SEO Tips: Link Juice and Internal Linking Structure

When it comes to search engine optimization, I’ve always had a strong admiration for people that write about it on their blogs.   SEO stuff has always just been common sense to me, but I’ve always had difficulty explaining it in writing.  I’ve noticed many SEO experts try to add visual elements to their writing to help explain what they are trying to say, so I know I’m not the only one. 

On two separate occasions I’ve probably close to an hour each trying to write a post explaining internal linking and the idea of link juice, but I always end up getting frustrated and deleting it.   Sometimes analogies are the best way to explain this kind of stuff, and I’ve never been good with analogies.  With that said, recently I was excited to run across a post by Josh Spaulding on Blogging Tips called Increasing PageRank through Smart Internal Linking

In his post, Josh gives a great explanation of Google PageRank, link juice, and provides tips on improving your internal linking structure.   This is probably the best written post I’ve run across to date and I think its written in a way that even someone new to blogging could easily understand. 

Top 50 Must-Read SEO Posts of 2007

As we move closer to 2008, it is always fun to look back and reflect over the year that we just completed.   I’m sure many of us probably apply this to our daily lives offline, but do you ever think to look back at 2007 online? 

If you run a website or blog, search engine optimization is always important, and as search engines change, so do they latest SEO theories.  In case you missed anything, Evan Carmichael recently decided to celebrate the past year by taking a look back at the Top 50 must-read SEO Posts of the 2007, which I really enjoyed.

While browsing the list, I also found a few posts that I missed when they were originally written, so I am extremely grateful to Evan for creating this post.   I recommend anyone that is is conscious of their sites SEO to check it out!

The Value of a Domain Name

When it comes to making money online, there are a lot of opportunities available to anyone with access to a computer and a few dollars in their pocket. Whether you attempt to do so with a website or a blog, it all starts with the purchase of a domain name. Sounds easy? It is, but there is a lot to take into consideration before making your domain purchase.

When picking out a domain name, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have your keyword(s) somewhere in your domain. Remember, this is an investment in your future, and the future of your website. Obtaining a keyword rich domain will give you a huge advantage over others in your niche that don’t have keywords in their URL. There is a reason that people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single domain name in many cases!

One example of this is my recently launched blog Hack WordPress. In the past, I spent a lot of time here talking about WordPress, but close to a month after launch of that site my posts are already outranking similar posts on this site. Keywords in your blog URL are even more important than the keywords used in your post slug.

So how do you go about finding a good domain name that uses the keywords you want for your site? Less than a month ago I talked about PCNames Search, which is a free website that helps you to find a good domain name. Their advanced search feature allows you to censor out certain types of domains (an example would be to only look for dot com domain names), as well as set your keyword at the beginning or the end of the domain. What I failed to mention in my original post is that once you’ve settled on a keyword, you can select your domain registrar from a drop-down menu and go purchase it through their referral link. In my experience, doing this will earn you a discount on your domain. I was able to buy each of my domains from GoDaddy for $7.15 each (instead of over $10.00).

Be proactive. How many domain names do you own? Are they all in use? You may be missing out on some great domain names that will be gone when you later get around to launching your new site. David of CyberCoder, which is one of my daily reads, recently gave the advice skip lunch and buy a domain name. The idea of skipping lunch illustrates just how inexpensive a domain name is. Pay $7.00 (or less with some registrars) and you have use of that domain for the full year. After a year, you can either let it go or renew it if its bringing in some additional income. At least this way you have the domain name if you decide to use it.

David recommends setting aside part of your monthly income strictly for purchasing/renewing domain names. This is something I completely agree with and something I try to practice each month. If I buy 3 domains every month, but only launch one site, I’m still building up age on those domains not in use, while continuing to expand my online presence.

Other tips for buying domain names:

  • You should own the domain name of your name (for example, kyleeslick.com). Even if you don’t use it for anything, you should have it parked and in your name. At some point, as more and more things move online, these domains can be used for all sorts of functions, as well as a place potential employers can use to view your resume. You may want to consider purchasing domain names for your kids as well, so they have them eventually when they need them. You don’t want someone else out there using your domain name, do you?
  • Once you own a domain name, don’t point it towards your nameservers until you are ready to launch the blog. Having it pointed at a blank site or WordPress blog may have a negative effect on your domain. Generally speaking, its better to leave it where it is until you are ready to use it.
  • Step back and think about the domain before purchasing it. Is this easy to remember? Does it use all of my keywords? Is the domain name plural? For example, I recently purchased a domain name called Firefox Projects. In an effort to truly own the brand, I also purchased Firefox Project and then did a permanent 301 redirect to Firefox Projects. That way people will get to my site even if they forget the “s” and I avoid having someone purchase the other domain name and using it to compete with me.
  • If your website or blog starts to make more than a $1,000.00 in income a month, you may want to consider protecting your investment by purchasing the other versions of that same domain, such as dot net, dot org, etc., then redirect them all to your blog. This has a very minimal cost and allows you to own your brand and avoid competition.
  • If you are trying to develop readership on the domain, avoid domain names that aren’t dot com or that use hyphens if possible. These are only recommended if you are specifically targeting search engine traffic with the domain name you purchase.
  • Don’t be afraid to have 20 domains that aren’t in use. Look at them as a very small investment in a possibly bright future. And if its a really good domain, maybe someone will even offer to buy it!

Questions? Have something to add? Sound off in the comments below!

SEO – Can You Go Overboard?

The internet is literally filled with SEO websites, SEO blogs, and advice from people like me that may or may not know what we are talking about. There is no doubt that being conscious of search engine optimization is important, but I think sometimes people can be overly conscious of it, or they can simply take it to far.

Stephen at Daily Blog Tips is a former SEO analyst who says that when it comes to SEO, it’s about what you DON’T do. In his post, he covers a lot of mistakes people who are obsessive over SEO tend to make the most. One that I found interesting and hadn’t really given any thought to before is regarding cross-linking. Stephen says:

Cross Linking. Generally speaking, it’s okay to link your sites together. People do it all the time. However, it can be considered spam if you do so excessively (e.g., in the footer or side bar of every page), especially if the sites reside on the same IP block. As with everything else, ask the question, “Is this adding value for the user?” If you can answer yes, it’s probably okay.

As the owner of two blogs, I never really thought about a search engine taking into account an IP block. I don’t cross link very often, but it’s a good thing to take into account before linking between blogs.

In my opinion, if you want to fully optimize your blog for search engines, I recommend installing the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin and working on improving the titles of your posts. What would someone type into Google if they were trying to find your post? Use that as your title, or something similar.

Do you spend to much time focusing on SEO?

Action Text vs. Anchor Text

Over the past few years, a trend has begun, and that trend is that more and more people are considering themselves to be experts when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines (SEO).  While there is no doubt that some SEO tips are useful and fairly accurate, truly none of it is confirmed.  Google in particular, but truly all search engines, tend to guard their algorithms to avoid people gaming the system.  Noone truly knows anything for sure, because Google won’t confirm anything.  And on top of that, it is always changing, so SEO tactics are always changing with them. 

What does all this have to do with the title?  Recently, Copyblogger decided to take a look at anchor text, and compare it to using action text.  Click here to read their post.  The idea is that while anchor text may have some benefit with the search engines, it won’t encourage readers to click on the links.  Here is my favorite part of the post:

Another reader once chastised me for wasting anchor text with the words “click here,” even though my primary goal for the link was to get people to click (shocking, I know). This is when I first realized that Google is truly making people retarded. Somehow, this person no longer saw links as navigation for actual people to use; they only exist to pass on “juice” according to an algorithm that no one fully understands.

I think this serves as an excellent example of people taking search engine optimization to far, and sometimes things that used to be common sense are left behind in the name of search engine optimization.   People are putting to much effort and focus on SEO, and not truly understanding the whole point of a link.

I personally believe it really depends on what your goal is with your link.   Often when I link to someone else’s blog, my goal is to send them traffic.  I typically try to “tease” the article and maybe quote one paragraph in the hopes that others will go check it out.  In my opinion, this would be a good situation to use action text, which are terms like “click here”, “check it out”, etc. in the hope that your outbound links will get clicked.  As Copyblogger points out, studies have shown that people need to be told what to do, and adding action text makes readers more people more statistically likely to take that action. 

Now, I certainly am not saying that you shouldn’t focus on anchor text a bit, just don’t get carried away.  Anchor text definitely has a place.  To me, it seems to be better fit for situations where you are linking internally.   I often don’t necessarily care whether readers click to my older posts or pages, I just want to pass on some link juice to those posts and help boast their PageRank and findability.  I also link internally sometimes as an explanation, so I don’t have to do a full explanation in the post I’m currently writing (such as linking to a post about an acquisition or something). 

Do you only use anchor text, or do you try to mix in action text as well?

Optimize SEO With These 15 Free Online SEO Tools

Some people think you can just make a few adjustments to your website, such as install a SEO WordPress plugin, and suddenly your website is optimized for search engines.

Unfortunately this is not true. While the All-in-One SEO Pack does just about everything you could want when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, getting the best ranking is often a work in progress and requires a lot of homework by the person running the website.

One thing I’ve learned over the past year and a half of blogging is the importance of the title to your post. I’ve seen several posts that were simply linking to someone else’s work, but they actually ranked higher than the original post they are pointing to due to the better title.

Luckily, there are several free online tools around the internet that make your homework much easier, and SEO Position has taken the time to compile the 15 Best Free SEO Online Tools in one post.

With many of these tools, you can accomplish a variety of goals, ranging from determining your keyword rankings with all of the major search engines in a single click, to checking backlinks, and even in determining your highest ranking subpages.

What is all this information good for? Some people are happy with their site as it is, but those that are successful are always looking for ways to improve their site, or at least improve individual parts. These tools give you more knowledge about what is working and what isn’t working, so you can do more of what is working!

Fill Your SEO Needs for WordPress with All-in-One SEO Pack

I’ve talked to several bloggers who spend a lot of time working on optimizing their websites for search engines, and often without good results. This can be attributed to several things, but often times it is the result of a lack of SEO knowledge, or to many SEO plugins that all do the same things.

If you have more than one SEO plugin installed to do various functions for your blog, you have to many. WordPress users actually have free access to a very well done plugin called All-in-One SEO Pack, which currently does everything out of the box. I don’t pretend to be an SEO expert, but you truly don’t have to be with this amazing plugin.

What does All-in-One SEO Pack do exactly? I don’t know how better to describe it than to just say that it does everything! And the best part is that it allows you to control everything from the Options panel of your WordPress dashboard.

Here is a screen shot of what my options panel looks like:

By default, WordPress uses your blog’s tag line for the description and keyword tags. With this plugin, simply enter your homepage information once (name, description, keywords, etc.) and it will automatically add the information provided to your homepage’s meta information, which means search engines will begin displaying your blog’s homepage this way.

For your individual posts, you will want your meta information to be customized to each individual post you do. This plugin allows you to set everything up to do it automatically, or you can do it manually on certain posts if you wish. Here is a look at the menu placed on your Write panel to enter your individual post information:

  • Titles Tags – By default, WordPress will actually add your post title as the title tag for the individual post, but this is not always ideal. One thing a lot of successful bloggers do is target their title to their readership, but use a different title tag which targets search engine traffic. When the search engines spider your blog, they pull the title tag, not the post title. With this plugin, your Write panel will now display a field to enter a custom title tag that the search engines will use, but your readers will never see unless they view your pages source.
  • Meta Keywords – By default, WordPress will actually use your category assigned to your post as the keyword, but we all know this is often not a great indicator of what the post is about. All-in-One SEO Pack also provides a keyword field that you can enter in your own keywords, but it also allows you to automate this process if you wish. Because you can integrate it with the Ultimate Tagging Warror plugin, and UTW allows you to automatically assign your categories as tags, you can actually have this plugin insert your UTW tags (which includes your categories) as your meta keywords automatically. This will also go through and update your older posts with keywords.
  • Meta Description – The meta description is the description that the search engines will use when displaying their search results, so this can be just as crucial as your title when it comes to getting web surfers to click over to your website. In the Write panel, this plugin gives you the option of inserting a custom description of your post, but that could be quite tedious very quickly if you write a lot. This plugin also offers another solution that I haven’t found on any other SEO plugins, and that is the ability to automatically insert the first 160 characters of your post as the description.

Other features include the ability to automatically exclude your sites categories and archives from being indexed (to avoid duplicate content being indexed) without the use of Robots.txt. This is extremely useful for bloggers that don’t know much about making a Robots.txt file to guide the search engine spiders through your blog. You can also set your title formats to look exactly the way you want them to (posts, tags, pages, search results, archives, and even categories).

How do I set up the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin? It couldn’t be easier. Just upload the plugin and activate it and you’ll be all set to start using it. This also means it is incredibly easy to update the plugin as well, which will be extremely handy because the author releases updates regularly (sometimes several a week). Some may not like that, but I look at that as an author who is committed to making his plugin the best one available.

I have to say that I couldn’t be any happier with this plugin as it is. It is constantly getting new features and more integration added each week it seems, and it already combines the best of other SEO plugins while and some unique features as well.

If you aren’t already using it, I recommend you deactivate your SEO plugins and give this one a shot for awhile. If you are using it, I recommend you upgrade to the newest version, as the one you have is probably outdated.

Blogging Tip: Don’t Display Your Archives

Have you ever gone to a website before and really liked what you saw, so you decided to browse their archives?  Me either!

Like most bloggers, if a quick review of a site’s homepage appeals to me, I will click a button in my browser and subscribe to the site’s feed.   From there it sits in a trial folder in my feed reader for a few weeks.  After those few weeks have gone by, if I like what I see, I then move the feed into a more permanent feed folder where it will remain.  If I decide I don’t want to keep the feed, I delete it. 

Archives are for search engines, not new readers.   We live in a “What have you done for me lately” world, and I want to know what the author is talking about now, not what he/she said 6 months ago. 

As a result, I truly believe that WordPress users should not need to rely on categories or archives for navigation on their site, as they have the benefit of the Popularity Contest, Related Posts, Landing Sites, and In Series plugins to do that work automatically for them.  Getting in the habit of linking internally to relevant posts in your archives should provide that last bit of navigation your readers need to find what they are looking for. 

Today while browsing my feeds, I ran across a post at Sebastian’s Pamphlets that sums it up better than I ever could of.   The post is titled SEO-sanitizing a WordPress theme in 5 minutes, where he provides a bunch of useful SEO tips that are easy and won’t take very long to complete.   Here is the quote:

You may ask why I tell you to remove all references to the archives. The answer is that firstly nobody needs them, and secondly they irritate search engines with senseless and superfluous content duplication. As long as you provide logical, topically organized and short paths to your posts, none of your visitors will browse the archives. Would you use the white pages to lookup a phone number when entries aren’t ordered alphabetically but by date of birth instead? Nope, solely blogging software produces crap like that as sole or at least primary navigation.

The bold is my emphasis.  If you do decide that your site needs the archives and/or categories displayed, be sure to display only excerpts on those pages or instruct the search engines to avoid them completely via a Robots.txt file. 

Blogging Tip: Don’t Display Your Archives

Have you ever gone to a website before and really liked what you saw, so you decided to browse their archives?  Me either!

Like most bloggers, if a quick review of a site’s homepage appeals to me, I will click a button in my browser and subscribe to the site’s feed.   From there it sits in a trial folder in my feed reader for a few weeks.  After those few weeks have gone by, if I like what I see, I then move the feed into a more permanent feed folder where it will remain.  If I decide I don’t want to keep the feed, I delete it. 

Archives are for search engines, not new readers.   We live in a “What have you done for me lately” world, and I want to know what the author is talking about now, not what he/she said 6 months ago. 

As a result, I truly believe that WordPress users should not need to rely on categories or archives for navigation on their site, as they have the benefit of the Popularity Contest, Related Posts, Landing Sites, and In Series plugins to do that work automatically for them.  Getting in the habit of linking internally to relevant posts in your archives should provide that last bit of navigation your readers need to find what they are looking for. 

Today while browsing my feeds, I ran across a post at Sebastian’s Pamphlets that sums it up better than I ever could of.   The post is titled SEO-sanitizing a WordPress theme in 5 minutes, where he provides a bunch of useful SEO tips that are easy and won’t take very long to complete.   Here is the quote:

You may ask why I tell you to remove all references to the archives. The answer is that firstly nobody needs them, and secondly they irritate search engines with senseless and superfluous content duplication. As long as you provide logical, topically organized and short paths to your posts, none of your visitors will browse the archives. Would you use the white pages to lookup a phone number when entries aren’t ordered alphabetically but by date of birth instead? Nope, solely blogging software produces crap like that as sole or at least primary navigation.

The bold is my emphasis.  If you do decide that your site needs the archives and/or categories displayed, be sure to display only excerpts on those pages or instruct the search engines to avoid them completely via a Robots.txt file. 

Build Up Link Juice by Improving Internal Linking

Properly spreading the link juice in your blog posts is a great way to improve the search engine optimization of your blog, as it tells the search engines which posts on your site are the most important.  As a result, I’ve set a goal for myself and have been working hard to improve on the internal linking done within my posts and sending the link juice to the posts that I want to rank the highest with the search engines. 

Due to this recent change in philosophy on my part, I paid close attention yesterday when I ran across this post by Steven of Daily Blog Tips titled 10 Easy Ways to Improve Internal Linking On Your Blog.  Here are four that I would like to comment on:

2. Create a FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions pages can help you to get internal links to your posts while using highly targeted keywords and phrases. Create some common questions readers might have that can be answered by your blog posts. Pose the question on the FAQ page and partially answer the question and provide a link to a particular post for more information. When phrasing the questions, use keywords that readers are likely to use when performing a search, as this can help to improve traffic from search engines. Also use keywords in the anchor text of the links to your posts.

This one immediately jumped out at me.  What a great idea! I don’t think a FAQ deserves its own exclusive page, though, so I will look into adding something like this to the bottom of my About page

5. Write a series of posts
One easy way of building up the number of internal links going from one post to another is to write a series. As the series is written and published each post can link to the others. If you have a very long post, consider breaking it into a series. Be careful not to do this all the time as your readers may start to feel like you are using them to gain page views.

This is actually something I already do with one of my favorite plugin, In Series.  I only mention it because I don’t see many other blogs taking advantage of this plugin.  Your page views will go through the roof if you use this on posts that receive a lot of search engine traffic.

7. Place links on your 404 pages
Error pages are frustrating to visitors. Help make your 404 error pages more-user friendly and drive a little bit of extra traffic to some of most important posts. Most WordPress themes include a 404.php file that can be edited to include and content you want, including links. If you are using a WordPress theme that does not include a 404 file, see the WordPress Codex for instructions.

This is another thing I did when I switched over from TypePad to WordPress.  My 404 page currently displays a custom message explaining the situation, then I’ve provided my Popular Posts in the body of the page and a search engine thrown in so subscribers can try to find the posts they are looking for.

10. The aLinks plugin for WordPress
WordPress users can take advantage of the aLinks plugin to automatically create links for commonly used phrases throughout their blog posts. The plugin is designed for use with internal links as well as external links (especially affiliate links).

This is something I am going to look into.  Has anyone used this plugin before?  I think it looks extremely useful, but could potentially become annoying if it added to many internal links. 

Those are the four that jumped out at me, but there are a total of 10 great tips included in the post. Are you building up your site’s link juice with proper internal linking?