Google. In fact nothing will. SEO is much more complex than that and needs to be looked at constantly.

Common Craft have been making videos explaining technology for numerous years and today they released another one explaining Search Engine Optimization. Their videos are always brilliant and this one is no exception. I was most please to see hear Lee mentioning dodgy links. Paying for inbound links and attempting search engine manipulation will only make you look untrustworthy.

Select the proper code for your title tag

Depending on what template your start with and the purpose of your site, you may come across different WordPress variations for displaying the title tag. The following are examples:

Simple and most common:

<title><?php bloginfo('name'); ?> <?php wp_title(); ?></title>

More complex and better for SEO:

<title>
	<?php if (is_home()) : ?>
		<?php bloginfo('name'); ?> - <?php bloginfo('description'); ?>
	<?php else : ?>
		<?php wp_title('', 'false'); ?> - <?php bloginfo('name'); ?>		
	<?php endif; ?>
	</title>

If you’re concerned about search engine optimization, the simple way won’t provide you with the best result since your blog name will appear before your page/post title on every single page. The second method allows you to display your blog name and description on your home page, but inserts the title of your page/post before your blog name on all other pages.

However, this only works if your blog is your home page. If you’ve chosen to display a static page as your home page, you will notice that only the dash and blog description appears on the home page. This can easily fixed by using this instead:

<title>
	<?php if (is_front_page()) : ?>
		<?php bloginfo('name'); ?> - <?php bloginfo('description'); ?>
	<?php else : ?>
		<?php wp_title('', 'false'); ?> - <?php bloginfo('name'); ?>
	<?php endif; ?>
	</title>

Changing is_home() to is_front_page() will ensure that your blog name and description is displayed properly on your home page.

Proper Headings for better SEO

When planning your content, it’s best to provide your website with a proper structure. Using headings and sub-headings is by far the best practice and when it comes to SEO, H1 is more important than H2, which is more important than H3 and so on.

It’s also common practice in the Web world to set the company name or logo as the H1, but there is a lot of debate about this. I recently worked on a couple of projects with 6S Marketing and Relevance Path Strategic Marketing and had the opportunity to discuss this practice. As a result I’ve now veered away from using the company name as my H1. Not only does using the company name as the main heading make no sense in some instances, blog posts for example, it also duplicates content unnecessarily.

You can modify your WordPress templates to take advantage of this and Alex Cristache has written a great post on how to go about it. When I set up my Basic Theme, I chose not to insert the company name in a heading at all and instead just put it in a div tag. I felt that this would keep the WordPress files clean, simple and easy to modify. So if you’ve downloaded one of the templates and were wondering why the code in the header file is different, this is why.

If you agree or disagree, I would love to hear about it.

Let’s play "Guess the keyphrase" – an exercise in keyword density

Have you heard this search engine optimization (SEO) tactic? The more times you use your keyword, the better your chances of attracting the search engines. This is referring to keyword density, meaning the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears in your web copy. There is no proven scientific formula for this, but the right phrase employed in the right places, such as your headline and subheads, will work wonders as search engine bait.

However, there are two parts to good SEO:

  1. Getting visitors to your site and
  2. Enticing them to stay. Recently, I came across a web page with this headline:

How to be your own boss and enjoy total freedom.

I quickly scanned the subheads (as typical web readers trend to do) to see if the content was of interest to me. This is what I saw:

Discover if it is right for you to be your own boss

Crunch the numbers before you be your own boss

Learn how to make money while you be your own boss

Make the transition from working for someone to be your own boss

Any guesses as to what the keyphrase is? I’m pretty sure it’s “be your own boss.”

In addition to this phrase repeated in the subheads, it was used ad nausea throughout the content making it sound ridiculously redundant.

Which brings me to the second part of SEO: Enticing readers to stay. I decided not to spend any more time on this page. It was painfully obvious that the copy was constructed for the sole purpose of building traffic, not to dispense advice to anyone considering an independent career path.

The bottom line is that while it’s important to make your content visible to the search engines, it’s more important to make it relevant to your visitors. Always write for them first. If your content is solid with natural keyword or keyphrase placement, search engine traffic and qualified customers will follow.

10 SEO myths debunked

Via Kate I just read a great article by Micheal Estrin where he talks about the misinformation about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). My favourite myth is myth #6: SEO is a one-time event for a website. At a guess I would estimate that 90% of our clients believe this, which I find incredibly frustrating. I’m not sure if it’s because other web designers offer SEO services and just bundle it in their quote or what, but the idea of carrying out a single “optimization trick” and getting high-ranking forever simply makes no sense. 

At Bluelime Media we don’t offer SEO services, so we can recommend either professional copywriters who can help you create optimized content or a SEO company who specializes in optimization and are experts in that field.

Of course once we explain that SEO isn’t a one-time deal, this of course leads to Michael’s myth#4: SEO is free. 

Check out the full article and see if what you know about SEO is simply a myth. 

 

SEO with Linda Bustos at Northern Voice

Marketing consultant at Get Elastic, Linda Bustos led the SEO session at Northern Voice’s Internet Bootcamp using Kris Krug as an example. Kris is a very talented and passionate photographer. His site Static Photography does pretty well in Google ranking for a number of reasons:

  • His main keywords “Vancouver fashion and portrait photography” appear both in his title tag and main h1 tag
  • His site uses blog software which is better for search engines than a static site since it can be updated frequently
  • His links are keyword rich including his navigation links. For examples, instead of using fashion he uses “fashion photography”, instead of event he uses”event photography.

Kris also uses social media networks to promote his photography. The most obvious choice as a photographer is Flickr. By uploading his pictures on Flickr, Kris can share his images with others, tag them and insert keywords in his titles. Flickr also allows you to create a profile page, where a photographer can put information about their skills, link to their site and post testimonials.

It may seem like a lot of work, but these few simple tips can boost your traffic and help promote your site.

Put your business on the Google map

Here’s an easy way for bricks and mortar businesses to reach new customers. Use Google Maps to point them to your front door!

When potential customers search Google Maps for information about a business in a specific area (e.g. Flower shop in Vancouver), they will find details like a business description, address, hours of operation, methods of payment, unique services, and even a coupon or a photo of your storefront.

It’s easy, free and takes just a few minutes to set up your business with Google Maps. Remember to use your keyphrases in your business description whenever possible.

Once you’re registered, Google Maps will send you a postcard to confirm your address before adding the listing. This may take a few weeks. When your business is on Google Maps, you can update or edit your listing at any time to improve its effectiveness.

Web Marketing is about Serving Searchers

If you’ve read our blog for a while you might have noticed we often quote Gerry McGovern. His article Honest Marketing Works on the Web contains not only a good rant about the frustrations of airline ticket pricing, but some words of wisdom as well:

The Web shifts the balance of power away from the organization and towards the customer. It is the customer who searches. It is the customer who compares. It is the customer who evaluates. It is the customer who is highly impatient, with their finger always on the Back button.

Web marketing is not about finding fools. It is rather about serving searchers. We go to the Web because we have a question and we want an answer. Please answer the question, Mr. Marketer.

The importance of the text on your website cannot be overstated. You might be tempted to focus on how pretty or cool-looking it is. But if your text isn’t doing it’s job, there’s less of a chance that people will find the site in the first place or stick around once they get there. Here are some of the things we recommend to make the most of your site’s content:

  • Ensure the important text is visible to search engines in the way the site is built. Your site should be built with current web standards and including text alternatives to any images or flash that contain important text.
  • Avoid linking to PDF or Word documents, which the search engines can’t scan as well as a web page (if at all).
  • Consider using the services of a professional writer who’s experienced with writing for the web and search engine optimization of content.
  • Aim for a design that supports the text rather than undermining it. Part of that is making it easy-to-use: clear navigation, standard scrollbars, allowing the text to be resized without breaking the design, etc.

Why Use Alexa Widgets?

I was recently asked for my insights into Alexa widgets and in which situations a company would use these on their web page. I thought this would be a good forum to share the answer……

Alexa is a web information company that provides users with web search, toolbar functionality and services that allow visitors and web developers to track traffic ranking and to compare the results with other pertinent sites. The company has a suite of additional add-ins that developers can use on websites: to facilitate search; add thumbnail images of websites; customise the toolbar, to publicize traffic ranking via widgets and generate reports.

An Alexa widget allows visitors to see how the website ranks:
a) in a graph comparing sites
b) in a button showing simply traffic rank or
c) in a button showing site stats (links in and rank).

To set this up simply enter the website you want to track: the code is automatically generated for you to cut and paste into your website where ever you want it.

The widgets would be put to best use by companies with a loyal following on their site or those that are quickly increasing in rank. Bear in mind that Alexa tracks this data using their toolbar so the search results will only include Alexa traffic – making the results rather skewed.

Have you had any success with Alexa widgets?