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Weekend Favs March Sixteen

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.

Kind of an Old Man and the Sea shot taken during my travels to St. Martin

Kind of an Old Man and the Sea shot taken during my travels to St. Martin

Good stuff I found this week:

Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code – great free eBook from my friend Jill Konrath.

WordPress Help and Share – an open Facebook group for people wanting to talk all things WordPress.

Nestivity – a very promising looking community engagement platform for Twitter in private beta – register your Twitter handle now (Here’s my public nest – join me)

The 7 Most Important SEO Factors for Bloggers

Blogging software, such as WordPress, automatically gives your content an advantage when it comes to the “on page” factors that search engines consider important in determining what content to show in search results.

Ranking higher in Google

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

That’s one of the reasons I promote the use of blogging software for every small business site on the planet. Right out of the proverbial box your site stands a better chance of ranking for key terms.

Of course that assumes that are consistently feeding your blog high quality, keyword rich, educational content. (But that’s a story for another day.)

Today I want to focus on the most important SEO factors for bloggers and talk a little about how you can do a few things to modify your blog’s default settings and get even more optimization.

Title

The title is an HTML attribute that does not actually show up on your pages, but is displayed at the top of the browser window. By default, most blogging software makes the title the same as the post title or headline.

This may be one of the most important elements to consider altering. Many times your headline for a post benefits from being catchy or even intriguing to attract readers from Twitter, but that may not make the best title for people searching.

You can change default settings in the code or you can use one of the many SEO plugins designed to give you the flexibility to alter the important the elements I address in this post. I use a plugin from Yoast called WordPress SEO.

With the plugin installed you will see a screen below your post that allows you to change elements such at the title and description.

In most cases I create a much more search engine friendly title, with important search terms, no matter the headline of the post.

SEO factors in blogging

Preview of how this post, with modified settings, might show in search results.

URL

The URL or permalink for each blog post is also something you can alter. The first step is to make sure you are using search friendly URLs. By default WordPress creates database URLs with numbers and such that aren’t search friendly at all. You can create customer URLs by going to settings – permalinks and choosing a custom structure that includes the post name.

Once you do this WordPress will by default create URLs from the headline of your post. You can edit these URLs and in some cases this makes sense. Some blog posts headlines, as I’ve mentioned, don’t make the best URLs, so this is the place to shorten and edit in some keywords for more SEO impact from the blog post URLs – another very important factor.

How to edit URL of blog posts

You can edit the URL in post screen for keywords and length

H1 tag

H tags are used in HTML to show hierarchy for things like heading and subheadings. (They are often used incorrectly by designers for styling as well.) Search engines use these tags as yet another way to make a determination about what’s important on a page so wise use of H tags can help emphasize keywords in the content.

By default your blog post headline is shown in the HTML as an H1 tag. You may also want to style subheadings with H2 or H3 tags (Something that you can easily do with the Visual editor.) Careful use of keywords in these headings and subheading can give your post a boost.

Description

The description is another HTML attribute that does not show up on the page but does show up quite often when your post in featured in search results – it’s the text that describes what the post is about.

If you don’t complete this for your posts the description text will likely be the first few words in the post. This may or may not be a good way to draw someone in to reading your post.

Using the SEO plugin mentioned above I write descriptions that read more like an ad for the post so that someone reading it really wants to dive in and read the entire post.

Adding Alt image tag

You can add a title and alt image description in the Add Media screen

Images

If you use images in your posts, and I believe you should, take the time to complete the title and alternate description fields when you upload an image as search engines can’t see the image so your descriptions in these fields offer another opportunity for keywords related to the post topic.

Also, choose the featured image setting for the image that you want to show when someone retweets or shares your post to Facebook.

Sitemap

Sitemaps are files or pages that as the term suggests map out all the pages on a site. There was a time when these were popular navigation tools but for the most part site maps have become a tool to let search engines easily access content and changes on your site.

The WordPress SEO plugin comes with a sitemap function and there are many others available as well.

Make sure that you also submit your sitemap to the Google and Bing Webmaster Tool Portals.

Speed

This last item isn’t an SEO or on page factor directly, but search engines, not to mention humans, hate sites that load slowly. Google has repeatedly implied that slow loading sites are being penalized in their latest updates.

There are many factors that impact site load speed, including theme issues, caching and plugins. Using a caching plugin such a W3Total Cache has become a pretty standard recommendation.

Another factor is hosting. Larger WordPress sites have big databases and when that’s coupled with lots of traffic a host configured for WordPress is a must. Over the years my site started to drag so I switched to Synthesis hosting recently and coupled with the Genesis Theme framework my site is once again lightning fast.

You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights test to see where you might have issues.

How I Blog

Recently I wrote a post that described why blogging is even more important in the age of social. The post outlined the increasing benefits of using this powerful tool as a key driver of marketing related content.

A few readers chimed in and asked me to detail the mechanics of my blog set up so today I’ll go over the specific set-up, plugins and techniques I use in my blogging routine.

I’ve used a blog in my marketing for ten years now, written 2500 blog posts and consider my blog my most valuable business asset and yet, I’ve never considered myself a blogger – it’s just always seemed like the easiest way to spread my message and grow my community and that’s how I’ve positioned it over the years as I’ve pushed every business owner I’ve spoken with to employ this tool.

Content approach

I don’t plan what I am going to write too far in advance. I have a pretty rough idea of what an upcoming week is going to entail, but I leave room to stumble on an emerging idea, change in some social network or the occasional rant as I consume content.

I have a set of topics, a lot like chapters in a book, that I return to time and again as them make up the core “point of view” that I build both my ongoing themes and SEO around.

I digest over 100 blog feeds, dozens of email newsletters and a handful of print publications in an effort to draw inspiration and information to use in my blogging.

duct tape marketing blog circa 2004

Snap shot of 2004 version 1 of the Duct Tape Marketing Weblog

Blogging platform

I started this blog in 2003 using an oddly named software called pMachine. pMachine later morphed into a tool that’s still available called Expression Engine.

As you can see in the image above I referred to it as a weblog – this was actually what the tool was called in the earliest days.

It’s  reference to the fact that the software was created as a tool for developers to log what they done while working on a project and easily share that over the web with other developers – thus a weblog. It was later shortened to blog, which really has no meaning, but sounded less techie I guess.

In 2005 I met that folks at Automatic at SXSW and they offered to migrate me to a somewhat newish platform called WordPress and that’s where I’ve remained and what I recommend. In 2008 I got the wild idea to run my entire site, not just my blog, using WordPress and with each passing upgrade it seems to me that this is how every web site should be set up.

Theme

I’m on my 5th theme currently. I’ve used a mixture of custom themes and my current theme is a custom configuration of iBuilder from iThemes.

Themes have evolved as much as any aspect of the WordPress ecosystem and most fully support my contention that WordPress should be used to run your entire site. The most advanced premium themes today are built on a framework that allows you or a designer to easily create fully custom looks and set-ups using what are referred to as child themes.

Today’s themes are lightweight and flexible and are starting to really take into account the growing need for responsiveness – another way of saying they look good on big and little screens alike.

Early next month I’ll push a site redesign live that is built on what is quickly becoming one of the most popular frameworks – Genesis from Studio Press.

Plugins

Plugins are a great way to extend the functionality of WordPress, but they’re also one of the biggest sources of trouble. I used to add any cool plugin that I came across that looked valuable, but now I’m pretty picky and stick with a core set choosing simplicity and page load speed over features.

My current set up includes:

  • AddToAny – Makes it easier for people to subscribe to your blog feed using any tool they choose
  • Contextual Related Posts – Adds related posts at the end of each blog posts and really encourages additional pages views and reading
  • Disqus Commenting System – full featured commenting system that cuts the spam and adds more interaction
  • Google XML Sitemaps - helps push content to search engines
  • Premise – Landing page creation tool from Copyblogger that makes it very easy to create pages outside your theme
  • Sociable – adds social media icons to post so reader can easily share content
  • W3Total Cache – dramatically improves speed and user experience in an under the hood kind of way
  • WordPress SEO – great tool for quickly adding important SEO elements like title attributes that are different than title of posts
  • WPTouch Pro – Simple mobile theme tool for browsers coming to my blog on mobile device

Hosting

This is an element of blogging that gets downplayed in the hyper commoditized world of web hosting, but in my experience it’s a biggie. I jumped around a few times as my site grew and increased traffic (a good thing) slowed my page loads (a really bad thing)

Recently I’ve switched to Synthesis, a new class of managed hosting designed specifically to host WordPress sites. The speed of my site increased dramatically and will increase again once I’m using the Synthesis framework.

It’s really the only hosting I recommend these days as the service is very good, security is ridiculously strong and my entire site, including database is backed up automatically every day.

Amplification

I wrote a post recently on the precise way I push out my new content each day and nothing has really changed from that post so I’ll link to it here.

This is a topic that many people underestimate. If you want to build a readership, attract links and maybe even draw in a customer, you’ve got to commit to a systematic approach to sharing as well as writing.

Why Blogging Is Even More Critical In the Age of Social

Every so often I get asked if blogging still matters now that we have Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. That question used to frustrate me greatly until I started making this distinction.

blogging

photo credit: Mexicanwave via photo pin cc

No, the act of blogging itself does not matter any more, but the act of consistently creating education based content that is easy for search engines to find and index, easy to share, attracts links, creates a searchable and archivable body of work on a subject and will never be seen as inorganic by Google has never, ever been more important.

It just so happens that what I’ve described is easily accomplished through the use of blogging software that runs your entire site. Every aspect of this site is built on WordPress – landing pages, contact pages, about us pages and this page. It puzzles me why people still fight this notion or why they would ever consider entrusting their content assets to Facebook or some other social network flavor of the month.

Using blogging software is not a trend or tool or even a behavior, it’s the single most important marketing element of your Total Online Presence and attempting to build a business today without using blogging software as your foundation is simply indefensible.

No matter what the excuse – we don’t have the time, we don’t know what to write, we tried it once, our customers don’t read blogs, our dog ate it – the cost of not actively creating and housing valuable content online is too high and you are absolutely kidding yourself if you think engaging prospects on Google+ with the occasional profound bit of banter is enough.

Blogging is stablest form of SEO

Google likes to keep the SEO community on its toes and every so often adjusts how it ranks sites often penalizing some practice it sees as an unnatural attempt to gain an advantage.

To my knowledge, high quality, keyword rich, education based, properly formatted, highly linked to and consistently updated original content has never been penalized.

Blogging creates a hub for social

Creating awareness for blog content that addresses challenges and provides useful information is the best way to build relationships through social media and one of the best ways to then attract links and traffic.

Quite often social networks are the greatest source of daily traffic to my blog.

Blogging builds your email list

A key action in your Total Online Presence is the capture of leads. One of the greatest forms of currency in this game is valuable content. People willingly exchange their email address in order to receive email they want to open. This can be in the form a subscription to your blog posts or for an eBook compilation of posts related to a specific topic.

Blogging drives point of view

One of the greatest differentiators in business is a consistent and valuable point of view that attracts followers over the long haul. When you approach your blogging content creation as a publisher might with a total body of themed work in mind, you stand a much greater chance of building the credibility and expert status that comes from holding a firm point of view.

By focusing on writing about key concepts through a singular voice you can build an attractive brand message through blogging.

Blogging creates other options

Forcing yourself to create content every day or every other day enables you to think about all the ways you might use your total body of work. Three blog posts can become the makings of a feature article. Ten blog posts on a related topic might make a great eBook. A comprehensive point of view expressed in a blog post might make a tremendous presentation or video. The need to create a workshop might produce five solid blog posts. Answering the most consistently asked questions your firm receives by way of blog posts creates useful content and automatically builds an FAQ section.

So, if you’re tired of hearing about blogging, think it’s a dying fad or that it’s not for you, that’s totally fine. Just make sure you are consistently producing and sharing high quality content that is searchable, subscribable and indexable and house it all on your company’s domain.

And come back tomorrow when I tell you how I do all of that using blog software.

How to Use a WordPress Blog as a Referral Generator

I’ve seen and heard this scenario countless times. Two perfectly suited strategic partners determine they should start doing some things together in an effort to create referral opportunities for each other.

They shake hands and agree that it’s a fabulous idea, but then nothing happens. Mostly nothing happens because there’s no catalyst to get the ball rolling in a way that makes sense.

I mean, sure, they could both send out a mass mailing to their clients professing how great the other is, but would that really offer much value to the recipients?

One of the best ways to get a referral relationship moving is through content opportunities. It’s just such a logical way to extend what is already a proven marketing practice.

If you would like to build a killer local referral generator you should look no further than hosting a multi-author WordPress blog. (It doesn’t have to be WordPress, it’s just the best tool.)

Let’s say you’re an attorney that works with small business owners. In your work you’ve seen that small business owners need accounting advice, hiring advice, management advice, marketing advice, real estate advice, outsourcing advice, selling advice, leadership advice, and the list goes on and on.

Well, what if you built a team of best of class advice providers for many of the items listed above and you created and hosted a blog that featured contributions from each of these providers.

With any commitment at all your team could produce a local, keyword rich, content asset that would turn into a valuable resource for your clients and prospects and a logical referral generator for every member of the contributing team.

Of course, this could just be the start of your formal partnership team as you could easily turn this into group sponsored workshops and online seminars as well. Are you starting to see the power behind being the one that formalizes the network?

I hope it goes without saying that the content must be educational and valuable. This effort will offer little if it’s just an ad for all parties. Give great advice openly, use local keywords and phrases and create a consistent flow of new content and this tool will allow you to dominate local search results.

Creating a multi-author WordPress blog isn’t any more difficult that creating a single author blog, but there are a few considerations when it comes to promoting, managing and securing your platform that can be handled with the addition of the following plugins.

Promoting your contributors

WP Biographia – This is great plugin because it adds all kinds of extra fields like social links to the user profile screen and creates a bio for each author. This way when your authors post content their bio automatically shows at the end of each of their posts and features links to their social profiles making it easy for people to connect.

WordPress does not by default allow users to upload photos so add the User Photo plugin too and then Biographia will add your contributor’s photo.

Managing the content flow

User Role Editor – WordPress defines what set roles like subscribe or contributor can do (See a list) but sometimes you may want to edit these a bit. For example an author can’t by default upload images. If you have a trusted group of authors creating content and you want them to add images to their posts, which is usually a good thing, then use the editor to grant that permission.

Editorial Calendar – This tool simply creates a monthly calendar and allows you to drag drafts to dates for automatic publishing. This is a great way to take lots of content and spread it out for consistent publishing. For managing bigger groups and creating deadlines you might also look at DivvyHQ

Keeping things secure

Adminimize – This is a pretty cool tool as it lets you strip away everything you want from the admin dashboard. You might want to hide a bunch of stuff you as the admin don’t really use, but you certainly want to take away most of what your contributors see as well. Some things are naturally hidden based on WordPress default roles, but you can really make a clean posting screen for your contributors by taking away everything you know they don’t need access to.

Every business knows they need to produce great content. By facilitating the creation of this content in a way that can benefit your clients, prospects and referral partners, you can create a platform that will start to attract more of all of the above.

Adding the Google +1 Button

As I suspect you’ve heard, Google has formally introduced their entry to the Like and Share button craze with something they have named +1. They’ve been working on this for some time but pushed it live to all last week. (So, perhaps we have yet another verb to all – +1′d)

The difference Google has to offer from the Like or InShare options is the tie to search and that’s where the +1 Button makes it’s obvious difference known.

To get started +1’ing the stuff you like, you’ll need to create a Google profile—or if you already have one, upgrade it. You can use your profile to see all of your +1’s in one place, and delete those you no longer want to recommend. To see +1’s in your Google search results you’ll need to be logged into your Google Account.

Google +1 Search

Now while logged into your Google account as you surf, you will start to see little greyed out +1 buttons offering you the opportunity to +1 any search results you find. This act then turns the greyed button to full color and leaves a trail for your Google contacts. When one of your Google contacts conducts a similar search, he or she will see that you +1′d the link. Word from Google is they will soon let your Twitter and Flickr contacts view your +1′s too.

There is some vagueness in Google’s language about who will actually see your +1s – “And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop.”

Even more speculation surrounds how Google will use this new data point. They have said publicly that they will use this to show you more relevant ads on non Google sites based on your +1 activity. You can disable this through your account settings tab by clicking on Edit under +1 settings that appear there now.

Google +1 Account Settings

Another point of speculation is how +1 data might impact Google’s search results. They have been displaying more personalized results based on your network for some time now (try some search logged in and logged out of your account and you’ll likely see different results.) and some believe +1 may become another marker of a site’s popularity and relevance.

As is the case for the Facebook Like button and the LinkedIn InShare button, Google has made it pretty simple to add the +1 button to your content. I’ve added it to this blog as I think giving people the opportunity to +1 the content at the point of interaction will certainly lead to more content getting marked by readers. (The visual highlight of the colored +1 button in search results alone is reason to take this act.)

The video above shows the basics of adding the +1 button, but here are the steps
1) Visit Google +1 button configuartor
2) Choose the size you want to add (I’ve added the Medium to this blog)
Option – Click advanced settings and add the URL of the page you are using the button on
3) Copy the first chunk of code just before the closing body tag of page or template
4) Copy the second chunk of code where you want the button to show up

In the video I also show you how to add the button to a WordPress blog so that it will automatically add the URL based on the permalink of the blog post. – you simply add the href attribute to the second chunk of code, but use the WordPress permalink code for the URL – href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>"

There’s also a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to accomplish this as well.

Weekend Favs October Fifteen

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.


Image credit: ginnerobot

Moving Day: A Guide for Moving One WordPress Site to Another – Sometimes you need to move to a new host or move a site under development to a client’s host, this is a nice how to guide for doing that.

Optimizely – Simple, fast, and powerful. Optimizely is a dramatically easier way for you to improve your website through A/B testing.

AwayFind – AwayFind is a web application that finds your most important emails. When you receive an urgent message, AwayFind will notify you with a call, SMS, IM, DM (Twitter), or delegate the message to someone you specify.

Weekend Favs August Twenty Eight

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.

forest
Image credit: Charles Lam

Good stuff I found this week:

Color Blender – Input two colors and this tool will show you all the mid-point colors created by blending the two – very useful for finding complimentary colors

Building Community Sites with WordPress: 15 Plugins to Get Started. I think the title says it all, but WordPress is continuing to evolve into the Swiss Army Knife Web Tool

The Pomodoro Technique - Very interesting take on time and stress management with lots of tools and tactics.