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Part 2: Attracting Traffic

2.1 Search Engine Optimisation

Make your site more attract­ive to search engines

2.1.1 The “wordpress SEO” plugin by yoast

This is by far the best and most com­pre­hens­ive SEO tool I’ve used. There are also extens­ive and really thor­ough art­icles on Yoast explain­ing all the SEO options. It will take some time to fig­ure it out, but its time very well spent.

2.1.2 Create your own images

A sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of your incom­ing search res­ults can come from image searches, and hav­ing images on your site is bene­fi­cial for oth­er reas­ons too (see sec­tion 1.4.9). Cre­at­ing your own images makes them more likely to be clicked on as you’re the only site with that image. Cre­ate large images and let word­press auto­mat­ic­ally cre­ate res­ized images for dis­play on your pages. You can link the res­ized images to the ori­gin­als so the search engine crawl­ers will index the full size images.

There are 3 com­mon image formats cur­rently sup­por­ted by web browsers: JPEG, GIF and PNG.  There is also a format known as SVG which has poten­tial but this is not yet widely sup­por­ted by browsers or word­press.  GIF is no longer very com­mon as PNG provides the same fea­tures with smal­ler file sizes in a roy­alty-free format.  Where pos­sible we recom­mend using PNG images.  JPEG images are excel­lent for highly com­plex images like pho­to­graphs, but the jpeg format uses lossy com­pres­sion as stand­ard so image qual­ity is not guar­an­teed.  For icons, logos and sim­pler images the PNG format is super­i­or.  It does­n’t use lossy com­pres­sion so image qual­ity is guar­an­teed, it sup­ports trans­par­ent back­grounds, and it often res­ults in the smal­lest file sizes.  For more inform­a­tion about image size effi­ciency see sec­tion 3.1.7.

2.1.3 Use videos

If you’re explain­ing how to do some­thing, con­sider cre­at­ing a video tutori­al. Put the tutori­al on your own You­Tube chan­nel and link it with your post. This can really help to illus­trate what it is that you’re try­ing to explain, and of course, it will bring in traffic from video searches and YouTube.

2.1.4 Provide image information

This is import­ant for access­ib­il­ity as much as any­thing. You really should com­plete the alt text, descrip­tion and title for your images. This is good prac­tice for the visu­ally impaired and the search engines like it. Simple as that.

2.1.5 Reduce duplicated content

Search Engines really don’t like lots of duplic­ated con­tent. We show the first part of each art­icle on the front page, but on the archives we show the excerpt. The excerpt is dif­fer­ent from the first part of the post so the archives don’t duplic­ate the homepage or the art­icle itself. Whilst the archives do duplic­ate each oth­er to some extent, the level of duplic­a­tion is reduced by dif­fer­ent art­icles appear­ing on each archive.

2.1.6 Disable some of the archives

This is anoth­er way to reduce duplic­ated con­tent. Hav­ing lots of dif­fer­ent types of archive increases duplic­ate con­tent and it’s con­fus­ing for read­ers too. We have dis­abled the date archives and post-type archives and only use cat­egory, tag and author archives. The search page is also a kind of archive of course, so take that into account. If you retain sev­er­al archives, con­sider using your robots.txt (or the yoast SEO plu­gin) to pre­vent index­a­tion of some of them. We have dis­abled index­a­tion of the tag archives for example.

2.1.7 Use headings

Search­ing engines like keywords in head­ing tags. So will your read­ers. It will also help you, the author. Writ­ing an art­icle of this length would have been con­fus­ing if I had­n’t used head­ings! The head­ings also made it easi­er to refer read­ers to oth­er related parts of the article.

2.1.8 Get listed on the DMOZ

All the main search engines give some weight to being lis­ted on the DMOZ. It isn’t neces­sar­ily very easy to get lis­ted, but if you can the pay-off is well worth it.

2.1.9 Configure appropriate permalinks

Hav­ing key words from the art­icle title in the page address is good, hav­ing them diluted by dates, cat­egory names etc is not. I recom­mend using just %page­name% as your permalinks. Unless you are likely to have mul­tiple posts with the same title there is no dis­ad­vant­age to using this simple struc­ture. In earli­er ver­sions of word­press this had per­form­ance issues, but this has been fixed in word­press 3.3. Redu­cing the length of the address of art­icles also reduces the chance that e‑mailed links will get broken by a line wrap (see 2.2.4).

2.1.10 Use breadcrumbs

You’ll notice at the top of all our pages we have a line which starts “you are here”. These “bread­crumbs” make it instantly vis­ible where you are on our site. They also provide an easy to use sys­tem to nav­ig­ate around the site. Both your read­ers and search engines will find nav­ig­at­ing your site easi­er if you use breadcrumbs.

2.1.11 Provide microdata

Using microdata prop­erly will help to get your site lis­ted for spe­cif­ic con­tent types — e.g. reviews, recipes, etc. You can also user microdata to include author inform­a­tion which shows up in google search res­ults, and increase the like­li­hood your link will get clicked on. There is anec­dot­al evid­ence that these will also improve your pager­ank dir­ectly. You can use the rich snip­pets test­ing tool (see sec­tion 1.1.6) to check your code.

2.1.12 Don’t be tempted to “cheat”

There are lots of ways of try­ing to arti­fi­cially increase your SEO. My advice is to avoid any that are clearly try­ing to trick the sys­tem. Soon­er or later your tech­nique will get spot­ted and you will be dumped into the “google black hole”. It’s not eth­ic­al, and in the longer term, it won’t work. Invest your time mak­ing your site bet­ter for your read­ers and you’ll reap the rewards.

2.1.13 Buy your domain for a long period

I don’t know for cer­tain, but I’ve heard from vari­ous sources that google will rank you high­er if your domain has been registered for a long time. Unless you don’t plan to keep your site going, it’s worth going for a longer regis­tra­tion if you can afford it. 10 years would be excellent.

2.1.14 Use a robots.txt

The Yoast SEO plu­gin will do this for you, but if you don’t use it, you should cre­ate one. A detailed art­icle on SixRe­vi­sions provides more details.

2.1.15 Create xml sitemaps

Again — the Yoast SEO plu­gin will do this for you, but if you don’t use it, you should cre­ate a sitemap.xml. Sub­mit your sitemap to google web­mas­ter tools (see sec­tion 1.3.3). Again SixRe­vi­sions provide more details.

2.1.16 Consider a trademark

OK, this isn’t very cheap. But like a long domain regis­tra­tion, hav­ing a TM registered is rumoured to give a sig­ni­fic­ant boost to google’s rank­ing of your site. If you’re a busi­ness this is likely to be of more interest than a smal­ler scale operation.

2.1.17 Create a dublin.rdf

See the guide on SixRe­vi­sions

2.1.18 Create a OpenSearch.xml

See the guide on SixRe­vi­sions

2.1.19 Google’s new ranking system

I’ve added this at the bot­tom to make you aware of it, even though almost all of the tips on this art­icle address these issues. Google fre­quently update their rank­ing algorithms, and in Spring 2011 they intro­duced a new sys­tem. The algorithm is increas­ingly intel­li­gent and will try to judge your site based on more “human” factors and less on just the num­ber of incom­ing links. The import­ant new rank­ing factors include: The aver­age amount of time spent your read­ers spend on your site, the bounce rate of your site, the num­ber of web pages viewed per vis­it, your page response times and your con­ver­sion rates. You can view this sort of data with Google Ana­lyt­ics (see sec­tion 1.3.1). If you engage and retain your read­ers you’ll be doubly rewar­ded thanks to the new rank­ing sys­tem. The rank­ing of page response times makes per­form­ance doubly import­ant (see sec­tion 3.1). To deal with high bounce rates or low con­ver­sion rates, I recom­mend you start by read­ing the art­icle address­ing exactly that by Avinash Kaushik.

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