Archive for the ‘ SEO ’ Category

PageRank Update for June, 2009

I now have PageRank 2!

Reported on Search Engine Roundtable, it seems like Google has updated PageRank sometime yesterday, which was a bit unusual as PageRank was just updated in May and usually there is a 3 month cycle between updates, although a commenter on that post points out that updates have been more frequent since the last Google Toolbar was released.

Personally, I wonder if PageRank hasn’t been updated in part since the SEO community has now had time to react to Matt Cutt’s bombshell on the change in how Google will treat nofollowed links and PageRank sculpting.

So, if you’re in SEO, check your client sites and see if anything has changed, and if you’re a blogger, hopefully you saw a boost. Again, PageRank isn’t really that important of a metric, but its hard to ignore a “score” given to you by Google on a scale of 1 to 10. And at the very least, an improvement in score is an improvement nonetheless, so I’ll take what I can get.

My last report on PageRank was on May 28 where I had achieved PageRank of 1. At the time I had 53 incoming links on a 3 month old website/domain. As of today I have 224 inlinks (in Yahoo! Site Explorer) on a 6 month old domain. Most of these inlinks aren’t that valuable, and Yahoo! counts links that are nofollowed (whereas Google would not).

Setting Up Google Analytics for WordPress – A Wealth of Data for Free

Google-Analytics

Wow, I don’t know what I was thinking for the first 3 months when I using the basic “Awstats” program on my server as my only software to track traffic, visits, incoming search keywords, and all of the other vital information about visitors to my website.

Google Analytics is free, provides an almost overwhelming amount of data, and is super easy to integrate with WordPress. If you are running a WordPress blog and haven’t upgraded your analytics software, I suggest you hop over to Google Analytics now and get started. This should take 5, maybe 10 minutes tops to get setup (full disclosure, it took me about an hour, haha), and whether you are a data geek or not, you’ll find out some cool stuff about your visitors that will help you connect with your audience better, so it’s good to check out no matter what your background is.

You can use your existing Google account and within a minute or two Google will give you a 10 digit ID number like UA-0000000-1, which you’ll need for the next step.

Next, you’ll want to install the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin, which you can do by clicking the link in the last sentence or by going to your WordPress Site Admin – Plugins – Add New and search for “Google Analytics.”

Once installed and activated, all the plugin requires is your analytics ID (i.e. UA-0000000-1 in the previous example), which can be found right next to your URL in the Analytics dashboard. The plugin will then automatically insert the necessary code in the footer of each page.

One caveat (and why it took me ~1hr to get all of this going): some WordPress themes take control of the footer, including the theme I’m using called “Carrington.” If the code isn’t being automatically inserted into your footer due to your custom WordPress theme (the Google Analytics dashboard will have a ! sign instead of a green check in the Status column), it may require you to go into Site Admin – Appearance – Editor – default footer and entering the code yourself, or in the case of Carrington you can go to Site Admin – Appearance – Carrington and there is a custom field there that reads “Footer code (for analytics, etc.).”

Anyway, what does this get you? A lot. And it’s free. Some sample statistics & screenshots:

Top-Traffic-Sources Top traffic sources show where my visitors are coming from. It’s kind of neat to see such a high amount of natural search traffic coming from Google, but also interesting that my twitter account has generated a decent amount of traffic, as well as my flickr account and a few blog comments I left over at at Agency Spy on MediaBistro.com. I guess this shows why it’s important to promote your website holistically through a number of channels, not simply relying on just one media channel (i.e. twitter) to generate traffic. I’m getting traffic from places I’m not even intentionally soliciting it from (like the blog comments).

Keywords-Driving-TrafficAnother good one is the keywords driving traffic to my site through Google. You can tell that they are relating around three very recent blog posts I had on Google’s Treatment of NoFollow and how it will impact blogs, A Social Media WordPress Plugin I recommend, and my tips and advice for the new Facebook Vanity URLs that rolled out earlier this month. This reinforces the core truth about blogging, SEO, and internet media in general: fresh, timely, and relevant content will get you more visitors and well-written, useful, informative or otherwise enjoyable content will keep them coming back.

Browser-Statistics Browser statistics shows what internet browsers people are viewing my site on. It makes me so happy to see MS Internet Explorer at the bottom. To me, this tells me my viewers are more tech saavy and don’t use IE just because it was the default browser and they upgraded to a browser that doesn’t completely drag ass and generally suck at the internet.

There’s tons more information in here, but you’ll have to set this up to find out. You’ll notice in both screenshots above there is an option to view a detailed report on each data point, showing just the level of detail you can drill down to.

Change in PageRank Sculpting, nofollow treatment by Google: A Mad, Mad (SEO) World

<a href=image credit ari via creative commons

This is really only for the technical SEO folks, but Matt Cutts of Google has recently clarified how Google treats nofollowed links and it’s implications for Page Rank Sculpting, but this has much broader implications on how people will link out both externally and internally in general, IMO. Below is your recommended reading to learn more:

Here’s my quick take on things: the nofollow tag (which tells Google bots not to follow this link or flow any page rank through it) has been increasingly abused to manipulate rankings in Google. The nofollow tag started as a way, in part, to block blog comments with URLs in them from being followed or counted as links by Google’s bots, so that if there are 80 comments with links in a post the bot would almost pretend that those links weren’t there at all. This is no longer a valid simplification, as this recent clarification by Mr. Cutts indicates that the bot will still “count” those links as being on the page, it just won’t pass along any PageRank if you use the rel=nofollow attribute.

The implication that is getting the SEO world in a tizzy is this: every link on the page, even when nofollowed, may be counteracting your efforts to pass along PageRank to the webpages that you are acutally intending to link to and actively trying to give credit to. To take the argument one step further, the fewer links on a page you have, the more PageRank can flow between them. The more links you have, even when nofollowed, the less importance (via PageRank) is passed along. It would be in your interest, then, to only link to pages that you really want to pass credit along to, which are probably only internal navigation  links within your domain, and a few (but probably not many) high quality external links (since Google does view linking to authority websites as an indicator that your site, too, carries some authority, maybe).

Does this mean we should turn off the ability to leave URLs in blog comments? Should we stop linking to spammy websites as examples of what not to do? Should we never link out to a page unless its of high authority with good PageRank and backlinks? Stop linking out to external domains altogether?????

It’s too soon to tell, but I sure hope not, and I highly doubt the implications are really this grave. Various authority blogs (which I can still comfortably link to, as seen above) will probably do more research to both confirm these changes and see to what extent gratituitious  nofollow linking will really harm things. I’ve always been generous in linking out to other pages, as I know that’s the only way I’ll get links back and I don’t mind giving credit where credit’s due.

But, I’m worried that less benevolent, somewhat “greedy” bloggers who are too focused on SEO and not enough on their readers that will start taking up that annoying habit of only linking to your own webpage, even when talking about an external source.

Okay kiddies, back to work, my lunch break is over (just like PageRank sculpting via the rel=nofollow attribute, burn!)

Recommended WordPress Widget: Social Media Page

Social Media Plugin for WordPress

Social Media Plugin for WordPress

I haven’t fiddled around with my blog design as much as I’d have liked to, but here is one plug-in I highly recommend: Social Media Page.

As seen on my side bar where it says “Connect with Me,” this widget offers a clean looking format for listing all of my social networking profiles. These are direct, SEO-friendly links along with little logos to look a little more professional then just the standard WordPress “Links” section.

The plug-in is super easy to use and even helps you find the URLs of your public profiles in case you don’t already know them. In my case, it also reminded me to go ahead and update some of those profiles as they hadn’t been touched in years. Once I had all of my URLs selected I just had to go into the WordPress Admin – Appearance – Widgets and have the widget show in my sidebar.

Anyway, just a quick post, but go check it out. And since I’m all for giving link love, here is a link to the author’s personal website, Philip Norton.

Facebook Vanity URLs now Live!

Here’s what you need to know about the new Facebook Usernames:

Go to http://www.facebook.com/username and reserve your username right now!. Your username will then become the subfolder on facebook.com where your page is stored. For instance, my username is “nickroshon” and my new URL is http://www.facebook.com/nickroshon

Hurry up and grab something if you haven’t already, but here are a few tips on picking your custom Facebook vanity URL:

The dot doesn’t matter: if you choose nick.roshon or nickroshon, it still goes to the same place. Much like Gmail, Facebook will ignore the period between words and treat the two as the same. You can go to http://www.facebook.com/nickroshon and http://www.facebook.com/nick.roshon and they both take you to the same place, so in essence I got 2 vanity URLs from Facebook today.

Facebook pages are different: If you are a page, and not just a personal user, you can only reserve your username/vanity URL if you created your fan page by May 31, 2009 and have at least 1,000 followers. The rest of you will get your shot in July.

Get a Unique Username: If you want http://www.facebook.com/awesome, it’s still available. However, http://www.facebook.com/nick is already taken 🙁 and so is http://www.facebook.com/likeaboss

Don’t pick something stupid: It is permanent, and at the time of writing Facebook offers no method of changing your username / vanity URL, so you’re stuck with whatever you chose. So in 10 years, when no one has any clue what “likeaboss” really means, you’ll feel like an idiot.

Avoid Trademarks: If you pick a brand name or trademarked term as your username/vanity URL, the owner of that trademark can appeal it on Facebook and you will be stripped of it, so don’t go out there grabbing something you know you don’t deserve.

Username Squatting: If you want to create a bunch of dummy accounts to reserve other user accounts, you are too late. Right now, the ability to reserve a username is only available to Facebook profiles created before June 9, 2009, as I’m told by @ledet. That means I can’t go and create a second Facebook profile to grab http://www.facebook.com/nicholasroshon 🙁

301 Redirect: Your old URL, i.e. http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Roshon/2401203 will now automatically redirect to your new URL. It is a 301 permanent redirect as I confirmed via Web Sniffer, which is what you want in order to pass along the link juice correctly.

Leave me comments with your thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, and snide remarks!

DandyID: Centralize your social profiles

I recently heard of DandyID on Twitter and setup an account today to test it out. My initial thoughts: pretty cool!

Here is a link to my DandyID social media profile. I got a score of 81 and Gold Status (based on how many networks I use relative to other DandyID users) – I’m not sure if that certifies me as geeky or popular (or a popular geek), but I’ll take any awards I can get 🙂

DandyID describes itself as:

DandyID lets you easily collect all of your online profiles in one convenient place and allows people to discover the real verified you across the web.

To me, its basically a *free* page that I can configure to show all of my social networks in one central location. For a fee ($4.99/month) you can upgrade to the pro account and get additional features.

The catch?

From an SEO perspective, all of the links on your DandyID profile page don’t actually link directly to your profile page on another network (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Instead, they link to a subpage on DandyId.org which uses a 302 temporary redirect to the social media profile URL that you were intending to link to. For instance, the link to my facebook account links to: http://www.dandyid.org/id/nickroshon/facebook instead of directly to: http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Roshon/2401203. A 302 temporary redirect means that the page on dandyid.org/id/nick… has been temporarily moved to a new page (located on facebook.com) but still permanently resides at the original location (dandyid.org…) and that Google and other search engines should give all credit and “link juice” to DandyID, not the facebook domain where the page actually resides. So, although my page looks like there are 18 links pointing to my various social media accounts, its really 18 links to DandyID.org (in the eyes of the search engines, anyway).

I was a little bummed to find that I can’t harvest this as a free source for outbound links to my various social media profiles that I’m trying to get to rank better in Google (I knew it had to be too good to be true). Sure, I don’t own any of the domains I want to link to anyway, but for businesses or individuals that want their Facebook profile (or other social network profile) to rank on the first page when you google their brand/business name, you need links pointing to them, and the links on DandyID unfortunately won’t help that goal as long as they are a 302 redirect.

Enjoying the personal access to strangers only Twitter can provide, I pinged DandyID with my complaint:
twitter-me-at-dandyid

I was very pleased to get a prompt response from the official DandyID Twitter Account as well:
twitter-dandyid-at-me

Good news! In my tweet I was complaining specifically about the WordPress plug-in also using 302 redirects, but my DandyID profile page uses them as well. I’d totally be willing to pay a small (albeit very small) yearly fee to get some analytics and use this page as a “link farm” for all of my social media profiles, passing along link authority to my pages on their respective domains.

That being said, I think this is definitely a service to try out, and I know I’ll be watching them as they build out the service further and continue to enhance their offerings! If this service does catch on and become more mainstream, then maybe I would want my DandyID.org profile page to rank at the top of Google for my name. Like my title says, it does centralize everything – so from a users perspective, if you want to find me on the most popular social networks, this would be a very useful page. This service is especially useful for people who don’t have their own website/blog like this one that can use a plug-in like the Social Media Page plug-in found in my sidebar (which gives nice, direct links without any messy redirects). Until then, the Pro account doesn’t seem like something I’d want to spend the money on until there are more users on it.

In the end, I’d highly recommend you check it out and sign up. It’s free, it’s unique, and it provides a cool service. My dream scenario that it could also be a link farm for social media profiles is probably asking a bit much anyway, as most sites would just nofollow the links to begin with 🙂

And a final word: like any other social media / networking site, you’ve trusted yet another domain with some personal data, so don’t link to anything you don’t want the whole world to see. This is common sense, but can’t be repeated enough, as you hear about this kind of stuff all of the time: Check out Cisco Fatty if you don’t know what I mean!

UPDATE Wow, that was quick. One day after my tweet and DandyID now uses 301 redirects for Pro account users! And they hooked me up with one! I’ll give a follow-up review of the Pro features sometime soon. SO AWESOME!

I have PageRank!

Starting yesterday, Google updated the PageRank scores found in the Google Toolbar. I officially went from PageRank 0 to PageRank 1! Woohoo! While the actual value of PageRank is debated amongst Search Engine Markerters (SEMs), it definitely still holds at least some value. Having PageRank is a quick indicator to your readers and search engines that your blog has at least some merit & authority, isn’t spammy or malicious, and links and reviews on your blog pass along some authority based on your PageRank. The easiest way to check how much PageRank your blog has is to download the Google toolbar, which will display PageRank for any other sites you visit as well. PageRank varies from page to page within a site, so its a good way to see what Google thinks are the “most valuable” pages on your domain as well.

More info on the PageRank update can be found here: Search Engine Roundtable

At the time of writing, my domain has been registered and active since early Febuary 2009, so a little over 3 months. I have 53 incoming Inlinks in Yahoo! Site Explorer, mostly a combination of blog comments, blog directory submissions, and social media linking, as well as a valuable link from my friend’s blog on nobosh.com. For blogs, it also seems that Google looks at frequency of posts in determining your PageRank, and I’ve done pretty mediocre at that, but for the most part I’ve seen that if you don’t update your blog in a really long time, your PageRank may drop, or disappear altogether, otherwise you’re probably okay.

Create WordPress Pages

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there is much of a difference between a new post and a new page. In fact, there really isn’t a difference if you are using the default WordPress theme. But once you upgrade to a new theme (like mine) you’ll see why Pages are helpful:

  1. They are placed in a prominent location for quick navigation
  2. They don’t need to be put in a category so you can have really simple URLs if you are using optimized URL permalinks like described in my earlier post.

These are most commonly used for pages like About this Blog, About Me, Links, Partners, etc. These are permanent pages that you think everyone should read, and these “posts” won’t get buried once you post new content – a link to them will always be easy to find. So as you start out your new blog, go ahead and make a few pages so that new readers can quickly learn more about you and what your blog is all about. You create a Page just like you’d create a new Post through the Admin panel (only you go to Pages – Add New instead of Posts – Add New) – just remember to make the Title of the Page something that will easily fit into your quick links navigation at the top…

Here is where the pages show up on my current theme, called “Carrington”

Example of WordPress Pages
Example of WordPress Pages

Optimized URLs in WordPress Blogs

If you’ve just setup WordPress, one of the first things you should do before your first post is to change the WordPress settings so that each new post has its own optimized and SEO friendly URL. For example:

  • default URL for blog post:  nickroshon.com/?p=8
  • optimized URL blog post:   nickroshon.com/categoryname/postname

It’s pretty simple to setup, just go to Settings – Permalinks in the WordPress Admin. I chose to have a custom structure with %category%/%postname% but you can do anything you want. WordPress recommends you keep the date or year (or some number) in it for performance reasons, but from what I’ve read the performance gains don’t seem worth the cost of having a bunch of numbers in the post URL that no one will ever remember…

The reasons why you want custom, logical URLs instead of the standard ones with just the post number are:

  1. It’s more user-friendly
  2. It gives you a chance to put some keywords in the URL which the Search Engines will see and consider you more relevant for
  3. Searchers are more likely to click on a easier-to-remember URL than some weird one with a bunch of dynamic jargon
  4. Other webmasters will find it easier to link back to your post saying, hey, here’s a great post on this topic. Even if they don’t give you a custom anchor text (like this: SEO Tips by Nick Roshon) and just spell out your URL like this: http://nickroshon.com/tag/seo, the search engines will still associate your webpage with the words “nick” “roshon”, and “seo” all found in the URL.

It’s important to do this before your first post – once you post something, you don’t want its URL to change. This will confuse the search engines because the may have already seen it at the old URL and give you credit for it at that address.  When a new page comes along with the same content but at a different URL, the search engine may think that page is a duplicate and choose to ignore it for the older version it’s already familiar with. So get started with this tip right away and don’t change the URL once the post is live unless you absolutely have to!

There you have it! Some servers and some WordPress installs may require some additional configuration in order to get optimized permalink URLs like this, but mine didn’t require this and I think that’s less common these days if your blog is hosted through a major hosting company. If you do run into issues, Google it, there are lots of detailed how-to articles that I won’t attempt to recreate here because it really depends on your exact server & WordPress installation.

Claiming my blog on Technorati

Technorati Profile

Register your blog on Technorati and claim it by posting a string of code they give you (can be put anywhere on the front page of your blog and removed after the claim is complete – mine is above). Technorati is basically a directory of blogs that is updated in real time, so if you claim your blog Technorati it will update their directory every time you post. This differs from Google in that it places a higher emphasis on the “freshness” (or how recent) the post is, although “authority” (or importance, as Google would call it) is definitely an important factor as well. I probably won’t get much traffic through Technorati, but I may get some, and since this is 100% free it doesn’t hurt to try!

Update: Also go here to have Technorati automatically ping your site for updates: http://technorati.com/ping/