Welcome Problogger Readers!

Hello to all those who have arrived at this blog from Problogger! For the unaware, the latest post on Problogger – Use Google Reading Level to Improve Your Blog Message – was written by myself. Go read it if you haven’t yet.

I’m Rhys Wynne & this is my main blog. I’m a serial blogger, although I don’t blog daily or sometimes even weekly on this blog. Rather than being forced to blog on a daily basis, I prefer to write amazing posts every so often on this blog (as well as others – see the Guest Posting Page), whereas dedicating my time to updating my WordPress Plugins & supporting them.

Still here? Fantastic. Here are some of my favourite posts recently:-

Like what you see? Great stuff! Follow me on twitter or subscribe to my free blog newsletter. That way you’ll get the posts delivered to your inbox when they go live, as well as extra analysis.

I also do a bit of paid wordpress consultancy, SEO, social media & web development. You can read testimonials & examples of sites I’ve worked on my testimonials page. You can also contact me with any questions or if you’re after any advice. Diolch yn fawr!

Book Review: Rework

I was recommended by Shane to have a read of Rework, the business book from the chaps at 37signals. Now, call me a little unprepared but I’ve only read one such self improvement book before (and that was the Highway Code, so that hardly counts), so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

I’m not a great reader, I put down books far too easy and with good reason: many don’t hold my interest. Short sharp paragraphs that are straight to the point & easy to digest are more my style. Luckily, this is the order of the day with Rework.

The book is in 13 sections, each with about 4 or 5 digestible ways of doing something better. Some of these are brilliant and all are a page or two in length. Furthermore, you also get some great illustrative artwork to break up the book further. Seriously, a 10 year old could read this book. However, it doesn’t mean it’s basic, on the contrary, it’s full of simple yet actionable points.

Some of these you are unable to implement until you – say – start hiring staff, but even as an employee, you’ll glean value from this book, particularly if you’re in charge of a small team.

It’s not a taxing read, it took me a couple of hours on a train journey from front to back, but it’s well worth adding to your collection.

Buy Rework from Amazon.co.uk

What’s Good & What’s Bad About Quora?

In the last few weeks, internet marketers (at least in my circle) have been going crazy (or quazy) over Quora. Quora is a website that people ask questions which are answered by other members of the Quora Community – similar to Yahoo Answers or any forum that’s ever existed. What separates Quora from others is the quality of the responses, regualrly people high up in the great & the good of the Internet have posted responses, but aside from getting a response from the head of Company X saying that Company X’s Product Y is good, what’s it like?

I had a bit of a play with it, posting a few questions, and here is what I like & what I dislike about it.

What I Like About Quora

Surprisingly, in a short period of time it’s built up quite a following with a remarkable community. I asked a similar question in relation to a WordPress problem I had on a number of forums, and got the right answer first on Quora. This was helpful & a little surprising.

Furthermore, the interface is quite clean & helpful, which helps as I lead onto the bad points about it.

What I Dislike About Quora

I think it’s a little overwhelming at times. I don’t find anything useful in the profiles & it seems to be more about sharing content from Quora to other services. In fact when you start, you have to turn email notifications all off (weirdly, I couldn’t find an email notification setting from when people answer your own questions). I’d like to syndicate my blog with my Quora profile, not post my Quora questions onto my blog.

Also, and this is not Quora’s fault, occasionally answers you get are a bit self promotional.

With that said, it’s not really worth self promotion. I posted a link in a question to WP Email Capture, and this has been the traffic from Quora to my site last week.

Not great.

Furthermore any links placed on the site are nofollow. It doesn’t even matter as (yet) I don’t think Google would consider it to be an authoritative domain.

Overall

Quora is alright. I can see what they’re trying to do, build up a real community where people will help each other, but I’m not sure how long it’ll last.

The issue is that unless you are a big name, it’s very difficult for people to find out about the people answering the questions. The buttons to promote your twitter & facebook accounts are miniscule, and nowhere to import an RSS feed is bad as well. The site, for a social networking site, doesn’t seem that – well – social.

This is leading to problems as people are self promoting their wares, rather than give good answers, so they see a return on it.

With that said, it does achieve it’s goal of getting questions answered – I did get an answer to my questions – but my questions had more definitive answers, rather than opinion answers. I’d use it for questions that begin with “How do I?” rather than “In your opinion?”.

Furthermore I haven’t built up any sort of connections on the site yet, all of the people I am following are from my Twitter & Facebook. I’d be more likely to do that on a forum dedicated to what I’m after, rather than a generic question site. At least then I can build up connections.

So yes, in conclusion, I doubt I’d continue to use Quora in the long term.

Why Your Business Needs A Social Media Presence – A Real Life Example

If you don’t know, I’ve launched a couple of blogs recently. One of them is a new personal blog – rhyswynne.co.uk. It’s more theraputic, where I can blog about anything & everything, rather than making money (“Shock Horror!” I hear people shout).

One such post that has received an amazing amount of traction is about The Dulcimer in Chorlton closing down. The Dulcimer is my local pub in Manchester, that last week reports began to surface that it closed. Or has it? You see, searching on Twitter seems to suggest that it has only closed for a refurbishment. Comments on my article seems to suggest that too. However, in the last few days a lot of comments have been made saying yes it had closed for good.

Writing the post that has bob on SEO, a few tweets & an aged domain means that it fared fairly well in the search engine rankings for relevant phrases. In the last couple of days this is the Google Analytics profile for search engine traffic featuring the word “Dulcimer”:-

Okay, not a huge amount, but it’s quite a lot, and these are people that want to find out about the Dulcimer. The Dulcimer does have a website, and it ranks #1 for a lot of it’s feed, but it looks like it hasn’t been touched in ages.

Having a social media presence, be it a Facebook page, a Twitter feed or even just a blog immediately gives you two advantages over people like myself when they blog.

  1. You Can Relate News Exactly As You Want It- With social media, you have busybodies like myself posting & filling in the gaps. That post wouldn’t have been written if there had been official word on the website.
  2. You Can Censor The Discussion - I’m not one for advocating censorship, as everybody is allowed to express an opinion, but think how many hotels have had problems because the Trip Advisor website has been the source of discussion, rather than a guest book or comment book on the site? I’m not saying delete bad criticism (unless it’s unnecessarily offensive), but why not deal with it publicly? People screw up all the time. How you deal with it is crucial. This is far easier to do with a recognised online brand – rather than on a blog post written by one of your customers.

Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to beer & cheeseboards I love The Dulcimer. Most people do, that’s why we would love to know what’s going on.

Not sure how to use twitter or start a blog? Please contact me & I can help!

Effective Description Tags for SEO

Description tags are an interesting element when SEO’ing your site, in that they are one of the most essential elements on your on page SEO. However, for most search engines, they have no effect on your on page SEO.

What Are Description Tags?

Description tags are tags, placed in the header of the HTML page, that looks a little like this:-

<meta name="description" content="This is the description text!">

They describe the content on page and are no bigger than 160 characters in length. Often they are used beneath the search results for the search engines – for example, this is how this website appears in Google:-

A few years ago, it was a hugely important part of SEO, as often keywords were stuffed into the description tags willy nilly. Now, not so much. Though keywords are highlighted when searches are made (this is the search for “Old Trafford”).

What’s the Official Word on How Description Tags Affect SEO?

From Google’s Webmaster Help:-

“While accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won’t impact your ranking within search results. We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL’s content.”

So yes, Google does recommend them, but it doesn’t have an impact in the rankings.

Why You Should Include Them on The Page?

Well Google does suggest that useful description tags can help clickthroughs, as even though your site may rank second in Google, you may get the clickthrough instead of the number one listing.

This can have an effect on your search engine rankings on individual local machines – as the most popular results can appear higher in Google (thanks to local search history) – though it’s doesn’t effect worldwide Google Rankings.

Advice for Good Description Tags

So what should you include in description tags? One thing not to bother with is a list of keywords. What I’d try and include is an elevator pitch (if nothing else). I also try to include the following.

  • Unique Selling Points – Do you offer free delivery? Are your products covered by a guarantee? What makes you different from all the other results on the page? Depending on the client, I try and include such phrases in my meta description such as:-
  • Free Delivery.
  • No Win No Fee.
  • 30 Day Return Policy.
  • Call To Action - The most important thing is a call to action to get you to click on the link, or depending on your website, not getting them to click at all. Stick a phone number there if need be. Either way, you should provide a primer for your domain in the call to action.

Share Your Tips!

This is just my opinion on description tags, and it appears to work. What works for you? Do please share your thoughts in the comments.

4 Blogging & SEO New Years Resolutions You Should Make

Happy MMXI everybody! (I like it as a Roman Numeral this year, don’t you? It sounds like something that can slip so easily into raps or other forms of spoken word entertainment) Of course, with a new year comes resolutions – ways in which we resolutely improve ourselves, before two weeks later tucking into a McDonalds, smoking a cigaratte & drinking enough booze to sink the QE2.

This year though I want you to make these 4 blogging resolutions, they’re a pice of cake to keep. In fact with the exception of one, you’ll probably be done by January the 4th.

  • Trim Fat (from your Blog) - Running a blog over a long period of time can lead to junk being built up in the plugin folder. This can make your blog slow & can leave you open to attacks (though this is rare). Remove plugins you’re not using on your site. Consolidate some of your plugins. For example: replace your SEO & XML Sitemap Plugins with Yoast’s SEO Plugin, replace individual button plugins with Digg Digg.
  • Travel (both online & offline) - In the olden days of blogging, most blogs were personal of nature or had a technological stand. Now there are a number of blogs of everything, with larger niches having loads (here’s the top 100 blogs in the football niche according to the Guardian), and even tiny niches having a few authoritative voices. For the SEO/Web Niche, I’d recommend checking out State of Search, 3ac.co.uk, Holistic Search, Mike’s Life amongst others. Also, one of the best things you can do as an SEOer is meet other SEOers at conferences & offline. It helped my career no end last year. Next year I’m attending SASCon & Think Visibility (both of which are paid), as well as attend a bunch of MancSEOs (which are free). Although conference round ups are posted online, you learn so much more in person!
  • Stop Smoking (and burning yourself out) - One of the hardest things about blogging is keeping going. Unfortunately when people start blogging they think they have to blog every day. This is completely not manageable over the long term unless you have a team of writers. Plus you don’t need to do this unless you have a huge audience. I’d recommend blogging at least once a week though, as well as building an email list to let people know when you update.
  • Stop Drinking (other people’s kool-aid, start doing) – Apologies for the use of the Americanism. Everybody (including myself) has an opionion with the way things work online, but the best thing you can do to begin with is stop reading, and start doing. Sure you can analyse the best way to tweet your latest blog post, or you can actually just tweet it & see what works. Very little online is irrecoverable, and even less is fatal. You can know as much as you can – but as Paddy Moogan posted on his blog – Knowing Everything Doesn’t Mean Shit.

I’m sure you can think up of your own resolutions. Feel free to share them in the comments!