To the Top SEO Course: A case study on

30 Days to Better SEO – Week 3

This post is a continuation of my series on 30 Days to Better SEO, my journey through To the Top: Empower Yourself With Real-World SEO Knowledge. Here are the previous posts in the series if you’d like to catch up:

Day 15

Alright, my content inventory is mostly done! The next step Rebecca suggests is marrying the data from the keyword research (Days 7-9) with the data from the content audit (Day 14). The idea is to match up keywords you want to target to content you’ve already written, which will reveal which keywords you’ve yet to create any content for.

If you’re like me and sometimes need inspiration for blog post ideas, this part of the process is really helpful to see where there are gaps in your content and what you can write about to fill in the gaps.

Fun fact: When it comes to keywords, you’re better off going after long-tail, low-volume phrases. Also, ditch all the keyword variations (i.e. plural, gerunds, etc.).

Focus on picking keywords and writing content that will rock one keyword phrase. You are better off being on page one for only one phrase then sitting on page five for ten different phrases. – Rebecca Gill

Doing the content inventory also highlighted to me a number of articles that I need to either update or ditch. Over 1/3 of my posts are technical tutorials (and a lot of those are specific to the Genesis Framework). As you might imagine, some of those are out of date. Some of them are for products that aren’t even on the market any more. I need to cull those out, but goodness forbid I hold up this course another day for that activity. 😉

Hey Rebecca, if you’re reading this, here’s a question for you: If I delete an out-of-date tutorial that’s for a particular product, can I 301 that URL to an affiliate link or is that a major no-no? (see Rebecca’s answer)

Today finishes the chapter on Site Map Creation and Architecture Planning. So far, this chapter was the one I was most looking forward to and the most difficult to complete. Next chapter up is On-Page Content Optimization, which I think I’m already decent at. But then again, once I hear what Rebecca has to say, I’ll probably realize I suck at it. 😛

progress meter - 40%

You might be thinking to yourself that I’m not half-way through with the course, yet I’m 15 days in. Don’t worry. I’m gonna catch up.

I’m not ready to end this update quite yet. I’m presently reading Content Inc. by Joe Pulizi and he mentions content audits (I *knew* Rebecca was legit!). What he said that really piqued my interest was the idea of re-purposing content. That’s not a new phrase to me, but it is something I’ve had in mind to do and never gotten around to.

If you’re not familiar with “re-purposing content,” it’s basically taking the same piece of content and re-working it to use in multiple ways, across multiple platforms. For instance, I could record a video podcast (1) and write a blog post about it (2) and publish it as audio on iTunes (3) and publish a transcript or show notes (4), etc. Jay Baer has a great article this -> How to make 8 pieces of content from 1 piece of content.

Anyhow, the content audit comes in handy for this as I can see what I already have and ponder how I could re-use it… With that thought, I’ll leave you be until Day 16.

Day 16

Today I started the chapter on On-Page Content Optimization. This is more my speed. It’s easier for me to think about putting into practice on new posts what I’ve learned so far in this course, versus going back and retro-fitting all my previous content.

Rebecca offers some really practical tips for things like writing headlines, using long-tail keywords in the content, and using meta descriptions. I’ve been bad about meta descriptions (read: I’ve ignored them altogether), so that was a good reminder for me. I can sense from afar that Rebecca is judging me this very minute for my lack of meta description usage.

Rebecca also goes into crafting great post titles. I know these suckers are important both for SEO and for social sharing. In the past I’ve had overly clever post titles which, in retrospect, don’t provide any context for would-be readers. Then I went through a phase where I worked key phrases into titles, but now I know that they were stupid key phrases to target in the first place. Lately I’ve gotten better about post titles, but they could still use improvement. I’ve taken to using CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer to help me.

Put time into crafting a strong headline and you will be rewarded with website traffic, social media shares, and conversions. – Rebecca Gill

Continuing on in the chapter, there are some lessons on internal linking (links within your own site). Apparently it’s bad to link to the same destination more than once on the page, although I’m not sure exactly why that’s bad. Rebecca?

There’s a few more lessons in this module, but the entire thing could be summed up like this:

Do what’s good and helpful for your readers. Those same things are good and helpful for SEO.

Day 17

In my last update, I blew through the chapter on On-Page Optimization. Today I’m beginning the chapter on Off-Page Optimization. I’ve never heard of off-page optimization. I now know that there are over 200 factors for off-page optimization.

My initial impression is that no one single factor weighs hugely by itself, but that these factors have a cumulative impact.

Domain age / registration

Domain age is one of these factors. It’s not so much the age in and of itself, more that the longer a domain has been around the higher the number of backlinks, etc. Also, the length of domain registration plays a minor role. For example, domains that are registered for 1 year might indicate a temporary link, while domains that are registered for multiple years indicate that there’s a plan to be around for awhile.

I registered 8.5 years ago, about 3 years ago, and around 2. All of these were set to expire in 2016, so during the writing of this post (yes, I have shiny object syndrome), I bounced over to Hover and renewed each of those for another couple of years.

I know that doesn’t have MASSIVE SEO IMPACT, but hey, why not do it while I’m thinking about it?

Backlinks (a.k.a. Inbound links)

When I started making websites in the late 90’s, link swaps were all the rage (I’ll link to you if you link to me!). Thankfully I’ve known better for a long time that Google frowns on that and so I’ve steered clear of it.

Do you know what I hadn’t considered though? Links back to my site that I’ve included in just about every client site I’ve ever launched… While that’s always been a common practice, none of those client sites are related to my industry or provide any contextual value. They’re weak links and they must die.


Day 18

Today I blew through the rest of the chapter on Off-Page optimization as it dealt with tips for various social media outlets. This is something I already feel quite comfortable with (and apparently decent at, according to the course tips and my score on the quiz).

Since I technically finished my homework early, I’m devoting the rest of this day’s update to a social media task I’ve been avoiding: scheduling content.

This is how I typically share my content on social media: I publish an article and immediately share it on Twitter. Sometimes I put in on Facebook. I pretty much never put it on LinkedIn or Google+. And that’s the last the internet sees of me promoting that article.

I’ve gotten a tiny bit better as I’ve started using two tools to help with this:

  • Revive Old Post (plugin for WordPress that randomly pushes older content to social media at specified intervals).
  • Buffer (let’s you schedule posts to social media)

While Revive Old Post is pretty much on auto-pilot, Buffer is a needy baby, requiring you to continually fill up the queue. And guess what I’m not good at. That’s right. I suck at filling up the queue.

So today I’m queuing up content for this site as well as my podcast site (

One quick pro tip: If you use Revive Old Post beware that it’s really easy to accidentally send out out-dated/irrelevant content (i.e. a post about a holiday sale). There are configuration options you can use to mitigate this, but consider this your friendly reminder to pay attention to that.

One more quick tip (that I learned in this course): If you do have out-dated, irrelevant content on your site, either update it or get the heck rid of it (and don’t forget to create 301 redirects). It’s an albatross hanging on your SEO. Along those lines, here’s a great episode from Smart Passive Income podcast on the subject: How Deleting a Third of Your Content Can Triple Your Traffic—How to Do a Content Audit with Todd Tresidder.

Day 19

Today I started the “Technical SEO” module, which is 204 minutes in length (according to the course documentation). I made it as far as the section on XML Sitemaps.

Now, I’m already rocking XML sitemaps, so I thought I’d breeze through this lesson, but I actually got hung up and I’ll tell you why.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

Screenshot of Google search console

For my vision-impaired friends, that’s a shot from inside Google Search Console under the Crawl > Sitemaps section. There’s a huge discrepancy between the number of URLs submitted (912) and those actually indexed (205).

I took a look at the sitemap and what Google was attempting (unsuccessfully) to index and what I saw was a lot of junk. A LOT of junk. I think most of this is due to me switching my permalink structure after my first year of blogging. Changing the permalink structure was a good thing, but I clearly didn’t go about it right way since there’s a lot of old dingleberry URLs hanging around.

My solution? Get rid of the attachment sitemap altogether so that I’m not sending Google looking for stuff that’s not there. With the Yoast SEO plugin, this was pretty easy. From the XML Sitemaps section, I went to Post Types and disable the Media post type from being included in the sitemap.

Yoast XML Sitemap disable media

I just resubmitted to the Googles. We’ll see what happens.

Day 20

Today’s lesson is on Google Search Console. I’ve mentioned it previously in this series and it’s pretty freaking cool. It’s a veritable treasure trove of information.

Rebecca walked through what all is available inside the search console and gives examples of how you can use that data to see where trouble spots are and change course (my crazy attachment xml sitemap from Day 19 is a perfect example of this).

I started taking a stroll through my data to see if any particular errors stood out and I came across something I found funny.

There’s a section called HTML Improvements and I’m rocking it out – seriously, there are no suggested improvements for my entire site, except one… I’ve got a “non-informative title tag” and of all places, it’s my home page.

HTML Improvements

This is pitiful, so you may wonder why it made me laugh. Well, I’ve struggled for nearly a year with how to position myself, my brand, and structure my site (what do I want to beeeeee when I grow up???). And of course the home page is a critical part of that. I’ve known for awhile that my home page was not informative, so to see Google say it just struck my funny bone.

And with that, I reckon I can at least update the title tag to be “slightly more informative.”

Day 21

Today I stayed on the Google Search Console lesson. There’s just a lot of information there to take in. I’m still in “finding things that are wrong” mode, so was dismayed to come across 200+ bad URL’s on the site.

URL Errors - Not Found

GSC, being helpful as it is, showed me exactly which links these are and what pages are linking to them (in most cases).

Quite a few of these were coming from links in attachments-sitemap.xml (Day 19). I already got rid of that sitemap, but it clearly hasn’t cycled through the Googles yet.

Other errors looked to be legit. I ran the Broken Link Checker plugin (I try to run this once a quarter or so) and there were no broken links, but I’ve got a ton of 200 and 301 redirects. I went through every one of them that was coming through my domain and about 20% of them needed an update.

For example, I had a link in an old post pointing to:

That link should be the same, but minus the number.

The number is the post ID and is part of the URL due to a previous permalink structure on my site. While WordPress is smart enough to redirect it properly, it doesn’t need to be a redirect at all.

While that has nothing to do with the Not Found errors, my OCD self couldn’t leave them unfixed. So fix them I did.

The majority of Not Found errors that weren’t associated with the attachment sitemap are due to previous changes to my permalink structure. Why OH WHY did I ever start with such a bad permalink structure.

Learn from me, people: Don’t use a category base or a tag base. Or if you do, do it for the rest of eternity.

I meandered a bit from the SEO lesson, but hey, cleaning up out-of-date links is always a good thing.

6 thoughts on “30 Days to Better SEO – Week 3”

  1. A few comments on your posts above:

    The 200 factors are for all SEO areas and not just off-page. That said, there are lots of off-page factors and they can matter as much as on-page activity. Social shares and inbound links matter so pay close attention to them.

    Duplicate internal links on a given page or post do not help with SEO or usability. There have been studies done by usability firms and they advise against it. In SEO you are splitting up the power of the links and it can appear as spam in my opinion. Just don’t do it!

    Links back to your website in the footer of client websites or stock themes is also bad. While this was acceptable at one time, Google has sense advised against it. If you link, use a nofollow attribute. We no longer link and just provide a text based credit. We stopped this well before Google’s announcement, because I could see it coming. Sadly these links still pop up due to outdated stock themes floating around.

    301 redirects are powerful so use them and use them wisely. I’m happy to see you mention it here because many times people forget them and it hurts their usability and SEO.

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