WP Report’s (@wpreport) Frank Corso (@fpcorso) interviews Semper Fi Web Design and All in One SEO Pack Sales and Support Delivery Manager, Steve Mortiboy (@wpsmort) on the latest WP Report Podcast Episode 8.
Click the play icon to listen to the interview.
In the first few minutes, Frank asks Steve to describe how he got started with WordPress and his role at Semper Fi Web Design and All in One SEO Pack. Things really get started around 05:37 when Frank asks Steve to describe what SEO is.
Having worked on All in One SEO Pack for over 9-years, Steve Mortiboy is a leading expert on WordPress SEO and the optimization your WordPress website or blog posts or pages for Google, Bing, and other relevant search engines.
Steve recently spoke on SEO for Small Business at WordCamp Raleigh 2015 and he will be speaking on improving social sharing with Open Graph optimization on October 17 at WordCamp Hampton Roads in Virgina Beach, VA.
Update as of Wednesday, October 21, 2015
We have transcribed the podcast for those who would like to read and print.
WP Report Podcast Episode 8: Improving Your SEO – Interview with Semper Fi Web Design and All in One SEO Sales and Support Delivery Manager, Steve Mortiboy
Frank Corso: You are listening to the WP Report, episode 8. Today we are talking about SEO. Let’s get started.
Hey everybody, Frank here. Welcome to the WP Report. The show for beginning WordPress users. If this is your first time listening, then thanks for joining us today. Today show notes are found at thewpreport.com/8. Now let’s get into the show.
Today’s guest is the chief operating officer of Semper Fi Web design, and project manager of the All in One SEO Pack plug-in, and has managed large projects and enterprise clients for over 15 years. Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Mortiboy.
I appreciate you coming on the podcast today, Steve.
Steve Mortiboy: Not a problem. Pleased to be here.
Frank Corso: All right, Steve, we’ll jump right into these. First question we like to ask our guests is why do you use and love WordPress.
Steve Mortiboy: That’s a good question. I think the basic answer is it’s so easy to use. That’s on great thing that the UI team has always managed to achieve at WordPress is making sure that this is really simple to use for anybody from the age of 8 to 80. The other thing I love about it is it’s so extensible through the thousands and thousands of plug ins that are out there. All the great things you can build a complex website, or blog.
Frank Corso: Steve, do you recall what your first project was in WordPress?
Steve Mortiboy: I do. I should say that I am not a WordPress developer. My main role at Semper Fi is sales and service delivery, but I can develop WordPress sites. I can build themes and mess around within the PHP code.
The first project was helping a client finish a website that we had been building for her. Really adding content and making sure the site was set up in the way she wanted. It was a very gentle introduction to WordPress for somebody who hadn’t touched WordPress before.
Frank Corso: That’s a good first site for anybody. Definitely. Looking back would you have done differently anything on that first project now that you know quite a bit more about the ecosystem?
Steve Mortiboy: One of the things I learned, having not been in a sales role before, but having come from a customer support role, was setting the expectations of a client. I’m sure anybody who’s in the web design, web develop world understands this – whether you’re a freelancer, whether you work for a business that builds websites or designs websites for customers. Setting those expectations so the customer knows what it is they’re getting is always a very important part of the process.
Frank Corso: How do you feel about the way WordPress has evolved since your first project?
Steve Mortiboy: I got involved with WordPress version 2.8, around about then. 2009, 2010 I think it was. Of course, not while after that WordPress 3.0 came out, which added custom post types which was a huge change for WordPress. It went from being a blog platform to a really good cms. Of course it’s evolved since then into a fantastic application platform. There’s no doubt that it has become the market leader amongst content management systems.
Frank Corso: Exactly. Steve, what exactly is Semper Fi Web Design?
Steve Mortiboy: We are a WordPress development shop. That is all we do, that’s all we’ve done from our founding days 9 years ago. We started out as a WordPress development shop and that’s all we do now. We deliver both services around WordPress, whether it’s designing and building websites for business. We also have our products, our plug-ins that we sell.
Frank Corso: Yes. The most popular plug-in I believe is All-in-One SEO Pack. Do you want to tell us what that is?
Steve Mortiboy: Indeed. All-in-One SEO Pack is a tool kit for managing your SEO. It’s a free plug in, available on plug in repository. It’s one of the top 3 most downloaded plug ins of all time. 24.4 million downloads, I think, to date. We do about a million downloads every quarter of that plug in. It was [inaudable 00:04:39] up to be easy to use for anybody to manage the SEO on their WordPress site.
Frank Corso: Yeah. I’ve used that plug in for quite a few sites. It makes SEO very simple for the end user.
Steve Mortiboy: Indeed, which I think is important. In the 9-years we’ve been developing that plug in, obviously we’ve gone from WordPress being a little known blogging platform when nobody thought about SEO, to now driving commercial corporate websites. Where if you have a small micro-blog or whether you have a large corporate site, everybody thinks about Google now. Everybody thinks about getting noticed on Google, and on social media.
Frank Corso: Let’s get right into the topics then. Steve, we’ve talked a little bit about the SEO and the plug in, but I’m sure a lot of users aren’t quite that familiar with that term. Do you want to explain what SEO is?
Steve Mortiboy: Yeah. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the means by which we optimize a website or blog to get noticed on search engines. To make them search engine friendly. When we think about search engines, of course, one name comes to the forefront, and that’s Google.
Frank Corso: When we talk about search engines some terms that come up quite a bit are something called crawlers and spiders. What exactly are those and how do those work?
Steve Mortiboy: Robots as they’re also known. Systems that go around and crawl or index websites. They crawl through a website looking for content. They’ll go to each page, each post, each category, each tag archive, whatever content you have on your website they will crawl through that, interpret that information and bring it back to the search index.
Frank Corso: Okay. You said robots, does that have anything to do with robots.txt file?
Steve Mortiboy: That does, yes. That file is an essential file. It’s one of the first files that a search engine will check when it crawls a website, because that file tells a search engine robot where it is allowed to go, [addingly 00:06:54] not allowed to go. If you want to block a search engine from seeing certain content, certain directories, certain file systems on your server, you would use a [robotstop.txt 00:07:05] file to do that. It also includes one other piece of important information, which is the url for your XML site map, which is a map of your site which tells Google where it can find all the content on your site.
Frank Corso: Now that we know a little bit about SEO, and search engines, and robots and such, the next thing that most people ask about when it comes to SEO’s: what are keywords, and do they even matter?
Steve Mortiboy: Right. Keywords can mean 2 different things. The first is we can think of keywords as the words that we enter into Google when we’re typing a search. The second refers to something called meta keywords. It’s a meta tag that can appear in your source code of your website. You can add keywords using a plus in such as All-in-One SEO pack. One thing I’d like to mention is that the use of the word, or keywords, [acquinistic 00:08:05]. It’s outdated, it’s old.
For example, meta keywords, the meta keyword tag, Google does not bother looking at meta keywords. For example, in All-in-One SEO pack we advise users to disable that setting so you don’t see the meta keywords fields in the All-in-One SEO Pack. In terms of searching, we don’t search in terms of keywords anymore. When we search on Google, we search using a phrase or a term. You’ll notice that Google has started referring to this as search terms. This is important because, again, we’re not optimizing our websites anymore for key words, we are optimizing them for terms.
There’s a commercial on American TV for a phone and says, “Hey Google, do dogs dream?” The phrase – do dogs dream – is not keywords, there are no keywords there. That’s not a string of keywords, that is a phrase. That is an actual phrase spoken to Google. You use a browser on a desktop or whether you use a phone, you have a little microphone there – you can speak to Google. One of the things that Google said back in, I think it was late 2013 when they released the Hummingbird algorithm, was they noticed that people were searching in terms of phrases, and that they were speaking to Google via their phone. They were using terms like, “Hey Google, find me a barber shop near me.” Now that phrase ‘near me’, Google understands that and interprets that in order to return local results based on your GPS or your ip address, or whatever location information it has for you. You then get a set of local results, and you see a map, and you’ll see results ordered locally by distance for barbershops.
Frank Corso: That’s all very interesting. The shift of the Google algorithms over the years.
Steve Mortiboy: Indeed. Now that we’ve seen this we’re starting to see something called long tail search. Those of us in the know, when we optimize content we start to think about short tail and long tail search terms. An example of this would be: a short tail search term would be ‘power drills’. If I enter ‘power drills’ into Google, it’s a very generic term. I might type into Google, or speak to Google and say, “Find me power drills for less than $100.” Or “Find me reviews of the best power drill for less than $100.” Now that’s a long tail search term. A complex term that includes certain parts of that phrase that obviously Google knows. You’re looking for something more specific. If you are shopping, Google will return results based on that information.
If I’m a business and I sell power drills, which term to I want to rank for? Clearly it’s going to be the latter. I want to rank for power drills for less than $100, or reviews of power drills for less than $100.
Frank Corso: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Now that we’ve discussed keywords and various items like that, maybe it’s time we start to write our page. Most people, the first thing they write on the post or page is their headline. Do those matter how you word those?
Steve Mortiboy: They do indeed. The headline is obviously going to be that title that WordPress automatically converts that into the slug, which is that second part of the URL or permalink. So the URL of this post were to be something like semperfiwebdesign.com, which is my domain name, forward slash, and then the slug. That title is going to create that slug, the spaces is going to be replaced by hyphens, dashes. Those words are going to become the h1 top layer page, the most significant or important type layer page. If I’m writing a post about do dogs dream, or whether dogs dream, or what dogs dream about, I’m going to use that as my title. That’s going to become part of my URL, and [inaudible 00:12:31] h1 tag, my h1 title on the page, which is the most important title.
So immediately as a visitor to my website they’ll see what it is that I’m writing about, by looking at that post title. Then hopefully I’m going to more depth within the first paragraph of the post by saying, this post is about whether dogs dream and what dogs dream about.
Frank Corso: That makes a lot of sense. Once we get the headline created, then we start typing out our post and page. I hear a lot of things about linking between pages, and getting links from other websites. Are links important to SEO?
Steve Mortiboy: They are. Internal links are especially important because it shows that you have cross referenced content or built a path to your website. When we visit our website we’re familiar with seeing the nav bar, the navigation menu on the top of a website. That’s how we get around a website. We might see a drop down navigation, or on internal pages we may see some sub navigation. We might write a post about our product, link it to that product, and then from that product page we may link that to our contact page so that we’re building a path that somebody might follow to go from a post that draws a visitor’s attention to a product page, to a contact form.
Another good example of this would be an e-commerce site where you have a shopping page, or a shop or store page. You then go to a category page, so you want to see just products for one particular category like shoes, men shoes to cart button. From there you go from a cart, and then from there to a check out. That is a logical flow through your website, and you have achieved that through internal links.
External links are also very important. There are two types of external links. There are outbound links, links from my website to other people’s websites – and inbound links, links from other people to me. External links are our Facebook page, or our Twitter account, or some other social media page, or to some third party website that has more information. We might have a related link, or an external links page, or useful links. If we are writing about something to do with state law we might link out to the State’s website, or we might link out to other third party reputable sources for information.
Google looks at that and says, the way you use external links, outbound links, is important. If you are providing good quality outbound links that tell people how to find out more information, this is good for visitors. This is useful content.
Inbound links, where somebody links to us, there are 2 types of that. There are good inbound links from social media. For example, somebody shares or tweets, or pins posts that we’ve written, shows that somebody likes what we’ve written, they’ve shared it with their friends. Google looks at that and says, “Great. You’ve written some really good content here. Somebody’s found that really useful and they’ve liked/shared/pinned/tweeted that.” That’s a good inbound link.
Other good inbound links would be somebody at a company that is in a related business to you are. Let’s say you sell motor cars and you’re a Ford dealership, and somebody at Ford reads this fantastic post you wrote about Ford motorcars and their F150 truck, and they link to that post. That’s a very good quality inbound link. It’s not a manufactured link. It’s happened because somebody read great quality content that you wrote, found that content to be so useful they linked to you.
Frank Corso: That makes a lot sense. If links are very important, we go back and we have inbound and outbound, and all that. We get our links set up, and now we want to add some images. Is there anything special we need to do for our images to help our SEO?
Steve Mortiboy: There are. This first thing we should think about with images is the file name of the image. If we’ve taken that photograph with a camera then we’re probably going to end up with a file name that’s something like a bunch of letters and numbers that identifies that image. That sequence of numbers, dsc3005421, that means nothing to me, it means nothing to you, it means nothing to a search engine. But if we were embedding that image into a post about how to optimize WordPress websites then rename that image to match the term that you’re trying to rank for.
If you’re trying to rank for the term ‘how to optimize WordPress websites’, rename your image to be that, then upload it into WordPress. It’s important to know that you can’t rename a file once it’s been uploaded into the WordPress. There is the alt text, so if we edit an image, we click on it and click on the little pencil icon, we’ll see the alt text field. This is typically used to provide information that human’s don’t see on the page but search engines do. We can use that field to input the information that we’re trying to rank for. So that term again we can use that as that alt text.
The other is the title tag, image title attributes. We can enter that as well. Again, we can use that to describe what the image is, or we can use it add the term that we’re trying to rank for. These are important. Image SEO is very important to Google. The one thing, obviously, we’ve got to understand is the image again on another post and we’re writing a second post, and it’s got nothing to do with WordPress SEO, but instead it’s about design principles and CSS, then we should recreate that image again with a file name, alt text, and title attribute that match the term that we’re trying to rank the new post for. We shouldn’t use that same image, which has been called WordPress SEO, or how to optimize WordPress site for SEO, because that’s not applicable to our post about WordPress design.
Frank Corso: That makes a lot of sense. I remember reading an article just recently that someone had optimized their images in a strategy to rank highly on Google image search to get the traffic through there.
Steve Mortiboy: Absolutely. We sometimes forget that the Google not only returns text results on the Web tab, but it also returns videos, images, news. Images are a great way to get found. Somebody can – if you created a great image, there’s plenty of stock photos out there, an inclination to use the same stock photo of people sitting around a board room table – you can share those with the world on Google images and it’s a great way of somebody finding you through that image tab.
The same with videos. If we upload our videos we allow Google to index those videos, or upload them to YouTube which is owned by Google. Then they’ll show up on the videos tab and it’s another way of somebody finding you. You may rank well on Google for your videos, not so well on the web tab, but it’s a great way of somebody finding you through that tab.
Frank Corso: Definitely. Now that we have our post and page created, we have some good links. We have a good headline, we got our images optimized. We’re reading about things, like all this meta items. We have meta description, meta tag, meta keywords, all those items. Is that something we need to be concerned with?
Steve Mortiboy: They are. There are 2 things to understand about this. We can set a title and a meta description in plug in All-in-One SEO Pack, and those appear in our source code and search engines will chose whether or not to use those. They’ll read them and chose whether they want to use them or not. We’ve talked about key words, and the meta keywords tag is no longer used so we don’t worry about that anymore.
Title tags and meta descriptions are very important. Google looks at these and says, you have provided a title that fits with our rules – which is that title tags should be less than around 60-65 characters long – and you’ve provided a good description. You’ve thought about this, you’ve thought about SEO, you’ve provided us with a title and a description, but when somebody types in a search term in Google and your page or post shows up in that list of results, Google may not use the title or description that you’ve provided. In fact this is one of those top most asked questions about SEO: I’ve added all these titles and descriptions all in my All-in-One SEO pack settings for each of my pages and post, but Google’s not using it – Why is that?
Well, because Google doesn’t have to. Google will take it as a suggestion only. They’ll use whatever they want to use as the title and description that they show in search results. You cannot force them otherwise. There’s nothing you can do that will force Google to use the title and the description you provide.
Some people may say, “If Google’s not going to necessarily use my title or description, why should I bother even providing them?” The answer is: if you do that you’ve shown Google that you care about SEO. You’ve thought about telling Google; here is a good title, here is a good description, would you like to use it? Google will say, “Okay. You’ve provided us with meta tags, they’ve followed our rules, and great. We’re going to rank you higher because you’ve done that, and you’ve not ignored those meta tags.”
Frank Corso: That makes a lot of sense. I remember the first time I saw one of my websites have a different title or description listed. It definitely confused me the first time.
Steve Mortiboy: Indeed. Google’s been doing this with meta descriptions … Google likes to experiment. Google will experiment with real time search results. I might type in something in Google and get something different to what you might type in, because Google is experimenting.
For example: They’re experimenting right now with whether to use the title tag or not, or whether to use some other content on the page. Such as the h1 title within the page; our post title or page title that we talked about earlier. For some people, they’ll see that suddenly … Although Google -if you look at our website semperfiwebdesign.com, and I Google semperfiwebdesign.com – for the longest time Google has shown our title tag, it’s been like that for years and years, and years. Suddenly now, Google has decided instead of using our title tag they’re going to use some other content either from our site or some third party site.
Google has done that on it’s own. I can’t force Google to use my title tag. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s showing some information I don’t want it to show, but unfortunately Google is a private company and I cannot force them to use my title tag. I just have to live with it. I have to understand that this is Google just playing around, experimenting with their algorithm. They may do this for 6 months, 12 months, and then drop it, or they may try something else.
They did this with something called Google authorship. To try and push people to use in Google+ profiles to set Google authorship. They did that for a couple years and did an experiment, and then they announced earlier this year or late last year that they were no longer going to do that anymore. They just dropped it. Google does this. They experiment with things all the time to determine how best they can return the best results and display information to their users.
Frank Corso: We’ve talked a lot about Google. Is there anything we need to be concerned with whenever we’re looking at other search engines like Bing or Yahoo, or do they work pretty much the same across the board?
Steve Mortiboy: They pretty much work the same across the board. For the US there are really only 2 search engines. There is Google and there is Bing. Yahoo uses the Bing search engine. We no longer use Yahoo. Yahoo is no longer it’s own search engine. They don’t do any calling of their own, they use Bing’s algorithms, and they use Bing to return search results.
We only care not about Google and Bing. What typically works for Google works fine for Bing.
Frank Corso: Say we have our whole post created, we have everything checked off, and everything we think is finalized. What are some tools that we can use to check our page or our sites?
Steve Mortiboy: To be honest, the two tools that we recommend are Google Search, and Google Webmaster Tools (now Google Search Console). Google search is a great way of seeing how Google is indexing our site. For example: I can type into the Google search field, “site:semperfiwebdesign.com”, my domain name, only what it has indexed for my domain, for my site. Now I can see just what Google has it’s index for my site, and I can sort that by date. Now I can see what, for example, Google has indexed on my site in the last month, or what Google has indexed on my site in the last 6 months.
This is important. Just because we publish content does not guarantee that Google is going to index it or show it in search results overnight. It may take weeks, it may takes months. Google works out how … it works out a call rate; how often it should call your website or index content from your website.
For example: if you are CNN and you’re posting new content every 5 minutes, guess what? Google knows that and is on their site calling that new content all the time. That’s how we see breaking news from CNN appear in Google search results immediately. If we’re a small business website and we only update our content but once a year, Google knows that you don’t update your content very regularly. Why should Google be on there every 5 minutes calling your content, you don’t update it. You got a call rate, and it might only call your website maybe once every few months. You find out that it doesn’t exist on Google, well guess what? You haven’t given it enough time for Google to recall your content and index that new content.
We can use those search tools within Google to do that. The other thing we can do, and a lot of people may not notice this but it’s been happening for some time now. As you type a search term into the search field Google might say, “Are you interested in this as the phrase?” It will give you auto suggest phrases. These are phrases that people type the most into Google. These are the most searched for phrases. Google’s telling us this as we type our search term. Once we’ve executed our search, at the bottom of our search page, at the end of the very first page, we might see related searches.
This is really useful information. This is available right there in Google search. Google webmaster tools, if you have a Google account, like a Gmail account or any other type of Google account, you can log into Google Webmaster Tools at Google.com/webmasters/tools, I believe it is. If you don’t adhere to Google’s rules about the links of your title tags, or your meta descriptions, and you type meta descriptions that are over 160 characters, Google will tell you in there – ‘you have meta descriptions that are too long’, you should change them. If there are four or [fall 00:29:59] errors, or pages that Google called at one point and has in it’s index but no longer exists, Google will tell you under call errors, receiving errors with these pages that we indexed.
It would also tell you problems with your html site map, if you had your html site map in there. If Google is going to penalize you for some reason, they will warn you, they will tell you in Google Webmaster tools before taking any action. They will say, “We are going to penalize you for doing something. We’re going to take an action against you. You have a period of time to fix this problem. If you don’t then we will penalize you.”
The same with security issues. If Google detects spam or malware on your site, an infection on your site, Google will tell you in Google Webmaster Tools. “We found an infection. We found malware on your site. You have a certain amount of time to clean this up, and if you don’t we will remove you from our index.”
This is an exceptionally important tool. Google is going to tell us in there when we do things right, and more importantly when we do things wrong. It is completely free. If you have a website, if you are a website owner it is essential. You have to, these days, add your website into Google Webmaster Tools. I’d also recommend Google Analytics as well and use those tools. I advise our customers check Google Webmaster Tools every couple of weeks, no less than every month. If Google is going to tell you something about your website, if you’re doing something wrong, you want to know. You want to be able to fix it quickly. Go in there and check it on a regular basis.
Frank Corso: Steve, that’s about all the time that we have. We do have a few wrap up questions real quick. If someone is brand new to WordPress what one plug in would you recommend for them to look at.
Steve Mortiboy: I would recommend All-in-One SEO Pack. We talked about how important being on Google is, and as well presence on Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn and other social media networks. All-in-one is an easy tool kit. It’s free of charge and it makes it easy for you to get that information to those channels; to Google, to Bing, to Facebook and Twitter, and all the other social networks.
Frank Corso: If a user wants to learn more about you, what is the best way for them to do that?
Frank Corso: Excellent. Any final words to the audience Steve?
Steve Mortiboy: The only thing is that Google and SEO is not a mystery. Google is very open about what it is that you can do as a website owner, or content publisher, to rank on Google. The other thing to understand about Google is: it is beholding to the people who are using it to search. It’s very important to remember Google is a private company. Google does as Google wants to do and there’s no way around it. We have to live with that fact. The same goes as well for the social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. If they do something and you don’t like it, unfortunately we have to live in a world where Facebook, and Google, and Twitter have all the power. We just need to understand the way they work and try and comply with what they want.
Frank Corso: All right, Steve. Thank you so much for being on tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you for sharing your SEO knowledge with us. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the show. Steve, you have a great night.
Steve Mortiboy: Thank you, Frank. It’s been a pleasure. Have a good night yourself.
Frank Corso: Hey guys. To the listeners of this podcast, Audible is offering a free audio book download with a free 30 day trial to give you the opportunity to check out their service. Go ahead and get a free book on SEO, or any other topic.
To download your free audiobook today go to thewpreport.com/freebook. Again, that’s thewpreport.com/freebook for your free audiobook.
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