Updating Permalinks when moving to WordPress 2.5

Tonight I updated WordPress from WordPress 2.0.2 to WordPress 2.5 and ran into some issues with permanlinks. Turns out that Yahoo! Web Hosting does not allow you to do Permalinks the standard way with WordPress and you have to use the Yahoo! Plugin for this.

Essentially what happened was that standard permalinks in WordPress go 404 and Yahoo! Permalinks Plugin continuously re-directs with the following error “The page isn’t redirecting properly.”

So, here is what I did to get Permalinks working:

1. Active the Yahoo! Permalink Plugin

2. Download the Disable Canonical Redirects Plugin. (which i probably should have had installed a while ago)

3. Upload the file to your wp-content/plugins folder

4. Activate the Plugin from your Plugins Menu

5. Customize your Permalinks!

Done, done and done! All my permalinks issues were resolved! Just a reminder, this is a Yahoo! Web Hosting issue and not a WordPress 2.5 issue.

Internal Link Architecture for your website

Part of any link building campaign should always include the internal Link Architecture that you have within your domain and off the domain for link building activities. I tend to use the term Link Architecture because it is similar to the Information Architecture (I.A.) that is used within your site. The Link Architecture will give you a naming convention for text links and image alt text used for links on your domain or for any other link building.

To preface, I would say that it is important to have some sort of I.A. for your site prior to building out your pages. This can be done quickly by writing the information down on notecard(s). That being said, I would always recommend to create a formal I.A. and Link Architecture documentation. The benefit of creating formalized documentation is that you can pass it around within your organization to creative and development teams or an agency that could quite possibly be working with your organization.

Documenting your Link Architecture and link text and/or image ALT text will provide a frame of reference.

When a search engine crawls a web page it associates the link text to the page it is linking to, which then associates link value to your page. An example of this is using the link text “web design” that points to “web-design-services.php.” Doing so will tell a search engine that the page you are going to is specifically about “Web Design.” These are the types of associations that should be created, documented and implemented for any and all link building in order to get the most link value possible for the associated keywords or key terms.

The naming convention used also applies to the image ALT text that are linked as well. All images that are linked should contain the contextual text within the ALT tag. For example, if you have an image that has a link pointing to a developer referral program page, the image ALT text should be example that, “Developer Referral Program.”

Something to look out for is using the terms “click here” and “this” for link text, which is a bad naming convention. Using this type of link text will not provide any context to the user and also to search engines, and along with that, it does not offer any link value to your domain.

The crucial thing to remember is that associating keywords to the link text when performing any link building or submitting to directories will pass the link popularity and PageRank value to the keyword you have associated to a web page. This in turn, makes your pages more relevant to search engines and will most definitely increase your rankings.

Related Article(s):
Sculpting PageRank using rel=”nofollow” for your internal Link Architecture

Being prepared and doing research pays off

Over the past week I have seen two of the most horrific examples of why research is so important. It is what we base our decision making on in our work lives, it is how we evangelize our expertise on to others, etc. Doing the right amount of research sets you up for success.

Here are some examples of how little to no research and/or bad research can leave you in a very sticky situation.

Speaking at a conference:
At the SXSW “Social Media Metrics” panel, there were 5 so called industry experts attempting to speak to this. The problem was 30 minutes into the panel, all that was talked about was CXO level buy in without providing any concrete examples or case studies about how to do so. Social Media properties like Twitter, Digg, etc. were brought up, and the panel had nothing to talk about. Also, questions were brought up in regards to “customer sentiment” and one panelist mentioned that there was no way to do any measurement on this, when there are a multitude.

The Panel really had no industry expertise. One panelist barely signed up for any social media properties, and other panelists, didn’t even have a web presence for their own name. Finally, when they were asked questions, they had no answers.
This was a horrific example of why not doing any research, providing any research or even being prepared for your audience can leave you in a very awkward situation. It makes you look like a completely unprepared, unprofessional and also devalues your professional expertise.

Writing Articles and Blog Posts:
On Search Engine Land, Shari Thurow wrote You’d Be Wise To “NoFollow” This Dubious SEO Advice (which I have nofollow’ed). She talks about how SEO’s are using this as a tool to build one thing for users and another for engines, similar to that of cloaking/IP Delivery.

Where did Shari make the mistake? Well, she failed to do the proper research on whether rel=”nofollow” was a form of cloaking or if it was just used to sculpt page rank. Also, she talks about the usage of “nofollow” as fake information architecture too, which since that seemed to be her focus, would have been a better title for the post.

There was a lot of backlash within the SEO world via twitter posts, comments, blog posts, etc. Shari derived a conclusion without proper research and therefore was made to not only look bad, but if writing for a major brand cause a lot of harm to the brand as well.

Research within the Community:

This is a very important part of being engaged in a community and not having your research can really hurt you personal/professional and even corporate brand. Things like Q&A Sessions, informal meetups, blog comments, and interviews can reflect you negatively, if you are not prepared.

An example of this was on Sunday at SXSW, there was a barrage on my twitter feed of people criticizing Mark Zuckerberg about his interview. You can also see this in multiple blog comments, informal meetups, conferences, etc.

Final Thoughts:
Being prepared and knowing your industry is very important when committing to any of the above items and will reflect on you, remember that! Be prepared and do your research, this will extremely benefit you and your brand.

Sculpting PageRank using rel=nofollow for Link Architecture

Over the years I’ve been practicing a lot of different techniques with my internal link architecture. One of the things that I have been doing more and more of is evaluating when to use the rel=”nofollow” tag on the internal links.

Why is this important?
Well, in order to make the content within your site more relevant, you need to tell the search engine what is and is not relevant. Using rel=”nofollow” within your internal link architecture is a great way identify links that you do not want ranked well within the SERPs.

For example, contact us pages, FAQ pages, help pages, etc. are really not pages that most people want to be ranking well. By using rel=”nofollow” on those links, you are telling the search algorithm not to pass any link juice or PageRank (google specific) to the linked page.

How do you do this?
Start by establishing a listing of the types of pages that I talk about above. Next, you are going to want to do a site wide update of your links. For example, its as simple as updating your markup to the following:

Now that you have all the major ones out of the way, I recommend taking a few minutes to analyze your links on a page by page basis to see where you want to distribute the link value within your web site.

That’s all!

It is a fairly simple process, but one that I find especially crucial when I start looking at the Information Architecture and Link Architecture of any website.

Related Articles:
Website Link Architecture for link text and Image ALT text

Social Media – Part 2: Dominating the Search Engine Results Pages

Last week I talked about how to stay active, answer questions, etc. to keep brand awareness high and reputation management under control. This week, I’m going to give you an overview of how to dominate the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) by using Social Media to your advantage.

We all know since the “Web 2.0 Evolution” there has been a massive influx of Social Media properties on the web. That being said, you can use this to your advantage from another Branding and Reputation Management aspect by using them to control the top 10 results listed in the SERPs for your branded search. (e.g. digg)

Here is what you do:

1. Find Social Media sites that are relevant: Do some quick research and find the sites that are relevant to you. If you do real estate, using YouTube is a great site…at the same time…if you are a large tech company, TechCrunch’s “CrunchBoard” is a great place to get a public profile about your company. Quick note though, keep this up to date…some brands do a bad job of this.

2. Build your branded social media page: Getting a public page on hot spots like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is very easy to do and build. There is already a template behind them, all you need to do is adjust it so that you are branding your page appropriately. Some sites, (e.g. MySpace) require some markup/css, but still very simple. Most organizations have already done this, if you have, GREAT!, you’re already one step closer to success.

3. Subdomians: Google has cracked down on the subdomain issue as of late, but, that being said for branding purposes, it is still helping out in dominating the SERPs. For example, having a careers or jobs mini-site/subdomain on your brand (e.g. careers.myawesomebrand.com) will give you yet another listing.

4. Blogging: O.K., I realize this is not so much related to a social media site…but it is related to the SERPs and control them. Blogging around your topic and creating linkbaitable items will not only get you a ton of traffic, but the true success comes from the amount of links for your site. So, be sure to set your blog up on your domain as a subfolder (http:://thegreatestbrandever.com/blog) or as a subdomain (blog.myreallycoolbrand.com). Along with all of that, you can use your blog as a great tool to pass some great PR value and Link Popularity to your Social Media sites.

5. Link Building: Doing link building on your “.com” is not the only place to focus. Granted, that being said, most social media sites do contain some heavy PR value and a good starting point. So, with very little effort, but an effort none-the-less, you will be able to rank those pages. So, send a link from your “.com”, your blog, etc. and a small link building effort should help.

Now, remember, these are the 5 steps to achieving Search Engine Results Page domination. Doing only 1 or 2 of these things will help your organization, but, you will receive the most effectiveness by following the steps and ensuring the dependencies.
Overall, your goal for the overall effort is reputation management and ensuring that your brand is controlling the SERP for a branded search (e.g. “Digg”). Doing so can have a tremendous amount of value and reduce a ton of negative publicity for your brand.

Social Media – Part 1: Being Active in your Community and Answering Questions

I’ve wanted to start writing more about Social Media and I think the best way to start would be to talk abut what I love doing, and that is building my own personal brand and how it applies to an organization as well.

I have always considered it to be tremendously important in getting my name out there whenever possible, it has been absolutely crucial to my career development. This approach also really applies to companies and organizations as well. How you represent yourself online through Social Media can play a very important role in how your business is perceived by many. Building an online brand as a whole might be a bit more complex than building your own brand. But, when it comes to the aspects of Social Media though, more specifically thought leadership, it is definitely not as complex.

You can do this quite simply by doing the following:

Answering questions online: LinkedIn and Yahoo! Answers can be a great place to get some Brand Awareness by showing off some of your knowledge and expertise with a community. Branded usernames and/or individuals representing your brand through these services also builds a trust in your organizations ability to follow through on the products/services offered.

Comment, Comment, Comment: Commenting on Blog posts by sharing feedback and or getting involved in the community shows a real passion about the topics at hand. Especially in communities like technology/web/internet, you will gain a massive amount of respect if you can hold your own.

Be active on your own blog:
So, you wrote a blog, people are getting to it, linking to it, and commenting on it…you’re done right? WRONG! There is still another step to this, staying active and responding to your comments shows that you care about the community following you. The Mozzers over at SEOMoz do a great job of staying active on their own blog, and same with Aaron Wall of SEOBook.

Ever heard of “Twitter”, if not, you better!:
Microblogging using sites like twitter is an awesome way to reach users and amazingly enough, control any negativity. Although it is widely used for sending out updates and such, using the “track” feature, you can find out what people are saying about your brand. Steve Ganz at LinkedIn does this CONSTANTLY and I am always watching him follow up with complaints, issues, etc. and it just makes me feel good knowing that some people really “get it.” As a matter of fact, a blog post recently talked about how LinkedIn Hits the Mark.

All of the above items will help you build brand awareness and control the reputation of your brand.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are using this or other things to either build your personal brand or corporate brand through the use of similar strategies.

Web Standards based design and SEO

So, I figured to ring in the New Year of 2008, I would post about how the whole SEO industry should really start to take an understanding of Web Standards in the design of Websites. Semantic Web Design and using CSS for layouts is not really cutting edge people!! We have been doing this since 2001!

I have been so thoroughly frustrated with the quality (rather, lack of quality!) that I am seeing in some of the top agencies and experts in SEO. Even being at Webmaster World PubCon this year and sitting in on some of the interactive site reviews I was horrified by the lack of real web knowledge.

Now, as much as I love the SEO industry, I feel the need to call everyone out that is doing this. We are at a point where the web is becomming more and more semantic and browsers are standards compliant (See: Private Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 build passes Acid2 test).

What I am not going to do is start giving you a tutorial for how to build CSS layouts or semantic websites. Although this is an area of expertise of mine, there are TONS and TONS of resources for this out there already. (Resources Below).

Building Web Standards compliant websites that are semantic will add tons of value, not only to your services, but to your overall value as an organization. We are no longer in the 90’s and do not have to use tables for design purposes and layout, CSS is extremely powerful now. Using a CSS layout will dramatically reduce the amount of markup on your page. Also, use semantic markup up in your html document, such as using semantic CSS styles, insert the appropriate HTML (e.g. paragraphs, strong instead of b), etc. There should never be a class named “style6” or a div id with the name “leftside.” Classes should be named “footer” and similarly your div id’s should signify the content on the page, (e.g. div id=”logo”).
Here are the two **VERY IMPORTANT** reasons that you should build Standards Compliant websites with semantic markup.

Crawlability and Indexability is of course one of the most crucial things when working with SEO, because, the truth is, if a search engine doesn’t crawl your site, you won’t have any business. Standards compliant and semantic markup allows the search engine to read through your html documents with many pre-determined factors. To break this down in its simplist form search engines read through an html document the same way that we read through a written or “Word” document. From a User Experience stand point, page load times will drop and allowing the page to even render correctly will increase conversion.

Websites Maintenance can be a big part of the work that is taken on for consultants, agencies, and SEO Experts. Especially in larger organizations that have hundreds or even thousands of pages. Using the methods that I have been talking about will allow you to dramatically reduce the time it takes to even put up pages or re-design pages on a site, thus reducing your cost to build new or update old pages. This leads to you offering discounted rates, increasing customer loyalty, and/or increased margins for your organizations. From an SEO perspective, the benefit of building a site this way is that you do not have to attempt to stuff keywords into your content, less markup will in-turn help with keyword ratios on the page.

In summary, please build standards compliant websites that contain semantic markup. You will see a great benefit from it and help in cleaning up the web!

Resources:
A List Apart Articles – Great Web Design Resource
Web Standards Project – Do I really need to explain this?
Designing with Web Standards – A GREAT book by Jeffrey Zeldman that explains why Web Standards is important (yes, even for SEO) and goes into code level detail.

If you are using Standards based design with your websites and/or are practicing SEO…please comment!…I’d love to hear and share your thoughts!

Being an Industry Thought Leader Through Your Corporate Blog

I felt this was important for corporations and in-house talent to look at when writing a blog. Sometimes we tend to think about a blog as a way to push products, which is what I talked about previously. The truth is, this is o.k. to do, but ONLY as part of your blog content.
Being at a large organization, you are already at the advantage of having a following, your blog will benefit from this. You want to make sure that you are keeping your readers interested. Continuously blogging to your users only about changes to the company or new products, etc. are a way of losing readers and interest.

Swinging to a more positive note, you need to start thinking of your blog as the “Thought Leader” for an industry. There are many ways to do so and it will dramatically improve readership and reach. People expect this out of a large company that is an industry leader already, so, being that thought leader that I speak of, will really set you at the top.

Pay attention to the industry: Listen for what people are looking for. If identity theft and security on the web is a big part of your industry, then use that to your advantage. Write an article about how it applies to your company and how to prevent it, or something along those lines.

Don’t spam: As I mentioned above, do not…and I’ll say this again…DO NOT write solely on new products or what your company id doing. This is boring, tends to decrease interest, and looks to much like an advertising tool.

Write great content: By paying attention to the industry, you know what your readers are looking for. This is crucial info, now go out and apply it. Write articles about the industry, keep people informed of the industry news, etc. Then, every so often, you can write an article that is great and increase visibility.

Linkbaiticize: As apposed to publicizing, you want to write great content that leads to great link bait. Also, get to know the top evangelists, sites, etc. around your industry in the blogosphere. Hopefully they will pick up your article and maybe even submit it to digg/reddit/etc. user that could submit your story is another way to increase readership. Doing this and getting this kind of traffic is of course, one of the best ways to increase your blogs overall ROI. The amount of in-links and subscribers alone is worth the time and money invested, then you have the users that actually follow through on product specific blogs and convert into real $$.

Keep it Fresh: Don’t stop there, continue to fire away and keep content fresh. Stagnant content will lose readers…so keeping it up to date will keep people interested and looking for more.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the 5 rules above about being an industry thought leader. There is definitive ROI through the amount of link popularity, subscriber-ship, and readership that is gained through Social Media. All that, plus, conversion and click-throughs to product subscriptions, etc. that could quite possibly lead real dollars.

Here are some good resources to check out for an understanding of the power of social media are:
A Visual Tour Through the Basics of Social Media Marketing by SEOMoz
SEO Book Bloggers Guide to SEO

Evangelizing SEO within an organization

Evangelism about SEO in an organization and spreading the word in a “grass-roots” sort of way is something that is very hard to do. I always think about it and get excited over the fact that I can make a difference and become a “thought leader” for an organization. The truth is, the evangelism of SEO within a traditional organization or small business can be painful.

I’ve been faced with this a couple times at organizations and while sometimes it is great and can lead to tremendous success, other times, it ends up just being a painful battle without any change.

So, basically I wanted to run through some of the things that I have done to try to get people excited about SEO and Search Marketing. I would call it by “Top 5 tips for SEO Evangelism,” but I don’t want to seem to cliche. (Oh darn, I already did!)

TALK TO PEOPLE! – This is by far, the most important rule that I have given myself. Get people in the know about SEO. (excuse my cliche sounding rhyme’s!…lol). Bring up topics going on in search, throw out numbers about how search is growing in popularity. SEOMoz does this well by putting quotes from well known articles on their homepage, these are things that you can total mention to people within your organization and hopefully build buzz. The main goal and hopefully you can get this going is to have people talking about SEO/SEM to each other.

Baby Steps – On the marketing and creative side we tend to see a lot of “ownership” around pages. They don’t want major changes to be made. So start with small things like meta tag, title tag and page naming changes in that could help certain keywords without changing your messaging or content.

Web Standards – Work closely with your web development teams to get better at coding. WATCH OUT THOUGH, YOU BETTER KNOW YOUR STUFF! Do not attempt to make it an attack. Evangelize it, that is what this is all about, spreading thoughts, knowledge and wisdom to other teams for the overall good (sounds like i am trying to save the world a bit??). Anyway, to get to the point, you basically want to get people thinking they should be standards compliant, ensuring the design elements are CSS based and that your HTML is read like a document. This allows for better site crawlability and your HTML will be read better by spiders.

Make Suggestions – Take a risk and go out on a limb by putting in thoughtful input whenever possible. Some things I have done with this is made statements in meetings about the amount of searches there are for a certain keyword or phrase that we could be capitalizing on.

Use Analytics to your advantage – This will help put everything together. Give you an unbelievable amount of data to take back to your colleagues and counterparts. Oh and guess what else this gives you?! We all know that the “Big Wigs” like seeing the numbers quickly and to the point, so this is a great way to evangelize your successes, no matter how BIG your “big wig” is.

Now that you have my secret and effective list of evangelism for SEO, you better put it to good use!! Spreading the word and starting a movement of sorts around will definitely help spread the word about SEO, building better sites, with a better user experience and great content.

5 Quick Viral and Referral Marketing Tips

Many companies completely forget to include the following viral strategies or they are simply looked over. The sad truth is that these strategies are almost always EXTREMELY simple to implement.

1. Add to Favorites: One of the easiest tools and effective tools for getting people to come back to your website. There are typically pre-written scripts or scripts easy enough to implement. A must have to start with…

2. Recommend / Email to a friend: Not allowing your customer a route sending your website off to his friends or co-workers could lead to a major amount of lost opportunities. Make sure that you have some form on allowing customers to recommend, and definitely make sure it is EASY.

3. Add to Del.icio.us: Although this is not as easy as the first two, with today’s age of social media and how much it is used, it is crucial to getting recurring site traffic, almost as much so as “Add to Favorites.”

4. Share on Facebook: Customers and site user’s are spending more and more time on Facebook and giving them the ability to share stories, articles, landing page’s, etc. on their profile can get you some major traffic and conversion.

5. Social Media Madness: Other than the above listed items, social media is your friend. If you are a blog or publisher network, then add items like “digg this” or “submit to netscape” and even things like google bookmarks.

Giving your customers and/or users an opportunity to pass the word along and keep coming back to your site can only be an advantage to your overall success. Obviously you don’t want to over do it, with links ALL over the place and scattered that it would drive someone insane. Just make sure that you are giving people the opportunity to spread the word.

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