Once your site is up and sitting pretty, you’ll be ready to tackle some more advanced topics like SEO (search engine optimization) and fine design tweaks. These are a little more technical, but the tips I provide in this article will help you with both.
Why is SEO So Important?
The reason search engine optimization is so important is because it helps drive traffic to your site. In this day in age, most people find information online through the use of search engines such as Google, and SEO helps your site rank better in SERPs (search engine result pages). When you make a search query of your own, how often do you go beyond the first page of results? Once in a while you may dig a little deeper, but for the most part people only click through to view the first few results for any keyword. To get lots of search traffic, you need to rank well for your key words.
Ways To Optimize for Search
There are several tactics used within the SEO world. There are both whitehat and blackhat SEO tactics – use the former all you like, but beware of the later which may get your site banned from the search engines. Here are a few whitehat tactics covered in Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide:
- Create unique, accurate page titles
- Make use of the “description” meta tag
- Improve the structure of your URLs (see permalinks below)
- Make your site easier to navigate
- Optimize your content itself
- Offer quality content and services
- Write better anchor text
- Optimize your use of images
- Use heading tags appropriately
- Cater to crawlers
- Make effective use of robots.txt
- Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links
- SEO for Mobile Phones
- Notify Google of mobile sites
- Guide mobile users accurately
- Promote your website in the right ways
- Make use of free webmaster tools
One of the easiest SEO tweaks when using WordPress is to change your permalink structure, but it is important to do this early on since it determines the URL for each of your pages and posts. The address for this particular post may look something like http://www.andrewcmacdonald.com/?p=123 if I had left the default WordPress permalink structure, but is now http://www.andrewcmacdonald.com/blog/2011/05/05/websites-for-real-estate-investors-part-5-seo-and-time-saving-tips/. If I were optimizing for the phrase “websites for real estate investors” which of these two URLs do you think would rank higher in the search results?
To change your permalink structure in WordPress, simply login to your admin panel, and navigate to Settings > Permalinks where you can customize your structure. On this site I use /blog/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ but you can change this to suit your own preferences. For more details visit Using Permalinks on the WordPress.org website.
More on SEO
My fellow blogger Chris Davies who is an expert in both SEO and Edmonton real estate has posted an article on his site titled “17 Places to Learn SEO Online for Free“. Among these 17 free resources, you’ll find more SEO tips than you can shake a stick at.
Most WordPress plugins, as we discussed in Websites for Real Estate Investors – Part 4: Styling & Customizing Your Site, are designed to save time. Outside of WordPress itself, there are 2 tools that I really enjoy using.
This one is more of a cool tool than a time saver, but it sure beats trying to collect statistics on your own or the minimal stats that most web hosts provide. When it comes to this powerful tool, Google explains it best:
“Google Analytics is the enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Powerful, flexible and easy-to-use features now let you see and analyze your traffic data in an entirely new way. With Google Analytics, you’re more prepared to write better-targeted ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives and create higher converting websites.”
You may only be interested in knowing how many visitors you have, but Google Analytics can provide you with much more than that. All you have to do is copy and paste a code snippet into your header (or a WordPress plugin) and Google will start collecting data about each visitor to your website. By logging into the Google Analytics website you will be presented with an easy to use interface where you can quickly find out:
- How many visitors and page views you have over time
- How many pages each visitor views and how long they spend on your site
- Where your visitors are coming from (search engines, referrals from other sites, direct URL entry, etc.)
- Which search terms the search engine visitors used to locate your website
- Where your visitors are located geographically
- What type of browser, operating system and screen resolution your visitors are using
- Which of your pages get the most views
There is a whole lot more you can do with Google Analytics such as tracking ad campaigns, analyzing flow through a sales process, or creating custom reports. Visit the Google Analytics website today to create your account and get your tracking code so you can start collecting data on your visitors.
Another great tool for any blogger or webmaster is Firebug. This FireFox add-on is a powerful tool with a few very handy uses that will help anyone from beginners to professional developers. My main use for this time saving tool is to tweak the style of my websites.
With Firebug you get pane in FireFox where you can change the HTML or CSS and see the effect of those changes instantly without refreshing the page. Best of all, you can mouse over elements of your page and Firebug will tell you where to find the code you need to edit to change these items.
Rather than searching through files, making changes, saving, and checking to see if it did what you intended, just use Firebug. Once you figure out the changes you want to make, then go edit the actual file you need to change using your FTP client. If you don’t currently use FireFox as your browser, this tool alone is worth the install.
Stay tuned for the final article in this series where I will share some tips for outsourcing if this is all starting to sound a little too complicated to handle on your own.
photo credit: DarrelBirkett
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