One of my goals for 2010 was to learn to do SEO on my sites.

Throughout the year I’ve invested close to about $10,000 into courses, software, testing and outsource salaries to learn and test various search engine optimization strategies.

More and more now I’m getting people asking me about SEO tips for their websites, especially from regular brick-n-mortar business owners who want to get their sites ranked ahead of the competition.

Why SEO is Important

In the “real” world, retail business owners know that one of the most important aspects of opening a successful retail business is location.

A half-decently ran business in a prime location will outperform a perfectly ran operation in the wrong location.

Why is that?

Well, the reason for it is because the right retail location will get you a lot of customer traffic. Even if your product or service isn’t perfect, if your location gets enough targeted traffic, your business will do better than a business with a better product or service in the wrong location.

In the online world, location is also everything.

The location you want to be is on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing for targetted keywords.

What most people don’t realize is that 99% of people never go past the first page of search results listings when searching for a keyword.

Meaning, if someone searches for “keyword” in Google, they will only pay attention to the first 10 results.

So if your business is listed as #57 for that keyword term, that is completely useless. Nobody will find you there.

Search engine listings are NOT like the Yellow Pages. Simply being “on the list” is not good enough. You must be in the Top 10. If you’re not in the Top 10, you’re invisible.

When I do consulting for businesses, one of the biggest mistakes I see almost all of them making is that they try to rank for 1,000′s of keywords at the same time.

When I run a report for them, they might have a keyword profile that looks like something like this:

They may rank in the Top 100 or Top 50 for dozens and dozens of keywords and they’re proud of it, totally unaware that a keyword profile like that is totally USELESS for their business.

The reason why is because here is the amount of traffic they get for those keywords:

Do you see what I mean? It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Top 100 for a BILLION keywords, if none of them are getting you any traffic then that is totally useless.

Instead, if that company focused their SEO efforts on just ONE keyword that gets a decent amount of traffic and then got in the TOP 10 for that keyword, they would actually get some traffic!

The same thing is true for Blogs.

As a Blogger, to build your traffic, you shouldn’t try to rank in the Top 100 for 1,000 different keyword terms. You should try to rank in the TOP 10 for just a handful of keywords. Start with ONE and when you’re in the TOP 10 for one keyword, expand out to the next one.

That’s how I’ve built the traffic on this Blog to over 22,000 visitors per month.

The Challenge with SEO

After learning the ins and outs of SEO for over a year now, I have discovered that there are a few challenges with SEO.

First of all, SEO is not something that is easy to grasp for the average person, especially if you don’t have a technical background.

I consider myself a pretty sharp guy when it comes to technology, and even for me understanding SEO is not easy. There are a LOT of moving parts that need to fit together to produce a result.

After a year of messing around SEO I feel like I am finally getting a good grasp on SEO techniques. I’m able to build a site and get it ranked for some pretty competitive keywords within about 6 months of launch. If the site is on a domain that has some history, I can produce results even faster.

However, there is a LOT of work involved in producing results, especially since everything I do is based on “White Hat” techniques. I don’t do any kind of Black Hat SEO or anything even remotely “shady” as the sites that I work on cannot afford to take any chances in getting banned by Google. Everything has to be perfectly “Google Friendly” or I don’t do it.

Because of this, I have to have very strict standards for what I do and how I do it. Very little of what I do can be outsourced to “cheap” outsource workers as many of them follow “spammy” SEO strategies which I won’t do.

A proper SEO strategy is not really that difficult, once you know what you’re doing, but it does require creative thinking and is very time/labor intensive.

However, if properly executed, a proper SEO strategy can get your website ranked in the TOP 10, and possibly even in the TOP 3 for a highly traffic’d keyword and your traffic can literally explode overnight.

I have done this for a few consulting clients over the last 6 months and they have had some incredible results which produced tangible gains to their bottom line. However, to hire me to do this you for you a minimum budget of around $3,000 – $5,000/month is required and you will need to give it at least 3-6 months to see results.

Once you see the results, I guarantee they will be well worth the investment for your business, but not everyone has that kind of money to invest up-front. Especially since there is no guarantee if you’ll see results in one month or six.

So, is there a better way for small businesses or even Bloggers?

Well, for about 3-4 months now I’ve been testing out a new service that promises something no other SEO firm out there offers – not even me if you hire me. 🙂

SEO Service takes a totally different approach to SEO services. Instead of a person paying for SEO services up-front and then hoping to see results a few weeks or months later, SEO Service only charges you a fee once they produce results.

Meaning, only once you rank for your chosen keywords do they charge you their fees. If they can’t get you ranked for the first three months, you pay nothing.

There are no setup fees either, in case you’re thinking that there is a catch.

I must admit that when I first heard of SEO Service I was highly skeptical. Their model seemed too good to be true. Meaning, they are taking all the risk and the prices they are quoting for keyword rankings are NOT very expensive.
How SEO Service Works

Let me show you guys how they work.

I’ll use this Blog as an example. The first thing we do is go to their website. Once we arrive there we are greeted with this prompt:

Once you enter in your website, it will ask you for the first keyword you.

Once you type in your keyword the software runs some real-time calculations and it will tell you exactly how long it will take to rank for that keyword. Here’s my report:

So, as you can see if I wanted to rank for the keyword on this Blog, those are the monthly fees I would have to pay only once I am ranked.

If after month 1 I was ranked #123, I would still pay nothing, even though they would be working on doing SEO optimization for my site for that keyword.

If fact, even if after five months of SEO optimization they were still unable to rank my site for that keyword, I would still pay nothing.

It is only once I got I start to pay.

So basically, until they produce results, you don’t have to pay anything.

Another thing that’s pretty cool about their software is that when you type in a keyword like “personalized coffee mugs”, their software automatically gives you suggestions for other keywords as well.

For example, here they are suggesting I go with “customized coffee mugs” which gets 27,010 searches per month as compared to “personalized coffee mugs” which only gets 9,900 searches.

Now, here’s a very important point.

Pretty soon you have a million websites using the term on their websites because they see all their competitors doing the same thing, and not realizing that their customers don’t refer to that product by that name.

It’s the classic case of the blind leading the blind. Or in this case, the blind copying the blind who also copied the blind.

As I said, SEO is not easy to understand, because a lot of it is based on understanding human psychology combined with technology.

I have spent several hours trying to explain this one single concept to a client before and they weren’t really grasping the concept. They couldn’t understand why a keyword with LESS traffic would be more expensive. 🙂

Anyway, the point here is that when you are picking your keyword through SEO Service, look through the suggestions they give you and get quotes on the different keyword before choosing which keyword you want to focus on.

Don’t assume that just because a keyword is getting more traffic, that it will be more expensive. There are plenty of keywords out there that get very little traffic and cost a lot of money, while other keywords get a lot of high quality traffic, but have very little competition for some reason and you can get them for a much cheaper price.

What Happens Next

Once you choose your keyword(s) that you would like SEO Service to start working on for you, simply click the “GO” button beside your domain. You will be taken to a page where you create your account. Once you create an account SEO Service will go through and approve your website / keyword within about 24hours (or less).

Don’t worry too much about the approval process, it’s easy to get approved. I think they just do a manual approval to make sure you’re choosing an appropriate keyword, and that you haven’t spelled something wrong or that you haven’t chosen a keyword that’s totally inappropriate for your website.

Once you are approved, they go to work and you sit back and wait for results.

It really IS that easy.

I was quite surprised by this, because it seems too good to be true, but it’s not.

So far I’ve tested them on four different websites with four different keywords and they are starting to produce results. For one very competitive keyword that gets a lot of traffic, they have been able to place me #22 on Google for it so far. This is with zero work on my side, and it’s for a keyword that this website had no previous ranking for.

I specifically chose that keyword on purpose to test them out. I picked a really hard, high traffic keyword for them to go after, because I wanted to see if they can deliver before I recommend them to other people.

So far I haven’t been disappointed.

Is There a Catch?

There is no catch to using their service. There are a few things to keep in mind though.

Firstly, they ask for a six-month commitment to see results. Don’t expect them to produce results overnight. That goes for any kind of SEO work. This is one of those “set it and forget it” type of services. Of course you can monitor your progress in your account with them, but you shouldn’t expect to see any real progress in the first few months. You may see results right away, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t.

They may take the entire 5-6 month time frame to get you ranked in the Top 10. Of course, until they produce results you don’t have to pay so it’s not that big of a risk.

Secondly, don’t pick a low traffic keyword if you can get high traffic keyword for the same or even lower price. Use your brain a little. If you can get ranked for “keyword x” which gets 10,000 searches/month and costs $200/m for the Top 3 spot, OR you can get ranked for “keyword y” which gets 350,000 searches/month and costs $220/m for the Top 3 spot – go for Keyword Y! You’ll potentially get 35 times as much traffic for just a few dollars more.

It’s better to go after one or a few high traffic keywords than a whole bunch of low traffic keywords. This is not the time to pick a super specific “long tail” keyword.

Thirdly, one final thing that I think is pretty cool about their services. Once you get ranked in the Top 10, such as for example in the #8 spot – let’s say that you no longer want them to spend their energy trying to get you ranked above that. Such as for example if the #1-#7 spots are taken up by very popular websites which you can’t possibly compete with.

In such a case, you can set that specific keyword into mode, where you pay 50% of the monthly pricing to keep it there. They no longer do any SEO optimization for that keyword, but they might not need to in order to keep you in the #8 spot for example. So in this way you could save yourself some money once you are ranked.

Of course if all of a sudden you drop down to the #12 spot and you want them to do some more SEO to get you back in the TOP 10, you can do that and the price goes back up to regular until you switch the keyword back into maintenance mode.


As part of my plan to make my blog better, and to improve its SEO architecture, I’ve made some improvements to my categories and tag structure.

Better Blog SEO – Categories

After some extensive research on WordPress SEO as it relates to category structure, I’ve come to the realization that…

WordPress is not as SEO optimized “out of the box” as we think.

First of all, I’ll admit right up front that I’m no SEO expert or anything, but I am learning and it’s not hard to see that there are many improvements that can be made to WordPress to make your blog SEO better.

Firstly, let’s talk about category structure itself.

Is it better to have a smaller set of more generic categories?

Or is it better to have very detailed sub-categories?

Which is better for (SEO) search engine optimization?

After a lot of research on this, and sorting through a lot of outdated / conflicting information as well, I’ve realized that 100% of my category structure decision making should be aimed at improving the user experience for my readers and not the search engines.

In fact, I’m actually telling the search engines not to even index my category pages. Here’s why…

When Google comes to my site, it sees a list of my latest blog posts in the content section of my Blog. In the sidebar it has a listing of my Blog categories. If I allow Google to follow those category links and index my category pages, that could potentially create problems for my site structure.

The problem it can create is that my category pages might start to compete with my post pages. Here’s how that happens.

Let’s say that I have a Blog post that I’ve written on “Blog Contest Ideas”. Now, let’s say that I have a category called “Blog Contest Ideas” as well.

So, let’s say that the URL to my post is this:

(URL 1) http://www.example.com/2010/06/28/blog-contest-ideas

and the URL to my category page is:

(URL 2) http://www.example.com/category/blog-post-ideas

What can end up happening is that Google might index that Blog Post (URL 1), and then index the Category Page (URL 2) and decide that for the keyword “blog contest ideas” the Category Page (URL 2) is more relevant or has more priority than the post, so it ends up using that page in its index.

Does this happen?

Yes, more often than you’d think. I’ve seen a lot of WordPress sites (including my own) which are setup this way and the category pages end up competing with your own post pages. Most Bloggers are totally unaware that this is happening too.

Why is this bad?

Well, the reason this is bad is because your Category Pages are typically not the best content on your site. The default WordPress category page is butt ugly. It gives you a listing of the top 5 or top 10 posts in a specific category with excerpts for each one.

Imagine a user who goes to Google and searches for “blog contest ideas”. When he clicks on a link to your site, do you think he wants to see your actual post, or do you think he wants to see an “in-between” page with a bunch of excerpts and then have to click once again to see the actual post?

I’m sure you’ve searched for stuff on Google before and landed on one of these “in-between” pages where once again you have to click on something else, right? Most people don’t bother, they just click the Back button and go to the next listing.

Bottom line is that the default WordPress category listing page is probably not going to be as relevant and useful to your new visitor as the actual page they were looking for in the first place. So unless you get into some more advanced WordPress SEO strategies like creating customized Category Pages for each category, it’s better to turn off category indexing all-together.

How to Stop Google from Indexing Your Category Pages

Getting Google to stop indexing your category pages is actually a little tricky.

Here are a couple of WordPress SEO ninja tricks you can do to accomplish this.

STEP 1

Sitemap – Exclude Categories – First of all, if you are using the XML Sitemap Generator plugin for WordPress (if you aren’t, you should), make sure that in your settings under “Sitemap Content”, you only select “Include Homepage”, “Include Posts” and “Include Static Pages”.

In other words, turn everything else off including “Include Categories”. Then, rebuild your sitemap. This will prevent WordPress from sending Google a sitemap that includes your category listings.

This is a big step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Here’s the next step.

STEP 2

Even if you don’t include your category pages in your sitemap, Google may still choose to index your category pages because in most cases there is a link to each category page right off your home page in a sidebar.

So, we need to tell Google not to index the category pages using this tag:

What this does is that when Google gets to your category page, this tag will tell it to not to index the Category Page, but to follow the links on that page (to your individual posts). Of course you want Google to follow the links so that it can flow through to your individual posts. You just don’t want Google indexing your category pages themselves, that’s all.

Doing this manually is kind of a pain in the butt. Thankfully, there is a cool plugin which can do this for you. This plugin actually has a whole bunch of cool features which allow you to tell Google which pages you want it to index and follow. You can learn more about how to use this free plugin here:

If you do these steps correctly, you should see no reference to any of your category pages in your sitemap ( www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml ) and you should see the Robots tag I mentioned above in the source view on any of your category pages.

If any of your Category Pages have been indexed by Google it may take a while for them to be taken out of the index.

When I did this on one of my clients sites, his category page dropped out of the Google index and was replaced by the actual post we wanted to get indexed within a few days. So this method definitely works, it just might take a few days.

Better Blog SEO – Tags

Now that we got categories somewhat figured out, what about tags?

Well, what can be said about categories can pretty much be said about tags as well.

Generally speaking, you probably don’t want your Tag Pages to be outranking your actual content either. Once again, why would you want to send your Google visitors to an “in-between” page when you can take them directly to the most relevant post?

How to Stop Google from Indexing Your Tag Pages

This is actually quite simple. Just follow the exact same process I described above for categories.

First, change the settings in your XML Sitemaps plugin settings to not add your tag pages into the sitemap.

While you’re there, you might as well leave out your archives, and author pages as well unless you run a multi-author Blog and have a very specific reason you want your author pages indexed.

Next, just like with the categories you will want to add in that Robots meta tag into your Tag Pages. Once again, we can accomplish this with the same plugin.

Better Blog Navigation – Fewer Categories, More Descriptive Tags

Since I combined my Blogs, I’ve always meant to go back and clean up my categories. There are way too many categories that I have which only have like one or two posts within them and then some that have way too many posts within them.

Obviously the ones that have just a few posts are way too specific, and the ones that have too many posts are not specific enough. So what I’m doing is converting some of these very specific categories into Tags instead, and then I’ll probably split up some of my more generic categories into more specific ones.

The whole purpose of re-organizing my categories like this is to help improve the navigation of my Blog for my readers, and has nothing to do with SEO anymore.

Converting Categories Into Tags in WordPress

Going through all of your posts and converting Categories into Tags used to be a pain in the butt. However, my brother showed me a cool trick in WordPress where you can convert your categories into tags using a tool built right into the WordPress platform.

Category Category to Tag ConverterIt’s a bit hard to find this tool, but Bart showed me that it’s just a small little link on the Categories page in WordPress Admin ( Posts > Categories ). At the bottom of the page in the bottom right hand corner you’ll find a link that says “category to tag converter”.

Click on it and it will allow you to select which categories you can convert to tags.