People of Walmart – A Basic SEO Lesson

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People of WalmartHave you seen the People of Walmart website? Perhaps, you’ve already contributed and uploaded a picture or two? I find it interesting how certain things go viral on the Internet. Typically, I see low grade YouTube videos or cheesy webpages hit it off on the web. And so is the case with a newly launched blog called People of Walmart. It went viral, people love it, and the way I see it, for site owners, there is a lot that can be learned.

People of Walmart is very simple self-hosted WordPress blog that allows users to contribute content. In this case, it can be a picture of an unusual person found at Walmart. Users who want to contribute must submit the photo by email and manually include a title, description, and include tags. After editors review the picture, it will be published on a blog post. These are called Wal-Creatures.

With over 15,000 fans on FaceBook, People of Walmart has grown very quickly and has captured the interest of thousands of people almost overnight. The site has been of huge interest to FaceBook users, and with over 700 people following on Twitter, awareness of the site seems to be spreading into other networks as well. But, what about SEO? Once the viral buzz wears off and the sudden spike in traffic dwindles down to a trickle, where will the site stand in the SERPS?

My prediction doesn’t look very promising. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether the owners of People of Walmart make changes or not, one thing remains possible: You can make changes to your own site. Granted, your site might not go viral like theirs, but if it does, you’ll at least be ready. And as I had mentioned above, a lot can be learned from People of Walmart. And no, I don’t think People of Walmart will last very long after the buzz wears thin. The reason why is because of their lack of SEO.

Let’s look at the element of user generated content and how to optimize it for search engines. In the case of People of Walmart, photos that are being sent in manually via email. With that, perhaps WordPress isn’t the best option to use. There are many other open source programs available that are more suitable towards handling pictures such as Coppermine. With proper configuration of the software and some minor SEO tweaks, submitting content into People of Walmart could easily become a fully automated and instant process, and most importantly, a search engine friendly one. Titles, descriptions, and tags could be done without the assistance of an editor. A moderator would only be needed to review the submitted content and to the “Publish” button.

Regardless though, WordPress was chosen and with that, many improvements could be made to help the site in the long term for the years to come, long after the viral buzz. But let’s look at how post titles appear in Google. There are other things that could be optimized, but post titles, along with the process of how user content is being generated are the most important.

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As you can see in the screen shot above, all titles appear the same. Let’s take a closer look at this entry:

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You wouldn’t know it from the entry, but the entry links to a blog post titled, MISS NEW BOOTY which potentially has the ability to pull rank on the miss new booty SERP. The problem is that the blog post doesn’t and it could if it was displaying the post title before or preferably instead of the blog name. Using the All In One SEO Pack can easily correct this. If the post title is visible then the words used in the post title have the potential of becoming keywords that can be used to find the post in search. Right now, unfortunately those valuable keywords are truncated, thus totally wasting the potential of having INTITLE keyword strength. One last element that should be updated is the permalink structure. The site is using the default (p?=123) style and it should be modified to use the /post_title/ style so that INURL keywords can be used. (Read Google Basic Searches)

All in all, it is great to see sites like People of Walmart find success, but also seeing sites like this show me that there continues to be a need for professional SEOs. In order for People of Walmart to have long term success, their site may soon need to undergo some SEO as well as platform changes.

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