To keep this week’s theme of “where the Smart Passive Income Blog is lacking and what you can learn from it” (see my last post about conversion strategies), today I’m going to share some sections of an SEO audit that was performed on the SPI blog by renowned WordPress and web development expert, Joost De Valk, who runs a very successful blog at Yoast.com.
This was a paid analysis that I was happy to invest in because I’m always looking to improve my websites, and others have told me how helpful and thorough Joost’s reports were.
I learned a ton from his detailed 8-page analysis, however the one big thing I learned from this experience is that the SPI blog is not at all properly optimized for SEO. It’s doing some things right, but it’s doing a lot of things wrong too.
Now, I’m definitely not clueless when it comes to search engine optimization. I can bust out a niche site from scratch and have it optimized enough to obtain a #1 ranking in Google and generate a part-time passive income. But this blog, specifically, was created back in 2008 when I knew nothing about SEO, and as time went on and the blog grew to what it is today, the structure of the site lay stagnant in “pre-Pat knows what he’s doing now” mode. This is why I invested in this report, so I can update/fix/change things to the way it should be.
All that said, notice that even though my site wasn’t properly search engine optimized, I was still able to build a very successful following and have one of the fastest growing blogs in the world. And even though my site wasn’t properly search engine optimized, I was still able to (eventually) get to the #2 spot in Google for my primary keyword, “passive income”. I’m 2nd behind Wikipedia, who some say is nearly impossible to overtake in the rankings.
I’ve done pretty well without spending a ton of time and money on SEO, so to sum it up for you:
SEO isn’t everything.
So many people focus on SEO, SEO, SEO – and they forget about some of the other important ways to attract visitors, build a brand and establish one’s self as a leader in a niche.
Don’t get me wrong though – SEO is important, and you’d be a fool not to build an optimized website and shoot for keywords and organic search engine traffic – but all I’m saying is that it’s not everything.
Just something to keep in mind.
Let’s jump to some highlights of the report…
A “no-follow” is an attribute you can give to any link on your site to basically tell Google not to count that link, so it doesn’t influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. It was put in place by Google to stop blog comment spam, however in the world of SEO, another reason you would want to “no-follow” some of your outgoing links is because you don’t want “link juice” leaking to unneeded pages and minimizing the power and authority of the post or page that the link is on.
To quote Joost directly from the SEO report:
“You’re already, correctly, nofollowing the links to commenter sites and in comments, as default in WordPress. You’re not, however nofollowing other stuff that should be nofollowed. The following links need to be nofollowed to prevent either link juice leaking to unneeded pages, or to avoid penalties:
- All affiliate links you use; each and every one of them (Although he later brings up “hiding” affiliate links as a better option).
- The links to your RSS feeds, twittercounter, and all social links should be nofollowed too.
I won’t get into the details here, but you can read more about nofollow and how to insert a nofollow link on your website here.
Before I got this report, I didn’t even know what all this meant, so if you’re confused, don’t worry – I was there too.
Heading structure, or how the titles of the blog, posts, pages and any sub-sections in the body and sidebar are classified and tagged, is important for SEO. The different labels and tags help search engines (and people!) understand what is important.
Here’s what Joost had to say about my heading structure:
Your heading structure is far from ideal. In general, all your sidebar headings should be H4, not H1, not H2. And try to make all your headings more relevant by including some of your main keywords in them.
You have too many H1’s on your homepage (and all other pages too). In general, there should be only one H1 on each page. For your homepage, that should be your site’s title, not including your tagline. The tagline should be H2…
Right now, your site title isn’t in an H1 at all, so you should fix that (but just for the front page).
Then there’s like 10 H1’s for the posts, these should be H2’s or H3’s…
Okay, some obvious mistakes here…but why?
The SPI Blog runs on custom designed WordPress theme, and the theme was obviously not built with SEO in mind. I’m not putting the blame on anybody, but my guess is that the designer I hired was excellent at design work (I love the design of my blog!), and he was definitely able to code a site that works, but he just didn’t know about proper search engine optimization methods.
The big lesson here is that if you do go with a design team to custom build a theme for you, make sure they know a bit about SEO as well, or you have a person who can clean up and advise the designer on exactly how it should work on the backend.
To give you an analogy in an industry that I’m very familiar with, it’s like an architect who designs a building, but doesn’t really know all the fine and intricate details about how the inside of the building is supposed to work (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.). That’s left for the engineers.
Backlinks (links from other websites) to your site play one of the most significant roles in SEO, however internal linking – linking within your site from one post or page to another, is a key factor as well – and is a lot easier to work with, since you have complete control over them.
A good internal linking structure can ensure that your site gets properly spidered. It will also build relevancy of a page to a particular keyword and it can increase the PageRank of an internal page as well.
Here are some interesting things Joost has to say about SPI’s internal linking structure:
Your menu and header area is quite extensive and has lots of links. This means that each and every page in every category, has loads of links before the content starts. Having those links is not really bad, per se, but if you could, with some CSS hacking, move the entire top level navigation to the bottom of the HTML (while preserving it in the same spot in the design) that would be very beneficial.
In your menu, you’re linking to your Archives. These are primarily date based. I dislike date based archives with a vengeance because there’s almost no one who would ever be interested in them, including a search engine: you want content arranged by topic, not because you happened to write it a day after the previous article. So I’d get rid of them entirely, and instead move your category list and tag cloud way up on that page.
Also, you have to de-dupe your articles and categories. For instance, you have a tag “affiliate marketing” and a category of the same name. There’s no use for that. Choose either of them, but not both. In general, I’d go for 6-7 main categories, and then narrow down by tag, that way people and search engines will know where to find stuff.
Your sidebar is way too heavy. In my opinion, you should get rid of a LOT of the stuff on it, especially everything that has too many links in it. The “most popular” / “hot posts” / “top commenters” widget for instance, but also your Twitter feed, and the recent posts block. Instead, use it to promote more really special posts like you’re doing with blogger’s guide to Facebook.
This is all really great advice, not just for SEO, but for usability as well. I also find it interesting that Derek Halpern, from our conversion strategy video in my last post, suggested many of these same things. I guess I have some work to do.
Functionality and Plugins Used
Plugins are awesome – they are what make WordPress so wonderful to work with – however if you add too many or don’t get the settings right, it can begin to screw with how people and search engines load and read your site.
Joost highlighted a plugin that I know a lot of us use, and he also recommended a few I hadn’t heard of before either:
All in One SEO
I’m no enemy of the All in One SEO plugin, but the way it’s configured here should be improved:
- Disable the canonical function, it’s poorly written and not better than WordPress core or Thematic.
- Disable Use categories & Use tags for META keywords, as meta keywords are no longer needed.
- Dynamically create keywords for each post or page: no longer needed either.
- Disable the auto generation of descriptions, it’s pure nonsense. Either write them by hand, or don’t have them at all.
There’s a couple of plugins I recommend you start using outside of the ones already mentioned, a short explanation follows per plugin:
- MediaRSS – this plugin adds Yahoo!’s MediaRSS tags to your RSS feed. This allows search engines that support it (both Yahoo! and Google do) to recognize the images in your blog posts more easily.
- WP Smush.It – this plugin automatically reduces the size of uploaded images, in a lossless way.
- Clean Notifications – you might like this plugin for it’s ability to clean up the notification emails you get when you receive new comments or pingbacks / trackbacks.
As you can see, I have a quite a bit of work to do, and all of the above advice is only about 3 pages of Joost’s 8-page analysis of the blog. I wanted to make sure I kept this post at a reasonable length and share some of the less technical, more actionable items with you.
Joost and I had originally scheduled a webinar to get into more detail about the report and share it with you live, however it was delayed and we haven’t been able to align our schedules yet. It is still something I’d love to do because I know you and I would get a lot out of it, so I’ll definitely keep trying and keep you posted.
Anyways, a big thank you to Joost De Valk from Yoast for his site analysis and expert advice. I’m actually in the middle of a site redesign (more-so on the backend) and I’ll be putting his advice into place for sure.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of analysis and constructive criticism of the SPI blog. I’m happy to share my journey with you. It’s definitely a learning experience for all of us and I hope that I’ve at least showed you that when it comes to building a successful business online, you don’t have be 100% perfect or know everything there is to know about everything. But, you should always be learning, always be taking action and always be trying to improve.
Cheers, and have an awesome and safe weekend!