WordPress rocks for SEO

This is one for the “more proof” files. As you know, I’m a real fan of WordPress blogs.  I’ve found that for my clients, who are not tech savvy, a WordPress blog allows them to compete successfully with “web experts” in getting their website found on the internet.

Mark Gosh on the Weblog Tools Collection did his own unscientific research project and was kind enough to share his findings. In his “experiment” he typed in a keyword and took a look at what results were returned. In each case, the results returned a WordPress blog post on every Google Search.

March challenged his blog’s readers to find keywords that didn’t return such favorable responses, and they found a few.

I’ve written about how I’ve had clients who launched a WordPress self hosted blog in addition to maintaining an established blog on another “popular” platform who were SHOCKED at how quickly their WordPress blogs rose to the top when they searched for their own name.

Reading the comments on Mark’s post, you’ll see their experiences are not uncommon.

Easy Transition to WordPress 2.5

So far so good…. I must admit, I was REALLY worried about the upgrade to WP 2.5

The upgrade to 2.3 was a real bear for me. It took a bit for me to sort out which plug ins could co-exist peacefully within the new framework.

However, I just upgraded to WordPress 2.5 and the only plug in that didn’t make the transition was the one I used to display online videos inline in blog posts. Since WP 2.5 offers that feature as part of the “standard” package…. it’s not a great loss.

If you’re one of my “people”… ignore the beg message from WordPress asking you to upgrade. Allow me time to make a few test posts on the new system to ensure there aren’t any “hidden” surprises in store.

The administration panel is completely revamped… which means all those video tutorials I created for my people are now obsolete. New video tutorial creation will be filling my early morning hours for the next few weeks.

Definitely not worth migrating to a new platform over!

Quality WordPress Themes Done Dirt Cheap

A while back, I was working on one of my projects and went in search of a Word Press Blog Theme.

Choosing a theme is probably the toughest part of the whole “blog launch” experience. However, as I tell my clients… unlike the process of choosing a “look” for your HTML web presence… a blog theme can be changed as easily as you can change your clothes.

I’ve always loved the work of a designer who goes by the moniker of Small Potatoes and was pleased to discover he’s come up with an interesting method of packaging and promoting his services. Back in February, he launched a promotion Wpdesigner 20,000 Accounts Giveaway

It was brilliant… it was inspired. For $5 you can join a club to get a new premium theme every month. From the support materials:

You can use each theme under multiple domain names. Whether it’s one site, one hundred sites, or more, you do not need to pay any more than $5. Also, feel free to use Wpdesigner club themes for client projects without a developer license.

According to his blog he’s already at 1300+ members…. yet last week he announced that he’s selling WPDesigner.

I’m saddened by the announcement.  I’m not sure I buy the story of his planned extensive travel plans for the year as the reason for the sale.   I suspect the “real” reason is the third stated reason on the blog post where he says he “hates providing theme support”. Unfortunately, this is something he offers using the $5 membership system.

I knew the $5 yearly club membership was “too good to be true”   and I get it.  Support is a HUGE issue when it comes to any business but most certainly a web based one.

Perhaps one reason for the sale is he’s disappointed with the response to his $5 membership club.  According to the information on the auction, he has 400 paying members in the club.  That means there are 900 who won a free membership and will (hopefully) pay next year. I’m one who GLADLY paid $5 and even if he doesn’t offer another theme consider the three offered so far to be well worth the investment!  I’m surprised that only 399 other people saw the bargain of the offer.

By the way, I am his IDEAL client.  His themes are incredibly well coded and I don’t EVER have to contact him about “support”.  IMHO…. pricing the service at $5 per month is no where NEAR enough to deal with the support requests I imagine he gets.  As a result, I’ll pass on making a bid to buy this blog.

Which reminds me of Liz Strauss’ blog post “Wendy Didn’t Wait. Will You?

A blog isn’t a business any more than a building is a company. We can work our hearts out in the name of our blogs — reading feeds, writing posts, commenting, and social networking — but without a plan, those things won’t get us what we need to pay the rent.

WPDesigner.com has a lot of things going for it:

  • Page views/month:  896,000
  • Monthly Revenue: 890
  • Google Pagerank: 7
  • Uniques/Month: 70,000

With all of that going for it, I think the blog would have been more “attractive” to buyers without the existing membership site and the promise of 9 more themes with support.

Liz is right (she always is, by the way).  A blog is NOT a business…. think of it more as an advertisement for your business that lives on the web.

Moveable Type Takes an Ugly Swing at WordPress

WordPress 2.5 is scheduled for release and the buzz on the web is that the transition is going to be another difficult one.  Like the previous upgrade to the 2.3.x, themes will be broken and plug ins will be rendered useless.  It’s part of the carnage of progress.My blog clients don’t have to worry.  When WordPress 2.5 is released, I’ll go through these steps, work out the kinks and when I upgrade their blogs to 2.5 the only “surprise” in store for them will be whether their chosen theme makes the transition.

However, Daily Blog tips reports Moveable Type has taken a “swing” at WordPress and tried to spin the negative buzz surrounding the upcoming WordPress upgrade into positive growth for their platform.

The biggest problem I can see in the PR war between the two platforms is that it’s been my experience that Six Apart (Moveable Type/Typepad) customers are much less tech savvy than WordPress users... they don’t understand blogging basics such as trackbacks which is an important part of building a successful blog.

So we have two camps in this war… in one corner we have Moveable Type and Typepad users… who don’t understand why turning on trackbacks for each and every post is important.  Their “flagship” blog is sporting an Alexa ranking of 55,035.

In the other corner, we have the tech savvy crowd backing WordPress.   Users in this camp include heavy hitters such as Micheal Arrington of Techcrunch (Alexa  ranking 926)  Darren Rowse of Problogger (Alexa ranking 3,529), Daily Blog Tips (Alexa ranking 14,490) and the Blog Herald (Alexa ranking 33,003)

I know, I know… Alexa is skewed towards the tech savvy user…. which is why it’s a valuable resource in this discussion.

For my non-techy readers… Alexa is a type of traffic spy device provided by Amazon.  You install the toolbar and Alexa tracks your web surfing activities and ranks sites in order from 1 to 10,000,000 + and displays this ranking in the toolbar.  Alexa detractors point out the “regular people” don’t usually have the tool bar installed so results are skewed and instead of displaying the ranking of a site’s traffic, instead the tool bar displays the ranking of a site’s traffic amongst the most tech savvy of web users.

WordpressI’ve already placed my bets on the optimal blogging platform for me and my clients…. because when faced with the choice of a platform backed by the tech savvy and a platform of choice for the “less tech savvy”…. I’m going with the platform with the big guns behind it.

My parents bet on Beta as the format of choice for home video recording more than 25 years ago…. they still have that beta max machine in their basement today.   I didn’t want my clients stuck with the “beta” equivalent of blogging platforms.  Therefore, my choice was influenced by several factors.  First, WordPress has incredible community support.   Combine that strong community support with the caliber of bloggers choosing the platform, and WordPress pulled into the lead.  However, the final “straw” in making my decision was when Template Monster began offering WordPress Themes.    Commercial backing + strong user community = winner in my book.

I know there are other GOOD blogging platforms out there, but rather than be a jack of all trades, master of none… I made what I believed to be the BEST choice for my business.  Speaking of which,  I don’t see Drupal’s developers taking potshots at WordPress.  Instead, they’re heralding the migration of Popular Science Magazine to their platform.  Way to go Drupal!

Observations from a Quasi-Scientific Free Blog “Experiment”

I’m reading a book where the author claims to be journaling about his experiences as he conducts a social science “experiment”. The problem is that the author (a Brown graduate… so obviously his education in hard science is lacking) began his “experiment” with the desired outcome already defined. He constantly modifies his actions throughout the experiment, a fact he openly acknowledges in the book.

THAT MY FRIENDS IS NOT AN EXPERIMENT…. IT’S AN ADVERTISING DRIVEN CASE STUDY.

According to Wordsmyth, an experiment is defined as “a test or trial to discover something unknown, esp. a scientific one to determine a cause-and-effect relationship.” UNKNOWN being the key term in this definition. True science ..hard science…. teaches that while you may begin with a hypothesis, you must be open to the fact that your observations and experimentations may in fact render your hypothesis incorrect. THAT is the way of a scientist.

Now, I lead with this because despite my current status as a “self hosted blog pusher” when I began my “free blog” experiment, my hypothesis could have been defined as a blog version of “tom-Aye-to.. tom-ah-to…. blogs are blogs.” Actually, I could see some real advantages to the free blogs… the biggest of course being that they are free but also that there is no “sandbox” effect. Since creating compelling content that is fresh is essential to creating a successful web presence, so I’ve been installing WordPress blogs for clients who were open to it as an “add on feature” as far back as 2002.

For those who weren’t sure they wanted to host their own WordPress self hosted blog, I recommended setting up blogs on free and low cost blogging services such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com and Typepad. One of those clients reported to me that she had made a few posts to her Typepad blog and then got busy doing other things. Despite not blogging for several months, when she did a keyword search on an EXTREMELY long tail search term, she saw her blog post come up on the first page of the search.

SUCCESS!!! (That’s what I thought.) Hypothesis confirmed. Blogging platform has NO effect on blog effectiveness.

Meanwhile, another Virtual Impax client had been blogging as a way to pick up some long tail search term action. That experience in particular has forever changed my view of the “free” blogging platforms.

Unlike the client who judged “success” as showing up in a search, this client was carefully tracking sales through her web site. See, she had already commissioned a traditional HTML web site as a virtual store front and because of the “Google sandbox” effect I recommended (as I always do) that she find ways of promoting her new web site. One of those promotion tools was Google Adwords. The other tool was a free WordPress.com blog.

Because the client was spending money actively promoting her site, she decided to invest in a service Virtual Impax offers where her log files from her web site were analyzed monthly. These log file analysis were being performed prior to her free blog launch. Months went by and this client was FAITHFULLY blogging away on WordPress.com. Sometimes she was posting 5 times to her blog in a single week.

Through months of blogging, this client built up QUITE an impressive library of content on the free blogging service. After about 8 months of log file analysis, I realized that there was not a SINGLE referral from the free blog to the web site and there hadn’t been one since the blog was launched.

I could watch when we changed keywords in her Adword campaign. I could even see when she began writing a monthly column for a trade magazine. I could watch her newsletter subscribers move on special offers she announced in her newsletter. But I did not see a SINGLE referral from her WordPress.com blog.

Meanwhile, success stories were pouring in from other Virtual Impax blogging clients with self hosted blogs.

Clients who had been blogging with Typepad for YEARS were launching self hosted Word Press blogs and seeing their Word Press self hosted blog (set up by Acumen Web Services and Easy Coaching Web Sites) ROCKET ahead of their still active Typepad blogs in the search engine results when they typed in their own name. Even when they hadn’t been blogging faithfully on the Word Press platform, these clients were seeing much better “results” with their Word Press self hosted blog in comparison with their Typepad blogs.

This lead to an uncomfortable OBSERVATION... “Hey, this isn’t what I expected!!”

This unexpected observation set off alarms.

ACK!!!! My mistaken hypothesis had caused me to lead my client astray!

I’ve got egg ALL OVER my face now with this client.

Let me reiterate….I get to go back to my client and tell her that my initial advice, based on my faulty hypothesis was bad… bad as in “rotten egg” bad.

While my client wasn’t spending any money on her WordPress.com free blog (she was spending money on monthly log analysis reports), she was investing her time and a lot of it. In my client’s case, time was more valuable to her than money. I didn’t want her WASTING her time since we were not seeing a SINGLE referral from the free blog to her web site.

I suggested to that client that we launch a Word Press self hosted blog to replace her free blog. (Note… I felt bad enough about my rotten egg advice that I installed this for her without additional charge! I will NOT have someone else pay for my bad advice.) Fortunately, during the VERY NEXT log file analysis, we started seeing visitors coming to her HTML store front web site DIRECTLY from her self hosted word press blog.

Now, in the interest of science, it’s important to note that the only thing that changed was the platform. My client didn’t begin blogging differently. She didn’t begin using trackbacks or begin commenting on other blogs. She didn’t suddenly begin posting using title tags with highly competitive keywords… or long tail keywords. She just kept doing what she had been doing except this time she was doing it on her own self hosted WordPress installation.

(Admittedly, I installed a standard “suite” of plug ins to improve the blog’s performance… and those plug ins are NOT available for the free version.)

It’s been said that wisdom is learning from OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES.  Well, I have my own Blogger.com Beyond Niche Marketing blog that has never sent a single visitor to any of my web sites.  However, I justified that blog’s poor performance by my lack of attention and effort.  After all, I’m not seeking exposure on extremely long tail keywords… the keywords upon which I compete are extremely competitive… so a lack of attention could be fatal in my blogger.com blog’s case.

When I saw my client blogging without bias and getting the same result… the alarms began to sound in my head.  Just as the robot in Lost in Space would blare, “Warning!  Danger, Will Robinson!”  the voice in my head began blaring a similar warning.

Since my “experiment” I’ve gotten several emails inquiring as to how to improve a free blog’s performance.  My response is simple, “I wish I knew!”

There’s a reason the BIG GUYS such as Problogger, Techcrunch and Mashable are all self hosted WordPress blogs.

My favorite mantra is “I don’t make the rules… I just know how to recognize them and follow them.