Search Engine Optimisation for a WordPress Client

TerraMedia has recently been contracted to work on fixing up a WordPress website, specifically looking at improving usability and search engine optimisation.

There are a few key things that I will be doing on their website as part of this job.

The first thing I have done is to implement Google Analytics tracking code so that we can begin to get an idea of how people are finding the website. This will track visits while I am working on other sections of the website so that we can get a few weeks worth of results without having to wait idly for them.

There have been reported issues of the navigation not functioning correctly in all browsers, particularly Internet Explorer. As the navigation is vital to accessing website content, it is important to get this working correctly as soon as possible.

Next up I will be updating and modifying the template to help meet both of the criteria by ensuring the markup makes semantic sense, including adding in hierarchical header tags to each page. At the moment, while these are used, each page lacks its own heading, meaning that it is harder for search engines to determine the relevance of individual pages and their content, and users cannot easily see what each page is about.

Once I’ve got the code cleaned up so that is more search engine friendly and the front end more usable, we will start focusing more heavily on getting more traffic to the website from both search engines and other sources, more customers is the primary goal after all!

I will be installing a WordPress plugin called the All In One SEO Pack, which will allow us to specify page titles and meta tags for each page and blog post individually, allowing the keywords and descriptions to be optimised for each page. It also gives better control over the overall meta tags, and tags for archives, categories and so on.

They currently do not have any introductory text on their home page, this means that the root page of their domain name (arguably one of the most important pages of a website from a search perspective) doesn’t really tell search engines anything. It has photos, events, a logo and the navigation. So what we will be doing here is writing up a paragraph or two of highly optimised copy. By this point we should have about a months worth of results from Google Analytics so once this is implemented we will be able to clearly see the difference this text will make and subsequently tweak it as necessary.

To keep the home page fresh and keep the search engines checking it regularly, we will also be having the latest blog post displayed on the home page. As part of this, the client will also begin using WordPress’s blogging functionality to keep the website up to date with the latest news and special offers. They currently do not utilise this functionality, which is a big opportunity to keep their potential customers up to date.

Finally, we will be implementing a sitemap which will be submitted to search engines on a regular basis so that new blog posts and updated pages will be updated in their indexes as soon as possible.

By this point, we should be seeing quite an improvement in search engine rankings and subsequently in website traffic. In order to capitalise on this increased traffic, we will be adding in a static widget that shows the contact details on every page of the website and provides a link to the contact form. This will make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get more information or to make a booking. We will also be making the RSS feed a prominent link on each page to encourage visitors that use an RSS reader to subscribe to the latest updates and specials, and subsequently draw visitors back for potential future and/or repeat sales.

It’s overall a simple but interesting project that will pretty quickly show the difference a well optimised website that is regularyl updated can make. From here, we will start looking at building up links in directories and other relevant websites to continue to improve search rankings and visitor access points.

Template Work

As I am currently working on the new WordPress template for this blog, the design is quite regularly becoming unusable with numerous broken sections as I am testing.

Please feel free to continue browsing the website, and please bear with me in the mean time, once it’s all finished it will look very schmick, just like the template designs I put together previously, but with some new refinements to make it even easier to use, and look even better. To maintain a reasonable level of usability as much as possible, I will be switching back to the “Classic” WordPress theme when I am not working on the template.

Thanks for your patience, have a good one!

Website Template Mockups

These are my 3 mockups for the design of my new personal portfolio. I have done a mock up of 3 of the sections that will be available:

Home page:

The home page of my new online portfolio design
The home page of my new online portfolio design

Blog page:

The blog section on my new portfolio website
The blog section on my new portfolio website

Portfolio page:

The portfolio section of the new layout. The portfolio images will be faded out and fade in when the user moves the mouse over them. If a user views that item specifically they are permanently full opacity.
The portfolio section of the new layout. The portfolio images will be faded out and fade in when the user moves the mouse over them. If a user views that item specifically they are permanently full opacity.

Narfstuff – Review

Website address: http://www.narfstuff.co.uk/

It isn’t immediately clear as to what Narfstuff actually is, there are lots of clues to indicate, but at a first glance, it gives the impression of being a personal website of some sort, due to the laid back, informal appearance to the graphics and site design.

The Narfstuff blog and portfolio is very relaxed and inviting
The Narfstuff blog and portfolio is very relaxed and inviting

Despite this initial uncertainty, it quite quickly becomes clearer when we look at the navigation items that this is a portfolio and blog site.

When we look at how customised Narfstuff is, it maintains a stereotypical blog layout with a main column for blog posts and a right hand column for the blog category and archive navigation. Despite this though, the blog has been quite well created in a unique way using a great deal of custom imagery to create the appearance of a clipboard on top of numerous other items on a literal desk. This makes it seem fairly personal, but the added touch of flowers to assist in the creation of a border between the clipboard and navigation shows us a little bit more of the creator’s personality. This personalisation makes the website memorable, though it does not incorporate any “fancy” functionality such as the scrolling effects of WeBleedDesign.

The content is reasonably professional, but has a more personal blog style of writing than a formal document. The website has not been updated regularly for some time, but it does appear that it is becoming more regular, and includes items that may be of use to the professional community such as free graphics packs. This assists in developing a more professional appearance, despite the informal writing style.

The website loads relatively quickly and functions on a number of different browsers without any hiccups, so it is quite accessible and the navigation is easy to use. The navigation with roll over effects also form the only interaction available with the website. One thing that can cause confusion though is that the portfolio section of the website changes in appearance quite dramatically to the rest of the website.

The changed design for the portfolio section on Narfstuff
The changed design for the portfolio section on Narfstuff

Not only does the design change, but all the functionality and navigaition items have become different as well. This is a bit off putting especially as there is no clear way to return to the other section of the website. The only similarity is the colours and the vines with flowers that are used to create borders.

Despite this lack of consistency though, a contact page is available in both sections of the website. However, no contact details are available, there is only an inquiry form. Similarly, there is no reference to any other social media, such as Twitter or LinkedIn which could be useful in developing further leads or clients.

We Bleed Design – Review

Website address: http://webleeddesign.com/

We Bleed Design, created by Bryan Katzel is a unique and interesting way of displaying an online portfolio. It is initially fairly clear that it is a design portfolio. This is done through the name of the website itself, “We Bleed Design”, and the use of prominent headings such as “Design, Illustration and other Digital Keepsakes”. The thing that isn’t clear initially, is what sort of design Bryan actually does.

The screen you first see when loading WeBleedDesign
The screen you first see when loading WeBleedDesign

Straight away, Bryan tells us it’s his portfolio and has links to more information about himself, and to email him.

When we follow the navigation item to his work it becomes more clear that most of his work is print based, but that he also does web based design.

Clicking any navigation item takes us through a very unique automated scroll which runs over a transparent PNG to create a rather memorable experience with a seemingly animated page. The same “animation” occurs when we click on other navigation items, some run for longer than others though, depending on how far down the page we go. Alternatively, we can manually scroll through the page and see the animation at our own pace.

The seemingly animated background seen as a user scrolls through WeBleedDesign
The seemingly animated background seen as a user scrolls through WeBleedDesign

The downside of this customised functionality, though highly unique and memorable, is that the navigation does not follow the user, it remains at the top of the page. In order to get back to it, one of the many “Up” buttons must be clicked. These “Up” buttons are plentiful, but they do not really stand out and unless the user knows they are there and what they do, it leaves them without navigation. If the user does know they are there and understand their function, it makes for a slow navigation experience as the user must wait for the reverse scroll to occur before they can then navigate to the next section. This does have a negative effect on usability, despite making for an interesting response to user interaction. It is excellent to see though that this functionality is accessible on numerous browsers and platforms, and so the functionality isn’t lost for certain people.

Bryan has included a blog on his page that seems to be updated, but not regularly – only 3 times in the past year. Despite this, and the heavy use of cartooning in the design, the content does come across professionally. It would be fairly easy to effectively incorporate a Twitter or Flickr stream into the design and maintain the existing theme and aesthetic without detracting from it. It is unfortunate though that he hasn’t utilised these or any other form of social media or networking to allow users to interact with him and his website.

In all, We Bleed Design is very unique and personal, and it certainly sticks in the users mind due such a high level of customisation and unusual features, however, this does make the usability of the website a little poor. The accessibility of this website is excellent and the interaction is unique but it is not regularly updated and there is no links to other forms of social media. The contact information, while present, is not prominent, and many of the portfolio items say “coming soon”, giving the impression of incompleteness, which detracts from the overall professionalism of the website.

KIB216 Top 10 Portfolio Requirements

As part of our tutorial today, we have determined our top 10 criteria for reviewing a portfolio website. As a class, we have established that the following 10 are very important in any portfolio:

  1. Clarity
  2. Customisation / Personalisation / Your Style – In other words, it doesn’t look like a generic blog.
  3. Networking / Rabbit Holes / Professional links – Such as LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
  4. Content – Professional and correct.
  5. Usability – Is the portfolio complicated or easy to use and find your way around? Does it load quickly?
  6. Interaction – What does the portfolio do when you interact with it?
  7. Memorable / Unique – Does it stand out and make you want to send it to other people?
  8. Accessibility – Does it work on multiple browsers and platforms?
  9. Updated / Maintained – Has it been updated recently?
  10. Contact information – Are the contact details readily available and easy to find?