Online Marketing Intern bfield3 A few weeks back I announced my Online Marketing Internships – which has received a lot of response. I introduced Bill Field a few weeks back, now he’s going to tell you a little bit about what he’s learned since his time on board with me…

My first couple weeks has been quite busy. Coming into this I knew it would be a lot of work, and true to that it is. I’m not complaining at all because I am learning a lot. Nothing worth doing is easy. And I will say, John is a patient man 🙂

The first phase has been learning how to set a WordPress site up properly for indexing, secure the sight from both rogue web bots and hackers, design considerations and the importance of a professional looking website, keyword research and understanding who your competitors are.

When I set up my personal WordPress based sites I basically had an idea, picked out a theme, added some plugins and then started writing some posts. My sites did not have a robots.txt file, they weren’t secure and I assumed that by writing content they would get indexed over time. Which they have, but I’m learning things from John that I should have done early on that would have gotten them indexed quicker.

It’s very important to set your site up correctly for indexing as soon as possible. The robots.txt file is a simple text file that is used to tell web spiders (bots, crawlers) where they can go on your site. Good spiders, like Google, will obey the rules you’ve set forth in the robots.txt file and only crawl the sections you specify. However, there are many rogue spiders crawling the web whose sole purpose is to steal information. That information could be email addresses for spammers, personal information about you or your visitors, or to steal every bit of content you have on your site. Proper security measure need to be implemented to combat this. Nothing is ever 100% secure, but there are steps that you can take to block many bad spiders and hackers.

The .htaccess file is another security measure you can use. You could spend weeks or months trying to learn about .htaccess files. I knew absolutely nothing about them before signing on as an intern. I now at least know the .htaccess file can be used to stop known rogue bots, leechers or hackers from gaining access to your site. The main take away being it can be used to block “known” baddies. I like to think of it like a reverse guest list. If your name is on the list, you are not allowed into the party. If you’re name is not on the list, you’re welcome to come in. So you need to ensure you always keep your .htaccess file updated with the latest known rogues. The .htaccess file can also be used in the wordpress admin directory to limit access to known IP addresses. This allows a double security measure. Believe it to not people do try to hack into your WordPress admin directory. And if you were like me before this class you didn’t have a very secure password. So use secure passwords and implement IP filtering if possible.

One item that I’ve known for a long time and we’ve been discussing to a small degree is site design. A good site design is critical to your project. If you expect to keep people on your site you better have a professional looking theme. Personally when I’m visiting a site, if the design is not professional I won’t stay on that for even 30 seconds. If you can’t take the time to make your site look good and test it on all the major browsers then don’t even bother. People will not be interested. There a literally thousands and thousands of free WordPress themes. Many are very good, many are not. If you can’t find a free one that fits the design goal, you may have to buy one or hire someone to make it for you. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. And speaking of design, don’t throw ads up for the sake of having ads. If you find an ad that is related to what you’re blogging about then by all means use it. But in a tasteful, unobstrusive way. Many people will leave a site because there are too many ads, even if the site is professional looking.

Keyword research is key – how many times have you heard that? Do you know what keywords people will be using to reach your site? Is or will your site be optimized for those keywords? Have you done research on those keywords to prove their viability? After our site was assigned and we had set it up for indexing and secured it, we were shown how to do keyword research. How to start out with a general keyword phrase and then drill down and find the keywords that actually get a good number of searches each month. This is one area that I thought I knew something about, but turns out I didn’t really. I wrote down a number of keyword phrases that I thought for sure would have a high number of searches. Turns out I was very wrong. Some of my keyword phrases got zero searches per month. Most got less than 20. It can be quite intensive and time consuming, but it’s very important to the success of your site. For now we’ve used only free tools like Google’s keyword tool. I know there are many paid keyword tools available, but we have not done anything with them.

Competitive research is another topic we’ve discussed. In my 8 – 5 job I do a lot of competitive research and report my findings back to the marketing team, sales team and engineering team. In the world of internet marketing you are all of those teams. You need to understand who your competition is, where their traffic is coming from, what their PR is, how do they rank in the search engines, what keywords are they using, do they have back links and if so are they quality back links, who are they affiliated with and anything else you can learn about them. The better you know your competition, the better equipped you will be to rank higher than they do when somebody searches for your particular keywords. We’ve learned to use some free tools to help us gather some of this information. Alexa, Semrush, Quantcast and Siteanalytics helped us gather some important information about the competition. But we also looked at their meta descriptions, meta keywords and header tags as part of our intelligence gathering effort. As I stated above, the more you know about your competition, the better equipped you will be to beat them.

I’ve just hit the highlights of what we’ve been working on over the past couple weeks. We have gone into much greater detail on each of the topics I mentioned. I’ve certainly learned that my SEO skills, keyword research skills, website security skills and competitive data skills were severely lacking. By no means am I an expert at any of those now. That takes time and practice, just like any other new skill you learn. But I at least have the foundation now to build upon. I’m looking forward to the next phase.

– Bill