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Is Your Blog Template Holding You Back?

This Guest Post was written by Wendy Piersall from eMoms at Home.

In the first few months of blogging, there was SO much to learn. I figured that SEO was one of those battles I would tackle once I was “more established”. But after 9 months or so, I hired a professional designer to develop a custom template for my blog. Quite literally the next day, my search engine traffic doubled. Soon I went from 800 referrals a month to nearly 2400 monthly referrals – just from Google alone.

I realized rather quickly that I had been terribly short sighted on the importance of SEO for a blog. The extra visitors are important, of course, but with more search engine hits came…

  • New readers from outside of the blogging community
  • New advertising opportunities
  • A higher click-through on existing ads
  • Better monetization options for highly ranked posts
  • Mainstream press inquiries

How could a blog template impact search traffic THAT much? My question led me to Chris Pearson of Pearsonified and Sarah Lewis of Blogging Expertise, my template designer. Both of these talented designers know how to put a seriously powerful template together – and I decided to interview them to help you ensure your blog template isn’t holding you back, too.

Interview with Chris Pearson and Sarah Lewis

~Chris, I found a post on your blog in which you had a similar jump in traffic from an SEO perspective. You had recently moved from Movable Type to WordPress – what is it about WordPress that is so search engine friendly?

Chris Pearson:

WordPress itself is not necessarily SEO-friendly, but quite a few WordPress themes are constructed with SEO fundamentals in mind. This is generally what leads to the misconception that WordPress is the CMS of choice if you want your site to rank well.

That said, I chose to move my site to WordPress because the PHP architecture and theme capabilities allowed me to do things (like implementing dynamic page titles, for instance) that I was struggling to do with MovableType.

Simply put, I think it’s easier to apply SEO fundamentals with the WordPress architecture than it is with other CMS platforms. While this is a matter of opinion, it’s certainly a fact that someone could migrate their site to WordPress today, upload an optimized theme, and enjoy the benefits of good SEO almost immediately.

~Sarah, what are some of the things you did to my template to make such drastic improvements?

Sarah Lewis:

The main thing I did that impacted SEO results were behind-the-scenes code improvements. The theme you had before was a bit convoluted, code-wise. Some specific improvements were:

  • The source code prioritizes your real content by putting posts first, then sidebars and extra stuff. The search engines like it this way.
  • The theme emphasizes your titles and other important “keyword cues” by properly using header tags (h2, h3, etc.)
  • I used the Google Adsense “start” and “end” tags to emphasize the core content (posts, etc.) and de-emphasize the rest.

~Chris, your Cutline Theme also played a major role in your SEO traffic. What are some of the additional things you did that made an improvement?

Chris Pearson:

Most of the key, behind-the-scenes “improvements” are actually quite simple, but in practice, their effects can be profound:

  • Image optimization
  • Using a sitemap
  • Dynamic page titles, which I hinted at earlier
  • Linking to interior pages directly from my homepage. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but pages that have direct links from your homepage are going to receive more search engine love. I use WordPress categories to create groups of posts and serve them in the sidebar of my personal site, and I’ve found that those pages tend to do quite well in the search engines.

~Chris and Sarah, besides using the Cutline theme or hiring one of you, what are some of the other ways that people using WordPress can improve their search engine rankings?

Sarah Lewis:

Many people opt for “cute” or “clever” with the post titles, and miss out on traffic because they don’t realize that Google and the other search engines pay a lot of attention to titles.

Another SEO tip that fits in well with the general goals of blogging is to regularly write posts that focus on a very specific topic. “Regularly” because the search engines seem to follow blogs more if they are regularly updated (and of course that’s ideal for your readers, too!); “very specific topic” because it helps both search engines and readers figure out quickly and accurately what the point of the post is.

Chris Pearson :

I tried to address this very issue late last year when I published my mini-series, entitled SEO for Everybody. The idea was to present people with a few things they could do on their own to whip their site into high-ranking shape. Topics include sitemap implementation, dynamic page titles, and image optimization.

~Thanks Chris and Sarah!

To WIN a SEO friendly site redesign yourself, you might want to head over to SEO Week at eMoms at Home.

  1. Lot’s of nifty links there. And info too. Thanks.

  2. I’ve never played with Word Press but did download it a couple of weeks back with the intention of checking it out. I think one of the main reasons it’s so popular with search engines is that the templates themselves are coded in a way that are very light on gizmo’s and bloggers tend to be heavy on written content. This combination has always been a winning technique for optimizing sites.

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