5 Tips for Better Search Engine Optimization with WordPress

On June 12, I had the great pleasure of presenting at WordCamp Vancouver. Duane Storey and the rest of the organizers did an awesome job. The conference was a big hit. If you get the chance, definitely check it out next year.

My presentation was called “Get Found Easier and Grow Your Business: 5 Tips for Better Search Engine Optimization with WordPress”. Thirty minutes is just about enough time to get through the essentials of SEO for WordPress, although I’m sure it could be a two-hour presentation without too much trouble.

Half of the time does not involve using WordPress! I do a quick overview of what a keyword is, how to pick a good keyword, how to check your initial search ranking, and, after optimizing, how to see if your optimization efforts had any effect!

Understanding keywords is absolutely critical to search optimization, but it’s not often talked about in a way that most people can get. This is going to have to change as more businesses use WordPress and other CMS solutions for websites and then decide that they need to do their own SEO.

The 5 Tips for Better SEO are spelled out in the presentation slide deck below. They are also available in PDF form here (right click and select “Save Target As…” or “Save Link As…” to download).

5 Tips for Better Search Engine Optimization with WordPress (PDF)

At the end of the slides and the PDF, there are links to SEO Plugins, Tools and Resources. If you would like the .pptx file of  the presentation – including the Notes – contact me.

Here are the 5 Tips for Better Search Engine Optimization with WordPress in case you want a quick overview:

Tip #1 : Use keywords in your HTML page title

Tip #2 : Write a page description that makes people want to read more (include keywords)

Tip #3: Customize permalinks

Tip #4 : Use keywords in the visible page

Tip #4 continued: Make content “sticky”, useful, a resource

Tip #5: Links

•Inbound Links are the Number One Search Ranking Factor
(and #2, #3, #5)  according to seomoz.org
•External Links
•Internal Links
•Use keywords in link text
•Use inbound link tools

Comments: 0

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
Click to enlarge

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.

Comments: 0

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.

Comments: 3

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!

Comments: 0

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.

Comments: 2

Blog SEO Tip #1: Put Primary Keyword in Your Post Title

This is the first in a series of McBuzz Blog SEO tips. It includes a short video (below). The post and the video show how to use keywords in your blog so that people can find you in search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN/Live Search. If you only have time to do a few things to optimize blog posts, do these first! (SEO, as you probably know, stands for “search engine optimization”.)

If you are new to this site and would like to learn more about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz Communications, click here.

Before you can put keywords anywhere, you have to decide which ones to use. An essential part of the SEO process is choosing the best keywords. How to do that is a topic I will address in a separate post. For now, let’s think of it like this:

To choose a good keyword, answer two questions:
1. What is my post about?
2. How would someone search for this information? In other words, what would they put in the search box? That’s a keyword.

Here’s the catch: if people aren’t using the same words you use to talk about your products or services, they won’t find you. To some, this may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not obvious, especially not to people who use particular terms to talk about their products or services.

One example: I’m working with a client whose website sells stylish, well-designed baby clothing that acts like a baby bib. She calls it “performance baby wear”. It’s a perfect characterization, because it brands the clothing as high-end so it can be sold at an appropriate price, which is more than one would pay for a standard baby bib. The problem: no one searches for “performance baby wear”. People search for “baby bibs”.

For now, let’s assume you have picked the best keyword, or at least a good one. I’m calling this the “primary” keyword. It’s the topic of your post. Here’s what to do with it.

I’ll use my own post as an example. The title is “Blog SEO Tip #1: Where to Put Keywords”. The keyword here is “blog seo“. I put it at the beginning of my title, and I put it in the first paragraph. And (bonus tip) I used “initial caps” in my title, that is, I captialized the first letter of each word.

Does the keyword have to go at the beginning of your title? No. But it’s a good idea for a number of reasons.

Here’s where the built-in SEO features of blogging software like WordPress come in. WordPress automatically does the following with your post title:
1. It creates the page title (one of the most important places search engines look to see what a web page is about), and
2. It creates the page URL (assuming you have the “permalinks” feature turned on*).
Both of these are vital to good SEO, especially the page title. A keyword is most effective when it’s at the beginning of a page title.

Blog SEO: The Page Title

Blog SEO: The Page URL

Here’s another reason to put the keyword at the beginning of your title: RSS feeds are used more and more to display blog post titles in desktop widgets and on web pages. See titles of recent blog posts at Alltop Social Media for one example. If your post title is long, it may be cut off.

By putting the keyword or keywords at the beginning of the title, you ensure that the main topic of the post will be seen. What if I had titled my post “Here’s something I really want to tell you about blog SEO”. How much would that tell you about the post if you weren’t able to see the word “SEO”! Not much at all, which means fewer clicks.

Same goes for putting the keyword in the first paragraph. By doing so, you make the topic of your post obvious. Lots of feed readers and widgets on computer desktops display previews of blog posts consisting of the title and first paragraph. If you don’t get to the point of your post until the second or third paragraph, no one will see it unless they click to read the whole post. If you want to find new readers, you need to grab their attention when you have the chance.

Start putting your keyword at, or near, the beginning of your blog post titles, and in the first paragraph, today. Your posts are sure to rank higher for your keyword than they would have otherwise.

*Permalinks or “pretty permalinks” are URLs in plain English, as opposed to URLs made of strings of incomprehensible letters, numbers and other characters.
as opposed to
URLs in plain English that contain keywords are better for SEO.

This is my first run at putting a blog post into a video. There’s still plenty of room for improvement! Let me know what you think. (Better recording equipment coming soon – with better screen shots.)

Comments: 13

How to See If a Page or Document on Your Website Has Been Indexed by Google

If you would like to find out if a page or document on your website has been indexed by Google, use the query modifier “site:url” like you would to see how many pages on your site have been indexed (and which ones), but instead of using “site:mcbuzz.com”, for example, use “site:mcbuzz.com/wordpress/what-is-wordpress” or whatever the entire URL or file name is that you want to check.

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

In other words, say I have a PDF on my site called “mcbuzz-wordpress-tutorials.pdf” (which I don’t – this is just an example). I can do a search using Google for “site:mcbuzz.com/pdf/mcbuzz-wordpress-tutorials.pdf” and Google will tell me whether is has this file in its index or not. Remember to use the entire path or URL for the page or document. If you keep your PDFs in a directory on your site called “pdf”, then you need to include that in the URL as shown in this example. (If you have quesitons about this, send me a comment.)

This post follows along the same lines as an earlier one called “Are PDF Files Indexed by Google?” But I also wanted to talk about this topic for a couple of reasons related to Search Engine Optimization and WordPress.

1. In WordPress, it is possible to specify the URL of a page or post — independent of the title you give the page or post — using the “Page Slug” / “Post Slug” feature. If you don’t specify a slug, WordPress will make one automatically using “Permalinks“. I told WordPress to give this post the URL “mcbuzz.com/2008/document-webpage-indexed-by-google”. If I hadn’t done so, WordPress would have called it “mcbuzz.com/2008/how-to-see-if-a-page-or-document-on-your-website-has-been-indexed-by-google”. Shorter is better as long as the relevant keywords are included in a URL, so I made it shorter by tweaking it a bit and removing words I don’t think are as relevant for SEO as the ones I kept.

2. Google is indexing pages and posts very quickly these days, sometimes in under an hour. The post you are reading right now was indexed in less than 7 minutes. If you have a URL indexed by Google, you may not want to change it because if you change it, the link to the page that’s in Google’s index will be broken. Someone might find your page or post by doing a Google search, but when they click on the listing, they will get a “Page not found” error from your site.

So, if you want to use the Page Slug / Post Slug feature in WordPress to customize your URLs, do so before or shortly after you publish a page or post. If you are thinking of changing a URL, you can check to see if your page has already been indexed before you change it.

If it has been indexed, you need to weigh the possible long-term SEO benefit of changing the URL so that it is more likely to show up on page 1 or 2 of Google for your target keywords — because Google will eventually re-index it. But if it has been indexed already and you want people to find it for some searches right away (in the next week or two, say) then you are probably better off leaving well enough alone.

Here’s an update to this post. News flash: That last paragraph applies only to WordPress.com-hosted websites and blogs. If your site is hosted by a third party rather than WordPress.com, and you are comfortable enough with WordPress to be able to download, install and activate a WordPress plugin (or you know someone who can help you do so), then you don’t need to worry about whether a post or page has already been indexed by Google or not. You can use a WordPress plugin called “Redirection” to redirect someone to the new URL when they request your page or post using the old URL.

In other words, say you create a post called My New Post with the URL http://www.example.com/my-new-post/. It gets indexed by Google in 30 minutes or whatever. Then you realize, Oops!, I should have named that post My New Post About WordPress, because it’s about WordPress! And you really should include “wordpress” in the URL to make the URL more search engine friendly, i.e., to let search engines know that the post really is about WordPress. One of the absolute best ways to do that is to put your keyword — in this case “wordpress” — in the URL. So go ahead, rename your post and either create a new post slug yourself or let WordPress do it for you.

Now your new URL can be http://www.example.com/my-new-post-about-wordpress/ (or whatever you want to make it using the Page Slug /Post Slug feature in the editing window). If someone finds your post using Google, and Google is still using the old URL, that person will click on the link and when their web browser asks your host’s server for the page at http://www.example.com/my-new-post/ , the server will know that they really want the page at the new URL http://www.example.com/my-new-post-about-wordpress/ and it will redirect them there. The fact that you changed the post title and the URL will not keep people from being able to find the page. Pretty cool.

Now for this to work, you have to know how to install the Redirection plugin, and how to set it so that it does what you want. And you also have to be using permalinks. (Read more about WordPress permalinks here.) I just installed the plugin on mcbuzz.com, at it’s one of the easier plugins to use. Just follow the directions in the readme.txt file that comes with the plugin. You can set it to create redirections automatically when a post slug changes, or you can do it yourself manually when a post or page slug changes.

Confused? Just send me a comment using the form below.

Comments: 3

Are PDF Files Indexed by Google?

Yes. PDF files are indexed by Google and other search engines.

Following up on a question from a reader (Optimize PDF Files For Websites and Search Engines), as I note there, one way to see if a PDF on your website has been indexed by Google is to copy a long line of text from the PDF, and then put it into the Google search box — with double quotes on either end. You can do this to find any particular document or page available on the Web — as long as it has been indexed (scanned or “spidered” and catalogued) by Google.

For example, if you Google “Enter an estimate of your 2008 nonwage income (such as dividends or interest)” with the double quotes on either end, Google offers you a link to a PDF of IRS Form W-4 for 2008. This shows that the 2008 W-4 PDF document has been indexed. (Incidentally, Google also offers you a link to the mcbuzz.com page you are reading right now since it contains the same string of text.)

Another way to see if a PDF has been indexed by Google is to use the “site:url” query modifier. This is a handy trick when you want to narrow your search to one domain. If I Google [site:mcbuzz.com] – without the brackets, Google lists every page in my site that has been indexed. If I Google [site:mcbuzz.com web] – without the brackets, Google lists every page in my site that contains the word “web”. And, as a helpful reader points out below, you can Google [site:mcbuzz.com filetype:pdf] – without the brackets, to see if there are any PDF files on the mcbuzz.com website that have been indexed by Google. (Be sure not to put a space between “filetype:” and “pdf”.)

I don’t have any PDFs on my site. Try it with another domain to see an actual positive result. To see if a particular PDF on my website has been indexed, I can Google [site:mcbuzz.com “some word or phrase in the PDF”] – without the brackets. Of course, you can also Google [site:mcbuzz.com myfilename.pdf] to do the same.

Returning to the Form W-4 example, Google [site:irs.gov “Enter an estimate of your 2008 nonwage income (such as dividends or interest)”] and Google lists one and only one result: the PDF on the IRS website.

Something fairly amazing: Google knows every phrase in that PDF and in any other document or web page it has indexed. That’s a lot of information.

The other question in the mcbuzz.com post mentioned above was whether a PDF would be indexed if it were encrypted or had other security settings applied to it. If you have Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional, you can answer this question yourself.

Open a PDF and then open the Document Properties dialog box (File > Properties…). Click on the Security tab, and you see the various security options. There are different security options depending on which version of Acrobat Reader you want your PDF to be compatible with. The dialog box tells you if search engines will be able to read all or only some parts of the PDF (e.g. metatags or attachments) when you select the various options. If the PDF can’t be read by search engines, it won’t be indexed.

For those interested, here is more information about Google query modifiers like “site:url”.

Click here » if you would like to find out about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz.

Comments: 8

'markmclaren' in My LinkedIn URL Put It on Page One of Google

Here’s a deceptively simple search engine optimization tip: whenever possible, put the relevant keyword into the URL (web address) of the page you want to optimize.

You may have noticed that on a Google search results page, whenever keywords appear in the URL of a listed page, they are in bold. For example, in a Google search for “mark mclaren”, whenever the words “mark” or “mclaren” are in a URL, they are in bold.

Mark McLaren Search Optimization - Google Search Results

Several Google results for “mark mclaren”. The keyword terms that appear in the page URLs are always shown in bold.

Google looks at a number of things to figure out what a page is about, and the URL is definitely one of them.

I did a little experiment lately to prove the point. My LinkedIn profile has a custom URL — as they all do: you can change your LinkedIn URL from a generic numerical URL to whatever you choose. Mine used to be http://www.linkedin.com/in/mcbuzz and it was nowhere near page one of Google results for “mark mclaren”.

Then I changed it to what it is now: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mcbuzzmarkmclaren and a few weeks later, there it was on page one. To the best of my knowledge, all other factors remained unchanged, so this stands as pretty good evidence of the power of putting keywords into a URL when you want to improve a page’s rank in search results.

If you try this technique with your own LinkedIn URL, be sure to put the new link somewhere where search engines will find it. One good place is in the sidebar of your blog or website using one of the “View My Profile” buttons LinkedIn provides. See an example of a LinkedIn profile button on the McBuzz About This Site page. If you already have one of these, you need to update the URL to match your newly customized one.

Comments: 0

Natural Search Results vs. Paid Search Results – What's the Difference?

Here are examples of “natural” or “organic” search results vs. “paid” search results on Google:

Natural versus paid search results - McBuzz can help you do well in both

The orange boxes indicate paid search results. Google marks these as Sponsored Links. Sponsored Links always appear at the top or on the right side of search results pages. Businesses pay Google to be listed here. These are also called text advertisements, “paid placement” ads or “pay per click” ads.

The green box indicates a natural (also called “organic”) search results listing. Businesses do not pay Google to appear in this spot.

Search for  “adwords consultant seattle” and you’ll find McBuzz Communications at the top of the natural results. This is free advertising. Listings in the top position on the page get many more clicks than the majority of paid placement results, and they certainly get more clicks than the natural listings that are further down on the page.

Yahoo! and MSN.com search results pages have a similar format — with both paid and natural search listings.

Google Indexes Pages Much More Frequently Than Before
Here’s an interesting sidebar. I created the post you are reading right now at 10:16 AM today, October 23. Looking at the Google search results page just now (at 10:30 PM the same day), I see that this post has already been indexed by Google, meaning that it shows up on page one (in the number 10 spot at the bottom of the page) for the same keyword.

Why is this important? Because it shows just how quickly new content on your website can affect its performance in search results.

Natural vs Paid SERP Postion and Frequent Indexing by Google

The post you are reading right now was indexed by Google and listed on page one of serch results for “seattle marketing communications” the same day it was created! What does this tell us? When you apply basic search engine optimization techniques — including making frequent updates to your site with keyword-rich headlines, bullet points and text — you can see immediate results and bring in more customers.

You may recall the days when you had to wait three to four weeks, sometimes longer, for updates to your website to show up in search engine results pages. If you optimized your site, it might take at least that long to find out if what you did worked or not.

As this example shows, those days are long gone — provided you are doing the right things with your website. And that’s a significant qualification. What are the right things? Exactly what we talk about on mcbuzz.com, like following our Web Marketing Tips — and the fact that you should use content managment or “blogging” software like WordPress to build and maintain your site rather than old-fashioned, “static” format HTML. (The latter includes sites created with do-it-yourself, “site builder” tools you find on GoDaddy.com, Network Solutions and Yahoo! web hosting.)

Let me know what you think!

McBuzz Web Marketing Tips
#1: Use “site:url” to Find Out If Your Website Is Indexed by Google

#2: Use XML Sitemap Generator to Get All Your Website’s Pages Indexed by Google

#3: Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

#4: Use Keywords in Web Page Titles

Comments: 0