WordPress Dominance Growing – Great for SEO

Wordpress Dashboard ImageI fully advocate using the WordPress platform for small business SEO and the numbers seem to indicate that I’m not alone. On the WordPress Blog, on August 19th, in their State of the Word post, WordPress announced some facts about usage of their platform.

First, 147,000 of the top one million sites on the web are using WordPress, up from 85,000 not long ago. In addition, and this is more important for us, “22 out of every 100 new active domains in the US are running WordPress.” The reason for the growing popularity of WordPress is that it’s the easy platform to install and manage.

A basic WordPress blog can be up in minutes. Add a different theme and some plugins and its ready to go and SEO friendly. If you don’t want to set it up yourself, you can have it done by someone for no more than a few hundred dollars. It wasn’t long ago that a decent site was in the $2,000 dollar range. Now, we’re talking $200 or less. Bid it out on ODesk or Elance, or if you want to go local use Craigslist.

Using WordPress doesn’t change the process of market research and keyword research. It just makes it easy to set up the site and publish and manage your content. It also allows you to use pages or posts when publishing content. For more on that, visit our post WordPress – Posts or Pages – Which is Best?

Now, a few hundred dollars is what you will pay for the set-up, plugins and a basic theme for your WordPress site. For $200-300 more you can have a custom template created to meet your custom needs. To get an idea of what can be done with WordPress, visit Groupmind.

Another thing I like about WordPress is that it there are so many sites using the platform, that your site visitors will be accustomed to the navigation. This factor makes usability decision less of an issue. You pick the design and WordPress will allow you to use, one column, 2 column left, 2 column right, 3 column, and / or top menus for navigation. It’s a very elegant and visitor friendly platform.

I’ve also been hearing that WordPress is working on HTML5 compatibility. WordPress is open source and the platform itself is free. The platform is constantly enhanced and improved and there’s no danger you site will be on an obsolete platform. I advise all small business SEO websites to use WordPress unless there is some clear burning reason to create a custom site.

Note: I’m not affiliated with WordPress or Groupmind.

Experimenting with Support Sites for SEO

Home in the SkyI’m experimenting with improving rankings and creating new rankings with the Port Orange Homes section of our real estate site. I’ve been creating support pages on the site, but I’ve also created a new website focusing specifically on Port Orange Homes. I believe what we’re doing is completely white hat. Here’s why:

  • We are providing content specific to what a visitor would want
  • We are linking to other resources of use to the visitors
  • We are adding original content, not to be found on our other sites

Manipulating The Search Engines

Help me out. I don’t know where to draw the line. All I know is what has worked. I believe after these many years of small business SEO that if the intention of the website is focused on visitors, then search engines will want to present that content to searchers.  So my approach to SEO revolves around providing site visitors what they are looking for to make informed decisions.

Manipulation is about deception and its always going to end badly. I believe luring visitors with a promise of relevant content and then presenting something entirely different is the worst form of spam. The sites I create and manage are always focused on providing relevant content for keyword searches. We don’t alway hit the target because we can’t read minds, but that’s the intention.

If I put information on several smaller site rather than one larger site, I’m not gaming the search engines. Rather, I’m providing focus for visitors. If those sites link to each other to provide relevant information, then they are not violating search engine terms of service or attempting to manipulate search results.

Being a Good Net Citizen

I will do everything I can to be a good net citizen, but I will also work to rank pages of my sites and customer sites within the SERPS. I like Google, I like the company and I like what they’ve done in 14 years. I don’t like a lot of the results I see when search engine results are served up. Either does Google. That’s why they are making changes to combat spam and poor results.

Creating additional sites to rank on their own for specific terms and to support my existing sites makes sense to me. The new site is built on a WordPress Blog and was indexed in about 24 hours. It’s nothing fancy. I didn’t spend a lot of time on design. Not yet. If it shows traffic, I’ll improve the design. Right now I plan to post to the new site every other day to build content. I’ll be posting the results as we go along. Let’s see what happens.

 

WordPress – Posts or Pages – Which is Best?

Using Wordpress Pages

Worpress Pages DashboardWordPress posts or pages – which one should you use when publishing your content? Is there a difference?

So Few WordPress Pages

Many blogs based on the WordPress platform use only a few pages on the site. That could be a mistake for two reasons:

  • Long term search engine rankings
  • Visitor time on site and conversion

Pages Are Your Showroom

From an SEO perspective, here’s what I’ve found for using WordPress blogs:

  • Pages are your showroom
  • Posts are your promotion

Posts can rank well in the search engines, but unless your site is structured around categories and pages, visitors coming to those post will not find more of what they’re looking for. According to Steve Krug in his fantastic book, Don’t Make Me Think, a visitor landing on your post is looking to answer these questions:

  1. What is this?
  2. What can I do here?
  3. What do they have here?
  4. Why should I be here – and not somewhere else?
  5. Where do I start?

I’m convinced that you can’t answer these questions unless you treat the WordPress Platform like two separate sites:

  • Pages – Important content that you want visitors to view and the content you want to rank in the search engines
  • Posts – Promotional and conversational pieces to send visitors to pages and support those pages to rank higher

Posts are like television news and pages are like a feature movie. People watch TV while doing a lot of other things. They’re often distracted and interrupted when watching. When people go to the movies, they’re getting higher quality content (hopefully), they’re not interrupted and they’re paying full attention.

The 100 to 1 Ratio

For SEO purposes, a blog post should always promote a page. For competitive keywords, the ratio of posts to pages may be 100 to 1. That ratio can be reduced by sending external links to the pages. You will also need fewer posts or links for less competitive terms.

Think of the concept of landing pages. They’re not call landing posts for a reason. You control the page, you test it and then you change it to perform better.

Site Structure and Pages

I’m testing pages as the site structure for blogs now. I’m converting category pages to static pages and doing evergreen content as pages. When I layout the initial site structure, I’m doing that as pages not posts.

Take the example of a photography review site. My categories might be cameras, lenses, flashes, tripod and so on. Each of those categories would be pages. Within those pages, I would control the navigation to sub-categories within the site. Posts could be used for individual products or items, and those posts should be added to the category page. Other posts would promote the product posts and the category pages like this:

Using WordPress Pages

If you’ve created a blog just to create links, pages are not necessary. However, if you’re creating a website based on the WordPress platform, then you need to use pages for good site design, showcasing your most important content and small business SEO rankings.

Facebook Bashing Begins

I just saw a new article, The MySpacing Of Facebook Continues, from WebProNews talking about the MySpacing of Facebook because of Google+. It’s a pretty balanced article, but it does raise questions are popular media and crowds. This is the type of news we need to keep in mind when planning our small business SEO efforts.

Here’s my take on Google+ vs. Facebook. Facebook is social network; that’s it. It is great at what it does, but does not have the scope of Google. There’s no Facebook Reader, Facebook YouTube, or any other the other mass of services that Google provides. The reviews of Google+ have been mostly favorable, but time will tell. Facebook is the best at what it does, but will that be enough?

I know many people who can’t figure out what Facebook is about. I know only a few really avid Facebook users. I know hundreds of people who engage with Google everyday through search, Gmal and YouTube. Google has more opportunities to entice people to Google+. My bottom line is that Facebook just got a big new deep pocketed competitors. We’ll keep watching.

The article also contains some interesting comic Facebook bashing including this video:

Small Business SEO Link Building Principles Published

Small business SEO is different and requires different approaches to protect valuable online assets. We just published the second part of our link building series that covers link building principles for small business SEO.

In part 2 of the series, we cover:

  • Be careful who you link to – avoid “bad neighborhoods”
  • Be A Good Net Citizen – Don’t Spam
  • Go slow
  • Keep visitors and customers in mind
  • Don’t Buy Links
  • Start a campaign that you can maintain
  • Stay Away from Link Building Schemes

There is a real danger when first approaching SEO. You may unintentionally make mistakes when linking that violate search engine terms of service. The danger is that your rankings may fall, or your site banned for bad practices. Following these principles, will go far in keeping you out of trouble and building a valuable long term asset.

Link Building Series

Link Building Basics – Part 1
The basics of link structure including HTML code, anchor text and dofollow and nofollow taqs. Link Building Principles – Part 2 Basic principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

Small Business Link Building Principles – Part 2
Link building principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

Local SEO – Big Google Places Changes

Google Places BombGoogle made some big changes to Google places this past week that will affect local SEO. How much we don’t know yet, but we’ll watch and see what happens.

Google Places Review Purge

If you go to your Places page or any other Places pages you’ll see a huge change to reviews and citations. Google has removed reviews from Yelp and other 3rd party review services and replaced them with a big red button for a Google Review.

Google Places Citations Killed

Citations are gone. They’ve been removed. I believe Google will still count them, but just like most of the links they have in their databases for a site, they’re not going to show them. This makes it more difficult for SEO because competitor citation sources are not longer there for easy pickings.

Matt McGee at Search Engine Land has more:

Local searchers and local businesses will see a fairly substantially different Place Page the next time they’re poking around Google Maps/Places. The company announced a new look Thursday and promises more changes to come.

The new layout of Place Pages puts a heavy emphasis on reviews. More specifically, it emphasizes reviews from Google users and no longer shows review content from third party sites. (Google had issues with both Yelp and TripAdvisor over review snippets last year, you may recall.)

Go to Google Overhauls Place Pages, Emphasizes Reviews & Kills Citations to read his story.

We can see it’s very important for small business SEO to stay up on changes at Google. Why, because they are making them all the time. Stay tuned for more.

Local SEO – Race Horse or Race Track?

There are many decisions required for best results from local SEO and local internet marketing. Many small business owners don’t have large marketing budgets and SEO takes a back seat in their plans.

Local and small business SEO is a long term program. Effort and investment today will not pay off for a few months or longer. Print advertising, pay per click and other forms of immediate gratification advertising are easier to execute and justify in the short term. Search engine optimization is a mid to long-term payoff and it’s not nearly as easy.

Who Makes The Money?

In the horse racing business, who makes the most money? Is it the owner of a race horse, or, is it the owner of the race track? You know it’s the owner of the track. A horse can only race a handful of times in a year. There are a lot of horses in every race, but only one winner. The track has nine to ten races a day and owners make money all day long.

It takes time to build a race track. It takes some time to build the business, but once it’s built and bettors and fans are coming to the races, the owners make money from the betting, attendance, parking and concessions.

Horses have short careers. They run for awhile and then they no longer generate money for their owners. Advertising has short duration. As long as it’s effective, it runs. Once it’s no longer effective it’s gone and the advertiser must find a different media.

Advertising platforms like to see advertisers succeed and stick around, but like the horses at the track, they don’t really need any one particular horse. They need horses. Online, the owner of the race track is the owner of the website where you advertise.

Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and other sites where you can place your advertising are the race track and you are the horse. You can make money in the short term, as long as you keep paying.

What If You Owned The Race Track?

When you own your own website and visitors come to you site, you own the race track. No, it’s not Google size and you’re unlikely to make billions of dollars, but it’s yours to control and build. The danger with Facebook and similar sites is that they will make it more expensive and less effective for small business owners to advertise on their sites. Google has made it more expensive for many small business owners to use AdWords over the years.

The reasons are simple – would you rather deal with 10 big businesses paying $1,000,000 a month each, or 100,000 small businesses pay $100 a month. Google wants the big players and so do the other platforms. As they become more effective, your costs as a small business owner will go up.

If you own the track and use Local SEO to send the visitors, you’re doing two things:

  1. Building a source of customers that will increase with time
  2. Protecting yourself against rising costs and decreasing results

Local SEO and your own website may not be the only tools you use for your small business marketing, but even if it’s $200-300 per month in investment, you should consider building out the only program that brings you free customers over time.

Small Business SEO Link Building Series Part 1 Published

Small Business SEO Link Building Basics Published

Small Business SEO Link Building Part 1We announced the link building series two days ago and here’s the first part covering anchor text, hyperlink HTML code, and NoFollow and DoFollow tags. There’s a video that shows how to find HMTL code in FireFox and Internet Explorer. The video also shows how to determine if a link is followed or nofollowed in both browsers.

Here’s what you’ll find in Link Building Part 1:

  • Link Structure
  • Link Anchor Text
  • No Follow Links
  • Do Follow Links
  • Natural Links
  • Natural Linking Patterns

We’ll be publishing a new small business SEO link building session every few days. To get the new content as it’s published, please subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for email notifications in the box at the top of the right column.

Link Building Series

Link Building Basics – Part 1
The basics of link structure including HTML code, anchor text and dofollow and nofollow taqs. Link Building Principles – Part 2 Basic principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

Small Business Link Building Principles – Part 2
Link building principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

 

New Small Business SEO Series – Link Building

Cobbler Building LinksLink building for small business SEO is one of two biggest challenges of the process. The other is creating content on a regular schedule. I know that many of you already have content, so we’re going to start this series before the content creation series.

SEO Link Building 101

This is going to be an extensive series over the next few weeks. We are going to cover a lot of material, but I’m going to keep it simple. We’ll start with the description of a good link for SEO and the link source. Then we’ll progress systematically with different sources for links and how to generate links properly from each of those sources. A few link sources will take more than one session. Article syndication and authority site creation are two examples.

The techniques I’m going to cover are white hat SEO. At least, they’re my interpretation of white hat. Some may disagree, but I stay away from black hat techniques because the risk is too high in my markets. Following these techniques should not cause any problems with the search engines.

Link Sources

Here is the list of link sources that we’ll cover in the coming weeks. As I said, I’m going to try to keep it simple, but I will provide links to other sites that will go into more technical detail. I’m thinking that you’ll want practical before technical.

Update July 15, 2011

Published

Part 1Small Business SEO Link Building Basics – covering link HTML structure, DoFollow Links, NoFollow Links, Natural Links and Link Profiles

Coming Soon:

  • Link Practices
  • Authority Sites
  • Blog Comments
  • Social Media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Article Syndication
  • Guest Blogging
  • Press Releases
  • Profile Links
  • Reciprocal Links
  • Directories
  • Industry Organizations
  • Forums
  • Blogging
  • Link Exchanges
  • Your Own Sites
  • Internal Links

Ground Rules for Link Building

Here are my rules for link building:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Spam – there is no single good definition of spam, but let’s use the working definition of doing it for the link only.
  2. Contribute To The Conversation – “Great post, keep up the good work” is not contributing to the conversation.
  3. Best Effort / Best Content – content for blog commenting, authority sites, articles, etc. should be at least as good as what is on your site.  It should be your best effort.
  4. Relevance – if you sell flowers, make comments on flower related sites to build relationships. Don’t send links from a power tool site to your flower site.
  5. Treat Links as Gold – It’s not about getting the maximum number of links. It’s about getting the highest authority most relevant links.

I Would Love Not to Do Link Building, But…

In an ideal world, Google, Yahoo! and Bing would find the best content for each keyword phrase and display those results. We don’t live in an ideal world. The search algorithms are weighted heavily to external links. High value external links are difficult to get unless your content is excellent and unique. We advocate producing the best quality most relevant content for your customers whenever you publish – including links.

So, keep one thing in mind when creating backlinks for small business SEO – go to other sites to add value to that site. The exchange for you adding value is the link. Consider the power of the link to be directly proportional to the value you add to the linking site. If you create strong relevant content, regardless of where you post it, good things will happen. People will begin to notice you and start linking to you naturally. Let’s not think of it as link building, let’s think of it as promotion for the wonderful content on your site.

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Small Business SEO – The 5 Second Page Test

This page is about the time a visitor will spend to figure out if your page is worth skimming. Small business SEO and content are pieces of the same puzzle. What would happen if you gave every page on your site a five second test? Would visitors be able to understand what the page is about in those few short seconds?

Structure For Visitor Evaluation

I created a video a few days back on the search process. Go to Understanding The Search Process Video to view it. Let’s look at the key image from the video:

The SEO Search Process

See that evaluation diamond, or decision block? That’s where we have 5 seconds to capture the visitors attention and help them decide if they’re in the right place.

Do Page Elements Support Visitor Evaluation?

To help visitors to evaluate your pages in 3-6 seconds, the page needs to be structured for fast evaluation and analysis because at the end of those few seconds, the visitor will:

  • Start skimming to learn more
  • Click the back button and move on to the next result

The Three Key Page Elements for Visitors

You should be familiar with the three key elements to capture visitor attention and help them evaluate a web page because they’re all right here on the page:

  • Images
  • Section Titles
  • Highlighting – bullets, numbering, bold

These elements are common to the web and help people understand the purpose of the page. Just having the elements isn’t enough. They also need to be relevant. Always keep in mind that visitors coming from a search engine are coming from a specific term. Their search term is their intent.

SEO is about targeting a visitor’s intent for specific keywords and keyword clusters. When a visitor comes from the search engine for a keyword phrase, the page content MUST match the visitors intent. Now, as the keyword term becomes more specific you have a better chance for a match. A user typing the word “orange” into Google is not being very specific, but when they type in “orange reflective paint,” they’re being specific and the content needs to be specific to that term.

Make Your Page Purpose Obvious

Give the purpose of the page above the fold of the page with an image, headings, bolding and any other method you can. In the example above, the image of a can of orange reflective paint with a color swatch would get the visitors attention immediately moving them to skim the page for more. If they like what they see, they’re on their way to reading your content and ordering your product.

There are many way to achieve affordable small business SEO, but laser-like keyword targeting and matching content will keep visitors on your pages longer so that you can get your message to them. Lots of traffic that doesn’t stick around long is very expensive.