Mark Interview Shane – WordPress SEO and 23 SEO Tips (Part Two)
Shane: The next tip that I have is if you don’t use Thesis, Genesis, or some other premium theme that has built-in SEO, at least install a plugin specifically for SEO. The one that I’ve used is All-in-One SEO. It has a lot of the basic features that you would need as far as customizing your page titles, your descriptions, and everything else for SEO. So at least get a plugin that handles SEO if you’re not doing a premium theme that has it built-in.
Mark: I like All-in-One SEO, I used that for years as well. Again, this Yoast SEO plugin, which I think WordPress has now bought that from Yoast. I’m not sure what all the details are around that, but that is also another alternative.
I completely agree with you. There are a lot of things in these themes that aren’t handled well, especially if you don’t have something like Thesis or Genesis where this already built-in backend, you need All-in-One SEO to get that all straightened out.
Shane: There are a lot of things that WordPress didn’t do before, but as these plugins come out and get popular they start rolling it into their default builds.
The next tip is a good example of that, making sure your URLs are canonical. If you have a non-www version of your URLs make sure they redirect to the www version. The newer versions of WordPress do this automatically. But, you need to at least make sure that you’re showing one canonical URL for your website.
Mark: Wait minute now. You used the C word, we call that the C word in internet marketing. In other context the C word is something else, but in internet marketing it’s canonicalization.
Can you spend a minute for the new people here that are listening to the podcast and talk about why it’s important to have canonical URLs and what that means in terms of duplicate content and so forth?
Shane: Absolutely. It was hard for me to wrap my brain around when I first heard about it, too.
We’ll use a homepage for example. If you have a www.whatever.com and you also have http://whatever.com and you have whatever.com/index.html – if all of those are displaying the same thing and they are all loading as web pages instead of redirecting to one or the other, Google and other search engines are going to see those as separate pages.
So if you have a non-www version, a www version, one has a tailing slash, one has a slash plus index.whatever, Google is going to say “These are four duplicate pages.” All of a sudden they’re not going to know which one is the one that they should rank and they’re going divide authority among those.
Putting in the redirects to go to what we call canonicalization, the canonical URL, it’s telling the search engines that the www.whatever.com is the URL and all of these others are going to redirect to that version of the URL.
The new versions of WordPress do this automatically, but everybody needs to make sure. Just go to your website. If you’re normally using www and if all of your backlinks say www, just type in the non-www version and see if it loads. If it redirects to the www you’re probably fine. It’s just something to be aware of.
Mark: The bottom line is if you present two of the same page with two URLs, Google will split the backlinks between those two pages. I know we may get to some backlinking topics later, but you want one URL to rule them all for each page.
Shane: Exactly. Number eight, I would say optimize your title tags. They should have keywords in them, but I’m not talking spammy keywords. They should have your keywords woven into them. Make your titles interesting, because your title is what appears in search engines. The name of your website should only be used if branding is important.
People are going to act on those keywords and click on the search result on the keywords, rather than the brand, especially if they don’t know your brand. If your brand is not important, put the keywords in there and make the title interesting.
It’s important to have your keywords in there, not make it spammy. I think a lot of people say don’t make the keyword three words or whatever. People skim through search results quickly and if they’re having to read a long title tag they may or may not click it, so make sure that your most interesting words are those first three or four words.
Mark: It turns out that the title tag of the 200 things that Google weighs in their search engine algorithm, the title tag is near the top of the list. Right?
Shane: Yes. Speaking of title tags, tip number nine is making sure you put the tags in. There are a couple of tags you can put in your header for noodp and noydir tags.
The noodp basically says “no Open Directory Project.” If you have site that’s listed in the Open Directory Project and it has a title in there a lot of times search engines will take that title from that directory and use that in your search results rather than the page titles that you’ve specified on your website.
The noydir is saying “no Yahoo Directory.” If by chance you are listed in the Yahoo Directory, woo-hoo for you because that’s awesome. If you have a site lucky enough to be in the Yahoo Directory, and that’s a whole other story.
Mark: I was going to say there’s another podcast on how to get into the Yahoo Directory.
Shane: And it gets harder and harder the smaller their company gets, so if you’re in there you’re doing great.
These two tags, and you can probably put them in the show notes because I don’t want to say open bracket and whatever, that’s going to confuse the snot out of everybody. Make sure those two tags are in there so that the search engines are using the title tags, hopefully, that you are specifying in your customized SEO plugin or your framework.
Mark: We’ll put those tags in. I know exactly what you’re talking about, so we’ll add those in.
Shane: Some of the frameworks, like Genesis, have this built in. They have a little radio button that says “make it noodp, make it noydir,” and you just click that little radio button and you’re done. That’s another reason to get a premium framework, because it does all the hard work for you.
Mark: And if you don’t know what ODP and YDIR is you probably don’t have to have this tag.
Shane: Probably right. Number 10 I would say make your meta descriptions informative but actionable. So when people are skimming the search engine results if the description has the keywords that’s great, but is it something that people want to click on?
I like to think of if you’re looking at a book in a bookstore and the cover peaks your interest and you flip it over and you look at the description and it makes you decide if you’re going to buy it or not, it’s the same way with looking at descriptions of search results. The title grabs your attention, but the description really sells it.
There are two parts to this. Make sure that it makes them want to click, but make sure your landing page delivers upon the promise of what your description said. A lot of times people will just throw whatever into the description to get people to click, but if the landing page does not sell them on that and give them what they’re looking for they’re going to hit that back button.
What search engines do is they record the length of time it takes for someone to get from a search result to a webpage and back to the search results. If they’re seeing that somebody is clicking on a search result, looking at the page and a couple seconds later coming back to the search results, they’re going to see that page as not valuable for that search term.
So make sure that your descriptions have the keywords but your page is absolutely delivering on the promise that you’re putting in your description.
Mark: I call this market to message match. I think the point that you’re making, which is exactly right, is that the key thing for this description is to get the click. It’s one thing to get on that Google page, but now you’ve got to get the user to click on your link. The way that you do that is you pay careful attention to your description and how it’s worded.
Google has recently said they don’t really said they don’t really use that description tag in the SEO ranking process itself now, but it is absolutely critical for getting people to click and getting people to stay on your site.
Shane: Yes, absolutely. Moving on. I use meta keywords. A lot of people don’t use them, they say that search engines don’t use them anymore. I do it just because why not. I’m throwing in some keywords, it’s in the source of the web page and if search uses it then it uses it and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t.
It doesn’t take me but a couple seconds to throw in some keywords. I’m not saying I throw in 50 keywords. I may just throw in five of my top keywords of what that article or page is about. So use meta keywords.
Mark: I use them too. I don’t buy that argument. The one argument I hear against it is you shouldn’t use them because it broadcasts to your competition what keywords you’re targeting.
Mark: My pages are so optimized around targeted keywords that it would be obvious to any SEO what keywords I’m targeting. It’s not like they’re secret. So that make no sense to me.
There are these other search engines out there that are reportedly looking at that. There are new search engines every day and they have some market share, so why not go after those?
Shane: Absolutely. Use what you’ve got. It’s available in your source code, so use it.
Mark: That’s right.
Shane: Number 12, I’ve got change the permalink structure in WordPress from the default. A permalink is the URL structure that WordPress deems for any page or post that you create on the website. It defaults to a date format, so it will have your domain name /year/month/whatever, the article name or whatever.
What I do personally is /%category%/%postname%/, but a lot of people suggest doing just the post name. I use the category and post name just because the category is typically part of my keywords, it’s a very topical keyword that I have for whatever that post is under.
It’s just a preference. Whatever industry niche you’re in, whatever you’re going for, whether you want to use something like category and post name or just the post name.
Mark: I use /%category%/%postname%/ and I do it for keywords as well. The only time that I’ve ever regretted that is when I wanted to go back and remap my categories for my website. That makes that kind of a 301 nightmare. But, I still recommend use of categories.
You said the default was date, but I installed a brand new installation of WordPress and the default was the query string, ?p=42 kind of. In my particular installation that may be a cPanel thing.
Whatever the default is, it’s not good. You definitely need to get the post name into the URL and be optimizing the keywords around that slug, which I’m sure is in one of these tips coming up.
Shane: You brought up a great point too. I don’t want to move on without pointing something out that you talked about just then. If you have an existing website set up and you go in and change these permalinks to what we just suggested, make sure that your old permalinks are 301 to the new ones.
I don’t know if the new version of WordPress does this automatically, but there are some plugins out there that can handle redirection of the old permalink structure to the new one. Definitely make sure that if you change your permalinks that your old permalinks are redirecting properly.
Mark: I think the plugin that I’ve used for that in the past is called either Redirect or Redirection, it’s a really good one so I’ll try to put that in the show notes as well. So if you have that problem there is a work-around. But, it’s best to start off with the right permalink structure if you can.
One reason you don’t want to do that, which a lot of people don’t realize, is if you have a lot of 404 errors on your site Google will weigh that in the search engine rankings. It has long been reported that 404 errors will count against you. They certainly show up in the Webmaster Tools as something that you need to go fix.
Shane: Definitely. We’re on 13.
Mark: Lucky number 13.
Shane: My wife’s birthday is on the 13th, so it’s lucky around here.
Mark: That sounds good to me.
Shane: H1 tags, a lot of people don’t utilize these or they utilize them improperly. The H1 tag should be the site name on the homepage only. When you get into the posts and pages make sure that your H1 tag is the title of the post or the title of the page. Make sure that you’re using the H1 tag properly throughout the site.
Mark: We should say that within HTML, which is the secret website language that web pages are rendered in, it’s what your browser reads behind the scenes when it shows the page, H1 stands for Header 1.
It is the header for the page and it is kind of the thing that comes in the hierarchy underneath the title tag. You would probably agree that there should only be one of those per page and every page should have one.
Mark: My question for you is I see where the homepage uses instead of a text title for the homepage the title is in the banner and it’s graphical. What do you, how do you get an H1 tag in there if you’ve got a graphical header? Where do you put this thing? Have you run across that, do you know what I’m talking about?
Shane: Yes. There’s a few different ways around it. A lot of people that make it a background image as far as what the logo looks like they’ll actually put the site title in text.
I’ve seen this go back and forth as far as the arguments around it and using CSS to display none. Some people say search engines don’t like that. Or making it shift margin 900 negative to the left so it doesn’t even appear on the screen.
There’s a few different ways around it. Again, this goes back to the premium frameworks. If you get a premium framework such as Genesis (I know Genesis does this automatically) it alters the code so that you can use an image for your logo, but it actually has the text in there as an H1. So that’s another reason to get a premium framework.
Mark: Right. That’s a good answer. Spend money to fix it.
Shane: Don’t play around and guess. Trust the people that are doing it and getting paid to do it.
Mark: That is one of the most common mistakes that I see in hand coded or non-premium themes is that they won’t have the blog post title in an H1 tag. They’ll use H2 tags for the blog post title. That’s a huge mistake and it can have a big impact on SEO.
Shane: Yes, definitely. Next is H2 tags. Make sure that if you use H2 tags make sure they’re subheadings within posts or whatnot. I usually don’t put them on the sidebar or anything. A lot of the frameworks will stick H2 tags over on the sidebar and a lot of times that doesn’t do your SEO any good.
Make the H2s keyword rich, make it something that is about the post or website. Don’t just stick it over to the side where it’s like “resources” or whatever. The H2 that says “resources,” or “other links,” or “partners” or something, doesn’t do the website or you any good. Use them for your subheadings within posts or pages.
Mark: That’s good advice. I agree, especially the part about the sidebar. You’ve really got to watch these plugins and stuff that add stuff in your sidebar and are throwing around H2 tags. I completely agree.
Actually, I noindex the page, but I nofollow the links that are pointing to it throughout the site. You don’t’ have to worry about Google giving any kind of authority to those pages and taking away link juice, as some people call it. Just as a standard practice of mine I nofollow those types of links that I don’t care about ranking.
Mark: Very good. How are you accomplishing noindexing those pages? Is that also part of the Genesis framework, can you just select that or do you have to do something special?
Shane: A lot of things go back to the premium framework. There are ways to do it manually, but again premium frameworks do it automatically. If you create a page there’s a little checkbox that says noindex or nofollow. You just click that checkbox, click save, and you’re done. Just another reason to get a premium framework.
Number 16, using images. I use images throughout the website. Name the images; the filename of the images should have your keywords. Again, don’t spam it. If the keyword is not related to the image don’t use it.
Google, whether they can see it or not, it’s not good practices, it’s not useful to Google, and probably going to get caught. So it’s not something worth taking a risk over just spamming your keywords in filenames.
But, where possible use keywords in filenames. Use alt tags with the images. If the image links to something make sure you have a title tag in the link that has the keywords in it. This helps with SEO, it also helps Google, Yahoo, or Bing see what the image is about, what’s it’s linking to, and it helps you with SEO.
Don’t be spammy with it, be relevant with it.
Mark: It’s easy enough to do, because WordPress has this all built-in. If you insert the image with the WordPress media tool and you click on the options, when you hover over the picture you get the little box that lets you get all the image options up. The title, the alt tag, the description, and everything is available for you right there. There’s no reason not to use it.
The only thing that you can’t do easily from there is name the file. You kind of need to think about that ahead of time. Everything else is easy to do.
Shane: Next is number 17. Speaking of images, make sure you optimize the images for speed. So much more important this year than it was previously is speed.
We talked about it last year with Google, Yahoo, and Bing. They really have a gauge right now as far as how fast a web page loads and that determines how many pages throughout your site they’re going to index. I’ve heard the threshold is somewhere between two and four seconds for page speed load.
If you get in Webmaster Tools they have available how fast your pages are loading and you can see a graph over time whether or not it’s getting faster or slower. Make sure they’re you’re optimizing your images. Make sure they’re scaled properly, the file size is okay, you’re not putting anything too major high res on your website. Make sure your images aren’t slowing your website down at all.
Mark: I have a plugin that I’d like to recommend here that I’ve been using. I actually had Yoast audit my site and it’s one of the things that he recommended.
I did two things. I had Yoast audit my site and then I had the W3 Total Cache guys come in and actually set up W3 Total Cache on my site because that plugin is so complicated I just knew I wasn’t getting it right – and I wasn’t.
Shane: There are a lot of things to consider with that one.
Mark: So both of them recommended WP Smush It. That’s a plugin that you probably know all about that compresses images for you and helps with this optimization.
Shane: Just FYI on an enterprise level, and some of my sites even. We use a CDN, which is content delivery network. It hosts all the images and files and all your site hosts is the code and content. So any pictures, video, any of those types of files are hosted on the CDN, which is typically on what we call an edge network that’s servers located all across the globe.
Depending on where a visitor is it will load images from that server, which never impacts your hosted server. That speeds up page load times also. That’s a little bit more technical, I won’t get into that but I just wanted to throw that out there that there are solutions if you run a large website.
Mark: Pat Flynn and I both use those. I don’t know what CDN Pat is using, but he is using a CDN. I’m using Cloud Front. I think Pat might be using Cloud Front too, I’m not sure exactly what he’s doing.
Shane: That’s the one I use.
Mark: Pat needs it a lot more than I do.
Shane: That’s we use both on an enterprise level and personally is Cloud Front.
Mark: It’s good stuff and it’s cheap.
Shane: Yes, definitely cheap. Number 18 is give attention to anchor text throughout your site when you interlink articles together. If you have links in your main nav, your sidebar, your footer, linking to other articles and pages throughout the site make sure you’re paying attention to what the anchor text is and use those keywords where appropriate.
That’s how Google determines the authority pages throughout your site. If somebody is searching for a particular keyword why should it rank one page higher than all the other pages on your site? Give the search engines that insight by using smart anchor text.
Mark: It’s just like any other SEO, you want to be purposeful whenever you’re handing out links and that includes internal links on your site.
Shane: Absolutely. Along with that, number 19 is do your keyword research before you name your categories and your tags. The words that you choose based off of the keyword research affect the anchor text, the content, the URL structures, etcetera.
It’s very important that you spend some time making sure you determine what you’re going to name your categories and tags because that becomes the foundation of the entire website. Make sure they have your optimized keywords in those.
Mark: Easy for you to say. When I started my website I didn’t know any of that so I’m fixing things up as I go along.
Shane: Like I said, I’ve been doing this 1997 so I’ve made the mistakes and I’ve learned. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned the hard way. Number 20, create a site wide widget.
I do this a lot with my sidebar to link to the most important articles. The articles that I want people to either funnel into or I want to rank higher I’ll typically put those on the side as the “featured articles” or “most important articles.” It typically may be five articles that I choose.
I’ve found that to be the right number without being too spammy on the sidebar. That gives them the most authority possible. It tells the search engines that every page on your site is linking to these pages, so they must be pretty important. Make sure your most important pages, the pages that you want people to funnel into and that they’re going to get the most value out of.
Mark: That’s excellent advice. I do a particularly poor job of that. That’s something I’m going to write down and go think more about that. Great tip.
Shane: One way that I use this is when things are event based, this is great for events. If you have events coming up or seasonal things and you want certain web pages to rank higher – and this has worked. A lot of people may argue with me, but I’ve done it and it works.
Easter is coming up soon, so if you’ve got a web page about Easter going on in some city or something. If you stick that side wide link on your sidebar talking about Easter whatever your key phrase is, there’s a pretty good possibility that the search engines are going to rank you for that phrase because it’s seeing every page throughout your site linking to that page and it’s saying “that’s a pretty important page on this website.”
Mark: Basically you’re putting the authority of the full site behind that page.
Shane: Yes. So any time I have an event coming up usually about two months in advance before that event I’ll stick it in the sidebar to make sure that it’s getting the most authority possible in the rankings.
Mark: Excellent tip.
Shane: Number 21, create strong, quality, sticky content. You want to keep users from hitting that back button when they land on your site.
Mark: You’re going to tell me in order to have a good website I need good content. Really?
Shane: We preach this all the time. We’ll talk about blog networks going down and stuff here in just a minute. People want to look at it and go, “Yeah, create quality content.” That’s what Google has been preaching for years. Give people value, make them want to come to your website, keep them from hitting the back button.
It’s like when you refer somebody to a friend. Maybe it’s a car repair shop and you refer your friend to them. All of a sudden they come back and say, “They treated me wrong. I’m not going to go back there.” You feel bad and you’ll never recommend anybody to that car repairman again. On the other hand, if somebody goes to that car repairman and they’re like, “That was awesome. I’m going to recommend them to everybody.”
That’s the same way with Google. If they’re sending users to sites that people are coming back from, they keep hitting that back button, they’re going to stop recommending those websites to their users. Where on the other hand if people are sticking on that website Google (and I say Google, but I mean Yahoo, Bing, and everybody) they’re going to say “these websites have what we’re sending them there for, they must be giving them what they want. Let’s keep them ranked.”
I’ve been doing this for this 15 years and I’ve seen the sites that have the quality valuable content. They may not have near as many backlinks pointing to them or as much social links, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever, but they’re ranking higher for some reason. The thing that I keep coming back around to is that they have killer content. It may be instructional, it’s the unique value proposition and the something that people are looking for.
I’m preaching to the choir, I know everybody hears this all the time but I can’t stress it enough how important that is with SEO right now.
Mark: If you don’t believe us, go look at Pay Flynn’s website. Pretty much every piece of content he comes out with he’s trying to make a pillar piece of content. You go look at an article that he has, like the Backlinking Strategy that Actually Works is probably the most popular article on his site, that’s the kind of sticky content that allows him to rank for keywords like backlinking strategy.
You can see examples of it all over in nature. It really works.
Shane: Absolutely. Tip number 22, I call it Google’s secret sauce. I’ve been to conferences, I’ve talked to the Google engineers, I’ve heard them speak, what it keeps coming around to I’ve nailed it down to three things that I just keep written down in front of me is freshness, stickiness, and socialness.
You want to keep your quality content fresh, you want to keep it sticky, and you want to keep it social. That probably sounds gross if you’re not talking about website stuff, but this is what Google keeps preaching. They like the fresh content, they like regular updates from websites.
They like it sticky. Web pages that have video on them a lot of times will force users to be on it longer than they would if they were just skimming text, so sometimes video is a proper play in getting people to stick on your web page.
You want to make sure you update your website regularly. You want to make it engaging so the users stay on the page or the website after they reach it from a search result. And you want to create content that people want to share. Simply adding share buttons isn’t enough, you want to give them a reason to share your website.
You talked about Pat Flynn. He’s a good example of this because he creates these long killer content posts. Viper Chill is another one that does this where they create these huge ultimate guides to whatever.
I’m guilty of doing what I’m about to talk about… bookmarking that page in a social bookmarking or liking it or tweeting it and thinking “Whatever, I’ll come back to it.” What I’m doing is giving them social credibility with a tweet or a social bookmark or whatever. Sometimes I go back, but sometimes I get busy and I forget about it. It’s one of those ways I see the longer ultimate guides getting more likes, more tweets, more pins, more +1s, all of that stuff.
Creating that fresh, sticky, social content that Google loves and people love as well.
Mark: Hot and sticky sweet. I think there’s a song about that.
Shane: Probably not about websites.
Mark: Maybe not.
Shane: The last tip I have at number 23 is microdata and author tags. This might be something that a lot of people maybe never heard of or they just haven’t considered yet.
This is something that is becoming more prevalent in the past year with search engines because they’re using these microdata and author tags for rich snippets. You’re seeing a lot more especially with Google where you might see an author’s picture beside a search result, which draws the eye to it.
I won’t get into all of the ways to link up your authorship, or I think Google calls “I contribute to,” or something when you go into your Google profile. They have a whole page dedicated to how to link your website up so that they know that you’re the author of that website.
The point is anything that Google is using, right now it’s microdata and author tags, to better tell what a web page is about and provide the users with more information, whether it’s a picture of the person or a lot of times you’ll see stars where there’s a review or something in the search results. Giving that extra information to Google, Yahoo, and Bing is going to help put you a leg up above the sites that aren’t using it.
Mark: This is another podcast topic, because this is not straightforward simple and easy to figure out. Even the plugins that purport to help you with getting this microdata and author tag stuff right are complicated and hard to use, in my opinion.
Shane: They are.
Mark: It’s not the easiest thing to do. I agree with you, particularly this business of teaching Google that you are the author and getting your Google Plus profile identified with your authorship on the blog so that they can take your Google Plus profile picture and put it in the search engine results is a good thing.
The only thing that bugs me about that a little bit is I’ve seen fewer of those pictures lately. Have they throttled that back for awhile?
Shane: I wouldn’t say that they’ve throttled it back. I still see it in almost every search that I do, I see some result that has a picture beside it. It says the person’s name and then it says “more by” whoever. I’m seeing it more and more. I don’t want to get hung up just on the author part. The microdata is using the schema.
I use that a lot, but like you said I haven’t seen any plugins in WordPress that do it really well yet. I think it’s so new that people just aren’t spending the time in creating killer plugins. I’ve had to do it manually on my websites.
That’s why I’ve left it as the last tip, because it’s one of those that it’s so new and there’s not enough WordPress plugins to make it easy that I don’t want people to get hung up on that one. I think everybody should focus on the previous ones that we talked about, but at least have this one in the back of your mind because it’s getting more and more important.
Mark: That’s 23 loaded tips, that’s a lot of things to go off and do. If people feel overwhelmed by 23 tips there’s no need for that. Just start with the first one and work through them over the next year or two. By the time that you have mastered all 23 tips you will be in good shape on the SEO front.
Shane: Yes. Like we were talking about all along, if you get one of the frameworks that has a lot of these built-in it comes out of the box with a lot of this stuff set up for you so it cuts out a bunch of these.
A lot of these don’t take long to do, it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing it. You and I are late night internet marketers so when the bride and kids go to bed we can put our head down and get these done. It’s just a matter of doing it and making it a priority.
Like I said, I’ve done this for years, I’ve seen what works. These are the tips that I have written down that I make sure I do on every website that I do based out of WordPress.
That wraps up that part of the interview. I want to say thank you to Shane. I’m going to bring Shane back next week to help me talk a little bit about this deindexing of blog networks and how to build backlinks in the new world order. We’ll be talking about what the experts are saying, I’ll let you know what I have to say, we’ll talk about what Shane has to say, and that will about fill us up for this Thursday’s upcoming episode (25).
Until then, I hope that you have an absolutely fantastic day, I hope that you get a lot of work done on your internet business, I hope everything is going great for you in your life. Keep after it, things are going to get better. I can guarantee you that.