This is not the definitive guide to WordPress SEO, and I highly doubt I am the right person to write one, in fact I am not sure who would be. That being said this partial guide on a couple of aspects of WordPress SEO might offer a broader perspective on what is possible than I have seen previously published.
I just test things out and track, and I expect my readers to do the same.
I am not an SEO Consultant, in fact if I was I would probably set all my public blogs up in some uniform manner that I would preach to my clients because it would conform to the accepted norms that the rest of the SEO community adhere to – if I create a site that meets accepted norms for my clients, no one could point the finger and say I did a bad job with on-page optimization.
Other SEO Consultants also like to link through to posts that suggest to their clients that everything they have been saying for years is 100% true, so anything that agrees with accepted SEO principles gets more links, and gets read by more professional SEOs.
For you gamblers out there
3+4=7 as well
You get to the same or similar result by taking a different path.
Vicious circle, or benevolent circle… take your pick.
I am not a SEO Geek – I am technical, and extremely creative in thinking up solutions and linking structures, but ultimately I don’t know my way around PHP and .HTAccess enough to be truly one of the “geeks” able to take on any SEO task.
Then again, most of the best Copywriters that I know believe that a lack of a formal education gives them an advantage and can mean enhanced creativity. I can be extremely creative when applying SEO knowledge.
Apologies in advance, this is going to get fairly “geeky” and I encourage you to bookmark it for future reference, or ask questions in the comments. I will include lots of references where appropriate, and even if this stuff is beyond your current level of understanding, it is a good reference for the future.
I should also warn that this post is quite long and “meandering” – there are 100, 200, maybe more ranking factors and somehow other SEOs are able to place them in a tabular form.
I don’t think tabular, I think in 3D – what could represent some kind of negative factor could also provide positive factors.
I use multiple techniques, and I test things gradually.
I also haven’t done all the optimization on Andybeard.eu that I would like, partially because Google was reporting bad data that was extremely hard to work with regarding supplemental results – that bad data is also currently still being shown by the Google Toolbar, and doesn’t seem to have been universally fixed for all sites.
I like to write about the changes I make, and like to have some conclusive results to demonstrate both why I might make a change, and also a way of demonstrating the effect.
The aim of this blog was a “work-in-progress” – as I make changes I write about them, or write about the results from testing at a later date.
If you make lots of changes at once, it is very hard to track which one was significant.
Unlike a Sales page, where you can just throw traffic at it using PPC to test conversion rates, with SEO it can take time for things to change.
Questions about SEO?
John Reese has some questions about WordPress SEO
This ties in fairly well with some material I have written in the past, and also the results of a lot of the experimentation I have been doing on this site that I haven’t yet discussed.
I also receive recurring emails on the same subjects, especially when I have hinted at solutions but not yet written about them extensively on this blog. Some of the information in this post I am pulling almost totally from replies I have sent to readers.
SEO Ranking Factors
SEOmoz has a great compiled list of ranking factors, based on the opinions of 37 SEO Experts.
I largely agree with the final conclusions… except… the idea that you should optimize for all of these factors, and avoid all the potential penalties in every situation
Top 10 SEO Ranking Factors
All good stuff…
|Keyword Use in Title Tag||4.9|
|Global Link Popularity of Site||4.4|
|Anchor Text of Inbound Link||4.4|
|Age of Site||4.1|
|Link Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure||4|
|Topical Relevance of Inbound Links to Site||3.9|
|Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community||3.9|
|Keyword Use in Body Text||3.7|
|Global Link Popularity of Linking Site||3.6|
|Topical Relationship of Linking Page||3.5|
Top 5 Negative SEO Ranking Factors
It should be noted that there was a huge amount of dispute over some of the following, and only an “average” level of acceptance for the highest items in the list.
|Server is Often Inaccessible to Bots||3.8|
|Content Very Similar or Duplicate of Existing Content in the Index||3.6|
|External Links to Low Quality/Spam Sites||3.6|
|Duplicate Title/Meta Tags on Many Pages||4.1|
|Overuse of Targeted Keywords (Stuffing/Spamming)||3.3|
A Handful of SEO Questions
John asked a handful of SEO questions and I am going to try to address them
I am not going to claim any of my answers are conclusive, though I have more experience in answering some of them than others.
1. Permalink Post Structure
/name-of-the-post/ or /name-of-the-post.html
I have absolutely no idea. I haven’t tested it, either for click-through or SEO performance.
I have seen many experts suggest that making multiple changes in permalink structure is not a good idea.
What I might do sometime in the future purely as a suicidal experiment is switch off the redirects. Most of the links going to my previous domains came from article marketing, so it would drastically reduce my number of incoming links, but conversely change the whole link profile into lots more authoritive links in balance.
One negative aspect of doing that would be the benefit I might be gaining from domain age, and I am sure it would affect specific keywords.
2. Permalink Post Structure Directory â€˜Depthâ€™
www.domain.com/name-of-the-post/(or .html) VS. www.domain.com/archives/some/other/folders/name-of-the-post/(or. html)
This gets a little bit complex, because there are lots of issues involved
Using a date in a URL can be an indication that content is “dated” so if you are creating a niche website you might not want to give that visual indicator – conversely, it could be looked on as a positive indicator of how fresh content is – URLs with dates are longer (there are positive and negative issues) – I think this might come down to personal choice.
Even if you don’t use dates in URLs, you will still have date based archives unless you don’t link to them, and block them anyway with robots.txt or a plugin that adds noindex to the pages.
Some SEO experts such as Graywolf would suggest only having an article appear in one category, and only use excerpts in those categories. This is effectively creating a classic tree like structure.
Date based archives are one way a search engine bot can identify your site as being a blog or news site – I am not sure whether that has a positive, negative or neutral ranking benefit.
Article Directories also have RSS feeds, but generally don’t have date based navigation.
If you are publishing a multiple-author blog, there is a chance you might be included eventually in Google News or on Yahoo. I have read (though I can’t remember where) that to be included on Google News there is a requirement to have a unique 4 digit numerical reference within each URL.
3. Tags: Hype Or Reality?
John is looking to know if tag pages on your site can really make a difference.
I have written a lot about tagging with UTW (Ultimate Tag Warrior) – yes that is a tag page.
Michael Arrington from Techcrunch was recently writing negatively about tagging, speculating that Google might block Technorati from search results, because the content they display is in effect a search result based on a particular keyword.
It should also be noted that until extremely recently, Techcrunch was a heavy user of Ultimate Tag Warrior. They have now switched to having personal database pages on a db.techcrunch.com subdomain.
Their tag pages however still exist, and are called their company index.
Rand Fishkin was asking Matt Cutts about search results being indexed within Google search results at SMX and from what I gather, the primary criteria is whether the tagging is useful for users.
Techcrunch obviously has a lot of link juice to throw around, and typically writes more than one post about each company. They do however sometimes talk about multiple companies in a single post, thus there is occasionally some duplicate content appearing on different tag pages.
Techcruch really don’t need tags for SEO purposes, though using tagging might help a little with relevance – they are effectively using tagging as their primary HTML sitemap and show full content.
Thus I would think Techcrunch’s use of tagging is a benefit to readers and highly valuable.
I should also note that there are a lot of blogs in the Technorati Top100 that use internal tagging, with the pages being indexed.
Wordpress.com uses tagging extensively, with all tags being indexed. I am not sure if this is of benefit to searchers.
I am not sure about Technorati’s tagging being of benefit. When a Technorati tag page appears in search results, I personally don’t click on it, but then I would most likely not click on Wikipedia entries either, unless I was specifically looking for a Wikipedia entry.
Youtube might have blocked off tags, but then Google have to be careful of favouritism these days with lots of hungry Bloggers, and lawyers watching their every move and acquisition.
Youtube seems to already be doing well with Universal search. How do Google detect largely duplicate videos?
Whether my own use of tagging is as highly valuable to readers is certainly questionable, but when you look at the limitations of current search engines, I think using tag pages is actually fair game, as long as you don’t abuse things too much by using tags that are not relevant to the content.
The Biggest Benefit of Tagging
Dubious amounts of traffic from Technorati themselves?
Having useful pages for people to link to, not only from their blog posts, but also Wikipedia?
The number one ranking factor was TITLE TAG, and to a lesser extent additional headings
I have been able to gain some additional traffic simply by tagging with and without spaces.
I could also add to the mix various forms of interlinking, the fact that every time someone picks up my content on a splog I gain around 15 links (though low quality generally, some of these sites are PR4+), and how easy it is to spread juice around if you need to.
Tag Pages & Duplicate Content
For the last few months, Google has had what I would regard as “The Google Yoyo”
Here is a chain of events
- Google had only a few of my pages listed using “site:” though I was still receiving 40% Google search traffic
- I reported myself for paid links, and a short while later, I had 4000 pages indexed, and almost no supplemental
- I added a translation plugin – it creates translated cached pages for the whole site, but it only linked from my single pages. (more on that for another blog post)
- I started gaining more pages indexed, and still no supplemental
- I started seeing hour by hour different results, sometimes I would have some supplemental results, and they would disappear 10 minutes later.
- Indexed pages and supplemental results seem to have stabilised
I currently have around 11,000 pages in the main index, and 9000 pages listed as supplemental.
My translated pages gain less juice than any of my English pages, so are more prone to be supplemental.
Tag pages which only contain a single post are generally supplemental, even if they are linked from a piece of content that gained some good linkage both internally and externally.
Translated versions of tag pages that were supplemental, are also supplemental.
So far I haven’t done any optimization on my tag pages to try to make them more “unique”
4.9 > 3.6 ? (Titles > Duplicate Content)
One of the most common things to do with PPC advertising is to use a version of the keywords with and without spaces, especially with only 2 words, or with a website name.
I have done that with tagging for a number of products, and sometimes it has resulted in a good deal more traffic, or traffic when I wouldn’t have seen any traffic at all. On some promotions I am talking an additional 1000+ visitors.
I have mentioned in the past that I rank for WordPress Training with a tag page, actually so does WordPress.com – it isn’t a competitive term, but it only cost me typing one additional tag on a couple of pages.
Double results in the SERPs are often coveted, and these frequently appear when using tag pages, so one listing will be the most specific page on your site, and the second result might be a tag page to all related content.
If I was someone searching, I have a feeling a tag page might get more clicks than if you had a single listing plus a “more results” link – I don’t have any eye-tracking data to prove that.
Tagging and Google Blogsearch
I have seen some strong results in Google Blogsearch for my content, although it is hard to prove whether that is because of tagging specifically, or other ranking factors.
4. PageRank â€˜Aimingâ€™
I have blogs that use siloing and minimal crosslinking, and in fact I can just copy what I sent someone in an email a couple of days ago.
The person asking wanted to create WordPress structures similar to the structures described so brilliantly by Michael Campbell, and then in greater detail by Leslie Rohde in Revenge of the Mininet and the Dynamic Linking ebook.
********** email about WordPress Siloing ******************
You can do it with hacking the core files, or creating modified functions in functions.php
The easiest way however is to add nofollow to links generated by various functions
You could also use tagging to channel pagerank around a little, though that ends up slightly different to Leslie’s teachings.
You might also find this useful
You might also want to use one of the many plugins that stick noindex follow or noindex nofollow on all the duplicate content pages.
I actually forgot to mention custom query string in that reply.
If I was using siloing on this blog, and no translation plugin, I would have less than 500 indexed pages.
With tags and translation, currently 11,000 pages in the main index, and 9000 supplemental.
Can a bigger net catch more fish?
Now Google seem to be reporting the supplemental results correctly, I can work on moving more of those pages into the main index.
Milk Bottles & Duplicate Content
For me, one of the most important concepts is that if you are going to have duplicate content pages, they shouldn’t leak Google Juice excessively.
Google themselves say that the reason for supplemental results isn’t duplicate content, but a lack of pagerank. Rank flows from one page to another, it doesn’t dissipate.
The same is also true if you use Dofollow, you should try to maximise your internal linking as much as possible with related links, tags etc to shift a little more of the incoming juice to other pages that might need it.
I see people suggest noindex, follow as being good for tag pages and other duplicate content. If you have external links on those pages, maybe noindex, nofollow would be better – I can’t see any benefit in the follow.
More Google Yoyos
Link attribution for syndicated content is really broken this week, maybe due to recent algorithm changes. As an example I used to have a very solid 3rd and 4th place ranking for “dofollow” – fairly understandable with the amount of links I have on my list of dofollow and nofollow plugins.
For the last week or so 2 articles that link back to my originals syndicated on Webpronews.com have been ranking, and those articles didn’t receive lots of links.
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