seo posts

WordPress plugin: changing rel-canonical

I serve my site over both HTTP and HTTPS to support older browser that can’t support modern or any HTTPS protocols. I prefer HTTPS for search engines and general use though, as it is more secure, increases user privacy, and is factored into SEO rankings. Due to an issue with my sitemap, Google ended up indexing all of my blog pages as HTTP. The first thing I’m going to try to get Google to show my blog pages as HTTPS is to set the rel-canonical link to the HTTPS version regardless of which protocol the visitor uses. WordPress doesn’t have a built in way to change the canonical URL, and I didn’t want to install a heavy SEO plugin just for this, so I wrote my own.

This simple plugin removes WordPress’s rel_canonical action, then replaces it with its own. I basically re-implemented WordPress’s own functionality, replacing the http with https before outputting the link. It looks like:

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I was using Jetpack’s sitemap plugin and even submitted it to Google until I noticed that it had the wrong protocol for all of the post URL’s. Now Google has a bunch of ‘http’ URL’s for my posts in its listings, even though they are available over ‘https’. I couldn’t figure out how to change the protocol (there is no config or documentation about where that is coming from) so I just disabled the sitemap for now.

I am going to try to post something once a day for a while, either on this blog or my personal blog, even if it is just a short, tweet-sized post. I think posting helps me document what I’m working on, techniques, things I find, etc. for my future self to more easily find. It’s surprisingly easy to forget things when I figure them out for one project, then don’t use that same thing again for a little while. My site will eventually have something more advanced for these purposes, but for now simple blog postings will work.

Also, I’ve noticed a strange SEO / traffic benefit to my site wherein my traffic is much more likely to be on the higher side on the day or day after I post, even though those posts are almost never the ones being visited. Perhaps the search-engine algorithms see the site as more “fresh”, even though the articles that get the bump aren’t fresh at all.

The biggest problem with this is that even a post I intend to be quick often takes an inordinately long time as I look up things and add more to it. Like this post. We’ll see how well I do with my goal.

Lynda: SEO – Search Engine Optimization Getting Started

Finally completed another Lynda course (see certificate Link no longer working). I’ve mentioned that I’m doing some SEO work at Cogneato, so I decided to go through a course on Lynda. I had started one a while back, but it was very long and on the old side (2006). There’s a newer, shorter one now entitled “SEO: Search Engine Optimization Getting Started “. It was good and detailed without being overly verbose. I like her methods, especially her message to write for users rather than search engines. I think they work better long term and are better for users than some of the more old school methods. I will try to implement some of the methods at Cogneato.

Some important points from the course:

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Cogneato: SEO

In addition to my front-end development at Cogneato, I’ve begun doing site SEO.  I’ve always done the very basic SEO that comes from clean HTML structure with descriptive content and basic accessibility considerations as well as simple but descriptive URL structures.  However, for Cogneato, we are going much deeper than that.  It’s a good opportunity to learn more of this SEO stuff, but so far I haven’t liked it that much.  I’d much rather be cutting up layouts or programming or working with data.  The SEO can be very boring.  For instance, setting up and monitoring rankings for a big list of keywords can be boring and tedious:  Perhaps it will be more interesting when I’ve gotten to look at trends and use that information to modify things.  There’s also stuff I don’t like about it in principle.  Throwing keywords into title tags, headings, and alt text can potentially go against usability and accessibility (the blind love keywords repeated over and over).  We aren’t nearly doing the blackhat type stuffing with bunches of keywords stuffed everywhere, mostly just one per area, but I still don’t like it or having to figure out creative ways to make it work and make sense.  Also figuring out ways to put in different phrasings of the same basic keywords isn’t fun, and can potentially make a site look less professional in my opinion.  I’d much prefer all this happening in the copy, as there as a lot more room to work it in without it being so glaringly noticeable.  And I don’t like moving away from semantic structure for search engines.  I did a FAQ with li’s, h2’s, and div’s rather than dt’s and dd’s.  I’m not sure what the “best practice” is for that, but the dl seemed more appropriate to me than the ul.

Still, I think I’ve learned a good starting bit about optimizing for search engines and will continue to learn more, which will be very useful for my own sites, even if I don’t go all out with them.  I’ve been doing some research and watching some Lynda courses on the subject, which has helped a lot with learning some best practices.