I’m a New Contributing Editor at Practical Ecommerce

Practical EcommerceSorry, I’m going to pat myself on the back now: I’ve been asked to be a Contributing Editor at Practical Ecommerce, a leading online magazine for ecommerce merchants. YAY! I’ve been writing SEO articles for PEC and its sister site Ecommerce Developer regularly for two years now, and am so pleased to join the team a little more officially. Plus, when I attend SES Chicago next month I get to go as a member of the press. So cool.

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Comment Spam Outing on TechCrunch

Personal Note: You may know that I am the SEO Manager for Groupon, a competitor/co-opetioner with some of the sites mentioned here. I found this example reading group buying industry news, not in an effort to spread stories about other sites in Groupon’s space. I would have felt compelled to post this perfect example of good and bad commenting even if it had been a story completely unrelated to my employer’s industry simply because it is related to the SEO industry.

Comment spam is one of the lowest forms of “link building.” Yet people continue to do it because it’s easy, because they think it works and because they don’t understand that many comment sections aren’t crawlable even if the links are followed. But sometimes comment spammers get outed, like in the comments on this TechCrunch post about the partnership between BuyWithMe and SCVNGR. I grabbed a couple of screen shots in case the thread is deleted to illustrate this example (click them to enlarge).

What’s wrong with these comments? If they are from real people with real opinions, nothing. But the same users allegedly posted these comments on multiple posts on the TechCrunch, leaving links to UrbanSpoils on each. Other readers recognized the tactic and called him/them out on it. Personally, I can’t find any duplicate comments from these users, but I didn’t look very long either. The point remains: Comment spam at your peril — is the link inserted valuable enough to risk the scorn of the other readers and commenters? My answer is no. And in this case at least, certainly not. Here’s why:

  • Disqus.com comments are fed into posts using JavaScript. The comment spam isn’t even crawlable in this instance (see cache). So if the goal was to seed links into posts to improve link popularity, #fail.
  • If the intent was to gain click-through traffic from other readers, it’s possible that some clicks were achieved before the outing. Afterwards, I would doubt that many clicked, at least not with the intent to transact. But only the log files know for sure. Still, I call this a #fail.
  • And lastly, even any positive brand recognition that positive comment mentions would have generated have very likely been more than negated by the tongue lashing from other commenters. So #fail.

Not all commenting is spam, of course. When you legitimately have something of value to add to a conversation and when you disclose your identity if you have a self-interest, then comment away. On the very same post, the co-founder of SayLocal comments, disclosing his identity and self-interest. You’ll note that no one flames his comment. It may be just as self-interested, but he has given us the ability to judge his comment honestly.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

WordPress Decides to Share with the Hosted Masses

Folks with WordPress-hosted blogs now get to share with the big boys. Yesterday, WordPress announced the ability to include a selection of popular sharing icons in their hosted blogs.

wordpress sharing icons

Previously this was only easily done with JavaScript applications on blogs hosted on other servers. I for one had a superkludgy Word Doc saved that included a snippet of HTML in which I would search-and-replaced URL & post title and then paste the resulting mess into each post by hand. How very 1996. Let’s forget for a moment that I’m foolish for not hosting my blog on my own server for various reasons of SEO goodness and control, and think about the positive impact on the multitudes of bloggers out there hosted at WordPress.

The Good:

  • Add other sharing icons: I added Sphinn. As long as you can figure out the URL required to trigger a post, you can add a link, the anchor text and the 16×16 icon of your choice. Very cool.

Could Be Better:

  • Header styling: I added a header in my blog’s style above the icons: “Share Web PieRat, Matey.” I could have used the tool to add this text, but there’s no control of the styling. It’s inline with the icons, plain old bolded black. Boring! I’ll have to do that manually in each post, but I like the look of it much better.
  • Positioning: Only at the bottom of the post/page? I’d love the ability to have a ribbon at the top of the post as well for folks who don’t make it all the way to the bottom. Sharing is sometimes done before full digestion, as much as we’d like to think that readers are absorbing our every word.

I’m sure you can do both of these with the custom CSS upgrade, but I haven’t played with that yet. Seriously, though, how many folks who host a blog on WordPress’s servers are well versed in CSS? I’d bet that default hosting and less familiarity with HTML/CSS go hand in hand. Anyway. Offering the icons to folks of lesser technical experience (or time to manage our own hostings and technology) is a great step for WordPress. Thanks guys.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Back in the Blogging Saddle

Howdy Web PieRat pardners. I’m back in the blogging saddle, though some of my giddyup has got up and went with a new job, new city, new house and all that other stuff that comes along with big life changes.

Practical Ecommerce will be publishing my SEO articles monthly again, starting today with a post on SEO for businesses with models or niche targets that make SEO a bit more challenging.

In my monthly column, I’ll be focusing on the challenges of in-house SEO and the struggle for competing resources. I must say, it has been more of an eye opener than I thought it would be. Having done in-house online marketing for Intel and agency SEO for large ecommerce sites with Netconcepts/Covario, I naively thought that those experiences would give me some foundation for the challenges of in-house SEO. More on this topic soon, but for now I need to get back to my day job: Creating an architecture to sell more restaurant deals and discount massages for Groupon’s local businesses.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

SEO Lessons Learned Launching My Free WordPress Blog

Starting up my new SEO blog was an exercise in compromise. For once in my life, I decided not to obsess over the (super fun) details and instead moved straight to writing posts. I grabbed my domain, paid $10 to map a free WordPress blog to it, and slapped my social network icons in the sidebar.

wordpressI didn’t have the time to figure out hosting and plugins in addition to writing the content. I decided to focus on the things I had to have (content and a place to put it), and the things I could not change later (domain) without negative impact on the blog’s SEO. The rest (hosting, cool templates, control over SEO elements, plugins) can be added on or changed later after I’ve proven to myself that I have enough to write about.

In the process, I found a couple of important SEO elements missing in the free WordPress-hosted offering:

  1. No 301 Redirects: This is a biggie for SEO. WordPress does not 301 redirect when you move your blog. In addition, WordPress does not 301 redirect your blog’s subdomain to your mapped domain name. Example: http://jillkocher.wordpress.com 302 redirects to https://webpierat.com/w. Consequently, if you want your blog to build link popularity & keep it, map it to a domain right from the start so that you can either keep the same URLs or control the 301 redirects yourself when you decide to move it later. Without the mapped domain, your content will either be stuck at the blog’s subdomain or will have to leave its link popularity behind when it moves.
  2. No Plugins. Plugins are not available when blogs are hosted at wordpress.com. You can’t modify your title tags or meta data, no sticky posts or other great SEO plugins for custom WordPress installations.
  3. No Google Webmaster Tools Verification. WordPress is working on it, but the former verification method is kaput.

And a couple of social media and usability elements are also missing:

  1. No JavaScript Support. WordPress’s free blogs only support HTML. Many of the cool plugins and widgets require JavaScript. Bummer.
  2. No Social Media Integration in the Templates. If you want to offer quick logos and links to share posts on Twitter or Digg or Facebook … you can’t. That requires JavaScript, or manual coding in every post. There’s also no quick way to list all your social profiles in your sidebar without manual HTML.

That said, WordPress does include some nifty features in the free version:

  1. XML Sitemap: WordPress creates an XML sitemap automatically, and makes it autodiscoverable on the robots.txt file it also generates automatically. Example: https://webpierat.com/w/robots.txt links to https://webpierat.com/w/sitemap.xml. Unfortunately you can’t modify these manually.
  2. Edit Post URIs + 301 Redirects: Bloggers can edit the default title-based URL while they’re in the post admin. Cool. Better yet, if you publish the post and then want to change the URI after it’s live, WordPress automatically 301 redirects the older versions of the URL to the latest version (even through multiple URL changes).
  3. 404 Errors. Deleting a post produces a hard 404 error on that URL, which will prompt deindexation if a URL has been indexed. Would be better to 301 redirect it to harvest any link popularity the URL may have collected, but at least it’s a 404 and not 200 that lives on forever cruftily.
  4. Tags & Categories: It’s nice to have the ability to create tags and categories for posts to easily create a navigational hierarchy. Be careful to choose wisely, though, so you don’t give prominence to non-valuable keywords & phrases. Similarly, don’t name both a tag & category the same thing or you’ll inadvertently set up competition for the same keyword phrase at different URLs.

One day soon I’ll start experimenting with a custom installation, but I’m still too excited about the prospect of playing with 301 redirects and CSS to allow myself to get distracted by it. There are a lot of other pros and cons to starting your blog on WordPress’s free platform, but these are the ones that made an impression on me.

What has made an impression on you?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.