What Is SEO and Why Is It Important?

So what is this thing they call SEO and why does it matter? For your company’s website, it matters. It matters a lot. Careers are launched around it. Certifications gathered in it. Sites are developed to maximize it. Okay, it’s not saving lives, but it’s pretty important.  And as a marketing specialist, I know just enough about SEO to make me dangerous… I mean helpful.  For our purposes, I’ll explain how it impacts our company site and what we’ve done to maximize SEO on our WordPress site.

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Define: SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization: the process by which a website is prepared or affected for visibility in organic search results as opposed to paid search results. Back in the day, key words were hidden within the site’s code and captured by search engines, thereby enabling your site to rank higher in search results. Today, those same keywords aren’t hidden, but almost exploited. And with today’s incredible web volume and the importance of visibility in marketing, SEO has become more significant than ever.

Choose your keywords carefully

Your keywords, or the words that a potential client would use to search for your business, and keyword research are crucial to creating a good SEO plan. Too few, and your site won’t show up in in the first page or two of a search. Too many, and you’re attracting unqualified leads. Your keywords should appear in your page titles, headlines and copy. But that’s not all. The rules and guidelines to obtain the correct balance is mind boggling. Employing a trained SEO expert in your initial site set up, as we did at Custom Systems through SemDrive will give your site a huge advantage. Our SEO expert implemented a plan and optimized our site, page-by page. Maintaining our SEO utilizing a WordPress plugin like “WordPress SEO” takes the guess work out of proper and improper key word use and placement. The plugin gives each page a red, yellow, or green light to indicate the success of that page’s content. It also makes recommendations on where to add key words to improve SEO.

Wait and see

SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Once the WordPress SEO plugin gives each page an SEO green light, you won’t see an immediate bump in traffic. It can take up to three weeks for your site changes to catch up to Google and Bing. Once this happens, hopefully you’ll see an increase in traffic or even an increase in blog spam. Both are good, and show you that your plan is working. Eliminating that spam through a WordPress plugin is another story, for another blog post.

It doesn’t end here

SEO is a moving target and should be monitored constantly. I review our SEO strategy and analytics monthly.  I rely heavily on my WordPress dashboard and plugin to help me to update and tweak keywords, SEO titles, meta descriptions and page content. I also use Google Analytics to track and capture the success of our program.

While seeing those improved numbers in your analytics is pretty cool, real-life confirmation is even better. I recently spoke to someone, now a client, who told me that we must be exactly who his company needed because every time he searched for their necessary IT solution, there we were. That’s when you know your SEO is working.

I’d love to hear more about your SEO strategy. What’s worked for you and what have you found to be most challenging?

 

LynnLynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist
Lynn.McGinnis@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

Favorite 5 WordPress Plug Ins

wordpresslogoWhen you think of creating a WordPress site, remember that’s just the beginning. Think of it as a blank canvas. Sure, it contains your site content. But now it’s up to you, to make it more engaging, to capture data and draw more followers. And it won’t happen without a little help.  This is where a few really good plug ins can help.

What is a plugin, you ask?

A plug in is a software component that adds a feature or benefit to your site. The open platform design of WordPress.org has allowed for the development of literally thousands of really great and completely free plugins and if necessary, more pretty inexpensive options as well.

How do you choose?

Before writing this post, I did a quick Google search on plugins. What I found was a head-spinning number of articles written with top 10, 20, 30, even 40 plugins.  How do you choose?

When selecting our site’s plugins, I wanted real-life experience to draw upon. I found user reviews to be really helpful. And of course, the idea that there are so many options also helps. If a plugin doesn’t work, you can just  find another.  My trials (and a few minor errors), lead me to these Favorite 5 WordPress Plug Ins:

  1. WordPress SEO – WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
  2. Google Analytics for WordPress – This plugin makes it simple to add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog, adding lots of features, eg. custom variables and automatic click out and download tracking. Just copy your customized account code from your established Google Analytics page and paste it on the plug in page on your site. Done.
  3. Email Before Download – This plugin seamlessly integrates two popular plugins (Contact Form 7 and Download Monitor) to create a simple shortcode for requesting an end-user to fill out a form before providing the download URL. Once downloaded, the site administrator can track all downloads within the dashboard.
  4. Formilla Live Chat – Free Live Chat. No strings attached. You’ll see the chat tab on the bottom of every page on our site. We set the hours and man this chat ourselves. After hours, the chat icon changes to an email icon. Support? Awesome. We recently changed our URL and had questions about the switch. One email to these guys and I got a reply within hours – outside of regular hours. They also use their plug in so live chat is available on their site as well.
  5. Broken Link Checker – Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found. This plug in gives me peace of mind.  As your site gets bigger, your posts more frequent, the chances of broken links will increase. 

WordPress.org was created as, and remains a powerful blogging tool that  has evolved into so much more, I think primarily because of the availability of plugins. I’m certain that as my skills increase this list will change. For now, these Favorite 5 WordPress Plug Ins do exactly what I need them to do — help to make us look good.

 

LynnLynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist
Lynn.McGinnis@CustomSystems.com

 

 

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

 

Safety First in WordPress.org Blog

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In my last blog, I eluded to a little mistake I made when I accidentally deleted an important page on our site. When I realized what I’d done I panicked a little… okay, maybe a little more than a little.  Of course panic wouldn’t help restore my page so I retraced my steps. My first stop was the Dashboard where I could click through to the page menu and review all of my pages. And there it was, right at the top of my page list – “deleted pages”. I clicked, restored, done. Whew!  Until that moment, I hadn’t even realized that WordPress.org kept this list of published, draft and deleted pages. Good to know.

In hindsight, I realize that was a pretty simple fix. And I think it’s reasonable to expect to have a few missteps and maybe a few accidentally deleted pages as you create your site. The point is, it’s not the end of the world.  There are a few safeguards built in to a WordPress.org site to help protect your site… and you.

One of those safeguards includes “versions”. Each time you update a page, the version before is kept as a backup.  Should you decide to return to a previous version of a page, all page revisions are saved. By looking back over the timeline, just click back to where you want to restore or view the html version of the previous revisions. Either way, you click the link to the associated page, click restore and save. Done.

Recently, I had to make changes to a new page on our site that involved an image linked to a downloadable PDF. No matter what I did, the image kept popping up above the page header, rather than below. I clicked back and forth, through my revisions and made some changes, until I found my mistake. I’ve only had to use this safety net a few times but was grateful for the time it saved.

What happens when there’s a more serious issue to your company’s site? I think it’s always best to be prepared. When you register your domain or website address and establish hosting, be sure your web hosting company will provide regular site back up. Do not assume it’s included in your package. Periodically, WordPress.org will provide software updates. If you’re using a customized template, it’s always a good idea to be sure a backup has been done prior to updating the software.  This is also true when updating any plug-ins you might be using on your site.

I want to be very clear that this discussion relates to a simple business site and not an Ecommerce site. No money or private information is shared on our site and so security risks and requirements are quite different.

LynnLynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist
Lynn.McGinnis@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

Confessions of a Marketing Communications Specialist…

I’m a wanna-be IT geek. There, I said it. One small wrinkle – I have no formal IT training/education.  And yet imagine how excited I was to learn that I would be responsible for maintaining the new Custom Systems Corporation’s WordPress website! Now, I just had to learn WordPress. The brief training our website development team at SemDrive did was a great start that enabled me to make simple changes and add pages. But I need to know more.  I want to share my experience with you, over the next few months, as I learn WordPress and work to maintain and improve our company website.

Let’s start with a little background.

I am not a programmer or an analyst. I am a marketing communications specialist. What does that mean? The practice in the field of marketing communication is to become a master at all forms of communication. The idea being, that we can adapt into whichever niche we’re placed. Regardless of the field – IT, banking, fashion or manufacturing – words are words. While grammar and spelling should be maintained in all areas of business writing, it’s really just style and content that changes.

I know what you’re thinking (wink, wink), my adaptive personality makes me the ideal candidate to manage the site, right? Thank you, I think you’re right! Here’s another little secret that has helped me – I once taught myself HTML coding and even set up a corporate intra-net site. I mention this, because in the few months I’ve spent learning WordPress, my knowledge of HTML coding has been invaluable.

Why WordPress.org?            

Many people know WordPress as a blogging platform, and that is true, but there are two associated sites. WordPres.com is a free hosting site most often associated with blogging. Because it’s free, you will have ads on your site.  While WordPress.org is an open-source, self-hosting website development site. We chose WordPress.org for its ease of access, use and ability to customize. Our domain name is registered and hosted, through GoDaddy.com. Our site developer was able to take a WordPress template and customize it through a design and corporate branding created by Truth Boost.

Look at what I’ve done!

As you follow me over the next few months, I’ll show you real-time examples of what I’m working on that you’ll be able to see as you wander around our website. For example, right now you’ll see new pages I’ve added, including: Careers and Help Desk. I can tell you about new plug-ins that have helped me and how I’ve learned from my mistakes (like the time I accidentally deleted our client log-in page!). In the meantime, take a look around and reply below to tell me what you think.

 

LynnLynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist
Lynn.McGinnis@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014