Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.

All Resources by Maddy Osman

content syndication

What is Content Syndication & How Does it Impact SEO?

February 8, 2019

When it comes to content, website owners are often faced one or both of these common problems:

  • Not having enough content for their website
  • Not having enough reach for content to achieve goals

While SEO is a great long-term strategy for driving website traffic, it shouldn’t be the only strategy you try to get in front of new audiences.

Content syndication can be a great way to maximize existing content assets while reaching more people.

What is Content Syndication?

Here’s the most basic content syndication definition:

Content syndication is a method of republishing existing content on other websites in order to reach a broader audience.

Though we’ll focus on text-based content in this discussion of how content syndication affects SEO, any type of digital content can be syndicated: including infographics and videos. According to Search Engine Journal, syndicated content may involve content published in its entirety, articles edited and shortened, or excerpts of an article.

Content syndication benefits both parties: the website where it’s syndicated gets fresh content, while the person/brand behind the original content gets exposure to a new audience.

All that said, content syndication may not be the best strategy to gain referral traffic. If you’re syndicating content to a website that has greater domain authority than you, it may actually outrank your original article.

But before drawing a hasty conclusion about content syndication, let’s take a deeper look at the implications of content syndication for SEO.

Does Content Syndication Impact SEO?

Since content syndication is related to duplicate content, let’s defer to what Google has to say on the topic:

“Syndicate carefully. If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article.”

Google admits that 30% of content is duplicate content, but they don't penalize it unless it’s done with malicious intent.

They explain, “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

According to Search Engine Journal, “While fear over “duplicate content” penalties is exaggerated in the case of syndication, it’s also not the best SEO strategy [because of the potential for one website to outrank another].”

The key to success? Weighing the pros and cons of syndicating content on any potential outlet.

Still feeling wary? Perhaps this will help: Buffer and Content Marketing Institute have both experienced steady growth in traffic in tandem with a content syndication strategy.

The ideal way to proceed with content syndication is when the author grants permission for others to use their articles and the website gives proper attribution to the author and source.

Content Syndication Best Practices

Now that you understand the answer to the question, “What is content syndication?” and its potential impact on SEO, here are some best practices to keep in mind if you plan to move forward with this strategy:

1. Don’t Give the Other Website All the (SEO) Credit

As mentioned, one major SEO risk with content syndication is the possibility that another website will rank higher and be credited for your work. To mend this, Elegant Themes suggests having an agreement with the website where you're submitting the article that involves adding a rel=canonical tag that points to the original source of the syndicated content.

You can also incorporate a NoIndex tag to prevent syndicated content from being indexed, to begin with.

2. Find the Right Publishing Partner

If you're an author looking for a larger audience, the most important first step is to find the ideal outlet to publish your content. Theme Circle offers a sortable list of over 5000+ outlets looking for guest blog posts. Just make sure that you’re clear in your pitch that you’re specifically looking for a content syndication partnership.

Keep your expectations in line: if you’re a new brand, expect to start small and build your way up the ranks.

3. Syndicate Content on Multiple Platforms

Content syndication isn’t just about publishing on other websites. The following outlets can also be worth exploring as part of a complete content distribution strategy:

  • LinkedIn’s publishing platform can be a great venue to share your expertise and take advantage of existing reach. According to LinkedIn’s guidelines, LinkedIn can distribute and annotate any content you share. What’s great about LinkedIn is that it shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs), though it’s unlikely to outrank your website for the same content.
  • Medium is an online publishing platform founded by Evan Williams, who was chairman & CEO of Twitter (and also co-founded Blogger). Medium collects content and sends personalized recommendations to subscribers based on previous articles they've read. Medium offers a (somewhat outdated) WordPress plugin that allows you to automatically post your blog entries to your Medium profile.
  • Quora is another place to share your content. It is the most popular question and answer site online. To find success with content syndication, just search for topics related to your content and answer questions using excerpts from your content, with a link back to your website.
  • Reddit is known as “the front page of the internet”. It is one of the most diverse networks on the internet and has different subreddits (or forum groups) where people discuss their interests. You can think of Reddit as the uncensored version of Quora. Quora has a lot of restrictions, while Reddit’s focus is content and community.
  • For anything WordPress related, you should also try syndicating content to LinkWP or ManageWP.org. Another popular outlet for syndicating B2B content is Business2Community.

Ideally, you’ll test out a few of these platforms and eventually settle on the ones that give you the best return for your time investment. Not every option will work for every person or brand.

4. Pitch Perfect

Some of the biggest content syndication sites are picky, and they also receive tons of requests, so make sure to send out your best content in order to stand out. Read the site’s guidelines and create a pitch that is perfectly tailored to their site.

If your ideal outlet won’t budge when it comes to syndicating content, consider Andy Crestodina’s tips for creating new variations of existing original content to submit instead.

How to Syndicate Content from Other Outlets

If you’re interested in syndicating content to your website, here’s how to get started:

Use WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to flesh out your website’s content, there are several plugins available that automatically syndicate content from other websites to your blog. These plugins usually help you get content from Atom or RSS feeds to publish to your site. You can add as many websites as you want and even set up intervals for when content will be published.

Among available content syndication plugins, one worth mentioning is CyberSyn. It is a powerful plugin that can import full-text articles, add custom footers to be displayed on your site, embed videos, and generate featured images/thumbnails for posts. It can also translate syndicated articles to/from over 100 different languages.

Additional content syndication plugins include FeedWordPress, WP Syndicate, and WP RSS Aggregator. There are also plugins that allow you to republish your content from your blog to another website, such as the Medium plugin mentioned previously.

Manually Syndicate Content

If you want to add a more personal touch to your posts, you can opt to manually syndicate content, although this is definitely a more tedious option. To procure a collection of content to pull from, you can sign up for an online feed aggregator like Feedly, which allows you to add content from RSS feeds you like and compile them into one place.

Final Thoughts: What is Content Syndication & How Does it Impact SEO?

Syndicating content can be a great content promotion solution for websites that need content to publish and brands who want to expand their reach. By properly tagging content to direct Google to the original version (or stopping it from being indexed in the first place), you shouldn’t experience any negative SEO side effects.

What other questions do you have about content syndication? We’d love to help you out! Reach out and let's talk SEO.

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wordpress themes

How to Pick SEO Friendly WordPress Themes

October 9, 2018

Search engine optimization (SEO) really is a broad topic best considered in terms of the various pillars that make it up:

  • On-page SEO, which is concerned with keywords/content.
  • Off-page SEO, which is concerned with backlinks and building authority.
  • Technical structure, which is concerned with how a website is built and the resulting user experience.

Oftentimes, companies will focus on one aspect of SEO while ignoring another. But in order to rank in relevant search, you certainly can’t ignore the impact of your website’s technical structure.

WordPress provides a great foundational content management system (CMS) that follows most SEO best practices, out-of-the-box. Of course, whatever design you build on top of this should also follow SEO best practices in order to provide a solid base for your on-page and off-page efforts.

So how do you effectively pick SEO friendly WordPress themes?

We’re so glad you asked.

Considerations for SEO Friendly WordPress Themes

Page Load Speed

Page load speed is a major Google ranking factor because of its contribution to the user experience. To put this into perspective, according to Kissmetrics, 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less!

Design and all else equal, from an SEO perspective, go for the fastest loading WordPress theme.

Before you choose your theme, run its demo page through performance testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools, and GTmetrix to verify if the developer paid attention to performance optimization.

Just know that if an otherwise great WordPress theme has a few speed issues, all isn’t necessarily lost.

You can use plugins like Smush or Shortpixel to compress image files (media files are heavy and take a long time to load) and WP Rocket for caching and file minification.

The best compliment to a WordPress theme with a quick page load speed is a performance web host with fast server response times. Liquid Web and Kinsta both have excellent reputations when it comes to managed WordPress hosting.

Responsive Design

Websites are consumed by a variety of browsers, devices, and screen resolutions. SEO friendly WordPress themes can scale accordingly and look good no matter what. A responsive theme has a fluid layout that ‘adjusts’ to the screen size, and search engines like it when websites are easy to use and accessible.

Mobile responsiveness is more important now than ever, as Google’s mobile-first index can impact your rankings. Besides, mobile devices are now being used to browse the web in a trend that’s overtaking desktop use.

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to determine if your theme is mobile-friendly.

Easy Navigation

Don’t be tempted to discount something as ‘basic’ as website navigation.

Easy navigation positively affects website traffic from search engines because accessibility and ease of use contribute to SEO. A study from Gerry McGovern showed that 70% of people relied on navigation rather than search when looking for something on a website because it’s easier and faster to click on available website links.

67% of people leave a website if they are frustrated with the navigation. Use tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar to figure out where people are dropping off of your website and determine if it has something to do with your navigation.

Developed for SEO

It may be helpful to look for themes on WordPress with the ‘developed for SEO’ label. This helps you know that the theme developer is up to date on the latest SEO best practices and has incorporated them into their theme design.

To give an example, ‘developed for SEO’ themes with Schema.org markup allow search engines to understand your unique content to provide richer search results. This, in turn, helps your content get more visibility in search results.

Clean Code

To avoid SEO problems, it’s important for your theme to be developed according to up-to-date coding standards. In some ways, this relates to page speed — code bloat can slow down load time both for the end user within a browser, as well as search crawlers that are trying to index your website.

In order to pick SEO friendly WordPress themes in terms of valid code markup, check for errors using the W3C Markup Validator. If errors seem excessive, you may want to consider other options.

SEO Friendly WordPress Themes: Top Options

It’s one thing to give recommendations regarding specific aspects of SEO friendly WordPress themes — it’s quite another to share recommendations for tried-and-true WordPress themes that you can download right now.

Here are our best suggestions for SEO-friendly WordPress themes:

Schema theme

Schema

Schema is the fastest-loading WordPress theme. Tests show that its loading time of 659 ms is 95% faster than other WordPress themes.

Besides page load speed contributing to its SEO-friendliness, the theme has several additional SEO features. It makes information about your page easily accessible to search engines by having a quality code foundation and support for rich snippets. There is also a built-in review system, ad manager (for embedding third-party ads without the need for a separate plugin), and social media sharing functionality.

Pricing starts at $35 for one website license.

Divi Theme

Divi

Divi is the most popular WordPress theme in the world, for good reason.

The theme is fully responsive yet highly customizable — it comes with 20 premade layouts that can adapt to any type of business, while still allowing you to create new pages from scratch using the Divi drag-and-drop page builder.

Divi has:

  • Over 46 elements for content
  • A large community of fans
  • Support for several languages

Pricing starts at $89/year for access to the theme and all Elegant Themes plugins (such as Monarch, a social sharing plugin, and Bloom, an email opt-in plugin). Alternatively, you can go all-in with a one-time payment of $249 to receive lifetime access to this high-end WordPress theme.

GrowthPress

GrowthPress

GrowthPress was designed with one specific goal in mind: converting visitors to customers or subscribers.

GrowthPress is also optimized for speed, is mobile-responsive (compatible on all browsers and retina-ready) and built with clean code. It also offers Cloudflare support, is protected with advanced security, integrates with popular third-party plugins, and best of all, it is optimized for local SEO.

Pricing starts at $79.

Massive Dynamic

Massive Dynamic

Massive Dynamic is one of the most affordable SEO friendly WordPress themes/website builders available on the market.

For $39, it comes with over 30 pre-built sections and over 60 prebuilt website designs. It also comes with a drag-and-drop builder and 6 plugins ($98 value). Despite all this useful pre-built content, Massive Dynamic is lightweight and fast.

Additionally, Massive Dynamic is WooCommerce-ready and comes with access to a dedicated support team. Out of the box, it has a high GTMetrix performance score (99%) and Google Pagespeed Insights score (100%).

Pofo

Pofo

Pofo is the perfect theme for creative portfolios and blogs. It comes with over 150 prebuilt elements and 200 prebuilt templates, as well as several pre-configured typography and color options for easy website customization. Pofo is WooCommerce-ready, responsive, retina-ready, and is optimized for SEO (with a GTMetrix performance score of 97%),

Pricing starts at $59.

Honorable Mention

Hestia. This stylish theme offers a beautiful user-experience without compromising speed. You can check out a detailed review of the Hestia theme at Collectiveray.

Final Thoughts: How to Pick SEO Friendly WordPress Themes

By understanding the various elements that make up an SEO friendly WordPress theme, it’s easier to evaluate available options. You really don’t need any fancy tools to run tests on your top contenders — Google has provided several free options that help you understand exactly how the search giant considers various aspects of a given WordPress theme.

Which SEO friendly WordPress themes do you love and recommend? Tweet us @pathfinderseo and we will share your recommendations!

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redirect chain

Domain SEO: How to Manage Redirects & Aliases

October 1, 2018

Domains are the human-readable Internet addresses of websites.

In actuality, information is transferred over the internet through IP addresses (a string of numbers). But number sequences are hard to remember, so domains make it easier to access websites.

Domains are made up of two parts:

  • Top-level domain: Also known as extension or domain suffix, this is found at the end of the domain and can provide a little information about the website. For example, .gov — government agencies; .edu — educational institutions; .org — non-profit organizations.
  • Domain name: These are the second level in domain hierarchy and represent the actual IP address of the website, in letters. Domain names can be purchased from registrars.

Together, the top level domain (TLD) and domain name make up the root domain, more commonly known as the website address. You can have subdomains, and all pages on a given website can have the same root domain, but only one website can be assigned a particular root domain.

What you may be wondering is whether or not you can operate with more than one domain name and the resulting impact: domain SEO.

How to Choose a Domain Name

Determining your website’s domain name may be the hardest decision you’ll make before moving forward.

In the early days of domain SEO, people would purchase exact match domains (EMD) and that would be enough for their website to rank in relevant search. Since then, Google has tweaked its algorithm to combat these keyword stuffed EMDs.

Regardless, the end goal of search engine optimization is still the same: provide quality and relevant (up-to-date) answers to search queries. A good domain name that represents what your website is about can help with that, while increasing trust and click-through rates in the SERPs.

Important Considerations for Choosing Domain Names

Make your Domain Name Easy to Remember

Do away with long domain names, as well as those with hyphens and too many numbers. Potential website visitors may be put off by them, or worse, not remember them at all.

The best gauge for a good URL? The easier it is for humans to read and understand, the better it is for search engines.

Good domains are ideally 15 characters or less and use the correct spelling of a word. If brand awareness is an important goal, your domain name should include brand signals (like your brand’s name).

Avoid Non-.com TLDs

.com is the most recognizable TLD, and should be your top priority when you purchase any domain. Other TLDs (such as .biz, .info, and .name) are less popular and receive less traffic because they have an association with spammy behavior.

However, if the .com you want isn't available, Moz suggests going for .net, .co, or a known ccTLD (country code top-level domain), such as .ca (Canada) or .us (USA).

When you purchase a domain, you’ll be given the option to buy additional domains. If you can, buy these domains so that you can prevent other people from getting them. You can then redirect these domains to your main website using instructions provided later in this article.

Avoid Ambiguity

Make sure that your domain name isn't open to other interpretations.

Some examples:

  • Therapistfinder.com
  • Oldmanshaven.com
  • Speedofart.com

Check for Trademarks and Social Handles

Once you’ve thought of some possible domain names, make a few final checks before purchasing any.

First, check if the name that you’ve picked is trademarked, so you can avoid legal trouble. At this point, you should also look into trademarking your brand name to avoid future copyright issues.

In the digital age, it’s also imperative to check if the name you've chosen is available on all social networks so that you can stay on-brand everywhere you’re present online. You can use Namevine to determine if your name has already been taken on social media.

Domain SEO: How to Set Up Multiple Domain Redirects

There are many potential reasons for using more than just one domain name:

  • Covering your bases with multiple variations of your brand name.
  • Going through a rebrand after initially setting up your website (leaving the old domain active so that people who still use it don’t get a 404 error).
  • As an on-brand link shortener.
  • To organize easy access to popular products/services. For example, iPhone.com redirects to the iPhone section of the Apple website.

In order to use multiple domains at the same time, you’ll have to set up redirects.

If you’re just getting started, ensure that all the domains are bought from the same registrar for an infinitely easier management process. It gets a little easier if your registrar is also your web host. However, if you have a separate web host, you must tell your registrar where to find the website by updating its nameservers so that they can update the DNS (domain name system).

There are two ways to point different URLs to the same website:

  • Redirect the URL to the original website
  • Create an alias for one of the URLs

Domain SEO: How to Create a Redirect

There are several types of redirects you can take advantage of, but for this purpose, you’ll focus on 301 redirects: a permanent redirect. A 301 redirect signifies that the original content is not located at a given URL anymore.

There are several ways that you can create a 301 redirect:

cPanel

Using cPanel, go to the Domains section, and then click on the redirect button, or use the search bar to find that section. Once you're there, choose the 301 redirect and input the URL and its location before clicking “Add”.

HTML

Create a note on a text editor like Notepad with the words: ‘Redirect 301 / http://www.destinationURL.com/’. Save the file as .htaccess on the server hosting your website files. Create a backup before uploading the .htaccess file in case you accidentally break something!

WordPress Plugins

If you're on WordPress and don’t want to mess around with the .htaccess file, you can use plugins to create 301 redirects. Some of the most popular options include Simple 301 Redirects and Redirection.

How to Creating an Alias (aka Parking a Domain)

You can create an alias using cPanel.

First, go to the Domains section, and then click on Aliases. When you're there, type the alias domain name in the text box and click Add Domain.

If there are issues (like using the wrong name servers), you’ll get an error message. If everything goes well, you’ll see a message that you’ve successfully created the alias.

To avoid name server issues, ensure that these are the same as your primary domain. Also, make sure you know what kind of server account you have, and if you have permission to create an alias.

Final Thoughts – Domain SEO: How to Manage Redirects & Aliases

Domains are the human-readable internet addresses of websites. Though you should spend time considering how your domain name can impact click-through from search, it’s important not to go for keyword-focused exact match domains (EMDs), which can trigger Google’s algorithm.

If possible, go with a .com domain as your primary domain name, alongside other related domain extensions (.net, .co, etc.) so that no one else can buy them up from under you. You can then use all of these domain names to redirect or create an alias back to your original website.

What other questions do you have about domain SEO? Tweet the SEO experts at @PathfinderSEO and we’ll get you the answers you need!

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google analytics

The 5 Most Useful Google Analytics SEO Dashboards to Grow Traffic

June 20, 2018

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that you can use to gain insights about how visitors interact with your website. Once installed, Google Analytics provides behind-the-scenes details about your site visitors, site visits, session times (and lengths), conversion goals, and so much more.

Google Analytics makes several reports available to you and even allows you to customize these reports. However, if you’re a newbie, all this information can be overwhelming, to say the least. But once you understand how to use this powerful tool, you can use it to make the necessary improvements that bolster your SEO efforts.

The single best way to understand the ins and outs of Google Analytics (and gain some digital marketing street cred) is to go through their free certification program.

The major downside to an investment in this effort? It takes many hours to get through the training material and the resulting certification is only valid for 18 months. This can be hard to justify on-the-job and makes for a tough break in your personal life if you have to devote a weekend to it!

If you’re ready to get more out of Google Analytics now and want to put off the certification process, there’s good news. You don’t need to know everything about Google Analytics to be effective—you just need to familiarize yourself with some popular reporting features that give insight into SEO.

Follow along with our guide to the five most useful Google Analytics SEO dashboards—and how to use them effectively to grow relevant traffic to your website.

#1 Technology Report

The Technology Report provides you with visitors’ browser, OS (operating system), and network information. If you want to go in deeper than that, this report also provides information relating to Screen Resolution, Screen Colors, Flash Version, and Java Support that your audience uses.

The Technology Report can be accessed by going to Google Analytics > Audience tab > Technology.

The Technology Report provides you with visitors’ browser, OS (operating system), and network information. If you want to go in deeper than that, this report also provides information relating to Screen Resolution, Screen Colors, Flash Version, and Java Support that your audience uses.

Technology Report What the Technology Report can tell you:
This is the default report you see when you click on the Technology tab. It provides you with details about the most popular browsers that access your website.

What makes this report important is when you use it to suss out odd behavior: perhaps a high bounce rate or a low average session duration for a certain browser. These metrics might indicate that your website does not register well on that browser. Informed by the Technology Report, you’ll want to visit your website using that browser to check for problems so you can make any necessary tweaks.

This same approach is also applicable to other variables detailed in this report.

For example, screen resolution analytics shows you the most popular screen size your audience uses, which is an important consideration for designing your website. You can also look at Flash and Java support reports and mix what you find in with data from your browser reports to see if browsers are properly supporting these elements.

Why the Technology Report is important:
The Technology Report provides useful insight regarding your website’s user experience, which can help you infer why audiences spend a certain amount of time on your website.

Search engines are more likely to rank websites that provide a good user experience and at the same time, more people are inclined to visit a website that offers a good user experience, or that is highly recommended by search engines. In that way, both user experience and SEO go hand-in-hand with a common goal of giving your site visitors the best experience.

#2 Queries Report

Google Analytics now supports Search Console Data, which provides information about your organic search traffic along with site engagement data like bounce rates, views, and impressions.

According to Search Engine Land, what makes Search Console data different from Google Analytics data is that it also provides click data, which means it only counts visits that came from the Google search engine to your website, versus Google Analytics, which also counts traffic from other sources.

One of the most important Google Analytics SEO dashboards is the Queries Report, which allows you to see exactly what terms people search for to get to your website.

This report can be found under Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.

Queries Report

Google Analytics now supports Search Console Data, which provides information about your organic search traffic along with site engagement data like bounce rates, views, and impressions.

According to Search Engine Land, what makes Search Console data different from Google Analytics data is that it also provides click data, which means it only counts visits that came from the Google search engine to your website, versus Google Analytics, which also counts traffic from other sources.

One of the most important Google Analytics SEO dashboards is the Queries Report, which allows you to see exactly what terms people search for to get to your website.

This report can be found under Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.


What the Queries Report can tell you:

This is the default report you see when you click on the Queries tab. It shows you search query terms, along with related clicks, impressions, CTRs, and your average ranking position.
  • Impressions show the number of times your website appeared on the Google SERPs (search engine results pages) for a given term, including where images come up in relevant search results. The Queries Report also shows you when your content isn’t ranking on the first few pages of the SERPs. This is why this report also shows you average position data.
  • Average position data: Usually, Google displays search engine results in multiples of 10 (results 1-10 are on the first page, 11-20 in the second, and so on). The Queries Report shows what position your website ranks for when it comes to that particular search term. For example, the above screenshot shows that this website ranks 1.2 for the term “youtube merch” which means that they ranked first for the query in some searches, 2nd in others and that the average of all these is 1.2.
Why the Queries Report is important:
You can use this report to do brand vs non-brand searches.

According to Search Engine Journal, excluding brand impressions and clicks shows the true extent/visibility of your SEO efforts. At the same time, reviewing brand only searches can show if your brand’s strength is growing over time.

You can use the Queries containing and Queries not containing filter to review brand and non-brand searches, respectively.

A related Google Analytics SEO dashboard can be found by navigating to Acquisition > Channels > Organic Search. For most, this report is all but useless because Google protects the data of users browsing with a secure (SSL) connection.

Not Provided

Oftentimes, the (not provided) keywords represent a bulk of all search queries that result in clicks through to your website.

If you want to know what these terms actually are, you can use a tool like Keyword Hero to reveal the exact queries. Best of all, this tool connects directly to your Google Analytics account! Keyword Hero also provides users with a range of pre-built Google Analytics SEO dashboards to support your understanding of your website’s performance.

Keyword Hero

If you can’t see the Search Console reports on your Google Analytics account, check first to ensure that your website is configured with Search Console. If it isn’t, you have to add your site on Search Console to collect search query data, and then configure SEO reporting on Google Analytics.

A final note in relation to the Queries Report: you can also access data relating to internal/on-site searches by going to Behavior > Site Search > Overview. Just make sure to set up site search, first!

#3 Traffic Acquisition Report

In relation to the Queries Report is the Traffic Acquisition Report, which gives an overview of traffic acquisition: from sources of traffic to the number of users, to session duration, and conversion rate.

While traffic acquisition information is easily available to view in your Google Analytics overview, making your way to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium will provide you with much more detailed information.

In the overview, all traffic from search engines is lumped under organic traffic but in the Source/Medium Report, it shows you what specific search engine the traffic came from.

Source Medium Report in Google Analytics

#4 Page Load Time Report

One aspect of SEO that is often overlooked is page load times.

According to a study by kissmetrics, about half of users expect a website to load in two seconds or less, and 4 out of 10 users would abandon a website that took more than 3 seconds to load.

This isn’t just important for e-commerce websites. Page load speeds don’t just affect conversion rates but the entire user experience as well, which affect your page rankings for any type of website. If you’re spending a lot of time and money to affect SEO and keyword rankings, do not neglect page load speeds.

The first step to determining whether you need to make any changes to your website is to do an audit, and the Page Load Time Report can help you with this.

To access this report, go to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings.

You can change the headings depending on which metrics you want to compare but it is suggested that you stack Average Page Load Time against % Exit, like so:

Page Timings

In this example, you can see instances where the sitewide average page load time is less than most of the pages, and that when the average page load time of a page exceeds that of the site’s average page load time, the exit rates are also greater (there’s a direct correlation).

Armed with this information, you’ll want to discuss how to improve page load times with your website developer. After they’ve implemented changes, you can compare your new data with the old to see if your traffic and conversions have improved due to improved page load times.

#4 All Pages Report

Since most SEO efforts center on content creation, it’s important to measure your effectiveness with these efforts. This is where the All Pages Report comes in.

Access this by going to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

All Pages

With this report, you’ll see all the content that people are viewing on your website, arranged by pageviews.

Why the All Pages Report is important:
What makes this report important is that there are so many insights you can gain from it, pageviews and bounce rates aside.

One metric you might want to consider is page value, which uses your goal conversion data (something you’ll have to setup within Google Analytics) to determine which pages create the most monetary value for your website.

You can also take a look at the Entrances and % Exit metrics, to show you from which pages people access and leave your site.

Similar to the All Pages Report, you can also check out the Landing Pages report to help you understand what content brings people to your website (and the first page they see).

Landing pages report in Google Analytics

Final Thoughts: The 5 Most Useful Google Analytics SEO Dashboards to Grow Traffic

Google Analytics is a helpful tool that measures many different web marketing metrics. With the amount of data and metrics to keep track of, this sheer abundance of data can seem overwhelming for new users.

Luckily, these five Google Analytics SEO dashboards are among some of the most useful reports you can use to improve your website and drive more relevant traffic in line with your SEO efforts. Get familiar with each one and consistently check-in to catch red flags before they become bigger issues.

Don’t forget to add Google Analytics to your Pathfinder SEO account for a BONUS Google Analytics SEO dashboard! We simplify and streamline the data to focus on the most important metrics to help you get found in Google, Yahoo and Bing.

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Parts to be assembled

How Do The Best WordPress Page Builder Plugins Affect SEO?

May 31, 2018

Regardless of whether you’re a web developer or the client tasked with updating the content on a website, the best WordPress page builders can assist both parties.

The best WordPress page builders make it easy to quickly build beautiful pages, with a user-friendly edge that empowers clients to make many of their own changes once a web project is done. No coding skills necessary!

Of course, just like all good things in life—there’s a catch.

Wix and Weebly are two content management systems that catch a lot of flack from professional web developers because of their drag and drop website building functionality and its impact on SEO.

Heavy markup and non-semantic code relating to the use of these types of tools can have an impact on page speed and Google’s ability to index the website for relevant searches. With this in mind, the question that inevitably comes up is whether or not the best WordPress page builder plugins also cause similar issues with SEO.

So, how exactly do the best WordPress page builder plugins impact SEO? Let’s take a deep dive into the subject.

How do Page Builder Plugins Impact SEO?

There are many different factors that can affect your website’s ability to rank on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs)—a big part of that has to do with your website’s technical structure/design.

Many companies treat SEO as one of the most integral parts of doing business, for good reason. Even local businesses stand to gain when it comes to paying attention to this marketing tactic. But it’s hard to be effective if SEO isn’t a consideration during the web design process. It’s much harder to go back in with an SEO “retrofit” than it is to start with best practices.

Beaver Builder, one of the best WordPress page builder plugins, states that many of their competitors have built a bad reputation for the industry, at least when it comes to producing poor quality codes. This is in reference to the way that page builders automatically wrap content with DIVs—creating unnecessary code bloat.

Many page builders use heavy markup and non-semantic code, and many SEO experts believe that this can hinder SEO. These simplified codes are also known as shortcodes, which a lot of WordPress plugins make use of to help non-coders unlock functionality.

On a similar note when it comes to factoring in the impact of shortcodes, it’s necessary to consider a page builder plugin’s effect on page speed. Before continuing, it’s important to note that some of the best WordPress page builders don’t necessarily make websites slow—their impact on page load has more to do with the intricacies of how they structure content contained within.

Again, it comes back to shortcodes. You can think of shortcodes as a shortcut but everytime someone visits a page, shortcodes need to be expanded to their longform code, requiring a large demand from your web server. A short delay on your page load can hurt your SERP rankings.

Which of the Best WordPress Page Builders are SEO-Friendly?

The following represent some of the most SEO-friendly, best WordPress page builder plugins currently available on the market, with data regarding how their structure contributes to performance:

Elementor

Elementor Page Builder

Elementor is a freemium page builder for WordPress, with over four million active installations.

Elementor’s features include:

  • Template library
  • Widgets (Customizable and third-party application support)
  • Mobile-friendly (which is also good for SEO, as a general note)
  • Extendable and developer-friendly. It was created based on most recommended coding standards, making pages SEO ready, out of the box.

UX (user experience) design and SEO intersect when it comes to the process of optimizing for page speed. Google recommended that site speed should be between 2 to 3 seconds maximum. The more page elements your web server has to load up and display (also known as HTTP requests), the longer the resulting page load time.

Because of their coding structure, many worry that page builder plugins will negatively impact page load.

Based on Pagely’s comparative analysis of WordPress page builders, Elementor doesn’t appear to be a page builder plugin that negatively impacts page load, at least according to Pingdom Test Data. In Pagely’s test, Elementor got a B (89) performance grade and a 489ms load time (which is considered faster than 97% of tested websites).

Woorkup seconds this finding, demonstrating how fast Elementor loads: depending on the design built on a page, compared to a similar page design without using Elementor, and again using another page builder.

Here’s a summary of what Woorkup found regarding page speed and Elementor:

  • Simple Page – No Elementor: 651 ms
  • Simple Page – With Elementor: takes up to 658 ms
  • Template Page – With Elementor: takes up to 755 ms
  • Template Page – No Elementor: takes up to 648 ms

One of the best things about Elementor is that there’s no need to worry about having random codes showing on your homepage if you decide to deactivate the plugin. Elementor is a page builder that leaves a clean code behind, even when deactivated.

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder is one of the most popular page builders, in part because of its distribution partnership with GoDaddy. Pricing ranges from $99 (Standard) to $399 (Agency) but you can try it out for free as a demo.

Beaver Builder features include:

  • Developer-friendly
  • Mobile-friendly
  • WooCommerce support
  • Multisite capable

Beaver Builder’s creators made SEO-friendliness an important tenet of their page builder. It follows standards such as schema.org markup and offers features like code compression, which enables pages to be easily found by search engines.

Like Elementor, there’s no need to worry if you are concerned about shortcode lock-in: Beaver Builder leaves a 100% clean code upon deactivation.

According to Pagely, using Pingdom Test Data, Beaver Builder receives an A in performance, with a load time of 665 ms, and is considered faster than 94% of tested websites. All else equal, Beaver Builder loads a bit slower than Elementor but is still considerably good with respect to Google’s recommended page load time.

But does that mean that it is entirely SEO-friendly?

According to ProBeaver, you can certainly build an SEO-friendly website using Beaver Builder provided that the different website elements (like your theme and other plugins) complement each other without conflict.

WP Bakery

Wp Bakery Page Builder

The WPBakery Page Builder was previously known as Visual Composer.

If you work with WordPress themes from Envato’s marketplace, WPBakery tends to come packaged together with these themes as a standard. Purchased separately, WPBakery is $45 for a regular license and $245 for enterprise use.

WPBakery’s features include:

  • Front and back end page builder
  • Template library
  • Compatible with any theme
  • Mobile-ready
  • WooCommerce compatible

WPBakery Page Builder follows SEO best practices that make content fully indexable and compatible with WordPress’ most popular plugin: Yoast SEO.

Pagely’s speed test found that the WPBakery Page Builder received a B grade in terms of performance, a page load speed of 401 ms, and it is considered faster than 98% of tested sites (including Elementor and Beaver Builder).

Unfortunately, unlike Elementor and Beaver Builder, WPBakery Page Builder doesn’t leave a clean code when deactivated.

Divi

Divi Page Builder

Divi Builder by Elegant Themes is SEO-friendly and can be improved further with proper practices, as recommended by Elegant Themes.

True to its name, Divi Builder by Elegant Themes makes the most elegant designs for WordPress. Divi’s shortcodes claim to not negatively impact SEO.

However, shortcodes can cause issues when the plugins connected to them are deactivated. If you’re concerned about the potential for shortcode lock-in, unlike Elementor and Beaver Builder, but like the WPBakery Page Builder, Divi Builder doesn’t offer 100% clean code when deactivated.

Via Pingdom, Pagely found that the use of Divi Builder resulted in grade A performance, a load time of 463ms, and it’s considered faster than 97% of tested sites.

This full Divi Builder review by DigitalGYD also found that Divi Builder contains all SEO features that WordPress websites should have, including the presence of schema markup, a canonical URL feature, good website structure, and the ability to add meta titles and descriptions.

The built-in Divi breadcrumbs module makes it so that you won’t need the Yoast SEO plugin to pull breadcrumbs data.

WordPress Block Editor

WordPress Block Editor

Finally, we have to include the the WordPress visual editor a.k.a. Gutenberg or the Block Editor.

Since Gutenberg will be built-in to WordPress, many are speculating as to whether it will have a negative impact on the business of these other best WordPress page builder plugins. As it stands right now, the block editor seems to be giving them a run for their money.

That said, Gutenberg’s content blocks are pure HTML/CSS—not shortcodes. So while most page builder plugins are non-semantic and require more server requests to deploy properly, the block editor is more SEO-friendly from the get-go.

 

The Best WordPress Page Builder Plugins and Yoast SEO

The Yoast SEO plugin is one of the most popular WordPress plugins in general—and definitely the most popular WordPress SEO plugin. It’s incredibly user-friendly and boasts of over 5 million active installations.

The problem and relevance to this article? Not all page builder plugins are compatible with this very popular SEO plugin! Some WordPress users have raised concerns about their Yoast results while using specific page builders.

It’s worth noting that some page builder plugin developers have made it a point to create products that interact well with Yoast SEO, such as Elementor and WPBakery Page Builder.

Elementor and WPBakery are fully compatible with the Yoast SEO plugin and Yoast can also support Divi. Clearly, using a page builder that is compatible with your SEO plugin gives you an edge in your optimization efforts.

Final Thoughts: How Do Page Builders Effect SEO?

Do the best WordPress page builder plugins affect SEO? In some ways, the answer is yes, but there are also a lot of misconceptions surrounding this belief.

All else equal (web host, theme, other plugins, etc.) the best WordPress page builder plugins named here won’t have a critical impact on your website’s SEO. That said, you still need to be thinking about SEO best practices as they relate to your website design/technical structure in order to find success from the get-go.

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secure

How (and Why) to Redirect HTTP to HTTPS for WordPress

March 29, 2018

As early as 2014, Google announced that they would be making HTTPS a ranking signal.

Then, in 2016, with an interest in protecting personal information-such as credit card details and passwords-Google announced that they would require websites to have an HTTPS connection-effective as of the update of Chrome 56.

Websites that do not comply with this are now marked as ‘Not Secure' on Chrome, which puts the non-compliant website at a distinct disadvantage. When Google tells searchers that a website is not secure, this can be understandably off-putting. In addition, website usability becomes compromised if you have yet to redirect HTTP to HTTPS because visitors may have to take additional steps to access the website's content (by dismissing Google's warning and clicking through anyways).

Before helping you understand how to redirect HTTP to HTTPS, let's dive deeper into why Google is making such a big deal about HTTPS.

HTTP vs HTTPS: Defining the Difference

First, let's focus on defining the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.

HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) and HTTPS (secure hypertext transfer protocol) are both transfer protocols. These are languages that serve as the foundation of data communication for the world wide web. Web browsers and web servers use these languages to pass information between each other.

Whenever you visit a website, there is an exchange of data between the server and browser.

If it isn't secure, anyone who knows how to can hack and ‘read' (or observe) the data exchange between your website and your visitor's devices. This poses a threat to websites that collect sensitive information, such as passwords, social security numbers, and even financial information.

Although HTTP and HTTPs seem similar enough, it's important to know the difference between the two. Here's how it all boils down: HTTPS is secure, while HTTP is not.

The websites that have made the move to redirect HTTP to HTTPS appear with a padlock on the browser bar before the URL. Sometimes, this is even accompanied by the name of the company.

https

Essentially, HTTPS is just a version of HTTP-but with the addition of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. SSL represents yet another internet protocol that was developed to make certain online transactions safer: especially those that require the transfer of sensitive information.

SSL encrypts the data being transferred by changing the plain text data into a series of random letters and numbers. This makes it harder to understand the sensitive data that hackers may be trying to access. Essentially, it provides an established and secure link between both browser and server.

Fun Fact: SSL is technically the protocol's old name. This technology is actually correctly referred to as ‘Transport Layer Security' (TLS)-but the name ‘SSL' stuck.

Another difference between HTTP and HTTPS? HTTP operates on port 80, while HTTPS operates on port 443.

Redirect HTTP to HTTPs: Major Benefits

As mentioned, Google made HTTPS a ranking factor in 2014. This isn't news but it's worth mentioning again because Google clearly has been pushing webmasters to redirect HTTP to HTTPS for a long time!

Furthermore, when you redirect HTTP to HTTPS, the results speak for themselves. Brian Dean of Backlinko conducted a study of over 1 million websites and found that HTTPS websites rank higher on the first page of Google's search engine results.

Though HTTPS is just one of over 200 ranking factors that Google takes into consideration (and some ranking factors have much more bearing than this), securing your website through the use of HTTPS is beneficial in the way that it protects your visitors' data. Whether or not you require sensitive information from users, their data and privacy is still your responsibility.

Additionally, having a secure website can help improve the user experience. Without SSL, some third parties might try to duplicate your website and add malware and ads, or even redirect users to a different website. In situations such as these, the SSL certificate also serves as authentication that the visitor is at the intended site.

Finally, when you redirect HTTP to HTTPS, you'll also find your page load speed improved. Websites with SSL certificates load 334% faster than those without! This (page load speed) is yet another important Google ranking factor to be aware of.

How to Move Your WordPress Website from HTTP to HTTPS

Before implementing a major change like this on your WordPress website, you first need to backup your website. This is necessary in case something goes wrong-it ensures that you have an up-to-date working version that you can return to.

Another word of caution: there may be some risk involved when changing your HTTP website to HTTPS through the changing of bandwidths or CPU cycles. Check with your web host before getting started to help facilitate the process!

Once you've done a little research and have backed up your WordPress website, it's time to get your SSL Certificate.

Where to Get an SSL Certificate

Put simply, you can get an SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA).

Despite the popular belief that SSL certificates cost a lot, you can actually get one for free via Let's Encrypt. That said, these SSL certificates are only valid for 90 days and you'll have to renew once that time period has passed. Furthermore, if you're not super tech-savvy, the costs associated with hiring a web developer to install your SSL certificate is something you'll want to factor into your budget to redirect HTTP to HTTPS.

Thanks to free and budget options, more than half of all websites are now SSL-encrypted. There are also premium options for SSL certificates that come with a much higher price tag, such as Symantec, which charges as much as $1495-$1700 per year.

One notable difference between free and premium SSL certificates is that with premium SSL certificates, you can display your company name after the green padlock on the browser bar, like in the image above.

Ideally, your web host will offer to move your website to HTTPS, but some hosts don't support or offer this option.

When implementing SSL, you'll also need:

    • A web server with mod_ssl that supports SSL encryption. Apache is a great option.
    • A unique IP address. This is what CAs use to validate the secure certificate.

If you aren't sure if you have access to either of these things, make sure to get in touch with your web host!

After getting an SSL certificate and making sure that your web host supports the SSL certificate, ask them to approve your SSL certificate. This will ensure that when your web pages are accessed by users with the https:// protocol, they actually hit the secure server.

Adding HTTPS to the WordPress Admin Area

After your SSL certificate is available to use, you'll next want to change your WordPress admin area to HTTPS.

To do this, all you have to do is add this line of code to your wp-config.php file:

define (‘FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true);

The wp-config.php file is in the main WordPress folder (often called wp-content), which can be accessed through an FTP program.

Once that's done, try accessing your website with https://yoursite.com/wp-admin instead of http://yoursite.com/wp-admin.

And finally, you'll want to start building up/backing up your web pages that need to redirect HTTP to HTTPS. The process is more or less the same as your normal HTTP page building-just make sure that you link to HTTPS. This is especially important when using absolute link paths to other pages on your website.

Adding HTTPS to the WordPress Admin Area

After being able to access your website's admin area using HTTPS, you'll next want to move your entire WordPress website to HTTPS.

You can do this by changing the website URL to https://. You can find (and change) your website URL in Settings > General.

Now that your website is using HTTPS, you have to redirect all of your links as such. You can do this using WordPress plugins such as Better Search Replace or Velvet Blues. These plugins will search through your WordPress database to find HTTP URLs, then replace them with HTTPS.

Again, make sure to backup your website before using these plugins in case you break something. Do a trial run with a handful of links to ensure that you're using the plugins correctly!

A few additional considerations when you redirect HTTP to HTTPS:

    • Update your website's internal links to absolute paths, including links to images, audio, web fonts or iframes, internal links, and external sources-CSS sheets, Javascript files, and documents.
    • Check code libraries.
    • Update HTTP URLs and settings on tools like Google Search Console and AdWords. Don't forget to update your social media profiles, too!
    • Create 301 redirects for your HTTP links to HTTPS links. To do this, first allow your FTP client to show .htaccess files (since they are invisible by default). If you don't have this file, create a plain text file, rename it to .htaccess, and upload it to the WordPress root directory. Then, add the following lines of code:
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c> RewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301] </IfModule>

Note: Make sure that the pages aren't available on both HTTP and HTTPS, which can be cause for an SEO demotion.

After updating your information, recrawl your website to ensure that all your pages and resources return the 200 Successful Status Code.

Should there be any issues or problems, Google's Search Console Help page offers up a comprehensive checklist to help you with any technical implications.

Final Thoughts

HTTPS is the current standard in secure web browsing. For those that operate with this protocol, expect additional benefits that include better SEO, faster page load speed, and an improved user experience, overall.

WordPress users win when they redirect HTTP to HTTPS. It's really not that difficult or expensive to do! But if you do get stuck, get in touch with the SEO experts at Pathfinder SEO.

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content

Cornerstone Content Creation for WordPress Websites

March 4, 2018

Cornerstone content is a term that has been popping up in content marketing and SEO circles a lot recently but the term is not new.

Don’t believe me?

Copyblogger Brian Clark wrote a post about it 11 years ago! Like a fine wine, the term has had time to age a bit and has been recently adopted as a content marketing best practice.

Let’s take a deeper look at what the term ‘cornerstone content’ really means and why people are so invested in its creation:

What is Cornerstone Content?

There are several dictionary definitions for the word ‘cornerstone’. If you’re looking for synonyms, try: basic, indispensable and essential. Another definition states that a cornerstone is a stone that forms a part of a corner or angle in a wall, somewhat like a foundation.

When applied to content marketing, cornerstone content refers to a high-value piece of content that provides a foundation for your website. The creation of cornerstone content gives your business an opportunity to educate your audience about what your website is all about.

Think of cornerstone content as something longer and more in-depth than a blog post. For example, if you normally write listicles, use cornerstone content as your excuse to provide complete guides on topics of interest to your audience. Because creating this type of content is inevitably more time-consuming and effort intensive than the average blog post, you’ll want to build up your content calendar accordingly.

Aim to have at least two pieces of cornerstone content live on your website at launch and add more as you can—quarterly is a great goal for expanding your published cornerstone content up to about five content pieces (compared to blog posts, which you’ll ideally be publishing at least once a month).

Cornerstone content must support your other content as you build out the rest of your website. This is because of how Google makes sense of the niche audience you serve—you want all content to be related (and easy to link to internally!). Consider cornerstone content as some of the most important pages of your website, alongside top-level pages including your home page, services, and about page.

Before you get stuck in the mindset of cornerstone content being limited to just a written format, know that it’s not limited to the written word. For example, Wordstream offers a free keyword research tool, which continues to bring in over half a million visitors to their website each year.

Cornerstone Content versus Evergreen Content

You may have also heard of the term ‘evergreen content’, which isn’t too much different than the concept of cornerstone content. In fact, both:

  • Are high-value
  • Are informative
  • Can/must be frequently updated to be relevant
  • Have SEO benefits

What makes cornerstone content different from evergreen content is that it is the content that really defines your website. Cornerstone content makes up your company’s first few web pages that you want visitors to your site to see when they visit your website for the first time.

The Goals of Cornerstone Content

According to Copyblogger Brian Clark, there are two main goals for cornerstone content:

  • Cornerstone content aims to create a positive first impression to site visitors by providing relevant and useful content. With Google moving toward their mission “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”, they are pushing for search results that are relevant. Thus, cornerstone content also results in SEO benefits.
  • Creating compelling content that people will link to without question. After all, linking is part of a good SEO strategy and being able to demonstrate authority/build trust is essential for success.

Why Add Cornerstone Content to Your Content Marketing Strategy?

Content marketing and SEO, which go hand in hand, are becoming increasingly competitive fields online: over 90% of marketers use content marketing and only 3% of content marketers see SEO and content marketing as separate entities. Clearly, it’s becoming a crowded space!

To set yourself apart from other websites in your niche, SEO experts advise websites to invest in creating more longform content to appear more authoritative. Here’s why:

  • 51% of website traffic comes from organic search results.
  • The average length of content on the first page of a search engine result is 1890 words.
  • More than 50% of search queries are more than four words, meaning that when people search, they’re looking for something specific.

The Benefits of Cornerstone Content

Though this article has already touched on a few benefits of cornerstone content, here’s a more complete list:

  • Can help you start building traffic and brand awareness.
  • Establishes authority.
  • Builds natural links.
  • Aids in lead generation. A good piece of cornerstone content defines what the website is about so it attracts interested prospects and leads. The content must be at the top of the funnel to bring in more leads. By top of the funnel, this means that it’s not hidden behind a paywall or registration form.
  • Makes other content accessible by bringing traffic to other pages, providing fodder for your internal linking strategy.
  • Helps you come up with other blog topic ideas.

Guide to Creating Cornerstone Content

Ok, so you’re convinced that cornerstone content is a worthy venture for your company. How do you do it right? Let’s dig right in:

1. Choose the keywords you want your website to rank for.

Before you start creating your cornerstone content, you’ll want to find 3-5 target keywords that you want your website to rank for. For example, let’s pretend that you have a business that helps set people up with virtual assistants and you want to create content for the blog.

Do some keyword research using WP SEO Hub or free tools like Google Keyword Planner or keywordtool.io (or other paid tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, which provide more useful data).

Some keywords that come up when you type ‘virtual assistant’ are:

“Virtual assistant jobs”
‘Virtual assistant jobs from home”
“Become a virtual assistant”
“Find a virtual assistant”

Use Google’s suggested keywords to inspire your cornerstone content creation.

2. Choose your topic and format.

As mentioned previously, cornerstone content doesn’t have to be primarily text-based. At this point in your efforts, decide on the exact format your cornerstone content will take: long-form written content, a useful tool, or something else entirely.

Next, think about your niche. When it’s time to think about topics, create the kind of content you think first-time visitors would gravitate to when they visit your website. Or, advises Wordstream, “The ideal topic for a cornerstone content piece is something that people are commonly searching for, without getting satisfying results”.

If your blog does not have much blog content yet, that’s not a problem—you can build your strategy from scratch. Many SEOs recommend creating new articles from your cornerstone content versus just fitting the cornerstone articles in.

If you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin, make sure to click on the ‘This article is cornerstone content’ box. Cornerstone content is optimized differently and Yoast will make the necessary adjustments in directing you with regards to onsite SEO.

3. Create well-written longform content.

Once you’ve decided on your topics, it’s time to work on the finer details of creating your cornerstone content.

Good cornerstone content is ideally:

  • Comprehensive
  • Long. Recall that the average length of content in the first page of a search engine result is 1890 words).
  • Located on your website: not on Facebook, Youtube, etc.

An easy way to create cornerstone content? Updating or upgrading an existing post. It’s been shown that just a simple content update/upgrade can increase organic traffic by 111%.

Another thing to remember when writing cornerstone content is to match your topic choice with the intent of the searcher.

4. Connect related posts to cornerstone content.

When you think of topics for regular blog posts, try to relate them back to your cornerstone content pieces.

Cornerstone content should rank for short keywords, while related content should rank for longer keywords. Link to your cornerstone pages from your homepage and from as many pages on the website as possible (within reason!). Some websites have a “Start here” tab on the home page that acts as a repository for their most important content, in an effort to guide new visitors.

Examples of Cornerstone Content

Still stumped on where to start? Consider these excellent examples:

Moz created a Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Moz is an SEO software company, so this piece helps establish their authority in this field. The post gets a lot of traffic and downloads (it is also available as a PDF), so they make sure to constantly update it.

Neil Patel’s Growth Hacking Made Simple: A Step-by-step Guide is the perfect cornerstone content for his website. He is a marketing consultant who has helped many companies grow their revenue through digital marketing.

Final Thoughts: The Definitive Guide to Cornerstone Content

Cornerstone content can help search engines crawl your site more effectively by providing a solid foundation of what your website is all about.

Basic steps to consider when it comes to cornerstone content include creating a list of keywords you want to rank for, then coming up with a few long, comprehensive guides, and creating internal links back your related posts.

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small business

6 DIY SEO Tips for Small Business Owners

February 12, 2018

Working with an SEO agency can be expensive and out of reach for the average small business owner.

The good news? Even if you don’t consider yourself as an SEO expert (or even a novice!), there are several DIY SEO fixes you can make on your own—without paying an expensive SEO agency’s hefty retainer.

With just a basic understanding of how to navigate your company’s WordPress website, here are six tips for DIY SEO that you can get started on today.

1. Brush up on your knowledge of on-site SEO

On-site SEO involves the specific elements that can be optimized within a given page or post. Although it tends to revolve around the choice/use of a specific target keyword, on-site SEO is also concerned with page structure, taking into account ranking signals that include content length and internal/external linking.

If you’re new to the concept of on-site SEO, this SEMRush article goes through the most important on-site SEO factors that you should be aware of (and optimize for!). But there’s no need to try to memorize them—that’s where an SEO plugin like Yoast comes in.

If you learn best with more in-depth explanations and walkthroughs, check out my Skillshare class: SEO for Bloggers & Solopreneurs.

2. Spend some time getting to know the Yoast SEO plugin

The free Yoast SEO plugin provides users with an entry level education in on-site SEO.

Yoast analyzes content for on-site SEO factors and readability. Simply write your content on WordPress and plug your target keyword into Yoast.

From there, Yoast will give you a red, yellow, or green light to indicate the SEO-readiness of your content. If you’re stuck in red, it means that there are still improvements to be made! Luckily, Yoast guides users down the right path in an easy to understand way.

Yoast Readability

Note that Yoast can’t tell you whether or not your keyword is actually any good—it can only tell you if you’re optimizing a page correctly with regards to what you’ve keyed in.

3. Invest in Speed Optimization

Page speed is a major factor when it comes to usability and conversions. In 2010, Google announced that it was a ranking factor in desktop search and as of 2020, the same is true of mobile search.

To provide the best user experience (and to avoid a Google demotion), you’ll want to focus at least some of your DIY SEO efforts on WordPress speed optimization.

Don’t worry—it’s a lot less technical than you’d expect. You can make a world of difference with regards to page load through the configuration of two major types of plugins:

Caching plugin

WP Rocket (paid) or WP Super Cache (free) are some of the best on the market.

A caching plugin enables faster page load by storing files after a website loads for the first time, to speed up page load during subsequent visits. This is the one DIY SEO tip that may require calling in the help of a web developer if you don’t understand your website’s backend processes—installing a caching plugin can sometimes break your website’s code/design.

If you don’t have a go-to person for the job, you can keep it affordable by browsing WordPress gigs on Fiverr. Regardless of how you proceed, make sure to have a backup solution in place, whether by using a plugin like UpdraftPlus or a solution offered by your web host.

Image optimization plugin

Images are some of the largest files that make up your WordPress website. Most caching plugins offer features that include GZIP compression and minification—both of which are designed to reduce space taken up by your website’s files.

An image optimization plugin helps specifically with reducing image file size—without negatively impacting aesthetics. Imagify and Smush are top picks with free and paid options available.

4. Create an editorial content calendar (and stick to it)

The more you can plan ahead of time, the more likely you are to actually execute a content strategy on behalf of your business.

Content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked. Specifically, having a blog provides you with the opportunity to constantly be ranking for increasingly more keywords.

Using a content calendar will help you to organize and align marketing efforts across channels: email, social media, and your company’s blog. It doesn’t have to be complicated—I’m partial to Hubspot’s free social media calendar template (which can easily incorporate multi-channel content efforts).

Committing to just one blog post per month is enough to be effective. Consistency is key to success—not quantity.

5. Set up Google Analytics

Whether you’re just getting started with DIY SEO, or have just launched a new website, setting up Google Analytics tracking code should be one of the first things you do. Google Analytics is a free tool that offers a wealth of website data, categorized in terms of Audience, Behavior, and Acquisition.

It’s important to do this ASAP, as Google Analytics can only track data for as long as the tracking code is installed on your WordPress website.

Setting up Google Analytics is fairly easy to do, even without much of a technical understanding:

  • Create a free Google/Google Analytics account if you don’t have one.
  • Create a property for your website on Google Analytics (essentially, entering in the name and URL of your website).
  • Install the tracking code between the <head></head> tags on your website—usually in the header.php file in the WordPress editor. It should be on every page, which will happen automatically if inserted into the WordPress header code.

And that’s it! Once installed, you can allow data to accumulate until you have time to make sense of it. If you’ll be the one interacting with Google Analytics most, consider taking the free Google Analytics Certification, complete with hours of useful study materials.

If you never plan on looking at Google Analytics again, you can easily add other users to grant access to people more interested and able in interpreting this insightful data.

If you’re especially interested in understanding your user's past data in a static user interface, Inspectlet offers a limited free plan that records screencasts of actual users on your website.

6. Local business? Setup a Google My Business profile

Though not totally relevant to all businesses, all local businesses with a brick and mortar store, or service professionals serving a specific geographic location, should take the time to set up and optimize a Google My Business profile.

It’s easy and free to do. It’s possible that your business already has a listing, so you might just have to claim it. Once your business is verified, make sure to add complete and accurate information: the more, the better. Google likes when you make use of their products, so this is an easy win for DIY SEO.

6 DIY SEO tips for small bsuiness owners

If you’ve followed all six DIY SEO steps listed out here, you’re well on your way to small business SEO success.

And while an agency may or may not be out of your reach, there are other affordable solutions that offer guidance and strategy as you navigate the intersection of WordPress and SEO.

Check out Pathfinder's guided approach to SEO.  $99/month for an SEO checklist, monthly coaching session and SEO tools.

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