No matter how hard you try to avoid it, if you want to do SEO, you’ll eventually have to come face to face with the fact that content is necessary. One of the best ways to build links to your site is through guest blogging; which is a simple process. You write an article that is published on another blog for free; the payment you receive in return for writing the article is a link back to your site.
Usually, you want to create some context for the link by writing about a related topic, which can be tedious and in all honesty, boring. Today, right now, I’ve decided something monumental; screw that noise, I’m going to write about why sometimes, if you choose to throw caution to the wind, guest blogging kicks ass.
My attempt here is to create a satire about guest blogging, but believe me that there is some useful information within the allegory. Please, do me a favor and share this; it’s on you, dear readers, to prove that an article like this can indeed do well!
Plus, sometimes we all get so caught up in the SERP chase that we forget to slow down and have a bit of fun. Hopefully you can learn a bit of something, and have a laugh this Friday, courtesy of me and SEM-Group!
Reason 1: Artistic License
Look it up if you must, but artistic license means one thing: I can make up whatever I want, call it art, and its 100% ok.
This is a fairly obvious point, because sometimes, you have to write about something that is just so monumentally draining that you have to throw in a couple of curve balls to keep people awake. With that, lets transition to when this principal is generally used, allegory.
In 2007, the mortgage bubble collapsed because the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Basically, many mortgages that had no chance of being paid off were combined with low risk mortgages and sold as a moderate risk investment to people who buy those things. It got to the point where imaginary money was generating imaginary money, which was then used to back more mortgages that couldn’t possibly be paid off.
Eventually, all of this unsustainable spending did what it was apt to do, collapse. In 2008, Pete Wise was elected as supreme emperor-chancellor-minister-king (S-E-C-M-K) of the stock market, saw this impending doom, and was far too busy swimming in pools bursting with imaginary money to do anything about it. When it really started hitting the fan, he was prompted by his S-E-C-M-K computer to do something about it; I was given two options.
1) Help the Situation by implementing a sound fiscal strategy
2) Delete Everything
Sadly, whoever had appointed me to this position didn’t read the fine print of my employment contract, which clearly stated that if ever given the option to delete everything, I have to accept. So, true to form, I deleted everything, immediately headed to 7-11 to get a burrito, and went home to have a nap. That is why the stock market crashed.
That is my artistic interpretation.
See that last bit, in bold and underlined? That makes all of that totally OK, and this is one reason why guest blogging can sometimes rule. You’re welcome politics, that entire recession, is all on me now.
Reason 2: Having Fewer Reasons in the Article than the Title Advertises
When guest blogging, sometimes you find that you decided on a topic to write about before you actually sit down to write it. You basically cover everything you wanted to in a fewer number of points than you originally promised. When this happens, you are left with a couple of options; you can revise the title, or you can forge on ahead and try to find another reason to add to the article to satisfy the title you’ve already chosen. Since this article is a satire of guest blogging in general, I’m sure its clear what I’ve chosen.
The reason that you have to choose a number is pretty simple; list-type articles do quite a bit better on social media than articles of most other kinds. In an effort to drive up social markers for articles, content marketers follow trends. Websites like Cracked.com generate top-X type lists almost exclusively, and get thousands of Facebook likes within a day. If you don’t believe me, here a screenshot of an article published TODAY, by a writer on their site.
Content Marketers dream of creating that sort of buzz, and rarely, such as the case of Larry Kim ruining the Facebook IPO, it happens. Far more often, we do our best to scrape every Like, +1, Stumble, and Tweet we can for our clients. We love doing it because SEO is honestly one of the most interesting fields to work in. Sometimes, we have to let loose, and that’s when you get articles just like this one!
Reason 3: Lying About the Number of Points in Sub-Categories, and Bad Grammar
Simple, because I can. Also, this usually happens because you think of something pertinent while writing the article that you want to share. I also know that I’ve switched between first person and third person in this article enough times to make the grammar-sensitive among us cringe. I’m sorry, but this is my party, so deal with it.
Reason 4: Because Unique Content is King
At the end of the day, the bottom line is simple. With every algorithm implementation, it is becoming more and more clear that search engines want to see websites create unique content that engages the reader. Keyword stuffing, cloaking, density, and anchor-text optimization are quickly becoming things of the past.
More and more, it seems to me that SEO needs to emulate the marketing strategies of brick-and-mortar businesses. Penguin more-or-less confirmed this for me, when it became important to have a link profile balanced between branded links and anchor text links. We all saw examples of sites that had over-optimized for a particular term become penalized, and some sites that had built links for those same keywords dropped off the SERPS entirely.
The message is clear, content is what Google wants to see. Far too often over the past 5 years I’ve heard complaints from my clients about how they have an awesome site, with a ton of content that is unique, but are being outranked by more spammy sites. We longed for the days that search engines would punish those that gamed the system and rewarded those that tried to make a website that truly engaged its users.
That day has arrived, and as guest bloggers, we couldn’t be happier. Above all other reasons stated in this article, this is why guest blogging is awesome for SEO. Do what Google wants and create good content, and you will be rewarded!
Around the start of the New Year I wrote an article detailing my new years’ resolutions as an Internet marketer. One of the resolutions was to read more, to dive ever farther into our industry to learn all of the secrets I could. What I found instead was a lot of disgruntled SEO’s about all of the changes with Google. Google Personal Search, the Https cloaking, and the absolutely Genius “Don’t be Evil” plugin are making huge waves across the SEO world.
Https Cloaking of Google Analytics:
Around October 2011, Google implemented a protocol to hide keyword and traffic information for visitors to your website if they were logged in to their Google account. What essentially happened was a sophisticated version of cloaking, whereas if a person was logged into Google, their search was completed under https protocol.
Https is a combination of classic hypertext transfer protocol, and SSL/TLS protocol. This combination of protocol allows for secure identification of a server or network from the browser, and opens an encrypted line of communication between your computer and the website that you are trying to connect to. This information is usually very sensitive, and different modifiers can be placed on the information that is traveling down this secure pipe. It is the system most commonly in use for corporate information transfer over an internal intranet, or for payment information for a shopping cart.
What this means for SEO’s is the information that is normally passed along to Google analytics is being encrypted in this SSL protocol, and it will show up as (not provided) when you search for incoming keywords.
The small issue I have with this change is not with Google, but with us “professionals”. Now, I understand that I use the term “SEO” loosely, if I were to describe my position more accurately, I would at least be performing SEM, most likely a full blown internet marketer. I do link building, on-site tag optimization, site architecture optimization, goal funnel creation, content creation, and PPC management.
The only professionals that were really affected by the keyword cloaking were only those that concentrated solely on SEO. The landscape of our positions are changing so rapidly, I would argue that someone that purely specializes in on-site optimization and keyword research had better have an amazing track record, because they are all but obsolete. Yoast, SEOMoz, MySEOCommunity, SEM-Group, SEOJournal and a huge list of others have free guides to on-site optimization easily accessible to everyone. They rank extremely well for their relevant SEO terms, and are written in plain English, with screenshots so anyone can learn.
PPC management alongside good organic SEO and link building is what I would say is the BARE MINIMUM for someone calling himself or herself an Internet Marketer to know. The only thing the cloaking issue did was force pure SEO’s to become well rounded, and you should thank Google; they are doing you a favor.
“Search Plus Your World” – Google’s New Search Function:
Over the past couple of months, it was pretty clear that Google was going to be focusing on the proliferation of Google+. With the constant updates, the use of your Google+ profile in the implementation of author attribution, and the syndication qualities of sharing with your circles made it obvious that Google would concentrate on it.
Furthermore, if you paid attention to https cloaking, you knew that for Adwords campaigns keyword information was still available, regardless of whether that user was signed into Google or not. It made perfect sense that Google was going to integrate Google+ into search and have their profiles show up over more relevant social profiles. So it was a huge surprise to see all of the negative feedback about “search plus your world”.
It seems like we are treating Google like our best friend’s garage band that just signed a record deal; we’re complaining about the fact that they are selling out. Sure, the first incarnation of Google had pure intentions; they wanted to give the people the very best possible way to search for what they needed on the Internet. Their algorithm was almost alive in the way it updated, and they protected our rights by refusing to bend to government subpoena.
We all seem to forget that Google went public in August of 2004. This means that they have been accountable to their shareholders, the public, for almost a decade. To convince Google to go back to their old ways would be to convince the hundreds of thousands of shareholders to change their minds. The loyalties of Google are now with their investors, and since we just make money off of it all, we really have no leverage to justify our frustrations.
People hate “Search Plus Your World” so much that a bookmarklet effectively disabling it was created. The “Don’t Be Evil” bookmarklet is actually an amazing piece of code, and I absolutely think you should all go check it out. However, I don’t see this being used by anyone except SEO professionals. Search plus your world is just going to be a reality for a portion of all Google users from here on out, and instead of convincing them to use a bookmarklet, I was surprised at the resistance to use this new content syndication system.
If it is a lot of work to post to Google+, there are solutions for you. There are a number of browser plugins you can use that posts to twitter, Google+ and Facebook all at the same time. Unless we see a slide from Google+ and it loses popularity, (not likely, since they just broke 90 Million users), I embrace this new medium, and the integration into search, as another way to get my clients seen for keywords they might take months to optimize otherwise.
Lets review: August 2011 was Panda 2.0; link farms died, keyword stuffing was made obsolete, SEO complained. October 2011 was Google+ and Https cloaking; yet another social network to optimize, people are forced to start actually marketing their sites, SEO complained. January 2012 is Search Plus your World; Google+ is now integrated into searches instead of more relevant social signals, SEO complained. Does anyone else see a pattern?
I have a question to the Internet Marketing community as a whole, why do you think our industry is so hard to sell? Is it because there are dishonest SEO’s? Is it because of article spinning? Is it because there is a lot of misinformation out there? Is there too many tools and not enough proven data about them? Or is it that we sometimes spend more time complaining about certain new features of the search landscape than learning them?
My answer is simple, and its inspiration comes from my father. My father is a man that embodies the essence of never giving up. He never went to college, got a library card to learn what he needed to, and worked 14 hour days just so he could eat more than a can of tuna fish a day. He built a business with my mother, overcoming the problems of mixing work with pleasure, to become successful.
We make money off of Google. Everything change they make is just another way for us to specialize, to add to our resume, to learn, and charge more for our services. Every hour spent complaining is an hour that people that refuse to give up; get ahead. His advice to me is the same advice that I want to share with you:
Step Up, or Step Aside.
It’s not being harsh, its the reality of our business. I love what we do, and the more we just step up, the more Internet Marketing will gain credibility.
Part of our jobs as marketers of the new age is to understand and learn the popular platforms of the internet. You will be hard pressed to find a professional Search Engine Optimizer that isn’t familiar with Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and simple table HTML websites. We preach about how to edit the background of your Twitter homepage for better branding and to include keywords on your Facebook fan page by renaming your images.
The new platform that I have been seeing more frequently is Magento. My responsibility as a freelancer is to understand the system, and utilize it to maximize its value. Here, you will find, not only where and how to optimize your Magento Client’s website, but how you can actually automate portions of it to save some time.
What is Magento?
For those unaware, Magento is the fastest growing e-commerce platform on the internet. Don’t be alarmed if you have yet to encounter it, because it is just new in comparison to WordPress or other CMS systems. Magento is Cross-Platform, written in PHP, that calls a series of SQL tables to fill the site. It is completely open-source, and much like WordPress there are a ton of extensions to customize any themes you desire.
Magento has a back end content management system, very similar to WordPress, but it is so much more robust. To truly optimize a Magento site, I recommend a working knowledge of PHP; if you want to be a Magento Pro, some SQL knowledge is necessary.
Based on SEOMoz’s Study: 2011 Search Engine Factors; the on-site factors that are estimated to most affect your SERP’s are Page-Level and Domain-Level Keyword Usage; adding up to a substantial 25.66%. Let’s get into how you can make that 25% work for you.
Let’s Get Started: Introducing the Back-End
Here is a look at the Magento Dashboard:
This is completely customizable, so these are the data points the client wanted to see. What important for me was the built-in analytics. Adding Paypal order tracking to Google Analytics is extremely difficult since Paypal transactions redirect you to the Paypal website where the final steps occur. Magento not only has a great system to allow for that sort of tracking, but with the right plugins, credit card data can be stored on Authorize.net’s servers. This allows your website to track the Customer ID’s, which you can see the last 5 orders on the left side. This data, in combination with GA, gives the SEO more data, which in my opinion makes better optimizing possible.
The “Reports” drop down menu gives you access to all of the data we’re seeing snippets of on the Dashboard. If you’re familiar with most tracking software, this one tab is worth spending the first couple of hours in, comparing to Google Analytics.
For Optimizing, we have to go to the Catalog menu:
The first place you need to go is “Manage Categories”. Unlike some CMS systems, categories are more-or-less required in Magento. This is where we can rewrite title tags, url’s, and the increasingly-useless Meta Description and Meta Keywords. I personally subscribe to the theory of completeness, so I fill all of these fields. Here is what you will see:
URL Key – This is to change the URL string, if you enter just a keyword, it will add it to the end of the URL in category order. (Ex. http://www.site.com/category1/URLKey) If you wish to rewrite the entire URL, just write the exact URL you want the category to have.
Thumbnail Image – I always name images keyword-friendly, and this is where you can upload and change the path of the thumbnail.
Description – Copy on the Page.
Page Title – Title Tag.
Meta Keywords – Meta Keywords.
Meta Description – Meta Description.
1) I do each category manually, since I optimize for each individual page’s best benefit, but if your website is smaller, or can use the same title tags throughout, please save yourself some time and use the “URL Rewrite Manager” tool, which can batch-rewrite categories to the same entry.
2) Save yourself some time and avoid the “Manage Products” category all together. The essential attributes that you will want to access are conveniently held in the “Category Products” tab in category management.
If you trust the SEOMoz data like I have come to; (I read every little case and footnote on that page, every year) the most important aspects of On-Site SEO can be accessed through that Catalog Menu, specifically the Manage Categories menu. For those SEO’s that want to dive into the nuts and bolts, Magento will blow you away.
Advanced Magento Optimization:
DISCLAIMER: SQL is needed in some form to really get the most out of these steps. At the very least, you’ll need to understand how to read it and how the tables are structured. Ideally, you are comfortable editing the actual tables in the database. For the rest of this tutorial, I will be providing real examples the client site.
Attributes are Magento’s way of describing a product, and how the system will handle it. For example, this is where the product page knows what information to display, and how to display it. You can organize attributes into sets, that will apply to a full category.
For SEO’s, this functionality is best used for inventory management. If you have gone through the Categories and optimized each product, then when that product is no longer in stock, you want to avoid sending customers to a useless page.
In the picture above, you see an attribute under General called “Status”. This is the attribute in this particular system that calls the Inventory table. Once you know exactly what table that attribute is calling, you can then set it to remove the product from the site when the inventory value = 0.
Instead of diving into the .htaccess file of the website to do all of your 301’s and 302’s, you can create redirects right in the back end. These rewrites are for the search function specifically, and you avoid having to do the redirects on the page level.
For example, my client sells wallpaper and wallpaper borders. For their Sports category, the number of wallpaper styles far outnumbers wallpaper borders. For SEO purposes, there are two separate pages; however, we found out through Analytics that most users are finding those borders in the “Related Borders” section on the bottom of the sports wallpaper page.
So, instead of trying to sculpt the traffic the way we wanted it, it was decided to just model it after the users. Go to Catalog -> Search Terms, and you see a page like this:
Here, you can see that we set a redirect when someone searches for the term “sports wallpaper borders.” It redirects to the redesigned sports wallpaper page that includes the limited selection of wallpaper borders; this can be done for any search term.
Unique Batch Category Title Tag Rewrites:
For those that know SQL, instead of going to each individual category and product to change the title tags, there is a command you can run to help automate it. In my case, there were 700 wallpaper categories, and these were mirrored in an equal amount of “wall mural” and “wallpaper border” categories. Instead of rewriting 2100 title tags manually, I did the wallpaper category manually, and then used this function to apply it to the corresponding Mural and Border category:
Here, you see that the Wallpaper category was used as a template, and then scanned the attributes of the other categories. Since there were Floral Wallpapers, along with Floral Wall Murals and Floral Wallpaper Borders, there would be a common attribute between them.
When that common attribute was found, it would take the title tags from the Page Title field of Wallpaper and fill that field for murals and borders. (Category ID 1149 and 1151 respectively.) This can be done any number of times as long as there is a common established attribute between the products or categories you wish to edit.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is my tutorial to Magento SEO. Depending on your coding skill, Magento can be an relatively effortless optimization project, or it can be a tedious reminder of how SEO can be. Either way Magento is a CMS system that is here to stay, given the amount of sites converting to Magento and the popularity of the Extension Marketplace; http://www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/.
So go do what we SEO’s are best at; adaptation, and get yourself some Magento Clients!