Editor’s Note:This is a guest post Bob Handz. Bob develops and promotes various premium WordPress software and plugins for webmasters. Check out one of his latest products – WatuPRO – the system for running tests, quizzes and quizzes.
Don’t expect silver bullets, I don’t If your blog content or the product/service you sell isn’t helpful to your visitors, SEO won’t get you far. Tweaking your WordPress site will only work if your content is good. Take this as a disclaimer before going any further.
Now that we can safely proceed, here are some actions that can help you rank your WordPress based website better, get more visitors, keep them longer on it and hopefully make them like it even more.
While many SEO experts place a lot of emphasis on keyword-rich URLs, they don’t seem to matter much lately. Furthermore, with the latest Google Penguin update, you can easily trigger over-optimization. So instead of tweaking every post URL and stuffing keywords in it, just make sure your URL is text-based and not ID-based after (like www.yourblog.com/?p=123).
This means going to the Settings/Permalink Settings page in your WordPress admin and making sure the “Post Name” option is selected. This is also the best way to make sure your links make sense. And when someone links to your post using the URL as an anchor (which many bloggers do), you will still have a link with some keywords in it.
One more thing, even if you make this permalink change in the settings, WordPress always makes the following ID-based URLs work. This can sometimes lead to duplicate content issues if someone (or you accidentally) links to a post using UD. The plugins that I talk about in the next section will help you with this problem.
Use SEO plugin
There are many SEO plugins out there but here are two that I like the most: All in One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO By Yoast. Both are very useful but I recommend using only one of them at a time. Using them together can lead to conflicts.
Use the all-in-one SEO package
In the All-in-One SEO Pack, load its main page in Settings and make sure the plugin status is activated.
1. Make sure Canonical URLs are checked
This will take care of the permalink issue we discussed above and most other similar issues with duplicate content.
2. Select the Rewrite Title check box
In my opinion, the default WordPress headers are ugly, long and not search engine friendly enough. You can refine your title in the boxes below the check box. Usually the default templates the plugin provides are fine but I’d argue the need of “| %Blog Title%“part of them.
While it helps readers remember your blog’s name, it can also make your title lengthy or keyword-stuffed. And overusing keywords is another red flag, especially with Google Penguin. So either just keep the page/post title there in the box or make sure your blog name is good. Good means short, original, memorable and no keyword stuffing. Another option is to simply hardcode your domain name instead of using “| %Blog Title%“, so the templates will look like “%post_title% | www.bluewidgets.com“.
3. Do not use any META keyword tags
And uncheck the settings related to the META keyword in the plugin. META keywords have long been useless, and now they can even be a sign of over-optimization.
4. Use “noindex” to store and store tags.
“Noindex” for categories is questionable. Sure, you want to avoid duplicate content, but you also want your category pages to rank in search engines. Ideally, they present content centered around a certain theme. So the best way to handle this is to edit your WordPress theme so that the category pages only show excerpts and not the entire post content. You can also just use a theme that already does this.
Other options in the plugin may not be checked. I am particularly against the use of “Automatic Description”. If you don’t want to write META descriptions for every post, search engines will find better descriptions than plugins can.
The plugin also adds a box below each post/page that allows you to add a META title and description there. Please use it. Do not add keywords.
Using Yoast’s SEO for WordPress
This is the better plugin, with more features. I prefer using it over All-in-One SEO Pack. It has many pages with settings.
So after installing, here’s what I want to do:
1. On the dashboard page, turn off “date in excerpt for article”. In general, I like to disable most date-related information from my WordPress sites to avoid unhappy users and search engines when they land on an outdated post. Blogs with time-sensitive publications may want to keep excerpts.
2. Title Settings may be similar to the packages in the All in One SEO Package. Just leave”%%position%%“unless you have a short, memorable, and branded blog title. You can also encrypt your domain name but without keyword stuffing.
3. Index Page really powerful In most cases it’s best to deindex author storage and date based storage. Keep a category that stores categories and/or tags (see explanations of categories above). I would also disable all archives.
4. Better XML Sitemaps Enabled. I check the “ping” checkbox too although this won’t do any magic for your rankings. One thing this plugin misses is the canonical URL setting in the SEO Pack. The Permalinks The section has some useful features however. The slash enforcement prevents another duplicate content problem and stripping the category base makes your URLs prettier. Better not to do the latter if your blog is already indexed.
5. Bread is useful for both readers and search engines. It doesn’t work on all threads however. On one of my blogs it’s displayed right below the homepage which is not helpful and just adds clutter. So better test how it works for you and disable the feature if it doesn’t produce useful breadcrumbs.
6. inside RSS section you can add some social network link or signup reminder under each post. Search engines won’t care about this but users will. The plugin authors suggest including a link to your site because many low quality sites scrape from RSS. However, instead of putting a generic link to your homepage (especially a stuffed keyword) I prefer a contextual link from each post/page to another related post/page on the site. my web. This is a good practice even for non-WordPress based websites.
That’s basically what you can get from these two plugins.
Cache your blog
Caching is one of these little things that combined with other optimizations can help you climb a few places on the search engines. They do not work miracles alone. However, a site that works fast will have a lower bounce rate, more likes, and more links. So it’s important to make sure your WordPress powered site is fast. By default, WordPress runs too many slow database queries against content that mainly serves static content.
The most popular plugin for hosting your blog is WP Super Cache. I also like WP Green Cache. Just use a plugin, activate it and make sure your site is hosted. No need to spend days on this.
Sitewide Links, Blogrolls, Footer Links
Placing site-wide links and footer links is a common practice not only for WordPress powered websites although WordPress users are more exposed to it. Many free themes include footer links to websites that are usually completely unrelated to you. Some plugins also include links even without telling you. Be wary of this. If possible, have a designer (or yourself) create a custom theme for you. When activating lesser known plugins, check your site if they have added any unwanted links.
Bad outbound links can really hurt your rankings especially after the Penguin update. Be generous with links but link to quality and relevant content. Think about your blog list. I’ll probably remove the blog listing because it’s a bunch of site-wide links. A resource or “recommended read” page that links to well-relevant blogs might work better.
In a nutshell, the main things to do are: look at your permalinks and make sure they’re well-structured; use some of the best SEO plugins to fix title, meta description and duplicate content issues; host your blog so it runs faster. Watch out who you link to. And of course don’t forget that content wins in the long run.
You may also be interested in the following articles:
- A Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Best Practices (part II, Part III) and
- Top 10 mistakes that a Blogger should avoid.
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