SEO Friendly WordPress Q&A Plugin To Chase The Long-tail

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 03/07/2012

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Okay, so today I finished the loadbalancer project for Tiger—my project at work that’s about to go public—and got a Q&A section on my WordPress website. I made discoveries regarding the Q&A plugins for WordPress. There is a movement afoot to replicate the dynamics of StackOverflow, and lots of determination to use Oauth and Facebook logins, so people can “just participate” without the annoyance of registering.

All those Q&A packages are heavyweight stuff, and the WordPress plugins generally come with accompanying themes that you have to use. Now, site design and functions are incredibly tied to your existing theme, so you can’t go “just switching” to another theme to support a Q&A section of an existing site. WP-Answers (which I bought for $70) works this way, so I tried out the theme-free alternative, WPMU Q&A, but couldn’t get it to work due to 404 errors. I may not have read the docs well enough with WMPU before I moved onto the new kid on the block, fully free, and very lightweight—WP Super FAQ.

WP Super FAQ is the only one of the bunch that DIDN’T go the StackOverflow / Digg / Mahalo voting and user-contributed content attracting approach. They went with a simple site author FAQ approach, which is not nearly as social and self-fueling. But in my case, it’s simpler is better… at least until I figure out how to get WP-Answers which I paid for to work with Thesis. The plugin author was very responsive in email, showing me links to examples where people didn’t use a provided theme, and even attached instructions that he had received from one of his customers who pulled it off.

So, I’m monitoring my HitTail suggestions, keywords, and even the raw referrer list to glean all sorts of insights into my users-via-search. It’s really interesting how stalking your users and clicking to reproduce search gets you into their mindset. There is a strong central core of what everybody’s looking for, due to a few content pieces that happened to step into the path of some regular search traffic that was under-served by the existing published content on the Internet. In my case, it’s QEMU on Mac, Advantages of Python, Reeder vs. Byline, and Learnings in Life. As I point out all the time, once you know your top-producing keywords, the last thing you need to do is focus more on them.

Instead, the still-viable long-tail strategy—even after the Google Panda update massacre—is to spiral-outwards from your reliably producing core keywords into tangentially related stuff. In other words, now that I’m no longer ultimately responsible for the HitTail application… pshwew!… I’m free to start… HitTailing! Now, that’s not to say that I’m pandering to search. But rather, I’m writing on precisely the things I WANT to be writing about, but tweaking the headlines so that I have some known built-in audience.

Also, I quickly realized that I couldn’t be writing a big blog post every time on every topic that needs to be addressed. There’s some quick one-off things to answer being revealed by my search hits, and trying to do so in the already published articles is a bit confusing and seems juryrigged, while publishing whole new articles to answer quick one-off questions seems excessive, and messes with the daily journal style that I’m developing in my blog.

As an SEO professional, I’m always advising clients to adopt a topic-hub strategy, so that no matter how their articles age, become irrelevant, and get driven deep into the archive (lots of clicks off the homepage), there’s always still a higher-level page with an evergreen URL. That is to say, it lasts forever, and is targeting a slightly more generic, competitive, and higher-traffic term than the content of the particular article. Static content pages within WordPress can fulfill the topic page challenge pretty well—however, finding long-tail filler can be a challenge.

Enter the Q&A system. With questions and answers, you have an opportunity to both go chasing the long-tail (where you know it’s actually going to produce for you—thank you, HitTail), AND create lots of timely relevant filler for the topic pages, without having to rely on old articles, some spammy content aggregating systems, or automated content remixing systems. It’s all a very deliberate and designed procedure, by which you truly answer your website visitor’s questions… effectively turning your website into a suggestion box.

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