SEO and Site Structure

seoSEO, short for “Search Engine Optimization, is important to consider when building out a new website from scratch. As I’ve stated many times, I use the Genesis Framework by Studiopress as my WordPress theme(s) and I host on WP Engine servers. Where you host is important for SEO as speed/load times are an important consideration. A good, clean theme is important, too. The Genesis Theme Framework offers a lot of “on page” optimization options.

Pages and Posts for WordPress SEO

This post is simply a discussion about the site structure pertaining to SEO practices. Whenever I start a site, I think about pages and posts and how I am going to organize them. Generally speaking, you want to have both, unless it’s just a small site with a few pages. If you build sites that have limited, “evergreen” content designed to sell products, it’s probably best to go with just pages. If you’re doing a news or information style site, you’ll probably have more posts than pages, but you’ll still have both.

Most sites have basic pages: a home page, an “About” page, perhaps a contact page, and maybe a few more. Posts, regularly written, will show the search engines your site is being updated regularly. This is very good for SEO.

How pages and posts are linked can have an SEO benefit, too. I’ll be using the site I am building with my daughter, Suncoast Fishing Piers, as an example. We have the site set up and we have a page structure in place. The pages are: Home, Fishing Piers, Fishing Gear, How To, Bait, and About. For this discussion, I’ll use the Fishing Piers page as an example.

Setting Page Structure

The concept of the site is to provide a resource for people to find fishing piers in Florida’s “Suncoast,” a stretch of coast on the Gulf of Mexico including Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties. This is our initial target area – but we could expand well beyond that in the future. The Fishing Piers Page is the main landing page for a list of fishing piers in the area.

We go to each pier, photograph it, note any amenities (bait shacks, rest rooms, parking, etc). The piers are listed by city on the fishing piers page. This is important when we are considering our page structure for SEO. The main pier page URL is “Sitename/piers.” Here’s how it looks: When complete, it will link to different cities and the URL structure will be “sitename/piers/city fishing pier.” Here’s an example of that: An individual pier’s URL will be “sitename/piers/city fishing pier/pier name/. ” That looks like this: Fishing Pier.

Why does this matter? We want to rank for a variety of “pier and fishing related keywords.” Each page is designed to have the page title as its keyword we want to rank for and the URL structure helps accomplish that goal. Someone looking to go fishing in Sarasota might google “Sarasota Fishing Pier” in their browser and, because of our page structure, the resulting URL structure will heighten our chances of getting to page one of the search results. Of course that’s not the only reason we’ll get found – the information and content of each page needs to have relevance to a search. We’ll make sure the content is high quality and relevant.

Post Structure for SEO

Individual posts on this site will highlight trips we take to each pier. We’ll have pictures and videos of the fish we caught, the bait we used, maybe even a review of a nearby restaurant. The point is, a post will be about a single day’s trip to any given pier, not an “encyclopedic” source of information about the pier itself. The URL structure would be “sitename/post title” and looks like this:

The URL above is not live, I just whipped something up as an example. We might want to rank for “mackerel” or catching mackerel” or whatever. The point is, the keyword we want to rank for will be in the post title. Each post will have pertinent information to the subject and will contain a link to the corresponding pier page for wherever we happen to be fishing that day. That also helps for the SEO of the individual page, particularly if we rank well for the keyword on that post.

Does any of this matter?

Google (and the other search engines) crawl websites for information using a host of complicated algorithms. Having sound page and post structure (plus QUALITY content) makes that search easier. Think of the page structure as an outline for your site. There are many other things relevent to SEO, but having a solid foundation (page structure) in place can only help.

Suncoast Fishing Piers

suncoast fishing piersSuncoast Fishing Piers is LIVE! After setting the shell site up on WP Engine with my daughter, we got the domain name We decided on the “Brunch Theme” from the Studiopress Genesis Framework (my daughter’s choice) and began designing the site. I have the “Pro Plan” from Genesis which gives me every theme they produce for life. When you plan on building out multiple sites – like I do – it’s the best way to go.

All Studiopress themes are solid templates and there’s an excellent forum community that can help with tweaks to the HTML. Most of the sites are mobile ready, so there aren’t any display issues with mobile devices. I’ve used Studiopress for years and I use the Focus Theme on Rob It was the best investment in my web business I ever made.

What is Suncoast Fishing Piers?

The site is going to be a resource for fishing from piers in our area. We plan on visiting each pier, putting some lines in the water, taking pictures and video, and providing information on amenities the area near the pier provides. We’ll also have “fishing tips with Tori” videos on the site.

Going forward, I will still chronicle each stage of development here – there are several videos in the works about that – and I’ll get into a discussion about site structure, SEO, monetization, etc.

In addition to creating a (hopefully) money-making website, the entire exercise is a good educational opportunity fo my daughter. She’s learning about creating a website from the ground up. She’s already started to find her way around the WordPress CMS and about HTML codes. The best part is, we get to do a lot of fishing and spend some quality time together.

It’s still in the very beginning stages, but we already started our “research.”

New WP Engine Website

wp engineMy newest WP Engine website is under construction! My daughter and I are building it together. Since we like to go fishing a lot, we decided we’d do a website about pier fishing in our area of Florida. There are more than a dozen good fishing piers within 20 miles of our house, so we are going to do what I’ve found works best when making a new website: find something you like to do and make a website about it!

In addition to making the site together, I am doing a “case study” on how we put it together. As we build it out, that information will be available on the start a website section of this site. I’ll be chronicling the entire process.

Why WP Engine?

I have the WP Engine “pro plan” for a number of my sites. I migrated from Hostgator last winter because HOSTGATOR SUCKS! Let me explain.

I had a number of my sites hosted at Hostgator, including a big earning affiliate site. Right before Christmas 2015 (December 22 to be exact), my servers got hacked with malware. When I asked Hostgator to help me out, they wanted me to DO IT MYSELF or pay someone else to clean it up for me! Now I don’t know how to get into the php or MySQL or any of that other crap on my servers; I’m a blogger and internet marketer – not a frigging programmer! Had the malware attack occurred earlier in December or in November, it could have cost me a LOT of money in lost holiday sales.

They were so obtuse dealing with me, I swear I was going to lose my mind. Here’s what they said to me (the original reply was longer but this is the gist of their attitude):

At this time, we are no longer performing cleaning of accounts for our clients. This includes any malware removal or securing of accounts which have been compromised. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

When a money-making site gets hacked, it’s not an “inconvenience,” it’s a BIG PROBLEM and they took nearly a month to rectify it! Once I was back up, I left Hostgator faster than the Roadrunner blasting down the road away from Wiley Coyote!

That’s where WP Engine came in

They offer Managed WordPress Hosting. That means they manage the back-end of my sites and I deal with what I need to do to conduct my business. I don’t need to worry about C-Panels or databases or any of that stuff; that’s their job.

I was able to migrate my sites quickly and easily using their site migration tool and everything I needed to know was easily found in their “support garage.” When I had a small security issue, they dealt with it quickly. Their hosted sites load fast, too. I couldn’t be happier.

Back to the Fishing Site….

As the summer progresses, I’ll be setting up the site with my daughter and teaching her WordPress as we go along. The fun part is, we get to fish a lot! As I said earlier, I’ll be going through the process, step by step, of how we build it on this site.

Building out a website is a job. She wanted to do it so she could learn a skill and make some money online like daddy. I wanted to do it with her because it totally rationalized fishing a lot!

Stay tuned……

Rob Merlino Dot Com is BACK!!!

about rob merlinoIt’s been several YEARS since I wrote ANYTHING on Rob Merlino dot com! The reason is, I’ve been wicked busy with other projects like the Shark Tank Blog. I also had my site HACKED while it was hosted on Hostgator!

Long story short: I let Rob Merlino dot com fester in the netherworld of unpublished sites ever since it got hacked and I moved it to WP Engine. The reason I am resuscitating it is I have a lot to say about a lot of different things and I have more time to devote to the site now that Shark Tank is in summer re-runs and I’ve hired a few virtual assistant types.

While Rob Merlino dot Com won’t be my only project (more on that to come), I’d like it to become what I originally intended it to be: an outlet for my various rants and, more importantly, a resource for people who want to get started with making money online with WordPress blogs and websites.

Rob Merlino dot Com going forward

My initial goals for the site are twofold. It will be a repository for a lot of stuff I’ve written over the years on other blogs I’ve started and stopped. Right now, I am in the process of accumulating everything I’ve produced online that currently doesn’t have a home. In the past, I attempted to write several “make money online” type of blogs. I never got going because the first few attempts were BEFORE I made any real money online and the subsequent attempts found me too busy making money online to devote the proper attention!

Those old “make money online” posts are on this site somewhere, but a lot of the info is outdated. Going forward, I’ll be taking a case study type approach to building a web property. The first project will be a site I am building with my daughter. She wanted to do a lemonade stand in the weeks between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp. Instead, I suggested we build a website together. I figured she can learn some new skills AND make a few bucks, without sitting out in the hot Florida sun all day selling 50 cent cups of crappy lemonade. She LOVED the idea.

We will go through the entire process together, and I will chronicle it here on Rob Merlino dot com. The end result will be a fantastic resource for people who want to build a money-making website of their own. We will start from the brainstorming process, domaining, setting up the site, SEO and so much more. It will be a fun exercise for both of us!

Some Things that helped me

There are a host of “make money with your Blog” sites out there. Sifting through them all, I have realized that some are junk, some are excellent and many are repetitive.

Before you go spending money on some e-book or manual that tells you how to make money with your blog (like the sites, there are good ones and bad ones-certainly check out their claims), you should look at the quality, FREE information that is available to you.

One thing anyone that knows anything will tell you is that content is KING. Before you start a blog, you need to think long and hard about what your blog will be about. I have seen many blogs that want to “make money online” and may offer a few good hints, but the content is poor. You must write about something that is passionate to you.
If you do this, the content will be better than if you are writing solely to make money. Obviously some topics will have broader appeal while others will be very niche oriented. I have found that niche sites, while they may have smaller amounts of readers, will often outperform broadly targetted sites. The reason is the niche reader wants the specific information you have. So if you have an area of expertise or a subject you are passionate about-chose that as a starting point for the focus of your content. It’s like the old saying: “do what you love, the money will follow.”

I ran accross this post in the Digital Point Forums. The author of the post talks about creating value for readers through content as the single most important component for making money online. For those who’ve never been to this forum, it is chock full of great information about just about anything related to running your own website or blog. Its a great place to “shout out” your new blog in the introductions section too.

For a very detailed and poignant article on getting started making money with a blog and the things you should consider, this post called How to Make Money with your blog, is a must read.

Once you’ve got some content together and you’ve figured out how to drive traffic to your site, the first thing you need to do is get Adsense Ads for your blog. You may not get rich with these (I’m making about $500 per month with my sites) but you will make something. Adsense is easy to sign up for and set up on your site. If you can cut and paste, you can put adsense on your site. Spend some time experimenting with colors, ad sizes and ad placement. There is plenty of “how to” information on the Adsense site, so you should be able to figure out anything you need to know!

Back to money making blogs. I have read many, I’ll probably read many more.

One of my favorites is John Chow’s Blog which is very rich in content about everything related to blogging. It was the first site I visited when I began my blogs and it has been an excellent resource for me. Since there is SO MUCH information there, you might want to visit it LAST.

A more “nuts and bolts” type of blog is Problogger. Darren Rouse, the author, is not as “in your face” as John Chow and there are hundreds, if not thousands of tips for the newbie and old pro alike.

Another “nuts and bolts” type of money making blog is Mike’s Money Making Mission. The author of this blog shares what money making programs work for him and details different programs and their earnings. Mike goes deep into the net to make dough-he even sells adult products and sexy dating services. He started about three and a half years ago with nothing and has built a mini internet empire! He came on the scene about the same time I did, so I’ve followed his progress. Since he’s a Brit, he offers insight into programs that might not be available in the states, but his simple, no nonsense style is easy to understand and his programs work for him.

Get to work, you have a lot of reading to do!

Getting Traffic to your Blog

TRAFFIC. When you’re stuck in it on the highway, it sucks. When you have a blog, traffic is EVERYTHING. So how do you get traffic? There’s not a simple answer.

There is nothing more frustrating than putting a lot of time and energy into creating a blog and having NO ONE even LOOK at it. The blogging “gurus” out there who are making six figures a year with their blogs are more than eager to tell you how to do it, just don’t expect to get to their level overnight. The folks who are making that kind of dough have been doing it for years and they do it full time. Can YOU get there? The answer is probably, eventually.

The real question is HOW?

In this and subsequent posts, I will outline ways I have driven traffic to my sites. I have been at it for three and a half years and I am still ALWAYS looking to drive traffic to my sites. Every day I Google “how to increase blog traffic” and try to find a new tip. There are so many different ways, it’s impossible to try them all.

When you first start out, ask your friends and family to take a look at your site. Give them something interesting/entertaining/informative to read! Announce your blog on your Facebook page (if you don’t have one, get one). Send a link to your email list and include your blog address in your email signature. These seem like simple steps, but every little bit helps.

Comment on other blogs that you read-MAKE INTERESTING COMMENTS, NOT SPAMMY ONES. I don’t publish spammy comments on any of my sites and many others don’t either.

Join Blog Catalogue .

Read these articles:

How To Increase Traffic to Your Blog

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

16 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog (This is also a good example of Article Marketing).

44 Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Blog

and there are many, many more!

One site I found very helpful when I was starting out is Problogger. Go there, read everything you can and implement as much of Darren’s advice as humanly possible! For the beginning blogger, Problogger is the single most informative resource out there-think of it as your bible.

Remember, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. I always try to do my best to do what the best are doing-you should too!