Scribe

ScribeScribe is a unique tool that allows online publishers to analyze and optimize their content on the fly. Traditional SEO tools don’t integrate so seamlessly with the creation of the content. That’s why its perfect for web writers, bloggers, affiliate marketers and entrepreneurs.

Scribe is a WordPress plugin combined with an API that allows you to tap into the content optimization service right from your WordPress interface.

The site was designed and built to be promote the Scribe service and and WordPress plugin. Together with Brian Clark of Copyblogger, we were able to put together something appealing.

Website: Scribe

Platform: WordPress

Scribe SEO Review

WordPress Tips 2009

WordPress Tips 2009

I was looking through one of my old posts, Hardcore WordPress Tips, and realized just how outdated it is. It’s just one year old this week and already 5 of the 10 tips I would consider bad information.

Most of the bad tips are simply because WordPress evolves so rapidly that there are better solutions now. A couple of tips I need to revise because I’ve learned a lot more since last year and have better advice.

So, on with the show: WordPress Tips 2009

10. Use the Yahoo! User Interface Library

For theme developers, creating a theme that is flexible is a must-do today. WordPress has been around long enough that crappy themes shouldn’t even be made anymore (unfortunately they still are). One step to ensure that your theme isn’t crappy is to take advantage of some incredible resources Yahoo! provides.

The YUI Library is hosted code: Javascript and CSS. I just use the CSS. Using their grid system, creating a theme is easy, flexible, and much more easily browser compliant. Check out more details in my Easy Workflow for Site Creation post.

9. Interlink!

spider-webThe more you link to other content on your site the more bots access it. The more bots access, the more impressive you may be in search engines.

Link to Similar Posts

You can certainly do this manually in your post by referencing old blog posts…and you should. But you should also use an automatic method as well. Linking to related posts helps search engines categorize your page better. The more you can zero in on what your page is about the better you rank.

Similar Posts, by Rob Marsh, will do just that. Similar Posts not only does a great job with what it’s supposed to do (retrieving relevant posts) but it’s part of a plugin family that all use the same library for configuring functions. Read on…

Link to Popular Posts

Popular Posts is another member of the family of plugins written by Rob Marsh. So rather than use several methods of retrieving posts, stick with one to keep your life easier and things streamlined.

8. Lockdown

With every release WordPress becomes more secure. On the other hand, everyday hackers become increasingly smarter and more malicious. Out of the box, WordPress can’t be as secure as it’d like to be, so they even give us some tips.

WordPress’ site already has an article on on Hardening WordPress.

One of the quick things you can do is restrict access to the WordPress administration side. Create the file, “.htaccess” in /wp-admin/ and paste the following into it, replacing the IP address with your own. Find your IP.

AuthUserFile /dev/null
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName "Access Control"
AuthType Basic
order deny,allow
deny from all
# whitelist this IP address
allow from 55.555.555.55

Secondly, create an empty index.html file in your /wp-content/plugins/ directory. This will prevent the listing of your plugins for the world to see, making it a bit harder for hackers to find exploits.

Next, delete the username “admin” (obviously make a new username for yourself first), and use a strong password for your login.

Finally, install WP Security Scan to make sure everything checks out.

7. Boost Your Site’s Speed

You can optimize your site all you want, but if you’re not on a good host then you’re going nowhere. So first, switch over to HostGator because they’re the best host I’ve ever used.

After you’ve setup on HostGator, hardcode some things in your theme.

WordPress themes work by including functions that make calls to the database that give it the correct paths to files, etc. This is great for making a theme portable, but it ends up slowing the site down by taxing your database more than necessary.

Anywhere you see…


…you can replace it with your root level URL (ex. http://www.example.com/)

You can change…


…to the path of your stylesheet.

I could go on. But all you really need to know is to look for functions that you could replace with absolute paths and reduce the amount of database calls.

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is an awesome plugin that caches your pages and serves them up more quickly. It comes with lots of options which is really nice. It can be a bit difficult to install sometimes, but it may really pay off. It’s especially nice when you have a load of extra, unexpected traffic.

6. Give Some Flow to the Bots

robotOf course we know that bots (spiders) crawl the Internet checking out pages in order to provide results in search engines. These bots need some direction when they’re crawling — basically they crawl link to link. Obviously we need to give them some links. We need to give bots the right links. In addition to links, there is some meta information bots will pay attention.

The best solution for directing bots where you want them to go (and don’t want them to go) is by using the Robots Meta plugin.

For example, you probably don’t need bots to waste their time on the following pages (especially if you’re a one-author blog):

  • The login and register pages
  • All admin pages
  • Author pages
  • Date-based archives
  • Tag archives

Using this plugin you can prevent bots from accessing these pages and really create a well defined path for spiders.

5. Setup Shop With Google

google-analyticsGoogle Analtyics

Google Analytics is the leader in website stat tracking. Create an account and paste their code in the footer.php file of your current theme.

If you’re not comfortable with editing code, don’t know where your footer.php file is, or you change themes frequently then a plugin is your best option.

Google Analytics for WordPress makes the tracking script easy to install and also has a few extra goodies for making tracking your site usage even better.

google-webmaster-toolsGoogle Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is an awesome resource that gives you a behind the scenes look at how Google is interacting with your site. There’s too much valuable information here for me to even begin to describe, so just create your account already!

Well, there is one thing you should know about. You’ll need to submit a sitemap to the Webmaster Tools site and there’s no better WordPress sitemap generator than the Google Sitemaps Generator for WordPress.

4. Use Header Tags Correctly

A theme that is well made will have already taken this into consideration. Search engines pay special attention to how a site’s code is written. Certain tags like Header tags can give text more importance as well as define how a page’s content is organized.

Make sure your WordPress theme knows How To Use Header Tags Correctly. This particularly applies to your sidebar. It’s full of incorrect header tag usage by default, so make sure to correct those issues.

3. Meta Information – Title, Description, Keywords

Go grab Head Space 2, a robust plugin for customizing page titles, descriptions, and keywords. This will make your website much more SEO friendly…as long as you know what you’re doing.

Once installed, you can use the following as a guide for how to configure the plugin:

  • Posts / Pages: %%title%% - Blog Title
  • Categories: %%category%% Archives %%page%% - Blog Title
  • Tags: %%tag%% Archives %%page%% - Blog Title
  • Archives: Blog Archives %%page%% - Blog Title

Courtesy of yoast.com.

2. Permalinks

chainPermalinks, or the URLs to pages on your WP site, are part of what makes WordPress the best choice for a blog or CMS. WP allows you to customize your URL structure very easily.

By default, however, WordPress URLs aren’t optimized for search engines. Recently it’s been pointed out that your URL structure can slow your site down as well, so let’s take a look at building the best permalink.

Permalinks for Speed

WordPress needs to know what page to display when given a URL. For example, http://example.com/2009/01/22/hello-world/ is obviously going to take us to the “Hello Word!” post. How does WordPress know that though? Through several attempts of trying to figure out what the URL is trying to get to WP will finally figure it out. It’s in that time, though, that your user is waiting for WP to figure things out.

Basically, it’s easier for WordPress to retrieve the page/post if a numerical value is the first thing in the URL (i.e. %post_id%, %year%, etc.).

Don’t look to my site as an example because I’ve just recently learned this and haven’t gotten around to changing things up yet. Also, this method isn’t necessary. You won’t notice any difference in speed until you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of posts/pages, but it’s always good to build a scalable site from the start.

Read more details on efficient permalink strategies.

Bad:

/%postname%/%post_id%/
/%category%/%postname%/

Better:

/%post_id%/%postname%/
/%year%/%category%/%postname%/

Permalinks for SEO

So if we want a speedy site (by using the method above) AND we want to ensure that our URLs are the best for search engines, then the following method is the choice.

Having your keywords in the URL is always a plus. Search engines can use it as further evidence for what your page is about. Google also places the URL below each search result and bolds keywords — just another way that might help improve your chances of being clicked.

So we need to make sure to include %postname%. This will render the post/page slug (ex. hello-world). If your site is heavily reliant upon categories you may want to include your category name as well. So here’s our options:

/%post_id%/%postname%/

or

/%post_id%/%category%/%postname%/

We can even take this one step further. Your URL doesn’t need to contain every word from your post/page title, just the significant ones. Instead of hand editing every permalink you can use SEO Slugs to automatically strip your permalinks of stop words, like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘in’, etc. SEO is all about the details!

1. Prepare for Disaster

alarmBackups are often an afterthought (like after you lost the data!). The truth is, the world is fallible and for one reason or another your site may get royally screwed up someday and you’ll either be back up and running within an hour or your heart will still be fluttering as you look blankly at your missing files and database.

We make mistakes, servers make mistakes, web hosts make mistakes, so just count on it. Be prepared!

Backup the Database

Get yourself the WordPress Database Backup plugin. You can schedule DB backups or get on-demand backups. I have my backups emailed to me weekly (with Gmail that’s no biggie). I’ll always have an archive…as long as Gmail doesn’t blow up.

Backup the Files

Secondly, backup your server files. If for some reason everything goes wrong, you’ll need the database and your theme (especially if you’ve done any customization). Plus, the image paths stored in the DB won’t have anything to show for themselves without files on the server.

Some hosts will allow you schedule file backups and this is the ideal situation. If they don’t have a solution to do this, then you’ll just need to be well disciplined and do this yourself via FTP every once in a while.

WordPress provides great detail on database and file backups.

Conclusion

I hope this guide has been a great help. Please add your own advice or questions in the comments.

You can also subscribe for regular WordPress, SEO, and web design tips.

Good luck with WordPress in 2009!

Using Header Tags Correctly

In search engine optimization every detail matters. Details are what set apart the successful search engine optimizers from the mediocre. Much like everything else in life, if you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter you’ll get further ahead.

So let me explain the use of the header tag. You know, H1, H2, H3, etc. What’s it for and where do you use it for the best optimized content?

SEO for Dummies

Header tags show a great level of importance for text. While putting text in a header tag won’t make you king of the search results, it’s another detail that adds to the many other details you’re hopefully keeping up with.

Headers Make Big Fonts *sniff*

Yes, sometimes wrapping text in HX tags makes the font bigger, but that’s not WHY the header tag exists, and thus that’s not why you should use it.

Never mix page markup with style. Don’t count on your H1 tag being Arial, black, and 36pt font. Styles, nowadays, are set by the style sheet and should never be left to the browser to decide what page attributes will look like. I could go on and one with this, but the point is not to think of HX tags as looking any different than regular text.

Instead, think of header tags as…drumroll…section headers.

Outlining Your Pages With Headers

So this tag was created with the intention of marking a page with tags that signified some sort of organization. Headers outline the page. So the H1 tag is the title of the entire page, and each child header breaks the page down into it’s various parts.

Remember, each page on your website is a separate entity. Treat each page uniquely, tailoring your content around the title of your page.

What To Put In Your Headers

More easily, here’s what not to put in your headers. Don’t put things that are irrelevant to the topic of the page.

WordPress defaults to displaying sidebar widget titles as H3 tags. Some of these widgets are, “Recent Posts”, “Search”, “Tags”, etc. Are you competing for any of those keywords? Probably not. Put those titles in DIV tags.

Yes, they do organize the page, BUT if you’re building your pages correctly the sidebar should be at the bottom of the source code. Right out of the gate that means the sidebar is less important than the body content.

It’s your body content that needs the organization.

When writing your headers out make them easy for users to get the point and try to use some keywords at the same time.

“My H1 Is My Site’s Name” – Bad Idea

Well, it’s a good idea…for your home page. When searchers actually search for your website’s name your goal shouldn’t be to have results for any page on your site. Your goal is have your home page come up in results.

Your website’s name isn’t the main topic of every page on your site either. So why tell search engines every page’s most important information is your name?

So, put your site name in an H1 tag on your home page and in a DIV tag on all the rest.

For WordPress users, you can use something like this:

    

<a href="/">

All that says is that if the page is the home page use an H1, and if it’s anything else use a DIV.

Enjoy Your New Header Tags Knowledge!

Introducing the WP Full Site WordPress Theme

WP Full Site Banner - WordPress theme for your small business

Major theme update: Version 2

Stumbling across this theme may finally be your answer to one of the most frequently asked questions about WordPress — where can I get a theme that caters to the needs of my small business?

Here! That’s where. WP Full site is a theme built for small businesses that want a website that enables them to use a Content Management System (CMS), have the option of a blog, and focuses on the necessities that all small business websites need.

A Small Business WordPress Theme

What exactly are the requirements of a “small business WordPress theme?”

Every business is unique, and no one can expect anything to be everything they’ve ever dreamt of, but there are some clear guidelines that a small business should adhere to with a website.

Your site should at least have:

  • An obvious way to be contacted, hence the phone number and email link at the very top of the website
  • A clear, concise call to action accompanied by an attention grabbing graphic
  • The option to have or blog or not have a blog

Make It Easy to be Contacted

WP Full Site uses one of the best practices in optimizing website conversion rates — that is, providing visitors with a quick, easy to find way to contact you.

By placing the phone number and a link to your email (or contact form) in the top right hand corner of your site visitors will always be able to find how to contact you. You don’t want to ever frustrate a potential customer about to be sold and have them give up because they couldn’t find the contact information!

In addition, studies show that providing customers with an easily findable phone number helps people feel more assured that you’re a legitimate business. Some people would rather call than email too — don’t lose business because they can’t find your number.

Call to Action

You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about how you wrap up what you’re selling into one sentence. Catch the visitor’s attention with your tagline, and then actually persuade them to convert with your customized call to action.

To Blog or Not to Blog

These days blogging is pretty highly suggested — one of the reasons you’re probably already considering WordPress. Blogging can help keep your customers stay involved in your business, increases your search engine visibility, and can position your company as an expert in your field.

Though blogging has it’s benefits, you may not have the time or interest to keep up with a blog. For you, WordPress is still a great option!

WordPress doesn’t have to be used as a blog. If you already love WordPress though and don’t want to find another CMS this theme is quite helpful in your pursuits.

mindIT SEO Campaign

In November mindIT contacted me to help them improve online traction. They’re a small IT company in Dallas – great guys with a great business.

Google needed to hold up their end of the deal — finding the best IT companies in Dallas! Sadly, mindIT was lost amongst “the rest”. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t really show “the best” companies in the top 10 results for any given keyword so mindIT wasn’t being found for a number of keywords they should have been. That’s when they came to me and here’s where our tale begins…

Objective

Rank high and consequently drive more (and better qualified) traffic to minditonline.com in order to generate more leads/business.

mindIT is in the IT industry and needs to rank high for IT related keywords. In addition, they are a reseller of a popular health care software and offer support around it — they need to rank higher for related keywords.

Solution

mindIT had recently launched a brand new website that achieved a number a great things, including adding much more content to their site, building upon a content management system, and used many of the basic principles of improving conversion.

On the other hand, the website needed cleanup. Develop Daly cleaned up the site to improve upon the copy, extraneous pages, link juice draining, canonical issues/duplicate content, title & descriptions tags, and various other things.

All in all, the site maintains the branding and aesthetic appearance it had before the SEO process, but the guts are very much changed and improved.

Results

As with any SEO project, results are ongoing and hopefully improving all the time. In a very short amount of time (less than a month) we’ve seen incredible results. mindIT and the various keywords we targeted were not showing up in the top 10, 20, or 30 results. Here is what we achieved less than a month later:

Conclusion

It’s still too early to tell how the traffic has changed. For now, at least, we can see dramatic improvements in keyword visibility. Once again, I’m glad I could help a business increase their findability. If you need IT support, now you know who to call! (not me…mindIT!)

SEO & WordPress Tips – 3

Google’s SEO Starter Guide – Just released; a good read for all beginners

Advanced WordPress Optimization – Ten PHP and MySQL changes to speed up & secure your site

WordPress 2.7 “Trailer” – Short video about the new 2.7 interface

Writing Good Content – Guide to creating well written content

Best WordPress Plugins – Several post related plugins that are incredibly flexible

SEO & WordPress Tips – 1

Social Media Release Builder – Easy SMR creation and hosting

Reputation Management Theory – My YOUmoz post discussing singular vs. pluralistic link networks

How to Use Google Analytics Segementation – Easy startup guide to using Analytics’ New Features

Unpersonalize Your Google Search – Google removed the option for you to do it yourself, but this still works

ww and wwww Subdomains – Redirect to capture all link juice from link typos

MyBlogLog, You Could Be So Much More!

Here’s my MyBlogLog account (awfully redundant…oh well). For those of you unfamiliar with MyBlogLog I’m not going to go into much detail, but all you need to know for this post is that it aggregates all of my feeds among many different web services. For example, the public page updates information from my Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, blogs, Flickr, etc. So anyone could stop by this page and find out what’s going on with me in seconds.

Where MyBlogLog Breaks Down

From a user’s perspective there may be SOME value to a page showing the updates from any particular individual. Honestly, I’m really not that interested in other people’s feeds of bookmarks, profile updates, etc. They could be focusing on what they could do best: SEO.

Take a look at a search result listing for a MyBlogLog account. The description of my listing is:

MyBlogLog respects your privacy—we only aggregate publicly-available information . If you wish to edit your list of services, visit the ‘Services’ tab.”

That helps no one! Searches don’t need to see that. Instead, why can’t they populate the description with something about…ME?!

So all of those sites I spent the time entering into MyBlogLog are getting their updates displayed on my home page, but what they aren’t getting is crawled. The news feed containing all of the great information about me (which is the point of the page) isn’t being utilized as efficiently as possible because the content is generated via javascript, and therefore isn’t scannable.

I think it’d be amazing if they could switch that over from a javascript feed to a pure HTML feed.

In All Fairness

MyBlogLog may not have had SEO in mind when building this page. They may seem to think that people are actually interested in viewing all of the updates about myself. They may also want to prevent their site from becoming a spam monster. Understandable.

They do have some follow links on the page that go to all of my services; they’re just without all of the awesome anchor text that I’d like and instead use the name of the service and my username (i.e. Technorati: patrickdaly, etc.).

Conclusion

If MyBlogLog corrected these things it would be a powerhouse of link juice.

Does anyone know of a MyBlogLog alternative that meets these requirements:

  • Public Pages
  • Follow Links (preferably custom anchor text)
  • Already performs well in search engines
  • Free (preferably)