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.
Everywhereist.com is built on WordPress, which is fantastic for SEO. Unfortunately, Geraldine is missing a few key elements.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- To deindex tag archives, go to SEO -> Indexation -> Tag archives, or
- To deindex category archives, to to SEO -> Indexation -> Category archives.
Let’s look at the format of Geraldine’s URLs.
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.
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 :-))!
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.
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++
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?
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
Here is a listing of the sites that show up most often (h/t Tom Anthony for his tool):
And here you can see their search density:
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)
Your site’s menu currently has the following three items:
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:
- Open your site’s admin
- Navigate to Appearance -> Menus
- On each menu item, you can specify a “Title attribute”
- The About item can also have the “Link Relationship” set to “Author”
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.
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).
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!