Limiting WordPress Search to Custom Post Types

searchform template

I have now written a more extensive article on WordPress search at [WP Theme Tutorial][search].

While working with custom post types I’ve found the need a few times to search only within the custom post type. A great example would be on a list of community resources. On the resources page it would make sense to only search the resources. With the snippet below you can force the search form to search only the custom post type in question. Notice the conditional tags to limit this modification to the resources page only.

[php]
<form method="get" id="searchform" action="/”>

<input type="search" class="text" value="search resources ” name=”s” id=”s” />

[/php]

I’ll admit that this isn’t the ultimate option. I’d like to have the user click a checkbox and be able to limit the searches to a custom post type, or inside the current search.

[search]: http://wpthemetutorial.curtisdev.ca/2011/10/17/enhancing-wordpress-search/ “Enhancing WordPress Search”

The Basics of Writing Good Content for Your Site

compass pointing direction

compass pointing direction
compass pointing direction

A while ago I wrote that Seo Isn’t Magic but It’s Hard work. I too find that writing targeted content that potential clients will be searching for is hard work. Being a bit of a gear head I’m way more likely to be interested in expounding on technical topics that will interest others of my ilk. Unfortunately often they’re doing the same, or similar things to me, so they’re not really my target audience.

Today I figured I'd at least try to round-up some ways you can inspire yourself with some blog topics. Hopefully the research pique's my interest in topics that target my desired audience.

Your Direction

While it's fairly obvious to some it's still worth mentioning that the first item you need to do is define your audience. It's just like defining your target market in a business (and ultimately is probably the same thing). For me my target market is:

<ol>
    <li>Looking for someone to build their website</li>
    <li>Has a preference for WordPress as a platform</li>
    <li>Owns a small to medium-sized business and is interested in web marketing</li>
    <li>Wants to build a long-term relationship and continually work on iterating their site</li>
</ol>

Secondarily my audience is also:

<ol>
    <li>Programmers for applications (mainly Rails) that are looking for a designer or front end coder</li>
</ol>

I place them in that order currently because most of my income comes from the first set of people. Yes I may not find all of the traits I'm looking for in each client but they need to have a few to be in my target market and thus my target for my blog.

They Want to Know

So since I have an idea of whom I should be writing for I now need to try to figure out what items they're likely to search for when wanting a website built. Some topics may include:

<ul>
    <li>Why use WordPress instead of Drupal, Blogger, Joomla&#133;</li>
    <li>I thought WordPress was just a blogging software</li>
    <li>What's the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org</li>
    <li>How important is site speed? How about in SEO rankings</li>
    <li>What type of questions do I ask a web designer when I'm trying to figure out who to hire?</li>
    <li>Do I need to hire a big agency or can a solo freelancer do the job?</li>
    <li>What type of process should I expect during a web design project?</li>
    <li>How do I get good SEO on my Blog posts</li>
</ul>

Yeah I'm giving away ideas here. Feel free to jump off my list and write some of your own items for your site.

Writing Your Content

So you've got a list, now you just need to write stuff down. Best practice when starting out is to just write. don't think about how it will sound just get the gist of the content down on the page. Once you've got it written then edit it. Don't worry about using the latest and greatest tool. If you use MS Word and know it, use it. If all you have is NotePad, TextEdit, that's fine just get the words down.

Edit it

So it's down now. Read it, re-read it, and read it again. Tweak it each time. Blog posts don't need to be long but they need to contain good content. Your blog post is done when you can't take anything else out. It shouldn't ramble or be filled with meaningless fluff.

Really that’s all you need to do to get some content on your site. Sure you can add images, and using the correct markup for the site will help maximize the SEO benefits of the content but I’ll address that next time.

SEO, It’s Not Magic, and It’s Hard Work

SEO image

SEO image
SEO image

During almost every website I build I get asked by my client’s what I’ll be doing to make sure their site ranks high for XXXXXX search term. Unfortunately this stems from the widely held belief that SEO is some sort of magic Voodoo that is done by the site code only. We can’t blame clients for wanting to rank well in search since it’s such a traffic driver but we can educate them so that they think of SEO properly.

It’s All Wrong

I’m not sure where this dumb idea about SEO being all in code and trickery came from but the fact is that this is wrong. Sure a well coded site using current best practices is a huge leg up in gaining search engine ranking but if there is no original, good content on the site there is nothing to be crawled by search engines.

Good Content!

I think back about one client who had lots of content on their site. They put up something new each day. It was relevant to their field even. Unfortunately it sucked. All they did was grab a news story that related to search terms they wanted to rank for and put the headline on their site with the first paragraph from the article. Sometimes they added a link to the original source. The article was followed by a link to their contact form.

While this is content, and it is published regularly, it’s not good original content so ultimately they’re just wasting their time. SEO comes from good original content.

I Now Refuse

Unfortunately with the client I list above about 4 months later they came to me complaining that they still weren’t ranking for the search terms they wanted to rank for and started blaming me for it. When I asked if they were writing at least one original article a week I was told:

In a perfect world we’d take the time for that, but it’s just not going to happen.

This has lead me to one response to clients when we start talking about SEO. As soon as they start to talk about it I ask if they’re going to write original content at least once a week. If I get any other answer than “Yes” I tell them to stop talking about SEO. If you give me no original content to work with there is nothing I can do.

SEO is not magic. It’s good content, Good Content, GOOD CONTENT

The Right Way to Think About SEO

When you think about SEO you need to be thinking about a long term plan for how you’re going to achieve ranking for search terms. It’s not instant pay off, but a long term commitment to produce good content.

I currently like to cite the paddling site I run with a friend. I’ve been heavily involved in the site for 3 years. The first design/code I did for the site sucked. I can live with that reality. I was new to WordPress and hadn’t dug into SEO much so the markup was not well suited to identifying content to search engines.

I only rebuilt the site last year and while we did see some increase in repeat traffic and see more people clicking on more articles with the redesign, we really didn’t see an increase in search engine visitors. We see about 1000 people a day come directly from search terms. Having talked with a number of other paddlers running sites we’re far and above the highest in about 90% of the cases.

We out rank local stores for purchase specific search terms. I don’t even sell anything.

We have accomplished this with approximately 100 articles. When we want to rank for a new search term, or better for a current one, we come up with 3 or 4 articles to write that would pertain to the term then sit down and write them. Then we wait a few weeks and guess what, we start seeing people come to our site via the terms we wanted to rank for.

That’s my big secret.

Just Stop

So stop thinking that some company can come in and help you move from not ranking at all to ranking number 1 on Google for a term. Sit down and get some original content on the site. Do some work instead of expecting someone else to do it for you. Stop being lazy. Setup a long term plan and follow through on it. Sure it’s not easy but it’s what needs to get done.

Don’t Force Your Website to Fail

failed business man stapled to wall
failed business man stapled to wall

Most companies today realize they need a presence on the web. In most industries now if you don’t have a web presence of some sort you won’t have a business for long. I know one company that stocks lots of rare items for their brick and motar store because on the web it sells across Canada and the US thus making it worth stocking. The problem I see with a number of business’s that get into the web is that they force their website to fail.

No the management doesn’t sit in the office and say “Let’s start a website and make sure it tanks and costs us needless money.” But they do sit there and decide to only go half way with solutions that rely on going all the way.

The Fail

The biggest example I have worked with is a great retail store that I did a bunch of SEO work for. We were ranked 1 or 2 on the search engines for some very generic search terms. When you searched for manufacturers of goods we carried we were ranked just below the manufacturer. We were the first place you could actually buy the product.

The problem is that the web store had a huge limiting factor that meant despite all of the good SEO work they only saw a maximum of 20 orders completed in the busy months. I happend to also know that competitors were seeing ten times those web purchases without the good SEO during the slow months.

The reality was that it didn’t matter how good the SEO was for the company. With no way to let customer purchase online it was a waste of their money. Eventually I told them that. We talked about the limiting factors of the web store and came up with a range of options to help fix or totally fix the problem (ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 in price on a monthly in store sales of 250,000 in busy months) and they just simply weren’t willing to let their website succeed.

The Conclusion

It’s all well and good to want a web presence but if you are going to jump into the web be willing to jump in with both feet. Don’t start a project only to do it half way and force the first half to fail. The conclusion to the above story is that they got me to stop working on SEO and now they’re on page 10 and still have a mostly non-functional online store.

Generating Links to your Site

One of the big things that you need to do to improve you search engine rankings is to generate links back to your blog. That’s easy to say but much harder to do so lets look at some ways to generate links back to your website.

Have Something Worth Linking to

Before you start working to generate links evaluate your content. Do you have appropriate landing pages for customers? Are you hard or soft selling on the site? Is there even any good content there for customers?

I am a web designer. I do web design for small and medium business. I write about web design for small and medium business. I hope that you find good content here for your business but I’ll admit I have a  motive too. I want you to read this and hire me. Is there good free information here for you so you won’t have to hire me? Sure, but I specialize in what I do. While people may be able to take a step forward in their web management there is a ceiling that a business will hit and they will have to decide whether to hire a freelancer or an in house person.

If they picked up a bunch of their hints from me then they are more likely to come back to me for some paid work as well. So do I have content worth linking to? Yes I do. If you don’t have content on your site that others need why would they link to you?

Start with the Easy

Once you have some content on your site that is worth reading, start by knocking off the easy avenues for link generation. If you participate in any forums put a link to your site in your signature it they let you or at least on your profile page. I don’t find that this will drive a lot of traffic to your site but it is a simple starting point. Every time I start a new site that I plan to do some advertising for I add it to the signatures in any forums I participate in. I generally try not to put to many in but two or three are alright so evaluate what needs to be in there for each forum. I have different sites on my signatures depending on the nature of the forum.

What About a Contest

A great way to get other blogs or sites linking to you is to run a contest. Many times companies will contact bloggers or site admins and offer them a give away. They do for the publicity and the blogger is happy to write the content also because of the publicity. This type of link generation is called linkbaiting and is a great way to get people talking about your site and your content.

Let the contest run over a month and really advertise it. Use Twitter, forums, facebook… to get people talking. Lots of blogs will link to you because they want to share your contest with their readers. You may be surprised sometimes how popular a blog is that links to your little contest.

Share the Love

This post is about link love and how to get it. So why would I now suggest that you give it to others? If people are always giving you links and never getting anything back then the love could start tailing off. Now I am not suggesting that you link to your direct competition but what about a business that would offer complimentary services? What about a contest run on another site? Offer up the love to others will make it more likely that they will be sending links your way in the future as well.

Remember a good SEO plan takes time it doesn’t happen over night so you need to be patient and keep up the hard work. The day will come when you have more clients than you know what to do with and that will pay for all of the time spent up front.

Search Engine Optimization for Small Business

I deal with many small business’ as a freelancer. One thing that they most often have in common is the knowledge that websites need some work to get good results in search engine rankings. What they often don’t know is the bit of work they can do to improve their search engine traffic.

1. Content Management
Use a content management system. If you are getting a new site built then insist on some sort of content management system. It will cost you more up front than an entirely static site. You will no longer have to run to the designer each time you need to change your hours of operation or your prices. That also means you won’t have to pay them for every little change. A content management system will also allow you more control over the SEO of your site.    

A good content management system will also have a number of SEO items built in. Look at the title of this post and then look in your url bar in your web browser. Notice that they match. Having a url that is readable and not full of question marks and = signs can make a big difference in the traffic that your site gets.

 

2. Take the time to do it right
Alt tags. Alt tags are the alternate tags found on images. If you don’t have alternate tags on your images search engines can’t tell what the picture is of. If the search engine can’t tell what the picture is of it just ignores it and you loose the possible boost that could be gained by the presence of an alt tag.

 

3. Figure out who you want to market to and write appropriately
If you are a Motel in a small town known for it’s fishing and want to get more fishermen to stay at your motel make sure you talk about the great fishing in the area. Yes I realize that you are a hotel and don’t actually offer fishing in your parking lot but with content written about fishing in the area you are more likely to appear in a search about fishing in the area. If they are searching for ‘fishing and motel’ you are even better positioned to be a primary hit in your area.

 

4. Get links from related business
Using the example of the motel again, you should network with related business’s. I know that other motel’s will not link to you as a competitor but what about a local fishing lodge? They may have a list of accomodations in the area, are you on it? If not consider asking the owner for a link in return for a link to their business as a provider of fishing trips. This link will help increase your page rank through google and make your site a more relevant search term for places to stay while fishing in the area.

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