I'm an NZ SEO expert, doing SEO in New Zealand

by Peter WM
SEO Expert NZ

My first job in search engine optimisation was in 1997. So much has changed - SEO is more nuanced than ever before, with every character, every comma having an effect.

In addition to writing about SEO and speaking at various conferences, I enjoy actioning it myself too. There's nothing quite like sending a client a graph showing their organic traffic skyrocketing - without them having to increase their monthly spend.

Faster WordPress, kill, kill!
by Peter WM
November 6, 2018

I just finished up a presentation at the Wellington WordPress Meetup all about WordPress speed, image optimisation, and its ultimate effect on SEO.

The slides from the talk can be viewed here.

I also referred to a settings file to import into WP Rocket which will work well with most WordPress sites – you can grab that here.

(I also made my own silly GIF for it! “SEO is a many headed hydra.”)

Forcing HTTPS on your website
by Peter WM
October 11, 2018

In my last post I mentioned the importance of forcing HTTPS if you’re using it on your website. (Which you absolutely should be.)

You don’t want visitors seeing the non-secure version of the site anyway, but from an SEO perspective Google doesn’t love it when they can see both either – they’ll interpret it as two different sites with the exact same content.

As long as your site is running on an Apache server (and most do) then you can edit the .htaccess file – this is the hidden file at the top level of your website that has specific instructions for how the server should load things.

To force HTTPS, just stick this at the top of it:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

And that’s it.

Or if you’re running a WordPress website you just want to stick this in that same file somewhere:

# Rewrite HTTP to HTTPS
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^(.*) https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R,L]

And just one more quick tip to make it even easier to force HTTPS on a WordPress site; as long as you use the normal permalink structure (domain/postname) then just replace the WordPress code in the .htaccess file with this:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# Rewrite HTTP to HTTPS
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^(.*) https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R,L]
</IfModule>
# END WordPress

That will take care of the permalinks and forcing HTTPS.

Getting HTTPS on your site
by Peter WM
October 4, 2018

Now that the Chrome browser is showing URL warnings when you visit sites that don’t use HTTPS, it’s time to consider your own setup.

If your own site is still not secure, you absolutely needs to change that. The SEO advantages alone should have had you change it a few years ago, but this latest warning situation means you shouldn’t even think twice about it.

There’s a two step process to getting HTTPS.

Step 1)
You need to buy an SSL certificate (usually through your host), and have it installed on your hosting account.

These are often free these days via systems like ‘Let’s Encrypt’ – which hopefully your host will support.

Step 2)

The site needs to be set up to run through the SSL certificate, which results in HTTPS.

Someone (possibly me) needs to spend time making sure every single reference to your URL in the database and site code is updated. This can take anything from 15 minutes to a couple of hours – depending on what content management system you use (if any).

You’ll also want to ensure your site is forced to run through HTTPS. If users can hit both the secure and non-secure version of the site – that’s no good.

HTTPS isn’t really considered an option these days, more of a requirement.

Don’t be a fool, obey the 2-second rule
by Peter WM
September 27, 2018

For a long time now, people have been clear that your website needs to load in less than four seconds. Anything longer and chances are you’ll lose than.

The problem is people have been saying this for a really long time. Well over a decade; before high speed broadband at home became standard, or the prevalence of mobile and tablet based browsing.

We need to forget this outdated adage. If I’m on a site that take more than two second to load I get impatience.

And I do like to build sites to match my own impatience. 😛

Seriously, aim for two seconds. With proper speed optimisation and image compression it’s very possible to achieve – even on WordPress.

It’s better for your customers, it’s better for your server and of course way better for search engine optimisation.

It’s also good to enter a build process with this as a self-imposed restraint. When you client comes to you with 24 MBs of images they want displayed on the homepage they will more than understand if you reply:

Great looking photos, and I while we can certainly find a place for all of them on the website somewhere – I like to make fast sites that your customers will love.

You’d be hard pressed to find a client that doesn’t agree with you there.

Don’t forget your menu titles!
by Peter WM
September 20, 2018

Search Engine Optimisation has LOTS of components to it. We know Google uses more than 200 metrics to determine a website’s rank, but some of those are their haystacks to find needles in: consider that a site’s speed is a single metric among 200, but setting that up correctly takes hours.

Similarly an oft overlooked, but important, things to do for a site’s SEO is to set menu titles. Each menu item can have a title attribute associated with it, and all the major search engines love to see those.

<a href="/seo" title="Search Engine Optimisation">SEO</a>

That’s a good example of menu titles in practice for SEO. The link itself is just ‘SEO’, which is nice and concise for a menu.

But the title attribute has, that search engines see, is ‘SEO Search Engine Optimisation NZ’.

It’s clear to search engines the title attribute is related to menu name (and hopefully also that page’s content) which means it’s perfectly reasonable to add a few other related keywords, in this case the acronym’s meaning.

It’s this sort of attention to detail in SEO that makes all the difference. The most important SEO is always the SEO your competitors aren’t doing.

At first glance that headline probably seems so obvious as to be pointless.

But I would say around 50% of all the sites I’m asked to SEO have social icons, that link to nothing.

Including a swathe of social information is really useful for search engine optimisation – SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum, there’s a quid pro quo relationship with social networks too.

But icons that link to nothing just look bad. And this mistake is really common, lots of WordPress themes come with fields to help you easily add social networks – but that can also make the easy to overlook.

It’s mightily common to see site’s where the developer just stuck a hash (#) in the social fields, then neglected forgot to add the proper profile URLs in.

Always double check everything before launching a site: the links, the permalinks, image optimisation and SEO setup.

Sure the most obvious thing is how the website looks and what it says, but in many ways it’s the smaller things that really determine how successful a website will be.

I do a lot of my SEO work with Google’s systems; their Search Console system (which used to be called Webmaster Tools) is the best place for official Google search stats, I report using client’s rankings within Google, and in most people’s minds ‘google’ is synonymous with search anyway.

But it’s not the search engine I use for my own searches. That’s DuckDuckGo.

I’ve long been more than a little concerned about the privacy issues that surround Google. DuckDuckGo solves a lot of those for me – they don’t track users, searches, etc.

But the very things I love about it are the same things I don’t. With all it’s tracking Google gives us a hell of a lot of convenience. For example DuckDuckGo doesn’t know where I am. One the one hand, yay. On the other – they’re unable to give me relevant searches based on my location.

The less they know about me the less useful they are.

A blank slate search every time I search is great for privacy, but it’s definitely less efficient.

For now I’ll keep erring on the side of privacy. The things I know big data does with my information scares me. Let alone all the other things I don’t.

Noindex your policy pages
by Peter WM
August 26, 2018

You need policy pages on your site, the GDPR made sure you can’t do business with any country in Europe without complying to a bunch of related regulations.

But you don’t want Google or other search engines scanning them.

I’ll repeat my favourite search engine optimisation refrain:

At its most basic, SEO is all about reinforcing your core content with search engines.

We’re distilling core messages to then feed to search engines in the format they’re looking for. So it’s important our message is clear.

Policy pages (cookie, privacy policies, etc.) are very rarely about the same subject as your site. They’re legal boilerplate, not helping to reinforce your product or service.

In many cases (depending on how you sourced them) they’ll be nearly identical to other policy pages on the web too – with just small changes like the name of your company swapped out.

So don’t muddy the waters with them; mark them as noindex.

Google-friendly SEO works
by Peter WM
August 20, 2018

That’s a hell of a graph.

But also not unusual.

This is what I do. My approach to SEO is entirely based on what we know the search engines want us to do. I don’t try to trick them or do anything that’s going to harm your rank down the line.

By matching Google’s ethos I can plan ahead, making sure changes they make improve your ranking.

This graph shows the impressions (number of times appearing in search results) of one of my recent clients. The dotted line is before I did any work with them. The solid line starts when I delivered their SEO – and you can probably tell for yourself the date when Google first reindexed the site afterwards.

BOOM!

Chrome displays warnings for non-HTTPS urls
by Peter WM
August 19, 2018

They did tell us they were going to do it. And they have.

True to their word, the latest version of the Chrome browser shows a warning message in the URL bar if a website you’re visiting is not served over HTTPS.

There’s been good reason from an SEO perspective for years to have a secure site, but now there’s a UX (user experience) one too – you really don’t want visitors seeing a ‘Not secure’ message.

This marks quite a big step in Google’s ongoing desire to see the web be more secure. Previously you just got a positive thing for being on HTTPS (the green padlock), but now there’s a penalty for not being secure as well.

I’ve found my version of Firefox has followed suit too.

It’s not hard moving your site onto HTTPS, you just need an SSL certificate (usually available from your webhost) and to set your site to use it.