Dashes vs Underscores for SEO – Winner announced

We have a definitive answer from Google as to what is better for word separation in URLs.

Matt Cutts released one of his Webmaster videos discussing this and while there is not much in it (to the point he said not to change it if you already have underscores), that if you are starting a new site, dashes are the way to go.

Your WordPress Theme might be Killing your SEO

After repeatedly fixing up themes for SEO reasons, it gets a bit depressing that theme makers are not switched on about the basics.

A common occurance is when the title of the site and the description of the site is formatted with H1 and H2 tags, these tags are important for search engine optimisation purposes.

Repeating the same text in the H1 tag on every page does not allow you to focus each page on it’s specific function.

Here is an example of a header.php file that will generally have the top part of your site (header image, menu etc)

<div id=”header”>
<div id=”blog-logo”>
<h1 id=”blog-title”> <a href=”<?php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>”> <? bloginfo(‘name’); ?></a></h1>
<h2 id=”blog-description”> <? bloginfo(‘description’); ?> </h2>
</div>

As you can see the Blog Title is using the H1 tag and the Blog Decription using the H2.

When you get to the content (especially Pages), you find that the title of the post or page content is formatted using a less powerful Header tag.

The title of your content is an important piece of real estate that you cannot let slip by.

A second issue is that the Title that you enter into WordPress when you are creating your content. It is often used as the menu item for that page. Because of this people create poor titles as they create them as a menu label rather than a keyword rich title.

To get around these problems, I do the following:

Remove any Header Tag Formatting

Remove H1 and H2 tags from the header of the site (see above) and reformat with other styles if the blog title and blog description are necessary.

Remove the Post Title

Remove the post title from the content code (either page.php or single.php)

Example

<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>

<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?> <div id=”post-<?php the_ID(); ?>”  <?php if(function_exists(‘post_class’)) : post_class(); else : echo ‘class=”post”‘; endif; ?>>

<h3><?php the_title(); ?> </h3> <- remove this line

<?php the_content(); ?> <- this is the content of your post or page

Lastly, write Good SEO titles as H1 tags in the actual body of the post or page.

Example

It is important to check your theme to see if it has been managed in such a way that you can get the best out of your SEO. Some themes say they are SEO friendly but it is worth checking and making some simple changes if needed.

Search Trends for 2011

Here is an interetsing video from Matt Cutts of Google with Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand, talking about future trends for search in 2011.

They talk about the increased importance of social media in influencing ranking. While still small, it shows a shift towards social as a means of determining importance of content on the web.

Towards the end of the video, they talk about how Google is trying to avoid the poisoning of somones persona on the web by taking multiple sources of information, reviews etc to try to weed out any malicious or extraneous reviews or comments. Matt says that they take over 500 sources to try and determine this, I wonder what they are?

Another important note, is that even though these sites are classed as social networks, if Google can’t crawl them, (possibly because of high security settings) then that information remains hidden and cannot be used in building ranking.

So will SEO now become more about the persona of the individual or company, will the “quality” of the persona be just as important as the “quality” of the links or the “quality” of the content?

The next big industry….Persona Management 🙂

Bruce Clay on Search

I love the Webpronews Videos, a great source of info, especially from presenters of Search and Marketing conferences.

This one with Bruce Clay, at 18 minutes long, is a great discussion around search, how it has grown, broadened in it’s nature to include Interactive Marketing and Optimisation on many levels.

He makes a few key points:

  1. The new first page is actually the top three, especially as results are continually refined and made more personal
  2. The distinction between Search and Find, Search being research based, looking for overall information, whereas Find is all about what is around me know, especially on Mobile
  3. How Google’s Caffeine update has made the “accidental long tail”, ie those pages that are found for a phrase when that page is not about that phrase, less findable while improving the rankings for intended long tail pages.

Check out the video for some interesting information

Great Howto for 301 Redirects for Dynamic URL’s

I have recently moved a site over from an ASP content management system to Joomla.

One of the tricky things was creating the redirects for the pages on the old site to the new.

Normally this is easy enough when you are redirecting a static page to another static page. Unfortuntely the mod_rewrite in Apache that is responsible for doing the rewriting of the URL’s cannot manage parameters after file name in the standard way, ie:

I wanted to send oldsite.com/index.asp?id=1 to newsite.com/news

However, everytime I used the standard redirect:

redirect 301 /index.asp?id=1 http://www.newsite.com/news

I ended up with a URL like : http://www.newsite.com/news?id=1

So I found a great resource here >> http://bit.ly/5WLc8q

It broke down the workings of the redirect and included the followign example

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^id=1$
RewriteRule ^page.php$ http://www.example.com/content/page? [R=301,L]

Once I used my own page references it worked great.

A big thanks to Alex Juel ( http://twitter.com/seoholicc ) for this tip!

Key Ranking Factors from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz

I love the video section at Webpronews, they have plenty of interviews as they travel the conferences including PubCon and the most recent being SMX Advanced in Seattle.

This video is one of the better ones as Rand Fishken covers off some really key findings from data collated on factors in ranking high in the search engines.

Some of the key points I thought were:

  • Optimised Title Tags are very important (can’t emphasise this enough)
  • H1 Tags (Generally the main heading) are not as important as expected
  • Onsite optimisation (Content, keywords, alt tags, description and title) only seems to make up around 25% of the ranking factors, the rest are inbound link related 
  • Links from separate domains are important, rather than many on one domain

Have a look at the video, it is a good insight from one of the acknowledged experts in the field.

Market Research for Website Owners – Know your Market

In my SEO courses, one of the key things I talk about at the start is the need to do good research. Having resources at your disposal to find information related to your business and your website.

Doing business online is a bit like shooting blind without the right information, you know there is something out there, but you might die from starvation before you are lucky enough to shoot something.

Whether you have a website already, or are looking to start one soon, this is a key step.

When you are looking at your markets, you need to identify who is most likely to need your services.

Men, Women, Old, Young.

Here is a good article from Webpronews on the buying habits of men and women.

I think there are some key things like:

both genders agree that ease of use is the most important aspect of usability. Pose as a visitor. How easy it is to upload/download/view/purchase? However, men prize download speed over easy navigation, while women place both easy navigation and accessibility ahead of download speed.

This can make some serious difference to the way your site has been designed, but also in the path people must pass to complete the action you are wanting (subscription, purchases etc)

And an interesting generalisation

unless your website is very niche, that when you design a site for general use, you’re really designing a site for women. If you can make it fast and easy, and leave out the purple, men will like it, too.

In addition to market research, research around keywords and key phrases is another important step on the road to making your website work for your business.

Many sites are built with no regard to how it is presented to a search engine. Consideration must be given to the words and phrases that people use to find what you are selling.

Put yourself in your buyers shoes, what solutions do you provide to their problems and more importantly, what are they searching for. By mimicking their enquiries with the search engines, you are in a better position to be found.

Tools like Wordtracker (7 day trial, but costs USD329 for a year, or USD59 for a month) are great to find out what people are searching for. Your web stats only show what your are found for, not what you are NOT found for.

For a free alternative, use Google Adwords Keyword Tool, to find words and phrases that you could include in your text on your website.

Research and information gathering doesn’t end once the site is built.

Key statistics can help you make informed decisions on changes to your website. I talk to many website owners who don’t know how many visitors they get every month, how many enquiries they get, where there visitors are coming from.

This information is critical to being able to make a difference to the way your website is performing.

Conversions of visitors into purchasers is what the website is all about. Sometimes, people spend too much time and effort getting people to their website, rather than spending time on getting those who are already there, making purchases on the site.

On a previous post I linked to a video on the same site that talked about e-commerce optimisation and making things as easy as possible for people to make a purchase.

Immersing yourself in information about your website and the markets you are attracting is the best way to arm yourself for the battle with other websites in your industry.

It could make all the difference.

Can you do link building with Twitter?

I am relatively new to Twitter and some of the marketing concepts I have heard of don’t seem to make sense.

Then you hear of companies using Twitter heavily to build brand awareness and engage with their customer base.

When it comes to link building, I think it may be a combination of the above ideas.

While adding links to Twitter is a great idea, due to the URL shortening that goes on, plus the fact you only have 140 characters anyway, means that you need to be smart in the way you go about it.

I think there is possibly more traction with link awareness. Using Twitter as a viarl marketing tool to share links to content that support your business.

It could be something you have recently released, adding volume and velocity of the visitors.

Alternatively, it could be links to reviews or discussions of a product, service or concept; driving people and engaging them in the discussion.

You could even consider Twitter to be “PR on speed”

Volume of visitors and engagement of people in a concept or product will generate links, it will also generate other forms of content supporting it too.

I just don’t think Twitter is built for link building in the form we currently use.

What results have you had from Twitter?