Home | Search Engine Optimization | If I did SEO for @everywhereist, I would…

If I did SEO for @everywhereist, I would…

John Doherty —  September 19, 2011
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Once upon a time, a month or so ago, I saw that Geraldine (Rand’s lovely wife) refuses to let Rand do, or do herself, any SEO on her travel blog. (See what I did there?)

For those of you who do not know, Geraldine DeRuiter started her site The Everywhereist a few years ago to chronicle her journeys with Rand as he travels to speak and build SEOmoz. Rand also links to her site in his bio using many different terms, including “travel blogging wife” and “serendipitous travel blog”, which I think is an apt description and you will agree if you’ve ever read it. Geraldine “Serendipitous” DeRuiter. It has a ring, no?

So today, I want to give Geraldine some SEO advice in the form of some recommendations for her site. After all, that’s what us consultants do all day, right? We make recommendations. So why not help out a friend and make some recommendations?

The secondary goal is to show all of you how I would go about doing a small site audit. I’m used to working on larger and more complex sites, but sites like Geraldine’s have challenges all of their own. Let’s get into it.

Geraldine, listen up.

Technical

Everywhereist.com is built on WordPress, which is fantastic for SEO. Unfortunately, Geraldine is missing a few key elements.

Meta tags

Geraldine does not have the rel=canonical tag on her site. I find this surprising since I think she uses Yoast’s SEO plugin. (Geraldine, if you don’t, please let me know and I’ll help you switch over to it). Geraldine my friend, you should use this tag especially since people could be linking to the comments on your posts.

Action

Implement the rel=canonical tag.

Here is how it is structured:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”(permanent link)” />

Your homepage tag should look thus: <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.everywhereist.com” />

Yoast’s SEO plugin does this for you automagically. If you are not using it, there are also a lot of canonical plugins for WordPress.

Information Architecture

The Everywhereist’s internal architecture and internal linking is actually pretty solid. She has done a great job of using a lot of categories to keep her pagination to a minimum. All of these categories are linked to from the sidebar of every page, and there are enough that no category goes too deep into pagination.

Her internal linking works through Previous and Next links that link to the articles through the page titles and sometimes through her body content. She could probably do a better job of internal linking within her posts (I recommend Zemanta for this), but this is low on the priority list.

Another way to interlink that posts that you see on a lot of blogs is “Related Posts” at the bottom of each post. This helps not only to flow the crawler through the site, but also to keep visitors on the site longer. If Geraldine implemented a Related Posts plugin, I bet visitor time on site would increase pretty dramatically.

The one area that I would critique would be on her paginated listings. Pagination is not bad, but could be sub-optimal for SEO if done wrong. I recommend implementing the “noindex, follow” tag on the paginations off the main page. This will keep the paginated listings from appearing, but will also allow the search engines to crawl the page and follow the links.

Action

1. Implement the “noindex, follow” meta tag on the paginated results. This can be done also through SEO -> Indexation -> Subpages of archives and taxonomies.

2. Implemented a Related Posts plugin. I personally use Nrelate Related Plugin on my site. I also hear that YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) is good, though I do not personally have experience with it. Choices would be YARPP first, then Nrelate.

Indexation

Using a site:everywhereist.com search, I see 1,130 results for “everywhereist.com”. Even though Geraldine is a prolific writer, she would not be able to have accumulated this many posts in the past 2 years unless she was posting almost 1.5 times per day. And let’s be honest, she spends too much time hunting for cupcakes for this to be possible.

So what’s the issue? Well, both her category and tag archives are indexed. She has:

  • 329 tags indexed; and
  • 130 categories indexed.

This is an issue because one or the other, depending on your site organization, is really a collection of non-helpful pages from a search engine perspective.

Action:

This action depends on if she wants to be found for her tags or categories. Often people will structure their site so that their categories are the keyword-rich URLs that they want searchable, and tags are simply internal linking and useful for users.

Geraldine, if you use Yoast’s SEO plugin (and if you don’t, that’s another recommendation), you first should decide if you want people to find your categories or tags. Then, depending on your decision (and I recommend using categories), follow the following steps:

  1. To deindex tag archives, go to SEO -> Indexation -> Tag archives, or
  2. To deindex category archives, to to SEO -> Indexation -> Category archives.

URLs

Let’s look at the format of Geraldine’s URLs.

Categories

Her category URLs are in the format of “http://www.everywhereist.com/category/(category)”. They’re clean and SE friendly. If she was just starting her blog (or if I was just starting this one again), I would recommend not using the /category/part of the taxonomy, but it’s fine the way it is now. Redirecting old URLs to new URLs in order to just take out the /category/ would be a silly undertaking at this point.

Posts

Another strong suit of her site, the URL structure is “http://www.everywhereist.com/(post-name)”. Well done Geraldine, I see you read The Beginner’s Guide to SEO (either that or Rand transmitted this to you through osmosis :-))!

Tags

The URL structure of the tag archives on The Everywhereist is just like the categories, except with “tag” instead of “category”.  As I recommended earlier, these archives should be noindexed as she is not really targeting specific keywords with tags and there are over 300 indexed. Let’s be honest, she’s not ranking for “London” anytime soon.

Action

None required.

BackLink Audit

I ran an OpenSiteExplorer report for “http://www.everywhereist.com” (and yes, it felt very meta using her husband’s tool to audit her site). This report came up with 254 linking root domains. Not a bad job for a “love letter” site! Of these links, at least 21 contain the word “travel”. She has links from a lot of high-profile sites such as CNN, and also from other niche travel blogs written by her friends.

As far as linkbuilding is concerned, at the present moment it happens all organically! Rand is her linkbuilder (I wonder if she pays him in cupcakes?), linking to her site in every profile about him as a speaker. And he does it in a smart way, putting his words into action by linking to her using phrases like “travel blogging wife”, “serendipitous travel blog”, and others.

Many other travel bloggers also guest post. Since Geraldine travels so much, I am sure that she could get some guest blogging gigs and throw in a link or two back to her on site in her biography. This is also a good way to get deep links to your site from relevant travel sites!

Or what about this as a larger scale tactic? You travel somewhere new and then write a post mentioning an awesome restaurant, the great hotel, or something like that. Once it’s written, email them and say that you mentioned them (in a good light) in your post. Ask them to link to it if they think it speaks well of them. Boom. Links++

Rankings Review

Now Geraldine, there is no good reason on this Earth why your site should not be ranking SOMEWHERE for “travel blog”. It may be a love letter to Rand (which is so sweet), but you’re also becoming a big dog travel blogger, so I should be able to find your site!

Here are the rankings that I have found:

So who is ranking higher for these terms that we could consider her competitors, and how are we going to get her ranking better?

Competitors

Here are the sites that I see ranking over her for the terms she should be aiming for, like “travel blogger”, “travel blog”, “traveling blogging wife”, and “seattle travel blogger”.

  • Nomadic Matt
  • Travelblog.org
  • TotemTravel.com

Here is a listing of the sites that show up most often (h/t Tom Anthony for his tool):

Click to enlarge

And here you can see their search density:

Click to enlarge

Geraldine, with a bit of targeted content on your site, you could be competing here!

Here is the difficulty for the terms from the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool:

The terms are moderately competitive, but I think that you can compete, Geraldine.

How I recommend trying to capture these terms

Geraldine, we need to work with your on-page content and titles.

First, your homepage title. Right now, it simply says:

>> The Everywhereist

Are you open to working with this? How about we do something like:

>> The Everywhereist >> A Seattle-based travel blogger and cupcake fiend

You’re the writer, so you can work with that. I like it, though, because it captures some of your most important search terms “travel blogger”, “seattle travel blogger”, “seattle blogger” and “cupcake fiend”. I’m only partially joking on the last one.

For your “About” page, you currently have:

>> About >> The Everywhereist

Since this is where you talk about the reason for your blog (traveling with your husband), maybe we could try to capture the term “travel blogging wife” on this page?

On your sidebar, you have “Traveler. Blogger. Freelancer. Snack Enthusiast. Read more…”. How about we put a bit more content into this so that the search engines have some more static text to deal with for ranking purposes?

I’d propose reworking some of the content on your About page and putting it here. Can we shoot for about 75-100 words? You could do something like:

I’m a travel blogger, freelance writer, and snack enthusiast. This blog is a love letter (yes, a cussing-filled love letter) to my husband Rand, started to chronicle our journeys as husband and wife across the globe for his job. Since then my site has been featured on Time Magazine and (other award)

Menu

Your site’s menu currently has the following three items:

  • Home
  • Archives
  • About

These three are fine and make your site simple, which I respect. The only thing I would ask would be that you include titles to these links. Here is what I recommend:

  • Travel Blog Home
  • The Everywhereist Archives
  • About the Everywhereist

Implementing this is pretty easy. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Open your site’s admin
  2. Navigate to Appearance -> Menus
  3. On each menu item, you can specify a “Title attribute”
  4. The About item can also have the “Link Relationship” set to “Author”

Social

Currently the site has a Tweet button at the bottom of every post, yet it is hidden at the bottom. Maybe we could look to have some more share buttons at the bottom and include a Plus One button? Google has said that this will be influencing rankings, so we should be ahead of the curve.

I’m going to recommend that you use this plugin as it allows you to put the PlusOne button as well as the major bookmarking and social sites. Alternatively you could use SexyBookmarks, but it is a stock solution and might not look right on your site.

Rel=author

One final technical bit that I recommend is implementing the rel=author microdata into your site. That’s a bunch of technical jargon that you don’t understand, right? Let me break it down into the following steps:

1. Since you don’t currently attribute your posts to yourself (though you’ve had guest posts, right?), you should enable this. You can do this most easily by using this plugin and positioning it below the post.

2. Next, link your name from within your author bio to your About page using the following link:

<a href=”http://www.everywhereist.com/about” rel=”author”>Geraldine</a>

3. Now, put a Google+ icon on your About page and link it to your Google+ profile using this link:

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/#114533765234516618024″ rel=”me”>(img)</a>

4. Final step. Now go to your Google+ profile and click “Edit profile” and include a link back to http://www.everywhereist.com/about that has the “This page is exclusively about me” box checked.

You’re done! Now you sit back and see if Google will let you into the program (I’ve been waiting 6 weeks).

Finishing Up

Well Geraldine, I hope this gives you some things to do on your site that might help you out in SEO. I’d love to see you start ranking on the first page for “travel blogger” and “travel blog”.

You know where to find me if you have any questions. See you guys in NYC sometime!

John Doherty

Posts

I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

26 responses to If I did SEO for @everywhereist, I would…

  1. Great post – loads of people seem to be doing these “If I were doing SEO for…” posts, I may have to jump on the band wagon and do one too.

    Am going to have to lookup ‘wtf wednesdays’ :)

    • Haha thanks Paul! Have there been others beyond Tom and myself?

      I started this one about 2 months ago but finally finished it this weekend. It was quite fun to put together!

  2. Awesome stuff! Love the personal touch here. Gonna implement a lot of this stuff on my companies wordpress blog. Thanks!

  3. Aww, thank you, John! This was super interesting and so sweet. I’m obviously not going to implement any of these changes, because SEO is weird.

    :)

    But thanks, though!

  4. This is very thorough analysis and a great advise for Geraldine and her travel blog. And I agree with absolutely all the statements here by John. However, this is one of those websites (and an exception!), with such great content that technical issues do not present as an impediment to rank for a good number of sought and competitive keyphrases. Her writing style and the quality of the posts is so rich, that she engages her audience in a natural way, no need to further optimize, although she could do it and fix a few things, but more from a aesthetic perspective than anything else.

    My personal opinion is that the typical writer wouldn’t know anything about SEO or shouldn’t have to worry about it. Relevant content, per se, will be rewarded with good rankings and traffic. In an ideal world, of course.

    Good job with the high-level assessment!

    • Hey William –
      Thanks for the comments. I actually disagree with you regarding whether or not the changes could have a positive effect. I love Geraldine’s writing and blog (hence why I took a good chunk of time to do an unasked-for site audit) and would LOVE to see her start ranking for some terms like “travel blog” or even “seattle travel blogger” because then her stuff would get more widely read (though obviously I’ve not seen her GA, so I don’t know what her traffic is).

      In a perfect world fantastic content would rule the web. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Just trying to help a friend out :-)

  5. Great analysis.

    On the canonical url issue, Geraldines site does use them, take a look page source for her about page, and her posts – http://www.everywhereist.com/about/

    By default, WordPress does not appear to use canonical urls on the homepage for some reason (check Twenty Eleven and Twenty Ten). I tried asking why this is the case on the WordPress forums, but got no response.

    At least we have Joosts plugin to deal with that :)

    You stated that related post links can “help to flow the crawler through the site”.

    The problem with nrelate is that it actually prevents that from happening – its related links are hidden from search engines with Javascript.

    Joost (as usual) has a post about that – http://yoast.com/wp-plugin-review/nrelate-related-content/

    YARRP doesn’t face this problem.

    • Good catches, Gary. I only looked at her homepage and was not aware of that WP issue.

      Also thanks for the info on Nrelate. I guess I am switching to YARPP soon! At least I recommended YARPP to her :-)

  6. From a complete newcomer(all of 4 weeks)to seo and the inner workings of the web, Thank You. This post gives a specific breakdown of basic seo how and why while still providing an enjoyable read. Now excuse me while I look around the place and see what other nuggets of gold I can find.

  7. This is one awesome post and at the same time starter SEO guide for wordpress bloggers. I love the way Geraldine refuses to implement any SEO though. I would call this Geraldine vs SEO and as long as she is getting fair amount of visitors and has a very good level of engagement with readers (number of comments under each post) she wins. Though I am an SEO as well but I am in your side Geraldine :)

  8. I’m fairly new to the technical side of SEO and I think I understand the use of REL=Canonical, but you lost me here a bit. Why would people be linking to her comments? Could you explain exactly why she would need a rel=canonical on the homepage tag?

    And, thanks for the great site audit! One of the most useful and well-explained examples of audits that I’ve seen.

    Regards,
    Nicole

    • The idea is that if you have other places on your page where people could link to, you want it to canonical back to your homepage so that you do not have duplicate content. It’s simply a best practice that I implement everywhere, just in case.

  9. I am sooo new at this. I have just a basic question. When you google her blog you get the basic intro and then the double columned links below. How do you get that to happen?

    Also, I use Ultimate SEO and it has a cannonicalizer. I have no idea what it is but I activated it. Thanks.

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