The Art of the WordPress Startup: Part 19


This post is part 19 of a series on how to launch your startup on WordPress. Last time I talked about the importance of running AdWords properly, and why most people should either study for the exams or outsource managing it. This time we’ll talk about something equally important, SEO.

SEO is dead?

I hear this thrown around a lot both in person and on the web. In fact, I’ve been hearing this for about ten years now. Every time Google pushes out a new update or major change in their algorithm, people start chatting about this as if it’s actually going to occur. I would like to point out the obvious; until Google stops serving organic results alongside AdWords sponsored slots, SEO will exist. After all, according to Wikipedia SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and they define it as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.”

Yes, the way you obtain good rankings in the natural/organic results is an ever moving target. Something that worked in 2005 won’t necessarily work in 2014. But that doesn’t mean the entire process or art is dead. It just means it’s always changing. In the past couple of years, it’s meant that tactics that many would call spammy or gaming the results no longer work. Whereas in the past you could manipulate your way to the top by doing some fairly odd stuff like hiring companies to acquire thousands of inbound links to your site for no other reason than to just “have more links”, nowadays you’ll have to do stuff that actually requires hard work.

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What Doesn’t Work

There are a lot of tactics that no longer work (or never did), and I’m here to make those known. Don’t waste your time with these as you’ll only expel time/money with little to no return. You’ll also clutter up the web with a bunch of junk, and the place is already a mess, so it doesn’t need help with that.

  • Hire low-wage offshore firms on Elance et al to get you tons of links each month.
    • Crappy links are worth nothing and these days can actually even decrease your rankings. So you’re doing negative SEO in a sense if you go this route.
  • Put keywords in the background area or try to hide them on the page using a font which matches the background color.
  • Stuffing as many keywords as possible into your meta keywords, title element, meta description, or even body copy.
  • Creating your own “network of sites” that all link to each other solely for the purposes of gaining rank.
    • Google considers these link farms and doesn’t like them. Even if you game the IP addresses to be different C blocks you might still get busted.
    • If you’re unsure what C block means, is in the same C Block as because it has the same numbers for the first 3 series, with only the 4th series differing. That means they reside close together, i.e. are internet neighbors.
  • Buying “sponsored links” on various websites. Even if they disclose it’s a sponsored link, it’s a dangerous game to play unless it’s a sponsored post and the blog is extremely well known. Even then, only link to your site using branded terms to be safe.
  • Cranking out lots of short 300 word articles. SEOMoz did a recent study proving that longer articles/pages rank better.
  • Trying to “funnel” PageRank and using site wide footer links to manipulate rankings.
  • Cloaking, which is delivering different content to humans versus search bots.
  • Creating doorway pages that redirect to your site.
  • Listing your site in every web directory under the sun.
  • Submitting articles to tons of “article submission” sites that are full of junk.
  • Having all the links pointing to a page be “keyword rich” in terms of the anchor. This now looks spammy to Google.
  • Acquiring tons of “social bookmarking” links.

What Does Work

  • Doing proper keyword research and finding potential topics/keywords that you could target your site content towards.
  • Making sure Google can find, crawl, and index your site.
  • Following Google’s Webmaster guidelines for SEO and not doing anything crazy without checking to make sure it’s not frowned upon.
  • Having an XML Sitemap that is regularly updated, as well as an HTML Sitemap as a backup.
  • Using an SEO plugin like Yoast to keep you on your toes so you don’t miss anything obvious.
  • Getting inbound links via press that you earned the right way, by being interesting and newsworthy.
  • Creating lots of unique and useful content. In other words, turning your blog into a content machine, but not in a spammy way.
  • Establishing your credibility and authority as an author and using Google Authorship.
  • Doing quarterly or monthly site audits with tools like Integrity for Mac, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, and more.
  • Doing quarterly or monthly inbound link audits with Webmaster Tools and using Link Detox to identify harmful ones.
  • Create and grow your social media presences on places like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
  • Monitoring your rankings with a tool like Authority Labs and seeing what works and what doesn’t.


The game may have changed, but it’s still being played. Just make sure you’re playing it the right way and you’ll be rewarded. If the above sounds like too much work and you have more money than free time, consider hiring an SEO agency. Here are the ones that SEOMoz recommends.

Full Series — Click here to see all articles in this series.