If you’ve ever run a search on “organic SEO tactics” you’ll know that hundreds of bloggers and SEO specialists cover the SEO topic; enough to make your head spin. With that in mind, I know how busy the faithful VMO readers are. I know that many of you own blogs or manage blogs for your law firms. And, I also know that, generally speaking, you just need (or have time for) the essentials: you don’t have time to sort through a lot of information. So, I’m sharing my “CliffsNotes” version: Basic, but meaningful, tactics that even non-technical bloggers can employ to get the organic exposure their content deserves.
(Note: If you find errors please note your corrections in the comments. If you have a tip to add, please note that too. If you disagree with me, please back up your argument with substance, as I love a good debate )
Part Three of Easy Search Optimization for WordPress (and other Web platforms) includes:
- 1. Links
- 2. Related Posts
- 3. Image/Alt Attributes
- 4. Ping Services
- 5. Sitemaps
1. LINKS (Auto-links and Outbound links)
Getting visitors beyond the landing page of your blog—which impacts your site’s bounce rate and is one more factor that search robots take into account when indexing your site—is not hard if you employ a few simple tweaks.
What do I mean by bounce? A bounce means a visitor lands on your page (URL) via a link and exits from the same URL. If the reader navigates to another page on your site, your bounce rate falls 100%. In the aggregate, a low bounce rate signals to search robots that visitors are consuming more of your content: that your site is highly relevant to the keywords that landed them on the first page they linked into. Or, in truly vulgar terms: if visitors move through your site following the links on specific text strings it is more likely that your blog will become indexed as a popular destination for that search string. (Note to self: People should be paying me to give them such practical, immediately useful advice and here I am giving it away! Ah, but I know they know there’s more to it than that. Of course!)
- Do not forget that the responsibility of a search engine is to the searcher, not the site owner. Their job is to dish up, for the searcher, relevant, popular, and timely content for the string of terms entered into the search bar. They could really care less how your site is ranked—sorry . It is, however, your job, in your best interest, to help the robots accurately index your content–all of it, including that which lives in the archives.
- The web is not called “The WEB” because it is a linear thread. It is a matrix of connected threads—a web—much like the interchange at the Golden Glades in North Miami on I-95. The more your content connects to other URL’s (content addresses) the more it is perceived to be a healthy strand in the web. (Note to anyone not familiar with the Golden Glades: it is an actual interchange on I-95 though for me it is a euphemism for highway hell and a web not even Charlotte could weave in her heyday.)
So, what are auto-links and why should we care?
By adding links within a post to other content on your blog/website you have a better chance of getting readers to move through your content (archives) and avoid the dreaded high-bounce rate. This cross-linking to your own posts and pages is known as auto-linking. It is worth noting that auto-links have a different, though complimentary, purpose than outbound links (links to content on another blog or website).
HOW TO: Simply add a link on keyword strings in your post content to an older, relevant post on your blog. Use the Link wizard in your WYSIWYG editor. (What You See Is What You Get)
TIP: Avoid linking on words like ‘read more’ or ‘click here.’ Why? How often do you think a searcher types into the search bar, ‘read more’ when trying to find something? Think about it. I’ll wait.
Zero, right. And when they do, the results are extremely diverse and useless. Try it sometime.
The other thing you don’t want to do is to auto-link (or outbound link for that matter) to the same content on any one post, even if you’re using two different strings of text for the link. The robots will either ignore one or both, or split the weight of the link—something too technical for this basic intro here—something you want to avoid. (Note: Relax and take a deep breath. None of this is going to make or break your blog. Our goal here is simply to make small tweaks that allow you to leverage the options within your control to gain greater organic exposure for your blog/website.)
TIP: Always add an TITLE tag describing where the link is going to take the reader in the text field below the link you’re adding using the wizard. (If you’re typing in the html directly it’s different, but then why would you do that?) SEE also Outbound Links HOW TO below.
1b. Outbound Links
Don’t over do it. Outbound links take readers to URLs that are not on your blog.
It may be tempting to load up the first paragraph with outbound links to source material you’re quoting or referencing but, this is a time to exercise strategy and discipline. Too many keyword links in the first paragraph, especially if they are the same keywords, may signal that the page is “link-baiting” or “stuffing.” This does not make a robot happy. And you do not want to make them think you are trying trick or manipulate them. Your job is to help them understand, on their terms, what your post/page is about. See also Part I on the goal of organic SEO.
Further, adding too many links on a single post, generally, spreads the weight of the links around and you end up with a bunch of lightweight links. You want to use your outbound links strategically to help search robots understand your content and to index it properly. If you have too many links the robot will stop looking after the first few and ignore the rest of the content–I’m simplifying things here, remember. So, if your links are spread throughout the content and they carry some weight in terms of telling the story theme, you will feel the love. Link judiciously.
That being said, if multiple links are necessary to the understanding of the post or to giving credit to the source, by all means link. Ideally, one or two links per paragraph is really more than enough.
HOW TO: Always add outbound links on descriptive phrases—better yet when those phrases describe the overall theme of the post or mirror the blog post title . So for example, a post that deserves to be indexed on the topic of automobile dealers during the economic downturn might include outbound links such as these: automotive dealers during the economic downturn are saying… or economic woes force automotive dealers during the downturn to employ extreme measures by giving away iPads with every purchase… or something like that. You get the idea: Now is the time to buy a new car!
When you add an outbound link, add a screen tip or title. This is the field just below the URL in the Insert Link wizard that says TITLE, which you’ve probably ignored. Well, dont. Tell the reader (and the robot) where you are taking them. For example, if I use a link to a definition on Wikipedia, I usually note that in the TITLE of the link. While not as important for search robots, it is important for readers, especially those accessing your site via mobile devices. They may or may not want to use up their data allowance to jump over to a Wikpedia definition or to load up a heavy site link, i.e. one that eats a lot of bandwidth. This, I’ve learned the hard way from experience, is especially important if the reader is roaming on an international connection. (That gigantic bill from AT&T was a shocker following my last trip to Mexico!)
You might also want to check off the OPEN IN NEW WINDOW box for outbound links so you’re not sending people away from your blog. A new window will open when the reader clicks the link and the original post will remain open in its own window.
Check for broken links.
Download the FREE WordPress plugin, Broken Link Checker. On your admin dashboard sidebar select Plugins/AddNew. Search broken link checker. Select it (probably will come up first). Click install/activate. Then cruise down to your Settings/Link Checker. Open it up and it will begin to search your blog content for broken links. You can set it to do a check automatically on a schedule you choose. (Note, while checking it does slow down the admin console responsiveness but I haven’t seen any site lag on the public side.)
2. RELATED POSTS
Kind of pain if you don’t have a plugin that handles this (Zemanta might be one you’d like) nonetheless it is beneficial to add one or two RELATED POSTS (especially those found on your site) to the end of each blog post. This will help the robots that are crawling through your site to index your related content or associate it with other popular web content as in the case of Zemanta Related Posts. It is another form of auto-linking and helps readers as well. Especially if they’re not familiar with how to use Categories or Tags to find additional content, or if you’re like me where my Categories and Tags are less than well organized – UGH!
3. IMAGE/ALT TAGS
Adding an image to your post, or anywhere on your site for that matter, including widgets, pages, feature boxes, footers, etc., is a good idea. However, don’t neglect to add a descriptive alternate text tag (Alt Tag or Alt Attribute) to the image. It is worth a few extra minutes of your time.
Practical Pointer 1:
In general, search engines are text based. This means that in order to be crawled and indexed your content needs to be in text format. The Google SEO Starter Guide (link below in Related Links: see I practice what I preach) actually goes as far to recommend that you avoid having a navigation based entirely on drop-down menus (scripts), images, or animations. Although Google can now index text content contained in Flash files, other search engines may not. So give ‘em what they like to eat: Text.
HOW TO: Similar to the alt tag that you’ve added to all your content text links, the image alt attribute is added in a text field in the wizard and describes the contents of an image file. This gives robots useful information about the subject matter of the image. And, not only does this information help determine the best image to return for a user’s search query, for visitors with low-bandwidth connections or visual impairments it provides important information.
Practical Pointer 2:
The image filename can give search robots clues about the subject matter of the image; so try to make your filename a good description of the subject matter of the image.
For example, my-new-dalmatian-puppy.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG or puppy.jpg.
Advanced: If you are adding your image manually using HTML, for example in a widget or elsewhere outside the WYSIWYG editor, here are some things you need to know.
The alt description must be placed between quotations like this:
<img src=”puppy.jpg” alt= “description is placed between quotations”/
A good example would look like this:
<img src=”my-new-dalmatian-puppy.jpg ” alt=”Dalmatian puppy playing fetch”> rather than <img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”puppy”/>
WordPress 3.4 update adds functionality to include basic HTML tags in the Caption Field in the image uploader. I like this because I can add links to a photo credit or licensing details. The new version also supports basic formatting such as bold and italicized text in the image caption.
4. PING SERVICES
Each time you post or edit your WordPress blog a PING notifies a variety of different sites (like Google, Bing, Technorati, StumbleUpon and other aggregators) that you have updated your blog. Some say this is a very important step for best practices.
WordPress makes this easy for you by listing Ping-O-Matic’s server (rpc.pingomatic.com) by default. All you need to do is sit back and let it work for you!
If you do not want the update services to be pinged, you can remove all the update service URIs listed under “Update Services” on the Settings/Writing administration screen of your WordPress blog/site.
That’s really all you need to know…let it PING!
Submit your website URL: If you are just starting out, manually adding your URL to search engines will speed up the crawling.
- Start by adding your site to the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) at www.dmoz.org/add.html
- Then, add and verify your site using Google Webmaster tools.
- If setting up a Google Webmaster account is beyond your level or interest you can simply add your URL to Google here.
- Bing has a similar process here. (Yahoo! Search is powered by Bing.)
- Bing Webmaster Toolbox can be found here.
Now, if you really want to make a difference create a Sitemap for your blog/website.
The best way to help search engines index your site is to create a sitemap. I use the Google XML Sitemaps plugin on my WordPress blogs. This plugin will generate an XML sitemap that will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog. You can even to tell them which pages are the most important.
- Go to Plugins/Search/Google XML Sitemap. Add/Activate then review the settings page, which will show up in your Admin screen sidebar navigation.
- If you’re using Webmaster tools like I do, you’ll want to add a sitemap to your verified site. You can find the sitemap URL in the plugin’s general settings page. Copy it and then paste it into the Add Sitemap section in your Webmaster account.
Advanced Tip: Duplicate URLs are to be avoided for better indexing. Duplicate content can occur if you move your blog to a new URL. If a search robot indexes duplicate URLs it splits the reputation of that content between the URLs. Not a good thing if you’re trying to raise your ranking for that content. So, if you have moved live content to a different URL use a 301 redirect for the non-preferred URL. A redirect will notify the search engine of the change and redirect the user to the preferred location of the content. It’s a bit technical but WordPress has a plugin that can help with that 301. I recommend that if you are not at all inclined to drink copious amounts of adult beverages, practice yoga, or stick needles in your eye, do not attempt this on your own.
See you around the search results! If you, or those you love (the content providers for the blogs you manage), find this post/series helpful or successful I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or send an email to the virtualmarketingofficer.
This concludes the series. Please check your inbox for the invoice.