Excuse Me While I SEO

I set out this weekend with one goal in mind. My research shows that having the same sidebar show up on every page of my blog is going to hurt my Google ranking as it could be considered duplicate content. I’ve been diligently working to understand search engine optimizaton (making a search-engine friendly website) ever since I added Squidoo to my list of online hobbies. I’d tried to change the sidebars around before with no success. WordPress code is in PHP, a scripting language I’m only beginning to learn. But I have a book, the web, and a few hours to kill. How bad could it get?

You’ll have to excuse me, though, if while visiting this blog, you might have caught a glimpse of an unsightly blog sidebar. My new friend:

Fatal error!

Uh-oh, Houston, we have a problem.

I’ve been patiently (oh, who am I kidding) working through two articles to make this blog more attractive to my new pal, Google. The first article, WordPress SEO was written by Joost De Valk, the ultimate WordPress guru and master. The second article, WordPress SEO – The Ultimate Guide is written by a man who doesn’t seem to be doing too badly for himself. His blog has a Google rank of 6 and his posts are concise, easy to read, and informative.

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So, as I’m following these two guides, I realize I have some changes to make to my WordPress theme. My sidebars are the same no matter which URL of my site you might be viewing. That’s more links going out than I’ll ever have coming in. In the world of finance we’d call that negative equity.

I start tackling that PHP code in my blog theme files. Let’s see, tweak here…check sidebar. Huh…sidebars completely gone. Tweak over there…sidebars back but not right. Tweak over there…check sidebar. FATAL ERROR. Oops. That’s gonna hurt. (This would be the time of course, I get my one visitor for the day.)

Ten “fatal errors” laters, I eventually figured it out. Quite proud of myself! I wrote my own little PHP fix for my theme and modified the sidebars on my single post pages to be nothing at the moment but a list of recent posts. In total, it took me 7 hours. I’ve had a lot of coffee.

Having tackled that monster, I decide to keep going before I forget what I’ve done. I wanted to change the sidebars for my category pages, too. That’s when I stumble across a widget that would have taken care of what I’d just finished doing myself. (Really, I’m a search hound. Where was this widget when I had 30 searches going about the single post page issue?)

In case you’d rather spend your 7 hours doing something more productive, you’ve got to try Widget Logic. You can download from that link or directly through your WordPress dashboard. Install, activate, and click on it in your left hand menu. Towards the bottom of the page you’ll see a box labeled Widget Content Filter. Check the box to use the filter and Save.

Now, every time you add a widget to your sidebar, you can specify on which page types you want to display that widget. Use WordPress WordPress Conditional Tags. For example, if you wanted to show your recent comments only on your home page, you’d type is_home () in the filter box when adding that widget. To edit existing widgets, I had to remove them and add them again. Hey, ten times easier than writing that bit of PHP code.

However, I don’t regret the time on the code. I was able to make a completely new sidebar style that applies to my single post pages. It’s wider than the others which will allow me to do more than I could before. What exactly that might be, I don’t know yet, but rest assured I’ll figure it out.

7 comments for “Excuse Me While I SEO

  1. June 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I’ll have to check out that plugin…though I have 43 plugins already in use on a blog that’s less than 3 months old! YIKES! It seems there’s a plugin for just about everything in WordPress isn’t there? One of the things in my opinion that makes it so great and much easier than traditional website maintenance.

    I have found a theme that I’m currently using for my store that makes a LOT of things much easier with customization (you can make your blog look just about anyway you want), SEO, etc. It’s called Atahualpa and you can download it here http://wordpress.bytesforall.com/. One of the many options is to choose pages the sidebars show up on! So easy 🙂 I just haven’t gotten around to changing my blog theme yet though Atahualpa has an export settings function which in theory should make it a breeze!

    Just curious…where did you read that the sidebar specifically is considered duplicate content by search engines?? Or that it’s considered content at all? I’ve never heard that.

  2. June 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Patti,

    Check this post on Yoast about sidebars and this Nathan Rice article on duplicate content. My site was not set to stop robots from indexing almost everything on every page. As my sidebar was the same for every view, it could be indexed with a view of each of my four categories, a view of each single post, a view of each archive query, my about me view, and my lenses page. All together, it would be the same on at least 36 separate site URLs.

    The same goes for my single posts. Each post shows up on its own single post URL, at least one category URL, the main page URL if the post is recent, and an archive URL. Without telling robots not to index those, Google could see my single post (exact content) in more than four places. I used robot settings in my dashboard to turn off some of it but couldn’t get to all of it so went to work on the formatting of my actual theme.

    Let me know what you think. I’d love more input on the topic as it’s all still pretty new to me! Thanks! 🙂

  3. June 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I use a plugin that’s pretty handy
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/noindex-archives/
    it allows you to turn off indexing on categories, archives, and tags just by checking a box 😉

  4. June 6, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Keep ’em coming! Soon I’ll have as many plug-ins as you! LOL These are great tips, Patti. Appreciate the help!

  5. Kelly
    September 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I noticed you have virtually nothing in your sidebar. This prevents duplicate content but it doesn’t improve the user experience.

    This is the dilemma I have right now. After removing lots from my sidebar, I’m ranking well, but the bounce rate has gone up as well.

    There must be an seo friendly way of adding recent posts/categories etc to pages without the search engines seeing this information not changing from page to page.

    • September 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm

      Actually, Kelly, I HAD a lot of stuff in my sidebar until my blog was hacked before I upgraded to the latest version of WordPress a few weeks ago. I had my blog restored by my host which saved most of my blog – except for my sidebar. I’ve been busy elsewhere and just haven’t had a chance to fix everything yet. 🙂

      There is a way to include comments on your sidebar and not have it count against you in the SERPs. Make it nofollow or noindex through a plug-in. Good luck!

      Erica

  6. Kelly
    September 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Sorry to hear about your hack.

    Are you sure about the no follow comments not counting against the SERPS? The text would still be the same from post to post.

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