Connect with us

WordPress

18 Popular Link Building Tactics You Should Actually Avoid

Published

on

Roger Montti


Google has been whittling away the value of links since the beginning of the search engine.

The reason Google chooses to ignore certain kinds of links is that those links do not represent a true recommendation.

As far back as 2005, I was told by a Googler at a conference Q&A that Google depreciated links from pages that are irrelevant, like from a footer “powered by” link.

That’s an example of Google removing irrelevant links from what they count as a link signal for ranking purposes.

A true link signal is when a publisher links to a webpage because it is relevant to the topic and therefore useful. What all of the following tactics have in common is that they do not result in a true link signal.

1. Historical Data Link Trap

This is from a patent about historical data that covers inbound links, outbound links, how fast links are acquired, how often content is updated and so on.

One of the factors that are relevant to link building has to do with adding links to a page without the page actually being updated.

Google is on record stating that just because something is in a patent or a research paper doesn’t mean it’s in use.

Additionally, the older the patent the higher the possibility that another algorithm was developed that made it obsolete.

That said, we don’t know whether something like this is in use. It’s something to take note of.

This patent is called, Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data.

Google has snapshots of the web, including snapshots of the state of the linking patterns.

The most common and easily detectable mistake is adding a link to an existing webpage.

This patent dates from 2003. Matt Cutts, then head of Google’s spam fighting department, is listed in the patent as one of the authors. That’s a good sign that this patent has a strong anti-spam component.

The Algorithm That Tracks Link Additions & Removals

Among the various things this patent covered, one of them was tracking changes of links on a webpage:

  • How many links are added.
  • How often links are added.
  • How often links are removed.

This patent covers a wide variety of changes to links on a page and links to a webpage.

Here’s a sample of the things this patent covers.

The section below discusses identifying how new links that are associated with a document are and assigning scores (weights) relative to the newness of those links and then using those scores to rank a webpage.

26. …assigning weights to the links based on the determined measure of freshness, and scoring the document based, at least in part, on the weights assigned to the links associated with the document.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein the measure of freshness of a link associated with the document is based on at least one of a date of appearance of the link, a date of a change to the link, a date of appearance of anchor text associated with the link, a date of a change to anchor text associated with the link, a date of appearance of a linking document containing the link, or a date of a change to a linking document containing the link.

Now, this section of the same patent discusses issuing penalties.

First, it discusses determining time based link information (claim 54) and in claims 55 and 56, it discusses penalizing rankings based on time related link patterns.

54. A method comprising:

…determining longevity of the linkage data;

deriving an indication of content update for at least one …or more linking documents providing the linkage data; and
adjusting the ranking of the linked document based on the longevity of the linkage data and the indication of content update for the linking document.

The next section (claims 55 & 56) are sub-sections to claim 54 above. The following part describes how Google can alter ranking scores with time based link information:

55. The method of claim 54, wherein the adjusting the ranking includes penalizing the ranking if the longevity indicates a short life for the linkage data and boosting the ranking if the longevity indicates a long life for the linkage data.

56. The method of claim 55, wherein …adjusting the ranking further includes penalizing the ranking if at least a portion of content from the linking document is considered stale over a period of time and boosting the ranking if the portion of content from the linking document is considered updated over the period of time.

What that section appears to cover is obtaining links from content that hasn’t been otherwise updated.

Link selling was a multi-million dollar business in those years. Prior to Penguin, around 2007-2009, Google was able to identify which links were paid and began devaluing them.

I know this because an executive from a link selling business told me that many of the links they sold were increasingly no longer working.

There were multiple theories of how Google was catching links added to pages that weren’t otherwise updated. In retrospect, something like the Historical Data Patent could be used to easily spot paid links in addition to other paid link signals.

The importance of the patent I cited is that Google monitoring historical link information is possible. There is a solid basis for the possibility.

The patent shows that it’s possible that Google could detect paid links by monitoring the inbound/outbound link changes within a domain over time.

Webpages change all the time. But there are some rates of changes that don’t happen on normal sites. So a site that’s selling links from within existing webpages could have the power of those links penalized.

Adding links to previously published articles in an attempt to influence Google may backfire. A person reported to me in early 2019 that he purchased links from an existing page and his page lost rankings within two weeks.

Was it the fact that the page was an old existing page that was not updated? Or was it something else?

It’s hard to say. I’m just putting this information out there for your consideration.

2. EDU Discount Link Building

The offer a discount link building technique can result in a penalty. Don’t do it.

This is an example of a sketchy link building tactic. Offering something in return for a link is a paid link. Overstock.com was reported to be penalized by Google in 2011 for offering discounts to university students in exchange for links.

EDU Discount Link Building

Overstock.com apparently was offering university discounts in exchange for links to their product pages. A university published a PDF document with discounts that were intended for students.

Unfortunately for Overstock.com, the document apparently contained the text of the outreach with instructions for how to link to the Overstock.com product pages. The PDF doesn’t exist anymore but Archive.org has a snapshot of it here.

Beware, some SEOs are still recommending discount link building. As you can see from the link above, this tactic violates Google’s guidelines and if that matters to you then don’t do it.

3. Free Products Link Building

This is another variation of a paid link. The interesting thing about this tactic is that it can actually be illegal because it may violate FTC rules against publishing reviews that have been paid for with products, samples or other compensation.

The official guidelines are here: FTC – Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

An easy to read FAQ about endorsements is here: FTC – Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

4. Content Marketing Links

This is not about guest posting. This is about a different form of content marketing.

Content marketing is a lot of things. A valid version focuses on publishing articles on one’s own site to establish the site as a thought leader and create a useful resource that generates goodwill and links.

Another version of content marketing is hiring a writer to publish an article on a third party website, with a link to the client from within the article.

These kinds of article links do not typically contain a disclosure that a payment was made to the writer for the article and the link. This is advertising.

When money or other consideration is exchanged for a link, that is considered an advertisement done for promotional purposes.

This may violate the FTC Guidelines cited above. A relevant section is here:

“Your spokesperson should disclose her connection when promoting your products outside of traditional advertising media (in other words, on programming that consumers won’t recognize as paid advertising). The same guidance also would apply to comments by the expert in her blog or on her website.”

The following FTC guideline states that if the advertisement cannot be disclosed (as in a hidden arrangement), then that advertisement should not exist.

“If a disclosure is necessary to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, and it is not possible to make the disclosure clearly and conspicuously, then that ad should not be disseminated. This means that if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, then that platform should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require disclosures”

5. Viral Link Campaigns

How Viral Link Campaigns Can Be Useful

Viral link campaigns can be useful. A viral link campaign can be useful if it is highly targeted to the demographic of people who would become purchasers and results in links from relevant webpages.

In my opinion, some of the value in viral link campaigns lie less in link creation and can be in awareness building. Building awareness for a company has value.

How Viral Link Campaigns Fail

The more off-topic a viral link campaign is, the less likely it will result in relevant links. In that scenario, there is no value for ranking or awareness building.

A viral link campaign is useless if the reason people are linking has nothing to do with your core business model or your keyword phrases.

Viral contests and other forms of viral stunts for links tend to result in irrelevant inbound links. Google discounts irrelevant links.

The page and/or the immediate context of the link must have a meaningful relevance to the site being linked to. If the relevance of the link is for the topic of the viral campaign, then those links may help rank that site for that topic.

A friend shared with me the anecdote of a company that ran a campaign for their real estate company. The campaign was a contest to about the world’s worst real estate agent portrait photograph. For years afterward, the real estate site failed to rank for meaningful phrases but it did receive a lot of traffic for phrases like world’s worst real estate agent.

Now imagine bloggers and news organizations linking to a toy retailer website because the toy retailer created the world’s biggest teddy bear. All the links have the context of the World’s Biggest Teddy Bear. The landing page they’re linking to is the viral link page about the world’s biggest teddy bear.

That site may rank for the world’s biggest teddy bear. But those thousands of links will not help that site rank for their important search queries because none of those links come from the context of a specific toy nor do they link to a specific toy.

So how can that site rank for yo-yos when all their links are about the world’s biggest teddy bear?

It won’t. They never do.

I gave a presentation at an Internet marketing conference several years ago and one of the audience members was confused at why his wildly successful viral link campaign failed to increase rankings and sales. The above description is why irrelevant viral link campaigns fail in terms of creating a lift in rankings and sales.

Don’t overlook the value of building awareness with a viral link campaign. Viral linking as a strategy can be useful. Just don’t expect an off-topic viral campaign to result in a change in rankings.

Redirect Viral Links Page to Another Page

While we’re on the topic of viral links, this is a strategy that no longer works. This strategy dates back to the days when Digg was popular. The scheme was to build a ton of viral (irrelevant) links to a viral link page. Then months later take the page down and do a permanent 301 redirect to the home page or to a product page.

This no longer works and hasn’t worked for many years. Google will not assign PageRank or relevancy signals through a redirect (or canonical) if there isn’t a one to one relevance between the two pages.

6. Sponsor Links

In my opinion, it is very unlikely that a philanthropic event will generate links from a meaningful context. This is similar to a viral link campaign. The best links are from a context that’s related to your topic to a page on your site that is about that topic.

This kind of link is convenient and expedient. That’s why some SEOs recommend them. They’re easier to acquire, which is good for the link builder and not so good for the client.

It’s not really the kind of link that will move your rankings. I say this from personal experience. I and others experimented with these around 14 years ago. This is nothing new. They simply do not move the dial on rankings.

And if that’s not good enough for you, here’s what Google’s John Mueller said about charity sponsorship links in a Webmaster Hangout:

“…if with your website you’re sponsoring… different clubs and sites where it looks like the primary intent is to get a link there, then that’s something the web spam team might take action on.

…So I’d try to take a look at the bigger picture there and think uwhether or not this is really something that you’re doing systematically; like going out and sponsoring other sites or products with the intent of getting a link or if this is something that’s essentially just a natural part of the web.”

7. Scholarship Links

PageRank and link ranking algorithms look at how the web interconnects.

Google builds a map of the Internet then likely creates what’s called a Reduced Link Graph, consisting of mostly non-spam links and pages.

Then as part of the ranking analysis, it organizes the web into neighborhoods by topic.

Scholarship links are great if your goal is to rank for [keyword phrase] + scholarship. The problem with these kinds of links is that they have an irrelevant context.

Most sites that do scholarship link building aren’t about scholarships. They’re about things like personal injury lawyers.

Scholarship Links

There is no relevance between a link from a school to a personal injury lawyer for the purpose of ranking for personal injury lawyer search phrases.

The link is relevant for things like “personal injury attorneys scholarship.” Google will rank these kinds of pages for those scholarship search phrases and that is the extent of the value.

This is useless for business owners because the links aren’t about their business, they’re about scholarships.

If a personal injury lawyer attained links that are relevant for the search phrase, pizza restaurants, they will rank for personal injury pizza restaurant.

But a pizza restaurant link is not desirable for a personal injury lawyer website. The same kind of relevance problem applies to scholarship links.

An SEO may say that a link from a .edu will help increase the domain authority of a page, that it will increase “trust” and that Dot Edu links are special.

That’s wrong in three different ways.

I think we’re done with scholarship links.

Now let’s move on to an even more useless link building trick.

8. Badges for Links Trick

One of the oldest and out of date link building tricks around is the Badges link building strategy. The Badges for links strategy is a variation of the Awards strategy as well as the Widgets strategy.

The idea is to create a fake award then award to websites that will display your image badge that proclaims them a winner. The trick is to give them the badge and the code which contains a sneaky link back to your website.

Run as fast as you can from any SEO who tells you the Badges trick is a useful link building tactic. This link building strategy is so stale that if you breathe on it it’ll crumble and blow away.

The badges link building technique is similar to the widgets technique, which Google explicitly called out in 2016.

It’s similar because in both cases the link builder is giving something of value (an award, a visitor counter) and forcing the link back to the original website.

The tactic relies on people linking to your site for reasons other than your content. Those kinds of links have been devalued since at least 2004 when Google stopped passing PageRank from pages that are irrelevant to the page they’re linking to.

The idea is to create an awards page and have the badge link to that awards page. The idea is that the link will pass PageRank since the context of the link is similar to the context of the webpage.

One of the failures of the badge for links strategy is that unless your site is about awards, the link is useless. All it’s going to do is help your page rank for “Keywords + Awards). How does that help you? It doesn’t.

9. Blog Comments

Blog commenting is such a bad link building tactic that the search engines created a link attribute called “nofollow” in 2005. Should anyone really consider a tactic that was already burned in 2005?

Even though the “nofollow” attribute is now a hint, that’s no excuse to start comment spamming like it’s 2004.

Does anyone believe Google would make the nofollow into a hint without being able to handle a 2004 link building tactic?

10. Buying Websites

Buying a website is an edgy tactic. Redirecting the domain in order to parasite the link signals doesn’t work anymore. The reason is that Google will not pass link signals from one page to another unless the pages are a close match.

Creating a separate website only doubles your work because now you’re link building and content writing for two websites.

11. Charity Link Building

This is a variation of the sponsorship link building tactic. The problem with this tactic is that the links are irrelevant.

An SEO will try to convince you that domain authority, trust, and Dot EDU magic will help a site rank better. But those excuses have already been documented as untrue.

12. Content Syndication

This is a variation of guest posting, only worse. Content syndication is creating content and letting others publish it in exchange for a link.

Former Google engineer Matt Cutts warned the SEO community in his famous post about guest blogging called, The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO.

13. Contests for Links

This is a variation of viral link building. It creates a situation where other websites are linking to a site for reasons that have nothing to do with the relevant topic. Off-topic links are never good.

14. Widget Links

Widget links are one of the oldest forms of scaled link building.

Many years ago in the early 2000s, the top ranked site for Mesothelioma was a lawyer site that distributed visitor counters for universities to use at the bottom of their webpage.

Placing the page counter code resulted in a link to the lawyer site. It worked for years and then it stopped working.

When WordPress gained popularity many people started using other forms of useful widgets for people to add to their sites.

Plugins for things like a weather display, news, RSS feeds and other useful functions were created so that they resulted in a link back to someone’s site.

Google formally published a blog post to warn against this technique.

15. Press Release Link Building

Press releases are useful for announcing important news about a business. The value is in a news organization publishing a news story based on the press release.

The value is not in the links embedded in the press release. Sites that syndicate press releases tend to be of low quality.

Google may also choose to ignore the links in duplicate content because it’s painfully obvious that links in duplicate content do not represent the quality of being a true link signal.

Google’s John Mueller is on record as stating that press release links are something Google tries to ignore.

So if common sense and logic aren’t enough to convince you that is a low-quality tactic, then perhaps a Googler’s statement will.

16. Profile Link Building

As the moderator of the Link Building Forum at WebmasterWorld and being friends with many forum owners, I can tell you right now that online community administrators know about link builders who sign up to a forum in order to drop a link from their profile.

Just don’t. It’s a low-quality link with zero context and zero relevance. It’s not a true link.

A forum profile link is about as useless and spammy as a link can get. There is ZERO context for a ranking signal to a webpage. It’s silly to consider such a link as a link building tactic.

In my opinion, anyone who recommends this tactic has a credibility problem.

17. Forum Spamming

Forum administrators and moderators are on the lookout for link builders who post a couple useless “me too!” posts and then answer a question with a link to another site saying, “And there’s more information at this site!”

Sorry, but most forum admins and mods consider that spam. The mods will trip over each other to delete those kinds of posts.

If you want to publicize your business in a way that puts it in a bad light and generates buckets of ill will, have at it.

18. WordPress Theme Link Building

“Powered by” links in the footer stopped working over fifteen years ago. Just stop.

Takeaway

Being fashionable is about going along with current trends. Like fashion, link building tactics have many trends, sometimes driven by how easy they are.

When it comes to link building, it’s good to understand the history behind certain tactics. It’s also useful to understand how search engines use links.

Knowledge will help keep you from making avoidable mistakes.

Don’t let anyone tell you that knowing about patents or research is useless. Knowledge is useful. Understanding how search engines treat links can save you from needlessly tanking a website’s rankings.

There are so many ways that a link building strategy can go wrong. These are, in my opinion, a few of the link building strategies that are a waste of time and money.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
Screenshots taken by author, November 2019



Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

WordPress

The dangers of misplaced third-party scripts

Published

on

The dangers of misplaced third-party scripts


I was recently helping one of my team members diagnose a new prospective customer site to find some low hanging fruit to share with them.

When I checked their home page with our Chrome extension, I found a misplaced canonical tag. We added this type of detection a long time ago when I first encountered the issue.

What is a misplaced SEO tag, you might ask?

Most SEO tags like the title, meta description, canonical, etc. belong in the HTML HEAD. If they get placed in the HTML BODY, Google and other search engines will ignore them.

If you go to the Elements tab, you will find the SEO tags inside the <BODY> tag. But, these tags are supposed to be in the <HEAD>!

Why does something like this happen?

If we check the page using VIEW SOURCE, the canonical tag is placed correctly inside the HTML HEAD (line 56, while the <BODY> is in line 139.).

What is happening here?!

Is this an issue with Google Chrome?

The canonical is also placed in the BODY in Firefox.

We have the same issue with Internet Explorer.

Edge is no exception.

We have the same problem with other browsers.

HTML parsing vs. syntax highlighting

Why is the canonical placed correctly when we check VIEW SOURCE, but not when we check it in the Elements tab?

In order to understand this, I need to introduce a couple of developer concepts: lexical analysis and syntax analysis.

When we load a source page using VIEW SOURCE, the browser automatically color codes programming tokens (HTML tags, HTML comments, etc).

In order to do this, the browser performs basic lexical analysis to break the source page into HTML tokens.

This task is typically performed by a lexer. It is a simple, and low-level task.

All programming language compilers and interpreters use a lexer that can break source text into language tokens.

When we load the source page with the Elements tab, the browser not only does syntax highlighting, but it also builds a DOM tree.

In order to build a DOM tree, it is not enough to know HTML tags and comments from regular text, you also need to know when a tag opens and closes, and their place in the tree hierarchy.

This syntactic analysis requires a parser.

An English spellchecker needs to perform a similar, two-phased analysis of the written text. First, it needs to translate text into nouns, pronouns, adverbs, etc. Then, it needs to apply grammar rules to make sure the part of speech tags are in the right order.

But why are the SEO tags placed in the HTML body?

Parsing HTML from Python

I wrote a Python script to fetch and parse some example pages with errors, find the canonical anywhere in the HTML, and print the DOM path where it was found.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/bd1fdb71c984ef3d1c6ad736ef6d4d96

After parsing the same page that shows misplaced SEO tags in the HTML Body, I find them correctly placed in the HTML head.

What are we missing?

Invalid tags in the HTML head

Some HTML tags are only valid in the HTML BODY. For example, <DIV> and <SPAN> tags are invalid in the HTML head.

When I looked closely at the HTML HEAD in our example, I found a script with a hardcoded <SPAN>. This means, the script was meant to be placed in the <BODY>, but the user incorrectly placed it in the head. 

Maybe the instructions were not clear, the vendor omitted this information or the user didn’t know how to do this in WordPress.

I tested by moving the script to the BODY but still faced the misplaced canonical issue.

After a bit of trial and error, I found another script that when I moved it to the BODY, the issue disappeared.

While the second script didn’t have any hardcoded invalid tags, it was likely writing one or more to the DOM.

In other words, it was doing it dynamically.

But, why would inserting invalid tags, cause the browser to push the rest of the HTML in the head to the body?

Web browser error tolerance

I created a few example HTML files with the problems I discussed and loaded them in Chrome to show you what happens.

In the first example, I commented out the opening BODY tag. This removes it.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/95c41ad6be7202023734092cc4c03307

You can see that Chrome added one automatically. 

Now, let’s see what happens if I add a <DIV> inside the HTML HEAD, which is invalid.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/d9cc6a6fcbe326f8bdbc3f6d2d0eb5ce

This is where it gets interesting. Chrome closed the HTML HEAD early and pushed the rest of the HEAD elements to the body, including our canonical tag and <DIV>.

In other words, Chrome assumed we forgot an opening <BODY> tag!

This should make it clear why misplaced tags in the HEAD can cause our SEO tags to end up in the BODY.

Now, let’s look at our second case where we don’t have a hardcoded invalid tag, but a script might write one dynamically.

https://gist.github.com/franciscobatista356/b5239152867159ac1876c1a96ad807f0

Here you see that if a script writes an invalid tag in the HTML head, it will cause the browser to close it early as before. We have exactly the same problem!

We didn’t see the problem with our Python parser because lxml (the Python parsing library) doesn’t try to fix HTML errors.

Why do browsers do this?

Browsers need to render pages that our Python script doesn’t need to do. If they try to render before correcting mistakes, the pages would look completely broken.

The web is full of pages that would completely break if web browsers didn’t accommodate for errors.

This article from HTML5Rocks provides a fascinating look inside web browsers and helps explain the behavior we see in our examples.

“The HTML5 specification does define some of these requirements. (WebKit summarizes this nicely in the comment at the beginning of the HTML parser class.)

Unfortunately, we have to handle many HTML documents that are not well-formed, so the parser has to be tolerant about errors.

We have to take care of at least the following error conditions:

The element being added is explicitly forbidden inside some outer tag. In this case, we should close all tags up to the one which forbids the element, and add it afterward.

Please read the full article or at least make sure to read at least the section on “Browser’s Error Tolerance” to get a better context.

How to fix this

Fortunately, fixing this problem is actually very simple. We have two alternatives. A lazy one and a proper one.

The proper fix is to track down scripts that insert invalid HTML tags in the head and move them to the HTML body.

The lazy and quickest fix is to move all SEO tags (and other important tags) before any third party scripts. Preferably, right after the opening <HEAD> tag.

You can see how I do it here.

We still have the same invalid tag and script in the HTML head and the SEO tags are also in the head.

Is this a common problem?

I’ve been seeing this issue happening for many years now, and Patrick Stox has also reported seeing the same problem happening often to enterprise sites.

One of the biggest misconceptions about technical SEO is that you do it once and you are done. That would be the case if the sites didn’t change, users/developers didn’t make mistakes and/or Googlebot behavior didn’t change either.

At the moment that is hardly the case.

I’ve been advocating technical SEOs learn developer skills and I hope this case study illustrates the growing importance of this.

If you enjoyed this tip, make sure to attend my SMX West session on Solving Complex JavaScript Issues And Leveraging Semantic HTML5 next month. Among other things, I will share advanced research on how Googlebot and Bingbot handle script and HTML issues like the ones I mentioned here.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds U.S. patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months.

Continue Reading

WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search & Tracking

Published

on

John Lincoln


If you want your website to load quickly on a mobile platform, you should make use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology.

Fortunately, that’s easy to do if you’re using WordPress because there are quite a few AMP plugins available.

Even better: many of them are free.

You will, however, need to invest some time to configure them properly. You might even need to make some design tweaks.

Still, it’s worth the effort if Google rewards your site with a top rank in mobile search.

Quick note, before you try any of these AMP plugins for WordPress, make sure you:

  • Create a backup version of your website.
  • Ensure it works in your hosting environment.
  • Make sure it matches your goals for the site.
  • Have a developer on hand to make sure it can be configured properly.
  • Make sure it works with your theme.

Here are some of the best AMP plugins for WordPress in the market.

1. The Official AMP Plugin for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you’re unsure which plugin to choose from in this list, you almost certainly can’t go wrong with the one that’s designed by the official AMP project.

Here are some of its capabilities:

  • Support for core themes: The plugin is compatible with the “core” themes (such as Twenty Twenty).
  • Compatibility tool: Sometimes, it’s not possible to automate AMP markup insertion. When that happens, the plugin will show which components are causing problems so you can address them manually.
  • CSS tree-shaking: The tool will remove unused cascading style sheets (CSS) so you can stay under the AMP-mandated 50k limit.
  • AMP Stories: While still in beta as of this writing, the plugin enables you to create, edit, and publish AMP Stories.

You can also configure the tool to follow one of three template modes:

  • Standard: Use the AMP plugin for your entire site. There’s no need to separate AMP and non-AMP content.
  • Reader: Shows pages with a simplified design that meets AMP standards. Each page has a canonical URL as well as an AMP URL.
  • Transitional: Delivers AMP and non-AMP experiences with the same look and feel.

The plugin also receives frequent updates. If you’re someone who’s into always getting “the latest and greatest,” that’s another argument in its favor.

2. AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

One of the more highly rated options in this list is the AMP for WP plugin.

Yes, it even has a better average rating than the one produced by the official AMP project.

AMP for WP also offers a rich feature set that includes:

  • AdSense support.
  • Contact Form 7 support.
  • Email opt-in support.
  • Call To Action support.

In other words, if you want to transform your website into something resembling a mobile app and use it for digital marketing, this plugin might be your best bet.

The tool also plays nicely with some of the more popular WordPress SEO plugins, including Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, SEOPress, Rank Math, and The SEO Framework.

Additionally, AMP for WP also integrates with WooCommerce. If you’re selling products online, that feature alone can give you a nice competitive advantage.

The developers of the plugin offer premium support if you’d need a hand getting things up and running.

3. Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

How would you like to add markup to your pages so that they appear as rich snippets in search results?

If so, then have a look at the Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP plugin.

Please note: this option isn’t an AMP plugin per se. However, it supports AMP. That’s the important takeaway here.

The tool also supports 33 different schema types, including blog posts, news articles, local business details, recipes, products, and videos.

If the schema type you want to use isn’t supported, the developers say that you can request it and they’ll add it for you.

The tool even supports conditional display fields, so you get to decide which posts, pages, or other content gets marked up.

You can even import markup data from other schema plugins, including SEO Pressor and WP SEO Schema.

The premium version of the tool enables you to add reviews and offers priority support.

4. PWA for WP & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you’d like to transform your website into a progressive web app (PWA), take a look at the PWA for WP & AMP plugin.

Use the tool to take your user experience up a notch with the latest and greatest web tech bells and whistles.

For starters, and most importantly for this article, the plugin offers full AMP support.

It also comes with UTM tracking, multi-site support, and a cache expiration option.

PWA for WP & AMP also offers a service worker feature that optimizes your website. That translates to faster load times for visitors.

And maybe best of all: the tool includes offline support. Visitors can load the site in a jiffy even when they aren’t connected to WiFi.

The premium version of PWA for WP & AMP gives you access to a loading icon library, calls to action, and data analytics.

5. Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin and the Official AMP Plugin for WordPress then you’re going to need the Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP plugin as well.

Why? Because it’s the “glue” that enables the two plugins to work together.

It also gives you an easy way to customize your AMP content.

Additionally, Glue adds rudimental styling so you can retain at least a little bit of the site’s look and feel for AMP visitors.

It’s developed by the same developer who created the Yoast SEO plugin.

6. AMP WP – Google AMP for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

This one appears to be a fairly new entry in the library of AMP plugins. As of now, it’s only got a thousand active installations.

Still, the AMP WP plugin demonstrates promise. According to the product description, you can get as much as a 5x faster load with the tool.

Also, the developer claims that it’s 100% compatible with Yoast SEO.

Here are a few other features you get with the plugin:

  • GDPR support (for Europe).
  • Slider support.
  • Related posts view.
  • Support for third-party analytics (like Google Analytics).
  • Ability configure AMP for specific taxonomies (tags and categories).
  • Optional sticky header.
  • Image lightboxes.

7. weeblrAMP CE

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

The weeblrAMP plugin goes beyond what other plugins offer by empowering you to create a nearly complete AMP version of your entire site.

Additionally, weeblrAMP integrates with numerous other tools, including:

  • Disqus
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Facebook pixel
  • Yoast SEO
  • Jetpack
  • WooCommerce
  • Contact Form 7
  • Gravity Forms

Also, the plugin also enables you to fully customize the AMP experience with template overrides.

As of now, weeblrAMP only has 700 active installs. However, it’s got a 4.5-star rating.

8. AMP It Up!

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

AMP It Up! bills itself as another “set it and forget it” plugin. All you have to do is install and activate it and you’ve magically got an AMP-compliant website.

Truth be told, though, nothing is that simple. Especially in web development.

You’re going to have to do some manual configuration.

The tool offers support for:

  • GDPR
  • HTTPS
  • Google Analytics
  • YouTube
  • BrightCove

You can even add your own custom JavaScript to your AMP-enabled website. That gives you some flexibility with the functionality.

Additionally, AMP It Up! automatically adds social share buttons to your pages. You won’t have to fish around for another plugin for that purpose.

Also, the tool will automatically convert content with several pictures into an AMP-compliant carousel.

AMP It Up! only has a few hundred installs at this point but it’s got a 4-star rating.

9. AMP Stories for WordPress

9 Best AMP WordPress Plugins for Speed, Search &#038; Tracking

Want a way to create fast-loading full-screen content on the web?

You can use AMP Stories to get website visitors more engaged with your brand.

And yes, they’re just like Instagram Stories.

You can include images, animations, videos, audio, and text in your own AMP Stories.

If you like the idea of using AMP Stories, you should take a look at the AMP Stories for WordPress plugin. It enables you to create a Story by just filling out a form on a post.

The tool also enables you to include a URL on your Story. That can come in handy if you want to redirect people to another part of your site (for example, to place an order).

The pro version of AMP Stories for WordPress includes bookend management, support for extra content at the end of Stories, and Facebook integration.

The tool currently enjoys a 5-star rating.

Wrapping It Up

In this mobile era, you need a website that loads quickly on mobile devices.

Fortunately, that’s easy to do with AMP.

What isn’t so easy is to manually implement AMP technology on your website.

However, if you’re using WordPress, there are plenty of plugins that will do it for you.

If you haven’t already added AMP support to your WordPress site, why not grab one of the plugins listed here and get the ball rolling today?

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, December 2019



Continue Reading

WordPress

11 Important Image SEO Tips You Need to Know

Published

on

Anna Crowe


Think about the last time you uploaded an image to your website. Chances are you downloaded it from a stock photography site, uploaded it to the backend of your site, and then inserted it to the page.

This makes a shining example of image optimization, right? Not quite.

You’ve added a giant bowling ball weight to your site that’s slowing down the page speed. And, search engines can’t read your images without alt text.

Let’s change that.

Over 20% of all U.S. web searches happen on Google Images, according to 2018 data from Jumpshot.

SEO amateurs and pros alike know that optimizing images for your website is notoriously worth the time spent.

Dan Morgan at WebSpection got one of his photos to rank #1 in Google Images for “best person in Cardiff” in less than four days by optimizing his image.

And, Robbie Richards generated 150,732 visits by adding image alt tags, compressing images, and a few other SEO tricks.

Without proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.

It’s like the search engines are giving away Oreos and milk for free. But, you only take the Oreo. When in reality, the Oreo is way better dunked in milk.

Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities. And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.

As Matt Southern pointed out, Gary Illyes’ statement on image search in a recent Reddit chat:

“We simply know that media search is way too ignored for what it’s capable doing for publishers so we’re throwing more engineers at it as well as more outreach.”

But which factors are most important to ensure your images are findable and don’t slow down your site?

Here are 11 important image optimization tips you need to know.

1. Choose the Right Format

Decoding all the various image format can feel like your first time ordering at Taco Bell. But, before you can start adding images to your site, you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best file type.

While there are many image formats to choose from, the PNG and JPEG are the most common for the web.

  • PNG: Produces better quality images, but comes with a larger file size.
  • JPEG: You may lose image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to find a good balance.

For me, PNG is the unsung hero of image formatting. Typically, I only use JPEGs for bigger, more visual images taken by a true photographer. But, for my daily use, PNG is the way to go.

2. Compress Your Images

Yep, hell hath no fury like a bloated web page after uploading an image that’s not compressed.

Search engines will look at your web page like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can’t seriously be considering putting that on you your website, right?

According to HTTP Archive, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight.

That’s why I highly recommend compressing your images before uploading to your site. You can do this in Photoshop or you can use a tool like TinyPNG. TingPNG also has a WordPress plugin you can use too.

However, I prefer WP Smush as my WordPress plugin. It reduces the image file size without removing the quality. Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers. It reduces the load on your own site.

Increasingly.com improved website speed by 33% / 2 seconds by compressing images.

I mean, there’s just something sexy about faster page speed when after you compress your images.

If you’re unsure how your images are affecting your page speed, I recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

3. Create Unique Images

You want your photos to pop on your site. If you fill your website with stock imagery, you’ll look unoriginal – like thousands of other sites that don’t stand out.

Too many websites are cluttered with the same generic stock photos.

Think about a corporate website, a consulting firm, a business that prides itself on customer service. All these websites use virtually the same looking stock image of a businessman smiling.

I’m sure you’ve seen one that looks like this:

common business man stock image

While you may have your stock images perfectly optimized, it won’t have the same impact or potential SEO benefits as an original, high-quality image.

The more original pictures you have, the better experience for the user and the better your odds are of ranking on relevant searches.

4. Beware of Copyright

Regardless of the image files you choose to use, make sure there’s no copyright conflict.

The Postal Service is paying $3.5 million in an image copyright lawsuit. And, Sketchers got sued for $2.5 million.

If Getty, Shutterstock, DepositFiles, or some other stock photo provider owns an image you use, and you don’t have a license to use it, then you’re risking an expensive lawsuit.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you could be issued a notice if you have violated any copyright issues. If the owner of a piece of content sees their content on your website, they can issue a DMCA Takedown which you must comply with.

Google Images allows you to filter results based on those available for reuse. And, Mindy Weinstein shares 41 different websites to find free images.

5. Customize Image File Names

When it comes to SEO, creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is absolutely crucial.

Not customizing your image file name is like getting a burrito with nothing in it. It just plain sucks.

Image file names alert Google and other search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the image.

Typically, file names will look like “IMG_722019” or something similar. That’s like ordering from a menu in a different language. It doesn’t help Google.

Change the file name from the default to help the search engines understand your image and improve your SEO value.

This involves a bit of work, depending on how extensive your media library is, but changing the default image name is always a good idea. Let’s take this image of chocolate for example:

dark chocolate coffee flavored bar

I could name it simply “chocolate” but if you sell chocolate on your website, potentially every image can be named “chocolate-1,” “chocolate-2,” and so on.

I named this image “dark-chocolate-coffee” to let users and search engines understand the image.

6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text

Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. Similar to the title, the alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file.

When the image won’t load, you’ll get an image box with the alt tag present in the top left corner. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.

Paying attention to alt tags is also beneficial to the overall on-page SEO strategy. You want to make sure that all other optimization areas are in place, but if the image fails to load for any reason, users will see what the image is supposed to be.

Plus, adding appropriate alt tags to the images on your website can help your website achieve better rankings in the search engines by associating keywords with images. Even Google has remarked on the value of alt text in images.

It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

Alt text is required under the American Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to view images themselves. A descriptive alt text can alert users exactly what is in the photo. For example, say you have a picture of chocolate on your website.

The alt text could read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”chocolate”/>

However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”dark chocolate coffee flavored bar”/>

Alt text is viewable in the cached text version of the page, aiding in its benefit to both users and the search engines. For further SEO value, the alt text can act as the anchor text of an internal link when the image links to a different page on the site.

7. Think About the Image File Structure

In 2018, Google updated its Image Guidelines. One of the major updates they revealed was that they use the file path and file name to rank images.

Repeat: The file path and file name is an actual ranking factor.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a generic /media/ folder, I would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.

8. Make Your Page Title & Description

Google also revealed that it uses your page title and description as part of its image search algorithm.

The Google support page states:

“Google Images automatically generates a title and snippet to best explain each result and how it relates to the user query… We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title, and meta tags.”

All of your basic on-page SEO factors like meta data, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc. affects the way Google ranks your images.

It’s like putting all your toppings on your burrito. It tastes way better with guac. So, make sure to add the guac for improving image rankings.

9. Define Your Dimensions

If you’re using AMP or PWAs, you are required to define your image dimensions in the source code.

However, if you’re not using either, it’s still a best practice to define the width and height. It provides a better user experience.

Plus, it allows the browsers to size the image before the CSS is loaded. This stops the page from jumping when it loads.

10. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly

Oh, mobile SEO. At its worst, it can give you a high bounce rate and low conversions. But, at its best, it can give you more ranking power and better user engagement.

Problem is, how do you optimize your images for the mobile-first index?

You create responsive images. This means the image will scale with the size of the site whether the user is using desktop or mobile. It adjusts to the size of the device.

11. Add Images to Your Sitemap

Whether you’re adding your images to your sitemap or creating a new sitemap for images, you want images somewhere in your sitemaps.

Having your images in a sitemap greatly increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your images. Thus, results in more site traffic.

If you’re using WordPress, Yoast offers a sitemap solution in their plugin.

Image Optimization Key Takeaways

So, before you begin uploading your image to your site, make sure to follow the image optimization rituals from above.

The most important thing is to make sure the image and alternative text are relevant to the page. Other key takeaways:

  • Choose the right file format. PNGs are my favorite for screenshots.
  • Reduce file size for faster page load speed.
  • Make sure your on-page SEO elements (meta data, structured data, etc.) pair with your image.
  • For crawlability, create an image sitemap or make sure your images are featured in your sitemap.

Optimizing images are no joke. With advancements in voice search technology, media is a growing importance and your entire site will benefit from taking the steps above.

Happy optimizing!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author



Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Plolu.