SEO Clinic : BigOceans.com – Blogging from the Sea while Sailing Around the World

For this week’s SEO Clinic the Search Engine Journal SEO team chose an independent blogger who has the dream of sailing around the world, from Europe to Australia (by way of the Americas) and blogging about his trip live, via a satellite modem and other mobile blogging tools.

Background & BigOceans

Kind of a Kevin Sites of the seven seas, Nicholas Jaffe is a 26 year old Australian, who is living in Berlin and will be trying to sail home singlehanded aboard a 26ft yacht named Constellation.

Jaffe will be documenting his adventure on his site, BigOceans.com, which currenlty attracts about 1,200 unique visitors per month, predominantly from paid search, StumbleUpon, and sailing oriented web rings and associations. Nick’s expectations are that once he hits sea and begins blogging about his adventures, the blog will attract 20,000 to 30,000 users per month, as the trip will be unique and a first of its kind.

Given the social aspect of this project, Search Engine Journal’s SEO Resident Pimps have accompanied our normal SEO recommendations with a spin towards the social media optimization, social media marketing and press relations route. We believe Nick is partaking on a brave and unique adventure, one that will set standards for social media adventure and social pioneering.

First Impressions : Is This a Blog?

As a professional blogger with 4 years experience under my belt, when I look at a blogging project the first question which comes to mind is “Is this a blog?”

In Nick’s case, BigOceans.com is not a blog. It is a web site that features a blog among many other sections of the site. I see where Nick is coming from here, as his site offers various other sections besides the blog.

However, if Nick is to market his adventure of that of a real time blogger who is documenting his adventures at sea, the site must be built around the blog as its core. I’m very passionate about this and feel that the blog not being part of the homepage is a weakness.

Nick’s homepage offers post archives and the latest post in the “From the Blog” section, but this is not enough. Nick should list his 4 or 5 latest entries on the homepage, with linked Titles to the posts and short excerpts.

Ideally, Nick will also be attracting a lot of comments and questions. Each blog post preview from the homepage should also link to the comments area for each post.

On the blog itself I noticed that comments are not being shown and the user has to click on a link to view the comments. This could pose a dupicate content problem for some search engines, but more importantly, is hiding what may become the meat of your blog; the ongoing back and forth conversation about your trip. Don’t hide you comments.

Additionally, the RSS buttons are hidden. Nick needs to take advantage of his readership and get them subscribing. An RSS subscription button should be featured along with Nick’s welcome message above the blog preview area on the homepage, and additionally along with every blog post – accompanying the content.

These changes will make BigOceans.com more bloggeriffic, in turn, making the site more appealing to bloggers who are reading it, resulting in more incoming links and more traffic.

In terms of taking full advantage of his blogging, Nick is using WordPress to power his blog. There needs to be a Wordress logo somewhere on this blog, and I cannot find one.

Once that is placed, Matt Mullenwag and other WordPress enthusiasts such as Michael Arrington from TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, Darren Rowse of Problogger.net and Pete Cashmore of Mashable. If these bloggers are impressed by the BigOceans.com mission AND site, chances are they will write about it and perform inteviews with Nick on the type of remote blogging technology he is using and whatnot. The end effect will be an influx of links, subscribers, and ongoing traffic.

Nick, take advantage of the blogosphere and your place in it.

SEO Recommendations

Like our last SEO Clinic for TechSmith, this installment also features our Special SEO Gust Star, Bill Slawski of SEO by the SEA. (SEO by the SEA huh? Nice fit for this project.)

Mr. Slawski has put together 6 specific Blog SEO recommendations which will have a positive effect on how search engines rank BigOceans.com:

1. In the titles for blog posts, put the post titles first, and then the name of the blog.

Ideally, your post titles should be good and fairly short descriptions of what the post is about. If that description includes a keyword phrase that people might search for in trying to find a site like yours, that’s even better. It doesn’t hurt to have the post title appear first in your page titles, and a plug-in that can help you do this is:

http://elasticdog.com/2004/09/optimal-title/

2. Meta tag plugin – for unique descriptions.

There are a number of different choices, but this one works effectively and automatically for all pages, and meta descriptions for individual posts can be manually created if wanted.

http://www.g-loaded.eu/2006/01/05/add-meta-tags-wordpress-plugin/

3. Use the Permalink Redirect WordPress Plugin

There are two different URLs for every post; with and without a trailing slash, like this:

http://www.bigoceans.com/2007/02/26/presents-captain-cook-and-nice-hats

http://www.bigoceans.com/2007/02/26/presents-captain-cook-and-nice-hats/

Rather than have a search engine try to understand that those are the same page, and try to decide between the two, this plug-in can be used so that only the version with the trailing slash appears:

http://fucoder.com/code/permalink-redirect/

4. Sitemap page – sitemap plugin

It doesn’t hurt to have a sitemap for both your visitors and the search engines. The following plugin works well:

http://www.dagondesign.com/articles/sitemap-generator-plugin-for-wordpress/

5. There’s a great list of many blog directories that you can submit to on Robin Good’s site. It’s worth spending a few moments everyday and submitting to some of them:

RSSTop55 : Best Blog Directory And RSS Submission Sites

6. On the front page of the blog, you only display one post, while listing the titles to the latest posts in the column to the left. An alternative that might draw more readers to look at more pages is to display excerpts of posts instead of the whole posts, and to show a number of the latest posts instead of just one.

Showing excerpts on the front page can be done with the <!–more–> tag, or you can use a plug-in that will do it for you automatically:

http://dev.wp-plugins.org/wiki/PostTeaser

This can show an estimated reading time and a word count for the full post. Those aren’t necessary, and can be removed in the administrative panel console for the plugin. You can also set the teaser to a certain word count that you want it to be as near to as possible.

Using this plugin will also mean that archives pages will show the teaser-lengthed posts instead of the full posts, too.

Jessica Bowman of Business.com and SEMinHouse weighs in with some SEO tips :

Most of the SEO Best Practices still need to be implemented on the site:

  1. Page Titles – Write something that will be enticing in the search results and make it unique for each page. Right now they’re templatized, but they are unique for each page of the site. Also, add your targeted keywords, this is vital for optimization. Next to page copy, the page title is the next most valuable piece of copy on your site.
  2. Meta Description – This is a 250 character (including spaces), keyword rich description of your site. This is often the text that will be displayed in the search results, therefore, like the page title, write something enticing that will make people want to click your link. Best practice says it should be unique for each site, but not having this isn’t detrimental, however, it’s not aiding, either.
  3. Link Text – When linking to pages within your site, be sure to use keywords, this makes the destination page more relevant for the term in the link. Do this within your blog posts, as well as the static site pages.
  4. Links to Your Site – You have a good start on links. Now, try to get links that contain your keywords. In particular, get links from boating sites.
  5. ALT Text – Whenever adding a photo, include ALT text with keywords.
  6. WWW – Your site can be viewed with and without www in the URL. 301 the version without www to the version with www. You can see from this search that Google has a few of your pages indexed without the www. You can also just go into Google sitemaps and set your site to always display with www.
  7. Keyword Selection – Take the time to select the right keywords. From the looks of it, you brainstormed and put down what came to mind. Unfortunately, you’ll never rank for terms like “yacht” and “dreamer” (it’s extremely difficult to rank for one-term phrases). Instead, take the time to select keyword phrases with 2 or 3 terms. Since you’re on a budget, use KeywordDiscovery’s free keyword research tool.
  8. Keyword Rich Copy – Once you pick the best keywords, weave them into the page copy, evenly distributing their repetition throughout the page copy. Use keywords in your blog copy and blog post titles. Remember to use exact repetitions (for example: boat voyage and boat voyages are two different terms when it comes to SEO). In essence, your site doesn’t appear to be about any one subject in the eyes of search engines. You see, search engines can’t just look at your page and figure out what it’s about. Instead, search engines can only read each word on the page to figure out which keywords it should be listed for in the search results, one of the ways it does this is by looking for keywords and phrases that are repeated throughout the copy.

Usability

  1. Left columns – the copy is all aligned right, which makes it difficult to read.
  2. Two left columns side-by-side gets a little much on pages that have full content in both left columns (particularly in the blog section of the site). Consider moving one to the right side of page.
  3. Your button says “Make a Donation”, I personally make donations to charities and people that are less fortunate, not to someone going on vacation. But, I do sponsor people for walks, runs, swims and even volunteer vacations. Consider changing the button to read “Sponsor the Voyage” or “Sponsor the Trip” to see if it attracts more interest. (Ignore if this is merely Queen’s English vs. American English).
  4. You probably want to donate any proceeds in excess of your trip costs to a charity, who wants to pay for someone else to go on an extended vacation?
  5. Eyes naturally gravitate to hyperlinks. If we look at the far your left column, what stands out is “Contact Me”, “spending a cent” and “make a donation”. Nudge the people in the direction you want them to go by removing the “contact me” link and make the “Advertise on this site” a link.
  6. It’s not the most clear how to help you, it seems a bit spread out, depending on what you actually read. Consider making a definite, “How You Can Help” page and list all the ways to contribute to the cause: Donate, Advertise on this site, the Big Oceans Google search, Firefox plugin and perhaps Donate things and/or time to help you get on your way (it sounds like your boat needs a bit of work), and give advice. This allows someone to feel the excitement of getting involved in some way or another (more on advice later in the review)
  7. When looking at new sites, I don’t read the text. I just bounce around, just as someone to do to see if it’s a site worth exploring. After 10 minutes bouncing through pages and jotting down ideas it still wasn’t clear, have you left yet? I thought you had left until viewing the route map, then I had to read to figure it out. When are you leaving?? How far along are you to meeting your goal? Make it very clear and obvious – perhaps a countdown that’s built into the website template and visible on each page. There are great widgets that you could pull in, it could be down to the minute/second. Also, you have a very cool map, but where are you right this minute? Germany, raising funds? If yes, put that in there.
  8. Rearrange the navigation for usability, and priority. Why are archives second? Based on your priorities, “How You Can Help” should be second, help is what you need most of all.

Gemme van Hasselt, SEJ contributor and author of China Snippets (Gemme noticed that BigOceans.com is blocked in China) puts together a little of what Bill and Jessica were discussing:

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker

Comments are closed.

14 thoughts on “SEO Clinic : BigOceans.com – Blogging from the Sea while Sailing Around the World

  1. Wow… quite an extensive list of tips and best practices. I saw a lot of ideas in there that I can use for my site and blogs. Thanks for the transparency!

    Get to work Nicholas! :) Look forward to seeing you on the front page of digg…

  2. Nice comprehensive review guys. I agree viral traffic is key.

    I’ll hazard to nitpick:

    – “buy links” link makes me edgy.
    – links to sponsors are off-topic.
    – I’d personally nofollow links to places like amazon and flickr.
    – robots.txt should be installed. You can disallow directories like /feed/, /trackback/, etc.
    – /robots txt returns a status 200, but displays a page that says “Error – Page Lost At Sea”
    – “Super dream to reality cash transporter button” is blind. I’d just replace it with a “Donate” text, so people know what they’re clicking.
    – I’d META noindex photo pages for now, until the site gets a few more IBLs.
    – tag pages, like bigoceans.com/photos/?tags=costs could also be noindexed.

    I see the site going supplemental around 100 pages into site: search. A page that’s linked from every page (e.g.bigoceans.com/about/) is supplemental. Main problem is IBL isn’t too strong and you got a few too many noisy internal links IMO (like links to tag and photo pages, as well as outlinks to amazon, bravernet).

    The site has at least one page that’s crashing:

    http://www.bigoceans.com/wp-settings.php

    Returns: “Failed opening required ‘ABSPATH”

  3. Hello Loren, you have a small error in the post…

    and blogging abot his trip live, via a satellite modem and other mobile blogging tools.

  4. Thanks to everybody at SEJ for the incredibly comprehensive writeup – Well beyond what I was expecting. So many non-SEO related ideas have cropped up it boggles the mind, so I have my work cut out over the coming months!

    Thanks Halfdeck for the additional thoughts –

    Best, Nick

  5. I need to read this post about ten more times and take notes about how I might apply certain ideas to my own blogs, especially the two newest. It was very instructive to see the principles that I’ve read about in general applied to a single concrete example. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more clinic posts.

  6. Nick, I love sailing and i love SEO. I’d be happy to help you with some of the implementation to get you more exposure.

    If you’re interested let me know.

  7. I admire your spirit in sailing and your bravery in travelling in the deep oceans. I may be able to guide you through the optimization of the site for free as an admiration of the spirit and bravery. Let me know by an email

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