Query classification; understanding user intent

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A great piece from Dave Harry. It’s useful for any SEO that’s interested in understanding how keywords translate into types of user intent.


May 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Twitter Said to Be Launching Image Service, Acquiring AdGrok

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Last week, Twitter officially announced its acquisition of TweetDeck, and if there is merit to the rumors emerging, the company also has some other fairly big news on the way.

Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch is reporting, citing “multiple sources,” that the company is both close to acquiring AdWords keyword bidding platform AdGrok and launching its own photo service.

AdGrok, backed by Y Combinator, consists of Antonio Garcia-Martinez, Matthew McEachen, and Argyris Zymnis, but as Tsotsis points out, Garcia-Martinez has actually changed his title on Facebook to Product Manager at Facebook, which raises other questions.

It’s unclear exactly what Twitter would do with AdGrok. It could simply be a talent acquisition that could be used to develop its own advertising platform. The deal is said to be for less than $10 million.

The other rumor is quite interesting as well, and frankly makes a great deal of sense. Twitter has become a place for people to quickly upload pictures, but they’ve always had to use third-party platforms, and TwitPic and YFrog have largely dominated this space.

TwitPic May be in trouble

Given Twitter’s acquisition of TweetDeck, it’s clear that the company is interested in the continued evolution of Twitter itself, and an image service is a fairly obvious element – especially in light of Twitter’s role in significant events, like revolutions.

Things seem to be happening at a much more rapid pace at Twitter since the return of co-founder Jack Dorsey. It will be very interesting to see if this pattern continues.

May 31st 2011 Social Media, Twitter

Google Tests New Colorful iPhone Search Design

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PhoneArena.com has screen captures of a new Google search interface designed for the iPhone and maybe other mobile devices, such as Android, Palm Pre and others. The interface uses colorful app-like icons at the top of the search bar, instead of small blue tabbed links on the current interface. It…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


May 31st 2011 Uncategorized

J.C. Penney’s Google Time Out Period Lasts 90 Days

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time out google benchRemember, J.C. Penney was outed by the NY Times leading to a Google Penalty and seriously impacting how J.C. Penney ranked for the past 90-days.

But the penalty was lifted 90-days later and now, J.C. Penney seems to be ranking as well as ever!

Matt McGee has some stats on their rankings after the penalty was removed and it is looking good.

To me, this proves that the links acquired through means that were not in accordance with Google’s webmaster guidelines played an insignificant role in their rankings prior to the penalty. If anything, the story about Google penalizing them helped their rankings by getting thousands of links from the media and bloggers, and all those Tweets and Facebook shares.

The question was, was this a manual or algorithmic penalty. The answer seems obvious, because the penalty was only instituted after NY Times spoke to Google about it. That being said, we know manual penalties are revisited after X months, depending the penalty or sooner based on a reconsideration request. I assume J.C. Penney’s SEO took the necessary steps and here we are today.

Do you think the penalty was severe enough?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.


May 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Which search metrics do you show your boss?

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by Mike Moran

So many people to struggle to convince the boss of the importance of SEO, but how many focus on the metrics? Most businesspeople are numbers-oriented, looking for profit margins, sales, and other measurements to run the business. Sometimes we search marketers don’t think about the business, instead trying to explain how search works or why it is important. You might find more success if you focus on the numbers that will make the boss sit up and take notice.

Numbers

Image by DrBacchus via Flickr

And what numbers might they be? The same ones we just talked about. The owner, the CEO, you manager—it doesn’t matter what the title is—each want to know how much search will move the business.

Don’t waste your time explaining ranking algorithms, content theming, or link analysis. Instead, focus on the numbers that explain the value of SEO. Start Street the top of this list if you can, working your way down if necessary:

  • Return on Investment. If you can show how the money you spend on search comes back even bigger, you probably don’t need anything else. To do that, you need to be able to calculate your costs and (harder) the resulting revenue. E-commerce companies can do this, but most companies that sell offline can’t.
  • Online conversions Perhaps you can’t measure revenue and ROI, but can you show how people got as far as they could. Whether it’s an e-mail contact, a phone call, or some other point where customers switch to offline, by showing how your online conversions increase, you’re at least suggesting an impact on sales.
  • Site traffic Maybe you can’t count conversions, but you can at least count traffic to your site. If you can’t do that, you’re working with the wrong people.

So, no more talk of search rankings and snippets and keyword popularity—at least with the boss. Stick to what works. Focus on at least traffic measurements to start, but don’t settle. If you can only count traffic today, you need to work to identify all online conversions and instrument your Web analytics system to count them. Then, focus on tying every online conversion to an offline sale, so that you can prove ROI.

If you focus on what will persuade your boss, you won’t waste your time explaining what they don’t care about, Instead, build the metrics system that tells them what they want to know.

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How to Format Blog Posts Effectively

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Beyond writing good quality content, how can I format my posts so that they communicate more effectively?”

I was asked the above question by a reader earlier today on Twitter and shot them back a series of DMs with the following suggestions that I thought might interest others (I’ve expanded them here).

Image by Kailash Gyawali

Of course, as the question implies, the most powerful communication strategy for bloggers is quality of writing—but beyond that, here are a few things I’ve found helpful over the last nine years of blogging.

1. Your blog post titles are everything

Okay, they’re not everything, but they’re often the main thing people look at to decide whether they’ll read your post. So take time to hone them.

Use a title that grabs people’s interest, but also leads them into what you want to talk about. You don’t want to grab interest with a sensational post title that has little to do with what the post is actually about.

2. When writing longer titles…

I generally try to make my blog post titles reasonably short. They seem to have more impact, and they’re easier to share on the social web.

However, sometimes a longer title is necessary. If you’re using one of those, make the first words in the headline get straight to the point. The first words in a headline seem to be the ones that have the most punch—choose them wisely.

3. Use short, punchy paragraphs

One of the main edits that I do on guest posts submitted to dPS is to simply break up long paragraphs.

Large slabs of text are unattractive to those reading online, so break it down!

4. Use images liberally

Similarly, a whole page that is just text tends to be a turn off to many readers.

Adding a visually appealing image to the top of a post will grab attention and draw people in.

Using images throughout longer posts will also draw the eye of your readers down the page and keep them engaged.

Larger images are said to be good. One study I heard about recently found that bigger images draw people to look at them for longer—keeping people engaged.

5. Faces can also draw attention

Faces in images also tend to hold people’s gazes for longer.

As humans, we’re wired to connect with others’ faces, so using them in a post seems to grab attention, draw people in, and hold their attention a little longer.

I’ve particularly found this to be true on design or theme for your blog, try to make sure that whoever designs it has good options for heading tags. I use h2 and h3 tags pretty regularly in my posts (it can also be advantageous for SEO).

7. Lists: we love to hate them, but…

Many bloggers are obsessed by list-type posts and, as a result, others look down at them.

However, they’re very very effective in terms of bringing in readers and communication effectiveness. You probably don’t want to use them in every post, but don’t write them off completely.

Further Reading: 8 Reasons why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog.

8. Use formatting to your advantage

Make your blog posts a little more visual but breaking up your text visually with formatting changes.

You can go over the top with this but using basic formatting like bolding and italicising words can draw the eye to your key points effectively.

Similarly using blockquotes or some kind of call-out box for key sections of your article can draw people to important parts of what you’re communicating.

9. Call people to do something

If you want to be “effective” as a blogger, you must have some goal in mind for what you want your readers to do.

If this is the case, it is important to actually call your readers to do that in some way through your article.

The call to action might be anything—it could be to apply what you’re writing about in your own life, to go away and do a little homework, to react to the post in comments, to share the post with someone else… but the key is to actually invite your reader to do these things, rather than just assume that they will.

What would you add?

I’d love to hear your advice to a blogger wanting to improve the effectiveness of communication through the way that they format and design their blog posts.

  • What has worked for you?
  • Do you apply any of the above principles, or have you found other styles and approaches to work better for you?
  • Lastly, feel free to share a link to a blog post that you or someone else has written that you think is styled effectively.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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How to Format Blog Posts Effectively

May 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Experiment Your Way to Blogging Success

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This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Forming an emotional attachment to any component of your website is dangerous and unwise. Did you know that the smallest changes can have a massive impact on your results? Human psychology is very sensitive to minute details—this means that your visitors are picky!

If you don’t believe small details can make a difference, you probably haven’t heard about split testing. Briefly, split testing allows you to split your traffic towards two landing pages with only slight differences, and then analyze the results. Taking a look at some of the published results of split testing should be all the motivation you need to start experimenting.

Trying new things

Since fine-tuning our blogs can make such a difference, we have to experiment to see what works. What if we were so happy with cars and boats that we didn’t consider flying? Thanks to the Wright brothers, we now have the airplane.

But why would we stop at flying? Next up might be teleportation—and you’ll likely laugh at the idea of teleportation, but is it much more absurd than a 1.41 million-pound machine flying around? I hope we can reassemble the molecules of people after they teleport. Maybe we should try sending a bagel through first?

Header tweaking

I do practice what I preach. I’ve made more modifications to my website in two months than some people make in years. It has paid off as I have finally found a design that I’m very happy with. Improvements can still be made. Here is my header image evolution. I have spent dozens of hours on this one aspect.

Note: Some of the following header images are moderately to terribly embarrassing, but I’ll do anything to prove a point.

first header

My first header … was awful

Second header

I upgraded the acorn so it wasn't a pixelated mess

Third header

I scrapped the acorn and went with a smart squirrel (Samuel)

Fourth header

I ditched the squirrel and nuts for good. I thought this shadow effect was cool, but it was a failure

Fifth header

I wanted to simplify everything and have a nice sunset background

Sixth header

My current header. I think it looks very nice and professional with my menu in it

So my current header image is 1.41 million times better than the previous ones. You’re actually looking at hundreds of changes big and small (not all headers were included here). It took a great deal of experimenting to get a header image that I love. Maybe you love your design already or had it professionally done. Good news! This applies to everything in blogging—traffic building, SEO practices, content, and style.

It is important to mix up your writing content and style enough to be able to home in on what your readers want. Writing about the same things in the same way is a great way to bore your readers. You might be writing the wrong things anyways. Are you a brilliant fiction writer only writing non-fiction material? To find that out, you’ve got to experiment.

Experiment and win!

  • Success win:I run a personal development blog that focuses on deep thinking for positive life change. I wrote about an incident I had at the beach with a freaking stupid, cute little puffer fish. I had reservations because it had nothing to do with personal development, but I thought the story was too funny not to share and wanted to see what happened. My readers loved it.
  • Failure win: It isn’t all guns and roses! I wrote an article on analyzing 10 step articles a couple months ago and I’m still waiting to hear how the readers liked it. So I learned a lot about what my audience is not interested in by trying something new. That is just as valuable as finding out what they like.

In writing this article, I am experimenting with a new writing technique. I habitually tend to examine my writing very carefully as I write it and try to make it nice the first time through. I’ve heard and read that it is best to write the rough draft quickly and come back and edit it later—so I’m trying this. (Update: I think I like this new method more. What is your writing process?)

Final Experimenting Advice

  • Scared about ruining your website somehow? Run a backup first.
  • Worried about regretting an experimental post? One blog post will not make or break you (unless it goes viral?) and you have control over that delete button.

Like in scientific experiments, it is helpful—but not always pragmatic—to have independent and dependent variables. Your independent variable is what you’re experimenting with (e.g. header image). Your dependent variable is what you’re observing for material change (e.g. bounce rate, subscriptions, etc.).

Many of us will naturally resist experimentation because it is unfamiliar. To overcome this fear, I’ve found success with forceful action—making myself experiment. When you see positive results from your experiments, you’ll be encouraged to do it more. The unfamiliar is not something to fear.

Albert Einstein (or Rita Mae Brown) famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Do you really think you’re going to get lucky and have your blog appear on CNN for a 10,000% increase in traffic by doing the same things? Don’t be insane—experiment instead. The unfamiliar holds the greatest potential for improvement.

(CNN, I know you’re reading this…pick me!)

Text by Stephen Guise. One evening a young shepherd saw a group of wise men gathered in a nearby field. They were all using their laptops, naturally. He walked over and asked them what they were doing. The man with the whitest beard said: “We’re subscribing to Deep Existence, where deep thinking is in style.” The shepherd was amazed.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Experiment Your Way to Blogging Success

May 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Delegating Your SEO Tasks Into a Successful SEO Campaign

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For a lot of people, running a business is about making money. But, for me there is so much more to running my company than that. Sure, I love the opportunity to create profits, but I also love that I can do what I love, set my own schedule, and work with some of the best people in the industry.

I also enjoy trying to build the very best business possible. I want to see my clients succeed. I always tell them, it’s in our best interest that the work we do for them is profitable. If it isn’t, we lose a client!

As a manager, I want to see my team succeed. I want to give them the opportunity to build their strengths, and explore new areas, all while trying to create an environment where they do not dread coming to work on Monday morning.

Very few people are an island amongst themselves, and even fewer have succeeded solely on their own. I admire many of the sole practitioners in the SEO industry, but frankly, I don’t understand how they do it. It is a very difficult role to be an expert in SEO, link building, copywriting, analytics, PPC, social media, conversion analysis and coding all at once. Not to mention the time spent blogging, reporting, reading, analyzing, testing, and keeping up with the latest industry changes. That sounds like several full-time jobs to me, so kudos to those that can do it all!

I figure they either have more hours in the day than I do, or they are getting paid an hourly rate which I have yet to attain!

But, the job I particularly enjoy is the role of Project/Client Manager. As much as I love everything about SEO, I love running the business even more. As our company has grown, it’s taking quite a bit of an effort for me to let go of the old jobs and delegate those responsibilities to others. But, I can’t do it all. This, after all, is the purpose of having a team.

A Cord of Three Strands is Not Quickly Broken

D.L. Moody once said, “You can do the work of ten men, or get ten men to do the work.” For a business owner, doing the work of ten men yourself has its advantages. It puts more money in your pocket while also building feelings of pride and self-accomplishment. You have no one to blame for mistakes, and you can make sure the job gets done right the first time.

The gains with such a do-it-all-yourself mentality can be substantial. But, what you lose is often far more valuable than what you gain.

I used to not mind working 10-12 hours a day, but over the past couple of years, I realized that I wasn’t leaving much time for my kids. Not as much time as they would have liked, anyway.

Several years ago I talked to a very successful business woman about her company. She told me that she decided early on that she was not going to work more than eight hours in a day. Today she flies all over the country and performs seminars for business owners looking to capitalize on their wealth, but is still determined to keep her workload to something that can be managed in those 40 hours each week.

This flies in the face of the mentality of most small business owners, including mine at that time. We’re told that you have to put in 50-80 hour work weeks in order to succeed. Maybe this is true for a lot of small businesses, but unfortunately, once most start down that path, they find it hard to slow down and start delegating responsibilities. This, I believe, hinders their growth potential and leads to stress, burnout, and, in many cases, a lot of problems in their personal lives.

I think the goal of any business owner should be to grow their business to the point where the business operates effectively without their involvement. The owner continues collect a paycheck from their investment, while doing very little of the ongoing work.

I know this is my goal, at least.

That means that I have to focus more on growing the company and less on doing the work of the company. I make it a point to find good people that know (or can learn) more than I do about key service areas we offer. I might be able to be really good at any number of things, but I can’t be an expert in all of them. So I’ll find someone who is.

Learning the Art of Delegation

I never read the book Robin Hood, but years ago a friend of mine who did told me something interesting about the story. Robin would never let anyone into his gang that couldn’t beat him in a fight. If Robin could kick their butt, they were out. But, if they could kick his, then they were welcomed in.

I try to use that same principle with my business. I want to hire people who do (or are capable of) knowing their area of expertise better than I do. Hiring this way ensures I get quality people and I have less to worry about when delegating responsibilities to them.

Unfortunately, too many business owners and managers are unable–or unwilling–to delegate responsibilities, despite the fact that this often holds them back from greater success.

There are four main reasons people don’t delegate:

Fear of losing authority

One of the greatest fears managers and bosses have is that their employees may end up knowing more about something than they do. Once this happens, they fear, the employee will leave the job for greener pastures, demand more pay, or worse, take their job title from them.

Poor managers combat this by holding on to certain jobs and over burdening themselves with busy work that would best be handled by someone else. By being fearful of losing position, or power, the inadvertent result is a sabotaging of the business.

Delegation requires trusting others to make important decisions and allowing them to gain the knowledge and the skills necessary to do that without your input. That can be a scary thing.

Fear of work being done poorly

It’s often very true that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But at the same time, if you don’t want to have to do everything yourself, you’ve got to delegate tasks to others.

Will they ever fail? Yes. Will they cause delays, loss of money, and even lose a client or two? There is certainly that risk. But, there is no reward without a bit of risk attached. Properly implemented delegation can take small risks and turn them into far greater rewards.

Fear of work being done better

Pride can be a very strong inhibitor to doing the right thing. Smart business people surround themselves with people that have potential to shine, and help them achieve greatness!

While he was president, Ronald Reagan had a plaque in the oval office that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” People in leadership positions often want the credit for their leadership capabilities. However, delegating means that somebody else might be recognized for a job well done that you may have had a strategic hand in.

You can see that as someone else taking credit away from you, or see it as a credit to yourself for helping this person get such accolades. Instead of being afraid that someone below you will get rewarded for a job well done, you can take credit for finding, training, and building a team that is extraordinary.

If you’re worried about losing your position, then chances are you’re not doing what you need to do to keep it.

Unwillingness to take the necessary time

I’m a very task-oriented person. I know what needs to be done, know how to do it and can do it faster than anybody else I know. (I’m humble, too!) That means I have little patience when others I’ve delegated tasks to are not as quick as I am.

Therein lies the difficulty in delegating. You usually only do it when you can’t handle the workload any more and, by that time, you’re so swamped you don’t have the time to bring someone new up to speed.

But, this is also why delegating early is so important. By delegating, each task may take more time individually, but collectively you get a lot more done in the same amount of time. Doing the work of ten men may seem noble, and give you a nice boost in pride, but it’s been said that nobody lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at work!

Whether you’re running an online business, are a marketing manager or perhaps managing an SEO firm, delegating your SEO responsibilities isn’t just about freeing up your time to do more things outside of work (clearly a benefit), it’s also about freeing up your time at work to be the brains rather than the brawn. Letting others do the “important” operational tasks frees you up to provide more oversight, develop new ideas and make your company more profitable.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best leader is the one who has a sense to pick good people to do what he or she wants done, and enough self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Good SEO delegation creates a business far greater than the sum of its parts.

Originally published on E-Marketing Performance

May 31st 2011 Search, SEO

WordPress SEO Theme Guidelines

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It seems every “premium” WordPress theme these days calls itself “SEO friendly”. They’re usually not. In fact, most are crap, I’m sorry to say. So I thought I’d lay down some WordPress SEO Theme “Rules” or “Guidelines”. If you’re not abiding by those rules, you’ll never get the “Yoast says it’s SEO friendly” sticker, sorry.

Ok so these guidelines will consist of WordPress SEO Theme “Do’s” and “Don’ts”, starting out with the don’ts:

WordPress SEO Theme Don’ts

WordPress SEO Theme Guidelines

  1. Put the site’s name first in the title tag.
    The title tag should be post title – site title or a variation on that, but the only variation you do not want in a WordPress SEO Theme is the exact opposite: site title – post title.
  2. Add a static meta description to pages.
    I see this so often now: people complain that my WP SEO plugin doesn’t work because the meta description isn’t showing, but in fact, their theme contains a static meta description that is the same on each bloody page.
  3. Don’t add static robots meta tags or anything else that’ll hamper search engines.
    Same as above, please don’t add meta robots tags, “index,follow” is what Google will do by default and if you include it in your theme statically, a user cannot use a plugin to make a page un-indexable, for instance.
  4. Use the H1 for the logo, on every page.
    The H1 should be used for the most important heading on the page. In most cases, that is the article title, not the logo, on every page but the homepage. There’s a lot more to say about headings, which I’ve done in my HTML Heading Structure article.
  5. Don’t hide links in the theme.
    This one might be obvious but still: don’t hide any links in your theme that don’t belong there. One link to you as the theme creator: ok, anything else: nonsense.
  6. Have sidebars above the content in your code.
    In an ideal world, the first content in the HTML is the content of the page, followed by related navigation, then sidebars, then site navigation, then utilities like sitemaps and privacy statements. Having sidebars above the main content of a page though is a straight violation of the WordPress SEO Theme guidelines.

WordPress SEO Theme Do’s

  1. Allow taxonomy descriptions to be shown.
    In most themes, taxonomy archives are boring as hell. They have no unique content whatsoever and just contain the latest posts for that taxonomy. WordPress has a core feature that allows for a description of a taxonomy though, and a good WordPress SEO Theme should allow the user to display that description, topped by an H1 with the Taxonomy title in it.
  2. Show excerpts on archives.
    Archive pages with full-length posts are not really any good for SEO, doing so on your frontpage for the last few posts might have some usability benefit, allowing users who come to your homepage to read posts immediately, for archives that benefit doesn’t outweigh the SEO.
  3. Allow for breadcrumbs.
    Most any SEO these days will tell you breadcrumbs are a nice and easy way to create a good internal linking structure (provided the user uses the taxonomies etc. right of course) so embedding breadcrumbs is important. Making sure they work with custom taxonomies is important too!
  4. Use the post title as the first anchor text.
    Don’t use “read more” or “continue reading” as the first anchor text towards a post, not in the body, not in widgets, nowhere. Just use the post title.
  5. Clean, cleaner, cleanest.
    Your theme code should be as clean as humanly possible, don’t overdo it on divs etc. for styling, just keep it simple and solid, to allow for fast page loads and easy crawling.

Unneeded functionality

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no need to put SEO functionality for titles and descriptions in your theme. There are a couple of very good plugins that can do that better than your theme ever can. While I wouldn’t distract any points for it, I’d rather you focus on great code for your theme.

WordPress SEO Theme Scan

Starting today, I’m offering a WordPress SEO Theme scan. I’ll review a WordPress theme and tell you whether it’s SEO friendly or not. I’ll do that in a post on this site, in a similar fashion to my WordPress plugin reviews with a 1 – 5 star rating. If you’re the author of the theme you’ll get a badge to use on your own site that you can use to show off my rating.

I’ll start this service at the introductory price of $300 and it’ll go up to $450 later on. If you’ve got multiple themes you’d like me to review, contact me for pricing.

WordPress SEO Theme Guidelines is a post from Joost de Valk's Yoast – Tweaking Websites.

A good WordPress blog needs good hosting, you don’t want your blog to be slow, or, even worse, down, do you? Check out my thoughts on WordPress hosting!

May 31st 2011 wordpress

The Complete Takeaway Breakfast Nutrition Guide

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You’re running late to work and it’s cold; grabbing a quick hot takeaway breakfast is all too tempting. That decision is yours, but you should know the nutritional consequences. Check out Lifehacker’s comprehensive nutritional listing of breakfast options from major fast food chains. (more…)

May 31st 2011 Uncategorized