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

by Peter WM

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.

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.

SEO NZ sales funnel
by Peter WM
August 13, 2018

One of the nice things about entering a new market (we’ve only just started offering our services in NZ) is you get to play with your marketing systems.

Right now I’m working on an SEO specific sales funnel for New Zealand, with benefits for all campaign clients that grow until they get a 100% free service.

We’ve built a really strong SEO marketing presence in the UK, but would love to dominate Aotearoa.

These days though it’s not enough to be great at what you do. You have to present it properly to get it taken up – and that’s what this plan is all about.

I’ve written a new post on Purple Web Marketing NZ about best practice for sourcing images for your site, including some specific links to useful sources, and basic licensing information.

It’s also got a very brief section on image use and SEO, along with a fun story of that really fun time a copyright troll tried to sue one of my clients.

It’s a comma, and…?
by Peter WM
August 8, 2018

The Oxford comma. A comma before an ‘and’, but also incredibly divisive.

But there is one place the Oxford comma never belongs – in your meta tags. In my work in SEO I see a bunch of people using them in description tags in particular.

But as a rule of thumb, the more commas in your SEO meta tags the worse off you’re going to be. Search Engines (and Google is pretty up-front about this) see commas in light of the old keyword meta tags – as a way to list keywords in a list.

Description tags are really meant to be in sentence structure. And the more commas you have the more likely your page is to trip search engine’s keyword stuffing alarms. 🚨

However you feel about the Oxford comma, it has no place in your search engine optimisation.

My First Gutenberg Post
by Peter WM
August 7, 2018

I’m writing this post in the new Gutenberg editor for WordPress. Currently it’s just a plugin, but come WordPress version 5 (and we’re currently incredibly close to that at 4.9.8) it will be the standard system for editing.

While I’ve been looking into how it might work with backwards compatibility, how new fangled ‘blocks’ will be programmed (rather than relying on plugins for things that impact content), at this very early stage I’m considering what Gutenberg is.

It’s not just a page builder replacement or anything like that, rather it’s intended to change the way we create content.

With Gutenberg, WordPress is wanting to become the place you create content. Not just copying and pasting from other documents, but creating your content (and eventually, with future releases, your layouts too) directly within WordPress.

You may have been doing that already, but the majority of my clients and I work collaboratively on cloud-based document software that I then stick into their posts & pages.

When you first look at the blocks built in to the current plugin version there’s a few surprises in this regard – each paragraph is it’s own block, each headline – even bullet points are a block type of their own.

But the blocks flow freely from one to another – right now I’m typing paragraphs and just hitting ‘enter’ after each automatically starts a new paragraph block so I can continue typing without clicking to create a new paragraph each time.

There are a few default formatting blocks too which should be useful, one of which is the old style Tiny MCE editor, which I assume is mostly there for backwards compatibility but should also help a fair few developers breath a sigh of relief – this whole Gutenberg experience can be much more of a transition rather than a ‘line in the sand’.

Personally, with my very limited experience thus far, I think it will ultimately be a good thing. But we’re all going to be changing a lot of our internal processes, plugin/block libraries etc. to accommodate.

Dear Peter WM:

I don’t know if you can help me with that but my team and I noticed that emails we send from our server go automatically in Spam on Gmail.

That email issue is pretty common actually. All receiving email servers have different rules about what counts as likely spam or not. Gmail is particularly strict.

It pays to do everything possible to keep them happy, which includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • DNS records (both DKIM and SPF – sorry for the acronyms!)
  • Don’t use a different ‘from’ address to the ‘return-to’ address
  • If possible use a real email address to send, which might require you add an SMTP plugin for sending them on WordPress

And if nothing works, then consider using Google Suite for your own email. You can get plugins that will actually send email out from your site via your own Google Mail account, which is pretty fool-proof. That’s what I do myself.

Email, basically, sucks. It’s 30 years old and has barely changed in that time. It’s just levels of geekery added on top of something that was already hella nerdy.

Is RSS dead?
by Peter WM
August 1, 2018

I named this post for the first autofill result I see in Google when searching for “is rss”.

Yesterday I added an RSS link to this site’s menu. I’ve long been a fan of real simple syndication, because it really is a simple way to share ideas and posts.

People have been saying RSS is done and dusted since the late 00s, when a post called Rest In Peace RSS started doing the rounds. The argument it made was that social networks essentially make it redundant.

Well, although I use social networking a bit (Twitter, and Facebook when I have to for work) I’ve always liked to do technology on my own terms; make my own sites, my own programs, from time to time even my own content management systems. And RSS is simply a way to blast out information. Other people can get my feed however they like, and I can similarly choose how to interact with the RSS feeds I subscribe to.

It’s not dead in 2018. But I’m not 100% sure it’s fully alive either.

But as more people turn from Facebook and the other major networks, maybe it’s becoming happily undead.