The lesson of a Dakota Pinnacle Birch: Why blogs, tags, and linking continue to rule for search engine results

I became a member of the Board of Minnesota Offroad Cyclists (MORC) back in January. At a meeting last weekend, a couple of board members who are avid mountain bikers told me that whenever they Google themselves, the search results return blog posts and photos from my blog, Mountain Bike Geezer

A few days later, I got an email from a Northfield area webmaster wondering what my secret was here on Locally Grown Northfield, as he noticed that search results for Northfield-related issues and people seemed to frequently link to blog posts and images here.

I told them that it’s partly because I use lots of relevant tag word and phrases in my blog posts, including first and last names. And I also take the time to label/tag photos.  But I also include a lot of links in my blog posts. Not only do Google and other search engines love links, but so do the people I link to — and they increases the likelihood that others will at some point link back to something here on LoGro. Search results are still largely dependent on having other sites link to you.  The more the better. And the higher the PageRank of those who link to you, the better. PageRank is partly why Google’s Larry Page is a billionaire.

Knecht's Nurseries and LandscapingI was explaining this to Deb Knecht this weekend, since Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping has been a longtime client and I’ve been helping them revamp their WordPress-based site to make it Responsive, something that all websites these days need to be since so much web traffic comes from a variety of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, etc).

I’m also working with Deb to spruce up (heh) their archive of nearly 1,000 blog posts dating back to Feb. of 2004. While most of their blog posts have been assigned Categories, most need the addition of Tag words and phrases. Categories help when browsing a blog; Tags help with both browsing and searching. Here on LoGro we have a few dozen Categories but over 3,000 Tag words and phrases.

wordpress permalinksWhile reading up about search engine optimization (SEO) strategies recently, I learned that permalinks (the URL of a blog post) are more search engine friendly if they use words from the title of the blog post rather than a number with a generic term like ‘post’ or ‘article.’

So I’ve been converting a few of my own blogs over to this permalink naming convention.  A blog post I authored yesterday is titled Mountain biking’s sweet spot for seniors: high impact for bone density, low impact for joints and if you hover your cursor over that link, you’ll see the permalink is a long URL: http://mountainbikegeezer.com/mountain-bikings-sweet-spot-for-seniors-high-impact-bone-density-low-impact-joints/. Previously, the URL might have been http://mountainbikegeezer.com/?p=4821 or other variation using ‘blog’ or ‘archives’ or ‘post’ with a number like I’ve been using here on LoGro for years.

Dakota Pinnacle Birch

At Knecht’s, we’ve been using permalinks with the naming convention /weblog/post/# which is an indication of how old their blog is. Back in 2004, ‘weblog’ was a commonly used term.  Not any more. So when I was revamping their site a month or so ago, I changed the permalink names to search engine friendly names, assuming the WordPress database would automatically redirect anyone who tried to link to a old permalink URL to the updated one. Doing this on my mountain bike blog worked, so full steam ahead! Wrong. It only works for the default permalink, not others.  I should have used a special plugin. Ouch.  The bounce rate has skyrocketed and search engine results for popular trees and plants have plummeted.

But rather than going back to the old permalink style, we’re sticking with the change, and updating the blog posts with tags.  So for example, back in October of 2010, Leif Knecht blogged about a popular shade tree called a Dakota Pinnacle Birch.  There’ve been other posts about the tree, too, so we’ve tagged them all, which means all the posts can be retrieved with the URL http://knechts.net/tag/dakota-pinnacle-birch/ and from there, you can click on the blog post headlines or titles of each for more.

My upcoming task for LoGro will be to convert all 4,000+ blog posts to a new permalink structure. Gulp. In the meantime, however, Google will have to live with http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29632.

What can Northfield learn at the League of MN Cities annual conference?

Griff Wigley, Ted Davis IMAG0115 IMAG0118League of MN Cities
I’m here in flood-ravaged Duluth this week for the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference.

I’m teaming up with Ted Davis, Davis Communications, and Scott Neal, Edina City Manager, to do a pre-conference workshop today on Networking and Communicating with New Media for Local Government Leaders.  On Friday, I’m moderating a discussion session on Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

In between, I plan to attend as many sessions as I can and report back on some of them that I think might be of interest to Northfielders.

10:30 am update:  AARRGGHH. All pre-conference workshops cancelled today. Pretty much all roads in and out of Duluth are blocked, including I35. Eerie to see a completely empty I35 in the middle of the morning.

Ted Davis, CANCELLED! Griff Wigley, CANCELLED! I35 shutdown in Duluth, 6/20/2012 I35 shutdown in Duluth, 6/20/2012

Your blog should be the centerpiece of your content marketing strategy, not just your social media strategy

2011 MN Blogger Conference  Melissa (Missy) Berggren Arik Hanson

I attended the 2011 MN Blogger Conference Saturday at Allina Commons (administrative headquarters for Allina Hospitals and Clinics) in the Midtown Exchange in Minneapolis. Everything about the conference was terrific. Props to the main organizers Arik Hanson and Melissa (Missy) Berggren.

Lee Odden keynote at 2011 MN Blogger Conference Lee-Odden Lee Odden

Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and editor/blogger at MarketingBlog.com (that domain name redirects to toprankblog.com) gave the keynote: Blogs to Riches: A Journey from Blogging Luddite to Successful Business. Alternate title on his cover slide: 5 Lessons Learned from 7+ Years of Blogging.

(I happened to meet Lee just before his presentation when he saw me taking photos with my Sony NEX-3. He said something to effect of "I loved that camera until a wave in Hawaii took it away from me."  I told him new versions were due soon, ie, the NEX-5N and the NEX-7.)

Blog as centerpiece of content marketing - TopRank Online MarketingLee’s a terrific presenter. I was delighted to hear him stressing the importance of having your blog be the centerpiece of one’s content marketing strategy, and not just your social media strategy.

I don’t have a link to his presentation but slide #15 from this recent Social Media and SEO Slideshare presentation of his is similar to what he used on Saturday.

The break-out sessions I attended were all very good:

toprank Allina kare11_sharelogo

Unbelievably, the conference was free, including lunch and parking, thanks to the sponsors, TopRank Online Marketing, Allina, and KARE 11.

What is the Internet hiding from you? If you have an ‘anchoring community’ then probably not much

Eli Pariser’s new book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You and his TED Talk video are getting a lot of attention this week.

Eli PariserAs web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

in the Author Q&A on Amazon’s page for his book, Pariser writes:

We’re used to thinking of the Internet like an enormous library, with services like Google providing a universal map. But that’s no longer really the case. Sites from Google and Facebook to Yahoo News and the New York Times are now increasingly personalized – based on your web history, they filter information to show you the stuff they think you want to see. That can be very different from what everyone else sees – or from what we need to see. Your filter bubble is this unique, personal universe of information created just for you by this array of personalizing filters. It’s invisible and it’s becoming more and more difficult to escape.

Nick BiltonLast year, NY Times tech reporter and blogger Nick Bilton published a book titled I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works in which he cited a research paper by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro titled Ideological Segregation Online and Offline in which they found "no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time."  

In an April 2010 column titled Riders on the Storm, David Brooks wrote about this, too.

This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal. This does not mean they are not polarized. Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered.

If this study is correct, the Internet will not produce a cocooned public square, but a free-wheeling multilayered Mad Max public square. The study also suggests that if there is increased polarization (and there is), it’s probably not the Internet that’s causing it.

For more, see this blog post from April 2010 by Michael Cervieri titled, Does the Internet put us in Ideological Ghettos?

I’m not too worried about a filter bubble, as my ‘anchoring community’ seem to provide the antidote. Bilton wrote in his book:

I can tell you firsthand that thanks to my anchoring communities, I see a drastically wider range of viewpoints online than I’ve ever experienced reading a print newspaper, watching the nightly news, or reading select niche magazines.

What are anchoring communities? Bilton:

By offering their own digital links and connections, anchoring communities help us cope with the massive numbers of people and the incalculable amount of information online and give us neatly refined selections to sift through together.  They help us contain information flow. These social networks provide cognitive road maps that help us navigate all the information and help relieve the mental taxation of trying to manage excessive information on one’s own.

Currently, Twitter is the online tool I use the most to connect me to my anchoring community, both for Northfield-related information as well as everything else. But the cool thing about living, working and being engaged in the Northfield community is that my daily face-to-face roaming about provides this, too.

WordPress for Noobs course begins March 14; sign up now and save $25

Time for a little shameless self-promotion.

WordPress for NoobsI’m nearing the end of teaching my first online course, WordPress for Noobs.  It’s gone well so I’m offering it again, starting March 14.

  • I’ve revamped the WordPress for Noobs course introduction screencast. When I created the first one, the course didn’t exist. I’m now able to take you behind the scenes to show how the course actually works.
  • I’ve updated the Noobs Course Outline page to more accurately reflect what actually has happened. I’ve added a column for weeks (Week 1, Week 2, etc) to show what gets delivered and when.
  • I’ve updated the testimonials page to include comments from participants
  • The fee for the course remains $97 but it goes up on March 8 to $122.

WordPress for Noobs starts soon. Get it through Your Thick Skull.

Northfielders at the MWMC social networking panel

MWMC social networking panel at St. Kate's MWMC Board member Katie Fisher speaking to audience Elizabeth Child introducing MWMC social networking panel at St. Kate's
Thursday night I was part of a social networking panel at St. Kate’s that presented to the Seasoned Professionals special interest group for the Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications (MWMC). Fellow Northfielder Elizabeth Child (on the right in right photo above) put the panel together.

MWMC panelists Griff Wigley, Lynsey Struthers, Michael Wells MWMC panelists Griff Wigley, Lynsey Struthers, Michael Wells 
I was joined by St. Olaf grad Lynsey Struthers, Interactive Strategist with The Lawlor Group, and Michael Wells, Digital Communications Manager at St. Catherine University. It turned out to be quite a fun evening.  We didn’t do presentations at all (no PowerPoint!) but rather just engaged in conversation with a very smart audience who had lots of great questions.

Some of themes I tried to address in my comments can be traced back to these posts from my Wigley and Associates blog in the past year:

WordPress for Noobs (online course) begins this week. Get it through Your Thick Skull

My online course, WordPress for Noobs, begins this week.  Get it through Your Thick Skull.

Your Thick Skull; Griff Wigley, instructor

WordPress for Noobs - screenshot

(See my Nov. blog post for background.)

WordPress for Noobs begins January 10. Get it through Your Thick Skull

In late October, I hosted (with a little help from my friends, Tracy Davis and Sean Hayford O’Leary,) two WordPress Q&A webinars for Northfield area WordPress users. A few days later, I attended my first Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group meeting. And two weekends ago, I presented two sessions at WordCamp MSP in Richfield.

All of which served to convince me that A) the popularity of WordPress continues to grow; and B) the demand for help in using it continues to grow.

So I decided to create an online course called WordPress for Noobs, and have it be the first course delivered by my new interactive learning platform:

Your Thick Skull

Your Thick Skull; Griff Wigley, instructor

Continue reading WordPress for Noobs begins January 10. Get it through Your Thick Skull

I love Radio Shack: a happy ending to a clamshell packaging horror story

Dundas MN Radio ShackI went to buy a USB headset at the Dundas Radio Shack store this morning.  I told the clerk (Alex S?) that I wanted to try a behind-the-ear headset since my current one pressed on my ears too hard and irritated them.  I picked out the Logitech Laptop Headset H555 and asked about bringing it back if I wasn’t happy. He said I could, within 30 days, with the original packaging.

I then proceeded to show him that, even though the back of the clamshell package had "easy open" written on it, I couldn’t figure out how. He struggled with it for a bit but then discovered that he could push in hard along the edge with his fingers to break the seal. He started it for me and I left a happy customer. 

I got home and continued to push along the edge of the clamshell package. I made good progress on one side, halfway down, then did the other side.  That side cracked inward instead of along the edge. I was afraid I’d cut my finger so I took a pair of scissors to cut the edge that remained. All went well until I noticed that one of the headset wires was cut. It had evidently snuggled up along the edge of the clamshell and I hadn’t noticed it when cutting the plastic.

AARRGGHH!

Logitech headset in clamshell from Radio ShackI went right back to the store and spoke with the manager, Torfinn Zempel. He sympathized but said since it happened out of the store, there was nothing he could do. Looking at the packaging (I never did open up the clamshell all the way), he said it looked to him like a flaw in the packaging because the headset cable/wire was up against the outside edge instead of nestled deep inside.

Torfinn gave me the phone numbers for Logitech. I asked him to call Logitech but he said it was better if I did.  I was obviously cautious and concerned about the dreaded clamshell packaging when I purchased the headset, so I think he should have gone to bat with Logitech for me.  I didn’t argue much but I left really unhappy. I needed a headset for my business.

When I got back home, I sent out this tweet:

Bought @Logitech headset from local @RadioShack Accidentally cut wire opening frickin plastic clamshell. They won’t take it back. Help?

30 minutes later, @RadioShack posted this public tweet:

@griff_wigley Hey Griff-email us details @ help@radioshack.com (store info, receipt info, etc.) and we’ll be happy to try and help.

I emailed them my story above with the photo. 

An hour later, I got a voicemail from Torfinn, telling me that they’d swap out the headset. When I went back to the store, I didn’t offer to tell him my Twitter story, waiting to see if he’d ask.  He didn’t, but just said they’d contacted Logitech who said they could ship the damaged headset directly to them.  I was curious about how it all unfolded behind the scenes but figured I’d just let it go. 

Here’s me, happy with my new Logitech headset, photo taken by my Logitech HD Webcam C260, purchased a few months ago at the very same Radio Shack store.

I love Radio Shack

Nov. 1 Webinar – Social media use by local government in the US: What are the hurdles to doing it well?

With my civic and business hat on, I’m hosting a free webinar on social media use by local government on Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT. It will feature:

  • A tour of several local government websites (primarily cities in the US) to see some best practices of how social media tools (blogs, web forums, email lists, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) are being used to enable more transparency and engagement.
  • A discussion about the hurdles that local government officials face when implementing the use of social media.

The panelists (all bloggers), all have some Northfield connections:

Betsey Buckheit Steven Clift Scott Neal

Some photos of Betsey, Steve and Scott in Northfield from 2004-05 with their blogger hats on:
UK delegation at the Cow 2004 UK delegation at the Cow 2004 - 2 Blogging panel at the Archer House 2005

Please register for the free webinar on social media use by local government for Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT.

If you’re unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on the web.

Got questions or comments? Attach a comment here or contact me.

Nov. 2 update:

Budget cuts: an opportunity for local government to deliver services WITH citizens. Social media can help.

@Ross Currier, my Locally Grown co-host, tweeted on Monday, “As citizens increasingly challenge politics as usual, is it no longer left vs. right, nor faith vs. reason, but individual vs. institution?”

Listen Participate TransformThen Steve Clift @democracy retweeted this from @72prufrocks today, a report titled Listen, Participate, Transform: A social media framework for local government from the UK-based Young Foundation. It’s part of their Local 2.0 project (see the Local 2.0 Blog here), funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government

The report’s emphasis on the importance of public officials building relationships with citizens, using social media in part, is encouraging and is the best writing I’ve seen thus far on the topic.

In Northfield, this is more than a little timely because:

  1. Significant budget cuts have to be made soon and the process is receiving some criticism
  2. Citizens are being asked to support a referendum for new police and fire facilities
  3. The Northfield City Council has a goal of improving communication with staff, citizen advisory groups and community

From the report’s introduction:

Continue reading Budget cuts: an opportunity for local government to deliver services WITH citizens. Social media can help.

The City of Northfield contemplates the use of social media; here’s a report that could help

City of Nfld 2010 goals draft The Northfield City Council has published a draft of its 2010 strategic directions and goals. One of the sub-goals:

“1.2.4 Consider including social media as part of communications plans.”

A few days ago I got a tweet from colleague Len Witt and the crew at the Center for Sustainable Journalism about a new report from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania called:

Continue reading The City of Northfield contemplates the use of social media; here’s a report that could help

On social media mindcasting and lifecasting: it’s tricky

Jay Rosen Earlier this week I read a blog post by Bora Zivkovic titled Twittering is a difficult art form – if you are doing it right (which started with a tweet by Aaron Naparstek) and followed his link to Jay Rosen’s blog post from a year ago, Mindcasting: defining the form, spreading the meme. Rosen tweeted about it this week, too.

mindcasting I also re-read the March 2009 article in the LA Times, On Twitter, mindcasting is the new lifecasting.

  • Mindcasting (WordSpy definition): “Posting a series of messages that reflect one’s current thoughts, ideas, passions, observations, readings, and other intellectual interests.”
  • Lifecasting (Zivkovic definition): “to be in a continuous presence in a community of one’s liking.” Rosen extreme example: “what you had for breakfast or how much you hate Mondays.”

All this helped me rethink my own use of social media:

Continue reading On social media mindcasting and lifecasting: it’s tricky

Subscribe and Follow LoGro

Subscribe to the blog via email (daily) Subscribe to the blog via RSS Subscribe to the Locally Grown e-newsletter (weekly)
Follow us on Twitter Visit our Picasaweb photo gallery Like us on Facebook

Blog Monthly Archives

Blog Category Archives