Tag Archives: SEO

Best SEO Optimized WordPress Themes for Writers

best-seo-optimized-wordpress-themes-for-writers-graphic The guys over at WordPress Hacks recently updated their ever popular best free WordPress themes article for 2010 and that got me thinking again about all of the themes I’ve looked through. In the ongoing quest to find the best WordPress themes for writers I’ve looked at TONS of WordPress themes, and I do mean TONS. I’ve looked at free WordPress themes, I’ve looked at premium WordPress themes, I’ve looked at theme frameworks, I’ve looked at WordPress Photoshop template files, I’ve looked at empty themes, basic themes, and yes, even themes that claim to be great WordPress themes for writers. The good news is that means that I have a lot of experience with what is out there for good WordPress themes to use for professional writers. The bad news is that the reason I have looked through so many different WordPress themes is because I still haven’t found the perfect theme, yet.

I could do like everyone else does and just compile a bunch of links to good WordPress themes. I could even give it a really great SEO optimized title like 25 Best WordPress Themes for Writers. But, in an effort to perhaps speed along the development of quality WordPress themes for writers to use, I decided to compile a list of the best features a WordPress theme can have to make it useful for writers, and frankly, everyone else too.

Search Engine Optimized – SEO Ready WordPress Themes Required

Let’s get real here for a minute. Professional writers are professional writers because they get paid for what they do. Writing professionally isn’t easy, and quality writing and quality website content are valuable commodities. Running a freelance writing business website is a lot more profitable if people actually see it. As Han Solo once said, "I ain’t in this for your revolution, Highness. I expect to be well paid."

While there are numerous reasons a pro writer might create and publish a website, every one of those reasons succeeds or fails on a single criteria, getting enough traffic driven to the website in order to see all those webpages filled with high-quality professional writing. Leaving aside the debate about whether or not content is king when it comes to search engine rankings, one thing is clear, unless you have the means to manually drive readers to your website, you’ll need to grab search engine traffic to establish a readership. And, the way to a searcher’s heart, is through the first page of Google search results.

Check out the latest on credit card rewards programs at Finance Gourmet…

A few years ago, an Internet expert and SEO guru named Court published a list of top SEO problems in WordPress themes. He was right on the money, and it was a hit. At first, only the best WordPress themes were properly search engine optimized.  It took a while, but soon the entire WordPress developer community was cranking out SEO-optimized WordPress themes. Today, only the lowest quality WordPress themes make the basic SEO errors that Court outlined in his post.

The problem is that developers have stopped there. The last was called the most basic SEO errors committed in WordPress themes for a reason; they were the BASIC SEO ERRORS. They were not the ONLY SEO errors made in WordPress themes. So, while most quality themes now exploit Google’s overdependence on being told what is "important" on a webpage via header tags — that’s the H1, H2, H3 tags in your theme’s code — by making a post’s title the H1 element instead of the blog’s name. However, many themes still do not handle H2, H3, and H4 properly. Just making everything else H2 is NOT good SEO practice.

Some of the SEO issue in WordPress has been solved by the platform’s extensibility in the form of plug-ins. The most common SEO plugins for WordPress are All-In-One SEO plugin (outstanding SEO in it’s name, BTW), and Headspace2 (not so good on the SEO, but more "brandable"). These plug-ins allow webmasters and authors to easily set certain SEO parameters automatically, or make it easier to set them manually. These SEO WordPress plugins will ensure that your title tag is the same as you post title unless you set it otherwise, for example.

So, what else does a high-quality WordPress theme for writers need?

That’s coming up next…

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Relevant Backlinks vs Unrelated Backlinks – Does It Matter For Improving Google Search Engine Ranking?

related-links-unrelated-links-comparisson-graphic A lot of information floating around the search engine optimization world is either old news. A lot of the so-called accepted wisdom is based on flimsy, or even non-existent, research. And, much of the search ranking conventional wisdom repeated, again, and again, on websites and blogs isn’t actually relevant to the most common scenarios.

So, when a disagreement between colleagues regarding the importance of relevant backlinks versus backlinks from sites that are not relevant arose, we looked around at trusted resources and found that they all said the same thing. In order for links to be worth counting toward a website or page’s Google PageRank or toward its search engine ranking, they had to come from relevant sites. However, we realized that, oftentimes, this bit of information came coupled with SEO strategies and tips that we knew were no longer true; if they were ever true.

Thus, the question remains. Does it matter that a page’s incoming links come from other websites or webpages that are related to the subject matter that they are linking about?

Google Search Ranking Algorithm

To understand why this question matters, and to be able to use the data found in the answer, it is important to have a basic understanding of Google’s search algorithm that ranks those results you see listed on the page after doing a Google search.

The search results page, or more specifically, the order that links are displayed on the search results page is sometimes known by the acronym SERP or Search Engine Ranking Page. The order those links are displayed in can be very important depending upon what is being searched for, and what the goal of the website on the other end of that search link is. Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine’s blog says that in researching how people use search, they found out that people stopped looking in much detail at the results after #5, and in many cases, after looking at just the top 3 results.

In the online advertising world, Internet marketers claim that the #1 position on a Google search can be worth anywhere from three times as much, to ten times as much traffic as the #2 position. They will also tell you that anything below #10 isn’t worth having, since it won’t be on the first page.

Whether any of this is true or not, is irrelevant to out question here. However, what is important is to know that the results that appear on any given SERP are not listed at random, nor are the listed alphabetically, nor by date, or any other non-discriminatory method. Rather, pages are listed in order based on how well they match up with the term entered into the search box on Google’s home page. These terms are known as keywords, even when they are actually a key phrase.

More accurately, the webpages listed high on Google search results pages are ranked based on how well they score on a secret algorithm that Google uses. The intention of that algorithm is to determine which one of all the webpages that match the query is most likely to provide what the searcher wanted to find. The reality is that a very small number of easily manipulated parameters determine the order from top to bottom of every Google search query.

One of the most important of these parameters is how many links point to a given website using the exact words entered into the search. This is by no means the only criteria, but it is very important.

Obviously, this evaluation can be very easily gamed. A determined webmaster or online ad salesman, need only create a million links on a dozen of his own websites to earn the #1 ranking over more legitimate websites.

Fortunately, the raw number of incoming links, or backlinks, is not the way rankings are scored. In fact, since the paper with the original ranking strategy that led to the found of the Google company and its famous search engine, much time and resources have been devoted toward determining which links should not count, which links should count more, which links should count less, and so on.

Thus, our million link creating Internet Marketer will get nowhere with his strategy.

However, the core of every search ranking improvement effort, or SEM engagement is building more links. They just can’t all come from your own websites, or from just two or three websites, or all from the same article.

Theoretically, one of the criteria for determining how much a link should count for is how much the site providing the link is related to the site receiving the link. The idea is that a website about Credit Cards would be more likely to provide "good" links on topics related to credit cards, like banking, loans, credit scores, and credit card reward programs. On the other hand, a website about plumbing would not be a good source to get information about financial topics.

Whether or not this concept is valid is open for debate. However, virtually any SEO consultant or SEM consultant (or whatever else they call themselves) will tell you that Google believes it, and thus related backlinks count for more than unrelated backlinks.

Do Related Links Count More Than Unrelated Links?

It is technically impossible to ever say with 100% certainty that something does or does not count at all in the Google ranking algorithm. However, what can be demonstrated is what features have so little value that they are easily pushed off of what determines the rankings of webpages under real world conditions.

In this case, it seems that whether or not a link comes from a related webpage or website is of so little value that its affect cannot be replicated in the real world! Instead, a host of other factors carry so much more weight that restricting oneself to only related backlinks is foolish.

That is not to say that getting links from spammy or MFA (Made For AdSense) sites is good. These sites can pass some of their negative marks on to your site, especially when they form a large number of your incoming links. However, a link to your home mortgages website from a legitimate site about Mickey Mouse collectibles will end up being worth every bit as much to your website’s PageRank and search engine rankings, that you shouldn’t bother finding related sites. Instead, just collect all the links you can.

Add those incoming links up with your other SEO optimization efforts, and your site’s rank will increase faster. Soon your website could be a high-ranking Google search result.

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Search Engine Rankings Link Building Myths

myth-graphic There is a lot of misinformation out there about search engine rankings and how they are determined. Most SEO advice is based on a paper published by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were students at Stanford, and the subsequent patent application made regarding the same. The catch is that the algorithm contained in those documents is over a decade old. Google has updated their search ranking algorithm thousands of times since then.

While the methodology published in the original Google patent application and other documents no doubt remains the basis of Google’s search rankings, there can be no question that the simplified version often given as the basis for SEO activities is very out of date.

What Is PageRank?

Essentially, the basics of this original search ranking methodology involved a site passing "link juice" to each page it links to. The power of that link juice is determined by the original page’s authority, as measured by its PageRank, which is in turn derived based upon how many pages and of what authority link to original page. This outgoing link juice is then divided evenly over all outgoing links. All of this results in a numerical value, or other ranking, which then leads directly to the results listed for any given search, and the order of the search result rankings for that search.

At first, it sounds complicated, but just a moment or two of study brings into clarity the fact that this particular algorithm is pretty simple, especially for a computer.

In fact, the original Google algorithm displayed here would be both very easy to copy, and very easy to abuse. As Microsoft’s repeated efforts at crafting a search engine have shown, it is actually not easy to duplicate Google’s quality of search results. After failing with both MSN Search, and Live Search, Microsoft finally launched a new search engine called Bing. Microsoft’s Bing strategy has been not to duplicate Google’s level of quality in search results, but rather to shake up the user interface so as to increase the likelihood that a user will perform a search which is more easily interpreted.

When it comes to the various methods of abusing the Google search engine, as most often referenced as "black-hat SEO", Google has entire teams of people working to thwart their efforts. Matt Cutts is one of Google’s most public engineers thanks to his long running blog. He is also the head of the so-called Webspam Team, whose job it is to prevent junk webpages from clogging up the company’s search engines. As a full-time engineer who heads up a "team" of people, one can only assume that the efforts that take place in this arena are substantial. Each action they take has the potential to render numerous forms of "white-hat SEO" techniques worthless, or at least worth much less that they once were.

PageRank Reality Check and SEO Myths

One recent example was Matt’s blog post in which he made a few very important points.

First, that Google has drastically changed how it interpreted the only recently launched nofollow tag after another Google team, the Search Quality team, determined that webmasters were setting nofollow tags on links to valuable webpages in order to "channel" the link juice to certain, most likely more valuable, webpages. This practice, known as link sculpting, was actively recommended by virtually all SEO experts and Search Engine Optimization consultants right up the very minute the post debunking it as an effective technique was published.

Second, Matt commented that it was necessary for him to publicly and blatantly announce the change in treatment for the nofollow link tag because the people who research and test such things had NOT NOTICED. Not only that, but with a throw away statement a few sentences earlier, he noted that they had also not noticed other bigger changes made by Google to its search engine ranking system.

Third, before getting into the specifics of this particular announcement, Mr. Cutts re-iterated the basic version of the search algorithm used all over the Internet as outlined above. Then, he said that in 2000 when he joined the company that Google was doing "more sophisticated link computation" than was shown by the original PageRank papers that everyone quotes. In other words, this is NOT the way the Google search algorithm works anymore.

Modern Search Engine Optimization

The reason that SEOs and other Internet Gurus continue to espouse the old version of authority and PageRank is that it appears to still work. That is, if you look at a small enough subset of pages and you compare them to a similarly small subset of pages based upon another small set of factors, then yes, the old model explains things nicely.

However, like the Newtonian Model of physics, there are a great many things that cannot be explained by the long standing theory. I have personally seen webpages with a PageRank of 4 with no incoming links except for the Blogroll links of 3 or 4 websites that have nothing but a PageRank 2 landing page and the rest PageRank 0 pages.

It doesn’t take long messing around with any of the SEO toolbars out there to notice that a PageRank 3 site will outrank a PageRank 5 site even if both have all of the standard "onsite SEO" things setup right and the PageRank 5 webpage has more incoming links.

So, what does this all mean?

If you want to go out and build a bunch of quick throw together websites and then use SEO techniques to try and push them up high in the search results and watch the money start rolling in, your only hope is to go with the tried and true, Link Juice + PageRank + Backlinks model and hope for the best. Just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t seem to work for you as well as it does for "everyone else."

If, on the other hand, you want to earn money by writing online, then start building websites about topics you enjoy writing about. Write plenty of content and THEN see if there is any traction there to make money with ads or by selling things online. If so, then give yourself a high-five and keep writing, especially on those high paying topics and their keywords.

If it turns out that this particular passion does not have any future as a money making enterprise, then keep writing about it for fun. You never know if or when what you are writing becomes a hotter topic or just finds an audience.

But, and this is the important part that so many writers who fail to make money by writing websites forget, you also have to move on and create a new website. Fill that one up with quality content and see how that works out. Yes, things like keyword research can help give you an educated guess at what will and will not pay off, but in the end, there are just too many variables to know for sure. So, keep writing, and watch for your opportunities to arise. When they do, hit ’em and hit ’em hard.

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Easy Updates For Every Page In Your Website

new-content-graphic Keeping your content fresh is an important component of staying on top of everyone’s search engine results rankings, including Google.

But, sometimes, content just goes stale.  Maybe there is nothing more to write on the subject.  Maybe the problem that you found a solution to that nagging problem that you have been blogging about, but you still want to make sure that others can find those articles so that they can find the solution too.

And, let’s face it, sometimes, you are just too busy writing, designing, building, and fixing things to do the search engine spider’s bidding and get out an update your content just so you can keep that #1 search ranking.

The truth of the matter is that just because something was written a while ago doesn’t make it any less relevant, factual, or entertaining.  Sure, some things go cold like elections, tax season, Christmas, and all manner of other things with a built-in shelf life.  But, other things are still relevant.  Tips on touch-typing would be just as useful today as they were in 1999.  Likewise, tips on reading Latin, using a feather duster, building a birdhouse, and learning how to make origami penguins would all be unchanged despite the march of progress.

Unfortunately, the Google Spider doesn’t know any better.  To him, fresh is best, even if your timeless article is way better than the garbage ranked ahead of you.

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy way to update every page on your website in just seconds, if you build it properly.

Update Every Web Page With Little Effort

Whether you have a blog based website, or other website, chances are that it has some sort of sidebar, header, or footer that has at least one part that is consistent across the entire web site.  A quick change to that part ensures that every single webpage in your whole website changes enough to be considered “new” again.

The trick is to make a substantial enough change to be considered more than just a minor change without throwing off the look and navigation of your website.  That is why, you want to build in a section that you can change, complete with its own coding to ensure that the area is always the same size regardless of the content in it.

Again, the best areas for such a defined block are the header, sidebar, or footer.  Insert an introduction, a recent events section, or a blurb about the services or products you provide.  Then, once a month or so, make a single change to that section and watch all of your pages be shiny and new again, at least to the spiders.

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