Archive | Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

WordPress Plugin > Redirection

wordpress-plugin-redirection-new-install

Another post in our series on helping website designers with SEO. This one is about the WordPress plugin Redirection.

Plugin: Redirection

Price: Free (and the developer offers you the oppotunity to make a donation to help him out)

Source: WordPress Plugin respository

Thanks to Webucator for the videocheck out thier WordPress courses here

The Redirection plugin is a bit like the 404 to Start plugin in that it’s purpose is to redirect visits going to a URL and send them to a different one.

Like the 404 to Start plugin, this helps harness all the links coming into a site, that would be wasted by not sending them to a new page on the website. If the person is monitoring for broken links on their site and see your apge no longer exists (because you’re not redirecting the old URL), then they will remove that link, and you loose the SEO benefit of it.

Where this is particulary handy is when you’re updating a website for a client. Often when changing from another CMS to WordPress there is a need to change the way URL’s are named. This also happens when refreshing sites and the content is being overhauled.

And it’s in this case where pages no longer exist, which can cause SEO trouble if not handled.

As an example, we hand a client referred to us by their Ad agency because the phone calls had pretty much stopped. Previously they used to get loads of calls every day as a result of people finding their website in Google.

Another firm (not the Ad agency) had updated their website. The new site was completely different from the old site, and pretty much all the URL’s were different.

What the web designer had failed to do was note down all those old URL’s and then set up redirects from the old one to the new related / equivalent page. Plus as you an imagine, they hadn’t set up a catchall plugin like 404 to Start either.

The result was that all but links to the home apge now had 404 errors. And to make matters worse, the cheap them they used just showed a blank white page instead of a useful 404 error.

Their customers and prospects actually thought they had gone out of business.

What we did was use a mix of the Google Cache and Wayback Machine at Archive.org to work out what the old pages were. The we used the Redirection plugin to set up 301 redirects for each old page URL to point to the new equivalent URL. Then added the 404 to Start plugin as a catchall in case we missed any old pages, and redirected these to the home page of the site.

Givent he urgency of this, we worked well into the night to get this fixed.

To the client’s delight, the phone started ringing again the very next day (which of course also made the Ad agency look good for introducing the two of us).

This plugin can do a whole range of extra things over and above what is mentioned here. The key configuration info here is about how we use the plugin for SEO and website migration.

Installation and Configuration

Install the Redirection plugin is straightforward:

  1. Within Wordress, go to the Plugin page and press the Add New button
  2. In the plugin search, type in Redirection and press Enter
  3. The Redirection plugin should be the top left one that shows in the search results
  4. Press the Install Now button
  5. Activate the plugin after the install completes

Removing it is just as straightforward, Deavtivate it on the Plugins screen and then click the Delete link to remove the files. Note that in doing so all the redirects you’ve set up will stop working.

To configure the Redirection plugin go to Tools > Redirection.

On the Redirects tab is where you add the old URL (Source URL) and where you want to now send traffic trying to access it (Target URL).

As an example, lets say that the old page was was called About+Us.html and the new page you’ve created is about-us. When filling in the Source and Target, you leave of the domain name, so they start with a / followed by the path and page name. In this example the source is /About+Us.html and the target URL is /about-us/

wordpress-plugin-redirection-add-new-redirection

There are other options in the Match drop down, however all we ever need for this process is to match the URL only. Likewise the Action is simply to Redirect to URL, rather than the other options that aren’t going to be that useful for helping with SEO.

After adding the Source and Target, press the Add Redirection button to activate this redirect.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-redirection-added

You’ll nee to repeat this process for each of the old pages.

When there’s an old page with no equivalent new page, what we do is typically redirect these to the home page. If it was a blog post, then we send it to the Blog page.

After you’ve added the redirect, test it to make sure it works. Browse to the old page name and verfiy you are instead shown the new page to confirm it is working correctly. The Hitss will now show 1, along with the date that the last redirect was processed.

Redirections plugin - 404s tab

 

The Log tab shows a list of the redirects that have been processed, so you can see how active there are.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-log

On the 404s tab, the Redirection plugin keeps a track of all the 404 errors. You can use this to find other pages you may have missed or may have existed prior to your involvment with the website. If legit pages are showing up on the 404s tab, then it’s likely that they are either still showing in the Google search results and people are clicking on them, or there are links on other sites pointing to the now non-existent page.

Note that in addition to legit pages, you’ll spot how people are trying to hack your site, as they try to access pages that don’t exist on your site as in the following example.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-404s

This is where having the right security configuration is exremely important. Note a good look if your client calls up saying the site was hacked.

On the Options tab, we generally leave time to keep the logs as is at a week.

The Monitor changes to posts is useful to leave on and set to Modified Posts as that will pick up changes to Post URLs. That way if a client edits the Permalink, then the Redirection plugin will pick that up and automatically set up a redirect of the old one to the new one.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-options

One last point, it’s best to only Activate the Redirection plugin after you’ve completed the build of a website. Having it on while building can result in a bunch of redirect getting created that you then have to go through and delete.

In summary, the Redirection plugin is a great one for both helping with website migrations and with keeping the value of incoming links to pages who’s URL’s have changed.

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WordPress Plugin > 404 to Start

wordpress-plugin-404-to-start-settings

As part of a series of blog posts to help web designers use SEO best practices, this one focuses on the how and why of using a WordPress plugin called 404 to Start.

Plugin: 404 to Start

Price: Free

Source: WordPress Plugin repository

What the 404 to Start plugin does is redirect 404 errors to either the home page or a page of your choice.

So rather than visitors or the Google bot seeing an error page, instead they are redirected to the home page. This makes both for a better user experience and helps your SEO effort.

The reason why it’s beneficial for SEO, is that it doesn’t let backlinks go to waste. Say you have some powerful backlinks to your site, however, these are to a page that no longer exists on your site and you’re unable to get the source of these links change to point to somewhere else on your site. Without some form of redirect, they result in a 404 error.

If the site providing the link monitors if the links on their site are still working, then when your site shows a 404, chances are they will delete the link. On the other hand, when you put a redirect in place, it’s less likely they will delete the link, and you’ll still receive it’s benefit.

Installation and Configuration

It is very easy to install and configure the 404 to Start plugin.

  1. Within WordPress, from the Plugins page click Add New.
  2. Type 404 to Start in the Search Plugins field and hit Enter.
  3. Locate the plugin (it should be located in the top left of the search results) and click the Install Now button.
  4. Activate the plugin.

If you’re wanting to remove the plugin in the future, it is straightforward, just Deactivate and the Delete from the Plugins screen.

To configure the plugin, navigate to its settings page at Settings > 404 to Start.

The settings are really straightforward, and you set them once and you’re done.

My preference for the settings are:

  • Select 301 – Permanently moved
  • Leave the Email alert unticked
  • Set the Target URL to the URL of the home page

By choosing a 301 (permanent) rather than a 302 (temporary) redirect, it is telling the source, primarily Google in our case, that the new destination is the Target URL aka the home page.

I leave the email alert off, because I don’t need to know each time a visitor or bot is redirected (especially when you multiply this out across all your sites).

This is a simple redirect plugin, with just one destination, which is I why I set it to the home page. An alternative is you could send it to the businesses contact or about page, or potentially a sales landing page.

If you’re looking for a solution to handle more complex redirection scenarios, then check out the Redirection plugin. This is also a useful plugin for SEO, mainly though it is a must have for when you’re rebuilding a client’s website and the URL’s are changing.

To sum up, the 404 to Start plugin is a great catchall for links you don’t know about linking to pages that don’t exist any more on your site. So instead of the links being wasted, or giving a poor user experience, instead send them to a useful place on your site such as the home page.

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Reach, relevance and ROI: Guiding on the Internet

An introductory article in the Herald about SEO and Adwords from the NZHearld. Although it is a bit of an advertising piece for Yellow, it still has some useful info.

Every day more and more Kiwis are turning to the internet to research goods and services. Their number one port of call is the Google search page. And businesses looking for new leads and customers should take notice of this trend.

A successful search engine marketing (SEM) campaign can attract new customers in their droves and raise a brand’s profile.

Search engine marketing encompasses a number of different strategies to get customers to visit a business’ website and make contact. The two most common tactics are:

Search engine optimisation (SEO) The goal of SEO is for a business to appear high up in search results on Google. Businesses that succeed at SEO enhance their website content to include key words that are picked up by web searches, improve their meta tags, which explain the content of the site to search engines, and build links to their site from others. The theory is that the higher up the search results a business appears the more likely it is to gain the customer. Joe Bloggs Ltd appearing on page three of a Google search has a far lesser chance of acquiring the same customer.

It’s becoming increasingly common as well to attract customers and leads through social media marketing on sites such as facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Google AdWords Businesses can advertise on the Google search page by buying what’s called AdWords. When an internet user searches using terms that match a business’ AdWords its adverts appear above or beside the search results. These AdWords may be individual words such as “perfume”, or phrases such as “lawn mowing services in Matamata”. How often the ad is displayed depends on how much a business is willing to spend. Well-targeted ads are clicked on more often and recognising this, Google gives greater prominence to the targeted ad.

Both strategies go hand in hand, although the right AdWord campaign can be like gold dust. Yellow’s senior product manager Chris McNair says AdWords are the most measurable, targetable form of advertising available ? full stop. The strategy returns the three Rs of advertising: reach, relevance and return on investment (ROI).

The concept is relatively simple. Businesses choose their AdWords and then bid a certain amount such as 50c, $1, or $2 per click-through to their website.

Where the advert appears on the Google search page depends on a number of factors including how relevant the content of the business’ website is, how many click-throughs there have been in the past, and the amount the business has bid to pay.

In simple terms, says McNair, a business which pays $1 per click on an AdWord but has a quality score of 10 out of 10 for its website would get a total score of 10, being the sum of 1×10. Another company that bids $2, but only has a quality score of 4, would get a total score of eight and appear in a less favourable position on the page despite spending more.

“What this means is that it eliminates completely irrelevant ads,” says McNair. A small company with a great AdWord campaign can compete with a global multinational by having more relevant targeted ads.

AdWords can be used successfully by small, medium and large sized companies. For example a search for carpet companies New Zealand may return a small company such as Onehunga-based CarpetCall.co.nz high up on the same page as large manufacturer Cavalier Bremworth and a medium size business such as Harrisons CarpetOne.

Just how much a business is willing to pay per click depends on the cost per acquisition of the customer, says McNair. An insurance company that will get an $800 premium from a customer will be willing to pay more to acquire a customer than a company selling relatively cheap widgets.

There are tricks to making Google AdWords work better for your business says McNair. For its customers Yellow creates a landing page that funnels surfers to the contact information for that business.

While a lawyer might prefer email contact from a potential client, a fencing contractor who is out all day may want users to be directed to his or her mobile phone. Yellow also creates different campaigns for mobile search results on Google.

A growing trend in AdWords is what’s called “ad extensions”, says McNair. The extensions give additional information when the business’ ad appears such as business address, phone number, and website page links. These are new extensions currently in Beta testing such as a search box and clickable vouchers are successful at driving more traffic to business’ websites, says McNair.

Source: NZHerald

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Bare Minimum SEO: 3 Things You Must Do

I was browsing through ZDNet.com keeping up to date with what’s happening in the tech world over a coffee and found a excellent article on SEO for small business people who are on a tight budget, time or dollar wise.

The following article comes from their site (see link to the source at the bottom) and I’ve added a few extra comments on my take of the info. Enjoy.

If you could do only three things for SEO, what would they be? This is a question encountered by many smaller businesses, and even somewhat larger companies, either due to not having enough people (time) and/or dollars available to invest in a big way.

If this is a scenario you’re facing, what follows are three minimal SEO tasks you must do.

Step 1: Check Your Indexing Status

The first step is to make sure that your site is getting found! The best way to do this is to check your indexing status in Google Webmaster Tools and see how many of your pages are indexed by Google. Once you’re logged in, click on “Health” and then “Index status” in the menu on the left.

google-webmaster-tools-menu-index-status

I like to go a little further and click the “Advanced” button as well, which brings me to a screen like this:

google-webmaster-tools-indexing

The first thing to look at is the number of indexed pages, in this case, 887. How many did you expect? Obviously, if you think you have 1,000+ pages that you want Google to index and Google shows 10 indexed pages, you have a problem. In the case of this particular site, the problem looks to be the opposite of that – 887 pages indexed and 5,751 “Not Selected”?

This could be an indication of a lot of pages that are duplicates, near duplicates, pages with the noindex tag on them, or URLs that Google found that redirect to another page. Here is what Google says about this status:

Not Selected: URLs from your site that redirect to other pages or URLs whose contents are substantially similar to other pages.

To keep this simple, the bottom line here is to get a quick indication whether you have a problem. Too few pages being indexed? You have a problem. Too many, or too many that are “Not Selected”, that could be a problem too.

If you find you have a problem, what is the next step?

Unfortunately, that isn’t an easy one to take on by yourself, due to your time constraints. That means the next step is to get some help and to get your indexing problem diagnosed and fixed.

(Footnote to this diagnosis step: Some blog software packages, such as WordPress, create lots of category type pages, and these could explain why you have a lot of pages that were Not Selected, but you still need to determine how you want to address that, and expert advice on that topic is still something you should get).

Steve, Web Gurus: If you have a site built by the Web Gurus team, then this shouldn’t be an issue. One of the things we do when setting up a site is to configure WordPress to flag to Google that these pages than can seem to be duplicate content are not to be indexed.

(Footnote 2: Definitely check the indexing status in Google Webmaster Tools instead of using the “site:” query operator in a Google search, because the Webmaster Tools number is the “real number” and what you get from a site:query is not.)

Step 2: Focus Site on Target Keywords

The next step is to figure out whether you are effectively competing for keywords that users might enter into a search engine, which would indicate that they are a prospect for you.

Steve, Web Gurus: With the keywords, where you’ll get the most ROI is on those that are what we call buyer keywords, one that people use to search with when they are looking to buy what you offer. Rather than the keywords they use when doing research on the products or services you offer.

If one of the products you offer is left-handed golf clubs as a product, for example, is there a page on your site focused on left-handed golf clubs? If this is one of your products, at a minimum, you need a page dedicated to left-handed golf clubs where the search phrase “left handed golf clubs” is featured in the title of the web page (this is the title tag in the head section of your web page source code), and in the content on the page.

Implement such pages for each major product/service you offer. Pay a lot of attention to your title tags, and they can help you understand how to focus your pages. I have two golden rules for title tags.

Here is the first rule:

title-tag-rule-one

The title tag should focus on the unique aspects of the page.

Here is the second rule:

title-tag-rule-two

Very important too! Do the best you can to never duplicate a title tag on your site. If it isn’t possible to come up with a different title tag for a particular page, then why does it exist? This is great question to ask yourself.

What keywords should you focus on? There is a good article on keyword research here that goes into that in a little more detail.

The two main tools you should use are the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, and the keyword research tool you find inside Bing Webmaster Tools. The Bing tool is nice because it provides actual numbers for the keyword search volume on Bing (the AdWords tool doesn’t reflect actual numbers from Google, but are instead some sort of estimate).

Steve, Web Gurus: Another Golden Rule for us, because we focus on using websites as a sales and marketing tool, is to word the Title Tag in a way that encourages people to want to know more. This is because it is often the Title Tag that Google uses as the clickable link in their search results when your site is listed. So if it gets a searcher interested in knowing more about what’s on your page, it get them clicking through to your page. Then when there it’s the job of the content on the page to turn them into a prospect, make the sale, have them sign up, or whatever call to action you want them to do.

Step 3: Go Get Links

The key realization here is that getting your indexing issues resolved and the keywords addressed is only the start of the SEO process. You need to spend some time on that because if you don’t you can’t even compete for ranking on a keyword. You won’t get traffic for “left handed golf clubs” if the search engines can’t find your site (Step 1), or if you don’t have a page dedicated to the topic of left-handed golf clubs.

That’s great to resolve those issues, but now that you have solved these issues, you are only one of 388,000 people trying to get traffic for that phrase:

left-handed-golf-clubs

Links remain the main signal search engines use to determine which of those 388,000 sites shows up on the first page of results. Bearing in mind that this column is about people who don’t have the time or budget for SEO, my suggestion is that you integrate the knowledge that you need links into your day to day business thinking.

Better still, pursue marketing activities you would value even without search engines, but that will also get you some links.

  • Can you give an interview to a media site (traditional media or a blog)?
  • Can you write an article and place it as a guest post on an authoritative site?
  • If you’re a local business, can you get the local chamber of commerce to link to you?

Steve, Web Gurus: Other activities that can work well for generating links is talking to you suppliers or customers and seeing if you can write a short article to include on their website and have a link included back to your site. Next up is to look at what online business directories you are listed on, these are usually free, and make sure they are as complete as possible and include a link to your website.

You have to avoid the easy way out, and don’t buy links, or purchase one of those services that offers links by the hundreds (these won’t help you anyway, and may get you penalized by Google), and the like.

For purposes of this exercise, make sure that any link you obtain also offers brand building value. If you find yourself arguing that a link might bring brand building value, then it doesn’t. You shouldn’t need to defend the link, you should know that it provides brand value without having to justify it.

What about social you ask? Social media isn’t yet a major driver of SEO signals. There are some specific cases where it does.

For example, when someone follows your brand page on Google+, this can cause your pages to rank higher in the search results for that person, and that person only. It doesn’t cause your page to rank higher for people who haven’t followed you.

Bing has taken a different tack, and social data can cause you to show up in their social sidebar, but doesn’t appear to directly impact the traditional web search results.

Summary

If you don’t have time and budget, you’re in a bit of a tough spot, but these three steps should at least let you get your toes in the SEO waters.

Anybody have other suggestions for what would be on your must-do three step list? Or a suggestion of an additional item that someone can execute in 15 minutes or less? Let me know in the comments below.

Source: Eric Enge, Serach Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2205803/Bare-Minimum-SEO-3-Things-You-Must-Do

Steve, Web Gurus: Although the article mentions Bing, I’ve focused on Google because in New Zealand when we look at the traffic that comes to all the sites we manage, over 95% of the search traffic comes from Google.

If you’d like help working out what the best options are for you, then get in touch for a chat.

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