Qualsys test results

Jam Sandwich

Qualys FreeScan – Online Vulnerability Scan

Accurately scan your network, servers, desktops or web apps for security vulnerabilities. Scanning takes just minutes to find out where you’re at risk.

With FreeScan You Can:

  • Scan computers and apps on the Internet or in your network.
  • Detect security vulnerabilities and the patches needed to fix them.
  • View interactive scan reports by threat or by patch.
  • Test websites & apps for OWASP Top Risks and malware.
  • Test computers against SCAP security benchmarks.

Qualys FreeScan service enables you to safely and accurately scan your network for security threats and vulnerabilities, and experience the benefits offered by the award-winning Qualys Cloud Platform.

Perimeter scanning detects security vulnerabilities across the entire network. Web application scanning detects vulnerabilities in web applications of all sizes. Malware detection scans websites for malware infections and threats. FreeScan is a free vulnerability scanner and network security tool for business networks. FreeScan is limited to ten (10) unique security scans of Internet accessible assets. FreeScan provides a detailed report that can be used to correct and fix security threats proactively.

Speed up your WordPress site with 2 lines of code

Jam Sandwich

In your WordPress Settings, you specify the WordPress address and the site address. Those are added in your database, and every time the developer calls it in the template, it is running a database query. These WordPress settings were introduced to override the database values without changing them :

define (‘WP_HOME’, ‘http://www.mysite.com’);
define(‘WP_SITEURL’, ‘http://www.mysite.com’);

By adding these in your wp-config.php, you are reducing the number of database queries thus increasing your site’s performance.

  • If you use ssl certificates, use https
  • If your default url is not-www, then use http://mysite.com

The Importance of Maintenance

Jam Sandwich

Clients are the livelihood of our business, yet, they do not understand the technologies we use. If they do, they are probably in the wrong business.

Recently, WordPress released WordPress 4.7.2 to fix a Content Injection Vulnerability. Sucuri called it a severe risk.

This week, there have been hundreds of thousands of websites that have been affected by this vulnerability according to Sucuri and WP Tavern.

According to the two sites, the phrases “Hacked by NG689Skw” or “Hacked by w4l3XzY3” are an indication of the hacks. Now, the hackers are hacking the hacked sites as well! so you have layers of attacks. Hundreds of thousands of sites – meaning businesses, hobbies and blogs need saved.

Many WordPress Entrepreneurs, of course, try to handle maintenance themselves. Hiring professionals instead of trying to fit website maintenance and updates into your business is the smart way to go. We stay on top of the technology updates and provide a valuable service to you by keeping your web presence online. This way, you can focus on building your business.

We include a plan with our  hosting solutions but can also maintain and update sites hosted elsewhere.

A simple keeping the site upgraded would go a long way to building trust with your client and provide you with another revenue source.

Some clients will not want the service, but having them to opt out might be a good way for them to not make you responsible for their website.

There are a plethora of reasons we offer this service to our clients.

Here, we are going to discuss 6 reasons why we offer a WordPress care package to our customers. So, sit back, drink some coffee and ponder a new way to run your business!

1. Your business is important; it’s your livelihood

In every case, you can’t afford to have your website out of action for a day or even an hour. This business is your livelihood.

Website hosts may not realize how important this is, but you do. You know what happens if they don’t keep it up to date. When you buy hosting on price, there is no service or responsibility.

One day without the website to process leads and build your business can be a huge issue.

2. Hackings are hard to clean and costly

We have dealt with hackings to many websites. They are never pleasant. Stressed out clients yelling, hosts swamped by help requests and everyone wants it now.

One task, is to make sure Google isn’t announcing it to the world. Having cleaned a site (and often, repaired it as well) I go into the Google Search Console to prove to Google that the site is clean.

Hacked by NG689Skw Google Search
Screenshot: Hacked by NG689Skw Google Search

It is a bit of a process, especially when you have 20 sites all demanding instant action!

When Google tells the world via the search engine that there was a hack, the client is usually a little freaked out.

When you get that fixed, they usually breathe a sigh of relief.

Having a developer or a service to clean a hacking is not cheap. You can help save yourself money by discussing prevention, backup and restoration options with us BEFORE you get hacked.It is also a lot cheaper and less stressful as well.

3. Performance is important, especially to Google

“Studies such as those from Moz (and Google’s own hints) are enough to show that site speed is definitely in the mix as a ranking factor, but there is nothing to suggest it has a weight of anything significantly more than 1%. These studies, and our own findings across local sites, also suggest that overall page load time is not the SEO killer many make it out to be.” CodeinWP

The performance of your website is pretty important. Better performance means better speed which Google deems important to the 60% and growing, percentage of browsing done on mobile devices.

Heck, they have provided us with speed tools.

We can debate how much speed matters, but it does matter to SEO.

“As a well maintained open source project, WordPress is updated frequently. Each update will not only offers new features, but also fixes security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins will have regular updates, too.

As a website owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your WordPress site, theme, and plugins updated to the latest versions. Not doing so may make your site slow and unreliable, and will you vulnerable to security threats.” WP Beginner

Keeping your website updated and upgraded to the latest version are paramount to keeping your site performance optimized, safe and loading faster.

4. Update patches close loopholes for vulnerabilities

I think you know this, right? I am amazed how many website owners feel skittish about updating WordPress.

I know, if you have something else that isn’t compatible with the latest WordPress, then the latest WordPress can break the site.

“This means that if you are not using the latest version of WordPress, then you are using software with known security vulnerabilities. Hackers can search for websites running the older version, and you may become a victim of a sophisticated attack.

Not just WordPress itself, but plugins and themes can also be exploited by hackers. You need to make sure that all your WordPress plugins, themes, and the core itself is always up to date.” WP Beginner

For the website owner, it is best to have us in your corner, testing things, making sure updates don’t break your website etc.

There are few things worse for a website owner than having a website that is vulnerable.

5. It shows you that we are serious about your business 

We want to see you succeed, we want to add value to your business.

Offering this kind of service shows you how serious we are about your business. You are seeking someone to solve your problem- we offer the best solutions.

Clients who only look at cost will not see this, because they are focusing on costs instead of understanding the business risk. If your site goes down, how does your business look?

6. Technology changes all the time. Older technologies are often more vulnerable.

A WordPress website lives on a complicated technology stack. Everything from the hardware to the software is based on technology and has frequent upgrades. This can beas frequently as twice a week – PER SITE!

Unannounced Bonus – It makes us the hero

Seriously, you can stop attacks before they start. Contact us to discuss your options.

Free public domain image websites

Jam Sandwich

The last thing you want is to get sued for ‘Borrowing’ an image for your site. Here’s a list of free public domain image websites

Public domain images are defined as images for which the copyright has expired or never existed in the first place. They are free to be used by almost anyone for personal and commercial purposes. Museums, individuals and libraries like the Oxford’s Bodleian Library are releasing thousands of public domain images online, making them more freely available to the public.

Free public domain images are an important cultural resource for everyone. But when you’re using them in design jobs you need to be extremely vigilant about double and triple checking that they really are in the public domain and can be commercially used by yourself and your client. The laws regarding public domain images are different in every country, so before using any public domain images, check that it’s defined as a public domain image in both your country and the country that your client is a citizen of.

In this article, we’ve complied a list of mostly US-based free public domain image websites that can be freely used by anyone worldwide.

 1. Wikimedia Commons

One of the largest public domain images resources. Most of images can be used freely but some of the images have certain restrictions. For more information about this, click here. Wikimedia Commons doesn’t guarantee the correctness of the licensing for each image, so make sure to triple check the copyright status of the image.

2. USA.gov

Here you can get linked to all the photo archives of different US government organizations like NASA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the Library of Congress. It’s a lot to go through but it’s going to be one of the more reliable sources out there for finding public domain images.

3. Flickr Commons 

Lots of archives and libraries worldwide partner with FlickrCommons and contribute their own public domain images so it’s great resource for finding public domain images from all over the world, not just the US. FlickrCommons’s images contain no known copyright restrictions, but as always it’s not a guarantee so do your research.

4. Public Domain Pictures

This one includes a lot of high-quality free public domain images, though some photos are only available with a premium membership to the site. Some photos require that your credit the author, and you should make sure that a release was obtained by the author or yourself  for images of people or property.

5. PD Photo

Higher-res version of some of these public domain photos are available for a small fee. The photos of  people, property and products don’t include a release so take care when using those images.

6. Old Book Illustrations

Really nice collection of public domain illustrations scanned from old books and vector illustrations that can be modified and  distributed for both personal and commercial projects.

7. Public Domain Clip Art

Public domain clip art and photo collection. Like any other public domain images sites it provides no warranty on the copyright status of their images.

8. Public Domain Vectors

Has a pretty high quality collection of public domain vectors that are available to download in .eps, .svg, cdr, .ai formats.

9. 1 Million Free Pictures

The author of this blog is the original creator of all of the photos on this site and has released them all into public domain. Please note that no releases have been obtained for the images that contain people, works of art, property or trademarks.

 10. Free Stock Photos

This collections of stock photos and clip art contains both public domain images and images with other licenses, so make sure to check the license of each image.

11. PD Poster

This one has a great collection of cool old public domain posters.

12. Picdrome

Really nice collection of public domain photos, has a great texture gallery. Hi-res versions of the photos are available upon request.

13. My Public Domain Pictures

This collection of images has been created and released into the public domain by the members of this site. Their photos of people, property and trademarks don’t come with releases and as always any user of their content are responsible and liable for how the images are used.

14. Freetems

Contains a large collection of public domain photos, graphics, music, videos, ebooks, and audiobooks.

15. The Public Domain Review

This collection is a really well-curated selection of public domain photos, illustrations, art, audio, films, and texts.

16. Dazzle88

Niche collections of public domain images that have been selected specifically for graphic designers who might want to use them in commercial projects. Sorted into packs of 1000+ images. Custom orders welcome!

17. Public-Domain-Photos

A decent-sized collection of public domain photos and clip art.

18. PDPics

Collection of public domain pictures  contributed by the owners of the site.

19. Photos Public Domain

Unless stated otherwise, the photos on this site are in the public domain and can be used commercially.

20. Pixabay

Huge collection of high quality public domain photos and clip art published under Creative Commons public domain deed CCO.

21. EveryStockPhoto

Everystockphoto.com is a great search engine that lets you filter for public domain image licenses. It runs its searches through a number of reputable public domain image websites.

Conclusion

Some of these free public domain image websites will take time to look through and research properly, but there’s a lot of amazing images in them that are worth finding. Just remember to keep these things in mind while you’re sourcing your images:

  1. Does the license of the image allow you to use/distribute it in the way that you intend?
  2. Is the quality of this image suitable for both print and web uses?
  3. Are these images defined as public domain by images by the copyright laws of both countries that my client and I are citizens of?
  4. Have I double checked that this image is truly in the public domain? (run it through a search engine before using it.)
  5. Does this image include trademarks, products, property, works of art or people? (If so make sure that a release has been obtained or that you obtain one yourself.)

Public domain images can be a gray legal area, and that’s why some designers prefer to use licensed stock imagery as a safer and more convenient alternative. If you do use a free public domain image commercially, you may want to check with a trademark/copyright attorney before doing so. However if you do your research properly, you can find some great free public domain images to use in your projects.

SEO Experts to Worth Following

Jam Sandwich

If you are going to take advice – Take it from the industry experts. Here’s a roundup of the best there is.

1) Matt Cutts: Matt is head of the web-spam team at Google. He writes about the latest Google updates and he’s usually the first to know. He is one of the few people who can provide insights about the Google changes that usually take everybody by surprise.

Matt is very good at explaining even the most complex and abstract SEO notions using everyday language. If you are looking for a “dummies” edition of a SEO guide, just take a peek at his blog, where you’ll find lots of interesting information about SEO, gadgets and Google.

Don’t know how Google’s most radical changes could impact your rankings? Don’t know how to adapt to new challenges brought by search engines? Just ask Cutts. If you’re in luck and your question is really interesting, he will offer you an answer in a video posted on YouTube.

2) Rand Fishkin: He is the CEO of Moz and a widely respected SEO expert. The Moz blog is one of the most popular SEO blogs on the Web and is followed by thousands of people. It’s run by Rand + reputable guest bloggers. Moz offers the Moz Bar, a free browser downloadable add-on toolbar, which is the best way to find out the Domain Authority of a site. For good information about ‘Page Rank’ visit: http://moz.com/learn/seo/page-authority.

Rand, the “Wizard of Moz at Moz”, is definitely a great teacher for anyone who wants to improve their SEO skills. He is also the co-founder of Inbound.org and the Art of SEO. If SEO is really an art, then Fishkin is a genuine contemporary artist. He runs multiple blogs and is obsessed with anything associated with search, social signals and content.

3) Danny Sullivan: SearchEngineLand is one of the best, unbiased, factual sources for SEO information, news, and help. Danny Sullivan is the big name on this site. Whenever users need to confirm a rumor that has created a stir in the SEO community, get an opinion on a new SEO prediction, or obtain an accurate explanation for search engine updates that impact their optimization efforts, they turn to SearchEngineLand.

4) Loren Baker: The founder of SearchEngineJournal, a high ranking, popular resource for finding quality SEO news and research, is a well known and trusted SEO guru. Since research is the solid foundation for any project involving SEO or content creation, it’s definitely advisable to check out the latest posts published on this site. Baker likes to keep himself very busy. Apart from being the founder of Search Engine Journal, he also runs Foundation Digital, a company specializing in digital marketing strategies, and is the advisor for Alpha Brand Media.

5) Neil Patel: Born in 1985 in London, Patel is the founder of CrazyEgg, Hello Bar and KISSMetrics. He thinks that he was born with a priceless gift: the ability to help webmasters get “a ton of eyeballs” on their webpages. He guarantees significant website traffic increases in only 3 months. One of his sites, KISSMetrics is a real boon for content creators, marketers and webmasters who are looking for the simplest, fastest method to stay relevant in the SEO community and improve their profits.

6) Joe Hall: Hall knows more than a thing or two about SEO, internet marketing and web development. In 2009, Hall introduced a social media search tool entitled WhosTalkin.com. This accomplishment brought him to the attention of major players and prestigious institutions, including MIT and the Department of Homeland Security. So, if you are looking for a specialist who can handle any type of Internet marketing challenge, Hall is definitely your guy. He founded 22 Media LLC, a company that he closed in December 2012 when he decided to work for Internet Marketing Ninjas. As a Senior Marketing Analyst, he provides accurate answers to questions related to social media, online marketing and web development.

7) Geoff Kenyon: If your one and only purpose in life is to build or consolidate a perfectly healthy online business and keep Google on your side for the longest period of time, Geoff Kenyon is your man. The online marketing and SEO expert from Distilled’ specializes in link building, ecommerce and technical SEO, which are the basic components for conquering online markets.

Whether you want to create focused web content without wasting any words, wish to discover the hidden secrets of online marketing or plan to find out what factors actually helped big brands succeed where others have failed, you’ll find some very interesting points of view by checking out the most recent posts published by Distilled.

8) Mike Ramsey: Ramsey is the owner of Nifty Marketing, a company that has a very seductive promise: “We make local SEXY”. So, if you’re looking for killer local search marketing tactics that actually work, look to Nifty Marketing to get inspired.

9) Jon Cooper: Cooper owns Point Blank SEO. It’s no secret that links are the core of Google’s algorithms. Backlinks are extremely important and are the central piece of any off-page optimization plan. If you know very little or nothing at all about backlinks, turn to John Cooper for advice and useful info on this subject. Point Blank SEO provides novices with a free link building guide which can be obtained via email. Cooper also offers free link building courses for both beginners and pros.

10) Express Writers Content Creators: Last, but not least, the Express Writers Blog is another exceptional SEO guide that you can check out. The copywriting team writes & posts original, up-to-date resource articles about press releases, blogs, new Google updates, etc.

Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites

Jam Sandwich

Optimizing your site using the best practices outlined here will help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers and have a better website in general.

As I take quite a holistic view on (WordPress) SEO, meaning that I think good SEO should be engrained in all aspects of your online marketing and PR, this guide covers quite a lot of ground and is therefor a long read. Check out the table of contents below for some quick jumping around.

Updates to this WordPress SEO article

This article has been kept up to date with the best practices for WordPress SEO since early 2008 and the release of WordPress 2.5, the most recent update was on March 28th, 2012, with WordPress version 3.3.1 being the most current release. The goal of this article is to let all the info of all the different articles I wrote about the topic, here and on other sites, fall into one big piece: the final WordPress SEO tutorial.

The first versions of this article were heavily based on using a plugin called HeadSpace and a series of other plugins. I’ve since released my own WordPress SEO plugin which replaces quite a few of those. That plugin has proven so powerful that sites like SearchEngineLand, The Next Web and Mashable now all use it. This WordPress SEO plugin is very stable and ready to use and this article now assumes you’re using it.

If you’re using another SEO plugin, like All in One SEO pack or Ultimate SEO, but would like to switch and make use of my free and extremely powerful SEO plugin, I’ve written a migration guide for you. It’s a really easy process. If you’re not using an SEO plugin yet, grab my WordPress SEO plugin and get going.

As search, SEO, and the WordPress platform evolve I will continue to keep this article up to date with best practices. Be sure to subscribe to my WordPress & SEO newsletter to receive notification when I update this article.

Need your website reviewed?

If you need an outside look at your WordPress install, you might consider our Website Review. The results of this review contain a full report of improvements for your site, encompassing my findings for improvements in different key areas such as SEO to Usability to Site Speed & more. From only $499, you’ll receive a report that represents a much larger value in turn-over and profit. Get it now!

Table of Contents

  1. The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites
  2. 1 Basic WordPress SEO
    1. 1.1 URLs
      1. 1.1.1 Permalink structure
      2. 1.1.2 WWW vs non-WWW
      3. 1.1.3 Stop words
    2. 1.2 Optimize your Titles for SEO
      1. 1.2.1 Controlling titles with the WordPress SEO plugin
      2. 1.2.2 Optimizing individual posts
    3. 1.3 Optimize your descriptions
    4. 1.4 Image optimization
    5. 1.5 XML sitemaps
  3. 2 Template optimization
    1. 2.1 Breadcrumbs
    2. 2.2 Headings
    3. 2.3 Clean up your code
    4. 2.4 Aim for speed
    5. 2.5 Rethink that sidebar
    6. 2.6 HTML sitemaps
    7. 2.7 Author highlighting
  4. 3 Advanced WordPress SEO and duplicate content
    1. 3.1 Noindex, follow archive pages and disable some archives
    2. 3.2 Disable unnecessary archives
    3. 3.3 Pagination
    4. 3.4 Nofollowing unnecessary links
    5. 3.5 Canonical
  5. 4 A site structure for high rankings
    1. 4.1 Pages instead of posts
    2. 4.2 New wine in an old bottle
    3. 4.3 Linking to related posts
    4. 4.4 Go easy on the tags
  6. 5 Conversion optimization
  7. 6 Comment optimization
    1. 6.1 How you get people to comment
    2. 6.2 Bond with your commenters
    3. 6.3 Keeping people in the conversation
  8. 7 Off site blog SEO
    1. 7.1 Follow your commenters
    2. 7.2 Use Twitter
    3. 7.3 Find related blogs, and work them
  9. 8 Measuring results
  10. 9 Conclusions on WordPress SEO

1 Basic WordPress SEO

Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well optimized system, and does a far better job at allowing every single page to be indexed than every other CMS I have used. But there are a few things you should do to make it a lot easier still to work with.

1.1 URLs

1.1.1 Permalink structure

The first thing to change is your permalink structure. You’ll find the permalink settings under Settings → Permalinks. The default permalink is ?p=<postid>, but I prefer to use either /post-name/ or /category/post-name/. For the first option, you change the setting to /%postname%/:

To include the category, you select “Custom Structure” and change the value to /%category%/%postname%/. If you previously had ?p=<postid> as your permalink WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you. This is also true if you change from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/. If you change from any other permalink structure, you might want to consult my article on changing your WordPress permalink structure and the tool that you’ll find within it.

1.1.2 WWW vs non-WWW

You need to think about what you want your site to show up as, www.example.com or simply example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, under Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected:

You will also want to set this correctly in Google Webmaster Tools. Make sure to set up your site with Google Webmaster Tools and set the preferred domain, you can find this setting under Settings → Preferred domain:

1.1.3 Stop words

The last thing you’ll want to do about your permalinks to increase your WordPress SEO, is remove so called stopwords. Words like “a”, “and”, “the” etc. As of version 1.1.6, my WordPress SEO plugin will automatically remove stop words from your slugs once you save a post, so you won’t get those ugly long URL’s when you do a sentence style post title.

This is generally not something you want to change after posts have gone live. If people have already linked to it, try to not change the permalink anymore and if you do, make sure the post is properly redirected. In most cases WordPress should redirect the old URL to the new one but if it doesn’t you need to make the redirect manually.

1.2 Optimize your Titles for SEO

The title, the contents of your page’s <title> tag,  is one of the single most important factors for ranking in the search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, it’s also the first line people see in the search results, followed by the URL and the snippet, usually the meta description combined with a date:

On many blogs, the title for blog posts is still “Blog title » Blog Archive » Keyword rich post title” or “Blog title » Keyword rich post title”. For your WordPress blog to get the traffic it deserves, this should be the other way around, for two reasons:

  • Search engines put more weight on the early words, so if your keywords are near the start of the page title you are more likely to rank well.
  • People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.

This means the ideal title for that plugin page on WordPress.org would actually be “WordPress SEO by Yoast > WordPress Plugins > WordPress” instead of what it is now. For more info on how to craft good titles for your posts, see this excellent article and video by Aaron Wall: Google & SEO Friendly Page Titles.

1.2.1 Controlling titles with the WordPress SEO plugin

You can control your SEO titles with my WordPress SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. First of all, as soon as you install & activate the plugin, you get an SEO section in your admin. Navigate to SEO → Titles & Metas and you’ll see a bunch of tabs for different types of pages on your site. For each post type and taxonomy you can set a so called Title Template (as well as meta description templates but we’ll get to those later). For posts on my site this looks like this:

There’s a bunch of variables you can use in the titles and meta description, they’re all listed and explained on the bottom of the settings page. Be sure to check whether the template actually works and you’re not getting a duplicate site title for instance. If this is the case, you might need to check the “Force rewrite” checkbox on the same page or follow the instruction on that page to modify your template.

For the other pages, I have the following settings:

  • Categories, Tags and other taxonomies: %%term_title%%  Archives %%page%% &#8226; %%sitename%%
  • Search pages: You searched for %%searchphrase%% &#8226; %%sitename%%
  • 404 pages: Page not found - Error 404 &#8226; %%sitename%%
  • Author archives: %%name%% &#8226; %%cf_role%% at %%sitename%%

The last one shows you a very cool feature: you can use %%cf_<custom field name>%% to use a custom field, this can be either a post custom field, sometimes known as post meta value, or a user meta value. In this particular case it’s the custom field “role” I use to store the role of a user within my company.

1.2.2 Optimizing individual posts

So now that we’ve set decent templates, we can start to optimize individual posts and pages. For that we use the snippet preview added by the WordPress SEO plugin:

This preview will automatically take the values you’ve already filled in in your blog post and apply them to your template, but you can also override the title completely using the title field just below it:

If you hit the Generate SEO title button on the right it will pre-fill that field with a title based on your template which you can then adjust, or you can write one completely by yourself. The counter will show you how many characters you’ve got left.

For titles the following things are important:

  • They should always contain your brand, preferably at the end, so people may recognize you in consecutive searches.
  • They should always contain the keyword you think is most important for the current post or page, which we’ll call the focus keyword from now on. The focus keyword should preferably be at the beginning of the title.
  • The rest of the title should entice people to click.

1.3 Optimize your descriptions

Now that we’ve got proper titles, we should start to focus on meta descriptions. The meta description can be used by search engines to show in the snippet, it’s the black piece of text shown beneath the URL. The meta description is usually only used when it contains the keyword the searcher was searching for.

Some plugins, most specifically the All in One SEO plugin, use so called “automated descriptions”. They use the first sentence of a post to fill the meta description by default. That’s not very smart. That first sentence might be an introductory sentence which has hardly anything to do with the subject.

Thus, the only well written description is a hand written one, and if you’re thinking of auto generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything and let the search engine control the snippet… If you don’t use the meta description, the search engine will find the keyword searched for in your document, and automatically pick a string around that, which gives you a bolded word or two in the results page.

Auto generating a snippet is a “shortcut”, and there are no real shortcuts in (WordPress) SEO (none that work anyway).

So, use the meta description field you find in the WordPress SEO plugin to write a meta description. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.

You’ll notice I do not mention meta keywords. I don’t use them and neither should you, for an explanation, read this: meta keywords and why I don’t use them.

1.4 Image optimization

An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is how you handle your images. By doing stuff like writing good alt tags for images and thinking of how you name the files, you can get yourself a bit of extra traffic from the different image search engines. Next to that, you’re helping out your lesser able readers who check out your site in a screen reader, to make sense of what’s otherwise hidden to them.

Using the proper alt attributes for images is also something that is checked in the Page Analysis functionality of my WordPress SEO plugin.

1.5 XML sitemaps

To tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated, you can use XML Sitemaps. My WordPress SEO plugin contains an XML Sitemap module by default that you just have to enable. Go to Settings → XML Sitemaps and click the checkbox:

As soon as you’ve checked the checkbox and hit Save, it’ll give you some options but in most cases you won’t need those. It generates an XML sitemap for all your posts, pages, custom post types and all your taxonomies like categories and tags and (if applicable) other custom taxonomies.

When you publish a new post or page, the XML sitemap is automatically submitted to Google & Bing allowing them to easily (and quickly) find your new content.

Other than most other XML sitemap plugins, this plugin doesn’t generate a static file, which is a very intensive process, especially for large sites. This means there is no “action” on publish, which slows down the publishing of the post. Instead it generates XML sitemaps as a sort of template using WordPress rewrites, which is much faster while also allowing caching plugins to cache the output.

It’s also being smart about splitting those sitemaps up into smaller bits, so Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published, because the other sitemaps haven’t been changed, using the date modified options.

From an SEO perspective, it’s better than most others because it also includes the images in each post, which makes your images rank (better) in Google Image Search. It also integrates tightly with the rest of my SEO plugin, meaning that a no indexed post automatically is left out of the XML sitemap, with the option to “force” it in.

Lastly, it has a pretty complete API, allowing me and other developers to plugin extra sitemaps, which means I can do things like create my News SEO and Video SEO extension. These extensions respectively generate a news xml sitemap and video xml sitemap.

2 Template optimization

2.1 Breadcrumbs

You’ll want to add breadcrumbs to your single posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that look like “Home > Articles > WordPress SEO”. They are good for two things:

  • They allow your users to easily navigate your site.
  • They allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily.

These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one. For that to work, adapt single.php and page.php in your theme, and use the breadcrumbs from my WordPress SEO plugin. You find the settings for the breadcrumbs in the SEO → Internal Links settings page.

2.2 Headings

Although most themes for WordPress get this right, make sure your post title is an <h1>, and nothing else. Your blog’s name should only be an <h1> on your front page, and on single, post, and category pages, it should be no more than an <h3>. Your sidebar shouldn’t be crammed with <h2> and <h3>‘s either etc.

These are easy to edit in the post.php and page.php templates. To learn more about why proper headings are important read this article on Semantic HTML and SEO and my article about the Heading Structure for your Blog (from which a lot applies to non-blog WordPress sites too).

2.3 Clean up your code

All that javascript and CSS you might have in your template files, move that to external javascripts and css files, and keep your templates clean, as they’re not doing your WordPress SEO any good. This makes sure your users can cache those files on first load, and search engines don’t have to download them most of the time.

2.4 Aim for speed

A very important factor in how many pages a search engine will spider on your blog each day, is how speedy your blog loads. You can do three things to increase the speed of your WordPress.

  1. Optimize the template to do as small an amount of database calls as necessary. I’ve highlighted how to do this in my post about speeding up WordPress.
  2. Install a caching plugin. I highly recommend W3 Total Cache, which is a bit of work to set up, but that should make your blog an awful lot faster.
  3. W3 Total Cache works even more magic when combined with a CDN like MaxCDN. Read more about WordPress CDN stuff here.

Also, be aware that underpaying for hosting, is not wise. If you actually want to succeed with your link-bait actions, and want your blog to sustain high loads, go for a good hosting package. I use VPS.net myself, and they’ve proven to be better than most everything I’ve seen in hosting, but I’ve got great experience with Synthesis too. If you want to know more be sure to read my article about WordPress hosting.

2.5 Rethink that sidebar

Do you really need to link out to all your buddies in your blogroll site wide? Or is it perhaps wiser to just do that on your front page? Google and other search engines these days heavily discount site wide links, so you’re not really doing your friends any more favor by giving them that site wide link, nor are you helping yourself: you’re allowing your visitors to get out of your site everywhere, when you actually want them to browse around a bit.

The same goes for the search engines: on single post pages, these links aren’t necessarily related to the topic at hand, and thus aren’t helping you at all. Thus: get rid of them. There are probably more widgets like these that only make sense on the homepage, and others that you’d only want on sub pages.

Some day you will probably be able to change this from inside WordPress, right now it forces you to either use two sidebars, one on the homepage and one on sub pages, or write specific plugins.

2.6 HTML sitemaps

For some sites an HTML sitemap might be nonsense, especially when your site is really a blog, for more corporate type sites with several levels of pages an HTML Sitemap might actually be very beneficial for both users and search engines. I’ve written an article on how to create an HTML Sitemap Page Template which would be a good start to get one going for your WordPress site.

2.7 Author highlighting

If you’ve found my site through a search you might have seen that results from my site get an author image in front of them:

This is called an “author highlight”. Most of the work needed for that has to be done in your theme, I wrote an extensive post on what is needed and how you can do that: rel="author" and rel="me" in WordPress.

3 Advanced WordPress SEO and duplicate content

Once you’ve done all the basic stuff, you’ll find that the rest of the problems amount to one simple thing: duplicate content. Loads of it in fact. Out of the box, WordPress comes with a few different types of taxonomy:

  1. date based
  2. category based
  3. tag based

Next to that, it seems to think you actually need to be able to click on from page to page starting at the frontpage, way back to the first post you ever did. Last but not least, each author has his own archive too, under /author/<author-name>/, resulting in completely duplicate content on single author blogs.

In essence that means that, worst case scenario, a post is available on 5 pages outside of the single page where it should be available. We’re going to get rid of all those duplicate content pools, by still allowing them to be spidered, but not indexed, and fixing the pagination issues that come with these things.

3.1 Noindex, follow archive pages and disable some archives

Using the WordPress SEO plugin, make sure to prevent indexing (or even existence) of archive pages that do not apply for your site. You do this under SEO → Titles & Metas, where you’ll find the following options on the “Other” tab:

The settings above are the settings for my site. As you can see, I’ve completely disabled the date based archives, as I don’t use those. Any date based link will redirect to my homepage because of this setting. I’ve left the author archives untouched, but I have checked a checkbox on the General tab, which makes the subpages of those archives be noindex, follow by default. So you’ll never land on page 2 of an archive on my site from the search engines:

On smaller sites it might make sense to noindex either the category or the tag structure, but in my experience noindexing those on yoast.com does little to no change at all.

There is one type of archive that is noindex,follow by default as well in the WordPress SEO plugin: the search result pages. This is a best practice from Google for which a setting is left out as you should just have that anyway.

A lot has changed in how Google handles paginated archives recently when they introduced their support for rel="next" and rel="prev" links. I’ve written an article about that: rel="next" and rel="prev" for paginated archives, which is a bit too technical to fully list here, but suffice to say my WordPress SEO plugin takes care of all the needed changes automatically.

3.2 Disable unnecessary archives

If your blog is a one author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use WordPress SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date based archive: disable it as I have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…

3.3 Pagination

Thirdly, you’ll want to make sure that if a bot goes to a category page, it can reach all underlying pages without any trouble. Otherwise, if you have a lot of posts in a category, a bot might have to go back 10 pages before being able to find the link to one of your awesome earlier posts…

There’s an easy fix, in fact, there are several plugins that deal with this. My favorite one by far is WP-PageNavi, maintained by Scribu, one of the best WordPress developers around. If you have the Genesis Theme like we do here on Yoast.com, you can just enable numeric navigation under Theme Settings → Content Archives.

3.4 Nofollowing unnecessary links

Another easy step to increase your WordPress SEO is to stop linking to your login and registration pages from each and every page on your blog. The same goes for your RSS feeds, your subscribe by e-mail link, etc. WordPress SEO automatically nofollows all your login and registration links, but you really shouldn’t have a login link in your template in most cases.

3.5 Canonical

In february 2009, the major search engines introduced the rel="canonical" element. This is another utility to help fight duplicate content. WordPress has built-in support for canonical link elements on single posts and pages, but it has some slight bugs in that. It doesn’t output canonical links on any other page. With my WordPress SEO plugin activated, you automatically get canonical link elements for every page type in WordPress.

4 A site structure for high rankings

Blogs are spidered so easily due to their structure of categories, tags etc.: all articles are well linked, and usually the markup is nice and clean. However, all this comes at a price: your ranking strength is diluted. They’re diluted by one simple thing: comments.

4.1 Pages instead of posts

You’ve probably noticed by now, or you’re seeing now, that this WordPress SEO post is actually… not a post. It’s a page. Why? Well for several reasons. First of all, this article needed to be a “daughter”-page of my WordPress page, to be in the correct place on this blog. Secondly, to rank for the term [WordPress SEO], this article has to have the right keyword density. And that’s where things go wrong. Comments destroy your carefully constructed keyword density.

That’s why I decided to make my most important articles into pages. That way, you can easily update them and do a new post about what you’ve changed.

4.2 New wine in an old bottle

If a post on your blog becomes incredibly popular and starts to rank for a nice keyword, like mine did for WordPress SEO, you could do the following:

  • create a new page with updated and improved content
  • change the slug of the old post to post-name-original
  • publish the new page under the old post’s URL, or redirect the old post’s URL to the new URL
  • send an e-mail to everyone who linked to your old post that you’ve updated and improved on your old post
  • wait for the links to come in, again;
  • rank even higher for your desired term as you’ve now got:
    • more control over the keyword density
    • even more links pointing at the article
    • the ability to keep updating the article as you see fit to improve on it’s content and ranking

Some among you will say: I could have 301 redirected the old post to the new one with the same effect. True. Except: you’d lose the comments on the old post, which is in my opinion a sign of disrespect to people who took the time to comment, and 301 redirects take quite a bit of time sometimes. Of course you should treat this technique with care, and not abuse it to rank other products, but I think it can be done in everyone’s benefit. For instance this article: if you came here through a social media site like Sphinn, expecting an article about WordPress SEO, that’s exactly what you got!

4.3 Linking to related posts

One way of getting search engines to get to your older content a bit easier, thus increasing your WordPress SEO capabilites a LOT, is by using a related posts plugin. These plugins search through your posts database to find posts with the same subject, and add links to these posts.

There are quite a few related posts plugins but I tend to stick with custom code in my own theme. A very good alternative is Microkid’s related post plugin, which lets you manually pick related posts. This might cost a bit more time before you hit publish but might very well be worth your while.

There are also a lot of plugins that will automatically link certain keywords to certain posts. I do not like this at all as I find it to look very spammy.

4.4 Go easy on the tags

One of the most common issues we encounter on sites in our website reviews is the overuse of tags. Note that a tag in and of itself does not improve your SEO. The only way it improves your SEO is by relating one piece of content to another, and more specifically a group of posts to each other.

We’ve recently released a tool we’ve built to help solve that problem, which makes it easy to delete & redirect and/or merge tags or other (custom) taxonomies. So if you’ve been guilty of using too many tags on your site you might want to check out our tool for optimizing tags.

5 Conversion optimization

Get those readers to subscribe!

A lot of bloggers still think that because their blog is a blog, they don’t have to optimize anything. Wrong. To get people to link to you, they have to read your blog. And what do you think is easier: getting someone who is already visiting your blog to visit regularly and then link to your blog, or getting someone who visits your blog for the first time to link to your blog immediately? Right.

That’s why conversion optimization is so vitally important to bloggers as well: they need to learn how to test their call to actions on their blog so that more people will subscribe, either by e-mail or by RSS. (Ow btw, if you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, do it now!)

One of the things I’ve found to be very important, and more bloggers seem to have found this, is that a BIG RSS subscribe button is very important, as is offering a way to subscribe by e-mail. I even offer daily and weekly e-mail subscribe options, using MailChimp, and have found that people tend to really like those options too.

Another thing to be very aware of is when people might want to subscribe to your blog. If they’ve just finished reading an article of yours, and really liked it, that would be the ideal time to reach them, right? That’s why more and more people are adding lines like this to the end of their posts: “Liked this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!”

Another great time to get people to subscribe is when people have just commented on your blog for the first time, for which purpose I use my own comment redirect plugin. Which leads me to the next major aspect of WordPress SEO:

6 Comment optimization

Get those readers involved

Comments are one of the most important aspects of blogs. As Wikipedia states:

The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.

Comments are not only nice because people tell you how special you are, or that you made a mistake, or whatever else they have to tell you. Most of all they’re nice, because they show engagement. And engagement is one of the most important factors of getting people to link to you: they show you they care, and they open the conversation, now all you have to do is respond, and you’re building a relationship!

6.1 How you get people to comment

The easiest way of getting people to do anything is: ask them to do it. Write in an engaging style, and then ask your blog’s readers for an opinion, their take on the story etc.

Another important things is your comment links. Is your comment link “No comments »”? Or is it “No Comments yet, your thoughts are welcome »”? Feel the difference? You can change this by opening your index.php template, search for comments_popup_link() and changing the texts within that function.

6.2 Bond with your commenters

Another thing to do is thank people when they’ve commented on your weblog. Not every time, because that get’s annoying, but doing it the first time is a very good idea.

Justin Shattuck thought the same, and created the Comment Relish plugin which sends an email after someone has made his first comment, unfortunately, this plugin is no longer maintained. Another option, which is maintained and is also a bit less obtrusive / spammy, is to install my comment redirect plugin. This plugin allows you to redirect people who have made their first comment to a specific “thank you” page.

6.3 Keeping people in the conversation

Now that people have joined the conversation on your blog, you should make sure they stay in the conversation. That’s why you should install the subscribe to comments plugin, that allows people to subscribe to a comment thread just like they would in a forum, and sends them an e-mail on each new comment. This way, you can keep the conversation going, and maybe your readers will be giving you new angles for new posts.

7 Off site blog SEO

If you’ve followed all of the above WordPress SEO advice, you’ve got a big chance of becoming successfull, both as a blogger and in the search engines. Now the last step sounds easy, but isn’t. Go out there, and talk to people online.

7.1 Follow your commenters

There’s been a movement on the web for a while now that’s called the “You comment – I follow“. They want you to remove the nofollow tag off of your comments to “reward” your visitors. Now I do agree, but… That get’s you a whole lot of spam once your WordPress blog turns into a well ranked blog… What I do advocate though, is that you actually follow your visitors! Go to their websites, and leave a comment on one of their articles, a good, insightful comment, so they respect you even more.

If you think that’s a lot of work, do realize that, on average, about 1% of your visitors will actually leave a comment. That’s a group of people you have to take care of!

7.2 Use Twitter

Twitter is a cool form of micro-blogging / chatting / whatever you want to call it. Almost all the “cool” people are on there, and they read their tweets more often than they read their e-mail, if you even knew how to reach them through e-mail.

To boot, if you use WordTwit or Twitter Tools, all of your posts can be announced on Twitter, which will usually get you quite a few early readers! People will feel even more happy to comment on Twitter, which might get you into an extra conversation or two.

7.3 Find related blogs, and work them

If you want to rank for certain keywords, go into Google Blogsearch, and see which blogs rank in the top 10 for those keywords. Read those blogs, start posting insightful comments, follow up on their posts by doing a post on your own blog and link back to them: communicate! The only way to get the links you’ll need to rank is to be a part of the community.

8 Measuring results

A good SEO campaign relies on not only implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Two great Analytics packages to measure results are Google Analytics and getClicky. For both of these Analytics packages I’ve written plugins, my Google Analytics for WordPress plugin and my getClicky plugin.

You can also measure results by tracking rankings, the problem with rank tracking though is that it’s hard to determine “real” rankings because of personalized and localized search results. Really the best outcome of being great at WordPress SEO is to get more traffic.

Another great source of data is Google Webmaster Tools. One of the relatively simple tricks I always give people is the following:

  • go into Webmaster Tools;
  • go to “Your site on the web”, then “Search queries”.
  • Click on “Download this table”.
  • Open the CSV file you get in Excel.
  • Replace all the instances of “<10″ in the Clicks column with 9.
  • Select the entire first row and click the filter button, usually the icon is a funnel:
  • For the average position column, choose “greater than 5″, sort Ascending.
  • Then for the “Clicks” column, sort Descending.

You now have the keywords people are finding you for in the results pages where you rank below #6 The fact that they clicked on your result proves that they found your result interesting: see if you can optimize any of those terms so you’ll rank higher than a #6 average rank: use the Page Analysis in my SEO plugin to improve the page, improve the copy, ask others to link to you, etc. Be sure to read my article about cornerstone content as well.

9 Conclusions on WordPress SEO

This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical tips, to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.

If you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, and hear more tips as I come up with them, then subscribe to my WordPress newsletter right now. If you need help implementing all the tips in this article, or want me to review whether you’ve done a good job implementing it all, order a website review!

By

10 Steps to Ultimate Blog Promotion

Jam Sandwich

Promoting your blog never ends – whether you are a blogging super-star or just started your first blog. You must learn how to promote your blog the right way – get maximum impact with minimum moves.

Here’s my personal cheat sheet I use to promote every post I publish at Traffic Generation Café.

August 6, 2013 by Ana Hoffman

The web is flooded with blogs that manage to flourish while consistently publishing less than mediocre content.

You know what their secret is?

Stellar blog promotion.

If you know how to promote your blog, your brand, your posts, website traffic won’t be an issue.

Of course, traffic conversion is a different story. That’s where mediocrity won’t get the worm. However, the point of this post is PROMOTION, PROMOTION, PROMOTION.

The following are the exact steps I take to promote every single one of my posts, and you should consider taking to promote YOUR blog.

Yes, I do it manually and, since I don’t currently have an assistant, I do it all myself – because promoting your blog is THAT important.

Some of the steps below won’t necessarily get you the immediate traffic you crave for, but they will influence your long-term brand building without you even knowing it.

Just because you can’t see it, feel it, or touch it, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, right?

Right-click on the image to save it to your desktop to use it to promote all your future (and past) blog posts.

Promote Your Blog: The Groundwork

Before we start promoting anything, we need a system to do it efficiently.

1. Bookmark Your Blog Promotion Venues

As a part of our blog promotion system, I suggest you create a bookmark folder for your future blog promotion “pit stops”.

That way, you’ll have all the steps at your fingertips whenever you are ready to give your blog post a traffic boost.

Here’s what I suggest you do:

  1. In your browser bookmarks, create a new folder; I call mine “Blog Promotion“.
  2. Bookmark all the sites you intend to promote your blog at.
  3. Time hack:group them to make it easier to copy and paste later – social media sites first, then social networking sites, etc.
  4. TIme hack:bookmark specific pages where you’ll be submitting your URLs to, not just the home page of a site. For instance, instead of bookmarking BizSugar.com, bookmark BizSugar.com/submit.

My list of bookmarked pages:

2. Add Social Sharing Buttons

Social sharing buttons are good for business, period.

Not only do they give your visitors an opportunity to share your brilliant writing with their social media followers, but also, provide YOU with a great reminder to do the same.

Never thought of using those buttons to share your own content? Well, you should. Each time you visit a post on your blog make sure to hit that “Tweet” or “Share on Facebook” or whatever button.

Those buttons are also an easy way to promote your brand new blog post. More on that in a minute, but first, a few pointers:

1. Don’t hold back.

Ever read a great post that you wanted to share on social media, but found yourself scrolling up and down looking for social sharing buttons?

Don’t let it happen on your blog.

Give your readers an opportunity to promote your blog for you by placing social sharing buttons in 3-4 different places:

  1. DEFINITELY at the top of a post;
  2. DEFINITELY at the bottom of a post;
  3. optional, but recommended – to the side of your content (preferably the kind that stays fixed even when you scroll down);
  4. optional – add an extra call to action in the middle of your post, for instance how I did it in the screenshot below (to learn how to add a Tweet button anywhere in the post see these instructions).
By the way, if you love this post thus far and think it would be a valuable read to your followers, tweet the ish out of it for me, would you?

2. DO hold back.

Yes, add social sharing buttons to several places on your blog, BUT…

Too many buttons cause confusion, slow down your site, and result in no sharing at all.

Stick with the ones that YOUR readers actually use.

For Traffic Generation Café readers, it’s the major ones: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

For your blog, it might be Pinterest, or StumbleUpon, or Bizsugar.

If you are not sure, the test is simple: add the buttons and see if your readers start using them. If, after a few days, the count remains at zero or a low number, it’s time for that sharing button to go.

Here’s a good post if in doubt:

Too Many Social Media Sharing Buttons Make Your Site Less Social – Doug Antkowiak at searchenginejournal.com

3. Make sure you mind the length and add your Twitter @username.

In other words, avoid this:

When I want to tweet another person’s post and see this after clicking on their “Tweet” button, my only choice is to leave.

  1. The text is too long – adding a lot of branding info after the post title doesn’t do anyone any good;
  2. There’s no @TwitterID – fewer people will share the post if they have to dig it out on their own and even if they do share the post as is, the engagement on the post will be a lot lower.

Test all the tweet/share buttons on your blog to make sure the output is what you want your readers to see.

3. Set Up a Bit.ly (or any other URL shortening ) Account

Bit.ly is a free URL shortening service that turns your long URLs into something a lot more manageable:

http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/how-to-promote-your-blog/  

VS  

http://bit.ly/LIng8ye

The advantages of using a shortened URL when sharing your post on social media:

  • Maximize Twitter characters (you don’t want your URL to eat up most of your tweet);
  • Make it more memorable.

Expanding on the last point: Bit.ly allows you to customize the last portion of your shortened URL to reflect what the link is about. For instance:

http://bit.ly/LIng8ye  

VS

http://bit.ly/promote-your-blog

In my case, I went a step further and created a customized shortened domain for Traffic Generation Café, so my shortened URL for this post is:

http://tgcafe.it/promote-blog/

To learn how to set up your personal vanity URL, read:

6 Steps to Promote Your Blog: Use for ANY Post

Now that you’ve done your groundwork, it’s time to move on to blog promotion. You can read through the post, as well as follow this video as you set up your own blog promotion system:

You hit the “Publish” button. Your post is live.

Here are the precise action steps you should take to promote your blog post.

Step 1. Create a Summary of Your Blog Post “Vitals”

Before you can efficiently promote your new blog post, you need to gather the following information about it:

  1. Post URL.
  2. Post title.
  3. Short description – the kind that would make someone want to click on it.
  4. Bloggers who you linked out to/mentioned in your post (and you should link out in EVERY post you write!).
  5. Tags (keywords that describe your post).

Time hack: You’ll need all/most/some of these “post vitals” for almost every website you promote your blog at, so it makes it much easier to copy/paste when you have it handy in one place.

You can use:

  • Evernote;
  • Google Drive;
  • Word;
  • Text;
  • just about any note-taking platform you prefer.

To help you choose/learn, here are a couple of tutorials about different platforms:

I keep a running text document that I add all my new blog post info to – that way I can go back and easily share my older posts as well.

Step 2. Load Bookmarks to Promote Your Blog

I like to open a new window and then open all my “Blog Promotion” bookmarks at the same time.

This way, copying/pasting the required info is a breeze.

Step 3. Promote Blog Post on Key Social Media Sites

Every social network is different, but the basics are the same: give value (boring, but true) and tell your followers about your new post more than once.

To make the process more efficient, I try to schedule at least 3 updates per post on each social network.

Considering the time constraints, I focus on the “biggies”:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Also, always remember to tag anyone who was mentioned in the post, whichever network you are promoting the post at. The mentioned bloggers can’t promote your blog post if they don’t know about it!

Here’s are a few specifics for each social media platform:

Twitter

I schedule 3 tweets about the post – one each day.

If you have multiple Twitter accounts like I do, make sure you RT the post to all.

Of course, your blog post promotion doesn’t need to stop there – you can use plugins like Evergreen Post Tweeter by Tom Ewer to do automatic retweeting of your older posts. Just make sure you are not retweeting outdated content.

Also, make sure to make the most of social media management tools like HootSuite. +Mike Allton has the post resources on how to make the most of HootSuite:

Facebook

Don’t just publish a link to your post.

It won’t help your Facebook EdgeRank, few of your fans will see the update, and even fewer will care.

Schedule at least 3 updates focusing on different aspects of the post.

  • Ask a question; link to the post with an answer.
  • Upload an image from the post.
  • Upload a video from the post.
  • Post a comment with food for thought.
  • Give your fans a challenge.

For instance, this is what I’d do for my Marketing Skinny posts:

Google+

Assuming that you have both personal profile and a business page (and you should), post the update on one of them (I usually do it on my business page); then find that update on your personal profile and share it there.

 

Result:

This way you cross-promote your personal profile and business page, PLUS your post gets shared twice.

I also share separate aspects of a post via different updates like I explained in the Facebook section above.

Pinterest

Pin all the images from the post.

Chances are you’ve got more than one Pinterest board.

So here’s what you do:

  1. Pin the image to the most relevant board.
  2. After the image is pinned, repin it to any other relevant boards.
Images are not the only thing you can share on Pinterest; remember to share your videos there as well.

Quick Tip:when pinning a YouTube video, the pin will be automatically linked to the video url on YouTube.

For added visibility/promotion, make sure to add your post url in the pin description.

Additional image ideas:

  • create images of some of the post comments, pin them.

An easy tool for that: ShareAsImage.com (formerly PinAQuote). Their free version works just fine; the Pro version is only $6.99. All you do is drag their bookmarklet into your bookmark bar, highlight anything you want to turn into an image, and click on the bookmarklet.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to create images with ShareAsImage, as well as some ideas on how to use it to get more traffic back to your blog:

Step 4. Promote Blog Post through Social Bookmarking Sites

Before I go any further, it’s important to address the effect social bookmarking may/may not have on your SEO efforts.

Side Note: Social Bookmarking in the post-Penguin World

Years ago, social bookmarking was about getting your content bookmarked on every possible sites regardless of quality or relevancy.

Of course, since Google Penguin introduction and Google’s latest quality guidelines, that way of thinking is (hopefully) long gone.

To get the results you want and avoid putting your website at greater risk, I recommend to keep the following in mind when using social bookmarking sites:

  • Find quality bookmaking sites relevant to your industry, products and target audience;
  • Create complete profiles when setting up your account as you would with Facebook, Twitter or Google+;
  • Stop using automated Social Bookmarking tools;
  • Don’t just promote your own content – bookmark content that will help other users;
  • Be active – re-share other’s content, engage with people, ask questions and post comments.

Learn more about social bookmarking the right way:

Can you still drive traffic from social bookmarking sites?

Yes, IF you put due effort into it.

I find it that it’s much easier to “break into” social bookmarking communities for new bloggers than to establish a meaningful presence on a site like Google+ let’s say.

If time is an issue though and you really don’t feel like you can truly become an active member of a community, I’d suggest you direct your efforts to a channel that would have a bigger potential traffic return with the same amount of effort.

The three sites that I use to promote Traffic Generation Café are:

  • BlogEngage.com;
  • BizSugar.com;
  • Blokube.com.

There are plenty more, of course – as mentioned before, you need to find social bookmarking sites that resonate with your industry the best.

To find such communities, check out:

50+ Social Bookmarking Sites – SearchEngineJournal.com

Step 5. Give Other Bloggers a Reason to Promote YOUR Blog

Chances are you pretty regularly mention other bloggers in your posts.

If you don’t, you most definitely should – great for relationship marketing.

Many bloggers I know make a mistake of relying on WordPress pingbacks to let those bloggers know that they linked out to them.

Don’t. Let them know personally.

As a result of my simple request, +Rebekah Radice kindly shared my post with her Google+ circles, which of course, resulted in more shares, comments, and plus ones for the post. Thanks, Rebekah!
Email them. Send them a tweet. Post the link on their FB page.

Once they know you mentioned them in your post, they are very likely to share the post with their followers, come by and comment, and might even return the favor in the future.

Side note: It really helps to know which social media networks the bloggers you mention prefer.

It’s much more beneficial and public to send a tweet or post the link to their FB page – you gain even more exposure that way.

However, if they don’t like Twitter or barely ever check their Facebook timeline, then your effort will be down the drain.

Step 6. Leverage Content Curation Sites

Content curation sites allow you to collect, organize, and publish information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.

Examples:

Tutorials to help you:

4 Steps to Promote Your Blog: for Evergreen Posts

Once again, follow the steps above to promote ALL blog posts you publish.

Make it a habit. Come up with a system to help you do it more efficiently.

It shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to spread the news.

Is my strategy to promote my blog posts any different for my pillar evergreen content?

You bet.

That’s when I go a few steps further to ensure I do everything I can for the post to go viral or rank well on Google.

Step 7. Promote Your Blog Post by Emailing Your List

I don’t usually email my list every time I publish a blog post. Far from it.

My email communications are generally reserved for more important stuff, like sending my free Bite-Size Traffic Hacks email series.

Unless I feel that a particular post deserves my email subscribers’ attention that is and my pillar evergreen content is one such exception.

When emailing your list about your blog posts, you ensure one or more of these things happen:

  • you’ll get traffic to your blog post;
  • you’ll get more social media shares (especially when you add sharing buttons directly to your email for those subscribers who don’t have the time to check the post at the moment, but don’t mind sharing it for you if you make it convenient enough);
  • it’ll get mentioned in your subscribers’ blog posts = you get more links and exposure;
  • a certain number of your email subscribers will unsubscribe or send your emails straight to spam, no matter how much value you provide.

Learn more about successful list building here:

Also, my email marketing autoresponder of choice and why:

Step 8. Promote Blog Post via Link Roundups

Speedlinking, roundups, mashups – all roads lead to posts that curate the best content on the web.

I’ve built strong relationships with several bloggers as a result of being included in their link roundups.

Of course, you can sit around and wait to be noticed and included in such roundups, or be proactive in approaching the bloggers who publish them – IF you have an exceptional post to share with them.

Ignore that last part and you might land on a “Ignore” list instead.

I’ve got a tutorial on the topic and a list of some blogs that do link roundups:

Step 9. Promote Blog Post through Internal Linking

Most bloggers never think about doing this, yet it’s the single simplest way to bring readers to your new posts, as well as get some love from the search engines.

And the best part is that fact that you are in complete control of this technique.

Internal linking. Linking from your blog post to… your blog posts.

Like you see me do as you read through this post.

I include the links to other posts that compliment what we are talking about here, you click on the links, and bingo! – those posts get more traffic.

But why not do it in reverse?

Why not go back to some of your most popular posts and add links to your newer content?

The best candidates for internal linking makeover:

  • If you have a “Most Popular Posts” widget in your sidebar, refresh those posts every once so often.

As a matter of fact, make sure you rotate those posts, preferably each time you publish a new one, like this: Traffic Boosting “Duh” Idea to Keep Your Readers Reading.

  • Posts that currently rank highly on Google.
  • Posts with high PageRank – this one won’t help you much with traffic, but it might give your SEO a boost.

Step 10. Publish Related Posts on Other blogs

Next: I write posts based on my evergreen post – they are shorter, more concise, and each addresses a specific point I discuss in the original post; sort of like articles, if you will, just a lot more useful.

There are several places you can submit these related posts to; for instance:

IF you write them well enough (remember you are putting your name to these posts; they’d better be good!), they can be published as guest posts as well.

Bonus Step: Leverage Your Blog Post Across the Web

My content leverage system deserves a special point here.

It’s actually not mine at all; it’s used by all top marketers in some shape or form.

The idea behind it is leveraging the content you’ve already written to get you more web traffic instead of constantly producing more and more new content.

I’ve been using the system successfully for several months now and have seen a lot of incredible results. Just take a look at this post:

Yes, it takes time. But constantly creating more content takes more time, plus doesn’t produce nearly as good results as leveraging tremendous amounts of traffic third-party sites like YouTube, Slideshare, Google+, etc can bring you.

Learn more about better leveraging your existing content here:

How to Promote Your Blog: My Trump Card

I am pretty good with blog promotion. Traffic Generation Café shows it, doesn’t it?

However, I am nothing close to what Kristi Hines of Kikolani.com knows about it. Most of what I know, I know because of her Blog Post Promotion: The Ultimate Guide.

==> Blog Post Promotion: The Ultimate Guide

How to Promote Your Blog Marketing Takeaway

Blog promotion never ends – whether your blog is brand new or well-established like Traffic Generation Café.

You might as well get really good at it NOW instead of blogging for a year without any readers to speak of wondering what you are doing wrong.

Have fun promoting your next blog post,

How to Get Free Blog Backlinks for Your Website

Jam Sandwich

How to Get Free Blog Backlinks for Your Website

 

Blog comment marketing is one of the most powerful tools in an affiliate Internet marketer’s arsenal.

Blog comment backlinking is the act of visiting websites with the purpose of submitting comments and opinions through the website’s comment form. As opposed to websites with little dynamic content, blogs typically attract more traffic and higher “search engine authority” than their static website counterparts.

When used responsibly, this powerful method can provide a boon of high-quality backlinks for your turnkey website business. Furthermore, using this technique increases your site’s search engine ranking and helps to attract targeted audience members to your turnkey website business.

How to Use Blogs for Backlinks and Traffic

There are two things to keep in mind when submitting comments:

  • Comments and forum articles that appear to be overly promotional almost never get approved. If your comment doesn’t get approved, you won’t earn a backlink and even worse, you may lose credibility as being a “spammer”.
  • Comments should be well-written and add value to the article on which you are commenting. The value you add can be a shared experience, a disagreement, a well-crafted question, or a opinion. But above all, it must not be “spammy”.

To illustrate these points, take a look at the following comment left on a real website:

Source: Ask Dave Taylor

Needless to say, this comment was not approved.

So how do you write comments that are valuable yet still generates the traffic and ranking your website business needs?

The first important step to achieving this is to identify websites and forums that are relevant to your website niche. This can be done very simply with a few easy Google search tricks.

Let’s learn how.

How to Find Websites for Comment Backlinks

First, we’ll use the camping example from our Free Turnkey Affiliate Marketing Tips article to see how Google can be used to find high-quality comment opportunities.

Step #1. Visit Google.com

Step #2. Enter the following text in the Google search box exactly the way it is shown below. Be sure to include all quotes and symbols.

After you copy and paste the above text into your Google search bar, hit the search button.

You should now see a Google search result page for your query. You can already see how this works. Our query has told Google to return results that are related to camping, has a blog, and allow visitors to comment. Perfect! (Of course, you can use this custom Google search for any keyword, just change the word “camping” to the keyword you want to target.)

Step #3. Click on the search results to find an article where you can leave a relative and informative comment. By “relative and informative” I mean:

  • Your comment is directly related to the subject matter of the article
  • You provide useful information, such as a link, statistic, personal experience, or other information that will add real value to the comment thread. Comments like “Thanks,” “Great article,” or “I agree” just doesn’t cut it.

Composing Your Comment

Step #4. Add your website link to the Website or URL field in the comment form

Step #5. Here’s a real piece of comment marketing magic:

Instead of using your real name in the “Name” comment field, use a keyword or two related to your turnkey website niche. By using a keyword (as seen in the above graphic), you will help your website rank higher for this keyword phrase when people search for “Camping Gear” on Google. The higher you rank then the more people will visit your website get — and more visitors equals, naturally, more money.

Example of a Typical Comment Form

Step #6. Write your comment, keeping it relative and informative.

Step #7. Click “Submit”.

You have just generated a high-quality backlink for your online website business. Congratulations!

Remember that backlink marketing requires patience and determination. It can a week or two of comment backlinking for you to notice an increase in traffic to your website, and the work doesn’t stop there! You should be performing consistent backlink marketing in order to ensure a profitable top-page search rank. In fact, we recommend that you set aside at least a half hour each week to leave comment backlinks for you website business.

Simply put: The more time you spend acquiring backlinks, then the more traffic will be driven to your website and the more money you will make. The results are up to you!

Ways to Get Backlinks To Actually Boost Your Traffic

Jam Sandwich

Are you tired of people telling you that if you write great content, people will naturally link back to you?

It’s actually true to some extent, but if you wait for people to “naturally” link to you, it will take you months, if not years, to hit thousands of visitors a month.

So, how do you proactively get backlinks without spending hours every day? Just follow the 10 tactics below, and you’ll start seeing an increase in traffic:

Backlink tip #1: Respond to questions on Quora

Quora is filled with people looking for help. All you have to do is search for keywords related to your industry, and you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of questions.

For example, let’s look at the key phrase “content marketing.” With a quick search, I was able to find this question, asking if content marketing actually works.

Respond to the question, and if there is a specific blog post or article within your domain that helps reinforce your answer, you can link to it.

The screenshot above illustrates the idea. It has my answer with the link I provided to a blog post I wrote that covers a few data points relevant to the discussion.

When doing this, make sure you don’t link to your site just to gain a link. You don’t want to spam Quora as it will hurt your reputation. Instead, you want to focus on responding with a great answer and only add a link to your website when it makes sense.

Backlink tip #2: Help a reporter out

You’ve heard of HARO, right? Of course you have, but are you actually on it?

In case you don’t know what HARO is, it is a website where journalist go when they need help.

They post questions, and if you can help them answer any of them, you can get some free press. You can get published on a news website or a magazine like Entrepreneur.com, which makes HARO a great place to pick up high quality backlinks.

You won’t get a ton of links from this site, but the links you do get will help drive traffic as this site links to authoritative sites.

To get these links, all you need to do is spend 30 minutes to an hour on HARO each week.

Backlink tip #3: Find broken links going to resources or products

Broken link building is hard unless you focus on the right type of broken links. A lot of blogs and websites have them, but very few are willing to fix them.

Your best bet is to find resource pages related to your field and to look for broken links within those pages. I’ve found that web masters are more likely to fix broken links on resource pages as they tend to generate more traffic than general blog posts.

To find these broken links and resource pages, you can use a tool called Broken Link Finder.

The tool costs money…but it is worth it.

If you end up using the tool, make sure the keywords you input contain words like “resources” as it will help you find the right type of broken links.

Backlink tip #4: Industry forums

Have you ever used forums to build links? If you haven’t, why not?

Chances are you are afraid of the Penguin penalty. Assuming you are participating only on relevant forums and aren’t spamming them, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

For example, Warrior Forum and a few other marketing forums talk about Quick Sprout. Every time they do, I see an influx of 300 to 700 visitors. It’s not too shabby for just one link.

When responding to questions on forums, use the same principles as you do when responding to questions on Quora: respond to questions and link to your website when it makes sense.

Again, don’t spam these forums. Only respond when it makes sense, and make sure your answer is thorough.

When adding a link to your website, avoid using rich anchor text.

Backlink tip #5: Link to relevant sites

I know this may sound crazy, but linking to other relevant sites within your own content is a great way to build links.

For example, I recently published a post on competitive auditing that linked to over 20 websites.

Before I published the post, I visited each of those websites and grabbed an email address of someone who works there. If I couldn’t find an email address of a specific employee in the marketing department, I looked for an email address on the contact pages of these sites.

I then sent out a personalized email to each of those websites:

Hey [person’s name],

I just wanted to let you know that I think [insert their website] is such a great resource that I had to mention it in my latest blog post [link to your blog post].

I know you are busy, so no need to reply. But if you get a spare moment, check out the post. If you like it, feel free to tweet it out.

Thanks,

[your name]

Don’t expect people to link back to your website. Some people will do it naturally, but that number will be less than 5%. Roughly 20%-25% of the people you email will tweet out your post. This action will bring more visitors to your website, and a portion of those visitors may end up linking back to you.

Backlink tip #6: Round-up posts

Do you know what some of the most popular and linked to posts are on the Internet? It’s round-up posts.

If you aren’t familiar with round-up posts, read this one on link building, in which 50 experts share tips on how to build links.

That post generated over 383 social shares and 34 backlinks according to Ahrefs. That’s not bad for a round-up post.

How do you go about creating one of these posts? All you have to do is find a bunch of experts in your field and email them asking one question. You don’t want to ask them more than one question as it will drastically decrease your response rate.

You also want to find at least 30 experts as round-up posts that don’t contain a large number of experts don’t do very well.

I recommend making a post with at least 50 experts. When emailing these experts, make sure you give them a deadline to respond by. In addition, make sure you email at least twice the number of experts you need to complete your post as about half of them will not respond.

Once you publish your expert round-up, email each expert with an email like this one:

Hey [expert name],

I just wanted to thank you for participating in the expert round-up on [insert the topic of the round-up].

You can find the post at [insert url], and I’ve also included a link to your website.

Feel free to tweet it out and share it with your following.

Thanks for participating.

[insert your name]

Similarly to Backlink tip #5, this action will bring you more visitors from the social web. A portion of those visitors may end up linking back to you.

Backlink tip #7: Track your competitors’ links

Any backlink tool can tell you who is linking to your competition, but very few of them sort these links by freshness.

Cognitive SEO has a tool that shows you the freshness of these links. In other words, it’ll show you who recently linked to your competition. All you have to do is select “Fresh Links” within its dashboard.

As you can see, the Cognitive SEO provides a list of the most recently found backlinks.

You can then take that list and manually hit up each of those sites with an email like this one:

Hey [insert their name],

I was just reading your blog post on [insert the post title and link to it] and noticed that you didn’t link to [insert your URL]. I’m not sure if you are familiar with it, but it can teach your readers about [insert the value their readers will get].

I just thought I would mention it to you because you linked to [insert competitor URL], but you forgot to mention [insert your URL].

Anyways, keep up the great work. I love your content.

Your fan,

[insert your name]

For every 100 such emails you send out, you’ll typically generate 7 to 10 links. It’s not a lot of links, but it adds up.

Conclusion

Creating a good product or service or writing great content doesn’t guarantee that people will link to you. If you want to build links and, more importantly, generate traffic, you have to be proactive.

If you test the tactics I mentioned above, you’ll notice that in addition to getting more backlinks (and eventually more search traffic), you’ll also see an increase in your referral traffic.

Neil Patel

Removing Referral Spam

Jam Sandwich

There is a lot of misinformation about clearing out so-called referral spam, so here’s the Definitive Guide to removing it all! Website reporting is tough enough, but when you start getting non-human visits in your reports, it makes life really miserable.

This article describes three techniques to stop bots and spam referrals from appearing in FUTURE website reports. To eliminate spam referrals from historical reporting, a companion article describes an Advanced Segment to use.

Too many words? Infographic Version (download)

UPDATE 2015-04-28 (google / organic search spam with keyword "vitaly rules google..." using fake hostname of google.ru. 
2015-04-24 (free-share-buttons.com / referral, pornhub-forum.ga / referral, youporn-forum.ga / referral, domination.ml / referral, torture.ml / referral, www.Get-Free-Traffic-Now.com / referral, buy-cheap-online.info / referral, theguardlan.com / referral) are fake referrals annoying a lot of people these days. 
The valid hostname include filter described below would have prevented all of these from messing up your stats.

Specific Exclude Filters I am currently using (yours may differ):
12masterov.com|bard-real.com.ua|billiard-classic.com.ua|cardiosport.com.ua|ci.ua|customsua.com.ua|delfin-aqua.com.ua|dipstar.org|dvr.biz.ua|e-kwiaciarz.pl|este-line.com.ua|ghazel.ru|it-max.com.ua|maridan.com.ua|mebeldekor.com.ua

mirobuvi.com.ua|offers.bycontext.com|olgacvetmet.com|palvira.com.ua|trion.od.ua|наркомания.лечениенаркомании.com|алкоголизм.лечениенаркомании.com|med-zdorovie.com.ua|ranksonic.org|.*ranksonic.com

First, there are three types of junk visits and spam referrals, and there are different ways to deal with each of them:

1. Ghost referrals like the darodar / ilovevitaly / cenoval

2. Creepy crawlers like semalt (a.k.a. best-seo-solution.com) and fake referrals like maridan.com.ua and blog.ranksonic.com.

3. Well behaved bots and spiders

Follow Best Practices

Before you start hacking away at your Google Analytics settings, here is some great guidance from LunaMetrics on implementing new filters:

1. Make sure you always have an unfiltered view in your property that has zero filters.

2. Don’t implement it immediately in your main view. Create a new test view that mirrors your main one in every other respect, and then add the filter(s).

3. If you’re happy with the new filter based on this test, then go ahead and implement it in the main view.

BAD Advice: Use The Referral Exclusion List

A number of sites recommend using the Referral Exclusion list feature (Admin – Property – Tracking Info) — this does NOT work! While it may remove some of the annoying entries in your referral report, it may actually change the session to a Direct visit and it continues to appear in your reports.

 

1. Ghost Referrals

[Sidebar: I have noticed that the spammers target tracking ID's that end with "-1" (e.g. UA-1234567-1). If you make a second Property in your GA account and switch your tracking code to the "-2", "-3" or other variant, most of these ghost referrals will never get recorded on your site. Note: you cannot transfer your analytics to the new property, but it is easier than filtering forever.]

The latest arrivals (darodar.com and many more) are what I call “ghost referrals” because they actually NEVER VISITED YOUR SITE. Using some software magic, they post fake pageviews to Google’s tracking service using a random series of tracking IDs. When they pick a series that includes your tracking ID, Google records a referral visit from their source in your reports.

Some variants of this attack use fake google / organic search visits with keywords for your to investigate (like “google officially -recommends ilovevitaly.com search shell“).

Since they never actually visited your site, you can’t block their visits at the server using any website Javascript or .htaccess methods. You have no choice but to create a filter to exclude them (as described below). The biggest problem with these ghost referrals is that they change as quickly as they appear, so you could be continuously building filters for them.

How To Eliminate All Ghost Referrals

You could create specific filters to remove each spam source, but a method that requires a lot less effort to maintain is to create a filter based on valid hostnames. Since the spam referrers do not know whose website the tracking ID belongs to (they are picking numbers at random), they send the “referral” using a hostname that is not one of yours. You can create an INCLUDE filter that keeps ONLY what was recorded from one of your valid web hosts, and you can stop worrying about darodar.com / econom.co / ilovevitaly.co / whatever-comes-next.

Huh? They are referrals, why are you filtering on hostname?  All of your analytics reports are affected by the “spam” traffic, which is why they are so annoying. If all they did was list a fake referral, everyone would ignore them, but they affect site bounce rate, pageviews, total sessions and users, time on site….everything.  #  You need to remove the visit from your data. Those visits include a lot of data associated with them. You can filter by city, or by referrer, or by browser. I noticed that the “ghost referral” visits use a hostname that is different from all of my regular traffic. Because there have been so many variants over the past month, I feel it is easier to create a filter that lets IN the good traffic and just locks OUT everything else. The fact that the traffic it is removing happens to be a referral from X or Y or Z is irrelevant to the filter – it is not “good” traffic, so ignore it.  #  They could just as easily fake search traffic with keywords that make you go to their site [oops, did I give them that idea?], or…well, they don’t need any other good ideas. “Good” traffic comes from hits on my servers (hostnames). Throw away the rest.

To implement this solution, STEP CAREFULLY or you will exclude valid traffic! You MUST identify ALL valid hostnames that may use your website tracking ID, and this could include other websites that you are tracking as part of your web ecosystem — your own domain, PayPal, your ecommerce shopping cart, and all of reserved domains (in case you decide to use them).

Start with a multi-year report showing just hostnames (Audience > Technology > Network > hostname), then identify the valid ones — the servers where I have real pages being tracked.

Many people have a problem with this step; here’s what I picked and why:

  • www.analyticsedge.com – my main site.
  • help.analyticsedge.com – my help site.
  • translate.googleusercontent.com – I have a lot of international visitors on my site, and they use Google translate to read my articles.
  • www.youtube.com – I have a YouTube channel with videos that I track using Google Analytics. I had to configure it with my tracking code.
  • sites.fastspring.com – I use FastSpring as my eCommerce provider to process payments. I configured my account there with my tracking code.
  • webcache.googleusercontent.com – some of my visitors use Google’s cached version of my articles.

I do not have any pages on google.com, mozilla.org, firefox.com or any of the other sites. I never configured them with my tracking code. Traffic on those hostnames are spam.

Then I create a filter with an expression that captures all of the domains that I consider valid. TEST, TEST, TEST! Then move to production when you are sure you have it all.

* The Filter Expression [Really Simplified]

Many people have a problem composing the filter expression because it is Regex (regular expressions), so lets keep it really simple in this case. Identify YOUR hostname(s) from the Google Analytics report as above.

For your filter expression, simply enter YOUR hostname. If you have more than one, separate them by a vertical bar ( | ). If you have a third-party payment service like paypal.com, you may need to enter it as well. In my third example below, I include all of the sites I use. Note that I have used a Regex “.*” (dot-asterisk) to match all subdomains of the ones listed.

www.analyticsedge.com 
OR
www.analyticsedge.com|help.analyticsedge.com
OR 
.*analyticsedge.com|.*youtube.com|.*fastspring.com|.*googleusercontent.com

Important: do NOT put a vertical bar at the ends of the expression, and NO spaces.

Note: spammers may use sites you recognize, like apple.com or theguardian.com or amazon.com. Do NOT add those to your list unless they are YOUR sites with YOUR pages.

It is CRITICAL that you maintain this filter EVERY TIME you enter your tracking ID into a new web service, and you should confirm using an unfiltered view every month that you are not excluding valid traffic.

To eliminate ghost referrals from your historical reports, use a segment.

Why do some people insist changing .htaccess files work? Because the comments also say to wait 2-3 days for it to take effect, and the spam traffic changes in that time, so it appears the blocking worked.

2. “Creepy” Crawlers and Fake Referrals

Not all bots identify themselves and follow the rules, and some are notorious for crawling websites and messing up reports. They seem to creep around the web, grabbing information for questionable purposes. In some cases, like the Semalt crawler, you can go to their website and ask to have your site excluded from their crawler [read the instructions and reference all of your subdomains using the full http://xxx.mydomain.com format. Get help from https://twitter.com/Nataliya_Semalt].

In many other cases, the last thing you should do is to visit the referring site, since this is an invitation to get a virus or Trojan infection on your computer. I recommend you do a quick Google search first to see if you can trust it. I always view page 2 and 3 of the search results for differing opinions because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Don’t open any of the links; the snippets in the search results are usually enough to tell you whether there is a serious problem with the site. If you can’t tell by the search results, check the Google Analytics group or Google+ page.

A lot of spam referral links are intended to get you to visit the link. Sometimes they are evil destinations, and sometimes they are legitimate businesses that contracted with a shady SEO company to increase traffic. If you clicked, they get paid. Typical destinations include Ukrainian sites like 12masterov.com and many others (a recent version of my filter list is below). None of them have real links to your site, but they seem to send you referrals. This is made possible because the web works on a trust basis: the browser visiting your site tells you where they were referred from, and that can be faked.

You can exclude them from your reports in Google Analytics by creating a filter. The way to do this is to find a “unique signature” that identifies them (and only them) and create a filter based on that. For most, filtering on Campaign Source with a matching domain usually works. Most people try filtering on Referral, and the filter doesn’t work because it must match the Full Referrer, not just the domain.

Read Google’s instructions on making filters. If you use Google Tag Manager, Lunametrics has a nice option.

Notes about this approach:

  • although the referrals are filtered from your reports, the visits to your website continue to occur and are included in the total session threshold that triggers data sampling in Google Analytics. If you can, and know how, blocking the visits from your web server would be better. On an Apache web server, this would be done by modifying the .htaccess file.
  • some people may feel the match pattern should be “semalt\.com” because it is a regular expression (the dot should be “escaped” with a backslash to prevent it from being interpreted as meaning ‘any character’), but Google doesn’t push it in their documentation for single domain matches.
  • you will need to create or modify the filter for each new crawler/referral, there is a 255-character limit in the filter expression, and there is a limit to the number of filters you can use. Always keep an unfiltered view and check on the impact at least quarterly. Many bots disappear within a few months when their effectiveness drops off.
  • Just because a lot of spam referrals came from Russia last month doesn’t mean they will come from Russia next month. Unfortunately you will need to update your filters over time.

My current filters (there is a 255 character limit) include:

12masterov.com|bard-real.com.ua|cardiosport.com.ua|customsua.com.ua|delfin-aqua.com.ua|dipstar.org|dvr.biz.ua|e-kwiaciarz.pl|este-line.com.ua|ghazel.ru|maridan.com.ua|mebeldekor.com.ua|med-zdorovie.com.ua|onlywoman.org|palvira.com.ua|trion.od.ua
it-max.com.ua|billiard-classic.com.ua|ci.ua|mirobuvi.com.ua|наркомания.лечениенаркомании.com

 

3. Well Behaved Bots and Spiders

The web exists because of bots and spiders — these are normally good things. They discover your content and share it with others. Google wouldn’t know about you without them. To prevent their traffic from appearing in your web analytics, standards were put in place so they could self-identify, and web analytics applications could automatically filter them out.bots-and-spidersGoogle Analytics has a simple checkbox you can use to exclude most of these well behaved bots and spiders, but you have to enable it for every View you use.

In your Google Analytics Admin section, navigate to each View you use, select View Settings, and check the box to Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.

This is a good starting point…but it doesn’t handle everything.

Do I Need All Three Filters?

Yes. As you can see in the image below, Bot filtering removes some visits, Hostname filtering eliminates the ghosts, but some of the other bots require specific filters to remove their traffic.

Summary

Well behaved bots and spiders can easily be excluded from your reports by checking the option in your Admin – View – Settings.

Questionable crawlers and fake referrals are best eliminated at the web server (.htaccess file). They can also be removed from your reports using the Admin – View – Filter, but the visit is still counted by Google when they determine whether to apply data sampling for your report.

Ghost referrals never visit your site and must be removed by a Filter. Using an Include filter with valid hostnames will greatly reduce the maintenance effort, but must be maintained or it might exclude valid traffic from a new hostname in the future.

Wondering Why They Do This?

There are a few reasons someone would run a bot like these: the first is that they may be crawling the web to gather website information, just like Google’s crawlers do. Sometimes the purpose is a little shady, like they are looking for security vulnerabilities to exploit. The web is full of bots.

The second reason is that they want a bunch of website owners to look at them, so they push referral links to your site to make you open the referral link to see who posted a link to your site. If you are selling Search Engine Optimization services like Semalt, what better way to market? They are guaranteed to find small website owners that jump at the thought someone actually linked to their site!

The third reason is that they simply want a bunch of people to look at a particular website. Maybe it is a shady SEO service — I can get you thousands of pageviews for $###. And many will NOT bounce (because we search around looking for that link to our site before we eventually conclude it was spam), so yo ucan sell it as “quality” traffic. Yes, there is a really slim chance we’ll buy something, but I bet it’s an SEO deal gone bad.

Wondering How They Did It?

The crawlers are pretty straight-forward — start with a list of web pages, and look for links; follow those links and look for more. New crawlers run Javascript on the pages so they can get dynamic page content, and hence they end up running the Google Analytics tracking code.

The Ghost Referrals don’t actually go to your site at all; they take advantage of a loop hole in how Google Analytics works behind the scenes. When a visitor visits your site, they run the GA Javascript snippet and that sends a ‘ping’ to the Google Analytics servers with information about the website visited (identified by your UA-#######-# tracking ID), a unique user ID (that is supposed to come from a cookie on your computer), the page viewed, the server hostname and the referral source. The spammers send millions of fake ‘ping’s with specially crafted information — and their website information as the referral source.

They don’t actually go to your site to get the tracking IDs — they probably just use randomly selected ones in a range.  Since they never visited your website, they don’t know your server’s hostname, and that is why the hostname appears as ‘iedit.ilovevitaly.com’ or ‘apple,com’. That provides the clue that the traffic has been manufactured.

As for who? Well, over on blackMORE Ops , someone posted a comment saying “Good job! Vitaly Popov is my real name. […] I don’t need to hide my personality, because what I’m doing it isn’t a crime as minimum in Russia. It is just creative marketing. And yes, I’m having a lot of fun and laughing at you all!”   You have to admit: Google left a hole in their analytics system, and he’s just taking advantage of it. I’m surprised it hasn’t been repeated by others yet.