SEO Sessions and Workshop: BlogPaws conference Liveblog sessions

These sessions were presented by Matt Beswick

Note: This post originally appeared as liveblogs on I wrote these liveblog notes at BlogPaws Conference 2014, an event for professional pet bloggers. These are the cleaned up (slightly edited) notes from those sessions.


Session 1: SEO Basics

Note: Starting a bit late in the session, but did catch an overview that went back to the beginning of the session. 

High level strategy

Be You

  • Get noticed – be a little bit different.
  • If you are writing questions, dog health tips, questions. Those kinds of small posts with questions get more
  • Things about emotion, things they want to buy.
  • Creating good content that’s evergreen (time doesn’t matter). This is good for Google traffic.
  • Infographics are great for visits – things that people are searching for.
  • Create topical content. Something interesting that is going on – fresh and relevant for what people are looking for at the time.
  • Create important content that matters. If people care about it, google cares about it.
  • Content drives everything. Written, images, video. Think about how you want to drive people into your site – all types of content, social traffic, etc.

It all comes down to two things:  Audience, and the relationships.
Majority is off-page factors. Who has linked to your content. Google+ makes a bit of difference.

What fundamental tools do you need

Google Analytics

  1. Google Analytics – even if you only use it occasionally. Make sure you are tracking people who are coming onto the site.
  2. Install it (i.e.: yoast WordPress plugin)
  3. Log in. Use.

Cannot break Google Analytics (you don’t send anything to your website) so it is safe to play with. They change things a lot, but fundamentals are the same.

Google Webmaster tools

  2. Install it (i.e.: Yoast WordPress plugin)
  3. Log in. Use.

Note that you need to use Webmaster tools to see your organic keywords – Google made searches secure late last year and you no longer see the phrases people use to search for and the click through rate.

Google Keyword Planner

  1. Login to
  2. Click “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas
  3. Start entering keywords

You can choose to write about something that lots of people are searching for and low bids.  Great as a research tools for what to write, what to focus on for the site. Find what people are actually search on, based on what you think they are searching on.

Choosing your keywords

  • Don’t try to be a hero when you’re starting out.
  • For example “I want to rank for “Dog Recipes” – you can find out similar phrases that will help people find you. Longer the phrase, the less competitive it will be. This will be easier to find traffic. (This is called long tail keywords, or long tail).
  • Then move into “Healthy dog recipes”
  • Then in a year or more, go for “dog recipes”.
  • Think about what people are searching for, and what’s important for your site, then you make a plan of how to get there.

On page optimization

Setting up your page so you have a chance of ranking.

Google loves content. 

Write for people. This is where you have to start. If your content is amazing, and the person can engage with it and the content is complete – you are half way there.

There is also a lot of other stuff:

  1. Page title: Usually name of the post, title of the page is the same. Google gives priority at where it is in the title. In the beginning = more important.
  2. URL: URL and page title should match. Use the important keywords in the URL.
  3. Content: Put they keywords well in the paragraph. Don’t worry – in a medium length post, you should use it a few times, but Google is getting better at semantics so write about it naturally.
  4. Internal links: Link between other articles on your website. You’re telling Google that there is related content on the same site, plus it keeps your audience on your site.
  5. ALT tag: descriptive about what is in the image, and includes the keyword you are writing for.

Other notes

  • Studies have done – the longer the content, the more likely it is to rank highly in google. Not always the case. Think about how in depth you need to go to make that page the best page on the internet about that particular topic.
  • “Social proof”: Does not think that social media influences Google ranking. Social referrals will stick on your site a bit longer.
  • Do not use underscores in your URL. Always hyphens. Never spaces (some older CMS will not replace spaces with hyphens).
  • Experiment with headlines and original spelling (ie “purrfect”) helps with click throughs (as it won’t help with SEO/search rankings).
  • Google looks at on page content a lot more now, emphasized. Google might use the page title instead of the headline. Need to be consistent with title, content, and what you’re doing on the page. Otherwise Google will do what it wants and your ranking will drop.

This section is the most important SEO stuff. Jen note: I’d also add that the introduction of your article should match the page title in content/topic. 

Permalinks and SEO by Yoast (plugin)

  • Use the post name as the permalink in WordPress.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin can help you set the focus keyword (this analyzes the page and sees if it is set up properly across your post). You can set an SEO title and meta description.
  • Most people do not have meta descriptions – it means that you can help promote your page properly in the search results. Telling people to click through and visit the page.
  • Do not overload your search keyword within your content.
  • Any blogging system will have a similar tool.

 Make your site look good, and content length whatever it needs to be

Don’t use too many ads. Google has an algorithm getting rid of sites with spammy site content, and sites that don’t look good (“Panda” algorithm). One of the things they look at with tons of ads on the page.
Make it easy to use. Navigation. It’s easy for Google to use it, your audience, and they will stick around and better rankings and more pageviews.

There is no correct number of words. It is NOT true to keep posts to 500 words. Content needs to be as long as it needs to be. 

Spiders and links

Start with seed sites, and then follow the links from the seed sites.

It’s all about links, and passing google and your users around. You understand what they’re looking for.

Google loves links. 

It is always going to be about those links.

Links = votes. The more votes you have, the better your rankings are going to be. The better rankings the more votes.

Off site optimization

  • Get links from authoritative sites – from the person that links to you, not the site itself.
  • Off site is all about getting to know people and building relationships.
  • Doesn’t worry about nofollow links – a link is a link, it sends traffic.
  • Certain ways you can check the quality of a link:
  • More links pointing into it, the more authority the site has.
  • Look at referral traffic in Google Analytics.


  • Do not buy links –  Potentially permanently.
  • Do not sell links (this will devalue you in Google).

What is buying links: If you are contacted by a pet brand, for example, as part of writing the post will you link back into product pages and give money to you for that. Also buying a link from your site into their site as part of the deal.

For more info, Google Penguin algorithm.

How do I get more links?

  • Blog directories (
  • Submit your site to the high quality ones that you think will send you traffic.
  • Guest posting editorial
  • Larger content pieces (20 page dog training guide that you break down): Guides, infographic, things that make you stand out.
  • Speaking.
  • Making friends.

On page things to remember

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of naviation – think “top down”
  2. Internal links across your pages
  3. Set your site up for people
  4. Using related post plugin is good:

Off page things to remember

  1. Getting links from other sites drives rankings
  2. These need to be relevant and authoritative.

Overall message

If you write good content, good keyword usage, slowly but surely you will start getting better traffic. Just think about the content and the rest will follow.

Set up your pages, do keyword research, but don’t obsess. Slowly but surely these things will improve.


Session 2: “Superhero SEO”

Have to understand what Google wants you to do so you don’t get into trouble.SEO is part of a marketing strategy. You are not just a writer, you are someone who is out there pushing your writing out there, adding value to the internet and providing advice. You are a brand. A “personal brand” SEO is not a dark art, it’s just common sense. Doing things in the right kind of way, but it does take a lot of time.

An example of a personal brand is Dino Dogan. He has pride  – taken his personal brand and made a business, and takes his relationships to push his business.

Correlation is not causation. It is not consistent of using a keyword however many times, or getting retweets, or using Google+. If it works for one post or one time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another post.

Nothing is absolute fact – Google is constantly changing and we won’t really be able to know how it works.

Content marketing – is it our savior?

SEOs like to think they stay ahead of the curve. Content marketing is new SEO? Kind of. It is about marketing content, but you do have to do all the other stuff and make sure its set up right.
Need to create amazing content that’s shareable through social media. If content is shareable, it is linkable.

Links on the Internet

Links within your own site, from other sites. If people are interested in your content, people start to link to it. And links still rule.

Category pages

Please, please optimize your category pages properly. Top down structure. The category pages really add value linking to them. It will also help you rank for those key words.

WordPress: change the category page info:

  • Change the page title from “(something) Archives” to the full category. Keyword exact match, and click through.
  • Change the URL (with a 301 redirect up) to match the new full category name in the URL.
  • (Simple URL Redirect plugin for WordPress)
  • Header as well – make sure the Category page even has one.
  • Set up the Meta description for the category, and make sure that it sells the page. It’s the advert: why the page is good, and why to click through. Use key phrasing – write it like a paid ad. This will slowly increase your rank because it has a better click through rate. They do look at “dwell time”, so they can track bounce rates and it’s a negative indicator and will hurt your ranking. Experience needs to be set up as good as you can.
  • Add social media onto the page. Add social signals at the top of the page.
  • No content below the header – add in a description of the category too. Why is it the best page for the topic (keyword) on the internet. Check out what the top ranked pages do and then emulate it.
  • OG Tags
  • Strong CTA

OG tags = OpenGraph tag. Most social media sites use these – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+.  Can also set up custom thumbnails, and set different ones for different social sites. 

If you are selling something, trying to get someone on a list: do some A B testing on your page (play around with different options). See what works best. Optimizely can be used. If you have decent amounts of traffic you can test two different versions of the page. NEED to get the most out of every visitor.


Resources for infographics:

  • – post a job, get bids.
  • – find a designer.
  • and – do your own. Not as good as custom, but can look decent.

Years ago, these would For a couple hundred dollars, can have a fairly decent infographic.

Branded follow – branded links into the home page and the actual infographic page. Google will change what they’re doing, so you just do what’s right at the time.


Making friends

If you are spending money on a resource, you need to ask them to link to something. If you know someone who might want to post it.

Businesses have a difficult time doing this, ultimately trying to sell something. For bloggers it’s much easier as you’re just selling content and resources.


Lets you enter keywords and search twitter profiles with those keywords. Grades.

Talk to bloggers and ask for their feedback and input into your content – emotional connection, and more involved in the process. More likely to share something that you work on.

Do a search for “list of dog blogs”

Get in touch with people.

Don’t start by asking for something. Send them an email, and start building relationships. And when the time comes that you need help, they are more likely to help you. Dino says “Start a bromance”.

Process that Matt used

Email blogger > make friends > get link > Told about BlogPaws > email Yvonne > make friends > write for BlogPaws > Speak at BlogPaws > Make more friends > Get more promo > Speak at BlogPaws 2013 > Go to SearchLove Boston > Awesome opportunities > VEgas 2014 > Speak at BlogPaws 2014.

One little email can spiral. When you put yourself out there, opportunities land on your doorstep. Have to be out there, doing stuff.


  • Media requests from journalists that want help with something.
  • Subscribe to “General” – you get everything, and you can pass it on to people and make friends.
  • Can also use it to get content, and get information.

If you have some content together – say you spent a long time or some money on a good info graphic, and need to push it out there.

Paid Discovery on – then you get the organic side of it, as people will get there and share it. If you have very good content, you can seed it with paid discovery.

Better Keyword Research

Takes the beginning of a search, and it gives you suggestions of the top searches – a large list.

Tells you what google thinks people should be searching for. Many phrases people would be searching for.

How to Research Keywords

  1. Go to Ubersuggest, and start the phrase such as “How do dogs”.
  2. Then Click “get all phrases”
  3. Copy the big list of google auto suggest,
  4. Paste the list into Google Keyword Planner.
  5. Then you get the global monthly searches for all of those phrases.

Author Markup and Schema Markup

Author Markup

Make sure that you set up yourself as a Google author – it puts an image next to your article. It makes your listing stand out ine listings. You can do this using the Yoast plugin in WordPress.

Schema Markup

Remove Thin Content

What is thin content: Content on a site that isn’t useful to anyone – a short post, tag pages, etc.

  1. Use tags sparingly or no index them.
  2. Edit Robots.txt to blog search result pages.
  3. Don’t go OTT with Category pages. Make sure that you are doing things in a useful way. “Why is this page the best page on the internet for this phrase” – if it isn’t, then go back and redo it or remove it.

Fix Orphaned Links

When you move a page (a 404), need to keep an eye on them and fix them.

  1. Find all links pointing into your site
  2. Remove any dupes
  3. Check to see if these are 404 errors
  4. If so, 301 redirect them – You can also get someone from Fiverr to run the backlink for you.

Handling Link Removal Requests

You are not the problem. The others are. Google is considering them spammy, and they are trying to sort out a problem.
Don’t panic if you get the request. What you do next is up to you.

  1. Be Polite.
  2. If it’s a quick fix, do it. (As long as they haven’t gone over the top).
  3. If there are lots of links, and it will take a lot of time, explain and ask for reimbursement. Work out how long it will take, work out your consultancy rate, and tell them what it is.

They may say that they will “disavow your site”, it will not hurt you. They will spin it like you are the problem and it will hurt your site, but it will not hurt your site.

Tools of the Trade

Things you can do.
Active link building
Need to do a link audit – links going into the site are conforming to google.
Does the link analysis for you – back links, and it checks them all and gives you a spreadsheet with if links are actives and metrics. Saves a lot of time. If you get any penalties from google, this is good to use.
SEO software suite, and you can do an SEO audit. Lots of analytics, and works out if your site is set up for SEO or not.
Question: How do you know if Google has a problem? Use Google Webmaster Tools. You will get an email telling you that you have a penalty – link penalty, or a site wide penalty.
Software that does SEO audits, track keyword rankings, and give you a lot of info about your sites.
Check the quality of the link, domain authority of a website. On a logarithmic curve. Higher the authority, the better value it is for your site.
When you are building links, it’s all about referral traffic more than this
Screamingfrog – crawl your website – gives you a list of all the pages on a site.

Twitter profiling

It lets you profile Twitter users.

  1. Create a list of Twitter Users
  2. Get a list of their last 200 tweets
  3. Check those tweets for links
  4. Look for trends, and reach out.

You can look at what they’re sharing, and you can figure out the kind of content to put together.

It’s a piece of code available at


Session 3: SEO Workshop

This workshop covered questions that the audience has about SEO, mainly based on the previous two sessions noted above.

Keyword planning

  • Automatically pulls in keyword suggestions and ideas.
  • Questions work really well, or the beginning of a sentence that can have many different options.
  • For example, “how do dogs” and then a list of keyword ideas will be returned.
  • If you look for phrases that are 6-8 words long with lots of traffic that might be able to give you a decent ranking.
  • Forget keyword density: that was 5 years ago. Have the page set up to use that phrase in the title, URL, and then just use it naturally within your post. Google is good at semantics.
  • Headings don’t impact rankings that much – just use it naturally.

Ranking for local services

Question: If I want to rank for dog walking, have your page set up with the area in the title.

If you are walking in multiple cities or areas, set one up for overall service and then separate landing pages for each area. Put testimonials, different images in different areas, and so on. Have the info on each landing page about specific things in each area.

Canonical URL

Say you have a giveaway, and then a reminder, don’t want to index the reminder. Tells Google not to index the reminder post, just the original post. You can enter this in WordPress in the post settings.

Images and ALT text

  • If you have a post with 10 images and a few captions: the first thing with ALT text is be descriptive. A couple sentences is fine, and when natural use your keyword in some of the images.
  • If there are a couple images in the post then use the keyword in both of them naturally.
  • ALT is used in Google image search, but don’t expect a lot of traffic from Google image search anymore.
  • Need to use ALT and title tags

Tag overuse

  • Tags might create new pages on your site – and this is bad if you create tags like “roses are red” “red roses” “the roses are red”
  • Set up a tag taxonomy – set up the ones you are going to use regularly, and use them sparingly. Treat them like categories.
  • It is fine to only use categories instead of tags.  (Note from Jen: I have heard that it is often preferable to not use tags at all).

Removing and redirecting

  • Remove old content that doesn’t contribute to the site anymore.
  • When it’s removed then redirect it to the home page.
  • Redirect it into the home page or most relevant page so it doesn’t impact your authority.

Dwell Time and Ranking

  • If you go to a page, and hit the back button right after to the results page right away – Google knows this, and will detect it and lower your ranking.
  • Bounce with a video tends to be low. If you have a video there, you might make them stay longer to avoid this (or very compelling copy) – test what is effective.
  • Split testing: lets you test two different pages to see what impact has on the bounce rate. Effective with about 500 people testing the two different pages.

Using Google Keyword Planner

Have to have an AdWords account to use this.

Under Tools, Search for new ideas: most commonly use (top one)
Go in and start typing in the phrases and the keywords you want to rank for. Ecommerce ideas.
Enter search phrases, such as dog collars, leather dog collars, collars for dogs
Need to manually change this to the area you want to target
Can add in a date range if you want, and keywords to not show.
Click Get Ideas.Note: Phrases that are plural are much more common than singular.

Site authority and domain names

  • – folder. Treats the whole site as the same authority.
  • – subdomain. Google treats subdomains as separate websites. Any authority that you build into the blog makes no difference in the overall website.

Guest posting and syndication

  • Question is about a guest post that goes on two different sites.
  • If you do this a lot, use the Canonical URL as the site that will rank higher (for example, your post is on PetCo and your new blog, set the Canonical URL as the Petco location).
  • You can set the Canonical URL in WordPress, using the Yoast plugin for example.
  • If you don’t do this often, don’t worry about it.

Affiliate links

  • We will never know for sure if Google lowers your rank for affiliate links.
  • At least do a nofollow (rel=”nofollow” as part of the URL).
  • You can add a WordPress plugin that adds a checkmark to the dialog where you add a URL to add the URL as a nofollow.
  • PrettyLink Lite/Paid can help a lot with affiliate links.


Author Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is a freelance graphic and web designer, fascinated with great layout and usability. She has been working in the software industry since 2001, and has held positions with Macromedia, Adobe, and Motorola in the Silicon Valley area near San Francisco. Jen has written and contributed to over 20 print publications on web design that have been published by Peachpit, Adobe Press, and Wiley. She now lives on a farm with her family and dogs in central Vancouver Island, Canada.

More posts by Jen deHaan

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Adam says:

    Seems like Matt used his talk from the last BlogPaws, but a lot of people do that. 🙂

    With regards to tags I will admit I use to overload my articles with tags but use them sparingly nowadays. If I do use them they are very specific to that post and what it is about. I used to work with some larger websites that could get away with tag overuse so that’s how I picked up that bad habit. Categories should be used only when you know you will be posting regularly on that topic.

    One of my issues with Google Analytics is it’s quite confusing for someone who isn’t running an ecommerce website and just wants to blog. I’ve started recommending Piwik since it is much easier to understand and allows more customization. Only issue is it uses system resources and you need to keep it updated on your server.

    It’s always good to cloak affiliate links with your URL or a custom shortener (ie a domain you bought). Some ad blockers don’t show affiliate links in posts, so whatever you can do to make them more visible for a wide audience is a good idea.

Leave a Reply