The Cheapest & Easiest Way to Create a Wordpress Template

Today while walking through a mall to buy a penguin suit I noticed a guy wearing a backpack that had a pole above it with a LCD making weird noises pitching some marketing junk at me. In a world that saturated with marketing, offering value and speaking openly is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to gain authority.

Blogs are not good for every site, and they are not good for every person, but writing one opens you up to a wide array of links and that would otherwise likely remain unavailable. Blogging also helps you visualize what ideas are spreading, why they are spreading, who is important to know to help spread ideas, and how they were marketed to spread. If you know what ideas are spreading, why they are spreading, and who is spreading them then it gets much easier to create ideas that spread and ensure they spread. I recently had another site designed and wanted to add a blog to the site. I went over to Themespress, spent $10 and 10 minutes and got a Wordpress theme design that matched my original site. If you are in a market with lots of conversation and find your site lacking in the authority needed to compete it might be worth trying out blogging. If you decide it doesn't work for you then you really are not out that much for giving it a try.

Bob Massa Starts Blogging

An SEO older than dirt by the name of Bob Massa recently started an seo blog. Peter DaVanzo also started a new blog on link building, and Teeceo started a blog on programming and SEO.

Customizing Blog Page Titles & Fixing Common Blogger Template SEO Errors

If you have sites you have not looked at in years you might be missing out on a lot of profit. After drafting a post about things that will hurt your Google rankings I talked to my mom. Her site does not make as much as I think it should given it's age, so I looked for common SEO errors.

Getting a Baseline for Trust

In Google her site ranks about #70 for weight loss and #1 for weight loss blog. Those two data points tell me the site is well trusted, and their might be some old gold waiting to be leveraged. I also saw she was getting about 10% of the traffic I would have expected her to given her quantity of content, site age, and link profile.

Building Easy Links

Some of her pages were stuck in the supplemental results, so I got her a few more links. Now that Google killed the supplemental results tag it is much harder to check for supplemental results, though Jim Boykin offered some free tips.

Her site is aged, is fairly well trusted (based on the above rankings), and had acquired some high quality editorial links as it aged, so I didn't feel it was much a risk to go to some second tier directories to get a few more links. I also submitted her site to a couple of the better directories that I didn't submit to when I built the site a few links back in 2004. I mixed up the anchor text where I could (weightloss vs weight loss, use diet sometimes, weblog vs blog, etc).

Improving Page Titles

The page titles were not relevant. They all placed the site name at the start of the page title, which reduces rankings and CTR. This was a two fold fault: back in early 2004 I was less of a search marketer and I think Blogger was a weaker platform. I didn't realize one could customize the page titles in Blogger to make it modularized.

Customizing Blogger Blog Page Titles

The following code works for creating different page titles for the homepage, archives, and individual entries

<title>Fatty Weight Loss</title>
<title>Archive of</title>
<BlogItemTitle><title><$BlogItemTitle$> :</title></BlogItemTitle></ItemPage>

Warning: when I updated my mom's Blogger Template Google messed up her AdSense code, so I had to go back in and fix that.

Customizing Wordpress Blog Page Titles

You can also easily customize Wordpress page titles, likeso:

if ( is_home() ) echo "blog homepage title";
if(wp_title('', false)) {
echo 'ending content for other pages';

Other Common WordPress Errors

Wordpress generates a feed for each URL, which should be blocked in robots.txt pages. Graywolf also highlighted other common errors here

Customizing MovableType Templates

In the past I also talked about how to hack up MovableType templates here.

Tips for Ensuring Your Page Titles Pack a Punch

A good practice to ensure page titles are unique make sure to search your site and the web in general for your title before you use it. This prevents excessive duplication of topics and titles. One can also look at free keyword research tools to add some of those words to the page title or post content.

Some titles should be written for human response more than search engines, especially if they are emotionally charged posts. You can get a near endless dose of headline ideas, tips, and tricks at Copyblogger.

Category & Date Based Archives

Ideally I should also help my mom set up blog categories, and use those to structure the site instead of having the archives organized by date. If we had enough time to go through and categorize all the old posts, integrated those categories into our template, and saw those category pages got indexed in the major search engines, it would be best to block Googlebot from indexing the date based archives using robots.txt.

If you create categories it is best not to go crazy with them. Depending on your blog size, link authority, and content breadth, anywhere from a half dozen to a few dozen main categories can be aligned with core key phrases and help structure your site. It may also make sense to highlight key categories site-wide, and promote less popular categories on fewer pages. Notice that Copyblogger link I just referenced above pointed at a category page. Category based archives are much easier to reference than date based archives.

Readability & Formatting

Many of my mom's posts ran all the text together in one imposing block of text. I showed her an example edited post, which spread the text out, used sub-headers and lists, and had much better readability.

Blogger was already syndicating her feed as a full feed. As long as she has decent link equity that is fine. If her site was new it might make sense to use partial feeds until some link equity is built up.

Canonicalization & Duplicate Content

Originally the site's logo linked to the index.shtml version of the home page. I changed that to link to the root URL (

The internal linking structure all uses www in the URLs. The non www version of the site automatically redirects to the www version of the site. If it did not I would have changed the .htaccess file to 301 redirect one version to the other more popular version.

Feature Content

People want to be inspired and to see that you are proud of your site. But after a blog is online long enough it resembles a forum, where everything is too hard to find. Who knew my mom had a good post about using a grocery cart as a work out tool? The lack of categorization is one of the big things that hurt my mom's blog, but another is that we have not yet singled out featured posts that should be promoted site-wide. Some bloggers do this manually, while others rely on plug-ins to place extra weight on popular articles.

Promoting your best posts sends a disproportionate number of readers toward them, which should lead to more subscribers. It also pushes a disproportionate amount of link equity toward them, which should help them rank better. I added free weight loss calculators to her site as one type of featured content, but we should highlight some of her other featured posts. Another thing that would help make the site more search friendly would be more in content referencing of older high quality posts when they relate to newer posts, as that would help those posts get seen by more people and help search engines understand which blog posts are the most important.

Less Writing, Higher Quality

Value Blogging is In

Brian Clark recently highlighted that while valuable blogs continue to gain traction, the bloggers who were only popular because they were early are seeing diminished traffic and are fading in relevancy.
It makes sense that many of the original bloggers would fade because blogging about oneself is narcissistic and highly irrelevant to most readers, while blogging about technology and the web is quite easy, and there are thousands of people doing it.

What Makes Content Valuable?

The difference between value and non-value content is how unique the content and thoughts are, and how actionable the content is. If everyone else reads the same channels you and I do then us posting about their information has little value. In an ironic twist, that is one likely reason this is a low value post.

The Importance of Formatting & Framing

Almost all content ideas are recycled. The key is to target your message to an audience and format your message in a way that gives you credit as being the thought leader who came up with it. Jakob Nielson continued his (well structured) rants against blogging with Write Articles, Not Blog Postings. He didn't have to call thin low value information blog posts, but he did to help target his message at bloggers and have them spread his message.

Information Pollution

From Jakob's article

Even if you're the world's top expert, your worst posting will be below average, which will negatively impact on your brand equity. If you do start a blog despite my advice, at least screen your postings: wait an hour or two, then reread your comments and avoid uploading any that are average or poor. (Even average content undermines your brand. Don't contribute to information pollution by posting material that isn't above the average of other people's writings.)

The best channels, the ones worth paying attention to, filter. They are valuable as much for what they DON'T publish as they are for what they do publish. If you have an ad supported business model then information pollution is an effective means to increase profit margins, but if you sell consulting and/or content a different approach is required:

Elite, expertise-driven sites are the exception to the rule. For these sites, you don't care about 90% of users, because they want a lower level of quality than you provide and they'll never pay for your services. People looking for the quick hit and free advice are not your customers. Let them eat cake; let them read Wikipedia.

The reason TropicalSEO is so good is that Andy only publishes every once in a while. If you publish everyday eventually you run out of stuff to say. Blogging is just like writing songs or books. Each writer only has so much in them before they have to take a break to gather their thoughts and find more material to write about.

Jakob also mentioned that by writing longer articles that you create content which is not only of greater value, but hard to duplicate. It is why my book is read more frequently than my best blog posts, and part of what makes writing 20 page articles fun and worthwhile .

Are New Bloggers Experts?

I think we are all experts at things we have experienced, but any field worth being in takes a while to become an expert. To become a publicly recognized expert you have to

  • garner attention and keep it

  • develop many social and business relationships
  • build a personal brand
  • have thick skin

The hard part about writing in depth stuff when you are new to a market is that if you are still learning there is little upside to trying to write beyond your knowledge level. When I did that people took time out of their day to email me reminding me of what a horrible human being I am. I still get some of that.

A better approach to getting traction for a new blog is to add an element of social interaction to it, leveraging the brand and reach of others. Awards, interviews, and contests work great. After you get a bit of attention make sure to follow that up with some higher value content to turn one time readers into subscribers. It is hard to imagine a blog market more saturated than SEO, and yet in 3 weeks Patrick Altoft built 10,000 links.

How to Lose Relevancy

One can talk about the current hot memes, like Squidoo spam is right now, but ultimately nobody cares to read 31,843 people blogging about Terry Semel stepping down. The only way to build a brand talking up memes is to be the person who started the meme, or have such influence that you can re-frame the meme and gain ownership of it.

Deleting Garbage

As content quality improves short me too posts end up costing more than what they are worth. I have known of people who deleted a year and a half of archives because it wasn't worth the link equity the content was wasting, when it could be spread across higher value content.

The threshold for usefulness will continue to increase as more content is available online in richer and more interactive formats.

When Garbage Content is an Effective Monetization Strategy

Internet marketing advice is rarely universally useful. Here are 3 cases where low value information pollution is an effective strategy:

  • If you are in a market full of garbage it is not hard to beat it by being slightly different and then bolting a bit of linkbait onto it. In many consumer finance markets just rewriting the affiliate feed is all you need to start getting traction.

  • If you have an older authoritative site and are not effectively monetizing it you can add a related offer sections.
  • If you are a blog or a media website that regularly publishes news you can backdate commercially oriented posts or publish special advertisement sections without adding noise to your main channel (blog, newsletter, RSS feed, homepage, etc).

Why an RSS Subscriber is Worth 1,000 Links

The type of people who subscribe to sites are also the type of people who write about that topic. If you have built up trust and a following your ideas spread faster than the competition. It builds on itself to the point where you can sell out in 8 minutes or 2 minutes. Selling out gives the perception of scarcity and creates more demand. Viral free marketing creating more free marketing...that is as good as it gets.

In many cases the quality of the idea does not matter as much as who said it. If a no name person launched Truemors would it have become popular enough to where I would have just linked to it as an example? If a no name site with no following, little traction, and no marketing budget does something great how will it spread?

The Haunting Archives of Ethically Driven Publishers

As long as Google allows webmasters to report spam and report paid links, few will question how much webspam Google sponsors. As long as they are the lead corporate sponsor of Stop Badware few will think of their Toolbar as spam.

Some of the A list bloggers who trashed paid reviews, are talking up the virtues of conversational marketing, forgetting what they just wrote. The hard part of being a well known blogger is that as one gains exposure, influence, experience, friends, enemies, and a large archives it is easy to appear hypocritical. This is especially true on a rapidly changing network, where successful people change with the network, and advertising techniques that were once unethical are mainstream a year or two later.

Reporters Read Your Blog Comments

This is at least the second time that I was mentioned in the mainstream media where journalists read blog comments to look for sources to cite.

If you see a hot story spreading don't be afraid to jump on it, especially if you have specific details related to the story, or your view is counter to the popular view. Journalists want sources, numbers, and to appear unbiased.

Don't Trust Blog Comments From 24.208.220.xx

I generally get mostly positive feedback here, but sometimes I stir stuff a bit and get negative feedback. Over the last year nearly half of my negative feedback has came from the IP address 24.208.220.xx. The funny thing is, no positive comments come from that IP address, and nearly every comment they leave has a different name signed to it.

  • John was worried about me having a Trojan in some software. So worried, in fact, that he also left another comment on the same post under the name Matthew.

  • Mark claimed SEO for Firefox violated Firefox's trademark.
  • Robin claimed I was an idiot for saying that AdWords was less stable than SEO.
  • Stacy made the ignorant comment that search spamming is against the law.
  • Marty thought Elite Retreat looked way overpriced.
  • Steven called me a jackass.
  • Shawn stated he thought I was afraid the Internet was affecting my job security.
  • Big John claimed that I had wrote yet another whiny post.
  • Steve, Kyle, Talk Radio, Mary J, kind of funny, and Charles Tomey all thought SEO Elite was the best thing since sliced bread, which might explain why they so adamently hate Backlink Analyzer and SEO for Firefox.

If they thought they were so clever with all the rude comments, why were they too stupid to change their IP address when they wrote them?

If a lot of people are throwing hate your way make sure to check the IP address. In some cases it is just one person who really hates you. :)

The Value of Blogging & Editorial Content in a New Market

If you wanted to enter a new market one of the easiest ways to get ready to enter it is to start a blog or editorial content site about the topic. An editorial site has the following advantages over a straight commercial site

  • It is easier to link at an informational site. There is a huge pool of links open to bloggers that is not open to purely commercial sites. There are people out there who WILL NOT link to commercial sites but will link to content sites.

  • It is also easier to trust a commentator as an unbiased industry source than a person building a new company.
  • If you write things that are link worthy they will spread much more quickly than if they were hidden away deep inside a commercial site.
  • When you write you create connections and gain exposure and trust, all of which can be leveraged to help push your ideas or get feedback on your ideas.
  • If you seem like a fan of your topic it is far easier to access people with competing business interests, before they even think of you as competition.
  • By studying and tracking a topic without committing to any business model, you learn the topic and then can build a business around opportunity.

6 Reasons I Shouldn't Blog (and Sell an ebook)

Many people are promoting a meme on why they blog and why you should blog. I thought I would cover it from the other angle.

What are the downsides of running a popular blog and selling an information product?

  1. Some people like my site design so much that they steal it. looks sharp. I have seen many other derivatives that were a bit more creative, derivatives of everything from my sales copy to graphics, to whole design.

  2. My sales letter states clearly that my ebook is an ebook. And my mini sales letter says available for your immediate download. Yet daily I get asked when it will ship.
  3. Some people wonder why I don't allow them to resell my ebook on their site for less than I sell it for on mine (commoditizing my perceived product value), and why I don't permit selling it on eBay (because people would just do it over and over again).
  4. Affiliates scrape friends content, and post it without attribution, then wrap it in affiliate banners for my site, then want to give me crap when I disable their accounts, as though they weren't doing something illegal or sketchy. Do I need terms of service that state "don't steal?"
  5. So much manual comment spam that I probably assumed some legitimate comments to have ill intent, and ended up having to remove the URL box.
  6. Public relations spam. No personalization. No originality. No value. Just pushing garbage. Daily.

I love SEO and I love marketing. But there are a couple different types of people who are drawn toward it.

  1. Those who are curious, probe and test, want to create real value and leverage the value they create.

  2. Those who want a free ride. The people who will buy your ebook and not read it, email spam you asking for links, comment spam your blog and blow up when you stop them, request feedback on how to improve their site, and then reverse charge their credit card.

The first group is where I have met so many friends and business partners, and the reason I continue to work on this site. I wish I could automatically detect members of that second group and 301 redirect them to another site.