Write Up On The Yoast WordPress SEO Talk From Sascon

I wasn’t planning writing this post – but advice from the Problogger.com forum convinced me to!

Last week I headed to Sascon to meet like minded social and SEO peeps, learn a lot and drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol. One of the more anticipated talks by myself was the WordPress SEO talk late on the Friday. The talk was taken by Yoast, who’s known in the WordPress community for designing loads of plugins, but is also an accomplished SEO, with a lot of strong clients. He uploaded his presentation onto his website (bottom one), but here are the key takeaways from the talk.

Key Takeaways

Site Structure

  • WordPress sites should be structured like a pyramid. Having the home page at the top and individual posts at the bottom.
  • One of the best ways to create structure is using custom taxonomies. These are custom group types that you can structure in different ways.
  • Further structure can be created with breadcrumbs. These are links on the top of blogs that help create site structure. You can create these using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.
  • One problem often experienced with blogs is duplicate content, often caused by inproper categorisation and tagging. Realistically you shouldn’t have tags and categories the same (have 10 at most main categories, and infinite tags). And the structure should be the post-name or category/post-name.
  • There are no such thing as an “SEO Friendly” theme. Genesis comes close, but themes should be structured (outside of the CSS) with the content at the top, related naviagtion next, then main navigation and finally meta information (such as privacy policy) at the bottom.

Site Performance

Speed of the site is a ranking factor, plus it’s always handy having shaving speed off your site’s loading time. Here’s what Yoast’s recommended.

  • First of all carry out analysis using Google Page Speed Online.
  • You should have a W3 Total Cache plugin installed as it’s what Yoast considers to be the best. It is tricky to set up though. I use WP Super Cache which is a lot easier to set up.
  • Use Google Libraries. This uses Google servers to call things like jQuery, rather than your own (their servers are faster than yours).
  • Using WP Smush.it to drop the file size of all images you upload.
  • Use Pingdom to test the load speed of the website.
  • If you have a background image on your blog, change it to a CSS Sprite using SpriteMe.

This was the main crux of the talk, and it was very fascinating, with some real takeaways for optimising wordpress. The rest of the conference was great too, and well worth attending if you get the chance!

Winwar Exclusive: Patent for Google SERPS Dartboard Uncovered?

In a huge coup for this here blog, we have uncovered a brand new way to rank websites within the top 20. As we all know, being in the top 20 results in Google sees you get quite a bit of traffic, so it’s within your best interest to practice this technique.

Basically, the US Patent Office has filed a patent – number A11F001 from Google for “The SERPS Dartboard”. Quite simply, it’s a wifi connected dartboard with a direct link to Google’s HQ. It was leaked to me by a former girlfriend of mine (hi April!) who now works for the patent office. As well as the document which I’ll detail the best bits below, she leaked this concept sketch.

How Does It Work?

Detailed in the document, this is the process.

  1. You first type in your chosen keyword, and URL and then hit enter. If you are in the top 50 search results, you’re encouraged to go to the next stage.
  2. You are then encouraged to register your details. This is to stop competitors from throwing on your behalf. This is easy to do as it links to your Google Analytics or Adwords account. Failing that, a simple meta tag placed on the home page of your site will do the job similarly.
  3. You then stand 2.37m away from the dartboard (known as the GoogleOche™) and throw the GoogleDart™ at the dartboard.
  4. You get one shot at this, so be careful! Throwing the dart will land you in that position on the SERPS, so if you throw 1, you automatically move upto first. If you throw treble 1, three people in the world will have to throw 1 before you’re knocked off the top. Similar to how you play Killer Darts really.
  5. The half-bullseye puts you in 25th and the full bullseye puts you in 50th.

What is to Stop Me from placing the dart in treble 1?

The dartboard is pressure sensitive, which means that it can detect the speed and momentum of the dart when it hits the dartboard. Quite frankly, it won’t work. Also you’ll have to make sure you hang the dartboard at the correct height and stand on the GoogleOche™ when throwing darts.

If One Lands On Your Doorstep, How Can I Dominate the SERPS for Rankings, Profit and Speedboats?

I’m unsure now, I’ve taken a day off work to go to the pub to practice my arrows. It is understood that Phil “The Power” Taylor has quit the PDC now to form a SEO Outsourcing Firm.

If you work for an SEO firm, I’d encourage you all to prepare by buying a dartboard for your office restroom. If you do, please remember to hang it so that the number one is at the top.

When Will It Ship?

Again, according to the document, it’ll ship tomorrow to in-house SEO teams with more than $10000 USD/month Google Adwords spend, and then Monday to recognised SEO’s located on the TopSEO’s list.

Later today, there’ll be an announcement from Google’s new Webspam Team Member: Mr. Tony Green.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this shocking development from Google. Is SEO dead? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Using tag_description() in WordPress To Create Unique Tag Pages

Something I’ve been testing on You’re Supposed To Be At Home is WordPress’  internal tag function. Tags are largely unused on blogs nowadays, and with good reason – tag pages create duplicate content. Often people just block them from search engines, but instead of blocking them, you can turn your tag pages into marvellous search engine friendly pages with rich content.

To do this, you need to make a few changes to your template. Open up tag.php and begin editing!

Switch Posts To Exerpts

Double check your site & see if there is a line that looks like the following:-


 <?php the_content(); ?>

Replace this with the following:-


 <?php the_excerpt(); ?>

Most templates do have the_excerpt() function, but double check it!

Add tag_description() above the Post Loop

Within the template, above the WordPress Loop, add the following:-


<?php 						if (tag_description() != "")

						{

						echo tag_description();

						} ?>

This will add on a paragraph or two onto the top of the post if there is anything located in the tag_description(). You add things via the “Post Tags” in WordPress’ Admin section.

Do I Have To Add A Tag Description for Every Tag?

No, only your most popular pages. They make great “sneeze pages”. Landing pages that get people looking at a selection of your posts. In the Tag Description, link to a range of your best posts related to that tag.

Thoughts?

Do you use tag descriptions? Say so in the comments!

What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker?

In the past few weeks I’ve been testing a bunch of software packages for rank checking. It’s a cornerstone of an SEO’s arsenal of tools, and there’s a number of them out there.

But which is the best? After all, whilst it isn’t the most important metric for an SEO campaign, it is one of the most important and one that many SEO workers are judged on. Knowing the ranking of sites as well can help you spot new opportunities. I decided to test a few of the most popular – SEOBook’s Rank Checker, Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker, SEOMoz‘s Rank Checking Tool & Advanced Web Ranking.

A Small Section of the Spreadsheet

To test this – I tested over 300 keywords over a number of sites, comparing with their original manual ranking.

Test Data

  • I have tested this data on 360 of keywords split over 22 sites.
  • This data was collated over two days. Although each ranking is checked on the same day (so for example “Keyword 1″ was tested using the four packages on the same day). If any other keyword ranking tools are added at a later date, I’ll do a manual check, followed by testing the tool.
  • The results will be split into two fields. The first is the pencentage accuracy of the reported rank compared to the actual rank checked (which was checked on Google UK straight after with personalised web search disabled). The second test was on average how close was the ranking to the actual ranking.
  • The test was done on Google UK for UK keywords.
  • The results tested the top 100 rankings. If the keyword is reported to be missing from the top 100 placing it will be marked as 101.
  • I also checked the time it took to do the check on a standard broadband connection. Two of the tools (Rank Tracker & Advanced Web Ranking) do note the time taken to generate the report. Of those tools that don’t give a timescale I used a stopwatch. Not horrendously accurate but it does give an indication.

Results

Accuracy of Rank Reported 95% 88% 86% 96%
Average Difference Between Rank Check & Actual Result 0.20 6.15 1.77 0.19
Time Taken to Check 10 Keywords 0:02 1:08 5:17 0:33
Price $99.75 / $249.75
(Year)
Free $99-$599
(Year)
$99 – $2000 (Month)
Free Trial Feature Limited N/A 30 Days 30 Days
System Windows, Mac & Linux Firefox Based Windows, Mac & Liniux Web Based
Website Link Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here

Explanation For Inaccuracies

One thing I noticed throughout the report was the innacuracies of 1 or 2 on page 1 rankings. After doing a bit of research, I found out why. Imagine if I was the SEO for allwwewrestlers.com & wanted to check my rankings for “Hacksaw Jim Duggan”.

As you can see, although we have the Image & Videos in the search results, the natural search rankings are showing up as second. These image/videos/places/shopping etc. result change all the time, so I can imagine that SEOMoz probably spends time & the resources including them in the rank checking algorithm, whilst Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker doesn’t. Please don’t hold me to this, as I don’t know.

Other Thoughts

  • SEOMoz‘s tool was the most accurate tool.
  • Easily the fastest at doing the searches was Rank Tracker.
  • Advanced Web Ranking did only check the top 50 rankings by default. I’m pretty sure you can test more but I can only found out how to set it by the top 50 rankings. With that said, it’s by far the slowest check so you may want to leave it at 50 checks.
  • Rank Tracker can only test upto 60 keywords in a project. There can be inaccuracies at times when you check a number of rankings over a period of time.
  • Rank Tracker can only check one domain at a time.
  • SEO Book’s Rank Checker is the least secure, as you cannot backup your data generated (bar a CSV spreadsheet).

Conclusion

In paying for SEOMoz just for the Rank Checker it’s like paying for a Manchester United season ticket just for the Wolverhampton Wanderers game. In the $99.95/month you get a lot of other tools to help you market your site. If you’re serious on SEO, then it’s the best package.

For everybody else, I did prefer Rank Tracker. It was quick and easy to check rankings, accurate and reasonably priced. It struggles when you run a lot of checks, and useless if you want to compare rankings accross multiple domains. Update: Rank Tracker has seemingly been having problems recently. I’ve had misreported rankings. As a result, I can’t really recommend Rank Tracker at the moment.

Advanced Web Ranking is great as a comparison tool. By default, it only handles the top 50 results but this can be increased, but if you want to compare keyword rankings over times across multiple domains, it’s probably the best. However, it is very slow.

Where To Get Each Rank Checking Tool

For each of the products on here, you can get them from the following places.

Comments?

Comments will be permantly open on this entry, please leave your thoughts on any of these tools below.

Have Your Own Rank Checking Tool?

If you have your own rank checking tool, please contact me. I’d happily run a few tests & add it to the list above!

61 Things To Take Away From Think Visibility March 2011

Think Visibility’s March 2011 was a great way to spend my 27th Birthday. Full of like minded individuals, copious amounts of beer and general learning and merriment. Thinkvis (as the cool kids call it) is a one day conference full of interesting presentations and discussion.

Rather than writing a long blog posts (as I’ve stared at my notes and thought “eh?”), I’ve gone through them and come up with a list of 61 things that you should takeaway from Think Visibility. I’ve bolded things which I like:-

Peter Cooper (@PeterC) – Self Promotion For Geeks

  1. Thought Leaders are people who are successful & do things now. Examples include Tim Ferriss, Gary Veynerchuk & Justin Biebler. Each of these were successful in a niche before obtaining mainstream success.
  2. Often people come up with ideas, very few people act on them. All the advice to be successful is out there and usually free, you just need to act on it.
  3. Don’t be like Susan Boyle – she should’ve been more successful earlier on in her life.
  4. Recognise Blocks in strategy and kick them in the arse.
  5. A great strategy to beat blocks is by giving them names. By naming something you name the problem and can easily find the best way to beat it.
  6. 70% of people suffer with some level of Imposter Syndrome – they are the ones that slipped through the net and don’t feel like they belong.
  7. Keep pushing tools and products out.
  8. If the lion doesn’t tell his story, the hunter will.

Stephen Pavlovic (@conversionfac) – Using Brainwashing, Psychology & Cults to Boost your Conversion Rate

  1. Conversion Rate Optimisation isn’t just changing buttons – making big changes to the website and measuring success.
  2. You’ve two hemispheres of the brain – left is logical and analytical, right is creative and linked with unconscious.
  3. New information is checked by the left hemisphere against existing beliefs. To be successful you have to change people’s beliefs and assumptions.
  4. It’s nothing new – Jesus for example used pyschology to convert people.
  5. Yes that last statement may be a bit controversial!
  6. Use letter spam for a great example of something that has been optimised for maximum conversions. Learn from it.
  7. People do want to win. Examples include Take Me Out (women can win a date, even if they don’t like the date) and eBay (items can go for more expensive than on Amazon). Create scarcity to get people to convert.
  8. Read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasionby Robert Ciadini.
  9. Create Authority – Use titles/social status as well as names with testimonials.
  10. Social Proof – A lot of “unauthoritative” people that like a particular product can help drive up conversions.
  11. Create a Cult – People want to be part of a cult and will do anything, such as buy products, to remain in it (a great example will be Apple).
  12. Use your organic search data to create reports to incentivise people to subscribe.
  13. A/B Test whether forcing people to give an email address or a reciprocation request works well.
  14. Don’t force people to sign up during the checkout process as it’s stressful and you could lose sales.
  15. Customer feedback is great at seeing where you’ve gone wrong.
  16. The only conversion rate you should be happy about is 100%.

Paul Madden (@pauldavidmadden) – Adventures in Outsourcing

  1. Paul’s favourite tools for outsourcing include oDesk, Elance and V Worker for Coding and Admin, Code My Concept for Design, Free Agent for Business Admin. Crowd Flower and Fiverr for humans and fun stuff, and 80 Legs for Crawling. Of them, oDesk is Paul’s favourite.
  2. English of 5 out of 5 rating is required for oDesk and a feedback score of 4.5 to 5.
  3. The oDesk tests aren’t really worth the time of day. Paul did the WordPress test after a night out and scored a pass mark!
  4. Providers that are affiliated with larger companies are a lot easier when undertaking outsourcing. You don’t want to rely on just one person.
  5. Get your outsourcer to sign an NDA. You’ll rarely act on these but it makes them think and you get a good idea on how a future relationship could go with them.
  6. Don’t interview individuals, instead give them a small paid task which you can see how they work.
  7. Spell everything out when you write emails. That way you don’t get their interpretation for a task, rather you get your interpretation of a task.
  8. Set outsourcers an hourly limit as your budget.
  9. oDesk has an iPhone app to track projects, but also track them in other ways (Paul uses Basecamp).
  10. Outsourcing isn’t exploiting – at least in Paul’s case. Companies he works with are well set up.
  11. Generally speaking: India and Pakistan have the best general coders at around $9/hour, whereas specialist coders are around $20/hour and are better to get from the UK, USA and Canada.
  12. Design and content should be outsourced to the UK only, nuances and other are best explained and understood by the same or similar cultures.

Twitchiker (@paul_a_smith) – Sharing Not Selling

Bit of a light hearted relief this talk, but with some great takeaways:-

  1. There is no bar in Barcelona that Christopher Columbus last drunk in before going to the new world. Well, there probably is, but the one that claims it is, it isn’t.
  2. You’ve got to be the guy that does things, as they are the ones that get the press coverage and people talking.
  3. Connections are great. You may think you’re a hub but in truth you may be on the side of the conversation, rather than the middle. This isn’t a bad thing, as it can be helpful when you need a bed for the night, for example.
  4. Engage with users on twitter, don’t sell to them straight away.
  5. Twitter isn’t the same that it was a couple of years ago. To attempt something like Twitchhiker nowadays will be a lot harder.

Gary Taylor  (@garyptaylor) – One Domain, One Hundred Days, One Result

  1. Gary’s favourite places to buy domains include Sedo, Acorn Domains, Your Main Domain, Deal A Site, Sitepoint Market and the A4U Forum.
  2. The most important thing when picking a niche is by having an interest in it. When you begin you’re doing it as a 5-9 job, so by having a niche you’re interested in you save money and it feels less like a chore.
  3. It may be better to buy a website rather than start from scratch. May be worthwhile exploring this option with clients.
  4. You should look for a domain also that has product availability, rankings, traffic, potential to grow.
  5. To really grow revenue, you should stay away from Adsense and Amazon affiliates.
  6. Gary doesn’t think that the domain exact match bubble will burst. It was introduced by Google to give a weighting for branded domains, but what’s to say that a brand or a word (for example – Apple).
  7. Put a price on your time if you want to profit.

Dave Naylor (@davenaylor) – Dave’s Den

  1. Dave uses the following tools for website analysis – Xenu, Screaming Frog, Microsoft IIS SEO Toolkit, My Playground Tool and Majestic SEO.
  2. Don’t include a lot of links in the home page.
  3. Footer links shouldn’t appear to be keyword spammy links – try to include keyword rich links in the content.
  4. No page should appear to be a thin affiliate page. Content can be sourced dirt cheap now so you can throw together pages that are lacking content.
  5. Title tags shouldn’t include “Keyword | Keyword | Keyword”. They lose clickthroughs as they confuse people.
  6. Get your mother to read through your site and your search engine snippets. If she’s confused with them, then rewrite your copy.
  7. Using CSS Image Replacement you can have textual links and more dynamic image links.
  8. There’s no point nofollowing internal links. If you don’t want it followed, don’t link to it.
  9. Make sharing items easy with large icons.
  10. Keeping other items on your site (such as Javascripts, CSS, etc) on subdomains (such as cdn.domain.com) helps improve the speed of the site.
  11. At least show some of large content (such as PDF’s) – for usability purposes mainly.
  12. Internal links should be changed to new pages.
  13. And finally – Infographics for the sake of infographics are pointless!

On A Personal Note

I was lucky to win the first even Jaamit Award at the event. I’ve shared my thoughts already on what it meant to me winning it on my personal blog, but once again – thank you!

I’m Off To Think Visibility This Weekend

This weekend, as the title exlaims, I’m off to Think Visibility!

I went for the last one in September and had an amazing time – meeting a lot of amazing people, learning a lot (which I shared on my old blog) and most importantly had an amazing time. Although I was talking about going to Wrestlemania XVIII, instead Thinkvis won (don’t worry! I’ve not forsaken wrestling, going to Monday Night Raw in Richmond Virginia on my travels later this year).

I’m not sure who I’m going to see (there are some amazing speakers, and a few clashes). I may also live blog it as well, it’s my birthday the day before and depending on how much I drink/how many birthday beats I get, that may go out of the window. I’m learning to write quickly at least.

Would love to see you there if you’re going! If you’re not, follow up on the #thinkvis hashtag on Twitter.

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!