December 16th, 2008.
One question many site owners make as their website grows- â€œshould I use a subdomain or a subdirectory to place my blog in?â€.
This common question isn’t limited to just blogs– news sections, articles, careers sections… any grouping of content will at some point cause the question.
For those who don’t know- ‘news.google.co.uk’ is an example of a subdomain, where â€œnewsâ€ is the subdomain of â€œgoogle.co.ukâ€.
A subdirectory is a folder within a domain- e.g.- ‘google.com/analytics/’ where â€œanalyticsâ€ is a subdirectory (or folder) within â€œgoogle.comâ€.
While these may appear relatively similar, subdomains and subdirectories have different uses for a site, as well as different effects in a pages ability to rank in search engines.
Generally, search engines will allow pages within subdirectories to rank easier in comparison to pages within a subdomain. This reason being subdirectories inherit more authority from the domain name, whereas pages within subdomains inherit less authority from the domain (thus being treated similar to an external domain, although still receiving some of the authority from the main domain.)
So if subdirectories inherit more authority from a domain, why do companies choose to use subdomains?
Subdomains are used to segment a large amount of content on a site by a specific topic. If the number of pages are relatively high for a section (e.g. hundreds of pages), it may be logically better to place these pages within a subdomain rather than a subdirectory.
Otherwise, we recommend keeping within the content within the domain (i.e. using subdirectories)- this will make it easier for pages to rank better in search results as these pages inherit more authority from the main domain.
December 12th, 2008.
One common misconception many site owners make is the assumption that:
more websites = more traffic = more sales.
Logically, this may seem like a good idea- after all, two hands are better than one, five are better than two, right?
When it comes to domain names and search engine optimisation- this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Sadly, many site owners with limited SEO knowledge make this assumption- either, pointing many other domains to their existing site or copying their existing site and hosting it separately with other domain names. Both methods don’t work, and are likely to get your existing site penalised, causing less traffic and less sales. Why?
Search engines use links to crawl pages within and outside of a site. If links point to a page on a domain name, search engine robots will crawl that page. However, having multiple domains pointing to a site allows search engines multiple entrances to the same content, effectively presenting the same page multiple times.
E.g. if www.mysite1.com points to the same server directory as www.mysite2.com, search engines can see the same single page through more than one source- and if not correctly managed (using 301 redirects) duplicate content problems will occur which will result in the sites receiving a decrease in rankings and potentially a ban from search engines altogether.
In the second instance, by hosting the same content on multiple sites the duplicate content issue is also present, resulting in a drop and a possible ban for all duplicate sites (including the original site) in extreme circumstances and probable indexing issues.
How Can Multiple Domains Provide Any Value?
Having multiple domains can provide your site with additional value if managed correctly. For branding purposes, companies may purchase premium domain names which can potentially provide additional direct traffic from searchers typing in the URL directly.
For example, searchers for â€œcablesâ€ may directly type into their address bar â€œcables.comâ€, providing this site with additional direct traffic.
Other large corporations buy the localised versions of their domain name, partly to protect their brand and largely to help with usability.
For example, hp.co.uk provides the UK index page for HP, while HP also own hp.com, and hp.com.au, to name a few.
How is it then that large companies are able to use multiple domains and not get penalised in search engines? The answer is, these domains are managed correctly and redirect these domains to the appropriate pages on the server. By using a ’301 Permanently moved’ redirect, these domains point to a single page on the server, therefore minimising duplicate content issues.
i.e. when someone types in hp.co.uk, a request is made to the HP server, where the server then identifies this request and directs the visitor to the UK main page on the universal site, therefore not duplicating the content on the page as search engines see the same file on the same server, be it through hp.co.uk or through http://welcome.hp.com/country/uk/en/welcome.html
Should You Consider Using Multiple Domains?
If you are a large corporation and if this will help the usability of your site then consideration of multiple domains should be made. However, if your brand is not internationally known and if there is no main benefit and no potential direct traffic, we strongly advise against it. Remember- very few people are going to directly type in ‘this-is-my-nice-branded-domain.com’ or ‘thisismynicebrandeddomain.com’- domains such as this example will bring little (if any) direct traffic from the domain name, and whilst they may look good for additional branding, they provide no real support to your current sites domain.
December 9th, 2008.
If you own or operate an e-commerce website, chances are your competition may supply the same products you do. While competition is great, there are certain considerations you should make regarding the content on your product pages to beat your competitors.
Every product page should have great descriptions of the product, as well as inviting and well-presented professional photography to entice and attract searchers into making a purchase. However, one common mistake many e-commerce sites make is copying the descriptions written by the manufacturer.
Lets take the Apple iPhone product page as an example:
From the official product page, searching for the first sentence â€œWith its beautiful 3.5-inch widescreen display and Multi-Touch controls, iPhone is also one amazing iPodâ€ in Google returns 13,500 pages!
This shows there are hundreds of pages using the default description as the description on their pages- causing lots of duplicate content in Google’s index.
Why is This a Problem for You?
Duplicate content is a large problem search engines face. Search engines do not want to display pages in their results which contain the same content as another, as this can affect their credibility in delivering the closest possible results to which the searcher is looking for.
In addition, search engines do not want to waste their time indexing content which is provided on another site, so may skip a duplicated page, and are likely to skip an entire site if too many duplications are found. This not only has an effect on the new product page but also has a knock-on effect to other pages already indexed- penalising your site.
And this example is just for one product- supposing you sold other Apple products and copied the description from the manufacturers product pages? This means a large amount of the text on your product pages is copied.
This causes a problem for your site in search engines, as duplicate content is a major problem which search engines can and will penalise your site for!
So how can you avoid this problem? The ideal solution is to not copy the manufacturers description to begin with. Instead, creating your own product descriptions is far better- not only can you tailor it more specifically to your customers needs and desires (thus getting you a better conversion rate), but this also gives search engines more unique content to crawl when indexing your page.
If however it is essential to copy the product description from the manufacturers site, ensure you add additional unique content to the page- and don’t forget to reference and link to the manufacturers page.
By applying this small change, search engines are less likely to penalise your site for duplicate content, giving you a better chance of outranking your competitors, along with other on-page and off-page optimisation techniques!
Before you can make decisions such as keyword targeting and page optimisation, it is first important to understand the search buying cycle and how this can impact on your keyword queries and landing pages.
During the sales process there are several possible points of contact for the seller to influence the buyer. Everything from casual interest at the top of the funnel, though evaluation/research/comparison, and hopefully all the way to sale/commitment and possible referral.
The ability to understand this process is vital to an online marketing campaign, not just during the SEO process, but it should also impact on the website structure and build.
The Buying Cycle
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you’ve compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
Points to note…..
- A typical online sale is unlikely to result from one specific query, but is made up of several queries
- Some studies have shown up to 12 separate searches may be made before a purchase
- This process may take several days or even weeks
- At any point in this cycle the customer may decide to buy
- The process may crossover several mediums, the eventual sale may come from a phone call or a shop purchase
- The further into the cycle the higher the chance of a purchase
- The further into the cycle the lower the number of searchers
So how does this affect your actions when it comes to building and marketing your website?
Firstly you need to ensure that you’re targeting a range of search phrases that cover the entire sales process. If you’re only targeting the more general phrases such as TV and television then you’re probably missing some low hanging fruit in terms of the sales trigger phrases such as buy and cheap. Similarly if you’re only targeting the specific phrases then you’re also missing a lot of traffic that can be converted into sales.
Bearing the sales process in mind when building and organising your site can have a dramatic effect on sales and conversions.
Treat your site hierarchy as a representation of the sales process. Undecided visitors making generic searches need to be sent to the homepage where then you can influence their decision and funnel them further into your site using tools like buyers guides and FAQs or offers and other calls to action.
Visitors making more specific searches should be sent to relevant category or sub-category pages.
Product specific searches should of course be sent to the product page. Minimising the number of clicks that the visitor needs to make before buying will have a dramatic impact on search engine visitor conversion rates.
Although all of this sounds obvious, I constantly lose count of sites that try to optimise their homepage for as many phrases as possible when there are far more suitable landing locations on internal pages.
October 13th, 2008.
The benefits of a blog on your companyâ€™s website can be phenomenal. If you havenâ€™t already got a blog on your company site, Mattâ€™s post on corporate blogging is a vital read.Â If you do have a WordPress blog set up, great!
Not only is a WordPress blog great for engaging with visitors and sharing information, itâ€™s also a great traffic stream to your company website. However, there are a few tweaks that can be made to ensure you get the most out of your blog in terms of search engine optimisation.
Out of the box, WordPress is pretty search engine friendly- it has an excellent internal linking structure through its use of categories, archives and tags, along with its ability for easy content creation, which are a couple of reasons why search engines like them so much. But to maximise the efficiency of your WordPress blog from a search engine optimisation perspective, there are a few additional steps we recommend taking to ensure your blog is as efficiently optimised as possible.
By default, WordPress uses URLs which arenâ€™t so efficient in terms of SEO. Permalinks allow more efficient URLs to be used making links more efficient, improving the structure of posts and not to mention the ability to include keywords in the posts URL.
Permalinks can be activated under â€˜Settings>Permalinksâ€™. We recommend using the â€˜Day and nameâ€™ option- the URL shows the age of the post through the date as well as the post name (and if youâ€™re using post names correctly youâ€™ll have important keywords in the post name, thereby including them in the post URL if using this method).
Post titles represent the title tag for the posts page- one of the most important aspects of on-page search engine optimisation- their importance has already been covered in the Top Five Tips For Optimising Your Businessâ€™ Meta Tags post. By default, WordPress uses the format “Blog title Â» Blog Archive Â» Post Title” which ideally should be â€œPost Title Â» Blog Titleâ€. Search engines pay more attention to keywords at the beginning of the title tag; therefore placing the post title (which should contain those important keywords) at the beginning of the title is more efficient. This also helps the readability of the pages result in the search engine results, therefore increasing the click through rate (CTR) in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
To change the post title structure, additional plugins are required. There are a few good WordPress plugins available, we recommend using the All in One SEO Pack plugin and changing the post and page titles found under â€˜Settings>All in One SEOâ€™.
To optimise the titles, click the â€˜Rewrite Titlesâ€™ checkbox and change the title formats for each option. We recommend:
â€˜%post_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for post titles
â€˜%page_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for page titles
â€˜%category_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for category titles
â€˜%date% | %blog_title%â€™ for archive titles
â€˜%tag% | %blog_title%â€™ for tage titles
â€˜%description%â€™ for description format
â€˜Nothing found for %request_words%â€™ for the 404 title
â€˜- Part %page%â€™ for page format.
It is also wise to check the â€˜Use noindex for Categoriesâ€™ and â€˜Use noindex for Archivesâ€™ checkboxes to disable indexing of these pages.
Optimising Posts and Pages
Now that the basic general optimisation for the blog has been set up, you can optimise your posts, starting with the post title.
Remember to keep the title relevant to the post topic and to include your important keywords in the post title. Also remember the post title will show up in search results, so make the title interesting and have a call to action inÂ the title where needed.
Tags are incredibly useful for internal linking- if a visitor is on your site and likes the content for a specific topic, they may click on one of the tags. You should therefore add tags to all posts and pages, making sure the tags are relevant to the post. Tags are comma separated, just click the â€˜Addâ€™ button after youâ€™ve entered the tags and the post will be recognised under these tags once the post is saved or published.
As with tags, categories are also efficient in terms of internal linking. Categories can also improve the time a visitor is on your site- if they can see you have more relevant information on a topic under a category, they will probably want to see what other posts are in that category if they enjoyed the contentÂ of your post.
Make sure categories are well structured and specific. Check the boxes which your post is most relevant to.
All in One SEO Pack Tag Optimisation
If youâ€™re using the All in One SEO Pack recommended earlier, you will also have an All in One SEO Pack tab when writing/modifying a post or page. Here you can override the defaults already configured. To do this, enter a title tag, description tag and keywords tag to override the default settings already entered.
There is also a â€˜Disable on this page/postâ€™ checkbox- this will disable all SEO modifications and revert back to the WordPress defaults (which is unlikely you would want to do so) so do not check this box unless there is a specific reason.
Once each post/page has been optimised, save the changes. This covers the basics for WordPress Search Engine Optimisation- there are more advanced changes which can be made but by implementing these recommended changes you will notice an improvement in your search rankings, your listing in the search engine results and an improvement in the indexing of your blog.