Search Engine Optimization and WordPress: Mark McLaren Speaking at WordCamp Portland 2010

Search Engine Optimization - Speaker WordCamp PortlandLast year’s WordCamp Portland was two full days of WordPress joy, and this year’s is going to be even better. Sure, Matt Mullenweg and Jane Wells were there – two people who are shaping the future of WordPress. And this year not only are they are coming back, but WordPress lead developer Mark Jaquith is coming along, too. So if you have a question or a request related to WordPress, there’s pretty much no doubt you’ll be able to have it addressed right there on the spot.

I will be speaking, as well. The topic is Search Engine Optimization and WordPress. This will not be the same SEO and WordPress presentation I gave at WordCamp Vancouver. The focus will be on keywords and the importance of links for search engine optimization.

Did I mention that WordCamp Portland also features awesome food – and BEER?! How many conferences, un- or otherwise, have you been to that have kegs of killer microbrew at the snack table? Right.

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More Great Home Pages that Drive You to Take Action

Following up on Friday’s post, Search Marketing 101: Home Pages that Drive You to Take Action, here are more home pages that do a great job of telling you what the business does and how to take action.

Birchbox Home Page - McBuzz Search Marketing 101Birchbox

  • Nice slogan: “Delivering Beauty Better”
  • Bullet points to tell you exactly what the slogan means
  • Prominent call to action button: Join Now

Text follows below for those who want more info. And it looks like a new site is on the way, presumably with more about things like membership benefits. Right now these aren’t visible until you click the “Join Now” button. Not everyone will click the button, so this is a bit of a barrier to further exploration. Links to About Us and FAQs are hidden at the bottom of the page.

Note the active voice of the bullets – instead of “Hand-picked samples are delivered to your door…”, for example. Standard graphic design rules say use 3 or 5 bullet points instead of 2 or 4. How about:

  • Get hand-picked samples delivered to your door monthly
  • Discover what you love
  • Buy with confidence

I’m guessing Twitter and Facebook buttons are on the way, too.

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What is Universal Search? How Do I Optimize for Universal Search?

Several readers have asked, What is Universal Search and how do I optimize for it?


Click to enlarge

Universal Search, also called “Blended Search”, refers to the search results offered today by Google and others on their search engine results pages (SERPs) – pages like the one at right. Rather than simply listing links to web pages as they did four or five years ago, SERPs now display results for other media. These can include Image results, News results and Video results.

Optimizing for Universal Search means doing things (ethical things) to get your links to rank highly for a particular keyword.

Let Universal Search guide the way you do search engine optimization:

  • In order to be competitive in Universal Search, you need to have content on multiple web sites, not just your own website, but also YouTube (and other video sites), product sites like Google Base, News sites and others.
  • You need to better optimize the images on all your web properties if you want them to show up in Universal Search results.
  • If you optimize well, you can get more than one result – sometimes 3 or 4 – showing up on page one of Google SERPs.

Upload PDF WordPress - Google Serp
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In the SERP at left, you can see mcbuzz.wordpress.com in positions 1 and 2 for a search on “upload pdf wordpress”, and you can also see an image from a McBuzz video tutorial (bottom right) on the same page. The listing in position 2 and the video image are the essentially the same content. One link is to a blog post with the video embedded in it. The other is to the video itself on YouTube. And, although the video is not at the top of the page, people are more likely to click on the graphical video image than they are on a plain text listing.

This is the beauty of Universal Search: the potential for more listings, and listings with images. Add to this the fact that your competitors are probably not optimizing very well for Universal Search – not yet, anyway – and you see why it’s important to know about it, and to turn that knowledge into action.

In the next post, I’ll talk about how to optimize for Universal Search.

Click here to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz.

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Google Does Not Use Keywords Meta Tag to Rank Web Pages

There has always been some discussion as to whether Google pays any attention to the “keywords” meta tag when ranking web pages. For now, that discussion can be put to rest. Today, Matt Cutts, Google’s page ranking czar (he refers to himself as the head of Google’s Webspam team) put out a video and several blog posts that state conclusively that Google disregards the keywords tag.

At least for Google’s web search results currently (September 2009), the answer is no. Google doesn’t use the “keywords” meta tag in our web search ranking.

He notes that the “description” meta tag is used to determine what a page is about, and it is also used as the short summary that is part of a web page listing when it appears in a Google search results page.

Matt Cutts: Google Does Not Use Keywords Meta Tag

The “description” and “keywords” meta tags usually appear at the top of the HTML for a web page. They are not visible in the web browser unless you select View > Page Source or View > Source.

Keywords Meta Tag vs Description Meta Tag - HTML Code

Google will display the contents of the “description” meta tag as part of the information in a search results page listing when it is useful information for human visitors. If there is no description meta tag or the information is not especially relevant, Google may use information from the visible web page instead.

For the McBuzz.com home page, Google uses the contents of the “description” meta tag in the search results listing. (This is an old search example, but you get the idea. :) )
Description Meta Tag and Search Results Summary

Click here » to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz.

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Search Engine Optimization for Your Blog

If you’re looking for search engine optimization tips for your blog, check out this interview by Shawn Hessinger at PostRanger.com: McBuzz talks Search Engine Optimization for your blog

PostRanger.com provides professional blogging services to market your business or organization on the World Wide Web.

Adding a blog to an existing website is one of the best and least expensive ways to improve the overall search ranking of your web pages! With help from companies like PostRanger.com and McBuzz Communications, you can’t go wrong!

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SEO Snake Oil

Internet pundit John Dvorak recently called Search Engine Optimization “the modern version of snake oil”. Unfortunately, people will listen to what Dvorak says about SEO because he has tons of visibility – notoriety? – on the Web.  Search Engine Watch’s Mark Jackson writes a good rebuttal of Dvorak’s article here: “SEO Snake Oil“.

I (sometimes) find Dvorak’s views refreshing. He is not afraid to speak his mind. But with that kind of authority he should act more responsibly and show some forethought. How about asking for some input from the SEO community?

Among other things, I notice that Dvorak does not understand the difference between “tags” and “metatags”. Tags are a relatively new way of classifying information on the Web. Metatags (or “meta tags”) are part of the HTML <head> section of code in a Web page. Some meta tags are used for search engine optimization. Clearly, Dvorak does not know what he is talking about when it comes to SEO.

Had he talked to a professional like Mark Jackson or Vanessa Fox before spouting off, they would have easily cleared up any misunderstanding.

SEO has a reputation as a kind of dark, mystical art. It’s not that well understood, and there are those who prey on business owner’s ignorance by selling them shoddy SEO services without having to be accountable for poor results. But search optimization is not rocket science. It is mostly common sense stuff that any good SEO practicitioner can explain clearly and understandably – and implement with measurable results.

If you are thinking of hiring an SEO professional, ask them for references and ask to see case studies or records of results they have produced for their clients. And don’t call SEO “snake oil” until you have read a book like “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies” or talked to a professional and looked into it a bit.

To learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz, click here.

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Optimize PDF Files For Websites and Search Engines

Search engine optimization is a cornerstone of web marketing. Just as strides have been made in PDF accessibility for people with disabilities, improvements in Adobe Acrobat Professional and other PDF programs make it easier to optimize PDF files for websites and search engines.

Search engines read and catalog PDF files just like they do standard web pages. Many businesses create a lot of content as PDF files, and they don’t necessarily have time to convert these into HTML for inclusion on a website. Optimizing PDF files for websites (i.e., search engines) is a good compromise and well worth the trouble.

Using Adobe Acrobat Professional, PDF documents can be optimized with many of the same techniques used to optimize web pages.

For details, check out Eleven Tips For Optimizing PDFs For Search Engines on SearchEngineLand.com.

Not all of these tips make sense to someone with limited or no web marketing / development experience. If you have questions, just give me a shout using the Comments and I will answer them ASAP.

OPTIMIZING PDF FILES FOR SEARCH ENGINES IS NOT THE SAME AS OPTIMIZING PDF FILE SIZE
It’s worth noting that some of the most highly ranked web pages you find when you search using keywords like “optimizing pdf files for search engines” are more than two years old and they deal only with optimizing PDF file size.

Where PDFs are concerned, file size has almost nothing to do with search engine optimization. PDF files that have a high number of pages may be less likely to be completely scanned by search engine spiders* because they may have trouble getting through all the pages. So, it’s a good idea to break large PDFs into sections with fewer pages. But reducing PDF file size by compressing images in the file, which is basically what these articles are talking about, is not going to help optimize the PDF for search engines at all.

*A “spider” is web page reading software used by Google and others that “crawls” the World Wide Web, collecting and cataloging information so it can be used to rank a web page’s relevance for a given search.

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Google and John Chow: Rewarding Useful Content, Punishing Link Buying

Google is working hard to deter webmasters and bloggers who use underhanded tactics to improve their site’s rank in Google search results pages. There is an interesting discussion about this on the Pronet Advertising blog: Why We Rank #1 for ‘John Chow’ and Why You Shouldn’t Mess With Google.

Here’s the bottom line, a great quote from Amrit Hallan:

People spend so much time trying to outsmart the search engines. If they spent the same time, and energy, on actually building the quality of their websites or blogs, it’d be a lot more beneficial to them, and to their readers.

This is true because Google is doing a good job determining what “underhanded” means in the context of search engine optimization. John Chow is a successful blogger who has been paying others to create links (“paid links”) from their sites to his blog in order to improve his ranking in Google and other search engines.

Part of the debate hinges on whether Google is right to say that buying links — instead of encouraging other sites to link to a site by creating useful content, fostering relationships with other bloggers & webmasters, etc. — is underhanded or “black hat”.

Google offers a fair amount of explanation for its practices. Read more here: My site’s ranking in Google

And, in particular, check out Why should I report paid links to Google?

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