Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for WordPress

I spent a few hours over the weekend further optimizing my blog for the search engines. This stuff is fairly advanced, so please don’t be dismayed if you don’t follow it all. Ask your clarifying questions in the comments and I’ll answer them. Now, I don’t want to suggest that I have done all that I can. There is a lot more that I am planning to do, but what I have done in the last 24 hours will have a very good effect in the SERPs… at least I fully expect so.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  1. Limit the indexing of the search “bots” to only the pages that matter.
    This is done (primarily) with your robots.txt file. Mine disallows all “linking” pages except my sitemap, as well as very old pre-2003 content, which is off-topic, small in quantity, very old and nothing I care about. I also don’t want any search results pages indexed, because these are, again, just “linking pages” that give you, the reader, a way to get from one post to another. But the search engines have a better, more clean, way to do this…
  2. Rename your archives page to “sitemap”, link to it properly, and link to all content from it.
    I can’t prove this, but I suspect that a search engine likes the sound of “sitemap” a lot more than “archives”. A sitemap is there for one reason (which the search engines love): to link to all content on your site from one page. To do this, I hijacked the code in Shawn Grimes’ Clean Archives Plugin to have all posts on my site listed by month. I dropped this code into the archives page, which I then renamed to sitemap.php. I also made sure my main header and footer menus both contain a link to this page. The point is I am telling the search engines to really really go look at this page, and all posts are then just one hop away.

    (Predicting someone’s question: no, I don’t care for, or believe in Google Sitemaps. What I believe in is a blog that has every piece of important content on a sitemap page, which is linked to from the menu/s of every page on the site. If you’ve got that, you don’t need a Google Sitemap. I suspect people who include the Google Sitemap plugins in their list of must-have plugins don’t really know why!)

  3. Make the sidebar a separate page, and load it via AJAX.
    Yeah this is a little weird, but bear with me. SEO gurus like Aaron Wall make a really big deal about “link authority“, but I suspect they keep a lot of their best findings for their expensive boot camps and things. My take on it is simple: Google and other search engines give relative “weight” to the links on your page (whether or not they point to content on or off your blog/site). The best you can do is minimize the number of “menus” or “lists” on your page, that could even possibly confuse Google as to whether they’re menus or not. Ideally: one HTML link list in your header area, labelled as a menu, somehow, and another in the footer.

    You’ll have to ponder this one. Go have a look at seobook.com, for a moment. Where’s the sidebar? It’s NOT THERE! You ever wondered why? I suspect Aaron is deliberately keeping to two clearly-marked up menus (a header and a footer), knowing that Google and other SEs will give these links a lot of “authority”. But am I right about this? Well, go see how Google indexes all the pages on his site.

    The pages linked from the menu/s (almost) all come first.

    Now, the problem I have with WordPress, as it is typically installed, is that the sidebar is loaded full of links. Links to tags, links to categories, links to friends, links to searches, and so forth. Consider how many link lists are in the average sidebar on the average WordPress site, and consider your own blog structure…

    However, we love our sidebars. They help people get to the good stuff. They help us design a blog theme that has “community” written all over it, and that’s important. But all it will do for search engines is confuse them, and dilute the authority of the links that matter. So what to do?

    My simple solution is to load the sidebar via AJAX, so that none of the sidebar content is in the HTML of the page. If you look at the source of this page, this is all you’ll see where the sidebar goes:

    <div id=\"sidebar\">
    <div id=\"sidebar-ajax\"></div>
    <ul class=\"sidebar_list\">
    <li class=\"widget\">
    <script type=\"text/javascript\" src=\"http://pub.mybloglog.com/comm2.php?mblID=...</script>
    </li>
    </ul>
    </div>

    The pages on my site now look a lot closer to those of Aaron Wall, at least in terms of the dramatically reduced number of links on the page, and the much more obvious importance the header menu now has, to search engines (it’s not competing with other links lists and so forth). However, you the reader still see all the links and community goodness that I need/want you to see… so we all win!

    I have just a couple of lines of JavaScript in the HEAD to load the content via AJAX — the functionality of which is already loaded and ready to go on my page, thanks to the prototype.js library that’s needed for the bookmarking popups (at the end of every post).

    (Note: I can’t include JavaScript from external sources in the AJAX-loaded sidebar content, because it won’t execute, so it’s outside of that… in this case, only the MyBlogLog block of photos/links is at issue here.)

See you in a month…

In about a month we’ll review this and look at how my content is indexed, how my posts rank relative to each other, etc. It will be fun to see how it all works out. I’d be thrilled to get the results that Jeremy got!

In case you’re wondering, this post has focussed on site architecture and internal linking issues. SEO is equally about page structure, link-building strategy, and loads of other stuff, but I think the stuff I’ve mentioned today is less often spoken about, but massively important. I’d encourage you to spend some time in research on this, and let us know what you find out!

Finally, some may wonder if this AJAX loading of content (so none of the HTML appears on the page) is a kind of cloaking trick… and that’s a fair question. My answer is that I am not delivering different content to the search engines, but rather just a little extra content to you, the human reader. I don’t consider that cloaking, which has the intention to deceive the SEs.

seo, search engine optimization, optimizing wordpress, blog optimization, blogging, alister cameron, aaron wall, shoemoney, ajax, sidebar, google, search engines, wordpress, google sitemaps, sitemaps, cloaking

20 Comments

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  1. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    I’ll be interested to see what happens…

    For the keyword “blog consultant” (in quotations) you’re:

    11th in Yahoo
    1st in Google
    1st on MSN

    Unquoted: blog consultant

    1st on Google
    12th on Yahoo
    1st on MSN

    Using an old post of yours, and the words “nobody reads your blog” in quote marks…

    2nd on Google
    5th in Yahoo
    1 on MSN

    hrmmm… all very high in SERPs…

    Let’s use the keyword “Knuttz”

    5th web-site listed by Google (7th result)
    However, your article also appears at position #3 (2nd web-site) via WebProNews…
    You’re 3rd on MSN for Knuttz
    And you’re 7th on Yahoo..

    There you go – some benchmarks you can keep an eye on.

  2. Alister Cameron
    Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Thanks for that research, Brent!

    My Google rank for “blog consultant” seems to vary a little, depending on whether you look at Google or Google Australia… but the good news is I’m almost at No. 1, either way, and the incumbent in that position is a “stale” site, which will help…

  3. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    I’ve love to here about your findings too. By the way, your sitemap page’s returning a 404.

  4. Alister Cameron
    Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Thank you, Leonard. That was embarrassing.

    I’ve fixed it. The sitemap page and the associated WP template were somehow all screwed up.

    Sure pays to check your work before hitting “Publish”, doesn’t it!!

  5. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    nice information, i am playting with the robots.txt file right now, will post results soon

  6. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Mate!
    Good one. Just today while walking, I was thinking of separating content from sidebar My old school of thought said use FRAMES. It’s because I work a lot in FrontPage 😉 Kidding..used to. Never thought AJZX could be the killer. You are right. AJAX or anything, but this is exactly that I had been thinking. You write well mate. Good on you.
    cheers!
    Alpesh Nakar

  7. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    This is very much a partial “Revenge of the Mininet” type solution, but using Ajax rather than other forms of dynamic linking.

    If you are going to go this far on a blog, you might be better off thinking about taking it a stage further.

    Currently your sitemap is only receiving a fraction of the juice from each page. On a carefully controlled site you often would possible channel juice up to the front page, and on the home page the only live link would be to your sitemap to channel it back to your content.

    The big problem is blogs are not a carefully controlled environment. It can be better to have 50 internal links on a page, so that 5 external links only leak 10%.

    The other problem is LSI and relevancy. You will now only receive relevancy based upon your page titles in the sitemap, and not based on categories etc.

  8. Alister Cameron
    Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    @Andy – I must confess that I was never any good at maths, and at the end of that post in your link is a comment about how it’s “all just simple maths, really.” Well, mate, maths never gets simple enough for someone like me! I’m about as right-brain as you can get and maths is all on the other side.

    My gurus on link authority and site structure are Shaun and Brent (shaun’s protege on that stuff), both of whom are colleagues and brainiacs on SEO… I have that but too much else to do as well.

    And for whatever reason, everyone who has explained it all to me has managed to confuse me… and in the back of my mind I wonder if any of us are really fully “onto it”, it being a Google or a Yahoo or a Windows Live, after all… an “algorithm”, as such.

    So I ask… in your third paragraph above making assumptions about Google that are beyond any of use to be sure about? What assumptions are we sure about? What proof is there?

    I’m not being cynical, just… acknowledging my “adolescence” in these matters 🙂

  9. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Hi Al,

    I would be interested to see your results for a really competitive keyword rather than a long tail keyword.

    Lets say “internet marketing” or “internet marketing consultant”.

    Aaron wall is first to admit that his search engine rankings for “seo book” was not hard to achieve. Actually i know of a newbie seo’er who was ranking third for “seo book” after only 2 weeks of launching his site.

    I think that you have done a great job in seoing your site for “blog consultant” as highlighted by Brent above.

    My only question is what about the highly competitive high traffic keywords?

    What about the keywords that really matter?

    What about the keywords that will make you money?

    Al, i would love to see you conduct a test on a high traffic, highly competitive keyword. What do you say?

  10. Alister Cameron
    Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Hiya Shaun.

    Happy to do that.

    I am keen to look at keywords like “internet marketing consultant” and “social media consultant” although with the latter there are aspects of what that “is” that are a little outside of my bread and butter.

    I’d also like to get “blog coach” not because it’s hard, but because it’s accurate and highly targeted.

  11. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    What about the metaverse

  12. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    WordPress and Blogger are changing blogging for the better

  13. Posted 10 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Oh eek. Frustrating. I’m not following, although trying to.

  14. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Why did you hack the archives/site map Plugin to showcase by date? I find that is really frustrating since a good site map should be like a table of contents to benefit your readers. The web crawler will go through it anyway, but does sorting by date put the newest stuff at the top of the generated page list? Is that why?

    And just to be clear, a sitemap is the XML file and the site map is the viewable table of contents page. 😉 You would think a company smart enough to come up with Google would come up with better names for things that are not so confusing.

  15. Alister Cameron
    Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    @Lorelle – Good point. Yes I did put the latest content ordered to the top both for readers and for indexing… although not 100% sure about the value to the latter. To the reader, I just figured they wanted to see my posts in order of date. You would disagree?

    I also assumed that if they want to see by category/tag, they can do a search…?

  16. Posted 10 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Thanks for explaining your reasoning.

    As a reader, I personally can’t see any benefit in seeing WHEN you posted as much as WHAT. Grouping like-content helps me find related information like a table of contents, which is of much more benefit and will keep me around longer than “let’s see, what did he do in March of 2005? Hmmmm….”

    I was madly in love with the old narchives which allowed sorting with a drop down menu by author, date, category, and alphabetically. Before it failed in a WordPress update two years ago, I left mine set for category and it was extremely popular. And it allowed the reader to choose.

    Search engines don’t care. They use the site map anyway, whichever way you have it sorted.

  17. Posted 10 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    The source does not seem to show that your sidebar is loaded with ajax. Did you really implement this feature and do you have any code examples on how to do it?

  18. Posted 10 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    @Tech – you’re right. It WAS implemented on my previous theme and as soon as I can I will re-introduce it here with this theme… I regret it didn’t happen immediately but I was in a rush to get this theme done at the same time as I joined B5.

  19. Posted 10 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    OK, I actually know how to do it, its damn simple, but if i am loading the sidebar with ajax then I cannot use any WordPress functions that will generate a tag cloud, recent posts, etc… How do I fix that?

  20. Posted 5 years, 11 months ago // Permalink

    I have 3 wordpress blogs and done this steps, I have created robots.txt file, also used sitemap plugin and submited it to google web masters tools, Whats about sidebar I don’t understood how to do it I visited seobook and they have left side bar where is sub category but it’s not ajax script, but any way can any one give some information about ajax plugin where to get it ?

    Thanks

15 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. likes the sound of “sitemap” a lot more … SEO gurus like Aaron Wall make a really big deal about “link authority“, … SEO is equally about page structure, link-building strategy, … Original post by Alister Cameron and software by Elliott Back

  2. you can use your Sabifoo RSS feed as a data source. Result: blog via IM! The company behind this genius is Spiffy Tech. There certainly might be big … â– Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for WordPress(Google Blog Search: a-blog) http://www.alistercameron.com/2007/02/05/advanced-search-engine-optimization-seo-for-wordpress/ What I believe in is a blog that has every piece of important content on a sitemap page, which is linked to from the menu/s of every … They help us design a blog theme that has “community” written all over it, and that’s important. …

  3. you can use your Sabifoo RSS feed as a data source. Result: blog via IM! The company behind this genius is Spiffy Tech. There certainly might be big … â– Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for WordPress(Google Blog Search: a-blog) http://www.alistercameron.com/2007/02/05/advanced-search-engine-optimization-seo-for-wordpress/ What I believe in is a blog that has every piece of important content on a sitemap page, which is linked to from the menu/s of every … They help us design a blog theme that has “community” written all over it, and that’s important. …

  4. View this article on its blog

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