Affiliate links just look plain ugly and there is always the chance that someone will be petty enough to gyp you out of your commission by stripping out the tracking code. As a tangent I noticed a while back, these days Clickbank has a new URL that no longer include the Clickbank username (but still a tracking id). Wonder whether that is working out any better. To avoid this problem you want to hide the original affiliate link with a pretty link. This is what many mean by “affiliate link cloaking”. But cloaking has another meaning, which is showing different content and links to the search engines versus to the humans. That’s really not what I’m talking about here, nor am I going to touch on the topic of hiding affiliate links because Google doesn’t like them. I don’t really have a lot of affiliate links compared to all the content I have, so I’m not worried.
I was looking for a couple of features:
I had heard good things about GoCodes and was planning to install it. However it is no longer available via the plugin WordPress repository search and hasn’t been updated since 2009. Too bad as it was a nice solution.
For quite a while I routinely recommended the All in SEO WordPress plugin, but that changed when Yoast introduced his WordPress plugin. I’ve used it on four WordPress sites and each time my appreciation of this wonderful plugin has grown. Not just for myself, but also because it helps my clients write more SEO optimized posts and pages.
I used to get frustrated after carefully explaining to new bloggers and site owners how to write SEO friendly permalinks, page titles and meta descriptions — and then watching them forget everything I told them by creating poorly optimized posts and pages. Now I can lead the horse to water, and he (or she) actually drinks it! Another great bonus about this plugin is that is it so comprehensive is that it does the job of several plugins. For example there is no need to install a sitemap plugin – Yoast’s plugin will take care of that too for you.
Last week I got to geek out at a WordPress meetup in a SOMA studio (south of Market in San Francisco) There were 9 short demos at the meetup, here are some of the highlights.
SEO Translate – WordPress plugin that translates your content into many languages, including the double byte Asian languages. Built on Microsoft translation technology, it’s free.
Pagelines – This theme framework lets you rearrange your WordPress site on the fly with a nice drag and drop interface, you can also plugin your own css code without having to deal with ftp.
Livefyre – this plugin made for a cool demo by taking blog commenting to the next level with its real time interface. Livefyre also provides spam filtering and social network sign-in. With my comment luv plugin currently disabled, I’m tempted to check out their free version.
Richa Avasthi demo’ed how she implemented responsive web design into her blog using different stylesheets when particular browser widths were detected. If you haven’t heard the term “responsive web design” before, it means web design that looks good across an array of devices, such as mobile. If you haven’t started thinking about how your website looks on a mobile device, it’s time. I’ve been looking at the twenty eleven WordPress theme as an example as it has responsive elements built into its css.
Have you backed up your WordPress lately? Maintenance activities such as upgrading WordPress or backing up my site rank at the top of my list of my least favorite things to do. I’d much rather write a blog post or check out a new plug-in. But this week I bit the bullet and spent some time on site maintenance.
Do I really need you to tell why backups and upgrades are important? Here’s one reason, WordPress’s popularity has not gone unnoticed by hackers and they are hard at work exploiting security vulnerabilities in the software. By upgrading to the latest version of WordPress you are at least installing the latest security fixes. That goes for your plugins as well.
WordPress templates are powerful tools. For example many themes use templates to give you the option of creating a sales page without the sidebar. But I had never seen these custom templates used for WordPress posts.
An artist needed Paypal buttons added to her WordPress site, a portfolio of paintings and prints showcased using posts. But at this point we only wanted to add Paypal buttons for the prints, which were available at a the same range of prices based on size of the print and the paper used. Since most of the posts (but not all) would have the same Paypal buttons, I wanted to find a way to avoid copying and pasting code onto each page. I also wanted to empower my client to have the choice to “turn on” or choose the paypal buttons with just a click or two. I found the answer in WordPress custom post templates.
Although advances have been made in this area, you should assume that an image to a search engine looks like unreadable code. So what you need to do to surround the image with hints on what the image might be about. This gives you another opportunity to add your primary and secondary keywords to your page.
My post where I stated that I have noindex my category pages attracted some attention. I guess I’m not too surprised, it’s not a common recommendation. I’ve seen people recommend using the read more tag, excerpts and to adopt a practice of using one category per post. This is all good advice if you keep your category pages indexed. Replicating the full post on your category page is duplicate content you want to avoid, and excerpts are a great way to populate your category page with some unique content. Additionally not using multiple categories on your posts will keep the proliferation of the post content to a minimum.
But I took it further and just noindexed the category pages and I would argue that many bloggers should do the same. Why? And should you take my advice?
The All in One SEO WordPress plugin is a very popular plugin. Many install it so that they have the ability to customize their post’s page title. This is very useful to do from the SEO perspective. Your post title should be written for your reader and be catchy, your page title for your post should be more oriented towards keywords.
But the plugin has other settings that require attention. Out of the box the plugin configuration will noindex your category pages but not your tag pages. This isn’t necessarily what you want and I’ve had to fix a couple of blogs that had the default settings.
I have a guilty confession to make, when I first created this blog several years back, I was just interested in creating a site that got some traffic that was monetized with affiliate links. As most blog owners know, you need to have a steady stream of fresh content, so I signed up for a auto-blogging service with keywords such as internet marketing. These services then auto publish to your blog, the content usually has links placed by the author to their service or are affiliate links.
It was an eye-opener on what passes for decent writing. Fortunately I had moderated it so I had final publishing approval. Which was a smart decision, because most of it was awful. At best they were that general sort of forgettable writing that imparts no real value or knowledge. Many had obvious misspellings and were just thinly veiled attempts to get people to click on the links. I rejected many and there are not many that actually got published. After reviewing these posts for a while, I thought to myself, “I can do a better job writing than this”, and that is how my blogging career was born.
One of my goals has been to address my high bounce rate on this blog, which has been above 80%. To do that I’ve been working on features that increase my website stickiness.
Bounce Rate is a SEO factor
Why would I want to do this? Let’s put the SEO factor aside for a moment. As a blogger you of course want people to get value from your blog, read several posts and return. A high bounce rate means that most of your visitors just visited the single page they originally landed on and then left your blog. Of course if the article answered their question completely that would be a good thing, even if they left without browsing further. This is more difficult to measure, but you can look at time spent on the site as another clue.
Most SEOs would agree that Google and the other search engines are taking bounce rate into account. Google might be looking at Google Analytics for the bounce rate, but even if you don’t have Google Analytics installed, Google and Bing can collect bounce rate data by looking at how quickly the user returns back to the search engine results page and clicks on the next result. A quick return and click on the next website on the list means the user didn’t find what they are looking for on your website.
So from both the SEO and user engagement / conversion perspective you should care about your bounce rate and website stickiness.